Thursday, August 31, 2017

The Unreformed Martin Luther

Nearly 500 after Martin Luther (supposedly) nailed his 95 Thesis to a church door, his historical significance is undeniable. But just who was he? Over time, the truth has been clouded by myths and legends. Did his wife escape a convent in a herring barrel? Did he intend to create a new denomination?
In The Unreformed Martin Luther, author and theologian Andreas Malessa examines 25 of the most common "facts" about Luther, considering the historical context, Luther's own words, and more. At the same time, he reviews the basic history of Luther's life and provides a background for those who may not be familiar with early Protestant history.
This 160-page book is written in a conversational, easy-to-read tone.  Middle schoolers and older should be able to read this without too much difficulty, but interest will vary. It's a good introduction to church history for a variety of ages, but parents of younger children might what to skip over some of the chapters.  The author also does a good job of showing how Luther's influence impacts the church and society today.
I would give this book three stars out of five. I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Questioning Evangelism

Witnessing is hard.  Even if you get up the guts to start the conversation and it seems to be going well, sooner or later, there'll be a question you just can't answer.
But maybe that isn't such a bad thing. Questioning Evangelism by Randy Newman, offers a different method for sharing the gospel. While there are many good Christian apologetic books, that's only one part of the puzzle. Sure, you can argue that the world is so complex it has to be created, or that the historical evidence supports the Bible's accuracy--both of which are true--but basic concepts such as absolute truth are taken for granted.
Instead, this book suggests starting with questions.
Answering a question with a question, then, often has significant advantages over using direct answers. It brings to the surface the questioner's assumptions. It also takes the pressure off you-the one being asked- and puts the pressure on the one who is doing the asking.
As well as asking questions, the book also encourages believers to listen during conversations.  Trying to badger someone into accepting the gospel with an overload of evidence can easily backfire. The book also includes several examples of how conversations could go when faced with common objections.  

I really appreciated this book because it seems like a more natural way of witnessing, and one where you don't have to have all the answers
I was given a copy of this book by Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, April 24, 2017


Befriend by Scott Sauls is a 200-page nonfiction book exploring different aspects of friendship in the modern world. Each chapter focuses on befriending various groups, such as "wrecked and restless," "the ones you can't control" and  "bullies and perpetrators." The chapters each conclude with a summary, Scripture references, and questions to ponder.
While I admire the author's purpose, I found myself disappointed in the practice. While the book defends the institution of friendship and supports connections across a wide spectrum of people, it serves as more of an overview and defense than a guide.  For example, chapter 11, "Befriend the Children" is only five pages long. It has an introduction, a section headed 'shifting our priorities,' a section headed 'showing ourselves, showing the Father,' and the summary. Other chapters are likewise brief. That does help reluctant readers by condensing the information, but it doesn't address deeper issues. I was hoping for more information about building and repairing friendships, not just 'oh, you should have some.'
I received a free copy of this book from Tyndale House in exchange for an honest review.

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to Dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir

The time Mom met Hitler, Frost came to dinner, and I heard the greatest story ever told: a memoir by Dikkon Eberhart, is a 300-page memoir telling the story of Dikkon Eberhart. His father, Richard Eberhart, was a Pultizer Prize-winning poet, who also was the United States Poet Laureate from 1959-1961. Growing up, Dikkon frequently met literary and society icons around the dinner table. But being surrounded by these icons left him uncertain how to lead his own life.

I requested this book from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review, but I really wasn't quite sure what I was requesting at the time: short stories? Historical fiction? Memoir isn't a genre I read much anyway, so I had no preconceived notions when I read it.

The author has a clean, professional style and keeps the pace moving well, with plenty of interesting incidents and a good sense of what details to include in a story and which ones to leave out.  As an English major, I recognized most of the people mentioned in the story, but none of them really jumped out at me.

