Claudia: wife of Pontius Pilate [book review]

Do you know what life was like in the height of the Roman Empire? Most of us have a very limited understanding that goes something like this: We remember that part in Easter plays where the judgy kind of guy is wearing a robe accentuated by some sort of laurel crown asking, “Hey, what’s wrong with this guy named Jesus? Why do you want to kill him? I can’t figure out what he’s done to break the law.” Then a bunch of chaos breaks out, and some loud guy that’s usually so very quiet during Sunday school and church car washes stands in the middle of the sanctuary yelling, “Crucify Him!” about the associate pastor. Who would have thought it could happen? As you can tell, I’ve had some overly-traumatic church experiences, but it doesn’t compare to what is revealed about the Roman Era in Claudia: wife of Pontius Pilate by Diana Wallis Taylor.

In order to understand the politics of Jesus Christ’s death sentence, we need to review the history of the Jewish people. Jewish history is really not as complicated as we usually make it, and it goes in a much straighter timeline than we usually think. It all began when Abraham and his wife, Sarah, received a covenant from God that they would have countless descendants – so many that they would form entire nations of people. Then a bunch of stuff happens. Continue reading

The Chase [book review]

There is an element of being a writer and a Christian that makes Washington D.C. seem like a very scary place.  Any time that a city holds that many secrets that powerful people do not want to see out in the public realm, there is an innate sense of trepidation and metaphorical back-reeling about a reporter exposing any big secrets, particularly those actions of politicians that break the very laws those same politicians are legislating.

If we read the back-cover synopsis of The Chase before starting Chapter 1, this is the mindset that we adopt along with the very first, foreboding paragraph.  If we don’t read the back cover first, we readers first find chaos on the first page, then the reporter-in-D.C. background on the second page.

Regardless of our preferences for how to begin reading a novel, The Chase by Susan Wales & Robin Shope is a suspense-filled good read.  I very much enjoyed the plot and felt a kinship with the characters.  And, I very much appreciate the lack of extreme gore and extreme violence toward women that may be found in more secular versions of similar plot-lines.

Two things that I would like to have seen enhanced are: 1.) the action of the action scenes, and 2.) the development of personal epiphanies.  Let me explain. Continue reading

An Open Heart [book review]

Politics, romance, medical emergencies, good vs. evil in a foreign land… this story has it all.  Sure, the author is a doctor and there are a few medical terms in the story that needed me to find them in my dictionary, but it wasn’t overwhelming.  The plot focuses on the action – political action, romantic “action,” emergency response, and battles of the wills.

Throughout the 432 pages of narrative in An Open Heart, I felt conflicted.  Do I love this book or do I feel detached?  Is this book gimmicky or is this reality?  Is the message contrived or is this a real issue that I need to consider?

These questions are the beauty of An Open Heart.  (Not so) strange as it may be, while I was reading, I kept thinking back to a few stories I’ve heard from people who have experienced big things concerning magic.  When I was a child, my mom used to watch the same channel on TV all morning, every weekday morning – and child that I was, I watched it with her.  First, we would watch Good Morning, America for the news and fun little tidbits, then we would watch a few game shows, a couple of soap operas, the noon news… and then it was my turn to watch kid shows including The Big Whammy and Dumbo’s Circus …. at least that’s the way I remember it happening. Continue reading

I’m No Angel [book review]

I don’t completely know what made me pick up Kylie Bisutti’s memoir.  I saw her book sitting on the shelf at my local Christian bookstore and thought she looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn’t place her – despite the cover declaring that she was a Victoria’s Secret Angel.  Never one to obsess over models, it was really no wonder that I was a little vague on the matter.  But, when I looked inside at the color-photo insert, I recognized her immediately.  In fact, those caramel highlights and innocent eyes belonged to the model who wore most of the clothing I had purchased from Victoria’s Secret Online, for my own wearing pleasure.  So, I bought the book.

I had intended to give the book to my 15-year-old niece without even reading it.  It seemed like a nice story about the connection of being beautiful to wanting to show off that beauty.  And I felt modest with my clothing choices, so I was happy with myself.  But then I felt driven to read it myself and now I have a whole different point of view on life. Continue reading

Olive Kitteridge [book review]

On the surface, the novel Olive Kitteridge is confusing.  The short-story format is not what most of us are used to discovering when we read a novel.  Usually, a novel will provide its reader with a narrative that, for the most part, travels through time and the relationships of cause/effect in chronological order.  Olive Kitteridge is different.  It drops the reader into each new section without much reference to time, reminding me of Michael J. Fox’s character, Marty McFly, suddenly being transported via DeLorean in the Back to the Future movies.  The people watching the movie get to see little snippets of each characters life, but each journey through time is a new perspective of the same life, viewed through the eyes of Marty McFly. Continue reading

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald [book review]

With The Great Gatsby movie being out in theaters right now, it’s a classic novel that is on everyone’s mind.  I must admit that, although The Great Gatsby seems simple enough overall and it has become one of my favorites, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me that first time I read it as a Freshman in high school.  I had to cycle through reading it again two years later and then once more in college before I finally started to understand some of the implications and allusions contained in the text.  The two parts of the plot that I kept having the most trouble getting straight were 1.) Daisy’s connection to Gatsby, and 2.) the ending.

I have often heard high school students mention that The Great Gatsby is the most boring book…ever.  And many people carry that opinion into the rest of life.  Whether the boring-ness leads those people into believing that The Great Gatsby is not worth the time and effort of reading a book about nothing, or whether they transfer that belief to all literature books that are on the “Recommended” lists, it’s a great misfortune.

For me, even when I didn’t understand the ending, I knew that we had to read between the lines.  The Great Gatsby carries the weight of a belief-system wrought with the mystique of that in-graspable, fleeting nature and pursuant chase of time, money, and love.  Continue reading

Putting Jesus in His Place [book review].

It’s popular to believe that Jesus Christ was a good teacher and an ethical man similar to Ghandi, Mother Teresa, or maybe even Meher Baba.  Bowman and Komoszewski have shaped their book as a response to the currently popular and culture-shaping Jesus Seminar, founded by Robert Funk.  For those who don’t yet know, the Jesus Seminar has nothing to do with the religion of Christianity – there seems to be no prayer meetings, Bible sermons, or church socials involved.  What it does include is a group of about 150 well-educated people Continue reading