"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

-C.S. Lewis

What we read has such an impact on us, and I am always on the lookout for something that will inspire me to be a better person. Here is a sampling of books that have been in the teetering stack sitting on top of what is rumored to be my bedside table.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The House on the Corner, by Michael Rains

The House on the Corner, by Michael Rains, is a novel about a boy who goes on a quest ostensibly to fight against a corporation that is controlling people's minds. He joins a group of people who are also working together toward this end.

Honestly, I was very confused throughout much of this book. The transitions between scenes are awkward and sometimes nonexistent. There is a sea of characters, and it's hard to keep track of the relationships between them - or even who they are.  At one point, one of the characters actually says that many things are very confusing.  Having most of the characters be so confused throughout the book doesn't help the reader much.  It was very difficult for me to write a summary of the book because I understood so little of what was happening.

Also, frequent errors in grammar (especially placement of commas) and odd word choices distract from the plot.  There is a good deal of telling instead of showing, which makes the writing style seem a bit trite.

On the plus side, the idea for the plot is interesting. There were moments of clarity when I could see the novel for what it could be. The spiritual allegory is quite promising.  If the author sees this, I'd like to encourage him to keep studying his craft.

One of Five Stars

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by Thomas Nelson publishing house in exchange for an honest review.

Beyond Molasses Creek, by Nicole A. Seitz

Beyond Molasses Creek, by Nicole A. Seitz, is ultimately a story of finding peace and spirituality.  Along the way, Seitz takes the reader on two parallel journeys - that of an American woman trying to find a place in her life's future, and a Nepalese woman trying to find the true story of her past.

I was intrigued by Seitz' Inheritance of Beauty, but Beyond Molasses Creek is one of those books that draws you in and doesn't let you go until well after you're finished. I was mesmerized by the story of Ally and the struggles she has to overcome when she returns to her Southern hometown after her father's death. Her uneasy transition into this new season of her life is one that most readers can identify with. Her friendship with her African-American neighbor - once taboo but now accepted - only added to my compassion for the character. Ally is someone whom you'd like to invite over for a cup of tea and a nice chat.

In contrast to Ally's experience, Sunila's experience as an Untouchable is heart wrenching. I was especially  taken in by the comparison to the de juris caste system in Nepal vs. the de facto caste system in America. I was skeptical at first that the parallel storylines would work, but they intertwine beautifully.

This book is fascinating on several levels.  I highly recommend it.

Four out of Five Stars

Disclaimer:  I was provided an Advance Review Copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Your 100 Day Prayer, by John I. Snyder

This is certainly one of the best daily devotional books I've seen. As the title states, the book guides the reader through 100 days of Bible study, reflection, journaling, and prayer. The idea is to bring the same issue before God for 100 days, practicing persistence in prayer as Christ taught.

I admit that I had my doubts as I read the introduction of the book. It really seemed as though the author was selling the 100 Day Cure for What Ails You. But this book isn't for folks who think that life magically gets perfect the moment you become a Christian.  God never promised that, and this book doesn't either.

This book is about learning to become God-centered, instead of Me-centered. It's about learning to reconcile our fast-paced lives with the slower lifestyle that our bodies were designed for.  There are a variety of issues covered in this book, including anxiety, anger, fear, and finances. It is a 100 day course of soul searching with the aim of complete reliance on God.

This book is for anyone who wants to know why bad things happen to good people, anyone who is going through a crisis, or anyone who just wants a closer relationship with God.  Highly recommended.

Five out of Five Stars

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Bone House, by Stephen R. Lawhead

The Bone House, by Stephen R. Lawhead, is an interesting foray into the realm of speculative fiction. The main character, Kit, and his allies must travel through different parallel dimensions on a quest to find The Skin Map.  The Skin Map charts the different dimensions of this "multiverse," but the key that the Map holds remains a mystery to Kit and to the reader. To complicate matters further, Kit must also stay away from Lord Burleigh, who is also in pursuit of the Map for his own evil schemes.
I had not read The Skin Map, the first book in this series, but a quick synopsis brings the reader up to date at the beginning of The Bone House. Still, though, I found it difficult to follow some of the story lines.  There are many characters and almost as many story lines told from different points of view. In addition, occasional flashbacks make the story somewhat difficult to follow. Also, the reader is expected to infer quite a bit as the plot plays out, since the story does jump back and forth in time and space.

However, while this novel can't be classified as an easy read, it is nevertheless interesting. The ideas of quantum physics and the multiverse are fascinating when written in a fiction format. An essay on the subject is included at the end of the book.  I'd recommend reading this essay before beginning the book, as it might make some things more clear.

All in all, this is a book that is not your normal fiction fare. If you're looking for something unique, this is the series for you.

Four out of Five Stars

Disclaimer:  I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.