Saturday, July 24, 2010

God Alone is Enough by Claudia Mair Burney

Burney leads the reader into a deeper experience of prayer using the writings of Teresa of Avila and Burney's own experience.  The book is a great combination of Teresa's insight and the author's wit.
Teresa's experience was not that of most Christians, an intense union with God.  She wrote of her journey in The Interior Castle.  Burney takes us through the rooms Teresa described, to the innermost one where the soul remains centered on God.  The Christian life of spiritual development and self awareness are compared to venturing through the rooms.
The life Teresa had cannot be forced.  Burney remind us, "Trying to force your mind to go places God hasn't given it the grace to go is something Teresa cautioned against..."  (100)  Teresa's advice is to place the soul in God's hands - give it entirely to God and let Him do with it what He wishes.
This is a book about one who has experienced union with God by one who longs for it.  It is an excellent introduction to Teresa's writings and the life of a Christian mystic.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Double Minds by Terri Blackstock

Parker writes Christian songs and has had success.  Now she is being asked to tone down the Christianity in her new songs and take out some of the Christian lyrics in her existing songs.  Will she succumb to the promise of financial gain?
Blackstock gives us an inside view of the Christian music industry.  There are those who want to "cross over" and have hit songs in the secular market.  One manager of a Christian singer is willing to steal lyrics to ensure his artist remains successful. 
True to Blackstock form, there is a murder in the plot as well.
I liked the book but I listened to it on CD and that was not as good as it could have been.  One character's voice was described as a "radio voice" but when it was portrayed it was squeaky high.  I'd suggest you read the book but skip the audio edition.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Genoa Bay by Bette Nordberg

I have read Bette's previous novels and liked them.  This one is riddled with problems.  My book group read it and we all agreed that there was a problem with the plot.  There are many times when adverse conditions are too quickly solved.  The plot seems to be in trouble for the first hundred pages or so. 
My major issue was with the financial condition in which the heroine finds herself.  Her husband was a Navy pilot but died in a crash three years ago.  The Navy "lost" his latest will (since when does a person not have their own copy of their will?).  Her financial situation is made to be dire.  Bette does not mention the monthly VA benefits our heroine would receive (her husband was a captain so the benefit would be considerable).  Nor does she mention the Social Security benefit her daughter would receive until she was eighteen.
And then there are the editorial mistakes - the dessert/desert error and wrong use of "I" after a preposition (at least three times).
We made it through but I would not recommend this book.  There are better novels out there.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Shades of Morning by Marlo Schalesky

Marnie owns a coffeeshop/bookstore on the West coast. Fifteen years earlier she fled the East coast and her past, thinking she had caused the death of her unborn child through a motorcycle accident. Still on the East coast is her lawyer lover of one night who still loves her (and she him). Marnie’s estranged sister of fifteen years dies and leaves Marnie (via the lawyer) her teenage son. When he arrives at the airport, Marnie is stunned to find out she must deal with a Down’s syndrome teen.

If all of this seems complicated, it is. Add to the mix flashbacks as the reader gradually learns of the abandonment of the sisters and their placement into foster care, of the romance between Marnie and the lawyer, of the motorcycle accident and more.
I found this novel hard to follow as the flashbacks were not set off in any way and it often took me a paragraph or so to understand the change in time. While the characters were well developed, at times their behavior seemed inconsistent with their personalities. The Christianity of the characters was inconsistent as well. While the lawyer was able to find Marnie immediately when he needed to because of the orphaned nephew, why had he not done so during the fifteen intervening years, if he loved her so much? Craig, the child protective services case worker, is the most inconsistent in character and the most puzzling at to his necessary role in the plot.
Part romance, part a novel about experiencing forgiveness, the plot was just a little too complex and forced for me.
This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Blind Hope by Kim Meeder and Laurie Sacher

Along with her husband Troy, Kim owns and operates Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in central Oregon.  They rescue abused and neglected horses.   But this book is about a different rescue, a rescued dog. 
Laurie had been a summer volunteer at the ranch and was then hired on as staff.  The ranch became aware of a situation where a horse and several dogs needed new homes.  Laurie desired to help a dog trapped in hardship.  The dog was starving, had matted hair and bad teeth and breath.  But Laurie went ahead and took the dog.  She then found out the dog was diabetic and was going blind.
Kim and Laurie do a great job of recounting the story of Laurie and her dog, Mia.  The account unfolds as the two women have lunch, ski, ride horses or work on the ranch.  Interwoven throughout the story are the lessons Laurie learned from her loving the dog and receiving love in return.  As Mia went blind, she found she could follow her master's voice, just as Laura realized we are to follow the Lord's voice.
This is a great book, almost a form of parable (but it is a true account).  It is a quick read (178 pages) but the lessons learned are much bigger than the size of the book.
This book was provided for review by the WaterbrookMultnomah Publighing Group.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lead Like Ike by Geoff Loftus

