Archives For Book Reviews

Daughter of Jerusalem

She was the first person to see her resurrected Savior, a sinner whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons, and one of the women who followed and supported Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but who was Mary Magdalene? What was her story? In her latest novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, New York Times bestselling author Joan Wolf puts a story to the person of Mary Magdalene. This first-person tale begins when, at a young age, Mary is sent from her family to live with her aunt and ends after Pentecost.

This is the first Joan Wolf book that I read and I am so glad I did. The novel is easy to read and utterly engrossing – I didn’t want to put it down. I cried at times while reading of Mary’s hardships and rejoiced in her triumphs. I will definitely be reading more of Joan Wolf’s writings. I’ll also be learning more about the Biblical account of Mary Magdalene. The book has me intrigued and I want to learn more about this important woman.

I love historical fiction because it weaves well-known historical characters and occurrences into the story. It’s fun to see how the author gives life to the Biblical account by putting names and relationships to people who we know little about from the Bible, such as Fulvius Petrus, an acquaintance of Mary’s that turns out to be the centurion that had the faith to ask Christ to heal his servant from a distance. However, it is important to remember that Daughter of Jerusalem is a work of fiction. The Bible gives us no reason to suppose that Mary participated in many of the events that the author places her at, nor does it give us many details about her life. It also doesn’t explain her political leanings. I found it startling that the author blends Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) into a single person. I had always thought that these were two different people, but after reading the book I spent some time researching and discovered that there are some who believe that they may be the same person (though many scholars do not). The author provides a believable explanation of how Mary of Magdala could also be Mary of Bethany and the truth is that we really don’t know.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any Christian. It is a wonderful story, makes some great points, and will cause you to open your Bible and learn more.

Want to read it? Worthy Publishing invited me to review Daughter of Jerusalem as part of their blog tour for the book and has given me a copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter below. Good luck!

Discovering the City of Sodom

When I first read the subtitle for Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City, I seriously doubted that any book about Biblical archeology could possibly deliver such a promise. I am not disappointed to report that my doubt was unfounded. Authors Dr. Steven Collins and Dr. Latayne C. Scott deliver a stirring tale of the discovery of this infamous city that is easily understandable by a noob like me, but that I believe is also detailed enough to keep a more knowledgable reader interested.

The book includes enthralling narratives of the expedition to find Sodom, extensive Biblical context, and fascinating explanations about topics such as Biblical dating, including competing theories, to give context for understanding the issues involved in finding and verifying the true location of Sodom. I listened to the audiobook and many times discovered that my trip was over but I didn’t want to stop listening.

Speaking of the audiobook, narrator Sean Runnette provided an exceptional narration that made the already fascinating book truly engaging.

I recommend this audiobook for any Christian who is interested in learning more about Biblical archeology and how a team of archeologists is challenging the firmly held beliefs of academics around the world.

Is it possible to become a man by reading one book? No, but if it was, The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood by William Bennett would be that book. In the book, Mr. Bennett has compiled profiles, stories, letters, poems, and myths into a volume intended to show the reader what it means to be a man.

The book is divided into six sections: Man In War; Man At Work; Man In Play, Sports, And Leisure; Man In The Polis; Man With Woman And Children; and Man In Prayer And Reflection. The author says that men are called to be heroes and he uses a series of stories, vignettes, essays, and profiles in each section to provide heroic role models.

This huge volume (the hardcover edition contains 576 pages) is a vital addition to any man or boy’s library. Before placing it on the shelf, though, read it cover-to-cover. Don’t let the size discourage you – it is well worth the time you’ll spend reading it. There is something to be gleaned from every page.

By the way, this would be an excellent Father’s Day gift for any man – young or old!

By the time you’re finished with this book…you’ll not only recognize love for all that it is, but break through the fog of your relationships into the light of an amazing new day for you and for those you love the most.

