Saturday, November 17, 2018

In His Image

   I'll be honest, I first picked this one off the shelf because it's such a beautiful book. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover! This is one of my favourite books of this year, and I'll be coming back to it again and again.

   In His Image is a follow up to Jen Wilkin's None Like Him. In her previous book she outlined 10 different attributes of God that show how different He is from us. In this book, she goes through 10 attributes of God - holiness, love, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, faithfulness, patience, truth, and wisdom - and illustrates from a Biblical perspective how we as Christians can reflect God's character in these ways to the world, while getting to know Him better.

   Also, in this book, discovering God's will becomes asking the question "Who should I be?" rather than the paralyzing "What should I do?" Wilkin outlines this in the following excerpt :

   "Our inclination is to discern God's will by asking, What should I do? But God's will concerns itself primarily with who we are, and only secondarily with what we do. By changing the question and asking, Who should I be? we see that God's will is not concealed from us in His Word, but is plainly revealed."

   While revealing aspects of God's character, Wilkin reassures us that following God's will is as simple and as impossible as being molded into the image of Christ, rather than our actions and plans for our lives.

   One Goodreads reviewer said she follows Jen Wilkin because she "doesn't make things fluffy and encourages women to use their minds." I agree completely with this statement. I love Christian women's books, but as feelings-based as my personality is, they often focus too much on emotion and inspiring words, and don't have much theological depth. This book is very deep but so easy to understand and apply. It is theology-based and encourages practical, sanctifying study of the Word. Each chapter is shorter than average and contains verses to meditate on as well as questions for journaling and deeper study. A book to read and reread, study, highlight, and take notes on. If you're looking to get to know God's character better, deepen your faith, or are looking for a gift that will inspire and teach a new believer, this is the book for you.
   For more information on In His Image by Jen Wilkin, visit our website here.

Gay Girl, Good God

"I used to be a lesbian." 

I picked this book up not really knowing what to expect. My first thought was "Ooooh! What a pretty cover!" Then, "Oh wow, I need to know more." And then I began reading, which didn't take me long because it's not even 200 pages. But what is in here is so good and raw and honest and beautiful and chalk FULL of God's goodness and mercy and grace.

Jackie Hill Perry's gets to the nitty-gritty right away in her introduction saying, "A gay girl once? Yes. Now? I am what God's goodness will do to a soul once grace gets to it. In saying that, I know I've already offended someone. I don't assume that every hand that holds this book will agree with every black letter on the pages. There are many who, while reading, won't understand gayness as something possible of being past tense. It is either who you are, or what you have never been. To this, I disagree. The only constant in this world is God." 

Jackie's Hill Perry's story is a unique one for sure. She writes that before she could even spell her name, she knew she liked girls instead of boys. Her father was absent, minus a day here and there, and he told her once that if he never saw her again that he wouldn't be that upset. At age five, she was sexually assaulted at a friends house by the older brother. Then by the time she was 18, she had embraced both masculinity and homosexuality with every fiber of her being. And it was during her second relationship with a woman that she started using drugs.

Then God broke in and changed everything.

I seriously can't get over how powerful this book was. Not just her story, but it made me look at my own life and my own sin, and how I look at the friends and family I know and love that would identify themselves as gay and ask myself, "have I been truly loving them and speaking the gospel, or have I failed"?

After finishing this book, I came out with two big take-aways. The first is that as Christians, who may or may not have people they love who are gay, we need to make sure we are speaking more about Christ to them than hell. As soon as I finished the book, I pulled out my phone and started following Jackie on Instagram. I scrolled through and found a video of her being interviewed about the book and she said that when she was living her life before, all she heard was hell and that's where she would end up if she didn't change. Nobody talked to her about Jesus and his mercy and grace and wisdom. What?! The second would be that we stop making marriage the ultimate goal to hit as Christians. It's wonderful and awesome ( I would know) but it's not the "highest glory" that I think we sometimes preach that it is. To a same-sex attracted Christian, they may (like Jackie) marry someone of the opposite sex, but they may not. They may be called to a life of singleness. And that is OKAY. In both, God is glorified.

I encourage you to pick it up even if you're hesitant. This topic isn't always easy, but reading something that challenges you is important. It helps you grow. And reading someones story, I find, is a helpful gateway into challenging topics.

