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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

- Alabama (1)
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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

My Progress:

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

My Progress:

48 / 50 books. 96% done!

2024 52 Club Reading Challenge

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40 / 52 books. 77% done!

2024 Build Your Library Reading Challenge

My Progress:

27 / 40 books. 68% done!

2024 Pioneer Book Reading Challenge

15 / 40 books. 38% done!

2024 Craving for Cozies Reading Challenge

My Progress:

10 / 25 books. 40% done!

2024 Medical Examiner's Mystery Reading Challenge

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My Progress

12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

My Progress

26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

My Progress:

64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

My Progress

43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

My Progress

69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Family Saga Set Against Great Chicago Fire Backdrop Compelling and Uplifting

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Sisters Meg and Sylvie Townsend have a lot on their plates.  Not only do they run their family's bookshop in downtown Chicago, but they also have to keep a close eye on their widowed father, Stephen.  His experiences as a POW during the Civil War still haunt his mind and soul, making him paranoid, confused, and prone to wandering—sometimes carrying a loaded weapon.  Stephen is always warning his daughters of danger on the horizon.  This time, he's right.  As a raging fire engulfs the city, the family must scramble to save their bookshop and themselves.  Although the women get separated from their father in the chaos, their business is destroyed, and Meg suffers debilitating burns on her artist's hands, all three survive the deadly fire.  As the dazed family tries to figure out where to go from here, they receive another shock—Stephen has been accused of murder.  Witnesses say he shot Hiram Sloane, one of his oldest friends, on the night of the fire.  Since Stephen is obviously not in his right mind, he's forced into an insane asylum, despite his daughters' vehement protests.  No matter how sick their father is, he would never murder someone in cold blood.  Would he?

Meg knows her gentle father won't survive another incarceration, especially in a place as soulless as the asylum.  The only way to get him released is to prove him innocent, which Meg vows to do.  Enlisting the help of Nate Pierce, a sympathetic newspaper reporter, she and Sylvie set about investigating the murder of Hiram Sloane.  While doing that, they also have to figure out how to live with no money and little hope of rebuilding their bookshop.  With everything in ashes around them, how will they survive?  Can they free their father before what little is left of his sanity is gone completely?  As their beloved city is being rebuilt around them, can Meg and Sylvie find the strength, the courage, and the hope to go on?

I love me a sweeping family saga, so I was naturally drawn to Jocelyn Green's historical trilogy set in 19th Century Chicago.  The first installment, Veiled in Smoke, introduces the atmospheric setting as well as the likable Townsend family.  Vivid historical detail, especially concerning the Great Fire of 1871, brings the city to life while viewing it all through the eyes of our admirable, root-worthy heroes makes the event and its aftermath feel intimate and personal.  Although there is a murder mystery at the heart of this novel, it's more family saga than thriller so the story moves along at the pace of the former rather than the latter.  The tale does get overly long and the mystery really isn't very mysterious, but I still found Veiled in Smoke compelling enough to keep me reading.  Because this is a Christian novel, it's clean, uplifting, and faith-promoting.  Although it gets preachy in places, the religious themes are not super heavy-handed, which is something I appreciate when reading in this genre.  All these things considered, I found Veiled in Smoke to be an engaging, edifying novel that I liked but didn't absolutely love.  Even still, I've already read the second book and am looking forward to the third.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of I Survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 by Lauren Tarshis and The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for violence and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson


The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

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