Thursday, March 29, 2012
Book review Thursday...
Ahhh, finally taking a breather after a long day. Books have been on my mind lately, given that my Kindle is my new best friend. Mike gives it the slitty eye whenever he sees it in its adorable pink case accompanying me everywhere, like maybe he's jealous of the attention I'm lavishing on it. But seriously. I'm in love with it.
So, Catholic fiction. I did end up purchasing book 3 of the John Paul II High series for my Kindle and will dive into it as soon as I finish the novel I'm currently reading. Which is one of the "Fairy Tale Novels" series by Regina Doman. I own nearly the whole set that she's written so far in traditional print form, and I picked up the first book, The Shadow of the Bear, to read last week.
Let me tell you: I was impressed. These are books marketed to young adults, written by a homeschooling mom. But once again, this is young adult fiction that adults can enjoy and appreciate. The first 3 that she wrote are actually a trilogy, which I didn't know. I only own the first one, and now I'm dying to get the other 2 in that series (Black as Night and Waking Rose)! They're on my Kindle shopping list. :) Anyway, these are modern takes on old Grimm's fairy tales, and Shadow of the Bear is a retelling of Snow White and Rose Red.
In this book, we meet 2 sisters who live with their mom in New York City. Their dad has recently passed away, and both are feeling out of sorts in their new Catholic high school. One night, their mom comes home from work and is nearly run down by a car just outside their house. A bedraggled looking young man helps her to safety and she invites him in out of the cold. The man calls himself "Bear" and appears to be homeless and has a touch of frostbite. The older sister, Blanche, is suspicious of his mysterious nature, although her impetuous younger sister Rose and their trusting mother accept him without question and invite him to come back for a visit later in the week. Blanche knows that she recognizes this man, and she believes that it was he who she has seen dealing drugs in their school parking lot.
As the story unfolds, we see Blanche and Rose go about trying to make friends and fit in at their school and figure out whether Bear is friend or foe. They both gradually come to treasure his evening visits to their home and the friendship and camaraderie he brings to their lonely lives. When it becomes clear that Bear is harboring a secret, both sisters want to get to the bottom of it and clear Bear's name.
I didn't know how I was going to like this book at first (it was a birthday gift) but I ended up loving it. I am keeping it for my own kids to read when they are teenagers. What I like the most about this book is how the author creates realistic Catholic characters and has them face challenges that all teenagers face. The characters then deal with those challenges (either at first, or ultimately, after having learned the hard way) in the way that we as Catholic parents would want them to. GOOD, good stuff.
Since I'm currently lacking the other 2 books in the series (very much anxious to hear the rest of Blanche and Rose's stories!) I picked up a stand alone book in this collection, The Midnight Dancers. Oh my. I couldn't put this book down! This is a modern take on Grimm's The Twelve Dancing Princesses.
Our heroine in this story is Rachel, and yes, she has *11* sisters, plus 2 young brothers. It's a Brady Bunch situation with her widowed father remarrying and both of them bringing large families together into one. The sisters range in age from Rachel at 18 down to 11. Their father is overseas in the military, and after an injury, he decides to retire so that he can be home more with his children. Just before he retires, he meets a young army medic named Paul, and finds out that prior to beginning medical school the following fall, Paul will be a performer at a festival right in his home town. The two reconnect back in America, and Paul becomes a family friend. The intrigue comes in when the girls' father makes a request of Paul: to get to know his daughters and try to find out what secret they're hiding. Because he knows they have one, he just feels that he isn't close enough to them, after being away for so many years, to figure out what it is. Paul agrees to befriend the girls, but only on the condition that he won't divulge any information that he uncovers; he'll only work with the girls to tell their father themselves.
Ok, so here is the good part. The family is currently very fundamentalist Christian and both parents are extremely involved in their church. The girls feel stifled in the highly structured environment and long for freedoms that their parents would never allow. So what happens? They find an ingenious way to sneak out of their house every night while their parents are sleeping. For a time, they simply go to the nearby beach and swim. But then...boys get involved. Some boys from their church find out about their scheme and sneak out to meet them every night. Then...boys NOT from their church start coming. Then...they start traveling off the beach to an island nearby to have dances, since some of the boys have boats. There, they meet yet other interesting people with a mixed influence...
Paul, for his part, is watching out for them, unbeknownst to them. Paul is the Catholic character in this book, and naturally the other characters have a bit of an anti-Catholic bias against his faith. So that raises some interesting scenes. But what ends up happening is that when Paul finds out what the girls are up to, he feels that he should be around when they have these midnight escapades so that he can protect them and intervene if needed. They don't know he's there; he found out about their adventures on a lark and without their knowledge. He knows everything that they are doing, but he can't say anything to them about it. And he also doesn't want to say anything to the girls' parents. While the younger girls look up to him and enjoy his company, the older girls are a bit disdainful of their father's young friend. And yet they are the ones Paul is most concerned about, since they are drawing the eager attentions of numerous young men with dubious motives. Paul very gently tries to plant the seeds for the girls to trust their parents again and be able to communicate with them about concerns they have about the family's lifestyle, as well as reasonable individual choices they 'd like to make for themselves, such as their style of clothing and dating. He tries to get the girls to see that they shouldn't allow men to view them only in terms of their physical beauty.
This book was *excellent*. I couldn't stop reading it. The intrigue is just off the charts. I just had to keep finding out what would happen next, and if everybody was somehow going to get caught by the others! Highly, highly recommend this one. Now I'm reading Alex O'Donnell and the 40 Cyber Thieves, which is the author's most recent book.