Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Featherbone - A Review

The Featherbone
Feathered Bone.cover.jpg
Julie Cantrell

A Review

This was one of the hardest books I have ever chosen to read. I almost put the book down and not finish it. But a news headline caught my eye - a Japanese girl had escaped her kidnapper after being locked up in his home for two years. The news story was too close to the fictional tale told in Julie Cantrell’s book. I had to finish it.

Having said this, the book was upsetting. If it was a movie, it would most certainly be rated “R” - a movie I would choose to not see. The abuse that occurred at so many levels was hard to watch, the impact that the kidnapping of one young girl has on multiple families and on a community is hard to understand. The unexpected pain and anguish suffered by the believers who have been touched by this awful crime unimaginable. And the thought of a Christian publishing company choosing to tell this story seem hard to comprehend.

Yet, it was a story that had to be told. It is a story that is played out in the headlines all too often - whether it be in the commission of a crime or in its resolution, the story is too real to ignore. The author does a good job of wrapping the horrific and the faithful response of this broken community to the five-year history of Sarah’s kidnapping by a stranger and his live-in girlfriend just prior to hurricane Katrina hitting New Orleans and its surroundings. The various responses to these dual tragedies are hard to watch - even as most of the characters appear to have some level of faith. That faith, and sometimes the lack of it, plays an important part in the story.

I have a difficult time knowing who this book is written for. The story is too dark for some audiences, yet its heavy dependence on scripture and the character’s response to scripture makes it clearly a Christian book. It is those same scriptures that may make some non-believers shy away from the book. Well-written, with a depth of emotion rarely seen in Christian writing, be prepared to be shaken as you read. At the same time, the reader may find his or her faith strengthened as you see the role scripture has in the lives of others going through h-e-double-q.

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.

I'm Not Afraid - A Review

I’m Not Afraid

Im Not Afraid.jpg

Written by
Lee Ann Mancini
Illustrated by
Dan Sharp

A Review

Lee Ann Mancini has put  together a fun, colorful book aimed at the preschooler or early reader. Fear is a common emotion – but an uncomfortable one for many people. The art and story will help the young child understand that fear is normal and that Jesus can help him or her deal with their fears.
The colorful 3-D fish will hold the reader’s attention – whether the book is being read to the child or the book is being read by the child. After reaching the end of the book, I was surprised to find I had missed the book’s hidden secret: each page includes a small hidden image to be found within the picture (ala Where’s Waldo). Finding out the secret, I was forced to again walk through the book to find the unexpected prize found on each page.
The book will serve as a swell gift from a parent to a child or a welcome addition to the home,  Church, or Sunday School library. Some public libraries will feel comfortable adding it to their collections 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.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Core Christrianity - A Review

Core Christianity cover.jpg

Core Christianity is a brief introduction to Christian theology. Beginning with a discussion of the importance of doctrine,  it moves onto an explanation of the Trinity, the nature of God, and His promised Messiah. Two chapters out of 12 are devoted to the person and work of Jesus Christ. The author concludes by focusing on how God will bring it altogether – along with a challenge to ask what our role, our calling, will be as we wait for Christ’s return.

The book is Biblical, practical, and brief. Aimed at a lay audience or newer believers just starting their journey toward understanding God and His work. One reviewer compares it favorably to John Stott’s Basic Christianity. I would compare it to Gordon Lewis’s Decide for Yourself, except this book provides the answers.

Included are clear explanations, sidebars with additional details, and two indexes (a subject index and a Scripture index). Missing are suggested references for future study or links to other works. At just under 200 pages, this book is not as complete as the two or three volume theologies used in seminary, but for the lay person or college student it may be just the introduction needed before diving into one of the more complete works.

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, March 23, 2016

Burning Proof - A Review

Burning Proof cover.jpg

A Review

Two cold cases present themselves to a couple of friends who are local private investigators. One is personal; the other professional. The latter case involves the death of relatives in a fire many years ago. Suspects are named, but no proof is available. The professional case involves a rapist and murderer that has been on the loose for ten years. As the statute of limitations for the rape approaches, it falls upon Luke Murphy and Robert “Woody” Woods to find the unsub before the clock ticks off.  However, unbeknownst to them, there is a connection between the two cases and by the time the reader makes it to the end of the book, one case will be solved and the other will be unsolved - ready to be picked up in the third book in this series. With the help of Abby Hart, LAPD Police Detective, progress will be made in both cases.

And that is the problem I had with Janice Cantore’s latest thriller. Though I had read the earlier volume, “Drawing Fire”, a year ago, it was difficult at first to fully connect to the current book without knowing or remembering the earlier story. The writing was well-done and held this reader’s interest. Whether the author was providing details of the newest cold case to hit the fire or the case that remained solved from the earlier book (and now remains to be solved in a third book), details were revealed bit by bit.

I would suggest waiting for book three of the “Cold Case Justice” series to be published and, then, purchasing all three books together and reading them in a single sitting. The individual stories work regardless, but the on going details of the unsolved cold case, the arson, will make more sense when read as a trilogy, one after the other.

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, March 22, 2016

Dressed for Death - A Review

Dressed for Death
Dressed for Death Cover.jpg
Julianna Deering

A Review

It was three years ago that I was privileged to read Julianna Deering’s first book in this series. I remember writing, that it “was reading the most boring book that I could not put down.“ As I look back, I felt as if I eating chunky peanut butter. Now, I like chunky peanut butter; but something, the chunks, kept getting in the way of really enjoying the book. This newest book (of four in the series) is no longer chunky peanut butter, but is better compared to creamy peanut butter. The story starts out nicely and continues to roll along without any bumps or hindrances to get in the way. Thank you Julianna Deering.

It was scheduled to be a week long party celebrating the works of Jane Austen and the late 19th century of which she wrote. This would include the menus, the entertainment, and the wardrobes the guests were expected to wear. Most of the guests were long time friends of Drew Farthering and his family and friends (his new wife, Madeline and his friend/butler Nick Dennison and his girlfriend) - the major exception was Monsieur Laurent, the Frenchman who was a bit too friendly with the ladies.
The party had barely gotten started when the crimes began to be the major events of the week - murders, drug rings, smuggling, kidnapping would define the rest of the week. Because Scotland Yard had been following an active case at the time, they were involved, along with the local constabulary, Chief Inspector Birdsong, a close and personal (if not quite so professional) friend of Drew Farthering.

Of course one murder would not do. Bodies kept adding up - and it would take Drew and his family and friends most of the week and a bit further to put all the pieces together. A puzzle that almost ended in more lost lives - till … well, the reader will need to read to the final pages to find how the puzzle was solved.

Like that first book, three years ago, I could not put the book down. I literally found myself falling asleep in bed trying to make an extra chapter or two before closing its covers for the night. I did not always make it, but I tried. Relationships were made and grown during the week. Emotions were stirred (both for the characters and for the reader) as the book was read during the past week. Likewise, the faith of both the story’s characters and the reader were challenged - topics such as finding God’s will, saving faith, and obedience are addressed as the story moves through its telling. Julianna Deering has produced a story worthy of the telling for the believer the simple lover of cozy mysteries.    

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, March 15, 2016

Under the Sea Holy Bible - A Review

Under the Sea
Holy Bible
Under The Sea Bible Cover.jpg
Kidz Bible

A Review

This Bible is okay, but not exciting. The cover suggests that this NIrV Bible might be of interest to a child who was enthralled with a Disney movie featuring fish. It is not quite so tightly connected to a Disney movie as the similarly formatted Frost Bible; but having now seen the Bible; but I no longer think this Bible would be exciting to a child.

With few exceptions, the Under the Sea Bible is more a pew Bible than a devotional Bible or a Study Bible for any audience, even less so for the apparent intended audience. The extremely small print will be difficult for a young reader to follow - making it less than ideal for a young audience. The only thing that distinguishes it from a pew bible are the 8-12 sheets of colored images containing devotional thoughts scattered throughout the book. Those images do include additional pictures of fish, but the images convey no devotional content except for the words printed there.  Also, the covers and binding do have a “fishy” appearance that might seem exciting if it added anything. An extremely small five page dictionary, much like you would expect to find in a pew Bible, is also included. Surprisingly, there are no maps.
I had hoped this Bible would be a suitable gift for a grandchild. I will not be giving it this year. There are other and better choices for the granddaughter or grandson - The Under the Sea Bible will not do.

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.

Code 13 - A Review

Code 13 - cover.jpg
A Review

For the reader who is a fan of Jag (NBC and CBS, 1995-2005) or NCIS (CBS, 2003-Present) Code 13 is the perfect summer read. Mixing the political with the criminal with the military-industrial complex that seems to have defined much of our American culture, this book held this reader’s attention from beginning to end.

Opening in San Diego, Lieutenant Commander Caroline McCormick, assigned to the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, United State Navy, finds herself unexplicitly promoted to join Code 13 - a “secret” branch of Jag headquartered in the Pentagon. But just as she arrives, before beginning her new tour, friends begin to die. The focus seems to be the new U.S. Navy Drone Force that will serve to monitor the borders of our country. Though not an official task, the Drone Force would also be called on to monitor the 100 mile Fourth Amendment-Free Zone, aka the Constitution Free Zone.

But who was responsible for the deaths - was it the billionaire industrialist that would be charged with building the new drone fleet or the Captain who would be responsible for commanding this new arm of Navy power, both of whom would see their jobs diminish if the Drone Force were to disappear. Or was it the criminal element that could not afford to have the Navy monitoring their profitable import business. And it would be the men and women of JAG and NCIS to put the pieces of the mystery together - without there being more deaths.

The author brings his own experience within JAG to bear on the story. At the same time faith plays a major part in the life of Lt. Commander McCormick as she seeks to come to grips with the death of dear friends.

I normally do not enjoy military drama, but my enjoyment of NCIS and JAG prepared me to engage with this story. It will serve as an excellent spring or summer read as one remembers the dedication of our military to our country and its values. And the reader should look for more from this 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.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Semester of Our Discontent - A Review

The Semester of Our Discontent
Cynthia Kuhn

A Review
Having spent 25+ years as a faculty member on the college campus, I have spotted dozens of opportunities for murder and other crimes to become a piece of the college work environment. Though I do not know this author, it was fun to see a writer choose the small college campus to set a murder or two.

I was able to recognize the campus characters and places that present themselves during course of Lila Maclean’s first semester on campus:

  • The overly critical department chair
  • The newly hired faculty member
  • The obviously well-prepared professor who is forever kept waiting to hear about a expected (and uncertain) tenure decision
  • The faculty member who is willing to mentor new colleagues
  • The secret tunnels that run between campus buildings
  • The traditions that define a college campus beyond the college catalog and handbooks

These elements go into the first book in the Lila Maclean Mystery Series where someone is killing off one, then two, and almost three members of the literature department at Stonedale University. There are a number of viable suspects – after all almost no one likes the department chair. And Lila seems to be present each time a body is found.

The book is well-written. Though I know little about little about literature, M. Kuhn’s newest book provided opportunities to discover new authors, even the real kind. Occasionally, a fictional author is referenced, but there are enough real authors mentioned to send the reader searching the Internet for more information.

Whether the reader is an academic or just a lover of cozy mysteries, the current volume will keep him or her in the book for a few evenings of light reading. A smile or two will cross the face the reader who has spent time on a college campus as well for the reader who has not. Enjoy your time as you seek to discover who is killing Stonedale’s faculty.

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.