Monday, October 26, 2009

'Kabul24'- by Henry O. Arnold and Ben Pearson

is*First and foremost I would like to say that this is a more difficult review than usual, as it is on a work on non-fiction. However, I am going to be completely honest and will include the pros and cons of this book. This is not an attack on the authors or the people, but is simply a review on what I have read.*
  • Summary: Kabul24 is a true story, about some traumatic events that happened to certain members of the Shelter Now International, (a humane effort the help other countries,) how they were captured, how they held to their faith, among other things.
  • Writing Style and Presentation: This book would have to be one of the most interesting non-fiction works I have ever read. The story is heart-wrenching and gripping, drawing the reader in along with the captives, with the author. It was wonderfully descriptive, yet the facts were not glossed over with a flowery presentation. At times, I did feel that the author's went a bit over the top on describing the faith of the captives, making them appear to be almost...supernatural, saintly, even. However, it did teach me a great deal on prayer, trust, and faith.
  • Theological Pros and Cons: Faith and dependence upon the Lord are very strongly presented here. I often questioned myself "Would I have reacted this way?" or "Would I be able to go through all this suffering and still believe God's way is perfect?" It was an encouragement and yet a challenging conviction to me. Compassion for others, even our enemies, was another theme that spoke out to me. Not just spiritual compassion, but compassion enough to DO something to help those in need and suffering, which the Bible clearly teaches. However, another strong theme running through the book, intended or unintended, was a fascination and awe for the Muslim faith. It was almost pro-muslim, if you will. As a christian and a follower of Jesus Christ, not Mohammad, I cannot in good conscience condone it. It was stated repeatedly that the workers were there to help those in physical suffering, and not to witness, and while I do agree that we are to help our fellow man in physical pain, it is all vanity if they die and go to hell. We cannot neglect the spiritual body and only see to the needs of the physical. A message that is stated is how the Taliban and terrorist groups are the violent kind, yet other Muslims are peaceful and loving. However true this may have been to these SNI workers, it is not entirely true of all Muslims, and this is a false description, which may be confusing to many believers. "Peaceful" Muslims and "Fanatical" Muslims follow the same Koran which states destroying all those that do not believe in Mohammad. The situation itself speaks this, as the peaceful Muslim family did not stand up for the aid workers, but betrayed them because they were intimidated. All religions are not the same, yet this work was running along those lines.
  • Personal Examples: However strong some of my disagreements... I cannot deny that these SNI workers showed great faith and love in the face of persecution. That itself is a great example to us all, and so I can safely say that I would recommend this book to others for that reason. Please keep in mind this is not an attack upon a group of people, but an honest review of a non-fiction work.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Of Coffee and Questionaires...

Right now, I'm indulging in that ever gorgeous mug of joe, that delicious scent of the earth- coffee. It's a particularly good cup, and that means it's good, because I said particularly. See? Said it again. Now for the questionaire...about reading.

Do you snack while you read?
Only of the snack contains some form of coffee. Or chocolate.

Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you?
Whoever marks books deserves to be shot. Well. Not shot. But something drastic, such as they should get marked however many times they marked the book.

How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears?
I have a rule to buy a bookmark every time I buy a book, henceforth having a bookmark for every book. Free library bookmarks are for, guess: library books. As for Dog-ears, please see above question.

Laying the book flat open?
*Shock and horror* Laying a book open is never. an. option.

Fiction, non-fiction, or both?
90% fiction. The 10% non fiction consists of bios, gardening books, recipe books, and the like.

Hard copy or audiobooks?
Both, but I never buy audiobooks, just paperback. Though sometimes I get sucked into buying a hard cover when it's on for 4.99 at chapters, and then I have to buy the rest in the series hard cover because I can't stand it when my books don't match.

Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point?
It bothers me to stop in the middle of a chapter. So I don't.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?
No. Why would I do that? You can usually tell what the word means by how it's used.

Are you the type of person who only reads one book at a time, or can you read more than one at a time?
At this moment in time I'm reading three.

What are you currently reading?
'The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey', 'Kabul24', and 'The Years in My Herb Garden'.

What is the last book you bought?

Hmm. I think it was a Crock Pot recipe book. No, wrong. It was 'The Years in My Herb Garden'.

Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read?
Dusk- in my favorite chair with a good cup of coffee on Friday night. Starbucks caffe in a corner booth- but usually then I'm not really reading, simply pretending, so as to scout out unsuspecting victims for my characters.

Do you prefer series books or standalone books?
Both. Novels are a refresher, but I enjoy a good series.

Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over?

Definitely The Lord of the Rings. A Masterpiece.

How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?)
By height and colour, and paperback and hard cover. They have to look nice. I know, I'm crazy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

'Created To Be His Help Meet' by Debi Pearl- A Book Review

Ok, now let me say first that no nasty comments or "words of wisdom" about the Pearl's teachings will be accepted on here. I've heard all the arguments, and while they might have some validity, I've never actually heard the Pearl's side of the story, it would be unfair and unjust to condemn them at this time. I'm simply sharing what I have read, and what it taught me.

