Just in time for Valentine’s Day, my February Fic Picks feature a nine book inspirational romance series plus a stand alone historical fiction novel and the first in a fantasy retelling trilogy.

The Daughters of Boston and Winds of Change series by Julie Lessman

Inspirational Fiction – 1913-1935 Boston, Massachusetts Julie Lessman

In a nutshell: While listed as two separate series, these books actually contain one complete storyline following Marcy and Patrick O’Connor from Boston Massachusetts and their six grown children as they deal with life and love from World War I through the Great Depression. Each book centers can stand on its own, however readers will be pleased to reencounter past characters within the subsequent books. Therefore it is recommended that the series be read in the order of publication:

  • Daughters of Boston series (Books 1-3) – Focus on sisters Faith, Charity, and Lizzie from 1913-1922
  • Winds of Change Series (Books 1-3) – Focus on Katie and her brothers Sean and Stephen from the 1920’s through 1933
  • A Whisper of Hope and The Best Gift of All (Christmas Novellas) – Focus on Charity and Lizzie in 1935
  • A Light in the Window (Prequel) – Focus on Mary and Patrick before they married

My take: The cover for the third book in this series, A Passion Denied, reads “This isn’t your mother’s inspirational fiction.” And they weren’t kidding. It only took one book for me to fall in love with Julie Lessman’s writing style and the O’Connor family, then I blazed through the next six books and two novellas despite each novel being nearly 500 pages. Even if you’re not typically an inspirational fiction reader, these novels will change your mind. Truthfully, I didn’t realize it was inspirational fiction when I picked it up at random from the library shelf. I was simply in the mood for a good historical romance set in the same time period as my own work in progress. However these books contained everything I could want from my ideal inspirational fiction novel:

  • Religious references that make me think about my own spiritual life rather than simply preaching at me. Disclaimer: Book One does have some large blocks of religious speak, but they taper off with each subsequent novel.
  • Steamy romance crafted around swoon worthy couples while maintaining clean content. Note: The parents, Marcy and Patrick, completely stole the show for me, so finishing the series with their beginning was the perfect ending.
  • Imperfect characters who deal with real world issues. No one is perfect and inspirational characters shouldn’t be either. This series dealt with some heavy issues, and every one was completely relatable.
  • Dialogue heavy scenes, continuing characters between novels, and plotlines that keep me turning pages late into the night. Check to all three.

My individual reviews for these books can be found on Goodreads.

I also discovered this interesting post detailing the process for creating the covers for this series: https://theartistlibrarian.blogspot.com/2014/11/covering-boston-to-san-francisco-julie-lessman.html

For more information on Julie Lessman’s books, visit: http://www.julielessman.com

 

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Historical Fiction – 1939 Memphis, Tennessee and Present Day Aiken, South Carolina

In a nutshell: What if as a child you were stolen from your home, moved far away, and told that another couple were now your parents and your name was no longer your own? That’s what happens to twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four siblings in 1939. One night they’re kidnapped from their family’s Mississippi river boat and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society Orphanage, a place that is more a prison than a refuge. In a desperate attempt to return to her family, she quickly learns that being taken was only the smallest of their worries. Years later, wealthy lawyer Avery Stafford comes into contact with an elderly woman whose unusual words send her on a chase to uncover her own family’s history, leading to a truth she never could have imagined.

My take: First, after reading this novel, I was surprised that I had never heard of Lisa Wingate before. She has 25 novels under her belt by this point, and Before We Were Yours was named a Goodreads Choice 2017 Winner.

While this was a quick read and a wonderful read, it was often at times not an easy read. Lisa Wingate includes a wonderful author’s note at the end of the novel that describes what was true, and it was startling to learn how much actually happened. As a mother, I can imagine the utter terror of having my children taken from me, never knowing what happened to them. But the interesting idea that the novel addresses is: what about the other side? Which has more potential – the life we should have had or the one we end up living? What about the future that would have never been if we’d gone down a different path? This book asks the reader to think about the bigger picture and consider that sometimes it isn’t so black and white. While at times deeply sad, overall the story is one of family, love, and ultimately hope.

For more information visit: http://lisawingate.com

 

Rise of the Sea Witch by Stacey Rourke

Fantasy Retelling

In a Nutshell: Have you ever wondered how Ursula in The Little Mermaid became so evil? She claims she lived in Triton’s palace at some point, but gives no other details in the movie. What exactly happened to cause her fall from Triton’s good graces? Is she really as bad as we all think or is she just given a bad rap? What’s her deal? Well, Rise of the Sea Witch answers all our pre-Little Mermaid questions in splendid fashion. Things may not be so black and white anymore.

