Book Review: The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur

Book Review: The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur
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Image taken from the book’s buy page on Amazon for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

The Parables of Jesus by John MacArthur looks at several parables of Christ and breaks them down.

It’s been a bit since I listened to this on Audible, so it’s hard to pick out details.

What I do remember is that MacArthur spent the beginning expressing the value of parables but cautioning that it isn’t the only form of teaching. It certainly wasn’t the only method Christ used, and when he started using them, there was a specific reason.

I think this was the biggest take away for me. The reason that’s so is that I own a MacArthur study Bible, so many of his comments and thoughts are already in the notes of the study Bible. That’s not to say that his detailed analysis full of historical context isn’t great; it’s my favorite part of any of his books. I simply value new information more than information I’ve already consumed.

I do think this would make a great companion piece to one reading the Gospels though. It’s like a study guide or Cliffs Notes for a few specific parables.

This is also a good book to read for someone who wants to focus specifically on the parables. Again, one shouldn’t only obsess on the parables, but a period of study devoted to them is beneficial for anyone.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2As is usual for books by MacArthur, I always enjoy the simple, literal approach  he takes.  Even in parables, he pays close attention to what each figure or subject represented.

My favorite might be the story of Lazarus and the rich man. He provides some interesting insight I found thought provoking. Reading MacArthur’s work is always motivating. I like Biblical books that challenge me to dig back into the Bible, and his books always do that.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson

Book Review: Starsight by Brandon Sanderson
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The cover of the book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Starsight  is the second story in the Skyward saga by Brandon SandersonMy review for Skyward is here. Spoiler Free Summary: Spensa’s dream of becoming a hero is only the beginning. An alien visitor appears, giving her the chance to learn about the people who have kept her captive this whole time. She also learns about the entity that is even more horrifying than the thought of humans at war. What secrets will she unveil? Will she be able to protect the secrets she keeps? What doe the eyes of the starts know?

Character: Spensa is still a charming character. She’s growing, which is nice to see. I like MBot too. She’s proactive still, rather like Naruto in a lot of ways. However, she’s growing smarter. She’s forced to teach, and that gives her some tools that she needs. I honestly think seeing her growth from the last book to this one was one of the more interesting parts of the story. The cast sort of splits and expands here. We meet essentially an entire new cast. We don’t cut completely away from the other characters, but they don’t get much screen time.  

Exposition: The exposition of this story wasn’t beyond what I’d expect from a first person narrative. There are, of course, some “conversations” that decently hide the information we’re provided. They’re fun conversations and also reveal character, so I didn’t mind them at all.

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Image of Sanderson by Nazrilof was taken from Sanderson’s website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description:  I thought the description was great. I felt Sanderson was a little understated in his description in the last story, but this gave me the “something” I felt was missing from the last story.

Overall: This is easily the second-best book I’ve read so far this year. It fulfilled a lot of the promises the first book made. It became impossible to stop listening to it (this was an Audible story for me) with about three hours to go. It was a lot of fun. The only demerit I have is the cliffhanger ending. I hate those. I will always hate those. Even with that ending, I still loved it.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: The Burning White by Brent Weeks

Book Review: The Burning White by Brent Weeks
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Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spolier Free Summary: (Note: Once more, it’s very hard to review a final book in a series. I’ll do my best.)  The Burning White is the final novel in the Lightbringer Saga by Brent Weeks. Gavin finally faces the truth about the existence Orholam, and the truth will set him free. Kip, accepting the role of Lightbringer, returns home for the final defense of his chosen home. Karris and Andross scheme. Tia walks down a dark path of death, hoping a light shines anywhere. Everything comes to a head, and all questions are answered in this final volume. I have to admit, I didn’t get the answer that frustrated me so much with The Blood Mirror. I think that’s just a whiff that Weeks will have to accept. Lucky for him the series as a whole is great.

