Friday, March 31, 2017

Review: Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims of the Christian Message by Ravi Zacharias (Audiobook)

Synopsis: In a world with so many religions, why Jesus? We are living in a time when you can believe anything, as long as you do not claim it to be true. In the name of “tolerance,” our postmodern culture embraces everything from Eastern mysticism to New Age spirituality. But as Ravi Zacharias points out, such unquestioning acceptance of all things spiritual is absurd. All religions, plainly and simply, cannot be true. Jesus Among Other Gods provides the answers to the most fundamental claims about Christianity, such as:
Aren’t all religions fundamentally the same?
Was Jesus who He claimed to be?
Can one study the life of Christ and demonstrate conclusively that He was and is the way, the truth, and the life? 
In each chapter, Zacharias considers a unique claim that Jesus made and then contrasts the truth of Jesus with the founders of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism with compelling insight and passionate conviction. In addition to an impressive breadth of reading and study, he shares his personal journey from despair and meaninglessness to his discovery that Jesus is who He said He is.

Review: As with all Ravi's book, there  are excellent  points and thought-provoking arguments, but his prose winds a bit and the point can sometimes get lost in the prose.  This is worth listening to but should be noted that his answers are clear-cut.

Note: This review regards the Audiobook, read by the author.

Bookmarks; 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-0849943270
Year Published: 2002
Date Finished: 3-15-2017
Pages: N/A

Monday, March 13, 2017

Review: Gotham by Gaslight: A Tale of Batman by Brian Augustyn, Michael Mignola, P Craig Russell, Eduardo Barreto (Graphic Novel)

Synopsis: Presenting a new edition of the title collecting the adventures of the Victorian era Batman. This volume includes the breakthrough Elseworlds epics GOTHAM BY GASLIGHT and MASTER OF THE FUTURE, which pit the Dark Knight against Jack the Ripper and a death-dealer from the skies over Gotham. This title features artwork by Mike Mignola (HELLBOY) and P. Craig Russell (THE SANDMAN). (from the online description)

Review: Told in the classic Batman style, with crazed villains and much daring-do, this graphic novel contains two short stories, both of which are amusing and entertaining. It won't win any awards for storytelling, as the plot is run-of-the-mill for Batman. But seeing him in the Victorian era is a fun twist.
The first tale sets the Dark Knight against the notorious Jack the Ripper, and has a touch of the macabre to it. Also woven in is a tale of revenge and the beginnings of the Dark Knight. The villain wasn’t hard to figure out and the story was a bit trite, but that didn’t detract from the overall amusement of the graphic novel. The authors and artists did a fine job of making Batman just as brooding and badass in a world without the high-tech gadgets for which he is known.
The second tale was decidedly more steampunk, with flying fortresses and robotic men. The villain was clear from the start and had the requisite touch of crazy all of Batman’s foes seem to possess. Again, the plot was a bit trite, but fun, none the less, and had a nice dose of dramatic action.
Over all, this was a fun read and I recommend it to any Batman fan. 

Bookmarks: 3.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 978-1-4012-1153-0
Year Published: 1989 / 1991 (Compilation 2006)
Date Finished: 3-10-17
Pages: 100

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Twisted True Tales from Science: Medical Mayhem by Stephanie Bearce

Synopsis: Ground-up mummy bones, leeches sucking human blood, and a breakfast of dried mouse paste. It sounds like a horror movie, but those were actual medicines prescribed by early doctors. Medical students studied anatomy on bodies stolen from graves and had to operate on people while they were awake. Learn about the medicines that came from poison and doctors who experimented on themselves and their families. It's a twisted tale of medical mayhem, but it's all true! (from the back of the book)

Review: This book is intended for a younger audience. The writing is about a third-fourth grade level. But this doesn’t mean that Bearce dumbed down the science. She uses clinical terms, even Latin, and talks about microbes, chemicals, and human body parts with intelligence and openness. The book is organized in a time-line, starting with ancient medical remedies and moving to modern medicine. Accompanying the text are funny illustrates, side notes about science, and even how-to experiments! There is some reference to some gross and graphic medical procedures, but nothing inappropriate for younger minds. She is honest about issues as well, explaining how social convention often was at odds with scientific evidence. There is no reference to sex or sexually transmitted diseases in the book, in case parents are concerned about that issue.
This would be excellent for home-school or classroom use. Interesting and engaging, while staying true to scientific principles, kids will enjoy reading and learning from this book. 

