The Shack

ShackoverAs I’ve mentioned before, I’ve never been big on reading Christian-based books. Not even just Christian but religious books in general. The fiction ones come off too cheesy most of the time and the non-fiction ones are just too dry. So when my mother begged me to read The Shack, I was a little reluctant. I’d heard quite a bit about the book especially now that there is a movie on it and it hadn’t really struck my fancy. But I thoroughly enjoy discussing books with my mom, so I gave it a shot.

I have never read a more emotionally exhausting book. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. I’ve never had a book break me apart and put me back together in new ways. It was exhilarating and saddening all at the same time.

The Shack tells the story of Mackenzie “Mack” Allen Phillips and his “Great Sadness”. Three years earlier, he took his kids camping for a weekend. The day they are to leave, his youngest daughter goes missing and can’t be found. Mack carries this sadness with him for years, his children suffer from the loss of their sister, and his wife is just trying to keep the family together. Until one day, Mack receives a note in the mailbox signed by “Papa”, the name his wife calls God, asking him to go back to where his sadness all began. Is this some cruel trick played by a neighbor? Or is God really asking Mack to face his past?

Ultimately, Mack decides to go back to the shack and find what awaits him there. By doing so, Mack opens himself up to a healing like no other and a learning experience many will never believe.

William P. Young writes a marvelous tale of sadness, anger, forgiveness, and finding out what love really means. The Shack forces you to reexamine your relationship with God, whether you have one or not, and question all the things you thought you knew about religion. I can’t recommend this book enough, but fair warning, be sure you have plenty of tissues handy.

Eleanor

Bookshot_Spine_MedHave you ever read H.P. Lovecraft? You know how his books like to toy with your mind? I always find I get “brain cringes” when I read his books because I feel like someone has taken my mind and played with it. I love that feeling, but at the same time I don’t.

Jason Gurley’s Eleanor reminds me quite a bit of Lovecraft’s work, however, less creepy. In Eleanor, we’re introduced to a multitude of characters, all deeply connected in one way or another. Eleanor is a young mother who abandons her daughter and husband on a stormy night. Years later, her daughter, Agnes, has a family of her own. On another stormy day, tragedy strikes and tears the family apart. Now her daughter, Eleanor, must find a way to put her family back together if they’re ever to have a chance at happiness.

Gurley manages to take a tale and twist it into something completely different. Eleanor is unlike anything you’ve read before. Simultaneously dealing with teenagedom, family tragedy, depression, and fantasy, Eleanor is a book you won’t want to put down. With hints of mystery and saving a family, Eleanor begs the question: what if you could push a reset button? What lengths would you go to in order to bring happiness back to your family?

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

The Light Between Oceans

13158800I had looked forward to reading this book for so long. The synopsis seemed like a great story. Little did I know how much this would affect me.

The Light Between Oceans tells the tale of a war hero and a headmaster’s daughter who fall in love and move to an island so he can be a lightkeeper. Tom, the lightkeeper, is quiet and subdued. He doesn’t shed much light on his past and we only know bits and pieces. Isabel, a young feisty girl, falls for Tom hard and burrows her way into his life. They are the perfect team and suited for each other well. But there’s only one problem. They can’t have children, the one thing that Isabel wants most in life.

After the loss of their third child, Isabel is distraught and deep in mourning. But a dinghy floats onto the shores of their island carrying a deceased man and a young baby. Immediately Isabel takes to the little one, who they call Lucy. She convinces her husband to keep the child, justifying it by God giving them a child to replace the one they’d just lost. But what happens when they find out the baby has a mother who is alive, and living not far from them?

This story offers so much. As a mother of three beautiful children, I can’t imagine one of them disappearing and not knowing what became of them. On the other hand, I can’t imagine never having them in my life and wanting so desperately to have children of my own. The Light Between Oceans is a deep reflection on two mothers’ love for the same child, although different to each one. M.L. Stedman has a wonderful writing style; both straightforward and poetic. While some parts of the book seemed to drag, overall this story kept my interest and had me in tears by the end.

All The Bright Places

16646123Ever read one of those books that works its way into your heart and then rips it out?

All The Bright Places is one of those books that leaves a mark. It affects your life in a way that some books are incapable of. Jennifer Niven weaves a tale of young love and loss.

Violet is a senior who lost her one and only sister in a car accident. The world is telling her to move on but she can’t seem to find the way. She had big plans for her future but after her sister’s death she’s lost and unsure.

Finch is a boy still trying to find himself without losing his foothold on this world. He gets lost sometimes but always finds a way back. Then one day, he finds Violet. She becomes an anchor for him. Someone he can turn to when he feels himself floating away. In contrast, Finch becomes Violet’s wings. He takes her to places she never would have dreamed of visiting right in their own state. He teaches her to climb mountains and that it’s ok to move on without forgetting the ones we lost.

While focusing on the tough subjects of teenagedom, Niven is elegant in her storytelling. She manages to create characters both lovable and personal. Though not your typical teen romance, Niven does a wonderful job keeping the reader engaged. All The Bright Places was incredibly difficult to put down. I highly recommend it, but be sure you have some tissues nearby.

The Kitchen House

6837103Imagine your entire family gone. No memory of who you are or where you came from, and suddenly being pushed into a world you’re unfamiliar with.

Lavinia is a young girl who is in such a situation. Brought to a Virginian plantation by a captain who found her on a ship, alone and sick. She is placed in the kitchen house with a group of slaves who quickly become her family. But Lavinia isn’t used to the segregation and she doesn’t quite understand the nuances of her new place in the world.

With people like Mama Mae and twins, Fanny and Beattie, her world isn’t just loneliness and heartache. She makes her place in their world, not knowing that one day she’ll soon have to join a different crowd.

Kathleen Grissom brings to light the hardships of being a slave in the 18th century and how one child can change things for the better. The Kitchen House is a tremendous story with underlying tones of issues still going on today. A roller coaster ride of emotions, it’s incredibly difficult to put down. Grissom manages to give two sides to her story without drowning in details and getting lost in the timeline. Alternating chapters between the two main characters, Lavinia and Belle, make for a well-rounded book.

Be prepared if you choose to pick this book up. You will finish it and be emotionally exhausted. But you won’t regret adding this to your bookshelf!

A Dog’s Purpose

7723542If you’ve watched any TV lately, you’ve probably seen a trailer for an upcoming movie titled A Dog’s Purpose. I have to tell you, that trailer made me laugh and cry all in the two minutes it lasts. Which of course, makes me want to go see the movie. But when I’d heard it was based off a book, I had to add it to my reading list.

Best. Decision. Ever.

This is by far one of the best books I’ve read recently. Part of that could because I’m an animal lover but another part of it is because this book is so well written. W. Bruce Cameron takes us on a rollercoaster of a ride starting with puppydom to adulthood and back again. Cameron spins a story of a dog that keeps being born, looking for his purpose in this crazy world. And with each birth, he finds it. From being a stray to a search and rescue, this canine finds its way in the world and then some.

A Dog’s Purpose pulls at your heartstrings and makes you bubble with laughter. I caught myself often wondering if this was how my dog saw the world. I warn you, if you pick this book up, have a box of tissues and a canine companion nearby. You will want nothing more than to snuggle into a dog while reading this charming novel.

Even knowing how it ends, I can’t wait to see the movie later this month. Maybe I’ll even pick up Cameron’s other book, A Dog’s Journey.