Book Review Submission Guidelines

I know that it's nice to have someone say warm and fuzzy things about our books.  I like it just as much as anyone.  That is not the purpose of a review.  A review is done so that someone in the publishing and writing industry can give their opinion on any particular book.  When we review a book we look for things like plot continuity, word flow, redundancy, credibility, characterization and, of course, grammar, spelling and punctuation.  No one is perfect so no book will be perfect.  A reviewer reads with the idea of rating that book against the above mentioned criteria.  Since I am well aware of the over-sensitive nature of the writer and I know how difficult it is to write a book, I will not post a negative review.  Having said that, it doesn't mean I'm going to white-wash my reviews.  No.  I will simply review only the books I have thoroughly enjoyed.  A review can be a wonderful marketing tool or it can be the mark of death for a book depending on the kind of review given.  I will not undermine another writer's work and that is why I won't post reviews for books I didn't enjoy or didn't find particularly well-written. 

If you are offended because you know I have one of your books and have not reviewed it here--too bad.  If you wish, I could do the review and justify your offended feelings.  Let's just look at it this way: I won't write something that damages your work and only you and I will ever know that I didn't enjoy the work.  You can feel free to email me and ask me what my suggestions are for improving your writing and I will be happy to do so.  If you are looking for a perfect review, give the manuscript to your mother.

Lynne Collier

           Raising Benjamin Frog by Lynne Collier (ISBN 9781494443795) is a fun and educational read.  While there are parts of the books that tug at the heart strings, Ms. Collier has presented her life, as the parent of a child with autism, with humour. 

            Ms. Collier directs us to her son's unique personality traits and tastes in music, education styles and love for quoting Monty Python characters.  She leads us through her journey with the education system, telling us with candidness what works and what doesn't.  She shares her frustrations and the triumphs Benjamin experienced and leaves us with a sense that more could be done in order to understand this misunderstood condition.  We are left seeing Benjamin as a complete person, capable of brilliance and resolute in overcoming personal barriers.  We are challenged to look within at our own struggles and stop making excuses for them. 

Raising Benjamin Frog is filled with practical tips and insights that are seldom conveyed through the medical industry.  This book is a must read for anyone who has a relative, friend or acquaintance with autism.  Raising Benjamin Frog can be found at amazon.com, or at the author's website at LynneCollier.com. 

 

T. G. Cooper

The Pastor Who Hated Church By T. G. Cooper Reviewed by Donna Fawcett www.donnafawcett.com Few novels have caught my attention like this one. Few novels can carry off such a touchy subject as church leadership while making the reader laugh and, well, keep reading. Author, T. G. Cooper presents us with a common scenario. He introduces us to Pastor Elvis Jung, new seminary graduate about to face his first church position. If anything could go wrong in a pastor's first church, it does and Jung scrambles to keep pace. In his second church, the pendulum swings the other way. Instead of being a 'we don't do things that way' church, it's an 'anything goes' church. Jung hungers for the kind of Christianity the Bible portrays. Cooper brings a personal perspective into the story. While he writes that he is not the character in the book, he is a Pastor and, I'm sure, has his own experiences of the challenges that coming with leading imperfect people. Cooper writes with a clipped style and laces the book with dry humour. I laughed my way through this tale while never losing sight of the sobering reality of flawed humanity within the church. It's a fast read and well worth the time taken. The Pastor Who Hated Church can be found on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Pastor-Who-Hated-Church-Redemption-ebook/dp/B00KWNBBAS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1403782747&sr=1-1&keywords=the+pastor+who+hated+church

Heaven's Prey

Heaven's Prey by Janet Sketchley (Choose Now Publishing)

 

Review by Donna Fawcett

Former creative writing instructor

Award winning novelist

www.donnafawcett.com

 

            For those who love a good redemption story this is the book for you.  Heaven's Prey (ISBN 978-0984781645 Choose Now Publishing 317 pages) isn't a light read nor is it for the faint of heart.  Thick with emotion, it has that edgy feeling suspense novels are supposed to have.  There is a comfortable predictability about the story making the difficult scenes easier to read.

            Enter Ruth.  She has lost her niece to a serial killer and is struggling with forgiveness.  Her therapy?  Prayer.  Her husband Tony doesn't share in her methods and is irate at her church prayer group for encouraging her prayers for Harry Silver. 

            At first I wanted to say 'It's not possible!' when Ruth gets kidnapped by the same man in a chance meeting at a convenience store.  But life is stranger than fiction and so I read on. I wasn't disappointed.  

            Just when we think Ruth is going to escape we are hit with the choice that all Christians are called to face—can we forgive?  Can we love as Jesus loved? 

            There are some good twists in this story and some faith building moments.  The dialogue is real for the most part and the writing skill is well practiced.  I would suggest italics when the character is thinking and noticed this hadn't been done.  While it isn't required, I have found that this is the clearest way of indicating thought process.  The flashbacks were done well but I caution all readers to use them sparingly.  (I didn't and it gave me a headache when I read my own book years later.)

            I liked this story because it kept me interested without the need for gore and description of crimes committed.  Hollywood would do well to realize that the best plots are ones that don't need sex scenes and graphic violence.  Heaven's Prey gave me the edge of my seat feeling without telling me more than I wanted to know.

            I would certainly recommend the book to teens and adults.  Heaven's Prey can be found at:

 " target=_blank>

Violet Nesdoly

" target=_blank>Destiny's Hands

Review by Donna Fawcett

2013-07-10

 

 

            The Bible is rich with stories about people from all walks of life.  It's easy to dig into the history of those who are best known but what about the secondary characters?  Author Violet Nesdoly has taken on the task of ferreting out the details of the life of a little known man named Bezalel.  Raised in the days of Moses, this talented man was called by God to create the accoutrements for the tabernacle.  We don't think much of him since his mention in scripture is brief and yet, Nesdoly, through research and imagination has managed to weave a story of his life in her novel Destiny's Hands (Word Alive Press ISBN: 978-1-77069-452-1). 

 

            If I have any criticism of this 203-page book, it would be that it is too short.  Nesdoly's writing voice is that of the non-fiction writer—tight and crisp.  I found myself wanting far more details—more words to keep me reading. 

 

Nesdoly used her skill as a researcher effectively, giving us a look into the world of the book of Exodus.  Her writing craft has been well-honed leaving the reader with a well-planned story line, clear and smooth flow from scene to scene and very rounded characters.  I now have faces to put to names as I read the account of Moses. 

 

Her story follows the life of Bezalel up to the building of the tabernacle.  As he struggles to free himself from bondage to the love of his position as idol craftsman in Egypt we become aware of just how difficult it must have been for the Israelites to give up the known for the unknown.  We walk with him through romance and through the challenges of upholding his new faith.  We see him as he learns about mercy and grace and God's incredible love.

 

Nesdoly has done a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the era and pulling the reader into it.  This is a book that could be enjoyed by all.  Violet Nesdoly can be found at her website.

Benjamin Collier

" target=_blank>My Life A.S. Is

Review By Donna Fawcett

(c) 2013

            Too often, the world views autism and its variations as a form of disability or disease.  Not so, says author Benjamin T. Collier, in his book My Life A.S. Is (Word Alive Press, ISBN 978-1-77069-778-2).  Mr. Collier should know since he is one of the many born with severe autism and later diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.  He states in his book about his life as an autistic that he feels it's a personality trait as much as anything—a characteristic that makes him a specialist in a world where specialists aren't always welcome.

            This 122-page book is a fresh look into the minds of those who don't see life the way the rest of society does.  Mr. Collier can be honest to the point of refreshing bluntness.  While some readers might not like some of his points, especially in his analysis of women, he is able to soften them with his good humour. 

            Mr. Collier shares the frustrations of a mind which doesn't grasp hints, sarcasm or innuendo.  He allows us into his feelings and thoughts and gives us an understanding of the genius that walks side by side with the shortcomings.  He shows his journey to the cross and the child-like faith that comes easy. 

            There were moments where his honesty caught me off-guard—when he talks about the social cruelty women can display—when he shares his thoughts on modesty and humility.  I can't disagree with him and that in itself was worth the read.  He challenged me to look at those around me—and myself—through eyes that refuse to see double meaning but only what is truly there.  It was refreshing and pointed and very, very good. 

            My Life A.S. Is is a book I would recommend to anyone.  To be able to glance inwardly with such an uncalculated prompt is a gift.  Mr. Collier guides the reader into a place where they can acknowledge they are human and need a Saviour.  Readers can find Benjamin Collier at benjaminfrog.wordpress.com.

T. L. Wiens

 

 

In Search of Truth                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Reviewed by Donna Fawcett

I am always a bit nervous when I am given a book by a fairly new author and a very new publishing house.  I was no less nervous when I received T. L. Wiens' novel In Search of Truth (ISBN 978-1-927510-02-5 Dream Write Publishing--336 pages)My nervousness often has good reason for being there.  Usually a new company doesn't understand the industry and makes mistakes which affect the writer.  Picking a poor cover, choosing an unusual font, using a strange format or inserting icons onto the page which distracts from the reading are all examples of mistakes I've seen made.  Those mistakes are then attributed, by the reader, to the person who wrote the story which then affects future works.  A poor cover is especially a big faux pas since it is the first contact with the reader.  If it is ugly, busy or bland, the reader isn't interested.  Icons and formats are smaller issues since the reader is already interested in the theme of the story.  In this case, I would say the company has kept their errors to a minimum allowing me to actually read the book with a critical eye.  And read it I did--pretty much all in one sitting--something I rarely do since time is at a premium for me.  That, in itself, should say much.  Overall, it has my blessing (not that the author and publisher should really care that my blessing has been bestowed).

This is a novel that should be passed around schools for a number of reasons.  We have the victim--a girl named Shevie.  She is a perfect example of the lost masses we are called to reach.  We have two different types of Christians--the ones who help people to get the pat on the back and the ones who truly care about people and aren't interested in publicity.  Then we have the bystanders--people who see tragedy in action and do nothing to prevent it.  Sometimes these characters overlap. 

I love how Ms. Wiens helped the reader understand that addiction is often formed in the womb and a child can crave drugs, alcohol and cigarettes from birth.  I am equally thrilled that Wiens addressed that the church is too often unwilling to meet people where they are at--that they think they need to 'clean everyone up'.  Wiens makes it plain that change belongs to God and we are here to show his love--not to enforce that change.  Wiens doesn't pull punches.  She deals with many social issues.  Substance abuse, wife beating and street life are all core themes in this book. 

I have had the opportunity to read a few of T. L. Wiens' manuscripts and can say that her writing continues to mature.  Each story shows improved editing, better plot flow, richer characterization, clearer point of view--all the technical things which separate a professional writer from an amateur.  Wiens has written a novel that has the chance to make a difference in people's lives.  In Search of Truth is a book I will pass on to my grandchildren when they are of age to understand the importance of it.

 

Jayne Self

" target=_blank>Death of a Highland Heavyweight by Jayne Self         

Review by Donna Fawcett

 

            Jayne Self does it again.  Author of the mystery novel Murder in Hum Harbour, Self has managed to create another tale from the cozy coastal town of Hum Harbour.  Her newest book, 270-page Death of a Highland Heavyweight (ISBN: 978-1-61116-196-0 Harbourlight Books) continues to follow the same characters while weaving a whole new murder mystery. 

 

            Self is a gifted writer, salting her stories with just enough wit and humour to keep them light while packing a wicked punch for the mystery lover.

 

            Her character, Gailyn MacDonald, is cajoled into heading up the preparations of Hum Harbour Daze, the annual festival, while trying, on her own initiative, to solve the death of caber tossing champion Claude Oui.  There are more twists in this plot than in a piece of barbed wire but those twists all make sense in the end.  We also get to enjoy the growing romance between Gailyn and her fiance, Geoff.  Of course, her family is involved which adds to the depth of characterization and gives this series the chance at becoming a household name in the same way as Miss Marple's stories did.

 

            If Self continues to write her Sea Glass Mysteries, I will continue to enjoy them.

Marcia Lee Laycock

" target=_blank>A Tumbled Stone by Marcia Lee Laycock

Review by Donna Fawcett

 

In most cases sequels tend to be a bit less in so many ways than the first book.  Not so with A Tumbled Stone (ISBN 978-1-77069-455-2 Word Alive Press) by author Marcia Lee Laycock.  This 224 page sequel to One Smooth Stone has improved on a number of levels.  The author has polished her writing style and this novel has a more professional and fluid tone to it.  The technical side of it is far superior and Laycock has done a wonderful job of telling her story the way it should be told. 

 

While I enjoyed One Smooth Stone, I was far more 'in to' A Tumbled Stone.  It had more credibility.  Its characters were far more life like.  I understood the faith message without feeling as though I had sat in on a lecture. 

 

Laycock's plot kept me hooked from beginning to end.  I found myself aching for Andrea Culvert as she struggled to feel loved.  I felt the edge of the suspense of the story as she and her brother came so close to meeting so many times. I cried over the words in her foster mother's diary.

 

This is, by far, the best writing I have read by Laycock.  A Tumbled Stone is a novel that would be enjoyed by teens and adults alike.  It carries a powerful message of endurance, hope and real love. 

 

 

Carol Harrison

            We are told by modern day unbelievers that there is no proof of God.  I challenge them to read Aimee's Story (ISBN: 155452468-7 Guardian Books) by Carol Harrison (http://www.carolscorner.ca).

 

            Medical science would tell us that a child who suffers a stroke at birth is very unlikely to live but Aimee Harrison would tell us that they are wrong.  They would say that such a child would never learn to write or read, to walk or run, to think cognitively but Aimee and her family would argue that--and would win.  

