Thursday, September 16, 2021

Undercurrent of Secrets - A Review

 



Undercurrent of Secrets



by

Rachel Scott McDaniel

A Review

Two stories, two mysteries, two romances, separated by one hundred years, joined by the love for a paddle-wheeler that had its beginnings in 1914 and that is still plying its trade along the Ohio River serves as the backdrop for this well-told plot.The author weaves the stories together using two narrators, one from the past and one from the present. Together these two narrators allow us to follow the lives of Devyn Asbury and Hattie Louis and their loves and adventures. Bootleggers, kidnappers, arsonists, and murderers all add to this exciting tale.

There are few books that will bring tears to my eyes as I finish them - this one did. I give this piece of faith-based historical fiction five-stars.

______________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are mine alone.  




Wednesday, September 8, 2021

You Can Run - A Review

 



You Can Run



by

Karen Cleveland

A Review


I loved it. I hated it. I suppose that means it was a good book. From the first page to the last sentence, the author provides a compelling story of espionage, revenge, and corruption. The reader will leave the story with a gasp - satisfied and feeling punched in the stomach at the same time. I give the book 5-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.  



Monday, August 30, 2021

The Printed - A Review

 


The Printed



by

Cameron Fitzgerald

A Review

This book is a dystopian look at a post-democratic America where Christian beliefs have been deemed terroristic. Believers are interrogated and, if found guilty, “Printed”. Their fingerprints are painfully removed, and they are sent to rehabilitation centers.

The book follows the lives of Emmet, a believer who is “printed” and Jasper, partially responsible for determining the innocence or guilt of those undergoing interrogation. Emmett is “printed”, but Jasper is transformed as well as he spends time with Emmett. The first third of the book follow Emmett and Jasper as they attempt to escape the current regime; the middle third focuses on Jasper’s transformation as he better understand and accepts Emmett’s faith as his own; the final third focus on the efforts Emmett and Jasper spend on building a place of respite where believers do not need to fear the government’s repressive behavior toward Christians. The climax comes as the pair begin to rescue believers from the rehab centers to which they have been sent.

The author does a decent job of integrating elements of faith throughout the story - but to this reader it seemed a bit much. I never quite got gripped by the story - this reader felt this dystopian sci-fi was less than satisfying. I give the book 3-½ stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Saturday, August 21, 2021

The Barrister and the Letter of Marque - A Review




The Barrister and
the Letter of Marque


by

Todd M. Johnson

A Review

Todd M. Johnson has written a fun piece of historical fiction. Based in the early 19th century, Lady Madeleine Jameson has gone into great debt to purchase and support the first voyage of the brig Padget after its service in the earlier war with France. Captain Harold Tuttle had received a Letter of Marque, allowing him, his crew, and the ship to capture smugglers and claim their cargo as its own. But when the ship returns to London full of tea captured from pirateers in the Indian Ocean, the Letter has disappeared and the Captain and his crew are arrested for piracy.

At that point, Lady Jameson contacts William Snopes, barrister, to defend Captain Tuttle, her cousin, at trial. It becomes immediately clear that something is amiss. Rather than allowing the defendant months to prepare for trial, he is given days. At the same time Captain Tuttle has disappeared - not to be found in any of the city’s jails. Potential witnesses have also fled town. It would be a difficult case.

The result is an exciting story that takes the reader throughout the streets of London and into the English countryside. The author mixes the best and worst of smugglers, politicians, and lawyers, to create an attention holding story for this reader. The plot involves some well known historical figures (i.e. the dandy Beau Brummell), though with some non-historical settings and events. We become familiar with the infamous Newgate Prison, the Old Bailey courthouse, etc. I can only hope that the author has enough imagination to continue the story into future volumes; alas, it does not appear likely.

The plot, characters, and setting, easily make for a five-star 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 mine alone.



Friday, August 13, 2021

Under the Bayou Moon - A Review

 



Under the Bayou Moon  



by

Valerie Fraser Luesse

A Review



I would not have chosen this book if I had a full understanding of what I was getting myself into. Having finished the book, I am glad I read it.

The author introduces the reader to the home of the Cajun and Creole cultures along the bayous of Southern Louisiana. She brings a mixture of adventure, culture, and romance, into a land many of us will never visit. At the same time dirty politics, greed, and family, bring our hearts on a journey that we will not want to miss.


It is not often that a book will leave me with tears in my eyes as I finish it - but this one did both because I really did not want it to end and because I fell in love with the characters (most of them anyways). The book gets five stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.



Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Hostile Intent - A Review

 



Hostile Intent



by

Lynette Eason

A Review


Families begin to disappear across the US - lined up on their sofa, shot one-by-one. FBI Special Agent Caden Denning and his group of talented friends (FBI Agents, Private Investigators, retired Navy personnel, and the CIA) will be tasked with finding those responsible for the deaths.  

It is a story that has its roots in events that occurred 17+ years earlier in Russia prior to implosion and the dismantling of the KGB. Today it was affecting the lives of men and women that Special Agent Denning knew and loved. It was not only a matter of National Security; it was also personal.  

Though written as a faith-based story, Faith plays a less significant role than the characters and plot in making this a worthwhile story. The story is intense and could not be put down even for TV and dinner. This reader wanted to know what would come next. And for that reason, the book receives four-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.



 


Saturday, August 7, 2021

The Cryptographer's Dilemma - A Review

 



The Cryptographer's
Dilemma   



by

Johnnie Alexander

A Review

Barbour Publishing presents another book in its series of mysteries based on true events that can be further researched on-line or using the references mentioned in the epilogue. . This plot surrounds a Doll Collector whose Boston store served as the focal point for a spy that sought to provide Japan critical information following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

The story centers on one of the Code Girls, whose primary task was to decrypt messages intercepted from the German and Japanese. Eloise Marshall was “drafted” by the FBI to work alongside Phillip Clayton, a colorblind FBI agent who was not qualified to serve in the Air Corp. Together they were assigned the job of identifying the source of several letters that alluded to troop movements within the US Armed Services. The work would take them across the country - from Washington DC to Seattle WA and several places in between.

This reader was intrigued - not only by the story, but by the events that served as the catalyst for the book. More than once on-line sources were consulted providing more depth to the story as additional details of this WWII traitor were revealed. The author has provided an attention-keeping story rooted in history. I give the book five stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Friday, August 6, 2021

Woman In Shadow - A Review

 



Woman In Shadow



by

Carrie Stuart Parks

A Review

Joshua 1:9
"This is my command—
be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid or discouraged.
For the Lord your God is with you
wherever you go.


PTSD is not just a consequence of military service. It can also evolve from the dangers and trauma faced by First Responders. Such was Darby Graham’s circumstances. She had been part of a recovery program, but now had arrived at Targhee Falls,ID, to put her new found recovery to a test. The Mule Shoe Dude Ranch had experienced a number of mysterious events - accidents, deaths, and missing staff. Darby’s recovery program had asked her to look into the events and report back. She had not been asked to risk her life. 

But life at the dude ranch continued to go downhill. Dead animals showed up in unexpected places, more staff were found dead, windows were shot out. With the exception of a local sheriff deputy, she was not sure who to trust - even the sheriff herself seemed implicated.


I do wish that the author and/or publishers had included references to the help available to those struggling with PTSD whatever the source. A website or phone number would have been a great way to begin or conclude the book. This was an Advanced Reader's Copy, so the possibility of such appearing in the final version of the book exists.


Written with a mixture of first-person and third-person narratives. this faith-based story follows Darby and other characters as they seek to discover the source of the events that sought to destroy the well-deserved reputation of Mule Shoe. The book deserves a sequel, I would like to hope it is possible. I give the book five-stars.

