Afraid by Jack Kilborn

Jack Kilborn is the alter ego of J.A. Konrath, the author of the Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels series of crime novels. I am a big fan of those. Thus, I was happy when I was able to snag a review copy of his new book, Afraid. With Afraid, Konrath brings us a book that is quite different from the Jack Daniels books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who wants to add a little horror to their reading selection.

Although Afraid does not include the amount of humor that is found in the Jack Daniels book, there is enough snark to bring just a little levity to the book. Afraid involves a helicopter crash near Safe Haven, Wisconsin. That crash releases a merciless force on the town that endangers all of the residents.

Konrath does an excellent job of pushing a variety of psychological buttons to invoke fear in the reader. He does a particularly good job of placing people in danger and making it impossible for their loved ones to assist them. The action in this novel is virtually nonstop. There are no chapter breaks in the book. As a consequence, the scenes cut from one person in peril to the next person in peril.

I don’t want to go into details as to what the killers are or who lives. However, I will say that the killers are quite efficient and their body count is quite impressive. Additionally, I enjoyed the variety of methods of attack (for lack of a better term) that were used by both the killers and the citizens.

I also liked the fact that Konrath was not afraid (no pun intended) to kill citizens. I went through the entire book never knowing if the character whose viewpoint I was experiencing would be dead on the next page.

If you like horror and don’t mind a little bloodshed in your book, then you will want to check out Afraid.


Also, for the month of March, Konrath has been on a blog tour to promote the release of Afraid. If you have not checked out that tour, I urge you to do so at his blog, A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing. Konrath covers a wide variety of topics in his typical humor-filled manner. It is really engaging reading.

The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death, by Charlie Huston

I have read seveal of Charlie’s other books and I would recommend his book Six Bad Things to anyone who has any interest in crime fiction. However, I was not thrilled by his last stand alone novel (The Shotgun Rule). Thus I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked up his latest novel, The Mystic Arts of Erasing All Signs of Death.

What I got was full bore Charlie Huston. I am pretty sure that my affinity for Charlie Huston novels lies somewhere in the fact that they are dialogue heavy and most of the dialogue is either cynical or sarcastic or both. Those are traits I can appreciate and they are present in spades in this book.

The plot involves an unemployed slacker who gets a job as someone who cleans up the remains of dead people from crime scenes. Of course, he gets tangled up with an attractive woman and a smuggling deal gone bad.

The plot, however, is not what makes this book good. Instead, it’s the characters and the dialogue. In his review of the book, Stepehn King said:

There are many things to love about Charlie Huston’s fiction–he’s a brilliant storyteller, and writes the best dialogue since George V. Higgins–but what pushes my personal happy-button is his morbid sense of humor and seemingly effortless ability to create scary/funny bad guys who make Beavis and Butthead look like Rhodes Scholars.

That’s about as accurate of a decription that can be found. Plus, who am I to try to improve upon what Stephen King said.

If pressed, there are two things that I would have to say about this book. First, if you like crime fiction or you like good dialogue, read this book. Second, if curse words make you uncomfortable or excessive violence bothers you, don’t read this book. If you have read any of Huston’s other books, you know what I am talking about. If not, just be warned that his books contain a lot of violence and swearing.

Book Review: Chronological Study Bible

This is another book I received through Thomas Nelson’s Blogger Book Review Program. I was very excited to see it on the list when I signed in. I have long wanted a Chronological Study Bible and this seemed like the perfect fit.

When I was in college, my Con Law professor told us to always remember historical context when reading supreme court decisions. Since then, I have never failed to take that advice. Since then, I have come to believe that placing events in historical context is quite valuable for understanding them and the point that is being made.

The Chronological Study Bible helps put those historical contexts in perspective by arranging the Bible (to the extent possible) in chronological order. This means that books are not necessarily kept together, but instead that portions are arranged with portions from other books. Similarly, a book such as Jeremiah has been reordered to be chronological rather than its current arrangement.

This book comes with some excellent explanatory notes that explain the choices made by the arrangers. I am sure that Biblical scholars can endlessly debate how to chronologically arrange certain elements of the Bible. However, the notes explain the different options available for placement and why one option was chose over the others.

In addition, the Bible also contains large numbers of sidebars that detail information about topics such as agriculture, architecture, culture, society, daily life & customs, family, and politics. Also included are some great photographs of relevant locations, timelines that help put historical events in context, and a variety of maps to place things in a geographical context.

The book is beautiful, with full color pictures and illustrations throughout. Additionally, color is used to make the pages attractive and easy to read. Most importantly, however, the tops corners of the pages are color coded to allow easy access to each of the nine epochs into which the book is divided.

This book is well put together and would be an invaluable aid to anyone in their Biblical studies. I found the information included in the various sidebars to be quite informative and believe that they do an excellent job of providing additional information to help place the various passages in a greater context of the time period involved.

The only quibble that I have with the book is that the scripture index is found only in the back of the book. Every Bible I have ever seen includes a table of contents at the front that tells you where to find the various books of the Bible. I understand that this Bible is quite different in that it is chronological. However, I think it would be nice to have the index that was at the back, also included at the front.

If it matters to you, the translation used is the New King James.

