Saturday, December 31, 2016

Review: Cold Kiss by Amy Garvey (Cold Kiss, Book One)

Synopsis: It was a beautiful, warm summer day, the day Danny died. Suddenly Wren was alone and shattered. In a heartbroken fury, armed with dark incantations and a secret power, Wren decides that what she wants—what she must do—is to bring Danny back. But the Danny who returns is just a shell of the boy Wren fell in love with. His touch is icy; his skin, smooth and stiff as marble; his chest, cruelly silent when Wren rests her head against it. Wren must keep Danny a secret, hiding him away, visiting him at night, while her life slowly unravels around her. Then Gabriel DeMarnes transfers to her school, and Wren realizes that somehow, inexplicably, he can sense the powers that lie within her—and that he knows what she has done. And now Gabriel wants to help make things right. But Wren alone has to undo what she has wrought—even if it means breaking her heart all over again. (from the inside cover of the book)

Review: I found this book at a thrift shop for about 15 cents. The premise intrigued me. Anyone who has lost a loved one knows how desperately we want them back, how we wish we had the ability to erase death. But in Wren’s case, she has that power.
Unfortunately, the intriguing premise did not carry through the story. The idea of a family-linked power (think electric witchcraft) and an undead boyfriend couldn’t make Wren likable. Granted she is 17 and just lost her first love in a car accident. Being likeable isn’t always possible for a person in that condition. But she spent so much time whining about the wrong things.
And Gabriel – what was his point? As a character, he was flat and clich├ęd. He felt like a plot device more than a person. He could’ve been replaced with a cardboard cutout and nothing in the story would have changed.
The Paranormal aspect is only hinted at, for the most part. Wren is a witch, of sorts, like most of the women in her family. But the focus isn’t her magic or family heritage, so little is explained. This is also used as a plot-point, Wren’s frustration with her Mother’s refuse to speak about the family trait.
Four-Fifths of the book is just Wren rambling. Very little action happens. There is some drama with friends, with her family, with her job, with Gabriel, but for the most part, there is little plot and point.  I’m skimmed whole pages and when I settled back into the story, nothing had happened.

The one redeeming quality of the book was the end. Garvey did a fine job of expressing grief, loss, and love. She captured well the emotions we go through when we let someone go, someone we loved. This doesn’t make the rest of the book any better, but it did make me less annoyed at having read the entire novel. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-199622-1
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 12-29-2016
Pages: 292

Review: Cadre Messiah by Robert O'Riordan (Cadre One, Book Three)

Synopsis: As a young man, Pol Tyrees was the toughest of the Cadre, elite police who mercilessly kept law in the Regnum. Then he learned the mystical way of the Seers and, with extraordinary physical powers at his command, wiped the Regnum clean of corruption. Now worshipped as a god, Tyrees rues the galactic empire he once served. His New Covenant order, spread by Seers, maintains the Regnum in unity and peace. But tranquility cannot last. For two Seers have been murdered and an enemy of the New Covenant is on the loose Now, with the fate of the Regnum in his hands, the invincible Pol Tyrees must search the galaxy for a killer….a traitor whose powers match his own! (from the back of the book)

Review: This book disappointed me. It started well, with Tyree facing personal demons and the burden of ruling an empire. Add to that a murder of similar power who is murdering the Seers, the messengers of the faith. This is an excellent conflict to start a novel with. But from there, it spirals into angst-ridden nonsense and disjointed vignettes.
First, Tyrees acts stupidly. The previous novels demonstrate his power at observations, but twice in this book, he is just dumb, completely missing the obvious.  It was nonsensical to spend two novels to convince the reader of his awesome ability only to have them disappear. It made the villain seem less intense or evil, and more, just a person prospered because Tyrees was an imbecile.
Second, Tyrees’ obsession with Shaamlik and with Cubas seemed a plot device with no purpose. What did they teach us about his character that we didn’t already know? Nothing.
Third, the ending. It was as if O’Riordan got tired of writing, dumped in a few half-formed ideas and ended the book. No closer. No redemption. No understanding of Tyrees, who he was and who he is. Nothing.  Like the last few pages of the book were missing. I felt cheated.

A sad end to an interesting series, really. So much potential, wasted. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-09016-8
Year Published: 1988
Date Finished: 12-28-2016
Pages: 204

Review: Serendipity Books by Stephen Cosgrove

 Synopsis: The Serendipity books are a collection for young children with a moral perspective. Various animals, some real, some imaginative, These creatures had adventures in which they learns important lessons about friendship, fear, moderation, helping, knowing yourself, and ecology. Coupled with cheery colorful illustrations, these stories are particularly made for children ages 3-5.
For this review, I read seven of the series: Trapper, Snaffles, Little Mouse on the Prairie, Hucklebug, Morgan and Mee, Kartusch, and Serendipty.

Review: My mom read me these books as a child and as such, I have a particular endearment for them. When I found these seven in a book shop, and realized I hadn't read any of them, I snagged them, eager to read more of these favorite stories.
Unfortunately, these seven tended towards the sappy and simple, instead of the imaginative and adventurous of the ones my Mom read. Perhaps she picked the best ones. Perhaps it is my own glossy memory of childhood. But the ones like Muffin Muncher, Wheedle on the Needle, Maui-Maui, and The Savepotmus are better. Still, owning these is important to me and I am glad I have them.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

Trapper: 0-8431-0587-9
Snaffles: 0-87191-793-9
Little Mouse on the Prairie: 0-87191-690-8
Hucklebug: 0-87191-657-6
Morgan and Me: 0-8719-660-6
Kartusch: 0-8431-0568-2
Serendipty: 0-87191-662-2

Years Published: 1974-1981
Date Finished: 12-27-2016
Pages: 15 per book

Friday, December 30, 2016

Review: Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies by Cokie Roberts

Synopsis: Fans of number one New York Times bestselling author and celebrated journalist Cokie Roberts will love this stunning nonfiction picture book based on her acclaimed work for adults, Founding Mothers, which highlights the female patriots of the American Revolution. Beautifully illustrated by Caldecott Honor–winning artist Diane Goode, Founding Mothers: Remembering the Ladies reveals the incredible accomplishments of the women who orchestrated the American Revolution behind the scenes. Roberts traces the stories of heroic, patriotic women such as Abigail Adams, Martha Washington, Phillis Wheatley, Mercy Otis Warren, Sarah Livingston Jay, and others. Details are gleaned from their letters, private journals, lists, and ledgers. The bravery of these women’s courageous acts contributed to the founding of America and spurred the founding fathers to make this a country that “remembered the ladies.” This compelling book supports the Common Core State Standards with a rich time line, biographies, an author’s note, and additional web resources in the back matter (from the online description)

