Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Promise to Protect.jpg

A Review

A rocky ride as a murderer roams the countryside for Leigh - who is holding a secret that she is unwilling to share with those who could help her the most. With the murderer and the secret hanging over her, she is sure the world as she knows it is coming to an end.  Leigh would have to risk it all to find out how much change was going to take place.

The people seemed real, the story believable, and the mystery is complex enough to hold the readers attention for several hours as Sheriff Tom Logan, his deputies, and other law enforcement personnel seek to identify the person or people behind the rash of crimes that have hit Bradford County.

As the story progresses it makes clear that God does change people - people with deep hurts and scars.  A lesson we all must learn.

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, March 24, 2015

Double Cross - A Review

Double Cross
DiAnn Mills

A Review

Double Cross is the second book in a series based on the staff of the FBI stationed in Houston, TX.  There is  little to connect the two books other than that minor theme - different characters, different plots, different lessons.

The current book left this reader a bit frustrated.  He generally does not mind a good mystery with a hint of romance, but this book seemed to reverse that relationship, in that it appeared to be a romance with a thread of mystery running throughout the book.  The mystery was well-developed with enough turns and triggers to make the book of interest - but there were few points where romance did not distract from that story.  

The story focused on the teamwork between an experienced FBI agent (Laurel Evertson) and a Houston Police Officer (Daniel Hilton).  At first their work is strictly  professional, but each must explore the possibility that something more is drawing them together.  And, even as the case comes to a close, it is not clear how their relationship can grow - perhaps in six months.

A couple of questions might help another reader know whether this book is for them:
  1. Would you recommend this book to a  friend?  If that friend enjoyed romance novels.
  2. Would you recommend  this author?  Yes, since I have enjoyed other books by the same author.
  3. Would you purchase this book for yourself?  Probably not - it focused too much on the romance between two major characters to make it a favorite book of mine.
  4. Will you be reading another book from this author?  Absolutely!

And I hope others will as well.

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, March 19, 2015

Lethal Beauty - A Review

A Review

Mia Quinn had said it, "I know that everything is connected ... I just don't know how. … Mia imagined the head of this operation as a spider sitting in a web.  Profiting from every base instinct.  He had most of the seven deadly sins covered: lust, sloth, greed, anger, gluttony, envy, and even pride.  He had found a way to make an enormous amount of money.” And those sentences define this  gripping story of slavery, drug abuse, and murder.

And it would put her, her family, and her friends, in danger before the needed answers would come into place for this single mother trying to raise both a teen boy and a pre-schooler in the 21st century. Along with dealing with murder and crime on a daily basis, as a District Attorney, she must also fit the decisions (some good and some bad) of her children into her busy life.

As a believer, it did not always make sense - in fact, life sometimes did not make sense - but she was determined to make her way and to guide her children as best she could.  

Though the book is not smothered in spirituality, faith does play a role in the lives of many the books characters. It is the simple life of faith that stands out as Mia Quinn seeks to solve the riddles that are put in front of her.  Not all of them will be resolved - at least not in this book, leaving room for at least one more story from Lis Wiehl surrounding the character of Mia Quinn.  I will eagerly be waiting for another book in the series.

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, March 18, 2015

Transcending Mysteries - A Review

A Review

Transcending Mysteries is a disappointing look  at the Old Testament as a precursor to Jesus Christ for the current reader.  Though the authors are well-known members of the contemporary music scene, the book never rises to the level of greatness one would hope for.  As this reader made his way through the book it felt as if he were making his way through a scrapbook - a scrapbook composed of pieces cut from the Old Testament, a series of journal entries, and lyrics from hits from the contemporary Christian music scene.  This scrapbook did not make for easy or helpful reading.

Though the connections seemed limited, I did appreciate the book’s use of The Voice as its standard, but not only Bible translation. I also appreciated the use of CCM to support the authors’ written message.  I have occasionally used favorite hymns as the foundation for a sermon series. It may not have worked here, but I do appreciate the effort. I also appreciate the use of two voices, one male and one female, to give meaning to the book’s words.

What could have added to the books value?  Let me suggest things:

  1. The inclusion of an audio CD including performances of the songs highlighted in the book.  I enjoy CCM, but did not know all the songs referenced.
  2. Reading much like a journal, I found many of the entries in this scrapbook to be too personal, rather than scholarly.  Personal may be important to the author, but not so much to this reader.  I would have like to see a greater emphasis on the truth of scripture, as opposed to the truth of scripture “to me (i.e. the author).” In the same vein, many of the entries are responses to the other writer’s comments, rather than to the scripture.    

