Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Witnesses - A Review






Witnesses.jpg




A Review


Some authors catch a readers attention. Robert Whitlow has caught mine. I try to read as many of his books as I can, though I have missed a few. Here is an author that is trained as a lawyer, has the faith of a committed Christian, and has been compared, favorably. as an author to John Grisham. And he continues to succeed at his craft.


The Witnesses is proof of that fact.


Franz Haus, as he was called by his parents. or Frank House, as his family and friends know him now, has a long history.  He joined the German army near the start of World War II. He had a good intuition that often provided solid advice to General Berg, intuition that would allow him to meet and sit with some of the highest leaders in the German army, intuition that force him to see more atrocities committed in the name of Germany than he wanted to admit - to himself or to those who knew him best.


Frank House (nee Franz Haus) deserted the German Army  through  Switzerland (where he lived out the remaining months of the war) and eventually settled in New Bern, North Carolina; but when he did, he left with a secret that others were willing to kill for. A secret that would put both his own life and the life of his grandson in danger.


As always, Robert Whitlow has managed to draw together the brokeness of life, the drama of the legal system, and the role of faith into a readable novel that will appeal to both the believer and non-believer. It gives a glimpse of how faith can and does work in the life of men and women of faith.
______________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Jesus And Zacchaeus - A Review



Jesus And
Zacchaeus

&

Zacchaeus
And Jesus




by
Written By: Dandi Daley Mackall
Illustrated By: Lisa Manuzak


A Review


“Nifty!” - That was the word my wife used when I first showed her this unusual book. Her word is official - she is the Pre-K Sunday School teacher at church; she is the grandmother of two active preschoolers; and she is a member of the children’s bookseller team at the local Barnes and Noble. If she looks at a children’s book and says. “Nifty!”, it is nifty.


The book consists of two parallel stories (i.e. poems) telling the story from Jesus’ (who offers grace) perspective; and, after flipping the book over, it tells the story from Zacchaeus’ (who receives grace) perspective. The images are colorful and convey the story in an interesting manner for the young child or early reader.  


And though this grandpa’s word is not nearly as official, this reader does agree - this book will make a nifty addition to the home library, the church library, or the Sunday School classroom.
______________

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd - A Review




Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd


Thrice the Brinded Cat.jpg


by
Alan Bradley


A Review


It is time for the BBC to offer a new mystery series staring Flavia de Luce. It would fit right along side those they have done earlier with Miss Jane Marble and Mr. Hercules Poirot. Reading Alan Bradley’s latest work, the reader is taken back to the early 1950’s, almost seeing the story played out on the black and white TV sets of the era.    


Flavia has returned from her exile in Canada to a rather indifferent family. Her father is in the hospital, and others are at odds with her because she has inherited her mother's ancestral home where the entire family now lives. Shortly after returning home, she stumbles on a rather bizarre death scene (was this becoming a habit?) of a man she was just beginning to know. In the days to follow, as winter and Christmas set in, she will find herself two steps ahead of the police as clues accumulate. It is never clear to the reader whether the Inspector Hewitt appreciated her contributions or not - though, Flavia has no doubt as to how that question would be answered.


As this reader had not read previous works from this author, this story was not difficult to follow on its own. The only exception to this comment is perceiving the time frame for the book. Its regular mention of a war did not make it clear until somewhat later into the book, whether the reference was to the Bore Wars (ala Murdoch), WW I, or WW II. Eventually the reader can discern the time - but the uncertainty does not impact the telling of the story.  


For the reader looking for an early winter (or even a midwinter) book, Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew’d may well fill in one week of reading. Give me a hearty fire during a snowy week of cold, blustery weather, and one will feel right at home with Flavia, Gladys (her bike), and the family in jolly old England.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.


Monday, July 11, 2016

American Woman’s Bible - A Review




American Woman’s Bible


by

Dr. Richard G. Lee

A Review

I have stumbled upon other Bibles using American history as the source notes, devotional thoughts, or commentary. However, I found this edition to be of greater value that those that have crossed my path in the past.

The notes focus on the role that Christian Women have played in American history and how their lives have exemplified the role Christ, Scripture, and the church has had in preparing them for those roles. This is accomplished by including biographical sketches, quotations that have shaped others by or about American women, and a series of essays focusing on the virtues that have shaped our nation and the women who have been a part of that history.

My biggest disappointment is that the publisher chose to name only one male author of the book: Dr. Richard G. Lee. I suspect, like most Study Bibles and Devotional Bibles, the work was a collaboration of many scholars and spiritual leaders - but they are totally unnamed, either in a list of contributors or as the authors of individual pieces of writing. It would seem, to this reviewer, that if we have a Bible focused on the contributions of women to history, its contents should in some way be guided by women. I do not know where the error was made - in not giving credit for the women’s contribution or in not allowing women to contribute - but it seems that an error was made.

