BOOK REVIEW: You’re Stronger Than You Think, by Dr. Les Parrott

When the first page of a book promotes the author’s website and another $5.95 (after coupon code), one must be wary.  You’re Stronger Than You Think: The Power to do What You Feel You Cant, by Dr. Les Parrott, does make such an offer, and leans heavily toward ‘think-and-grow-powerful’ mentality of the mega-churched.  In fairness, his practical suggestions are good, but the overall impression is vague empty promises based on human effort.  Linking Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz with the Apostle Paul, Parrott summarizes his self-help strength source: “It’s found in your mind, your heart and your soul.  To use it-to summon your strength- all you have to do is say you need it and then listen for the still, small voice.”  No humility here.

I disliked the frequent ‘plugging’ of the author’s website offers, and the questions at the end of each chapter were silly.  He generally talks around a subject, quotes others, and ties in cute stories.  Pure feel-good fluff, with a touch of Scripture on top.  The darker grey pages at the end of sections hold good specific ideas (for instance, to clear your head, practice a mind-dump: write down every little thing that is on your mind, even the silly thoughts, for more clarity.), and evaluation quizzes (also silly).  I did like chapter 6: “Be Bold: there’s strength in taking risks”, but you could borrow the book from the library for those 20 pages.

In short, don’t bother (unless mega-church mantras are your style).  Read Think and Grow Rich, by Hill for the real thing.  I’m sure it will have the same effect: dust, not wealth.

My advance copy of this book was my only compensation for this frank review, for Tyndale Publishers.  My thoughts are my own, and haven’t made me rich yet.  Everything I have is grace from my Giver.

Resources:

pdf first chapter 

Dr. Les Parrott

  bio

other works

website

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BOOK REVIEW: Chasing the Sun, by Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson’s latest novel (of more than 90), Chasing the Sun, is based on a remote Texas ranch during the Civil War.  Beautiful Hannah Dandridge is orphaned on a large ranch with two younger siblings to care for, when she discovers that the ranch may not legally be hers.  Conveniently, the guaranteed-handsome William, (son of the previous owner) returns, and initiates flying sparks and fluttering lashes, and a generous slap of Baptist belief and pat Scripture application.  Complete with Comanche warriors, a smattering of Spanish phrases, and a growling geezer as William’s rival, it competes with a Pop-Tart for my attention.

If this is as good as it gets after writing 90-plus novels, it proves that anyone can write.  Thank you, Tracie, for dispelling my fears.

The plot was predictable, the characters uninspired, (yet quoting Scripture right and left), and the ending so pat I expected to hear the echo of “Ole’!” in the background.

One scene gave me the desire to respond with a “ROTFL”: Hannah has just approached  a Comanche warrior to make the gesture of peace, which is granted due to her recent display of excellent nursing skills on the son of the Chief, when William interrupts her.

“She tried not to notice how his rather disheveled appearance only served to draw her attention.  His brown hair seemed a little more wavy than usual, and the top of his bib shirt was unbuttoned and folded back to reveal a hint of dark chest hair.  She looked away quickly, lest her thoughts betray her.”

The few women I have known who would have been capable of presenting the Gospel to a Comanche warrior in full battle dress (Mother Theresa?  Corrie Ten Boom?), would not have had the slightest interest in chest hairs, attached or otherwise.  I also found it irritating that Hannah is not the least bit attracted to the son of the Chief, but perhaps he was lacking in chest hair.

I give this paperback one star: for being written in passable English, and assisting in bonfire-production (the cover makes pretty colors!)  If this is what sentimental Christian women are choosing to read, then the Enemy has already won.  On a more serious note: for a commendable alternative, with edgy plot and insightful characters, I would suggest any work by Francine Rivers, or Lois Henderson.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers, for kindling: I enjoyed my roast.  (Translation: my  unvarnished, uninhibited and generally negative review is in trade for the receipt of this book).

Resources:

Tracie Peterson

Tracie’s writing tips (oh, goody!)

Texas (just thought you might need a little of the real thing)

BOOK REVIEW: As One Devil to Another, Richard Platt with giveaway!

In a great compliment of imitation, Richard Platt has written the satirical As One Devil To Another.  C.S. Lewis would be pleased, I believe, to see the continuation of his ‘devilish’ style, in which more modern allusions are presented as instruments of evil towards “the humans,” and the hierarchy of fiends is set in academia.

Written from the perspective of Uncle and Mentor, Slashreap, in friendly letters to his newly graduated nephew Scardagger, instructing him in the arts of “acquiring the soul of your first client for His Infernal Majesty,” it follows the various methods and tools used to turn the heart of a young agnostic away from faith.  Following her growth is a secondary theme, while the first (that of guiding Scardagger in the use of his recently aquired training at Temptation University) brings up many examples of twisted thinking.  For example:

“Lassitude is a kind of Hellish Inertia.  We convince our clients that the Way of the Adversary is too hard, or better still, impossible, without ever allowing them to try it.  Hard it certainly is.  The Adversary makes no secret of it.  But the dangerous truth is that He promises to help them.”

In such a manner, all sorts of topics are reviewed for the nephew’s training & instruction in fiendishness, while the young client continues her path, blissfully unaware of the Heavenly battle raging around her.  A twist in the final plot gave me delight, while the entire book was so compelling I finished it in one sitting.  I will keep the copy though – it begs to be re-read, shared and quoted.  I found it stimulated my thinking, providing a fresh warning (against lassitude, among other temptations!), and clever reminders of the seriousness of our walk here on earth.  While the book is fiction, and has no resemblance to the frantic pace of Peretti’s book, Piercing the Darkness, it is a strong guard against insipid faith.

