Book Review – The Shack

Book: The Shack – Author: William Paul Young

Genre: Christian Fiction, Spirituality

Description from Goodreads:

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 Review:

I’ll be completely honest, even as a Catholic, I’m not usually comfortable reading Christian books. Most of them come across as ‘holier-than-thou’ and really pushy; like, “I’m right, you’re wrong, and if you would only let God into your life, maybe you wouldn’t be such a horrible person”. Yeah, there’s a reason there’s such a stigma about Christians these days. :/

This book is not one of those books. Yes, it’s super religious. I mean God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are actually main characters and the entire book is about Mack learning to love and believe in his faith again. But it really comes across more as a family conversation rather than a push to get people to believe in Christianity. It’s very much a “we’re here for you and we love you, please don’t push us away” kind of novel. It was touching and honestly something I needed to hear in my life right now.

For those of you nervous about the kidnapped daughter plot…yes, it is very sad. But they don’t really dwell on the details of what happened to her. They do discuss her being taken and then give closure to that part of the story, but it’s not the focus of the book. This is a story about Mack, not his daughter.

On the technical side, I thought the writing was really good. The descriptions of everything happening at the shack were beautifully done and the dialogue was very believable. Dialogue can be tricky even in the simplest of books…and this was NOT a simple book. There were some very deep questions being raised and the author answered them as thoroughly and understandably as he could, considering he is not actually God.

And yes, I understand that these answers are just his opinion. Everyone has their own and that is completely fine. I felt that a lot of what he said aligned with my personal beliefs and that’s why the book really felt true and comforting to me. I would recommend this book for people who are either of the Christian faith or want to learn about our beliefs. And if you end up thinking it’s all a load of crap, that’s totally ok too. 😉

Similar Books:

Not necessarily religious books, but books that make you explore what it means to be you.

Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit – Daniel Quinn

Life of Pi – Yann Martel

The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom

Book Review – Jackaby (aka SuperWhoLock)

Book: Jackaby – Author: William Ritter

Genre: Mystery, Supernatural, Young Adult

Description from Goodreads:

Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny.

My Review:

I really enjoyed this one. The description on Goodreads actually goes on to call it “Doctor Who meets Sherlock” and I can see their point. Jackaby reminds me so much of the 11th Doctor, that I actually kept picturing him as Matt Smith while I was reading. I mean…

“The most recent gentleman has proven to be far more resilient and a great deal more helpful. He remains with me in a . . . different capacity.”

“What capacity?”

Jackaby’s step faltered, and he turned his head away slightly. His mumbled reply was nearly lost to the wind. “He is temporarily waterfowl.”

Yeah, totally the 11th Doctor. 😉

Vincent-and-the-Doctor-gif.gif

But the main character in this book isn’t the adorably quirky Jackaby, it is his new assistant, Abigail. Like the illustrious Dr. Watson, Abigail finds herself caught up in the whirlwind that is Jackaby, but isn’t so taken aback that she can’t hold her own. She’s feisty and capable and won’t back down in a fight, but she’s also smart and uses her position in society (a young lady in the late 1800s) to her advantage.

Speaking of characters, can a house be a character? Jackaby’s house reminded me of a mixture of Sherlock’s flat and Newt Scamander’s briefcase, with a few ghosts thrown in for good measure. I would LOVE a whole book of short stories based on the artifacts in that house!

The mystery itself was really interesting too. It was obvious from the get-go that we weren’t dealing with a normal murderer, but it took a long time to piece together what type of creature was lurking. See, Jackaby & Abagail don’t just investigate regular crimes. Like Sherlock, Jackaby is only called in when the crime is so strange the police can’t figure out what’s going on, but in Jackaby’s case, this usually leads down a more mystical path (though he would insist that everything can be explained by science). There were a lot of twists and turns, good monsters and bad monsters, and we were learning about which to trust and which to run from right alongside Abigail.

Now, there WAS a bit of romance, but it wasn’t really in your face and (spoilers?) it wasn’t between Abigail & Jackaby, which was a relief. I know I’m in the minority, especially among female young adult readers, but I always think that sort of thing detracts from the story rather than adds to it.

