Monday, December 31, 2012

Review of THE BEST QUESTION EVER by Andy Stanley

Rating: 5 out of 5

In light of a new year coming up or at anytime you find yourself at a new beginning, it would be a good idea to have an effective and efficient method for making decisions. We all have decisions in our past that we regret, and we may even be suffering the consequences of some of those decisions. Andy Stanley's book THE BEST QUESTION EVER is a helpful look at how to make wise decisions.

Stanley has a way of laying out things clearly and honestly. The book encourages to evaluate decisions in light of past experience, present circumstances, and future hopes and dreams. Stanley gives measure for living a life and making decisions that are more than just "not wrong." Just because something isn't wrong doesn't mean we should do it. Instead, we should look for the wise thing to do.

THE BEST QUESTION EVER is about drawing upon God's wisdom and living a life with few regrets.

Review copy provided by Waterbrook Multnomah through Blogging for Books

Review of the upcoming ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MOVIE MAKING MASTER CLASS by Tony Lee Moral


5 out of 5

Alfred Hitchcock made a lot of great movies that have stood the test of time. I can’t say that I’ve seen very many of them, but I’m well aware of his influence on some of my favorite modern filmmakers. Tony Lee Moral takes the approach of learning about filmmaking by exploring Hitchcock's process and methods in his upcoming book ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MOVIE MAKING MASTER CLASS.

Though the book explores Hitchcock's movies, the strength of the book is that Moral uses Hitchcock's approach to filmmaking to communicate a comprehensive look at all aspects of filmmaking from the original idea to the finished product. Hitchcock was a very involved filmmaker and had input in all aspects of his film, and this translates well into teaching about the different aspects of filmmaking in the book.

Some of the aspects that are particularly helpful from a Hitchcockian standpoint are the use of camera angles, cutting your movie to increase suspense, and the use of music. But the book also discusses working with actors and stages of story development.

ALFRED HITCHCOCK'S MOVIE MAKING MASTER CLASS is just what the title says it is, and film makers can learn much from walking through Moral's book.

Advance Review Copy provided by Michael Wiese Productions

Review of THE PANEM COMPANION by V. Arrow

Rating: 5 out of 5

Right before The Hunger Games movie came out I decided to finally sit down and read the books, and they quickly became one of my favorite book series I've ever read. When you get caught in a book's narrative the way The Hunger Games pulls you in, you hate to leave that world you've come to know so well through the story. V. Arrow, creator of the most well-known fan map of Panem, has written an unofficial guide to the series called THE PANEM COMPANION.

THE PANEM COMPANION goes through the process of mapping out the land area of Panem and gives a full- color map of the world Suzanne Collins may have had in mind when she wrote the series. The book explores some of the common elements that fans find themselves interested in about Panem and delves deeper into possible answer's for things such as race and ethnicity in Panem, gender roles, the rebellion, Prim's parentage, and much more.

THE PANEM COMPANION is a great opportunity to journey back into the world of Panem and speculate about some of the themes and elements of The Hunger Games series.

Review copy provided by Smart Pop Books

Review of THE THINGS THAT MATTER by Nate Berkus

Rating: 4 out of 5

My wife Lindsey loves interior design and is really good designing spaces that look really visually appealing. So I wanted to check out Nate Berkus' newest book THE THINGS THAT MATTER. Berkus is one of the world's most recognized and celebrated interior designers.

The book is really a chronicle of his life and the people and things that have inspired and shaped his sense of style. It's not really a how-to book on how to do great interior design, but people can still learn from it.

Berkus takes us on a journey through his own home and the homes of some other people as well. The main point that he's trying to make is that the design of your home should tell a story about who you are, which is an idea that my wife loves. The book wasn't really type of book I get into, but people interested in interior design will probably find it interesting

Review copy provided by Spiegel and Grau


Rating: 5 out of 5

It’s hard to know what to tell your kids about Santa Claus when you want the Christmas holiday to be about focusing on Jesus, why he came, and what he ultimately did for us. Santa can be used to promote a lot of self-centered focus and ideas that Christmas is really Santa’s holiday rather than the time we celebrate the birth of God in the flesh. However, I’ve always known that the Santa Claus myth that we know today evolved from the story of a real man named Saint Nicholas of Myra, and it is this man that can teach us a lot about who Jesus is and what Christmas is about.

In his fantastic new book THE SAINT WHO WOULD BE SANTA CLAUS, Adam C. English takes us on an historical journey into the life of the real life Saint Nicholas, and it’s a truly interesting story. Saint Nicholas was a wise and humble Christian leader most known for rescuing three girls from prostitution by secretly delivering money in a small pouch through their window at night. Nicholas was instrumental in the church Council of Nicea and the destruction of the temple of Artemis in Myra.

Though some of the legends surrounding Nicholas are a little unbelievable, the book lays out a genuine story of a man committed to Christ and his desires for the world. English’s research is impeccable, making this surely the best book on the subject. There’s not much focus on the modern Santa Claus myth other than a brief look at Coca Cola’s role in shaping our ideas about him. The focus is really on the real man, and I have to recommend this as one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read on a historical figure.

Review copy provided by Baylor University Press

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review of GOD AT WAR by Gregory A. Boyd

Rating: 4 out of 5

For a long time I’ve heard people say things about God that didn’t quite add up either logically or biblically concerning why evil exists in the world. Most people struggle with the idea of evil and suffering existing in a world created by and governed by a perfectly loving and powerful God, so it’s natural to want to try to reconcile how this can be true. Since the days of Augustine, the common solution has been the Greater Good Theodicy, which states that any evil event that happens, God allows to happen in order to bring about a greater good. In fact, in this scheme, evil is mysteriously a part of God’s plan without him being guilty of causing it. I began to question this idea because if God needs to allow an evil event in order to bring about a “greater” good, then that makes the evil event necessary. Put simply, God needs evil to bring about good. Put that way, it’s an appalling thought. A perfectly loving and powerful God couldn’t need evil to bring about his purposes. Yet evil still exists, and Christians still believe that God is perfectly loving and powerful. So how do we reconcile these two truths?

In GOD AT WAR, theologian and pastor Gregory A. Boyd spends considerable time tearing down the biblical inconsistency of the Greater Good Theodicy. Though I don’t agree with Boyd’s stance on God’s foreknowledge (Boyd is an open theist), I found this book to be incredibly illuminating about the nature of the world we live in and how evil exists within it while God is perfectly loving and powerful.

Boyd proposes a warfare worldview, that we live in a universe that is at war, between God is who is good and beings he created that started out good but went bad of their own free will. Boyd takes us on an exploration of key texts in both the Old and New Testaments to show that beings endowed with creaturely free will often do things that are in opposition to God’s desires, and God allows this, not to bring about a greater good, but because he created a world of free creatures who, in many ways, can do what they want. Of course, God isn’t just standing idly by while people are suffering. God is very active in the world to eradicate evil, but his desire in the beginning was to work through people. Therefore, God works in people and through people to eradicate evil.

Boyd shows how fallen angels have free will and make decisions and take actions that are often harmful to us as human beings. God is at war with these beings, and this presents the warfare worldview. We shouldn’t think that Boyd is presenting a weak God, but a God who deeply loves his creation and can do anything he wants yet chooses to work within the created order he instituted.

GOD AT WAR is a thorough book with many endnotes. This is very helpful for doing deeper study. Body cares much about people and how God is presented to them. I really appreciated this book and its accurate portrayal of a warfare worldview.

Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press


The BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO DIGITAL PAINTING IN PHOTOSHOP begins with an introduction describing the role of digital painters as concept artists for the visual elements we see in movies and video games. But even before that we’re introduced to some visually stunning images on the front cover of examples of digital painting. The book is designed for someone with no experience in digital painting or using Photoshop who wants to learn how to create incredible art through digital painting.

The book features step-by-step tutorials on how to set up Photoshop, including all the settings you need to be aware of in order to get the most out of the program. You’re introduced to the Photoshop workspace and how to actually put lines and color onto a digital canvas. The book is really a collection of essays by some of the world’s best digital painting experts on topics such as the different elements of art fundamentals, painting sci-fi, using photographs, and a look through some actual digital painting projects.

The book includes some great visual illustrations throughout that give beginners a level of quality in digital painting to strive for. It also shows what artistic capabilities are possible and what can be accomplished. It’s all very technical and will take a lot of patience, but it’s a great intro to digital painting using Photoshop.

Review copy provided by 3DTotal Publishing

Thursday, December 27, 2012


Rating: 5 out of 5

I’ve been really interested in the Molinist approach to describing God’s foreknowledge and providence in the last couple of years because it claims to be a way to preserve both God’s complete and meticulous sovereignty and genuine libertarian human freedom.

