Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: E-Book Readers; An Inevitable Pain

Alas, my old fartedness shows up.  I am reviewing a book.  The book is ok but I struggled with my agitation and attitude all of the time I was reading it.  This is the first book that I have read entirely electronically and I find myself at odds with the format more than the content.  Change is pain and I have to face the facts that e-books here.  Perhaps the ancient readers struggled when they went from scrolls to codex/ spine bound books.
I review books for Multnomah Press on their Blogging for Books program.  They send me books that I probably wouldn't read and I send out my thoughts to my readers, Facebook and the retail sites like Amazon.  It has been a total joy, however, due to cost and demand, now you get e-books.  I love books, all books, and am a "tactile" learner.  The scratchy turn of the page, the smell, the weight and the cover art (this may be the greatest loss), are an invisible part of the reading process.  Clicking the down button is not the same thing and I really don't like it at all.  Sadly, it is time to be a grown up and face the fact that this is how publishing works.

I read this book on the "Adobe Digital Edition", which was free of charge, on my laptop. It is easy to use and has enough features to get the job done.  They also have a community library.   I also downloaded Kindle for PC, which is similar, though geared for Amazon purchasing,  and slicker in appearance.  There is a pretty thorough article in Wikipedia at .
 At our house, my wife and sister have Kindles,daughter, son in law and son have Nooks, and one daughter uses the Nook system on an I-Pad. I am the last hold out.  Nook gets the majority vote here but Amazon is huge and the Kindle reader seems easier on the eyes.  Sony and others have theirs too and  without so many commercial motives.   Mechanically they seem about the same to me and prices are coming down. Some file format standardization is sure needed. My trusty laptop works but is cumbersome and my hard drive is already bulging at the seams.

There is a good side to the e-reader.  With the Google library and our public library system, the e-reader opens a powerful window to the world of books.  By highlighting a passage and writing comments on the "Bookmarks" I am compiling the notes that will become the review.  This saves a compiling step and makes the writing process quicker.  Finding marginal notes and highlights are scary fast.  Having text and study books in this format would speed up research writing a lot.  My son "leases" his college texts at a considerable cost savings and cuts down on the weight of his backpack.  It is kinder to my eyes by being able to adjust light and font size too.

E Readers were the top Christmas gifts in 2010 and 2011 which means I have become a technological "lagger".  So...I suppose the time has come to get one and I am leaning toward the Nook (cost $119-249 and available everywhere).  They have a better online community, it is easier to share books, and lots of freebies. Books from most but not all sources can be installed.  Great accessories from everywhere too.  Second in my list is Kindle ($114-379).  They seems difficult to use with other formats but have a lot media and accessories from Amazon. It is easy to use, has slick graphics, feels good in the hand and is scary easy to buy stuff.  Media prices are pretty close overall between Amazon and Barnes/Noble but Amazon runs a little higher-surprisingly.  Both Kindle and Nook have been reliable for my friends and family members.  Sony ($99-special from Walmart-$249) seems the best for sharing but doesn't review as well and I don't know about their online community.  They aren't as focused on selling you something which is welcome.  There are several lesser named offerings under $100 to over $300 but none of them really stand out.  

Ok, so I am a tragically hip and surprisingly young fart, about e-readers.  I am still being dragged into this purchase and will eventually get used to it. I will always cling to the cover art and crinkled spines resting on my shelves and being "real" books.  Digital files just leave me a little cold.  

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Book Review: Serial Thriller: " The Corruptible" by Mark Mynheir (Please rate the review at the bottom)

The Corruptible - Mark Mynheir"Dying on the toilet was not how I envisioned leaving this world." This is our introduction to the crusty, handicapped, ex-cop turned private investigator Ray Quinn. The Corruptible: A Ray Quinn Mystery is the second in a new series of books breathing life into the unlikely family of Ray, Crevis Creighton and Pam Winters at the Night Watchman Detective Agency. Oh, and we can't forget his adopted "son", Jim Beam. The story weaves through gritty underworld, high finance, drugs, alcohol, broken lives and even a biker gang. Set in Orlando, Mynheir brings you into the story with real life characters and amazing details. The writer's knowledge of police tactics and the locale bring you into the story.