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

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 976-1-61821-572-7
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 3-6-2017
Pages: 147

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Review: The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

Synopsis: In war-torn France, Jo McMahon, an Italian-Irish girl from the tenements of Brooklyn, tends to six seriously wounded soldiers in a makeshift medical unit. Enemy bombs have destroyed her hospital convoy, and now Jo singlehandedly struggles to keep her patients and herself alive in a cramped and freezing tent close to German troops. There is a growing tenderness between her and one of her patients, a Scottish officer, but Jo’s heart is seared by the pain of all she has lost and seen. Nearing her breaking point, she fights to hold on to joyful memories of the past, to the times she shared with her best friend, Kay, whom she met in nursing school.
Half a world away in the Pacific, Kay is trapped in a squalid Japanese POW camp in Manila, one of thousands of Allied men, women, and children whose fates rest in the hands of a sadistic enemy. Far from the familiar safety of the small Pennsylvania coal town of her childhood, Kay clings to memories of her happy days posted in Hawaii, and the handsome flyer who swept her off her feet in the weeks before Pearl Harbor. Surrounded by cruelty and death, Kay battles to maintain her sanity and save lives as best she can . . . and live to see her beloved friend Jo once more. 
When the conflict at last comes to an end, Jo and Kay discover that to achieve their own peace, they must find their place—and the hope of love—in a world that’s forever changed. (from the back of the book)

Review: Warning: This book is not for the squeamish. It leaves the reader raw, scrapped open, burnt, and in awe of the military nurses who stood between their patients and all the powers of Hell, and said, “Not on my watch.”
Based on the actual stories of Army nurses, Teresa Messineo gives us two women, Kay and Jo, who forged a friendship in nursing school, a bond stronger than family. They end up on opposite sides of the conflict; Kay, trapped by the Japanese on Bataan, in the Philippines, and Jo, abandoned in no-man’s-land somewhere in Europe. Each face the demons, the death, the terror of war, each find a strength unheard  of inside themselves, each walk out a different person, and yet, find healing, through work, through friendship, through love.
There is no sugar-coating or glossing-over the trauma each of them faced. And, having recently read several books about the real-life nurses during World War II, Messineo doesn’t exaggerate what happened on either front. While Kay and Jo are fictional, the horrors they see and live through – those are authentic. It is perhaps this, more than anything else, that make this novel so powerful.
Worth reading, to understand that time, to open our eyes to the women who gave so much to serve others, to inspire us to more. 

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: 978-0-06-245910-7
Year Published: 2017
Date Finished: 3-5-2017
Pages: 306

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Review: The Bridge Over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle

Synopsis: In one of the most famous and widely-read novels of our time, Pierre Boulle tells the story of Colonel Nicholson, brilliant officer, disciplinarian, perfectionist, whose passion for duty led him to perform an almost impossible feat of military genius for the Japanese Army he hated. (from the back of the book)

Review: I wanted to like this book. Considering its place as a classic and the source for a famous, award-winning movie, I expected it to be something …more? Instead, it was dull, too much telling, stereotypical characters that felt like wooden dolls tromping across a stage. I understand it was based on the author’s experience as a POW under the Japanese. In particular, he claimed it was a French captain’s collaboration with the Japanese that he based Colonel Nicholson on. However, history does not support this.
Perhaps the writing doesn’t translate will in to English, which is why the writing is dull and the characters trite. The story has promise, the class of honor and patriotism. But the characters never felt real enough to engage the reader, and draw them into the conflict.
So much potential, wasted due to poor writing. Read it if you want to read a classic about this time on our history, as there seems to be a lack of fiction about it, but don’t expect anything spectacular. 