Thomas P. Flint, a professor of Philosophy at Notre Dame, has written what is probably the most authoritative and thorough book on the subject of Molinism. The book is called DIVINE PROVIDENCE: THE MOLINIST ACCOUNT. Flint begins the book by affirming from Scripture both divine providence and human freedom. He then launches into the argument developed by sixteenth-century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina to describe how both of these could be true. Molina suggested that God’s knowledge was divided into three logical moments. In the first moment, God’s natural knowledge is his pre-volitional knowledge of all possibilities. For example, God knew before creation all the possible things and people he could create. Skipping ahead to the third moment, God’s free knowledge is his exhaustive and entirely accurate knowledge of the past, present, and future of the world he has created. Molina suggested a middle moment in God’s knowledge. In God’s middle knowledge God knew all the free choices all the people he could create would make in any set of circumstances. This included the entire causal history up to the point of the choice to be made, so clearly God’s middle knowledge is infinitely vast. Based on this middle knowledge, which was pre-volitional, God chose and planned out the world he wanted to create. This way man’s free choices were factored in to his creation. God can govern the world through his omniscience and human freedom is preserved.

Though it seems to me that God still ultimately in this system decides beforehand each of the “free” choices people will make, I must say that Flint makes a great argument and this view has many merits to it. Though I don’t agree with all of it, I think it’s getting close.

The book is thorough and can get a bit confusing at times, especially when Flint starts talking about possible worlds and possible galaxies of worlds. Molinism has always been controversial, and Flint takes some time to discuss why he believes some of the common arguments against Molinism don’t hold up.

Finally, and this is where the strength of this book lies over others, Flint goes into some practical implications of the Molinist system. I’m not Catholic, so the chapter on Papal Infallibility wasn’t applicable to me, but the chapters on prophecy, unanswered prayers, and praying for things to happen were very illuminating on the possibilities of how God’s providence could work if Molinism were true.

I thought this book was very helpful to me as someone interested in all the aspects of what Molinism is about. If you’re interested in what this theological system looks like in comparison to Calvinism and Arminianism, this is a great book to read and wrestle through.

Review copy provided by Cornell University Press

Monday, December 17, 2012

Early Review of HURT by Travis Thrasher


Photo Credit: David C. Cook

Rating: 5 out of 5

Rating: 5 out of 5

Chris Buckley’s life has been strange and relentlessly tragic since he first arrived in Solitary, North Carolina. He’s watched people die, and he’s learned that some people think he’s something important. Dark forces that work beneath the surface of Solitary’s strange enough exterior are determined to draw Chris into their plans for evil and power. But Chris’s heart is being pursued by good just as much as it is being pursued by evil, and Chris must fight for what he loves most before he has to watch more people die. A girl named Kelsey has captured his heart, but can he rescue her from Solitary’s consuming darkness before it’s too late? Or will his tragic history repeat itself once again?

HURT is the final book in Travis Thrasher’s young adult series The Solitary Tales. With a story whose scope has been as big as the first three books have built it to be, I held a lot of expectation going into the conclusion of the story. With every page I felt drawn to an epic conclusion where questions would be answered and hope for the characters’ futures would be realized. And with every page the reality of Chris’ situation looked more and more bleak. If Thrasher has taught us one thing with the story of The Solitary Tales, it is that no one is safe. There are no guarantees that your favorite characters will make it to the end in one piece. So you read, not quite sure where this story is going to end up and if happiness is even possible in the midst of Solitary.

I loved the three previous books leading up to this one, but this one was by far my favorite. It was clear that the other books were leading up to this one, that this final act was what the story was all about, and I was almost completely satisfied with the conclusion. I say almost completely satisfied because I closed the book wanting more, wishing that the story wasn’t over, and hoping that this wasn’t the last I would read about the characters in The Solitary Tales.

Travis Thrasher has created a story that is creepy and beautifully redemptive. It is as much about Chris Buckley’s journey of his discovery of a loving God who battles against the darkness as it is about his discovery of Solitary’s secrets and his connection to them. Young adults and adults alike will find a compelling and suspenseful story in The Solitary Tales.

Review copy provided by David C. Cook

Friday, December 14, 2012

Review of MULTIPLY by Francis Chan

Rating: 5 out of 5

Francis Chan has become a voice in my own life for passionate pursuit of Jesus and deep commitment to reading the Scriptures. Together with Mark Beuving, Chan dives into the important topic of discipleship with MULTIPLY: DISCIPLES MAKING DISCIPLES. MULTIPLY is more than just a book; it is a series of study sessions designed to walk believers through God’s plan for discipleship and making new disciples. The book is all about encouraging believers to be the kind of disciples who make more disciples because this is the mandate that Jesus left us with.

Chan launches into the book with an exploration of what a disciple is and the kind of heart the disciple is to have. It’s a beautiful journey through what it means to love and follow Jesus and being an example to other people of what that looks like. The second part of the book covers the vital need for the disciple to be a part of a faith community and the role of the church in the world for making disciples. Part three walks believers through how to study the Bible for themselves and understand it. Finally, the book gives an overview of the Bible’s overall narrative.

MULTIPLY is a much-needed resource for helping Christians understand their biblical calling in life. The book states at the beginning that this material isn’t merely to be read, but to be taught. Chan and Beuving clearly desire to encourage Christians to be disciples and make more disciples, carrying on Jesus’ work in their lives. MULTIPLY is one book that needs to be in the hands of every believer.

Review copy provided by David C. Cool

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Review of HTML & CSS by Jon Duckett

Rating: 5 out of 5

HTML & CSS by Jon Duckett is an incredibly helpful guide to website design for the absolute beginner. Websites are one of the most important ways for people and businesses to create a platform to get their information out to people, and knowing how to design a website is a valuable asset. Duckett has written a clear and easy-to-understand guide that will give anyone the information they need to begin designing their own websites or getting the most out of their blogging platform software.

The book is divided into two parts. The first part covers HTML and the second part goes into the more visual design that goes into a website through CSS. The layout is perfect and very helpful both for retaining the information and flipping back through the book to refresh on certain elements you may have forgotten. Duckett gives the reader the most up-to-date code available in HTML5, but also goes over some of the older code that you might run into.

For anyone who dreams of designing and building websites, but worries it might be too difficult, HTML & CSS should remove much of that hesitation. I’m excited to start using the things I’ve learned in this book to start designing and building websites, and especially for my blogging.

Review copy provided by Wiley


Rating: 4 out of 5

BRYAN HITCH’S ULTIMATE COMICS STUDIO by comic book artist Bryan Hitch is an inside-look at how comic books are made. Though not a step-by-step instructional book on how to draw comics, Hitch does provide some great tips and a look at his own process, so that even a beginner could learn something from it.

I love how Hitch sees himself not primarily as an artist, but as a storyteller. He states that drawing and everything that goes into creating the images for comic books is in service to the story. Hitch looks at going from script to drawing and describes how to achieve certain rhythms in your drawings for storytelling.

The book contains some insightful explorations of all the key elements in the comic book-making process, including drawing, inking, and coloring, and he even gives some advice on the business end of how to break into comics.

If you love comic books or you’re interested in becoming a comic book artist yourself, BRYAN HITCH’S ULTIMATE COMICS STUDIO is a book to check out and learn from.

Review copy provided by FW Media

Monday, December 10, 2012

Review of THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Photo Credit: Zondervan

Rating: 5 out of 5

THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING is the follow-up to Sally Lloyd-Jones’ groundbreaking JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE. What the previous book did to give children a Christ-centered narrative covering the whole Bible, this new book acts as a collection of devotional thoughts to guide children to cultivate their relationship with Jesus. Combined with the beautiful artwork of Jago, THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING is a great companion to the JESUS STORYBOOK BIBLE in drawing children into a growing knowledge of and relationship with Jesus.

The foreword to the book was written by Timothy Keller and he describes the book as “the best, first introduction for children to have their own time with Jesus.” I love this book because of its focus on encouraging children to have their own time with Jesus. I have three small children, and this is something my wife and I want to cultivate in our children early. This book is the perfect resource and really meets that need in our lives.

My children love THOUGHTS TO MAKE YOUR HEART SING, and my daughter calls it her “very own Jesus book.” The devotional thoughts and the artwork included with each one are great for drawing my children’s attention. If you have children, this book will be a great addition to helping you disciple your own children to know and love Jesus.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Publishing


Rating:4 out of 5

Stan Lee is an iconic figure in the comic book industry, most known for comic book characters such as Spider-Man. If you’ve seen any of the Spider-Man movies, you’ve seen Stan Lee at least once. Comic books are an interesting visual storytelling medium, and I’ve always been a fan of comic book heroes. STAN LEE’S HOW TO DRAW COMICS is a great book for anyone interested in entering the comic book world.

