Monday, August 31, 2015

NIV Zondervan Study Bible - A Review

NIV Zondervan
Study Bible
NIV Zondervan Study Bible.jpg
Edited By
D. A. Carson

A Review

Some 40 years ago I sat under the teaching of D. A. Carson for Greek Exegesis.  It was my third or fourth semester of seminary at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Worse than that, it was Dr. Carson’s first seminary class at Trinity.  Though I had done okay in my first two semesters of Greek, I felt over my head under his tutelage.  

So  now, 40 years later, I have the opportunity to get revenge. But having spent a couple of weeks with his newly released Study Bible - I have no intention of doing so. The word that came to mind as I opened the package containing my review copy was, “Massive.”  And I have not been able to shake that initial feeling.  At nearly 4000 pages, this book is more than a Study Bible.  It is truly a single volume Bible Commentary, a set of theological essays, and a rather well-done, though compressed, concordance.  

Articles are written by a variety of scholars from the Reformed or Baptist heritage - with an obvious lack of representation from Wesleyan/Holiness  schools or churches. Not surprising given that Zondervan is the publisher, but disappointing, none-the-less, for a work of this size.  

This reader enjoyed the formatting of the book. Notes are clearly set aside from the Biblical text by giving them a light green background, while the Biblical text has a more standard white background.  The use of full-color pictures  throughout adds value to the work.  A number of tables summarize important topics - the tables also make use of tables to help important columns or rows stand out.  As with most Study Bibles, the appendix includes a good supply of Bible maps; unlike some, the body of the book also includes a large number of colored maps which supplement the notes. The hard copy also includes access to an electronic copy of the book.  

I have a few favorite Study Bibles - the NIV Zondervan Study Bible will/has become another of those favorites.  I will be consulting it often - I suspect others will as well.

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.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

War Room - A Review

War Room:
Prayer Is A Powerful Weapon

Chris Fabry

A Review

See the movie; read the book.
Read the book; see the movie.

I was privileged to see the movie upon which this book was based about four or five months before the movie will released to the general public. I was impressed. A layman, who accompanied me to the theater, said it was the best Christian movie he had seen. He might be right.

This past month, I was privileged to have the chance to read the book which was based on that movie – at about the same time as the movie was being released. I was not disappointed.

The movie presents a MACRO view of the power of prayer – we see the big picture of prayer in the 120 minute film. Details are there, the focus for many will be the impact that prayer has on the people and families presented in the film. On the other hand, the book presents a MICRO view of the power of prayer – the reader is able to see details, hear lessons, and feel the power of prayer. The book presents, not just a story, but over 400 pages, a set of insights that any believer will want to discover about his or her own prayer life.

Clara Williams would impact many people – families would be changed, people would renew their faith, and a community would be improved. In the movie we see it happen – and stand back, awestruck, as God accomplishes his work. But we also see it happen in the book; but there we see it happen step by step by step – and we have the opportunity to grow as the books characters grow. We learn, see, and understand the lessons that are taught by Clara to the people in her life.

As I said earlier:

See the movie; read the book.
Read the book; see the movie.
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.

Candy Corn Murder - A Review

Candy Corn Murder

Leslie Meier

A Review

A number of years ago, I had read almost all of Leslie Meier's holiday murders. Those books got pushed aside as I began reading an increasing number of books for review. But some things cannot remain buried forever, and they will come back again. And so it has.

Candy Corn Murder is not Ms. Meier's best cozy mystery, but it did hold my attention. The story develops along two paths – the one following the murder as it occurred in 1979, the other in the present as the Lucy Stone and her friends stumble through the clues to discover the true circumstances of the missing wife. The present setting is Tinker's Cove, Maine, where the first annual Giant Pumpkin Fest is about to begin. The biggest problem proves to be that if held as scheduled, secrets that some thought were long buried were going to be exposed.

The plot moves along at a nice pace – but reaches its end too abruptly. From major plot events, to conclusion, to wrap-up, the book seems to miss a potential climatic end. For a book that has a major, underlying theme, it is lost as the books wanders through its last few paragraphs. As the author wrote her final paragraphs, they should have been woven into a two or three separate chapters:
  1. Drawing the mystery to a close
  2. Wrapping up a number of secondary stories involving miscellaneous characters
  3. Tying a pink ribbon around the important thesis which the final event of the book addresses
In not doing so, the reader is forced to blink as the book moves between each of these pieces of the story.

The book, none-the-less, is worth reading. In spite of its flaws, it comes with a high (five-star) recommendation. Leslie Meier has again presented an excellent tale in the midst of another holiday 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.

Monday, August 24, 2015

NKJV Foundation Study Bible - A Review

NKJV Foundation
Study Bible

A Review

This new study Bible does have a number of features which allow it to stand out:

  1. I have always enjoyed the NKJV – the use of this translation adds value to this new book.
  2. The notes are extensive – opening to random pages revealed six to twelve notes on facing pages – nine being average for the pages I checked.
  3. The presence of both study notes and theological notes were of interest – though the distinction between the two is not always clear in content or format (see below).
  4. The more distinctive feature for the theological notes are the included indexes – both in Biblical or and in topical order.
  5. The typical Bible Concordance and colored Maps were also present. Though common to study Bibles, their absence would have been clearly seen.
But what should have been a well-done study Bible seems less than useful to this reader. A number of factors contribute to this conclusion:
  1. The study notes are “based on the notes originally prepared for The NKJV Study Bible”, but include no indication of how they may or may not differ from that original book.
  2. Theological notes, which I assumed to be new, are supposedly written in a different font from other notes. This difference is not significant enough to enable this reader to distinguish “Theological” notes from “Study” notes. It may have been more useful to use a serif font for the theological notes.
  3. The hard cover book which I was provided uses a very small print for a study bible. Though readable in bright light, trying to read by anything but a bright light is difficult at best. I was tempted to grab a magnifying glass as I prepared this review.
I am pleased to have this study Bible in my possession – but it will probably not be the first such Bible I consult. Does it have value? Yes. Does it have great value? I do not think so. Having said that, I am reminded that, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” [Is. 55:11 NKJV] I am convinced that God will use it in His way and in His time.