--Elise F--

For more information on Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry, come in and see us, or visit our website here.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Crescent Stone

A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

That premise hooked me immediately. I was sucked into the reading vortex.

We open with Madeline Oliver; she is desperate to be a normal teenager who is able to breathe on her own. Her life changes when a random, oddly dressed stranger, named Hanali makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a year of breathing in exchange for service to his people, the Elenil who are fighting against the evil Scim.

Are you intrigued yet? 

Well you should be, because this was an amazing read!

It features honest logic, hilarious one-liners, twists and turns, and ridiculous rules of living, such as magical self-cleaning toilets (which leads to one asking where does it disappear to?).

For fans of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, this trilogy is sure to interest those who cannot say no to an adventure. Whilst in this magical kingdom, Madeline and her friend Jason Wu will discover an even greater evil lurking within the city walls. Journey along with them as they discover the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice. We are left wondering if love truly can save the lost and broken?


For more information on The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos, visit us in store or check out our website here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

I am in love with the United Kingdom. After I graduated from college (which was a miracle considering I was a lot more social than studious...much like my father), my dad took me on a 10 day trip to London. And WOW! What a haven for the history/literary nerds! My dad and I had the best time. From Westminster to the Tower of London to Hyde Park, we explored as much as we could and ate fish and chips to our hearts' content in many of the pubs located in London and everywhere. The British love their pubs. One of the days (I think my dad and I both say it was our favorite day), we traveled to Oxford. The only thing either of us had planned for that day was to explore and find the pub that C. S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings visited regularly to talk about their writings. When we found The Eagle and Child, both of us could not contain our excitement. We sat down at a random table and ordered. And while we were waiting for our food, as we looked around, we noticed all the plaques surrounding the table we were sitting in, and to our complete and utter surprise, we were sitting in THEIR BOOTH. It was such a surreal experience for both of us and I'm so happy that I got to share that with my dad.

So, really, it's no surprise that I would want to pick this book up and read it. This book was all the more magical because I had been to those places and could imagine Joy and Lewis (or "Jack", as his friends would call him), strolling along in Oxford.

Before Joy met Lewis, she became a Christian (just like Lewis); not because she was searching for Him, but because God surprised her in her great need. After this, Joy wrote to Lewis, hoping for answers to her many questions about Christianity. And Lewis wrote back. Thus began her incredible journey of deep friendship with him that eventually turned into love.

This is Patti Callahan's debut Christian novel. After reading this book, I seriously hope she keeps writing. She wrote so incredibly well that I could picture everything vividly in my mind. I've been a fan of C. S. Lewis my entire life, and the way she wrote his dialogue and described him--I totally get why Joy was so drawn to him. This book was also a story about Joy's entire life, leading up to her marriage to Lewis. She's mostly famous for the end of her life, so to read about what happened before that was so interesting.

 For more information on Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan, come and visit us in store or check out our website here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

    Rarely have I seen something so real, raw, and honest as this. When there is no rhyme or reason--God doesn't heal you, and those perfectly formulated formulas of life, love, and the divine don't add up, where does that leave you?

   When Kate Bowler was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, it tore at the seams of the prosperity-gospel theology she had surrounded herself with. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved tells her story, "offering up irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live", and it's what I affectionately call a "bleeding heart". Every chapter, every page, every word is chock-full of so much full, sorrowful, beautiful emotion that I felt like crying every time I sat down with it, just as a way to release the feelings building and twisting inside of me as I read.

   There is no end to Kate Bowler's wisdom, truth, and sheer, raw honesty that I didn't even know I was longing for. Just last week, I came across a cute, catchy Christian saying that echoed the promises we so often tell each other: "With God, you're limitless. Anything is possible. Nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams, your goals...". And then in reading Kate Bowler's story, I read this:
"What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough."
(p. 21. Bowler, Kate. Everything Happens for a Reason. Penguin Random House, 2018.)
   With God, you're limitless, except when something does stop you. Except when you reach your very real, very tangible limits, and things don't go your way anymore.

   Like Kate, since pondering this disillusionment with the concept of limitlessness, I've become more comfortable with the times when life is no longer under my control (as if it ever really is). Human mortality stares us in the face every day, but in the shoes of someone like Kate, it no longer seems to just stare. It screams. It shrieks. It rages. It becomes a thing so impossible to ignore that the only thing left is to ask the questions: the hard questions, the real questions, the painful questions, the terrifying questions. I've never heard ask them better than Kate does. Her cynicism reads like a breath of fresh air after a long day cooped up in a stuffy house; the hope and grace woven through her words feels like a full, warm embrace.

