Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unblemished

   Unblemished is what I would call a "coming of age" story. The lead character, Eliyana, is nearing her eighteenth birthday when her life is suddenly upended and forever changed. Her mother - the only family she's ever known - dies tragically, and a series of strange, seemingly random events draw Eliyana into another world where nothing is as it seems, and nothing is as it should be.


   Sara Ella writes Unblemished with a mind for twists and turns on every page. Every character seems to interact in such a way that trust is questionable, the truth is never the whole truth, and there's always something else going that hasn't been figured out yet. As young adult fiction, this story could be aimed at teen girls anywhere from the ages of 13-19, but greatly enjoyable for those above that age-range who still look for cheesy teen-romance, love triangles, and all of that coming-of-age awkwardness that makes a world-hopping, battle-raging, hormone dancing story all the more worth reading.

   The most powerful part of Sara Ella's Unblemished, however, is the message she is trying to communicate - a message of worth, beauty, and trust. Eliyana is on a journey that seeks to teach girls and young women that yes, they are absolutely beautiful, but that their worth extends so far beyond their beauty and the way that they look. This is such a crucial message for today, in a world where appearance sometimes seems to be the only thing that matters or makes anything or anyone of any worth at all. There is so much more to a woman than her beauty or her appearance. Why should her appearance even be a measure of her worthy? When did something so surface-level, fluctuate, and subjective become a measure of any kind of worthiness or value?

   --Elise T--

For more information on Unblemished by Sara Ella, visit our website here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Firstborn

   I came to you once before, sleep deprived and overwhelmed, with a story that demanded to be told. When I read The Progeny by Tosca Lee last year, I did it all in one sitting and sang its praises for months. Now I'm back with the second installment - the conclusion to this thrilling ride - Firstborn, a progeny novel.

   Following Audra Ellison (known in the first book as Emily Porter) Firstborn picks up right where The Progeny left off. Audra now knows the secret she was protecting when she gave up her memories for the bliss and protection of ignorance, and now the stakes are higher than ever. The more she learns, the more dangerous everything becomes.

   Tosca Lee's adventures following Audra are riddled with car chases, crossfires, hostages, blackmail, and a cast of characters who never fail to sweep the reader into their plight of wild turmoil, and even wilder emotions. Rarely do I find an author who can entertain as thoroughly as Ted Dekker, but so far Tosca Lee has been the closest - dare I say, close enough even to rival him. Tosca Lee's writing is high energy, always moving, and I'm hoping that she can keep up the pace for many more years to come.


   --Elise T--


For more information on Firstborn by Tosca Lee, visit our website here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quiet

   Susan Cain is another acclaimed public speaker and author, broadcasted over social media by her viral TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts", based on her book Quiet. This book led to the foundation of Quiet Revolution - a company "dedicated to unlocking the power of introverts" (see their website here).
quiet-book-softcover
   Quiet is a book for the soft-spoken, the listeners, the withdrawn, and the thinkers. There are many more attributes that could be singled out, and these listed may not apply to every introvert across the board, but Quiet is a book about introverts, introversion, and the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. According to Cain's extensive research, included in detail in this narrative, we live in an extroverted culture. Our schools, workplaces, and media all perpetuate and praise the power in and desire for extroverted students, leaders, and characters. And while extroversion is indeed a powerful, beautiful characteristic, the undervalue of introverts continues to grow deeper.

   Susan Cain takes it upon herself to highlight and lift up the overlooked: the ones "who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams". These are people like Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak - at least one-third of the world's population consists of introverts. As such, this book is a book by an introvert, for introverts, but it is as much for the introverts as it is for the extroverts who need to understand them. They need to understand each other, in order for the structures of culture and social life to work together in uplifting and healthy ways.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Quiet by Susan Cain, visit our website here.

Quotes taken from back flap of Quiet copyright 2013 by Random House, Inc. ISBN 9780307352156

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Daring Greatly

   Brené Brown is an acclaimed researcher and public speaker, perhaps best-known for her viral TED Talks, "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame". Her book Daring Greatly expands on these ideas, tying her extensive studies and research in worthiness and shame with empathy and vulnerability, but this last is the main focus.

   Vulnerability tends to be seen as an undesirable, even feared state of being to be avoided at all costs. Vulnerability is most often seen as weakness. In the second chapter of Daring Greatly, Brené Brown debunks this perception as the biggest myth that is believed about vulnerability. She does this by providing a long list of examples that display an act of vulnerability (p. 35-37):
    Image result for daring greatly
  • Sharing an unpopular opinion
  • Standing up for myself
  • Saying no
  • Helping my thirty-seven-year old wife with Stage 4 breast cancer make a decision about her will
  • Initiating sex with my wife/husband
  • Calling a friend whose child just died
   Her list goes on for a page and a half more examples of what is regarded as vulnerability, to which Brené applies a questions: "Do these sound like weaknesses" (p. 37)? And her answer is a resounding, satisfying and powerful no. She writes "vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage", two things which may be uncomfortable but would never be considered weaknesses.

   This is only a few pages out of the larger picture of this book as a whole, but Daring Greatly is brimming with page after page of these brilliant, powerful sections about honesty, courage, and emotion. There is an entire chapter on applying this knowledge to parenting, and another on education and work. Brené's other book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't), takes the concept of shame that she writes about in Daring Greatly and delves even deeper into the studies and research that she has compiled over the years, specifically surrounding shame in the lives of women. Daring Greatly is a compelling precursor, guaranteed to make you pause and redefine your patterned, maybe harmful, ways of thinking.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

God has a Name

Exodus 34: 4-7
"So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD [Yahweh] had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD [Yahweh] came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD [Yahweh]. And as he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD [Yahweh], the LORD [Yahweh], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation." 

