Firstborn Series

by Karen Kingsbury

Book #1: Fame

Like most of Kingsbury’s books, Fame shares a tale of faith and family, with romance developing quietly along the way. This story picks up where Kingsbury’s Redemption series left off: While the Baxter family grieves the loss of their mother in Bloomington, Indiana, their unknown brother, Dayne Matthews, continues to live the high life in Hollywood. Patriarch of the family, John Baxter now holds the secret of the past by himself, and remains clueless that Dayne is the son he and his wife gave up for adoption so long ago. Meanwhile, Bloomington kids’ theater director Katy Hart gets the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance to star alongside Dayne Matthews in a major feature film.

I’ve read many Karen Kingsbury books in the past, so I expected another good story when I picked up Fame. But I was disappointed with the one-dimensional characters and slow-moving plot. And maybe it’s just the weariness of chasing a toddler around making me a little touchy, but some of her literary devices became downright irritating.

It’s been awhile since I read anything of Kingsbury’s and I’m left wondering who’s changed: me or Kingsbury? Fortunately, the first chapter of the next book in the series–which was included at the end of Fame–looks promising: I was more intrigued by this single chapter than I had been by the entire story of Fame. So despite this weak opening, perhaps there’s hope for the series after all.

     

I’m going to review the next four books of this series together, because my feeling is that this whole series should have been written as one book anyway.

All in all, I was entertained by Kingbury’s Firstborn series, at least enough to continue reading in a mildly interested kind of way. But in my mind, the story just lacked real warmth or depth.  The characters felt a little flat. And I felt like many  of the scenes were strung out–as if Kingsbury was writing just to reach a particular word count, rather than to deepen the story.

I can’t say I’ll never read Kingsbury again. But after this series, my expectations have sunk a bit, and I think there are probably plenty of other authors who will supply me with a more satisfying read.

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Those Who Save Us

by Jenna Blum

With a stark look at the Holocaust, Blum weaves a powerful tale of mothers and daughters, secrets, and a heritage of guilt in Those Who Save Us. The story unfolds in two narratives: One chronicles the life of Anna–a German woman who becomes mistress to a Nazi camp officer during World War II. The other narrative follows Trudy–Anna’s daughter–as she searches for answers and resolution about her mother’s past and her own father.

I was intrigued by the story and it’s thought-provoking look at an often-ignored perspective; that of Germans who lived amidst the reality of the Holocaust, and their children who inherit the guilt.

Unfortunately, the story was provocative in more ways than one: Blum litters the story with overt sexual references that left me feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed to be reading her prose. I understand her desire to push readers into the sordid reality of Anna’s life as a Nazi’s mistress, but for me the line was crossed: The amount and degree of sexual content was just too much for me to recommend this book to others, no matter how well-crafted the story may be.