About the BookBook Title: Hidden Among The Stars
Author: Melanie Dobson
Genre: Historical Fiction (However, this is a time-slip novel, so there is also a contemporary component to the story)
Release date: September 4, 2018
From the award-winning author of Catching the Wind, which Publishers Weekly called “unforgettable” and a “must-read,” comes another gripping time-slip novel about hidden treasure, a castle, and ordinary people who resisted evil in their own extraordinary way.
The year is 1938, and as Hitler’s troops sweep into Vienna, Austrian Max Dornbach promises to help his Jewish friends hide their most valuable possessions from the Nazis, smuggling them to his family’s summer estate near the picturesque village of Hallstatt. He enlists the help of Annika Knopf, his childhood friend and the caretaker’s daughter, who is eager to help the man she’s loved her entire life. But when Max also brings Luzia Weiss, a young Jewish woman, to hide at the castle, it complicates Annika’s feelings and puts their entire plan—even their very lives—in jeopardy. Especially when the Nazis come to scour the estate and find both Luzia and the treasure gone.
Eighty years later, Callie Randall is mostly content with her quiet life, running a bookstore with her sister and reaching out into the world through her blog. Then she finds a cryptic list in an old edition of Bambi that connects her to Annika’s story . . . and maybe to the long-buried story of a dear friend. As she digs into the past, Callie must risk venturing outside the safe world she’s built for a chance at answers, adventure, and maybe even new love.
Hidden Among the Stars is the complete package – atmospheric setting, a compelling story, rich characterization, and a wealth of historical detail. It entertains and captivates the emotions, while allowing you to reflect anew at the inhumanity and cruelty of man - as well as the grace of God whose presence is felt through the darkest of life's valleys. Melanie Dobson is a masterful artist with words, one whose stories never fail to touch this reader.
Dobson skillfully blends a dual timeline between present day and that of 1938, as Austria was taken over by the Nazis. It was fascinating to learn something new about this era – such as how the Nazis hid stolen valuables in Austria’s lakes – and the historical detail allowed me to quickly connect with the story. Hidden Among the Stars is not an easy read, for the times were dark, but the light of hope was never extinguished.
The story of Annika, Max, and Luzia is tensely gripping, so I’m thankful for the breathing space that Callie and Josh’s story gave me. I loved that Callie ran a bookstore and was a “story girl” to the children who frequently visited. What a testimony to the power of books in children’s lives! The two stories were different, but each interesting in their own way, and intricately woven together.
The best way for me to convey the beauty and essence of this story is to share some of favorite quotes:
The Hallstatt lake area … “Some people call this region the Devil’s Dustbin, for it seems as if the devil himself swept across Austria and dumped whatever remained right here.” - Josh Nemeth
Hatred of the Jews … “This new mantra about vindication had been passed down from on high, a ghastly song everyone was supposed to sing whether or not they agreed with the lyrics.” - Max
Annika’s faith … “Mama taught her all about Jesus before she died. She used to speak of God’s presence like it was a song, stealing across the lake and the trees, over the Alps and up into the sky. Did a song ever die, or did it keep traveling? Surely it kept traveling, she thought, all the way up into the heavens, threading through stars and knotting itself around the fullness of the moon.” - Annika
Hidden Among the Stars is a relevant and compelling story, one that leaves me with much upon which to reflect. I’ll end with this expression of Callie’s thoughts toward the end …
Only God knows the entire score of our lives, but we all have our
assigned parts, measures to sing solo or with a choir.
Very highly recommended.
I received a copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.
About the Author
Melanie is the former corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family and owner of the publicity firm Dobson Media Group. When she isn’t writing, Melanie enjoys teaching both writing and public relations classes at George Fox University.
Melanie and her husband, Jon, have two daughters. After moving numerous times with work, the Dobson family has settled near Portland, Oregon, and they love to hike and camp in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest and along the Pacific Coast. Melanie also enjoys exploring ghost towns and abandoned homes, helping care for kids in her community, and reading stories with her girls.
Visit Melanie online at www.melaniedobson.com.
Guest Post from Melanie
Hallstatt’s Hiding PlacesBackpacking across Europe—that’s how my husband Jon and I decided to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We savored the old world culture and charm as we hiked along Italy’s coast, toured medieval castles in Germany, and cruised the canals in Belgium; we both left a bit of our hearts in an ancient lakeside town called Hallstatt.
