Faith in Books: Josh Whoever

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Josh Whoever

By Michael Guillebeau

Josh was known as a hero. But he knows that it was all faked. He tried to live that life but ended up walking out in the middle of a television gameshow. He turned into the kind of con man that he saw his own father had become. Now his latest scam has gotten out of hand. He has the unwanted attention of the Russian mob and a wannabe crime reporter whom he is fast falling for. He doesn’t need anything of this but he keeps trying to find the missing Romanov daughter. As it says on amazon: “he needs to save the girl, stay sober, and keep his identity hidden — or die.”

Josh is a sad yet fascinating character. I want to read more about him. I also love the fact that Guillebeau lives here in Alabama. The book is fast paced with just enough realism to be believable and enough creativity to help you suspend yours.

What is your motivation for doing something for someone else? Do you love God or love them? Do you want to be needed or appreciated? Are you searching for accolades? Josh has always down stuff for Josh – mainly to make some money so that he can drown his life in drink for a period of time. At least until the money runs out. Then he becomes a con man again. In this book he finds himself helping out because he feels sympathy for the mother of the girl who is missing. Sometimes I do the right thing because it is my duty or I feel guilty if I don’t. That isn’t Christian love. At least Josh is moved by someone other than himself. 

I recommend this book but don’t expect a fairy tale ending.

Happy reading!

Amelia

 

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Faith in Books: A is for Abstinence

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A is for Abstinence

By Kelly Oram

In V is for Virgin, we met Virgin Val who began a whole movement to encourage young people to either remain a virgin until married or be abstinent from this point until marriage. Now comes A is for Abstinence. It will not make too much sense without reading the first book. In addition, this book is aimed at a more mature audience so I would not recommend it to very young or immature teens. 

Val is now in college and has grown up in many ways. In Oram’s first book, we only saw her point of view. In A is for Abstinence, we see Kyle’s point of view. Kyle has grown in many ways as well. He fell in love and got engaged but his fiancé cheated on him. After understanding what romance is like when you are in love, he decides to take Val’s ideas (which he had made fun of to no end) and remain abstinent. He is also beginning a solo career and espousing the abstinent idea as part of his tour. He and Val are brought together again and find that their sparks are still there. Is there a possibility that the future holds more for them? Val isn’t so sure about Kyle and she is fearful that he may break her heart. 

Although this book isn’t as big on convictions, it does teach a lot about beginning again. This is a big part of Christianity. Can someone change or be changed and live life differently? We believe that people can really change through a relationship with Jesus Christ. To repent means to turn around. This book does not contain a Christian or even religious change but Kyle is a new person in many ways. Val does not seem to trust that. She seems to think he is going to go back to being who he was. I wonder how often Christians doubt real changes in other people. I for one have seen big changes. I have also seen “relapses” and folks trying again. That is when the power of forgiveness (not seven times but seventy-seven times) comes into play. Thank God I can be forgiven again and again!

I highly recommend this book for mature readers who loved the first one. I also highly recommend other books by Kelly Oram.

Happy reading!

Amelia 

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Faith in Books: V is for Virgin

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V is for Virgin

By Kelly Oram

Yes, I know this is a somewhat eye-catching title for a religious book review. However, this is one of my favorite young adult (teen) books by one of my favorite authors. It is followed by a new adult (18+) book called A is for Abstinence. This book combines all of those subjects that are often tackled in YA books these days: peer/boyfriend pressure to “do it,” teen angst, popularity (or lack of same), rock stars, fame, fortune, secrets from the past, friendship ties that break and learning to stand up for yourself/figuring out who you really are. 

Val is determined to save her virginity for her future husband. She not only wants it to be special, she also wants to avoid what happened to her young mother who left her on a doorstep when she was a baby. Her own convictions don’t match with her boyfriends’ hopes and when she refuses to go all the way, he turns on her and claims they did but that she was awful. They break up and he goes out with a girl who will give him what he wants. Everyone at school is watching Val to see how she is going to react. What happens next is awesome! Val gets up on a table in the school cafeteria and announces that she did not sleep with Zach, is still a virgin, and plans to remain so until she gets married and no one can make her feel bad about it. Of course, someone has their cell phone, records this and it goes viral on youtube. 

