Thursday, January 29, 2015

Judas the Apostle, by Van Mayhall, Jr.

I was given a copy of this book from the publisher through Net Galley in exchange for an unbiased review.

I wasn't sure what I would think when I agreed to read this novel and provide a review. As a very conservative evangelical who believes the Bible is the Word of God and continued without errors in the original text I was suspect of a novel that was going to declare the existence of another "Gospel" text written by Judas, the apostle that betrayed Christ.

I know this is just a novel but I get nervous about novels that declare something that may be totally against the Truth of God's Word. The term Gospel means, "Good News." That good news is the story of the life of Jesus Christ, God's only Son, who came, walked this earth and gave His life as a ransom for mankind so that we could have a restored relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Judas Gospel is a purported gospel text written by the apostle Judas, who betrayed Christ on the night of his arrest. The question of the novel is whether or not there really is a Gospel written by Judas and whether he would validate the other four Gospels and the life of Christ.

Dr. Coltile Lejeunne is an ancient languages professor. Her father found a Clay Jar during WWII that was part of a larger cache of jars in a cave. He has never opened it and doesn't intend to.

But someone wants the jar and someone is like happy when he will not sell the jar. So, the buyer sends an assassin to kill the old man and obtain the jar. But before that can happen he turns the jar over to the local Catholic Priest for safekeeping.

The story will involve the jar finally being opened by Dr. Lejeunne under the helpful eye of the Catholic Church (A Monsignor from the Vatican). What will they discover? Will it validate the life, teaching and miracles of Christ? Or will it put a new twist on history and invalidate Christianity. Before they can know the truth of that debate they are brought under constant attack by the minions of the Kolecktor who wants to obtain the jar in his quest to bring down the Catholic Church.

The writing is OK, but not exceptional. The story is intriguing. The history is OK, as far as it goes, but it does take some big liberties with truth to ask other questions. I don't mind the questions as long as truth comes to light.

The story will have an interesting twist and ending. Readers will be intrigued. But please not that there is a second book by Mayhall that you will need to read to find the total answer to the questions raised in the novel.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

For Love or Liberty, by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Grieving the loss of her twin sister and the loss of her only true love Charlotte must choose the path her life will take. She determines to honor her final promise to her twin sister Emma to watch over Emma's two children as well as support her husband David. That means that Charlotte must also put up with David's brother Conrad who broke her heart six years earlier when he choose a life in the Navy instead of marrying her.

The war is raging between the Colonies and England. Conrad and David have been transferred from the Atlantic Fleet to the Great Lakes Fleet. Thus they need to move the family. This means that Charlotte, the two brothers and the children, Davie and Ashlynn must travel by boat and then overland to the Great Lakes where Conrad will take his new ship as Captain.

Since Emma died in childbirth they also have hired a wet nurse, Mildred, who is a widow and has just lost her baby boy. She will travel with the group.

The main gist of the story is the overwhelming grief that both David and Charlotte feel over the loss of Emma. This grief is consuming and is in danger of causing them to neglect their duties of raising up Davie and Ashlynn. Conrad seems to be the only member of their traveling party who is not grieving, but that is not completely true as he realizes now that he gave up something special six years before when he walked away from a relationship with Charlotte.

The story will delve into the issues of grief, of love lost, of loyalty and duty as well as integrity. Those issues are portrayed well through the character development of Jennifer Taylor. Also at the end of the book you will find a "Group Discussion Guide" that will be a good tool if you read this as part of a book club.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Dubiosity, by Christy Barritt

A wonderful Christian Novel that actually has a story line that is top notch mystery. I have to say that Christy Barritt seems to understand how to build suspense, how to build mystery, how to weave a story so that you think you have it figured out only to discover that you don't. She has several potential protagonist who could be the killer, but truly you won't know which one is truly the killer until the end of the book.

We have to people, Savannah and Clive, who have had tragedy in their lives. They have both lost their spouses to violence. For Savannah she also lost her young child. Savannah is an investigative reporter who went a bit to far and it cost her family their lives. She has moved to Cape Thomas to escape from her past and the pain of the death of her husband and child. She is just laying low and not wanting any relationships, most of all she doesn't want anything more to do with God.

Clive on the other hand has just gotten out of jail (convicted of murder) on a technicality. He has come to Cape Thomas to try and find the true murderer and get justice. He will rent a small cottage on Savannah's property and that is when they both start to feel an attraction to each other.

But there is mystery in Cape Thomas. People are dying. People are disappearing. The local police don't appear to have much concern about solving the issues.

