I found a used copy of Stranger in a Strange Land at my job, and I was intrigued by the marketing tagline on the cover: “The most famous science fiction novel ever written.” While I’d certainly quibble with the designation, the line worked. I picked the book up and gave it a read.
Billy and Allie connect with young King Huko and his friend, Anui. As the four young people come together in a quest to find the medallion, they learn that it has fallen into the hands of the evil Cobra, a malevolent king bent on controlling the islands and all their residents.
There are several uniquely intriguing elements to this book, each of which is designed to capture the hearts and minds of young readers.
Through this book’s pages, Carolyn walks the reader through her own life, as she goes through childbirth, health scares, and career changes. Through it all, Holy is the Day presents a picture of life as a beautiful struggle, in which the Holy Spirit continually nudges us to remember that every day, every minute, and every second are beautiful and, even, holy.
This is a clever and enjoyable story set in a brilliantly unique and creative world. I enjoyed getting to know so many unique creatures and species, as well as hearing the very thorough history of the world Emma Right created.
I would summarize Is College Worth It? by saying that it documents the troubling rise in tuition costs, the decreasing Return on Investment of a college education, the growing American mentality that believes everyone needs to attend a four-year college, and finally, suggestions for fixing a system in danger of collapse.
In No Matter How Loud I Shout Edward Humes shares his observations, criticisms, and suggestions after spending a year observing Juvenile Court in Los...moreIn No Matter How Loud I Shout Edward Humes shares his observations, criticisms, and suggestions after spending a year observing Juvenile Court in Los Angeles. This book was very dark and depressing, cataloging the failures of our juvenile justice system in America, and listing every way in which we are failing our nation’s troubled youth.
That said, No Matter How Loud I Shout is very well-written, and it comes off like a series of stories rather than a simple piece of investigative journalism. This book’s style made it easy to read, even when the content made it a challenge.
Humes is particularly harsh about the criminal system for youth under the age of 18, as he sees how badly it fails to help them. He lists dozens of examples of young boys and girls who first act out and are ignored by the system, act out again and are ignored, and only when they commit a serious crime does the system finally take action. Humes frequently pleads for a system that would step in earlier to assist and rehabilitate young people, instead of our system that waits until they act very poorly, at which point it will punish them like adults. I was particularly moved by Humes’ interviews with the children in the system. He spent many hours with boys and girls in custody, and Humes brilliantly captures their stories through their own eyes.
“We’re the monsters they talk about on the news,” sixteen-year-old Chris, a gentle-mannered robber of pizza deliverymen, told me matter-of-factly. . . “We’re the ones you’re supposed to be afraid of.” (p. 16)
I picked this book up because of its connection to the work I do in my day job, but I think a wider audience can appreciate its contents. For anyone concerned about the state of our nation’s youth, or for those who want to understand our juvenile justice system, this is a great book. It is well-written and insightful.(less)
I have been on the fence for quite some time about reading The 4-Hour Workweek. I have heard both good and bad reviews about this first book by Tim Fe...moreI have been on the fence for quite some time about reading The 4-Hour Workweek. I have heard both good and bad reviews about this first book by Tim Ferris. Some people praise it as the key to a new lifestyle and previously unknown freedom. Others decry it as a shallow way to hack life, never becoming an expert at anything and simply finding shortcuts to getting things done.
This year I finally decided to make up my own mind and read The 4-Hour Workweek. I have decided that it is somewhere in between the two opinions.
Tim Ferris wants to teach readers to join what he calls the New Rich, a group of people who are more concerned with enjoying life now and less with waiting for retirement age. Ferris’s goal is that people could have the freedom to take mini-retirements every year or two, so he spends most of the book suggesting ways to outsource your responsibilities and work remotely.
Although they were not Ferris’s main focus, I benefited most from the chapters on working efficiently and intelligently. Ferris introduced Pareto’s Law, commonly known as the 80/20 principle, and Parkinson’s Law, which says that as the amount of time available to complete a task decreases, you will limit your actions to the most important. From those two principles I took one lesson: each day decide what tasks are most important, and set myself very tight deadlines for accomplishing those tasks.
