The Melody of the Soul

Update: Enter Giveaway HERE!

The Melody of the Soul

by Liz Tolsma

Find it on:

Amazon
Goodreads 

Third Person • Multiple Points of View (more than three) • Fiction • 320 Pages

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Back Cover Blurb:

By 1943, Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost everything, including her career as a concert violinist and almost her entire family. The only person she has left is her beloved grandmother, and she’s determined to keep her safe. But protecting Grandmother won’t be easy–not with a Nazi officer billeted below them.

Anna must keep a low profile. There’s one thing she refuses to give up, though. Despite instruments being declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to practice her violin. She has to believe that the war will end someday and her career will be waiting. Fortunately for Anna, the officer, Horst Engel, enjoys her soothing music. It distracts him from his dissatisfaction with Nazi ideology and reminds him that beauty still exists in an increasingly ugly world.

When his neighbors face deportation, Horst is moved to risk everything to hide them. Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals to her might break her trust and stop the music forever. . . .

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The book I’ve been working on writing for the last several years is about a violinist, therefore I jump at the chance to read other books about musicians – especially violinists.  Plus, I have a very soft spot in my heart for Historical Fiction that takes place during WW2. Maybe it’s because I’ve known people who fought in the war or because it’s such recent history, but I never grow tired of reading books – both fiction and nonfiction – that are set in that time period.

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While I am an avid WW2 Historical Fiction reader, I’m also a rather picky one. Therefore, you should probably take this whole review with a grain of salt, because there wasn’t really anything wrong with the book – it just wasn’t my favorite. (It still got three stars, but I went into it expecting to give it a higher rating.)

There might be very slight spoilers in the next paragraph, but if you’ve read the back cover then you basically know what’s going on – I’m simply going to talk briefly about the motive.

One of the things I dislike in a book is when one of the main characters changes from being a bad guy to a good guy because of a love interest. Although that wasn’t the main motive, that reasoning did keep coming up in this book. And, because I’m a picky little bookworm, that greatly lowered my enjoyment of the novel. I have a feeling this is probably wouldn’t bother most people, but for me and nearly made me want to stop reading the book. (Really though, I know that’s unjustified.)

We’re thrown right into life during WW2 in Prague – a place that once teemed with music but now beats with the sound of marching boots and the wails of families being torn apart. We follow the lives of…
Anna, who is working hard to keep her grandma safe after the rest of her family was deported.
David, Anna’s brother who is in Terezin – a place that has captured my imagination because of all the music that took place there. Beauty among horror.
Horst, a Nazi who isn’t sure what he’s supposed to believe anymore.
Stefen, a Nazi who is extremely sure what he’s supposed to believe and delights in being cruel.
and Patrice, an underground worker who has some very difficult decisions to make.

There was so much switching back and forth between the different points of views that I sometimes felt nearly dizzy with the fast-paced changes. Although all of the characters had good points of view, it probably would have helped me be able to relate to them a bit more if we would have stuck with just one or two of them.

 

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There was a lot of faith contained in the book. It was a good perspective to look at the war from – especially what the grandma had to say. I didn’t agree with all of it but they did make some very good points.

Although there is obviously cruelty and violence mentioned in the book due to it being during a war, I was thankful for the author not being too descriptive when it came to describing it. She hit a good balance with that.

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I’m giving The Melody of the Soul 3 out of 5 stars, and 4 out of 10

*Litfuse gave me this book to review

Anticipation – The Wonder of Life

Anticipation. It’s one of those things about life that I enjoy the most. Looking forward to something special is seriously one of my favorite things in the world.

I live in the moment – really, I do – but looking forward to something exciting in the future often enhances those moments and makes them feel more vibrant and whimsical. When Christmas finally arrives each year it’s nearly sad because then I don’t get to anticipate it anymore. So I find more things to get excited about: New Years, my mom’s birthday, accomplishing new goals, and the list goes on.

In 2014 ago I was blessed to travel a lot. I went to Nashville with my adopted parents and had barely gotten back from that when I left with one of my brother’s to stay with some friends in Indonesia for a month, and eight days after getting home from that, I left for a month-long road trip across Europe. There were other trips before and after, but it was during those three trips when I realized my ability to 100% enjoy the present while 100% being giddy about the future.

