Carrie Turansky: No Ocean Too Wide

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Between the years of 1869 to 1939 more than 100,000 poor British children were sent across the ocean to Canada with the promise of a better life. Those who took them in to work as farm laborers or household servants were told they were orphans–but was that the truth?

After the tragic loss of their father, the McAlister family is living at the edge of the poorhouse in London in 1908, leaving their mother to scrape by for her three younger children, while oldest daughter, Laura, works on a large estate more than an hour away. When Edna McAlister falls gravely ill and is hospitalized, twins Katie and Garth and eight-year-old Grace are forced into an orphans’ home before Laura is notified about her family’s unfortunate turn of events in London. With hundreds of British children sent on ships to Canada, whether truly orphans or not, Laura knows she must act quickly. But finding her siblings and taking care of her family may cost her everything.

Andrew Fraser, a wealthy young British lawyer and heir to the estate where Laura is in service, discovers that this common practice of finding new homes for penniless children might not be all that it seems. Together Laura and Andrew form an unlikely partnership. Will they arrive in time? Will their friendship blossom into something more?

Inspired by true events, this moving novel follows Laura as she seeks to reunite her family and her siblings who, in their darkest hours, must cling to the words from Isaiah: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God”.

I enjoyed this novel and learned about the movement in England that was similar to America’s “orphan trains”. The novel ends with no full completion of the children’s stories, so I’m sure another novel is coming. The genre is a mash-up of historical fiction, Christian, and romance. Carrie Turansky always writes about believable and likable characters and you can count on her for a “clean read”. I look forward to the sequel!

Thank you for my e-copy via Net Galley!

As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner

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Oh my goodness, I loved this historical fiction novel about an ordinary family during an extraordinary time. The Bright family is moving to Philadelphia and it’s the outbreak of WWI. Along with the war comes the pandemic of Spanish Flu, which kills thousands of previously healthy young people. This family has to much loss to deal with, crisis, and challenges. Then in one of their darkest hours, one of the daughters finds a little baby and takes him home so that they can raise him and bring some light into their lives.

This story is told in the four distinct voices of the four main character women: Evelyn, the intelligent, eldest daughter, Maggie, who finds the baby and is quite determined, Willa, the spunky and headstrong youngest, and their gentle, kind mother Pauline. I loved the story and the characters and the message.

I have never read any of Meissner’s other novels, so I will need to look for them.

Thank you for my review kindle copy via Net Galley!

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The Orphan of Florence by Jeanne Kalogridis

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If you read me, you know I adore historical fiction, and one of my favorite places is Florence, Italy! I’ve been there several times and last year spent a wonderful vacation with my husband there, exploring and walking around this fascinating, beautiful, and historical place. No one can visit Florence without hearing about the Medici, and their family history is the subject of many wonderful historical novels.

This  story focuses on a street urchin, Guilia, a young girl who poses as a boy to enhance her safety and the safety of the little boy she cares for. She is quick, smart, and plucky. Through a series of events, she is taken in by the “Magician of Florence”, and begins to learn his magic, especially ciphers and codes, and how it ties in to the Medici family. A series of violent and incredible events takes place, and Guilia finds herself running for her life.

I loved this story, and especially liked how it evoked vivid images of Florence/Firenze. This was a lively and intriguing read that fans of historical fiction of this period should enjoy.

Thank you for my review e-copy!

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For My Ears: BEFORE WE WERE YOURS by Lisa Wingate – Read by Emily Rankin

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Wow! This story was recommended online in the blogisphere, and I thought I might enjoy it, but I was blown away by this story of a family torn apart and the young girl who tries to keep her siblings together against all odds.

Here’s the overview from Amazon:

Two families, generations apart, are forever changed by a heartbreaking injustice in this poignant novel, inspired by a true story, for fans of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.

Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge – until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents – but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.

Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals – in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country – Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

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While these children weren’t real, this is based on true events, and you will be forever haunted at the shocking and terrible things that happened to poor families in the Depression and post-Depression era South. Normally I don’t like disturbing books centered on children, but this story was so compelling, and I loved the character of Rill so much, along with the fact that the present day protagonist was unraveling the mystery of the family tree, I just could not stop listening!

Beautifully narrated, it’s a story you won’t soon forget.

I used my audible credit for this one.

Review of FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey

A few weeks back I had the opportunity to read and review FORGETTING TABITHA by Julie Dewey.  This was a rather gritty look at life for an orphan in NYC who goes on one of the “orphan trains” to a new life if rural New York in the 1860’s.

Here’s the overview:

Forgetting Tabitha by Julie Dewey
Publication Date: December 29, 2015
Holland Press

Raised on a farm, Tabitha Salt, the daughter of Irish immigrants, leads a bucolic and sheltered existence. When tragedy strikes the family, Tabitha and her mother are forced to move to the notorious Five Points District in New York City, known for its brothels, gangs, gambling halls, corrupt politicians and thieves.

As they struggle to survive in their new living conditions, tragedy strikes again. Young Tabitha resorts to life alone on the streets of New York, dreaming of a happier future.

The Sisters of Charity are taking orphans off the streets with promises of a new life. Children are to forget their pasts, their religious beliefs, families and names. They offer Tabitha a choice: stay in Five Points or board the orphan train and go West in search of a new life.

The harrowing journey and the decision to leave everything behind launches Tabitha on a path from which she can never return.

