The Melody of the Soul

The Melody of the Soul

by Liz Tolsma

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Overview

The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma

Anna has one chance for survival—and it lies in the hands of her mortal enemy. 
 
It’s 1943 and Anna Zadok, a Jewish Christian living in Prague, has lost nearly everything. Most of her family has been deported, and the Nazi occupation ended her career as a concert violinist. Now Anna is left to care for her grandmother, and she’ll do anything to keep her safe—a job that gets much harder when Nazi officer Horst Engel is quartered in the flat below them. 

Though musical instruments have been declared illegal, Anna defiantly continues to play the violin. But Horst, dissatisfied with German ideology, enjoys her soothing music. When Anna and her grandmother face deportation, Horst risks everything to protect them.  

Anna finds herself falling in love with the handsome officer and his brave heart. But what he reveals might stop the music forever. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781683700418
Publisher: Gilead Publishing
Publication date: 01/16/2018
Series: Music of Hope , #1
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 182,581
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Liz Tolsma’s specialty is historical fiction—from WWII to prairie romance. Her debut novel was a finalist for the 2014 Selah and Carol Award. She prides herself in excellent storytelling, presenting accurate historical details, and creating persevering characters. 

Liz is also a popular speaker on topics such as writing, marriage, living with courage, and adoption. She and her husband have adopted all their children internationally. Liz resides in semi-rural Wisconsin with her husband and two daughters; her son currently serves as a U.S. Marine. Liz is a breast cancer survivor and lives her life to the fullest. In her free time, she enjoys reading, working in her large perennial garden, kayaking, and camping with her family.  

Visit her blog, The Story behind the Story, at www.liztolsma.com. 

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

Prague, early fall 1943

Anna Zadoková clutched her violin to her chest. Her sheet music fluttered to the floor as she peered from behind the lace curtain to the street below.

"Well, child, don't just stand there. Tell me what you see."

Anna might laugh at her grandmother's impatience if a black Mercedes emblazoned with a swastika didn't sit parked in front of their apartment building. Instead, she sucked in her breath and turned toward her. "Nazis."

"Here?" Babicka didn't open her half-closed eyes, but grabbed the carved arm of her chair tighter until her gnarled knuckles whitened.

"Yes, here. Of all places." Anna couldn't corral the wild beating of her heart. "But we won't be here for long." She turned her attention to the commotion on the road. "What are we going to do? Máma and Táta told me to keep you safe."

A young, lean officer stepped from the car, unfolding himself to his full height. My, he towered over the others. He blew out smoke from his cigarette. A shock of blond hair peeked out from under his hat, visible to her even at this distance. He couldn't be more than twenty-five. Handsome? Maybe under different circumstances.

But she couldn't forget what the Nazis had done to her family. She might never see Máma and Táta again because of them. Ne, his outward appearance may be pleasing, but darkness and ugliness pervaded his heart and soul.

Just like his countryman Reinhard Heydrich, the Butcher of Prague. The man who deported and killed an untold number of Jews. Friends from the conservatory. Neighbors. Her only cousin.

The man barked at his driver and pointed in the direction of their flat. Anna grasped her bow hard. He was moving into this building? She forced herself to relax her fingers lest she snap the bow in two. There were no empty apartments.

Anna's knees turned to mush, and she leaned against the window sill to keep from crumpling to the ground. There might not be a vacant flat now, but there would be one in a matter of minutes. Would he arrest the young family below them, or Anna and Babicka? Or both?

She turned from the window, unable to watch any more of the unfolding scene. "He. ..." Her voice squeaked, and she swallowed to clear it. "He is coming here. We have to be ready to leave. I'll pack a bag for you and bring your coat."

Babicka bit her lip. "Thank you, child."

Anna's heart skipped in her chest, unable to find a steady rhythm. "Babicka. ..." And then she dove into her grandmother's arms, trembling like a child in a thunderstorm.

"Hush, now, hush." Babicka's words flowed over her, gentle as a spring rain. "The Lord protected us before. He will again."

"I don't see how. I just don't see how. What about Máma and Táta?"

"They're safe in the palm of His hand."

If she could stop time and remain in Babicka's embrace forever, finding balm for the ache in her chest. But soon, the soldiers would burst through the door and arrest them. They had to prepare. She stood, taking a moment to steady her wobbling knees and straighten her pleated, navy blue skirt. Not that it mattered. Not that it mattered one bit.

She moved to the back bedroom she shared with Babicka and pulled the well-worn tan suitcase from under the large feather bed. She stuffed the small case with all their warmest clothes and sweaters. From the bathroom, she grabbed Babicka's heart medicine and a bottle of vitamin tablets.

Where was Babicka's Bible? She would want it. Need it. It wasn't on the small, round bedside table. Perhaps in the kitchen where she had read it earlier this morning. But though Anna searched high and low and snatched the last of their houskový knedlík, bread dumplings, brought by a friend from their church, she didn't locate her grandmother's most treasured possession.

She returned to the bedroom and stood by her dresser, tracing the painted rose trailing down the Bohemian glass jug her parents gave her on her sixteenth birthday. Had that been only seven years ago? Of all the treasures begging to be stuffed in the suitcase, this was the one calling the loudest. But it might break during the journey. She left it alone.

Before her melancholy grew, she turned away and shut the door. The old parquet floors squeaked under her feet as she returned to the living room. Much to her relief, Babicka sat in her chair, her Bible open in her lap.

They were Christians, yet the Nazis arrested and persecuted them for their ethnic heritage. For the blood which flowed in their veins, no choice of theirs. What had they ever done to the Germans to deserve this treatment?

