Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bitter Harvest - A Review

Bitter Harvest cover.jpg

A Review

The return trip to Winsome, PA, was as fun as my first visit (see A Muddied Murder) - the land is colorful, the people friendly, and the county deadly.

Megan, a somewhat discouraged lawyer, has inherited the family farm. In order to help it thrive, she has opened a small farm stand near the farm and a small diner in town - both serving home grown vegetables and meats. Now harvest season has arrived and the town is proposing the first ever Oktoberfest to showcase the town's small businesses. It only takes a couple of murders and one large farm to make a hornet’s nest out of the small community’s plans.

Megan, her family, her farm hands, her chef, Alvaro, and the local veterinarian, Dr.  Daniel “Denver” Finn, would work with the Bobby King, the local police chief, to find the motive, culprit, and save Oktoberfest from the trash heap.  

Having lived in small towns and having good friends with a local farm stand, I have an appreciation for the environment in which Megan finds herself. Oktoberfest does come off - with only a few hitches along the way. And the nasty schemes of unscrupulous behavior of community members will come to light. This book will hold the interest of the farmer, the small town dweller, and the cozy mystery reader. And though being published in the Spring of 2017, it would serve as wonderful entertainment during the cooler days of Fall.

Thank you Wendy Tyson for another great book.

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.

KJV Word Study Bible - A Review

KJV Word Study Bible

KJV Word Study.jpg

A Review

No, I do not want to review a King James Version of the Bible. Everybody has one, it has been around for 600+ years, and it sounds like grandma’s Bible.

Of course, those are exactly the reasons why I should be reading it. Being written in 1611, it was a good translation and has been used in the Christian Church for 600+ years. But this version has added value - it includes brief word studies of 1700 key words.  Each study includes the Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek transliteration, a set of references demonstrating a variety locations for its use, the Strong Number for the word - allowing for further study, and a brief devotional or explanation of the word suitable for use as a sermon illustration.

Additional value is added by the four indexes included at the rear of this book:

  1. An alphabetical list of word studies by the English words used in the KJV
  2. A list of word studies in Biblical order from Genesis to Revelation
  3. -  4.  Two lists of word studies by the original language using the Strong Numbering system

It is the presence of these word studies and indexes which give this edition of the KJV special value to this reader.  

Whether the reader is a KJV Only believer or prefers some other translation, this Bible belongs on the desk of most pastors working with the scriptures. It may not provide the depth found through the use of a solid Bible software package, but it provides an excellent starting off point for completing a more in depth word study. For similar reasons it belongs in the hands of the studious laymen and in the church library.  

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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

NIV Investigator’s Holy Bible - A Review

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A Review

Designed for children 6-10 years old, this Bible uses two curious kids and their dog to dig through the scriptures. The text is printed in a dark blue color with orange headings. Each book has a short introduction (“The Evidence”) and summary (“Case Closed”). An occasional quiz question (“Check the Facts”) prompts the child to dig for themselves. Geography is covered (“The Scene”), as well as character studies (“The Witnesses”). There are also sections which provide a bit deeper insight into various scripture passages (“Breakthrough”).  These notes are found on about ⅓ to ½ the pages. Like the Bible, these helps will require that they be read to the younger child - though an older child will find them comprehensible.

Additional features include:

  • A Table of Weights and Measures
  • A nice index of the various features listed above in the order presented in the book
  • A 100-page concordance covering most of the keywords found in the Bible text
  • A small set of Bible maps - not in full-colored, but printed in “black and white” using blue ink

This Bible would serve well in a lower elementary Sunday School class or church library. As we approach the end of the church year, this Bible might make a worthwhile gift for kids moving up from Kindergarten or the primary class. I will be providing my copy to a Nepalese ministry sponsored by my local church where both the children and the adults are new readers.

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.

Holy Bible: Christian Standard Bible - A Review

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A Review

Though an easy to read translation, this edition was difficult to read with its small font. Though a “faithful and true” translation, the text reads more like a paraphrase. This makes it a fun and enjoyable version to pick up and read. Let me provide one example of the text provided, using a familiar passage: Psalm 23

Psalm 23  A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
        I have what I need.
2 He lets me lie down in green pastures;
        he leads me beside quiet waters.
3 He renews my life;
        he leads me along the right paths
        for his name’s sake.
4 Even when I go through the darkest valley,
        I fear no danger,
       for you are with me;
       your rod and your staff ​— ​they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
       in the presence of my enemies;
      you anoint my head with oil;
      my cup overflows.
6 Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me
      all the days of my life,
      and I will dwell in  the house of the Lord
      as long as I live.

