Monday, July 16, 2018

Fawkes

   I've always had an odd sort of fascination with masquerade masks. I judged this book by its cover, snatched it up, and delighted in the concept. The masks are used to signify an individual who has a level of control over a certain colour, and each colour is used to manipulate different parts of the world around them. It's called Color Power and it leaves a divide so strong between two schools of thought--the Keepers and the Igniters--that a silent war breaks out. Each side blaming the other for the mysterious Stone Plague destroying England's people and beyond, this war is carried out in dark alleys behind masks, with hidden knives. The Igniter king of England, King James, calls for the death of the Keepers--that they should hang by the neck until dead.

   Thomas Fawkes is a young man on the cusp of coming-of-age to receive his mask--if he can pass his Color Test at St. Peter's Color School, and if his father shows up to give him his mask. Unbeknownst to his teachers and most of his classmates, Thomas is a Keeper. What follows is a story of intense betrayal, blackmail, murder plots, value and worth, and the thin line between what is convincing and what is right.

   Fawkes is more than a coming-of-age story. Nadine Brandes asks questions of race, wealth, and politics as she unravels the building war between Keepers and Igniters. She weaves in pieces of history with the story of Guy Fawkes in 17th century London. The first time Thomas Fawkes meets his father, Guy Fawkes, he's plunged into a plot to kill the Igniter king. The plan: to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up Parliament.

   There's a Romeo-Juliet type twist to this story, not to mention a great deal of mystery, suspense, romance, and conviction. The characters are diverse and engaging, and the prose should appeal to teens, especially ages 14-18. Another exciting YA book for the shelves--join Thomas Fawkes in the plot to kill the Igniter King.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, visit our website here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Finding Jesus in Israel

This book is a treasure. I am one of those people who only dreams about traveling to the Holy Land, walking the streets Jesus walked and seeing the setting of His ministry years. While my opportunity to hop a plane and find myself knee-deep in Biblical history has not yet arrived, this book both satisfied and renewed my longing for Israel.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1510409104l/36411161.jpgBuck Storm, self-admittedly neither a theologian or historian, uses his skills as a novelist and songwriter to paint a beautiful picture of modern day Israel, with all its contradictions. He shares stories of his many travels through Israel, usually off the beaten path, with vibrant locations and even more vibrant people. Often, his stories of visiting sites from Jesus' ministry are poignant and breathtaking, as is his trip to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus took his disciples in Matthew 16:13-20:

"My group and I sat for a while, lingering in the shade and the echo of His voice, reluctant to move on. Sometimes it's better not to rush. To slow down. To take the time to listen. Once, lifetimes ago, Caesarea Phillipi was an evil place, filled with devils. Blustering gods of nothing. And the Bright Morning Star swept them away with a word and a thought." (Chapter 3)

Buck Storm makes you feel as though you're right alongside him in the dust, crowds, and sacred spaces. This book is a perfect picture of the human experience, combining the humour of differing languages and foods, the lure of history, the romance of the Gospel, the heartbreak of sin. While he walks readers through some popular locations, such as Gethsemane, the pages of this book are also filled with less-traveled sites, where tourists, tickets, and lines are non-existent. He acknowledges the realities of the tourism industry and is successful in going beyond it to show his readers the true Israel.

"And God, whether we choose to recognize it or not, is at the very heart of Israel. So, for me, watching the bread vendor next to the Jaffa Gate getting bombarded by fifty shaloms from fifty happy, footsore tourists isn't a bad thing. The genuine smile on his face tells me he agrees. I'm sure a few shekels in his pocket and five or ten rings of his sesame bread and hyssop being passed around the group didn't hurt either." (Chapter 8)

This book is filled to the brim with larger than life people, personal faith moments, "coincidences," and insights. Storm even touches on several points not often discussed, such as the false, stereotyped view North America has of the Middle East, and the tendency of Western pilgrims to make an idol of the Holy Land and the search for spiritual experiences. I loved this book for two reasons; the first, his descriptions drew me in so strongly I felt I was walking through Israel with him, with all the sights, sounds, scents and heat involved. Second, Storm links locations and Biblical passages in ways I had never seen before. For example, I had never known that when Jesus told His disciples the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, He was standing near a place known as the "gate of hell," surrounded by pagan Roman idols. It is in the details like this, precious and little known, that the landscape of Israel expands our view of scripture. In this way, Finding Jesus in Israel is like taking your own journey to the Holy Land, from the comfort of your own home.

I was planning on reading just one chapter, to see what this new book was all about, but I found myself unable to put it down. I will be returning to it again and again, especially when I finally get the chance to travel to Israel. If you have even a mild case of wanderlust, this book is for you.

