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Writing, Reading, and Rural Life With a Border Collie


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‘The Red Thread’ Weaves Heartfelt Love Story, Surprises

Historical fiction with a twist.

The Red Thread (Level 4 Press, 2021)

By Rebekah Pace

Historical Fiction/romance/YA

“A red thread connects soulmates, linking them forever so they can always find one another…

The cord may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.”

Kimber here. You know Mom and I read a lot of historical fiction. Think truckloads. We’ve read so much historical fiction lately, we were getting kinda burnt out on it. Especially WWII-ish historical fiction. So when we were asked to read and review The Red Thread, we weren’t exactly turning cartwheels. In fact, we were kind of reluctant to take it on.

This book surprised us. Big time. Here’s why:

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Say ‘Aloha’ to Adventure With ‘The Refuge’

The Refuge (2021)

By John A. Heldt

Series: Time Box (Book 4)

Historical fiction/Time travel/ Romance/Adventure

Hold on to your leis and your Lanes for this fast-moving adventure through time and space!

The fourth book in the Time Box saga, The Refuge is set in 1941 Hawaii. A modern family of seven has transported itself back in time to escape the deadly clutches of a former technocrat and employer Robert Deveraux. He’s also nuts. The Lanes are being chased through time by an assassin hired by Devearaux.

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Redcoat & Rebel: Worthwhile or Red Light?

Kimber, were in a reading rut” Mom says the other day. “We need something new.”

And that’s how we wound up with a bunch of new historical fiction from The Reading Place. We’ll get to two recently read titles in a min. But first, I have a question: Why is so much “historical fiction” set during major conflicts? Ever notice that? Like, there’s enough HF set during WWII to sink a battleship.

So we looked around for a different historical setting. Someone who shall remain nameless recommended a couple new books. The first is Redcoat. The second is The Rebel Killer.

Here’s our take on both:

Redcoat

By Bernard Cornwell

Setting: Philadelphia, 1777

Things aren’t lookin’ good for George Washington and his rag-tag Continental Army. In fact, Philadelphia, the cradle of liberty, has just fallen to the lobster backs.  Families and fortunes are split on both sides of the war. Between loyalists to the British crown and patriots fighting for their independence. Anything could happen. And it does.

Told from both British and American points of view, the story unfolds through the eyes of Sam Gilpin and young Jonathon Becket.

Sam is a British private who joined King George’s army along with his twin brother, Nate. They’re as different – and sometimes as alike – as day and night. And that could get one of them killed.

Jonathon is a patriot from Philadelphia who rides better than he walks. He’s also desperate to free himself and his sister, Marlene, from the clutches of his loyalist uncle. There are also lots of Hessians and Hussars. Sons of Liberty. Brandy. Fog and smoke. “Camp followers.”

As the city settles in for winter, Washington’s army teeters on the verge of collapse. He retreats to a frozen refuge called Valley Forge. As the freezing months wear on, one side dreams of victory and the other of liberty. Meanwhile, Sam dreams of a forbidden love. Who will win, and at what cost?

This is a well-written story with sturdy, three-dimensional characters. The author’s expertise with the subject matter and all things military and strategic is impressive and immense. A fast-paced, action-packed historical fiction novel, Redcoat is also full of surprises. Just about the time you think you know where the story’s headed, the author drops in a U-turn. You better hold tight for the next plot twist. It’ll keep you hopping from start to finish.

There’s a lot of intriguing Revolutionary War history here and a lot of action to keep readers engaged. But Mom found the graphic accounts of savagery and sadism (Hi, Sergeant Scammell) too much to swallow. The needless use of profanity got old pretty fast, too. Hand over the Pepto!

***

OUR RATING: 3.0

 

The Rebel Killer

Jack Lark, Book 7

By Paul Fraser Collard

Setting: Mostly Virginia, 1861-62

Forget the Pepto. Hand us some industrial strength Dramamine. Or Nauzene. Because. Barf.

The main character in this revenge soap opera is Briton Jack Lark. He fights his own internal battle as the U.S. Civil War rages around him. Consumed with hate, this bloodthirsty automaton is “a mercenary; a man with nothing in his heart but a cold, remorseless desire for revenge.” Think Edmond Dantes comes to Virginia. On steroids. Cuz Jack is a “hardened, lonely killer” who’s “better at hating than he was (is) at loving.

Be still my heart. Pardon us, Jacko, but you’re hardly the kinda of fella we want to spend any real time with. Certainly not four hundred+ pages. (At least Martha Joseph was a pleasant reprieve. Coulda used more of that.)

Oh, and Jack is also a consummate fake. He’ll impersonate anyone and do anything to extract revenge on the Confederate major who killed Rose. So Torquemada Jack sets out on an “epic journey” across the Confederacy disguised as a Confederate captain. This after he ran from a prior battlefield disguised as a Union officer. Before that he was a Redcoat. And so on.