 

            Aimee Harrison is the star of Aimee's Story and is everything that medical professionals said she would not be.  I have had the privilege of meeting this miracle woman and am overwhelmed by God's great power in her life.

 

            Carol Harrison is Aimee's mother and tells the story of her birth, of the frightening weeks following her stroke, of the divine miracles, the medical triumphs and bungles, the sensitive professionals--and the insensitive ones as well--the complete journey that tells us that God is not only real but is definitely in the business of working miracles.  This book holds no punches.  While Harrison does her best not to criticize, we are not spared the details of medical and educational failures.  In the same way, she shows overwhelming appreciation to those who championed Aimee's cause.  We meet the medical teams and educational teams who saw God's hand at work and knew they were to be part of the process. 

 

            Aimee's Story is one of hope, of God's love, of learning patience and grace and forgiveness.  It is a story that will help us to remember that we are not alone in a world that can sometimes seem harsh.  Thank you Aimee and Carol for sharing that story.

 

            I recommend this book to teens and older.

Tammy Wiens

            Some books are great because of their literary technique.  Others are great by the message they offer.  Where a Little Rain Comes Down (ISBN: 978-1-4257-7175-1 Xlibris) by author Tammy Wiens (http://tlwiens.webs.com) is in the latter category. 

 

 

            Few authors are willing to take on the truly challenging issues of life--issues such as prostitution and the effect it has on society.  Ms. Wiens is one of those authors who goes there.  There were moments in the book where transitions and point of view were not as clear as could have been but the overall story was a compelling one--a story that superseded technical flaws.  The plot is one that keeps the reader engaged.  It is a plot that breaks the heart and seeks to mend it.

 

 

            The story follows the life of a young girl named Rain.  She is a result of prostitution--born into the life and branded by all the stigmas society can throw at her.  We see so many facets, in this book, of what is reality.  We have the judgemental church and the people who feed that judgementalism.  We have the victims and perpetrators of heinous crimes against humanity.  We see the villains as more than just villains--as victims who learned how to survive--and their victims are not completely innocent either.  We are walked through the flaws of a religious mind-set; the guilt that is used as a manipulative tool; the pressures that we often put on one another and ourselves. 

 

 

            But, ultimately, we see God and He doesn't abide by our rules.  Where a Little Rain Comes Down is a book that drags the hypocrisy of mankind under the bright light of God's mercy, grace and love.  We are forced, when reading this book, to acknowledge that we are flawed and that it is only through Christ that we can be made whole. 

 

 

            I recommend this book for young adults and older.

C. R. Wilker

            Once Upon a Sandbox (ISBN 978-1-897475-69-0 Hidden Book Press) by author C. R. Wilker is one of those books that settles on a reader much like a warm wool blanket on a cold winter day.  I'm not usually one to find myself reading autobiographies but I enjoyed this one for a number of reasons.  First, it reminded me of my own childhood--the simpler life; the closeness of family.  Second, it has none of the modern day over-the-top drama and that allows the reader to relax and recognize that life isn't always a fast-paced highway.  Sometimes it's a gentle meander down a back country lane.  Third, it is a documentation of an era that is quickly being swallowed by the high tech life style.

 

 

            Written in first person point of view, this book isn't just limited to the author's life journey.  The reader is given the stories of all the characters in Ms. Wilker's life and that is what makes Once Upon a Sandbox a charming read.  This book would be good for those who wish to reminisce or those who wish to learn about a previous generation.

Caroline Way

Review by Donna Fawcett

 

            Confessions From a Farmer’s Wife (Greenbrier Books ISBN 978-1-937573-08-9) is a not-so-subtle rewrite of the book of Job.  Author Caroline Way sets the novel in small town America in the early 1900’s.  This is no ordinary retelling however.  Way is talented at creating a story.  Each segment is crafted by a gifted writer in such a way that the reader truly does insert into the tale.

            Way’s settings weave a place in one’s mind in such a way that we are not aware that it is happening until we are there experiencing it.  Her suspenseful moments are life-like.  Her romance isn’t the contrived, fluffy nonsense that seems to inundate the market these days.  She doesn’t rely on props to make the book happen—no need for sexual description—no convenient miracles—no falling back on what has worked for others.  She simply tells the story as it comes from the book of Job. 

            In this tale, we are walked through the life of Job’s wife, Jessie.  We see the story through her eyes and in first person.  It begins at the beginning—Jessie’s earliest memories of meeting Job by the creek near his farm.  The beauty of this story is in Way’s ability to fill in the cracks of the Biblical account. When reading the story of Job in the Bible it is easy to ignore the magnitude of the disasters which befall him.  Not so in this account and Way is masterful at making it all credible.  No reader can say this could never really happen. 

            If I have any complaint about this 370-page novel it would be that the cover and title really don’t fit.  When I first picked up the book my immediate impression was that I would be reading a true life account of the sometimes unbelievable and silly things that happen when dealing with livestock—in the same manner as the James Harriett books of decades ago.  It was more than jarring to discover that the cartoonish face and the bland title were about a modern-day Job and his wife.

            If that is all I have to complain about as a reader, however, I am a happy girl.  Confessions From a Farmer’s Wife is a wonderful story with heart warming and heart breaking moments carefully crafted through out.  I would recommend this to readers of all ages.

Jayne E. Self

Jayne E. Self

Murder in Hum Harbour

 

Review by Donna Fawcett

www.donnafawcett.com

 

            I like a fast-paced novel.  I want to keep guessing as the plot moves forward.  I want the characters to catch my attention and befriend me—or make me angry—or make me empathize.  I don’t want endless warm fluffy words meant to fill in gaps any more than I want a plot that fizzles out as it comes to its conclusion.  Because I am particular about my reading choices, I can say with great conviction that Murder in Hum Harbour (Harbourlight Books, ISBN 978-1-61116-099-4) by Jayne E. Self is a book that I will read again—and again.  It has that snappy pace to it.  It has characters that are charming and annoying and unpredictable—in other words—real.  It has a plot that keeps me guessing.

 

            The story is written in first person point of view.  I love reading mysteries written this way.  They become personal and yet they make the writer work—hard.  Self did a masterful job of getting the information to the reader through the eyes of the main character, Gailynn MacDonald, without falling into the habit of listing props and emotions.  This character is charming and irritating all in one.  When she finds the body of the town’s retired doctor, Gailynn isn’t willing to believe it was an accident.  Self makes our amateur sleuth’s detective work believable without giving too much of the story away.  There were moments where I cringed—in a good way—at the crazy stunts Gailynn pulls.  If I have one criticism it is in the typos and missed words but that seems to have become the status quo in the writing industry these days.

 

            While Murder in Hum Harbour (256-pages) is a murder mystery of the best kind, it holds a message of faith—and trust.  We see the baser nature of mankind and we see that God is big enough to overcome it in us.

 

            Yes, this is a book that will remain on my shelf—except when I decide it is time to read it again.

Kim Burgsma

Author Kim Burgsma offers a new kind of book for the Christian market.  In her gardening manual, Almost Eden (Word Alive Press ISBN 978-1-77069-243-5) she stakes claim on gardening as the first job given to mankind.  In this photo-laced 157-page hardcover, Burgsma offers practical advice on preparing, growing and enjoying gardening from the perspective of one who believes in a Creator.

 

            Being a lover of gardening myself, I have thoroughly enjoyed going through this book.  Each page walks the reader through the steps needed to create a bountiful garden.  From soil preparation to choice of trees to deciding on a colour palette, each chapter reminds us that the steps we take are a mirror of the six days of creation.  Burgsma talks of us being co-creators in God’s big garden.  She teaches us how to protect our gardens from pests in natural and safe ways.  She encourages us to enjoy the exquisiteness of a well-planned garden.

 

            Almost Eden is not only a great read for the garden enthusiast it is a wonderful coffee table centre piece for those who love to enjoy good photography.

Deb Elkink

Deb Elkink

The Third Grace

 

            When I first picked up The Third Grace (Greenbrier Book Company ISBN 978-1-937573-00-3) I was unprepared for the amount of research that must have been involved.  This novel, by author Deb Elkink, is packed full of the history of Greek mythology and yet the information is woven carefully into the story.  Why would a book that has a Christian theme be so full of another religion?  Well—this author has targeted a non-Christian audience and is very aware of the fascination that has suddenly arisen over Greek mythology. 

            The Third Grace (263 pages) is a story of a young woman who has abandoned her Christian upbringing.  She has given in to the mysterious draw of mythology.  It doesn’t help that her name is Grace and the exchange student who lived with her as a young teen has renamed her Aglaia after one of the Three Graces.  We see Aglaia struggle to come to terms with her apostasy.  We see her strive to embrace her new age religion and her new life.  We cringe at the interference of a dominating professor named Lou who is determined to climb the ladder using Aglaia as an important top rung.  And we cheer at the quiet strength and faith of Aglaia’s employer.  It is a well-written and complex story with a satisfying end to it. 

            If there is anything I might change it would be a few brief scenes where the sexual content teeters on the line.  Ms Elkink never crosses the line but her proximity to it may make some conservative readers a bit uncomfortable. 

            Overall, The Third Grace is a great read with the message of the cross clearly outlined.

Robert White

Review by Donna Fawcett

 

            Ecclesiastes is a book of the Bible which I never found easy to read.  Filled with expressions of the futility of life, I am often tempted to bypass it in my annual read through the Bible.  Then along comes a book such as the one written by author Robert White.  This small devotional, consisting of a mere 100 pages, entitled Chasing the Wind (Word Alive Press ISBN 978-1-77069-144-5) does more to help understand the wisdom of Ecclesiastes than most books twice its size. 

            Robert White is no stranger to the struggles upon which the Teacher expounds upon and Mr. White is quite candid about some of those struggles.  Not only does this author share what God has opened his eyes to in scripture but he shares his own experiences in battling the futility of life and the fears it presents. Written in a clear and easy story telling voice, the reader is given the opportunity to dissect, along with White, just what our purpose here on earth is—to glorify God.

            While short and to the point, this devotional reading would be a great adult Bible study companion.  At the end of each chapter, the reader will find three or four questions to answer—questions of reflection. 

            Overall, Chasing the Wind left me understanding the book of Ecclesiastes much better and helped me to learn more of God’s ways and our part in them. 

Sara Davison

There are few fiction authors who can hold my attention completely.  Too often I find myself picking out the snippets where they told the story rather than showed it, or where they have settled for redundancy, or where they have taken a shortcut to get to the end of the story.  Then there are the handful of fiction authors who grab my imagination from the first page and don't let go until I have read the final word.  Author Sara Davison is one of those writers.  In her book The Watcher (ISBN: 978-1-77069-145-2 Word Alive Press, 343 pages) the reader is snatched into a world of mystery and intrigue right from the very first line. 

Davison is a master of imagery using lines such as: Kathryn Ellison's laugh ended abruptly, like it had been placed on a block and chopped in half. The word craft in this story is very well done.  I don't think I found even the standard type-o that one finds in just about every book. 

The point of view in this story is intriguing.  One of Davison's main characters is left unnamed until the very end and that in itself is what keeps the reader turning pages.  Written in staggered point of view she has taken up a challenge few writers are able to meet.  The story alternates between first person point of view with her mysterious character to third person omniscient with the remaining characters.  Add to this complex mix a story of love lost, a childhood destroyed, a murderer on the loose and you have a dynamic novel.

To name the mystery character would be to destroy the story line.  Suffice it to say, this is Davison's watcher.  This character watches the story unfold between Kathryn Ellison, Nick Lawson, David Henley and Kevin Dylan and acts as narrator throughout.  Davison touches on the messy theme of rape and the resulting conception of a child.  She weaves into it all the possible complications one could face after being traumatized in such a way--and she brings God into the mix without making His part seem contrived or an 'easy fix'.  Not everything is resolved in the end which is a sign of a really good tale and yet God is very much the answer to Kathryn's series of challenges.

The Watcher is a novel I will keep on my shelf and pull down from time to time to enjoy again and again.  Look for The Watcher in stores near you.

Wilf Roch

There is nothing more tragic than a story of 'wrong place/wrong time'.  That is exactly what Singled Out is--a story about Wilf Roch's journey into legal hell.  This 170 page book begins with Mr. Roch's success in the disc jockey business and his drive to live a life without God.  We follow along with the author as Mr. Roch is selected out of the thousands in his industry for prosecution.  With 42 criminal charges levelled at him, Mr. Roch is forced to come to terms with a life of which he has lost all control.  It is in this lowest of places that he finds God.

Wilf writes his story with precision and care.  We hear the deep hurt in his voice.  We feel the struggle to survive and we rejoice along with the author as God brings about the miracles he has planned for Mr. Roch and his family.

Singled Out (ISBN 155452689-2 Guardian Books) is a book that can be enjoyed by teens and adults.  If you are struggling, this is a book that will give you hope.  If you don't believe God cares, this book will open your eyes and show that he not only cares but he cares deeply.  Singled Out is packed full of miracles small and large and will leave the reader uplifted.

Benjamin T. Collier

The Kingdom

Reviewed by Donna Fawcett

August 4, 2011

 

            I have to admit that I’m a bit partial to the sci-fi/fantasy genre of writing.  I don’t write in that genre but I certainly enjoy reading it.  When I picked up The Kingdom (ISBN: 978-1-77069-219-0 Word Alive Press) by author Benjamin T. Collier, I was looking forward to settling in to my favourite chair with a nice cuppa and a few hours of leisurely reading.  This 89-page novella is filled with all the necessary ingredients to make a good fantasy read.  We have the villain vying for the throne of the kingdom.  We have the princess who is a strong-willed, independent woman with a head on her shoulders worthy of wearing a crown.  We have our hero who meets none of the criteria to be king but is of noble heart nonetheless.  And we have our bevy of strange creatures, unusual customs and plot lines filled with intrigue. 

