Book Reviews

Title – Lent Is For Loving – A lent Course About Love
Author – Sheila Cassidy
Format – A5 Paperback
Price – £5.99
Publisher – DLT
Date of Publication – November 2012
ISBN 978-0-232-52981-4
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

The lent courses from DLT are most often very different, for the last few years they have used some great films like ‘Chocolate’ as the basis of their courses and though this one is not at all based on a film or an overriding experience such as ‘Touching the Void’ was it is still very different and excellent. After all it’s not often you get an unashamed ‘lapsed’ Catholic who doesn’t attend regular church services anymore writing a Lent Course, it’s also not often as well that you come across a lent book that suggests picking up Dog Poo instead of giving up Chocolate as a more fitting Lenten observance, it’s not often that you get a lent course that talks about the Wheelchair God, unable to do things for himself and relying on his friends/family to do them instead, it’s not often you get discourses on priest abuse scandals and other aspects of zero-empathy either, but you do here and this book is incredibly powerful and socially relevant for that and certainly something that makes for real lent reading and would make for an incredibly interesting group experience for that reason. This is the book to use if you want to reach out and consider what it means to be in our society, what it means to be ‘christian’, what it means to embody love in the way God and Christ did, this is definitely a book you could use for outreaching a lent course past the boundaries of your church door, and it’s also a book you can read outside of Lent and just because you want to read a good book looking at Love as it should be probably really be considered within the church setting, ie from the inside looking and reaching out, and from the outside as others look in.

Title – Fall To Grace – A Revolution Of God, Self, and Society
Author – Jay Bakker
Format – Paperback
Price – £11.99
Publisher – Jericho Books (Hodder)
Date of Publication – September 2012
ISBN – 978-0-446-53949-4
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

Fantastic book on grace written in part as testimony and from personal experience but so much more than that! Jay Bakker is the son of the notorious TV evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and is now a pastor in his own right, but an alternative pastor with a reach that is welcoming, open and founded on the principle of radical grace. His church meets in a bar, is gay-friendly and is a place of healing – the place he believes and so strongly advocates that Christ would see church be, a place of radical love and forgiveness. He teaches grace magnificently in this very honest book that deals with his own experiences, warts and all. He then moves past his own experiences to demonstrate the biblical principles underlying such radical grace, hospitality and acceptance and puts forward an incredible alt.view for why being gay-friendly and positioning for the word ‘homosexuality’ to be removed from the bible is the only right way to go – the only Christ-like thing for us to do. This book is a must read for anyone looking for an interesting and understandable book on Grace, but also for people looking to better understand the argument as recently put forward by Steve Chalke that evangelicals can and indeed must have a welcoming stance on the issue of homosexuality if they are truly to live out the message of love put forward in the bible.

Title – Seeking Justice: The Radical Compassion Of Jesus
Author – Keith Hebden
Format – Paperback
Price – £11.99
Publisher – Circle Books (John Hunt)
Date of Publication – January 2013
ISBN – 978—1-78099-688-2
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

Seeking Justice – the radical compassion of Jesus is an absolutely fantastic book that really digs at what it means to be compassionate, to make the right choices, to act as jesus would have, and above all to truly act. It is part activist manual and part leaders guide and above all it is truly insightful, compassionate and intriguing. Is their guilt to be found in a book about radical compassion – you bet there is! Lots actually as you realise how little we act with compassion for our neighbours, for strangers, for our communities and most of all for ourselves. This book is a call to action, indeed as the preface states it is ‘ a lab book for your experiments in social transformation’ and as such at the end of each chapter you will find sections with suggestions for’Building Compassionate Communities’, ‘For Small Groups’ and ‘Further Reading’. I’d really suggest that you take up some of these options, indeed after reading the book I’m unsure how you couldn’t want to because this book is filled with honest passion and enthusiasm that lights the way for others. It’s an intelligent and articulate book that crosses denominational boundaries and really looks at how we can act in our communities and lives as truly compassionate beings and bringers of God’s Grace to other. Beautiful book and one that should be read by anyone that wants a better community and to be more like Jesus in their life.

