Saturday, December 31, 2016

Miriam (A Treasure of the Nile #2)

Cover image for Miriam     "The Hebrews call me prophetess; the Egyptians, a seer. I am neither. I am simply a watcher of Israel and the messenger of El Shaddai. When He speaks to me in dreams, I interpret. When He whispers a melody, I sing."

     WOW. This book by Mesu Andrews is just as good as the first, The Pharaoh's Daughter. The first installment follows the Egyptians closely while this second book follows the Hebrews, and more specifically, Miriam.

     We meet Miriam as an 86 year old lady who is devoted heart and soul to El Shaddai and His people, serving as midwife and messenger. But when Moses returns to Egypt from exile, he not only declares that Israel will finally be delivered, but says that God has a new name: Yahweh.

     Mesu Andrews does a beautiful job at bringing this story to life. We can read the Bible story and get all the information we need, but I'm one of those people who wants more detail like what was it like living in the midst of the plagues? And we definitely get that with this book: more characters, more insight to what living through the plagues might have been like. We read about the struggle of a God that to Miriam has "changed", a God she doesn't understand. We read about unbelief of the character Eleazar and the journey that Yahweh take with him. And we read about faith, and the struggle that Moses had being the bearer of bad news ten times to a pharaoh who wouldn't shake his stubborn pride that destroyed a nation. This story has always been one of my favorite Bible stories because of the amazingly awesome power of God and His promise of deliverance and seeing that played out.

     It's been awhile since I've been this excited about a book. You won't regret picking this one up!

--the other Elise--

     For more information on Miriam by Mesu Andrews, visit our website here



Saturday, December 24, 2016

Conversational, Classic, and Clever

     Presenting staff recommendations this Christmas Eve; Lauryssa's choices in the forms of conversational, classic, and clever:

Cover image for Out of Sorts 

Out of Sorts by Sarah Bessey:
"This book is one of those best friend books that comes to you where you are at and loves on you. It will walk with you through the brilliant moments and the dark tunnels we call life. Perfect for when you feel a bit lost and "out of sorts"."



Cover image for Four LovesThe Four Loves by C.S. Lewis:
"C.S. Lewis is well-known for his masterful story telling and thought-provoking works on Christian thought. This one is no exception. Take a delve into a philosophical discussion of the different forms of love, both human and divine, and how they play our in our lives."



Cover image for Dead Gorgeous 

Dead Gorgeous by Elizabeth Flynn:
"A fun, easy-reading murder mystery set in London, UK with a female lead. Follow D.I. Costello as she tracks down the murderer of a not-well-liked wannabe model. This story has great pacing, dynamic characters, and lots of twists to keep you guessing."


 
     Lauryssa spends a great deal of time and thought in reading and reflecting on books both from our store and elsewhere, making her broad base of reading-list a valuable asset in critique and picking outstanding books from a selection. I value her opinions very highly.

     Merry Christmas!

--Elise--

     For more information on these books, visit our website here.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Surprised by Oxford

Presenting our second customer review:

Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber - Autobiography/Memoir - ★★★★☆ (4 / 5)

Cover image for Surprised by Oxford    Carolyn Weber did not come by things easily. If she wanted it, she worked for it. Growing up in a single parent home with a mother who did everything she could to make ends meet and a transient father who would come in and out of their lives a few times every year, she learned that if she needed anything she would have to do it herself. After working tirelessly and receiving a full-ride scholarship to Oxford - tuition, food, and living included - she was able to take some time to fully immerse herself in her studies and relationships. It just so happens that the relationships she was building were with a group of Christians who were able to help her navigate the terrain and claims of Christianity.

    In this memoir, Weber keeps you captivated through a year in her life by modelling it after the Oxford school calendar and incorporating shorter stories within a larger chapter framework. It is not so much an autobiography, in that she does not focus on telling about her achievements, but more like a memoir, in that she is telling stories of her life and experiences which lead one to learn and grow in their own life and faith. As a literature major and professor, she uses many of the skills that she learned and acquired to help make this book as captivating as possible, including many different quotes throughout from the Romantics.

    I was drawn to this book because of the raw material and stories that Weber uses to illustrate her life and ever growing faith, alongside a deep admiration of Oxford and some of its better known alumni (C.S. Lewis, for one). Her honesty with struggling through the claims of the faith and desire to dig deeper are inspiring and life giving; offering hope and a desire to continue to dive deeper into the Word and the claims of the Bible, learning to better understand the faith which I have grown up in. While there are points of theology I do not necessarily agree with, Weber has a way with words which help one to understand where she is coming from and helps one to grow in one’s own appreciation for differing theological viewpoints.

--Colin Fast--

     For more information on Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber, visit our website here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus

Presenting our first customer review: 


Cover image for Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus     This is an amazing book. Nabeel takes the reader on a journey from his devout belief in Islam to his eventual turning with the same passion to faith in Jesus Christ. The reader walks with him as he agonizes with what that decision means for him and for his family. People speak about a "crisis of faith" but this story lets you see and feel the struggle.

     Nabeel is a highly educated man with an academic and scientific mind. He became fast friends with "David" who he went through high school and university with, and both eventually became doctors. Through all of this, David challenges Nabeel to look at Christianity with his academic and scientific mind. The transformation did not happen quickly. Nabeel writes with excruciating honesty as he compares both beliefs. As he does, the reader gains clear insights into the beliefs of so many of our Muslim neighbours and gives valuable insight into how to share our faith in Jesus Christ with great love.

     For many Muslims, converting to Christianity can be very dangerous - even life threatening. Nabeel looked at every claim of both faiths, but he came to truly belief that there was no other choice. Some of his journey is heartbreaking, but at the same time, triumphant and full of the grace and mercy of God.

     I cannot recommend this book too highly. It will challenge you to dig deeper into the Bible and what you really believe. I look forward to reading the sequel: No God But One.

--Gayle Macnab--

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Emissary


Cover image for Emissary
     The journey of twenty-one-year-old Hyam in a realm of swords, steeds, danger, and strange magic is a wonderful fulfillment of fantasy-fiction and world-building dreams. The death of his mother at the beginning of the story throws his life into uncertainty, and shortly, chaos, with the revelation of part of his ancestry and an encounter with armed warriors heralding war. Hyam is accused of using forbidden magic to toil on his thriving family land, magic he has only just discovered and learned he can use. And it is that same magic that allows him to defeat these men and their threat on his life, and further spread the warning of war to his hometown.

     Hyam's account finds him exiled. Alone. His only company: the warhorse he acquired from defeating the soldiers, and the massive wolf-hound gifted to him by the mayor of his village when he sent him away. He has his weapons, his newfound powers, his pets, and nothing but pieces of advice to make his way in the world.

