It has been quite a while since I last posted here, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. You know how sometimes life just catches up to you and then starts going at a pace faster than a snowball down a steep snow slope? Well, that’s the perfect analogy for me for these past few months. But, whoa, hold on, it’s summertime and the snow is now melting. I think the snowball has stopped rolling for now.  Enough of that, and on to books!

So, I have always been a huge fan of historical fiction, but it has to be done right to have the dual approach of entertainment and educational insight. That’s why I really enjoy reading the fiction of Sandra Dallas. She has done her research and I trust her writing to portray events and emotions that closely resemble that past. Dallas also had a career in journalism and reporting with awards and accolades to boot.

The Quilt That Walked To Golden

by Sandra Dallas

Dallas’ nonfiction is also inspiring.

  • The Quilt That Walked to Golden: This is a fantastic portrayal of the westward migration and the effects that travel had on women and their work. While learning about the historic quilts and patterns, as well as purposes, and the art of creating quilts, the reader also learns how women survived the many miles across the prairies and plains and endured some of the hardest travel to date.
  • Colorado Ghost Towns and Mining Camps: For anyone interested in CO history and the rich tales of gold and silver mining, this book is a record of most (probably all?) of the historical mining camps and ghost towns in CO. The book is also filled with photography by Dallas’ daughter who is a professional photographer. Of all the ghost towns I knew of by name, I was able to find a record in this book, including about Manhattan, in Larimer County, CO. This one has only a faint trace of physical presence remaining and not a lot has been recorded.

Of  Dallas’ historical fiction, I chain-read the following:

  • Tallgrass: This was my first Sandra Dallas read, actually. I’m glad I started with this one, as she hooked me into reading her other titles. I loved her style in this book. If you enjoyed this book, you would enjoy The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka and also Teresa Funke’s books, Dancing in Combat Boots and Remember Wake.
  • New Mercies: This was the 3rd book I read by Dallas and it was an interesting turn from the first two. Set further forward in time in the 1920’s, Dallas blended the story of a young woman with a painful secret escaping her life in Denver, Colorado to discover new angles of her own life and family in Natchez, Mississippi.
  • The Chili Queen: This was the 2nd book I read and I really enjoyed this. Set in a NM brothel with some great twists and turns, I was reminded of the HBO series Deadwood, when reading this. I could see The Chili Queen becoming a trilogy or turned into a movie.
  • Alice’s Tulips: This was the 5th book I read, and I cried at the end! (I really do enjoy books that make me cry – it shows that the author touched a deeper emotional level). I love how Dallas can take the historical setting and bring it to life with real emotions and a connection to our own lives. Written in the form of letters to her sister, Alice is the star of the book, along with her quilts, hard-working style, her mother-in-law and her darling Charlie, as well as some lovely yellow tulips.
  • The Diary of Mattie Spencer: This was the 4th book I read and I loved how it was written in the form of a journal or diary. I really felt as if I was reading someone’s personal diary, while combing through the stacks at the Denver Historical Society Library. Again, filled with accurate historical representation of moving from the midwest to the plains of CO, complete with tornadoes, snakes and drought, Mattie Spencer prevailed in the end.

I still plan to read the following titles this summer, all by Sandra Dallas:

  • Buster’s Midnight Café
  • The Persian Pickle Club
  • Whiter Than Snow
  • Prayers for Sale

Sandra Dallas has a superb way of presenting twists and turns and spinning mysteries into her historical fiction, while also keeping with the theme of quilting and women’s work during the pioneer years. Keep alert when reading and you’ll pick up on interesting character nuances and find the common threads in your own lives.

Happy Reading!