Title – Retreats 2013 : Places and Spaces For The Healing Journey
Author – The Retreat Association
Format – Paperback
Price – £6.50
Publisher – The Retreat Association
Date of Publication – January 2013
ISBN – 978-0-9548601-9-6

The annual Retreats Guide from the Retreat Association for 2013 as usual lists all the retreat houses and centres across the UK, as well as listing the programmes and events for more than 200 of them within its pages also this year focuses on Healing, with articles within its pages from Lucy Winkett, Elizabeth Baxter and Russ Parker that reflect on healing and the part that plays in Gods world, and also articles on Creativity and the Labyrinth amongst a good few others that make this so much more than just a retreats guide.

Title – The Living Gospel : Daily Devotions For Lent 2013
Author – R Scott Hurd
Format – A5 Paperback
Price – £2.99
Publisher – Ave Maria Press (Alban)
Date of Publication – January 2013
ISBN 978-1-59471-363-7
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

The living gospel is a lovely little well priced Lent guide for journeying throughout Lent 2013. Its devotions are short but insightful and written in a very down to earth manner that would suit anyone from the age of 18 forwards because they aren’t ‘holy’ but they are spiritually relevant, keen and meaningful. Each day follows the same formula, Begin – a thoughtful time for refliection and silence, Pray – a one line scripture verse prayer. Listen – a short scripture reading. Then the Devotion, followed by Act – an ‘I Will’ section that draws on all that’s gone before and sets up the lesson for the day and our achievable aim (after all without intent what good is prayer?) and finally Pray – a wonderful short but meaningful prayer.
All in all this would easily fit within a 10 minute span if that’s all you had to give it, but in honesty each short daily devotional could last you 24 hours of contemplation easily if you really let it. At £2.99 it’s a real bargain of a lent devotional.

Title – The Scandal Of Christianity
Author – R. T. Kendall
Format – Paperback
Price – £8.99
Publisher – Hodder
Date of Publication – June 2012
ISBN 978-0-340-96416-3
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

R.T. Kendall has been a best selling author for a lot of years now, and there is a good reason for that – He’s not afraid to put forward difficult subjects and express his opinion on them.
This book looking at ‘The Scandal of Christianity’ is certainly a case in point. So what is the scandal?
In many ways it’s a multi-faceted one we find, first is that it’s a scandal that Christianity has become so much the unfavoured child and the message so sidelined and ridiculed and secondly it’s a scandal that so few Christians are really willing to stand up against this besmirching and really take a stand, and of course there is also the attached scandal that some Christians are contributing to this impression others have by their actions that seem so at odds with the real message of Christ and Christianity.
Do I agree with all Kendall said in this book, no, but what I do agree with is that it is an issue we really need to grapple with and address and not brush under the carpet, so in that respect this is a much needed book that should certainly be looked at, read and considered – indeed it could even be done as a group church activity.

Title – Sanctuary Of The Soul – A Journey Into Meditative Prayer
Author – Richard Foster
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – Hodder
Date of Publication – August  2012
ISBN – 978-1-4447-0258-3
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

A lovely gentle book that takes us into the mystery and understanding of meditative, or as some may call it contemplative, prayer in Richard Fosters inimitable and considered way. There is to this book a cadence that matches the subject being considered and taught, a considered and slow rhythm that gently leads you into the biblical and theological consideration of meditation and reflective prayer, and from there through stories of others who have journeyed into the heart of meditative prayer, be they early church people or our modern contemparies or even Foster himself, we are led into a guide of how to become practitioners of this ancient and important way of praying and knowing ourselves in relationship with God.
For some this tempered pace may seem a little too slow, but for those yearning for the stillness to be found in this form of prayer this book will be a wonderful tool and guide.

Title – Journeying With Jesus – Personal Reflections On The Stations Of The Cross And Resurrection (Mobray Lent Book 2012)
Author – Ed. Lucy Russell
Format – Paperback
Price – £9.99
Publisher – Bloomsbury
Date of Publication – November 2012
ISBN 978-1-4081-8207-9
Reviewer: Melanie Carroll

What an incredibly simple but moving lent book, not focusing on the days of Lent but instead focusing on the passion and resurrection of Our Lord as represented through the iconographic images of the stations of the cross. There are beautiful and simple illustration of each station done by James Edgar in the book.
Each simple reflection in the book is by a different contributor and these contributors span all traditions of churchmanship and class, we have here a truly ecumenical book that looks at the cross and Christ and reflects on the most personal elements of human psyche in an honest and moving way. For me this is the embodiment of Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection – the reflection of the most spiritual made the most human so that we can see ourselves with all our faults and glories – and as one of the contributors reflects, ‘it is safer to roll the stone into place, and walk away’ (pg56) than face this.
I think this is a beautiful personal guide to journey with through the season of Lent, and indeed it would also make for interesting service material should one consider doing an alternate stations of the cross during the Holy Week.

