Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Staycations & Vacations

Summer is such a great time for catching up on the stack of books beside your bed. I read an article on CNN the other day referring to "staycations". For those of us staying close to home this summer, there is nothing like a lounge chair on the back porch, a long drink of ice cold root beer and all those novels you have been meaning to read on the TV tray beside you.

I'm going to be taking my book bag with me on a road trip down the Oregon coast in the next few weeks. My husband describes my ideal camping experience as: campfire, books, chai tea, books, s'mores, books, red licorice, books, long tramps along the shore, books, steamed clams and mussels, books....well, I'm sure you can see where my interests lie! I tell friends that summer holidays for me are like cleaning out the lint filter in the dryer. Can't wait!

Rick's latest fiction favourite is coming with me.

Title: Danger Close

Author: William G. Boykin

I read William "Jerry" Boykin's autobiography
Never Surrender a while ago, and was very impressed. He is a Christian, and one of the elite soldiers that founded Delta Force in the U. S. Military.

His career reads like a play book for the major military involvements that the United States has been mixed up in the last 30 years. He has led a life of discipline, commitment and faith under a wide variety of circumstances. When I saw that he had written a novel about the war on terror, I suspected that he would know what he was writing about.

I was right. This book bleeds authenticity. Although the storyline is straight-forward, the realities that he is describing are extremely disturbing. There really is "danger close"! Although I have read better written novels, I have never read one where I felt as close to the ragged edge of what the militant Muslims are really capable of doing in our open society. It is a very worthwhile read!


Monday, July 19, 2010

The Stuff of Nightmares

One of the many reasons that I love working at the House of James is that I have the privilege of working with colleagues of varying ages. The 18-30 year olds keep me on my toes (which is very good exercise) and the more mature staff teach me life skills! The following post is by Jordan, one of the "toes types".

Ted Dekker has gone and done it again. Boneman's Daughters is another great piece of thrilling literature that catches the reader from the start and doesn't let go until the end. A warning about this book, and his next one titled The Bride Collector, must be stated before I continue to tell you about the story. This is not a book for the squeamish, faint-hearted or easily disturbed. Dekker has always paid high attention to details and this book stays true to form, so much so that at some points you may feel as though you can actually see and hear what is happening. Remember however, this is just a work of fiction and none of it is based on actual events.

OVERVIEW: (As written on the book itself)
"Would you kill an innocent man to save your daughter? They call him BoneMan, a serial killer who's abducted six young women. He's the perfect father looking for the perfect daughter, and when his victims fail to meet his lofty expectations, he kills them by breaking their bones and leaving them to die. Intelligence officer Ryan Evans, on the other hand, has lost all hope of ever being the perfect father. His daughter and wife have written him out of their lives. Everything changes when BoneMan takes Ryan's estranged daughter, Bethany, as his seventh victim. Ryan goes after BoneMan on his own. But the FBI sees it differently. New evidence points to the suspicion that Ryan is BoneMan. Now the hunter is the hunted, and in the end, only one father will stand."

Dekker has always been my top pick when it comes to reading books, especially during the summer months. I decided to pick this book up after reading his latest book entitled The Bride Collector.
(Which I also recommend reading for lovers of thrilling and intriguing books.) As of late I had been finding it hard to actually sit down and work my way through a book, but as soon as I picked this one up, I did not want to put it down.

The reason I think this book caught my attention was that it had a very fast pace to the story line which remained throughout every page. Ted Dekker also did a very thorough job on his character development which helps connect the reader to the literature itself. I could try to sum up this book in a brief blog posting but that just would not do the book itself justice. Every reader has varying opinions on books so the best way to make a call about the quality of the book is to get a copy and go through it yourself instead of listening to somebody else try to sum up and describe this masterpiece thriller.

