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Friday, November 21, 2014

Lizzy and Jane by Katherine Reay

Being a Jane Austen fan, I am always on the look out to find and read anything that is along the lines of a Jane Austen book. I have read many updated versions and so called sequels of her novels. Some are good and some not so good. So when I saw his book, "Lizzy and Jane" I immediately picked it up. I thought it would be a modern take on Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," but it is not that at all.

There are many references and quotes from the works of Jane Austen, but the book is about complex family relationships, grief, and cancer. Lizzy was a senior in high school when her mother died of breast cancer. Jane was eight years older and newly married living out of the country. Each of them dealt with their grief in different ways causing deep rifts in their relationship and a strained relationship with their father. Fast forward 18 years and Jane is dealing with treatment for her own diagnosis of breast cancer and Lizzy is a chef in New York who has lost her creative edge. Lizzy takes a leave from her job and flies to the west coast to help out with Jane and her family.

What happens next involves the love of food and literature, the painful work of piecing together shattered dreams and hopes and the difficult work of working through grief, pain and loss. Throughout the book, the difficult descriptions of the reality of cancer treatment is balanced with cooking and the enjoyment of food. At times the pain was real and raw, but you witnessed the characters moving forward in working through some challenging issues. And through it all there was a thread of hope and joy that even the most difficult circumstances could not extinguish.

I also enjoyed Katherine Reay's first book, "Dear Mr. Knightley" and look forward to more books by this author.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

C.S. Lewis - A Life: Eccentric Genius, Reluctant Prophet by Alister McGrath

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the death of C.S. Lewis, Alistair McGrath, a professor at King's College, presents a compelling look at his life. This thoroughly researched biography takes a chronological and objective view of C. S. Lewis. Drawing on correspondence and archival material in his research, the author gives us a new view of Lewis' life.

The background of the writing of the Narnia and other works of fiction and non fiction by C.S. Lewis makes for fascinating reading. For example, I was interested to learn about why Aslan is the name for the lion in the Narnia chronicles. McGrath explains this along with other interesting information.

All in all, I think this is one of the best biographies I have ever read. It is so thoroughly researched and the insight into the creative writing of C.S. Lewis was engaging. I felt that it was a portrayal of the man as well as his work that was both factual but written in such a way to make it enjoyable reading.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The 13th Gift by Joanne Huist Smith

As Christmas was approaching, Joanne Huist Smith was not looking forward to celebrating the season. Following the unexpected death of her husband, she was still dealing with anger and grief. As she struggles to work and keep her family going in spite of her pain, an unexpected gift arrives on her doorstep 13 days before Christmas. Each day following that day, another gift arrived with a note with lyrics to "The Twelve Days of Christmas." The note was signed from "Your True Friends."

As Joanne and her children try to find out the identity of the mysterious gift giver, they discover something else in the mean time - healing for their broken hearts. The gifts draw them closer to each other and they begin to celebrate the season in the spirit of kindness and giving back to others.

This heart warming true story is an illustration of how hope can come out of devastating grief and pain and how the gift of kindness can be passed on. It is an honest, painful and hopeful story of a real Christmas miracle.

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

Thursday, November 6, 2014

As One Devil To Another by Richard Platt

If you enjoyed C.S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters, you will enjoy this book. The book consists mainly of the correspondence of senior devil, Slashreap to his young protégé, Scardagger. The intent of Slashreap's letters are to coach Scardagger on winning a soul away from Heaven and into their clutches. The contemporary issues of technology and morality come into play as Slashreap encourages Scardagger. The timeless issues of the power of prayer, the problem of suffering and the promises held out by Heaven and Hell are also addressed.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and thought the writing was excellent. Foremost C.S. Lewis authority Walter Hooper calls it "a stunning achievement, the finest example of the genre of diabolical correspondence to appear since this genre was popularized by C.S. Lewis." I whole heartedly agree!