Loftus thinks “Eisenhower was the chief executive of the organization that pulled off the most daunting ‘business’ project in history: Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. He was the chief executive of the company that operated under the greatest pressure any executive has ever seen.” (xv)

Loftus analyzes military actions as business operations and delineates the strategic lessons that can be learned from Ike, his successes and his failures.
The ten lessons that emerge are: Determine Your Mission, Plan for Success, Stay Focused, Prioritize, Plan to Implement, Communicate, Motivate Your People, Manage Your People, Avoid Project Creep, and Be Honest.
When taking leadership lessons from actual experience (as opposed to pure theory), there will be contradictions. For example, on page 93, “Micromanage. Okay, a few chapters ago I said don’t so this. But…”
Loftus sometimes issues contradictory evaluations. He says, “…Ike failed to communicate clearly…” (152) “…Eisenhower…too often ended up appeasing the people he spoke with and failing [sic] to communicate his decisions properly.” (153) Yet in the Performance Evaluation and Summary, Loftus reports that, “Ike was effective in communicating with his board.” (247)
Loftus also says of Ike’s leadership, “It was a poor way to run strategic operations.” (153) Of his disagreement with Montgomery over strategy, Loftus says, “This was not one of Eisenhower’s shining moments as a manager.” (152) Also, “D-Day Inc. did not have a formal process to assess and manage risk.” (165) When an assessment of risk was presented to Eisenhower, it was ignored at the top. (166) Again, “…Eisenhower’s biggest failure of the war…was caused by an appalling lack of focus on his part.” (242)
It was amazing to me that with all the errors in D-Day leadership Loftus found so many positive principles of leadership.
CEO war history buffs might like this book but, if they’ve read Ambrose, upon whom Loftus relies very heavily, this book might have nothing new for them. Readers may get bogged down as Loftus trudges through the campaign details of Operation Overlord.
A positive factor of the book is that each chapter ends with Debriefing Notes, highlighting the major points of the chapter. Text boxes throughout the book emphasize the practical points in the text and give examples of companies with successes and failures illustrating the noted principles.
While from a “Christian” publisher, there is nothing of spiritual import in the book. In fact, Christian principles are somewhat ignored. Such as strategy #4, Prioritize. “Do what you need to do to succeed – nothing else…matters.” (243)
Thomas Nelson Publishers provided a copy of this book for review.
Nelson, #9781595550859, 260 pages.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Wonders Never Cease by Tim Downs

I really like the Bugman novels by Tim Downs.  This is not one of that series.  It is about a young girl who sees angels, a nurse who has an idea to make money off of a celebrity patient, a gangster threatening the nurse indebted to him, and several other quirky characters.  The dialogue is frequently funny and the plot is thought provoking.  Are angels real?  Do they have an impact on individual lives?
This is not the best of Tim Downs but I still thought it was pretty good.  While the Christianity aspect is not strong, it does make the reader think about the role of angels in our lives and the temptation to make money by writing about them (as we saw several years ago).

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Rage Against God by Peter Hitchens

In the first half of the book Peter, brother of avowed atheist Christopher, presents verbal wanderings through the Britain of his childhood, life at boarding school, religious education, the Profumo Affair, early thoughts about God and science, the Royal Navy, WW II, memorial sculptures of WW II, the mixing of Christianity and politics, and two years as a Western reporter in the Soviet Union.
Peter gradually returned to faith, realizing the emptiness of secularism.  He had returned to the Church of England for reasons of marriage and fatherhood.  His subsequent experiences in the Soviet Union and Iraq showed him the relationship "between faith and the shape of society."  (92) 
He returned to Britain in 1995 after being abroad five years and was struck by the decline of civility.  "The rapid vanishing of Christianity from public consciousness and life, as the last fully Christian generation ages and disappears, seems to be a major part of it."  (91)
Peter begins to address the arguments for atheism in the second part of the book: that religion is the cause of conflict (addressing the cruel crimes of atheistic regimes), that it is possible to determine right and wrong without God, and that atheist sates are not really atheistic.
Peter ends his book with a brief critique of the recent works of his brother Christopher and Richard Dawkins. 
He concludes that Christianity is good for society.  For those who would promote atheism, he says, "We have forgotten how we arrived at our civilized state."  (212)
Those looking for a precise argument for Christianity in society will be disappointed.  If you don't mind wandering through the ramblings of one returning to faith, you will find this book interesting.