     His first stop introduces us to a race called Ashanta - a community oriented, gentle, guardian-type people who, like several of the other groups in this story, are very private and unapproachable. Through a series of questioning and unexpected abilities they make Hyam their emissary, throwing him into a world of peril he never could have anticipated or imagined.

     Locke's selling point in this story, for me, is his unique blend of wizardry and fantastic creatures and people. The world-building alone is enough to hold my interest, but Locke embarks on a never-slowing adventure through treacherous land and life, facing Hyam with threat, danger, and love. It is as much action-adventure-fantasy as it is a riveting story about identity and belonging.

--Elise--

     For more information on Emissary by Thomas Locke, visit our website here.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Calling All: Readers & Writers!

     Make the most of your reading and review a book purchased from our store, for a chance to win! Prizes include a free specialty coffee from our coffeeshop or a giftcard to spend in the store. This is your chance to recommend that amazing book that you think everyone should read. Spread your love for words; showcase your talent for writing. If your review is chosen, it will be featured here on our blog, Book Talk, and on the House of James facebook page.

What we're looking for:

     Rate the book out of 5 stars, give us an idea of what it's about, and tell us what you thought about the book. Be sure to include the title and the author's name(s). Keep your word count between 200 and 600 words and email your completed review to elise@houseofjames.com, and make sure to mention your own name somewhere at the end of the review or email, so that we know who to give credit to. And especially for fiction book reviews, no spoilers, please! If someone likes your review and wants to read the book, you're not doing them any favours by giving away the ending.

What kind of books?

     Any kind! As long as it's a book that we carry at the House of James, you can review anything from non-fiction to fiction, from kids picture books to books on systematic theology. We want to know what our customers are reading and enjoying.


Kids Reviews?

     If you're 13 years old or younger, don't worry! You can also review a Junior Reader or children's book (picture books do count!), or a tween or teen novel, or non-fiction issue. Either from your own email, or with help from your parents, you only need to write 100-200 words for kids books, or 200-400 for tweens and teens. Kids and teen books are an important part of our store, so we want to know what the you're reading and enjoying, just as much as the adults.

---

     Our goal is to post a customer review once or twice a month, on Saturdays, so depending on how you all respond, if your review isn't chosen the month you send it in we might just be saving it for the next time! And if you're unsure about anything, or you want some clarification, feel free to email me any questions as well:
elise@houseofjames.com

Your reviewing checklist:
  • Rate the book /5 stars
  • What it's about: a short summary, an idea of the genre, but no spoilers please!
  • What you thought! Constructive criticism is welcome.
  • The book's title
  • The author's name(s)
  • 200-600 words for regular fiction/non-fiction
  • Your name!
And email everything to elise@houseofjames.com

Happy writing!

--Elise--

For an idea of what kind of new books you might like to review, visit our website here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Every Young Woman's Battle

Cover image for Every Young Woman's Battle
     I've known about this book for years. It sat on my parents' bookshelf when I was a teen, meant to be read eventually. And then in the midst of moving, and life, and all of those things that get in the way, it was forgotten for a while. Which was probably a good thing. People talk about God's perfect timing, and I have a feeling this was it for me. There is a right time to read this book, and it will be different for everyone.

     Every Young Woman's Battle was written as a result of the initial success of Every Man's Battle, by Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker; a book intended to help young men in the struggle for purity in a sex saturated world. So the question was asked: what about women?

     One of the main points they seem to make is that, while men struggle more with the visual, women struggle more with their emotional purity. Entertaining feelings and thoughts that are not necessarily pure or healthy, which can lead to sexual compromise.

     There is power in this book, in that Ethridge and Arterburn both write very sensitively to the failings of the human mind and body. They do not condemn or judge, and they offer help and hope, in a biblical, healthy, and trusting way.
"Whether you have so far protected yourself emotionally and sexually, feel that you've been robbed of your purity, or have given in to temptation in some way, this book can help you achieve or  reclaim sexual integrity. It can also guide you through the temptations and pressures of young adulthood while demonstrating how you can live your life to the fullest - without regrets."
     I would recommend this book to any young woman trying to fight her way through the woes and throes of friendships, relationships, and interactions with members of the opposite sex.

     --Elise--
                             

For more information about Every Young Woman's Battle by Shannon Ethridge and Stephen Arterburn, visit our website here.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Pharaoh's Daughter

Cover image for Pharaoh's Daughter      "I’ve always been fascinated by ancient Egypt; the lifestyle and religion (how did they remember ALL those gods!?) I find most interesting. Even in the Bible, some of my favorite stories involve ancient Egypt: Abraham and Sarah’s encounter there, Joseph, and (obviously) Moses.
     The story follows Anippe: daughter of pharaoh and the possible victim of Anubis, god of the afterlife, who has already taken her mother and baby brother. So when she is married off to Sebak, captain of Pharaoh Tut’s army, she comes up with a plan to make sure she won’t bear his child; a plan that involves two Hebrew midwives who have been ordered by Pharaoh Tut to drown newborn boys of their own people in the Nile. But when she happens upon a baby floating in a basket down the river, Anippe believes her prayers have been answered by the gods, burying her even deeper into the deceptions she has already created, placing her and her son, Mehy, or Moses, in danger.

     If I’m being completely honest though, there is always a bit of skepticism when it comes to reading historical Christian fiction for me. One of my favorite secular historical fiction authors is Margaret George, and so I tend to put down a book if it doesn’t come to par with her writing and her depth of research for the given topic she’s chosen to write on. But my OH my, this book totally captivated me the moment I read the prologue.
     Mesu Andrews does a beautiful job at making the story jump off the page and come to life. This is a story I’ve always wanted to know more about and wished that the Bible went in to just a bit more detail, and I love what Andrews adds. This book is right up there with Francine Rivers’ Mark of the Lion series and Redeeming Love. If you are a fan of those books, I highly recommend you pick up this book as well."

     --The other Elise--
For more information on The Pharaoh's Daughter by Mesu Andrews, visit our website here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

The Progeny

     More than one review of this book told me that it was impossible to put down once you started reading. I didn't take them quite seriously enough. Sleep deprived and gushing praise for this book from my very pores, I bring The Progeny to you from Tosca Lee. What a marvel. What a story. I am overwhelmed again.
     "I'm twenty-one years old and my name doesn't matter because it's about to be erased forever."
     Meet Emily Porter. All she knows about herself is that she forgot the rest of her life on purpose, with very good reason, and her only instructions are to live, love, and discover. Anything except the details of her past.

