Book Review: The Final Summit

Like a lot of books/movies with the element of time travel, suspension of disbelief is required and often easier said than done when reading Andy Andrews’ The Final Summit, a novel that uses a fiction story of a summit gathering some of the greatest leaders and thinkers of recorded history to teach lessons about leadership and succeeding in life.

A sequel to The Traveler’s Gift, The Final Summit finds modern day business man David Ponder, the only “traveler” living in present time, tasked by the angel Gabriel with leading a summit to decide the fate of humanity. Understandably hesitant with the task – who wouldn’t be with names like Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and King David on the guest list? – Ponder reluctantly accepts the challenge to lead this historic gathering. Their task: to determine what humanity must do to “right its ship.”

Based on the assumption that humanity is worse off in the now more than ever before – didn’t the writer of Ecclesiastes say “there’s nothing new under the sun” and hasn’t the world been heading down the wrong path since Adam and Eve? – the book views history through distinctly rose-colored glasses. The mere fact that the only person living in the modern age is a fictional character speaks to this along with repeated assumptions that things facing our world today – divisiveness in government, wars, famine, a decline in values, etc. – didn’t face the world in the whenever-the-heck-they-were good old days. While I am a personally a big fan of history and appreciate some of the historical tidbits and humor contained in the historic figures’ interactions, this slanted view of history make the story add up even less.

This isn’t to say the book doesn’t have value or purpose. When I was able to stop myself from trying to read too much into the theological and biblical ramifications of time-traveling humans putting their brains together to save a human race that from a Christian worldview has always been in the-toilet-doomed-for-destruction awaiting its savior in God’s son Jesus, I was inspired to look at my own life and apply the practical lessons contained.

The lessons are subtle and not overly prescriptive, which I found refreshing. The banter too between the historical figures was quite illuminating and often comical – not stuffy like in some history books – making for an easy and quick read. While I’m speaking favorably of the book, I should also mention that the too seldom told true story of the man credited with helping to defeat the Germans in World War II might be worth at the very least waiting for the book to hit the bargain bin.

Also, to Andrews’ credit, he avoids the formulaic 10 ways to be a better…. approach that typically doom books of this genre. Just remember to suspend your disbelief and shut off the insightful theological part of your brain at the table of contents.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Purchase a copy of this book from Christianbook.com using this link and a percentage of the sale will go to Delanco Camp.

Book Review: The Charlatan’s Boy

In The Charlatan’s Boy, author Jonathan Rogers returns to the world of Corenwald he created in his successful Wilderking Trilogy by telling the story of Grady, an odd-looking boy who travels the countryside with a huckster named Floyd concocting various ways to trick townspeople out of their hard-earned money.

His past a complete mystery, Grady assumes he is unlovable because his parents abandoned him to Floyd and not much good for anything besides portraying a legendary swamp creature known as a feechie in one of “Professor” Floyd’s traveling scams.

Unlike Floyd and many of the other hucksters they encounter on their travels (one particularly despicable fella has a machine he says will streamline people’s prayers), Grady isn’t a big fan of the lifestyle but doesn’t know any other life. Given an opportunity to escape his life with the often cruel Floyd by a caring innkeeper, Grady inexplicably chooses to stay with his partner in crime. From there, the two hatch their biggest idea yet involving a roaring machine and the biggest feechie scare Corenwald has ever seen. But once the feechie scare begins, neither Grady or Floyd have any idea where it will lead them.

Classified as young adult/fantasy/fiction, The Charlatan’s Boy is an enjoyable read perfect for fiction readers who enjoy clean family friendly fantasy prose in the tradition of C.S. Lewis. Though nothing in the book would be characterized as explicitly Christian, Grady’s search for identity and purpose in a world telling him his worth to even a huckster like Floyd is limited is one clearly rooted in a Christian worldview. Much the way we struggle to listen for and follow God’s path in our lives, Grady battles his heartbreak, fear and rejection as he wonders whether he will ever have a place among the townspeople he never sticks around long enough to actually get to know. His yearning for purpose and meaning, his misgivings about the way in which Floyd conducts his business hits to the heart of the human condition. And did I mention it’s a really enjoyable story?

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Waterbrook Press.

Purchase this book at Christianbook.com using this link and a percentage of the sale will benefit Delanco Camp.

Book Review: The Band That Played On

Chances are good that you know plenty about the sinking of the Titanic, the “unsinkable” mammoth luxury ocean liner that wrecked after hitting an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912. Between the movies, television specials and museum exhibits, information about one of the deadliest peacetime maritime disasters is not hard to find. But what do you know of the band that famously played as the ship went down?

Probably not too much since when Steve Turner set about researching the band for his book The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanic he had to dig to find information about the people behind a story that has been told many times before in only minor detail.

What makes the story particularly interesting to people of faith is that one of the songs eyewitnesses recalled hearing the band playing was the hymn “Nearer, My God To Thee.” Turner unpacks the various theories and controversies related to what songs the band played – they played on the deck of the ship long enough to play more than just a couple songs – but also goes into the biographies of the eight musicians who were selected for the ship’s maiden voyage.

For history and music lovers, the book is an intriguing look at the way musicians made a living in the early part of the 20th century, but it’s also an inspiring tale of how band leader Hartley Wallace’s faith and Christian conviction spurred him to continue leading his bandmates even as the freezing waters of the Atlantic were swirling at their feet. There’s a lot still unknown about their final moments and question marks about whether their playing to calm nerves actually led to more deaths or their playing was by choice or by captain’s orders. But what we do know and learn from published accounts and other historic documents Turner gathers to tell the story of the disaster and its aftermath is both fascinating and inspiring.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided by its publisher, Thomas Nelson.

Buy The Band that Played On: The Extraordinary Story of the 8 Musicians Who Went Down with the Titanicfrom Christianbook.com using this linkand Delanco Camp will receive a percentage of the purchase.