Saturday, October 7, 2017

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow


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

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

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

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

   --Elise T--

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

Saturday, September 30, 2017

What Is the Bible?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   --Elise T--

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

"What do I get a new believer??"

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

Let's start with the youngest:


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

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






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

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





For our teenagers:


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

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


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

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




And lastly, for the adults:


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





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

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


--Elise F--

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Boy Who Grew Flowers

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


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

--Elise T--

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Toward a Secret Sky



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

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

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

 --Elise T--

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Love Wins

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

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

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

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

   --Elise T--

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

Behind the Canvas

   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 matter) could ask for in terms of adventure, with dragons and knights, swords and fire, friendly dogs and terrifying monsters. Claudia's journey takes her from her world into this one as she follows loyalty in friendship. She strives to rescue her newfound friend Pim, who has been trapped for years in that painted world by a witch with incredible, awful power.

   It's a story of loyalty, first of all, and trust. And it's a story of confidence, in others and in our own gifts. Aside from the adventure in all of its exciting grandness, some of the best parts of this story are its lessons and morals. Alexander Vance writes about what is true and good, triumph over evil, and redeeming destruction and pain into newness. This is a story of creation, creativity, and the incredible influence of art, and it's a story to influence and inspire adventurers and artists of all ages.

   --Elise T--

   For more information on Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance, visit our website here.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Finding God in the Waves

   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 the same as his pre-atheism days.

   There is an incredible pressure in many Christian circles that attacks doubt and questioning as the root of all kinds of evil, and a one-way-ticket to eternal torment. But the reality is that everyone has doubts. This book, even if it is an impersonal ink and paper vessel, is a safe place to experience, allow, and explore those doubts and questions. This book is for the Doubting Thomases of Christianity, the believer turned atheist, turned agnostic, turned somewhere in between. This book is for those who are dissatisfied with what their particular stream of Christianity has taught them, but who still hold onto belief - some kind, any kind, of belief. And it's for the scientists within those brackets.

   The reconciliation of science and faith is a major tension in so many religious contexts contained within Christianity. I personally do not have a very scientific method of thinking, but I have found tension between some scientific truths and faith truths that are difficult to contend with. The magic of Science Mike's book is that it contains all of the wonder of scientific discovery and all of the explanation, with none of the abstract language. He never lost me in statistics or convoluted theories. Finding God in the Waves was written to be approachable, and it is, in the most comforting way.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Finding God in the Waves visit our website here.

Monday, July 24, 2017

A Boy Named Queen

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 uninteresting as the rest of the children in his class - just as quirky or conventional as our main character, Evelyn, and simply because of his name he is treated differently.

   The story is written for children around the ages of 8-12; short chapters with a voice for description and dialogue that a child would come up with. The story is a gentle but effective way to promote the welcoming of differences and the acceptance of the unexpected. The author, Sara Cassidy, has a gift for making the children's mocking reaction of Queen seem unfair and completely unfounded, rather than blatantly pounding out an opinion or rule. By following this narrative, the mind is guided toward the conclusion of the story, lacking any kind of force but holding a hugely significant amount of conviction.

   I'm definitely older than 12, but I found A Boy Named Queen to be unparalleled, refreshing, and an absolute joy to read. Hats off to Sara.

--Elise T--

   For more information about A Boy Named Queen by Sara Cassidy, visit our website here.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Unblemished

   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 more worth reading.

   The most powerful part of Sara Ella's Unblemished, however, is the message she is trying to communicate - a message of worth, beauty, and trust. Eliyana is on a journey that seeks to teach girls and young women that yes, they are absolutely beautiful, but that their worth extends so far beyond their beauty and the way that they look. This is such a crucial message for today, in a world where appearance sometimes seems to be the only thing that matters or makes anything or anyone of any worth at all. There is so much more to a woman than her beauty or her appearance. Why should her appearance even be a measure of her worthy? When did something so surface-level, fluctuate, and subjective become a measure of any kind of worthiness or value?

   --Elise T--

For more information on Unblemished by Sara Ella, visit our website here.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Firstborn

   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 has been the closest - dare I say, close enough even to rival him. Tosca Lee's writing is high energy, always moving, and I'm hoping that she can keep up the pace for many more years to come.


   --Elise T--


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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Quiet

   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-book-softcover
   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 grow deeper.