"We're ready to go, Babicka." Anna draped her grandmother's scratchy, gray wool coat over a chair and placed her grandfather's on top of it. A fall chill hung in the air, winter biting at its heels. Two coats would keep Babicka warmer than one. Anna brought her own long, brown coat from the large walnut wardrobe, the yellow star sewn onto it proclaiming their identity to the world.

They sat beside each other on the rose-sprigged, Victorian-style sofa, the soft ticking of the Bavarian cuckoo clock on the wall the only sound in the room. Anna clasped her grandmother's cool, fragile hand. What would life have been like in America? They should have gone.

Babicka bowed her head, closed her eyes, and moved her lips without uttering a sound.

Then, from downstairs, shouts and screams rang out.

* * *

Horst Engel studied the Baroque-style brown stone building adorned with ornate triangular pediments above each window and carved wreaths beneath each one. A large, engraved swag accented the arched main entrance. But even his attempts at an architectural analysis of his new home weren't enough to shut his ears to the screams of the small child ripped from his mother's arms.

Horst couldn't turn away.

The little boy's face reddened. Fat tears raced down his dimpled cheeks. The mother, a conspicuous yellow star on her coat, lunged for her son. His fellow officers rewarded her instinct with a gun butt to her head.

He averted his gaze at the sight of blood gushing from her temple. That wasn't necessary. None of this was. Vater said this assignment was better than fighting in a trench somewhere, but Horst had a difficult time understanding how that might be. Nevertheless, his father, an influential man in the Nazi party, had paid for this commission for his son.

This was not what his life was supposed to look like. Not any of it. And it wasn't because he was afraid to fight or even to die. For a right and just cause, he would give his life without hesitation. That's what a good officer did. But not like this. Scenes like this churned his stomach. Reminded him of his past. Brought on the nightmares.

He crossed his arms over his midsection and leaned against the black car, the metal warm on his cheek.

"Are you ill, sir?"

Horst startled at the voice of his young driver and snapped to attention. It would not do for him to be caught slouching. "Nein. Just fatigued."

"I'll tell them to hurry removing this Jewish family. It might take some time to clean their filth, though."

"Don't." Horst turned to the soldier whose name he couldn't remember at the moment. "Give them what time they need."

"Very good, sir. We want all to be in readiness for you."

The man misunderstood, but Horst didn't correct him.

A soldier, armed with a rifle, led the father from the home, his shoulders slumped, a muscle jumping in his cheek, his hands clenched. Horst gritted his teeth.

Something fluttered in an upstairs window. A lace curtain parted for a moment, a flash of time. The slightest glimpse of a young woman with dark brown hair and pale skin. Like an apparition, she vanished. Who was she?

He returned his attention to the family his soldiers led away. The guards shoved the father, a bright yellow star on his coat, inside the canvas-covered truck. He drew his wife and child to him, tears coursing down the woman's battered and bloodied face.

Horst swallowed hard.

The truck revved its engine and screeched away down the narrow street.

He couldn't take it anymore. Squaring his shoulders, he strode to the building and entered the first-floor flat.

For many years, Vater drummed into him how vile and filthy the Jews were. But not these. A large bow window brightened the cheerful living space, a bright red rug on the floor, a well-worn green sofa along one wall. Only his mother kept house this well, this clean. The lady of the home must have worked very hard.

He moved toward the couch. If he could put his feet up —

He tripped. A tin train engine sat on the floor in the middle of the room, one a child pulled with a string. He'd had one similar when he was young, fascinated by locomotives.

Horst picked it up and turned it around in his hands. Much of the black paint had peeled off. It had been loved. Treasured. Perhaps by more than one generation. He searched the flat for a bedroom and stashed the toy into the deep recesses of the wardrobe, behind several dresses.

The woman's flowery scent reached him and he slammed the door shut. His heart raced.

Boots sounded on the scarred wood floors. He once again donned his Nazi officer persona and went to meet his compatriots.

"Are the accommodations to your liking, sir?"

The boy's name eluded him. "Ja, danke. That will be all for now."

The house fell silent, and that was fine with him. His head pounded. Oh, to be home in his room with the smell of his mother's cooking and the scent of edelweiss filling the air.

He sat in the old, overstuffed chair in the corner of the living room and sank into its depths. If he closed his eyes, he could almost feel the warmth of Mutti's potato soup in his middle.

His stomach growled. What had they left him to eat in this place? He wandered to the kitchen. Neat and spotless, just like the other rooms. The cabinets, however, produced little for dinner. He discovered a tin of ersatz coffee and put the pot on the stove to brew.

As he waited for the water to boil, a strange sound floated around him. Beautiful. Haunting.

Mozart, if he was correct. He listened a moment more. Yes, Violin Concerto Number Three.

And played to perfection, the technique impeccable. His mother loved music and often dragged him to symphony concerts. When he was a teenager, it had been against his will. First he was soothed, then he learned, then he appreciated. Now, reached out to recapture those days.

He needed that beauty.

* * *

Anna allowed the last note of the concerto to float on the air and die away. She closed her eyes and held her breath for a moment, letting the quiet wash over her.

For that instant, and that instant only, she was free. The world was a good and happy place.

Yes, it was risky to play when the Nazis declared it illegal for Jews to have instruments. But she kept her violin's voice quiet. Right now, the music calmed her.

A knock on the door brought her crashing to earth like a flaming fighter plane. Her breath whooshed from her lungs.

These days, anyone might be on the other side. Did she get careless, lost in the music when she played? Did the Nazi downstairs hear her?

She glanced at Babicka, sleeping in the chair, mouth wide open. Beside her sat the run-down brown suitcase, the leather handle worn, the fabric frayed at the edges. Would it even survive the trip to the camp?

Was this the time they waited for? Anticipated? Dreaded?

