Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Night Watchman by Mark Mynheir Book Review

Ray Quinn was a tough cop but eleven months ago he had been shot and his partner killed. Now he is a night watchman in an appartment complex, walks with a cane and is in constant pain. Then a minister and a night club dancer are found shot in one of the apartments. The Orlando police write it off as a murder suicide but the minister's sister, Pam, thinks it is murder and asks Quinn to help find the murderer.
Thus begins a great mystery novel. Mynheir has done a great job creating a likeable character although he drinks Jim Bean to alleviate his pain and can't keep his sarcastic mouth quiet. Quinn is confronted with Christianity but objects to a God who allows such misery as he has seen.
The writing is well done and Mynheir is witty. At one point Quinn asks, "So your God can use heathens too?" Pam answers, "Absolutely. He once spoke through a mule. Using you wouldn't be that different."
The novel ends with the happy possibility of more to come. I hope so.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl by N. D. Wilson

Wilson describes his work as, “an … abnormal book.” (pg. 200) In the preface he warns us that his book “does not go straight.” He’s accurate on both counts.
He attempts to find unity in cacophony. In doing so he wanders through philosophy, physics, Greek mythology, theology, atheism, Occam’s razor, theories of good and evil, Hamlet, origins, art, and probably a few more topics I forgot to write down. The writing is stream of consciousness – a thought here, a musing there. Sometimes successive paragraphs have a relationship while at other times they are on entirely different subjects. Throughout the book he plays with the pesky question: If God is all-good and all-powerful, why is there evil in the world? He defines evil as “that which displeases God.” (pg. 80) I appreciated that definition but not much else in the book.
As is often the case when we ramble or when we write what thoughts come to mind, concepts and ideas in our brains are in opposition. Such is the case with Wilson’s writings. He asks us to go the route of Annie Dillard and believe that God is not responsible for natural disasters (those events insurance policies call “acts of God”). God is not in the tornado. (pg. 64) Later he says, “I see craft in the world. I cannot watch dust swirl on the sidewalk without seeing God drag His finger…” (pg. 98) So, God makes a little dust devil but He does not make the tornado?
Wilson mixes deep philosophical and theological ruminations with silliness. While discussing the possible answers to the problem of evil, he speaks to the definition of evil, good and freedom. He continues the discussion with, “What is the best of all possible feelings?” His answer? The feeling of relieving an over extended bladder from a too long ride in the car. His answer to the best of all possible things: a toothpick. (pg. 61) Just when I am really into his rumination and he has me thinking, he makes a crazy comment and I want to throw the book away.
Who is he writing for anyway? At times I am sure it is Christians when he references biblical ideas and concepts only Christians would understand. And then I think he is writing for atheists when he works so hard on explaining God and evil and the meaning of life. And sometimes I think he is writing to old people because who, but an old person, would understand: “Is the horse dead? Hand me a whip.” (pg. 107)
A large part of Wilson’s writing is wordplay. He wants to paint with words. He wants to appeal to the senses as well as to the mind. But my mind went “tilt.” (pg. 200) I have a feeling Wilson has painted a picture but there is no one looking at it. If you want to read this book, buy it quick because I am sure it will be out of print very soon.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Deadfall by Robert Liparulo Book Review

Hutch and three friends go on a trip into remote northern Canada to hunt with bows and repair their broken lives. They have been dropped off by a helicopter and are on their own for several days.

In a nearby town, evil has taken over. The son of a wealthy businessman who build and tests stars wars type prototypes has designs of creating the ultimate video game. He needs realistic footage of death and destruction. He takes over the town and uses a laser shooting satellite to kill and destroy, filming it all.

The two groups come in contact and one of Hutch's friends is killed. The only hope for the captive town is Hutch and his remaining friends. Men with a bow (and a pistol with a few rounds) combat star wars technology. The technology is so advanced, as one character says, "They were always one step ahead or were so close behind it didn't make a difference."

The writing is tight and the book is full of tension and excitement. Just when it seems Hutch will win, evil lurches forward. One problem with the pacing of the book is that the reason behind the behavior of the evil star wars killer is delayed until the second half of the book, when the action is intense. There is a juxtaposition of intense action and a lengthy explanation of the background. Had the explanation been earlier, and part of the action, it would have helped the reader understand the motives involved and it would not have disrupted the intense action near the end.

There is no "Christianity" in this book (it is published by Nelson). There is definite good and evil and several references to God but it might have been more appropriate if at least one of the characters exhibited Christianity.

I have read most of Liparulo's books. He is a great suspense writer and keeps you on the edge. I already have the sequel to Deadfall and will read it soon.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Rose House by Tina Ann Forkner

Rose House is a sequel to Ruby Among Us. Lillian has gone to La Rosaleda after her husband and young children are killed in an automobile accident. She meets Kitty (a main character in Ruby Among Us) and begins to understand her life and how it will progress.

The character development in this book is hard for me to grasp. Lillian at times seems to not be affected by the death of her family. Her long lost sister comes on to the scene and there is a great deal of anger between them. Their parents and brothers died in a fire when the sisters were young. (Doesn't this seem like too much death by tragedy for Lillian? Only in a novel...) Lillian does not seem to be consistent in her character throughout the book.