Actually, doing this review reminded me why I liked this book; so much so that I paused while writing it to pop down the street to the library and pick up the next two in the series. 😉 Let’s see if they are as good, shall we?

Similar Books:

Death Cloud (Andrew Lane) Series: Young Sherlock Holmes

The Screaming Staircase (Jonathon Stroud) Series: Lockwood & Co

Mini Reviews – Cozy Mysteries & Spies

Well, I’ve been on a cozy mysteries kick again. They seem to be my go-to for when I’m not feeling my greatest; kind of like a comfort novel. 🙂

Crewel World (Monica Ferris)
Series: A Needlepoint Mystery #1

Description from Goodreads: When Betsy’s sister is murdered in her own needlecraft store, Betsy takes over the shop and the investigation. But to find the murderer, she’ll have to put together a list of motives and suspects to figure out this killer’s pattern of crime…

367063Review: Being a fan of cozy mysteries, but not a fan of romance, I decided to appeal to my Cozy Mysteries group on Goodreads and see if they had any suggestions. This was one of the series they came up with.

What a perfect recommendation for a crafter-at-heart! As you can see in the description above, most of the story takes place in a needlecraft store. As a crocheter & sometimes cross-stitcher, the craft store is one of my favorite places, so that really appealed to me. They even include a cross-stitch pattern in the back of the book! 🙂

The characters in this series (or at least this first book) are all fairly likable. There’s only one person who is kind of rude, but even she doesn’t seem to be that way on purpose. The mystery was decent too, though I admit to figuring out the bad guy pretty quickly. But even then the story didn’t seem to drag at all. I’m curious to see how this series goes, so I’m definitely going to try the next one.

Dead Cold (Louise Penny) — Alternate Title: A Fatal Grace
Series: Chief Inspector Armand Gamache #2

Description from Goodreads: No one liked CC de Poitiers. Not her quiet husband, not her spineless lover, not her pathetic daughter—and certainly none of the residents of Three Pines. CC de Poitiers managed to alienate everyone, right up until the moment of her death. When Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, of the Sûreté du Québec, is called to investigate, he quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone quite extraordinary. CC de Poitiers was electrocuted in the middle of a frozen lake, in front of the entire village, as she watched the annual curling tournament. And yet no one saw anything. With his trademark compassion and courage, Gamache digs beneath the idyllic surface of village life to find the dangerous secrets long buried there. For a Quebec winter is not only staggeringly beautiful but deadly, and the people of Three Pines know better than to reveal too much of themselves. 

10783250Review: I fell in love with this series during the first novel and this second one didn’t let me down. CI Gamache is the type of detective I would want solving my murder–calm, collected, clever, and not inclined to push people around to get what he needs. (I mean, yes, solve my murder, but don’t torture my Mom and friends to find out who did it.) He seems like the type of person I’d like to know in real life, which makes everything that happens in a book take on a much more personal meaning.

The mystery in this novel was pretty good. I did figure out who the killer was, but that’s mostly because I like taking wild guesses really early on that sometimes end up being correct. 😉 They mystery of HOW the person murdered CC, though, that was a toughy. I really enjoyed putting all the clues together along with the police.

I also loved the interactions between all the characters. Three Pines feels like a real town with real people. It’s just the sort of place I would love to live in…if only people would stop being murdered there. 😉

The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (Dorothy Gillman)
Series: Mrs. Pollifax #1

Description from Goodreads: Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent. This time, the assignment sounds as tasty as a taco. A quick trip to Mexico City is on her agenda. Unfortunately, something goes wrong, and our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

149340Review: Is there such a thing as a ‘cozy spy novel’ or have I just made that up? Well, if there is, this book fits the bill. Mrs. Pollifax, a sixty-something grandmother, randomly decides one day that she is sick of this ‘retirement’ gig and wants to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a spy…so she pops down to the CIA offices and volunteers. Imagine “Murder She Wrote” as an espionage thriller and you’ll be kind of close. 😉

This book was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed the character of Mrs. Pollifax. She was fiesty, witty, and never gave up. The side characters were also great, matching her wit-for-wit and showing that, even in the darkest places, you can meet great people.

