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!

 

 

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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?

 

INSPY Shortlist 2016

The INSPY Shortlist for 2016 has been announced, and though some of these books are already on my TBR list, I can see I will need to add several more.

The INSPY awards were created by bloggers for the best literature “that grapples with expressions of the Christian faith”. The categories include: historical romance, debut fiction, speculative fiction, and literature for young adults.

20160505_105741I already have two books in the historical romance category that I am looking forward to reading. One by Jody Hedlund is Luther and Katharina, a story of a monk and a nun who fall in love in the 16th century. You’ve probably heard of the monk, Martin Luther. I’ve read a couple of Jody Hedlund’s books in her Beacons of Hope series and know that she is a skilled and entertaining writer.

The other I’m looking forward to reading is Lori Benton’s The Wood’s Edge.  I read her book, Burning Sky, last year and can highly recommend it. Several people in a group I belong to in Goodreads have already read The Wood’s Edge and can only rave about it.

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One more author I’ll recommend writes speculative fiction, (what I would call fantasy) Patrick Carr. I read A Cast of Stones and am ready to read the second in that series. His book that has been nominated for an INSPY is Shock of Night, the start of a new series.

To see the full list of nominations, go to: http://inspys.com/?page_id=2645 and have fun reading!

Look What I Won!

I received an email a few months ago telling me I had won second place in a contest. Okay, I didn’t win the trip to Italy, but I did win a gift basket with food from Italy, but even better–a signed copy of Susan Meissner’s The Girl in the Glass. Due to an unintentional delay of receiving my prize, I was also sent some extra books. New releases from WaterBrook Press. Special thanks to Amy Haddock & WaterBrook Press!

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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.

Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz

Saving Cicadas is a story of a family told through the eyes of a young girl. Her mother is facing hard times & must make a tough decision. A decision not totally understood by this 8 yr old girl.

Janie says she is “more or less a normal kid. Like most, I dreamed of saving the world someday. Not like Superman, but I don’t know–making sure kids had clothes and enough to eat, making sure people like Mama had good jobs that made money and made them feel good when they went home each day, like they did something with their brains–like they did something to help the world in some small way. Not like they were wasting every second of every day of every year of their lives–like Mama had said, oh, more than a time or two.”

Trying to decide whether I wanted to read this book, I read some reader reviews and the first ones I read were pretty negative. They also contained ‘warnings’ to people not to read this book because of its Christian content and “anti-choice propaganda”. That definitely got my interest, so I had to read it.

I was not disappointed. The characters are engaging and the book a charming read. There are family conflicts and surprises, but some of the biggest surprises come towards the end and I don’t want to give any of that away.

Kudos to Nicole Seitz for taking on a difficult and controversial topic!

 

Words Unspoken by Elizabeth Musser

  Musser brings together a cast of characters, who seem to have no relation to each other, in touching and heartwarming fashion.  Lissa Randall has a promising academic future until she is involved in an accident that takes her mother’s life. Months later, she’s still afraid to drive, especially on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga where she lives & where the accident took place.

She enrolls in a driving school and her instructor, Ev,  is a fatherly figure who cares for his students and does what he can to help them overcome their fears.

At a bookstore near Atlanta, Lissa meets a young Italian publisher who takes an interest in her. He has another agenda, however, as he is determined to undercover the mystery identity of a popular author.

In France, a young missionary wife is struggling with the grief of losing her young son. Can God help her? Can He use her while she is going through such a valley?

I was uncomfortable reading this book in the beginning. Lissa struggles with hearing “voices”, as she continues to feel guilty & at fault over her mother’s death. Voices that tell her she  is worthless, no good, etc. But the difficulties and challenges she faces are familiar to many of us and the things she learns about herself, others, and God make the book a more than worthwhile read.

Musser herself is a missionary in France and the author of several Christian novels. To learn more about her and her books, check out her website: www.elizabethmusser.com

A Reluctant Queen The Love Story of Esther

When I first heard about this book, A Reluctant Queen, I was not very interested in reading it. Yes, you could say I was ‘reluctant’. Why? Because I have heard the story of Esther many times; I can read the ‘real thing’ in the Bible any time, and another version just sounded boring.

So, why did I pick it up and read it? One, I read a couple of favorable reviews from readers I respect on goodreads.com; and, two, I had read some historical fiction by Joan Wolf years ago and really enjoyed them. So, I decided to give A Reluctant Queen a try.

Since I’m taking the trouble to write a review here, you can probably guess by now that I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it. It is historical fiction, so don’t take the few liberties Wolf takes with the story disturb you. She does a very good job of giving reasons for Esther being sent by her Jewish uncle to enter the Persian king’s beauty contest.  She may or not be right, but it’s a question I always have when I read the story, so it adds a new dimension to the story. She brings the characters to life, giving them personalities and filling in some of the historical background, making the story believable and interesting.

To learn more about Joan Wolf and an upcoming book (The Scarlet Cord), check out her website: www.joanwolf.com