Review: This is a collection of short (one-two paragraph) biographies of important women from the Revolutionary War.  Robert’s include the obvious (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams) but I was pleased that she also included Mercy Otis Warren, Eliza Lucas Pinckney, and other less well-known women. The volume contains lively illustrations by Diane Goode and excellent resources for further learning.
I would be careful of considering this historically accurate. Roberts tells the most popular version of the life and stories of these women. These stories often overlook some of the more unpleasant truths about our founding mothers. This book is a good starting point but should not be the sole or absolute source for information on these extraordinary women. Worth owning for any child, but particularly excellent for young girls. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-06-078002-9
Year Published: 2014
Date Finished: 12-26-2016
Pages: 37

Review: Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl by Tonya Bolden

Synopsis: Based on an actual memoir written by Maritcha Rimond Lyons, who was born and raised in New York City, this poignant story tells what it was like to be a black child born free during the days of slavery. Everyday experiences are interspersed with high-point moments, such as visiting the U.S.'s first world's fair. Also included are the Draft Riots of 1863, when Maritcha and her siblings fled to Brooklyn while her parents stayed behind to protect their home. The book concludes with her fight to attend a whites-only high school in Providence, Rhode Island, and her triumphant victory, making her the first black person in its graduating class. The book includes photographs of Maritcha, her family, and friends, as well as archival and contemporary maps, photographs, and illustrations. (from the online description)

Review: Bolden's biography of Maritcha Lyons introduces the reader to young girl of profound courage, resilience, and intellect. Born in Manhattan in 1848, Lyons grew up amid New York City’s thriving black community. Connected to many prominent citizens, she witnesses the Underground Railroad (her parents were conductors), the struggle to end slavery, and the abuse of the black citizens of America. Her family fled New York during the New York Draft Riots of 1863 and settled in Providence, where she was part of the legislation to desegregate the local girls High School. 

Bolden does an excellent job of weaving her narrative text with the documents and pictures of Lyon’s life. With clear, accessible prose, she opens up not only the life of this girl but the life of blacks in New York during the mid-1800s. I highly recommend this book for any mid-grade non-fiction reading, and in particular, young girls will find Maritcha’s life inspiring and uplifting. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: James Madison Book Award Winner / Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book /  YALSA Best Book for Young Adults / ALSC Notable Children’s Book / NAPPA Gold Award Winner / CCBC Best Book of the Year / New York Public Library “Book for the Teen Age”

ISBN: 0-8109-5045-6
Year Published: 2005
Date Finished: 12-26-2016
Pages: 47

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review: Medicine: The Art of Healing by Sherwin B. Nuland

Synopsis: Art is as timeless as it is wordless. In this it differs from medical science, which is uniquely of and for its time, and which has always required a literal articulation to be fully understood. Perhaps these very differences explain why two such seemingly disparate fields should naturally complement each other. As Medicine: The Art of Healing beautifully demonstrates, art and medicine belong together. The forty eight splendid colorplates in this book illustrate how the progress of medicine has been recorded in art, with works from illuminated manuscripts and tapestries of the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, anatomical drawings from the Renaissance, satirical drawings of the great eighteenth- and nineteenth-century caricaturists, and much, much more. Masterpieces by great artists, such a Raphael, Poussin, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Hogarth, Goya, Daumier, and Munch, are amply represented.  But also, vitally important medical art by ancient and unknown hands has been deservedly featured. The result is a volume as visually varied as it is fascinating. Each of the superb color reproductions is accompanied by an enlightening commentary by the medical historian Sherwin B. Nuland. The historical, scientific, and social significance of the medical breakthroughs and procedures, along with the personalities of both physicians and artists, are vividly described in the test, which always serves to relate the healing art to the visual arts, and vice versa. (from the inside cover of the book)

Review: Being that I have an interest in art, history, and medicine, I was delighted to find this book in thrift store for mere pennies. Nuland is widely known for his writing on the social and historical aspects of medicine, and here he applies that expertise to the depiction of medicine in art throughout history.  Carefully chosen art is accompanied by short text that explain the artist, the time, the medical procedure, and the doctors.
I found the text disappointingly short, wanting more science and medicine, and even, about how the picture was received. But Nuland errs on the side of brevity and we are given only snippets of tantalizing explanations of the picture. Several are familiar (i.e. Vesalius’ Muscle-Man) but others are ones I have never encountered before and found interesting.
For anyone interested in medicine, art, and the place they meet, this is a must read. Not worth the suggested price of $35, to be sure, but for a few dollars, this entertaining volume would make a fine addition to any artist’s or physician’s bookshelf.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN 0-88363-29-6
Year Published: 1992
Date Finished: 12-26-2016
Pages: 115

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, Volume One by Kyle Higgins et al.

Synopsis: The forecast in Angel Grove today calls for sunshine and a chance of... monsters from space? Longtime fans of the smash-hit show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and newcomers to this ensemble driven series, will discover a deeply compelling world packed with highflying adventure and tremendous heart. Welcome to Angel Grove. Home to the Power Rangers and weekly monster attacks. Tommy Oliver was the new kid in town when evil doer, Rita Repulsa, swooped in and made him the Green Ranger. Now, free from her mind control, Tommy struggles to find balance between the plights of high school, making new friends, and the dangers that come with being a hero. Writer Kyle Higgins (C.O.W.L., Nightwing) and artist Hendry Prasetya (Voodoo vs. Green Lantern) explore the untold story in the life of the Green Ranger as he struggles to overcome his demons and learns to trust again. This collection also features short stories from Steve Orlando (Midnighter), Corin Howell (Bat-Mite), Mairghread Scott (Transformers:Windblade) and Daniel Bayliss (Kennel Block Blues) (from the online description)

Review:  I’m a bit late to the Power Ranger Fandom, being that I didn’t watch my first episode until after I married a man who spent large chunks of his childhood watching/re-enacting Power Rangers. The premise had so much potential but the show wastes it on cheesy fights, shallow characters, and ridiculous dialogue.
The graphic novel almost redeems that. Although we see tried-n-true (or worn-out) superhero tropes as the bases for the story, there is more depth here than I expected. Tommy, with his PTSD, the conflict of leadership, Billy with his self-doubt, these all had dimensions not seen in the show. And the fights – so much better. There is a sense of actual danger and violence. The Zords actually seem useful.  There was a bit of darkness to the story, and that had always been what is missing from the show. There is so much potential for a gritty, violent, story line and I hope the graphic novel creates that.
I enjoyed this story far more than I anticipated and I’m eager to read the second installment.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60886-893-3
Year Published:  2016
Date Finished: 12-23-2016
Pages: N/A

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Review: Doing Our Part: American Women on the Home Front During World War II by Susan Sinnott

Synopsis: During World War II, the rigid lines between men's and women's work were challenged. While men were away at war, women were asked to help their country by taking jobs that were once considered male occupations. (from the online description)

Review: This is a sharp, intelligent book that discusses how American women meet the challenges of being at home during World War II. With fifteen million American men overseas and the vast industrial giant of America charging headlong into the production of planes, ships, jeeps, ammunition, and other requires war supplies. Women, who had only before been relegated to teaching and shop-clerk, suddenly found themselves welding, riveting, accounting, using metal pattern machines and manufacturing ammunition.
Sinnott highlights the obstacles women faced. Women who had never before managed money, held their own bank accounts, written their own checks, where suddenly managing the finances for their households. Working 8-10 hour shifts, they also were expected to maintain pristine homes and supply home cooked meals, forged from coupon rationing and limited supplies They need to care for children, knit socks for soldiers, buy bonds, work in factories – and look pretty while doing it. It was exhausting work, but it also introduced women to a wider world, a world of freedom and independence and gave them self-confidence. Nothing would ever be the same.
Sinnott’s prose is interspersed with pictures of women working, advertisements, celebrities, and other historical pictures. The pictures help bring the prose to life. Sinnott’s writing is clear and accessible, but has a bitter tinge to it. She clearly feels that the women were treated poorly, that the impossible was expected of them, and they received only disrespect and mockery when it was over.

