The Messenger by Siri Mitchell

Messenger_mockup.indd“While love without faith offers no hope, faith without love offers no mercy. We must have both faith and love or run the danger of discovering that, in the end, we have nothing at all.”

Again, I am bringing you a Revolutionary War novel. But this one is different, written in first person and from the point of view of a Quaker. Historical fiction set in the Revolutionary War era is about as rare as a Unicorn, where everyone hopes it exists and then ends up not being anything like what you expected or wanted it to be. Mitchell even thanked her publishers for allowing her to publish the book because despite how much people enjoy the books, they often don’t sell as well as others.

So when someone actually finds a decent Revolutionary War it’s shouted from the rooftops and everyone wants to see what all the hullabaloo is about, even those who might not have a particular interest in the time period. And this book by Siri Mitchell is, in my opinion, one of the best Revolutionary War stories out there.

The setting and the story is very interesting. A young Quaker woman becomes a spy to help the Patriot soldiers, and the two don’t usually pair well together so it’s interesting to see these two different sides come together. Again, think of the TURN: Washington’s Spies TV series that I mentioned before. The language was accurate to the protagonist Hannah has sounds true to the Quaker faith; “thee”, “thou”, and so on. Her story was very well researched, which was really cool because not very many authors research their books or add an actual historical event tie-in to their stories so you could really see the detail and hard work she put into making this novel.

The other thing I really liked was the historical background the reader is given after finishing the book. I probably learn more about history second hand (not from a textbook) then I do when I just sit and have to read a textbook. For example, just the other night I learned from watching a show called Mysteries at the Museum that during the Cold War these spies called “Romeo Spies” would woo women into handing over top secret information that I probably learned about before and just have no recollection of reading about it. Anyway, what I’m trying to say here is that this story is so rich in historical content that you’ll probably walk away remembering the stuff in this book then if you had to sit and read it for a class.

I really enjoyed this book and I hope you all do too!

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Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austen

wonderlandcreek“That’s absurd… Nobody can read too much. That’s like saying someone breathes too much.”

I absolutely adore this book. If you are looking for something different than the standard Christian Historical Fiction, this is the book for you. And if you’ve ever read any Christian Historical Fiction book, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Lynn Austen’s books have a more grown up and mature sense to them; think a mix Francine Rivers and Kristy Cambron. It is one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It doesn’t have a deep plot line but is still not a slow or boring read.

This book is set during the late 1930’s, about midway into the Great Depression so you can expect some financial hardships. Alice Grace Ripley, the book’s heroine, is let go by both her job as a librarian and by her long-time boyfriend and is left wondering what to do next with her life. She then arrives in a rustic and rural town and is left there as the town’s librarian. As a girl from a privileged and more wealthy household, this is not exactly her comfort zone which results in laughs from the reader’s end.

This book has essentially everything anyone could want in a book. You’ve got humor, adventure, mystery, murder, a great setting, a great time period, and brilliant and life-like characters. Yet it never feels too much… all of these elements fit right into the plotline and really makes for a story that many people, regardless of likes/dislikes will enjoy. I myself am not particularly fond of mystery books but still enjoyed myself reading this.

One of my favorite things is the maturing that takes place in Alice. For a girl who had a comfortable life and spends her time reading, being thrust into a town with nothing to do brings out a more mature and caring side of her. She eventually comes to enjoy spending time with real people, not fictional people, and realizes that having a balance in life is not a bad thing. She drags her feet of course, as anyone would do when they are forced into a new way of living, but eventually learns to accept it and surprising to her, finds she is sad when its time for her to go back to her big city life.

I really enjoyed reading this and I hope you will too. I have nothing bad to say of this book, other than the beginning may start a little slow for some people.

Where Courage Calls by Janette Oke

9780764212314“A sense of humor is a requisite to surviving in our demanding world.”

Unlike other times where I usually have something to say before moving onto the review, this time I can’t think of anything to say so I’m going to jump right in and get started.

First off, if you are looking for a book that follows the movie or TV show storyline, this book is not for you. At least, that is what I’ve seen on other reviews. I know this review isn’t about the movie/TV show but because this book is supposed to be a companion to the Hallmark series, When Calls the Heart, I felt it was important for the TV watchers to know that the book series does not follow the TV show. Which in a way, I suppose is not a bad thing because then you are able to have two different storylines and can choose to your liking.

Historically, there was not a whole lot of background that I can remember. Which was totally fine. Based on the cover, you can guess that it’s around the early 1900’s, and the book describes as much. There are no inaccuracies as far as I could tell in my little knowledge of that time period, but the same can’t be said of the TV show. It’s little things, but the little things bother me the most. I won’t get into it because it doesn’t claim to be a historical show (you can go watch Downton Abbey for that), but it still bothers me because so much of the show is already based in the early 1900’s, but no matter. It’s just my detail oriented brain being nit-picky as always.

