Tag Archives: fiction

American Girl, Unplugged

Last week, I happened upon a new blog: Unplugged Sunday, a blog about a family that…well, unplugs on Sundays.  They swap iPods and wifi for books, hikes, and cooking together.

 

 

 

 

Doesn’t that sound phenomenal?  The Professor and I were talking about how recently our computer/TV/screen-in-general time had seen a dramatic uptick, so we decided to dive into our own unplugged Sunday.

Were we successful?  Sort of.

It wasn’t idyllic, there was no hiking, no gourmet dinner.  Pookie whined all day with teething/growing/I-hate-being-weaned pains.  We didn’t even make it the whole day: we turned on the computer sometime after 6PM to listen to some sports talk radio (a station we can’t get on the actual radio) and to print a journal article for the Professor.  That led to fantasy baseball team-checking, Tetris playing, and so on.

But.  We played together on the floor.  We had a nice library outing.  We talked more about the Sunday sermon than we otherwise would have.  During Pookie’s nap, the Professor and I played Kings in the Corner and Go Fish while laughing our heads off.  We read in bed and turned out the lights early.

Not perfect, but good enough to try again.

How does that relate to American Girl?  I’m glad you asked.

After reading Cinderella Ate My Daughter and the author’s account of the American Girl store, my love for the American Girl books was rekindled.  I remember reading Meet Felicity, Meet Addy, Meet Molly, and the like in my grandmother’s basement when I was a little girl.  The books portray history (think the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWII, the Depression, etc.) through the eyes of relatable, strong, moral, dynamic young girls–the kind of girls you want your own daughter(s) to be.

So for my own reading and nostalgic pleasure, I browsed the American Girl section at the library, brought how a few of the classic Felicity books, a Felicity mystery (more of a novel length book), and a “Girls of Many Lands” book–a novel-length story that follows a girl named Cecile as she serves at the court of Versailles in 1711.  I haven’t finished any of them (see the teething/growing/I-hate-being-weaned note above) but plan to finish and write about them Thursday.

What’s your take on American Girl?

Abomination & Barbie Dolls

Sherri Early of Semicolon wrote recently on her blog about the need for light and darkness in novels, particularly as this pertains to Christian literature: how dark is “too dark”?  Can Christian books make mention of occult things, sinful things, dark things while still edifying?

While I love Amish/plain living romances, sometimes I feel like something more…meaty, if you will, but I haven’t had much luck finding Christian fiction that isn’t clunky, one-dimensional, or underdeveloped (my budget has me strapped to the library, so that may be part of my problem).

So I approached Abomination by Colleen Coble with some trepidation; I haven’t read a thriller in quite some time and never one labeled as Christian.  I worried I might have found a clunker.

I was wrong.

Abomination opens with a woman who has been attacked and stabbed but cannot remember how it happened, where she is, who she is, or why the little girl in the back seat calls her mama.  From other characters’ POVs, we learn that the amnesia-ridden woman is being hunted by a serial killer, plus her worried ex-husband (who happens to be the police officer investigating the serial killer).

Twists and turns abound, and I gasped when I learned who the killer was…not who I was expecting, which is always a nice surprise.

{There were a few unfortunate bits, mostly editing: the main character’s true identity is given away too soon because of a typo, sentences that don’t work, wonky speech patterns, repetitive word choice…but that might be the OCD editor in me.}

The balance of light and dark was quite good; perfect, actually for a dreamer like me.  When I was younger, I got so wrapped up in The Face on the Milk Carton that I worried I might have been stolen from my real parents, even though I look just like my mother, I talk just like my mother, I act just like my mother, and I probably even chew gum just like my mother.  So, I have a history of allowing the story to take me in too much.

But that didn’t happen this time around; I had a moment in the dark of my home where I thought of Gideon, the serial killer in Abomination, but then my thoughts turned to Christ.  It was like he said, “Hey, that’s just a story…aren’t I bigger than a story?”  And He is.

So maybe I’ve grown up or maybe Colleen Coble hit the right balance of dark and light; I’ll let you read it and decide.

Also, I devoured a book a few weeks ago called Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein.  I wish I had it in front of me so that I could talk about it better, but if you have a young daughter, it’s worth the read.  It’s also worth asking the questions the book raises, like how does princess play affect our daughters?  Is Snow White really a good role model if her single greatest quality is her looks–I mean, what else does the girl do?

Orenstein looks at girlhood critically with all sorts of facts and statistics, but she also approaches the subject from a mom’s perspective, thinking of and writing about her own little girl.  At times the book is terrifying, as I don’t want to think of Pookie being marketed to constantly with pink or pressured to look “hot” when she reaches third grade or spend her teen years confused by the world’s message that she should looking desirable is good but feeling desire is bad.

The book is secular, so Orenstein and I disagreed on certain things (sex before marriage as an example), but it was a fascinating look into the marketing machine and the new world of girl in today’s society.  Again, a must-read for parents of young girls.

Well, could those titles have been any more different?!

I also found myself relating to a lot of Orenstein’s theses, thinking, “That’s exactly what happened to me…that’s how I felt/thought/acted.”

Finally, a little fiction!

I don’t know what it is about motherhood, but I have found it darn near impossible to get through a novel these days!  Finally, the happy day has come in which I plowed through the last 100-or-so pages in an evening and have that satisfied, finished feeling.

The book?  The Thorn by Beverly Lewis.

But before I talk about the book, I must give a little background on my relationship with Beverly Lewis.

No, I don’t actually know her or anything, but I had never read Amish fiction before I read her books, and I think I had only ever read one Christian novel.  I was working at a library and commuting to university two days a week…two hours each way (it was only for a semester, but still pretty crazy).

After one round-trip with nothing but the radio to keep me company, I knew something needed to change.  I started scouring audiobook titles as I shelved them and happened upon The Covenant, the first of the Abram’s Daughters series.

And oh. my. word. I fell head over heels for the simplicity of the lives but the complexity in the story. As I was only months from my own wedding, I desperately wanted a happy ending for Leah and Jonas…but I had to get through five books to know whether or not it happened!  I love how Beverly Lewis keeps you on your toes, makes it seem as though a happy ending is impossible, then gives you an ending that is satisfying, plausible, and unexpected all at once.

Plus, isn’t she cute as a button?

The Thorn follows Rose Ann as she cares for her injured mother, courts a beau, and tries to keep a wayward neighbor fella–adopted by the local bishop when the boy was nine–from leaving the Plain life behind.  Meanwhile, her older sister longs to get back to her Amish roots…even though she married an Englischer and has a daughter.

I can’t say much more without giving away the game, but it was delightful to get through a novel, and I can hardly wait for book two of the trilogy, The Judgment, to make an appearance at my local library!

When you’re looking for a good novel, who do you reach for?