She wiped her hands on her deep blue skirt, sucked in a deep breath, and opened the door.

The officer from the street.

She locked her knees to keep them from failing her.

He strode into the flat, his eyes icy blue. In one sweep, he assessed the room. And them. He removed his peaked cap, an eagle on the crown, and tousled his dark-blond hair. He nodded at her. "Hauptmann Horst Engel. And you are?"

As she released the air from her lungs, she prayed the words would not squeak out of her throat. She never expected the Nazi deporting them to introduce himself. She answered in German, a language she and many Prague Jews were fluent in. "Anna Zadoková. And my grandmother, Jana Doubeková."

Babicka stirred and opened her eyes, startling for a moment.

He nodded in Babicka's direction, then returned his attention to Anna. "You played that music?"

She stepped back, grasping at a wobbly side table for support. He'd heard. How could she have been that reckless? What should she say? Denying it would only bring on his ire. Acknowledging it would, at the least, add their names to the deportation notices.

After a few moments of silence, Hauptmann Engel cleared his throat. "Bring your violin and come with me."

She again glanced at the suitcases, packed, ready to go. And what about Babicka? If only her voice worked. "Sir?" The word squeezed out between her tense vocal chords.

He turned toward her, his eyes the color of steel. "Ja?"

"My grandmother? And our suitcases?"

"The grandmother may come. The suitcases? You won't need those where you are going."

CHAPTER 2

Anna draped Babicka's coat over her shoulders. The Nazi from downstairs may not allow them to take their valises to the camp, but she refused to let her grandmother freeze to death, no matter what the cost might be to herself. The cries of the family from the downstairs flat rang in her ears, though they were likely on a train by now, racing toward their awful destiny.

She grabbed her violin as he'd commanded and gave one last, long gaze at their suitcases. She itched to pull her grandmother's heart medicine and vitamin tablets from them. Perhaps they would help Babicka survive. For a little time, if nothing else.

As they followed Hauptmann Engel into the hall, she peered back into the little apartment they'd called home for the past three years, ever since the Nazis confiscated their large, comfortable flat in the Christian section of town. That one had had four bedrooms, a modern kitchen, a large, formal dining room with a crystal chandelier, even a spacious music room with Máma's grand piano. The housekeeper had maintained it all in spotless fashion.

Then the Germans had forced her family into this tiny place on the edge of the Jewish Quarter — all except David, her older brother, who had moved into a flat with his intellectual friends, much to her parents' consternation.

Still, they'd made it a home, and it showed. The zig-zag parquet floors shone, the windows in the living room's bay gleamed, and the pillows on the well-worn flowered couch sat fluffed. The pungent tang of cabbage and vinegar hung in the air. The officers billeted here would think the family left for an outing and would return at the end of the day.

Anna tamped down the rising tide of tears. Over the past years, she had cried enough. At least she had her violin. In her head, even now, rang the notes of Mozart's concerto. It quieted her heart.

Babicka held onto Anna and grasped the hand-smoothed banister, her steps slow and halting. She hadn't descended the stairs in months. These days, even Anna rarely did.

What would their friend, Paní Buraneková, say when she came on her usual Saturday to bring them food they could no longer buy for themselves? Would Hauptmann Engel lay in wait for her, ready to arrest her for assisting Jews? Anna forced herself to step forward. She shivered.

When they reached the first-floor landing, the soldier didn't usher them through the entryway. Instead, he opened the door to the Schniz's flat and motioned for them to enter.

Ne, it was his apartment now.

On trembling legs, she led Babicka through the door and into a place laid out much the same as theirs. She removed her shoes, as did her grandmother. Before, when the Schniz's lived here, she had visited them, had sat on the parquet floor in the living room and played with the little boy.

She dug her fingernails into her palms. Maybe the pain from the action would cover the pain in her heart.

"Welcome." Hauptmann Engel opened the drapes on the bow window, inviting in the light and giving a view of the quiet, narrow street. He pointed to a spot in the bow. "Is this a good place for you to play? Do you have enough light? Didn't you bring any music?"

Anna controlled the smile that wanted to break out on her face at his fussing. "Ja, this is fine. I don't need any music. It is all in my head." Though she'd just had the music before her, the hours upon hours she practiced fused the notes into her brain. She would never forget. No matter what the Nazis did to her.

She sat Babicka on the green couch, took her violin from its case, and stood beside the window. Her fingers trembled. Would she even be able to play a single note with him sitting beside her grandmother, staring at her? Placing her in the window for all of Prague to see that she broke the law?

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Melody of the Soul"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Liz Tolsma.
Excerpted by permission of Gilead Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Melody of the Soul 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
MaureenST More than 1 year ago
A very powerful read and a time that we need to never forget, it can never be repeated, but you will need to have the tissues handy. A story of survival, but also one of great faith, this life is temporary, but hard when it is being stolen from you because of your heritage. We see brutality up close and personal, and also compassion and the ultimate gift of giving one’s own life for another. We also see where there is such great hate there is also love not all are evil, and the author puts faces on these people. From the first to the last page, I couldn’t stop reading, and we don’t know whom will still be with us as we turn the last. A compelling read and when I finished, I wanted more! I received this book through Lit Fuse Publicity Book Tours, and was not required to give a positive review.
Kay Summer More than 1 year ago
Literally couldn't put this book down. So vivid and well researched. Passionately written and intrinsically beautiful. Characters are well-written with excellent development over the course of the book. Story was gripping and intense, while still providing a satisfying ending. I would recommend this to lovers of WWII fiction and historical fiction.
WildflowerMom More than 1 year ago
Prague, 1943 was a scary place to live if you had Jewish heritage. This well-written story transported me to the scene and had me up reading through the night to see what happened to these interesting characters. Fans of WW2 fiction, like those by Kristy Cambron, Tricia Goyer and Kate Breslin will want to add this to their reading lists. A musical protege, Anna had a hard time without her music. It defined her. She learned to trust God day by day though, moment by moment, as her situation becomes more precarious. It was interesting to see Horst's transformation as he wrestles with his conscience and his faith is renewed also. It is a story that made me think about what I would do if challenged in the way Anna and others were. Would I stand firm in my faith, run, or stay and help others as some brave people did? Anyone who enjoys Christian historical fiction set during WW2, especially Eastern Europe, will probably like this story. A bit of romance and building suspense quickened the pace and made for a memorable read. 4.5 stars
Britney_Adams More than 1 year ago
The Melody of the Soul is an achingly beautiful story! Tolsma’s passion for research shines through this heart-wrenching tale that is alive with historical details and imagery. Meeting each of the characters and learning their stories, my heart ached for them and all they endured. With tender and tangible emotions, their journeys captivated me from the very beginning, making this a difficult book to set aside. I loved The Melody of the Soul and eagerly await the next installment in the Music of Hope series. I received a complimentary copy of this book. No review was required, and all thoughts expressed are my own.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This emotionally-charged WWII novel stole my heart. It's the first story to bring me to tears several times, and had my heart racing at others. The descriptions of events were superb. I recommend this novel without any reservations, and frankly, with a great deal of hope that readers will not deprive themselves of this reading experience.
lolly-pops More than 1 year ago
THE MELODY OF THE SOUL is a hard book to read. Realistic, based on the Nazi's trying to eliminate the Jews. I've read all Ms. Tolsma's previous books, and enjoyed them despite the hurt of knowing that this horrific event really happened in the World History. I'm also saddened that this isn't taught to children in schools, as someone (I don't remember who) said once "Those who don't remember the past are doomed to repeat it." My children had a Christian education and even there is wasn't touched upon in the history books. I assigned my daughter to read Tricia Goyer's WWII books and also Liz Tolsma's so she will know that these horrible things actually happened. Growing up, my best friend's family was German - from Germany. But not just German, but Jewish-German. Her grandparents and parents were actually IN German concentration camps. They didn't speak of the events with me, a mere child, but they did tell my mom who shared it with me years later. THE MELODY OF THE SOUL is also a romance, fueled by a mutual love of music. Fans of WWII fiction will want to read a copy of THE MELODY OF THE SOUL, but do keep in mind that it will make you cry. You'll need a box of tissue nearby. I was given a copy free. All opinions are my own.
ChatWithVera More than 1 year ago
I find it quite disconcerting to read of the soul-searching inner turmoil and the bitter and senseless mistreatment of others that are found in stories that involve the treatment of Jews and those who helped them during World War II. Horrific! Inhumane! Senseless! Evil! I find, too, the strength of people faced with such calamity encouraging to my weak spirit as I read of their inner strength and faith when faced with the horrors of the time. In The Melody of the Soul the author writes of loss of faith and strength of faith. She shows us the loveliness that is found in music reaching the depths of the soul caressing and gentling it to the point that one finds themselves settled, able to cope, and renewed. The melody is not only in the music. The melody is that which is in tune with the Almighty. The God of the ages. The Saviour. This is a lovely story but it is also one that wrenches the soul and the heart. Those were times of much evil and much meanness toward those perceived and declared different. Ms. Tolsma writes with skill and gently leads the reader down the streets and into the homes and on into the heart of the characters. You may find yourself gripped with the story yet unable to continue reading because your own heart must settle before you can turn another page. No, there is no detailed ugliness in the writing. The spirit of the events is adequately presented yet not to a point of being gross. I highly recommend this book. DISCLOSURE: I received a complimentary copy to facilitate this review. Opinions are my own and are freely given.
CafinatedReads2009 More than 1 year ago
I'm a big fan of historical novels, particularly those centered around WWII. So, when I came across this one for reviewing, I jumped at the chance. I've not read any Liz Tolsma books before, so it was a double bonus for me. I sat down, opened the book, and wow. What feelings I got with this novel! Sadness, happiness, love.....all of it. It was so many feels! Liz Tolsma's characters, Anna and Horst, truly came alive for me. Their interactions, their passion for their beliefs and their love for Anna's music....they truly captured my soul. These beautiful souls had a passion for God and I could feel that as I turned each page. I can't imagine what it was like for the Nazis and the Jews back then, but through richly detailed accounts and beautifully chiseled characters, Ms. Tolsma made me feel a part of that time period. My heart burst for their love of God, but my soul was twisted up and crying when I felt myself enduring all that Anna had to endure. It was a bittersweet experience for sure! This is definitely a 4 star novel that I will recommend to all who want a soul capturing novel. Ms. Tolsma knows just what to create for her readers that will keep them hooked and turning the pages long into the wee hours of the morning. Each page turn brings you closer to the characters' souls, and when the book ends, you're left reflecting on the melodies created within your own heart. This book is definitely a keeper! Well done, Ms. Tolsma! *Cafinated Reads received a complimentary copy of this book from LitFuse Blog Tours and was under no obligation to post a review, positive or negative.*
