Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Book Reviews

Persuasion by Jane Austen (ok, so I re-read it, but loved it more the third time. The tale of a good, intelligent woman on the verge of being forever an “old maid,” whose family ignores her but whom she helps all the same. There is a handsome man she loved before he was rich, and so turned down at the influence of her family and friends, and very much regrets. He comes back into her life and suddenly everyone realizes Anne Elliot is the girl they want to marry. I underlined every word that illustrated persuasion, steadfastness, or persuad-ability. There are a lot.)

The Preacher and the Presidents by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy (a modern history book looking at leadership, politics, and big decisions as associated with Billy Graham.)

A Walk With Jane Austen by Lori Smith (Single Christian girl in early thirties goes to England to trace Jane Austen’s life. She dreams of love, finds something special, and goes on to share her very human, very female thoughts about life, love, and God – often borrowing words from Jane Austen herself.)

The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare: I'd say the book is about making choices, and the freedom that comes from doing the right thing even when you don't understand what's going on. And it has to do with contentment and waiting and hard work. I see my friend, who recommended the book, in the pages. It's the kind of thing she would like and live - and the kind of thing I would like and try to live. Kit grew up in the free, warm Atlantic equatorial islands. When her grandfather, who raised her, died, she decided to move in with her penpal aunt in New England. The Puritan atmosphere doesn't quite suit Kit, who looks for friends who share her sense of freedom. Life doesn't turn out quite how she imagines (through failure of imagination of consequences), but she means well. Her influence gently softens the community, but eventually she is still tried as a witch.

I recently read GK Chesterton’s first novel, Napoleon of Notting Hill. It was a quick read, interesting and fast-paced. It follows the life and career of the most unique humorist of England, one Auberon Quin, who was elected by lottery the king of England according to the consummate democracy of his fictional future government. Auberon enjoys making people confounded and annoyed, by being himself completely ridiculous. I have a feeling that this would be an even less popular course in England than in America.

Young, Restless, and Reformed by Collin Hansen took a tour of the country to find out about this multi-rooted movement of 'young Calvinists.' He did a great job of filling pages with information about theology, denominations, organizations, authors, and what's so exciting to us about God's sovereignty. Grace, a consistent description of the world, a God worth worshiping - we have lots of answers, lots of paths that are bringing us to become part of the revival of Calvinism in the West. Why is God doing this? We wait to see.

Brave New Family by GK Chesterton is a compilation of many essays written about the Home and Family, about relationships between men and women and children. It is excellent, but I read it so long ago that I can’t remember all that much about it.

The Man who was Thursday by GK Chesterton is a sort of allegorical tale about sovereignty and the war of the anarchists. It is filled with character sketches. The full impact of this book did not hit me until after I had read it and proceeded with life, when I began to encounter ideas and people frighteningly similar to those in this book. I think Chesterton based some of them off real people whom he had met as well. Hang in there for the end of the book. It will blow your mind.

Ekklesia, edited and compiled by Steve Atkerson of the New Testament Reformation Fellowship, is an exposition of the New Testament’s descriptions of and instructions for the Church. Apart from the business model, consumer structure of traditional church meetings, the authors argue from the Bible for a more personal and interactive gathering in homes. There was very little in this book with which I could disagree. Not only was it informational, reading Ekklesia was also challenging and encouraging. The theology and exposition is spot on, well supported with biblical references. In an age when God is working in many hearts to produce a desire to engage in community and God-powered ministry, this is a good book for direction. An added bonus is that NTRF has not copyrighted Ekklesia, encouraging you to distribute portions to your friends or quote it in publications.

