Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Canary List - by Sigmund Brouwer

The Canary List is a fiction book about the connection between the spiritual forces, the physical world, and the humans that straddle the two. Do demons exist? Do our beliefs about them - whether belief or skepticism - affect us, or them? At the opening of the book, C.S. Lewis is quoted as saying:
"There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight."

Crockett Grey is not looking for an adventure, he's not looking for a cause; he's not even looking to leave his house on the night Jaimie Piper comes to him for help. He's looking to get drunk and to grieve the anniversary of his daughter's death. Jaimie is looking to escape the Evil she believes is hunting her, and she cannot reach the person who has promised to help her, her psychiatrist Madelyne Mackenzie. Crockett, instead, gets swept up into a whirlwind of scheming, and plotting, and politics of the Catholic Church, not to mention the question of supernatural forces of evil.

I don't normally read suspenseful books, mostly because I can't afford the lack of sleep due to the intense need to read "one more chapter" to find out what happens. This book definitely kept me up later than I should have been. I was intrigued by the characters, and the action kept moving at a pace that made it hard to put down. I do not like heavy foreshadowing, or predictable plots, and this had neither. There were several reveals that, while logical based on the story, had not been the obvious outcome.

Until the conclusion of the book, I probably would have come away fairly satisfied with a good read. There were sections of the book where I felt a bit too in-the-dark about what was going on, but it seemed true to the character's point-of-view from which I was experiencing the story. However, some loose ends and an unnecessarily complicated ending left me displeased. I wanted to know what became of the other characters, I wanted to know how the remaining question was answered, and I wanted something deeper - something to spark the reader to question their own beliefs in the spiritual realm.

I would give this book 3 stars - it was well-written, but it left me wanting just a bit more.

Want to see if this book grabs your interest? Try the first chapter HERE.
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I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Restless in Carolina - by Tamara Leigh

Restless in Carolina is the third book in a series about the Pickwick family from North Carolina. This installment focuses on Bridget Pickwick Buchanan, a woman widowed before she turned 30, who is trying to let go of her "widow's weeds" and move on with her life. She is passionate about the environment, and wants to find a solution for her Uncle Obadiah's estate that is both respectful of the land and will enable the family to settle old debts and give Uncle Obe peace.

Although a bit on the predictable side, the story of Bridget and her family gives the reader lovable characters (and a few not-quite-so-lovable characters) to invest in. Bridget's struggles are real and will be familiar to many. She is afraid to let go of her past and trust God for the future, mainly because she can't get past the question that everybody thinks at some point: if God loves us, how can He let terrible things happen to "good" people? Having lost her husband so early and tragically, she struggles to love again. She finds herself turning to God in unexpected moments, even as she argues with Him that she's not really on speakin' terms.

The book was an enjoyable read for me. I wanted Bridget to be happy. I wanted things to work out for her and for her to find love. I wanted her prayers to be answered, and I wanted her to get her "happily ever after," (A phrase she struggles to even complete as she reads fairy tales to her 5-year-old niece early in the book.) Even with its colorful characters (or, perhaps "because" of its colorful characters), I like the Pickwick family. I like watching the relationships change and develop as they fight their past together and try to get past the "sins of the fathers" to set new courses for the new generations.

There's a quote near the end of the book that struck me when I read it and gives more depth to the book than just a cute story. In considering their motives for their previous actions, a character asks:
"Do you know how hard it is to be right with God when you aren't right with people? When you can't forgive as you should? When you're holding the past tighter than it's holding you? When you think you're better at being God than God Himself?" Those questions would be good for us all to consider.

You can read an excerpt of the book HERE.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Same Kind of Different As Me - by Ron Hall & Denver Moore

Same Kind of Different as Me is a non-fiction book that shows us both the relationship of the three main characters and their individual journeys of faith.

Ron Hall is a wealthy white man who grew up in the lower middle class, helping his grandfather on a cotton farm and observing that, even while his grandfather treated the black workers better than most, there was a distinct difference to being a white worker versus a black worker. His journey takes him from those days as a child observer to a life of privilege and wealth, through marriage struggles into a vibrant marriage, from casual Sunday Christian to a man passionate about God's work, from working at a mission out of duty to wanting to help those less fortunate to actually caring and loving the people whom he came to know.

Denver is a poor black man who grew up living a slave's life in a "free" world in rural Louisiana. His early life was marked by tragedy, and he was shuffled from home to home. His journey in the book takes him from his poor childhood to a poor adulthood to a life of homelessness, which leads him to a life of crime, and eventually back to homelessness. But along the way, he also journeys from feeling worthless and unloved to being cared for and prayed over.

Deborah Hall is the wife of Ron, but she is also the impetus for the odd relationship between Ron and Denver. Her journey is her own, but it carries others along in her passion. She grows from a rich sorority girl to a compassionate woman, from a stranger in her marriage to a wife who fights for her husband, from a casual Christian to a woman of faith who dreams big dreams from God and prays to see them come to fruition.

The characters' life journeys are unvarnished and authentic. Their struggles, their growth, and their love for each other cannot help but touch the reader. Although at times the book can make one uncomfortable, that is also one of its strengths. It will make the reader question his own prejudices, his own lifestyle, and his own passion, or lack thereof, for God and His people. It will make him wish to do more, help more, and BE more for God.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <>