Reviews: August 2013

Margaret Feinberg, The Organic God

This is a new printing of a previously published book.  In the author’s words, it is ‘designed to take you on a journey and to illuminate the beauty of God in your life’.  Parts of Feinberg’s writing are quite arresting and beautifully-conceived, especially the way that she puts her thoughts together and the depth with which she writes.  However, my biggest quibble with this book is that the chapters are largely stand-alone and therefore there is a lack of flow to the whole book.  This left me without a sense of a ‘whole’ and has meant that a month or two later the contents are, disappointingly, largely unmemorable.  In sum, then, beautifully written and some helpful thinking shared through personal stories and Scriptural insights.  However, for me, this book was somewhat unsatisfying.

I received a free e-copy of this book from BookSneeze in return for a fair review.

Stasi Eldredge, Becoming Myself

For those women who are looking to read a book about ’embracing God’s dream’ concerning them, this book considers various topics including the impact of their mothers on women, on fear, the company of other women and becoming who God has made us today.  I am afraid, however, that this is not really my kind of book.  I ordered it because unlike so many others in this genre I did not hate Eldredge’s book (Captivating); unfortunately, though, I got bored by this one and didn’t eventually finish it.  However, I must stress that this is more down to me than the quality of the book – I have widely in this genre as well as a lot of popular Christian literature more broadly and, these days, I tend not to finish the books which don’t engage me at some level.  I do think that if you are looking for some material to read together with other Christian women this might be the kind of book which throws up some good conversations so it is worth considering, albeit not to my taste.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Caroline Leaf, Switch On Your Brain

This is a popular-level retelling of Leaf’s thinking and practice in neuroscience and related psychology.  Set in the context of her Christian faith and her understanding of what Scripture has to say about the mind, her material is fascinating.  However, it was clearly simplified for a market with no neuroscientific background.  Whilst I am very grateful for this on one level(!), it did also mean that I found the book disappointing.  The scientific explanations proffered did not seem to hold together as well as one might hope and at times I was left very confused because there seems to be logical links missing in these explanations.  The second part of the book contained practical exercises to ‘switch on your brain’.  These exercises, which seem to relate broadly to the concept of cognitive behavioural therapy, were interesting but again inadequately explained and thus not of great use.  I wish that I could be more positive about this book as I really wanted to read something helpful about neuroscience and psychology and how it interacts with a Scriptural understanding of the mind and being – but this was not that book!

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Cindy McGill with David Sluka, What Your Dreams Are Telling You

I always think that I should be more interested in dream interpretation than I am.  After all, God speaks through dreams, right?  And so I do want to understand them (those that I remember anyway!) but I’ve not found any particularly good teaching on this subject.  How do you discern which dreams are from God and which are the product of the brain processing information from the preceding day?  And how do you work out what dream symbols actually mean anyway?

Accordingly, I had hoped that this book would be helpful in extending my thinking on the topic.  In the end so, I have to confess to having been disappointed.  The writers clearly feel passionately about this topic but I did not feel that they particularly explained how I could interpret dreams.  The material was quite generic and I also felt that it may have been intended to be read by anyone, not just Christians.  I do believe that, as Christians, we must have a very specific approach to those dreams which may be from God: at the very least, they do not just come from some unnamed God or, more generically, an impersonal ‘Universe’.  Instead they are part of the revelation which, when it is given to us, comes by the Spirit of Jesus.  That was not brought out as much as I would have hoped in this book (although it is clear that McGill claims a converting relationship with Jesus).

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

A L Shields, The Church Builder

This fiction book looked interesting and I wanted some light relief this summer!  The story was a very engaging one about a battle between light and darkness, set in contemporary society.  A thriller, it is largely well-conceived – save for the ending.  I have to admit that I was deeply disappointed by this ending: it just did not seem to be fully finished!  Whilst I’d like to be more positive about this story, bad endings really do tend to overshadow the rest of the material for me and, unfortunately, this made me wonder why I had spent so much time reading the book.  This is a shame because the rest of the writing was quite engaging.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Roger Huang, Chasing God

Huang tells the story of his work for Jesus in San Francisco.  Writing with openness and humility, Huang gives us the impression of a man who was almost pushed into this work amongst the poor in the Tenderloin district of the city.  Yet as he chose to embrace this responsibility, alongside his family, God began to do many incredible things.  Huang is clear about the central role of prayer and fasting in seeing all that he and his family have achieved come to fruition.  If you are looking for the kind of book which will inspire your faith and remind you of the kind of things that God is already doing in the Western world, then you will enjoy this book.

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

Rachel Phifer, The Language of Sparrows

This is another fiction book.  I have to confess – as I have confessed before – that I do not have great expectations from Christian fiction!  However I loved this book.  It tells the story of a brilliant 15 year old girl, Sierra, who speaks multiple languages yet cannot seem to communicate what is important to her.  Against the background of her mother’s fear, we see the heroine meeting Luca, an old man deeply affected by his time in a Romanian Gulag far in his past.  Despite all of the obvious concerns about a young girl spending so much time with an older man, her mother comes to realise that Luca is Sierra’s hope for the future, as two families are brought together in friendship and to forge new hope.  The multiple layers of plot were well-conceived and the writing smooth.  The Christian aspect of hope was woven effectively into the writing, without coming across as an attempt to be moralistic.  You could, I think, be of no faith and enjoy this book without feeling lectured!

I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley in return for a fair review.

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