Phyllis_H More than 1 year ago
This was rated 4.5 Stars What a hauntingly beautiful book! Author Liz Tolsma wrote a touching, hopeful, thoughtful story about one of the worst times in the history of man. I don’t read many books about World War II. Especially ones that deal with Hitler and the treatment of the Jewish people. But I was intrigued by the blurb of this book and needed to give it a chance. I am so glad I did! Horst is a Nazi officer who has been driven by the need to impress his father. Though he thinks about his mother and her influence and reaction to the things going on in the Reich, until he meets Anna and comes face to face personally with the plight of the Jews, he is unaffected. Anna, a Christian Jew, has lost almost her entire family to the death camps. Left to care for her grandmother through the help of a friend of her brother, things are okay. Until she gets notice that they are now to report to be deported. Patricie is a Christian and has been working with the Underground, helping hide Jews and provide for them with forged ration cards and papers. Until she gets the attention of a cruel Nazi officer who begins to follow her and force her to go on dates with him. To protect those she is hiding and those working with her, she quits the Underground. Though the story is filled with intrigue, action and suspense, it is also a tender story of falling in love and the love of family. It is also the story of learning about God’s forgiveness and how it is unlimited – He forgives again and again and again. This beautiful quote gives you an idea of the beautiful writing in the book: The music rose from deep inside her, swelling in her chest, commanding her fingers to draw the bow across the strings. It lifted her from this place and this time, to a spot where beauty lived. Then she closed her eyes and coaxed the notes from her instrument. The world disappeared as the melody rose and fell, intense, passionate, breath-robbing. This is the first line from the book: Anna Zadokova held her mother’s tiny body close. This review first appeared on AmongTheReads.net I am grateful to Gilead Publishing for giving me a copy of this book. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
amybooksy More than 1 year ago
The Melody of the Soul of the soul is the first book from Liz Tolsma’s newest series, Music of Hope. This book is an incredible read. It is already added to my favorites list for 2018. It is beautifully written with vivid descriptions, making the reader feel as though they are part of the story. I just love and admire Anna, her fight to live, and learning to trust in God. The Melody of the Soul is a fabulous start to the series and I cannot wait to see where the author’s vision takes it next. Highly highly recommended. 100 stars. I received this book from the publisher. This review is 100% my own honest opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"The Melody of the Soul" by  Liz Tolsma is another great book by this gifted author. Anna Zadok is trying to live in Prague and she has nothing left. She is a Jewish Christian in the year 1943 with no one left to help her. It has fallen on her to take care of her grandmother. How will she keep her as well as herself safe? Horst Engel is a Nazi officer and now he is living right under them. Anna will not stop playing her violin even though she knows that it is against the law and she could be punished. Horst likes it though and does not report her. Horst takes it upon himself to try to help them when they are about to be deported. Are they starting to have feelings for each other? Can they ever have any kind of future or will they end up dead like others? I give this book a 5/5. I was given this book by Litfuse Publicity Group and all opinions are mine.
AnnE42 More than 1 year ago
Wow! I love this author's books, and I do believe this is one of my favorites of hers and will go on my list of favorite WWII historical fiction books I have read. I was pulled into the story from the first pages and could not put it down. It is an emotional roller coaster following the love story develop between a German officer and a Jew during WWII. The author certainly pulls the reader into the intrigue and danger of that time in history. It is also a beautiful story of how God does work even during the darkest of times. I was given a copy of this book by Gilead Publishing, but a positive review was not required. The opinions expressed are my own, and this is definitely a book that is a must read for the reader who enjoys WWII stories.
19260927 More than 1 year ago
This book was given to me in exchange for a honest review for Litfuse Group during the blog tour of The Melody of the Soul. This book was beyond heartbreaking. While I didn’t weep real physical tears, my heart hurt with all these characters had to endure. Anna was such a sweet beautiful soul who lost so much. Her family is stolen from her by the hand of the Nazi’s as she pleads to go with them to the exhibition hall, this is the last time she will ever see their faces and feel their loving embrace again. She remains in Prague with her Grandmother, silently waiting until they receive their deportation notice. Horst Engel, a German officer, movies into Anna’s building and one day he hears her playing her violin and pays her an unexpected visit. Horst isn’t like the other German officers, he is more gentle and sensitive, he feels remorse for his actions and those of his fellow officers. He isn’t a Jew hater, as a matter of fact, he doesn’t want to be responsible for deporting any, sending them to their death. He feels they – him and the Jews – are all the same in God’s eyes. Anna’s music brings hin peace and comfort and soothes his soul, he requests for her to play for him, which re agrees as she doesn’t trust him nor does she want to anger him. When Anna and her grandmother’s papers arrive for them to leave, Horst can’t part with them and decides to hide them in his apartment. As they stay there, Horst becomes fond of Anna. He doesn’t see her as the Nazi’s do – a dirty filthy Jew -, he sees her as a woman, a very beautiful one. While Anna does find him attractive, she still has trouble trusting him, worrying that he will change his mind and turn them in. As time in hiding becomes dangerous due to one of Horst’s fellow officers – Jagear – they have to flee to the countryside for safety. Anna’s spirits dwindles and Horst hates to see her spirits so low, he wants to make her smile again, risking anything to make her happy again, he does something risky to bring a bit of joy back in her life. After staying at the farm for some time, their whereabouts is found out and they flee again, pushing west, trying to find safety in the hands of the Americans. I have never read a book set during the Holocaust or German occupation of Europe, while I knew what these times entailed, it was still an emotional read. So many losses, so many undeserved deaths. Each time a character died, whether to illness or by the hands of the executioners, my heart weeped for them. Those poor souls… Even thought everything was taken from Anna, she remained strong – she struggled – in the end. Only her and her grandmother survived out of her family. While it was an emotional read, there is a happy ending with Anna and Horst being reunited in Munich, eighteen months later. While I enjoyed reading this book, I don’t know if I would read another Holocaust themed story due to that I know all these horrible things really happened to these innocent beings, it just pulled on my heart strings. It was just… very emotional and haunting.
