Book Review: “Then Sings My Soul” by Amy K. Sorrells

Nel Stewart hasn’t been home in years when her mother’s sudden death brings her back to Michigan from Arizona. Her father’s deep grief and oncoming dementia causes Nel to stay longer than she originally intended. Together, Nel and Jakob work through their present pain as well as learn to deal with their past griefs.

Using alternating story lines, Sorrells tells Jakob’s story of his escape from the Jewish pogroms in the Ukraine, a story Nel never knew. We also learn Nel’s story of why she left home and the significance of Jakob’s hobby of the lapidary arts.

I was immediately drawn into this book because of the historical descriptions of a time and place I know little about (the Ukraine and the Jewish pogroms). The use of the lapidary arts was also an interesting addition, giving insight to the characters–their backgrounds and their interests.

From the title, I thought it was going to be a book about the song, “How Great Thou Art”, but it’s not; exactly. The author explains the meaning behind the title at the end, so make sure you read that. Highly recommend!

 

 

Biblical Fiction: Dead or Alive?

At the writers conference I attended in March, I had an opportunity to meet with someone who is the head of a Christian agency and well known in Christian publishing. I didn’t go with the plan of talking with him, so was pretty proud of myself for taking the plunge. I knew it would be a good experience, both to speak with him and to hear his thoughts on the book I’m writing. Now, I was not expecting much–no, I really didn’t think I would tell him about my story, he would respond with delight, and hand me a contract on the spot. The dream is there but I was feeling pretty realistic. However, I have spent a bit of time thinking over some of the things he said, and I have to admit, I am still puzzled by his attitude.

His first response to my pitch of “I’ve written an historical novel about Solomon growing up in King David’s palace,” was “People aren’t reading Biblical fiction. That just doesn’t sell, and no one is publishing it.”

I was stunned and, yes, I’m a bit of a slow thinker, so it wasn’t until I was back in my hotel room that I thought: “What about Tessa Afshar? Ginger Garrett? Connilyn Cossette? Francine Rivers? Jill Eileen Smith? Stephanie Landsem? Mesu Andrews? These writers may not be on the New York Times bestseller list, but they are all publishing Biblical fiction and doing reasonably well. I am currently reading Tessa Afshar’s Land of Silence, am enjoying it, and believe it is very well written. 

Did I misunderstand him? No, the conversation went on from there as he explained the ups and downs of Biblical fiction and told me why no one was interested in that any more. Of course, I tried to tell him that my book was special and many people would be interested in it and love to read it. Well, I didn’t exactly say all that, but I did spend more time telling him of my story, but I did not leave with a positive impression.

Looking through the authors I mentioned above, I found they were published by six different publishers, so there seems to be quite a few publishers still interested in these books.

So, am I wrong, and is he right? Are people not interested in reading Biblical fiction? What about you? Have you read any of these authors lately? Have you any others to add and recommend?

Valentine Reads: Christian Romance

20170214_122302-3Though I admit, “romance” books are not the genre I usually list as a favorite, I do have a few favorite authors and several books on my to-read list.  I mostly enjoy some historical romance, romantic suspense, and even fantasy romance. And what better time to look these over than on this day of love? So, quiet your inner cynic, grab some chocolate and look over this list and see if you can’t find something you might enjoy to take you through the rest of this winter month.

Tamera Alexander: She has several different series, all historical. I recently read the first two in her Timber Ridge Reflections series: From a Distance  and Beyond this Moment. Both take place shortly after the Civil War in Colorado. Interesting history (concerning both photography and the time of Colorado shortly before it became a state), and suspense in these books.

Lori Benton: I have read her first book: Burning Sky set in colonial times. Looking forward 20170214_121054-2to reading soon: The Wood’s Edge, (also set in colonial times) Christy Award winner for Book of the Year and Historical and First Novel.

20170214_122302-3Laura Frantz: Frantz has several different series and these also take place during the colonial period of the U.S. Two I have read and highly recommend: Love’s Reckoning and The Colonel’s Lady.

 

Jody Hedlund: Also has several different series, but two of her books I have on my to read-list: Luther & Katharine (winner of ECPA Christian Book Award & Christy Award for Historical Romance) and Newton & Polly (recently long listed for INSPY). As you might be able to guess, these are based on the real-life relationships of Martin Luther and his wife; and Amazing Grace writer, John Newton and his wife.20170214_121203-2

For more contemporary romance, Katie Ganshert is becoming a favorite as well as Beth Wiseman and Pepper Basham. What about you? Reading any romance today?

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Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson

20161207_114254In Sacramento in 1853, the gold rush is on and people are coming from all over the country to try their luck. Isabelle runs a hotel and seems to be successfully overcoming a secret in her past, in spite of the loss of her beloved aunt. When a man enters her hotel in search of his slave, Isabelle becomes involved in helping and hiding slaves in this state which has no clear laws on the issues of slavery.

From Virginia, comes Alden with a twelve year old slave, Isaac. Isabelle recognizes Alden from her past, but he does not recognize her. Soon, another man from Isabelle’s past arrives in Sacramento, and Isabelle has no doubt that this man means her harm. Isabelle becomes caught between wanting to help others who are trapped in slavery and needing to save herself. Her aunt taught her to trust in God, but can she trust Him to deliver her from this evil?

