Book Review: Return to the Hiding Place

Return to the Hiding Place
by Hans Poley

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Memoir

During the time of Nazi persecution, a Christian Dutch family called the ten Booms welcome into their home various people who were hiding from the Nazis, both Jewish and not. 18-year-old Hans Poley was the first guest, hiding to avoid being sent to Germany to do hard labor in replacement of Germans who’d been sent to fight. Here he tells the story of his time at the ten Booms’ house and his own arrest that took him to a prison, then a concentration camp.

Having read The Hiding Place earlier this year, it was really interesting to see the Beje and the ten Boom family from the perspective of one of their “guests.” Not only does Hans Poley echo Corrie ten Boom’s assertions about the incredible faith of her father and sister, he shows Corrie herself as more open and giving than she portrayed herself in some areas. For example, when her room was chosen as the location for the secret room in her book, she tried to protest it. According to Poley, however, she “readily agreed.” I think we’d all be surprised to find out how others view us, compared to how we view ourselves, and in this case, Corrie ten Boom may have been a little hard on herself. Another small thing I noticed that didn’t match up between the books is that both authors claim to be the one who gave Eusi, one of the most prominent long-term Jewish guests, his fake name, and I wonder if this, and any other possible discrepancy, is simply due to faulty memories.

Yet again I was struck by how incredibly selfless this family was, giving up their own comfort and safety to help so many others. And Casper ten Boom, Corrie’s father, is even more inspirational to me after reading this. He repeatedly expressed a desire to help the Jewish people as if it weren’t even a choice to make. If you’ve read The Hiding Place, you should consider reading this too. Overall, though, I recommend it to anyone interested in true Holocaust accounts, especially those from a Christian worldview.

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Book Review: As You Wish

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes & Joe Layden
Read by the author

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Memoir

Twenty-five years after the release of The Princess Bride, a movie that was not much of a success in its time but later became a cult classic, Cary Elwes, who played the iconic Westley in the movie, writes about his time working on the set. With additions by many of Elwes’s co-stars, along with the director, the producer, and the screenplay writer (who also wrote the book the movie is based on), Elwes gives us a peek at the making of a movie in general, and this family favorite in particular.

As soon as I knew this book existed, I knew I’d be reading it, and I knew I’d enjoy it. I’ve seen the movie several times, but even more importantly, it is my husband’s all-time favorite movie. So I suggested we both listen to the audiobook, which is narrated by Elwes himself, an actor we have both really liked for a long time, which is exactly what we did. And we both loved it! We also loved that the bits added by other people who worked on the movie were mostly read by those people as well. I think the fact that they were willing to take the time to first write, and then narrate their own thoughts on the making of this movie illustrates exactly what Elwes says throughout the book, that this cast and crew became a lot like a family. Others who read this book seem to be looking for the seedy underbelly, assuming that Elwes left out anything negative in his rush to extol the virtues of his co-workers. And I can’t say that’s not the case, of course, but perhaps the reason this memoir is so friendly and upbeat is because that’s how it really was. It’s not like poor Wallace Shawn was brow-beaten into saying his time working on the movie was all sunshine and rainbows (he had some issues, but I won’t say more than that).

I loved hearing some of the accounts of things that happened throughout the months working on this film, and even in the time after. Some of them were described by multiple people, which added a nice depth to them. I had re-watched the movie in anticipation of reading this book, but still felt compelled to look up certain scenes to see something Elwes described, whether a specific way he moved during the scene due to an injury or a line that was improvised. For fans of The Princess Bride, this book may make you see the movie in a whole new light and, hopefully, a good one. If you’ve never seen the movie, I recommend it.

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Book Review: The Hiding Place

The Hiding Place
by Corrie ten Boom with John & Elizabeth Sherrill

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Memoir

At 50 years old, Corrie ten Boom lived a simple life with her older sister, both of them unmarried, and their elderly father in a small house in Holland. When the Nazis invaded and occupied their country, Corrie quickly saw the need around her as Jews began to be shipped out. The ten Boom house and watchmaker shop became part of the Dutch Underground, helping those who were persecuted find a safe place, even to the point of building a small hiding place in their own house. In this book, Corrie shares much of her life before the occupation, including the faith that led her and her family to help those in needs, culminating in the arrest and imprisonment of many members of her family, and later to her time in a concentration camp alongside her sister Betsie.

This book is incredible in so many ways. It’s inspirational, and not only because of what the ten Booms did to help others. It’s the reason behind their desire to help, the way that it really wasn’t even a question about whether or not they would help, and the way that they affected everyone around them, even in the darkest of places. The strong faith in God that Corrie’s parents had, exhibited, and passed on to their children shows through every page of this book. Corrie herself struggled the most in this area, constantly learning from her other family members and being surprised by their heart for the oppressors. Yet she never questioned whether or not she should help the Jews around her at the risk of her own well-being.

