Reviews

Mixed Media
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fiction

The Illuminator

by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

reviewed by Sonya VanderVeen Feddema

In 14th-century England, Finn works for the church as a master illuminator of Latin biblical texts. He also clandestinely illuminates John Wycliffe’s illegal English Bible translation, and he realizes that the “translation showed a different Lord from the one the priests talked about.” Finn’s illicit affair with the widowed Lady Kathryn brings them both brief happiness, but life unravels as the church’s corruption and the crown’s tyranny result in a peasant uprising. In the ensuing chaos, Lady Kathryn, Finn, and others make choices and sacrifices that irrevocably change them. In spite of some profanity and violence, the deft characterization and intriguing plot make this novel—which clearly celebrates the power of God’s Word for all people—a joy to read. (St. Martin’s Griffin)

website

www.HappyNews.com

reviewed by Ron VandenBurg

With such a name, I expected shoddy stories from amateur journalists. Instead, HappyNews.com offers a wide variety of international news, editorials, and sports, as well as environmental, entertainment, and business news. The site proclaims its unique philosophy: “We believe virtue, goodwill and heroism are hot news.” HappyNews.com does not shy away from difficult stories but does seek to offer hope in its presentation of the news. I found Associated Press articles about the struggles for peace in Sri Lanka and about Sudanese people rebuilding their war-torn villages. You can share your positive stories as well. “Citizen journalists” can submit stories as long as they adhere to the site’s journalistic ethics criteria.

Computer Game

FLO: Return of the Water Beetles

reviewed by Ron DeBoer

In Max Lucado’s computer game version of his popular Hermie and Friends video series, kids ages 3 to 6 confront a series of challenges to prepare for a video “concert” by the Water Beetles, a famous band coming to the garden. Through these episodes, children learn important lessons about trust and forgiveness when the game’s main characters—Hermie and Wormie—talk with God. The game automatically changes the level of difficulty if a challenge doesn’t match a player’s ability. Upon completing all five activities, the player is rewarded with a concert. Kids can also create their own concerts and control the instruments that are playing. If parents place time restrictions on video games, players can save their game and continue on another day. (Digital Praise)

Spirituality

Death by Suburb: How to Keep the Suburbs from Killing Your Soul

by David L. Goetz

reviewed by Robert N. Hosack

Christians on Wysteria Lane struggle with many of the same temptations as their “Desperate Housewives” neighbors. Writing out of his Wheaton, Ill., life, David Goetz contends that living amidst manicured lawns is killing suburbanite souls. He offers a wake-up call to those on spiritual cruise control, worshiping at Latte Temple instead of redeeming life’s routines. Committed to helping suburbanites navigate new courses, Goetz offers eight prescriptions for a “thicker spiritual life,” countering the common environmental toxins of the age. “Suburbia is a flat world,” he writes, that erects facades of perfection and progress, warring with personal holiness. As a former Wheaton resident, I think that his map is clear. But his antidotes can also help urban dwellers contemplate the cost of discipleship. (HarperSanFrancisco)

Biblical study

Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading

by Eugene H. Peterson

reviewed by Wayne Brouwer

Both Ezekiel and John were given scrolls of divine writing and commanded to eat them. Peterson uses this metaphor to encourage us to devour Scripture. He urges a four-fold method: read (the text), meditate (on the context), pray (the Psalms in order to connect with God’s mind) and contemplate (by living appropriately). This is book two in a planned five-volume “spiritual theology.” As always, Peterson sets a banquet that nourishes newcomers and continues to interest old friends. Some who have walked with Peterson through the years may find his tone condescending; others may push back at his Barthian theology that pushes strongly for a meditative encounter with a spiritualized Jesus. (Eerdmans)

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