Tag Archives: historical fiction

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

Book Review – As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner

Book cover of As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

About the book (from the publisher):

As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner (Berkley Books, 2018)

From the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life and A Bridge Across the Ocean comes a new novel set in Philadelphia during the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, which tells the story of a family reborn through loss and love.

In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters–Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa–a chance at a better life.

But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without–and what they are willing to do about it.

As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world, not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.

My thoughts:

4.5 stars!

This one is up there as one of my very favorite Susan Meissner books now!

As her usual, this historical fiction is well-researched and well-written, but a few other things raise its quality as well. From the very first chapter, this book is heart-wrenching and remains so throughout. Several of Susan’s other books are dual POV and set into two timelines. This book, instead, is from four points of view – Pauline (the mother) and three sisters, Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa. We spend time in 1918 and 1919 at the start of the Spanish flu epidemic (such an interesting time period!), then move to 1925 and 1926. I particularly enjoyed this setup. Most of it is written in present tense, though there are past tense flashbacks within scenes in nearly every chapter. In other books, this sometimes bothers me and breaks up the flow of reading, but I only paused once or twice at these points in this book, so it barely interrupts the reading experience and includes such vivid character reflection and emotion that it supplements the story well.

The action starts right from the beginning and never lets up, some of it of a quieter intensity than the rest, but intense nonetheless. All of the characters are very introspective, perhaps abnormally so, but you’re so pulled in to the reading that it’s okay. Even with that commonality, all of the character voices are distinct. I cared about each character (particularly Maggie and Evelyn), and thought about the characters even when not reading. The side character’s internal journeys (particularly Jamie and Conrad) are equally intriguing and add depth and additional layers to the story.

This book, with its strong introspection and deep-feeling themes, causes the reader to reflect, as well, particularly on the themes of life, death, moving past hurt, hope for the future, effects of war and loss, recognizing that each of us has experienced pain, and seeing each person as a life whose story matters. While the story is white-focused, immigrant side characters are included with value for their stories too.

I do want to offer a small trigger warning that if you have lost someone very recently, you may want to wait to read this book until after a bit of time passes. We lost an extended family member unexpectedly last year, and I likely couldn’t have dealt with reading these heavy themes within the few weeks right after that, though I am very glad to have read it now. That said, you may find comfort in diving into these themes while it is fresh, and if so, this book looks at loss from several perspectives.

This book releases on February 6, 2018! Preorder at Amazon or your favorite book retailer now.

Check out various quotes from As Bright As Heaven added by myself and other readers at Goodreads.

Disclosure: I received a free ARC copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own, and this is my honest review.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner (New American Library, 2016)

Book Review – Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner

I’m a big fan of historical fiction. And Susan Meissner is one of my favorites for adult historical fiction. (One of my very favorites of hers is Secrets of a Charmed Life, which came out last year. You can read my review here.)

Susan’s newest novel, Stars Over Sunset Boulevard (New American Library, 2016) just released this month.

Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner (New American Library, 2016)

Susan employs a dual-perspective format in this novel, as she so successfully does in several of her previous novels. In this particular novel, rather than have one present timeline and one past timeline (as she does in Secrets of a Charmed Life), we follow both Audrey and Violet in time together. Both women work as secretaries at a famous Hollywood movie studio, and instantly bond as they become roommates and work on the ground-breaking movie, Gone With the Wind. Each woman desires something different in life and career, yet forge a friendship to last over the joys and challenges of decades, snippets of which are covered in the book. This book also weaves in themes of trust, deceit, adoption, societal pressures, feelings of wholeness (or lack thereof), broken families, and more.

I know I’m in the minority here, but I actually haven’t seen the movie, Gone With the Wind (or read that particular book). I still enjoyed reading Susan’s work, but readers who have read Gone With the Wind or seen the movie will likely be ecstatic about the historical details Susan weaves throughout this story. Susan researches deeply for each of her books, and those historical details, societal aspects, and setting notes create a richer read.

Read more from Susan about this book here.

Have you seen Gone With the Wind or read the bookIf you have, you’ll enjoy this novel!

Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on a Amazon and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

Book Review – Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

About the book (from the publisher):

Irish Meadows (Bethany House, July 2015)

Faced with an uncertain future, sometimes all you have left is the courage to dream.

Brianna and Colleen O’Leary know their Irish immigrant father expects them to marry well. Recently he’s put even more pressure on them, insinuating that the very future of their Long Island horse farm, Irish Meadows, rests in their ability to land prosperous husbands. Both girls, however, have different visions for their futures.

Brianna, a quiet girl with a quick mind, dreams of attending college. Vivacious Colleen, meanwhile, is happy to marry—as long as her father’s choice meets her exacting standards of the ideal groom. When former stable hand Gilbert Whelan returns from business school and distant relative Rylan Montgomery visits Long Island during his seminary training, the two men quickly complicate everyone’s plans.

As the farm slips ever closer to ruin, James O’Leary grows more desperate. It will take every ounce of courage for both sisters to avoid being pawns in their father’s machinations and instead follow their hearts. And even if they do, will they inevitably find their dreams too distant to reach?

My thoughts:

If you’re looking for a fast, romantic-y read with a hint of Irish history, this would be a book you could enjoy.

