“Musical Ink” By Jon Blacker


Let me start this review with saying that I’m your typical, middle-aged father, politically conservative, and (per my kid’s perceptions) somewhat puritanical.

I’m generally (generally = 99% of the time) not a fan of skin ink, or other body alterations.  I’m one of those guys who wonders why a stunningly beautiful girl turns around to show an arm that is one solid tattoo, or having some crazy symbol like a skull inked onto her neck.  I’m the same guy who wonders why a handsome young man has holes gauged in his ears the size of a half-dollar.  I want to ask him if, on a windy day, he turns just the right way, do his ear lobes whistle?

All kidding aside, while I don’t necessarily “like” tattoos of any size or stripe, I’m intrigued by our post-modern society’s penchant for any type of body alteration.  What drives those choices?  I’ve heard many say that once they got their first ink, they became addicted.  I find it utterly fascinating.

This fascination is what caused me to look at Blacker’s “Musical Ink”.  For, within the covers, there are hundreds of black and white photos of primarily rock musicians and their body art.  Along with them are the stories.  The stories of why they got a tattoo honoring a person in their life, or honoring a significant event in their life.  It seems a way for them to permanently etch those important people, places, and events in their lives into a daily reminder.  While making a statement that is quite fashionable these days.

While intrigued with the stories, I was more intrigued by the stunning photography.  All pictures were done in black and white, but with an incredible depth and texture reminiscent of the black and white nature pictures of early 20th century master photographer Ansel Adams.

At the very end of the book, we get a short overview of how these pictures were created.  Photographer Blacker used special equipment to capture the near infrared (IR) light spectrum.  The author states: “Generally IR light interacts differently than visible light with skin and tattoo ink. IR wavelengths do not penetrate skin very deeply and give it a milky, ethereal appearance, while tattoo ink absorbs the IR wavelengths, rendering a much higher contrast between the skin and the ink.  It’s this effect that makes these portraits unique and allows you to see these artists in a whole new light.”

The photos are captivating, both as cultural statements, and works of art, and I think this book will appeal to students of both.  If tattoos and body art are your thing, I do recommend this to be your next coffee table book.

I received an e-copy of this book as an ARC from the publisher.  It came with the expectation of a fair and honest review.  There are no personal nor professional ties between the publisher, the author, or this reviewer.

This review will be posted on NetGalley.com; Goodreads.com; my blog: JonReviewsBooks1.Wordpress.com; and will be posted on Amazon.com after the publishing date.


“Tough Topics” by Sam Storms

“Tough Topics” by Sam Storms is a well presented, and well researched work that is appropriate for both new Christians and seasoned Christians.

Storms tackles 25 dogmatic questions that run the gamut from “What is Blasphemy?” “Are babies who die saved?” to “Can a Christian be demonized?” “Should all Christians speak in tongues?” and “Are Christians Obligated to Tithe?”

Virtually every question was addressed, some from a number of points of view, and backed by scripture.  I learned a whole lot more than I thought I would.  Herein lies the reason that Christians of all ages must continue to nourish their hearts and minds in their walk with Christ.

Sam Storms is a pastor of a large church in the Oklahoma City area.  He bills himself as an “Amillennial, Calvinistic, charismatic, credo-baptistic, complementarian, Christian Hedonist…”

This book is not a quick read.  It’s based on research, and in the process, the reader will be moved to do some research of his own.

I took away several truths from this excellent resource.  First, Storm’s treatment of tithing brought me some new insights in that those in early Israel may have been required to tithe up to 27% of their income.  I enjoyed Sam’s presentation of this.

I scratched my head in a number of discussions, but found myself sharply disagreeing with but one point in the entire volume.  During his discussion on whether a Christian can be demonized, I hold a firm opinion on the trichotomy of man.  We are body, soul, and spirit.  Dr. Storms is of an opposing position, claiming that soul and spirit are one in the same.  Thus man is a dichotomous being.

Other than this theological difference, I enjoyed and embraced all of Sam Storm’s teaching.

