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Historical fiction and Biblical fiction, reviewing since 2008

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Nov 12, 2013

Under A Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock

Under A Texas Sky by Dorothy Garlock
Grand Central Publishing, August 2013
 $30.00, hb, 370pp
Review copy provided by the publisher for review in the November 2013 Historical Novel Society magazine which really ended up just being an online exclusive anyway.
Burton Book Review Rating:

Growing up poor and largely abandoned on the streets of 1920s Chicago, Anna Finnegan has struggled her entire life. Until a talent manager discovers her and brings her into the world of theater. Now years later she's about to start shooting her first movie. Arriving on location in Redstone, Texas, in 1932, Anna steps off the train and collides into Dalton Barnes. He's lived in Redstone all his life and hates how the big city out-of-towners are gawking at the small-town locals like him. It doesn't take long, though, for Anna and Dalton to discover fireworks of a different sort between them. But the movie is plagued by one trouble after another, including a fire that destroys an elaborate set and costumes ruined by huge splashes of paint. Who is sabotaging the film and why? To what lengths will they go? When Anna finds herself threatened, how will she and the love blossoming between her and Dalton survive?

 Starting off as what seems to be a rags to riches story turns into a suspenseful romance with the heroine Anna who is introduced as a young girl living in poverty in Chicago. Fast forward to the 1930's and Anna is being cast in a new movie that is set in Texas trying to make it big in the industry. Anna deals with jealous actresses and lecherous men while on the set, but she meets a local blacksmith, Dalton Barrnes who has already formed a negative opinion of all the Hollywood types swarming his hometown. It's a touch of western romance with a large dose of cynical characters and themes, but throughout the novel we are rooting for Anna and Dalton to survive the dirty dealings of those around them.

There are plenty of villains and suspects so that the mystery wasn't easily apparent, and overall this latest novel of the prolific Dorothy Garlock makes a quick read for readers of historical romance, but doesn't stand out as one of her best.

I had read one of her other novels, and it seems that the novels are pretty standard fare. The other novel I read of hers last year was Come A Little Closer (review here). After reading that review, I hardly remember what the story was about. And this is pretty much the same kinda thing.. which is why the original review didn't quite make it to the magazine I reviewed it for and was just a sad little Online Exclusive.

Nov 6, 2013

On Distant Shores by Sarah Sundin


Fantastic war time details fused with light romance

On Distant Shores (Wings of the Nightingale #2) by Sarah Sundin
Revell, August 2013
Inspirational/Historical Romance
426pp paperback
Burton Book Review Rating:Fabulous prose
Lt. Georgiana Taylor has everything she could want. A comfortable boyfriend back home, a loving family, and a challenging job as a flight nurse. But in July 1943, Georgie’s cozy life gets decidedly more complicated when she meets pharmacist Sgt. John Hutchinson. Hutch resents the lack of respect he gets as a noncommissioned serviceman and hates how the war keeps him from his fiancĂ©e. While Georgie and Hutch share a love of the starry night skies over Sicily, their lives back home are falling apart. Can they weather the hurt and betrayal? Or will the pressures of war destroy the fragile connection they’ve made?

With her signature attention to detail and her talent for bringing characters together, Sarah Sundin pens another exciting tale in her series featuring WWII flight nurses. Fans new and old will find in On Distant Shores the perfect combination of emotion, action, and romance.
Read my review of the first book in the series, With Every Letter
It is with a quiet dexterity that author Sarah Sundin fuses together touches of inspiration and times of war in this second installment in her WWII series. In a reprising role, we follow Lt. Georgie Taylor during her journey as a nurse close to the front lines during German aggression overseas, confronting both fears and family members during very difficult times. Characters from the previous novel are present and new ones are introduced, as Georgie meets her new love interest in the Army's pharmacist. The story is focused on both of these characters, and much like the first novel (With Every Letter) this is another emotionally charged but realistically told story of love, friendship and hardship.

