BOOK: When God Winks at You (2000)

When God Winks at You Year: 2000 Author: Squire Rushnell Length: 240 pages A few months ago, I received an e-mail from my mother that passed along a suggestion from my grandmother that I read this book. While not a long book by any means, my wife and I read a story each night after dinner and finished it in a few months. Basically, this collection of inspiring stories goes so far as to suggest that all the fortuitous coincidences we experience in our lives are evidence of a loving and all-powerful Creator. As a Christian, I did see most of these stories as supernaturally-influenced, even if my scientific mind was skeptical at times. Separating the coincidental with the God-influenced can be difficult. While some stories seemed like mere coincidence, there were still quite a few contained in this volume that had no other explanation other than God showing off what He can do. Collected into a few different categories, many of these stories had...
Read More

BOOK: This Present Darkness (1986)

This Present Darkness Year: 1986 Author: Frank Peretti Length: 520 pages Back in high school, I had to read this book as part of my Religions class and thought it was pretty good. As I have been preparing for writing The Slumberealm Gambit, I decided to give This Present Darkness another read so I could recall how Peretti combined the fantastical spirit world with the real world. For a book written in 1986, it’s aged surprisingly well, even if the demise of the newspaper and the rise of constant contact via cell phones would make this kind of book set in modern times a hard sell. Even so, I honestly wouldn’t mind if someone adapted this book into a movie, as the plot is thrilling and the action is top-notch. Strangely enough, one of my qualms with this book is with its formatting and proofreading. There were a few missed typos, and the right-align text didn’t seem as professional as I would have hoped a widely-printed book would...
Read More

BOOK: The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678)

The Pilgrim’s Progress Year: 1678 Author: John Bunyan Length: 324 pages I distinctly remember my parents reading this book to me when I was a child. Decades later, I decided to re-visit it and read it for myself. I don’t know if it was an abridged version or a simplified re-telling appropriate for kids, but this was not the book I remember from my childhood. Sure, the action bits were still there, like the fight with Apollyon, the Slough of Despair, and the suicide discussion in Vanity Fair, but there was way more dialogue than what I recalled of the story. Not to mention the verbiage/wording seemed more along the lines of a King James Bible than of a fantasy setting. Sure, I’ll concede that, for 1678, this was a groundbreaking piece of fiction, and perhaps the first piece of successful fantasy ever written, but it hasn’t aged entirely as well over the years when compared to its source material. There are undoubtedly little lessons...
Read More

BOOK: Monster (2005)

Monster Year: 2005 Author: Frank Peretti Length: 679 minutes / 11.32 hours One of the challenges of the Christian author is being able to craft stories and characters that share their beliefs, but without being too heavy-handed about it. In Frank Peretti’s Monster, the author mostly succeeds, providing characters that can easily be identified as Christian, but also exhibiting the traits of normal humans instead of straight-up caricatures. The main plot of this book was only tangentially related to an argument against evolution, so that was also a plus. Still, the way the book was put together, it was clear where the author’s bias was. While some people might not appreciate the Christian undertones in this thriller, my qualms with it are more structural. Following a few different characters after a woman is abducted by an unnatural beast, the mystery of the disappearances and killings unravels to reveal a semi-plausible explanation. Unfortunately, the man and wife pair that are introduced at the start of the...
Read More

MOVIE: The Shack (2017)

The Shack Year: 2017 Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes / 2.20 hours When I saw the trailers for this film, I had no idea what it was about. It seemed to be part magical and part depressing, never really covering what the movie’s content was. For anyone who is curious, it’s about a meeting with the Holy Trinity. Consequently, while most “Christian” films are almost cringe-worthy, this one wasn’t half bad. Of course, there are still elements of it that made me roll my eyes, but these scenes were mere bookends to a great theological discussion-starter. In fact, I would almost prefer this film without the framing, since most people would probably relate to the main character, regardless. The trouble with the framing device used for the conversation with God is that it doesn’t feel natural. There’s a forced quality that pushes the main character into the situation where he encounters God, merely contrived so that he is near rock bottom when God appears. I will...
Read More

BOOK: Blood Brothers (2016)

Blood Brothers Year: 2016 Author: Rick Acker Length: 380 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Even though I don’t usually read books in mid-series, I’ll make an exception for a book I receive for free. Fortunately, I was able to deduce what happened in book 1 of the Dead Man’s Rule series just based on the context of the characters’ interactions. In fact, I’d probably like to read Dead Man's Rule, since it sounds like it was a pretty exciting plot. Of course, I’ve found legal thrillers like this one to be pretty stand-alone, which helped me really get into its engaging, if not somewhat predictable, plot. What I found most interesting about Blood Brothers, was the Christian undertones it took in its narrative. These moments helped to flesh out the characters, but only once did it feel like the reader was being browbeaten with some ideology. The infusion of realistic Christian characters was a pleasant surprise, especially considering that their beliefs did...
Read More

BOOK: How Then Shall We Live? (2015)

How Then Shall We Live? Year: 2015 Author: Stephanie Rodda Length: 146 pages The book with a question that’s practically answered from page one is as close as one could ever come to an “apocalyptic utopia” story. As a Christian, I understand the power of what God can do, but I also understand that some things come with His timing. In this book, each time a challenge arises, God seems to step in immediately and solve it, which really detracts from any thematic tension that could be present. Nothing really ever gets to the point where there’s an unbearable hardship because then it would seem like God isn’t instantly answering the characters’ prayers. Then there’s the characters. While I understand from reading the “study questions” at the end that these are based somewhat on real people, I found the characters in this book to be flat, cookie-cutter versions of ideal Christians. They didn’t feel human to me at all. I’d expect people in their situation...
Read More

MOVIE: Miracles from Heaven (2016)

Miracles from Heaven Year: 2016 Rating: PG Length: 109 minutes / 1.81 hours Normally, I'm pretty hesitant to watch any movie that's overtly marketed as "Christian." The truth of the matter is, while I'm a Christian myself, these types of movies normally make me cringe at how cliche they are. When their message is continually shoved down our throats, it's hard to focus on anything else. I am all for inspiring stories of faith, but when the main thrust of your plot feels like a poorly written after-school special, it's hard to take seriously. Case in point: I really didn't like War Room (2015) not only because of the aforementioned qualms with the genre as a whole, but also because the characters and their actions felt completely unbelievable (and for a film about belief, this was a big no-no). Now, as you're aware of my stance on these types of movies, please note that I prefaced this with "normally". There are some films in this...
Read More