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Showing posts from 2017

Happy New Year!

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   New Years is a vaguely universal concept - I say vaguely because of the various different countries that celebrate on days all over the Gregorian calendar typically used. The Chinese New Year, based on the lunar calendar, can be anywhere from January to February, the Jewish calendar celebrates Rosh Hashanah in the northern hemisphere's autumn, during the first two days of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar. Hijri New Year is the Islamic New Year, celebrated on the first day of Muharram - the first month of the Islamic calendar. Thailand celebrates Songkran in April, Ethiopia calls theirs Enkutatash , the "gift of jewels" in September, and those are just a few of them.    For those of us using the modern Gregorian Calendar, January 1st is our New Year's day based all the way back on the Julian Calendar of pre-Christian Rome, when the month of January was named after the Roman god of gateways and beginnings, Janus.    Many of our customers at the House of

The Knowing

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   The Forgetting , the first book in this series by Sharon Cameron, and The Knowing , its sequel, flow into one another with a seamless kind of irony. Seamless and cruel, in the best possible way.    The two books are a part of a series. It is not necessary to read them in order, but I would recommend it. Both are a part of a post-apocalyptic world, separated by quite a few years. The Knowing references several characters from The Forgetting , but they are not a part of the story itself.    The Knowing has all of the Young Adult Fiction elements that made me fall in love with The Forgetting , but even more than that, the irony of each main character's goal and the way Sharon Cameron portrays them from the first book to the second provide an additional element. The Forgetting is all about not having memory, and The Knowing is about having too many memories. The two books are a pendulum swing, wherein the main characters strive to bring that pendulum to rest somewhere in the

The Forgetting

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   I think the world might be on a roll with post-apocalyptic youth fiction, because this is the second in a row that I have for you from my list of exceptional reads. Sharon Cameron brings her own fantastic twists to the genre in her book The Forgetting . Again, I approached the first chapter with apprehension and the question: will this be a repeat of The Hunger Games or Divergent ? And again I found that, no, there is so much more to be explored in these stories.    The Forgetting introduces us to Nadia, the Dyer's daughter, in the city of Canaan, "where life is safe and structured, hemmed in by white stone walls and no memory of what came before". Every twelve years the people of Canaan go through a period they refer to as "the Forgetting", where everyone in the city forgets everything about themselves and their past. Everything is lost, unless it is written down, which is why each and every citizen of Canaan carries on their person a book. This book is

Many Sparrows

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"Either she and her children would emerge from that wilderness together, or none of them would…"      The moment I saw this book come into the store, I reserved a copy for myself. I LOVE historical fiction and Lori Benton did not disappoint with her newly published book Many Sparrows . The story takes place in 1774, two years before the American Revolution starts. Virginians Clare and Philip Inglesby, with their four-year-old son Jacob and a baby on the way, decide to head west to meet up with a man who wants to settle farther west into hostile Native American territory. Not wanting to leave her family and everything she's ever known (especially being eight months pregnant), Clare is hesitant. After their wagon crashes, Philip is forced to go back to the previous settlement to get help, forcing him to leave Clare and Jacob alone on the remote trail, promising to come back. When Philip doesn't return, Clare finds her son is missing and herself in labor.  Enter J

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow

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   The Evaporation of Sofi Snow was published in June of this year (2017) and has been screaming at me from my to-be-read list ever since. I dove in a couple of weeks ago and was not at all disappointed - I finished reading it in two days between work shifts, homework, and several instances of inescapable socializing. Mary Weber has held my attention in the past, for a full trilogy of fantasy and world-building wonder in the form of Storm Siren and the subsequent sequels (which you can read about in my general raving and gushing here for the first two and here for the third installment in the series). And so, I had high hopes for The Evaporation of Sofi Snow .    In the first two or three chapters I was a little afraid I would be reading a Hunger Games meets Divergent rewrite but I was gloriously mistaken. Weber introduces an aspect of science fiction to her post-apocalyptic world right from the beginning that neither of these series invested in - aliens - and it is a never-

What Is the Bible?

