Anna’s Crossing by Suzanne Woods Fisher

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“Even in the midst of great gales, they could know peace.”

I adored this book. It is so different from all the other Amish books I’ve read (which is like, two), and is a refreshing change from the shunnings or running around and “unsure-of-where-they-fit-it-but-always-choose-their-faith” type stories.

This book is set during the 1700’s, as Anna and her Amish community embark on a journey to the New World. This book is so unique from anything I’ve ever read. There are not many books about the travel from Europe to America, and this may be the only book to be set on the Amish journey. While this book wasn’t a “read-in-two-days” book for me, I did have a constant feeling of enjoyment while I read this book.

It’s very faith based but doesn’t feel preachy.  All the characters didn’t feel preachy when they spoke of God; it felt very natural. Sometimes characters in Christian books sound really over the top when they talk about anything that has to do with God, the Bible, etc. But these characters “sounded” real, and it felt as natural as saying hello or goodbye.

I really loved the characters, especially Anna. She kept strong faith and showed great compassion toward everyone, not just those who “deserved” it. All the characters added something to the story. While not all had the honor of being the main character, they didn’t feel like fillers.

I don’t have anything I dislike about this book, but because this book does detail such a dangerous and rough crossing, there is some not so pretty stuff I want to leave you with real quick.

This section of the review contains minor spoilers.

One character dies from a blow to the head, is thrown into the sea but is seen again when his bottom half is sticking out the mouth of a shark caught by the crew. A young woman dies after childbirth, and we read a brief description of her dead body being attacked by sharks. There is mention of a slave ship and a nasty stench coming from it, and once again a brief undetailed description of how horrible the future slaves are treated aboard the boat. One character is inappropriate toward Anna on several occasions, and is then walloped on the head.. There are many mentions of people being seasick and passing away when water runs short.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in early America or the first settlers journey.

If you would like to learn more about the Amish and their life in 1500’s England to their crossing to America in the 1700’s, this link contains some excellent information.

If you would like to learn more about the first settlers in general, this timeline from the Historic Jamestowne site has a great brief overview of the settlers.

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The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

cover-lucy-banningI share a lot of good reviews on my blog, so today I wanted to share with you a book I didn’t enjoy as much. Writing more negative reviews is hard for me because I very rarely read an entire book I don’t like, and I don’t enjoy being critical of books. But at the same time, I think it’s good to have a mix of reviews for all books, not just the good ones.  So without further ado, here is my review.

I was initially very excited to read this book. Mostly because the cover is gorgeous, and I’m a sucker for pretty book covers. You don’t know how badly I wanted to like this book; the plot summary seemed decent enough, the cover was gorgeous, and my friends gave it 4 or 5-star reviews. But unfortunately, this book had so many elements that I felt were underdeveloped, it felt like I was reading a draft. Which is so sad, because I know I would have liked this book so much more if it had been fine-tuned maybe once or twice more.

I did enjoy the historical setting, and the research put into it. I felt like I learned a lot about different social classes while reading this, and it gave be a bit of a Downton Abbey feel. However, there is such a thing as too much of something good, and that is the case here. Because there was so much historical knowledge that the author shares with us, I would have enjoyed learning about the setting before diving into the book.

The character development could have been better. Lucy had all the qualities of being a great heroine, but, unfortunately, falls short because there is little to no development with her. She’s a goody-two-shoes, which in some cases isn’t awful (because that usually comes with faults), but she’s just too good to be true. As for her suitors, it pretty obvious who was going to win her heart, as Newport made one of them about as awful as a character could get.

There were so many things going on, and I think if maybe Newport had focused on just one other event apart from the main plot, the book would have flowed and ended a lot cleaner. Instead, there were about four other subplots that took away from the enjoyment.

Conclusion – All in all, it was an average fluff reading that I read in a few days, but you could read it in two. I was very disappointed, and assumed it would be excellent because I will admit; I was drawn first to the cover. But don’t let my review scare you away! My opinion is not popular, and if you enjoy quick reads, you’ll probably enjoy this.