The Shack, by William Young, is a novel of a man dealing with the tragic death of his daughter and his feelings about God. He ends up spending a weekend with God, dealing with classic issues of the problem of pain and our acceptance of God’s goodness despite what we feel. God is incarnate in three persons, with whom he has many vivid interactions and conversations. At the end of the story, he is left with more peace about God and the life he has experienced, but still does not have answers about what God expects of him. The story is written in a way that tempts you to believe it is based on a true history. At the end when I read the “making of” that told me it was only fiction, I was much relieved. There is enough truth in the philosophy and theology that I could not believe the book represented demonic activity (producing the supernatural things described). But there were also enough problematic elements (God as a girl wearing blue jeans) that I could not believe the events were truly from God. Realizing that the author used fiction to introduce his own thoughts on theology must allow for him to be mistaken yet in some areas. Most concerning are the indications that God would not send any of His creations to hell, because He loves ‘all His children’ – with an unbiblical definition of God’s children. The semi-gnostic tendencies and references, including a conference with Sophia, the goddess of wisdom, provide insight into the background of Mr. Young. The book is not keen on the Bible or church, either. For a best seller, this book is a quick read and an interesting visit to theology. But God gave us the Bible as His personal revelation; don’t substitute anything for it.

The Midnight Dancers is Regina Doman’s fourth fairy tale novel. I don’t know whether she was a rebel herself or consulted heavily with people who had been there, but all of her observations on motive and inner conflict resonated well with my observations, and actually explained things. Her main character is very human, torn between desires to be responsible and to be appreciated as an adult, between her love of freedom and her love of people. Midnight Dancers also shows the slippery slope of sacrificing even a little bit of discernment while justifying your freedom and pleasure. Like all of Mrs. Doman’s books, I was entranced. However this edition, similar to Waking Rose, got pretty graphic and even too intense for my spirit to remain healthy. I skipped a few pages near the end. Fairy tales are fairly predictable in their endings, and this is no surprise. They all lived happily ever after.

Mark is a book that transports me immediately back in history. Full of action with little explanation, it is a biography of acts more than teachings, of impact rather than influences. Beginning with a scene straight from a screenplay, of a voice crying in the wilderness, climaxing with the compassionate passion of a good Man suffering in the place of others, and closing with a simple instruction to pass the story on, Mark is a book for the ages. Even though Jesus is the main character, the other characters are just as active and many are vivid personalities. Mark himself may even make a cameo in a humble role at Gethsemane. First to last this gospel is glorious.

It never ceases to amaze me how many facts are tucked into Genesis. Details of the lives and failings of men who lived so long ago surprise me with their human reality. Places and people, kings and battles, ancestries and inventions cover the pages. Of course Genesis begins with creation, establishing the understanding of matter, time, energy, life, marriage, science, music, farming, boats, rain, rainbows, government, justice, worship, sacrifice, truth, possession, family, and judgment. The generations are also sprinkled with hints of redemption and unwarranted preservation and forgiveness, of the second man supplanting the first. Read in light of the New Testament’s references to this first book, Genesis is remarkably alive with parables and theology. My favorite part in this reading was the theme of changed lives.

Treason by Ann Coulter is a history book with a strong political bent. She documents how the Democratic Party is always cheering for and or supporting America’s enemies. In the very least they have a record of opposing any efforts Americans make to defend themselves against enemies. She describes the myth of McCarthyism, pointing out that all those people whose lives McCarthy’s trials (and just his influence) supposedly ruined were either open Communists or eventually found out to be Communists. And most of them enjoyed long, pleasant lives (not getting everything their way, but who does?). McCarthy, on the other hand, died young, at age 48. But Ann Coulter doesn’t stop with the post World War II McCarthy. She goes on to discuss Vietnam, the Cold War, North Korea, and the War on Terrorism. History is dirty, and she both addresses some mature issues and references them to make jibes. But I appreciate the excessive documentation of the habit of Democrats to stand up on the side most opposed to America’s interests. They used to call such blatant and effective acts “treason.”

Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas and Power by Jesse L. Byock (see full review)

Sphere by Michael Crichton (see full review)

Alien Intrusion by Gary Bates (see full review)

GodcastGodcast: Transforming Encounters with God; Bylines by Media Journalist and Pastor Dan Betzer (see full review)

