My Impressions of The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. This story is set in Việt Nam and really paints a clear picture of the difficult life and times of the people who lived there in the 1930-1980 timeframe of the story. You can read my Initial Thoughts on the story from last week here. I’ve come away from this story with a deep appreciation for the culture and the people that I did not have prior to delving into these pages.

As the book description states, the story is “an intimate, enveloping story of four generations of the Tran family, as seen through the eyes of the matriarch, Tran Dieu Lan, and her granddaughter, Huong.” (I must apologize for not including all of the diacritic marks. I simply don’t seem to have them in my word processor.) So the overall structure of the story is Huong telling the story of her grandmother telling her about life when Huong’s aunts and uncles were children. The family faced many hardships and tragedies, including being separated for several months when they were forced to flee for their lives.

One thing I really appreciated was seeing the impact and impressions of the Việt Nam war on the people of that country. My brother fought over there—he was a Ranger in the Army—during that conflict and came home very different. In fact, he’s estranged himself from the family for the past 30+ years. Reading about the conflict from the other side of it gives me a much clearer idea of what he might have seen or done that he never would tell me about. I was a child at that time and not aware of what was happening. I have since watched a documentary on the war and now this story provides another view of what transpired.

The hardships and sacrifices throughout this book are incredible to me. I realize how very fortunate my life has been that I’ve never faced such challenges. Some seemed insurmountable I’m sure. Survival is one very strong thread running through the lives of these characters. Family and cooperation also underlie everything. Working together to keep the family together no matter what they faced. It’s a powerful story. I’m very glad I read it.

So next up for my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This author is from Spain. This will be the first book I read from the Hoopla app on my iPad/iPhone. So a new experience in checking out books from the library for me!

Until next time, happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

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Initial Thoughts on The Mountains Sing by Nguyen Phan Que Mai #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next book on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. I’ve dipped my reading toes into the story to test the waters. I’m enjoying the writing and the author’s voice that is telling the story. Good signs!

I’m intrigued by the organization of the novel. It comprises 16 chapters, each a different place and range of time in Viet Nam. The opening chapter is set in 2012 with the final chapter in 2017. In between are flashbacks to different periods of the 20th century: 1930-1980.

I recently heard another author talking about the cultural differences between storytelling/fiction in Western versus Eastern cultures. That reminded me to dig deeper into those distinctions to further my appreciation of the novel I’m reading. I wasn’t really surprised to see how much analysis and discussion there is regarding this topic. If you haven’t poked a nose into the discussion, you might start with this blog. You’ll at least come away with an understanding of the effects of culture on storytelling. I’ll continue reading with those concepts in mind to make sure I see them, too.

The use of extensive flashbacks isn’t new to me. It can be an effective way to tell the story of a person, since the character/person must have lived for some stretch of their life before you can tell their story. Understanding stems from distance from the events of our life, in many ways. At the moment, we don’t always appreciate the underlying significance of our choices and decisions or serendipity. That’s my feeling, anyway.

Okay, I need to get back to reading so I can let you know what I think of the story itself next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

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My Impressions of The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. As I’ve said previously here, this paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. It’s consists of 5 parts plus a prologue and epilogue, more on that in a minute. The story is written in first person past tense, which is suitable for someone writing a memoir-esque work of fiction. In fact, the author uses a distinctly nonfiction technique throughout her story.

If you’re looking to virtually experience Asian culture, in this case Malay and Chinese, I’d highly recommend this story. Not only the language used, the expressions used, but also the décor, the clothing, the food, the religious rituals and rites. All is woven into a beautiful tapestry of life and people in Malay.

But more than just a fictionalized cultural study, the story explores the tensions between tradition and modernizing. Of following the dictates and norms of how one is raised to act and behave, as opposed to what the next generation adapts to. Especially, in this case, the Western influences on the traditions and expectations of the Asian cultures. I was reminded of the tension between my mother and myself “merely” because of the age difference, not a cultural difference. Mom was 42 when I was born, 60 when I graduated high school. Expectations had most definitely shifted by then!

