Sunday, September 29, 2013

September 2013 Bookshelf

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola

In this follow up to Pagan Christianity Viola tackles the real differences between the institutional, or traditional, churches of today and what the New Testament early church actually looked like.  (For my review of Pagan Christianity click here and scroll down.)  It is a very thorough book, much like I expect all of his titles are, in its historical background and exegesis of the biblical text.
However, and this is a big however in my opinion, he unfortunately doesn't seem to research the actual purpose and history of the synagogue in the days of the Old Testament and even the days of the New Testament.  He lumps the synagogue in with institutional churches and is neglectful, in my opinion, of its original history.  For a background on the original intent and purpose of the synagogue check out Ray Vander Laan's teaching on the synagogue. It is fascinating.  You can click here for that.
Additionally Viola neglected by and large the Old Testament in his reimagining.  This is disappointing to say the least as the Old Testament has much to offer on the topic.  In fact, Viola seems to exclusively use the New Testament early church as his proof text and I feel like this is an error considering that the early church was a synagogue of believers in Jesus Christ.  Jesus was fully Jewish and it is a mistake to say that he abolished when he actually fulfilled.  This means that he was a practicing Jew and therefore what he, and the disciples - also practicing Jews, set forth as a model was that of a synagogue enhanced due to the fact that Jesus is the Messiah.
Viola tackles head on the "covering" arguments and the submission to clerical persons as well.  It will not sit well with those who are or have been convinced that a man has to act as a spiritual mediator of sorts between the people and God, that only a few have the Holy Spirit to guide them in truth.  He devotes the entire second half of the book to leadership and the differences between today's and what the Bible has to say about it.  Viola rightly exposes the ways in which we have all been deceived into thinking we must have a "covering" other than Christ.
Despite my disappointment over Viola's disregard for the Old Testament he did have good points to discuss. And he gives much for the reader to think through and consider.  It is obvious Viola is extremely passionate and devoted to the topic of authentic, biblical church.  As a participant in a home church myself (although it is fairly different from the ones Viola plants) I appreciated his thoughts and dialogue on what a biblical church looks like and behaves like.  As he discussed the places where institutional, or traditional, churches have left the biblical model I was again grateful for the things God has shown me and the places he is leading me.




The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Well I have finally succumbed to The Hunger Games trilogy. It's not that I didn't want to read the books but I was just really really (did I say really?) okay waiting for the majority of the hype to die down.  I also got tired of people asking me if I had read them yet or not.  :)
I really only have to give a synopsis of the book to those who have been living under a rock.  Here it is in it's briefest form:  Weird world order demands a boy and girl from every district play in their sick and twisted game called The Hunger Games. Katniss volunteers in place of her 12 year old sister and Peeta is the boy called up. Peeta also happens to be the boy who kindly gave Katniss a loaf of bread years back and she's never forgotten it.  Throw in Gale, Katniss' hunting buddy who may want to be more, and there's your love triangle.  Katniss and Peeta are supposed to kill others and the other in the quest to win the games.  All of this is done for the amusement and control of the Capitol City.  Throughout the games displays of humanity vary and are represented.  Considering there are two more books in the series I'll let you draw your own conclusions about the winner.
Collins is an engaging writer.  She also clearly has some strong ideas and thoughts about politics.  Her portrayal of the post-apocalyptic America (world?) is what I would say is a rough sketch of parts of our society today.  That being said, I hate it when people try to make a book be about so much more than it is (or probably is). So I acknowledged those ideas she had and moved on with the story line.  Why do most authors feel the need to create a love triangle?  It's so...predictable.  And even though you can craft a good story around it why include it?  Why not swim upstream and do something different with the male/female characters.  Anyway.  The portrayal of dystopian societies always unsettles me a bit and I found that to be true of this story as well.  I think it is because a story featuring dystopian societies always features an overall lack of value for human life.  And that always unsettles me.  What I find interesting is the very real fact that when someone is put into a situation they don't want to be in or are forced into, their true inner self rises to the surface - always.  Sometimes it is already apparent, other times it makes an appearance.  And we never know what will come out of us when we are in a desperate situation.  The fighting styles/methods of the tributes in this game was a very realistic portrayal of what the human can and will do when pressed.
Was the book good?  It was.  I'll read the other two so I can finish the series.  Did the book blow me away and will I be gushing about it for days?  Nope.  But it was good.  Part of my review is most likely colored by my lack of sincere interest in this particular genre. There's my disclaimer. :)




And here's an update to the review above!  It's been about 5 days since I read Hunger Games and since then I have also read Catching Fire (review below).  I'm thinking perhaps I should have waited to review any of the trilogy until I read all three, since they are supposed to be a set anyway.  But I didn't so I have the freedom to revise previous thoughts and add-on if I so choose.  And I choose!