Since then I’ve danced through ups and downs of life, holding on to what is happening at the moment while nearly bursting with what is going to happen in the future.

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Currently, my anticipation levels are sky-high. I’ve had two restless nights of sleep that leave me tired and quite amused. At work, I’ve taken to letting my phone sit out so I can check every so often to see if I have a certain text. (Normally I put my phone up and don’t look at it at all during work hours – and I still don’t do anything on it except check for the text.) I find myself easily distracted. I wander around musing about names. I have to remind myself to focus, focus, focus. And pray. Of course pray.

Why? You may ask. See, my best friend is due to have her baby any day now.

Yes, I know. You’d think was the one having the baby with how involved I feel. This last week has made me laugh at myself as I wonder what it will be like when I’m actually the mother. I shouldn’t be the one losing sleep – but my happily anticipatory mind doesn’t care. I shouldn’t be the one dreaming about names – but it’s quite amusing to see the combinations my brain comes up with. I shouldn’t be the one who has to remind herself to complete each task in front of her – but hey, I am the one, because, folks, this is exciting.

Do you know what I’ve realized though? Being excited – looking forward to and celebrating the little things – makes life so much richer. Yes, if I worked hard enough I could probably shut down most of my excitement. Yes, if I really wanted to I could stop anticipating things so whole-heartedly. But I don’t want to. I want to embrace the joys that float around me, and grab on to the brightness of life. I want to hold fast and celebrate and feel delight sparkle through me.

It’s not just big things like a baby being born, either. When I get a letter in the mail I generally wait for at least a few hours to open it so I can savor the knowledge that I have a letter awaiting me. When I decide to splurge and eat a special treat I sometimes decide days in advance so I can look forward to it and make it an event. When I have a goal I’m about to finish I make plans in my head – however small – about how I can celebrate.

Anticipation. It’s one of my favorite things in the world.

And now I’m off to find sparkly socks to wear to work, cause nothing says “I’m excited about this new baby coming” like wearing sparkly socks.

Books, and Packages, and Happiness, Oh My! {Vlog}

Y’all. Book unboxings have got to be my favorite type of vlog to film. They are seriously so much fun! Opening up a package and seeing a brand new book makes my writerly – and authorly – heart so happy.

And this time I might have had a slight audience which created a fair amount of laughter that needed to be edited out.

Enjoy!

The Reality of A Writer

This morning I awoke early in order to write letters for a friend who is leaving for a month. After saying goodbye to her I started a pot of decaf coffee prepared to settle in at my desk for a long day of editing. Days like this are highly looked forward to by me – I have a quiet, empty house, a load of writing work to do, and long hours stretching ahead of me.

Then reality sets in.

There are dishes to wash.
Laundry to wash.
Miles to walk.
Rooms to clean.
Every-day chores to take care of.
Letters to write.
My writing desk is a mess due to people using it over the last few days and not cleaning up afterward.

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Thinking of everything that needs to be done is exhausting. I’m a writer. I really need this day to write. It’s so easy to get off course though, and in reality, the other things have to be done, too. I work at the coffee shop the next two days, so it’s not like I can just let everything (or anything) wait for a new day.

The life of a writer is a balancing act I’m still trying to figure out. Often times I don’t do nearly as much as I was wanting or planning to, and sometimes it feels justified, other times it feels stifling.

Today I’m sitting down at my desk, knowing that every little bit I’ll have to jump up and rush off to do some other needed life-y thing. Today I’m sitting down with a hundred things pushing and pulling me knowing that I might not get as many writing hours in as I had wanted, but that every little bit pushes me closer to my goal. Today I sit down knowing that although it might be overwhelming, it’s still worthwhile.

Today I sit down, thankful for my life. Thankful for the time that I do have to write. And thankful to have the ability to do what I do.

Today I’m a writer.

But even more than that, today I am thankful.

The Power of Books

Sometimes a book hits an amazing note that I wasn’t entirely prepared for and it makes me want to scream or grab someone’s hand and squeeze it in excitement or run and find someone to tell all about it.