This is an excellent book on this subject but I would advise to include discussion on the subject with young readers. It is important to temper Sinnott’s bitterness with understanding and to explain why and how these things were, how they have changed, and how they have not. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-531-20198-8
Year Published: 1995
Date Finished: 12-26-2016
Pages: 63

Review: The Mythology of the Superhero by Andrew R. Bahlmann

Synopsis: Superheroes have been an integral part of popular society for decades and have given rise to a collective mythology familiar in popular culture worldwide. Though scholars and fans have recognized and commented on this mythology, its structure has gone largely unexplored. This book provides a model and lexicon for identifying the superhero mythos. The author examines the myth in several narratives--including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Green Arrow and Beowulf--and discusses such diverse characters as Batman, Wolverine, Invincible and John Constantine. (from the back of the book)
Review: I wrote my undergrad thesis on myth and fairy tale in Disney movies, and as such, read extensively about mythology in popular culture. This is one of the better books. With accessible prose, clear organization, logical points, and careful scholarship, Bahlmann intelligently explains the modern mythology of the superhero.
He begins by explaining what makes a superhero mythological – using “tropes” found in classic mythology, updated for the new era.  Tropes like Androcentric, Codename, Sidekick, Justice over Law, and Orphan. He builds a framework for identify stories of the new mythology. In the subsequent chapters, he then applies this framework to several characters or groups of characters: Green Arrow, Buffy, Alphas, and Beowulf. He does not make an argument for or against (indeed he states that is not the purpose of the book) but simply shows how one might use the framework to identify, understand, and study superheroes as the new mythology.
He pulls his examples from a wide range of sources – comic books, of course, but also video games, television, and film. He clearly has extensive knowledge of superhero stories. In addition, he quotes scholars of mythology and popular cultures, including J. R. R. Tolkien, Joseph Campbell, and Arthur C. Clarke – as well as those currently studying this topic. This increased the value of his supplemental information, which includes a complete list of superhero tropes.
For anyone who enjoys superheroes or intellectual analysis of pop culture, I highly recommend this book. Fascinating and thought-provoking, it’s worth the time to read.

Note: I received this free as part of LibraryThing’s Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-476-6624-80
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 12-23-2016
Pages: 203

Monday, December 26, 2016

Review: Cadre Lucifer by Robert O'Riordan (Cadre, Book Two)

Synopsis: Nobody’s safe when the most ruthless cop in the galaxy turns renegade. Meet Pol Tyrees. A member of the elite Cadre. He was the best of the best, and he was the law. Groomed since childhood for the job, Pol was merciless and cold efficient in stalking his prey – human vermin, criminals and traitors. Then, a mystical Seer on the distant planet Tercet shattered Pol’s faith in the galactic Regnum, and gave him warrior skills he never dreamed possible. Now he’s no longer hunting down criminals in the dark corners of the galaxy. He’s after bigger game – the corrupt government he once served blindly; that sacrificed his grandfather to its whims; the government that created him. No one is safe. For Pol Tyrees is still the best. (from the back of the book)

Review: This is the second in O’Riordan’s Cadre series and follows Pol Tyrees after his dramatic split from the Cadre. As I have remarked before regarding older science-fiction, there is less action and more sitting around, thinking. The characters spend much time discussing how best to accomplish their goals. The main idea centers on the necessity to kill innocents to accomplish these goals, and the mental and emotional fall-out from those actions. Tyrees, in particular, struggles with the idea that he must take life to bring freedom to the galaxy.
This isn’t to say there is no action in the story. There is plenty. Space battles and battles of wits, battles of desire and duty.  In particular, the battle that leads to the acquisition of the lone female character. Often older sci-fi have caricatures of women; whore, damsel in distress, warrior etc. But O’Riordan manages, roughly, to have a female character of some complexity and depth.
The ending seemed unique to me. I honestly had no idea what was going to happen. Our intrepid heroes found themselves in very dire straits, victory impossible, and defeat already at hand. I liked it. It had the potential to be trite and weak, but O’Riordan made it fitting and interesting.  Be aware, the novel ends of cliff-hanger, of sorts. Probably best to have the final book sitting next to you. 

Overall, this is a fine continuation of the series, and worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-09019-2
Year Published: 1987
Date Finished: 12-22-2016
Pages: 202

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Review: Diary of an Old Soul by George MacDonald

Synopsis: In this new edition of a popular classic, George MacDonald offers a prayer for each day of the year, reflecting on some aspect of God’s relationship with us. These simple but deep prayers continue to reveal new meaning after many readings. Instrumental in the conversion of C. S. Lewis, MacDonald is a writer with a deep understanding of the personal relationship between God and the individual Christian. (from the back of the book)

Review: I started reading these one a night, but ended up reading them in several large chunks, mostly due to their nature. Often, several days or even months would feel like a long poem or train of thought. I would get caught up in their poignant beauty and palatable truth. Each prayer was short, only a few lines, but compact with ideas to ruminant upon. I had many that struck me hard, but my favorite prayers are as follows:
July 17
I cannot tell why this day I am ill;
But I well because it is they will –
Which is to make me pure and right like thee.
Not yet I need escape – ‘tis bearable
Because thou knowest. And when harder things
Shall rise and gather, and overshadow me,
I shall have comfort in thy strengthening
June 20
But now the Spirit and I are on in this –
My hunger now is after righteousness;
My spirit hopes in God to set me free
From the low self loathed of higher me
Great elder brother of my second birth
Dear  o’er all names but one, in heaven or earth
Teach me all day to love eternally
May 27
So bound in selfishness am I, so chained,
I know it must be glorious to be free
But know not what, full-fraught, the word doth mean;
By loss on loss I have several gained
Wisdom enough my slavery to see;
But liberty, pure, absolute, serene
No freest-visioned slave has ever seen.
February 2
The worst power of an evil mood is this –
It makes the bastard self seem in the right,
Self, self the end, the goal of human bliss.
But if the Christ-self in us be the might
Of saving God, why should I spend my force
With a dark thing to reason of the light  -
Not push it rough aside, and hold obedient course?

