Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Meals From Mars - A Review

Meals From Mars
Meals From Mars Cover.jpg
Ben Sciacca

A Review

Meals From Mars does for prejudice what The Shack did for grace. Two men find themselves running - from police and each other. They need to learn to trust each other if they are going to survive and they do that in a small unoccupied camping cabin outside of town. It would be a difficult conversation, but one that had to take place.

Jim was delivering the groceries from Mars Chapel to Malik’s grandmother. On the way home he stops for gas at a local mini mart.  In the process, he is caught up in a robbery that Malik also wants to run from. For the next 20 hours they are stuck together - but able to discuss the miles and lives that separate them. Jim is willing to learn, even if it means sacrificing a bit of peace at home. But what he learns are important for all of us that care for the poor in our own communities.

The author the executive director of a faith-based school that works with at-risk children in Birmingham, AL. Each faculty and staff member are asked to consider living in the vicinity of the school - making them stakeholders in the ministry, not just employees.  Ben Sciacca writes as one who lives with and understands the problems being faced by the poor in America. The book needs to be read by pastors, the members of the local mission committee, and all who care or want to care for own poor in their own community.

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.

Embraced - A Review



Paula Wiseman

A Review

Abuse comes in many forms. In Paula Wiseman’s first book in this series it was sexual abuse. Stacy’s and Andrea’s abuse did not leave physical scars, but they still ran deep.  And Michael Shannon had to deal with both if he was to find his own way.

Paula Wiseman has a unique way of drawing the reader into the lives and emotions of the characters she is writing about. Michael had been brought up in a Christian home, but had walked away from that faith when he left for college - it was easier to follow the college culture than to follow the truth. But what he got was a mess.

But, sadly, the character I would like to have met most from this book is minor one - Uncle Nolan has a deep spirtitual life that got lost on his friends and family. It is Nolan who finally gives Michael the guidance he needs to find his way home in many ways. It would not be easy, I would mean some hard choices, but he would find his way.

However, Michael had support from multiple sources. The best advice Daviid gave, though given to a young man experiencing a broken marriage, is of value to all of us involved with a marriage. The advice was actually two steps:

  1. Identify the five most important characteristics of your spouse.
  2. Spend the next week telling your spouse about them.

i had two concerns as I read the book. The first was addressed, alas as an appendix - it needed to be found at the beginning of the book or at least referenced their. As I read, I often wished there was a family tree or (better) a genogram of Michaels family. I finally found it - at the very back of the ebook after all of the advertisements. It must be seen and followed as the book is read. The relationships are many and they change as the book progresses - the family tree given in the book represents the family’s status at the beginning of the book. This is where the diagram should be placed.

My second concern parallels one mentioned in my review for the first book in this series. In that first book, Donna’s husband is presented as her counselor - a violation of counselor ethics. In that first book that is a major strand of that story and effected my rating of the book. In this book Donna is shown to be cared for Dr. Craig as well, but that relationship is violated when Dr. Craig marries her following her husband’s death. In this book this is a very minor event - but does violate normal ethical practice for a doctor-patient relationship. Because this is a small, incidental event in this book, it will effect my rating, but is worth noting.

As a friend recently mentioned, people sometimes have messy lives. Paula Wiseman had the talent of demonstrating how God can find people in their messiness and bring them to His feet. The book may be fiction, but that is also what God does in real life as well. A lesson we all must learn and appreciate.

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.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Murder on the Moor - A Review

Murder On The Moor

Murder on the Moor.jpg

Julianna Deering

A Review

Some books are more than they seem at first glance.  “Murder on the Moor” seemed like nice murder mystery from a familiar author using a familiar set of characters. For this reader, this book was so much more.

First, let me say that this current volume was the best of the series so far. The setting was more clearly defined, the characters are more developed, and the story was inviting throughout. I understand that the author is an experienced writer, but as I read this book I felt as I were watching her grow as she developed the characters. In my first review of a book from this author, I wrote, “This was the most boring book I could not put down.” The current book was neither boring; nor could I put it down.

Second, the author did a great job of using characters from previous stories in the series. Other than an incidental mention, Inspector Birdsong was missing from this adventure. I do hope he returns, especially now that a member of his family is named after his crime fighting nemesis. But Drew, Madeline, and Nick, continue to make a great team of amateur detectives attempting to solve a series of murders on the English Moor and to save themselves at the same time.

Finally, it cannot go without being said that the real value of this book is not in the mystery, but in its presentation of “LOVE” in many forms - both healthy, unhealthy, and misunderstood. Though there were a number of quotable expressions throughout the book, the one that caught my attention and made me think twice about its meaning was Drew’s words spoken near the end of the book: “I expect that’s the way of real love,” he said gently. “It’s rarely, if ever, deserves.” Though it was not spoken about a lovable character, my prayer is that we all can experience that kind of love - being loved more than we really deserve.

I want to thank the author for another great book; and, as I said at the end of my first review, I hope that there will be more.

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, January 16, 2017

Christ’s 40 Commandments - A Review

Christ’s 40 Commandments

Renee Valverde Wagenblatt

A Review

The author has compiled a list of 40 commands that were given by Christ to the New Testament Church. The number seems a bit arbitrary - other sources suggest 49 or 50 commandments. One website suggests that there are only 7 commandments. The author makes no attempt to argue this number - so I will refrain from trying to defend or argue against the actual number of commands given by Jesus.  

