Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Baseball Faith - A Review

Baseball Faith
Baseball Faith.jpg
Rob Maaddi

A Review

This reader is not a baseball fan. He does not spend summer evenings or weekends sitting in front of a TV set watching baseball games. Having said that, he does own season seats to seats for the local Triple-A team right behind home plate. He enjoys the sound of the crowd, the taste of a diet soda in a giant cup, and the smell of an occasional food item from the venders stationed beneath the stadium.

That was enough to catch the interest of this reviewer for “Baseball Faith” by Rob Maaddi. Well, that and this reviewer’s own faith.  

And that is what this book is about - a look at the faith of 52 major league players. The entries are a simple four pages each: a full-page picture, a one-page testimony, a page summarizing the player’s career, and a page highlighting significant stats from their career. But with that the reader becomes aware that God is alive and well on the ball diamond, though it may not be obvious during the nine innings of play.
Not being a fan of MLB baseball, most of the names pass me by like a ball goes wide of the batter, but that does not make their stories any less intriguing. Their stats provide the justification for including them in this collection. We hear in their own words how and where they came to a point of believing in Jesus; and we begin to understand how their faith influences their game, both on and off the field. As they share, they also set an example for those of us who play on some field other than a ball diamond - whether it be in an office, a factory floor, or a classroom, etc. It is this modeling which gives this book its real value to this reader. This is a book that can be shared from mentor to mentee, from the little league coach to the young player, or from father to son.

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, March 28, 2017

Every Trick in the Rook - A Review

Every Trick in the Rook.jpg

A Review

Not quite a cozy mystery, but one worth reading nonetheless.

This is the second book by Marty Wingate that I have read. The first focused on the plant life of the English countryside, this book was woven throughout with a look at the birds of the English Island. Julia, her former (and now deceased) husband, her boyfriend, and father are all birders, both recreationally and professionally. As Julia and her friends, with some help from the local constabulary, attempt to discover the reason and person(s) behind her ex-husband’s murder, we are introduced to some of the amazing feathered animals that live in England.

The mystery is intriguing enough to hold the reader’s interest from beginning to end; while the parade of birds that are woven throughout the story will drive the reader Google and other internet search tools to better understand the creatures which “fly” by the reader’s windows. The most interesting species is, as the title suggests, Alfie, a Rook - an intelligent bird, capable of collecting lots of minutia. Some of the collectables are downright gross, while others serve as stepping stones toward pinning down the murderer’s identity and motive.

Cozy - no.

Readable - absolutely.

This book is well worth the time spent reading over the last week. This reviewer recommends this mystery for bird lovers, mystery lovers, and amateur crime solvers wherever they may be found.  

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, March 22, 2017

100+ Little Bible Words

100+ Little Bible Words.jpg

A Review

Colorful words plus easy words make for a great gift for the young toddler just learning to read. Each set of images is based on a familiar Bible story and includes 10 or more words for the toddler to learn. All the words come from the Bible text; approximately 85% of the words are helpful for general knowledge as well as for understanding of the Scripture. The the other 15% are more closely connected to the Scriptures, but are important for the future Bible reader to know. Most of the words are nouns, though there are some adjectives and verbs scattered throughout the book.

The pictures are colorful and bright - though the individual pictures are a bit smaller than one might expect for a preschool book. The book will make a great gift for the toddler or preschool child. A parent or other adult will need to read the associated Bible stories and pronounce the words found in each story, but that will only build the relationship between the parent and child as the child is learning to associate the words with their pictures.  

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, March 20, 2017

Forensic Faith - A Review

Forensic Faith.jpg

A Review

Cold Case Detective J. Warner Wallace has written his third book using his skills as a cold case detective to examine the truth of the Scriptures. In the current book, rather than using his skills to defend his/our faith, the author introduces us to the skills he uses to defend his faith. I have not read the two previous books where he examines the evidence of the Gospel and the existence of God, but found his writing believable.

I have no training in forensic science, and, thus, have no way of judging the material presented - but I did find it interesting. The author takes the reader step by step as the authors and participants in scripture make their own cases for faith.

