Monday, November 26, 2018

Leatherbound Terrorism by Chris Kratzer

I understand that Chris Kratzer had a pretty amazing experience while he was in a hospital as a kid. And from my reading this book, I have an understanding that he had a not-so-amazing experience as a kid growing up; both family-based and physical.

I can appreciate that Chris dove into Evangelical Christianity head first but then experienced a revelation that highlighted all of the bad parts of institutionalize religion.

The bottom line is that Chris Krazter abhors conservative Evangelical Christianity. And you'll realize this because he attempts to write those three words on almost every page of the book. "conservative Evangelical Christianity". As if you'll forget about what he's so angry about.

I would hope that every Christian - evangelical or not - would recognize that there are probably aspects of their faith choice that they don't align with. One of the great aspects of this book is that Chris highlights a lot of those issues apparently found in conservative Evangelical Christianity.

My confusion with some of the points is that I don't recognize much of what Chris rails against and I thought I identified as an Evangelical Christian. Alot of what he experienced as a pastor in that realm and the mindset that he had while part of it, I just haven't seen or experienced myself. One of the big ones was how absolutely awful he treats someone going through a crisis. I have no experience of any evangelical pastor treating anyone that way.

Maybe my flavor of Evangelical Christianity is off the beaten path from Chris' experience and the majority of others.

I think my biggest complaint of this book is simply how angry Chris comes across in his writing. Is that fair? Probably not because you can't hear tone. But he repeatedly writes, "no offense" or not to belittle or other phrases to this effect like he's wanting to be respectful and then goes off on a rant using quite descriptive and evocative words that I don't think anyone would mistake for respectful. I got the feeling that he is so angry about his experience that anyone who aligns with conservative Evangelical Christianity is pure evil. Even after he says he has friends who are - can you be friends with evil?

I love his call to Christians to simply love others. I love that. I see that in Jesus. And I see that as foundational to living in the Kingdom of God. I do not see this book as loving.

It's one of those things where Chris rips on conservative Evangelicals for being judgmental and unloving.  But isn't he being just as judgmental and unloving in the way he accuses others? Or is it okay if you're obviously the one who's correct while the other Christians are wrong. It's almost as if he could have approached it better. There are authors who have written along these lines that Grace is all that it's about and how American Christianity can get back to how Jesus envisioned living eternal life.

Again, this is me reading into it beyond what I probably should but Chris writes likes he's full of vitriol.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Grace Publishing.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Love Like That by Dr. Les Parrott

Relationship Secrets from Jesus.

I don't know if I would classify them as secrets. Dr. Parrott gives us five aspects of relationship that he pulls from how Jesus is described in the Bible.

These aspects are: mindfulness, approachable, grace-full, bold, and self-giving.

So you get an introduction, five chapters, a conclusion, and then an appendix on how to make these relationship secrets habit-forming.

I didn't read anything ground-breaking with this book. It was quite good with the inclusion of Scripture passages that illustrate the point and clever anecdotes as well. Dr. Parrott also uses secular material to emphasize his point and these worked really well each time he utilized them.

In the midst of each chapter is a quick survey you can take to see where you stand on each component. How mindful are you in your relationships, are you approachable, full of grace, bold, etc...

The chapters felt a little on the long side to me. I figured he could say what he wanted to about each topic in fewer words but that might just be because I thought it would be a quicker read.

The appendix is real quick and offers little bits of advice on how to incorporate a deliberateness to your relationships.

I liked the book enough but I wasn't really drawn to shout it from the rooftops like other books I've read. It's a good, "be-like-Jesus" book.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Thomas Nelson Publishing

Monday, October 8, 2018

Rise of the Mystics by Ted Dekker

This book will sit with you long after you finish it. You absolutely have to read The 49th Mystic before reading Rise of the Mystics however Rise is a much better book.

While The 49th Mystic felt like a re-telling of many of Dekker's previous novels, Rise of the Mystics felt more like a returning to the worlds. Instead of recreating scenarios or scenes, you read about the world that felt familiar - the Circle, the Horde, the Roush and Shataiki.

I really really enjoyed reading this story. I only had two moments of complaints: first was when the story would be put on hold so a character could preach Ted's new outlook on faith. It felt like the story was put down so the author could insert passages from his Forgotten Way material throughout. I wasn't a big fan of that. I am more of a fan in the way Ted used to include his thoughts/outlook within the plot-line of the story and not simply have a character monologue.

The second moment was the ending. It felt like Ted has embraced Universalism in that everyone will be saved in the end. And everyone who disagrees are poor unfortunate blind souls. (Which may be true I suppose)

With those two things out of the way, we can turn to everything else that was pure joy-reading. The tension between the two worlds and the unexpected twists were fantastic! When lives were lost I really felt it deep in my bones. This was a good mesh of Dekker's writing style from The Circle Series and his writing style in the AD series.

