The Returning is author Rachelle Dekker’s third installment in her Seer Novels. I read the second book and not the first book. This book takes place 20 years after the second book. It took a while to connect with the characters, as many of them were children in the first book, if introduced at all. There was a bit of connection to the second book–which I had gotten into without knowledge of the first book.

Set in the future where the government controls everything–even the obedience and will of the people. A few have managed to escape and have found freedom–spiritually as much as politically. The time has come to rescue a member who was kidnapped as an infant 20 years ago. But her rescue will also trigger the awakening of the city where she has been kept.

The Returning deals with themes of faith, identity, and the choices we make. Throughout the book characters examine the reasons they make in choosing good and evil. Suspense and intrigue are strong in the story. Even without reading the first two books, the story is an enjoyable read.

 

Q&A from Rachelle Dekker:

Set the scene for The Returning. What has happened since The Calling ended?

Well, it’s been nearly 20 years, and the world has changed. I don’t want to give too much away for those who haven’t read the first two, so I’ll just say the world is very different and much more dangerous than it once was. But something is brewing under the surface. Change is coming, and people know it.

 

What themes are explored in this book?

Identity is something I am always exploring, so that’s no different in The Returning. But in this novel I took a really hard look at forgiveness and how that relates to our journey of discovering who we really are.

 

The theme of identity is explored in all three Seer books. How does forgiveness relate to identity?

For me, forgiveness is more about the one who feels wronged than the one who committed the wrong. What if, for a moment, you believed that nothing could harm you? That you, as a believer, are seated at the Father’s table and standing with him? Can anything harm the Father? If you believe no, then can anything harm you—the true you, the true spirited self? So then, forgiveness becomes more about letting go of false belief and stepping into the true identity that the Father gave to you. I know it’s radical, but belief like that could change the world, don’t you think?

Advertisements

I was excited for the opportunity to read Nadia Bolz-Weber’s new book Accidental Saints: Finding God in all the Wrong People. I first encountered her name in the talk of friends and on NPR. A tattooed woman pastoring a church sounded intriguing, and she is far from conventional. Those who are prudish over a little usage of crass language may need to stay clear of Bolz-Weber (as may those who are overly conservative in their religious practice). She is as unapologetic in the language she uses as in her faith. She speaks candidly of her humanness and how God broke into it.

Accidental Saints progresses through the liturgical year as Bolz-Weber looks at the people God keeps putting in her life. Their presence is not always welcome, as she honestly shares, but God teaches her things about Himself and herself through them.

This is a great book for those searching for God, but wary of the church, as well as for those looking for deeper insight into their faith through the people around them in their everyday lives.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Though it sounds like a mystery, The Missing Matisse is a memoir by the grandson of famous artist, Henri Matisse. Pierre Matisse came to age in Nazi occupied France. His family was constantly on the move to stay out of danger. His father was involved with secret resistance activities in which young Pierre grew up becoming a part of. His story gave a fascinating look at life in Nazi occupied France leading up to and during World War II. His story is gripping.

Matisse’s story also centers heavily around the theme of identity. He spent much of his childhood (and adulthood) wondering who his real father was and who he was at the center of his being. Eventually, after moving to Canada and later the United States, and after a string of marriages, Matisse answered the call of God which he realized had been in his life all along.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Fir Tree by Hans Christian Andersen illustrated by Sanna Annukka ISBN#978-0-399-57848-9

The Fir Tree is a classic Hans Christian Andersen story written in 1845. It chronicles the life of a young fir tree growing up in the woods to its service as a family’s Christmas tree to being chopped up as firewood. As with any great Andersen story, there is more to it than just a great story–there’s a good lesson about enjoying life as well.

Finnish artist Sanna Annukka adds to the splendor of the story with superb pictures that make the story sparkle even more. With the pictures and the hard cover binding, this is a great gift book for a favorite child (or adult) in your life.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Amidst the backdrop of the construction of the Panama Canal, a South Dakota rancher is invited down as a personal favor to the President himself. There James Holt finds himself helping a mysterious young woman search for her missing mother amidst the political unrest of the Panamanian citizens in a zone occupied by American canal builders. Holt quickly finds that everything is not as it appears and danger lurks around every corner.

