Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke

As a general rule, I don’t read a lot of books about the WWII/Holocaust.  The words of Anne Frank, Escape from Warsaw, The Book Thief, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society paint a picture of a time that haunts my soul.  What happened to society – to people as a whole – to inspire such hatred and violence?  How did people find the courage to continue living despite such hard times?  The courage embedded within the hearts of many people inspires and amazes me while the hatred and violence of others frighten me beyond belief.

download Centered around the time of WWII/Holocaust, Saving Amelie  by Cathy Gohlke is the story of a four-year-old deaf German girl, daughter to a prominent German officer.  Having an “imperfect” child is a stain upon the father’s “record” that he is unwilling to have.  Arrangements are made for Amelie to attend a facility specialized in caring for disabled children without the mother’s consent.  Rumors have it that children like Amelie, once admitted, are never seen alive again.  Desperate to save the life of her daughter, the mother reaches out to her childhood friend Rachel for assistance.

Rachel, a daughter to a prominent American researcher, is hesitant to accept her friend’s request.  Her father’s research has shown the power of eugenics and she isn’t quite sure where she stands.  Her friend must be over-reacting.  After a spin of events, Rachel is forced to flee and enter hiding herself along with the deaf Amelie.   Saving Amelie knits together a beautiful story of individuals learning to love and sacrifice despite the risks.  It is the story of people learning to look beyond their needs to help a stranger, sister, and friend.  The words of this book, while they were powerful, made me see the importance of looking beyond my own needs in all circumstances.

History enthusiasts and non-history-enthusiasts will unite within the pages of Saving Amelie because every soul – regardless of age, gender, and race – has value.  It doesn’t matter when, where, or how – this value exists.  I walked away from this book with a renewed desire to teach my children the importance of respecting the people that surround us.  The only “true crime” against humanity is committed when we fail to honor the light, the life, and the love of the souls that surround us on a daily basis.  We are created equal in the eyes of God, and we must strive to remember that in all times, in all things, and in all places.

 

–Book was provided by Tyndale House for my honest review.

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Caught in the Middle by Regina Jennings

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In Regina Jennings first book,Sixty Acres and a Bride, we learn of the “crazy” Anne.  People avoid her.  She isn’t like everyone else.  When Anne is forced to kill her violent-abusive-husband, the town begins to avoid her more than ever. In Jenning’s second book, Love in the Balance, Anne is all alone.

Throughout the first two books, Anne’s tough (and different) exterior keep people at arms length.  When an abandoned child falls into Anne’s lap, everything begins to change and Anne becomes Caught in the Middle.  Does she have the courage to open up and love the world for the sake of the child?  Can she learn to trust again?  What about her broken and bruised heart?

Anne’s bravery and willingness to overcome her fears inspires me.  How many people surrounding me are internally hurting like Anne?  The people that surround Anne, patiently helping her learn to love again, inspire me.  And what of the romance?  Super cute.

I walked away from Caught in the Middle with a deeper understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.  People, fictional and real, are starving for love.   Everyone is lonely. Together, we can learn to put aside the judgement in honor of love… just like Anne.

Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler

nateandangieoriginalMy husband and I just celebrated our 10-year anniversary on December 30th.  We carted the older boys off to grammie’s house and kept the five-month-old with us.

We visited the outlet mall in search for a suede jacket.  My husband, Nate, is graduating with his PhD this fall and it is a well known fact that PhD’s need suede jackets.  Plus, ten-year anniversaries are exciting.  Suede jacket exciting.

We went to dinner, ate while passing the baby-that-hates-the-car-seat back and forth and picked up a movie from Red Box.  We are so exciting.

We had plans to watch a movie while I nursed the baby, play a game or two, and cuddle in bed. Such activities are a commodity when you have four kids running around.

We popped Lone Ranger in the DVD player and sat back to relax when the phone rang.  Ignoring it, we turned the volume up.

It rang again.

It turned out that our seven-year old had the stomach bug.  He was pale and ready to lose everything he had consumed since the beginning of time.

We kissed for a minute and then hurried out the door to pick up our son.  Our kid puked on the highway and wanted to puke again when he got home.

We tucked all four kids in bed – with pots and buckets near by just in case – and climbed in bed together.  Exhausted.  Cuddle time happened, but it was interrupted on regular intervals.  It reminded me of that Phil Vasser song: Just Another Day in Paradise.