Where I am less swayed is on Ferris’s suggestions to hire Virtual Assistants and outsource all my mailing and emailing responsibilities. While I am relatively convinced that those strategies would create more freedom and make one more efficient, I am not sure that I can implement those in my own life. And Ferris’s recommendation to negotiate remote work arrangements sounds fantastic. I hope to one day have a job where I can negotiate a day or two a week of working from home, but for now I am not at a job that allows it.
I recommend The 4-Hour Workweek to people who want encouragement and ideas for how to work more efficiently and to create more freedom in their lives. I will encourage you to only pick this book up with an open mind, ready to take what is helpful and discard what is not. I found The 4-Hour Workweek more helpful as a list of suggestions rather than a step-by-step list of actions I must take.(less)
In high school I read nearly every Star Wars book ever written, and I have great memories of Jedi adventures across the universe. Every now and then —...moreIn high school I read nearly every Star Wars book ever written, and I have great memories of Jedi adventures across the universe. Every now and then — particularly when I am in need of some easy fiction reading — I like to pick up one of the new Star Wars titles. I was given a free digital copy of Into the Void in exchange for an honest review, and I jumped at the chance.
Into the Void focuses on the beginnings of the Jedi, to their historic roots. In fact, the few force-sensitive individuals in this book are actually called Je’daii, and they are far less concerned with clinging to the light side than their later descendants. The Je’daii look to walk a balance between light and dark, keeping a healthy tension, whereas the Jedi most of us know were ultimately concerned with never straying anywhere near the dark.
Additionally, the Je’daii are unique in that they don’t yet have lightsaber technology. Although there are some hints of force crystals and the beginnings of lightsaber tech, the Je’daii use regular swords. Those swords can absorb and deflect some laser bolts, much like a lightsaber, but it took adjusting to accustom myself to reading about a Je’daii carrying a gleaming metal sword.
In Into the Void Lanoree Brock is the protagonist, tasked with tracking down her brother, a mysterious possible villain who turned his back on the Force he despised. The brother-sister relationship carries good potential, but Lanoree never becomes a captivating hero. Her character lacks depth, and the author spends more time focusing on Lanoree’s history with her brother than on Lanoree as a person. I kept wishing I’d see more complexity in Lanoree’s thoughts and words, but she was frustratingly simple.
The action was very well-written and compelling, but the character development was more frustrating and less complete than in other Star Wars novels. I recommend this book to Star Wars fans who want to ponder the beginnings of the Force and the Jedi, but I wouldn’t suggest this book to budding Star Wars readers, as there are many better novels to begin with.(less)
This book is a collection of single-page short stories, each focused on an entry from Mother’s prayer journals. Mary writes in a friendly tone, and much of this book feels like Mary sharing family stories around the dinner table. This book strikes me as a fantastic gift to the McLeary family. It is a beautiful collection of wisdom from two generations of godly women. Mary shares the faith and wisdom of her mother, and she adds in her own perspective on that wisdom.
I vividly remember the first time I watched Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. I remember the entire theater shaking with each artillery blast, and I r...moreI vividly remember the first time I watched Tom Hanks in Saving Private Ryan. I remember the entire theater shaking with each artillery blast, and I remember dodging instinctively as bullets seemed to whiz past my head. But what I remember most is the devastation and carnage as soldiers were torn apart by the evil instruments of war. This book, What Survived, brought back those same emotions.
Like Saving Private Ryan, What Survived follows a small group of devoted soldiers through the hellfire of World War II combat. This story by Jesse Roman R. focuses on one man in particular, a man the reader knows only as "Tim." Tim's rank, his last name, and most of his backstory are unimportant details in this tale, in which Tim's battered and beaten humanity plays the most important role.
The novel is spent focused on the questions, "[W]hat can withstand war? What can really endure [that] sort of a hell?" Tim's humanity and his very decency are attacked on every page, as Tim watches friends, enemies, and strangers all killed brutally and agonizingly.
As a result of that focus, this book is not for the faint of heart or the very young; every chapter captures death in all its terrible detail. The graphic nature of the novel is very nearly too much, and some readers may think that it goes too far. Jesse's ability to throw the reader into the darkened heart of war is his strength as an author, but the reader cannot leave undisturbed. If you will be bothered or offended by painstakingly minute descriptions of gunshot wounds and other violent horrors of war, I cannot caution you strongly enough that this is not the book for you.
