Monday, January 27, 2020

Microphones and Murder - A Review










Henery Press offers another great cozy - the perfect one for a computer nerd.

Liv Olsen has left her job as a production assistant for true crime podcaster Mara Lancer who had told her she did not have enough “oomph” to have her own podcast. Liv left her job, sold all she had of value to buy the tools needed to have a legitimate podcast, and had arrived in Santa Maria to investigate the disappearance of 23-year-old Amelia Clark 10 years previously. She had come to Santa Maria at the request of former Detective Leon Ramsey to put fresh eyes on the only case he had open - he wanted it solved before he died. Sadly, that was not to be. He passed in the midst of his first interview with Liv and her step-sister/peon, Camry. Though he would not live to see the crime solved, it was the first push Liv needed to jump on the case.

Liv and Camry could not move forward by themselves - it would take a team consisting of family and friends to keep the case moving and to keep them safe.

The book provides an interesting look at the life (albeit, fictional) of a podcaster. While weaving in brief hints at the technology needed for a successful podcast, the mystery moves forward at a nice clip holding this reader’s interest from the first page. Though most of the plot takes place in Santa Maria, we learn little about the town itself. This lack of detail made me think the community was fictitious until a Google search showed that Santa Maria did lie on the coast 150 miles north of Los Angeles in Santa Barbara county. A bit more detail may have made the place worth visiting, the lack of detail did not make the place worth visiting. Perhaps that was the author’s intent.

What is provided is a good cozy in a setting that was new to me. Those familiar with California or the coastal region north of Los Angeles would find this an interesting read. The surprise ending just adds additional worth to the book. Cozy lovers and public libraries are encouraged to add this book to their collections. This reviewer will be looking forward to the next book in “The Podcasting Mystery Series” from Erin Huss.
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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.



Sunday, January 26, 2020

Snoopy First Beagle in Space - A Review









Peanuts and Charlie Brown were among my goto Sunday comics back in the ’60s and ’70s. The local paper placed the cartoon on the front page of its full-color section of the paper. My dad would grab the front section; I would grab the weekly comics from the Sunday paper. And there was Snoopy, Charlie Brown, and friends, on the top of the cover of that precious section. Though I no longer receive a paper copy of our local paper (I do subscribe to a digital copy) and no longer have access to Snoopy and the gang, he is still among my favorite strips.

Though a large section of this collection of strips does pick up the theme of Snoopy in space, it certainly does not represent the entire collection. The entire gang is here. The ARC that I received did not indicate the original dates of the included material; thus there is no way of knowing whether they were pulled randomly from available strips or represent a particular year or sequence. As can be seen, color has been added to what may have been B/W strips when originally presented. 

It was fun (and I found myself laughing) to watch this group of kids, dogs, and birds (yep, Woodstock is here too) interacting, teasing, and, occasionally, helping each other. I great gift for those who love Charlie Brown or to introduce him to those unfamiliar with his contribution to 20th-century culture. I now want to go back and examine others in this 14 book collection.

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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, January 21, 2020

Collision of Lies - A Review





Collision of Lies 


a


by
Tom Threadgill


The accident had occurred three years ago. Benjamin Reyes was one of the 17 children who had died on the Cotulla school bus that had been hit by the freight train. Along with the tanker cars that exploded, not much had been left for identifying the remains except for a few bits of DNA.


And yet his mother had received the text message, “Help me, Mom.” It had to be a wrong number or a terrible prank - Enzo and Marisa Reyes son had died three years ago. But each time San Antonio Property Crimes Detective Amara Alvarez tried to verify the “prank”, more questions arose. At first, she was alone in looking at the evidence, then she was joined by Homicide Detective Jeremiah “Starsky” Peckham, the Chief Medical Examiner Douglas Pritchard, and others. Eventually, the case would involve the Texas Rangers, the FBI, the CIA, and even the White House.


Tom Threadgill has built a thriller that grows on the reader chapter by chapter - each adding another, albeit small, piece to the puzzle. The kind of book that those enjoying international mysteries will not want to put down. Written by an explicitly Christian author, the book is not quite as clearly Christian; not offensive, but not explicitly so. I will be looking for the next book from this talented writer following the life of a, now, newly minted homicide detective.
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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, January 20, 2020

Who Is Jesus? - A Review










The book provides a nice set of 66 devotionals centered on the various names given to Jesus in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. Each entry is one or two pages in length and consists of five elements: 

  • IN TEN WORDS OR LESS: A “nutshell” glance at the name or title.
  • DETAILS, PLEASE: A longer explanation, incorporating information from throughout God’s Word.
  • ADDITIONAL SCRIPTURES: One, two, or several other key scriptures.
  • WHAT OTHERS SAY: A memorable quotation from a pastor, theologian, or Christian author.
  • SO WHAT? An inspirational or devotional thought as a personal takeaway. 

(Kent, pg. 5)


The entries are devotional and practical in nature - not scholarly, per se. Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version, but the devotional entries would work as well with any modern translation. The layperson should be satisfied with the book as a month’s or two for daily devotions.  However, the preacher should see the book as a starting point while planning to consult more material (dictionaries, lexicons, encyclopedias, etc.) while preparing a sermon or teaching material. The book will likely find a place in the church library for general use by the congregation.
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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.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

In Plain Sight - A Review





Within Plain Sight


by
Bruce Robert Coffin

Portland ME is supposed to be a quiet place, but tonight was going to be the exception. The discovery of a decapitated body of a young woman was upsetting to more than one police officer. Tracking down the person responsible for the crime would mean working with the city’s homeless and poorest as well as it’s most powerful and well-to-do. Portland Police Detective John Byron would have a busy two weeks tracking down clues and suspects - so the right people would end up in jail and the innocent would be free - not an easy task.

Not a cozy mystery, more like Criminal Minds than a Hallmark mystery, the book is a well-written and tightly integrated mystery worth time spent reading. There were nights I really wanted to continue reading, but sleep and other responsibilities called. On the other hand. There were nights I chose to read rather than worry about tomorrow.

It is the fourth in a series of books featuring Detective John Byron, though that was not revealed until reading the “Acknowledgments” at the very rear of the book - though reading previous books in the series may have added to better understanding some characters, this reader felt like nothing was missed by not reading the earlier books. Instead, knowing that there are more books provided an invitation to discover the characters’ earlier history. A great read for the lover of crime mysteries and it would easily find a place on the shelf of most public libraries.
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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, January 14, 2020

Faithful Theology - A Review










This text is the first in a series urging the reader to do theology, rather than to just study it. This book consists of a series of essays focused on various topics discussed in most theology textbooks. The book does not claim to be a comprehensive systematic theology text, but it centers more on the practical issues of theology. As the publisher writes in their introduction, “Each chapter looks at 1 of 5 crucial components for constructing good theology: revelation from God, tradition from the past, worship, wisdom, and experience of brokenness, with case studies illustrating how doctrine is developed from each of these important sources.”

I found the first chapter of interest. The author takes what might be termed a general understanding of inerrancy, in that the scriptures teach no errors. This stands in against what I might call a particular understanding of inerrancy: “the words found in the original autographs are the very words God intended.” Because we have no original autographs of scripture, it may be said that the more practical understanding of inerrancy may more closely align with the general understanding suggested by the author. This dichotomy will need to be explored further.

I see no hints as to the topics to be covered in future volumes. The finished book will contain both a “General Index” and a “Scripture Index” - though these were not included in the Advanced Readers Copy sent to me for review, so I cannot comment as to their completeness. The book is not designed for general reading, but as a scholarly text. As a textbook, it would be helpful for each chapter to include a series of five or six questions designed for further thought or study - either for general consideration or formal response. Certainly, a good teacher could develop these for himself or herself; but for the independent learner, these additions could be helpful.
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As a matter of honesty, the author of this book, Graham A. Cole, is Dean of my alma mater - Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. However, he had no connection with the school at the time I attended or with me in the years since. 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.










Saturday, January 11, 2020

Collateral Damage - A Review










The first two chapters gave the appearance that I was reading a military thriller - a genre I tend to avoid. I was wrong.

Chapter three opens in a South Carolina field with the discovery of a mass grave. That grave would lead to the involvement of the FBI, the CIA, the Army CID, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), and numerous local authorities, into an international manhunt for men so evil even those accustomed to various crimes would be offended. As a reader, I wanted these people caught before they could bring more pain into their world - only the cooperation of the various agencies would bring the guilty to justice.

Though the focus was on the crime, it also presented the reader with a better understanding of PTSD as experienced by those in the military. As I have said before, a book that deals with serious topics (even books of fiction) should also provide pointers for those dealing with these issues either directly or indirectly to additional help. Sadly it did not. Hints that help exists, yes; but no links to websites or phone numbers to reach out for support.

Though coming from a faith-based publisher, I had a hard time calling the book a faith-based thriller. It certainly was not anti-faith but did not weave an underlying theme of faith into the book. Even with that said, the book may find a place in some church libraries. It will also belong in most public libraries serving the general population and on the shelves interested in the unintended casualties of war. It serves as a stark reminder that we need to pray for those living in war-torn areas, whether they are directly fighting or merely trying to live in areas affected by war.
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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.