Wednesday, December 12, 2018

The Greatest Gift

   He shattered the space between heaven and earth and came naked and breakable for you in a creche. Then He lay naked and broken by you on a Cross. If He gave you His Son to save you, will He not give anything?

   Many of you will recognize Ann Voskamp's name in connection to her books The Broken Way and one of my all time favourite reads, One Thousand Gifts. This book, The Greatest Gift, is her invitation to a deep and meaningful Advent season. Ann's poetic and lyrical prose lends itself beautifully to this hope-filled time of year. Her daily readings follow the Jesse Tree tradition of exploring Jesus' genealogy, after the prophecy of Isaiah 11, and she includes a link to download and print Jesse Tree ornaments for the tree to follow the readings.

    There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,
    and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
    And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
    the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and might,
    the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

   With each Old Testament character, from Joseph to Ruth to Rahab to Abraham, Ann reaches into her reader's hearts to expose our hopes, fears, and burdens during the pre-Christmas season that is supposed to be filled with joy, but is often shadowed by the hardships we all face. Her daily readings not only allow these painful feelings but encourage us to dig deep into our souls and discover what God truly has in store for us during Advent. The human story, outlined in Jesus' family tree, is one of heartbreak, sin, and beautiful dependence on God through weakness. Ann allows us to experience the same, guilt free, to grow closer to God this Christmas. As she says in her book, "The places where we're torn to pieces can be thin places where we touch the peace of God."

   I love this book and I love Ann Voskamp. Her style of write, brimming with poetry in every line, as well as her fearless plumbing of the depths of the soul, draw me in every time. This book gives me the wonderful happy thrills you only get when reading a rare and special book. Whatever kind of Christmas season you're approaching - one of loss, pain, joy or celebration - this book will draw you deep into the Gospel story and the heart of God.

   Stars will come in the night sky, shimmer somewhere. Advent will keep coming, this love story that never stops coming. Love like this could make us wonder. Somewhere, carols play.

--Aliah--

   For more information on The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp, visit our website here.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Silencing Insecurity

   This is a beautiful, deeply personal book, because it’s about you. I will warn you, as Donna Gibbs does, that this book will poke and prod at some of the most sensitive parts of your heart. That’s the point: silencing insecurity by exploring insecurity.

   The book is divided into 3 sections: identity (which includes comparison, success, failure, background and more), unnecessary problems (namely mental, emotional, and relational), and lastly "The Necessary Secret" (how to overcome insecurity and move towards wholeness and dependence on God). Each chapter contains questions for journaling titled "Freedom Q & A".

   Some example questions are:

  • How has the enemy caused you to doubt God and to doubt yourself?
  • Have the dynamics of growing up in a single-parent home or a blended family impacted your view of yourself?
  • How have insecurities robbed you of spiritual development? Where would you like to be in relation to God?
   As you can see, these questions and more are sure to open up some very old and deep wounds, but that is exactly what will lead to healing. Although it would still be helpful, a casual reading of this book just won’t do. No, you need to highlight, journal, and make a beautiful mess of this book to get the most out of it. As I journeyed through the first few chapters, I already found myself realising some things that were holding me back, that I hadn’t yet healed from, or that encouraged me deeply where I most needed it.

   Gibbs uses Scripture and God’s promises to show us how to overcome past hurts and the lies that become entrenched in our hearts from our pasts, from society, and from the enemy, to realise our true identity in Christ. Each chapter also contains a “Victory Verse” for memorization to aid you in taking hold of the truth of God’s word as it applies to your life.

   This is a wonderful book for anyone who struggles with self esteem, has difficulties with their past or present situation, or is feeling stuck in their life or spiritual walk. This book contains the Biblical tools for overcoming strongholds in your life. It would also be helpful to anyone wanting to better understand how their identity in Christ should affect their life on a practical level.

   Silencing Insecurity is already changing my life, and I plan to go back to it again and again.

   --Aliah--

  For more information on Silencing Insecurity by Donna Gibbs, visit our website here.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

In His Image

   I'll be honest, I first picked this one off the shelf because it's such a beautiful book. In this case, you can judge a book by its cover! This is one of my favourite books of this year, and I'll be coming back to it again and again.

   In His Image is a follow up to Jen Wilkin's None Like Him. In her previous book she outlined 10 different attributes of God that show how different He is from us. In this book, she goes through 10 attributes of God - holiness, love, goodness, justice, mercy, grace, faithfulness, patience, truth, and wisdom - and illustrates from a Biblical perspective how we as Christians can reflect God's character in these ways to the world, while getting to know Him better.

   Also, in this book, discovering God's will becomes asking the question "Who should I be?" rather than the paralyzing "What should I do?" Wilkin outlines this in the following excerpt :

   "Our inclination is to discern God's will by asking, What should I do? But God's will concerns itself primarily with who we are, and only secondarily with what we do. By changing the question and asking, Who should I be? we see that God's will is not concealed from us in His Word, but is plainly revealed."

   While revealing aspects of God's character, Wilkin reassures us that following God's will is as simple and as impossible as being molded into the image of Christ, rather than our actions and plans for our lives.

   One Goodreads reviewer said she follows Jen Wilkin because she "doesn't make things fluffy and encourages women to use their minds." I agree completely with this statement. I love Christian women's books, but as feelings-based as my personality is, they often focus too much on emotion and inspiring words, and don't have much theological depth. This book is very deep but so easy to understand and apply. It is theology-based and encourages practical, sanctifying study of the Word. Each chapter is shorter than average and contains verses to meditate on as well as questions for journaling and deeper study. A book to read and reread, study, highlight, and take notes on. If you're looking to get to know God's character better, deepen your faith, or are looking for a gift that will inspire and teach a new believer, this is the book for you.
--Aliah--
   For more information on In His Image by Jen Wilkin, visit our website here.

