That Night by Chevy Stevens
(St. Martin’s Press, 2014, 384 pages)
“As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night. Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison. Now thirty-four, Toni, is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.”
I don’t think I would recommend this book, while the writing is decent and I really liked the other book I read by her (Still Missing) the story fell a little short of the mark. I also did not like the narrator for this audiobook so that might have had an effect as well, it contributed to my annoyance with the main character Toni. The ending was a pretty big let down as well.
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
(Penguin Classics, 1987, 160 pages)
I found John Bunyan’s 17th century religious autobiography fascinating for a number of reasons. Here are a couple of them. First and foremost, it is of interest for the way that it biographically parallels the journey of the character Christian in Bunyan’s famous work of allegorical fiction The Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan’s own conversion and struggle for a sense of security in salvation are articulated in language that, at points (as helpfully pointed out by the editor), is used almost verbatim to describe characters and scenes in The Pilgrim’s Progress. Second, Bunyan’s account gives a window into the tumultuous religious climate of early modern England. As a “dissenting” preacher – a Christian minister who worked outside the structure of the Church of England – Bunyan was imprisoned by the government for years at a time. These stakes help to make sense of the agonizing that accompanies the long process of Bunyan’s conversion.
The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans
(Simon & Schuster, 2014, 251 pages)
One day in November Elise Dutton is approached in the food court by a man named Nicholas Derr. They have never met but she recognizes him because he works in the same building as her. He has a crazy proposition for her, he would like her to be his pretend girlfriend through Christmas. They would attend all of their holiday parties together so neither of them would have to go alone. Elise has had a life filled with tragedy that has caused her heartache and guilt but she surprises herself by agreeing to go along with his proposal. During this fake relationship she is finding love and joy again. While their relationship is progressing, the truth of her past as well as his is slowly revealed. Will their relationship be able to withstand the struggles they have in dealing with life’s difficult circumstances?
Evans does a nice job of building the characters along with the relationship between Elise and Nicholas. The story tugs at your heart while pulling you in. There are so many life lessons in this heartwarming story including the importance of not only forgiving others but also being able to forgive yourself. This is a wonderful Christmas story for the holidays.
The Magician’s Elephant by Kate DiCamillo; illustrated by Yoko Tanaka
(Candlewick Press, 2009, 201 pages)
The Magician’s Elephant is a story about a ten year old boy named Peter who lost his parents and sister. He is being raised by a man who served in the military with his father in the small town of Baltese. He is not completely convinced that his sister has died. He discovers that a fortune teller has set up a tent in the town square and decides to ask her a question that he needs to know the answer to… is his sister still alive? She tells him that not only is she alive but an elephant is going to be the one to show him the way to her. Although the news does not make much sense to him, he is determined to figure out exactly what she meant.
I read this book along with my eight year old son. It was a little over his reading level but nonetheless it was such a delightful story it was well worth the time and effort he put into reading it. We both thought it was a magically delightful story about the power of forgiveness and the importance of love for family and friends. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for story to share with young readers so they can have an understanding that anything is possible and to never lose hope.
The Revelatory Body: Theology as Inductive Art by Luke Timothy Johnson
(Eerdmans, 2015, 256 pages)
In The Revelatory Body, Luke Timothy Johnson makes the case that theological reflection is incomplete if it deals only with the written word. Careful attention must also be paid to the human, bodily experiences of play, pain, work, and aging. These experiences tell us things about the divine that we cannot garner from texts alone. Johnson’s book is packed with wisdom and good sense. An extended review should appear in the Advent 2015 print issue of The Englewood Review of Books.
The Martian by Andy Weir
(Broadway Books, 2014, 387 pages)
For the first time ever, six astronauts have landed on Mars. On day six of their mission a dust storm blows in and in the attempt to get back to their ship, things go awry. One man, Mark Watney, is presumed dead and they make the difficult decision to leave him behind in order for the rest of the crew to survive only to find out later that he is alive!
You might think a novel that is about a man stranded on Mars and NASA working on a rescue mission to save him might not be all that entertaining but this book was far from a snoozer. I was captivated immediately. The book goes back and forth between NASA’s strategic planning to save him and Watney’s daily journal entries.
Andy Weir used his in-depth knowledge about space and space travel when writing this novel. Parts of the story read kind of complicated with the problem solving such as word problems and scientific calculations, but it added realism to the scenarios Watney and NASA were facing.
Watney’s extremely sarcastic and space nerd personality shows through in his daily journal entries. In his overwhelming desire to keep himself alive in hopes of being rescued, he never loses his sense of humor. This is what made the novel for me. I am not a science nerd myself but still found this to be a gripping and humorous story that was not easy to put down.
This novel part of SCC’s book club and I am very anxious to hear what others have to say.
You can also check out Julia’s review of this title.
Cross My Heart by James Patterson
(Little, Brown and Company, 2013, 419 pages)
Detective Alex Cross loves solving crimes, but he loves his family too. His children, wife, and Nana Mama are his pride and joy. He would do anything to protect them from danger. While Cross is hot on the trail of multiple crimes, he is unaware that someone is after him. The assailant is busy plotting to abduct his family members one by one as he works to commit the perfect crime. Patterson paints vivid images of the family that has been uprooted due to renovations on the family house. Cross receives images on his cell phone depicting gruesome murders of his family members, which causes him to lose control. However, things are not as they appear and the story ends with the reader dangling to find out what has really happened to the Cross family.