Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Paint The Town Dead - A Review

A Review

Life in Southern California can be deadly, especially when Rory Anderson (independent IT specialist, artist, and sleuth) and her cadre of friends get involved. Rory’s first shock came when a rock came flying through the front window of her home. The second shock came when her friend Jasmine died on the Ocean Painting Society’s Convention floor.

The convention was being held at the newly opened Akaw, a multi-story resort facility with multiple ballrooms and restaurants. It was sufficiently large, that murderers, saboteurs, and pranksters could move about, undetected by cameras, staff, or law enforcement. And that would make finding the guilty party or parties all the more difficult.
The story was one that kept this reader up at night - the book had to be finished, I could not sleep without discovering who did it. The plot included enough plausible suspects and enough crimes that one felt like he or she might be playing BINGO with the possible combinations. The result is a fun read which will hold the interest of any cozy mystery fan, providing a wonderful winter’s night read.
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, October 21, 2015

Frost Bible - A Review

Frost Bible.jpg

Thomas Nelson Publishers

A Review

I never thought I would say this - but I was disappointed in this Bible. Having adopted the “Frost” name, I expected this Bible to be of interest to a child who was enthralled with the Disney movie Frozen.  Having now seen the Bible, I no longer think this is the case. To verify my opinion, I also checked with my wife, an experienced preschool teacher; she agreed with my assessment.

With few exceptions, the Frost Bible is more a pew Bible than a devotional Bible or a Study Bible for any audience, even more so for the apparent intended audience. The few things that distinguish it from a pew bible are an included tote bag and 8-12 sheets of colored images. Those images have no connection to Frozen.  Also, the front cover and binding (not the back cover) has a “frosty” feel that might seem exciting if it added anything. Four color maps, much like you would expect to find in a pew Bible, are also included.

I had hoped this Bible would be a suitable Christmas gift for a Frozen enthralled grandchild. I will not be giving it this year. There are other and better choices for the granddaughter or grandson - The Frost Bible will not do.

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, October 20, 2015

NIrV Giant Print Holy Bible - A Review

NIrV Giant Print Bible.jpg

A Review

An easy to read Bible version designed for early readers. For many this will mean children, but this edition of the Bible is not designed for children. Given its large print, simple study helps (a dictionary and a list of 150 famous Bible stories) the book is more suitable for those learning English as a Second Language. Though it may not appear to be its target audience, it also might be suitable for use in family reading in families with young children.  

Missing from this edition are many of the standard features found in most Bibles - book introductions, cross references (except when a verse is quoted directly from an earlier book), or instructional helps.  Don’t purchase this Bible as a study Bible or a stand alone devotional Bible. Rooted in the NIV, the NIrV included in this publication has been updated to changes in the latest edition of the NIV.

As I prepared this review, I took time to read a few sections - though I am not a early reader, I found the passages encouraging and uplifting.  I suspect, even as I did, 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.

Action Bible: ESV Study Bible - A Review

The Action Bible
Study Bible ESV

Action Bible ESV  Study Bible.jpg

A Review

Using the same artist, The Action Bible ESV Study Bible is aimed at a slightly older population than the earlier Action Bible.  Including the complete text of the ESV, an abundance of self study devotional questions, and a few snippets of the visuals that defined the earlier work. A variety of indexes add additional value to the book.

While the earlier Action Bible appears to be designed for the 9-12 year old child, this version would appear to be designed for the junior high or middle school student. Note, this differs slightly from the publisher’s recommendations, who suggests slightly younger age groups for each of the two books. Having said that, it should also be noted that the devotional material may be encouraging to Christians of any age from 12 on up.  With the assistance of parents, it may even be used by younger children.

The devotional self study material consists of Bible memory suggestions, answers to tough questions about faith, brief insights to important Bible passages or events, trivia questions, historical insights, application helps, and more. Those sections also illustrated in the Action Bible are marked in the margins of the current book for cross reference if desired.  Much of this material is also indexed for future reference.

Though I am within a few weeks of reaching my normal retirement age, I found this version of enough interest and help to install the e-book I received on my e-reader for regular access and easy reading. I suspect many other readers will want to do the same.

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, October 19, 2015

Big Science - A Review

Big Science.jpg

A Review

Though the book’s title and sub-title would seem to focus on the development of “Big Science”, the book is also a look at the scientific career of Ernest Lawrence.

