Thursday, March 28, 2013

Review of THE RUNAWAY KING by Jennifer Nielsen

Jaron is just a boy. His parents and brother are dead as the result of an assassination, and he must assume his rightful place as the new king of Carthya. Only a few weeks ago Jaron himself was thought to have been killed years ago by pirates, until it was discovered that his dad hid him away in a life on his own. Jaron has been a survivor, and he'll need the skills he learned all those years on his own now more than ever because many people want him dead, including the pirates he escaped years before. Jaron is forced to flea the castle and his homeland to keep Carthya from going to war. Jaron is unpredictible and irresponsible, and no one believes he has what it takes to be king. On the run, he makes what most will believe to be some of the most reckless actions of his life. Will he survive? Will he rise to the challenge of being king?

THE RUNAWAY KING by Jennifer Nielsen is the second book in her Ascendance Trilogy. I loved the first book for the incredible twist at the end. I loved this book even more because it delves so much deeper into the character of Jaron. He's had a rough life, and much of his life he's had to be unquestionably selfish in order to survive. Now he is Carthya's king, and a former friend is trying to kill him. His arrogance shines through on almost every page of the story, and you wonder if he'll ever get past this major flaw in his character. You even wonder if he even cares about the people of Carthya. But as the story goes along, and Jaron does things that seem really stupid and counterproductive, you begin to see a different side of him. It's the reason why he does what he does in this story that blew me away in the end. 

THE RUNAWAY KING is a uniquely told hero's journey about a boy who seems destined to be a rescuer, even though everything about him would say otherwise. Nielsen kept me turning pages all the way to the end. It's action-packed, emotionally-stirring, and the end made me really wish I could go ahead and dive into the third book. I was quickly recommending this book to friends even as I read it, and Nielsen will be an author whose work I will continue to look forward to with an expectation that I'm about to read another great story.

Review copy provided by Scholastic

Photo Credit: Scholastic

Review of BASIC.TEACHING, a Video by Francis Chan

In his video BASIC.TEACHING, Francis Chan pours his heart out on the Scriptures and how believers should be committed to learning from them and drawing close to God through them. Chan talks about the authority of the Bible and the need for authentic and faithful teaching. The first disciples taught what Jesus taught so that others could teach and Jesus' message would continue to spread.

Chan's heart in this video is clearly the idea of churches making disciples who make disciples. If we're believers in Jesus, then we're called to teach what Jesus taught. This includes measuring teaching against Scrpture so that we have accurate teaching. Another important idea Chan proposes is that reading the Bible should be something we want to do rather than feeling like a duty. The first disciples and those after them wanted to hear Jesus' teaching. How often do we pursue God's Word the wsy that they did.

The visual journey in the video really accentuates the ideas Chan is talking about. Chan is a passionate teacher, and we can learn some very foundational things through the BASIC.TEACHING video.

Review copy provided by David C. Cook

Photo Credit: David C. Cook

Review of EXTREME WORLDS by Francis Tsai

If you're a drawing artist, you might come to a point where you want to draw something that doesn't really exist in our world. Something out of this world. EXTREME WORLDS: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO DRAWING AND PAINTING SCI-FI ART by Francis Tsai gives artists the tools and knowledge to create fantastic sci-fi worlds, creatures, weapons, vehicles, and characters. 

After covering some drawing basics, the book launches into the steps to drawing sci-fi art. The book doesn't stop with drawing but puts the techniques into practice by discussing some storytelling concepts in the genre of the space opera. The author covers creating your characters and world. The book includes numerous illustrations throughout that encourage the mind of images an artist can create. 

EXTREME WORLDS is a great book for any artist interested specifically in creating sci-fi art.

Review copy provided by FW Media

Extreme Worlds
Barnes & Noble:
North Light:

Photo Credit: FW Media

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Advanced Review of WRITER'S REHAB by D.B. Gilles


It's a common occurrence for writers to struggle with doing the very thing they feel they were made to do: write. There are a variety of different causes for a writer experiencing writer's block, but how to get past it? There are few things more frustrating than being a writer and not be producing something good that we want people to read. Screenwriter D.B. Gilles offers somewhat of a process of recovery for writers in his upcoming book WRITER'S REHAB. The book is written as a 12-step recovery program for writers "who can't get their acts together."

The 12 steps deal with issues such as perfectionism, being an 80 percent finisher, and coming up with high concept story ideas. The common denominator is that there is usually nothing stopping you from writing more than you are. Sometimes you just need to settle in and do the work. Gilles often encourages seeking therapy throughout the book to deal with serious issues, which wasn't really relevant to me, but I can see why it might be for some people. The book is aimed primarily to screenwriters, but all writers sometimes need a kick in the behind to do what they need to do, which is write.

