Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer

Flight of Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer is a novel set in a dystopian American future. Centered around a girl who is the product of a crazed genetic experiment and the cast of characters that are involved in her life, Flight of Shadows attempts to take the reader on a suspenseful journey to the truth.

Overall, Flight of Shadows is one of the worst books I've ever read. The narrative is told from so many points of view that I had a hard time developing any sort of attachment to, or investment in, any of the characters. The continual switching of points of view among so many characters was confusing as well. The story itself is convoluted and the characters as a whole unlikeable. There were elements that were shocking for seemingly no reason other than being shocking, for example when one of the characters bites of and eats the head of a rat. The lack of character development is part of this. I think it was meant to be a cautionary tale of what happens when scientists attempt to play God, but it just ended up being terrible.

There isn't really any element of this book that worked for me. I didn't connect with the characters, the story was convoluted, there was no message to take away or any entertainment value. I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone I know.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

The Voice New Testament

The Voice, New Testament is a daily reading Bible, meant to bring new life and greater understanding to the words of scripture. The Voice is a new translation put out by the Ecclesia Bible Society. In the preface, it says that "The Voice is created for and by a church in great transition...Instead of furthering the division over culture and theology, it is time to bring the body of Christ together again around the Bible." The preface also tells how The Voice is unique among other translations. Instead of simply being done by scholars, "The Voice uniquely represents collaboration among scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and other artists."

The Voice, New Testament has many extra features to aid the reader in his/her understanding of the scripture. There are reading plans for Advent, Lent and Easter, and personal growth, as well as a 24 week complete New Testament reading plan. Each book has an introduction that sets the stage for the reader as far as author, setting, and context. Throughout the scripture there are little blocks of commentary to further explain what is going on. The Voice, New Testament also includes a topical guide and an appendix on the titles of Jesus. As part of the unique features of The Voice translation itself, dialogue is set apart with each person's name, like one would see while reading a play. There are also words in italics throughout the scripture that help the reader understand any nuances the original audience would have inherently understood.

Overall, I really enjoy The Voice, New Testament. The translation itself is not only easy to read and understand, but beautifully written; the combination of both scholars and artists in the group that did the translation provides an accurate rendering that recaptures the power and beauty of the original text. The italicized words are not a distraction, but an easy way to see what was originally inherently understood. The commentary is helpful and relevant, and the fact that it follows whatever verse or passage it is describing is extremely convenient. The design is appealing; the color scheme and font is both visually appealing and understated. It's obvious everything was chosen for optimal comprehension, not to be flashy or draw attention away from the text. I would definitely recommend this Bible to anyone, wherever they are on their journey of faith.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Out of A Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan

Out of A Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan is a dual story about both a son's journey through a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle, drug abuse, and prison, as well as a mother's journey from hopelessness to redemption and restoration. Taking turns in alternating chapters, Christopher and Angela give their perspective on the journey they took over the course of about eight years, from the moment Christopher came out to his parents, to the moment he got out of prison and finally came home. Besides the story, the book contains an eight part study guide for both individual or group use.

This book is a very interesting and engaging read. The chapters are short, and both Christopher and Angela keep their side of the story short and sweet. The main difference between the two is that Angela records more what was going on in her heart, and Christopher records more what was going on in his life in general. Christopher's journey from the club scene, to doing drugs, dealing drugs, then prison is an honest look at how one bad decision can quickly snowball and set the course of a life. The story of Angela's dedication to seeing her son come to Christ is inspiring; her faithfulness in prayer, fasting, and even going so far as to ask a judge to send her son to jail long enough for him to find Christ are almost mind-boggling. That level of dedication and faithfulness is rarely seen, and convicts me about my lack of faithfulness in prayer for those in my life who don't know Christ.

One might think that a book from a Christian publisher about someone who is homosexual would end with that person becoming heterosexual. That is not the case with Out of A Far Country. Christopher's conclusion about sexuality and what the Bible calls for is more nuanced than simply being gay or straight, and involves one's identity as being defined as a child of God, more than simply as a gay or straight person. While some may disagree with his conclusions, I believe his conclusions about what he calls holy sexuality are consistent with Scripture. I applaud his openness about his life, and his willingness to have a nuanced discussion and stand for a position that many would condemn him for. These are the kinds of discussions that need to occur more often in the church.

