Favorite Books Set in Amsterdam

Hello after a long break, faithful readers!  It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog.   I just got back from a much needed vacation to Europe, and I’m finally back in the saddle and ready to write again.

My family and I gleefully jetted off to Amsterdam as a first stop in our latest European adventure.  This was my youngest son’s first European vacation, so we wanted an easy entry point to the continent –  friendly people who spoke American English, lots of charm, and easy to navigate.

Part of a great vacation is vicariously living in your destination through books and travel guides before you get there.  Before we went to Amsterdam (and while I was there), I had the pleasure of reading several novels set in Amsterdam’s golden age of the 17th century, bringing the charming houses along the canals and their inhabitants to life.   Here are my favorites:

The Coffee Trader, by David Liss.  If you like intrigue and financial dealings, this is the book for you.  The scheming was like the Survivor show on steroids.  This novel starts out slowly, but stick with it.  I couldn’t put it down once I eventually got into it.  Set in 17th century Amsterdam, a trader tries to introduce a new drink, coffee, to the Dutch.  This novel also includes an interesting history of the Jewish community in Amsterdam.

Tulip Fever, by Deborah Moggach.  This book is more about romance than tulips, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  A young girl is married off to an old Dutch merchant.  A young handsome painter comes to paint their portrait – the perfect set-up for a 17th century soap opera.  Good light reading.

The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton.  This is a weird book.  I still don’t know quite what to make of it, but the writing was marvelous, and I couldn’t put it down.  Also set in 17th century Amsterdam, also involving a young woman married off to a guy she hardly knows.  The iconic centerpiece of this novel is a dollhouse modelled after the house where the main characters live.  Miniatures of real life people, pets, and objects mysteriously show up on the door step.  Fascinating…but weird.

All these books are about $10 in paperback and also available on Kindle.

Blessings, Cindy

Cynthia Coe is the author of the novels Ginger’s Reckoning and Runaway Kitty, along with several books on spiritual formation. 

 

 

 

Big, Fat Novels for Snowy Days

It’s snowing in many parts of the country, and down here in the Smoky Mountains, most schools have closed due to illness.  For many of us, it’s time to stay inside and snuggle with a really good book. 

I don’t know about you, but there’s a time and a place for big, fat novels spanning hundreds of pages – summer vacations, blizzard conditions outside, school out and cooped up inside.  You need a lot of time for a novel of more than 500 or so pages, and you sure don’t want to have to lug such a thing on an airline flight with you. 

Most of my own writing tends towards the short and concise, but I dearly love a good, long novel with multiple plot lines, lots of interesting characters you really get to know well, and a story spanning several years.  Here are some of my favorites:

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt.  This was the “it” book of a couple of years ago.  I couldn’t put it down.  A young boy finds himself in an art museum during a terrorist attack and develops a certain attachment with one piece of art that mysteriously disappears before the first responders arrive.  Arguably too long, but it’s a lot of story for the money. 

Russka, Sarum, London, Paris, and New York by Edward Rutherfurd.  If you like historical fiction spanning generations, these books are for you.  As a history major, I was in hog heaven reading these books and learned oodles of history as well. 

War & Peace, Leo Tolstoy (translated by Pevear and Volokhonsky).  Okay, if we’re talking big, fat novels, we’ve got to include War & Peace.  Yes, I’ve read it, and I loved it.  (I confess, I skipped the military history stuff).  If you like Downton Abbey type stories, you’ll love this book, too.  This fairly recent translation has gotten great reviews. 

Stay safe, stay well, Cindy

 

 

 

  

Read A Novel, Learn About Creation Care: A Book List of Favorite Environmental Novels

Getting our heads around environmentalism can be tough.  News reports may focus on places and problems far away from us.  The science of climate change is debated back and forth, perhaps leaving us frustrated, confused, or just plain exasperated by all the conflict.

An easier – and undoubtedly more enjoyable – way to get our heads around environmental issues is to read a good novel.  Here are some of my favorites, great for a book group (or just plain enjoyment):

Barbara Kingsolver, Prodigal Summer   (Set in the wilderness of Appalachia, this beautiful book celebrates the natural world. Written by a marvelous writer and book club favorite.  Be sure to check out her other books, too.)

Anna Patchett, State of Wonder (This is a page turner. Set in the rainforest of South America, the story is an adventure story involving the hunt for a miracle drug.)

Elizabeth Gilbert, The Signature of All Things (The author of Eat, Pray, Love is such a good writer that she carries off this story of a middle-aged spinster who watches moss grow.  I kid you not.  One of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.)

Theresa Weir, The Orchard  (This was a Target Club Pick I ran across.  Lots of human drama, along with why you really need to rinse apples before eating.)

Tracy Chevalier, At the Edge of the Orchard  (The real Johnny Appleseed stars in this novel, set in the pioneer days of Ohio. The story is gritty, with abusive and alcoholic characters who are not part of the usual Johnny Appleseed tall tale.  Just published in Spring 2016)

And…News Flash: I’ve just reduced the prices of Kindle editions of my two new creation care books.  Wild Faith: A Creation Care Curriculum for Youth is now $3.49.  Earth Our Garden Home: Creation Care Lessons for Children is now just $2.99.  Perfect for gifting all your teachers or youth group members.  If you don’t have a Kindle, you can download the app for free.

Happy Reading!  If you have additions to this list, please feel free to comment and add your own favorites.  Blessings, Cindy