Archives For *Brief Reviews*

 

“Be holy, because I am holy.”
 
 
A Review of 

Blessed Among Us:
Day by Day with Saintly Witnesses

Robert Ellsberg

Hardback: Liturgical Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Danny Wright
 
 
In His book Blessed Among Us, Robert Ellsberg provides readers with an encyclopedia of introductions to a wide variety of saintsEach day offers a brief biography of two “saints” who have lived a life of example and ends with quotes to aid the reader in reflection. This particular volume can be used as an addendum for praying the hours (and can be found as such in the daily prayer app offered by Liturgical Press, Give Us This Day), as a supplement for personal inspiration and reflection, or as the subject for family devotions, or as encouragement for a church/ministry staff. There is a wealth of information shared in a succinct, accessible style that will spark your creativity and curiosity, inspire more attentive living, and may even cause you to fire up your search engine, or send you to your favorite website or bookstore in search of the actual writings that are being referenced.

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Linking The Past With Present
 
A Brief Review of 
 

Poets & Saints:
Eternal Insight. Extravagant Love. Ordinary People.

Jamie George

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2016
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Reviewed by Lynn Domina
 
 
In Poets & Saints: Eternal Insight, Extravagant Love, Ordinary People, Jamie George has undertaken an intriguing project. Partly memoir, partly religious history, partly devotional, the book links the past with the present, the extraordinary with the ordinary, the public with the personal. Traveling through Europe with his children and a film crew, he reflects on the lives of several writers and saints (some canonized, others not) affiliated with the regions they explore. He pays particular attention to the characters’ flaws in order not only to humanize them but also to provide specific detailed examples of individuals who did what was theirs to do, trusting that God will show contemporary readers what is their own. George’s project is ambitious, but his style is hospitable. He writes conversationally, including sufficient detail for readers unfamiliar with his material but also with sufficient energy to keep readers with a stronger background in religious history engaged.

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These great new books on marriage were featured in
our Advent 2016 print magazine
(As sidebar reviews to  Katherine Willis Pershey’s excellent book Very Married)

Reviews by ERB Editor,
C. Christopher Smith

 

*** SUBSCRIBE NOW to our print magazine!

 

Making Marriage Beautiful:
Lifelong Love, Joy, and Intimacy Start with You

Dorothy Greco

 
Hardback: David C. Cook, 2017
Buy now: [ Buy Now ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Dorothy Greco offers us in Making Marriage Beautiful a poignant reflection on the many challenges of marriage that will require our attention and our diligence. Beginning with the helpful conviction that marriage will change you, Greco explores the dynamics of marriage and how indeed we are changed through the covenant of marriage. Each chapter ends with a story from a different married couple that sheds light on the theme of that chapter. The beauty of this book lies in its insistence that the fruits of marriage–joy and intimacy, for instance–are cultivated through weathering challenges together. Cultivation is a helpful, agricultural metaphor, for a marriage, like farming, will require hard work, but there are also other factors that shape a marriage that cannot be controlled by our most diligent efforts. Making Marriage Beautiful is a wise and immensely practical book for anyone who is married, or who  hopes to someday be married.
 
 

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Choosing Honest Engagement
 
A Review of 

Race in Post-Obama America:
The Church Responds

David Maxwell, Ed. 

Paperback: WJK Books, 2016
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Reviewed by Heather Caliri
 
 

The first day of our family vacation in New York, my blonde six-year-old rushed joyfully into the opening elevator. Not a second later, she rushed out just as fast, a startled look on her face.

I looked up to see two African-American ladies staring at me, their faces shocked as my child’s.

“Come on, honey,” I said, grabbing her hand, and nodding at the women. I didn’t know what to say—so I said nothing. By staying silent, I hoped to pretend nothing had happened.

Which is exactly why many white Americans stay silent about race.

But the older of the two women spoke up. “We’re just human beings, honey,” she said to my daughter. Then she looked at me. I saw a tiredness and anger that seared my heart.

“Oh, dear Lord, ma’am,” I said. “I’m so sorry.”

The encounter hurt me. But it clearly hurt those women more.

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What Does It Mean to Belong?

A Review of 

The Wangs Vs. The World:
A Novel

Jade Chang

Hardback:  HMH Books, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]   [  Kindle  ]

 

Reviewed by Cara Meredith

 
 

I often wonder what it means to belong: to a people, to a place, to God.

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The Human Desire to Love and Belong
 
 
A Review of 
 

Today Will Be Different: A Novel
Maria Semple


Hardback: Little, Brown and Co., 2016
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Reviewed by Abram Kielsmeier-Jones
 
 
 
Eleanor Flood’s day is about to be different—but not in the proactive way she had committed to. Today she wants to be her “best self,” because “the other way wasn’t working” (7).

A writer and illustrator, Eleanor lives in Seattle with her eight-year-old son Timby (Timby?), a forgotten and forgettable dog Yo-Yo, and her husband Joe, well-loved hand surgeon to the Seattle Seahawks.

The book begins with the kind of vow busy parents will immediately identify with:

Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I speak to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. (3)

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Strong message of hope
in debut YA novel

 
A Brief Review of 

Traitors and Tyrants:
A Novel

Joshua McHenry Miller

Paperback: Blue Ink Press, 2016
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock

 

With the mass proliferation of dystopian novels and paranormal romances, young adult readers might seem to have a limited palate when it comes to the stories they will read. Though these stories do sometimes carry messages of hope and light in the darkest of times, actually writing a story that is primarily about hope and light can be a challenge. New writer Joshua McHenry Miller took on this challenge by writing the first novel in his young adult series that not only has hope and light, but also belief and faith.

The Israelites and the Philistines are on the brink of war, and Niklas dreams of taking part in the impending battles. What fifteen-year-old shepherd boy does not dream of fighting and becoming the hero of the land? His dream becomes a reality as he makes a covenant with a mysterious judge who gives him a mission: “Find the traitor hiding within Israel or our nation will be enslaved and your hometown slaughtered.” With a seemingly impossible mission thrust upon the shoulders of a reckless young schemer, will Niklas be able to discover the traitor and save his family and country from destruction?
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Thoughtful, Committed Citizens Changing the World
 
A Brief Review of 

Battle for Bed-Stuy: The Long War on Poverty in New York City
Michael Woodsworth

Hardback: Harvard UP, 2016
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Reviewed by Leslie Klingensmith
 
 
Too often, we learn history as an impersonal set of dates, geographic locations, and the names of the major players.  While those academic facts are important, our collective past can potentially be much more alive to us in the present and, therefore, more helpful as we seek solutions to the social ills that affect us all.  Historical writing is most effective when it is able present people and scenarios from the past in a way that humanizes those who were there and shows us how decisions made “at the top” actually changed the lives of ordinary people.

Michael Woodsworth, in his book Battle for Bed-Stuy:The Long War on Poverty in New York City, makes a credible attempt to look at one community through a period of decades.  He analyzes Bedford-Stuyvesant’s (“Bed-Stuy”) efforts to combat poverty and remain a safe, vibrant, appealing place for people to live.  Battle for Bed-Stuy is especially useful for learning how President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty legislation and its programs played out in a real community populated by people committed to improving their surroundings and their lives.

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Let them Flow in Ceaseless Praise
 
A Brief Review of 

Moments & Days:
How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith
Michelle Van Loon

Paperback: NavPress, 2016.
Buy now: [  Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Leslie Starasta
 
 

As individuals and families turn the calendar to December, thoughts turn to Christmas, and for some, Advent.  Celebrations of Advent and Christmas may cause some to wonder about the remaining seasons of the Christian year.  The celebration of Chanukah may cause thoughts of wonder about the Jewish year as well.  For individuals who wish to learn more about the Jewish and Christian year, Michelle Van Loon, best known as a Her.meneutics blogger, recently published Moments & Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith.

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Dying for the Faith

A Review of 

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship
Charles Moore / Timothy Keiderling, Eds.

Paperback: Plough Books, 2016
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Fred Redekop

 

Bearing Witness: Stories of Martyrdom and Costly Discipleship is a disturbing book. The book comes out of a project called Bearing Witness conducted at Goshen College ( a Mennonite college ). The foreword is written by two people from Goshen College, John Roth and Elizabeth Miller.  Charles Moore and Timothy Keiderling have organized the stories into time periods. The book begins with two stories of Stephen and Polycarp, and the first chapter is about Christians who live out their faith in the presence of the Roman Empire.

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