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An interesting, but somewhat unsatisfying read…

A Review of Detained by Don Brown
I enjoy Don Brown’s work, and he has put together some good books over the last few years. In Detained, Brown begins the Navy JAG Series, and it shows some promise. The first book in the series deals with a couple of Lebanese nationals (a father and son) who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when an American ambassador is killed. Fast forward over a decade, and the son is in the US Navy, and his proud (and pro-American) father is coming to the US for a visit. Before either of them fully understands what is happening, they are both arrested by the TSA, whisked off to Guantanamo Bay, and are accused of perpetrating the attack against the US ambassador years before.

 

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The book has both strengths and weaknesses. As always, Brown writes a good story. The plot moves along, and there are several subplots to keep the reader’s mind active and engaged. The emotional terror of being falsely accused of a crime against the US is brought out, and the faith of the two Lebanese men is strongly portrayed. However, the storyline gets a little farfetched at times, and the treatment of the men by TSA versus CIA, FBI, or military is almost caricatured. Maybe this was intended by the author, but is lends a rather unrealistic atmosphere to parts of the story. Overall, it was a good read, just not one of Brown’s best works.

4 out of 5 stars
I received a free copy of this book from the booklook blogging program in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Bible Dominoes

Review: Bible Dominoes game

 

Our children are mostly too young to play any games but occasionally we come across one that works with their short attention span.  Bible dominoes is one of those games.  The 28 thick cardboard type dominoes are not small like dominoes you may be familiar with.  Instead these dominoes are about the size of a cell phone with bright pictures and numbers on them.  The box describes the game as being for 281550oages 3 and up, and the game can be played with 2 to 4 players.

 

A “storybook” is included which is basically a pamphlet with a few short Bible stories in it.  Despite the name, there is not much about this game that will instruct your child about the Bible.  I would call it Bible-themed.  In general, the game is basically ok.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

I received this game for free from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Adventure stories

Book Review: Andrea Carter’s Tales from the Circle C Ranch by Susan K. Marlow

 

I have never read any other book featuring Andrea Carter, but apparently I have been missing out. The other books about Andrea make up two sets, Circle C Beginnings and Circle C Adventures. This book attempts to fill in the gaps found in those books. The back of the book states that these short snippets are “inspired by fans’ questions.”

44379x_1_ftcSo you may have already gathered that this book is made up of a bunch of shorter stories or “tales” as suggested by the title. When I was reading this book it basically just struck me as wholesome adventure stories set in California in the 1800’s. I would imagine that this would be appealing to 3rd through 7th graders, particularly girls. And if you have been to the library to look at books for this age range, you may be disappointed with the selection. So I welcome books like this and hope to check out more in this collection about Andrea.

5 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel in exchange for a fair and honest review.

for those who love classic literature

Book Review – Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season by various authors

 

If I had paid closer attention to the word “classic” and not so much to the description that stated it could be read aloud and enjoyed by children of all ages, I may not have been so disappointed with this book.  I enjoy classic literature, but I think many of the stories are too abstract for younger children.

865982The book is quite large at 383 pages, and contains over 25 stories.  Most of the stories are pretty short and I especially liked how some background information was often included.  Authors like C. S. Lewis, Tolstoy, and Oscar Wilde are well-known, but I was unfamiliar with many of the other authors.

 

If you enjoy classic literature and would like some stories to help you reflect on the cross of Christ during the Easter season, then you will probably find a few favorites within this collection.

4 out of 5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from Plough Publishing as part of a review program by Handlebar in exchange for a fair and honest review.

If you are interested in some more info about this book check here.

Great New Biblical Fiction

Book Review – Esther: Royal Beauty (A Dangerous Beauty Novel Book #1) by Angela Hunt

 

I enjoy reading Biblical fiction, but with a story like Esther I was concerned that it has such a well-known plot that the book would be boring and utterly predictable.  When I saw the cover and read the series name, I thought perhaps the author had just created a story loosely based on the story of Esther found in the Bible.  What I actually found was that the author challenged my preconceived notions about what Esther was like.  And I believe she had legitimate grounds for doi216954_1_ftcng it while staying true to Biblical facts and including her findings from extensive historical research.

