Monday, May 5, 2014

Quivering Daughters

Quivering Daughters: Hope and Healing for the Daughters of Patriarchy, by Hilary McFarland

I purchased the ebook via the author's website.

My review:

McFarland writes to an audience that most mainstream people do not even really know exists. While the popularity of the Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar family on TLC means that the average American has at least heard of the homeschooling, fundamentalist-Christian, Quiverfull lifestyle, few realize what day to day life for a child in such a setting can be like. Fewer still are aware of the ramifications of such environments for the spiritual state and self-image of the children, and particularly of the female children, long into adulthood.

It is to these daughters that Hilary McFarland writes. She is careful to remind her readers that she does not presume to address minor children, and instead focuses exclusively on the grown female children of fundamentalist-Christian patriarchal families, with an emphasis on those from large families.

Even well-meaning parents who strive to lead godly families can cause pain. When true biblical principles are mixed in with the misguided teachings of extreme Quiverfull and patriarchal leaders, the pain can be deep, destructive, and lasting. McFarland exposes spiritual abuse within the church and the family unit for what it is, and she contrasts it with the healthy church and family structures mandated in the Bible.

Her tone is kind and full of compassion, encouragement, and grace, which will be sorely needed by the women for whom she writes.

The organizational structure is loose, as is the voice. The compartmentalization of the author's current persona and her past as "Luna" can also be confusing and disconcerting. Still, these characteristics lend validity to McFarland's admission that she herself had to write and journal through her own healing process, and provides one example to her readers of how this may be done.

Highly recommended for adult children of families that emphasized parental control and children's unquestioning submission.

Stars: 4.5

Friday, May 2, 2014

Spring Fever

Spring Fever by Mary Kay Andrews (read by Kathleen McInerney)

I borrowed the audiobook on CD from my local public library.

My review:

Annajane is attending her ex-husband's wedding, which she realizes is a little unorthodox, but then so is her whole relationship with Mason, his daughter, and his whole soda-pop-empire family. Her relationship with Mason's new bride, Celia, is more along the lines of expectation; the two women put on smiles but can barely stand each other. When a last-second accident postpones the wedding, the white cotton gloves come off.

Andrews' dialogue is as snappy and laugh-out-loud funny as in her other books, and there are enough family secrets and twists and turns to satisfy any small-town gossip. Unfortunately, Mason's actions stretch credulity at several points in the narrative. Celia starts out deliciously complex but by the end is reduced to little more than a stock character. Still, Spring Fever will be a good choice for those who love skeletons in closets and feminine characters with strong spines.

Stars: 3.5

Runability: 5

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Heart Wide Open

Heart Wide Open: Trading Mundane Faith for an Exuberant Life with Jesus by Shellie Rushing Tomlinson

I received an advance review copy from the author. Publication date: March 18, 2014

My review:

In a departure from her humorous works, Shellie Tomlinson shares her spiritual journey with readers in Heart Wide Open. There is still plenty of humor, but Shellie uses it to encourage other women who do all of the "right things"-- church attendance, Bible study, morning quiet time-- and still find themselves lacking a zest for life with Jesus.

Never preachy and always comforting, Shellie shares how she has fallen in love with God and how her sisters in Christ can, too. The folksy Southern tone that she uses in her radio show and in her two humor books is still there, but it's toned way down and should not be off-putting for most readers.

Shellie urges us all to find real joy in our relationship with God by relying fully on His grace. Her excitement for the topic is infectious, and readers who have been "beaten with a Bible" will find plenty of love, acceptance, and hope in these pages. Highly recommended for church libraries and Christians who want a relationship with their Savior instead of transactional interactions.

Stars: 5

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Princess Ever After

Princess Ever After by Rachel Hauck

I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.

