Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fiction Review: The Christmas Cat

I have to confess. I only requested "The Christmas Cat" to annoy my dad, who hates cats and is very allergic to them. I never expected that my dad would have that in common with the main character of Melody Carlson's holiday book. Garrison Brown must find a home for each of his recently-deceased grandmother's cats, but his grandmother was very specific about the kind of home her cats can go to. And, of course, Garrison finds romance along the way.

While the book takes place during the holidays, I didn't feel a great holiday spirit about the story. The characters could use more development. There's certainly great potential for it with all the neighbors and, ultimately, cat owners Garrison meets. But the conversations and situations never go too deep. The majority of the book is spent on Garrison going from home to home for the cats, and the narrative is sweet, but formal and organized rather than natural and flowing.

It's a quick read that could easily turn into an endearing Hallmark film, but, like the Carlson book I recently finished (see my review on "Trading Secrets"), it was nothing special. Heart-warming, but not to its best ability.

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

Young Adult Romance Review: Trading Secrets by Melody Carlson

“Trading Secrets” by Melody Carlson is a sort of mix between the films “You’ve Got Mail” and “Witness” for teens, but without the suspense or secrecy. It does not take long for Micah to reveal to her pen pal that she is really a girl and not a boy as she let him believe in her letters. The plot of the book revolves more around her spring break with his Amish family after she tells the truth and finds herself stuck in an unwelcome environment.
Since Micah is only 17 and Zach only 18, the romance is not fully able to take off, which is why I say this book is written more for teenagers. We all know that the book will end well, but not with a marriage or proposal. The ending does leave room for a sequel or series, though.
The novel is an enjoyable read, but nothing too special. Just the usual light fair for when there’s nothing much better to read. What really bugs me, though, is Carlson’s use of the present tense in her first person narration. I have never cared for this style, and, personally, I would want to know that a book is written in that style before choosing to read it or not. So for all those who agree with me, this is your warning. I have read present tense books before that I surprisingly enjoyed. But this was not one of them. It was a pleasant enough read, but there was not much to the plot and the book did not make me want to run out and buy another Melody Carlson novel to read. But if you like teenage novels, you’ll still probably love “Trading Secrets.”
*Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.

Nonfiction Review: God Loves Sex

"God Loves Sex" is basically a book by two scholars (Dan B. Allender and Tremper Longman III) commenting on the Song of Songs as a book to be taken literally, that is as sexual poems rather than metaphors for the church and God. In other words, Song of Songs sets out an example of true worship, love and desire within the context of marriage and the relationship and pursuit that leads to marriage and consummation.

The authors go back and forth between commenting on certain poems and providing a narrative in the form of a journal by a fictional man named Malcolm attending a Bible study on sex. I was not too keen on the narratives, at first, but they surprised me as the most relatable portions of the book. I did have a difficult time following Malcolm's thoughts, though, and as much as I gained from the authors' explanations of culture and meaning for Songs, I just could not connect the dots. There is a big picture, but the organization isn't the greatest.

I do recommend the book, but with caution. The authors are not afraid to use explicit language, so know your boundaries. There was also mention of masturbation without further explanation, and I needed more development on the authors' stance, otherwise they came off the wrong way.

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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Nonfiction Review: Exploring Christian Theology Volume One

I previously read volume three of "Exploring Christian Theology" on the Church and the End Times. While Scripture and the Triune God are not quite as interesting and layered of topics, it is the completely unique format of these volumes that makes them worth reading and keeping on the shelf for later. You're not just getting a systematic theology (there is some of that), but also great (sometimes difficult to understand) quotes from church fathers and modern leaders, a historical perspective, a practical perspective and more. For Volume One, I do wish there had been more room for defense of the reliability of Scripture, but I did appreciate some new insights on passages that point to Scripture's divine inspiration. I also appreciated that the half on the Trinity focused on God's character in addition to the Trinity's reality within the Bible.

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

Fiction Review: At Bluebonnet Lake

Thank you Amanda Cabot. I can't tell you how wonderful it was to sit down to a good romance novel with actual character development and character chemistry!

"At Bluebonnet Lake" follows a Marketing wiz on a long vacation (or sacrifice) for her grandmother. While at the Rainbow resort in Texas, she meets a gentleman with a secret (girls will love this guy), deals with her own reasons for aspiring to partnership at the firm, and then her grandmother also has a charming romantic side plot.

The story is lovely, the characters relatable, and Amanda Cabot even threw in some musical references for all us Broadway lovers! It's a longer novel, but it develops well and really gives you a chance to enjoy the setting and characters.

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Nonfiction Review: "The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen"

As with any classic author, John Owens is interesting, and, at times, beautiful to read. But also very difficult to read. Not because of content, but because of long sentences with difficult to follow structure. Editor Ryan M. McGraw attempts to make things a bit easier in his book "The Foundation of Communion with God: The Trinitarian Piety of John Owen." McGraw writes that he has broken Owen's work up into paragraphs and small, select sections. In fact, personally I was disappointed that the majority of the book is Owen's text without much commentary. McGraw provides a short bio and introduction, as well as an appendix on reading Owen's works. But I still had a hard time getting through the book. I finished it because these classic works are usually worth reading. The selections provided stick to basic orthodox theology on the Trinity and the Church. But their short nature, while making it easier to read, also made it more difficult to connect the dots and take something away from the book.
Disclaimer: I received this book for free in exchange for my honest review.