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Vienna Nocturne By Vivien Shotwell


Publisher:  Ballantine BooksVienna Nocturne by Vivien Shotwell

Pages:  305

Release Date:  February 25, 2014

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About the Book:  

In the tradition of Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife and Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone comes a sweeping historical love story and a portrait of an age. Vienna Nocturne is a deeply moving debut novel that brings to life two extraordinary figures—a thirty-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and a young English soprano, Anna Storace, who was his muse—in prose as spirited, timeless, and touching as Mozart’s greatest compositions.

In late-eighteenth-century London, a young girl takes her first singing lessons with a mysterious castrato in exile. Her life is forever changed. Having learned everything he can teach her, Anna leaves behind all the security and familiarity of home and journeys to Naples and Venice to struggle and triumph in Italy’s greatest opera houses. Only sixteen, she finds herself in an intoxicating world of theaters, nobility, and vice, overwhelmed by her newfound freedom and fame. Her first bitter experience of love and heartbreak inevitably follows.

Within a few years, Anna is invited to sing in Vienna, the City of Music, by the emperor himself. There, in a teasing game of theft and play, Anna first meets Mozart, a young virtuoso pianist and striving, prodigiously talented composer. They are matched in intellect and talent, and an immediate and undeniable charge occurs between the two, despite both being married to others.

As her star rises in Vienna and her personal life deteriorates, Anna experiences an ultimate crisis. During this trying time, her only light is Mozart: his energy, his determination for her, and his art. She, in turn, becomes his hope and inspiration, and his joy, as he writes for her some of his most exquisite and enduring arias—music that will live on as his masterworks.

Rich in historical detail and beautifully wrought by Vivien Shotwell, an author who is herself an opera singer, Vienna Nocturne is a dramatic tour de force of a woman’s struggle to find love and fame in an eighteenth-century world that controls and limits her at every turn.

Wanda’s Thoughts:  

This was an extraordinary read! The tempo picked up early on and I couldn’t put it down. A portrait of a woman, a phenomenal musician, emerges in this beautifully written novel.

Late 18th Century – England – Anna Storace was an extremely talented eleven-year-old girl. She played harp and guitar and could sing anything on sight. She becomes a student of the famous Castrato, Venazio Rauzzini, who took one look at Anna and cherished her like she was a treasure. Within a few short years, Rauzzini shapes her voice, and truly believes Anna can become a great opera star. Anna and her family depart for Naples. Nowhere in the world was superb singing more prized than in Italy. Anna and her family meet up with many hardships. There are so many singers in Naples and an entire year is cursed by a fog of confusion. Anna’s father dies and her family is left alone with little money, and debts accumulating in both London and Naples. And the story unfolds —


Francesco Benucci – Buffo – a male singer of comic roles in opera. Anna and Benucci become a match in Vienna and Anna falls in love with him, but he doesn’t return her love.

John Fisher is a virtuoso violinist. He is a widower and an acquaintance from London and arrives in Vienna with no friends. He desires some English company, especially music lovers. He connects with Anna’s family and a marriage occurs that only produces heartache and tragedy.

Stephen Storace is Anna’s older brother and a prodigy on the violin. He’s very protective of Anna and she has the utmost respect for him.

Aloysia – Mozart’s sister-in-law, married to a well-regarded actor and painter, Joseph Lange. Mozart was in love with Aloysia, but she wouldn’t have him, so he married her sister, Constanze.

The eccentric Amadeus Mozart was an absolutely brilliant musician, and had been composing since he was a boy. Anna had heard many virtuosi play, but Mozart surpassed them all. When playing the piano Mozart used such a variety of expression with unbelievable improvisations. He was jovial, but filled with such intensity, his music being so extremely complicated. Mozart and Anna enter into a love affair, which may or may not have really happened according to the author’s notes at the end.

With the exception of just a few, the characters are based on actual people. The timeline and many scenes are based on real events.