Title – Trusting God Day By Day – 365 Daily Devotions
Author – Joyce Meyer
Format – Hardback
Price – £12.99
Publisher – Hodder
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN – 978-1-444-74595-5
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

This is probably a must have for anyone that likes Joyce Meyer’s inimitable style of down to earth writing with a hint of humour and who has (or wants to start having!) a devotional time each day, because here we have 365 daily thoughts from Joyce on Trusting God – each one done in such a way to really help you focus on how we do, or don’t, but can, trust God in all circumstances of our lives, yes even when we are getting fraught because we are stuck in a traffic jam with places to be!
The book is done in a somewhat square block hardback style making it quite nice to hold, and with the rose motif from the front cover reflected on each page inside it makes for a really nice touch, if I had one disappointment with it though it would be that it doesn’t start each day on a new page so you do get quite a few times when nothing more than the date and one liner is on the bottom of the page and the rest of the reading overleaf, or a suddenly blank gap because the end paragraph has been popped over the next page – however that’s pretty small beans considering the content inside.
A good book to treat yourself to or give as a present.

Title – 365 Days Of Yes – Daily Prayers And Readings For A Missional People
Author – Church Mission Society
Format – Hardback
Price – £19.99
Publisher – Canterbury Press
Date of Publication – June 2012
ISBN 978-1-84825-060-4
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

What an incredibly different journey through the year, small glimpses and reflections from the letters of our friends serving in mission around the world with CMS (Church Mission Society). It’s a way of helping those of us not away on Mission to remember those on mission, but more than that it’s a way for those of us at home to become as those on mission, it’s a stretch out across boundaries and a reach into intentional mission communities. All of us can be active missioners no matter where we are or who we are if we actively try to reach out to those who don’t yet know Christ, or who do but are on the margins of our society, what a witness this book can be daily to those looking to be more involved whether through thought and prayer or through action.
I like the way the days are listed by their names in the Lectionary rather than the day/month or number of day in the year, this very much brings it into the liturgical model of the church and reflects the commitment of mission within the church, and in it’s own way identifies too the church being made manifest to those outside it too, it’s a good bridging step in the way all good mission is.
As someone who feels called to intentional missional living through her daily job and life here in the UK, I felt very blessed by this book and will be using this alongside of  my usual ‘Common Prayer – a liturgy for ordinary radicals’ throughout 2013.

Title – By Faith And Reason The Essential Keith Ward
Author – Ed. Wm Curtis Holtzen & Roberto Sirvent
Format – Paperback
Price – £25.99
Publisher – DLT
Date of Publication – July 2012
ISBN – 978-0-232-52898-5
Reviewer Melanie Carroll

This is a good collection and overview of Keith Wards thoughts and work spanning key subject area’s likely to be encountered by any undergraduate and as such it makes a handy cribbers guide and overiew. With a new essay by Prof. Ward in the Faith and Reason section, the book covers as well Concepts of God, Science and Religion, the Bible & It’s Interpretation and lastly Interfaith Dialogue and Disagreement. Obviously being selected essays on these subjects they readily give us keen insight into Ward’s works , idea’s and style, but more than that they give us an overview into the subject matters covered as a whole and so in that way can be a good primer into these subjects for any with a passing interest in theology.
The work is an homage by the editors to Keith Ward as is made clear in the beginning of the book, and though that may seem a little strange, and of course colours the materials selected, it is perhaps nevertheless a worthy book given how prolific Keith Ward has been as a theologian and writer.

Title – Water – A Spiritual History
Author – Ian Bradley
Format – Hardback
Price – £16.99
Publisher – Bloomsbury
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN 978-1-4411-1173-9

When you see Ian Bradley’s name on a book you know you are in for a well researched, intelligent and well written book and this one on Water really is no different. It is a lovely troll through the imagery and use of Water within both Christian and pagan spirituality, both abroad and more especially here in the UK. So we have a lovely look at the images and significance of  both baths and baptism, we come to see Rome’s attraction to water, the early churches rejection of it, especially if warm! and then move onto the celts love of springs, and from there onto the Christian development of holy wells and finally into our more modern attraction to Spa’s and how all of these feed into the spiritual core.
Beautifully written with black and white photographs included, this book uses history, prose and poetry to really explore the spiritual history that water has. A definite must for anyone with any water baby tendencies, or who would just like to know a little more about how this most important element features in our spiritual development and faith.

