Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Christians Ought to Believe - A Review

What Christians
Ought to Believe
What Christians Ought to Believe.jpg
Michael F. Bird

A Review

Sometimes a book arrives bit too late. Such is the case for Michael F. Bird’s newest book - a discussion of the Apostles Creed - both its roots and its meaning.  Being late, does not mean that it will not be useful, only that it arrives six months after I finished a series of sermons based on the Apostles Creed during the weeks between Advent and Lent during the winter of 2016. I wish this book had been available six months ago.

Michael Bird brings an interesting perspective to his writing, in that he attempts not to merely represent his own views, or that of the Anglican church to which he belongs, or the Australian church within which he ministers; rather he speaks, as per his statement, for the worldwide evangelical  church. This is useful given the almost universal acceptance of the Apostles Creed as a theological foundation for the church worldwide.

Beginning with a history of the creeds in the early church, including those simple credal statements found in the scriptures (e.g. Philippians 2:5-11). He also discusses the role that creeds played in the early church in passing on the truth to the later generations of believers and its role in the church today.

The biggest portion (75%-80%) of the book is a complete exegesis (is that the right term?) of The Apostles Creed. I would suggest that the reader keep a copy of The Apostles Creed open and in front of him or her as he reads the book, especially if reading an e-book version. Bird occasionally moves from discussing one phrase to the next without alerting the reader, having a copy of the Creed available makes it easy to follow these transitions, its absence adds an increased level of difficulty.  Scripture references are used throughout the text to assist the reader in understanding the Biblical underpinnings of The Apostles Creed.

I appreciated the use of a wide range of sources in the text - representing the church’s existence across the centuries. The author has also included, with each chapter, “Recommended Reading” for each chapter. Most of these (I did not do a complete check) appear to be from more modern sources (post 1960). The book could be improved by having, as the author himself has done, the reader follow-up using material from different eras of church history.

The book could easily find its place in the church library. It should be available (as I hinted earlier) available to the pastor doing a study The Apostles Creed, whether from the pulpit or within a small group setting. This book would also not be a bad resource for the lay person choosing to read and understand The Apostles Creed for their own use. I am concerned that the price for a 200+ page book may be excessive for the lay person. The e-book is significantly cheaper, but still high for a 200+ page book. It is probably too costly for use as a Sunday School text, though its contents may be suited for that environment. Perhaps a paper copy may become available at some point at a reduced cost.

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, June 20, 2016

ABC’s of Christianity - A Review

ABCs of Christianity.jpg

A Review

When I first chose this book to review, I did so based solely on the title. I knew nothing about the author, I knew nothing about the book. But the title did catch my eye. I have not been disappointed.

I began the review process by trying to find out something about author. When I did a Google search of details about this author, I was surprised to find, with few exceptions, that the author’s name is most often associated with the former CEO of the Dallas Mavericks basketball team. That was not very comforting - I am not a sports fan. A bit more (actually quite a bit), I discovered that the author of this book was not the former CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. Instead the author is the father of the former CEO of the Dallas Mavericks. The author has been married for 59 years, has three children, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He has served in ministry for 50+ years, beginning with an appointment to a local AME church. He now serves, while retired, as an assistant to the pastor of a local Presbyterian church in Southern California. The book I have been asked to review is the culmination of several years of leading a small Bible Study in his home.

The best way to describe The ABCs of Christianity is to compare it to an older work by another great Christian from an earlier generation - Henrietta Mears’ What the Bible Is All About. What Mears’ work did for the study of scripture, Dr. Ussery’s work is set to do for the church’s study of theology. Both books are written for a similar audience - the layperson wanting to know more about God and his word. Each major area of theology is discussed in small chunks using scripture. Though the book is thorough, it is not so deep as to scare off the average reader. Rather it prepares him or her to study more, as desired. If there is weakness, it is the lack of hints for further study - few, if any references to other theological works are presented.

The book is not only a study of theology, but also an examination of how it needs to challenge us as believers in our day to day lives. Practice is as important to this author as truth.

The book belongs in the church library, in the Sunday School curriculum, and on the layman’s reference shelf, right next to What the Bible Is All About.

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.

