SHORT VERSION: I can think of an awful lot of people who I'd give this book to:
Christians trying to understand atheists (like a pal of mine who said,SHORT VERSION: I can think of an awful lot of people who I'd give this book to:
Christians trying to understand atheists (like a pal of mine who said, "I just don't know how those people don't believe in God." I almost shoved my copy into her hands. Almost.)
Atheists trying to understand Christians.
Protestants trying to understand Catholic teachings.
Catholics trying to understand Church teachings.
Catholics who understand but struggle with following Church teachings.
Anyone wanting an inspirational story of change and redemption.
Yes, that really is an awful lot of people ...
LONG VERSION Jennifer Fulwiler was raised by loving parents who didn't push their atheism on her or do more than tell her to think for herself. However, that in itself was enough to produce a dedicated atheist, especially when told to an intelligent youngster who applied herself with the passion that only youth can muster to facts and logical conclusions.
I looked at the ammonite settled in between my soggy sneakers and I understood for the first time that my fate was no different than its own.
I had always thought of these creatures as being fundamentally different from me. They were the dead things, I was the alive thing, and that's how it would be forever. Now I wondered what had kept me from understanding that to look at these long-dead life-forms was to look at a crystal ball of what lay in store for me—except that, unless I happened to die by falling into some soft mud, I wouldn't end up a fossil. Ten million years from now, there would be nothing left of me.
There was no solution to my problem, because it wasn't even a problem; it was just a new awareness of reality. But as I took one last glance at the pickup before it disappeared from view. I felt like there was some answer in that brief flash of happiness I'd experienced while driving the truck. The grim truth I'd uncovered hadn't gone away, but it was somehow rendered less significant when I'd been immersed in the distraction of having fun.
Her only encounters with Christians were, frankly, off-putting and tended to be with friends who were not at all equipped to discuss faith versus scientific truth and logic. So Fulwiler spent many years losing herself in fun to distract herself from the awareness of mortality.
When Fulwiler became a wife and mother, the life-altering love she experienced tipped the scale against atheism. It defied logic. It defied scientific explanations. With this realization, she began searching for the truth. That truth led her to a place she'd never have expected, conversion to Catholicism.
On the surface, this is Fulwiler's story of her conversion. However, because she required so much reflection, connection, and research before relinquishing her old beliefs, it is also a primer on logical investigation and thought. Finally, it is a exploration of Catholic teachings and how they apply to modern life. Because Fulwiler had to thoroughly understand what she was learning, she takes care to make sure the reader also understands what she's objecting to or accepting.
This isn't done in a dry or preachy way. Au contraire, I often found myself laughing, especially at the time she sat in a bathroom stall for hours, reading a Bible furiously searching for answers and just as furiously spinning the toilet paper roll to send away people who knocked on the door. And there are moving and insightful moments such as when she is reading C. S. Lewis, listening to Tupak Shakur, and melding her thoughts about both into realizations about hell, heaven, and purgatory.
I recently read St. Augustine's Confessions, the first autobiography ever written. It is a moving and completely honest book about one man's search for ultimate truth. On many levels Fulwiler conveys the same passionate desire to know what is true, what can be trusted, as that young African seeker did 1,600 years ago.
Augustine's book is a classic because it spoke so directly to the people of his time and yet resounds its message through the ages. Other Christian classics do the same. Francis de Sales with his Introduction to the Devout Life, Teresa of Avila with her Interior Castle, and Thérèse of Lisieux with The Story of a Soul all addressed problems of their time with advice that is still applicable and invaluable today. They reach us now because the human soul always struggles with the same problems and they speak in a way that transcends their own particular eras.
Why do I bring them up? Only time will tell if this book is a classic that transcends our time. I think it is nuanced, well written, and relatable enough that it could.
What I do know is that, like those classics, this book was written for our time. Right here, right now, our country and the Western world are crying out for a way to make the world make sense. Jennifer Fulwiler's book spells it out in a way that cannot be ignored by any honest truth seeker. She tells of the truth that transcends mere facts while speaking the language that our modern, science loving, atheistic world understands.
I love the Odd Thomas books overall. However, what this book showed me above all is that I love the first trilogy of the Odd Thomas books. (Odd ThomasI love the Odd Thomas books overall. However, what this book showed me above all is that I love the first trilogy of the Odd Thomas books. (Odd Thomas, Forever Odd, Brother Odd). Each of those were written as complete stories showing sweet, gentle but capable Odd Thomas fighting the supernatural for the good of the innocent who were threatened. They have beginnings, middles, and ends ... or at least resolutions of an evil situation with Odd sometimes on the road to find somewhere that a simple fry cook can earn a living.
The second trilogy, as I've come to think of them since seeing another book, Deeply Odd, is on the way, are told in a completely different fashion which I find ultimately unsatisfying. Beginning in Odd Hours Koontz just drops us in the middle of the action, a la a thriller where we learn the back story later after having begun with a pulse pounding chase. I actually could forgive that if there ever seemed to be resolution to the story. There is a resolution to Odd's current predicament, however, nebulous hints about the "big meaning of things" are all we get, despite all the action. Ho hum ... and they drive off into the sunset ...
Odd Apocalypse picks up about a week after Odd Hours ended, we are finally told after a thoroughly confusing intro where we've been dropped into a series of very odd events (ha!). Poor Odd is put through a series of gyrations and problem solving tasks because no one can give him a single straight answer. Now, I expect this from the bad guys. But for Annamaria, his mysterious companion picked up in Odd Hours, to do the same is just annoying. She may have a mystical hold on everyone she encounters, but I am mysteriously untouched by it. Odd Thomas tells us this is a haunted house book but for my money it gets a toehold in the Lovecraftian universe before settling down solidly into H.G. Wells country. I won't say which book so as to avoid spoilers but it becomes very obvious toward the end.
Koontz seems to have just thrown everything but the kitchen sink into this book without remembering to give us what was so satisfying about the first three books. An actual story.
I will read the next one simply to see if this ongoing murk ever clears up, but at this point feel it will be more from a sense of duty than anything else. And to give Koontz a chance to pull it all together in a way that makes me like all three of the second trilogy in a "really one book" sort of way....more
I read to page 130 before this book solidified my thinking about bloggers who write books. They usually nThis is an Amazon Vine book.
What a mish-mash.
I read to page 130 before this book solidified my thinking about bloggers who write books. They usually need to be very carefully edited and that doesn't happen enough of the time.
Too much description for every single thing from having coffee to walking down the street to going out at night. Description is welcome in a memoir/travelogue, to be sure, but not when everything mentioned explodes adjectives, including some that the author has made up such as "a small, divey Hamra bar" or "some hipstery bars in town." As well, there is no narrative focus for the reader to follow. The author does little more than wander through town, drink coffee, socialize in the evening with friends, write, and agonize over whether she'll ever find a place where she "belongs." That can make a wonderful reading, especially when set in an interesting location like Beirut. However, the lack of focus leaves the reader being jerked from subject to subject to subject and then back again, all in as many paragraphs. That is the pattern for the book and it left me feeling as if I was in a tornado.
Blogging well is one thing. Writing a lengthy book is another. A good editor can help the blogger learn how to make that transition gracefully. This poor author had no such help and since her professional writing experience is through magazine articles and the like, she is used to writing short pieces.
There are many well-written memoir/travelogues that would-be authors may be interested in reading to see how to tell a clear story while including information about many things. My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme; Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie; The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley, and Madeleine L'Engle's Crosswicks Journals (A Circle of Quiet is my favorite) all come to mind. Perhaps the most helpful for this particular author (and more specifically the editor for Jasmine and Fire) would be the Crosswicks Journals. Each flows through time by the months and season, as Jasmine and Fire does, but the clarity of thought and communication are simply fantastic.
As I say, I put most of the blame for this lack of focus on the editor.
That doesn't make the book any easier to read. What a shame. It had great potential....more
I'm rereading this for an upcoming discussion on SFFaudio. The audiobook which is simply excellent. And it's been simply terrific the second time arouI'm rereading this for an upcoming discussion on SFFaudio. The audiobook which is simply excellent. And it's been simply terrific the second time around. I think I have to up this from four stars to five.