Title – Why Did Jesus, Moses, The Buddha and Mohammed Cross The Road? Christian Identity In A Multi-Faith World.
Author – Brian D. McLaren
Format – Paperback
Price – £12.99
Publisher – Hodder
Date of Publication – October 2012
ISBN – 978-1-444-70367-2

This book is an incredible look at how we need to change to maintain our Christian Integrity, but more than that it’s about how that change probably isn’t what people expect it to be, because it’s not about becoming more entrenched, dogmatic or fundamental in our faith and approach to others, but how instead we should change to be more receptive, open and giving (I hesitate to use the word tolerant for reasons you will discover in the book), accepting others just as they are and just as Christ actually did. Only then can we truly engage with people of other faiths or none and truly hold onto our own Christian Integrity. We are encouraged by McLaren to exercise real compassion and understanding, the same sort of compassion and understanding Christ taught us through parables and examples (think the Good Samaritan, think Christ and the Samaritan woman etc), we are asked to convert (if we really have to!) not through words or warnings, but instead through actions of openness, love and receptivity – to exercise the one command of loving others as Christ loved us. It’s a radical teaching, one we should give serious consideration to.

A Shot of Faith (To The Head).  Mitch Stokes.  Thomas Nelson. Reviewed on 11/1/2013

 A shot of faith is refreshing, articulate and well worth reading if you've ever had 'that' conversation with an atheist/humanist, you know the one where they ardently point out you are delusional for holding a faith and that you can't prove your faith logically so therefore it can have no basis in fact. of course the fact that they can't actually disprove your faith logically for all their words makes this a really hard conversation to have especially as for most people faith isn't a matter of logic, intellect and argument but rather as the word denotes a matter of faith, belief and understanding at an emotional and spiritual level. That's where a shot of faith can be a great book to read and tool to understanding, because it can help provide you with the basis of refutation, it calmly and clearly sets out the arguments and counter arguments and helps you to shore up your conversational gambits and arguments for the next time you are faced with a 'cranky atheist' determined to pull down your belief to shore up their unbelief.

 disclaimer this book was given as part of the Book Sneeze programme and the americans seem to need me to say this as otherwise you might think being given a free book could alter my opinion - if you read the review you'll likely ascertain that my opinion isn't nearly that fickle and it didnt.

Wrecked. Author: Jeff Goins. Available as a  Book from Moody Press or Audiobook from  Reviewed on 16/10/2012.
I have just finished an incredible book and it's not often I do this on here but I have to share it right now!
It's called 'Wrecked: When a broken world slams into your comfortable life' by Jeff Goins. It's spoken to me loudly for the last three days I've been 'listening' to it and along the way - yesterday especially - there were many moments when what it was saying was confirmed to me and really
'slammed' into me.
It's a book about commitment, about realisation, about working past the malaise or itchy feelings we all get, about realising that when it gets difficult is often when God is most at work in our lives. It's about accepting that sometimes staying where you are is the real job at hand despite the call to move on or to what we think we may be our mission. It's a book about being where you are when you are - but also about finding the courage to allow yourself to be 'wrecked' and broken for God's cause and most of all for God's people.
It is an incredible book and I've really felt ministered to by it. Definitely one I'm recommending to my friends and one I think will grace many other people too maybe. Give it a chance and most of all give yourself the chance to be wrecked even if just for a season.

(Audio Book) Grace.  Author: Max Lucado.  Publisher: Reviewed on 4/10/2012
“I have to say that I found the reading of this audio book to be beautiful and entirely perfect for the book and content. Good diction, wonderful localization and just so well read that it really helped to keep the focus on the really important subject matter being spoken/written about by Max Lucado.

Grace is a really big key subject and Max Lucado in his typical style of insight, humor and down to earth reality does it great justice by making it so accessible.
He covers all the big issues that surround Grace - things like how do I know I've got, am I really covered by it, can I lose it etc and he does so in such a way that without doubt we understand that grace is not conditional, we cannot lose it, God's Grace is bigger than us and that grace is an ultimate act of Love that we can in small part reflect back. However he makes clear that though Grace is without condition we can at times not be reflecting grace in our own actions and lives and that in this way we are sometimes outside of grace - though not outside of God's Grace! Key and foundational differences at work here - and i love the way he uses the story of the class Christmas gift giving to explain such a thing in a way that so clearly and humanly contextualizes the issue and difference. Brilliant!