Having said this, it is not clear to this reviewer where this book might find a home.  It does not seem suitable for use in a college or seminary classroom.  It might be of interest to some who are beginning a study of the Old Testament, but I can think of several more helpful introductory Old Testament texts that I might recommend as a better place to begin a study of the OT.  

Hence, the bottom line is that I was disappointed, though there may be value to the book for some.

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.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dying Brand - A Review

Dying Brand

Wendy Tyson

A Review

Wendy Tyson has another winner.  Allison Campbell, image consultant, and her collection of dysfunctional friends are destined to involve themselves in another series of murders ranging from Southeastern Pennsylvania to Florida to Maine.  And, as in her previous books, Allison's life is on the line.

Corporate corruption is at the center of the current crime spree.  The question is, "Who is corrupting and who are the victims?"  The answers are not always as clear as the average person might like - but then real life is sometimes like that.  

Though I was disappointed in some of the more explicit relationship details given in the book, the plot, characters, and setting did hold my attention.  Having spent some time in Southeastern PA, I found myself at home as Allison and her comrades toured the countryside.  As in her earlier books, the story wraps itself around multiple mysteries - some of which coalesce and some of which have their own story line.  But put together, we meet people who both struggle with fictional problems that most of us will never see and real problems that most of us will face at some point in our lives. Together they make an interesting tale that pulls the reader along and makes for some great late night reading.

Interestingly, though the book is scheduled for a Spring release (after a very cold winter), the story is a Fall thriller that allows the reader to enjoy all the beauty of that wonderful season.

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.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Bridges Burned - A Review

Bridges Burned

Annette Dashofy

A Review

Book #3 in the Zoe Chambers mystery series comes out a winner.  Zoe, a county EMT and the towns’ Deputy Coroner, must decide who to trust and who to distrust.  She also must decide who to love and who to walk away from.  Neither would be easy choices.

I woke up late last night, could not go back to sleep, and chose to relax by finishing the last 15% of the book.  The climax, included in that 15%, was as intense and satisfying as they come.  

The usual characters are present: Zoe Chambers, Pete Adams (the police chief), Mr. and Mrs. Kroll (Zoe’s landlords), Sylvia (Chief Adams’ former Administrative Assistant), and Nancy (Sylvia’s replacement).  Other characters round out the ensemble that create add to this well-written story.  The southwest Pennsylvania home, both for the author and the book, provide a wonderful setting for this story.  The rural/suburban area near Pittsburgh provide a beautiful and believable setting for the story.  

Though the story does reach a milestone of sorts, it is this reviewer’s hope that the stories are not ending.  Monongahela County has more stories to tell - and it is my hope that Annette Dashofy is able to tell them.

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, March 4, 2015

How To Read The Bible Like A Seminary Professor - A Review

A Review

It was during the first day of High School Algebra class that I was introduced to the spiraling didactic method.  The idea is that the same material is repeated multiple times during the term (a year of High School Algebra), but each iteration builds on the material presented in the earlier iteration.  Until stumbling upon the current book, I had not seen this approach applied to any other discipline.  Mark Yarbrough has applied it well to study, understanding, and delivery of scripture.

The chapter titles are useless, except to make the reader curious.  On the other hand, the first chapter starts where one might expect - at the beginning. The author does this by pointing out that there are three basic steps needed to study the scripture:

1. Know It
2. Work It
3. Live It

With that beginning, the author begins in chapter two discussing the basic structure of the English Bible.  The Old Testament is divided into five sections, beginning with "the Torah" and ending with the "Minor Prophets."  The New Testament is presented as four sections, beginning with the Gospels and ending with Revelation.  Though, even this basic review is designed for the believer unfamiliar with the Scriptures, it is presented in such a manner that it serves as a helpful review for the lifelong follower of Jesus.

The next iteration of the book steps back and take a close look at each of the sections identified above.  Beginning, again, with the Old Testament (one chapter) and then the New Testament (a second chapter), the author walks through the entire Biblical history using wide brush for each of the nine sections identified in the second chapter.  Jesus is clearly presented as the Messiah, the answer to the hopes and needs of the Jewish nation as well as that of the whole world.  

