Tuesday, September 29, 2015

7 Women - A Review

7 Women Cover.jpg

A Review

Six months ago Eric Metasas wrote a set of biographies based on the lives of 7 Men who influenced not only their own generation, but continue to influence ours.  Earlier this month, he did the same for seven significant women.

The seven women chosen to review are

  1. Joan of Arc
  2. Susanna Wesley
  3. Hannah More
  4. Saint Maria of Paris
  5. Corrie ten Boom
  6. Rosa Parks
  7. Mother Teresa

The format of the biographies are similar to those used in the earlier book except that in the earlier book each chapter concluded with a summary of the significance of each man chosen for review.  In the current book, the biographical sketch concludes with a few paragraphs on the later influence of each woman on society. The stories are worth the time spent reading and reflecting on them. Beside being great devotional material for all believers, they could also support the pastor looking for material to illustrate weekly sermons. The two books are recommended for all looking to examine the life of Christians who have effected the world they were called to serve.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. All opinions are mine alone.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Fruitcake Murders - A Reviews

The Fruitcake Murders
Fruitcake Murders Cover.jpg
Ace Collins

A Review

The first murder occurred in December 1926 - and they convicted and executed the man caught with the murder weapon in his hand.

But then the murders started again in December 1946.  They were connected - the victims had been drugged and then clobbered with a heavy, full fruitcake can. But there were differences - they came from different cultural groups: the district attorney, the homeless, a hooker. And it would take a newspaper reporter, a police detective, and a private eye to collect the pieces of the puzzle that would bring all the pieces together into a complete picture that gave meaning to the deaths that spanned two decades.

The book brings together the right amount of mystery, history, romance, and a bit of faith, to make an interesting story that had to be read quickly to maximize its enjoyment. I wanted to pick the book up every free moment I had - I had to finish it.

For the reader looking for an early winter read, The Fruitcake Murders might just fill 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, September 22, 2015

The Carols of Christmas - A Review

The Carols or Christmas cover.jpg

A Review

A well-done study of 21 of the carols that help us remember many of the themes that surround the Christmas holiday. Rather than taking a devotional perspective (like those done by Robert Morgan), the author has chosen to apply an academic approach as he introduces us to the hymns.  

The “Introduction” serves to help us understand the role Christmas carols play in Western society - including a look at their historical, theological, and denominational backgrounds. The introduction is a broad picture of what will come later as the author looks at the individual hymns.

The bulk of the book takes the reader through a group of 21 hymns in Biblical order - beginning with a hymn appropriate for use during all of Advent, moving through the days leading up to Christmas proper, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the angels, the shepherds, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and Epiphany.  The final hymn is “Jingle Bells.”  As can be seen the author includes both examples of secular songs and those with a more spiritual tone (e.g. “Away in A Manger,” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.”)  The roots of the words (Biblical or not) and the music are explored.  Some of the stories associated with the music or words are full of as much mystery as a good Sherlock Holmes tale - with the true nature of their origins hidden till some unexpected source brought them to light. Though the focus is certainly academic, there are hints of devotional thoughts.  For example, as he concludes his look at “While Shepherds Watched”, the author notes that “... the full richness and variety of its history will, like the shepherds, have to wait.”  

Over the fifteen years I have served in the pulpit, I have occasionally taken my congregation through the history and setting of the church’s hymns. As I read Gant’s look at the Christmas carols, I am considering doing a similar series for the carols of Christmas. I expect it might be fun to look at the stories behind the carols as we have done with hymns in the past.

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.

Deadlock - A Review

Deadlock Cover.jpg
DiAnn Mills

A Review

DiAnn Mills is a good author - I have enjoyed her earlier books. However, though definitely Christian, the current book seems more like a Harlequin Romance than an FBI thriller. FBI Special Agent Bethany Sanchez and her new partner, FBI Special Agent Thatcher Graves, would need to work together to find the Scorpion Murderer and those accomplices that made his crimes so brutal.  The mystery, thriller was very much there and held my interest - especially as it moved further into the book.

The book did seem, as I said earlier, more like a Harlequin Romance, than the usual FBI thriller I had come to expect from the author. For example, in the first chapter alone, we find the following:

On this gray morning, she was beginning a violent crime assignment and would meet her new partner, Special Agent Thatcher Graves, the man who’d sent her brother to jail. …

Beyond there she’d find Special Agent Thatcher Graves. Her gaze pulled ahead. She wanted the partnership to work so badly that her blood pressure flared at the thought of it. She moved through the room to the kitchen. Thatcher bent behind the crime scene tape, where the body had been found. He glanced up, his earth-colored eyes stormy.

Neither the mystery nor the romance slows down for the remainder of the book. I recognize that many readers will want this somewhat fairytale style of romance, but this pastor felt that the picture painted by the author in this book was an unrealistic and unhealthy picture of a growing relationship between two believers. The book was not written to provide advice to the lovelorn, but it sets an unhelpful example for believers young in their faith.

Thus, the mystery was enjoyed, the romance less so. If the reader can set aside the fairy tale romance as a fairy tale, he or she might just enjoy this FBI thriller.

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, September 16, 2015

Church History (Volumes I and II) - A Review

Church History
Volume One
From Christ to

Everett Ferguson (Vol I)
Church History
Volume Two
From Pre-Reformation to
the Present Day

John Woodbridge (Vol II)
Frank A. James III (Vol II)

A Review

The two volumes represent nearly 1400 pages of history written primarily as a textbook. Not though they may certainly have some devotional use, they have their primary role in the college or graduate school classroom. These books do not present a gentle introduction to church history, but are designed for the academic environment of a upper division college classroom or seminary. Given that the books are 550 and 850 pages each, it is expected that such a course would be offered over a two semester sequence.

A couple of things stood out as I perused the book. The book is a well-documented description of church history – quoting primary sources when needed to help the reader understand the historical events being described. I appreciated the details included – many of which I had not heard before. The other standout feature of these texts is the wide margins they present – perfect for making notes or outlining as they are being read. Some of this space is taken up with quotations and images (all black and white), but there is plenty of space for personal comments as well. Electronic copies each have their own way of saving notes.

Forty years ago I was privileged to sit under the teaching of John Woodbridge at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School – it was fun to again, virtually, sit under his tutelage as I made my way through Volume II of these texts. Actually, it was fun to sit under the tutelage of all three authors as I read through these texts.

I had two concerns as I prepared this review.

  1. As I noted earlier, all images in both volumes were black and white (except for the book covers). Without hard copies, it is difficult to determine whether the PDFs that were provided for review represented the final copy (without color images?) or not. Color images would make the books more inviting to students and other readers.
  2. The indexes had not been completed prior to the preparation of the PDFs provided for review. Given the number of pages allocated for the index, this reviewer would expect that they might be thorough; but this cannot be verified with the material provided to me.

Though not designed for the general reader, these two volumes would be a welcome addition to the collection of any student of church history – whether in or out of a classroom. It would be a privilege to have these works sitting on the shelf next to those of the church fathers, Luther, Calvin, and Wesley. With a completed index and color images, there would great value in having these two reference books available.

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

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Lowcountry Bordello - A Review

Lowcountry Bordello.jpg

A Review

"A bordello plus a ghost makes for an interesting plot." That was my Facebook post a week ago after reading only 30% of the book - having finished it this past weekend, my thoughts have not changed.

First, let me make it clear that though the central setting is a bordello, it contains absolutely no sex. It is a fun read where multiple murders over several years provide the additional backdrop for an intense and entertaining story.

Liz Talbot, who, with her fiance, is getting married at the end of the week; but before the nuptials can take place, a bridesmaid stumbles onto a murder, a murder that must be solved if the wedding ceremony can go off without a hitch. With the help of her best friend, Colleen, a Guardian Spirit, Liz, her finance, Nate, and the local police department would need to put the puzzle pieces together.  And that would need to be done without getting Aunt Dean, Olivia, or the borders at the bordello killed. Oh, and don't forget the Christmas wedding to which the whole dysfunctional crew is invited.

For the reader looking for a satisfying murder mystery as they prepare for the holidays, light enough to make one smile, but intense enough to hold the reader's interest, Lowcountry Bordello might just fit nicely on the night table.
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.