Sunday, January 21, 2018

Study Review: "His Last Words"

"His Last Words" isn't really about Jesus' last words. In fact, reading through the day-by-day studies, I had difficulty connecting the dots and finding a common theme. And the last week or two of the study where we actually read Jesus' final words are quickly glossed over. Author Kim Erickson also asks a lot of those personal questions that I tend to not have answers for or tend to find pointless. However, I greatly appreciated that Erickson opened each day's study with the relevant passage split up, line by line, with space for the reader to write down what each line tells us about God. I found I was able to glean a lot just from this focus on what the Scripture actually says. As Erickson pulled in other verses, I took away a lot of individual lessons. She doesn't do a detailed study of John, but she does have a way of making a point. I also appreciated that Erickson took space to make sure the reader reflects on what she's learned over the week. I would not mind reading through this study again. I probably still won't answer any of those personal questions. That's just not my learning style. But, hey, maybe it's yours.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Review: "Good Night Tales"

"Good Night Tales" is exactly the kind of story book I would have loved reading with my father when I was a child. The illustrations are lovely, and, combined with the stories told, create a beautiful fairy-tale land. C.S. Fritz takes passages from the Bible and turns them into stories and characters that children will easily engage with. The stories are short, and I wish Fritz would developed the world he has only just begun creating in this book. The only thing I found odd about the book was that there were two or three stories with no text and that were not as easy to understand or follow.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Review: 60 Days of Happiness by Randy Alcorn

I love Randy Alcorn books. When I sit down to read a Randy Alcorn book, I know I can expect a deep examination of Scripture. But "60 Days of Happiness" really didn't make all that... well... happy with Alcorn. Maybe it's because of the devotional format. Maybe it's because Alcorn had to reformat a full book into short devotions. In any case, "60 Days of Happiness" felt repetitious. While each devotion includes a Bible passage and relevant quote or story, I wanted even more Scripture. Alcorn's basic premise is that happiness is Biblical and good, and he certainly proves his point. But I expected more from an Alcorn book.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Nonfiction Review: Why I Believe by Chip Ingram

Books on "Why I Believe" seem to be the popular trend these days, going off of the success of Lee Strobel's books and the need in this modern age to have a "reason for my defense." And I try to read as many of these kinds of books as possible. The thing is, with so many books touting the same "reasons" out there, the information can get a little flat without a unique frame or angle. While I appreciate Chip Ingram's testimony and his framing of the topic by questions and reasons to believe, I didn't find anything new in his book. And honestly, other books do a much better job of providing compelling arguments for the Christian faith. I've had real-world discussions with atheists and agnostics, and the evidences given are simply not enough. While "Why I Believe" may be a good book for those new to the topic or for Christians who just need a reason to hold onto their faith, Ingram really only skims the surface.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fiction Review: Where We Belong by Lynn Austin

Lynn Austin's "Where We Belong" has compelling Christian themes and interesting characters, but slightly suffers from a rushed ending and a lack of descriptive language. The book is several hundred pages, so the reader expects more from their investment.

Sisters Rebecca and Flora have inherited a large sum of money and a passion for knowledge from their father. These factors eventually lead them to the Sinai desert searching for ancient documents that will prove that the Bible has not been altered over the years. Along the way, Lynn Austin alters course to tell the reader about the girls' past. She also spends two small sections of the book telling the story from the viewpoints of servants Kate and Soren.

The back and forth between time periods provides an opportunity to better get to know the characters, and Austin gives the reader enough to earn her investment. However, Flora comes across as a stick-figure character, too reliant on Rebecca, while I never could decide if Rebecca was helpful or too forward in her demands and manipulation of her sister. Even when Austin gives us an entire section from Flora's perspective, it is difficult to understand her character or to read from Flora's perspective so soon after reading from the perspective of Rebecca's strong personality.

Toward the end of the book, Rebecca develops a romantic relationship with an agnostic, largely driving her quest to find proof for the Bible's reliability. That quest, which provides the outline of the majority of the book, does not lead to much adventure (beyond some trouble with a Bedouin) or discovery, and its conclusion was a bit of a let down. And when Rebecca finally gives the conversion of her beloved to Christianity over to the Holy Spirit, his "aha" moment comes in a quick and unbelievable manner. Perhaps this part of the story would have been best served by saving a section of the book to be told from his perspective, so the reader could know how exactly God prepares his heart for that final moment of realization.

The redemptive and religious themes of the story are woven well, however. I greatly enjoyed the sisters' desire to find God's purpose for their lives and their mantra that only God knows the time our lives will end. Soren and Kate's street backgrounds also lead to happy endings reminiscent of God's own adoption of Christians through Christ.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Nonfiction Review: Enjoying God by RC Sproul

RC Sproul (rhymes with "soul") has a talent for language and storytelling. In "Enjoying God," he takes the attributes of God and puts them in easy-to-understand terms. Some attributes are thought-provoking theological questions and others are simple traits that have already been covered too often by other authors. But Sproul makes them fresh and enlightening again. We consider the definition of truth, the uncaused cause and more. Here we have one of the great theologians whose work is full of profound quotes worth underlining.

*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Loving My Actual Christmas

I love a good Christmas book, and let's be honest, we can all relate to the hectic nature of the holiday season. However, "Loving My Actual Christmas" seems to be written more for the mother with a large family. The author writes from experience, and her experience is with a family. Alexandra gives tips for controlled chaos, but the majority of her book is her day to day journal of the advent season, making an effort to remember the important things. And in that, I can relate. I appreciate that she gives  a piece of Scripture to go with each thing she's trying to remember. But in the end, I really don't get much from reading someone else's journal, nor am I a mother. "Loving My Actual Christmas" is a book I would recommend to those who like the journal style of writing, parents, and those who easily learn from others' example. Personally, though, I was bored by the book and ready to give it away to the next reader.

*Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for my honest review.