I really enjoyed reading about Beth… She is different than other heroines in novels I’ve read, and I can relate to her fears and her wanting to become more independent and wish for more out of life, and she actually reminds me a bit of Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The book basically just takes us through her adjusting from her high-life to a more simple way of living. The characters are very well rounded and realistic, even the minor characters.

I would describe the plot line as “soft”. There’s not page turning action or anything like that. It basically just describes Beth’s adjustment to living on the prairie. And that is pretty much it!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review, and I’ll see you next week!

A Distant Melody by Sarah Sundin

51oonhzgjzl“When we’re not following God’s will, our sacrifices aren’t acceptable to Him. What God wants most is for us to be broken before Him, walk with Him, know Him, and obey Him.”

A Distant Melody the first book I’ve read of Ms. Sundin’s, and it has become a favorite of mine. As Ms. Sundins debut novel, she made a good impression on other readers and me. I didn’t want to put it down; my eyes were glued to the page. I picked this up during my period of fascination with the 40’s-50’s (which has yet to subside), and this book has all the elements I enjoy in a book, plus it reminds me a bit of The Notebook.

I loved the dual point of view we get from both Allie and Walt. When I read books that sometimes have that, I find myself skimming or even skipping parts because they bore me. These didn’t. I got to see what life was like for people on the homefront, waiting for their soldiers to come home, and also what life was life for the soldiers on the frontlines of war.

Historically, I loved the research that was put into the setting and combat scenes. I love when I learn stuff from books, and though this book is obviously not meant for the purpose of learning, I feel like I learned some things from this book, at least from the view of the soldiers.

I love how Sundin includes the tragedies and hardships of the war. Of course, it was not all blood and gore, but you do lose characters. It’s not fun, but it’s real, and that is the most important to me; that tragedy is not watered down, just handled a little bit more carefully.

All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a light, but a fun read, especially if you are interested in the World War 2 era.

This article from History.com has a wonderful brief explanation of the American Home Front, which you can read by clicking here.

The Butterfly and the Violin by Kristy Cambron

butterfly-and-violin“And as God is everywhere, she couldn’t live but to carry Him in her heart, with the worship of daily life, using the gift of every second bestowed upon her to bring honor and glory to her Savior.”

If you enjoyed reading The Book Theif, you’ll probably enjoy this book too. While I do enjoy 18th-century fiction (and non-fiction!), I love World War II fiction as well. This book was not as light and fluffy as some of the others I’ve read, which I’ve found I’m growing out of my fluffy and fun stage and into more thought-provoking or more serious books, such as this one. But I still think it will be enjoyed by anyone of any age. In fact, my grandmother got this book for Christmas and I stole it from her after she read it. Oops.

Very quickly, I’d like to comment on the title and the cover. I love titles that are part of the story; ones that as you read you say to yourself “Oh! So that’s where this came from!” And the cover is one of my favorites I’ve seen. It looks a little vintage, which I think is interesting because many books have bright, eye-catching covers, while this one is obviously a bit more subdued, but eye-catching for that very reason.

First off, this is not a typical historical fiction book. Ms. Cambron switches between our present day with the horrors of Hitler’s reign, yet it never feels too confusing and the horrors of Auschwitz too difficult to read. While I did prefer reading about Adele, the stories of the two young women weave and connect together very nicely. The writing style is so beautiful, I was very surprised when I found out that this was Cambron’s first novel.

The story itself is based on a young woman Adele Von Bron, an exceptional violinist from a prominent Austrian household who is sent to play her violin for Nazi soldiers at Auschwitz along with other musicians. Sera James is a Manhatten art dealer who becomes intrigued by a painting of a young violinist (Hint: It’s Adele) and begins to research the painting to find out what her story turned out to be.

Adele’s story was so incredible and inspiring. Again, this is Adele’s story, as we see what becomes of her through the eyes of Sera. There isn’t much I can say on Adele’s story that won’t give too much away, but what I can say is that Adele is a character that many of us will probably be able to relate too; at least I did. Though it is very unlikely none of us will face the horrors of Nazi concentration camps, we can all take care to be brave and caring like her. My favorite part was that her bravery didn’t mean she wasn’t scared, but rather she had the courage to stand up and face her fears.

Sera’s story was one that surprised me – mostly because I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did! As with Adele, there isn’t too much I can say about Sera that won’t give much away, since Sera’s story is so close to Adele’s. But I will say that this modern day storyline was enjoyable, too for those who prefer modern over historical fiction.

I absolutely and thoroughly enjoyed this book. I was swept off my feet at the subtle sweetness and careful handle of such a dark subject. Whether you enjoy contemporary or historical fiction, I think you will really love this book and the different look you’ll receive about Auschwitz and Nazi Germany.

***This book is currently available on Amazon Kindle for only $1.99! Get it here!