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Reviews Written by
JenniferB "@" (Alberta, Canada)

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Shack, The
Shack, The
by William P. Young
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.16
241 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Meh..., Jan. 22 2016
This review is from: Shack, The (Paperback)
Well, who hasn't reviewed The Shack? This will just be a drop into the massive bucket that is online reviewing, but here goes.

If I've said it once, I've said it at least 5 or 6's terribly hard to do teaching fiction well. It always comes off sounding a little bit cheesy. In that respect, The Shack is to Christians what the Celestine Prophecy was to the New Age movement a couple of decades ago. Will we look back communally on our fascination with this title and wince once a few more years go by? It's certainly possible (although Christian readers are perhaps a bit more loyal.)

I was a bit late to the scene of The Shack, reading it a couple of years after it's release. It was honestly hard to see what all the hoopla was about. This book isn't great literature, it isn't a spectacular allegory, and it isn't great theology. To compare it to Pilgrim's Progress as an editorial review does here, is...well...rather misguided.

Another point to consider is that if you don't deal well with topics of child loss, you may not be able to stomach this book. I told my husband he probably shouldn't read it. He'd rather avoid that kind of content because we have seven children who he frets over.

I won't dig into the theology. Google Challies' huge in depth PDF review if you want some of that.

The Shack ultimately has some warm-fuzzy moments about God, and perhaps the biggest takeaway here is that Jesus is a real person, one you can have a real, authentic, loving relationship with. I'm not sure that reminder justified reading the whole book in my case, though there are probably seekers out there who will be pointed to Jesus through the popularity of this work.

If I enjoyed teaching fiction more, I'd rate this work higher, but as it is....meh, I can't really see the cause for all the applause.

I received a review copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Priest's Graveyard
The Priest's Graveyard
by Ted Dekker
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 8.99
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, Jan. 21 2016
The Priest's Graveyard follows two vigilantes of different stripes on a journey from self-justified righteousness to something closer to the truth. It isn't entirely the through though, and that's where my largest concern lays.

I won't be doing a plot summary, there are plenty of those available here. I will say that it's a surprising read.

While I found some of the content disturbing and unrealistic, my main concern was the presentation of love and grace WITHOUT the person and work of Jesus. Instead, this love, grace, and forgiveness was offered only by another flawed (and mentally disturbed) human being. Dekker came close to presenting the truth, but yet he fell oh, so very far away from the mark.

As such, I didn't feel that the trip into darkness was worth the emotional cost. The light offered at books' end was a false one, with no true redemption on offer. Perhaps Dekker was trying to steer mainstream on this one, I was disappointed in any case.

I received a review copy of this book - all opinions are my own.

VeggieTales - Pistachio: The Little Boy That Woodn't
VeggieTales - Pistachio: The Little Boy That Woodn't
DVD ~ Mike Nawrocki
Price: CDN$ 14.95
6 used & new from CDN$ 11.45

4.0 out of 5 stars Pretty Good, Jan. 18 2016
Pistachio is the VeggieTales where Qwerty gets his upgrade and the VT gets a spiffing up in Extreme Re-Do Crying Edition. We then move along into the veggie-take on the classic tale of Pinnochio, starring Larry as Gelato, Pistachio's (played by Junior) dad.

Gelato is an adoptive father to three obedient ducklings whom Pistachio (with his tendencies towards rebellious willfulness) is clearly contrasted once he is carved. Nobody made him, he doesn't need to listen to anyone, and he can be the boss of himself regardless of instructions from his father/creator.

The classical story of Pinocchio is set up with a simple re-telling of the parable of the lost sheep. This parable is, of course, mirrored by Pistachio's own straying from the flock of his family and Gelato's un-ending quest to recover him.

While VT comes short of fully tying this story of redemption to God the Father's unending love and pursuit of His children, the depiction of fatherly love in the face of disobedience is still moving.

The Pinocchio retelling is very gentle, if not entirely accurate. There is no turning into a donkey (which some of my kids insisted should be in there). The meatball bros certainly weren't in be original, but I think they are funny. The emphasis is slanted more towards filial obedience than honesty, though that's in there as well (with he nose and all).