Thus ends the introduction to Dr. Tim Clinton and Pat Springle’s new book, Break Through: When to Give In, How to Push Back. A lofty promise indeed, but one upon which Clinton and Springle deliver.

In the book, the authors give insight into unhealthy relationships, such as codependency and abusive relationships. Why does a wife make excuses for an alcoholic husband? Why does a father continue to bail out a deadbeat daughter? The answer may surprise you.

Using biblical insight and real-life examples, Clinton and Springle offer clear explanations for the real causes of unhealthy relationships and a clear path to forming healthy relationships. Each of the easily digestible chapters ends with a series of questions designed to make us think about our own relationships. The book also includes a guide for groups and classes who are looking to make the most of the book’s teaching.

To say that I found this book enlightening would be an understatement. It has caused me to think about my own relationships – both healthy and unhealthy – and to start to address the areas of concern. I found the writing to be very easy to read, the print perfect for my lately very tired eyes, and on top of that I love the feel of the book jacket – very soft and nice to hold.

Whether you recognize unhealthy relationships in your life or not, I highly recommend this book. You and your relationships will be changed for the better by reading it.

The book is available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other fine print and electronic book retailers.

In Mel Starr’s fourth tale of Hugh de Singleton, medieval surgeon, Unhallowed Ground, we find our protagonist investigating the murder of one Thomas atte Bridge after this unlikable fellow is found hanging from a tree. While Master Hugh would like to believe the popular opinion that the victim took his own life, his finding of evidence to the contrary requires him to investigate his friends and neighbors to determine who took the life of their common enemy.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The story, which is written in the first person, pulled me in and helped me to understand the culture through the eyes of one of its inhabitants. A thorough glossary is included in the front of the book for assistance in understanding some of the more archaic terms that are used throughout the book. That is to say, the book is not only enjoyable but also educational. The story is also aided by a map in the front of the book that shows where locations in the book are in relation to each other.

One of the things that I enjoyed about the book was seeing the author’s own modern-day thoughts expressed through the Master Hugh. Numerous times in the book the narrator explains a religious or other practice or belief and then offers his disagreement with the practice or belief. It is fascinating to see some aspects of the culture of 1366 and these comments helped to remind me that it is unrealistic to believe that the entire population agreed with all of what we would now consider primitive ideas.

Among other things, the book shows that Christ can change our hearts and that we must not assume that this fact applies only to ourselves. Master Hugh learns this lesson when he takes a long journey to find the man he is certain committed the murder only to find someone else entirely.

I was afraid that a book about a medieval surgeon would include descriptions of medical practices that I would rather not know about (or be reminded of), but this was not the case. While it did describe some medical procedures, I found the descriptions non-nightmare-inducing.

This is an excellent book and I encourage you to read it if you like mysteries and/or historical fiction.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has to be one of his most loved works and also one of the most widely known Christmas stories. Published in 1843, the novella tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miser who is visited one Christmas Eve by four “spirits” whose mission is to save him from himself.

In Mission Audio’s audiobook edition of the story, narrator Simon Vance gives a phenomenal reading of the classic tale, complete with exceptional voices. The narration grabbed my attention right off and kept it through the very end. I gained new insight into the story because of the beautiful narration and was reminded of the importance of its message.

Whether you’ve read the story before or not, I highly recommend this audiobook. You’ll be inspired and uplifted.

PS This story and From Pearl Harbor to Calvary, which I reviewed previously, are available as free downloads from christianaudio through December 31, 2011. Learn more here.

PPS After posting this review, I came across a review by Josh Morgan of Jacob’s Cafe. I encourage you to read his review, which relates the story to the Gospel.

In Enemies of the Heart: Breaking Free from the Four Emotions That Control You, pastor Andy Stanley calls readers to break free from the destructive power of guilt, anger, greed, and jealousy. These four forces, says Stanley, have the power to destroy your home, career, and friendships if left unchallenged. They take over your life, destroy your relationships, and leave you and those around you hurting. In this book, Stanley provides practical advice, straight from the Bible, to help you take back control and restore your relationships.

