Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (9)

"Books won't stay banned.  They won't burn.
Ideas won't go to jail
Alfred Whitney Griswold, Essays on Education

"There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book.
Books are well written, or badly written.  That is all."
Oscar Wilde,  The Picture of Dorian Gray

"The books that the world calls immoral are books that show the world its own shame."
Oscar Wilde

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

CD Review: Jeremy Riddle - Furious

Furious by Jeremy Riddle
Release Date: September 20, 2011
Label: Vineyard Music
Format:  Compact Disc, 54 min, 19 sec

1. Fall Afresh
2. Furious
3. Love Came Down
4. One Thing Remains
5. Acquitted        
6. You Are Good
7. Walk In The Promise
8. One Thirst and Hunger
9. Glory To The Lamb
10. The Lord Is My Shepherd
11. Here
12. Always

My Review:

Jeremy Riddle returns with his third studio release entitled Furious.  Before listening to Furious, my familiarity with Riddle was primarily from his 2007 Number One single, "Sweetly Broken", which topped the K-Love radio chart for more than 40 weeks.  On this new project, Jeremy works with producers Ed Cash, Bobby Hartry, and Jeremy Edwardson.  Riddle, a worship leader and songwriter, penned all the songs on the album, occasionally writing with Brian Johnson (pastor of Bethel Church) and/or Christa Black (solo artist who spent years as violinist/background vocalist in Michael W. Smith's band).

From the opening track, it is clear that the listener is in for a special experience.  The lead-off song, "Fall Afresh", is a beautiful prayer and invitation to the Holy Spirit.  As such, the song is a wonderful way to begin and establish the emotional tone for the album.  The music starts quietly with gentle, melodic notes and builds until it bursts forth like a sunrise.  I'd liken the song to a morning prayer, as it expresses both the peace and the invigorating energy a prayer can bring.  Jeremy sings:

Spirit of the Living God, Come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow, to overflow 

With the single "Furious", Riddle captures the energy and passion of God's love as well as its power to transform.  You'll find yourself singing along with the chorus:

His love is deep, His love is wide, And it covers us. 
His love is fierce, His love is strong, It is furious. 
His love is sweet, His love is wild, And it’s waking hearts to life. 

"Love Came Down", "One Things Remains", and "Acquitted" address the mercy and steadfast love of God -- a constant in our lives, whether we are experiencing joy or despair.  "One Thing Remains" has its own infectious refrain:

Your love never fails
It never gives up 
It never runs out on me

"You are Good" is sure to be a hit at radio as well as a crowd favorite during live shows.  The straight-ahead rock song full of driving bass and guitar is a celebratory praise offering that will make you feel like dancing and shouting along as Riddle proclaims:

I’ll sing because You are good
I’ll dance because You are good
I’ll shout because You are good
You are good to me, to me

I could go on and on and on singing the praises of this album.  Furious is so strong a finished product that you'll not want to skip a single track.  The album is well-sequenced:  quiet, reflective songs, anthemic praise songs,  rocky celebrations -- all are here and seamlessly woven together in a way that ebbs and flows naturally.  Musically, the album is beautifully and carefully crafted.  Many songs have various movements that tend to start more slowly and quietly, build to a crescendo, and come back down to a quiet stillness and peaceful prayer opportunity.  "Walk In The Promise" is a stirringly gorgeous example of this.  Minor key and moody, the song is perfect for listening to at night under a starry sky or on the open road.  In fact, the latter part of the record lends itself to quiet reflection and peaceful retreat.  "Glory To The Lamb", another joyful praise anthem, co-written with Christa Black, is wedged in between the quieter moments to keep things from feeling too weighty. 

One of my favorites, "The Lord Is My Shepherd", based in part on Psalm 23, is both a prayer and a declaration of love from a faithful follower.  Riddle shares that he wrote this song out of his own experience with a period of darkness.  He talks of having "checked out" for a week, losing himself in a television show.  Not wanting to depend on anything other than God, this song is his resolution to turn only to God for solace and satisfaction:
The Lord is my Shepherd,
And I’ll want for nothing.
You lead me to water
For You know I’m thirsting.
And I, I’m only satisfied by You, by You.