My original full review is below. ===============
The date that everybody knows is October 3, six months and eleven days from today, when a 6.5-kilometer-diameter ball of carbon and silicates will collide with Earth.
Reading this book, I mused that perhaps all this science is not the best thing for us. Surely the dinosaurs were just living life as usual right up to the last moment before that meteor hit. I'd rather have that be the case than have horrific scenes of doom from outer space hanging over my head for months.
As one might predict, some people are led to religion, some are led to anarchy, and many are led to self destruction. Among the great majority simply trying to go on living their lives is homicide detective Hank Palace. When an obvious suicide scene seems a little off, he begins investigating.
What's the point of investigating a possible murder when the world is ending in a few months? Palace isn't able to answer that question easily but, as we see a few other focused, balanced individuals appear throughout this narrative, an answer does emerge.
"One thing we can learn from Shakespeare, Hen, is that every action has a motive."
I'm looking at him, holding this drooping sandwich bag full of ice to my bruised forehead.
"Do you see it, son? Anybody does anything, I don't care what it is, there's a reason for it. No action comes divorced from motive, neither in art nor in life."
"For heaven's sake, dear," says my mother, squatting before me peering into my pupils to eliminate the possibility of concussion. "A bully is a bully."
"Ah, yes," Father says, pats me on the head, wanders out of the kitchen. "But, wherefore doth he become a bully?"
This is a murder mystery, a novel of self discovery, a pre-apocalyptic scenario, and it works on all those levels. I read in one evening and, needless to say, I really enjoyed it. Certainly I was surprised by the solution, which is in the best tradition of murder mysteries.
This is the first of a trilogy and I'm looking forward to the second book....more
If there is a genre I hate, it is that of addicts telling their life stories ... yes, even when they come out ChriReading this for my book club.
If there is a genre I hate, it is that of addicts telling their life stories ... yes, even when they come out Christian at the other end. Just like a bad movie made for Christian purposes, an angsty book told for Christian purposes does nothing for me. First give me good art (story) I say, then worry about what else is in it.
It isn't that I don't have sympathy for the people themselves, it is that their books inevitably seem to be all about them (me, me, me ... angst and self loathing ... then repeat).
I know, this makes me sound harsh. But there you have it.
The only thing worse than that?
Tell it in stream-of-consciousness (which around our house, we call "lazy writer's syndrome").
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce you to Lit.
So yes I have a very bad attitude going in and after reading the first four pages I was consciously reminding myself that some book club members read 400 pages of Assam & Darjeeling who never have read fantasy before.
Therefore, I manned up and soldiered on. For another four pages. I didn't want to actually weep aloud so I stopped reading.
And then I recalled one book club member who skimmed Assam & Darjeeling in 20 minutes and kept insisting that she'd "read" the book ... but she had so many other books she was reading that she didn't have time to properly sit down with this one.
But ok, everyone loves her and we have good manners (unlike this commentary, I realize) and so we politely agreed to her fiction.
Which opened the gate for me to do the same. Almost.
I managed to page through and find where Karr actually goes to her knees to pray and gets a bit of response ... and will pick up skimming from there. Although the next meeting isn't for a few weeks. So there's no need to actually rush into this or anything (yes, I also enjoy procrastinating in my spare time ...)
UPDATE Full disclosure ... I haven't read the first 200-250 pages. It is just that is the spot from which I am taking the plunge. As quick a plunge as possible. The book club is Monday so I've got to begin skimming now!
FINAL I must say that I enjoyed the last part of the book fairly well. It didn't make me want to go back and read the beginning of it, but I have rarely read a better description of one's interaction with God than the last part of the book. So in the end, I am glad that I read the bit that I did. I'll be curious to see how everyone else liked it....more
I haven't done more than dip into this book but I already know enough to recommend it.
One of my favorite inspirational books is At the Still Point (myI haven't done more than dip into this book but I already know enough to recommend it.
One of my favorite inspirational books is At the Still Point (my review here). It is an unusual devotional for ordinary time with thematically arranged classic and contemporary fiction and poetry which pulls the reader deeper into prayer and worship.
My one wish was that it would be popular enough that author Sarah Arthur would do similar devotionals for the other liturgical times of the year. With Light Upon Light, my wish is coming true. Appropriate themes take us through the liturgical seasons from expectation and longing to joyful arrival and the cost of such a gift as Christ's incarnation. There is traditional and modern poetry, as well as literary excerpts which are not confined to those we'd expect such as A Christmas Carol (though that is there also).
This is a real treasure, not least because it may introduce you to new sources of inspiration you wouldn't have encountered otherwise....more
What becomes very noticeable to me at this point, listening as opposed to reading, is the juxtaposition of the two kings and their hobbit observers. OWhat becomes very noticeable to me at this point, listening as opposed to reading, is the juxtaposition of the two kings and their hobbit observers. One has been brought back to himself after being under the Dark Lord's sway and the other is prideful and arrogant. It is a striking contrast.
Another thing is how touched I was by the description of those coming to the defense of Gondor, early after Gandalf and Pippin got there. They were the few, those coming out of common need to defend themselves and their lands, in answer to the king's call. It made me understand just how personal war is on that level. It kept coming back to me for hours.
It occurs to me that we are also loathe to let surprises unfold by themselves. I was thrilled at the way Tolkien keeps everyone in the dark over the identity of the stern young man who took Merry up on his saddle, until the crucial moment. Whereas the movie had to let us in on the secret, I suppose in support of girl empowerment. *sigh* Because THAT hasn't been done before.
Listening also allowed me to suddenly notice how Aaragorn's speech has been transformed into something lordly and formal, nobler and grander than when we met him as Strider. It was especially noticeable when he was speaking to Eowyn. "Lady," he would begin every statement to her. In my mind's eye, it was as if he was transformed into the king that we know he is underneath the travel-stained ranger.
The final realization, at this point, is just how the movies lessened the epic scale by making all the heroes less heroic than in the book. They were portrayed with ordinary fears and doubts. I imagine the idea was to give us someone to relate to. However, we already have the hobbits who are, as they themselves would tell us, as ordinary as dirt and happy to be that way. Tolkien's epic storytelling, by contrast, allows the heroes to be imbued with nobility and qualities that emerge as situations require.
We need heroes to look up to who are imbued with something grander than we ourselves have. Otherwise, what is there to strive for? If all our heroes have been knocked down to average, we have only ourselves to look to. And that is not helpful in dire circumstances like those faced in this struggle in Middle Earth....more
I scored this off of NetGalley. I was unsure how I'd feel about reading a Brene Brown book since I have only watched her TED Talks and listened to TheI scored this off of NetGalley. I was unsure how I'd feel about reading a Brene Brown book since I have only watched her TED Talks and listened to The Power of Vulnerability which is a series of workshop courses she gave.
I shouldn't have wondered. Brown's voice grabbed me from the moment I read the introduction. In fact, early in the book Brown's realization that "you can't skip Act 2" (a reference that will be clear if you read the book) was revelatory for my husband and me in a work situation that we're slogging through at the moment. It didn't change our point on the map, so to speak, so much as to point out where we were and that we weren't really lost in the Slough of Despond ... just working our way through it to Act 3.
I like the way Brown has our innate connection to storytelling as a parallel thread. On one hand, it defines ways we can recognize and recover from dangerous trajectories. On the other, just reading what she's found about us as storytelling beings hits a note that interested and connected with me.
The reason I only gave this three stars is that the last third of the book somehow felt very different, much more self-help oriented than what preceded it. Suddenly there were a lot of acronyms, bullet pointed lists to consider and work through, open ended questions to ask yourself, and a couple of case studies that seemed very unnecessary. My eyes glaze over at that sort of thing which is why I've enjoyed Brown's work so much before this. Now I haven't actually read one of her other books so she may have followed this pattern before. It may work for everyone else in which case the problem is mine alone.
