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?

The Women in the Castle Jessica Shattuck

20170127_155658I’ve read many books of historical fiction that take place during World War II, but few that are from the vantage point of German characters. (One exception that comes to mind is the excellent The Book Thief by Markus Zusak). The Women in the Castle is a new book of historical fiction coming out in April, and it is a story of three German women whose husbands were involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler during the war. What happens to these women during and after the war because of this (obviously, unsuccessful) attempt creates a story that examines good and evil in the choices that people make. How do our choices affect, not only ourselves, but also those we love and want to protect?

In spite of the inevitable sadness running through this book, I was easily caught up into the story and could commiserate with each character and the hard choices they were forced to make. The three women were distinct with their own personalities.  They came from different backgrounds with secrets to hide, children to protect, and the need to find their way through a new world after their old one was destroyed.

Shattuck was able to write her story because of the memories and recollections of others, among them her own grandmother, mother, and aunt. There really was a German resistance and because of the research Shattuck has done, we can learn much of what people endured and why they may have made some of the decisions that they did.

Lovely writing and intriguing characters set in a difficult, but important time in history. Highly recommend!

 

 

 

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.

Dying in the Wool by Frances Brody/book review

 

20161106_075045As you all know, I enjoy historical mysteries, and thanks to goodreads and the historical mystery group I’m in, I have found another series to relish. Dying in the Wool is the first of eight mysteries set in England after WWI which introduce Kate Shackleton.

Kate’s husband went missing four years before during WWI, and though most presume him to be dead, Kate has not given up hope for his safe return. In the meantime, Kate is trying to establish herself as a photographer, and she has also solved several mysteries involving missing persons. When a good friend, who is soon to be married, asks her to look for her father who went missing several years before, (wanting him to be there at her wedding), Kate agrees and is soon involved in learning the secrets of a mill town in an otherwise quiet Yorkshire village.

I usually try to avoid comparisons with other books as they are often misleading and disappointing. I don’t like to be told a book or an author is like another and after reading it, discover it’s not in any shape, form, or fashion like the one it has been compared to. In fact, it can take away whatever enjoyment I might have had if my expectations had been different. However, I do believe readers of both Jacqueline Winspear and Charles Todd will find this series entertaining in a similar vein. Having only read the first book, I can’t say how well the series continues, but I hope to find out soon.

How about you? Reading any new mysteries? Or have any of you read anything else by Frances Brody?

 

The End! Or, at least, the Beginning of the End

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I just came to the end of my book. Not one I am reading–the one I am writing. And like so much of this book, it was kind of unexpected.

Ok, I have some rough spots and a couple of places I know I want to rewrite, but I actually came to the end. I was planning on another chapter. Actually, have it started and sort of have an outline for that final chapter. (In my mind, that is, which is where most of my outlines actually live).  So, I was working on finishing up this chapter, started adding a bit, then realized as I completed the chapter that I really could end the book here. I’ve long since conceded that it is going to take another book to tell the story I want to tell. Since I have (gasp) 113, 308 words, perhaps it is time to wrap this up. But, I have so much more to say! You think because you’re the author that you’re in control, but, no, not really.

I want to tell the story of Solomon–growing up in the court of King David. What was it like to know you were the chosen prince? When exactly did he know that? What did his brothers (and others) think of that?

So, I started telling the story. And, along the way: Solomon’s brothers are fighting; Solomon wants his father to raise horses to drive chariots; Solomon’s mother seems to be the only one who really thinks he is special; and Solomon and two of his brothers take a trip to Egypt.

So, over 100,00 words and Solomon isn’t even king yet. But, he will be soon. I can’t wait to begin writing that story, but first–I need to work on my platform. Do any of you follow your favorite writers on facebook? Twitter? Why? What do you look for? Or what do you enjoy about what they do? I hope you will all stay with me as I begin to share more of what I’ve written and begin my search for an agent.

 

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Mortal Arts by Anna Lee Huber

mortal_arts_book_cover_mediumI greatly enjoy reading historical mysteries and having now read the second of the Lady Darby mysteries, I am excited to have found a new author to follow and read.

The Lady Darby mysteries are set in 1830’s Scotland and feature a young widow, Kiera, (Lady Darby) who has artistic talent and a cloud over her past. In this book, she is traveling to Edinburgh with her sister and her family when they make a stop at Dalmay House.

Kiera’s brother-in-law, Philip, has been asked by his aunt to join her family there because her daughter is engaged to be married to Michael, the owner and friend of Philip. His aunt does not approve  of the proposed marriage and desires Philip’s support. Kiera is happy to see Michael, a childhood friend of her own. His older brother, Will, served as an art tutor for Kiera when she was only 15. Since Will has been missing for over ten years,  Kiera has believed him to be dead. They are not long at Dalmay House, however, when she learns that Will is not only very much alive, but has been considered insane and dangerous. When a young woman who lives nearby goes missing, Will is the first to be suspected, and Kiera is determined to help her friend and to learn what is behind the insanity accusations.

Though this book can be read as a stand-alone, I do recommend starting with the first in the series: The Anatomist’s Wife. the_anatomists_wife_book_cover_mediumIn this book, you will learn more about Kiera’s background and be introduced to another character, Gage, whom Kiera assists in solving a murder, and also becomes attracted to. Of course, Gage appears in Mortal Arts as well and helps Kiera solve the mysteries surrounding Dalmay House.

What about you? What are some historical mysteries you have enjoyed and would recommend?