If you want to better understand Grace and how it works in your life then this book is certainly a good start indeed - and this audio is certainly a great listen too!” 

 Thanks to Reviewer's Program for this copy, please be assured i'm not fickle enough to have allowed myself to have been swayed by the free digital download of this audio book - the review is genuine and my honest opinion.

(AudioBook) Disability and the Gospel.  Author: Michael Beates.  Publisher: 5/9/2012

This was a fantastic audio book that is well worth listening to regardless of your knowledge of or contact with disability. Indeed this book really should be on all ministers and church goers booklists because it raises and highlights the important fact that we sometime marginalise and hide those with disability, that we sometimes make their families feel less and that we do it thinking we are good helpful Christians when what we should do is follow the example of Christ and welcome them in properly.
Not as less but as equal, as people with important lessons to teach us and stories to tell.
This book will be a great comfort to many with disabled members of their family because it will in many ways help them to see they are anything but alone, it will be an uncomfortable but important book for those who should be working with these families in the church community.
If you really can't read all the book then listen at the least to the appendixes, because there is much of great insight and depth to be found there, distilled wisdom as it were.
The audio book is really well read with good tone and inflection throughout that really help to make it easy to listen to and take in.
I really can't recommend this book enough for all members of the church community to listen to, consider and act upon.

(AudioBook)  Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go. Author: Adam Hamilton. Publisher:  17/08/2012

 I can honestly say that this was an incredible book to listen to, the melodic and meditative tone of the narrator totally suited the thoughtful, contemplative and considered prose of the author.
Forgiveness is not an easy subject to address and yet Adam Hamilton really manages to put forward warm caring practical and helpful advice on both forgiveness as an act we must take part in and as an act we must accept.
The metaphor throughout of the pebbles, stones and boulders that fill our rucksack and weigh us down was a genuis one, an example easy to grasp and visualise and really helped add concrete expression to the acts I needed to do, to the forgiveness I needed to grant and to offer, to the realities of my actions across a wide range of real and percieved situations, and to the people I meet and interact with daily. This was a short work, just under 3 hours but so very powerful for all of that.
Be warned though that if you, like me, are someone that listens to audio books in your car going to and from work in peak travelling times, you are likely to realise how many pebbles you pick up and throw out over the very slightest of things, and your journey to work will be a salutory experience for that.
An excellent book on Forgiveness from the author and a wonderful book on audio from and it's gifted narrator.

I recieved a copy of this audio book as part of the review program. This has not influenced my review in anyway and this review is entirely based upon my own reaction and impressions from listening to this AudioBook.

(AudioBook) The 3-Minute Difference: Alter Your Health, Money, and Relationships Without Changing Who You Are.    Author: Wayne E. Nance    Publisher:  9/8/2012

 I can honestly say that I found this audio book to be really interesting once I got past the fact that i had no way of taking the 3 minute test that it all hinged upon, (actually I could have gone to the authors website and tried to download it - but as I was listening to it on my mp3 player that would have been a little awkard). However listening to the different attitude types and the way he breaks them down one can still gain an insight into where you might perhaps fit on the scale enough to go along with the book. Even without knowing what attitude you come under the book is interesting because the real life examples used are intelligent, interesting, engaging and real. The situations being dealt with, learning how to get to grips with finance, health and weight are also well presented with good 10 point plans and lists that work because they are well thought out and designed even before we start dealing with how our underlying attitude predisposes us to make mistakes, take shortcuts and basically sabotage ourselves unless we work at it. This is probably because as is explained in the first chapter, the author was originally intrinsically opposed to 'personality' tests and therefore used to teach on these subjects without such a test.
On the whole it's a really good audio book, well spoken with good intonation throughout that make it easy to listen to and take in the detail of what's being put forward.
Well worth considering if you are looking at trying to get to grips with making honest lifestyle changes, regardless of your personality or circumstances.
I recieved a copy of this audio book as part of the review program. This has not influenced my review in anyway and this review is entirely based upon my own reaction and impressions from listening to this AudioBook.

