Friday, September 26, 2014

Christian Fiction Review: Tried & True by Mary Connealy

Mary Connealy adds bits of old West flare to her descriptions and writing, making the first in her "Wild at Heart" series a lovely, enjoyable read. The characters are real, relatable and instantly likable.  As with most stories, the romance progresses quickly, but thankfully not at the expense of character or plot.

Kylie's father has forced her to act and dress like a man and fight in the Civil War. She has never received any protection or special attention, so when local land agent Aaron Masterson comes along and discovers her secret, ready to treat her like the woman she is, Kylie is torn between her desire for independence and her newfound enjoyment of love and protection.

What seems the main problem of the plot is solved fairly quickly and unexpectedly, with a subplot taking the foreground at book's end, setting up the characters for future books. I'm not entirely sure if I liked the easy resolution. The one thing I did not care for was Connealy's narration, which was told a few times from the point of view of a minor character and gave away the mystery.

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

Christian Nonfiction Review: Can I Really Trust the Bible

Part of a series of books on various Christian topics, "Can I Really Trust the Bible?" by Barry Cooper is a good start for those ready to jump into a study for the defense of the faith. For the more modern person looking for relatable narrative, I'd recommend Lee Strobel's books, but for those looking for a simple and easy read, Cooper's fits the bill. I was hoping for more detail, however. This book served as more of an overview of what I already knew. The chapters on corruptions, conspiracies, contradictions and criticisms don't actually cover many corruptions, conspiracies, contradictions or criticisms. So consider this a tract, only longer (81 pages).

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

Friday, September 19, 2014

Group Devotion Review: Heaven, Hell and Life After Death

More of a systematic theology than an in-depth study, Kay Arthur and Bob & Diane Vereen's 40 minute weekly Bible study on Heaven, Hell and Life After Death doesn't provide for much conversation. Beginners will get a lot out of it, as will visual learners who will enjoy the prompts to add drawings and underlines to specific words and phrases in Bible passages. The texts themselves are conveniently provided within the Bible study, although the questions don't always leave much room for writing down answers. The questions are very straight-forward, mostly sticking to "What did you learn from marking ___?" and repeating what the passages already tell readers. The content goes over the basics of what the Bible says about Heaven and Hell, but do not provide any new insights. There are pull-out "insights" that occasionally provide interesting facts, but other than that there isn't much commentary. The weekly, no-homework studies are supposed to last 40 minutes, but they last several pages and seem to be more than 40 minutes worth. I found this study a refresher on what I already knew, but thought I could get just as much from reading the passages alone.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Christian Nonfiction Review: Biblical Portraits of Creation

In "Biblical Portraits of Creation," authors Walter C. Kaiser Jr. and Dorington G. Little attempt to lay out a theological survey of sorts, point out parts of the Old and New Testament that involve creation, as well as some that involve the future of creation (new heavens and new earth - a bit off topic, but still relevant).

It took me a while to get into this book, and I did not do much underlining. The chapters are mostly repetitions of the passages with very little commentary. The extremely few chapters that Little contributes are on their way to more interesting, but Kaiser writes the majority of the book. As far as style and grammar go, the book reads well. The authors organize the book in outline format, with commentary on their points. The appendix provides the most informative section of the book, discussing the literary genre of Genesis - in other words, the books supposed similarities to ancient religions. Unfortunately, this section is difficult to follow. But it does get its point across.

I am putting this book on my shelf for a possible future reread, as I have a feeling there may be more to it than first appears.

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

Friday, September 5, 2014

Film Review: The Identical

The celebrity actors (Seth Green, Ashley Judd, Joe Pantoliano) do not add much to "The Identical," and the title character does not become his title until an hour into the film. Still, it's better than typical Christian film fair with so-so acting and likable characters. The conclusion meets most expectations, but focuses more on redeemed relationships rather than the main character's rise to fame or personal faith. The Elvis Presley influence comes across as somewhat laughable, with unrealistic musical numbers, but both catchy and moving songs.

It's satisfying family entertainment, similar to most made-for-TV Hallmark-type films. Not boring, but a bit slow, finding its worth in its heart. Fans of "When the Game Stands Stall," "Amazing Grace" and other faith-inspired films will thoroughly enjoy.

The story follows twin brothers separated at birth, one set apart for God and the other destined to follow the path of the troubled celebrity. Neither knows the other exists, but when their musical talents cross paths in unexpected ways, it sets one brother on an inspiring and hopeful path.

The Identical is now playing in theatres.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Christian Nonfiction Review: Same Sex Marriage

I work in the theatre world. I am also a strong, traditional Christian. Therefore, same-sex marriage and gay rights are constantly on my mind.

Sean McDowell and John Stonstreet's "Sam-Sex Marriage: A Thoughtful Approach to God's Design for Marriage" included a great section on real-life examples of how to treat those of the LGBTQ community and provided a starting point for moral dilemmas. I appreciated the authors' information on the history of the same-sex marriage movement and their point that the definition of marriage has changed in society. The authors call Christians to stand up for traditional marriage by living moral lives while recognizing that no sin is worse than another in God's eyes. At the same time, the earlier portion of their book seems to call people to a political stand.

I feel more called to the personal level, as politics go right over my head and lead to unpleasant arguments. So I have a hard time putting both the personal and political levels together, and I couldn't really figure out which was important to the authors. Their arguments for traditional marriage were short and unsatisfying, relying on the usual "procreation" idea and such. The book acknowledges that emotion rules over logic in our society, but lacks any real content that I feel I could use in conversation.

The book as a whole provided bits of good information, but didn't really put all the pieces together. It was organized, but doesn't feel together.

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