"Once upon a time..."
Any story that starts this way with those four little words, it is guaranteed that I'll love it or at least like it a lot. I grew up watching Disney movies and reading out of all of our fairy-tale books over and over again till the pages started falling out. I don't know what it is about them, but I love them. I love the adventure, the princesses and princes and frogs, and pirates and treasures and all of it. So when I picked up this book and it started with those four little words I love so much, I knew I had to keep reading to see if it was actually any good.......it was!
If you know anything about King Midas then you're good to go in reading this story. If you don't, then basically its a myth about a king who wishes that he could turn anything he wants to gold. But Dionysus, the god who gave him this "gift", or curse, tricked him: literally everything he touches turns to gold. That's the gist.
Our story begins right before that curse is lifted, when King Midas accidentally turns his daughter, Kora, into gold. After searching out Dionysus to save his daughter from her dreadful fate, the god tells Midas to bring everything he's touched, including his daughter, and go to the mouth of the nearby river before the sun sets that day and submerge everything. And his daughter would be saved. So Midas does this, but in his hurry he forgets everything except his daughter. When the sun sets, Kora is alive but her skin is still a shimmering gold.
And that is only the prologue!
Flash forward ten years and Kora feels like she's never going to find a man to marry her who won't shudder when he looks at her and that she's never going to escape the walls of the palace where her Uncle Pheus and her father keep her locked up. But when a suitor shows up and doesn't recoil when he looks at her, Kora finally begins to have hope that her life won't always be in hiding.
When the palace is robbed of the cursed gold that Midas touched, and needs for survival, Kora sets out with her suitor, to bring back the gold to save her father and the kingdom. As they slowly begin to get to know each other, Kora finds out that people aren't always as they seem.
This book was exactly what I needed after reading several books about WWII and the Holocaust. It was an easy read and swept me away into a fanciful land of pirates and curses and a damsel who starts out in distress but finds her own strength and it's all great. This is Annie Sullivan's debut novel and I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up!
For more information on A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan,come in and see us or visit our website here.
Tuesday, September 4, 2018
Salt to the Sea takes place in winter 1945 and follows four characters whose lives are crossed in the desperate attempt to flee to the coast from Stalin and his soldiers: Joana from Lithuania, Florian from Prussia, Emilia from Poland, and Alfred from Germany. All four fight for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will transport them to safety and freedom...maybe.
And that's all I'm telling you because I don't want to give anything away.
Most WWII books I've read have been about people running or hiding or fighting the Germans and from Hitler. This is the first book I've read that has been about people running from Stalin to Germany. Getting more info from the Eastern European countries was a welcome change. The war happened to them too but on both sides, each having horrible dictators. This was also the first time learning of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff, which was a tragedy that was six times deadlier than the Titanic, and I couldn't believe this was the first I've heard about it.
Ruta Sepetys writes amazingly well. The book is broken up into the perspectives of each of the main characters, each chapter being a new perspective on what's happening and why that character is running. And it's so SO good. I did not want this book to end, but at the same time, it took everything in me to NOT skip ahead to make sure that nothing bad happened to the characters I immediately fell in love with. It can't be easy writing a book with four different perspectives to keep track of, and she blew it out of the water.
When you pick this book up, make sure you have tissues handy because it's a doozy.
For more information on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, come in and see us or visit our website here.
For more information on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, come in and see us or visit our website here.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
'"Running the library requires a brave person..."
Dita blushed. The more she tried to stay still, the wilder her trembling became. Her hands began to shake, too, and she feared the director might think her too weak for the job.
"S-s-so you're not counting on me, then?"
"You seem like a brave girl to me."
"But I'm trembling!" she replied, devastated.
Then Hirsch smiled in his particular way. "That's why you're brave. Brave people are not the ones who aren't afraid. Those are reckless people who ignore the risk; they put themselves and others in danger. That's not the sort of person I want on my team. I need the ones who know the risk-- whose legs shake, but who carry on."
As she listened, Dita's legs began to tremble less.'
I'm just going to jump right in and say that this book is not for the faint of heart. This book is technically a youth fiction novel (based on real events and a real person) but we've moved it into the adult fiction section because of some mature themes and some scarce strong language. And because some of the descriptions are very intense and graphic. This book is a very real portrayal of what actually happened in the death camps to very real people (at the end of the story, there is a "what happened to them" page and it's all very interesting). So even though this disclaimer is out there, I still think youth could handle it. It's not sugar coated to make it easier for us to read, which I think is a really good thing. I'd say ages 15 and up, but every kid is different, so use your (the parent) discretion on what they can handle or not.
