Monthly Archives: August 2010

Troy: Lord of the Silver Bow by David Gemmell

This is one of the finest books I have ever had the pleasure to read. Indeed, I loved the entire series. For people who are hung up on the story as it has been passed down this book will not suffice, but for anyone who is interested in a vast, and sweeping story that sucks the reader in from word one this is the book.

The characters are deep and you can feel what they are feelings. They are complicated and live in the grey messiness that is our world between the black and the white that we would like for it to be.

The story is well crafted and the plot is compelling. Gemmell shows you what is happening to the point where you feel as if you are standing on the ship with the characters. When they are crying, you are feeling their pain. You can see the sun reflecting off the golden rooftops of Troy. The heroes are normal, flawed people. They make good choices and bad choices.

This book is well worth your time and money. Be warned, you will want to buy the rest of the trilogy immediately.


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The Year of Living Like Jesus by Ed Dobson

I bought this book for my wife. I wasn’t sure if I would read it or not. I’m glad that I did. Ed Dobson is on the short list of preachers who’s sermon’s I’ll listen to over and over again. When he talks, or writes I want to listen.

This book has taken some serious criticism, from people who don’t like the style to the more vapid, aggressive fundamentalist. Of course, the criticisms are also leveled at the author
He’s criticized for being in an airport, for praying the rosary, and for listening to an iPod. He’s called a heretic and a cretin. Spawn of Satan was probably thrown out somewhere I’m sure. He voted for Obama!

God forbid a man trying to live like Jesus wrestles with his conscience and votes accordingly. It’s not important if I agree with Ed that voting for Obama is what Jesus would do. What matters is that it is evident in this book that Ed loves God and wants to serve Him. Ed wants to continue to love Jesus in the midst of a disease that would have caused most of us to shrivel up like a prune left on the dashboard of a locked car in the middle of August. Most of us would have quit and died.

Not Ed. He delved deeper into his faith. He pushed himself to explore what he believes and how it impacts his life.

This book is full of fantastic applications that Ed either learned or was reminded of through his journey over the course of this year. In one chapter Ed reminds the reader “Whenever I think that what I am doing qualifies me to be in a closer relationship with God, I am arrogant.”

In a world that seems to be divided along the very lines of who qualifies to be in a closer relationship with God, Ed has the guts to put it out there for everyone to see how he wrestles with his own relationship with God. I don’t really know Ed. He preachers at our church now and again and we had a stretch where he preached regularly. I wish that I did. I have the feeling that he’d be a fun guy to have a beer with and ponder the Scriptures with. I’m sure that I wouldn’t agree with him on everything but I’m also pretty sure that would be all right with him.
I’m sick of the battle between, “The way it always was, is the way it must be” and “What if we’ve gotten it wrong for the last 2,000 years.” What makes Ed’s book and teachings to poignant is his ability to value our heritage and to look at with a fresh perspective.
Buy this book, read it, you’ll enjoy it.

5 Stars

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Smashed by Koren Zailckas

I fell into possession of this book quite by accident. A colleague was leaving her position at the Mental Hospital where I work and it was one of two books that she owned. She told me I could have them.

I read this in piece meal fashion. It’s a fascinating read, not just for the content but for the messages that the author sends. For instance, she takes a lot of criticism for seeming to blame men throughout the book. I think this criticism is justified. She seems to act as if drinking is only a female problem and all men are predators who use this truth to pounce on the poor drunken sods of women.

She comes across as extremely angry. It’s hard to understand what she is so angry about though. Is it her idyllic childhood? Is it her doting parents? Is her fortune to be born to a well to do family? She never really explores that aspect of her drunkenness. She is more than willing to help you understand how the rest of society directed her to drinking though.
She even ruined what I thought was a beautiful rant against the word, “whatever.” You know how that word gets thrown around when someone is forced to see the cognitive dissonance their living inside with? I was actually shaking my head in agreement, then she ruined it buy claiming it for womankind as if men don’t say it.
Throughout the book, one could almost get the idea that the only reason poor miss Zailckas drank was because society pushed her that way.

There is also some very poignant statements in this book. In one chapter she states, “A rare truth falls over me like the glare from streetlights. I know that as long as I keep drinking, I will drive back everyone who is good-natured. Only people who are as drunk and as damaged as I am will stay.”

It is moments of refreshing honesty such as this one that make this book one that sticks with the reader. She is strait up and she writes with a style that is very engaging, almost as if she is a friend whispering to you sordid details of her life. This is the genius and the greatest failure of the book, because as a friend that might be whispering the short-comings of her life, the author seems to fail to see her own responsibility in the situation.

She can turn a simile like a skilled pitcher dropping a curveball on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded. If this book is any indication she is truly a skilled artist and I will look for more books from her.

4.5 stars

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The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

I do not understand the hype surrounding this book at all! I’m not sure if the book is bad because of the translation or because it’s just bad. The main character is a borderline sex addict sleeping with anything that moves. The author seems to want to make the case that casual sex doesn’t have an effect on people. I guess, he’s just deciding to ignore the science on that one. The guy has a long time lover who stays married and just sort of floats between Mike and her husband. In the meantime, he’s getting some from the mature and immature alike. In short, the guy seems to have impulse control problems.

Then there’s the plot. It’s not terribly innovative, or ingenious. It is rather superfluous in it’s structure and wording. In a 600-page book, there is about 200 pages of interesting happenings.

Salender is a sympathetic character caught somewhere on the Autism spectrum but other than that, the characters are rather flat and predictable. The plot is also rather predictable. There were exactly two places where I was caught off guard. One was a big caught off guard; the other was rather minor movement that probably happened because I dropped into hyper skim mode.

I kept thinking to myself how happy I was that I borrowed the book from the library on a whim.

And yet…

…I’ll probably borrow the second book and read it, maybe. I’m not sure what that says about the book or me.

3 Stars because it was good enough for me to want to give the second one a chance, even though it left more than a bitter taste in my mouth.

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Scandalous: DA Carson

Scandalous: The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus
D.A. Carson
Crossway, 2010
168 pages plus 2 indices

It might be a sign that I have read too many of Dr Carson’s books if they no longer truly impact me where I am at any given moment. I have read a lot of his books. I have listened to a lot of his sermons. I have read a lot of his formal journal contributions. I am like a junky for Carson, at one time actually spending money to purchase very poor cassette tape audio recordings of his sermons. But this time I found myself finishing his sentences and skipping over time-worn illustrations and yawning. The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus are amazing, mind blowing, earth shattering, soul undoing events. As Tim Keller notes: If Jesus is who he said he is, then everything changes.

In this book Carson did not do a good job of bringing those earth shattering realities to the surface or bringing my understanding of them to the point that my life is thoroughly, completely, utterly undone.

Scandalous is the first Carson book I have read in some time and, to be sure, I was disappointed. Disappointed enough that this will likely be the last Carson book I read. This is not to say it was a terrible book or that Carson’s scholarship was off or that his writing was, well, not Carsonish enough. It’s just to say that for the most part I was bored.

The book was cobbled together from a series of five sermons Carson preached at the 2008 Resurgence Conference at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. I’m willing to bet that these five sermons were actually written down in other books that Carson has written at some point in the past (many of his illustrations have been used elsewhere). If anything positive can be said about the book it is that Carson is at least consistent: He hasn’t said anything new since I started reading his work twenty years ago. That is what makes the work a rather tedious and hum-drum affair for me.

Don’t get me wrong. As far as theology is concerned, Carson mostly is right on target. He never deviates from his essentially Reformed Calvinist point of view and even though he never once mentions the name ‘NT Wright’ (he does get in a dig at Steve Chalke and Alan Mann in the note on page 69) one can sense that underneath much of what Carson writes is a polemic against the so-called ‘new perspective on Paul’ and what many in the Reformed camp feel is a threat to the grip they have on theological power that goes along with the Reformed interpretation of the atonement (viz., penal substitution). I find it hard to believe that something so obvious needs so much defense.

It’s almost as if someone is trying to dress up an old theologian and make him into a hip, happening kind of guy. The cover is cool: ‘Scandalous’ is emblazoned on the cover in shiny, raised, blood spattered letters that would make Dexter proud. The rest of the cover is an appalling black. All the right cool people are quoted lauding the work. Yet none of this changes the fact that when you open the book and begin reading you are struck by the fact that the most modern poet Carson quotes is himself. There are plenty of quotations from hymns written by Martin Luther, Lidie Edmuds, William Cowper and others, and these folks are fine, excellent hymn writers and poets. But they are from yesterday. I found it terribly disconcerting that Carson resorted three times to quoting his own poetry in the book (72, 109-110, 167-168) and that he was the most modern poet he quoted.

I think if you have never read DA Carson before you will find this a helpful book and, perhaps, even a good book. Like I said, Carson is not wanting for scholarship skills. If you have never read him before you will get a very good introduction to the Reformed view of the cross (although the book is subtitled “The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus” the Resurrection of Jesus only gets one chapter to itself) and resurrection. This may or may not be a good thing. I think when we get so intent on defending a point of view we often fail to be challenged or changed by the story itself.

If you have read Carson before, I think you will be bored and/or disappointed. He has not given his readers anything different or anything new to think about in this book. I wish he had interacted with some of those he opposes since it would have made the book a better read. He would likely be pleased with that fact, but for his readers there will be much yawning and sleepy eyed skipping ahead to the next page or the next chapter. And that will likely not please him one bit.

2.5 Stars out of 5

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