Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Book Reviews | Historical Fiction


The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek follows traveling librarian Cussy May Carter as she delivers books on horseback in 1930s Kentucky. This is a great read that introduced me to the blue-skinned people of Kentucky and President Roosevelt's Kentucky Pack Horse Library Service. Cussy encounters hardships, danger, and prejudice as she strives to make a life for herself and help the mountain people along her book route.

From the book's description: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is a story of raw courage, fierce strength, and one woman's belief that books can carry us anywhere—even back home.

The Hard Side of the River: A Novel of Abolition by Johnny Payne (which I received free from TCK Publishing in exchange for an honest review) is also set in Kentucky; however, the year is 1833, thirty years before the US Civil War. It is the story of four individuals whose stories intertwine: Dan Baskin, a former slave trader who still pines for a slave he loved and lost years before; Cal Fenton, a preacher committed to helping slaves flee north to freedom; Dana Curbstone, a schoolteacher who somewhat romanticizes the act of aiding slaves trying to escape; and Jacob Pingram, the intelligent and capable slave they are all focused on helping or finding. I enjoyed this story (although there were too many sexual scenes for my taste). It's imperative to note the date at the beginning of each chapter because the middle section of the book veers off to follow Cal and Dana before backtracking to Pingram and Baskin's stories.

From the book's description: Richly detailed, immaculately researched, and orchestral in its construction, The Hard Side of the River pays thoughtful tribute to the human cost of slavery and the overpowering strength of the American spirit.

I first read and enjoyed News of the World several years ago. (See my review HERE.) Robbie and I both read it recently after watching the new movie starring Tom Hanks as Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, a reader of the news in Texas in the last 1860s. Captain Kidd is returning 10-year-old Johanna (who was captured by the Kiowa four years earlier) to her aunt and uncle. This is a well-written quick read, despite the fact that there are no quotation marks in the entire book. Although Tom Hanks and Helena Zengal are not how I had originally pictured Captain Kidd and Johanna, the movie is well-done and we both enjoyed it.

From the book's description: Their 400-mile journey south through unsettled territory and unforgiving terrain proves difficult and at times dangerous. Johanna has forgotten the English language, tries to escape at every opportunity, throws away her shoes, and refuses to act “civilized.” Yet as the miles pass, the two lonely survivors tentatively begin to trust each other, forming a bond that marks the difference between life and death in this treacherous land.

Have you read any of these books or seen the new Tom Hanks movie? Please share your thoughts in the comments.


  1. I've read both News of the World and The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. You've reminded me that I want to see the movie version of News of the World.

  2. Always appreciate book reviews & in this case an accompanying movie review. I haven't read any of those books. I like Tom Hanks in most things, so I'll check for News of The World.

  3. I like anything with Tom Hanks in, so I'll look out for News of the World. :)


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