The story follows Dita Adler (based on the real Dita Kraus) whose family is moved from the Terezin Ghetto in the Czech Republic to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Family camp in 1944. Dita helps out in Block 31, which is the "school" in Auschwitz, as the librarian. Even though books are illegal in Auschwitz, eight books have somehow made it into the camp and have lasted, and it's Dita's job to take care of them and make sure that the Nazis don't find them. Because to be caught with them is a death sentence. The story follows different characters as well, but you'll just have to read the book to find out their story. :)
This book is amazing. It is SO well written and, I say this about all the books I read and then review on here, but I honestly think that even though it's a "youth" book, I think it's important for you to read. This is a time in history that is awful and sobering and so so important. I never ever want to forget what happened and reading books like this one keep it fresh in my mind...no matter how hard it can be to read.
For more information on The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, visit our website here.
Monday, July 23, 2018
The Meaning of Marriage was recommended to me and my husband by someone older and wiser than either of us. Timothy Keller endeavors to show the reader a picture of what marriage could and should be according to the Bible. I believe I will hang on to this book and the wisdom Tim Keller shares, as I grow and learn in love for my spouse.
With the help of Kathy, his wife of thirty-years, Tim presents biblical arguments and foundations for a healthy marriage, comparing and contrasting his own views with the views of the popular modern culture of the Western world. The Meaning of Marriage is a powerful argument for longevity and commitment; for love and covenant; for Christ-like community in an individualistic world.
I think my favourite chapter was the one titled "Loving the Stranger". Keller started the chapter off with this quote:
"We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing that it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is ... learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married."
--Stanley HauerwasIt's not the first piece I've read on the topic of how the honeymoon phase of marriage lasts a couple months to a couple years and then fades, confronting the married couple with this reality. Someone else might refer to it as "transferring from in love, to love".
Each section in "Loving the Stranger" from The Meaning of Marriage unpacked these topics and gave a lot of insight and things to think about in the grand scheme of marriage--in the "for worse" of life, and in the moments when the flaws of your spouse seem to outweigh everything else. Keller puts it this way: "When you got married you saw the gold in your spouse, but as time goes on you see all the impurities" (p.158). The chapter "Loving the Stranger" leads the reader beyond that, and ends with "The Power of Grace--Reconciling" and "The Ultimate Power". Keller talks about grace, forgiveness, and the ultimate forgiveness in Christ as the most foundational, crucial power in the context of marriage.
"I don't know of anything more necessary in marriage than the ability to forgive fully, freely, unpunishingly, from the heart" (p.188).I don't trust my faulty human mind to remember everything that I need to from this book, so The Meaning of Marriage is one I will be keeping on my shelf at home for a long time to come.
For more information on The Meaning of Marriage, by Timothy Keller, visit our website here.
Monday, July 16, 2018
Thomas Fawkes is a young man on the cusp of coming-of-age to receive his mask--if he can pass his Color Test at St. Peter's Color School, and if his father shows up to give him his mask. Unbeknownst to his teachers and most of his classmates, Thomas is a Keeper. What follows is a story of intense betrayal, blackmail, murder plots, value and worth, and the thin line between what is convincing and what is right.
Fawkes is more than a coming-of-age story. Nadine Brandes asks questions of race, wealth, and politics as she unravels the building war between Keepers and Igniters. She weaves in pieces of history with the story of Guy Fawkes in 17th century London. The first time Thomas Fawkes meets his father, Guy Fawkes, he's plunged into a plot to kill the Igniter king. The plan: to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up Parliament.
There's a Romeo-Juliet type twist to this story, not to mention a great deal of mystery, suspense, romance, and conviction. The characters are diverse and engaging, and the prose should appeal to teens, especially ages 14-18. Another exciting YA book for the shelves--join Thomas Fawkes in the plot to kill the Igniter King.
For more information on Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, visit our website here.
Monday, July 9, 2018
This book is a treasure. I am one of those people who only dreams about traveling to the Holy Land, walking the streets Jesus walked and seeing the setting of His ministry years. While my opportunity to hop a plane and find myself knee-deep in Biblical history has not yet arrived, this book both satisfied and renewed my longing for Israel.
Buck Storm, self-admittedly neither a theologian or historian, uses his skills as a novelist and songwriter to paint a beautiful picture of modern day Israel, with all its contradictions. He shares stories of his many travels through Israel, usually off the beaten path, with vibrant locations and even more vibrant people. Often, his stories of visiting sites from Jesus' ministry are poignant and breathtaking, as is his trip to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus took his disciples in Matthew 16:13-20:
"My group and I sat for a while, lingering in the shade and the echo of His voice, reluctant to move on. Sometimes it's better not to rush. To slow down. To take the time to listen. Once, lifetimes ago, Caesarea Phillipi was an evil place, filled with devils. Blustering gods of nothing. And the Bright Morning Star swept them away with a word and a thought." (Chapter 3)
Buck Storm makes you feel as though you're right alongside him in the dust, crowds, and sacred spaces. This book is a perfect picture of the human experience, combining the humour of differing languages and foods, the lure of history, the romance of the Gospel, the heartbreak of sin. While he walks readers through some popular locations, such as Gethsemane, the pages of this book are also filled with less-traveled sites, where tourists, tickets, and lines are non-existent. He acknowledges the realities of the tourism industry and is successful in going beyond it to show his readers the true Israel.
