Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams

Diamonds from Tequila by Walter Jon Williams
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Sean Makin, a former child-star who suffers from a physical deformity, is shooting his feature film in Mexico along side his "tabloid girlfriend". However, things suddenly go south when he finds his "girlfriend" dead in her room and film's production & quality is put in jeopardy. Sean finds himself navigating Mexican authorities, DEA agents, and a shadowy prop assistant who has found ingenious uses for a 3D printer. Sean finds himself bribing local Mexican police to shot at windows then meeting a drug lord and then confront the man who accidentally killed his "girlfriend" to extort money from his corporate employers in an effort to save his one shot at a stable acting career. The story features several types of rogues and is very good, but sections of Sean's thoughts require you to have read Williams' book The Fourth Wall which lowered the rating.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review: A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix

A Cargo of Ivories by Garth Nix
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz break into a home of wizard-merchant and suddenly find their plan to take 14 ivory figurines that anchored godlets to the mortal plane into safekeeping upended. These two rogues find themselves up against a rogue young thief and a rogue goblet that has taken possession of the unfortunate wizard-merchant. The story rapidly proceeds from the mansion of the unfortunate merchant to the city's centuries-old ceremonial ship that starts to come apart as it goes against the tide and wind. I have been wanting to read Nix for a while, mainly his Abhorsen series, but having been introduced to Hereward and Fitz as well I need to read the other stories they're involved in. A cast of rogues of one variety or another, action-packed, and wonderful world building throughout for those unfamiliar with the world that doesn't slow the story. It just adds up to a fantastic story.

Review: Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor

Ill Seen in Tyre by Steven Saylor
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Young Gordianus and his tutor Antipater have arrived in the latter hometown of Tyre on their way to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but Gordianus finds out that his mentor has a soft spot for illogical magic and mythic heroes. While staying at a tavern, Gordianus learns of the local heroes Fafhrd and Grey Mouser who had very roguish adventures in the city and interacted with Antipater's grandfather on one occasion. But all of this is prelude to Antipater purchasing the Books of Secret Wisdom and both of them getting taken in by the seller and possibly everyone in the entire tavern as well. But Antipater doesn't care and Gordianus, while furious, has to let it go. The story itself gets a tad predictable when the seller arrives, but the highlight was the descriptions of Fafhrd and Grey Mouser which were created by Fritz Leiber and who I know what to read myself.

Review: A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell

A Better Way to Die by Paul Cornell
My rating: 1 out of 5 stars

Jonathan Hamilton believes he'd heading to his death on an estate that is connected to multiple alternate worlds, facing off against a younger version of himself that he had "humiliated" several weeks prior at a dinner party in a card game. Now his younger Alt-Self has stolen money from the College of Heralds and even kidnapped a young senior Herald Precious Nothing before making his way to a place he can get back home or take Hamilton's place. Unfortunately this story suffers because unless you've read previous Jonathan Hamilton stories, what I just wrote above is the only thing you understand in the entire story. The story features a little twist that makes you wonder who the "true" rogue of the story is, but without understanding anything about the world it's almost worthless.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Review: The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham

The Meaning of Love by Daniel Abraham
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In independent "city" within a city, a life-long resident has taken a exile prince under her wing while he's hiding from his evil stepmother. While Asa has used her street smarts to keep Prince Steppan alive, he has fallen in love with a girl he hasn't met who is about to be sold as a slave by her family for much needed money. Asa promises to save Steppan's great love and then runs into to bounty hunters looking for a recent Chancellor of the greater city around her hometown. Knowing the man, Asa comes up with a plan to help both her friends get what they want and in true roguish fashion even makes some money as well.

Review: Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest

Heavy Metal by Cherie Priest
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

A big man rolls into Ducktown, Tennessee site of a years old environmental disaster that might have helped create a home for something far more sinister. Kilgore is a problem-solver of the supernatural kind, keeping his Bible close and his knowledge of the "old way" fresh in his mind. Investigating the deaths of two University of Tennessee student researchers, Kilgore speaks with their surviving colleague and then with the lead volunteer at the local museum dedicated to the old copper mine and the resulting disaster before investigating the area himself. Kilgore is an intriguing rogue, who story can only be guessed at along with his area of expertise. Even through the story was good after finishing, I felt that I only received half the story and information I needed about Kilgore which is why the rating is so low.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Review: Bad Brass by Bradley Denton

Bad Brass by Bradley Denton
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Professional substitute teacher Matthew Marx has another side to him, he steals from other criminals especially dumb ones like the band instrument thieves from his ex-wife's high school. Having found out about this little ring of high school thieves, or wannabes, Marx is looking to take their illicit gains for himself only to witness a bizarre exchange especially when one of the thieves steals the buyers' stolen van with some of the stolen band merchandise. When back at school, Marx realizes that half the "crew" are just band geeks brought in because they know stuff about the "products". Although Marx himself is a rogue in every sense of the word and the story was well written with subtle comedy woven throughout, compared to some of the other stories in this anthology it just felt average.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Book Review: The Antichrist and the New World Order by Marvin Moore

The Antichrist And The New World OrderThe Antichrist And The New World Order by Marvin Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throughout the early 1990s, many wondered what would be happening next as the globe emerged from under the shadow of the Cold War. For many Seventh-day Adventists such phrases as ‘the new world order’ instantly brought to mind end-time events. Editor and lecturer Marvin Moore in his book The Antichrist and the New World Order presented to both general and Adventist audiences the eschatology—the study of end-time events—and doctrines of the Church to answer some of these questions.

Moore begins his book with predictions by economists, politicians, and scientists about what would occur during the rest of the 1990s. Then using that ‘set up’, he slowly introduces the eschatology of the Seventh-day Adventist church along with historical precedents that they point use to support their thoughts and use to answer claims of an ‘alternative’ narrative of the past from other’s. Moore deftly navigates the reader through the eschatology beliefs of the Adventist church through Biblical sources, the writings of Ellen White, and historical sources. Yet his tone of presentation is thoughtful and considerate to anyone reading the book, unlike the confrontation style of other’s that I’ve read.

The biggest drawback of the book is the obvious dated current events of the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially the titular phrase ‘the new world order’, the predictions of experts about what could happen before the end of the decade. However, the dated references and such cannot take away from Moore’s inviting tone. One of the book best features is Moore’s own experiences in relating his own interaction with non-Adventists friends when explaining Adventist end-time thoughts, even relating how one friend said, “That’s stupid”, before they went out to dinner and how they continued to be friends long after the conversation. Essentially Moore wanted to remind everyone reading his book that Christian friends can disagree and should not holding grudges because the focus is on the destination in which we won’t be grading one another on how accurate we though the journey would be.

Though dated, The Antichrist and the New World Order is a thoughtful look at Seventh-day Adventist eschatology from someone well versed in it though his various lectures. Being both short, very readable Marvin Moore’s book is very good read for both Adventists and the general public.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Review: A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch

A Year and a Day in Old Theradane by Scott Lynch
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

After a night of drinking and playing cards with her former gang is interrupted by the chaos caused by the feuding of two wizards that rule the city, famed thief Amarelle Parathis decides to drunkenly berate one of the said wizards. The next morning the wizard replays a threat Amarelle made the night before, which could get her killed or worse. To save herself, Amarelle agrees to destroy the focal point of another wizard's power in the titular time frame. Getting help from her roguish gang of thieves, they race to save Amarelle's existence in full knowledge that if they succeed it won't be the end of their work for the wizard.

