Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Band That Played On by Steve Turner- An Honest Review

Summary: 'The Band That Played On' by Steve Turner is a biography of the eight band members that went down with the Titanic, casting aside all myths and mysteries, revealing the lives of each man.

Writing Style and Product: It is a rare author who can truly make a biography interesting. Thankfully, it seems like Mr. Turner is a one of those gifted few. This book truly was a story, not simply a biography. The physical shape of the book is good quality (this review of the hardcover edition), with a nice cover and comfortable shape.

Thoughts and Reading Experience: The story of the men who went down with the Titanic was a little different than I was expecting. Aside from their famous last moments, I didn't know very much about them at all. The author gives each of their stories separately, and brings them together at the close of the book. This is a work worth reading, and would make a great source for high school students working on history projects or book reports. It is also a good general educational book to have on hand in your home. I highly recommend it.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Shelter of God's Promises- An Honest Review

Summary: In the Shelter of God's Promises is intended as a woman's devotional through the promises of God's Word.

Writing Style and Product: Sheila feels like an old friend in her style of writing. Included is a study guide, and if you go by it weekly, it feels like your meeting with her over coffee. I always enjoy a study guide in a devotional.

Thoughts and Reading Experience: This work is an encouraging look into the promises of God that occur throughout the Bible. All in all, it was a good refresher course for me. God's promises are something we need to keep in our hearts, and I was reminded of that.
However, an issue I had was the length and depth of the book. I felt so much more could have been expounded upon that the author left untouched, and after I completed the book, it seemed a bit like fluff in the fact that she did a lot of skimming.
Still, it's recommended, because it may inspire to study more in-depth into the promises through Scripture.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Voices of the Faithful by Beth Moore- Honest and Unbiased

Summary: 'Voices of the Faithful' by Beth Moore is a collection of inspirational stories of missionaries, by missionaries, from around the world, put together for a year of devotional reading. Included is a verse and a prayer in each devotion.

Writing Style and Product: First off, the book itself is beautiful and well made. The writing style varies as the authors do, but the guideline is a story or experience told by a missionary, and how they saw a lesson or work of God in that experience.

Thoughts and Reading Experience: This book is definitely inspiring. It is such an encouragement to read the stories of missionaries from around the world and how God is working in their lives. The prayers written at the bottom of each page are a special touch, and a convicting reminder.

However, though I enjoyed this book, I would not recommend it as a daily devotional, because in my opinion, it lacked substance, and other great devotionals such as My Utmost for His Highest and Morning and Evening surpass it by far.
It is great for general reading, but not in my quiet time with God. I need something where I learn about God thoroughly, not just stories and experiences. Still, it is encouraging and lifts your spirit, as well as keeping you to base with missionaries. Too often we forget them, and this book is a great reminder for that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Heaven Is for Real- An Honest Review

This review may be a little...different. It has taken me a while, because after reading this book, I sat back and thought about it. What do I say, and more importantly, what do I believe?

Summary: This book is intended as a true account of a boy who visited heaven, as told by his father and a co-writer, Lynn Vincent.

Writing and Theme: The book is largely written as an account of Colton Burpo, who claims his spirit left his body and went to heaven while he was in a serious operation at the hospital. Over time, he tells of his experiences in heaven with Jesus and other people from history.
I would rather that the father had been the only author, as since this is to be a true account, it is a crucial point to this book's integrity. As there is a co-author, it's hard to tell if she "spiced things up". The work itself is fairly well written, and keeps your attention.

Theological and Topical Points: This is where it gets hard. First, I'll look at it from the skeptical point of view.
Does God really let people see heaven? To be honest, I don't know. In the Bible there are accounts of people going to heaven without physically dying, but they never returned.
In this age and nation, we need to consider other elements. Please don't take offense, but these questions unfortunately have to be asked. Is the boy a pathological liar? Is the father a pathological liar? Is he using his son to be published? Is he using his son to gain fame? Did he omit details and/or explanations for this said miracle, making it to appear in favor of a miracle and in turn, Christianity? How much profit will this book bring the Burpos and their ministry?
I know, it sounds awful, but with all the stories and scams that fly around nowadays, these questions must be asked.
Now from a different point of view, this book is quite inspirational. It provides encouragement and comfort for us, and in that respect, I would recommend reading it. I enjoyed the whole book, and only after did I start to ask questions. But whether this book is true or not, it is a beautiful story. I am not telling you to take it as truth, but maybe view it as a possible miracle. To be sure, it should encourage your faith, and make you search deeper as to how strong your faith is.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Way Home- An Honest Review

Summary: 'The Way Home' is a movie based upon a true story of a young boy's disappearance and the affect upon his family.

Storyline: Being a true story, I found it interesting. It had a nice ending, and I would recommend it as a family movie. However, true story though it be, the ending was quite cheesy. It's nice that it actually happened, but as a story, it's not that great.

Elements and Effects: The way the movie was shot was ok, but it definitely could have been better. Some scenes were too long, and though the cover says the main couple's marriage is "strained", it sure didn't look like it. Maybe a couple moments in the beginning, but definitely not tense.
Viewers should clearly understand that this movie has a strong recurring Christian theme, present throughout the entire film. While some Christian films can pull this off quite well, some movies come off as preachy. This one tows the line, so just use your judgment.

