Fiction · Gwen B · In the Library · Page-Turner · Quick Read!

A Step of Faith | by Richard Paul Evans

A Step of Faith

A Step of Faith by Richard Paul Evans
(Simon & Schuster, 2013, 279 pages)

Overview:

Following the #4 New York Times bestseller The Road to Grace, Richard Paul Evans’s hero Alan Christoffersen faces a life-changing crisis on his journey to grace.

After the death of his beloved wife, after the loss of his advertising business to his once-trusted partner, after bankruptcy forced him from his home, Alan Christoffersen is a broken man. Leaving everything he knows, he sets out on an extraordinary cross-country journey; with only the pack on his back, he is walking from Seattle to Key West—the end of the map.

Along the way, Alan begins to heal, meeting people who teach him lessons about love, sacrifice, and forgiveness. But in St. Louis, Alan faces another life-changing crisis, and now the journey is in jeopardy.

I couldn’t wait to read the 4th book of this series. It was well worth the wait, let me tell you! It was also cool to see that St. Louis was a part of his journey. I didn’t want the story to end. Thank God there will be another one coming 🙂 Richard Paul Evans has tugged at my heart again with A Step of Faith, the latest installment of his amazing “The Walk” series. Alan heads from St. Louis through the deep South tasting the culture and amazing food along the way.

He meets some very interesting people including an encounter with a “religion” he never expected. All of them have Alan pondering what he really needs and wants most. When Alan comes to the realization about what to do, he hits another speed bump in his path. I read this book quickly and could not put it down. Mr. Evans is an incredible storyteller and this book is the best one of this series, yet! Now begins the agonizing wait for the final part of this incredible adventure which is due out next year. “The Walk” series puts readers through an emotional wringer and we are better for the ride.

It started out with The Walk and now after many Miles to Go down The Road to Grace take A Step of Faith and join the journey. Life’s road will never look the same. I have read each of “The Walk” Series books as they came out. I am curious how this trip is going to end since A Step of Faith had a surprise ending! All of Richard Paul Evans books are inspiring and heartfelt and this book is no different. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to the next one! My only complaint with this book is that it is to be continued. Ironically, that is also a blessing because it means at least one more book in this wonderful series!

I definitely recommend reading this series. It was good for my soul. It will leave you with deep thoughts about the journey we’re all taking and where life will lead us. I would so love to see it turned into a movie. It would be great!

Fiction · Sadie J · Steampunk

A Clockwork Heart | by Liesel Schwarz

A Clockwork Heart

A Clockwork Heart by Liesel Schwarz
(Del Ray, 2013, 304 pages)

Hugh and Elle are enjoying their newly married status but, like any newly married couple, are struggling to agree on a few aspects of their new lives together. After a particularly intense fight over Elle’s flying schedule, Elle returns home to find Hugh missing and rumors about people walking around at night surrounded by a strange ticking noise. Elle now has to use her powers as the Oracle to track down Hugh with the help of Loisa, a Nightwalker. Throughout Elle’s search, she meets new friends and enemies and discovers the mystery of Hugh’s disappearance and the clockwork zombies are more intertwined then she expected.

This is the second book in The Chronicles of Light and Shadow series and although it has a slower pace in the beginning, I really enjoyed the ending and the different Steampunk characters that Schwarz introduces. I’m glad that Hugh’s character had a backseat role this time around because that gave way for other characters to develop, like Loisa. I also liked that Schwarz showed that Elle didn’t need Hugh to be a strong heroine and that she’s a little more independent then I originally thought. I wasn’t super excited to read the second book in the series but with the surprise ending, I can’t wait for the next installment, Sky Pirates, coming out next year!

Fiction · Sadie J

Nineteen Minutes | by Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
(Atria Books, 2007, 464 pages)

When the residents of Sterling woke up on a cold March morning, they had no idea Peter Houghton would change their town forever. Peter has been the victim of bullying since his first day of kindergarten. He endured years of torment that led him to lashing out in an unthinkable violent way. One of Peter’s victims is the boyfriend of Josie Cormier, who used to be friends with Peter when they were young. Josie decided to abandon Peter when she thought it would be easier for her social status to rise without him. Now Josie and Peter must face the consequences that their actions have had on one another.

This was an interesting book to read for the second time. The first time I picked it up was in 2007, right after it was published. Since then, there have been multiple school shootings, including the tragedies at Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook. I’m not sure if I was a little too young to completely understand what happened at Columbine but this time around, the read seemed more intense and life-like. Maybe this was because those shootings happened when I was more understanding of what was happening in the world. Picoult has a great ability to take current events and display the issues from both sides of the spectrum. In Nineteen Minutes, Picoult covered the victims of the shooting trying to move on with their lives and Peter as the victim of bullying that led up to the shooting.

Cats! · Fiction · Jean R · Mystery

Hiss of Death | by Rita Mae Brown

Hiss of Death

Hiss of Death by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
(Bantam, 2012, 336 pages)

Hiss of Death by Rita Mae Brown and feline co-author, Sneaky Pie Brown, is the 20th book in the Mrs. Murphy Mystery series. In Hiss of Death, our heroine, Harry, is diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer. As Harry is being diagnosed and treated for the disease, professionals from the hospital where she is being treated start dying. First, there was the OR nurse who may or may not have died from a hornet sting. The next two deaths are definitely murder. Harry being Harry feels the need to solve this murder mystery.

