Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rules of Murder - A Review

A Review

A well-done mystery, thriller, that intentionally breaks all the rules one might expect to see in a modern mystery.  Those rules were initially set down by Fr. Ronald A. Knox in 1929 and can be found at numerous sites on the internet.  The author of the current book set about to write a novel that broke all ten rules - Rules of Murder is the result of her experiment.  With the exception of one rule, she managed to do so.  Which rule was it - that will be left to the reader to discover as the book is read.

For much of the book, I had a very different opinion than I was left with as I finished it.  As I told others, my initial reaction was that I was reading the most boring book that I could not put down.  I felt like I had walked into an adult version of the Hardy Boys - with a romantic twist to account for the fact that we were dealing 20 somethings, Drew Farthering, Nick Dennison, and Madeline Parker, rather than the teenage Hardy Boys.

By the time I finished the book, I found myself connecting with the characters and wanting to know who the real culprit or culprits might be.  I found the history upon which the book was based (Fr. Knox’s Rules for Murder), to be an interesting study in its own right - worthy of a few minutes spent on Google discovering their origin and detail about the man who originally proposed them.

Drew, Nick, and Madeline, work, mostly together, to keep up with or ahead of the local constabulary.  Inspector Birdsong seemed more like a bouncing ball as he kept following the clues.  It is the three young people that discover key clues that keep the case moving forward, even after all the principals have decided that the case has been resolved.  

One of the sub-titles of the book is “A Drew Farthering Mystery”, suggesting that further titles featuring some of the same characters may be forthcoming.  One can only hope.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Review

When my copy of the book arrived in the mail, I immediately found myself interested.  The Bible text is the newest (2011) version of the New International Version.  Around the Bible text are two types of notes.  The vast majority are based on 52 topical studies - each with five days of individual notes based upon various Biblical references.  In addition, there is a suggested memory passage for each week.  

As an example, here is what I found for Week 33.  I chose this passage because it begins with a reading and devotional based on Mark 2, the book I am currently preaching on.  The theme for the week is “Change/Innovation”, with readings and devotionals based on Mark 2, John 1, Genesis 12, Acts 10, and Acts 16.  The scripture memory passage is Philippians 3:12-14.  The entry concludes with a link to the page number of the entry for “Week 34: Situational Leadership”.

Along with these weekly devotionals are a large number of “Insights” - shorter, stand alone, devotional thoughts on specific topics.  I do wish there were more of these - there are too many chapters and pages with no notes.  

Both types of notes are interesting and insightful - aimed at the 21st century believer who is also a leader.  The devotional thoughts, like Jesus himself, do not merely speak to church leaders, but to leaders of any type.  The advice is solid and helpful.  The book, itself, is  well-designed; the copy I received included a very nice duo-tone leather cover.   The book will look nice on the bookshelf or desk of any person finding himself or herself in a position of leadership.

This review is based on a free copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Beauty of Broken - A Review

Elisa Morgan

A Review

A few years ago, I was privileged to be part of a church that sponsored a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) group.  At the time, the CEO of the international organization was Elisa Morgan - the author of the current book.  She, like many others, brought with her the unrecognized baggage of a dysfunctional family.  Also, like many others, she came to faith believing all that baggage would dissolve as she lived a life of faith.   The Beauty of Broken tells us what she learned about this truth as her children grew and how she learned it.

Some believers appear to live under the misguided assumption that if you apply the Biblical principles of parenting as defined by the church, children will miss all the major catastrophes seen in the lives of those who choose not to follow Christ - illegitimate children, drug abuse, runaways, etc.  Sadly, as many can testify, one does not follow from the other.  Families are composed of broken people; even God’s family is composed of broken people.  When broken people come together, the result is a broken institution.  This is Elisa Morgan’s story.

It is clear that the author intends on telling her story - yet in telling her story, she also must include parts of her children’s stories, her husband’s story, her marriage’s story, and her family’s story.  A number of years ago, I heard of a helpful picture of a family system, where the family is pictured as a mobile hanging from the ceiling.  As long as nothing touched or moved any piece of the mobile, it held steady by the thread by which it was attached to the ceiling.  However, the minute one of the pieces which form the mobile is touched or moved, every other piece is also forced to take a new position to define a new stasis point for the mobile.  Thus, though the author is telling her personal story, it is touched, defined, altered, by the stories of those closest to her.  

Elisa’s story, as she suggests, is also my story.  As I read The Beauty of Broken, I was amazed at how much of what Elisa Morgan described paralleled the life that my wife and I have experienced over the last 40 to 60 years, individually and corporately.  My family worked through many of the issues addressed in this current book some 20 years ago; but as I read, I was reminded of how God used that season of our life (to uses Elisa Morgan’s term) to allow us to grow closer to Him and to each other.  Though the specific were different, the time spent understanding how our family of origin impacted the family I chose to be part of saved our marriage.  The review offered by Elisa Morgan made me aware of just how far my wife and I have come.

The issues covered by the book are not uncommon to families begun in the late 20th or early 21st centuries.   Control, abuse, alcohol or drugs, premarital sex, children born out of wedlock were not unique to either Mrs. Morgan or to your family or to my family.  Whether it be this set of issues or others, Christian families are broken and need to experience and demonstrate God’s grace in the midst of that brokenness.  As we experience that grace individually, we will find that it also gets lived out in our families.

The book will be a welcome addition to the libraries of many different audiences - those who come from broken families, those counseling broken families or living in a broken family, and pastors - who, by their very nature, serve broken families.  

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

Nook HD+ - A review

Nook HD+

A Review

The Nook HD+ (16GB and 32GB) are on sale ($149 and $179, respectively) this week at Barnes and Noble - both online and in stores.  

The price is excellent and with the addition of Google Play, the product is almost as good as, if not better than, the Kindle Fire.
I received one as an early Father's Day present and have been thrilled.  The HD+ can install the LOGOS Bible Software apps from Google Play.  The Kindle app is also installable on the Nook HD+ - including the ability to send personal files directly to the installed app.  The only drawback, I can see, compared to the Kindle Fire, is the lack of a Flash Player, meaning Amazon video files cannot be played directly.  There is a work around - but it is a Free (or $2.99) app.  The HD+ has a 9 inch screen - great for reading books divided into two columns.  

I have installed a variety of apps that I also have installed on my Kindle Fire - the increased screen size makes these so much easier to use than the smaller Kindle Fire screen.  

I have used a Kindle Fire for about 1-1/2 years, my wife has used a Nook Tablet for about the same time.  Until the Nook HD+ added access to the Google Play Store, the Kindle Fire won the battle hands down. The Kindle Fire HD was my dream machine.  As of this week, I am not so sure, especially given this week's price of less than $200.        
Take a look before the price goes up next week.
NOTE:  In the interest of fairness, I should disclose the following.  Neither I nor my wife received any remuneration for these comments, though my wife is an employee of our local Barnes and Noble.  These prices are so low, we received no additional discount from those quoted above.  The opinions expressed above are mine alone and I did not receive  encouragement of any Barnes and Noble employee.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Matter of Trust:
A Mia Quinn Mystery

Lis Wiehl

A Review

From the first chapter, A Matter of Trust draws the reader into the life of an experienced prosecutor and widowed mother of two.  Based on events in the author’s life, the book is as exciting as it is interesting.  

The story focus on three crimes which may be connected or not.  Two prosecutors have been murdered, five years apart - same kind of gun, similar circumstances.  Are the deaths related?  It is up to Mia Quinn and homicide detective Charlie Carlson to locate and prosecute the perpetrator or perpetrators.

Darin Dane has, supposedly, killed himself after being viciously bullied and assaulted - that is the dad’s story.  Now Mia and Charlie must determine how much of that story is truth and how much is story.  

While fighting crime, Mia also must find time to respond to the needs and problems of a four year old daughter and a 14 year old son.  NIghtmares, drug use, adolescence all add to the issues that Mia Quinn must face on the home front.  

The reader looking for a mystery with a hint of faith will find Lis Wiehl’s newest book worth the time spent reading the book.  

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

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Review

Though I do not remember hearing of Datapoint, I may have used one of their early systems before graduating from college.  Regardless, this book was a interesting walk through computer history - including its technology, its people, and its business.  

Datapoint started out knowing where it wanted to go, but dropped out of the race to get there just as it had the greatest opportunity.  Its interaction with TRW, TI, and Intel, allowed it to give away the assets that were of greatest value - without knowing it was doing so.  The politics of Datapoint’s leaders kept it moving in the direction it was going - not able to change course even as technology was moving around them.  

The book was interesting - yet it did not have the mystery and suspense that can be found in other books describing the people and companies that defined early computer history.  It provided the background and story of a company that could have been, but was not able to gain the greatness that could have been theirs.  As it allows the reader insight into the early years that defined the personal computer, it would be an excellent book as an ancillary book for students enrolled in freshman Computer Science courses - whether within the major or in a service course.        

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