Monday, August 29, 2011

Start of a Compelling New Trilogy

Danial, a homeless man, and Freya, a university student, are tied together by an adventure they shared as children. Transported to Nidergeard through a secret passage in the church their class is visiting, they are confronted with an underground world where knights sleep awaiting the call to save the world. Although times are bad, Ealdstan, the wizard who controls Nidergeard, believes that it is not time to wake the knights. Instead, he sends Daniel and Freya on a quest.

The story relies heavily on British Isles mythology. The author does a clever job of winding the tales through the story of the two young people.The plot unfolds on two levels: today and the time when the children were in Nidergeard. This could have been confusing, but it was easy to follow.

The writing is not consistently of the highest caliber, but it only detracts from the story if you notice craft in writing. The struggle between good and evil is well portrayed. If you're a fan of fantasy on the Tolkein variety, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Moving Story Showing the Power of Love

Tucker Mason is an angry young man. Brought up in a mansion, he has all the material comforts and a huge estate to roam in. However, what he most wants in the thing he is deprived of. His alcoholic father barely notices him, unless it's to deliver a blow. Tucker is lucky, however, he has the love and support of Miss Ella, a tiny black woman,who has an intense personal relationship with God. Wrapped in Rain is the story of how he comes to understand and live with the power of love.

I loved this book. The descriptions invite you into the world of Tucker and Miss Ella. The characters are people you'd like to know. They will live in your mind long after you finish the book. The religious tone of the book, while heavy, is perfect for the setting and characters. I highly recommend this book. It's an experience you will remember. It may change your life.

I reviewed the book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Friday, August 19, 2011

Evidence of the Bible's Divine Inspiration

Has God Spoken?, takes the reader on a fascinating exploration of the evidence for the divine inspiration of the Bible. Hanefraaff covers a wide range of evidence: techniques for copying the manuscripts, archaeologist's findings, prophecies, and scriptural analysis. Some evidence is more persuasive than other evidence. However, I found the total package very enlightening.

My favorite discussion was about the discrepancies between the reports in the four gospels. Hanegraaff argues that like any reporters, even today, the authors selected what to tell in their manuscripts. Therefore small details, or differing emphasis, should not detract from their eyewitness accounts. To me, that is certainly a valid reading of human nature.

I did find his constant arguments with Ehrman annoying. It felt as if he were writing the book to refute the ideas of this particular man, and to me, Ehrman's reasoning is a little too precious to be convincing. I would have preferred it if the author had simply made his case without setting up an opponent.

I enjoyed the book very much. I didn't agree with all of it, but it was a good read. I recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the authenticity of the Bible.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Vivid Colors and Fragrances of Provence, A Mystery, and A Love Story

Eve falls in love with Dom, a man with a mysterious past, and with their crumbling farmhouse in Provence. At first everything is perfection, but as cracks appear in the walls, so too they appear in the relationship. Told as counterpoint to Eve's story is the story of Bénédicte, the last owner of the house. The intermingling of the two stories told against the lush backdrop of Provence weaves the mystery and the love story.

The best thing about the novel is the marvelous descriptions of Provence. The author is obviously in love with her setting. The is both a benefit and curse. While it's delightful to become absorbed in the atmosphere of the hill town where the novel takes place, it detracts from the story being told. The dilemmas of the central characters are interesting, but because of the amount of picturesque writing about the setting, the story drags.

The juxtaposition of the two story lines interleaved every other chapter become wearing after awhile. The chapters are generally short so the reader is often left wondering what will happen with one character while the story moves to the other main character. Leaving the reader unsatisfied at the end of a chapter can draw the reader through the story, but in this instance it leaves the impression of choppiness and induces the reader to skip chapters.

I recommend this book if you love Provence and scenic writing, but if you're more interested in plot, you're apt to be disappointed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Monastic Views on 9/11

The aftermath of 9/11 sparked a cycle of vengeance and hatred. Concerned with the darkening of our world, David Carlson embarked on a project to talk to contemplatives about their perceptions of 9/11 and the aftermath. He hoped to find some light in the darkening world of growing tension between Christians and Muslims. He conducted a series of 30 interviews with monks and nuns and found much more than he expected. The views of those cloistered in religious houses ran a large gamut and gave him much to reflect on.

I loved the first half of the book. The description of the monasteries was beautiful. Being in out of the way places the surroundings are exception. Likewise the monks turned out to be exceptional people. They were as disturbed by the post 9/11 world as everyone else and were struggling with how to place it in a spiritual context.

The middle of the book, however, dragged for me. Instead of the spiritual discussions of the opening interviews, it seemed to me that we were veering into bureaucratic solutions. If I hadn't had a commitment to finish the book, I might have put it down at this point. However, I did finish it and I'm glad I did. The ending of the book, including the author's own dark night of the soul is very moving.

I recommend this book to anyone searching for spiritual understand of the terrible events of 9/ll and the continued terrorism and tension between Muslims and Christians. I particularly recommend the interview with Richard Bresnahan, a potter. His studio is located in conjunction with Saint John's Abbey in Collegevillle, Minnesota. His anger at the terrible events and his love for the beauty of the world are especially moving.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.