 

Character:  Tisis stole the show in the last book, so I was mad she didn’t get that much attention in this book. That said, every one of these character arcs were amazing! I must give proper respect to Gavin, who’s growth was beautiful. I also must give a nod to Andross here. A lot of cool things happen that reveal motivations, and that amplifies the sympathy of all of these characters.

Exposition: We still have a few dumpy sections, but that’s going to happen in a series this deep. I’ll say that while there was some slow-down here and there, the general pace of the novel (and series) was just fine. The dumpy sections are portions I think most fans of epic fantasy have come to expect so long as the author doesn’t abuse the privilege. Weeks doesn’t.

Worldbuilding: The world only gets bigger, and we see a lot more of the religion in this world in this book. I don’t know if Weeks is Christian or not, but I can promise you he did his research. It was actually super fun for me to count off the sheer number of Bible Easter eggs as I saw it, particularly near the third act to the end. I don’t think people who haven’t read the Bible or aren’t that familiar with it would catch as much (or mind), but it’s hard to know given how much of the Bible I read. I found those ties to be satisfying, but I wonder how others might respond. I expect they wouldn’t notice.

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Other books in the Lightbringer saga.

Dialogue:  I’d still say the same that I’ve always said. I can’t argue the characters all have unique voices (though I do think so). Yeah, they’re all pretty much flippant, arrogant people with sly comments for every situation, but it’s fun to listen to. It’s witty and entertaining.

Description: Weeks is still a minimalist in this regard. There was more description in this book than others, but the necessity was there given the number of action scenes and new locations to account for.

Overall: This was a wonderful start to my 2020 year in reading. It’s going to take a strong book to take its spot at the top of my best-read stories of the year, and I can say that nothing so far has com anywhere close. I don’t know if I’ll finish the new Stormlight book before the new year, but that would be the competition I expect. Who knows though. I loved this book, and at the moment, it’s the best I’ve read so far in 2020. This book is a fantastic end to a satisfying conclusion. While I still enjoyed it, I’d have to say I liked Night Angel better, but I think that’s more of a compliment to Night Angel than a knock on Light Bringer. There’s a lot to love about this conclusion.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A new 4-Star Review for The Journals of Bob Drifter!

A new 4-Star Review for The Journals of Bob Drifter!

Greetings all,

Bob CoverI’m always happy to announce reviews for my work, and it’s even cooler when it’s a good one. I found this review for The Journals of Bob Drifter on Goodreads. Writers typically have to challenge themselves. Original ideas are a debated myth in these days, so finding ways to stand out or be unique are important. I appreciated the reader calling Bob ” … different than any other book … ”

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo

Book Review: The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo
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Cover for the book taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

The Heart of Anger by Lou Priolo is a Biblical perspective on raising children who are troubled by anger.

The thing that stuck with me the most about this book was the distinction between righteous and unholy anger. It also provided a means to put God front-and-center in any interaction with another person (not just a child).

The book also gives tools and procedures for corrective action. Oddly, it doesn’t have any information on punishment. It speaks a lot about discipline, but only in the context of its original meaning (to place one’s self under control). I would have liked some perspective on the topic of punishment.

One reason may be that this book focus most on discipline in terms of teaching, which should always be the priority in any interaction between a parent and his (in my case) children.

I found this book taught me far more about my anger and my perspective than it did about my son (who I read this book hoping to help). Don’t get me wrong; this book helped me find alternative ways to reach my son. However, I found this book helped me personally (if in a convicting way).

Lou
Image of Mr. Priolo taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

I don’t just recommend this for believing parents; I recommend this book for any believers who feel they might struggle with frustration and anger.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur

Book Review: Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur
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Image taken from book’s Goodreads page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Twelve Unlikely Heroes by John MacArthur is another book in the vein of Twelve Ordinary Men.

This story talks about 12 heroes from the Bible, but they may not all be the heroes you’re thinking of.

This didn’t have the staying power or resonance that 12 Ordinary Men had on me, but it was nice to read. Most of the stories show how people pass from fear to faith, so people who are struggling with spiritual issues of courage would certainly benefit from reading it.

