Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: The Gospel in George MacDonald: Selections from His Novels, Fairy Tales, and Spiritual Writings edited by Marianne Wright

Synopsis: If you don’t have the time to read all the novels of George MacDonald, the great Scottish storyteller who inspired C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, Mark Twain, W. H. Auden, and J. R. R. Tolkien, this anthology is a great place to start. These selections from MacDonald’s novels, fairy tales, and sermons reveal the profound and hopeful Christian vision that infuses his fantasy worlds and other fiction. Newcomers will find in these pages an accessible sampling. George MacDonald enthusiasts will be pleased to find some of the writer’s most compelling stories and wisdom in one volume. Drawn from books including Sir Gibbie, The Princess and the Goblin, Lilith, and At the Back of the North Wind, the selections are followed by appreciations by G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis and accompanied by classic illustrations by Arthur Hughes.

Review: Published by Plough Publishing House and edited by Marianne Wright, this is a survey of the gospel message in the fiction and non –fiction writing of George MacDonald. MacDonald was mildly popular during his time, but has the honor of being a major influence in C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton.
Plough Publishing and Wright have done a fine job of organizing MacDonald’s work into subjects, including topics like Finding God, Marriage, Death, and Eternity. Each section of prose is prefaced by a one-two line summary of the scene or source of the quote. In quotes that contain MacDonald’s native Scottish dialect, the translation is provided.
The quotes come from a wide range of Macdonald’s work, including novels, fairy tales, sermons, and private letters.  It is excellent chosen collection and a thorough survey of his writing.
I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed MacDonald’s work, but in particular, to those who wish to get a comprehensive overview of MacDonald’s theology and where it appears in his non-theological writing.  From here, one can find specific works of MacDonald’s to read. This is a must for any complete theological library. 

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

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0874867664
Year Published: 2016
Date Finished: 2-22-2017
Pages: 340

Friday, February 17, 2017

Review: Early Sunday Morning: The Pearl Harbor Diary of Amber Billows, Hawaii, 1941 by Barry Denenberg (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: Amber Billows and her family move to Oahu in 1941, as her father, a reporter, is transferred there to cover the tensions with Japan. Amber, concerned with making friends and grades, only knows about the tension from the military men her father brings home as part of his job. Then the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and Amber’s life – and everyone else’s – changes.

Review: Without realizing it, Amber does an excellent job of capturing the tension that people in Hawaii felt regarding the possible war with Japan. While Amber doesn’t always understand the reactions of the adults, as an adult reader, I do. This is a testament to the author’s writing. He does an excellent job of capturing the chaos, the shock, the blood, panic, and surprise, how in one morning, paradise became hell. The characters are engaging and well-rounded. In particular, I like Amber’s mother, and understood her actions, as an adult, in ways Amber could not. While the author does not spare the details of the attack or the hospital scenes after, this is acceptable for older elementary age readers. It’s an excellent introduction to Pearl Harbor and what happened after. Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-439-32874-8
Year Published: 2001
Date Finished: 2-16-2017
Pages: 156

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Review: The Fences Between Us: The Diary of Piper Davis, Seattle, Washington, 1941 by Kirby Larson (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: Thirteen-year-old Piper Davis lives with her Father, a pastor at a local Japanese Baptist Church, and her older sister, in Seattle, Washington, in 1941. Her brother, Hank, enlisted in the Navy and is sent to Pearl Harbor. She spends days dreaming about boys and movie stars, wishing she could wear lipstick, and navigating seventh grade. Then Japan bombs Pearl Harbor and overnight, everything changes. When his congregation is sent to the Internment camps, her father goes with them, forcing Piper to leave her life in Seattle for life in Idaho. This Journal covers the months prior to Pearl Harbor up to the middle of 1943.
Although the people are fictional, the story is based on a real-life minister named Emery Andrews, who follows his congregation to their internment camp.

