Tag Archives: Christianity

I’ve Lost My Way by Gale Forman

By the time a child graduates from high school and reaches the magic age of eighteen we give them the right to vote, access to the armed forces, and the title of adult. Perhaps the term of Young Adult would be more accurate. Whatever the name, these youngsters are still children tied to the apron strings of their parents, just playing acting at the game of grown up until such time as they are able to actually grow into the role.

In I’ve Lost My Way, Gale Forman takes the lives of three such individuals who are facing the cusp of adulthood and all the issues which go along with the job description. Each encounters a dilemma which will affect the direction of their entire future. Not only do they need to deal with their personal issues, but wrapped up in the process is their relationship with their parents and the changes which will occur as they pull away from the family nest to pursue their own future path.

This however is just one day where their lives accidentally intersect in New York’s Central Park and they develop the sort of friendship with a youthful exuberance that can make a difference. Only the young can enjoy the camaraderie of strangers, as they come to each other’s rescue not knowing the whys and wherefores on a life changing day. Freya, a singer on the cusp of greatness, faces a glitch in her future plans, while Harun is looking for a way to escape an inner secret which he knows will lead to turmoil with his parents. Then there’s Nathaniel, armed with a backpack and a map, far from home and overwhelmed by the hustle of The City. Through their own voices we find out their backstories and what has brought them to this current moment in their lives. This diverse, unlikely trio discover the joy of an unencumbered friendship which doesn’t judge, but uplifts each of them at the lowest moments of their eighteen to nineteen year existence.

A smoothe read, easily completed in one sitting (you won’t be able to stop yourself from finishing this one), with a set of strong characters and a somewhat open ended conclusion which makes anything possible. As an aside, I’m giving a shout out to fans of Tolkien who value the sanctity of his Lord of the Rings – Ms Forman, Nathaniel’s actions could easily be considered sacrilege. Please, honor the ring!

Five stars and a thank you to both Netgalley and Edelweiss for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Leanne Oelke

17 year old Jane Sinner should be enjoying her senior year of high school, but a traumatic incident has her constantly looking over her shoulder and second guessing the furtive glances of her classmates making it impossible for her to emotionally face their suppositions. Thus begins Nice Try, Jane Sinner where the author, Leanne Oelke, provides an interesting option for a main character suffering with depression and other mental health issues. Constantly skipping school, however, is not one of the acceptable choices, so by mutual agreement an alternative is suggested – a special program at the local community college where she can finish up high school and even take some college classes. Jane’s parents are so desperate to restore some normalcy to their daughter’s life that they agree to her demands of moving out and rooming with a friend near the campus. Little do they know that the place Jane chooses to live (sans said friend) is The House of Orange which is a Big Brother style set up filmed for the Internet with a used car as a prize for the last man standing.

Jane doesn’t have to worry about her past while attending class at Elbow River Community College, so she can relax and focus on her goal of “winning” the prize. For someone who shrinks from attention, she surprisingly doesn’t mind (too much) the invasive cameras which indiscriminately film her actions. She even forms an alliance and develops a friendship of sorts with her fellow contestants. A self-proclaimed psychology major, Jane sets out to administer a negative stimulus whenever one of her obnoxious housemates raids her personal dorm-style fridge – a nightly occurrence. Her aggressive, competitive style along with her sarcastic sense of humor and sardonic wit make her popular with an audience whose growing viewership leads to a spot for the reality show on a local tv channel along with a corporate sponsorship, complete with a scholarship and a cash award.

Complications include the fact that Jane cannot legally consume alcohol (at least not on tape) since the drinking age in the province of Alberta in Canada is eighteen. Even though she partakes the forbidden beverage off camera, the after effects of her imbibing is evident in the footage. This could lead to problems for everyone involved especially since the producer, a fellow student, assumes she is of legal age (probably because she lied on the application). It also becomes harder for Jane to keep the truth hidden from her parents as more and more viewers tune in to watch and she finally has to come clean with her younger sister who is pissed that Jane doesn’t visit home more often.

Oelke has the main character tell her story uses a journaling style with a conversational dialogue imitating lines of a screenplay, including a bit of imaginary dialogue and a few inner psychotherapy sessions where Jane unsuccessfully attempts to psychoanalyze her own uncooperative self. The addition of some explanatory narrative nicely rounds out the plot making this book a fast paced, entertaining read despite the 400+ page length.

The cast of characters from her “new” life (along with her diverse fan base) plus those high school friends she occasionally sees, as well as her family and the members of the youth group she’s promised to attend each week, provides an extensive list of names to keep track of that’s just long enough for an annotated list of “cast members” to be helpful.

My major complaints were the melodramatic and over the top conclusion to the competition and the way Jane’s little sister is portrayed – more like a whinny twelve year old instead of her slightly more mature age of fifteen. Kudos, however, for dealing with the topical issue of teen depression, along with the adolescent angst of discovering ones own identity (separate from that of their parents) which includes questioning ones faith in God and searching for the answer to the age old query “what do I do next?” Oelke provides a possible answer in an ending which promises a positive future for someone that needs a happily ever after.

Four stars and a thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Orhan’s Inheritance by Aline Ohanesian

Opening Blurb: Grandfather Kemal is found in a vat used to color the kilim rugs he sells, meaning he literally “dyed”.