     Aside from riveting, gripping storytelling and fascinating characters and plot, before I read this book I actually took a look at the summary on the back. I tend to avoid this because too many books overshare and spoil most of the story for me. The Progeny is a beautiful, wonderful exception. The summary made me want to know more, for once.
"Intricately woven, intriguing, and romantic - I literally couldn't put it down."
     ---Jennifer L. Armentrout
     Which about sums up my exact feelings on this one. This book was absolutely thrilling, and so very enticing. It follows Emily Porter as she struggles to remember, to forget, and to escape the death that hunts her. I was totally captivated by the turning of the first page. I lost myself in these chapters, in the lives of these characters and all of their emotions - tragedy, pain, loss, desperation - from the beginning, when Emily is struggling to come to terms with the fact that she specifically made herself forget everything, through every car chase, fist fight, crossfire, and trial of will or heart or logic.

     Tosca Lee brings these different parts of Europe and North America to life, making me want to travel and discover, and plunge into conspiracy theories for the rest of my life. She always has a twisted, terrible, incredible historical aspect to her novels. The Progeny manages to maintain some of these key elements of history, research, and credibility that I've found in Lee's previous books, and still be so vastly different from everything else she's written before.

     Tosca Lee is right up there with Ted Dekker for me, which is an even sweeter realization with the fact that they co-authored a trilogy together: The Books of Mortals series - Forbidden, Mortal, and Sovereign.

     Any book by Tosca Lee is bound to be an unforgettable adventure.

     --Elise--

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

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Ringmaster's Wife





     The 1920's, from London to New York, from the perspective of an English Lady and, contrarily, a working woman in the states. The Ringmaster's Wife flits back and forth in perspective between Lady Rosamund, a young lady who abandons her home and arranged marriage in order to thrive in the world of circus life, and Mabel, a simple girl with big dreams that she carries around in an old cigar box.

     The circus has always been a fascination of mine, from the flying acrobats and showy displays of the Cirque de Soleil, to the run-down rides in a forgotten town, or even the sinister settings of stories like Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury). Cambron winds the fascination of the circus lights and the excitement of the Roaring '20s into a descriptive and emotional narrative, with a sense of mystery, intrigue, and suspense.

     In The Ringmaster's Wife, she opens with a curious prologue, and from there on we are introduced to various different sides of different lives. Mabel displays a willingness, perseverance, and belief in dreams. Her story starts simply, on a farm, surrounded by siblings and chores and a quiet life. Lady Rosamund strives for much of the same, with confidence, independence, and a talent for knowing her own mind, but she comes from a rich family in high-class London and a lifestyle that she as good as throws aside for the pursuit of freedom. The question is if that freedom will prove to be more than either of them bargained for.

     --Elise--

For more information on The Ringmaster's Wife by Kristy Cambron, visit our website here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Unashamed: Healing Our Brokenness and Finding Freedom From Shame

Shame: a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.
     In Chapter One of her book, Unashamed, Heather Davis Nelson makes an important distinction: “Guilt is associated with actions while shame taints your entire identity.” She quotes Brené Brown to explain that “the majority of shame researchers and clinicians agree that the difference between shame and guilt is best understood as the difference between ‘I am bad’ and ‘I did something bad’.”

     Guilt is as simple as a natural response to wrongdoing, where you know what you have done is wrong. On the other hand, shame is better described as:
“The feeling that we have missed the mark according to our own standard or our perception of someone else’s standard for us. Shame keeps us from being honest about our struggles, sins, and less-than-perfect moments. Fear of shame drives us to perfectionism in all areas of our life, so that there would be no imperfection to be noticed and judged. Shame is what we heap on others when they fail us.” (p.20)
     Shame burrows into your very being and instills in you this sense that everything you do and say – your very existence – deserves punishment. It is a waking purgatory for every wrong you have ever committed. Realizing this, we must therefore come to the conclusion that shame is wrong, and this is what Nelson wants to instill: shame is wrong, and damaging, and rooted in brokenness. The only true way to curing this disease is through the hope of Jesus Christ, who covers our shame like God covered Adam and Eve in the garden. Nelson returns to this image several times throughout her book as a beautiful picture of what Christ can do for our brokenness.

     Unashamed is a message of hope, of finding "healing [for] our brokenness and freedom from shame". The book is organized into nine sections, aside from the introduction on what shame is and the conclusion that ties together the shame-free destiny available to all of us. The sections she addresses include body shame, performance shame, and shame in marriage, parenting, and the church. Each section features discussion and reflection questions at the end, in order to ease the reader into response. Aside from blaring fundamental truth from the loud speakers, Unashamed invites the reader into the beginnings of healing - this being, first of all, the realization that everybody struggles with shame in one way or another.

     I am in no way shame-free as a result of reading Unashamed, but I am more acutely aware than ever of what differentiates shame from guilt, and what areas of my life might be tainted by the former. Nelson helps the reader identify in their own life the kinds of things that they struggle with in shame, and identifying those elements is one of the keys to healing.

     --Elise--

     For more information on Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson, visit our website here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Risen (DVD)

     My dad taught grade nine social studies some years ago, before he changed professions. I never saw socials as my favourite class in school - some years, in fact, I downright despised it. But recently, the history of things has grown in value in my mind. Pair that with a good couple hundred pages of detailed, researched fiction, and I am a happy reader. From Iscariot by Tosca Lee, to the Dangerous Beauty series by Angela Hunt, I have a growing adoration for historical fiction.

     Angela Hunt also contributed to the novelization of the recently released DVD, Risen. Normally, I would default to reading the book. But I happened to have sooner access to the DVD this time, and at high recommendation from my parents who saw it in theatres, so I will be reviewing the DVD here today.

     A little change from routine.

     Roman military Tribune Clavius (Joseph Fiennes) is tasked with solving what happened to the body of Jesus, the Nazarene. With the help of his aide, Lucius (Tom Felton), Clavius enters a kind of investigation on what happened to the body, under the assumption that certain zealots stole it in order to spread rumours about a risen Messiah and cause an uprising in Jerusalem. The resurrection, as told through the eyes of a non-believer.

     This movie was utterly fascinating, and so, so well done. The investigation holds Calvius' career and his favour with Pontius Pilate in the balance. The evidence does not point where he wants it to, and this Jesus who is supposed to be a mad zealot or something nonsensical is starting to be a real possibility. It becomes an obsession. A fascination. And he is forced to abandon his aide and logic when he sees the risen Jesus with his own eyes. The story turns into a journey with the apostles, chasing after the teacher, Lord, Messiah, and the Tribune does not know what he should believe.

     --Elise--

For more information on the movie Risen, visit our website here.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Delilah

     Samson and Delilah. Delilah and Samson. Stories we think we know. It always fascinates me, how someone can take these told and re-told stories and twist them into something I had never imagined before.

