Saturday, August 1, 2015

God's Crime Scene by J. Warner Wallace

Did God create the universe and intelligent life, or did everything evolve without divine intervention? That's the question Wallace, a retired homicide investigator, investigates in this book using the same techniques he did solving cold cases.

I like the way he uses police cases as a spring board for discussing the origin of the universe. Reading how techniques are used in a criminal investigation really help us understand how those same techniques are used in drawing conclusions about our existence.

His writing on evidence is great. It really helped clarify in my mind what good evidence is and how it is evaluated. He also explains the various kinds of evidence, such as circumstantial. I was impressed with his comments on nonmaterial influence, something materialists reject. Mental states, such as motive or the ability to reason, are important to criminal investigations. I liked his discussion on determinism and free will, a good explanation. He helped me understand causation and the difference between event and agent explanations.

I was also introduced to abductive reasoning, inferring to the most reasonable explanation. I like that he keeps coming back to examining the explanatory strength of each explanation to see which one best accounts for the evidence. His investigation into evil and God is great.

Wallace explains the scientific method in terms of police work. First there is information gathering, then evaluating. Next is drawing reasonable inferences and then making sure the evidence supports the conclusion. I really like his relating the process to criminal investigation.

Another aspect of the book I really liked is comparing this study of the origin of the universe to that of a case tried in court. The defense attorney and the prosecutor each ask the jury to believe different explanations. The defense attorney will say his or her client was not involved (naturalists). The prosecutor will claim the individual was involved and committed the crime (outside influence – intelligent design). The jury has to make a decision based on the evidence presented. And that is what Wallace wants us to do.

I really like the way Wallace has crafted this book. The illustrations of his own criminal investigations are really interesting reading. How he relates them to the investigation of the origin of the universe is superb. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in whether an external being caused the creation of the universe or not. The cumulative evidence is well presented in this book.

There is added material for further investigation into each chapter subject at the end of the book. It is great material for those who would like to go a little deeper into each subject.

I highly recommend this book. I think Wallace is the best and clearest apologist for Christianity I have read.

You can read my review of Cold Case Christianity here.


J. Warner Wallace is a retired cold-case homicide detective and adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University. He was an atheist through his undergraduate and graduate work. His experience in law enforcement strengthen his conviction that truth is directly related to evidence. At age thirty-five, he was given a New Testament and investigated Christianity. He became convinced it was true. He earned a Master's in Theological Studies from Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary. His investigative work has received national recognition. He and his wife have four children and live in Southern California.

David C Cook, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Midnight on the Mississippi by Mary Ellis

I was expecting this to be a mystery. There is some, but I would say the romance is primary with the mystery secondary.

Nicki Price is our heroine. She is a brand new private investigator come to New Orleans to work for her uncle, much to his surprise. She wants to be there because of her father's death seventeen years ago. While he wasn't the best of fathers and he did cheat at cards, his death still bothered her. There was just too many unanswered questions and Nicki wanted answers.

Nicki's uncle is hired by Hunter Galen, a high class portfolio investor, to find out who killed his partner. Hunter is the primary suspect and the police are not looking anywhere else. When the uncle is caught fudging crime scene rules, Nicki is left as the only one capable of helping prove Hunter is innocent. When Galen starts to fall for Nicki, the investigation seems to take a back seat.

I like Nicki as a character. She is a bit of a bumbling PI, getting her car stuck in the mud on a stakeout. But I like her heart. She truly wants to be an investigator and solve her father's murder some day. Hunter is a bit of a romantic. I think he is a little too forward in his advances toward Nicki. In that respect, there seems to be more written about the time the two spend together than there is on the actual mystery.

I thought the most interesting aspect of this novel was the setting. Hunter and Nicki spend days and evenings sightseeing, going to parties, etc. There is much written about the culture of the New Orleans area, the people, the food, the dancing, and the sights. We get an idea of Cajun celebrations and lots more. I really enjoyed the way the cultural setting of the novel was done.

I found the plot a bit predictable. And I kept wondering why, when Hunter was the prime suspect, he and Nicki would keep taking days off to go sightseeing when I would have thought pursuing leads would have been more important.

There is a little bit of Christianity in the novel, but it is not essential to the characters nor the plot. I recommend this novel to readers who like a novel taking place in a well described location.

Mary Ellis is the bestselling author of several novels. She and her husband live in central Ohio. Find out more at http://maryellis.net/.

Harvest House Publishers, 354 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Potter's Lady by Judith Miller

Rose is our potter's lady in this historical novel of 1870s West Virginia. She's just graduated from the Philadelphia Design School for Women and is now back home. Her brother, Ewan, wants to buy a business and Rose convinces him to buy a pottery factory. She feels she can be of greater use to her brother in that business than in the brick making one he was also considering.

Rose has high ideals. After Ewan purchased the pottery factory, Rose wants the children to go to school for part of the day and she wants the workers to clean their work spaces. The men do not take kindly to her desires. Rose knows the children need a chance for education but their fathers don't see it. Rose also knows that the dust from the pottery finishing process is bad for workers' lungs. But again, the men don't see the worth of that task.

Rose is also an artist. She would rather concentrate on quality than quantity. Joshua, her sort of beau and pottery owner in another town, is all about money. He emphasizes quantity in his factory. Don't we see the same kind of business practices happening today?

There is some intrigue in the novel as Ewan's pottery bids are consistently ruled out when underbid by Joshua's company. There is some romance too, though it is understated. I would have liked to learn a little more about the pottery industry at the time.

There are some good lessons to learn from this novel. One is the useless nature of trying to fill a hole in one's life with money or things. That kind of greed will never end up fulfilling a person's soul. On the other side is the lesson of trusting God to meet the needs of life. That's the only way one will feel truly satisfied.

I found the novel slow going, especially the first half. The novel is not a page-turner but I did appreciate the attention to historic detail. One finds out much about Philadelphia and West Virginia during the period.

This book is the sequel to The Brickmaker's Bride and you can read my review of that book here.

Judith Miller is an award-winning author whose avid research and love for history are reflected in her best-selling novels. She lives in Topeka, Kansas. Find out more at http://judithmccoymiller.com.

Bethany House Publishers, 337 pages.


I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

End of Discussion by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson

What happened to the rich American tradition of messy free speech? Where is the dialog? What happened to dissent, to holding a minority view? Why is there such a cost of speaking out, of not being politically correct (as some small businesses have found out)?

The authors call this present atmosphere “end of discussion.” Rather than defending one's right to declare opposing opinions, the authors write that the atmosphere today is, “I disapprove of what you say, so I will explore various ways of punishing you for saying it.” (11) And we live at a time when just about anything we say can be offensive to someone. It's a time of double standards for rhetoric. There are different rules for liberals than conservatives.

The authors explore how even private sayings can become public outrage, especially with the force of social media today. Then they give examples of how the left orchestrates the outrage, lots of examples. They look at the current situation on college campuses, womanhood and feminism, firearms and gun control, humor, and other topics.

This book is openly anti-liberal. I was glad to read that the authors admitted that the right does the same kind of thing but they are just not as good at it as the left is. Nonetheless, I am just amazed at the misinformation that is put out by the liberal side. I am so glad these authors are setting many records straight.

If you think it has gotten crazy out there, reading this book will convince you you're right. The cost of dissent has become enormous. The unhealthy trend toward silencing the opposition has become an accepted way of life. As the authors write, “...the price for holding mainstream beliefs is getting awfully high.” (230) Tolerance is no longer a two way street.

So, what can we do? The authors admit that some of these problems cannot be uprooted in three easy steps. (261) They do give some suggestions in their closing chapter.

You may have heard the news stories of small businesses being sued for declining service on the basis of freedom of religion. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Read this book, and find out what's really going on.

Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson are Fox News contributors and writers. Ham serves as a contributing editor to HotAir.com. Benson is political editor at Townhall.com. The pair has collaborated on a number of projects.

Crown Forum, 304 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon

This is one of those books that, when you get to the end, you wish it were hundreds of pages longer so you could continue reading about the changing lives in Hope Harbor.

I really liked this book. I liked Michael, a high profile CEO of a nonprofit Chicago organization who comes to Hope Harbor on the Oregon coast to think about his life, to heal his parched and dying soul. He is still not over his wife's death. This seaside town had been her childhood favorite. I like Tracy, the cranberry farmer who lost her husband and now thinks she is not good at all for any man, certainly not for marriage. I like her hard working attitude, trying to keep the business going in bad economic times.

I like Charley, maker of fish tacos he sells out of his stand. An artist of note, he has his taco stand because he likes to minister to people and share the wisdom he gets from above. I like Anna, the elderly woman with deep hurt who, to her own surprise, offers to let Michael stay in her addition. I like how Michael's presence brings just enough light into Anna's darkness that she becomes ripe for forgiveness and reconciliation. I like the pastor and the priest, their efforts to help others, their weekly golf and their repartee. I like the young pregnant teen, devastated by the alienation from her parents and taken in by Anna at Michael's suggestion.

I really enjoyed reading this book, seeing how God worked in the lives of hurting people to bring them to a place of being alive with love. Hannon has crafted the story line very well. I was amazed at how it all worked together for good for the characters.

I highly recommend this novel. Just be sure to have a box of tissues nearby as you get close to the end. You'll need them.

Irene Hannon has written more than forty-five contemporary romance and romantic suspense novels. She is a two time winner of the RITA Award, has received the National Readers' Choice award, three HOLT medallions, a Daphne du Maurier award, a Retailers' Choice award, a Booksellers' Best award, and has been a two time Christy Award finalist. She has a BA in psychology and an MA is journalism. She and her husband live in Missouri. To find out more visit www.irenehannon.com.

Revell, 352 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Direct Hit by Mike Hollow

I like a good detective story and historical novel, if it is written well. This one is.

The time is 1940 and the place is London. It is the first night of the Blitz. A man is found dead in his van with the suspicion of murder. Detective Inspector Jago is called to the scene. Just as he and his assistant make their observations, the sirens blow. Jago has enough time to recognize the dead man before the policemen head to safety. When the bombing is over and they return to the scene of the crime, all that remains is a huge crater.

That's the beginning of this good detective novel set in WW II London. The historical aspect of the novel is superbly done. We get great descriptions of the city and the bombings. We also get an idea of the atmosphere at the time. There were those who would pay good money to have their call-up papers lost so they would not have to go to war. There were others who were embracing the ideas of Marx, unhappy with the class distinctions. I can tell the author has done a great deal of background research.

The detective story itself is good. The characters are well presented. I liked Jago. He is my kind of guy. When young, he spent hours in the local public library, plugging some of the gaps in his education. The older he got, he says, the more gaps he found. Isn't that why we read?

As a side story, Jago is asked to help an American reporter. To his surprise, it is a woman. I really liked the interaction between the two. It was fun to have a little humor at times in their relationship. For example, when a fellow policeman remarked that the reporter was a confident lady, Jago comments, “She's American, that's all. I think they breed them more confident over there.” (201)

The novel has a good mystery, the historical aspect is well done, and the characters are great. I recommend this novel to those who like British historical mysteries.

Food for thought: Jago, reflecting on the men he saw killed in WW I, says, “Now it feels like my duty to take each day as a gift and not to leave to tomorrow what I can do today.” (216)

You can find out more about the author and the Blitz Detective series here.

Mike Hollow was born in West Ham, home of the Blitz Detective. He worked for the BBC translating, then after various jobs, worked in communications for developing agency Tearfund. In 2001 he went freelance as a writer, editor and creative project manager. He now earns his living by translating spending the rest of his time in the cellar of his house in Hampshire chronicling the adventures of DI Jago.

Lion Hudson, distributed in the U.S. by Kregel Books, 318 pages.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Kregel for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Holly Garden PI: Red is for Rookie by Anne Greene

What a fun novel. Holly Garden is a kick, almost like a Stephanie Plum who has been born again. She's even got a super hero type of guy who just happens to be around when she needs rescuing, a sidekick for stakeouts and a gun toting granny.

Holly is working for her uncle's private investigation company. She and her family's next door neighbor and her best friend Matt, are providing security for a Valentine's Day nonprofit fund raising gala when Matt is kidnapped. Holly is out to find Matt and catch the bad guys, if she doesn't trip over her own shoelaces, that is.

Holly, as hard as she tries to be a good detective, has accidents, smashes cars and generally bumbles her way through the investigation. She manages to rescue a runaway teen and teach a kids' Sunday School class in the process, however. Hers is a well crafted character. She has a soft heart but she so desperately wants to clear her father's name. And she is a committed Christian, devastated when a man is killed as she had not shared the gospel with him.

While this seems to be following the style of the popular Stephanie Plum series, it is a pretty good novel. The writing is good and the dialog is entertaining. If you've read the Stephanie Plum series and have been looking for something similar written from a Christian perspective, this is it.

Anne Greene, writing as W. A. Swonger, is the author of Trail of Tears, published by Moody Press. Her historical romance, Masquerade Marriage, won the 2011 New England Readers' Choice Award and the 2011 Laurel Wreath Award for Published Writers.

Elk Lake Publishing, 278 pages.

I received a complimentary digital galley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit by Randy Clark

Christians have debated over the centuries whether the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is active in Christians in this era. Clark wants to put an end to the debate. “We cannot afford to be arguing among ourselves while there is so great and so ripe a harvest set before us in this generation.” (13)

To that end Clark has written this book. He wants to correct false concepts of the Holy Spirit. The main thrust of the book is the question as to whether the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit in the believer has ceased (cessationism) or whether it continues (continuism) as affirmed by Scripture. The book is, in general, a response to cessationists, giving a biblical basis for the continuation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

I appreciate that Clark looks at the problems that have plagued the Charismatic movement. He also reviews the positions of key figures in Christian history, such as Augustine, Calvin and Edwards. He also reviews examples of the use of the Holy Spirit gifts today. Clark applies Jonathan Edwards' method of discerning the spirits to the use of the gifts today, condensing it down to five marks.

I like how Clark has presented this work. While I would not classify this as a scholarly work, it is well suited to Christians who are widely read and familiar with major theologians, both past and present. My only concern about the book is that I thought Clark went too easy on those who claim to be modern day prophets. I am not so sure the requirements for accuracy and the consequences of false prophecy are different today than in Old Testament times, as Clark claims. Other than that, his is a well presented defense of the continued manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power through believers today.

Randy Clark is the President and founder of Global Awakening, an apostolic ministry founded in 1994 aiming to equip the body of Christ through ministry schools, training programs, conferences and international mission trips. He is also an adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary and Regent Divinity School. He received his MDiv from The Southern Baptist theological Seminary and his DMin from United Theological Seminary. He also has a ThD from the Phoenix University of Theology. He and his wife have four grown children and three grandchildren.

Destiny Image, 224 pages.

I received a complimentary galley of this book through The Book Club Network for the purpose of an independent and honest review.