Sunday, January 22, 2012

"The Jerk Magnet" by Melody Carlson

This book was a good and fast read, as Carlson's books tend to be. However, while there were some good lessons learned along the way, I have to say I was a bit disappointed. To back it up a bit, the book is about a shy wallflower who gets a makeover. Then, boys start paying attention to her--the wrong type of guys. Hence the title. There are parts in the book where the protagonist wears a bikini / other clothes that "show off her curves." At the end of the book--surprise, surprise--she states that she is happy how God made her. However, what little epiphanies there are are very subtle and short. Coloring and straightening hair, as well as wearing makeup are portrayed as fine things for girls to do. Also, there are scenes with church youth groups. I must say, Carlson did a fine job of showing girls that even "religious" guys can just be jerks, or "wolves in sheep's clothing" as Jesus would put it. Still, the connection to God is so minute and subtle. The protagonist commits her life to God with one of those little "come into my hear" prayers. No Scripture is quoted, and no in-depth spirituality is reached. The book doesn't even imply that the girl got a Bible to start reading. All in all, I'd say this book is a nice read, but I would be hesitant to go so far as calling it "Christian literature." The Christian veneer is there, but this is more of a beach read and not something girls want to read to identify truly with self-esteem issues or spirituality.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

"The Canary List" by Sigmund Brouwer

Wowza. Brouwer has done it again. This guy is such a good author that I've gone out of my way to request his books on my own. I love his style of very short chapters that change perspective. The genre he shines in is called speculative fiction. You never know what is coming next. I'll dive into the gist of what the book is about and conclude with some criticisms.

First of all, I'll try my best to give you an idea of the plot without revealing too much. There are some major plot twists that got even me by surprise. So, there is a troubled girl who is tossed around the foster system. She is plagued by a terribly scary darkness. Thru a truly strange chain of events, her schoolteacher gets involved in a huge conspiracy that involves the Vatican. Older Vatican conspiracies are touched upon, as well as some futuristic yet believable science and hacking. Some parts of the book are slower than others, but, in general, it is a very fast-paced story. The question of the demonic comes up quite a bit. At the end of the book, the reader is left to themself to question whether or not the demonic is real. Is there really evil in the Church, or is the demonic just a cover-up to blame something on a third party and manipulate people thru fear? I personally believe in the Biblical existence of the demonic, but readers can think what they may. What is great is the reading list at the end of the book. It includes memoirs from Vatican exorcists for those that want to dig deeper.

As for criticisms, this is hard. For the spiritual sense, the Vatican and demons were discussed, so the spiritual world was encountered. However, the schoolteacher is not a believer. He says by the end of the book that he believes he may one day see his little daughter in heaven. (By the end, he believes in demons and by some logic, he thinks God must exist, too.) However, there is no notion of him beginning a personal relationship with Yeshua Messiah. Perhaps, this is left up to the reader's imagination. What is good about this book is that it goes to remind people that--regardless of whether or not one believes in the existence of demons--there are very real evil people that infiltrate the Church.

'The Search Committee" by Tim Owens

When I saw this book was an award winner for the Christian Writers' Guild, I was expecting to be severely impressed. However, I was not. Let me explain why. First of all, there are several character stories occurring simultaneously, and the literary techniques used are great. What was missing for me, though, was that wow factor. At several times in my reading, I was bored. So how did this book win an award? I think it comes down to audience. I am a young adult woman in school. Most of the characters were older (some senior citizens) going thru marriage problems and deaths of spouses/older family members. The closest characters I could relate to were two young men, and that was a stretch. Also, there was a sort of Southern nostalgia seeping thru the pages both thru visualization and colloquialism. I do think that older audiences--maybe men more so than women--will greatly prize this book. It is about a team of parishioners looking for a new pastor for their church. Some of the sermons included were great.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"Small Space Organizing" by Kathryn Bechen

This is an excellent reference book for anyone who has a small space they need to freshen up. There are several chapters dedicated to very specific rooms, whether they be for entertaining, guests, newborns, working, or more. There are even lists of supplies one may find useful with websites / stores where one can pick up said merchandise. My favorite part is the interview section at the back of the book. Bechen interviews several people that live in small quarters and asks what they did to organize / decorate and how it all turned out. While this book is published by Revell, I saw no predominant Christian themes or references in the book. Anyone can enjoy this book. I would not recommend reading it straight thru since not every situation will apply to every reader. However, for looking up quick fixes for specific scenarios, this book is fantastic.

Available January 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group