All posts filed under: Reviews

firstlight

Firstlight: The Early Inspirational Writings of Sue Monk Kidd

“The most significant gifts are often the ones most easily overlooked. Small everyday blessings: words, health, muse, laughter, memories, books, family, friends, second chances, warm fireplaces, and all the footprints scattered through our days.” Sue Monk Kidd, Firstlight Before becoming an international sensation and household name at the age of fifty-four with the publication of her first novel, Sue Monk Kidd was a writer of personal spiritual nonfiction. And earlier yet, writing was not her primary career at all. A longtime nurse, Kidd began her writing career by surprise when a piece she submitted to a contest was published by Guideposts, an interfaith publication founded in the 1940s. She went on to write for the magazine for twelve more years; thus began a superstar bestseller’s unexpected journey. From there, Kidd went on to write and publish an array of personal nonfiction, from pieces in magazines and eventually three memoirs on spirituality before she would ultimately publish The Secret Life of Bees. Her 2006 book Firstlight gathers together these early writings from her Guideposts years and …

theguestroom

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

“Me? I was never good at hatred. I felt it. I knew it. But it did not live inside me the way it lived inside them. Maybe things would have turned out better if it had. If I had been better at hatred.” Chris Bohjalian, The Guest Room Throughout his career, Chris Bohjalian has taken readers on literary thrill rides through time and space, offering spellbinding glances into the emotional complexities of both past and present, all with an intrepid honesty that catapults his fiction into a realm of literary truth. The one thing he never does: shy away from the hard stuff. In his examination of human nature, and the flawed cultures that are born over and over again as a result, Bohjalian goes into great and challenging depths to pay homage to the unthinkable truths that, as they say, are so much stranger than the fiction built upon them. This was especially true of his 2012 novel, The Sandcastle Girls, with its unforgettable romance set against the backdrop of the unconscionable Armenian genocide. …

snowdeercocoacheer

Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer by Joanne DeMaio

      To Wes, the moment becomes almost magical as she looks up at her tree again. The only sound – if it’s a sound at all – is the hush of the December night. Joanne DeMaio, Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer Returning her readers to the idyllic New England world of her novels, Joanne DeMaio whips up a charming love story that captures all the magic of the holidays and reminds us of the small joys of the season. The fictional village of Addison, with all its friendly neighbors and quaint charm, is the ideal setting for a heart-warming Christmas romance, and the perfect recipe includes two endearing protagonists – mailman Wesley and greeting card designer Jane – thrown together with a precocious puppy, a festive scavenger hunt, and a dose of the magic that only the holidays can deliver. In Snow Deer and Cocoa Cheer, Wes is picking up the pieces after his fiance leaves him jilted just before their wedding, while Jane is nursing a broken wrist and an equally broken …

takingtheleap

Drop the Storyline: Pema Chodron on Learning to Stay with Difficult Emotions

“Deep down in the human spirit there is a reservoir of courage. It’s always available, always waiting to be discovered.” So writes Pema Chodron in the epilogue of her book, Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears, a collection of wisdom gained from her Buddhist teachers. It is, as Pema is known for producing, an attempt at honoring her beloved instructors, passing along their teachings as a means of healing a beautiful, broken world. Yet it becomes, as her work often does, a uniquely important rendering of timeless peace-based practices into a language the modern-day Westerner will be able to quickly understand. “We are all a mixture of aggression and loving-kindness, hard-heartedness and tender open-heartedness, small-mindedness and forgiving open mind. We are not a fixed, predictable, static identity that anyone can point to and say, ‘You are always like this. You are always the same.’ Life’s energy is never static. It is as shifting, fluid, changing as the weather. Sometimes we like how we’re feeling, sometimes we don’t. Then we like it …

sidneychamberssod

Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death by James Runcie

One of the clerical undertakings that Sidney least enjoyed was the abstinence of Lent. The rejection of alcohol between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday had always been a tradition amongst the clergy of Cambridge but Sidney noticed that it neither improved their spirituality nor their patience. In fact, it made some of them positively murderous. James Runcie, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death First published in 2012, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death is the first collection in an ongoing series of mysteries starring the compassionate and engaging Canon Sidney Chambers. Inspired by author James Runcie’s father, Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie, the series captures all the charm of religious life in the English country – with a side of mystery as only the British can conjure. As the first page of the book reads, “Canon Sidney Chambers had never intended to become a detective.” A quiet but spirited Anglican priest, Sidney enjoys tending to the flock of his congregation in the quaint hamlet of Grantchester in Cambridgeshire. He knows his congregants by …

lighthiddenflowers

The Light of Hidden Flowers by Jennifer Handford

“What brings you to our neck of the woods?” Our neck of the woods. Like she and Joe alone owned New Jersey. “Just visiting,” I said lightly, smiling, but for all I knew I had the squiggly-lined mouth of nervous Charlie Brown. Lucy – ha! Lucy – would pull the football from me at any minute, landing me flat on my back. Jennifer Handford, The Light of Hidden Flowers Jennifer Hanford’s newest novel is a tapestry of emotion woven together through multiple stories on themes of acceptance, bravery, and overcoming. At the center of The Light of Hidden Flowers is quiet Missy Fletcher, a whip-smart introvert who has lived a comfortable life safely in the shadow of her larger-than-life father. Financial planner by day, couch-bound Jeopardy! genius by night, Missy lives out her adventures online, planning glamorous trips across the world before her fear of flying makes her once again choose hometown normalcy. On the other end of the Internet is Joe Santelli, the high school sweetheart and love of her life whose picture-perfect marriage …

stronglightofday

Strong Light of Day by Jon Land

“I think the Cold War suddenly got red hot to the touch.” Strong Light of Day by Jon Land In her newest adventure, fifth-generation Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong takes on Russian terrorists with a mission born of history and a new kind of weapon that could completely change the future of the United States. When Caitlin is called to a bayou where a bus full of local teens has gone missing and a cattle ranch where a full herd of cattle has been reduced to skeletons, she never dreams that the mysterious occurrences could possibly be linked. With help from Mexican gunslinger Guillermo Paz and her love interest Cort Wesley, whose youngest son is among the missing, Caitlin works to make sense of the scenarios, uncovering a plot linked back to Afghanistan in 2003 and the ghost of a villain who challenged the Texas Rangers, namely her father, in the ‘80s. Strong Light of Day, the seventh book in Jon Land’s series, boasts explosive action, heart-pounding drama, and a mystery steeped in history that will …

cslewisandhiscircle

C.S. Lewis and His Circle: Essays and Memoirs from the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society

“So I am finding him still at this stage, and I expect still to be finding him when I’m 80, as a welcome and at the same time endearingly infuriating interlocutor. I can never quite let him go…” Malcolm Guite, Yearning for a Far-Off Country (C.S. Lewis and His Circle) Although C.S. Lewis was the author of the beloved Chronicles of Narnia series, he was many other men besides. A professor, an intellectual, a theologian, a philosopher, a brother, a husband, and a Christian, Lewis contributed much to the world in varying ways throughout his life. Largely considered one of the most influential thinkers of modern Christianity, he brought his profound theological insights into his fiction writing; and likewise, the imagination that gave birth to the wonders of Narnia served as his greatest resource as a philosopher. To study Lewis, whether as an academic or a devoted reader, is to uncover a world of new ideas, much in the same way the Pevensie children discovered a new world at the other end of a magical …