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8066-2734-4
Year Published: Late 1800s (This Edition 1994)
Date Finished: 12-18-2016
Pages: 128

Friday, December 23, 2016

Review: The Power of the Blood of Christ by Andrew Murray

Synopsis: In this classic exploration of the Scriptures, Andrew Murray leads the reader to a complete understanding of the significance and reality of the power of the shed blood of Christ. Astounding results can take place in your life once you have learned about the power of the blood of Jesus and how to use it in coping with life's difficult situations. This mighty weapon of spiritual warfare holds the secret to a victorious life. (from the back of the book)

Review: Andrew Murray is one of my go-to authors for sound, Bible-based, Spirit-lead, hard-hitting instruction, admonition, and exposition. So it is with a disappointed mind that I give this book such a low rating. To be clear, there is nothing theological questionable in this book. Far from it. His explanation on the power of the Blood of Christ is solid and true. It is the prose that I found difficult. Circular and repetitive, his prose, will true, seem to spend most of the time saying the same idea over and over, just using slightly different words.  He doesn’t use large word or complex vocabulary, preferring simple words and sentences, so the ideas he puts forth as accessible to anyone of average understanding. But his passion for his topic overshadows his literary abilities and his ideas often get lost in a tangle of repetitive jargon.
Andrew Murray is always worth the time to read, but be mindful that this particular work may take more patience. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60374-238-2
Year Published: Late 1800s (This Edition 1993)
Date Finished: 12-18-2016
Pages: 169

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Review: The Gothic Tradition in Supernatural: Essays on the Television Series by Melissa Edmundson

Synopsis: The CW's long-running series Supernatural follows the adventures of brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they pursue the "family business" of hunting supernatural beings. Blending monster-of-the-week storylines with the unfolding saga of the brothers' often troubled relationship, the show represents Gothic concerns of anxiety, the monstrous, family trauma and, of course, the supernatural. The lines between human and monster, good and evil, are blurred and individual identities and motivations resist easy categorization. This collection of new essays examines how the series both incorporates and complicates Gothic elements related to traditional tropes, storytelling, women and gender issues and monstrosity. (from the back of the book)

Review: How could I resist a book about two of my favorite things: Gothic Literature and Dean Winchest….er…. I mean, Supernatural. Melissa Edmundson gathered a fine collection of scholars noted for their research on horror, popular culture, the gothic trope, and gender. From that group comes an anthology of essays that explore these issues in the popular television show Supernatural. Known for its revision of the horror trope, the homosexual undertones, the multiple deaths of the main characters, and its wide-spread and ardent fandom, Supernatural practically begs to be the subject of a collection of essays on the gothic in television.  The essays are divided into four groups: Gothic Tropes and Traditions, Gothic Storytelling, Gothic Women: Heroes and Victims, and Gothic Other: Monstrous Selves. Ranging in subject from the Chicana Ghost to the Impala as Castle, these essays explore, in depth, some of the great Gothic traditions as they appear in Supernatural – both in perfection and in their difference. The scholarship is hit or miss, some excellent essays, some just long strings of pycho-babble. But most of the essays are composed of accessible prose and logical points, if a little heavy on the literary jargon. For anyone who enjoys intellectual analysis of pop culture, horror and gothic literature, or Dean Winchesters fine, fine ass-ets, this is the book for you.
Note: I rece

Note: I received this book free as part of LibraryThing’s Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.
Bookmarks: 7 of 10
Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7864-9976-2
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished:  12-16-2016
Pages: 193

Friday, December 16, 2016

Review: Live Reflectively: Lessons from the Watershed Moments of Moses by Lenya Heitzig

Synopsis: Twenty minutes a day to a deeper understanding of God's presence in your life. He was saved from death on the Nile and raised as an Egyptian prince. He met his wife at a Midianite well, witnessed the birth of a nation as the Red Sea parted, and watched water gush from a rock with one touch of his rod. He died overlooking the Jordan River. In fact, Moses’s entire life can be viewed through the water that redirected him. In this engaging study, Bible teacher Lenya Heitzig encourages you to consider the “watershed” moments in your own spiritual journey. Each day’s lesson is structured in five parts: Lift up (prayer), Look at (God’s Word) , Learn about (new insights), Live out (application), Listen to (quotes from other believers). The Fresh Life series was created by women, for women—women who crave a profound experience of God’s Word without an overwhelming commitment of time. With each lesson, you will come to a deeper understanding of the truths of the Bible and develop a deeper intimacy with God. (from the online description)

Review: This is the third Lenya Heitzig Bible Study I have participated in. In comparison to others, these studies tend to be better than most. However, like most Bible Studies written for women, it lacks depth and promotes a Jesus-is-my-therapist approach to the Christian Life. She quotes great Christian authors like Mathew Henry and Martin Luther, but the hard truth those authors often spoke of does appear in the general prose or questions. Chapters begin with trivial anecdotes that pull things from the text that are a stretch. The questions do not dig deep and often focus on self and what Jesus can do for us. There is little talk about repentance, sin, or sacrifice.
The study of scripture is important and the fellowship that comes from doing it together is vital. I encourage every Christian women to be involved in a Bible Study. And Heitzig’s studies are not bad. But there is more out there, more depth, more soul-searching, harder truths to be found.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-7814-0593-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 12-4-2016
Pages: 286

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Review: The Intellectual Devotional: Health - Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Digest a Daily Dose of Wellness Wisdom by David S. Kidder and Noah D. Oppenheim

Synopsis: In this fourth installment of the New York Times best-selling Intellectual Devotional series, authors Noah Oppenheim and David Kidder have partnered with Bruce K. Young, MD, to offer a year's worth of medical knowledge and wellness wisdom. Each daily dose in this infectious volume offers insight into the mysterious terrain of the human body and the factors that impact its constitution.
Drawn from seven diverse categories, including lifestyle and preventive medicine; the mind; medical milestones; drugs and alternative treatments; sexuality and reproduction; diseases and ailments; and children and adolescents, these 365 entries are as informative as they are functional. From aspirin to the x-ray, headaches to Hippocrates, Viagra to influenza, The Intellectual Devotional: Health will revive the mind and rejuvenate the body. Sure to please devoted intellectuals and newcomers alike, this timely volume sheds new light on an endlessly fascinating subject: ourselves. (from the online description)

Review: I enjoyed this format and concept. But perhaps it is because the information is almost a decade old, but some of it was out-of-date and other, just wrong. Particularly the nutrition advice. Other than that, this covers a wide range health and wellness topics - history of medicine and procedures, anatomy, medicines, treatments, and famous doctors. It is interesting, and uses clear prose, without a lot of jargon. Excellent book to read in the line at the grocery store or while waiting for the clerk at the post-office.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-60529-949-5
Year Published: 2009
Date Finished: 12-04-2016
Pages: 374

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Review: Cadre One by Robert O'Riordan (Cadre, Book One)

Synopsis: The Galactic Killer Elite: Since his childhood, Pol Tyrees was groomed for the Cadre, the intergalactic super-police force. And as a cadre officer, he carried out each task emotionlessly ad efficiently, whether it was investigating shady deals, interrogating prisoners, or killing traitors. But during an assignment on remote Tercet, one of that planet’s mystic Seers taught him a whole new way of thinking. And Pol began to ask questions – questions that brought him into direct conflict with the Cadre. (from the back of the book)

Review: I found this, and its sequel buried at the bottom of a shelf in the back of a small shop in Mount Vernon, Washington. It could tell it was just my sort of fluff: cheesy military science fiction published in 1986. And it did not disappoint. Conspiracies and traitors, assassins and intrigue, bouncy-boobed blondes and brooding officials, physical violence and men in black. It even had the required fight in which the combatants worn only loincloths! I can see it in my mind in all its 80s glory! 