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   Once again, here is a book that did not lure me in of its own power or weight or merit, or even cover. I read this book because of controversy - the controversy and debate around the person of Rob Bell and authors like him. A little while ago I reviewed one of his earlier books, Love Wins . You can read my post by clicking here .    "What is the Bible?" is not a question that I would consider "safe" for a number of different reasons. It's a question that sparks conversation and makes people think. It's a question that brings people to ideas and conclusions that will inevitably differ and disagree one from the other, from the other, from the other. Rob Bell does this in such a way that I am enveloped in questions, rather than answers. I am overloaded with wonder rather than conclusion, idea rather than opinion, suggestion rather than hard-and-fast rule. He writes in such a way that leaves my thoughts fluid, shifting, dancing (Mennonite-Brethren-heritage-

"What do I get a new believer??"

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     We get this question ALL THE TIME. So in order to make it easier for you (the customer) and for us, I've found several books for kids all the way to adults, to help you and your friend, parent, brother, grandmother, uncle, and your cousin twice removed into a better understanding of Christianity! Let's start with the youngest:      This book is great! It has so many helpful and useful pages to help your littlest understand this simple and huge idea that Christianity offers: that Jesus LOVES us and wants us to understand His word. From the serious questions that even we adults struggle with, to knock knock jokes, and why are there so many translations, this book covers the basics. For more information on Bible Basics for Kids by Terry Glaspey, visit our website here .      This book is a-w-e-s-o-m-e. It's hard to summarize because this book covers SO much. Champ Thornton describes to adults that his purpose is that kids will love, trust, and follow Je

The Boy Who Grew Flowers

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   For the quiet ones, the shy kids, the ones who are a little bit different than "everyone else", The Boy Who Grew Flowers is an excellent reminder of the delight and wonder and power in being outside of the norm, depending on how you carry that title.    This is a wonderful, colourful, beautiful children's book, written especially to the ones who don't seem to fit in anywhere else, and a powerful reminder that everyone is a little bit different than everyone else. We just have to give them the chance to show it, purely and proudly, with all of its wonder and beauty and colour. --Elise T--    For more information on The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz and Steve Adams, visit our website here .

Toward a Secret Sky

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   I read the four part series of Doon a while ago (you can read my blog post about the series here ) and I would present Toward a Secret Sky to anyone who resonated with the series. Heather Maclean uses a similar writing style and directs her narration toward the same age group - 13- to 18-year-old girls looking for a bit of paranormal, world-hopping, and innocent romance. Not to mention, it all takes place in Scotland, with their accents in brogues and lilts, and kilts of course.    This story begins with a funeral, oddly-placed screaming, and a sudden move to the small town of Aviemore, Scotland. Maclean doesn't go overboard with the Scottish accent by writing in every quirk and sound, so I enjoyed trying to emulate the sound in my mind as I read the dialogue of the different characters as they were introduced. The main character, Maren Hamilton, is a 17-year-old American, recently orphaned, who moves to Scotland to live with her newfound legal guardians - grandparents she

Love Wins

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   I have to be honest: I decided to read this book for two reasons. The first is that it sparks such controversy. Love Wins is either loved or hated - there is no in between. USA Today was of the opinion that "Rob Bell has stuck a pitchfork in how Christians talk about damnation". This sparked my curiosity. The second reason is that I wanted to know how a man who enters peoples' testimonies with such loving kindness can come to be caught up in the crossfire of such heated debate. I have listened to a podcast interviewing him on his book What is the Bible? , a book which I have also read, and I have heard stories of how he brings people together and interacts with them with incredible loving kindness and gentleness.    I won't pretend I'm deeply theological and can argue over, about, or against any implications that Rob Bell's work might lead to, but this book speaks love, life, and goodness, to me and to ma