(AudioBook) Fearless -The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team SIX Operator Adam Brown.  Author: Eric Blehm   Publisher:  Reviewed 24/05/2012

First off let me say that I'm not an American so the US Navy Seals don't hold the same level of Hero worship for me as they might for others, but nevertheless this was a really interesting listen of one mans journey to becoming a hero, and not just through the sacrifice of his life in service to his country.

What is so important in this story though is that Adam Brown is not immediately whitewashed but rather is portrayed as a very human person who through his own self determination, and that of his family and friends, fought his way from drugs and foolishness into the seals and into the realms of loyalty, honour and conviction through hard work and selfless determination and through his faith commitment too.

It's a story of mistakes and hardship, of having it all and losing it, just to find it again and then make good on it.

It's the story of a hero with a heart and it's a fitting epitaph for a man willing to sacrifice all for his family, his faith and his service.

On the whole the story is well told, the author has written a well researched and interesting book with lots of imput from those that really knew him.

In terms of the Audio Book edition, the narrators voice is for the most part easy to listen to, with good pacing and clear diction.
However when it comes to the womens voices it then degenerates into annoying insipidness and mimicry!

The women he is talking for are strong women, women of real fortitude and moral fibre, women who stand up to, and with, Adam Brown and yet when the narrator speaks for them he turns them into insipid and simpering females due to the way he voices them.
This is a real shame and really detracted from the story for me.

However that aside and despite it, this audio book was well worth the listen, and I feel priviliged to have heard the story of Chief Special Warfare Operator Adam Brown.

Due to the narrators jarring reading of the female voices in this audio I feel I can only give this edition 3/5 stars, although the authors work itself is worth 4/5 stars.

I recieved a copy of this audio book as part of the review program. This has not influenced my review in anyway and this review is entirely based upon my own reaction and impressions from listening to this AudioBook.


The Christian Zombie Killers Handbook.  Jeff Kinley.  Thomas Nelson.  Reviewed 13/4/2012 Zombie Killing is not normally a Christian pastime and I've got to admit that I was slightly disappointed by this book, I expected a bit more fun and a bit more zombie killing that there really was to it. Oh don't get me wrong there are Zombies and chasing and the whole fiction thing zombie apocalypse theme to it, but it's kind of offset a bit too much by the non-fiction sections that pulled me out of the fun and gore with insight and into the dull and bore.
If it had just been the fiction it would have worked better and still got the point across, with the other side of it though I was left remembering Peter Hiett's book, Dance Lessons for Zombies, and thought that much of it may have perhaps been influenced by that book - which was a great book.
Still for unusual and tkaing bits out of , this book probably would work and be appealing to the younger element that just don't generally do christian books and for that its got to be good.

disclimer this book was given as part of the Book Sneeze programme and the americans seem to need me to say this as otherwise you might think being given a free book could alter my opinion - if you read the review you know my opinion isn't nearly that fickle and it didnt.

Going Deep - Becoming a person of influence.  Gordon Macdonald.  Thomas Nelson Publishers. Reviewed 21/02/2012.

I was excited to get this book as I have recently been having many discussions on the paucity of really deep developed Christians in many churches and congregations these days. That is not to say there aren't really great and committed Christians in the churches, just that they aren't always really spiritually developed, think 20somethings (regardless of age) rather than 50somethings and you're there.
I had hoped this book would really deliver on helping both myself as an individual grow towards the deeper elements and also round out the argument and discussion of how we deepen our churches. On one level it did - it offered a prospective idea of how a mentoring programme could be developed. However what it didn't do was really address the issue on a personal level and because of the nature of the book, a mix of fiction and fact, it also didn't deliver clearly on the realities of the situation as it stands. The use of the fiction as narrative left it a little too twee and easy to what it likely would be in most congregations.
However that said it is at least a book out there actually admitting and addressing that perhaps  somewhere there is a problem, a failure to develop really developed and deep christians, and that is an important place to start, so well done there.
I think I'd love it if Mr Macdonald could perhaps do a shorter but more factual book on the issues he addresses. An actual guide and discussion as opposed to this rather long blending of fictional possibilities and ideals.
On a side note - I love the cover image.

