Archives For *Brief Reviews*


The Source of all Genius
and all Music and all Poetry

Review of

The Small Books of Bach
David Wright

Paperback: Wipf and Stock, 2014
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Reviewed by Gina Dalfonzo


If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, perhaps the fear of Bach is the beginning of a true love and appreciation of music. The word “fear” may be even more appropriate here than in the original biblical context. I can’t speak for the professional musician, but the amateur musician like myself approaches Johann Sebastian Bach with a sense of awe bordering on—or rather, crossing the border into—profound intimidation.

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Allowing Grace to Move us Forward
A Review of 

Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life
Colette Lafia

Paperback: Sorin Books, 2015
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Reviewed by Paul D. Gregory
Our lives are filled with numerous starts and stops, ups and downs and thrilling and devastating experiences. For most of us, the view from the summit is sublime and easy to negotiate. However, how do we handle the disappointment and loss that invariably arrive at our doorsteps? Some are able to quickly adept on their own, while others spend days, months and yes, sometimes years, learning how to survive the valleys. For many of us, the challenges life throws at us can be overwhelming, shattering our beliefs in friendships, family, as well as God.  Colette Lafia’s book entitled Seeking Surrender: How My Friendship with a Trappist Monk Taught Me to Trust and Embrace Life beautifully tackles these issues.
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Work and its Discontents

A Review of 

Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure
Nancy Nordenson

Paperback: Kalos Press, 2015
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Reviewed by David Clark
Nancy Nordenson’s most recent book, Finding Livelihood: A Progress of Work and Leisure, contains a collection of elegant lyric essays. Nordenson’s brooding but engaging meditations explore the character of faithful work through an exposition of numerous disquieting questions, questions that fail to admit to easy answers. Author and critic John Berger once compared the successful essay to an outstanding drawing. “The artist attempts to render what is before him by imagining what is behind, drawing what can’t be seen.” Finding Livelihood seeks to understand what is “behind” the human task of earning one’s daily bread.

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How to Live a Writer’s Life
A review of

On Being a Writer
Ann Kroeker and
Charity Singleton Craig

Paperback: TS Poetry Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Sarah Lyons
My writing desk at the moment is, unfortunately, nowhere to be found. Well, that might be slightly misleading since the desk itself hasn’t moved. But every possible surface is covered with something—piles of paper, photographs in frames, and pieces of clothing pushed to the side or draped over the chair.
I feel embarrassed because my room is actually in pretty good condition, organized in that constantly-unsettled young adult way. It’s just the desk that’s impossible to navigate. I don’t even know what’s on it anymore. And I’m embarrassed because that says my writing life is slowly getting choked out.

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TomOrrIn Love of Place

A Review of

Tongue to the Anvil: Poems
Thomas Alan Orr

Paperback: Restoration Press, 2014.

Reviewed by Sarah Lyons


If left on my own, I find that I tend to be very demanding when reading poems. I’ll read them in handfuls on a whim, but not carefully—it’s the casual, uncommitted kind of reading with eyes sweeping from one line break to the next without really ‘catching.’ I’ll skim. I’ll find myself in love with the idea of poetry, and yet not actually interested in the sometimes bare realities of it.

With this habit ingrained in the back of my soul, I brushed my hands over a few pages of Orr’s work. And I paused. And then I read the poems again.

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What Makes a Hero a Hero?
A Brief Review of

The Former Hero: A Novel
Jeffrey Allen Mays

Paperback: AEC Stellar Publishing, 2014
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Reviewed by Alicia Smock


Superheroes have become a big part of today’s pop culture. Not only do these supernatural beings wear the fun colorful garb and represent honor and justice like the heroes of the 20th century, but they are also developing deeper meaning. People everywhere — whether readers, viewers, gamers, etc. — are witnessing superheroes dealing with inner conflicts, not always being able to save the day, and even, sometimes, dying. But aren’t superheroes not supposed to fail? Aren’t they always supposed to fly in, beat the villain, and save the day? Jeffrey Allen Mays has taken this concept and has written a philosophical masterpiece that really makes readers think about what it means to be a true hero in his debut novel: The Former Hero.


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Poverty and Hunger
Beyond the Clichés

A Review of

Under the Sour Sun: Hunger Through The Eyes Of a Child
Elmer Hernán Rodríguez Campos

Paperback: Live Solidarity Media, 2015
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Reviewed by Tim Hoiland


I’m sure you know the line: “They have so little, but they’re so happy!” How many times have you heard a variation of that? How many times have you said it yourself?


The truth is, for those of us who live on more than $2 a day – that is, for everyone who reads the Englewood Review of Books – it is decidedly difficult to talk about poverty without the conversation quickly devolving into cliché.

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One of the Better Christian Books on Movies
A Brief Review of

When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice
Mark D. Eckel

Paperback: Westbow, 2014
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Reviewed by Gina Dalfonzo


There are those who warn that spending too much time watching movies and shows necessitates the turning off of one’s brain. Mark D. Eckel begs to differ. Movies, for him, open the door to a world of ideas and emotions that can enrich the life of anyone who’s willing to engage them seriously. More than that, movies are an example of God’s common grace, a gift that He gives to everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, from which they can learn and benefit.


Eckel’s book When the Lights Go Down: Movie Review as Christian Practice shares the insights he’s gained from years of watching movies, thinking about movies, and sharing movies with friends, students, and family members. It includes reviews of movies in a number of different genres, as well as interviews with Christians in a variety of fields, from education to media production to blogging to sitcom writing, about their experiences with movies.

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A Modern-Day Conversion Story
A Review of

Not God’s Type: An Atheist Academic Lays Down Her Arms
Holly Ordway

Paperback: Ignatius Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Scot F. Martin

Remember the fish wars from the 1990s? Some snarky materialist took the old Icthus symbol (the outline of a fish, which was, if you’re still drawing a blank, an ancient sign for Christians) gave it legs and put the word “Darwin” on the inside. The riposte to that was given with another Icthus with the word “Truth” inside it as it was devouring the Darwin fish.
Those days of clever, perhaps even slightly friendly jabs seem over. If one reads the comboxes of atheist sites on the internet, one quickly gets the impression that atheists are the brightest and best on the planet simply by virtue of their disbelief in a deity or religious systems. The vitriol and arrogance is virtually palpable on the computer monitor.
Of course, the Body of Christ gives herself a black eye when the “arguments” mustered by some are simply assertions along the lines of “My God is REAL!” and then ended with “You’re going to burn in HELL!!!” or when the phrase “May God have mercy on your soul” is thrown as an epithet over the wall.
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Tales of an Amish Batchelorhood


A Brief Review of

Chasing the Amish Dream: My Life as a Young Amish Bachelor
Loren Beachy

Paperback: Herald Press, 2014
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Reviewed by Emma Sleeth.


Chasing the Amish Dream: My Life as a Young Amish Bachelor is a collection of forty short essays originally written for publication in author Loren Beachy’s hometown newspaper, the Goshen News. A quick afternoon read, Chasing the Amish Dream gives a slice-of-life view into Beachy’s Old Order Amish lifestyle, touching on predictable topics such as buggies, auctions, church, and haying and more surprising glimpses into his appreciation for Settlers of Catan, cross-country travel, and pranks on friends and strangers alike.

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