Shadows of the White City

It’s a cloudy spring day here in Kentucky and I’m sitting by my open door with rapidly cooling coffee, singing birds, and peaceful piano music. The perfect setting for sharing my favorite read of 2021 with y’all, right?

THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 400
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 2, 2021
Title: Shadows of the White City
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

The one thing Sylvie Townsend wants most is what she feared she was destined never to have–a family of her own. But taking in Polish immigrant Rose Dabrowski to raise and love quells those fears–until seventeen-year-old Rose goes missing at the World’s Fair, and Sylvie’s world unravels.

Brushed off by the authorities, Sylvie turns to her boarder, Kristof Bartok, for help. He is Rose’s violin instructor and the concertmaster for the Columbian Exposition Orchestra, and his language skills are vital to helping Sylvie navigate the immigrant communities where their search leads. 

From the glittering architecture of the fair to the dark houses of Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, they’re taken on a search that points to Rose’s long-lost family. Is Sylvie willing to let the girl go? And as Kristof and Sylvie grow closer, can she reconcile her craving for control with her yearning to belong?

Why I Choose this Book

 Will I ever not want to read a Jocelyn Green book ASAP? Probably not. Her writing is beautiful, and even if I don’t like the setting or plot, I still enjoy how she weaves the storyline so convincingly and pulls me into the book. 

What I Thought about the Book

The first book in the saga – Veiled in Smoke – was set in a place that I don’t enjoy reading about (Chicago), during a time period I don’t like reading about (the Great Fire), and yet I still ended up enjoying the book because Jocelyn’s writing is amazing. Going into Shadows of the White City I expected some of the same, aka, not enjoying the setting but being wrapped up in the writing. 

But, ohhh, was I wrong. This story may have changed my mind about books that are set in Chicago because I enjoyed it so thoroughly it gave me a new appreciation for the city. It takes place in 1893 during the World’s Fair, and was incredibly interesting to read about. Jocelyn does a fantastic job of weaving historical facts into her stories without making it feel like she’s cramming information into her books. For instance, in this book, one of the main characters gave tours at the World Fair, and sometimes we as the reader got to go along and experience it with the guests. Such a brilliant way to write the cool facts into the story.

Not only did we get to see the intriguing setting of the World’s Fair, but there was a compelling plotline and interesting, and multi-layered characters to round out the reading experience. At the beginning of the book, I was a bit unsure of how I would enjoy the large time gap between Veiled in Smoke and this one, but Jocelyn pulled it off magnificently well and wrote a book whose main character was a middle-aged woman in such a way that she felt relatable. 

There weren’t any characters whose point-of-view I disliked reading from, which is rare for me when it comes to a book with multiple POV. Each of the characters who we got to follow had compelling stories – from Sylvie with her need for control to Rose with her hunger for answers. Kristof was delightful and sweet and I could feel his pain as he tried to figure out the correct way to be a good brother. 

The exploration of lost and pieced together families, cultures colliding, the danger of the era, and a lack of answers kept me from putting down the book. I wanted to read more, more, more. When I got to the end of the story and all the pieces had slid into place I was thankful that I’d gotten to go along for the literary adventure. It’s my current favorite of 2021.

Conclusion 

This book is the second one in the saga, but it can easily be read first or as a standalone. (If reading it first, it will give a few spoilers.) I enjoyed the story a lot and can’t wait to read Jocelyn’s next release.  

Rating 

I’m giving Shadows of the White City 4 out of 5 stars. Thank you to Bethany House Publishers for sending me a copy of the book so I could post this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Veiled in Smoke

Hello, my friends. It suddenly occurred to me that although I’m fairly busy helping my family who recently moved, this is also a great time for me to work on catching up on my reading for review.

I’ve got about five more books on my to-be-read-asap-list, so get ready to be introduced to some pretty great books. 😉

1
THE STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 416
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Title: Veiled in Smoke
Fiction

ABOUT THE BOOK

Meg and Sylvie Townsend manage the family bookshop and care for their father, Stephen, a veteran still suffering in mind and spirit from his time as a POW during the Civil War. But when the Great Fire sweeps through Chicago’s business district, they lose much more than just their store.

The sisters become separated from their father and make a harrowing escape from the flames with the help of Chicago Tribune reporter Nate Pierce. Once the smoke clears away, they reunite with Stephen, only to learn soon after that their family friend was murdered on the night of the fire. Even more shocking, Stephen is charged with the crime and committed to the Cook County Insane Asylum.

Though homeless and suddenly unemployed, Meg must not only gather the pieces of her shattered life, but prove her father’s innocence before the asylum truly drives him mad.

WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

As soon as I saw Jocelyn Green had released another book I requested it from NetGalley. Miss Jocelyn has a way of making history come alive in the most dynamic ways, and I’ve learned so many cool facts from her books.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

Once I had downloaded the book and actually paid attention to the cover, I was struck by two thoughts 1) That the cover was one of my favorite of all time and 2) That the book must be about the Great Fire of Chicago. It turns out I was right (which I would have known if I would have read the back cover), so I put the book away for several months so I could get into the right mood to read it. I’m not sure why it is, but the Great Fire has long been in my top three least favorite periods/events in history to read about.

