Monday, October 23, 2017

Many Sparrows

"Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…"
The moment I saw this book come into the store, I reserved a copy for myself. I LOVE historical fiction and Lori Benton did not disappoint with her newly published book Many Sparrows.

The story takes place in 1774, two years before the American Revolution starts. Virginians Clare and Philip Inglesby, with their four-year-old son Jacob and a baby on the way, decide to head west to meet up with a man who wants to settle farther west into hostile Native American territory. Not wanting to leave her family and everything she's ever known (especially being eight months pregnant), Clare is hesitant. After their wagon crashes, Philip is forced to go back to the previous settlement to get help, forcing him to leave Clare and Jacob alone on the remote trail, promising to come back. When Philip doesn't return, Clare finds her son is missing and herself in labor. 

Enter Jeremiah Ring: Virginian frontiersman and adopted Shawnee native, who stumbles upon Clare during her labor and helps bring Pippa into the new and dangerous world. And reluctantly he tells Clare that he will help her find her lost son.

And adventure ensues!

This story was so well written and the theme that encompassed the whole thing was one that really got me. The verse that kept showing up was from Matthew 10:29-31 that says, "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows".  Clare struggles with trusting the Lord and that's something that I generally struggle with too. So often we want God to do things our way because we think we can get what we want done faster or better than he can. When in reality, his way is always better and his way is always good.

 --Elise F.--

For more information Many Sparrows by Lori Benton, visit our website here.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

   The Evaporation of Sofi Snow was published in June of this year (2017) and has been screaming at me from my to-be-read list ever since. I dove in a couple of weeks ago and was not at all disappointed - I finished reading it in two days between work shifts, homework, and several instances of inescapable socializing. Mary Weber has held my attention in the past, for a full trilogy of fantasy and world-building wonder in the form of Storm Siren and the subsequent sequels (which you can read about in my general raving and gushing here for the first two and here for the third installment in the series). And so, I had high hopes for The Evaporation of Sofi Snow.

   In the first two or three chapters I was a little afraid I would be reading a Hunger Games meets Divergent rewrite but I was gloriously mistaken. Weber introduces an aspect of science fiction to her post-apocalyptic world right from the beginning that neither of these series invested in - aliens - and it is a never-ending ride of twists, turns, and suspense. If you can't stand a cliff-hanger, you may want to wait until the sequel is released - the way she left me hanging in this one nearly made me scream. It's been a while since an ending got to me that well. Mary Weber, colour me impressed.

   Sofi and Shilo are her inseparable sibling characters at the crux of the story, and Miguel is the troubled, mysterious, enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend, with a complicated history between him and Sofi to make the drama all the more real. This is everything my YA-Fiction-loving heart could ask for: drama, troubled teens, broken relationships, close sibling relationships, virtual gaming, futuristic technology, strong female characters in prominent roles, blackmail, human experiments, and of course, nothing is ever as it seems.

   The sequel, Reclaiming Shilo Snow, is set to release in March of next year. I will be waiting with bated breath, falling off the edge of my seat in anticipation. This new series by Mary Weber is my favourite in youth fiction this year. March 6th, come quickly!

   --Elise T--

For more information on The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber, visit our website here.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

What Is the Bible?

   Once again, here is a book that did not lure me in of its own power or weight or merit, or even cover. I read this book because of controversy - the controversy and debate around the person of Rob Bell and authors like him. A little while ago I reviewed one of his earlier books, Love Wins. You can read my post by clicking here.

   "What is the Bible?" is not a question that I would consider "safe" for a number of different reasons. It's a question that sparks conversation and makes people think. It's a question that brings people to ideas and conclusions that will inevitably differ and disagree one from the other, from the other, from the other. Rob Bell does this in such a way that I am enveloped in questions, rather than answers. I am overloaded with wonder rather than conclusion, idea rather than opinion, suggestion rather than hard-and-fast rule. He writes in such a way that leaves my thoughts fluid, shifting, dancing (Mennonite-Brethren-heritage-say-what?), and open to change.

   As a child of Mennonite-background parents and grandparents, where dancing was once strictly forbidden, that may be a very terrible metaphor. But that was then, and this is now.