Overall, Boneman's Daughters is an amazing book if you are looking for just a good read instead of a book that will change your life.
-- Jordan

Friday, July 16, 2010

A Fellow Pilgrim

I love Philip Yancey, a self-proclaimed “fellow pilgrim”. Oh all right, all you literalists, I love his books. I think he is one of today's finest authors. He is smart, philosophically wise, well-read, an ardent follower of Jesus, an avid student of the Bible, and, he is able to articulate the unspoken questions of my heart. He says that he writes to resolve things that are bothering him. Evidently an awful lot of us are bothered by the same things he is! Four of his books have sold over 1,000,000 copies each.

I read Disappointment with God during a black time of personal upheaval many years ago, and Rumors of Another World (now titled A Skeptic's Guide to Faith) during a more recent crisis. My husband especially appreciates What's So Amazing about Grace?

Grace Notes, published in 2009, is a compilation of Yancey's best writings, culled from his books as well as from his writings for the magazine Christianity Today.

I bought a copy for myself as well as for my missionary sister in Nigeria so that we both are literally on the same page any day of the year. When she says that she is feeling “Tolstoylian”, I know exactly what she is talking about. (You won't unless you read the excerpt for that day.)

Come along with me as we follow Mr. Yancey through a grace-filled year, and you too will find that you are in love. -Becky

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fruitcake and Ice Cream

Always leery of bandwagons, I hate jumping on just because everybody else is. But when a large church in the Fraser Valley ordered 10 of the bestselling Heart of Passion DVD series by Louie Giglio, curiosity soon overcame my initial reluctance. Besides, the titles of the individual episodes intrigued me. “Fruitcake and Ice Cream”? “Indescribable”?

One of my hats here at the store is the oversight of the “general entertainment, family-type” dvds. I detest mediocrity and shoddy workmanship and am always on the lookout for dvds of quality that I can recommend whole- heartedly and without reservation. The Heart of Passion not only meets but exceeds my high standards. It is a marvelous portrayal and testimony of our magnificent God.

My husband, a most manly man, weeps each time he watches any one of the 5 episodes included on the 4 disks. We have viewed them again and again by ourselves, with friends, and with our care goups. Louie Giglio, the narrator, is an enormously gifted and creative communicator.

After watching the disk entitled “Indescribable”, we reneged on our plan to go see Avatar later that week. Reason? We simply could not bear to overlay the glorious images of the constellations imprinted on our consciousness with body paint and giant pterodactyl horses, however imaginative.

What do the Hubble telescope and the journal of a college-aged party girl have in common? They both give us a glimpse of Majesty's “tender solicitude” towards His creation. After viewing any or all of this series (can be purchased individually or as a set), in the words of Paul Baloche, you will declare, “Glorious! My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.” -Becky

Friday, July 9, 2010

Life, In Spite of Me

Adelle reviewed this book
by Kristen Anderson at a recent staff meeting and all of us were immediately drawn in to the story. Read her thoughts for yourself to find out why.

"I rarely read biographies. This book drew me in. The sheer joy on Kristen's face on the cover caused me to pause every time I walked by the shelf (which was often on the way to the back room)
. Finally picking the book up... I then could not put it down. Written with fiction author Tricia Goyer (one of my favs) this is a powerful easy reading account.

Having a fairly normal uneventful childhood, Kristen's life changes in her teens as 3 friends and her grandmother pass away within a 2 year span. To top it off, she was raped by someone she considered a friend. From there she spirals into depression and partying.

After being grounded 'until further notice' one New Year's Eve, she ends up at the nearby train yard contemplating her self worth. Without even really realizing it, she ends up on the tracks after hearing a whistle blow. Her head tucked inside one rail, her legs hanging over the other... she turns her face away, clenches her fists and waits for peace to come.

God had other plans.... Not only does she survive being run over by the train going 50 miles an hour, but is conscious through it all. Her story is an amazing journey of healing (physical, emotional and spiritual) and a deep, deep desire to know God.