 

So even though I knew what was ultimately going to happen in this story, I was intrigued by the journey that Esther followed.  Harbonah, a eunich who is the king’s closest personal slave, also tells his side of the story throughout and adds another dimension to a story that will leave you feeling a range of emotions.

 

Obviously, this is a fiction novel, and some things are made up.  The author includes a note at the end to aid the reader in picking these things out.  Also, given the nature of the story of Esther and her being brought into the king’s harem, this may not be a great book for young, less mature readers.  I think the author has handled this well, but some readers are sure to be upset that their G-rated version of Esther does not hold water.  Xerxes was a typical, pagan ruler who was immoral in his ways with women and did things that were disturbing in the way he ruled.  However there is such beauty in this novel that Angela Hunt brings out because of the spotlight she shines on a faithful God who loves His people who are not always faithful to Him.

 

5 out of 5 stars

 

I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Sweet Bedtime Reading

Book Review- Really Woolly: Nighttime Lullabies by Bonnie Rickner Jensen and illustrated by Donna Chapman

 

Having seen the adorable Really Woolly illustrations before, I was pretty excited to check out this book.  The illustrator has truly done a beautiful job and all of the pages of this sturdy board book (with padded cover) are so cute.  When you flip through this book you will typically see a verse (verses are taken from the International Children’s Bible) along with a rhyming poem on the left side and a prayer on the right side.  If you read one of these with022952_1_ftc your toddler aged child every night at bedtime, you would have enough for about 20 days.

 

Your little one is sure to love the little creatures found in this book, and the themes of thankfulness, peace, and lots of references to God’s creation will soothe them as they transition to bed.

 

My only problem with this book is that the word “lullabies” in the title makes me think of music.  I was hoping these would be little songs to sing to our little  ones at night.  We have another board book which has sweet poems that can be sung to the tunes of popular lullabies.  It is a favorite in our house.  So I thought this would be similar, but was somewhat disappointed to find out that was not the case.

 

4 out of 5 stars

 

I received a free copy of this book from Tommy Nelson as part of the Booklook program for bloggers in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 

Really Good Biblical/Theological Work on Leadership in the Church

A Review of Shepherding God’s Flock by Benjamin L. Merkle and Thomas R. Schreiner
Eleven contributors wrote essays for this volume, including Andreas Kostenberger, Thomas Schreiner, Gregg Allison, and Bruce Ware. The introduction makes it clear to the reader that this book is not designed to be a popular-level “how-to” book, but rather a study of what the scripture says about church leadership and how it has been fleshed out in church history.
In chapters 1-4, the authors deal with what church leadership looked like in the New Testament. How much of the Old Testament concept of elders translated over into the New Testament? How did the concept develop in the Gospels? What about Acts and the epistles? These chapters lay a very solid foundation of what the Bible actually says about the role of the “shepherd” in the church.
Chapters 5 and 6 enter the annals of church history and cover how the papacy developed in the Roman Catholic Church. These two chapters are a fascinating history of the development of leadership in that particular church, and the extremes that bad theology can lead to when left unchecked. Evangelicals would do well to watch a442566nd be warned, for while we do not have a pope, we are constantly threatened with the elevation of little papal figures who gained great influence and authority through their popularity.
The next few chapters of the book deal with how leadership has manifested itself in various evangelical traditions. Chapter 7 deals with Presbyterian church leadership. Chapter 8 touches on Anglican views of church leadership, and chapter 9 launches into the Baptist history of having a plurality of elders within their churches. I thought that each of these chapters was fair and gave a good representation of the various positions. The authors make no bones about the fact that they are all Baptists, and so come from a certain perspective.
Chapter 10 deals with an overall biblical theology of leadership, and the book closes with a chapter on practical applications of biblical church leadership. Overall a very good book for those seeking to dig in to what the Bible says about church leadership and how it has been manifested throughout church history.