Savannah and Clive will each work at solving their own mysteries only to discover that they are folded in on each other.

Will they solve the mystery before one or both of them are murdered?

It's a great story and one I am sure you will enjoy reading.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Not a Book, but Hidden Video Recording Sunglasses

I was sent a free set of these sunglasses by IBSound to experiment with in exchange for a review on Amazon. I really like these glasses.  You can find the product at the following link on Amazon:

Wonderful little gadget and the price won't break your bank account. The only thing that I would recommend is that you purchase a Micro SD card to put into the glasses for a better storage device and retrieval system, at least it was for me.

The glasses come with a hard case to store them in, which is nice. There is also a USB cable included for you to charge the unit. There is a good little instruction manual that is surprisingly nice since the product was made in China and sometimes their instruction manuals can be burdensome.

What comes in the box?
1. The glasses
2. A USB cable for charging the unit
3. A soft cloth for cleaning the glasses
4. The instruction manual
5. A hard shell case for storing the glasses

What to do first?
1. Plug the device into a power source (i.e. your computer or a power station) using the USB cable so that you can fully charge the device. They needs to be done before you try to connect it to your computer.
2. Read the instructions completely
3. Plug in a Micro SD card (not sold with the glasses)
4. Wait for the glasses to charge completely. I left them charging overnight and that worked well, although in checking on them I believe that they fully charged in about three hours.

Now for the fun!
1. Turn the unit on and start recording
2. I took them for a spin when I went out to feed the Shetland Pony. They worked great.
a. They recorded my entire chore of about 30 minutes
b. They recorded what I looked at, OK, so I have to learn how to use the glasses
1) Often I was too close to my subject and the glasses only got the fur
2) Sometimes I looked at just the ground and so that is what was in the video
c. Don't forget that it is recording sound as well as video, some any stupid comment you make is recorded
3. Move the camera to just picture mode
a. use the on/off button to snap a picture
b. the camera does a good job of being in focus no matter what you do
c. the pictures come out very clear and detailed, I was surprised by their quality

After your recording session:
1. I went back inside and removed the Micro SD card fro the glasses
2. I plugged the card into my MacBook Pro and it recognized the card immediately
3. I had four file folders showing
a. Photos
b. Videos
c. Recordings (although I am not sure what this one was)
d. a text file with info on the Micro SD card
4. I pulled up the jpeg photos and was surprised at how clear they were and the detail in them, it was great.
5. I opened one of the video files, it went through a "conversion" mode and then the video opened.
a. I went to full screen mode
b. The picture had the usual start/pause and volume buttons
c. There was a date and time stamp on the video

I did not try to edit the video yet, but it did open in my video editing program, so that won't be a problem.

Things I learned:
1. The glasses record exactly what you look at, so you will have to learn how to make these work well for the video you want to shoot. Keep in mind that the closer you get to an object the more it takes up the screen of the video and you loose some clarity of the subject.
2. Keeping the unit fully charged is in your best interest, that way it doesn't die during a video you care about. So, when not in use, charge it up.
3. It takes time to get use to the flashing lights and to understand fully what they mean
4. It is easier to use a Micro SD card than the internal storage (at least for me, I am 61 years old so I learn slowly :)
5. The USB cable that comes with it is a bit different than other charging cables, the end that goes into the glasses is a bit larger than many other charging devices, such as my Kindle charging device.
6. The camera does not have a zoom in or zoom out function, so your zooming in is determined by how close you get to the object you are recording.

1. Price
2. Ease of use
3. Quality of pictures
4. Length of video recording

1. Your learning curve to get your subjects framed well in the picture using the glasses
2. The Micro SD card does snap in place and you use your finger to eject it by pushing in and letting it pop out, but it is not as solid in action as other devices I have, I am wondering if it will eventually not work well, but so far so good.
3. The frames are a plastic design, they should last well, but maybe making the glasses in a higher dollar cost with a more flexible frame system (such as Oakley's) would be to the advantage of IBSound as well as giving the consumer a choice of glasses quality.

Overall, I love this little gadget. It took me a while to get it all figured out and working mainly because I waited to buy the Micro SD card. But getting the card at the same time you buy the product will be good.

I used a MacBook Pro computer for viewing the product and had no problems. I know that some reviewers using a Window's based system had some trouble, I didn't find any of their problems in using it with my Mac.


