Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Holy Bible: Filament Edition - A Review

Holy Bible:
Filament Edition

New Living Translation

WOW ... Wow ... wow ...

Tyndale may have just introduced the next generation Study Bible. By combining a well-known paper translation (which must be purchased) with notes, videos, graphics, and devotionals, supplied digitally (via a free app), the reader is introduced to the best of two worlds. Fonts in the printed version can be larger — space does not need to be consumed by the Study Bible notes. Fonts in the notes are not scalable, but they are larger than those found in many Study Bibles. The notes are helpful and thorough. It is unclear who are the individuals involved in preparing the study notes for each section. Credit is given for each devotional entry — being drawn from a variety of previously published resources. Credit is also given for some of the videos to The Bible Project, a non-profit animation studio whose mission is to make the biblical story accessible to everyone, everywhere.

Given the new format, it is difficult to compare the amount of content present to a more traditional Study Bible, but my first guess is that there is more material than would be found in other similar resources. Even if the notes are comparable to a more traditional resource, to that one must add the devotional material and the audio/visual material — the result is a generous set of resources.

A couple of concerns should be mentioned. I already mentioned that the text is not scalable — not a big problem for this reader, but it might be for some. Another issue that should be made clear up front is that audio/visual resources require that the tablet or phone being used to scan page number require that the device is connected to the Internet. Study notes and devotional material are supplied with the app. Finally, notes that one may want to incorporate into one’s personal Bible Study or into a set of digital sermon preparation notes (e.g. OneNote or Evernote) will need to be copied/typed by hand. At this point, there is no Windows version of the app. One workaround would be to mirror the phone screen onto a desktop or laptop — but until a later version of Windows 10 is released, that is not part of the default operating system.

In addition to addressing the above issues, the app might be embellished in other ways. It would be interesting to see the app integrated with publicly available websites containing public domain resources. Similarly, it might be interesting to see the app’s search tools integrated with one of a major Bible Software programs (e.g. WordSearch or LOGOS). The product could also be enhanced by introducing material found in other Study Bibles which are sourced using The Living Translation.

This new approach to Bible Study will find a home in the hands of any serious Bible Student — college student, seminary student, layman, or pastor. I hope that Christian Bookstore can make a sample version along with a tablet available for customers to try. Once a user has had the opportunity to experience this new Study Bible, it should easily sell itself.

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.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Hidden Peril - A Review

Hidden Peril

Irene Hannon
A Review

Beginning with three murders, one in Syria and two in St. Louis, MO, Irene Hannon’s most recent thriller takes Kristin Dane, the owner of WorldCraft, a sustainable craft store, and FBI Special Agent Luke Carter, into the midst of an ISIS terror cell operating on their very doorsteps. The crimes are personal and the closer they come to the discovering the center of the cell, the more danger the key players will find around them.

The excitement does not end until the reader hits the “Epilogue”. The Epilogue does tie up the loose ends for the story, but it does so sluggishly and the reader quickly wishes it were over. Thankfully, it is no longer than most of the book’s chapters and does not detract from the body of the work. It might have made a more satisfying conclusion if the Epilogue had been wrapped into the “Teaser” included for the author’s next book in the series which begins with “Chaos …” Though coming from a Christian publisher, the book is light on faith; but for those for whom faith is an issue, there is little that will offend. Made into a movie, the story as presented by the author would be easily rated PG-13. This reader found the story well-done and a rewarding read.

This book will make great holiday reading for fans of the author, fans of light romantic thrillers, and fans of FBI or police procedurals.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Not A Creature Was Stirring - A Review

A Review

Henery Press continues to produce some of the best cozy mysteries on the market - Christina Freeburn’s newest book, the first in a new series, is no exception.

Merry Christmas (yep, that is her name) arrives at the first of the season’s craft sales in Morgantown, West Virginia, with an awful smell in her new (though used) RV. And she is the first, and most likely suspect, in the murder of her ex-husband who is the source of the rancid smell.

With the help of Ebenezer, Merry’s pet guinea pig, she will have to survive the obnoxious detective and the various attempts to sabotage her work as a Etsy dealer, in order to discover the actual culprit.

The book kept moving forward at a satisfying pace, held this reader’s attention and kept him returning for more. The possible suspects grows and keeps the reader guessing and gathering clues as the story progresses. The book should remain satisfying to most cozy mystery readers. The book will make a great Christmas read - except its publication is not expected till after the new year (January 2019). Perhaps a January purchase in preparation for a Christmas 2019 gift.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Ancient-Modern Bible (NKJV) - A Review


Thomas Nelson Bibles

A Review

This Bible is a great concept and probably needed by the church, but its design leaves something to be desired.

Designed with a new “Comfort Print” font that is supposed to be easier to read, the compilation of comments from authors writing across the centuries. Opening to a random page in Isaiah (Isaiah 54-56), I see quotes from Augustine, Billy Graham, and John Calvin. The quotes are interesting and applicable to the life of the Christian — both at the time they were originally written and in the modern context of this Bible. Also included are a number of essays by well-known church leaders. Setting between the book of Isaiah and Jeremiah is an essay by H. Richard Niebuhr entitled: “Connecting Christ and Culture”. This Bible concludes with a set of seven “Supplemental Articles” on a number of broader topics: Creation, Meditation, Church, Trinity, etc.

Though borrowing from a great deal of source material, the notes and essays are not well-cited. A bibliography is included in the end notes (following the “Supplemental Articles”), but the entries are not tied directly to the notes included in the margins of the Bible; thus adding a layer of complexity to the researcher or pastor wanting to verify the source material. Though many resources are used, it is unclear as to how varied they are. Only on reference from the Wesley’s is cited and there is no way to follow that citation back to see where, how, or how often it is used.

A bigger problem than the poor use of citations is the design of the Bible. Though using a new font, this font is so small it makes both the Bible text and the notes difficult to read. There is plenty of white space on most pages — a larger font could easily have been used — better still would be to have the notes available as supplements on the Internet for registered users of the Bible. The pages are thin, occasionally making page turning more cumbersome than necessary.

Assuming plenty of light, nimble fingers, and good eyes, this Bible has a place on most pastor’s desk. Laymen may find it of use or interest 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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Secret To Die For - A Review

A Secret To Die For

Lisa Harris

A Review

Lisa Harris is one of my go to authors. She has written another attention holding title for the suspense audience.

Psychologist Grace Callahan’s home was being broken into. She managed to escape after getting shot at a couple of times. She got off easy. Later that morning she would find that one of her counseling clients had been murdered the previous evening. And that was just the start of the week’s excitement.

Terrorist were determined to take down the electrical grid across the US - much as had occurred in the Northeastern United States in 2003, except then it was a software glitch, not terrorist. Grace’s client had been hired to find and patch holes in the software controlling the grid - except those who hired him were the terrorists and they were trying to prevent the utility infrastructure from installing a patch that would prevent their taking down the utilities. And would do just that in a matter of hours.

Detective Nathaniel (Nate) Quinn had drawn the (un)lucky straw to follow the death of Steven Shaw, Grace Callahan’s client. Nate had two strikes against him. First, it was his first day on the job after a three month break after his previous team and partner had been killed in an explosion related to a previous case. He was left with a case of PTSD that was not yet completely addressed. The second strike was that he had gone to college with Grace Callahan - she had married his best friend. That marriage had broken up shortly after their daughter had died from Leukemia. Now, neither Nate nor Grace were sure they were ready for a serious relationship - especially in the midst of a crisis that might effect the entire country.

The plot is well developed and believable - involving multiple policing agencies. kidnappings, automobile accidents, murders, and robberies, leaving a trail of breadcrumbs that the detective and his colleagues would need to follow in order to protect their key witness and their country.

The story is told well - with a single exception. The climax is weak. This reader felt as if the solution to the story popped out of nowhere. It came not of result of good police work, but because of the totally disconnected piece of evidence was dropped into the detective’s lap.

Despite the small disappointment, the book was a heart stopper. It allows the reader to examine the impact loss of various kinds can have on people. It also delves into the significant role faith can have on individuals as the deal with that loss. Lee Harris has done a great job of examining those questions as Nate and Grace reflect on the various losses that have been a part of their individual lives.

Fans of Lee Harris’ work, of Christian suspense, and of techno-thrillers will find the reading rewarding.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Rush - A Review


Stephen Fried

A Review

I am not a history fan, but an earlier published review drew me to this book and I asked to review it for myself. I am glad that I asked and that my request was granted.

Dr. Benjamin Rush was the only medical school trained physician to sign the Declaration of Independence. He was not among the top tier of the founding fathers - but he did much to support and encourage the Washingtons, the Franklins, the Adams, and the others that led the new United States of America during its formative years. For many he was their doctor, for most he was their confident and friend.

Rush follows the life of Benjamin Rush, MD, from his birth in rural Pennsylvania in 1745 to his death in Philadelphia in 1813. He was educated and opinionated. He was a frequent writer - both of published works and many (still) unpublished pieces that have assisted historians to understand the years preceding and following the revolutionary war. Fried has done a superb job of drawing the reader into Rush’s life - as he looks at his family, colleagues, and work. The book concludes with an examination of the influence Rush had on fields as diverse as politics, education, medicine (particularly mental health), and literature. This includes a brief reference to the creation of the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago named after Dr. Benjamin Rush.

Reading much like a well-written novel, anyone with an interest in early American History, Medicine. Religion (Rush might be thought of as an original Evangelical), Education, and politics, will find this book to be a delight. Even though it is longer than most books I review (I even took a few days break to read a more typical book to change my pace), it was well worth my time. It is well documented (the last 1/5th of the book consists of notes and references) and might drive some readers to dive further into the history and impact of this man who touched so many of the founding father’s lives in the late 18th and early 19th century.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions are mine alone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

The Purpose of Christmas - A Review

The Purpose of Christmas

Rick Warren

A Review

Howard Books presents a new edition of a short, 4 chapter, book originally written in 2008 by Rick Warren, founding pastor of the world-famous Saddleback Church in Irvine, CA. The author is best known for the classic The Purpose Driven Life. I suppose this reviewer should be open and honest by saying he has never read that classic or any other book by Rick Warren until the publisher dropped the current book in his mailbox for review.

The current book presents three purposes for Christmas:

  1. Celebration 
  2. Salvation 
  3. Reconciliation 
I suspect that the author does not mean to say these are the only three purposes for Christmas, but they are three purposes for Christmas. Along with an introductory chapter, the author makes each purpose into a chapter. The chapters are then subdivided into shorter sub-points focusing on these three purposes. I felt like I was reading the transcript of a 20-year-old sermon series – with the thesis statements and their sub-points being clearly stated in the text and its subdivisions.The book is readable and not hobbled by sermonese. What is missing are solid references for much of the material – scripture references are well-documented, but other content is not. This makes it hard to distinguish between opinion and fact.

I appreciated the suggested “Birthday Party for Jesus” found at the end of the book – appropriate for families, adult, youth or children’s groups. The idea is presented early in the book, but the details are laid out in the final pages of the volume.

The book may make a great gift for the church to give to its members as a pre-Advent gift. It might also find a home in the church library for families to borrow for the Christmas season. 
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.