I highly recommend this series for someone looking for a light-hearted spy novel (they can be so hard to find!) or anyone just looking for a fun read.


What’s your go-to genre for when you aren’t at your greatest?

Book Review – The Juliet

Book: The Juliet – Author: Laura Ellen Scott

Genre: Adult, Adventure, Western?, Treasure Hunt

Description from Goodreads:

During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane. (see listing here)

My Review:

Where to start…

This was an odd one. Though the description above focuses on only two characters, the book itself is more about the history of the jewel and ALL of it’s owners, not just Rigg & Willie. The entire lifetime of the Juliet is shown, along with all the despicable things people did to each other in order possess the gem.

I will say, the novel hopped around quite a bit in the Juliet’s history, going back and forth between all the owners’ stories at once, instead of running a direct timeline. This made sense in the context of the story, but it was somewhat difficult to follow. The author DID include the dates at the beginning of each section, but I still had some trouble remembering who lived in which year, though not enough to throw me out of the story.

It helped that I really liked the author’s writing style. All the characters seemed completely believable, which, considering the wide variety, was pretty impressive. Even though most of the characters were all similarly greedy, the author managed to imbue each of them with their own sense of purpose and individuality. And, as easy as it would have been to go overboard with the ways in which the characters obtain the Juliet, you never have to throw on the “suspension of disbelief” switch in this novel. Even the most unbelievable of twists seemed entirely believable with this cast of characters.

The author also managed to encapsulate the time periods in which she was writing fairly well, without falling into the common pit of overdoing the accents & dialogue or focusing too much on historical details. The scenes in older time periods were just as easy to follow as the modern ones and, though there was some description of the locations/clothes/etc, the focus stayed where it should, on the Juliet and her devotees.

I ended up really enjoying this book. Putting all the bits and pieces of the story together into one cohesive storyline made me feel like I was also on a treasure hunt, the treasure being the Juliet’s history rather than the stone itself.

Similar Book(s):

Yyyyeeeaahhh…I got nothin’. So I’m just going to list the author’s other works. 😉

Death Wishing & The Mean Bone in Her Body

 

Whatcha Readin?

Hi all! I am in the middle of a few books, so I don’t have a full review for you today. Instead I thought I’d do a little promo for the books I’m currently reading. They are so good!

The Juliet (Laura Ellen Scott)

29511753Description: During Death Valley’s great wildflower bloom of 2005, retired cowboy actor Rigg Dexon gives a rootless woman a gift that will change her life forever: the deed to The Mystery House, a century old shack long thought to be the hiding place of a legendary emerald known as The Juliet. Willie Judy remembers Dexon from cereal commercials she watched as a kid, but now she’ll spend the next seven days searching for the truth about him, the house, and herself, as the history of The Juliet reveals the American Dream’s dark side—one that is corrupt, bawdy, and half insane.

Thoughts: This one is a bit odd, but I’m really enjoying it so far! I plan to do a full review of it when I’m done, so I won’t say too much here. Suffice it to say, if you like a little bit of mystery, a touch of thriller, and a lot of The West, you should enjoy it! 🙂

Ireland (Frank Delaney)

90360Description: One evening in 1951, an itinerant storyteller arrives unannounced at a house in the Irish countryside. In exchange for a bed and a warm meal, he invites his hosts and their neighbors to join him by the wintry fireside, and begins to tell formative stories of Ireland’s history. Ronan, a 9-year-old boy, grows so entranced by the storytelling that, when the old man leaves abruptly under mysterious circumstances, the boy devotes himself to finding him again. Ronan’s search for the Storyteller becomes both a journey of self-discovery, long unspoken family secrets, and an immersion into the sometimes conflicting histories of his native land.