   Susan Cain takes it upon herself to highlight and lift up the overlooked: the ones "who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams". These are people like Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak - at least one-third of the world's population consists of introverts. As such, this book is a book by an introvert, for introverts, but it is as much for the introverts as it is for the extroverts who need to understand them. They need to understand each other, in order for the structures of culture and social life to work together in uplifting and healthy ways.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Quiet by Susan Cain, visit our website here.

Quotes taken from back flap of Quiet copyright 2013 by Random House, Inc. ISBN 9780307352156

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Daring Greatly

   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):
    Image result for daring greatly
  • 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
   Her list goes on for a page and a half more examples of what is regarded as vulnerability, to which Brené applies a questions: "Do these sound like weaknesses" (p. 37)? And her answer is a resounding, satisfying and powerful no. She writes "vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage", two things which may be uncomfortable but would never be considered weaknesses.

   This is only a few pages out of the larger picture of this book as a whole, but Daring Greatly is brimming with page after page of these brilliant, powerful sections about honesty, courage, and emotion. There is an entire chapter on applying this knowledge to parenting, and another on education and work. Brené's other book, I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't), takes the concept of shame that she writes about in Daring Greatly and delves even deeper into the studies and research that she has compiled over the years, specifically surrounding shame in the lives of women. Daring Greatly is a compelling precursor, guaranteed to make you pause and redefine your patterned, maybe harmful, ways of thinking.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Daring Greatly by Brené Brown, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

God has a Name

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 written solely on God. A lot are written on Jesus and his character because he came down in the flesh. We know he was man and God and that he died and people witnessed him on earth (via the Gospels). Still not an easy topic but its easier than trying to tackle God-the Almighty, El Shaddai, YAHWEH.

And let me just say that John Mark Comer does a REALLY good job.

He says, "When we talk about God, it turns out we're all over the map. In the West, we still live in a hangover from our Christianized past. There was a time when you could say "God," and people would immediately think of the God we read about in the Scriptures and see in Jesus. Most people would even come to the same basic conclusions about God. That time has long since gone the way of the earth. Today, when I say"God," you might think any number of things, depending on your country of birth, language, religion, church experience, background--and, of course whether or not you have cable".

Which is true. Today, when talking about God, the "fear of the LORD" isn't there. Even in the church, with all the different denominations, everyone has just a slightly different view from the next person and that can get confusing (I'm thinking especially of non-Christians who want to know more).

Comer writes in a way that's like you're sitting at a table with him and having a conversation. He doesn't assume you know what he's talking about, (because his audience could be anybody) so if he's jumping into a Bible story, he gives the context without going into great detail to help get the point he's trying to make across.

I loved this book. It's quickly become one of my favorite books I've read so far this year. I've learned a lot about who God REALLY is, because as I quoted earlier, we've forgotten who He is. At least I had. I hadn't forgotten Him the way we forgot where we put our keys, but I forgot who He says He is. I had forgotten His character. The church today, I've noticed, is SO worried about upsetting somebody, that we focus on that God is love only, because preaching about a God who wipes out entire people groups is a tough pill to swallow. And He is love, (we can praise Him for that) but He's SO much more than that: He's merciful, faithful, trustworthy, righteous, holy, slow to get angry, forgiving, and the list goes on!

So go and pick up this book! You won't regret it.

--Elise Fast--

For more information on God has a Name visit our website here.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Usborne Creative Writing Book

   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".


Image result for the creative writing book usborne   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 thoughts and ideas freer to flow and grow.

   This book is so exciting to me - I sat down with it for an hour at a table and just flipped through, reading and looking over each colour-laden page and exciting scribble notes. It's the young writer's dream, for everything from stories to poems, comics, reviews, blogs, scripts, and other forms of writing. The illustrations assure that no page is boring, inviting the reader - actually, the writer - in to learn and immediately create. There is extensive space to trying out new writing tips and tricks for all the different kinds of platforms. Some of the most fascinating are the article and journalism portions, and character creation/building sections, not often included in the idea of writing.

   If your child, or you yourself, at any age, is/are a poet, a novelist, a journalist, a blogger, a columnist, a critic, a fanfiction addict, and/or a short story fanatic; if they or you are in search of inspiration to feed their/your desire for creation, The Usborne Creative Writing Book is an exciting, extensive, uncomplicated way to explore the incredible creative experience of writing, in any form.

