Friday, August 26, 2016

After Acts by Bryan Litfin

After Acts: Exploring the Lives and Legends of the Apostles by Bryan Litfin is an academic look at what history says about the main characters of the New Testament. Litfin examines church history and tradition as well as other historical sources to prove or debunk common theories of what happened to the disciples, Paul, and Jesus' mother Mary after what is recorded in the pages of the New Testament.

Litfin does a good job of setting up the study of this topic. He discusses what he means when he uses certain terms. He also lays out the most common schools of thought within the study of early Christian history and identifies where he lands. He makes this easy to understand. His examination of each person is organized well and each chapter ends with a handy "report card" that grades the probability/reliability of each tradition discussed within the chapter.

The lack of concrete historical evidence makes this more of an examination of common thoughts or traditions than an actual account of what happened. It is an interesting read, though it doesn't have as much detail as I had hoped. This isn't the author's fault however. He does a good job with what is available.

I would recommend After Acts to anyone interested in the people in the Bible as historical characters, as it is accessible to any type of reader.

I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, See Part 255

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Unfair by Adam Benforado

Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado examines the American criminal justice system and its effectiveness. Examined especially in light of new advances in humanity's understanding of the human brain and how it works, Unfair not only identifies common problems and biases, but offers solutions to these problems as well.

Benforado does a phenomenal job of making a complex subject easily understandable. Both the criminal justice system and neuroscience are full of technical terms and complex ideas; how these two topics overlap and interact is an area just now being examined. Benforado uses real world examples to illustrate the biases and problems and that some of the new research is suggesting. Some of the points he makes are so obvious that one wonders why anyone thought doing certain things in the criminal justice system were ever a good idea. Others are more nuanced and require more thought.

I really appreciated the fact that Benforado offers solutions to the problems he points out. He acknowledges the challenges inherent in changing the way things have always been done, but also points out that that is no excuse for not changing in the face of evidence that says it is wrong.

Unfair is a thoughtful book that examines a crucial topic in American society. One doesn't have to be an expert to understand this book. Reforming the criminal justice system is important enough to put some effort into understanding the problems inherent in the system in order to find effective solutions. Unfair is an important addition to this conversation.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks

When Death Draws Near by Carrie Stuart Parks is the third novel in the Gwen Marcey series. Gwen Marcey is a forensic artist who in this novel travels to Kentucky to help a small town sheriff catch a serial rapist. While there, she gets caught up in identifying a badly disfigured body found with a rattlesnake in it. This leads to an investigation into a secretive religious group of snake handlers.

Jumping in to the middle of a series was a little strange, but thankfully while I may not have appreciated some of the more character specific story lines, I could still enjoy the overall mystery. Marcey is a relatable character who does what she can to bring justice to those who have been the victim of a crime. Her personal struggles make her dedication to her job, and her determination to live, that much more impressive.

There were just enough red herrings to keep me guessing as I read this book. I didn't see the twist at the end coming at all. It was very well hidden and the reveal was very dramatic. Overall, I would recommend When Death Draws Near to anyone who is a fan of easy to read, somewhat lighthearted mysteries.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookLook book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Monday, August 8, 2016

Seeking Refuge by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir

Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis by Stephan Bauman, Matthew Soerens, and Dr. Issam Smeir is a call to Christians to know the facts about the current refugee crisis the world is facing and respond to those facts the way the Bible says to. As leaders of one of the nine organizations that resettle refugees in the U.S., the authors speak with the authority and experience of those who are in the trenches.

The authors first set the stage and explain the causes of today's current refugee crisis. They then discuss what the Bible says about refugees and immigrants. Then they put a human face on the discussion by sharing the story of five different refugees. The authors then set the facts straight about the legal terms and processes surrounding refugees, immigrants (both legal and illegal), internally displaced people, and asylum seekers. While they touch on the other groups, refugees are their main focus and they spend the most time explaining the rigorous process refugees coming to the United States go through.

I found Seeking Refuge to be both easily understandable and extremely informative. I would guess that the average American probably doesn't know the information presented in this book. As Christians, it is vital that we understand important issues so that we can approach them biblically. Scripture is clear on how God's people are to treat "the least of these." Refugees and others who have had to flee their homes are some of the most vulnerable people in the world, and the Church is called to care for them, regardless of legalities, political opinion, or even personal opinions. Seeking Refuge clearly states the facts and urges Christians to act.  I recommend Seeking Refuge to anyone who wants a better understanding of one of the world's greatest humanitarian issues.

I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Moody Publishers Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, See Part 255