Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Camp Average

Why be number one when you can be number two?

Sports summer camp Camp Average (officially Camp Avalon) loves to boast about being in second place. Their team chant is “we’re number two!”. They never win at any sport, and Mack and the other boys of cabin 10 are quite happy with it that way. But this summer is different. This summer, they have new camp director, and this guy is hyper competitive and has one goal for their camp: to win. In an attempt to reclaim their easy going summer routine, Mack tries to lead the whole camp in a rebellion of utter failure. The boys will have to work together, and push through the torturous training Winston insists on putting them through in order to win back their Camp Average fun.

I picked up this book at the recommendation of a customer, and it was well worth it. Craig Battle, a Canadian author who has written for OWL magazine and has worked as a camp counselor, writes a great story. While I am in no way a sports fan, I found myself getting pulled into the boys story and the hi-jinks, plotting, pranks and struggles that ensued. The boys of the cabin are well varied in character and can appeal to a wide variety of readers. Battle’s writing is simple, concise but clear, and does an excellent job of conveying enough for the reader to have a vivid picture of the campers and their camp life without being overly wordy.

For a kid struggling to get into reading, or someone who loves a good sports story, I recommend this fun Canadian read. 


For more information on Camp Average by Craig Battle, visit us in store, or visit our website here

Monday, June 3, 2019

Far Side of the Sea

Colin Mabry was briefly introduced in Kate Breslin's other WWI novel Not By Sight as the brother of Grace, that novels' heroine. In that story, he goes missing in action in the chaos of the European front.

Picking up several months later, we find Colin attempting to come to terms with his new reality as an amputee; having lost his left hand in a tunnel collapse and haunted by memories of the terror he experienced. Colin is tasked with decoding messages delivered by carrier pigeons from France and he is shocked to receive a missive from Jewel (the woman responsible for once risking her life to save his, and one he long thought lost). Gathering the tattered remnants of his courage, Colin returns to France, determined to keep his youthful promise to rescue Jewel from the horrors of war.

But instead of Jewel, another woman awaits him in Paris--Jewel's half-sister Johanna, who is determined to find her long-lost sister with the help of the soldier who had once captured her sister's affections. Convinced her sister is in the clutches of a German spy, Johanna is desperate for Colin's help to find and free her sister. Colin reluctantly agrees to become Johanna's ally, and the two embark on a quest to find Jewel across France and Spain. But Johanna's fervor to find her remaining family, conceals secrets of her own. Ones if revealed, would threaten the tenuous connection building between herself and Colin.

This book is a combination of stunning historical detail, (the pieces regarding carrier pigeon use during WWI are fascinating) full of action, adventure, suspense, mystery and romance. Breslin seamlessly weaves together all of those elements, leaving you frantic to read the pages as quickly has possible. The emotional themes Breslin deal with in these pages are gutting; (i.e. PTSD, illegitimacy, violent rebellion) and in lesser hands would risk seeming melodramatic of cheap. But Kate Breslin is a master at unraveling emotional turmoil and depth with nuance and compassion, leading her characters through their respective valleys toward hope and restoration.

I loved the characters and how their faith and stumbles helped them grow and change throughout the story. Despite his disabilities and the challenges those pose to him in his everyday life, Colin forges through, trusting God is good even when things seem dark. A lesson we all need to be reminded of.


For more information on Far Side of the Sea by Kate Breslin, visit us in store, or visit our website here

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Within These Lines

How can someone be loyal to a country that has cast him out? How can love survive when all the odds stand against it? How can goodness prevail when those fighting for freedom also violate the virtue they've gone to war to protect?

In 1941, Evalina Cassano is an Italian American teenager living in San Francisco. Her family owns a very successful restaurant and she has a bright future ahead of her after being accepted to attend Berkley. But the heart wants what the heart wants and hers belongs to a young Japanese American boy named Taichi Hamasaki, the son of the produce farmers that help supply her parents’ restaurant. The relationship is difficult enough as it is, but on December 7th, the Japanese struck Pearl Harbor and overnight America develops an anti-Japanese sentiment. As the days continue, his family volunteers to go to Manzanar Internment Camp for the duration of the war. Communicating via letters, they at first seem sure their love will survive the separation. But Taichi's life in the camp is far from okay.

