Monthly Archives: September 2012

If We Survive by Andrew Klavan

This was definitely one of his best for teens. Quick on the action and full of positive elements in a world of discouragement. Klavan is able to write a intriguing thriller, while giving a message of hope. I was encouraged by the whole. I would strongly recommend this book to teens that I come into contact with.

The story centers around a missions group that travels to Mexico to help build a school. Things build crazily from there as the team finds themselves caught in a revolution.

Be warned, there is murder in this book and other more mature situations. Still, it is tame compared to other novels available.

Klavan also writes from a conservative worldview… His characters wrestle with faith and real issues, not just whether or not to date the attractive vampire boy. Teens who read this will be confronted with revolutions and evil regimes, good vs. evil, and doing the best for someone even if it’s hard and costs you something.

The strongest character is a young woman named Meredith. The main character continually notices the fearlessness in this young woman and wonders at her ability to persevere in the trials. The boys in the book notice the beauty in Meredith’s resolve and character, not just in her looks.

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Don’t Call It a Comeback: The Old Faith For a New Day, edited by Kevin DeYoung

I liked being able to read this book in bits and chunks over the past few months. Sometimes it helps to chew on things for a bit, and there is a good deal to chew on here. It works well as a resource to take off the shelves every now and then. Kevin DeYoung has a great heart for people and the gospel, and it shows here. His first essay on the secret to reaching the next generation was needed and timely for me. He writes about making sure to grab them with passion, win them with love, hold them with holiness, challenge them with truth, and amaze them with God. It is a good corrective for where much of youth ministry has gone. I also liked Jonathan Leeman’s piece about God. He deals with the Moral Therapeutic Deism that is prevalent. He says, But one thing is certain: every one of us, in our natural state, believes that God is pretty much like us.” He goes on to show how low our view of God can be and what the truth is. He also quotes Brad Pitt to make his point about our view of God, “Movie actor Brad Pitt, explaining why he abandoned Christianity, spoke for many when he said, ‘I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, ‘You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I’m the best, and then I’ll give you eternal happiness. If you won’t, then you don’t get it’ It seemed to be about ego. I can’t see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.’ Pitt’s operating assumption, as with every fallen human, is that he is “like God.'” Each author provides some resources for further reading after each essay as well. Russell Moore’s essay on the Kingdom, Tim Challies’ essay on Jesus Christ, and Tullian Tchividjian’s essay on worship were my other favorites. Tchividjian quotes G.K. Chesterton to help make his general point about the otherness of worship, “How much larger your life would be if your self could become smaller in it.” May that be our prayer in the presence of a holy God.

I would recommend this book for the reference shelf any believer that wants a quick but not so simple dictionary of the faith.

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What Did You Expect by Paul Tripp

This is one of the better marriage books that I have read. Tripp quickly gets to the heart of the matter, and I was convicted many times as I read through his book on how to change your marriage for the better.

Tripp focuses on the fact that in a marriage, two sinful people, made with God given differences and personalities, come together to live one life.

The book is ordered around six different commitments that lead to a better, god-honoring marriage:

#1 We will give ourselves to a regular lifestyle of confession and forgiveness.
#2 We will make growth and change our daily agenda.
#3 We will work together to build a sturdy bond of trust.
#4 We will commit to building a relationship of love.
#5 We will deal with our differences with appreciation and grace.
#6 We will work to protect our marriage.

With each of these various points, Tripp provides real life examples, I assume, from his counseling experience.

I appreciated the author’s candor and realism in this book. Marriage is hard work, but it is the most satisfying work to be done. I know that I went into my marriage thinking that work wasn’t really required. Boy, was I wrong. Read this book and than read it together with your spouse. Often the procedures are painful, but the cure is worth it.

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Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I checked this book out from the library after seeing that one of my favorite reviewers had recently read it. I know I am a little behind the times on this one, but I wanted to still record some of my thoughts.

Being a fan of order and structure, I was put off a little by the fact that there are no chapters in this book. It took just a while to get into the mood of the story. As a preacher’s kid myself, I thoroughly enjoyed the overall tone and heart of the book.

Gilead is basically a collection of journal entries by a father written to a son. There are stories and lessons and other various musings pieced together to form a surprisingly coherent whole. I read one of the stories about a horse stuck in a hole aloud to my wife, and it was well worth the effort. The unassuming tone that is present gives the feel that we are truly hearing the heart of the old father. This is not a book full of boring plot points and useless characters. It seems to get to the heart of what faith lives and breathes in the day to day. I hope to be adding this one to my bookshelves soon.

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Crazy Dangerous by Andrew Klavan

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Be sure to pick this one up for your teenage boy. I think it will keep him hooked and provide some positive themes and lessons that are missing in other popular books.

In one case, the main character does the right thing by standing up for a girl. In the process he is merked. He comments about the experience afterward mentioning the fact that sometimes the right thing doesn’t actually feel too good. It’s the truth. The maxim that tells us to do whatever feels good doesn’t mesh well with reality.

In his attempt to clear his name and find the truth, Sam Hopkins, the main character, lives out an overtly Christian worldview. He is a pastor’s kid that seems sincere about living a meaningful life. There are just dangerous parts to that life. I don’t think my pastor’s kid upbringing compares, but that’s OK.

This Christian parent (and pastor’s kid for that matter) is thankful for Klavan’s worldview that matches with Jesus’ true words of spirit and life.

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The Dragon’s Tooth by N.D. Wilson – Ashtown Burials Series

The story starts off fast and it took me a little while to get my bearings, but I am now hooked. The action starts right off the bat as we meet the Smith children, Cyrus, Antigone, and Dan. They are living in a run down hotel without their father and with a mother in the hospital. Wilson drew me right into the scene and I could see the old rural hotel and smell the waffle maker just as he describes it. I will have to buy the second book in the series soon. It reminds me a little of the Percy Jackson books, but the writing is much more literary and stylish. Wilson spends some good time developing his characters, and the brother/sister dynamic comes off well. I think that it adds greatly to the whole of the book to see the two Smith kids interact while battling evil or just trying to get a meal in.

One of my concerns in children’s literature is the portrayal of parental figures. Wilson again does a good job of not making adults the totally stupid ones, while the kids just save the world. Through their journey, Cyrus and Antigone must take advice from adults and rely on them. This is done in a positive way that adds to the worth of the whole book.

The book can be graphic at times, as the struggle to survive and find meaning envelop the characters. I think it is in good taste, and it is mild compared to other offerings out there. N.D. Wilson created quite a complex world of bad guys and  big places, serving up a playground for the imagination.

Great story for Upper Elementary or Middle School age boys, especially. The themes and situations are truly redemptive in nature, and N.D.’s world reflects the truth of God’s world and how good and evil work. There is no false praise of evil or it’s devices. As a  Christian parent of two little boys, I will not be reading this one to them in the near future, but I think it will be fun to point them to the words that are spirit and life, as we enjoy this adventure.

UPDATE: Not as amazed with the second book, The Drowned Vault. Too much action and craziness all fit together. I am anxious to see how the whole series will work in concert.

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