WRITER'S REHAB is a compact little book that will help a writer explore the often unnecessary reasons for not writing and find useful exercises to get back to it.

Review copy provided by Michael Wiese Productions

Photo Credit: Michael Wiese Productions


WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT by Mary Kole explores the themes and techniques used that have made young adult stories like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games a success. Kole is a literary agent who knows the world of kidlit and writes with the goal of empowering writers with the skills to write captivating stories to reach a young audience. And, of course, some of the best kidlit works have crossed over to adult audiences as well.

The book of course features all the standard features of a book about writing fiction, such as plot, character, setting, etc. What makes Kole's book unique and especially helpful to writers interested in writing kidlit is her focus on getting into the minds of middle grade and young adult readers and understanding the themes that resonate with them most. There are even tips on starting your career in writing kidlit. Another helpful aspect to the book is Kole's explanations on the differences between middle grade and young adult stories.

WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT is a fantastic book for writers who want to break into the literary world carved out by J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer, Suzanne Collins, and many other lesser known authors.

Review copy provided by FW Media

Writing Irresistible Kid Lit
Barnes & Noble:
Writer’s Digest:

Photo Credit: FW Media

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Review of GOD AND EVIL edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr.

The reality of evil and suffering in a world is a problem that everyone struggles with at some point, especially when it comes to believing in the existence of a good God who created the world we live in. If a good God created the world, why all this evil? GOD AND EVIL is a new book from InterVarsity Press edited by Chad Meister and James K. Dew Jr. The book is a collection of essays by scholars and Christian thinkers wrestling with the many different issues involved in the problem of evil. There's some interesting essays in this book, including possible reasons why God might allow evil, an essay on God's hiddenness, original sin and its origin, evil from the perspective of other religions, and of course hell. There are even essays on evolution and intelligent design.

I especially appreciate Bruce Little's contribution on gratuitous evil, Paul Copan's contributions on original sin, and William Craig's chapter on the doctrine of hell.

The only issue I had with the book, which could be a strength or a weakness to the book, is the differing and sometimes contradictory viewpoints taken up. For example, Craig argues for a particularist approach to hell which is followed by an essay by Kyle Blanchette and Jerry L. Walls arguing for more of a Rob Bell-like inclusivist approach. Someone reading this book hoping to come away with some solid answers may find themselves more frustrated by the end. Still, it was interesting to see some of these viewpoints side by side and would recommend it to someone who has already had some experience wrestling through the issues presented.

Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press

Photo Credit: InterVarsity Press

Friday, March 22, 2013

Review of INCEPTION: SHOOTING SCRIPT by Christopher Nolan

I became a Christopher Nolan fan after the first Batman movie, and INCEPTION quickly joined the ranks as one of my favorite movies. I love great movies, but I'm also a writer, so I was interested in Christopher Nolan as writer. I love the idea of the stunning visuals we see in movies beginning as words on a page. The INCEPTION SHOOTING SCRIPT gives me the opportunity to see Christopher Nolan the writer.

The book obviously contains the script of the movie, and it's a great journey through the story. It's amazing how you can see the movie playing in your mind. What I really love about this book is the interview at the beginning between Nolan and his brother Jonathan Nolan. It gives a lot of insight into how Nolan came up with the story idea for INCEPTION and gives you some idea of Nolan's creative process.

The INCEPTION SHOOTING SCRIPT will appeal to people interested in writing for movies. It will also appeal just to fans of INCEPTION.

Review copy provided by Insight Editions

Photo Credit: Insight Editions


Technology has given musical artists many creative opportunities. COMPOSITION FOR COMPUTER MUSICIANS by Michael Hewitt is aimed toward musicians who are interested in using computer technology to compose music.

The book covers computer programs you can use to score your music and what kind of equipment you'll need to be a computer musician. You'll learn important tips on writing for several different instruments and then focusing on layering the different parts in a recording. Use of effects, mixing, and mastering are covered as well.

There was a point in time when I was composing songs on a computer using Pro Tools and layering all the parts myself. This book surely would have been a great guide to help me make the most of my time during that period. COMPOSITION FOR COMPUTER MUSICIANS will give computer musicians some structure and parameters that will help drive their creativity.

Review copy provided by Course Technology PTR

Photo Credit: Course Technology PTR


LIVE SOUND FUNDAMENTALS by Bill Evans is a book that covers the basics of engineering live audio. The first time I showed to do sound reinforcement when I was studying music and recording in college, I had no idea what I was doing and the process of learning was very frustrating. The textbook we had wasn't helpful, and I wish I had learned from a book like LIVE SOUND FUNDAMENTALS.