At any rate, I still recommend the book. It allowed me to make a lot of connections in my own life between my behavior, internal logic, and how to avoid or recover personally from falling hard when taking a risk....more
I miss Roger Ebert. Even when I disagreed with his online personal journal entries, which happened fairly frequently, I still loved reading him.
Most iI miss Roger Ebert. Even when I disagreed with his online personal journal entries, which happened fairly frequently, I still loved reading him.
Most importantly, of course, I miss reading his movie reviews every Friday. They were the anchor against which I measured all other critical opinions of a film. Again, I might disagree with him because his range and experience and desires when watching a film were often different from mine. Again, it didn't matter. I loved his way with words, the way he made you understand that his point of view was very valid even if you did disagree, and the way he was unafraid to champion movies others despised. He began this with early support of 2001: A Space Odyssey and later won my heart with his embrace of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. This is something few movie critics achieve.
The Great Movies collects a series of Ebert's of critical appreciations of movies which deserved a deeper look than a simple review. It ranges across time and genres to choose the best of the best, movies which make you want to grab your friends and force them to watch.
This is one of those books not to read from beginning to end but to flip open and see what catches your eye. Or to pick and choose from the table of contents, either the films you love or the films you never heard of. No matter your method, you will come away both missing Roger Ebert and grateful that his "voice" is still with us in print.
This book makes me appreciate the movies I love even more, makes me realize some movies that I never want to watch, and ... yet ... also makes me appreciate that both sorts can be connected in a way that makes my own viewing richer. This just happened in reading Ebert's comparison between the noir masterpiece Sunset Boulevard (much loved by me) and the Japanese existentialist film The Woman in the Dune (in which simply reading the description was enough, thank you very much).
There are some reviews which I won't read now because those movies, such as Jean Renoir's The Grand Illusion, are on my list to watch. Ebert can't fully discuss these as "great movies" without giving spoilers, so I will deny myself the pleasure of knowing his reasons for recommendation. It is enough to know that I can come back to his discussion when I am ready.
Above all it makes me want to watch some of these great movies again ... or for the first time. Surely that was Ebert's goal and he hits the target with sureness and grace. If you love movies, if you love intelligent and insightful writing, and, above all, if you miss Roger Ebert, then you owe it to yourself to read this collection....more
At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that "this has done something fundamental to the AmericanSHORT VERSION: WOAH.
This is the worthy sequel to Patient Zero.
At one point, Rudy Sanchez says that "this has done something fundamental to the American people."
I'll tell you this. It did something fundamental to me.
It was exciting, suspenseful, terrifying, and haunted me in my dreams and at random moments in my day.
And it was satisfying. Very satisfying.
I'm not sure Maberry can top this. Though I'm already looking forward to his next attempt to try.
LONG VERSION: It's been six years since Joe Ledger was secretly recruited by the government to lead a combat team for the DMS, a taskforce created to deal with problems that Homeland Security can't handle. That story was told in Patient Zero. This was where we met a group of terrorists who had developed a bio-weapon that turned people into zombies.
Every year since then, like clockwork, Joe and Echo Team have returned to battle a variety of seemingly supernatural foes, all developed by villains who are somehow going to make boatloads of cash off of the terror.
The action-packed stories are full of evil super-villains, noble heroes, smart mouthed quips, a smattering of philosophy about "good guys and bad guys" and heart. Lots of heart. All this is told at a roller coaster pace that barely allows you to breathe until you get to the end.
I love them.
In many ways, this book is similar to the rest of the series. Mother Night, a villain you love to hate, is a super-genius anarchist who's strewing chaos throughout the country over Labor Day weekend. She's got the DMS's computer tied up in knots and old evils that were defeated in previous books are now popping their heads up all over the country. Losses are high and the odds are very much against Ledger and his team. We know Joe will win. It's watching it happen that makes it fun.
It is superior to the other books, I think, because the pacing is more measured and there is more character development. I also enjoyed the flashbacks into the DMS's years before Joe joined them.
But in one very important way Code Zero was very different for me.
I felt a level of anxiety that was all out of proportion. Maberry is an expert at ratcheting up the stakes until you just can't see how anyone decent is going to survive the maelstrom. I was used to that. But somehow this felt different. I got a bit jumpy. I couldn't quit thinking about the horrific chaos during the day when I had to put the book down. It stuck with me in a way the other books didn't.
In fact, after I finished Code Zero I had to go find a nice, gentle book to read. I just couldn't face anything hard-edged. (Hello, No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency.)
Then I woke up this morning to news on my clock radio about multiple stabbings at a high school. And I figured it out.
Maberry has his finger on the pulse of the evil that Americans today know all too well ... that lurks below the conscious level of our lives ... violent chaos that can strike without a moment's notice. Shootings at Fort Hood, restaurants, schools, and more have changed the mood of our country and made Mother Night's chaos resonate more deeply than usual.
Along the way, he looks at why people choose good or evil. This has been mentioned in other books, but never with so many examples as in this one. Maberry doesn't spell it out much but this conversation between a DMS scientist and Joe Ledger gave the larger context, as well as defining everyone's actions in the book.
"I've watched the tapes of Rudy interviewing some of the people you and Col. Riggs and the others have arrested. Some of them seem so ordinary. How can they commit those atrocities if they have a conscience? Is it their nature? Or is it a nurture thing? Are they from an environment that makes it ok for them?"
Joe grunted. "I asked Rudy that same exact question once."
"What did he say?"
"He said that the nature versus nurture question is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that there are only two possible forces at work on a person. Sure, a person's nature is a factor and that could be a produce of their brain chemistry or whatever makes a person a sociopath or a psychotic or a hero. Just as the forces in a person's life have to be taken into some account. Some abused children grow up to abuse. There's math for that. But neither viewpoint covers all the possible bases."
"So what's missing?"
"Choice," said Ledger. "Rudy thinks that choice is often more important than either nature or nurture. Some people grow up in hell and choose to let others share in that hell. Some people grow up in hell and they make damn sure they don't let those in their care ever glimpse those fires. It's a choice."
"Not everyone can make that choice."
"No, of course not. But a lot more people can than you might think." ...
"Choice," she said.
"Choice," he agreed. "It's what defines us. And it's probably the most underrated power in the world."
Code Zero is full of people choosing to save the world or burn it down. In most of the cases, the motivation comes down to something that Maberry does not name, but which I will make bold to label: love. We want to know we matter, that we make a difference, that someone "knows" us. Not for our accomplishments but simply because our "selves" matter.
Mother Night gives it a different name, and she may not tidily fall into this definition but, let's face it, she's super-villain crazy. I believe that her ultimate fate bears me out. It shows most in Maberry's final scenario at the end of the book as the answer to Rudy's statement that the chaos "has done something fundamental to the American people.
Truly this is a great book, especially for the shoot-em-up genre. It is also probably one that can be read as a stand alone without reading the others that came before.
AUDIO NOTES I listened to the audiobook read by Ray Porter who was superb, as usual, at portraying Joe and every other character along the way. In this book Porter dialed his urgent, driving, delivery down some and thank goodness for that. The action was intense enough without being shoved over the edge of the cliff by a continually urgent tone. Porter also was more nuanced and thoughtful in his reading than I recall in previous Joe Ledger books. If this sounds odd when considering our heroes are fighting off zombies, it actually worked to make me consider the full horror being faced. Once again, kudos to Ray Porter. He's the reason I always choose audio for the Joe Ledger books....more
I liked the audio for the first book in this trilogy so much (The Last Policeman) that upon finishing it I went and picked up this audio for rereadingI liked the audio for the first book in this trilogy so much (The Last Policeman) that upon finishing it I went and picked up this audio for rereading. Also, the last book in the trilogy comes out in July so I might as well have the previous two fresh in mind, right? Peter Berkrot does a stellar job.
My full review is below.
What does it say that my first act upon opening this book was to look for what month it is? How close is the asteroid? Obviously, I've opted into Ben H. Winters' trilogy which began with The Last Policeman.
Holy mackerel, what a fantastic second book! I don't usually get to say that so it is a particular pleasure to have loved this book so much.
