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Monday, August 23, 2010

"Everything Hurts" by Bill Scheft

This book involves fraud, comedy, ex-wives, self-help, and so much more. A lame (in every sense of the word) man writes a self-help book that is flimsy at best in an effort to get some alimony funds. When he actually meets a real self-help guru, the jokes start rolling. There are several jokes and innuendos about Jews, which the protagonist allies himself with. There is cursing, too. Sexual implications are alluded to, as well. Most of the jokes are crude and embarrassing. For those that don't like blue material or punchlines that make one feel a tinge of chagrin, this book is not for them. The plot is okay, but nothing special. The characters that are introduced do have depth, but they are not all the type that should be looked up to, unfortunately.

"Fixing Freddie" by Paula Munier

This book is for dog lovers, and the audience that will most enjoy it is the middle aged female group of readers. The protagonist gets a dog that turns out to be a mess of trouble. The descriptions of the dog's actions are humorous yet not too detailed to cause boredom. There are scenes where the protagonist's ex husbands enter the picture, and some love rekindles. The woman also has an adolescent son whom she bickers with every so often; they both seem to love each other, though. Little quotes, definitions, and Freddie (dog's name) facts make this book unique. The ending is a tad predictable, but the rising and falling actions are entertaining in and of themselves.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"About You" by Dick Staub

The term "fully human, fully alive" comes up quite a lot in this book, and it seems to be at the core of what the author is trying to convey. Perhaps it has to do with semantics, but I kept going back and forth with myself over whether or not this book was good in a Christian sense. At first, I got the idea that the book would puff people up too much and be one of those self-help books that puts God on the back cover but not in the actual pages. However, God and Jesus are actually mentioned a lot. They are in there, along with mentions of the Trinity and the Creator. Bible verses are quoted every so often, as well. A good thing was when Staub said that men are god-like but not God. If this book said otherwise or alluded to Mormonism, I would have had to burn it. Alas, it did not, and Staub earned some brownie points from this reviewer. Another point was when the author claims Jesus didn't come to make people Christian but to make them fully alive. Then, it is stated that the glory of God is man being fully human. (When I say man or men, I mean in the general sense as to include women.) Afterwards, I read about how Staub sees sin as something that separates man from being fully human. So, back to semantics, I think Staub has the right idea but just frames it in a way that may make readers have to re-read passages and find good aspects of the book where they see the mark of a Christian. Overall, the book is intriguing and puts some perspective on how humans are made in the image of God. But, for crying out loud, the author should have just boldly said that Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father and that everyone's purpose in life is to glorify Him. The messages in the book are wishy-washy, but aspects of it make readers know Staub is a Christian. Staub, next time you write a book, be more BOLD like the apostles in Acts!

#vb-aboutyou

"What Good is God?" by Philip Yancey

This interesting book is written by a Christian journalist. Readers are taken inside the most bizarre and frightening aspects of the world that make many think the world is going down the drain. From the Virginia Tech massacre to prostitution rings to communism to alcoholism to unfocused youth, Yancey covers it all. Not much Scripture is covered, and religion isn't forced upon the reader, but an underlying theme of grace prevails. Due to the graphic nature of some topics, this book should be for more mature readers. There are not explicit scenes or gory details, exactly, but just the idea of the many injustices in the book may make some turn away. Written with the objectivity of a journalist and the subtle subjectivity of a Christian, this book bridges the gap between old-school redemption and the contemporary world we live in.

"Exercising Your Soul" by Gary Jansen

This book is tiny and will be a quick read. However, considering its depth, it packs a mighty punch. There are close to 30 chapters, as well as the old and new stations of the cross. Bible verses are also included, as are several parables of Jesus. With these parables, the author does not impose some meaning on the reader. Rather, the reader is left with a set of questions so they can interpret it on their own and learn how it relates to them. Additionally, many anecdotes are given that are quite facetious. The purpose of this book is to revitalize prayer, meditation, and the overall state of one's soul. It is fun to read. I knew I'd like the book from the moment I read: "This strange little book you have in your hands is essentially a book on prayer. Not the namby-pamby...kind of prayer" (Jansen xiii).