My biggest concern for this edition (other editions will vary) is the small print used. In bright light it is readable, but I have, at times, found it difficult to read.

Created by the same people who created the Holman Christian Standard Bible, it is unclear as to the connection the two translations have to each other. An early rumor suggested there was a conflict with the use of the name “Christian Standard Bible”. The “Introduction” to the translation says,

Working with the original languages, an executive team of translators edited, polished, and reviewed the final manuscript, which was first published as the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) in 2004.

A standing committee was also formed to maintain the HCSB translation and look for ways to improve readability without compromising accuracy. As with the original translation team, the committee that prepared this revision of the HCSB, renamed the Christian Standard Bible, is international and interdenominational, comprising scholars who honor the inspiration and authority of God’s written word.

As the pastor/chaplain of a small conservative group of believers that meet in the common room of a local senior apartment complex, this Bible is not likely to become my standard preaching Bible. However, as I have found the HCSB to be occasionally helpful, I would expect this to be true of this latest update as well. In the coming months this translation will be made available in other formats (e.g. devotional and study Bibles) and on other platforms (i.e. available via your favorite Bible Software program).

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, February 7, 2017

Meals From Mars - A Review

Meals From Mars
Meals From Mars Cover.jpg
Ben Sciacca

A Review

Meals From Mars does for prejudice what The Shack did for grace. Two men find themselves running - from police and each other. They need to learn to trust each other if they are going to survive and they do that in a small unoccupied camping cabin outside of town. It would be a difficult conversation, but one that had to take place.

Jim was delivering the groceries from Mars Chapel to Malik’s grandmother. On the way home he stops for gas at a local mini mart.  In the process, he is caught up in a robbery that Malik also wants to run from. For the next 20 hours they are stuck together - but able to discuss the miles and lives that separate them. Jim is willing to learn, even if it means sacrificing a bit of peace at home. But what he learns are important for all of us that care for the poor in our own communities.

The author the executive director of a faith-based school that works with at-risk children in Birmingham, AL. Each faculty and staff member are asked to consider living in the vicinity of the school - making them stakeholders in the ministry, not just employees.  Ben Sciacca writes as one who lives with and understands the problems being faced by the poor in America. The book needs to be read by pastors, the members of the local mission committee, and all who care or want to care for own poor in their own community.

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.

Embraced - A Review



Paula Wiseman

A Review

Abuse comes in many forms. In Paula Wiseman’s first book in this series it was sexual abuse. Stacy’s and Andrea’s abuse did not leave physical scars, but they still ran deep.  And Michael Shannon had to deal with both if he was to find his own way.

Paula Wiseman has a unique way of drawing the reader into the lives and emotions of the characters she is writing about. Michael had been brought up in a Christian home, but had walked away from that faith when he left for college - it was easier to follow the college culture than to follow the truth. But what he got was a mess.

But, sadly, the character I would like to have met most from this book is minor one - Uncle Nolan has a deep spirtitual life that got lost on his friends and family. It is Nolan who finally gives Michael the guidance he needs to find his way home in many ways. It would not be easy, I would mean some hard choices, but he would find his way.

However, Michael had support from multiple sources. The best advice Daviid gave, though given to a young man experiencing a broken marriage, is of value to all of us involved with a marriage. The advice was actually two steps:

  1. Identify the five most important characteristics of your spouse.
  2. Spend the next week telling your spouse about them.

i had two concerns as I read the book. The first was addressed, alas as an appendix - it needed to be found at the beginning of the book or at least referenced their. As I read, I often wished there was a family tree or (better) a genogram of Michaels family. I finally found it - at the very back of the ebook after all of the advertisements. It must be seen and followed as the book is read. The relationships are many and they change as the book progresses - the family tree given in the book represents the family’s status at the beginning of the book. This is where the diagram should be placed.

My second concern parallels one mentioned in my review for the first book in this series. In that first book, Donna’s husband is presented as her counselor - a violation of counselor ethics. In that first book that is a major strand of that story and effected my rating of the book. In this book Donna is shown to be cared for Dr. Craig as well, but that relationship is violated when Dr. Craig marries her following her husband’s death. In this book this is a very minor event - but does violate normal ethical practice for a doctor-patient relationship. Because this is a small, incidental event in this book, it will effect my rating, but is worth noting.

As a friend recently mentioned, people sometimes have messy lives. Paula Wiseman had the talent of demonstrating how God can find people in their messiness and bring them to His feet. The book may be fiction, but that is also what God does in real life as well. A lesson we all must learn and appreciate.

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