Summer of Books Update

I'm in the the middle of week 3 of the "Summer Tournament of Books" and I've completed 2 books already while working on a third one as well. Here's some reviews on what I have completed already. 

Sea of Crises by Marty Steere

Sea of Crises
By Marty Steere

Marty's story is about a set of sons who lost their father to NASA's "Apollo 18" project. Except, it seems, that all the details of their father's death and the Apollo 18 mission don't quite match the research given. Someone is hiding something. 

The story moves with a good pace and was an enjoyable, clever read. I think of this book as the "summer spy thriller." It's not Jason Borne, but it's a well told story. For me, and maybe this is because I've read stories like this before, there were a few things that I just saw coming. The romance was predictable, but was it necessary? Steere keeps the readers attention and continues to lead me in asking questions, but I don't feel like he shocked or surprised me in too many big ways. And actually, that's okay. It was a fun, entertaining, engaging story with some fun twists. 

For a first book into the summer it was a fun story to engage. According to Goodreads it currently scores an average 4.02 rating by readers. I gave it three stars. 


The Martian by Andy Weir

The Martian
By Andy Weir

Technically this was the book I should be completing at the end of this week. Yet, it only took me two good evenings and a short third to read this book. The reason it was so quick of a read because it was so good. When I can enter into a story and feel what the character is feeling, laugh with the characters, cheer for them, hurt for them and be driven through the suspense of their crises then it's a well told story. The book itself is entering the theaters in November and I saw a trailer for it on Sunday night. The trailer was so good I figured this was "next" for me in the tournament. So a second "space" book.

The Martian is about a botanist who is part of a team of 6 on the third manned mission to Mars. After six days on Mars a storm hits the team, they have to abort the mission, and leave Mars. Unfortunately, the main character, Mark Watney, is left stranded on Mars. The book is mostly a first-person point of view story about what Mark does being stranded on Mars. I don't want to give this story away because it is too good but I laughed, I cheered, I cried, I felt with Mark Watney everything he went through. 

If the tournament was done and over tonight I'd have an immediate and easy decision to make for the winner. The Martian was that good and that fun. One question the book danced around and at least philosophically caused me to ask is what is the value of saving a human life? Certainly a good question to ponder. Goodreads readers have given The Martian an average score of 4.35. I gave it five stars. 

Week 2's Book

Week Two was pretty busy, so I am still working on reading Three Nights in August. I figure if I get behind in a book to a degree that it might be shelved I should pick up a new book each week and try and get through it. If I have enough time and the story riveted me enough to finish with space I can get caught up in the book(s) I might have left behind. If not, then like Left Behind, they too will be a abandoned. So I'll try and get this one finished this week. Keep reading!

Check out my original "2015 Summer Tournament of Books" for the full list of books (and how you can help out!). 


2015 Summer Tournament of Books

If your high school education was like mine during the summer I was loaded up with 5-6 books that I had to read in advance of my literature class starting up the following fall. It wasn’t an exercise I ever loved and I can only tell you the title of one book that I read during the summer blitz (Hiroshima for ninth grade literature). However the changed rhythm of the summer opened up some opportunities to read things I probably wouldn’t have read otherwise.

Last Friday I posted on Twitter a request, “I want to read a biography and a novel this summer. So recommend a few…” And a “few” were recommended. Over twenty if I count right. Which led to a difficult decision. If I want to read one biography and one novel, I had better make a decision. As I started looking at the list I realized that many of the offerings were pretty decent looking suggestions. So I decided to be ambitious and work at reading one book a week for 15 weeks. That would take me through the entire summer to Labor Day.

So what’s on the list? I believe some worthy entries, and like every summer a few adventure “block-busters.” There are a couple that have won a Pulitzer prize (that’s like a heavy-weight title fight!) and a few that are relatively unknown. The list is embedded below and linked on my Goodreads account so you can join up with me. One book won a “Tournament of Books” earlier this year, so it was included to see if it really was any good.

One way you could help me is by purchasing one of these books off my Amazon Wish-list so I can actually read them all this summer. If you buy it, I’ll bump it to the top of my reading list right away.

