Monday, January 28, 2013

Claiming Mariah

Pam Hillman's most recent novel Claiming Mariah did not disappoint. From page one, the story pulls readers in to discover what is going to happen to Mariah, her grandmother,and their beloved ranch. In addition, Slade, one of the antagonists and the leading man in this novel, makes readers wonder what is causing him to be so demanding. As the story progresses, Slade's background is disclosed bit by bit which allows a deeper understanding of why he makes the choices he does.

Throughout the story, a definite tension exists between Slade and Mariah. Beyond the expected and growing romantic tension, the larger tension exists over their differing approaches to faith. Mariah and her grandmother are devout Christians and prayer warriors who draw strength from prayer in every situation. Slade does not share their religious viewpoints and is portrayed as hostile to Christianity for a large part of the book. As expected in a novel from a Christian publishing house, Slade and another character both choose to become Christ-followers by the end of the book.

While reading Claiming Mariah, information on Mariah's sister Amanda is witheld until much later in the story. In the beginning, Amanda is mentioned only as the sister who is away at school. A great deal of assumptions are made concerning Amanda's purpose and motives for being away and the time is never right for Mariah to explain the true situation. However, not being able to inform Slade of the truth also keeps this important piece of information a secret from the reader although a few hints are provided.

While the story primarily focuses on Mariah and Slade, another aspect is some shady business that has been going on with the ranch. This mysterious undercurrent involves a variety of individuals close to Mariah who are not quite as they seem. This mystery ends up in a dangerous situation which forces the hand of the main characters.

Being a western themed novel, there is some gun violence, but it is not glorified or grotesque. I would not have issues with my middle school daughter reading Claiming Mariah, although it certainly holds the interest of adult readers. As expected everything is wrapped up neatly by the end of the novel. I would enjoy reading more of Mariah's story as I feel her story has been completely told.

Keep in mind Claiming Mariah, available via Tyndale House, is only available as an e-book via Amazon, Christian Book Distributors, and Barnes and Noble. As such it will unfortunately not be available to borrow at your local library anytime soon as a print book or as a downloadable ebook via a platform available to libraries. I would encourage authors and publishers to keep in mind that not everyone has access to or is choosing to use e-readers at this point in time. I have several individuals to whom I would give this book as a gift, but since they do not use e-readers of any type I am unable to do so.

Disclaimer: Tyndale House provided me with a free copy of this ebook via NetGalleys. I was not required to give a positive review.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Sobering Book on the Church and Modern Culture

Last evening, I finished reading Dr. James Emery White's most recent book The Church in an Age of Crisis: 25 New Realities Facing Christianity published by BakerBooks. The 25 realities White addresses are organized under the topics of faith, mindset, marriage and family, media and technology, and mission. Having read several of Dr. White's books previously, I expected the book to be well-referenced with information plucked right out of the news and a variety of stories illustrating the points made and was not disappointed. I could find myself relating to many of the realities discussed. Frequent readers of White's Church and Culture blog will find many of the chapters have a familiarity.

As indicated the quality of The Church in an Age of Crisis and the information presented completely lived up to my expectations. However, I was not prepared for how overwhelmed I felt while reading about these 25 realities, and the heightened concern I felt for the world in which my children are growing up. Due to these feelings, I found I needed to read this book in short doses rather than reading it straight through. In fact, I would recommend the book be read in short doses so that individuals can thoroughly process the content that White presents. As I reached the end of the book, I would have liked a bit more content focused on what the church should do to counter these realities, particularly as the last sentence states "And there is so much we can do." However, I think that content was intentionally left out as the "what" may vary significantly from church to church and locale to locale.

I recommend The Church in an Age of Crisis for a variety of audiences. Undergraduate or beginning seminary students who are studying worldviews or reaching contemporary minds would find this book very engaging as a textbook or recommended reading. Every minister, church leader, elder needs to read this book. This book needs to not only be read but also should be the impetus for an action plan laying out what the church needs to do in the face of these realities. While it was somewhat depressing to have these stark realities laid out in succession, as believers we know that the Lord is in control of all things and these realities are not insurmountable. Read The Church in an Age of Crisis and then resolve to do something to help your church engage our culture concerning these realities.

Disclaimer I received a complimentary copy of The Church in an Age of Crisis in exchange for a fair and honest review.