Acting: The actors were all pretty good for their roles. Some viewers may recognize Enos Straight from 'The Dukes of Hazzard'. Emotions were genuine in most main characters, but again, they needed to rework that "strain" the couple had, because it just wasn't believable.
All in all, a good film, and I'm grading it according to the Christian film genre. It's quite safe for family time- no swearing, nudity, violence, etc. Definitely one for family night where everyone can watch.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Skin Map by Stephen Lawhead- An Honest Review

Two negative reviews in a row is rather discouraging, and I apologize. Please understand that no matter how scathing this review, I am not attacking the author in any way. I'm not attacking anything, simply writing about my observations and opinions of this book. Opinions are just that, opinions. Check out this book for yourself if you want to form your own.

  • Summary: 'The Skin Map' is the first fictional novel in the new 'Bright Empires' series. Kit Livingstone finds himself caught up in a life-threatening adventure involving his missing great-grandfather and a lost map of pathways to other times, and other worlds.
  • Storyline and Characters: The story was a very imaginative idea. I like a bit of originality in a book, and that is hard to find nowadays. I must admit, most of the characters that mattered to the story, annoyed me. Kit, the main character, was quite the paper cut out, with about three different emotions: shock, worry, and virtually no emotion, as well as having three strains of thought: worry, complaining, and stupidity. As you can see, we did not get along. Cosimo was rather like an over-done steak, this case being, an over-done stuffy British man. His conversation consists of "Old boy", "Old chap", "Dear boy", "Young man", and the like. No other characters really stood out to me at all. In fact, I've forgotten most of them by now.
  • Writing Style: This is truly where it all came down to it. I hate to say it, but the writing itself struck me as...immature. I'm sorry. I kept plowing through the book, telling myself it would get better, but it didn't. In regard to Cosimo's language, the rest of the novel was just as bad, or worse. Descriptions popped in at the worst possible times, with the most awful and ludicrous comparisons. Kit and Cosimo stop to admire the sky- in a life-threatening chase. Kit muses on an old poem while gazing at the beauty. A couple lines later, they are running again. What?! These recurring scenes are jarring and break up the story. Certain words and descriptions are used too often and far too close together, such as the depiction of Cosimo- 'the old man'. Perhaps the worst part of the book for writing quality is this example (you really do need to see for yourself,)
' "Stay right where you are!" shouted one of the men behind them.
"You know what we want," came the voice beyond the flashlight.
"Give it to us," added the voice at the end of the chained cat.
"You can walk free- you and your little friend there. No harm done." '

Now I'm not a great writer, but I know when something needs a re-write. This book does.
  • All in all, this book was boring, and that was disappointing due to the fact that the idea was a good idea. It could have been better. The language made it difficult for me to complete, and I found myself putting it off and picking up something better. I've not read this author's numerous other works, but if they are anything like this one, I won't.

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Jesus You Can't Ignore, by John MacArthur- An Honest Review

I did want to give this work a higher mark. I like John MacArthur, but I don't give someone a 5-star simply because I like them. If someone turns out a product they expect you to buy, be it a product of creativity or no, I expect the highest quality for my money.

Summary: 'The Jesus You Can't Ignore' by John MacArthur is intended to be a rebuttal and a stand against Ecumenical Evangelism, Evangelical Post-Modernism, and is a look at the confrontational side of Jesus that tends to be hidden, down-played, or completely denied in our modern churches today.

Theological and Topical Points: I was looking forward to this book, simply because I believe Jesus isn't portrayed as He fully was. Mr. MacArthur makes this point repeatedly, but his most powerful argument was in his introduction, instead of in the rest of the book. There are challenges, if you will, throughout the chapters, but these were far less than convicting, much less inspiring.
The gist of his argument against Ecumenical Evangelism is that Jesus was confrontational, even angry against hypocrisy, false teaching, etc. This needed to be said, and he makes some Biblical statements.

Writing Style and Product: Now we come to it. I do understand what Mr. MacArthur was trying to say, and what he was trying to accomplish with this published work. That said, I have to give this a 3 star, not because he was wrong, but to be utterly honest, because he was boring. It took me a while to finish this book and write this review simply because I was not interested in finishing it, even though I agreed with what he said. Much if the real "meaty" parts of the book were bogged down with complicated explanations, Biblical historical places, names, references, customs, and on the list goes. On, and on. Some of them had relevance, most didn't, and they sabotaged this work. Mr. MacArthur did the exact thing he was preaching against, polite reasoning. He was proving his points not Biblically, but with Biblical knowledge of Jewish customs and such. Many people I know would not read this book, simply because they are simple people and believe the Bible, well, simply. Another thing that bothered me was the fact that these "extras" drowned out everything else and took place of many powerful thoughts he could have communicated, as was clear in his introduction.

All in all, I wouldn't buy this book. It was helpful in certain areas, but I expected much of it to be more like his introduction: many more statements instead of a history lesson.