The book also does a great job of showing how it is God who equips men who can then serve Him to do His will.

I think what I liked most about this book was the insight it gave regarding God’s grace and patience when calling people to action. This book talks about a few judges (from the book of Judges), and each of them had moments of extreme doubt. Honest, humble prayer always yielded results. That is an encouraging thought.

John-MacArthur-Primary-2I don’t know if there are more books from MacArthur of this sort, but I still think Ordinary Heroes was the strongest of the batch. However, this book is still a nice look into characters of the Bible. It lets us study those characters and glean insights about how God works (or can work) in our lives.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Transcendence and Rebellion by Michael G. Manning

Book Review: Transcendence and Rebellion by Michael G. Manning

Transcendence and Rebellion is the final book of The Riven Gates series, and the last

Transcendence
Cover image for the book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Mageborn saga book. My review for book one of this series is here. My review for book two is here. My review for the first the last book in the previous series is here. My review for the earliest series (Embers of Illeniel) is here.  My review for the central series (Mageborn) is here.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Mordecai’s power has grown so much that the very world is now in danger. The only hope of saving the world might be for his own children to plot his death, but Tyrion, influenced by the being who’s put everything into motion since Tyrion was a boy, might ruin any chance the youngest generation has at saving the world.

Character:  I like how everything came together in this book. I won’t say I got everything I wanted out of the end of this saga, but I feel like the characters all had a chance to shine. For a cast this massive, that’s hard to do. Mordecai shines, as does Matthew. All the characters have motivations one can empathize with. They are all charming and sympathetic. It’s very fun seeing how everything comes together in Manning’s universe.

Exposition: This is probably the weakest area, but not because there was too much. I’m not sure what I missed between book two and three of this series, but the biggest element of the plot seemed to come from nowhere to me. Since I listened to this on Audible, that might be the cause. However, I actually wanted a bit more in this regard to help me track all the plot lines and character threads.

Dialogue: As is typical in a book from Manning, there was a lot of conversations used to get plot information across.  It’s still not enough so much that the book isn’t great, but it’s obviously  there. It reminds me a lot of the feeling I got whenever Buffy and the gang were in the library. There were key points in the book where I was like, “Ok, here comes the dissertation on how we got here.” I love Buffy for the record, so it’s not that big a deal.

Description:  This time I wasn’t as blown away as I normally am, but his “weakest” work in this book is still head and shoulders beyond everyone else in the business. If you’re a young writer seeking to understand how to incorporate description into a story, you should study Manning’s work.

Overall:  I might do another post sometime down the road just to talk about the scope of this series. I don’t think this saga holds up to Wheel of Time, but I really feel like there’s something to be said for fourteen or so books that all share the same history. This is a saga you can enjoy for a long time, and I think you should. I loved this series a lot. I probably wouldn’t put it against my top three all time, but I might put it in my top ten (if not top five). There’s just too much to enjoy and too many characters to fall in love with to deny this series a place among the best in fantasy. I think there were a few books that dragged the story down for me (more than Wheel if you want to throw Crossroads of Twilight at me). However, the weakest books in the series are still not bad. I couldn’t recommend this series strongly enough. Rebellion landed at number two in my best books of 2019, and it’s worth so much more than the cover price.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis

Book Review: Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis

 

 

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Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Blunt Force Magic by Lawrence Davis is the first story in the Monsters and Men trilogy. First, I’ve already declared this the best book I read in 2019, and I stand behind that. Janzen Robinsion is a former apprentice to a group of heroic magic-wielding heroes, but that was five years ago, and none of his friends are alive. However, he stumbles into something that will cause him to choose to continue to lay low or rise to be the hero he was training to be.

Character:  Janzen is a great character. He’s every bit as proactive as he is sympathetic. He’s competent in his own way, but his flaws lie in his stubbornness.  I wouldn’t be shocked to hear Janzen was heavily inspired by Dresden. I don’t mind this at all given how long I’ve been waiting for a new book (which is coming by the way). I was such a fan of Janzen that I bought the next book in the series. 