   That was then, this is now, and who is to say that the defensive, angry, debating reaction to Rob Bell's perspective won't change in much the same way in the years to come? Perhaps it will be gradual, over many years. Perhaps not at all. Perhaps some parts will come to be accepted with open arms, other parts discarded in search of further truth...

   That is the way of the world, isn't it? The world is never static, always changing. I am not suggesting that the Bible itself should be open to change - having a closed canon is not a bad thing. The thing that could be open to change is our opinion, perception, and interpretation of this "ancient library of poems, letters, and stories".

   Bell is painting a picture - he is hand-crafting a masterpiece of colour, wonder, and beauty with the black and white ink of words on pages, and it can "transform the way you think and feel about everything". That's the wonder of thoughtful art, and the wonder of what Rob Bell keeps doing with thoughts and words and questions and ideas. This book takes a look at the Bible and talks about how it should be read and understood. He talks about context and history and origins. What is the Bible? is a book about questions:

   - Why should we bother with such an ancient book?
   - Isn't it all myths and fairy tales?
   - What about all the violence?
   - And the contradictions?
   - Isn't it dangerous to take seriously?
   - Isn't it only for Christians?
   - Is it inspired?
   - Can it help us?
   - Just what is the Bible?

   It's all about the questions, and not just these. And rather than becoming all about the answers, Rob Bell has an incredible way of remaining in the sea of questioning. Instead of pretending that he has it all figured out, he is content to sit with the questions - the hard questions - and listen for the wealth of answers that could be.

   --Elise T--

For more information on What Is the Bible? by Rob Bell, visit our website here.

Monday, September 18, 2017

"What do I get a new believer??"

     We get this question ALL THE TIME. So in order to make it easier for you (the customer) and for us, I've found several books for kids all the way to adults, to help you and your friend, parent, brother, grandmother, uncle, and your cousin twice removed into a better understanding of Christianity!

Let's start with the youngest:

     This book is great! It has so many helpful and useful pages to help your littlest understand this simple and huge idea that Christianity offers: that Jesus LOVES us and wants us to understand His word. From the serious questions that even we adults struggle with, to knock knock jokes, and why are there so many translations, this book covers the basics.

For more information on Bible Basics for Kids by Terry Glaspey, visit our website here.

     This book is a-w-e-s-o-m-e. It's hard to summarize because this book covers SO much. Champ Thornton describes to adults that his purpose is that kids will love, trust, and follow Jesus. He also says "I hope this will encourage young readers to keep on learning about his Word, his gospel, his church, and life in his world".
     I'd say the approximate age group that would enjoy this book and find it helpful would be ages 8-14. It'd also be helpful for parents and teachers for either devotions or discussions.

For more information on The Radical Book for Kids: Exploring the Roots and Shoots of Faith by Champ Thornton, visit our website here

For our teenagers:

     Just flipping through this book, I would DEFINITELY recommend it to Youth Pastors who want to give their "newly accepted" students a little extra help. Scott Rubin has done a great job at making this book "cool". It looks pleasing to the eye and it's written in a language that our youth will understand and accept. In the second section, Rubin talks about how there are no perfect Christians and he answers the (possible) question of "how can I be sure I'm a Christian"? In the very last section, Rubin goes through and answers the questions like what is baptism, communion, etc. But most of the book would be a walk through of how the life of your teen is going to change. A great little book!

For more information on The Essential Guide to My New Life With Jesus by Scott Rubin, visit our website here.

Two things about this book: each "chapter" or question is followed by a Bible verse that has to do with, or answers, the question being asked, and Greg Johnson's answers only cover 1-2 pages. And he covers all the FAQs that teens are facing or asking, or their friends are asking. This book would be good all on its own or would be a good pairing with the book above.

For more information on If I Could Ask God Just One Question by Greg Johnson, visit our website here.

And lastly, for the adults:

    This book is a great option for someone who has just accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. The introduction celebrates the decision of your loved one (or yourself) and then acts as a basic guide for how your life is going to change. Alex Early says this in his introduction for the book: "One of the early themes of this book is the simple fact that life with God is not always fun. Abundant? Yes. Fun? Not necessarily". I'm happy he addresses this out front. Being a follower of Christ does not mean that life gets automatically easier. Likely, it will get harder, but fundamentally sweeter. 
     Besides a guide for entering into this new life, Early goes through a bunch of topics that will come up eventually. For example: identiy, prayer, obedience, baptism, church membership and money. And each chapter ends with "questions to consider" for personal or group study.
For more information on The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life: What will Change, What Won't, and Why it Matters by Alex Early, visit our website here.

     This book is also a great option for someone who has just accepted the Lord. I'd recommend getting this book and The New Believer's Guide to the Christian Life together, as they both talk about basic concepts but talk about different topics. James Sire says in his introduction, "The chapters are organized around a simple scheme: creation, the fall, redemption, new life in Christ, and glorification." Also, in this expanded edition, he adds a chapter on the person of Jesus.
     An all around good introductory book. Easy to read, not too deep; a great starting point. Each chapter concludes with "questions for reflection" for either personal or group study.

For more information on Beginning with God: A Basic Introduction to the Christian Faith by James W. Sire, visit our website here.

--Elise F--

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Boy Who Grew Flowers

   For the quiet ones, the shy kids, the ones who are a little bit different than "everyone else", The Boy Who Grew Flowers is an excellent reminder of the delight and wonder and power in being outside of the norm, depending on how you carry that title.

   This is a wonderful, colourful, beautiful children's book, written especially to the ones who don't seem to fit in anywhere else, and a powerful reminder that everyone is a little bit different than everyone else. We just have to give them the chance to show it, purely and proudly, with all of its wonder and beauty and colour.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz and Steve Adams, visit our website here.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Toward a Secret Sky

   I read the four part series of Doon a while ago (you can read my blog post about the series here) and I would present Toward a Secret Sky to anyone who resonated with the series. Heather Maclean uses a similar writing style and directs her narration toward the same age group - 13- to 18-year-old girls looking for a bit of paranormal, world-hopping, and innocent romance. Not to mention, it all takes place in Scotland, with their accents in brogues and lilts, and kilts of course.

   This story begins with a funeral, oddly-placed screaming, and a sudden move to the small town of Aviemore, Scotland. Maclean doesn't go overboard with the Scottish accent by writing in every quirk and sound, so I enjoyed trying to emulate the sound in my mind as I read the dialogue of the different characters as they were introduced. The main character, Maren Hamilton, is a 17-year-old American, recently orphaned, who moves to Scotland to live with her newfound legal guardians - grandparents she has never met. So begins a tale of twists, turns, and tragedies involving humans, angels, and demons in a battle for truth, life, and forbidden love. The journey spans from America to Scotland to the underground city of London and back again.

   Essentially it's everything I could have possibly asked for in a book when I was 13- to 18-years-old.

 --Elise T--

   For more information about Toward a Secret Sky visit our website here.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Love Wins

   I have to be honest: I decided to read this book for two reasons. The first is that it sparks such controversy. Love Wins is either loved or hated - there is no in between. USA Today was of the opinion that "Rob Bell has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation". This sparked my curiosity. The second reason is that I wanted to know how a man who enters peoples' testimonies with such loving kindness can come to be caught up in the crossfire of such heated debate. I have listened to a podcast interviewing him on his book What is the Bible?, a book which I have also read, and I have heard stories of how he brings people together and interacts with them with incredible loving kindness and gentleness.

   I won't pretend I'm deeply theological and can argue over, about, or against any implications that Rob Bell's work might lead to, but this book speaks love, life, and goodness, to me and to many. This book speaks, breathes, believes Jesus.

   This is not a new book, nor is it his newest. This year he released What is the Bible? which describes more of this controversy that I find so drawing, only it is a fuller, deeper, and in my opinion better, account of some of his more detailed theological opinions. Love Wins attempts to examine the context of scriptures in order to guide the most accurate interpretation that it can. What I love about Rob Bell is that he always seeks to keep the original intent and context of the scriptures in mind - these are things that are so easy to forget, but they make the words feel that much more approachable, real, and applicable.

   What Love Wins really wants to know is whether or not we've been looking at "heaven, hell, and the fate of every person who ever lived" all wrong. But I find that the most beautiful thing about the way Rob Bell writes is that he doesn't provide a book of answers to all of life's questions. He provides interpretations, suggestions, and theories while acknowledging firmly that he does not have all the answers - that no one has all of the answers - and he is also still searching, the same as anyone else.

   --Elise T--

   For more information on Love Wins by Rob Bell, visit our website here.