There’s a chain of thrift stores in my area that has an amazing book selection, and when my mom suggested we go to a few I couldn’t say no. Then I went to Second & Charles to trade my latest unhauled books in and bought more books that I got rid of browsed around while I waited for them to tell me how much store credit I had. February was the perfect book buying storm.
Here’s what I got:
I’d already read a few of the books I picked up this month, and quite a few of them – like The Mark of Athena, Midnight Jewel, Glass – I bought to start series building since they were soooooo cheap!
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about books we love that don’t have many ratings on Goodreads. Turns out, I read a lot of obscure books. Like, a lot a lot. Here are my favs and a few reasons why I love them!
A Holiday by Gaslight by Mimi Matthews
If you were here around Christmas time, then you know I ADORE this book. The cover is gorgeous (and it’s full of things that matter in the story, isn’t that such a novelty?), and the book is short and sweet. It’s the perfect pre-Christmas read.
When I picked up The Vintner’s Daughter I didn’t have super high hopes. I’m not a wine drinker, I’m not super into French or California culture…. none of that mattered. This book sucked me in and refused to let me go until I finished. By the end of it you would have thought I owned my own vineyard, I was so into the wine making process. The characters were great, and the sequel – The California Wife – was an awesome read too.
A Woman of War by Mandy Robotham
If I was writing this list just a few months from now, A Woman of War wouldn’t be on it. There’s absolutely no way that this book would have less than 2,000 likes by then. Although it’s technically alternate history, it’s so hard to remember this book is fiction when you’re reading it. The characters are so real and the ‘alternate history’ bit… let’s just say there’s a really, really good chance it could have happened.
I honestly don’t understand how this book only has 137 ratings! I read this way back in the beginning of 2016 and while I can’t remember the exact plot of this book, I remember falling in love with the setting and the characters. When I went hunting for the cover on Goodreads I saw that Elizabeth Haran has 3 more books out (WWII and WWI related! Hello, is she writing just for me?). I can’t wait to read them!
Far More Terrible for Women
I get why this book doesn’t have very many ratings. It’s a collection of oral histories, so how do you put a star rating on someone’s recollection of life? BUT, even though it’s barely been rated, it’s a fantastic book. This collection takes you through some of the most compelling oral histories of former female slaves, but there are other books that focus on individual states.
Longbourn’s Songbird by Beau North
I will sing (get it?) the praises of this book until I die. It was SO. GOOD. and it’s basically a sin that I’m admitting I read it because – wait for it – this is a Pride and Prejudice retelling and I STILL haven’t read Pride and Prejudice. I know. Honestly, I don’t even care because this book was just that good.
Jenny of the Tetons by Kristiana Gregory
I read this in 2013 (!) and I remember closing the book and having that mush-brain feeling you get after you’ve finished a book that rocked your world. Kristiana Gregory is a well known name in children’s historical fiction – she wrote quite a few Dear America books. I’m looking forward to rereading this book soon and seeing if I still feel the same about it.
A Heart’s Disguise by Colleen Coble
A Heart’s Disguise is one of six novella’s in their own little series, all six of which were rated less than 2,000 times. I think this is the book that surprised me the most because Colleen Coble is such a huge name and these stories were so darn fun! I picked them all up on Book Outlet super cheap and would read an entire book in one sitting. They deserve more love!
This week’s topic is actually ‘Upcoming Releases I’m on the Fence About’ but I don’t have any! I thought it’d be fun to fill in any topics I don’t want to do by working my way down the original Top Ten Tuesday topics. The very first Top Ten Tuesday topic was childhood favorites, so that’s where we’re starting!
The Little House on the Prairie Series and Dear America series were my absolute favs, although A Series of Unfortunate Events was a close runner up! I’d like to do a few posts this year revisiting and reviewing my childhood favorites.
Title: When Will This Cruel War Be Over?
Author: Barry Denenberg Publication Date: November 1, 2003 Genre: Historical Fiction Rating:
The peaceful, traditional Southern life that Emma Simpson and her family know is shattered when the Civil War reaches their soil. Soon, Emma’s father and brother are called to battle, but her family is confident the South will quickly win the War between the States.
As the months drag on, though, the harsh realities of war set in. Death and hardship are all around Emma, and food, medicine, firewood, and ink for her to write in her diary become increasingly scarce as troops from the North march deeper into the South. Finally, even her home is commandeered by the Yankees.
Still, with a brave spirit and the knowledge of what is most important, Emma never loses hope that the war will end.
The Dear America books never fail to impress me! They were my favorite as a child and still are now, as I slowly read (and in most cases, reread) them as an adult.
The story opens the day before Christmas as Emma Simpson’s brother is deposited at her home in a coffin, his death the product of a wound and disease. That singular event sets the tone for the rest of the book as Emma struggles with profound loss after loss, the supposed sanctity of the south, and gradually realizing that life will never be the same. She feels the first stirrings of love, but wrestles with the concept of something pure and happy when so many lives – including her own – are in turmoil. Most of all, she rocks back and forth between melancholy and hope.
