Friday, July 10, 2015

On the Bookshelf: On the occasion that I read books about vampires and romance (but not Twilight!!!)

Happy Friday! Welcome to the series, "On the Bookshelf." This is a place where we can share the books that we've been reading lately! My goal is to give you my brief take on each book that I've read from the library (even the ones I don't like), so if you need any reading ideas, I might have something for you to try! 

In no particular order, let us begin! Also, I meant to write short blurbs about each book, but as I went down the list, my reviews got longer and longer. But I don't feel like deleting from the longer reviews,'ll have to bear with me : ) 

Brentwood's Ward,  by Michelle Griep. This book had a recommendation by Julie Klassen (an awesome Christian Regency author) on it, so I knew I had to read it. It was a pretty fun, intriguing book, telling the story of a young woman and the Bow Street Runner who has been hired to protect her. It's a pretty sweet, somewhat predictable love story, and nothing too mind-bendingly deep, so it's an easy read for those late nights when you can't get to sleep. The book has some dark themes in it, so I would say it's for high school-aged people on up.

Jasmine Nights, by Julia Gregson. This historical fiction novel is inspired by the true stories of female entertainers who acted as spies during World War II. I never knew that there were female entertainers who did this in WWII, so naturally, I knew I needed to read this book. This novel is engaging, and pulls you into the lives of Saba, Dom, and many other people who are fighting the war on different levels. It brings us to Wales, England, and Cairo. There are wonderful descriptions and a suspenseful story lines, and the novel really makes this aspect of WWII alive for the reader. That being said, there were elements of which I was not a fan. First, there is a smattering of profane language here and there (I kind of expected it, but I thought I'd mention it). Also, the main love story involves a lot of sex. The sex scenes aren't super explicit, but it made me really sad that so much of the romance involved bedroom stuff. I had my hopes that they would turn their romance around, but, to my sadness, the love story did not conclude in the way I wanted it. Also, from the discussions many characters have, you get can start to get the impression that everyone and his cousin was fornicating during the war, because "everyone's stressed, so it's okay to sleep around with whomever!" I'm willing to bet that only some people fornicated during wartime, and that it wasn't as widespread as the book made it out to be. Anyways, I would definitely put this book at an older teen/adult level, because of the content.

Burn, by Ted Dekker & Erin Healy. This thriller follows Janeal, a member of the Rom, as she gets tangled up into a messy bit of illegal dealings. We see how she deals with the situation, and how the consequences of her choice affect her entire life. Ted Dekker is a wonderful Christian author of thriller & serial killer novels, but I like some of his other stuff way better than this one. Burn was very entertaining, and I liked it, but it wasn't my favorite. I thought the plot twist was never fully plausibly explained, which most likely contributes to my slight dissatisfaction. Otherwise, the novel is engaging, and has some great teaching points and moral lessons (this story is a bit parable-esque, which I think is cool, but I know some people don't like that kind of thing). Due to some heavy content, this book is for older teens and adults.

Once Upon a Prince, by Rachel Hauck. I don't watch many chick flicks, but one of my favorites is The Prince & Me. I grew up watching it with my family quite often. It's a fun, lighthearted romance. This book felt like the Christian version of The Prince & Me, and I liked it A LOT. We meet Susanna, a spirited southern girl, as her boyfriend of 12 years breaks up with her. Ouch. We then meet Nathaniel, the Crown Prince of a foreign (fictional) country during his visit to America, enjoying his last days of freedom before becoming king. I think you can see where this will head. This book made me laugh, tugged at my heart, and was beautifully enjoyable. It's another one of those fantastic books for relaxation when you want something fun. Even though this was in the adult section of the library, I'd say teenagers on up could read this. There is one female character who's rather provocative, and I think the book might mention sex in passing at one point, but that's about all I'd want to be mindful of in terms of your child reading it.

Dracula, by Bram Stoker. This book has been on my reading list FOREVER, and I finally got around to reading it! My only introduction to Dracula had been from the movie, Van Helsing, and I knew that I needed to read the book (I had also heard that it's a good read for Catholics). I'm quite glad that I did. I will say that the morning after I begun the book (I couldn't sleep the other night, so I read Dracula until I slept. Surprisingly, I didn't have nightmares!), I was super creeped out. I kept looking over my shoulder all day, half expecting the Count to be standing behind me. I prayed to St. Michael a lot that day : )  Anyways, back to the book: Not only is Stoker a brilliant writer, but the story has a lot of awesomeness to say about the power of God & sacramentals in the face of evil. So, Stoker wasn't Catholic, and he definitely got some stuff wrong (ie: you aren't supposed to crumple the Eucharist and sprinkle Jesus over the ground, even to ward off a vampire). But, that being said, it's a beautiful story in which we see that the Eucharist and the Crucifix are what repel the devil. Because Dracula is the anti-Christ: his "resurrection" from the grave each night is like a mockery of Christ's resurrection from the dead, and Dracula literally sucks the life out of people. This is a story about the battle of good and evil, between God and the devil. It shows us who vampires really are (demonic), which I think is important in our culture, where modern-day authors and scriptwriters "de-fang" the vampire and turn him into some Romantic, dashing figure. End rant. There's probably lots of Freudian analysis for this book (because it's Gothic fiction), but I really liked looking at it for the spiritual aspects. I highly recommend this book for high school on up.

Emma, Mr. Knightley & Chili-Slaw Dogs, by Mary Jane Hathaway. When I saw this on the shelf, I had two reactions: How have I never heard of this?? It looks amazing! and What in the world is a chili-slaw dog? This book was a treat. The modern-day reflection of Jane Austen's Emma was lovely, the Southern charm delightful, and the lavish descriptions of food and clothes were fabulous. I'm not a hot dog person, but I now want a chili-slaw dog. And I want to host a regency ball in a barn (that may or may not happen in the book). If you like Jane Austen's Emma, you will love this book. The characters are fantastic, and I really, really like "Emma" and "Knightley" and their relationship. Also, in the book, I always think Emma is a bit of a jerk for how she "guides" Harriet. Yeah, Emma's well-meaning, but I still feel sorry for Harriet. In this book, I actually sympathize a lot more with "Emma's" guidance and advice for "Harriet." My only "note of caution" for this book is that there is one tiny (about a page long) "steamy" scene towards the end. I wasn't a fan of that scene, thought that the descriptions were a little gratuitous, and I skimmed it (because you can see it coming).  Other than that, I loved everything about this book. Happily, I discovered that there are two other books in the "Jane Austen Takes the South" series, and they are in-transit to my library : )  These books are definitely for teenagers on up (I would even read it out loud to a non-teenage girl and omit the "steamy" scene!).

That's my round of books for this week! Are there any books you've read lately which you recommend? I love expanding my reading list! As it may be apparent from today's post, I like reading from a wide range of topics : ) 

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