Having spent a third of my life in the shadow of Berkeley, Stanford, Livermore, etc., I was well aware of many of the places in which the book is set - including having spent various amounts of time during High School and College at some of the locals mentioned in the 30+ years covered by the book. I remember looking across a field that lay near my house, seeing a huge water tower that, to my 7 or 8 year old mind, looked much like the nuclear bombs that were being exploded as tests on isolated islands or in the nearby Nevada desert.

The sites mentioned, included not only California, but such diverse locations known for housing various portions of the Manhattan Project: Los Alamos, the University of Chicago, Oak Ridge, Hanford, Argonne, etc. Each played a role in producing the first atomic bombs, the first hydrogen bombs, and, eventually, the first thermonuclear bombs. Along with places, we meet the people (Lawerence, Teller, Oppenheimer, etc.) who fashioned these implements of destruction - whether they come from the sciences, engineering, or politics. We see how relationships played a key role in the development of these new weapons. We also get a glimpse of the technology and the path it took toward using atomic energy - both as a weapon and as a tool to assist mankind in its own growth. The book’s science is not overwhelming, but provides enough details for the layman to appreciate the journey much of science took in the midst of the 20th century.

There is also, as hinted at in the sub-title, a strong emphasis on the growth of the merging of the military, industrial, political, and academic research to accomplish projects which were larger than could be understood by a single person. At times the pieces coming together were so big and so diverse that it was difficult for the reader to track the players in the game at any given time.

Though physics was the least interesting of the sciences to this reader, Hiltzik manages to present a story that held this reader’s attention. The book is recommended for anyone seeking to understand the nuclear politics that defined many of the years preceding the 21st century.

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, October 13, 2015

The New Pastor's Handbook - A Review

The New Pastor’s Handbook


Jason Helopoulos

A Review

Every new pastor needs a hand to hold onto. Often that hand will begin with a book. For me that book was Lloyd Perry’s A Manual of Pastoral Problems and Procedures.  It was helpful and having the author at the front of the class gave it added meaning. However, it was written in 1971 and does not represent the 21st century church. Other books have been written to fill that need - including one by Jason Helopoulos.

Though designed for new pastor, the book discusses 48 questions facing every pastor. The author begins by discussing the nature of a call, the practical issues that face all pastors, and ends with a few questions on self care. Some sections are dedicated to specific types of ministry (the solo pastor, the youth pastor, etc.).  The responses are brief, maybe too brief, but certainly readable over a couple of months if one would read one entry per night. The eager reader could easily read two or three chapters each evening, a more thoughtful reader may want to take a longer time on each entry. With only 3-4 pages set aside for each issue, responses are of necessity brief. Some topics could be fleshed out with a complete book - but certainly no pastor or student has time to read separate books on each topic in the first year of ministry - perhaps over a lifetime. On the other hand, the pastor will want to flesh out his reading by locating and reviewing some of these larger works as he works and serves the people puts across his path.

The book is not deep - but contains a great deal of practical advice. It will fit well into a Pastoral Procedures course in the Bible College; it might serve better as an ancillary text for a similar seminary course. It would also fit well when kept within reach of any pastor serving the local church.

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, October 6, 2015

Miracle Drug - A Review

Miracle Drug.jpg

A Review

He was not the world’s greatest doctor, he was not even the smartest in medical school.  Yet he had been appointed to be the next primary care physician for David Madison, the former President of the United States.  And he had no idea why.

Though he was not the smartest guy in the world, he quickly became responsible for saving the life of the ex-President and his soon-to-be girlfriend. The disease they shared was easy to identify - but curing it became much more difficult.  And finding the cause would become more difficult still. And yet that is what fell into Dr. Josh Pearson’s lap.

The reader is introduced to the story by a preface full of disclaimers.  As I said to my wife, this book has more disclaimers than a bottle of medicine. This preface tends to make the reader feel that the plot is more science fiction than a medical thriller - which is far from the truth. The actual story begins in Bogota, Columbia, but moves quickly to Zale Lipsy Hospital in Dallas, TX.  The reader quickly becomes aware this he or she is reading a medical thriller. Dr. Mabry, a practicing physician, has not disappointed. As the story develops, we are introduced to the Secret Service, the Dallas Police Department, and the staff which continues to assist the former President in his day-to-day tasks. And together they will either contribute to Mr. Madison’s ills, seek to discover its cause, or work toward a cure, a miracle drug as it were.