Review: Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn

Roaring Twenties by Carrie Vaughn
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Pauline accompanies her friend Madame M to a supernatural speakeasy, patronized by supernatural folk, mobsters, and just regular folks looking to drink some booze. M wants to speak with the establishments' owner Gigi. Suddenly what appears to be a normal night takes a turn a couple ask for help to escape for the West Coast and then an obvious Fed shows up and begins nosing around, until both Pauline and Madame take things in hand to get him occupied and help the couple escape, unfortunately they lose the Fed and he comes back resulting in things getting interesting. While Pauline and M are interesting characters, their roguishness is somewhat questionable though hidden by a good story.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Provenance by David W. Ball

Provenance by David W. Ball
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

A lost Caravaggio comes to the attention of art expert Max Wolff, although he is considered one of the most upright professionals in the art world is a dealer in underworld stolen art. After getting his hands on the painting, Wolff gives its history to "prosperity gospel" preacher Joe Cooley Barber, from the madman artist to the Nazis and East German Stasi, to dictators and arms dealers then a lowlife thief. But possibly the biggest rogue among the bunch that has touched this painting is Wolff himself, who's own history with the painting is bigger than he let on with Barber. Ball set up the little twist to the end earlier and one doesn't full appreciate it until finishing the story of a very unique rogue.

Review: Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick

Tawny Petticoats by Michael Swanwick
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Conmen Darger and Surplus are in the independent port city of New Orleans looking to scam the three most powerful people in the city and hope not to becoming zombie workmen if things go south. Joining them in their scam is the titular Tawny Petticoats, who joins the duo as an "innocent" female hook to the their money scam. Unfortunately for poor Surplus who experiences being a temporary zombie, things don't go according to plan especially with Tawny running off with one of the other targets along with some of the stolen money. But Darger and Surplus decide to leave New Orleans on the verge of a large scale riot they put into motion, talk about a couple of rogues.

Review: Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale

Bent Twig by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Hap Collins goes looking for this girlfriend's daughter, Tillie, but he knows he's going to have a rough going because Tillie is into having a rough-type of life and the associated rough individuals that are part of it. Luckily for Hap, his brother from a different mother Leonard shows up at the right time to save Hap and join the search for Tillie. The two raid a church used as front for a lowlife who claims the title of pastor to find Tillie. There are numerous rogues in this story, but Hap and Leonard are the most resourceful in getting this particular "job" accomplished.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Review: The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes

The Inn of the Seven Blessings by Matthew Hughes
My rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A down-on-his-luck thief, Raffalon, overhears a poor traveler getting taken by the animal-man hybrid Vandaayo to be eaten in one of their rituals. Unfortunately for Raffalon, he's soon following the Vandaayo to rescue their captive because he's under the control of a little god who needs the poor victim to perform a ritual to empower him again. After rescuing the god's devotee and another Vandaayo hunting victim, Raffalon finds that his journey with the little god isn't over, especially after learning the supposed devotee isn't grateful for being saved and he has other plans for the little god. A mixture of action, comedic moments, and a very engaging story makes this short story a page turner.

Review: What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn

What Do You Do? by Gillian Flynn
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

A life-long con-artist has once against changed her profession into the wonderful world of fortune-telling, or as she terms it "vision specialist". One day a new client comes in who lives in a old house, who has a moody teenage stepson, and suddenly finds herself in the middle of some weird things. Although the reader quickly realizes that con-artist is being conned in some fashion, Flynn's multi-twisted ending is set up so perfectly that that it earned an extra half a star. On top of wonderful ending is the detail in giving the reader the background of the unnamed point-of-view roguish protagonist that added another half star.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie

Tough Times All Over by Joe Abercrombie
My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Sipani is a place of mazelike streets full of foolish nobles and streetwise commoners, amongst the latter are numerous thieves getting their hands on a mystery item that everyone wants but can’t seem to keep their hands on. Abercrombie uses the collections’ title to full advantage as the story shift from one different rogue to another throughout whenever they have a mysterious package in their possession. The large cast of characters range in age, gender, race, and use of magic if any with action from beginning to end and exposition mixed in results in an great opening story to the collection as a whole.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Book Review: Night Watch by Terry Pratchett

Night Watch (Discworld, #29)Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The past and future of Ankh-Morpork revolve around the efforts of His Grace Sir Sam Vimes, Commander of the City Watch, and he doesn’t like it one bit. Night Watch, the sixth book focusing on the City Watch and twenty-ninth overall book of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds Vimes dealing with his wife about to give birth, the deaths of two of his two officers and chasing the man responsible, then finding himself in the past playing the mentor to his younger self during a time of revolution.

Sam Vimes loves being a copper, but not so much His Grace when things have to be official, but after a magical “accident” caused by the Monks of History to send him 30 years into the past Vimes must make sure history happens like it did when he was a 17-year old newbie. Becoming his mentor Sergeant John Keel and second-in-command at his old Watch House, Vimes attempts to bring about the past he remembers so his “present” remains the same. Unfortunately for Vimes, a genius yet insane killer Carcer was brought back with him and has his own agenda—chaos and murder. Add in a revolution hitting Ankh-Morpork and Vimes is in for some very stressful days.

This isn’t the first time that Pratchett has done a little time travel in a Discworld novel, but it was the first in which it was the primary element in one. Vimes becoming the heroic mentor to his younger self, is somewhat cliché but Pratchett uses Vimes own grim view of the world to an advantage as starts to become imprinted on young Sam. Yet, Vimes existential fretting about messing up his future does get tiresome after him doing it so many times in the book that it almost seems that Pratchett was finding ways to take up page space.

Night Watch is an action-packed installment in the Discworld series that Pratchett writes fantastically with Sam Vimes as the protagonist, even with the overused existential fretting. Once again I’ve found a Watch book bringing out the best of Pratchett and the entire Discworld setting, I can only hope the other two books of the subseries will be the same.

View all my reviews

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Book Review: Sabbath Roots by Charles E. Bradford

Sabbath Roots : The African ConnectionSabbath Roots : The African Connection by Charles E. Bradford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The observance of the seventh-day Sabbath has been a contentious issue amongst many Christians for centuries in Europe and North America, but one place that may startle many is that it has been the same in Africa. In his book Sabbath Roots: The African Connection, Charles E. Bradford brings to light many tribal and cultural customs from across the continent giving the reader evidence of the memory and observance of the seventh-day Sabbath from all corners of Africa.

With over 2000 years of Biblical history as well as cultural studies of hundreds of tribes across an entire continent as well as the African diaspora to the Americas, Bradford had many sources to navigate and reference to give readers a sense of how Africans fit into the continuing debate on the Sabbath. Beginning with how God is seen from the Biblical prophets and how He is perceived in the minds of Africans on both the continent and diaspora, Bradford brings to light where each stands to the other. Afterwards, he delves into the subject of the Sabbath on the African continent in relation to God and to cultures in and outside of Africa. Finally Bradford turns his attention to the history of Christianity on the continent, with a main focus on colonial period which it was considered both a forced religion from the outside and a religion of protest from foreign occupation.

