Friday, January 18, 2019

The Color of Lies

   Far be it from me to sneer at a title where they spell [colour] without the 'u'. Unusually enough, it wasn't the title of this one, or even the cover, that drew me. It was the concept.

    Ella Cleary has a rare medical condition known as synesthesia, which messes with her brain and senses, allowing her to read people's emotions based on the colour that appears around them whenever she looks their way. So when a stranger approaches her exuding no colour at all, and calling her by the name "Nora" which she hasn't used since she was three years old, she has every right to be confused. Cautious.

   Downright suspicious.

   Even more unnerving is that he wants to ask her about a murder she's certain she never witnessed. She's not even sure she believes it happened, because first of all, her parents died in a fire--there was no murder involved, just a freak accident. And second of all, she wasn't ever there to see it.

   C J Lyons evokes an exciting, emotional mystery as these two characters encounter and re-encounter each other while they try to unravel the mysteries around Ella's parents and their sudden deaths. It's a story that made me wonder again and again, "how could they possibly figure out this mess?" and there's nothing more satisfying than finding the answer to that question.

   An intriguing, easy read for Teen or YA Fiction reader who enjoys a tragic past, a dark mystery, and a high-stakes race to uncover the truth.

--Elise V--

   For more information on The Color of Lies by C J Lyons, visit our website here.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Racing to the Finish

    This isn't the sort of book I would expect myself to read. Not because women can't enjoy NASCAR, but because I thought I'd had enough of NASCAR to last a lifetime. My brother, who is 5 years younger than me, spent a few years, a decade and more ago, obsessed with the sport. He could name every driver's stats, and not just NASCAR, but Formula 1 and IndyCar as well. There was always a race on TV, and so the names and locations found their way into my world as well. Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson were household names. While I would occasionally watch with him, and had my favourite (Jeff Gordon), NASCAR was not my favourite thing in the world. It may have had something to do with the fact that the Daytona 500 often fell on my birthday, and there was no way my brother was missing the Daytona 500.

   As I began to read Racing to the Finish, it felt like I was going back in time and back to my childhood, as names and places I'd forgotten were in the forefront of the story. But you don't have to be a fan of NASCAR to enjoy this book. This is Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of injury and recovery, and the resilience it takes to be a racecar driver. Rather than being an account of his entire life - although he does reminisce about his father and grandfather, and discusses the beginnings and evolution of his racing career - Racing to the Finish is the story of Earnhardt's concussions, recovery, and subsequent retirement. His injuries and recovery happened at the same time the NFL was finally beginning to talk about the affects of concussions, and Earnhardt's journey shaped the way concussions and other injuries are viewed in the racing world.

   Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s story of resilience and healing - and the perseverance required for both - is inspiring, no matter what your own life looks like. I found it a fascinating book, and I was also delighted to find that Dale Earnhardt Jr. has a gift for writing as well as racing; he has proven himself an insightful and skilled author, with a style both entertaining and honest.

   Earnhardt wrote this book not only to tell the story of why he was off the track for so long, but to help others who have concussions and other head injuries to understand what is happening in the brain, and know that help is available and recovery possible. As NASCAR's unofficial spokesperson for concussions, and thanks to his fame and fan base, he is in the perfect position to help raise awareness for the prevention and treatment of concussions. For me, this book also gave me a new appreciation of the racing world that I had long forgotten. The often wistful combination of nostalgia and glory which Earnhardt has woven into Racing to the Finish has made me fall in love with NASCAR again.

   While this looks like a man's book - it's a sports and medical autobiography written by a racecar driver, after all - I firmly believe books should not be marketed as "men's books" and "women's books." I am a woman in my mid-twenties and I loved it. I believe it would interest anyone with a taste for sports, medicine and psychology, or biographies. Or, like me, give it - or another book outside your comfort zone - a chance. You may be pleasantly surprised.


   For more information on Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr., visit our website here.

Monday, January 7, 2019

Hidden Among the Stars

This book is a wonderful story that sees Callie, a bookstore owner in small town America, being given an old copy of Felix Saltern's classic children's book "Bambi". Inside she finds the original owner's name, Annika, and also a list amongst the pages, written in German. The list seems to be of valuables such as ruby bracelets, candelabras and the like, but why are they in an old children's book? And who exactly was Annika?
We go back in time to Austria in 1938, where Annika is a caretaker, along with her father, of an estate in the lake region of Austria. The castle is owned by a wealthy Viennese family as their summer house. Annika is in love with the owner's son, Max, but does he share her love? Or is there another that has captured his heart?
We slide between the two stories as Callie, aided by university lecturer Josh, try to find out what happened to Annika, and what the list is for. She also wants to find any remaining members of Annika's family to return the book to them. Meanwhile, back in 1938 Austria is being taken over by Nazi Germany, and it is a dangerous time for many in Vienna.
Melanie Dobson weaves a marvellous tale of two women, separated by an ocean and 80 years, whose lives are brought together by a simple children's book. It is an enduring story, the terror of the Nazi regime and the lives of the Jewish people devastated during the holocaust. And what becomes of Annika? 

