Thursday, February 26, 2015

Nonfiction Review: Fallen by Annie Lobert

"Fallen" is an incredible autobiography by Annie Lobert focusing on Lobert's slow descent into the sex industry (more specifically prostitution) and even slower rise to help others liker herself. Lobert writes with clear, tasteful language. Her story captivates readers from beginning to end. 

A word of caution, however: Lobert testifies to her Charismatic beliefs (she has spoken in tongues, which critics could easily say was influenced by Lobert's self-admitted psychological condition) and Joyce Meyers played a major "mama" role in Lobert's conversion to Christianity. I found her associations interesting considering Lobert condemns materialism and teaches readers to submit in obedience to God, both teachings that I can agree with. 

Meyers comes from a background of sexual abuse and has a great deal of positive things to say about freedom from captivity. However, she is also associated with the Prosperity Gospel movement, and, to me at least, that is just a hop, skip and jump away from the even more blasphemous Word of Faith movement.

I can't judge Lobert, though. She has accomplished a great deal, and her love for Jesus and Scripture is apparent. Her book, itself, contains no explicit false teaching. But I cannot lie. I was taken aback at her admittances after being so fully invested in the book up to that point.

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

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Review: NIV Proclamation Bible

For a Bible that claims to focus on making it easier to teach and proclaim God's Word, the NIV Proclamation Bible does not offer much. Book introductions are short and not at all unique. The essays at the beginning of the Bible are good reads about interpreting the Bible correctly, but would save space if expanded and put into their own book. I would much rather have shorter versions of these essays with practical examples throughout the text. Or perhaps the Bible could include sections that point out creeds and basic doctrines. Instead we get the typical concordance and cross references of select words. The one original element I found worthwhile was the inclusion of pointers to parallel passages. Such tools are easier to use online (ex: Also, I remain suspicious due to the inclusion of what appear to be several Catholic contributors/editors, although I found nothing of negative note in the sixty or seventy pages of essays.

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

Nonfiction Review: A Glorious Dark by A.J. Swoboda

A.J. Swoboda has a relaxing, neighborly tone to his narrative that immediately endears him to his readers. In "A Glorious Dark," the author sets out to discuss the three days of Easter: The pain of Friday, the sadness of Saturday, and the hope of Sunday. Swoboda states that Christians should live in light of all three days, not just one or two.

What follows his introduction are short and easy-to-read thoughts on various topics. However, A.J. never addresses the abuses of these "days" in a specific manner, and his many stories and lessons are difficult to connect to each other and to the Friday, Saturday, Sunday outline of his book. That said, I did thoroughly enjoy reading "A Glorious Dark," much thanks to Swoboda's addicting writing style. Due to the scattered organization, I didn't take much away, but I do hope to read the book again some day for further takeaways.

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

Christian Nonfiction Review: Compassion Without Compromise

Compassion without compromise. It's an idea that I find difficult to implement. While moral lines are easy to find solid Biblical ground on, moral issues in the political arena come with less ease. In their book on homosexuality, Adam T. Barr and Ron Citlau provided some good Biblical arguments to influence my thinking on the purpose of marriage. But while I agree wholeheartedly with their main premise, I take issue with some of their book. I have yet to find a book on this issue that really addresses my questions on real-life application. So, don't let the title of this book fool you. It won't help much. But it will guide you a bit.

The authors set out definitions I would love to see expansion upon. Their answer to the question of whether or not a gay person can go to heaven was elusive and confusing. And their examples came from extreme negative backgrounds (i.e. drugs and bad relationships led to same-sex preference) that do not always apply to the LGBT community. They thus fail to answer how to respond to those who claim marriage is about "love" and should not be denied to faithful partners, no matter the sexual preference. I did, however, see plenty of compassion in the book, including a short bit on recognizing that all sinners can play the role of the good Samaritan.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Nonfiction Review: 30 Events That Shaped The Church by Alton Gansky

Alton Gansky does a wonderful job of covering a lot of ground in a short space. His writing is easy to read, and he provides plenty of cultural context as he covers the "30 Events That Shaped The Church." Gansky starts with events found in Acts (which some may find slower reading) and moves on to cover everything from the various church councils to the Scopes Monkey Trial. I appreciated his inclusion of more unique events and groups. My one complaint: I felt the author was a bit partial to Catholicism. He includes events that took place after the church split, potentially giving modern Catholicism a place in the Church.

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

Nonfiction Review: The Bible's Answers to 100 of Life's Biggest Questions

I expected more from Norman Geisler. Although "The Bible's Answers to 100 of Life's Biggest Questions" is an easy read, laid out to include application and references, I found the book boring and full of answers I already knew (well, I did go to Bible college).

I'm not sure who Geisler and Jason Jumenez wrote this book for. Most Christians will know the basic answers to the questions presented, questions that at times seem more suited to setting the liberal Christian straight. And, really, the questions presented do not seem to match up with the book's title, they are so varied.

"Life" implies real-word, everyday, immediately-applies-to-me questions, but these questions vary from spiritual (what is Hell?) to philosophical (what is truth?). A few questions at the end of the book deal with politics and modern cultural issues, but they do not expand enough to answer my "life" questions.

So, maybe this book just needs a new title. Or perhaps it needs to be expanded into a reference book.

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

Fiction Review: The Crimson Cord by Jill Eileen Smith

Jill Eileen Smith's "The Crimson Cord" tells the story of Rahab in three parts, starting with her history, moving on to the Biblical story and ending with what happened after the "prostitute" saved Israel. The novel is worth reading once you get far enough, but the initial backstory drags.

Smith uses too many point of views throughout the book, and Rahab's past could easily have been integrated with the latter half of the book for a stronger, more emotional novel. The third part's romance and religious questions give the book its heart, but the reader has to wait to get there.

Thumbs up to Smith for her inclusion of New Testament parables and principles. Still, I had a difficult time getting a grasp on the evil of Jericho contrasted with multiple instances of mercy and good people. Also, quotes direct from Scripture seemed unnatural in the novel, which has a modern feel to its narrative.

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

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Suspense Review: Hidden Agenda by Lisa Harris

Lisa Harris' "Hidden Agenda" follows an undercover detective on the run from the drug cartel. The story has a few moments of suspense, but mostly consists of the main character's time on the road. It's an okay read, but fails to connect with the reader. The main character's romance with the daughter of the cartel leader has little to no chemistry, and the mystery of the story unravels at the end without much of a build up. Harris also tells the story from multiple points of view, with some characters only getting a few chapters, which I find rather annoying. I did, however, like the unusual use of a character who uses sign language.

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