In roughly 230 pages, Bradford had to cover a lot over a wide scope of scholarship and while he did a remarkable job in an engaging text and strong use of numerous sources there was only so much he could do and does leave readers with questions. The biggest and most important issue deals with the Sabbath itself. Outside the well-known Black Jewish groups, the Falasha and the Lemba, and writing briefly about the Jewish diaspora in Africa, Bradford does indicate if the cultural and tribal traditions of the seventh-day Sabbath across the continent are all from Jewish contact or a mixture of Noahide memory and contact with Jewish influences. This lingering question while not invalidating Bradford’s thesis, does leave it up to interpretation.

Although the question of when Sabbath entered into the cultural traditions of tribes all over Africa is unanswered, Sabbath Roots is still a very welcome addition to information about the seven-day Sabbath. But Bradford’s book should only be considered an introduction, especially in relation to Africa, and should inspire readers to look for more information after reading.


View all my reviews

Friday, May 12, 2017

Book Review: The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #1-5)The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the 1970s, a BBC radio serial was a surprise hit with a combination of humor and science fiction, eventually this spawned more radio serials, a TV show, even a Hollywood produced film, but also a series of books by creator Douglas Adams. The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy contains the first five novels and a short story written by Adams for fans both old and new, but unfortunately it seems that the novels might be more hype and substance.

The five novels contained in this anthology book are all flawed in various and similar ways, which seem to appear and disappear through the series. As a series of stories that were meant to be rooted in humor and science fiction, only the latter seemed to be constantly topnotch while the humor was a lot of hits-and-misses as in some stories seemed to have them and others didn’t. Another issues was narrative flow in each story or general lack thereof, as the majority of the stories are just a series of things happen before ending while others were narratively solid stories that got the reader looking forward to how it would end only for said ending to just appear out of nowhere leaving the reader cheated. Sadly the best story in the entire book that essentially got all the above flaws correct was the short story about young Zaphod.

Having looked forward to reading this collection of stories, I feel ultimately cheated after finishing the book. Overall I found everything in the book average and okay, but this will not be a book I go back to read again and has put in my mind to search out the original radio series or the old TV series to see if either or both are better than The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2.5/5)
The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (3.5/5)
Life, the Universe, and Everything (3.5/5)
So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish (2.5/5)
Young Zaphod Plays It Safe (4/5)
Mostly Harmless (2.5/5)

View all my reviews

Review: Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fifth and penultimate installment of the Hitchhiker's series had an interesting premise and sadly poor execution, which almost seems to sum up my overall thoughts on the entire series.

The story begins and ends on Earth, not the first one nor the second but another one, with reporter Tricia McMillan wishing she had joined Zaphod seventeen years before. Meanwhile Arthur Dent is hitchhiking around the Universe looking for an Earth to settle down on, if he can get the dimension right, while finding out that Trillian is a reporter for an inter-dimension & multi-time period news channel. And Ford Prefect goes to the Guide's headquarters and finds out it's been taken over by a corporate giant that has developed a frighteningly new version of the Guide and mails it to Arthur just before his escape. Ultimately all these treads end on Tricia's Earth through strange twist that might appear to be Random, but are a result of a bureaucratic need to check a box.

Throughout the entire story, Adams creates great situations and locations that seem to be the start of a story in themselves only to then quickly end them in an attempt to link them to another or each other like in the end of the book. However, this just resulted in making the reader think "this story could be great if..." for over half the story and wish some characters had been around longer or even appear. So much promise, but nothing to show for it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Review: Young Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams

Young Zaphod Plays It Safe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

In short story featuring Zaphod Beeblebrox, Douglas Adams brings both quick story with some funny dialogue. Two bureaucrats hire Zaphod to dive down to a crashed spaceship to explore the cargo, though Zaphod wonders why they keep on calling it the "safest" ship ever when it's a crashed wreck. Yet as they go through the interior the bureaucrats get anxious about the really dangerous cargo that Zaphod starts wondering what it is after they pass rooms containing really harmful material including chemical weapons. Its only until Zaphod learns what the most dangerous cargo on the ship is that he learns why the bureaucrats insist on calling everything "safe". Overall, the shortness of the story and tight plot make this a very good read with some nice jokes.

Review: So Long, and Thanks for the Fish by Douglas Adams

So Long, and Thanks for the Fish by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The fourth installment of Adams' Hitchhiker series finds characters and reader returning to a planet that shouldn't exist and figuring out why. Yet like the original installment this one has series problems in plot and humor, incoherent for one and flat for the other.

Earth is back out of no where and Arthur Dent has hitchhiked his way to his home planet that he thought gone forever 8 years before, only for everyone else it's only be about 8 months. While hitchhiking to his house, Arthur meets Fenchurch and just has to meet her again even though she technically didn't meet him. Once they do meet up things just start happening as if it's mean to be, including Fen reminding him all the dolphins disappeared which leads them to California to find the answer to that. Meanwhile Ford finds that his very long entry on Earth has suddenly popped up on the Guide and hurries to Earth to get Arthur. Then the three of them travel to view God's last message to the Universe where they meet up with Marvin.

Honestly, this story had a lot of things going for it that never materialized in both plot and humor. The joke about Fenchurch's name is apparently is obviously just English based that anyone from elsewhere on the planet just has to assume it's an English in-joke and that it's suppose to be funny. The main plot, if there even is one, is Arthur just getting back into the flow of Earth after traveling the Universe and then falling instantly in love before solving a mystery.

Overall, So Long, and Thanks for the Fish has it's moments both for story and humor but nothing is really connected or coherent. It's ho-hum fine, but nothing I'd go back to read.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Review: Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams

Life, the Universe, and Everything by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The third installment in the The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series continued the very good storytelling of the previous installment, but unfortunately regressed in humor to that of the original installment. Bringing into the story more time travel to go along with space travel, Adams brings back characters and old familiar location back to create an entertaining story.

Beginning with Arthur Dent on 2 million B.C. Earth reconnecting with Ford after several years apart, the two compare notes before seeing a sofa slowly moving across a field. After catching it, they're transported to Lord's just before England wins The Ashes and meeting up with Slartibartfast then watch as a spaceship lands and white robots that look like cricket players charge into the celebrating crowd and take The Ashes. Arthur and Ford then learn about the Krikkit, the great Krikkit War, and the Wikkit Gate to keep them locked away in time until the universe ended. Suddenly racing around the galaxy, always too late, to stop the Krikkit's robot army from getting component of the Wikkit Key. After one failed attempt, they meet up with Trillian who's left a lethargic Zaphod only to be reunited when the robots steal the drive of the Heart of Gold. They desperately travel to the planet Krikkit in which Trillian figures things out and saves the Universe from destruction, only for Arthur to almost destroy it when he lives out his dream to bowl at Lords.

Life, the Universe, and Everything has a lot of action and interesting adventures for Arthur and Ford with only minimal participation by Trillian, Zaphod, and Marvin. Even though Trillian is the character that connects the dots even though she came into the adventure late, Adams gives the reader all the clues to bring about a fantastic ending. The only downside to this story is that the humor doesn't measure up to Restaurant and is more in line with Hitchhiker.

While I am giving Life, the Universe, and Everything the same rating as Restaurant, right now this is my second favorite installment of Adams' series given the the humor for the former is better than this one. If the humor had been on the same level then this story would have easily been 4 stars.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Review: The Restaurant at the End of the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Picking up right after the completion of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe continues the story of the mash-up crew of the Heart of Gold. But in this sequel, both the story and the humor are brought up a notch making for a story than the first.

