Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: Crater Trueblood, by Homer Hickam

Crater Trueblood is the third in Homer Hickam's Helium 3 series of novels, after "Crater" and "Crescent".  The main character in all 3 novels is Crater, who, in the course of the story, transforms from a young man who works as a Moon-based miner to an owner of a search-and-rescue business who ends up saving the world. And in this case, "the World" means what remains of humans, who no longer live on Earth but on the Moon.

A young female protagonist, Maria, is an antagonist for part of the story, but it's fairly obvious from the get-go that she and Crater are meant to be. Other characters include Crater's brother and business partner, and then there are litle creatures called gillies, kind of like pets but who have minds of their own.

My son read the first Crater book at the age of 10, and now, at the age of 12, has completed the new one. This series is among the very few works of fiction being offered by Christian publishers these days in which the target audience is young pre-teen or early-teen boys. If you have a son in that age range who likes adventure, the Helium 3 series is well-written.

--------------
The publisher, Thomas Nelson, offered me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Book Review: Billy Coffey's "The Devil Walks in Mattingly"

The Devil Walks in Mattingly, Billy Coffey's 4th book, extends his string of getting better with each new novel. Like his previous works--Snow Day, Paper Angels, When Mockingbirds Sing--The Devil Walks in Mattingly is set in the fictional town of Mattingly, Virginia. 

Although the setting is same as from novel to novel, the Mattingly books are not about the same recurring characters.  In this story, Jake Barnett is the town sheriff, in addition to being husband to Kate and father to Zach. Jake lives under the shadow of his harsh, disapproving father, Justus. Kate briefly befriends teenager Lucy Seekins, who in turn connects with a hermit named Taylor Hathcock.

As the title suggests, The Devil Walks in Mattingly is darker than Coffey's previous novels. Twenty years before the events in the novel, a teenager's death affects the lives of Jake and Kate, and in the present-time setting. they are still haunted by it. Then a murder occurs, disrupting the town's peaceful existence, and the investigation yields an uncovering of old secrets that two people had hoped would remain buried.

Although published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson and sold in Christian outlets, The Devil Walks in Mattingly does not preach an overtly Christian message. By the story's end, the reader experiences a demonstration of grace, forgiveness, humility and the freedom that comes with shedding of shackles we create when we choose to lie, to keep secrets, and to rationalize. That said, you don't come away from this story feeling you have been preached to or lectured. "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" is a genuinely inspirational and refreshing story. 

I give "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" a big thumbs-up. My favorite quote: "To the heirs of grace, grace is free. But what does grace cost the giver?"

This book is ideal for anyone interested in the following topics:

Grace/forgiveness
Our efforts to make things right when we screw up
The damage done by unhealthy relationships with our fathers
The healing that begins when secrets are exposed

-----------

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of "The Devil Walks in Mattingly" in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Book Review: Manfield's Book of Manly Men

When the men's movement in Christianity started in the mid-90's with Promisekeepers, it was badly needed for me as I approached my 30's and entered married life. A few years later, I was introduced to John Eldredge's "Wild at Heart" as I became a father.

It's my stance that movements like these are needed, not because men need to assert their place as top of any hierarchy, but because many of our nation's and culture's troubles are caused by the failure of men to be who God called us to be, and to act as God has called us to act. Moreover, as one who grew up without anyone to model manhood for me, I have personally benefited from these books and teachings.

Now, 20 years later, it's likely that many who appreciated the men's movement may have concluded that all has been said that needs to be said; I don't share this point of view. I love the message of Wild at Heart. It was life-changing. But it did leave me at a place where I realize my father wound, prayed about it, sought healing, and then talked about it.  But that's not the ultimate goal. If our families are to flourish, if we as Christians are to bring about God's kingdom in the lives of those around us, we men need to stop talking about our father wounds and apply what we now know. We need to be the husbands, fathers, workers, teachers, coaches, and ministers that we are called to be.

That, readers, is the goal of Stephen Mansfield's new book, "Mansfield's Book of Manly Men".  Don't be fooled by the humorous cover and title. This substance in this book is, well, substantial. It's meat for those who have been drinking milk. It challenges the reader. It contains great stories and examples, but ultimately, the point of the book is simply to explain what men are called to do, then calls men to do it. If Promisekeepers was the trumpet call, now is the time to move forward, and Mansfield is leading the charge.


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Book review -- Ragamuffin Gospel Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Brokenhearted

Although I probably have too many bibles in my house, I had read just enough of Brennan Manning's writing to pique my curiosity about this new bible. Manning, who died last year, is best known for "The Ragamuffin Gospel", which is but one of many Manning books from which quotes, paragraphs, and statements were pulled for this devotional bible. 

The selected writings are, in many cases, perfect for each passage they accompany. Manning had a rare gift, and this bible is a perfect introduction to those who have never read his work before. This devotional accomplishes its purpose of providing excellent commentary alongside scripture. 

The closest thing to a negative, and it's a small one, is that the Ragamuffin Bible only comes in one translation: the NIV. 

The Booksneeze book review program  provided a copy of this book to me in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Book review -- Messiah: Origin


Messiah: Origin, a graphic novel by Matt Dorff and Mark Arey and illustrated by Kai Carpenter, tells the story of Jesus through pictures, with minimal words. The words that are used are all Scripture, taken from all 4 Gospels. In this, the earthly life and ministry of Jesus is depicted in pictures and words in a way I've never seen before, and I like it.

This is not the first  graphic novel depicting bible stories, and this is not the first narrative to combine the Gospels into one story. But as far as I know, this is the first time those two techniques have been used to tell this story.  And it's a compelling read.

I must confess, I didn't go into this book with high expectations. And when I hear the phrase "graphic novel", my first thought is that it's a nice way of saying "comic book for adults".  But I was way off. Being able to read the words of the Bible, accompanied by the illustrations, added a dimension to the experience which brought more life into it.

Messiah: Origin is the second in a series. The first was called The Book of Revelation, and was written and illustrated by the same team.  I encourage adults and kids to check out the series.

Note: Thomas Nelson's Booksneeze program provided a review copy for me.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

My Problem With Ted Cruz and the Government Shutdown

I've been mostly avoiding politics in this blog, but will jump in: I'm not happy with the efforts of Republican congresshumans to refuse to pass a budget unless Obamacare is defunded.

Obamacare is an awful piece of legislation, and will do more harm to our nation than its proponents can fathom. But it is the law, and it was passed fair and square. Republicans are wrong to use the budget approval process to try to strike it down.  Democrats have tried similar tactics in the past. It's wrong no matter who does it.

Obamacare passed. It's the law. They got more votes than we did. Them's the rules. When we start saying "I don't care what the majority voted for, I'm going to hold my breath till I get my way", we are no better than 3rd-world countries.

If you don't like a law, vote it out. That's how democracy works. Don't try an end-around.