the low down on new books

Uncategorized

Has God Spoken?

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Hank Hanegraaff. 380 p. (Actually, 290 without the appendix, endnotes, and index). Published 2011 by Thomas Nelson.  Advanced review copy provided by Thomas Nelson’s “Booksneeze” program in return for my honest opinion.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Adult Christian Non-Fiction / Religious Apologetics

Short Bio: Once of the most frequently voiced criticisms of Christians is that they believe a book written some 3500-2000 years ago is not only divine revelation given to man at that time, but that it has remained virtually unchanged since then.

The “Bible Answer Man” responds to these criticisms with four main categories of evidence:  the reliability of the manuscripts we have, archeological finds that corroborate biblical accounts, the fulfillment of prophecy, and finally the “art and science of scriptural interpretation”.  He presents his evidence in the form of pneumonic devices that help the reader remember the main points of each (i.e., for “Manuscript C-O-P-I-E-S”, one has a device to remember that Copyist practices, Oral tradition, Papyrus & parchment, Internal evidence, External evidence, and the Science of textual criticism are the supporting facts for how we know we can rely on the biblical manuscripts we have today).

Eyewitness Account:

Overall, I thought this was an extremely interesting book and a good read.  This is the second book I’ve read this year that appears to be written mainly as a response to some vociferous opponents of the authors and both are about the Bible (See “The Book That Made Your World”, responding to criticism that Christianity was an imperialistic and oppressive force in India, for the other).  Hanegraaff’s book contains numerous rejoinders to several Biblical critics (most often to Bart Ehrman, who is a religious studies professor at UNC Chapel Hill).  It contains a wealth of information about the science of manuscripts, archeology, history, and whether the skeptical arguments against the veracity and authenticity of the Bible hold any weight.  It’s organized fairly well, and the pneumonic devices he gives are actually very useful (I found myself trying to recall them at the end of each section to cement the points in my memory).

A few weaknesses are that the book could have used some better editing (I repeatedly had a feeling of “deja vu” as I read sentences that had been used almost word for word in an earlier section – you really can’t use phrases like “the story is interesting as well as instructive” or “the land vomited out the children of the promise just as it had the Canaanites before them” more than once without someone catching it) and that Hanegraaff gave too much text to his opponents.  Its one thing to briefly mention an opposing viewpoint that you want to counter, but to give whole paragraphs or pages to their writing makes it seem like the author is obsessively aggravated.  Overall, you get the feeling that Hanegraaff was writing more of a reference resource than a book designed to be read straight through, as there were not only exact phrasings that were repeated, but also examples and evidence used in multiple sections that are introduced as if for the first time. 

However, I found that I could dismiss my irritation at those points for the meat of the book.  The manuscripts and archeology sections were really fascinating (and gave me a HUGE appreciation for how God has preserved the Bible over time).  The prophecy section dragged a bit for me, but did have some gems; my favorite part of the book was Hanegraaff’s discussion of types in the bible, particularly “typological prophecy” in which the event that you are connecting to the prophecy is not the “predictive fulfillment” but the successive and more complete antitype to the first fulfillment (as in the case of Isaiah’s virgin birth prediction). Having heard of types and antitypes before, it was new information to me that this idea applied to prophecy as well as people and events.

Well worth reading.

Notable Quotes: 

Amazing but true, today in the city of David you can step into the very Pool of Siloam in which the blind man “washed, and came back seeing.” (John 9:7 NKJV). You can traverse the Siloam tunnel that almost three thousand years ago provided the precious commodity of water to the inhabitants of Jerusalem during the siege of Sennacherib.  You can see the Siloam inscription in the Istanbul Archaelogical Museum commemorating one of the greatest engineering feats of ancient history.  You can rest your arms on the guard rail overlooking the excavated ruins of the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus cared for the physical and spiritual needs of a man who had suffered the ravages of sin for thirty-eight years.  And you can be amazed at the grace that what was once secreted in soil accurately reflects what which is sealed in Scripture.

Other Books Read by This Author: none

What are other people saying? Shades of Intrigue, Finding Jesus, God-lovin’ Mama

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★★★★ Organization

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness

Reviewed by Nick 

Just the Facts: by Andrew Peterson. 304 p. Published by WaterBrook Press.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Children’s Lit

Short Bio: Three children in the land of Skree soon find that their lives aren’t as boring or simple as they thought. Janner, Tink and Leeli Igiby think that the most exciting thing happening in Skree is the Dragon Festival, but they will soon have close run-ins with several mean-tempered Fangs of Dang, lizard like men that have dominated Skree from across the sea; follow treasure maps, escape the Black Carriage that takes small children back across the sea to who knows what kind of fate awaits them; narrowly miss being eaten by a fearsome toothy cow of Skree, and they will discover the treasures of the kingdom of Anniera.