 I found it tremendously moving to see how Taichi, his family, and the other brave Japanese families worked to maintain a sense of dignity and order and community in the midst of terribly heartbreaking conditions. Within These Lines deals with many things, but mainly daily life in internment camps. I knew a little bit of what life was like in internment camps during this time, but this book shines a light on the living conditions, the day-to-day activities, and the conflicting beliefs of the interned people throughout the camp. It was incredibly heartbreaking and often hard to read at times. But very important. This is one of the only times I’ve seen books approach this topic so closely and so raw and near to the matter, and I love that the book wasn’t shrouded in depression and darkness, but rather in hope – even though the situation was full of despair.

This quote from the book resonated with me, "As the brilliant sunset cools to gray, I vow my anger over blatant discrimination will not cool. As these rocks stay steady through season changes and time, so I will remain steady. I will not be silent. I will not let this go.” Stories like this remind me not to judge neighbors based on fear and assumptions. Stories like this inspire me to be courageously compassionate, fiercely loyal, and graciously determined. And stories like this remind me that holding to one's convictions and moral compass is always the right course of action, even when your pride is bruised and your loyalty tested.

-- Candace --

For more information on Within These Lines by Stephanie Morrill, visit us in store, or visit our website here .

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Of Fire and Lions

A little fun fact about me: I absolutely love the book of Daniel. Everything about that wonderful little book gets me so excited. Seeing how Daniel resolved to follow God in chapter 1 and seeing that same choice to have faith throughout the whole book despite everything that happened to him and his friends, inspires me to be like Daniel and have a faith like his. And it is so chock-full of God's sovereignty and his goodness and mercy towards Israel and Babylonians alike. It's just so great (even those prophesies)! I also just got done doing a Precept study on the book of Daniel. So imagine my excitement when I found out that Mesu Andrews' new book was about Daniel!

Mesu Andrews (or her publishers) did such a good job at summarizing and leaving one wanting to know more on the back the book without giving anything away. So I'm just going to put that here for you because I don't want to give anything away either!

"Belili wears her children's disdain like a heavy cloak. The weight of their contempt threatens to crush her spirit, but she has perfected the art of survival. She first learned it when she escaped death nearly seventy years ago after the Babylonians ransacked Jerusalem and took its finest young people as captives. Years later she survived among idol worshipers and in King Nebuchadnezzar's court by donning an identity that shrouded her with guilt and shame.

She's kept secrets from Daniel, her childhood friend and the lover of her life, but as the Medo-Persian army invades, the thread of Belili's deception unravels and her tightly wound secrets begin to unfurl. 

When tensions mount in the land of their exile, Belili will do anything to keep her family safe even though each step leads them closer to the truth. Will Daniel die in a pit of lions before she can make things right between them? Or will the God who rescued Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego save her husband and replace her spirit of heaviness with a garment of praise?" 

If you've read her other books and loved them, then you'll enjoy this book as well. Andrews is a great story teller and makes it impossible to stop reading.

--Elise F--

For more information on Of Fire and Lions by Mesu Andrews, visit us in store or visit our website here.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Between Two Shores

"She has always moved between worlds, but now she must choose a side..." 

Jocelyn Green's third novel again follows the french theme. But this time taking place in North America in 1759 Montreal during the Seven Years' War between Great Britain, France, and the native tribes surrounding the Montreal and Colonies area. I've really enjoyed her previous books and I couldn't wait to pick this one up as well.

