Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Neon Rain (Dave Robicheaux #1) by James Lee Burke, Will Patton (Narrator)

5 of 5 stars  *****

An interesting, entertaining, Louisiana-spun tale about law enforcement in bayou country. Will Patton provides the southern drawl appropriate for the narration of The Neon Rain using James Lee Burke's masterful colloquialisms and colorful text.

Follow Lieutenant Dave Robicheaux in his detective adventures. He conjures his knowledge, Viet Nam experience, and gut instincts to bring down local bad guys and nationally corrupt generals on both sides of the law. His exploits are not always by the book so he finds himself in an estranged relationship with his employer. Not one to take the path of least resistance, Detective Robicheaux stands firmly on the few principals that are responsible for his survival.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion #1) by Francine Rivers

5 of 5 stars  *****

An excellent Christian Historical Fiction, A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion, #1), by Francine Rivers, is the first novel in this genre that keeps the reader enthralled with the accurate environment in which this spellbinding story takes place. Each character represents the people of the time period so that a sensational experience may inform readers in an historical lesson while feeling like one is an unseen observer in an elaborate movie.

The messages A Voice in the Wind (Mark of the Lion, #1) are themed in the Holy Scripture spreading throughout Asia Minor and the Roman Empire post crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Apostle, John, is still alive and plays a role in the lives of the multicultural cast brought together by fate. 

A Jewess slave hides her Christianity but her humble service and inner peace attract those who find her remarkable compared to other slaves. The intrigue causes conversations that enlighten a ruling class, appeal to depressed and frightened slaves, and gain the respect of a certain gladiator. As this tale revolves around this girl, the reader journeys through history on the currents of holy scripture, the word of God. What an enjoyable way to keep one's conversation with the Creator ongoing.

Explore the Bible: Personal Study Guide: 1, 2 Peter; Jude: Fall 2016 by Jeff Iorg (Editor)

5 of 5 stars  *****

This Bible Study Guide explores the Apostle, Peter's, desire to direct early Christians toward the truth about the teachings of Jesus Christ. In the face of persecution, Peter's task is to encourage followers to keep faith and receive the fruits of the Holy Spirit which lightens the severity of the suffering Christians receive. Out of this comes Hope of salvation and an eternal life without any suffering.

Peter and Jude also teach how Christians can discern the false teacher from the true disciple of Christ. The true disciples do not vary from the holy scriptures and live a Christlike life so that their words are inspired by the Holy Spirit and their deeds align with their teachings. False teachers include themselves as benefactors of their teaching. They lack the humility and heart to serve their fellow man out of love. Reminding each other of the scripture's lessons as written and taught by the disciples is necessary to limit straying from the will of God.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Bible Secrets Revealed by Donald Vaughan

4 of 5 stars  ****

Bible Secrets Revealed informs the reader of some interesting facts and discussions concerning what has been written about events and what can be surmised based on all known clues about Biblical claims. Much of the book's content is not necessarily secret but little known points of contention among theologians. 

Bible study groups and families who read the Bible regularly are more likely to experience the other type of secret mentioned in the book's title. The secret reveals to its reader the particular awakening ascertained from a certain passage. 

The Bible, written by many authors over thousands of years, is unique in transcending time with the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that humans glean from its pages. The secrets are hidden by neither man nor woman but are part of a divine design. The secrets are the discoveries each individual can experience in a timely fashion that are profound and meaningful. Their message, assimilation, and application are customized to guide one toward His will by His word. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Grace for the Moment by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

There are many examples of God's benevolence when He sheds His grace on mankind. His blessings are not what many expect, however. The reason so many lose their faith in God rests in their blindness to these moments when God hones His children. The trouble may be that their own thoughts about their well being does not align with God's plan. In fact, many blessings are curses to an individual who refuses to have faith in God. Adults fail to listen to their inner wisdom and stop praying, altogether, when they fail to see God's grace in any circumstance that is uncomfortable.

Grace for the Moment opens one's eyes to the reasoning behind the circumstance. The goal of hardships is to bring one closer to God using Jesus Christ as the One to imitate. Jesus Christ is God, Himself, demonstrably showing mankind what it should strive to be. Knowing mankind, God blesses everyone with His grace when they work toward this goal because mankind is not perfect. Perseverance is an easier task for the ones who have faith as they have His Holy Spirit within them producing its fruit of Joy. 

Without God in one's life, strife may accompany that life even though turmoil is overcome. This leads to a sense of pride and self-accomplishment. It is written that such people do not receive God's grace until they humble themselves: "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."..."Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you." - James 4:6, 10, NRSV

Grace for the Moment reminds the reader that the purpose of mankind is to worship God by being the image of Christ in word, work, worship, and play.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Heavenly Gifts of Wisdom by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

Wisdom is the fear of God, meaning that God, the Creator and only Power, wants all to obey His will in order to be with Him for eternity. Wisdom is the blessing that only comes from God and that guides us in a world where free will offers choices that can lead men and women astray.

This book is full of prayers, poems, and quotes that explain and draw a person closer to God using Wisdom. One quote, by William Cowper, draws the distinction between Knowledge and Wisdom, "Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; Wisdom is humble that he know no more."