A Killer’s Guide to Good Works - A Review

A Killer’s Guide
to Good Works

Killers Guide to Good Works.jpg

Shelley Costa

A Review

This is the second book that I have had the privilege of reviewing by Shelley Costa. As I said earlier, it is obvious that Ms. Costa is an experienced and talented writer.  The story is compelling and holds the reader’s interest from the first page to the end. Though there is little to tie this story to the earlier book, the story does continue right where the earlier work finished.

The book begins on the  coast of Spain in the late 16th century; but moves quickly into the 21st century England and New York. The characters have their roots in the religious (Bale) and literary (Val) worlds of their preferred professions. The third main character is an historian, alas, a deceased historian. However, it is Arian’s death, the brother and best friend of the other key characters, that holds the story together.

The writing is superb, among the best I have seen from those writing cozy mysteries. The history, the details, and the well defined plot all contribute to an excellent tale. With most of the story taking place in mid-spring, the reader begins to feel as he or she is truly visiting New York City with its crowded streets, taxi cabs, and ethnic restaurants on every street corner. The reader gets to share the Jewish, Italian, and Asian fare that defines this modern metropolitan city. And like most cozy mysteries there is a hint of romance, a hint that leaves the reader wondering if it will grow into something more in future iterations of these characters.

It is easy to give the book a 5-star review without hesitation.

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, June 14, 2016

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun - A Review

Sister Eve
and the
Blue Nun
Sister Eve and the Blue Nun cover.jpg
Lynne Hinton

A Review

Though this reader did not find this book as pleasing as previous books from this author, this tale is enjoyable and did hold my interest.

I found the story interesting as it forced me to explore the early history of New Mexico - and explore modern maps of the Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument and environs. Fiction, historical or otherwise, that drives me to learn more about history, geology, geography, etc., is well worth my time. The history surrounding Sister Maria and her “impact” on the Indians of Southeastern New Mexico and its border with Texas gave the book value to this reader.

Discovering writing from a nun dating back some 400 years - and their theft (actually twice) and the murder of a scholar and the attempted murder of a Catholic monk and sister provided a setting for an exciting story. The author has taken time to weave history into a modern cozy mystery that could hold the interest of any reader interested in this genre.

The first 60% of the book did resemble a great cozy mystery plot; but at some point, the tale became less plot and more of a mental exercise.  This was followed by a semi-spiritualized episode that did not fit well with the rest of the story.  Mixed throughout was what felt like a junior high attempt to describe a possible romance (Sister Eve’s father called it a “crush”). The result was what felt like a book that was written using multiple genres - cozy mystery, psychological suspense, traditional fantasy, and junior high romance. Though the story made sense, in the end it felt like a jigsaw puzzle in which the pieces did not quite fit together.

Given a mid-spring release, the book is set in the late winter early spring of the great American southwest. The book would seem like a great addition to the library to the traveler, the history buff, or the reader who likes cozy mysteries rooted in history and geography. Will everybody find it satisfying, no; but many will.
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, June 7, 2016


A Giulia Driscoll Mystery

Nun But The Brave.jpg

Alice Loweecey

A Review

The author presents an involved story with many twist and turns, that held this writer’s attention. Starting with a sister-in-law, high on something, a missing cake decorator, two dead teen agers, a series of arsons around town, and a new street drug which had some connection to the local small town high school football team, it will become the job of Giulia Driscoli (private eye and a former nun) and her current husband (a police detective) to discover the people behind the various crimes.

And then after spending a few nights in the belly of the cult, things get of hand.

I found the book to be exciting and worth reading. Not being Catholic, I did not understand all the references to Catholic history and polity, but that did not distract from my enjoyment in the least.

The book will make a good fall read for the cozy mystery fan wanting something to read between Friday night football games. And it is not a bad choice for those of us (yes, there are a few) who are not football fans.

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.

Back To The Future: Untold Tales and Alternate Timelines - A Review

Back To The Future: Untold Tales
and Alternate Timelines
Back to the Future.jpg
Bob Gale, John Barber, Erik Burnham

A Review

A fun romp through the various back stories that might have contributed to the lives of Marty McFly, Dr. Emmett Brown (“Doc”), and the other characters that contributed to the trilogy of Back to the Future movies (1985, 1989, and 1990).  The collection of stories move between the various timelines depicted in the films, but with little crossover between the movies story lines.

The stories held this old timer’s attention and kept drawing him back to the next story in the book. My biggest wish was that there was another story, and another, and … Alas, only so much can be included in the 100+ pages of a graphics novel. One can hope that more will be forthcoming in the future.

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.