Book Review: Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

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Recently, the wonderfully inspiring author of Eat, Pray, Love and The Signature of All Things published a new book for aspiring writers.  Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.  Big Magic is her first self-help book and as is as witty and humorous as Eat, Pray, Love.  I took it with me on my solo trip to the Isle of Eigg and it was the perfect book to bring for those long rainy days when I couldn’t get out but needed some inspiration and motivation to write.  I haven’t read other books about writing but I am sure after reading this that this is in a class of its own. When I first started reading it I thought that I probably wasn’t going t get much out of it but I was still loving EG’s style.  She writes like she is speaking to a friend in the room.  Big Magic is written openly and honestly and so therefore rather courageously I thought.  One of the things which impacted me was the way she expressed the magical things that sometimes happen when one if writing.  Perhaps some will scoff when they read about her theory that inspiration is floating around looking for creative people to birth these ideas or perhaps some will think, it’s a good enough explanation as any.  Elizabeth Gilbert offers quite a lot of sage advice as well as some wonderful personal anecdotes.  I was totally wrong when I thought I would get nothing from it but an enjoyable read.  This book is extremely encouraging and so much fun to read.  At times she had me chuckling to myself and even laughing out loud.  I was so inspired to write for the pure joy of writing that I ended up having an encounter of my own with ‘big magic’.  I wrote (or perhaps channeled) a short story of over 5000 words without hardly a pause except it was getting late and I was fighting sleep to keep going.  It was an exhilarating experience which I won’t forget.  I am not saying that if you read Ms. Gilbert’s book, you will also have a magical experience.  Read the book because it is an enjoyable book or because you have lost that spark you use to have and need some igniting.

Book Review: Shear Madness by Rhonda Blackhurst

Photo Credit: Amazon

Photo Credit: Amazon

The author of The Inheritance has a new book out and it’s a start to a new series!  Shear Madness is an engaging mystery novel about salon owner Melanie Hogan who is firmly set against living a life outside of the ordinary.  Ordinary, calm and settled is what she finds comfort in due to her mother abandoning her when she was a child to pursue an acting career.  Deep down inside though she has always had a desire to be a private investigator but as that doesn’t fit into her larger desire of living the safe ordinary life, she has allowed that dream to die.  Then along comes Velma, the town gossip who suddenly dies in her stylist chair and the verdict is murder.  Melanie then becomes set on solving the mystery!  I was totally engrossed in this book from start to finish.  It reminded me of Scarlett Thomas’ Lily Pascal series which I have also enjoyed.  Just like The Inheritance, I have enjoyed the characters and felt I understood them.  I liked the suspenseful stalker introduced in the book and enjoyed trying to solve the mystery with Melanie Hogan.  The book has an unusual tall, slim size which I love and a great cover design!  I look forward to the next book in the series.

The Inheritance by Rhonda Blackhurst– Book Review

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The joy of reading is a privilege of which I am always grateful for.  A good book has the power to enrich our lives, sometimes even teach us or cause us to reflect.  This morning, after just finishing the book, The Inheritance by fellow WordPress blogger, Rhonda Blackhurst, I find myself reflecting some more on all the teachable gems which glittered throughout the pages of the book.

The story begins with a tragedy. A mature couple, married for 36 years and still deeply in love lose their lives in a car accident leaving behind three adult children (and two grandchildren).  At the time of the reading of the will, the adult children are shocked to learn of the terms and conditions of their substantial inheritance which their parents had put in place.  They are also stunned to realize how well their parents knew them, so much so that even their presence is felt in the room as their will is read.  The terms of the will are ones where they will have to make some changes and sacrifice.  They are unique and individualized for each of the three siblings.  Each feel that they alone got the hardest terms and there are hurt feelings that cut through to the core opening up old wounds and repressed childhood emotions.

From as early on as chapter one, I felt well introduced to the characters of the story and deeply interested in each one. Their personalities, opinions and emotions all seem very much like real people I have known or could know. The story bids you to ask the questions, How well did their parents know them really? and Are the conditions of the will really spot on for each of them?

Unlike many overtly Christian novels, God is mentioned seldom in subtle ways allowing the characters to experience and the reader to see the quiet, deep ways God works within the depths of their hearts.  This is a beautiful story with great character development.  My only critique as a reader would be to wish the story had been a bit longer in the earlier part of the book but perhaps I read it through too quickly.  I read every morning before getting out of bed and last thing at night wanting to know what happens next to the characters I grew to love.