The Civil War is such an intricate topic, with so many different facets that Dear America could have featured 20 diaries from 20 girls with different vantage points to the war, but somehow this book surmised most of them. Emma is from the south, but in under two hundred pages we meet Southerners that are abusive and determined to keep slavery alive and others that are fighting for their homeland out of a sense of honor and responsibility. There are Yankees that loot and burn and terrorize, and others that help feed the people who have nothing left. Slaves that steal and rebel, and slaves that maintain the work they were doing before the war. Basically, I think this book was incredibly well balanced given the breadth of the topic. A lot of Dear America books act more like a snapshot and, let’s be real, deal with much less controversial topics. This one nailed it!
Title: Daughters of the War
Author: Lizzie Page Publication Date: November 12, 2018 Genre: Historical Fiction Rating:
An emotional tale of wartime love and sacrifice, inspired by an incredible true story…
As a teenager in Chicago, May always dreamed of travelling the world. So when she meets handsome George Turner, she jumps at the chance to return to London as his wife. Ten years later, May is wondering if she’s made a terrible mistake.
It’s 1914 and war has been declared in Europe. All around, brave young men are being called up to serve. George, banned from conscription himself, has taken to the bottle, and May suspects he’s seeing other women too. She longs for a way to escape.
The chance comes when May meets veteran nurse Elsie, who persuades May to join the war effort. May knows nothing of nursing – it will be difficult, dangerous work, but her heart is telling her it’s the right thing to do.
But then George does the unthinkable and May’s future is put at risk. Will she have to make the impossible choice between duty to her family and her promise to the soldiers on the front line? And can she live with the consequences if her husband goes through with what he’s threatening to do?
Daughters of the War is the second of three books by Lizzie Page focusing on female nurses during WWI, all of which can be read separately (although I suspect there were a few Easter eggs included tying in the first book which I missed). The actual subject of this book is what drew me in and made me request a copy. Female war stories are my favorite to read about, and it’s fairly rare to find a WWI story with the market so saturated by WWII at the moment.
Unfortunately, this book and I weren’t as well suited for each other as I had hoped. May, the main character, was a bit too gloomy and morose for me. I’m very appreciative of the fact that the author chose to depict mental illness, especially in a time period where it was still very taboo, but it drug the story down a bit for me. The plot of the story (nursing wounded soldiers, an unhappy marriage, etc.) was grim already, and while it’s understandable that a character faced with a life of grim realities would be depressed, I felt that there was too much doom and gloom. Because I had such a hard time connecting with May, I had a very difficult time engaging in the story and I found myself skimming for the action-y bits.
If you’re a fan of WWI or female war stories, I would encourage you to give this a try in spite of my qualms. It’s been very well received by others. If only May and I had gotten along better!
Title: Susanna’s Christmas Wish
Author: Jerry S. Eicher Publication Date: September 1, 2012 Genre: Amish Romance, Christmas Rating:
From the pen of bestselling Amish fiction author Jerry Eicher, (more than 350,000 books sold), comes a truly delightful and inspiring Christmas novella. Fans will be delighted by this peek at an Amish Christmas, complete with the romantic wish of Susanna Byler to spend the holidays with the man of her dreams. But who is the man of her dreams? Is it the competent but plain Amish man she married for convenience…or is it her first love-an Englisha man with whom she has recently had an unexpected encounter-and who wants her back in his life? A perfect holiday delight for lovers of Amish fiction…and those who love a heartwarming and tender Christmas tale.
Susanna’s Christmas Wish was a quick, cute, Christmas-y read!
The story centers mainly around Susanna’s internal conflicts as she tries to adjust to a new marriage – including her new husband’s strict views on Christmas – and her first love popping into town at the most inconvenient time possible. As she works through her dismay at missing her family’s Christmas gathering she’s also trying to come to terms with being jilted by the man she thought she loved and, as if that isn’t enough, she’s trying to grow her love for her new husband and prove to him that she’s committed. She’s got a lot on her plate.
I really enjoyed the story line and all of the Amish culture sprinkled throughout the book, but it took me a while to warm up to the characters. Susanna came across as a bit weepy and emotional, while Herman initially seemed a bit cold and distant. The polar opposite personalities were a bit jarring and made some of their first interactions a bit odd, but endearing nonetheless. By the end of the story I’d come to enjoy them both though, so maybe that’s a testament to their character growth! Their love was sweet and so pure, and I think Eicher did a great job of capturing the period of adjustment that every newlywed couple goes through, Amish or not.
I don’t read very much Amish fiction, although I know it’s a popular alternative (and sometimes subgenre) to historical fiction. When I picked this novella up I wasn’t familiar with Jerry S. Eicher, but I’ve since come to learn he’s one of the biggest authors in the genre. I got subtle Janette Oke vibes as I was reading and I absolutely love everything I’ve read from her so far. I definitely want to check out some of his other series – and I really hope there are more stories about Susanna and Herman in store!