Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Beauty and the Beast

Written by Jessica Gunderson
Illustrated by Thais Damião

The author and artist have created a nicely done graphic novel designed for 2-7 year old children (i.e. Pre K-3rd grade). This 32+ page book not only presents a simplified version of the familiar story but also provides some guidance for the child in how to read a graphic novel and aids that could be used by teachers or parents to enhance the reading experience. 

Though the story and presentation was a bit less than I, as an adult reader, might want; the book is just about perfect for the young reader. The pictures are large and colorful. They lack some of the detail seen in more typical comic books, but would be eye-catching to the child. The vocabulary is also appropriate for the young reader - though, as one might expect, the pre-reader would need help in getting through the book. I could easily see buying a copy for my granddaughter who is mentoring 1st grade or my grandson who is entering kindergarten - both would enjoy having a copy in their own hands.

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, July 14, 2020

Relative Silence - A Review

Relative Silence
Carrie Stuart Parks
In the words of Corrie Ten Boom,
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future
to a known God.”
              [Carrie Stuart Parks]

Carrie Parks' latest book started off slow, feeling like I was reading a high schooler’s stilted initial attempts at storytelling rather than a work coming from an experienced and accomplished writer. The book ended on a different note - I could not put it down as Piper Boone and her group of close friends managed to survive the night living through a Cat-4 or -5 hurricane. The author came through with a winning romantic, faith-based, suspense, thriller.

The prologue opens with Piper sending her three-year-old daughter off with her father to spend the day boating and visiting the South Carolina mainland; by the end of the day, her daughter was missing; and by the end of the week, she was declared dead. Chapter one opens 15 years later with a serial killer shooting the patrons of a small South Carolina café, killing Piper’s high school friend and two other lunch diners. From there the story introduces the reader to other participants in Piper’s life and history. We are introduced to a dysfunctional family that can only begin to recover with the unmerited grace of God. Forgiveness will need to be asked and to be given if healing is to be part of this family’s future.

The book has a great deal to teach about those themes of grace and forgiveness - both human and divine. It was well worth my time, and I was glad to be able to read 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.

Friday, July 10, 2020

1-Minute Bible Guide 180 Key Ideas - A Review

George Knight has written 180 devotionals focusing on 180 key theological words that are central to the Christian Faith. Though the author at no time suggests that his list is complete - the chosen terms are important to understanding the theological ideas of our faith.
The terms are not presented in any kind of theological order; instead, the author has chosen to present his list in alphabetical order.  The first five entries are:

  1. Abiding
  2. Abomination
  3. Adoption
  4. Adultery
  5. Advent
The last five entries are:
  1. Witness
  2. The Word
  3. Work
  4. Worship
  5. Wrath
Each entry consists of a key verse used to begin the discussion. The devotional material then follows, often incorporating additional scriptural support helping the reader to better understand the topic. Finally, most entries end with a “Learn More” section provides a number of scripture selections for the reader to look up on his or her own.
Sadly, at least in the Advanced Readers Copy I received, there is no scripture index or keyword index to find additional places a concept might be mentioned in the book or another concept that might be supported by a given scripture. Alas, no citations are provided for ideas or concepts that are discussed - making the book suitable for devotional use, but less so for the basis of scholarly word or theological studies. It is this lack of indexing and citations that makes this a 3-½ star book. 
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, July 9, 2020

Don’t Keep Silent - A Review

Don’t Keep Silent
Elizabeth Goddard
A history that goes back five years - whether it be the stalker, the roommate, or the romances - provides the backdrop to a story that does not stop. The prologue begins with an escape from a secluded mountain cabin and ends with an abduction to the same cabin. An abduction from which Rae had to escape.
Elizabeth Goddard presents us with a well-written faith-based, romantic, suspense, thriller. This reader was moved to feel for the characters as he read. The Rocky Mountains, just outside Yellowstone National Park, provide a scenic winter backdrop for this adventurous story with skiing, helicopter rides, and rugged snowmobile rides. The reader could ask for little more - unless it would be more stories featuring Rea and Liam. Liam still has to determine his future and this reader would like to see Zoey’s knowledge lead to more convictions and adventure. 
Though the book is faith-based, some will find the faith content lacking. But for most who enjoy faith-based, romantic, suspense, stories, the book will be satisfying. ______________
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, July 1, 2020

The Crushing Depths - A Review

“It’s easy to regret the past or choices
we’ve made. But living in the past
only gives people who’ve hurt you more
power over you. It’s best to forget
them and move forward,
never looking back.”
[Dani Pettrey, Crushing Depths]

Its NCIS. No, it’s the Coast Guard, so it must be CGIS. A well-written plot focusing on a stalker seeking to harm a Coast Guard Medic and a series of suspicious accidents aboard an offshore oil platform provide the core of this newest piece of suspense from acclaimed writer Dani Pettrey. The excitement is spell-binding and holds the reader’s attention from the first page to the end. This reader did not want to put it down - though he had to, he had to sleep.

Dani Pettrey’s thrillers are not only full of suspense, but also romance. Now, I do like watching Hallmark movies with my wife, but there were too many romantic relationships in this newest book - some dating from a decade ago and others just starting to make their appearance in this 350+ page book. Following one relationship at a time is difficult enough (ala Hallmark), but trying to track 4 or more couples with relationships at different stages in the midst a single story is a bit more complex.

This book belongs in the local public library (my wife tells me it is already in ours), the shelf of the church library, and is worth being read by anybody that enjoys a good, faith-based, romantic, thriller.
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, June 30, 2020

Exploring the Gifts of the Spirit - A Review

Exploring the Gifts of the Spirit
Discovering the Power God Has For You

John Michael Talbot
Steve Rabey

John Michael Talbot has been known as a Christian singer since the late 60’s and early 70’s. He joined the Roman Catholic Church in the late 70’s. Though his ministry is primarily a Catholic work, he continues to also reach out to the larger church.

The current work is an exploration of the Spiritual Gifts. He begins by exploring the history of the Spiritual Gifts within the church and the author’s own journey as he sought to understand their role within the church. He also explores the role of the Holy Spirit within Jesus’ own ministry and within the church.

It is unclear to this reader how the author chose the order to discuss the various gifts. He begins with what appears to be an historical order - “speaking in tongues” and the “interpretation of tongues,” as found in the book of Acts. He then begins to explore the gifts in the order listed in I Corinthians 12:4-11:
  • Words of wisdom
  • Words of knowledge
  • Faith
  • Healing
  • Miracles
  • Prophesy
  • Discernment of Spirit
Each of these chapters is heavily grounded in Scripture using the NIV (along with quotations from the ESV, The Message, and the NRSVCE). He also borrows from his lifetime of music to occasionally illustrate his thoughts. The insights John Michael Talbot provides are not only teachable concepts but also practical.

The final two chapters speak about, what the author calls, “lesser known gifts”: Administration, Rest, Tears, Ecstasy, Laughter, and Stigmata. These six topics are covered in less detail and in a single chapter. The author completes his study by looking at the “better way”: LOVE, giving it the same detail that he gave the earlier discussion of the gifts. He concludes by providing instruction for the Christian as they make their own spiritual journey. Important words for all believers, wherever they may be in that journey.
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, June 29, 2020

John (Alabaster Guided Meditations) - A Review

(Alabaster Guided Meditations)

Edited by
Brian Chung and Bryan Ye-Chung

IVP has long had a history of creating Bible Study materials suitable for both individual and group studies. Though designed for individual study and devotions this new series of Bible Studies still remain useful for individual and group study.

The editors have combined Scripture, art (i.e. photographs), and meditations, to guide the reader to study, dig, understand, and apply scripture. The book contains the complete text of the New Living Translation - separated with pages of art work and meditations. I do not get as excited with the included art - occasionally the included black and white picture add some meaning to the associated passage, but not often enough to be helpful to this reader.

The meditations are helpful. Based around the historic lectio divina methodology of "Read, Reflect, Respond, and Rest". The 10 meditations each focus the reader's attention on a small section of scripture - for example, the first one centers on “The Wedding at Cana”. This meditation includes 19 questions or spiritual directions divided between each of the four phases of the lectio divina methodology. The questions are very open-ended - not demanding canned answers - but seeking thoughtful, personal, prayerful answers. The questions, on the surface, do not appear to be deep, but are written in such a way that the reader can dive as deep into their meaning as he or she desires.

I will note that though the retail version of the book does not appear to be available as an e-book, the PDF review copy I received was at times difficult to read because the light-colored backgrounds tended to obscure the non-Biblical text printed in white. Biblical text is printed with black ink on a white background.

The book, as mentioned earlier, would serve the individual’s study of scripture or for a small group. I was so impressed with the PDF version of the Bible Study that I have purchased two copies, for my wife and I, to study together in the evenings. Rarely do I purchase additional copies of books I have reviewed - this one is an exception. Thank you, IVP. 
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.