Catherine Duval would rather remain neutral than to pick a side. Trading to both the French and the British, Catherine is suddenly thrown into the war when her ex-fiance, Samuel Crane, shows up and is taken prisoner by her father. Claiming to have information that could help end the war, Samuel asks Catherine for her help to escape since she knows the way to Quebec, but she's hesitant. Conflicted on whether or not to help the man who broke her heart, Catherine knows that New France is starving and cannot survive another winter with no food, Catherine agrees.

And drama and intrigue ensues.

I was surprised by the fact that this book was taking me longer to get through than her other two books (Mark of the King and A Refuge Assured), both of which I've written reviews for, when the plot suddenly twisted and my doubts and disappointments disappeared. Jocelyn Green writes so well. Each time I've kinda expected these books to all be very similar (you know, conflict happens, girl meets boy, girl marries boy, then the end) but they are all very different. There is the tease of a romance, but that's not the central focus of the book and BOY, it was like a breath of fresh air.

--Elise F--

For more information on Between Two Shores  by Jocelyn Green, visit us in store or visit our website here.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Log Driver's Waltz

I was so excited when I saw they had made a picture book version of the Log Driver's Waltz. I grew up listening to the playful, whimsical song from the 1979 original short film, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on this book.

The story is about a young girl whose parents want her to marry someone respectable and well-to-do - a doctor, a merchant, or a lawyer - but she is in love with a log driver, who woos her with his talent for dancing - a talent he has developed driving logs. It is a charming, lighthearted story that brings history to life.

Jennifer Phelen has outdone herself with the illustrations. Her style combines elements of the 1920's - both city and country - and the 1970's, when the original film was created, and the pictures perfectly match the style of the song. There are some precious details that add an extra sweetness to the story, like the log driver checking his reflection in a waterfall before the dance. While this picture book would be delightful for any child, it would make a great addition to a classroom, or to complement a children's study of Canadian history.


For more information on "The Log Driver's Waltz" by Wade Hemsworth, visit us in store or visit our website here.

To listen to the song (and sing along with the book if you have it!) follow this link:

Saturday, March 2, 2019


   Stephanie Land almost broke my tear ducts with her memoir. Maid is a crucial, desperate, important installment in showing that people in poverty are some of the hardest working, least appreciated, most disadvantaged people in our society. The next time I hear someone say people in poverty are lazy, I hope I can recommend this book to them.

   Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive

   Stephanie Land is a single mother struggling to escape domestic abuse, to keep custody of the child her partner never wanted but fights her for at every turn, and to provide enough for her daughter so they can at least survive. She narrates a messy, belittling, dehumanizing journey of food stamps that never provide enough food, homeless shelters that can't offer proper shelter, and low-income housing that could be ripped away at the merest threat of a $50 emergency.

   "Struggling to make ends meet" is probably the most passive, deplorable, understatement one could apply to this woman's life. Throughout the memoir, Land takes painstaking creative steps to illustrate the sheer reality: she's not making ends meet at all. She rations her coffee in the morning to quell her hunger so that her daughter can have more to eat. She can't afford produce unless it's below a certain price-point, but the middle-class shoppers at the grocery store vocally harass her for buying less nutritious food - the only food that she can afford - and for making them wait longer because of her food stamps. The amount of times other shoppers shout "You're welcome!" at her because she's using food stamps from the government, funded by taxpayer money, is atrocious. 

   At one point, Land and her daughter are using eight different government programs at once, just to survive. The way that the various government programs operate, qualifying for one may disqualify her for another. If she makes slightly more money from her multiple part-time (minimum-wage) jobs, that extra pocket change could tip her over the edge and disqualify her for another program or two, leaving her scrambling again the next month. The system is built in such a way that it beats her down and keeps her there, and I don't know where she finds the will to beat it back, but she does, in a white-knuckled, teeth-gritted kind of way

   Maid is a stepping stone to addressing and erasing the stigma around people in poverty; to establishing the compassion and empathy we need to work towards a better world. I'd recommend it to anyone, but especially to the middle-class and the rich - the more financially privileged people in society.

--Elise T.--

   For more information on Maid by Stephanie Land, visit our website here.