Friday, March 29, 2019

Breach of Trust - A Review

Rachel Dylan has created one of the best faith based, romantic thrillers that I have read. It has enough believable twists and turns to keep the most devoted suspense reader on the edge of his or her seat from the first page (“My friend was murdered”) to the very end (“Unscathed, Noah ran to her and guided her out from behind the desk as police officers swarmed into the room. “Your safe now,” he whispered ...).

The book easily falls into the same tradition as John Grisham and Robert Whitlow - and misses many of the flaws I found in Ms. Dylan’s earlier work, Lone Witness. Those who enjoy romantic suspense will find this book a thrilling read. In addition, the book is recommended for most church libraries with a section focused on fiction as well as most local public libraries. Believers may find this to be a good gift for their unbelieving friends, not to be given as a “trick” gift, but as a really good read that may get others to think about 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.

Over The Line - A Review

Kelly Irvin has written a solid faith-based thriller with a rougher edge than I generally enjoy. Gun smuggling is hurting the reputations of San Antonio, TX, and Laredo, TX. It was also effecting the lives of Gabriella Benoit (former San Antonio prosecutor and current restaurateur) and her family.

Beginning with the death of a confidential informant working with her brother, an ATF agent, the books moves along. Sadly, though the plot is good and attention holding, it felt to this reader as if he were sloshing through foot deep mud for most of the book. There times when the reader felt that it was moving at a good clip, but those places were few and far between. Of course, the book’s pace is a much a function of the reader’s taste as it is of the author’s writing - so other readers may find the book to be a faster read than I did.

Those who enjoy faith-based thrillers will find the story worth reading. Because of the added grittiness of the book, the local church library would do well to have one or two local members pre-read this book before definitely adding it to their collection. Local libraries serving a conservative community may want to consider adding this book to their 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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

The Meaning of Protestantism - A Review

My first thought as I began to read the opening pages of Phillip Cary’s book “The Meaning of Protestant Theology” was that I had picked up a boring, poorly written book that would be difficult to recommend for an average reader.

That was my impression of the introduction - I thought I was looking at a book written for the very intelligent, scholarly reader, a class into which I do not place myself. I read all the introduction and my opinion did not change. It did not seem fair, however, to judge a book solely by its introduction, so I began chapter 1. I found a readable, interesting essay discussing the work of Plato as assimilated by early Christian writers. This sets the foundation for the book which is designed to follow the thoughts of Plato to Augustine to Luther and the Reformation.

The book is readable and interesting, unlike the introduction. The book will be of interest to those interested in the development of Protestant (Lutheran) theology through history - though the writer clearly states that he has no desire of leaving the reader a devotee of Luther’s teaching; the author clearly states that he is Episcopalian. Not a systematic theology, but clearly rooted in the discipline of historical theology.

Though not knowledgeable in this field, I found the book interesting and relatively easy to read as, to me, an introduction to historical theology. The book probably would not find a home in most local church libraries, though individual pastors with an interest in pre-Christian philosophy, early Christian theology, and the development of early Protestant thought may find it of interest. Most seminaries, both Protestant and Catholic, would find a place for this book in their collections as it begins by exploring the connection between Platonism and Augustine and ends by exploring the connection between Plato, Augustine, and Luther.
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 13, 2019

Wiersbe Study Bible (Hardback) - A Review

The Wiersbe Study Bible

general editor
Warren Wiersbe

Thomas Nelson has again added a nice study Bible to its list of publications.

To be fair, Warren Wiersbe has long been one of my favorite speakers and writers. Shortly after beginning my journey as a believer, I began to listen to Warren Wiersbe on the radio as he taught in his “Back to the Bible” program. As I began personal Bible study, I would purchase the “BE” book that paralleled my current study. I still consult these works (albeit, electronic versions) as I do personal study, or prepare sermons or Bible studies for small groups.