Having said that, this Bible edition does have value - just less than it might. The collection of biographies and quotes might help a pastor in preparation for next Sunday’s message. The devotional thoughts could easily be used by a teen or adult Sunday School teacher or Bible Study leader in preparation for next weeks lesson. My copy will sit on a night stand for my wife and I use with our personal devotions. I do expect that others will find it a blessing.
______________
This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Oliver Twisted - A Review




Oliver Twisted.jpg


A Review


As Ivy Meadows, the first person author says:


We’d been hired to investigate a string of thefts aboard a cruise line. Uncle Bob was pretending to be a guest— a wealthy rancher— and I was posing as one of the actors in the on-board show. That’s right, we were getting paid to cruise to Hawaii (Hawaii!), plus we’d each get a ten-thousand-dollar bonus if we found evidence that would stand up in court. Nice work if you can get it.


I have only been on one cruise in my life. And though I like Charles Dickens, I probably would not choose this cruise - what with murders, secrets, and accidents, it would not be an inviting opportunity to be at sea - even given the chance to visit Hawaii. I will continue shopping, thank you.


Now, I was not asked to review the cruise, but the book. That being the case, the book was better than the cruise. As it combined the best of a cozy mystery, a great writer (i.e. Charles Dickens), live theater, and a cruise, the reader felt drawn into the life of the writer. The only missing piece was the teamwork that should be expected from a group of PIs working in tandem. This reader felt as if the writer were the only PI on the ship - with only small mentions of her Uncle Bob and her associate Timothy. Though they were posted on the ship as a team, the reader was left feeling as if Ivy was isolated - by her choice, not by circumstances or others’ inattention to the case.


A great book for a summer read - even the reader cannot spend this summer on a cruise. Having said this, there is nothing that keeps this Ivy Meadows Mystery from being read at any time of the year.
______________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War - A Review




Star Trek/Green Lantern:
The Spectrum War

green lantern-Star Trek.jpg

by


Mike Johnson
A Review
Star Trek and Green Lantern come from two different universes (television and graphic novels) – universes which in most worlds would never meet. Yet Mike Johnson has made a very nice first attempt to bring these very different worlds together.
The characters from both universes are present – from Star Trek we have the essential characters – Captain Kirk, Spock, Bones, Uhura, Chkov, and Scotty. The Green Lantern universe brings the collection of rings – both good and evil – representing the emotional spectrum of colors and the Green Lantern Corp including appearances from Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner, among others.
The story is a fun reminder of the histories of both story lines, but the new book never seems to take off and grab this reader. Having said that, the premise has promise; this reader will hope to see more sories featuring two of my favorite Sci-Fi and graphic novel characters from an earlier generation working together to protect the universe. And there are hints dropped that there may be more to come. I will continue to hope.
_________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinion expressed are my own.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Christians Ought to Believe - A Review





What Christians
Ought to Believe
What Christians Ought to Believe.jpg
by
Michael F. Bird


A Review


Sometimes a book arrives bit too late. Such is the case for Michael F. Bird’s newest book - a discussion of the Apostles Creed - both its roots and its meaning.  Being late, does not mean that it will not be useful, only that it arrives six months after I finished a series of sermons based on the Apostles Creed during the weeks between Advent and Lent during the winter of 2016. I wish this book had been available six months ago.


Michael Bird brings an interesting perspective to his writing, in that he attempts not to merely represent his own views, or that of the Anglican church to which he belongs, or the Australian church within which he ministers; rather he speaks, as per his statement, for the worldwide evangelical  church. This is useful given the almost universal acceptance of the Apostles Creed as a theological foundation for the church worldwide.


Beginning with a history of the creeds in the early church, including those simple credal statements found in the scriptures (e.g. Philippians 2:5-11). He also discusses the role that creeds played in the early church in passing on the truth to the later generations of believers and its role in the church today.


The biggest portion (75%-80%) of the book is a complete exegesis (is that the right term?) of The Apostles Creed. I would suggest that the reader keep a copy of The Apostles Creed open and in front of him or her as he reads the book, especially if reading an e-book version. Bird occasionally moves from discussing one phrase to the next without alerting the reader, having a copy of the Creed available makes it easy to follow these transitions, its absence adds an increased level of difficulty.  Scripture references are used throughout the text to assist the reader in understanding the Biblical underpinnings of The Apostles Creed.


I appreciated the use of a wide range of sources in the text - representing the church’s existence across the centuries. The author has also included, with each chapter, “Recommended Reading” for each chapter. Most of these (I did not do a complete check) appear to be from more modern sources (post 1960). The book could be improved by having, as the author himself has done, the reader follow-up using material from different eras of church history.


The book could easily find its place in the church library. It should be available (as I hinted earlier) available to the pastor doing a study The Apostles Creed, whether from the pulpit or within a small group setting. This book would also not be a bad resource for the lay person choosing to read and understand The Apostles Creed for their own use. I am concerned that the price for a 200+ page book may be excessive for the lay person. The e-book is significantly cheaper, but still high for a 200+ page book. It is probably too costly for use as a Sunday School text, though its contents may be suited for that environment. Perhaps a paper copy may become available at some point at a reduced cost.
______________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.