Friday, June 23, 2017

One Dominion by Paul Richardson and Bob Beasley

One Dominion







One Dominion: Celebrating Canada, Prepared for a Purpose invites readers into an exploratory journey through Canada’s history, highlighting key moments of faith and Christian influence, from the founding of educational institutions and hospitals, to the creation of countless charitable organizations and architectural masterpieces. With inspiring accounts of individuals who founded our country upon the Living Word of God, One Dominion helps readers uncover a deeper understanding of Canada’s foundations and futures, through Scripture and the tests of faith passed by those who have gone before.
(Press description)

With the upcoming celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, there has  been a flurry of Canadian pride and  celebration.  When I heard that the Bible League of Canada had released their own book chronically key points and people from Canada's history of faith I was curious to learn more about this often overlooked aspect of Canadian history.


One of the biggest strengths of this book is the pictures. The gorgeous photo layouts and pictorial timeline give a "coffee table" feel to this book. The bright colours and smart layout make it so easy to pick up and flip through casually when you're short on time. My kids loved seeing the "Canada pictures"and it served as a great conversation starter. That said, I do wish the pictures had been labelled. There were some pictures I would have loved to look up the area or history but couldn't as there was no identifying marks.

It also seemed as though One Dominion suffers from a slight identity crisis. At different points in the book I felt like I was reading a  publicity promo for Canada, others felt  like a history book, still others felt like a Bible League promotional. In the end, it just felt like the book had too many voices and not enough central foundation pulling it together. It was far too  easy to loose track of what the point was being made. In all honesty, I wish there had been more historical stories, especially of the style they used in the inserts. These sections were the textual highlight filled with interesting, personal stories of Canadians of faith and the impact  they had on their communities  as  a result.

While Canada may pride itself on being a mosaic, trying to replicate it within the book just felt too rushed and chaotic. The book needed to be more narrowed down and, perhaps, a few pages longer.

3  out of 5 stars


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

The Captain's Daughter by Jennifer Delamere

The Captain's Daughter


When a series of circumstances beyond her control leaves Rosalyn Bernay alone and penniless in London, she chances upon a job backstage at a theater putting on the most popular show in the city. A talented musician and singer, she feels immediately at home and soon becomes enthralled with the idea of pursuing a career on the stage. That is, as long as the shadows from her past don’t catch up with her.
(excerpt from press release)

Jennifer Delamere's newest series brings adventure, romance, fun historical tidbits and yet, I found myself not loving this story as much as I wanted too.

First the good. 
I enjoyed the concept of the plot and  for anyone who enjoys theater, Delamere has included fun little details that help bring the world of the stage alive. Using Gilbert and Sullivan as an anchoring point was so much fun (although I've had Modern Major General stuck in my head since I finished reading the book). Having done some amateur stage work I loved the backstage details, the tech work, and the way Delamere captures the  life and hard work behind the scenes.

I also found the many plot lines to be engaging and varied enough to give the series enough interest for a healthy start. Although the love triangle is often overused within historical romance, Delamere adds a few twists and turns along the way to make Rosalyn's suitors stand out from other contemporaries.   

That said, I did find myself struggling with a few issues. 

The pacing. The first day takes a full third of the book. The issue that drove Rosalyn to run through the early chapters? Resolved in mere paragraphs without warning or preamble. This seemed  to be a common styling leaving the book feeling too brief and rushed in some areas while simultaneously too slow regarding alternate plot points throughout the course of the book.

I also found the title confusing. While each Bernay girl is a "Captain's daughter" there was very little mention of the  absent sailor, nor did the Captain factor in significantly to the plot. In fact, many of those mentions actually focused on the youngest sister's grief   at his unknown fate not Rosalyn, the title character.

While not the strongest novel I've read this year, there is definitely promise for the remainder of the series.

3.5  stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

With you Always by Jody Hedlund

With You Always


Jody Hedlund is one of those authors who sits on my to read list without ever getting off. With the release of her newest novel With You Always it seemed the perfect time to rectify that oversight.

