Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christian Book Review: Kevin Mark Smith's "Flashback"

"Flashback" by Kevin Mark Smith
"Flashback" by Kevin Mark Smith

Kept Me Guessing Until the Very End - Romance, Suspense, Thriller, Christian Themed

Spoiler Alert!  There is nothing I can tell you about "Flashback" that won't ruin this crazy (I can't say it or it would give too much away)thriller, romp through multiple XXXX, and even includes a romance with an XXXXX. 

I can tell you that I prefer to be very regimented about my sleep, going to bed at the same time every night.  "Flashback" got in the way of my discipline.  If I had possessed a physical book, I would call it a page turner.  Having a digital version, I suppose we need to come up with a new description.  Page clicker?

Author Kevin Mark Smith is an attorney.  So it may not be surprising that Smith brings some legal issues into his inaugural novel.  So we have criminal investigations, corporate shenanigans, smart lawyers, outstanding PI's, dead bodies, bombs, chases, romantic interludes, spiritual interventions, and so much more. 

Some books are easily compared to others.  Some authors are easily pegged.  I really can't think of any book I've read which brings more complexity to the story, yet does it in such a way as you can "almost" always follow it.  I say the almost part with kindness.  I lesser author who had the same wild imagination could have easily confused his audience beyond hope of redemption. 

Like any good Christian novel, you have a chance to think about the implications of the actions, failures, and successes of the characters.  But for those who prefer a light touch on the morality play aspect, Smith delivers here, too.  There is no doubt where Smith stands, and there is a great message, but it is not delivered with a sledge hammer.  And the message never requires deviating from the natural feel of the circumstances. 

Flashback has only been out a couple of days, and is available on Amazon.

Monday, August 26, 2013

If You Love Christian Fiction from Ted Dekker, Randy Alcorn, Paul Young

You Are Going to Get a Real Treat with "The Masters Quilt (Giants in the earth)" by Michael Webb

For some who love to get lost in a great novel, there is just not enough great writers working in Christian Fiction.  You find a new author to love, and soon you've read everything the guy has to offer.  Then there is the withdrawal, the idea that there will be a new one for Christmas.  My kids don't even ask me what I want for Christmas anymore.

The really good news is that I have found an author you probably don't know anything about.  And he has three other published works available right now.  And I even happen to know that there's another one coming shortly.  The Master's Quilt is the first in a trilogy called Giants in the Earth.  I have just completed this book and will be reading the other two very soon.  I'll report on the others here.

Michael Webb brings so much more than just nail biting action to the stage.  He has an amazing knowledge of history and the inter-relationships of the major players during 1st Century AD.  He weaves tales of deceit and manipulation that provide us one view of what might have been going on behind the scenes as Pilate, Saul of Tarsus, Herod Antipas, Caiaphas and others battled for power.

There is seemingly never ending stream of specific anthropological, cultural, and religious insights that help us to see more clearly what the struggle between Rome, the Jews, and the new Christians was really all about.  Add the spiritual realm to the equation to complete a tapestry that keeps you guessing throughout the work.

Some reviewers on Amazon have argued that the book starts off a little slow.  I would encourage every reader to give the book 50 pages.  I would compare the opening to Dicken's "A Tale of Two Cities."  I started that book twice, and only the third time did I finish it.  The reason is the same.  There are many, many characters, and they have very odd names.

In the headline, I compared Michael Webb to some huge authors.  He is actually a better writer than Young or Dekker.  His story lines are equal to any of the three.  His research is as good as Alcorn.  I'll give Alcorn an edge on writing, but not by much.

You can get any of Webb's Books on Kindle for under $5.  As of today, this book is available free on Kindle.  I think it is normally $2.99.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Expectations Ruin Relationships by Mark Foster - Book Review

If a Friend or Loved One Doesn't Meet Your Expectations, What Is the Likely Result?

I give someone a gift that I spent hours shopping for and I have built up this huge imaginary scene in my head of how thrilled they are going to be.  I see them gushing over the gift and I imagine my value as a loved one going up in their heart.  I might even be contemplating some benefit to me in terms of immediate affection or future attention.  Maybe they will think harder next time they get me a gift. 

There are quite a few things wrong with the above day dream. 

1.  It might turn out to be a nightmare.  Maybe the gift goes over like a lead balloon.  Maybe the person just has a hard time gushing.  Maybe they love the gift, but it doesn't result in any change in their behavior toward you at all.

2.  Many of your motives are selfish.  You are giving to get.  Even if your primary motive was to bless the socks off the recipient, you have now built up all kinds of rewards in your mind that you surely deserve for being such a wonderful giver.

It's that time of year again at the office.  Promotions, raises, and bonuses have all been determined, and today they will be announced.  You've worked hard and you expect to see all that hard work pay off today.  If all is right in the world, you should get everything you expect.  But have you considered:

1.  Maybe there is no place to promote you to.  Maybe the economy is such that raises are just not possible this year.  Could it be that the profits were poor, or increasing expenses will deny normal bonuses. 

2.  Possibly your evaluation of your work is not the same as the decision makers.

3.  You may have misunderstood or not paid enough attention to the process and systems that determine promotions, raises, and bonuses.

4.  The boss might not play fair.

5.  Your motives are once again all about you.  Of course you probably deserve all that you expect.  However, your motive should be to give your job 100% effort regardless of the results to you.  You are there to do a great job and to be paid per your agreement. 

When expectations are dashed, those failing to live up to the expectations are likely to be the subject of your ire.  The results may be no more than pouting, but could also include anger, a break in fellowship, retribution, or even mayhem. 

Mark Foster has written a very solid book on expectations that is very easy to read and understand.  He points to many of the expectations that we have of our spouses.  Our poor spouses commonly don't even know what we are expecting them to do

, and then it is possible that they just don't do it well enough or often enough.  When our spouse fails to do what is expected, we may shut them out at some level, and commonly not even tell them what is really going on. 

It doesn't take more than a quick evaluation of these expectations to see that they are all based on our selfish desires or our desire to control our spouse.  Can you think of one expectation that you have of your spouse, best friend, adult child, boss, or pastor that isn't based on selfishness or desire to control?

Please put that example in the comments.  

Regarding the book.  It is called Expectations Ruin Relationships.  It is only $2.95 in Kindle.  And it worth one hundred times that amount.  I assure you that if you read it carefully, do the study questions, and pray the prayers, you will change your expectations.