Full Reviews · Historical

Saving Amelie, Full Review

I’ve been busy, book friends—I’ve been on a trip to Germany! More than two weeks spent mostly in the little Bavarian village of Oberammergau. It’s a place where fragrant breakfast rolls and strudels warm your mouth and your heart… and the Alps reach up with snowy hands as if ready to catch the sky if it falls. This is the home of the Passion Play, which has been performed by the locals once a decade for over 350 years.

Of course, I haven’t been there literally; who has money to travel? I’ve been immersed in a WWII novel by Cathy Gohlke—Saving Amelie. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember it as one of the books in my bargain haul from Tyndale. $5 for a ticket back in time is certainly a fare I can afford!

Based on the back-cover summary, I initially thought that the story would be at least partly from the point of view of Kristine Schlick, a young mother unsure how to protect her deaf daughter. Married to an SS officer who views the little girl as a blight on his Aryan bloodline, Kristine is forced to turn to an old friend for help. Rachel Cramer, the true protagonist, steps in as a hesitant hero and escapes with Kristine’s child to the little village of Oberammergau. There, she deals with some shocking discoveries about her own past.

Rachel isn’t a gallant hero, despite the whirlwind of danger and deception she finds herself entrenched in. She’s somewhat selfish, a consequence of being raised in the affluent and prejudiced home of a eugenics scientist. Unable to stomach the depravity she comes face to face with among her father’s circle in Germany, Rachel takes a stand for morality… but remains reluctant to help others with their more mundane and down-to-earth needs.

There’s a romantic interest—Jason Young, an American journalist with resistance connections—as well as a whole host of other lovable characters. As both Rachel and Jason begin to understand Christ’s sacrifice for mankind, they also become more selfless… and this is where the core of the story lies, in what Gohlke emphasizes as “costly grace”—grace that requires a servant’s heart and a surrendering of your own desires.

Despite the hard realities of WWII, Gohlke manages to keep the book from becoming too gritty. She deftly paints the heartaches and struggles of her characters but manages quite a bit of good luck (or perhaps she would call it providence!) for them as well. One or two key plot lines seemed utterly far-fetched and unconvincing to me—ultimately hurting my rating of the book, which otherwise could have been a 5/5. That said, if you relish stories that feature undercover subterfuge or a mysterious underground resistance, you’ll probably still find yourself thoroughly enjoying Saving Amelie.

4/5

Ramblings

Tea and a Tome

This week I want to have a little fun (who am I kidding, I’m always having fun!) and match up titles I’ve read with various teas I adore. You’ll get to know me a little as I pair up blends with books! This is easier done than explained, so let’s get started…

Constant CommentA well-known and popular flavor.

I think most if not all Christian fiction readers know Lynn Austin! I’m going to particularly mention her Refiner’s Fire series because I think it was one of the first Christian fiction series I was introduced to. It was so long ago that my mom actually marked pages I should skip because she wisely felt some passages of the Civil War story were too intense/mature for me at that age. Even so, some of the happy moments from the books are still with me, particularly heartwarming scenes between two sisters.

Raspberry iced tea—an easy, sweet read

Love’s Long Journey, by Janette Oke. I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge Janette Oke fan, but there were a few here and there that remind me of iced tea. Pleasant and refreshing, this one is probably my favorite. 🙂

Earl grey—a classic I love

I don’t know if An Old-Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott constitutes a classic, but Little Women does—so I’m going to list them both. I love Little Women because I see a little of myself in each of the four sisters; I love An Old-Fashioned Girl because I see someone I would like to be more like in Polly. And of course the romances are beautifully crafted.

London Fog—a recent discovery I think will become a lasting favorite

I’m in the middle of Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke and I have a really good feeling about it. I think she may end up a favorite author; Secrets She Kept and Band of Sisters both look promising.

Blueberry Herbal—something I’ve been wanting to try but never seem to get around to

Maybe the Circle series by Ted Dekker. The series is so well-known I feel as if there’s probably very little I could say about it that hasn’t been said already, so I’m hesitant. I’d still like to see if I enjoy it… and I’d kind of like to get into a good series.

***Tea-less bonus!***

Hot Chocolate—something I loved as a child but haven’t read in a long time

A little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett… someone just reminded me of this book recently, and I remembered how I must have read it three times at least. I also loved The Secret Garden; when I was little, after finishing it, I went out and found myself a nook near the woods and would try to grow and tend my own secret hideaway! Many a sapling birch died after being “transplanted”, haha. It started my love of perennial flowers which continues until now. We just pulled a very worn but beautiful copy of the book for replacement at the library and I called first dibs on it if it happens to go to our book sale. Here’s hoping it will be mine soon!

Ramblings

Bookstagram Cliches

I love book photography. I think, deep down, I kind of want to be great with a camera… to be that person with a fancy DSLR running around capturing beautiful moments and posting them to Instagram with vague inspirational quotes and matching emojis.

The photo I wish I took
Reality

As much as I may like the idea of being that person, however, motivation and inspiration seem to elude me, haha. But while nature photography can feel daunting and picture-perfect family moments (complete with great lighting) are difficult to capture, book photography is a simple, creative way to share what you’re reading AND be artistic. Plus, who doesn’t love a stunning book cover?