The majority of the story revolves around former President of the Galaxy Zaphod Beeblebox attempting to find out for what reason he stole the Heart of Gold. The a series of misadventures which nearly kills him all the while very hungry, Zaphod learns that it is to find the actually ruler of the Universe. Meanwhile Arthur, Ford, and Trillian just attempt to survive and find out where Zaphod is until he returns to the ship. When the characters arrive at the titular restaurant for Zaphod's long awaited meal, the humor only gets better then suddenly the story is in it's endgame and suddenly the crew is split up with Zaphod & Trillian going in one direction and Arthur & Ford in another.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with the story was it's ending as Zaphod & Trillian just disappear while Arthur & Ford are stranded on a planet in a long sequence that just ended with a bad joke, or just might have been one, it's hard to say. But apart from the ending, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe was better than it's predecessor.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Review: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The story of the last morning of the Earth, over England anyways, and how with the help of a stranded alien (Ford Prefect) he was friends with the last man (Arthur Dent) survived the planet's end begins the first story of the Hitchhiker's series. But the story quickly introduces the President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and his confederate Trillian, who happens to now be the last female from Earth, along with their depressed android Marvin aboard the Heart of Gold (which Zaphod stole at the launching ceremony).

After attempting to save his house from demolition for a new bypass, Arthur just gets off the planet when the alien Vogon demolition the Earth to make way for a new interstellar bypass. Learning on the fly and in the depths of an alien, one of the Vogon, he learns his friend is actually an alien who has been stranded on Earth then quickly finds himself jettison from airlock and improbably saved by the passing Heart of Gold. Then Arthur finds him on a mysterious planet inhabited by a race that actually constructed Earth as a massive computer to find "The Question" to "The Answer" to the "Life, the Universe, and Everything", commissioned by mice 10 million years ago.

The whip around style of the adventure and funny entries of the titular guide are the highlights of this first story of the series. Unfortunately, we hardly get to know any of the characters very much and besides the guide entries, the humor is somewhat bland with only a few times were smiles crossed my face. Overall it's an okay story, but if it wasn't for the fact that I'm reading an omnibus edition and the big fandom on the 'net I wonder if I would even be interested in seeking out other stories.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Book Review: The New World Order by Russell Burrill

The New World Order: What's Behind the Headlines?The New World Order: What's Behind the Headlines? by Russell Burrill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the end of the Cold War, many were stunned at the sudden changes in the geo-political world as well the religious world and what it meant for last-day events. The New World Order: What’s Behind the Headlines? was written by Russell Burrill in the early 1990s as an answer to many questions Adventists and evangelical Christians had about the rapid changes witness in the previous years.

Adapting his seminars into book form, Burrill reviews with the reader events that have shaped the titular “new world order” before turning their attention to the Books of Daniel and Revelation. Although Burrill does cover chapters 2 and 7 of Daniel, his major focus is on chapter 11 which for many is a confusing series of attacks by the king of the north and the king of the south against one another. However, for the first time in my own reading and studying Burrill gives a very understanding answer to the prophetic events happening in this chapter. Burrill also provides for the reader connections from chapter 11 of Daniel to many prophetic events written about in Revelations.

Burrill aims to give an overall picture of the events written about in Daniel and Revelation in relation to last-day events and what appear to be trends at the time of his written that seem to be pointing to the ultimate outcome as specified in Biblical prophecy. However, Burrill avoids talking specifically about dates and times, instead focusing on things occurring on the national, international, and religious landscapes that appeared at the time to be trending to prophetic events. Yet the now 25 year difference between the book’s publication and today does change the way the reader looks at the book. But while some sections of the book are out-of-date, Burrill’s emphasis of examining the prophetic writing of Daniel and Revelation continues to be the strongest part of this book.

The New World Order was published with a catchy-name for what can sometimes be an “uncatchy” subject for many. While the titular phrase now has many different means for many people from conspiracy theorists to wrestling fans, for those looking for the ultimate in a changed new world order with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ this book gives some answers to questions about last-day events.

View all my reviews

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volumes V & VI) by Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3 by Edward Gibbon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The finale volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 49 through 71 of the author’s vast magnum opus. Beginning with the Iconoclast controversy in correlation with rise of the Vatican and Holy Roman Empire in the 8th century and ending with a description of the causes and progression of the decay of the city of Roman in the 15th century, Gibbon relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments in both Europe and the Middle East ultimately led to the end of Byzantine Empire with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans and the state of the city of Roman at time of the Roman Empire’s complete end.

The majority of the 22 chapters deal with the rise of Islam and the resultant political and martial effects that would ultimately determine the fate of the Byzantine Empire. Although beginning with the Iconoclastic controversy that began the schism of the Christian church as the bishop of Rome rose to power in the West, Gibbon used those developments to launch into how Islam rose in Arabia then spread across not only areas once under Roman control but also their long-time Persian rivals in the aftermath of the reconquests of Heraclius. While detailing the internal struggle within the Caliphate period, Gibbon reveals how Emperors attempted to combat this new faith and military force to increasing little effect has time went on.

The thorough retelling of the numerous political changes throughout Asia that affect the fortunes of the Byzantine Empire shifted the focus away from the ‘Roman’ world to locations as far east as China, but revolutions of people in these areas would play into the fortunes of Constantinople. Also playing into fate of Byzantine was the barbarian Christian West that the Emperors called for aid not only from kings but the Pope as well. Unfortunately the resulting Crusades and mercenary arms that went East would inflict a mortal wound to the Empire in 1204 thus beginning a centuries long death spiral that only lasted as long as it did because of internal revolutions with the growing Ottoman Empire until 1453. This dreary recounting of the end of Byzantium is mirrored by Gibbon in his recounting of the history of the city of Rome itself throughout the Middle Ages until the fall of the New Rome in the East.

This finale volume of Gibbon’s life consuming work revealed the struggle of the Eastern Empire of Byzantium to continue against a succession of Islamic powers and its ultimate demise thus completing the fall of the Roman Empire. Yet in retelling the eventual fall of Constantinople, Gibbon paints a huge picture for the reader about how events both near and far away from the Bosporus affected the fortunes for both good and ill of the New Rome. And in recounting the history of the city of Rome throughout the Middle Ages, a reader sheds a tear with Gibbon about the loss of the monuments of both Republic and Empire due to the necessity or vanity of the people of Rome after for the fall of the Western Empire.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Book Review: National Sunday Law by A. Jan Marcussen

National Sunday LawNational Sunday Law by A. Jan Marcussen
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

When I read this book, I knew what my review would be just not how to begin it and finally decided honesty is the best policy.

I am a Seventh-day Adventist and the topic of this book focuses on what Seventh-day Adventists believe is a central part of last day events before Christ’s Second Coming. Unfortunately, the author has produced such a horribly written book as to induce cringe worthy level of embarrassment to any mainstream Adventist. And to learn that it was left at people’s doors or mailed to them anonymously makes its impact even worse because while I believe the author was sincere in wanting to do good; I will not vouch for the ideas presented because fairly early in the book I began skimming through and will never read it for a second time.

This book is not in any way affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist church and the publication company is named as to be confused with a genuine evangelistic ministry.