Gay Girl, Good God

"I used to be a lesbian." 

I picked this book up not really knowing what to expect. My first thought was "Ooooh! What a pretty cover!" Then, "Oh wow, I need to know more." And then I began reading, which didn't take me long because it's not even 200 pages. But what is in here is so good and raw and honest and beautiful and chalk FULL of God's goodness and mercy and grace.

Jackie Hill Perry's gets to the nitty-gritty right away in her introduction saying, "A gay girl once? Yes. Now? I am what God's goodness will do to a soul once grace gets to it. In saying that, I know I've already offended someone. I don't assume that every hand that holds this book will agree with every black letter on the pages. There are many who, while reading, won't understand gayness as something possible of being past tense. It is either who you are, or what you have never been. To this, I disagree. The only constant in this world is God." 

Jackie's Hill Perry's story is a unique one for sure. She writes that before she could even spell her name, she knew she liked girls instead of boys. Her father was absent, minus a day here and there, and he told her once that if he never saw her again that he wouldn't be that upset. At age five, she was sexually assaulted at a friends house by the older brother. Then by the time she was 18, she had embraced both masculinity and homosexuality with every fiber of her being. And it was during her second relationship with a woman that she started using drugs.

Then God broke in and changed everything.

I seriously can't get over how powerful this book was. Not just her story, but it made me look at my own life and my own sin, and how I look at the friends and family I know and love that would identify themselves as gay and ask myself, "have I been truly loving them and speaking the gospel, or have I failed"?

After finishing this book, I came out with two big take-aways. The first is that as Christians, who may or may not have people they love who are gay, we need to make sure we are speaking more about Christ to them than hell. As soon as I finished the book, I pulled out my phone and started following Jackie on Instagram. I scrolled through and found a video of her being interviewed about the book and she said that when she was living her life before, all she heard was hell and that's where she would end up if she didn't change. Nobody talked to her about Jesus and his mercy and grace and wisdom. What?! The second would be that we stop making marriage the ultimate goal to hit as Christians. It's wonderful and awesome ( I would know) but it's not the "highest glory" that I think we sometimes preach that it is. To a same-sex attracted Christian, they may (like Jackie) marry someone of the opposite sex, but they may not. They may be called to a life of singleness. And that is OKAY. In both, God is glorified.

I encourage you to pick it up even if you're hesitant. This topic isn't always easy, but reading something that challenges you is important. It helps you grow. And reading someones story, I find, is a helpful gateway into challenging topics.

--Elise F--


For more information on Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry, come in and see us, or visit our website here.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

The Crescent Stone


  
A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . .

That premise hooked me immediately. I was sucked into the reading vortex.

We open with Madeline Oliver; she is desperate to be a normal teenager who is able to breathe on her own. Her life changes when a random, oddly dressed stranger, named Hanali makes her an offer she can’t refuse: a year of breathing in exchange for service to his people, the Elenil who are fighting against the evil Scim.

Are you intrigued yet? 

Well you should be, because this was an amazing read!

It features honest logic, hilarious one-liners, twists and turns, and ridiculous rules of living, such as magical self-cleaning toilets (which leads to one asking where does it disappear to?).

For fans of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, this trilogy is sure to interest those who cannot say no to an adventure. Whilst in this magical kingdom, Madeline and her friend Jason Wu will discover an even greater evil lurking within the city walls. Journey along with them as they discover the true meaning of friendship and sacrifice. We are left wondering if love truly can save the lost and broken?

-Candace

For more information on The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos, visit us in store or check out our website here.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis

I am in love with the United Kingdom. After I graduated from college (which was a miracle considering I was a lot more social than studious...much like my father), my dad took me on a 10 day trip to London. And WOW! What a haven for the history/literary nerds! My dad and I had the best time. From Westminster to the Tower of London to Hyde Park, we explored as much as we could and ate fish and chips to our hearts' content in many of the pubs located in London and everywhere. The British love their pubs. One of the days (I think my dad and I both say it was our favorite day), we traveled to Oxford. The only thing either of us had planned for that day was to explore and find the pub that C. S. Lewis and Tolkien and the other Inklings visited regularly to talk about their writings. When we found The Eagle and Child, both of us could not contain our excitement. We sat down at a random table and ordered. And while we were waiting for our food, as we looked around, we noticed all the plaques surrounding the table we were sitting in, and to our complete and utter surprise, we were sitting in THEIR BOOTH. It was such a surreal experience for both of us and I'm so happy that I got to share that with my dad.

So, really, it's no surprise that I would want to pick this book up and read it. This book was all the more magical because I had been to those places and could imagine Joy and Lewis (or "Jack", as his friends would call him), strolling along in Oxford.

Before Joy met Lewis, she became a Christian (just like Lewis); not because she was searching for Him, but because God surprised her in her great need. After this, Joy wrote to Lewis, hoping for answers to her many questions about Christianity. And Lewis wrote back. Thus began her incredible journey of deep friendship with him that eventually turned into love.

This is Patti Callahan's debut Christian novel. After reading this book, I seriously hope she keeps writing. She wrote so incredibly well that I could picture everything vividly in my mind. I've been a fan of C. S. Lewis my entire life, and the way she wrote his dialogue and described him--I totally get why Joy was so drawn to him. This book was also a story about Joy's entire life, leading up to her marriage to Lewis. She's mostly famous for the end of her life, so to read about what happened before that was so interesting.