The book covers many basics of drawing specifically for comic books, from the tools you’ll need, to drawing figures, to drawing backgrounds, to inking, lettering, and coloring your comic book artwork. The book features many step-by-step lessons on how to draw things like anatomy, character costumes, and backgrounds. It includes the artwork of many prominent comic book artists and focuses on the characters of Marvel Comics.

I’ve read quite a few books on drawing comics, and this one is good. I especially found the section on coloring comics helpful. If you want to start drawing comics, then this book will give you the steps to start right away.

Review copy provided by Watson-Guptill

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Rating:5 out of 5

DRAWING BASICS AND VIDEO GAME ART by Chris Solarski is really one of the coolest books I’ve ever come across. I’m not a huge gamer, but I think video game art is really visually stunning. It’s incredible what kind of artwork video game artists have been able to get across as technology has progressed over the years. DRAWING BASICS AND VIDEO GAME ART is an interesting book because it is both a drawing how-to book and an exploration of video game art specifically. Solarski proposes that video game artists approach art the way any artist has ever approached creating visual art.

What I really appreciated about this book is the very basics it gives of drawing, so it is ideal for a beginner. Solarski covers how to hold a pencil, the kind of marks you make, perspective, drawing figures and landscapes. Everything you need to know to draw in general and for video game art specifically. After covering drawing basics, Solarski looks at the concepts of character design and creating environments for video games, followed by applying color to your artwork.

DRAWING BASICS AND VIDEO GAME ART is written by a video game artist and designed for aspiring video game artists, but it’s a great book for anyone interested in drawing. Graphic designers would also greatly benefit from this book. I’ve been quickly sitting down with pencil and paper and working through the lessons of this book.

Review copy provided by Watson-Guptill

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Rating: 5 out of 5

Bryan Allain is a blogger who focuses on communicating through humor. His latest book ACTUALLY, CLAMS ARE MISERABLE is a testament to his ability to make people laugh. In this book Allain takes some of the most common phrases and clichés that people say that when you think about them don’t really make a lot of sense or when taken literally conjure up some pretty funny images. He tackles phrases such as:

“Don’t cry over spilled milk.”
“Yeah, but that’s like comparing apples to oranges.”
“The proof is in the pudding.”
“That’s not really my cup of tea.”

The book reads like a collection of thoughts by Allain on each of these phrases and clichés, and they had me laughing throughout. Allain really gets you thinking about what ideas some of these things conjure up. The part about comparing apples to oranges was one of my particular favorites. There are also some funny illustrations included with several of them.

ACTUALLY, CLAMS ARE MISERABLE is a light and funny read, and if you’re looking for something to make you laugh, Allain’s book is a good one.

Review copy obtained by the author through Story Cartel

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Review of THE ONLY WISE GOD by William Lane Craig

Rating: 5 out of 5

If God knows the future, and what he knows will infallibly come to pass, how can human beings have genuine free will? THE ONLY WISE GOD by William Lane Craig is a book that strives to answer this fundamental question.

Craig is a well-known apologist and philosopher of religion, and this book, which was published in 1987, explores the nature of God’s foreknowledge. Craig explores the biblical witness to show that God has infallible knowledge of all things, including the past, present, and future. He also strives to show that God’s foreknowledge doesn’t have to result in fatalism where everything, both good and evil, is predetermined by God. Craig rejects foreknowledge that is based on foreordination. He shows from different fields that fatalism should be rejected.

Finally, Craig explores a couple of ways that God has infallible foreknowledge that preserves human freedom. He argues that though God’s foreknowledge is chronologically prior to our actions, our actions are logically prior to his foreknowledge. Basically, God knows that I will do something because I will do it. This is innate knowledge.

But Craig argues for a second model of God’s foreknowledge that preserves human freedom. This is the model known as middle knowledge. Middle knowledge suggests that God’s knowledge is divided into three logical moments. First is God’s natural knowledge, which is the knowledge of all possibilities. Second, God’s middle knowledge encompasses all the free choices that people would make under any given circumstances. Finally, the third moment is God’s free knowledge of the world that he has created. This is God’s knowledge of all things pertaining to this world he decided to create. Craig suggests that God utilized his middle knowledge of all the free choices people would make under any given circumstances to decide on the world and its world history that he would create. This preserves human freedom because God factored in all the free choices people would make when he planned out the world.

While I think there is some credit to be given to middle knowledge, I’m not sure I buy it with all its implications that Craig lays out. It seems to preserve freedom in name only, and it suggests that God couldn’t create a world free from sin. However, THE ONLY WISE GOD is a brilliantly argued book that should be read by anyone interested in the debate over God’s foreknowledge and the existence of human freedom.

Review copy provided by Wipf and Stock publishers

Review of READING THE GOSPELS WISELY by Jonathan Pennington

Rating: 5 out of 5

The Gospels of the New Testament give us the life and teachings of Jesus, and in the Gospel of Matthew in particular, Jesus says that whoever does the words that he says is like a wise man who built his house on a foundation of rock rather than a foolish man who built his house on a foundation of sand. If the Gospels give us the life and the words of Jesus, then according to Jesus, there is a wise way to read the gospels, and there is a foolish way to read the gospels. The wise way of reading leads us into deeper relationship with Jesus and results in personal transformation.

READING THE GOSPELS WISELY by Southern Baptist Theological Seminary professor Jonathan Pennington is an invaluable guidebook on understanding what kind of writings the gospels are, their purpose, and how to read them in a way that draws us closer to Jesus and transforms our hearts.

Pennington spends considerable time exploring the literary genre of the gospels and gives us a working definition of what the gospels are, “Our canonical gospels are the theological, historical, and aretological (virtue-forming) biographical narratives that retell the story and proclaim the significance of Jesus Christ, who through the power of the Spirit is the Restorer of God’s reign.” He explains why we need the gospels and why we need four of them. He also works to show that the teachings of Paul and other New Testament writers were built upon the content that would be recording in the four Gospels, so that there is no disconnect between, for example, the teaching of Jesus and the teaching of Paul.

Pennington briefly walks us through reading Scripture in general well, reading it historically, literarily, and theologically, keeping these three avenues in balance. He provides some illuminating discussion on authorial intent and the ways that the Author behind the author can intend meaning that the human author may not have consciously been aware of. This explains how people can come away from a passage of Scripture with two different ideas that may be both biblical and accurate. In this way, God uses Scripture to speak to different people in the contexts that they are in. He also proposes that meaning is bound up with application because Scripture is meant to be lived out and to transform us. Some may not agree completely with his discussion concerning authorial intent, but he argues it well, I think he may be on to something.

Finally, the heart of the book is looking at the Gospels as stories about Jesus and taking a narrative approach to reading the gospels. Pennington covers basic story structure and reveals how meaning is discovered in the midst of a story, even revealing that a different meaning may be deduced from each character in the story. He also shows that the characters in the story have character traits that are meant to be imitated or rejected.

READING THE GOSPELS WISELY will help you to wrestle through how you read the Scriptures and what you’re trying to accomplish from studying them. It’s a great introduction to the gospels, and it will help you to read for transformation in the midst of growing deeper in your relationship with Jesus. It’s one of the most illuminating books I’ve read this year and one I’ll go to again and again.

Review copy provided by Baker Books

Review of GRACE by Max Lucado

Rating: 5 out of 5

Max Lucado’s latest inspirational book GRACE: MORE THAN WE DESERVE, GREATER THAN WE IMAGINE expounds upon the topic of God’s grace in a way that only Lucado can. Lucado launches into this book with the assumption that we all hear all about grace all the time, but we often don’t truly understand it because to understand it, we must be changed by it.

Lucado looks at grace as revealed through the pages of Scripture, and he does it in a way that is fresh and draws you in. He has a way of writing in a way that produces an emotional impact. Reading GRACE will help you grasp how spiritually bankrupt we are and how incredible God’s love for you is. Lucado is careful to show that there is nothing we can do to merit God’s favor; in fact, we only do the things that make grace so necessary. God’s grace is so incredible because it is freely given though we deserve far less.

I’ve loved Max Lucado’s writing ever since I became a believer and I always experience a freshness about God’s grace when I read on of his books. He does a brilliant job of painting a beautiful and humbling picture of God’s grace.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson through the BookSneeze program

Review of JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet

Rating: 4 out of 5

JESUS: A THEOGRAPHY by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet is a unique approach to telling the story of Jesus. Viola and Sweet seek to combine Scripture and findings in historical Jesus studies to create a reader-friendly biography (or theography) of Jesus' life. The main thrust of the book, however, is to show that all of Scripture centers on Jesus.

The book begins before the beginning, describing Jesus as the second person of the trinity in eternity past, before the creation of the world. The authors seek to reveal Jesus as the infinite hero of the story God is telling through creation. The rest of the book looks at key moments in Jesus' life as recorded in the gospels.

The strength of this book lies in its Christocentricity. The book is truly about Jesus and about illuminating Scripture's comprehensive focus on Christ.

