“When tragedy strikes sixteen-year-old Wren’s family, she can’t see the point in starting over again, especially when her future seems so uncertain and her heart so heavy.
“After she is sent to stay with her favorite aunt, who lives in a doll museum, Wren quickly discovers two creepily lifelike dolls hidden inside the walls of the old house. Dolls that were created to look like two very real people—a dangerously handsome young man and his mysteriously beautiful fiancée—a young woman he supposedly murdered a few weeks before their wedding day.
“As Wren attempts to solve what really happened all those years ago—she begins to realize that not only are the dolls haunted—but one of them is dead set on making sure the truth will never be revealed. No matter the cost…”
Lifelike sucked me right in. It’s suspenseful, frightening, funny, and sweet, and Wren is so lifelike . . . . I absolutely love this little novel! Had I read it as a teen, it would have been one of my very favorite books, and I probably would have read it again and again.
I read Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace several years ago with my book group and decided it was time to finish the series. Betsy-Tacy and Tib is my favorite of the four children’s books. Several of the antics made me laugh out loud—especially the chapter “Being Good.”
It begins with these words:
It was strange that Betsy and Tacy and Tib ever did things which grown-ups thought were naughty, for they tried so hard to be good. They were very religious. Betsy was a Baptist, and Tacy was a Catholic, and Tib was an Episcopalian.
They loved to sit on Tacy’s back fence and talk about God.
In this particular conversation, they decide that they won’t get to Heaven if all they do is think about fun. Tacy observes that “the saints didn’t have much fun” and that “they used to wear hair shirts” to “make themselves gooder. And if they did anything bad they put pebbles in their shoes.”
This gives Betsy a profound idea. The girls will establish “The Christian Kindness Club” to help them be good so that they will get to Heaven. She explains, “We’ll never get to be good if we don’t punish ourselves for being bad. A child could see that.”
The Austin Family Chronicles, by Madeleine L’Engle (juv/YA fiction)
“In this award-winning young adult series from Madeleine L’Engle, author of A Wrinkle in Time, Vicky Austin experiences the difficulties and joys of growing up.”
I found A Ring of Endless Light, the fourth book in The Austin Family Chronicles, at a thrift store earlier in the year and immediately fell in love with it. It reminded me of the higher-quality books I read as a girl and gave me quite a feeling of nostalgia. I loved the beach setting, and I felt at home with Vicky and her family—so much so that I read the other four novels in the series: Meet the Austins, The Moon by Night, The Young Unicorns, and Troubling a Star.
In The Young Unicorns, Canon Tallis makes this observation about the Austin family:
Ingathering; The Complete People Stories, by Zenna Henderson (science fiction)
“Zenna Henderson is best remembered for her stories of the People which appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from the early 50s to the middle 70s. The People escaped the destruction of their home planet and crashed on Earth in the Southwest just before the turn of the century. Fully human in appearance, they possessed many extraordinary powers. Henderson’s People stories tell of their struggles to fit in and to live their lives as ordinary people, unmolested by fearful and ignorant neighbors. The People are ‘us at our best, as we hope to be, and where (with work and with luck) we may be in some future.'”
I wish I had read the People stories by Zenna Henderson when I was a teenager. I would have loved them! As an adult, I appreciate these stories and like them. A glimpse of Zion came easily to me as I read Ingathering, because the People and their community embody the idea and qualities of Zion. Some of the religious themes in this book are subtle, but many are so obvious that I question whether stories like these by another author could be published as genre science fiction today. Many readers of classic science fiction already love these stories, and I believe they would be accessible to readers of religious fiction who don’t normally read science fiction and fantasy.
“Nine is the ninth female born in her batch of ten females and ten males. By design, her life in Freedom Province is without complications or consequences. However, such freedom comes with a price. the Prime Maker is determined to keep that price a secret from the new batches of citizens that are born, nurtured, and raised androgynously.
“But Nine isn’t like every other batcher. She harbors indecision and worries about her upcoming Remake Day—her seventeenth birthday, the age when batchers fly to the Remake facility and have the freedom to choose who and what they’ll be.
“When Nine discovers the truth about life outside of Freedom Province, including the secret plan of the Prime Maker, she is pulled between two worlds and two lives. Her decisions will test her courage, her heart, and her beliefs. Who can she trust? Who does she love? And most importantly, who will she decide to be?”
The description of the novel Remake surprised me when I read it in the Deseret Book catalogue in the fall of 2014. This book, a dystopia that Deseret Book published under its Shadow Mountain imprint, was quite a bit different from anything I had ever seen the company publish before—in a good way. I like dystopian fiction and was so intrigued by the fact that Deseret Book would publish something like Remake that I downloaded the book and read it on a trip to the beach at the end of 2014.
Young Pioneers, a.k.a. Let the Hurricane Roar, by Rose Wilder Lane (YA historical)
“Newlyweds Molly and David are only sixteen and eighteen years old when they pack up their wagon and head west across the plains in search of a new homestead. At first their new life is full of promise: The wheat is high, the dugout is warm and cozy, and a new baby is born to share in their happiness. Then disaster strikes, and David must go east for the winter to find work. Molly is left alone with the baby—with nothing but her own courage to face the dangers of the harsh prairie winter.”
After a recent read of O Pioneers! by Willa Cather, I decided to try another book about pioneers in the Midwest—Dakota Territory—entitled Young Pioneers, by Rose Wilder Lane. Both books celebrate the pioneering spirit and are frank about the fact that circumstances were often so difficult that many pioneers gave up their dreams and returned to their families and previous occupations in the east. What struck me in particular about Young Pioneers was the passion and hope this very young couple feel about their life together in this rough and beautiful farmland despite the fact that they live in a dugout, in very primitive conditions. I’ve often wondered what drove so many to leave their comfortable or at least tolerable lives for circumstances so savage.
“The Men of the Mark do not lie, and therefore they are not easily deceived” (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers).
“God has just such gladness every time he sees from heaven that a sinner is praying to Him with all his heart, as a mother has when she sees the first smile on her baby’s face” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot).
“God’s love and mercy can overcome all things—our ignorance, and weakness, and all the burden of our past wickedness—all things but our wilful sin, sin that we cling to, and will not give up” (George Eliot, Adam Bede).
“Unlimited power is in itself a bad and dangerous thing; human beings are not competent to exercise it with discretion, and God alone can be omnipotent, because His wisdom and His justice are always equal to His power” (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America).
“I decided that God, a kind and loving God, could never be proved. In fact there are . . . a lot of arguments against him. But there isn’t any point to life without him. Without him we’re just a skin disease on the face of the earth, and I feel too strongly about the human spirit to be able to settle for that. So what I did for a long time was to live life as though I believed in God. And eventually I found out that the as though had turned into a reality” (Madeleine L’Engle, The Moon by Night).
About the Author
Creator of spaced-out Christian fiction and clean-reading resources. See my BIO.