"It's a big, hot, swirling mill of innocence and sin, located within a stone's throw of the scorched remains of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. The landscape probably looked a lot different in Abraham and Lot's day, but we humans haven't changed a whole lot. I looked out at the water. The Dead Sea. A liquid ghost town. Even the piles of driftwood along the shore looked like bleached bones. On every level, sin and hopelessness blanketed the place. And I smiled. Because I know Him. Because it's always in the deadest places - be it the moonscape of the Negev, the hard-packed earth of a hippodrome floor, or the salty depths of a broken soul - that the God of love insists on breathing new life." (Chapter 13)
--Aliah--

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Lost Castle

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, summed up in one word:

AMAZING!

I loved this book immediately, and therefore tried to read it at a normal person’s pace… BUT It pulled me in fast and well…. 5 hours was all it took. Time seemed to whirl past me as I furiously read this novel. To be Honest, any historical fiction works have me itching to read them, but I am rather picky about the ones I read. Thankfully Kristy Cambron’s tale did not disappoint!

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods- the French Revolution, World World II, and present day- The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through generations.

The three different stories all focus on a strong female- Aveline, an aristocrat in hiding during the French Revolution, Vi, who is on a mission and also hiding in Nazi-occupied France, and Ellie, our modern-day heroine who is searching for answers and connecting the secrets of the past.

The descriptions were phenomenal. Everything came to live through the imagery words and it really did feel like a fairy tale, adorned with the most glorious sights and scenes. There are dark and sad moments, but so many happy times too. The theme of the story is faithfully living the life God gives each of us.

While I was preparing for this review, I found out that this book is only the first of a 3 part series, and I honestly let out a squeal of delight! The second book is set to come out in 2019 and is also set in three time-periods BUT IN IRELAND (All the heart eyes)—during the revolutionary era of the late 18th century, Ireland’s turbulent Easter week of the 1916 Rising, and present day.
For anyone who has ever travelled to Ireland knows of its ASTOUNDING BEAUTY with lush sweeping GREEN magnificence. I was breathless during my entire trip there, and it is clear that my immediate fangirling is quite appropriate!

Lastly a huge shout out to the cover designer because both books deserve a standing ovation, they are absolutely stunning!

--Candace--

For more information on The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

If I Live

If I Live is the third book in Terri Blackstock's If I Run Series. This series is a shoe-in for sucking you into a reading vortex, since I read the first two books in 8 hours. I paused life completely. Literally did nothing but read, I think I barely ate that day because that would mean I’d have to stop reading and clearly that would have been the end of life as we know it. So it’s a big deal, folks. Because us millennials love our food, especially all the hipster trends like avocado toast.

Book 2 ended on cliffhanger and I gut-wrenchingly waited 12 WHOLE MONTHS for this last book to finally come out, so if you haven’t read this series yet, you are surely blessed because you won’t have to endure that pain & suffering.

All I can say is WOOWOWOWOWOW.

This was an amazing close to an incredible trilogy. The suspense did not let up and I was left gasping for breath at a couple of points, dying to skip ahead and find out what had happened… But I behaved.

The premise of the series is basically about a girl named Casey Cox, who is framed with murdering her best friend. She is on the run for her life and oh the intenseness of it all. Dylan Roberts is the private investigator who was hired to hunt her down, however he now believes Casey and fights to expose the truth, with hopes of finally freeing Casey. But Detective Keegan is desperate and fighting for his control. He’ll stop at nothing to shut up Casey—and Dylan, and anyone who gets in his way. Death is frequent within the series, as evil is very present within the pages. Murder is a major part of the plot, so the body count is high. LOTS of people die. Some of the violence definitely gets disturbing. I’d only recommend this series for 16+.
GOODNESS! The suspense! I was literally on the edge of my seat reading the entire book. The author tackles tough issues of horrifying evil with hope and justice. It’s not just an incredible page-turner; it’s a story with depth and truth to it.
 
It was such a delight to finally see Casey learn to trust God and to grow in her faith despite her circumstances. I loved the strong Christian message in this book, and the assurance given to readers that nothing is too big for God's sacrifice to offer forgiveness for—but that believers should be ready to count the cost and give up their sins.

--Candace--

For more information about If I Live by Terri Blackstock, visit our website here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Searching for Sunday

   I think Rachel Held Evans' goal with her book, Searching for Sunday, is to help the reader fall back in love with the church--that is, the universal/international/global church; as in the body of believers that makes up Christ's bride.

   I don't know if it helped me in that at all. I think it was meant to show me the beauty of the church, and there were definite glimpses. But Rachel described to me the indescribable: the mysterious beauty of Jesus Christ and the person he could be to me. She made me want to love Jesus again.

