Fiction – Adult

Occasionally I find a Christian author whose writing style appeals and I settle in to enjoy some Christian fiction, generally romance or suspense.

Terri Blackstock’s Restoration Novels are Christian suspense and very engaging.  Imagine if tomorrow a supernova sends out pulses that interrupts any and all electromagnetic energy here on earth.  There would be chaos, nothing would work that we rely on today in our technological world.

Cars couldn’t run, planes couldn’t fly, watches wouldn’t work, nor phones, generators, sewage systems, eftpos machines etc, nor could goods be replenished.  Hospitals would have no life saving machines functioning, emergency services couldn’t function and police hard to contact. Banking systems would collapse etc etc

Blackstock’s story plot instantly grabbed me as our 16 year old is totally fascinated by all things electromagnetic, this is the field he plans on studying at University and he has endeavoured to explain electromagnetism to me a time or two, I’m still working on understanding;)

The Restoration novels focus on the trials and triumphs of a Christian family, the Brannings and their neighbours and friends. The Brannings are a wealthy American family of six, Mum, Dad and daughters, 22 and 12 and sons 16 and 9.

The three novels are written predominately from the perspective of the oldest daughter, 22 year old Dani. My initial and mostly continual reaction to Dani was I wanted to slap her, a pretty violent reaction from me but she would have to be the most selfish, self-centered character I have ‘met’ in a long time, probably up there with Scarlett O’Hara.  Really I nearly put the book down as I also found the other children self-centered and the family was like a collection of individuals and not a family unit, however I persevered and was soon engrossed.

As the crisis continued the various family members eventually began to change, found strengths within themselves, became more charitable and giving Christians and became far better people.  Eventually I even grew to like Dani, though I always liked her friend Mark, a exemplary guy and her mother who was a giving woman.

As a Catholic I did find a few theology differences, though I’m used to that when reading Christian fiction.  The last novel really grated as the difference was quite distinct.  The family faced a terrible situation, one every parent prays they never have to face, their youngest daughter, Beth was terribly attacked and in critical condition. But the author’s ‘take’ is not mine at all.

So here’s my theology ‘take’. There are three ‘powers’; natural, supernatural and preternatural and though God has set up the natural laws He doesn’t often intervene, He can and does, but some bad things just are, take earthquakes etc. Now looking at when other sorts of terrible events occur, sometimes they are simply accidents but sometimes terrible events are the result of evil actions, people choosing to do the wrong thing, a legacy of free will which He gave us. So when Beth was attacked I see this a result of free will exercised with evil intent.  I don’t see this as God needing to ‘teach’ a Christian more, for them needing to learn more and this is Him breaking them down to ‘get it’! I see it simply for what it is, wrong intent on behalf of the attacker.  Not to say that we can’t grow closer to God in situations like this or take something from it.  But He allows it not causes it, big difference.

A great tetralogy, engaging writing, great story plot, believable character development.

Dr David Henry delivers his wife’s twins on a night that haunts the lives of all involved forever.  The Henry’s son is a healthy boy but their daughter has Down syndrome.  In a split second Dr Davids decides to tell his wife their baby daughter died and entrusts the baby to the care of his nurse, asking her to take the child to an institution.  After visiting the institution the nurse makes the decision to keep the infant girl, moving to another city and raising her as her own. The secret has far reaching consequences as the family’s grief tears them apart. Whilst it wasn’t the best written novel the author weaved her tale of family, grief and betrayal so well I was riveted.  I couldn’t shake the plot from my mind, as I know of family members who discovered years later they had a ‘hidden’ family member in institutions, not an unknown practice in the 1960s.  Highly recommended. 

Kite Runner

The Kite Runner is the story of a friendship between a wealthy Afghan boy and the son of his father’s servant.  The novel opens in Afghanistan in the final days of the monarchy and continues with the tyranny of the Taliban.  This is a story of betrayal and ultimately redemption.  Raw in parts, characters are exposed in all their strengths and weaknesses, an unexpected twist is revealed towards the conclusion of the novel.  If you are in the mood for gritty and real, highly recommended.

The Dry Grass of August

Jubie Watts, her three siblings, mother and the family’s black maid, Mary head to Florida for a holiday. Jubie loves Mary who has worked for her family for years.  With her father’s rages and her mother neglect, Mary is the one to bring love and stability to her life.  Set in 1954 in the deep South during racial segregation, we note that the deeper south the family travels the racial tension builds, until their trip ends in a shocking tragedy.  Afterwards Jubie has to confront her parents’ failings.  The author depicts the era well and weaves a strong cast of characters. A story of heartbreak, love and courage, very thought provoking. Highly recommended,

The Distant Hours – Kate Morton

Kate Morton would have to be one of the most riveting writers I’ve read, every character and their relationships are fascinating and I’m always ‘hanging out’ for the secrets to be revealed and the mystery to be solved. Within each novel, of which I’ve now read a few, she explores women relationships; mother/daughter, sisters, aunts, the integral component to her plot.