-- Elise T --

For more information on The Usborne Creative Writing Book visit our website here.

  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Story of Reality


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 with “churchy jargon” are incredibly intimidating, whether we've grown up in the church or not. In The Story of Reality Gregory Koukl has taken the convoluted history of humanity and made it bite size. This is not to say he has dumbed anything down, rather, it’s like he’s asked you to pull up a chair and have a conversation with him about these big truths of our reality.

Koukl is asking both the Christian and the non-Christian to think about the world around them. To use reason to assess Bible’s worldview because being a Christian is not meant to be “a leap of blind faith”.

This book is something I would give to a non-Christian seeking answers, a high-schooler feeling challenged in his faith or a Christian friend who wants to better understand the Biblical story. It’s something I think should be on every church or school library’s shelf.

-- Kristyn --

For more information click here to visit our website

Wings of the Wind

"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.

Image result for wings of the wind connilyn cossette
Tobiah is a Hebrew warrior who has spent many years on the battlefields and is shocked when he finds an unconscious woman among the casualties. An act of compelling compassion causes Tobiah to bring Alanah back to the Hebrew camp and seek a healer. Unaware and unprepared for the consequences of his kindness, he must boldly face the new challenges and changes to his imminent future.  In order to survive, Alanah must unite with her enemy, but will a terrible revelation drive her toward an even greater danger?


The final book's setting takes place some years after the horrific fallout of Korah's rebellion,  with the Israelites roaming the wilderness for forty years whilst fighting to claim the Promised land of Caanan. The author wonderfully creates a story from this blank space where little is known to us. Connilyn Cossette expresses "if readers get anything from [her] books, [she] hopes that it is a desire to taste the Word again and regain that sense of wonder about the mystery of God who desires his children to be fed from its nourishment daily. May it never be mundane to us, or drudgery, to collect the freely given treasures tucked between its pages." 


This series has done just that and opened my eyes to the unknown possibilities within our history but also reflecting upon the amazing journeys and trials God leads his people through, vowing to never leave us or forsake us. 


-- Candace --

For more information visit our website here.

Hello Stars


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 young person and her mom, but was pleasantly surprised by this captivating story entitled Hello Stars.

As Priscilla Shirer puts it, “Hello Stars is a bold and colourful story that will engage and inspire young readers.” It’s loosely based on Alena’s own experience of being cast in the movie War Room.

It’s not technically for my age group, of course, but I was drawn into the story by the relatable emotions, experiences, and personality of the main character, Lena, who is simply telling you her story.

Besides the storytelling Alena and her mom have managed to tie in life lessons from the Bible that will bring encouragement and biblical knowledge to young readers. The verse Jeremiah 29:11 is weaved into the story line teaching a valuable lesson about trusting in God and his plans for you.

This book also includes delightful pictures every now and then helping bring this story to life.

The next book in this series, Day Dreams and Movie Screens, is already scheduled for release in September this year. You can reserve a copy of it with us today!

-- Kristyn --

For more information visit our website here.

Catching the Wind

"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.
Image result for catching the wind melanie dobson
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 WWII espionage stories which gives her the success necessary to move forward where the countless investigators before failed to locate Brigitte. With the assistance of Lucas Hough, Daniel's lawyer, the two delve deep into the past following a trail of deception, sacrifice, and healing that could change all of their futures. 

I read this book in less than eight hours, the vivid historical details and mysterious interlaced stories all connected with espionage drama takes your mind on a whirlwind journey of anticipation and heartfelt delights. The novel boasts very interesting and thrilling accounts of British aristocracy and upper class specific to their involvements of conspiracy with the Germans which included handwritten letters, invisible ink, micro-photography and secret codes. All with the goal to aid Hitler's assault and wreck havoc on England's facilities. Despite all the heartache and sorrow war and unknowns can bring, we are reminded that "resilience springs from hope, and hope from love." Every history lover will not be able to put this book down as all adult responsibilities were gladly set aside.

