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What I Read This Summer...

Or perhaps this post is better titled, what my girls and I read this summer! Last week, when we were camping, my daughter Rebecca spent most of her time in the hammock reading, and Katie and I spent most of our time curled up in chairs of in beds reading.

It was pure bliss.

I was honoured to receive some review copies of some new Christian fiction, so let me tell you today about Nancy Moser's Masquerade.

It's a fun romp, set in the 1880s in New York, contrasting the high society of the Astors with the Italian immigrant communities.

But it doesn't start that way. It starts with high-bred Lottie and her maid Dora back in England, where Lottie's marriage prospects fade in a family scandal. Her parents decide to send her to America to marry a young, rich man set to inherit a huge family business. But during the journey, Lottie decides she can't go through with a life thought up for her by another. She wants freedom.

So she switches places with her maid. Her maid will marry the rich guy, pretending to be Lottie, while Lottie can start anew. But problems come up (as they always do), and Lottie finds herself destitute and alone in the madhouse that is immigrant New York at the end of the nineteenth century.

What did I like about the book? The rich descriptions and the insight into what it must have been to start over in America with nothing. To think that these people built that great country, most labouring for hardly enough to keep them fed, is truly a testament to the American spirit. I haven't read much about that period, but her rich descriptions about how these poor labourers managed to live in crumbling tenements, with horrible outhouses, are vivid and memorable.

The descriptions and the historical accuracy are wonderful. My 13-year-old loved this book, and my 15-year-old thought it was fine. For a hammock.

However, I'm starting to find the predictability of a lot of Christian fiction wanting. It seems like most of these romances are written for the 13-14 year-old crowd. Even my 15-year-old is starting to long for something of more substance. While there is a Christian message here, it's not one that haunts you. Francine Rivers is amazing for writing Christian messages that haunt you, that grab you, that cause you to think and pray and meditate for days and weeks afterwards. So are Brock and Bodie Thoene. But many of these romances aren't like that. They're Christian, sure, but not enough to stir your soul.

And in both cases, our two heroines in this novel fall in love and accept marriage proposals after spending a grand total of about 8 hours with the men in question. I just don't find it realistic.

My conclusions? If you want a hammock read, where you don't have to think, this is great. And it truly is an amazing insight into the New York immigrant community. It's also a wonderful book to recommend to your young teen. I often find that girls aged 12-15 long for stuff to read, but teen fiction is absolutely horrid. Never let a Christian daughter read secular teen fiction! This stuff is safe, it's wholesome, and it gives interesting insights into life that they wouldn't find otherwise.

But personally, while I love good reads I don't have to think much about (they do have their place!), I find I'm wanting more from our Christian fiction, and I hope publishers start delivering.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


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At 9:35 AM , Blogger Katy-Anne said…

I LOVE Francine Rivers. And I agree with you about how a lot of Christian fiction in general is lacking. A lot of it doesn't have a very strong Christian message, and actually it frustrates me that a lot of it is in the romance genre, which I personally find boring and unrealistic.

I am also sick and tired of all the Amish stories too haha.


At 11:39 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Thank you for this post. I have an almost 14 year old daughter who loves to read and she and I find it so difficult to find books for her. Do you know of any reliable book lists for Christian girls of that age group? I would be happy to have suggestions.



At 4:46 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Katy-Anne, I'm with you, friend! What I do like about the Amish books is the joy people take in the work of their hands, and in being productive. I often find myself complaining about working, rather than seeing it as a joy (although from what I know of actual Amish communities, the women are hardly all joyful). But reading them does usually make want to do dishes with gusto, and I consider that a plus. But everything else is a little bit predictable, and I do find them a little tiresome.

Tess, as for books for your 14-year-old, my girls have really enjoyed the Cathy Marie Hake books. There are quite a few of them now, and they're wonderfully written. They're funny, a little more edgy of the historical romances, and I even smiled during them. They also really like Agatha Christie--not Christian, but interesting nonetheless. My 15-year-old just started the Brock and Bodie Thoene World War Ii series. I had her wait until now because one of the story lines is a girl who survived being made into a prostitute for German officers when she was only 14. I thought that was just too heavy to deal with. But once I talked to Rebecca about it (and she knows former teenage prostitutes from our trips to the Kenyan orphanage), we agreed she could read them. They're exciting, historically accurate, and make you think. Steer clear of Francine Rivers, though, because some border on racy. I love them as an adult, but I wouldn't recommend them for teens!


At 6:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Thanks Sheila, for the book ideas!



At 9:10 PM , Blogger David A. Bedford said…

It sounds like a fun book. I would like to read it myself.

Please visit my blog and leave a comment. Thanks! Also, see my website for a book I think Anonymous' girls and their mother will like.

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About Me

Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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