Evans' book is immediately helpful because it begins at the beginning of the signal chain and follows it all the way to the end of the chain. The book covers each of the points in the signal chain by devoting a chapter to each. Evans explains each of the concepts clearly, putting things in a way that beginners can understand. He even explains the etiquette an engineer should follow when doing a live audio event.

There are many books that cover sound engineering from a recording perspective,  but this book is the best I've come across to cover live audio. It's a text I'll go back to over and over again.

Review copy provided by Course Technology PTR

Photo Credit: Course Technology PTR

Review of TIME AND ETERNITY by Brian Leftow

Is God timeless or temporal? Does he exist inside of time or outside of time? Why does it matter, and what are the implications of the view you hold? Theologians throughout history have wrestled with the relationship of God and time. Since time is a creation of God, it has often been assumed that God himself is timeless. But how does a timeless God interact with a creation that is in time? A philosophy of religion book by Brian Leftow called TIME AND ETERNITY wrestles with these questions and presents a view of God as timeless and seeks to show how this timeless God interacts with s temporal creation.

One of the strengths of this book is tracing the thoughts of important historical figures such as Augustine and Boethius on God's relation to time. He presents his own view while dealing with possible objections. He even tackles God's foreknowledge in a way that is similar to Molinism, which has been an interesting position in my mind for awhile.

The book is quite complex and I'll definitely have to go through it several times to grasp it, but it's a great treatment on God's relationship to time.

Review copy provided by Cornell University Press

Photo Credit: Cornell University Press

Review of IMAGINING THE KINGDOM by James K. A. Smith

James K. A. Smith's book IMAGINING THE KINGDOM is an exploration of what it means and what it looks like to be a worshipping creature such as human beings. This book is a followup to his earlier book DESIRING THE KINGDOM. I haven't read the first book, but IMAGINING begins with an overview of the first book. 

This book looks at worship and role of liturgies, both secular and Christian, in spiritual formation. The stories we tell and take in shape our imagination, and it is our imagination that fuels our formation. Smith looks both at the theory and practicality of our imagination in drawing closer to God and holiness.

The book is an exploration of the some greatest historical thinkers and many familiar stories. The book is weighty and therefore a somewhat difficult read, but it's an interesting exploration of the things that shape us as human beings.

Review copy provided by Baker Academic

Photo Review: Baker Academic

Review of THE MYSTERY OF GOD by Steven D. Boyer and Christopher A. Hall

THE MYSTERY OF GOD by Steven D. Boyer and Christopher A. Hall explores the nature of God in that he cannot be completely known. He's a mystery, but not one that can be unraveled.

The authors recognize that God has revealed many things about himself to us, but at the same time, there is much about him that can't be knowable. And even what we know of God isn't knowledge in a way that we know other things. God is infinitely unique, and we must approach him with the humility that we are incredibly limited in our ability to understand him. This concept of mystery is then applied to some of the most difficult Scriptural concepts to understand. Mystery helps us to understand that concepts like the Trinity, the incarnation, and prayer don't have to be contradictory.

THE MYSTERY OF GOD is a call to pursue a God who is both transcendent and immanent, and it is the call to trust him as the one who knows all when we don't.

Review copy provided by Baker Academic

Photo Credit: Baker Academic

Review of WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I DIE? by Michael Allen Rogers

The subject of what happens after death has always been one that has drawn my attention, as it does for probably most people. But it became even more of a concern when I watched my grandfather slowly die of cancer a few years ago. The constant refrain from well-meaning people that he's in a better place frustrated me more than it helped me. Then I discovered a book by Randy Alcorn about heaven, and it changed the way I saw everything. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I DIE? by Michael Allen Rogers is a similar book with many of the same concerns.

Death is a very real concern for everybody, and Rogers handles it in a way that is meant to draw people to Christ, inspire hope, and drive people to spread the gospel. The book deals with the hell and rightly describes it as the default destination for anyone unless God's grace intervenes. Though a difficult doctrine because of all the emotional implications, Rogers shows why hell makes sense and what ultimately drives people there. I was glad to see that the author sees the Bible's explanation for why people end up in hell is because of their own refusal to believe. People send themselves to hell. Rogers describes what most theologians have referred to as an intermediate heaven as the immediate heaven. He then shows the earth's destiny as restoration by God and heaven coming to earth. I was also glad to see a chapter on  the fate of children who die.

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I DIE? is Christ-centered throughout in its pursuit of showing people that the goal of redeemed humanity is eternity in his forever-satisfying presence.

Review copy provided by Crossway Books

Photo Credit: Crossway Books

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blog Tour Review of GALATIANS FOR YOU by Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller is probably one of the clearest and most precise communicators of the biblical gospel that I've ever heard. In GALATIANS FOR YOU he looks at the apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians to help us understand what Paul was writing about,  which was the gospel. Specifically, one of Paul's main arguments was about the contrast was between trying to earn God's approval by following the law, which is impossible, and relying on the completed work of Christ in the gospel.