Sometimes a book doesn’t have any huge plot twists, but the writing is so wonderful and the characters are so developed and the imagery is so beautiful that I just want to dance around the room or hug the book or sit down right there and then and film a vlog gushing about it.

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Sometimes a book says exactly what I’ve been needing to hear and it’s like a dozen lightbulbs going off all at once. And I need to just set the book down and breath for a few minutes while thinking it through and wondering why I didn’t realize that truth sooner.

Sometimes a book is so utterly creative and delightful and brings happiness to the very core of my being. It makes me want to dash to my computer and polish my own technique and pray that God would one day allow something I’ve written to be so inspiring and special and moving for someone else.

Sometimes a book isn’t what I want to hear – it speaks the hard truth with love but firmness and makes me realize that I need to change my ways. It makes my life more difficult for a season, but in the end, it makes me a better person for what I gave up and changed.

Words.

They have power.

 

The Art of Arting

Being an artist isn’t just about the official art you create – it becomes a part of who you are.

For years I’ve had to work at not having my writing become my identity because although I am a writer, that’s not where my worth comes from. But at the same time, being an artist changes who I am at every level. As I learn and grow with my art form, which is writing, I see the world through different eyes and notice things I’d missed before.

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This past week I’ve gotten to watch one of my wonderful friends who is an artist as she goes about her daily life. I’ve long been amazed by how beautiful her paintings and drawings are, and feel honored to have a butterfly she painted me hanging on my wall. But it’s not only canvases she works with – to her the whole world is a canvas.

A few nights ago we were working on making supper together. I had a cutting board on the counter that had some of the bean juice from the chili we were making. I looked over to find Melody using a knife to swirl the bean juice into a cupcake.

I was amazed at the representation of life – I looked and saw dirty dishes and a mess, Melody looked and saw the opportunity to create and make something delightful. It was a whimsical, happy moment for me when I watched her put the final flourish of a cherry on top.

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As an artist it’s an honor to be able to create art with what other people view as trash, and the amazing thing is, we can do the same thing with life, too. The concept of redemption has been coming back to me again and again recently. What we see as something worthless, or worse, as damaging, God sees it as a tool He can use to help us become who He created us to be.

I want to look at people and see who they can be, instead of the messy versions of who they are. I want to love people with a love that bypasses the sometimes mean reality of who they are, and focuses on the fact that they have souls and are loved by the God who created the universe.

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Art isn’t just about doing – it’s about who we are – how we view life. And in some special, probably really non-literal way, I sometimes think that we are all artists. When you see someone for who they can be instead of who they are, that’s art. When you encourage a child’s imagination, that’s art. When you create a delicious meal, that’s art.

Art isn’t about sitting down with a paintbrush and canvas. It isn’t about molding clay into a fine statue. Sometimes art is more about how you view life.

And to me, that is beautiful.

Am I The Only One?

Back when my sister had Lyme disease, she wrote this. It meant so much to me and was so fitting that I ended up using it at the beginning of When Life Hands You Lymes.

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Am I the only one?
Has anyone else ever felt fear?
Not just any fear, but a seemingly never-end fear.
The kind of fear that, in the moment, feels like fear is the only thing you’ll ever know.

You thought you could outrun it, but you were wrong every time.
It’s now what controls you.
You almost respect it.
You listen to it and obey it.
It’s your gauge that tells you what’s impossible.

It holds you so tightly you can’t even scream for help anymore.
It’s like a bungee cord how it pulls you back and slaps you in the face every time you reach out for one of your dreams.
It says: Why did you even try? I’ve told you you’re a loser.
It tells you: Hope’s a fake, but assures you that pain is real.

It has to have your attention; without your attention it will die.
That’s why it’s so demanding and why it screams so loudly.
It’s behind your insecurity.

It’s the thing that asks you every night: Why would God love you?
It’s the thing that tells you over and over again what you did wrong and why you can never change.
It tells you you’ll trip if you take that first step.

I took that first step.
I didn’t trip.
It was all a lie.
I stopped giving fear my attention; it has now died.

Am I the only one?