Thursday, August 16, 2018

Murder at the Flamingo - A Review

Murder at the Flamingo


Rachel McMillan

A Review

A cozy mystery, an historic romance, a literary novel. Murder at the Flamingo is all three. Though no specific date is given, the setting is the late 30’s in historic Boston, MA. The roaring 20’s are past and WW II has not yet started – perhaps a tiny blip on some prognosticator's radar.

Both Reggie Van Buren and Hamish “Cicero” DeLuca had left home and arrive in Boston to be mentored by Luca Valari as he opens the newest dance hall in the city of Boston. He too is running from a past that he wants others to forget and to never discover.

The first half of the book is mostly focused on developing the characters and setting that will define the second half of the book. The reader will have reader will have gotten through more than half the book before finding Mary Finn, the cigarette girl, dead at the bottom of the basement stairs. From their Reggie and Hamish will take it upon themselves to put together the puzzle pieces together, much like classic murder mysteries that Reggie so enjoyed in the cinema of the day. Hamish would find similar encouragement in his favorite book, Hugo’s The Hunchback of Norte Dame.

At times the book was a slow read – especially in the first half as characters and settings are being developed. But the conclusion comes to a relatively satisfying conclusion, except for the uncertain relationship between the friendship and romance that Hamish and Reggie are developing. One might hope that McMillan might be persuaded to write a second or third novel based around the new company these two have developed as a result of their work together in discovering those involved in the murder of Mary Finn.

Sadly, for this reader, the role of faith coming from this book Christian Publisher Thomas Nelson is not to be seen other than in the historic views of and from the Old North Church of Paul Revere’s fame. On the other hand, the discussion questions included as an appendix will help the believer in examining his or her faith using the key story points of the book.

The book is recommended as a great cozy mystery, historic romance, or literary novel – not for inclusion in a church library.

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Less Than Perfect - A Review

A Review

Ann Spangler has written a series of 30 devotions looking at some of the broken people who are featured in the pages of Scripture. Though the stories are not fiction, the author has used some of the techniques used by the story-teller to bring the stories to life. The primary audience for these stories are for the adults trying to understand their own brokenness.

Each entry begins with a single verse of Scripture helping the reader understand that the individual is important to God’s story as revealed in Scripture. Then comes the story – not as found in Scripture, but as it might be told sitting around a fire at night with the family retelling the events that had defined their family for generation. Embellished, yes, but close enough to reality that the truth and lessons are not lost on those listening to the stories. Then comes a bit of historical background including references to the underlying scriptures – whether a single reference or a group of references which help the reader discover the story. Each entry ends with a set of questions to allow the reader to dig deeper into the stories application to life.

The stories are well written and held this readers attention. About 90% of the chosen stories come from the Old Testament (my only major concern with the book; thus, a 4-star review). The book could easily belong next to the bed for devotions or on the home coffee table as a conversation starter. Pastors may find it to be a starting point for creating a series of sermons.  
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

Monday, August 13, 2018

Senior Moments With The Bible - A Review

A Review

A year-long devotional book written for a senior audience. Each month focuses on one or two themes. For example, January has the following daily readings:

January 1 Living One Day at a Time
January 2 The Habit of Trusting God
January 3 The Biblical Path to Happiness
January 4 Establish High Priorities
January 5 The Importance of One Person
January 6 To God Every Person Has Value
January 7 God Hears Our Prayers
January 8 Seeking to Do God’s Will
January 9 Praying in the Name of Jesus
January 10 Living by Faith
January 11 Live for Today
January 12 Created Again in Christ
January 13 Keep on Doing Good
January 14 Good Works Glorify God
January 15 The Little Person in the Eye of God
January 16 The Beatitudes: God’s Value System
January 17 The Beatitudes: God Comforts
January 18 The Beatitudes: Blessed are the Meek
January 19 The Salt of the Earth
January 20 Singing the Lord’s Song
January 21 Following the Shepherd
January 22 Being Light in a Dark World
January 23 Loving Others
January 24 Keeping Our Eyes on Christ
January 25 Trusting in God for Guidance
January 26 Sing a New Song unto the Lord
January 27 Worship the Lord Today
January 28 Consider the Lilies
January 29 Faith Abides
January 30 Hope Abides
January 31 Love is Forever

Each entry consists of a brief quote from the scriptures and a paragraph or two of devotional thoughts.

Though the book is titled “Senior Moments”, I see nothing in the devotions themselves that make them particularly designed for seniors. Re-titling the book “Feminine Moments” could just as easily make the book a welcome addition to a woman’s busy schedule. Titles could re-aim the book toward a masculine audience, or a college student. Having said that, there is nothing in the book that would suggest that it would not be appreciated by seniors or other adults in our churches.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Hope Never Dies - A Review

Hope Never Dies


Andrew Shaffer

A Review

Barack Obama and Joe Biden may have retired from their most famous positions. However, if Andrew Shaffer’s story is to be believed, this famous pair remain active in the Washington DC area, not as politicians, but as private investigators.

