My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

MBFEI can still remember Bon Jovi in its hey day along with some Def Leppard, REM and of course the always popular “Red, Red Wine” by UB40. My middle school years were also marked by images of Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. I spent way too many sleepless nights hoping that Freddy’s right hand of doom wouldn’t pierce me through and through in the the middle of a dream. Throw into all this puberty, zits, weird clothes, big hair, trying to find somewhere to fit in and sleepovers and you have a pretty good idea of the background for “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix.

Hendrix’s fiction has appeared in multiple magazines. He is the author of Horrorstor, which is about a haunted furniture superstore – basically an IKEA meets a graveyard – and “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”. (I’m going to shorten this to: MBFE so I do have to write the whole thing out every time.

MBFE follows the lives of 2 friends, Abby and Gretchen. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Abby Rivers. She has invited everyone to her birthday party but pathetically no one shows up, except for the weird new girl, Gretchen Lang. Gretchen and Abby become best friends and stay that way through middle school and high school. The book then fast forwards to high school where Abby and Gretchen attend a private school. The school is mainly for the elite of the Charleston area and their families. Most of the kids that attend there are rich except for one, Abby. She attends on a scholarship and gets by with her brains not her bucks.

Abby and Gretchen are typical teenagers. They love to hang out and party and it is doing this one weekend that causes all the problems. While Abby and Gretchen, along with some other friends are enjoying the lake house of one of the girls, they decide to try LSD. Not much happens and they console themselves by drinking too much. Gretchen, on a whim, suggest skinny dipping and runs off in the middle of the night. The others lose sight of her and she disappears. They frantically search for her but can’t find her until the next morning. She can’t remember anything from the night before.

Following her disappearance, she begins to act strange and weird things start happening around her. She becomes a shell of her former self until one day when she seemingly just snaps out of it. Then, this is when the weird stuff starts happening. Those around her start getting what they want, yet what they get is twisted and evil.

Abby knows something is wrong with Gretchen and knows that Gretchen is somehow hurting those around her. After several attempts to figure out what is happening, Gretchen turns on Abby. Abby becomes ostracized at school and home. She knows though that something is seriously wrong with Gretchen, despite all appearances. She knows that deep down something evil is growing and taking over Gretchen. But what is it and how does she stop it? I won’t reveal anything more and have not done the story justice at all. I can say though that you will not be disappointed and will most likely stay up later than you should reading this.

Deep down, this is a story about what friendship really is. It speaks to never giving up on those we love no matter what they may do. The ending is a gut check and helps you see how important those you share life with really are.

All in all, I give this one a 4 out of  5. I would be surprised if this is not made into a movie, especially with the popularity of “Stranger Things” and all things 80’s/90’s. I will definitely be picking up other books by Hendrix in the future and look forward to more from this author.

 

 

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The Hike by Drew Magary

 

What do you get when you take Homer’s27833803 Odyssey and blend it with Alice in Wonderland? You get a book called “The Hike” by Drew Magary. Magary is a correspondent for GQ Magazine, a columnist for Deadspin, and a Chopped Champion. He’s also the author of four books: The Hike, The Postmortal, Someone Could Get Hurt, and Men With Balls.

The novel follows the very strange journey taken by the main character, Ben. Ben is out of town on business when he decides to take a stroll before a big meeting. As he goes farther and farther on the stroll, he comes to find out that the path he has chosen only leads forward. Set on an epic quest, Ben must find his way through mystical and magical realms, battle with a giant, get directions from a crab and basically re-examine every aspect of his life.

This is really a novel about what home means to each of us. Ben, as he gets thrown into this hike, realizes the thing he wants most is to get back to his family. I believe the story shows us how our choices have consequences and each path we choose leads us on a new journey.

I think any adult that has become complacent in life would read this book and instantly relate to Ben. At many times throughout the book, I found myself literally exhausted and upset and really feeling the emotions that the character had.