Now that I have read the book I decided to see the movie.  Here's what I have to say about movies based on books.  Invite the author to participate, if not craft, the screenplay. Why wouldn't you?  They are the ones who wrote the book that had fans clamoring for a visual adaptation!  That all being said, Collins was on the screenplay credits and you can tell from the movie.  It was very very very true to the book, and since I so recently read the book I know that for a fact.  A lot of times the movie version of a book disappoints me, there's only been a handful of times it has not, but in the case of Hunger Games it actually helped me.  The visual adaption of the book helped me pick out some things I had been trying to formulate for a couple of days about book 1.
I alluded to it in part 1 of my review but after watching the movie I can better articulate it.  It seems to me part of what pissed off the Capitol, or President Snow at the very least, was the human side Katniss showed when Rue died or when Peeta was so injured.  President Snow has effectively shut off all emotion and empathy in light of obtaining as much power and wealth as he can while attempting to cover it with a noble personality.  He fails to that end but that's what ticks him off - that people still respond for and root for the underdog and he feels threatened on so many levels by that.  The movie really shines light on that much more so than the book and I am glad it was included.
Again, I alluded to this in part 1 review but the movie helped me really see it.  You can train a person to be a killer (Districts 1 and 2) and for a time you can brainwash them into thinking they have no emotions or feel no regret, fear, etc but the core of us always surfaces.  Yes, our fear may drive us to commit acts that we never dreamed we would actually go through with, or maybe we did dream it, and when they happen it exposes an ugly side of ourselves that we can't bear to live with.  The movie portrayed this much better than the book actually.  Perhaps this is stating the obvious but I believe it's why Haymitch keeps himself drunk, so he doesn't or can't remember what he had to do to win.
I come away from book 1 - book and movie - feeling disturbed still, maybe a bit more.  Reading book 2 only really increased my disturbed feelings.  But I'll close here.  Scroll on down for my review of Catching Fire.
I have also updated my rating.



Revolution in World Missions by K.P. Yohannan

I really like K.P. Yohannan.  His heart and passion for the people of Asia is palpable when you read anything he's written or happen to hear him speak.  He is humble and unassuming and burdened for the poverty stricken hearts and souls of Asia.
In this book, an autobiography of sorts, Yohannan takes the reader through the state of world missions today.  He gently but firmly and unapologetically calls out the Western Church on their neglect of God's call to spread his Word to all.  The last few chapters were the most powerful and thought-provoking for me.
He makes a very firm statement that resonated with me.  "But the Church now needs to be released from Western domination. My message to the West is simple: God is calling Christians everywhere to recognize that He is building His Church in Asia.  Your support is needed for the national missionaries whom God is raising up to extend His Church - but not to impose your man-made controls and teachings on the Eastern churches." (page 187) With that statement he goes on to explain the role of the affluent Western Church in today's world missions.  It was a challenge to read it and recognize the truth in it. The Western Church has gotten cocky and arrogant and self-righteous.  We think our way is the best and only way. In fact, as Yohannan provides example after example, it is not - most often it is the worst way. However, the national missionary (the local, indigenous person) is able to have the loudest and greatest voice with the people.  Why?  Because they understand the culture they are in, the language being spoken, the etiquette the culture has, etc. Yohannan's Gospel for Asia Ministry (GFA) exists to support national missionaries to do the work.  Did you know, or realize, that for the cost of a plane ticket from the States to Bombay (for example) would be able to fully fund and support a GFA supported national missionary for 2 years or more?!  And they have a better relationship with the people they are reaching out to because those people are their people!
This is not to say that mission trips don't have their place and value but they should not be looked at as the long-term solution or viewed/treated as the "rescue" for "those poor people".  Yohannan is careful to not discourage people from engaging with the poverty stricken of the world in order to gain a broader biblical worldview.  In fact, he asks us to consider joining God on reaching the people of this world with the knowledge of God and his Good News.
The energy and passion of K.P. is compelling and magnetic - after carefully considering his proposal I can't help but be drawn to the mission of God in Asia.
 



The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

Fine, mock me all you want.  Years ago I saw the movie (of course I did, what woman hasn't?!) but never read the book.  However, my book club choose The Wedding by Sparks for our next title and I found out that The Notebook precedes it so I figured I had better read it before the book club selection so I could have the full story.  I know Sparks gets a bad rap for writing semi-cheesy books and lacking true skills as an author.  But darn it all if he doesn't weave a story that captures the heart. And he makes me cry, darn it.
So unless you are a unmarried man or have been hiding under a rock you probably already know the story.  Noah and Allie spend one magical summer together and then are kept apart for the next 14 years.  Before Allie marries her fiance she decides to see Noah one last time.  Gee, wonder what happens?
The book is written in Noah's voice at the age of 80.  He and Allie are in a home and reside in separate rooms due to their illnesses.  Every day he shuffles into her room and reads to her the story of their love. Some days she allows it to soften her, other days she is frightened by this stranger in her room, and yet other days she is inconsolable.  The day Noah reads her the story, and the reader is witness to, happens to be a good day for Allie.  And the reader is drawn into their powerful love story.
Sparks writes clean and with lots of descriptives.  His books are super easy reads, I read this one in under 2 hours, and they move along quickly.  He knows how to keep the pace of the story moving along so as to keep the reader's interest.  Just because he writes "chick books" doesn't mean he's a bad author or lacks skills as one, it just means he has found his niche in a genre.
Sidenote: I hate reading books that have their movie art for the cover.  Ick.  Goes against everything in me.  I prefer the real cover art, you know, when the book gave you enough description that you could visualize the story line in your head?



Her Last Breath by Linda Castillo

#5 in the story of Police Chief Kate Burkholder, a law enforcement officer in her hometown where she grew up Amish. I love this series!  I've been waiting on #5 to come out.  And now that I devoured it I will be eagerly awaiting book 6.  Castillo does it again in this installment of an Amish town in Ohio.
The sky is darkening and an Amish man and his three children are on their way home from town.  Carefully navigating the roads it seems he is not careful enough and out of nowhere a car slams into the buggy at speeds of 80 MPH and throws the passengers from the buggy - killing the man and two of his children.  Operating on the thought that this hit-and-run is due to alcohol or texting as Burkholder and her team investigate certain parts of the story become puzzling and doesn't make sense.  The deeper she digs the closer she gets to the truth.  Alongside of this investigation is the resurrection of part of Kate's past, of which threatens to end her career as a cop.
Castillo continues to develop Burkholder and Tomasetti both as individuals and as a couple, I think it's a good side story.  She continues to smartly craft her crimes, leaving the reader on the edge of knowing but still having to guess.  Her writing style continues to keep me engaged and she leaves the reader wanting more from Painters Mill, Ohio and Chief Kate Burkholder.  Can't wait for number 6 but since it seems I will have to, I might give some of Castillo's earlier titles a shot while I wait.



Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

In book 2 of The Hunger Games Trilogy I got a little more interested.  Perhaps sitting on book 1 for a couple of days and mulling it over and then immediately picking up book 2 fueled the interest a little.  As I said in my book 1 review, Collins is not a bad writer - she is very engaging so the books are easy and compelling to read.
If Collins lived in the World Order that her books are centered around she surely by now would have been hunted, arrested, and either executed or made an Avox for her very strong ideas and thoughts about the Capitol and how the Districts are treated. So while I can see comparisons to the Capitol and America - as many have suggested - I am reluctant to make that total leap.  Collins lives in America and has published this series in America where it is hugely popular - a lot of lawmakers and political movers and shakers have no doubt read these books and yet she still lives to see another day.  We aren't quite there and I'm not sure we'll get to the place of the Capitol but our arrogance certainly treats others as the Capitol treats the Districts - that comparison I will draw and stick to.
Book 2 finds us traveling along with Katniss and Peeta on their Victory Tour that the Capitol forces them to make halfway between Hunger Games.  It's another way the Capitol keeps people in line.  Except as they travel they find out that people in the Districts are done accepting.  A pot has been stirred and the people are murmuring.  At the center of the stirred pot is Katniss and her actions that led to her and Peeta both winning Hunger Games.  President Snow has made some very direct threats and Katniss is between a rock and a hard place.  Her relationship with both Peeta and Gale is strained and she finds herself very alone.  When the tribute selection is made for the 75th games Katniss, in a intensely emotional battle, finds herself headed to the arena again.  One could speculate that President Snow altered Hunger Games reaping to ensure Katniss was headed, again, toward certain death.  But that is never even necessarily alluded to, but it certainly entered my mind.  As Katniss heads back into Hunger Games prep and arena the reader is drawn into the murmurings of the Districts and more of the Capitol's arrogance is exposed.  It made me mad, but then again I have a very strong sense of justice as part of my make-up.  While I moaned about the predictable love triangle Collins formed between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale I was happy to have Gale's character developed more and written in more in book 2.  I know fans of the series have their whole "Team Peeta" or "Team Gale" thing going on but I couldn't say, right now, which dude I would want Katniss to end up with.  I'm guessing in book 3 she either decides or the decision is made for her.
The way this title ends makes me very curious to pick up book 3 and see what happens and how it ends. I'm guessing there is a "happily ever after" but am disappointed, slightly, at that prospect.  Life doesn't always end "happily ever after" but it can end with happy moments and better decisions.  I'd rather see an ending to this series that is a little more realistic.  We'll see.  Maybe Collins did that.  And I might as well confess it now, my strong sense of justice can sometimes morph into revenge so I wouldn't mind seeing President Snow getting what he deserves. Perhaps they should have a final Hunger Games and throw him and his minions in the arena and see how they like it.



Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I was warned this final title in the Hunger Games Trilogy was different and indeed it is.  So much different that my general feeling throughout the book was "eh."  But before I explain why I felt that way let me give the brief synopsis for anyone who cares.
District 13 is indeed alive and well underground.  In fact they have built a fortified city under the surface of the earth and are making plans to take over the Capitol. Katniss lands there, unknowingly, after the ending of Catching Fire.  Peeta is still in the Capitol most likely being tortured for secrets he doesn't have.  President Snow is feeling the imminent threat of take-over and the Districts are all in rebellion.  He has lost his control.  And the more someone tries to control others the less they actually have and their actions and words become desperate and illogical.  Gale is with Katniss in District 13 and the two of them are finding their way together in this strange new world.  Unbeknownst to her, Katniss was being groomed by many people to be the Mockingjay for the rebellion.  As the rebellion makes their push, district by district, toward the Capitol Katniss has one thing on her mind.  Kill Snow.
What Collins does with District 13 is show two sides of the coin.  We have the Capitol, with its excesses and its flamboyancy and its arrogance and then we see District 13, with its restrictions and its austerity and its arrogance.  There is no in between, no middle ground.  For being a pacifist Collins includes a lot of violence and killing in this last installment, more than the Hunger Games that everyone so despises.  There's quite a bit of commentary in my head about the similarities in the Capitol and District 13 but I feel like my thoughts might be spoiler alerts for anyone who might want to read the books in the future.
Collins writing style changes or shifts in this book and I've been trying to figure out why.  There was no need for the change so my conclusion is that because it also felt like she was trying too hard in this book to bring the story together the writing style was affected as well.  From the first chapter I felt like she was trying to force herself to bring the trilogy to an ending fitting of the other two books. I don't think she pulled it off.  It was a tedious read in parts.  She spent a lot of words on describing District 13 and what they involved Katniss in.  I ended up not caring, I was bored.  About halfway through the book I started flipping forward trying to catch bits and pieces in hopes that my interest would be peaked again.  It never was.  I finished it mostly to be done with it whereas with the first two books I did find myself coming to the end of them and being slightly disappointed that they were over already.
In my opinion Collins dropped character development on Katniss and even took her a few steps backward. All along Katniss, pre Hunger Games and Peeta or even Gale, had a spark of inner strength in her that made her a strong and confident character.  In this book she becomes weak.  Certainly her circumstances break her down some but that spark should have still been evident in her because it is inherently part of who she is. Collins disappoints me by diminishing Katniss' character.
I also felt like the strongest parts of the story disintegrated under Collins attempt to finish up the book.  I really felt like even she got tired of the story and just wrapped it up in a very anti-climatic way.  Nothing about how things ended surprised me. NOTHING. I like to be at least a little surprised.
The ending disappointed me and not because of the whole "Team Gale" vs "Team Peeta" decision that Katniss makes but because it felt rushed and thrown together and too neat, almost predictable.  It may or may not be a spoiler alert but I really think my idea of throwing Snow and his minions in the arena for a final Hunger Games showdown would have made for a great ending.  Alas, I wasn't consulted.  :)
The trilogy ends on an "eh" note for me.  (Sidenote: Rumors are they are going to stretch Mockingjay into two movies.  One word for that: ridiculous.)



How We Love: A Revolutionary Approach to Deeper Connections in Marriage by Milan and Kay Yerkovich

"When something is broken you cannot repair it unless you understand how it works....Some of us try to fix our marriages without ever taking a look at how they work."  And so begins this important, perspective changing, marriage altering - even relationship altering - book.  When a friend was describing its premise to me a few weeks ago I was intrigued.  How do I love?  I'm not sure, if pressed, I could come up with an answer that made sense to anyone including me! And I actually don't know how I love.  I was also hearing about this book at the same time my first true love, and ex-boyfriend I thought I would be married to, resurfaced and he and I, with my husband chaperoning of course, had to navigate the waters of closure on a relationship dead in the water many years ago but the wreckage still floated in the sea.  I know that perhaps not only how I love is formed by what I learned about it in my growing up years but perhaps its extended to this relationship that meant so much to me in very formative years as well.
I took the little "love style" quiz from the author's website.  Click here if you are curious enough yourself. And so with that little bit of possible knowledge about me I dove into the book.  By page 11 I was emailing a friend and recommending it and making mental notes in my head, amazed that some of the questions they ask if I ask myself were spot on!  (Note: They recommend doing the workbook along with the book, I didn't as I checked out the book from the library.  But I have decided upon finishing the book that this reading of it was cursory at best and I ordered it, with the workbook included, through Amazon and will be going back through it giving it the time it deserves so I can learn.  Yes, it is THAT good.)
The Yerkovich's make a convincing argument (not that I needed convincing but certainly others might) that in order to go forward in the future we must first visit, but not live, in the past. "The past defines nearly everything about us: our emotions, beliefs, desires, and preferences.  We are the sum of our history.  To ignore it is to be blind to the currents that sweep us along through life." (Page 31)  So they take the reader first on a visit to the past to discover what kind of love was imprinted on us from the moment we were born.
Taking their time they outline and unpack what five different love styles, or imprints, look like and how they may have formed.  The five styles are: Avoider, Pleaser, Vacillator, Controller, and Victim.  I identified most closely with 2 of the styles which is one reason why I wanted to go back through and do the workbook as well.  I would even consider going to one of their workshops!  Yes, it is THAT good.
A few of the reviews I read said the many examples and stories they give were unnecessary, I 100% disagree.  I thought the examples and stories they gave helped flesh out the different ways in which the love styles manifest themselves.  And the Yerkovich's did a good job balancing between the male and female responses to the love styles.  Traditionally we think of men as being the controller, for example, and they gave a real life example of a woman that was a controller.  For me that was refreshing to not have examples that stuck men and women in roles traditionally thought of but to show that man or woman is prone to any of the love styles.
After fleshing out the love styles the Yerkovich's then spend the remainder of the book helping the reader understand how to go about beginning to relate to others (spouse, friends, etc - although they did phrase the remainder of the book in marriage terms but you can easily transfer to all relationships) through something they call the "comfort circle".  In each section they explain thoroughly what that part of the circle is and how each love style can look for ways to relate in healthy ways through it.  I can see where the workbook will greatly enhance not just the unpacking of the different learning styles but also give insight and guidance on how to begin to be healthy and relate well.  Reading just the book will give someone a great step forward in understanding and even tiny amounts of application but the workbook is where the application really comes in, or so I am guessing.
This is a relationship changing, life changing book.  For those of you who don't like to read authors who are Christians still give this book a shot.  While the Yerkovich's are Christians they don't preach at you, they don't saturate the book with Christianese, they write for any kind of reader - Christian or not.  I would say a good 99% of the book doesn't even touch religion so if you are generally put off by Christian books I think you can safely give this one a shot.  And what the Yerkovich's include in matters of God makes so much sense and is so appropriate that I would hope even those not subscribing to religion would sense the wisdom of what they included.
HIGHLY HIGHLY HIGHLY recommended.  I will be recommending to all the people I care about - married or not because we all have to interact in relationships and this book will help you understand how you've been relating, why, and how to become healthy in your relating.