 

 

            I would say that the strength of The Kingdom lies in its story line—one that is tried and true.  If anything should be added to the story I would suggest detail.  This novella could have easily been a large novel.  The scope was there.  The plot allowed it.  As Collier’s first novel I would say “Bravo!”  He has left us with room for a sequel or two.  If the sequel is coming I would ask that the author add more descriptive to fill out the places and characters more.  I like to see the story in my mind and the brief glimpse I got made me want more. 

 

 

            The Kingdom is a story that older teens and adults would enjoy as a quick and light read.  Bring on book two!

Tim Huff

Review by
Donna Fawcett  (July 2011)

Some literary treasures are found in the strangest of places.  Service worker Tim Huff's book Dancing with Dynamite Celebrating Against the Odds is one such treasure.  Written with sensitivity and profound thought, this book has found its way to a special spot on my book shelf. 

Dancing with Dynamite (ISBN 189486049-7 Castle Quay Books) is 174 pages of street experience that only one who truly loves the homeless can share.  We get a glimpse into Mr. Huff's struggles with his own humanity as he reaches out to touch what many would deem as the undesirables of humanity.  As I read this book I ached with my own sense of frustration that so little is done for them--and that I am at fault for that as much as anyone.  Huff's message doesn't end with the sad stories of broken lives however.  He hints at solutions--subtle and not so subtle ones.  Through his actions we see that one small gesture done by each of us can make great change.  A gentle hand.  A quiet prayer.  Stopping to listen to silent pleas.  Taking the time to play Santa for those who live lives of despair.  In each story that Huff tells we see the moving of an unseen hand.  A hand that lifts up the downcast and beckons the lost to follow. 

Mr. Huff uses his experiences in service work to prod us to look beyond facades and see the real essence of the people we pass by each day.  Through him, God speaks to us all, whispering 'to the least of these...'

Dancing with Dynamite is a book I would recommend to anyone who has an inkling of following Christ's calling.  It should be read by the youth so they learn compassion.  It should be read by those who have spent their whole lives in the safety of the Christian community so that they can learn what it really means to take up their crosses and follow Jesus.  It should be read by church leaders so that they tread carefully when preaching about the poor and homeless.  And it is my hope that at some point, those who are the essence of each story get a chance to read Dancing with Dynamite so that they know that there is hope and that God uses ordinary people to show his extraordinary love.

PWAC Members

Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List

Review by Donna Fawcett

 

            While I am one of the more silent members of the Professional Writers’ Association of Canada (PWAC), I do, nevertheless, like to have my say from time to time.  In this particular instance it is in the capacity of book reviewer. I must remark that the book in question, Prose to Go: Tales from a Private List (ISBN: 978-0-98665220-1-9), is a delightful example of the skill with which PWAC members process and present life stories. 

            Published through Bridgeross Communications, this 167-page collection offers essays from the lives of 18 PWAC’ers from across Canada.  Covering a broad range of emotions each writer offers a small chunk of their life.  Everything from the simplistic beauty of the day-to-day miracle to the tragedies that follow one through life is covered in these pages.  Courage rears its head through laughter without denying the need for tears on occasion.

            I enjoyed the roller coaster of feelings.  I laughed at the alpaca story.  I’ve trailered horses and that’s bad enough!  I teared up when reading the infant’s view of spina bifida and I nearly burst with pride when I discovered that a member of the local chapter was a contributor. 

Readers will find much in this book.  Well done PWAC members!  For contact information or ordering visit Barbara Florio-Graham’s website at www.SimonTeakettle.com

Eleanor Shepherd

            Ok.  I admit it.  I’m guilty as charged.  Far too often I half-listen with my pat answers ready for airing.  We are all good at it to a certain degree.  And yet we are encouraged to learn the art of listening in author Eleanor Shepherd’s book More Questions than Answers (ISBN: 978-60899-361-1 Resource Publications).

            The whole theme of this 164-page book is centered around the attaining the skills needed to be an effective listener.  And it is an art—one that can only be improved with practice.  Ms. Shepherd begins her book with a challenge to make our faith more real—more personal.  She addresses many facets of listening—the mechanics, the commitment, the authenticity of listening.  And so much more. 

Why does listening matter so much?  According to the author we all want to be heard.  We all want the chance to express our deepest doubts and fears.  Sometimes we don’t even want an answer—we already know it—but we all want to have our voice heard.  Listening allows a hurting person to express that hurt in a safe environment.  As Ms. Shepherd points out, words are dangerous.  When we speak without listening we risk the chance of offending or deepening the hurt of the speaker.  When we listen without speech we truly hear their pain and are then in a position to comfort.

More Questions than Answers comes complete with a study guide in the back and is a book that I would highly recommend to church leaders and counselors.  It is something that could easily be modified to teach within a school setting—a valuable tool for upcoming generations.

Phil Callaway

Laughing Matters:  Learning to Laugh When Life Stinks

By Phil Callaway

Never before has a book so resounded with my husband and me as Phil Callaway’s life handbook Laughing Matters (ISBN:  978-1-59052-538-8 Multnomah).  Having had our share of troubles we are no strangers to the reactions that come when life throws a curve ball.  Mr. Callaway has simply reminded us of the lessons we continue to learn—that laughter is, indeed, good medicine. 

This book isn’t just a whimsical collection of events from the author’s life.  It is an assortment of wisdom bites that he has learned while facing the trials of his wife’s illness—of how God showed him the importance of laughter in the face of those trials.

The 251-page manual is written in short stories complete with an appropriate Biblical moral for each story.  He shares the triumphs and failures from his childhood.  He walks us through the joys of courtship, marriage and parenting.  And he pulls no punches during that period of time when he isn’t sure his wife was going to survive.  Most of all, he shares God’s amazing steadfastness through it all—his love—his patience.  We are reminded that God never walks off stage, leaving us alone in the spotlight.

Laughing Matters is liberally decorated with hilarity and sobriety arm in arm and doesn’t allow the reader to sit in any form of pity party for long.  As we read this book together, my husband and I were in the midst of trials of our own, and yet, Mr. Callaway’s book didn’t allow us to linger in sorrow for long. 

The reader will quickly discover that God has an immense sense of humour and has been generous in sharing it through Mr. Callaway’s writing ministry.  A highly recommended read.

Sharon Cavers and Amy Jackson

            Any parent who has watched their child wander from the straight path knows an agony that only God can share.  This is the story that is told in Cut the Strings (Garden Path

Inspirations & Publishing, ISBN: 978-0-9866307-0-5)by authors Sharon Cavers and Amy Jackson.  It is the tale of the Prodigal Son brought forward into modern times and it is heart-

wrenching and awe-inspiring together.

            Ms. Cavers and Ms. Jackson write from first hand knowledge as mother and daughter in the aftermath of rebellion.  We follow the journey of a woman who watches her daughter veer down a trail of self-destruction.  We are by-standers as the wandering child chooses to push herself further and further from her family and her Saviour.  It is a jarring book on so many levels and yet one that every parent should read—before their children are teens.

            This is a book about choices:  the choice of a mother who must learn to trust God without question and love unconditionally; the choice of a child who must learn to swallow pride and become the instrument of God’s mercy and grace; the choice of a faith society that must decide to see the value of a lost soul and reach out to that lost soul without words of reproof. While Ms. Cavers and Ms. Jackson are blessed with a church family that supports, encourages and prays, this is not always the norm.  Too often, parents of prodigal children find themselves judged as having done a poor job—condemned by the very group of people who are to show Christ’s limitless love.

            Cut the Strings is written from a number of different tenses and points of view—excerpts from diaries ride side-by-side with present observances.  In any other book it would be abrupt and unsettling but in this case it is exactly right.  The journey this family has taken has been very abrupt and more than unsettling and the writing style simply drives the many points home effectively.

            While this book has a happy ending, not all prodigal stories share that conclusion.  The bottom line here is:  God courts us but we have the final choice.  It is a book of comfort for those at their ‘wit’s end’.  It is a book of second chances for those who can’t believe that God could ever see past their mistakes.  It is a book of subtle reprimand to those Christians who would judge having never walked in these shoes.  And it is a book of commendation to a church that followed Christ’s example of love.

            Cut the Strings is a 223-page book that I would recommend to parents of troubled teens, to psychologists, to social workers and to school councilors.

Simon Ivascu, Wesley Pop and Bev Ellen Clarke

There are moments in life when we are forced to look at the quality of our faith.  Sometimes it’s an event that prods us.  In this case, for me, it was a book.  The life stories written by Simon Ivascu and Wesley Pop and co-authored by Bev Ellen Clarke gripped my heart from the first paragraph and wouldn’t let me go until I thoroughly examined who I was in Christ.  The Price of Freedom (ISBN: 978 2012-0-5; 271 pages) forced me to ask questions that I prefer to keep buried.  Questions such as: Could I make that first step out my front door, in the middle of the night, in order to flee into the unknown?  Could I risk imminent capture or death just to cross a border to—who knew where? Could I endure the darkness, suffocation and scorching heat that these men endured as they rode in a sealed shipping container?  Could I maintain my trust in God as the ship that carried that container pulled into the port of a foreign—and possibly hostile—country?  Or would I crumble under the pressure? 

            The Price of Freedom was a well-written and captivating book.  Not ever saying too much of the horrors faced—but saying just enough—the reader follows the lives of these two men as they escape the mandatory military service in Romania—a service which is dreaded by any who follow Christ.  In reading words lightly laced with the metaphors and accents of the Romanian culture, we are witness to God’s great power, his providence and his love.  Miracle after miracle overwhelms the tribulations of Mr. Ivascu and Mr. Pop and yet they do not hold back on sharing their many doubts along the way.

             The reader can not help but be moved by this book and will find that it becomes increasingly difficult to remain settled in the comfortable form of Christianity to which we Canadians are accustomed.  The words of these two men challenge and convict in such a loving and gentle way that there is no doubt that God is speaking to us through them. 

Brian Austin

There are some books that are fun to read just for the musical lilt that flows through them.  Muninn's Keep (Word Alive Press ISBN: 978-1926676661, Retail price-$19.33) is one such book.  This historical novel written by author Brian Austin reveals not just a good read but delivers a story to us in the eloquence of poetic description.  Muninn's Keep is an interesting tale from a time in history where superstition and Christianity battled for the minds of men. 

Theodoric is a slave but not just any slave.  He is marked and his mark bears out a connection to an ancient prophecy.  As Theodoric discovers his part in the prophecy, he awakens a love for an unknown God.  Woden can not stir his heartstrings nor can any other puny god.  But this God who has created the stars makes himself felt to a slave without hope. 

Muninn's Keep is filled with details dug from a time in history where superstition and Christianity battled for the minds of men.  We learn about the desperate measures used, by the priests of Woden, to gain power.  We learn of the mercy of a greater God who can overlook our ignorance in order to love us.  We learn of the penalties that come from rejecting this God.

Muninn's Keep is an epic story and will make the reader yearn for a sequel. 336 pages.

Shawn Pollett

(c) 2010 By Donna Fawcett

He’s done it again.  Author Shawn Pollett has delivered another detail-packed historical wonder in his novel What Rough Beast (ISBN-13:  978-1-926676-69-2).  What Rough Beast is book two in Mr. Pollett’s Cry of the Martyr trilogy with Christianus Sum being book one. 

            We pick up on the lives of Senator Valens and his wife Damarra who have been victims of third century persecution.  This book is as much of a history lesson as it is a delightful read.  Mr. Pollett has included as much—or maybe more—actual detail about the events that surrounded the Roman Empire during this turbulent time. 

            The book is one of forgiveness.  Mr. Pollett has subtly woven, into this 408 page novel, the age-old struggle of overlooking the log in another’s eye in order to see the speck in one’s own.  We can relate to Valens’ desire to judge others for not measuring up to a mark that the church has contrived.  Yet, Pollett shows us, without preaching, that it is spiritually deadly to have such an attitude.  He gives us gentle teaching that could well benefit today’s Christians.

Mr. Pollett’s heroes are shown as real people with real struggles and a not-so-perfect life.  And the villains have some measure of humanity to them which makes them, at times, almost likeable.  The story is difficult to put down in spite of its size and sets the reader up for the third book to come.

What Rough Beast will catch your imagination from page one and keep it running to the very end.

           

Joel Freeman

 

From the snappy title to the practical 30-day exercise at the end of the book If Nobody Loves You Create the Demand by Joel Freeman is a marketer’s paradise.  Too often we are offered promises of marketing secrets revealed in print format only to buy the book and discover that those secrets are only partially shared or written in such obtuse language as not to be deciphered.  Not so in Dr. Freeman’s 202-page treasure.  

As an author, speaker, entrepreneur and Ph.D., Dr. Freeman has plenty of experience from which to draw and he isn’t shy about sharing it.  With self-effacing humour, Dr. Freeman tells stories from his life that pull the reader into the pages of his book where he then walks us through step-by-step practical advice on how to market oneself and one’s products.  Unlike those other marketer/authors, he is willing to let the pages of the book open up all those secrets that writers, musicians, speakers and any kind of entrepreneur you can imagine need to thrive in the business world. 

