Friday, August 28, 2015

Review: Capture the Moment by Sarah Wilkerson

In "Capture the Moment," CEO of Clickin Moms Sarah Wilkerson has compiled a a great collection of photos taken by women, many of which are taken of kids by their moms. You don't have to be a mom to enjoy the photos and photography tips presented here. However, the tips are mainly meant to get you thinking with a photographer's eye for content and light. There are very few technical tips given, and the short dictionary at the back of the book is pretty basic stuff. So, the book is mainly for beginners. And yet pretty much all of the photo examples were taken with camera bodies that cost well over $1000 (imagine how expensive the lenses are). Since I can only afford my current Canon T2i Rebel, which takes terrible photos when a high ISO is used, I found it disappointing that more than half of these photos were taken at ISOs over 1600. How do these professional photographers get their subjects to turn out so in focus with such low f-stops? How do they manage to take photos at high ISOs with so little grain in the result? How can I take photos just a high in quality without expensive equipment and editing programs?

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

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Nonfiction Review: Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor

In Glenn T. Stanton's "Loving My (LGBT) Neighbor" I was glad to finally find a book with some solid questions and answers for Christians facing moral dilemmas. Stanton's points on gay marriage and politics could use some expansion, but his chapters on the role of the church and the role LGBT people can play in the church were enlightening. Stanton also takes time to address just what LGBT means. He makes it very clear that LGBT is not a cookie-cutter community and that those who associate themselves with that community are human beings with emotions and needs who cannot just be told to stop doing what they're doing. I enjoyed Stanton's examples of real-life friendships between people with polar opposite opinions. I could read an entire book of testimonies alone. Of course, Stanton takes the traditional, conservative stance, but he does so with a lot more practical sense than a lot of the books I have read on this topic. There are still a few points I disagree with or do not have a solid grasp of, but this book was a great step toward a more solid stance of my own.

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

Nonfiction Review: Exploring Christian Theology Volume Two

Volumes One and Three of "Exploring Christian Theology" offer a bit for both beginners and more advanced readers. As one who knows little about Revelation, I found Nathan D. Holsteen and Michael J. Svigel's sections on the End Times interesting. In Volume Two, the editors cover "Creation, Fall, And Salvation," at least that's what the title says. In reality, the book covers mostly the effects of the Fall and the details of Salvation, with some basic info on Calvinism and Arminianism.

The book's approach is unique because it combines technical theology with history, and history with practical application. I was disappointed in this volume, however, because it spent no time on the how of Creation - young earth versus new earth and so on. I also had trouble understanding some of the excerpts from classical theologians and wished they had been paired up with the sections on church history for a better overall picture.

To summarize, Volume Two has some great content, but it's fairly obvious content that sets in stone what most readers will already know.

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

Fiction Romance Review: Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

I requested Irene Hannon's "Hope Harbor" because I had read a few of her suspense novels and was curious if her romance would be as original. I found "Hope Harbor" to be well written and full of character development, but ultimately just another romance novel.

Each of the main characters have lost spouses and hide secrets while blaming themselves for their pasts. But the one revelation that could actually be surprising - that the leading man looks a lot like the estranged son of the town recluse - is thrown aside without explanation. Also, once again Hannon introduces a new character point of view at the tale end of the story for one or two short chapters, which is a pet peeve annoyance of mine and really a big no no in the writing world.

So, if you're in the mood for a slow, but endearing romance without much originality in its telling - nothing much happens for a climax, either - or if you enjoy Hannon's previous writing, then this is a good read. But for most, there are better options.

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

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Nonfiction Review: Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

Caleb Kaltenbach "shares his heart" in "Messy Grace." He writes of his experience becoming a Christian after growing up with two moms and a homosexual father. And his story is incredible. But what should really draw the reader in is Caleb's call to both grace and truth.

Caleb believes in the traditional, Biblical perspective on marriage, and he uses strong, Scriptural evidence in his presentation. He also knows that no sin and no person is black and white. His insights into the lives of "others" are challenging and thought-provoking. He gives solutions to the gay Christian dilemma (celibacy, heterosexual marriage), but doesn't expect one size to fit all, and instead focuses on where we place our identity - in Christ or in the things of this world. He does lightly touch on the issues of gay marriage and Christian rights, but does not go into great detail on anything political... or all that practical for that matter.

I know he wanted to encourage Christians to love instead of hate, but I think the everyday issues Christians face are extremely relevant to the conversation on just how we can love our neighbors. I would like to see another book from Caleb that focuses more on how the tension plays out - "Messy Grace" was more about pointing out the tension, itself.

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

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Nonfiction Review: The Accidental Feminist by Courtney Reissig

Courtney Reissig started life out as what she considered a feminist, but her view point changed when she came to a biblical understanding of men and women. As explained in "The Accidental Feminist,"  that complementarian view sees men and women as equal, but not the same, and compares the role of male leadership in the church to the Israelite tribe specifically selected for the purpose of priesthood.

After Reissig begins with her own story, she gets off to a rough start with a chapter that could use better organization. But then she gets down to business and provides some very good, thought-provoking thoughts. Like Eve, humans tend to question what God has said. God has a purpose for men and women. Women are to be life-givers in hospitality and love. They can serve within the church, leading Bible studies and younger women. Reissig gives multiple examples of what this looks like for both the single and married woman, as well as what godly submission in a godly marriage looks like. She also looks at feminism throughout history to show how it has affected Christian women. Women can work in the home or in the work place. They should not make either of these ultimate, but rather focus on God as ultimate.

The book does get a little preachy at times. As a person who does not have a heart for service, I found the hospitality examples irrelevant and exhausting to just think about. But the one thing that really disappointed me was that Reissig did not address the gay/lesbian issue. There were certain things she covered, like modesty and maintaining a personality while still having a "quiet" spirit, but I still left feeling like there was more practical issues and applications that needed to be addressed. All in all, though, "The Accidental Feminist" is an easy, but thought-provoking read with several great points.

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

Nonfiction Review: The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God

"The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God" consists of back and forth chapters written by Duck Dynasty stars Jep and Jessica Robertson. The chapters basically tell each author's life story. This means extra, unnecessary details. I would have preferred a more focused story revolving around the redemptive moments in their lives.

Jep and Jessica deal with everything from body image to marital problems to sexual temptation to drugs and abuse. These portions of their stories are touching and make the read worthwhile. There are a few holes in the story, though. Jep gives his background as an excuse for his sins, but I'm sure there has to be more to it than that.

Aided by Susy Flory, their writing style is very laid back (i.e. This happened. Then this happened. Oh and I remember this happened too.) and conversational (sometimes to the book's detriment, but mostly making for an easy read).

 I found out after I requested this book that the Robertsons believe baptism equals salvation, which I disagree with. But there were no real doctrinal concerns or issues present in the book, itself, although they did overemphasize baptism.

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