Saturday, March 31, 2018

Water from the Heart

   Water from my Heart by Charles Martin is a fictional yet realistic story, centered around a true story of tragedy, hardship, saving graces, and miracles. It tells of the major impact two men - each of very different character - have on the same group of people. One man seems to have everything but, creates chaos and destruction without thought or care. The other who has little but, with thought and care, creates hope, love, respect, and the feeling of having everything one truly needs.

   The story is based in facts of what happened, in Nicaragua in 1998, when a hurricane settled over Nicaragua and resulted in the explosion of a dormant volcano. Martin lays out details of some of these events in the afterword titled "On Digging a Well", telling the story of a family trapped in their shed and cut off from the rest of the world. A sound like rescue helicopters drew them out of their shelter, only for them to see a wall of water and mud stretching left and right across their line of sight.

   I was so drawn into the story, that when I read about the true story events I just wanted to be able to be there - to help, and to extend to them my admiration of their character.

 
   What an eye-opener.

   It stirred me to reflect on many aspects of my life. Choices I've made. Possible impacts that I may have had on others, good or bad. Indifferences I might have had, on those possible effects. Even more so, the indifferences I might have on the impact on people all over the world, caused by other people, or natural disasters. But, also, the amazing affect that one person can have in a hopeful and loving way, on so many. Which characteristic do I wish to enhance? I feel inspired to keep growing in thoughtfulness and kindness.

   --Lori--

   For more information on Water from my Heart by Charles Martin, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

The House on Foster Hill

   Colleen Coble comments that The House on Foster Hill, by Jaime Jo Wright, is "spellbinding and unputdownable". I think, ringing even truer, is Kristy Cambron's review--"The suspense grips early, holds fast, and doesn't let the reader go until the last satisfying page".

   I had a hard time reading this one at night, truth be told. Jamie Jo Wright has a way with mystery, and writing it in a way that has you looking over your shoulder every once in a while. If that's not your cup of tea, this is a fair warning, but if you're a little bit of a thrill-seeker--even just the smallest bit--this book could be for you.

   The story of The House on Foster Hill is split between two characters--Ivy Thorpe in 1906, and Kaine Prescott, present day--exploring the same location: Foster Hill House. A mysterious and tragic murder starts the story off in Ivy Thorpe's time. She's accompanying her father to where the body is found down the hill from Foster Hill House, stuffed in an old hollow tree.

   Cut to Kaine Prescott. She's just purchased Foster Hill House from a "credible" sourced realtor, only to discover that the building is in a state of such disrepair it's uninhabitable. With the noble intention of renovating the place in her late-husband's memory, she's also horrified to discover that the stalker she was fleeing from in her hometown has followed her to the porch of her new, crumbling house. He's been taunting her with daffodils, and now she finds a picture of her late-husband--who Kaine suspects was murdered--in one of the upstairs bedrooms.

   Has her stalker really followed her all the way here, or is this some twisted copycat? Or worse yet, a troubling set of coincidences further confirming Kaine's spiral into insanity?

   Personally, I see no better way to spend my cold, rainy evenings than curled up in a blanket with some tea, feverishly unraveling the plot of some chilling mystery. Jaime Jo Wright had me hooked with this one. The House on Foster Hill is a brilliant, gripping page-turner, more than fit to be devoured by the next unsuspecting reader.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Forty Autumns

"General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev. Tear down this Wall." --Ronald Reagan
   In history class in high school, I remember dreading the part in the textbook where we'd have to learn about the Cold War. To me, it wasn't very interesting to learn about communism and it wasn't really a war. It was basically two large nations trying to "out-build" the other in atomic bombs and scare each other with them. And it was who could do what in space first.

   Boring.

   To read someone's account of what living behind the Iron Curtain was actually like was eye-opening. It was heart-breaking. In textbooks, you don't read many personal stories. I recognized most of the names who held political offices, but this was so so so different.

