Tuesday, May 14, 2019

NIV Starting Place Study Bible - A Review

Designed to be the initial Study Bible for a typical new believer, the NIV Starting Place Study Bible would appear to accomplish that goal.

Borrowing from some of Zondervan’s most helpful Study Bibles, the NIV Starting Place Study Bible provides a wealth of information to the new Bible student. The six underlying resources are as follows:

  • The Essential Bible Companion
  • NIV Quest Study Bible
  • NIV Foundational Study Bible
  • NIV Archaeological Study Bible
  • NIV Student Bible
  • NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible
With the exception of the last, each of the above resources is well-known and appreciated by this reviewer. Having never the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible, I cannot comment directly on its value. Included are a variety of helps:
  • Book Introductions
  • Study Notes keyed to Biblical passages
  • Context Notes providing background material
  • Q & A Notes providing answers to key questions
  • Bible Character studies
  • Introductions to key Bible Truths
  • Subject Index
  • Dictionary - Concordance

Designed using a four color (black, white, yellow, and gold) layout, there is useful information on almost every page. I would recommend that pastors and others use the underlying Study Bible resources; but for the new student of the Bible, this Study Bible is a useful resource. It will not be the last Bible most students of any age will want, but it is a great place to begin.
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.

Monday, May 13, 2019

In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower - A Review

Whether teaching at a small church connected college or a large state university, campus life is much the same for faculty. Twenty years of experience has demonstrated that truth to me. Alan Kirby has captured that atmosphere well - as I read this current mystery I felt as if I had returned to my campus roots, both as a student and as a member of the faculty. However, I am glad to say that crime never played a critical part of my experience - as a suspect, a victim, or a observer.

California Pacific University, a middle tier institution, sitting someplace between the prestigious schools that made up the University of California and the lesser-known, but very well-equipped, schools of the California State University and Colleges system, was about to become the next victim of a campus crime spree.

It was a spree - as the intensity and ferocity of the crimes increased, so did the fear that dropped upon the campus. Beginning with red paint made to look like blood, ending with a deadly arson attack, and providing an opportunity for a major campus massacre - it would take the work of Darren Kelly, Professor of Counseling Psychology and therapist at the campus Counseling Center Darren, and Jake Cooper, the lead Detective for the university police department, to identify the person responsible for the crimes.

The plot is timed well, with a major twist that will catch most in the end. It held this reader’s attention for the length of the novel - leaving little to be disappointed in. The book is easy to recommend for any involved in the academic world or for those wanting a good solid mystery to fill a week’s worth of reading. Though there is no hint of a sequel, one may hope that the author receives enough reinforcement to allow the two primary characters to work together on more cases in the future.
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.

Diggin’ Up The Dirt - A Review

Mother is a jerk - marrying off her daughter before she is engaged. Grandpa (PaPa) is a real help in solving crime - only he is a friendly ghost. Kenni Lowry was sherriff of Cottonwood, elected to replace her granddad the ghost. She caught between doing her job and remembering that she has to run for re-election in another two years. It was sometimes a delicate balance as she sought to criminals from the streets of Cottonwood, though there were few streets

Kenni’s boyfriend was in a jam - he wanted a promotion; but as a deputy sheriff; the only promotion for which he was eligible was to sheriff, his girlfriend’s job. Some had to give.

Given the drama in her life, it was not long before a series of deaths, near deaths, and robberies, began to define the days of Cottonwood. Kenni knew who was responsible except … and that was where life got exciting. 

A well-written cozy mystery, whose only flaw was that the solution fell into the sheriff’s lap, rather than being truly being solved with good detective work. This is a disappointing way to end a book as it means the reader has to also wait for the solution to be revealed as well, rather than solving the puzzle as the book is read. Hence, the four-star review.

But the book is a fun read and not a waste of time. It is recommended for the typical cozy mystery reader.
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.

Ripe for Vengeance - A Review

Megan Sawyer had been a lawyer - but when she inherited her small family’s farm, she turned to being an organic farmer - selling goods both on the farm and at her nearby cafe-minimart located in Winsome, PA. Now her finace’s, Dr. “Denver” Finn, the local veterinarian, college friends are visiting - and one ends up dead.

Megan, Finn. and the local sheriff would need to track down the murderer before the friends leave town. At times the relationships are friendly, at times they are tense - but the story moves forward at a good pace, holding this readers attention throughout. 

One of the best coming from Henery Press in the last few months. The characters feel real, much like friends who have a similar farm in central Pennsylvania. Winsome, PA, echos the small farming communities in which I have sometimes lived in the past.

The book is recommended for the cozy mystery enthusiast. It will be a great summer read either on vacation or on your home’s back porch. It would also make a great addition to the cozy mystery collection of the local library as well.

A fun 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.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Better Than Nun - A Review

It is not often that I find a book from Henery Press difficult to recommend, but such is the case for Alice Loweecey’s newest book. Combining the weirdness and comedy of “Scooby Doo” (both literally and figuratively) and the horror of The Exorcist”, this new book did more to drive this reader away from than into the plot. What should have taken three days to read, my normal reading time for a cozy mystery, took me more than a week to complete.

The collection of ghosts, haunted objects, and tarot readings seemed overdone. As an evangelical pastor, I still enjoy an occasional ghost story (see my recent review of Buried In The Stacks), but Better Than Nun did not leave me with the same cozy feeling I expect from others in this genre. I suggest waiting for the next one in the series.
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, April 11, 2019

Buried in the Stacks - A Review

Buried in the Stacks

Allison Brook

Many have heard of the library cat, but this library has something more - it has a library ghost. Thankfully, both the cat and the ghost are friendly and take an active part in the story. Allison Brook, along with the cat and ghost, has written a readable and enjoyable book.

No one really liked Dorothy Hawkins, the Research Librarian, but nobody really wanted her to die either. In an unexpected conversation Dorothy would initially accuse her husband, but would later say her accusation was the result of a drug induced delirium. It would fall upon Carrie Singleton, her cat (which she shared with the library) and the library’s ghost (a former library employee who died some time ago in the library parking lot) to find the murderer.

The story was interesting and attention holding. The detective work seemed more accidental than purposeful - but it got the job done. The murder was solved.

The book will be enjoyed by most who read cozy mysteries. The book will find a home in many public libraries and on the shelves of many casual readers.
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, April 4, 2019

The Maxwell Leadership Bible - A Review

A Review

Rev. John Maxwell is known both within the church (ordained by the Wesleyan Church) and within the world of leadership development (In May 2014, Maxwell was named the No. 1 leadership and management expert in the world by “Inc. Magazine” as per Wikipedia). Those qualifications have prepared him to offer this newest Bible from Thomas Nelson publishers.

To be honest, though I am also ordained by The Wesleyan Church, I have found the reputation that is Maxwell's to be a bit overstated. I am always bothered when the church (or any other group) places a single man on a pedestal. That being said, I approach this new Study Bible or Devotional Bible with a bit of skepticism. My opinion has not changed after having the opportunity to skim this new volume.

The book is consists of notes and articles that focus on the qualities needed for leadership. These add value to Maxwell's work. Of even more value is that most (all?) of these comments are well-indexed against the ideas that have defined Maxwell over the years. These indexes focus on “The 21 Laws of Leadership” and “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader”. A separate index focuses more broadly on “Leadership Issues”. Similarly, another index (“Profiles In Leadership”) focus on examples of leadership (both good and bad) demonstrated by men and women who had their lives discussed by the Scripture's authors in the Old and New Testaments. It is the collection indexes that I found of greatest value.

The last 80 pages of the book consist of 18 essays on leadership principles. I do not know how many of these principles are new to this book or draw from earlier writings from John Maxwell - but the principles given are succinct and easily understood.

This Bible is of value to all those who are in leadership positions - whether a fan of Maxwell or not. This includes Pastors, Board Members, Committee Members, or Activity Leaders. It belongs in the local church library as well as any library serving a business community (i.e. a local library or corporate library). Though this ought not be the first Bible in the hands of a lay person, many lay members of the church will find it of value.

This is not the best Study Bible or Devotional Bible, but it easily earns the 4-stars I am choosing to give it.
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.