On the whole, however, if have any interest in Biblical studies at all, I would highly recommend this book to you.

Book Review: Holding Fast by Karen James

I recently read Holding Fast: The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy by Karen James. I received this book as part of Thomas Nelson’s blogger book review program.

In December 2006, three climbers lost their lives during a terrible storm on Mt Hood in Oregon. One of the climbers was named Kelly James. His wife, Karen, is the author of this book. When I first learned of the book, I was excited to read it. I typically enjoy books such as this that recount actual events in a novel form.

Unfortunately, this book fell flat for me because it was not what I thought it purported to be. The subtitle for the book is The Untold Story of the Mount Hood Tragedy. I don’t think that this is accurate. This book is not about the tragedy, but instead is about Karen James’s loss of her husband in a mountain climbing accident. As the story of a wife who loses her husband on the mountain, who waits in fear and anticipation with here family, and who finds solace and comfort in her relationship with God, this is a great story. It just should have been billed in that manner.

With respect to the tragedy, the book falls short, however, in that it barely devotes any time to the other two climbers who perished on the mountain. Besides finding out that one of the climbers was a close friend of Kelly’s and that they met the third climber during a different mountain climb, the other climbers get virtually no mention.

One aspect of the book that I really enjoyed was the number of pictures. The center of the book contains several pages of color photographs, including several from Kelly’s camera that was recovered with his body. Additionally, there were many additional photographs sprinkled throughout the text of the book. I thought this method of sprinkling the photos throughout the book worked really well and added to the book.

In sum, if you want a book about a wife’s journey in losing her husband to a terrible tragedy, this book addresses that perfectly. If you want a book that addresses the tragedy suffered by the climbers, then you probably want to take a pass.

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

MistbornI know that I am late coming to this party, but I just finished Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson, and it is great. My reading tastes are quite varied, however, when given the choice, I usually read thrillers or science fiction. For the most part, I do not read fantasy. However, in anticipation of the launch of, Tor  gave away electronic editions of several of its books. Some of the books I had already read. In other cases, the giveaway introduced me to books that I would not have read otherwise. One of those books was Mistborn.

Once I started Mistborn, I was hooked. The characters are well done and intersting. The story is interesting, plus it contains enough twists to keep you interested and provide surprises. In short, the story is, at its most base level, a heist story with the biggest goal possible, the overthrow of the government.

In addition to the interesting story, the book also contains a logical, well-developed magic system. Sanderson clearly put a lot of thought into the magic system and that shows. On top of this, Sanderson does an excellant job detailing the fight scenes in the book. As I was reading the fights, I could picture the action clearly in my mind.

As an additional bonus, on his website, Sanderson includes annotations for each of the chapters in the book. These provide a great behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the book.

If you are looking for a good book to read, I cannot recommend Mistborn more highly.

The Faith of Barack Obama by Stephen Mansfield

Faith of Barack ObamaAt the begining of August Michael Hyatt, the President and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, announced on his Twitter feed that in conjunction with their publicataion of the book The Faith of Barack Obama, Thomas Nelson would send the first 200 bloggers a copy of the book as long as they agreed to post a 200 word review of the book. In the letter accompanying the book, the company stated “Remember we don’t care if your review is positive, negative, or somewhere in between, as long as you finish the book and write a 200-word review.”

I have enjoyed following Hyatt’s blog for more than a year. He appears to be quite forward thinking and what he does. Plus, his blog provides a nice behind-the-scenes look at the job of a President/CEO. If you are interested in other reviews, Hyatt has started collecting them on his blog.

In terms of my review of the book, the first thing that struck me was that it was short. The entire text is 144 pages. Maybe I am just used to reading longer texts, but this seemed short to me. On the other hand, it reads very easily. The book is a fast read and is easily accessible. This is likely important in that, because Obama is running for President, there may be people picking this book up to read it that would not normally read books such as this.

In fact, this book reads like a series of magazine features. I think the book could easily be divided by chapter into a series of magazine articles.

With respect to the substance of the book, I think it does a good job of conveying two important points. The first is that dispelling the ridiculous notion that Obama is Muslim. The author addresses this issue directly and soundly rejects the idea.

The second point that the book conveys is that Obama’s faith is different from that of his controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright. The author goes to great lengths to explain how Obama came to his faith and how similar it is to many others of his generation.

Much of the book appears to be drawn from Obama’s books, prior articles, and interviews with people other than Obama. Noticeably absent from the book is information from an interview between the author and Obama. This is something that I would like to have seen. On the other hand, however, given the amount of coverage that Obama has seen over the years, it makes sense that this book could be written without that interview.

My favorite part of the book was the background portion that dealt with Obama’s childhood. Strangely enough, this was the portion of the book that had the least to do with Obama’s faith, the purported subject of the book.

On the whole, the book was a nice easy read. On the whole, however, I felt like the book could have been more; that it could have had a little more meat. In particular, I would like to have seen more examination of his college years and his time spent in community work before he attended law school. The book deals with this period of time with just a few sentences. I think that this time period would be significant in his spiritual development. Thus, I found the failure to address this time period in more depth quite strange.

If you are looking for a quick read that gives a nice overview of Obama’s faith, this book will meet your needs. Don’t expect it to deliver more than that, however.