Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Review of Dragons of the Valley by Donita K. Paul

     "Stunning beginning to a new series!  Rarely does an author recapture the exquisite charm and the bold freshness first discovered in her initial series.  Donita K. Paul fans are in for a treat as the uncover new wonders and enchantment in the world of Chiril." Eric Reinhold speaks truthfully, though this statement also fits for those who have not yet read Donita K. Paul.  As a first read it might have been better to start with her original series, The DragonKeeper Chronicles; however, this book (complete with its glossary on terms, races, and characters) takes the reader into action that is already started when the book opens and does not leave the reader confused or unable to follow along without reading the other series priorly, but instead the reader is drawn into the world and curious about the earlier series--wishing to read it as well. This is a book that has such a refreshing turn of phrase and sentence structure that it is at once a good pace and tale for the young and the young at heart.
     In this follow up book to The Dragonkeeper Chronicles, Bealomondore--an artist--and his friend Princess Tipper Schope are drawn from the security of Amber Palace into the adventure of a journey to protect priceless statues sculpted by Tipper's father.  These statues are more important than simply being works of art but can be used to help keep the kingdom of Chiril safe--physically and mentally-- and they have other powers too.  Neither Tipper nor Bealomondore are positive they want to go on this adventure or that they need to take steps to protect the statues, because they seem safe already, but they go and through meeting new friends, learning to deal with enemies, and protecting the kingdom from an invading army, they each grow in their own ways and become warriors for Wulder.  Wulder is the God of their friends and the one that guides their steps in this journey; however, at the beginning of the tale neither of them know Wulder or believe in him.  So this is a physical adventure, a grand friendship, and a spiritual awakening.  
     Romance and comedy also take their place beside action in this story.  This is something that would be great to read for someone just wanting to sit back and relax, looking for enjoyment, or for a reader looking for characters that evolve with the tale.  No one finishes the story just as they began it and Donita K. Paul writes in such a way that the reader can truly see what happens as it unfolds as if the reader is present.  There were two scenes dealing with death that might be disturbing for younger readers, but it would be unreal to have an adventure against an invading army and not deal with death--the author at least did so in a tasteful way with no gratuitous details.  After receiving a free copy of this book in order to give an honest review (through Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers) it is possible to say that this is a book that can be read as a family or by book lovers, and should provide for the need to experience action, laugh, fall in love, and just plain reflect that most readers want to have satisfied.  Pick up a copy today and find a cosey chair.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Review of Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

          "In actuality, my son's assignment on Team Furtick is simple and minimal: to keep his hands reaching upward and trust that when the wave comes I'll lift him high above it" (Furtick 63). There are many lines and passages that stood out to me, begging me to pick up the highlighter and make sure I could find them at a glance, but this sentence seemed to encompass the meaning of the book the best--Christians are children standing in chest deep waters and they need to trust God to be strong enough and able to lift them up out of waves when He leads them out into them.  In the book Sun Stand Still: What happens when you dare to ask God for the impossible by Steven Furtick, the story of Joshua succeeding Moses and leading God's people into the Promised Land is delved into.  At first Furtick relates the story, mainly discussing the battle where Joshua prayed commanding the sun to stand still and it delayed going down for a full day.  He uses that story to illustrate the opportunity we have to pray to God for "impossible" things when they are for His glory.  Furtick also explains how it is important to our growth as believers to believe in God for the "impossible" and to pray for it.  Toward the center of the book, he includes a chapter called "What happens when the sun goes down" and talks about the times Christians ask God for something and there is no answer or the answer is "no".  He speaks about these times so that the book can be real and deal with the reality that just because a sun stand still prayer is prayed the sun does not have to stand still.  Then Furtick goes into the part toward the end where he explains that Joshua had not just asked God to have the sun stand still or to give them victory and then sat around in his tent waiting.  No, Joshua pressed on while he prayed: "Joshua had the audacity to ask and the persistence to pursue" (175).  Furtick takes the reader into a closer examination of the story of Joshua leading the people.  Before Joshua and the people of Israel got to that moment where the sun stood still for them, they did an all night march so that they were in position and hung onto God's promise, fighting all day in battle.
          While this book is insightful and full of Biblical evidence to support his claims, there are a few spots that give pause.  The prologue is playful in its use of the band U2, there is a completely unneeded line that insultingly implies that a specific actor is the worst actor ever (this is something that seems wrong to put in a non-movie related book in general and doubly wrong in a Christian book as Christians are called to a higher level), and an assumption that it ruins movies for everyone if it is known if someone dies in a film or how it will end--that the plot is the point.  The part that gives pause about his talk on the plot in a movie is that he has a problem with the resolution being revealed but called that the plot and journey.  The end result is not the plot.  When a writer uses a term incorrectly or not fully it makes the reader stop and think about everything the writer says.  It is something small and superficial but it causes the reader to stop and go over it again.  The only theological part of the book that causes hesitation is in a chapter where Furtick takes exception to believers praying for God to "just be with them" that day and makes the reader feel that he or she must be careful not to pray lame prayers to God.  Furtick probably did not mean for this chapter to come across that way as he does try to say that he knows people do not have to be these amazing speakers and wordsmiths to pray to God, but it was the least favorite chapter and causes anger when reading and uncertainty when just living.
          Though there were small areas that were disliked in this book, it is still something that should benefit believers who are actually seeking to be Christ followers and to build their prayer lives up.  Among lessons tackled by Sun Stand Still is: "Let me settle this once and for all: nothing you've ever done is so repulsive that God can't redeem your potential and love you through it" (135).  He does not leave readers with excuses for not following God and looking for miracles, but explains why they do not have these excuses. In most of the passages of the book Furtick explains things with a passion and in a loving way that encourages readers to continue reading and to attempt to try what he is talking about.  After receiving a free copy of this book in order to give an honest review (through Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers) it is possible to say that this is an enriching book that should be read by more of the Church body, especially in America. Within this book readers will walk away from it knowing that "Hope is a desire. Faith is a demonstration.  Hope wants it to happen.  Faith causes it to happen and acts as if it's already done" (181).  People need to read Sun Stand Still and do more than hope that it impacts their lives, but they need to act upon what they read and believe in God for the impossible, then ask Him for the "sun" to stand still.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011