The author picks an interesting time period (1911) with a family whose patriarch built up their social/economic standing from poor immigrant to highly-sought after horse trainers, and includes a mix of rural horse farm setting along with city setting. I loved the short glimpses we read in the barn and around the horses, and honestly wished more of the action and character development occurred there.

I also appreciated the author’s efforts to include “uncommon” dreams (for the time period) of education for women and women’s choice in marriage (over societal choice). The reader is doused with backstory right away in the first couple of chapters, which provides a bit of a slow start to the book. I also feel some of the conflicts and conversions (Colleen’s, in particular) are resolved at times too quickly and the ending wraps up a little too perfectly to be realistic. Another major relational conflict has almost too much back-and-forth miscommunication that it becomes a bit tiring, and somewhat unlike the characters were in the first two-thirds of the book. That said, the book covers a solid smattering of themes, including trust, courage to stand up for values, protecting others (and the balance between overprotecting), various definitions and types of family connections, and awareness of when we’re relying on ourselves for solutions or turning to God for His guidance. The author incorporates a range of emotions many readers will be able to relate to while reflecting on the “what ifs” posed.

Litfuse and the author are hosting a Kindle Fire giveaway! Click the image below to learn more.

Irish Meadows

What do you like to see in pacing and conflicts in romance-focused Christian fiction?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the Litfuse Publicity Group as a part of their blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Hearts Made Whole - Jody Hedlund

Forgiveness of All Kinds {Book Review – Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund}

Jody Hedlund’s historical fiction romance novels always include a romantic plotline along with a few other relatable themes woven in, and the second book in the “Beacons of Hope” series, Hearts Made Whole (Bethany House, 2015), continues this format.

Hearts Made Whole - Jody Hedlund

In Hearts Made Whole, the reader follows Caroline Taylor in Michigan in 1865 as she acts as the lightkeeper of Windmill Point Lighthouse after her father’s death and takes care of her four younger siblings. Ryan Chambers enters the scene, newly appointed as the lighthouse replacement after returning from the Civil War. (Readers of the first in this series, Love Unexpected, will remember Ryan Chambers as Emma’s brother.) Ryan quickly realizes he isn’t fit for the lightkeeping job, nor does he want to boot out Caroline and her family, but women aren’t supposed to keep jobs like lightkeeping. This storyline among other supporting plots create a high-conflict book.

Jody always knows how to keep the conflict ramped up in a book and continued to do so in this book. Just when you think a conflict will be resolved, another issue douses the victory. As always, the historical details and settings fascinate me as much as (and sometimes more than) the plotline. This book addresses themes of trust, forgiveness (between siblings, friends, and enemies), healing, looking to God for strength and sustenance rather than objects or people, women’s rights, and seeking truth.

Ryan’s character was my favorite in this book. He exuded not only charm, but had a realness and relatable brokenness to him that allows the reader to empathize with his struggles and cheer for his developing strength and healing. Caroline also had past brokenness to overcome, and both experienced trials and growth in their faith journeys.

I wasn’t fond of the character of Tessa, Caroline’s sister, but could see hints of change in the last few chapters. This should make for an interesting start to the next book in the series, which looks like it will follow Tessa’s story.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction and Christian romantic fiction, you’ll continue to enjoy this series.

Jody is also hosting a Facebook party for the release of this book tonight (June 23rd) at 7pm Central! Details here.

"She might have darkness in her life...but God was still bright and unchanging behind the clouds." - from Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

I always love reading an author’s note to find out what’s based on truth in a historical fiction novel. Do you read the author’s notes?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

Finding Good and Hope {Book Review – A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron}

World War II stories are hard and fascinating and certain ones offer stories filled with hope.

Hope is a main theme of A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron (Thomas Nelson, 2015). The reader follows two intertwined storylines. One, a present-day story with Sera Hanover, newly married to William and an art curator who now has to help her husband fight a legal battle against his family. The other, a 1940s story of Kája Makovsky, a young woman from Prague who has to escape Nazi rule because her family is half-Jewish. She becomes an employee in London at The Daily Telegraph, but, as the Blitz occurs and the war gets worse, finds herself drawn back to Prague to find her remaining family.

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

I read The Butterfly and the Violinby Kristy Cambron last year, the first in this “Hidden Masterpiece” series, which was a fantastic debut novel. Like that first novel, A Sparrow in Terezin includes Sera as a common character. The dual storyline keeps the reader turning pages, following circumstances of both. The historical details and setting descriptions are fascinating and obviously well-researched. The reader can easily visualize both worlds in this story.

I found that, if I had to choose, The Butterfly and the Violin might be my preferred novel. Kája’s story in A Sparrow in Terezin is fascinating, emotional, and hard, as well, though the symbolism of the sparrow didn’t seem as inclusive as symbolism in the first novel. The author did an excellent job of creating Kája’s world changes, in Prague early on, in London as she settled into a new way of life, in London as the Blitz occurred, and later within the heart of German-occupied Europe. Perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of this story was the inspection of good and evil, and how good and beauty could be found even when surrounded by immense evil.

Between these two novels, readers get a strong sense of two different perspectives of the terrors of World War II. I recommend fans of historical fiction reading them both.

What is a fascinating World War II story you’ve read recently?

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher as a part of the BookLook blogger program in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own.

I am an affiliate for Amazon Associates. If you click on an Amazon link and then make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This does not affect your final cost at all. Thank you for supporting this blog and my family!

This site is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.