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.