Ben Winters did a masterful job of making me intensely interested in the mystery when former police detective Hank Palace is asked by an old friend to find her missing husband. This is almost impossible in a world where going "Bucket List" is common and society is hanging on by a thread with no technological communications left. Of course, Hank can't turn down this personal plea.
It grabbed my attention in the beginning with a highly atypical sort of detail that communicated a lot to me, as a Catholic, about the wife.
Hung above the dresser is a small tasteful painting of Christ crucified. On the wall of the bathroom, next to the mirror, is a slogan in neat block all-capital letters: If you are what you should be, you will set the world ablaze!
"Saint Catherine," says Martha, appearing beside me in the mirror, tracing the words with her forefinger. "Isn't it beautiful?"
"This may seem like an obvious question," I say, when I'm done writing down her answers. "But what do you think he might be doing?"
Martha worries at the nail of her pinky. "I've thought about it so much, believe me. I mean, it sounds silly, but something good. He wouldn't be off bungee jumping or shooting heroin or whatever."...
"He'd be doing something, like, noble," Martha concludes. "Something he thought was noble"
I smooth the edges of my mustache. Something noble. A powerful thing to think about one's husband, especially one who's just disappeared without explanation.
It not only tells us about Martha and her trust in her husband, it sets us up to fear that he won't live up to that perfect faith. All done in less than a page. Nicely done.
Also, the author wasn't condescending about it. That is refreshing.
Hank's investigation gives Winters the perfect vehicle to simultaneously display some American society's odd mutations in response to the impending asteroid strike. His single-minded hero forges ahead despite all obstacles because that's the only way he knows to tackle his problems. This dual mystery-apocalyptic scene made a book I simply couldn't put down.
I especially enjoyed the fact that the characters seem very real. I was intensely anxious, for example, about Hank's dog, Houdini, when he took him along to infiltrate a college campus that has become an anarchist encampment. Houdini does indeed become threatened which becomes an obsessive worry for Hank (and me). And the result? Completely unexpected by Hank (or me). But absolutely typical and perfect. It was at this point that I tipped my hat to Mr. Winters.
This trilogy is shaping up to be a real classic for both the science fiction and mystery genres. I am looking forward with great anticipation to the end of the world, as seen by Detective Palace. The Last Detective and Countdown City are both going on my Best of 2013 list.
In 1928 young Takashi Nagai was a medical student at the top of his class. An atheist, he passionately believed that science held the key to the futurIn 1928 young Takashi Nagai was a medical student at the top of his class. An atheist, he passionately believed that science held the key to the future of the human race. He loved his country and believed the "spirit of Japan" would improve his nation's future.
Then came a telegram that sent him racing home to be with his mother as she died. And his world changed.
"I rushed to her bedside. She was still breathing. She looked fixedly at me, and that's how the end came. My mother in that last penetrating gaze knocked down the ideological framework I had constructed. This woman who had brought me into the world and reared me, this woman who had never once let up in her love for me ... in the very last moments of her life spoke clearly to me! Her eyes spoke to mine, and with finality, saying: 'Your mother now takes leave in death, but her living spirit will be beside her little one, Takashi.' I who was so sure that there was no such thing as a spirit was not told otherwise; and I could not but believe. My mother's eyes told me that the human spirit lives on after death. All this was by way of an intuition, an intuition carrying conviction."
In an unlikely turn of events, Nagai turned to Blaise Pascal's Pensées in his grief and bewilderment, having been attracted to the Catholic poet-scientist in a high school literature class. This was the first step into a spiritual journey that ended in Nagai becoming known as the "saint of Urakami" after the atomic bomb hit Nagasaki.
Nagai's biography is captivatingly told. Paul Glynn combines vivid descriptions, character insights, and just enough Japanese history so that we have context. As a result I wound up admiring the Japanese people even more than I did already. I never realized how many of the Japanese ideals combine with saintly living, especially as seen through Takashi Nagai's eventful life.
At Mass on Sundays and feast days, the Nagais often heard Father Moriyama speak on the beauty of the simple family life at Nazareth. It showed, he said, the great worth of ordinary family life and the grace of God present in humdrum daily work. This reminded Nagai of his boyhood, when his mother taught him how to find the universe in a bowl of rice: "Look at the rice carefully, and discover behind it the countless generations of farmers who pioneered wild land and nurtured rice paddies through droughts and floods, poverty, war and pestilence. See generations of artisans too in the simple, practical beauty of the bowl and chopsticks and in all the merchants who handled Them. See your parents took, who worked hard to be able to buy and cook the rice." Nagai's mother would conclude her lesson by joining her hands and bowing in a gesture of profound gratitude, reciting a prayer that explained all this, and the universe as well: "Namu Amida Butsu. We depend on our utterly, Amida Buddha."
... [The Japanese character] Shigoto, "work," is made of two ideographs meaning "something that is a service." All are the beneficiaries of countless other "workers," and we owe it to the community to do our own job well, not primarily for material recompense but out of gratitude. This was the boy's introduction to Japan's famous work ethic. Nagai the Christian recalled his mother's gentle homespun spirituality with gratitude.
I am really struck by how many modern issues Nagai struggled with: belief in science as ultimate good, humanism, the atom bomb, cancer, and more. His faith gave him peace and the way he lived it in unimaginable circumstances gave that peace and faith to others. I also really admired his absolute dedication to truth, so much so that when he became curious about Christianity he decided to carry out a scientific experiment by boarding with a Japanese Catholic family.
This is much more than a simple biography, needless to say. Because we're following Nagai's spiritual journey, we are invited to look deeper within ourselves and journey also. This book is fascinating and inspirational.
How fitting that this is the first book I finished in 2014. Not only is it the Solemnity of Mary, which Nagai would have very much appreciated, but it is the beginning of a New Year where I am taking Takashi Nagai as my patron for the year. So ... it seems meant to be on several levels.
I picked this up on Kindle's daily deal sale not long ago. It is just what I needed and I forgot just how easy it is to sink into an Agatha Christie mI picked this up on Kindle's daily deal sale not long ago. It is just what I needed and I forgot just how easy it is to sink into an Agatha Christie mystery.
This has always been one of my favorite Christie books. Mrs. McGillicuddy wakes from a nap on a train to see another train has pulled exactly alongside them for a moment ... when a window shade snaps up she becomes the witness to a man strangling a woman before the other train sweeps the scene from sight. Ignored by the authorities when she reports the crime, she arrives at her friend Jane Marple's house. They begin investigating only to become stymied when no body ever turns up.
I had forgotten that this book has one of my favorite characters, Lucy Eyelesbarrow. She becomes Miss Marple's "legs" and we see much of the story from her perspective.
Highly recommended as light summer reading, especially for those who last read Christie very long ago.
I was really struck at the end of this by Miss Marple's reminiscences of the wicked people she'd seen during her long life in the village. We like to think that there were no people who might kill their children for profit or even some lesser reason (none of which happens in this book, btw), but the human tendency toward greed is always with us which is how Miss Marple sums up a basic reason to do evil. One person says that someone who would do something so evil must be mad and Miss Marple says that is a very modern way to explain things which she never has agreed with. She sums up again with "wickedness." This provided much more food for thought, especially now that we are continually exposed to a steady media stream of "wickedness."
Christie never moralizes and rarely does a character even mention faith, but she does have a solid world view grounded in Christianity and tradition which is telling and refreshing these days....more
Casting around for something to listen to but in a weird frame of mind ... I began trying out books read by some of my favorite LibriVox readers, as wCasting around for something to listen to but in a weird frame of mind ... I began trying out books read by some of my favorite LibriVox readers, as well as those recommended in the comments. Then I got to Mil Nicholson who reads Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens. I have been longing to read it for some time.
And I fell in love. Her reading is simply superb. It also is wonderfully supplemented by my reading the print copy. This allows for a slow, rich reading, which is not my usual style at all but which I am enjoying very much.
I also love rediscovering all the things I love about Charles Dickens, especially the way he slips bits of humor into his writing. Its funny because its true.
He had a certain air of being a handsome man--which he was not; and a certain air of being a well-bred man--which he was not. It was mere swagger and challenge; but in this particular, as in many others, blustering assertion goes for proof, half over the world.
