Monday, May 24, 2010

The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks

I just finished reading

This is from the back cover of the book:
Seventeen year old Veronica "Ronnie" Miller's life was turned upside-down when her parents divorced and her father moved from New York City to Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina. Three years later, she remains angry and alienated from her parents, especially her father...until her mother decides it would be in everyone's best interest if she spent the summer in Wilmington with him. Ronnie's father, a former concert pianist and teacher, is living a quiet life in the beach town, immersed in creating a work of art that will become the centerpiece of a local church. The tale that unfolds is an unforgettable story of love on many levels--first love, love between parents and children -- that demonstrates, as only a Nicholas Sparks novel can, the many ways that love can break our hearts...and heal them.

Lingering Thoughts:
This is a great book! I do not recall any usage of inappropriate language or content, so I believe it is completely safe for all age groups to read. As a Christian, I really appreciated Sparks' intertwining Christian principles within the story line, such as the importance of having a healthy relationship with God and an active prayer life. Although Christianity is mentioned, it isn't overpowering.

One characteristic that really stood out to me was Ronnie's relationship with her parents. I found it to be much like the relationship I shared with my parents at her age. I, too, was rebellious teenager eager to take on the world. Now, as a parent, I valued the attitude and parenting style of Ronnie's father. He tried to reach Ronnie on so many different levels, but he never force their relationship on her. He loved Ronnie enough to give her the space she needed to grow up as a young woman. This, in my opinion, had to be so unimaginably difficult for him. However, I feel he knew that was important in allowing Ronnie to see her need for family.

Another aspect of the novel's theme which resonated with me was the affects of associating with certain peer groups. For this reason alone, I recommend this novel to young adolescents. It easily illustrates how falling into the wrong peer groups can change one's life. In fact, it almost costs one character, Blaze, her life.

My only complaint of this novel was that I found it to be a bit predictable. Half way through the novel, I knew what the ultimate outcome was going to be, so I wasn't in a hurry to finish it--it didn't really leave me on the edge of my seat needing to know more NOW.

I am excited to see the movie when it comes out on DVD to compare/contrast the book and theatrical production. Here is the trailer if you want to check it out:

Click here to buy the book.

Click here to learn more about Nicholas Sparks.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Shack by William Paul Young

This is from the back cover:
Mackenzie Allen Philips's youngest daughter, Missy, has been abducted during a family vacation and evidence that she may have been brutally murdered is found in an abandoned shack deep in the Oregon wilderness. Four years later, in the midst of his Great Sadness, Mack receives a suspicious note, apparently from God, inviting him back to that shack for a weekend.

Against his better judgement he arrives at the shack on a wintry afternoon and walks back into his darkest nightmare. What he finds there will change Mack's world forever.

In the world where religion seems to grow increasingly irrelevant THE SHACK wrestles with the timeless question: Where is God in a world filled with unspeakable pain? The answers Mack gets will astound you and perhaps transform you as much as it did him. You'll want everyone you know to read this book!

Lingering Thoughts:
I love that this book addresses many of the questions that we ask ourselves day to day. I hate that it uses the pain of a family to answer said questions. We've all been a predicament where we ask ourselves, "What if I had only did...? What if I hadn't done....?" These are questions that Mack wrestles with after the abduction of his daughter, Missy. He places blame on himself (and GOD) for the terrible circumstances surrounding her disappearance. He finds himself asking, as I am sure you can relate to in midst of tragedy, "Where is God in my pain?" I felt this way while enduring infertility for five years. I wondered "Why me?" instead of "Why not me?" I felt forsaken by God or punished for past sins. All of these emotions made me feel even more inadequate, but now, after reading a book that addresses many of these concerns, I don't feel so alone. I feel God truly does understand that "when all you can see is your pain, perhaps that is when you lose sight" of God (page 98).

I also loved how this book encompassed what God expects of us regarding forgiveness. Mac has a really troubling situation in which he must forgive someone who hurt him dearly. He struggles with how to forgive and justifies his hatred of this individual until God intervenes and shows him the freeing power of forgiveness.

A final important topic which this book alludes to is the humans ability to be judge and jury of our brothers/sisters. I felt complete conviction during the chapter in which Mac was to be the judge at the risk of saving only one of his children and forsaking the other. Wow! Completely powerful!

If you haven't picked up this book to read you should! It's really good!

You can buy the book here and visit the book's website here.