The cheese aside, the story is fast-paced and well-told. The character of Pol Tyrees is sufficiently complex to carry the plot. There is a bit more telling than showing of what the characters are thinking and doing, but it do not detract from the story.

This is a fun, science fiction read, entertaining and even thought provoking at times. Particularly when they start getting into the use of the media in a galactic conspiracy…

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-441-09022-2
Year Published: 1986
Date Finished: 11-26-2016

Pages: 263

Monday, December 12, 2016

Review: Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo

Synopsis: No one remembers where they came from or where they're going. For hundreds of years, the starship Argonos, home to generations of humans, has wandered throughout the galaxy, searching for other signs of life. Now, a steady, unidentified transmission lures them toward a nearby planet, where remnants of shocking brutality will send the ship reeling into deep space-and into a haunting alien mystery. (from the online description)

Review: I read this as part of a November Ship Them Fools read hosted by Red Star Reviews. Horror is a new genre for me, so one set in space seemed just my sort.
This was creepy - less because of the monster (who is alluded to more than shown) but creepy because of the characters and the volatile nature of humans when we are afraid. Often, it was the characters who scared me more than the monster. The idea of being trapped on the Argonos for generations, the unknown, the inability to escape, the darkness inside the people who live there – that is the true terror to me. Russo did an excellent job of creating a creepy, suspenseful world.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: Philip K. Dick Award, 2001

ISBN: 0-441-00798-8
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 11-20-2016
Pages: 370

Friday, December 9, 2016

Review: The Complete Guide to Fasting: Heal Your Body Through Intermittent, Alternate-Day, and Extended Fasting by Jason Fung, M.D. with Jimmy Moore

Synopsis: Thousands of books have been written about the latest and greatest diets that will help people lose weight and improve health. But a key element in any successful nutritional health program is a tried-and-true method that most people haven’t thought about—yet it could be revolutionary for taking health to the next level. This ancient secret is fasting.
 Fasting is not about starving oneself. When done right, it’s an incredibly effective therapeutic approach that produces amazing results regardless of diet plan. In fact, Toronto-based nephrologist Dr. Jason Fung has used a variety of fasting protocols with more than 1,000 patients, with fantastic success. In The Complete Guide to Fasting, he has teamed up with international bestselling author and veteran health podcaster Jimmy Moore to explain what fasting is really about, why it’s so important, and how to fast in a way that improves health. Together, they make fasting as a therapeutic approach both practical and easy to understand.

The Complete Guide to Fasting explains:

• why fasting is actually good for health
• who can benefit from fasting (and who won’t)
• the history of fasting
• the various ways to fast: intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting
• what to expect when starting to fast
• how to track progress while fasting
• the weight loss effects of fasting
• how to ward off potential negative effects from fasting

The book also provides tools to help readers get started and get through their fasts, including a 7-Day Kick-Start Fasting Plan and healing liquid recipes. (from the online description)

Review: Jimmy Moore is a leader in the HFLC world. He is also someone who puts his money where his mouth is - excuse the pun - meaning, he follows his own advice. Alone with Dr. Jason Fung, they have teamed up to write a book about the benefits of fasting.
Personally, I already knew that fasting was good for the body. My own experiments with it have proven that true. But I wanted to know more about the science and methods. This book delivers both. Using clear language, neither muddled with medical jargon nor watered down for the masses, Dr. Fung writes about his own research and experiments with fasting as method for treating Type II Diabetes. He goes over the how and whys and gives strategies for how to start fasting. There are even recipes for when the fast is over! And each chapter had at least a page of articles and studies published in reputable scientific sources to give credence to his assertions.
I highly recommend this book if you are considering this as a management tool for diabetes, or even just for weight loss. The few attempts I’ve made at his method have gone very well and I am pleased with the results!

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-62800-01-8
Year Published: 2016

Date Read: 11-5-2016

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Review: The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee (The Birthgrave Trilogy, Book I)

Synopsis: A mysterious woman awakens in the heart of a dormant volcano. She comes forth into a brutal ancient world transformed by genocidal pestilence, fierce beauty, and cultural devastation. She has no memory of herself, and she could be anyone—mortal woman, demoness lover, last living heir to a long-gone race, or a goddess of destruction. Compelled by the terrifying Karrakaz to search for the mysterious Jade that is the answer to her secret self, she embarks on a journey of timeless wonder. (from the online description)

Review:I read this as part of First Author Contact hosted by Red StarReviews and MillieBot Reads on Instagram. I have read Tanith Lee before, but it was a collection of short stories. This was my first exposure to a novel by her. 
It was good - different than my normal reading - which I appreciated. Her characters were complex and terrifying in their realness, and the twist and turns of the plot kept me hooked. Lee explored gender and relationship issues, but not in an overt way. It was more part of the overarching exploration of the main character, and her search for self.
The ending was weird and I am still not sure what I think about it. It was incongruous with the rest of the novel, but it also connected.
I'm thankful for the exposure and the expansion of my reading habits. I will be purchasing, at some point, the sequel. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: Nominated, Nebula Award, 1975

Year Published: 1975
Date Finished: 10-31-2016
Pages: 408

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Review: Kamikaze Kaito Jeanne by Arina Tanemura (Volumes 1-7)

Synopsis: By day, Kusakabe Maron is an ordinary high school girl with more than her share of problems. But by night, she is Kamikaze Kaitou Jeannereincarnation of Joan of Arc! Her mission? Hunt down demonpossessed paintings and exorcise the evil spirits! But accomplishing this mission puts her in conflict with the authorities who only see her as a mysterious stranger vandalizing works of art. With only the help of angel-in-training Finn, she must survive high school during the day and fight evil by night! (from the online description)

Review: I picked up the first six volumes of these seven volume set at a booksale, for dirt cheap. That was my only introduction to it before I jumped in. I like the premise - the idea of demons in paintings - and that Jeanne (or Maron) goes to save them. The God/Lucifer stuff was a bit weird - and the angel stuff seemed rather random. But it was entertaining and amusing, as is, and I enjoyed reading it. I might not gush enthusiastic about it, but it was fine.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

Year Published: 1998
Date Finished: 10-30-2016
Pages: N/A

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: Thrice the Brinded Cat Hath Mew'd by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, Book 8)

Synopsis: In spite of being ejected from Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Canada, twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce is excited to be sailing home to England. But instead of a joyous homecoming, she is greeted on the docks with unfortunate news: Her father has fallen ill, and a hospital visit will have to wait while he rests. But with Flavia’s blasted sisters and insufferable cousin underfoot, Buckshaw now seems both too empty—and not empty enough. Only too eager to run an errand for the vicar’s wife, Flavia hops on her trusty bicycle, Gladys, to deliver a message to a reclusive wood-carver. Finding the front door ajar, Flavia enters and stumbles upon the poor man’s body hanging upside down on the back of his bedroom door. The only living creature in the house is a feline that shows little interest in the disturbing scene. Curiosity may not kill this cat, but Flavia is energized at the prospect of a new investigation. It’s amazing what the discovery of a corpse can do for one’s spirits. But what awaits Flavia will shake her to the very core. (from the back of the book)

Review: ALAN, WHY MUST YOU TEAR OUT OUR HEARTS!?! It's a good book, but only read it if you like having all the feels.