Eyewitness Account: Andrew Peterson, song and book writer, has a love for adventure and fantasy and a sarcastic twist to his sense of humor. Personally, I see him as an amalgamation of Lemony Snicket and Terry Pratchet. His hallmark is his faith, apparent in the moral message that he gives, perhaps promising an allegorical component to his Windfeather Saga. I enjoyed reading his book. He is not as repetitious as Lemony Snicket, and his writing style suits me well, though he does not have the smoothness of prosody that Pratch has. The only major critique that I would have for Peterson is that he brought his storyline to climax really early in the book and pretty much kept it there throughout the remainder of the book. Don’t forget that a book can have minor climaxes and that denouement and resolution can not only give your reader some time to process what’s going on but can also be a major proponent of character and plot development.        

Other Books Read by This Author:  This is my first book read by this author, but I will definitely be reading the next three books in the Wingfeather Saga.

What are other people saying? Darcy Gudger , Jill Williamson , Ken Reads

Rating:

★★★☆☆ Plot Development

★★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★★ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


A Reluctant Queen

Reviewed by   Cathy

Just the Facts:  A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf Thomas Nelson 2011  

Verdict: ★★☆☆☆

Who Cares? Romance readers of all ages

Short Bio: Esther is coerced into submitting herself as a candidate to the new Persian King because her guardian uncle believes she can save the slave nation of Israel in Babylon.  She is a Jewess but was admonished to tell no one.  To her amazement, the King chooses her as queen.  For the next year, Esther falls in love with the King and the two of them become physically and emotionally intimate.

While she is queen, Esther begins a social justice program, namely disbanding the harem which she is ever jealous of.  She resents her uncle and God for placing her in a trapped environment in which she has a husband that she now loves and has lied to about her background.  As their love grows, the king and Esther spend whole summer vacations together and he declares to her that her influence in his life is supreme and he will deny her nothing.

Haman, the Edomite, who has a lone prejudice against Jews in general and her uncle in specific, plans and implements (in the king’s absence)an edict to kill all the Jews.  When Esther finds this out, she determines that the only way to save her people and her uncle is to risk her life by entering a male only ceremony, in which the king must raise his sceptre to grant her her life.  The entire palace staff come to her support and assure her that the whole country supports the Jewish community and she heads off to the ceremony assured that her influence with the king is strong enough to conquer all.  After the king grant Esther her life back, she confronts Haman in the presence of the King, acknowledging that she is a Jew and her people are in danger.  The king, disturbed that his reputation will be ruined if the country believes he is prejudice against the jews, rescinds Haman’s edict and hangs him.  He sends messengers to every part of the land to ignore the edict and the country, who all respect the jews, obey.  Esther and the King live happily ever after

Eyewitness Account:  

Historical Fiction can be a tricky genre.  The authors that do it the best, keep the skeleton of the events true and embellish the characters and the relationships.  Wolf wove a wonderful story, the characters were engaging and the plot moved at a lively pace.  But it was no more the story of Esther than Abraham Lincoln as short, fat and bald, or a Joan of Arc so fashion conscious she spent her days as a courtier.  She missed the entire love story as it truly was.  It went more like this…

The almighty God-bridegroom picked a bride/queen – Israel.  His bride was kidnapped by Babylon and sentenced to a life of slavery far from her home. When rumblings through the kidnap country threatened His bride, the bridegroom stepped into action to save her.  He picked a woman to be the symbol of his nation-bride and placed her in the kidnappers harem.  She was incognito and managed to stay out of the radar until it came to her attention that she had to appeal to the enslaver to acquire the freedom of her people.  

