"No man can be called friendless who has God and the companionship of good books."
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

As Silver Refined by Kay Arthur

As Silver Refined is a book that talks about many of the disappointments we all face in life and how we can view them as lessons from God and face them down in a more positive and constructive way.  In that regard this book did it's job.  I really liked the authors regular use of scripture to illustrate and support her points.  I did, however, find the book to be rather slow reading and after the first few chapters I had to force myself to finish it.  Overall I don't think this would be the first book in this genre that I would recommend to a friend.  It's not bad, I just don't think it's that good either.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

To Heaven and Back by Dr. Mary C. Neal

When I agreed to review this book I was hoping for a bit more information on Dr. Neal's time spent in Heaven and a bit more about the extent of her injuries at the time of the accident. For example, Dr. Neal claims to have "died" but there is no information to support the idea that she experienced true physical, clinical death. This book is more of a short biography of Dr. Neal's life than it is specifically about her near death experience. While her brief discussions of the various times she felt God's presence in her life were interesting and somewhat inspiring, I would've liked to have seen a bit more detail in those discussions and I certainly would've like to have seen more detail in her discussion of her time spent, as she believes, in Heaven. Also, while I don't doubt that Dr. Neal has had a very powerful and life-changing experience, based on what I read in the book, I am a bit skeptical that this was more a case of misidentification than miraculous journey. When she does talk about her experience she describes being in a state of true physical shock, slipping in and out of consciousness (not being actually dead), and still experiencing very similar things to what she apparently experienced while she was trapped in the river. I can't help but feel that her case was less an actual experience of life after death and more an experience of hallucinations during extreme physical stress, shock and loss of oxygen. I do believe that many of the after-life experiences reported by those who experienced them are genuine, I just can't say the same with any amount of confidence for Dr. Neal's case. I enjoyed the openness with which she discussed the lose of her son and her family's struggle to come to terms with his death which is a story I can relate to on a personal level, although I lost my son much earlier in life than she lost her's, much of the story still resonated. However, after awhile the overall feel of the book began to become a little tedious and it was difficult to see it through to the end. All in all, I gave it three stars for effort. I feel this book, even with the doubt of the reality of her experiences, would've been a four or five star read if it was a less a biography and more about her accident, time in heaven, conversations, and then about her directives.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Has God Spoken? Proof of the Bible's Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff

Has God Spoken? Proof of the Bible's Divine Inspiration by Hank Hanegraaff is a fascinating and thought provoking book.  It tackles many of the tough criticisms raised against the Bible with honest, and fact-based answers that both affirm and challenge traditional belief systems.  For the most part it's engaging, although parts of it can become a bit dry and I personally feel that the acronyms are a bit over done but I can see where they would be a useful memorization tool for many. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be the People by Carol M. Swain, PhD

I began reading this book fully expecting it to really speak to me and inspire me since I myself am rather conservative politically and religiously and I figured that my sensibilities would align well with Prof. Swain's. And they did, to a large degree, with the exception that I tend to be more egalitarian in my view of the Biblical role of women and men and she tends to be more complementarian in her views.  I strongly agree with the basic premise of this book, that America is indeed heading in the wrong direction both politically and socially in many ways.  I found her chapter on abortion to be powerful and factually accurate.  I thought her interpretation of the intent of the Founding Fathers to be insightful.   But, unfortunately I found many other areas to be limited in scope and incomplete.  For example, she talks about the problem of divorce in this country (agreed) but she blames it almost entirely on the feminist movement.  I don't count myself among the Steinem Stepford feminists either but divorce in this country is a multi-faceted issue and I think that Prof. Swain's analysis fails to acknowledge that fact. Feminism may have removed some of the social stigma of divorce but it didn't really drive people to divorce.  Rabid feminists don't cause people to leave their spouses, unhappy marriages do and marriages can be unhappy for many reasons.  So even without feminism, even if divorce was still a stigma, all you would likely end up with would be men and women drudging through miserable marriages.  Another issue that Prof. Swain brings up is the idea that 9/11 was a punishment for the actions of the US and she listed a couple of reasons given by the terrorists for their attack to support this idea which basically boiled down to the exploitation of the poor and our sexual immorality.  Unfortunately, again, she didn't expand on this idea much and only presented a very limited view of the causes of the Sept. 11th attacks.  One of the major reasons that the terrorists attacked the US was due to our support of Israel, which she correctly states in several other areas of the book as being a moral benefit to the US.
It was mainly the little things like those that I listed that really prevented me from giving this book a five or even four star review.  I felt that overall, in concept and in theory, and even in much of of the detail it was spot on but in other areas it really failed to give a full and in some cases, an intellectually honest depiction. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions by Max Lucado

Max Lucado has been a tremendous inspiration to me since Christianity found me again and held onto my soul for dear life only a few years ago. When I had finally decided to set foot in a church for the first time in over a decade they handed me a "gift package".  It had chocolates, a welcome note from the church, and a small pamphlet.  I went home, gave the chocolate to my kids, read over the welcome note from the church before putting it in the trash and stuffed the pamphlet into my nightstand drawer without even bothering to open it. The next night while searching for something to read to slow my racing thoughts so I could sleep I reached into my nightstand drawer and found the pamphlet.  That pamphlet sent me down a path that changed my life forever.  It described Christianity in a way that I could relate to at the time despite my deep rooted skepticism and cynicism. I looked on the back of the pamphlet and found that the other was Max Lucado, a man I had never heard of in my entire life but I liked his style.

Since then I've read several of his books including this one and Outlive Your Life. While this book didn't quite inspire me the way that Outlive Your Life had done it is still a worthwhile read. In this book, Pastor Lucado answers some of the many questions he has received throughout his ministry in various different categories that include topics like God, suffering, sex and marriage, heaven and hell, finances and the purpose of church.  Some of the answers made a great deal of sense to me, some left me with still more questions, and there were even a small number that I didn't completely agree with but all of them were insightful, well thought out and handled in a compassionate and understanding manner. This will most likely be a book I keep returning to time and time again for a guidance and insight.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Dragons of the Valley by Danita K Paul

Dragon's of the Valley is the first truly Christian fantasy fiction novel that I've read and I can honestly say I enjoyed it. It's central theme based around the usual "good guy vs. bad guy" model with the peaceful and enlightened town of Chiril suffering an unprovoked attack by the brutish, violent, and somewhat dimwitted kingdom to the South. 

The character The Grawl provides an interesting side plot portraying a skilled hunter/assassin with a tragic history that makes you feel a little sorry for him despite the fact that he is a cold-blooded killer.  His apathy and arrogance really add depth to his character and in the end he personifies the idea that sometimes evil isn't always black and white.

Along with the drama of love and death, fear and excitment there is also plenty of comic relief provided by the perpetually confused but always affable Lady Peg. Her barely coherent ramblings never failed to provide a smile and sometimes even a chuckle or two.

Adult readers, however, may prefer something with a bit more depth and the Wulder references seemed to me to be a bit forced at times doing slight damage to the overall flow of the story but all in all I think it is a great book for older kids and teenagers.  It's clean, engaging enough, not too violent, no real objectionable material and therefore I think it is definately a book most parents could feel comfortable giving to their children.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Eat Your Peas Daughter by Cheryl and Mom Karpen

This is such a cute little book.  I read it with my 7 year old daugther and she absolutely loved it. It's easy enough for a 7 year old to understand and deep enough for a teen or adult to appreciate. It is a wonderful gift that any daughter can treasure for a lifetime.