Every day, I’ll make a choice 
To be led only by Your voice.
To be bold, unafraid
Knowing I am covered, I am safe
And even now in my need
You are proving yet again to me
That You are there, You are there, always there

Another favorite of mine is the final track, "Always".  It is a gentle, plaintive prayer sung over a lullaby-like loop:
I want to run away,
Find a place quiet to pray.
A place that’s lonely,
Where I can find You only.

It's a perfect ending.  The album began with what sounded like sunrise, and it ends with the quiet of night and moon.  Riddle sings his heart to God in prayer.  "Fall Afresh", "Walk in The Promise", and "Always" carry prayer through the record in a way that recalls Psalm 55:17,  "Morning, noon, and night I cry out in my distress, and the Lord hears my voice.

Furious is an well-crafted collection of fervent, passionate, prayerful songs that you'll be able to connect with.  You'll find words and music that reflect your heart for every mood and moment.  Don't walk, run to pick up a copy! You'll not regret it! (Please see links to iTunes and other web sites at the bottom of this post.)

*Highly recommended!*

Meet Jeremy:

Jeremy Riddle is a songwriter and worship leader. He first hit the scene in 2007 with the critically acclaimed record, Full Attention. This project had the radio hit "Sweetly Broken", which was the number one song on the radio station K-Love for over 40 weeks in 2007. Since then Jeremy has toured extensively all over the US. The Riddle Band has opened for Rebecca St. James and Big Daddy Weave and has played events with Brenton Brown as well.
In 2009 Jeremy released his second project, The Now and Not Yet with the radio singles "Bless His Name" and "Christ Is Risen".  In the fall of 2010 his first full length live project Prepare the Way was released, including tracks from live shows in 2009.

Jeremy comes from a family of 7 children and was homeschooled all the way through high school. He graduated from Cal State Fullerton with a BA in Political Science.  Jeremy attended and later served as a youth pastor at the Anaheim Vineyard. Riddle is married with 4 children and now lives in Redding, California, where he is part of the worship ministry at Bethel Church.

Furious Album Bio:
“…and as I passed the fire I did not know whether it was hell or the furious love of God.”
- GK Chesterton, The Diabolist

A certain, magnificent comfort exists in the resolve that, of man’s innumerable conquests, fully grasping God’s love is one that will never be actualized. Such truth has left Christians scouring for words to best describe this holy affection since the Old Testament.

As Chesterton’s quote rattled around in Jeremy Riddle’s mind over a recent period of time, it was decided “furious” was the closest expression he was going to get regarding his experience with a divine love.

“It’s hard to come up with words that depict the magnitude of Christ’s love – the depth and width of it,” Jeremy says. ‘Furious’ doesn’t work outside of the context of love; we tend to translate the word as angry, but I see it as a super-powerful force; stronger, deeper, broader than our vocabulary can fully describe.”

So if each new album should serve as the next chapter in an artist’s life story, Furious is a well-suited project title for a man who’s spent much of the past year struggling to accurately express his experience of a passionate God amidst some life transition.

Four years on the road as a touring worship leader eventually took its toll on Jeremy, so in January 2011, the former Jr. High youth pastor came on staff as worship community pastor at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Working under pastors Brian and Jenn Johnson, Jeremy facilitates a worship community of over 200 people within the church.

“My wife (Katie) and I have always had a heart to serve the local church and never wanted to do the full-time travel thing for very long, so it felt like a good time to transition into something different,” Jeremy says. “I’ve developed such an appreciation for the fruit that has been sowed from my life – personally and artistically – by being part of a local community.”

Jeremy Riddle on the Web: 

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above CD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday Inspiration (8)

"Let no man imagine that he has no influence.  Whoever he may be, and wherever he may be placed, the man who thinks becomes a light and a power."
Henry George, Social Problems

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Read Love Reviews: There You'll Find Me

There You'll Find Me by Jenny B. Jones

Pub. Date: Oct 4, 2011
Publisher: Thomas Nelson 
Format: eBook, 303pp
Age Range: Young Adult
ISBN-13: 9781595545404
Source: NetGalley, Thomas Nelson

Synopsis from

In a small cottage house in rural Ireland, Finley is forced to face a past she can't outrun. When she books her trip to the “Emerald Isle” as a foreign exchange student, she hopes to create a new identity and get some answers from God. After all, since her brother’s recent death, God seems to have forgotten she even exists. Now all she wants to do is let her heart heal, see the sights in her brother’s favorite country, and work on her college audition piece for a prestigious music conservatory. She plans to use her brother’s journal from his time as Ireland as her guide, yet from the moment she boards the plane and sits next to Beckett Rush, teen star of the hottest vampire flicks, nothing goes according to her well-ordered plan.

