Book Review: Limelight

Title: Limelight

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher’s Synopsis: Claudette Fioré used to turn heads and break hearts. She relished the glamorous Hollywood lifestyle because she had what it takes: money, youth, fame, and above all, beauty. But age has withered that beauty, and a crooked accountant has taken her wealth, leaving the proud widow penniless and alone.

Armed with stubbornness and sarcasm, Claudette returns to her shabby little hometown and her estranged sister. Slowly, she makes friends. She begins to see her old life in a new light. For the first time, Claudette Fioré questions her own values and finds herself wondering if it’s too late to change.

This book is a perfect example of what is so delightful about Melody Carlson’s writing.  I read two of her books in this blog tour “Fun Fall Fiction” and they are truly night and day.  The other is about a teenager just beginning her life and making difficult choices about whether or not she wants a career “in the limelight”, while this one is about a woman who is at the end of her life and is seeing the emptiness of it all. It is truly fascinating to see two very different styles of writing that fit the people the books are about perfectly.

Claudette is old, forgotten, and depressed at the beginning of the book and slowly through the pages, you see how she became who she is and she begins to see that things she thought she knew weren’t what they seemed.  The superficiality of her life has left her empty and in the final winter months of life, she latches onto something more– something deeper.

I found the references to Hollywood’s Golden Age to be delightful.  I loved imagining Claudette as an extra on the set of Meet Me in St. Louis and being drawn to the screen by another Claudette of Hollywood– Claudette Colbert.  (The reference to It Happened One Night didn’t hurt either!)

One of my favorite parts of the story is also one of the things that bothers me the most.  In this age of tolerance, acceptance, and accusations of homophobia if you dare to admit you believe the Bible forbids it– calls it an abomination– it is difficult to demonstrate to those who don’t understand the difference between “homophobia” and disagreement.  I can be personally against something that someone does or believes in without being “afraid” of them or their position.  I can reject their actions without rejecting them as a person.  (For example, I am against the Democratic agenda.  That doesn’t make me “Demophobic” nor does it make me hate my Democratic mother-in-law.  It makes me disagree with the platform and the actions of democrats who make policies that I am forced to live with.  The same goes the other way for them I’m sure)  However, it is generally assumed that if you are anti-homosexuality, you hate or fear it.  This isn’t always true and it certainly isn’t true of me.

This makes it hard to write my one criticism of the book.  You see, I am glad that Ms. Carlson tackled the topic.  In Christian circles we tend to act like if we don’t mention homosexuality, it’ll just go away.  It’s been around since Abraham’s time at the very least and it’s going to be around until the earth is consumed by fire.  Like poverty, wealth, war, children, all good and bad things, we have it with us until the end of time.  As much as I believe it is wrong, I don’t believe it is right to villify those who have embraced that life.  As Ms. Carlson so simply puts in her book, Jesus died for them too.  He did, and I believe with all my heart that His blood covers the sins of the homosexual who cries out to Him for forgiveness of all of his sins (not just homosexuality) just as Jesus’ blood covered mine.

Where I am uncomfortable with her story is related to the fact that one of the characters is “gay”.  That’s fine.  Gayle Roper did a brilliant job of having a homosexual main character in one of her books.  I was pleasantly suprised to see it in here because, as I said, I think we to often stumble around and into the elephant of homosexuality in Christian circles (I’ll admit it.  I’m not comfortable with it and I do avoid it… then again, I avoid discussing sexuality at all.  Sex and all it entails is a very private thing for me and one I usually only discuss with the only person that can benefit from that discussion– my husband).  However, I was very disappointed that after mentioning it as a matter of course, showing that a church in Hawaii has accepted the man and his ‘partner’ into their fellowship, the subject is dropped after a statement to the effect of, “Jesus loves and came to save you too.”  I agree with the statement, don’t get me wrong, but I found myself dissatisfied with the feeling that I’d been dropped into a politically correct novel that ignored the very strong words that the Bible has for homosexuality.

Do let me be clear.  Ms. Carlson in no way glorifies it, outwardly condones it, or really even makes much of it.  It’s a “matter of course” that starts a chain of events (The fact that this man is seeking the Lord and found welcome in a fellowship of Christians).  What bothers me is only that by treating it so matter-of-factly, you can’t help but feel a little lost when there is no resolution of the Biblical standpoint of the topic.  It’s not overt, but it’s there.  I would love to know that I’m wrong and I’ve missed something in the book (I did read it late at night).  It’s a very nit-picky objection because as I said, she never outright condones it.  But the fact that it is dropped in our laps and never revisited, makes it seem like its there for the sake of ‘tolerance’ rather than the way to further the story.

How would I change it?  I probably wouldn’t.  Maybe that’s why she did it the way she did.  Keep the story realistic (I mean come on, Hollywood isn’t exactly homosexual-free territory any more than my little town in the desert is), make a stand to remind Christians to separate the person from the sin (I’m all for that!!!), but when there’s no other way to deal with the elephant, leave it for the next person who might know how to discuss it more realistically.

So see, as I said.  What I loved most (the fact that she tackled it at all and with such Christian grace) is also what bothers me most.  I find that just a little ironic.

This copy, provided for my review by Multnomah/Waterbrook  is waiting for a new home.  I am making myself give these away because I have PILES of books to read and no where to keep them.  Otherwise, this one would have stayed.  I know I will read it again sometime.  It’s that good and I want to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  Read Limelight.  You don’t want to miss getting to know Claudette and watching her prove that an old dog can most definitely learn– even if it isn’t a trick for the camera.