(to conform to US laws - silly as they may be - this book was sent to me free as part of the BookSneeze programme - this did not effect my review)

The Grace Effect - Larry Alex Taunton.  Thomas Nelson Publishers.  Reviewed 31/01/2012

I think what I most liked about this story was that it was a real story of real people and a real adoption.
A story of the journey to become a family, to define family, to grow the differences over and yet to not loose sight of them, a story not of forcing change but growing change, a story of a slow turn of heart, and in this way it most ably demonstrates the coming to faith that the book is also about. The adoption of us all as sons and daughters of God in the family of faith. How Atheism, socialism and the root of unbelief is not always as it would seem, just as faith is not always quite what we would have it be, and how this is not as insurmountable as we may think. Rather the way we engage with it, deal with it and it with us needs to be more the slow growth of acceptance and difference that we broach any relationship with, especially a new addition to a family. Through the slow measures of building trust, encouraging trust, listening and engaging and trying to understand - that is where faith meets atheism and where dialogue and change can best happen.
This is a wonderful book, but more because of it's openess, humanity and questioning wonder than anything else for me.

Please note this book was a freebie from Booksneeze and even though it was free I'm not that cheap to buy so the opinion and review is totally my own and if the book had been rubbish I would say so - however it wasn't so that's what I've said instead - I've said this to comply with some rather daft american regulations.

Tithing – Douglas LeBlanc. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Reviewed 4/7/11

OK again let me start bydoing the american disclaimer thing and pointing out that I got a free copy of this book to review through the booksneeze programme.This hasn’t influenced my opinion or my review because a free book just isn’t going to do that!.

This book is part of the rather wonderful Ancient practices series and this one, rather like the others I have read takes a slightly different way of looking at the deep rooted and important ancient spiritual practices we may have lost sight of. this time I was expecting a book that might really look at what tithing actually means and how it can be done practically in a modern context – in some ways this book failed at this pint, but what it did show is a series of rather lovely insights into the choices people have made in tithing, the way this has effected them and the reasons they decided to tithe.
In it’s own way this is perhaps more valuable for this because it shows that people do tithe, even at cost – real cost to themselves, it shows that the reasons people choose to tithe are multiple and although biblically based each time they are also always individualistic in choice and method and that though it might be a mandate it is as ever always a choice and personal action.

I did enjoy the book even though it was in some ways not hat I wanted, it is perhaps more suited to those that like books on personal testimony than those looking for a treatise on tithing, but nevertheless it is a book that does make one think of the issue of tithing and thus fulfils the standard of the ancient practices series.

Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World – Dr David Jeremiah. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Reviewed 15/01/2011

Ok let me start that by stating I got a free review copy of this – in case any strange US government types think that is going to prejudice a book reviews review then read on.

I am from the UK and this book was a tad too American for me – the language and the hyperbole of chaos used was a little too strong for me to really get to grips with this book. Yes there is much chaos in this world of change and yes the financial turmoil of the past few years has left a real impact but is it as bad as this book seems to think? I’m not sure. That sad the book does lay out some great idea’s on staying calm, being considerate and remaining Christian against all odds. The theology in it is not bad, it is well reasones and researched and very much scripturally based so on that level this book is worth a read and it is well written in an easy to read style – though like I said for me it is a bit too alarmist at times, perhaps more suited to the latest cyber thriller than a theological consideration of living the christian life in the modern times. However if you are of the alarmist nature and strongly concerned about end times living then this would be a definite recommend.

Kaleidoscope – Patsy Clairmont, 19 Mar 2010

It takes as it’s starting point the book of proverbs and is aimed at women, however let me say this is a great small group resource for any group not just for women. So ok I admit the devotional chat styled main parts of each chapter/section are female centric stories, however with a little tweaking most of them can worked for a mixed audience because the sentiments are almost universal, but what makes the book for me is not really the meat of the chapters, but rather the afters, that is to say the sections subtitled Bits & Pieces, which are a series of questions that, yes tie in with the chapters story, but nontheless are great questions for discussion starters or for more personal consideration. This along with the themed scripture verses in the `hold onto the light’ section make this an interesting and useful book to have around. I do have to admit though that I would have preferred the book had it not been aimed at the female market but rather just aimed at all – but then that’s because I don’t entirely agree with the man/woman divide becoming more prevalent. Wisdom is universal – after all that’s what this book is all about so we shouldn’t have to come at it from a male/female way, after all did we forget somewhere along the line that in him is no male or female?
Still this aside it’s a good book and very easy to read, though worth taking a little time with.
(Book reviewed was provided by publishers for reviewing purposes)

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The Sacred Journey – Charles Foster 20/04/2010

I recieved this book in the post this morning from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for review purposes.
As ever with a new book I picked it up and flicked through it, letting my eyes glance across a few pages to get a bit of a feel for the book. This time the book opened on Chapter 8 and from then onwards I was hooked, my quick glance never stopped until I reached the end of the book at which I point I then immediately had to go back to the beginning and read from there and all the way through again! It really is not that often that a book grabs me as this one did, speaks so fervently and yet entertainingly as this one did, echoed and resonated so strongly within me that not only did I read it through in one sitting but then immediately felt the need to pass it on to a friend.