 For more information on Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan, come and visit us in store or check out our website here.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved

    Rarely have I seen something so real, raw, and honest as this. When there is no rhyme or reason--God doesn't heal you, and those perfectly formulated formulas of life, love, and the divine don't add up, where does that leave you?

   When Kate Bowler was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer, it tore at the seams of the prosperity-gospel theology she had surrounded herself with. Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved tells her story, "offering up irreverent, hard-won observations on dying and the ways it has taught her to live", and it's what I affectionately call a "bleeding heart". Every chapter, every page, every word is chock-full of so much full, sorrowful, beautiful emotion that I felt like crying every time I sat down with it, just as a way to release the feelings building and twisting inside of me as I read.

   There is no end to Kate Bowler's wisdom, truth, and sheer, raw honesty that I didn't even know I was longing for. Just last week, I came across a cute, catchy Christian saying that echoed the promises we so often tell each other: "With God, you're limitless. Anything is possible. Nothing can stop you from achieving your dreams, your goals...". And then in reading Kate Bowler's story, I read this:
"What would it mean for Christians to give up that little piece of the American Dream that says, "You are limitless"? Everything is not possible. The mighty Kingdom of God is not yet here. What if rich did not have to mean wealthy, and whole did not have to mean healed? What if being people of "the gospel" meant that we are simply people with good news? God is here. We are loved. It is enough."
(p. 21. Bowler, Kate. Everything Happens for a Reason. Penguin Random House, 2018.)
   With God, you're limitless, except when something does stop you. Except when you reach your very real, very tangible limits, and things don't go your way anymore.

   Like Kate, since pondering this disillusionment with the concept of limitlessness, I've become more comfortable with the times when life is no longer under my control (as if it ever really is). Human mortality stares us in the face every day, but in the shoes of someone like Kate, it no longer seems to just stare. It screams. It shrieks. It rages. It becomes a thing so impossible to ignore that the only thing left is to ask the questions: the hard questions, the real questions, the painful questions, the terrifying questions. I've never heard ask them better than Kate does. Her cynicism reads like a breath of fresh air after a long day cooped up in a stuffy house; the hope and grace woven through her words feels like a full, warm embrace.

   This book is a balm for the suffering, wondering why they suffer. And it's so incredibly helpful for those seeking, searching, trying to understand the threat of cancer in their family members and friends. There are two helpful appendices at the end: "Absolutely Never Say This to People Experiencing Terrible Times (A Short List)" and "Give This A Go, See How It Works (A Short List)". They're meant to guide and help those of us who don't know what to do or say, and are in danger of harming our already hurting loved one with our good intentions.

   --Elise V.--

   For more information on Everything Happens for a Reason by Kate Bowler, visit our website here.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Touch of Gold

"Once upon a time..."

Any story that starts this way with those four little words, it is guaranteed that I'll love it or at least like it a lot. I grew up watching Disney movies and reading out of all of our fairy-tale books over and over again till the pages started falling out. I don't know what it is about them, but I love them. I love the adventure, the princesses and princes and frogs, and pirates and treasures and all of it. So when I picked up this book and it started with those four little words I love so much, I knew I had to keep reading to see if it was actually any good.......it was!

If you know anything about King Midas then you're good to go in reading this story. If you don't, then basically its a myth about a king who wishes that he could turn anything he wants to gold. But Dionysus, the god who gave him this "gift", or curse, tricked him: literally everything he touches turns to gold. That's the gist.

Our story begins right before that curse is lifted, when King Midas accidentally turns his daughter, Kora, into gold. After searching out Dionysus to save his daughter from her dreadful fate, the god tells Midas to bring everything he's touched, including his daughter, and go to the mouth of the nearby river before the sun sets that day and submerge everything. And his daughter would be saved. So Midas does this, but in his hurry he forgets everything except his daughter. When the sun sets, Kora is alive but her skin is still a shimmering gold.

And that is only the prologue!

Flash forward ten years and Kora feels like she's never going to find a man to marry her who won't shudder when he looks at her and that she's never going to escape the walls of the palace where her Uncle Pheus and her father keep her locked up. But when a suitor shows up and doesn't recoil when he looks at her, Kora finally begins to have hope that her life won't always be in hiding.

When the palace is robbed of the cursed gold that Midas touched, and needs for survival, Kora sets out with her suitor, to bring back the gold to save her father and the kingdom. As they slowly begin to get to know each other, Kora finds out that people aren't always as they seem.

This book was exactly what I needed after reading several books about WWII and the Holocaust. It was an easy read and swept me away into a fanciful land of pirates and curses and a damsel who starts out in distress but finds her own strength and it's all great. This is Annie Sullivan's debut novel and I give it two enthusiastic thumbs up!

--Elise F.--

For more information on A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan,come in and see us or visit our website here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Salt to the Sea

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys was truly a heart-breaker. I keep telling myself that I need to take a break from the historical fiction and read a simple light fiction or fantasy book; read something that can't possibly be real, because my heart can't handle what the last few books I've read have made me feel. But I'm addicted. So, oh well

Salt to the Sea takes place in winter 1945 and follows four characters whose lives are crossed in the desperate attempt to flee to the coast from Stalin and his soldiers: Joana from Lithuania, Florian from Prussia, Emilia from Poland, and Alfred from Germany. All four fight for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that will transport them to safety and freedom...maybe.

And that's all I'm telling you because I don't want to give anything away.

Most WWII books I've read have been about people running or hiding or fighting the Germans and from Hitler. This is the first book I've read that has been about people running from Stalin to Germany. Getting more info from the Eastern European countries was a welcome change. The war happened to them too but on both sides, each having horrible dictators. This was also the first time learning of the ship Wilhelm Gustloff, which was a tragedy that was six times deadlier than the Titanic, and I couldn't believe this was the first I've heard about it. 