Eventually, I felt ready to delve into the book, so I began reading and was reminded once again why I like Miss Jocelyn’s writing so much. Much like when I read A Refuge Assuredthis book was able to take a time period that I intensely dislike, and turn it into an interesting story.

We have four points of view that we follow, and the story is written in third person. We follow passionate and loyal Meg, logical and then infatuated Sylvie, calm and inquisitive Nate, and high-strung and desperate Stephen. Meg’s story was the main focus, although she only gets a little more page time than the other three.

There are so many little details in the story that makes the time period come alive – like how dead birds, overcome with smoke, fall from the sky during the fire. Reading that description transported me from a cold spring day in Ohio to a dark night surrounded by chaos and flames in Chicago. I highlighted a couple other descriptions as I read them, delighted by Miss Jocelyn’s word choices.

Clouds of dust turned her skirt a sepia tone below the waist, as if she were climbing out of a daguerreotype. 

and

The moment of his need and her meeting it was embroidered on her memory in shining thread. 

In addition to her lovely writing, Miss Jocelyn’s books always stand out to me because of how well researched they are. Plus, her plots are never dull, filled with enough momentum to keep the reader intrigued but never enough to overshadow the character’s growth and development. There’s a whole mystery to delve into, plot to uncover, and truth to find. The plot twists didn’t shock me, but they were well-written.

Based solely upon personal preferences, this book was not one of my favorites. I’m very aware that each element I disliked is probably a reason someone else would like it, and that’s the beauty of reading a wide range of books and authors.

The things I disliked in Veiled in Smoke include:
-Stephen’s narrative. He has great character growth, and I see the importance of his story, but it wasn’t for me.
-One of the characters is hurt in the fire, and although I think it added a very important element to the story, was tastefully written, and assuredly did not add too many details… Well, I’m very squimish about little things like the words scar tissue (yes, that’s silly of me, I know), and so that part of the story made me grimace.
-As mentioned before, the time period isn’t one of my favorites, so that sadly took the book down in rating for me. That doesn’t mean that I think the book isn’t well-written, researched, or executed, it just lowered my enjoyment of the story.

CONCLUSION

Although this story wasn’t a personal favorite, it was clean, free from too many details regarding violence and destruction, and tackles some pretty serious things with grace.

It takes place during a huge fire, there’s chaos, people die (and are killed), there are injuries, homelessness, pain, suffering, one of the characters has some pretty serious PTSD from the Civil War. Plus, the book features an insane asylum. Despite all that, the book isn’t overly dark – although obviously, it isn’t light and fluffy.

RATING

I’m giving Veiled in Smoke out of 5 stars, although if I didn’t dislike the time period so much it probably would have gotten a higher rating. I’m thankful for NetGalley for sharing a copy of the book with me.

Between Two Shores

Y’all, you know it’s a good book when I can’t stop talking about it. Well, here my official review is, so I’ll at least stop talking about it for a while. 😉

FIRST OFF, SOME STATS:

Find the book on: Amazon and Goodreads
Pages: 409
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Title: Between Two Shores
Fiction

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WHY I CHOOSE THIS BOOK

Jocelyn Green writes some of the best Historical Fiction, so she’s one of the few authors on my auto-buy (or auto-review) list. I was so excited when Bethany Publishers chose this as their book to send out physical copies to for their reviewers and right away jumped at the chance to have it in my library.

WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS BOOK

I have so many thoughts about this book – some of which I’ve shared on my blog and Instagram (if you want my extra bookish musings you can follow me there), but now I’m endeavoring to write an actual review.

Style: This book skips back and forth in time periods (over a ten-year range) which really isn’t my favorite but I see how it was necessary to tell the full story. Miss Jocelyn did a great job of keeping the backstory snippets suffice and on-point so they didn’t take away from the story we were in the middle of, plus she did a good job of keeping the time periods as unconfusing as possible.

Characters: I didn’t really jive with any of the characters, yet the story was so skillfully written and kept my interest to the point that my lack of relatability didn’t bother me.
Catherine: Seeing Catherine trying to bridge two worlds was heart-tugging and beautifully written. I can imagine that the life Cathrine lived and tried to be a part of was what a lot of children in that era experienced. Watching her struggle to find acceptance and purpose and her identity without actually saying that’s what she was doing most of the time was amazing and reminded me of what a great storyteller Miss Jocelyn was. Catherine was my favorite character and I’m so glad we got to see the world through her eyes.
Catherine’s Mohawk Family: These characters made the story for me. They hardly ever did what I wanted them to do, yet what they did was so in-line with who they were and I applauded every move they made as keeping in character, even when I wished they were different.
Catherine’s Other Family: Her dad and Thankful were both so thoroughly written and real and made me expereince all the emotions that an author should invoke in a well-crafted character.
I’m not going to say much about other characters because of spoilers, but I will say I wished I would have liked some of them more because if I had, then the one major plot twist would have hit me a lot harder than it did. More below.

