Posts Tagged ‘3 stars’

Book Review: “Radical” by David Platt

January 5th, 2011

If the chapter titles of David Platt’s Radical were written to describe the contents of said chapters, they might read as follows:
Chapter 1: A challenge to comfortable Christianity
Chapter 2: A radical gospel which requires a radical response
Chapter 3: The American way of self-reliance vs. God’s way of Christ dependence
Chapter 4: God’s purposes in the world aren’t just for YOU, they’re for the WHOLE WORLD
Chapter 5: God’s goal is reproducing disciples, not isolating followers
Chapter 6: Following Christ means selling all we have and giving to the poor
Chapter 7: If we don’t share the gospel with the world, the world is damned.
Chapter 8: As radical followers of Christ, we have a guarantee of risk and a guarantee of reward
Chapter 9: A challenge for believers to become radicals by 1) praying for the entire world, 2) reading through the entire Word, 3) sacrificing money for a specific purpose, 4) spending at least one week in another context, and 5) committing their lives to a multiplying community

All in all, it’s a decent book. It is effective at promoting its main point, that is, to issue a wake up call to comfortable American Christians. It’s highly readable, with lots of stories to make the page-turning even easier.

On the down side, Radical has the potential of de-emphasizing the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Platt’s emphasis on the radical response of a true believer through actions such as selling possessions and giving to the poor, taking the gospel to the whole world, and taking risks for the sake of Christ may cause some readers to miss that this is only the RESPONSE to the FREE gift of God in Christ Jesus. One is not saved BECAUSE one sells all of his possessions—he sells all his possessions BECAUSE he has been saved freely.

Furthermore, Platt’s emphasis on “exciting” radicality through social justice activism may cause believers to undervalue and therefore ignore the less-exciting but no less radical actions that Christ calls His followers to. Christ has not only called his followers to give to the poor. He has also called them to live lives of radical forgiveness, of radical dependence, of radical trust. These things are just as radical as the showy actions of social justice—perhaps even more radical because they’re silent, they’re unlikely to result in the world’s (or the church’s) acclaim. They’re what Kevin DeYoung might call “faithful plodding.”

Overall, Platt’s Radical is a good book, but believers should be careful to not consider it the be-all, end-all of the radical Christian life. Read this book. Let it issue a challenge to your comfortable Christianity. But then turn your eyes towards the word of God and see what radical acts God might be calling you to through the pages of Scripture.

Rating: 3 stars
Category:Christian Living
Synopsis:Platt issues a challenge to comfortable Christianity–and the illusion that the Christian life equals the American dream.
Recommendation: Worth reading, but ultimately, take your view of what “radical” Christianity looks like from the pages of Scripture rather than simply taking Platt’s angle on it.

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Book Review: “Amorelle” by Grace Livingston Hill

October 21st, 2010

It’s funny how perspective changes preferences.

I remember reading Grace Livingstone Hill when I was a pre-teen and loving the homemaking ingenuity of her characters. I enjoyed the old-fashioned romance of her once-contemporary novels.

By my late teens, I had definitely developed a bias against Hill. I considered her a writer of pablum, meaningless, bland, run-of-the-mill Christian fiction.

And now I’m reading her again–partly because I’ve read a few bloggers who spoke of their admiration for Hill and partly because she’s at my library and is an easy read.

I hadn’t read Amorelle during my earlier years–so I can’t compare my thoughts on this specific title from then to now–but I can make some observations.

Amorelle goes to stay with her worldly aunt, uncle, and cousin after her pastor father dies, leaving her homeless. Her aunt and cousin quickly consign her to the status of household help. She excels in this role, creating delicious little snacks and doing pretty handwork. Yep, just what I remember from my earlier days–homemaking ingenuity.

Amorelle’s old-fashioned Christianity (with its certain social taboos) contrasts sharply with her cousin’s brash worldliness. Louise is loud and scheming. She calls her mother by her first name and pettishly insists on her own way. Amorelle, on the other hand, is sweet, acquiescent, and courteous.

So is Amorelle meaningless, bland, run-of-the-mill Christian fiction, as I would have said in my late teens?

That’s what I’m not so sure about any more. Certainly, Amorelle is not top-tier fiction. It’s not likely to win any literary awards. But there is a depth to this novel and an almost natural quality with which faith is woven into the storyline.

Amorelle is swept off her feet by a young member of Louise’s set, a handsome business-like fellow who is nevertheless quite taken with Amorelle. Almost without realizing it, Amorelle finds herself engaged to George. But the moment their engagement is announced she starts to wonder whether this decision was wise.

Is George really the right man for her? Do they have that unity of heart and soul that Amorelle’s parents seemed to have? Is Amorelle in love with George? Or is she really just in love with being in love? Amorelle must learn to lean on the Lord’s wisdom to guide her through these difficult questions.

Like I said, Hill isn’t likely to win any literary awards for her writing–but I did find Amorelle to be a nice, comfortable read. It isn’t meaty enough for a main course, but neither is it the meaningless fluff of a dessert. It’s a salad book, a nice, nutritious break from meat and potatoes reading.