If you enjoy this period of history, here is a Wikipedia link that gives some information on this period in history. It may not be completely trustworthy, but it is a quick link with some info.

With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin

13459177“Be friendly and open, but stay true to how God made you. Delight in your differences while reaching out to others.”

~*Minor spoilers to follow.*~

I cannot even tell you how much I enjoyed this book. I was immediately drawn into the story from the first page I read. Every free moment I had, I was reading this book. I’ve never read anything like this before; the storyline is so unique, the characters are wonderfully depicted, the settings are perfect. As I read this, I found myself wanting to scream at the characters, which doesn’t happen very often but I love it when it does.

I adored Mellie. As a quiet and shy person myself, I could completely relate to her. That’s something I love when I read books. I understood her anxieties, her solitude, and her distress at having to come out of her shell. Throughout the entire book, I was thinking how similar we were in character and thought. One quote I loved was not a quote, but more of a statement, and one that is very true and real for me… “Overcoming shyness was hard work.” How true it is.

I loved Tom, as well. He reminded me a bit of Steve Rodgers, better known as Captain America. It made me think of Steve when I read something Tom said: “Fear as a means of control? ‘That’s not the kind of man I am, sir.'” It made me think of in the second Captain America movie when he said this: “Yeah, we compromised. Sometimes in ways that made us not sleep so well. But we did it so that people could be free. This isn’t freedom. This is fear.” I’m getting off track, but it was just something I enjoyed.

Because this is a wartime novel from the point of view of nurses and soldiers, there is a little bit of violence and wounds, but for the most part, they are pretty undescriptive.

As much as we fantasize about the World War II era (the clothes, the music, the movies) I liked having this fresh bit of realism. For the men and women who fought and nursed on the frontlines of war, I’m sure the last thing they thought of was when the next Fred Astaire movie was going to be released. But despite these hardships, Sundin weaved together a realistic but humorous story that I will go back and reread.

To learn more about women and their roles during the war, check out this link from the National WWII Museum (opens in a new window).

If you’re interested in this book, as of this review it is free on Amazon Kindle. Click here to be taken to the book (opens in a new window).

She Walks in Beauty by Siri Mitchell

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“This table is a pigeon trap. A dozen different forks and knives and spoons. Four different goblets. All of them just waiting to be knocked over or misapplied and mishandled. It’s a wonder anyone is ever tempted to eat.”

I adore this book. I know the title sounds a little bit cheesy, but let me explain. This novel is set during the late 1890’s, where debutante balls and the like were a big deal. Usually, when a young woman (aged 16-21) from an aristocratic or upper-class family reached the age of maturity, she was able to “debut”, a sort of rite of passage for the young woman as she steps into the glitz of parties, balls, and upper-class society. But the other purpose for her debut was to find a husband from a select few of her same class.

A lot of ritual goes into her debut. Corsets and dresses to be fitted, manners to be perfected, dances to be learned. Which is why this book was given the title – she was supposed to look like a high society woman, and her future was built upon the success of her debutante “season”.  Mitchell did a fantastic job researching the historical setting of the book and bringing the reader into the story. The writing was really well done; it was detailed, not to the point of boredom, but was enough to give you a taste of what everything was like for the young girls preparing for their debut.

The characters were wonderfully developed. To me, the characters are really what makes a story good. I also loved that the novel was written in first person, so you were able to sympathize with Clara and her evil corsets. Clara was excellent and witty and funny. I enjoyed reading about her journey a lot throughout the book.

Just a few little things to finish out this review. This book made me glad I was not born in the late 1800’s. I could not have handled those awful corsets. I enjoyed the plot twists. While they aren’t always necessary, they do add a fun bit of excitement to books. I also really loved that the reader get’s closure. You know what happens to the main characters in the end. I can’t stand when an author leaves a stand-alone book unfinished.

I enjoyed the book and the new view it gave me about high-society in the late 1800’s New York.

If you’re interested in learning more about debutant balls and it’s origin, click here. It will open in a new window and is very informative.