Some concerns I had with the book were areas where the authors seem to allegorize Scripture, finding Jesus in areas of the Old Testament that clearly aren't about him. For example, the authors compare the creation narrative to Jesus' life in a way that is merely speculative. There are other areas of speculation throughout the book, but overall it's a good illumination of the life of Jesus.

Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson as a part of their BookSneeze reviewer blog program

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Review of Red Rain by R.L. Stine

Rating:3 out of 5

After a deadly hurricane rips through the island that travel blogger Lea Sutter is visiting, Lea finds two twin boys in the midst of the devastation who have lost everything in their lives. Moved with compassion for the boys, she makes a sudden decision to take them off the island and adopt them. Her husband and two children are unhappy with her decision, but they try to make the best of it. But where did these boys come from? Something about them is off, and soon the Sutters' lives begin spiraling out of control. Children begin disappearing, and Mark Sutter is wanted for murder. The story progresses to a shocking conclusion as Lea discovers the truth about the boys and what happened on the island.

I loved reading the Goosebumps series of books by R.L. Stine when I was younger, so I was excited to read his new adult novel RED RAIN because he had in mind those of us who grew up on his children's books and are adults now. While the story was intense, I have to admit that I was disappointed with RED RAIN. It felt as if Stine was taking the type of horror stories he's accustomed to writing, but adding coarse language in the dialogue of his characters and sexuality. 

In addition, the story itself felt a little unoriginal. It seems like the evil twins narrative has been done. There are a couple of twists at the end, but they were predictable in light of things we learn in the beginning of the story. The character of Lea is interesting in the way that she seems oblivious to everything that's going on around her. The scene between Mark and his assistant felt incredibly out of place and unnecessary to the story.

The story is a horror story, and it features some scary elements to it. The twins are definitely creepy, and I would give it to Stine that he knows how to tell a suspenseful story. If you're a Goosebumps fan or even if you're not, you might find RED RAIN to be a good story. Unfortunately, I can't say that I did.

Review copy provided by Touchstone Books

Review of The High Calling's Weekly E-Newsletter

The High Calling is an online magazine with a focus on seeing your vocation as a calling from God. The team at The High Calling want you to find God in your work in a way that is more than just about evanglism, and they want you to be encouraged to honor God in your daily work.

The online magazine features articles and interviews, as well as videos, designed to encourage you in your work. One of the features of The High Calling is their weekly e-newsletter. The e-newsletter is a summary of the best content featured on the site from the previous week. The e-newsletter features "an audio message from Howard Butt, several articles from The High Calling, a new video from The High Calling, and several community articles from around the community and other important sites."

An example of content featured in the e-newsletter is an article titled "Micromanagement: Leadership Style or Pathology" about micromanagement in the workplace and whether or not it might be a legitimate leadership style needed in certain contexts at certain times.

The High Calling is a great resource if you're a Christian who works. The only criticism I would have is that the articles I read, which were only a few, seemed a little light on God content. 

You can sign up for The High Calling's e-newletter on their website in the sidebar.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012


Photo Credit: Crossway Books

Rating: 5 out of 5

THE SHEPHERD LEADER AT HOME by Timothy Z. Witmer speaks to the heart of husbands and fathers in their God-given role to be the leaders of their families. Using the biblical leadership model of the shepherd, Witmer outlines the four primary responsibilities shepherd leaders must embrace to lead their families well and cultivate their hearts toward Jesus.

The four responsibilities are:
1. The Shepherd Knows His Family
2. The Shepherd Leads His Family
3. The Shepherd Provides For His Family
4. The Shepherd Protects His Family

Using Scripture and specifically the model of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Witmer leads us on a journey of growing in our relationships with our wives and children and learning to embrace our roles as fathers and husbands. The book is thoroughly challenging as it forces you to examine your own life, but by putting the biblical concepts contained in it into practice, men will surely grow in their relationship with God and become men who provide strong loving leadership to their families.

Review copy provided by Crossway Books

Monday, November 12, 2012

Review of THE INFINITY RING: A MUTINY IN TIME by James Dashner

Photo Credit: Scholastic

Rating: 5 out of 5

Teenagers Dak Smyth and Sera Froste live in a world controlled by the powerfully oppressive SQ. It is a world that is continually plagued by natural disasters, and it’s only getting worse. When Dak and Sera discover a device called the Infinity Ring, they soon learn they have found the secret to time travel. Two groups want the Infinity Ring, the SQ and a secret society called the Hystorians. The Hystorians bring Dak and Sera into their inner circle, and they learn that history is fractured. There are breaks in the timeline where things that should have happened didn’t, and if someone doesn’t go back and fix the breaks, then the natural disasters will only increase until the world is no more. What the Hystorians don’t realize is that they need Dak and Sera to fix the breaks. With the help of a Hystorian named Riq, Dak and Sera go on a dangerous adventure to discover and fix the places where history has gone wrong, while also searching for Dak’s parents who have been lost in the time stream.

THE INFINITY RING: A MUTINY IN TIME by James Dashner is the first book in a new middle grade series that has the feel of a fast-paced adventure story with a bit educational discovery included within the story. The story’s narrative includes an altered timeline different from the one we know in real life. For example, in this story it isn’t Christopher Columbus who discovered America, but the Amancio brothers. Hence the breaks in our timeline.

Dak and Sera are best friends, and I thought Dashner did a great job of conveying that. Both characters were very likable, and we get a glimpse into what makes them tick and the tragedies that inform their approach to the world. They’re both very smart, and as unbelievable as a small group of young teens traveling into the past to fix history is, the story makes it believable. It’s a different type of world they inhabit that causes them to be a different type of people. The SQ is a very mysterious antagonistic force, and I’m eager to learn more about them in future stories, as well as the Hystorians.

A MUTINY IN TIME was written for middle grade readers, but I enjoyed the story just as well as an adult. What I like most about any story is when it has a redemptive storyline, and Dak, Sera, and Riq are in a very real fight to save the world by fixing the breaks. This story is unique in that it includes an online game that allows you to dive deeper into the story. The book includes a free guide for the game. A MUTINY IN TIME is a great beginning to what is surely going to be a groundbreaking series.

Review copy provided by Scholastic

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Blog Tour Review of PLACEBO by Steven James

Photo Credit: Revell Books

Rating: 5 out of 5

Jevin Banks used to be a famous magician and escape artist until an unforeseen tragedy changed everything. Abandoning the career that was once his passion, Jevin put his skills to use by debunking psychics on his own television show. His latest assignment is to debunk the research findings of a quantum physicist concerning nonlocal mind-to-mind communication. But he soon discovers he's into something much bigger than he realized. He and his partner and former assistant in his stage shows Charlene find themselves wrapped up in a plot to assassinate the President. Dodging multiple attempts on their lives, Jevin and Charlene must uncover the truth about a pharmaceutical company's research into the impact people's thoughts can have over another person.

Steven James' latest novel PLACEBO has the feel of an adventure story, as well as an exploration of human nature and scientific findings in quantum physics. It all comes together to create a very interesting story. I've read several of James' previous stories, and this one is another example of his ability to craft a great story. In light of his previous stories, I appreciated that this story was less gritty than his Patrick Bowers novels.

Jevin Banks is an interesting character given his background as an escape artist, and his skills come in handy at several points in the story. The tragedy of losing his family haunts him throughout, and his inner struggle over questions of God's existence and how he feels about Charlene give him authenticity as a character.

Riah Collete is an interesting character that I found myself hoping for better things for throughout the story. The rest of the cast of characters, especially Jevin's team, really made this story work really well.

The story ends with the indication that Jevin's adventures are far from over. I'm excited about this new series from Steven James, and I'm looking forward to seeing where he takes us next.

Review copy provided by Revell Books

Review of OPENING MOVES by Steven James

Rating: 4 out of 5

A killer is loose in Milwaukee, connecting his heinous crimes to the likes of Jeffrey Dahmer and Ed Gein and forcing innocent people to do unspeakable acts in hopes of saving the ones they love. Police detective Patrick Bowers, an intelligent force with a rare knack for getting into the minds of criminals, is on the case. Working with the FBI, Bowers must find the killer before he strikes again and rescue one more person who will suffer at his hands. In the midst of all this, he must also navigate a struggling romantic relationship and evaluate where the future will take him.

OPENING MOVES is Steven James’ prequel to his Bowers Files series of novels about FBI agent Patrick Bowers. This story gives us some back story to his life before becoming an FBI agent, and it’s interesting because being an FBI agent seems to be the last thing Bowers wants to do. I read this novel having only read the first book in the series THE PAWN.

