Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Book Review: 'The Cantaloupe Thief' by Deb Richardson-Moore

✰✰✰✰½ It's been ten years since respected community member, Alberta Resnick, was killed in her own home. The cold case has been nearly forgotten until local reporter Branigan Powers is assigned to the story. Having recently returned to Grambling, GA, Branigan is just settling in and becoming reacquainted with old friends. With the newspaper industry undergoing a transition, Branigan and her colleagues now how important it is to retain readership, but Branigan is up for the challenge. Through her research, Branigan uncovers new leads just as people from the homeless community start dying one by one. With the help of her pastor friend, Liam, and the homeless, Branigan follows the dangerous twists and turns of the case to reveal the town's hidden secrets. 

The Bottom Line: This well-written novel is the first in a new series by a debut author. Besides being an engaging mystery, Richardson-Moore expertly weaves the social issues of homelessness, addiction, and family dynamics throughout. Additionally, the Southern setting adds to the charm of the book. I am looking forward to the next installment. Enthusiastically recommended for mystery buffs. 

Details: The Cantaloupe Thief: A Branigan Powers Mystery by Deb Richardson-Moore. Published by Lion Hudson in 2016. 288 p. ISBN: 978-1-78264-192-3 NOTE: I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This was made possible via the Early Reviewers program at LibraryThing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Book Review: 'Gratitude' by Oliver Sacks

✰✰✰✰✰ When faced with their own mortality, some people become more productive and insightful. Knowing that your days are limited sometimes gives a person clarity and focus. In the face of death, these people learn what cannot be taught. They possess an appreciation for today; an appreciation for what they have, instead of pining away for things they don't.

Dr. Oliver Sacks was a brilliant physician and the author of more than a dozen books. After his cancer returned, he penned several essays in which he explored coming to terms with death...his death. Rather than feeling bitter and angry, Sacks uncovered a feeling of gratitude for having been a part of this world.

In this book, Sacks describes beauty, love, and adventure in his memories of the past and current thoughts as he faced his own mortality. Sacks also talks about the friends who have passed before him and those he himself would leave behind. This beautiful and inspirational book is all too brief, just like life itself.

The Bottom Line: This quick read will make you think about your own life and what really matters. Composed of just four essays, I read this book several times. This book left me asking myself the following: What are my real priorities? When was the last time I stopped to enjoy what I have? How can I be kinder to others?

Parts of this little, but amazingly powerful book have been previously published. However, when read together these essays bring the reader to a new understanding of what it means to really be alive. As Dr. Sacks pointed out, sometimes it takes being faced with death to learn how to really live. A must-read for everyone!

Details: Gratitude by Oliver Sacks. Hardcover published by Alfred A. Knopf in 2015. 64 p. ISBN: 9780451-49293-7

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Book Review: 'Amish Grace' by Donald Kraybill

✰✰✰✰ Ten years ago, a local milkman invaded an Amish schoolhouse and took hostages. Before the day was over, ten girls between the ages of six and thirteen had been shot. Five would die, and Charles Roberts committed suicide. As the world watched, at first in horror and then in amazement, the Amish responded to what became known as the Amish 9/11 with grace and forgiveness instead of rage and vengeance.

This is the story of how these grieving families responded together as a devoted Christian community. While many non-Amish observers admired the Amish for their strength and convictions, others criticized them. Did they forgive too quickly? Was their forgiveness authentic? The issues raised in this book illuminate the many different acts of grace that can be found in the most unexpected places. 

The Bottom Line: Amish Grace is a book that inspires the reader to explore their faith. By recounting this tragic incident in the history of the Amish and exploring the acts of grace in the months that followed, the authors raise many questions. This is a story of forgiveness that has been shaped by the history  and culture of the Amish. Recommended for clergy, historians, psychologists, and those interested in personal reflection and religion. 

Book Club Notes: A dedicated group of book club members gave up watching a Cubs game and braved foul weather to attend. They were ready to tackle the topics of religion and forgiveness. By taking an inside look at what the Amish can teach us about forgiveness, grace, healing, and moving forward, each of us reflected upon our own experiences. We all come from different backgrounds, and while we sometimes disagreed, this book brought out a thoughtful, engaging discussion. There is a discussion guide available in the book or you can download a PDF copy here. For those who have taken it a step further and also viewed the movie, you can find sermon outlines here. Also, here is a thoughtful study guide from GodChicks. While this book and the topic of forgiveness were a more challenging read, it provided us with a new perspective. Overall, the ratings in the group averaged 4.5 stars, and we would highly recommend it for book clubs interested in learning about Amish culture, Christian living, faith, and religion.

Details: Amish Grace: How Forgiveness Transcended Tragedy by Donald B. Kraybill, Steven M. Nolt, and David L. Weaver-Zercher. Paperback published by Jossey-Bass in 2007. 288 p. ISBN: 978-0-470-34404-0