View all my reviews

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Book Review: The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

The Collected Poems of Emily DickinsonThe Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson by Emily Dickinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson contains a sizeable sample of the total works of the reclusive poet, who only came to prominence after her death. Containing 593 poems separated into five different themes, roughly a third of her overall productivity, this collection gives the reader a wonderful look into the talent of a woman who hid her art not only from the world but also her own family. Besides nearly 600 poems of Dickinson’s work, the reader is given a 25 page introduction to the poet and an analysis of her work by Dr. Rachel Wetzsteon who helps reveal the mysterious artist as best as she can and help the reader understand her work better. Although neither Wetzsteon’s introduction and analysis nor Dickinson’s work is wanting, the fact that this collection gives only a sample of the poet’s work is its main and only flaw.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: The Millennium Bug by Jon Paulien

The Millennium Bug: Is This the End of the World as We Know It?The Millennium Bug: Is This the End of the World as We Know It? by Jon Paulien
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The world approached the year 2000, the threat of disaster due to a glitch in programming to our technological world was all the rage in the media only to fizzle out. However Jon Paulien’s The Millennium Bug is not about Y2K, but about how Christians—more specifically Seventh-day Adventists—should approach the then upcoming calendar change to 2000 when thinking about the “end times”.

Almost 20 years ago, the world was getting both excited and anxious about the upcoming new millennium. Besides the magically alluring numeral 2000, there were questions about if the change would adversely affect computers causing chaos and to many Christians if this change in millennium would see Jesus’ Second Coming. Paulien examines all the theories surrounding the millennium with the Second Coming and why Adventists with their history of Great Disappointment were even getting infected with “the millennium bug”. Yet while Paulien was informative with all the reasons why the calendar change to 2000 was just artificial especially in light of what occurred leading up to the year 1000, when he turned to what Adventists should concentrate on when thinking about “the end times” a lot of his writing would suggest checking out his a previous book of his on that subject instead of giving complete answers in this particular book.

While this fact was a tad frustrating, Paulien went a long way in answer many question dealing and surrounding various ‘end time’ theories in which millenniums are involved whether dealing with the age of the Earth or when the millennium of Revelation occurs. The Millennium Bug isn’t perfect and in parts a bit dated, it is still a good quick read of information.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Book Review: Blood Brothers by Philip Samaan

Blood BrothersBlood Brothers by Philip G. Samaan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The world’s three great monotheistic religions all come from the same physical location and the same heritage, yet they are each other’s throats with no hope in sight. Philip Samaan in Blood Brothers examines the relationships between Jews, Muslims, and Christians not only today but in the past through Biblical and secular history.

The sons, both physical and spiritual, of Abraham have much in common but today can’t seem to get along and shed blood without a thought. Yet, Samaan breaks new ground in helping everyone understand the issues over the course of millennia that drove them apart from one another enough to think of the “others” as enemies instead of brothers. Once the issues were covered and explained, Samaan then turns to show how these brothers can come together through the Seed of Abraham, Christ Jesus.

As a native-born Syrian, Samaan is familiar not only with all three religions but has first-hand experiences with many Biblical examples of the vine and the olive tree from his childhood on his family’s farm. But as a long-time missionary with experience around the world with Jews and Muslims, his personal experiences of showing his Christian faith to them and the conversations are a strong part of this book. But written in the early 1990s, Blood Brothers shows it’s age as Samaan focuses more on Christian evangelistic efforts towards Jews. This is because at the time Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was presenting an end time scenario that is contradictory to that found in the Bible influencing many Christian denominations, except for Seventh-day Adventists. Almost 25 years later, the “battle” between Muslims and the West shows the age of Blood Brothers.

In around 140 pages, Blood Brothers present the issues that have divided the sons of Abraham over the centuries. But Samaan reveals how to bridge these divisions and how to the Seed of Abraham is the hope of all of his sons. Even though the shows it’s age in it comes to the world stage, it doesn’t take away from the importance of the answers Samaan gives.

View all my reviews

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Book Review: Prairie Boy by Harry Baerg

Prairie Boy: An Artist Tells of His Growing-Up Days on the Canadian PrairiesPrairie Boy: An Artist Tells of His Growing-Up Days on the Canadian Prairies by Harry Baerg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The life on the Canadian prairie a hundred years ago was one of adventure and hard work for a boy growing up, even without school to worry about. In Prairie Boy by artist -author Harry Baerg writes about events over 9 years of his life on and around his family farm in central Saskatchewan in an engaging autobiography geared towards young adults.

Beginning with purchase of his family’s farm outside the town of Waldheim in 1917 when he was 8, Baerg writes about many features of life over the next 9 years until his family left for British Columbia. As an avid nature writer, Baerg’s descriptions of the wildlife around his farm and his family’s farm animals are very well done as well as chores surrounding the latter. His descriptive illustrations, in both words and images, of various activities brought to life how farmers a century ago dealt with daily life without the technological developments that would occur over the course of the rest of the century. Baerg spends time on both his schooling and how modern inventions slowly started coming into town and into their family’s life, making one realize that even the faintest resemblance to our world today was barely visible a century ago.

Coming in under 130 pages, Prairie Boy is a very quick read but very informative and entertaining. Although intended for a young adult audience, Harry Baerg’s autobiography of his time growing up is something adults looking for an relaxing read would find interesting.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Book Review: Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea by Thomas Cahill

Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks MatterSailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The foundations of what we call Western culture today seemingly sprung from one place, Greece, yet that is not the entire truth. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea, the fourth volume of Thomas Cahill’s Hinges of History, examines and explains the structure of Greek society and ideas as well as the reasons why it has permeated so much of what we know of Western culture. But Cahill’s answer to why the Greeks matter is two-fold.

Over the course of 264 pages of text, Cahill looks at all the features of Greek culture that made them so different from other ancient cultures. Through the study of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Cahill examined the Greek’s view of war and honor in their grand war epic then how the same man expressed how the Greek’s expressed their feelings. The contradiction of the Homeric works is part of a larger theme that Cahill explores in Greek poetry beyond Homer, politicians and playwrights, philosophers, and artists. Throughout each chapter, Cahill examines what the Greeks did differently than anyone else as well as relate examples that many will know. Yet Cahill reveals that as time went on the Greeks own culture started to swallow itself until stabilized by the Romans who were without the Greek imagination and then merged with newly developing Christian religion that used Greek words to explain its beliefs to a wider world; this synthesis of the Greco-Roman world and Judeo-Christian tradition is what created Western thought and society that we know today.

Cahill’s analysis and themes are for the general reader very through-provoking, but even for someone not well versed in overall Greek scholarship there seems to be something missing in this book. Just in comparing previous and upcoming volumes of Cahill’s own series, this book seems really short for one covering one of the two big parts of Western Civilization. Aside from the two chapters focused around the Homeric epics, all the other chapters seemed to be less than they could be not only in examples but also in giving connections in relevance for the reader today.

For the Western society in general, the Greeks are remembered for their myths, magnificent ruins, and democracy. Thomas Cahill’s Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea does reveal that ancient Greece was more than that and why a culture millennia old matters to us today. While not perfect, this book is at least a good read for the general reader which may be what Cahill is aiming for but for those more well read it feels lacking once finished.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Book Review: Home to Our Valleys! by Walter Utt

Home to Our Valleys! (A Destiny Book, #161)Home to Our Valleys! by Walter Utt
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Vaudois were a little Christian group that throughout the Middle Ages were not considered “orthodox” by The Church resulting in persecution and attempts to wipe them out, however after the Protestant Reformation they were considered important to many prominent Protestant leaders throughout Europe especially after Louis XIV influenced the Duke of Savoy to attack them. Home to Our Valleys! is the retelling of the Vaudois’ return from exile during the onset of the War of the Grand Alliance by author Walter Utt using the official account of Vaudois leader Henri Arnaud as well as numerous primary sources from around Europe.