Lady Susan by Jane Austen (To balance the post-election doldrums this week, I read Lady Susan, a complete short novel written by Jane Austen, the last on my list of her works to read. Consisting entirely of letters except for the last two or three pages (which summarizes both why the story could not be continued in letters and the fates of all the main characters). For my part I wish that the story had been developed more. I want to know the young Miss Frederica, and the smart Mr. Reginald de Courcy. Perhaps the value is in the art by which Miss Austen communicates so much leaving almost the whole unsaid. One feels that there is a whole story and world of events that Jane Austen knew but wouldn’t share because she didn’t have to. The worldview of the widow Lady Susan is summed up in her words from Letter 16, “Consideration and esteem as surely follow command of language, as admiration waits on beauty.” She is a scandalous flirt and insufferable liar, scheming throughout the novel to acquire pleasure, money, and importance at the expense of all her relations, friends, and even her daughter. Jane Austen tends to end with her villains unpunished. They don’t go to prison, or suffer a life-long illness or poverty or death. The world may scorn them, but generally they never cared what the world thought. We the good readers may pity the partners with whom they finish the tales, but the villains themselves will not wallow, we think, in self-pity for long, rather getting something for which they have always aimed. Lady Susan is a novel where, with the concise style, these patterns are readily exposed. Read Lady Susan. It’s a light, funny story with a background romance. Characters are typically Jane Austen even if we see little of them. And the style makes a good template for understanding the rest of Jane Austen’s beloved books.)

Dead Heat by Joel Rosenberg (see full review)

Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver (There wasn't a lot of new Christian stuff in this book, but it was a good read and some challenging reminders. This book covers topics ranging from worry to service to worship to personal devotions. I love how the book draws everything together into the One Thing conclusion. Joanna invites you to join her journey of seeking a Mary Heart in a Martha World.)

10 Most Common Objections to Christianity by Alex McFarland (This is a book that our high school girls small group went through this fall. It was a really good defense of the Bible and the existence of God. We got a basic course in apologetics through it. The appendix for small groups in the back was a great help. My one reservation is the weakness of his chapter on evolution – but only in the area of the age of the earth. If I were a skeptic, I don’t think I would be flattened by all of the points in this book, but some of them are pretty convincing!)

Desiring God by John Piper (Read this book. Don’t get turned off by the term “Christian hedonism.” Christian is an important modifier. God calls you to enjoy Him, for life in Him and through Him to be all about relationship. Get some good teaching on some great verses to help you put it into practice!)

href="http://www.nlpg.com/store/product_info.php?ref=23&products_id=569&affiliate_banner_id=1" target="_blank">Coming to Grips with GenesisComing to Grips with Genesis by Terry Mortenson and Thane H. Ury (see full review)

The Empty Cradle by Philip Longman (see full review)

Prodigal God by Timothy Keller (see full review)

Old-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is InOld-Earth Creationism on Trial: The Verdict is In by Dr. Jason Lisle and Tim Chaffey (see full review)

The Grand Weaver by Ravi Zacharias (A quick read, unusual for this author, this book is a how-to on finding God’s will for your life, emphasizing faith in the sovereign plan of God. Using the illustration of the father-son teams of weavers who make the wedding saris of India, Dr. Zacharias talks about the perfection of the Father’s plan even when we don’t see the design emerging yet. One of his favorite topics is the Trinity: “unity and diversity in community”, and he uses it to communicate the love of God for us His children. The second half of the book, comparable to other reformed works on the purpose of a Christian’s life, focuses on worship as a way of life. In this book the Anglican roots of the author emerge more than in anything I have read or heard of his, as he revels in the imagery and tradition of the church as it pertains to worship. The best part about this book to me was the quotes, which I can hear Ravi reciting in his crisp Indian-accented English. I wish I could live in his library, because I have no doubt that this Christian apologist owns copies of the cherished volumes he quotes. )

Persuasion by Jane Austen (Yes, I read it again. And it is still wonderful, far exceeding any movie renditions to date. I want everyone to know this sweet story and to emulate the gentle, helpful, good, passionate Anne Elliot. I also wish everyone to have her happily ever after!)

The Eighth Shepherd by Bodie and Brock Thoene (Centered on the story of Zacchaeus, this dramatization of the gospels teaches the importance of humility before the Shepherd-King who hears prayers and has come as doctor to the sick. Enter Jericho. Read of figs, taxes, sycophants, blind men, slaves, and the faith that could set any man or woman free. Ask the question with Shimona whether it is better to be sick and know your need or to be healed by an excommunicant and feel alone. Why does God save and heal? What comes after that? Perhaps God sends out the healed as instruments of more healing. Shimona demonstrates courage, faith, gentleness, and a choice-love that doesn’t make sense but won’t be denied. Can God use the love of His children to soften the hearts of the sick and the lost? I loved the Ezekiel passage about shepherds placed between chapters. What a warning to Christian leaders, and encouragement to those who are fed by the Great Shepherd.)