  1. Teachings and Theological Elements:
-> In the first few chapters, Mrs. Pearl starts with the heart, and the attitude of the reader. This is very wise and I believe the right place to begin, because with a good attitude, one is much more receptive to the Holy Spirit. Mrs. Pearl talks about being thankful, content in all things with what we have, to have joy, smile for our husbands and just enjoy the life God has blessed us with. She warns against bitterness, critical thoughts or "stinking thinking" as she calls it, and reminds us in those many times when we feel lost that the Lord promised to give wisdom to those who ask.
-> Mrs. Pearl teaches submission to your husband, even when it's hard and when it seems like he's making a wrong decision. She says instead of trying to change him, give it to God and let Him do a mighty work in your husband. There is a lot of other things, but in every element Mrs. Pearl talks about, she backs it up, I find, correctly with scripture.

2. Disputes and Disagreements:
-> Many women have said that they were "put off" of this book because of Mrs. Pearl's style of writing. I beg you to reconsider. I will warn you that you may be offended as Mrs. Pearl can be rather blunt, and at times she does resort to some rude names. I have never met this woman in person, but though I do agree that some of her writing does not become a lady, there is a lot of it that is tender and sincerely heart-felt. I just ignored what I felt was disagreeable, and learned what I could from her teachings.
-> Submission and Reverence in the face of Physical and Emotional Abuse: This is something I do not agree with. Though Mrs. Pearl (and her husband) have stated that the wife and children should be protected in a case of an abuser, they support the idea of staying and waiting it out, saying that reverence and obedience will change the man. I strongly disagree, as I myself have been in an abusive family till age 18. Obedience and honour do nothing to pacify or change a person, it is a problem within themselves that no one from the outside can help with by submission. This is a dangerous teaching, and it could be fatal. I would say that it is not expounded on much, and I would accept her teachings except for this one. An abusive situation is incredibly dangerous to a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. It should not be accepted or appeased by submission and reverence.

However, in the rest of the book Mrs. Pearl showed a lot of wisdom in her teachings, and much of it I'm sure came from her own experience- over 30 years of marriage! I would recommend her book to new wives especially, but given with a word of caution if they are in an abusive situation.

Friday, October 2, 2009

'Green' by Ted Dekker - A Book Review

Oh boy. I don't like writing negative reviews. I know how hard it is to write a book, and hats off to Mr. Dekker for finishing so many. That truly is a feat. Also hats off for the stunning Circle trilogy he wrote, in my mind, it was brilliant. But I have to be honest. I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for this, so let me just say that I am not judging Mr. Dekker as a person, but, an author WILL be judged by his writing. That's how it works. So let's get started.

Green can be rather confusing to a new reader in the beginning, especially if you have not read The Circle Trilogy. I know he wrote at the beginning of the book that you can start with 'Green' and go on to 'Black', but trust me, you can't. He includes many elements from the previous novels ('Black', 'Red', and 'White') along with others, that makes the reader lost if not having read the previous stories. These elements are hardly explained except for a sentence such as 'a roush Thomas had met a while ago...' I was alright for the most part, but it was hard to keep up with a couple of the characters as I had not read 'Showdown' or 'Saint'. This is a huge error- an author should never assume that the reader has read all of the books, especially since this book can 'begin' or 'end' the series.
-> Plotline: The Circle is breaking up with different doctrinal lines, doubts, and bitterness. Thomas of Hunter is 10 years older with a wife (Chelise) and 3 children- Samuel, Marie, and Jake. Samuel has lost his way, rebelling against the Circle and his father. Thomas tries to save his son and the Circle before it is too late, with Chelise trying to save her father.

-> Characters:
  1. Thomas Hunter (Main): A complete rewrite- I barely recognized the Thomas Hunter from the previous books. In the beginning, he is challenged in front of the Circle by his son, Samuel. Samuel rebels against Elyon and sparks a disruption. Marie- Thomas's daughter, challenges Samuel to hand-to-hand combat to the death in defense of her father's honour. What does Thomas do? Nothing. He's completely helpless, stunned. This made me almost despise him. It's basically like this throughout the whole story: something "shocking" and horrible happens, and Thomas sits down and cries. NOT a man.
  2. Chelise: Far too obsessed with her parent's salvation, so much so that she puts her whole family at risk. She disobeys all of her husband's commands and precautions.
  3. Samuel: Apparently an antagonist. He rebels against the Circle, is seduced and brings about Armaggedon. At the beginning he is "saved", in the end he is not. To me he seemed repentant, but he died unsaved.
  4. Qu'rong: Mostly the same. I was quite happy with his character.
  5. Ba 'al/Billos/Billy/Bill: As you can see, four split personalities is very confusing. Ba'al has lived for some time in the other world, while Billy has lived in ours. Yet they are one and the same, despite Billy never dreaming until this book. The phenomena is unexplained and far too confusing. Billy aparently was a character in 'Showdown' and plays a major role in this book. However, not much of him is explained under the assumption that the reader has read 'Showdown'.
  6. Janae/Jezreel: Another split personality, Janae is Monique's daughter, and has Shatiaki/demon blood in her. She is naturally evil, and partner's with Billy to find the lost books in this other world. Billy and Janae inject themselves with the Raison Strain, counting on the fact that Monique will save their lives and provide a way to Thomas by injecting them with the last vial of his blood. Confusing, I know...but I'm doing my best.
  7. Monique: Older and a few mistakes wiser, she injects Billy and Janae with Thomas's blood to save their lives, even though she know's it could affect the whole world. Did not seem like her AT ALL.
  8. Kara: Thomas's sister, encourages Monique to save Janae and Billy, saying it's what Thomas would do, when obviously it was'nt- (Thomas having stood back and let his son be sacrificed for Elyon in a previous chapter.) I don't know if that was meant to be ironic or not.
  9. Marsuuv/Marsuvees Black: Apparently this character is connected to Billy and 'Showdown'. Had no clue what was going on. Marsuuv is a demonic "queen" to Teeleh. Didn't know what the point was.
-> Writing & Suspense: For the most part, I was kept hooked into the story. Though he's slackened off a bit in my opinion, Dekker still has a writer's touch and can keep the reader interested. Granted, the book could have used a many rewrites to make it all fit more smoothly, but I thought he told everything very well, despite the fact that I did not agree with how the story went, or how the characters evolved. Awful story, written well.

