Wednesday, May 29, 2019

10 Minutes in the Word : John - A Review

10 Minutes in the Word
A nice devotional focused on the Gospel of John. Though it does not cover every verse of the book, 48 entries provide comment and insight to most sections of the gospel. Each entry consists of four parts:

  1. A verse or two of the current text is quoted.
  2. A 1-½ page devotional is included - reflecting on the passage and its meaning in context.
  3. A brief prayer 3-4 sentence prayer related to the content of the devotional is available.
  4. Each entry concludes with a reflective question or two allowing the reader to apply the passage to his or her life.

Though no specific author is credited, the material is helpful. The only concern that I have is that the chosen font is not suitable for senior citizens, my target audience. A larger and bolder font would have been preferred - especially given the amount of white space on each page.
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.

Tell Me No Secrets - A Review

A well-written mystery taking place in the Blue Ridge Mountains and along the Appalachian Trail in northern North Carolina and southern Virginia near the highest mountain peak in Virginia (Mt. Rogers which stands 5,728 feet above ground level). The scenery is beautiful (and inviting a visit, in better days), standing in dark contrast to the gruesome murder of Scott Curry.

The young gay man’s body was found at the most inappropriate time - as Ava Logan’s 12-year-old daughter was about to be baptized in the muddy waters of Jackson Creek. The discovery would put an end to the day’s celebration and force Ava Logan, publisher of the Jackson Creek Chronicle and Scott Curry’s employer, and her boyfriend, Jackson County Sheriff Grayson Ridge, to follow the clues to find more about the victim and the murderer.

The story moves along quickly including a couple of brief visits to Mary McCarter, one of several women in the area who were said to have “the gift”. We also get to visit the “Higher Heavens Holiness Church”, located along the slopes of Mt. Rogers, along with a glimpse at its Sunday morning snake-handling service.

The author crafts a believable story, though its exploration of faith will leave some disappointed. It is clear that the author is convinced that faith can be expressed in a variety of ways, though there is no clear role model for the evangelical or, even, a mainline protestant believer. Though the book explores the nature of faith, the author makes no clear statement as to the nature of that faith. Though that was not the intent of the book, it was disappointing to this reader.

For the reader looking for a good summer read this book may fill the bill. A bit beyond the average cozy mystery, but still worth the time I took to read it.

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, May 22, 2019

Cold Aim - A Review

Cold Aim is a Faith based crime thriller set in the Rogue Valley outside Medford Falls, OR; it is an exciting sit-on-the-edge-of your-seat story focusing on the issues of international human trafficking and the work of national and local law enforcement’s to intervene in putting a stop to its evil.

With roots 25 years in the past, Police Chief O’Rourke and her small force, working with the county sheriff, the FBI, and the local pastor, Oliver Macpherson, would be responsible for rescuing two local women as well as a score of others located around the country and the world. The reader quickly learns that human trafficking is not just a problem elsewhere or on the international front, but will sometimes need to be dealt with in the local community as well.

But the solution would not come easy - the death of both the innocent and the guilty would provide milestones toward the arrest and capture of the crime family’s long time head. Their work would also lead to the freedom of many (both physically and spiritually) as they moved closer to apprehending those responsible for stealing the childhood of so many. In the midst of the story both Chief O’Rourke and Pastor Macpherson would be facing their own spiritual crisis as they sought to follow the path God laid out in front of them.

The only flaw I found in the book is that occasionally the main characters would reflect on events found in earlier books in the series. This in no way detracts from the current story or leaves the reader at a loss, but a footnote pointing the reader to the earlier books might alert the current reader that the earlier stories are available and can also be read.

For the reader looking for an exciting week of reading, Cold Aim might just fill that need. This book has a place on the shelf of the church library and the local community library’s shelves.
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.

Fair Game - A Review

Fair Game

Annette Dashofy

The Monongahela County Fair was the perfect setting for the most recent cozy mystery from Annette Dashofy. With the midway, the 4-H Pony Barn, the show arena, and the many concession stands, would make those from rural America right at home. The county, being located in SE Pennsylvania, allowed this reviewer to feel like he belonged here.

Zoe Chambers had been raised with 4-H, but now was showing her Quarter Horse gelding, Windstar, for the first time in 20 years since leaving 4-H behind. But she felt at home as she moved in and out of the horse barn with the kids and teens who were showing their own work. Showing her horse was not her main assignment at the fair, she was part of the EMT Squad who stood on standby in the event of an accident or other injury. And like in the past, she found herself involved with murder.

It did not help that the local township Police Chief, Pete Adams, was her boyfriend. Her training as an EMT prepared her to wear one other hat - Assistant County Coroner. Together Zoe Chambers and Police Chief Adams and other members of the community would need to solve, not one, but two murders, that had roots in the events happening on the fair grounds that week.