Keller takes a chunk of the letter at a time and explains it by both helping us to understand it in its own context and its implications for us as a modern audience. Keller is always good at using illustrations and stories to add clarity to what he's communicating. Each section ends with some questions for reflection.

GALATIANS FOR YOU has a lot to do with fighting for gospel purity. When you add anything to the gospel, you lose the gospel. As the cover says, you can use this book in your spiritual growth and as study material to teach others. It's a great book for making much of the gospel.

Review copy provided by The Good Book Company

Photo Credit: The Good Book Company

Review of PROBLOGGER, 3rd EDITION by Darren Rowse & Chris Garrett

PROBLOGGER by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett takes all the guesswork out of earning an income from blogging. After sharing their stories of how they became pro bloggers, the authors launch into all the information you need to set up your own blog and begin earning an income from it. This includes the various ways of actually generating income from blogging and how to maximise your earning potential by diversifying your monetization methods.

The book covers the measurements you'll need to pay attention to, how to set up a blogging, choosing a niche and actually writing blog posts, developing a community of devoted readers, and a whole lot more.

Blogging about something you're passionate about and that could impact others gives writers a great opportunity to earn money doing something they love.  I can't recommend this book enough to anyone interested in pro blogging. I'll be putting the things I learned from this book into practice myself.

Review copy provided by Wiley Books

Photo Credit: Wiley Books


The HAL LEONARD ACOUSTIC GUITAR METHOD by Chad Johnson is a great instructional resource because the author covers technique specifically for acoustic guitar and it gives many examples of the techniques in practice through real acoustic guitar songs.

With this method you will learn chords and strumming, fingerpicking, open tunings, and many different acoustic guitar styles. What I really like about this book is the acoustic rock feel of some of the lessons. The included CD sounds great and will help with practicing the full-length tunes in the book, as well as the shorter exercises throughout.

I wish I would have had the HAL LEONARD ACOUSTIC GUITAR METHOD when I was learning how to play guitar. It's a great method for learning acoustic guitar technique.

Review copy provided by Hal Leonard Books

Photo Credit: Hal Leonard Books


Troy Stetina is a highly sought-after guitar instructor. When I was learning how to play guitar a few years ago, I remember learning from several guitar magazine articles written by Stetina. In SPEED MECHANICS FOR THE LEAD GUITARIST, Stetina provides a full-length course to develop your technique.

The exercises in the book are designed to be a part of a guitar player's regular practice. They focus on isolating technique in each hand and bringing them together.

The exercises in the book should help you gradually develop more speed and control I'm your playing as the exercises increase in difficulty. SPEED MECHANICS FOR LEAD GUITAR is surely one of the most beneficial books in aiding any guitar player's practice and improvement.

Review copy provided by Hal Leonard Books

Photo Credit: Hal Leonard Books

Review of CHORD MASTER by Rikky Rooksby

CHORD MASTER by Rikky Rooksby is an invaluable resource for any guitar player. As Rooksby states neat the beginning of the book, many guitar players learn chords by learning their favorite songs, but tgis can limit the amount of chords we learn.

Rooksby's book walks guitar players through many different chords and chord shapes, with attention on how different chords work together. You'll learn what chords fit withib different key progressions. The section on chords for songwriters gives songwriters the know-how to come up with progressions and melodies for songs. There's a great section on chords you'll recognize from specific songs. Finally, the book contains a chord dictionary.

CHORD MASTER gives guitar players a tool to learn chords quickly and help them to be better players and songwriters.

Review copy provided by Hal Leonard Books

Photo Credit: Hal Leonard Books

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Review of THE KILL ORDER by James Dashner

Rating: 5 out of 5

In an instant, sun flares wipe out much of the world's population. The survivors gather into settlements, surviving in a world of overwhelming heat and little of a future of normalcy. Mark has been living in this post-sun flare world for the last year, mourning the loss of his family and having nightmares about that tragic day. But it's not all bad. He and Trina, the girl he cares for more than anyone, live in a settlement with some people they've grown to love and rely on. But everything changes the day the Berg flies over their settlement. Masked people begin firing darts from the Berg. People begin dying from a terrible virus that attacks their brains. Mark, Trina, Alec, and Lana go on a search for the Berg's origin. They have to find out why a virus was unleashed and if it can be stopped. Along the way they encounter a girl who seems immune to the virus, and an unexpected battle for humanity's future begins. Can Mark and his friends stop the virus before it takes them away too? Will they be prepared for the answers they discover?

