Archive | June 2013

Timeless vs. Dated

I love to read all sorts of books–just nothing too scary or gory. Many years ago, I had two favorite authors: John Grisham and Agatha Christie. I loved mysteries. Then my in-laws introduced me to Mary Higgins Clark and Catherine Coulter, and romantic suspense novels became my favorite reading material. About this time, I also read Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, which is probably my favorite book. It’s definitely the only one I’ve read several times. I read every book I could find by these five authors and waited expectantly for each of their new books to be released.

The nice thing about reading the classics, and even historical fiction, is the timelessness of the story. When you pick up a novel by Jane Austen, you know the setting will be the England of the late 18th century or early 19th century. When you begin a Western, you know you’ll be reading about the American Old West. In both of these settings, the reader knows what to expect in terms of technology or the lack thereof. There were no phones, no electricity, no running water, etc.

Contemporary novels written in just the last ten years have become dated thanks to the invention and supposed necessity of cell phones and, more recently, smart phones. In the past few years, I have been reading a lot of Christian fiction from our church library, and while there are plenty of new releases, many of the books I have enjoyed were written in the last ten years or so. It is interesting to read something that is just several years old and realize how our lives have changed and how dependent we have become on being able to have instant communication. When I begin to read a contemporary novel, I now look at the copyright date to orient myself before I begin to expect the characters to have cell phones with them at all times.

I appreciate when authors maintain the integrity of the characters in their series. Even though Dee Henderson wrote Jennifer in the past year or so, the story was set before the other O’Malley books, so the characters carried pagers instead of cell phones. It was something small that might not be a big deal, but I’m sure she knew her readers would not expect the characters to have our current technology. Even though this detail dated the story, it was important. While being “dated” is usually not a good thing, I prefer reading about the lives of characters who seemed a little more relaxed and less technology-dependent than we are.

Halos by Kristen Heitzmann

20130615-093350.jpgHalos is the touching story of a lonely young woman who believes in miracles and the good in everyone and everything. Her circumstances cause her to begin to doubt the good, but she remains positive and touches those around her with kindness even when they are rude to her.

Halos is set in a small northern town in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Alessi’s car and possessions are stolen at the beginning of the story, and she must depend on the kindness of strangers for food and shelter while searching for her car. The author offers much insight into the thoughts of the main characters as they examine their hearts for selfishness, idolatry, anger, unforgiveness, and doubt, but the author also provides plenty of humor through the supporting characters and their small town antics. The missing car and its thief provide suspense that will keep you reading late into the night. There is also enough sexual tension to keep you interested in the relationship and to keep the characters real, but they also demonstrate self-control.

This book was an enjoyable read.

Jennifer by Dee Henderson

20130615-101206.jpgDee Henderson is one of my favorite authors of Christian fiction, and I have read most of her books. When I learned that she had written a new one and that Jennifer was a prequel to the popular O’Malley series that she wrote several years ago, I couldn’t wait to read it. The O’Malley series focuses on the lives of seven adult siblings who had “adopted” each other by legally changing their last names to O’Malley after growing up together in an orphanage. Jennifer is the youngest of the seven and an integral part of the whole series. Jennifer is a love story that leaves off where book one in the series begins. Even though I knew how this book would end, I enjoyed reading this tender love story between Jennifer and Tom and learning how Jennifer developed a relationship with Jesus. This smaller, gift-sized book (154 pages) made for a light and quick read, which is perfect for summertime. The story is touching, moves quickly, and yet touches on difficult questions about faith and dealing with pain.

If you have never read the O’Malley series, this book will leave you hanging at the end. The author’s note at the end informs you that Jennifer’s story continues in the first book of the O’Malley series. While I loved the series and didn’t want it to end because I was so interested in the characters’ lives, I was eager to finish the series to find out how Jennifer’s story played out. If you are looking for a quick, light read but haven’t read the series, this book is probably not for you. I HAVE read the series, and Jennifer still left me wanting to read all of the books again! On the other hand, if you have read the series, you will enjoy this glimpse into the previous lives of two of the characters from the series. If you are looking for some new books to read, I would highly recommend beginning with the prequels Danger in the Shadows and Jennifer, then reading all six of the O’Malley books, and finishing up with Full Disclosure, in which we meet up again with some of the O’Malleys.

Bethany House Publishers sent me this book free upon my request and agreement to post a review (positive or negative) on my blog and on a retailer’s site. This review is my personal opinion and has not been influenced by the publisher.