My Take: This is the fourth of Stacey Rourke’s novels I have read, after The Legends Saga and Adapted for Film, and I’m happy to say that Rise of the Sea Witch had everything I’ve come to love about Rourke’s writing. If you enjoy a healthy dose of sarcastic humor and amazing one liners bundled together with plenty of action, a bit of romance, and an origin story of a well-known villain then read this immediately. After viewing four different productions of The Little Mermaid stage musical last year, I was beyond excited to read an explanation of why Ursula is the way she is, and this book did not disappoint.

The second book in the series, Entombed in Glass, releases March 29, 2018. For more information visit: http://staceyrourke.com

Now it’s your turn!

Read a good book lately? Think others would enjoy it too? Submit your suggestions on the comment page and I just may highlight them in a future post. And don’t forget – when you like a book, post a review on your favorite site!

Text Copyright © 2018 Kelsey Gietl.

This month I’m featuring three novels with strong female protagonists and lovely covers. Happy reading!

Becoming Mrs. Smith by Tanya Williams (Available October 10, 2017)

Historical Fiction – World War II South Dakota

In a nutshell: The first in a three part series (two novellas and a full length novel), Becoming Mrs. Smith follows the story of Violet and John from their first meeting as children throughout their relationship during the horrors of World War II. Left with a weak heart after suffering from scarlet fever as a child, Violet is devastated when John enlists in World War II and wonders if the world will ever be right again. Through the series of letters they send to one another, Violet must face her fears and learn how to have hope even in the midst of an uncertain future.

My take: I very rarely read novellas unless I have prior experience with the author’s work. Well, I had the chance to advance read this novella for Tanya Williams, and I am so glad that I did, because it was wonderful! I was a cheerleader for Violet and John from the very beginning, and their relationship both warmed and completely broke my heart. It was one of those stories where you find yourself feeling right along with the characters, and loving them even when their actions are not always so loveable. To express so much in only 110 pages is a grand feat unto itself, and I’m eagerly anticipating the next part.

For more information visit: https://tanyaewilliams.com/

 

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson

Alternate Historical Fiction/Steampunk – 1888 New York

In a nutshell: What would America be like if the revolution never happened and instead the wealthy and powerful lorded over us all with magic? Magic, really? Yes, stay with me. The wealthy and powerful might have all the magic, but that doesn’t stop some of the people – the Rebel Mechanics – from putting on their work goggles and building machines that do everything magic can do and more. With their steam powered contraptions, freedom is just on the horizon! In walks Verity Newton, hired as a magister governess and also unexpectedly recruited as a spy to the mechanics. As she becomes more entrenched in the cause, she realizes a bigger battle is coming, but who can she trust when no one is exactly as they seem?

My take: My first note is that this is a good example of how traditional publishing and indie publishing can work hand in hand. Book 1 in this trilogy is traditionally published, while books two and three are indie. We all love books, why should we fight about how they’re published?

Now onto the book!

I haven’t read many alternate histories and I haven’t read much steampunk, but this series was both and I really enjoyed it. I thought the premise of what would happen if the American Revolution never occurred was an interesting one, although I’m not sure that I needed to have magic incorporated as the answer. But the author brought up some good points within the magical sphere about social responsibility and how even small differences can separate people. One change I would have made is to have these written from multiple viewpoints, instead of only from Verity’s POV. There were so many playful and strong characters in the rebel movement that we only saw pieces of, and it would have been interesting to expand their stories. Maybe give a few of them their own spin off novellas? Hmm, just a thought.

For more information, visit: http://shannaswendson.com/

 

The Book Jumper by Mechthild Gläser

Magical Realism – Modern Day Scotland

In a nutshell: Looking for a way to escape their current depressing lives, Amy Lennox and her mother leave for the tiny island of Stormsay, Scotland. Population: about 20 on a good day. It’s revealed pretty quickly that the Lennox family is one of two families on the island with the power to jump into books, and interact with the characters, but only so much as to ensure the plot remains intact. Seems like a simple task, right? Of course not. There’s a mysterious force on the loose determined to sneak into the major classics and steal all their central ideas, destroying the integrity of the books forever. Working with Amy’s fellow book jumper, Will, and their book character friend, Werther, they race to save their favorite stories before they’re lost forever.

