Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Spiritual Renewal Study Bible - A Review

Spiritual Renewal Study Bible

Notes by
Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop

A Review

Each Bible book begins with a brief synopsis of the book (“The Big Picture”) and review of the key themes found in the book as they relate to Spiritual Renewal. As expected, these prepare the reader to read the whole book.

The bulk of the notes are not quite a Study Bible (in spite of its name); neither are they quite a Devotional Bible. This book might best be entitled a “Devotionally Centered Study Bible” most notes help the reader understand each section of the Bible as presented in the NIV and includes a brief devotional thought or two which will help the reader apply the text to his or her own life.

What truly gives value to this edition of the Bible are the “Study Notes” found at the rear of the Bible. The authors provides a comprehensive index to the text note found in the body of the book. The editors provide a series of devotional readings focusing on seven “Spiritual Keys”:

Key 1: Seek God and Surrender to Him
Key 2: See the Truth
Key 3: Speak the Truth
Key 4: Accept Responsibility
Key 5: Grieve, Forgive, and Let Go
Key 6: Transform Your Life
Key 7: Preserve Spiritual Gains

Each of these themes, though somewhat disquised in the notes. Provide ten to twenty devotional thoughts scattered throughout the scriptures centered on the given Spiritual Key.

Two additional back end notes contribute to the book's worth – a set of character profiles integrated into the text notes and a set of readings on ten Spiritual Disciplines:

Bible Study and Meditation Fasting
Prayer Repentance and Confession
Service Silence
Solitude Spiritual Friendship
Stewardship Worship

Though not strong on theology, this Bible would be a good book for anyone seeking to renew their walk with God or for a new believer seeking to find how God's word can apply to everyday life.
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, August 26, 2014

The Stories We Tell - A Review

A Review

“The Stories We Tell” accomplished three thing for me as I read.

First, it opened my eyes to TV shows and movies that I had missed.  This is not surprising, given the limited number of hours most of us have to watch TV or see movies and the growing library of material that directors, producers, and televisors are making available to the public.  In at least one case, it directed me to a movie that I just read about in another book (a mystery) I had recently finished.  I have added it to my “to be seen” list.

Second, the book demonstrates how today’s media echos Biblical truth - whether it intends to or not.  Moving through the great themes of the salvation story, the author demonstrates how modern cultural media replays those themes on the either the big or small screen that consumes so much of our time.  The need for God’s grace is evident not just in our lives, but in the lives of those we watch on TV or in our favorite movies.

Finally, the book provides a model that can be used by anyone who critiques the work of others - whether it be TV, movies, books, video games, etc.  Most of what we read or watch will reflect what God has trying to show us throughout history and in his word.  We see the glory of His creation, the result of the fall, offers of grace and the result of accepting or rejecting that grace.

The book is recommended for the pastor or layman who is attempting examine the media or using it to teach Biblical principles.  The book may also have a place in the college classroom for those attempting to understand 21st century culture as it is played out in the media where a student is attempting to apply Biblical principles in evaluating that culture.  It is one of the best book I have seen written for a general audience exploring culture and Biblical truth.

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.

A Review

In just over two years, I have fallen in love with Henery Press and the Hen House (using their terminology) of editors and publication assistants.  Each book is a cool, well-written, mystery that leaves the reader wanting more - from the author and from the publisher.

Fatal Brushstroke is no different.  Rory Anderson and a Pomeranian, Mitzi, discover a finger attached to a body buried in her backyard.  The nosey neighbor, Mrs. Maldonado, Detective Green (no first name), and her mother, Arika, all contribute to a lively story in the small artsy, crafty, village of Vista Beach.  All of this would not have been a problem except Detective Green is not sure of her guilt or innocence and Police Chief Marshall knows she is guilty (after all, Rory Anderson was guilty until proven innocent - yeah, there is a story there, too.)  It is in the midst of “Arika’s Scrap ‘n Paint” (part art store, gallery, studio, and school) that pieces of the crime begin to come together.  

For the reader looking for a fun, cozy, mystery to use up time during the relaxing autumn months, Fatal Brushstroke may just fill the bill.  It was a pleasure to review this fun book from start to finish.

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, August 18, 2014

Saving Paradise - A Review

Saving Paradise

Mike Bond

A Review

I found the plot to be interesting and understandable. By including a bit of hawaiian history and culture, this reader found himself sympathetic with the native culture - much like he has with the native American Indian.

On the other hand, I found the first person perspective that the author uses, at times, difficult to follow. With no transition or indication (a heading or icon) he would jump from one scene to another, catching this reader with a moment of "Uh?", before he caught up with the story and action. The use of the first person also seems to allow for an excuse for poor use of English at times - not just in spoken English. The book could have used some professional editing.

If the potential reader wants an intriguing story whose writing sometimes is distracting, this book will be one you will want to read.