     In her Dangerous Beauty series, Angela Hunt has portrayed the ladies of the Bible, Esther and Bathsheba, and now Delilah, in an exceptional form of art and historical fiction. In the other two renditions, books, I know that I gushed about the incredible roller coaster of emotions that Hunt took me through. Delilah carries a different kind of feel.

     The first few chapters portray a young woman, headstrong, healthy and mostly well-off. And then a rapid decline, spurred by the death of her step-father, into abuse at the hands of her monstrous step-brother. Imprisonment in their home, a cruel separation from her mother - the only other person she knows in Gaza since they moved from Egypt. This story of Delilah is cruel and heart-wrenching, perhaps no more or less so than Esther or Bathsheba, but Delilah's response to this life that continues to rob her felt very different to me. Less emotional. More  calculated, even cold and distant at times. Her life is driven by the instinct for survival and she is very much alone through those initial, crucial hardships. She learns to fend for herself, occasionally receiving generosity at the hands of strangers, but for the most part she feels very much secluded in her struggle. It is her against the world, and she adopts that outlook to the very end.

     And who can blame her?

     A point that I think Hunt is trying to make - and if not, it's a point that I very much appreciate through her series all the same - is that it is very difficult to deal out judgement when you know the whole story, from all sides. It is very difficult to label someone as a bad person if you know exactly what they've been through.

--Elise--

For more information on Delilah by Angela Hunt, visit our website here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Visual Theology

      Exploring what you really believe, Tim Challies and Josh Byers bring basic theology, presented in understandable text and colourful diagrams. They have a Periodic Table of the Books of the Bible, graphs, flow charts, Venn diagrams, and all-around great illustrations.

     As someone who doesn't read much non-fiction, I've always found the theology books rather intimidating, and occasionally wordy. Challies and Byers make theology more approachable, and for the visual learner, so much easier to tackle and remember. The illustrations and colour make every point stick that much more.

     Tasteful, and creatively done!

--Elise--
For more information on Visual Theology by Tim Challies and Josh Byers, visit our website here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

I Feel Insufferior

     This is a wonderful little book about truth. And about lies. It's about identifying the lies that you have grown to believe, been led to believe, or let yourself believe, and it's about renouncing these lies for the truth of who you are in Christ.
     "As I pondered the word [my daughter] used - insufferior - I immediately realized I knew exactly how she felt [...] It is a combination of all of these fears - inferiority, insecurity, inadequacy, and insufficiency - adding up to low self-esteem."
     --I Feel Insufferior, Chapter One, page 1--

     These feelings are rampant in society and around the world. They are an overwhelmingly common thing. We are constantly comparing our appearances, our words, our actions and our lives with everything and everyone around us. And it is destroying us from the inside.

     Melody Metzger holds a Masters in Therapeutic Counseling. Her book I Feel Insufferior introduces step-by-step help in overcoming the issue of insufferiority in your own life. She wants you to know that you are not alone, you are not helpless, and there is hope. She demonstrates how you can speak truth into the lies you're believing and she provides strategies for replacing the lies with truths. In this book, she sits across from you, counsels you, advises you, and guides you in the battle for your own mind.

     And what a battle it is.

     One of the things I especially liked about the format of this book was the way she organized the chapters, and placed the self-help/question sections at the end of each, rather than scattering them throughout the book like some authors do. Each chapter takes a different focus on issues with inferiority and inadequacy, followed by a section for self-help, strategies, and response exercises. It would be great for a group session or study dealing with issues of self-esteem, as well as for an individual exercise in self-healing. Her words are interspersed with excellent scripture and biblical truths to help you through the process - the beginning of healing.

     I am in no way saying the Metzger's book will erase insecurities from your life. She can only offer as much help as you are willing to accept, and there's only so much you can give anyone through the written word. I Feel Insufferior is most definitely a start, and a very good one.

--Elise--

     For more information on I Feel Insufferior by Melody Metzger, visit our website here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Choosing

     I think I read Rachelle Dekker's first novel a lot more critically than I usually would for any other author off the shelf. She's the daughter of my favourite Christian Fiction author. I expect great things from her.

     In The Choosing I did find that unique blend of spiritual and physical turmoil that Ted Dekker always captures me with, and some of the inner issues have similarities, but Rachelle's writing voice is still very distinct from her father's. Not to mention her setting and characters.

     She introduces a post-apocalyptic world that made me reminisce The Hunger Games and Divergent series, but with a different kind of a twist: a heavily patriarchal society, wherein a woman's worth is determined by the man that Chooses her in the Choosing ceremony that is held every year for those of age. Children go through lessons and classes all through childhood and into early adulthood, all with the purpose of being chosen. And those that are not fade into society as labour workers with little worth and no more than a fixed schedule of tasks to their name.

     Dekker follows Carrington, a young girl of decent social standing with all of the traits for being Chosen, but when it comes to the ceremony she's left behind, along with the rest of the worthless members of society. She can find no clear reason why she failed. The Choosing is about her transition into life as a Lint worker, cut off from her family and all that she grew up knowing, and her journey to discovering true worth.

     --Elise--

For more information on The Choosing by Rachelle Dekker, visit our website here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Grace Like a River

      "I really enjoyed this one. Christopher Parkening shares his story of becoming a world renowned guitarist and waves in his love for flyfishing. Easy to read and quite inspiring. Plus, this edition comes with three free songs."

--Lando Klassen, Owner


Grace Like a River, with the free music included, is on at the House of James for only $2.99.

     Pick up your copy today!



For more information on Grace Like a River by Christopher Prakening, visit our website here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

How to Help Your Hurting Friend

      How to Help Your Hurting Friend, through pain. Through illness. Through depression. Through loss. This is a carefully written book. The words are pointed and chosen, with attention and care. Susie Shellenberger has many years of experience working with hurting teens, and she does not take these issues lightly.
  • Making Friends
  • Helping a friend through an Eating Disorder
  • Helping a friend through Depression
  • Helping a friend who's Trapped in the Internet 
  • Helping a friend Cope with an Illness
  • Helping a friend through Self-Destruction
  • Helping a friend who has been Sexually Abused
     She doesn't have all the answers, and she stresses that, multiple times throughout, reminding the reader that they are not a counselor. They can only do what they can do as a friend. They can listen and lean and encourage and support, but that does not expel the need for professional help, and prayer, and more guidance.

--Elise--

For more information on How to Help Your Hurting Friend by Susie Shellenberger, visit our website here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Always Watching

     Suspense, intrigue, espionage - maybe less of the latter and more of the former. I'm still trying to decide if the title of Always Watching is meant to be creepy or comforting, though I suppose it's suitable for both, taking into consideration the plot of a murderous stalker pitted against a hired bodyguard agency. Both sides of the fight are always on the lookout.