The book is readable and understandable to the average reader. I recommend it for the inquisitive reader that want to strengthen his or her knowledge and understanding of apologetics. It may not belong on the shelf of every pastor, but there should be room for it in every church library collection.

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, March 15, 2017

Deep Extraction - A Review

Deep Extraction

Deep Extraction Cover.jpg

DiAnn Mills

A Review

A romantic thriller starring a FBI agent, a dying FBI agent that will not admit his failings, and a U S Marshall that is nearly ready to give up, all contribute to a non-stop thrill ride that has all the makings for a great Hallmark-Mystery movie.

The central characters are broken people needing God’s grace in their lives. Some will find it, others will not - but it is offered to all. None of them are entirely who they seem at first glance and it will take the touch of God’s hand for each to move forward from the place in which they are stuck. The bombing of an oil drilling site and the death of its owner appear to be connected - yet the connection is not as obvious the as law enforcement officials working the case would like. And they would need to risk their lives to put together the puzzle that would answer all their questions.

This is Book Two of a series - but the books have little connection between them other than the formation of an FBI task force composed of broken people. It is this lack of connection that I least appreciate about Diann Mills’ books. She begins to develop the characters, but we do not see them in the series' sequels. I do like the stories; I do like the characters; but I want to learn more about them and see them continue to develop through two or three additional novels. I can always hope.

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.

NIV Faithlife Study Bible - Review

NIV Faithlife Study Bible.cover.jpg

A Review

A new Study Bible from the same publishers who produce LOGOS Bible Software is worth going “WOW” over. This Bible is a hefty contribution to the scholar’s, pastor’s, student’s, layman’s, and church library - it belongs on the shelf next to other major study Bibles - the ESV Study Bible, HSCB Study Bible, NLT Study Bible, etc. It definitely is not a devotional Bible.

The roots of this work are in the electronic version made available by Faithlife via the LOGOS Bible Software and standalone apps for Android and iOS. Originally designed to be a growing set of notes available through those on-line editions, at some point the editors locked its growth and began editing the resulting work for publication. The result is a printed work that is substantially shorter than the electronic version - but the underlying material is rich and full of insight. A quick estimate suggests that about 85%-90% of the verses have connected comments - many with multiple comments.

Along with the extensive textual notes are 30 essays written by a variety of well-known scholars and educators. Examples include the following:

Douglas Stuart ………… How to Study the Bible
Randy Alcorn ………… Why a Good God Allows Suffering
Lee Strobel ………… Contending for the Faith - Apologetics

Other essays focus on issues related to Bible introduction.  Individual book introductions are included within the normal Bible notes.

As with many Study Bibles, the fonts are a bit smaller than this reader would like to see. Though small, the fonts are clear and sharp - making them readable. The notes include graphics illustrating key points and documenting the ancient history found in the scriptures. Additional helps include a nicely done concordance and maps. The maps are not as detailed as some I have seen at the end of other Study Bibles nor as colorful. The maps found at the end of this work are augmented with maps embedded in the notes that fill in some of the gaps left by the those found at the end of the book.

The bottom line is that this Study Bible is one of the best I have seen in the time I have spent reviewing Bibles. I would think that pastors, Bible students, serious laymen, and others wanting to dig deeper into the scriptures will want this on their library shelf. Local churches would do well to add it to their collection as well as a welcome resource for those looking for a richer study of God’s word within their congregations. I will give this Bible a FIVE-STAR REVIEW.

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 Ultrathin Leathertouch Edition - A Review

CSB Ultrathin.jpg

A Review

Though a new translation, it is easy to read. 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, though the paper makes it easier to read than one might expect.

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. I will look forward to using it for reference and for insight to the meaning of the text.

The text, itself, is already available electronically both as an app and in several Bible Software packages. It has not yet made it into LOGOS Bible Software, though it is listed as being “In Production”; I am anxious to see it in my preferred Bible study 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, March 7, 2017

Classic Prayers for Every Need - A Review

Classic Prayers.jpg

A Review

Prayers are difficult. Well, they feel difficult. Sometimes it is good to have a collection of prayers that have server believers in earlier times to begin with - whether as sermon illustrations, for use as encouragement for others, or just for personal meditation. This book can meet those needs.

