Wednesday, December 23, 2015

First Hostage - A Review

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A Review

Well written, but not my type of book. As I picked this book for review, I expected it to focus on the dangers faced by the President (and/or his family) after being kidnapped. Rather, it focused on the US armed forces and their allies process of locating and rescuing the kidnapped President.  

The story held my interest, but I felt myself being drawn to the book because I had to review it, instead of its ability to hold my interest. The main character is a trusted (well, almost, anyhow) reporter with the New York Times and his attempt to cover the story of the century. J. B. Collins comes from a believing family, but he cannot find his way to his own faith. Though the story seems to draw him closer to his family’s God, it is not clear to what extent he yet believes for himself.

Both the military focus and the lack of faith from any central character left me wanting more from the book. I realize that this is a personal opinion - I have friends who would thoroughly enjoy the military background of the plot. Without a strong, faithful, character to bring a lively spiritual dimension to the story, I felt ill at ease. Certainly, the author did try to bring a bit of history (past, present, and future) into the story as we explore the various Middle Eastern  locations used to bring life to the book. I do need to give the author credit for writing a book that occasionally drove to the Internet for more details, if not to my Bible. There are some who will thrive with this book’s characters, plot, and themes. I did not.

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.

Star Trek: Volume 11 - A Review

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A Review

All the original characters from the original Star Trek are back - Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Bones, Sulu, Uhura, etc. In one episode we even meet Dr. Julian Bashir (from Deep Space 9) and Dr. Beverly Crusher from a future U.S.S. Enterprise. We even find a visit from the Hologram Doctor that served the personnel on the U.S.S. Voyager. Together they bring together the spirit, fun, and adventure found throughout the Star Trek Universe.

Three stories (2 - forty page stories and 1 - twenty page story) take the reader through several decades of space travel. The crew’s adventures required breaking the prime directive and finding a cure for a devastating illness that incapacitates without killing its victims.

Was I sitting on the edge of my seat? No - I have seen enough Star Trek episodes who wins each battle; regardless, I was eagerly awaiting the climax of each episode to see how the actors would get out of the various situations in which they found themselves. I was taken back to my high school years when Star Trek first hit the airwaves. This graphic novel made it a pleasant 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.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Airwolf: Airstrikes - A Review

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Mike Baron, Jeff Mariotte, Marc Andreyko, Barbara Kesel,

Rob Worley, Marc Bernardin, and Adam Freeman

A Review

Airwolf was on TV in the midst of the Cold War - and it served to stir up the worries of world that faced a big red enemy half a world away. Now, in the 21st century, Airwolf returns; but fighting different enemies.

Today the enemies are in the Mideast, the far east, and in the midst of our own CIA. Hawke, Santini and other are again joined together to use the one-of-a-kind helicopter to fight these new enemies while being just as cryptic and dangerous to the very ones who would destroy those finding their way in the new century.

Having enjoyed the old Airwolf, I found the half-dozen or so stories found in this collection inviting - though occasionally a bit uneven (given the multiple authors), as a whole the stories are still exciting and fun. Danger is always around the corner. And like any good soap opera, the story ends with a cliffhanger. It may not be the cold war, but we still live in a dangerous world and Airwolf and the men who support her are there to fight that war.  

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, December 7, 2015

Physics: A Short History From Quintesence to Quarks - A Review

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A Review

An interesting book - written for the knowledgeable reader, this history of physics assumes a great deal of prior knowledge as the moves from the study of physics as evidenced by the ancient Greeks into the early Christian Era, ending up in the modern era. The writer writes as if the reader will know the main (and some not so main) players in that history, dropping names and events that might be well-known to the physics student, but less so to the average lay reader.

This becomes less of a problem as the book moves slowly into the medieval and modern eras as names that have become famous during the development of the atomic bomb or other intriguing scientific discoveries move into the discussion.

Though interesting, these assumptions occasionally make the book difficult to follow - even for this scientifically knowledgeable reader.  The book would be a good text or ancillary text for a graduate history of science course. I would have a difficult time recommending it for the typical college graduate without having an undergraduate degree in the sciences.