Edie Burchill is drawn to Milderhurst castle, where her mum was evacuated as a child during the War.  50 years later the eccentric Blythe family, the three sisters still live there together, the older twins caring for their ‘baby’ sister who plunged into madness when she was abandoned by her fiancee during the War.  Edie unravels the truth of what really happened in ‘the distant hours’, dark secrets which have been waiting a long time to be revealed.  I admit to being a bit disappointed with the conclusion but I’ll stop there as ‘no spoilers’. Though The Forgotten Garden still remains my favourite Morton mystery, The Distant Hours didn’t disappoint, once again I read voraciously for days until the conclusion.

Finding Grace – Laura Pearl

Last year I was delighted when I won a copy of Finding Grace written by my friend Laura. Reading and reviewing a book when you ‘know’ the author was a different experience. Whilst Laura and I have yet to meet (we live on opposite sides of the world) we have been connecting over our blogs for more than a year, there are similarities in our personalities and our lives.

When you read a book written by a friend whom you are wanting to deepen a friendship with, you read said book with a different mindset, as if gleaning for further insights even though your friend has clarified, though her characters share a couple of characteristics of people in her life, she has not based the novel on her life you still wonder… therefore your reactions to the characters of the story become more personal which makes it harder to review.

My thoughts, when the reader becomes so engrossed in a story that they really engage with the characters, liking and disliking them, then the author has done a good job. Long after putting Finding Grace down I was still thinking about the characters, plotting sequels for the other characters, I really wanted to know the story of one of Grace’s childhood classmates but alas Laura assures her readers Finding Grace is a stand alone and her next book, Erin’s Ring is totally different.

Synopsis, Grace Kelly (not THE GK) a thirteen year old is inspired by a comment of her father’s to become a saint. The book is set in the early 1970s a challenging time for young people as the world recovers from the sexual revolution and young Catholics are not exempt from this shake up. Grace is raised in a Catholic home and attends a Catholic highschool, she calls upon Our Lord, Our Blessed Mother and the saints to help her navigate the rocky waters of growing up in this era. The author has been authentic to the period, to the culture, some of the phrases used made me smile as they were so corny and so 70s.

To be honest Grace in the beginning really irritated me, I so wanted to shake her and talk her into having a better sense of self identity, of her worth, she was so worried about her looks, she badly needed self confidence.  I don’t recall ever being that painful at 13, she was embarrassingly obsessed. As her character developed in sanctity she focused less on the shallow. Grace’s father bothered me, he preached at Grace, I don’t take well to that sort of approach. Grace’s mother I liked and was saddened that her and Grace were not closer and Grace’s brothers were extremely likable and admirable young men. Tom Buckley, Grace’s friend was a young man of impressive character, he had moral strength and consideration for others, no wonder Grace ‘fell for’ him, certainly an admirable young man.

Grace suffers lots of teen angst, battling with her own insecurities, whilst having to navigate the moral issues of the 70s, including teen pregnancy and abortion, issues which continue to be part of the challenge of young people today. The answers to moral issues of the 70s ultimately are no different for today’s generation and Laura dealt with them very well. We see Grace develop from a young insecure girl into a young woman of depth, we watch her show compassion to others who have chosen different paths to hers and we watch her romance with Tom Buckley grown and mature.  I was thinking about the novel long after I put it down and I’m eager to read Laura’s next book.

The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

In 1939, Nazi Germany, Liesel is a foster girl living in Munich.  She loves her accordion playing foster father, she helps her foster parents hide a Jewish man in their basement, and she steals books.

Written for young adults this book has everybody talking, it was with interest I picked up my copy to read.  I really struggled to ‘get into’ this novel.  Reading all the reviews I note with interest The Book Thief provokes two emotions, you either love it or hate it, I’m afraid I fall into the second category.  A few reasons that I found totally distracting, The Narrator of the book was Death!  Rather a unique approach but totally distracting to have the whole book written in third person.  Then the sentence syntax and grammar.  The sentences were mostly very short, or the longer ones were broken up with an excess of commas, this style was totally distracting and made the story rather choppy for me. I persevered, I did managed to skim the entire book but the story line never really grabbed me.  So alas I join the dissenting voices for this one.

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