So let’s take a quick look at the structure of the novel. Like I said before, the story proper is divided into a prologue, 5 parts, and an epilogue. Each section is set in a different span of time, too. I think it’s interesting to see what is emphasized within those sections of the story. If we look at page count by section we’ll find the following:

Prologue 1938 – pages 1-4 = 4 pages
Part I: My Early Years 1878-1898 – pages 5-61 = 57 pages
Part II: The Hand of Fate 1899-1910 – pages 63-146 = 84 pages
Part III: Struggle 1910 – August 1921 – pages 147-281 = 135 pages
Part IV: Uncharted Territory September 1921-1930 – pages 283-360 = 78 pages
Part V: The Twilight Years 1931 – 8 December 1941 – pages 361-452 = 92 pages
Epilogue [December 1941] – pages 453-455 = 3 pages

So my first glance at these divisions makes me wonder about the relative importance of each of them. Obviously, we can discount the short prologue and epilogues, not solely because they are short. But, having read the book, I can tell you the prologue introduces what the main parts are going to discuss and why, while the epilogue wraps up what happens after the main story ends. Both have their functions, and provide needed information for the reader to fully enjoy the story. They don’t need to be long to accomplish their mission.

Despite the fact Part I: The Early Years is setting up the foundation which the main character, Chye Hoon, must grow from but never quite outgrows throughout her life, is the shortest of the parts. I suppose I understand that, because just like in life, our childhood is the shortest phase of our existence and yet it continues to impact the rest of our long lives. It took me many decades to overcome my mother telling me to sit on a chair and not move! I think I took her far too literally…

By contrast, the longest section is Part III: Struggle. It’s also the central section of the novel and I think is the heart of the story. This part shows the kind of mettle Chye Hoon possesses through some very difficult times in her life. Her efforts on behalf of her family bring to mind the kinds of sacrifices my own father endured as a child but then also turned around and had to rely upon as an adult. Not the same exact difficulties, but I can see the same determination to do whatever necessary to support the family in both of their actions.

Another aspect of the structure I found interesting is the use of flashbacks as integral to the telling of the story. In this book, the author frequently begins a scene with Chye Hoon stating a major or surprising happening followed by how it came about. Essentially, the character tells a story within the story up to and beyond the initial event that begun the scene. This structure emphasizes the sense of memoir or autobiography in the book. A rather interesting crossover of technique from a nonfiction genre to a fiction one.

I wonder if that technique is unique to this author or is it one employed by Asian storytellers in general. I am not a storyteller (oral) but from the little experience I’ve had around them they well might use this technique more than I’d realized. Either way, it’s one to stick in my toolbox!

So, next up on my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is one recommended to me just last week while I was at the IBPA PubU Conference in Orlando. I’m going to read Nguyễn Phan Qué Mai’s The Mountains Sing. This author is a Vietnamese poet and this is her first novel though she has written several other books. I hear it’s excellent so stay tuned!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Amy Abernathy is a woman renowned for her storytelling prowess but even she cannot invent a sound reason for her suitor’s inexplicable actions. She picks up the shreds of her heart and endeavors to forget him, until he suddenly appears without any fanfare or explanation.

Benjamin Hanson returns to make amends with his captivating Amy. While he knows she’s upset with him, he also knows she’ll eventually forgive him and agree to marry him. But marriage has to wait until after he’s finished spying for the Americans against the British during the war.

When he discovers her and a friend—along with a precious gem—missing from her sister’s home, he finds them in the hands of desperate renegade soldiers. Can he protect the women, the gem, and his heart before it’s too late?

Books2Read    Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple    Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. This paperback comprises 464 pages including several informational sections like a glossary and a word about the language used in the story. Not foul language as you might anticipate! Nope, it’s more how “the main characters speak a mix of the most common Chinese dialects in Malaysia (Hokkien, Hakka, and Cantonese), which they intersperse with English or Malay.” I know some German, Spanish, and French words but that’s about it. So, having this insight into this new-to-me language is fascinating. Isn’t that the reason we read historical fiction—to learn about other cultures and traditions in an entertaining setting?

This story certainly delivers on immersing me into this culture. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading it, so I was, well, an open book when it came to absorbing what the author had to share about Malaysia. I’m delighted with the details included, especially about the unique foods and beverages they enjoy. I wish I could go sample some of them! I enjoy reading about cooking and baking and food preparation in general, looking for hints and tips and ideas I might use myself.

I’m only on page 165 so not even halfway through the story. This is a work of fiction but it reads like an autobiography or memoir. Written in the first person past tense, the immediacy and lone point of view tends to emphasize that feeling of reading someone’s telling of their life and the people in it. I feel like I really am peeking into someone else’s memories and experiences.

I’m not sure where the story is heading, but I’ll let you know next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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My Impressions of The First Actress by C.W. Gortner #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

My tour of Historical Fiction Around the World continues with The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner. Gortner was originally born in Spain but now lives in California. This 418 page book took me a solid week to read, spending more time reading it than I had originally thought I would. Partly I wanted to finish it in one week, but also partly it’s such an interesting story!