Exposition: Even for a first-person narrative story, the exposition is smooth. It helps that Janzen is custom made for first-person narrative. His voice and thought process brings life to the expositional content. The other note is the author does a great job of weaving in the pain of the main character’s past. 

Worldbuilding: This is urban fantasy, so he had a lot to start with. However, we get introduced to some of the magic elements in ways that move the plot and expand what we currently know. In a book full of brilliant writing, this is actually the best part of the book from a critical standpoint. Anyone will notice the great characters and clever dialogue, but to be introduced to world-expanding elements in a perfectly-timed manner is impressive.

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Image taken from the author’s Goodreads page for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: Janzen as a character and the dialogue are the two reasons this feels like a Dresden book. It’s clever and quick. It keeps the reader chuckling and tearing up in all the right moments. 

Description: Like everything else about this book, the description was on point. It was visceral, activating all the senses. Davis put a lot of effort into not just helping us see the creatures (which a lot of urban fantasy writers do), but he also helps us see the characters. Side note: some of the characters have disabilities, and that brought a new dimension to the story. 

Overall: This book was simply wonderful. The characters are charming. The plot grabs you by the scruff of the neck and drags your mind and heart through a range of thoughts and emotions that leave you hungry to read Janzen’s next adventure. If you love urban fantasy like Dresden, you need to read this book. 

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Story Review: Phobosteus by Dennis Mombauer from Alien Days Anthology

Story Review: Phobosteus by Dennis Mombauer from Alien Days Anthology
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Cover image taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Phobosteus by Dennis Mombauer is the eleventh story in the Alien Days Anthology. Falb has a goal to capture an Apparition (an alien creature). But he’s about to learn more about himself than the alien race he’s targeted.

Character:  As I sometimes have to do, I have to admit I don’t remember any of this story at all. I read a few pages here and there in the hopes that something would shake out, but the story just wasn’t memorable for me. This story was especially hard to recall. I legitimately read a few pages, which is normally more than enough to jog my memory, but nothing came to mind. 

Exposition: The forgettability of the story has one positive attribute: It means I didn’t get frustrated about the story dragging on, which means that whatever happened, it at least happened at a nice pace and rhythm.  

Worldbuilding: See above.

Dialogue: See above.

Mombauer
Image of Mr. Mombauer taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Description:  Probably another indicator that the story was not bad because I don’t remember anything about it. This indicates that I wasn’t slogged down or bored at reading the story. 

Overall: It doesn’t happen too often that I read a story and have no ability to remember anything about it. It’s even more rare that a casual glance at a story fails to help me remember the gist of said story. This almost always means that while I was reading it, I wasn’t remotely interested. I wasn’t bored or angry at the way the story was crafted, but nothing grabbed my attention to hold my interest.

This isn’t a typical review for me, but I have to be honest about the impact stories have on me because I hope that if someone buys a book based on what I say, they get what they expect to get or better. I’m sorry I don’t recall anything about this story. I’m also sorry I don’t have constructive feedback like I normally do, but that is a part of what writing is. Reading it again would give it more attention than the other authors, and I don’t think that’s fair either. I still think the anthology as a whole is perfect for the commute to and from work (audio format). That’s because the worst of the stories is still pretty solid, and that’s a compliment.

Thanks for reading

Matt

 

Stealing Freedom Gets Its First Review!

Stealing Freedom Gets Its First Review!

StealingFreedomGreetings all,

I just love it when reviews come in! So I’m happy to share this 4-star review for Stealing Freedom.

This (click the link) review was only a sentence, but it’s a moment the reviewer took to offer a rating and a few words, and those words were particularly encouraging because he took that moment to say he liked the end. He even went the extra mile and left the same review on Goodreads, which is just an amazing help.

If you’ve had a chance to read the story (or any of my work), I’d appreciate it if you also took a moment to drop a rating and/or review.

Thanks for reading,

Matt