I must confess that I had to stop reading this novel about midway through because I was so disturbed by the nature of the crimes described in it. It’s not that James is glamourizing evil. Instead, he’s showing us the darkest part of human nature, and it was difficult to focus on. A couple weeks later I picked the book back up with a determination to finish it, and I’ll say that it’s definitely a page-turner. I was never bored by the story. James knows how to tell a fast-paced thriller that’s full of mystery. It’s really a novel for people who love to think a lot because there’s a lot to take it.

The story is told from Bowers’ perspective, so we really get into his head and hear his struggles. And it’s from this perspective that we’re faced with the potential for incredible evil that exists in everyone. Yet Bowers is a hero who strives to eradicate evil rather than embrace it.

OPENING MOVES is a well-crafted thriller that introduces us to James’ Patrick Bowers character. I didn’t like it as much as THE PAWN, but I’m sure it definitely helps us to understand Bowers better.

I received this book for free for review from Signet Select

Monday, November 5, 2012

Review of DEEP AND WIDE by Andy Stanley

Photo Credit: Zondervan

I’ve been following Andy Stanley and the ministry of North Point Community Church for several years, so I was really excited when I found out that Andy Stanley was releasing a book covering North Point’s strategy of “creating churches unchurched people love to attend.” DEEP AND WIDE is an incredible guidebook on doing effective church ministry that reaches unchurched people, helps them commit to the church, and grow in their relationship with Jesus.

First, Stanley tells us the story of how North Point came about, sharing a transparent account of working for his father Charles Stanley at First Baptist Church of Atlanta, and the tragic aftermath of his parents divorce. It’s clear that his experiences shaped how he approached doing church.

Stanley gives us the layout of North Point’s strategy in creating a church environment that unchurched people feel comfortable checking out. He explains how North Point approaches reaching these people with the gospel of Jesus, and the means they use to reach people.

I love Stanley’s honesty and conviction about doing things in a way that some people may find unorthodox. For example, Stanley is known for topical preaching. Stanley argues that all of the Bible is inspired, but not all of it is equally applicable at all times. He even shows how Jesus chose texts that were relevant for the moments in which he was preaching. Jesus didn’t preach verse-by-verse. Not that there is anyone wrong with verse-by-verse. Stanley is also passionate about biblical application, arguing that Jesus was always preaching for a response.

As I read this book, I got excited about the prospect of designing a church that unchurched people love to attend. There are a lot of books on strategy for doing church, but this is definitely one of the best.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Publishing

Review of DRAW COMIC BOOK ACTION by Lee Garbett

I’ve always loved doing things that are creative and artistic, but lately I’ve been interested in drawing. Specifically, drawing for comic books and graphic novels. I love the way stories are told visually through the comic book art form. My interest led me to the book DRAW COMIC BOOK ACTION by Lee Garbett, and it is an immensely practical tool for anyway interested in drawing comic book-type characters.

Garbett doesn’t just assume that anyone picking up this book has any drawing experience, and he starts with some very basic techniques. After describing the tools a comic book artist will need, Garbett launches into teaching the reader to draw basic male and female forms, then, using stick figures, he shows how to approach different action poses the artist might want to incorporate into their drawings. The book also covers drawing different parts of the body, such as the head, feet, and hands.

From reading comic scripts to creating panels to scenery interaction, this book will quickly get the reader drawing their own comic book action shots. I immediately grabbed a pencil and paper and started drawing using the directions in the book. DRAW COMIC BOOK ACTION is a great resource for the aspiring comic book artist.

Review copy provided by David and Charles

Review of THE WORKING FILM DIRECTOR by Charles Wilkinson

Available February 2013

5 out of 5

Who doesn’t find in themselves somewhere to make a movie? I love storytelling and visual storytelling through film is one of the most powerful ways to tell a story and to impact people. But where to get started?

THE WORKING FILM DIRECTOR by writer/director Charles Wilkinson takes aspiring filmmakers on a journey from the very beginning to the working career itself. From discovering if you have what it takes, to how to break into film, to how to succeed as a filmmaker, Wilkinson’s book is a comprehensive career guidebook for the film director.

Wilkinson gives some very helpful information about film schools, producing your first film, getting your film exposure through film festivals, and even a journey through all the production steps of making a film.

I was excited to get this book because I’ve always been interested in film and specifically the director’s role in making a film. This book is a great introduction to the world of film directing.

Review copy provided by Michael Wiese Productions


Available April 2013

5 out of 5

Some of the greatest films are science fiction films. Some of my personal favorites are Inception, The Hunger Games, and I Am Legend. There’s also some great sci fi television series like LOST and the new show Revolution. Science fiction writers get to explore some serious what if questions, and, as Robert Grant describes in his upcoming book WRITING THE SCIENCE FICTION FILM, Sci Fi also explores human nature, often presenting a mirror for us to look into and see some aspect of ourselves that may be significant or in need of change.

WRITING THE SCIENCE FICTION FILM is about the process of crafting great science fiction stories like the ones we’ve grown to love. Interestingly, Grant points out that science fiction itself isn’t so much a genre because sci fi films themselves can come in many different genres. For example, Inception and Alien are both science fiction films, but they both have different genre elements. It’s the dependence upon some area of science that makes a film a science fiction film. This book is helpful in exploring the different genre approaches a science fiction film could take.

From there, the book goes through basic storytelling elements such as characterization and dialogue. The really helpful parts are about creating sci fi settings and two chapters on getting the science right to make your story having a feeling of realism to it.

The book is a great journey through the best in science fiction movies and television and is a great resource for any writer interested in crafting their own science fiction stories.

Review copy provided by Michael Wiese Productions

Blog Tour Review of CONTEND by Aaron Armstrong

Photo Credit: Cruciform Press

Rating: 5 out of 5

In recent years there’s been a call by some of Christianity’s most well-known leaders to get back to a precise understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ as presented by the Bible. In too many instances, churches and the teaching contained within them have been diluted by an incomplete and sometimes absent understanding of the gospel. Aaron Armstrong in his new book from Cruciform Press CONTEND suggests that a proper and complete understanding of the gospel is vital for churches and Christians in general because God’s glory is at stake, as well as the eternal destiny of the many souls of those who are just waiting to be rescued by the gospel. Dilution of and absence of the gospel in a Christian community are serious matters, and Armstrong points to a verse in the book of Jude that calls believers to “contend” for the gospel.

Contending is a fight against anything that threatens what is most important to us. This begs the question, “How important is the gospel message to me?” How important is it to our Christian communities? How important is it that God wants this message communicated to everyone in a desire to rescue them and reconcile them to himself? Sadly, I think most of us would discover that the gospel’s message and proclamation are things we say are important to us, but our actions would prove otherwise.

The call of CONTEND is to rightly understand the gospel and to grow in our love for it and our Lord who provided it. The gospel is the most vitally important piece of information we carry, and its accuracy should be protected. Armstrong addresses church leaders in correcting false teaching and feeding the congregation with the gospel message. In addressing the congregation, Armstrong calls believers to build up their faith by actively cultivating their relationship with Jesus through Bible study and prayer and staying purposefully connected to the faith community of the church.

The call back to the gospel in recent years is a great thing, and CONTEND is a battle cry for believers to fight for the gospel of Jesus because it is vitally important to us. We embrace the gospel because it reveals who God is and it rescues people out of darkness and into God’s kingdom. God’s glory and the people God loves enough to give his life for should be incredibly valuable to us, and we must contend against anything that threatens to silence the gospel message. CONTEND is a clear and practical guide for believers to do this.

Review copy provided by Cruciform Press

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Rating:4 out of 5

David Platt has become known as someone proclaiming a radical pursuit of Jesus and his calling. In the new combined edition of the two booklets THE RADICAL QUESTION and THE RADICAL IDEA, Platt outlines two things that he believes are vitally important to Christians and the church.

In THE RADICAL QUESTION, Platt explores the disconnect between American Christianity and the calling to follow Jesus outlined in the pages of the New Testament. This booklet, a condensed version of his book RADICAL, is a call to evaluate the things that are most important to us. For most Christians in America the call seems to be to the American Dream while people around the world are starving and many dying without Christ. Platt asks the question, “Is Jesus worth it to you to sacrifice everything for what he wants?”

In THE RADICAL IDEA, Platt looks at the role of the church in Christian belief. We were never meant to follow Jesus in isolation, and Platt suggests that it isn’t solely the role of church leadership to lead people to faith in Christ. Instead, church leaders are called to equip believers to do the work of ministry, spreading the gospel wherever they go.

Platt’s teaching is challenging, and certainly radical. It gives you much to wrestle with, and ultimately it is a call to follow Jesus more wholeheartedly.