   The author, Nina Willner, writes mostly about her mother's life. The book begins just days after WWII ends and her mother, Hanna, and her family are waiting for her father and family and other residents of the little German town that the Soviets are coming to take over, but if you come with us to the West, you'll be free. Hanna's mother tells Hanna she must leave and try to make a life for herself. Hanna reluctantly agrees, and gets on the American trucsk and as it gets farther and farther away, Hanna changes her mind, jumps off the truck, and heads back home.

   And so the reign of communism begins. Hanna eventually escapes into West Germany leaving her family behind. Throughout the story, Hanna hardly ever gets any word through to her family. And as communism grows ever more powerful, the letters get fewer. It's quite the book. Willner mirrors her family's story of survival with what was happening politically in an interesting way. It was very easy to follow what was happening; her maps and timelines at the start of the book also being extremely helpful.

   But at the heart of the book, is hope. Hope that Hanna will be reunited with her family again. Hope from Hanna's mother that the family will see each other again, even if she doesn't live to see it. Hope that East Germany will crumble. It's beautiful. And it's truly a great story.

--Elise F--

   For more information on Forty Autumns by Nina Willner, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Isaiah's Daughter

   "Whips cracked. Soldiers shouted. My feet blistered in a sunbaked wilderness. We kept walking, walking, walking..."

   She's done it again. Mesu Andrews has quickly become one of my favourite biblical fiction authors. Pharaoh's Daughter and Miriam, her previous books, swept me away and made the Bible story I'd always loved come to life (you can read my reviews of them by following those links). And Andrews did it again with her latest novel, Isaiah's Daughter.

   The Hebrews are now a divided nation; Israel in the north, Judah in the south. Israel's ten tribes have bowed to pagan worship. Judah's two tribes, however, have a remnant that cling desperately to their own true God, while the evil King Ahaz rules. The Israelites invade Judah, destroying cities and taking captives in their wake. At five years old, Ishma - meaning "desolation" - has been taken as one of the captives and has witnessed and experienced more than anyone should have to in a lifetime.

   "But Yahweh's plan for her has only just begun."

   Ishma enters into the prophet Isaiah's home as a household servant, but quickly captures everyone's hearts and her lively spirit gains her friendship with Prince Hezekiah, King Ahaz's son. Isaiah sees the relationship blossoming into something more, he adopts Ishma, giving her royal status, and gives her a new name: Hephzibah, "delight of the Lord". She becomes Judah's queen.

   This story took my breath away, as well as the message that quickly revealed itself. What was once desolation, God turned into his delight. When we keep our eyes on him, he is always faithful. This story beautifully captured that essence and warmed my heart, also making me misty-eyed several times.

   The story of King Hezekiah and his faithfulness to Yahweh, even though he was brought up among horrible pagan worship, is inspiring and has become one of my favourites. If you're looking for a beautiful and encouraging read, pick this book up. You seriously won't regret it.

   --Elise F--

   For more information about Isaiah's Daughter by Mesu Andrews, visit our website here.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Problem of God


   "All of the problems of heaven and earth, though they were to confront us together and at once, would be nothing compared with the overwhelming problem of God: That He is; what He is like; and what we as moral beings must do about Him."
-- A. W. Tozer --

    Non-fiction binge-reading isn't the best of practices. You can blitz through a fantasy/fiction novel without paying particular care to each and every phrase, but when it comes to books about God and theology and all-around reality, every mark of punctuation can seem integral - if not downright crucial.

   The Problem of God by Mark Clark is not a book to rush through. Mark is the founding pastor of Village Church in Vancouver. Village Church began from his heart as a result of his transformation from avid Atheist to devout Christ-follower. A core part of his journey has been welcoming and encouraging intellectual questioning and skepticism. In The Problem of God he sets to respond to some of the top questions about God:
  • Does God even exist?
  • What do we do with Christianity's violent history?
  • Is Jesus just another myth?
  • Doesn't science disprove the Bible?
  • Is God anti-sex?
  • Aren't Christians hypocrites?
   Mark is on a mission to confront questions, doubts, and assumptions about Christianity, in skeptics and Christians alike. He argues that Christianity encourages the doubts and the questioning, and even more so, he argues why belief in God and the Christian faith is both rational and compelling.

--Elise T--

   For more information on The Problem of God by Mark Clark, visit our website here.