Review: Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (#1) ~ Stephanie Baumgartner

Sophias WarSophia can hardly wait to return to Germany to help her great-aunt run the town library, despite her father’s distrust of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. But Sophia’s not worried; she knows she will be safe with her extended family.

Unfortunately, the beautiful country that she remembers from her childhood visits is almost unrecognizable. Almost every man is in uniform, and everyone she meets seems watchful and secretive. It quickly becomes apparent that Germany is not what it used to be, and neither is her cousin, Diedrich.

Will Sophia return home when Diedrich gives her an ultimatum that defies her conscience? Or will her desire to fulfill her aunt’s wishes keep her in a dangerous foreign land on the brink of war?

2 Thumbs-UpI can only say a few things about this book and to be honest that is a shame.  Here is a book I wanted to truly love, after all I thoroughly enjoy both fiction and non-fiction works set in this era, so by the time I reached the end of this novel, I was so disappointed that I only just liked it.

I have no issue with Christian fiction, as sometimes it can be a lot better written and put together than those outside this genre; the Authors of this kind of work always seem to be able to show the sliver of light in the darkness, but this novel was just too much and led to my being really irritated in parts.  This impression was fuelled mainly by the featured protagonist of the title; she was just too good to be true.  Her most annoying trait was putting off thinking about things that she didn’t like, or upset her all too sheltered little world.  This may sound like a natural human reaction when dealing with the issue of war, but then the reader discovers that the most important things in her world are all centred on her.  I found there to be no strength of will or conviction in this character at all, and as a whole found her to be rather vapid and flimsy.  The main protagonist was not the only character I had issues with; her all too perfect devoutly Christian family were written in such a way that I felt downright disgust at their hypocrisy, and this made me come to think of them as “Sunday Christians”, not an image I should imagine the Author was looking to create at all.

Repetition featured heavily in this novel and, not intending to insult the Author in any way, it came across as if they had reached a wall with the storyline and brought back time and again feelings and impressions that had been covered earlier, to bridge a gap until the plot could be picked up again.  If it was used as a tool to ensure the reader understood the motivations behind everything, good for them but if you are going to use this style in the future it may do well to come across a little less heavy-handedly.  Also, and this is definitely just my personal opinion like everything else in the reviews I write, I feel this book should be reclassified as Christian Fiction; in this way the Author would probably reach a larger target audience.  Classified as it is, readers picking this up and expecting to read about World War II Germany from a young American woman’s viewpoint will be sorely disappointed.  I’m in two minds whether I will read anymore in the series; as one part of me would like to see if the Authors writing style and approach develop; but the other side of me is loath to have to go through the same thing I went through with this novel.

I would recommend this book to those readers who enjoy inspirational Christian fiction and who don’t mind embarking on yet another series of books.


Review: Merlin And Martha: The Calling ~ Tammy Young Coté

Merlin and MarthaAs thirteen-year-old Martha Zachary heads home from basketball practice one afternoon, her biggest worry is whether her junior high basketball team will ever beat their archrival. But when a gray-haired man with piercing eyes approaching her, Martha has no idea her life is about to change forever.

After Merlin, the wizard of legend introduces himself, he informs Martha he is on a mission from God; it is his job to both teach and protect her. Through his gentle guidance, Martha soon discovers she is destined to carry out a great calling-to lead others to the final faceoff between good and evil. Merlin assures her that she will ready, but Martha secretly wonders how she can apply the wizard’s ancient lessons to her own modern life, centered around her best friend, Anna, and her eighth-grade basketball team.

In this inspirational, exciting story, just as a teenager learns the truth behind a power greater than any other on earth, the tension peaks in a locker room showdown with a demon and his shadow army-right before the big game!

5 Thumbs-UpIt been a long time since I read a book like this, and with it being the first in a series it signals the beginning of a great read for people of all ages.

There are two main protagonists in this novel, and both are extremely well written.  The female lead is loyal and honest but, as with all girls her age she has her flaws and weaknesses.  The way in which the Author portrays her throughout the book makes her seem real and just a regular girl in less than ordinary circumstances; it’s the way in which she deals with this circumstances, comes to terms with new-found abilities and fights to the end, that makes her different from any other character in a book of this type that I have read.  She deals with her situation in such a way that has the reader cheering her on; is she a complainer, not at all and this was what I so enjoyed about her.  It’s been a long time since a character has appeared in a book that girls can relate to and, possibly for the young bookworm, wants to be as like as they can possibly be.  It’s a great Author that can carry the energy that is put into one character over into their other main character, but this Author has pulled that off with ease.  There is no skimping with development and personality of the male lead; he plays a full role in this novel that inspires and motivates his counterpart while, at the same time reaching out with these qualities to touch the reader.  In these two protagonists the Author has created a world that will appeal to readers both male and female, they really are inspirational.  Lesser characters are woven into the storyline with ease, and the reader is never left wondering who they were and what their role in the big scheme of things is.

Adventure, magic, the typical school showdowns, everything is included in this novel without making it feel like an overstuffed couch waiting to explode; there is just the right amount of detail to fit the size of the book.  It’s almost as if the Author were creating a gourmet dish, and needed to make sure that all the ingredients were exact and added in the right order.  The exactness in which this was achieved would mean if this book were a restaurant, it would probably receive a Michelin 5 star rating.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone that loves magic and adventure, and those who are looking for something different, inspiring and non-offensive to read to their children and grandchildren.  I am looking forward to reading the remainder of this series and, although not in the same genre; move over Nancy Drew, I feel your place has been filled by someone new.