While there are some plot points that were left frustratingly open for this completionist, if the following books match the interest and skill of With You Always Hedlund has gained another fan.

I really enjoyed the attention Hedlund gives to her plot lines. This could be a weakness if the author doesn't follow through in subsequent novels, however, I found the hints and lead ups for upcoming plots  to be tantalizing in their leading and encouraging in helping me as a reader question and explore how the characters world could expand following the covered events. Characters like Isaiah, Elise's sisters, and the alternate Mr. Quincy all have the potential to hold their own story lines in later books. I appreciate the forethought that these lead ups hint.

I also appreciated Hedlund's skill in research. While I was familiar with the history of orphan trains, I was unfamiliar with the stories of women such as Elise and Fanny during this era and the way Hedlund has fictionalized their realities sparks interest while giving voice to what seems an overlooked aspect of history.

As for the central story, I loved Elise. Honestly, her care and concern for her sisters, the allowance for a slow building relationship over months rather than days, and the inclusion of some friendly sarcasm gave Elise a fuller character. This really helps her to stand out amidst the events she faces in ways that feel true to character rather than mere plot devise.
Yes, the ending does feel a bit rushed but I'm curious how that pacing will play out in light of the sequel.

4 out of 5 stars (with potential to go higher if some loose ends are wrapped up later in the series)

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Imperfect Disciple by Jared C. Wilson



The Imperfect Disciple





Too many discipleship books are written for perfect people who know all the right Sunday school answers.

This book is for the rest of us–people who screw up, people who are weary, people who are wondering if it’s safe to say what they’re really thinking. With incisive wit, warm humor, and moving stories, Jared Wilson shows us how the gospel actually works through us and in us, even when we can’t get our act together. The result is a faith that weathers storms, lifts burdens, and deepens our friendship with God.
(excerpt from the back of book)


The Imperfect  Disciple takes what  most  readers expect in a book on Christian discipleship and turns it on its head in all the right ways. I have read many books in the last few years and most books on discipleship and life growth are at best engaging and at worst exhausting in their never-ending list of things to do. Wilson strikes a fascinating balance in his simplicity - keep pointing back  to the gospel while sharing what you know best. The result is a book that is not only engaging but eye-opening, encouraging, and unflinchingly honest in it's message.

I loved Wilson's method of delivery. 
He's not one to pull punches, stating his case without pretense. However, this directness is tempered  by the  ever present infusing of grace, openness, and vulnerability as Wilson invites readers into the gospel as it  interacts with every day life.

Wilson's background in preaching definitely comes through within his writing as the book is less a to do list (as many books on this topic are likely to fall  back on) and more teaching intermixed and conveyed through story. This allows the teaching not only to feel more personal but also more achievable. Wilson makes the concept of discipleship  not only a possibility but impractical and harder  to not involve in daily life as a Christian.

I really feel this is one of those  books that can be reread multiple times with different gleanings each time one goes through it just due to the  scope of material and the practicality of how life changes as we journey on.

5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Chapel Car Bride by Judith Miller


After a sheltered life in Pittsburgh, Hope Irvine is ready for a new adventure. When her father takes a position as a preacher in a railroad car converted into a traveling church, she’s thrilled at the chance to accompany him. While accommodations in their new chapel car home are tight, Hope couldn’t be happier putting her musical skills to good use and ministering to the people of West Virginia alongside her father. But when their chapel car arrives in Finch, West Virginia, they find a coal mining community that has hit hard times and is suspicious of outsiders
(excerpt from back of book)

The Good:
One thing I know I can count on from Miller is at least one character who will grab my attention. The Chapel Car Bride  is no exception. The character of Luke is so refreshing as Miller chooses to have him visibly wrestling with how to live out his faith in real life scenarios. Luke's imperfections are so relatable (jealousy, family concerns, love) that his character leaps off the page to the point of overshadowing the rest of the cast.

I also appreciated the details Miller put into  the town of Finch to help it find it's foundation. While I am unfamiliar with the realities of coal mining and the towns that sprang up from the workers, Miller walked a careful line to bring her characters realities to life without exiting the narrative. While I appreciate a good world-builders it is so much sweeter when you don't have to exit your immersion in the story to get the details and Miller captures this wonderfully.