Dr. Freeman doesn’t pull punches either.  While he is very much an advocate of being a generous giver, he reminds the reader that bills aren’t paid by giving away services too often.  He teaches gentle ways to say no to guilt-motivated work and how to barter for services when money isn’t an option.  Dr. Freeman’s lessons are thought-provoking and would do much to bolster any business.  The underlying theme that stood out to me was Dr. Freeman’s continual referral to God’s influence in his decisions and work.  Not once was there a preachiness about his writing which makes this book a great resource for both secular and Christian industry.

Published by Authentic Books, If Nobody Loves You Create the Demand (ISBN: 987-1-932805-98-7) is a book that should become required reading in high school and university business courses and one that I highly recommend for anyone seeking to market their work.

Eric E. Wright

Captives of Minara

By Donna Fawcett (Donna Dawson)

 

A slew of new books are coming onto the market and many of them are leaving behind the warm, sanitized version of Christianity and world events.  Such is the case with suspense novel Captives of Minara (ISBN-13:978-1-926676-38-8 Word Alive Press) by author Eric E. Wright. 

 

This story is one of conflict in the Middle East—Pakistan to be exact.  In a sequel to his award-winning novel The Lightning Files, Mr. Wright carries the story of Joshua Radley into the arid town of Nowshera.  Written in first person, this compelling story drives the reader into each paragraph—each page—making it almost impossible to put the book down.  We learn through Josh’s view about the intrigue surrounding an archaeological dig, the fast growing sex trade and human trafficking industry and the heart wrenching kidnapping of Josh’s own daughter.  This is a story of the prodigal son and yet his abandonment of the faith is subtle—very similar to the passiveness of North Americans toward modern Christianity.  Not only do we journey through the trials with Josh Radley but we step beside him, ever closer to the God he has spent too long doubting.

 

It is obvious that Mr. Wright is no stranger to the Middle East.  His descriptive is very detailed without coming across as a list of information.  His knowledge of the Pakistani culture is eye-opening—it is refreshing to know that not all Muslims are anti-Christian. 

 

This 326-word novel is well worth picking up.  It will break your heart and then strive to mend it again.

Kimberley Payne-Tooth for Tooth

Tooth for Tooth is not a novel for the faint of heart.  The 270-page book isn’t a warm and fuzzy story with the blasé Christian happy ending.  Author Kimberley Payne has tackled subject matter that few are willing to acknowledge exists let alone desire to write into a story plot—incest. 

 

Payne writes the novel in first person which makes it even more heart-jarring.  In her story, Heather Williams, a single mother is faced with the horrifying truth that her four-year-old daughter, Caitlin—or better known as Caity-Cat, has been sexually assaulted.  And the assailant is Caitlin’s own father.  It is devastating to Heather as she discovers the flaws in the court system, the lack of compassion in the social service system and the reality that she will have to fight to protect her daughter.  But there are moments of beauty in the story that soften the harsh message.  There are care workers who really do care.  There are church members who come along side Heather during her darkest moments.  There are family relationships built.  And there is a love story that shows what a true relationship between man and woman is about. 

 

If I could pick one flaw in the book it would be the shift from Caitlin’s story to Heather’s.  While I was thrilled that Heather came to know Christ, I wanted to know what happened to Caity-Cat.  Perhaps Ms. Payne did that on purpose—after all—we don’t always get the whole story in child incest cases.  And it certainly left room for a sequel.  I was glad I read the book.  It challenged me, yanked at my heart strings, made me laugh and cry and left me with an urge to tell the author, “well done!”

 

Tooth for Tooth is published at www.lulu.com and can be found there or you can contact the author at [email protected]

Introduction

Over the past little while, I have had the opportunity to get my hands on books written by Canadian Christian authors.  It has been a great joy to read these books and I would like to share my thoughts on them.  Come join me.

Dolores Ayotte

             Canadian author Dolores Ayotte (www.doloresayotte.com) begins her 198-page book, I’m Not Perfect and It’s OK, with the declaration “I am no author”.  In a way, it sets the stage for a reviewer to bypass things on which she would otherwise make comment.  And this kind of self-analysis opens the door to the gems of wisdom in this book.  I am a suspense writer.  I like compact and fast-moving work.  Normally, I wouldn’t pull a book like this off the shelf.  Am I telling you I didn’t enjoy it?  By no means! 

            Ms. Ayotte’s book takes me back to a time when I sat at the large kitchen table, shelling peas alongside my siblings.  My mother was nearby, chatting about the things she learned from her mother.  Usually her hands were deep into dishwater or busy peeling, dicing or stirring something.  In her steady and methodic voice, she would rehearse the wisdom that, no doubt, traced back to her grandmother and beyond.  It is this steady, methodical voice that carries through I’m Not Perfect and It’s OK.  It’s this same kind of wisdom strewn through out the lines of each page.  And by the time I turned the last page, I was glad I had read the book.

            With her unique style of humour Ms. Ayotte shares lessons she has learned through life—lessons that have aided her in marriage, parenting and grand parenting.  Lessons in personal healing and in dealing with those around us.  This is a useful and practical book that I would recommend for those who tend to think that life has given them a raw deal.  It offers better ways to look at that raw deal and to rise above it. 

            I’m Not Perfect and It’s OK (Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, ISBN: 978-1-60604-781-1) can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Tate Publishing.

 

Diane Roblin-Lee

I have come to realize that we parents, by and large, are naive, especially when it comes to the abuse of our children.  We protect ourselves from potential pain by wearing an “it can't happen to me” attitude and our children pay the price.  And then we further compound the abuse by denying it, ignoring it or glossing over it. This is very much addressed in the new Predator-Proof Your Family series of 45-50 page booklets written by Canadian author, Diane Roblin-Lee (www.bydesignmedia.ca)

Ms. Roblin-Lee has personal experience in dealing with the molestation of a child.  It has happened in her family and she, like many parents, didn’t suspect until it was too late.  Her work as a former counselor, compiled with much research and her experiences have all been joined together to give parents a new and effective tool against the predators of society.  These eight booklets are not an easy read but are a must for anyone considering parenting these days.  Roblin-Lee shares stories of victims, abusers and bystanders alike and gives the reader sound advice that, if taken, could save many children from such torment.

Each booklet has its own theme.  Beginning the series with booklet one, Why all the Fuss?, she takes us through the various aspects of predation.  Booklet two, Who is the Predator?, opens our eyes to the people around us.  Booklet three, Predator-Proofing Our Children, offers insight into how children are groomed for abuse.  Booklet four, Predators in Pews and Pulpits, offers a heart-rending look at the abuse that sometimes comes through church leadership.  Booklet five, The Porn Factor, helps us understand how predators are created.  Booklet six, It’s all About the Brain, gives the reader an idea of how abuse affects a child physiologically.  Booklet seven, When the Worst That Can Happen Has Already Happened, deals with facing the abuse and the healing process.  And booklet eight, Smart Justice, teaches us how to react legally, socially and Biblically to the predator.

Each booklet has its place and while it is brutally honest, this series stares in the face a horrible sickness that undermines our society.  This author offers wholesome and common sense solutions.  My only concern with this series is one that Ms. Roblin-Lee addresses as she writes—the taking of it to the extreme.  This kind of publication can cause a reader to look for monsters where there are none and the author is very careful to caution us to be wise in our understanding and dealing of predation and not to jump to conclusions. 

Ms. Roblin-Lee writes in crisp words.  Her pain can be felt but she is able to clearly show the path to healing through Christ and that makes these books worth their weight in gold.  Predator-Proof Your Family Series (byDesign Media ISBN 978-1-896213-54-5) can be found through www.bydesignmedia.ca

Mary Haskett

            Prayer is one of the most difficult things to understand in the Christian faith and yet it is our life line to our Creator.  It is no wonder that author Mary Haskett deemed it most important to make prayer the topic of her second book entitled Because We Prayed.  Mrs. Haskett is a prayer warrior of many years and is heavily involved in the prayer team for The Word Guild.  This gives her the right—the responsibility—to pass on the gems of wisdom that she has gleaned from life.

            This book is a change from her first book, Reverend Mother’s Daughter.  While the former was an autobiography, the latter is a manual on how to understand and incorporate prayer into our lives.  She covers ten different topics beginning with prayer being a matter of faith and ending with a proclamation of prayer leading to victory in Jesus.  Each chapter comes complete with a handful of scripture verses and many personal applications from Mrs. Haskett’s own prayer experiences.  What I appreciated most about the use of scripture was Haskett’s ability to put it all in context.  Too often, scripture is bent and distorted, thrown alongside an idea in order to make a point that has more to do with the writer’s own agenda than it does with what God truly wants.  Not so here.  Instead Mrs. Haskett chooses her verses carefully and finds an example that clarifies them.  And then she finishes each chapter with a few questions and a prayer—in true devotional format.

            Devotionals are plentiful these days but I found myself deciding that this one was different.  And what made it so?  The honesty.  The sharp-edgedness of it.  Because We Prayed isn’t light reading with a gentle message and yet Mrs. Haskett keeps it from being too heavy a read with her ability to tell stories—a trait her Saviour exemplified.  Her points are key to reaching the throne of God and they are not made up of platitudes and empty words.  She teaches the reader to come to the throne of grace with boldness, honesty and humility—a valuable asset in any relationship.

Bonnie Grove

            When the opportunity was presented for me to review author Bonnie Grove’s first novel called Talking to the Dead, I wasn’t sure what to expect but jumped at the chance nonetheless.  Having been acquainted with Ms Grove for sometime, I was prepared for her quick wit and wasn’t surprised that it would be woven tastefully throughout the book.  But I had not been prepared for the many-layered story that lay behind the unusual title and Ms. Grove’s well-timed humour.  As I looked at the cover I found myself asking questions.  Would it be a book about the afterlife?  Or perhaps demon possession?  Occultic behaviour?  It was none of these and yet I discovered as I turned each page that it was an important and profound read for the Christian.

            The story begins with the main character, Kate, hearing her dead husband’s voice.  Ms. Grove has written this tale in first person—not an easy task—and so it is Kate’s thoughts and impressions that walk us through the pages.  We feel the reality of Kevin’s voice—his suggestions and accusations.  We mourn through Kate and as we travel deeper into her world we discover that it isn’t just the death of Kevin that we are mourning.  We feel the cruelty of family and friends, the frustrations of a psychiatric and medical system that is sometimes more concerned with its own self-importance than it is for the well-being of the patient.  We hurt through Kate’s hurt and feel the burden lighten sporadically as Ms. Grove inserts humour that forces us to pause and say in Kate’ voice— I must laugh so I don’t cry.

            In some respects I found Talking to the Dead a challenge to read.  I like warm fuzzy stories and this wasn’t warm and fuzzy.  It deals with death.  And mourning.  And sanity.  And betrayal.  And yet, I loved the book because it deals with hope in a real world—not one that we would like to believe exists.  Ms. Grove strips away the layers of fantasy and shows pain for what it truly is.  She rids us of the pretend world of false Christianity and opens us up to the fact that without Christ and an honest heart we are merely puppets pretending at church.  She corrects the false assumption that life is all black and white as she ushers in the reality that grey areas blur the lines between the two absolutes.

            We all will find ourselves at some point in our lives facing the voices that would wish to drive us away from God’s loving arms.  In Talking to the Dead I had an opportunity to assess my own past struggles and how I dealt with them.  I was able to go back in time and stare my own ghosts straight in the eye.  Ms. Grove writes a gripping story that will help believer and non-believer alike find peace beyond pain.

Shawn Pollet

How does one review a work of art?  In the same vein as the Zion Chronicles by Brock and Bodie Thoene, author Shawn Pollet has transported us back into a tumultuous time in history.  Drawing on the knowledge of his PhD in Ancient History, Pollet awakens a portion of the Roman Empire and plays it for us in word pictures that show the stroke of a true artist.

The story begins with the depraved musings of Valerianus, proconsul of Africa.  We learn of his devotion to the pantheon of Roman gods and his sadistic temperament that makes his dreams of persecution toward Christians almost predictable.  And yet none of this novel is predictable.  From the tender love story between Senator Valens and Damarra Valencia which is the main theme, to the secondary plot of intrigue, no reader can resist being sucked into the world between these pages.  The story gives us example of those elements which Christianity is truly contrived:  humility, submission, forgiveness and an understanding of the world beyond the world we know.  Pollet's story, in turns, made me thrilled, appalled and furious.  Thrilled with the love of the Christos of which our society seems to have lost sight.  Appalled that mankind can stoop to the kinds of depravity that would see active torture for the crime of one's beliefs--whatever they may be.  Fury at my own complacency and shallowness of faith when so many died so I could worship in freedom.  And like the craftsman he is, Pollet brings my emotions back together again with the strong glue of eternal hope.

Pollet has a gift for turning phrases and choosing colourful words.  He instinctively knows when to drop that final tidbit of information that sends the reader off into another direction and yet the flow of this book is smooth and constant.  I learned more from the history lessons of Christianus Sum than I ever did sitting in the classroom at the feet of any number of history teachers.  And I learned much about myself as I was constantly thrust before the subtle questions of the book:  Could I stand firm?  Could I give my life for the sake of Christ?  Would I consider it an honour? 

This is a book that will help our lackidaisical view of Christianity come into focus.  It has the potential to stir within us that same flame of passion that ignited the Christians of the Roman era.  For teens and up, Christianus Sum is an excellent read.

Keith Clemons

Begin with a tender romance story in an exotic country.  Add a convoluted suspense plot with an international threat.  A dash of strange circumstance and a hefty dose of detailed characterization and setting and you will have Mohammed’s Moon by Keith Clemons.  As a suspense writer, I am well aware of the importance of a good plot and believable characters and, once again, I am thrilled with the mix Mr. Clemons has put together.

 

We begin the story along the Nile River with a small Egyptian family of Muslim faith.  The key character, Mohammed, has only two desires in life:  to be a good Muslim and to someday marry, Layla, the girl next door.  But circumstances have a habit of getting in the way and Layla is yanked from his world the very same day his father sacrifices his life in the name of Allah. 

 

We follow Mohammed’s story into adult life and are surprised to discover that Layla’s path has crossed with that of Matthew, Mohammed’s brother.  Mr. Clemons adds just the right twist by creating twin brothers who are completely unaware of each others’ existence.  And Layla is caught in the middle of their reunion.  Where it really gets interesting is the contrast in the brothers’ faiths.  While Mohammed is a Muslim—and an extreme one at that—Matthew is a Christian.

 

At this point in the story, one would expect the story to fall into a series of predictabilities but Mr. Clemons, in his true form, has managed to avoid plot clichés.  Not only do we have choices to make, along side the characters as they follow their hearts, but we learn much about the similarities and differences of the world’s two leading religions.

 

Mr. Clemons shows sensitivity as he portrays the flaws in both faiths and yet he is able to leave the reader knowing that to follow the path of love over the path of destruction is always the better choice.  He opens our eyes to the minds behind extreme Islam beliefs.  He answers some of the ‘why’ questions that are always at the forefront of our minds when the bombs explode in the name of Allah.  This book would make a great read for anyone from twelve years old up. 

Michael Bull Roberts

I promised myself that I would never do a pre-published review on a book.  And I'm learning that I shouldn't make promises I can't keep.  While doing a basic edit on the manuscript of The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael Bull Roberts, I couldn't help but determine to break my promise. 

I have had the priviledge of getting to know Michael through this process and the title is, without a doubt, very fitting for his autobiography.  The ex-gang member, ex-drug lord found himself face-to-face with Jesus Christ just a year ago.  Broken and abandoned by his own crew, Michael ended up on the floor of a hotel room with shattered knees, broken bones and a tender heart.  Since that time, Michael has become the driving force behind a newsletter that is delivered to over 700 prisons in North America and Hong Kong. 

Michael's book is edgy and sometimes down right difficult to read because it is packed with the truth of gang life.  The Tender Heart of a Beast leaves the gore and graphics behind but tells what the Christian church needs to hear.  That sometimes Christians stand in the pathway of the cross, preventing others access.  And sometimes they submit their wills to Christ so totally that he raises them up to show his love in miraculous ways to people who are determined not to see it.

Michael's story is one of extreme contrast--vile gangster to servant of God.  This is a book with potential on so many different levels.  For the youngsters caught in abusive homes.  For the teens who think answers come in gang life.  For adults struggling to leave their pasts behind.  For those behind bars who feel there is no hope.  And for those who warm the pews on Sunday morning and wonder if their lives have a purpose beyond their safe Christianity.  I recommend this book to anyone who truly has a heart for Christ--and for anyone who stills believes that miracles happen.  Look for The Tender Heart of a Beast by Michael Bull Roberts to be released in 2009.

Amelia Susan

             My most recent review is one that has been rewarding and challenging all at the same time.  While the title of this book is a bit misleading, Called to the Kingdom—Stories from a Secret Place by Amelia Susan is a book that any Christian who is serious about their faith would want to read.  How is the title misleading?  Let me reword it.  It is actually the subtitle that threw me off because this book isn’t really a book about stories and I didn’t really find the secret place mentioned to which the title referred.  Perhaps it should have been more aptly named Called to the Kingdom—Lessons for a Journey of Faith.  And that is exactly what this book is about—a trip through life and the valuable items of knowledge needed in which to properly navigate it.  Ms. Susan begins with a challenge to the reader--a challenge to prepare one's self for the shifting of opinion and attitude.  This author delves into the subtleties with which God's enemy sandwiches himself into our lives.  She points out the truth that only we can allow deception to take root and disarm us spiritually, leaving us as ineffectual soldiers on the battlefield of life.  Called to the Kingdom reveals the relationship that God longs to share with us and the many ways that we sabotage that relationship.  While there are a few stories woven within the many lessons, this book's main theme is one of knowing our place as heirs of Christ and equipping ourselves to walk through life as his children.

            Ms. Susan is a clear and clean writer who knows exactly what she wants to say and says it well.  I could only read her collection of musings and spiritual messages in short bites.  Each paragraph needed to be savoured—mined for the tiny nuggets that would enrich the reader.  And by the end of the book, I felt rich indeed.  There was only one spot where I felt a bit lost and that was in her chapter entitled The Anonymous One.  I felt some scripture reference would have clarified her thoughts a bit more. 

            Overall, Ms Susan’s book is one that should be incorporated into church leadership.  There are many pieces of wisdom that would circumvent much of the dissention within the church body.  It is a short read that packs so much punch.  I recommend this book for anyone eighteen years and older.  Another amazing book by a gifted Canadian ministry worker and author. 

            To purchase this book contact Ms. Amelia Susan at [email protected] and ask for ISBN 978-1-60477-078-0

Gloria V. Phillips

I have just had the pleasure of finishing another very good Canadian novel.  Author Gloria V. Phillips captivates the reader with her easy reading style that carries little fluff to sidetrack us.  She tells of a story of a young boy who is sent to Canada through a child relocation program in this first novel entitled A Pilgrim Passing Through (Rogdah Publishing ISBN 978-0-9783356-1-8).  The boy, Gottlob Muller bears a German name but is a British citizen when he leaves England and arrives in western Canada and the story follows his life as he grows to manhood.  Gottlob is a lad of integrity and faith and becomes a skilled farmer and carptenter. 

And then, on the scene steps Gladys and her family who have immigrated from Scotland, nearly missing being passengers on the fated Titanic.  Only in a couple of spots did I see a need for a tweaking in the editing.  At one point, the author speaks of putting straw in the manger for the cows to eat.  It is a minor point but as a farm girl it stood out.  Cows eat hay, not straw.  Again, it is a minor point and an oversight by the author I am certain.  The other bit of tweaking could have been done in the sequence of events as we are getting to know both families.  We follow Gottlob's life from a young boy to manhood and intertwined in the story is Gladys' growing years.  I felt a bit confused by the placing of events.  Perhaps it was in my reading but I felt that we were jumping back and forth in time and it was confusing.  It lasted only a short time and then the author smoothed things out beautifully.

Both points of criticism come with a very high regard for the book overall.  While they jarred me a bit in my reading they certainly didn't keep me from enjoying Ms. Phillips' well laid-out plot and smooth writing style.  Her history was well-researched and woven carefully into her tale leaving us with a lovely romance story that anyone would enjoy reading.  As in any good romance, it was easy to see that Gottlob and Gladys would fall in love eventually.  And their tale of love was told with tenderness and just plain good story writing.  While the faith message was not overbearing, it was there clearly enough, making this book one that isn't limited to the Christian market.  Thank you Ms. Phillips for a read that has no age limit to it and leaves the reader feeling satisfied and warmed.

This book can be viewed at www.rogdah.com

Connie Brummel Crook

I realize that Connie Brummel Crook's The Perilous Year isn't exactly a new release.  However, it was a book that I was able to obtain shortly after the Write!Canada conference in June and have been waiting for a chance to read.  The funny thing about Ms. Crook's books are that they are hard to find in Christian book stores.  Strange, because these fascinating history novels are filled with faith messages and seem to be in demand to schools across Canada.

Once again, Ms. Crook has woven a tale based in fascinating truth.  Upon digging into Canada's past, she has written a story that, while aimed at children, is one that any Canadian should read.  As a sequel to The Hungry Year, we get to know Alex and Ryan at an older age.  These two boys must struggle with their sister falling in love and their father getting remarried.  They have a step-mother to contend with.  One who is willing to love them.  But these boys have seen much pain and struggle.  It isn't easy for them to go with the flow.  And just as things are heating up on the home front, they find themselves in the middle of a pirate adventure that would cause any young boy to dance with envy.  All of this is pulled from the pages of our Canadian history and wrapped up neatly in a beautifully flowing story. 

Ms. Crook is a master at bringing history to life with loveable characters and accurate surroundings.  Her ability to research is apparent in the detailed description of places, events and clothing and I applaud her for bringing Canada back to the minds of Canadians.

Ruth Smith Meyer

This is the second time I have reviewed a book by author Ruth Smith Meyer and I'm just as content at the ending of Not Far From the Tree as I was after Not Easily Broken.  Smith Meyer has a way of bringing back the language of a by-gone era.  Her story telling is reminiscent of a mother handing down the family stories to the next generation.  In this book we pick up the tale of Ellie's daughter Rina.  She is an unconventional girl full of mischief in spite of the social fetters of her time.  Rina not only finds herself facing enormous struggles as her mother did before her but she draws on that same enormous faith. 

Leaving a relationship with her childhood sweetheart, Bart, Rina escapes to the west hoping to visit her brother.  David, a young man who won't settle for anything but a "yes", finally convinces Rina to become his wife.  It is a loving and enduring marriage but not without its perils.  Through out their long life together Rina and David must lean heavily on their trust in God as they overcome the lean years of the depression, job failure, a dishonest employer and the challenges that come with raising ten children.  Ruth Smith Meyer has given us yet another book of enduring faith in a life-story that has its roots in a true life family from Ontario.  Again, a fun read for all ages.

Russell Corben with Brian Smith

I'm not one to choose a study guide over just simply reading the Bible but I have to say Russell Corben's newest addition to the bookstores Your Money or Your Life is one book that I would recommend for any Christian to read.  We have a bad habit of clinging to our worldly possessions and Mr. Corben's book hits us right between the eyes with its honesty and accuracy.  A well-researched collection of theology and life application, this guide picks apart what the Scriptures say about our wealth and our spirituality.

Reading like a story book, Your Money or Your Life covers a bevy of points from our own personal conflicts to the Sermon on the Mount to God's plan for our prosperity.  With catchy subtitles such as The Hilarious Giver the reader can't help but get hooked on this book.  Written with light-hearted humour it nevertheless has a fist full of conscience-probing Biblical fact to it.  Mr. Corben's easy style of writing breaks down age barriers making this a must for youth group studies, college and career studies and, of course, adult studies.  It's a book I would highly recommend to couples considering marriage since money struggles are one of the biggest problems in that all important of relationships.  This is a book I will hang on to and read again.  It is no surprise that it won the 2007 Word Alive Press top award.  Well done!

N.J. Lindquist

Ok so what can I say.  I'm a fan of Manziuk and Ryan mysteries.  And N.J. Lindquist has done it again with Glitter of Diamonds.  This thick tome is not what you expect.  From the title with its double meaning to the last page the reader is on edge trying to guess who dunnit.  Lindquist has a way with her twists and turns and it isn't until near the end that I finally figured it out.  Her cast of characters are deep and varied.  We have Detective Manziuk who I picture as the big tough type.  But really he's a teddy bear down deep.  You can tell by the way he interacts with his family.  Then there's Detective Ryan.  She's gutsy--a bit pushy--and doesn't back down too easily.  In Glitter of Diamonds we are taken to the next level with these two characters.  We get to see more of their private lives--to begin to bond with them.  Enter Rico Valesquez--spoiled baseball player from Cuba--Armando Santana--jealous pitcher who is being replaced--Ferdinand Ortes--the easy going shortstop--Alita Valesquez--Rico's wife who appears on the scene when he least expects or wants it--Lawrence Smith--the quirky, obsessive baseball groupie--Stacey Simon--obnoxious radio host--Iain Foley--the prime time host who despises Stacey--and the list goes on.  With such a diverse cast and three murders it is no wonder that this book is filled with rabbit trails of the best kind.  N.J. Lindquist keeps the pace hopping and draws all the strings together in a very convoluted ending that should keep mystery readers happier than Santa Claus at Christmas.  I recommend this book to everyone from twelve years old up.

Don Ranney and Ray Wiseman

When Cobras Laugh is one of those books that you can feel multiple emotions over.  Authors Don Ranney and Ray Wiseman write with the voices of authority when they share this novel about two missionaries and their lives in the mission field.  The characters are realistic and fallible--traits we don't like to believe exist in missionaries.  While one finds himself in India after being jilted by the love of his life, the other drags a reluctant wife and children to Africa.  The warm, fuzzy illusions we have of missionary work is peeled away as these two men struggle with their baser natures, their committments to Christ and the cultural differences they must adapt to.  And when they fall--and they do with a resounding thud--we get to see what is beautiful about faith in Christ.  We get to see forgiveness and redemption, mercy and grace.  When Cobras Laugh is a book that should be read by anyone considering work in missions.  It should be read by up and coming pastors.  And it should be read by those who think that being a Christian automatically makes one perfect.  Information about the book and where it can be bought is posted at http://www.ray.wiseman.ca

Janis Cox

            After having had the opportunity to review Reverend Ed Hird’s book Battle for the Soul of Canada, I found myself looking forward to the companion Bible study written by author Janis Cox.  Entitled Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-filled Canada this study is chock full of mind teasing questions and nuggets of truths gleaned from the scriptures through Reverend Hird’s book.

            Ms. Cox presents a thorough and well-ordered study that doesn’t leave the participant feeling overwhelmed or bogged down—something that can happen easily in a Bible study.  Nor does she rely solely on Reverend Hird’s opinions but challenges the reader to discover what they think about the issues raised.

            Each lesson begins with a scripture reading followed by a suggested reading from Battle for the Soul of Canada.  It is then followed by a series of questions, quotes and points to ponder all related to the Reverend’s book and ultimately his Biblical view of Canada.

            Ms. Cox doesn’t stop there.  She offers a teachers’ guide which helps the study leader search for life examples of the points Reverend Hird is trying to make.  And yet, she doesn’t just fill in the blanks making it a cut and paste kind of session.  This is a very interactive study and study guide to a very serious and important book—all of which leads straight back to the reviving of Canada’s faith.  An excellent study for adult groups eager to become involved in the life of Canada from a Christian viewpoint. 

Reverend Ed Hird

Reverend Ed Hird’s book The Battle for the Soul of Canada (ISBN 0978202201) is one of the most unusual books I have ever read.  It doesn’t really have a category so I won’t confine it by trying to assign one.  Written in an easy-to-read style, Reverend Hird’s book satisfies me on several spiritual levels.

            There is the intellectual side of it—the history lessons.  Too often we forget about the history of Christianity in Canada to our own demise.  Reverend Hird has brought the history of faith in our country to the forefront of this book but he’s done so much more.  He has woven solution to our present day ills into each page by reminding us of those who have blazed the spiritual trail before us.

            Sometimes, as I read, I couldn’t help but wonder where he was leading.  After all, what does a shuffleboard court in a Vancouver park have to do with Canadian hockey and—well—faith in Christ?  Reverend Hird can tell you quite capably in this fascinating book.  He continues to throw out tidbits of our nation’s past and its relevance to Christianity.  I am amazed at how often we take for granted places, events and blessings that are ours only because of a past Canadian’s walk with God and I am bluntly reminded of my carelessness in The Battle for the Soul of Canada.

            This book would be an interesting read if Reverend Hird stopped at simply reminding us of our faith heritage but he goes one step further and shows us examples of how we can make a difference in our nation’s spiritual health.  Bravo, Reverend Hird, for opening our eyes to our own identity as a country and as believers of Christ. 

Kimberley Payne

            Where Fitness Meets Faith is a collection of devotionals written by author and professional fitness trainer Kimberley Payne.  Her small book of 26 pages is a fun and thought stirring collection of subjects pertaining to life and faith.  I have never read a devotional quite like this before and found it a refreshing change.  Ms. Payne does a beautiful job of bridging true life application with faith lessons.  She takes her fitness training and experiences and ties them into scriptural truths that I found very much to my liking.  Not only is this a devotional for the athletically minded, it is ideal for a Christian or Home School application.

            Ms. Payne doesn’t end with her devotion booklet.  She carries it one step further in her newest book Fit for Faith.  This book is far more in-depth and obviously geared to the educationally minded.  Again, Christian schools and Home Schools would find this book a great aid or replacement for curriculum in physical education.  She deals with health myths, stretching, healthy diet, goal setting, cardio and strength exercising—all necessary parts of healthy living.  But Ms. Payne also parallels all her expertise with a spiritual lesson for each point.  Having, myself, worked in both the Christian School and the Home School environments, I can clearly see the benefit of such a book.  Again, Ms. Payne’s professional background as a fitness trainer comes in to play making this book worthy of the school environment.

            While Kimberley Payne’s two books are very competent in academic content and appear to be targeted to that genre, I would be remiss to say that they are limited only to schooling.  Anyone with a desire to be healthy should pick up these two books and anyone who wishes to exercise their spiritual muscles will not be disappointed.  These books are available on her website at http://www.kimberleypayne.com/

Sheila Davidson

            In Sheila Davidson’s third book Heaven Knows we see a wonderful mixture of fantasy and faith.   Ms. Davidson has a wonderful skill for weaving plot and creating personable characters however I sometimes felt a bit lost in this novel.  I would credit that to the fact that I didn’t read the first two books in the series.  While a bit more explanation of some of the background characters and places would have helped this book as a stand alone, it was not meant to be a stand alone and so I must assume the answers can be found in the previous books.  Perhaps a brief prologue outlining the other two books would have solved this minor inconvenience.

            Having said all of that, I still found this book a delightful read.  The musician in me understood completely the passion that drove Yarn to play his songs.  The lone wolf in me followed Finton Davidge as he strove to maintain an independent life.  The wounded heart in me hurt alongside Ida as her scars were revealed for all to see.  And who couldn’t just love Meagan with her ability to be a mother hen without being overwhelming.  My faith and beliefs connected with the miraculous side of this book as I read of healings and inexplicable happenings.

            Heaven Knows is one of those books that you want to read when you’d like everything to go right in your world.  It has just the right amount of romance without being overdone.  Sometimes the characters came close to being not quite real and then the author slipped in a quirk that left me laughing and saying “yes, that fit perfectly—that’s the Finton Davidge I would imagine him to be”.

            The beauty of this story is its happy ending.  It’s nice to read a book on occasion where everything really does come out right in the end and this is such a book.  It left me wishing I had read the first two books Hear Heaven and Heaven’s Tears.  Women of all ages will swoon to the love story hidden in the pages of this book.

William P. Young - The Shack

            Reading The Shack has brought many emotions to the surface.  I have laughed, cried, been angry, frustrated and appalled all in one fell swoop.  Seldom will I comment on the theological content of a book but because I review for Canadian Christian writers and this book won a Canadian Christian writing award, I figure that a bit of personal bias has its place here.

            Author William P. Young is a genius at idea and plot.  He writes a compelling tale with the kind of flow that keeps one reading.  But his story causes me to struggle.  I can understand his desire to reach past the male dominated perspective of Christianity and as a woman, I thank him for the Biblical insights he shares on God’s view of women.  I can also understand his desire to reach past the perception of a “white Christ” that many North American believers hold to and again I thank him.  However, to change the Biblical account of God’s character and that of the Holy Spirit is more than a bit disturbing.

            I could sift through scripture and point out the few times where mankind did come before God.  That picture would be one of reverence and humility.  God would be described as indescribable—because He is—and those he interacted with found themselves flat on their faces in respect and reverence.  The author of this book has minimized God, taking away His holiness and summing Him up into four characters that bumble through a series of meals, make mistakes and spend their spare time boogying to rock and roll music.  Gone is the awe of the created toward the Creator.  Whether we like it or not, God is deserving of awe and to remove that is a maligning of the scriptural account of Him.  Mr. Young’s account of the Holy Spirit is so fictional as to be almost unrecognizable.  We are shown small snippets of the Holy Spirit throughout scripture and HE is an unquenchable fire, a mighty wind, an indwelling spirit—not a flighty, sprite.

            It broke my heart to read The Shack because there are so many good and excellent scriptural truths melded together with highly intellectual insights—a book that truly could have left me feeling wonderful about the God who created the universe and truly cares for me.  Instead it left me wondering how many people will swallow the untruths along side the truths and end up with a rather skewed view of God’s deity and the reverence due Him.

            Yes, Christianity has often fallen short in its views of women, its beliefs about different races and its reaction to world wide suffering but changing God’s character isn’t going to have an effect on that at all.  God is God.  He does not need to be rewritten.  Perhaps if we spent more time reading His word we would all see His true character—His love, mercy and redemption.  And while the author showed God’s love, mercy and redemption, he did it in a way that took away from all that is due the one true God.  I would have enjoyed The Shack so much more if Mr. Young had shown God, the Holy Spirit and Jesus in the same light of the scripture that he used throughout the rest of the book.

Peter Black

            It’s a somewhat difficult task to review a book written by adults and intended for children.  The reviewer must force themselves into a childlike way of thinking.  They then must ask themselves questions such as:  Would a child understand this?  Would a child think this is funny?  Is the lesson clear?  Is the author talking down at children or across to them?  As a reviewer of Parables from the Pond by author Peter A. Black, I have found it much easier than first anticipated.

            Using a marsh setting, Mr. Black reaches out to his young readers in a gentle and fun way.  He begins with three primary characters; Natalie Newt, Frankie Frog and Cecil Snake.  These three with their delicious consonant-repeating names are loveable creatures not only because of their simplicity but because of the lessons they learn right before the readers’ eyes.

            The book begins with the planning of a celebration.  This celebration is directed toward the Creator of the pond and we are immediately interested in the worries and excitement in anticipation of the event.  Each episode is a complete story in itself.  Yet each one leads right into the next after a small hand full of questions are offered which are intended to engage the young listeners or readers.

            Mr. Black progresses through the book as though he has designed the chapters to age with the child who is reading them.  The stories within the story become more detailed with added characters and more complex problems.  The lessons at the end of each chapter become more challenging, forcing the reader to grow as he or she engages.

            I dove into the book with the same gusto as Natalie and Frankie showed when diving into the pond to escape one more rascally character Tyler Turtle.  Every possible swamp creature is weaved into the tale and we are forced to look at them as parts of creation, each with their own roles to play within an ecosystem.  And yet every one of them is given a likeable personality that is very different from all the others.  Mr. Black is a masterful story-teller for children, creating what could potentially have the same durability as the stories of Jemima Puddleduck.

            Mr. Black’s language has the same formal overtones as Beatrix Potter but he has woven a lovely collection of moral messages throughout the pages without having that message sound preachy.  Parables of the Pond is a classic children’s book that could very easily become the next bedtime story of choice.  It is an engaging tale that does more than just entertain.  Thank you, Mr. Black, for taking me back to the delicious memories of my childhood.

Andrew T. Hawkins

 

            As I dug into the one hundred and fifty six pages of Whispers that Delight by Andrew T. Hawkins I very quickly discovered the reason for it being shortlisted in the Word Alive Press non-fiction annual best book contest.  This practical guide to prayer has plunged deep into the theological truths of communication with God.

            Reverend Hawkins begins his teachings by pointing out the need for structure.  Using his own life’s experiences he shows us how structure can build the foundation for a true and pure connection with our Lord.  He strips away the fallacy that we must always feel good feelings and that joy and happiness are always the end result of prayer.  And in this stripping away, he replaces old notions with new ones that force us to recognize that prayer is often an act of will.  Yet Reverend Hawkins doesn’t stop there.  He points out that by activating our wills, we take the focus off of ourselves and put it onto Christ and his attributes.  It is then that we experience the joy that scripture promises when coming before God. 

            Whispers that Delight teaches us how to praise without the feeling of dreary repetition.  We are shown the value of confession—what it is and how it can benefit our walk with God.  Reverend Hawkins opens our eyes to the difference between shame and guilt and the power of Christ’s atonement.  He clarifies the oft misused phrase of ‘coming before the throne of God with boldness’.  Through stories drawn from history, we learn how to become attentive to God’s voice and we discover that God truly is a speaking God though his voice can be heard in so many different ways. 

            This book reveals much in the way of practical application as it offers suggestions on scriptural meditation and response.  We are made aware of the tug of will and desire and taught how to combat our temptations with our petitions and praise.  Reverend Hawkins closes down the book with two wonderful chapters.  Chapter Seven calls us to respond to our Lord more and more as true and pure lovers and Chapter Eight brings us to the end result of an effective prayer life—joy.  He teaches us in this final group of sentences that true joy is the longing for God’s presence and the thrill of basking in that presence. 

            Whispers that Delight is a book that should be used in any theological seminary but it isn’t limited to the intense study group.  By reading this book, I find myself seeking God’s voice in areas I never thought to look and that makes this book a must for anyone seeking God.

Heather Kendall

            If I ever wanted a book to read alongside the Bible, Heather Kendall’s book A Tale of Two Kingdoms is the one I choose.  Insightful and detailed this book reads like a combination between study guide and novel.  It is packed full of important information about the history surrounding the Bible and leaves me scrambling back to the scriptures to verify the content.  Ms. Kendall’s Biblical overview would benefit anyone interested in analyzing the scriptures but it is also an excellent book to introduce a person to the truth of scripture in an easy-to-read format.

            Ms. Kendall begins in the beginning with Genesis and shares the stories of scripture in chronological order.  She offers tidbits of information such as where and when the historical accounts were written.  She draws from the intellects of numerous theologians and historians and while some of her sources are unfamiliar to me, the ones that I am familiar with are known for their wisdom.  She then works it all together into an interesting and challenging manual that the serious thinker would find an absolute treasure. Ms. Kendall walks us through each Biblical account and leaves no thought unchallenged.

            This is a book that I would recommend to teens who are questioning the validity of scriptures, non-Christians interested in what the Bible says and adults who want all the knowledge surrounding the Bible.

Diane Roblin Lee

            Imagine my surprise when I opened the envelope and pulled out a life journal.  I’m one who loves to journal.  I have documented genealogies for my children and jotted little notes to them.  So when I received author Diane Roblin Lee’s book To my Family…My Life (Castle Quay books) I was thrilled.

            Long have I understood the value of passing on thoughts, beliefs and feelings to the next generation and now Ms. Roblin Lee has created an easy and detailed way to do just that.  The book is designed to contain the legacy of one’s life.  Diane covers areas that we are too often too busy to acknowledge with our families.  She has included room for thoughts on aging, pets, books, business, education, faith, fame, family, career, marriage, views on people, health.  She offers space for practicalities like home remedies, mentors, hobbies, housekeeping tips.  This book gives us a chance to share our life’s accomplishments and lessons with our children—our testimonies of God’s faithfulness. 

            To my Family…My Life is a book that every adult should consider owning.  It’s a book that will be a blessing to complete because it is a piece of ourselves that we can leave with our children when we are gone.  In this lovely journal we can share the deepest thoughts that have formed our faith and we can pass those thoughts on.

            Having lost my mother, I can say with certainty that this is a book I would have coveted had she had the opportunity to own and complete it.