The moment we stepped off the ferryboat and into this storybook village, we crossed through a portal of sorts, traveling back several centuries in time. The rugged, snow-capped mountains around us and alpine lake, the quaint village with its church steeples and cobblestone lanes and waterfall that spilled into town—all of it captivated us.
Along the shore, hidden partially by trees, we could see spires of an abandoned castle, and I wanted to know its story. No one in Hallstatt could tell us who’d lived in the castle—at least, not in English—so my husband agreed to a new adventure. With a swan as our escort, we glided across the lake in an electric boat so I could study the rusty turrets, boarded windows, and wooden boathouse resting in the water like a felled log.
Instead of quelling my curiosity, the match of inspiration ignited my mind. Who had lived in this castle, and what happened there? I began writing in my journal that night, trying to capture my rogue thoughts on paper, hoping that one day a novel would emerge from the ashes of this castle’s story.
When we returned home, I began researching more of Hallstatt’s history and discovered that this region, in all of its beauty and mystique, had been infiltrated by an enemy in 1938. This town and the surrounding Salzkammergut became a mountain retreat for Nazi officials who built mansions on the shores of its many lakes and used salt mines to hide “ownerless treasure”—the gold bullion and artwork they’d stolen from the Jewish people.
The Nazis intended to build a Fourth Reich in this alpine fortress, but the Allies had other plans. Near the end of the war, these lakes became a dustbin of sorts, collecting whatever the enemy dumped into its waters—weapons, counterfeit banknotes, concentration camp lists—as they fled south from the Allied troops. The Devil’s Dustbin, locals call it.
Lake Hallstatt plunges more than four hundred feet between the fortress of mountains. Because of its depth and the many hiding places in the underwater forests, caves, and shifting sands, divers continue finding World War II artifacts today. Some still believe there’s a treasure trove buried on the bottom, but no one has reported finding any gold.
After our trip, a story about this castle and what happened to the heirlooms of the Austrian Jewish people continued to burn inside me until I finally put it on paper. So I built Schloss Schwansee—Castle of Swan Lake—in my mind, inspired by the castle along Lake Hallstatt, and created a cast of historical and contemporary characters who are searching for lost treasure.
Hidden Among the Stars is a time-slip novel about a castle and treasure and fairytales, but most of all, it’s a story about God using ordinary people across Austria to resist evil in their own extraordinary way.
To celebrate her tour, Melanie is giving away a grand prize package that includes a $25 Amazon gift card, Catching the Wind paperback, and Hidden Among the Stars paperback!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the image above or the link below to enter.
Reading Is My SuperPower, September 6
Fiction Aficionado, September 6
Back Porch Reads, September 6
Among the Reads, September 6
The Power of Words, September 7
Multifarious, September 7
lady ansel book vibes, September 7
The Becca Files, September 7
God’s Little Bookworm, September 8
Christian Chick’s Thoughts, September 8
Painting with Words, September 8
Lis Loves Reading, September 8
cherylbbookblog, September 9
Living LIfe Free in Christ, September 9
Madeline Clark, September 9
Mary Hake, September 9
Reflections From My Bookshelves, September 10
Genesis 5020, September 10
Faithfully Bookish, September 10
Simple Harvest Reads, September 10 (Guest post from Mindy Houng)
Margaret Kazmierczak, September 11
All-of-a-kind Mom, September 11
Daysong Reflections, September 11
Caffeinated Christian Raves – N – Reviews, September 11
Seasons of Opportunities, September 12
Remembrancy, September 12
Inklings and notions, September 12
amandainpa, September 12
Maureen’s Musing, September 13
Locks, Hooks and Books, September 13
Just Commonly, September 13
Book by Book, September 13
Connect in Fiction, September 14
Pause for Tales, September 14
Have A Wonderful Day, September 14
Splashes of Joy, September 14
The Christian Fiction Girl, September 15
Tell Tale Book Reviews, September 15
To Everything A Season, September 15
A Baker’s Perspective, September 15
proud to be an autism mom, September 16
Bibliophile Reviews, September 16
Bigreadersite, September 16
Aryn The Libraryan, September 16
By The Book, September 17
Christian author, J.E. Grace, September 17
Janices book reviews, September 17
Texas Book-aholic, September 18
Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, September 18
Carpe Diem, September 18
Godly Book Reviews, September 19
For The Love of Books, September 19
Live. Love. Read., September 19
Reader’s Cozy Corner, September 19