This story is an excellent resource that will help you understand the emotional struggles of self worth and thoughts that might lead to suicide. Kristen also includes encouraging notes to the reader that she wishes people had said to her.

For myself, this story challenged me to draw closer to God in all areas of life; my children, work and health. May you be especially blessed as you either read this book, or pass it on to someone else." -Adelle

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tools for Talking

One of the best things about working at the House of James is that we do not sell egg-beaters. I love working in a retail environment that provides and promotes products that have life-changing potential. “Change your mind, change your life” is one of my mantras.

Since becoming a retailer 14 years ago, I have attended many self-improvement seminars. Resources and tools have been made available for me to become a savvier manager, a more understanding colleague, an increasingly productive employee, a friendlier salesperson. Easily muddled by visual and sensory overload, I learned long ago that I will not be able to grasp and assimilate 100% of the data deluging me. Best to come away with just one nugget gleaned, one paramount truth, one new practice.

This coping mechanism stood me in good stead as I worked my way through the book Crucial Conversations late last year.
The four authors themselves suggest that you read, practice, read, practice. The sub-title is “Tools for talking when stakes are high”. A quote at the very beginning of the book reminds us why we all need to do better at relating to one another. “The void created by the failure to communicate is soon filled with poison, drivel and misrepresentation.”

A goldmine of advice, you'll want to read with a highlighter. Allow the insights to percolate. I cannot imagine anyone not benefitting from implementing the principles explained. I use what I learned from this book almost every day. When I find myself in a discussion where stakes are high, emotions are volatile and the other person is starting to look like a terrorist, it helps me SO MUCH to mentally stand back and ask “Why would a reasonable, rational, and decent person act like this?”

Although not new, (it was written in 2002), it is such a valuable book that I bought a copy for both my husband and myself. -Becky

Friday, July 2, 2010

Son of Hamas

Denise is the book purchaser for the House of James and when she recommends a book, it is well worth paying attention. She told me that the following was this year's favorite read..

Son of Hamas by Mosab Hassan Yousef

"It seems as though each day we receive news from the Middle bombs, death, fighting over a tiny strip of land, poverty, war...the list is long. Often I have found myself wondering why these people cannot come to some kind of agreement and stop fighting, their children are growing up in war zones for crying out loud. We argue about the politics and we send peacekeeping troops but few of us have been able to penetrate this world we do not understand.

It is a well known fact that I love biographies. They offer insight to places I may never get to go otherwise. Sometimes they are filled with encouragement, sometimes they offer us a different perspective. Son of Hamas has helped me gain insight and understanding to a world I have not understood.

The story of Mosab Hassan Yousef is easily one of the best I have ever read! An amazing story of a young boy who grew up understanding conflict and violence, a boy who was closely tied to the deadly terrorist group Hamas, a boy who is really no different than any of us. As I read, I began to understand some of the conflict that Yousef endured while growing up. The violence he endured in his every day life was horrific and yet once he got home his family was a loving and close knit unit. I was touched by the fact that never once did he have a bad thing to say about his parents, he obviously loves and respects them very much.

I could not concisely tell of what happens in his life but he weaves a story that is difficult to put down. As the son of one of the 7 original Hamas leaders, he was groomed to one day take over. Eventually he had to make the agonizing choice of "betraying" his family by being involved with both Israeli and Palestinian governments in order to protect his family. His life is filled with strife and difficult decisions as he struggles with the outcomes of his political activities. It is a shocking tale of a man who rejected his violent destiny and found the love of Jesus that would change his life. In this amazing book you will learn about the world's most dangerous terrorist group, the role Yousef played, the choices he made and how he wants to bring peace to the Middle East with the mandate of "love your enemies". This book has changed how I view the conflicts and the way I pray for the nation of Israel and Palestine." -Denise

Fog Harbor Series by Nicole Deese

Every once in a while, we find an author that speaks to us…Nicole Deese is one of those authors for me. As often happens, I was first attrac...