Thoughts: I’m really loving the storytelling vibe of this one. I’m doing the audiobook, which is the perfect medium for this type of novel, especially since the author contributes his wonderful Irish brogue which only enhances the tales. If you love history, Ireland, or even just listening to someone tell you a good story, this one is for you!

Up Next:

The Shack (William Paul Young)

1812457Description: 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.

Thoughts: This one was chosen by my Book Club to be our next read. I’ll be honest, even being Catholic, I get a bit leery about “religious” books, but the story line sounds thoughtful and hopefully a bit inspiring, so I’m gonna give it a go.

Rat Queens Vol. 1: Sass & Sorcery (Kurtis J Wiebe, author & Roc Upchurch, artist)

20299683Description: Who are the Rat Queens? They’re a pack of booze-guzzling, death-dealing battle maidens-for-hire and they’re in the business of killing all the god’s creatures for profit. Meet Hannah the Rockabilly Elven Mage, Violet the Hipster Dwarven Fighter, Dee the Atheist Human Cleric and Betty the Hippy Smidgen Thief.

Thoughts: The description goes on to say the book is “like Buffy meets Tank Girl in a Lord of the Rings world on crack”…how could I resist that?!? 😉 Honestly, this sounds like a fun series and the artwork is really cool, so I’m going to cross my fingers and dive on in!


So how about you guys? What are you reading right now?

T5W – Summer Reads

Hi all! This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is “Books That Remind You of Summer”. Now, I don’t really have a lot of books that remind me particularly of summer itself, but I can think of a few that would be great to read in the summer!

This book actually does take place in the summertime, so let’s start with it. 

Where Things Come Back (John Corey Whaley)

12162432The summer before Cullen’s senior year turns into a season of loss and rediscovery. Just as the town is celebrating the reemergence of a bird thought to be extinct, Cullen’s little brother Gabriel goes missing. — I don’t want to give to much away, so I’ll leave it at that, but this was an interesting book. The secondary story, about a missionary in Africa, gets woven into the tale in such a way that you aren’t sure what’s going to happen until the end. I wasn’t a huge fan of the jumping POVs, but it worked ok within the narrative. I’d recommend this one for people who like a little mystery in their ‘coming of age’ tales.

I seem to be reading a lot of “life journey” type books lately, which meshes well with the idea of summer to me. I’m not sure why, it just feels like summer is a good time to find yourself (or others). 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper (Phaedra Patrick)

34532251After Arthur’s wife passes away, he finds a charm bracelet in her closet that he didn’t know she owned. Curious about what the charms mean, he goes on a journey of discovery to find out more about his wife’s life before they met. — I really enjoyed this book. The idea was an interesting one: how well do we REALLY know the people we think we know the best? Finding out about Miriam’s life alongside Arthur was fascinating and watching Arthur coming back to life after his wife’s passing was touching.

The Last Voyage of Sigismund Skrik (Karstin Flohr, John Brownjohn translator)

24965065Sigismund Skrik is the “master hairdresser of the seven seas”. Plying his trade on a transatlantic ship called The Liberty, he meets and chats with quite a wide variety of people, from a circus strong woman to a concert pianist…even some monkeys! — This was a quirky little book. The tale of how Sigismund came to be a hairdresser on a ship is interspersed with the backstories for all the characters he meets. I’d recommend this book to anyone looking for a fun, lighthearted read with a nice ending.

Gone Tomorrow (P.F. Kluge)

3409917Upon the death of campus legend George Canaris, fellow professor Mark May becomes his executor. Expectations abound on whether or not he will find the infamous, never-published novel that Canaris has supposedly been working on for decades. Finding a kind of memoir instead, we get to follow along on May’s discovery of Canaris’ life. — This book was really interesting. It follows the life of an author who was expected to be the next coming, but instead spent his life as a college professor. Not a great description, I know, but if you enjoy life-story novels, especially about fellow book people, this one would be a good one to pick up.