The current book takes the 40 identified commands and presents in multiple ways, allowing the student to process them as he or she needs. At the heart of all the commands is LOVE, more specifically “Love God then your neighbor and yourself.” The 40 commands then are reviewed alphabetically and in their biblical order. This is followed by a list of synonyms that could be viewed as being associated with each command and a set of cross references associated with each command. This material takes up about one-half of the book.

The last half of the book focuses on other commands found in Scripture -

  • The Ten Commandments
  • The Lord’s Prayer
  • Instructions for Disciples
  • The Beatitudes

  • Woes
  • Parables and Lessons
  • Miracles
  • List of names and titles used in this book

Some of these are accompanied with additional material, but for the most part they stand alone. The book concludes with the two indexes - a Biblical index and a grouping of the commands by category.

The book appears to be the result of a great deal of personal study. There is not devotional material associated with the book - making the value of the book dependent on the readers use of it in his or own personal devotions.  Though a great deal of information appears to be gathered into this one volume, I am not sure I see a purpose for doing so. I might hope that the author could bring together his or her own thoughts thus answering the question - “Why is this material important?” This is not done, leaving this reader to wonder, “Why?”

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.

Without Warning - A Review

Without Warning


Joel C. Rosenberg

A Review

For the reader looking for a mixture of “Designated Survivor”, a CBS TV show, and the modern (ca. 2017) political climate, Joel Rosenberg has put together a gripping and readable story that will grab the political thriller fan’s attention.

Starting with the terrorist attack of the century in Washington DC and moving to the very personal attack against J B Collins and his family in Bar Harbor, Maine, J B will travel the world to find the man responsible for much of the trouble in the world in which he finds himself. Working with unlikely colleagues from the United States, Israel, Egypt, Turkey, and Pakistan, J. B. will learn the meaning of faith and sacrifice in order to accomplish his task.

Though the book’s ending is not completely satisfying, the author does make it clear that, as the saying goes, freedom is not free – it comes with a cost, a cost that J B Collins and others were willing to pay.
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.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Still Life - A Review

Still Life
still life.jpg
Dani Pettrey

A Review

The second book in a series started by the author last year, Still Life focuses on the lives of a team of private forensic scientists as they seek to solve the murder of a new and upcoming artist and his new model. Things are complicated by a variety of relationships within the team.

The book holds the reader's interest as it takes him or her from art galleries to abandoned mental hospitals. Baltimore and environs provide an interesting setting for this fast moving story. Relationships may be disruptive to some readers - though I did not find them to be too obnoxious.

I have enjoyed other series by this author, with many of the same characteristics. This series grows on the reader as he or she becomes familiar with the characters. This second book can be read as a stand alone novel; however, having read the previous book in the series just about a year ago, I felt a bit lost as I started this book. It might have helped to have a short synopsis of that first book as a prelude to this newest book.

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, January 4, 2017

Touched - A Review

Book 1: Encounter Series
Paula Wiseman

A Review

Paula Wiseman has the habit of writing books that focus on people's lives - not mystery, murder, robbery, etc. - but lives that people have lived and the “stuff” that people bring with them as they live their lives. She has done a great job of doing that again in “Touched”.

Donna Sue Grant, the first person author, begins by writing,

Secrets come in all sorts and sizes. Sometimes, they are as sweet as an engagement ring in a nervous boy’s pocket. Other times ... they threaten to shatter your very self. With those kinds of secrets, it’s difficult to judge if keeping it or telling it is more damaging.
And as Donna Sue Grant hid her secret, she knew it was true. Her secret, like most abuse, was burden that was difficult to let go. “Touched” is the story of how she did that.  It is a story than many travel as they move out of abusive relationships, regardless of the abusers relationship to the abused. It is not an easy journey, but one that can lead to wholeness. Paula Wiseman has done a good job of describing the journey of fictionalized character.

If I were to stop this review at this point, it would be a five star review. But the author has endorsed a glaring error in the course of writing this book. Her husband, a counselor in training, serve as Donna Sue Grant’s primary therapist. If this had been a pastor, he might not know of the ethical issues involved in treating his own family. But Phil was being trained in a state university with an exemplary reputation and was being supervised in his current practice by a licensed therapist. He should have learned, as I and every trained therapist learns, that there are ethical issues surrounding the treatment of members of one’s own family. It is the same ethical issues that require that a doctor relinquish treatment of their family to other physicians - who are able to be professionally objective as they treat patients, or in this case clients. For this reader, this flaw raises large red flags that are not addressed in any way within the confines of the book.

The story has a lot to teach the lay person about the history and effect of abuse on its victim. We get a picture of the burden it puts on the abused, his or her need to protect themself and their abuser. But it also illustrates the freedom that can come once the abuse is revealed. Justice is not always possible, but as scripture says, “The truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32).  The book also presents a clear picture how faith can influence the lives of individuals and families. The author has not stepped back from addressing how faith will change the lives of those who will listen to God’s voice.

This family has more to teach us - the next book has been written, though not yet published. I will be looking forward to reading it in the near future.

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