The CG is lovely with detailed wood textures. The silly song "Where Have All the Staplers Gone" just isn't as catchy for kids (and big kids) as they normally are, though there is some nice, if melodramatic, harmonizing.

The DVD also includes the standard audio commentary track, a discussion guide, art gallery, and "Larry Visits a Marionette Theater' bonus feature.

Close as a Breath
Close as a Breath
by Callie Grant
Edition: Board book
Price: CDN$ 13.04
13 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Story, Jan. 13 2016
This review is from: Close as a Breath (Board book)
Close as a Breath is an 'Absorb' board book title for 0-8 year olds in the Graham Blanchard series of books, indicating that the book is written to help children connect facts about God with their inner lives.

The story follows a father and daughter on an outdoor walk. The daughter asks a variety of simple questions and the father offers answers. He eventually offers that God is in all places and the closing scripture passage explains how God is made known through His creation.

The work is lushly illustrated with large, softly blended landscapes by Sarah Ackerley. The text by Callie Grant, while simple and child-appropriate, does seem a bit forced into a semi-repetitive, somewhat inconsistent rhyming scheme. This is a strong preference of mine, that text be either prose or clearly consistent poetry, and not somewhere in between.

I love the beautiful nature scenes and the theme of God being known through His creation. Ultimately, the message didn't seem to come all the way home for its intended age group (my 9-yo seems to resonate the most with it, but the text and format are overly simple for her).

I received a review copy of this title. All thoughts are my own.

Five Star 09735 Poly Wireless Composition Notebook, College Ruled, 7x5-Inch, 1-Subject, 100-Sheets, Assorted Colors
Five Star 09735 Poly Wireless Composition Notebook, College Ruled, 7x5-Inch, 1-Subject, 100-Sheets, Assorted Colors
Price: CDN$ 3.89

3.0 out of 5 stars Not my fave, Jan. 12 2016
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
I prefer the hardback composition books (iScholar), these are smaller, expensive, and the spine is only tape on plastic. Not the best.

Annoyingly, it doesn't lay very flat and if you try to fold it back to write on it in your hand, it doesn't go back into a flat shape when you close the book, it stays slightly open.

Fool Moon Rising
Fool Moon Rising
by Kristi and T. Lively Fluharty
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.46
19 used & new from CDN$ 13.95

3.0 out of 5 stars Nice Idea, But..., Jan. 12 2016
This review is from: Fool Moon Rising (Hardcover)
Fool Moon Rising is a simple story about a cocky moon who brags about his brightness. Most if the book depicts the moon making all sorts of wild claims about his prowess. Near the book's end he comes to learn that his light is only a reflection of the sun's and from that point on, points to him as the source of his light.

As an adult, this parable is instantaneously understandable. Any goodness in us is due to God's glory and we should always point to Him. To children...this message is a bit more veiled and needs to be drawn out by the parent explicitly in order for children to understand it.

As a parent of seven, I must admit that the book fell a bit flat with its intended age-group here at our house. Reading it out loud, the text is child-appropriate, but the deeper message (while unarguably a good one) is a bit harder for kids to dig out. It's the type of book adults like the idea of, but the actual reception by children may be less than enthusiastic.

I received a copy if this title for review. All thoughts are my own.

Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century
Christianity In Crisis: The 21st Century
by Hank Hanegraaff
Edition: Hardcover
21 used & new from CDN$ 9.65

4.0 out of 5 stars A Strong Refutal, Oct. 1 2015
The most sure vaccination against false teaching and error is a thorough familiarity with God's Word itself. Just as cashiers may recognize counterfeit cash by feel after handling so much of the real thing, so Christians also ought to handle God's word so often that false teachings ring hollow and sound off.

That said, Hanegraaff's work - Christianity in Crisis - clearly, and with incredible thoroughness, routs out the deep, underlying causes as to why so many teachers within the charismatic movement may reek of untruth. Tackling the word of faith/prosperity gospel movement specifically, Hanegraaf's expose lays bare the questionable teachings that many popular speakers spread.

