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Original Essays | September 15, 2014

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel

There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »


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The River of Life: Where Liberal and Conservative Christianity Meet by Lee Harmon
The River of Life: Where Liberal and Conservative Christianity Meet

Sheila Deeth, October 24, 2014

“I am an agnostic Christian.” So Lee Harmon begins his short treatise on the differences that divide and powerful agreements that unite liberal and conservative Christianity. I guess I should answer, “I’m a mongrel Christian,” since I’m seriously conservative in some things and liberal in others. But perhaps that’s the point. The historical Jesus famously refused to be placed in anyone’s box. And yet we try so hard to place barriers around our beliefs and define who’s out, instead of welcoming neighbors in.

The River of Life starts with Heaven and Hell---the end placed at the beginning because the middle is where we live. We can argue and disagree as much as we like about eternity’s nature. But none of us has been there. And the Bible really doesn’t give a lot of detail. The author will certainly intrigue his readers though, as he looks at what detail there is.

This short book convincingly reveals how theological disagreement is so often based on interpretation. The author backs his arguments up with ample scriptural quotes and historical research, inviting the reader merely to think, not to agree or disagree. Shall we wait for, and predict, and imagine Christ’s second coming, or shall we act on the faith that he’s already here in our hearts? Shall we look for a kingdom up in the sky, or the kingdom within us instead? Shall we wait for the thousand year rule, or let God reign over us now?

Equally well-researched when comparing Gospel accounts or retelling history, The River of Life does indeed offer a meeting point for followers of Jesus and believers in God. While I don’t agree with all of the author’s beliefs or interpretations, I do share his evident love and respect for scripture, I support his emphasis on the present day, and I share his concern for which of us would face Christ’s wrath if He were to return today. Will we sinners eat at table together with the Lord, believers, agnostics, liberals, conservatives all? Then will we equally get up and work together, washed by the living water flowing from His side?

Disclosure: The author gave me a free copy as I’d enjoyed his earlier books. I offer my honest review.
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Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones by Scott Hahn
Angels and Saints: A Biblical Guide to Friendship with God's Holy Ones

Sheila Deeth, October 24, 2014

Angels and Saints, by Scott Hahn, is a very engaging, personable, and readable book with a down-to-earth approach to heaven-on-earth. The author starts out by relating his own experience of that holy, catholic church, where angels and saints surround him in prayer as his child lies ill. But we are all saints, he says, in Christ, though we can’t be in ourselves. And this promise gives a uniquely promising flavor to the author’s look at church history and theology.

Catholics will enjoy this book’s explanations of things we’re often challenged on. No, we don’t worship idols. But yes, we do put up pictures and statues of those in our family (the family of God) who’ve been much loved and have wonderfully influenced our lives. No, we don’t confuse Mary with God (read the book to see why not). And yes, we do have Biblical reasons to speak of Guardian Angels.

Meanwhile, Protestant Christians (as a mongrel, I belong to both groups) will delight in a Biblical account of holiness, followed by a profoundly fascinating history of faith from the time of Christ, to the times of those who walked with those who walked and talked with him, all the way to the present day. It’s a history of holy people, and it’s filled with thought-provoking theology, unwavering adherence to God’s word in the Bible, and unswerving love for God’s family on earth.

Want to know what Gnosticism means? Meet those who opposed it. Want to know how a Polish Catholic became a saint? Ever wondered if the Old Testament had saints too? Read this book---it’s really easy to read---and find out for yourself.

Disclosure: Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review.

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Immortal Embrace by Charlotte Blackwell
Immortal Embrace

Sheila Deeth, October 24, 2014

“Vampires only get the ever after�"without the happily,” muses Sophia, and it’s got to be hard, trying to live in the modern world, go to a modern high school, and enjoy modern dances, while all the time knowing you’re going to live forever. It’s got to be hard falling in love.

Sophia and her “family” aren’t the only supernaturals in this teen romantic suspense, and Salem is more than history to them. Past events are recounted to round out the tale, and past details ring mostly true, though modern idiom has clearly taken over the characters’ thoughts to help them blend. Sophie’s sisters love to dress Sophie “like a Barbie doll” over all her objections. And Nate, super-cool football player, is the perfect mate for her. A pity he’ll be so short-lived, but who knows what later episodes in the series will bring.

Add witches to Twilight, take away the sparkle, and match a female vampire to a wonderful male human ally, then you’ll end up with the Immortal Embrace that starts author Charlotte Blackwell’s story. Of course, there are stray siblings, “day crystals” so Sophia “can eat human food without getting those awful stomach cramps and indigestion, a normal and very painful reaction for a vampire,” and mysteries and dangers too. But the greatest danger is still only a threat as this first book ends, with more to come.

The dialog’s sometimes stilted, but with characters that cross histories and continents, that’s probably to be expected. The romance is powerful, and the magic’s intriguing. But the plot is just a start---you’ll have to read on for more.

Disclosure: I won a copy of this and book two in the series, which I look forward to reading soon.
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The Trojan Project by Eileen Thornton

Sheila Deeth, October 24, 2014

A farmer’s wife waits for her husband to get home, and sees a green glow in the sky. But by dawn, Pete’s still not home, and Susan’s getting scared. It turns out there are plenty of things and people to be scared of in Eileen Thornton’s The Trojan Project, and the starting chapters certainly pull the reader in.

The speedy responses and evil corruption of military and political characters might seem a little unconvincing in this tale, but the plot’s well-drawn, with seeming coincidence nicely threaded into a web of evil intent. Only love can break the web---a woman’s love for her spouse, a sheep’s for its savior, a father’s for his children... Meanwhile love of money and power drive the secrecy behind evil experiments, and a danger’s unleashed that could destroy more than careers.

The action is slowed by backstory at times, but perhaps that’s as well as fugitives flee along the highways and byways of Britain at breakneck speed. I remember Bamburgh Castle. I love Seahouses. And I’m hooked. There’s a feel of old black-and-white TV shows to the story, serious plotting, convincing diversions, consistent compelling timing. And okay, I’m not convinced by the science or the scientists, but perhaps I don’t need to be. I’m eager to follow the tale through to its end, and I’m sure I’ll see a kindly, wise old sheep as the final credits roll.

Disclosure: I’d heard of this online and wanted to read it. Then I found it was free, so I did.
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The Golden City by J Kathleen Cheney
The Golden City

Sheila Deeth, October 24, 2014

Set in a convincing alternate-history world, the Golden City of Kathleen Cheney’s novel offers a wealth of history and politics and a convincing society of humanity and seafolk. Of course, the twain should never meet, each banished from the other’s lands. But there are always spies.

There’s twisted magic too in this fascinating novel, and there’s a pleasing mix of romance, mystery, suspense and curiosity. The tale flows swift and smooth as the tide, and the reader’s soon caught up in plot and counterplot; a lonely old woman longs for the sea; an eager young woman meets a cruel demise; officious politicians thwart police investigation; and a coolly convincing flavor of history pervades it all.

The author succeeds in creating romantic tension without twisting the tale to its needs, balancing plot and emotion beautifully, and creating characters who ring convincingly true, whether they’re human, sereia or selkie, rich or poor, devious or kind (or both at once). In fact, the author creates a whole city of characters, and keeps them clear to the reader throughout the whole of the complex tale.

The novel ends with hints of more to come, and is clearly part of a series. But the plot’s complete and readers who prefer standalone tales won’t be disappointed. A masterful tale, this one is highly recommended.

Disclosure: I was lucky enough to win a copy and I offer my honest review.
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