Rachelle's journey was an enjoyable one to follow. I thought I even caught a hint of a possible future sequel with the Horde girl...hmmm...

Oh one more part that was confusing: I thought Ba'al was Billos/Bill/Billy? Now it's Paulus?

It would be great if we could have a detailed timeline for this entire saga of The Books of History.

Thank you, Ted, for pouring yourself into these books.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Boundaries for Your Soul by Alison Cook and Kimberly Miller

A book that looks to turn your overwhelming thoughts and feelings into your greatest allies.

Cook and Miller have created an enjoyable read that covers topics such as: know what to do when you feel overwhelmed; understand your guilt, anxiety, sadness, and fear; welcome God into the troubling parts of your soul; and move from doubt and conflict to confidence and peace.

The anecdotes are down to earth. The exercises and quizzes add just enough practicality to the deeper ideas.

The book is broken down into three parts. The first part is more like an introduction to the concept of the soul and how that effects you as a person.

Part two covers the five steps you take in order to makes thoughts and feelings your allies. They include: focus, befriend, invite, unburden, and integrate. They dive deep into these concepts to help you actually do it.

Part three covers specific emotions: anger, anxiety, sadness, envy, and guilt.

This is a great book to read through and participate in as you work through the exercises and apply the anecdotes.

This book was provided, at no cost, by Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Batman: The Court of Owls Saga

This graphic novel tells the story of a secret society who works in the bowels of Gotham City.

It becomes a detective story of Batman getting pulled deeper into conspiracy theories.

This started out as a great Batman story. There is a fun twist right from the very get-go.

I liked the artwork done with this new direction of the Batman comics. I liked how it had almost everything you've come to expect from a Batman story: Batman uses his intelligence, he proves to be a great detective, he uses his physicality and demands to do things alone.

This is what many have come to expect from a Batman comic.

It's enjoyable to watch Batman dig deeper into a supposed secret Gotham group that has always been beneath the surface and he not knowing. It's fun to figure out what is going on behind the scenes.

But then things get really weird. It was almost as if someone else took over the writing and plotting. Batman gets a bit too close for comfort to the Owls and, while in a maze, basically loses his mind maybe?

I don't know. It just went really weird near the end of the novel.

I liked the build up, I liked the characters and the writing...all of it up until the last few pages of the story.

This book was provided, at no cost, by DC Comics.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Paul: A Biography by N.T. Wright

What more can you say if you've read anything by N.T. Wright? This is one of his greatest reads.

Sometimes Wright's books can be, shall we say, simply storage containers for the over-used comma "," but this stuff - boy - is just incredible to digest.

We're talking more than forty years worth of scholarly work on the person of Paul that is presented here.

Wright will transport you into Paul's world and into the thinking and culture of the time. He will give you fuller appreciation for his societal status and his passion/drive.

All that being said - if you have read ANYTHING else that Wright has written about Paul, much of the content of this book may sound familiar.

Say what you want to about N.T. Wright, but this man knows how to pull you in; and with a speculative biography!!

Here's the goldmine of the book: when you get into the sections that talk about the Paul behind the letters. That is where this book really shines. Sure it's fun to imagine what Paul's life was like in a biographical sort of way, but when you take that and put it behind the words of 2 Corinthians and some of the other letters, it makes it pop all the more.

This is such a terrific N.T. Wright book.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

When Through Deep Waters by Rachelle Dekker

This books covers a number of genres and it's done very well.

Alicen is living the so-called dream in California until horrific tragedy destroys everything. She then travels to her old stomping grounds and meets up with a childhood friend. But then the twists start happening as she begins to hear "things" and you start to wonder, "what in the world is going on with this poor girl?"

Dekker does a great job keeping you guessing throughout the story. She ramps up the tension in that the last fifteen to twenty percent of the book could be called a throw-down thriller.

Her ability to evoke such emotion for Alicen is phenomenal. The anxiety and the grief, the withdrawal into depression. The ability to get your heart racing with words is the true mark of this author. Let alone when writing about emotions and feelings inside a person's head.

Then the voice start, right?

This is a great book for Rachelle Dekker because it shows the readers that she can step out from her father's shadow. Her first trilogy felt like her dad had a hand in the story. That's okay, I guess, for someone's first outing but this book shouts out loud, "I can do this on my own!" And it's a great work.

The emotion is felt, the anxiety of not knowing what exactly is going to happen, the thrilling aspects toward the end make this a great book to read.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Tyndale House Publishing.