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Monday, May 24, 2010

"The Last Christian" by David Gregory

This is a very difficult review to write.

Since the book is thick and the plot involved, I'll provide the backdrop first. Abby emerges from the jungle when her village contracts a disease. She ends up meeting with her cousin Lauren who is a politician and her life partner Sabin (in 2088, people don't get married, they instead have ten-year contracts with partners). Abby develops a friendship with Kate, a doctor who helps discover her village's illness. She also meets up with Creighton, a history professor. The professor's father had a message from Abby's grandfather Ray that mentioned Abby bringing back Christianity to the United States (it is practically considered a dead religion in 2088). In this future era, Nichols is a scientist that developed a silicon brain that electronically obtains a person's memories and is then implanted in the human skull; this way, people still keep their thoughts but have a brain that will never deteriorate. This also relates to "the Grid," which is like a huge Internet system that people with a chip in their brain can connect to instantly; there is tapping, which is like instant and virtual Skype; the virtual reality is real for citizens and easily accessible. Those with silicon brains have a higher mental capacity. However, there is one large compensation / drawback, which I will not spoil. There are other characters that pop up, mostly FBI agents and goonies of antagonists.

Anyway, from the back of the book, readers think they'll get a future Christian revival. That doesn't happen in the book. Gregory has an aptitude for writing, and the pages fly by. Readers just don't get what they bargained for. Abby, who is a missionary's daughter, does not fill the role of what she is expected to. First off, she involves herself romantically with a non-Christian (sure, she says she will not have intercourse with him, but she does become emotionally attached to him and kisses him passionately). While some parts of the book focus on Christian themes, they don't show a mass-conversion that is desired. Abby does share the Gospel with a few people face to face, and she does appear on television, but she does not go about reintroducing Christianity to America with a missionary fervor one would expect. In the end, she realizes something new about Christianity and becomes supposedly closer to God. An event that happens to her does make a small group of people gather regularly to talk about God, but there is no large scale change that the back cover alludes to.

Religiously, readers can view this book either one of two ways. They can view Abby as a normal woman in a supernormal role cast upon her. She is not perfect and did what she could to start the burgeonings of Christianity again. Or, readers can be utterly disappointed in this book. Abby did not introduce Christianity to America in the sense they had hoped for, and she was not the ideal Christian in all of her actions. A good portion of the book is action and drama. Sure, Jesus is mentioned and God comes into play, but not in the sense that the reader expected. In short, this book is entertaining and will keep the pages flying, but, when readers come to the end, they will have a furrowed brow.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"What Happened to my Life?" by Danna Demetre

"What Happened to my Life?--Finding New Passion, Purpose, and Joy" by Danna Demetre is a quasi-devotional book for women. It is geared at the middle aged group of females that are unsatisfied with their current state of affairs. Through copious Bible verses, famous quotations, and personal stories, Demetre shows women that life isn't as bad as it seems. There is talk of 9/11, bulimia, divorce, skydiving, and other enticing topics. Due to the nature of some of the topics, the more conservative Christians may not take to this book as easily as purely evangelicals will. Demetre's intent is in the right place, though, and she emphasizes trusting entirely in God, which is good. Towards the end of the book, there is a forty day series of devotions that include checklists and fill-ins. In fact, much of the book is interactive with space for the reader to write. The prior 124 pages before this are divided into two parts. The first seeks to identify causes of calamity in life / sources of depression; the second seeks to discover new way to be happy; lastly, the devotionals tie it all together proactively. This book is good for middle aged women going through mid-life crises that need to rekindle their love for God from a liberal perspective that they feel won't judge them or condemn their previous actions.

Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Sunday, May 16, 2010

"This Fine Life" by Eva Marie Everson

"This Fine Life" by Eva Marie Everson is a coming-of-age story of a young twentieth century woman. Fresh out of boarding school, she wants to do something with her life other than just marry off. The only problem is she doesn't know what she wants to do exactly. However, one day, she meets a man that works for her father. The two fall in love, and her family is not exactly approving. As expected, the two marry and try for children. There is a twist as her husband chooses a new career that creates drama for her. There is much internal conflict as she copes with his decision and wonders what life would have been like if she had just gone for a career instead of love. Suspense and external plot scenarios come in the form of additional characters. While there is romance, this book is not graphic; still, it should not be suitable for young readers. There is some religion in this book, but it is not overt enough to make non-Christians feel the religion is being pushed down their throat. This is a good, lengthy read for a rainy day.

Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

"Sistergirl Devotions" by Carol M. Mackey

"Sistergirl Devotions: Keeping Jesus in the Mix on the Job" by Carol M. Mackey is for the working woman. While the series is aimed primarily at African American women, women of other races will enjoy this book. Even men will find advice helpful (with the exception of a few topics pertinent only for women). There are ninety devotionals, each about two pages in length. They all start with an adage, followed by a Bible verse. Then, there is the meat of the devotional that explains the topic and occasionally has a personal anecdote inserted. Then, there is a Power Move paragraph that relates the lesson directly to work. Finally, there is a My Confession part that the reader may say aloud to help them put the devotion into place. The advice given--like dressing modestly, showing up early for work, not saying nasty comments, etc--are mostly common sense. However, Mackey writes in such a way that readers feel they are learning something new, and they want to keep turning the pages. For those looking for a book about evangelism in the workplace, this book is not quite for that. This is more of a successful working woman advice book with a Christian twist.