My Review:
This was my first experience with both NetGalley and Jenny B. Jones (thank you, Thomas Nelson!).  I'm happy to report it was a positive one.  I don't have a lot of experience reading Christian fiction, so I was a little surprised that There You'll Find Me felt very contemporary.  In fact, in the early pages, I was looking for differences to set it apart from similar mainstream releases like Anna and the French Kiss.  On the surface, these two titles seemed similar:  an American teenaged-girl goes abroad for school and drama and relationships ensue.  A hotel heiress whose rebellious ways made her a tabloid star meets a Hollywood big ticket vampire boy. A young Paris Hilton and Rob Pattinson in a Christian book? And Finley is a cynic? The differences were not obvious, but who says Christian books can't be hip and funny?

Luckily, I enjoyed There You'll Find Me a lot more than I did Anna and the French Kiss.  This novel succeeds in many areas.  It has humor without ever being rude or vulgar.  You won't find any underage drinking in this book -- Finley's rebellious time immediately following the death of her brother is mentioned, but we are not given details.  Finley's family comes across as loving and supportive.  This is a rare treat to see in a teen book! Emotions feel genuine.  When Finley is upset, she never sounds whiny.  Given that she's still grieving the loss of her brother, her occasionally standoffish attitude makes sense.  Her grief gives a context and a meaning to her actions, and Finley is very self aware.  Her character is one that many girls will be able to relate to.  She's very hard on herself.  In fact, one aspect of Finley's personality quickly became bothersome:  her compulsive counting of calories! This annoyed me for some time, as I felt like the book was looking the other way.  In actuality, though, the novel turns this behavior into a discussion point and successfully deals very plainly and honestly with a difficult subject.

The relationships in the novel were realistic and solid.  Love was real.  Finley and Beckett develop a legitimate friendship and have good conversation.  They forge bonds based on trust and caring.  This is no heated, lusty teen angst style romance.  Finley's friendship with Mrs. Sweeney also develops in a believable manner.  Nothing comes too easily or quickly.  The two learn slowly how to trust each other and communicate in a productive way.  There is a lot of humor and a lot of heart in the dynamic between Finley and Mrs. Sweeney.  I laughed and cried while reading this book, and it's rare for me to find myself laughing out loud or with tears trickling down my face while reading.  Have no fear, this is not melodrama; it's more subtle and measured.  And you'll cry because events unfold in a way that is neither forced nor manipulated.  Additionally, when Finley starts dealing with her emotions, you'll find that Jones does not sugarcoat things or bring resolution too quickly.  Isn't this how life works? We struggle and we fight, and we may or may not succeed.  But we don't learn to fly overnight.  I loved that Jones doesn't oversimplify things.

There You'll Find Me is indeed a Christian book.  I think you'll notice some of the differences I've outlined above.  The novel succeeds in presenting the story of a girl struggling to find God and hear God's voice during a time of personal upheaval in a manner that is current, subtle, and even-handed.  Readers will never feel they are being preached to.  Finley's questioning is shown as healthy and normal.  It's encouraged.  And when Finley prays, it feels like it's coming from her heart and her mouth, not the voice of an authoress on a soapbox.  We see characters care for and love one another.  I believe they all hear God's voice through their heartfelt efforts to help each other and their desire to know one another.  Again, this is life.  And as such, any reader should be able to read this book without feeling discomfort or exclusion. 