Review copy provided by Waterbrook Multnomah

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Review of THE SANCTUARY by Ted Dekker

Photo Credit: Hachette Book Group

Rating: 5 out of 5

Danny Hansen and Renee Gilmore have been through a lot. Danny used to be a priest committed to seeing justice enforced. Unfortunately, his brand of justice led him to take the law into his own hands and kill the people he believes deserve to die for their crimes. Renee Gilmore, caught in the crosshairs, learns to execute justice like Danny and the two of them fall in love. Their journey together leads Danny to a new understanding, that evil can’t be eradicated through violence. Taking the fall for Renee’s crimes, Danny is now in prison. Recently transferred to an experimental prison called Basil, Danny encounters a warden bent on exposing the darkness in all of the prisoners and eradicating it through some unorthodox methods. Meanwhile, on the outside, Renee receives a box containing a severed finger and a letter stating that if she doesn’t do what the person who sent the letter wants, then Danny will die. On the inside, Danny receives a similar threat. Can Danny and Renee do what it takes to rescue one another before it’s too late?

THE SANCTUARY is Ted Dekker’s follow-up to his 2011 novel THE PRIEST’S GRAVEYARD. While the earlier book was about vigilante justice, this story is about how the human heart is truly habilitated and the failure of human corrections systems to make any real lasting change in the heart of a criminal. Dekker has a knack for wrestling with big questions in his stories. Not in a preachy way, but by taking us on a journey with his characters to see how these deep questions of morality interface with real life. How will his characters deal with the questions Dekker is raising?

In THE SANCTUARY Dekker explores America’s prison system and daringly reveals the pervasive nature of our corrections system to harden criminals rather than rehabilitate them. Furthermore, rehabilitation may not be what we hope for because behavior may change but the inner heart motivations that catalyzed the behavior in the first place may still be in place, pouring out in other ways.

The suspense level is high in this novel, which is another Dekker staple. Danny and Renee are pushed to their limits and at times even further than their limits. Lives outside of their own are at stake, and they must do unspeakable things and endure much for the sake of others. The warden acts as almost invincible antagonist, which raises the tension even further throughout the story. And, of course, there is the element of mystery. Who is playing this cruel game with Danny and Renee, and what is their motivation? The big reveal is another element you can expect in a Dekker novel, and this one is no exception. I was surprised, as I usually am, and yet after you experience the story, it all makes sense. I should’ve seen it all along.

Readers of THE SANCTUARY will be faced with the deep depravity that exists in all of us and the incredible hope for genuine rehabilitation that is found only in the grace and love of God. It’s a great story by a truly talented and insightful author.

Review copy provided by Center Street

Review of DISLOCATED by Max Andrew Dubinsky

Rating:4 out of 5

William Scott awakens to what he assumes is just another regular day, but he soon discovers that something terrible has happened while he slept. As he investigates, he discovers people he knows, people he loves, dead. In fact, nearly everywhere he turns there’s another dead body. On top of that, a hungry wolf is chasing him. Somehow he seems to be the only person alive in the town he lives in, and he wonders if he might be the only person alive in the world.

DISLOCATED is a novella by Max Andrew Dubinsky, and as the description above indicates, it is a rapidly-paced journey of ever-increasing tragedy. William Scott is the narrator of his own story, and he is a truly distressed character with plenty of regrets. I would say that the story feels like hopes being dashed over and over again.

The story itself is interesting and definitely pulls you forward as you wonder, along with Scott, exactly what is going on in the world. The story has quite a few instances of strong language, which fit the character of the story I suppose, but tended to jolt me out of the story each time I encountered them.

DISLOCATED is the beginning of a bigger story, and it will be interesting to see where Dubinsky takes us on this journey. If you’re a fan of post-apocalyptic stories, DISLOCATED is a story to check out.

Review copy provided by the author

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Review of SINNER'S CREED by Scott Stapp

Rating: 5 out of 5

When I was in ninth grade, I was learning how to play electric guitar and listening to music through my headphones every night before I went to sleep, dreaming of making music that sounded as great as the music I was hearing. I can remember the first several times that I heard the song “My Own Prison” by a new band called Creed, and I thought it was amazing. I immediately got the guitar music for it and started learning how to play it. Creed was unique among rock bands. Stories about lead singer Scott Stapp’s childhood made the band and its unique lyrical content intriguing. I grew up going to church and hearing about Jesus, but it was around this time that I began to understand the message of Jesus for the first time. Creed was ever presenting itself as “not a Christian band,” but their lyrics seemed reminiscent of Christians wrestling with God on a spiritual journey that explored the deepest longings of humanity.

Then Creed was no more. One of the biggest rock bands in history was suddenly done making music. What happened? What was brewing under the surface? And where did God fit in the midst of all of it?

In SINNER’S CREED Scott Stapp takes us on an intriguing and often tragic journey beginning with his rocky childhood through Creed’s rise to fame and his battle with alcohol. Stapp shares the sad story of his biological father leaving his family when he was little and meeting and becoming the adopted son of an ultra-fundamentalist named Steve Stapp. Stapp is faced with two very divergent pictures of God at a young age. His grandfather shows him a loving God that cares deeply for him, but this is hard to reconcile with the angry vengeful God presented by his new father. This God is one who will send him to hell for the slightest deviance.

Stapp grows up trying to please his father and his father’s God, making excellent grades and being a star athlete. But any imperfection or the slightest hint of imperfection meant a beating. His upbringing eventually drives him away from home and on his own where he discovers drugs and self-expression through music. He tells the fascinating formation of Creed and their discovery by Wind-Up Records, their rise to rock-and-roll fame, and their disintegration. Throughout, Stapp shares his personal journey through alcohol addiction, being a father, and finding the love of his life, and finally reaching sobriety, a journey he says will always be ongoing.

I loved this book because Creed was one of my favorite bands of all time. I still love to pick up my guitar and play the intro to “Higher.” Creed’s lyrics were always reflective of a deep spiritual journey, and it was interesting to read Scott Stapp’s reasoning for why he wrote some of the words he wrote. Stapp tells the story in a way that kept me wanting to keep reading all the way to the end. I especially loved his recounting of meeting the guys who would form Creed.

Stapp shares a lot of intimate details in this book, and he shares a deep love of God on nearly every page. I appreciate his sharing of his struggle and giving us an inside glimpse of Creed. SINNER’S CREED is a captivating memoir that makes much of Jesus throughout.

I received this book for free for review from Tyndale House, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Early Review of FORENSIC SPEAK by Jennifer Dornbrush

Who the book is for: Fiction Writers
Rating: 5 out of 5

FORENSIC SPEAK: HOW TO WRITE REALISTIC CRIME DRAMAS by Jennifer Dornbush is a great resource for any fiction writer. Realistic crime scene investigation in a novel or screenplay requires an accurate use of the terms and methods used in forensic science, but if you haven’t went to school to study it, then you have to research it for yourself, which can take up a lot of time that you could be spending writing. Dornbush has compiled all the information you could need to make your crime stories realistic.

After an introduction about growing up the daughter of medical examiner and becoming interested in forensic science and how it fits into fiction, Dornbush takes us into the world of forensic science. From crime scene investigation to toxicology to fingerprints to DNA, guns, and courtroom procedures, FORENSIC SPEAK gives writers a concise and easy-to-understand guide to making their stories more believable. The book covers important terms and describes how they’re used. The book gives examples from many films and includes exercises as well.

FORENSIC SPEAK reduces the amount of research writers have to undertake in order to craft realistic crime stories. It’s a great resource, and it’s definitely one I’ve been looking for awhile. It comes out February 2012 from Michael Wiese Productions.

I received this book for free for review from Michael Wiese Productions, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Available February 2013

Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Review of @WriMo: A 30 Day Survival Guide for Writers by Kevin Kaiser

Rating: 5 out of 5

“[T]he creative process has nothing to do with making something out of nothing and everything to do with discovery. Creating is discovery. Creating is doing. And that, friends, means action.” –Kevin Kaiser

Every year in November thousands of writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days as part of the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It’s a grueling endeavor, and few make it to the end. But for those who do, it’s the opportunity to create something they can be proud of simply because they finished. To be a writer, you must write.

Kevin Kaiser is an important and resonating voice in the literary world. He’s the brand manager of New York Times Best-selling Author Ted Dekker, as well as a creative force all on his own. He’s committed to writers, and this commit shows in his willingness to be open to sharing his wisdom through his blog StorySellerPro. As a part of his commitment to writers and rooted in his belief in NaNoWriMo, Kaiser has written @WriMo: A 30 Day Survival Guide for Writers, a thirty-day “kick in the moneymaker” designed to be a source of inspiration to help the writers participating in NaNoWriMo to make it to the end.

I love Kaiser’s voice and expertise, and this book is full of practical wisdom on what it takes to stay focused on finishing your novel during NaNoWriMo. It’s not so much a book about the mechanics of how to craft a great story. Instead, the short blog-post-length chapters for each day tap into the motivations of the writer and expose the self-made hindrances many writers face during the crafting of their story.