Ruta Sepetys writes amazingly well. The book is broken up into the perspectives of each of the main characters, each chapter being a new perspective on what's happening and why that character is running. And it's so SO good. I did not want this book to end, but at the same time, it took everything in me to NOT skip ahead to make sure that nothing bad happened to the characters I immediately fell in love with. It can't be easy writing a book with four different perspectives to keep track of, and she blew it out of the water. 

When you pick this book up, make sure you have tissues handy because it's a doozy.

--Elise F--

For more information on Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, come in and see us or visit our website here

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Librarian of Auschwitz


'"Running the library requires a brave person..."
Dita blushed. The more she tried to stay still, the wilder her trembling became. Her hands began to shake, too, and she feared the director might think her too weak for the job.
"S-s-so you're not counting on me, then?"
"You seem like a brave girl to me."
"But I'm trembling!" she replied, devastated.
Then Hirsch smiled in his particular way. "That's why you're brave. Brave people are not the ones who aren't afraid. Those are reckless people who ignore the risk; they put themselves and others in danger. That's not the sort of person I want on my team. I need the ones who know the risk-- whose legs shake, but who carry on."
As she listened, Dita's legs began to tremble less.'
(Chapter 2)

I'm just going to jump right in and say that this book is not for the faint of heart. This book is technically a youth fiction novel (based on real events and a real person) but we've moved it into the adult fiction section because of some mature themes and some scarce strong language. And because some of the descriptions are very intense and graphic. This book is a very real portrayal of what actually happened in the death camps to very real people (at the end of the story, there is a "what happened to them" page and it's all very interesting). So even though this disclaimer is out there, I still think youth could handle it. It's not sugar coated to make it easier for us to read, which I think is a really good thing. I'd say ages 15 and up, but every kid is different, so use your (the parent) discretion on what they can handle or not.

The story follows Dita Adler (based on the real Dita Kraus) whose family is moved from the Terezin Ghetto in the Czech Republic to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Family camp in 1944. Dita helps out in Block 31, which is the "school" in Auschwitz, as the librarian. Even though books are illegal in Auschwitz, eight books have somehow made it into the camp and have lasted, and it's Dita's job to take care of them and make sure that the Nazis don't find them. Because to be caught with them is a death sentence. The story follows different characters as well, but you'll just have to read the book to find out their story. :)

This book is amazing. It is SO well written and, I say this about all the books I read and then review on here, but I honestly think that even though it's a "youth" book, I think it's important for you to read. This is a time in history that is awful and sobering and so so important. I never ever want to forget what happened and reading books like this one keep it fresh in my mind...no matter how hard it can be to read.

--Elise F--

For more information on The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe, visit our website here.

Monday, July 23, 2018

The Meaning of Marriage

   The Meaning of Marriage was recommended to me and my husband by someone older and wiser than either of us. Timothy Keller endeavors to show the reader a picture of what marriage could and should be according to the Bible. I believe I will hang on to this book and the wisdom Tim Keller shares, as I grow and learn in love for my spouse.

   With the help of Kathy, his wife of thirty-years, Tim presents biblical arguments and foundations for a healthy marriage, comparing and contrasting his own views with the views of the popular modern culture of the Western world. The Meaning of Marriage is a powerful argument for longevity and commitment; for love and covenant; for Christ-like community in an individualistic world.

   I think my favourite chapter was the one titled "Loving the Stranger". Keller started the chapter off with this quote:

    "We never know whom we marry; we just think we do. Or even if we first marry the right person, just give it a while and he or she will change. For marriage, being [the enormous thing that it is] means we are not the same person after we have entered it. The primary problem is ... learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom you find yourself married."
--Stanley Hauerwas
   It's not the first piece I've read on the topic of how the honeymoon phase of marriage lasts a couple months to a couple years and then fades, confronting the married couple with this reality. Someone else might refer to it as "transferring from in love, to love".

   Each section in "Loving the Stranger" from The Meaning of Marriage unpacked these topics and gave a lot of insight and things to think about in the grand scheme of marriage--in the "for worse" of life, and in the moments when the flaws of your spouse seem to outweigh everything else. Keller puts it this way: "When you got married you saw the gold in your spouse, but as time goes on you see all the impurities" (p.158). The chapter "Loving the Stranger" leads the reader beyond that, and ends with "The Power of Grace--Reconciling" and "The Ultimate Power". Keller talks about grace, forgiveness, and the ultimate forgiveness in Christ as the most foundational, crucial power in the context of marriage.
   "I don't know of anything more necessary in marriage than the ability to forgive fully, freely, unpunishingly, from the heart" (p.188).
   I don't trust my faulty human mind to remember everything that I need to from this book, so The Meaning of Marriage is one I will be keeping on my shelf at home for a long time to come.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The Meaning of Marriage, by Timothy Keller, visit our website here.
 

Monday, July 16, 2018

Fawkes

   I've always had an odd sort of fascination with masquerade masks. I judged this book by its cover, snatched it up, and delighted in the concept. The masks are used to signify an individual who has a level of control over a certain colour, and each colour is used to manipulate different parts of the world around them. It's called Color Power and it leaves a divide so strong between two schools of thought--the Keepers and the Igniters--that a silent war breaks out. Each side blaming the other for the mysterious Stone Plague destroying England's people and beyond, this war is carried out in dark alleys behind masks, with hidden knives. The Igniter king of England, King James, calls for the death of the Keepers--that they should hang by the neck until dead.