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About the Author
Julie Dewey is a novelist who resides with her family in Central New York. Her daughter is a singer/songwriter, and her son is a boxer. Her husband is an all-around hard working, fantastic guy with gorgeous blue eyes that had her falling for him the moment they met.

In addition to researching and writing she is an avid reader. She is also passionate about jewelry design and gemstones. She loves anything creative, whether it be knitting, stamping, scrapping, decoupaging, working with metal, or decorating.

Visit her at http://www.juliedewey.com to get your reading guide for this book and to read an excerpt from One Thousand Porches, her second novel. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

 

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02_Forgetting Tabitha

Okay — so here’s my take on things. The overview covers the beginning of the book and this was my favorite part of the story. I wanted little Tabitha to find a better life. I was horrified by the squalid conditions in which they had to live (which was very accurate for the time). I also have read a lot about the Orphan Trains, and felt that her experience on them (crying children, people wanting to adopt either little babies or older boys to work on their farms, etc.) was fairly typical.

SPOILER ALERT  — SPOILERS AHEAD!

Where I struggled with the story was at the midway point once Tabitha (now called Mary) was settled into her new life. New characters were introduced and sometimes these characters took over the narrative. There were several points of view portrayed, which was made less confusing by the fact that the chapter titles were the character’s names. However, and this is just for me as a reader, while I would call the first part of the book “gritty”, there were several scenes in the second half of the book that were violent and also portrayed sexual violence (which is not my bailiwick). These included a 13 year old prostitute being brutally raped. I found those scenes disturbing (especially since I wasn’t expecting it, I was still thinking “orphan trains! chance at a new and better life!”); but to be fair, if you read me regularly, you know that I am a “cozy mystery” type of person rather than a “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” type, so this just isn’t my thing.

I did like the ending and I really liked the plucky and resilient character of Tabitha/Mary. I thought it was interesting how much she changed, and yet how much she stayed the same throughout the book.

If you’d like to read and see more about the orphan trains in real life, check out the wonderful PBS special about them. More info here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/orphan/

Thank you for my review e-copy!

HFVB Tour Review: LOOKING FOR JANE by Judith Redline Coopey

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Historical Fiction Virtual Blog Tours is featuring a variety of books by Judith Redline Coopey. I had the pleasure of reading LOOKING FOR JANE a few weeks ago while I was on vacation.

LOOKING FOR JANE follows the adventures of 15-year-old Nell, an orphan in Pennsylvania in the late 1800’s, who runs away from her convent orphanage as opposed to being adopted by a family who’s looking for a worker. Nell knows that her birth mother’s name was Jane and after coming across a story about Calamity Jane, she decides whole-heartedly that Calamity Jane is her birth mother and she needs to find her asap. Nell’s journey takes her through many varied adventures, meeting new friends and finding out about herself and life along the way.

I really enjoyed this story and loved the plucky character of Nell. I always love the “journey to discovery” theme in books, and this one was no exception. Ms. Coopey peppers her story throughout with interesting facts of the time period and gives Nell a very distinctive voice.  I found myself cheering for Nell as she fought her battles.

Here’s what HFVBT has to say:

Looking for Jane

Publication Date: December 21, 2012
Fox Hollow Press
Formats: ebook & Paperback
Pages: 238

Genre: Historical Fiction

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READ AN EXCERPT.

“The nuns use this as their measuring stick: who your people are. Well, what if you don’t have no people? Or any you know of? What then? Are you doomed?” This is the nagging question of fifteen-year-old Nell’s life. Born with a cleft palate and left a foundling on the doorstep of a convent, she yearns to know her mother, whose name, she knows, was Jane.

When the Mother Superior tries to pawn her off to a mean looking farmer and his beaten down wife, Nell opts for the only alternative she can see: she runs away. A chance encounter with a dime novel exhorting the exploits of Calamity Jane, heroine of the west, gives Nell the purpose of her life: to find Calamity Jane, who Nell is convinced is her mother.

Her quest takes her down rivers, up rivers and across the Badlands to Deadwood, South Dakota and introduces her to Soot, a big, lovable black dog, and Jeremy Chatterfield, a handsome young Englishman who isn’t particular about how he makes his way, as long as he doesn’t have to work for it. Together they trek across the country meeting characters as wonderful and bizarre as the adventure they seek, learning about themselves and the world along the way.

Buy Looking for Jane

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I have mixed feelings as to the age group for this story — there is some implied sexual situations in the story, but nothing graphic. I personally would let my sixth grader read it, but it really seems geared as not a children’s book. I enjoyed it a lot!

Thanks for making me part of the tour and for my review copy!

Quick Children’s Review: The Boxcar Children Graphic Novel #2 – Surprise Island by Gertrude Chandler and Mike Dubisch

Through Net Galley, I received a free download of this novel to review from the publishers at Open Road. The Boxcar Children series has been around for a long time. In case you don’t know the premise, four orphaned siblings live in a boxcar and have adventures and solve mysteries. They reunite with their grandfather, but the adventures continue. The original series was created by Gertrude Chandler in the 1940’s. In this rendition, Mike Dubisch has put the story into a graphic “comic book” format. It reads easily and has colorful pictures. It was also quite short – just over 30 pages. I could see how reluctant readers or those seeking a quick read would like this series. To be honest, I found some of the language stilted – since it condensed quite a bit of text into a shorter, graphic format – but I still think that both boys and girls would enjoy this series. I plan to share mine with my favorite second grader.

Thanks, Open Road, for sending me a copy to review!