Behind the Canvas

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   I have not been this tempted and enraptured by adventure since Tosca Lee's Progeny and its sequel, Firstborn . This is of an entirely different realm. Behind the Canvas , written for ages 8-14, is an unspeakably incredible adventure; a seamless blend of C.S. Lewis' Narnia and Wayne Thomas Batson's The Door Within Series, coming together with oodles of art history and the absolute wonder of creativity. The protagonist, Claudia, is a twelve year old girl who develops an extraordinary amount of courage and bravery along the way. She has delightful character and personality - a quiet disposition with a penchant for fierce passion. She is everything that my introverted, bookworm, nerdy heart longs to become.    I love her, I love this book, I love it all.    Alexander Vance takes Claudia from observing art in all of its colour, to living it, when she discovers an entire world behind the canvas. It is everything a twelve-year old (or anyone of any age, for that m

Finding God in the Waves

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   Finding God in the Waves is a far cry from orthodox Christianity, and it may be better for readers to approach this book with that in mind. Mike McHargue - better known online and by his friends as Science Mike - did not write this book for the Christian with a firm, rooted faith, seeking an inspiring story that validates their belief. He wrote this book for almost everyone else - the doubters, the seekers, the lost.  It is not a book to explain, answer, or convince. It is not a book to complain, convict, or condemn.    Science Mike does what I imagine Christ did, and does, in meeting people where they're at - anyone, anywhere, anytime. This book walks through his experiences and transitions from Fundamental Evangelical and Southern Baptist, to atheist, to...something else. This is not a book of answers, or a backslider sliding back into the fold, because after his transition to and from atheism, Science Mike's approach to Christianity, Christ, and even God, is not at all

A Boy Named Queen

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On our website ( here ), my friend and co-worker Lauryssa left a short review of A Boy Named Queen : " Short and sweet, this is an excellent story to help kids to deal with bullies and to accept others (and themselves) just as they are."     She recommended this read to me the other day - whether she expected me to actually follow through is besides the point, and I did that very day, to my great delight and pleasure. A Boy Named Queen is an excellent, short chapter book starring a ten or twelve year old girl who is just going back to school, and on her first day, a new student is transferred into her class.    His name is Queen.    It's incredible how one small detail - one small quirk - that causes a person to stand out from the crowd can pave the way for all kinds of bullying and harmful teasing. But we've all seen it happen. From where the narrator sits, the only thing really different about Queen is his name: Queen. He is just as interesting or uninter

Unblemished

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   Unblemished is what I would call a "coming of age" story. The lead character, Eliyana, is nearing her eighteenth birthday when her life is suddenly upended and forever changed. Her mother - the only family she's ever known - dies tragically, and a series of strange, seemingly random events draw Eliyana into another world where nothing is as it seems, and nothing is as it should be.    Sara Ella writes Unblemished with a mind for twists and turns on every page. Every character seems to interact in such a way that trust is questionable, the truth is never the whole truth, and there's always something else going that hasn't been figured out yet. As young adult fiction, this story could be aimed at teen girls anywhere from the ages of 13-19, but greatly enjoyable for those above that age-range who still look for cheesy teen-romance, love triangles, and all of that coming-of-age awkwardness that makes a world-hopping, battle-raging, hormone dancing story all the

Firstborn

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   I came to you once before, sleep deprived and overwhelmed, with a story that demanded to be told. When I read The Progeny by Tosca Lee last year, I did it all in one sitting and sang its praises for months. Now I'm back with the second installment - the conclusion to this thrilling ride - Firstborn , a progeny novel.    Following Audra Ellison (known in the first book as Emily Porter) Firstborn picks up right where The Progeny left off. Audra now knows the secret she was protecting when she gave up her memories for the bliss and protection of ignorance, and now the stakes are higher than ever. The more she learns, the more dangerous everything becomes.    Tosca Lee's adventures following Audra are riddled with car chases, crossfires, hostages, blackmail, and a cast of characters who never fail to sweep the reader into their plight of wild turmoil, and even wilder emotions. Rarely do I find an author who can entertain as thoroughly as Ted Dekker, but so far Tosca Lee h

