Son of Hamas, a review

Son of Hamas is a true story about Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of one of the founders of Hamas. In his tale, Mosab tells what it was like growing up in Israel as a Palestinian and how he began to view the conflict between Israel and Palestine differently. He had hated the Israelites for the majority of his childhood but some chance happenings in his life altered how viewed the violence and ideologies behind Hamas, PLO, Israel etc. In fact, Mosab became an undercover agent and details many of his missions.

I really liked this book. It was not well written, but the fact that the events were true and many of the accounts were dangerous made up for the lack of writing skills. Had this been a fiction book, I probably would not have finished it. Please note the author is writing from his own point of view, but I think he does give some great insight into the conflict and even more an appropriate response for Christians to consider. I had read a book by Ted Dekker, Tea with Hezbollah, which deals with the same things from a different approach, so if you like Son of Hamas then I recommend Tea with Hezbollah as well and vice versa. Both of these books, I think, give a truer Christian response than the current climate gives. 4 out of 5 stars.

See my review of Tea with Hezbollah, click here.

I was provided this book by Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for a review.

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The Least Among You, a review

The Least Among You is a film based on a true story of a young Black man, Richard who attends a previously all-white seminary as probation for an arrest during a riot. The film follows Richard as he is placed in school with people of competing agendas, including, his mom, the dean, and even himself. Will one agenda overcome the others, or will they come together for the good of all?

Overall, this film has a strong message. The story was compelling but unfortunately, the budget, the script, and/or the production made the film hard to follow at points. The film itself, being produced by a Christian company has to make some obvious adjustments to content which is fine, but the somewhere in the production the story became jumpy. There were points between scenes I was confused how we transitioned between the two. I am not sure if this was a problem with the script, the production, he budget, or a combination. Because of this I have to give the film a lower rating. If you can overcome the jumpy transitions you may find a compelling message that is worth the trouble. 3/5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this film free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Homeless for the Holidays, a review

I received the movie Homeless for the Holidays from Team Buzzplant to review. The movie follows a family who is your typical upper-middle class family. They have two cars, a big house, and the dad is over worked. His commitment to work is a tension at home. He ends up losing his job to due an error in a label he supposedly signed off on, the misprint caused injury to several users. Although he did nothing wrong, he took the hit so the company would stay open, with the promise to be rehired when things cleared up. The rest of the movie follows the events of his life (the movie is based on a true story).

While the movie had a good premise, and the trueness behind the story I am sure is wonderful, there seemed to be a few too many fantastical elements. Realizing the budget was low, the acting was decent. Do not expect an all-star acting. Despite the lacks in acting the actors did much better than I have seen in other low budget movies. My main concern is the understated political messages. There are two clear parts that give the impression that the government is out to take your money and waste it and the church is the only place to give your money. Essentially stating big government is evil. Well, I cannot disagree with some of the sentiments given, they are completely unnecessary for the story and Christians fall all over the place on these issues (I believe all would think Christians should give to their church, but disagree on the government’s role in helping people). If the movie lacked these political statements I would give it 2 1/2 stars out of 4, deductions for unrealistic elements, some jumpiness, and mediocre acting, however because of the political issues I have to give it only 1 star.

Again the premise of the story is nice and this film might work well with upper elementary kids and their parents, I do not see anyone much older wanting to see the movie. A good family night movie especially if the, at least, two scenes of politicized messages are reworked.

(I received an advanced screening copy so the scenes could have/be edited to remove to the political issues.)

Immanuel’s Veins, a review

I was given an Advanced copy to read and write an endorsement for the book, Immanuel’s Veins. This is what I turned in.

I really enjoyed Immanuel’s Vein’s by Ted Dekker. I read the entire book in two days, which is unusually fast for me. I was captivated to find out how this story of love and redemption, and small dose of betrayal, would end. While the book sounded like a Dekker book it was also completely new. Dekker, unlike any other fiction author I have read, can take a theme and magnify it through story and IV only expounds upon this. I highly recommend this to any fiction lover.