I highly recommend this book, and am grateful for the opportunity of writing this review for Tyndale in return for my copy.

GIVEAWAY:

Simply write a comment, and I will send you a certificate for a free copy of this excellent book!  Thank you for reading!

Further Resources:

Richard Platt

C. S. Lewis

Screwtape Letters

BOOK REVIEW: Healing is a Choice, by Stephen Arterburn

Despite my misgivings of the title, Healing is a Choice  is not a quick-fix manual, in the style of certain tele-evangelists.  Stephen Arterburn writes his most current tome in a conversational manner, workbook style.  I was pleased to find a wealth of thoughtful material, presented for normal, hurting Christians, about topics that the mainstream Christian church typically shies away from.

Presented in a 10-chapter format, where healing choices contrast with the lies that have been sold to us, Mr. Arterburn does not avoid the painful elements of life when discussing either his own story or those of others he has counseled on his daily radio show.  The version I reviewed contained workbook pages with each chapter – an essential part of this book.  Not for gift-giving, (unless you are a counselor), but personal growth in subjects like “The Choice to Feel Your Life,” in chapter 2, contrasted with the lie that “Real Christians should have a real peace in all circumstances.”  This hit home: while going through my own painful journey, I heard this lie – usually from smiling people without the depth of a healing process.  In contrast, the knowledge that my emotional pain was valid became liberating, and brought me (slowly) to peace and forgiveness.  With every chapter, I sensed a need for deeper study, which is why this review has taken so long (I am still not finished, but I hope you get the gist: excellent stuff here!).

In Mr. Arterburn’s words: “Your healing may be physical or it may be emotional and it could be spiritual.  I don’t know what God has for you. I am confident, however, that if you make the healing choices presented here and counter the lies you need to stop living, you will experience some level of healing to a new degree.” (intro,p.15)  In every page, every chapter and especially in the workbook pages, you are encouraged to make this a spiritual healing, by interacting with our grace-filled Saviour.

My hope is that this book is the fuel for your joyful living!

I was given a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review, as part of the Booksneeze review blogger group.  You can join also!  Just click on the button at your right.

Resources:

Stephen Arterburn’s online radio presence : New Life Live Show

Christianbook.com’s listing of his written works

Amazon’s page: Stephen Arterburn

BOOK REVIEW: The First Gardener, by Denise Hildreth Jones

Drawing upon the perspective of gardener and governor’s family in a historic Tennessee mansion, Denise Hildreth Jones‘ novel The First Gardener examines the faithful response to overwhelming tragedy.  Interspersed with humor, patience, and Southern pride, it is an easy read for such a difficult subject.

The family of Gray London, governor of Tennessee, fills the mansion with light faith, laughter, and familial joy.  Then an auto accident strikes, and all are affected, beginning with Gray’s wife Mackenzie, mother to Maddie, their only child.  In the wake of the accident, their faith, family, and even functioning are challenged – to exist, even to make it past this terror.  The joy of the book is the soulful gardener Jeremiah, who monitors both the plants of the mansion, and tends gently with the inhabitants by gifts from his greenhouse.  Mackenzie’s mother Eugenia, with her gaggle of elderly girlfriends, rounds out the support system with laughter and nearly impossible Southern spirit.

I found the novel thoughtfully written, the faith fully functional with deep trials, and the interactions sincere.  There were points that found me laughing out loud, and Jeremiah’s quiet reflections about the Lord were balm, while his idiomatic speech was a bit strained at times.  The first sentence, “The sides a my bologna gone and curled up in that cast-iron skillet when a pop a grease splattered out.”  I almost laid the book down.  I did also struggle with the trials, because the well-drawn characters made me hurt with them, and for them, but I thought the author’s conclusions were well drawn.  Pulling through infertility, pride, denial, depression, adultery, or death, Jones does not take the easy way out on any topic, and the journey is worth a few bumps.

As this is not her first book, you may enjoy the author’s website, which includes the first chapter to most of her prior writings.

I rate this book 3 stars, for enjoyable Christian contemporary fiction, and was pleased to receive a complimentary copy for which to complete my review from Tyndale Blogging Network, of Tyndale House Publishing.  You are welcome to join their team!

Book Review: Walls by Ryan Rush

Taking the visual cue of the Berlin Wall, Ryan Rush writes Walls: Why Everyone Is Stuck And Nobody Has To Be, arguing that we are all blocked in some spiritual ways.  “Walls block us from living, giving and experiencing God’s best in our lives.” His examples include anger, fear, doubt, shame…with room to personalize.  Ryan also clearly states that circumstances are not our walls, though they might tempt us to be distracted into believing so.  He proposes several godly steps toward breaking those walls down (there are often more than one) for your optimal growth in Christ.  Ryan’s style is easy, conversational and simply put – I finished the book in an afternoon.  I would not recommend that speed, however,  as this book may require several perusals for progress on said walls.  Anyone with stubborn mental blocks or spiritual strongholds (his provoking example is Mother Theresa) would be strengthened by simply considering Ryan’s method.  The book includes discussion questions to spark comprehension and conversation, spaces to record your thoughts, and begin naming your walls.

Personally I found this resonated with several internal struggles I have faced, with compassion and healing support, and an emphasis on the promises of God, with examples both thought-provoking and encouraging.

I was grateful to have the privilege of reviewing this book for Tyndale Blog Network, of Tyndale House Publishers and received a complimentary advance copy to complete my review.