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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 132,000 Helpful Votes Globally)

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The Fallen Angel
The Fallen Angel
by Daniel Silva
Edition: Paperback
20 used & new from CDN$ 2.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Books in This Outstanding Series, Aug. 16 2012
This review is from: The Fallen Angel (Paperback)
"Whoever rewards evil for good,
Evil will not depart from his house." -- Proverbs 17:13 (NKJV)

Gabriel Allon has finally achieved separation from Israeli intelligence, enjoying the task of restoring a masterpiece inside the Vatican. This tranquility is disrupted by a Vatican curator's mysterious death. Did she fall? Did she jump? Did someone harm her? Because of the delicate questions the death raises, Monsignor Donati, the pope's private secretary, asks Gabriel to look into matters.

He soon finds clues leading to a major criminal scheme, one that uses death to oil its operations. What else could be beneath the tip of this iceberg?

The plot and pacing are extraordinarily smooth and intriguing. I felt as if I were reading a classic novel, rather than a contemporary thriller. The character development and storytelling are special.

As much as I admire this series, The Fallen Angel stands far above many of the recent books in the series. Don't miss it!

Bravo, Mr. Silva!

Black List: A Thriller
Black List: A Thriller
by Brad Thor
Edition: Hardcover
49 used & new from CDN$ 0.63

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Terrifying Premise Demonstrates the Dangers of Unrestrained Power, Aug. 16 2012
This review is from: Black List: A Thriller (Hardcover)
"Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" -- John 19:10 (NKJV)

A black list has historically meant that someone was banished, or banned, from a country or activity. This novel would have been more appropriately titled "Hit List," which would have captured the premise more accurately. The government has a list of people who are to be assassinated.

Although there's supposed to be a little due process to be sure that mistakes aren't made, this list has been compromised so that names are added for reasons other than protecting the nation against traitors and spies.

Scot Harvath makes this list and finds himself being hunted by his own government. It's a terrifying prospect that even a patriot like Harvath can be at risk ... and have no easy way to remedy matters.

Because of the extreme danger that Harvath finds himself in, the book necessarily involves a long series of attempts to evade detection and remain alive. In that sense, it's more of a suspense story than an action thriller. So don't expect the same level of action that you are accustomed to in past books. Even so, the book does drag a bit in places. So you won't get the full adrenaline rush.

You will, instead, receive a lot of food for thought ... especially about the need to be sure that checks and balances are in place on those with virtually unlimited power.

Think about it!

Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues
Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues
by Michael Brandman
Edition: Hardcover
61 used & new from CDN$ 0.86

3.0 out of 5 stars A New Characterization of Jesse Stone along Different Plotting Will Disappoint Many Parker Readers, Aug. 9 2012
"You shall not sow your vineyard with different kinds of seed, lest the yield of the seed which you have sown and the fruit of your vineyard be defiled." -- Deuteronomy 22:9 (NKJV)

What should happen to a character when the author dies? Usually, that's the end. In a few cases, new authors have been recruited. Usually, the results are disappointing.

Anyone who is looking for Kill the Blues to be a Parker novel can stop reading right now. Not!

Is it an acceptable substitute for a Parker novel? Most people will think not, as well.

Most people who pick up such characters go to great lengths to keep the character the same. Mr. Brandman did that, too, but he chose the character who appeared on television rather than the Parker character from the books.

I think that was a mistake. This Jesse is more about competence and ease than pain and angst. Other than the name being the same, reading about this Jesse doesn't feel nearly as interesting or rewarding.

I also thought that the plot and pacing felt more like what a television show would do than what a book can accomplish.

Would I read another book in this series by Mr. Brandman? Probably not, unless a review convinced me he had moved closer to the Parker model.

Borrow the book at the library and see what you think.

by Bill Pronzini
Edition: Hardcover
31 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Suspense Novel about Jake and Bill Searching for a Kidnapped Kerry, Aug. 9 2012
This review is from: Hellbox (Hardcover)
"Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way." -- 1 Samuel 30:1-2 (NKJV)

Kerry and Bill are off looking into buying a retreat when Kerry stumbles into a revenge-obsessed man, Pete Balfour. He takes her prisoner, and the suspense begins. I won't comment much about the book's content because it might spoil the story for you.

Do be aware that this is not a classic mystery of the sort that Bill Pronzini usually writes ... or the kind that he has written most recently in the series.