Note: My review is based on the audio book, as read by Jayne Entwistle.

ISBN: 978-0-449-80765-1
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 10-24-2016
Pages: N/A

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: Has Christianity Failed You? by Ravi Zacharias

Synopsis: In this landmark new book, acclaimed apologist Ravi Zacharias explores the hard questions about what it means and what it takes to be a follower of Jesus Christ. With unflinching honesty and biblical wisdom, he addresses the most common struggles he hears from both skeptics and Christians alike. Your journey for answers about what exactly you believe, and what you don’t. and about how you can reconcile your real-world doubts with genuine faith, starts today. (from the inside cover)

Review: Address to those spent time in the church and believed in Jesus, but for some reason, left. Zacharias meanders a bit in his explanations, but he manages in the end to make his point - that it is often out misunderstanding of who Jesus is and what being a Christian means. He explains that it is often the frailty and sins of humans, the sin of the church, and our own sin that makes it seem as if Jesus has failed us. Worth reading.

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-310-26955-7
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 10-24-2016
Pages: 234

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Review: Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias

Synopsis: In this brilliant and compelling defense of the Christian faith, Ravi Zacharias shows how affirming the reality of God's existence matters urgently in our everyday lives. According to Zacharias, how you answer the questions of God's existence will impact your relationship with others, your commitment to integrity, your attitude toward morality, and your perception of truth. (from the online description)

Review: Ravi Zacharias is perhaps the foremost Christian apologetics of the current age. This book is a written transcript, edited for readability, of his many lectures on the nature of Christianity. Zacharias's work is intellectual, but accessible to someone who isn't well studied in philosophy or ethics. While he tends to wander, and it may take him a few chapters to get to his original point, but every paragraph is worth reading. He moves the reader through a philosophical look at some of the questions against Christianity and how to logically counter those questions.
But rather than expound on the details, I’ve included a collection of my favorite quotes from the book: 

“Antitheism provides every reason to be immoral and is bereft of any objective point of reference with which to condemn any choice. “ pg 32

“If life itself is purposeless, ethics falls into disarray. As Dostoevsky said, if God is dead everything is justifiable.” Pg. 39
“That scrutiny in search of truth is demanded before one submits to the  claims of any religion. But here is the point: Why is that same scrutiny not given to the thinking that directs a life lived without God? In short, where is antitheism when it hurts?” Pg. 50
I say to you with emphasis that the older you get, the more it takes to fill our heart with wonder, and only God is big enough to do that.” Pg. 89
The answer is both subtle and daring. The fundamental problem Jesus was exposing to Pilate and to the world is not the paucy of available truth; it is more often the hypocrisy of our search. Truthfulness in the heart, said Jesus, precedes truth in the objective realm. Intent is prior to content. The most provocative statement Jesus made during that penetrating conversation was that the truthfulness or falsity of an individual’s heart was revealed by that person’s response to Him. The implication was uncompromising. He was, and is, the truth. What you do with Him reveals more about you than it does about Him.” Pg. 98
“Realistically, what passes for love today would be more aptly described as self-gratification or indulgence.” Pg.  105
“Once  true love is understood, the world is opened up to a heartwarming truth. Love and sacrifice go together, and in the spending of love is the enriching of the spirit. The more one consumes love selfishly, the more wretched and impoverished one becomes.” Pg. 107
“D.H. Lawrence was right when he said the deepest hunger of the human heart goes beyond love – Jesus called that “beyond” worship. And Wolfe was right: there is that sense of cosmic loneliness apart from God. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life, and that you may have it more abundantly” (John 10: 10 NKJV). In Christ that loneliness is conquered as the hungers of the human heart are met and the struggles of the intellect are answered.” Pg. 112
“It is absolutely imperative to understand that when an antagonist of the Christian faith poses a question of the Christian, he or she must, in turn, be willing first to justify the questions within the context of his or her own presuppositions. Second, he or she must also answer the question on the basis of those presuppositions. In other words, the questioner is also obliged to answer the same question. An attitude that says, “You can’t answer my question, and therefore I can believe whatever I want to believe, “ is intellectual hypocrisy.” Pg. 126

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8499-3943-7
Year Published: 1994
Date Finished: 10-7-2016
Pages: 219

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Synopsis: A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow-impossible though it seems-they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. (from the inside of the cover)

Review: The premise of this story intrigued me, in particular, the use of the vintage photographs. Originally, Riggs wanted to do a picture book of the strange photographs, but after collecting them, a story immerged and he wrote this book.
My other reason for picking up this book is a bit more personal. My best friend went to high school with the author, and I spent time in Sarasota, where the author grew up and where the first part of the book takes place. Riggs described Florida as only a true Floridian can. The nuance is impeccable. It was like being back in the fine city.
As for the story, it was complex, amusing, scary, and suspenseful. Riggs accurately depicts the mind and actions of a teenage boy. Told from the viewpoint of Jacob, we follow him from Sarasota to the small island near England, as he searches for answers to the death of his beloved Grandfather. There, he finds pieces to his past, his family – and himself.
With a delightful macabre, a lighthearted strangeness, and a ghoulish heart, this story explores prejudice, history, family, and what makes us who we are. This story is complex enough for adults, but tame enough for middle-school aged readers. Worth reading, particularly for a chilly winter night. 