"And God, whether we choose to recognize it or not, is at the very heart of Israel. So, for me, watching the bread vendor next to the Jaffa Gate getting bombarded by fifty shaloms from fifty happy, footsore tourists isn't a bad thing. The genuine smile on his face tells me he agrees. I'm sure a few shekels in his pocket and five or ten rings of his sesame bread and hyssop being passed around the group didn't hurt either." (Chapter 8)
This book is filled to the brim with larger than life people, personal faith moments, "coincidences," and insights. Storm even touches on several points not often discussed, such as the false, stereotyped view North America has of the Middle East, and the tendency of Western pilgrims to make an idol of the Holy Land and the search for spiritual experiences. I loved this book for two reasons; the first, his descriptions drew me in so strongly I felt I was walking through Israel with him, with all the sights, sounds, scents and heat involved. Second, Storm links locations and Biblical passages in ways I had never seen before. For example, I had never known that when Jesus told His disciples the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, He was standing near a place known as the "gate of hell," surrounded by pagan Roman idols. It is in the details like this, precious and little known, that the landscape of Israel expands our view of scripture. In this way, Finding Jesus in Israel is like taking your own journey to the Holy Land, from the comfort of your own home.
I was planning on reading just one chapter, to see what this new book was all about, but I found myself unable to put it down. I will be returning to it again and again, especially when I finally get the chance to travel to Israel. If you have even a mild case of wanderlust, this book is for you.
"It's a big, hot, swirling mill of innocence and sin, located within a stone's throw of the scorched remains of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. The landscape probably looked a lot different in Abraham and Lot's day, but we humans haven't changed a whole lot. I looked out at the water. The Dead Sea. A liquid ghost town. Even the piles of driftwood along the shore looked like bleached bones. On every level, sin and hopelessness blanketed the place. And I smiled. Because I know Him. Because it's always in the deadest places - be it the moonscape of the Negev, the hard-packed earth of a hippodrome floor, or the salty depths of a broken soul - that the God of love insists on breathing new life." (Chapter 13)
Monday, July 2, 2018
“Over the admiral’s display, a hollow, flat voice spoke. ‘...has come...Malum has come...Malum has come… Malum has come...’ On the screen, another pale beam lanced out from the sphere and pored over a Ritican militia vessel. The beam receded as quickly as it had come, the militia vessel vanished. ‘Malum has come...Malum has come…”
As a lover of science, I find it easy to lose time reading a good science fiction novel and Edge of Oblivion by Joshua Johnston definitely makes that list. Not only is the story line engaging but, with a good basis in the Christian worldview, Johnston has created a world that is so well established within itself you can’t help but believe it could be real. He includes alien races that each have their own distinctive culture and history and yet also have their own messianic figure that taught a very similar message and were persecuted to the same degree. With Earth’s history lost in what is known as the Dark Ages, the “Christ” figure spoken of is Sarco, who came to the Aecrons (EYE-a-cron-s), one of the 5 races that make up the Confederacy, 5 or 6 thousand years before our story begins.
As the Confederacy is rocked by the destruction wrought by an unknown enemy that seems unstoppable, Naval Commander Jared Carter and his crew are sent on what appears to be a wild goose chase across the galaxy to investigate the fragments of an ancient parchment they hope may hold the key to stopping the greatest evil any of them have ever known.
One of the things I appreciated most was the way Johnston works with the idea of faith. Jared describes himself as ‘not a theist’, but throughout the duration of the story he is both accepting of the faith of others and open to learning from them.
Another is the realistic nature of the faith of the Sarconians, those that choose to follow Sarco. While good and evil are apparent, and the Sarconians are very reminiscent of the early church, there is no ‘holier than thou’ vibe. I can see this aspect appealing to newer believers, teenagers, and those who want to read fiction without feeling preached at.
Throughout the entire book there is one overarching theme that I think is best summed up by one of the Sarconians who ends up traveling onboard Jared’s ship for a time:
--Maria“Hope is a powerful thing, Commander. Never forget that.”
For more information on Edge of Oblivion by Joshua Johnston, visit our website here.