There is so much to love about this book. It is a rich treat for music lovers, especially those of opera. The plot, while mixing elements of reality with fiction, brings this musical history to life in the most intimate way. The author also brings the melodies of Mozart to life with her beautiful style of writing – it truly amazed me and I was compelled to read on. The storyline never loses momentum and you’re drawn in with its wide cast of eccentric characters. There are scenes in the book that I found deeply touching – a thoroughly great read! Don’t miss this one! 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from LibraryThing to read and review. All opinions shared are my own.

About the Author:  VIVIEN SHOTWELL was born in Boulder but moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia as a young girl when her parents relocated there to be part of a Buddhist colony. A graduate of Williams College, she earned a masters at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She is currently pursuing an Artist Diploma in opera performance at Yale University and working on her next novel. She has won several prizes for her short fiction, which has been published in Esopus magazine.

Heaven and Hell: Are They Real? By Christopher D Hudson


Publisher:  Thomas NelsonHeaven and Hell by Christopher D. Hudson

Pages:  277

Release Date:  February 11, 2014

Genre:  Religion

Book Description:  

It can be said that the words “heaven” and “hell” are thrown around flippantly these days. It seems they have become part of our vernacular without much thought or concern about what they really mean.

The reality of heaven and hell is a hotly-debated topic spurring countless conversations, books, and sermons. It’s fashionable to have an opinion about the reality of heaven and hell, but what does the Bible really say? “Heaven and Hell: Are They Real?” discusses what Scripture really says about these mysterious places, giving you real, solid, reliable information. The book includes scripture quotes that capture the current interest in the reality of heaven and hell, while offering readings on heaven and hell. Also included are quotes and insights from trusted authors including Billy Graham, Randy Alcorn, C.S. Lewis, and more. For the curious reader looking for more information on heaven and hell, “Heaven and Hell: Are they Real?” is the perfect choice.

Wanda’s Thoughts:

Heaven and Hell: Are They Real? – A thought provoking book written in a clear and simple way, while providing answers to questions for us to ponder. It certainly captured my attention, and had me wanting to read more.

Part 1 – Heaven
Will heaven be boring? – When we experience the fulfillment of heaven and see God as he truly is, it will be an endless reservoir of fascination – the greatest fun-filled adventure we’ve ever known.

Will we have physical bodies in heaven? – We will never be all that God intended until out body and spirit are joined in resurrection – a new creation of the perfected body and perfected soul.

Will we be busy in heaven? – We will find deep satisfaction in serving God. The more we know him, the more there will be to know. Our activities in heaven will be enjoyable and fulfilling as we enjoy God and he enjoys us. We will learn, grow, and develop, and it will be an exhilarating experience that will never come to an end.

Will there be animals in heaven? – There doesn’t seem to be a conclusive answer to this question – I can only hope so.

Where is heaven? – Heaven is a dimension where time and distance are not obstacles. Heaven is more than a state of mind – it is an actual place where God dwells, and where we can finally find complete peace. It is beyond our imagination and comprehension.

Part 2 – Hell
How can someone purposely choose to go to hell? – If you have rejected salvation, God can refuse to show mercy on you. At death you are at the end of your journey, and the road to destruction has been chosen.

How can I avoid going to hell? – Christians can not get to heaven just by doing good works. John 14:16 – I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

This book provides Scriptures that enable us to see life with an eternal perspective. There is an added question, or two, to sum up up each chapter – For Further Thought. These questions help us to delve deeper into the written chapter while creating our own conclusions.

We all have the power to choose heaven or hell. God allows us to decide whether on not to accept the eternal gift through his son, Jesus, by opening up our hearts and committing our lives to him. For those who choose our true home in heaven, the dark sorrows of the earth will be erased and changed to the joys of heaven, and our hearts will be filled with God’s enduring presence. Heaven will be the perfect place to spend eternity! A great and inspiring read! 4.5 Stars

About the Author:   Christopher Hudson is the author or editor of the At the Table Family Devotional: 365 Daily Reading and Conversation Starters for Your Family and the Quickview Bible. He served as the managing editor for the Inspirational Study Bible with Max Lucado, the Case for Christ Study Bible with Lee Strobel, the Love Languages Devotional Bible with Gary Chapman, and the NIV Lessons from Life Bible with President Jimmy Carter.