   Thomas Fawkes is a young man on the cusp of coming-of-age to receive his mask--if he can pass his Color Test at St. Peter's Color School, and if his father shows up to give him his mask. Unbeknownst to his teachers and most of his classmates, Thomas is a Keeper. What follows is a story of intense betrayal, blackmail, murder plots, value and worth, and the thin line between what is convincing and what is right.

   Fawkes is more than a coming-of-age story. Nadine Brandes asks questions of race, wealth, and politics as she unravels the building war between Keepers and Igniters. She weaves in pieces of history with the story of Guy Fawkes in 17th century London. The first time Thomas Fawkes meets his father, Guy Fawkes, he's plunged into a plot to kill the Igniter king. The plan: to use 36 barrels of gunpowder to blow up Parliament.

   There's a Romeo-Juliet type twist to this story, not to mention a great deal of mystery, suspense, romance, and conviction. The characters are diverse and engaging, and the prose should appeal to teens, especially ages 14-18. Another exciting YA book for the shelves--join Thomas Fawkes in the plot to kill the Igniter King.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Fawkes by Nadine Brandes, visit our website here.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Finding Jesus in Israel

This book is a treasure. I am one of those people who only dreams about traveling to the Holy Land, walking the streets Jesus walked and seeing the setting of His ministry years. While my opportunity to hop a plane and find myself knee-deep in Biblical history has not yet arrived, this book both satisfied and renewed my longing for Israel.

https://images.gr-assets.com/books/1510409104l/36411161.jpgBuck Storm, self-admittedly neither a theologian or historian, uses his skills as a novelist and songwriter to paint a beautiful picture of modern day Israel, with all its contradictions. He shares stories of his many travels through Israel, usually off the beaten path, with vibrant locations and even more vibrant people. Often, his stories of visiting sites from Jesus' ministry are poignant and breathtaking, as is his trip to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus took his disciples in Matthew 16:13-20:

"My group and I sat for a while, lingering in the shade and the echo of His voice, reluctant to move on. Sometimes it's better not to rush. To slow down. To take the time to listen. Once, lifetimes ago, Caesarea Phillipi was an evil place, filled with devils. Blustering gods of nothing. And the Bright Morning Star swept them away with a word and a thought." (Chapter 3)

Buck Storm makes you feel as though you're right alongside him in the dust, crowds, and sacred spaces. This book is a perfect picture of the human experience, combining the humour of differing languages and foods, the lure of history, the romance of the Gospel, the heartbreak of sin. While he walks readers through some popular locations, such as Gethsemane, the pages of this book are also filled with less-traveled sites, where tourists, tickets, and lines are non-existent. He acknowledges the realities of the tourism industry and is successful in going beyond it to show his readers the true Israel.

"And God, whether we choose to recognize it or not, is at the very heart of Israel. So, for me, watching the bread vendor next to the Jaffa Gate getting bombarded by fifty shaloms from fifty happy, footsore tourists isn't a bad thing. The genuine smile on his face tells me he agrees. I'm sure a few shekels in his pocket and five or ten rings of his sesame bread and hyssop being passed around the group didn't hurt either." (Chapter 8)

This book is filled to the brim with larger than life people, personal faith moments, "coincidences," and insights. Storm even touches on several points not often discussed, such as the false, stereotyped view North America has of the Middle East, and the tendency of Western pilgrims to make an idol of the Holy Land and the search for spiritual experiences. I loved this book for two reasons; the first, his descriptions drew me in so strongly I felt I was walking through Israel with him, with all the sights, sounds, scents and heat involved. Second, Storm links locations and Biblical passages in ways I had never seen before. For example, I had never known that when Jesus told His disciples the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church, He was standing near a place known as the "gate of hell," surrounded by pagan Roman idols. It is in the details like this, precious and little known, that the landscape of Israel expands our view of scripture. In this way, Finding Jesus in Israel is like taking your own journey to the Holy Land, from the comfort of your own home.

I was planning on reading just one chapter, to see what this new book was all about, but I found myself unable to put it down. I will be returning to it again and again, especially when I finally get the chance to travel to Israel. If you have even a mild case of wanderlust, this book is for you.

"It's a big, hot, swirling mill of innocence and sin, located within a stone's throw of the scorched remains of biblical Sodom and Gomorrah. The landscape probably looked a lot different in Abraham and Lot's day, but we humans haven't changed a whole lot. I looked out at the water. The Dead Sea. A liquid ghost town. Even the piles of driftwood along the shore looked like bleached bones. On every level, sin and hopelessness blanketed the place. And I smiled. Because I know Him. Because it's always in the deadest places - be it the moonscape of the Negev, the hard-packed earth of a hippodrome floor, or the salty depths of a broken soul - that the God of love insists on breathing new life." (Chapter 13)
--Aliah--

Monday, July 2, 2018

Edge of Oblivion

“Over the admiral’s display, a hollow, flat voice spoke. ‘...has come...Malum has come...Malum has come… Malum has come...’ On the screen, another pale beam lanced out from the sphere and pored over a Ritican militia vessel. The beam receded as quickly as it had come, the militia vessel vanished. ‘Malum has come...Malum has come…”
Image result for edge of oblivion johnston 

  As a lover of science, I find it easy to lose time reading a good science fiction novel and Edge of Oblivion by Joshua Johnston definitely makes that list. Not only is the story line engaging but, with a good basis in the Christian worldview, Johnston has created a world that is so well established within itself you can’t help but believe it could be real. He includes alien races that each have their own distinctive culture and history and yet also have their own messianic figure that taught a very similar message and were persecuted to the same degree. With Earth’s history lost in what is known as the Dark Ages, the “Christ” figure spoken of is Sarco, who came to the Aecrons (EYE-a-cron-s), one of the 5 races that make up the Confederacy, 5 or 6 thousand years before our story begins. 