Rating: 3 stars
Category: Christian Romance
Synopsis: After the death of her pastor father, Amorelle moves in with her relatives–and shortly finds herself engaged to a dashing young businessman. But is George really the right man for her?
Recommendation: This isn’t spectacular reading, but it’s a nice, medium-weight novel for relaxing on a lazy day.

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Book Review: “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable” by John Boyne

May 17th, 2010

View my disclosure statement for more information on how I choose books to review.

Author John Boyne describes his work in an author’s note:

“Throughout the writing and rewriting of the novel, I believed that the only respectful way for me to deal with this subject was through the eyes of a child, and particularly through the eyes of a rather naive child who couldn’t possibly understand the terrible things that were taking place around him.”

Naive is right. Nine year old Bruno is completely lost in 1940s Germany. Despite his father being a commandant in the Nazi army, he has no idea what is going on around him. He doesn’t seem to know that the country is at war. He doesn’t understand who Hitler is–and calls him the “Fury” (as if a German child wouldn’t be able to pronounce “Fuhrer”.) When his family is moved to Auschwitz, where his father is to command the concentration camp, he mispronounces this name too, calling it “Out With”. He sees the people walking about inside the camp wearing their identical garb and thinks that they’re wearing striped pajamas.

I had a hard time getting through Bruno’s stupidness to truly appreciate this book. The story of the boy, discontented about his move from the city to this barren countryside until he meets and befriends another boy through the tall fence that surrounds Auschwitz, is touching. The writing style, while written at a very low reading level, is engaging. The narrator describes young Bruno’s thoughts in a unique voice:

“Then the door of the office closed and Bruno couldn’t hear any more so he thought it would be a good idea if he went back to his room and took over the packing from Maria, because otherwise she might pull all his belongings out of the wardrobe without any care or consideration, even the things he’d hidden at the back that belonged to him and were nobody else’s business.”

Indeed, if it weren’t for Bruno’s complete lack of sense, I might have really enjoyed this book.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is billed as juvenile fiction, but is really only appropriate for those who already have a basic understanding of Holocaust history. Bruno is completely in the dark about what is going on, and the narrator never explains it to him or to the reader. The assumption is that the reader will recognize “Fury” as the “Fuhrer” and identify that character as Adolf Hitler. The reader must recognize “Out With” as “Auschwitz” and understand that Auschwitz is a concentration camp. He must recognize, even if Bruno does not, the meaning of the cry “Heil Hitler” and the swastikas on the soldier’s armbands and the stars of David on the Jews’ armbands. From beginning to end, this book will cast a child who is not familiar with Auschwitz in advance into deep confusion.

As such, despite its incredibly simple reading level, this book is really more suitable for a teen or adult than for a child.

b>Rating:3 Stars
Category: Juvenile Fiction
Synopsis: Nine-year-old Bruno’s family moves from Berlin to Auschwitz, where Bruno’s father commands the concentration camp. Bruno is lonely for his friends and his old home until he secretly makes friends with a boy across the fence.
Recommendation: Lots of people read this and liked it. I read it and didn’t hate it. It’s a pretty quick read–so you might as well pick it up–but I’m not giving it rave reviews like so many others have.

Book Review: “Lost in Rooville” by Ray Blackston

May 7th, 2010

What do you get when you cross two couples, a trip to the Australian outback, and a quest for the perfect place to propose?

A perfectly hilarious novel.

Ray Blackston’s Lost in Rooville had me laughing from start to finish. Main character Jay Jarvis and his girlfriend Allie venture out into the outback alone–ostensibly racing their best friends for most animal sightings, but really looking for a great spot for Jay to make a sunset proposal. They eventually do find some animals–but get hopelessly lost while doing so.

What follows is a wickedly amusing account of Jay’s actions and thoughts as he and his new fiancee sit by their broken-down Land Rover waiting for rescue–if rescue is forthcoming.

Blackston is one of those authors that I picked up willy-nilly from the library shelves one day–and discovered that I really enjoyed. Most Christian “romance” fiction is written by women–and while that’s just fine, it does mean that a lot of Christian “romance” fiction is, well, pretty feminine. Blackston’s romances are definitely not feminine. This isn’t a feel-good, gushy story–it’s a feel-good, almost-wet-your-pants-laughing story. And that’s nice for a change.

Something in the last few chapters tipped me off to the idea that this wasn’t the first Blackston had written of these characters. I investigated a bit–and it turns out that this was a sequel to Blackston’s first novel Flabbergasted. Obviously, since I made it all the way through the book before realizing that this was a sequel–it works fine as a stand alone novel.

This was a fun book, a great turn-off-your-brain read–and I recommend Blackston for anytime you need a nice light laugh.

Rating: 3 stars
Category: Fiction
Synopsis: In the quest for a perfect place to pop the question, Jay finds himself and his girlfriend stranded in the middle of the Australian outback, with nothing to do but wait for rescue.
Recommendation: Amusing but not necessarily profound, the storyline is engaging but not spectacular. Nevertheless, this is a great read for anyone who likes a laugh.

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