–Travis Clarke, 25, Waco,  George W. Truett Seminary Student

(I have been told my endorsement is in the front of the book in a slightly edited form, for length I guess maybe some tone.)

***Possible spoilers included here on out.*** I obviously left in the positive aspects of the book for my endorsement and fully stand behind them, though there were one or two hiccups in my opinion, but not enough for me to not write a positive endorsement. So let me explain my endorsement in full and add a little about the minor hiccups.

As all his other books, the theme is the driving force of the story and not necessarily the story itself, which is why I can read his books and not think he has already done this, FBI type guy falls for the girl.

For the sounding like a Dekker but being new, deals with the fact that this is Dekker’s first first person book. I do not read many first person fiction stories so this was new for me, I read Demon: A Memoir by Tosca Lee a little later. I struggle a little with this part, mostly I think from my lack of reading these type books. However, I was able to work through that, and think that is more of a personal thing than a knock against the book. Again I found the theme to be the driving force and kept me in the story.

Hiccup: As the last book for Thomas Nelson, Ted I think wanted to wrap up any open doors he created in his large arching Circle trilogy connecting stories (i.e. The Circle series, and Books of History series). So in this book he does, by explaining the consequence of Alucard entering “our world” from the circle series. A careful reader will realize that Alucard is just Dracula spelled backwards and is Dekker’s explanation of vampires and works. However I think with the Twilight saga and True Blood the vampire angle is over flooded and need not a Christian spin. I spent a good portion of the book hoping this was not what was being alluded to, but it was. I can live with it, and if it were not for the other vampire stories floating around now, it would have been perfectly fine. Again, Dekker’s take on vampires is great I just worry about how it will play out with the other stories also being popular.

So overall I really liked this book and thus gave it a positive endorsement. As one can see I gave it four stars, took one away for the story not being as original as I would like. But again the theme is more important in Dekker’s books than the story itself.

1&2 Thessalonians/Philemon Life Application Bible Study, a review

1&2 Thessalonians/Philemon Life Application Bible Study provides its readers with the NLT translation of the books with the Life Application, notes included, and then follows all 3 books with the study for each book. In total there are 13 lessons, 7 for 1 Thessalonians, 4 for 2 Thessalonians, and 2 for Philemon.

I like the newer translation of the NLT, which this study includes, but still prefer a more literal translation such as NRSV or ESV. The notes are good and the charts included aren’t bad either. The studies for the books, however, are lacking depth. The study does not stretch the reader at all. Most of the questions are the real simple and only skim the surface of the books. All of the questions are “safe” and do not allow the reader to dig deeper into what Paul is trying to say to the church at Thessalonica or to Philemon. I do not recommend this study for even new Christians as the engagement level is too low to be worth while. A good study will challenge its readers to dig deeper into the material.

I received this study free for review from Tyndale.

Psalms, Life Change Series review

Psalms, in the Life Change Series by NavPress, is Bible study for individuals and can be used in a group setting as well. This study takes several Psalms per lesson, grouped by similar themes, and asks soul searching question to help the reader think about their own life in light of the Psalm’s teaching. In the margins, the study suggests more ways to interact with the Psalms in different settings.

This study for what I can tell, as I did not do all of it but sampled several lessons for this review, is not the most in depth scripturally but I am also a seminary student. I think for the average church goer this study is asking more than they normally are willing to give, which is good. The reader needs to engage more throughly with their own life’s in light of the Psalms. The Psalms are great for doing some soul searching. I would like to comment though that the way this study is conducted will not work well with over parts of scripture though, so do not try them there, but work great for the Psalms.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saint Francis, a review

Saint Francis by Robert West is a short biography on Francis in the Christian Encounter series. This biography stretches from is young life as a merchant’s son to his canonization as a Saint after his death. Francis is best known for his stance on poverty, not in a political sense but as a way of life, as in he choose possessionless.