As the Confederacy is rocked by the destruction wrought by an unknown enemy that seems unstoppable, Naval Commander Jared Carter and his crew are sent on what appears to be a wild goose chase across the galaxy to investigate the fragments of an ancient parchment they hope may hold the key to stopping the greatest evil any of them have ever known.

One of the things I appreciated most was the way Johnston works with the idea of faith. Jared describes himself as ‘not a theist’, but throughout the duration of the story he is both accepting of the faith of others and open to learning from them.

Another is the realistic nature of the faith of the Sarconians, those that choose to follow Sarco. While good and evil are apparent, and the Sarconians are very reminiscent of the early church, there is no ‘holier than thou’ vibe. I can see this aspect appealing to newer believers, teenagers, and those who want to read fiction without feeling preached at.

Throughout the entire book there is one overarching theme that I think is best summed up by one of the Sarconians who ends up traveling onboard Jared’s ship for a time:
“Hope is a powerful thing, Commander. Never forget that.”
--Maria

   For more information on Edge of Oblivion by Joshua Johnston, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Lost Castle

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, summed up in one word:

AMAZING!

I loved this book immediately, and therefore tried to read it at a normal person’s pace… BUT It pulled me in fast and well…. 5 hours was all it took. Time seemed to whirl past me as I furiously read this novel. To be Honest, any historical fiction works have me itching to read them, but I am rather picky about the ones I read. Thankfully Kristy Cambron’s tale did not disappoint!

Bridging the past to the present in three time periods- the French Revolution, World World II, and present day- The Lost Castle is a story of loves won and lost, of battles waged in the hearts of men, and of an enchanted castle that stood witness to it all, inspiring a legacy of faith through generations.

The three different stories all focus on a strong female- Aveline, an aristocrat in hiding during the French Revolution, Vi, who is on a mission and also hiding in Nazi-occupied France, and Ellie, our modern-day heroine who is searching for answers and connecting the secrets of the past.

The descriptions were phenomenal. Everything came to live through the imagery words and it really did feel like a fairy tale, adorned with the most glorious sights and scenes. There are dark and sad moments, but so many happy times too. The theme of the story is faithfully living the life God gives each of us.

While I was preparing for this review, I found out that this book is only the first of a 3 part series, and I honestly let out a squeal of delight! The second book is set to come out in 2019 and is also set in three time-periods BUT IN IRELAND (All the heart eyes)—during the revolutionary era of the late 18th century, Ireland’s turbulent Easter week of the 1916 Rising, and present day.
For anyone who has ever travelled to Ireland knows of its ASTOUNDING BEAUTY with lush sweeping GREEN magnificence. I was breathless during my entire trip there, and it is clear that my immediate fangirling is quite appropriate!

Lastly a huge shout out to the cover designer because both books deserve a standing ovation, they are absolutely stunning!

--Candace--

For more information on The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron, visit our website here.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

If I Live

If I Live is the third book in Terri Blackstock's If I Run Series. This series is a shoe-in for sucking you into a reading vortex, since I read the first two books in 8 hours. I paused life completely. Literally did nothing but read, I think I barely ate that day because that would mean I’d have to stop reading and clearly that would have been the end of life as we know it. So it’s a big deal, folks. Because us millennials love our food, especially all the hipster trends like avocado toast.

Book 2 ended on cliffhanger and I gut-wrenchingly waited 12 WHOLE MONTHS for this last book to finally come out, so if you haven’t read this series yet, you are surely blessed because you won’t have to endure that pain & suffering.

All I can say is WOOWOWOWOWOW.

This was an amazing close to an incredible trilogy. The suspense did not let up and I was left gasping for breath at a couple of points, dying to skip ahead and find out what had happened… But I behaved.

The premise of the series is basically about a girl named Casey Cox, who is framed with murdering her best friend. She is on the run for her life and oh the intenseness of it all. Dylan Roberts is the private investigator who was hired to hunt her down, however he now believes Casey and fights to expose the truth, with hopes of finally freeing Casey. But Detective Keegan is desperate and fighting for his control. He’ll stop at nothing to shut up Casey—and Dylan, and anyone who gets in his way. Death is frequent within the series, as evil is very present within the pages. Murder is a major part of the plot, so the body count is high. LOTS of people die. Some of the violence definitely gets disturbing. I’d only recommend this series for 16+.
GOODNESS! The suspense! I was literally on the edge of my seat reading the entire book. The author tackles tough issues of horrifying evil with hope and justice. It’s not just an incredible page-turner; it’s a story with depth and truth to it.
 
It was such a delight to finally see Casey learn to trust God and to grow in her faith despite her circumstances. I loved the strong Christian message in this book, and the assurance given to readers that nothing is too big for God's sacrifice to offer forgiveness for—but that believers should be ready to count the cost and give up their sins.

--Candace--

For more information about If I Live by Terri Blackstock, visit our website here.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Searching for Sunday

   I think Rachel Held Evans' goal with her book, Searching for Sunday, is to help the reader fall back in love with the church--that is, the universal/international/global church; as in the body of believers that makes up Christ's bride.

   I don't know if it helped me in that at all. I think it was meant to show me the beauty of the church, and there were definite glimpses. But Rachel described to me the indescribable: the mysterious beauty of Jesus Christ and the person he could be to me. She made me want to love Jesus again.

   Searching for Sunday is formatted into seven parts--seven sacraments: 
  1. Baptism: the church tells us we are beloved
  2. Confession: the church tells us we are broken
  3. Holy Orders: the church tells us we are commissioned
  4. Communion: the church feeds us
  5. Confirmation: the church welcomes us
  6. Anointing the Sick: the church anoints us
  7. Marriage: the church unites us
    (Evans, Rachel Held. Searching for Sunday. Nelson Books: Nashville. 2015. p.xvii)
   This is the account of Rachel's journey through loving, leaving, and finding the church again--this is how she chooses to portray that journey. Each of the seven sections hold chapters that bring out each sacrament in all of their unearthly beauty. I was captivated by every word, sentence, and page. More than once, this account tugged at my throat and brought tears to my eyes.

   I expect I'll be coming back to this book over and over again in the years or--Lord willing--decades to come. When I find myself floundering, lost, and falling away, Rachel may have found the words to prop me back up on my feet again.

--Elise T--

   For more information on Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans, visit our website here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Heart Between Us

The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel opens with this:
"That's why she had me write a bucket list... twenty-five things that will make my future brighter, that will stop giving my memories so much power over my life.
I've been in therapy for seven years, but I still struggle. Not every day--like at the beginning. But sometimes still, the memories sneak up on me when I least expect them. They drag me down and pull me under like a riptide. And even though I long to fight them, my arms and legs gets tired. I grow weak.
In those moments, I'm maybe kind of okay with letting and drifting away, allowing the sea to carry me wherever it wants to go. But now when that happens, I have a new tool. I can try and focus on the dreams, the plans, the goals I have. And say, "Not today. I won't let you rip them from me."
It's not necessarily about avoidance or forgetting. There are some things you never forget.
Instead it's about learning to swim parallel to the shore, to be one with the waves, with the pain. To replace weakness with strength, fear with hope.
Hope can be my rescuer. If I let it."
Megan Jacobs was born with a weak heart, and spent her childhood in and out of hospitals while her twin sister lived the perfect life, playing sports, getting the guys, and having fun. Flash-forward to her adult years, Megan has received a heart transplant, but still lives in constant fear. When Megan's heart donor's parents give her their daughter's journal, she is drawn to the young woman's unfulfilled bucket list. Megan decides to take a leap of faith and complete the list, but it is the biggest shock when her twin sister decides to join her on this trip of a lifetime.

While the two estranged sisters visit Inca ruins, tour a Celtic castle, and swim near the Great Barrier Reef, it is here where Megan finally fights the fears and resentments of a lifetime of illness and even begins to see the less perfect side of her sister. Running with the bulls in Spain is one thing, but can Megan risk opening her new heart to her sister, and maybe allow herself to fall in love and pursue her dreams?

I don't often read realistic fiction, I prefer historical fiction or biographies. But I decided to shake things up a bit and see if this book surprised me.

It did.

It spoke great volumes to me, although it wasn't the most amazing book I have ever read, it brought up past memories and experiences that I've buried down for a while. The prologue spoke to me on a very emotional level, not just for myself but it helped show me a perspective of a family member. The novel weaves Christ’s transforming power of reconciliation and demonstrates His love through our everyday walks of life. And I think sometimes a book isn't meant to move or change oneself, but it can help you change your perspective on a matter and shed light onto another's life.

We are called to live out out Christ in every aspect of our lives. All we need is the courage to take that first step forward.

--Candace--

For more information on The Heart Between Us by Lindsay Harrel, visit our website here.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The 49th Mystic

   When Ted Dekker released the final title, Green, in his four-part series called The Circle, I thought that would be it for Thomas Hunter and his dreaming dance between worlds. I devoured that series like the book-monster that I am, and the subsequent parallel series of seven called The Lost Books. That he would release yet another book tied into this dream-world wasn't anywhere in my horizon of hopes or daydreams, and yet here we are:

   The 49th Mystic.

   This is book one in a two-part series called Beyond the Circle, and the second book is supposed to release this Fall, 2018. I snatched up The 49th Mystic and finished it in two days, and while it did start slow, the signature breakneck-pace that I've come to expect from Ted Dekker shone through. At about the 1/3 mark, the story really picked up and didn't stop again until the very last, exquisite, jaw-dropping, cliff-hanging page.

   The 49th Mystic follows a young blind woman named Rachelle who dreams of the same world where Thomas Hunter fell through some years ago. The desert, the Horde, the Albinos, the Roush, the Shataiki--everything that makes the world of The Circle--shows up again in this hugely-anticipated sequel. Dekker takes his time at the beginning setting his stage and introducing Rachelle to the two worlds, and then he takes us on another ride-of-our-lives adventure that won't stop until several months from now.

   I don't know how I'll hold out until the fall to find out what happens next, but I'll be there, clawing and drooling or whatever, as soon as the next book is out.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The 49th Mystic by Ted Dekker, visit our website here.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Everybody Always

I had the privilege about five years ago to meet Bob Goff. If you are familiar with Bob and his book Love Does, he talks about his lodge that he and his family built up in an inlet on the Sunshine Coast of B.C. It so happens, there is a Young Life camp maybe a mile away from his lodge. While working up there as a Summer Staffer, on one of our days off we got to go to his lodge and sit in his living room and hear him tell his amazing, and often crazy, stories. I think we got this opportunity because Bob's son Adam was on my Summer Staff team. It's one of my absolute favorite memories from one of my favorite summers.

If you've ever wondered what Bob is actually like, stop wondering. If you've read either Love Does or Everybody Always he is exactly the same. He writes exactly how he talks. And he's the most hilarious, loving, excited-about-life guy I think I've ever met.

Reading Everybody Always is like sitting at a table in a coffee shop with Bob while he tells you story after story with little lessons thrown in. And although the lessons might seem little, they pack a serious punch. What seem like big ideas and theology the church sometimes throws at us, Bob simplifies it in such a way, that loving people that bug us or loving people we don't understand doesn't seem like such a hard thing.