It’s written in first person past tense, which helps give it an air of a memoir written by Sarah herself. I found myself wondering about the real person as I read this fictionalized account. The author does provide a short list of references he referred to while writing the story so I could satisfy my curiosity by reading one of the biographies if I choose to do so. It’s interesting to me that the author is a man but writes from a female’s persona, proof positive that a good writer can and does become their character to portray them authentically.

This book yielded some interesting insights into life as an actress in 19th century France. I was surprised to learn of Sarah Bernhardt’s many sexual affairs, an aspect of her life I was unfamiliar with. I don’t honestly pay much attention to any celebrity’s relationships, though, so even if I’d heard of her many exploits I wouldn’t have focused on them. I think I remembered something about her eccentricities but not the particulars, so it was entertaining to read about her menagerie of animals. She owned everything from birds, cats, and dogs to chameleons, a puma, and a cheetah!

Part of the story takes place during the Franco-Prussian War and depicts life in besieged Paris. Reading about her life within war-torn France of the 19th century brought to mind the perilous existence of the Ukrainian people in our current time. Living such a precarious life through reading is obviously a far cry from the reality. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing so, or at least I hope that’s the closest I ever come to experiencing life in a battleground.

Overall, the story is well-written and engaging. I feel like I learned more about France, Paris in particular, and about what it was like to be an actress and courtesan in order to survive. 

Next up, I’ll read The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds by Selina Siak Chin Yoke. Chin Yoke is of Malaysian-Chinese heritage and I’m looking forward to see what her story is all about!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

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My Impressions of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I was very interested to see what I’d learn by reading Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. As I mentioned in my Initial Thoughts on the book, the author has included a lot of detail about the Seychelles islands. She spends a great deal of time discussing the flora and fauna, the people and everything associated with living on the islands.

While reading about island life is interesting, I don’t believe it should have been the main focus of the story. In fact, I don’t think this book is just one person’s story so much as vignettes of people’s lives who live there. I did indeed learn a lot about how people lived in the Seychelles back in 1914. This story employs a narrator who knows every character inside and out, an omniscient narrator. Thus the story is told from various viewpoints, even the animals, and jumps from one to the other with little warning. It’s not awfully jarring, however; since the technique is used throughout it becomes the norm.

And yet with the power of an omniscient narrator’s knowledge, I still felt like I didn’t get to know the characters very well. The narrator seemed pulled back, too elevated perhaps, to care deeply about what the characters were experiencing. I’m unsure as to the intent behind using this technique. Was it to give the reader a more objective view of the people in the story? To what end? Or perhaps I’m misinterpreting her intent entirely.

I read this story looking for connections between the elements, the techniques, the devices the author used, but some eluded me. More importantly, the ending left me unsatisfied. I realize it’s the first story in a series, but the ending is somewhat tragic and depressing. I didn’t come away with a sense of hope but of despair for the main character, Anna.

So, let’s try another one, shall we? For next time, I’ll start reading The First Actress: A Novel of Sarah Bernhardt by C.W. Gortner.  Until then…

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

Initial Thoughts on Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading the next book on my tour of Historical Fiction Around the World. I’m on page 195 of 351 in the paperback of Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. This book is fairly well written and edited, although like most books there are few editorial tweaks I’d make if I’d been tasked with editing the story. There is a Glossary consisting of a few pages of terms, mostly words in the language of The Seychelles, which I found useful to read before since the author sprinkles the terms throughout the book.

The story is written using multiple points of view, not just the one of the primary character, Anna. Instead, Tirant shares views of the places and happenings on the islands of The Seychelles from a variety of people tangentially related to Anna. She’s also jumping around in the timeline as she tells the story of life on the islands. Tirant is well versed and shares within the pages of this story the details of the place, politics, history, and people.

My sense of the book at this point is that Tirant loves life on those islands so much she had to write a book about it. The setting is described in lush details so much that I feel like I can see the place as if in my memories of having visited. I haven’t been there, or even to that part of the world, so her descriptions are truly powerful. There are definitely long passages of description of the area and the food, for example. For some readers, they may find it’s perhaps too much description of the place and not enough of the people, in particular of Anna and her story. I’ll know better how all of this ties together after I finish reading the book, of course, so stay tuned until next time when I can give you my more thorough impressions of the story.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

2020 Rone Award Finalist!

An unsuspecting Southern town. Ghosts. Witchcraft. Skeletons in the closet. Discover the Secrets of Roseville in this five book series… Undying Love, Haunted Melody, The Touchstone of Raven Hollow, Veiled Visions of Love, and Charmed Against All Odds!