She had no friends in the harem and every reason to believe that her enslaver would kill her for initiating contact, which was strictly forbidden. She had no support save her bridegroom God and prayed unceasingly (as did the entire Jewish nation) for his power to go with her.  She approached the throne room knowing that she didn’t want to live if her people were all dead and wanted to die with them.  But the bridegroom God, worked a miraculous act and the enslaver remembered putting her in the harem while in a drunken stupor.  Esther has no basis with him to ask for a favor so she spends the next week, trying to establish a relationship of some sort by inviting him and Hamaan  to dinner on three different occasions.  On the last night, empowered only by the bridegroom God, she implores him to have mercy on her and her people.   But alas, it is too late,  a king’s edict once sealed is irrevocable.  But the enslaver, is touched by the power of the bridegroom God’s symbol of his love and permits the Jews to defend themselves.  A battle of  Lord of the Rings proportions ensues and the Bridegroom God again supernaturally rigs the battle and his bride not only is free of the enemies wishing to annihilate her, but it is the beginning of returning home to be reunited with her true love.   WOW!  Her story pales in comparison.

Notable Quotes:   “Esther feared that God would take her husband as punishment for her obedience.”

Other Books Read by This Author: None

Rating:

☆☆☆☆ Plot Development

★★☆☆☆ Characterization

★★★☆☆ Writing Style

★★☆☆☆ Original Idea

★★★☆☆ Page Turner

Overall

★★☆☆☆

Genius Files – Mission Unstoppable

Reviewed by  Cathy Peterson

Just the Facts:By Dan Gutman 1-2011 Harper Collins

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Junior mystery and adventure readers

Short Bio: For twelve-year-old Coke McDonald and his twin sister Pep, this summer’s family cross-country RV vacation is nothing toget excited about…until Coke and Pep are chased off a cliff, locked in a burning school, and start receiving mysterious messages in codes and ciphers. Mom and Dad are lovably kooky and hilariously clueless, but Coke and Pep are more than up to the task. From California to Wisconsin, it’s a race against time to find out who’s after them, who’s leaving the notes…and just what being a part of The Genius Files entails!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Eyewitness Account:This book was tons of fun to read.  Who knew our country had so many fun things to see. Coke and Pep are a little “cute” but considering the danger they are in every chapter, a light attitude may be exactly what is called for.  These two use their brains and solve the toughest of problems with MacGyver-like utensils.  The best part of this book is that the reader can get online and follow the road trip taken as he reads each chapter.


Notable Quotes:

Other Books Read by This Author:

What are other people saying?

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★


The Midwife’s Confession

Reviewed by Brittney

Just the Facts: by Diane Chamberlain. 432 p. Published April 26, 2011 by MIRA (Harlequin).  Advanced review copy provided in electronic format courtesy of the publisher, through NetGalley.

Verdict: ★★★★

Who Cares? Women’s Fiction / Mystery

Short Bio: Two middle-aged women, Tara and Emerson, are utterly shocked with their best friend Noelle unexpectedly commits suicide.  As they search for the answer to why Noelle ended her life, they unravel an incredible deception kept secret by their friend for many years – one that challenges everything they thought they knew about their dear friend.

Eyewitness Account:  If you are a Nicholas Sparks or Jodi Picoult fan, then you will definitely LOVE this book.  I (quite honestly) can’t stand Sparks or Picoult books – but I still liked this book a lot.  This genre, in general, tends to lend itself to very contrived scenarios intended to wrench your heart (which usually leaves me feeling emotionally manipulated).  However, Chamberlain manages to pull it off with so much more grace than her peers – perhaps because her characters and their relationships are developed in such a realistic way that they are easy to empathize with.  I truly felt like I was plopped down in the middle of a group of people who had complex relationships – that their friendships had the depth that comes with years of shared experiences and history.  The rotating point of view gives you a glimpse of the same “reality” through each of the main characters, which gives the story a multi-dimensional quality.  I really liked that all of Noelle’s secrets weren’t discovered by her two friends (even though the reader is privy to them when Noelle narrates).  Although the plot twists were fairly predictable, I found it didn’t bother me because the story itself was engaging and interesting.  A very good read from a very good author.

Notable Quotes:

“It was like a missing piece of my heart suddenly appeared in the doorway. Can you understand that?”

I nodded.  The missing piece of my own heart was in the room at the end of the hall, and on this difficult day, I felt that piece slipping slowly, cautiously back into place.

Other Books Read by This Author: None – but I will definitely keep this author on my radar.

What are other people saying? Book Addiction, Peeking Between the Pages, Teresa’s Reading Corner

Rating:

★★★★ Plot Development

★★★★ Characterization

★★★★ Writing Style

★★★★ Original Idea

★★★★★ Page Turner

Overall ★★★★