Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado ★★★★★

The Applause of HeavenYou are a child of a King!
Non Fiction – Adult – Christian/Self Help
224 pages
Publication Date: 1990

 Max Lucado shows that The Beatitudes are more than just a teaching on the mountain, but that Jesus was actually showing us a way to grasp peace and joy to live a fulfilling life.

The inspiring writing – as always with Max Lucado – in this modern Christian classic is compelling and beautifully phrased.  He utilizes amazing examples to highlight his message.  Now, I have always thought of the Beatitudes as a list to check off – you know like, 70% or better is a passing grade, but Mr. Lucado shows that is actually a step-by-step progression to rebuild a believer’s heart.  And honestly his way makes a lot more sense and is way more productive than my checkup list.  He provides ways to overcome the road blocks between you and Jesus.  With the focus on changing your heart and attitude so that you may have a more fulfilling relationship with God, it allows you to defeat the world and those critical voices in your head with the truth.  You are a worthy child of a King and by remembering that and giving yourself over to God you can face anything with the confidence that Jesus is always in your corner. 

When I get bogged down in the ugliness of myself and the world, I reread this book to remind myself what really matters.  I savor it, and let the message soak into my soul like a soothing balm.  It is a reminder that I am precious to God, that he can even use me - flawed, broken and weak - for his purposes.  And in those moments when I truly believe and can see past myself, that is when I am at peace and resting in the arms of Jesus.   

When Mr. Lucado speaks of God and his delight in us it reminds me of my Grandma.  Grandma J is engaging, passionate, and energetic, and when she talks with you, you feel like she genuinely wants to hear about your life and there is nothing more important she would rather do.  She hurrays the good, mourns the sad, calls you on your mistakes, but has the faith that no screw up is too big to overcome.  Everyone leaves her feeling like they are her favorite.  This is the kind of relationship God would like to have with us.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Reformed Vampire Support Group by Catherine Jinks ★★★★☆

Offbeat and Lovely
Fiction- YA –Urban Fantasy/Mystery
Grade 7 and Up
384 pages
Publication Date:  2009
Literary Awards:  ALA's Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults (2010)

The Reformed Vampire Support GroupNina Harrison, wishes being a vampire was glamorous like in the movies instead of the reality of monotonous boredom and support group meetings.  So when a chance to investigate a killing of one of their own presents itself Nina is hot on the case.

After a rather surprising start the story rolls on quickly, breaking down preconceived notions.  This story is not your stereotypical paranormal. I love the typical sexy vampire (Buffy forever), but I have to say the lack of glamorization of vampires in this story was such a breath of fresh air.  The premise was great and well thought out with an engaging plot that kept my guessing – which doesn’t happen very often.  The characters were well crafted with elaborate back stories and eccentricies.  Ms. Jinks has a real talent for turning a phrase and deliciously layers in dramatic details and word pictures into her writing.  It is also incredibly funny, but not belly laugh kind of funny, more of a quirky funny that really appeals to me (see every book Jasper Fforde ever wrote). 

Written as a first person story, Nina tells it as something that already happened.  Nina is a surprising take on vampires compared to either the lone wolf suppressing their evil or the ones who embrace it.  Nina has never really accepted herself as a vampire, somewhat because it doesn’t live up to her ideas of what it should be and because she has never really felt like a vampire.  She desperately wishes she were stronger like the character she created, Zadia Bloodstone, instead of weak and pathetic.  I love how weak and human she is, but still striving to do the right thing even with all of the things against her.  Eventually Nina decides to redefine herself, and her ideas of what a hero is.  Which is the main point of the story, taking control of your circumstances and empowering yourself. 

In the book blurb there were hints toward romance so I kind of expected it to rear its ugly head around every corner.  But in the end it was really an appropriately small part.  Also, how great is it to have a priest not vilified?  Thank you Ms. Jinks.  And one of my favorite things of all was having a satisfying conclusion to the story.

Frankly, I heart it!