     Eason trails Wade Savage, a rich and famous radio show-host and psychiatrist, who seems to have acquired a rather eccentric and dangerous fan: a stalker that leaves gifts too specific to be guesses. Whoever it is knows things about him and his daughter that they couldn't know without watching them closely. Against Wade's wishes, his father hires a bodyguard agency to keep an eye on him, and they go unnoticed until one night when Wade is attacked at his radio station and his bodyguard is nearly killed.

     They tighten security. They assign a larger, closer detail to accompany both Wade and his daughter, at all times, especially after his daughter Amy is targeted more directly. Bomb squads, raging fires, gun shots, knife fights - what more can you ask for in a suspense novel? Besides a side dish of romance, which there is, naturally. And the relationships that develop between Wade, his daughter Amy, and their bodyguards are quite fun to follow.

--Elise--

     For more information on Always Watching  by Lynette Eason, visit our website here.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Live Worship Experience: Atlanta GA


by CASTING CROWNS
     "Featuring the hit "Good Good Father",  this  live CD (Recorded in Atlanta Georgia) highlights the creativity and musical sphere of a great live worship/pop band.  As a worship team at church, all songs get filtered through the church body and with Marks efforts in song writing, amazing stuff happens. Solid lyrics and a feeling like you are there at the concert make this a great musical choice."
     --RN

For more information about the CD "Live Worship Experience" by Casting Crowns, visit our website here.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Shock of Night (Darkwater Saga, Book One)

     This book was longer than I expected. One of those stories where, halfway through you check to see how far you are, thinking they must resolve something soon, only to see that you have most of the book left to go yet. How can Patrick Carr possibly keep up the suspense and intrigue for the rest of the book?

     But he does.

     In a court fraught with jealous nobles and deathly politics, Willet Dura is the least of them. Raised to his position by the king himself, he has the title of Lord but no land or wealth to go with it. Only his reputation of death does him any credit - and that credit often does more harm than good.

     As the king's reeve, he seeks to investigate murders in the city and bring the guilty to justice. He is observant, and fierce, and his prowess in his task brings him to the king's attention. But that same prowess pits him against the nobles that scorn him. "He brings death with him everywhere he goes"; and upon acquiring a rare and strange gift, that accusation is only brought against him more often.

     Carr manages a twisting, turning plot and a cast of fascinating characters with notable development. Willet, perhaps the most changed of them all, is assigned a capable and infallible guard whose loyalties lie first with the Vigil - the secret sect that Willet stumbles into because of his strange gift. I found this guard, Bolt's, character one of the most interesting to follow. Very little trust is placed in him or found in the Vigil, and with his newfound gift and several more murders to contend with, Willet must navigate secrecy and danger at great cost to himself.

     Very mysterious, very dark, and very twisted at every chapter break. I had a hard time putting this one down. But it's not the end - this is only book one in the Darkwater Saga.

--Elise--

     For more information on The Shock of Night by Patrick Carr, visit our website here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Bows and Arrows


by Cindy Morgan
Rob recommends!
"This is Cindy's first new release in almost a decade. She goes back to an earlier style of Folk Bluegrass, with a bit of a pop flavoring, featuring several duets - one with Andrew Peterson.  Listening to this album is a storied affair where our souls are awakened to the healing of God's truth as Cindy wrestles with how life's hurts ultimately find their rest in Jesus Christ."

     --RN
      My mother bought this CD unexpectedly and put it on for me to listen to. The both of us fell in love in an instant. Cindy has an incredible, soothing voice. Her work is enveloped in beautiful harmony, and her lyrics are poignant and touching. Such comforting melody. It's playing in the store these days, to the utter delight of my heart.

     --Elise--

For more information on the CD, Bows & Arrows by Cindy Morgan, visit our website here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The River of Time Series

     I am always grateful for the series that put the book number on the binding.

1-Waterfall
2-Cascade
3-Torrent

     Lisa Bergren has a gift for writing youth fiction. Reading it now, it holds everything my teenage heart absolutely adores. A little too immensely. A smattering of history, a dash of time travel, heaps of action and intensity, and a steady throw of romance.

     Some of my favourite medieval stories involve a present day kid being thrown back into the times of knights and kings and castles. Those are the stories that got me reading incessantly, and the stories that inspired me to write. I am so glad I came upon this series. I would classify it as a bit of a guilty pleasure - medieval romance and fashion-culture-faux-pas are really what get me going, and the sparring, target-practice, horse-riding, armour-laden lovelies really do manage to hold my attention. This is what I read for a good dosage of drama and fantasy.

     In the River of Time series, sisters Gabriella (Gabi) and Evangelia (Lia) Bettarini travel back in time to 14th century Italy, into a fight for their lives that they would never have expected or anticipated in their wildest daydreams. I have read these first three books (over the course of a weekend. Easter weekend, if you can believe I had the time. I made the time) but there are apparently two novellas and another, final, book to the series, tying everything into a nice bow or something. I'm waiting on that last book, too nervous to start for fear of ending the series for myself. I don't like the idea of it all being over - I get that way with series. It just means I truly enjoyed them.

     Lisa keeps you guessing. Sometimes a little, other times a lot. Yes, you pretty much know that Gabi will fall for so-and-so, but whether or not they'll end up together - that's a path strung with doubt from beginning to end, really. So dramatic. So tense. Perfetto. Originally when the sisters travel back in time, they're separated. Gabriella finds herself very much alone, facing a raging battle between raging Italians, an old form of Dante-Italian that she miraculously knows well enough, no one to panic with, and no way out. Her sister Lia shows up about a week to ten days later, but a lot can happen in that amount of time. Battles are fierce and numerous, the suspense is delicious, and though the save and rescue scenes are wonderful, the strong-independent-female-main-character stance is satisfying for me as well. A good balance. The best of both worlds.

     This book is really one for the romantics, knight-in-shining-armour nuts, sword-wielders, bow-slingers. I don't know how it does for historical accuracy or cultural appropriateness - you can only do so much in fiction, and change what you will. The world you write is yours. I don't mind too much if the details don't all match up. Fair warning. I read it for the time travel, and yeah, the romance. For all of those intents and purposes, it suited me perfectly.

     I recommend this series so very highly to anyone looking for a weekend escape into 14th century Italy, battle, drama, and romance.

     --Elise--

For more information on The River of Time series, visit our website here.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

For Such a Time

     My heart is broken and my eyes should be swollen. This book may as well have brought me to tears - happy tears, horrified tears, agonized tears - with how much it crushed my heart and delighted me. Only to crush my heart again. It is a veritable roller-coaster of raw, real emotion, and beauty, and pain. Lots of pain. But it's completely worth my emotional trauma because of how beautiful it is.

     For Such a Time, written by Kate Breslin, is an allegory for the story of Esther. Each chapter begins with a verse from the book of Esther that somehow will apply to the following pages. Chapter one introduces Stella Muller - which, we quickly discover, is a pseudonym from a set of false papers for a Hadassah Benjamin. And she is locked in a small chalet bedroom, trembling for fear, fearing for her life with each breath, communicating her terror with awful memories and inescapable emotion. She is fresh out of the Dachau concentration camp, a victim of Nazi brutality, saved directly from a firing squad line-up. Wondering why she wasn't shot; why she was "saved", if she was saved at all, or if she was only rescued from one evil to become entangled with another by the name of SS Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt. He pulls her from the line-up, hides her in his cousin's home, and then comes to take her to his residence, employed as his secretary, outside the walls of the transit camp he oversees - Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia. Her Aryan looks save her from overbearing scrutiny, and her Nazi employer keeps her from the camps, but her Jewish roots embalm her in lies that, every second, she fears will unravel. And the interest that the Kommandant has for her only keeps her more on edge.

     The edge of danger in this story is so sharp and crisp and clear, on each and every page, never giving a moment's peace. The only time I put this book down was when the emotions were too much for me and I needed a moment to breathe and remind myself that I was, really, just reading a book. It does go into some gruesome detail about the Holocaust and the horrors there, and I would not recommend this to the faint-at-heart or those more sensitive to brutality.

     This book is so brutally well-written. The emotions and characters, so painfully raw and captivating. Her prose is littered with German and Yiddish words and phrases, for the language lovers. Her plot is intertwined with strands of beautiful romance, for the hopeless romantics (tastefully done). And every inch of every page - every word of every phrase - is utterly captivating.

     Stella Muller - Hadassah Benjamin - you break my heart.

--Elise--

     For more information on For Such a Time by Katie Breslin, visit our website here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Iscariot

     If you're looking to feel deep, cutting emotions, look no further than these 328 pages. 328 pages of raw, ravaging, agonizing, beautiful pain.

     There is something to be said of authors who can write raw emotion and force you, against your will, to feel, deeply, down to the very depths of your core. And this is not exaggeration or melodrama either. I read Havah by Tosca Lee a couple of years ago. The story of Adam and Eve. I remember my breath being ripped away by her imaginative prowess. Every inch of her historical fiction is riddled with feeling and realness, and Iscariot is no different. Perhaps it's better. I cannot say for sure.

     A troubling character already, Lee turns Judas Iscariot heartbreaking. So powerfully that I could not stop reading. You think you know a story - and you know it well - and then someone like Tosca Lee comes along and pulls the pages out from under you. She offers fresh perspective and agonizing suggestion. And forces you to acknowledge Judas as more than simply a betrayer.

     So much more.

     It is so easy to read a story over and over, and to know it backwards and forwards, and to stop looking into the depths of it for the deepest of meanings. The practice wears on you. You know the words, you know the premise, you know the plot and the general idea. Isn't that enough?

     The moment I read Tosca Lee's work, it was no longer enough for me. The speculation is so ultimately powerful and spurring of so many questions and so much newness. It is all too easy to read these stories in the Bible and see only the short, chopped narrative that is there. Lee brings life to these read and re-read words. She brings emotion and entangling thought and desperate feeling to something that can sometimes seem bland. Take a fresh breath of life with her sometime.

     --Elise--

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Confessions of X

      Gracefully enchanting, Wofle's prose sings on the page with every descriptive sentence. A soothing melody for the literary soul. This book is a bleeding heart - a big, throbbing, bloody, bleeding heart. Clawing my throat. Stretching my heartstrings altogether too far.

     So masterful is Wolfe's writing, that when I stopped to think that I could not remember the main character's name, it took me a good few minutes to realize that she had not, indeed, given her a name. The title of The Confessions of X is never once undermined by a true, given name, and I even stopped reading so that I could page back and try to find some instance where her name was uttered.

     I grew so very lost in this book - utterly enveloped and embalmed, so wrapped up in the characters. And the emotions. Oh, my beating heart - the emotions that Wolfe manages to convey. Every breath is simply shuddering with beauty that I can barely contain in my own mind's eye. I can barely contain it for the agony of it all.

     The Confessions of X is not packed full of action or riddled with suspense and intrigue, like the other books that I'm so used to reading. It is overflowing with life. Overflowing with life and love, tears and laughter, agony and beauty, and in general the essence of living, from the perspective of the anonymous lover of Augustine of Hippo. Womanhood, grief, faith, laughter, freedom, and despair. The joys and pains of living. The triumphs of loving and grasping those anxious breaths of affection so cherished in this life. This story is so much more than historical fiction. Wolfe's research and immersion in the time, land, and cultures is captivating, all encompassing; "a gorgeous, poignant story - a journey both in time and to the soul. Wolfe's Writing is evocative, her research immaculate" (Tosca Lee, New York Times bestselling author of Havah: The Story of Eve, Iscariot, and others. She has also written collaboratively with Ted Dekker. Highly recommended. I am in the midst of reading Iscariot myself).
"Before he became a father of the Christian Church, Augustine of Hippo loved a woman whose name has been lost to history. This is her story."
     And what a story it is - enrapturing in all of its fiction, compelling in all of its history. This woman of incredible strength and courage, of emotion and fascinating dexterity, from naiveté to the depths of wisdom - she holds my heart, the imaginations of my soul, and I am full to bursting with the pure fascination. Read it and weep, laugh, cry, drift in the throes of another time, another place, another life. Ethereal beauty, flowing vocabulary, desperate love and vicious heartbreak - not necessarily in that order. This is the most beautiful book I have read this year, and I have read more than twenty.

     --Elise--

For more information on The Confessions of X by Suzanne M. Wolfe, visit our website here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Annabel Lee


     Maybe it's the reference to English Literature - to the poems of Edgar Allen Poe - or maybe the creative perspective of an eleven year old girl reacting under dire circumstances. Maybe it's the mixture of science and fiction, crime and creativity, history and speculation. All of these things somehow band together to form a stunning presentation of intensity, suspense, and gripping storytelling.

     Annabel Lee is my favourite suspense-novel of the month. Similar to Erin Healy's Hiding Places, Mike Nappa's novel explores the possibilities of history, a range of several character perspectives, and a great deal of suspense. His primary narrator is an eleven year old girl (which is refreshingly similar to Healy's book that I enjoyed so much, but not so similar that it seems repetitive) with a tendency for a good Alabama accent and a talent for language learning. As a language lover myself, her passion hits home. She's particularly learned in German and, as she sees fit to constantly remind the reader, she is an educated girl.