The reader will find prayers dating from the middle of the 2nd century (Origen) to the end of the 20th century (Michel Quoist). Some are well known (John Newton), others less so (Ashton Oxenden); but each is a look at the heart of the author and his or her relationship to God.  

The provided prayers are not long.  Grouped into 57 different topics (e.g. Forgiveness, Grace, Rest, Stress, Vision, etc.), there are normally five or more prayers for each topic:

O Lord our God, safe under the shadow of your wings, let us hope.
You will support us both when we are little and when we are old.
When our strength is from you it is real strength,
when it springs from us it is weakness.
Leaning upon you we can find our way back to you,
who are our refreshment and true strength.
Saint Augustine

The introduction explains that the author has collected 280 prayers from over 140 different Christians who have lived a life of faith throughout the centuries.  The Table of Contents lists the topics in alphabetical order. However, though a list of authors is provided near the beginning of the book, there is no index that allows the reader to locate the prayers associated to a specific one. Thus, there is no easy way (unless one has an electronic copy of the book) to find prayers by Mother Theresa. The prayers are thought provoking and meditative. They serve as devotionals in their own right for the believer seeking to follow the Savior. Whether in the home, the pastor’s desk, or in the church library, this volume may serve believers around the world.

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, March 6, 2017

Manga Classics: Great Expectations - A Review

Manga Classics
Great Expectations

great expectations.jpg

Author: Charles Dickens
Adapter: Crystal S. Chan
Artist: Nokman Poon

A Review

In high school, Great Expectations was barely readable by this reviewer. This Manga edition stood out and made the story both readable and enjoyable.

Manga is unique - it is intended to be read starting from what we westerners would call the “back” of the book. Reading then proceeds toward the “front”.  At first this may seem a bit discomforting, but it quickly becomes second nature and the story moves along. At 312 pages, this book is almost three times as long as most graphic novels - echoing the nature of Dickens work. But the artwork (except for the covers, all artwork is black and white in my e-book copy) makes the story understandable and enjoyable to one who has long ago forgotten the plot and themes developed in Dickens classic work.

The Dickens story was published with two distinct endings. The latter being adapted after early readers expressed a specific dissatisfaction with the earlier version.  Neither ending is depicted in this book. A quick search of the Internet provided summaries of both endings - the omission of either or both does not seem to hinder the story, but it might have been fun to see them both included for the readers’ benefit, allowing him or her to choose the prefered ending.  

For those looking for a new and enjoyable way to enjoy classic stories, Manga may provide one means to do so. You do lose the author’s original insight and nuances - but … this reader enjoyed the new journey through the old material, perhaps others will 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.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Maybe It's You - A Review

Maybe It’s You

Maybe Its You - Cover.jpg

Candace Calvert

A Review

“We see our scars and our flaws …
God sees the child he’s always loved.”

Broken homes and environments come in many shapes and sizes. And walking away from that brokenness can take many different directions. This book explores some of the paths that a group of people, all centered around Sloane Ferrell, a well-trained and experienced ER nurse. The book makes clear that recovery is not easy; but from wherever one starts, the journey to peace, grace, and forgiveness is worth the work. Not everyone will make that journey, some may delay moving forward, but peace, grace, and forgiveness are offered to all who are willing to walk it.

The author is a retired ER nurse, now a grandmother. I do not know to what degree her stories reflect her real life, but they do give the reader a glimpse of the “exciting world of emergency medicine” through the eyes of one who has lived it. The book includes enough romance (nothing explicit) to interest the soft-hearted readers, and enough drama and excitement to interest those looking for more adventure.  

This is not the first book by this author that this reviewer has read, but the first in this series. Having said that, the book stands alone and was easily read without any hint of the contents in the two previous books. The book would easily find a place in the community library. Because faith has a role in the story, it could also easily find a place on the shelf of the church library 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.