Saturday, September 28, 2013

Review: The Governess of Highland Hall

I get the feeling that Carrie Turansky was highly influenced by Bronte and Austen novels when she wrote "The Governess of Highland Hall," especially "Jane Eyre." The story starts off with a Jane Eyre moment when Julia, straight from her time in India as a missionary, has an unpleasant encounter with a man on the road, not realizing he is her potential employer. Of course, she is bound to eventually fall in love with him. She soon meets William's sister, Sarah, who is busy reading "Pride and Prejudice." And (spoiler alert) there is a major fire in the latter part of the book. Not to mention William's recently deceased wife was not the best wife he could have - the product of an arranged marriage.

So, "Highland Hall" is very much so a rehashing of the Jane Eyre story with strong Christian themes and frequent Scripture references added in with care, a natural result of Julia's Christian upbringing and time as a missionary. The love story doesn't really develop like a Bronte or Austen story though, although fans of the two classic authors will absolutely love "Highland Hall." My only complaint is that the romance develops too quickly. Turansky does a great job of showing the emotions flying between the two and making their relationship very authentic, but William goes from seemingly unfriendly to friendly very quickly and both he and Julia automatically begin harboring feelings for each other right away. Turansky references the passing of deep evening conversations between the two, but never recounts any such conversations. She throws in a few other romances that develop well, although there are plenty of characters whom she switches between telling the story, some of which don't get any satisfying resolution. Still, it's a pleasant romance novel that any girl will love.

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

Review: God of the Underdogs

Matt Keller writes to those who are meant to be leaders, or at least that's the impression I got from his book "God of the Underdogs." Although I connect with a point or two (we must wait for the Pharaoh to call and use our gifts in the mean time), I had a difficult time truly taking anything away from the book. The two chapters that resonated with me on a slight level were at the very beginning of the book, and the rest of the book seemed to be about how God calls those of us who feel like underdogs to do big and great things. But what about daily life? What about those of us who don't feel called to the big things, but who want to make a difference in our small-life situations? There's some things that can be taken by long stretches while reading the book, and Keller's audio accompaniments (accessible via QR code at the end of each chapter) are a bit easier to enjoy, but overall I didn't feel like I fit any of Keller's underdogs. His connections to Scripture stories were sometimes a bit overstretched, and the majority of his book is Keller retelling those stories and then making quick applications. I did enjoy Keller's own inspirational story, though, and I'm sure that his book will impact a lot of people who are more in the right place to become the kind of leader Keller calls for.

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

Review: Saving Casper

To answer the question the title of this book seems to be going off of: No, Casper is not saved. That he holds to atheist beliefs is evident throughout the book he co-authored with Jim Henderson. The two wrote another book together in which they conversed about the churches they visited and what was best and worst about them. "Saving Casper" talks more in general about evangelical efforts to convert and save nonbelievers.

While I was very interested in what Casper had to say, I also constantly found myself wanting to yell at the book about what wasn't being pointed out in return to Capser's comments. Of course, since the point of the book is not to debate about what to believe and what not to believe, I suppose it's possible Jim has addressed my concerns in private. Still, Jim's insistence on developing relationships through connections and conversation bugged me a bit. The point is right - to love rather than hate - to act rather than speak - but the seeming statement that all debate is bad because it is full of hate (I may be exaggerating a bit here, but you get the point) hits me the wrong way.

I've always believed that God calls different people to different things, gifting them with different talents. To me, that includes debate, and while I'm no debater, I've found that watching skilled debaters consider major issues has helped me develop my own faith and find reason to defend my faith. I also think that there's a place and time for relationship-centered loving action evangelism, but that does not rule out the importance of speaking truth.

All that said, I would still recommend this book. I plan to reread it some day, as it has plenty to think about.

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

Monday, September 2, 2013

Review: First Hired, Last Fired

There are plenty of ways I could nitpick Anita Agers-Brooks' "First Hired, Last Fired." For example, Anita doesn't get into much detail in explaining her principles, nor does she go beyond bullet points in drawing principles from the Bible (some of which seem far-fetched). She uses well-written and interesting stories (two versions of each - one negative, one positive) to illustrate her points, which will appeal to some and bore others. But, ultimately, I cannot give the book a bad review. Although it was not written to my learning style, it did inspire me to take a look at my work ethics and to give more of myself in the work place. In that sense, the book succeeded, and I highly recommend the book for anyone having attitude problems at work.

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

Review: Faithprints

Rebekah Binkley Montgomery's "Faithprints: Touching Your World For Jesus" is more of a handbook than it is a deep and thoughtful Christian nonfiction read. The book does not really address how to "touch the world" in our average daily lives. It's more for people looking for ways to be leaders in doing things like donating items after disasters, forming prayer groups and starting a book club. Montgomery provides steps (some which may seem obvious) and tips for each of her recommended leadership roles. Her personal stories and introductions are more interesting reads, but the majority of the book is slow going unless you specifically want to look at one particular suggestion she has. But most people will not take much away from this book because most people will already know what she provides, look it up on the internet, or pass because they're not leaders. I'm sure there's a market for this book, but I'm not a part of it. Points for an attractive concept, right heart and nice book cover, though.

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