Biden’s favorite Amtrak Conductor has died in a tragic accident. The police are content with calling it an accident; Biden is less convinced.

Obama and Biden’s investigation will take them from Amtrak stations to Wilmington, DE, to the somewhat hidden hangout of the Marauders outlaw bike gang. With the assistance of a Secret Service Agent assigned to protect Obama and an undercover DEA Agent, the team follows the clues to discover the truth.

Shaffer’s story is as inviting as it is exciting. The story has the feel of historical fiction, yet is written in the contemporary era — well-done.

Shaffer’s Obama says he is done with serving as a PI, but this reader hopes that Shaffer and Obama will change their minds — allowing Biden and Obama to again team up and work together to solve a crime that the police have ignored or have chosen to pursue the wrong suspect; together, Biden and Obama will choose to make justice right again.

For the characters, the plot, and the setting, it is easy to make this a 5-star review.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

999 Super Fun, Head-Scratching, Brain-Boosting Bible Trivia Questions for Kids - A Review

999 Super Fun,
Head-Scratching, Brain-Boosting
Bible Trivia Questions for Kids


Jodi and Lilly Simmons

with JoAnne Simmons

A Review

The author has provided a fun set of 998 (999?) trivia questions divided into 64 sections covering the people, events, and important topics found throughout the scriptures. The attached images give a brief look at the type of questions and the suggested answers.

The answer key is attached as an appendix to the entire book; a bookmark, whether using a paper copy of the book or an e-book, will make finding it easier for the reader. The major flaw in the book's design is the missing scripture index. Questions covering specific scriptures are generally presented in order (throughout the book), but questions that focus on topics seem to appear in a somewhat random order. A scripture index would help the reader find questions on specific verses of interest.

Owning a small collection of Bible trivia books, this book will make a nice addition to that collection. It would also belong in the family library of those trying to become more familiar with the Bible. Similar comments could be said for the church library making it available to both parents and Sunday School teachers.

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

Murder In the Oval Library - A Review

Murder In the Oval Library


C. M. Gleason

A Review

The year is 1861; Lincoln has been inaugurated, and the South has started to succeed; the country is on the brink of a civil war. Oh, and a body is found in the Oval Office of the Whitehouse.

Abraham Lincoln assigns Adam Speed Quinn the task of digging for the truth. Sophie Gates, an independent reporter writing for the New York Times, appoints herself as his assistant. Together they will need to put together the pieces of a puzzle that will only become more complicated once Washington DC is invaded by the Rebels from the South.

The story was a fun read and held this reader’s attention for the duration of the book. Well worth my time.

A “Note From The Author” does a good job of helping to connect the story to the historical events in the days immediately following the inauguration. What was disappointing was that events discussed in the book could not be verified through Google, etc. As I have said in earlier reviews, the ability to follow up with a bit of independent research is what makes an historical novel particularly interesting. The brief essay at the end ties the book to some of that history, but it also leaves some questions unanswered.

Having said that, I have ordered an earlier title by the same author written with the same characters and similar sitting. I do not expect to be disappointed.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Unwrapping The Bible - A Review

A Review

Every so often a book comes out that is designed to allow the reader to do theology rather than to learn theology. The book includes guides, tools, and scriptures, that will allow the reader to discover his theology without being spoon-fed answers by the book's author. My favorite book was Decide for Yourself by Gordon R. Lewis (1970) and republished as late as 2012. In 1916 Michael Horton wrote Core Christianity along the same lines. David R. Veerman makes his own contribution to books helping the reader come to his or her own conclusions – and he does a satisfying job of accomplishing this task.

The book is divided into 35 “sessions” grouped into seven equal subheadings:

  1. Doctrine of God
  2. Doctrine of Humanity
  3. Doctrine of Revelation
  4. Doctrine of Christ
  5. Doctrine of Salvation
  6. Doctrine of Sanctification
  7. Doctrine of the Church

Each session is subdivided into three sections. Look introduces us to the subject under discussion, both by allowing the reader reflect on what he or she already knows about the topic and to prepare the reader for future study. Listen takes the reader into the Bible text – sometimes leading to a deep study of the subject and at other times proving a set of texts which allow the reader to draw his or her own conclusions. Live focuses on the WHY of the theological lessons – what does it mean to the believer as they live their lives.

The book is Reformed/Calvinistic in its underlying theology. Quoting from the book, “Preservation (or Perseverance) simply means that salvation depends on God and not on any human effort. Believers can’t lose it. The future is guaranteed” (Italics are in the original text). No mention is made of the Wesleyan positions of Christian Holiness or Entire Sanctification. For most readers the greatest flaws will be the lack of an index to the individual topics covered and the lack of suggested references for future studies or additional information. A 400+ page theology book without these tools is hurting.

For many, this book would serve as a good introduction to theology. For those topics it covers (except for the two mentioned above), it does a good job of covering the major topics. It would serve as an excellent text for a one semester college level theology course. The book is not quite thorough enough for use in a multiple semester college or seminary sequence. For the lay person seeking to study theology, it would serve as a good foundation – though suggestions for future study would make this a more helpful work.

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