Everybody Always is all about "becoming love in a world full of setbacks and difficult people", and what that actually means. All Jesus wants us to do is follow in his footsteps: Love EVERYBODY, ALWAYS. We don't have to agree with everything someone says, but we do have to love them anyway. They could be fifty kinds of wrong and annoying, but we're supposed to love them anyway. In a world that is very concerned about sexual identity, feminism to the extreme, and whether you're a Democrat or a Republican (I'm American and this has been a HUGE deal in the last few years), as Christians, we are called to love everyone always.

I've repeated that a lot, and Bob does too in this book, but it's so so so important and I don't think many Christians have loved everybody always. I haven't. Many want to be right, so they argue and fight and demean. But that's not at all what Jesus taught or wanted us as his followers to do.

This book is fantastic and hilarious and convicting and so important.

--Elise F

For more information on Everybody Always by Bob Goff, check out or website here or come in store and check us out!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Knife

   Definitely a new kind of "fairy" tale--quite literally! Knife, by R. J. Anderson is the first installment in a three-part series about a race of faeries that make their home in a monstrous oak tree, and the way their lives intermingle with the human society around them.

    The young faery in this tale is a fierce, independent soul with an unquenchable thirst for adventure. She goes by several different names in the story, but Knife is the name that she holds most dear. As the youngest faery in the Oakenwyld, the area of the humans' backyard the Oakenfolk call their home, Knife is at the mercy of every other faery in her home. Bargaining is the only way to make anything happen in this culture, and she must bargain the worst of the chores around the Oak for anything and everything she needs or wants.

    When the Queen calls her to ceremony to receive her lifelong task or career, she's completely surprised--and eventually delighted--to be named Queen's Hunter. The Queen's Hunter is one of the only faeries allowed outside of the Oak, and Knife has always dreamed to fly free in the open air ever since she was small. But with her position comes a great deal of responsibility and danger, and it takes everything Knife is to keep herself and the dwindling population of her fellow Oakenfolk alive.

   R. J. Anderson weaves an exciting and mysterious story--her characters struggle with their reality as they unravel the past they thought they knew and discover secrets that were perhaps best left hidden away. Knife must learn how to fend for herself, how to fight for herself, and then she must learn how to let down her guard and trust, time and time again, which is no easy task for someone so independent.

   Anderson does a fine job of defining and intertwining cultures, individuals, and life experiences. She writes with a lyrical prose, and the grace and compassion of a woman wise beyond her years. I wouldn't be surprised if I snatched up anything and everything she ever wrote, from now until the end of time.

   --Elise T--

For more information on Knife by R. J. Anderson, visit our website here.

Monday, April 23, 2018

The Gospel of Trees: A Memoir

   There is a note of heaviness to this book. The Gospel of Trees is a memoir written by a woman named Apricot Iriving, eldest daughter of missionary parents to Haiti. She weaves heartbreak through the story of how she grew up, moved to Haiti and back, and back and away again. She falls in and out of love with the home of her childhood, the prison of her teenage years; the best and worst things that could have happened to her when her parents decided to upend her world.

   There's an overall tone of hopelessness to this story, and yet by reading it, I feel as though I have been freed of questions and anguishes that have plagued me since I donned the mantle of missionary kid when I was seven years old. How do we respond in the face of such blatant, crushing, impossible poverty? How do we respond to our own privilege? Am I lording my white privilege over the other races of the world? Have I grown up believing I was better because I was born into more money? And whether stated, or implied on purpose or by accident, I think something that Apricot Irving's memoir stresses is that richness cannot be measured only by money. There is so much more to the world than material wealth.

   The Gospel of Trees is, in a sense, an exploration or what happens when people who want to help try to force themselves on another culture, assuming that they know better when they know nothing about the culture they are "educating" in the first place. This is a major, gigantic, dangerous flaw in the realm of Western Christian mission that can and should be addressed. So often, well-meaning people enter a world in which they don't speak the language, they don't know the customs, they don't agree with the religion, and they desperately want to help. Why do we assume that we can help in the first place, and that our form of helping won't do more harm than good?

   It is possible to damage with our good intentions. It is hugely possible to do great harm under the banner of selflessness and altruism. It is possible for men and women to do evil in the name of Christ, whether they intend for it or not. The Gospel of Trees is an illustration of good intentions gone wrong, and the entitled help of privileged people ravaging a country already riddled with suffering.

   Are we entering the places and situations we live in with humility? With questions? Are we leaving our assumptions and pride at the door to make sure we're not accidentally harming someone by bringing in a good system that, plainly, will not work in the situation we're in?

   This book is not an easy read for people who have lived under or around the mantle of missionary. I don't know how many times Apricot Irving's incredible prose made me cry hot, painful tears, and I cannot imagine how depressing and crushing the narrative might be to missionaries living internationally, or returned "home". But as a missionary kid, The Gospel of Trees gave me permission to confront the questions and pains I had tucked away. The Gospel of Trees breathed calming breaths into my fears and allowed me to look up and out again. The Gospel of Trees was a great, massive weight lifted from my shoulders by the gentle chisel of Apricot Irving's stunning words. Through this book, she has given me a gift:
   "I offered [her] the benediction that an irreverent and holy vicar in London had given me: Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Go in peace.
   We clinked glasses.
   The missionary mantle, prickly with expectation, was not easily shaken off, and yet it had been our baptism into sorrow and beauty."
(The Gospel of Trees. Apricot Irving, 2018. p.348)
   Forgive yourself, forgive others, and go in peace. That is what I would like to learn to do.

   --Elise T--

   For more information on The Gospel of Trees by Apricot Irving, visit our website here.