The narrative, though crisp, is savage. Dripping with butchery and brutality. It’s enough to gag a camel. Probably worse is the cruelty Jack the Jerk inflicts on animals.

So done with you, bub.

The Rebel Killer is historical fiction that you’ll either really like or really won’t. The title has a double meaning. The author exhibits a masterful command of military history. The story is briskly paced and there’s plenty of action. If you can call killing people every twelve seconds “action.

The U.S. Civil War wasn’t a garden party. Got it. No need to beat us over the head with it. Or continuously drag us around bloody battlefields knee-deep in carnage.

Bottom line: This book isn’t a party, either. If we’d known going in that its mountains of violence and profanity push the outside envelope of “R,” we wouldn’t have bothered. Not our cup of Kool aid.

OUR RATING: 2.0

 


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‘Acts of Dreams’: Where ‘Impossible’ Doesn’t Get The Last Word

Acts of Dreams (March 2021)

Book 3 of The Inquisition Trilogy

By Martin Elsant

Historical Fiction

How far would you go for freedom? Would you contest a centuries-old law? Throw in with a notorious privateer? Sail across an ocean? Challenge the Queen of England?

These questions and more are at the heart of a fast-moving historical fiction novel by Martin Elsant. There is so much in this story to keep both history lovers and bibliophiles turning pages until the very end.

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3 Surprising Packages of Hope

Kimber here. I bet you think Her Crankiness is… 100% cranky, right? So do I. (Don’t tell Mom, okay? Let’s just keep this our little secret.)

But every once in a while Mom surprises me. Not that I’m surprise-able. But …

Wait. Where was I?

Oh yeah. Mom and I read a trio of books recently that were … surprising. They were quite different from each other, too. Think dogs and cats. (Well, okay. Maybe not cats. But you get the picture.)

Anyway, the first book is a delightful new Christian romance from Kim Vogel Sawyer. The second is a non-fiction “travel tome with a twist” from Joseph F. Smith, M.D. There’s also an historical fiction novel by Kristin Hannah.

All get an Official Thumbs Up from Her Crankiness. Here’s why (short version):

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7 Skunkers & Clunkers

Ever get a whiff of skunk? You don’t need to get close. One whiff is Plenty. (Don’t ask how I know that.)

Mom and I, we read. A lot. Like, 300+ books a year on average. We know what we like. What we don’t. What works. What stinketh.

We try to approach every book with an open mind. Give it a chance. That being said, it doesn’t take us long to smell out a stinker. (We don’t look for this stuff. It finds us.)

When we can, we pass on our 100% unscientific, totally subjective “olfactory discoveries” to you. No extra charge. Consider it a Public Service Announcement.

So here’s our newest list of literary skunkers and clunkers. Four topped our most recent DNF (Did Not Finish) list. Here’s why:

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‘Book of Lost Friends’ Hits High Notes

The Book of Lost Friends (Ballantine Books, 2020)

By Lisa Wingate

Historical Fiction

“If there is magic in this world, it is contained in books.” – The Book of Lost Friends

You know one of us looooooves historical fiction. And I love anything Mom loves! Because, hey! It’s me. Kimber the Magnificent!

Anywho, our intrepid humans at The Book Place know Mom loves historical fiction too. They’ve piled her with tons of historical fiction set in World War II. But Mom got a teensy-weensy bit tired of HF set during WWII.

So someone suggested The Book of Lost Friends. Set in 1875-ish and 1987. I’ll let Mom tell you more. You know how Mom is. Take it away, Mom:

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Buckle Up for The Lane Betrayal & High Octane Historical Fiction

The Lane Betrayal (February, 2020)

By John Heldt

Historical Fiction

If you could time travel back to April 1865 and foil the plans of John Wilkes Booth, would you do it? Should you?

Those are some of the questions raised in this delightful historical fiction novel by John Heldt. The U.S. Civil War comes alive in this captivating and clever high octane novel in a skillful blend of historical fiction, suspense, gentle romance, and what ifs?

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Gold Standard in Historical Fiction?

Calling all fans of historical fiction and anyone else who can fog a mirror!

Today we’re reviewing three outstanding novels. They’re all historical fiction. All are set during World War II. Anchoring these narratives are strong women who survive and flourish against the odds.

Mom says The Nightingale and Cilka’s Journey are two disturbing but outstanding reads. And that The Things We Cannot Say is one of the year’s best. (And she reads alot. When she’s not out walking with me.)

Taken together, these three novels may represent the “gold standard” for historical fiction. 

So sit tight and get ready to dive in.  Let’s go!

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SPOON UP 3 Hefty Helpings of Historical Fiction!

You know Her Momness loves historical fiction, right?

“If historical fiction was a flavor, it’d be raspberry white chocolate cheesecake! With double hot fudge!” croweth Mom.

Why she says this, I don’t know. I do know she’s breaking out her Happy Dance. Because we’re reviewing three sturdy historical fiction titles today! All set during World War II.

Break out some extra spoons for Lilac Girls, Irena’s War, and The Orphan’s Tale:

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