Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales, by Randy Singer (Tyndale)

deadSome books take a good 20 pages to set the stage before actually telling the story. That’s not Singer. With him there’s no dillydallying; he pulls you right into the story in the very first page. I like that.

By the same logic, I would have liked to seen the lawyers die a bit sooner. Instead it happens much later, about half way through the book. The title told me they were going to die, so I wanted that pivotal point to show up earlier :)

The story itself is well woven and well told—simple and void of overreaching prose. The storyline holds the reader captive and the ending is well worth the wait. Some may find the sub plots somewhat far-fetched and distracting, but I didn’t. I felt they added to the development of the characters.

Although a pastor, Singer does not unnecessarily pepper his story with random Bible verses or biblical principles. Instead the characters tastefully reflect Singer’s pastoral persona: there are steps taken in faith, grace expressed in second chances, and contentment in living every day—no matter that might look like.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

 

 

lead for god’s sake by todd gongwer (tyndale)

ImageIt took me forever to get through this book.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book on the principles of servant leadership. It’s got strong practical, applicative points to make. It’s got a decent story line. It just wasn’t my style; that’s all.

Gongwer, weaves in leadership attributes and lessons through a story–a parable, to be accurate. A story, that is stretched through the hundreds of pages from start to finish. That may work for most, but not for me.

If I want a parable, I go to the gospels, to Jesus. Or maybe to Swindoll’s Tardy Oxcart. For me a parable is short and pithy–something memorable, something that makes its point with subtlety yet without belaboring me with details.

So, while the book gets an “A” from me for content, it scores far less for its delivery.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

the witness by dee henderson (tyndale)

For me, the book was just meh. Plot line was rather formulaic and predictable. And there was very little character development. I loved the author’s use of descriptive language, though.It kept me engaged despite the stuff I didn’t care for.

Maybe I’m biased because I have an aversion to books labeled as religious fiction simply because of a sprinkling of prayers or random, awkwardly placed meet-Jesus conversations. I want to meet a character who squeezes my heart with a yearning to know Jesus even more. I want a story that assures me that all is good when God’s in control–even when all doesn’t seem all that good.

Maybe I’m biased because I rarely read religious fiction. (I’m also too cheap to pass up a free book.) To me a true story of someone’s walk with Christ echoes hope and strengthens my faith in providential possibilities more than any piece of fiction could ever do.

So, considering I’m just one person, one review, and Henderson has several bestsellers while I have none, she must be doing something right :)

tj and the time stumblers by bill myers (tyndale)

Writing fiction for kids cannot be easy. Interests, expressions, language, technology and everything else about each age group changes quicker than one can write a book. With that recognition, I don’t mean to be overly critical of this book.

First, all the stuff about it that I think kids would like:

  • The plot is centered around time travel–Now what chid–or adult–doesn’t like time travel, right? Myers is very visual in his narrative and truly transports the reader on a journey.
  • The style of writing could be very appealing to young readers. It is a mixture of prose and comic book dialog without the pictures. But that’s the beauty of Myers’ style–His words have the ability of conjuring up the needed pictures and motions in the reader’s mind.
  • The character are well developed.
  • The story is about good living without breathing down Christian morality or guilt trips.

Now, for the other stuff–All the points mentioned above are in reference to a much younger reader than the reader Tyndale or Myers had in mind. This book is being marketed as juvenile fiction for adolescent readers. I can’t imagine what made them think this would appeal to that group of readers!

The characters are in junior high–seventh and eight graders. But I don’t see the language or the story appealing to this group of readers. Having worked with children and curriculum, Kindergarten through high school, I just don’t think a seventh-grader would identify himself with the character or have an interest reading the book.

I think the book would appeal more to a 3rd or 4th grader.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

the reason why by mark mittelberg (tyndale)

My spirituality was rote in many ways until I was almost 30 and began to question why I believed what I believed. With my discovery came a determination to encourage my children to question the faith they were reared into and discover with clarity their personal manifesto. My son’s manifesto and its evolution over 10 years, beginning at age 14, reflects his spiritual growth. Somehow, putting down in writing your reasons why you believe what you do has more of an impact that just knowing about it in your head. When it’s tangible and portable, your beliefs are more apt to be passed on and shared to bring meaning to someone else.

The Reason Why is that kind of book. It is a rewrite of one man’s manifesto written about a hundred years ago. Passed on, it has been used by and inspired millions. There’s nothing revolutionary or revelational about  the content. It’s simply one man’s reasons why he believes in the Bible as God’s inspired Word, why he believes in Jesus and His forgives, why he believes he is called to be a Christian. Yet, in its simplicity, you can see his sincerity, his faith, his conviction.

Mittelberg does a great job is editing the original manuscript for clarity and relevance. His use of modern-day examples and quotes from writers such as C. S. Lewis is well-balanced and appropriate.

This is the book no matter who you are–For the seasoned Christian, it is a refreshing affirmation of faith; For the curious wondering what Christianity is all about, it’s the perfect primer; For the casual reader, it reads like the autobiography of a man on a journey of self discovery.

My son’s manifesto has impacted his immediate circle over the years. I’ve used it as an outline for a Bible curriculum; a friend used in for a series of Bible studies for youth; others have read and been encouraged to reexamine their spirituality. A manifesto is meant to do just that–to bring purpose and meaning to your choices. And this book does just that–Laidlaw’s reasons why cause the reader to find purpose and meaning.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

beneath the night tree, by nicole baart (tyndale)

First, the good things about the book: 1) God is part of the story. In fact, He is center to the story. I like Christian fiction that is about lives that reflect the characters’ relationship (or lack or relationship) with God. The ones that throw in a prayer here and there are too fake even for fiction; 2) The characters are well-developed. Even Daniel, the five-year-old is as real as a five-year-old can get; 3) The story elements are neatly tied together. Every conversation, thought and event is tied to the story with great relevance. Considering how difficult this is to do, Baart deserves kudos for doing it so skillfully.

Now for what I didn’t like: The story was so predictable. 379 pages in all, and you know the end by page 68. Really. Worse, the synopsis on the back of the book is like the mother of all tweets–I’ve never seen a blurb give away the story so successfully.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)

new year’s resolution still on track. yay ;)

I began this year determined to pick a resolution that I actually might succeed in keeping. So I picked the WordPress challenge to blog every day. I figured since I’m always writing about something or the other, this may be the year I stay focused on my resolve. But then there are days like today when even waking up at 4am doesn’t give me enough time to get to everything on the day’s to-do list.

So, on days like today, I’m especially thankful for my Tyndale Life Application Study Bible. The notes on every page quickly steer my thoughts into blogs and I can smugly say Ha! Take That, Resolution! and move on to other tasks at hand. Here’s today’s blog. Thanks, Tyndale.