The only quibble I have is a minor one:  the author may have taken on too many plot elements.  In doing so, some areas or characters are left unexplored or underrepresented.  For instance, I would have enjoyed seeing more daily life interaction between Finley and her host family.  And though at times, the various narrative pieces felt hard to manage, I feel this was an intentional effort to highlight Finley's struggle:  She is trying to juggle grief, expectations and pressure surrounding her music school audition, issues surrounding life and death in her burgeoning friendship with Mrs. Sweeney, her relationship with Beckett, issues with control and self-image, as well as her quest to find God again.  That's an awful lot to deal with! But this is a reality many are faced with every day. I highly recommend There You'll Find Me.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

DVD Review: Beverly Lewis' The Shunning

The Shunning directed by Michael Landon, Jr.
Release Date: September 13, 2001
Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Format: DVD, 88 minutes
Based On: The novel by Beverly Lewis
First Seen On:  The Hallmark Channel 

Starring: Danielle Panabaker, Sandra Van Natta,
Bill Oberst, Jr., Sherry Stringfield 

About the Movie:
Katie Lapp (Danielle Panabaker) has always struggled with the rules that define her sheltered Amish community, but when a wealthy outsider (Sherry Stringfield, TV's "ER") begins asking questions about her family, Katie begins to wonder about her origins. What connection does this woman have to her life...and how will the unraveling secrets challenge Katie's faith?

My Review:

The Shunning, presented by the Hallmark Channel and directed by Michael Landon, Jr., tells Beverly Lewis' touching story of Katie Lapp.  If you have read The Shunning, you will notice that Chris Easterly's teleplay makes changes.  Some characters are missing and their roles have been merged into others'.  For example, although Katie has three brothers in the novel -- Elam, Eli, and Benjamin -- the movie gives her only Benjamin, who seems to have taken the place of her married brother Elam.  Additionally, Ella Mae Zook has been given the role of baby catcher, while Aunt Mattie is absent from the film.  I was a little saddened, too, that Katie's best friend Mary doesn't play a more significant role.  I would have loved to see more of their relationship on screen.

Along with these notable character changes, there are several differences in the timeline and in the way events unfold.  This makes the movie a different experience from the book.  However, I find that no matter how faithful a movie remains to the novel it is based upon, it always creates a separate product.  This is not a bad thing, but rather a result of  the differences between the two mediums.  Books can spend as much time as they like, but movies, due to time-constraints, need to pick and choose which scenes to include.  Furthermore, films are limited by what they cannot demonstrate.  It is difficult to show what a character is thinking, as internal monologues from the text cannot be illustrated by visuals.  By the same token, it is more difficult for a book to tell you what a place or person looks like.

The Shunning does a beautiful job of bringing the Lancaster County landscape and the people of Hickory Hollow to life  As the film opened, I felt I was intruding on a quiet, tucked away corner of the world, unspoiled by the complexities and corruption of the modern society.  And perhaps that's why the long black limousine appears in the first scene, and why the lady inside, Laura Mayfield-Bennett, seems to occupy more space in the film than in the book.  Her presence sharpens the contrasts between these two juxtaposed worlds.  I think this is why I was a little disoriented each time the film shifted its lens from Katie Lapp and the Plain people living in the pastoral landscape of Hickory Hollow to Mayfield-Bennett in an urban setting.

Danielle Panabaker does a marvelous job of capturing Katie's innocence, independence, imagination, curiosity, and fascination with things that sparkle.  She also is very easy to empathize with. [Warning! Spoilers ahead!]  The Shunning, like the book, succeeds in putting the Amish community's practice of Shunning under the spotlight without being harshly critical.  Both the love and the measured discipline from Katie's family and friends are shown.  We share Katie's frustration and we hurt for her.  And like Katie, we are even a little angered for a time.  However, our emotions settle and soften, and ultimately we ache not just for Katie, but for the family and the extended community.  This is not a simple situation with an easy resolution.  It is bittersweet.  We want the best for Katie: we want her to marry for love, and we want her to feel unashamed about who she is.  We wish she could remain with her family and friends without feeling like she has to lose herself in order to conform to the Old Ways.  We aren't sure how that can happen, though.  I would have liked to see the film take more time to explore questions about the extent to which man-made rules and the customs, rituals, and other trappings of religious practice represent God's will or demonstrate the faith of a believer.  I've heard talk of a sequel, so maybe this will be explored in the second film.

Overall, though the movie tells the story in a different way, it remains true to the character of Katie Lapp and the confusion she must deal with as she struggles to define herself and her faith.  I was moved to tears a couple of different times while watching Katie and her family respond to and adjust to the uncertainty surrounding them as their lives suddenly change course.

