Sunday, May 31, 2009

Review: Fatal Light by Richard Currey


Fatal Light is a book that brings to light the confuted experiences of war. A young eighteen year old draftee finds himself in Vietnam surrounded by beauty and death at the same time. He leaves behind a football scholarship to serve his country in an unpopular war. His father speaks of war as if it's a fun and manly thing to take a part in. I think the author does a great job of expressing this through short vignettes that are easy to digest one at a time. I took several weeks to finish this book and each time I picked it back up it was like I didn't miss a beat. This book might as realistically represent the feelings and experiences of an individual soldier in Vietnam as any book I've ever read. It's not the best Vietnam war novel I've read. History, especially Vietnam war history buffs will not find elaborate details but they will come to understand the narrator.

Review: North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter


North Korea Kidnapped My Daughter is the well-written, and well-documented story of a young Japanese school girl who goes missing on her way home from school one day. Her whereabouts remained a mystery for twenty years, with tight lipped rumours offering little hope of finding young Megumi. 

More significant than the events that led up to her disappearance and the reasons it happened in the first place, is the heart wrenching story of how her family dealt with her disappearance while searching for the answers that would lead to the recovery of Megumi. Her mother, Sakie Yokota quickly became her greatest supporter and details her efforts, hope, faith, and painful struggle that she has endured since 1977. 

The political reasons Megumi was kidnapped are explained briefly. The purpose of her kidnapping was so that Megumi, and thirteen other suspected abductees, could train North Korean operatives to behave, talk, and otherwise fit in Japanese society undetected. The tragedy of this is that a young girl, who excelled in academics and sports, had a bright future ahead of her in Japan. In one fateful moment, her dreams were stolen from her one afternoon in 1977. 

Since then, the family still does not have closure, but they have found more answers and have never given up hope of reuniting with their daughter. 

This is a short read of only 137 pages. If you've ever pondered what parents of missing children go through on a year to year basis, this book will provide insight into one family's experience with the unthinkable.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Review: Holy Roller by Julie Lyons


Holy Roller was a bit different that I had anticipated. Author Julie Lyons takes readers from the birth of a small Black Pentecostal Church in a crime ridden neighborhood through twenty years of fascinating spiritual growth.

By far the most interesting parts of the book were the beginning and the end. Near the beginning, she profiles the healing power and prayer as it works miracles in the lives of the residents of South Dallas; her spiritual leader, Pastor Eddington included. The last several chapters of the book take the reader on a missionary journey to Botswana, where AIDS is an epidemic. Demons are fought, lives are changed, but still the battle is not over.

In the latter beginning to middle of the book I felt the subject matter derailed into TMI. We learn that Julie suffered same sex attraction and she even talks about her desire to masturbate as well. She writes about a trip she took to Belfast which didn't really connect with the rest of the book.

This book will probably offend a lot of people. Obviously, gay people will take offense that the author feels that homosexuality can be healed by the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals might take offense at the authors portrayal of their churches as, "I had always gagged on the phoniness, hypocrisy, and indifference to the spiritual issues with which people struggle. How could evangelical churches judge liberal Christians for not taking God and the Bible seriously and then belittle Pentecostal Christians for taking God too seriously?" A lot of generalizations are made throughout the book about "white" people and "black" people and the various types of churches they attend. Those type of generalizations made by the author are hard to dismiss. Later the author states, "Their (white persons) tendency to objectify color takes some interesting twists. Too often, for example, white Christians view black Christians, particularly Pentecostals, as being innately spiritual, as if spirituality comes naturally to black people because of their ethnic or racial heritage. Whites seem to think that blacks have an elemental connection with primitive religious practices best suited to their supposed childlike beliefs." I think the author is bound up in some childhood beliefs she must have inherited from her family, because I don't think that way and was pretty offended by those statements. I would hate for a black person to read that and actually believe it.

Although I do have some criticisms of the book, overall, this was a really fascinating look at the inner workings of a small black Pentecostal church and their work, their members, their struggles, and their triumphs. Overall, I enjoyed the book and getting to know the life stories of the individual characters.

For Christians not familiar with Pentecostal churches, this book will prove very enlightening and brutally honest. Julie Lyons is an excellent writer and a gifted storyteller. She writers her truth from the heart, and doesn't hold back.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Review: Jesus Calling - Enjoying Peace in His Presence


This pocket sized devotional is very well written and backed up with scriptural references. Each month starts off with a bible verse followed by a month's worth of devotional reading. At the end of each short but effective devotional, there are 3-4 scriptural references to backup the devotional. 

I found the scripture references to be very much in alignment with the devotional, sometimes almost word for word. Each devotional was also very though provoking. 

The book is very small at approximately 4" x 6", and one inch thick. It's hardcover and very well-made, making it appropriate for gift giving or carrying in your purse. A ribbon book mark is included as well. The only complaint I have is that I wish this came with a small sleeve or protectant
 bag, which would keep it in nice condition, especially for those reading it daily.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Review: Shimmer by Eric Barnes


Shimmer is a debut tech business thriller by Eric Barnes. Considering my tastes in books generally runs in adventure and historical fiction, I found this a difficult read, but not from the technical aspects. The endless business meetings and office talk made this an dull and boring read for me. The greed, lies, and almost sterile sexual interactions didn't appeal to me either. 

In a nutshell, this is a tech business thriller about an adopted man who finds himself CEO of a company that is operating on borrowed time because they don't really have the technology they claim to have. The main character, Robbie Case, operates a network of shell corporations around the world that keep his secret hidden from the world, and he devotes endless hours to his spreadsheets and secret computer system. He also has an addiction to prostitutes but never really experiences intimacy.

2 1/2 Stars

Friday, May 22, 2009

Review: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions


I've long been interested in world religions. Back when I was in middle school, I used to go to the school library and read the reference books on religion. I became fascinated by the beliefs of others and wanted to know more. Once again this thirst has been quenched by Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions

Non-Christians will most likely not like this book because it often examines the other religions in contrast to Christianity and even criticizes them, but always through the lens of author James A. Beverely. For example, the author makes seven arguments against Islam. He does this with pretty much every religion to some degree. He has seven counterpoints to Judaism, as well as 3 counterpoints to Hinduism. 

The part I enjoyed about the book was reading the historical background of various religions, looking at their timelines, and reading their tenants of faith. The chapter on Hinduism was absolutely fascinating. Spanning 46 pages, it's full of pictures, charts, lists, stories, and leaders. If you are a Christian seeking a better understanding of world religions, I highly recommend this 850 page book that covers 19 religions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

This Is Your Brain on Joy Review


This is Your Brain on Joy by Dr. Earl Henslin Review:

Finally, a mental health book that provides not only a solution but solid, easy to understand science. Dr. Henslin does a wonderful job examing the subject of "Joy" as it relates to brain health. 

Dr. Henslin uses several methods to diagnose and treat brain disorders including the usual diet, exercise, supplements, and medicine, but he goes even beyond that and works on the brain through mind uplifting methods like aroma therapy, music, reading, prayer, and more. 

Using cutting edge science, Dr. Henslin also explains SPECT Imaging and how it can help to diagnose overactive and underactive areas of the brain in order to more accurately treat brain disorders. Adults or children suffering from ADHD, ADD, depression, PTSD, bi-polar disorder, and so many other brain disorders will find stories and solutions in this book that might change their life. 

Although SPECT Imaging is new and not widely available, I was also happy to find out that the only SPECT imaging center in my state is less than a one hour drive. 

Although this book is written from a Christian perspective and often weaves biblical viewpoints, I recommend this book to everyone. The more we understand the brain, brain disorders, and treatments, the better off our society will be.