Thursday, August 30, 2012

Summertime and the Reading is Easy, Part II

Part 1 covered June, Part 2 July. Maybe I'll get Part 3 done (and posted) before summer is over (and you can interpret that as either the end of August or when fall starts on September 22nd). ( :

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
Carrie has written about her love for this series many times, and I'm glad to have finally embarked on the journey. This book is clever, intriguing, and full of adventure that any child (or adult) should enjoy. I especially liked the mind puzzles and the way the characters' strengths and weaknesses complemented one another perfectly. I think my daughter could handle the reading level now, but I'm going to wait a few more years to introduce her to this series when she should be better able to enjoy the subtleties of the narrative.

The Distant Land of My Father by Bo Caldwell
After reading City of Tranquil Light, I was curious about this previous novel by the same author. To be quite honest, I think that it is hardly worth comparing the two. While they both include an insider's perspective on the changes in China throughout the 20th century, this one is told through the experiences of a very dysfunctional family, dysfunctional and disrupted mostly due to the husband and father who loved Shanghai and the easy money he could make there more than his wife and daughter. His selfishness brought many tragic consequences, and while there was a bit of redemption at the end, it really struck me as too little too late - at least in terms of making it a meaningful story for me.

On a side note, I did a bit more research about the author, and found this very interesting first-person account of her life and conversion to Roman Catholicism. I'm sad that her faith is so shaped by experience, believing as I do that the Scriptures and sound doctrine provide a much more stable foundation. But after much consideration, I've decided that it does not diminish my opinion of City of Tranquil Light, for the faith of the characters in that book is tried and genuine. It's obviously not a book that is meant to teach doctrine, but insofar as it speaks of God and the Christian life, I still think it presents a accurate picture.

Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult
I didn't like it, but it was one of those books that I had to keep reading just to see what happened. I even lost sleep over it, staying up late because it was so hard to put down. But I still didn't like it, not one little bit. Like most modern novels it included too much information about intimate relationships between unmarried men and women. And the ending - well, it was just unnecessary. At least everyone in my book club agreed with this consensus, and we're returning to 19th century classics for our next selection!

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
If you haven't noticed, I have to do some therapeutic reading after I've read a book that leaves a a bad taste in my mouth. So I had checked this one out from the library as an option for my daughter (I like to have a wide variety of titles for her to choose from) and decided that "a summer story about four sisters, two rabbits, and a very interesting boy" would be just the thing after the Picoult novel, not to mention that I love the cover art! It was certainly light and easy, and the characters were written so that I felt I knew them quite quickly. On the downside, one thread of the story involved a pre-teen crush on an older boy. Disobedience and lying were justified by a positive outcome or by the meanness of the adult making the rules. So I won't be handing this to my 8-year-old anytime soon. In a few more years, she can read it, and we'll talk through the issues, for there were certainly many fun and funny parts, too.

Thunderstorm in Church by Louise A. Vernon
See my earlier comments on two other books by the same author which we read aloud earlier in the summer, as this one was very similar and my opinions haven't improved any. This one was interesting for the glimpses into life in Luther's busy household, but the dialogue... {shudder}


Carrie said...


VERY interesting thoughts on The Distant Land of My Father.

You kind of make me question whether or not I really want to read City of Tranquil light still. Thoughts on that? Should I? If you hadn't yet read it, would you?

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I'm interested to read your review of Distant Land of My Father since I LOVED City of Tranquil Light. Sounds like I might just skip Distant Land without missing much.

To Carrie, in case she comes back and reads here--YES! You should read City of Tranquil Light! :-)

Heather VanTimmeren said...

Amy, Thanks for your input! I read
City of Tranquil Light based on your review, and I would still unreservedly recommend it!