I didn't like it as much as I usually do. I think that's because I didn't find Pete Balfour to be a very interesting character. He's certainly a bad guy ... but I need something more than that to get full emotional enjoyment from a suspense novel. He didn't quite come across as a real person, rather than as a fictional character, to me.

The book has some nice character development work in it, something to admire.

I hope that the next book in the series will go back into having several mysteries to solve ... rather than just chronicle an investigation.


by Michael Hyatt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.59
45 used & new from CDN$ 4.82

4.0 out of 5 stars So You Want to Have a Platform: Are You Sure?, Aug. 2 2012
This review is from: Platform (Hardcover)
"Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the Lord had commanded Israel. So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly of men and women and all who could hear with understanding on the first day of the seventh month. Then he read from it in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate from morning until midday, before the men and women and those who could understand; and the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. So Ezra the scribe stood on a platform of wood which they had made for the purpose; and beside him, at his right hand, stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Urijah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah; and at his left hand Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbadana, Zechariah, and Meshullam." -- Nehemiah 8:1-4 (NKJV)

If you've ever tried to attract a book agent or a commercial publisher, you were probably encouraged to work on developing your platform. As the chairman and former CEO of a major Christian publisher, Michael Hyatt should definitely know what an author's platform looks like. In this book, he describes the highlights of his own experience in creating one around a blog and lots of Twitter messages.

Although he was inexperienced on the Internet, Mr. Hyatt had plenty of resources to help attract an audience through his position in the Christian publishing world. In fact, if you go the publishing Web site, you'll probably end up on his blog. So his experience won't be your experience. Realize that. And he doesn't make any claims in that direction.

If you are a complete newcomer, some of the advice will be so general that you may not know what to do with it (such as using certain software). Unless you are a huge star on Twitter, much of what's in here won't help.

I only found a few parts that might apply to me personally, and I dutifully tried them out (especially increasing the frequency of putting a major piece of content on a blog) and then using social media to let others know. Yup, it worked. In a one week period of time, I increased a new blog's traffic by 30 times.

I could see that if I started spending a lot of time doing this, I could definitely have a bigger platform. But is it worth it? I don't think so.

Be sure you know what you want a platform for and what benefits you want people to receive. A lot of so-called platform-building is nothing more than making a lot of noise so that people pay attention. I'm reminded of how acting wannabes often wear revealing clothes to get attention. Yes, it gets attention ... but can you act any better when you are done?

Why do publishers like platforms? Well, they sell more books at less expense to themselves. So they make money. That's perfectly okay, but realize that your service to God may suffer in the process because you are spending less time serving Him.

Also realize that a lot of the advice in this book will be out-of-date quite quickly, because it's very tool oriented. If you decide you must have a bigger platform, definitely read the blog in the future so you can keep up with Mr. Hyatt's latest advice.

The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Long er
The First 20 Minutes: Surprising Science Reveals How We Can: Exercise Better, Train Smarter, Live Long er
by Gretchen Reynolds
Edition: Hardcover
60 used & new from CDN$ 0.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Summaries of Recent Research on Exercise and Its Consequences, Aug. 2 2012
"Now in my prosperity I said, 'I shall never be moved.'" -- Psalm 30:6 (NKJV)

The message of this book is, "Keep moving." When you sit still, it's bad for you. So if you are in a chair, twitch and move around as you sit.

I was pleased to see that Ms. Reynolds aimed her book at a wide audience, from those who want to be more competitive in highly difficult activities to those who are elderly and are losing more strength than they can afford. I think you'll find yourself in here somewhere.

The book leans initially on exploding many myths about exercise such as stretching avoids injuries (not!) and improves performance (also, not!). In a few instances, there's almost a gimmicky focus to make the book seem more novel than it really is, such as identifying types of extreme, brief exercise that can effectively replace longer duration activity.

While not knowing what I would learn, I definitely came away some valuable insights for someone of my years and flabbiness. I was persuaded that resistance training should be added to my exercise repertoire and that I don't need to walk any further than I do now. And I'll be squirming a lot more while I type and read. I always did like to hop up every few minutes. I'll probably do that more often in the future.

P.S. As someone who was a competitive athlete in my youth, I learned many of these things from trial and error then. I'm sure you won't be as surprised as the author thinks you will be in places.