THE KILL ORDER by James Dashner is the prequel to his MAZE RUNNER TRILOGY, and it is a thrill ride from beginning to end. I've never read The Maze Runner trilogy, so I came in completely new to this story. If this prequel is any indication, I think I have to dive into the trilogy soon.

I've always been a fan of post-apocalyptic type stories, and I found the world transformed by solar flares to be intriguing. Mark and Trina were very likable characters, and I felt their relationship, a truly bright spot in the story, gave the story an emotional pull that helped carry the action forward. Mark is driven to protect her, to rescue her, to be with her, and though he's driven to take some regretful actions toward the end, he's the picture of someone who will stop at nothing to protect who he loves. Alec was another character I really enjoyed because he's both hero and father figure to Mark. Then there's the little girl Deedee. She's a mystery and clearly very important.

The virus affects the mind, and the story is a race to find answers and a way to reverse it before the characters lose their minds. The source of the virus was one of the biggest and most interesting reveals in the story, and as someone who hasn't read the original story, I'm very interested to see what the world is like after what this story sets up.

I loved the way Dashner ended each of the chapters, making me want to keep going to find out what happens. This story looks at the extremes of the human heart in the midst of incredible circumstances, the potential for horrific corruption and for great good. Dashner has created a brilliant story that I enjoyed all the way through. I have a feeling I'll be describing Dashner as one of my favorite authors in the future.

Review copy provided Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Photo Credit: Delacorte Press


Rating: 5 out of 5

THE ART OF DIGITAL AUDIO RECORDING by Steve Savage takes beginning sound engineers on a journey through all the concepts and all the technical know-how to record, mix, and master audio using a digital audio workstation. It's for both people who want to record in their own home studio or in a professional recording studio.

It covers everything from mics and placement, signal paths, processing, and everything else you need to know to get started engineering recordkngs. I enjoyed the mixing chapter because this is where the engineer really gets to exercise creativity. The addendums at the end were helpful as well.

I've read a lot of recording books, and I really enjoyed this one and felt the author explained everything very well. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in learning how to be a recording engineer.

Review copy provided by Oxford University Press

Photo Credit: Oxford University Press

Monday, March 18, 2013

Review of GODS AT WAR by Kyle Idleman

Rating: 5 out of 5

Human beings are designed to worship something. Worship is instinctive and unavoidable. We don't choose whether or not we worship, just the direction our worship is pointing. In his new book GODS AT WAR, Kyle Idleman explores this need to worship and the core cause of all of our sinfulness: idolatry.

Idolatry is worship of anything other than God, and it is the fountain from which all of our sin flows. Idleman presents God as a jealous God who wants only the best for us, which is himself. He looks at the gods of pleasure, power,  and love, and shows how they fail to satisfy the God-longing in our hearts.

What we devote our lives to is an issue of the heart, and GODS AT WAR encourages believers to turn their hearts from idols to the only One who can satisfy us.

Review copy provided by Zondervan through BookSneeze

Photo Credit: Zondervan

Review of THE CHARISMA MYTH by Olivia Fox Cabane

Rating: 4 out of 5

If you're not naturally outgoing, it can be really frustrating when you struggle to communicate and get your ideas across clearly. Some people seem to be born with charisma and some don't. But if you're not naturally charismatic, does that mean you're doomed to be uncharismatic? In her new book THE CHARISMA MYTH, Olivia Fox Cabane states that charisma can be learned by anyone.

Using research in behavioral science Cabane deconstructs the myth that charisma is something people are only born with. Charisma is about exhibiting presence, power, and warmth, and much of this exhibited by our body language. The whole book is about behaviors and mindsets we can learn to be more charismatic. Cabane provides exercises throughout that are helpful developing new charismatic behaviors. Some of them are a little weird, and not all of them are equally helpful.

Overall, the book should be able to help anyone be more charismatic if they put the exercises into practice. It's an interesting book with great illustrative stories throughout.

Review copy provided by Portfolio Hardcover

Photo Credit: Portfolio Hardcover

Review of HALFWAY HERBERT by Francis Chan

Rating: 5 out of 5

HALFWAY HERBERT is always doing things halfway, never quite finishing anything. He only brushed half his teeth, only did half his homework, only ate half his food, and only slept halfway through the night. Though doing things halfway makes life difficult, Herbert never seems to learn his lesson. One day he tells a half-truth, not quite considering it a lie, and his dad is disappointed. His dad uses this moment to teach an incredible truth about God’s desire for whole-hearted devotion from us.
I love the message conveyed in Francis Chan’s books, so I was eager to get his children’s books to help communicate those lessons to my small children. HALFWAY HERBERT takes one of the vital messages in Chan’s book CRAZY LOVE and couches it in a story that helps kids understand God’s heart toward us. It’s brightly illustrated by Matt Daniels, and my children love the bright colors and clever story it tells. It’s a great book if you have children and you want to teach them to be fully committed to Christ and the things in their lives God calls them to.
Review copy provided by David C. Cook

Photo Credit: David C. Cook

Review of EYES WIDE OPEN by Steve DeWitt

Rating: 5 out of 5

EYES WIDE OPEN by Steve DeWitt is a book about humanity's instinctive need to seek and enjoy beauty. DeWitt sees this longing inside of us as a longing for the One who is true beauty. God has planted inside our hearts a desperation to find him, and all of creation contains reflections of the beauty of God. 