This reader ponders how Lucifer, the one-time greatest of angels, loses favor with God because of pride, which is associated with Knowledge. It is the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge that God forbids Adam to eat, and it is Adams wrong choice to eat that fruit that condemns him and his offspring to the world where Lucifer (Satan) dwells. It is the will of God that mankind be humble, like Jesus Christ, while existing in the world. It is Wisdom that humbles mankind living in awe of God.

This book points out that it is God's Wisdom that comforts, encourages, and guides those who read His word. God's Holy Spirit dwells within those who receive God's Wisdom. This heavenly gift is surely greater than anything the world has to offer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

1001 Little Known Things About Well Known People by Charlie Bennett

4 of 5 stars  ****

This is an interesting book about celebrities and famous people around the world without delving deeply into their biographies. The few fun facts about their personal habits, pre-notoriety occupations, forgotten histories and other statistics makes for enjoyable reading. This is not a book to sit and read like a novel. It can be put down and left alone for a while without losing a plot line or theme when one eventually resumes reading.

A memorable line from Bob Hope, on his deathbed, comes to mind: When asked by his wife where he wanted to be buried, he replied, "Surprise me." This response describes him perfectly. Other tidbits of information about big stars, like Lady Gaga, reveal how different her offstage persona is compared to her wild and zany onstage antics. Relationships between stars and politicians, choices between job opportunities, and little-known talents by those famous for one role in the public eye fill this book of intriguing gossip to be shared with others.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Powerful Prayers of Courage by Jeffery Scott Wallace

4 stars out of 5  ****

This book talks about the courage that is experienced through prayer. A virtue, courage is described by C. S. Lewis, "Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."

The courage to pray to the Creator of everything, even in a state of shame, guilt, or regret, is the power of His Holy Spirit within those who pray. The grace that is bestowed by God upon those who pray are enriched with a strength and regeneration of vitality when one is sincere. God is very pleased when anyone wishes to converse with Him.

A virtuous man or woman is one who prays, unashamed to proclaim from where the source of their courage comes. One's life is enhanced because of this courage to walk with Christ, to face any adventure, and to enjoy a full life, a life which incorporates daily prayer.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Living Your Faith: Patience by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

This book explains the great gift that patience is, a gift from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and a gift that praises God. What power one possesses over anxiety, suffering, and frustration when one discovers through faith that patience confirms one's commitment to God. The result is always for righteousness and good. It just isn't convenient for an individual's time schedule. 

The need for patience is always evident in the world. When it arises, one must step back to see how self-centered one is in that circumstance. Distraction blurs the true reason for patience when one is living only for this world and for his or her own purpose.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. - James 5:7-8, NKJV 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Fascinating Facts About the New Testament by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

The good word is the teachings of Jesus Christ as written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and spread by the apostles and disciples. The rest of the New Testament tells readers about Christian beginnings, including the church, and the letters written to its followers throughout the Roman Empire. The New Testament also contains the Book of Revelation which describes the end of times. 

The interesting facts surrounding these books enhance one's understanding by relating their messages to the times and circumstances under which the authors write. The lay of the Holy Land is different today but some towns and geographical landmarks still exist. Questions that arise unravel by reading Fascinating Facts About the New Testament as a grasp of the writings unfold the Biblical lessons that teach and inspire generation after generation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Fascinating Facts About the Old Testament by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

I like reading anything that broadens my understanding, especially of the Bible, and addresses the obscure questions that develop into possibilities, my theories. I talk to others who have the same theory about certain aspects of history found in the Bible. Further information to enlighten us is scarce and proof is elusive.

The Old Testament draws some of its information from texts that no longer exist. Fascinating Facts About the Old Testament refers to some of those ancient writings which illuminate my challenges.

When I first read about the Nephilim in the Book of Numbers 13:33, I am intrigued by these giants who spread fear in those who go up against them. The little information about these Canaanites impress me. I later discover that the Nephilim's story is told in a book not included in the Bible, the Book of Enoch. The people know the story of this book during the days of Jesus Christ. The story occurs before the great flood and Noah's ark and may be why it is not included in the Holy Bible because it does not serve the purpose of teaching us God's word; rather, it describes the condition of a world full of evil and hate. The Nephilim are the offspring of the fallen "Sons of God," angels, and women after whom they lust. They range from 10' - 30' tall and rule the world in a way that makes God want to destroy mankind.

So my curiosity about the giants in the land of Canaan leads me to wonder, "How did these Nephilim survive the great flood?" This quandary is still open in my mind. The information in Fascinating Facts About the Old Testament, at least, calls this race of colossal beings the descendants of the Nephilim. I fail to retrieve this reference in my earlier searches.

The Giants are known as the Anakim, long-necked men, or the Anakites. Joshua's faith in God allows him to lead the chosen people to victory over them eliminating their kind as God wills.

From Fascinating Facts About the Old Testament I discover that a source outside the Bible, the Egyptian Execration Texts, mention the Anakites. It seems that the town of Hebron gets its name from a renowned Anakim warrior, Arba. Further mention of very large warriors, the Rephaim, who the Israelites defeat east of the Jordan River, are akin to the Anakim.

