Friday, January 27, 2012

Star Trek Volume 1 : A Review

Star Trek Volume 1


Mike Johnson

A Review

In 2009 Star Trek took a trip into the past on the movie screen with a prequel to the original TV show. Star Trek Volume 1 begins where the movie ends - preparation for the sequel to the earlier movie coming later this year.

The art work is good - particularly Spock. The characters are interesting - even as their character changes, the reader hurts and wonders what will become of the Enterprise and its crew.

Finally, the story is as good as Star Trek gets - except, unlike a 60 minute TV episode, this story is “To Be Continued” - and one will need to purchase Volume 2 to see the rest of the story. But if it is a well written as Volume 1, it will be worth purchasing.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.

The Encounter : A Review

The Encounter:
Sometimes God Has To Intervene


Steve Arterburn

A Review

As a mathematician, I learned about intersecting lines. As a counselor, I understand that the same is true of lives. Steve Arterburn’s newest book illustrates this truth.

Jonathan “Gold” Rush and Ada Rose Guthrie had separated some 30 years before - but the effect on both of them was greater than either could imagine. Jonathan’s return to Fairbanks Alaska only seemed to extend the discomfort both would feel in the few days he would spend in 17 below (and worse) weather. Perhaps it is understandable - stepping over and reliving 30 years of time is not easy. But, as the subtitle says, sometimes God has to intervene.

Steve Arterburn’s story is fictional, but it has its roots in the stories of two men - one whom he knew, one whom he had observed. The two stories are woven together to reveal how two (or is it three) lonely people learn to care for each other. The love they find is best described in Ada’s favorite hymn:

There's a wideness in God's mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in His justice,
Which is more than liberty.

There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good;
There is mercy with the Savior;
There is healing in His blood.

For the love of God is broader
Than the measure of our mind;
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.

We may not need to travel 5000 miles to find the grace we are looking for, but we do need to allow God to teach us to forgive - lessons both Jonathan and Ada had to learn.

This review is based on a free electronic copy
of the book received from the publisher

for the purpose of creating this review.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Spontaneous : A Review


Written by Joe Harris

Drawn by Bret Weldele

A Review

Spontaneous is a well done story told as a graphics novel. Melvin Reyes’ father was the first, but not the last person to burn from SHC - Spontaneous Human Combustion. The novel focuses on Melvin’s attempt to discover the “why” beyond these events. The story has the qualities one would expect of a good mystery or thriller - it draws the reader in and then resolves itself without the use of magic or other worldly science fiction.

The artwork is not typical “comic art”, but make use of water color and pencil drawings - done effectively with this book.

As well as being a well -written story, it also addresses issues that face all of us in the 21st century. Particularly, it addresses the ethics of big business as it goes about developing new products - one can almost hear echos of the UK publisher, speaking to their recent cell-phone hacking scandal, “Ethics … I don’t even know what that is.”

This review is based on a free

electronic copy provided by the publisher

in order to create this review.

Letters From A Skeptic : A Review

Letters From A Skeptic


Dr. Greg Boyd

A Review

Letters have long been a means for those who are a part of the Christian Church to communicate truth. Over half the New Testament are letters, the letters of Augustine, Luther, and Wesley are all studied by scholars to help better understand these leaders of the church. Many have been introduced to the formal study of theology and apologetics by reading C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. In 1994, Greg Boyd contributed a set of letters between his father and himself.

Boyd’s father had given up on the church and faith years ago - perhaps it was a position that was cemented when his wife died, leaving him to raise his children as a single parent. Over the years, the resentment, the anger, and the confusion had grown - to the point, that as the book begins, he is not certain about what he does believe; though he feel fairly certain about what he does not believe.

It is at that point that Dr. Boyd and his father begin a two years correspondence concerning the major issues the unbeliever has when he or she considers Christ as Lord and Savior. The compiles this correspondence topically and somewhat chronologically. Issues are address one by one - using history, philosophy, and scripture. The answers are accurate and well thought out, though rarely getting heady or unintelligible.

I have two concerns about a book of this caliber that is now entering its 4th edition. The first is the lack of documentation. With very few exceptions, the author does not provide references for scripture (whether quoted directly from an English translation or merely a paraphrase written on the fly by the author). The same is true for statements made from third party sources. I can understand why these were not part of the original correspondence; but as the book enters its 4th edition, it would make sense to add the references - even while clearly noting that they were added to the original letters years after they were written.

The second concern is that a book that is entering it 4th edition provides no path for further study. Again, though not part of the original written correspondence, it would seem important to guide the reader in discovering additional resources that explain the ideas discussed in the book. The addition of a set of discussion question covering each topic does help the reader in processing the ideas - but provides not guidance in better understanding the history, philosophy, or scriptures that support those ideas.

The book would make a great textbook on apologetics with the addition of references and suggestions for further study. In a classroom, these missing elements can be provided by the instructor; but the reader is at a loss if the book is being read without the direction of an experienced teacher.

But even with those flaws, the book still serves as an excellent tool for evangelism. As the author makes clear, by the end of the correspondence, Ed Boyd (Dr. Boyd’s father) did come to faith. It has served the same purpose in the lives of others. It will continue to be so in the lives who read it in the future.

This review is based on an electronic copy of the book provided by the publisher.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Free Books for Your Kindle

Read Your Kindle For FREE

Having spent a chunk of change on a Kindle,
I was excited to find that there are lots of FREE books available. Over the last year or two I have found a number of sources for FREE book - most of which are relatively new books, not reproduced public domain works.

Here is that list: Top 100 free books None public domain books

Books on the Knob First blog that I discovered with free books

Ereader News Today Post lots of books throughout the day

Pixel of Ink Post a number of books throughout the day

eReader IQ A web site with links to 2-3000 free Kindle books

These links are listed in the order in which I discovered them; and, except for the last, I have used them regularly to add to my own library.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Steve Jobs : A Review

Though written for a younger audience, Steve Jobs by Nick Hunter serves as a suitable introduction to the men, times, and institutions that built the first personal computers and shaped much of the electronics industry for 30 years.

Jobs was involved at many levels, both inside and outside Apple. After leaving Apple in 1985, he created a new computer box, NeXT. Where Apple succeeded beyond his wildest dreams (“he never needed to work again”), NeXT was a colossal failure. From NeXT he jumped into the movie industry, purchasing a small computer animation studio called the Graphics Group - which he later renamed Pixar. Pixar was sold to Disney in 2006 for $74 billion.

This was the beginning - ten years after leaving Apple, he would again become part of the Apple team. The iMac, the iPod, the iPad, and more, would follow, leaving former rivals in the dust.

Hunter’s book also introduces us to Job’s struggle to understand business. From Wall Street to building brand loyalty were all lessons that Jobs had to learn.

The book ends with a series of “appendixes” that contribute to the books value - five characteristics that define the successful entrepreneur, a glossary that defines many of the formal terms used in the book, and an index to the people, ideas, and products discussed in the book.

The world lost a brilliant man on October 5, 2011, when Steve Jobs passed away. Nick Hunter has done a good job of introducing us to this man.

The Dog That Talked To God : A Review

We do not own a Schnauzer - we own a Shih Tzu. But he does talk. In fact, most people who own dogs know that they can talk. The bigger problem comes when we try to understand what they are saying.

The problem was that Mary Frassler could understand her pet Schnauzer. And he claimed to speak for God. Theologically, one might describe him as a prophet - though I doubt he would claim the title for himself. But he did talk for God and to God:

“How often do you talk with God?” I continued … I wanted to know how this dog came to have a direct line to the Almighty.

“Once a week. Like all the animals.”

“Only once a week?”

“It’s enough for a dog.”

The problem is that nobody else would understand her ability to have a real conversation with Schnauzer. A conversation that would help her past the grief of losing her husband and son, Jacob and John, three years ago. A conversation that would help her to understand the new relationship she was developing with Brian. And a conversation that would help her to renew her relationship with God - a relationship that was seriously damaged when …. why would God take the two most important people in her life away. The accident brought a quick halt to any relationship she had with God or with the church.

I enjoyed the writing. I enjoyed the intentional weaving of new vocabulary words into the story; words like parsimonious, pithy, and torpor. Some I had heard before, some were new, but I had to verify the definitions as I came across them in the story.

Jim Kraus has written an interesting story of how a dog fits into the life of one woman. His role of healer, confidant, and friend, is portrayed in a way that I could clearly see my dog - his sounds, his behaviors, his attitudes - yep, there was Bo Dandy alright. This dog, my dog, can be used by God touch the lives of their humans. Rufus did it in The Dog That Talked To God, Bo Dandy does it in our own lives.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Silence of Our Friends : A Review

I attended high school from 1964 through 1968, in the midst of some of the most intense racial conflict that America faced. The one event that I remember which highlighted discrimination to me occurred in my senior Pre-Calculus course. The girl who sat in front of me had missed a number of classes and upon her return I asked if she was okay. It seems she was Jewish and had been gone during the midst of one of their holidays. After explaining, she said, “I hope you won’t hate me.” It would be years before I understood her fear; but when I did, I understood far more than just her story.

The Silence of Our Friends is another story that took place in the late 60’s - a story that takes place in Houston, TX. Based on actual events, the graphic novel has been slightly changed to maintain the flavor of the times. As the authors write in his postlude to the story:

Some details from these events - as well as names and details about my family and Larry’s - have been changed for storytelling purposes in The Silence of Our Friends. Creating a book like this one requires finding a balance between factual accuracy and emotional authenticity. What we have striven to create is a story that offers access to a particular moment in time, both for those who lived it and for those who are discovering it for the first time.

The authors have accomplished this as they tell the story of two families that focus on events on or around the campus of Texas Southern University. As the two families develop friendships, events spiral out of control. The results might have been catastrophic - except for those who are courageous enough to present the truth to a hostile audience.

The story held my interest, the art was well done. It provided a good introduction to the tensions experienced by the different parties in the racially tense times of the 60’s. Though it would not be a common event, the families remained friends - with sufficiently strong ties they were able to write The Silence of Our Friends.

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

Then Sings My Soul - Book 3 : A Review

Robert J. Morgan is one of my favorite authors - not just because of the “Then Sings My Soul” series, but because of other books which he has contributed to my library.

The book is a collection of hymn stories - hymns dating from the 1st century AD to the 21st century. The author not only tells the story of the hymn, but also the stories of their authors - men and women who loved the Lord enough to share their joy with us in song. The author does not disappoint. The author tells stories of songs that every church goer knows well (e.g. Jesus Loves Me) and hymns that I have never heard (e.g. One More Day’s Word for Jesus). But each story is worth telling and worth reading.

My only regret as I hold this book is the lack of a CD (or 2 or 3) that contains the music. I am hoping a search of the Internet may turn up copies of these hymns so that I can learn the songs whose stories have touched the souls of so many.

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

Chain Reaction : A Review

Chain Reaction was described as “FICTION - ADULT: Science Fiction & Fantasy: Science Fiction” - I certainly did not understand that “Adult” meant explicit sex. If I had known that Carina Press was an imprint of the Harlequin romance line, I probably would not have chosen to read the book - but I had chosen it and did read it. Do use caution if you choose to read this book.

The description was of a Science Fiction thriller - and that it was. As Celene and Nils attempt to discover the Disrupter that almost cost Celene her life, the also discover a great deal about each other. The apparent strengths and weaknesses of these two main characters are not what they appear. Each brings a combination of abilities to the job that lies ahead. Traveling through unknown parts of space in search of this new weapon on the verge of being sold to PRAXIS, the sworn enemy of the 8th Wing to which both Celene and Nils belonged, they encounter pirates, insects, and coniverous animals before finally encountering Marek, its inventor. A battle to the death insures that Mareks machine will never again be a danger to Celene or the 8th Wing.

The excitement does not stop - well it did stop, but for a different kind of excitement. Though not Jules Verne or Edgar Rice Burroughs, the book is an exciting read.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Corruptible : A Review

by Mark Mynheir

A Review

Too often conversion is shown as an event that changes a person’s life totally and completely in an instant. Conversion does occur in an instant - but the changes that God will make in a person’s life will take a lifetime. That is what Ray Quinn had to discover as he begins his journey with God.

The Corruptible is the second book in a series of novels being written by Mark Mynheir - the first that I read. I found the book enjoyable - though it did slow down for a few minutes about halfway through the book. Though faith is evident throughout the book, the story does not become mired in the issue of faith.

As the story develops, each character grows and develops, living with their individual brokenness . The plot does come to a satisfactory, if not totally happy, ending. Ray Quinn’s faith still has a long way to go before most of us would view him as a faithful believer, but it is clear that he is trying to understand the nature of faith, as those around him pray for him.

In the weeks ahead, I will be doing two things:

      1. I will take time to read the first book in this series: The Night Watchman

      2. I will be keeping my eye open for the next book in the series - which I hope arrives soon.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Second Messiah : A Review

The Second Messiah


Glenn Meade

A Review

This thriller is an exciting story as the heroes move from Qumran to Jerusalem to Jordan to Rome. Jack Cane, both the son of a respected archaeologist and an archaeologist in his own right, discovers a scroll in Qumran that could destroy three religions if revealed. Yet, before its contents are fully known, it is stolen and Cane’s mentor is murdered.

The missing scroll declares the presence of a second man claiming to be the Messiah - a man whose story may have become confused with that of Jesus Christ as found in the Scriptures. If true, the missing scroll would impact not only the Christian world, but also those who practice Judaism and Islam.

To recover the missing scroll, Cane must work with security forces from three very different cultures. Some wish to destroy the scroll, some want to see that it is published - both are willing to kill to reach their goal. To make matters worse, two women seem to be trying to get Cane’s attention - but why?

Rooted in the tensions that define much of the 21st century, the story holds the reader’s attention from start to finish. The author has included hints of history, geography, and archaeology - that provide a backdrop as his story develops. The evidence of a second messiah is not as damaging as one might think, as the newly elected Pope states in a very public forum toward the end of the book, “... this scroll, by revealing the existence of a false messiah, also confirms the reality of the true Jesus. We who walk in His footsteps need no such confirmation. We have willingly given our lives to the work of delivering His message.”

One highlight of the book was the “Author’s Note” found at the very end of the book. Here the author places the fiction that is The Second Messiah into perspective with the history of Qumran and the Catholic Church. The note leaves room for speculation and fantasy - could this story ever be true? The answer to that question lies firmly in the future.

This review is based on
a free copy of the book supplied
by the publisher for the purpose
of completing this review.