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.

Practical Sins For Cold Climates - A Review

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A Review

“Practical Sins For Cold Climates” is not a cozy mystery - but it is well-written and held this reader’s interest, forcing more than one sleepless night as he tried to get to the end of the who-done-it.  The author is a skilled practitioner of the writer’s art, experienced both as a short story author and a novelist - this is the first book in a new series.

The story has its roots in New York City, but the action takes place in the northern hills of eastern Canada on the shores of Lake Wendaban - among the camps, villages, and homes that line the edge of the lake. Valjean Cameron was not built for that climate, but that is where her job had taken her. It doesn’t take long for her to stumble on the two year old unsolved murder of Leslie Decker (nee Selkirk). Just as the action is scattered along the shores of Lake Wendaban, so are the suspects. It would take Val a little less than two weeks to move through the personal history of the various suspects to discover who to believe and who to lead the local constabulary to arrest.

Disappointingly, this book, if made into a movie, as written, would warrant an “R” rating. However, since most of the sexuality and language that would force this rating onto the movie is unnecessary, it very well could end up with a “PG-13” rating.  Having said that, the sexuality and language is not so blatant that most readers would be offended, just be aware that it is present.  

If the reader is looking for a good - though not quite cozy - mystery, “Practical Sins For Cold Climates” may just be what the doctored ordered. Given its late summer setting, the book may be a perfect read for any time of the year as it warms the heart on a cold winter’s ever or as the reader settles down for their own written feast this next summer.

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.

Smart But Dead - A Review

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A Review

I have just finished reading the best cozy mystery - the one I wished I had written. Having spent most of my career on the college campus, I have noticed the many opportunities for murder on the college campus - faculty killing faculty, students, or administrators; students killing faculty or students; administrators killing ….  Well, you get the point.  Nancy G. West has done it well.

The geneticist at San Antonio’s University of the Holy Trinity, whether administrators, colleagues, or students, seemed to be at each other’s throats. They all had their reasons for seeing Dr. Carmody dead - and were happy that he was. But, did somebody kill him?

It was the first question that faced Aggie Mundeen. There were others - such as what would happen to her relationship with San Antonio’s Detective Sam Vanderhoven when all was said and done. What about all the research that was being done at UHT on human genome project, was another. The questions kept mounting - but would the answers come?

A fun read, the perfect cozy mystery. The book also whets the appetite of this reader for science and forced him to Googling current research in genetic engineering; though the science in the book is not so heavy as to lead the average reader in the dust.

For the reader looking for a smarter than average cozy mystery, this book fills the need.

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, December 1, 2015

NIV: Understand The Faith Study Bible - A Review

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A Review

This Bible is titled “Study Bible”, but it is really a compromise between a Study Bible and a Devotional Bible. Many different types of help are provided; but few are truly exegetical, as I would expect in a Study Bible. The editor has used the following categories to describe the type of helps provided:

  1. Book Introductions
  2. Doctrine 101 - an introduction to commonly accepted theology
  3. Everyday Faith - devotions (the editor’s term, not mine) connecting theology to practical life
  4. Cultural Connections - Connections between the world’s culture and Biblical faith and doctrine
  5. Living Parables - examining events in the lives of saints (using a broad term) who have served the church in past generations
  6. Up for Debate - Looking at doctrinal issues that are not quite as settled as those discussed in Doctrine 101, above
  7. Charts and Graphs - used to describe concepts and arguments
  8. Subject Index
  9. Glossary - of theological terms

One might be more likely to label this Bible as a “Theological Bible”, rather than a “Study Bible”. The articles are interesting and worth reviewing as one is reviewing theological topics. They are less helpful when studying individual passages of scripture.  

