Archives For *Brief Reviews*


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
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

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
Buy now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]


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
Buy now:  [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
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
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
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
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


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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A Little Walter Mitty in All of Us.

A Brief Review of


The Matheny Manifesto: A Young Manager’s Old-School Views on Success in Sports and Life
Mike Matheny

Hardback: Crown Books, 2015.
Buy now:  [ Amazon  ]   [ Kindle  ]

Reviewed by Dave Baker.


Everyone loves a good story and Mike Matheny has provided one. The Matheny Manifesto was written for sports parents by someone who is an expert on that subject, but the book will appeal to a broader audience. Namely Cardinal fans and anyone who is interested in coaching as leadership. This book grew out of a letter that he wrote after he was asked to coach a little league team. That letter was his way of establishing the rules. Not the infield fly rule kind, but rather rules that relate to behavior and expectations. His intention is to make sports a positive experience for everyone and that is admirable.  One of the most important things he writes is to be careful about what we tell kids. (106)

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Trust and Mutual Giving.

A review of

Geneva Two: A Parable of Christian Calling and Community
Russell Smith

Paperback: CreateSpace, 2014
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]


Reviewed by Kevin Wildman


There were two factors that fueled my interest in Geneva Two, by Russell B. Smith; 1) it is fiction, 2) it is about Christian community, specifically an intentional community. I was very excited to read this book until I read the introduction, after reading the introduction all enthusiasm was lost. The disappointment was due in part to explanation in the author’s introduction that this work is written from the perspective of Hatcher Christolphson, a journalist interviewing the various members of the Geneva Two community. I was convinced that a book consisting simply of a series of interviews was going to be incredibly tedious.
Two days later I set out to read the Hatcher’s introduction. Quickly, I completed the introduction and first two-interviews. The next morning having a little free time I read a little more, and from there the momentum steamrolled. Throughout the day every chance I got I was reading Geneva Two, only to completely finish the entire book that night.

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GGE-CoverThe Entirety of the Created Order.

A review of

Greening God’s Earth:
A Handbook for Stewarding Church Land
Scot F. Martin

PDF Ebook:  [ FREE Download ], 2014
39 pages (including bibliography and references)


Reviewed by Joshua Neds-Fox


I occasionally hear environmentally sensitive messages from the pulpit, targeted against the “it’s all gonna burn” theology that sprung from the same premillennial soil as Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth. It’s been over 40 years since that book was first published; my unscientific sense is that gardening-as-worship is no longer terribly controversial.


But just in case I’m wrong, here’s Scot Martin’s handbook, Greening God’s Earth: A Handbook for Stewarding Church Land,  dedicated to making the case for an ecumenical environmentalism. The first half introduces and defends the thesis: “to educate Christians on the possibilities that exist under their feet when they walk from the parking lot to the church entrance” (10-11) That is, the great wealth of land under church stewardship provides the local church with abundant opportunity to practice what Martin calls “creation care.”

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James Calvin SchaapBefore Our Own Humble Ascent
A Review of

Up the Hill: Stories
James Calvin Schaap

Ebook: New Rivers Press, 2014
Buy now:  [ Kindle ]
Reviewed by Crystal Hurd
When I was seven or eight, my parents attended several funerals with me in tow. I would stand among the foreign stones of strangers and watch as puffy-eyed mourners huddled around the polished coffin. It seemed to me that death made people vulnerable. I watched people cry that I had never seen cry before. Death stripped away the mask, disturbed the well-rehearsed dances and left us all exposed and traumatized. I began to slowly understand the experience of loss. Then, I began to contemplate on these events. I started sketching the gatherings; vertical stick figures wringing their stick hands around a horizontal figure in a tiny box. It was then that my mother decided to leave me with my grandmother when church folks would pass into glory. She thought that all the death was seeping into my subconscious like rainwater on thirsty soil. Such curiosity might be unhealthy.

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