Thursday, May 27, 2010

She Walks in Beauty

I was thrilled to receive a copy of SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY by Siri Mitchell, from Bethany House, one of my favorite publishing companies. Plagued by a cough, I relaxed on the sofa with the novel and planned to read an hour before bed. Around midnight, I closed the book, finished, and wished for more. The characters are not only believable, and the dialogue realistic, but they worm their way into your heart. The main character, Clara, is forced into her New York City debut (in the year 1891) by her widowed aunt. It is an early debut because an heir has returned to the city seeking a wife, and both Clara’s aunt and father have their eyes set on him. Clara loves nothing more than reading and learning, but her aunt forces her to succumb to society. This includes a restraining corset, fan flirting, and “cutting” those who get in her way, including her best friend. Clara discovers that she dislikes the heir, but finds close friendship in his younger brother Harry – a match her family strongly disapproves of, and thereby forbids. When Clara’s father suddenly dies, she is rendered penniless and the heir proposes to her best friend. Clara decides to become a helper to an elderly woman touring Europe, and when she tells Harry, he asks her to elope with him. The story is flavored with intrigue and secrets, delving into the tenement and Tammany Hall situations that had plagued the New York City of that time. Clara also discovers that her father, a doctor, has been poisoning his patients with a fake tonic and that he was responsible for the early death of her mother. It was a book well worth reading.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


At first glimpse, I was unsure of what to expect from I AM HUTTERITE by Mary-Ann Kirkby, received from Thomas Nelson. I knew very little about the Hutterites, but this book opened my eyes to their communities. The book is told as the true story of a young girl, but it flows like a novel. I read it in one sitting; it is impossible to put down. The narrative begins by describing the girl’s mother and how she met the man she would later marry. He came from another community, and faced opposition from her people. The story continues to show the narrator’s childhood. Hutterite life is described in beautiful language. When you read, you feel like the characters come to life. Real black-and-white photographs that begin each chapter aid this imagery. As the narrator grows older, her parents become more unsettled with life in the community, especially after one of their children dies. Her parents decide to move away, and sneak off the community to live in an abandoned house. Once out in the “real world,” she faces many challenges that “English” people take for granted. For example, her mother is unable to pack standard lunches for her and she ends up collecting discarded saran wrap in order to fit in. She also learns how to deal with dressing differently than everyone else. Eventually, she connects with a Mennonite group. Her struggles are real, and more than just trying to fit in, she must embrace her culture and religion.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sixteen Brides

Excitement ensued when I received a copy of SIXTEEN BRIDES by Stephanie Grace Whitson from Bethany House. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I eagerly ate this book up. I had it read cover to cover in one day. The characters are very realistic, and I felt like I knew them in real life. The scenery “out west” is easy to picture, and the dialogue is easy to follow. One issue I had involved Caroline’s speech. Sometimes it was “Southern,” other times not. The story follows sixteen women as they travel out west to gain land. Once there, they discover that they are actually meant to be brides, not homesteaders. Most of the women go on to meet the men, while others stay in a small town seeking land and jobs. These women are the ones that the story follows more closely. They meet some men, most of them questionable, who they eventually end up marrying. One of the men has a mysterious past, but the clues give away what it is too soon in the story. He turned out to be a very lovable character, and his motherless daughter was a sweetheart. Hettie’s portion of the story made me sad. I understood the troubles between her and her husband, but at the end, I was left wanting much more. Ruth’s story made me smile, and I felt like Jackson, her son, led into a sequel. I will definitely read the sequel. I hope that, if there is a sequel, Jackson falls in love with Matthew’s daughter.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

If I Could Ask God Anything

When I received a copy of IF I COULD ASK GOD ANYTHING by Kathryn Slattery from Thomas Nelson, I was expecting it to be more of a child’s book. I was afraid it was going to put faithful doubts into the minds of children, but after reading it, I was happy to find it was answers to questions that are more factual. It is presented as a book that answers children’s questions but I found it to be more of a reference book. It is also a good book for adults to read to children in order to answer the questions commonly asked. This book of knowledge is written so that anyone of any age can enjoy its contents. Many of the questions, such as “Why do some Christians put fish-shaped symbols on their cars?” were questions I had often wondered myself. Other questions, such as whether or not is okay to pray with a friend over the phone, were geared toward a younger sect. It includes quotes from the bible to back up the answers to the questions. I found the book to be very informative. I had no idea why the word Selah is in the margins of Psalms. I would not have known to where to look up the answer, but this book gives the reader not only the answer to this, but also to many other puzzling bible questions. Although it is a biblical reference source, it is also a page-turner. I found myself getting out my bible to look up the bible citations to read further. So far, my parents have also read it, and found it greatly informational.