Fay Rowe

            Keepers of the Testimony (Word Alive Press shortlisted non-fiction) written by author Fay Rowe is one of those treasures that should be handed to each parent upon the birth of their first child.  It’s an honest book filled with Ms. Rowe’s experiences of the power of testimony.  Sprinkled liberally with her dry humour it shares memories of her past years as a testimony receiver but it also offers the reader something far deeper—an effective tool for passing on one’s faith.

            How often have we found ourselves in a dispute over our beliefs?  We can reason all we want but inevitably we find we are missing something and leave the conversation feeling not quite right.  Fay Rowe clearly explains why.  In her book, she points out the fundamental element of spiritual transference—the story—that is missing in this day and age of gadgetry and instant information.  Her book points us to the wisest of all story tellers.  And in his time on earth, Jesus brought more people to himself through oral tradition than many people do through well-plotted scientific debate.

            This is the core of Keepers of the Testimony.  Ms. Rowe urges us to push away from the X-box and the DVD collection, to gather around the kitchen table and to share the stories that impacted our lives and nudged us closer to the cross.  Through the sharing of those stories we make a connection with those we love and we pass on the torch of our faith.  Just like Jesus did.

Eric Wright

            Author Eric Wright catches the reader’s attention immediately with his first person launch into the hectic world of journalism and intrigue.  In his novel The Lightning Files, he creates a concoction of havoc stirred with a bit of domestic instability and seasons it well with the spice of global terrorism. 

            What I truly enjoy about this book is the believability of his main character.  This guy—Josh Radley—is actually human.  He is fallible.  A man who struggles with whether to believe in God or not.  He has carelessly allowed his work to cause a rift in his marriage.  And while he is struggling to breach that chasm, he is obsessed with the need to solve a mystery that could land him in the morgue.  To make matters worse, he connects with a temptress who seems to know all the right things to say. 

            This book manages to stay within the boundaries of propriety while being real about the struggles of life and faith.  In the end, our hero finds his faith and maintains his integrity but it is a conclusion that sneaks up on the reader.  Just when I was certain I knew what directions the other characters would take, Mr. Wright completely took me off guard and I found myself saying ‘I didn’t see that one coming!’

            Eric Wright has done a wonderful job in creating an action novel that educates and entertains.  I recommend this book for teens and up.

Laura Davis

            Author Laura Davis, in her book Come to Me, has taken up the challenge few authors would bite into—one of fictionalizing the life of Christ.  While a work like this takes great liberties, Davis has pulled it off with good taste.  Like any fiction, there are elements that we will never know as truth until we reach heaven but they are plausible in this book.

            Taken from Mary’s view point, Davis tells a story of God’s great love for mankind.  We see the human side to Christ, Mary and the apostles and it drives scripture home just that much more.  Davis weaves in tidbits of ancient Hebrew society that a Bible reader might not think about.  I found myself scrambling back and forth between the novel and scripture to take a new look—not a bad thing in a day and age when few of us look at our Bibles at all.

            Come to Me is a great way to share Christ with those who weren’t raised in the church but desire to understand who Jesus was and is.  It is an easy to read novel that would be good for ages from fourteen and up.

 

Keith Clemons

          Few authors have the ability to smoothly traverse, in their writing craft, from past to present and back again.  Keith Clemons in his newest novel Angel in the Alley not only succeeds in the past to present transitions but he has incorporated double layers and added the spiritual dimension as well.  He allows the characters to reminisce on their earlier years while weaving the supernatural presence of the angel, Teller of Tales, into a plot that leaves the reader breathless.  Having reviewed Keith’s first novel, I was prepared for the complex journey the novel would take but I wasn’t

ready for the genius behind his carefully layered sub-pots and time warps. 

            Peter Dufoe, our foppish main character, struggles with his inadequacies and insecurities while fighting to keep his daughter alive.  As he travels across borders, through various disguises on a quest to home and wife we discover that Peter is the church’s champion.  Truth bearer in a future time when truth is watered down, he is the most unlikely candidate to lead the spiritual underground resistance.  Yet the very essence of this man makes the whole tale more real than life.  Each character has their own idiosyncrasies, flaws and strengths and each is as different as any two people can get.

            Mr. Clemons’ writing flows more like a torrent than a stream and leaves you hanging on to your hat in an attempt to ride it to a conclusion that strengthens one’s faith and opens one’s eyes to the realities of end times.  His novel was a real joy for me to read. 

Hot Apple Cider

While hot apple cider is certainly the most Canadian of drinks, a cup of Earl Grey tea sits abandoned at my elbow as I pour over the stories and poems packed between the covers of the book Hot Apple Cider. 

            Okay, so, as a contributing author, maybe I am a wee bit biased when it comes to this anthology of Canadian tales but that bias in no way steals from the truth—that this is an incredible book worthy of becoming a Canadian literary legend.  Seldom do I have the time to read any book in one sitting and yet I find myself parked in a cozy corner of the local coffee pub turning the final pages.  And there are tears in my eyes.

            Hot Apple Cider has given me what few other books could offer—hope.  And joy.  And peace.  Because the underlying message from each author is rooted in the same source—The Source.  In one afternoon, I have travelled through the lives of so many very different people and yet have discovered the sameness of each of us—that sameness being that we all struggle and in that struggle, we all cry out for an answer. 

            In this day’s short cluster of time I saw the reply to each author’s ‘why?’—in the soft whispers, bold actions, miraculous happenings and inexplicable interventions of our loving and tender God.  As I leave the dim shop and step into the bright spring sunshine, I am renewed

Reverend Gordon Williams

            The one issue which tends to divide the world wide church the most—one until very recently has been a thorn in my side—is the one pertaining to the work of the Holy Spirit.  What on earth are we to do with those portions of scripture which refer to his workings in New Testament times?  We hear a broad range of beliefs touted by theologians who claim to have the answers to this divisive issue and yet often most of their theories just don’t ring true.  We are faced with views of the ‘anything goes’ charismatic, who teaches that if it feels good it must be the Holy Spirit speaking—without the need to consult scripture.  Then we swing clear across the board to the orthodox who emphatically insists that miraculous signs were for first century Christians who needed proof of Christ’s work and that they don’t really apply to today’s society—again not taking into consideration the need for consistent interpretation of scripture.  And we see everything in between those two opposite poles.  So who’s right?  And how can we know for certain?

            Like a Rushing Mighty Wind by Reverend Gordon Williams (with Diane Roblin Lee) grabs this issue like a bulldog with a bone.  Reverend Williams pulls no punches as he addresses all facets of the “Holy Spirit issue”.  He begins with an amazing testimony of his own life’s experiences and an impressive line of educational credits that affords him the right to have his say.  And then he firmly places the Holy Spirit in His rightful place within the trinity.  With scripture backing him and years of linguistic training, Reverend Williams picks apart each New Testament reference to the Holy Spirit and opens the reader’s eyes to subtle understandings that few theologians are willing to tackle.

            This book is the most logical, most well-thought out and most Biblical

explanation of what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  After reading Reverend Williams’ conclusions it is impossible to ignore the reality that the Holy Spirit is alive and well and still working fervently in believers’ lives.  Perhaps if church leaders and congregational members world wide were to consider reading and following the message of this book—one of surrendering of self-will to the pervasive power of the trinity—we would see the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that marked the authenticity of the early church.  Perhaps we, too, would be witnesses and participants in the prophecy spoken in Joel 2:28-32 which states: 

            “And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days.  I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.  And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.”

            I recommend this book for anyone in church leadership of any kind as a tool in understanding and living the work of the Holy Spirit.

N J Lindquist

            In the true spirit of complex whodunits N. J. Lindquist’s book Shaded Light has the reader doing mental calisthenics trying to figure out—well—whodunit.  She has a file full of ordinary and extraordinary characters that remind me of people I know. 

            We begin the story with the victim.  She’s not a likeable person—a woman that literally only her mother—and perhaps her father—loves.  Spoiled and beautiful, she has married well but isn’t content with that lot in life.  With her violent temper, her manipulative tendencies and her catty comments, it’s no wonder we are given such a broad cast of potential suspects to her brutal murder.  And to compound it further, Detectives Paul Manziuk and Jacqueline Ryan can see enough similarities to a big city serial killer to muddy the investigative waters.

            Just when I think I have found the killer, Lindquist throws in another alibi or detail that completely side-rails me and leaves me ruling that person out.  And then another twist comes and I find myself wondering once more if they could indeed be the murderer.  Lindquist’s ability to weave this sort of uncertainty through her plot line will leave readers second guessing every conclusion they make until they give up trying. 

            Shaded Light is a novel that you won’t put down once you pick it up.  Packed with enough detail to make it believable this book can hold its own against Agatha Christi.  An excellent read for mystery lovers of any age.

Marcia Lee Laycock

            Marcia Lee Laycock’s book One Smooth Stone reveals the ugly side of foster care and adoption.  While there are many good people who love and care for foster children, there are others who become the stuff nightmares are made of.  Ms. Laycock prevents us from ignoring it all in her fast paced novel.

            Her main character, Alex Donnelly, has lived a life that no child should live—and his character and experiences have a loud ring of truth to them.  Just as we are beginning to get to know Alex, in steps a beautiful researcher named Kenni who seems to have him all figured out.  And when Alex is informed of an inheritance left to him by his birth parents, he must face the demons of his past.  Kenni is there, with her own dark secrets and a deep abiding faith, to guide him through the flashbacks and memory terrors and to show him Christ’s love. 

            The dark undertones of this book are softened by the message of hope and God's grace and while it is a book that is a real eye opener, it is one that would benefit those who live and work around abuse victims.  Not only is it a spellbinding novel, it is a tool to help the non-victim understand the horrors that too many children are forced to live through.

            I would recommend this book for sixteen year olds and over.  For those who have repressed abuse, it could be an excellent starting point toward healing.  It isn’t surprising that this novel won the Castle Quay Books writing contest.  It is well deserved.

Angelina Fast Vlaar

            Angelina Fast Vlaar, in her book Seven Angels for Seven Days, breaks open her inner thoughts and heart and pours it out before her

readers.  This, her second book, takes us through the events that lead up to the death of her husband of three decades.

 

            In a daring journey to the Outback Angelina and Peter test the limits of his health and their faith in God.   It is an adventure that, while

broadening their relationship, ends abruptly in a camp ground in the Never Never.  Angelina documents her daily musings up to her husband’s

sudden heart failure and then her story becomes more real than we want life to get.

 

           As she walks through seven days of rending emotional pain, she is accompanied by seven angels dressed in human skin.  Through these

wonderful people, God tends to even the minutest details.  But the book doesn’t end there.  Ms. Fast Vlaar shares the days after the dual

funerals—the months—the years—with us.  And she pulls no punches.  She strips away the superficiality of life and forces us to look at our pathetic

responses to those who have been shorn in half through the death of a spouse.  She challenges all to embrace that necessary element of life—

mourning.

 

            It is a beautiful and painfully honest book that should be read by those who have been widowed, by their children and, most definitely, by

everyone else who dares to look beyond their own comfort zone.

Connie Brummel Crook

            In ‘Little House on the Prairie’ fashion, Connie Brummel Crook writes a wonderful tale of Canadian prairie life.  But it isn’t just any life.  In her book Nellie L., Connie ably describes the fight for women’s rights championed by Nellie McClung. 

            Using Nellie’s autobiography and embellishing only a little, Crook describes the hardships of women in the 1800’s.  Written in easy to understand language, she balances the debate on women’s issues that has spread from one end of the spectrum to the other.  We are told of the cruelty to those women who, up until Nellie’s time, weren’t even considered people by the Canadian government.

            Nellie travels through this tale from childhood to old age and in her telling, we see a feisty woman who isn’t content to be a slave to society’s ills.  From her ill-thought out race at the public picnic to her colourful stint as a school teacher, we see a woman destined to change the course of Canadian history.  And change it she does.

            While the story is filled with tender and loving men who encouraged the women’s rights to vote, it also opened the reader’s eyes to those who weren’t so fortunate to be married to those kind men.  This story is a true national treasure and should be in every school and library from coast to coast.  Stories like these enlighten future generations to the battles fought by those who were not content to live a life of oppression and slavery.

Keith Clemons

            It’s no wonder Keith Clemons’ book, If I Should Die, won The Word Guild award for fiction in 2005.  With an abrupt style he pulls off quite well, Mr. Clemons weaves each character into the beginning of the story so we know them well without being aware that we met them.

            In his descriptive manner, he tells a masterful story surrounding the controversial issue of eugenics.  With a cast full of colourful characters, he educates the reader about the plight of the elderly and infirm in Holland who no longer have a say in whether they should live or die.  At the same time, he shares the inner thoughts of a teenage girl born with cerebral palsy.

            The story dips and swerves through a plot that made me righteously indignant in some places, sad in others and down right teary eyed at the conclusion.  It also opened my eyes to the intellect and accumulative knowledge stored in the withering memories of those we are so fond of filing away into nursing homes. 

            Mr. Clemons stretches the lines that make us think about our role in man’s mortality while keeping those lines fully in tact enough to make this book more than credible and a wee bit frightening.

            I would recommend If I Should Die to anyone who thinks that it is man’s right to decide who should live or die.  It is an easy enough read for teens and would hold, from beginning to end, the attention of adults of any age.

 

Ron Wyse

            In beginning the book Beyond Survival:  Marriage and the Quest for Paradise by Ron Wyse, I was prepared to settle back to yet another ‘How To’ book filled with pat answers and drawn out statistics.  Was I ever surprised.

            The catchy titles and sub-titles nudged me to continue—a decision I didn’t regret in the least.  Mr. Wyse has all the standard information about communication, respect and the challenges involved in the most intimate of earthly relationships.  However, he digs much deeper into the culture, meaning and application of scriptures surrounding marriage.  And his insight comes off as having that resounding note of absolute truth to it.