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, August 4, 2014

NIV Journey Bible - A Review


A Review

I find myself regularly reviewing study Bibles and devotional Bibles.  The NIV Journey Bible is one of the most helpful devotional Bibles I have seen in the last few years.  It is well-rounded enough that it will become useful to the new believer, the growing Christian, or the lifelong follower of Christ seeking ways to revitalize their lives.

As has been noted by other reviewers, each book is surveyed using the following the outline:

The Bottom Line
Central Ideas
Outline (not included in every book)

An example, from the book of Genesis demonstrates where the book fits into the history of the world and with God’s interaction with His creation:

Timeline - Journey Bbile.jpg
Even more impressive to me are the themes that are used to guide the various notes included in the text of this edition:

• Knowing Yourself
• Managing Resources
• Addressing Questions
• Strengthening Relationships
• Discovering God
• Why Jesus?
• Reasons to Believe

These seven themes are appropriate for Christians at any point of their journey - as points to begin or be challenged in their Christian growth.  

The notes are well-indexed by their type, but there does not seem to be general topical index that would allow the reader to draw from the notes as a whole - each index will need to be individually searched.  Though this is a common problem with study and devotional Bibles, it could be easily correct with an on-line index made available to those purchasing the book.  

This Bible is full of additional helps: topical studies, brief surveys of major events in Bible history, reading plans, etc.  

The book would make a wonderful gift for a new believer or a pastor who is in the midst of their career.  I would also suggest that it would make a worthwhile personal purchase for the Christian wanting to grow from wherever they are in their walk with the Lord.

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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Double Strike - A Review

A Review

Davis Way finds herself in the midst of a casino based crime spree - again. Like most businesses, casinos have to change with the time - and the Bellissimo Resort and Casino is not sure how best to grow.  To manage the needed transition, Richard Sanders (CEO) and the management team contracted with an experienced group of casino managers to operate a “casino within a casino”.  To celebrate the opening of this new venture, they had set up the “Strike It Rich Sweepstakes.”  This event would introduce the casino and its guests to the hardware and the software that would define the “Casino of the Future”.  

Only three things stood in the way of a successful opening:

1.  Davis Way’s wedding was planned for the same weekend as the opening of the “casino within a casino”.
2.  Davis Way was still married - only she did not know it.
3.  Something was not right with the “casino within a casino”.

It fell to Davis and the other members of the security team that worked for the Bellissimo to put the pieces together before something tragic happened (sadly, they were not able to do that) and the Mississippi Gaming Commission closed down the casino.  

Of course, as in her earlier books, the fact that Davis Way is the virtual twin of Richard Sanders’ (CEO) wife, Bianca, only complicates the work they have to do.  The task is further complicated by the presence of the Sanders’ son Thomas who is on the verge of being expelled from his boarding school.  The presence of other characters (some legitimate, some not so) makes for an interesting story.  I would love to access to Jeremy’s (aka “No Hair” and Davis Way’s boss) tie collection - they are colorful and interesting.  Given that he only wears a tie once, means they should be available for others to use.  Maybe the author could mail a set of them my way.  Because Davis Way is a virtual twin to the bosses wife, she gets the privilege of assuming her role, wearing her clothes (that is nice), and spilling hot chocolate on the one-of-a-kind fur coat (that is not so nice).  

The mix of plot, characters, and setting (including time spent in Alabama and Mississippi), make for a story that will leave the reader laughing his or her way through a crime that could topple a major institution in Biloxi, MS, as well as Davis Way’s family.  Though I am not a gambler or drinker, it was a pleasure to again walk along with this set of characters as they seek to solve mysteries bigger than they thought possible.     

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.

Bones Never Lie - A Review

A Review

I suppose there is a first for everything. For me, this was my first Temperance Brennan novel. For Temperance Brennan, it was a serial killer that could not decide whether home was in Montreal, Vermont, or North Carolina. Bones Never Lie would serve as a first for both of us.

Temperance Brennan had crossed my path before – but it was like in another lifetime. The TV show Bones, like many have noted, has little connection to the main character of the books, other than sharing the main character's name and occupation. Regardless, I was not disappointed. The book was a thriller with just a hint of romance. What it did lack, sadly, was the humor that has become a part of the Bones TV show.

Temperance soon discovers that there is a connection between the young teen girls deaths in Montreal, Vermont, and North Carolina. What is not clear is the nature of the crime – is there a single suspect or a pair, working together; how does a body found in a barrel of maple syrup connect to the other crimes; how did the pedophile located near the center of many of the death connect to them all? Yep, Brennan was faced with questions that left her feeling unsettled.

Suspense, crime drama, thriller, quirky characters (some stable, some not so) all contribute to a weeks worth of good reading. Could I laugh as I read – hardly. But I could sit back and relax and try to be an amateur detective and see through the clues before Temperance Brennan and her friends did the same. Didn't do that well either, but I did have fun trying.
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.