Tuesday, April 26, 2016

The Cairo Code - A Review

Cairo Code
Cairo Code.jpg
Glenn Meade

A Review

A reprint of an older book by Glenn Meade, The Cairo Code is a spy thriller worth reading. The majority of the book takes place in the final months of WW II, as Roosevelt and Churchill prepare to meet outside Cairo to discuss a strategy that is hoped to bring an end to the war.  The Nazis have gotten wind of the meeting and have set in motion an operation to make the meeting meaningless, it will be up to three friends from before the war to stop the unthinkable from happening.

Loosely based on actual historical events, the book is non-stop action as the good and bad get pushed together in unexpected ways with more than one twist. We meet many of the major players of the European theater of WW II - along with those already mentioned, we meet Hitler, Himmler, and other, lesser known, characters in the war. There is enough historical drama to keep the reader making regular dashes into Google in order to verify facts, people, and events. Google maps were, at times, a wonderful tool to understand the sites in Northeastern Egypt that played a role in both the history of WW II and in this tale.
My one surprise is that it presents itself as a Christian book - both by its publisher and by the stores that sell it.  Though it is certainly not an embarrassment to the church, I find little in the book to allow the label “Christian” to be added to its description. A couple of misused Bible quotes do not make a Christian book.

As many know, I am not a great lover of military history - fictionalized or factual - but I could not put this book down. It is a long book, longer than most that I review; but it was well worth the time I spent in its pages. The book comes with a strong recommendation; it will make a good summer or fall read. Whether the reader enjoys war, espionage, or mystery, the book will his or her attention for several hours of excellent reading.

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.

Restore My Soul - A Review

A Review

For the adult coloring book crowd, Restore My Soul is a delightful devotional/coloring book.

The images have a wide range of detail – some, with little detail, are suitable for the beginner; other contain a great deal of detail and will be challenging enough for the practiced illustrator.

All coloring on the above image was done by my wife who allowed me to scan the partially completed picture as an example of the art work supplied.

Along with the art work is a nicely thought out, one-page devotional. For example, the devotional accompanying the above picture focuses on the history behind the song represented in the picture. The one disappointment with this book is that the devotional sits on the opposite page from the image, rather than on the back of the picture. This means that the picture cannot be used as a gift – without also giving out the unrelated devotional on back side of the picture. The book is best viewed as a personal devotional, not as a source of gifts to share with relatives or friends. With that in mind, this new coloring book will make a nice birthday or any other day gift for the artist in our family.
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.  

Monday, April 25, 2016

Visual Theology - A Review

A Review

Visual Theology nicely fills the gap between the 1000+ page theology text designed for the seminary student or scholar and the daily devotional to be used in lieu of daily Bible reading.
I tend to be a visual learner and appreciate the various sketches and diagrams that the author uses to bring his concepts across. Some diagrams are similar to the Venn diagrams used in the study of set theory; others more closely resemble the network diagrams used to define a local area network used within a company IT center; still others imitate the show the relationships of various kinds of data used in database design. Though much of my career was spent in IT (hence, my examples above), the diagrams and the accompanying descriptions would be understandable to most readers – scholars or lay.
There are three major concerns which are common in books at this level:
  1. There is no index – if a reader wants to find out what the authors say about a particular topic, he or she will need to do a manual search for relevant information
  2. There are few “Notes” – 33 footnotes are included in the back of rear of the book, but point to material borrowed directly from other sources.
  3. On a related note, there are no hints to where the reader could find out more, in depth, information on a topic of interest.
In most academic classrooms this book could serve as a supplemental or ancillary text, at best. It would serve well as an adult Sunday School text, or as a gentle introduction to theology for the lay audience. I would also hope to see it in the theology section of many church or local libraries.
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.  

The Soul Stealers - A Review

The Soul Stealers
Shane Logan
David Rodemerk

A Review

I was in the barbershop for my bi-weekly haircut.  On the side table was a copy of a new comic featuring the unveiling of Hal Jordan as the new Green Lantern. It was the first and only time I remember seeing the initial issue of a brand new comic character. That was at least until I met Shane Logan the co-creator, artist, and letterer, of this new line of super heroes featured in The Soul Stealers.

Shane was our waiter at lunch one afternoon. As we chatted, he discovered I was a book-reviewer; and I discovered that he was the author of a brand new comic book. We traded contact information and I walked away with the first issue of his new endeavor.