The Mrs. Murphy Mystery series is set in Crozet in central Virginia. Harry lives on a farm with her veterinarian husband (Fair), her Corgi (Tee Tucker), and her two cats (Mrs. Murphy and a Pewter). The Corgi and the two cats help Harry solve her mysteries.

I hadn’t read a Mrs. Murphy Mystery for a few years so I decided to read Hiss of Death to see what Harry and the cast of characters in this series was up to these days. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed the earlier books. The animals didn’t seem to be as much help in solving the mystery. Or maybe it was the weighty subject of breast cancer that permeated the book. If you’ve read other books in this series, I would read this one. If you want to start reading this series, I’d start with one of the earlier books.

Fiction · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance

Match Me If You Can | by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Match Me If You Can

Match Me If You Can by Susan Elizabeth Phillips
(William Morrow, 2005, 400 pages)

Annabelle is revamping her grandmother’s matchmaking business. She’s hoping to get a high profile client so she can establish her presence in Chicago. Thanks to the fact that her friend’s husband is a client of one of Chicago’s most famous sports agents Annabelle finds herself with an “in” as she gets a meeting with The Python, otherwise known as Heath Champion. Heath is ready to settle down and get married. He has a timeline and he intends to follow it – this is just the next thing he’s ready to “accomplish.” Heath knows what he wants in a woman: beauty, intelligence, patience (she has to deal with a lot of high-maintenance athletes), and a good pedigree. Annabelle is willing to do whatever it takes to try and make Heath’s match happen, but she has no problem putting him in line when she tries to explain that it’s not as simple as making a list and finding the girl.

There’s no denying Heath’s an attractive man. While Annabelle is lusting after him she assures herself it’s only because it has been a while since her last “romantic interlude.” At the same time Heath finds that when he’s on the dates Annabelle sets up for him – all of which she has to be a part of – he has more fun talking with her than the potential matches. She’s nowhere near the woman he envisions himself ending up with, but he can’t deny that there’s an attraction there…

Will Annabelle ever be able to find a successful match for Heath? Will Heath ever be able to realize that if he wants to be in a relationship he’ll have to put his work second?

This was a really fun, quick read for me. Susan Elizabeth Phillips is definitely an engaging writer who pulls you into her stories quickly. I don’t know how I haven’t picked up more books by her, yet 🙂

Fiction · Food! · Julia P · Quick Read! · Romance

The Chocolate Thief | by Laura Florand

The Chocolate Thief

The Chocolate Thief by Laura Florand
(Kensington, 2012, 320 pages)

The semester is just getting under way and I’m in the mood for light, fun reads so I have lots of romance novels sitting at home, compliments of the library. The Chocolate Thief revolves around Cade Corey, heiress to the Corey Chocolate fortune in the United States, as she attempts to convince one of Paris’s top chocolatiers (Sylvain Marquis) to collaborate on a chocolate with her under the Corey name. Sylvain would never think of debasing himself in such a way and he has no qualms in letting Cade know that he considers her family’s chocolate to be beneath him. The two immediately get under each other’s skin – but there is also a considerable amount of sexual chemistry.

Cade’s grandfather started the Corey Chocolate business and he was always eager to learn the secrets of European chocolatiers so when he was younger he tried to steal them. Cade can’t help but let her grandfather’s efforts guide her when she makes the decision to break in to Sylvain’s chocolate shop. She leaves considerable evidence behind since she couldn’t keep from snacking while she searched for recipes. When Sylvain realizes what has happened he’s both infuriated and slightly turned on. Cade and Sylvain play a sort of cat and mouse game as she tries to figure out a way to make her dream of a luxury chocolate line come true and he tries to resist Cade’s sexual pull.

I enjoyed this read, but not as much as I thought I would given that it combined romance with food, one of my favorite things to read about. I might give more of Florand’s books a try, though.

Andrew S · Literature · Non-Fiction

The Precincts of Felicity | by Charles Moorman

The Precincts of Felicity

The Precincts of Felicity: The Augustinian City of the Oxford Christians by Charles Moorman
(University of Florida Press, 1966, 143 pages)

There is plenty of literature available on the Oxford literary group known as The Inklings, but this is one title that you would really have to do some digging to come across. I happened to find it while looking for more resources on Charles Williams, one of the members of the group. Moorman’s book traces the themes of Augustine’s Civitas Dei (City of God) and Civitas Terrena (City of Man), discussed in the theological classic City of God, through the writings of Charles Williams, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, T. S. Eliot, and Dorothy Sayers.

Moorman clearly sees Charles Williams as the center of this literary circle. This is certainly debatable, but Moorman does a good job of making his case. It is certainly the case that it is in Williams’ writings that the “City” plays the largest thematic role. Moorman does an excellent job drawing out the less obvious ways that this theme is used by the other writers as well. It was particularly helpful to see the way that the “City” plays a major role in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, especially given that it is his emphasis on the pastoral, the rural, and the natural for which Tolkien is most commonly noted. The chapter on Tolkien alone ensures that what otherwise might be a dated study remains relevant given the continued scholarly interest in Tolkien and the neglect of this particular theme in his work.

