Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What I Read In January

"Many mystery buffs have credited Louise Penny with the revival of the type of traditional murder mystery made famous by Agatha Christie. . . . The book's title is a metaphor not only for the month of April but also for Gamache's personal and professional challenges---making this the series standout so far." --Sarah Weinman

Welcome to Three Pines, where the cruelest month is about to deliver on its threat.
It's spring in the tiny, forgotten village; buds are on the trees and the first flowers are struggling through the newly thawed earth. But not everything is meant to return to life. . .
When some villagers decide to celebrate Easter with a séance at the Old Hadley House, they are hoping to rid the town of its evil---until one of their party dies of fright. Was this a natural death, or was the victim somehow helped along?

Brilliant, compassionate Chief Inspector Ar
mand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec is called to investigate, in a case that will force him to face his own ghosts as well as those of a seemingly idyllic town where relationships are far more dangerous than they seem.

While the murder itself was a little on the strange side, it wasn't nearly as strange as the last book in the series, A Fatal Grace.  I loved getting reacquainted with characters from past books and visiting the little hamlet of Three Pines again.  It's a place I would love to live as the people in the community truly do life together -- the good, the bad and the ugly.

As I have said before, I tend to be a bit sensitive to gore and brutality, which is why I have loved these mysteries.  They truly do remind me of Agatha Christie and a grown up version of Nancy Drew without the gratuitous shock value that I find in other murder mystery series.  The Cruelest Month was a good story and I could relate to the murderer, as well as the grieving town that was trying to understand what had happened in their midst. 

A Story of Love That Won't Let Go - No Matter What!

California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.

Angel expects nothing from men but betrayal. Sold into prostitution as a child, she survives by keeping her hatred alive. And what she hates most are the men who use her, leaving her empty and dead inside.

Then she meets Michael Hosea, a man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything. Michael obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation, until despite her resistance, her frozen heart begins to thaw.

But with her unexpected softening comes overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she no longer can deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael does…the One who will never let her go.

A powerful retelling of the story of Gomer and Hosea, Redeeming Love is a life-changing story of God’s unconditional, redemptive, all-consuming love.

This book has been on my TBR list forever...and sitting on a shelf in my living room for years.  With the encouragement of an upcoming Book Club meeting, I finally read it.  So good!  I'm still thinking about this retelling of the book of Hosea in the setting of the California Gold Rush. 

I am not even sure that I can put into words the impact that this book is still having on me even though I closed the cover over a week ago.  The characters are still my companions.  I think of how they handled things -- well or poorly -- and wonder at my own reactions to life events.  I want to love my husband like Michael Hosea loves Angel...and as Angel comes to love Michael.  I want to miss the mistakes of being unforgiving (of myself and others) and of jumping to conclusions that do not match up with the character of a person I know.  I want to live in the same kind of real, personal and practical relationship with Jesus, the Lover of my soul, as Michael does... trusting Him with everything. 

So much to think on and to ponder.  I can hardly wait to discuss it with the ladies!

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, renowned Christian minister, professor, and author of The Cost of Discipleship recounts his unique fellowship in an underground seminary during the Nazi years in Germany. Giving practical advice on how life together in Christ can be sustained in families and groups, Life Together is bread for all who are hungry for the real life of Christian fellowship.

I picked this one up after hearing about it on a podcast about church membership.  (I can't even remember which podcast -- Marked, I think.) 

Anyway, I was in the middle of co-teaching a New Members Orientation and it sparked my interest.  It has me thinking of church membership in a whole new way.  Especially the 'please me' expectations that is so prevalent in our society (and in my own heart) these days.  The quote about choosing a church because of how they make you feel really spoke to me.  Church membership and it's resulting fellowship is a grace...not a right...and it is for us to use in serving others, not ourselves.

One of my favorite quotes:
Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of a community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial.

Still reading.  Still thinking.
“In my reckless and undiscouraged youth,” Lillian Boxfish writes, “I worked in a walnut-paneled office thirteen floors above West Thirty-Fifth Street…”

She took 1930s New York by storm, working her way up writing copy for R.H. Macy’s to become the highest paid advertising woman in the country. It was a job that, she says, “in some ways saved my life, and in other ways ruined it.”

Now it’s the last night of 1984 and Lillian, 85 years old but just as sharp and savvy as ever, is on her way to a party. It’s chilly enough out for her mink coat and Manhattan is grittier now—her son keeps warning her about a subway vigilante on the prowl—but the quick-tongued poetess has never been one to scare easily. On a walk that takes her over 10 miles around the city, she meets bartenders, bodega clerks, security guards, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be, while reviewing a life of excitement and adversity, passion and heartbreak, illuminating all the ways New York has changed—and has not.

A love letter to city life in all its guts and grandeur, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.

Lillian figures she might as well take her time. For now, after all, the night is still young.

I have about 100 pages to finish.  It took me a bit to get into his one, but I think that had more to do with the staying factor of Redeeming Love and waiting on the Book Club meeting to discuss it than with this story.  It is definitely a slower paced book, but I am anxiously awaiting what remains to be revealed as to why Ms Lillian Boxfish (now in her 80's) is all alone and wandering New York City streets on this particular New Year's Eve.

Addendum: Finished this book and logged on to the BOTM discussion board to see what other people thought of this book.  Many seemed to have as difficult of a time describing their thoughts as I do.  This was a slow paced book that made you feel like you were walking alongside Lillian on that New Year's Eve ten mile jaunt around Manhattan.  You learned more about her and her extraordinary life with each block.  And, as with most relationships, eventually you hear about the hard times and you better understand the person than you ever could have by just hearing their highlight reel.  Lillian's life, with its heartbreak and joy, made me feel wonder, sadness and just a bit of jealousy for how comfortable she was in her own skin.  I kept waiting for something to pick up or something terrible to happen.  Instead I had a nice long stroll with a new friend who showed me a different world than the one I had known.

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