______________

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Thursday, August 5, 2021

Murder at the Lakeside Library - A Review

 



Murder at the
Lakeside Library



by

Holly Danvers

A Review


Thirty-two year old Rain Danvers had the un-expected task of opening the Lakeside Library from Memorial Day to Labor Day that year - a task she did not need. She had come to her family’s retreat house to do just that after her husband had passed away. A task that was only made more difficult when the body had been discovered behind the outhouse the very day she arrived at Lofty Pines Lake.

This book appears to be the beginning of a cozy mystery series that is set in the colorful Northwoods of Wisconsin. As expected, along with the library, there is a nice three-season lake, eccentric characters, and a great many intelligent people who are more than willing to help the police solve crimes. The result is a great cozy that should lead to a great series.

My only concern is the constant need to serve beer (or other alcoholic beverages) at every event - social, work related, or otherwise. Yes, this is Wisconsin, one of the beer capitals of the world; but, having lived there, I know that even Wisconsinites have events that do not include beer. The author needs to find a better balance. I give the book four stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Thursday, July 22, 2021

Escape From The Everglades - A Review

 



Escape From The Everglades



by

Tim Shoemaker

A Review

A nicely written thriller featuring three teens who live in the Everglades in Southern Florida. They are close friends, but each is at a different point in their journey of faith. They challenge each other - both for good and bad - as they search for the older sister of one of the teens, but each of them does grow in the process.

Focus On The Family suggests the book is aimed at a 9-15 year old audience. Given the amount of graphic violence and the issues discussed, this reviewer would suggest that the book is better aimed at a 15-year-old to adult audience. The reader will be drawn in and will not want to put the book down till the final chapter is finished.


With the exception of the violence, this reader was reminded of the Hardy Boys adventures from the 1950’s and early 60’s. I would like to see sequels written - maybe in Boston (where two of the friends are moving) and. later, in whatever college town they choose to attend. I give the book four-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.



Friday, July 16, 2021

Off The Pages - A Review

 



Off The Pages



by


Alejandro Gonzalez


A Review


Off the Pages is one of the few books I have reviewed that I have a hard time recommending. Its language and violence would require an ‘R’ rating if transformed, as is, into a movie. Though written for a teen audience, I would have a difficult time offering it to the teens in my life. The characters were sometimes hard to follow - at times, making me wonder whether the story was covering the good guys or the bad guys.

The one redeeming quality was as a commentary on the 2016 or 2020 elections - where Obama had a literal role in the plot and Trump had a virtual role, though never being named specifically. I can only give the book two stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.


Monday, July 5, 2021

Breach Of Honor - A Review

 



Breach of Honor



by

Janice Cantore


A Review

I can’t change anything that has already happened.
Blame is irrelevant. It will change nothing.
I have to move forward and make better choices.
I need to remember what it felt like to walk with God,
not away from Him.
(Chapter 22)


The Table Rock, OR, police department has a problem - only no one knows it. It occasionally raised its ugly head throughout the years, but it became more obvious when Leah Radcliff, a member of the Table Rock PD, shot and killed her husband, another Table Rock Police Officer. The jury found her guilty and the judge sentenced her to 25 years to life. That was the published version of the story.

But that version of the story did not include the clandestine meetings her husband had late at night, it did not tell the years of violence that had defined much of Leah’s marriage, and it did not include the vicious attack that occurred the night she shot him. It would take five years, a new lawyer, a new trial, and the cooperation of the Table Rock PD, the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, the Oregon State Police, and the FBI, to follow all the leads and bring the truth into the spotlight.

The result is one of the best faith-based thrillers that this reviewer has read. Though much of the story focuses on the corruption present in the Table Rock PD, it also exposes the pain and grief associated with domestic violence. I appreciate the fact that the author has chosen to include the phone number and website for the National Domestic Violence Hotline at the beginning of the book. Much Christian fiction deals with difficult topics, but then offers no sources of help for those in need. A major plus for this book. I give the book five stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Chase - A Review

 



The Chase


e


by

Lisa Harris

A Review

Lisa Harris has written a faith-based novel that follows two US Marshals who are trying to track down four bank robbers that have “hit a least a dozen banks” in the Seattle area. though a motive is difficult to track down, the robberies are well-planned and with solid escape plans in place.