This is Christian Fiction and a very good detective story. Ray's alcoholism, chronic pain, and job burnout are real-world. Crevis's disfunctional family is all too familiar, and their faithful angel Pam keeps them alive with prayer but isn't a plastic saint. All of these characters have a life-story that the readers will find resonance with. Christ's gospel is found at the beginning and woven through the overall story yet the writer does not forget that this is entertainment too.

This is a well told tale wrtten in short chapters. You can put it down without getting lost, yet you probably won't want to put it down. There is no bad language or compromising scenes-you can give this to Middle School and older readers with confidence. The book doesn't beat the reader with "religiousity". Rather, Christ is interpreted in the character at their point of need rather than a lecture Reading the first book of this series, "The Night Watchman", would help understand the characters better, however, Mynheir does a great job with the back story and it read well all by itself.

I enjoyed the book, will read his first book and look forward to future installments. I seldom read fiction and have never read a serial like this. Now and then you should just read for the joy of it and "The Corruptible" is a good choice. The book begins with this message and sees it through to the end, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this; While we were still sinners, Christ dies for us. Romans 5:8".

Multnomah press gave me this book free in exchange for this review as a part of the Blogging for Books program. Thanks to them for the opportunity to read a book that I probably would not have chosen and you for reading my blog.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Photos of the Day: Pelican Wings

Pelicans are majestic.  I watched these guys fish the surf for about 30 minutes from a hotel balcony.  They move as a team-always as a team,a stream of motion, changing places, following then taking the lead, all in their own space but sharing the direction.  From the distance, they appear as a solid block but as they get closer you see their struggle, you see them share that struggle and keep moving.  They seek food, rest and shelter together without a word.  This flock makes their home about 1/2 mile away, huddled on the pilings of a ruined gift shop's piers.But they are pure poetry as they take wing.

There is a sermon here somewhere.  This is how a family, a church family or any group of humans should work.   They family unit does not take away individuality or the struggle but put it into focused motion.  Dis-function is when the motion stops and the family gets stuck.  No one is safe or fed "on the pier".  I grieve over the church and other hurting families when they lose sight of the flight, the shared journey, and the joy of following the risen Christ together.  Not everyone can be trusted as your wing-man.  Not every group functions in sync.  Disfunction, bad group health, isn't struggle, it is being struck in the struggle alone.  You are not alone in your struggle for food, rest and shelter.  God is with you and you experience the poetry of life as take wing with God's people. It is risky but you either need someone today or someone needs you.  Find your flock through prayer and worship. 

God's blessings to you as you fly with Christ today.  

I lift up my eyes to the hills- Where does my help come from? 
My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip 
-He who watches over you will not slumber; 
(Psalm 121)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Book Review: Gloriously ordered chaos-"What the Dog Saw" by Malcolm Gladwell

Presidents and other historical figures usually have their own biographers while people who study the sociology of ketchup or create kitchen gadgets usually do not.  Malcolm Gladwell is the biographer for the rest of us. "What the Dog Saw" is a collection of life-stories from people who are very interesting but seldom get more than a glance.  On the first bounce this appears to be a random collection of his New Yorker articles that he wants a bit more mileage out of. But is it random?  

What the Dog SawEach of the 22 articles are divided into three broad categories.  The vary from obsessives "of minor genius" to "theories, predictions and diagnoses" and then on to "Personality, character and intelligence."  At the end is a reading group guide for book clubs or others with the courage to look beyond this as a cute collection.

Ketchup, Enron and military intelligence all pull together to make a point.  Ketchup and aggressive dogs get the same intense treatment as breast cancer and homelessness.  This point is to challenge the reader to see and not just look, live and not just exist.  "What the Dog Saw" is a summation, in a way, of the theses found in his other three books, especially "Blink". Rather than tell you this however, Gladwell shows you though people that live this way.  This is about the everyday genius in us all.

Malcolm is able to take the life of reclusive financier and make it raw and interesting.  He is able to tackle the complexities of diagnosing breast cancer and create understanding that goes beyond mammograms. The reader can see better by reading of those who see more intentionally.  "Million Dollar Murray" made me angry  by suggesting that we should limit benevolences to the homeless. Then he made his case and showed out of the box thoughts that could solve parts of the problem rather than merely managing it.

Gladwell is on youtube, , with a Q&A from CSPAN.  It is nearly an hour long and worthwhile.  Consider watching Book TV if you are not a viewer.  It is a fantastic forum for non-fiction writers and readers.

I am better for reading this book. It is infectious, interesting, and challenging at the same time.  My only regret is that it took me so long to get around to reading it.  Malcolm makes my world bigger than mere "Horseradish" (see chapter 1).

Friday, July 8, 2011

Book Review: We are all Chaplains in a Crisis- Group's Emergency Response Handbook

<em>Group's Emergency Response Handbook</em> for Disaster Relief [<em>Book</em>]I moved away from the Texas Gulf Coast last year but still get prepared, spiritually and materially, this time of year.  Old habits I suppose.  Hurricane, wildfire and flood workers live in a world that is always over run and overwhelmed. The rest of us are not exempt though. Group, along with the Salvation Army, provide a book that is an excellent resource for preparing yourself for the possibility of a crisis. It provides what to do and say along with what NOT to do and say. Each topic contains a brief list of guiding scriptures also.  I have used as a text in teaching small groups and classes preparing local church chaplains with great success too.  

However, this little book is also a great source of information for those spontaneous ministers/workers on the ground who are overwhelmed and unprepared in a crisis. This is a book that an early responder could hand to someone and simply tell them to go. While not the best situation, this is better than no response. It could also help an unsteady volunteer become both a part of the solution and prevent mental injury from helping.

This is one of a series of handbooks by Group. It is broad enough to be useful and specific enough to be "real". It is efficient, organized and clear. It is not an exhaustive study on crisis management. Use it as a starting place for study and an easy reference when the adrenaline is running. Every church response organization, early response team and firehouse should have a copy. This link goes to Amazon and has some excerpts and the table of contents.   Group's Emergency Response Handbook for Disaster Relief (Group's Emergency Response Handbooklet) They are available at all of the Christian book sellers and used to have a case price.
**Extra Resource**  Another good and brief resource is "Light our Way"-available in Spanish and English. You can purchase it in print or download free  from VOAD-Volunteer Organizations Allied in Disasters ( at 
Both of these go on my essential book shelf.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Photo of the Day: Hurricane Memories

Hurricane Rita-Groves Texas 2005

Hurricane Rita 2005

Galvenston's 1900 Hurricane Memorial

Monday, July 4, 2011

Book Review: Learner or Teacher? "This Little Prayer of Mine" by DeStafano and Elliott

(Please help me by rating the review at the bottom of this posting! Thanks.)
This is a children's book but not merely so.  The author and illustrator are providing a tool to help make prayer a natural conversation with God for both the reader and the listener.  DeStefano's touching verse and Elliott's stunning illustration provide intimacy and warmth to share with children.  However, underneath them are opportunities for the readers to grow in God as well as those to whom they are reading. It is intentional.

This book is about prayer and not just prayer for children.  This shows in the illustrator's dedication to this book to "all teachers everywhere, big and small."  The small ones can be the teacher here.  Also, in Mr. DeStefano's posting on Youtube we grownups get to eavesdrop on the children.  Along with the usual marketing stuff, he has posted "Kids Talk About God" found at .  You can also check out an excerpt and some videos by the author at This is a great book to leave laying around the educational spaces at church, coffee tables at home or grandmas, and wherever people of all ages pray.

Teaching prayer comes with a depth of gratification that is hard to put into words.  Wonderful things happen when the lesson get loose from the words and the techniques. Teaching children comes with a strange irony though.  The 'teaching' can ruin what they already know naturally.  This book provides a rhythm and not a structure.  It provides time and a safe place rather than bullet points.  Pay attention as you read.  You might just become the learner.  I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as a part of their Blogging for Books program.