Monday, April 17, 2017

Book review: "The Roanoke Girls" by Amy Engel

I picked this book because of the intrigue from the descriptions talking about dark family secrets. I thought, yaaaah there's going to be some kid in the secret room with a hunchback or the person you think is your sister is actually your mom or your dad who you thought was dead is actually alive or something like that. The secret in this book is far ickier than that.

This is a half formed, ending easily guessed "whodunnit", punctuated with a sex scene every 3 pages, and a manic pixie girl for a co-lead. I am not against sex in books, especially when suspected or unexpected pregnancy is a main thread that runs through the books but the three things the characters in the book are concerned with are: sex, food and the flimsy whodunnit plot. Everyone just felt very 1 dimensional.

And I feel bad for saying this because the author seems very nice on twitter. And the cover isn't bad. And that is really all I have positive to say about that.

Of course, and with all of my reviews, if maybe this book sounds intriguing don't let the fact that I didn't like it stop you from picking it up! You do you!

I recieved this book for free in exchange for an honest review from Blogging for Books

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Holy Week 2017 Book Review: "The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus" by Brennan Manning

I will admit off the bat that this asn't my favorite Brennan Manning book, though I kind of feel like that's his own fault since he set the bar so high for himself, haha. But like every Manning book, there are still plenty of great takeaways.

I have a feeling that this review will just be a series of out of context quotes, and I realize that that can be not helpful so I will do my best to provide some context!

Starting us off, Manning isn't afraid to throw it down:

For many people in the church, Christianity is not Good News. The Gospel is not the glad tidings of freedom and salvation proclaimed by Christ Jesus, but a rigid code of dos and dont's, a tedious moralizing, a list of minimum requirements for avoiding the pains of hell.

This is not how it should be.

During Jesus' time on earth, he constantly demonstrated his love and tenderness; especially towards people that society at the time or even know, frankly, would have deemed....ew. Us included.Here's a couple of quotes that talk about his love for his people:

In Jesus stories, divine forgiveness doesn't depend on our repentance or our ability to love our enemies or on our doing only heroic, virtuous deeds. God's forgiveness depends only on the love out of which he has fashioned the human race.... But the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. And this, of course, is almost too incredible for us to accept.

and this is actually a quote of a quote

We must remember, he proclaims, that we don not earn God's forgiveness by our sorrow or by our reparation. God's love is given. It is always there, waiting patiently for us. We need only to turn to him and receive it. He is pleased with out efforts but even more pleased with us. That's why He made us. You cannot earn God's love, because He gave it to you before you started to earn it.

One thing that I love about Manning's books is that he often tucks these short little couple a sentence stories into larger stories and some of them make me go "WHAT? NO, WHAT? I MUST KNOW MORE?" or they just make me sob like the little monk who used to be an acrobat in the circus. Oh, little circus monk. So the story for this book that garnered a big reaction from me was even shorter. So in the Bible there's passages about how Jesus talks about how he is going ahead to prepare a place for us and that he will return to take you with me so that you may be where I am. Manning knew a deaf man named Charlie who "at the moment of his death said "For the first time I can hear someone coming."  Ah! What? Tell me more?!

There is also little mini study guides at the end of each chapter and and the very last chapter is kind of a commentary on Christmas and it's weird because it almost seems weirdly out of place because it kind of feels like a Lent book more than an Easter book, but it's not like they aren't all connected, haha.


Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Holy Week 2017 Book Review: "Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women" by Sarah Bessey

Feminism is a divisive concept for a lot of people. It seems like no one can quite agree on what it is. Is it women marching in marches wearing pink hats and "standing with planned parenthood"? Is it women who think that they should be paid the same for doing the same job as a male coworker? Can you be prolife and be a feminist? Do you have to hate men to be a feminist? Are these things mutually exclusive? Here's how I define feminism for myself (and it's also the subtitle of the book #convenient): It's the radical notion that women are people too. You know who else thought women were full blown, totally developed, worth talking to people? Jesus. And that's why we are here.

