January turned out to be a decent month for reading. I am cautiously optimistic that 2012 will be a great reading year, judging from the great start. Here's how the month turned out...
Title: The Shack
Author: William P. Young
Publisher: Windblown Media
Publication Date: May, 2007
Genre: Christian Fiction
Description: Mackenzie Allen Philips' youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation, and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later in the midst of his "Great Sadness," Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend. Against his better judgment he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.
My Thoughts: I began reading this book quite reluctantly, to be honest. I am a Christian, but am not religious. Religion depresses me and I was reluctant to read this because I did not want to read something that would, I thought, rub my nose in the fact that I’m not living my life according to someone else’s idea or perception of how a good Christian should live. I couldn’t have been more wrong!
This story was simply amazing. I think we can all relate to Mack and the “Great Sadness” he is carrying. Though life is full of special and happy events, we all carry within us pain and sorrow from those times when we have been hurt or suffered great loss. Sometimes our pain is so great, we wrap it around ourselves so tightly that we cannot see beyond it. Sometimes we are so angry at what has happened to us that we blame God or others for our pain. We are Mack.
Mack receives a letter from “Papa” four years after his youngest daughter was abducted and likely murdered. His wife refers to God as Papa and I loved that reference. If we are to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father, then why not have one from the heart and make it personal? Calling God “Papa” made me smile and it opens the door for Mack. When he receives the letter, he is very skeptical and cynical about the sender of the note. His friend, Willie, even suggests that the note could be from Missy’s killer, trying to lure Mack there for evil purposes.
Mack goes to the shack both hoping and dreading that God will actually be there. What awaits him is truly amazing. This book made me laugh as the author shows us that God has a wonderful sense of humor. This book made me cry as the author gives us a front row seat into Mack’s heart and his pain, which in turn gave me a front row seat into my own. This book energized me as I read as it struck a chord with me how easy and simple it is to have a relationship with Papa, how I have been struggling in my life needlessly for so long and how liberating it felt to realize this.
This book isn’t about converting anyone to Christianity or trying to guilt you into going to church or rub your nose in what you may or may not be doing in your life. This book is about love, both God’s love for us, his children, and our love for Him and for each other. It amazes me that something so basic and simple comes so hard to us and is so difficult to embrace. After reading this book, it has gotten a lot easier for me to do it. I invite you to take the journey with me and experience the joy of love.
Title: The Survivor
Author: Sean Slater
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: March, 2011
Description: Columbine. Dunblane. Virginia Tech. Winnenden. But Saint Patrick's High?
In his first hour back from a six-month leave of absence, Detective Jacob Striker's day quickly turns into a nightmare. He is barely on scene five minutes at his daughter's high school when he encounters an Active Shooter situation. Three men wearing hockey masks - Black, White, and Red - have stormed the school with firearms and are killing indiscriminately.
Striker takes immediate action. Within minutes, two of the gunmen are dead and Striker is close to ending the violence.
But the last gunman, Red Mask, does something unexpected. He runs up to his fallen comrade, racks the shotgun, and unloads five rounds into the man, obliterating his face and hands. Before Striker can react, Red Mask flees - and escapes.
Against the clock, Striker investigates the killings for which there is no known motive and no known suspect. Soon his investigation takes him to darker places, and he realizes that everything at Saint Patrick's High is not as it appears. The closer he gets to the truth, the more dangerous his world becomes. Until Striker himself is in the line of fire.
And the violence follows him home.
My Thoughts: What begins as a typical run of the mill school shooting quickly escalates into much more. As a reader, I normally do not like a bunch of plot twists and sub-plots that sometimes cloud the main story. Fortunately, this worked for me in this story. As a society, we have seen more news about violence that it is easy to become desensitized to the horror of it. Had this book been about just a school shooting and the subsequent investigation, I probably would have given up on it. In this story, the school shooting is more an initiator of a bigger story.
This book is full of complex and interesting characters, each bringing a unique position to the story. Jacob Striker is a character carrying a lot of baggage already. When we first meet him, we see a police detective who is returning to duty after an extended leave of absence dealing with an incompetent supervisor, a man who is trying to cope with the death of his wife and a father who is struggling to connect with a teenage daughter who is angry and blames him for the death of her mother. He already has a full plate before the story even begins. When I thought he could take no more and would crack under the pressure, he continued to surprise me with his diligent and persistent investigation tactics.
The villain of this story, Red Mask, isn’t your typical bad guy, either. At first, I thought he was just a psychotic angry man who takes out his twisted feelings on innocent children. The author does a fabulous job of giving us a first person look into the mind of Red Mask, to see what he sees and relive what he’s lived through in his life to make him the cold-blooded killer he has become. Not to excuse or justify his actions, but to give the reader a better sense of the path he has walked that has led him to the shooting. Red Mask is a formidable adversary, almost robotic in his thinking. I found myself comparing him to The Terminator as I was reading and the scene from The Terminator when Kyle tells Sarah Connor that he will never stop until she is dead.