I was with some fear and trepidation that I opened the cover – left bare except for a title so the  author could personalize the issue for the purchaser. My free copy did not warrant personalization. For the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. The comic’s artwork was entirely black and white; a choice made for both artistic reasons (it is a nice touch) and for economic reasons – the cost of printing colored comic is almost twice the cost of printing a black and white one.

The storyline has the feel of a super hero story – four heroes to be exact. Their predecessors had lost their lives to “The Shepard” and his “Flock.” Through the use of  genetics and technology, the new generation of heroes were able to reclaim the lost powers and then some. Working
together, the new “Freedom Four” had hopes of defeating The Shepard and his minions.  But first … (sorry, but that would be giving away the story). That story does draw the reader in and as he or she begins to empathize with the plight of our new heroes.  

This first issue is not yet a graphic novel, but it is a great first chapter.  This reader wants more and the author has promised more – including color if there is interest. More details and a copy of the first issue can be had from the author by contacting him at spl.ink.artwork@gmail.com or www.facebook.com/splink.artwork.
This review is based on a free copy provided by the author for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Featherbone - A Review

The Featherbone
Feathered Bone.cover.jpg
Julie Cantrell

A Review

This was one of the hardest books I have ever chosen to read. I almost put the book down and not finish it. But a news headline caught my eye - a Japanese girl had escaped her kidnapper after being locked up in his home for two years. The news story was too close to the fictional tale told in Julie Cantrell’s book. I had to finish it.

Having said this, the book was upsetting. If it was a movie, it would most certainly be rated “R” - a movie I would choose to not see. The abuse that occurred at so many levels was hard to watch, the impact that the kidnapping of one young girl has on multiple families and on a community is hard to understand. The unexpected pain and anguish suffered by the believers who have been touched by this awful crime unimaginable. And the thought of a Christian publishing company choosing to tell this story seem hard to comprehend.

Yet, it was a story that had to be told. It is a story that is played out in the headlines all too often - whether it be in the commission of a crime or in its resolution, the story is too real to ignore. The author does a good job of wrapping the horrific and the faithful response of this broken community to the five-year history of Sarah’s kidnapping by a stranger and his live-in girlfriend just prior to hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans and its surroundings. The various responses to these dual tragedies are hard to watch - even as most of the characters appear to have some level of faith. That faith, and sometimes the lack of it, plays an important part in the story.

I have a difficult time knowing who this book is written for. The story is too dark for some audiences, yet its heavy dependence on scripture and the character’s response to scripture makes it clearly a Christian book. It is those same scriptures that may make some non-believers shy away from the book. Well-written, with a depth of emotion rarely seen in Christian writing, be prepared to be shaken as you read. At the same time, the reader may find his or her faith strengthened as you see the role scripture has in the lives of others going through h-e-double-q.

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.

I'm Not Afraid - A Review

I’m Not Afraid

Im Not Afraid.jpg

Written by
Lee Ann Mancini
Illustrated by
Dan Sharp

A Review

Lee Ann Mancini has put  together a fun, colorful book aimed at the preschooler or early reader. Fear is a common emotion – but an uncomfortable one for many people. The art and story will help the young child understand that fear is normal and that Jesus can help him or her deal with their fears.
The colorful 3-D fish will hold the reader’s attention – whether the book is being read to the child or the book is being read by the child. After reaching the end of the book, I was surprised to find I had missed the book’s hidden secret: each page includes a small hidden image to be found within the picture (ala Where’s Waldo). Finding out the secret, I was forced to again walk through the book to find the unexpected prize found on each page.
The book will serve as a swell gift from a parent to a child or a welcome addition to the home,  Church, or Sunday School library. Some public libraries will feel comfortable adding it to their collections as well.
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.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Core Christrianity - A Review

Core Christianity cover.jpg

Core Christianity is a brief introduction to Christian theology. Beginning with a discussion of the importance of doctrine,  it moves onto an explanation of the Trinity, the nature of God, and His promised Messiah. Two chapters out of 12 are devoted to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The author concludes by focusing on how God will bring it altogether – along with a challenge to ask what our role, our calling, will be as we wait for Christ’s return.

The book is Biblical, practical, and brief. Aimed at a lay audience or newer believers just starting their journey toward understanding God and His work. One reviewer compares it favorably to John Stott’s Basic Christianity. I would compare it to Gordon Lewis’s Decide for Yourself, except this book provides the answers.

Included are clear explanations, sidebars with additional details, and two indexes (a subject index and a Scripture index). Missing are suggested references for future study or links to other works. At just under 200 pages, this book is not as complete as the two or three volume theologies used in seminary, but for the lay person or college student it may be just the introduction needed before diving into one of the more complete works.

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.