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, August 13, 2015

The Bones Will Speak - A Review

The Bones Will Speak

Carrie Stuart Parks

A Review

Gwen Marcey could have any number of titles on her business card:

Talented Painter
Successful Forensic Artist
Wanna Be Criminal Profiler
Amatuer Consulting Detective
Rookie Sleuth

But unless she, her best friend Beth Noble, and Sheriff Dave Moore can catch the “sociopath”, “slimebag”, “scumbag”, “tweeker”, “meth-maggot” ... “perpetrator” who was trying to destroy her life, she would not need a business card tomorrow or at all.

It started with the dog finding a skull.  That was followed by the almost dead body of Mattie and the other bodies found on the rural Montana county’s farms. The crimes had roots in Waco, Idaho, Seattle, and Portland.  And the first hard piece of evidence pointed to a possibly guilty sheriff. It was going to be a long week.

Given the author and her husband’s backgrounds, it makes sense that the plot reads more like Criminal Minds than the lighter Bones.  With a hint of faith, the book has value as it pictures the need for forgiveness - in a variety of circumstances. Given the author’s background as a practicing forensic artist, the story seemed somewhat credible - even given that it is fiction. I particularly enjoyed the author’s use of color throughout the book.

Though there were times I found it hard to pick up the book, the last six or seven chapters were difficult to put down this sophomore look at Gwen Marcey’s life after I prepared for bed - I had to get it finished; and it was well worth it. I have ordered the first book in the series (at my own expense) - this second book was that good.

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, August 11, 2015

A Curious Beginning - A Review

A Curious Beginning
Deanna RayBourn

A Review

Victoria Speedwell is a self-taught student of natural history with lepidoptery (butterflies) being her specialty. She was also the most dangerous woman in all of England - and she did not know why.

It would take the help of her new friend, Revelstoke Templeton-Vane, know to his friends as “Stoker”, and others - some to be trusted, others less so.  Set in the turn-of-the-century (i.e. 1900) England, I repeatedly expected to see Sherlock Holmes stepping out of the shadows. Thankfully, he never did, making Ms. Speedwell and her friends a suitable group of detectives on their own.  

The book first appears like a good detective novel, but turns into a well-written piece of historical fiction that occasionally drove me to Wikipedia to connect its characters and events with the actual circumstances of the era. The interweaving of this book’s plot and actual history was not quite as complete as I have seen in some previous works, but it was sufficiently well-done to make for an interesting and lively story.

For those with an interest in English history and culture this piece of fiction may just fill the reader's interest.  I know it did mine.

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.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The Case for Grace - A Review

The Case for Grace

Lee Strobel

I had been a Christian for almost 20 years, and that was 20 years ago, when I first began to  truly  understand Grace.  I had failed my wife, my family, and my God. And I finally learned what Grace was all about. Though it was not the beginning of my understanding of Grace, Chuck Swindoll's The Grace Awakening made the biggest dent in my understanding of Grace back then; but every so often, I need a swift hit on the side of the head to remind me what Grace is all about.

This year, Lee Strobel's The Case for Grace provided that hit. The book provides a series of biographical sketches, including his own, of men and women who, after living particularly trying lives, came to understand the nature of Grace in their own lives and found ways of sharing that Grace with others. The stories are well done, with enough detail to let the reader know the backgrounds, both the good and bad, of each character, but also provide keys to how they had discovered Grace and how it changed their lives. In some ways, each story echoed my own from 20 years earlier.  

My greatest disappointment as I read the book was finding men and women who had already been or who would have been highly successful whether they found Grace or not. I would like to have found a story or two of ordinary men and women, people from the working class, people who had to struggle with tight budgets, clogged drains, and broken cars, whose attitudes and actions had been touched by Grace.  Lee Strobel's stories focus on those whose lives have made a visible impact - where many who are touched by Grace will find an appreciation for who and where they are, not so much changed by what they do, but by how they perceive the world in which God has already placed them. These stories may not be as inspiring, but they would give a more complete look at the effect of God's Grace on a broken world.

Strobel begins by quoting Thomas C. Oden, "[Grace is necessary] to know truth, avoid sin, act well, pray fittingly, desire salvation, begin to have faith and persevere in faith.  [Grace ...  is nothing less than] the motivating power of the Christian life."  The book accomplished this thesis for this reader. My thought is that it will for others 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, August 6, 2015

Berenstain Bears Storybook Bible - A Review

The Berenstain Bears
Storybook Bible
for Little Ones

Jan and Mike Berenstain

The Berenstains have created a cute Bible for two and three year-olds just beginning to grasp God's presence in our world.  Though a bit smaller than the image displayed in advertising, this board book could easily serve as the first Bible for pre-readers to share with their parents at the beginning and end of each day.  

The book holds eight short stories evenly chosen from the Old Testament and the New Testament scriptures.  The delightful artwork, staring the Berenstain Bears in all the key roles, will hold the preschoolers attention. Though the book would best fit the needs of the two or three year-old child, it would still be useful as they grow into early readers beginning 1st or 2nd grade.

I hope to share my copy  with my one to two year-old grandkids this coming holiday season.  I would recommend other parents and grandparents doing the same.

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.