One thing is certain:  I really want to find out what Katie's ultimate decision will be! I guess I'll have to read the second book (and probably the third) or wait for the follow-up film to find out!

About Beverly Lewis:
Born in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, Beverly Lewis is the New York Times Best-Selling author of more than eighty books.  A keen interest in her mother's Plain heritage has inspired Lewis to write many Amish-related novels.  The first of these novels, The Shunning, has sold over million copies.  In 2007, Lewis was honored with a Christy Award for her novel The Brethren.

The Shunning movie on the Web: 

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above DVD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."


Waiting on Wednesday (10)

"Waiting on" Wednesday is a weekly chance for bloggers to share books we can't wait to get our hands on.  
It's hosted by Jill from Breaking The Spine. 

Available in Hardcover October 31, 2011:

Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian

  • Publisher: Crossway Books
  • Format: Hardcover, 224pp
  • Age Range: Adult
  • ISBN-13: 9781433507786

Synopsis From
Jesus + Nothing = Everything is the equation that Tullian Tchividjian took away from a year of great trial and turmoil. He describes the bitter divisions that soured the beginning of his pastorate at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and the personal anchor that he found in the overwhelming power of the gospel. The book of Colossians forms the basis of Tchividjian’s call for Christians to rediscover the gospel and continually reorient their lives around Jesus and only Jesus.
Tchividjian insists that many who assume they understand the gospel fail to actually apply its riches to their lives. He takes particular aim at self-righteousness, which motivates moral behavior by fear and guilt. In contrast, the gospel of grace, with the radical freedom that it brings, provides the only sustainable motivation for Christians. This book delves into the profound theological truths of the gospel, yet the message is intensely practical—Tchividjian sounds the call for believers to lean hard on Christ in every area of every day.
I don't know about you, but I find that every now and then, I need to take a break from fiction and dive into some non-fiction.  I've been looking forward to this book since the day I found out it was coming! In fact, I had even pre-ordered it at Borders many months ago before the chain closed.  So, I was saddened when they cancelled my order as the liquidation process began.  But I digress....

Tullian Tchividjian is a Pastor at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, and is one of Billy Graham's grandsons.  He is charismatic and contemporary in his approach to the pulpit.  There was even fuss from some over his refusal to wear the traditional Pastoral robes.  His own life story is one that includes rebellion, and he'll be the first to tell you that he's a Prodigal and a sinner in need of grace.  But he'll  remind you in this book (and even on Twitter!) that we all need grace.  But only grace.  We shouldn't beat ourselves up trying to be perfect to win God's favor.  Nor do we need to.  If we look at what grace really means, we'll find freedom and live more abundantly.

I can't wait to read this book! I follow Pastor Tullian on Twitter and have seen some of his sermons on this topic, so I know it will be rewarding.

That's what I'm waiting on! Now how 'bout you?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

CD Review: Ginny Owens - Get In, I'm Driving

Get In, I'm Driving by Ginny Owens
Release Date: September 13, 2011
Label:  Soul Stride / EMI
Format:  Compact Disc, 42 min, 6 sec

1. Get In, I'm Driving
2. Mystery of Grace
3. Before You Fly
4. Rain
5. Joined at the Heart        
6. Better Off
7. Lay It Down
8. Higher Ground
9. Daughter of Destiny
10. Better That Way
11. The Song

My Review:

After some time out of the spotlight, Ginny Owens returns with her first studio release since 2005 entitled Get In, I'm Driving.  The tongue-in-cheek album title is also the lead-off track for the record.  It's the perfect opener for the album -- both an assured statement from an artist joyfully "march[ing] to the beat of [her] own drum" as well as a reminder that life is a God-led adventure.  It's clear from the start that Owens is driving the project with confidence and heart.  And what a treat this record is to listen to! It's a soulful mixture of sounds and styles, including gospel, soul, rhythm and blues, and jazz.  The tones are at times dark and minor-key, but there is a palpable energy -- a swagger -- and a consistent undercurrent of hope, resilience, and strength.

