Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Christian Wisdom From an Indian Mystic

Sundar Singh as a young man was a devout Sikh. He read and memorized the holy books and sought out Sikh priests and hermits, always searching for wisdom. After his mother died, none of it felt satisfactory and he became distraught. Then he had a vision of Christ. It changed his life. His father unable to accept Sundar's embrace of Christianity, instead of the family's Sikh religion, threw him out. After attempting unsuccessfully to conform to the Christian community, he became a Sadhu wandering the mountains, valleys and jungles of India bringing his tales of faith to remote villages.

Wisdom of the Sadlu is a very moving book. The first chapters give an overview of Sundar's early life and how he became a mystic. The later chapters contain parables, and interviews between Sundar and a Seeker in which he explains his vision of God.

This is a wonderful book that gives a perspective on Christian beliefs and God's love from the perspective of a different culture. I highly recommend this book for Sundar's insights and the beauty of his vision.

I reviewed this book for Handlebar Publishing.

Amusing Romp with the Algonquin's Favorite Ghost: Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker, a member of the Algonquin Round Table where famous authors in the 1920's met for lunch, loves the hotel, particularly the bar, so much she doesn't want to leave although she's been dead for more than 40 years. She is, however, lonely. Other members of the Round Table have passed through after death, but none of them have stayed.

A famous writer, Ted Schriver, who interviewed Dorothy when he was young, is living in a room at the Algonquin where he is dying of a brain tumor. Dorothy sees an opportunity to recruit someone to share the pleasures of the Algonquin bar after he dies, but Ted isn't ready to agree.

Norah Wolfe works for a television interview show, Simon Janey Live. The show is about to be canceled, but Norah thinks there's a chance to save it. She has always felt a special connection with Ted Schriver. If he could be convinced to come on the show and discuss the plagiarism scandal that ruined his career, it could be the segment they need to keep the show going.

These amusing characters come together in the Algonquin each trying to get what they want. The plot isn't particularly suspenseful, but their antics are diverting. If you enjoy the authors of the Round Table, particularly Dorothy Parker, you may find this book fun. Several other member of the group also make cameo appearances.

I recommend it if you're looking for a fast paced, amusing look at the ghostly antics in the Algonquin Hotel.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Difficult Questions for Christians

Three of the most difficult questions for Christians involve hell, judgment, and holy war. Does God send people to hell because he likes to torture them? Does God's judgment mean that most of us, even people who have never heard of Jesus, will not be saved? Why does God allow so much violence on earth?

These are tough questions, and I suspect that most of us have pondered them. What they boil down to is: If God is a loving God, how can the things the Bible tells us about him be true? In this book, Butler takes a hard look at these questions and using the Bible and other sources presents well reasoned arguments for why God is good, and the negatives we fear are not real.

This is a very helpful book. It's well written and draws you into Butler's arguments. He uses episodes from his own life and his questioning of the gospel to make his arguments easily understandable. His style makes the reader feel comfortable with having doubts. It shows him that he is in good company,
and that his faith can be strengthened by wrestling with the hard questions.

I enjoyed this book. If you are having doubts about Christianity, this is an excellent book. The arguments are presented clearly there is no talking down to people who are not clergy. I highly recommend it.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Mystery and Danger in Vatican City

Alex and his brother Simon grew up in Vatican City. Their father was a Greek Catholic rather than a Roman Catholic. His main desire was to reunite the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, and he believed that the Shroud of Turin could be instrumental in bringing that about. Now Alex is a priest in the Greek church; and Simon, a priest in the Roman church, but because of their father, the Shroud is important to both of them.

Alex has been working with Ugo, a curator in the Vatican, to mount an exhibit about the Shroud of Turin. Simon, who has been stationed in Turkey, is due back for the opening. Instead of coming to Alex's apartment as expected, Simon calls and asks Alex to meet him at Castel Gondolfo. When he arrives, Alex finds his brother soaking wet, standing beside Ugo's body. This begins a time of mystery and danger that threatens Alex's life.