Many have questioned the title - Christianity in Crisis - and indeed, it is a vague one. Is orthodox Christian doctrine, the faith once delivered to the saints, under attack only by this select group of false teachers? I am afraid not. Perhaps a more focused title would in fact be more fitted to the content found within this work's pages.

After thoroughly working through and dismantling flawed and dangerous doctrines category by category, the author then reorients readers to conservatively understood foundational, unifying elements of the Christian faith. While somewhat lengthy and filled with copious footnotes, appendices, and indexes, this work is essential reading to refute dangerous teachings, particularly if great specificity or detail is required to converse with loved ones treading dark paths.

May we also be as Bereans, comparing all teachings against the Word of Truth itself.

I received a review copy. All thoughts are my own.

The Traitor's Wife: A Novel
The Traitor's Wife: A Novel
7 used & new from CDN$ 11.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Good Stuff for Fans, Oct. 1 2015
It must be terribly difficult to write a follow up novel to one as powerful as The Heretic's Daughter. What a task Kent set herself for all her future writing endeavours when she penned the unforgettable original.

Kent tackled the task with aplomb, creating a gritty love song of a prequel dedicated to exploring the characters of Martha and Thomas Carrier more fully. Rarely have I read such a realistic, unconventional, yet somehow satisfying courtship. (Readers may want to know that there is premarital intimacy.)

Filled with visceral descriptions, powerful characterization, and heady realism, this novel has much to offer devotees of the original who remain hungry for more of this stark, brutal, and somehow beautiful landscape.

I received an ARC. All thoughts are my own.

Bo's Cafe: A Novel
Bo's Cafe: A Novel
Offered by Hachette Book Group Digital, Inc.
Price: CDN$ 9.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Meh, Sept. 27 2015
I've mentioned before that teaching fiction isn't exactly my favorite genre. It takes a terribly talented author to pull it off without it feeling preachy. Teaching fiction so often ends up being neither great fiction nor great teaching. This proves true with Bo's Cafe.

Bo's Cafe makes no bones about being a platform for the authors belief in relationship based Christianity. I've got no issues there - living a transparent life in Christ with others is a beautiful, freeing thing.

What does ring false for me though, are the conversations that take place between the two male main characters. Now...I'm a woman, so maybe men do talk to each other this way. I've never ever seen it, though. A mentor dedicated to one on one meetings that he spends using a strange form of Socratic, psycho-babble questioning? Honestly, this incessant dialogue was very annoying. It certainly seemed more like talk therapy than it does encouraging and exhorting one another from the Word of God.

The takeaway? Get friends, get real. I'm not sure I needed an entire novel filled with quasi-spiritual, self-helpish talk to get there. In any case, I won't be taking another trip to Bo's Cafe anytime soon.

I received a review copy. All thoughts are my own.

Owen Fiddler
Owen Fiddler
Price: CDN$ 6.51

2.0 out of 5 stars Can't Recommend, Sept. 27 2015
This review is from: Owen Fiddler (Kindle Edition)
This is a tricky review to write, since I have corresponded with the author and respect him and his journey. I also read and enjoyed Marvin Wilson's autobiographical work, I Romanced the Stone. Owen Fiddler is another matter however.

Owen Fiddler is a man in need of a saviour. Self-serving and degenerate (as we all are before knowing Christ), he enjoys crawling around in the muck and mire. Or he thinks he does in any case.

One of my main dislikes of this title are about how Wilson chose to portray that degeneracy. I believe there are ways to clearly depict those sorts of actions (which are unsurprising in and of themselves) without writing them as though there were a boom-boom-wah-wah soundtrack playing. I found the writing mood distasteful and 'icky'. Of course, Fiddler IS icky, but I would prefer reading about him without being IMMERSED in his ick.

The theological perspective is also a bit dicey. I won't go into details, but the perspective is more of a Christian spiritualism as opposed to a more orthodox set up.

I continue to respect Wilson as an individual, and as a non-fiction writer. This work was a miss for me though.

I received a review copy, all thoughts are my own.

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