As for now, I’ve completed the first book on the list, Joel Burdeaux’s recommendation of The Sea of Crises by Marty Steere. I’ll give it some blog time first thing next week. Thanks Joel for the recommendation, good start to a summer of reading!

What are you reading this summer?

Tech Tuesday: Tech Armor Ballistic Gear

Apparently the tech industry was startled, confused, and alarmed by the revelation that was my Apple Watch Review not so long ago. As a result Tech Armor got in touch with me to see if I would interact and review a few of their products. I’m happy to do so!

So here’s what they sent me:

How did it all stack up? Here’s my thoughts:

Ballistic Glass Screen Protector

I’ve never been a fan of screen protectors on my iPhone or iPad devices. Probably because the first generation versions were horrible, didn’t last long, and were hard to install. I hated them. So I was skeptical about putting a screen protector on my iPad. But I was willing to give this a go for the protection and interest in seeing if it would be a hinderance to me at all.

Installation was not too terribly difficult, but it did have a few tricks. I was supplied with an alcohol wipe, microfiber rag, “dust tape”, a squeegee, and even a couple of suction cups to give me a handle on the screen protector to install it. If you get one of these pay careful attention to the directions, watch the install video, and you’ll have no problem at all. It worked for me for the most part but the squeegee wasn’t really that helpful to get the remaining air bubbles out.

The screen looks like a normal screen on an iPad and interacts that way as well. I hardly notice that there is a glass screen upon a glass screen and actually feel pretty good about it protecting the actual screen well. There is no discoloration, residue or any of that between the two screens either.

Ranking: A

iPad Mini TPU Flex Case

This little case is not so great. It hardly fits over the iPad mini with the Ballistic Glass protector on it and frankly looks pretty sloppy. The case I received appeared to have been used before, had a greasy film on it, and scratch marks. It feels cheap and slippery on the iPad. I don’t like it.

Ranking: D

Braided Lightning USB cable

This was a pleasant surprise for me. At 6 ft. long this lightening cable is capable of recharging my iPad from across the room. Given it’s braided cord design it seems to be durable, rugged, and won’t fray or come apart at the seams like a few of the other lightening cables around my house seem prone to do. The slate gray color is nice as well. I’m sure this will come in very handy and is a great accessory for your device that charges via Lightning adaptor.

Ranking: A


Overall I’m very happy with the Tech Armor products, although the case is a real disappointment and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. The Ballistic Glass and Lightening cables are the real deal and worth the investment to protect your devices. Tech Armor carries Ballistic Glass for iPhones, iPads, and some Android devices as well. Stay away from the rubbery cases and go for the protective glass. You’ll be glad you did. 


I received the products mentioned above for free from Tech Armor in the hope that I would mention it on my blog.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” I'm always happy to review products anybody sends me. 

Everything That's On My Mind (Almost) - Pastoral Wisdom

Just over a month ago our family moved to Michigan and began working with Woodside Bible Church to launch the tenth and newest campus in the city of Plymouth. It’s been a great season for us so far and we’ve seen the deepest works of God’s grace. Yesterday was our “All Staff” meeting where all the staff from the ten Woodside campuses gather together to hear vision, build up one another, and see how God is at work all over Woodside. Yesterday’s meeting also included our Senior Pastor, Doug Schmidt interviewing the pastor that he followed, David Anderson. One of the things that I value most is learning from older men in ministry. As David spoke he fired off tweet-like counsel and reflections that were a deep benefit for me. Here’s a few of the nuggests of his counsel that I gleaned yesterday:

  • Time is your friend, lead well by building consensus. 
  • Pray more - you will never regret spending more time in prayer.
  • Train individuals - don’t just leave your disciple-making to the pulpit.
  • Be prepared - start working in the word now!
  • You can sheer a sheep many times, but you can only skin a sheep once.
  • Be careful and wise as a pastor.
  • You have a ministry, not a job. Job’s are 8-5, ministry is 24/7
  • Build trust wherever you can. People need to know they can open their heart to you.
  • Invest in people, don’t use them. They are not stepping stones to build your little kingdom.
  • Love your family well.
  • Go on vacation.
  • Do the next obvious thing for the glory of God.

I love these thoughts and am grateful for opportunities to learn from faithful and fruitful pastors who have run the race well. May that be true of me as well.