"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.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Starring Me, by Krista McGee

           Starring Me is a YA book about seventeen-year-old Chad, who has been a pop star since winning a major television talent competition.  He's trying to break into acting with his own show - but, his parents insist that his female co-host be a Christian.  Enter Kara, a seventeen-year-old non-Christian who is in the final round of auditions for the show.  The two have met through mutual friends, but neither has any idea that Kara is being considered for Chad's show.

            The story was frustrating from the beginning for me.  It is marked by awkward transitions, and I never felt as though I were a part of the story.  The characters were one dimensional and stereotypical.  This is the kind of book that seems to talk down to teens through characters that just didn't seem real. 

            Spiritually, the theology was sound.  However, the religious aspects were more preachy than not.  The Christians in this book rarely talk about anything but their religion, even though they supposedly lead multi-faceted lives.  There was certainly much more telling than there was showing, particularly with regard to religion. 

            The subject matter of this book might be interesting to teens - television auditions, teen heartthrobs, and even hanging out at the White House. But other than the setting, I couldn't find much in this book to intrigue me.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Garden of Madness, by Tracy L. Higley

           Garden of Madness is a story that was inspired by characters in the Biblical book of Daniel.  Tracy L. Higley tells the story of a Babylonian princess who both literally and figuratively races to save her family and her country from a destructive revolution. She is aided in her efforts by a son of the Judean king.
            The plot of this book has the adventuresome spirit I love to read. It's got murder, mystery, romance, family secrets - everything you'd want from a good story.  Plus, you can't get a much better setting than the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The plot is complex, with many characters who weave in and out of Princess Tiamet's struggles to overcome her family's enemies.  Tia herself, while at times melodramatic, is largely a strong character that I think most women would find inspiring.  While the book isn't wholly unpredictable, the complexity of most of the main characters is enough to keep the reader guessing at many of the details of the great mystery within the plot.     
            The author admits that most of the story is fiction.  However, it is a speculation of the story of one of the ancestors of Christ.  I feel that the theology in this book is sound.  Not only will I read this book again, I look forward to finding other works by this author.  It is, hands down, the best book for the Christian market that I have had the pleasure of reading.
            Disclaimer:  I was given a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
            Five out of Five Stars

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

This Scarlet Cord, by Joan Wolf

           In this interesting twist on the five chapters of the Book of Joshua that discuss Rahab, we get a glimpse into Jericho as it might have been before and during its fall.  Rahab is a young Canaanite woman who in this story falls in love with an Israelite named Salmon.  As a result of her love, she turns to the Hebrew faith and aids the Israelites in their conquest of the city.
            Rahab as she is described in the Bible is both a prostitute and an ancestor of Jesus.  In this book, she is more a young woman who is caught up in the trappings of the Canaanite faith.  In Jericho, this may well have been the religion of Baal and Asherah, and this is how it is depicted in the book. So although we do not see Rahab presented as a prostitute in this story, we do get insight into a young woman who undergoes a conversion to Judaism as she comes into her maturity. 
            There were moments of this book that drew me in.  Others were more bland.  I did not find the cultural presentation of the era to be convincingly depicted.  Parts of the story seemed to suggest that Rahab's conversion and assistance to the Israelites were more motivated by her love for Salmon than by her love for Yahweh.  I also feel that the story deviates from what we know of Rahab through the Bible and the writings of Josephus.  However, I do recommend this book to anyone who is inspired by Rahab and is interested in a different take on her story.  It is very much a story of female empowerment.

            Three out of Five Stars

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