I also want to mention that I have become a fan of Modern Library publishers. Their books are inexpensive but nicely flexible to stay open at the page I'm reading. The typesize is pleasing. And so forth.
FINAL Having just finished the book I find that I have been associating it with Middlemarch more than with Dickens' other books. Perhaps that is because Little Dorrit adds a gentle touch of domesticity wherever she goes. More likely it is because it is hard to pigeonhole Dickens from one book to the next. What a genius. I am so happy that I have so many of his books yet to read as shiny, "new" discoveries....more
Just scored the very last Amazon Vine copy of this baby. I literally watched the button change to "no more available" after I requested it. I don't geJust scored the very last Amazon Vine copy of this baby. I literally watched the button change to "no more available" after I requested it. I don't get those breaks often, which I can't help feel is ironic since it is a bigger break than Hank Palace is going to be catching by the end of the book. (The one thing I DO know about it.)
UPDATE This book is told just a few days from the asteroid Maia hitting the Earth and possibly ending all life on the planet. Hank Palace leaves his cozy haven with fellow policemen to search for his sister, Nico, who is part of a nebulous group who believes they can avert disaster somehow. So we get to see other ways in which society has broken down (red towns) or is working well (green towns, an Amish community, etc.).
This book was more problematic for me than the others which I enjoyed a lot. Hank is still as tenacious as ever and a detective right up to the end. His search for Nico rang false for me. I know he has a lifelong pattern of taking care of her but if it was ever made clear that she didn't want his help and was going her own way, that was definitive at the end of the last book. I, therefore, didn't share Hank's urgency in searching for his sister who was never a sympathetic character and who I always found annoying in the extreme. Also, I knew exactly who committed the key murder he investigates very soon after we met the character. So it was disappointing on several fronts.
However, the very end was touching and inspiring, believe it or not. The community in which Hank finds himself and the dynamics of the members gave me a great deal of satisfaction. It is that ending which made me want to give it 3-1/2 stars. I'll settle for 3. It is enjoyable for closure to the trilogy if nothing else. ...more
Reading this the second time was just as good as the first time, if not better.
My original review is below.
Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.
Why have I never heard of this magnificent book before?
Thank goodness my mother, 80 years old and never afraid of a Kindle Daily Deal, read it and commanded me to do likewise.
In the 25th century all the work is done by robots, the ones that haven't broken down. Mankind stumbles along in a drugged stupor, trained from birth to avoid thinking and that "privacy is supreme." They haven't the basic knowledge to repair anything, much less a complex machine.
One of the last of the great thinking robots, Spofforth is the dean of the university in New York City. Paul from Ohio has taught himself the lost art of reading and wants to teach it at the university. Mary Lou has dropped out of the system only to be tempted into putting herself in harm's way by the lure of "What did you call it? Reading?" These three give us a fascinating and nuanced look at what it means to be human.
I've been jaded by the plethora of recent apocalyptic novels but this one is different. Written in 1980 by the author of such varied works as The Man Who Fell to Earth and The Hustler, this book is eerily prescient.
Perhaps the highest tribute I can give this novel is that when I finished I didn't want to read another book. To do so would sully what I'd just read before I'd finished thinking about it, as well as be unfair to anything that followed because it wouldn't be able to compare.
I can only say, as my mother did, "Why haven't we heard of Mockingbird before? Why isn't it a well-known classic?"
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nig
I’m pretty much f**ked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Six days into what should be the greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned into a nightmare. I don’t even know who’ll read this. I guess someone will find it eventually. Maybe 100 years from now. For the record… I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did, and I can’t blame them. Maybe there’ll be a day of national mourning for me, and my Wikipedia page will say “Mark Watney is the only human being to have died on Mars.” And it’ll be right, probably. Cause I’ll surely die here. Just not on Sol 6 when everyone thinks I did. Let’s see…where do I begin?
This book should be subtitled: Keep It Together. Work the Problem.
Astronaut Mark Watney is marooned on Mars after a freak dust storm literally blows him away from his crewmates. Thinking he's dead, the mission is scrubbed and the rest of the crew head back to Earth. Mark hopes to survive until the next NASA mission to Mars in four years.
Most of The Martian consists of Mark's log entries which read like a MacGyver episode. He keeps as lighthearted a mood as possible while recording the details of how he is attempting to grow food, find water, and so forth. It is this lighthearted element which helps keep this from being merely a manual of "how to survive on Mars." For example, Mark's selection of entertainment from among the things left behind by his crewmates yields the complete series for Three's Company. His occasional comments on the series afterwards made me laugh out loud.
Fairly early in the book, NASA's side of the story begins being interwoven with Mark's struggle for survival. Since Apollo 13 is one of my favorite movies, the comparison is inevitable and irresistible. NASA must juggle PR, competing agencies, rescue plans and more ... while we see Mark doggedly surmount one obstacle after another. It is a welcome element because an entire book of Mark's survival log was going to need some sort of additional depth to make it interesting.
Although I always felt fairly sure that Mark would survive, as the end of the book loomed near I got increasingly tense. What if these were his "found posthumously" logs? The author kept the tension up to the very end.
And at the end? I'm not ashamed to admit it. I cried.
Tears of joy? Tears of sorrow? Read the book and find out.
Or listen to it as I did. Narrator R.C. Bray did a good job of conveying Mark's sense of humor and absorption in problem solving and survival. He also was good at the various accents of the international cast comprising the rest of the crew and NASA. He had a tendency to read straight storytelling as if it were a computer manual or something else that just needed a brisk run down.
The main thing a bit at fault was Bray's German accent, which I kept mistaking for a Mexican or Indian accent. Those don't seem as if they should be that interchangeable do they? My point exactly. However, I always knew who was speaking, I felt emotions as they came across, and it was a good enough narrating job. Not enough to make me look for other books in order to hear his narrations, but good enough.
WHY 4 STARS INSTEAD OF 5 Recently I read Orson Scott Card's comments about the movie Gravity in the course of which he gave a lot of background about John W. Campbell. I never thought of Gravity in those terms, but he was right .... and that is what made me able to identify what sort of story The Martian is: John W. Campbell style all the way.
This is 1950s Campbellian sci-fi storytelling. It will have no characterization because it's about one thing: A Competent (American) Person in jeopardy, who is forced to find resourceful technical solutions in order to survive and get home safely.
In the 1950s, these were called "competent man" stories - the culture had little room for women in space - and nobody bothered to mention that they all seemed American. Even when they were nominally of some other background, sci-fi was pretty much an American genre.
Campbellian sci-fi (named for editor John W. Campbell, who guided writers like Asimov and Heinlein in creating this kind of literature) was a huge step forward. Previously, sci-fi had been John Carter of Mars or Flash Gordon ... or Giant Ants. [...]
But Campbell insisted on scientific and technical rigor. What could realistically happen? Let's have science-and-technology problems that the hero solves using science and technology.
The result was an amazing florescence of wonderful idea stories. Smart stories. Stories that made you think, stories that taught you true things about science, stories that made you proud to be human (and American).
But in these stories, everybody was their job description. Astronauts were astronauts. Soldiers were soldiers. Aliens were aliens. It didn't matter who they were, what mattered was the problem they had to solve, and either they solved it or they didn't.
Do you see the point? Characterization - the literary process of individuating characters so that their particular motives and backgrounds shape the story - would only interfere with a Campbellian tale. There's no characterization in "Cold Equations" - or in "The Nine Billion Names of God" or "Nightfall" or "The Star" or any of the other idea-based stories in that great age of science fiction.
Characterization would be a waste of time.
This novel is not a short story and I felt it would have benefitted from more characterization. Yes, we get to know Mark Watney and, to a lesser degree, his crewmates and the NASA crew. However, to hear Mark's story for so many days (sols) and get to know so little about him during that time ... well, after a while it got a little boring, aside from the new problems to be solved or emergencies from which to recover.
We also got occasional forays into NASA and the spaceship crew, but more about Mark would have enriched the story. It didn't have to be soul-baring and I realize he was writing a log, but after several hundred days some personalization would have crept in, one would think.