The book will hold the reader’s attention as the action and accusations move across the southern tier of the United States. Waiting to discover who is helping and who is hindering the discovery of the guilty. There are enough twists and turns to make a compelling story is worth the time spent reading. I expect that most will enjoy the time they spend between this book’s pages.

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, October 5, 2015

I Dare You Not To Bore Me With The Bible - A Review

I Dare You Not to
Bore Me With the Bible

I Dare You Not To Bore Me With the Bible Cover.jpg

Michael S. Heiser

A Review

The current volume seems like a book that seems to have no purpose, but that I found extremely interesting.

Let me begin with a disclaimer - I am a regular user of LOGOS Bible software, but I do not subscribe to Bible Study magazine published by the same company. Having said that, it should be noted that the route that this book took toward publication included a stop in Bible Study magazine. The essays collected here began as a series of lectures (or parts of lectures) in the author’s classroom. From there, they were transformed into essays published in Bible Study magazine. The essays were then collected and reprinted in the book form found here. I appreciated the broad range of topics discussed from the Old Testament and the New Testament. In addition, the author often throws in a few interesting tidbits of information (“Quickbits”) to whet the reader’s appetite for more details.

Other than the author’s lectures and essays, there is little that connects the various pieces of this book together. But that does not mean that the pieces are not of interest. Each essay forced this reader to think and evaluate his own understanding. I could get no further than the second essay and I was forced to rethink the meaning and purpose inerrancy - a major proponent of both my seminary training and my denominational choice. I found the anecdotes and background material fascinating as I read.

The essays have been rearranged Biblically, rather than in the order originally written - in fact, other than a short statement in the preface, there is no indication of the exact location where the original essays are located or the order in which they were produced.  In addition, each of the author’s main points are well documented from scripture, but there is little other secondary or primary sources for the reader to assist in further study. This lack of bibliographic detail is the major flaw in the book. There are some, but most of the independent essays lack the needed supporting material.

The electronic version of the book I received had no indexing - it would be hoped that a paper edition would include a thorough Biblical index. This should include both an index of the passages discussed and of the Biblical material referenced throughout the book. These missing elements are not significant in an e-book as searching can reproduce many of the needed references. Scripture is so important to the author’s arguments, that would be a significant hole in a paper edition.

Though not designed as a devotional book, the design and layout of the book might allow some readers to use it as such. Others would want to use it as a reference book for the variety of problems and issues addressed. The book would be a welcome addition to the supplemental reading used in a Bible survey course for the Bible College or Seminary student. The pastor may find it of some use as a source of sermon illustrations and teaching resources.  For some the young Christian, the essays may present a challenge to their faith.
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.

Vendetta - A Review


Vendetta - Cover.jpg

A Review

The book begins with Nikki Boyd hanging off the edge of the cliff she and her friend Tyler were attempting to rappel down. Easy enough, except that her rope was caught on a sharpened rock and she was 150 feet below the rock hanging onto the rope that was in danger of being sawed in two by that same rock. That opening scene sets the tone for the remainder of the book.

With the help of her friend, Nikki was able to work her way down the cliff, but no sooner did they begin to relax and the call came that would dangle another rope in her life - a rope that had roots going back years when her sister had been kidnapped and disappeared from the map. A rope that had led her into Law Enforcement generally, and into state’s Missing Person Task Force specifically. Now, another young teen had been kidnapped and the similarities to her sister’s case were too close to ignore.

The author draws the reader into Nikki’s adventure and into the beauty of the surrounding Smoky Mountains, the Obed River, and the rapids which bring tourists each year. Though scheduled for a fall release, the events take place during the early days of spring. The writer also introduces the reader to the (fictional) people that they might meet if they were to visit the area.  With the exception of the kidnapping, the book makes a compelling argument for a visit to the area to enjoy the scenery and the portion of the Appalachian Trail which runs through the area.  

The story will hold the reader’s attention - as the law enforcement team, rangers, and volunteers, attempt to locate the missing child and the person who kidnapped her. Nikki also hopes, really hopes, she might discover what became of her sister so many years ago. With a hint of faith and a very light hint of romance, Vendetta may satisfy many readers of modern thrillers. Be warned, before the reader is through with the book, he or she may miss a few nights of sleep to more quickly find the answers. And expect, as does this reviewer, to be wanting more from Lisa Harris and Nikki Boyd.

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.