Review: With clear and simple prose, author Kirby Larson brings to life Piper Davis. Piper is a young girl whose life is centered on boys, lipstick, and friends – until her brother is caught at the attack on Pearl Harbor, until her Father’s congregation, all Japanese, are persecuted and sent to internment campus, until she if confronted with the realities of war. Larson did an excellent job of making Piper’s struggle authentic. Piper’s best friend and boyfriend both think it’s good to send the Japanese away, and don’t understand Piper’s struggle. Her worry for her brother, her concern about her people she’s known all her life, her initial struggle to accept her father choice to move to Idaho, and her own realization about right and wrong makes this a strong story worth reading. It’s a complex subject and the book does an excellent job of making it understandable to young readers without dumbing down the subject. Suitable for elementary age readers and a fine place to start for discussions about this topic.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0-545-22418-5
Year Published: 2010
Date Finished: 2-15-2017
Pages: 311

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Review: The Journal of Ben Uchida: Citizen 13559 Mirror Lake Internment Camp, California 1942 by Barry Denenberg (A Dear America Book)

Synopsis: In 1942, twelve-year old Ben Uchida, his mother, and sister are sent to live a Mirror Lake (Manzanar) Internment Camp. Ben’s friend, Robbie, insists he keep a diary. In it, Ben records his life at Manzanar, both the mundane and the profound. Based on actual people, this journal documents an important moment in American history.

Review: Told in simple, clear prose, this journal follows Ben from the morning of December 7, 1941 through his journey to Mirror Lake (Manzanar) internment camp. Ben is honest and forthright, greeting the injustice with humor and a stalwart resilience. He expresses anger through levity, and only a few moments does his fear and anger appear in his words. Ben uses Baseball to cope – losing himself in the game. Without realizing it, he makes keen observations of the people around him. He often remarks on event that he doesn’t know the significance of, but that the reader will.
Other reviewers have remarked on the lack of historical accuracy in the slang and language. This is partially correct. At the same time, we don’t tend to use slang in diaries (not that I’ve seen) and the event described are accurate. The prose is simple and clear, and suitable for elementary-age readers. It is an excellent starting place for discussions about civil liberty, the injustice of racism, and what it means to be a citizen. Worth reading. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-590-48531-8
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 2-14-2017
Pages: 156

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston and James D. Houston

Synopsis: Jeanne Wakatsuki was seven years old in 1942 when her family was uprooted from their home and sent to live at Manzanar internment camp--with 10,000 other Japanese Americans. Along with searchlight towers and armed guards, Manzanar ludicrously featured cheerleaders, Boy Scouts, sock hops, baton twirling lessons and a dance band called the Jive Bombers who would play any popular song except the nation’s #1 hit: "Don't Fence Me In."  Farewell to Manzanar is the true story of one spirited Japanese-American family's attempt to survive the indignities of forced detention . . . and of a native-born American child who discovered what it was like to grow up behind barbed wire in the United States. (from the back of the book)
Review: Told from the viewpoint of Jeanne Wakatsuki, this covers her experience as a child in the Internment camps for Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. Jeanne left California at seven and spent over three years in the camps. Not only does she speak about the trip there, and life in the camps, but she speaks intimately about how being in the camps effected the rest of her life. This is what makes the book so powerful. Not only to we walk through the camps with her, but we walk through the camps after. Several times she states that her Father died in the camps, although he lived for twelve years after. This is a profound statement in that illustrated how the camps followed those imprisoned there long after the camps were reduced to rubble and dust.  When I learned about this part of our history, we never spoke about life after, so this was the first time I understood the lasting effects of what our government did to our citizens. Given today’s particular social and political climate, this book is a vital read. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-553-27258-6
Year Published: 1973
Date Finished: 2-8-2017
Pages: 203

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Review: When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka

Synopsis: On a sunny day in Berkeley, California, in 1942, a woman sees a sign in a post office window, returns to her home, and matter-of-factly begins to pack her family's possessions. Like thousands of other Japanese Americans they have been reclassified, virtually overnight, as enemy aliens and are about to be uprooted from their home and sent to a dusty internment camp in the Utah desert.
In this lean and devastatingly evocative first novel, Julie Otsuka tells their story from five flawlessly realized points of view and conveys the exact emotional texture of their experience: the thin-walled barracks and barbed-wire fences, the omnipresent fear and loneliness, the unheralded feats of heroism. When the Emperor Was Divine is a work of enormous power that makes a shameful episode of our history as immediate as today's headlines.(from the back of the book)