The book is a fun read, one of the better cozy mysteries I have had the pleasure of reading this spring. For parents of 4-H kids or those with a history in 4-H, the book will bring back memories. The book will serve as a pleasant (mostly-hey, murder is murder) spring or summer read as one contemplates fair season in the coming months. It will fit well into the local county or town library - especially for those residing in non-urban spaces that fill much of America. Take off your shoes, put up your feet, and enjoy Fair Game.
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, May 14, 2019

NIV Starting Place Study Bible - A Review

Designed to be the initial Study Bible for a typical new believer, the NIV Starting Place Study Bible would appear to accomplish that goal.

Borrowing from some of Zondervan’s most helpful Study Bibles, the NIV Starting Place Study Bible provides a wealth of information to the new Bible student. The six underlying resources are as follows:

  • The Essential Bible Companion
  • NIV Quest Study Bible
  • NIV Foundational Study Bible
  • NIV Archaeological Study Bible
  • NIV Student Bible
  • NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible
With the exception of the last, each of the above resources is well-known and appreciated by this reviewer. Having never the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible, I cannot comment directly on its value. Included are a variety of helps:
  • Book Introductions
  • Study Notes keyed to Biblical passages
  • Context Notes providing background material
  • Q & A Notes providing answers to key questions
  • Bible Character studies
  • Introductions to key Bible Truths
  • Subject Index
  • Dictionary - Concordance

Designed using a four color (black, white, yellow, and gold) layout, there is useful information on almost every page. I would recommend that pastors and others use the underlying Study Bible resources; but for the new student of the Bible, this Study Bible is a useful resource. It will not be the last Bible most students of any age will want, but it is a great place to begin.
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, May 13, 2019

In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower - A Review

Whether teaching at a small church connected college or a large state university, campus life is much the same for faculty. Twenty years of experience has demonstrated that truth to me. Alan Kirby has captured that atmosphere well - as I read this current mystery I felt as if I had returned to my campus roots, both as a student and as a member of the faculty. However, I am glad to say that crime never played a critical part of my experience - as a suspect, a victim, or a observer.

California Pacific University, a middle tier institution, sitting someplace between the prestigious schools that made up the University of California and the lesser-known, but very well-equipped, schools of the California State University and Colleges system, was about to become the next victim of a campus crime spree.

It was a spree - as the intensity and ferocity of the crimes increased, so did the fear that dropped upon the campus. Beginning with red paint made to look like blood, ending with a deadly arson attack, and providing an opportunity for a major campus massacre - it would take the work of Darren Kelly, Professor of Counseling Psychology and therapist at the campus Counseling Center Darren, and Jake Cooper, the lead Detective for the university police department, to identify the person responsible for the crimes.

The plot is timed well, with a major twist that will catch most in the end. It held this reader’s attention for the length of the novel - leaving little to be disappointed in. The book is easy to recommend for any involved in the academic world or for those wanting a good solid mystery to fill a week’s worth of reading. Though there is no hint of a sequel, one may hope that the author receives enough reinforcement to allow the two primary characters to work together on more cases 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.

Diggin’ Up The Dirt - A Review

Mother is a jerk - marrying off her daughter before she is engaged. Grandpa (PaPa) is a real help in solving crime - only he is a friendly ghost. Kenni Lowry was sherriff of Cottonwood, elected to replace her granddad the ghost. She caught between doing her job and remembering that she has to run for re-election in another two years. It was sometimes a delicate balance as she sought to criminals from the streets of Cottonwood, though there were few streets

Kenni’s boyfriend was in a jam - he wanted a promotion; but as a deputy sheriff; the only promotion for which he was eligible was to sheriff, his girlfriend’s job. Some had to give.

Given the drama in her life, it was not long before a series of deaths, near deaths, and robberies, began to define the days of Cottonwood. Kenni knew who was responsible except … and that was where life got exciting. 

A well-written cozy mystery, whose only flaw was that the solution fell into the sheriff’s lap, rather than being truly being solved with good detective work. This is a disappointing way to end a book as it means the reader has to also wait for the solution to be revealed as well, rather than solving the puzzle as the book is read. Hence, the four-star review.

But the book is a fun read and not a waste of time. It is recommended for the typical cozy mystery reader.
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.

Ripe for Vengeance - A Review

Megan Sawyer had been a lawyer - but when she inherited her small family’s farm, she turned to being an organic farmer - selling goods both on the farm and at her nearby cafe-minimart located in Winsome, PA. Now her finace’s, Dr. “Denver” Finn, the local veterinarian, college friends are visiting - and one ends up dead.

Megan, Finn. and the local sheriff would need to track down the murderer before the friends leave town. At times the relationships are friendly, at times they are tense - but the story moves forward at a good pace, holding this readers attention throughout. 

One of the best coming from Henery Press in the last few months. The characters feel real, much like friends who have a similar farm in central Pennsylvania. Winsome, PA, echos the small farming communities in which I have sometimes lived in the past.

The book is recommended for the cozy mystery enthusiast. It will be a great summer read either on vacation or on your home’s back porch. It would also make a great addition to the cozy mystery collection of the local library as well.

A fun 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.