Orhan’s Inheritance is the perfect title for Aline Ohanesian’s premiere novel about a young man, Orhan Turkoglu, who inherits the family business when his DeDe dies. His bequest is unusual since a father usually passes his property to his son, not his grandson, but the 1990’s are modern times even in Turkey. Yet traditions remain strong and Mustafa threatens to take Orhan to court and challenge what he considers a bogus will. It’s not that the father wants to run the family business, he’s never earned an honest days work, it’s just the principle. Orhan fears his father will either neglect the business or sell it and waste the money, negating all his efforts to create a successful company.

However, that is not the gist of the story. The most unusual aspect of the will is that the deed to their family home is to be transferred to 87 year old Seda Melkonian, an unfamiliar name belonging to an elderly women living in an Armenian Nursing Home in Los Angeles, leaving him, his father, and his aunt without their beloved residence. Seda is the key to Orhan’s true inheritance and he travels across the ocean, his grandfather’s sketch book in hand, to have this stranger sign papers so he can keep his childhood home in the family as well as discover the mysteries of his Dede’s past.

Bopping back and forth between present and past, the reader is exposed to the genocide perpetuated against the Armenians living in Turkey during the waning days of the Ottoman Empire, when the Turks sided with Germany in World War I. The Armenian Death March, where able bodied men were murdered or imprisoned and women, children, and the elderly were forced to leave their homes and walk to the Syrian dessert, is prescient to the treatment of the Jews by the Nazis. Similar to the attitudes towards those of the Jewish faith, the Turkish people resented the affluence of their Armenian neighbors – angry at the fees they charged when lending money, angry that they were Christian instead of Muslim, angry that the women were seen in public without covering their bodies (wearing a bonnet was not enough), angry that their success make them feel somehow lesser. So when the Turkish Army took action, the populace remained mum, even though it was their former friends who were taken away and shot as traitors. They blamed it on the war where casualties are to be expected, but there is a difference between war and genocide, a fact that needs to be acknowledged when a population of 1.7 million is reduced to 300,000.

Based on the memories of the author’s grandmother, Orhan’s Inheritance gives us a glimpse into the mind set of those who live in Turkey, a modernized Middle Eastern country with one foot still in the past.

A thank you to Algonquin Books and Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 4 stars.

The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert

If you enjoy Christian books with a capital C, then you might like The Art of Losing Yourself by Katie Ganshert, but don’t expect a squeaky clean story. This novel deals with issues such as alcoholism, failed relationships, sex before marriage, teen drinking and drug use, and swearing. Yet interspersed between these “sinful” behaviors are various scriptures and reflections about God and Jesus (which at times become a bit preachy). It’s easy to see why the main characters have doubts about their religion when they can relate better to the Book of Job than to the Gospels.

Two estranged half sisters end up together battling their personal demons. Carmen, a successful meteorologist on a local news channel, is numbed by her inability to have a child, lashing out while keeping her distance from a loving but clueless husband. Gracie is compulsive in her actions reflecting her anger at the world, but she gets a fresh start at a new high school and even begins to make friends despite her negative attitude.

Yet life is not fair and this is definitely not a fairy tale as even simple solutions are unattainable. Despite the hard work and dedication towards setting things right, more often than not failure is the result. Watching the hypocritical achieve their desired outcomes without a struggle, the sisters each wonder about God and why he doesn’t seem to be there for them.

A series of “coincidences” leads one sister to save the life of the other, but there is no resolution to their dilemmas, just more questions.

Three stars for an interesting, though depressing read.

Thank you to Netgalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads.

Let’s Learn About the Lord’s Prayer by Catherine DeVries, illustrated by Ryan Jackson

Let’s Learn About the Lord’s Prayer by Catherine DeVries begins with four year old Emma, a cute little girl with an appealing face, greeting the reader and inviting them upstairs to her room for a play date. Immediately the reader will feel like a welcome guest as Emma shows us one of her favorite things, a Teddy bear named Blueberry. Emma’s mom calls us down to the kitchen for a snack, but before we eat, Emma says a prayer. She then tells us about a new prayer she is learning, the prayer that Jesus taught us, the Lord’s Prayer. As Emma repeats the Lord’s Prayer she explains what the words mean with illustrations by Ryan Jackson to reinforce the concepts. Afterwards she explains that this prayer is a way to express our thanks to God. Back up in her room, she begins playing with Blueberry, teaching him the Lord’s Prayer as well.

The appealing illustrations and engaging tone create an enticing atmosphere for children to learn about the Lord’s Prayer. By having Emma introduce the topic, a child can learn about the love of a God and Jesus in a non threatening atmosphere. Most of the text consists of simple sentences and the prayer itself is broken down into small chunks which is perfect for Sunday School teachers or parents to introduce preschool or young elementary students to one of the basics of Christianity. Although simplified, the text might still be too difficult for some of the younger tots, although they will enjoy the coziness of the illustrations. This is the first book in the Introducing HeartSmart series exploring various key scriptures. There is also a website containing a custom song of an adapted version of the Lord’s Prayer. Three and a half stars.

This ARC was provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This review also appears on Goodreads and Amazon.