--Candace--

For more information visit our website here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Beyond Loneliness

   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:

Cover image for Beyond Loneliness
      - 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 begin a transforming friendship with God" (18). He then takes the reader on a journey through the different aspects of God's friendship with each of us; the facets of it, the benefits, the determinants of its necessity. He explores spiritual disciplines such as prayer and meditation, as ways of growing closer in friendship with God, and what I found the most striking was the way that he considered what he called "Our Friend's Address Book". In other words, the friends of our friend - the friends of God. This offers an excellent perspective on the verse in the Bible which reads 40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me’" (Matt. 25:40). From Hudson's writing, "the least of these brothers and sisters" is an address in God's address book, and a location where we will be able to see and live out the Gospel in everyday life.

   Nathan Foster reviews the book quite well in a couple of sentences: "There is something very inviting about this book. With the heart of a wise and caring pastor, Trevor Hudson effectively creates a safe space for us to work honestly with a topic all humans face. This book will help so many!"

   Aside from a voice of care and guidance, each chapter also includes a friendship exercise and reflection to make the journey from loneliness to friendship a tangible and attainable goal.

   -- Elise --

For more information on Beyond Loneliness by Trevor Hudson, visit our website here.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Practice of the Presence of God


Cover image for Practice Of The Presence Of God
     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 instance, every act, and every moment, through a discipline of service so thoroughly honed as to be renowned even now as inspirational.

--Elise--

For more information visit our website here.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Us Versus Us

Surprisingly, 86% of LGBT people spent their childhood in church.

Gay rights and homosexuality are a hot button topic both in religious and secular circles. Mention one side of the discussion and you are bound to get someone breathing down your neck about how incorrect you are. Even within your circle of belief, there can be disagreement.

Us Versus Us breaks from that in a very refreshing way. Rather than discuss theology, Andrew Marin takes us on a sort of guided tour on this social civil war between the two camps and shows how not so far apart we are. The book draws on the largest scientific survey of LGBT religious backgrounds, beliefs and practices to create a more clear picture of their story. The research is anonymous, but features both quantitative and qualitative information to show the variety of experiences and mindsets out there. Marin uses this information to speak to both sides on the theology of reconciliation and seeking to show Christ's compassion to all. Throughout the book he continually points out that it is not a theological change that needs to happen, but a ministry and heart change.

Both encouraging and heart-breaking, the combination of the survey and personal stories builds a fuller picture of the issue. If you need a starter on the discussion, or are already in the thick of it, I highly recommend you read Us Versus Us. I think everyone needs to read this, to learn to understand what the LGBT community needs from us as followers of Christ.

--Lauryssa--

For more info check out our website here or come in to the store.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Believer's Bible Commentary

A staff recommendation; Brent can be found on and off in our Bible Department. He is a wonderful addition to the House of James family.
Cover image for Believer's Bible Commentary     My wife Jolanda and I prefer the Believer's Bible Commentary because of the richness and depth of it's over all content. There are some commentaries that emphasize a more scholarly type of presentation and investigation and these commentaries are also very popular and valuable.

     We have three Bible commentaries that we have bought from the House of James and I have also looked over some other commentaries that the House of James carries. We also look for a commentary that brings to light our Jewish roots so that context and depth of meaning in our interpretation of Scripture are not lost. The Bible is a complete whole as God intended and you must not divorce the Old Testament from the New Testament. Paul in I Corinthians 10:1-11 is a good example and there are many more New Testament examples.

     All the commentaries have their own good points, but the most consistent one for additional content that can help with personal Bible study or leading a Bible study group, for us has been the Believers Bible Commentary. I will use John 18:5-6 for the comparison and have also included the comments from the NLT study Bible. I bought one for Jolanda and liked it so much that I also bought one for myself. And I am a King James die-hard.

     Comparing John 18:5-6:
1. NLT Study Bible 2008 Second Edition
Cover image for NLT Study Bible Large Print     "18:5
"literally I AM. Jesus identified himself by the divine name God had revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai."

     18:6
"The soldiers and guards all drew back before the Lord. Even Roman soldiers, who were trained not to fall, fell to the ground before the Christ."

2. The MacArthur Bible Commentary
Cover image for MacArthur Bible Commentary

     18:5-6
"When He spoke "I am He", a designation He had used before to declare Himself God, they were jolted backward and to the ground."



3. The Moody Bible Commentary
Cover image for Moody Bible Commentary     18:5
"His reply 'I am He' ('He' is not in the Greek) recalls Jesus' use of the same term to claim deity."
     18.6
"Precisely when He said to them, I am He, his opponents fell to the ground. The collapse of the soldiers came in reaction to a small taste of the divine power of Jesus."