The Wiersbe Study Bible is actually the second study Bible published with Warren Wiersbe's name attached to it. In 2009 The Transformation Study Bible was originally made available. At the time of its publication, it was said to contain the full text of Wiersbe's “Be ....” series of Bible commentaries. Though I can find no clear statement of how this new book compares to either the commentary series or the earlier study Bible, there does appear to be considerable overlap. Here are two quotes. The first is from the notes found in The Wiersbe Study Bible. The second from Wiersbe’s “Be Worshipful”s commentary on Psalm 28:

This passage was selected randomly (i.e. I just opened the Bible), yet the two passages have a great many similarities. Compare the highlighted text from the “BE ...” commentary to the notes found in the Bible text above.

The notes are copious and informative - I was hard-pressed to find a page with no notes. I found one, buried deep in the pages of the book of Numbers; though the opposite page still had its own notes. Notes on most pages consist of cross-references and textual notes. The textual notes normally consist of two or three sentences with background material or application suggestions for the text. Also included are “CATALYST” notes designed to help the reader dig deeper into the text by looking at broader themes and character studies.

The other concern I have with this current study Bible is the “Index of Preaching Outlines” placed at the rear of the book. It does not seem to index anything in this Study Bible, per se. Rather it appears to be a list of chapter titles from Wiersbe's “BE ...” Bible commentaries, though no reference is made to these volumes in the current volume.

There is a lot of material in this study Bible, but much of it seems to duplicate what Wiersbe has written elsewhere. If the reader does not have access to these other resources, then this volume is of immense value; if the material is available either in paper or electronic format, this new edition of the Bible may be of lesser value.
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.

The Coffee Club Mysteries - A Review

The Coffee Club Mysteries

Six authors contribute six cozy mysteries to this anthology. Murders and robberies seem to define the small town of Oak Grove, KS. The collection of stories has differing levels of quality - though the further this reader got into the book, the better the stories became - the last two stories were, to this reader, the best of the lot. The stories consist of 13-15 chapters each of about the same length:

          Coffee, Tea, or Murder by Cynthia Hickey
          The Honey Hive Mystery by Dana Mentink           Chili Con Carne Murder by Candice Prentice           Nuts for Coffee by Darlene Franklin           In Hot Water by Elizabeth Ludwig           Nutty as a Fruitcake by Janice Thompson

The stories take place over a year with the members of a local book club that meet weekly on Tuesday evenings at the
The Coffee Perk serving as the amateur sleuths. Along with the help of a few neighborhood friends, a newly arrived writer, and a weirdly suspicious sheriff (could he have been the killer?), crimes are solved and things are put right.

Each of the stories demonstrate a bit of faith, though, as I said earlier, the quality varies from story to story. Though the main protagonist of each story varies, the same characters continue to define the book club and the same community shops define the nature of the town. The stories tie loosely together much like a scripted TV show is tied together week by week - the stories do not rely on each other and can be read separately, they share characters and settings.

If a reader enjoys cozy mysteries, these stories and the book would be easily enjoyed over the course of a long weekend.
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 6, 2019

The Baggage Handler - A Review

The Baggage Handler

David Rawlings

Three airline passengers decided to retrieve their own luggage, but they each picked up a another’s bag in error. With deadlines approaching and life crashing in. the three passengers are sent to Baggage Services to retrieve their own luggage.

As they each retrieve their luggage, they find that they are carrying far more baggage than they thought. It was the baggage they had gathered as they listened to family, friends, and co-workers; baggage they had paid dearly for as they lived their lives. However, in the time (had it only been a few minutes, it seemed like forever) they had to wait for the Baggage Handler to clear them to leave, some would find their load lighter, others would see no lightening of their load - maybe it would even be a bit heavier as they finally saw the load they chose to carry.

This reader found his own load to be a bit lighter as he was reminded of his own story and had let go and gave his baggage over to the true Baggage Handler many years ago. God was good as he took that load and provided the freedom to grow and change in unexpected ways.

Easily a five-star book that can be appreciated by many; but like the passengers that day, not all will. They may have to meet the Baggage Handler on another trip, maybe then they will share their load with Him.
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.