Book Review: Diary of a Teenage Girl *Win Copy*

Title: Diary of a Teenage Girl:  What Matters Most

Author: Melody Carlson

Publisher’s Synopsis: Maya’s Green Tip for the Day: Recycled fashion is one of the most fun ways to go green. A pair of jeans could be transformed into a denim skirt. A sweater into a vest. A bunch of old ties into a dress. A blanket into a poncho. Accessorize it in new way–with beads, buttons, appliqués, buckles, stencils, or ribbons…your imagination is only the limit.

Sixteen-year-old Maya Stark has a lot to sort through. She could graduate from high school early if she wants to. She’s considering it, especially when popular cheerleader Vanessa Hartman decides to make her life miserable–and Maya’s ex-boyfriend Dominic gets the wrong idea about everything.

To complicate matters even more, Maya’s mother will be released from prison soon, and she’ll want Maya to live with her again. That’s a disaster waiting to happen. And when Maya plays her dad’s old acoustic guitar in front of an audience, she discovers talents and opportunities she never expected. Faced with new options, Maya must choose between a “normal” life and a glamorous one. Ultimately, she has to figure out what matters most.

This appears to be the third book of a series since the cover says “No. 3” on it, but I didn’t get the sense that I’d missed anything.

This book is obviously written for teenagers (that’s a shocking thought!) in mainstream America.  The book deals with typical school drama, coming of age uncertainties, insecurities, and all the little things that can become big ones in a hurry.  Maya is delightfully flawed without it getting old, has a compassionate side, and definitely grows throughout the story.  I think the average fourteen-fifteen year old girl would probably enjoy seeing the strengths, weaknesses, and growth of a girl who truly does, at the core of everything, love the Lord and wants to serve Him.

I found the “green notes” at the end of each chapter to be doable and yet a little disconnected from the book.  I wasn’t sure what the point of them being there was but I finally figured out that there was another book about her where she becomes (or promotes) environmentally conscious.

I’m not a good judge of the best audience for this book (I wouldn’t buy it for my girls), but I am guessing that if you have daughters or nieces, little sisters, etc who are average girls in average American schools, and who need encouragement in their walk with the Lord but maybe get a little tired of preachy devotionals or novels, this might just be a great alternative.

Win this review copy generously provided by Multnomah and see for yourself.  I’ll try to draw sometime this week.

Book Review: Dear Mom *Win a FREE Copy*

Dear Mom

by Melody Carlson

Subtitled:  Everything Your Teenage Daughter Wants You to Know but Will NEVER Tell You.

Well, when Waterbrook sent this book, I have to admit, I was curious.  I mean, after all, I have seven daughters, five (or soon to be) of whom are either teens or once were  (Challice has entered the roaring 20’s already).  So, I sat down, and started reading.

First, the book is written as though a very long letter from daughter to mother.  This alone is quite accurate.  Daughters can definitely talk a lot and have a lot to say.  I found it kind of comical how accurate the “book” aspect of the “discussion” was.  As with many books written in the first person, the style gets a bit wearisome.  I found myself needing to read it in chunks rather than in one sitting to avoid brain burn.

However, the content was fairly “dead on” in my experience with girls.  As with a lot of girls, it was a bit overly dramatic at times (My daughters would be a little insulted by the constant insistence that the girl doesn’t know her own mind and is a bundle of contradictions) but for the most part, I could see every frustrated teen age girl I’ve ever known (including myself) in the pages.  I saw their insecurities, their attempts at maturity, and the surprising maturity hidden where the girl probably never looked for it.

As for a target audience, this book isn’t for every mom.  If you understand your daughter, if you have reasonably good communication, then you probably don’t need the book.  Yes, you’ll get something out of it but seriously, spend the time you would spend reading the book just interacting with your daughter.  However, if sometimes you just don’t understand why your girl seems to withdraw from you, why she seems to be a jumble of nerves and hormones, you might benefit from reading this book.  It’s small enough to tuck into your purse and read while waiting for her at the mall, soccer practice, or the movies.  It’s short enough to finish off in a week or two if you just read a few pages at a time.  And, for the most part I think, it’s a book that if your daughter picks up and reads, she’s not going to be offended at the condescending tone of an “expert” telling you where she’s a mess.  I think my girls would get a bit bent out of shape over a few of the stereotypes but then they’ve been raised differently than a lot of kids so they’ve missed some of that.

This book would be beneficial to you if…

  • You have a teen aged daughter and you are struggling with your relationship
  • You have or know a girl in some kind of traditional school and want to understand how to relate to them

The target audience of this book is probably not conservative Christian homeschooling families but I can see how the book would be beneficial to anyone who is in contact with teen aged girls on any kind of a regular basis.  The title is “Dear Mom” but honestly, I think it’d help a Dad understand common feminine teen problems or even help a writer “capture” the essence of modern teen thought.

If you’re really brave, I dare you to buy this book (or win it on my site here!) and hand it to your daughter.  Ask her to critique it, underline or highlight sections that really speak to her, and then see where it goes.  I guarantee you, it won’t be a waste of your time.

Now for the fun stuff!  Waterbrook has generously given me a copy of this book to give away.  In addition, I want this book to get out there to as many people as may want/need it so I’m going to give away my copy too!  Please leave a comment and I’ll do a random number generator on Friday for the winners and get that book shipped out right away.