Though it's hard to pick a favorite, the first single "Before You Fly" is one of the standout tracks.  Though Owens began writing the song soon after Hurricane Katrina, five years passed before she finished it.  During that time, Ginny experienced her own personal "hurricanes" as she cared for her mother who battled cancer and endured relationship issues and heartbreak.  Owens came out of the darkness on the other side, though, with hope.  And the song serves as a beautiful source of encouragement in a tumultuous world.  Ginny sings:
When you wash up on the shore,
Wondering what this journey’s for-
Spread your wings in the sun,
Don’t give up, there’s more to come.
You will find when you try,
You always fall before you fly. 
On my first listen, "Before You Fly" instantly reminded me of Stevie Wonder's hopeful pop work.  So it was not a surprise to find Ginny covering the Wonder-penned "Higher Ground".  Though not her original composition, Ginny makes the song her own, creating her own arrangement, with a slower tempo and dark, shadowy musical tones, including stringed accompaniment -- a fitting framework for what she considers a "song [that] paints a picture of a broken world where each of us has a chance to be redeemed again and again -- if we’ll only ask." The end result is both stunning and stirring. 

"Higher Ground" is preceded by another standout song that addresses struggle and burden, "Lay It Down."   
Lay it down,
Everyone’s got a burden;
That’s just part of livin,
So take the one you’re given
And lay it down;

Don’t let it define you,
You’re not strong enough to
Carry that around-
Go ahead and lay it down

"Rain" and "Better Off" are two more of my favorites.  Both songs are born out of pain and hardship, but remain optimistically grounded in faithful trust and hope.  In "Better Off" Owens has emerged from heartache a survivor.  In fact, much of the album is about dealing with change and transition. In an interview with Lauren Kleist of, Owens says:
"the whole CD... is very much about me going through some changes. It’s about leaving something that was more comfortable and safe and peaceful feeling -- something that was maybe more predictable and more of what people wanted me to be, and then sort of diving out in faith into being who I wanted to be, especially as an artist. So, there are a lot of songs about life, about transition, and about moving from one thing to the other."         
Though Get In, I'm Driving may at first glance look like a complete stylistic departure from her earlier work, Owens experimented with elements of jazz and R&B on prior projects. Here she is following her heart and exploring these sounds with aplomb.  Though by no means a newcomer, and indisputably talented from the get-go, on this newest project -- her best work yet -- Ginny Owens has blossomed.  On previous records, she was exploring and questioning, not her faith, but her musical identity and her path.  As an artist, she was finding her way.  With Get In, I'm Driving, not only has Ginny emerged stronger and more confident than ever before, she knows exactly who she is and where she's going.  And though she says she "drove" this project, working two years to patiently make it sound just the way she wanted, Ginny would remind you that there were bigger hands behind the wheel.  Her life and her music are part of the larger journey that God is leading her on.  And it's beautiful to listen to Ginny "following the song" as she sings in the final track ,"The Song""No matter where it leads me, it never leads me wrong.  How empty would my soul be, if I never heard the song."  This gorgeous song compares God's love and guidance to a song.  A song that Owens herself is determined to follow wherever it leads, and one she encourages her audience to listen to as well.  As the track ends, she implores:  "keep following the song." 

Highly recommended! I love this CD! It offers a lot of encouragement and hope, and does so in both energetic, uptempo songs as well as quieter songs.  I think everyone will be able to find something to like on this record and come away with something positive from listening to it.  It should be especially comforting to teen girls and young women, people going through hardship, or just folks with questions about where they fit in or what direction they should take.

Meet Ginny:

Born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Owens was discovering melodies on the piano almost before she could complete a sentence.  Songs began to emerge from her fingers as the vision began to leave her eyes, and by the age of three a degenerative eye condition left Owens completely blind.  Despite her physical challenge, she pursued a career in music.  Songs provide a window into a world Owens can't see and an outlet for her to express her thoughts and dreams.

Ginny Owens is a three-time Dove Award winner, including the Gospel Music Association's 2000 New Artist of the Year awardOwens' music has impacted mainstream audiences at Lilith Fair, the Sundance Film Festival, and the White House.  For her efforts to help rebuild New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, Owens was featured on NBC's "Today" and CNN.

In 2005 Owens launched The Fingerprint Initiative, a hands-on, non-profit organization designed to "bring hope to the world, one project and one touch at a time."  The organization has partnered with and raised money for groups such as Compassion International, International Justice Mission, and Habitat for Humanity. 

