Sunday, September 26, 2010

The High Road

by Terry Fallis,
McClelland & Stewart, 2010

A few months ago I told you about Terry Fallis's book, The Best Laid Plans, and said that I was looking forward to the sequel. It can be challenging for an author to follow up a well-received first novel with an equally successful second, but Fallis does not disappoint. I was pleased to see that his second book is just as well written, just as hilarious, just as fulfilling.

Now that no-nonsense political newcomer Angus McClintock has brought down the government and has a clear opportunity to return to academia, he must decide whether or not to run for office again. Of course, there wouldn't be much of a story if he didn't. Bring back Daniel Addison, his trusty aide; politically savvy octogenarian Muriel Parkinson; Muriel's granddaughter (and Daniel's love interest), Lindsay; and the two punky Petes, and you've got the makings of a terrific tale. Add in Emerson "Flamethrower" Fox, the mud-slinging Liberal candidate for Cumberland-Prescott; a visit from the American President and his alcoholic wife; and the collapse of the Alexandra Bridge over the Ottawa River, and let the political games begin!

Fallis leaves this reader hoping for another book in the Addison-McClintock series. There are still plenty of roads for the story to travel, and many plans yet to be laid.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

She Walks in Beauty

by Siri Mitchell,
Bethany House, 2010

It's been a while since I've read any historical fiction, perhaps even longer since I've read any historical romance. What a beautiful reintroduction to the genre. Mitchell's writing - fluid, authentic to the period, creating vivid images - is as true a treat as any I've enjoyed.

Set in the Victoria era when debuts were fashionable, our heroine, Miss Clara Carter, is seventeen years old, her debut a year away. That's good, because she's not looking forward to it at all. She has a bright mind, an excellent tutor, and hopes to study medicine at Vassar College. Alas and alack, the man her father and aunt (her mother is dead) have their sights set on, returns earlier than expected from his European tour, and Clara's debut is moved up to the current season.

Franklin DeVries is a handsome and charming man, the heir to the DeVries fortune. As a result, he is very popular with the ladies, though it is Clara's best friend, Lizzie, who is her chief rival to win his affections. But when Clara meets and gets to know Franklin's brother, Harry, she is no longer confident that it's Franklin's affections she wants. Still, she wants to please her elders, and to get back for them the money they feel was stolen by the DeVries family.

To sway the odds, Clara's father, a physician whose methods are questionable, puts pressure on a respected journalist. Clara is feted in one newspaper, but mocked by reports in The Tattler. As the debut season progresses, Clara wonders why it appears that someone is out to get her, why her father seems to have detractors, and whether she can find happiness in a society so beset by competition and show. Is there no more meaning to life than the bondage of class?

Mitchell creates an excellent picture of the Victorian era, highlighting the dark side of society life (especially for women), as well as the situation of the poor in New York City. Clara is a likeable character with whom the reader strongly identifies, and the plot, though happily resolved at the end (as all good romances are), will pull at your heartstrings (as all good romances do).

Real World Parents: Christian Parenting for Families Living in the Real World

by Mark Matlock
Zondervan, 2010

I took my time reading this practical guide for Christian parents who want to "get it right." And I really feel that I need to read it again straight through, taking notes, and spending time answering the questions at the end of each chapter.

What I gleaned from this book tells me that Mark Matlock, its author, is a very wise parent indeed. He challenges the reader to ask herself what story she subscribes to (God's or the world's), how she defines success, and what her true goals are for her children. As I personally responded, I have to admit that, at times, I didn't like my answers. A lightbulb went on as I recognized my shortcomings and need for personal change.

After sharing what he calls "broken strategies" for competing with the world's story, Matlock tells us how do demonstrate wisdom, teach decision-making, deal with failure, and evaluate entertainment. Very helpful skills indeed.

I recommend this book to Christian parents, no matter where you are on your parenting journey. It's not a long book (only 143 pages), so try to read a chapter each day, rather than drag it out as I did for my first reading.

Oh, and don't forget your highlighter and notebook. You'll need them.

[Note: this book was provided for review by The B & B Media Group. The review is always my honest response.]