This is my first book by Melanie Dobson though I have read good things about her books and have had a couple of them on my TBR for awhile. Receiving this Kindle edition gave me my excuse to read Dobson’s newest book, and I was not disappointed. I don’t remember ever reading before of California’s stance during the time of slavery or hearing of their own underground railroad, so I found the history interesting and appreciated the details Dobson brings to her story. There is romance, suspense, and colorful characters–all helping to bring together an entertaining story. I gave this book five stars on Goodreads.

Though I received a free Kindle copy through Goodreads, the review is my own.

Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

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Mist of Midnight is the first in the series, Daughters of Hampshire, by Sandra Byrd. An historical romance, this book takes place in England in 1858. Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries to India, has returned home after the tragic death of her parents in the Indian Mutiny. Unfortunately, she has no time to grieve for her parents and to adjust to life in England as upon her arrival, she learns that someone else has been in her home claiming to be Rebecca. Having to prove that she is, indeed, Rebecca Ravenshaw and the true heir to Headbourne House is her first order of business. Dealing with identity theft in any century is both frustrating and scary. Besides clearing her name, she must learn who the imposter was, how she knew about her family, and what happened to her. Did she really commit suicide or was the cause of her death more sinister?

I enjoyed the suspense in this novel and the historic detail. I especially found interesting learning a little bit about missionaries in this time period. Leaving your home is never easy, but especially in a time when travel and communication were much slower and less reliable than we are accustomed to in the 21st century.

Though the first in a series, the book is a stand-alone. The second book, Bride of a Distant Isle, released earlier this year also takes place in Victorian England, but is a different story with different characters. The third book, A Lady in Disguise, is scheduled for release in 2017.

This is not the first book I have read by Byrd. She is a writer of different types of romance, and I have read her first two books in the French Twist series, which are contemporary romance. These books are fun and lighthearted romances, following the character of Lexi, who is learning to be a pastry chef. In the first book she is in Seattle and in the second book, she is able to follow her dream to study and work in France. French-Twist,

Sandra Byrd writes as a Christian writer, and for romance readers that means, you can expect some good, ‘clean’ fun. Anyone else read any books by Byrd? If you read romance, do you enjoy reading historicals or do you prefer stories set in more contemporary settings?

 

The Sweetest Thing by Elizabeth Musser

thesweetestthingThe Sweetest Thing is the story of two girls who attend an exclusive all girls school in Atlanta during the Great Depression. Perri has led a charmed life until her father loses his fortune & takes his life. Perri feels the responsibility of helping her family; not only to overcome their grief, but also to help them keep their social status.

Dobbs moves down from Chicago to live with her aunt and to attend the school her parents could never afford on their own. Her family is one of faith, and she is eager to share with the girls in her new school about the miracles of God and how He can be trusted to help them through everything.

Despite the skepticism from their other classmates who really don’t feel that Dobbs can fit in with their social group, and even their own differences, the two girls feel an immediate bond and become friends. But, friendship, as much as any other part of life, is not easy. Secrets, jealousy, and betrayal have to be overcome if their friendship is to endure.

Elizabeth Musser is a missionary in France who has written several novels, one of which I reviewed back in July. From her website: “When we moved my dear grandmother, Allene Massey Goldsmith, Washington Seminary, ’32, from her apartment to a full-care floor at Canterbury Court, my parents found Grandmom’s diaries from 1928-1932. I was, of course, eager to take a look. The diaries sealed the fate of my next novel: I’d write about 1930’s Atlanta and specifically the life of two girls attending Washington Seminary.” www.elizabethmusser.com

I enjoyed reading The Sweetest Thing. Reading about  the lives of Perri and Dobbs and their friendship and what life was like in Atlanta during the 1930’s was enjoyable on its own, but knowing Musser was also writing of her grandmother made the book all the more special and, yes, sweeter.

C.S. Lewis Space Trilogy–ebook sale

“There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there is never more than one.”  from: That Hideous Strength

space trilogyI have read C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy several times and am always amazed at the wisdom and insight he was able to put into these books. I wrote about the first–Out of the Silent Planet–about a year ago. I am getting ready to read it again with my 17 year old son as part of his assignment for literature. I had checked the price several weeks ago for an ebook, but didn’t want to pay what the cost was at that time. Happy to report that Harper One is having a holiday sale where each of the three books can be had for $1.99. If you have not read these books, this is a good time to get them on your ereader.

Perelandra, the second book in the series, has Ransom being sent on a mission to the planet, Perelandra. He does not know what his mission is until he gets there. He soon finds that this is a new world which has not yet fallen to the sin of mankind and earth, but that the Tempter is there already making plans. Ransom understands these plans, knowing the history  of his own world, but how can he convince the first lady of Perelandra that he wants to help and that Weston (remember the scientist in Out of the Silent Planet?) is bent for evil?  bbc7perelandra500

That Hideous Strength was published in 1945. Most futuristic books published so long ago would seem to be out of date, but this book fits in nicely with today’s popular dystopian books. It is much longer than the first two books and very different. The first time I read it, back in my college days, I felt a bit confused for the first 100 pages or so. Then things began to click and I was mesmerized and, as usual with any book by Lewis, amazed at his insight into man and into spiritual warfare.

Even if you don’t normally read science fiction, take a chance on any of these books and you will not be disappointed. I’m not sure exactly when this sale will end, but probably in less than a week, so pass on the news to any of your reading friends; especially those who may have gotten a new ereader for Christmas.

“Those who are enjoying something, or suffering something, together, are companions. Those who enjoy or suffer one another, are not.” That Hideous Strength