The only complaint I have with the book is that the Yuan's important discussion about sexuality is confined to the last chapter. Hearing their story is great and important to provide context, but I don't fell as though their overall message was given enough space to do it justice. Their website (http://www.christopheryuan.com/) has much more information and better answers questions raised by Christopher's definition of holy sexuality. Overall I'd recommend this book to anyone willing to move beyond the basic straight/gay conversation, or anyone who'd like an insight into what its like to live in someone else's shoes.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ascent From Darkness by Michael Leehan

Ascent from Darkness by Micahel Leehan, is an autobiographical story of Leehan's journey from deep inside satanism to Christianity. Leehan leaves nothing to the imagination as he recounts everything from his initial exposure to satanism, to the various pacts and agreements he made with Satan, as well as the rituals and sacrifices involved in his worship of Satan. Throughout this period of his life, which spanned decades, his exposure to Christianity and the Church played a key role, both in his practice of Satanism, as well as in his eventual deliverance from that and his redemption by Christ.

This was my first exposure to satanism beyond simply being aware that it exists. Leehan's straightforward explanation of his rituals, practices, and interaction with Satan and his demons can be pretty terrifying; you can almost feel the darkness emanating from the pages. I read the first hundred pages in one sitting and then had to put it down for a few days to kind of take a breath, pray, and dwell on Christ. Leehan's writing style flows very quickly, and the story itself is so intriguing, that overall its an enjoyable read as far as the act of reading goes. The content however, is pretty disturbing, which will effect the overall reading experience.

Thankfully, Christ is more powerful than Satan, and Leehan's story doesn't end mired in darkness and hopelessness. Instead, it ends with another astounding story of God's amazing grace and power. After years of His pursuit, with the support of some wonderful men of God, Leehan surrendered his life to Christ. The story of Leehan's journey and deliverance is ultimately full of hope, as it shows that no one can go so far that God's love and grace can't reach them.

I'd recommend Ascent From Darkness to those who may currently be involved in some form of devil worship, but want out. I'd also recommend it to a believer who may be dealing with someone in that situation, because Leehan is very honest about how it feels and what goes on. Those who may be contemplating becoming involved in some form of devil worship will also benefit from this book, and hopefully be steered away from this lifestyle as a result.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Scroll by Grant Jeffrey and Alton Gansky

The Scroll, by Grant Jeffrey and Alton Gansky is about an archaeological dig taking place in modern day Israel that has explosive results. Following Dr. David Chambers, the book focuses both on the dig and Chambers' personal live, and how the two intersect. As the dig progresses, it becomes clear that those who have financed and commissioned the dig have a much bigger plan than simply uncovering some old artifacts.

The story of The Scroll builds pretty slowly. I was at least 1/4 of the way through before I read something that had to do with the actual plot, and not just back story. However, once the pace picks up, the rest of the story moves along at a fairly fast pace. There were some surprising elements, some good and some that required more of a leap than the author's description and classification of this book would lead the reader to believe. It almost feels like I signed up for a somewhat historical book, and ended up with a fantasy one instead. The character development was weak, and the attempts at it were somewhat distracting as a result. Overall, The Scroll was an OK read, but not something I'd recommend to friends.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, September 9, 2011

Stumbling Into Grace by Lisa Harper

Stumbling Into Grace by Lisa Harper is about how the love Christ and his extreme mercy/grace is completely overwhelming and transformational in a person's life. Written for women in a combination diary/devotional style, the book makes the reader feel as though Harper is a dear friend. This sense of connection allows a bigger impact to be made on readers, because of the centrality of connection in women's lives. Harper's main point is that even with all our mistakes, mess ups and stumblings along the path of righteousness, Christ delights in us and is beside us every step of the way.

Reading Stumbling Into Grace is a lot like ducking in a cafe during a rainstorm, and unexpectedly seeing an old friend. Harper's style instantly makes one feel at home and safe. Her honesty allows readers to connect with her in the unique way that only sharing sorrows and mistakes allows; it also gives her permission to speak truth into the reader's life. There are moments I laughed out loud as I read, and it was obvious she was laughing as she remembered the story herself. That shared sense of story seeped through her words, and lodged in my heart.

The way Harper breaks each chapter into three parts (personal story/scripture/interpretation of scripture) is very reader friendly. Each section is very manageable, if one wanted to use the book in a more devotional style. Her content was both challenging and inspiring. Her use and interpretation of scripture is sound. I recommend this book to any woman who would enjoy hearing the story of a fellow traveler on the journey of life as a believer.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Extraordinary by John Bevere

Extraordinary: The Life You're Meant to Live by John Bevere, is a guide on how to break out of mediocre living and instead live an extraordinary life. Going off the premise that it is an inherent desire of humanity to live a life that is beyond normal, Bevere attempts to show the believer how he/she was intended to do this. He does this in a very systematic way, with one chapter building on the next, so that none of the basics are missed.