Quiet

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   Susan Cain is another acclaimed public speaker and author, broadcasted over social media by her viral TED Talk, "The Power of Introverts", based on her book Quiet . This book led to the foundation of Quiet Revolution - a company "dedicated to unlocking the power of introverts" (see their website here ).    Quiet is a book for the soft-spoken, the listeners, the withdrawn, and the thinkers. There are many more attributes that could be singled out, and these listed may not apply to every introvert across the board, but Quiet is a book about introverts, introversion, and the rise of the Extrovert Ideal. According to Cain's extensive research, included in detail in this narrative, we live in an extroverted culture. Our schools, workplaces, and media all perpetuate and praise the power in and desire for extroverted students, leaders, and characters. And while extroversion is indeed a powerful, beautiful characteristic, the undervalue of introverts continues to

Daring Greatly

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   Brené Brown is an acclaimed researcher and public speaker, perhaps best-known for her viral TED Talks, "The Power of Vulnerability" and "Listening to Shame". Her book Daring Greatly expands on these ideas, tying her extensive studies and research in worthiness and shame with empathy and vulnerability, but this last is the main focus.    Vulnerability tends to be seen as an undesirable, even feared state of being to be avoided at all costs. Vulnerability is most often seen as weakness. In the second chapter of Daring Greatly , Brené Brown debunks this perception as the biggest myth that is believed about vulnerability. She does this by providing a long list of examples that display an act of vulnerability (p. 35-37): Sharing an unpopular opinion Standing up for myself Saying no Helping my thirty-seven-year old wife with Stage 4 breast cancer make a decision about her will Initiating sex with my wife/husband Calling a friend whose child just died    He

God has a Name

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Exodus 34: 4-7 "So Moses chiseled out two stone tablets like the first ones and went up Mount Sinai early in the morning, as the LORD [Yahweh] had commanded him; and he carried the two stone tablets in his hands. Then the LORD [Yahweh] came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD [Yahweh]. And as he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, "The LORD [Yahweh], the LORD [Yahweh], the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation."  The bold cover and the title is what drew me. Then when I opened it and realized he wrote a book on God and only used two verses...well that drew me even more. It's not very often that you'll find a book in the Christian Living section wr

The Usborne Creative Writing Book

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   Just by paging through, this book offered me the nostalgia to reformulate the dreams of my tween-self back into present day reality. I've been writing since I was twelve, and my style, skill, and genre choice have all changed and developed so dramatically that the wonder of writing feels a little different every time I pull out a pen or sit down at a keyboard. The Usborne Creative Writing Book is everything I would have loved as a young author, and everything I could still use to recreate that magic a decade later. The last line on the back of the book is the writer's pride and joy: "There's lots of space for you to write in, but no scary blank pages".    One of the most interesting things I have learned about writing is that a blank page is sometimes such a daunting task that the only way to get anything started is to write something - anything, regardless of the state of its gibberishness or uselessness - just to make the page less empty, which gets the t

The Story of Reality

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Gregory Koukl , author of Tactics , released a new book earlier this year entitled, The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How it Ends and Everything Important that Happens in Between. And it’s only 160 pages. This book is recommended by well known authors such as – Lee Strobel, Rick Warren , Joni Eareckson Tada , J. Warner Wallace , Sean McDowell , Nancy Pearcey and many more. Here’s what Fred Sanders, author of The Deep Things of God, had to say about this book: “When I looked into Koukl’s Story of Reality, I thought, ‘This is not how I would say this.’ I would have used more technical terms, added quite a bit of history, expanded it by a couple hundred pages, and put in about a thousand footnotes. So readers can rejoice that, instead, Greg Koukl is the right man to tell the story in such a clear, concise, and conversational way. This book explains the central ideas of Christianity and answers questions people are really asking.” And I agree. For many of us, books filled