Enemies of the Heart is exactly what I needed. It is both convicting and refreshing. The author uses a thoroughly enjoyable writing style with fun anecdotes to unwrap, dissect, and bring light to the sources of our problems. The book is nothing if not direct – no skirting around the issues here – and yet unlike with many similar books I never felt as if the author were being self-righteous or accusatory. After describing the problems and helping us to see the problems in our own lives, Stanley provides powerful insight into how to free ourselves from the bondage found in these four emotions.

Please do yourself and those around you a favor and buy this book, but don’t stop there. Devour it. Live it. Use it to change your life.

In Work Matters: Connecting Sunday Worship to Monday Work, pastor Tom Nelson offers a new perspective on work, providing a look at God’s purposes for work in a way that is both practical and theologically based. He helps readers to make the most of their God-given vocations and to treat their work as God intended, as acts of worship.

I really enjoyed this book and was truly blessed by it. Nelson gives a look at this important topic that is both refreshing and convicting. He is not afraid to debunk common myths nor to reveal his own shortcomings and he uses biblical accounts as well as modern-day stories to deliver his message. He covers topics such as why work is more important than we commonly believe and how to make the most of our “mundane” work and many, many more.

If you would like a fresh perspective on a healthy work ethic and theology of work for Christians, I highly recommend this book.

Review: Lit! by Tony Reinke

By Nate LaClaire —  November 8, 2011 — 2 Comments

In Lit!: A Christian Guide to Reading Books, former journalist Tony Reinke offers a theology for reading as well as practical suggestions for reading. Using scripture and a great deal of additional research, Reinke provides Christians with a deep, multifaceted look at the topic of reading.

Pastor C. J. Mahaney’s foreword does a thorough job at setting up the book by describing the important part that reading has played in his life and Christian walk. Reinke then begins the book by explaining what the title of the book (Lit!) represents: while short for “literature,” it also reminds us that “the glow of God’s creative power is all around us” (pg. 16) and, most importantly, emphasizes the fact that Christian readers are illuminated by the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:4). Therefore, says Reinke, we see God’s truth in all literature. The author then dives into the topic, covering everything from the biblical foundation for reading, to the benefits of reading non-Christian books, to Reinke’s own formula for determining what he reads, to finding time to read. He ends the book with a look at the five marks of a healthy reader.

If you’ve read my blog before, you probably have already determined that this book covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I love to read, although I go through periods where I fail to set aside proper time to do so. I found the theological portion of the book enlightening. Reinke makes many excellent points for why to read a wide variety of literature and how our faith relates to our reading. I also found the practical portion of the book incredibly helpful. His tips on reading fiction, reading non-fiction, choosing books, setting aside time to read, taking notes, and many other topics are very useful.

I urge you to read this book whether you enjoy reading or not. If you don’t enjoy reading, perhaps it will help you to find enjoyment in the practice and to grow in your faith as a result of it. If you already enjoy reading, I think you’ll walk away from the experience ready to grow your love of reading and with a new appreciation for the importance of it. I know I did.

In Honestly: Really Living What We Say We Believe, Johnnie Moore, vice president and campus pastor of Liberty University, challenges readers to live an authentic Christian life. He argues that one of the chief problems with Christians, particularly those in the US and other developed countries, is that we have become hypocrites, whether intentionally or otherwise. We need to start living what we say we believe.

I found this book to be inspiring. Through a variety of stories and musings, Moore unpacks what authenticity looks like and what we need to do to have an impact on our world. One of my favorite things about this book is the author’s own authenticity. Moore goes to great lengths to be honest with readers about his own shortcomings and struggles. That combined with his conversational writing style yields a book that is big on conviction and inspiration without feeling preachy.

This book seems targeted at millennials, the author’s own generation, but is well-suited for people of all ages. I feel transformed and convicted after reading this book and I urge you to read it as well.