Deal_Sharing_Aunt More than 1 year ago
This is a great WWII book that will leave you wondering how people survived through this period in history, There were so many innocent lives lost and so many others that did heroic deeds on a daily basis that it is hard to imagine every day life. The author does a great job of bringing her characters to life and giving me a glimpse into how these characters lived. I felt for Anna and I felt for her family. Not so much for her soldier boyfriend. However as he helped her more, I started to realize that he was nicer then I thought. I also liked the ending and am glad that this is the first book in a new series. I am giving this book a 5/5. I was given a copy, all opinions are my own.
Becky6 More than 1 year ago
The Melody of the Soul is the first book that I’ve read from Liz Tolsma and it most certainly won’t be my last. I originally picked up a copy because of the cover and I was fascinated to learn more about the citizens of Prague during World War II. This is an inspirational story that will tug at the heartstrings long after finishing the book. I think it hit home even more because the main characters were based on real people. I’m a Christian, but like Anna, I have Jewish heritage. Many of my relatives were victims of the Holocaust so I love reading stories like these because I feel like I can understand my family’s history. World War II was an uncertain and terrible time for many. While there some violence and horrible scenes can be found in the book, the author does so in a way that isn’t graphic or depressing to the reader. This is a story of hope. Another thing that fascinated me about this story is that one of our main characters is a Nazi. It is so easy to hate them, but Horst stands out from the rest. He doesn’t want to be like them. Instead, he wants to do what’s right and hides and protects Jewish victims. The author also has a sound theology that can be seen throughout the novel. None of this preachy, but flows perfectly with the book. One of the spiritual themes that I loved that the book contained was about our need for God and salvation. The author gives a clear Gospel message in a way that really stays with you. If you were to die today, do you know where you’ll be going? Another theme that played a huge part in the book and that challenged me was about being willing to sacrifice your life to save another. As much as I would say that I would do everything I could to protect Jews in that day, it’s a tough call when you’re faced with the reality. It’s easier said than done. That itself is a powerful impact, especially this quote. “Yes, I long for her. Ache without her. I’m worried to death about her. What they might do to my beautiful love. If I could take her place, I would.” Anna and Horst nodded. Babička sipped her tea and cleared her throat. “That’s what she did for us. Took our place. Just what Jesus did for us.” Another theme is about trusting God in our difficult circumstances, especially with an unseen future. While we may not at war and trying to protect our lives, I can totally relate to the characters when it comes to trusting God as a believer. It isn’t always the easiest, but it’s the best way. Overall, this is a powerful story that will stick with you long after the story is over. This is the first book in her new series and I cannot wait to see what the author has in store for us next. Highly recommended! Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for my honest review, which I have given. I was not required to write a positive review and have not been compensated for it in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
eLynda More than 1 year ago
I enjoy WWII fiction, so when the opportunity arose to read Tolsma’s newest release, I was thrilled. This particular book takes place in Prague; I cannot remember personally reading a novel set here before. The descriptions of the location, the hardships endured, and the glimpses of the resistance movement all gave a bit more depth to my understanding of the war. And the characters helped me examine my own faith, my fears, and the how and why of how I treat others. Tension is exceptionally high throughout this novel, with little relief to be found. The life and death nature of each situation, the unthinkable danger involved in simply walking down the street, is felt with each turn of the page. That intensifies the emotions, ratcheting up the fear and the dread. I appreciate the realistic treatment of faith in the story: Anna is a believer, but she struggles to understand where God is in the horror around her. Her grandmother’s faith is rock-solid, the kind of faith I want to have, but I find it difficult to never doubt, too. I could definitely better relate to Anna, to wanting to draw closer to God but fearing the circumstances around me at the same time. Despite the historical setting, this is a timely book. It speaks to judging others based on appearance or heritage, but not just of those being persecuted. Anna has to confront her own prejudices over the course of the novel, too, to come to grips with doing the same thing that is being done to her: passing judgment based on the blood flowing through the other’s veins. Liz Tolsma’s writing packs a punch—the kind that leaves you changed after reading it. So while this book is a difficult story to process, it is absolutely worth the angst and horror it leads you through to read it. I highly recommend it for adults and the most mature of teens with an interest in WWII and Czech history, but any reader will likely walk away with a more profound understanding of human depravity, and also of our capacity to resist and overcome, to even love, with God’s help. Thank you to the author and publisher for this complimentary review copy. I was under no obligation to post a positive review and the opinions expressed are both honest and my own.
LucyMR1 More than 1 year ago
This is one of those rare books that doesn’t just entertain but stirs your heart and soul. An amazing, beautiful, breathtaking, gut wrenching read that brings to life the holocaust and gives names and faces to these troubled times. The characters will stick with you for a long time, and you will pray this atrocity never happens again. I loved how Anna finds her voice through her music and how her and Horst grow in their faith and learn how to trust Him completely. I can’t imagine the research that went into this piece of art. It is well written and you will not want to put it down. Have the tissues handy and be prepared to hear the music after you stop turning the pages. Wish I could give it ten stars. I received a complimentary copy from the author. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
millstreetreader More than 1 year ago
