Feb 23, 2015

elle's book reviews // february books

I am fully aware there is still a full week left of the month, but I highly doubt I'll finish my current books in that time, so I wanted to share the four books I read in February. Two historical fiction, one memoir, and one Christian apologetics. Quite the mix! Each were truly wonderful in their own way.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
 Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Written fully as letters to various characters, TGL&PPPS is a bit hard to follow at first (because, really, how many books are written in this format?), but give it a few pages and you'll feel like you've just discovered a treasure trove of lost letters full of history, love, and sacrifice.

Based mainly in a small island in the British channel, Guernsey, during the German Occupation of WWII, the book mixes quaint with the spectacular as well as the horrific. The quaint lives of the Guernsey villagers before and after the Occupation made me want to hop on a plane and visit the spectacular scenic island to discover all of its beauty documented throughout the novel. I admit, I did quite the Pinterest search while reading this book, wondering how I could one day visit!

But amidst the beauty of the island is the horrid experience of being cut off from any communication from the neighboring Great Britain and France, exposed to the brutality of Nazis who were convinced capturing Guernsey was their ticket into Great Britain and beyond.

I am always amazed how some books can weave humor and heartache through it's pages, and TGL&PPPS is no exception. The myriad of characters -- and writing styles and personalities of each -- each hold their own richness that is so fun to unfold letter by letter.

And the Mountains Echoed
Khaled Hosseini

If you've read Hosseini's bestseller, The Kite Runner, you'll be reacquainted with the culture and history of the brave Afghan people as they face seemingly insurmountable odds through cultural prejudices, ravages of war, betrayal, sacrifice, and emotional wounds. Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, interweaving characters from different races and societal classes. A child's pain as he loses the person most precious to him, a servant's regrets of past mistakes and the ramifications that ensued, a Greek pediatric surgeon living in Afghanistan who recounts his journey towards the war-stricken country, an Afghan woman living in Paris but discovering secrets from her childhood that make her question everything about herself, and many other heart-gripping tales that paint a portrait of Afghanistan throughout a span of 50-ish years.

I checked out both the audiobook as well as the hardcover. The narrators varied based on the particular chapter's character and I think all where Afghan, which made the audio version so rich. Hosseini is a master storyteller and it was icing on top of the cake to be able to hear the accents of Afghan people bring depth to his remarkable stories.


Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message
Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias is a brilliant leading Christian apologetic scholar and speaker who digs deep in major world religions and comparing them to Christianity in Jesus Among Other Gods. He deals with questions such as "Aren't all religions fundamentally the same?"and "Was Jesus who He claimed to be?" He starts the book by countering the leading postmodern ideology of tolerance by stating that all religions cannot all be right. Quite the statement to start with! He then systematically looks at claims Jesus made that are written in the Bible and contrasts them with the founders and basic principles of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and New Age spirituality.

I read this book along with a group of girls over the course of a few months, which helped me understand more of the complex ideas of the book as well as brought application to all of the theory. It's a challenging, yet important, read for those who want to dig deeper in their understanding of the claims of Christianity and how they differ from other religions.


I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou's debut memoir (the first of seven) looks back at her tumultuous childhood and adolescence, exploring the joyous as well as painful moments that marked her life. Maya and her younger brother, Bailey, were put on a train by their divorcing parents to travel across the country from California to the small town of Stamps, Arkansas as toddlers (she was three years old!) to live with their religious and self-sufficient grandmother ("Momma"). Here the children grew up in their grandmother's general store and were exposed to the prejudice of being African Americans in the South in the 1930s. At age eight, Maya and Bailey travel to St. Louis to live with their mother and Maya is attacked by a man, leaving her confused, hurt, and choosing to be selectively mute as a way to protect herself and those she loves (for she felt the assault was her fault). They eventually travel back to Stamps and eventually to San Francisco with many more heartaches in store for them both.

Maya Angelou's writing is poetic, powerful, and honestly raw. She writes from the eyes of a child peering into a world that could be so hateful, yet finding hope and joy amidst the pain. Her personality and strength develop into a strong and brilliant female voice that is willing to put up a fight for issues like equality, defending her loved ones, and learning to extend love to herself after years of shame and guilt. It is no wonder that this book is a beloved classic. And what a special treat to hear Maya narrate her memoir by audiobook! Whether reading page after page late into the night or listening on my commute to work or while jogging, I was captivated by I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.


Currently Reading:
Mending: Pieces of a Life Made Whole by Angie Smith

The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Success by Dave Ramsey

[ Check out my GoodReads page for more of my favorite books]

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Elle Alice