The Interesting:

The character of Nellie fascinated me. Although a secondary character, Miller easily allowed Nellie the most character growth and a sequel featuring Nellie would certainly not be outside the realm of possibility. 

The Frustrating:

While I found the plot interesting with  the  mining safety, the love triangle, and the illegal activity threatening the main characters. I found Hope and her father became overshadowed by  Luke and their own story line. This made  them  forgettable at times and left feeling more like plot devices at others rather than the central characters they should have been.

Overall I enjoyed this read. There was ample plot line and world building for an enjoyable afternoon read, however, thanks to the main  character getting overwhelmed by her own plot line, this is probably a one time read for me.

3 out of 5 stars


"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."

Friday, May 26, 2017

Indescribable By Laura Story and Jesse Reeves



Confession time, I'm a  life long fan of colouring books. Whether it was at Grandma's house as a child or curled up with dormmates in college, there is something relaxing and inspiring at bringing pictures to life with vibrant colours. This also means I'm always on the hunt for a good colouring book to add to my collection.

Indescribable by Laura Story and Jesse Reeves tries hard to live up to  its name but I'm going to do my best anyway :)

First Impressions.
 For the sake of full disclosure, I squealed when this book arrived. It is a paper cover but still weighted and feels like solid quality. The  colours are vibrant and shiny (which my two little ones immediately spotted and were drawn to like magpies). The pages are durable with the wonderful added bonus of perforated pages for easy detachment or simple laying flat which can make a world of difference for colouring in small spaces.

Closer Inspection.

One of my annoyances with adult colouring books is their extremes. Either a book is so detailed it takes forever or it's so simplistic there isn't any challenge. Indescribable has pictures on both ends resulting in variety. I love that I can find a picture regardless of my time frame, tiredness, or attention span.  There is also a strong variety in the themes of the pictures. Indescribable takes its cues  from Chris Tomlin's hit song. This means that each page brings to life different lyrics  and elements of the beloved song adding interest and selection that is an unusual highlight for the genre.


Downsides.

I'm not convinced the paper is thick enough to keep some of my darker markers from bleeding through (although pencil crayons colour like a dream). You may also be at risk for humming  Indescribable after colouring for too long ;)

5 out of 5 stars



Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Taking My Life Back by Rebekah Gregory

GREGORY_TakingMyLifeBack_jacket.pdf

On April 15, 2013, Rebekah Gregory and her five-year-old son waited at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to support a friend who was running. When the blast of a homemade bomb packed with nails and screws went off three feet away, Rebekah’s legs took the brunt of the explosion, protecting her son from certain death. Seventeen surgeries and sixty-five procedures later, she finally made the decision to have her left leg amputated.
(excerpt from back of book)

Gregory states early in her book that she sees herself as a survivor and her book bears testament to this statement. Although her book does spend a large portion of time exploring the events which took place at the 2013 Marathon and her following recovery, Gregory also spends much of the book guiding readers through  the life events and challenges that helped shape her into the woman she is today. This ability to see Gregory through milestones from childhood to the present  help bring her response to the 2013 tragedy and events following into a wider context and far more impactful story.

The stories themselves are compelling. Gregory paints her life with passion and is unapologetic in her testimony. There is a real sense of Gregory's heart within these  pages as she speaks of those closest to her, particularly  her little boy Noah. It is here, in  Gregory's ability  to convey emotion that the book shines brightest.

Structurally, the book felt somewhat disjointed at times creating an effect which was jarring in a way that was separate from the content.   This combined with sections where Gregory was still obviously working through the accompanying negative emotions (for example internet trolls) left portions of the book feeling disconnected by presenting very different tones and voices.

Rebekah Gregory is a gifted speaker. For fans of human interest or biographies Gregory's story is well worth the time for its passion and human perspective on a widely known tragedy. That said, the story structure does lend itself more strongly,at times, to spoken rather than written word.

3.5 out of 5 stars

"Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc."