Tag Archives: book reviews

Review Or Die! (Not you, the Reader — the Author)

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It’s a pain to write reviews. If I liked a book, I liked it. I don’t need to review it. Maybe I’ll tell some friends. Maybe I’ll lend the book to someone else. And it sounds stupid to say, “This book was great! I loved it!” What good does that do anyone? Other readers don’t care about reviews. They pick a book because they get pulled in by the cover, they’re a fan of the genre, or a friend or some bigshot blogger they follow recommended it. Who cares about my little dumb reviews?

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Honestly, I can sympathize with those reasons for not writing a review. But I’m still going to shoot them down and give you some help to understand why every time you read a book but don’t review it, you are sucking just a little bit of life out of that author. If people keep taking these attitudes and not writing reviews, eventually, those authors will die, in a publishing sense. Their books will receive little attention and that’s death for a book and for its author. He really can’t keep his story alive by himself. He needs your help.

  1. “It’s a pain to write a review.” No, it’s not. It’s easy. I even gave you a pattern in a previous blog post. Take a look, follow the steps, and voila! The review is done before you know it. Here’s that link.  https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/how-to-write-a-book-review-the-author-will-love/
  2. “Maybe I’ll tell some friends.” Please, please, do. But imagine how many friends you can tell if you write your opinion down. You can widen your influence and the author’s if you just take those few minutes and write that review.
  3. “It sounds stupid to say. ‘It was great! I loved it'” Maybe it does to you, but it sounds like music to the author. It’s like water on brown grass. It’s like food to an author’s empty stomach. Be that water. be that food. Say whatever you can say. Write whatever you can write. Just go there and do that review thing!
  4. “Other readers don’t care about reviews.” You might be surprised by how many do. Many people read reviews before deciding to buy a book. If there aren’t many, they might skip on to one that has some.
  5. “Who cares about my dumb little reviews?” But there’s another reason to give an author reviews. It helps give his book reality and credibility with sites where he might want to promote it. Real, genuine reviews are like seeds. They multiply opportunities for an author to get known, get read, and get more sales. You can help in this way that costs you so little. You can help a lot.

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I, as an author care about your reviews. They’re not dumb. They’re your thoughts and feelings. People who put their thoughts and feelings into writing a book welcome feedback. What’s the point in writing a book if no one cares enough to share their thoughts about it? I look at my beloved children, my books that I worked on to produce. I think, when some have ten or more reviews, and some have one or two, or even none, that nobody loves those children. Nobody cares about them, so it must be nobody cares about me either. And I wither a little. I get thirstier, and hungrier, and I die a little.

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I failed to mention one thing about reviews. They don’t have to be good ones. Sure, parents want everyone to love their kids, but if you’ve got constructive criticism on why a book isn’t what you hoped it would be, put that down, too. Don’t think all we want is a string of fives and maybe a few fours. Lay it out there — what you liked and what you didn’t. If we think our books are perfect, we need your humbling. We need your honesty. Help us be better authors. Even if we don’t do a rewrite of that book, it might help us do the next one better.

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So help us. That’s what reviews are really all about. We are flowers. Water us, feed us, encourage us, pinch off our dead blooms and help us grow new ones. Don’t let our books and our fire to write die in discouragement and dim corners. Shine a light on them. we need your help. We can’t do this alone. We are only the authors. You are the readers. — post by Mary C. Findley

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Book Reviews — Post by Mary C. Findley

Slave Again by Alana Terry
4.0 out of 5 stars Freedom and Strength May Not Be What You Think September 7, 2014

Are you looking for an uplifting message of hope? You may have to look hard in this extraordinary story. Mee-Kyong was not someone I ever wanted to hear about again, so I admit I was reluctant to read it when I learned the subject of this book. Still, her story is compelling, because she tries so hard to save herself, and later even sacrifices for and tries to save someone else. Mee-kyong actually gets rescued, but all of these things demonstrate the most surprising and difficult lesson Terry has to teach. What does it really mean to be strong? What does it mean to be free, or to free someone else? What kind of help do people really need to satisfy their physical and spiritual hunger? These are hard, hard questions to answer, but Terry tackles them with strength and grace. It is not an easy book to read, but if you miss the opportunity, you will be poorer in spirit.

Saga of the Everking — Revised Edition by David G. Johnson

5.0 out of 5 stars A loving teacher and a proud king September 1, 2014

The characters, warmth, and humor are great in this short story, as well as the serious lessons. The Everking’s pride demands that he must secure his succession. He fears his warlike people will splinter if he fails to produce a suitable heir. This short story echoes the biblical Abraham and Sarah but has shocking twists and lessons about the price of doing things our own way, and forgetting who the real Everking is.

The Karini and Lamek Chronicles 3-Book Bundle by Cynthia P. Willow
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fantasy Classic for All Ages August 11, 2014

Book 1 This is a story an adult can read all in one night, but I can imagine it becoming a great bedtime story that will reward your kids for hitting the hay on time. Lamek doesn’t know who he should be loyal to when the only life he knows is mockery and slavery, and the only friend he has is a warped and selfish dragon. Karini’s a timid pink fairy who’s promised to help the cause of freedom, but how do you get free from thirteen dragons? There’s an army you won’t expect, a separation and a sacrifice you won’t soon forget, and, best of all, there are two more books in the series to look forward to!

Book 2 This seems like a great book for children to read for themselves themselves. I enjoyed its simplicity and down-to-earth tone, while still allowing for flights of fantasy and a cast of magical characters. Unlike many that try to be high fantasy with complex language and deep symbolism. It’s a story of friendship, courage, loyalty, and has so many good moral lessons. It doesn’t wallow in the dark side, but clearly portrays evil as evil. It explores grief, personal sacrifice, but still has humor, bright spots, and good guys winning.

Book 3 This final story in the trilogy is about what people do and don’t wish for. You might get your wish, but it might not be what you want or need. Lamek is not the only one who learns that lesson in the climax of the Karini and Lamek Chronicles. Lessons in love, war, and character abound. Natas has no desire to re-unite with someone he thought abandoned him long ago. Parallel characters play off the different ways to look at responsibility, ambition, and true friendship. Sometimes the cost can be very high, before you learn the truth about yourself and how to do the right thing. A little magic doesn’t hurt, either.

 

 

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Review of The Bible in World History — Post by Michael J. Findley

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The Bible in World History is by Stephen Leston, PhD (in Bible) (Click the image to see the book on Amazon.com.

This is the first paper book I have read since converting to ebooks many years ago and I find that I do not like it. It is only available in paper. The type is too small. It is difficult to read in the dark. I miss the easy search functions.

But these are petty complaints. This is a very well-laid out and attractive book. A very honest comment from a 5 star review on Amazon said, “I picked up this book and was originally drawn in by the colorful pictures–there are hundreds of them!!!!!” The beauty and quality of both the artwork and the binding for the price are phenomenal.

The author is a graduate of Master’s International School of Divinity, Evansville, IN.

Another 5 star Amazon review said, “Really enjoyed reading this book. For only 260 pages it really packs a punch. … I appreciated the flow of the book.”
I picked up this book because I am writing on a related topic. There are very few books on the subject of Biblical World History and I am always interested in learning what I can from the very few people who support a Biblical world view.

Most of the people who reviewed the book on Amazon loved it because of the layout, the pictures, and the perspective, and all of these are wonderful.

When I looked at the content, I realized that there is only one footnote. While modern writing style often replaces footnotes with chapter endnotes, there are no endnotes, either. Neither is there a bibliography. There is a brief and vague acknowledgements page, but there are almost no specific references to outside works in the entire book. As another Amazon reviewer who gave the book only two stars correctly observed: “I was hoping for a definitive, citable resource, with, for example, pages of footnotes, acknowledgements, and a lengthy bibliography, a book to help me understand the context in which the Bible was written. This is really the opposite, a glossy, handsome, easy to read book with a general overview of history during the time (including areas far outside of the Middle East, like China, which did not seem germane to my Bible study), coupled with the author’s view of how God had shaped that history. The book has a page and a half of photo credits, and a short list of suggested reading. I view it more as an inspirational book than a history book.”

Though the topical index begins on page 267, pictures, charts, sidebars, and blank spaces take up more than half of the book. 50 pages and more at the beginning consist of commentary on the opening chapters of Genesis. Including the opening commentary, there are only about 125 pages of text for a book on world history.

The commentary is good, but it seems out of balance with the overall brevity of other subjects. There are only thirty one pages covering the first century AD and nothing more recent than the Apostle John.

The book improves as it moves forward in time. That is, at it approaches the modern era.
I wish that there was some way of saying this kindly, but the number of glaring, serious errors seems to indicate that the manuscript was only edited for layout, appearance, spelling, and grammar. It seems to be exceptionally clean in the these areas. But the number of factual errors, which I am certain would be corrected by a careful content editor, are distressing. To keep this from being nothing more than a gratuitous assertion, here are just a few examples.

1) Commenting on the Antediluvian population, p. 24 states, “Leon Morris observes…the earth’s population would have grown to at least 120,000 in the first 800 years.” While exact numbers are impossible to know for certain, the numbers in the book are certainly erroneous. Jewish tradition states that Adam and Eve had 55 children themselves. “Relying on a letter from his friend, Rev Temple Chevallier, professor of mathematics at the University of Durham, [1830s Anglican minister Thomas] Gisborne argued that the number of people on the earth at the time of the Flood would have been in the tens of billions.” http://creation.com/british-scriptural-geologists-in-the-first-half-of-the-nineteenth-century-part-6

This might not seem important because Dr. Leston is supporting a large population (“at least 120,000 in the first 800 years”) compared to secularists who deny the very existence of the flood and creation. By itself, this would not be worth mentioning.

2) Post-flood technology is attributed to the antediluvian civilizations. page. 24 “ During this time, world witnessed the invention of the wheel, sailing ships, metallurgy, and oven-baked pottery. These inventions were developed in the area called Mesopotamia, the region where the first inhabitants of the earth lived.” As this statement stands, it denies the flood and promotes a uniformitarian point of view. Yet earlier, the author claims that this book opposes secularism. Genesis 4 records antediluvian civilizations developing metallurgy, musical instruments, agriculture and cities, but not the wheel, sailing ships, and oven-baked pottery.

What is important is the reliance on secular conclusions based on radiometric dating of artifacts. We certainly do not know if antediluvian civilizations had wheels, sailing ships, and oven-baked pottery or not. But Dr. Leston seems to rely on uniformitarian dating schemes to arrive at his conclusions. Without citing any references, it is impossible to know why Dr Leston states this. This error is repeated in the chart on page 41.

On page 32 he definitely uses secular reasoning. “In January 1996 National Geographic did a comparison between rodeo riders and their injuries, and skeletons uncovered from the time of Noah.” There are no skeletons from the time of Noah. The oldest skeletons in existence are many years younger than Noah. These are not antediluvian skeletons, because we do not have any antediluvian skeletons to examine.

The earth before the flood was a single continent. The geographic areas we have today very likely did not exist before the breakup of continents. Mesopotamia likely did not exist, nor could people have lived there, until after the breakup of the continents. http://www.amazon.com/Earths-Catastrophic-Past-Geology-Creation/dp/0932766943

3) The strict reading of the chronologies in Genesis give us 1656 years from Adam to the Flood. The LXX (Greek OT) gives us a longer timespan, but it almost universally rejected. If Dr. Leston chose to use the LXX chronology, he owes his readers an explanation as to why. The chart on page 40 has the date of the flood, with a series of question marks, well before 3200 BC. That is older than even the LXX date, yet there is nothing in the chart or text to provide justification for this date. The same chart repeats the error of the inventions of the wheel and pottery before the flood. Perhaps these were invented before the flood, but we have no evidence that Noah and his children knew about the wheel and pottery.

4) Abraham was born 292 years after Noah and his family left the ark. The standard date, using Archbishop Ussher and Isaac Newton’s chronologies, puts leaving the ark at approximately 2350 BC. This roughly fits with the 2166 date in the chart for the birth of Abraham, but it does not fit any of the given dates in the chart for the flood. 2166+292=2458 BC for the flood. What is the 3200 BC date on the chart for? It causes confusion and is not explained in the text.

5) On page 61 “Around 1792 BC, a king named Hammurabi inherited the throne of Babylon from his father.” In uniformitarian dating schemes, this is the commonly accepted “middle position.” Unbelievers are desperate to “prove” that the Law of Moses “evolved.” So the possibility that Hammurabi could be placed around 1200 BC, which is more likely the correct placement of hs law code, is discredited whenever possible, because that would make Hammurabi’s law code almost 250 years after God gave Moses the Law on Sinai. Here is a blog post I wrote about dating Hammurabi’s law code. https://elkjerkyforthesoul.wordpress.com/2012/10/17/the-problem-with-dates-in-history-hammurabais-law-code/ I would be very interested in investigating the sources for many of the claims about Hammurabi made in this book, but once again, there is no documentation.

6) Without detailing how Dr Leston follows secular Egyptian dating, because his lack of documentation makes it unclear what dating scheme he uses, here are the various Egyptian dating schemes. The last dating system in this article keys Egyptian events to events recorded in the Bible. http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/nab2/doesnt-egyptian-chronology-prove-bible-unreliable

7) Page 80 “The framework of this book assumes the earlier ‘high date.’” [for the Exodus] Then why is that date (approximately 1446 BC) not included in the text? The date of the Exodus is the key date for determining the entire dating scheme of the OT. This is particularly confusing because the time chart on page 92 clearly states 1446 BC as the date of the Exodus.

8) And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron…Genesis 4:22 (Antediluvian civilization) But Dr. Leston says on page 80 “The use of smelted and tempered iron became common among the Hittites during the period extending from 1900 to 1400 BC.” Dr. Leston uses the same incorrect arguments put forward by secularists. Bronze is a combination of copper and some other metal. Depending on what other metals are mixed with the copper, it can be harder than steel. It is lighter than iron and does not rust. It is not as abundant as iron and is more difficult to work with. The reasons for switching to iron from copper were economic.

I could list other examples, a few serious, most minor. But this review is not intended to be an attack piece. The many 5-star reviews show this is a much needed work, especially something readable. I just wish that is had been checked for content before it was published.

What I hope for is a second edition of this book with sources, footnotes, or endnotes, a thorough bibliography, and content editing. This might be too much ask, but I would very much like an appendix which explains why certain things were included while others were ignored, because this is very much a needed work.

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The Diploma Nurse by Jessie Glover Wilson — Book Review by Michael J. Findley

This is the story of my Aunt Jessie Glover Wilson. I am not in the book, I did not contribute in any way and this review contains my first comments. My wife is the editor, but the first time I looked at the text was after it was published.

It is brief. Though I read it as an e-book, the print version is well under two hundred page. The writing style is very easy, and enjoyable reading. Anyone with some High School education should find this very easy reading.

Though it is the story of her professional career, it is much less about her than about the nursing profession in and around IL and MO on the Mississippi River. The complete title of the book is The Diploma Nurse: Her Shining Day, Her Fading Touch.

So, what is a Diploma Nurse? In short, it was a woman who was “hired” by a hospital and trained to be a nurse. She lived in a dormitory and worked in a variety of conditions to train her in various aspects of nursing.

A lack of historical perspective is destroying this country. This brief book is about one small geographic area and a few women in that area. Yet it describes an era and a profession with greater insight than many works ten times this size.

This inexpensive work should be read by anyone who not only wants to be a nurse, but anyone who wants to understand some of the problems of modern medicine in America.

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More Christian Book Reviews!

Four Stars: Dana Pratola’s “The Covering”

“Praying for the Leader of the Pack”

This is a formula romance that defies the formulas. Good girl attracted to bad boy — Check. Bad boy tortures himself over what is and isn’t his fault about his past — Check. But then there’s that prayer thing, unleashing the Power of God. That power doesn’t take a back seat to anything in this story. It’s not tacked on, it’s not preachy, it’s persistent, flowing into all the cracks in everybody’s armor, especially Gunnar’s, but even Tessa’s got some armor God needs to seep through. I almost thought it was really going formula when tragedy struck, but hey, even that was a surprise. Way to shake up the “Leader of the Pack” stereotype, Dana Pratola. Thanks for a great ride!

Four Stars: Laura J. Marshall’s Faith, Love, and Fried Chicken

“When Things Don’t Go Like You Planned … ”

Warning! This is a serial, which means the story’s not finished with this short episode. And it seems like a pretty predictable, old-fashioned romance at first. But the Jock from high school and the quiet girl dreaming of adventure away from tiny town USA have some surprises for us. Dash’s secret recipe for romance will make you smile, even when he’s not the one who makes the fried chicken part of the story a reality. Pretend you live back in the days where magazines had serial stories and you couldn’t wait for the next installment.

**** Dave King’s “The Curse”
“A Stranger Changes Everything”
I saw some parallels with biblical story of Elijah in this short story. A three-year famine, a stranger in town, and a family in need of hope. This short story is still full of good lessons, about the dangers of gossip and the difference between a sin and a curse. it’s a great allegory about what people think they know about right and wrong, and how wrong they can be.
**** Cynthia P. Willow’s “Land of Flames”
“A Misfit and a Magical Destiny”
This is a story an adult can read all in one night, but I can imagine it becoming a great bedtime story that will reward your kids for hitting the hay on time. Lamek doesn’t know who he should be loyal to when the only life he knows is mockery and slavery, and the only friend he has is a warped and selfish dragon. Karini’s a timid pink fairy who’s promised to help the cause of freedom, but how do you get free from thirteen dragons? There’s an army you won’t expect, a separation and a sacrifice you won’t soon forget, and, best of all, there are two more books in the series to look forward to!

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More Reviews of Christian Books You Ought to Read!

5.0 out of 5 stars “As automatic as panicking.”, April 29, 2013

Joana James has a secret formula for instant Christian success. Well, no, it’s not instant, but it will work. These “wisdom bursts” were tougher to write than the first book in the series, I bet, but so necessary. We want to worry, we want to pick up that burden we were supposed to let Jesus have, we want to ask friends instead of asking God. James sets all these normal human behaviors up like tin cans on a fence ail and shoots them right off, pop, pop, pop. Through dark times, through tough times, through the “over and over” times we fail to be like God, we have to listen to these simple, practical lessons. Get up. Go on. Trust God.
4.0 out of 5 stars Faith Makes a Way, April 27, 2013

I hoped the adventure part of this story would get rolling a little sooner, but the reality of life is that it isn’t all fun and fantasy. I loved the part where Patty had to fix up the boat. And the whole point about temptation and deception is that it catches us off guard, so this story is both fantastic and realistic. There are plenty of creatures in Kingsley to delight and keep the interest of young readers. It seems like a perfect “read to me, mommy” kind of story.
4.0 out of 5 stars Perfect Love Casts Out Fear, April 23, 2013

This historical suspense romance has lots to like. Some of the characters reminded me of the Emma Thompson movie version of Sense and Sensibility. Andrew is steadfast and sweet like Edward. Kate, Tara’s little sister, is boisterous like Margaret. Tara is her own person, though. You can feel her fear and sympathize with her keeping life at arm’s length. God, Andrew, and her family all practice persistent love through the terrors of the past and present.

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Three More Christian Book Reviews

“It’s Not About What You Think It’s About” The Difference Between Night and Day by Melissa Turner Lee

I have read one other vampire book, and only one, Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I didn’t know this was a vampire book when I started it, but before you dismiss this as a shabby Christian Twilight knockoff, you should know that it’s not really about being a vampire. It’s more about the old saying, “Did God abandon you, or did you abandon God?”
Nathaniel’s been struggling for years in darkness, and, in a sense, the book is a modern allegory of trust and patience toward God. Lilly has both, even though she doesn’t even know a father’s love. She knows God loves her in very strange and difficult circumstances. She struggles in darkness, too, but she also helps others come out into the light.
Even though Nathaniel believes he is a monster, he still practices godly character and conduct. How the two of them handle their love is nothing like any worldly vampire treatment could comprehend. The cheeseburger analogy is really so cute.
I didn’t care for the sudden change in point of view, introducing Lilly’s first person accounts, so far into the book. I also didn’t think the explanation of Nathaniel’s true nature was very believable. But otherwise the story was well-written. The gradual unveiling of the strangeness of their natures was handled well. The commitment to Christ that trumped every difficulty was believable.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BFIQZYG

“Where Will the Real Journey Take You?” Unclouded Day by William Woodall

Part allegory, part coming of age, part spiritual awakening, this book is about a teenage boy living with an alcoholic mother and a fragile younger brother. Even his mother is quick to tell him the truth that the solution Brian thinks he has found to his sad and sometimes terrifying life is the wrong one. Will his little brother pay the price for his short-sightedness, his simple plan to “make everything better”?

When his easy fixes begin to crumble to ashes Brian is forced to examine his own motives and what is really important to him. An elderly stranger and a desperate, outcast new friend push him to search for the real power to make the world a better place.

What is the source of healing, of restoration, of hope? Is it in magic and ancient legends or is it closer to home, from a different source, far from “the center of the world”? The physical quest and the spiritual one are intertwined all along the way.

http://www.amazon.com/Unclouded-Day-ebook/dp/B001VEHZRK

This is the first book by Joana James that I have read that really gives insight into the island of Saint Lucia in the Caribbean where she lives and the lifestyles of its people. I enjoyed her descriptions of the beautiful locations there, Sulfur Springs and the beaches. She also describes a serious storm, and that parallels the stormy relationship of Daynia and Richard.

This book is primarily about fidelity, which is what Shakespeare’s Romeo was known for. He found the right girl and stuck to her to the bitter end. Daynia thinks she has found the perfect man. She thinks she’s doing everything she can to make him happy and let him know she loves him. But keep in mind that they both have a history of broken relationships, and they just might not have learned the lessons from those sad and bitter times that they should have just yet.

I think the first half of the story is realistic but it seems to be heavy on the “troubles” aspects of the relationship. By contrast, there’s very little detail about what both Daynia and Richard did to make things right. Even so, this story gives such important insight into the mindset of both men and women in the modern world of relationships. I have no doubt it will help many navigate the waters from a Christian perspective.

http://www.amazon.com/Finding-Romeo-The-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B008IH3WWK

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