If you like memoir or the late 20th century, this is a good book, but I have no plans to reread.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Call the Midwife and plots

There are  (at least) two ways to consider any story: on the emotional level or on the structural level. At any given time, I'm probably analyzing both.  And with last night's episode of Call the Midwife, I set out to determine just how many heartbreaking storylines they can fit in 1 hour. Starting with the overall season arc, it goes as follow (spoilers):
The primary arc of Sister Ursula taking over Nonnatus was brought to a conclusion after the near-fatal accident that befell Lucy and Lin. I am always impressed by how the show develops one-episode characters, including backstory and the ongoing effects of said backstory. The backstory for Lucy's mother-in-law was well-done and realistically portrayed. Likewise, Sister Ursula's history explained her actions, but didn't excuse that. Also, I loved Nurse Crane's interaction with Sister Ursula, explaining Barbara's actions and the results....just, Nurse Crane seems to have taken over Sister Evangeline's role as resident hardliner.
The Turner's storyline about the mother and baby home was also well done, historical but relevant for many people. The ever-present trend of cutting local services can be seen in rural Midwest clinics as well as 1960s London.
Then you get the smaller, individual storylines: Trixie's return, Sister Monica Joan and the television, and Sheila's pregnancy. The later will continue into the next episode, from what I've seen online, but it's nice to have some lighter moments too.  The moment when the man carries out the bench and pulls back the blinds for Sister Monica Joan....hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Hero is a Four Letter Word by J.M. Frey

 This collection of three short stories is entertaining and funny. One tells of the return of King Arthur, one focuses on a washed-out supervillain confronting his past, and the other... well, I don't want to spoil the twist, so I'll just say it's not all it appears to be.
Sometimes, it's easy to become over-focused on thrilling sagas and tense epics and forget that fantasy can be fun. These stories are quick, light-hearted reads for those times you just need something different.
I received a free ebook from Story Cartel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

We're Not Invincible: AOS 4.15

I know I'm not real. I'm all phantom limbs. But that doesn't make the pain less real. You don't have to feel pain. You say you don't anymore. But that pain, that regret... that's what made you a person ... a person I love.
--LMD May

Of all the weeks to miss an episode, it would have been last week.  I mean, I picked up online that some of the agents had been replaced with LMDS, but I had no clue which ones or how many or.... agh!
And the emotional heartache--AGH! Those terrifying, tense moments when Fitzsimmons suspect each other of being LMDs, so Fitz cuts himself (side note, good job both of you at the blood test, but surely there's somewhere less dangerous than wrists that could also expose circuitry). And for a moment, you think it's going to be okay, but then---eeep. I'm very glad I hadn't seen the trailers,  or I would have gone crazy.  My poor Jemma, having to take out that LMD....
And then Skye and the bouquet room (yes, because a bunch of daisies is a bouquet, and I'm still calling her Skye), just EEP room full of crazy. Then she has to fight everybody and... convincing Simmons that she's herself with Quake powers...they needed that hug, and they're going to need a lot more of them.
Just, the whole concept of the base being infiltrated like that, of being hunted down and killed by people you thought you could trust with your lives....Aida may have copied their mannerisms and memories, but she got the whole idea so wrong. The way she saves everyone just eliminates their lives, their choices, their freedom.
And LMD May standing up to LMD Coulson and making her own choice. That is so meta-inducing on its own, the difference between a fraud and a self-aware LMD, when it turns out that she can make her own choices.
Then into the Framework.
But not until April.
oops wrong director.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Oswiu: King of Kings

Oswiu: King of Kings is the conclusion of the Nothumbrian Thrones novels by Edoardo Albert. Oswiu's brother Oswald was recently killed by Penda, king of Mercia, But rumors have spread that the site of Oswald's death has miraculous qualities, healing the sick and injured. His mother Acha urges Oswiu to recover his brother's body, but the new king has few men and little support; wouldn't it be a death mission?
Since this book concludes a trilogy, it is best read after the previous two books, Edwin: High King of Britain , and the sequel  Oswald: Return of the King. Together, the three books provide an intriguing look at British history in the early- and mid-600s, as well as the interaction of paganism and Christianity. The unfamiliar names of tribes and individuals may make this confusing for some people, but the author has thoughtfully provided a list of main characters in the front of the book.
I enjoyed this book and recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction of the Middle Ages, as well as epic fantasy fans.  The author is careful to distinguish between fact and fictional invention in his afterward, as well as citing some of his historical sources.
I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for an unbiased review.