The main thrust is that believers already have the ability to live an extraordinary life, they just don't access it. In the first chapter Bevere says, "the power to accomplish remarkable feats and live an exceptional life is not tied to an occupation but to a disposition of the heart. This is not only God's will but also His great pleasure." (p. 4)

Unfortunately, Extraordinary is anything but. This is the first of Bevere's books that I've read, and I was very disappointed. While I agree with the basic premise that believers were meant and have the ability to live an extraordinary life, I am bothered by the way Bevere presents going about it. What he says pretty much boils down to the premise of the prosperity gospel - God wants all of His children to be wealthy and healthy, and when something goes wrong its because one doesn't have enough true faith.

Beyond the doctrinal differences I have with the subject matter, the book itself is redundant and hard to work through. Bevere states at the beginning that each chapter builds on the one before it, so each is key to the next. In reality, the same content is in several chapters. There isn't enough unique content to fill the entire book, so the same thing is said over and over again to the point that my brain shut off after awhile because there was nothing new. Overall, this is a very poorly written book that I wouldn't recommend to anyone.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Cron

Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me by Ian Cron is easily the best book I've read all year, and would probably fall in the top ten books I've ever read, if I could ever sit down and make such a list. This was the first memoir I've read; I had an obviously wrong preconceived idea that memoirs were dry and whiny accounts of people who thought they'd had a unique life. I wouldn't have even picked this up if it weren't for the title. I simply couldn't resist finding out what was inside the pages of a book with such an intriguing title.

What I found was nothing short of the literary equivalent of an exquisite Pavlova - it's light but surprisingly filling, and absolutely delicious. (Thanks to my friend Kristen for the comparison!) It was a feast of imagery, humor, and poignant moments that caught me by surprise. Cron's use of language is nothing short of masterful. As he recounts growing up the youngest son of an alcoholic father who worked off and on for the CIA (a fact Cron didn't know until much later) I felt as though I was there with him experiencing each moment he recounts.

There were moments I was struck with sadness; moments when I laughed out loud so hard I startled the dog; moments when I felt the presence of Christ. I felt a strong sense of connection with this man whose life has been nothing like mine, save for the fact that we are both seekers of the One who saved us.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. Usually, books are enjoyed by a specific population. Jesus, My Father, the CIA, and Me however, cannot be put in such a box. It is so well written, with such a universal sense of story that anyone who picks it up will be delighted, inspired, amused, challenged, and left with a sense of appreciation for the story of humanity.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir

The Corruptible by Mark Mynheir is the second book in a crime/mystery series based on a private investigator named Ray Quinn. Former homicide detective Quinn is hired by a very wealthy man to recover stolen property. This leads not only to an investigation into the property, but a murder of another former police officer. Throughout the book Quinn is aided by a young protege who doubles as Quinn's bodyguard.

When I first picked up The Corruptible, I didn't realize it was the second in a series. As I started to read it, it became clear I was missing some history between the primary character and two of the secondary characters. Though I had the sense of missing history, Mynheir does a good job of filling in those holes without repeating the first novel in the series.

I enjoyed experiencing the story through the dry, slightly cynical voice of the main character, Ray Quinn. The overall story includes enough twists and turns to make it interesting, without being so complicated that it is hard to follow.

The banter between Quinn and the other characters is entertaining, and for the most part felt very natural. The only parts that don't feel natural are the discussions between Quinn and another character about faith. That little thread isn't woven tightly enough with the others to make it feel like it completely fits with the rest of what is going on.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery. It is both entertaining, and an easy read.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Unleashed: Release the Untamed Faith Within by Erwin McManus

Unleashed by Erwin McManus is a re-release of his book The Barbarian Way. Serving as a primer to living a life of what most people would consider an extreme faith, the main thrust is God intended His people to live a wild life of faith, not the tame, safe, institutionalized, often fear based faith that characterizes the majority of American Christianity. Through personal anecdotes from his own life as well as his childrens' lives, McManus illustrates what a life of untamed faith can look like.

A couple of key quotes that sum up the message of Unleashed are: "His [God's] desire is not to conform us, but to transform us. Not to make us compliant, but to make us creative. His intent is never to domesticate us, but to liberate us" (p. 64). "The freedom to love and the freedom from fear make the barbarian an entirely different species within the whole of humanity. This may be the most extraordinary mark of the Spirit of God within the heart of humanity: the freedom to live out dreams greater than ourselves" (p. 102).

Unleashed is a quick and easy read. For anyone searching for a more meaningful faith, or looking to live a life based on absolute faith in the wildness of God and His promises instead of fear, it provides an encouraging example of those who are living that way. It made me stop and think, and re-examine my own life, to see if there were areas where I was letting fear dictate my actions and decisions, instead of the faith I profess.

There were a few things I would've changed about the book. One is that it seems extremely redundant after a bit; it almost seems as though everything could've been conveyed just as effectively in a long essay rather than a short book. Another thing is that the Scripture references are few and far between, and the extrapolations based on those used are a bit of a stretch sometimes. I believe there is truth in what McManus says, and what he proposes can be seen in Scripture, just not necessarily in the ones he picked, or the way he chose to present it.