Virgin Val, as the media dubs her, begins a movement to encourage others to either remain a virgin or be abstinent. She begins creating jewelry for this and has a very popular blog. Some of the most popular people at school join her movement with surprising results. She also begins raising money for helping young pregnant women. In the meantime, Val has an opportunity to meet Kyle Hamilton, an alum of her high school and a hot and popular rock star with her best friend’s favorite band, Tralse. Kyle becomes obsessed with getting Val to give it up to him, so much so that he records a song about it and inadvertently spreads her message world-wide. The sparks between the two of them are very evident and their dialogue is wonderful. Even better, Val sticks to who she really is, looking for higher quality boyfriend material closer to home. 

As a Christian who was put up for adoption, I really appreciated Val’s conviction to remain a virgin until marriage. It was not based on her faith but on her understanding of what sleeping with someone really means – emotionally, psychologically and physically (I would add spiritually). But at the same time, she understood the pressures a lot of teens were under and created a way for others to be abstinent without being guilty. I guess that is what I have a problem with when it comes to Christian attempts to get teens to pledge to remain pure until marriage. Often there is a great sense of guilt if they are unable to keep to that pledge. Or they simply say they are bad and give up on Christ altogether. I actually think a few young women that I know would get a lot out of this book and possibly learn to keep their own convictions in the face of peer pressure. 

I highly recommend this book!

Happy reading!

Amelia

 

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Faith in Books: Prince of Fools

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Prince of Fools

By Mark Lawrence

From Lawrence’s website: The Red Queen is old but the kings of the Broken Empire fear her as they fear no other. Her grandson Jalan Kendeth is a coward, a cheat and a womaniser; and tenth in line to the throne. While his grandmother shapes the destiny of millions, Prince Jalan pursues his debauched pleasures. Until he gets entangled with Snorri ver Snagason, a huge Norse axe man, and dragged against his will to the icy north. 

In a journey across half the Broken Empire, Jalan flees minions of the Dead King, agrees to duel an upstart prince named Jorg Ancrath, and meets the ice witch, Skilfar, all the time seeking a way to part company with Snorri before the Norseman’s quest leads them to face his enemies in the black fort on the edge of the Bitter Ice.

From the same world of the Prince of Thorns trilogy comes this new fantasy series. Prince Jalan is an easier character to like than Prince Jorg but his challenges and motivations are quite different. I really got into the characters and the adventure of this series.

What did this book have to do with my faith? Everyone calls Jalan brave but he knows that he is at heart a coward. He also knows that there is nothing truly redeemable about himself. Yet, he keeps acting like a hero, fighting like a hero. How many believers truly know themselves? One of the marks of a spiritually mature Christian is to practice self-examination. That is, seriously ask how your relationship with God is going. Are you truly in right relationship with the Lord? Do your actions reflect this relationship? At least Prince Jalan knows his own weaknesses. Do you know yours?

I highly recommend this book, especially for Mark Lawrence fans.

Happy reading!

Amelia

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Faith in Books: Dead Aid

Dead Aid: Why Aid is not working and how there is a better way for Africa

By Dambisa Moyo

In the last fifty years, over $1 Trillion in developmentally-related aid has been sent to Africa. Has it helped? No. In fact, Africa, with a few exceptions, is worse off today than fifty years ago. Moyo, a native African and an economist, outlines the reasons why and offers some very viable alternatives. The first is: no more aid.

Aid not only is not going to the poor but the strings attached and the dependency it creates has brought down Africa as a whole in the economic sector. Moyo gives a complete understanding of what kinds of aid Africa has received and why each one has been detrimental to the future of her continent. She then follows by outlining what kinds of economic innovation is needed for the health of Africa.

Here is an example from my own denomination: we have been instrumental in raising money to provide free mosquito nets to people in Africa. Sounds good, right? Yet, what about the mosquito net maker in Africa? When the country becomes flooded with these free nets, he and his 100+ workers are out of jobs. Also, when these free nets become worn or need to be replaced, who will have the means and skills to repair or replace them? We Westerners think we have done a good term in saving lives but the people who depend on mosquito net production will be at a loss for years to come.

Moyo really made me think about what aid means and how others can become dependent on it. If your adult child is dependent on you to provide money for gas, food or other living expenses, will he or she ever make the effort to pull themselves out of their dependency? What happens when you are no longer able to support them? Is it not better to do something to help them become financially independent now rather than just pay their bills for them? Africa is the same way.

In my faith, I am often asked for handouts to help people in emergency situations. Churches often do things to help their communities. If you are part of a church, you know what I am talking about. But what if churches instead found ways to work with the community rather than just hand out stuff for free. Would it not be better to help the guy to fish rather than give him a free fish dinner?

I would recommend this book if you understand economics. I confess that I skimmed most of it. The section on helping with local village capital seemed like somewhere I may personally be able to help. I also would like to know where my denomination is purchasing all those free nets!

Happy reading!

Amelia

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Faith in Books: Take Me On

Take Me On 

By Katie McGarry

McGarry began a Harlequin Teen series of books a couple of years ago with Pushing the Limits. I have really enjoyed the series. These are not the cookie-cutter teens you might find in most Young Adult (really teen) books. These teens have many problems, usually having to do with family issues. These are not perfect kids and the adults aren’t much better. The kids are struggling to make it and  seem to find at least one other person — usually the romantic interest — to help them through. Each book can be read on its own, which is nice, although previous characters do show up from time to time.

Take Me On is the darkest yet of the series. Haley and West are having to deal with mistakes of their parents and are genuinely trying to help each other. However, neither seems to know how to react or deal with the help they are receiving. Somewhere in their pain, they recognize a kindred soul and try to gain some strength from one another. It is not an easy journey for either of them. 

Warning: don’t expect the usual happily-ever-after ending! Also note that mature issues such as drug use/dealing, homelessness (teens and families), alcoholism, abuse, fighting (in the ring, the cage and on the streets) and violence are all in this one book. 

What did this book have to do with my faith? As a Christian, I have served meals to the homeless. On many of those occasions, I see these people as somehow “other.” I don’t have any reference to them at all. However, this book makes clear that homelessness has nothing to do with how you start out or what age you are or even if you are a family. Homelessness can happen to anyone. So, why don’t I make the better effort to treat these homeless as people? Can I not serve the best food while spending some time talking, praying, and establishing relationships with these folks? Isn’t loving someone more than handing them a hotdog? 

I recommend Take Me On, especially if you have read the other books in the series.

Happy reading!

Amelia

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Faith in Books: The Husband’s Secret

The Husband’s Secret

By Liane Moriarty

Cecilia finds a letter addressed to herself from her husband to be opened only on the occasion of his death. Her husband is still living. Will she open it? And if she does, could she live with the consequences?

Tess’s husband has been keeping a secret: he has fallen in love with Tess’ best friend and cousin. Could she have lived with not knowing this secret? Now that it is out in the open, what are the consequences of her reactions?

Rachel’s son chose a woman who has announced they are moving to America and are taking Rachel’s beloved grandson. Why did Rachel’s son chose such an unfeeling wife? Rachel does not want to leave her home, especially since she continues to mourn the unsolved murder of her daughter. Her grief on two fronts will cause a great deal of pain for others.

In The Husband’s Secret, these three women become connected in ways they never dreamed.

I am not keeping this book a secret. However, this work of fiction may be too heartbreaking for those who have gone through infidelity in marriage, loss of a child or someone who keeps a secret from those closest to themselves. Does contain some bad language and bedroom issues.

What did this book have to do with my faith? All three women are Catholics. All three celebrate Good Friday and Easter. I would see all three as fairly active if not very active in their local church. Yet, not one of them would be considered a follower of Christ. I would label them as followers of the institution of the church. There is a difference. Sometimes it is far easier to be a church goer than a disciple of Christ. Christ is going to ask the hard things of us such as forgiveness for things both big and small as well as sacrifices in our day to day relationships. When it comes to revealed secrets, forgiveness and sacrifice are probably the best reactions for us to have. If only I could live up to that thought!

I recommend The Husband’s Secret.

Happy reading!
Amelia

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