Chronology of the Old TestamentThe Chronology of the Old Testament by Dr. Floyd Nolen Jones (see full review)

Ninth Witness by Bodie and Brock Thoene (is another of their novels dramatizing the life of Christ, this time focusing on his twelth year Passover in Jerusalem. I confess I didn't like this one as much as most of this series. The authors seem to be making Jesus and Simon Peter boyhood friends, and they felt it necessary to portray Mary and Joseph as adopting children rather than them being fathered by Joseph and mothered by Mary, the plainest interpretation of the New Testament account.)

The Chosen by Chaim Potok (see full review)

Pagan Christianity? by Frank Viola and George Barna (see full review)

Reimagining Church by Frank Viola (see full review)

The Shadow Within by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Newton's Revised History of Ancient KingdomsNewton's Revised History of Ancient Kingdoms by Sir Isaac Newton (see full review)

Shadow Over Kiriath by Karen Hancock (see full review)

Unveiled Hope by Scotty Smith and Michael Card (see full review)

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance - Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem!by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith (Despite contamination with inappropriate and disturbing material, this is a parody of the classic novel beloved by refined women everywhere. I get the impression that Seth believes he can improve Jane Austen's work. Often retaining the original language, he adds his interpretation of the story - things you know he was always longing to say he guessed about the characters' true intentions or activities - and the ridiculous addition of zombies. Most versions of Pride and Prejudice retain the same characters and plot, but this is a rather amusing twist that ends up changing the characters significantly. To describe this book I have told everyone that the famous scene where Mr. Darcy first proposes involves the exact dialogue of the original, but Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are literally dueling. Go figure.)

Already GoneAlready Gone by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer with Todd Hillard (see full review)

Betrayal: France, the Arabs, and the Jews by David Pryce-Jones (A summary of centuries of French policy and prejudice, including some world history especially in the 20th century. David Pryce-Jones researched the archives at the Quai d'Orsay for internal memos and official reports detailing the Foreign Ministry's policies towards Jews and the Arab world, proving that all France has ever intended was to be more prominent and powerful than the Jews or the 'Jewish-dominated' United States.)

Flood LegendsFlood Legends by Charles Martin (see full review)

Frozen in TimeFrozen in Time by Michael Oard (see full review)

Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker (see full review)

The cry in Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton, is not a yell from rooftops. This is a crying book, with tissue and red eyes and the ache in your throat when you try to hold back the tragedy from taking over you. There are no answers in this book, only the brave resolve to do what is right and to speak the truth, knowing that some things belong to God, and He alone can rescue mankind. South Africa, like all of our nations, has for decades and centuries been in the brokenness that needs God. Still men are praying, and crying for their beloved country.

JRR Tolkien: Myth, Morality & Religion by Richard Purtill (see full review)

Get Married
Get Married by Candice Watters (Some encouraging stuff and some challenging ideas and some points of view that weren't helpful. I believe God wanted me to read the book, so I did.)

Gertrude McFuzz by Dr. Seuss; Yertle the Turtle by Dr. Seuss; I had Trouble Getting to Solla-Sollew by Dr. Seuss; The Butter Battle by Dr. Seuss (who knew Dr. Seuss didn't just write silly nonsense! Some of his books are actually allegories and parables. I much prefer them if they rhyme, but am rather unhappy when the rhyme is only accomplished by inventing a word.)

The Ultimate Proof of CreationThe Ultimate Proof of Creation by Dr. Jason Lisle (see full review)

Return of the Guardian-King (Legends of the Guardian-King, Book 4)
by Karen Hancock
(see full review)

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (The classic children's story about growing up. Not quite like the movies. Great writing, quirky quotes. I cannot figure out whether JM Barrie was trying to say something with his story, or a lot of things as they popped into his head. He seems to be fond of manners and humility.)

God and the Nations
God and the Nations by Dr. Henry Morris (see full review)

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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