Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Book review: Fires of Fury by Donna Dawson

Title: Fires of Fury
Author: Donna Dawson
Publisher: Awe-Struck Press, 2009
eBook ISBN: 978-1-58749-171-9

Katherine Matheson’s husband Darryl has been found dead in a burned-out car, a suspected suicide. But Jason Wolfe, the local police investigator, is sure that it was murder. Katherine has mixed feelings about Darryl’s death because he was cheating on her. When Jason’s presence stirs strong feelings she’s tempted to surrender to his advances until she finds out that Bev, the woman who stole her husband, has her claws into Jason too. A break-in at her house, an energetic puppy, and an attempt to make a new start are all elements that make Donna Dawson’s romantic suspense, Fires of Fury, a captivating read.

Katherine, the sensitive and grieving main character, is mostly sympathetic, though more than once I felt like giving her a good shake and telling her to talk rather than just flee the scene. Wolfe, the attractive bachelor, has his own hang-ups. The chemistry between them makes for a sometimes rocky, hide-and-seek romance. Dawson uses Katherine’s meddling though well-meaning sister Jasmine and the thoroughly bad Bev to add elements of warmth, humor and conflict.

Katherine’s main issue after being betrayed by her husband is trust. Can she trust Jason, any man, even God? Though the characters’ faith in God isn’t a big part of the story, it is foundational. Another main theme is communication – why it’s necessary and what happens when people misunderstand each other because they never talked.

Dawson’s writing style seemed more flowery in Fires of Fury than in two other books by her that I’ve read (Redeemed and Vengeance). Passages like the following are not uncommon: “A sigh found its way from the lowest part of her hurting heart and erupted through lips that still tingled every once in a while at the memory of Jason.” I suppose such writing is typical of this brand of dissect-every-moment romance. It's not my favorite genre.

A bit about the format – the book is only available as an e-book. I don't know whether one can read it on an e-reading device (Kindle or Sony Reader). My disk of the book down-loaded a pdf file which I then printed. The printed pages have no numbers on them so it's important to keep them in order! (I tried to print the book double-sided. It was a mess.)

For lovers of romantic suspense this story, with its attractive characters, tastefully dispensed spiritual wisdom and satisfying ending, won’t disappoint.

READ AN EXCERPT of Fires of Fury

ORDER Fires of Fury

Friday, July 17, 2009

Book Review: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World by James A. Beverley

Title: Nelson's Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World
Author: James A. Beverley
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers; SuperSaver Edition edition (Feb 3 2009), Hardcover, 644 pages.

(Click on cover icon for this book's listing)

To read that Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions: A Comprehensive Introduction to the Religions of the World is “the product of over thirty years of study and teaching” (p. ix) is no surprise. To discover that the actual project took author James A. Beverley a mere ten years from inception to publication is, in some ways, amazing, considering the extent of the book.

In this encyclopedic volume, Beverley, a long-time Professor of Christian Thought at Tyndale College in Toronto, gives readers an overview of the main religions of the world. The mere 19 chapters (encompassing Baha’i to Witchcraft) are deceiving. For within them he explores the themes and variations of each main belief system, so that the actual number of faiths he discusses adds up to hundreds. (In the chapter on Protestantism, for example, Beverley discusses 28 denominations and historical movements within the protestant stream of Christianity.)

Beverley takes his cue on how to tackle each religion from the religion itself. For example, his discussion about the short-lived and relatively recent Branch Davidians cult is brief with a focus on news reports surrounding the controversial raid of their Waco Texas headquarters in 1993.

Buddhism, on the other hand, with its modern resurgence in the west and its history spanning centuries, gets much longer treatment and includes Beverley’s description of his meeting with the Dalai Lama.

Information about each religion includes names of its key people and describes the roles they played, details beliefs and worship practices, traces the religion’s history in a time line, and suggests websites and books to consult for more information.

The author makes no claims that this is an objective appraisal of the world’s religions, however. In a must-read introduction he states that he presents his material from the perspective of an evangelical Christian scholar. He writes:

"I realize that many readers will not share this paradigm or worldview….I recognize that this book would be different if written from a Buddhist, Muslim, esoteric, or other tradition. It would also be a different book if it adopted the standpoint of relativism, or postmodernism, or the perspective of the so-called objective academic." (p.7)

Though in many places Beverley sounds like he’s trying to be cooly objective and present both sides of an argument in a diplomatic way, in others he is outspoken in voicing his opinion. For example, after quoting a criticism of Brian McLaren (Emergent Church) by R. Albert Mohler Jr. of the Southern Baptists, he says, “This is far too harsh and distorts McLaren. However, McLaren should be more aware of the epistemological complexities …. and be more careful in argument, rhetoric, and treatment of major Christian doctrines." (p. 538)

For the Christian reader, it is exactly Beverley’s bias that makes Guide to Religions valuable. For included within the discussion of each religion is his evaluation of how it relates to Christian orthodoxy as he understands it. We may not agree with him, but he has done his part to make our choice easier with his explanations and analysis.

Also included in the book are several valuable lists: 10 things to consider when studying a religion, 10 points of Christian response to religions, 20 basic tenets of the Christian faith, and 10 tests for truth in religion. The book ends with four appendices and an exhaustive (100+ page) index. Color photographs add information, interest and beauty. From the viewpoint of design, though, the shaded fill of the text boxes and the blurred borders of the photos give the book an old-fashioned look.

For me, a layperson and no student of theology or world religions, Nelson’s Illustrated Guide to Religions is a most helpful reference. Though not exhaustive, its information about the world’s main religions and their offshoots is more than adequate to give me an understanding of the faiths of my neighbors and friends. Should I want to find out more, I need only consult the book’s numerous lists of resources for further study.

This readable reference book would be a valuable addition to any home, school or church library.

James A. Beverley's website.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

New reviews up

In the last couple of weeks I've posted three new reviews at Blogcritics. Note that two of the three are by Canadian authors!

  • Exposure by Brandilyn Collins - Christian fiction / Suspense

Friday, July 10, 2009

Poetry Friday - serendipities

All kinds of nature poetry serendipities are begging for a blog post.

On July 1st my monthly Poet's Classroom column, "Nature Poetry," came online. Of course I mentioned Mary Oliver in it.

Then on Monday, I came across this wonderful piece about Mary Oliver's hometown, Provincetown: "The Land and Words of Mary Oliver, the Bard of Provincetown."

Also on Monday Miss Rumphius posted a Monday Poetry Stretch, where she challenged readers to write nature poem recipes!

Yesterday, a poem mentioned in the Mary Oliver article is featured on Writer's Almanac:

The Place I Want To Get Back To

is where
in the pinewoods
in the moments between
the darkness

and first light
two deer
came walking down the hill
and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,
this one is okay,
let's see who she is
and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,
so quiet, as if
asleep, or in a dream,
but, anyway, harmless; the rest here

As for nature, I've been enjoying not deer, but wild bunnies. This one (or one of his look-alike siblings) has crossed our walking path every morning for three days in a row. Of course the minute after I took his photo, he disappeared.

Which of nature's treats or serendipities have you been enjoying?


This post is part of Poetry Friday, which is hosted today at jama rattigans alphabet soup