The Wedding by Nicholas Sparks

In this stand alone title, but yet a sequel of sorts to The Notebook, we meet Jane and Wilson.  Jane's parents are Noah and Allie from The Notebook.  Wilson and Jane have been married for almost 30 years and have three grown kids and are living a fairly predictable life.  Wilson is absent-minded and hurts Jane with his forgetfulness and unawareness of her. The final straw, of sorts, is his total memory loss of their wedding anniversary.  Jane's response, or rather lack of one, sends up alarms in Wilson's heart and he decides he had better make some changes and quick.  The book chronicles Wilson's attempts to make changes in his marriage before it is too late as well as gives the reader flashbacks of he and Jane's dating and early marriage days.  Wilson leans on Noah's years of experience (Noah is still alive) and enlists the help of friends and family as he devises a 30th anniversary sure to show Jane just how much he does love her and need her.
I actually was a bit bored reading this title.  It felt very dry to me and it was easy to put down and not as easy to pick back up.  There were a few sentences here and there in Wilson's voice that were very insightful about marriage and I appreciated those for sure.  Overall, however, this book felt like it was missing the "magic" that seems to makes Sparks books really shine.  It felt too full of details that weren't interesting to me overall.




To Have and To Kill by Mary Jane Clark
(Note: Not to be confused with the great mystery author Mary Higgins Clark)

Eh.  It was okay, not great.  I got it for free on my Kindle at some point in the past couple of years and was looking for a easy "filler" book to read since my normal series of choice to fill space with I haven't gotten from the Library yet.
This is a book 1 in the series and maybe it improves, maybe not.  It wasn't horrible just not as good as even some of the other easy "filler" mysteries I like to read.  In this first book Piper Donovan, our main character, is a down on her luck actress that finds herself living with her parents again and helping out her Mom in the family owned bakery.  She finds herself embroiled in a murder case when one of her former co-stars dies suddenly.  It was all rather predictable and kind of boring. Halfway through the book I put it down and spent an hour on GoodReads adding other books that looked interesting to my "to read" list.  I was rather glad to be done with it when I picked it back up.
Clark doesn't write badly but neither does she write superbly.  The book had 93 chapters plus a prologue and epilogue!  Some of the chapters were a few paragraphs at most.  Maybe that was just the Kindle version but still, that makes it kind of tedious and strange.  Some of the chapter endings didn't really make sense. I appreciate all it takes to write a novel, I usually end up wondering more about the editors that don't pull the full potential out of the author.  Clark tried to build suspense but it falls flat in the face of so many other mystery authors out there who do it so incredibly well.




If You Could See What I See by Cathy Lamb

So it's a well known fact by now that I love Cathy Lamb.  I love her.  I am so glad I stumbled across one of her titles a few years ago because she writes imaginative, relate-able, whimsical stories and has some of the most interesting and well-developed characters.  I love her books. This title is her newest offering and I devoured it just like I do with all of her books.
Another crazy, cozy, wacky, dysfunctional family takes center stage in this book about the underneath of life.  The O'Rourke's have a family business called Lace, Satin, and Baubles that has been fitting women with undergarments for years.  Meggie has just come home from a year long wandering following her husband's death.  Her Grandma, owner and founder of the business, makes Meggie CEO.  The problem is Meggie is mentally unstable following years of marriage to a man who was mentally unstable for real.  Can she save the sinking ship the business has become and regain her sanity?  Thrown in the mix are her sisters and their dramas, her famous sex-therapist Mom, and a bunch of quirky but loyal employees.  As Meggie navigates the rocky waters of her personal life and that of the business she births an idea to help save the business...and perhaps herself in the process. Her idea will showcase that what we see about others isn't necessarily what is true about them to see.
Lamb's newest novel reminds me of that quote, "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."  It takes courage to dive below the surface of someone's life, or of your own, and discover what there is to really see.  Lamb follows this particular theme throughout the book with many of the characters, not just Meggie who serves as the main character.  She carefully gives the reader enough of each character's story to make them feel connected so when she chooses to expose the below-the-surface of the character's life the reader is empathetic and has become a cheerleader for them.  It is masterful how Lamb does this with all of her characters in any book she writes.  Cathy Lamb also knows how to create a scene with just the right amount of humor and connectedness.  She can have you crying and then laughing all on one page.
There's now just two books of Lamb's I haven't read yet.  I'll need to space them out to hopefully buy me some time so I won't be jonesing for her next release for to long.  :)

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