Sunday, May 18, 2008

More Books

Let's see what's in my "to be entered in Bookmooch" stack.

Debbie Macomber's Mail Order Bride. It's a Silhouette Romance about a lonely guy in Alaska who runs a personal ad for a wife. Two maiden aunts of a woman who has just broken up with her long-time beau answer the ad, in her name. Of course he picks her, and the aunts "give" her a trip to Alaska, sending her off with some spiked tea, so she is three sheets to the wind when she gets there. She thinks the wedding ceremony/reception is some type of tourist reception and doesn't realize she is married until the next day. Of course she is furious. Of course it all works out in the end. The book was exactly what I expected when I picked it up.

Debbie Macomber's Christmas Wishes is a compilation of two romances, both set at Christmas time. One is set on Blossom Street, where her yarn shop books are set. Again nothing unexpected. As romance novels go, both these and Mail Order Bride were relatively clean--steamy kissing scenes but no vivid bedroom scenes.

Turner's Crossings by Penelope Stokes is a collection of short stories about people in a small town in Minnesota. Some people make appearances in more than one story, but each story stands alone. Each is headed by a Bible verse and then each story illustrates that verse. I've heard that Ms. Stokes' books are classified as Christian fiction, but as I've noted here in the past, most aren't typical of that genre as they don't have clearly religious messages, and characters who don't follow evangelical Christianity aren't made out to be bad guys. This book is somewhat more typical of the genre, but even so, it doesn't fit the pigeonhole completely. One story is about a fraudulent revival preacher. In another, a Protestant makes a retreat at a Catholic convent, and while looking at a crucifix (which she has been taught is either an idol or demonstrates lack of faith in the resurrection) finds what she came seeking.

A New Song is another Mitford book, only it isn't set in Mitford. Fr. Tim has taken a temp job on an island and shepards his new flock after a hurricane damages their church. Sweet, and if it was the only one of these books I'd read, I might have better things to say, but I think I'm getting tired of the series. I guess if I had read it when it came out, I wouldn't be as O'D on it. Nevertheless, I also read A Common Life which tells the story of the engagement, wedding and honeymoon of Tim and Cynthia. It was a quicker, easier read than the other books. I have two more of these and I think I'm going to wait to read them. A month or so from now, I may appreciate them more.

A couple of blogs I've perused have mentioned that Lori Wick is a good writer of Christian fiction, so I mooched a couple of her books. I read Leave a Candle Burning which is the last book in a trilogy. It is set in a New England town in the 1840's. The main characters are a disabled man, his wife of convenience, the new doctor in town and the niece he adopts when his brother dies. It is a romance. It is also very preachy. One thing I like about Christian fiction is seeing how people's faith affects their lives, for good and bad. The characters in this book were all too good. There was a minor character whose choice for salvation, which had nothing to do with the story, got several pages. We went to church with the main characters several times and got the sermon. I guess what I'm saying is that if you are looking for a sermon dressed up as a story, this one wasn't bad, but Wick had a basically interesting story that could have been fleshed out more, and she spent too much time preaching at her readers. I doubt I'll read a lot more of her books.

Another Wick book was The Proposal which was set in England in the early 1800's. Three orphans are bestowed on a bachelor cousin they have never met. He has always wanted kids, but never wanted a wife. It doesn't take him long to realize he is in over his head to he heads to his estranged sister (who became estranged because of her religous beliefs) for help. In time he meets the lovely Christian lady down the street. Eventually he finds Jesus and they live happily ever after. Again, all too good to be true. Again, lots of church services.

One Catholic writer whose stories I enjoy is Andrew Greeley. For those who don't know, he is a priest. Happy Are Those Who Thirst for Justice is a murder mystery. The matriarch of an Irish family is killed on her yacht at the end of a weekend family "party" where, as she usually did, she inflicted psychic wounds on all her children, and where she tried to end the engagement of her grandaughter. A priest, Fr. Blackie Ryan, is asked by the police (they are his friends) to help with the investigation. Of course he solves the murder. For what it is worth, I guessed early on who dunnit. Fr. Ryan talks a little about religion, mostly along the lines of God loving us, forgiving us and even laughing at us. If there is deep theology in this book, I missed it.

It is interesting to note the difference between Greeley's writing and Christian fiction. The evil matriarch in this story is a daily communicant. One of her sons in a priest (actually a suffragen bishop) and another is an ex-priest. The family history is riddled with adultery and fornication. Instead of the characters being too good to be true, they are almost too bad to be true--but still Catholic. My experiece in real life tells me Fr. Greeley may be more honest about the human condition. Even with faith, we are sinful. That's why churches have confessionals.

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