     Tangled in CIA conspiracies and old war stories, Annabel is locked in an underground bunker by her Uncle Truck, with nothing but a terrifying German Shepard for company, and food to last her all too long. She is not to open the door to anyone - not even her uncle himself, unless he utters the safe word. And Nappa conveys the distress of her day to day life - of her ragged, ravaging emotions and her fear - with terrifying conviction. Annabel's voice is all too real.

     Nappa also introduces Trudy Coffey to the narration - Private Investigator, Coffey & Hill Investigations. Hill is the name of her ex-husband, co-founder of the business and ultimate-liar-extraordinaire. In a series of events spurred by Annabel's imprisonment they are forced back into one another's company in order to solve an outcropping of mysteries that all tie back to Uncle Truck. Including murderous mercenaries in black and a very suspicious doctor named Smith, the intensity of this book never stops. Three words: suspense, intense, riveting. And never a dull moment. I for one will anxiously await the next book in the Coffey & Hill Series - Fall of 2016.

     --Elise--

For more information on Abbabel Lee by Mike Nappa, visit our website here.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Siren's Song


     This is my favourite youth fiction series of the year - yes, in part because the third and final book is finally here, and I can at last breathe the fresh breath of completion and answers to all of my burning questions. But also because of Mary Weber's incredible imagination and the wonder and fascination she writes to life with her characters and worlds and quirks. She writes such a unique world with strange creatures and customs, suspense and action, and battles of sword and wit and elements. I have reviewed books one and two, Storm Siren, and Siren's Fury, somewhere on this blog, but I bring the series up again because of how much I enjoyed it.

     No spoilers.

     But there are some wonderful moments and battles and scuffles and scrapes, all from the perspective of the ever-angsty, ever-arduously edgy Nymia. If you are the kind of person who holds your anger and irritation inside - like me - Nym is a distinctly refreshing character, because she does quite the opposite. She acts as a kind of anger relief for me, actually. Her outbursts are numerous and humourous, and usually justified. They've been building up over a trilogy, so she has plenty to rage about.

     Every aspect of this series builds to a climax in this book - romantically, suspensefully, politically, characteristically - and Weber throws a beautiful, overwhelming apex at her readers in the span of a couple hundred pages. The protagonist, Nym, is an orphan who's been sold in and out of slavery all of her life until, in book one, she is purchased one final time. And her owner sets to turning her into a weapon - to use her for her fierce Elemental powers. In the process, Nym makes some of her first friends in life and finds her first love in the trainer assigned to her - Eogan - who turns out to be much more than he appears.

     Now in book three, their final fight will determine the course of her life - whether or not she lives, of course, and then, if she does, her status as a citizen of Faelen. There's a deal on the table for her and all slaves to be freed from bondage, and she'd throw herself to the bolcranes if she thought she'd let this chance pass her by.

     Delicious disaster and danger, glorious deliverance, and all the things I love from a good fantasy realm.

--Elise--

    For more information on Siren's Song by Mary Weber, visit our website here.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Jesus Feminist

     "I often think of Lydia when people argue over the false dichotomy of whether or not women should work. Women have always worked; they will always work - for their families, for their homes, for survival, for provision, for the good of their souls. It's a straw man argument for the purposes of arguing or imposing a new law. Lydia used her portion, a considerable business acumen and subsequent wealth, for the benefit of the gospel."

     Chapter Six: Patron Saints, Spiritual Midwives, and "Biblical Womanhood"
     Jesus Feminist, Sarah Bessey
     p.94-95
      This is not what I saw myself reading this year, but life is full of surprises. A couple of my coworkers have read both of Sarah Bessey's books and highly recommended them to me, but it wasn't until I heard her speak at my church that I finally picked  up Jesus Feminist. I had seen it on the shelf; noticed it when it first came into the store last year; and the title made me want to read it, but non-fiction can be so hard for me. It took me weeks to finish Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, even though I adored the book. This is a bit of the same story, but I'm getting through it, and it is beautiful.

     It is powerful, and wonderful, and encouraging. Her words are beautiful, and her thoughts are careful and blessedly heart-warming. And strong. Her words are so, so strong.

     I recommend this book to any woman. And I recommend this book to anyone who has felt oppressed, as a woman, in the church. Even if it felt minor. Even if it was something that you were fine brushing off, because it didn't really apply to you anyways.

     This is a book to encourage women, but Sarah Bessey doesn't ignore men either. She approaches everything with a care, gentleness and grace that calms the nerves and the anger and the judgement on either end of the spectrum. She brings the reader in for a chat. A deep, and perhaps difficult chat, but approached in such a way that the frayed nerves don't feel so raw and the hurt doesn't rear its head so violently. Because there is a lot of hurt on the subject, and a lot of violence and frustration and anger. Sarah Bessey is here to set that aside. She "makes her case - not as a fire-breathing debater - but as a woman utterly captivated by Jesus, who will stop at nothing to follow him" (Carolyn Custis James, author of Half the Church).

      Now, I'm not good with non-fiction, as I've said. I'm also awful with confrontation and seriously angsty and argumentative topics. But I love this book. I love the kindness and gentleness of it. I love the truth and the warmth of heart and the strength.

--Elise--

     For more information on Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, visit our website here.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Whispers In the Reading Room



     Well, if you didn't like Deception on Sable Hill I can't guarantee this one will suit you any better, but I did enjoy Whispers In the Reading Room more than the former. I would say that Gray is in her element with the genre she's exploring.

     Quaint, quiet, self-assured librarian Lydia meets soft-hearted, wealthy club owner Sebastian, resulting in a broken engagement with her abusive fiancé, the acquiring of quite a few new acquaintances, and an ominous murder charge that threatens to upend everything. And all of this because she admired him in his dedication to come to the library where she worked, sharing in her love of books.

     He's sullen and mysterious, and attracts far too much attention for his own good - attention in the form of fear and intimidation - and with the nature of his business and the scars he carries from his childhood, trust becomes a difficult thing to discern.

     Lydia is headstrong, independent, and resolved. Her financial situation being as it is, she can get by just well enough by pawning off most of her household possessions, although with her mother breathing down her neck and striving for more costly living standards, she cannot deny that it is a struggle. Only, will the curious existence of Sebastian Marks alleviate her situation or make things all the more complicated?

--Elise--

     For more in formation on Whispers in the Reading Room by Shelley Gray, visit our website here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Curio

     The cover attracted me. The title intrigued me. The preview on the back and the short synopsis in the front did neither, so I returned to judging a book by its cover and read it anyways.

     Let's just say that the first chapter made up for all of that.