Women were CLUTCH in Jesus time here on earth. From the very beginning to the very end. He was born to a young woman who, in her time and place in society, was pretty inconsequential but through her willing obedience to her God changed the world. The women at the tomb were the first people that Jesus appeared to after his resurrection. Not his anxious, overwrought disciples that were hiding in a room. The woman who at great personal risk wanted to show their love for Him by finishing his burial preparations. He raised Peter's mother in law from the dead. He frequented Mary and Martha's house and mourned with them at the passing of their brother Lazarus (I mean, it had a happy ending so that was good). While Jesus was in agony on the cross He makes sure that his mother is taken care of ("Behold your son, Behold your mother").

None of these are actions of Someone who thinks that women are ANY LESS than anyone else.

You also can't deny the incredible women who have been moved to do amazing things because of their love for Jesus, here's a teeny tiny teeny tiny list. Including links to their wikipedia pages in case you haven't heard of a few like me: Mother Teresa (duh), Amy Carmichael, Dorothy Day, Corrie ten Boom, Gladys Aylward, Evangeline Booth. (There's even a shoutout to Susanna Wesley, my namesake, who I've never run across in print before and that made my heart so happy). And those are even talking about the organizations mentioned in this book that are trying to end modern slavery, giving Haitain mothers safe places to give birth amid their shaken country, AND it doesn't include the women of great faith who are pillars in our own lives: moms, sisters, friends, coworkers, teachers, counselors,on and on and on. 

Or as the author says:
"Right along side stories of David and Moses and Pail, of Luther and Calvin, of Bonhoeffer and our dads, we could tell the stories of our own patron saints, our church mamas, our Kingdom midwives, the women of the Bible and the women of the Word walking among us right now".

There is so much more in this book that I just don't have the space to go through it all, but you could do worse than a couple of hours with this book in one hand and your Bible open in front of you. And frankly, I hope none of this shocks you. Jesus loves everyone, so of course he loves women. Jesus' words of the Gospel work through everyone, so of course it works through women. Humans were lovingly created in God's own image, so of course it includes women.

But you know, reminders are good.  

It boils down to essentially this: women make up half the church and half of the world. The untapped potential should be frightening. Make the opportunities for yourself to do big, glorious things if the opportunities are not made for you.  


Monday, April 3, 2017

Book review: "Old Souls: The Scientific Evidence for Previous Lives" by Tim Shroder

Disclaimer: I don't believe in past lives or reincarnation. I DO believe that there are so many things that we as humans can't explain and probably will never be able to explain. There's this weird gray area where incidents like these live and I just find that so intriguing. So that's how I found myself with this book.

The author, a journalist, travels with Dr Stevenson, literally across the globe as he interviews people who claim to remember past lives. The three specific parts of the world that are highlighted in this book is Beirut, India and the United States.

There are exceptions but it seems like a lot of the cases went something like this:

A child is born to a family, and at a very young age says things like "This isn't my house", "You aren't my parents". Sometimes they can even name the people who they think are their parents and the town that they say they are from. They refer to themselves as the name of their "PP" (previous persona). They can name and identify their PP's family members. Sometimes they know details about their PP's lives that no one other than that person or their spouse would know.  Almost all of the PP's died violently (thrown from a car during an accident, suicide after being cornered by cops, shot by abusive husband, etc). I think the cases that are most interesting is when there are weird birthmarks. It's like "Well, our son Sid thinks he's actually someone named Bob. Bob died when he shot himself under his chin and through his head. Oddly enough, Sid has a strange birthmark under his chin and on the top of his head where the bullet exited Bob's head. Hmmmmm".

I was explaining this book to some of my coworkers and they asked if any of the children were a different gender then their PP. There were no examples of it in the book but now I'm totally curious.

In this whole situation I feel the most bad for the person whose child thinks they are a PP. Can you imagine, you're pregnant and all excited to meet your new baby and then as soon as they are old enough to talk the things they say to you are "You're not actually my parents." ? 

The author starts as a hardened skeptic but by the end of it he doesn't necessarily end up as a believer, but he realizes there's so many things that he just doesn't have good answers for.