Case For A Creator
Case For A Creator
by Lee Strobel
Edition: Paperback
55 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Useful Summaries of Arguments in Favor of a Creator by Believing Scientists, Aug. 2 2012
This review is from: Case For A Creator (Paperback)
"I am the LORD, your Holy One, The Creator of Israel, your King." -- Isaiah 43:15 (NKJV)

I was attracted to this book after feeling called to begin putting together a bibliography of books that would help someone who wanted to consider whether God exists from considering secular evidence. That calling was reinforced when a cousin shared with me that she had lost her faith while in college because she felt overwhelmed by the anti-God arguments her professors advanced.

Had I known about this book at the time, I would have recommended that she read it.

I have read some of the authors and books cited here, and I felt that Mr. Strobel did a credible job of using his interviews to encapsulate what they expressed. I suspect that the other authors and their materials are also reasonably well summarized, as well.

When you read the book, take careful note of the sources. In many cases, you'll want to dig into those on your own to gain a fuller understanding of the scientific evidence for a creator of the universe.

If you have read The Case for Christ or The Case for Faith, the format of this book will come as no surprise. Mr. Strobel relates his skeptical past as a journalist and how he came to seek answers to his faith questions in the same way that he performed his day job, finding knowledgeable people and interviewing them.

In this book, the arguments he asks the scientists and scientifically trained people about relate to factors that affected his faith while studying science when he was much younger. That perspective is both the book's strength and its weakness. The touchstone makes the book less abstract. It also makes it more elementary. As with his other books, there's no supervised debate here between pros and cons. So this book is really an advocate's case, drawn from believers who know something about science. As such, the book's value is higher for believers who want to know a little more about science rather than for those who have no faith.

Much of the content deals with Darwinism, neo-Darwinism, biology, biochemistry, astronomy, cosmology, and physics. If you already know a lot about these fields, you'll probably find the material here quite simple. But that's okay. Most people don't follow science very much.

Those who believe in a young Earth will probably be annoyed that Mr. Strobel agrees with the view of a very old Earth.

In terms of science raising fundamental questions about whether the world is created ... or just happened, the most persuasive evidence for me comes from considering the immense complexity of biological systems and the genetic coding that underlies much of that functioning. The probability that such complexity could have developed one random mutation at a time is too slight to be considered possible. That's not Darwin's fault. We didn't know how complex our bodies are until quite recently. I suspect we have many more complexities to learn.

Praise God for this book!

by David Brin
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.47
42 used & new from CDN$ 2.25

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Considering the Options for Close Encounters from a Techie Perspective, July 26 2012
This review is from: Existence (Hardcover)
"Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth." -- Proverbs 27:1 (NKJV)

This story is both strange and familiar, a curious combination in science fiction considering extraterrestrial life. I found the speculative element to be intriguing, but the book started so slowly that I found it hard to stay focused on it.

The novel is really just a device to explore the question of how one should search for and communicate with extraterrestrial life (if it exists). I suspect that I would have been just as happy with a fifty page article explaining our understanding of the possibilities and what the pros and cons of each are.

The novel was made more rewarding, however, by intriguing extensions of current trends to see where they might lead. As such, some of the details are probably more significant for informing us on what to do today than the main focus of the book is. As an example, what will it mean as the boundaries between "human" and "machine" blur? What are the appropriate limits for using chemicals to optimize performance?

One of my favorite themes in the book is the continual questioning about what we are blind to that's more or less right in front of us.

The drawback of the novel approach is that it's a long way to get across some pretty simple (ultimately) ideas. I had a pretty good time, but I did feel as if I were slogging for much of the time.

Reflections on the Psalms
Reflections on the Psalms
by C.S. Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.92
53 used & new from CDN$ 1.81

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking at the Psalms with a Beginner's Mind, a Kind Heart, Moving Words, and a Thirst for Learning, July 26 2012
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever." -- Psalm 111:10 (NKJV)

This is my first C.S. Lewis book, so I apologize for not being able to compare it to his other works. I can certainly attest that it's unlike any other book about the Bible that I've read to date.

Consider this statement on page 1: "This is not a work of scholarship. I am no Hebraist, no higher critic, no ancient historian, no archeologist. I write for the unlearned about things in which I am unlearned myself." He goes on to say that experts often focus on issues that beginners aren't even aware of. He wants to address the beginner's issues: ". . . I write as one amateur to another, talking about difficulties I have met, or lights I have gained, when reading the Psalms, with the hope that this might at any rate interest, and sometimes help, other inexpert readers. I am 'comparing notes', not presuming to instruct."