Don’t miss Dobson’s other utterly amazing read, Catching the Wind. Fans of historical fiction will not be able to put either of these books down.


For more information on Hidden Among the Stars by Melanie Dobson, visit us in store or visit our website here.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Greatest Gift

   He shattered the space between heaven and earth and came naked and breakable for you in a creche. Then He lay naked and broken by you on a Cross. If He gave you His Son to save you, will He not give anything?

   Many of you will recognize Ann Voskamp's name in connection to her books The Broken Way and one of my all time favourite reads, One Thousand Gifts. This book, The Greatest Gift, is her invitation to a deep and meaningful Advent season. Ann's poetic and lyrical prose lends itself beautifully to this hope-filled time of year. Her daily readings follow the Jesse Tree tradition of exploring Jesus' genealogy, after the prophecy of Isaiah 11, and she includes a link to download and print Jesse Tree ornaments for the tree to follow the readings.

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
    And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

   With each Old Testament character, from Joseph to Ruth to Rahab to Abraham, Ann reaches into her reader's hearts to expose our hopes, fears, and burdens during the pre-Christmas season that is supposed to be filled with joy, but is often shadowed by the hardships we all face. Her daily readings not only allow these painful feelings but encourage us to dig deep into our souls and discover what God truly has in store for us during Advent. The human story, outlined in Jesus' family tree, is one of heartbreak, sin, and beautiful dependence on God through weakness. Ann allows us to experience the same, guilt free, to grow closer to God this Christmas. As she says in her book, "The places where we're torn to pieces can be thin places where we touch the peace of God."

   I love this book and I love Ann Voskamp. Her style of write, brimming with poetry in every line, as well as her fearless plumbing of the depths of the soul, draw me in every time. This book gives me the wonderful happy thrills you only get when reading a rare and special book. Whatever kind of Christmas season you're approaching - one of loss, pain, joy or celebration - this book will draw you deep into the Gospel story and the heart of God.

   Stars will come in the night sky, shimmer somewhere. Advent will keep coming, this love story that never stops coming. Love like this could make us wonder. Somewhere, carols play.


   For more information on The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, visit our website here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Silencing Insecurity

   This is a beautiful, deeply personal book, because it’s about you. I will warn you, as Donna Gibbs does, that this book will poke and prod at some of the most sensitive parts of your heart. That’s the point: silencing insecurity by exploring insecurity.

   The book is divided into 3 sections: identity (which includes comparison, success, failure, background and more), unnecessary problems (namely mental, emotional, and relational), and lastly "The Necessary Secret" (how to overcome insecurity and move towards wholeness and dependence on God). Each chapter contains questions for journaling titled "Freedom Q & A".

   Some example questions are:

  • How has the enemy caused you to doubt God and to doubt yourself?
  • Have the dynamics of growing up in a single-parent home or a blended family impacted your view of yourself?
  • How have insecurities robbed you of spiritual development? Where would you like to be in relation to God?
   As you can see, these questions and more are sure to open up some very old and deep wounds, but that is exactly what will lead to healing. Although it would still be helpful, a casual reading of this book just won’t do. No, you need to highlight, journal, and make a beautiful mess of this book to get the most out of it. As I journeyed through the first few chapters, I already found myself realising some things that were holding me back, that I hadn’t yet healed from, or that encouraged me deeply where I most needed it.

   Gibbs uses Scripture and God’s promises to show us how to overcome past hurts and the lies that become entrenched in our hearts from our pasts, from society, and from the enemy, to realise our true identity in Christ. Each chapter also contains a “Victory Verse” for memorization to aid you in taking hold of the truth of God’s word as it applies to your life.

   This is a wonderful book for anyone who struggles with self esteem, has difficulties with their past or present situation, or is feeling stuck in their life or spiritual walk. This book contains the Biblical tools for overcoming strongholds in your life. It would also be helpful to anyone wanting to better understand how their identity in Christ should affect their life on a practical level.

   Silencing Insecurity is already changing my life, and I plan to go back to it again and again.


  For more information on Silencing Insecurity by Donna Gibbs, visit our website here.

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.