Charles Foster has written a wonderful book that purports to be about pilgrimage but is in fact a wonderful treatise on the life of searching and being a nomad, on finding oneself in the journey and awakening to the fact of that journey and the reality of it wherever we may be. He has done this in an engaging manner offering forward tales of his own journeys and pilgrimages, of other peoples wisdoms and insights, and in an open and honest way, a way that at times leaves him more naked and honest than I perhaps would want to be – acknowledging his own blindness, guilts and hyprocrisy and offering these up as atonements and proofs of the lessons learned and to be learned.

The writing is sublime in it’s own way, not poetic being more prose and travel journal at times but with an insight and lyrical mysticism to it that entrances and engages. Theological insight and consideration lapses to desert fathers style wisdom and insight in an entrancing blend of thoroughly modern writing that is perfect for a book on Pilgrimage in The Ancient Practices Series.

Honestly I can wholeheartedly recommend this book and am sure that it will be a blessing to many feeling the need to be more present in the journey or called to undertake the journey of pilgrimage and nomadic freedom that can even be found in the small journeys we take if we do them in the awareness and consideration of the now, the new, the here.

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Sleep: It does a family good – Dr. Archibald Hart 20/04/2010

Sleep is something we don’t tend to do very well these days, too many other things to do – all night tv, computers, gaming and street lights all impact on our ability to sleep and this in turn impacts on our lives in general, on our ability to perform and in our ability to interact and this largely is what this book is about.
A lot of what is in this book comes as no great surprise and in many ways though it is in some ways saying nothing ground breaking it is still an important book for the fact that it offers some idea’s as to why we may be acting the way we are, and more importantly why our younger family members may be. It is partly a self help book too offering insights into how we can address the problem too. This makes it an interesting book and certainly if sleep issues are a problem for you or a family member this book could offer some help, well it could if you are willing to do what it says and therein lies the rub for me.

As with all books it’s great telling me what I should be doing however the undertaking of doing it is another thing altogether and certainly given it is now 11.39pm and I am on my computer writing this review – well I guess I fail big time at making the ‘few key changes’ he suggests to become more refreshed. Ie no computer after 8pm, given it’s actaully no exciting activity of which the computer is listed as one activity I guess that would include gaming and action films too. Hmm ohh and no reading when you go to bed either and no caffeine after 3pm. Sorry but these are not small changes and yes they are Key changes in a big way, so on the whole I wonder how helpful this book may really be in the larger scheme of modern life and family, but some of the other insights in the book are interesting and with some tweaking may well make a difference in many lives, or at least help.

The last thing I would say as well is that adding a very small chapter at the end of the book on the spirituality of sleep really does not make this a christian book, because at the end of the day this is a self help book on sleep for over 95% of it and that 95% is applicable regardless of denomination or faith. So please can we stop trying to purport that something is Christian because the author is, let’s call a self help book a self help book and leave it at that, it robs the book of nothing but when we claim it to be Christian with so little to commend it we do somehow rob ourselves and others who may be benefitted otherwise.
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Embracing Your Second Calling – Dale Hanson Brown

I wanted to like this book, journal, study guide, self-help book whatever you want to call it, but unfortunately I didn’t. Perhaps if I had been married or had kids it would have made a difference because perhaps then I would fit the profile the book is aimed at better. Perhaps if I didn’t have a good fulfilling and time filled life this book would have worked for me, but I do.

I’m not at the point of needing a career change, yes I would like to repurpose my life, but then thats true of everyone to some extent, we are all aware of things we could, should do better and don’t. but on the whole this book was not the answer to any of my personal issues and problems and instead of building me up it left me feeling hmm not sure, thankful maybe that I didn’t fit the mould but unfulfilled in general because the book just didn’t have any observations that weren’t obvious really.
On the whole it felt formulaic to me and that made me sad as I wanted it to be so much more than a book about empty nest syndrome and the fate of being middle aged and middle income, and just discontent with life for those reasons.

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