   This book is a balm for the suffering, wondering why they suffer. And it's so incredibly helpful for those seeking, searching, trying to understand the threat of cancer in their family members and friends. There are two helpful appendices at the end: "Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times (A Short List)" and "Give This A Go, See How It Works (A Short List)". They're meant to guide and help those of us who don't know what to do or say, and are in danger of harming our already hurting loved one with our good intentions.

   --Elise V.--

   For more information on Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler, visit our website here.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Touch of Gold

"Once upon a time..."

Any story that starts this way with those four little words, it is guaranteed that I'll love it or at least like it a lot. I grew up watching Disney movies and reading out of all of our fairy-tale books over and over again till the pages started falling out. I don't know what it is about them, but I love them. I love the adventure, the princesses and princes and frogs, and pirates and treasures and all of it. So when I picked up this book and it started with those four little words I love so much, I knew I had to keep reading to see if it was actually any was!

If you know anything about King Midas then you're good to go in reading this story. If you don't, then basically its a myth about a king who wishes that he could turn anything he wants to gold. But Dionysus, the god who gave him this "gift", or curse, tricked him: literally everything he touches turns to gold. That's the gist.

Our story begins right before that curse is lifted, when King Midas accidentally turns his daughter, Kora, into gold. After searching out Dionysus to save his daughter from her dreadful fate, the god tells Midas to bring everything he's touched, including his daughter, and go to the mouth of the nearby river before the sun sets that day and submerge everything. And his daughter would be saved. So Midas does this, but in his hurry he forgets everything except his daughter. When the sun sets, Kora is alive but her skin is still a shimmering gold.

And that is only the prologue!

Flash forward ten years and Kora feels like she's never going to find a man to marry her who won't shudder when he looks at her and that she's never going to escape the walls of the palace where her Uncle Pheus and her father keep her locked up. But when a suitor shows up and doesn't recoil when he looks at her, Kora finally begins to have hope that her life won't always be in hiding.

When the palace is robbed of the cursed gold that Midas touched, and needs for survival, Kora sets out with her suitor, to bring back the gold to save her father and the kingdom. As they slowly begin to get to know each other, Kora finds out that people aren't always as they seem.

This book was exactly what I needed after reading several books about WWII and the Holocaust. It was an easy read and swept me away into a fanciful land of pirates and curses and a damsel who starts out in distress but finds her own strength and it's all great. This is Annie Sullivan's debut novel and I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up!

--Elise F.--

For more information on A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan,come in and see us or visit our website here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys was truly a heart-breaker. I keep telling myself that I need to take a break from the historical fiction and read a simple light fiction or fantasy book; read something that can't possibly be real, because my heart can't handle what the last few books I've read have made me feel. But I'm addicted. So, oh well

Salt to the Sea takes place in winter 1945 and follows four characters whose lives are crossed in the desperate attempt to flee to the coast from Stalin and his soldiers: Joana from Lithuania, Florian from Prussia, Emilia from Poland, and Alfred from Germany. All four fight for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will transport them to safety and freedom...maybe.

And that's all I'm telling you because I don't want to give anything away.

Most WWII books I've read have been about people running or hiding or fighting the Germans and from Hitler. This is the first book I've read that has been about people running from Stalin to Germany. Getting more info from the Eastern European countries was a welcome change. The war happened to them too but on both sides, each having horrible dictators. This was also the first time learning of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff, which was a tragedy that was six times deadlier than the Titanic, and I couldn't believe this was the first I've heard about it. 

Ruta Sepetys writes amazingly well. The book is broken up into the perspectives of each of the main characters, each chapter being a new perspective on what's happening and why that character is running. And it's so SO good. I did not want this book to end, but at the same time, it took everything in me to NOT skip ahead to make sure that nothing bad happened to the characters I immediately fell in love with. It can't be easy writing a book with four different perspectives to keep track of, and she blew it out of the water. 

When you pick this book up, make sure you have tissues handy because it's a doozy.

--Elise F--

For more information on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, come in and see us or visit our website here