Friday, November 14, 2014

Not A Silent Night - A Review




Not A Silent Night


by
Adam Hamilton


A Review


As protestants, we tend to avoid spending much time on Mary, the mother of our Lord.  Yet she is present throughout the gospels - from the months before Jesus’ birth to the weeks and months after his death and resurrection.  Adam Hamilton, pastor of the largest United Methodist Church in the United States, attempts to rectify that omission as he writes this five chapter devotional looking at the life and contribution of Mary to the church.


Writing in reverse chronological order, Hamilton moves back through the Mary’s live and sees how she was involved during the life and ministry of Jesus.  The book is both theological and practical - leaving this reader to ponder events in the gospels that are often minimized but very much present.  Beginning with Mary’s response to the message brought by God’s Son and moving through the role of parenting her son, Hamilton brings to life the emotions, thoughts, and tears Mary must have felt as she lived through the 33+ years of Jesus’ life.


As I approach this coming advent season (December 2014), I hope to use the book as framework for my advent sermons.  I will not preach the book, but it will provide a broad outline that will guide my thinking and planning as we move from the week after Thanksgiving to the last Sunday of the year.  I trust that as a pastor or lay person, others may learn from Mary’s experience as they move through this reverse biography of her life.
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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, November 4, 2014

Dark Justice - A Review







A Review


Dark Justice is a fly by the seat of your pants thriller that focuses on the lives of three women who find themselves with the task of saving the United Stated from becoming a disaster scene centered on the collapse of the electrical grid from the West Coast to the Eastern Seaboard.  


Beginning with the automobile accident that killed the CEO of large conglomerate to the hospital setting where Hannah Shire, her mother Carol, and daughter Emily would find themselves on the night the lights went out, this reader could not wait to see how they story would end.  The Shire family were innocent bystanders caught up in a conspiracy that covered much of the North American continent.  The excitement builds as the both the local sheriff’s department and the FBI may be deep in the midst of the plot.


Though the Shire’s did not have the tools to break apart the conspiracy, it was their continued persistence that allowed  those with the proper tools to bring the conspirators to justice.  The story is well-woven story, partially told from Hannah Shire’s first person perspective, along with the transcripts of a Congressional investigation following the events of February 24th and 25th in 2013 and the third person description of the activities of the conspirators and the police.  The three voices come together to make a believable story that might easily be found in tonight’s or tomorrow’s newspapers.  One can only hope that the story remains just a story and not a New York Times headline in the near future.


The author has done a superb job of weaving faith into the story without drowning the plot in spirituality.  Building a story with people that have real problems (e.g. alzheimer's disease) in the midst of their crisis takes talent - something this author has demonstrated in Dark Justice.  Though this is not this authors first book, it is the first I had the opportunity to read.  I was not disappointed.
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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, November 3, 2014

Wounds - A Review









A Review


Wounds was a fun book to read, but one easily forgotten.  In the week since I finished the book and the writing of this review, I have had to spend too much time reminding myself of the plot and characters in the story.  For the person looking for nice weekend read, Wounds may fill the need.  However, it will never be a classic revered for generations.


A dead Protestant seminary student, a dead Jewish cantor, and a seminary professor all stand at the center of this mystery.  But at the same time, the secret to finding the murderer goes back years - to the night of a high school prom.  A night that many would soon forget because of the pain it caused.  It soon becomes obvious that decisions made a lifetime ago still hurt and would have repercussions in the present for the seminary professor and a police detective assigned to the case.  


As the book ends, this reader still wonders whether either could find forgiveness for the decisions made.


But there might not be more to the story.  Might the seminary professor and the detective find themselves thrust together to solve a future murder that could haunt the environs of San Diego.  If so, I will look forward to reading the continuation of their story.
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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.

Into The Canyon - A Review








A Review


Michael Neale’s newest journey along the river is another lesson in life from a riverman.  This time the lessons come as he again tells more of his story to Blake Caruthers, a friend whose original meeting is recorded in The River.  As is the earlier work, Into the Canyon is a wonderful allegory of God’s constant presence in both good times and bad.


Blake’s marriage is in crisis and in order to sort out his mixed emotions, Blake decides to visit his friend at the River.  The story which follows allows Blake, and the book’s readers, to look at their lives alongside something more powerful than they are themselves.  


I found Chapter 22 to be particularly moving as I remember my own wedding day a little over 40 years ago.  Many of us have used the lighting of a third candle to symbolize the uniting of two lives.  Michael Neale uses the image of two streams coming together, merging, but still retaining some of their own distinct characteristics.  


Though I have never seen Michael Neale’s “The River Experience” in concert, but if anything like the book, it would be well worth the time attending.  In the meantime it was again a joy to ride the River and as it helped Blake find his way, it also allowed me to examine mine.
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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.



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

It Is Well With My Soul - A Review




It Is Well With My Soul




by
Shelly Beach


A Review


One of my favorite self-help books was written by M. Scott Peck.  I know that not all of my readers will agree with all that he has written - I don’t either.  But the first words I read by him still ring true, “Life is difficult.”  


Though Shelly Beach may not quote M. Scott Peck, her thesis is that what he wrote was true.  Using the difficult life she has experienced and the lives of others, she has written a devotional that focuses on the lessons that can be learned from the pain can come from life - whether it be health issues, family problems, or aging itself.  No one is removed from the pains of life - but we have the choice as to whether they will draw us closer to God or allow us to run from him.  A choice we each have to make.


As a spiritual leader for a small group of seniors, I am becoming increasingly aware of how people can be empowered or frightened by an unknown future.  It is my pleasure to walk with them as they seek to find their way in God’s world.  This book will help me and my friends in that journey.
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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.



Rogerson’s Book of Numbers - A Review





Barnaby Rogerson


A Review


I like MATH.  I remember seeing a book years ago that started at one and moved slowly through important numbers in science.  Rogerson’s Book of Numbers takes a different approach.  Though not starting with , it starts with large numbers and through 270 pages moves down to zero.  Each entry is interesting and provides references in history, science, and culture that adds value to specific numbers.  For example, early in the book, the author discusses the average distance of 237,600 miles that separate the earth and the moon.  


237,600 MILES OR 30 EARTHS


237,600 miles is the average distance between the earth and the moon, a number which suggests an intriguing inner harmony to our universe, for it is thirty diameters of the earth, sixty radii of the earth or 220 moon radii. The mystical author and numerologist John Michell would reveal these figures with the full force of a relevation (sic) during his lectures. A self-declared ‘radical traditionalist’, Michell campaigned long and hard against the destruction of England’s ancient number systems in favour of the decimal system.


Though the book is not a spiritual book, it does touch on a great many spiritual topics.  Immediately after discussing the distance between the earth and the moon, the book moves on to discussing the 144,000 who will be saved as proclaimed as by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Besides referencing the JW believe, the author also quotes from the source of their belief, Revelation 7:4-5.  


But spirituality is not limited the Christian tradition.  A few pages later the author briefly (note - all the notes are brief) discusses the 124,000 prophets sent before the coming of the Prophet Muhammad.  


The last entry is a reference to the Buddhists nirvana.  Quoting Buddha,


‘Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvana do I call it – the utter extinction of aging and dying … That dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support. This, just this, is the end of stress.'


Hence, the author ends with “nothingness” as his final entry.  


As the book demonstrates throughout, mathematics is not just a study of numbers, theories, and skills;  mathematics is embedded, deeply embedded, in cultures around the world.  Though at one level, the book is filled with trivia, at another level it provides insight into people throughout history and around the world.  The book is written for the average adult reader, though it will be of more interest to the reader with an interest,  even if not a background, in mathematics.  It is not necessary to read every entry to enjoy its contents - though, if you are like me, you will end up picking up the book again and again to read entries missed on earlier scans.  


The book was worth the time reading - and I will look forward to picking it up again in the future.  It needs to be a ongoing work - numbers are missing (infinity and negative numbers are the most obvious).  But that does not distract from the work as presented to today’s audience.
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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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Deceived - A Review




Deceived




by
Irene Hannon
A Review


Deceived is a romantic thriller well-worth the time spent reading, except for one small flaw.  First, what did I like.  The story starts 15 miles from my home near the Rochester, NY, metropolitan area.  Hilton is a township with a population of 6000 located on the shores of Lake Ontario.  The death of Kate Marshall’s husband and son had sent her for a tailspin - including an addiction to valium.  


But life was about to change when a young boy, about her son’s age, crossed her path as she rode down the escalator.  Her life again took a tailspin, but this time she found the help she needed in the person of Connor Sullivan, former Secret Service agent and now a partner of Phoenix, Inc.  For the next four weeks life went up and down as Kate, Connor, and other members of the Phoenix staff looked for answers in the past and the future.


The book will hold the reader’s attention - a bit of healthy romance will draw in the attention of whose interest lies in that direction, the thrill of the hunt will draw in those looking for a more thrill centered experience.  A hint of faith will also draw the Christian reader’s attention to the book.  


If this is the reader’s first look at a book by Irene Hannon, he or she will not be disappointed.  On the other hand, that is exactly where I found disappointment.  The plot of this third book in the Private Justice series paralleled her second book (which I previously reviewed) so closely, I found myself anticipating much of the book before I read it.  Had I not read an earlier book, this book could have received a five.  With the very similar plot lines of the two books, I will give this book 3.5 stars.   
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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.