Whereas the first book in this series, The Escape, covered a half dozen states as the duo tracked down escaped criminals; this book focuses on Seattle and the surrounding area. The setting is gorgeous, giving this reader more reasons for vacationing in the area - maybe without the crime.

The book focuses on two themes as the Marshals do their work - loss (with its accompanying grief) and the need many feel to fix the people around them. These are important issues. Much of the book takes place as conversation (too much conversation?) between the two main characters as they evaluate how they have personally dealt with these issues. Though I would not expect a fictional book to provide answers to these kinds of problems, it would have been helpful to suggest places (as an epilog?) where those struggling with these issues could reach out for support. I give the book 3-½ to 4 stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Scarlet Pen - A Review




The Scarlet Pen



by

Jennifer Uhlarik

A Review


The Scarlet Pen is a bit of history wrapped up into a gritty mystery.

Many have become familiar with serial killers through the television show “Criminal Minds”. Most will not realize that there is a long history of serial killers throughout history. This book follows the story of one who killed at least nine in the mid-1870s in Iowa and Nebraska. Stephen Lee Richards had become known as the Nebraska Butcher or Nebraska Fiend. The author wraps her story around this man using a fictional fiance and a Secret Service Agent who is tracking the counterfeit money that Richards is also passing as he travels from Ohio to Iowa to Nebraska.

The story is gripping and attention grabbing as Clay Timmons seeks to protect Richards’ fiance, Emma Draycott, and apprehend the “special kind of tetched” criminal himself. Having lived in the area described in the book, it was difficult to imagine the evil this man left along the Platte River and in Western Iowa

What is amazing is that the author and the murderer himself are able to communicate God’s grace to our broken world. History tells us that both in a final testimony and in written correspondence, Richards confessed faith in Christ prior to his being hanged. The fictional Clay Timmons summed up an appropriate response when asked, “Did he really believe?’

Part of me hopes he was tellin’ the truth, that God has welcomed him home -- because if God can forgive and receive the likes of him, there’s incredible hope for all of us.

With the mixture of history and grace, I give the book 5-stars,
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.

 

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Big Idea Companion For Preaching And Teaching - A Review

 



The  Big Idea Companion

For Preaching

And Teaching



Edited By

Matthew D. Kim

Scott M. Gibson

A Review

In 1953 Dr. Henrietta Mears published her well-known handbook, What the Bible is All About. Over the yesrs the book has been republished and edited using different translations. This book follows in that tradition, but rather than being aimed at laymen and Sunday School teachers, this book is aimed toward Sunday School teachers and Preachers. That being said, the book goes a bit deeper and stresses teaching and preaching points rather than skimming each book of the Bible. Rather than choosing to cover the entire Bible in 52 weeks, it suggests teaching and preaching outlines based on the text. For example, rather than devoting one week to Mark’s gospel, this book suggests dividing the Mark into “nearly fifty preaching and teaching passages”.

Each Biblical book’s review is assigned to a single author - though some authors have been assigned multiple books. With a single exception, all the individual authors have earned PhDs from reputable schools. The single exception is a PhD graduate student at Wheaton Graduate School. Having said that, none of the authors were previously known to this reviewer. They do, however, currently hold positions at well-known institutions (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, etc.).

Each book includes a brief introduction and then a paragraph or two on each preaching passage. Each preaching passage includes a sentence describing the passage’s “subject”, “complement”, “exegetical idea”, and “homiletical idea”. Each book’s entry concludes with three or four suggested resources that the reader may wish to consult for further study. I was disappointed that the entries did not include any suggested application points for each passage.