Kaiser believes that writers can’t wait on inspiration. They must writer whether inspiration comes or not. Success comes with hard work and commitment. He’s gut honest about the discouragement writers will face and tells them to keep at it anyway. Don’t let anything stand in the way. “Bring it on,” Kaiser says. I loved his inclusion of Emma Coats’ 22 Story Rules. Coats was a former Pixar storyboard artist and shared these story rules on Twitter. My favorite chapter was “The Place,” which was an inspiring original short story by Kaiser.

For those participating in NaNoWriMo, @WriMo is the perfect guide to awaken your motivation each day in November. All the proceeds raised from the book will donated to support the future of NaNoWriMo. Check out Kevin Kaiser at StorySellerPro and click the link below to find the book on Amazon.

Review copy provided by the author

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Review of DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY by Michael Reeves

Rating: 5 out of 5

If you’re looking for a book that will help you to see God for who he is as presented in the Bible and therefore cause your heart to desire this kind of God more, Michael Reeves’ new book DELIGHTING IN THE TRINITY is the book you’re looking for. I picked it up because I thought it sounded interesting and I wanted to read a book about the trinity, but I wasn’t prepared for how truly profound this book was going to be. Reeves presents the trinity as absolutely foundational to the Christian faith. In Reeves’ reading of the Bible, believing in the trinity isn’t optional. If God isn’t triune, then much of what we believe about Christianity just doesn’t add up.

Reeves outlines the biblical revelation of God as an ultimately loving eternal Father pouring out his love on his equally eternal Son by his once again equally eternal Spirit. He does a great job of explaining what Tim Keller often calls The Dance of the trinity. The Father’s love so overflows for his Son that he wanted to create human beings with whom he could also pour out his love. God is foundationally loving toward his creation, and even when it became fallen, his love continued to overflow in sending his Son to die in our place. His love is experienced by those who trust in him by the indwelling Spirit of God. The Spirit’s indwelling catches us up in the loving Dance of God.

The book is short and is even a bit repetitive at times, but it has helped reignite a transformation view of God for me. If the trinity is true, then the way we think about some of the most common ideas in the Bible is important. Read this book, and you might find yourself challenged to embrace a bigger view of God than you did before.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of GOSPEL DEEPS by Jared C. Wilson

Rating: 4 out of 5

GOSPEL DEEPS by Jared C. Wilson is a basking in the gospel of Jesus and a call to find our greatest joy in the God who so beautifully planned and completed our redemption through the gospel. From the beginning, it's clear that Wilson doesn't want Christians to be satisfied by a narrow view of the gospel that sees it as only about saving sinners from hell when they die. Instead, the gospel is meant to impact every aspect of our lives. In fact, one of my favorite chapters in the book is his chapter on cosmic redemption. Jesus means to redeem all of our lives, bringing great joy in following him. Chapter 4 is a chapter that combats the idea that following Jesus is boring as Wislson explores the idea of enjoyment.

Of course, following Jesus doesn't mean a life void of suffering, and Wilson presents some biblical ideas of why God allows suffering. However, the key to this chapter is resting in Jesus in the midst of our suffering more than about trying to find a reason for our suffering.

A couple other highlights are Wilson's chapter on the atonement and a discussion of the attributes of Christ being always present in the incarnate Christ.

While there was some areas that I was in disagreement with Wilson (he holds to a deterministic view of God's providence), I still found myself impacted by his deep love of Jesus and his authenticity in sharing some intimate details of his spiritual journey. GOSPEL DEEPS is a celebration of "the excellencies of Christ," and a focus on Christ's character and nature is much needed by believers and the Body of Christ as a whole.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of INTERPRETING THE PARABLES (Second Edition) by Craig Blomberg

Rating: 5 out of 5

I've always loved Jesus' parables, but throughout church history, not everyone has been in agreement with how they should be interpreted. In recent years, many theologians have rejected the idea of the parables as allegories, and instead argued for one main point for each parable. The rejection of allegory is understandable in light of many abuses by theologians of the past who have spiritualized every single element of a parable, pulling in ideas that are foreign to the plain reading of the text.

INTERPRETING THE PARABLES by Craig Blomberg explores the parables in detail, including the history of their interpretation and arguing for a return to recognizing the clear allegorical elements of the parables. In contrast to the one-point view of interpreting the parables, Blomberg makes the interesting suggestion that each of the characters in Jesus' parables represent a point Jesus is trying to make with the parable.

Part 1 is a lengthy exploration of the history interpretation and the approaches taken in interpreting the parables. Part 2 is the most valuable part of the book because Blomberg looks at the individual parables, drawing out their meaning according to the approach he argues for in Part 1. The final section looks at the Christological element of the parables.

The parables are my favorite genre of Scripture to study, and I enjoyed Blomberg's exploration of them. At 450 pages, INTERPRETING THE PARABLES is a thorough resource for anyone wanting to look deeper into the parables of Jesus.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Monday, September 24, 2012


Rating: 5 out of 5

A LITTLE BOOK FOR NEW THEOLOGIANS by Kelly M. Kapic is a great biblical introduction for any theologian. Kapic defines theology as “an active response to the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, whereby the believer, in the power of the Holy Spirit, subordinate to the testimonies of the prophets and apostles as recorded in the Scriptures and in communion with the saints, wrestles with and rests in the mysteries of God, his work and his world.” By defining theology and expounding upon it in this way throughout the book, it is clear that all believers in Christ are meant to be theologians. We all do theology because we all think about God. Theology is very relevant to our lives.

The book is separated into two parts. In the first part Kapic covers why anyone should study theology. There’s some great discussion about knowing and enjoying God and theology as a pilgrimage.

The second part of the book covers the characteristics of faithful theology and theologians. The highlight of this section was the chapter on doing theology as part of a community. This means allowing voices of past theologians to speak into our study, as well as being a part of the body of Christ and learning from other believers in their theological pursuit.

The book is titled A LITTLE BOOK FOR NEW THEOLOGIANS, but it’s a great book for all believers whether they’re just jumping into their study of who God is, or if they’ve been following Jesus for several years. It’s a short book, but it’s packed full of wisdom that will lead to a humble pursuit of knowing God.

I received this book for free for review from Intervarsity Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin

Rating: 5 out of 5

A government experiment goes terribly wrong and plunges the world into chaos as human beings are either transformed into vampire-like creatures or killed by vampire-like creatures. Contained societies find refuge day and night in the light because darkness means death. At the center of it all is a girl named Amy who has lived for a long time with the knowledge that she may be the only one who can bring redemption to a world full of monsters.

THE PASSAGE by Justin Cronin is the first of a trilogy, and although it is long at about 800 pages, I was compelled to finish it by the brilliance and emotional pull of the story. At first when I learned that this was essentially a vampire novel, I wondered if it would be a cheesy story. Cronin, however, tells a gripping story by using a tragically failed government experiment and centering the story on a world in need of redemption and a promised rescuer.

The virals (as the creatures are called) are bloodthirsty monsters, and yet we know all along that they’re still human beings deep beneath what they’ve become. At the same time, the group of characters we grow to journey with see the virals as a very real threat to their own survival. As the characters travel a long distance in search of where the viral outbreak began, you can sense the ever present danger, especially when they find themselves having to escape when they’re surrounded by virals.

Early in the novel, it seems likes the story is centered on FBI Agent Wolgast and his care for Amy. I was disappointed when the story moved away from him after the outbreak spread throughout the world. The story moves one hundred years into the future, though, and I grew to understand, given the grand epic story Cronin is telling, why the story had to move in this direction. Amy is a very likable character, and though she’s absent for much of the story, her eminent presence is still felt.

The way the story builds up to the outbreak was very well done, in my opinion. Some readers may find it long and overly done, but I enjoyed the email exchange that explains what happened in the jungle, as well as the janitor’s experience of dreaming about Subject Zero.

THE PASSAGE is the first in a trilogy, and the second book in the trilogy comes out in October 2012, and I can’t wait to continue this gripping story. Cronin has created a memorable story of a world desperate for redemption, and fans of post-apocalyptic stories will want to check this story out.

(Note: This novel contains strong language and violent content)

I received this book for free for review from Ballantine Books through, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Review of WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron

Who the Book is For: Writers, Storytellers
Rating: 5 out of 5

According to WIRED FOR STORY by Lisa Cron, brain science has discovered that human beings thrive on storytelling. Stories help our brains to become prepared for possible situations that may arise in our lives in the future. Stories act as a type of practice for our brains.

WIRED FOR STORY looks at the various ways the human brain is impacted by story and walks writers through the ways to apply these important insights to crafting stories that will keep readers hooked from the very beginning. Each chapter begins with a cognitive secret and then applies this to writing a great story. I especially appreciated the chapter on theme. Cron argues that every story has a point that it is trying to make, and she gives advice on how to shape the story's meaning and communicating it in a way that isn't preachy.