This book on the horrors of war improves as it progresses, and I almost felt as if I was watching Jesse grow as a writer. I cringed at a couple turns of phrase in the first chapter, and I found myself wishing for a bit more character development before soldiers died at the author's hand; but those problems faded as I read, and the narrative grew more fluid with each chapter. The characters later introduced felt much more developed and much more human, and I felt drawn to many of those bloodied soldiers.
I appreciated how deftly What Survived portrayed the horrific consequences of war and how it did so at an intensely personal level. Although Jesse's online biography is a bit quiet on his personal information, I suspect he is a young, budding author, and I expect to see many more stories yet to come. I owe him my thanks for providing me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.(less)
This is a fantastic book in more than one sense; N. D. Wilson outdoes himself in creativity while proclaiming a brilliantly traditional message. As Wilson puts it at the beginning, his last book, Notes From The Tilt-A-Whirl “focuses on a way of seeing. With this book, the focus is on a way of living, a way of receiving life” (Introduction). Death by Living illustrates the principle that we’re all moving toward death, and our remaining days are meant to be spent well.
The Amazon page for this book indicates that it was written for the young adult genre, but it strikes me as an excellent book to read aloud to young children. The story is set in an imaginative fantasy world that would pique the interest of even young listeners, but the vocabulary is expansive and impressive. Sentences like, “They increased their authority by giving generous service in a self-effacing manner” offer an excellent opportunity for an adult reader to teach young listener’s new words within the context of a delightful bedtime story.
This story, When Jesus Wept is a fictional retelling of the life of Lazarus. Although I didn’t go back to the gospels before writing this review, I felt that the Thoenes did justice to what the Scriptures say about Lazarus, although they added a great deal to his story.
Joel Beeke is the President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and he has served as pastor of a local church for nearly three decades. That exp...moreJoel Beeke is the President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, and he has served as pastor of a local church for nearly three decades. That experience combines beautifully, here resulting in a book that is theologically excellent and targeted at practical application. Beeke writes to help married couples, and he succeeds at targeting his words to the common weaknesses.
The first section of Friends and Lovers focuses on the need for friendship between the partners in a marriage, then it offers suggestions for how to cultivate that relationship. The second — and far larger — section targets sexual intimacy in a tasteful and helpful manner.
I’d describe Friends and Lovers as a mix of encouragement and small suggestions to married couples. Due to its small size (93 pages), this book is tailored more to suggestions than comprehensive theology but that is also part of its appeal. Don’t pick this title up for a theology of marriage; pick it up to help your marriage.
My only complaint with this book is the short format. Cruciform Press focuses on short, accessible books, which is a great blessing to busy people who want good material that can be read quickly. That format however, means that an author must necessarily skip much that could be said on the topic. Here, Beeke does a fantastic job in encouraging married couples to pursue companionship and intimacy, even though he can’t cover everything.(less)
This was a fun read for me. It is a collection of essays looking at Ender’s Game from new perspectives. I give it only three stars, because it has nearly no value to readers who aren’t familiar with Card’s classic novel. That said, I enjoyed this book, and it gave me a few new ways to read Ender next time.
In the opening pages, Chesterton describes this biography as a sketch of the famous man. Rather than attempting a full picture, the author chose to paint a brief description. Additionally, Chesterton makes no attempt in these pages to explain the variety of miracles alleged to have occurred in the life of St. Francis. As he explains at the outset, Chesterton’s goal is to present a skeptical reader with an introduction to this saint.
This is more a short story than a novel, finishing up at 170 pages. My copy of the book goes on for another 140 pages, but the rest is a collection of one-chapter short stories, each of which is much darker and more macabre than the main story. A few of the later stories left me with chills, and I had to close the book and find a new story before I could fall asleep. Stephen King wrote that books like this one were an inspiration to him, and each of Matheson’s stories shows his prowess as a horror author.