Bookmarks: 3 of 5

Awards: France's Prix Sainte-Beuve in 1952 

Year Published: 1952 (French) / 1954 (English)
Date Finished: 3-5-2017
Pages: 150 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Review: We Band of Angels: The Untold Story of the American Nurses Trapped on Bataan by the Japanese by Elizabeth Norman

Synopsis: In the fall of 1941, the Philippines was a gardenia-scented paradise for the American Army and Navy nurses stationed there. War was a distant rumor, life a routine of easy shifts and dinners under the stars. On December 8 all that changed, as Japanese bombs began raining down on American bases in Luzon, and this paradise became a fiery hell. Caught in the raging battle, the nurses set up field hospitals in the jungles of Bataan and the tunnels of Corregidor, where they tended to the most devastating injuries of war, and suffered the terrors of shells and shrapnel.
But the worst was yet to come. After Bataan and Corregidor fell, the nurses were herded into internment camps where they would endure three years of fear, brutality, and starvation. Once liberated, they returned to an America that at first celebrated them, but later refused to honor their leaders with the medals they clearly deserved. Here, in letters, diaries, and riveting firsthand accounts, is the story of what really happened during those dark days, woven together in a deeply affecting saga of women in war. (from the back of the book)

Review: Why isn’t this book required reading for all students in school? Seriously. Not only does is cover a vital portion of history, one often over-looked (like the history of the Japanese expansion that lead to the war in the Pacific), but it covers the attitude towards women during the World War and the origins of the Feminist Movement that would sweep America in the 1960s and 70s. It also covers the tactics that decided the fate of so many during the early days of the war in the Pacific, the reason we fought, the reason it cost us so much in blood to win, and the price we paid for it.
These women deserved more than just the lip-service recognition they received. Many were simply looking for adventure, romance, and an easy job in the tropics. What they got was nearly four years of hell, tending wounded with no supplies, interned under the harshest conditions, suffering for debilitating injuries and disease exasperated by starvation and neglect – and yet, thru all of their suffering, they thought first of their patients and last of themselves.  
After their rescue, they were paraded around, used as propaganda until the end of the war, then forgotten and shoved aside. Many suffered life-long ailments from the injuries and starvation they went through during their incarceration. These women paved the way for their daughters and sisters to stand up and demanded the recognition, the opportunities, the fair treatment that many of us enjoy today. Without their demonstration of the courage, strength, and intelligence, many of us would not have the life we have today. They are heroines many times over and worth remembering and honoring.
This ought to be required reading for all high school students. Not only does Norman explain the politics and events that lead to the American involvement in the Pacific Theatre during World War II, but she puts names and faces to the women who served under the most horrendous conditions.  This book brings together so many aspects vital to understanding this time on American History, and can start a dozen conversations in a dozen directions.
Norman’s prose is lively, concise, full of facts, but never dull. She is a thorough and reliable historian, with the sources for her assertions listed diligently in the back. Full of first-hand testimony, rigorous culling of historical documents, and personal papers of the very women who served, this is an excellent book in both scholarship and subject. Vital reading for all of us. 

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: Lavinia Dock Award for Historical Scholarship, American Academy of Nursing National Media Award, Agnes Dillion Randolph Award

ISBN: 0-671-78718-7
Year Published: 1999
Date Finished: 3-1-2017
Pages: 327

Monday, March 6, 2017

Acquisitions: February Book Haul

I tried. I really did....

Total Cost: $35.60

Total Purchased: 23

The Letters of John and Abigail Adams by Frank Shuffleton

The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

A Christmas Party by Georgete Heyer

Sprig Muslim by Georgete Heyer

The Convenient Marriage by Georgete Heyer

Lady of Quality by Georgete Heyer

A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle

A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle

An Acceptable Time by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Many Waters by Madeleine L'Engle

The Rule of Benedict: A Spirituality for the 21st Century by Joan Chittister

Mission to Cathay by Madeleine Polland

The Circle Opens: Cold Fire by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Terrier by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Bloundhound by Tamora Pierce

