Relevant Fiction Reviews: High School Theater

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I was a behind the scenes gal when it came to high school theater, but I still have many happy memories tied to our musical productions. As a proud member of the stage crew for four years, I was able to identify with the closeness and camaraderie that comes from putting on a show together.

The following are three excellent YA novels that stand on their own merit, but have something just a little extra special if you are or were a high school theater geek. Continue reading

Relevant Fiction Reviews: Conquering Addiction

Relevant Fiction Reviews

Novels in which the hero or heroine are battling an addiction are not typically easy reads. Both My Unexpected Hope and Blue Columbine are childhood sweetheart/second chance romances that make your heart hurt in the best ways as the characters fight to break the bonds of addiction (alcohol in Blue Columbine and alcohol and illegal drugs in My Unexpected Hope). The Things We Knew includes a large cast, several of whom are addicted to alcohol and drugs. Gray Carlisle is the character to watch, as he struggles to get clean for the sake of himself and those he loves.

The Grace Crasher includes a minor character addicted to alcohol, but the heroine in this hilarious novel is addicted to love. (Say that out loud without singing the refrain of the Robert Palmer song. I dare you.) Hip and funny, yet serious when it needs to be, The Grace Crasher tackles the “less popular” addictive behaviors, such as those involving serial crushes and (in another minor character) overeating. Continue reading

Relevant Fiction Reviews: American Colonial Period

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I’ve always had an affection for American history, but as I’ve matured, I’ve grown to love it. (Don’t talk to me about European history. Kings, queens, blah, blah. It causes my eyes to roll to the back of my head.) The colonial era has long been my favorite, and I’d love to visit some of the historical locations so important to our nation’s founding.  Until then, I can read about them! Continue reading

Relevant Fiction Reviews: Best YA Books of 2016

Relevant Fiction Reviews

As 2016 comes to a close, I’ve collected reviews of the best Young Adult (YA) fiction I’ve read over the past year. Some of these titles are Christian fiction, some secular, but all are “clean” and appropriate for teens. (And for the enjoyment of old fogeys like me too.)

I did not include The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer here only because that series isn’t in need of more visibility. It’s an excellent series that fans of Star Wars or classic fairy tales will particularly enjoy. Fast-paced and tightly-written, there’s enough adventure, humor, scifi, and romance to please almost any reader.

At the end of this post, you’ll find some other YA favorites of 2016, including other books written by the authors featured below. (I stuck with one book featured per author.)

If you’re looking for more great books for teens, sign up for the B4CT (Books for Catholic Teens) newsletter! Continue reading

Relevant Fiction Reviews: Classics I

Relevant Fiction Reviews

I enjoy reading books by contemporary authors, but now and then I like to pick up a classic. There are so, so many I haven’t read. These are three I had been meaning to read for a while. Interestingly, at the crux of each of these vastly different novels is the sin of adultery. And in each case, its ramifications are played out.

O Pioneers! (Great Plains Trilogy, #1)O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The depth and grandeur of O Pioneers! didn’t catch up with me until the end. I’d read My Antonia in college and Death Comes for the Archbishop a decade ago, and loved both. O Pioneers! only confirmed my appreciation for Cather’s writing.

I was struck again by the beauty of her prose and imagery. Continue reading

Relevant Fiction Reviews: Troubled Childhoods

Relevant Fiction Reviews

Without intending to, I read a lot books in a short period of time in which the main characters either endured or were removed from traumatic childhoods. (Except in the case of The End of the World, in which the characters moved from bad to worse in moving from home to foster care.) I suspect fictional characters experience rough childhoods at a higher rate than the real-life populace. At least I hope so! After all, childhood trauma makes a great back story and provides the motivation needed for a strong character arc. The older I get, however, the more I see what profound effects a family origin has, even well into adulthood.

You may notice I removed the stars from my Goodreads ratings below. Truth be told, I hate star rating systems. I get that they’re a simple snapshot that indicates the reader’s satisfaction with a book, but, most of the time, I struggle with assigning stars. And looking at the books below, I don’t think my assigned stars correlated to how well the books were written when you look at these books side by side. (I had assigned them all four and five stars, but still . . . ) I’d rather let the written reviews stand on their own.

In looking over this list of books, I have to say, months later, the one that still makes my heart clench is The End of the World. Continue reading