This is just one example of the interesting history associated with the Promised Land and only one chapter in the Old Testament.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Great Prayers of the Bible by Jeffery Scott Wallace

5 of 5 stars  *****

It is always a pleasure to connect to the Almighty through prayer. Great Prayers of the Bible provides the inspired words from several editions of His holy word. After each prayer is a reference to the scripture where it is located in the Bible. A brief summary after each prayer further enlightens one as to the authors' circumstance and today's application.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne

5 of 5 stars  *****

Validating what this reader, and many others interested in political science, thinks, Gary J. Byrne tells of his firsthand experiences with the George H. Bush and William J. Clinton presidencies. Byrne contrasts the two as night and day, courteous and crass, clean and muddy. The author's recollection of the Bush administration reveals a time of pleasing pride, proper protocol, and respect. The Clinton administration could not be more different with scandal after scandal, little regard for the Secret Service and White House staff. Their superiority complex only makes matters worse by straining any possible close relationship with them.

Bill Clinton is congenial and charming before the Monica Lewinsky scandal. He becomes irritable and ruthless once his addiction to sex with any woman in precarious situations becomes too obvious for those sworn to protect him and, later, becomes public by those sworn to take him down. The Uniformed Department (UD) of the Secret Service resent the irresponsible behavior of the President and the awkward position he puts them in by denying what they witness and expecting them to facilitate his whims and desires. Gary Byrne, who feels the pressure mounting to protect the integrity of the office, keeps copious, accurate notes as he does his duty to the best of his ability. 

Hillary's presence and knowledge of Bill's promiscuity intensifies the drama that naturally surrounds her. She and Bill are never together holding hands, hugging, or kissing unless a camera is around. Her aides walk on glass around her because she goes off in a tirade over the slightest wrinkle in her daily schedule. She makes it quite clear to the staff and security personnel around her that she does not particularly like them and has people precede her as she ambles throughout the house instructing everyone to make themselves scarce as she enters into their proximity. When Gary refuses to oblige, because he is loyal to his duty and paid by the Treasury Department, Hillary scowls at him. This body language is mimicked by her sycophant following.

The staff who protect and serve the occupiers of the White House hold themselves to the highest of standards for the little money they make compared to the First Family. Morale becomes poor in the environment the Clintons create, especially when they start throwing everybody under the bus to perpetuate their lies. Such an environment pits the unfortunate staff against one another as some come forward with the truth and others backpedal to save face. 

Eventually the author leaves the White House to become a Federal Air Marshal protecting lives and utilizing the skills he develops over the years. His perseverance and self-esteem are bolstered throughout his trials in this book with words from his wife, "Do the right thing," and the advice of his father to always be the protector and not the protected. Gary's moral life decisions serve him well as one of America's best who achieves the American dream without corrupting like those driven by personal privilege and greed.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, Geoffrey Howard (Narrator)

5 of 5 stars  *****

The logical mind of C. S. Lewis examines Christianity in Mere Christianity, a delightful application of common sense to a most serious subject. Lewis, a former atheist, relates his rationale that convinces the reader of his honest assessments and conclusions. Christianity holds up well over time in its moral teachings and humble beginnings. 

Lewis reminds the reader to always return to the Bible after thinking about its message so as to avoid making that message what one wants it to be rather than its intendion. He asserts that the word of God best describes the relationships between the known and unknown, the spiritual and the concrete aspects of life. The nature of mankind and its circumstance is a result of God's plan which involves free will. Free will is the thinking which determines choice and those options either offend or please the Creator. Lewis finds that Christianity offers the best rules to follow that guide man's choices toward the righteous path, that praise God and redeem mankind's faults.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Career of Evil (Cormoran Strike, #3) by Robert Galbraith (Pseudonym), J.K. Rowling, Robert Glenister (Narrator)

4 of 5 stars  ****

I appreciate this J. K. Rowling story, written under the pseudonym, Robert Galbraith, more than her other book,Casual Vacancy. I revolt against the crude, gory subject matter but enjoy the writing style of the author; for example, "Although he could barely remember what her daughter looked like and had never met Mrs. Bunion before, her expression of mingled apprehension and anticipation gave her away as she paused staring at him on the doormat." A shorter example, "She handed them over with ill grace, then left." 

I listen to this unabridged novel with an interest embellished by the variable accents and voice tones of Robert Glenister. Mr. Glenister narrates every twist in the complex plot with multiple characters at a pace that keeps me following this gruesome but thrilling adventure until its end.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #3 (of 5) by Mike Johnson, Ryan Parrot, Derek Charm (Illustrator)

4 of 5 stars  ****

This beautifully illustrated third chapter in Star Trek: Starfleet Academy explains the mystery behind the faint deep space signal. T'laan, the 21 year-old Vulcan, is still torn between staying with Starfleet or returning to her people who are the survivors of Vulcan's destruction. The Centennial Games still require T'laan's participation and her teammates wonder if her heart is really in it.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #2 (of 5) by Mike Johnson (Writer), Ryan Parrot (Writer), Derek Charm (Artist)

4 of 5 stars  ****

I receive my first printing, blocked edition of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #2 (of 5)I refrain from reading it until today. The comic book is easily read in a matter of minutes. I am careful to open and handle the beautifully illustrated edition to preserve its excellent condition. 

The second book in this series finds Uhuru breaking Starfleet rules with James T. Kirk to access files, suspiciously kept from the public, concerning an old mission in a quadrant of space where a faint distress signal can still be heard. In the meantime, most cadets are celebrating the successes Starfleet is enjoying in an Intergalactic Competition. T'laan, a Vulcan in the academy, defers the party for plans that chart the best course of action in the upcoming scavenger hunt.

#3 arrives today. The plot continues as I seek to procure books #4 and #5 to complete the story. I realize that I need #1 in this series if I intend to save these issues as a complete set. I read #1 on my PC kindle.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy #1 (of 5) by Mike Johnson, Ryan Parrot, Derek Charm (Illustrator)

4 of 5 stars  ****

The first of five beautifully illustrated comic books about Starfleet Academy in the Star Trek series. This quick, easy read story sets the stage for a multi-species academy of cadets who interact in games that shape their character and expertise in their specialties. A young female Vulcan has a decision to make after the games, stay with Starfleet or return to her people to assist in rebuilding her Vulcan species.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Crossing (Harry Bosch #20) by Michael Connelly (Goodreads Author), Titus Welliver (Narrator)

5 of 5 stars  *****

A thrilling detective, court room mystery that is such a pleasant diversion from non-fiction, biographies, and biblical studies. I find it rejuvenating to interject fiction and audible book renditions on my course of wonder and entertainment. The Crossing, by Michael Connelly, holds my attention so that I listen to it every moment available. 

This audiobook allows me to follow a retired LAPD detective who decides to tie up noticeable loose ends in a murder case that is an apparent open-and-shut case for the Prosecution. Harry Bosch becomes a Private Investigator for the young Defense Attorney, Mickey Haller, representing the framed victim held in jail. The history between detective and lawyer is a twist in the story because Harry is forced to retire and uses Mickey to sue the department. The bad blood relations with the LAPD makes Harry's investigation much more interesting as he calls upon his skill and experience to exact the truth from an already investigated crime scene.

Michael Connelly, the author, showcases his knowledge of police work and courtroom proceedings in this stirring story. His characters are well developed with emotional frailties and practiced perseverance. The Crossing is book number 20 in a series of Harry Bosch tales, an indication of Connelly's prolific writing habit. 

This book is my first Michael Connelly experience. I know that it will not be my last.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Patriots by David Fisher

5 of 5 stars  *****

How many times can one read similar historical accounts of the same events and be entertained. Well, the answer is an unlimited number of times as long as there is great research penned by great writers. In Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Patriots, one can add great editing and storytelling to that list. 

The author of the companion book to the television series, narrated by Bill O'Reilly, is David Fisher. The editor is Bill O'Reilly. Reading is as effortless and compelling as the series is entertaining and educational. The book offers more information, as books usually do, but the most pertinent new information is still played out on television by a cast of excellent actors attired in costumes appropriate for the American colonies in late 1700. The book also illustrates so beautifully renditions of the hero portraits by celebrated artists as well as maps and sketches used during the Revolutionary War for strategies and espionage. 

One can read about the escapades of the American patriots, English loyalists, British commanders, and foreign ally contributors to America's fight for freedom and liberty in a wide assortment of History books. Different information adds to or debunks legends , or at least makes them suspect, while it piques the hungry mind for truth in these matters. Superb writing makes the return to the familiar events a pleasure to revisit as the research of one group validates others. Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Patriots fits into this category of excellence as an historical account that educates, validates, entertains, and inspires readers to the truth about the people and circumstances in the birth of freedom and liberty in the United States of America.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Explore the Bible: Summer 2016: 1 Samuel by Eric Geiger (Editor)

5 of 5 stars  *****

Even though the study of 1 Samuel is full of great men and great deeds, the theme of this study reveals God's greatness. The last judge, Samuel, anoints a king, Saul, for the clamoring Israelites who want a king to fight their battles for them like all other nations. Samuel warns the people what God tells him about a king taking their best crops and goods and dividing them among his close subjects but the people are stubborn and get their desire. 

The story of David's life unfolds fraught with the best and worst qualities of man. The writings tell as great a story as can be told with the giant, Goliath, the politics of power in a palace full of princes, and the beauty of women; all trying to follow the rules and laws of man while ignoring, too often, the laws of God. God sheds His grace on those who sin but genuinely repent no matter how often this scenario occurs; David. God delivers His wrath on those who act pious but are proud and self-centered in their hearts; Saul.

This book is discussed weekly in a classroom setting known as a Lifegroup, a Bible study group. The questions about the events in 1 Samuel raise more questions about people today and their practice of faith in God. Similarities are sobering and a consensus is obvious how necessary reading God's word, applying His lessons, and maintaining open communication with Him is. In His greatness, God forgives and rewards those who love Him so much as to repent when they stray from His will.

The Testing of Your Faith by Bruce H. Wilkinson

4 of 5 stars  ****

This book is part of a study about faith that also involves weekly videos and discussions after their viewing. The group with whom I participate in this endeavor is a Christian Men's Ministry. The growth in understanding Biblical scriptures and their application is the value of taking such a class. 

The author and teacher on the video, Dr. Bruce H. Wilkinson, conveys God's message in a clear and powerful style that resonates deeply. Passages which are known and read previously become new and fresh with the input given by all participants. I come away with a serenity, although short-lived, that only exists in the peace of God. When that peace goes awry, I am aware of my unwelcome change, even though I cannot comprehend why. One of the lessons that help me cope with my fluctuating states of being is accepting that everything that happens happens for my good as long as I do not turn away from God because of His testing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity by Nancy Gibbs, Michael Duffy

5 of 5 stars  *****

This reader is thankful for the gift that is The President's Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity. Nancy Gibbs, along with Michael Duffy, compile information about past and present Presidents not known by the average citizen. Starting with Truman and Hoover and ending with Obama and Bush, W., the President's club explores its significance during modern times utilizing all living Presidents. This select population are the only ones capable of understanding what the existing President is going through, even though they are not privy to confidential circumstances unique to every term. 

The club is in existence from the inception of the United States' birth. Washington has the sole characteristic of being the lone member, at first, but he has future Presidents with whom to confer, confide, and console in John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Strong personalities usually give way to the need of sound advice when in that most high executive office. Democrats enlist Republicans and vice-a-versa to resolve issues not faced by the ordinary human being. The office becomes greater than the person.

A respect for those whom one knows little but from historical accounts and media headlines, inculcates itself into those who pick up this book and delve into its refreshing and astonishing pages. This reader is in a state of amazement after finishing this revealing non-fiction of a subject most interesting, the politics and human nature of those who accept the daunting task, President of the United States.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (Goodreads Author), Claton Butcher (Narrator)

4 of 5 stars ****

This audiobook synchronizes with my other studies well. You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit influences my daily activities, including prayers. I examine how much time I spend on pursuing my own personal desires during any given day as well as any daily rituals that become my habit. I evaluate whether or not my habits serve my efforts in achieving those desires. More importantly, James K. A. Smith's book makes me question the righteousness of my goals. The truth is, my habits are more self-serving than I am comfortable admitting. This excerpt from the book illustrates the lesson I use in my introspection, "Be careful what you worship; it will shape what you want and, therefore, what you make and how you work." 

The worship aspect of my life truly shapes who I am in that it reveals what and who I love. Smith refers to Proverbs 4:23 to eloquently express this, "Above all else, guard your heart for everything you do flows from it." This idea encompasses my total being, not just my intelligence. The author further explains why worship is natural drawing upon 1 John 4:19, "We love because He first loved us." Then Smith uses Aristotle's probing thoughts on this subject explaining that he who is pushed into the Universe out of love has a yearning to seek the source of that love. God is love. 1 John 4:8 asserts, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." God is always pulling us back toward Him.

Intelligence seems to obscure the way, at times, on that path back to the Creator. Following Christ Jesus assures me of remaining on the proper course. Christ says in the Gospel of John, "I am the Way and the Truth and the Life." Jesus, the second person in the Trinity and, therefore, God, simply states that He is the way to eternal life by sincerely accepting Him as the one who first loved us. His dying on the cross for our sins demonstrates that love. The next sentence of John 14:6 is more explicit, "No one comes to the Father except through me."

Another valuable lesson from this book is the power of habit. Since we are much more than thinking machines, we need to engage our feelings and inspiration in healthy, desirable behaviors that keep us on track toward our goals. If that goal is to ultimately return to that source of love for all eternity, habits that keep us on the enlightened path are necessary. Knowledge, itself, cannot change our behavior. Our goal should be to do what God desires of us.

You Are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit continues with the subjects of teaching how to love and discipleship. A lesson absorbs into the mind but application of that lesson must be put through the body. The desire to carry out the behavior is not instantaneous. In fact, thinking counters the culture of impulse, according to Smith. Correct repetition of a behavior can make it an action that requires little thought. A habit is born. Analysis of my habits and my goals tells me if these two important life lessons are aligned or not. It also tells me if I am unconsciously undermining myself. If so, I am frustrated and anxious. If not, I am in a state of peace. St. Augustine expresses this relationship in his Confessions, "You have made us for yourself and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A Dance with Dragons (A Song of Ice and Fire #5) by George R.R. Martin

5 of 5 stars  *****

In a book that one expects completion or, at least, closure, A Dance with Dragons, instead, ends with more expectation and desire for the tying of loose ends. The only finality in this book is the same as it is in all of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire books, the deaths of well developed characters and the demise of kingdoms. The multiple plots unfold simultaneously in different regions of Westeros: The North, The South, and beyond The Wall where it is always cold, frequently snowing, and domain of the Wildlings, the uncivilized Free Folk. 

The scope of this epic tale requires a time overlap between the fourth book, A Feast for Crows, and Martin's fifth book, A Dance with Dragons. Both books begin at the end of the third book, A Storm of Swords. The story is so vast that each book tells the tale of two geographical locations with all of its players and all of their intrigue. This parallel continues midway through A Dance with Dragons before the saga resumes with mention of characters from all regions. The maps in the beginning of this book give the mind's eye a reference to place readers into Martin's fantastic Medieval world. 

George R. R. Martin is a student of history and admits to using the Wars of the Roses, circa 5th century, as an inspiration for his A Song of Ice and Fire series. Certain characters and events are similar to the dynasties who battle one another during this time period. Those battles are historically won and lost between the Yorks and the Lancasters for the throne of England. 

A major and memorable event in the Game of Thrones is the Red Wedding which occurs in this author's imagination and resembles the blood bath that occurs in Scottish history under similar trusts and betrayals. Further connections to reality involve the Wildlings, who are examples of the Scots, the Gaelic people who migrated from Ireland to Scotland in the late 5th century. The Romans built Hadrian's Wall to keep the uncivilized people in the north from coming south. That wall represents the huge wall of ice guarded by the Night's Watch at Castle Black to prevent the Wildlings from migrating south. The Queen across the Water, Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi, Daenerys Stormborn, the Unburnt Mother of Dragons, among other names, is said to be a cross between Joan of Arc and Cleopatra.

A Dance with Dragons releases in 2011 with a promise from its author for an additional book in this series, The Winds of Winter.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

4 of 5 stars ****

 The story is a flooding flashback of earlier times an adult has when he returns to the neighborhood in which he grew up. These memories emerge around a tragic suicide that release negative, unknown energy into the location in which it occurs. 

The foreshadow of suppressed dark, fearful threats challenge the young boy who needs the comfort and reassurance of a remarkable little girl, Lettie Hempstock. She guides him through crossed boundaries he has yet to imagine.

The marvelous imagination of Neil Gaiman displays in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a novel that starts, originally, as a short story. Fantasy abounds in the boyhood roots of this author as a pond becomes an ocean and characters are full of magic. The rules of the universe become tools of fiction with extraordinary twists that stretch one's interpretation during this glorious adventure where even time is questionable.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire #4) by George R.R. Martin

5 of 5 Stars  *****

Book Four: A Feast for Crows takes the reader on an incredible adventure in many parts of the Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire world. The book differs in that all of the characters who die in the TV series do not die in this book. The HBO series, on Netflix DVD, exaggerates the relationships between characters in the book making one's demise more dramatic for the television audience. Whether it is the book or the series, the epic tale is fabulous and keeps this fan anticipating every twist and turn in the dynamic plots ongoing in incredible realms. New characters come while beloved characters die. Magic creates an incredible pool of imagination from which to draw. It is not overused. Instead, the deaths of key characters alarm in resolving some issues but expand other adventures for those who are left playing the Game of Thrones.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Explore the Bible: Personal Study Guide: Acts 1-12: Spring 2016 by Vance H. Pitman (Editor), Dean Register

5 of 5 stars  *****

Reading the Bible is profound.  Studying sections of its contents with a group of Christians is eye-opening.  A deeper, fuller understanding of events during a time approximately 1500 years ago shed light on today's issues.

Acts is written, most likely, by the physician Luke, author of the third Gospel.  Acts is also evidently written as a sequel to the third Gospel.  The Gospels tell the story of Jesus's life and death.  Acts picks up where Christ ascends on the third day and includes the 40 days He spends with many people, most significantly, the apostles.  This time period also includes His ascension to heaven while leaving the Holy Spirit in His disciples and for all men and women who accept Jesus as Christ.

The purpose of Acts is to inform mankind about the beginning of God's mission, to spread His word to all corners of the world.  This starts with the Holy Spirit in the apostles who form the foundation of His church spreading far and wide - the church being the congregation, not the building.  Paul's story resides in Acts as well.  As a matter of fact, Luke writes in the first person plural when he joins Paul on his mission trips; I becomes we.

The story of the church is not relegated to that era of time.  The story of the people, places, persecutions, and persistence is being written today as it was then.  The Book of Acts: 1-12, ends with the two year imprisonment of the apostle Peter in Rome and his release by an angel right under the noses of the guards stationed there to assure his imprisonment.  Peter responds to the call from God and is guided to safety to influence many more before he meets his eventual earthly demise.  Peter's faith and obedience to God demonstrates a common thread that others show in this New Testament book, Acts.

A Call to Christian Patriotism: A Weekly Devotional Essay Series by Howard A. Eyrich

5 of 5 stars  *****

I finish this year-long project a better person, a true Christian, Conservative Patriot.  The format of this devotional series is weekly readings of patriotic, scriptural, and conservative text with an added task.  Every week, I apply myself to the lesson so that my involvement impresses me in a more visceral way.  The book offers suggestions on what to do for my personal tasks.  Many take me out of my comfort zone but I find that necessary for personal growth.  Several times I read the prayer that Dr. Howard A. Eyrich has at the end of his short chapters.  In the beginning, I talk to my state's Representative about the theme of this book, preparing individuals to be educated, involved, citizens of the government and devout, humble followers of Jesus Christ.  This book also teaches the importance of connectedness.  I share this devotional with a 9/12 group that meets monthly and a Christian Men's Ministry that meets weekly. 

A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin

5 of 5 stars  *****

The Game of Thrones continues on several storylines with a relentless pulse and vigor rarely maintained in an epic that reads so well. The vast scale of events occurring simultaneously in various parts of this fictional world keep this reader busy checking the appendix for the characters and their loyalties. Suspense builds momentum toward some destined clash of families and doom from an undead legend. 

The clashes are not all military. Most of the devious plots occur in the royal courts of kingdoms while surviving members of the honorable Starks are scattered throughout the land. Much of the adventure stems from simple encounters with people. Revealing too much information about oneself too early can mean death, so stealth and resilience encourage the persistent to pursue an eventual reunion with family. This far into the tale, the protagonists seem to be losing the battles as they fall prey to shrewd betrayals which diminish their number. 

A Storm of Swords keeps the reader riveted from one scenario to another. Martin's mastery of character development affects those who gaze upon his prose by involving them in the story, hoping that beloved characters fair well in the dark times of his third book. Shock can occur at any time from any place with any number of players. The intensity in previous chapters continue to create apprehension with every turn of the page. These books never disappoint and leave one hungry to delve into the next thrilling adventure.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What Is a Healthy Church? by Mark Dever

5 of 5 stars  *****

Mark Dever defines the church, congregation, evangelism, deacons, elders, and the Word of God in the best way for his audience to understand what constitutes a healthy church. He highlights three key principles upon which a healthy church exists: expositional preaching, biblical theology, and a right understanding of the gospel. Beyond those three essential attributes of a healthy church, Dever asserts that a biblical view of Conversion, Evangelism, Membership, Discipline, Discipleship, and Leadership are important parts of the body of Christ, the living Word, Himself.

There is one passage that is particularly compelling to this reader. It is about Evangelism:

Evangelism, in other words, is not about doing everything we can to get a person to make a decision for Jesus, much less about imposing our views. Attempting to force a spiritual birth will prove to be as effective as Ezekiel trying to stitch dead, dry bones together to make a person (Ezekiel 37), ...
-Dever, p. 91

The message is that conversion is by the Holy Spirit and not a man, congregation, or church. The duty of the evangelist is to bring the Word of God to others without attachment to the outcome. The healthy church is a body of believers who act as much like Jesus Christ as possible, speak with the Holy Spirit within them, nonjudgmental and humble in their walk and talk that praises our Father in whose image we are all made.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

alice's adventures in wonderland perform by Scarlett Johansson by Lewis Carol

5 out of 5 stars  *****

I listen to this story via Audible, Audio Book. It is interesting to listen to a very talented Scarlett Johansson narrate this book which is one read to me as a child and enjoyed again as a young adult. This time around I notice the archaic terms that are colloquialisms during the time Lewis Carol writes this fantastic adventure. 

Alice's demise in the absurd world of Wonderland makes her homesick for the familiar people whose characteristics she discovers in the animals and insects of her fantasy. Enter a play on words and the story pivots in another direction; for example, Alice states that the world spins on its axis and the Queen of Hearts replies, "Speaking of axes, off with her head." 

I am constantly amused by Carol's style of writing. Johansson's expert use of voice alteration for each character makes this audio book come alive in a most refreshing way. I have a renewed respect for Scarlett as a performer and a deeper appreciation for Lewis Carol's classic masterpiece, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Joyland by Stephen King (Goodreads Author), Michael Kelly (Narrator)

4 of 5 stars  ****

The superb writing style of Stephen King and the excellent presentation by Michael Kelly as narrator make Joyland a thrill to experience. The story unfolds through the eyes of a young man, Devin, who comes of age while working at a carnival amusement park known as Joyland. Devin copes with personal forlorn love issues while proving his loyalty and moral integrity to his employer and peers. He learns of a mysterious death that haunts one of the rides at Joyland and this piques his interest. He meets an older single mom of an invalid child with a terminal prognosis and his life changes in every dimension of this book's story line. The macabre element exists in this story via the dastardly death of the young girl whose spirit haunts the Joyland ride and her murderer who is revealed in another life and death situation at the end. The prolific writings of Stephen King never fail to entertain his readers. He churns out his amazing stories, like Joyland, with the same ease it takes to read or listen to them.

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Healing Powers Of Vinegar by Cal Orey

5 of 5 stars  *****

I am so glad that I am an owner of this educational and entertaining book about the world's oldest remedy potion, The Healing Powers of Vinegar, by Cal Orey. Cal writes the history in an easy to understand style and presents the scientific data with self-explanatory charts and simple language. I, now, drink six full glasses of water  on ice daily, three of which have two tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar. The boost in energy and temperate mood I experience since drinking this simple, inexpensive concoction may be anecdotal but only I, the consumer, can judge such a difference.

The book talks about the array of uses, internally and externally, for the variety of vinegar that exists in the world today. Applications that will settle stomachs for some and clear mirrors and glasses for all are just a couple of examples. One fascinating story in vinegar's history takes place during the days of The Plague, which wiped out so many throughout Europe. Four robbers stole valuables off of the dead bodies without contracting the extremely contagious disease. The robbers doused themselves with vinegar before they daringly confiscated their booty. Even the ancient Greeks looked at vinegar as an antibiotic.

The end of the book, which is worthy of shelving near the kitchen, is full of tasty, healthful recipes. I use a particular vinegar with extra virgin olive oil and garlic in place of butter and salt when I cook vegetables, now. I find them palatable but I may reduce the amounts of these enhancements to taste the natural flavors of the fresh vegetables. I recommend this book to anyone for the sheer multitude of uses that vinegar offers.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Game of Thrones, Book Two, A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

5 of 5 stars  *****

Book Two, A Clash of Kings, is rich in character development and societal intrigue in a world clashing for power while forces stronger than men mount in the North, in more southerly dark religions, and in ancient offspring of a fantastic bloodline who claim the right to rule all the kingdoms. George Martin takes his audience deep into the psyche of all the fabulous characters who portray the gamut of human attributes in the Game of Thrones. It is easy to attach oneself to favorite players in the multifaceted story lines which unfold during these chapters of the saga which never fail to surprise and thrill. It is easy to see why this Sci-Fi Adventure is so widely acclaimed.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin

5 of 5 stars  *****

A Game of Thrones, Book One of, A Song of Ice and Fire, is a masterpiece of fantasy, adventure, and a thrilling, imaginative story of war, honor, human frailty, and cut-throat politics. George R. R. Martin captivates the reader with details worthy of patience that eventuate total absorption into his fictional realm. In other words, the learning process pays big dividends once the characters and their loyalties, or lack thereof, become clear to those who endeavor to escape into the Game of Thrones. Book One introduces the players and the environment with thrilling entertainment from the barbaric to the sublime. The character development engages the audience for certain players in a very visceral way evoking the gamut of human emotions. This reader anticipates Book Two, A Clash of Kings, with great expectations for another involved fantasy escapade as the final words of Book One still rush tingling chills throughout this body with vivid pictures of impossible creatures and extraordinary feats. 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr by Nancy Isenberg, Scott Brick (Translation)

5 of 5 stars  *****

There are other biographies on Aaron Burr that are less partial to this founding father of the United States of America. This reviewer reads several reviews of Nancy Isenberg's rendition during its reading to discover some history enthusiasts prefer one authors version over the other. Ron Chernow is one of the favorite biographers on this list. 

Having read Alexander Hamilton's biography, by Ron Chernow, I see the similarities between these two historical figures, regardless of any favoritism between the two men or their biographers. They are both formidable minds eloquent enough to refute the other with logic and reason on opposing issues. Aaron Burr's mental prowess also rivals Thomas Jefferson's in the political arena; thus, posing a threat to Jefferson's power as well. This clash of reputable titans unfolds in the telling of Burr's story.

I especially like Isenberg's explanations at the end of the biography where she answers questions this reader develops during its reading. The impression that men and women change across time challenges the reader to ponder, "In what significant ways?" After one reads Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr, it is easier to believe that mankind's competitive nature is the source of much grief and sorrow amid its honorable aspirations. Even those who realize this fall prey to its power.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again by Donald J. Trump

4 of 5 stars ****

I read some reviews of this book that were very negative and lacking in any substantive reason for attacking Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again . I can only surmise that these reviewers are not fans of the book's author, Donald J. Trump, and I suspect that many of them did not even read the book.

Donald Trump writes what he is saying on his campaign trail with a bit more in-depth rationale for saying what he says. Rather than going into the aspects of deal negotiations, he points to his accomplishments, what he continuously builds with quality, punctuality, and under budget. He does not want to give away any secrets. 

He shows the finances of his successful businesses for all the world to see. This is his testimony, his record that attests to his capability of making America great again. Unlike the televised debates, which give rival candidates time to challenge his character, Trump has an unfettered opportunity to make his case why he should be President of the United States. 

This book is compelling for several reasons and Trump's position in the polls is a great indicator that its message reaches many Americans who want a real change in their lives and their politicians. Donald Trump is not a bought candidate so he does not owe special favors to major corporations, unions, or cartels. Trump's history as a son, family man, and his work ethic touch a human side that many people do not see in Donald's public life. These qualities are apparent in the loving children that run his companies. Trump stresses that his children work for what they have just as his father instills in him. 

I come away, after reading this book, with a better knowledge about a man who may, one day, be President of the United States. I am not endorsing anyone at this time but when I do, my choice shall be an educated vote, my own opinion from my own research, and not from the opinions of haters.

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Manchurian Candidate by Richard Condon

5 out of 5 stars *****

Superb writing by Richard Condon and excellent narration by Christopher Hurt make The Manchurian Candidate a 5 out of 5 star ***** novel.  The story is spellbinding, the characters are intriguing, and the ending is shocking; everything one wants in an espionage thriller.