Anyway, that is not a huge factor because I enjoyed the story. But I was not surprised to see that the author is a computer programmer and it did cost the book a star....more
From that moment we are immersed in a world which has been ripped out of time, suffering a
I was raised to marry a monster.
How's that for a first line?
From that moment we are immersed in a world which has been ripped out of time, suffering a curse which Nyx has been pledged from birth to try to break by marriage to the demon lord Ignifex. When she finds Ignifex is not simply what he seems on the surface, she is torn between her vow to her people and her love for a complex person. And in this world the Greek gods punish vow-breaking with a vengeance, so this is a serious problem.
I read this book faster and faster so that by the end I knew I was heedlessly missing details. But the plot was the thing that kept me reading until midnight two nights in a row. This is a romance and it's a good one. After all it is based on Beauty and the Beast, albeit very loosely. However, the author tells it with a freshness and immediacy that makes me think of Robin Mckinley's The Blue Sword, which is some of my highest praise.
I am amazed this is a first book. Hodge took the Beauty and the Beast story and mixed it up with Greek mythology and a few other classics that I won't mention here for fear of spoilers. The result is a completely new soup* that doesn't seem derivative in any way. It is complex, compelling, and Tolkien-esque in the way big themes and truths are woven seamlessly into the story. It is C.S. Lewis-ian (is that a term?) in the way that source materials are woven seamlessly into a completely new story a la Til We Had Faces (yet so much more understandable to a schmoe like me.).
It is not without flaws, but they are few and forgivable as quirks. They are fairly minor and annoy no more than a few gnats so I'll not go into detail about them.
Above all I was struck by the underlying themes of the masks we hide behind, the real meaning of love, the many forms selfishness can take, the value of intention in sacrifice, the price of trying to control fate, and the fact everyone has more layers than you can see at first glance.
Cruel Beauty is being marketed as a YA novel and it fulfills those requirements in that I'd let my 9th grader read it if I still had one around the house. However, I miss the days when there was no YA designation and one could pick it up, as I did The Blue Sword long ago, without the preconceptions of a label. This is a story that adults can definitely enjoy. Be not afraid.
This book is a masterpiece and should become a classic. Certainly it is one I will be rereading more than once. I want to shove it into everyone's hands and force them to read it so we can talk about it.
Do yourself a favor and pick it up.
NOTES 1. This is a review copy and I'm friends with the author's brother and sister-in-law. Believe me, that all made me rather leery than inclined to shove this book into everyone's hands. This "shove-this-book-into-everyone's-hands" review is my honest opinion.
2. I've been asked if guys would like this book. I asked the author's brother who is not prone to read "girly books" and you may read his answer in the comments for his review at Goodreads.
3. Catholics will be happy to note that I used Tolkien-esque deliberately. Everything Hodge has here is solidly Catholic in basic worldview, despite the fact that the only gods mentioned are pagan. Which is as it should be. The story is the thing. The solid values that are the bones of this soup* give it depth and savor, but do not intrude upon a fine tale.
*THE SOUP From Tolkien's essay On Fairy-Stories.
In Dasent's words I would say: “We must be satisfied with the soup that is set before us, and not desire to see the bones of the ox out of which it has been boiled.” Though, oddly enough, Dasent by “the soup” meant a mishmash of bogus pre-history founded on the early surmises of Comparative Philology; and by “desire to see the bones” he meant a demand to see the workings and the proofs that led to these theories. By “the soup” I mean the story as it is served up by its author or teller, and by “the bones” its sources or material—even when (by rare luck) those can be with certainty discovered. But I do not, of course, forbid criticism of the soup as soup.
Emphasis mine. Everyone leaves that bit off and I always feel I can see Tolkien smiling as he wrote it....more
Imagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising perImagine that your world has real elves, dragons, wizards, and all those items necessary for a good fantasy tale. Then imagine that an enterprising person from an "otherworld" much like ours stumbled through a portal and discovered this real "fantasy" world.
Forty years later you might have a problem much like that in this book where Mr. Chesney's Pilgrim Parties come on tour wanting to enjoy a classic fantasy adventure. The only problem is that Mr. Chesney's contract is so airtight that it devastates the fantasy world and everyone is at their wits' end trying to fulfill their obligations. So when the Light Oracle and the Dark Oracle tell the ruling council what to do to end this devastation, no one asks questions.
Except, that is, for Wizard Derk since part of the requirement is that he becomes this year's Dark Wizard. He's a mild mannered wizard who only wants to develop new forms of animals, but finds his life turned into an increasing spiral of trying to overcome chaos.
This is a unique concept for a story that hooked me from the beginning. When you add in Diana Wynne Jones' brand of humor you will understand why I read this book in a dead heat in one day, occasionally cackling with laughter ... which everyone got used to as the day progressed. I will never again be able to say, "when pigs fly" without cracking up.
Get this book and read it.
UPDATE I'm rereading this for some light bedtime entertainment. Will it be as enjoyable the second time around? Let's find out. The answer to that question: yes. Yes it is....more
This will be my fourth time reading WWZ, though I think it will probably be more like a high-level skimming since I just finished listening to the audThis will be my fourth time reading WWZ, though I think it will probably be more like a high-level skimming since I just finished listening to the audio book a few months ago (which was my 3rd time through the book). I'm really looking forward to it and to the resultant discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast. This is Scott's choice.
My review is below. ============
It goes by many names: “The Crisis,” “The Dark Years,” “The WalkingPlague,” as well as newer and more “hip” titles such as “World War Z” or “Z War One.” I personally dislike this last moniker as it implies an inevitable “Z War Two.” For me, it will always be “The Zombie War,” and while many may protest the scientific accuracy of the word zombie, they will be hard-pressed to discover a more globally accepted term for the creatures that almost caused our extinction. Zombie remains a devastating word, unrivaled in its power to conjure up so many memories or emotions, and it is these memories, and emotions, that are the subject of this book.
This record of the greatest conflict in human history owes its genesis to a much smaller, much more personal conflict between me and the chairperson of the United Nation’s Postwar Commission Report. My initialwork for the Commission could be described as nothing short of a labor of love. My travel stipend, my security access, my battery of translators, both human and electronic, as well as my small, but nearly priceless voice-activated transcription “pal” (the greatest gift the world’s slowest typist could ask for), all spoke to the respect and value my work was afforded on this project. So, needless to say, it came as a shock when I found almost half of that work deleted from the report’s final edition. ...
World War Z (WWZ) is the book that began the zombie invasion of publishing. You may thank or curse Max Brooks, depending on your feeling about the genre. Actually, WWZ is the follow-up to Brooks' 2003 book, The Zombie Survival Guide. Where that book was a twist on more practical manuals, however, WWZ is a much more serious novel than one might expect.
In this "future history" a reporter travels the world to interview key individuals who fought in the zombie wars after a virus surfaces that sweeps over populations in an epidemic, leaving huge numbers of zombies roaming the earth. The clever premise provides much food for thought about how individuals and governments respond to unexpected emergencies ... or fail to respond. Brooks uses this vehicle not only to tell an excellent story but to skewer governmental policies and lambast the powerful who take advantage of any situation for their own gain. This is a real page turner that resulted in many late nights as I watched civilization collapse and wondered what was found that allowed victory over the zombie hordes
UPDATE: May 2013
This is my 3rd reading of World War Z, this time via the new unabridged audiobook version (review copy from SFFaudio, God bless 'em!). I had the previous audio version but never could make myself listen to it because I knew it was abridged.
I wondered how the documentary-style story would hold up with so many different voices taking up the tale in turn. The answer is that I now admire even more Max Brooks' talent in weaving these voices together to make a suspenseful story. I didn't think I could admire the book more, actually. But I am happy to be proven wrong. It is tailor-made for audio and, although I now feel as though I went through the war myself, I also feel a quiet optimism for the future. So, there you go ...