Book Review: Running In Heels- A Memoir of Grit and Grace

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Mary A. Perez is a WordPress Blogger and the author of her gripping memoir Running In Heels.  This raw memoir begins with Mary Perez’s childhood and that mysterious resilience that children often have when life treats them harshly. We read how this little girl dug within herself to find her inner strength to survive even when it meant stealing cold cuts from stray cats. The journey takes us through her sad loss of her childhood where we are also seized by her experience of tragic loss.

At times the book reads like a journey through time as Mary grows up and recounts events in her life which coincide with historical events such as the assassination of Martin Luther King and the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.  There are some small fond memories of TV programs of the 60’s and 70’s and popular food labels of that time. We also are immersed in Mary’s Hispanic American culture where the language spoken was English interspersed with Spanish commonly known as Spanglish.

It is not just her childhood that is so austere for as Mary grows up she becomes a teen bride of an abusive alcoholic nearly twice her age.  Thankfully, due to the limited upbringing of her loving grandparents, Mary is introduced to faith in God.  In her honest portrayal, we read about her spiraling faith which so many of us can relate to. However it is her faith that results in Mary being an overcomer in her life.

Running In Heels is a story of survival. It is the story of hope and faith and an amazing godly forgiveness which is truly inspiring.  I had no high expectations so I was surprised at what a page-turner it was.  It is a beautifully written narrative and I could not put it down!

 

Praise for The Signature Of All Things

Picture Source

Picture Source

The best-selling author of Eat, Pray, Love could have decided based on the book’s success to play it safe and write more autobiographical books about her life and spiritual journey.  After reading The Signature Of All Things, it is apparent to me that Elizabeth Gilbert did not play it safe.  In fact this 600+ page novel is quite an ambitious undertaking.  Having read both Eat, Pray, Love and Committed and loving both books, I was a bit dubious about The Signature Of All Things.  If I am honest, it just did not sound like a book I wanted to read.  What I had gleaned was that the book was a period novel based on the science of Botany with the main character being a female Botanist.  Oh dear! Yet, the conundrum was that I really did yearn to read more by Elizabeth Gilbert.  Still, I kept putting it off until after hearing more and more of the book’s success and it being printed in different countries and in many languages I finally succumbed to reading the book.  I am truly very glad that I did!

I am also glad that I knew so little about the book when I began reading it for this book really surprised me.  It is so much more than just a period novel about a Botanist.  This book causes the imagination to bloom in panoramic proportions so that what you envision is breathtakingly beautiful.  Besides that, it is exceptionally well-researched.  Those with an adventurous spirit will find themselves soaring. Contemplatives will find their minds being further challenged while lovers of science will find satisfaction.

Partly into the book, I thought I knew what the book was about; then surprise after surprise enters into the story.  It isn’t as if the story changes direction.  It was more like a flower bud opening layer upon layer of petals so that each time something new was revealed it added to making the story more captivating.  I found myself often wondering, “Now where is this story going?”

My conclusion is that The Signature Of All Things is Elizabeth Gilbert’s current masterpiece.  How she will top this, I don’t know but I will never again hesitate to read more by her!

Son by Lois Lowry–A Review

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In the past when I have come to the end of a book I have either sighed happily, grumbled, smiled or exclaimed aloud, ‘That’s IT?!’  However, cheering and then sobbing for joy is a first for me.

Son ends the story began in The Giver which is the first book Lois Lowry’s quartet. When I read The Giver, I loved it but was hugely dissatisfied with the ending.  I tried to console myself with the fact that as the story was written about a society whose rights to choose and live fully were stripped from them then perhaps not knowing what happens next meant anything was possible because no one was controlling the ending, not even the author.  It was how it was meant to be…well for several years that is until Lois Lowry published  the first companion Gathering Blue, then The Messenger and now the conclusion, Son.

While the first three books were all under 250 pages each, Son is a much meatier 400 pages and feels more like a novel written for fans of  The Giver who have now grown up although still light enough and challenging enough for teens to read.  Son is the story about the bond between a mother and her son and the mother’s search for her son.  It brings back a couple of previous characters from The Giver as well as a couple from the other companion books.  It is beautifully and touchingly written.  I believe the author poured her heart into the story as she herself lost her adult son some years earlier.  I felt the story she was trying to convey.  The emotion in this book is powerfully portrayed.

I don’t want to give more away but if you have read any of the previous books and find yourself pining for more or if you read The Giver and want to know what happened next then read Son as it just may be the best in the quartet.