Beneath the Surface, by John Hargrove

I want to thank the Amazon Vine Program and the books publisher for making an Advance Readers Copy of this book available to me for review. The book will be released in March 2015. You can pre-order on Amazon or other book sellers at this time.

When you read a book by a "Whistleblower" you aren't sure if you are going to get an informational read or maybe just some angry diatribe by the individual about how the "Corporate World" treated them poorly. So, when I asked for this book to review I was a bit worried about what I would find. I didn't want the angry diatribe.

I was pleased that the book did not just come off as a way for John Hargrove to paint SeaWorld as a terrible monster. Now, with that said it did not let SeaWorld off the hook, it did do a number on their reputation by the disagreements that Hargrove pointed out from his experience.

But the book gives a good history of the work with Orca Whales and how that came about. It also gives a good view of how you become a "trainer" with the whales and the amount of work needed to get to the level of being an "in water" trainer (although OSHA has removed that privilege since 2010). Hargrove gives us a glimpse of his childhood and his dream of becoming a trainer. It gives good insight into the mind set of an individual who wants to work with an 8,000 pound killer whale.

The book describes the training of the trainer as well as the training of the whales. It gives you a glimpse into the personalities of the whales and how they act and re-act to certain situations. It also paints a good picture of how the whales can be unpredictable. It gives several harrowing stories of the tragedy that can happen when a bored whale decides "to play" with a trainer and almost kill that trainer.

There are also the discussions of the perils of a whale in captivity. They become bored. They become lethargic. They become susceptible to infections and disease that can cause their early death. It gives you the true response of a "trainer" who loves his whales when he realizes the trauma to the whales of the captivity. Let's be honest, any human knows that an animal in a zoo or water park is not in their natural environment and that can never be perfect.

Hargrove also gives a good description of the intelligence of these whales. How they watch the trainers, watch other whales and absorb the information around them. They make intelligent decisions, they sometimes make decisions that show they are having a tantrum or are bored and looking for a way to "have fun" in their environment, and that sometimes is at the trainers expense.

I enjoyed the book and thought it did a good job of describing the situation. I wasn't put off by the way Hargrove gave out information that was detrimental to SeaWorld, frankly what he said is just common sense if the average person were to stop and contemplate the problems of keeping a killer whale in captivity.

One thing is clear, these whales are highly intelligent, they are highly social, they have their own cultural hierarchy that keeps them in line and they enjoy interaction with humans (to an extent) and don't inherently desire to hurt humans, and in no way is it their desire to eat a human or kill one because of an inbred animal nature towards that event. These whales are aggressive in the wild, not towards humans but towards their natural prey.

Enjoy the read!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Kill Shot, by Nichole Christoff

I enjoy a good mystery, spy novel, military novel, Private Investigator novel and political thriller. This novel has the potential for all of that. It involves each aspect as much as possible and then they are woven together for a good read.

I only had one small problem with the story; Jaime Sinclair is a Private Investigator, the daughter of a Military man and now a U.S. Senator. But franklin she left something to be desired in the investigative skill in this novel. Christoff writes the story with plenty of subterfuge and misdirection. There are plenty of characters who might be the bad guy or the good guy, but you aren’t sure. But what bothered me was the fact that there were little things Jaime should have seen or recognized that would have lead her to a quicker resolution of the issue.

Maybe she was too caught up in the relational/love angels that kept coming her way and they clouded her judgment, but her judgment was clouded and that shouldn’t have really happened.

So, with my frustration put aside (I figured things out long before Jaime) I tried to enjoy the story for the gist of what was happening. That I was able to do and enjoyed the writing.

There are some other issues with how someone can infiltrate a secret military site, but that will be left for another discussion.

Jaime Sinclair and Lt. Colonial Adam Barrett will be tasked with helping a defecting Dr. of Physics leave a Middle Eastern Country and defect to the U.S. They will do all in their power to make her transfer safe and easy, but the Middle Eastern country doesn’t want to loose their prized physicists’ and will do everything in their power to get her back.

Then add the British to the mix and their desire to retain the good doctor for themselves and you have a three way circus of events that will keep the story moving, changing and rambling toward an end that will not make any of the three groups happy.

I enjoyed Ms. Christoff’s first book I read very much. I enjoyed this book as well, but not as much as the other. I think there are some small changes that would have made the story more believable and more exciting, but that is just me.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Wish, by Robyn Carr

When Grace Dillon moves to Thunder Point it is because she has purchased the little flower shop on main street. She has bought it from Iris, whose mother had owned the store until she died. Grace has learned her flower technique from friends in Portland where she mentored for a couple of years.