            Mr. Wyse laces the book with personal stories and great humour which keeps the reader coming back for more and yet what surprised me most was that this book that reads like a novel turned out to be a study guide too.  A book that is a must for couples thinking about marriage, Beyond Survival clearly outlines the male and female roles in the marriage union.  It allows the reader to harvest rich nuggets of wisdom that every couple should apply to their relationship.

            I highly recommend this book for Pastors counseling couples, for Bible studies between adults and for the individual who simply wants to understand deeper truths in marriage.

Francis Ruiter

I had the pleasure of reading an excerpt of what I hope will soon be a published collection of Francis Ruiter's memoirs.  Francis has the ability to take a reader into the very images of his mind.  I walked with him through his childhood home.  I laughed at the moments of mischief and felt surprise at some of the cultural things that I had never known of before.  He weaves words into a matting of imagery that allowed me to experience the feelings that come from living in Holland during WWII.  His boyhood fear of the possibility of German soldiers forcing men into the munitions factories came through loud and clear without overwhelming me.  He spoke of the many shortages of those luxuries we take for granted and how he and his eleven siblings managed--not always through the most honest means--to come by some of them.  And he shared the essence of a family filled with great discipline and a greater love.  I look forward to the book.

Dr. Mario Beauregard & Denyse O'Leary

            The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard, Ph. D. and Denyse O’Leary is a book meant to be read in digestible chunks.  Not for the academically faint of heart it is a well-written and extremely detailed catalogue of scientific fact.

 

            Based on my own spiritual bias, I felt the book could have benefitted from a visit to Creation Research Ministries’ website www.creationontheweb.com.  With bias in mind, I must applaud the authors for their efforts to keep their own personal bias from swaying the evidence portrayed.  I must say that I have never read a scientific book that has striven so much to remain close to evidence-based truth as this one has.  Too often the scientist’s personal view is splashed liberally throughout the pages—something not done here for the most part.  Doctor Beauregard and Ms. O’Leary worked hard to keep opinion out of the documentation as much as possible in the first nine chapters.  It is only chapter ten where personal belief is brought into the picture.  I was stunned by the overwhelming amount of data served up in a clinical, non-threatening style so as to cut through any previous unscientific agenda in order to present clear truth.

 

            The Spiritual Brain’s authors have portrayed something much deeper than a complex catalogue of medical, psychological and scientific fact.  The authors have stripped away the rose coloured glasses worn by the average person who relies on media and medicine to interpret the facts of science.  Our eyes have been opened not only to a truth which states that a human being has both mind and brain, soul and body but we are brought to the awareness that there is a far more sinister reality documented between this book’s covers.  We have been shown that those in position to study the human condition have a clear bias against spirituality and especially Christianity.  Time and again evidence is set before the reader which shows that scientific “truth” is reported with underlying assumptions that evolution and materialistic humanism are proven foundations—assumptions made without validation.  It appears that the scientific world—in spite of overwhelming evidence of Intelligent design—is working hard to bury portions of science that repeatedly support the presence of a spiritual element in life. 

 

            But this startling secondary theme is a two headed monster.  Not only is the world community denied the evidence of God through science, but we come face to face with a media world that picks and chooses what evidence it feels the public has a right to see.  The heralds of freedom of speech ever-so-subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) paper shuffle away documented proof of the divine so that unsubstantiated theory can be touted as absolute.

 

            Once Doctor Beauregard and Ms. O’Leary took the reader past the obvious bias, they began to unveil document after document, quote after quote of information from top scientific minds that support not only Intelligent design but the presence of human mind, soul and spirit that strives to make contact with that Intelligence.  The beauty of this book is that the bulk of quotes and information come from atheists, materialists, humanists and evolutionists.  In a series of contradictions and a collection of data misuse, this book leads us through page after page of realization that only a handful of scientific minds are seeking truth—that many more are more interested in distorting the truth in order to sway the masses to their beliefs—yes I said beliefs.  I was intrigued by Doctor Beauregard’s use of CAT scan testing to document the change in brain function during spiritual events as much as I was in his mind over matter experimentation which proves that we can choose a particular path in life.  This book goes back to the very basics of scientific research—beginning at the beginning where nothing is assumed and all is reported based on provability. 

 

            I would recommend The Spiritual Brain to anyone of a scientific bent who is willing to set aside bias of any kind to look at clinical fact.  This book is a great first step toward the truth of Christianity.  Well done to both authors!

Ray Wiseman

Having just finished Ray Wiseman's book Aunt Harri Walks the Line it was with pleasure that I rushed back to my computer to offer my two cents worth. 

Ray has done a wonderful job of sharing Harriet's life with us in a witty, well-written collection of stories.  We all have an Aunt Harri in our lives.  You know the kind.  A no-nonsense, strong-willed oldster (in Wiseman's words) who doesn't hesitate to share her views. 

In this book we get a look into Wiseman's world but we also get a view of that generation we tend to overlook until it's our turn to be part of it--the senior citizen.  Ray gives two sides to the nursing home coin as we move with Aunt Harri into an assisted living apartment.  This book doesn't stop at Aunt Harri's unique personality.  We also get to meet her family, such as it is, and Ray's cousin Bert.

This is a wonderful book filled with humour and sadness, wisdom and solutions to a world that we sometimes don't understand.  Well done Mr. Wiseman!  A book for adults in all walks of life.

Angelina Fast-Vlaar

The Valley of Cancer by Angelina Fast-Vlaar is a lovely book that combines poetry and prose in a walk through her deepest trial. 

We are blessed by her honesty--her sharing of feelings while still facing the unknown.  Fast-Vlaar journals her day to day walk into the darkness and she burns like a bright light with each step.  From the moment she discovers her first cancerous symptoms on Canada day, to the last of the chemo-therapy reactions, she is candid.

This book tears away the protective indifference we often wear when we hear the dreaded C-word.  This author gives us enough detail to make us aware of the struggles without overwhelming us with the horror of each moment.  She shares good and bad.  Victories and defeats.  Doubt and faith.  The uncertainty of fear of death--and the joy of choosing to live while fighting that death.

I cried as I read this book because I saw the same courage I had seen when my parents fought the demon of cancer.  But I also cried as I walked, with Angelina, up the steep slope that pulled her from her valley into the bright Son shine. 

This book is a must for those facing the trials of cancer and for the family members who stand by helplessly, wondering how they can help. 

Diane Stephenson

I Cried Unto The Lord  written by Diane Stephenson, is a great book for devotional time or for a small group get together. 

Diane has used the beauty of poetry to share her heart and her life lessons with the reader.  Put together in tidy lessons, and with eloquent word play, each day can be a learning time as we read a poem, a few Bible verses and a prayer.  This book is ideal for allowing the reader to mine small nuggets of truth from the scriptures in a life filled with busyness.

The poems are well-written and cover everything imaginable from walking through the valleys of life to shouting on the mountain tops.  Diane gives us words to utter that express emotion, faith, everyday life and she leaves us with practical, scriptural responses.

This book can be enjoyed by adults of all ages.

Ruth Smith Meyer

Ruth Smith Meyer has done a wonderful job, in her novel Not Easily Broken, of telling the story of life as it was a century ago.  This story is a beautiful story of love.  Love in family, love in faith and love in marriage.  It isn't a standard romance where boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after. 

Fashioned after a true story, Meyer portrays the common practice of marrying a second daughter to the husband of a first daughter in order to keep family together.  When Ellie's older sister dies, leaving John with two children to raise, Ellie's parents come up with a scheme to allow them to continue seeing their grandchildren.  They approach John with the request that he will marry Ellie.

Ellie is furious.  She has a fiance.  She doesn't want to marry anyone else.  But she doesn't want to see her nieces grow up without a mother--or worse--not see them grow up at all because John remarries and moves away.  With much heart ache and courage, she agrees and waits for John to come to terms with the idea.

This marriage matures and grows into something beautiful but tragedy is never far behind.  Ellie is forced to face trying circumstances and constantly draws on her faith in God.

Ruth Smith Meyer uses this life story to show us the importance of trusting in a God who sees far more than we do and cares so much for us--even in those times that don't make sense to us. 

Mary Hasket

I took great pleasure in reading Mary Haskett's life story The Reverend Mother's Daughter.  Her ability to tell a story without all the fluff and yet with a beautiful descriptive style allowed me to step between the pages of World War II.  I could see her bright eyes and cheerful smile and I thrilled in the excitement of her guided tour through the forties and into modern times.

Mary shares deeply intimate scars and celebrates life's joys as she reminisces about her childhood in war torn England.  As an orphan in a home run by nuns, it is a surprise to me that she has found her place as the adopted daughter of the Mother Superior.  She paints a picture of the fear of the war planes droning above, the mad dash to the bomb shelter, and the ever present struggle with an abusive woman named Ada.  Reading about her visits to the gardener twists my heart and makes me want to do something to help. 

But Mary weaves her story with hope and constant optimism.  In a life where there should be tears of sorrow, she has shown us shouts of victory.  With each trial--Mario's betrayal, a new life in Canada, a struggle with her own insecurities--Mary Hasket shows us what beauty there is in life no matter what the circumstances.  She shows us the love of her Creator and the path she took in finding him.

This is a book for believers and non-believers alike.  It will inspire the reader to much greater things and leave you with a sense that God truly loves you.

Keturah Leonforde

Having won the Canadian Christian Writing Awards award of merit, Keturah Leonforde's book Reflections from the Waiting Room was a perfectly timed read for me.

We all have those moments.  You know.  Life stops with a hard thud and forces us to wait upon the Lord.  We can wait gracefully or we can wait like impatient little children on Christmas Eve.  We may wait for a day or for years.  But we all have our turn at waiting.

Having recently lost my mother to cancer, I am no stranger to the waiting room experience.  I will likely continue to have etched in my mind the sense of timelessness, the sterile look of the room, the feeling of uselessness and helplessness.  Keturah has captured all of those feelings in her journey through the Bible. 

She challenges us, in her study book, to make a choice.  Will we whine in our waiting room like Abram did when he complained to God about his childless state?  Or will we persevere like Caleb who was one of two of the original Israelites who got to see the promised land?  Leonforde draws from a large cast of characters who were forced to wait upon the Lord and it is through this insightful book that I am challenged to wait in silence and thanksgiving.

This is a wonderful book for adults of all ages and all walks of life.

Fay Rowe

In Fay Rowe's non-fiction book What's in A Name (Word Alive Press) I was forced to re-think my views on faith.  Laid out in a study book format, Fay, in this Canadian Christian Writing Awards finalist winner, hooks the reader in with a very simple Bible verse; Psalm 138:2.

Rowe shares intimate struggles in her life and how they forced her to study--not just read--God's word.  Fighting physical challenges, she is forced to apply her years as a teacher to her desire as a believer in order to know God's will.  Through her study, she discovers an earth shaking truth.  God can not lie.  He has made promises and He can not lie.

Fay forces the reader to look at the bald truth of Christianity--the lack of faith in the church, the lack of trust in God's character, the fear to put His word to the test.  She shares personal triumphs as she opens our eyes to the 'why' behind Abraham's willingness to offer his son, David's lack of fear before Goliath, Shadrak, Meshack and Abendigo's resolve to face the flames of the furnace.  And she shows how God's truth declares that it is possible for us to follow in their faith steps.

This is a book that all churches should incorporate into their teaching.  In doing so, we could potentially see revival in North America--and the world.

N.J. Lindquist

I have had the privilege of reading the four books in the Circle of Friends collection written by N.J. Lindquist and must say that it felt like I had stepped back into my teen years.  I was not surprised that her work had won The Word Guild's Canadian Christian Writing Award in the selected category. Telling her tales in the first person, I was completely taken aback by the true internal voice of the narrator Glen Sauten. 

Having been raised with four older brothers I had a sense of deja vu in this series.  Glen is a happy go lucky teen who is quite content to let the world pass him by as long as he has a front row seat in which to view it.  He is a non-committal youth who is neither brilliant nor totally nerdy but pretty much liked by all. 

Glen's life takes a swift left turn when Charlie Thornton moves to town and steps into the shoes vacated by Glen's childhood friend Phil Trent.  Phil has been spending so much time with his girlfriend Lisa, that Glen finds himself grateful for his new neighbour.  It is because of Glen's new friendship that a series of events begin to happen which will shake up his entire view of life. 

Charlie excels at all he touches.  A star athlete, a smart student and a ladies' man he begins to subtly shove Phil aside in the community.  Up to this point, Phil has been so involved with his girlfriend and the adulation that comes from being a star quarterback that he hasn't realized how changeable life can be.

And then there's Marta Billings and Nicole Grant.  There could never be two more different girls and both have equally profound effects on Glen.  Nicole is innocent and sweet.  A Christian.  Unwilling to get involved in worldly things.  Marta is the 'bad girl' and would love nothing better than to make Glen's life miserable.

These four books are woven together in a tale that addresses the difficulties of the teen years and the responsibilities that come with growing up.  As I read each one, I couldn't help but remember the hurts and confusion that comes with that volitile time in life.  Not only does N.J. tell a good story but she laces these tales with answers to many questions we all have. 

Ultimately Glen finds answers he didn't even know he was asking and he becomes the problem solver for those around him.  Not all of the bad guys are beaten and not all of the good guys get everything they want but Lindquist has shown that while life isn't always clearly understood, we do have a Saviour who willingly took our place in death so he could walk with us in life. 

It is a series that I highly recommend to teens of all ages.