This Swedish mystery is a wonderful combination of two different styles: classic British mystery and Scandinavian crime story. In my opinion, it combi...moreThis Swedish mystery is a wonderful combination of two different styles: classic British mystery and Scandinavian crime story. In my opinion, it combines the best of both worlds - the British penchant for focusing on the mystery solving rather than on gory details of the crime, and the Scandinavian bluntness and willingness to explore difficult situations.
As I read this book, I was particularly charmed by its wintry Swedish setting, starting with the wonderful artwork on the cover (which, incidentally, looks a lot like my own location in northern Saskatchewan this winter). Läckberg describes well the bleakness but also the stark beauty of the northern winter landscape. In addition, the characters speak in typical Scandinavian voice - giving their opinions and even innermost thoughts straightforwardly, in short, to-the-point sentences. Throughout the book, I felt as if Erica, one of the main characters, were one of my Scandinavian friends talking just to me, as she sounds so much like them in her way of thinking and speaking. Erica and Patrik are compelling characters, too, who are easy to identify with and have you cheering for them throughout the book.
The mystery itself was full of interesting twists and turns that made me not want to put the book down. However, on the negative side, I was able to figure out one of the cruicial points of the mystery's solution near the beginning of the book. This particular twist was a complete shock to the main characters, so I felt a bit cheated by the author, as I like to be kept guessing until the very end. However, I was pleased that this "easy" aspect of the mystery was only one small piece of the puzzle, so that I was kept in the dark about the overall solution until the end.
I'm looking forward to reading more in this series. In fact, I just bought book 2!(less)
Ever wondered what the everyday life of a minister is like? Or maybe you are one yourself, whether seasoned or brand-new to the role? Then this book i...moreEver wondered what the everyday life of a minister is like? Or maybe you are one yourself, whether seasoned or brand-new to the role? Then this book is for you.
This honest and eminently readable book takes those who are curious about or committed to life in the church through what is "ordinary" in the daily existence of a church pastor or priest. Topics include such varied things as what ministers' marriages are like and how ministers do regular tasks in their work, such as hospital visitation. Each chapter has a different topic, so the book need not be read in order, nor all at once.
I would recommend this great resource to enthusiastic newbies, experienced pastors, their family members, their congregations and the generally curious.(less)
Featuring reluctant exorcist-priest Merrily Watkins, this book is my favourite in the series to date. In this story, the Rev'd Watkins has grown into...moreFeaturing reluctant exorcist-priest Merrily Watkins, this book is my favourite in the series to date. In this story, the Rev'd Watkins has grown into her role as diocesan exorcist, as well as her relationship with Lol Robinson. Her daughter, Jane, too has matured. All of this makes for an excellent setting in terms of the relationships, allowing for smooth plot development and the exploration of yet more supernatural themes.(less)
This book retells the New Testament Book of Acts in modern language. It's the story of the very first Christian churches - a church being not a buildi...moreThis book retells the New Testament Book of Acts in modern language. It's the story of the very first Christian churches - a church being not a building, but rather a community of people who sought to follow Jesus in their thoughts and actions.
The text is interspersed with comments from various modern-day Christians, and there are also helpful essays at the end of the book to orient the reader to both ancient and contemporary church life. This book is also part of an entire series, which takes different books of the Bible and publishes them in this format. It's to be applauded for the way it takes each book seriously in its own right, as a separate part of the biblical canon.
Sometimes I found the essays and comments to be a bit simplistic, but despite that, I would recommend this book.
For those completely new to Acts, the book is very easy to read, providing a way into learning about these early churches and how the early Christians lived their lives. For those who are already familiar with Acts, the book helps to connect the ancient with modern-day life, its essays and comments challenging Christians on how they might live more like those early communities of Jesus' friends today.(less)
At a recent meeting in one of our parish’s churches, vestry members suddenly realized that not one of their children currently attends an Anglican chu...moreAt a recent meeting in one of our parish’s churches, vestry members suddenly realized that not one of their children currently attends an Anglican church. Some of the young people have changed denominations, while others have simply opted out. This experience – which could be easily duplicated in many congregations within the Anglican Church of Canada – begs the question: Why have these young people left the Anglican Church?
John Bowen, a friend and professor from Wycliffe College, an Anglican seminary within the University of Toronto, provides some thoughtful potential answers in his recently released book, Growing Up Christian: Why Young People Stay in Church, Leave Church, and (Sometimes) Come Back to Church.
In his book, John offers answers within carefully structured limits. He draws the entire population of his research study from his many years as a worker in a Leadership Training Program at the Christian Ontario Pioneer Camp. John follows up with these students (many of whom are or were Anglican) and asks them about their current levels of church and faith commitment.
This book will not address all Anglicans’ concerns about why their children and grandchildren no longer attend church. Why not? Because the population that John draws from (including both students and their parents) is unusually committed to church life, to the point of sending young people – and having the young people interested in going – to a several-week-long Christian leadership camp, with all its associated sacrifices and expenses.