WIRED FOR STORY has a lot of the same advice you'll find from almost any fiction writing book. However, it looks at storytelling from a more fundamental perspective of how our brains are designed to affected by story.

I received this book for free for review from Ten Speed Press, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Blog Tour Review of MORTAL FIRE by C.F. Dunn

Rating: 4 out of 5

MORTAL FIRE is a story about an English professor named Emma who takes a position in the United States because it will connect her with a mysterious 17th-century journal. She’s quickly welcomed by the staff and students of her new post a college in Maine. She is lecturer in history on the subject of torture. Soon events surrounding the journal’s secrets begin to put her life in danger.

MORTAL FIRE is the first in a trilogy, and the book will undoubtedly leave you wanting to continue the story to find out what will happen. The story is told in the first person, and it grabs you into its narrative early on in the first scene. All the characters are interesting and complex. The author’s descriptions of her scenes are very well-written and visually captivating.

The book is full of mystery. It’s about an ancient book, which is why I picked it up in the first place because I’m always interested in history and books from the past. It’s a rather long book, but the story is compelling throughout. It includes an excerpt from the next book in the series to whet readers’ appetites for the continuing of the story.

I received this book for free for review from Kregel Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Review of GODSPEED by Britt Merrick

Photo Credit: David C. Cook

Who the Book is For: Christians
Rating: 5 out of 5

GODSPEED: MAKING CHRIST’S MISSION YOUR OWN by Britt Merrick is definitely one of the best books I’ve read of 2012, and probably one of the best books I’ve read ever. It’s both thought-provoking and heart-stirring in a way that brings Jesus and his mission to the forefront and encourages a complete embrace of God’s mission to save the world.

GODSPEED is about Missio Christi, the mission of Christ, and our place within it. But we shouldn’t mistake that this is a book about us, or that the Bible is a book about us. Merrick makes it very clear throughout that this grand story is all about Jesus and his mission. The beautiful reality that Merrick paints by looking into the pages of Scripture is that God invites us into his mission to work with him to save the world.

Merrick challenges the common ideas that come to mind when we think of missions and encourages us to lose the “s” and consider that our lives are meant to be lived on mission in the time and place where God has us. He also challenges the mundane lives many people who claim the name of Christ live and paints a picture of Christian living that is truly adventure of walking with and working with Christ.

I love how Merrick organized this book around the work of the trinity, and I also loved the stories he shares from his own life. Merrick is transparent and authentic in this book, and his life is clearly one that is on a genuine journey with Christ. Merrick also tells the stories from Scripture in compelling ways.

GODSPEED is a powerful look at what the Christian life should look like. It is a life that is meant to pursue the hearts of people and bring them into the life of journeying with Christ. I found myself challenged and convicted throughout, and I find myself wrestling with how the implications of what Merrick is revealing through GODSPEED need to specifically play out in my life. Christians everywhere need to read what God is doing through the message of GODSPEED.

I received this book for free for review from David C. Cook, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Blog Tour Review for frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament by Eric Larson

frameworks: How to Navigate the New Testament is a new and unique resource written by Bible teacher Eric Larson. It is a survey of the New Testament. frameworks gives people studying the New Testament a good “lay of the land.” It’s not overly in depth, but it’s a great overview of much of the most foundational things anyone studying the New Testament should know.

The book functions like a Bible handbook, covering the contextual framework of the New Testament world, which includes the life and ministry of Christ and the continuance of Christ’s ministry through his followers. The book covers each of the New Testament’s 27 books, answering the following ten questions:

1. What is the book like?
2. What is this book about?
3. Why was it written?
4. How is the book organized?
5. How does it read?
6. How do I move through it?
7. What makes the book or its author unique?
8. What should I remember most?
9. How can I explore further or go deeper?
10. What one verse can I apply right now?

frameworks is unique in its approach by using visuals to help readers get a grasp on the important concepts of the New Testament. People learn and retain knowledge visually, and Larson keeps this in mind in designing this book. I really enjoyed the introductions to the books because they provided some interesting information to keep in mind as you’re reading each of the New Testament’s books.

Check out more about frameworks at

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Review of FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL edited Michael F. Bird

The Apostle Paul was probably the most significant figure in the spread of Christianity and its continued preservation to this day. His writings have been widely read and widely quoted. Yet not everyone is in agreement about what Paul was trying to communicate in his writings. In fact, although I was somewhat aware, I didn’t completely realize the range of thought that people have come to in their study of Paul and his writings. In the Zondervan Counterpoint Series volume FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL, four scholars present four different perspectives on Paul. Thomas Schreiner presents the Reformed View. Luke Timothy Johnson presents the Catholic View. Douglas Campbell presents the Post-New Perspective View. Finally, Mark D. Nanos presents the Jewish View.

The book presents each of the scholars’ essays, which are followed by responses by the other three scholars. It shows a great interaction between the authors concerning their views. The only addition I would like to see from one of these books is a rejoinder by the essay’s author in light of the other scholars’ responses.

I fall in line mostly with Schreiner’s Reformed View, but I enjoyed reading the responses to his essay on some things that might need to be rethought and reformulated.

FOUR VIEWS ON THE APOSTLE PAUL is a good resource for theologians interested in diving deeper into the New Testament text. I must say that I found it a bit frustrating that Paul’s writings could be seen in some very different ways, which can lead to confusion for some believers. However, I do think it’s important to look at the evidence and let the Scriptures speak for themselves.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of IDEAS FOR PARENTS by Mark Matlock & Christopher Lyon

In RAISING WISE CHILDREN youth ministry expert gave some insightful tips on how to mediate wisdom to your children. IDEAS FOR PARENTS expands on the ideas presented in the first book, giving very practical ideas on how parents can develop meaningful, deep, and enduring relationships with their children. I can really appreciate the goal of this book because I have three children who are very young, and my wife and I want our relationships with them to be the most impactful they can be. We want to follow Jesus in a way that causes them to want to follow Jesus.

Relationships are formed and cultivated by the time we spend together, and this book seeks to make those times as meaningful and intentional as possible. Therefore, the book gives several ideas for activities parents and children can do together and talking points they can discuss together. The book is broken up into sections such as family relationships, school, media choices, discipleship, etc. Each section starts with a short essay or interview by well-respected youth ministry leaders.

IDEAS FOR PARENTS is a great resource for parents to be intentional about their relationships with their children. Coupled with RAISING WISE CHILDREN, these two books will greatly help in raising children who love Jesus and live wisely as he did.

I received this book for free for review from Zondervan, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Review of THE REASON FOR GOD by Timothy Keller

Rating: 5 out of 5

Timothy Keller, lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, has become one of the leading voices in Christianity, well-respected by church leaders everywhere. He’s one of my favorite authors, and THE REASON FOR GOD is perhaps the book that put him at the forefront of Christian thought.

In THE REASON FOR GOD, Keller suggests and I think convincingly illustrates how belief in God, and specifically the God of the Christian Bible, makes the most sense of reality. In fact, to not believe in God makes less sense given the evidence we have.

Keller tackles some of the most common difficulties people have with Christianity and does a great job of disarming some of the most convincing arguments against a good and loving God. His chapter on hell actually reveals an incredibly loving God quite well.

Keller gives several evidences for God’s existence, as well as some great insights on the difference between religion and faith in Jesus. The final chapter on the dance of God in the trinity will help you to see God’s relational nature in a fresh new way.

Keller eloquently argues for belief in Jesus and in Jesus’ great love for fallen human beings. THE REASON FOR GOD is a book that all Christians and non-Christians should read.

I received this book for free for review from Dutton, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review of THE KINGDOM by Bryan Litfin

Photo Credit: Crossway Books

Rating: 5 out of 5

THE KINGDOM is the final book in Bryan Litfin’s Chiveis Trilogy. With trilogies, the final act tends to be one where anything could happen. You know how you want the story to end, but will the characters you’ve grown to love so much even make it to the end. Teo and Ana’s journey of discovering the ancient faith of the Christiani has been a non-stop adventure story, and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. Litfin did a great job of creating suspense by putting Teo and Ana in the direst of circumstances throughout.

What I also loved about THE KINGDOM, which is true of many great trilogies, is the revelation of things that go back further than even the first story in the series. For example, in the opening prologue Litfin reveals how Christianity became nearly extinct in the first place, which was something we didn’t know in the beginning. The back story of Jean Luc Beaumont provided much explanation of how the world came to be the way it did after the Great Destruction.

Overall, The Chiveis Trilogy is an incredible journey because it is a journey of discovering the God of the universe for the first time. THE KINGDOM is a story of God’s pursuit of his fallen creation and the humbling thought that he would use fallen people to accomplish his redemptive plan.

THE KINGDOM is an exciting story that is full of adventure, love, and incredible sacrifice. I’ll be recommending this story to everyone I know who loves fiction.

I received this book for free for review from Crossway Books, and the opinions contained in this review are completely my own