I've heard that Max Brooks' answer when asked to comment on the upcoming World War Z movie is something like, "Well, they have the same name." I, for one, am grateful for the movie since it prompted this unabridged version. And I hold out hope for the movie since I was among the few who enjoyed I, Robot the movie, just as much as I, Robot the book. They are just different animals. Fingers crossed, that WWZ is the same....more
“So, basically if we keep trying to save the country and maybe the world from a bunch of murderous assholes with outer space weapons, then we're the b
“So, basically if we keep trying to save the country and maybe the world from a bunch of murderous assholes with outer space weapons, then we're the bad guys?"
"In a nutshell."
"Then, hey ... let's be bad guys.”
Pulled off vacation, Joe Ledger and Echo Team are knocking on research lab doors, looking into cyber-attacks so clever they can't be tracked back to anyone. But no one's answering, even though all the lights are on. Until a couple of strangely inhuman Men In Black step onto the loading dock.
Of course, anyone who is this far into the Joe Ledger series knows that whenever Joe is called in mayhem always ensues, all to save the good ol' U. S. of A. Jonathan Maberry has tackled zombies, vampires, the seven plagues of Egypt and more, but this is the first time he's gone beyond so-called supernatural creatures. Crop circles, space ships, and aliens are the topic of investigation.
And I (mostly) loved it for all the reasons I have enjoyed the entire series. These are adrenaline rides with Joe getting into and out of increasingly impossible, perilous situations while the reader hangs on by their fingernails wondering just how he can possibly escape. Meanwhile, Maberry weaves intriguing mysteries which may not keep us guessing, since he enjoys giving us both sides' points of view, but they do keep us wondering if Joe can stop the bad guys.
What kept me from completely loving this book?
I am as ready for a good invading aliens story as the next person, but at one point the action came to a grinding halt as Maberry wove together two story lines in a gigantic "aliens among us" info-dump. Indeed, this went on for so long and contained enough duplicate information that I began to wonder if the author had fallen into "true believer" status and wanted to be sure we came away converted. Whether that was his motive or it was simply imperfect editing, I wearied of the information long before it ceased flowing.
On the other hand, Maberry is going to have to work hard to top Joe's accomplishment in the light house. I won't say more because I don't want spoil it for anyone but I was literally laughing with delight as I heard what was happening. Adrenaline rush achieved!
Speaking of listening, Ray Porter does his usual excellent narration and is the reason I wait for the audio books rather than pick up print copies. As I've said before Ray Porter IS Joe Ledger. So let me say it again — Porter's direct, blunt delivery can go from sarcastic to heart-felt to outraged in 60 seconds. Believably. That’s good because sometimes that’s the way Joe’s day goes.
Complaints aside, this book is great fun. Definitely recommended.
(Review copy from Audible, via SFFaudio, where this review first appeared.)...more
======== I am a fan of Father James Martin's books, especially A Jesuit Off-Broadway. When Scott chose this book for our next religious book discussion at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast, I was excited, having been interested since I first saw it mentioned at Amazon.
This is a much thicker and more substantive book than I expected. The bibliography alone makes one step back and realize there is more hard-core scholarship than in any of his previous books. Yet it is written in Father Martin's trademark style, interspersing personal experience with the main book text. It is accessible and interesting. It isn't dumbed down and isn't too scholarly. It's juuuuust right.
Martin's goal is to help us consider our answer to Christ's question to his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?"
This means we must consider what it means to be "fully human and fully divine." Martin does a very good job of presenting a lot of contextual information for understanding Jesus' life and ministry through this lens. As we travel through the gospels, so to speak, he intertwines the various stops (recruiting the disciples, healing demoniacs, etc.) with his own pilgrimage to Israel. He then stops to place everything in the context of our own lives and is extremely generous in sharing his own life changing experiences, whether flattering or not. I especially appreciate Martin's openness in sharing the spiritual experiences he had, most notably that in the Church of the Resurrection.
I especially appreciate the way that Father Martin approaches questions from all angles. For example, when considering Christ's healings of "demoniacs," Martin isn't afraid to discuss the idea of psychological or physiological illness as a cause. This will be welcome to those who like to get down to examining facts. However, he always does this in a thoughtful, thorough, Christian way that leaves no doubt we are reading about the Messiah and that miracles can (and do) happen.
Each chapter ends with Martin's deeper thoughts on how our own lives can be enriched with the aid of what Christ has shown us about this part of his life. This is where the rubber meets the road for most of us and Martin brings great sensitivity and understanding to these pages. In fact, I was enduring great inner turmoil about something when I read Martin's thoughts of what it means to take up your cross daily. The whole section spoke to me strongly, but nothing more than "wait for the resurrection" which I sorely needed to hear that very day.
This is the sort of book that used to be much more common. To Know Christ Jesus by Francis Sheed and Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen are just a couple of the older books I've read like this. We have been sorely in need of a new one and I'm so pleased that James Martin wrote this book which is truly a treasure for reading and rereading. I'm beginning to feel that this book might be a "must have" for Christians who want a more rounded, personal experience of Christ. Or for those who don't understand the "Christian thing" and would like some general context of their own.
I also have a feeling that a lot of readers are going to come away wanting to visit the Holy Land. Not me, but I appreciate Father Martin's descriptions as it helps me "feel" the place a bit better. And, to be fair, I've never especially felt the need to go to Rome or anywhere else on pilgrimage, for that matter.
However, what it did was help me feel a deeper familiarity, connection, friendship dare I say, with Jesus when I encounter Him in the gospels. It made me think of Father Martin's story about his spiritual director showing him a green tree and reminding him it would be red in autumn, without anyone ever seeing the gradual change. That's what happened to me. A step closer. All to the credit of this book, which is doing it without "wows" or "aha" moments. Truly that is a credit to this work.
NOTE I also received the audiobook for review. I was eagerly anticipating this but was surprised to find that Father Martin's reading was extremely plain and without nuance or subtlety. In a sense, it was like a father reading to his children who is unused to reading aloud. I'm used to authors reading their work who are extremely good at it, such as Father Robert Barron or Neil Gaiman (yes, I know that is an unusual pair to put together but both are excellent at reading aloud).
That said, once I adjusted to Martin's style, or lack thereof, it actually worked fine for this book. In a sense, it took out any of his own personality and allowed the text to speak for itself. Which is actually just as it should be for a book like this. With that in mind, I can recommend the audiobook....more
I discovered that Father Robert Barron narrated the audiobook version of Catholicism ... and was able to snag a copy. Having watched the DVDs of the CI discovered that Father Robert Barron narrated the audiobook version of Catholicism ... and was able to snag a copy. Having watched the DVDs of the Catholicism series when I helped with RCIA classes, I was able to "hear" Barron's intonation and pacing when looking over the print version recently. It is simply a pleasure to hear him reading this great book.
My official review is below.
Since my conversion, I have read many a book about saints, angels, prayer, virtues, and all those good Catholic subjects. Reviewing the list, however, I was surprised to see how few of them covered Catholicism as a whole.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church, of course, is a reference I use regularly. The impeccable logic of Peter Kreeft's Catholic Christianity helped settle my mind about Catholic teachings on controversial issues. Catholicism for Dummies and The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism are favorite references.
None of them, however, are designed to be engaging, uplifting reading (although the Catechism certainly can perform that function).
Enter Catholicism: A Journey to the Heart of the Faith by Father Robert Barron. Barron has the knack of articulating Catholic theology in a way that makes one sit up in astonishment and delight as well-worn concepts take on fresh, new life. Look at his presentation of what the Incarnation means to us, as human beings.
In their own ways, Marx, Freud, Feuerbach, and Sartre all maintain that God must be eliminated if humans are to be fully themselves. But there is none of this in the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation. The Word does indeed become human, but nothing of the human is destroyed in the process; God does indeed enter into his creation, but the world is thereby enhanced and elevated. The God capable of incarnation is not a competitive supreme being but rather, in the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas, the sheer act of being itself, that which grounds and sustains all of creation, the way a singer sustains a song.