 

I would give it five out of five stars.

Another Solid Addition to the Kregel Exegetical Library

A Review of A Commentary on Exodus by Duane A. Garrett
The launch of the Kregel Exegetical Library series of commentaries have been a nice addition to the body of scholarship in the world of commentaries, and this recent addition is no different. Duane Garrett brings some good Old Testament firepower to the task.
The first 145 pages cover introductory material. It would be helpful for a pastor who is preaching 425510_1_ftcthrough Exodus to not just skip this. Garrett correctly dismisses the documentary hypothesis without spending too many pages discussing it. He spends a couple pages describing his translation philosophy, which is helpful since he provides his own translation throughout. This is followed by a large section on Egypt itself. Egypt plays a huge role in the book of Exodus, and a basic understanding of that country and culture is very helpful in understanding the book. This is followed by a section on the date of the exodus event itself. Garrett does not come to a conclusive decision on this, but fairly lays out the evidence for the various opinions. His strength here is his reliance on the authority of the Word- there is no doubt that the exodus happened. It is the exact placement of it in ANE history that can prove challenging. Garrett then deals with the potential location of Mt. Sinai, and thus the possible routes of the exodus itself. Overall, the introductory material is helpful for understanding the book.
Within the meat of the commentary you find the strength. Much like the other volumes in this series, the author begins with his own translation of the text. I am a translation nut, so I love these sections, especially because of all the explanatory notes for why the translator made the decisions he did. This section is followed by a short structure section that gives a brief outline of the text. This is followed by the commentary. Each section closes with some theological points to consider. These are helpful in formulating the main ideas if one is preaching that particular text.
Overall, this is another solid commentary that combines the things I love about this particular series: it is technical in that the author works in the original languages and explains his decisions, but it is practical and helpful in the preparation of sermons from the text. Good job by Garrett.

I would give it five out of five stars.

 

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Academic in exchange for a fair and honest review.

the book I closed without even finishing

Book Review: Mercy’s Rain (An Appalachian Novel) by Cindy K. Sproles

 

I will start out by stating that I found this book utterly disturbing – to the point that I did not even finish it.  I think that is a first for me since I usually will try to hear the author out all the way to the end.  Some might say that I am too “tender” to handle the content, and that could be a fair analysis.  Some might say 443619_1_ftcthat the subject matter struck a little too close to home, and that also might be true.

 

But I want to give a little bit more explanation as to why I had such strong opinions about this book right away.  The story takes place deep in the recesses of the Appalachian mountains in the late 1800’s when life was hard and the mountain people were somewhat backward.  From the first page, you are pulled into a scene where the “Pastor” commits horrible crimes all in the name of God.  He belligerently quotes Bible verses hurling them at people like weapons while he is himself an evil man.  I think many would call him abusive and point out that there have been an unfortunate number of individuals thru history to claim the name of Christ and then abuse those under them (and they would be right).  But it is too mild to say that this man was an abuser.  He was a serial killer with a deranged mind.  It goes way beyond abuse.  Plus, the “Pastor” described in this story, and anyone else who twists Scripture to excuse their sin, is not truly a Christian.

 

Being married to a wonderful husband who also is a pastor has also made me realize what an easy target his profession has become.  Whether it is pastors who are more concerned about lining their own pockets or pastors’ daughters who have gone bad, people seem to enjoy seeing the hypocrisy in it all played out before them.

 

Maybe if the “Pastor” had been a more believable character who was abusive (and left out the over-the-top murders), then it could have been insightful to learn how abusers can be so cruel and manipulative, yet so subtle to the general public.

 

One last note.  Sometimes people will read a book like this and think it would be great to recommend to a friend they may know who has been through abuse.  Please do not.  To hand someone a fiction novel to help them deal with their real life pain seems pretty insensitive to me.

 

3 out of 5 stars

 

I received a free copy of this book from Kregel Publications in exchange for a fair and honest review.

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