Friday, December 08, 2017

Blizzard of Glass

by Sally M. Walker

This one's a short book about a munition ship explosion that took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia on December 6, 1917. At the time, it was the largest man-made explosion in history, flattening a good portion of the city and killing hundreds of people. Ms. Walker tells the story, in part, by recounting the experiences of a few families who were living in the area. That personal touch brings the sorrow of the tragedy and the following recovery efforts that much closer. It's definitely worth checking out.

LibraryThing link

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Lineage of Grace

by Francine Rivers

This one's a collection of five novels. Or maybe they were novellas. All I know is that they were originally published as individual books. Each book took a story from the Bible and retold it (with some embellishments) from the perspective of the story's heroine. I read the first two back when I was desperate for something to read and decided I wanted the first one on my shelf. Years later, I picked up this compendium and bit by bit read through them all. Of course, such a lengthy reading schedule makes for a lousy book review.

My opinions of the first two novellas didn't change after the second reading. I recall the third volume telling the story of Ruth, "Unshaken", as being the weakest of the lot. It seemed to import a lot of 20th Century American values into the tale. "Unspoken", the story of Bathsheba and her lust affair with David worked better. The stories from 1st and 2nd Samuel are some of my favorite from scripture and it was interesting to see that one fleshed out from Bathsheba's perspective. Ms. Rivers also didn't skimp on presenting sin, repentance, and forgiveness. Finally, "Unafraid", the story of Mary, gave an interesting take on what it's like to have a Messiah in the household. In the end, I'm glad I picked up the collection and took the time to read it.

It's on my shelf, worth checking out, and waiting room material.
LibraryThing link

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Thursday, October 05, 2017

The Executioner's Redemption

by Rev. Timothy R. Carter

One nice thing about being middle aged is that I've figured out a lot of the questions about life. Like the lyric goes, "fewer things puzzle me than when I was young". Of course, there's still things I haven't made up my mind about. One of the things I still waffle on is the death penalty. Is it a necessary evil? Sometimes I'm ready to say no, but then the doubts creep back in. Anyway, that's what lead me to pick up a copy of The Executioner's Redemption. To me, the question of capital punishment is merely academic. I don't really know anyone convicted of murder nor have any of my loved ones been murdered. Rev. Carter, on the other hand, spent the first part of his adult life as a prison guard on death row. I figured that I might learn a thing or two from reading his story.

In The Executioner's Redemption, Rev. Carter tells of his years within the prison system and how that intertwined with his reconnection with Christ and growth in faith. I found it to be a fascinating look into another world. More important, it was a reminder that the issues of the day, and in our lives, have a spiritual dimension. Rev. Carter makes no pronouncement on the death penalty, but rather demonstrates from the stories he shares that life and death is of secondary importance to one's relationship with God. And that relationship is formed through the process of living life and confrontations with death.

Keeping it on my shelf.
LibraryThing link

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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Stalking the Nightmare

by Harlan Ellison

I mentioned the introduction to this collection of stories and essays when I reviewed The Benedict Option. Of course, that planted the seed to pull this one off the shelf to read again. When I first read it back in the 1980s, I thought Harlan Ellison was one of the greatest writers ever. Thirty years later, I still think he's good, but I've read much more great literature. The stories didn't quite measure up to my memory of them. To be honest, my tastes have also changed. I still love reading along as Mr. Ellison plays with words, but I no longer find the themes enjoyable. He paints a good picture of the dark side of humanity. He doesn't seem to find much light, however, either within or from above.

Well, that was introspective. For those of you aren't as interested in my internal musings, just go ahead and read it. It's not uplifting, but it's honest, witty, and gut-felt. Worth your time and musings.

LibraryThing link

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Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Traitor to His Class

by H.W. Brands

The only reason I hesitate to say this is the best presidential biography I've read is because it's been so long since I've read some of the others and I don't trust my memory. Professor Brands has written a highly enjoyable book. He starts out recounting the events of Roosevelt's morning on December 7th 1941, intercut with vignettes from Pearl Harbor and the surrounding seas. In the process he mentions some of the things Roosevelt had done, giving a picture of what his presidency had accomplished and where it stood with the American people. The prologue ends with the opening words of Roosevelt's address to Congress on December 8th. Not that I needed it, but it made quite an appetizer for the full biography.

I ended up going through the book at a pretty good pace. Professor Brands painted an informative and engaging picture of Franklin Roosevelt and the events of his life. Of course, both Roosevelt and the current events of his life make fascinating subject matter. While the overall tone is positive, Brands doesn't hesitate to point out the points where Roosevelt erred or was less than honorable. I often ask myself, as I read through these presidential bios, if I would vote for the man I'm reading about. I can see myself having many reservations with Franklin Roosevelt. He was very much a politician, never hesitating to employ some spin or play to his audience. But his presidency had so much influence on the America I grew up in--what I think of as "normal"--I can't help but see myself casting my vote for him despite any reservations. In fact, I'd even be tempted to award the man, at least as presented in this biography, the title of America's greatest president to date. He had the character to lead the country through two of the biggest crises in our history and, for good or ill, accomplished an incredible amount during his long administration.

I may have to get a copy for my shelf.
LibraryThing link

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Maltese Falcon

by Dashiell Hammett

Every so often I feel compelled to pick up and read a classic book--some tome that is either considered a great work of literature or has at least left its mark on our culture. I felt that impulse recently when I saw a copy of The Maltese Falcon and decided to pick it up. As I read Mr. Hammett's tale of San Francisco detective Sam Spade, I had a fleeting thought that the characters, setting, and story seemed somewhat stereotypical. But then I realized that it was probably because I had already seen multiple parodies, knock-offs, and homages that Falcon had inspired. (Not the least of which was the 1941 film adaption.) But familiarity aside, the characters, setting, and story were quite entertaining and well worth checking out.

LibraryThing link

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

White Rage

by Carol Anderson, PhD

This book made me angry.* Dr. Anderson puts forth the idea that, since the Civil War, every time the African American community has made an advancement towards equality it's been met with a push back from white Americans, trying to take away those gains. She backs her thesis up with numerous examples of truly disgusting actions by everyone from working class mobs to the highest levels of government.

The book was hard to read. The anecdotes from history generated outrage, and there was no outlet. There were no "happy endings" offered where justice was done, where the good guys were rescued, the bad guys punished, or lessons were learned. Nor did Dr. Anderson offer up a plan of action, any hope that the cycle would end. But then, how many African Americans have had to live with that hopelessness over the centuries? I'm glad my wife pushed me to read the book and I hope I can keep its lessons in mind as I see events unfold around me. Who knows? Maybe I'll get an opportunity to push back against the push back some day.

 Definitely, check it out!
LibraryThing link
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* Is that a cheap gag? I'm sure it is. But it's the best hook I could think of.

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