Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Morbid Taste for Bones - A Review

A Morbid Taste for Bones

Ellis Peters
(aka Edith Pargeter)

A Review

It has been years since I first heard of Brother Cadfael - a character on the PBS (nee BBC) TV series of the same name.  I had enjoyed the TV series; but in the middle of its American TV run, I could not get myself interested in the books that preceded the TV show.   Knowing that, I still thought I would give the books another shot when I found that they were being reissued and available for review.
I am glad I did so.   Brother Cadfael is sent, with a group of five additional Benedictine monks across England to recover the bones of St. Winifred for final internment at Shrewsbury Abbey in Western England.  The entire trip suspicious in that there is no obvious reason to move the saints remain except it will ultimately benefit Abbot Heribert and Prior Robert and their careers.  It takes the scientific and worldly knowledge of Brother Cadfael to discover the truth and to get to the bottom of the murder of Welshman Rhisiart, the one man who would prevent the transfer of the Saint's bones from Wales to the English Abbey.
The story held this reader's interest.  A bit more polished than most cozy mysteries, it still fill the need for many reader's need for a late night read.  The slight hint of romance will draw other readers to this book and those that follow.  This reader will look forward to the future re-release of more from the 20 books that make up the "Cadfael Chronicles".

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

NIV First-Century Study Bible - A Review

NIV First-Century Study Bible

Notes By
Kent Dobson

A Review

This study Bible would attract me when seen on the shelf, but with a little bit of use, I would be less than satisfied.  Though the title makes it clear that its focus is the “first century”, the sub-title suggests that the book will “explore Scripture in its Jewish and early Christian context.”  However, I found that the focus on the notes is only on the New Testament - not the whole Bible.  
As is my practice when reviewing a new study Bible, I examine the text where I am currently studying - today this is the book of Joel in the Old Testament.  There are few notes on the text as a whole.  There is an one-page essay focusing on Joel 2:28 - but this is the only extended comment in the entire book.  There are six footnotes on a four individual versus - three of these drawn from Joel 1:6.  I see no quotes from pre-Christian authors or the early church fathers discussing the contents of the book.  Cross references are few and contained only in the six footnotes . 
Aside from the footnotes, many of the sidebars are brief (i.e. very brief) word studies.  For example, a sidebar connected with Luke 16:23 includes a 20 word comment on the meaning of “hades”. 
Study Helps found at the end of the book are a bit more helpful.  Beginning with a one page “Table of Weights and Measures”, these notes are followed with a rather complete set of Endnotes organized by Bible book and a reference number.  There is no clear way to follow an individual Endnote back to its source in the body of the book.  The Endnotes are followed by a Bibliography of source material.  Given the Endnotes and the Bibliography, this Study Bible includes better reference to the source material than most study Bibles I have reviewed.  The Endnotes and Bibliography occupy 15 pages of small-print text.  A good addition to the book.
Notes are indexed and a glossary are included.  The index is keyed by topic to the scripture reference.  The Glossary is a bit technical - probably more helpful to the college student or college educated layman.  Some of the entries are biographical, others are technical terms used to describe sections of scripture or historical documents underlying scripture’s history.  Sadly, there are no references to where these terms might be found in the body of the book.  
The best addition to the Study Helps is a lengthy and complete Concordance.  The Concordance includes brief definitions, parallel terms, and extensive references for each entry.  Though not a complete concordance (see Strong or Young for that), but it is better than that found in many books of similar size.  
The book ends with the necessary Bible maps - 14 of them.  Well-done and in color, but not particularly special.  
Is this the first Study Bible I would want to have on my shelf - NO!  Would it be a worthy edition to have as part of an extended set - MAYBE.  I would like to see more primary material from first century writers.  I have grown to appreciate the early Christian fathers - but this book does not introduce them to me.

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

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The One Year: Hearing His Voice Devotional - A Review

The One Year
Hearing His Voice

Chris Tiegreen

A Review

The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional is a nicely done devotional aimed at a general audience seeking to learn more about God on a daily basis.  The book occasionally follows the traditional calendar (readings for January 1 come from John 1:1 and for December 25 come from Luke 2:19), but for the most part reading come from various parts of the Bible and do not appear to follow a specific arrangement or order.

For those looking for a gentle devotional reading to start or end each day, this book may be a good choice.  Each entry begins with a quote from one or two scripture verses, devotional thoughts comprised of three or four paragraphs, and a brief prayer helping the reader to apply the content from that days reading.  

The book is not attended for deep Bible Study, but to provide a guiding light to begin or end each day for the believer as she or he seeks to serve her or his Lord.  It accomplishes that purpose well.

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

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Resolute - A Review

A Review

A short while ago I needed to contact the author about some details related to this book.  In my note to her I wrote:

It was an amazing book that had me in tears as I read it.  It needs to be read  by everyone who is aging or knows someone who is doing so.  Thanks for writing and sharing.

I have been reading this author’s books for two or three years now - and they keep getting better.  The loss that Doug Bolling and his family would need to live through and accept would change them all.  Though anger was certainly part of that process, so was healing - of both the past, present, and future.  Even as I a reader experience tears as I read, I suspect that Doug’s family would do the same.  But those tears both gave strength and relief for those difficult times.

I discovered in my own life that tears are both a tool that God uses to let go of the past and to help us move onto the future.  Resolute served as a reminder of that truth - not only in my own life, but in the lives of others God puts across my path.  Just as sin can damage generations within a family, so can the grace that God offers to each of us can reach across generations into the future.  It is a truth demonstrated in Doug Bolling’s life and the life of his family.  

There is no hint in this book if there will be more to the Bolling family story.  If there is more, I will look forward to how Doug’s life and healing continues to touch future generations (hint: the book ends with a wedding).  If this book is the conclusion of the Bolling family saga, it is a good place for it to end - we know that Doug’s life has touched many.  

Watching and reading about God’s role in the Bolling family has been fun.  It serves as a reminder that God plays a role in other’s families as well.  As faith led Doug and his family through some very difficult times, it can do the same for each of us.  That lesson has been present in Paula Wiseman’s stories from the beginning.  It is present in this book as well.

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

Introducing Quantum Theory:
A Graphic Guide

J. P. McEvoy and Oscar Zarate

A Review

I was trained as a chemist - I even worked in the field for a short period of time.  I had one problem - I did not like physics.  I did not like high school physics (don’t tell Dr. Huber that); I did not like college physics (again, don’t tell Dr. Huber that - he was promoted after I left high school).  I did like chemistry; I did like math.  My career had me teaching computer science for 24+ years.  I still do not like physics.
If this book had crossed my path during those those formative years of my science career, maybe I would like physics (I won’t promise Dr. Huber that, but maybe).  The book is a non-mathematical  (read - “fun”) look at the field of quantum theory.  
The book is an historical walk through the history and development of quantum theory - its key people and ideas.  Filled with cartoonish (yet informative) illustrations, the book could easily hold the interest of a high school student or undergraduate, non-physics major.  If additional mathematically intense material available, the book might serve as a general introduction to quantum theory for the mathematics based physics course as well.
The pictures (at least in the e-copy) of the book I was provided were a bit small, leaving it a bit difficult to read and see detail on an e-reader.  My experience was a bit better on a app running on my laptop, but still not ideal.  The paper book’s illustrations are readable and clear.  Sadly, those pictures convey some of the vital ideas presented in the book. Thus, missing or skipping an illustration, because it is too small, may mean missing an important transition or concept in the author’s argument.  It would have been helpful to have electronic copies of the images that could be enlarged to an appropriate size for gleaning the information contained.
Save for the cartoons, the story is interesting and readable by the general reader.  Of course the mathematics would eventually needed to be filled in from some other source, if that would be the reader’s choice.  The history is compelling as one moves from classical physics (and its basic assumptions) to the deeper and more complex ideas inherent to quantum theory.  I enjoyed studying material I had seen earlier - though I still do not like physics.

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, 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.