Plot: This book really does focus mainly on the history of the time period which was a refreshing difference from Historical Fiction books that put far too much emphasis on the romance. In fact, every time I thought it might be going in a direction that would take away from the history Miss Jocelyn reeled it back in and I was like “Way to go!”
While reading this book I got so involved in the story that I literally couldn’t remember who won the war. We get to see it from Catherine’s point of view, and she’s pretty much being tugged every direction. Forgetting how the war ended actually really helped me stay riveted to the page and what to find out what in the world would happen next. It also made me skim some because of the suspense.
There was a plot twist in the book that when I first read it I was like “Oh.” But then as I kept reading I was like “Oh! My! LANDS!” And I knew how that plot twist turned out, in the end, would determine my rating for the book. Thankfully, the author did what I hoped and the book got a solid four-star rating from me.

CONCLUSION

Someone on Instagram asked why I only gave the book four stars while I was raving about it, so here’s my answer: I very rarely rate a book five stars (for example, last year I read 79 fiction books and gave only one of them five stars), that means that for me a four-star rating is actually really high. And, although I really liked Between Two Shores and was exceedingly pleased with how Miss Jocelyn handled the plot twist and created the characters, the fact that the style wasn’t my favorite and I didn’t really relate to the characters held me back from giving it the illusive five-stars.

There were some battle scenes in the book that were a bit detailed, plus some abuse, manipulation, drunkenness, etc… But all of these were handled with care and the violence can easily be skimmed without losing out on the plot. (And, it was very realistic for a historical fiction book set during a war.)

RATING

I’m giving Between Two Shores 4 out of 5 stars.

((I got this book from Bethany House Publishers so I could review it, all thoughts and opinions are my own.))

Two Historical Fiction Novels You Should Buy

One of the fun parts of getting to read books for review is having insider information to share with my online friends. Today is a day pays off particularly well. See, today is the release date for one of the best books I’ve read this year, and also exactly a month until the release date for one of my favorite books from last year.

First, the book that releases today.

Between Two Shores by Jocelyn Green.

This book takes place in Montreal during the 1750s and the main character is a half-Mohawk, half-French lady who runs a trading post for her not-so-nice father.

Y’all. This book had so much amazing information about the war that I’m pretty sure I’m going to need to read it again sometime super soon just so I can focus on more of the details. I’ll admit to having some air-headed moments where I completely forgot history and couldn’t remember how the war ended (aka, who won), and instead of looking it up, I kept reading with the suspense propelling me on.

There was a plot twist that I found to be completely unexpected. When I first read it I was like “Oh, well, okay….” and was kinda disappointed that it didn’t shock me more. But then I kept reading and was like “But, but, but, how could that have happened?” And I finished the book as fast as I could so I could shove it at my friend and beg (maybe demand?) she read it so we could discuss it.

I knew the outcome of that plot twist would determine my overall feelings of the book. If it worked out one way then the story would squeak by with barely three stars, but if it worked out another way I’d happily give it four solid stars.

Probably needless to say I gave the book four stars and right away set out on a quest to find some friends who don’t read a ton of fiction so I could give them all the spoilers and rant and rave and tell someone what happened. Because yes, the author did a great job of breaking the normal Christian Historical Fiction mold and surprising me as a reader.

So yeah. You should probably order the book right now or request it at your library.

Plus, ya know, the more you look at the cover the more details you see, and that’s pretty amazing. Way to go, Miss Jocelyn, on writing another fantastic book!

Between

Next off, the book that releases in exactly a month.

Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill

Y’all. Historical Fiction is my favorite genre (no, really?), and I especially like it when an author tackles a time period or subject that isn’t really well known, especially in the fiction world. Miss Stephanie takes a well known time period (WW2) and then flips the idea over and presents us with a side of the war that isn’t often talked about.

Japanese Internment Camps in the USA.

It’s a subject a lot of Americans skim over or are completely unaware of, and yet it’s a real part of our history. Miss Stephanie masterfully weaves together a story of a Japanese boy and Italian girl and the prejudices, injustices, and mindset of the people during the 1940s.

When you read the book you’ll feel the dust of the camp. The scorn of onlookers. The helplessness of those left behind. You’ll disappear from 2019 and suddenly find yourself in a very different era as the details surround you and you make new friends, feel new heartache, and see the world through different eyes.

Within

To my surprise, there were several similarities between these two books, including the fact that they both deal with prejudices, trying to understand different cultures, and how to move forward when someone doesn’t do what you expected.

You can pre-order Miss Stephanie’s book here (which means it’ll be automatically sent to you a month from now and that’s pretty amazing). I already pre-ordered her book (back on June 23rd, the first day the cover went live on Amazon), and despite having an ARC copy of it, I’m so excited about the final version arriving in the mail.

And there you have it, folks, some insider information on two amazing books. I’d be delighted to know in the comments if you’ve read either of these two authors or if you plan on buying either of these fantastic books.

Currently
Setting: Walking on the treadmill (I walked nearly two miles while writing this)
Listening to: Spotify on shuffel 
Random Fact: We live in a valley so we often have fog 
Question of the Day: Do you like Historical Fiction?