This is a well researched novel. Life in Vatican City is described in illuminating detail. It gives you a taste of what it's like to live in an enclosed community. The research on the Shroud is historically accurate and forms a sound basis for the mystery.

The book is not a fast paced thriller. It relies more on character development and scholarly research. I found that fascinating, but if you're looking for lots of action, you may be disappointed. I enjoyed the book, but I did find the ending somewhat unsatisfactory. It took a long time to resolve the plot lines, and I felt the ending was forced. The buildup led me to expect a more compelling resolution.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

A View the Crises that Shaped C. S. Lewis' Writing

During his early life, C. S. Lewis was a confirmed atheist. While at Oxford he struggled with the problems of materialism, meaninglessness and anomie. Eventually, after much soul searching he became in his words a reluctant convert to Christianity. From this beginning, and probably because of it, he became one of the foremost apologists in the twentieth century, one who uses rational argument to defend Christianity.

His works such as Mere Christianity, and Surprised by Joy still bring many readers to the Christian faith, the author being one of them. He attributes his embrace of the Christianity, eventually becoming a pastor to reading C. S. Lewis while he was a student at UC Berkley.

Lewis' scholarly works are not the only ones that bring people to Christianity. Cootsona points out that Lewis turned to writing fiction, primarily the Chronicles of Narnia, because he
believed that other scholars were more capable of making academic arguments. Engaging the imagination was another way to continue the apologetic task. From the number of people who love the Chronicles of Narnia, he seems to have been correct.

This is an excellent overview of Lewis' life and writing. The first chapters are the most philosophical and somewhat difficult to follow, but Cootsona intersperses Lewis' philosophical writings with his own reactions. This makes the book very readable and gives the reader insight into how Lewis' arguments affected the author's embrace of Christianity.

If you're unfamiliar with Lewis' writing, this is a good place to start. If you've already read him extensively, this overview will help to put the whole body of his work into perspective. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Danger and Secrets in Tudor England

Queen Mary is dead and Elizabeth is on the throne. Brendan Prescott has been living in Basel with Walsingham who is teaching him to be a spy. Now it's time for them to return to Elizabeth's court. Almost as soon as they arrive events take a perilous turn. Elizabeth is the target of a poison attack in which Kate, Brendan's love, is almost the victim.

Brendan expects Elizabeth to task him with finding the poisoner, but instead she sends him on a secret mission to Vaughn Hall. Lady Parry, one of her favorite ladies-in-waiting, is missing. Brendan fears that he is riding into a trap, but his mission is to protect Elizabeth so he goes with only the company of Shelton, his supposed father.

This is an action packed and well researched historical novel. If you like stories of Tudor England, you'll enjoy this book. It's the third book in The Elizabeth I Spymaster Chronicles. I hadn't read the two preceding books, but the author presented enough background information that it wasn't hard to get into the story.

Brendan and Shelton are likable characters. Brendan is believable as the POV character, which is a nice change from so many female POV characters in historical fiction. The setting is well done. You can feel you're in Tudor England.

The history is accurate, but since this is fiction, the author takes liberties which make the facts into a fast paced novel with surprising twists.

I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Clever Con, A Drug Lord, A Little Romance and Some Violence

Kate is in a tight spot. It appears that Nick Fox is up to his old tricks. He's stolen a Matisse from the Gleabery Museum of Art in Nashville. He says he didn't do it, but they have a video with his face clearly visible. Then come robberies in Turkey, Germany and France. Kate knows it can't be Nick. He's with her, but who wants to incriminate him? And why?

The third installment of the Fox and O'Hare novels is as action packed and hilarious as the previous two. In fact, I liked it better than “The Chase.” I thought the con was more fun. The sexual banter between Nick and Kate reaches a new height when they pretend to be married.

The cast of characters includes old favorites, Willie, Boyd, and Tom, and, of course, Kate's dad, Jake. He's one of my favorite characters and lives up to his role in the previous exploits.

If you're looking for a fun read, this is it. The series is well done, if you're in the mood for escapist fiction. I'm eager to see what they do next!

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.