I was attracted to the book by the opportunity to discuss it after church services during a summer teaching series on the Psalms. From reading what Professor Lewis wrote, I can see that people bring many different reactions to the Psalms. Having just completed a year-long course on the Psalms, I was fascinated to see that Professor Lewis didn't bring up a single subject discussed in that course.

I think he succeeded in dealing with the new Psalm reader's issues. One of the reasons I've been studying the Psalms is that their contents often used to puzzle me. Now I realize that many of them are the sort of uncensored prayers of the sort that we make all the time, rather than perfect doctrine.

The sections are broken down into sections on "judgment", cursings, death, "the fair beauty of the Lord", "sweeter than honey", connivance, nature, praising, second meanings, Scripture, and second meanings in Psalms.

The comments are far from encyclopedic, often focusing on just one perspective or aspect of a theme. For instance, the section on judgments primarily contrasts the ancient Jewish rejoicing over expecting to receive justice for what others have done unjustly on Earth with the current Christian perspective as seeing justice mainly in terms of being guilty of sins oneself.

The observations don't necessarily come out where you might expect a Christian to. For instance, Professor Lewis is concerned that we not lose having a strong emotional reaction to evil doing, even though Christ calls us to love our enemies and do good to them. He is strongly appalled by those who can become conditioned to evil, even if they don't follow it.

The book abounds with sympathy for the writers and the proclaimers of the Psalms. I could feel a lot of love for those who are different from Professor Lewis in his comments. It's a good lesson for all Christians. In fact, he's a harsher critic of people in the 20th century than those in the days before Christ was born in Bethlehem.

The book raises enough fundamental issues of proper behavior in relation to God that anyone who reads it will justifiably squirm. It's good to be convicted by stylish phrasings, and I certainly felt that way at many points . . . especially in the temptation to get along with the rich, powerful, and admired . . . who aren't following God.

The section on praise will help many appreciate that praising God is for our benefit, not His.

The final sections on reading Christian theology into the Old Testament will help many new Christians to better appreciate the proper perspective to bring to reading any part of Scripture. It's a very fine discussion with good examples.

Praise God for this book that can help many people to gain more from reading the Psalms!

How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses
How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things: Breaking the 8 Hidden Barriers that Plague Even the Best Businesses
by Neil Smith
Edition: Hardcover
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Useful Look at Why Corporate Dumb Actions Occur and How a Company-Wide Improvement Program Can be Done, July 25 2012
"You are therefore greatly mistaken." -- Mark 12:27 (NKJV)

Please be aware that the title of this book is a little misleading. It's not a study of best practices by a selected group of "excellent" companies such as Good to Great. Instead, How Excellent Companies Avoid Dumb Things portrays the lessons learned by author Neil Smith in conducting his firm's consulting practice in helping companies to identify and apply more of their own understandings of what and how to improve. Some may find the book simply a long sales pitch. Having observed two somewhat similar efforts (one inside and one outside) of Fortune 200 companies, I found the information to fit well with what I learned during those activities.

The book's basic premise is that normal human concerns, organizational structures, lack of processes for making improvements in certain areas, and frictions between people lead to companies wasting a lot of time, money, and effort. Without making a direct approach to finding opportunities to change, the same old dumb practices may continue for decades.

The barriers that have to be overcome are described as: avoiding controversy, poor use of time, reluctance to change, organizational silos, management blockers, incorrect information and bad assumptions, ignoring scale effects, and existing processes. In some cases, these are primarily the symptoms of the problem, which actually rest in human psychology. The book draws on Dr. Richard Levak to comment on the psychological aspects of the problems. Each barrier description contained a few examples from Mr. Smith's practice at Promontory Growth and Innovation (PGI). I found those examples to be quite well chosen and aptly described.

The book then shifts briefly to 12 principles for breaking the barriers (located first on page 8 of the book's Introduction).

The book ends with a description of the 100 day process that PGI uses to help companies identify, select, and begin to implement the opportunities that are found by its own staff. Whether or not you decide to hire PGI, I think that the process description will give you many helpful insights into why your organization isn't doing a lot of things it should be.

Mr. Smith claims that clients can expect a 25 percent earnings gain in the year after the process is completed. A partial list of clients can be found in the appendix that is heavy with banks, insurance companies, and utilities.

If you decide to go in this direction, I encourage you to consider following up with adding a company-wide process for making breakthroughs (20 times or more improvements in your most important activities), as well as installing a process for continuing business-model innovation.


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