Available May 2010 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Friday, May 14, 2010

"Branding Basics" by Maria Ross

"Branding Basics for Small Businesses: How to Create an Irresistible Brand With Any Budget" by Maria Ross is a book on marketing in the simplest sense. She goes deep into marketing definitions, myths, and differentiations with branding, advertising, and so forth. Also, stories from personal small business owners are incorporated to add a person touch. Readers truly gage that Ross knows what she is talking about. Everything is written in simple terms but the breadth of it is enormous in terms of content. Even the papers that came with this book were unique and "branded" nicely (some review books come with author bio / book summary / book praise papers included for the reviewer). The only thing is that Ross sells herself short. While her book's title makes it seem like only small business owners can utilize this book, it is quite clear that any business owner (whether that business be small or large) can benefit from the advice in this book.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking" by LeAnn Bird

"Pantry-Friendly Mexican Cooking: Economical Ways to Stretch Your Budget Without cutting back on Flavor" by LeAnn Bird will have readers rushing to the supermarket to fill their pantries. With large, full color close-ups of her dishes, Bird tantalizes readers into making them want to cook. After a brief introduction about her cooking history, she wastes no time and gets right into the recipes. What is so great about this book is that it is comprehensive and ridiculously easy to follow. The bulk of the recipes have long lists of ingredients and instructions of a few sentences that mainly involve mixing and heating. No experience whatsoever is needed for these recipes. For anyone who likes Mexican food and wants to cook it, this book will be a lifesaver.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"Short Sale RUSH" by Marian Anthony

"Short Sale RUSH: The Biggest U.S. Ponzi Scheme Revealed" by Marian Anthony is a legitimate guide for nonperforming assets. He goes into great details about personal economics and how they should be managed. He then dives into the ponzi scheme that sucked thousands of Americans out of millions of dollars. The hook of the scheme is explained, and the inner workings of the manipulation are unearthed. Many diagrams, charts, and definitions are provided so anyone can understand the fiscal and legal terms described. There is even a frequently asked questions section in the back for the reader's convenience. Anyone who lives in America and has money should read this book if they intend to keep it.

"Donner the Western Dragon" by Suzanne Davis Narion

"Donner the Western Dragon: A Hero's Tale" by Suzanne Davis Marion and illustrated by Marj Hales is a cute story for little kids. It is about a dragon that plays with a unicorn. He admires nature instead of breathing fire with the other dragons. He is accused of being weird (reading between the lines implies he is effeminate for playing with girls instead of boys). Anyway, one day, there is a snow storm and the dragons are stuck. They try to use fire to melt the snow, but they have used up all of their flame from playing. So, Donner, with plenty of firepower at his disposal, saves the day. There are many parallels for young ones to catch onto, and the artwork is of the utmost quality.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Remembering the Ladies" by Ann Covell

"Remembering the Ladies: A Century of U.S. First Ladies, 1789-1889" by Ann Covell is surprisingly good. One would not think that a biographical book about American First Ladies from a British writer would be incessantly boring. However, Covell has such a commanding voice in her writing that readers feel compelled to keep turning the pages. The book is divided into three parts, essentially which are time periods. Each has a handful of First Ladies. In this fashion, no one story about the women is ever too long. Childhood histories, eclectic anecdotes, and facetious circumstances are brought into light in this book. Covell takes seemingly "behind-the-scenes" women of American history and brings them into the spotlight that only a skilled writer can accomplish.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

"Waiting for Jack" by Kristen Moeller

This book is an irony in itself. It is a book about not relying on self-help books, which, in essence, makes it a self-help book, but I digress. The book is structured nicely. The author inserts most intimate secrets about herself, including bulimia and traumatic childhood / college events. The Jack noted in the title is actually a self-help guru and author. He even has written the foreword of this book. The author had contacted Jack heavily, and, after not hearing back from him in a while about her concerns, she decided to take matters into her own hands and make her own decisions instead of seeking the constant advice of others. Each chapter has a title that relates to the word jack, with a card image like that of a playing deck. The main message of this book are nice, and the intent sincere. The author claims to believe in God--and even quotes one Bible verse--but she does not talk outright about Jesus. There are even Buddhist quotes included and one drawing on the behemoth on a card. In general, the book is interesting but not spiritually filling. She even writes, "...based on the belief we have a hole within us that needs to be filled...is this hole really there? Nothing is missing" (Moeller 127). Clearly, Moeller does not see how dearly she needs Jesus in her life. For those truly looking for help with personal issues, pick up the Bible, not "Waiting for Jack."