Wings of the Wind

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"When the Canaanite king of Arad, who lived in the Negev, heard that Israel was coming along the road to Atharim, he attacked the Israelites and captured some of them. Then Israel made this vow to the Lord: "If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities." Numbers 21: 1-2  This is the continuing story and final book from the Out of Egypt series which builds upon the previous novels with Kiya, an Egyptian slave who left during the Exodus, embraced Hebrew faith and married the brother of Shira, a midwife among the Hebrew nations. We are now introduced to Alanah, a Canaanite woman who was raised motherless alongside her warrior brothers. When her entire family is killed in battle by the Hebrews, she disguises herself as a man and sneaks onto the battlefield, desperately fighting to avenge her family, with one intention... not surviving. Tobiah is a Hebrew warrior who has spent many years on the battlefields and is shocked when he fin

Hello Stars

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Faithgirlz has a new series called Lena in the Spotlight, a chapter book geared towards girls ages 8-12. Have you seen the movie The War Room? (If you haven’t I highly recommend it for the whole family). If you have, then you know the author. This book was written by the 12 year old Alena Pitts who stars as Danielle Jordan in the movie. She proved herself to be an incredible actress, so she thought she’d try her hand at writing. Here’s how she put it , “Just recently my mom and I were thinking about writing a book. Like a real book. We thought it would be really fun and a great mother daughter experience! But in reality, writing a book is pretty hard and even harder to actually get the book published. So it was really just a thought……or so I thought. But guess what?! A few weeks later my mom was emailed from Faithgirlz! They wanted to know if I would partner with them on a fictional book series! My mom and I were amazed!” As a 24 year old I was skeptical about a book written by such a

Catching the Wind

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"Better that one heart be broken a thousand times in the retelling... if it means that a thousand other hearts need not be broken at all."  Melanie Dobson uses this quote by Robert McAfee Brown which perfectly encompasses the inner struggle that Daniel Knight faces as he tries to find out what has happened to his childhood friend Brigitte Berthold. They escaped from Gestapo agents who had arrested both of their parents and the young children fled Germany and crossed over to England where they were separated upon arrival. Daniel vowed to find Brigitte after the war, a promise he has fought to fulfill for more than seventy years. With the aching retelling, constant searching and investigating of the possibility of her whereabouts, Daniel hires an American journalist named Quenby Vaughn whose tenacious ability to discover missing people and reports on various wartime accounts convince Daniel that she can uncover the details of Brigitte. Quenby is currently investigating WWI

Beyond Loneliness

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   Trevor Hudson writes with a voice of comfort and compassion in his book Beyond Loneliness , to describe the gift of friendship that we have in God. He begins his introduction, "An Invitation to Transforming Friendship", with some statements regarding loneliness: that it "touches each one of us" and is "no respecter of age or rank", and that it "may be one of the most painful experiences that we go through in this life" (15). Then he asks a few questions:       - Do you feel lonely?       - Is there a friendship-shaped hole in your life?       - Are you open to reimagining your relationship with God as a friendship?       - Do you want to be transformed into the person God wants you to be?       - Does the possibility of starting a lifelong journey with God attract you?       - Do you long for a real experience of the living God?    If you answered yes to any of these questions, he asks that you "join [him] in discovering how to

The Practice of the Presence of God

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     This little book is a quick read, which makes it all the better for pausing and reflecting on the depth that it holds. I read it for a class that I was taking. The Practice of the Presence of God emphasizes the spiritual disciplines of servitude and stillness.      Brother Lawrence worked in the kitchen at the monastery where he ended up, after time served in the army and a stint of isolation in the desert in search of spiritual growth. There is a short biography detailing his life in this book, but most of The Practice of the Presence of God is a collection of letters written by Brother Lawrence to his Brothers and Sisters in Christ who had written to him troubled, struggling, and searching. His literary voice is that of a gentle mentor seeking to counsel and to comfort with the wisdom that he seeks from God to offer. His words emanate humility, patience, and kindness that comes from a life of intentional servitude. Brother Lawrence practices the art of finding God in every