Even though our day was interrupted and not what we planned it to be, it was wonderful.  Perfect because I spent the day with my best friend.  The last ten years of marriage have been a dream come true and I am so happy that he chose me.

indexBut not everyone gets their happy endings.  I’ve mentioned before that my favorite kind of books are the books that make me appreciate my life for what it is right now.  Julie Kibler’s latest novel Calling Me Home, did just that.  Based on a true story, the book takes place in the early 1900’s in Kentucky.  The fight for love is real when Isabelle falls in love with a black man.  Fighting against heaven and earth, the two of them try to find a place where they can simply love each other in a world that calls it illegal.  The ending is both happy and sad but extremely powerful.  The line we draw in the sand separating us from those we believe to be different is so hurtful and wrong.  In the end, all that matters is love.  Destroying those imaginary lines is worth any obstacles we might encounter.

Throughout history, happiness has been sacrificed for power and control – over and over again.  I think it is important to acknowledge that power and control never breed happiness.  The two of them together create an internal hunger that can never be satisfied.  The addiction grows until one day we abandon those we love for a hunger that never goes away.

The book left me with a renewed gratitude for the life and love I have every day and a desire to love the world a little more.  I am grateful for the ten-years I have had to love my husband and family comfortably and I dream of a world where everyone else can do the same.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

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The Masterpiece Classic series of Downton Abbey just launched their fourth season.

Yeah!

Mathew is dead and Mary is depressed.  My two favorite characters are gone.  I am 20 minutes into the season premier and I am so sad.  I want to sit down next to Mary and cry my eyes out while simultaneously shaking her back to life.  Maybe it is expecting too much of her character to be happy, but couldn’t she find the strength to love her child?  Instead she sends him off with a nanny all day and refers to him as an “orphan.”

Meanwhile, the staff is still engaged to make their “masters” happy.  Sometimes it reminds me of the joke: how many people does it take to screw in a light bulb, only how many people does it take to make the entire Crawley family happy?

indexThe book Longbourn by Jo Baker is the story of the maids and butlers in the Bennett household.  The Bennett household, from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, thrives upon the maids and butlers that keep things running smoothly behind the scenes.  Similar to the responsibilities of the maids in Downton Abbey, Sarah is responsible for cleaning the house, scrubbing mud from petticoats, and preparing the meals.  While Elizabeth and Jane and Lydia  are busily stitching together their “happily ever after,” Sarah is tired of living a life of servitude.  Orphaned and cared for by the “head-maid” at Longbourn, Sarah is desperately unhappy and starving for love.

A strange young man appears to serve as the footman for the Bennett family and Sarah’s world is turned upside down. The book is everything Downton Abbey with a little heartache and a lot of love nestled in between.  Sarah’s love life reminds me a little of the separation between Anna and Mr. Bates in season 3.

This book was everything I thought it would be and so much more.  I am now left with one major decision: do I re-read Longbourn or launch myself into Season 4 of Downton Abbey?

Lassoed in Texas by Mary Connealy

9781620294628_p0_v1_s260x420Cafe Rio and Mary Connealy are two of my favorite nouns.

Cafe Rio – as you may know – creates amazing taco salads. I would do just about anything for their grub.

Mary Connealy is an amazing author. I had the opportunity to read the first two books of her Lassoed in Texas series – Petticoat Ranch and Calico Canyon – over the holidays. Squeal. These books have permanently plastered a smile on my face.

The parenting/child relationships in these two books are incredible. Petticoat Ranch welcomes a step-father into an all-girl-household while Calico Canyon introduces an uptight school marm into an all-boy-household. Holy crap it was fun. Mary did a fabulous job at detailing what it is like to raise boys. I found myself wanting to shout “hallelujah!” because someone out there understands what my life is like. I found myself sticking post-it notes to all the “good parts” so that I could share them with my husband. A lot of post-it notes were used in the process and date night (thanks to these books) was *amazing*! We both have a deep appreciation for Adam’s number one rule.

I love a good clean romance that increases my gratitude for my husband and my family and these books fit the bill. The romance is sweet and clean and inspirational. And Texas fiction – I love you.

Santa made a surprise visit tonight when I discovered the Lassoed in Texas Trilogy on my kindle for $2.99! And if life couldn’t get any better than that, I learned that salad dressing at Cafe Rio can be purchased by the pint. The pint! Heaven has arrived.

With the Lassoed in Texas Trilogy on my kindle and an entire PINT of dressing in my refrigerator – my weekend is calling.