Not many Holocaust-related accounts that I have read are from a Christian perspective, and I really appreciated seeing the little and big ways that Corrie and Betsie could see God involved in their plight. Though they never demanded that He help them, they trusted Him (again, Betsie more than Corrie) and gave Him credit when they saw Him work. I can only hope that in my everyday life, and even moreso when times of difficulty come, I can have the wisdom of Mr. ten Boom, the love of Mrs. ten Boom, the hope of Betsie ten Boom, the courage of Corrie ten Boom, and the faith exhibited by all of them.

Below are some quotes from the book that I marked to remember.

Casper ten Boom (Corrie’s father) upon the realization that Holland would soon be invaded:

“…I am sorry for all Dutchmen now who do not know the power of God. For we will be beaten. But He will not.”

Corrie discovered that a large piece of sharp debris had landed on her pillow while she was out of bed:

“Betsie, if I hadn’t heard you in the kitchen–“

But Betsie put her finger on my mouth. “Don’t say it, Corrie! There are no ‘if’s’ in God’s world. And no places that are safer than other places. The center of His will is our only safety…”

And the one that stuck out to me the most, from an elderly member of Corrie’s family who spent much of her life running clubs, writing tracts, always trying to further God’s kingdom. When she learned she didn’t have long to live, her family members told her she was going to the Father with hands full, due to all of her work. She replied:

“Empty, empty! How can we bring anything to God? What does He care for our little tricks and trinkets?”

And then as we listened in disbelief she lowered her hands and with tears still coursing down her face whispered, “Dear Jesus, I thank You that You have done all–all–on the cross, and that all we need in life or death is to be sure of this.”

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Book Review: There I Go Again

There I Go Again: How I Came to Be Mr. Feeny, John Adams, Dr. Craig, KITT, and Many Others
by William Daniels

My rating: 5 / 5
Genre: Autobiography

I don’t normally put GIFs in my reviews, but it had to be done.

The long sub-title sums up what this book is about quite nicely. The way Mr. Daniels describes it, he sort of “fell” into show business, starting with the insistence of his mother, and just never could find his way out of it, not that he tried very hard. Eventually he came to realize that it was what he wanted to be doing. In this book, he tells the story of his most iconic roles, and everything in between–how he came to have them, and even what it was like to play them.

My interest in this book initially came from my love for Boy Meets World. I was 11 when that show first aired, which pretty much made me the same age as the main characters. My husband and I have quoted certain lines from the show to each other for so many years that our kids do it now too (and have both watched at least some of the show themselves, and my daughter loves Girl Meets World). Anyway, all that to say, Mr. Feeny is near and dear to my heart. Now I know that the man who plays Mr. Feeny (yes, present tense, because he’ll always be Mr. Feeny to me) is a real person and has faced some real struggles in his life, which has only deepened my appreciation of William Daniels.

Truth be told, I don’t know much about the rest of the roles he has played. I’ve never seen Knight Rider, 1776, or St. Elsewhere. And I did wonder if I would be lost or uninterested while reading most of this book. I wasn’t. Maybe a little, when he talked about other actors and actresses he worked with at different times, producers, directors, etc. But not enough to cause a lack of enjoyment in or understanding of the book.

My only difficulty in reading the book was due to the writing itself; a couple of times the stories left me confused because it seemed like it was missing just another line or two of explanation before moving on. The book wasn’t published by a big-name company (which surprises me, but kind of goes right along with how Daniels describes himself as never being a “big star,” while being recognizable as the characters he’s played), and I wonder if most of the people who edited or proofread it were close to Daniels, knew his stories or life well enough to not be confused by a slight lack of explanation. Or maybe it’s just me.

I am so glad that I read this book. And the chapter about Boy Meets World was pretty much what I would have wanted it to be and made me tear up just a little. I would suggest that if you know William Daniels from any of his roles, or are simply interested in memoirs of celebrities, you check out this autobiography.

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Book Review: Eye of the Storm

Eye of the Storm
by Ryan Stevenson

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir, Christianity

AtD

Singer and songwriter Ryan Stevenson shares the story behind his hit song “Eye of the Storm.” Years of struggling in his personal life and his musical life led to doubt and depression. Stevenson had to learn to fully rely on God, to allow Him to be in charge of his dreams and ambitions, but it wasn’t a quick realization, a “flash of inspiration” that fixed everything at once. It took time and some very dark moments, which Ryan lays bare for us in this book.