4. The Believer's Bible Commentary
Cover image for Believer's Bible Commentary      18:5
"They sought Jesus of Nazareth, little realizing that He was their Creator and their Sustainer- the best Friend they ever had. Jesus said "I am" (the "He" is not found in the original but needed for English). He meant not only that He was Jesus of Nazareth but that He was Jehovah as well. As mentioned previously, I AM is one of the Names of Jehovah in the Old Testament. Did this cause Judas to wonder afresh, as he stood with the others in the crowd?"

     18:6
"For a brief moment, the Lord Jesus had revealed Himself to them as the I AM, the Almighty God. The revelation was so overpowering that they drew back and fell to the ground."
Best Wishes,

Brent

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Carol Recommends

A staff recommendation! Carol is one of our lovely Giftware Department experts, always welcoming with a smile and ready to help you find exactly what you're looking for, before even you know it.
"Gretl, an orphan girl, finds herself totally alone at age seven. Through harrowing experience she is spared from the concentration camp but life looks so bleak, she wishes she would still be on the train until she hears and sees the smoke from it being blown up.

Cover image for Girl From the TrainJakob is fighting for the Polish resistance and finds Gretl. They become very close but are separated by continents, politics, language, and religion.

Will Gretl ever see Jakob again, and if so, what will become of their relationship?

I dare you to read this book."
--Carol Dyck--
 For more information on The Girl From the Train by Irma Joubert, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The Tangible Kingdom

     The Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay is one of several books of its kind presenting what they might refer to as a "new hope" for anyone looking for a new way of living out God's mission. This book is is a "call for churches to take a leap from their safe environments of their buildings and truly enter into the real world - God's reality".

Cover image for Tangible Kingdom     I read this book for one of my Bible College classes last year and the reviews from the other students in the class were very mixed, which is why I really took an interest in it. The concept of re-defining the way the church gathers in community was one that I had heard talked about, one that I had been in discussion with other people about, but not one I had ever taken the time to pursue on my own. The Tangible Kingdom reminded me in various ways - especially in tone and gentle openness - of the book Messy Spirituality by Mike Yaconelli. While Yaconelli is exploring the ides of personal, spiritual growth and the ways we are perhaps enslaved by tradition, Halter and Smay in The Tangible Kingdom seek to expand the bigger picture. They seek to develop the growth of the church.

     On a spectrum of avid disagreement or absolute consensus, the responses to this book were so varied. I find myself neither here nor there in many ways but my impression of the work as a whole was quite positive. Approaching their ideas with an open mind, Halter and Smay are two experienced followers of Christ always searching for a better way. As with any push back on tradition, there is a certain amount of aversion to their message, but I personally found their ideas refreshing. They are actively pursuing more and more tangible ways to build faith communities whenever and wherever they are.

    "Many faith seekers have tried different churches, methods, programs, leaders, teachers, and styles only to discover that nothing holds their interest." Halter and Smay want to present another possible way, in no way easier, and possibly in no way better than anything else the world has tried before. But they are actively pursuing possible avenues, which is more than many of us are doing, engrained in our places of comfort and ease of living.

--Elise--

     For more information on Tangible Kingdom by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Good of Giving Up

Lent is upon us. The season of giving up. To me, it's always been like the Christian version of new year's resolutions: an attempt at curbing some bad habit, or to try to become more healthy. Aaron Damiani's The Good of Giving Up reveals the season of lent as so much more than that.

This tradition of fasting and prayer before the celebration of Christ's death and resurrection goes way back. While some may say it's not mentioned in the Bible, it is steeped heavily in the teachings and life of Jesus himself, and the Judaic traditions. Damiani delves into the rich history of Lent and gives the reader a quick overview as a basis for understanding it's importance in our lives. With that context in mind, he provides his guidance as a pastor as to the way to approach the season of Lent, not just practically but also spiritually.

The Good of Giving Up reads well, like having coffee with your pastor. Damiani has written with a great heart for the reader to seek God in all of their life, using Lent as just another part of the Christian calendar. At the end he even includes helpful tips and tools for parents and leaders to prepare and lead those under their care for the Lent season.

--Lauryssa--

For more info, check out our website here or come in store.