The author knows her historical subject matter, and while the reader may not fully comprehend many of the details of the foreign places or the Army lingo, we are still completely at ease and immersed in the eloquent storytelling featuring disasters and air strikes and hope. The tender romance of Georgie and Hutch manages to avoid the stereotypical story arc of inspirational romance, and its evolution is well plotted. On Distant Shores is another fantastic WWII novel that I recommend to readers of the genre.

Sarah Sundin is officially in the running for my personal favorite authors list. With all due respect to lovers of the Christian Fiction genre, I'd say this is perfect for those who would like a little "more oomph" to their inspirational novels. There is not a lot of heated romance, but Sundin steps it up a notch with her attention to detail, and is evident with the slightly longer page count in her novels as compared to other Christian novels. Most of them have been around 320 - 350 pages, and the few Sundin novels I've read have been a hundred pages longer. This gives the author more time to fully develop the characters and the storyline, and lets you become a part of the story. I love it.

Nov 3, 2013

The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow

Very emotive, provocative and worthy of my five stars
The Secret Magdalene by Ki Longfellow
Historical Fiction/Biblical
Crown Publishers orig.2005, edition shown is 2007 hc edition
Personally bought copy
Burton Book Review Rating:Five Stars


Raised like sisters, Mariamne and Salome are indulged with riches, position, and learning-a rare thing for females in Jerusalem. But Mariamne has a further gift: an illness has left her with visions; she has the power of prophecy. It is her prophesying that drives the two girls to flee to Egypt, where they study philosophy, mathematics, and astronomy in the Great Library of Alexandria.
After seven years they return to a Judaea where many now believe John the Baptizer is the messiah. Salome too begins to believe, but Mariamne, now called Magdalene, is drawn to his cousin, Yeshu’a, a man touched by the divine in the same way she was during her days of illness. Together they speak of sharing their direct experience of God; but Yeshu’a unexpectedly gains a reputation as a healer, and as the ill and the troubled flock to him, he and Magdalene are forced to make a terrible decision.This radical retelling of the greatest story ever told brings Mary Magdalene to life-not as a prostitute or demon-possessed-but as an educated woman who was truly the “apostle to the apostles.”

Some of the biblically themed reads I've come across closely follow the traditions of the bible and religious teachings while simply fleshing out the details with an author's creative finesse, but this story of Mary is unlike any I have ever read. What I expected was a story of Mary Magdalene and perhaps some "shocking" affair between she and Jesus, but again this was so much more than that. The author does not set out to preach, but lets her characters of Yehoshua and Mariamne encounter philosophical themes featuring God and the ultimate truth, and the reader sits back and contemplates these heavy things throughout the story.

The story started off swiftly as Mariamne and young friend Salome are passed along the learned sects of these ancient times, and many factions and types of beliefs are examined and left open to interpretation. We follow the girls' relationship with each other and it is always a major theme so that Mariamne is never seen as too remote to the reader, as she has real feelings and these are palpable.

Although eventually a story arc that follows Mary and Jesus, called Yeshu, there were tons of characters, and most of them I could correlate to the biblical teachings even if the names weren't exact matches. With each new discovery I could begin to follow the golden threads along the tapestry that the author was weaving. It was not an easy path, it required deep thought and therefore it took me over two weeks to get through the 430 pages, but it was worthwhile for the paths down theology and tragedy which were amazingly constructed.

The prose was fantastic. It spoke volumes with its words that expressed humanity and all its faults and glories. I admit to getting a little perturbed when I wasn't getting through the text swiftly, but it required my full attention. In the end, perhaps it was a better received novelization for myself as I am incredibly interested in all the biblical events and I yearn for more. This gives me more, and demands me to re-read it. Though geared for those who seek truth and clarity, the text does not lean towards any specific religion, but it certainly would require the reader to have a respect for God in order to enjoy this work of art.