And then there is this shadow of someone wanting to harm Lillian and those she loves. It has roots in the automobile accident four years before. (Yes, suddenly, four years go by with the turn of a page.) Someone killed her family and now they want to harm her (four years later?).

It is certainly not the most well written of books. Tell you the truth, I'd skip it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A Quest for More by Paul David Tripp

“Thy kingdom come…” We pray this frequently. Some of us recite it every Sunday. What does it mean? What is the kingdom and how does it “come”? In A Quest for More, Paul David Tripp gives us answers to those questions.
God has designed us to be a part of his kingdom, the big kingdom where we live for God. Satan tricks us into living in our own small kingdom, where we live for ourselves. We were made for more than being at the center of our own world. We were made for more than finding our satisfaction in a life that has self at its center. We were made for more than getting our own way and being happy.

“Kingdom living means living with Christ at the center of everything I think, desire, say, and do.” That is the kingdom we were meant to live in. Living for Christ is the only way we will be liberated from our own kingdom. Only love for Christ has the power to displace love for self.
We have a choice. We can live in our self-made little kingdom or we can live as we were meant to, as part of the big kingdom of God.
While there are no study questions in the copy I read it would be an excellent book to read and study in a group. Tripp gives clear examples of each aspect of kingdom living by telling a personal story at the beginning of each chapter. The combination of personal experience and solid teaching makes for a challenging book. After you’ve read this book, I trust you will never be satisfied to live in your own little kingdom. Instead, you will be “living with the purpose, character, call, grace, and glory of the Lord Jesus Christ as the central motivation and hope for everything you think, desire, do, and say.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First Light by Bodie & Brock Thoene

First Light is the beginning of the A. D. Chronicles. I found the WW II series the Thoenes had written to be very well done and was excited to read this series but have been disappointed.
First Light is about life and characters in Jerusalem during the time of Jesus' ministry there. The events of the gospels are woven in with imaginary events and characters. The writing is tedious. There are pages of prose with the only purpose seemingly to inform the reader of Old Testament background. I would have preferred that the information be revealed in the course of action, while the narrative is moving forward.
The writing contains mostly transliteration of Hebrew names and places with an odd contemporary, and therefore more familiar, reference. It makes for hard reading. If our translations of the New Testament use Nicodemus, why do the Thoenes use Nakdimon?
Also, who are these strange Ushpizin who appear as Abraham, Isaac and other Old Testament characters?
The Thoenes have Jesus (oh, excuse me, Yeshua) saying words and predicting events we do not find recorded in the gospels. This is dangerous writing, imagining words spoken by part of the Godhead (as we saw in the criticism of The Shack). It may have added to the narrative but did not add to my appreciation of the book.
I know the A. D. Chronicles sells well. I don't know why. It's not to my liking and I'll not read another in the series.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Believing God by R. C. Sproul Jr.

R. C. Sproul Jr. says failing to believe God’s promises is serious. “When we fail to believe His promises, we fail to believe that He is faithful.” R. C. Jr. wrote Believing God to encourage Christians to take God at His word.
R. C. Jr. has chosen to write about twelve of God’s promises. He does a great job of placing each of these promises in context and criticizing those who use these promises in a manner God never intended.
The first promise R. C. Jr. looks at is that God will equip us (2 Tim. 3:16). “The trouble is that we don’t believe it.” He encourages readers to return to the oldest Christian habit of reading, understanding and believing the Word of God.
He next looks at the promise of God’s love (1 John 3:1). Our calling, for the rest of our lives, is to get our hearts and minds around the staggering reality that if we are in Christ, God truly, truly loves us.
We are reminded that God has promised forgiveness of our sins (1 John 1:9) and wisdom for the asking (James 1:5). Psalm 127 promises that children are a blessing. (R. C. Jr. does not address the issue of Paul’s New Testament suggestion that Christians not marry in 1 Cor. 7:25ff. He also seems to be rather thoughtless with regard to those who have no children.)
The chapter on Psalm 37:4 is worth the price of the book. God promises that we will receive the desires of our heart if we delight in the Lord. R. C. Jr. has some fun with how difficult it is for Reformed people to “delight” in God. He reminds the stiff Calvinists that the Westminster Catechism reminds Christians we were made to enjoy God. When we delight ourselves in the Lord we do receive the desires of our heart for we desire Him. God is not only the promise keeper but is Himself the promise.
God has promised to open the windows of heaven in Mal. 3:10. R. C. Jr. addresses the “health and wealth” preachers and the damage they have caused. He helps the reader understand why Malachi asserted this promise. The Israelites doubted God and their worship was mere habit and not heart felt. He also notes that this passage in Malachi reflects a pattern of God’s behavior. God is not a celestial slot machine.
With the same care R. C. Jr. looks at the promise of casting mountains into the sea (Mark 11:22-24), the promise that all things work together (Rom. 8:28), that Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), that the good work will be completed (Phil.1:6), and that we shall be like Him (1 John 3:2).
R. C. Jr. says he wrote this book because, “I want to see the people of God grow in grace and wisdom.” The result of his writing is a great book to use for personal devotion or as a group study. His work presents a challenge to every Christian to take God at His word.