In EYES WIDE OPEN DeWitt explores what the Bible reveals about God and specifically God's trinitarian nature. It's a call to see God with both fresh and accurate eyes. Then the book moves from the foundation of God's beauty to an exploration of the beauty in the world and cultures we find ourselves in. Beauty, as a reflection of God's beauty, is meant to point out hearts to the source of beauty. Instead, we're more often caught up in created beauty rather than in the one who created beauty. 

EYES WIDE OPEN is a call for believers in Jesus to embrace beauty and be the best creators of beauty they can be, all to the glory of God. This is an important book.

Review copy provided by Credo House Publishers

Photo Credit: Credo House Publishers


Rating: 5 out 5

When I was little I used to love taking electronic devices apart and trying to figure out how they worked. Unfortunately I ruined a lot of stuff that way. Now that I'm older I find myself needing to fix electronic stuff often, especially as a musician. But it's frustrating when I can't figure out how to fix something. Michael Jay Geier's book HOW TO DIAGNOSE AND FIX EVERYTHING ELECTRONIC is an extremely helpful guide for understanding how electronic devices work, determine what problems may be affecting them, and what steps to take to fix them. 

The book covers tools you'll need, safety measures, an important section on troubleshooting, descriptions of electrical components, and reading diagrams. There's even a section on troubleshooting and repairing specific devices, including determining whether or not it's worth the risk to try to fix it yourself. 

Geier's guide is in a category all on its own. It's extremely helpful. I've been working on repairing a fried guitar pedal, so I'm hoping I'll finally be able to with the knowledge gained in this book.

Review copy provided by McGraw-Hill

Photo Credit: McGraw-Hill

Review of REWIRING YOUR PREACHING by Richard H. Cox

Rating: 4 out of 5
Lately I’ve been really interested in what scientists have been discovering about the brain, and especially about neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to develop new neural pathways. This goes a long way in understanding how people change, specifically how people change in relation to principles and teachings that are communicated by God specifically to people. Richard H. Cox explores how the Christian sermon specifically impacts the human brain in his new book REWIRING YOUR PREACHING: HOW THE BRAIN PROCESSES SERMONS.
Cox both delves into the science and the theology behind behavioral change. What both discover is that a changing or renewing of the mind is the key to behavioral change. Basically, what the gospel does is transform people, and the job of the preacher is to communicate the life-changing message of the gospel in the best ways possible to help people embrace it and have their minds renewed or transformed.
Cox is careful to remind people who preach that God is ultimately the one who changes people, but preachers have a responsibility as carriers of the most important message to use the best communication methods possible. This means understanding how the brain processes Christian communication. Cox is committed to using the word sermons over messages, though I think this book applies to all sorts of Christian communication theory. One of the important concepts is communicating by opening up as many brain gateways as possible, which means appealing to as many of the five senses you can because it helps people retain what you’re communicating better.
REWIRING YOUR PREACHING contains some very important information for people who have been given the responsibility to communicate the life-changing message of the gospel.
Review copy provided by InterVarsity Press

Review of APE: AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, ENTREPRENEUR by Guy Kawasaki & Shawn Welch

Rating: 5 out of 5
Self-publishing has become increasingly popular as e-readers have made the ability to get your work out there accessible and affordable. But just because you can self-publish a book doesn’t mean you should, or that you know how to, or that your book will be immediately successful. Fortunately, Guy Kawasaki and Shawn Welch have self-published a remarkable book on the subject itself called APE: AUTHOR, PUBLISHER, ENTREPRENEUR.
APE like an interesting step-by-step guide to the self-publishing process. After determining if you should even write a book, the authors take you on the journey of being an author and actually writing your book, including helpful advice on financing your book, editing, securing a visually appealing book cover, and formatting for e-readers or for print. Then the authors walk you through the process of actually publishing your book through one of the ebook distributors or directly to readers. Finally, the authors cover how to be an entrepreneur, building a platform for your book and building an audience.
The authors include many stories about their own process of self-publishing APE. The book has a ton of helpful advice and should be the go-to guide for anyone who wants to tackle self-publishing a book.
Review copy provided by the authors


