Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fiction Review: Miriam by Mesu Andrews

Mesu Andrews has a plain, straight-forward writing style that reminded me of Lynn Austin. Still, Andrews' novel "Miriam" is proof of a great deal of research, even with its modern feel and lack of detailed descriptions. Readers may find the more Bible-based story refreshing after so many film versions of Moses and Exodus. "Miriam" follows its title character, Moses' sister, and her nephew Eleazar, during the ten plagues of Egypt, which last several months and affect all who live there. And it is in character developments and relationships that Andrews truly wins her readers over. Eleazar is a bodyguard for one of Pharaoh's many sons, worried about protecting his family and a romantic interest, Taliah. Both he and Taliah deal with difficulties trusting a wrathful God and with anger toward God for years of slavery and other circumstances. Meanwhile, Miriam is God's prophetess and a natural healer and midwife for Israel. But when Moses arrives to deliver God's people, Miriam struggles to understand God's power and wishes God would use her once again. She also has a sweet romantic side plot. The book deals with the reason for suffering, the real meaning of freedom, spiritual slavery and doubts that most any Christian will relate to. The story is not really about Miriam, but about the journeys of those around her, some of whom have very real (and very annoying) faults. I look forward to Andrews' next Treasures of the Nile Novel.

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

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Nonfiction Review: Christ or Chaos

In "Christ or Chaos," Dan DeWitt poses the question of how a Christian struggling with faith in college would approach his beliefs versus a newly converted atheist. While the hypothetical character of Thomas and friend who represent this are largely unused and rather disappointing (I would love to see a version of God's Not Dead that plays out in a more realistic, one-on-one conversational way), DeWitt's perspective is a refreshing take on what many before him have said. There is little new here, however, and while what DeWitt has to say will help many a beginner or agnostic, it will not play out so well in real conversation with atheists.

I did appreciate the author's admission of presuppositions from both sides of the debate. He also considered philosophical ideas, concluding with the discussion of where our morals, hope and reason for being come from. DeWitt writes that given the atheist, evolutionary point of view, matter would have to be eternal, impersonal and nonrational. Furthermore, he says, "With the majority of people in the world holding a religious perspective of some kind or another, evolution would indeed be helping people endure, but it is clearly not leading them to a true picture of reality." Atheism cannot be proven scientifically and takes faith to believe. Meanwhile, all of creation attests to God's existence.

DeWitt's most important asset in "Christ or Chaos" is his use of multiple sources from both atheist and Christian authors, which I have not seen as much in other books. His philosophical ideas fill only 100 pages, but they pack quite a punch for those already interested in bolstering their faith.

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

Nonfiction Review: Christ Among Other gods by Erwin W. Lutzer

It's been used before, but I'll use the metaphor here, anyway. When authorities are looking for counterfeit money, they study the real thing so they can recognize the fake. That is exactly what Erwin Lutzer does in much of his book, "Christ Among Other gods." It is not quite the study of comparative religion I expected, but the book contained tons of nuggets of wisdom (mostly philosophical) which now occupy several pages of my notebook.

Throughout his book, Lutzer always returns to the faulty belief that all religions are equal. "Finite gods can harmonize their diverse attributes because they make no claim to objective truth," he writes. "Error does have this advantage over truth: There are many ways to be wrong, but there is only one way to be right. Error is of necessity always broader than truth." Lutzer seeks to establish Christianity as unique and points out that man has come to define religion as the meeting of his expectations, desires and experience rather than as the seeking of truth.

This book does make occasional pit stops to defend Christ and the Gospel, speaking to concerns about the virgin birth, eyewitness testimony and more. But "Christ Among Other gods" is largely a philosophical book, pointing out basic shortcomings of other belief systems and focusing on tenets of the Christian faith. Lutzer even briefly covers topics like predestination, judgment (Hell), and miracles. He obviously writes more for a Christian audience, but his points may serve well for the agnostics out there, as well.

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

Fiction Review: Playing the Part by Jen Turano

Although the book could use some extra character and plot development, Jen Turano's "Playing the Part" is an enjoyable read once you give it a chance. It did take me a while to feel invested in the story, but a mysterious mansion and its equally mysterious owner will intrigue any romance fan. And once the action begins and secrets unravel, the story becomes far more interesting.

Actress Lucetta Plum takes refuge with Bram Haverstein after one of her "devoted fans" believes he has won her in a card game. Bram's grandmother, Abigail has taken Lucetta in and attempts to match her with her grandson. Lucetta's situation gives Bram the opportunity to play hero multiple times, but her independent nature and means lead her to struggle with whether Bram is one admirer she may allow into her life. When Lucetta is kidnapped, she lightly covers the only spiritual content of the book, noting that she only calls on God when in need. Turano leads the dramatic climax on for a bit too long, and when her leading lady visits her estranged mother, the resolution seems incomplete. The same is true for Abigail's resolved relationship with her estranged daughter, Bram's mother. Their reconciliation seems to happen off-page. The aforementioned mysterious mansion brings in yet another element that seems thrown in and resolved without development. Still, readers will more than likely love the revelation of Bram's true occupation and enjoy various shenanigans, such as Lucetta's run-ins with a goat named George. The story is romantic, even if the character development could use some work.

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

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Kids Book Review: Busy, Busy

"Busy, Busy" by Eileen Spinelli is an adorable children's board book perfect for mothers to read to their children as an assurance of their love. The illustrations and cute rhymes introduce kids to various animals and insects as they go about their God-given purpose (although, God is not mentioned in the book). The rhymes conclude with "Mommy's busy, always busy. But she'd never be too busy for a cuddle-up with you." I can easily imagine my young self giving my mother a giant hug after that final line.

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