Overall, I'd recommend this book to anyone who is seeking to break out of the standard mold of American Christianity.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann


Indivisible by Kristen Heitzmann is an intricately woven suspense story set in a little mountain town in Colorado. Focusing on two main characters with an intriguing supporting cast, Indivisble explores the bonds that tie us all - and the consequences of trying to live without any bonds- through a disturbing series of crimes, and a tortured courtship.

Fans of Kristen Heitzmann will find the unique characters and hidden motives familiar; however, Indivisible is more suspensful and action driven than most of her work. It captured my attention more than any fiction book I've read in quite a long time. The disturbing set of crimes that forms a thread through the novel literally made me unable to read it right before bed for fear of what was just around the corner on the next page. I was both hesitant and anxious to find out what happened next.

The character development was more in depth than some novels of this type. While I couldn't imagine anyone doing the things that were done, when the criminal was revealed it made total sense and kind of completed that character. Overall there was a redemptive theme that reinforces the idea that God did not create us to live alone; we are meant to be tied to many people in varying ways and degrees. The quotes at the beginning of each chapter really added to this overall theme as well as the development of the story.

I'd recommend this story to anyone who enjoys a good suspense novel, as well as anyone who needs to understand the utter brokenness that occurs when we resist being connected with others.

I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishers as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

The Jesus Inquest: The Case For and Against the Resurrection of the Christ by Charles Foster is one barrister's attempt to present all of the most widely accepted facts and arguments on both sides of the debate over whether or not the historical figure known as Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Foster uses two fictional people - X and Y - to present both sides of the debate regarding the sources, the death, the burial, the empty tomb, the post-resurrection appearances, whether or not the early church believed in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, and where Christians got their idea of the resurrection.

There have been very few books in my life that I have started and not finished either because I enjoyed reading them, or out of sheer stubbornness. The Jesus Inquest was one of the few that I simply could not bring myself to read all the way through. After slogging through the introduction and first 3 chapters, I skimmed the rest until the conclusion, which was not really a conclusion at all.

One reason is that Foster's format is confusing. He lists all of the arguments from X on the chapter's topic, then has Y list all of his. The problem is that there are numerous arguments dealing with each chapter's topic. It is difficult to truly see both sides when one has to think back through a bunch of other arguments. Perhaps a dialogue format would have been more conducive what Foster was trying to do. Besides the confusing format, the tone is often unnecessarily sharp and disparaging of the other side. The content is comes in such a way that at times it feels like being shot at by a machine gun. The lack of context, and the quick blurbs of information that flow one right after another leave one little time to process, much less compare both sides to decide which one to agree with. To his credit, Foster does provide several appendices to supplement his text, as well as thorough documentation of his sources. Overall, I would not recommend this book to anyone but someone who already has a firm scholarly grasp on the overall topic.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Next Christians by Gabe Lyons

The Next Christians: How a New Generation Is Restoring the Faith, by Gabe Lyons, describes the defining characteristics of the “new” type of Christian that is emerging among the paradigm shift occurring in American Christianity. As the Church in America begins to grapple with the shift culture as a whole has already embraced – mainly from modernity to post-modernity, and “Christian America” to post-“Christian America” – a different kind of believer emerges; one who quietly lives out their faith in a way that looks radically different than their father’s and grandfather’s generations.



Throughout The Next Christians, Lyons presents those he has termed the “next Christians” through story while at the same time providing solid research to provide context to these stories. He spends the first part of the book thoroughly explaining what was once true, why a change occurred, and what is now true regarding Christianity and its place in American culture.



The stage he sets is overwhelmingly supported through both impersonal statistics and personal narratives. Lyons then spends the majority of the rest of the book giving an in-depth explanation of the six main characteristics of the next Christians: they are provoked, not offended; creators, not critics; called, not employed, grounded, not distracted, in community, not alone, and counter-cultural, not “relevant”.



Books that describe any kind of shift taking place among a large group of people, especially in the realm of religion, often have a negative tone towards one side, while glossing over the faults of the other. Lyons however, manages to give the old its due while acknowledging the downfalls and potential pitfalls of those he is describing. The Next Christians is one of the most hopeful books on the state of the Church in America that I have read. His ability to honestly tell it like it is without rancor, as well as maintain an objective viewpoint on those he describes while championing the faith as a whole gives that much more weight to the topic. Without reservation, I recommend The Next Christians to anyone who has a stake in, or is merely curious about those who make up the next generation of leaders of the Church in America.



I received this book free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group as part of their Blogging for Books book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255