The author does an amazing job of peeling back the layers of the story, drawing me in with the suspense and high adrenaline-charged scenes without bogging me down in the technical and police procedural details. Surprisingly, this is the author’s debut novel. With writing like this, I can only hope we will be seeing more of Detective Jacob Striker.
Title: Still Life
Author: Joy Fielding
Publication Date: March, 2009
Genre: Suspense / Thriller
Description: Beautiful, happily married, and the owner of a successful interior design business, Casey Marshall couldn't be more content with her life, until a car slams into her at almost fifty miles an hour, breaking nearly every bone in her body and plunging her into a coma. Lying in her hospital bed, Casey realizes that although she is unable to see or communicate, she can hear everything. She quickly discovers that her friends aren't necessarily the people she thought them to be - and that her accident might not have been an accident at all. As she struggles to break free from her living death, she begins to wonder if what lies ahead could be even worse.
My Thoughts: Joy Fielding is no stranger to the suspense genre as any fan of her books can attest. I know that when I want nail-biting suspense, a Joy Fielding book is a good choice and Still Life delivers. Our heroine, Casey Marshall has a good life. Married to the man of her dreams, a good career, good friends and financially well-off, she has what most of us can only wish for. Unfortunately, her perfect life changes in a split-second when she is run down by a hit and run driver.
This story takes a sinister turn when Casey discovers she can hear what is being said in the presence of her comatose body. She learns that the accident may not have been an accident and she has placed her trust in the wrong person who now wants her dead. Though her body is in a coma, her mind is alert trying to figure out who tried to kill her. How frightening is that? Physically helpless and unable to defend yourself, but able to hear the killer planning to finish the job, I felt sorry for Casey and just as helpless as she did.
For the most part, this story moves along building on the spine-tingling suspense. I could relate very well to what Casey was going through and could feel her frustration and anxiety. The characters in this book come through very clearly. Joy Fielding does an excellent job of describing the scene from Casey’s perspective so I got a real sense of what it was like for Casey.
My only problem with this book was Casey’s reminiscing about her childhood and her parents and the excessive number of nannies Casey and her sister had growing up. It didn’t ruin the story for me, but I found myself getting impatient for Casey to return to the present and work on getting herself out of the coma.
Fans of suspense novels and fans of Joy Fielding will enjoy this offering. It gave me a reminder of how fragile we truly are and how brutally honest people can be when they don’t know you can hear them, which can be quite disturbing.
Title: Married With Zombies (Living With the Dead #1)
Author: Jesse Petersen
Publication Date: September, 2010
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Description: A heartwarming tale of terror in the middle of the zombie apocalypse.
Meet Sarah and David.
Once upon a time they met and fell in love. But now they're on the verge of divorce and going to couples' counseling. On a routine trip to their counselor, they notice a few odd things - the lack of cars on the highway, the missing security guard, and the fact that their counselor, Dr. Kelly, is ripping out her previous client's throat.
Meet the Zombies.
Now, Sarah and David are fighting for survival in the middle of the zombie apocalypse. But, just because there are zombies, doesn't mean your other problems go away. If the zombies don't eat their brains, they might just kill each other.
My Thoughts: This book was a complete riot. I am more a fan of the vampire genre than zombies, but I could not put this book down. Sarah and David appear to be your normal everyday average married couple struggling to keep their marriage alive with divorce looming on the horizon. As with a lot of couples working on their relationship, they are in counseling. The book begins with Sarah and David on their way to a counseling appointment and arguing. From there, the book ceases to be normal on any level and instead takes the reader into an all-out zombie infestation…starting with their annoying, prissy therapist.
Sarah and David have to keep their wits together and learn how to fight the zombies instead of each other if they have any hope of staying alive. One of the things I loved best about this story is that no matter how unrealistic the chances of a zombie apocalypse happening are, the author does a fantastic job of portraying Sarah and David as very realistic. Do they fall into each other’s arms, profess their undying love and apologies for hurting each other at the end of the book? No way…but they do realize what is important and it’s the promise of tomorrow and working together today to get there.
Sadly, a lot of people in the book die, mostly zombies and interestingly, taking out zombies seem to come quite naturally to Sarah and David. They quickly realize that in order to survive, they need to get out of Seattle where they are living and find David’s sister and eventually Sarah’s father. Along the way, they meet some interesting and strange characters and I laughed myself silly at the image of 90+ year old female zombies sitting at slot machines in one casino they stop at.
This is the first book in the author’s Living with the Dead series and is followed by Flip This Zombie. I am not sure if I will like the rest of the series as much as I love this book, but I’m hoping so and looking forward to what Sarah and David face next.
Currently reading SEATTLE GIRL by Lucy Kevin & listening to FANTASY IN DEATH by J.D. Robb
Up Next: THE APPEAL by John Grisham
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