Friday, November 13, 2015

Christian Nonfiction Review: After Acts

I began "After Acts" with anticipation. The content disappointed at first, focusing more on the books the apostles (plus Mary and Paul) wrote, but eventually I grew used to author Bryan Litfin's organization and found new bits of information confirming the authenticity of the Bible that I have not found in the many other books I have read on the defense of the Gospel. As a side note, Liftin is more critical of books like 1 & 2 Peter, but as a conservative Christian sides with the Biblical canon. Since he is writing about the authors, not the creation of the canon, it makes sense that he does not discuss the divine authorship or guidance of the Bible, but he does hint at it. In addition to recapping what the Bible has to say, "After Acts" gives an overview of gnostic and early church myths and texts and attempts to separate fact from truth, concluding with a "report card" that grades each factor discussed. Liftin keeps things concise, so readers may not find as much information as they'd like, but the book is still a fascinating read.

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

Review: Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson

Bryan Peterson provides an easy read with plenty of helpful tips in "Learning to See Creatively." Although the technical chapters on lens choice and Photoshop could use more detail, I greatly appreciated Peterson's layout and organization. Peterson gives short introductions and then uses multiple example photos - each with one poorly-executed picture and one well-executed picture - with detailed descriptions.

I was not necessarily impressed with all of the photos (especially the front cover image), but they were all good examples for their sections, I did see a few that caught my attention, and Peterson's photo class and photo excursion stories were interesting. Tips cover everything from texture to lighting. Peterson's opinions on rearranging subjects were hard to justify. Although I understand his reasoning, coming from a Journalism background I felt his discussion on this topic needed more clarification between artistic photos and real-life photos. Overall, Peterson's instructions and exercises are great material for photographers of any experience level.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

Having previously read and generally disliked the first of Lynn Austin's "Restoration Chronicles," I was surprised by how much I thoroughly enjoyed the third installment, "On This Foundation." Here we have various lives, including the Bible's Nehemiah, beautifully intertwined into a story of love, obedience, hope and redemption.

Nehemiah travels to Jerusalem to rebuild the city walls. In order to do so, he must unite the people and face turmoil stirred up by nearby leaders. That means calling for obedience to God, a purification of the city and its practices. When he calls for the rich men of the community to cancel debts and free bondservants, Nava hopes that will pave the way for her marriage to Dan. Her master, Malkijah, is courting Chava, who still mourns the loss of her previously betrothed love. Chava's journey past her grief mirrors Nava's journey out of bitterness. Both deal with how a loving God could allow pain into their lives.

There are a few character and story traits I did not care for. Nehemiah is portrayed as what modern readers will see as sexist. The beginning of the book could have been scratched in favor of getting right into the action. Austin introduces a new point of view 87 pages in that she proceeds to barely use. I'm not sure what to make of the historical accuracy of the book, but I do know Austin has studied in and visit Jerusalem, and here she provides a fabulous book that I could not put down, so I'll give her the benefit of the doubt.

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

Review: Bob Welch's "52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol"

Quaint. Easy to read. Full of small insights. Bob Welch's "52 Little Lessons from A Christmas Carol" recaps the Charles Dickens classic through a detailed look at Ebenezer Scrooge, the three ghosts, and various other characters from the story. Welch hopes that his short words of wisdom will, like "Christmas Carol," haunt us pleasantly. His lessons vary from how to deal with grief (like Bob Cratchit) to how to sort out fear and how to live a redeemed life. Our admonitions are nothing particularly unique, but Welch adds extra historical and Scriptural information to make his writing interesting and impacting. I especially appreciated his look at Charles Dickens' Christianity and how it shows up in "Christmas Carol." Ultimately, Welch gives us a sort of devotional book in which the lessons overlap and support each other to encourage readers to act, not just speak, in love.

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

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Fiction Review: Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Jody Hedlund gives us an interesting historical romance in "Luther and Katharina." I'm not sure if it's the solid historical background that weakens her telling (the idea did not bother me), or if it's her own writing style. Hedlund certainly did a great job of incorporating the political and religious wars of the time. But her story arc did not engage me. I did not become interested in the characters until after they became married in the last hundred pages of the book. There was very little theological content. And the plot had too many ups and downs - i.e. now she's kidnapped, now she's not. Now she's in danger again, now she's saved. Now they hate each other, now they don't. The one character development that I did like was the pride of Katharina, but even that seemed drawn out, and yet undeveloped. Hedlund's writing, itself, is fine. I had no trouble finishing the book, and I am certain there are many who will love the story. But I expected more.

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