Tag: Historical Fiction

Big Lies in a Small Town

Big Lies in a Small Town
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Published: January 14, 2020
400 Pages 

Reviewed By: Jessica
Jessica’s Rating: 4 stars
Dates Read: January 2-16, 2020

Book Description:

North Carolina, 2018:

Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940:

Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

Jessica’s Review:

This is the second Diane Chamberlain novel I have read and it will not be my last!   Her novel The Dream Daughter was my number one read for 2019 and might just be my favorite book ever! My review for it is here.  Her novels draw you in and you don’t want to put them down!  We have two time periods with our two narrators: Morgan in 2018 and Anna in 1940.  The chapters alternate between the two time periods.  Both ladies are likeable with very different lives in two extremely distinct time periods. Though vastly distinctive women, they become connected through the mural that is at the center of our story despite the nearly 80 year time difference. 

I highly enjoyed this novel, and you can’t say too much without giving spoilers, so I say just read it! The reason I gave the novel four stars was the ending: both timelines came together and were packaged like a perfect bow, with a less than realistic and predictable twist.  The ending was not a disappointment; I just felt it could have been done differently.

The racism of the time in 1940 is shown throughout Anna’s narrative.  Chamberlain researched the real town of Edenton, North Carolina and even spent time there.  She portrays that town during 1940 very well.  **Be sure to read the author acknowledgments to see how much she researched.  Chamberlain also researched art restoration much like Morgan had to, so in some ways Chamberlain was like Morgan in her learning.

I will definitely be reading more of Chamberlain’s novels.  Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for granting me an arc copy to read and review!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US  
Amazon UK

A Father’s Promise

A Father’s Promise
Author: Donna Lynn Hess
Published: February 1987
250 Pages

Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars

Book Description:

“[You are] either a German or a Christian; you cannot be both.”

Adolph Hitler’s ominous statements seem only a distant threat to eleven-year-old Rudi Kaplan. But when the Nazi forces invade Poland and bomb his home city of Warsaw, Rudi finds out that he is Hitler’s enemy not only because he is a Pole but also because he’s a Jew and a Christian.

The next few years change Rudi’s life forever. With only his imprisoned father’s promise that they will be reunited after the war, Rudi must learn how to survive in hiding, how to be truly brave, and how to overcome the hatred of his enemies. He must learn to die to himself and to trust the God who is mightier than any army.

Kim’s Review:

I read this book so many times as a kid! My mom always loved it, it was assigned reading in elementary school, it’s published by BJUP, so of course I was gonna read it, but then I fell in love and read it over and over again through my school years. It’s such a great book to help teach kids about WWII and the Holocaust without being too graphic.

**Fair Warning**: It is a very Christian book and if a kid hasn’t had any exposure to the Bible, then they aren’t going to understand certain portions of this book.

This reading completely surprised me by making me cry through the whole book. Never once have I shed a tear when reading A Father’s Promise. But this time, the same story that I’ve known and loved almost my whole life, made me weepy! Rudi and his father’s faith never wavered, even in a time of such horrible circumstances. Seeing the struggles of the Polish people under the Nazis, even before deportations, and in a way that is appropriate for kids, hit me in a new way. I would absolutely recommend this to any kid, even those who haven’t heard Bible lessons. It’s such a great educational tool!

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James

Silence for the Dead
Author: Simone St. James
Published: April 1, 2014
374 Pages

Reviewed By:Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars

Book Description:

In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.

Kim’s Review:

If you want a good ghost story, St. James provides! I have read multiple books by her and she satisfies every time! Occasionally, she throws in a little too much drama that has nothing to do with the ghost story itself, but thankfully it’s never enough to ruin any of the books for me. I absolutely adored Jack Yates, England’s hero of WW1. Is it weird that I had Henry Cavill in my head every time Jack walked in??

Kitty is a strong protagonist that carries the story so well. I thought the resolution to the supernatural problems at Portis House was a little anticlimactic, but all my questions were answered. Even the things separate from the ghosts ended in a good way that I enjoyed. Portis House is an amazing setting and all the patients were complimentary to the story. I wouldn’t suggest faking a nursing resume . . . But if I find a mental institution like Portis House, I may have to just pretend! And there were many times while Kitty was on night shift that creeped the crap outta me! St. James is the queen of the chilling scenario. I would recommend Silence for the Dead to anyone who likes historical fiction and even occasionally a good ghost story! I very much enjoyed this book.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US
Amazon UK

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