As MELODY OF THE SOUL opens, it is 1943 and Nazi-held Prague is emptying its streets of the Jewish population. Anna Zadokova and her grandmother did not receive their deportation notices when the rest of Anna's family did, and despite her protests that she wants to be with her parents, she and Babicka must remain in the apartment,waiting for the Jewish Council's inevitable notice. Despite being Christian, their Jewish heritage means that they are marked and soon they, too, will need to leave. The destination for her family -Terezin and later, Auschwitz, the final solution. Today, that the Germans allowed, or demanded, music performances at Terezin seems a difficult-to-understand incongruity, especially since they had proclaimed that all Jews had to surrender their instruments, even before being rounded up. Anna defies that demand and keeps her violin. Tolsma's novel gives a glimpse into how music could be a life force that sustained both sides. For Anna, playing is a bond to her earlier life, a childhood and adulthood surrounded by love and grounded in faith. Music is a balm and a support. For the young German officer who takes over the apartment below hers, music calms the rising desperation and guilt he feels. Once set on making his Nazi father proud, now all Horst Engel wants is an end to the war and the senseless cruelty he sees everywhere. Meeting Anna and her fragile grandmother, followed by a trip to Terezin, changes Horst forever. Soon his apartment is the refuge for the young violin player and her grandmother, and his career is in danger. A Nazi officer who begins to question the Fuhrer and who makes a decision to defy that vision has become a popular idea for authors to explore. Liz Tolsma's story makes it all seem plausible, although she did create a fictional military posting (Minister of Architectural Preservation) to make the story flow and to make Horst a likeable character from the beginning. Her notes point to historical basis for a heroine who defied the Nazi order that all Jews relinquish their instruments and also for a German soldier finding solace through a Jewish neighbor's music. Her tale offers danger, suspense, sacrifice, and strength based on faith -- all the markers necessary for a Christian WWII novel. You'll be drawn into that suspense and danger, but don't miss the message behind it all. I received a copy of THE MELODY OF THE SOUL from Litfuse. I was not required to write a review. All opinions are mine.
Andrea_Renee_Cox More than 1 year ago
Bravery in the Face of Fear DISCLOSURE: I receive complimentary books from publishers, publicists, authors, and sites like Netgalley, Litfuse Publicity Group, and Blogging for Books. They do not require me to write positive reviews. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255. What a powerful, exquisite story. It was gripping, emotional, and heartrending. From the very first line, it was immersive and well expressed. The beautiful setting of Prague, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic and Slovakia), came alive with the inclusion of the Charles Bridge and other sights, sounds, and scents. The heartbreaking setting of Theresienstadt Concentration Camp also came alive with the stench, frailty of the inhabitants, and cruelty of the German guards. My heart squeezed every time one of the characters was in that place. I nearly gave this book only three stars, but the Notes page at the end helped me keep it at four. While I was reading, I thought it was odd that a Jewish character would blatantly play a violin when the Nazis were watching and/or searching for her. Yet, in the note to the reader, Ms. Tolsma shared a bit of her research, which claimed this portion to be based on a Jewess who "hid her piccolo piano from the Germans and continued to play, despite the risk." This was eye-opening to me and altered my perception of the story I had just read, increasing my appreciation for the bravery of the people the characters were based upon... and those whose stories went unwritten and have thus been lost in history. If any author is reading this, please include a note to the reader to share tidbits like this one. They make a huge difference in the reader's experience. To Ms. Tolsma, thank you for including this bit of history about Ms. Alice Herz-Sommer in your Notes page. A few things did pull me from the story momentarily. There were several noticeable typos, including a random equal sign, "born" when "borne" (the past participle of "bear") was intended, and missing commas in direct address. There were a couple of inconsistencies, including a character's hands being handcuffed behind her back, yet she was able to lift her hands to the sky. On a few occasions, Horst's attraction to Anna slipped into the obsessive category, which was awkward and uncomfortable to read about. These things were slightly distracting and dampened my enjoyment of this book, if only by a small margin. My favorite line came from Anna's grandmother: "Faith is precious. Cherish it. Hunger for it. Protect it." What a great mantra to apply to one's life! I hope to soak it in even more in the coming weeks and years. This story is the beginning of the Music of Hope series, and I'll definitely be looking forward to the second installment. Ms. Tolsma has a fantastic way with words, and I really enjoyed the usage of music and its terms in this story. Content: * breastfeeding * alcohol and drunk soldiers * cigarettes * a vulgar word (used three times)
MeezCarrie More than 1 year ago
The characters in The Melody of the Soul are a study in internal contrasts. Anna, a Jew by blood & a Christian by faith. Horst, a man of faith forced to become a soldier for the Nazi regime even though he believes what they are doing to the Jews is wrong on all levels. (Note: In our reactionary culture, the thought of a Nazi officer falling in love with a Jew – and vice versa – is a fine line to walk in a novel. But I think the way these characters are presented, and the way they wrestle with the same fine line – the acknowledgment that it exists – is well done.) Patricie, an active member of the Resistance who is forced into a relationship with a Nazi soldier. And then there is Anna’s grandmother – my personal favorite character. Her words of faith to Anna are another underlying theme of this novel: “Babička, wait. How can you trust him?” “I can’t. But I trust the Lord.” The Melody of the Soul is an exquisite symphony of emotion and grace. The quote – “The music spoke of darkness and violence, but also of hope and trust” – is actually a pretty good summary of the book itself. Tolsma has beautifully captured the agony of the Holocaust and the struggle to trust God and find hope in the midst of such evil and darkness. This is one of those books that lingers with you long after you’ve turned the final page. (I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book)
Heart2Heart More than 1 year ago