Cover of Charmed Against All Odds showing a young couple in love, and a charm bracelet.

Loving her brings out the magic in him…

Roxie Golden enjoys running Roseville’s bookstore and weaving helpful magical spells. Then her beloved ex-fiancé strolls back into her life with a gift that includes a mysterious treasure hunt they must work together to complete.

Leo King never planned to return to Roseville nor to Roxie but before he can escape town, he must satisfy his warlock father’s final wish: deliver the enigmatic box to Roxie’s bookstore.

When Roxie opens the box, revealing an enchanted bracelet and a quest spell, his chance to escape vanishes. Trapped in a reluctant partnership, he risks everything—including his heart—for a second chance.

Amazon     Books2Read     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop

My Impressions of The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, which turned out to be an interesting story. If you missed my initial thoughts, you can find them here.

Cover of The Year of Living Dangerously. At top, silhouetted puppets. At bottom, a man holding a cigarette while facing a cat.

The main characters in this story are two men, one a tall man and the other a dwarf, and a beautiful woman. As I read, I envisioned Peter Dinklage as the dwarf, mainly because he’s my favorite actor with that distinctive physique. I love his personality, his world view as expressed through his characters. Imagine my surprise when I checked out IMDB to see if he played Billy Kwan in the 1982 movie, only to find Linda Hunt played Billy Kwan. Wow. That would change the dynamics of the love triangle in the story! Now I want to watch the movie to see what the director did…

Anyway, back to the story as written by Christopher J. Koch. I admit this is not my typical reading selection. It’s a rather dark, political tale with commensurate tension, intrigue, and some violence. It bills itself as a romance: “A compelling tale of romance amid the political turmoil of twentieth-century Indonesia.” While it does indeed include romance, I’d argue it’s more of a bromance in that it delves into the changing relationship between Guy Hamilton and Billy Kwan, and how they feel about Jill Bryant. More time is spent talking about the reporters and the politically oriented characters than about any woman-man romantic tale. To me, that thread is a sidelight, not the focus of the story.

I learned a good deal about life during the 1960s in Indonesia, especially as seen through Western eyes. The language, the landscape, and how people survived some very difficult times all combined to create the somewhat “murky” atmosphere of the story. I had a sense of how I felt watching Casablanca, the somewhat fuzzy, blurred gray of the black-and-white movie. Almost as if watching through a smoke screen, making it difficult to truly understand what you’re viewing.

I’ve recommended my husband to read The Year of Living Dangerously, as it’s more his type of story than mine. However, like I said, I enjoyed the story. Koch did a fine job of writing it, of creating distinctive characters with their unique dialogue patterns. And using a narrator as active character was an effective story-telling device, one I don’t see often.

Next up is Echoes from the Oasis by A.R. Tirant. Tirant was born in the Seychelles and now lives in England. The story is also set on an island in the Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. I’ve dipped my toes into the story so will have more next time!

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

Cover of Emily's Vow. A man and woman facing each other with an American flag in the background.

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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My Initial Thoughts on The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I started reading The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, who was born in Hobart, Australia. It’s an interesting read so far, although I have to say yet again it doesn’t quite fit the idea of being historical fiction. Let me explain.

The story is set in 1965 Indonesia. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post about Anil’s Ghost in this series, the accepted definition of historical fiction is set at least 50 years prior to the present. The first publication date of this book is 1978 in Great Britain by Penguin Books. So, that means this story was written as contemporary fiction, not historical since it was published only 13 years after the story date. However, from this reader’s point of view, it’s set more than 50 years from today, so I’ll count it for my purposes.

This paperback book is 278 pages long, with an Author’s Note detailing a couple of sources for the story content. Other than that, no other supporting material is provided. It’s divided into three parts: Patet Nem: Hamilton’s Dwarf (112 pages); Patet Sanga: Water from the Moon (94 pages); and Patet Manjura; Amok (71 pages). I always find it interesting to look at the parts of a book when it’s divided up into sections like this. You may remember I did the same in my discussion about The Stationery Shop a few weeks ago. Here, the length of each part decreases as the story progresses. I’m currently on page 137, in Patet Sanga, so I don’t have a feel yet for the reasoning behind the sections. I’ll share my thoughts on that in the Impressions post next time.

