Impressions of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve finished reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. If you missed my initial thoughts, you may want to hop over there to read that post first. Let me just say how much I enjoyed reading this story. It’s a kind of gothic mystery, murder mystery, historical, blended with a coming of age romance of sorts. There’s a lot going on, with lots of red herrings and mysterious doings sprinkled throughout.

The use of the key elements of gothic tales really creates the atmosphere of this story. Not only the large, shadowy spaces featured throughout. There are fallen angels pointing accusingly toward one of those immense buildings, angels made of concrete who outlive the symbol of power and money as it is abandoned by the rich family and falls into ruin. You’ll find disfigured people, too. Strangers who become friends who find out they don’t really know each other as well as they’d thought, or hoped. Families that break apart, and some that come back together. Freaky weather—unusual rain, flooding, and snow, for example—lends an unsettled air to the tale.

One strong thread throughout this entertaining and intriguing story is that of the power of friendship and family. True, not every friendship and family survives the throes of this tale of the 20th century. The ones that do are forged in fire to withstand anything going forward, though. I particularly enjoyed and appreciated the friendship between Fermin and Daniel, Fermin acting as a kind of unreliable mentor at times but with a heart of gold. Daniel grows throughout the story both in size and maturity.

Zafon’s story is memorable and engaging, one I think is worth reading. Some of the descriptions (metaphors, similes, etc.) were a bit flowery for my taste. Not to say any of the writing was bad! Not at all. I wonder though if the somewhat exaggerated (?) terms is because of the translation from Spanish (a romantic language) into English (more a Germanic based language). Someone else will have to determine the answer to my question, since I don’t know Spanish and of course don’t have the Spanish edition to compare to even if I did.

Zafon also created unique and individualistic characters to have to work together, or against each other, in order to help solve or confuse the puzzle Daniel and Fermin are trying to solve. Corrupt police. Killers. Librarians. Booksellers. Housewives. Mothers. Girlfriends. Guy friends. Shady people working in cahoots with the corrupt police. It’s quite a fun mix.

I hope you’ll give this book a chance. I think it was definitely worth reading, which explains the well-worn covers and pages!

I’m going to take a little break from this tour of historical fiction because I’ll be having surgery and treatments for breast cancer over the next few weeks. I don’t expect to have a post next week because the surgery is this Friday. I’ll get back into the swing of it in a week or two, and will most likely start telling you more about my upcoming releases in July and August. But I will swing back to this series because you all seem to be enjoying it as much as me! And I’m learning more and more about nuances to writing from different countries.

Have you ready Becoming Lady Washington yet? If not, in honor of her June 2 birthday, it’s on sale through the end of June 2022. Think of it as a fictionalized autobiography of her life, from when presented to society until she died. I hope you enjoy it!

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 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

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Initial Thoughts about The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve started reading the next book on my Historical Fiction (Authors) Around the World tour which is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. The story is set in Barcelona, Spain, and Zafon included a map of the area where the story takes place. That helped me have a better sense of relationships and distances, too. That’s the only extra material included in the book but it’s useful. He uses some Spanish terms as well, which aren’t defined anywhere so I’m just skimming over them most of the time. Sometimes I can sort of tell what they mean, but not always.

This story is 487 pages long in the paperback edition I’m reading. I’m only on page 98, so I’ll just say that I’m intrigued by the story. It’s written with a gothic flare that I really appreciate and enjoy. Lots of large, shadowy spaces and mysterious people coming and going, threatening and sometimes harming. Including a special library that is called The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. It doesn’t hurt that Barcelona is a “foreign” place to me which adds to the sense of mystique of the setting.

Zafon apparently wrote the story in Spanish and then Lucia Graves translated it into English. The language of the story is very elegant and flows along like a calm river. I cannot do the phrasing justice in this short post, but if you pick up a copy for yourself you will soon see what I mean. I can give you a snippet, though. “Six years later my mother’s absence remained in the air around us, a deafening silence that I had not yet learned to stifle with words.” So much is contained in that description of how the youth felt about the loss of his mother that it’s difficult to fully explain. Indeed, I almost feel like if I were to try it would spoil the effect, the atmosphere of the narrative.

The story is told from the first person perspective of a boy grieving for his dead mother. I am not a huge fan of first person stories, but Zafon and Graves have done an excellent job of making the story enjoyable (to me) despite that. I have the impression that the story is being told in retrospect despite being in first person, much like how I told the story of Martha Washington. Becoming Lady Washington is the only story I’ve ever published written in first person past tense. I have the same sense in Zafon’s story of retelling a personal history.

I’ll see if I can finish the book over the next week so I can tell you more about what impresses me about the story and the writing. I’m sure there is more to come on that score!

Be sure to take advantage of the sale on Becoming Lady Washington below, in honor of her June 2 birthday.

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 for a limited time!

Patsy Custis manages a large 18th-century plantation in Virginia but as a widow she struggles to balance her business with caring for two young children. When Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her, her life veers in an unexpected direction. But when trouble in the form of British oppression leads to revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, she must decide whether to stay home or follow her heart into a dangerous future.