Ginny Owens on the Web: 

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received the above CD for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday Inspiration (7)

"If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom, we must keep clearly before us what is at stake and what we owe to that freedom which our ancestors won for us after hard struggles."
Albert Einstein, Address at Albert Hall, London

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Time Will Come (7)

"The Time Will Come"  is a weekly feature hosted by Jodie from Books for Company.
Each Thursday, we share a book that might be sitting unread on our shelves for now, but we do intend to get to! 
(Thanks go to Jennifer @ It's Fay, Not Fey! for the graphic!) 

I was so excited when I saw Gifts by the legendary Lady Le Guin on the shelves at the store! And just as excited that it was part of a series with really cool cover art!

You can't go wrong with Ursula Le Guin, so I can't explain or understand why I haven't yet read this! I guess every time I pick it up and glance at the first few pages, it feels more dense in terms of world-building than I had anticipated and I'm just not feeling in the mood.  One thing is certain:  If you pick up a book and force yourself to read it when your mood and desire is not there, the experience will be less than satisfying.  So, knowing that a good series like this is waiting to be read, I patiently bide my time.

Any sci-fi/fantasy folks out there who've read the Annals of the Western Shore series? I'd love to hear about it!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Read Love Reviews: The Shunning

The Shunning by Beverly Lewis

Pub. Date: May 1997
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Format: Paperback, 283pp
Age Range: Adult
Series: Heritage of Lancaster County #1
ISBN-13: 9781556618666

Synopsis from
When Katie Lapp finds the satin infant gown in the dusty leather trunk of her parents' attic, she knows it holds a secret she must discover. Why else would her Amish mother, a plain and simple woman who embraces the Old Order laws, hide the beautiful baby dress in the attic? But nothing could have prepared Katie for the startling news that stumbles out of her anguished parents on the eve of her wedding to Bishop John. Will Katie suddenly find herself a stranger in the community she has always called home?

My Review:

For years I have looked at and wondered about the Amish fiction of Beverly Lewis.  Presented with the opportunity to review the DVD for the Hallmark Channel movie version of The Shunning -- coming soon -- I decided that the time had finally come to read the book.  And I'm delighted to find that my reading experience was a pleasure!

Beverly Lewis was born in Pennsylvania Dutch country and dedicates The Shunning to her grandmother who left her Plain community.  Lewis' interest in and respect for her Amish heritage is demonstrated in the novel.  I enjoyed the author's smattering of Amish and German words and phrases throughout the text.  And I also appreciated that the novel explains some Amish rituals and customs but never feels encyclopedic.  Instead one feels transported to the small fictional community of Hickory Hollow in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

The novel is told in the third-person, but begins with a prologue written from the first-person perspective of the main character, Katie Lapp.  From the start, I found it easy to care about Katie, whose voice and independent spirit comes through almost immediately.  The community comes to life as we get to know Katie's family, her best-friend Mary, and several other friends, family members, and neighbors.  The relationship between Katie and Mary is sweet, and there are some touching scenes between the two.

Katie has never found it easy being Plain.  She loves Fancy things, color, and especially music, so she's always felt a little out of step with her friends and neighbors.  And though she is kind-hearted and good, following the rules and customs of her community sometimes is a struggle.  The Shunning allows the reader a chance to walk alongside Katie on her journey of self-discovery. We glimpse her wrestling with questions about her faith, her customs, her heart, and her destiny.

While the novel may not have a complex or unpredictable plot, it is an emotional book.  And I found it rewarding to watch how characters responded as circumstances unfolded.  As the title suggests, we learn about the practice of die Meinding or the Shunning.  Lewis handles the difficult subject well, managing to question and spotlight the practice without casting too long or dark a shadow.  This ensures that by the conclusion of the novel, readers are able to sympathize with both the outcast and the community who has averted its collective glance.

Unfortunately, the novel is incomplete in its resolution.  A cliffhanger ending leaves us unsatisfied and wondering what kind of answers Katie will find on her journey.  The ending does, however, motivate you to pick up the next installment in the series and read on! Though I'll have to wait on book two, I do look forward to viewing the film version of The Shunning starring Danielle Panabaker!