It doesn’t surprise Iris that Grace paid cash, why we don’t know. There should have been questions, but there weren’t. Iris didn’t even think to ask about Grace’s past.

There is a secret that Grace has, but no one is going to break down that wall she has built and find out the secret. Iris and Grace become best friends.

Iris had a problem, it was a high school teacher named Troy Headley who didn’t seem to get it that Iris wasn’t romantically interested in him. She just wanted to be friends. But when Iris finally married her childhood crush, Seth, Troy got the message.

He knew Grace because she was Iris’s best friend in town. But he didn’t know Grace. He took a chance and asked her out, hoping for a friendship, what he got was a bunch more.

Troy has no secrets. He has no major past. He has no baggage. But little Gracie seems to and he wonders what it is.

The story is wonderful and well written. Can Troy earn Gracie’s trust and thus get to learn her secrets? Can they both find true love? Can they overcome obstacles that they don’t even see when they start to date? Those are all the questions that must be answered.

I love the Thunder Point series and getting to know all the people who live there. Robyn Carr does a great job of helping you to fall in love with the place. Who knew there could be so much romance and hidden secrets in such a small town.


Saturday, January 3, 2015

Big Sky Secrets, by Linda Lael Miller

I enjoy Linda Lael Miller's cowboy romance novels, they are always a joy to read. In this installment we are in Three Trees and Parable, Montana where Ria Manning has moved to a small cottage on a few acres of land. She is fleeing the corporate world and the hustle and bustle of big city life. She is always leaving the family business. Her father has died and he left just about everything to her half sister. She and her half sister, Meredith Whittling, don't seem to get along really well at all.

But in Three Trees Ria has remade herself into a small business woman who is scrapping by in the Floral Business. She grows the flowers on her small farm and takes them to the Farmer's Market on Saturdays where she sells her product and makes a small but decent living.

Ria is a widow, her husband, Frank, died while fighting a fire when the roof collapsed on the Engine Company that he served with. Ria has closed herself off to emotions and to letting others in.

Then there is Landry Sutton, also fleeing the big city life and the corporate world to come live on the same ranch as his brother and sister-in-law. Landry was a successful financial investment broker but got tired of that life and has come to Parable to see what country living is like and why his brother thinks being a cowboy is such a great deal.

Landry is arrogant and proud as well as rich, at least that is Ria Manning's belief. She is humble and somewhat poor with no father, no future, no husband, etc. So, if you look at the story it is Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice tied up in a Cowboy Romance. Maybe that was not what Miss Miller intended but by golly is sure reads that way. That does not mean it is a bad story.

So, why only four stars and not five like I have given her other novels? Well, I thought that the tension between Landry and Ria was resolved a bit too soon in the book. I would have liked a bit more tension, a bit more waiting and maybe a couple of crisis to pull them together, OK, there are a couple of crisis, but I just felt that it needed more.

But don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the book immensely and will be reading other novels soon by Miss Miller.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Twelve Days, by Alex Berenson

John Wells must unweave a diabolical scheme that is dragging the world to the brink of war. Someone has planted some nuclear material in an effort to make the United States believe that Iran is wanting to detonate a nuclear bomb inside the United States. The U.S. will retaliate for some terrorist activity and then give Iran a deadline to destroy any nuclear plants and open their borders to inspection or the U.S. will invade.

John Wells knows that this is a set up, but how can he prove it? He is no longer a working agent for the CIA and frankly he is not welcome in most U.S. intelligence agency circles. His idea of who is behind the plot is not even worthy of listening to, since the main suspect is also the largest donor to the Presidents recent election campaign.

But the man is also Jewish and believes that the U.S. is not doing enough to protect Israel from the death threats of Iran. Thus he has come up with an elaborate scenario that will plunge the U.S. into war with Iran and end up destroying most of Iran's nuclear capabilities and thus protecting Israel from any possible threats.

The writing is good and the suspense is good. The charcacter development is good and the scenario is plausible and very relevant to today's political landscape. Thus Berenson gives us a book that is easy to read, fun to read, dangerously accurate to todays policitcal possibilities and thus a bit frigthening to read.

So, why not five stars? Mainly I thought that the story started to drag towards the end and that John Wells made a couple of major mistakes that I don't believe anyone of his caliber would have made. But then again, he was tired, frustrated, angry and well emotinally, physically and spiritually spent, so making a couple of mistakes is probably the human thing that would have happened.

All in all this is a great read. Enjoy!