Something that soothes that savage beast is music. It can take us back to memorable moments of the past or even help us pass the time during a tragic situation until something better comes along. That is the common thread in the latest novel by Liz Tolsma, The Melody of the Soul. This is the first novel in the Music of Hope Series. World War II genre fans will adore this as the setting between Anna Zadok who has just watched her family step away and left her behind to tend for her aging grandmother while the Nazi's occupy their small town in Prague. It is the one thing she didn't want to happen, for them to be separated but also knows that she can't give up on the one thing that she loves, which is playing her violin. Not from reading music, but from hearing it in her heart and soul. It defines who she is and what she is feeling with each note she plays. However all musical instruments are outlawed and those found in possession of them will face harsh repercussions. But it is all that remains of her and the love she has for her family. Yet when a Nazi officer, Horst Engel, takes possession of her home and removes the occupants living on the lower level, she believes it is only a matter of time before they will force her and her aging grandmother to leave. She prepares to pack up what meager belongings they have so when it is time, they are ready. During the time she waits however she begins to play and what connects her to the music is the very same thread that reaches into the soul of Horst and he locates the source of the music. He summons both of them into the lower level of the house he is occupying and asks her to play specific music that she knows and he loves. Perhaps they both are in situations they have no control over and while both know what roles they must play, it is the music that connects them to a better place before the war began. Yet will it connect them in other ways as well? Can a Jewish Christian find love with a Nazi officer in the midst of a war that threatens to divide who they both are? You'll have to check out The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma to find out. I received The Melody of the Soul by Liz Tolsma compliments of Litfuse Publicity and Gilead Publishing. What I really enjoyed about this novel is first, the setting. I am a huge fan of WWII and using that as a setting really forces readers into a place in history that is vibrant, real and terrifying depending on whose side you might find yourself on. Second, placing a budding romance between two very different characters who have their own shared beliefs, enemies really makes you wonder what will be the catalyst that changes for them both that will cause them to defy the odds for love over war. There are some amazing historical notes at the conclusion of the novel that show how the author incorporated real events into the creation of not only this novel but the series! For me, this one easily rates a 4.5 out of 5 stars and I can't wait for the next novel due out in the Fall of 2018.
ARS8 More than 1 year ago
This cover is absolutely lovely. It shows a serene picture of Prague in the evening as if nothing is amiss. The title seems almost magical. However, opening up this book and entering into these character’s lives is anything but. In the midst of World War 2, Prague has been taken over by the Germans and the world has been turned upside down. The Jews are being rounded up and eliminated and Anna Zadok has watched her family be deported and maybe never to be seen again. And she herself is given a brief reprieve. This story got under my skin in a way one hasn’t in a while. Anna is the only one left to take care of her grandmother. They had hoped they would be spared as they were Christian Jews, however this was the Nazi’s and they had one goal in mind. Anna and her grandmother’s life take an uncertain turn when Nazi officer, Horst Engel, moves in below them. Taking a liking to Anna’s violin playing they become acquaintances of sort. The feeling of danger is thick in this story and the characters we meet are faced with decisions that they must make concerning life and death, right and wrong. How do we live when the world seems to have gone mad? Anna and Horst have a very unlikely friendship that does grow into a romance and I cared about both these characters. I understood Anna’s disgust and distrust of Horst at first, and I understood Horst’s revulsion at his fellow comrades and his own father. We are given both of their viewpoints and a few other important ones to get a more rounded picture. The author did a good job in really immersing the reader into a time and place when danger abounded and trusting your enemy was akin to jumping off a cliff. I received a copy of this book for free. I was not required to post a positive review and all views and opinions are my own.
Deana0326 More than 1 year ago
I am so emotionally drained after reading this book, that I don’t think I will ever be the same again. The atrocities that the Jewish people endured was so hurtful I cried throughout the book. The book draws readers in with details that only an author that has done extensive research could write. Her words flow with emotion across the pages. I am so upset after reading this book because the thought of people bring hunted down and murdered because of their ethnicity is barbaric. It’s part of our history that can never be erased and I’m ashamed that it happened to innocent people. The author gives us a few characters that we follow as they go through the horrors of hiding and at times some being found. Can you imagine having to hide in a little crevice hoping you would not be discovered? Anna is a wonderful character who relies on the music from her violin and God to help ease her fear and desperation. I could hear her music quietly play as hope enveloped her. Her desire to keep her family safe was so emotional, I wanted to help her hide and hug her at the same time. It is hard to allow your heart to trust during this difficult time. I often questioned if Anna was making a wise choice when she begins to trust a German soldier. Will the soldier keep Anna and her grandmother safe? I loved how the author used certain characters to illustrate the passage in the Bible about “laying your life down for a friend.” Those lives were sacrificed so others would be safe. Would you be able to give your life to save another? This has to be one of the most powerful, realistic book I’ve ever read about the unfair treatment of Jews. The author captured the truth of an historical event and wrote a story that we must never forget. “No one should be hunted because of the blood that flows in their veins. We’re all created in God’s image.” I received a copy of this book from Litfuse. The review is my own opinion.
Deana0326 More than 1 year ago
I am so emotionally drained after reading this book, that I don’t think I will ever be the same again. The atrocities that the Jewish people endured was so hurtful I cried throughout the book. The book draws readers in with details that only an author that has done extensive research could write. Her words flow with emotion across the pages. I am so upset after reading this book because the thought of people bring hunted down and murdered because of their ethnicity is barbaric. It’s part of our history that can never be erased and I’m ashamed that it happened to innocent people. The author gives us a few characters that we follow as they go through the horrors of hiding and at times some being found. Can you imagine having to hide in a little crevice hoping you would not be discovered? Anna is a wonderful character who relies on the music from her violin and God to help ease her fear and desperation. I could hear her music quietly play as hope enveloped her. Her desire to keep her family safe was so emotional, I wanted to help her hide and hug her at the same time. It is hard to allow your heart to trust during this difficult time. I often questioned if Anna was making a wise choice when she begins to trust a German soldier. Will the soldier keep Anna and her grandmother safe? I loved how the author used certain characters to illustrate the passage in the Bible about “laying your life down for a friend.” Those lives were sacrificed so others would be safe. Would you be able to give your life to save another? This has to be one of the most powerful, realistic book I’ve ever read about the unfair treatment of Jews. The author captured the truth of an historical event and wrote a story that we must never forget. “No one should be hunted because of the blood that flows in their veins. We’re all created in God’s image.” I received a copy of this book from Litfuse. The review is my own opinion.