Review: Journey to the Center of the Earth

Journey to the Center of the Earth
Journey to the Center of the Earth by Kathleen Olmstead

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was an exciting retelling of the original. My kids really enjoyed it. My 9 year old asked if we could read the original Jules Verne novel soon. This Classic Starts edition definitely did its job of introducing a classic novel to children and making them want to read the original story.

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Review: An Advent for Religious Liberty: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel

An Advent for Religious Liberty: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel
An Advent for Religious Liberty: A Pastor Stephen Grant Novel by Ray Keating

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is my least favorite of the Pastor Stephen Grant novels so far. The plot wasn’t as exciting, and we didn’t get to spend as much time with the main characters. Each chapter was very short, which is fine, but we didn’t get a lot of good dialogue or a very lengthy plot. It was more like a novella than a novel.

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Review: Les Miserables

Les Miserables
Les Miserables by Monica Kulling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a good retelling of the fantastic story of redemption and forgiveness that is Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables.” It got the main plot across so that children can understand and appreciate the stage show and the original book as they grow up.

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Review: Being Lutheran

BeingLutheran The first half of Being Lutheran has a lot of history of the Reformation and information about the time of Martin Luther (the 1500’s) and how Luther’s teachings were different from the Medieval Roman Catholic Church. However, in its talk of how Lutherans challenge being closed, lukewarm, ignorant, lazy, and pastel (which are the titles of the first five chapters) it doesn’t sound very specifically Lutheran.

A. Trevor Sutton uses a lot of modern language and wording in his descriptions. He certainly prefers the term “follower of Jesus” over the term Christian, which has been used since the time of the Apostles. Which is not incorrect, just trendy. Some of these modern words, phrases, and comparisons can be helpful, but some things like the mention of cat memes may not be understood by readers that don’t use social networks on the Internet.

My biggest issue is that the first half of the book doesn’t really make being Lutheran sound any different than other Bible-believing Christians. Of course any Scripture loving Christian is going to fight the impulse to be exclusive and to reach out to others who are different. Of course any lover of Jesus is going to see that sitting around the house and never praying or doing anything of service for anyone is a slap in the face to the freedom from sin that Jesus won for us on the cross. Of course any knowledgeable Christian is going to do his best to speak up in the face of mockery, try to remember to pray before meals in a restaurant, and not accept the scientific penchant of the day when it goes against God’s Word.The first half of the book should more appropriately be renamed “Being a Bible-Believing Follower of Jesus.”

The second half of Being Lutheran finally explains the doctrines that set Lutheranism apart. Lutherans take Jesus at his word and believe what he says about baptism, the Lord’s Supper, Absolution, worship, etc. This section was very good. I would recommend lifelong Lutherans to actually read this half first. It’s a little easier to hear what you should be doing (the first half) when you’ve been filled with the Good News of God’s Word (the second half). Other Christians should read the book in order because you can see what Lutherans and other Christians have in common before reading about our differences.

My only issue in the second half of the book is in the chapter titled Ordinary. Sutton says, “The flashiest thing you will find amongst Lutherans is an overly polished pectoral cross.” That’s not an accurate or fair statement. Plenty of Lutheran churches have beautiful windows, fancy processional crosses, and pastors wearing beautiful robes. Christian freedom allows for these things. So saying that Lutherans aren’t flashy writes off a good portion of Lutherans that retain more of the “high church” things than others. So unless his definition of “flashy” is simply to mean that Lutherans don’t do or have these things for the reason that they are earning God’s favor, then fine. But if he means that we so value simplicity that you won’t hear the majesty of a pipe organ with a timpani on Sunday morning, then we have a problem.

Overall, this was a good book, though I’m not sure who the target audience would be. He probably was trying to write a little for everyone. For pastors and those with more theological knowledge he throws in Latin and German terms. For typical laypeople he uses simple language. For those very engrossed in current lingo he uses that kind of language, too. For all types of Christians this book can be a useful primer into how Lutherans belief, think, and act. And for Lutherans it can be the kick in the pants that you need to remember to fulfill your vocations and serve your neighbors “as for the Lord and not for men.

Review: The Mouse and the Motorcycle

The Mouse and the Motorcycle
The Mouse and the Motorcycle by Beverly Cleary

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We read this out loud to the kids. They really enjoyed it. They thought that Ralph was very funny and the idea of a mouse making a motorcycle toy work was great.

This book is fun, whimsical, and a little magical. The story teaches that even those who are young and make mistakes can be helpful and responsible and make a big difference.

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New Books

I went to a great theological conference over the weekend. I got to have time outside the house and a break from my motherly duties.

Of course, my church body’s publishing house had a table selling books at the conference. I came home with a few new books that I have had interest in for a little while, and now my Summer reading stack is bigger.

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Most of the books are about 200 pages or less, so those should be quick reads. Only one is more than 300 pages, but it’s fiction, so it should still be a quick read.

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The theme among my books at this point is they are all Lutheran. Oh well, so am I.

Review: Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A week ago I set out to read Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty. I read a few chapters, the story was interesting, but I just couldn’t quite get into the book. When Unbroken showed up at the library on the hold-shelf for me, I decided there was no sense in plodding through a book that I wasn’t into, and decided to return Ty Cobb and start Unbroken instead.

Unbroken may be the most amazing story I have ever read. Laura Hillenbrand is a fantastic author. Unbroken is the biography of Louis Zamperini: olympic runner, WWII veteran, POW in Japan. Zamperini’s story would be fascinating told by anyone, but with Hillenbrand at the helm this book was enchanting. Hillenbrand brought the story to vibrant life. Her retelling of the horrors that Louie endured, and the joy of the end of the war, were descriptively and captivatingly written. I read this 400 page book in 5 days. I probably could have read it even faster, but I am a wife and a mother of four children.

I wish I had made time to read this book sooner, since it is from 2010 and now six years old. However, I am so glad that I remembered this book and read it now. Zamperini’s life is a testament to the power of the gospel. Louie endured incredible hardship. A plane wreck, nearly starving to death for 6 weeks on a tiny raft in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, rescue from the raft only to be thrown into two years of grueling treatment in a POW camp in Japan. The victory of the Allies in WWII brought Louie back home to California, but his mistreatment by the Japanese prison guards left him with hatred in his heart for the next few years.

Remarkably, listening to Billy Graham preach brought redemption to Louie and forgiveness for his captors to his heart. When I finished reading the bulk of the book yesterday I thought of the hymn “Chief of Sinners, Though I Be” (LSB 611).

3 Only Jesus can impart
Balm to heal the wounded heart,
Peace that flows from sin forgiv’n,
Joy that lifts the soul to heav’n;
Faith and hope to walk with God
In the way that Enoch trod.

Verse 3 of the hymn really captures the change in Louis Zamperini when he clung to faith in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of his own sin, and then to give him the power to forgive the men who had so wickedly mistreated him in the POW camp during WWII. He even traveled to Japan in 1950 to forgive them while they were in prison themselves for their war crimes.

Louis Zamperini dedicated the rest of his life to speaking about his experience and his faith. Also, he helped troubled youth at his Victory Boys Camp. An amazing life, an amazing story, made perfect by the blood of Jesus.

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