Reviews: June 2013

Susan Cain, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking

I loved this book.  It made me glad to be an introvert, it taught me things I never knew about the high correlation between introversion and other key psychological traits and it introduced me to research which I would otherwise have no idea about.  I summarise some of the key ideas here and I reiterate what I said then: you need to read this one.

I didn’t get this one on review but I actually paid real money for it.  The fact that I’m reviewing it whilst under no obligation to do so should tell you that I really liked it!

Jonathan Martin, Prototype

It’s always a bit frustrating when a friend gets this on review first and tells you how wonderful it is because then you start wondering whether you’ll see it come up on one of your review sites too or whether you’ll actually have to pay for it!  This one came up and I’m delighted to affirm his conclusions.  Jonathan Martin’s first book is a great one!

His basic thesis is that Jesus is the prototype of what it means to be fully human and that he lived this full humanity out of his self-knowledge as the beloved of the Father.  Nine chapters of theology and anecdotes from lived experience flesh this out, each taking a different aspect of living as a new human.  My favourites personally were his chapters on obscurity and community; the latter especially affirmed my own challenging experiences of seeking to build a community in Christ which embraces what it might mean to be fully human.
I loved this book for its content (on the whole – though I did have one moment of serious questioning whether he really meant to say theologically what he seemed to say!), its passion, its maturity of insight and, most of all, for its beauty of expression.  I want to write like this!  It’s a popular-level book but well-grounded in theological thought and will appeal to those who long to live the life which is fully human, as well as those who long to pastor others into that experience.

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.

Constance M. Cherry, The Special Service Worship Architect

This is a follow-up to Cherry’s other book about planning worship services.  I admit to not having read the first, mostly because no one has sent me a free copy to review!  But this one is definitely worth your time if you are a minister who has to plan the liturgy for weddings and funerals, baptisms and communion services.  Maybe it’s to do with being a leader in a free church and therefore having no prescribed liturgy but I have been longing for the right material for baptisms and communion for a long time.  Cherry’s contributions are perfect, partly because they offer concrete examples whilst also offering plenty of guidance for how to vary these examples creatively and well.  But the other significant thing about this book is the large quantity of text that she includes explaining the purpose of the relevant service, its history, theology and disputed aspects.  This is invaluable for ministers like me who have a large degree of freedom in how to design such services but not much wisdom or experience.  We will be buying a print copy for church once this comes out in the autumn!

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.

Karen Kingsbury, Fifteen Minutes

Sometimes I read fiction to relax my brain from all the other stuff I try to cram into it.  And these days it can be Christian fiction because it’s a lot easier to download it for free from NetGalley than trundle off to the local library.  Christian fiction is a genre all of its own.  Especially the Amish romances, of which there seem to be A LOT!  Be glad I don’t inflict reviews of those on you…  So, suffice to say that I would not buy any of this stuff: it’s mostly mass-market and not memorable but I’ll read it because it does at least grant me a couple of hours’ zone-out time!  Which probably makes me a terrible review outlet from  the publishers’ perspective!  But anyway, after that little preface, here goes with the review:

Zack Dylan, our hero, has a gift to sing.  He also stands to inherit the family farm – if it doesn’t go bankrupt first.  So when the auditions for the TV singing show, ‘Fifteen Minutes’, come round he wonders whether it’s worth signing up in the hope of building a singing career and making some money out of it.  Needless to say, there’s a girl at home.  The right girl, it would seem, to whom he has virtually promised his future.  And then, in the singing competition (he makes the final cut for the televised rounds, of course) there is another girl.  A girl who throws herself at him.  Having made a promise both to his girlfriend and to God that he will not let this experience change him, Zack is faced with the challenges of keeping that promise when fame comes to him overnight.  He is encouraged to walk away from who he was, his faithfulness to God and to his girlfriend.  This is the story of what happens to him, and what has happened to two of the celebrity judges in their pursuit of fame.

If you have a daughter in her early teens, she might like this one.  Its message about faith and purity, celebrity and compromise, and a God who forgives and restores is a powerful one; as ever, fiction can be more subtle in delivering its messages than other books of Christian advice for teens.

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.

Jerry B. Jenkins with James S. MacDonald, I, Saul

Two stories alternate in the telling of this thriller.  One is Luke’s story, the account of an old doctor who visits the apostle Paul in prison in Rome.  The other is that of a modern-day scholar, Augie, who is grappling with an ancient mystery.  Tying the two together is a manuscript which could prove to be of great significance if only Augie can find it and work out what it is.  But he needs to do that before anyone else can step in and spirit it out of the country and on to the black market for antiquities.  There’s a love interest and family issues and all the rest which goes into the telling of such a story but for me the real draw in this book was the dramatisation of a period of Paul’s life about which Scripture has little to say.  A good diversion from the usual reading in my view!

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.

Neal and Christopher Pylant, A Touch From Heaven

Yes, yet another heaven book!  I confess that I love to read this stuff because it reminds me of the reality that I cannot see.  This one, though, is focused more on the day-to-day faith choices of parents of a terminally ill child (Christopher), with less material on what that child may have seen in heaven and the commission which he received there from God.  From diverse religious backgrounds, this child’s parents came to faith while seeking healing for their son and came to understand that this was more than a physical battle for their child’s life: it was a spiritual one.  Neal Pylant’s account of what it meant for him and his wife to hold on to faith for healing in that time is powerful and reminded me of the significance of faith’s sheer doggedness, a refusal to give up on a miracle-working God.

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.

Michael Hurley, Prodigal

I’m never sure about independently-published books but this one was beautiful.  Stories 150 years apart weave together in this tale of loss and hope, love and friendship.  The escape of a Gypsy princess and her young lover from her father’s camp in 1851 on Prodigal, a boat of incredible speed, sets the scene for our first sight of Aidan Sharpe, a lawyer fallen on hard times and now struggling to redefine all that is important for him, who unexpectedly discovers the old ship, Prodigal.  This discovery takes him and those whose lives have become intertwined with his own into a race, one which has consequences that he could not foresee.  I think this book could make a great read this summer if you want something with a bit more to it than the usual beach reading.

NetGalley provided me with a free galley copy of this book in electronic format in return for a fair review.


One thought on “Reviews: June 2013

  1. Pingback: BA Books & Authors on the Web – July 12, 2013

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