Beka Cooper: Mastiff by Tamora Pierce

Song of the Lioness by Tamora Pierce

Out of the Silent Planet by C. S. Lewis

Peleandra by C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

Zulu War: 1897 (Osprey Military Series) by Ian Knight and Ian Castle

Cocaine Blues by Kerry Greenwood

Friday, March 3, 2017

Review: Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes by Eleanor Coerr

Synopsis: Chizuko came to visit her friend Sadako in the hospital. She had a piece of gold paper that she had cut into a large square. "Watch!" she said, and she folded the paper over and over, and it tumed into a beautiful crane.  "If a sick person folds one thousand paper cranes, " Chizuko said, "the gods will grant her wish and make her well again." Sadako Sasaki was only twelve years old when she died. She was two when an atom bomb was dropped on the city of Hiroshima in Japan, where she lived with her family. Ten years later, she had leukemia as a result of radiation from the bomb. Sadako had folded six hundred and forty-four cranes. The flock hung above her bed on strings. Her classmates folded the rest. Today Sadako is a heroine to the children of Japan, who visit her memorial in Hiroshima Peace Park to leave the paper cranes they make in her honor. (from the back of the book)

Review: Short, but with a depth far beyond the word count, this simple story give a human face to the suffering caused by the atomic bombs. Sadako has the entire world going for her – a born runner, swift and sure-footed, with a cheerful, eager outlook on life, Sadako dreamed of being on the running team of her junior high school.
But the year before she was to enter, she was diagnosed with the “atomic bomb disease” – leukemia. This hideous cancer ate away at her body, slowly killing her. Before she died, she attempted to fold 1,000 origami cranes, to fulfill a Japanese legend. 
After she died, her classmates took up her cause, folding cranes and raising money, to build a memorial to Peace. Called Hiroshima PeacePark, the memorial is dedicated to the children of the world and their plea for peace. In the center of the memorial is a statue of Sadako, holding a golden crane.
Coerr tells the story with simple, precise, prose. She changed some of the actual story for fiction’s sake, but that essence remains the same – a life cut short by war.
Excellent reading for young children, a starting place to explain the war and what is can do to others. 

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-440-47465-5
Year Published: 1977
Date Finished: 2-28-2017
Pages: 64

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Review: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald

Synopsis: The book tells the story of a young boy named Diamond. He is a very sweet little boy who makes joy everywhere he goes. He fights despair and gloom and brings peace to his family. One night, as he is trying to sleep, Diamond repeatedly plugs up a hole in the loft (also his bedroom) wall to stop the wind from blowing in. However, he soon finds out that this is stopping the North Wind from seeing through her window. Diamond befriends her, and North Wind lets him fly with her, taking him on several adventures. Though the North Wind does good deeds and helps people, she also does seemingly terrible things. On one of her assignments, she must sink a ship. Yet everything she does that seems bad leads to something good. The North Wind seems to be a representation of Pain and Death working according to God's will for something good. (from the online description)

Review: This has all the lyrical prose of a Victorian Children’s Fairy Tale, whimsical and wholesome. It dangerously approached saccharine sermonizing – if not for the North Wind. Sometimes a Tall Woman with Dark Hair, sometimes a Wolf, or a Fairy, or an Unseen Breath, she is the most intriguing character in a fairy tale I have encountered in some time. Biden by her unnamed Master, she often does what seems cruel, causing pain, suffering, and even death. And yet, in the end, is it revealed that all she does is for the healing, the betterment, and the good fortune of people. She is neither callous nor wanton in her destruction, but precise and obedient, doing her duty with a single-minded service to her master. A the Back of the North Wind is a place, a place she cannot see or visit, but a place she often takes those she is bidden to carry there. It seems a place where neither time nor illness nor hungry nor suffering dwell.
Daylight is a bit too cherubic for my taste, but I related to his constant out-of-place nature. He doesn’t fit in but doesn’t seem to notice. It is thought Daylight was modeled after MacDonald’s own son, as a tribute to the boy.  His angelic goodness is off-set by the secondary characters, rough-and-tumble crowd, cabbies and street urchins, drunks and benevolent gentlemen. They seem real in a way Daylight does not. But perhaps that is the point.
This is a fantastic fairy tale, whimsical and imaginative, but with a somber ending that makes this far more than just a gossamer tale of nonsense for children.  To understand that pain and death are important teachers, vital to our life and growth, is a lesson worth teaching our children. MacDonald’s story helps explain this concept to children in a way that makes sense to them. And may help adults understand a concept that seems so contrary to our minds.    

Bookmarks: 4.5 of 5

Awards: None

ISBN: 0-8167-0470-8
Year Published: 1871
Date Finished: 2-26-2017
Pages: 316