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I rarely read “inspirational fiction” anymore.  Most of it is formulaic, poorly written, and gives readers a false view of God, Christians and the Christian life.  So had I known that The Healer’s Apprentice fell into this genre, I might not have picked it up.  And, to compliment Dickerson, I didn’t realize that I was reading “Christian fiction” until I was well into the book.

The things that I enjoyed about this book: it was a subtle retelling of Sleeping Beauty, it was set in medieval times (and not, thank goodness, in Amish country!) and the characters prayed to and referenced God without being over the top.  Kudos to Dickerson for a fresh perspective in a genre that desperately needs one.

Quinn and Sprout live with their mother, aunt and grandma.  They see their father every other weekend.  Quinn tries to make it all work and makes numerous excuses for her fun-loving yet distant father, until she discovers something about him.  His house is filled with “trophies” that he has stolen from the many women he has married and divorced.  In an impulsive act, Quinn reaches out to her stepsister, Frances Lee, and the 3 sisters together embark on a journey to return the trophies to their rightful owners.  On their journey, the girls discover much about what true love really is and isn’t.

High school girls (and their moms) should read this book.  It’s one of the best books about dating (even though it’s a novel) that I’ve ever read.  Without being preachy or condescending, the characters, both old and young, share what they’ve learned about true love and men who are worth loving.  Some examples:

  • “This is who he is, who he will always be, and no amount of your love is going to change that.” p. 69
  • “When it comes to relationships, second thoughts should be promoted.”  p. 139
  • “Love is never unsafe.” p. 176
  • “A relationship–it shouldn’t be too small or too tight or even a little scratchy.  It shouldn’t be embarrassing or uncomfortable or downright ugly.  It shouldn’t take up space in your closet out of a guilty conscience or convenience or a moment of desire.  Do you hear me?  It should be perfect for you.  it should be lasting.  Wait.  Wait for 100 percent.” p. 312

Orphaned by the brutal murder of her parents,  Princess Ben, the only heir to the throne,  is confined to the castle by Queen Sophia.  Ben misses her parents and chafes under the restrictive and controlling queen.  When she discovers a secret tower full of magic, Ben begins learning the secret and long-forgotten magical arts.  At first, this is just a diversion, but when her country’s sovereignty is threatened, Ben must put her new powers to work and defend her country.

There were many things that delighted me about this book, one being the clever allusions to numerous fairy tales woven neatly into the plot.  But more than that, even though this book was full of witches, magic and dragons, it had a very “real” sense about it.  Princess Ben was a very real character.  No slender, beautiful, graceful princesses here!  Ben is overweight, sometimes sullen, selfish and lazy.  Because of that, she’s a character that you can relate to and love.  Ben’s search for true love is real, and even her use of magic is tempered with a good bit of common sense!  Ben’s parents were also very real, and instead of being demonized (as so many Young Adult books tend to do) they are celebrated.  My favorite quote comes right at the end:

…I dedicate this work to her memory as well as that of my parents, for however we might criticize those who rear us, the fact that we survive at all into adulthood, however late that passage comes, is testament enough to their ability and perseverance.  p. 344

A fantastic story that completely satisfied my love of pioneer fiction.  This is a novel, inspired by Turner’s family memoirs, full of romance and humor, tragedy and violence.  Sarah is a strong heroine who struggles to carve a life for herself and her family in the Arizona Territories.  The story is told entirely through Sarah’s journal, and through her writing, we see her grow from a young, impulsive teenager to a loving wife and mother.  One of my favorite passages:

Children are a burden to a mother, but not the way a heavy box is to a mule.  Our children weigh hard on my heart, and thinking about them growing up honest and healthy, or just living to grow up at all, makes a load in my chest that is bigger than the safe at the bank, and more valuable to me than all the gold inside it.

I just discovered 2 sequels and can’t wait to read them!

Impossible by Nancy Werlin

10th December 2008

Impossible A modern day fantasy book, based on the ballad “Scarborough Fair.”  Lucy, her mother, her grandmother and all of her ancestors have fallen under the curse of an evil elfin knight.  They must either complete 3 impossible tasks, or belong to him forever.  When Lucy discovers the curse, she and her foster family have only a few short months to complete the tasks before the elfin knight comes back to claim his prize.

One unique thing that struck me about this book was how Lucy, her friend Zach and her foster parents all came together to complete the tasks.  Usually in young adult fiction, the adults are incapable, out of touch, or absent.  In Werlin’s book,  Lucy is able to turn to her foster parents for support and help.  I like that.