Andrew S · Non-Fiction · Religion

Generous Justice | by Timothy Keller

Generous Justice

Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just by Timothy Keller
(Dutton, 2010, 256 pages)

In Generous Justice Timothy Keller makes the case that a true understanding of the grace of God will cultivate a concern for social justice on the part of the church. Keller lays out an exegetical case from Old Testament case law, the OT prophets, and the words of Jesus that God is particularly concerned for the poor and disadvantaged. He also argues that part of the biblical concept of “righteousness,” involves sustained and sacrificial provision for society’s underprivileged from those with greater resources.

Keller’s discussion of these issues is very balanced, and he constantly seeks to show how a biblical conception of social justice eschews major aspects of both liberal and conservative approaches to poverty relief. This is no idealistic treatise – ethos is coupled with practical guidelines and anecdotal examples of how churches can engage in “doing justice.” Keller advocates a gradated approach to address the multiple levels at which vulnerable people need help. He calls these levels relief (direct aid to meet immediate needs), development (sustained support to bring individuals, families, and communities to a place of economic self-sufficiency), and social reform (attempts to change the structural conditions which create dependency). Keller shows both why and how churches and individuals should be engaged at each of these levels.

This book does an excellent job of addressing an important issue with clear theological reasoning, sociological insight, and practical recommendations. Churches have a major part to play as “mediating institutions” that can help fill the gap between individuals and state and federal governments. They can do so by taking steps to “do justice,” which Keller defines quite beautifully toward the end of the book:

“In general, to “do justice” means to live in a way that generates a strong community where human beings can flourish. Specifically, however, to “do justice” means to go to places where the fabric of shalom [Hebrew for “peace”] has broken down, where the weaker members of societies are falling through the fabric, and to repair it. This happens when we concentrate on and meet the needs of the poor.” (177)

Andrew S · Non-Fiction · Religion

Counterfeit Gods | by Timothy Keller

Counterfeit Gods

Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters
by Timothy Keller
(Dutton, 2009, 240 pages)

Timothy Keller defines a “counterfeit god” or an idol, as “anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would hardly be worth living” (xviii). He exposes the ways that romantic love, money, careers, and political convictions can become idols. Keller does a good job of sketching a biblical theology of idolatry, arguing that Scripture, taken as a whole, views idols not only as created objects of ritual worship but as any created thing which functions to take the place of God in someone’s life.

One of the things that is so helpful about Keller’s treatment of this subject is that he recognizes idolatry as something that can be societal and systemic and not simply an issue of individual spiritual concern. Not surprisingly, Keller identifies greed as one of the systemic idols of late modern capitalist societies like our own, suggesting that “we should all begin with a working hypothesis that ‘this could easily be a problem for me’” (53). Likewise, our intellectual endeavors can be the source of our idols: “An ideology, like an idol, is a limited, partial account of reality that is raised to the level of the final word on things” (104). In this sense, rooting out the counterfeit gods in our lives and society’s will involve a significant degree of cultural critique as well as personal soul-searching. The only way to finally root out these idols is to replace them with the true God of grace through sustained meditation on and worship of him.

Keller’s account of idolatry is nuanced and subtle. He draws not only from theological, but also philosophical, sociological, and psychological resources to make his case. In an age that is ostensibly characterized by secularism, Keller helps to reveal the way that religious impulses pervade every level of our lives.

Fiction · Jean R · Young Adult

Kingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage | by Ridley Pearson

Kingdom Keepers Dark Passage

Kingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage by Ridley Pearson
(Disney-Hyperion, 2013, 448 pages)

Kingdom Keepers VI: Dark Passage by Ridley Pearson is the sixth book in the Kingdom Keeper series. Dark Passage picks up where Kingdom Keepers V: Shell Game ended. The five teen members of Disney’s interactive holographic hosts project are back on the Disney cruise ship, the Dream, pursuing evil Disney villains (also known as Overtakers) who are trying to take over the Disney theme parks and cruise line.  In Dark Passage, the villains are Maleficent, The Evil Queen, Tia Dalma, and Chernabog. The five teens are Finn, Charlene, Maybeck, Willa, and Philby. The plot involves the villains trying to wake one of Disney’s most powerful villains, Chernobog, from his stupor by a three step process which includes sacrificing one of the five teens.

There is a seventh and final book planned for the Kingdom Keepers series to be released in 2014. The format of this series is slightly reminiscent of the Harry Potter series. There will be seven books. The books get progressively darker. There is magic involved. However, Harry Potter lives in a world created by J.K. Rowling. The Kingdom Keepers live in a world created by Disney and adapted by Ridley Pearson. I enjoy the behind-the-scenes look at Disney that Pearson shares with the reader. While the author suggests that each book in the series can stand alone, if you have not read the earlier books in the series, I would suggest starting at the beginning with book one, Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark.