Thursday, February 13, 2014

Compass Study Bible - A Review


The Study Bible for Navigating Your Life

Ecclesia Bible Society

A Review

Is this a good Study Bible? YES
Am I glad I have added it to my library? YES
Is it the one Study Bible I would want to own? NO

Over the past couple of years that I have been familiar with The Voice translation of the NT and later the OT, I have enjoyed having it available.  When I first heard of the availability of a Study Bible using this translation, I was excited.  Now, having it in my hand, I am less excited.  Though called a “Study Bible” its contents more closely parallel those of a Devotional Bible - but it does not quite reach the best of those standards either.

There is no clearly stated purpose for this new Study Bible - it is a collection of notes, but nothing of the quality or depth I would expect of a good Study Bible or Devotional Bible.  The preface and introductory remarks appear to be written for the translation, not for this edition of the Study Bible.  There are considerable more notes per page in the New Testament than in the Old Testament - perhaps echoing the interest of too many 21st century believers, but not that of a book claiming in its entirety to be the Word of God.  

Though designed by artists, this Study Bible has done a remarkably poor job of clearly distinguishing the Bible text from its notes.  Though they have used different fonts, the density of those fonts and their placement on the page (in the body of the page, rather than as footnotes, indented text, or highlighted text) made it difficult to immediately tell where I was in the text - was I reading the Bible or the notes.  This distinction is important given the informal nature of the translation.  A second look was necessary to know what I was reading at the time.

The variety of indexes included as part of this edition does add considerable value to the book:

  • Road Map To God’s Promises
  • A 40-Day Retreat With Jesus
  • 365 Days Through The Whole Bible
  • Topical Guide To The Notes
  • Topical Guide To The Scripture
  • Maps (Black and White)
  • Index To In-Text Maps

I am looking forward to weaving several of these into my personal study and ministry.

When picking up a Bible with notes, I would like to have seen more meat - either in helping to understand the Bible text or applying it to my life.  There is value here - just not as much as I would have liked to have seen in a new Study Bible or Devotional Bible.  The book is recommended for the new Christian - perhaps one with an artistic heart (either in musical, dramatic, or the visual arts).  It would also serve a long time believer looking for a way of understanding and seeing the scripture.  I would find it more difficult to recommend this Bible to the scholar or pastor looking to augment his or her study and understanding of the scriptures.

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.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Town Spin - A Review

Book Title
Small Town Spin

LynDee Walker

A Review

It was the evening of the 2014 Super Bowl that I picked up this delightful cozy mystery that began with the suicide of well-like son of a three time Super Bowl champion.   Nichelle, a reporter for the Richmond Telegraph, a mid-sized city newspaper, is asked by a friend of the family to cover the story.  Though she is suffering with a nagging head cold, she agrees to do so.

Before the week is over, she finds herself competing with the big city papers for the story that that might make a career as the one suicide turns into three suicides and a couple of murders - to which someone wants to add her own.  With the help of her two best friends, an experience ATF agent and a mob kingpin, Nichelle is faced with a set of clues that take her across state lines to meet with moonshiners that would just as soon kill her as help her.  Beside the rival reporters from the big city and the moonshiners, Nichelle is also facing competition from members of her own newspaper’s staff - a temporary editor that wants to be the new crime reporter and a sports writer that thinks that, given the sports star connection, the story ought to have been his.

Ms. Walker did an excellent job of holding this reader’s attention.  The mystery is compelling and believable - well worth the time spent reading it over the past week.  I expect that other readers will respond similarly.    

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.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Art of Storytelling - A Review

The Art of Storytelling

John Walsh

A Review

I have found that the reprints of books that I missed the first time can be a real eye-opener.  Such is the case of this book, originally published in 2003 and republished in 2014.  I was introduced to “speech” writing during my senior year of high school.  Three years later, my college degree also required a course in speech.  I actually took two - one on the theory of communication and the second a more traditional speech course.  We were required to present our in class speeches without notes - an exercise I hated at the time.  My opinion changed the next summer when I was asked to tell a bit of my life story to a group of 100 peers - except when I got to the front of the group, I had forgotten my notes.  I have always wished I had gone back and told my speech teacher “Thank You.”  I did not - perhaps this review can serve as a virtual “Thank You” to that experience.

My education in speech writing was not over - homiletics (sermon preparation) was a requirement as part of my seminary education.  With four courses under my belt, I figured my education was over.  At least until I stumbled upon John Walsh’s book The Art of Storytelling.  None of my education had taught me to prepare a story for presentation.  John Walsh had now done that.

In more recent years the use of the “Narrative Sermon” has made the art of storytelling an increasingly important skill for the person serving in the pulpit.  

The Art of Storytelling is as much book about storytelling as it is a textbook - including step by step by step instructions and practical exercises throughout for the student, whether in the classroom or as an independent learner, to experience each of the 13/14 steps outlined in the book.    

The steps are divided into three parts:
  1. Steps to Crafting A Captivating Story
  2. Tools for Presenting A Captivating Story
  3. Bible Telling

Each steps includes three kinds of instruction.  They begin with the principles - some with more details than others, but specific guidance is provided in carrying out each step.  This is followed by an example illustrating how the author has applied the principles of the step - including the occasional misstep that he found in preparing the story for presentation.  The author follows the preparation of a single story throughout the book.  Finally, a number of practical exercises complete each chapter, as mentioned earlier - practical exercises that can be used by the teacher in a formal classroom or by the independent learner of the storytelling experience.
I would like to see this book be adopted as a required ancillary text in the seminary homiletics classroom - where each student must prepare at least one narrative sermon.  I would require the book as part of the education of every student in a speech course as well.  Storytelling is not just a formal activity for the professional speaker, but a skill that would be of use to every parent, grandparent, aunt, and uncle.  

As the reader might perceive, I enjoyed my walk through this book.  The author’s own testimony  demonstrates its usefulness in the formal classroom; my own experience testifies to its usefulness for the independent learner.  Each of us can become a better storyteller - allow John Walsh to guide you on that experience.
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.  

No One To Trust - A Review

A Review

A book that has combined the best of Mission Impossible and In Plain Sight.  A newly married couple finds themselves threatened by a past that David Hackett, or was his name Kyle Abernathy, had not disclosed to his wife.  Now under the somewhat crippled watch of the U.S. Marshall Services Witness Protection Service, they must survive the assults which come from both friends and foes.

The David Hackett is a new believer, who in the midst of his family’s troubles, must learn to trust a God that he is only slowly beginning to understand.  His wife, whose faith is more deeply ingrained, must learn to trust a man who has lied to her - something that has not worked well in the past - And now?  Who knows?

The book will appeal to the believer as we see believers struggle with life’s challenges.  But the faith element is not so overwhelming that it will drive away those who are looking for a good thriller to read.  Though Ms. Eason is an accomplished writer, this is the first book that I have read from her.  I will hope to read more in the future.
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.