"Raising the Dead" by Chauncey W. Crandall IV, MD

This book starts off with a story of the doctor / author / narrator raising a patient from the dead. Then, it goes into the doctor's story of one of his son's battle with leukemia. Readers are taken into the journey of how the doctor began to obtain his gift of healing. They feel the emotions of the doctor and live the tension in the family. As a Catholic, I wasn't so sure if I'd like this book about revivals, speaking in tongues, prophesies, seeing God, and--oh, yeah--raising the dead. However, the more I read, the more I enjoyed it. I saw the doctor's transformation from trying to tell God what His will is to just obeying whatever God has in store. The most moving part of the book was when, after the boy died, the doctor merely gave His life wholly to God and accepted what had happened. Also, while some televangelists that are known as not being "real" Christians are mentioned, I gleaned that the author had good intentions. After all, several times, the book mentions the power of God and how saving souls for His kingdom is key. If even a conservative Catholic like myself can enjoy this book and not find ways to trash it, it must be something worth reading!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Amish Proverbs" by Suzanne Woods Fisher + FREE GIVEAWAY

This is a small gift book for those interested in the Amish lifestyle or just like adages that have religious roots. Over 200 pages, there are descriptions of Amish perspectives on aspects of life, full color pictures of the Plain lifestyle, and--you guessed it--proverbs to boot. The topics covered are time, money, faith, children / family, word / deed, work ethic, struggles, education, community, character, and comical sayings. The proverbs are two or three to a page, and the font is quite large. The smaller print comes with the intro to each topic, which is only a couple of pages each. The book is a quick read and a nice treasure for any nightstand.
Want a free copy? Revell gave me an extra giveaway copy. To enter to win it, comment with your favorite saying and why you like it. God bless.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Colors of God" by Peters, Phillips, and Steen

This book intrigued me, but after a while, my brow was furrowed. I mean sure, in some twisted way, I believe the authors may actually have right intentions. They want an inclusive evangelical church that reaffirms grace. However, what gets me is how they go about it. First and foremost, the book is about neXus--the authors' church they started. They say that works are not necessary (I disagree as a--here comes the C bomb--Catholic). They also say that, in the story of the Good Samaritan, that the dying man was Jesus. Scripture is not quoted, and the dialog between Jesus and the inquirer seems to be framed to the authors' liking so the true message is cloaked. Also, the authors claim that Jesus' parables 'suck' as life lessons and are meant for spiritual insight only (their word, not mine). At one point in the book, an author says he likes discussing spiritual matters over beer. Another author downplays abstinence before marriage as a lesser sin when compared to hate. Another author says that pastors cursing is not a big deal because they should not have an air of righteousness about them. The book is told with three authors speaking separately throughout and reads like someone is eavesdropping on their conversations. What really ticked me off the most--and I think even Protestants will agree with me on this--is when the authors' put up a diagram with "me" in the center. Upwards with an arrow is "God" and to the right with an arrow is "the world." The authors claim that Christians should not waste time on the "me"-"God" relationship because Jesus already perfected that (they even venture to say that thinking one should strengthen their relationship with God through prayer and devotionals are evil tricks that should be dismissed). They say to work on the relationship with "the world" and work on being inclusive and being nice to others without judging. Somewhere, the authors may have had a good intention, but, theologically, I just don't see eye to eye with them.

#vb-colors

Monday, August 9, 2010

"Forgotten" by Melody Carlson

In terms of suspense and voice, this book is one of Carlson’s better books. However, the strong religious part is lacking. The story is about a seventeen year old girl that ends up being homeless. What’s interesting is that Carlson does not just dive into the homelessness. Instead, she tells the girl’s story from the beginning—from riches to rags, if you may. Teenage love is discussed a bit, but there is nothing graphic. Friendships are included, as are young rivalries among said members. While there is no description, things such as drunkenness, prostitution, and sexual abuse are mentioned. What this broken girl experiences while on her own really will make readers reevaluate how they view the homeless and how they don’t know what their friends are really like when they leave the school building and go to whatever place they call home. As with all of Carlson’s books, there is a religious tone. Conversely, it is pushed towards the end and speaks of God, not really Jesus. The one time Jesus’ name is mentioned, it’s when the girl readers a sign for a homeless shelter. Having a relationship with God [and learning about peace, grace, and the fact that bad things happen to good people] is covered. Still, there is no big push for Jesus or that He is the only way. Perhaps, this book will be best for young girls that are not super strong Christians. It will force them to reevaluate their lives and realize that, no matter their circumstance, life can be worse. It’s great that the girl finds a home in the end and develops a friendship with God (yeah, surprise surprise for a Christian publisher), this reviewer would like a book that has more Jesus in it. ;)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Everything You Need To Know Before College" by Matthew Paul Turner

Knowing firsthand what the experience of college is like, this book was interesting to read. While it is said to be for students in general, the language / tone may be more geared towards male students. Relationships, money, learning, getting involved in extracurriculars, and more, are included. There are quotations and Bible verses interspersed, as well as many quips from the author himself. The manner in which the book is written makes it seem like the author is actually talking to the reader. There are many contemporary references made. Published with “TH1NK,” one would think the book is geared towards Christian students. While Jesus and God are in the book, the words do not scream Christian values and theology. For instance, the author says that students should not drink when underage yet does not say that one should not drink at all (drunkenness not being holy is alluded to a bit, though). Also, while abstinence is discussed lightly as being the better option, the book does include a part about being “safe” even if that sin befalls them. Is Turner not extremely judgmental and theological because he wants to keep students reading the book? Maybe. Either way, there is a subtle religious tone that does come out more towards the end. After all, with the “Message” quotes, Biblical tones and feelings are not conveyed that hard in the beginning. For hard-core Christian students, this book will be interesting but not perfect. For those raised with Christianity but not on-fire for Christ, or even atheists / agnostics, this book will get through to them, make them keep turning the pages, and maybe even think about God in college. Overall, not bad, but Turner’s “Hear No Evil” is much better (http://teresakonopka.blogspot.com/2010/02/hear-no-evil-by-matthew-paul-turner.html).

"His Princess Girl Talk With God" by Sheri Rose Shepherd

This 40-day devotional is all pretty in pink. Each topic is introduced with advice and an anecdote here and there. This covers two pages. Then, Shepherd includes a letter addressed to "My beautiful girl" and signed "Your Daddy in heaven" full of heartfelt messages. Then, there is a relevant Bible verse. The pages have flower prints, with white mixed with pale pink. The actual Bible verses are white on top of deep pink backgrounds with flowers. Topics relate to female self-esteem and can relate to older women--not just girls. Shepherd is candid about her own life, even discussing bulimia and abortion. She tries to make female readers learn from her mistakes. Greatest of all, at the end of the devotional, there is a special surprise for non-believers. This book will make readers smile from ear to ear.


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

Friday, August 6, 2010

"Flight to Heaven" by Capt. Dale Black

With the words "A Plane Crash--A Lone Survivor...A Journey To Heaven--And Back" sprawled across the cover, readers expect a lot from this "Pilot's True Story." Black, along with the help of Ken Gire, accounts his story. He tells of what made him want to fly, how he obtained a pilot's licence, his crash, his time in heaven, and his life after the ephemeral journey. I've read other books on NDEs (Near Death Experiences) that are mostly slow with exception to the chapter or two that actually details heaven. Well, this book also denotes just a small portion to writing about heaven. However, readers keep turning the pages to read about Black. This isn't something any NDE author can do--although, who knows how much of this should be attributed to Gire's writing skills. Black writes about how and why he kept his vision secret for so long. He also writes of how he was spiritually changed. I won't ruin this for the reader, but I will say they will be touched. Scripture isn't quoted often, but, when it does, it is dead on. Also, the aeronautical detail is accurate, explanatory, and satisfactory. As an aeronautical engineer that is on fire for Christ, I loved this book.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"No More Christian Nice Girl" by Paul Coughlin & Jennifer D. Degler, PhD

With such a captivating title and facetious cover image, Christan women like myself dive into this book, expecting to see what all the commotion is all about. The authors go on to discuss how Christian women are often more nice than good. They also claim that CNGs (Christian Nice Girls, as they call them) are trying to earn points with God when they act nice and are not doing so solely out of the goodness of their hearts. Quizzes, comical side notes, fictitious scenarios, and more are profuse. Escritoire is quoted every so often, and the pronouns relative to God are not capitalized, sadly. Topics covered include avoiding abuse in relationships, not attracting Mr. Wrong, speaking up, not being a pushover, and other situations. Personally, most Christian women will be taken aback by the chapter on--um, er--relations. While it is discussed as being only biblical when in marriage, the way it is discussed raises eyebrows. Giving tips on how to spice up marriage and that God wants couples to be--ahem--"happy" together is not exactly prime theological work. Also, it is noted that Song of Solomon is quoted much with regard to intimacy between spouses--and thus downplayed as an allegory between the Messiah and the Church. All in all, this controversial book has its good moments and even has a fun appendix in the back that cites where in the Bible Jesus turned heads with His outlandish and often surprising behavior that stumped those who were against Him.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

"Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites...and Other Lies You've Been Told" by Bradley RE Wright, PhD

Stock full of statistics, charts, and graphs, Wright aims to disprove statistics that are profuse in the media. Sound like an oxymoron? Yes. However, Wright does his job and does it well. With all the lies being tossed around—some of which come from the mouth of so called Christians—some people don’t know what to believe anymore. Is Christianity dying out? Are all the youths leaving the church? Wright’s data classifies evangelists, Protestants, Catholics, other religions, and the non-affiliated. He also compounds data with respect to how often Christians go to mass. Topics like crime and love are covered, too. While much of the prose targets evangelists, the book as a whole stands for all readers. Wright tries his best to sound objective, and, as a university professor, I suppose he’s used to it. Christian readers are left wanting more of Jesus in the book. The feel of this book is that it doesn’t make others want to convert; it just makes us Christians feel less like we’re caving in on ourselves. This book leaves much to be desired, but it is still entertaining. My favorite line: “Evangelical Christianity in particular, and Christianity as a whole, is doing a pretty good job of being the church…Celebrate…Give a high-five to the person sitting next to you in church next Sunday” (Wright 213).

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

"The Lord's Prayer" by RT Kendall

Don't think anyone could write over 200 pages on the simple "Our Father who art in heaven" prayer? Think again. In Kendall's book, each line of the prayer is dissected in great detail. Even the history behind it, when it was said, and who Jesus said it to is expounded upon. An additional chapter even discusses what Jesus said to the crowd after He recited the prayer. The book has five parts and twelve chapters, so it is very reader friendly. The arguments are very dense and Protestant, though. As a Catholic, I don't necessarily agree with all that Kendall says and assumes / proclaims as fact. However, I still learned a lot about the Lord's prayer and the importance of prayer. I like how Kendall capitalizes pronouns when speaking about God. What I don't understand, though, is why he didn't capitalize them when quoting scripture. Also, while some Bible verses are quoted, others are just mentioned with the book title, chapter, and verse. I think, if he wanted to relate a topic to a Bible verse, no matter how small, he should have quoted it. All in all, Christan readers will not agree with everything Kendall says, but they'll appreciate digging into the "Our Father who art in heaven" for a change of pace.

Monday, August 2, 2010

"A Crime to be Rich" by David Snowdon

I started this book with optimism. Seeing as how there is "This Book Is Dedicated To The Lord God Almighty, My Heavenly Father" on page five, I figured I'd finally gotten something good and wholesome to read. Right? Eh, that's tricky.

First, there are swear words. I dismissed that as just dialog. Then, women were described as having curves in right places and dresses like second skins. This was the narrator's opinion, and, granted there weren't graphic descriptions beyond that, I didn't like how women were described in that way. I'm all for wearing dresses, but I think the quality of the print and design should be noticed, not private parts (which, if they are popping out, means the woman needs to buy a size up).

Then, after murdering his own wife, the protagonist finds a new woman he wants to marry. While with her, he cheats on her with a married woman. No scene is expounded--thank God--but it is noted that the woman undresses. She is later dead. There is much killing and coveting of money.

