Sunday, July 31, 2011

"Surprised by Oxford" by Carolyn Weber

As anyone can find from a simple Google search, this book is about a woman's journey of finding God at Oxford. Now, as a young person in a collegiate setting, this got my attention, and I eagerly suggested the book. The book came in the male like a brick. Don't let the paperback cover fool you. This 400+ book packs a whollop. When I read the "author info" printed, I saw Weber was a student of literature. After getting through the first chapter, I was not blown away. Thus, I thought this was the work of a well-meaning woman who was simply trying too hard to be brilliant. So, I confess, I skimmed the second chapter. However, after skimming it, key words and phrases popped out at me and made me re-read the second chapter. I was hooked and actually began to like her style of writing. The rest of the book flew by. As a professional book reviewer, I must say I do speed read when time gets the best of me, but rarely am I compelled to re-read what I thought was skimmable. This is saying something. Anyway, for the plot, it is real. After all, this is a memoir of sorts. What I enjoyed was Weber's candid honesty--even if she confessed to changing some characters' names for privacy issues. What was also interesting was how she viewed men both before and after her conversion. This book is a splendid tale of love that knows no bounds. Read it.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

"Connecting in Communities" by Eddie Mosley

From the snazzy cover to the concise title, you guess it--this is a book on small groups...or so it would seem. The foreword got my attention as I was promised great insights with impeccable writing. Now, don't get me wrong, Mosley is a great author who both writes well and knows what he's talking about. However, the more I looked at this book, the more I felt it relating less and less to me. Granted, there are tips for small group leaders and helpers, as well as advice any Christian could use for discipling others. Still, the book felt like it was geared towards pastors who are training other leaders and how to effectively grow a church (the author's church was mentioned several times as if parts of the book were from some sort of church leadership manual). All in all, this book is real insightful and flows well, but it is more of a reference book than a concrete book on how to lead small groups of all ages (this one focuses primarily on working adults).

"Perfectly Invisible" by Kristin Billerbeck

When I realized this book is a sequel to "Perfectly Dateless"--which I also reviewed--I was pleasantly surprised. I greatly enjoyed Billerbeck's previous book, and this one did not let me down. The details from the first book are interspersed throughout this book so that the reader does not feel out of the loop (so to speak) if they didn't read the first book or simply forget details [as in my case]. In this book, the protagonist Daisy feels underappreciated and--you guessed it--invisible. Her boyfriend ignores her, and there is trouble with her so-called best friend. I know that this review makes the book sound like some teeny drama, but that's exactly what it is. However, the author manages to keep the flow so the pages keep turning. The plot is very modern, and with the exception of certain phrases that the average teen would not consider cool, Billerbeck does a good job of infiltrating teen culture to get them to listen to her story. Many important lessons are meshed into this book, like humility, gratitude, trust, and what to do in dangerous situations. While there is some romance, none of it is graphic, and I'd go as far to say that pre-teens could read this book. The ending is a bit out of the ordinary, but the book is anything but predictable and will leave readers smiling.

Available July 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

"An Expose on Teen Sex and Dating" by Andy Braner

With a headline as shocking as this one, readers are expecting a tongue-in-cheek read. However, Braner provides a sound set of arguments and observations on teenage relationships without too much information. While he is brutally honest about what is doing on, he does not provide explicit diagrams of explanations. The emphasis in this book is that, while purity rallies are well intentioned, they do not work. Braner suggests talking to kids about sex and explaining how God made it to be in marriage for joy and how relationships relate to Jesus and the Church (comparing physical wholeness to spiritual wholeness). Much advice is written as if for a parental audience, but any reader can learn from this book. Adults will learn how to navigate the wishy-washy psyches of adolescents, and teens will learn that pre-marital sex is more than just whoredom. While educational and rooted in Biblical principles, I'd suggest very young readers only go through this book with adult supervision.

"Seeing the Unseen" by TW Hunt

The captivating water scene captured my attention (I confess to being a fluid dynamicist at times) as did the simple yet captivating title. Who doesn't want to know more about seeing God? Anyway, I read and picked up on Hunt's theological arguments, which were both sound and not very controversial. I looked up Scripture he quoted from time to time, which was unique. Clever Christian authors will paraphrase Bible verses so that readers recall it or get the gist for some verses but be more vague for other verses to get readers to crack open their Bibles for themselves. Whether or not this was intention--well done. Also, by the time I was nearing the end of the book, I realized I had not learned anything new about seeing God in terms of steps to take or how to be more mystical / holy. Then, I realized that I instead came to learn how to draw closer to God and be more in tune with His Spirit. Seeing the unseen. This book is short and ingenious.

"Dressing with Dignity" by Colleen Hammond

When I picked this book up, I had high hopes and expectations. Modesty isn't always written about in Christian circles, and the back cover doted information about the author that listed her as an image consultant and beauty queen. I open the book and on the dedication page, guess who the book is dedicated to? Not Jesus but Mary--who she claims is born without sin even though this is nowhere in the Bible and directly contradicts Romans 3:23. Anyway, I kept on reading. Discussions about fashion were informative but no pictures were given. What was interesting was the results of psychology tests that showed that men's eyes went right to the crotch when women wore pants. Also fascinating was how the author quoted the Freemasonry occult in having a hand in the decline of women's modesty. I did not like the suggestions of praying with saints / angels (Bible says do not communicate with God and to pray only to Him). Also, the author referenced that appearances of the Virgin Mary were always modest. Need I quote 2 Cor 11:14-15? If the real Mary came for a visit, I highly doubt she would instill prayer beads (pagan origin) with repetitious prayer that the Lord does not prefer (Matthew 6:7). For readers that want a book on Christian modesty, I recommend "Fashioned by Faith" that I reviewed in the past.

"Earthen Vessels" by Matthew Lee Anderson

This book is very well written and highly intellectual. It dives deep into the theology of the body, quoting both from Scripture and theologians. It discusses the mortality of the body, why homosexuality is not meant to be, why caring for the body is important, and the importance of how Jesus came to earth in a body like ours. With all of this, my only criticism is that the book can read like a textbook at times with highly philosophical language that does not flow very easily to the modern reader. I have no doubt in my mind that the author is very smart (grammar is impeccable), but suffice to say, this book is not a page-turner.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

"Don't Check Your Brains at the Door" by Josh McDowell and Bob Hostetler

Although this book is aimed at children, it seems like an excellent resource for all ages. It is essentially a simplified apologetics book that juxtaposes quick humor with deep insight. The chapters are tremendously short and to the point. This makes it easy for young readers to stay connected and for older readers for make time to read it. Various "myths" are dispelled about Jesus, the Bible, the resurrection, life, and more. Books written by two authors sometimes seem choppy, but this book flows very nicely with creative ideas. At the end of each chapter, there is an exercise section that involves questions, prompts, and puzzle-like activities that directly correlate to the Bible, oftentimes having the reader look up very specific verses. Bible verses are also quoted in the actual chapters, although those tend to be written out and not just cited. Overall, this book may not be a treatise on apologetics, but it will give Christians quick answers to those pesky questions both from the world and their doubting minds. The notes section includes great resources, including books on archaeology of the Bible that the authors cleverly yet succinctly summarize.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"It Couldn't JUST Happen" by Lawrence O. Richards

This spectacular book is a gem for children of all ages. It dives deep into science (earth science, physics, biology, chemistry, and more) to showcase to readers that there is indeed evidence for a Creator. The book starts off talking about galaxies and Earth, transitions into living creatures, highlights humans, and wraps up with how we know the Bible / Christianity is both true and historically accurate. At the end of each chapter are "just for fun" sections that both kids and adults will enjoy. They are not so much the fill-in-the-blank or journaling type but are more of just initiated prompts for the reader to learn more. Bible is quoted at times, which is nice. The pages are nice and glossy with excellent pictures. My only criticism is that I'd like for the book to be hardcover!