When you get this book, and I certainly hope you do, be prepared to read and re-read many sentences or paragraphs to let the Truth soak in.  Have your Bible at the ready, to consult scriptural passages that support the author’s arguments.

This reading experience was an excellent one.  I took much away from the book, and will indeed encourage others to get a copy of their own.  I read this in e-book format, but plan to purchase a hard copy when it arrives on the market.  Thus, I can highlight and mark up, and add my own thoughts to the margins.  That is precisely how a seeker should tackle a book like “Tough Questions”.

I received this book as an ARC from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review. There are no expectations beyond that.  I have no personal or professional ties to either the author or the publisher.

“Saffron Cross” by J. Dana Trent (Upper Room Books)

The “Saffron Cross” by Dana Trent is a quick read four year adventure of an inter-faith couple who are both devout in their own traditions.

Dana was raised Southern Baptist and went through all the Baptist rites of passage, to the point that she became ordained in the church.  I know what you’re thinking…. I don’t know of any Southern Baptist Church that has women ministers.  Lest we forget the autonomy of Southern Baptist churches in the the collective.

After much encouragement, and hope from her mother, and her loving church family, Dana yielded to the call to the ministry in her North Carolina church.  Subsequently, she attended Duke University’s Theological Seminary.

The TV commercial of Neil Clark Warren got Dana’s attention one day, and she decided to use Mr. Warren’s e-Harmony online dating service to find a man to date.

Enter….Fred… another e-Harmony member who was matched to Dana.  Their date turned into a second date, then a third, then a budding friendship, and finally a romantic relationship.  The challenge our two protagonists must overcome is that Fred is a former Hindu monk, and though he has left the cloistered monastery for life outside the walls, he is still a very devout practicing Hindu.

This book journalizes their unique relationship, as they both pursue God through their own traditions, yet, respect the traditions of one another.  Their relationship grows into a deeply spiritual marriage, where they oftentimes struggle to overcome their cultural differences, philosophical differences, and even simple every day minor things.

I believe this book is food for the soul of others contemplating an inter-faith marriage of their own, as well as everyday Christians married to everyday Christian spouses.  Get the book, and read about how these two lovely souls overcame their challenges, and let their lives be examples to you of how one pursues God.

I highly recommend this book to the select audience previously mentioned.  It is entertaining, heart-warming, and just plain interesting.  At times, its a love story.  At times, its a theological treatise.  And at times, its an inspirational read, showing us that there are people out there who are totally committed to finding God, and resting in his presence, regardless of the place, the sect, or the faith.

4 Stars for this one.

I received this book as an ARC (Advanced Readers Copy) from the publisher, Upper Room Books, in exchange for an honest review.  I have no personal or professional ties with the author or the publisher.

This review will appear in NetGalley.com; Goodreads.com; my personal blog “JonReviewsBooks1.Wordpress.com”.  It will also appear on Amazon.com when the title is opened up for reader reviews.

“Face to Face” by Allison Wright

Stunning portrait photography!!!

Allison Wright has circled the globe to capture the most captivating, culturally diverse, and interesting people on the face of the earth.  A true cross-section of humankind.

I personally believe that Asian people are the most beautiful people on the planet.  Ms. Wright brings a large variety of people from that corner of the world.  I especially believe that those who dwell in the cradle of the Buddhist culture are fascinating, beautiful, and wonderful people.  I think especially of those from Tibet, Nepal, and India.  Their culture is reflected in their beautiful dress and their photographic dispositions.  The camera loves these people.  Whether they are regaled in the robes of royalty, or the rags of the poor, this photographer captured collective beauty of mankind in general.

I highly recommend this book, not only for the beautiful photography, but the underlying lessons of cultures of which we Westerners know far too little.

I received an electronic copy of this book as an ARC from the publisher, with the only expectation being a fair and honest review.  There are no financial connections between the publisher, the author, or this reviewer.  This review will appear on Goodreads.com, Amazon.com, NetGalley.com, and my blog: JonReviewsBooks1.wordpress.com.