Please note:  I read a copy from the library, so the cover posted with my review may not be readily found on bookshelves at your local stores.  Instead, look for the updated cover art or the movie tie-in:

*DVD review of The Shunning* 

*Please note:  Read Love has a copy of the DVD to giveaway! Enter the Giveaway!*

Monday, September 5, 2011

Read Love Reviews: Nightshade

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Pub. Date: October 2010
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA), Inc.
Format: Hardcover, 454pp
Age Range: Young Adult
Series: Nightshade #1
ISBN-13:  9780399254826

Synopsis from
Calla is the alpha female of a shape-shifting wolf pack. She is destined to marry Ren Laroche, the pack's alpha male. Together, they would rule their pack together, guarding sacred sites for the Keepers. But then, Calla saves a beautiful human boy, who captures her heart. Calla begins to question everything - her fate, her existence, and her world and the orders the Keepers have asked her to follow. She will have to make a choice. But will she follow her heart if it means losing everything, including her own life? 

My Review:

Okay, I'm starting to see an unfortunate trend:  Dawn finally reads a book or series that it seems everyone loves.  Dawn is underwhelmed.  Sorry folks.  I wanted to love it -- I really did.    

Let's look at what Andrea Cremer accomplishes with Nightshade.   Cremer sets up her own unique wolf mythology.  If you started the book thinking you were going to be reading about familiar werewolves, you'll find you were mistaken.  Although things like pack pecking order and other wolfish mannerisms are not new to anyone who knows a little about wolves and their behavior, the society and world that Cremer creates for her characters is believable and compelling.  Rather than spending a lot of time on exposition in order to explain the world her characters inhabit, the author begins by immediately advancing the plot, giving the reader pieces of information bit by bit throughout the opening chapters.  While initially a little disorienting, this technique successfully gains and sustains reader interest and curiosity.  And with each chapter, you'll find yourself shaking your head as the plot thickens as your understanding of the world deepens and the conflict broadens.

Unfortunately, for me, the growing complexity of the society of Keepers, Guardians, and Searchers was not the only thing that had me shaking my head.  While it served the author's interest to reveal her world piecemeal in order to advance the plot, she did herself a disservice by not spending more time establishing her characters, particularly Calla.  We never learn the reason why Calla felt compelled to risk her own life to save Shay, the human boy she knows nothing about.  As an alpha female, you'd expect Calla to have more self-awareness.  Sure, we see her struggle with issues like power, control, tradition, purity, and obedience.  We can appreciate the difficulties she faces as she navigates her changing role and ponders the emerging questions surrounding her place in a world which she thought she understood.  But without understanding why she is drawn to Shay, or how she really feels about Ren, the romantic elements of the book are nothing more than distractions from the larger storyline.  The dynamic between Calla, Shay, and Ren was not a satisfying love triangle.  The reader never fully understands her feelings for either boy.  And I'm not convinced Calla understands her feelings either.  Nighshade's romantic elements are built mainly on lust and physical attraction.  I found this hard to swallow, and my enjoyment of the novel slackened when the romance started to overshadow the plot.  When the mystery was explored and the characters were searching for answers, I was rapt.  But when the steamy moments interrupted, I checked out.  Especially when the characters pause while in mortal danger for a steamy interlude! Who gets romantic when their life is in peril? Only in the pages of Hollywood scripts, or apparently, torrid YA fiction!

As far as the writing goes, for the most part it was strong enough to support the story.  But, at times, the overuse of certain phrases or conventions became an annoyance.  I can't tell you the number of times a male character raises his eyebrows, or crooks his finger at someone.  And for heaven's sake, people don't blush as often in real life as they do in the pages of a story trying to create romantic tension!

While I enjoyed reading Nightshade and never struggled to turn the pages, I was never able to fully connect with Calla, the protagonist.  So while I kept reading to find out what happened, I found that I was more intellectually curious than emotionally invested in the outcome.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Inspiration (6)

"Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can."

John Wesley, John Wesley's Rule

Sunday Inspiration is a weekly feature hosted here @ Read Love.
It began from my desire to share a nugget of encouragement or wisdom.
I didn't intend for it to be a community thing, but due to positive feedback,
I'm giving it a try! (Thanks, Kate)

Participation is welcome!
Your quote need not be faith-based, but it should be positive and uplifting.