Archive for August, 2009

Review of A Kiss in Time, by Alex Flinn

Wednesday, August 5th, 2009

kiss_in_timeA Kiss in Time

by Alex Flinn

HarperTeen, 2009. 371 pages.
Starred Review

On my second day of vacation, I committed the wonderful luxury of staying in bed until noon and reading a novel. A Kiss in Time is the novel I chose.

I loved Alex Flinn’s Beastly, where she sets the fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast” in modern-day New York. When I heard she was doing a version of “Sleeping Beauty,” where Sleeping Beauty is woken up by a modern day American teen, I simply had to snap it up.

Now, I’ve got a special interest in Sleeping Beauty tales, because several years ago I attempted to write my own version where Sleeping Beauty was sleeping in a castle in Germany, and is woken by an American military kid whose last name is Prince. Unfortunately, I got bogged down with details. How does she get an ID card? A passport? I couldn’t decide whether she’d get media attention and be a celebrity princess or just adapt to modern life as some sort of refugee. What’s more, in my version, all of her family and her life before were dead, so it got rather depressing.

My own attempt to write the story gives me that much more admiration for Alex Flinn pulling it off so beautifully. Mind you, Orson Scott Card has already done a magnificent job in his book for adults, Enchantment. But with A Kiss in Time, Alex Flinn has written the light-hearted teen fantasy I was shooting for. I was delighted with the way she had the entire kingdom sleeping, as in the original fairy tale, and figured out a way to deal with them waking up in the 21st Century.

Jack is something of a screw-up, and he’s had enough of museums, so he decides to ditch the tour group his parents sent him on and spend a day at the beach. He brings along his friend Travis, but they have some trouble with the directions they’re given and somehow wind up struggling through a thick hedge of thorns. On the other side, there’s a medieval kingdom, where everyone’s asleep. Travis thinks they might as well help themselves to some jewels, but then Jack discovers a gorgeous girl asleep in a room by herself. Something compels him to give her a kiss….

Well, Talia’s father wakes up awfully angry with Talia for having touched a spindle despite all his warnings. He throws Jack in the dungeon, since, after all, a commoner shouldn’t be kissing the princess. Talia’s willing to help Jack escape to Florida, but he seems strangely reluctant to marry her. In Florida, Talia has a lot to learn about the modern world, but it turns out there are things she can teach Jack about dealing with people.

And both teens have a lot to learn about true love.

This is a light-hearted and fun approach to the age-old story, and the question of how have people changed across the centuries. My hat goes off to Alex Flinn for doing such a wonderful job telling this tale.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/kiss_in_time.html

Review of The Story Sisters, by Alice Hoffman

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

story_sistersThe Story Sisters

by Alice Hoffman

Shay Areheart Books (Crown), New York, 2009. 325 pages.
Starred review.

Sisters Elv, Meg, and Claire Story have their own language, Arnish, created by Elv, along with stories of the fairyland Arnelle. But Elv’s fantasies begin to take a dark path. On top of that, threesomes are always difficult, and Elv and Meg begin an unspoken rivalry for Claire’s devotion. But Elv’s path becomes dangerous; Claire, once rescued by Elv, cannot continue to follow her.

The story of the Story Sisters is dark and sad, but somehow it is also uplifting and beautiful. Some terrible things happen to them; they let each other down in tragic ways. But in the end family (blood family and chosen family) pulls them through.

This book did get me crying. I found myself forgetting it was fiction and wanting to ask God why He let some of these events happen to these girls! Yes, the author created a believable world. And in her cruelty to her characters, she made a wonderfully compelling story. Some terrible things happen, but the characters eventually rise above their difficulties.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/story_sisters.html

Review of The Marriage Benefit, by Mark O’Connell, PhD

Sunday, August 2nd, 2009

marriage_benefitThe Marriage Benefit

The Surprising Rewards of Staying Together

by Mark O’Connell, PhD

Springboard Press, New York, 2008. 214 pages.
Starred review.

Recently, a friend said, “Don’t you love it when science catches up with the Bible?” I was rather amused by the word “Surprising” in the title of this book, just as I was with the word “Unexpected” in the title of the book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, by Judith Wallerstein, which presented a study that showed — surprise, surprise — that divorce isn’t good for kids.

Our culture floods us with the message that divorce is a happy solution to marital difficulties. This book attempts to present answers to the question, “Why stay married?” using research and the author’s own counseling experience. He finds that, in fact, long-term marriage can have many benefits for those willing to invest themselves into it.

Why should I, a woman going through divorce, read this book? Well, I do think that God is asking me to wait and pray for restoration, and I definitely have moments when I think that’s insane. This book helped remind me of why a healed marriage could, in fact, be a good thing, and is still something worth praying for. It was an encouraging reminder of how marriage can be. I especially liked his words about the power of forgiveness and how good and transformative it is for the person doing the forgiving.

I do highly recommend this book for married couples, especially those approaching midlife. The author has plenty of wise insights as to how to stay married, as well as pointing out why it’s worth it.

The author’s own words tell you what to expect:

“This is a book about marriage, but it’s not the kind of ‘how to make your marriage better’ book that we have come to expect. This is a book about how stretching the boundaries of what we imagine to be possible can turn our intimate relationships into remarkable oppportunities for growth and change. This is a book about how our relationships can make us better.

“And this is also a book that offers a radical and contemporary answer to an age-old question. Why stay married? Because our long-term relationships can, at their best, help us to navigate the maddeningly relentless passage of time. They can teach us how to find purpose and meaning even in the face of life’s most immovable limits, making growing older an expanding, rather than a diminishing, experience. . . .

“In the pages that follow, I will argue that our long-term intimate relationships can help us to grow up, or, to put it another way, they can help us to live fully and creatively even as our private hopes and expectations meet the immutable realities that come with our advancing years. Even better, they can help us with core midlife challenges while bringing us joy, allowing us moments of unexpected laughter and lightness, and helping us to become our best selves.”

A major theme of this book is personal growth and that a long-term relationship can be a wonderful help toward that goal.

“This book is organized around two simple principles:

“First, if we are to get better as we grow older we will need to find growth and meaning through the very hardships and limitations that we often seek to avoid and deny.

“Second, more than any other means available to us, our long-term intimate relationships can help us with this critical life task. By opening ourselves to intimately knowing, and intimately being known by, someone different and separate from ourselves, we can uncover the world of untapped possibility that lies unexplored within our own selves.

“By now it is probably obvious that we’re not talking about a quick fix. If our relationships are to be all that they can be, if they are to become opportunities for meaningful change and growth, we will need to give them time. And in this age of fast and easy gratification giving things time is becoming a lost art.

“This is particularly true when it comes to love.”

Mark O’Connell gives the central take-home message of this book to be:

“We have the power to change ourselves, often in surprising and important ways. And we change best when we allow ourselves to be changed by someone to whom we are very close.”

I found this to be an uplifting and encouraging message, and one I’m excited to tell other people about.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/marriage_benefit.html