However, some of John’s findings can be applied to the Anglican church as a whole. First, the young people who have stuck it out in the Christian church over the years say that what keeps them going back, despite many devastating disappointments in both the church and their personal lives, is first of all their personal relationship with God. Second in line is the support of their local Christian community.
Significantly, the church was also a main factor in the decision of many young people to leave and not come back. In their case, the church proved either inflexible in terms of explaining the claims of Christianity or incapable of living them out. Those who left simply did not receive the intellectual or friendship support they expected and needed from their church communities, and hence their decision to leave is understandable. After all, how many among us would remain part of a group where we felt neither sure of the local values nor personally welcomed and appreciated?
Many who have left the church, however, have not left their faith in God. These young people expressed an interest in returning to church, if they could somehow find one that offered a warm community of friends. This is made even more difficult in today’s highly mobile society, where people are constantly moving across town or across the country.
In the end, what most young people in the study were looking for was “a good church.” Toward the end of the book, John offers ideas on what makes a good church, including the quality of its community life, openness to questions and new ideas, social activism that resonates with the desire of young people to influence the world for good, and excellence in whatever worship style the church attempts.
Basically, what these young people – and, arguably, Anglican and all other young people – are looking for is a church community where they can find authentic friendships, passionate worship of God, and the ability to exercise their creativity and skills as they live out their Christianity. And judging from the lack of young people in our Anglican churches, they have unfortunately not found it with us. The question is, what are we willing to do about it?
The concept for this book is what caused me to pick it up - it's unique for its genre, and also largely untapped within literature.
Heroine Cooper Lee...moreThe concept for this book is what caused me to pick it up - it's unique for its genre, and also largely untapped within literature.
Heroine Cooper Lee is a 30-something with an unusual job; she repairs copiers and other office machines. Like many people of her generation, she's long ago left church behind, despite being raised in an at least somewhat religious family, where weekly church attendance is simply part of the landscape of life.
At one of her work sites, seemingly by chance, Cooper meets a very friendly and genuine churchgoer who invites her to attend her church. Cooper decides to take her up on her offer, but she turns up an hour too early and ends up in a Bible study group meeting. This group is a mix of eclectic characters who would have little to do with each other, if it were not for their shared faith: a real estate diva, a rich banker, a blind artist, and a computer geek, among others. However, their authentic friendship attracts Cooper despite her misgivings about getting too involved with a church, and she sticks, becoming a supporting and supported member of the group.
Speaking from many years of church experience, both good and bad, I can say that Cooper's experience rings true - especially her reluctance, shyness, and indecision about re-joining a church. In addition, the Bible study group characters come across as real people that you might find in a church, with very real strengths, quirks, and blind spots.
Unfortunately, though, the mystery itself turns a bit formulaic, with the characters acting in stereotypical and unbelievable ways with respect to the actual solving of the murder. The bright spot, though, is that through it all, the characters keep their integrity - hopefully a sign of good things to come as the series progresses.
I would especially recommend this light read to people who are thinking of coming back to church and wonder what the journey might be like (hopefully theirs won't involve a murder, of course!). And long-time church people would do well to read this book, too, to "experience" Cooper's tentative first steps on her faith journey back to church.
This book, set up in workbook format, is an excellent resource to lead your group or congregation through a study on evangelism.
Since it's designed f...moreThis book, set up in workbook format, is an excellent resource to lead your group or congregation through a study on evangelism.
Since it's designed for group discussion, the book is best used in a group session rather than in personal study. Our members kept saying how much the group discussions enriched their learning, after they had prepared their (short) lessons in advance, alone at home. Advance preparation can be done by group members and study leader alike in only 1-2 hours, so the homework is very manageable.
Regarding the book's content, it addresses fears, hopes and expectations about evangelism in a sensitive and sensible manner. In addition, it explains why Christians would want to share their faith in today's relativistic social climate, and it gives helpful guidance on how to do so in a non-threatening, friendly and non-judgmental way. Best of all, it is grounded in the Bible, not only asking its readers to draw conclusions from the lesson's text (which usually consists of a large section of a chapter), but also nudging them to think about well known passages - and personal preconceptions about them - in an out-of-the-box way.
If you think sharing your faith is scary, impossible, unnecessary, or even offensive, then this book is for you. It shows that evangelism is probably not quite what you think it is, and it gives you both motivation and tools to incorporate it into your lifestyle.
Another terrific read, featuring Anglican vicar & exorcist, the Rev. Merrily Watkins; her spiritually confused teenaged daughter, Jane; former roc...moreAnother terrific read, featuring Anglican vicar & exorcist, the Rev. Merrily Watkins; her spiritually confused teenaged daughter, Jane; former rock singer and Merrily's "secret" love interest, Lol; Jane's wise and longsuffering Welsh boyfriend, Eirion; and Merrily's exorcist mentor, Huw.
This particular story features various contemporary "hot topics" such as the (possible) detrimental effects of giant power transmitters on health, and our society's fascination with angels - including whether they are real or myth, and if they are real, the nature of their reality. As usual, Rickman makes his characters both complicated and believable, with both "good" and "bad" characters being multi-faceted and anything but one-dimensional.