My review:

Princess Ever After continues the Royal Weddings series begun in Once Upon a Prince. Repeat characters make only minor appearances, but the political issue that dominated the first book resurfaces in personal form for Regina Beswick. Reggie is a start-up restoration mechanic in small-town Florida when Tanner Burkhardt shows up at her shop with the surprise of a lifetime. Tanner informs her that she is a long-lost princess and the only living heir to the throne of Hessenberg-- and, oh, by the way, if she doesn't come back with him to assume the crown, Hessenberg will cease to be a country-- and her whole world is flipped upside down.

Regina's struggles to reconcile her future with that of Hessenberg may strike some readers as selfish, but Tanner's personal life and conflicts will be much more accessible. The romance develops at a perfect pace, with lots of fun moments sprinkled throughout. Royal-watchers will love the visits to couture clothiers, the adjustment to paparazzi and life in the papers, and the other luxe and juicy details of life in a modern palace.

The Christian themes are present but not heavy-handed; while non-Christians will probably not be impressed by how the faith is integrated throughout the book, neither is it artificial or cloyingly sweet. Tanner's struggles with God are particularly "real."

Stars: 4

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I borrowed a hardcover copy from my local public library.

My review:

Publisher's summaries- "After a layoff during the Great Recession sidelines his tech career, Clay Jannon takes a job at the titular bookstore in San Francisco, and soon realizes that the establishment is a facade for a strange secret." And "A tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life-mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore."

I had heard a lot of great things about this book, and raving reviews invariably asserted that it will appeal to all true booklovers. Having read it and considering myself a true booklover, I have to disagree. Mr. Penumbra discusses "books" in the sense of physical objects, and refers to the fact that they contain "old knowledge," but there is little to no reference to the contents of actual works of history or literature.

Most of the action glorifies (imaginary) pulp fantasy and modern technology, particularly the wonders of Google. Though I think Sloan was attempting to quicken a new respect for the history of books, the bulk of his text focuses on revering modern technological marvels.

The love story was paper-thin and the "secret society" would have been more interesting if the book had actually spent more time exploring its inner workings.

Not a terrible read, but nothing fantastic, either.

Stars: 3

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kiss of the Highlander

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning (read by Phil Gigante)

I purchased the audiobook on CD from Barnes & Noble.

My review:

Continuing her tales of Scottish druid lairds, KMM this time brings readers the story of Drustan MacKeltar, a laird enchanted into a 500-year sleep. When Drustan is accidentally awakened in modern-day Scotland by a startled girl from Arizona, neither of them can believe it.

While formulaic, the Highlander Saga books are thoroughly entertaining and continue to improve. The humor and self-awareness of these romances keep them entertaining, and unexpected solutions add interest to otherwise predictable story lines. Phil Gigante continues to do a brilliant job with narration and with the male characters, and to struggle with voicing the female ones. Still, a delightful audio vacation to a fantasy world of good coffee, impressive castles, and hunks in kilts.

Stars: 4

Runability: 4.5

Mad About the Boy

Mad About the Boy by Helen Fielding

I borrowed a hardcover copy from my local public library.

My review:

Bridget's back! I am not going to try to avoid the "spoiler" that had everyone so upset, because it is not a spoiler. Mark is dead. They got married and had a couple of kids and now he's dead. Anything else would be a spoiler, but those basic facts are not.

Bridget is now in her early 50's and is juggling (single) motherhood slightly behind the schedule of most of her friends. She's also back in the dating game and finding it as difficult as it was for her twenty years previously. She attacks her new challenges with her typical blend of courage, anxiety, self-doubt, and determination to improve. Her voice is unchanged from the first two books, and readers who loved her the first two times around will only love her more now.

Though the book is screamingly funny, it also has a depth that the previous books did not quite touch. While younger Bridget worried about her parents, her career, and whether or not her life was going to turn out okay, a Bridget who has had and lost the love of her life has a very different foundation underlying the same old worries and schemes. Some of the passages about her missing Mark and wishing that he could be there to see his children grow up literally left me in tears.

A book that can leave a reader breathless with both laughter and sobs gets five stars on my blog.

Stars: 5