Welcome to book spotlight where instead of giving you another book review, I’m just going to talk about books I’ve read recently that I enjoyed. Prepare yourself for the fangirl gushing.

If you’ve been around my blog for any amount of time, you can probably tell I love historical fiction. I enjoy reading books that take me to another time and place, that are rich with interesting details of days past and characters that lived during those eras. I especially love historical fiction that highlights people and places that are often forgotten or purposefully taken out of history books.

I thoroughly enjoyed Stacey Lee‘s The Downstairs Girl for these reasons and have been wanting to read more of her historical fiction about Chinese Americans during past eras of history. Like most books on my TBR, it took me a way to finally read another one of her books. And I absolutely loved it. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee follows two girls of color, one Chinese and one Black, as they disguise themselves as boys and run away to the west during the 1840s gold rush.

I absolutely loved the adventure of this story. I’ve always been intrigued by stories of pioneers and cowboys, such as the American Girl series about Kirsten or the Little House books, but until I read this book, I didn’t realize how much I wanted more stories about pioneers and cowboys. (And not just typical Western books, but historical fiction books about these time periods.) There’s just something to timeless and adventurous about exploring the Great Plains and wrangling cattle and riding horses and traveling in covered wagon.

I love how much is packed into this book as well. Anything from race issuesfor both Chinese Americans and Blacks during this time periodto romantic tension that left me wanting to curl into a ball because it was so well done. These girls go through so much, dealing with murder and slavery, love and loss, almost dying themselves on multiple occasions. But they stick with it, determined to reach their end goals no matter the cost, and they prove they are just as strong and courageous and brilliant as the cowboys they ally themselves with.

And I love the cowboys! All the characters in this book are so unique and distinguished. From the Pepper cousins to the Five Hand Gang to the random people the girls meet along the way that help them (or in some cases harm them). Stacey Lee has such a way of bringing characters to life through the historical details that surround them. It’s so good. (Though, Peety is the best and you can’t convince me otherwise.)

The way she handles the serious side of things is so well done. This book does deal with harsh topics such as rape and murder, slavery and discrimination, and more. But that’s part of why I read historical fiction: to learn about people that are often ignored when it comes to history.

Under a Painted Sky is such an incredible story of resilience and perseverance in the face of discrimination and false assumptions. There are so many layers to the story, but it’s also a really fun adventure story about cowboys and pioneers seeking fortune in the west. If you like historical fiction, I highly recommend this one.

Waffle recommendation: I once saw a recipe for cornbread waffles to eat alongside taco toppings. The characters don’t specifically eat tacos in this book, but they do make some kind of cornbread/tortilla like food at one point. So I don’t know if it’s because of Peety, the vaquero from this book, or just the idea of eating cornbread over the fire under the stars, but this sounds like a great waffle to eat alongside this book.