Monday, July 10, 2017

Every Deadly Kiss by Steven James

**Potential Spoilers to the book below**

I think I have reached the saturation point with Steven James and his Bower's Files series.

I really enjoy the writing quality and storytelling abilities of Steven James. He can take so many threads and create an engaging tale. I have enjoyed basically every Bowers book.

But I think, with this latest prequel, I have come to find that the books read too similar.

At this point I get that there is a serial killer who does horrific things. I get that Patrick Bowers is going to get beat up/injured/placed in life or death situations. Every time.


I also know that there will be a kind of twisty reveal at the end and it now entails a plant. (You'd think, at this point the FBI would put out a mole hunt with how many plants there are)

I guess I understand that this series is a series of a brilliant FBI agent called in to hunt down serial killers. I understand that there is always going to be some kind of relational hardship to work through.

And, believe me, James is fantastic at writing through the thoughts and inner workings of the relationship content. He is fabulous and getting you to think about some heavy hitting topics while reading a summer beach thriller.

But I think I've come to the point where it all feels formulaic now.

One other point of concern for me is the inclusion of cussing from the characters now. I don't think James ever had his characters say the things they said in this latest installment.

And this is another question I have for writers: the defense I hear in favor of using coarse language is that it's true to the characters. I understand that point. But if your characters haven't talked like that in over how many books, why is it true to their character to have them start now? And if this is a prequel, why didn't they continue to talk that way from the beginning?

I really REALLY like Steven James books. I consume his stories.(I finished this book in one day) I think I need to take a break, though.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Berkley Press.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The Mediterranean Love Plan by Stephen and Misty Arterburn

Who needs more so-called secrets to enhance your marriage?

Sometimes I read these books just to see how they repackage the same message found in every other modern love-help book.

This couple has experienced the wonders of European love and decided to share it with the rest of us in seven simple "secrets".

The secrets are attunement, playfulness, savoring food, enjoying beauty, creativity, health and longevity and blending sacred and sexual.

This book is part travel through the countries, part personal experience, and part advice-giving. But like I wrote earlier, most of these secrets are simply repackaged ideas you'd find in every other love book.

For example, you'll find advice to get in tune with each other, fully engage with what your spouse enjoys, do things together like cooking, go on a hike and enjoy the wonders of creation, and how to have godly sexual passion. (I'll let you read that part on your own to see how they unpack that secret)

This isn't a bad read. They clearly want to add their voices to the mix. The advice isn't bad. It can be fun to read how other couples try out new things and attempt to apply it to your own situation.

But I'm just not a fan of so many "here's how to FINALLY have a wonderful marriage" as if the other hundreds of books don't promise the same thing. And maybe that's the problem. These books aren't breaking through which is why there are so many of them out there.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Zondervan Publishing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson

What would you do if you had access to 49 sermons given by a man who has made an impact to untold numbers of people?

Peterson graciously gives us the text of some of his messages and they go a long way in helping us understand his comprehension of what a pastor should do and how a pastor should be.

Poetic and grounded.

The world is starving for a spirituality and this collection is a deep provision to that hunger.

How should people living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ? This was the driving question toward life change for Pastor Peterson. His words reveal his unpacking the answer and they are greatly appreciated.

Take note that some of the sermons have been edited but they still fit the overall theme of the book.

This is a great read for anyone feeling the separation between, "What I say/hear and what I do."

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by WaterBrook Publishing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Most Misused Stories in the Bible by Eric Bergerhuff

Think you know the stories from the Bible? Perhaps your memory is wrong or the story was presented in a way that was misunderstood.

Eric Bergerhuff thinks he has the stories that most often are misused and wants to clarify the issue.

One of the biggest things that I sat with after reading this book was how many of the so-called misused stories I already understood. I didn't know that so many people thought the stories in this book were meant to be used in the way he presents them.

You'll find the Old Testament stories like David and Goliath and apparently many people think it's a story of David overcoming his fear.

Up next is Gideon and his fleece, Cain and Able, Jonah and the big fish, the woman caught in adultery, Jesus not doing miracles in his hometown, Zacchaeus, the parable of the sower, the "three" wise men (I actually knew that many people assumed it was three because of the three gifts named), and a few others.

Bergerhuff does a good job explaining the misunderstanding (even if I didn't have them for most of the stories) and then he attempts to reveal the reality or the true "point" of the story. Some of them go nicely - Jonah not wanting the Ninevites to have the opportunity to repent, and what Jesus wrote in the sand. Others left me a little let down.

Some of that let down might have been because of my upbringing and the lessons I received as we studied the Bible.

All in all, this is an okay book. There are a lot of stories that are covered and information provided that may make you sit back and think differently about some of the more well-known stories of the Bible.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Bethany House Publishing.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Firstborn by Tosca Lee

This book can give you a ride for your mind's money. It is imperative that you read the first book of this series, Progeny before diving into this one.

We're talking bizarre locations, nicknames, and characters along with blitzing plotting that will have you either glued to your seat or absolutely confused out of your gourd.

Main character, Audra is remembering and she has to kill the Historian.

It will be difficult for some to keep up with the speed and transitions to such weird locations. I remember having a difficult time with the first book and this one doesn't let up on the weirdness.

There are so many twists and deceptions that you will probably have to read this book over again.

Tosca has a quality about her writing. Her fan base is rabid but some other readers can't quite grasp what they're reading.

Try out Progeny first then buckle up for Firstborn.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Howard Books.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Shattered by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

Now this is what I call a decent political book about the failure that was Secretary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

What went on behind the scenes when Bernie Sanders was on the move? How in the world does someone with such extensive political background respond effectively to Donald Trump and his unanticipated rise?

This book does a wonderful job of giving us a snapshot of that look.

I walked away from this book with a confirmation that the problem, while there many within Clinton's journey, was mainly with Clinton herself. And that is a shame because she has such a depth of political insight.

What she doesn't have is the ability to connect with the American people on a level that would energize and inspire.

Part of the book that I found interesting was the divide between the "old school" political hacks and the analytics-minded millennials. "Follow the data/numbers" seemed to be the rule of law for her team.

I'm always fascinated with political behind-the-scenes books that remain civil. This books does a great job with that. If you think there is a bias from the authors, it didn't come through too hard with their reporting, as I read it.

The poor team just couldn't figure out what was going on in the United States and why their candidate couldn't break through.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by Crown Publishing.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Life After by Katie Ganshert

The trend is girls on a train it seems. Katie has taken that concept, mixed it in with the opening shot of the movie Unbreakable and fleshed it out in an enjoyable manner.

There is an explosion on a train that kills everyone but one person. She, of course, is dealing with the whys and not wanting to have much to do with the collective "remembering" of the town around her.

But there are forces at work that prevent her from remaining a recluse.

Ganshert kept me interested in the story and the characters even while I freely admit this isn't the kind of book I'd typically pick up to read. She unfolded the reveals and the twists in a very smooth fashion. It almost felt like reading an episode of LOST and I genuinely wanted to find out what was going to happen with Autumn, Paul and his family, and their friends.

Her style of writing is fantastic. It didn't feel like an episode of any tv show on The CW nor a soap opera. While there is certainly drama and romantic "tints" to this story, it by no means felt forced or simply inserted to make the story. It felt real, in the midst of a horrific experience, the emotions and mental gymnastics felt true.

I enjoyed the story and the journey the characters traveled. I would recommend this to my friends to read as a way to help them exercise their deeper, spiritual questions about God, destiny, purpose, and life.

Great stuff by Katie Ganshert.

This book was provided for review, at no cost, by WaterBrook Publishing