Outside of his musical connections, Ken is also interesting for his faith and his fights with cancer. Yes, fights plural. Ken has twice been diagnosed with life-threatening cancers, and twice God has seen him through. Stumbling on Open Ground reads at times like a memoir and at times like a short lesson on Christianity in the midst of cancer.
One of my favorite features of Goodreads is that for each book, the site shows you how your friends have ranked it. That feature is fabulous if you’re debating whether to pick up a new book. But in cases like this, it makes reviewing a book a terrible prosepect. For The Man Who Was Thursday, I see that two friends have reviewed Chesterton’s novel. Both of my friends gave it five stars, rating it as amazing, a book they’d share with anyone. That’s terrifying, because I am giving the book a two-star rating.
Finishing Deathly Hallows left me with the sense that I’ve lost touch with an old friend. After starting Sorcerer’s Stone with much skepticism, I have spent the last several months getting to know Harry, Hermione, Ron, Ginny, and all the rest. I’ve come to have much more affection for the group than I had planned.
Now, coming to the end has left me unexpectedly sad. J. K. Rowling marvelously crafted a seven-book plot arc, developing her characters over the course of the series, rather than rushing their growth in any one book. So now, at the end of it all, I have to say goodbye to the boys and girls who have grown up in front of my eyes.
John Wood’s first trip to Nepal opened his eyes to a vicious cycle: When people are poor, they cannot afford good education; but as long as people have no education, they will always be poor. A Nepalese school administrator uttered the words that would haunt Wood’s mind, driving him to begin the movement known as Room to Read: “Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books.”
The Everlasting Man is second in my series of books to fill my year with G. K. Chesterton. I continue to appreciate Chesterton for his wit, eloquence, and admiration for beauty and joy; while I am beginning to have some hesitation with his overall body of work.
This particular title splits into two parts, divided by Christ’s advent. Chesterton’s first half focuses on the world before Jesus and the way in which its religions developed. He lists and describes many ancient religions, showing how they all paved the way for Christianity.
JoAnneh Nagler wrote this book from her personal experience with large amounts of debt, so her unique pitch is that this title will provide the reader with very simple steps you can take on a daily basis to get out of debt. As she writes, "This is what's different about this book: It's simple."
Certain types of books are always difficult to review: study Bibles, commentaries, and how-to books are all on that list for me. So, too, are year-long readers. Whether they be devotionals or selected excerpts from a famous author, books that require 365 days of reading are inevitably difficult to review fairly.
That introduction is my way of apologizing for giving a 3-star rating to a compelling collection of Chesterton quotes. A Year with G. K. Chesterton is one man’s attempt to present the reader with hundreds of Chesterton quotes, excerpted out of their context, and by and large, Kevin Belmonte succeeds beautifully.
You tell me: does that look like a cover I would be likely to pick up? I am a twenty-six-year-old male, not inclined to read romance novels, whether Christian or not. So no one should be surprised that I didn’t pick this book; Calvinists can say it chose me.
In fact, two of my male cousins (both in high school) pushed the book on me the last time I visited them. Despite the cover image and the fact that the author writes Christian romance, they both assured me that this was a book worth reading. “It has a gladiator!” they exclaimed. So I gave it a chance. And I’m glad I did.
Although Robinson spends time defending the proper use of paragraphs, sentences are the pivotal element in this book. Powerful rhetoric and a gift for memorable phrasing turn Robinson’s writing into a series of sentences begging for highlighting.
Readers familiar with Lucado will recognize his colloquial style in Grace. The book is full of anecdotes and stories, each chapter begun with a few quotes and an illustration. Lucado’s goal in these pages is not to educate you in a theology of grace or to catalog for you the Bible’s words on the subject; instead, he hopes to capture your imagination and encourage your heart.
I wrote in my review of the first book, “I struggle to remind myself that Rowling is writing to a child audience at this point. I’ve been told her writing matured as her audience did.” That perception has proven true, and Rowling has grown remarkably in what were previously weak areas in her writing.
Coca-Cola, prescription drug companies, and foreign countries sponsor anything and everything in Junior‘s America. Ray Donley writes this book as a farcical, extravagant mockery of American pop culture. Junior stretches into an imagined future, poking fun at many things about modern America, including our love of advertising, corporate sponsorship, and megabillion dollar sports industries.