It’s never easy to read about the difficulties of someone else’s life, and Stevenson had a lot of them. From watching his mom die of cancer, to his wife having a miscarriage of twins, and to Stevenson’s own bad choices that nearly ruined his life. Through all of this, Stevenson had a love for Jesus, though I’m not clear on where his faith really stood. Still, there’s inspiration to be found in the pages of this book.

I appreciate the humble and vulnerable way that Stevenson wrote about his history. He found some success throughout his life, but suffered many setbacks. And he never holds back from taking the blame for his own mistakes. His wrong choices, mingled with things that were out of his control, caused some of the problems he had. Yet, along with the understanding that he should, and could, trust God in everything, he also came to learn that his mistakes did not have to define him. That, as long as he allowed it to happen, God could wipe them away and he could move on from who he used to be.

Though I have not had nearly the hardships in my life that he had, I gleaned plenty of insight from Stevenson’s story. In particular, it was a reminder when I really needed it to continue to do plug away at my writing, which feels stalled at the time of my writing this review. But rather than waiting for a big, obvious lit-up path (which I didn’t even consciously realize I was doing until now), I should be faithful to the work as I know to do it. God may or may not open doors for me, but waiting around for something to happen feels more like giving up than trusting God to use my abilities as he sees fit.

One thing I want to mention for anyone who may read this book–I think it’s important to be clear that not everyone hears that “still small voice” quite so clearly as Stevenson did so many times in his life. If we assume that God will lead us in this way, and we never feel an obvious nudging of the spirit, we may feel like God has abandoned us in the way Stevenson felt at times during his life. Even if we never experience a monologue from God, a whisper in the wind, we can still follow God faithfully, and he can use us in ways we’d never expect. I don’t want to discount Stevenson’s account of how God spoke to him, but it is not the only way, and for those of us who do not have those experiences, we should not feel less important to the kingdom.

With that in mind, I do recommend this book for Christians who could use some inspiration in trusting God in the storms, or for those who enjoy Ryan Stevenson’s music.

Thank you to Netgalley and Harvest House Publishers for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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Book Review: Adorning the Dark

Adorning the Dark
by Andrew Peterson

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: Memoir, Christian living

AtD

Singer, songwriter, and author Andrew Peterson shares his insight on creating in this book. He uses personal experience as well as wisdom from other songwriters and authors to discuss the process of writing songs, the ups and downs of the business, and using one’s creative abilities to tell a story.

I’ll start my review by saying that I was not the main target audience for this book. While Peterson does do his best to expand beyond songwriting into fiction-writing and other kinds of art, the heavy focus is on the musical realm (and poetry to a lesser degree). I’m a fiction writer, but have no experience with or even much of an understanding of writing songs. Plus, he referred to songs and books by various songwriters and authors a lot and talked about them as if the reader should know them as well as he did. I’m not nearly as well read as him, and I am definitely not as immersed in music culture, nor do I listen to as wide a range of music as he. As such, I do think that quite a bit of the book was lost on me.

Another way this book did not resonate with me is that I came to realize by maybe halfway through the book that my personality, and the way I see the world around me, is vastly different from his. He sees beauty in everything, but I’ve never been all that sentimental. So that was another chunk of the book that fell flat for me.

However, that does not mean that I did not find plenty of gems in the book, things that work for any kind of creating. For example: “If you wait until the conditions are perfect, you’ll never write a thing.” Or: “The songs won’t write themselves, and neither will the books, the recipes, the blueprints, or the gardens.” Even with the difference that Peterson describes between songwriting (which can also apply to poetry to a degree) and writing fiction, the clear point is that you have to get through the bad to find the good.

He also addresses the different between “Christian art” and art from a Christian perspective, which I really appreciated. As an author, I’ve struggled in the past with thinking that I should only be using the gift God gave me to write specifically Christian fiction. However, I no longer think that’s true. Instead, I can write stories with a Christian worldview, which will most likely be acceptable to most Christians, and will even be acceptable to many non-Christians who just want something good to read. And in approaching the art that way, perhaps it would allow the artist to actually reach more for Christ.

There were a few things about which I disagreed with the author, but even in those I think it mostly comes down to a difference in mindset or preference. I did agree with the idea that calling some people “creatives” excludes many people who really are more creative than they think. Just because “art” isn’t the end result, pretty much everyone creates in their own way–that can come out as critical thinking or problem solving, or so many other things that don’t seem as creative. In the end, I’m very glad I read this book, as it gave me some interesting insight into a singer whose music goes back as far as my marriage, and plenty of solid advice on writing, some of which I needed to hear even today. I recommend this book for Christians who are interesting in creating, no matter the form it takes.

Thank you to Netgalley and B&H Publishing Group for providing me a copy of this book to review.

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