A Light in the Wilderness By Jane Kirkpatrick


Title:  A Light in the WildernessA Light in the Wilderness by Jane Kirkpatrick

Author:  Jane Kirkpatrick

Publisher:  Revell

Release Date:  September 2, 2014

Pages:  320

Genre:  Historical Fiction

About the Book:

Letitia holds nothing more dear than the papers that prove she is no longer a slave. They may not cause white folks to treat her like a human being, but at least they show she is free. She trusts in those words she cannot read–as she is beginning to trust in Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant cattleman who wants her to come west with him.
Nancy Hawkins is loathe to leave her settled life for the treacherous journey by wagon train, but she is so deeply in love with her husband that she knows she will follow him anywhere–even when the trek exacts a terrible cost.
Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian, the last remnant of a once proud tribe in the Willamette Valley in Oregon territory. She spends her time trying to impart the wisdom and ways of her people to her grandson. But she will soon have another person to care for.
As season turns to season, suspicion turns to friendship, and fear turns to courage, three spirited women will discover what it means to be truly free in a land that makes promises it cannot fulfill.

Wanda’s Review:

A Light in the Wilderness is an informative read, historical fiction based on a true story that will simply touch your heart. This is the story of three strong women whose lives are woven together with unexpected events that changed their lives forever.

1840’s – Letitia is leaving Kentucky as a free woman, no longer a slave, and she has papers to prove it. She is on her way to Missouri where she wouldn’t have to be afraid anymore. Good things happen to Letitia in Missouri. She has earned money as a midwife and becomes friends with Nancy Hawkins, delivering her baby. She also becomes friends with Davey Carson, an Irish immigrant, who treats her with kindness. Davey is always cheerful and seemed to be an easy man to be around. Davey offers Letitia an arrangement – to marry her, but not legally because it is forbidden for a white man to marry a black woman. But Letitia and Davey soon discover that freed blacks are not wanted in Missouri and they begin to make plans to start a new life in Oregon. It seemed like Oregon had good things to offer and half the town was heading west. Letitia and Davey are ready to begin a grand adventure together, moving to a place where slavery had never been known, and if she was mistaken for a slave, she had her papers proving that she was free. Together, Davey and Letitia plan for Oregon, to start their life together, and the story unfolds as they begin their arduous journey, a journey filled with challenges, tragedy, and survival. Being a black woman on the Oregon Trail took a lot of strength and courage for Letitia, and she was constantly fighting for acceptance. But Letitia realizes that freedom is having the courage to do what must be done.

Nancy Hawkins, a very warm and genuine woman who befriends Letitia, is traveling with her husband and children on the Oregon Trail. It is an extremely difficult journey for Nancy when tragedy strikes her family. Nancy is a very likable and well developed character in the story. I connected to her immediately.

Betsy is a Kalapuya Indian woman in Oregon. She cherishes her grandson, Little Shoot, and teaches him to survive. I’m sorry to say that I didn’t find this character interesting and never connected to her.

This is a compelling and achingly sad read and a story that you’ll not soon forget. Jane Kirkpatrick has a way of drawing you into this era of time with her descriptive writing and realistic characters. This is an excellent historical read and one of my favorites for 2014. My rating is 5 stars.

“You can say ‘slave.’ I ain’t one, though I was, and yes it tainted who I is, but I’s free, always was even when owned. Free in my thinkin’. Free as a child of God.”

“Maybe that was what freedom meant, being in a place where one didn’t fear.”

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions shared are my own.

About the Author:  Kirkpatrick brings us a story of one woman’s restoration from personal grief to the meaning of community.”Jane Kirkpatrick