And now, for something completely different. This was the first book I stayed up all night to finish, so it always reminds me of summer, not because of its content but because of when I read it first. 😉

The Death & Life of Superman (Roger Stern)

110918This book is the novelization of one of the greatest story arcs in the Superman comics. It runs from the death of Supes at the hand of Doomsday (not a spoiler, it’s right there in the title 😉 ) through the aftermath and the rise of the pseudo-Supermen. — I will admit, I’ve never been a big Superman fan (too much of a boy scout for me; I’m a Batman gal all the way), but the story line and the writing of this novel kept my attention well enough for it to become my first ever binge read! I highly recommend it to fans of comics and especially Superman fans.


What books or types of books shout “summer” to you?

Mini-Reviews – Graphic Novels

Hey guys! I thought I’d do another session of Mini-Reviews because I managed to snag a couple of really good graphic novels the other day! 🙂

Saga, Volume 1 Brian K. Vaughan (Writer), Fiona Staples (Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

My Review:

I didn’t quite know what to expect coming into this one. I hadn’t actually read any reviews for this series other than a few comments from friends on Goodreads which basically all said “Where has this been all my life?!?” Seeing that it also has one of the highest ratings I’ve ever seen on GR, I decided to add it to my list.

Man, am I glad I did! This was one of the most exciting graphic novels I’ve ever read. I’ll admit, I haven’t really branched out of the ‘superhero mainstream’ before in physical comics, so I was delighted to find a full-fledged story with amazingly fleshed out characters.

Apparently not one for shying away from action, the author begins our story with one of the main characters in the midst of childbirth and ends the same scene with a gigantic firefight. What a way to jump into the middle of things! It works really well in this instance, though, by pulling you directly into the story without having to worry about too much setup. It also helps set the tone for the series by letting the reader know upfront how much danger our main duo is in.

The author is really great at making all of the characters seem believable too, which can be difficult in a sci-fi, where you can have anything from spider-women to ghosts. I love that, by the end of Vol 1, we’re already starting to get some backstory for all the main characters. I’m really becoming attached to some of these guys and finding out more about them and how they got into this situation is very interesting.

The artistry of the novel is wonderful as well. The diversity between the different species is very impressive and everything was really well executed. I did however, feel like I’d seen one character somewhere before…

2301482-saga5_web72
Left: Prince Robot IV (Saga, 2013), Right: The One Electronic (Rice Boy, 2006-2008)

Very probably a coincidence, but I couldn’t get it out of my brain. 😉

All-in-all, I’d definitely recommend this for sci-fi fans! I’ve already ordered the Volume 2; I can’t wait to get started!

Fables, Volume 1: Legends in Exile Bill Willingham (Writer), Lan Medina (Artist), Steve Leialoha (Artist), Craig Hamilton (Artist), Mark Buckingham (Cover Artist)

Description from Goodreads:

When a savage creature known only as the Adversary conquered the fabled lands of legends and fairy tales, all of the infamous inhabitants of folklore were forced into exile. Disguised among the “mundys,” their name for normal citizens of modern-day New York, these magical characters created their own secret society that they call Fabletown. From their exclusive luxury apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, these creatures of legend must fight for their survival in the new world.

My Review:

Oddly, it was the cover that originally drew me into this series (great job, Mr. Buckingham, lol). I literally went “Is that a flying monkey?” and then I noticed the title. I’ve always been a fan of fairy-tales, so I decided right then and there to give this one a go.

I love the idea of fairy-tale characters trapped in our reality. Seeing how each character has established themselves in our world puts a very interesting twist on the original tales. This story mainly focused on Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and Rose Red, but the author did a great job of pulling in as many characters from different tales as he could. He even got Old King Cole in there!

The mystery in this novel “What happened to Rose Red?” was really interesting. I was pretty stumped as to what happened all the way up to the end. The author did a good job with the pacing of the story, so that the reader was intrigued, but not rushed to a poorly explained conclusion.

Having finished the novel, though, one has to wonder…just where did the creators of ‘Once Upon A Time’ get their idea? A dark force takes over fairy-tale land, leaving our heroes trapped trapped in the mundane world? That sounds awfully familiar…


So how about you guys? Read any good comics lately? Got recommendations?