One very interesting device the author is using is that of a narrator as a character in the story. His name is Cookie but so far I don’t know very much about him. He’s apparently a foreign news reporter like the character Guy, and he’s observing the relationship of the three main characters: Guy Hamilton, Billy Kwan (cameraman for Guy), and Jill Bryant (the woman the other two men love). I admit to being baffled at first by who was narrating the story because Cookie has insights into all three of the main characters but in a way that’s far more analytical than someone involved at the time of the story. Instead, the narrator has the benefit of hindsight knowing, able to provide the context of their actions and what those actions lead to in the future of the story. I think it took me several chapters to discern the narrator as a fourth character relating the story after the fact.

I should finish reading the book in a few days, so will have my Impressions of the overall story for you next time.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

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Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com

My Impression of Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee dos Santos #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I have finished reading Cut from the Earth by Stephanie Renee Dos Santos (The Tile Maker series Book 1). Last week I mentioned that Ms. Dos Santos is from South America but it turns out I am wrong on that score. She’s a “native of the United States” but has lived in other countries, gaining first-hand experience with various cultures. That makes two authors I have mistaken as from other countries than mine. But the stories have been good, so I’ll share this one with you as well.

The story is written from multiple points of view (POVs), giving both male and female perspectives on events in the 1750s in Lisbon. In particular, the story focuses on the aftermath of a massive earthquake in November 1755. So much so that I found myself thinking of the story as a disaster movie/book. The author spent many chapters on how the characters dealt with struggling back to some kind of normalcy after devastating loss and destruction.

While the main thread of the story is about how a tile making shop owners use their income to free slaves by purchasing them from their masters, I found myself more intrigued by a separate, more subtle theme.

Throughout the story, the main characters—there are three of them: Padre Peros; Rafa; and Phaulina—all reflect on the source of their inspiration to create designs for the tiles. Through their eyes, I could see how they used their unique view of the world around them, the details others may not notice, to combine into a design, a picture, a texture. I found myself recalling the number of times I’ve been asked as a writer of fiction where I get my ideas. My best answer is from the world around me. Newspaper articles, news articles on the TV, history books, even other books and the movies I enjoy. All provide tidbits of ideas that I then piece together, like using bits of glass to create a mosaic, fashioning a new story to share with my readers. In Cut from the Earth, Dos Santos has done the same thing through her characters. Illuminated the process of inspiration and how it leads to creation.

The story was well written, and definitely researched into the finer details of tile making in the 18th century. I could quibble with some of the typos and editorial errors I spotted here and there, but the story taught me a lot about Lisbon in the 1750s. (Seeing surface errors like that is an editor’s skill and bane all at once! Skill when editing someone else’s work; bane when simply trying to read for enjoyment.) I don’t believe I’ve read any other stories set in Portugal, come to think of it.

When I embarked on my literary journey around the world, at least as far as location if not author origin, I hadn’t anticipated how much I’d learn. I’ll have to compile a list of everything I’ve learned through this endeavor as a wrap up post when I finish my tour. That and a list of all of the blog posts in order in case you missed any of them.

So, what’s up next you may be asking… I’ve selected a title I’ve heard about but haven’t read yet. And I’ve verified that the author is not from the USA, too. <grin> I’m going to start The Year of Living Dangerously by Christopher J. Koch, who was born in Hobart, Australia. It’s an award-winning book, so I’m curious to find out what I learn from reading it…

Be sure to check out the first book in my American Revolution historical romance series, which is discounted this month. I did a lot of research before writing that series, including a couple of trips to Charleston, South Carolina, to do some in-person exploring. More info is below.

Happy reading!

Betty

P.S. If you haven’t already, please consider signing up for my newsletter, which I send out most every month, including news like new covers, new releases, and upcoming appearances where I love to meet my readers, along with recipes and writing progress. Thanks and happy reading!

Visit www.bettybolte.com for more on my books and upcoming events.

On sale for only $1.99 (ebook)!

As the American Revolution drags on, Charles Town, South Carolina, remains under siege by the British, and one woman’s father is determined to marry her off to a suspected traitor. Emily Sullivan is beset from all sides but vows to fight her own war for independence.

Frank Thomson walks a fine line between spying for the Americans and being a perceived loyalist traitor. Posing as a simple printer of broadsheets and pamphlets, he sends crucial encrypted intelligence to the general camped outside of town. But when Frank learns Emily has been imprisoned by the enemy, he risks his own life, freedom, and heart for hers.

Books2Read     Barnes and Noble      Amazon      Apple     Kobo     Google Books     Bookshop

Audiobook Also Available at Google Play     Scribd    Lantern Audio    Audiobooks.com