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None (although it spend many weeks as a #1 New York Times Bestseller)

ISBN: 978-1-59474-476-1
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 10-7-2016
Pages: 352

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Review: After Such Knowledge, What Forgiveness?: My Encounters with Kurdistan by Jonathan Randal

Synopsis: Throughout the Kurd’s history, world powers have promised to help them achieve autonomy, and each time the Kurds have been betrayed. But they are also maters of betrayal. In this book, Jonathan Randal takes us behind the headlines to the inner story of power politics in the Middle East. His sympathetic knowledge of Kurdish history and his unparalleled access to Kurdish leaders and to diplomats, ministers, intelligence agents, warriors, and journalists make him the only writer able to get this story for us and uncover the truth. (from the back of the book)

Review: After reading A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the IslamicState by Meredith Tax, I wanted to continue my acquisition of knowledge on the Kurds. I’ve had Randal’s book in my library for at least a decade. No idea why but I’m glad I kept it through all the purges.
Randal actually traveled to Kurdistan, at great peril, several times, during the 90s. As a seasoned journalist for both the New York Times and the Washington Post, he undertook this adventure with a practiced eye for detail. It shows. His ability to get close to key players in the events of the 90s (including the Gulf War) make this story part-history, part-adventure story. Randal gives the reader a simple but thorough history of the Kurdish people, and includes, in no uncertain terms, the constant conflict, betrayals, and lost chances for autonomy. He doesn’t take sides. All players are equally to blame. The Kurds themselves are often both victim and perpetrator.  Randal is a clear, concise, and thorough writer, excellent for both the academic and the amateur.
My only regret is that this book was published in 1999 – and I’m interested in Randal’s thoughts on the current situations, nearly 20 years later. But, given he was in his 40s and 50s during this book, it is unlikely he would undertake the same journey  in his 70s. This is unfortunate, as his practice eye and experiences would bring to light stories we aren’t going to hear otherwise. While it doesn’t include current events, those events are directly related to what Randal describes in the book. And to understand the present condition of the Kurdish people, one must look to their past.
Recommended for anyone interested in some of the roots of the current condition in the Middle East, particularly those that pertain to the Kurdish situation, and the war in Syria. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8133-3580-9
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 10-5-2016
Pages: 356

Monday, October 10, 2016

Review: A Road Unforeseen: Women Fight the Islamic State by Meredith Tax

Synopsis: In war-torn northern Syria, a democratic society—based on secularism, ethnic inclusiveness, and gender equality—has won significant victories against the Islamic State, or Daesh, with women on the front lines as fierce warriors and leaders. A Road Unforeseen recounts the dramatic, underreported history of the Rojava Kurds, whose all-women militia was instrumental in the perilous mountaintop rescue of tens of thousands of civilians besieged in Iraq. Up to that point, the Islamic State had seemed invincible. Yet these women helped vanquish them, bringing the first half of the refugees to safety within twenty-four hours. Who are the revolutionary women of Rojava and what lessons can we learn from their heroic story? How does their political philosophy differ from that of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Islamic State, and Turkey? And will the politics of the twenty-first century be shaped by the opposition between these political models? (from the online description)

Review: I originally learned of the Kurdish female military from a BBC special. They fascinated me. So when this book presented itself, I eagerly requested to read it.
I was disappointed. But I’ll get to why in a moment. First, the parts of Tax’s writing that are excellent. This is a thoroughly researched history of the Kurds, starting with their origins and ending with the events that took place in the summer of 2016. With exquisite detail, she takes the reader through the intricate and delicate tides of the Middle East, the constant betrayals, the shifting alliances, the war, the death, and the meddling by outside forces. Tax clearly has an analytical mind and a passion to see the story of the Kurds told to the world.  
Here is why it was disappointing: for a book about women fighting the Islamic State, there is so little about these brave women. Tax includes minute vignettes about women who resisted, women who engaged in the politics, and women in the military hierarchy and political counsels, and pays particular attention to the Rojava, a governmental system created and run by an egalitarian mix of men and women. But large tracts of the book deal nothing with them, but rattle on about the men and nations surrounding them. The book includes limited information about how they function in the military, their life, journeys, training, and families – but no details.  Perhaps because there is so little out there – plausible because there is little about women’s experience in general  but even less about women in the Middle East, and of Middle Eastern women, the Kurds are some of the least represented and least contacted group in the region. But to have so little about women in a book dedicated to that subject is misleading.
One of the main complaints about history books is how the leave out the female contribution. While Tax’s book is not a history of the Kurdish female military, it is a complete history of the Kurds, because it includes the female experience.  This is a complete experience. This book should not advertise itself as a book about women in the Kurdish military – but as a current history on the plight of the Kurds. If I were going to teach a class on the condition of the Kurdish people, this is text I would choose. But not for a class on women in the Kurdish nation – it simple doesn’t focus on them enough to qualify. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Reviewer Program in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-942658-10-8
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 10-4-2016
Pages: 321

Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: Tozer on the Almight God: A 366-Day Devotional compiled by Ron Eggert

Synopsis: These excerpts from A.W. Tozer's prolific pen reflect Tozer's hunger for God. There are 366 daily devotions encouraging the reader to trust, obey and especially worship our almighty God. Scripture references and prayers have been added to each passage. Reference codes represent the name of the book and the page from which the quote was taken. (from the online description)

Review: After discovering Tozer in early high-school, I continued to read him voraciously. Reading this each morning, along with my Bible, helped me grow, spiritually. Tozer’s insight, instruction, and admonishments for our relationship with God proved singularly encouraging.  

Ron Eggert pulled these devotionals from many of Tozer’s writings, including some of his lesser known workers. Ranging in subject from worship to the Holy Spirit to daily discipleship, Eggert chose a wide selection of Tozer’s instructions. Each devotion starts with a small verse, and ends with a short prayer. There is also a legend at the back of the book that tells you from which of Tozer’s writings the lessons come.
As for Tozer’s writings, he writes with a blend of firm reproof, exhortation, and wisdom. He is both gentle in his encouragement and absolute in his reproach. Tozer’s writings are excellent for self-improvement, profitable for your spiritual life.
I highly recommend this, and any of Tozer’s works. 

Bookmarks: 9 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-87509-972-6

Year Published: 2004
Date Finished: 10-3-2016
Pages: 375

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Review: The Divine Hours (Complete Year) by Phyllis Tickle

Synopsis: The Divine Hours is the first major literary and liturgical reworking of the sixth-century Benedictine Rule of fixed-hour prayer. This beautifully conceived and thoroughly modern three-volume guide will appeal to the theological novice as well as to the ecclesiastical sophisticate. Making primary use of the Book of Common Prayer and the writings of the Church Fathers, The Divine Hours is also a companion to the New Jerusalem Bible, from which it draws its Scripture readings. The trilogy blends prayer and praise in a way that, while extraordinarily fresh, respects and builds upon the ancient wisdom of Christianity. (from the online description)

Review: C.S. Lewis once remarked that there was a general distrust, particularly by Protestants, of fixed, repetitive prayer. It was claimed they violated the scripture in Matthew 6, in which Jesus admonishes his listeners to not engage in “meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” The fixed-prayer cycle of The Divine Hours may seem like that to the prejudiced mind. But Lewis, in the Screwtape Letters, speaks of the parrot babbles we did as a child, as if repeating a prayer is a childish thing, and the truly spiritual compose only spontaneous prayers. For me, spontaneous prayers are a disaster for a mind as prone to meander as mine. It is quite impossible for me to pray longer than twenty seconds without straying to thoughts all together unholy. Hence my need for an anchor, a corral, a hemmed in path for my mind to pray along, so as not to get lost.
This trilogy is just that sort of thing. Phyllis Tickle has taken the Book of Common Prayer and laid it out so those of use who find the actually book daunting may still unitlize this excellent tool. There is a minor amount of uncertainty when first starting as to the dates, but once you start, the dates settle into a rhythm. There are four times of prayer: Morning, Mid-Day, Vespers, and Night. The prayers themselves are mostly scripture Psalms with other readings added occasionally. The Vespers prayer has a hymn or piece of poetry and the Night Office usually has writings by universally acknowledge Saints of God.
I highly recommend The Divine Hours. Praying this will encourage you, guide you, deepen your relationship with God, and give you structure and peace. It is an excellent tool for those who wish to improve their prayer life but are uncertain how or where to begin. Even those who have been Christians for many years will benefit from the act of praying the scriptures.

Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-385-50540-6 / 978-0-385-50557-4 / 978-0-385-50476-8
Year Published: 2000 / 2001 / 2000
Date Finished: 10-1-2016
Pages: 661 / 670 / 647

Monday, October 3, 2016

Review: Miss Brooks Loves Books! (And I Don't) by Barbara Bottner, Illustrated by Michael Emberley

Synopsis: With the help of Miss Brooks, Missy’s classmates all find books they love in the library—books about fairies and dogs and trains and cowboys. But Missy dismisses them all—“Too flowery, too furry, too clickety, too yippity.” Still, Miss Brooks remains undaunted. Book Week is here and Missy will find a book to love if they have to empty the entire library. What story will finally win over this beastly, er, discriminating child? William Steig’s Shrek!—the tale of a repulsive green ogre in search of a revolting bride—of course! (online description)

Review: What a delightful book! As a book lover, I’m often the “Miss Brooks”  and share her enthusiasm and relentless determination to find “the book” that will turn the non-reader into a reader. It was enchanting to read from the “non-readers” point of view and the share that moment when she found the book that fired her mind! An excellent book for school kids – readers and non-readers alike. But perhaps more so for the reader to understand how to assist their friends find books and how to share their love of reading with those who may not be as enthusiastic.
Bookmarks: 8 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-375-84682-3
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 9-30-2016
Pages: 16

Friday, September 30, 2016

Review: Clean Food: A Seasonal Guide to Eating Close to the Source by Terry Walters

Synopsis: Clean Food is a feast for the senses that will nourish mind, body, and soul--and this revised edition offers lovers of fresh, seasonal vegan fare even more than before. In addition to all-new color photographs and 20 entirely new recipes, acclaimed chef and nutritionist Terry Walters has updated the dishes to feature today's most healthful ingredients. Now, for example, virgin coconut oil substitutes for canola oil and maple syrup replaces agave nectar as a sweetener. In addition, those going gluten-free will find recipe variations throughout the book to meet their needs. (online description)

Review: This is a comprehensive book that has non-meat recipes, organized by season. It begins with her over-all approach to eating, which extols clean food (i.e. no processed foods), and in particular, eating only those vegetables in season. Under the section on Basics, she goes into detail about ever ingredient that she uses - herbs, vegetables, oils, nuts - writing about where they originated from, how they are used, and where to find them. Her recipes are easy-to-read and easy to follow. The recipes themselves are excellent, with lots of diverse flavors.
But here is my main issues - while there is plenty of scientific evidence that proves eating less processed foods is healthier, some of her other assertions have no scientific bases at all. She makes several firm assertions against animal protein and several about fat that are simply wrong. The science is shoddy at best. According to the back of the book, she is educated, but none of the institutions mentions seem to be those that concern themselves with hard science. Not a fan.
But I am going to keep the book for the recipes. Even we carnivores need side dishes. 

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4027-6814-9
Year Published: 2007
Date Finished: 9-11-2016
Pages: 290

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Review: As Chimney Sweeper Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce, Book 7)

Synopsis: Banished! is how twelve-year-old Flavia de Luce laments her predicament, when her father and Aunt Felicity ship her off to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy, the boarding school that her mother, Harriet, once attended across the sea in Canada. The sun has not yet risen on Flavia’s first day in captivity when a gift lands at her feet. Flavia being Flavia, a budding chemist and sleuth, that gift is a charred and mummified body, which tumbles out of a bedroom chimney. Now, while attending classes, making friends (and enemies), and assessing the school’s stern headmistress and faculty (one of whom is an acquitted murderess), Flavia is on the hunt for the victim’s identity and time of death, as well as suspects, motives, and means. Rumors swirl that Miss Bodycote’s is haunted, and that several girls have disappeared without a trace. When it comes to solving multiple mysteries, Flavia is up to the task—but her true destiny has yet to be revealed. (from the online description)

Review: This was an oddity in the Flavia de Luce series, in that it took place far away from Buckshaw, in the wilds of Canada. Sent to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy by her father, she is supposed to follow in her mother’s footsteps. But when a body falls out of the chimney in her bedroom, Flavia does what she does best – meddle, and solve murder.
Flavia, as always, is precocious, delightful, and brilliant. But the story, over all, bothered me. There were so many questions about Harriet, brought up, but not answered. I wanted to know more about Harriett, her life and role. I expected at Miss Bodycote’s, to get them. But we didn’t and I was frustrated by that. However, as for Flavia, she becomes a different person, someone older, and in her own way, wiser.
Worth reading, of course, but the episode has a different feel than the other stories. 

Bookmarks: 7 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-345-53994-6
Year Published: 2015
Date Finished: 9-24-2016
Pages: 389

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: At the Edge of the World by Kari Jones

Synopsis: Maddie and Ivan have been friends forever. They go to school together, surf, party, and hang out all the time. But all is not well in Ivan's world, and as control of his life slips further away from him, Maddie must decide what her role in his life really is.

Review: Kari Jones’ At the Edge of the World is a young adult book that centers on the relationship between Maddie and Ivan. Maddie lives with her parents in a house by the sea, somewhere in Canada. Her best friend, Ivan, lives next door. Ivan’s father is an alcoholic, and Ivan works to conceal the extent of his father’s addiction. As the story progresses, Maddie learns all the thing Ivan is concealing and struggles to decide how to support Ivan best – to protect his secrets or the tell for Ivan can get help.
I admire Jones for tackling a subject like how the addictions of the parents can affect the child. And she handles it well.
However this doesn’t really redeem the story from the issues.
The characters have little depth and the issues they face (other than Ivan) seem trite. For example, Maddie gets into a prestigious art school with a scholarship but complains about going. I find this ridiculous and annoying. And this is probably because I haven’t been a teenager for twenty years, and there is a reality to it. Teenagers rarely understand the blessing they have. This is a “big deal” for Maddie, as her parents want her to attend, but she resists.
The story is a slow, aside from a few moments of contrived excitement – like a shed fire and a missing parent and a big party.
One bright point is Maddie’s parents. They are two men, and I appreciate that this isn’t even mentioned as part of the story. In the tale, they are just  her parents.
Kari Jones shows promise as an author, and I expect as she writes more, the issues I have with this book will be corrected. 

Note: I received this book free through LibraryThing's Early Review Program, in exchange for my fair and honest opinion.

Bookmarks: 6 of 10

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-459810-624
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 9-8-16
Pages: 243