The bold cover and the title is what drew me. Then when I opened it and realized he wrote a book on God and only used two verses...well that drew me even more. It's not very often that you'll find a book in the Christian Living section written solely on God. A lot are written on Jesus and his character because he came down in the flesh. We know he was man and God and that he died and people witnessed him on earth (via the Gospels). Still not an easy topic but its easier than trying to tackle God-the Almighty, El Shaddai, YAHWEH.

And let me just say that John Mark Comer does a REALLY good job.

He says, "When we talk about God, it turns out we're all over the map. In the West, we still live in a hangover from our Christianized past. There was a time when you could say "God," and people would immediately think of the God we read about in the Scriptures and see in Jesus. Most people would even come to the same basic conclusions about God. That time has long since gone the way of the earth. Today, when I say"God," you might think any number of things, depending on your country of birth, language, religion, church experience, background--and, of course whether or not you have cable".

Which is true. Today, when talking about God, the "fear of the LORD" isn't there. Even in the church, with all the different denominations, everyone has just a slightly different view from the next person and that can get confusing (I'm thinking especially of non-Christians who want to know more).

Comer writes in a way that's like you're sitting at a table with him and having a conversation. He doesn't assume you know what he's talking about, (because his audience could be anybody) so if he's jumping into a Bible story, he gives the context without going into great detail to help get the point he's trying to make across.

I loved this book. It's quickly become one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. I've learned a lot about who God REALLY is, because as I quoted earlier, we've forgotten who He is. At least I had. I hadn't forgotten Him the way we forgot where we put our keys, but I forgot who He says He is. I had forgotten His character. The church today, I've noticed, is SO worried about upsetting somebody, that we focus on that God is love only, because preaching about a God who wipes out entire people groups is a tough pill to swallow. And He is love, (we can praise Him for that) but He's SO much more than that: He's merciful, faithful, trustworthy, righteous, holy, slow to get angry, forgiving, and the list goes on!

So go and pick up this book! You won't regret it.

--Elise Fast--

For more information on God has a Name visit our website here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Usborne Creative Writing Book

   Just by paging through, this book offered me the nostalgia to reformulate the dreams of my tween-self back into present day reality. I've been writing since I was twelve, and my style, skill, and genre choice have all changed and developed so dramatically that the wonder of writing feels a little different every time I pull out a pen or sit down at a keyboard. The Usborne Creative Writing Book is everything I would have loved as a young author, and everything I could still use to recreate that magic a decade later. The last line on the back of the book is the writer's pride and joy: "There's lots of space for you to write in, but no scary blank pages".


Image result for the creative writing book usborne   One of the most interesting things I have learned about writing is that a blank page is sometimes such a daunting task that the only way to get anything started is to write something - anything, regardless of the state of its gibberishness or uselessness - just to make the page less empty, which gets the thoughts and ideas freer to flow and grow.

   This book is so exciting to me - I sat down with it for an hour at a table and just flipped through, reading and looking over each colour-laden page and exciting scribble notes. It's the young writer's dream, for everything from stories to poems, comics, reviews, blogs, scripts, and other forms of writing. The illustrations assure that no page is boring, inviting the reader - actually, the writer - in to learn and immediately create. There is extensive space to trying out new writing tips and tricks for all the different kinds of platforms. Some of the most fascinating are the article and journalism portions, and character creation/building sections, not often included in the idea of writing.

   If your child, or you yourself, at any age, is/are a poet, a novelist, a journalist, a blogger, a columnist, a critic, a fanfiction addict, and/or a short story fanatic; if they or you are in search of inspiration to feed their/your desire for creation, The Usborne Creative Writing Book is an exciting, extensive, uncomplicated way to explore the incredible creative experience of writing, in any form.

-- Elise T --

For more information on The Usborne Creative Writing Book visit our website here.

  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Story of Reality


Gregory Koukl, author of Tactics, released a new book earlier this year entitled, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends and Everything Important that Happens in Between. And it’s only 160 pages.
This book is recommended by well known authors such as – Lee Strobel, Rick Warren, Joni Eareckson Tada, J. Warner Wallace, Sean McDowell, Nancy Pearcey and many more.

Here’s what Fred Sanders, author of The Deep Things of God, had to say about this book: “When I looked into Koukl’s Story of Reality, I thought, ‘This is not how I would say this.’ I would have used more technical terms, added quite a bit of history, expanded it by a couple hundred pages, and put in about a thousand footnotes. So readers can rejoice that, instead, Greg Koukl is the right man to tell the story in such a clear, concise, and conversational way. This book explains the central ideas of Christianity and answers questions people are really asking.”

And I agree. For many of us, books filled with “churchy jargon” are incredibly intimidating, whether we've grown up in the church or not. In The Story of Reality Gregory Koukl has taken the convoluted history of humanity and made it bite size. This is not to say he has dumbed anything down, rather, it’s like he’s asked you to pull up a chair and have a conversation with him about these big truths of our reality.

Koukl is asking both the Christian and the non-Christian to think about the world around them. To use reason to assess Bible’s worldview because being a Christian is not meant to be “a leap of blind faith”.

This book is something I would give to a non-Christian seeking answers, a high-schooler feeling challenged in his faith or a Christian friend who wants to better understand the Biblical story. It’s something I think should be on every church or school library’s shelf.

-- Kristyn --

For more information click here to visit our website