The Vaudois home valleys were in the Piedmont region of Italy, then known as the Duchy of Savoy, right next to the border with Louis XIV’s France. Their exile as the result of French influence on the Duke of Savoy just after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, made them refugees in Switzerland and German lands alongside the Huguenots. It was these combined refuges that came together in a 1000 man strong force that left Swiss territory into Savoy marching for home, a journey that included a sliver of France jutting into Savoy territory. Although this force avoided major battles, it continued to win minor skirmishes before reaching their home at which point their campaign turned into a guerrilla action against French forces operating in Savoy territory.

The overall subject of the book was very interesting, but was undermined by Utt’s decision of how to tell this story. At times the book read like nonfiction then as historical fiction, going back and forth throughout. This inconsistency is what really drove my rating of this book so low because while after thinking long and hard that for the most part this was a nonfictional account of the Vaudois with apparently reconstructed conversations between individuals as best guessed by Utt.

The fact that I had to debate what type of book this was while reading it and a while afterwards, took considerable attention away from content Utt was writing about. The subject matter in Home to Our Valleys! is very interesting, but was lost in the style of writing that Utt chose to write in making the overall book underwhelming.

View all my reviews

Friday, March 24, 2017

Book Review: The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld, #28)The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The piped piper comes to a town in Uberwald, but finds that he’s late to the show that features cats, rats, and stupid-looking kids talking to one another. The twenty-eighth and first young adult entry of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents finds the residents—new and old, human and nonhuman—town of Bad Blintz figuring out the fine line between real life and a story. The aim to bring the same Pratchett humor that adults love to a younger audience is on target.

A mixed troupe of “rat piper” con-artists arrive just outside the town of Bad Blintz lead by a streetwise tomcat, who a clan of talking rats and a stupid-looking kid named Keith on the streets of Ankh-Morpork. But everyone is getting fed up with just going around and doing the same old thing, the rats want to find a home to build their society and the kid would like to play more music. Maurice is just interest in money and hiding the guilty for how he gained the ability to speak, but he found more than he’s bargaining for in Bad Blintz because something weird is going on even his talkative rat associate find disturbing. Soon the troupe find out that they have stumbled into a long running conspiratorial plan hatched from a surprising source.

As always, Pratchett connects his humor around a well-known fairy tale or story then completely turns it on its head when the same circumstances happen on Discworld even as the characters fight their own preconceptions when comparing “stories” to “real life”. The fact that he ably brought his unique style to a young adult market without losing any of the punch from the jokes makes this a very good book. Although some of the sections of the book were somewhat familiar to a long-time Pratchett reader does take a little away from the book, it doesn’t necessarily ruin the book for first time readers.

Terry Pratchett’s first Discworld foray into the young adult genre is classic Pratchett through targeted at a younger audience. I found it as funny as the rest of his series, but some of the plot points were simpler than his usual work for obvious reasons. However this minor fact doesn’t ruin a very good book.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Book Review: Blood Stain (Volume Two) by Linda Sejic

Blood Stain, Volume 2Blood Stain, Volume 2 by Linda Sejic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Picking straight up from where Volume One ended with a seemingly chilling end, Elly Torres is face-to-face with their new employer not knowing what’s going to happen next. Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain (Volume Two) continues Elly’s pursuit of a job though she not only has to contend with her employer but also herself in the process.

Elly’s first encounter with her new boss and her first day on the job is on in which both she and her new boss get their first impressions of one another. To say the least it is an adventure of awkward situations and verbal gaffs, for both Elly and her employer, Dr. Vlad Stein. Attempting to create a viable and productive working relationship between the two is Stein’s chef, Serge, who continually explains the good Doctor’s eccentricities to the very imaginative Elly while urging Stein not to send another assistant running away as fast as they can with his gruff behavior. Unfortunately for Serge, he doesn’t know what’s going on in Elly’s head.

Like my review for Volume One, this short description only gives a hint of what transpires in Blood Stain’s second chapter. The continued focus is on Elly, but now that the story is in its central location Sejic begins giving some light on both Serge and Stein. While Elly’s characterization is further along than her two male counterparts, the development on all three is both intriguing and raises questions about how all of them will interact with one another as time goes on and what situations they’ll get into because of their own quirks and misunderstandings.

As a longtime fan of Sejic’s webcomic, it was once again a pleasure to get on paper a story I’ve enjoyed online for years. Blood Stain (Volume Two) is a continuation of a fantastically drawn story with intriguing characters both familiar and that one is just getting to know. If you haven’t already picked up Volume One then I encourage you to get both it and this volume, you won’t regret it.

View all my reviews

Monday, March 20, 2017

Book Review: The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A monochromatic festival of wonder and intrigue suddenly appears in your town and you can’t wait until the sun goes down to explore it. The Night Circus is a wondrous, fantastic journey into magic, romance, and the consequences of both. Author Erin Morgenstern brought forth engaging characters and a twisting plot that keeps the reader engaged throughout the book.

The central plot focuses on Celia Bowen and Marco Alistair, who are selected and groomed to compete against one another in the book’s titular location by their instructors. Throughout Celia and Marco’s competition, they struggle not with their feelings for one another but with “the rules” of the game and how a winner will be determined but as it continues on how their competition is affecting the lives of the circus performers and those connected to the circus. As the game continues, the two youngest members of the circus—twins, Poppet and Widget Murray—and their circusgoer friend, Bailey, become more and more important as both Celia and Marco look for ways to end their competition in the safest way possible.

From the outset Morgenstern creates a wonderful, lively setting that instantly gets the reader into magical journey they are about to take. Through the use of three different temporal narrative arcs intertwined throughout the book, the whole history of the creation and running of “The Circus of Dreams” to the present-day. This creative decision produced an intricate story that while giving the whole picture of the story by the end, does unfortunately result in a reader missing some details that enhances the story making a rereading necessary. Yet, because of how good this book is, a reread in the future would be something to look forward to.

The magically wonderful tale that is The Night Circus is a festival to any reader. While the twisting, interwoven time period narratives create an amazing plot even while missing a few details in the first read; this book is solid in plot and characters making an engaging read.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Book Review: Herald of the Midnight Cry by Paul A. Gordon

Herald of the Midnight CryHerald of the Midnight Cry by Paul A. Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The life and message of William Miller is one of the most important features in the history of Seventh-day Adventists. Paul A. Gordon’s Herald of the Midnight Cry focuses not only on the life of William Miller but also on the 1844 movement that his message inspired, and from its disappointment rose the future leaders what would become the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

The son of unbelieving Revolutionary War solider and a preacher’s daughter, William Miller’s childhood and early adult life was one of conflicting thoughts on God and religion. Although his family’s home was a place for religious meetings, Miller’s questioning father had a profound impression on him as much as his mother’s faith. Only after witnessing events on the battlefields of the War of 1812 did Miller turn to examining the Bible and then fully turning his life to Christ. Once he did, Miller turned all his attention to the Bible at every spare moment and as a result realized that Christ’s Second Coming was coming soon, in “about 1843 or 1844”. But Miller did not reveal his thoughts to anyone until he had reexamined his conclusions and thought of any objections that would be put forward, only then did he start sharing his finds with family and friends even though God pulled on his heart to spread the news. Miller demurred as long as he could until God opened a door he could not avoid going through and beginning 10 years of preaching about the soon return of Christ and the need to gain a relationship with him.

