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

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Land of Silence

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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”

Biblical · Full Reviews

Full Review, Take This Cup

 

The last jar remained to be opened. I plucked at the red wax seal and pried the lid off, welcoming the whoosh of ancient air. I peered in. This time there was no scroll, but a fleece wrapped package.

“Rabbi Kagba. It’s not like the others,” I said, some nervousness returning.

“Fetch it out, boy. My hand is too large.”

Reaching in elbow-deep, I grasped the prize and brought it into the light. Beneath thick wrapping, with smooth leather on the outside and fleece on the inside, I felt something the size and shape of a cup. Three strands of knotted leather bound the hide to it. On the exterior of the skin the label read, BEHOLD THE SILVER CUP OF JOSEPH, SON OF JACOB, PRINCE OF EGYPT.

Take This Cup
By Bodie and Brock Thoene
Zondervan, ©2014
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Continue reading “Full Review, Take This Cup”

Allegory · Full Reviews

Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places

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Hinds Feet on High Places
by Hannah Hurnard
Tyndale Publishers

I gave you a sneak peek of Hinds’ Feet on High Places a few weeks ago (you can find that here). In case you missed that post, Hinds’ Feet is an allegory detailing the journey of little “Much-Afraid”, a crippled and disfigured young woman following the Shepherd up to the High Places. In my interpretation, the High Places do not represent Heaven and the end of earthly life, but rather the reaching of a deep spiritual relationship with God which continues to grow. Continue reading “Full Review, Hinds’ Feet on High Places”

Suspense · Thriller

Full Review, Centralia

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“Centralia.” He said it out loud, hoping the auditory stimulation would trigger something, anything. But it didn’t. It was just a word, nothing more than a string of letters, a compilation of sounds.

Again tears came to his eyes, and he brushed them away. Regardless of whether he knew what the note meant, this was the proof he’d been looking for. Lilly was alive. And her note said they’d both gone together. If Lilly was alive, he had every reason to believe Karen was too.

He had to find them. He had to figure out what Centralia was and what he was supposed to remember.

Centralia
by Mike Dellosso, ©2015
Tyndale House Publishers

Centralia holds a special place today because it is the first suspense/thriller I have reviewed on the blog. This book is also the first one I finished from the Tyndale book haul I shared a while back. It’s also the first book since Sutter’s Cross by a male author. So, is it worth all those firsts?

Centralia is the story of Peter Ryan, who wakes up one morning looking for his wife and daughter only to discover that they both died in a car accident he doesn’t remember. As the back cover puts it, “Haunted by faint memories and flashes of details, Peter becomes convinced that something isn’t right and begins to question reality.” Peter goes on the run to try to find his family –if he even still has one. But confusing memories aren’t the only thing haunting him; hit men follow him every step of the way and Peter can’t afford to make any mistakes.

While this isn’t the kind of story I typically read, I really enjoyed it. One thing author Mike Dellosso did right is including the strong family element. In a book full of shootouts, close calls, car chases, and questions, Peter Ryan’s need to find his wife and daughter kept things grounded and meaningful. On another level, Peter also begins to remember a relationship with God he didn’t know he had, buried somewhere in his confusing and jumbled past.

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Between trying to figure out which memories are real, (was he a mild-mannered scientist? An army ranger with a medal of honor? A divorcee or happily married?) I should warn you that a lot of people die. I lost count after fifteen (mostly nameless assassins after Peter) people expired, so this book might not be for you or for younger people. I did appreciate that Dellosso included this section dealing with Peter’s grief over the lives lost as he’s tried to escape:

…But in the aftermath, looking at the collection of casualties in the parking lot, he wondered who these men were when they weren’t being used as killing machines. Did they have wives who would grow ashen at the news? Children who would never again hear their father’s voice reading them a bedtime story? The thought made Peter sick.

God in heaven, forgive me. Deliver me from this evil.”

As for negatives, I did think the ending was a little bit underwhelming, and some components of the story were a little over-the-top or especially convenient for the hero. A ventilation chimney leading straight out of the bad guys’ bunker complete with a ladder to the top and a metal grate cover (that isn’t even fastened on!) comes to mind. But it’s ultimately all part of the Marvel movie-ish fun and action.

The front cover quietly warns that “things are not what they seem.” But if you think this book seems like an energy-infused story full of revelations and heart…you might just be right.