Tag Archives: review

The Twelfth Imam: Review

Most of you know that I live in Istanbul. Naturally, I have an interest in things related to the Middle East. The Twelfth Imam, which my husband had read a couple of years ago, was a really fun read. I’d been having a little bit of trouble jumping into a book as I had been swamped with research and writing for the last few months. But, thankfully, this one got me out of my rut!

The Twelfth Imam is written by Joel Rosenberg who has been studying and writing on issues related to the Middle East, Israel, and religion for the last several years. This book feels very well informed, which makes it a more interesting read. Rosenberg starts his book off with the great, but little known American story of Argo. (By the way, a great film! Something American’s should know about!) Argo was a secret operation undertaken during the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979. The Twelfth Imam starts here and follows the story of an American and Iranian family who escape the tumultuous country of Iran to the safety of America. Years later, the families have settled in small American towns, had children, and started new lives. When the youngest children are teenagers, the fathers get back in touch, and they attend a company retreat the weekend before America was forever changed by the acts of a few men on planes.

September 11 drastically changed the lives of some members of these families, and they set in motion the events that would drive the rest of the book. From a successful New England doctor’s son to a high-ranking CIA position, David Shirazi is going to serve his country and his family well by entering a country on the verge of perfecting their nuclear weapons base. At the same time, the Islamic world was turned upside down by the ascent of the Twelfth Imam, the prophesied leader who would come to usher in peace in the last times.

David is in a race to try and find the crucial information that will keep the world from seemingly falling apart, be it by nuclear weapons or mass conversion. Will he be able to protect those who mean the most to him? Will he be able to set aside the rest of his life for the good of his country?

The Twelfth Imam is a thrilling and fast paced book. The story line is well-developed, and there was little to criticize regarding the writing or the plot line. This is the first in a series of books, and I’m sure that you’ll be interested in picking up the second immediately after finishing the first! I think that this book would be especially beneficial to read as a family to address issues of faith, religion, and current events in the world. Rosenberg’s books do not contain any objectionable material, which makes them suitable for a family context, and while he does not dictate your thoughts, he does give a clear presentation of events that ought to be discussed with young people in today’s world.

My one criticism, if it can even be called that, is that Rosenberg does raise some issues (from a Christian standpoint) that are not easy questions to answer. Perhaps it is because of that that he does not give a clear answer as to what he believes is happening, but I think that some of his questions are really important to understand. The biggest issue is this: does God, and if He does, how does He use dreams and visions for His modern purposes? This is a real issue that we are facing in the world today. This issue is raised in The Twelfth Imam, but Rosenberg does not give much indication as to his own thoughts on the matter. He leaves it to us to run to the Bible and find our answers. What do you think? Does God use dreams and visions today? What would be your response to someone who said that they learned about Jesus from a dream?

I would honestly recommend this book to anyone regardless of age, ethnicity, or religion. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the story and your answers to some of the questions!

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Don’t forget, if you are looking for something good to read, check out my page of suggestions!!

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No Greater Love by Levi Benkert and Candy Chand: Review

Business wasn’t going well in America, and an opportunity arose right before his eyes that he could not say no to. He boarded a plane and went on a short trip to Ethiopia to help with a project of saving children that had been left to die because they were believed to be cursed. These children are called mingi children and they may be condemned to die for a number of reasons. Levi worked with the newborn orphanage for these children for just a few short weeks, but he knew there was no way he could go home and forget the children he had seen in Ethiopia, and the hopelessness that was their lives. Once he arrived back in America, he began the process of shutting down his business and packing up his wife and three children to move to Ethiopia.

Levi and his family made it to Jinka, Ethiopia, and they began working with the mingi children by providing funding and management for the new orphanage. Most things were done by Ethiopians, but Levi and his wife Jessie provided a lot of brainstorming and implemented a lot of changes to help benefit the children living in the orphanage. No Greater Love walks you through the joys and trials that Levi and his family faced during their years in Ethiopia. There were great excitements as they saw children rescued and given new hope, and there were deep sorrows when adoptions fell through and the tribal elders tried to shut down the work that was happening.

This is a book you should read. Levi recounts the years in Ethiopia very candidly and does not hide the difficulties that he struggled with or the despair that he felt. This is a real man with a real family that was doing a real work for God. He did not make the right decision every time, but he didn’t hide that. He took the failures that he experienced and he let God use them for His glory. Christians are called to glorify God, through their lives, through advancing the Gospel, through loving our neighbors. This book will challenge you to think through what you are doing presently to glorify God. How are you demonstrating love, and who are you picturing Jesus to? To be completely honest with you, I was caught up in the details of this story, for I am captivated by the story of adoption, and I cannot comment much on the literary qualities of the book. The book is written in a very conversational manner, and it is as though you are sitting down to coffee with Levi and hearing about how God has changed his life and challenged his faith in Ethiopia. I do recommend that if you are interested at all in what God is doing in the world at large, you should read this book. God is alive and offering hope to children around the world.