For some, this may be too weird of a book. But overall, this was just a fun read full of sci-fi & fantasy and a little bit of soul searching thrown in.

The Core of the Sun

coreofThis book was on fire! (sorry I had to make the joke). This has been one of my top reads for this year. I sped through this book in a day and a half. The edition I had clocks in at 304 pages and was soft cover.

Johanna Sinisalo is a female Finnish author of multiple Fantasy and Sci-Fi works. She is the recipient of multiple awards for her writing and was awarded the “Prometheus Award for Best Novel” for this book, The Core of the Sun. Her writing is unique, expressive and has been coined “Finnish Weird”. The Core of the Sun written in 2016, is her most recent work.

The Core of the Sun takes place in Finland. It has been turned into a society where women are raised to be submissive, unquestioning eye candy who sole purpose is to fulfill the man they are with. They are given no voice and no rights other than what their husbands may give them. Beauty is prized above all and intellect is looked at as a disease to be subdued.

There are 2 castes of women in this society. One is called the Eloi. These are women that possess traits such as physical beauty, submissiveness and basically act like the crew of girls from that movie “Mean Girls”. The other group of women that don’t fit in this group are called morclocks. These are women who have brains over beauty. As young children, each girl is given an aptitude test to see where they may fall. The smarter, more dominant women tend to end up as morlocks, which basically amounts to being shunned by society. Think of it as being the brown tootsie roll pop in the bag. You may look like the others but let’s face it, they are just gross.

The main character Vanna is a blip in this system as she is highly intelligent but also extremely beautiful. Early on, she realizes that in order to stay with her sister, Manna, (who is the quintessential eloi), Vanna must pretend not to be smart in public. Therefore, she secretly reads books on every subject. These books are smuggled in to her and must be hidden under ground when she is not reading them. Through a chain of events, Vanna and Manna end up having a sort of falling out over a man that comes to stay with them. The man is attracted to Vanna because of many of the things that she is not supposed to have, like intelligence and the ability to reason. As a result, Manna blindly finds the first man she can and marries him. The relationship is rocky and she ends up disappearing without a trace. Vanna feels responsible for Manna’s blind leap into marriage and spends most of the book searching for her. Much of the interaction the reader has with Vanna revolves around letters written to the disappeared Manna and it is not until the closing chapter that we find out what has happened to her.

Much of the book involves chili peppers as well. In the future, Finland has eradicated any thing that could be addictive such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs. However, in people’s desperate search for a “high” they have turned to chili peppers and the high they get through the effects of capsaicin. Capsaicin is the fiery chemical in peppers that regulates the amount of burn you feel when you eat them. In the book, Vanna becomes a capsaicin drug user and dealer. It is through this desperate search for a bigger and better pepper high that she ends up being part of a project that creates the hottest pepper ever known called you guessed it…The Core of the Sun. It is interesting to see how anything can become addictive given the chance.

This is definitely a unique and interesting take on dystopian literature. While I was reading, I thought about the small changes and tweaks that are made to society all the time to mold it one way or another. I believe this is a cautionary tale about identity and the damage that can be done when we pretend to be someone or something we are not. It is very Handsmaid Tale-ish crossed with Chili Peppers. Its hot stuff (no pun intended)!

 

Monster

monsterOn a scale of 1 to 5, I’d give this one a 3. But, don’t let that keep you from reading this book! Monster (by A. Lee Martinez) mixes humor, fantasy and fiction all together to create a reality where magic is real but going extinct. Dionysus Monster, the main character of the book, is a monster catcher. Much like a dog catcher, he is called in to catch monsters on the loose. Anything from Yeti to Hydra are his domain. Problem is, he is pretty mediocre at his job and well at his life in general. Once he meets Judy though, things begin to change. Under attack constantly from Judy’s subconscious, Monster must deal with rogue monsters bent on getting him. Judy does not know she is doing this to Monster and no one is even sure how she is doing it. I’ll let you read the rest of the book to keep from spoiling it for you…

Suffice to say, this is a book about growth. It is lame in several areas. The dialogue could use help and the plot is sketchy. But beneath all that, is the story of Monster’s growth from being mediocre and self absorbed to becoming admirable and involved in life.