Rating: 4 out of 5

I kept seeing people talk about Rosaria Champagne Butterfield’s book THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT so much that I felt like I needed to read it for myself. Butterfield recounts her uncomfortable and life-disrupting conversion to Christian faith from a life that was so thoroughly ingrained her that it just wasn’t easy to let go. She was a lesbian, highly involved in the homosexual community, and was even a voice and safe haven for those in that community. She was also an English professor whose focus was also on homosexuality. Christianity was far off her radar something to even be considered a valid way of living, especially in light of its teachings on homosexuality.
Then she experienced what she describes as a train wreck. After befriending a Christian couple and getting involved in the church where the man pastured, Butterfield met Jesus and everything changed. Not magically or suddenly, for Christian conversion and sanctification are a process, but Jesus came in and she could no longer be okay with the life and identity she had been living. My favorite quote in the book is this, “When you die to yourself, you have nothing from your past to use as clay out of which to shape your future.” This book is the story of her conversion, and the messy story of her pursuit of holiness.
I love the authenticity of this book, the boldness to question things that don’t quote add up sometimes in the lives of Christians, and that she makes much of Jesus throughout the book’s pages. Part of her story includes adopting children with her husband and homeschooling thing, giving us further glimpses into her life as a converted follower of Jesus. The only drawback of the book is that it sometimes feels a bit like you’re reading an advertisement for the Reformed Presbyterian denomination in particular. Though I don’t agree with some of the methodologies of the RP church, I did appreciate her willingness to explain why they do some things the way they do.
THE SECRET THOUGHTS OF AN UNLIKELY CONVERT is a book that will draw you into introspection. Conversion can be a messy process because Jesus comes to disrupt a life that is in opposition to him. Butterfield’s story is a beautiful picture of what Jesus can do in the life of someone who surrenders their bankrupt existence to him.
Review copy provided by Crown and Covenant Publications

Photo Credit: Crown and Covenant Publications

Review of SHORT FILMS by Patrick Nash

Rating: 5 out of 5

SHORT FILMS: WRITING THE SCREENPLAY by Patrick Nash is a helpful book for anyone interested in screenwriting because it covers all the concepts that are necessary for a writer to write a great screenplay. But it's especially helpful for those interested in short films. Nash refers to short films as a great training ground for aspiring film makers and writers. It makes sense because if you want to write a great screenplay, a great way to know if you would be any good at it is to complete a short screenplay first. 

Nash's book walks you through the process of doing that. After a short history lesson on filmmaking and the reasons for embracing short films, Nash gets into the core of the book which is telling a great story through the short film medium. From coming up with a story idea to developing your story into beginning, middle, and end, to structuring your story into a short screenplay, the chapters in SHORT FILMS are relatively short and to the point. One of the most important chapters in the book, I think, is the chapter on screenplay formatting. This takes the guesswork out of formatting in a way that professionals do. 

SHORT FILMS is an almost pocket size guide and easy to read in a short time. I've read  a lot of books on screenwriting, and while a lot of this stuff I've come across before, this book is a helpful addition.

Review copy provided by OldCastle Books

Photo Credit: OldCastle Books

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review of PILGRIM THEOLOGY by Michael Horton

Rating: 5 out of 5

Michael Horton's PILGRIM THEOLOGY is compressed version of his larger systematic theology THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, modified specifically for a broader audience of people. This includes highlighted terms and a glossary defining those terms.

Horton covers all the major areas of systematic theology, including the doctrine of God, God's revelation of himself, salvation, snd eschatology. He writes from a Reformed theology position throughout, so I don't agree with him at all l points. However, Horton writes compellingly and with a clear passion for God's glory and man's salvation. I love his approach from a gospel narrative and his framework of drama, doctrine, doxology, discipleship. I appreciate specifically Horton's handling of eschatology, even as I wrestle with my own stance on what it all means.

I loved THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, and I equally love PILGRIM THEOLOGY. It makes much of theology understandable and sparks a desire to study further.

Review copy provided by Zondervan

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Review of the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on ACTS by Eckhard Schnabel

Rating: 5 out of 5

I've been really impressed with Zondervan's Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament so far in my Bible study. Eckhard Schnabel's contribution on the book of Acts presents an 1,000 page volume on Luke's early history of the Christian church.

Schnabel presents Luke the physician as the author of the Gospel of Luke and Acts. He gives some discussion on the type of literature Luke was writing. Luke was a careful historian with a particular interest in assuring Gentiles that their inclusion in God's people with believing Jews was a part of God's plan all along. Schnabel also pays special attention to the Holy Spirit's work in and through the church as a continuation of the work Christ began as he recorded in his Gospel.