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Initial Thoughts on The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

I’ve begun reading the next book in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour of historical fiction authors, which is The Flanders Panel by Arturo Pérez-Reverte. This book is translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa, an award-winning translator. The setting is Madrid, Spain and the original book was published in 1990; the edition I’m reading was published in 2004. I’m about 40% through the digital book via Hoopla. I haven’t had as much time to read over the last week because of some travel to two cities over the last week. But I’m back home and will get back to my normal rhythm and routine for the next month at least.

In trying to determine whether this story is actually historical fiction, I considered the premise of the fact that it involves a “five-hundred-year-old murder,” one which is alluded to in a 1471 painting, The Chess Game, created a few years after the actual killing. So, 500 years after 1471 would be 1971, and the book was first published in 1990. The “definition” of historical settings is anything at least 50 years before the time of writing and/or publication. So while the story is all about solving an historical murder mystery, I’m hesitant to call the story itself historical fiction.

The main female character, Julia, is apparently living in contemporary times and is an art restorer working on restoring The Chess Game. Even if we assume she is living in 1971, the book was published in 1990 which is 19 years after the time in which the character is living. It’s also only 32 years earlier than our present time. See, I just can’t make the historical fiction claim work. That said, it’s a fascinating story and a murder mystery too boot!

I’m thoroughly enjoying the vividly unique characters as well as the sleuthing into the mystery encapsulated in the painting. I feel like I’m being educated on art analysis at the same time as learning how to determine previous chess moves based on the current placement of the pieces. I didn’t even know that was possible, so it’s intriguing to me. I’ve played chess in the past but I would not call myself a chess player. I prefer checkers…

The tone of the story enhances the rather dark atmosphere of the art world, too. I think Pérez-Reverte has a great story going and I’m anxious to find out more about what’s going to happen and to whom.

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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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?

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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 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.

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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.

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Introducing What A Day! Short Stories by Southern Writers #amwriting #amreading #story #books #mustread #fiction

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, then you know that my Friday blog is dedicated to introducing new authors and their works. This Friday is no different in that I’m introducing some new authors but it’s very different because I’m sharing with you a collection of short stories by a group of authors. I’m very excited about being included in this anthology of short stories, too!

This collection of 11 stories features writers ranging from USA and NYT best-sellers to brand new authors. But every single story is worth your time, in my opinion. Several include inexplicable creatures, some include romance, some include mysterious doings. All are fun to read and written for a PG audience.

The best-sellers include Linda Howard, Linda Winstead-Jones, and Bonnie Gardner. These three authors have been publishing great stories for decades! The new authors, learning the ropes of the publishing industry with this anthology, include Crystal R. Lee and C.S. Ward. I’m sure after you read their stories you’ll hope, like me, that they keep on writing! In between, you have 6 multi-published authors, some with awards, all with some great reviews, writing in different genres.

My story is called “The Perfect Birthday Gift” and I had a blast writing this story. In writing it, I really became more intimately acquainted with Myrtle and Meg Marple, the scullery maids in my Fury Falls Inn series. They always seemed rather on the sidelines and I wanted to understand why they’d chosen to work at the inn in the kitchen. Who were they really? They have a few surprises to deal with, too!

Here is the story description of “The Perfect Birthday Gift” in case you’re curious (I hope so!):

Myrtle Marple anticipates spending her 21st birthday in 1821 relaxing at home with her sister in their Alabama cottage. But when an Elven Envoy sparkles into her living room with a very special surprise gift from her deceased parents, her life changes forever.

You can only read this story within the pages of the What A Day! anthology, so please reserve your copy today! You won’t regret it!

Thanks and 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.

Releases April 5, 2022! Available for Pre-order Now!

Southern hospitality is alive and well. In this anthology you may find a little old, a little new, and perhaps some mysterious doings. How about a ghost — or was it a ghost pepper? Was that a witch, a sprite, an elf, or a seer? You may be looking for a beautiful garden, a mint julep, or a jazz festival. Come on down! Bless your heart, you may never want to leave.

What A Day! is a collection of stories about special, memorable days in the lives of an eclectic, quirky mix of characters. You’ll enjoy fantasy, romance, historical, and more by best-selling authors like Linda Howard and Linda Winstead Jones as well as newer authors, none of which you’ll want to miss! Come laugh, cry, gasp, and smile your way through these fun, light-hearted, suspenseful, and intriguing stories.

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Initial Thoughts on A House Divided by Sulari Gentill #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

The next story in my Historical Fiction Around the World tour is A House Divided by Sulari Gentill. This story is the first in a series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s. I must admit to enjoying this type of historical fiction far more than war novels. It doesn’t hurt that it’s set in Australia, a continent and culture(s) I’ve wanted to experience for most of my life now. And which I’m happy to report I will finally have the opportunity to visit in 2023! Cannot wait to go there, New Zealand, and Guadalcanal next year.

I’ve begun reading A House Divided and am on page 126 of 358 pages. I’m enjoying the characters, their insights and quirks. It’s an easy to follow story but also includes aspects of life in the 1930s in Australia, the politics of the time, and also how crimes were solved prior to modern day methods of identification, like fingerprinting and DNA analysis.

One technique Ms. Gentill employs is one I’ve seen more often in mysteries and crime fiction, actually general fiction, than in women’s fiction and romance novels. That is the use of “head hopping” with the point of view character. In other words, the point of view from which the story is told switches within the scene from one character to another. In this story, sometimes three times in one scene. In romance, in particular, that is frowned upon; POV shifts should happen between scenes, not within them. So it took a moment for me to adjust my expectations but it’s handled well in the story and isn’t confusing to me. It reminds me of classic literature, to be honest, because you’ll find the same technique used in them as well.

I’ll try to finish reading this story before my next installment here. For one thing, I want to know whodunnit! 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)! Sales ends today!

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

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My Impressions of Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje #SriLankan #HistoricalFiction #HistFic #amwriting #amreading #books #novel #mustread #review

For the next installment in my Historical Fiction Around the World series, I chose what turned out to be a quick and enjoyable read. I hadn’t read anything else by this author, but Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost turned out to be a good read. Set in Sri Lanka in the 1980-90s, this fictional tale is intended to highlight the political crisis of that time. While technically not “historical” since it’s set less than 50 years from the present—copyrighted in 2000 in fact—the story does shed light on that decade. This story had been recommended to me as historical fiction but obviously it doesn’t fit that description. However, since I read it I’ll share my impressions anyway.

My overall impression of the story told is one of violence and the horror of people living through the ongoing nightmare of a civil war. In this case, a three-way fight between the government, antigovernment insurgents in the south, and separatist guerillas in the north of the country. Civilians got caught in the middle, including the doctors sometimes shanghaied to patch up the victims whether they wanted to or not. The main character, Anil, is a forensic scientist intent on solving a murder but she also is caught in the middle.

I appreciate the insights Mr. Ondaatje provides as to the life and times, the philosophical views of the ongoing war. I could empathize with the exhaustion of the characters, both physical and emotional. I wondered about how he conducted his research, how close to the actual actors in the real-life drama did he have to get to understand and then portray the depth and breadth of experience? One scene includes a man whose hands are nailed to the road, crucifixion style. I still have a hard time imagining people doing this to each other. How often did something like that actually happen? How did people react to such cruelty? Ondaatje describes how Anil and her colleague deal with the man humanely and professionally, but their emotional ties to him linger. They are not violent people but they are living within a violent world.

One of the lessons I’ve been learning by reading such a diverse, varied set of stories is what writing styles I enjoy and which ones I’m not that fond of. Mr. Ondaatje employs one technique that has its uses but in my humble opinion he overused it in this book. That technique is super short scenes. I’m talking a handful or so of paragraphs, some scenes not even one page in the book. I think that is a great way to shine a bright spotlight on a particular moment in time, whether an action, a conversation, or anything that is pivotal to the overall story, character development, or a hint at an upcoming plot twist. In Anil’s Ghost, there are many of these short scenes which at times made the story feel disjointed, choppy, maybe even disconnected.

Another confusing aspect to the style, or rather the typography, of the book is the use of italics for some scenes. I’m unclear as to the meaning for the shift from roman type to italics as those scenes were not from a specific person’s point of view, nor routinely a flashback or memory that I could discern. I’m assuming there is a reason for the italics, but I’m not sure what it is. If anyone knows, I’d love to have that explained. The editor in me is very curious as to what I missed.

So those are my thoughts about Anil’s Ghost. I liked the story overall. Mr. Ondaatje is a fine writer, as most will agree I’m sure. I probably wouldn’t have selected this book off the shelf if it hadn’t been recommended mainly because it’s not my go-to kind of story. But I’m glad I read it. It’s enlightening and eye-opening as to what others have endured in order to survive if not thrive.

Next time, I’m reading A House Divided by Sulari Gentill. This story is the first in a series of eight historical crime fiction stories by this author set in the 1930s. Time to head to the library to pick up a copy and return Anil’s Ghost.

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)! Sales ends February 28!

Martha “Patsy” Custis manages an immense eighteenth-century plantation in the Virginia colony. But as a young widow she’s hard pressed to balance her business and to care for her two young children. They need a father and protector. She needs a husband and business partner…one she can trust, especially now as tensions rise between the motherland and the American colonies. Her experience and education have sustained her thus far but when her life veers in an unexpected direction, she realizes she has so much more to learn.

Colonel George Washington takes an interest in her and she’s surprised to find him so sociable and appealing. They form an instant bond and she is certain he’ll be a likeable and loving husband and father figure for her children. She envisions a quiet life at Mount Vernon, working together to provide for their extended family.

But when trouble in the form of British oppression, taxes, and royal arrogance leads to revolt and revolution, George must choose between duty to country and Martha. Compelled to take matters into her own hands, Martha must decide whether to remain where she belongs or go with her husband… no matter what the dangerous future may hold.

Books2Read     Amazon     Barnes and Noble     Kobo     Apple     Google Books     Bookshop