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I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers for the purpose of reviewing. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

The Hunger Games Trilogy: Review

 

All three. Yes, because you won’t be reading just one anyway. 🙂

I got severely sucked in to this book series this last week. Severely in that, even amidst teaching and studying full-time (but including a Easter holiday) I read all three in one week. You might think that I ignored my husband that whole time, but don’t worry, he read them all in a week too.

So, I have been mulling over how to review this book since I finished Mockingjay on Monday. Here’s what I finally decided on:

***Please set aside what you have heard about The Hunger Games for the rest of this review. Thanks!***

1. Summary

America didn’t make it. They fell into wars and ended up destroying themselves. Pity. A new country rose out of the ashes of what used to be America, and as they rose, they determined to institute checks that would ensure that the people never again tried to overthrow the government and take power for themselves. The way they tried to implement this was through a yearly contest called “The Hunger Games”. Two tributes from each of the 12 districts of Panem would be chosen at random and sent to an arena where they would fight until only one tribute remained as victor. This was just a way for the government to reinforce their power and their right to rule over the people.

Book 1 follows a tribute from the district furthest from the Capitol. The Capitol is the center of Panem life. People in the Capitol don’t work, they are surrounded by luxury, and live lives of utter pleasure. The further you travel from the Capitol, the more oppressed and poor the people are.

From the very beginning of the games, this girl defies the rules of the government of Panem. Every action she takes, whether consciously or not, is in opposition to the self-acclaimed power of the President of Panem. This is going to be the thread that carries you throughout the books.

Obviously, people are not happy with life in the districts. They are oppressed, overworked, not taken care of, and treated with disdain, while their fellow countrymen live in the lap of luxury in the Capitol. Now, they have someone to follow. Now they have someone who has stood up to the Capitol and is still alive. The second and third books take you through the people’s attempt to overthrow the government of Panem and where that leads them.

2. Morality and Social Issues

Please don’t hate me for my summary. I’m trying really hard to give you a summary that will let you know what the books are about without spoiling it! And on that note, I do want to say that while a lot of people seem to think at first that the books are about “The Hunger Games” and the violence and gore that you would expect when you put 24 teenagers into an arena and tell them to fight to the death, that is not really the underlying tone or message. Yes, that is part of the story, but I honestly did not feel that the books were as violent or gory as I had anticipated they might be. In fact, there is a lot of weight given to several of the deaths that occur in the arena. (Although, I will admit that the third book does encounter a lot of violence, but it is wartime violence and different than violence for entertainment’s sake.) The premise of all three books is not to elevate or glorify the violence of “The Hunger Games” but rather to show how futile and wrong they are, and to show a people trying to fight back from an insurmountable injustice.

This trilogy is extremely entertaining and enjoyable, but at the same time it poses questions and challenges the reader to think through concepts such as justice, equality, and the effects of power on a people. Suzanne Collins, the author of the books, writes specifically about the effects of war on children, and this series shows that. Power is a deadly weapon, and one that can destroy even those with good intentions. Added on to that, pain and injustice are crippling diseases. One with power has the ability to use these to control, maim, and dictate an entire people. The Hunger Games forces you to look at these issues and address the realities that they entail.

I will say that there was one moment when, in the midst of my excitement over the book, I felt a pang of guilt and wondered “Why am I reading this? They are getting ready to kill each other and I am excited about this?!” But, as I said, the book does not glorify the killing. The story is told as a first person narrative, so rather than having a displaced view of the arena and watching the fighting from a spectator’s seat you are in the middle of it and thinking the thoughts that the tribute is thinking. You are sharing in the fears, the hatred, the disgust, and the anger of it all.

One last comment – because I heard today that people have complained about the “explicit sexuality” in the books. I honestly was shocked when I heard that comment. The books contain kissing, and a complicated love triangle, but never once was there a scene that I was uncomfortable with or thought was inappropriate. Conversely, I was impressed with Collins’ ability to incorporate the love story and keep everything above board. There are nights that a boy and girl sleep together, but never was this in a sexual way – it was always an attempt to keep the nightmares away. Nevertheless, I think it is important to address this issue if you are deciding whether or not to allow your children to read these books. If I had children, I would let them read them – I would probably read them again with them! (And on that note, I think that these books would create great discussions between parents and children on thinking critically about big issues in our world.)

3. Critique on the Story

As you must have noticed by now, I thoroughly enjoyed these books. Probably my favorite thing, and the thing that I can’t get over is the genre. I despise reading science-fiction. I can’t say that these books are science fiction, but they are futuristic with technology and creatures that do not (nor do I imagine ever will) exist. In that sense, they are slightly sci-fi. However, they are so grounded with historical pictures and familiar things that I had absolutely no problem envisioning everything that was going on. It is a plausible world, an imaginable world, but not my world. I found that extremely effective.

The books are definitely addictive and the story is very fast paced and keeps you guessing. The writing itself is simple, and easy to understand, but it is not poorly written. I would highly recommend these books to . . . just about anyone. But please, read them with an open mind. Don’t read them and think of what someone else said, or the fact that they are the new fad, or that you’ve already seen the movie (hmmm . . . next week’s post!)

I promise, you’ll enjoy the journey!!