As with the other volumes in the ZECNT, the theology in application part of each section to seeing some of the implications of the biblical text to us today. The commentary on Acts is a thorough edition to the ZECNT series.

Review copy provided by Zondervan Academic


Rating: 4 out of 5

The 3rd volume in Thomas C. Oden's new series of books with Zondervan JOHN WESLEY'S TEACHINGS explores what Wesley believed about pastoral theology, which Oden is quick to assert were based on Wesley's commitment to the Bible's teachings. 

Wesley's thoughts on pastoral theology centered on the concept and practice of the care of souls. Oden reveals the many practical teachings Wesley gave for caring for souls through counseling people through spiritual struggles and hardships. Wesley took the care of souls concept and applied it to the family, and this is one of the most relevant sections of the book for me personally as the leader and shepherd of my own family. Oden also looks at Wesley's teachings on the sacraments, areas where I find some disagreement. He then covers the leadership of the church and evangelism.

Oden's series is a great exploration of the teachings of one of the greatest leaders in church history. This volume is especially relevant for leaders in the church.

Review copy provided by Zondervan


Rating: 5 out of 5
I took a seminary New Testament Greek course a couple years ago because I was interested in studying the Bible in the original languages, and one of the first things you begin to learn is the incredible importance of prepositions to the biblical Greek language. Words have meaning, and they have meaning in context, so they may mean one thing in one context and something else in another. When you’re studying biblical Greek, having a firm grasp of the prepositions will go a long way in knowing how to properly interpret the text. Murray J. Harris has written an immensely helpful and practical guide to New Testament Greek exegesis in his new book PREPOSITIONS AND THEOLOGY IN THE GREEK NEW TESTAMENT.
While not everything rests upon the preposition in a sentence (which would result in the author’s mind a theology of prepositions), Harris walks readers through many of the Greek prepositions and the places in the New Testament where they are significant to the text’s meaning. Special attention is given throughout on the meaning of specific prepositions within a given context.
Biblical Greek is an interesting and challenging language to learn, as well as incredibly valuable. Harris’ guide to New Testament Greek prepositions will be beneficial to anyone exegeting the text from Greek.
Review copy provided by Zondervan Academic

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Blog Tour Review of ASHES by Estevan Vega

Rating: 5 out of 5

Arson Gable once thought he was one boy trying to fit into a normal world, even though he can secretly start fire with his mind. All that changed the night Emery Phoenix, the girl who has captured his heart, was nearly burned by a group of kids from school. After Arson let loose the fullness of his ability in a fit of rage to protect Emery, both of them are taken by a secret organization who want to control Arson's ability. Arson soon finds out that he's not alone and that his past isn't what he previously believed. At the same time, Emery discovers a new boy named Adam who is like Arson. But is Adam good or bad? For tua matter, is Arson good or bad?

ASHES is the second book in Estevan Vega's ARSON trilogy. It is a twisted tale of humanity's relentless struggle to become more than humanity. ASHES is in a lot of ways a different story than ARSON. I couldn't have imagined this was where the story would go. It's so much bigger and on a scale that is bound to affect so much more than the small town ARSON took place in.

Arson's story is tragic, especially with the story beginning with his birth. You feel sorry for him and wish that he could have a second chance. The tragedy just continues. Throughout, you have to wonder if his mind can take what he discovers.

I enjoyed seeing Joel begin to rise above the flaws that plagued him in the first book. It was also good to see Joel and Aimee begin to grow closer as they search for Emery.

The story seems full of people who think they know what's best for the world, but of course what's best for the world and what's best for the characters themselves doesn't always add up. Salvation Asylum is big with big plans for the world, but the real mystery of this story is Adam. He's called the Source. He's a tragic character with a lot of pent-up rage. And what he does really makes me wish Vega was finished with book 3.

Estevan Vega knows how to tell a story. I never lost interest at any point in this book, and I think he's going to finish it in the most epic way, given the build-up at the end of ASHES. It's a great exploration of the best and worst in humanity.

Review copy provided by StoneHouse Ink

Monday, March 4, 2013

Review of FAITHMAPPING by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper

Rating: 5 out of 5

FAITHMAPPING by Daniel Montgomery and Mike Cosper is about mapping our spiritual journey of sanctification,  and it's all about the gospel of Jesus. The chapters of the book important elements of a life following Jesus. But before that, the authors describe a full gospel and why it's important.

The clear goal of the book is to show that we're not to focus any one of the elements, such as mission or worship, to the exclusion of the others. Instead, all the elements are an important part of our journey. I love the movement from a whole gospel to a whole church to the whole world. Each chapter ends with a Map It section and gives practical steps for making the chapter's contents a reality in our own lives.

FAITHMAPPING is a great book in that it outlines a clear gospel-centered path of discipleship.

Review copy provided by Crossway Books