Chapter six is a summary of six (coincidence?) doctrinal statements that have defined most of the church for 2000+ years.  They are not as detailed one might expect from a denominational statement of faith or from a seminary - but they are specific enough that most (all?) Christians could not find fault with them.  The author approaches each statement from three perspectives: a brief description of the doctrinal position, a short (not all-inclusive) scripture summary supporting the statement, and a short discussion on the ramifications of the position for the Christian - both in terms of theology and in terms of living the Christian life.  

The next ten or so chapters present the procedures for "working the text,"  in other words, how to do Bible Study.  The material may be too detailed for the new believer, but too general for the established Christian.  Regardless, there is material of value to the Christian grounded in the Scriptures and help that will require rereading (multiple times) for those just beginning the Christian journey.  Questions directly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what to look for when reading the text for the first time) and indirectly linked to Bible Study (e.g. what translation or translations will I want to use as I study the Scriptures).  Tools for making accurate observations, interpretations, and applications are included in these chapters.  Again, material is sufficiently deep to be of interest to both the new and experienced student of the Bible.  The author also makes room for the different genre that comprise the scripture - narrative, poetry, letters, and prophecy, providing guiding questions for understanding the content of each genre.

As a book about hermeneutics, this book stands out because it focuses on the Scriptures rather than the preacher.  From page one, it wants the reader to change because of his or interaction with Scripture - it is not so much about preparing the preacher, but about how the Scripture can and will change the preacher.  

The book would fit well in the library of any serious Christian.  It could be used as an undergraduate text in hermeneutics or as an ancillary text for a graduate level course in seminary.  The book would also serve well as a refresher for the pastor or Christian professor seeking to revitalize his or her time in the Bible.  My prayer is that each reader will feel the desire to dig deeper, to learn more, and become more like the Savior as they read and apply the book's content.

This e-book was supplied as a gift from the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The reviews are mine alone.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Madam President - A Review

A Review

The first woman President of the United States is faced with a crisis with the impact of September 11, 2001.  Five cities, New York, Washington DC, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles, have each been hit with one or more bombs designed to kill and destroy major city landmarks.  Coming together are members of President Charlotte Kramer and her cabinet - with the Secretary of Defense being flown home on an emergency flight from the Middle East.

Most of the book focuses on the 24 hours leading up to and immediately following the explosions that rocked the country.  The final few chapters take a few minutes to reflect back on the events of the following year.  Not unlike the events of September 11, this tragedy, that claimed lives, families, and national heroes, would not be forgotten and buried.

The book left an emotion mark on this reader as he waded through the events that led up to the bombings and that followed their execution.  Whether it was the Press Secretary, the Secretary of Defense, the Chief of Staff, or the President herself, and their families, the day’s events were not just a national tragedy, but also an individual one for many in Washington DC.

The author made it clear that the President is human, not super-human.  He or she will be hit with the same emotions that hit the general public, though they may be hidden behind sound bites and aides seeking to shelter the most powerful person in the world from the world’s evils.  

The story’s climax comes literally at the halfway point of the book.  Up till that point, I was almost ready to put the book down - I am glad I did not.  The rather routine day leading up to the exploding bombs seemed mundane and of little importance; but if omitted, the significance of the response of so many individuals would have been lost.  

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.

Lowcountry Boneyard - A Review

A Review

An interesting take on the cozy mystery genre.  Liz Talbot, a licensed Private Investigator, is asked to find Kent, the daughter of well-off Colton and Virginia Heyward. The police were convinced that she had chosen to leave home for personal reasons.  However, not having provided any clues prior to or following her departure, that scenario was not a done deal.  

Liz has lots of help - Kent’s father and mother, her grandmother, her fiance, her roommate from college all have thoughts - nobody seems to know the truth.  The most interesting source of help comes from Colleen, a guardian spirit.  There is a clear distinction between ghosts and guardian spirits.  

“The distinction, according to Colleen, was that guardian spirits had passed to the next world and been sent back with work to do.  Ghosts were the lingering spirits of the dead who had yet to cross over to the next life.”  

I felt like I was reading the memoirs of the 2005-2010 TV drama, Ghost Whisperer.”  Colleen adds little to the story itself, though she occasionally steps into the open to help Liz with some brainstorming or to serendipitously keep her or her family from finding themselves in serious danger.

Though this is the third book in what is (currently) scheduled to be a four-book set, the lack of having read the previous two novels did not seem to distract from my enjoyment of this book.  I would not recommend this book to the committed Christian, but if one is willing to set aside a small bit of reality, the reader might find enjoyment in this book as a late night read around the fireplace.  After all, Colleen is not a scary ghost, but she is a ghost.  

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.