-> Theological and Moral Disputes:
  1. Sensual and Sexual Elements: I would NOT let my younger brother read this novel. This book had far more sensual moments and sexual elements than and of the previous, and this highly disappointed me. I was going to buy the set for my younger brother as a Christmas present, but now I cannot. Mr. Dekker did not take into consideration his younger audience of fans, and I would recommend that all parents review this book before passing it on to their children. Mr. Dekker mentions foreplay, demonic "mating", and many sensual desires that honestly, were not appropriate.
  2. Doctrinal and Theological Elements: A.) The theory that the Devil has children through humans. This is a dangerous and not sound idea that has not been biblically proven, though many read into it. B.) The idea that it is possible to lose your salvation. Samuel is an albino (saved) up until the middle of this book, where he is seduced and becomes a Scab. He dies unsaved. How is that possible with eternal salvation? C.) The idea that we get a second life on earth, and a chance to save lost loved ones who are already in hell. Elyon allows Thomas Hunter to go back in time to save his son, after Samuel has died and gone to hell. This is never allowed. We get one chance to accept Jesus- this life we live. No do-overs. D.) That all fighting and self-defense is of the world. In this book, the saved believe any fighting at all makes them like the Scabs- the unsaved. They do not defend themselves or their families, instead getting slaughtered because they believe to only show love to the Scabs. This is a dangerous doctrine and clearly against the Bible. God does want us to defend our homes and our families. He means for husbands to protect their wives and their children. Those are only the big ones. There are a lot more, but this review is getting too long already.
  3. Demonic Elements: I believe it is possible for a christian, for anyone, to delve too deeply into the occults and demonic elements. You say "know your enemy". I say "know your Jesus". The Bible clearly states to dwell on those things that are lovely, dwell on those things that are pure, dwell on those things that are of good report. It is dangerous for us to study the darkness of the Devil too much. We are not to dwell on that. We are to study the Bible and learn more about Jesus. 'Green' is much darker then all the previous books in the Circle series. In the book are included graphic sacrifices and rituals, demonic possession, and etc. A LOT of it- too much. We know that the devil is powerful, but our God is greater. We are to know HIM. We defeat the Devil with Jesus and the power of the Bible, not by studying the dark arts. This really put me off of the story and I believe, took away from it.

->Ending (or lack thereof): I know that Mr. Dekker was trying to make the series a Circle, but that's not the way it is. The book ends with an Armageddon of sorts. Thomas nearly enters heaven, but is still saddened at the loss of Samuel. He begs Elyon to let him return to the past to "save" his son, and surprisingly, Elyon does. A big catch: Thomas cannot remember anything that has happened in all the books. He goes back to where he was at the start of 'Black', living in his sister's apartment, and the whole story starts over again. There is no ending in this. We are told at the end of Green to read Black. What? The same story will just start all over again. Thomas will not save his son because the same thing will happen, and then Elyon will send him back again, and on it goes. Thomas has no memory of anything that happened, so he won't know he was sent back to save his son, and he'll just do the same thing. (Since it continues in the same books.) Samuel made his choice. Everyone makes their choice. We cannot go back and make them change it, we cannot save anybody. Overall, an unsatisfactory ending.

Well, that about wraps it up. Please remember that though this review was brutally honest, it's just my opinion. I'm not telling you to read it or not, but this is what I read. I believe Mr. Dekker can do much better than this, as seen in 'Black' and 'Red'. I'm not attacking his character, I'm stating what I know and what I get from his books. Lately, it seems to me that his books have gotten a lot darker, and more secular. A book cannot be written christian/secular. It doesn't work. I don't know for a fact that he's trying to appeal to both audiences, but the way the books have been going, including this one, it seems that way. I believe this book is too close to the edge for comfort, and cannot be considered an allegory anymore. Please know that I'm not "slamming" Mr. Dekker. He has a great talent. I'm just hoping he let's it out again.