Dr. West does not give an in depth accounting of Francis’ theology or the greater impact Francis had. However, he does give a great introductory biography of Francis. If you are looking for an in depth study of Francis I suggest you look else where, but if you want to know a little bit a about Francis before going into an in depth study or you only want an overview this is a good book. I also recommend Chasing Francis by Cron, it also goes into Francis’ life but in the form of a fictional novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Best Pictures 2000’s

2000 – Gladiator won the award. I enjoy Gladiator but I think Traffic is a better film.

2001 – A Beautiful Mind won the award. The Academy knew you could not get enough of Russell Crowe so his film won again.

2002 – Chicago won the award. This is probably the best musical I have seen, the musical numbers actually advance and tell the story instead of pause it. With that said I would have picked The Pianist.

2003 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won the award. This is a hard year for me as I also really like Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

2004 – Million Dollar Baby won the award. This is a great film but so is Finding Neverland.

2005 – Crash won the award. I prefer Good Night, and Good Luck to Crash, as Traffic was the original film worthy of winning for this type of story telling.

2006 – The Departed won the award. Again how can I choose between The Departed, Letters from Iwo Jima and Little Miss Sunshine.

2007 – No Country for Old Men won the award. I enjoy Coen Brothers films but this was not their best. Juno or There Will Be Blood are better.

2008 – Slumdog Millionaire won the award. This seemed like a down year.

2009 – The Hurt Locker won the award. I prefer Up and Inglorious Basterds, but as long as Avatar did not win it did not matter. Avatar like Titanic is way over rated, Avatar even more so that Titanic. Cameron had the script for over ten years and this is what we get, no plot development.

The Decade overall – This was a strong decade as well second best (through 2009), again I have seen a lot of the other films and these are geared more toward my generation.

To see all the prior decades click here

Best Pictures 1990’s

1990 – Dances with Wolves won the award. I think this film could have been condensed to make it more enjoyable.

1991 – The Silence of the Lambs won the award. This film is great almost as good as the book, a tall order. The film closest to being a horror film to win.

1992 – Unforgiven won the award. I did not enjoy this film. I prefer A Few Good Men to Unforgiven.

1993 – Schindler’s List won the award. This film is too moving to not have won.

1994 – Forrest Gump won the award. This was a strong year with Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption also being nominated. But all I can say is “Run Forrest Run.”

1995 – Braveheart won the award. Who needs historical accuracy (Apollo 13) when you can add more blood and guts.

1996 – The English Patient won the award. I prefer Fargo.

1997 – Titanic won the award. In a strong year a boring movie won the award. L.A. Confidential, Good Will Hunting, and As Good as It Gets are all much better. Popularity (I do not why how it was) and production cost won over acting, script, and quality.

1998 – Shakespeare in Love won the award. Another strong year. I personally would have picked Life is Beautiful, even though Saving Private Ryan was great as well.

1999 – American Beauty won the award. The third strong year in a row. I cannot decide if I would pick American Beauty, The Green Mile, or The Sixth Sense.

The Decade overall – This decade ended really strong, it helps I have seen many of these films. I would venture to say this is probably the strongest decade of them all (through 2009).

Tomorrow the last of the winners will be posted, the 2000’s. To see all the prior decades click here

Chasing Francis, a review

Chasing Francis by Ian Morgan Cron is a fictional account of a pastor taking a pilgrimage to discover the true life, life of Saint Francis of Assisi. Chase Falson is the main character, who at the beginning of this story has a melt down one Sunday morning at his church he founded some years back. The church is unsure how to progress so Chase takes some time off and visits his uncle in Italy who happens to be a Franciscan priest. It is during this trip that Chase discovers Francis and decides how he will progress but will the church take him back?

This story was quite simple, though there are some twists. Despite the twists the story overall, is lacking. However, the discovery of Saint Francis is quite detailed and well told. I enjoyed learning the history of Francis and the parts of his theology/philosophy. The story unfortunately had huge jumps, and the timeline was hard to follow. As a fan of history I enjoyed the historical portions but thought the fictional story could have been much more developed. I do like how it ended though. I would recommend this book to history and theology lovers but not to fiction lovers. If Ian Morgan Cron writes another book of this nature I would try it, hoping he develops the fictional parts a little more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NavPress Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commision’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”