December 22, 2013

Reviewing "Captive Trail" by Susan Page Davis

    "Captive Trail", by Susan Page Davis,  is the second book in the "Texas Trails" series and takes place in mid 1800's Texas.  Centered around a young woman who was kidnapped by the Comanche as a little girl, the book begins shortly before Taabe Waipu's harrowing escape from her Comanche village. She is found lying in the road and is taken in by a group of Ursuline nuns who nurse her back to health within the walls of the mission, all the while trying to figure out Taabe Waipu's true identity.
     I completely enjoyed this book and was immediately attached to the characters. The relationship between Taabe Waipu and the nuns is heartwarming even in its youngest stages when communication was almost impossible.  I also enjoyed the relationship between young Quinta and Taabe Waipu. Quinta was able to communicate with Taabe in a way that the adults could not, and their interactions were very sweet. The nuns' faith and tenacity were inspirational as they vigilantly protected their young charges from outsiders. Throughout their many adventures, they never lost hope or lessened their faith in God's protection.
    I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction with lovable characters and exciting story lines.  I look forward to reading the next book in the series and would recommend getting all of them at once so you don't have to wait too long to read the next one. They can also be read out of order if you so choose.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Reviewing "The Spymistress"

    "The Spymistress" by Jennifer Chiaverini is a very well researched historical novel based on the life of civil war heroine Elizabeth Van Lew. Even though she was born to a wealthy slave holding family in Richmond, Virginia,  "Lizzie" held very strong Union sympathies and dedicated herself to caring for Union prisoners of war during the Civil War.  She also gathered military intelligence, helped construct the Richmond Underground and aided prisoners escaping from the Confederate Libby Prison.
     I was drawn into the book right away and found the first half of the book to be very interesting and enthralling.  Lizzie took many risks to help the prisoners, including risking her own life. There was also a lot of drama taking place in the Van Lew household as the family struggled to hide their Union patriotism while staying true to their beliefs.   About halfway through the book I started to feel bogged down with details.  Chiaverini obviously did a huge amount of research in preparation for this book and it is apparent in the extreme attention to detail. While the first half of the book felt like a novel, a some point in the middle, I started feeling like I was reading a history book. I would have enjoyed more character development in place of the involved explanations of the battles and prison scenes.  That said, if you are a history buff, this book would probably be right up your alley. And if I was a history student, I would have definitely chosen to read a book like this over (or to supplement) a typical history book.   I would recommend this book for readers who enjoy highly detailed historical fiction and Civil War fiction based on real events and characters.

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Dutton books in exchange for an honest review.

December 19, 2013

Reviewing "The Dawn of Christmas" by Cindy Woodsmall

"The Dawn of Christmas" is a charming love story which is perfect for the holiday season.  I knew I would enjoy it because I am a fan of Woodsmall's and also of Amish fiction in general.   Although it is slightly predictable because of the nature of the book, there are several twists and turns that leave the reader guessing what will happen next.
Woodsmall's writing style is such that I quickly get attached to the characters. From almost the very beginning of the book, I was rooting for the two main characters, "Sadie" and "Levi".  They've both had bad experiences with love and the pair seem determined to never fall in love.  Even thought this is a short novella sized book, it is packed with drama, romance and adventure. The story kept my interest throughout the book, and the suspense toward the end had me turning the pages as fast as possible.

Here is a short summary from the publisher:
"Sadie enjoyes her freedom away from home and her mission trips to Peru, but after four years, her Old Order Amish family insists it's time to come home and settle down. Levi, a bachelor who distrusts women after a family heartbreak, also has no desire for romance. To keep their families from meddling in their lives, Sadie and Levi devise a plan- but soon discover that the walls around their hearts are breaking down. Can they let go of their prejudices, learn to trust each other, and embrace a future together?"

One of the strong themes of the book is how powerful and wonderful love is, and the lengths that people will go to, to show the ones they love how much they mean to them. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, with a romance at the center of the storyline.  Even though it has a holiday theme, it would be a great read for any time of year. (Especially  good in the middle of summer when you need to picture yourself in a snowy climate to escape the heat.)

Disclaimer: I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing group for free in exchange for an honest review.