Over the course of the next two-thirds of the little over 123 pages of Herald of the Midnight Cry, is focused on William Miller’s preaching and the general 1844 movement leading to the Great Disappointment and its aftermath. Although Miller is the central actor in the events, other influential participants are focused on as well in spirts turning this short biography into a history book as well. Yet this history is important for both Seventh-day Adventists and non-Adventists to understand the man central to the Millerite movement, who he was, and what he preached.

While the shortness of the overall book and the change from strict biography to a general history of the movement named after Miller counts against Herald of the Midnight Cry, I would be remiss by not at least endorsing this book for those wanting general information about the man and the movement. While Paul A. Gordon’s book is neither the best biography of William Miler nor history of the Millerite movement as a whole, there are those longer and more detailed in subjects, his book is a good introduction to both for those curious and those wanting to wet their knowledge.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: Scars of Independence by Holger Hoock

Scars of Independence: America's Violent BirthScars of Independence: America's Violent Birth by Holger Hoock
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The quaint, romanticized version of the American Revolution that many have grown up with through popular history and school curriculum is not the real life story that those living during those years experienced. In Scars of Independence, Holger Hoock looks past the good versus bad and underdog narratives so prevalent today to reveal the multifaceted struggle and very violent history of the American Revolutionary War from all its participants.

Hoock frames the American Revolution as not just a colonial rebellion, but first and foremost a civil war in which the dividing line of loyalties split family. The Patriot-Loyalist violence, either physical or political, began long before and lasted long after the military conflict. Once the fighting actually began, both the Americans and the British debated amongst themselves on the appropriate use of the acceptable violence connected to 18th century warfare and on the treatment of prisoners. While both sides thought about their conduct to those in Europe, the Native Americans were another matter and the violence they were encouraged to inflict or was inflicted upon them was some of the most brutal of the war. But through all of these treads, Hoock emphasizes one point over and over, that the American Patriots continually won the “propaganda” war not only in the press on their side of the Atlantic but also in Europe and even Great Britain.

One of the first things a reader quickly realizes is that Hoock’s descriptions of some of the events of the American Revolution remind us of “modern-day” insurgencies and playbooks of modern terrorists, completely shattering the popular view of the nation’s birth. Hoock’s writing is gripping for those interested in popular history and his research is thought-provoking for scholars. Another point in Hoock’s favor is his birth outside the Anglo-American historical sphere in Germany, yet his background in British history and on-off research fellowships in the United States has given him a unique perspective to bring this piece of Anglo-American history out to be consumed, debated, and thought upon.

Scars of Independence: America’s Violent Birth is a fascinating, intriguing, thought-provoking book on the under-reported events of the American Revolutionary War in contrast to the view of the war from popular history. Holger Hoock gives his readers an easy, yet detailed filled book that will help change their perspective on the founding of the United States by stripping the varnish away to reveal the whole picture.

I received this book via LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers in exchange for an honest review.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Review: A Bold One For God by Charles G. Edwards

A Bold One For GodA Bold One For God by Charles G. Edwards
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Although he did not begin the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox has become its most identifiable proponent not only in the almost 450 years since his death but also during the last 25 years of his life. In A Bold One for God, Charles G. Edwards writes a brief 160 page biography of “a not-so-well-known reformer” that served not only God but his nation as well.

Edwards’ biography of Knox begins in his early 30s after his conversion to Protestantism and his interactions with martyr George Wishart and how the influential preacher told him to remain a tutor to his pupils until God needed him. In the reaction after Wishart’s execution, Knox was asked to preach by Wishart’s followers to lead their congregation after they had assassinated the Cardinal of St. Andrews. His accepts and his powerful preaching began his rise as a man of note in the Reformation movement in Scotland while also resulting in his imprisonment after the movement is crushed for a time. Over the course of the next 12 years, Knox serves as a galley slave before living in exile in England then Geneva and Frankfurt then back to Geneva with a brief visit to Scotland in-between. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland permanently and became a not only the leading Protestant preacher in the nation but also one with significant political power as he contended with the queen regent Mary of Guise then her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and then under the regents of the young James VI.

In the synopsis above, I have hardly scratched the surface of John Knox’s life and career. Unfortunately Charles Edwards did the same in this short biography as well. Although his intended audience is easy identifiable for young adults through his writing style and larger font, Edwards doesn’t treat his audience with respect by crediting them with any intelligence and made his subject less than what he was. Through reconstructed conversations and paraphrasing of others, Edwards endeavored to give Knox’s life more depth but only made the man appear simple and artificial to the reader which seemed to indicate a condescending attitude towards his readers.

While Edwards does give an accurate picture of the chronology and historical background of John Knox’s life that does not make up for the lack of depth and unintended sterilization of his subject. The lack of discussion of Knox’s first 30 years of life and the, most likely unintentional, patronizing attitude towards his readers severely undercuts the worth of A Bold One for God.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Review: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Volumes III & IV) by Edward Gibbon

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2 by Edward Gibbon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The second volume of Modern Library’s three-volume reprint of Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire covers chapters 27 through 48 of the author’s vast magnum opus. Beginning with the reign of Gratian and ending with the reconquests of Heraclius in 628 A.D., Gibbons relates in detail the political, martial, social, and theological developments that saw the ultimate split of the Roman Empire, the fall of the West, and the continuance of Roman tradition in the East centered in Constantinople before glancing at the lives of the next 60 emperors of Byzantium over the next 600 years.

The deterioration of the Rome picks up with the reign of Gratian and his eventual overthrow leading to the unification of the Empire under Theodosius the Great before its finale split with the inheritance of his sons and then their successors over the next 50+ years. Throughout the era of House of Theodosius, the various barbarian tribes made inroads into the Western Empire which included two sacks of Rome itself by the Visigoths and Vandals, as the long ineffectual reign of Honorius and his successors allowed the Empire to slip out of their fingers. In the vacuum arose the genesis of future European states such as England, France, and Spain while Italy declined in population and political cohesion as the Pope began to fill not only a religious but political role.

The Eastern Emperors in Constantinople, unlike their family and colleagues in the West, were able to keep their domain intact through military force or bribes to turn away. The bureaucratic framework established by Constantine and reformed by Theodosius was used to keep the Eastern Empire thriving against barbarian incursion and Persian invasions while creating a link to the Roman past even as the eternal city fell from its greatness. Yet as the Eastern Emperors kept alive the Roman imperial tradition while continually orienting it more towards Greek cultural heritage, the internal conflicts of Christianity became a hindrance to social and imperial stability leading to rebellions of either a local or statewide nature or allowing foreign powers to invade.

This middle volume of Gibbon’s monumental work is divided in two, the first focusing on the fall of the Western Empire and the second on how the Eastern Empire survived through various struggles and for a brief time seemed on the verge of reestablishing the whole imperium. Yet throughout, Gibbon weaves not only the history of Rome but also the events of nomadic peoples as far away at China, the theological controversies within Christianity, and the numerous other treads to create a daunting, yet compete look of how Rome fell but yet continued.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: Lighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson

Lighter of Gospel FiresLighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The long life of Seventh-day Adventist preacher John N. Loughborough saw many in the world and in the development of the Adventist movement from William Miller to the Seventh-day Adventist church. In Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough, Ella M. Robinson recounts the service of one of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s first ordained ministers and pioneer into many fields of ministry not only through his owns words but her interactions with him when she was a young girl growing up.

