Monday, November 13, 2017

The Thursday Night Club and Other Stories of Christmas Spirit by Steven Manchester

The Thursday Night Club and Other Stories of Christmas Spirit.  Steven Manchester. Fiction Studio Books. November 2017. 192 pp.  ISBN#: 9781945839160.

Izzy and Ava host a weekly Thursday Night Club get-together with Jessie Cabral, Ava, Randy and Kevin.  They’re College Senior students who work hard at their studies and play just as hard, goofy friends who love nothing better than a good prank on each other, harmless fun that lightens their work load. Some have risen from poverty and are paying their tuition by the skin of their teeth but they don’t focus much on the hardship part of it all.  They are loyal to each other and beyond that focusing on meeting the directions of their various professors.  One professor in particular is a philosophy teacher who is highly demanding but how isn’t specified.  Jessie Cabral is probably the only remarkable student among them, preferring to be out on the streets doing something kind for someone in need but never flaunting it in anyone’s face. 

 “Pay it forward” is a phrase that has been put into action over the last few years, but what this group agrees to do following an awful tragedy they are now living with will far exceed that temporary phase.  They will make another bet to see who can do the greatest good to another human being but they must remain anonymous. 

What follows is inventive, spontaneous, and a true blessing to each recipient of the deeds these students initiate. 

Two other stories are added to what was originally published as a novella that add to the reader’s experience of enjoying a true Christmas Spirit.  In A Christmas Wish, a grandmother teaches Brian and Steph that if they truly wish and envision that wish their dream will come true.  Brian is a miracle that embodies the truth of the Christmas Spirit, a man who was deemed unable to live any kind of meaningful life.  Steph has a newfound realization that she is afraid to see become reality.  Readers will love the outcome of these two situations and admire the true Christmas Spirit.

The Tin Foil Manger is about Nancy, an elderly woman in a nursing home whose children can’t bear to visit her and watch her as Alzheimer’s disease eats away her mind and body.  A caretaker of the home connects both Nancy and her two daughters to a time when Christmas memories were something that united the family with meaning and blessings.  These realities of a past life give Nancy and her daughters the meaning of Christmas that restores living in multiple, fond ways.

The Thursday Night Club… and two other stories is not only a perfect  holiday read but also one for every day of the year and years to follow.  A great read, may it inspire others to live a life with “purpose.”

Right Behind You (Quincy and Rainie #7) by Lisa Gardner

Right Behind You (Quincy and Rainie #7).  Lisa Gardner. Penguin Publishing Group. October 2017. 480 pp.  ISBN#: 9781101984376.

Telly Ray Nash and his sister Sharlah have been brutalized by their father for years.  One night Telly has had enough and takes a baseball bat to his father, killing him and even using the bat on his sister Sharlah.  The siblings are then separated and are trying to put their lives together with families who actually want to adopt them.  One day, however, Telly kills both of his foster parents and wanders off to commit more murder.  Sharlah learns about this from her own foster parents, Quincy and Rainie, who are worried sick that her brother will come after to finish off what he began several years earlier. Quincy and Rainie are former FBI profilers and so they know something of what can be predicted.

The novel then concerns the search for Telly who is on the run.  The author takes the reader into the mind of Telly and Sharlah as the search continues.  The two victims haven’t really pieced together why their violent background unfolded.  Sharlah can’t figure out why her brother turned the bat on her after he finished his rampage on his abusive father.  Both deeply know fear, hate, and love, experiences that don’t make sense, as well as the care their foster parents are unconditionally offering them.  It’s just such a chaotic mental and emotional mess in their minds!

Don’t quit reading because the story enfolds in ways that are imagined by the reader.  Resist the temptation to stereotypically categorize Telly as a wounded killer gone berserk.  There’s far more to this story worth the telling.  Lisa Gardner is a wonderful storyteller who knows how to pace action and tension that keeps the reader riveted to the plot and caring about the characters involved in this nightmarish search and its aftermath.  Well-plotted with multiple characters worth rooting for to come out of their nightmarish experience!