My take: Originally written in German and translated into English, this book is an ode to every avid reader who ever wished we could become a part of our favorite stories. My little book-loving self read right through to the conclusion, enjoying every jump along the way. And the twist at the end was satisfying enough that, for most of the book, I honestly didn’t suspect it. The only thing I wish I’d received more of at the end was details! The author wrapped the story up between the two main characters and the goals they were trying to achieve, but the secondary characters were left in a bit of a limbo. I could have used maybe one of two pages more just to tell me everyone else’s reactions to the story’s conclusion.

One item I should note is that all of the books the characters jump into are classics. Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, A Midsummer Night’s Dream … just to name a few. Classic works are the basis of the plot, and modern works are not mentioned at all. I noticed this as a criticism on a few reviews, and before everyone else starts to gripe that a certain boy wizard is not mentioned, I’d like to set down the rationale for this decision in two words: copyright infringement. In general, works published before 1923 are considered public domain and, in most instances, can be referred to and quoted within other works without seeking permission from the copyright holder. This is the reason Mechthild Glaser only uses classics, and the same reason I was able to quote classics in Across Oceans. No one wants to be sued, so fellow authors, please be careful.

For more information visit: https://www.mechthild-glaeser.de/

I’m sorry that her site is in German, but it’s her native tongue after all. I really wish I was fluent enough that I could read everything there!

 

Now it’s your turn!

Read a good book lately? Think others would enjoy it too? Submit your suggestions on the comment page and I just may highlight them in a future post. And don’t forget to leave a review on your favorite book’s site!

Text Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Gietl.

September Fic Picks

If you’re searching for your next read, each month I’ll be highlighting my favorite titles. Usually this will be historical fiction – it is my genre after all! – but I also like to read around. So don’t be surprised if a fantasy, contemporary romance, or non-fiction shows up just to keep things interesting!

24875387Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams

Historical Fiction (1936-1938 France and Germany, 1966 America)

In a nutshell: Piper, secretly pregnant by a famous politician in the 1960’s and trying to escape her past, sells her car to Annabelle, who claims the vehicle saved her from Nazi Germany. Over the next 400 pages, the author weaves an intricate tale between the lives of Annabelle, her Jewish lover, and her Nazi husband, revealing how sometimes incorrect assumptions are more damaging than awful truth. And how people do not always act how we expect them to in the end.

My take: Dual period historical fiction pieces seem to be all the rage right now. For those who are not familiar with this style of writing, it simply means that chapters alternate between two different stories set in two different time periods. I’ve read several of these books over the last year, and Along the Infinite Sea was easily my favorite so far. It was refreshing to read a World War II novel that did not take place either in the heart of the fighting or completely within a concentration camp. While those books are definitely needed, and I could recommend many, it’s also interesting to read about more unfamiliar events of a familiar time period. The writing flowed well, the romantic aspects felt relatable without being explicit, and I loved the complicated dynamic between the three main characters. Although this is my first read by Ms. Williams, I can tell it won’t be my last adventure with her.

For more information visit: beatrizwilliams.com

 

51LFBxTke-L__SY346_Swept to Sea by Heather Manning

Christian Historical Fiction (17th Century England and the middle of the Atlantic)

In a nutshell: Lady Eden Trenton is engaged to a man that by all outward appearances is a fine match, and in private is an abusive horror. Determined not to succumb to such a life, she stows away on a privateer ship bound for the Caribbean. Being lousy at hiding, she is quickly discovered by Caspian Archer, a sea captain bent on revenge against the pirate who killed his wife and left him with a five-year old son to care for. While both parties have vowed never to lose their hearts to another, as any good romance goes, they quickly discover that there could be much more to their relationship than mere passenger and sea captain.

My take: This novel was such a delightful read. I found Heather Manning on Hometown Reads, a fabulous little site that helps readers find local authors in their hometown. She was 16 at the time that she wrote this novel, and, while some aspects in characterization and dialogue showed her youth, the novel as a whole easily compared to many other Christian fiction novels on the market. The author incorporated the religious aspects well, highlighting the faith of the characters without force-feeding it to the reader. Historically, she seemed to have all her facts in place with one exception; the difference between a pirate and a privateer was not explained until nearly 100 pages in. At its most basic, a privateer is legal and a pirate is not (The Mariners’ Museum and Park gives a good explanation here). If I did not have this advance knowledge, I would have viewed Caspian’s character quite differently. All in all though, this book made for a light, fun, weekend read. I’m looking forward to seeing more from this author.

