Review of “Supermarket Healthy” by Melissa D’Arabian

In “Supermarket Healthy” author and television host Melissa D’Arabian offers a cookbook that for creating healthy meals without spending a lot of money. This is a book for those who wish to eat healthier but do not wish to spend endless reams of money on the latest fad foods in order to satisfy their desire for healthy living. This cookbook is a wonderful addition to any cook’s library and provides many full color photographs and generally easy to make recipes. However the recipes themselves are not the heart of the book. It is instead the additional information that make the cookbook worth the price including the Strategies and Blueprints sections. The “Strategies” section includes “Supermarket Strategies” for making better and more economical choices at the grocery store, “Kitchen Strategies” that include tips and tricks for the kitchen, and “Entertaining Strategies” for stretching foods and making dishes party-friendly. Additionally, the “Blueprints” section helps the reader to break down certain recipes into easy to follow steps that allow him or her to swap ingredients or use a different method to create a new recipe. The main shortcoming of the book is its sometimes uninteresting recipes. Additionally, it does have many recipes that would require a much larger investment than, say, a college student would be willing to afford. In the end, the good far outweighs the bad and this is a book worth having, though certainly not as a primary or main cookbook. It’s a nice addition rather than a central text.

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Review of “Thief of Glory” by Sigmund Brouwer

“Thief of Glory” by Sigmund Brouwer is the fictional story of Jeremiah Prins—a 12 year old boy from the Dutch East Indies who, along with his family, was captured by the Japanese in World War II. The story that follows is one of struggle, bitterness, and eventually, redemption that is told through the eyes of a young boy and a man in his twilight years. Eventually, the decisions that Jeremiah made both during and after the war will set his life on a course far different from the one that he envisioned. Ultimately, this is a story of turning tragedy in triumph and all of the messiness that comes with finding redemption in the seemingly irredeemable.
It must be noted that this is a story that, for most of its pages, is thoroughly depressing. Though interspersed with moments of light-hearted humor or irony, it is not a story that one will find necessarily uplifting, even in its final pages. But that is often how life is and Brouwer captures this frustration in the internal struggler of Jeremiah Prins. Additionally, though this is termed a “Christian” book, there are relatively few references to God and a decent amount of scenes that are best described as simply being crass.
That being said, this is a beautifully written story that is thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. In many ways, the character of Jeremiah Prins represents a figure that almost all of us can identify with in some regard. In the end, if you are looking for an enjoyable read that captures the messiness and frustration that characterizes life, “Thief of Glory” is right up your alley. It is a consuming work that is well worth a read.

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Review of Shaunti Feldhahn’s “The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce”

Having read Shaunti Feldhahn’s “For Men Only” book years ago, I was familiar with her work before requesting her latest book “The Good News About Marriage: Debunking Discouraging Myths about Marriage and Divorce.” In this book, Feldhahn seeks to push back against the classic ideal that one out of every two marriages will end in divorce. This statistic, she discovered, was actually based on projections of divorce rather than actual statistics. The closest statistic is actually closer to 28-30 percent depending on which statistical analysis is used.

Yet Feldhahn’s book goes far beyond debunking the fifty-percent divorce rate of marriages. She goes on to uncover other surprising information about marriage in modern America. She discovered that contrary to all of the naysayers and doom-and-gloom prophets, most marriages are in fact happy marriages and generally do last a lifetime. Furthermore, she discovered that religion often played an important role in lowering the divorce rate while simultaneously debunking the myth that Christian divorce rates mirror those of the public write large. Furthermore, the divorce rate among second and third marriages are lower than commonly used statistic tend to indicate.

For those who are not interested in statistics, they will find some of Feldhahn’s writing arduous. She systematically explains the methodologies behind the studies that she uses and lays out a very convincing case for her conclusions. However, this means that the first half of the book will probably be difficult for the average reader to wade through. Nonetheless, what she offers is extremely important as it exposes the fact that many statistics used by journalists are either non-existent or misinterpreted. This is an inherent strength of the book.

The second half of the book is a much easier read as Shaunti takes the reader through surprising facts that can help sustain marriages. For example, in her own studies she discovered that over eighty percent of people are not even aware that their spouse is struggling in their marriage. Furthermore, she argues strongly for the importance of her statistical findings as they give hope to those couples who are struggling in marriage as well as pastors who no, in light of her findings, may find far less need to constantly preach on the need to heal marriages in light of false fifty percent divorce rates.. Her work will take a lot of pressure off of pastors who can devote more attention to more pressing matters.

All in all, this book is a fine read for anyone interested in relationships. For those struggling in their marriage I would look at Shaunti Feldhahn’s books “For Men/Women Only” as well as Gary Thomas’ “Sacred Marriage.” For pastors, “The Good News About Marriage” is an essential book.

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Review of Christine Caine’s “Undaunted”

Recently I was given a review copy of “Undaunted” by Christine Caine by Zondervan in exchange for an honest review. I admit that I had read great reviews of the book, but I was honestly not sure what I was getting myself into when I ordered the book. “Undaunted” is about becoming unstoppable in Christ, about dealing with all of the muck and failure of life and coming through it to a life of courage, risk, and faith in God. Interweaved throughout the book is Christine’s own story, from learning that she was adopted to encountering young women from around the world who were sold into sexual slavery and inspired her to live a life undaunted, eventually becoming the founder of the A21 Campaign.

                From the first page, Caine’s book catches the reader’s attention with heart wrenching stories of young women around the world who have been sold into sex slavery. At the end of the day, the question becomes not why did this happen, but rather why did WE let this happen? This first chapter of the book, called “The Schindlers List Moment”, is by far its most powerful chapter. If it doesn’t stir something in you as you read, surely nothing else will.

                The rest of the book streams from this first crucial chapter. Overall, the book is a good read and it is one of the most encouraging books I have ever read. The problem is that Caine sometimes falls prey to melo-dramatic tones in certain areas in her book, which unintentionally detracts from the larger gripping story. Nonetheless, a reader will not walk away from this book without having been challenged to go out and make a difference, and look for ways to become Undaunted. It is stirring, and well worth the read.

I was provided a copy of this book by Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

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Review of Trevin Wax’s “Clear Winter Nights”

“Clear Winter Nights” is Trevin Wax’s first foray in the world of fiction. It is the story of Chris Walker, a young man on the brink of losing his faith. Though he has been a Christian for much of his life, Chris’ skeptical religions professor has brought him to a place of questioning. As he faces the uncertain future: graduating from college, getting married to his fiancée, and becoming a staff member of a local church plant, Chris is pushed further into doubt and skepticism. Getting away from it all, he spends the weekend with his ailing Pastor-Grandfather.

                The characters of Chris’ grandfather and Chris are a study in contrasts. The grandfather is rock-solid in his faith, while Chris’ is on the razors edge. What ensues is a back and forth between the two, which Wax appropriately calls “Theology in Story”.  Questions are answered, though often not neatly. Doubts are raised, but not always quelled. “Clear Winter Nights” presents faith as it is: messy, thoughtful, and yet always leaving room for questions. In the end, Chris can only be swayed (as we all must) by which way the greater evidence points.

                As was said before, this is Wax’s first work of fiction, and it becomes obvious in the book.  Small moments of frenetic action are punctuated by long and drawn out scenes of dialogue which slow down the action and give the book a desultory feel. However, this is not to say that the writing is poor, as it is in fact very good. In addition, the subject matter is eye opening and well thought out. This book is highly recommended for those who are doubting, questioning, or wondering about their faith. For the rest, it is a worth a look, but only if you are willing to keep an open mind. Though a slim work of fiction, it is potent.

                I received this book from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review.

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