Born in upstate New York, John N. Loughborough was the son of a carpenter and deacon of the local church and throughout his early life was always around hard work and Christian fellowship. Soon after losing his father at age seven Loughborough went to live with his grandfather and the family joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller soon afterwards. Even before the Great Disappointment Loughborough learned that some ministers would not tolerate Biblical beliefs contradicting human traditions. Soon after beginning his own life-long service of preaching at age seventeen, Loughborough encountered many of these worldly ministers as well as the challenges and triumphs that came preaching the word. Within several years of beginning his preaching career, Loughborough was convinced of the Seventh-day Sabbath and soon encountered other Sabbath-keepers within the Adventist movement, James and Ellen White. Along with the White, John Andrews, and many other church pioneers, Loughborough and his family would cross the United States to bring the ‘midnight cry’ to those that hadn’t heard it. But Loughborough wouldn’t find the fruits of his efforts only in the immediate locations where he preached, but across the country and then around the world.

The nearly 170 pages of text, albeit in large font, and the composition quickly denote this book for teen as well as relating the time when it was first published over 50 years ago. Although primarily a biography of J.N. Loughborough, Robinson related many side incidents surrounding him that added to the overall book. Robinson also illustrated the development of the Seventh-day Adventist church through Loughborough’s own career not only to show his importance but also how all the pioneers of that time sacrificed and contributed to building up of the church.

Lighter of Gospel Fires is an informative, yet short biography of church pioneer J.N. Loughborough that is an easy read for teens who are not interested in having to read a dry book. Ella M. Robinson not only relates the life of the longtime Adventist preacher, but also looks into how the Seventh-day Adventist church had developed by the time of Loughborough’s death. Although not perfect, this book is a nice Sabbath read that I would have loved reading when I was a teen.

View all my reviews

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: In Search of the Golden Rainbow by Charles Armistead

In Search of the Golden Rainbow: A Once In a Lifetime AdventureIn Search of the Golden Rainbow: A Once In a Lifetime Adventure by Charles Armistead
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The allure of lost treasure fascinates everyone, yet no many try to actually find it. Charles Armistead retells his time looking for such In Search of the Golden Rainbow with his father, great-uncle, and several business partners. Yet while searching for gold, Armistead learns lessons about life and death.

Covering a period of nine months, Armistead describes his time while searching for a lost Mexican mine in the Oregon Mountains of New Mexico. Over the course of 96 pages, Armistead relates many adventures and mishaps throughout in a smooth transition from one to another. Yet because of nearly 40 years between the events and the writing only the incidents that made the biggest impression and the details both Armistead and his father could agree on were included in the book. Although the book is clearly written for a teenage audience, its short length is a major downside and something I didn’t realize way back when my mother read me this book when I was a child. While the book does have a religious message as well, Armistead doesn’t “preach” throughout it instead only bring in a religious message into the book at an appropriate connection to the events he is retelling.

In Search of the Golden Rainbow is over 35 years old, yet it is still an enjoyable read. Armistead’s writing style provides a quick and easy read of his time looking for lost gold while also finding some spiritual truths. If I had decided when I was a teen to read this book for myself instead of relying on my faulty childhood memories, I would have enjoyed it not only for the adventure but also that Armistead relayed spiritual lessons in a conversational way and not highhandedly.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Book Review: The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White

The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The death of the Apostles brought an end to the sacred history recorded in the Bible save for the prophecies of the future in the Books of Daniel and Revelation, however the message of the Gospel and the history of the Church continued. The Great Controversy, the final volume of Ellen G. White’s Conflict of the Ages series in which the history of the Christian Church is chronicled from the destruction of Jerusalem to the end of sin and the recreation of Earth. At almost 700 pages, the events of the last two millennia are touch with special emphasis on the Reformation, the message of 1844, and the climax of the Great Controversy between Christ and Satan at the end of time.

The Great Controversy focuses entirely on the Christian Age with White beginning the history with the how Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire yet at the same time was watered down with the influences of paganism and other errors. Yet White emphasizes that like Biblical Israel, even though the majority of Christians worshiped—unknowingly—in error, some still held to the truth of Scripture. Then over the course of the next 250 pages, White describes the Protestant Reformation from Wycliffe through the Pilgrim Fathers arrival on the shores of the New World. White then transitions to the events leading up to Great Disappointment of 1844 and the Biblical explanation for the significant event that occurred in Heaven. White explains how the Great Controversy is effecting those living not only when she first wrote the book but to the reader today and how it our decisions will effect where we stand during the events she describes at the end of the book with the second coming of Christ and the destruction of sin.

The Great Controversy is the last of the five-book Conflict of the Ages series and is a mixture of non-Biblical history as well as explanations of the prophetic events of Daniel and Revelation that have and yet to occur through to the end of sin. This book shows that God’s message of love through His law is still relevant today as it was from the beginning of Genesis and before, even with the attempts by Satan to undermine it or simply overthrow it for his own vision. As in even book in this series Ellen White wants the readers of The Great Controversy to know that the present world of sin will not last and there will be an end, yet it is up to the reader to decide where they will stand in relation to Christ and Satan.

View all my reviews

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book Review: Dangerous Women 1 edited by George R.R. Martin & Gardner Dozois

Dangerous Women 1Dangerous Women 1 by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first subdivision of the Dangerous Women anthology edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois is a mix bag of both story quality and the interpretation of the phrase ‘dangerous women’. In seven stories across genres around the central theme of women who are dangerous, a reader is treated to see women in various ways only but is also forced to figure out if the women presented or alluded to are actually dangerous.

Of the seven stories featured in Dangerous Women 1 the three best at presenting both a very good story and dangerous women were Carrie Vaugh’s “Raisa Stepanova”, Megan Abbott’s “My Heart Is Either Broken”, and George R.R. Martin’s “The Princess and the Queen”. Just outside these three was Cecelia Holland’s “Nora’s Song” which had a very good story but was seen from the perspective of a little girl finding out how dangerous her mother is. These four stories were at the very beginning and the last three stories of the collection giving the anthology a strong start and finish.

However, the three stories in the middle suffered from a failure of either not being very good or not having a dangerous woman. Both Megan Lindholm’s “Neighbors” and Joe R. Lansdale’s “Wrestling Jesus” were very good stories, but the danger posed by the women either featured or more mentioned then seen was hard to detect. But the weakest story of the entire collection was Lawrence Block’s “I Know How to Pick’em” which went from having potential to falling flat by the end.

Overall Dangerous Women 1 is a mixed bag of very good stories with strong female characters, just very good stories with no danger attached to any female character, and just plain bad all around. The best that could be said is in the end the reader is the ultimate judge.

Individual Story Ratings
Raisa Stepanova by Carrie Vaughn (4/5)
I Know How to Pick’em by Lawrence Block (1/5)
Neighbors by Megan Lindholm (2.5/5)
Wrestling Jesus by Joe R. Lansdale (2/5)
My Heart Is Either Broken by Megan Abbott (4/5)
Nora’s Song by Cecelia Holland (3.5/5)
The Princess and the Queen by George R.R. Martin (4/5)

View all my reviews