After reading this instalment of Merrily's adventures, I finally caved and ordered the rest of the series so I can read them all.(less)
Like Veggie Tales? Have a dry sense of humour? Are you a computer nerd or a business person? Wonder how "Christian" companies are run? If you answered...moreLike Veggie Tales? Have a dry sense of humour? Are you a computer nerd or a business person? Wonder how "Christian" companies are run? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then this book is for you.
Phil Vischer's true tale of how he came to build - and bust - his Veggie Tales empire is alternately funny, painful, and thought-provoking. He takes us through each step along his journey of making his dream of telling computer-animated, wholesome and Bible-inspired stories to American children en masse, giving us his years-later, rearview mirror commentary about what was really happening all along, but he hadn't noticed at the time.
Veggie Tales fans will love the story of how those beloved characters, Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber, came to be. Computer geeks will lap up the first half of the book, with its exploration of the technology of the day, while business whizzes will appreciate the company-building (and busting) final half of the book. All the while, Christians and those curious about Christianity alike will get an insider's view of someone trying his best to live out a dream - while simultaneously having to put out managerial and ideological fires among his brilliant but often-in-conflict staff, both Christian and not.
Perhaps most valuable of all is Mr. Vischer's honesty about the loss - and subsequent re-forming - of his lifelong dream. His conclusion is that although dreams can be good, giving us vision and excitement, they can get out of hand if they master us. He ties all of this into his quest to know God better:
"Beware of your dreams, for dreams make dangerous friends...Why? Because God is enough. Just God. And he isn't 'enough' because he can make our dreams come true - no, you've got him confused with Santa or Merlin or Oprah. The God who created the universe is enough for us - even without our dreams."(less)
A charming introduction to a new series set in Virginia's wine-making region, this book is a real treat. It's the first cozy mystery I've read that fe...moreA charming introduction to a new series set in Virginia's wine-making region, this book is a real treat. It's the first cozy mystery I've read that features someone with a physical handicap, which makes the main character, vineyard & winery owner Lucie Montgomery, all the more believable and nuanced.
The story itself has the required twists and turns, but it's the characters and setting that steal the show. You can almost fancy yourself part of the family wine business, haggling over business decisions and tasting the wine, as you read.
A very promising beginning - let's hope the rest of the series lives up to the first instalment of Lucie's adventures.(less)
This is a light read, yet it's got real substance and is full of interesting things. There are lots of excellent tips on making great gourmet coffee,...moreThis is a light read, yet it's got real substance and is full of interesting things. There are lots of excellent tips on making great gourmet coffee, and I actually compared my usual procedure to the main character in the book - the manager of an upscale coffee shop in The Village, NYC. The setting, incidentally, is another attraction. I haven't been to New York City, so it was very interesting to read about one part of that infamous place.
Besides all these "packaging" aspects of the book, the story itself is a good one, and the characters are practically bursting with potential for further development. I'm looking forward to reading more in this series, to see where 39-year-old coffee manager cum detective Clare ends up. (less)
I had been anticipating this book for some time, as I've loved all the other instalments of the Hannah Swensen series. However, both story line and ch...moreI had been anticipating this book for some time, as I've loved all the other instalments of the Hannah Swensen series. However, both story line and character development failed to deliver in this book, compared with previous novels in the series.
For the first time in reading this series, I had the murderer figured out long before bakery-owner-turned-detective Hannah did. To me, being able to do so at all - let alone before the supposed detective in the story - gives a mystery a failing grade.
In addition, there were no real developments in either Hannah's character or her indecision re: her two potential love interests. It's getting difficult to imagine that two mature men in their 30s with interesting careers and good character would put up with sharing a woman for two entire years, with no hope of commitment or resolution in sight. I hope the author will make something happen soon in this department.
Despite all this, the series' setting of small-town Minnesota remains both interesting and charming. And the recipes interspersed throughout this book are particularly mouth-watering. I especially liked the chocolate sugar cookie recipe - my husband and I could hardly resist the delectable, interesting munchies when they came out of the oven. These two points rescue the book's rating and put it up to 3 stars. (less)
Mystery #4 starring reluctant Anglican exorcist Merrily Watkins is another hit. In it, we learn much about gypsy culture and beliefs about the afterli...moreMystery #4 starring reluctant Anglican exorcist Merrily Watkins is another hit. In it, we learn much about gypsy culture and beliefs about the afterlife, and the characters of Merrily and cynical daughter, Jane, are developed in promising directions. There is also more development of the complex relationships between Merrily & Lol and Jane & Eirion. Very nice indeed. I'm looking forward to reading #5.(less)
This is such a wonderful series, and the third instalment is no exception. I particularly appreciated the playing off of Anglican Christianity and pag...moreThis is such a wonderful series, and the third instalment is no exception. I particularly appreciated the playing off of Anglican Christianity and paganism. Both are addressed with considerable complexity, so that neither side is caricatured. There are narrow-minded, open-minded, compassionate and arrogant people on both sides, with characters representing various nuances and positions within Christianity and paganism.
I liked this one so much that I immediately started reading #4 in the series... (less)