For more information visit: heathermauthor.blogspot.com

Now it’s your turn!

Read a good book lately? Think others would enjoy it too? Submit your suggestions on the comment page and I just may highlight them in a future post. And don’t forget to leave a review on your favorite book’s site!

Text Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Gietl.

Launch Day – Across Oceans

It’s finally here! I’m so excited to share that my novel, Across Oceans, is now available in the online stores listed below:

Amazon (USA) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-usa
Amazon (Canada) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-ca
Amazon (UK) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-uk
Amazon (Germany) – bit.ly/ao-amzn-de
Barnes & Noble – bit.ly/ao-bn
iBooks – bit.ly/ao-kg-apple
Kobo – bit.ly/ao-kobo
Large Print (USA) – bit.ly/ao-lp-amzn
Large Print (Canada) – http://bit.ly/ao-lp-ca

It has been a long two years from the day I started outlining to publication. It was a challenging two years, and a most rewarding two years. Independent publishing is a journey to be sure, but it is one I am so blessed to have so much support for. Thank you to everyone who has walked this path with me from the beginning; I could not have accomplished this without each and every one of you.

For my new readers, welcome! I hope that you enjoy Across Oceans as much as I loved bringing it to life for you. If you would be willing to leave a review on any or all platforms, it would be so greatly appreciated. Also, if you have questions, comments, or suggestions after reading, please send me a line here, or find me on Goodreads.

Two Announcements!

I have two exciting announcements this exceedingly hot Saturday Morning – 103 before heat index in St. Louis today. With a day as warm as this one, it seems only logical to stay inside and read the paperback proof for my upcoming novel. And then that’s it, folks! The hard part is done, and I can focus on getting it into your hands to read. Which means…

Announcement #1 – The publication date for Across Oceans is moving up to August 10! It will be available as an ebook, paperback, and large print paperback. More details to follow soon.

Announcement #2 – It’s time for a cover reveal! I absolutely love how it turned out and I hope you do too!

AO ebook

Text and Photo Copyright © 2017 by Kelsey Gietl.

Dare to Fail

There’s something so beautiful about fireworks: the kaleidoscope of color, each boom’s heart-stopping thrill, and the emotion they convey when displayed against a well-chosen soundtrack. At the same time, they can be terrifying. One misplaced fuse, one ill-timed action, and everything will, quite literally, go up in smoke.

Standing on the edge of achieving a goal can sometimes feel like that – beautiful and thrilling, yet in the same breath, terrifying. One step away from victory and also one step away from disaster. We begin to doubt everything we were so certain of yesterday.

For writers, as we near our novel’s publication date we begin to ask, “What if every review is negative? What if I overlooked an embarrassing grammatical error? What if, despite all my research, I explained every detail inaccurately?” We spend months or years, perhaps decades, crafting what we believe to be an amazing story. We pour a little piece of ourselves onto the paper and risk much to share it with others. Is it worth it?

One summer during college, I apprenticed at Opera Theatre of St. Louis. During one of the most rewarding and educational summers of my life, the most important lesson I learned was said by our technical director during our first apprentice meeting: “Dare to fail.” This phrase has been posted on a little purple sticky note on my desk for over a decade now.

Every goal has a possibility of failure. If we never take chances, we never fail, but we also never succeed. Does this mean we should make reckless decisions? Of course not. We must be smart with our actions, but sometimes breaking out of our comfort zone is the only way to see what we are truly capable of. For introverts, this can be especially difficult, which is why so many of us write our thoughts instead of saying them.

Today is America’s Independence Day, a celebration of people who risked much to achieve much. What if our forefathers never fought for what they believed in? What if our ancestors, from all corners of the world, decided that leaving their country’s familiarity was easier than starting over somewhere new? What if Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, or Abraham Lincoln quit before they began? The United States would look very different from the country we know today.

To quote Thomas Edison, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Fear of the unknown is worth the effort. We may succeed in exactly the way we imagined, or nothing could go according to plan, and it all blows up in our face. But we can sift through the ashes to discover that something even better lies hidden beneath our supposed failures.

So dare to fail. I am. Because sometimes, like fireworks, even explosions are beautiful.

 

Text and Photo Copyright © 2017 Kelsey Gietl.