The most memorable quote from the book for me was “Being a good person is more than just not being a bad person”. Simple yet good advice.

If you’re looking for a quick, easy and fun read, this is your book. I’m looking forward to reading more by this author.

The Gospel as Center

gospel-as-centerWhat is the center of your life? Is it family, your job, your sports team, money, possessions? There are so many things that vie for our allegiance. And more than that, not only our allegiance, but our ownership. I once heard someone say, “Whatever we own, owns us”. That is true in so many aspects.

A book I received quite a while back has been slowly helping me re-center on what is the core of my whole life. This book is titled, “The Gospel as Center”. It is a collaboration of essays by a great set of minds and thinkers in the evangelical (and overall reformed) world. This book builds a theological foundation on what is essentially the core of all aspects of theology, the Gospel. One thing I enjoyed most about this book was seeing the way the different writers tackled each subject. I love when great minds come together and tackle a project with a mission of proclaiming the Gospel.

This book may be a little technical and academic in some areas. Therefore, its readership may not reach a big audience, but it probably deserve to be read and read slowly by all of us that are constantly battling relativism in ministry and mainstream life.

Readership will most likely be those involved in full time ministry or para-ministry leadership.

The Lost Art of Reading

8518218Obviously I like reading. No wait, love is a better word. Give me a library over a sports game any day of the week. Half Price Bookstores are fatal to my bank account. And my kids usually shout, “We are not going to a bookstore today!” whenever we go out somewhere together.

Reading takes up a lot of my spare time. It is vitally important to me. I will read most anything at anytime anywhere. We recently packed stuff up for a move and I had quite a few big boxes of books, like 10 or 12!

Unfortunately, reading has fallen on hard times. Internet, TV, game systems, etc. have taken away reading’s stronghold in most everyone’s life. That is why I love books like “The Lost Art of Reading by David Ulin.

Ulin shares with the reader why reading is essential. Imagination, cognition and relationship skills are all wrapped up in reading and reading well. One main assertion of this book is that we need to disengage from electronic media and return to the lost art of reading. In fact, Ulin describes reading as a revolutionary act against our culture and its demands.

This is a small book both physically and length wise. It comes in at 150 pages. Ulin is a book critic for the Los Angeles Times. Take some time to read this important work of why reading is so important. You’ll learn that reading is its own reward.

Other thoughts:

http://www.amazon.com/review/R291AEX0Y15PKN/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1570616701

http://www.amazon.com/review/R2RC63ELPB81IV/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1570616701

“The Heavens: Intimate Moments with Your Majestic God”

9781404189997I can still remember my first telescope. It was one of those cheap Wal-mart type ones that you can buy for like $30. Basically, it was a glorified binocular. I’m not sure how much of space I saw but that dinky little telescope changed my life. From the moment I stared into the lens and saw the moon, I was hooked on stargazing.

Space always has something new to reveal. So often we limit space to our little corner of the milky way, but with each new day some new planet or star or celestial object is being uncovered. It reminds me of two things. 1. How infinitely small I am. 2. How infinitely great and glorious God is.

In “The Heavens”, Kevin Hartnett shares a similar mindset. Each day and devotion reveals to the reader something remarkable about outer space. How does this get you closer to God? It reminds you that God is the creator and has everything under control. Beautiful photography along with a great book layout make this a daily devotional you wont want to miss out on.

In our all too busy and hectic lives, it is nice to find something that can give you a moment’s rest and meditation. Buy this book and begin praising our majestic God.

Other resources:

http://www.ccmmagazine.com/article/the-heavens-intimate-moments-with-your-majestic-god/

http://www.amazon.com/review/R3NRNTVFA8FPO3/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1404189998