     Evangeline Denmark has a rich and vivid imagination and she's been extraordinarily careful to write it all out in an engaging and capturing way. She embraces the steampunk subgenre of fiction, adding with it elements of dystopia and fantasy. Her words weave a complex world of horrible hierarchy, chemical alchemy, Chemists, Defenders, porcies, tocks, and all manner of steam-powered machines.

     Curio begins in a city called Mercury, where the people are dependent on a Chemist potion for them to be able to digest any food; where restrictions are high, rules are severe, and the punishment for any broken law is ever more so. Every citizen battles with the struggle of conformity and submission to a cruel desire for power. And not even halfway through, our headstrong protagonist, Grey Haward, is thrown out of Mercury and into the strange realm of Curio City - run by machines, for machines, with only one other human in existence besides Grey herself. Evangeline makes Grey's world of starvation and punishment look so much cozier than their strange realm.

     This book is perfect for your angsty teenager (which I can no longer claim to be, as of today) who loves a rush of adrenaline in the form of insurgents and self-sacrifice. Evangeline even throws in some sequences to satiate the romantics (this, I fear, is something I may never be free of, regardless of my number of birthdays). She spits out thrill rides and adrenaline on every page and her characters make you want to swoon, giggle, and tear your hair out all at once. Her energy is refreshing.

--Elise--

     For more information on Curio by Evangeline Denmark, visit our website here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Brontë Plot

 

The Brontë Plot 
Katherine Reay



     I am not as familiar with the books written by the Brontë sisters as I would like to be, but Jane Austen is a quiet friend of mine, and someone who enjoys classics like hers and those of the Brontë sisters would enjoy The Brontë Plot. Katherine Reay professes a not-so-gentle enthusiasm for classic literature, poetry, and prose. Her main character, Lucy Alling, is a young woman with a penchant for antiques and the value of words. She works in a gallery, handling most of the book comings and goings, as an employee to Sid - a kindhearted man with an eye for interior decoration.

     This story is less about romance and more about finding yourself. Less about nonsensical daydreams and more about the sometimes bleak state of reality. It's not as dark as all that, and the romance is there, and the adventure, and the newness, but there is something more real about the way that Reay writes. More true to life. It's not full of action and excitement or even suspense - I would classify it as more curious. It's a curious book with a curious story, and we all know how enticing curiosity can be.

     Lucy Alling travels to London and the favourite haunts of the
Brontë sisters, in the company of her first client through Sid's business - her first client solely under her charge. Travel nuts. Literary nuts. This book seems to cater to those quiet loves of the heart. Satisfies them. Provokes a longing to read Pride & Prejudice all over again. Or even more suitable, Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I just finished it, and coincidentally stumbled across a copy of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by her sister, Anne.

     Something about Reay's enthusiasm for the classics makes this book a delightful read.

--Elise--

     For more information on The Brontë Plot by Katherine Reay, visit our website here.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mere Christianity

Mere - adj, define:
Being nothing more or less than what is specified.
synonyms: just, only, sheer, complete

     A big selling point here is, yes, the new covers that have just come out for all of C.S. Lewis' signature classics - Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Problem of Pain, The Great Divorce, A Grief Observed, and Miracles. I had a lot of fun waiting for each new cover to come into the store, and I'll be honest, I only started collecting these books when I first saw this cover for Mere Christianity.

     But then I started to read, and dear Lord, I am overwhelmed. After the first chapter alone. I know I'm behind the times and so many people have read this already, but there are sure to be others like me who have missed out on this excellence. He is so gentle with his words. And so logical - which the human brain finds so appealing. So logical and so wonderful, and so precisely written, that I am breathless and desperate for more.

     If you're like me, and your doubts are sometimes such a problem - even though you know what you believe, but not necessarily why you believe - Lewis, whether he knows it or not, is in the process of putting those doubts to rest. The process of quelling my inner intellectual debate with comforting reasoning.

     The human heart loves logic. Reason. Proof. And I'm not saying that Lewis removes all of the doubts and explains everything away in the perfect redaction of Christianity - he was only a man. That is not how this works; there is still the question of faith, and belief, and putting trust in God despite the risks and confusion and doubt. But with Lewis' words, that faith and belief that I am already growing is firmer. Stronger. More sure. Set aside doctrine and theology, and he brings you to the basics of what Christianity is, at the root. Because if it is not these things, it cannot be Christianity at all. Mere Christianity - nothing more and nothing less than what it, in fact, is.
"If individuals live only seventy years, then a state, or a nation, or a civilisation, which may last for a thousand years, is more important than an individual. But if Christianity is true, then the individual is not only more important but incomparably more important, for he is everlasting and the life of a state or a civilisation, compared with his, is only a moment."

--Book III: Christian Behaviour, Chapter I: The Three Parts of Morality (p.74-75)--
--Elise--

     For more information on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, visit our website here.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Deception on Sable Hill


     Light, fluffy, comfort fiction. Happily ever after. We all need a bit of that every once in a while. I've been reading Steven James books so much lately I needed a change of pace, and Shelley Shepard Gray offered a kind of respite with her Chicago Worlds Fair Series. There are two other books that I know of in the series, but they don't necessarily follow each other in a certain order - linked, but not inseparable - Secrets of Sloane House and Whispers in the Reading Room. I read Deception on Sable Hill without any confusion as to who the characters were or what was happening in the story, butI believe it's the second installment in the series.

     Gray's selling points in this book are the historical aspects of her fiction, the structure of her plot, and the varied cast of her characters. Not so varied that you lose track of who each person is, and in-depth enough that you know their different tastes and dislikes, and personality traits. I like to get to know the characters, and sometimes authors brush over who they are as people in favour of a riveting, fast-moving plot. In that case, there's not as much to keep you emotionally invested. I've enjoyed the way Shelley Gray weaves the two together.

     She brings high-end and downtrodden societies into a bit of a head-to-head, with a princess-pauper-policemen scenario that I find light and amusing, and a relaxing distraction. Lieutenant Sean Ryan is a hard-working policeman of Irish decent, who found a way for himself outside of the limits of his less-than well-to-do family. Eloisa Carstairs is a well-known, upstanding young lady two years out in society from her debut, reputed to be the richest, prettiest girl around. But scarred by a secret. The story centers around their meeting as a result of a series of assaults on young women from Eloisa's social circles, by someone they're calling the "Society Slasher".

     A hint of mystery, a bit of drama, more than enough romance - Gray knows how to write for her audience. As far as the cast of characters goes, among others, we have Sean's partner is a wealthy gentleman, good at his job, who gets entangled with Sean's younger sister, Katie. Lets call it a little excitement on the side. I'd almost have to say I enjoyed witnessing their relationship more than Sean and Eloisa's. Fancy that.

--Elise--

     For more information on Deception on Sable Hill by Shelley Shepard Gray, visit our website here.