But if you’ve spent any time looking at Instagram (particularly #bookstagram) you’ll start to notice that certain props and elements get overused. A lot. So for those of you who might want to try your hand at snapping a pic of that hardcover you finished, here is a helpful list of items to be aware of and possibly avoid using too much.

First, a disclaimer: I’ve used most of these personally! I’m not trying to bash anyone here, I’m just poking a little fun at myself and book lovers in general. In fact, I’ve purposely chosen real examples I LOVE just to show that you can utilize these props successfully and creatively. Please feel free to try whatever you like in your book photos. 🙂 Many thanks to Abbi at adventuresofaliterarynature for letting me share her gorgeous IG work–follow the link to see so much more!

Okay, here we go…

1. THE CANDLE.

I’m 90% convinced you won’t even be allowed to post on bookstagram unless you own at least one candle. Maybe all these people have eyestrain from reading too much and need the extra light?

2. THOU MUST HAVE COFFEE.

If coffee is not readily available (shame on you) tea is an acceptable alternative. Just make sure it’s in your finest china. ‘Cause that’s what we all get out when we laze around in our pajamas reading.

Although this could be hot chocolate… yum 🙂

3. THE TWINKLY LIGHTS.

If you have twinkle lights AND candles, you get bonus points. But truly, isn’t this book wreath stunning?

4. KNITS.

Mostly blankies. I’m starting to see a pattern… something to do with being cozy…

5. STACKS WITH MORE BOOKS.

Shelves, piles, between bookends, wherever–as long as there are lots of books! You can’t have too many!

I couldn’t help picking this one just because it has My Hands Came Away Red up near the top. You guys know I love that book, right?

Well, that’s all for today, friends and book lovers… hope you had a good chuckle with me and maybe I’ll see you here or on Instagram. 🙂 What’s your favorite candle scent, and which of the elements listed above do you like best?

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Land of Silence

LandofSilence1

Close your eyes for a moment… (not too long, or you won’t be able to read this post!)

You’re me. You’re at work at the library. The automated materials handler (a.k.a. the book sorting machine) is humming and spitting books into different bins behind you; someone’s mom is reading aloud in the children’s area; coworkers in sweaters and cardigans answer the telephone at the help desk in a professional tone.

You just received the daily delivery from our sister library in Fairbanks… and opened the lid of one box full of brand new shiny books. If this didn’t already happen every week (and you didn’t have to wonder about little details like shelf space) you might expect some angelic music to fly out when that box opens. Or confetti. With sparkles!

Of course you’re only a little surprised when Land of Silence by Tessa Afshar makes its way out of the box– after all, your ARE the one who requested it for purchase… Continue reading “Full Review, Land of Silence”

Ramblings

The One I Really Want to Love

shadow&night2

Science fiction. Final frontiers, colorful characters, thrilling and imaginative challenges to overcome… I love it. But where’s the Christian Science Fiction? I realize it’s more difficult to write because so many of the common constructs of science fiction do not fit within a Biblical worldview, but it can be done. As a teen, for example, I read a lot of the Daystar Voyages series by Gilbert Morris. There was plenty of space travel, conflict, and even an “Intergalactic Academy”, but he removed the evolutionary worldview common to science fiction. Aliens were replaced with humans who had colonized other worlds generations before–and looked unusual due to limited gene pools and environmental factors.

And C.S.F. doesn’t have to be on such a large scale or set extremely far in the future; another book I’ve read, Offworld by Robin Parrish, tells the (invented) story of a team of astronauts who return to Earth after the first manned landing on Mars.

But I’ve had a difficult time lately finding titles I deeply enjoy in this genre. My most recent attempt has been The Shadow and Night by Chris Wailey. I’ve read about 140 pages so far, and it presents the vastly far future. A what if? story,  it imagines what the universe would be like if there was no sin (but it’s not heaven and Christ hasn’t returned yet.) At some mysterious point (I’m not far enough in to know more), God seemingly decided to give humanity a reprieve from sin, and has been holding Satan back… so literally everyone in existence serves and worships God. The main characters spend every day exactly as we wish we would– praying, praising God, working hard to better other’s lives; but everything begins to change when one person tells a lie. Sin begins to spread to others, and the protagonist is at the epicenter of it all.

shadow&night1

It’s a great exploration of multiple ideas; what might it look like to live in a truly Godly society? How does sin spread, and what are its consequences? Without sin, how would different personality traits express themselves (e.g. talkative/quiet, funny/serious)? How seriously should we take sin? All this against a backdrop of space travel and terraforming.

Unfortunately even with so many great concepts the pace is extremely slow. As I mentioned earlier, I’m 140 pages in, and I still feel as if nothing has happened! The dialogue goes on and on, repeating information that was previously covered…altogether I’m struggling, to say the least. There are two more books in the series (The Lamb among the Stars trilogy) so maybe it’s just taking a long time to set the stage. I really hope that’s the case and things will warm up soon, because this is one book I really want to love.