Though Saffire is a love story in some ways, it is much more of a historical mystery. Panama in 1909 comes to life throughout the story with all of its complexities of politics and cultures coming head to head in a buffered Zone. I enjoyed the story–both for its entertainment as well as the historical information it imparted.

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

I’ve been a bicycle owner and user for years, but I confess I’m not overly knowledgeable in the things I need to need to do to take care of my bike or make optimum use of it. I found Anna Brones’ book, Hello, Bicycle: An Inspired Guide to the Two-Wheeled Life, to be a good resource to keep around.

While simple and straightforward, Brones gives a comprehensive overview of bicycle ownership and use. She addresses picking out a new or used bicycle, fixing a tire, and touring and camping with your bike. She even includes ideas for reusing a bicycle tube, recipes for camping with your bike, and bike shop vocabulary.

I recommend this book for anyone who owns a bike or is thinking of buying one.

The publisher provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 

The family table is important to me, especially as a single dad of two kids. Ted and Amy Cunningham lay out in each chapter some values of the table (such as simplicity, hospitality, family time). Along with personal anecdotes, Ted and Amy include a family recipe each time, a family game to play, a devotional, and questions.

While many of the chapters touched on things that were already in practice for me, but I appreciated the reminders. There were also a few new ideas and thoughts that struck me. It felt like many of the recipes were dessert focused. As a parent, desserts are easy to come up with; I would have appreciated some more meal time variety in the recipes. But overall, I appreciated the book and would recommend it to families that haven’t spent much time around the table together.

In exchange for an unbiased review, I received a free copy of this book.

 

 

Punderdome is a party game created by the father/daughter duo who created Punderdome 3000, which I have never seen. I tried the game based on an enjoyment of puns and games. The game has two parts. First a joke is read and players guess the answer based on what sort of pun would work. In the second part players come up with a pun based on two categories such as “yoga” and “butchering.” Players might say something regarding “downward hog.”

The game works best if at least a few people in the group are good at puns. Non-pun makers tend to get drawn in. If you enjoy group games and humor, this is a good game to try.

I was supplied with a copy of this game in exchange for an unbiased review.

 

 

Bob Roberts shares with Western Christians lessons he has learned from Christians in the East in his recent book Lessons from the East. While being an American pastor, Bob Roberts has invested time and energy working with pastors in churches in Africa and Asia–areas where despite persecution in many cases, the Christian church is rowing and thriving. He contrasts these areas–often deemed as more primitive–with the American church that is in decline.

My one critique would be that it sometimes felt that the recommendation for the American church is a complete overhaul: switching from the current setup to a house church situation. I understand that this format has had huge success in the Eastern world, and I understand why, but I would feel more hopeful if there was more advice for churches to be able to start without a complete overhaul.

I did appreciate his insight though–especially in areas of loving our neighbor. Roberts focused well on shifting the focus of Americans from the church as the focus of Christianity to God’s Kingdom as the focus. His insight into the church in the world is an insight that more Western Christians should be aware of.

 

After having been to the Badlands and Mount Rushmore a few months ago I decided to pick up a book about one of the faces on the monument who was instrumental in creating many national parks. Darrin Lunde’s book The Naturalist: Theodore Roosevelt; A Lifetime of Exploration, and the Triumph of American Naturalist History was an enjoyable look into the former President natural legacy.

The biography begins with a look at the influences on Theodore Roosevelt at school a child that led to his proclivity to enjoy nature and desire to study it. An avid hunter,  Roosevelt was also a true Naturalist, studying animals in their native habitats as well as after preserving their hides and skeletons for scientific pursuits. While the biography is strictly a look at his biological naturalism–his presidency is mainly referenced as how it kept him from his outdoor pursuits–it also gives good insight into Roosevelt’s life and passions.

I recommend this book for readers who enjoy the outdoors, history and looks into the lives of historical personalities. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased book review.