The narrator quotes scripture every so often, and that takes the reader for surprise. As the book concludes, readers don't know if the protagonist will really turn his life to God. He alludes to it, but, alas, they don't know because the book just ends. The nice thing, though, is that, even with all the atrocities the protagonist / narrator did, I know that God would forgive him anyway if he repented.

This book would be best suited for a male atheist / agnostic reader with a sinful lifestyle. The book will hold his attention and make him see that living a life like that will lead to hell. Women probably won't like this book very much. As for strong Christians, the womanizing and murder in the book won't sit well with them.

"Detectives Don't Wear Seat Belts" by Cici McNair

This book rubbed me the wrong way right at the beginning. "Some people turn to the Bible for inspiration, but for me it's the Yellow Pages" (McNair 6). Sure, there is some high-paced upper-echelon sleuthing going on. The writing is up to par, and the descriptions of private investigation leave nothing out. The protagonist is a private eye that goes about solving mysteries and finding incriminating evidence. However, the swearing in the book, coupled by the sexual innuendos are too much. If those aspects were taken out of the book, it wouldn't be half bad.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

"Our Lady of Dreams" by Chanson Duvall

Seeing the Virgin Mary on the cover, I figured this book would be all right. Once I became immersed in the actual novel, I felt deceived. The New Age vibe that this book gives off reminds me of Mormonism. The teachings aren't the same, but it does represent a way of thinking (ironically dubbed religious) that showcases itself as tied to Christianity when it is in fact opposite and even heretic to Christian principles. Sure, the murder mystery part of the book is good. In my opinion, this behemoth of a book that approaches 600 pages should be slimmed so all the blasphemy is cut out and a plain murder mystery remains. Instead, there are all these diary entries about a cult leader and his football star disciple. Other deities are mentioned, too, as well as meditation. Jesus is put on the sideline as the "Lady of Dreams" assumes the messiah role. Good grief.

"Jack Fell Down" by Kenneth Underhill

Picture a dashing salesman who cons people out of savings. That is this book's protagonist. His psyche and ploys are detailed and intrigue the reader. The swearing in the book and the risque little scenes disgust the reader. While there is a good message that bad things will catch up to you, the "bad guy" con man does escape death in the end. The grammar is fine, and the cons are all different but have the same backbone. The action when the conned come to get the con man is exciting albeit a tad violent.

"The Eigth Scroll" by Laurence Brown

This book is about a long-lost scroll. Key to religion, it is supposed to be written by James of the Bible. Many archaeologists get killed and put in danger when they discover the information in the scroll. For a large part of the book, readers are kept in suspense, not knowing the full message of what the scroll says. When the reader finally reaches the point where it is revealed, there is a shock, as heresy goes flying everywhere. The the author use Scripture improperly to try and disprove major aspects of Christianity. Sure, these are utterances from characters, but they are still in the book. The scroll message says that Jesus was not crucified, did not teach atonement, and other heretic messages. Any strong Christian knows that what is in this book is not credible at all, and that the Gospel refutes such lies. Most disgusting of all, it is stated that the Pope knew about the scroll all along and just wants to cover it up. Did I mention the Pope is linked to the Mafia? As an Italian Catholic, I am outraged.

"The Lake" by William Crawford

When I first read the synopsis of this book, I figured I'd get a "Tuck Everlasting" sort of story about the fountain of youth. I envisioned high adventure and innocent dialog that would make me think. But what do I get? In the first chapter alone, I am forced to read about the protagonist's proximity to a flirtatious flight attendant's blouse. What is with that? More skanky female women come into the story, and the actual fountain of youth part does not meet my expectations. The ending is okay, and the suspense is all right, but, for crying out loud, the slutty aspects of the book need to be cut out. Christian readers should not buy this book.

"Indiana" by NC Weyl

This is one of those multiple narration stories. Taking place in the time of the KKK the book has drama about this. The protagonist is a little teenage girl who has a pastor for a father. Her childhood is recollected as "history" unfolds. With a Christian premise, I thought I'd love this book. Sadly, it went by too slowly for me, especially in the beginning, and I thought certain aspects could have been cut out to slim the book. I was even shocked when the Lord's name was taken in vain on the page, even if from the mouth of a heinous character. All in all, the book's not half bad, albeit a bit slow.