Though, for most preachers and teachers, the books are divided into too many teaching portions, the book will be one that many will want to keep handy for ideas and general planning. I give the book 4-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Right Cross - A Review

 



Right Cross



by

Andrew Huff

A Review

Though it started slow, the book evolved into a nicely done faith-based thriller. Starting with a startling arrest in England, the setting moves quickly to Washington DC and its suburbs and on to Cheyenne Mountain, the former home, and now, of the alternate command center, of NORAD.

This is the third book in which John Cross finds himself fighting the terrorist organization going by the name of Forge. It was never clear what purpose and motivation drove Forge’s activity - but whatever it may be, they were set on destroying much of the US and its nuclear arsenal. John Cross and his team of allies (including a journalist, members of MI6 and the CIA, and members of the US Air Force) would need to fight hard to defend America as we know it.

At times the faith was a bit more of a distraction than I have found in many of the faith-based thrillers. The plot is riveting and full of the grit that many will expect in today’s suspense and thrillers titles. I give Right Cross 3-½ stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.


Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Keepers - A Review

 



The Keepers 



by

Jeffrey R. Burton

A Review

Cadaver dogs are trained to find bodies - those buried alive, those who have died in the most tragic accidents, and those who have decomposed from having sat too long. But some had other talents as well. Vira was that kind of dog. Vira could pick up the scents at crime scenes and hours or days later respond to that smell if it crossed her path again. The dogs were also defensive and wildly jealous when anyone wished to harm Mason Reid, owner of these amazing dogs. If you messed with Mason, the dogs would mess with you.

Jeffrey Burton has created an intense, well-written, story that continued to hold this reader’s attention from beginning to end. We get a glimpse of the dirty underbelly of Chicago’s politics and the few who are willing to protect the city from “the keepers” who did not want it to change for the better.

For the reader looking for a fast paced thriller, The Keepers might just fill the bill - it did for me. I give the book five-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.



Saturday, June 12, 2021

PowerPoint for MS 365 Cheat Sheet

 



PowerPoint for Microsoft 365

Reference and Cheat Sheet



by

i30 Media Corp.

A Review


This is the third item in this series that I have been privileged to review. Like others in the series it assumes some familiarity with PowerPoint - either from a prior version or from training in MS 365 Powerpoint. It contains four pages of useful hints based on the various menus provided by the program. It also includes a page of keyboard shortcuts for both the PC and the Mac. It does not explicitly cover versions of Powerpoint for MS 365 available for tablets or on-line.

These strengths also echo this tool’s weaknesses. Given that much of the four pages echo the main menu, it does not offer much detail about other features that lie below the main menus. Similarly, since it covers both PCs and Macs, many users will consider the unneeded OS as wasted space that could have included more useful details.

I am less familiar with Powerpoint compared to Word and Excel, so I found this reference sheet personally more useful than earlier ones in the series. I give it 4-stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Imagination Station: Refugees On The Run - A Review

 



Imagination Station

Refugees On The Run



by

Chris Brack
and
Shiela Seifert


A Review

I have been a fan of Adventures In Odyssey and the Imagination Station since these series of adventures began airing in the late 1980’s. This is the first book I have read starring John Avery Whitaker and the residents of Odyssey. This book is the final of a trilogy requiring the young friends to assist in repairing the Imagination Station.

We find John’s friends in Lithuania near the beginning of WWII. This fictionalized story centers on a relatively unknown series of true events when a Japanese diplomat saved thousands of Polish and Lithuanian Jews trying to flee the horrors of Hitler’s holocaust.

Though this story is fictionalized, enough facts are dropped along the way to allow the reader to dig for the rest of the story. Written for 4th through 6th grade readers, this senior adult found the story interesting and inviting to the end. Like most material coming from Focus On The Family, it also includes a clear statement of the gospel as part of the story. I give the book four stars.
______________
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review. The opinions expressed are mine alone.