The subject index makes finding individual articles a bit easier, but it would be nice to have a list of article  titles included with or near the book’s table of contents.  In lieu of this, an electronic index or an electronic version of the book would make the various articles increasingly accessible.  I would love to see this included in the LOGOS or WordSearch on-line libraries. Maybe one, or both, may choose to license the material for use with their on-line tools. Till this is available electronically, this Bible will not be my book of first choice, but it will be near my fingertips as a helpful reference tool when theology is the topic of interest.

Published by the well-respected editors of Christianity Today, the book will serve as a valuable resource on the pastor’s or knowledgeable layman’s bookshelf.  This would be a helpful gift from a church member to a pastor or a Bible College or seminary student.

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.

NIV Bible For Men - A Review

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A Review

A well-done devotional Bible addressing the things men struggle with.  The devotions are both Biblically sound and applicable to the lives of men living in 21st century America.

Devotions are of two kinds. Two-Hundred-Sixty (one for each weekday of the year) of them are topical devotions. Each focuses on a “key verse” that is then developed within the devotion. Inside each devotion is a one-sentence summarizing its content. Finally, each devotion ends with a boxed “Bring It To Life” - a sentence or two suggesting how the reader can apply that day’s reading.

In additions to the devotions are 52 (one per week) myths that many in the church have swallowed without much thought - for example Myth #30 is “Just use credit now, and pay for it later.”  After stating the myth, the problem and a suggested correction are given within two or three paragraphs.  

I like the fact that the sources of all Devotionals and Myths are well-documented in an index following the Biblical text.  There is also a topical index which allows the reader to find appropriate material whatever the reader’s interest. Though absent, this reader would have liked to see the Devotionals and Myths listed in order as part of the table of contents. This would allow the potential purchaser to quickly see the topics discussed within the various pieces of commentary without thumbing through the whole Bible to see all 310 entries.  

The NIV text is presented in clear type. It includes no footnotes (other than those belonging to the NIV text proper) or cross-references.  Perhaps an enlarged 2nd edition could include these features to add additional value to the book for the male reader.

This Bible would serve as a wonderful gift for the new believer or a devotional Bible for a believer of any age. I expect to enjoy the thoughtful editorial content during the coming year.

This review is based on a free copy of the book provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Body In The Landscape - A Review

The Body In The Landscape

Larissa Reinhart

A Review

I found the body.
Actually, if you want to get technical, I found his hat, then the body.
I had escaped the guests at Big Rack Lodge to do a spot of plein air painting,
when my peaceful Monet-inspired afternoon took a nasty turn toward disturbing.
Landscapes aren’t even my usual genre.
I’m a portrait painter.
But how often do I get a free weekend getaway
in the countryside that included a portrait commission?

I’ll tell you how often. A big fat never

The first seven sentences of the book are perfect – they set the mood, the setting, and introduce the main character. What more could you wish for from a fun romp in rural Georgia on a late fall weekend. Oh, did I mention it is a cozy mystery as well.

Unless you happen to be Cherry Tucker, the unlucky artist who found the first body. Or unless you happened to be Abel Spencer – the unlucky owner of the first body. Or a member of the hunting party who were individually being considered as a suspect. Or …. maybe it was not such a perfect afternoon after all.

Cherry Tucker and her entourage (which included a friendly, but odd, Russian, two boyfriends, one a barely available Mr. McDreamy, the other nice and considerate and very available, and her ex-sheriff dad that taught her everything she knew and more than she ought to know) would be present to keep track of each possible suspect and finally locate the guilty party.

The story was a fun read – though some day's events seemed to take more than the normal 24 hours to accomplish. Max, the friendly Russian, had valuable advice – both about the crime and Cherry's love live. Todd, the considerate and available boyfriend, would take off with nary a goodbye. And Luke, the barely available Mr. McDreamy, was available by phone, though he could not get away for the week's events or murders.

I enjoyed the historical discussion surrounding the existence of hogzilla, both in Georgia and throughout history. One sign of an interesting read is that I am forced to visit the web to fill in my knowledge at some level; hogzilla did exactly that. As the reader picks up the book, be prepared to be educated, entertained, and excited as you, too, discover The Body in the Landscape.
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.