Review: This story centers on a Japanese-American family and starts the day the notices went up, ordering all Americans of Japanese descent to report for Internment. Told from different points of view, mother, father, brother, sister, each placing a portion of the story into place, giving the reader an all-encompassing view of the emotions, the sorrow, the endurance, the loss, which these people suffered.  It’s heartbreaking. Some, like the father, never recover. Some, like the children, have their life irrevocably altered, leaving behind whoever they might have been and becoming someone else. And some, like the mother, simple accept what comes, without complaint, like a rock at the edge of the sea. Otsuka’s prose, simple and evocative, create images that do not easily leave the mind. One can almost taste the dust of the camp, feel the biting wind, and smell the desert. A must-read, particularly in today’s social and political climate.

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: American Library Association's Alex Award,2003; Asian American Literary Award, 2003

ISBN: 978-0-385-72181-3
Year Published: 2002
Date Finished: 2-7-2017
Pages: 144

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review: The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

Synopsis: A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times. (from the back of the book)

Review: It’s hard to explain the plot of this book; it has none and yet, it’s a story unlike any other. Told in First Person Plural, the book is divided into eight chapters: Come, Japanese / First Night / Whites / Babies / The Children / Traitors / Last Day / A Disappearance. Each chapter covers a particular part of life, a gathering of many experiences, told by the voices of many women. First, the women came over from Japan as picture brides, crowded into great steam liners. From there, we follow them through the first night of their marriage, their life working in America, birthing babies and the people these babies would grow into. Then, Pearl Harbor, and the internment of the Japanese. There is more pain then joy in these chapters, these voices, these stories. This is not a pleasant book. There is too much reality to be so. There is joy, but it is laced with suffering, with resignation, with hardship and sacrifice. Otsuka has given a voice to people whose story would be lost otherwise. Worth readying, particularly in today’s volatile social and political climate. The lives of these women have much to share and much to teach. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Prix Femina √Čtranger 2012, France , Pen/Faulker Award for Fiction, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-74442-5
Year Published: 2011
Date Finished: 2-6-2017
Pages: 129

Monday, February 6, 2017

Review: Silence by Shusaku Endo

Synopsis: Seventeenth-century Japan: Two Portuguese Jesuit priests travel to a country hostile to their religion, where feudal lords force the faithful to publicly renounce their beliefs. Eventually captured and forced to watch their Japanese Christian brothers lay down their lives for their faith, the priests bear witness to unimaginable cruelties that test their own beliefs. Shusaku Endo is one of the most celebrated and well-known Japanese fiction writers of the twentieth century, and Silence is widely considered to be his great masterpiece. (from the online description)
Review: For me, this book started a bit slow. It took me a chapter or two for the story to capture me. But when it did, I was pulled into the struggle of Father Sebastian Rodrigues. With a sense of righteous duty and an ardent love for Christ, Rodrigues and another priest, make the arduous journey from Rome to Japan. There, the meet with the persecuted Christians and work to unite and comfort them. But they are betrayed by another character, and the Japanese authorities begin the long process of torturing Rodrigues.

Here is there the story gets raw and gritty. Rodrigues watches the suffering of those who stay faithful to God, watches their pain and hears their prayers, and wonders why God stays Silent. And it is the Silence of God that permeated the story.  The very question the Psalmist asked: Why does God let the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer?  A question that every Christian has asked, every Christ-follow wondered at, every person who watches a loved one suffer. Where is God? Why is He Silent? The ending left me raw and open. There is no answer to the question. We are left to wonder, as Rodrigues wondered, left to hold a faith in the face of Silence. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Tanizaki Prize, 1966

ISBN: 0-8008-7186-3
Year Published: 1965 (In English, 1969)
Date Finished: 2-2-2017
Pages: 201

Friday, February 3, 2017

Acquisitions: Janaury 2017 Haul

For the first time, I'm actually tracking how many books I buy each month and the cost.

Turns out, I buy more than I realized - and spend more than I realized.

Yes, you are all very shocked by this, I can tell.

Moving on.

Total Bought: 28

Total Spent: $48*

What I Bought: 

The Dead in Their Vault Arches (Flavia De Luce, Book 6) by Alan Bradley
The Complete Works of William Law (Kindle) by William Law
The Emperor's Edge Collection (Books 1-3) (Kindle) by Lindsay Buroker
Flannery O'Connor: The Complete Stories by Flannery O'Connor
The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, Book 1) by Deborah Harkness
The Toll Gate by Georgette Heyer
The Berenstain Bears and Too Much Vacation by Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M. M. Blume
The Thief (The Queen's Thief, Book 1) by Megan Whalen Turner
If Walls Could Talk: An Intimate History of the House by Lucy Worsley
A Tangled Web by L. M. Montgomery
The Mark of Athena (Heroes of Olympus, Book 3) by Rick Riordan
The Blood of Olympus (Heroes of Olympus, Book 5) by Rick Riordan
Plague of Memory (Stardoc, Book 7) by S. L. Viehl
Sylvia and Bruno by Lewis Caroll
Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century by Nicholas Basbanes
Maus II by Art Spiegelman
Maus  by Art Spiegelman
Vampire Knight 19 by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight 11 by Matsuri Hino
Vampire Knight 10 by Matsuri Hino
Monstress, Volume I: Awakening by Marjprie Liu
Pretty Deadly, Volume I: The Shrike by Kelly Sue DeConnick

Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey
Batman: Gotham by Gaslight by Brian Augustyn
Berkeley Physics Course: Volume 2 by Edward Purcell

*This is a bit misleading. 1) $11 went towards a supplemental school books.2) Ten were purchased with gift cards, so the actual money spent was $122. But most of it wasn't my money, and that's what I focus on.  

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Ramble: To Be Read....

I read more than one book at a time. And I tend to read in what I think of as "Tracks" or "Paths".
It's a weird booky thing, but it has a logic to it. The subject to one book leads me to another, and that one leads me to the next. The books connect, creating path.

For example, currently, I have Four Paths:

Path One: Horror / GrimDark
Current Read: IT by Stephen King
 Next Up: No idea, as the King is taking me months to read. But probably 100 Wicked Little Witch Stories edited by Martin H. Greenberg, or maybe another King. I’m open to recommendations, but it has to be something I own.

Path Two: Science Fiction / Fantasy Series.
This Path is directly linked to my reading goals for 2017. I have stacks of sci-fi and fantasy books, and many series I’ve diligently collected to completion. Time to get reading. This also includes piles of Manga and Graphic Novels I’ve amassed.

Current Read: The Gripping Hand by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (The sequel to The Mote In God's Eye)
Next Up: Thomas Harlan’s In the Time of the Sixth Sun Trilogy. I’m eager to read this. The premise is Japan reaches the Aztecs before the Spanish, setting in motion the eventual world domination by the Aztecs, and now – humans are in space, a young species vying for a place in the stars against the ancient aliens cultures. After that, most likely The All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness

Path Three: Non-Fiction / Historical Fiction.
Currently, this is focuses on Japanese Literature, but will move into Japan during World War II, then on to Women during World War II. This is the most defined path and I’m approaching a dozen or more books laid out already.

Current Read: Silence by Shusake Endo.
Next Up: Either The Buddha in the Attic or When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, Followed by Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, then The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo, two non-fictions, And If I Perish: Frontline U.S. Army Nurses in World War II by Evelyn Monahan and We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by by Elizabeth M. Norman, then maybe Women Who Wrote the War by Nancy Caldwell Sorel. After that, maybe The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle or The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer or Home Front and Beyond: American Women in the 1940s by Susan M. Hartmann or Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. Oh, and Maus and Maus II by Art Spiegelman.

Path Four: Christian.
This is an always path, meaning I’m always reading a Christian non-fiction. This comes out of a reading ideology I created for myself years ago, called The Rule of Three. Meaning that for every Fiction I read, I had to read one Non-Fiction and one Christian.

Current Read: The Gospel in George MacDonald: Selections from His Novels, Fairy Tales, and Spiritual Writings edited by Marianne Wright
Next Up: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, then How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture by Francis A. Schaeffer. After that, I’m not sure. I’ll probably just dig through my piles of Christian books and see what strikes by fancy.

Paths are how I pick my TBR piles. What about you? How do you pick your TBR?