   Searching for Sunday is formatted into seven parts--seven sacraments: 
  1. Baptism: the church tells us we are beloved
  2. Confession: the church tells us we are broken
  3. Holy Orders: the church tells us we are commissioned
  4. Communion: the church feeds us
  5. Confirmation: the church welcomes us
  6. Anointing the Sick: the church anoints us
  7. Marriage: the church unites us
    (Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday. Nelson Books: Nashville. 2015. p.xvii)
   This is the account of Rachel's journey through loving, leaving, and finding the church again--this is how she chooses to portray that journey. Each of the seven sections hold chapters that bring out each sacrament in all of their unearthly beauty. I was captivated by every word, sentence, and page. More than once, this account tugged at my throat and brought tears to my eyes.

   I expect I'll be coming back to this book over and over again in the years or--Lord willing--decades to come. When I find myself floundering, lost, and falling away, Rachel may have found the words to prop me back up on my feet again.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, visit our website here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Heart Between Us

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel opens with this:
"That's why she had me write a bucket list... twenty-five things that will make my future brighter, that will stop giving my memories so much power over my life.
I've been in therapy for seven years, but I still struggle. Not every day--like at the beginning. But sometimes still, the memories sneak up on me when I least expect them. They drag me down and pull me under like a riptide. And even though I long to fight them, my arms and legs gets tired. I grow weak.
In those moments, I'm maybe kind of okay with letting and drifting away, allowing the sea to carry me wherever it wants to go. But now when that happens, I have a new tool. I can try and focus on the dreams, the plans, the goals I have. And say, "Not today. I won't let you rip them from me."
It's not necessarily about avoidance or forgetting. There are some things you never forget.
Instead it's about learning to swim parallel to the shore, to be one with the waves, with the pain. To replace weakness with strength, fear with hope.
Hope can be my rescuer. If I let it."
Megan Jacobs was born with a weak heart, and spent her childhood in and out of hospitals while her twin sister lived the perfect life, playing sports, getting the guys, and having fun. Flash-forward to her adult years, Megan has received a heart transplant, but still lives in constant fear. When Megan's heart donor's parents give her their daughter's journal, she is drawn to the young woman's unfulfilled bucket list. Megan decides to take a leap of faith and complete the list, but it is the biggest shock when her twin sister decides to join her on this trip of a lifetime.

While the two estranged sisters visit Inca ruins, tour a Celtic castle, and swim near the Great Barrier Reef, it is here where Megan finally fights the fears and resentments of a lifetime of illness and even begins to see the less perfect side of her sister. Running with the bulls in Spain is one thing, but can Megan risk opening her new heart to her sister, and maybe allow herself to fall in love and pursue her dreams?

I don't often read realistic fiction, I prefer historical fiction or biographies. But I decided to shake things up a bit and see if this book surprised me.

It did.

It spoke great volumes to me, although it wasn't the most amazing book I have ever read, it brought up past memories and experiences that I've buried down for a while. The prologue spoke to me on a very emotional level, not just for myself but it helped show me a perspective of a family member. The novel weaves Christ’s transforming power of reconciliation and demonstrates His love through our everyday walks of life. And I think sometimes a book isn't meant to move or change oneself, but it can help you change your perspective on a matter and shed light onto another's life.

We are called to live out out Christ in every aspect of our lives. All we need is the courage to take that first step forward.

--Candace--

For more information on The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, visit our website here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The 49th Mystic

   When Ted Dekker released the final title, Green, in his four-part series called The Circle, I thought that would be it for Thomas Hunter and his dreaming dance between worlds. I devoured that series like the book-monster that I am, and the subsequent parallel series of seven called The Lost Books. That he would release yet another book tied into this dream-world wasn't anywhere in my horizon of hopes or daydreams, and yet here we are:

   The 49th Mystic.

   This is book one in a two-part series called Beyond the Circle, and the second book is supposed to release this Fall, 2018. I snatched up The 49th Mystic and finished it in two days, and while it did start slow, the signature breakneck-pace that I've come to expect from Ted Dekker shone through. At about the 1/3 mark, the story really picked up and didn't stop again until the very last, exquisite, jaw-dropping, cliff-hanging page.

   The 49th Mystic follows a young blind woman named Rachelle who dreams of the same world where Thomas Hunter fell through some years ago. The desert, the Horde, the Albinos, the Roush, the Shataiki--everything that makes the world of The Circle--shows up again in this hugely-anticipated sequel. Dekker takes his time at the beginning setting his stage and introducing Rachelle to the two worlds, and then he takes us on another ride-of-our-lives adventure that won't stop until several months from now.

   I don't know how I'll hold out until the fall to find out what happens next, but I'll be there, clawing and drooling or whatever, as soon as the next book is out.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker, visit our website here.