And the Incarnation tells us the most important truth about ourselves: we are destined for divinization. The church fathers never tired of repeating this phrase as a sort of summary of Christian belief: Deus fit homo ut homo fieret Deus (God became human so that humans might become God). God condescended to enter into human flesh so that our flesh might partake of the divine life, that we might participate in the love that holds the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in communion. And this is why Christianity is the greatest humanism that has ever appeared, indeed that could appear. No philosophical or political or religious program in history—neither Greek nor Renaissance nor Marxist humanism—has ever made a claim about human destiny as extravagant as Christianity's. We are called not simply to moral perfection or artistic self-expression or economic liberation but to what the Eastern fathers called theiosis, transformation into God.
God's noncompetitive love and our transformation into the divine are touchstones that Barron returns to throughout the book. As he presents Catholicism in all its complexity—from Jesus as warrior to Mary and the saints to the Eucharist and beyond—readers begin to grasp that love and transformation are indeed the core of the Catholic faith.
Barron's enthusiasm is palpable and his examples vivid. I especially enjoyed the way he wove imagery throughout his text, only to suddenly expand it to make larger theological points. I already was familiar with Noah's ark as an image of the Church, as a place of safety for all. However, it was a revelation when he took it one step further and pointed out how medieval architects reinforced the connection by endeavoring to make cathedrals look like great ships. He gave me potent, mind's-eye images that stuck with me through the rest of that section.
Here, Barron makes a similar leap, bringing the gospel to life, and into our immediate lives, with great enthusiasm.
Saints are those who have allowed Jesus thoroughly to transfigure them from within. Paul caught this when he observed, "yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). In chapter 5 of Luke's Gospel we find an odd story about Jesus and Peter. As the eager crowd presses in on him, Jesus spies two boats moored by the shore of the lake. Without asking permission, he gets into the boat belonging to Peter and says, "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch" (Lk 5:4). What followed, as we have seen earlier when analyzing Mark's version of this scene, is the miraculous catch of fishes. Read with spiritual eyes, this story reveals the essential feature of sainthood. For a Galilean fisherman his boat was everything; it was his livelihood, his work, the means by which he supported his family. Peter's fishing vessel represents, therefore, his professional creativity, his link to the wider world, the key to his survival. Jesus simply gets into the boat and commences to give orders—and the result is the greatest catch Peter the fisherman ever made. Jesus' uninvited boarding of the vessel represents the invasion of grace, the incoming of the divine love into someone's life. Precisely because God is noncompetitive with creation, precisely because he wants human beings to come fully to life, this inrushing of grace does not destroy or interrupt what it invades; it enhances it and raises it to a new pitch. Peter, one presumes, had been successful enough as a fisherman, but now, under Jesus' direction, he goes out into the deep and brings in more than he could ever have imagined possible. This is what happens when we cooperate with grace, when we allow Christ to live his life in us.
The saints are those who have allowed Jesus to get into their boats and who have thereby become not superhuman or angelic but fully human, as alive as God intended them to be. The entire purpose of the church, as we have seen, is to produce saints.
The book is not perfect. Over a hundred black and white photos are included and they are well enough in their way, but color would have packed a greater punch. I would have traded the eight-page color plates at the center for colored photos scattered throughout the book, instead. Too many shots of great art were rendered unremarkable in black and white, which is ironic, as the book is a companion to a ten-part Catholicism television series. A key point of the series is the beauty of the Catholic faith as expressed through the work of human hands. While the book stands alone, it fails to amplify that beauty for its readers.
I also found that Barron occasionally couldn't resist diving instantly into complex concepts that might have done better with a more extended simple introduction. This is especially true in the chapter about prayer. He moves too quickly into the prayer lives of Thomas Merton, St. John of the Cross, and St. Teresa of Avila, all of whom may intimidate even seasoned Catholics with their far-reaching concepts. While Barron does address the sort of basic petitionary prayer that is the cornerstone of most people's experience, he quickly jumps to Merton. I was thoroughly confused halfway through and had to reread the chapter. Barron would have done well to recall that some readers may be completely new to prayer or may come from Christian backgrounds that might view the mystics with deep suspicion.
These points aside, Barron's book is a real treasure. His development of Heavenly imagery into a place I could actually imagine myself inhabiting has charged me with excitement about getting to Heaven. His points about Jesus as a warrior reminded me that I, too, am called to never give up, never surrender. His guide to Dante's Divine Comedy invested layers of meaning in the books about Purgatory and Heaven I completely missed when I read them.
Catholicism is a wonderful guide to the heart of the Catholic faith. It will no doubt explain the faith to many, and light the imaginations of those already on that journey....more
I can't rate this book yet because I just got it home from the library and took a good look at it.
That "good look" took me 15 delighted minutes.
Why soI can't rate this book yet because I just got it home from the library and took a good look at it.
That "good look" took me 15 delighted minutes.
Why so long? Because this "1949" book, perfectly designed in the style of the time, has a correspondence going on in the sides of the pages, between two biblophiles who discuss the author and learn about each other by leaving notes in the library book.
Flipping carefully through to see a few of the postcards, newspaper articles, and photographs left in the pages of the book (as part of the reading experience, of course) made me even more excited.
Based on reviews, people either love the story or find it disappointing. All give full credit for the amazing book design. Obviously, I am so hoping I'm one of the people who loves the story because the layout and design are enough to make me give it 5 stars without reading more than the title page and two pages of the introduction.
It is so authentic looking that when I showed it to one of my favorite librarians (yes, I have favorite librarians. It happens when you visit your library at least once a week for years), she opened it, saw the library stamp and the "Book for Loan" stamp and said, "When was this written?" She looked it up on her database before believing it was new.
Now, if there is one thing I know about J.J. Abrams it is that he can be more style than substance. (Yes, Lost, I gave you three seasons of my life before quitting.)
If there is a second thing I know, it is that he can tell a helluva good story sometimes (Alias, Person of Interest, Almost Human, the Star Trek reboot). All while maintaining that nice, shiny style that is so alluring.
This book is going to take a while to read, as most reviewers have remarked. But I am already intrigued enough to make this a "slow read" commitment and work my way through it.
One thing is definite. This is a love letter to books, turning pages, writing notes, and tucking reminders between the leaves. You couldn't do this with a Kindle, folks. All the postcards would fall out every time you turned it on!
UPDATE I've read 3 chapters of the book itself and am halfway through the first set of notes for the third chapter. This is kind of like listening to friends talk with a movie on TV. Interesting.
UPDATE 2 All that chatter in the margins got so distracting that I couldn't pay attention to the story very well. So I changed my reading strategy. Read the entire book by V.M. Straka. And a really interesting one it was, if a bit existential (if that's the term I want). But thanks to my extensive sf-fantasy reading background I just kept going and enjoyed it.
Now I'm working my way back through the first set of exchanges between Jen and Eric in the margins.
FINAL I am not sure exactly what to think of this book. It is a noble experiment definitely and was hard work for someone like me who rarely reads experimental novels.
It is a tribute to physical books and, of course, I like that. As to the story telling method ... I think I need to reread it to see how well it holds up. Definitely there is a fragmented sense of trying to keep track of all the elements, no matter what method one uses to read it.
I actually would have enjoyed reading the story of Jen and Eric told in a conventional style also, how they meet in the margins and their subsequent discoveries deeper into each other and also into the mystery of Straka and his translator ... and the many layers of all those things. And the ultimate discovery that Jen and Eric make does parallel that of Straka and Filo, which is perhaps the ultimate artisanship on display.
I may change the star rating upon rereading but I won't have the stamina to do that for a while....more
“Joseph? Mary? My name is Balthazar. This is Gaspar . . . this is Melchyor. We don’t want to hurt you . . . we’re just looking for a place to rest. But, Joseph? if you don’t put that pitchfork down, I’m going to take it from you and stab you to death in front of your wife and child. Do you understand?”
Wanted thieves Balthazar, Melchyor, and Gaspar, disguised as wise men, show up at a little manger in Bethlehem with a huge star blazing overhead, looking for a hideout from the law. But when Herod's soldiers begin slaughtering the babies in Bethlehem, Balthazar (a.k.a. The Antioch Ghost) takes the safety of the Holy Family into his own hands. As fugitives on the run to Egypt, they must escape not only Roman soldiers but creatures of mythology and the occult. Everyone's either gunning for the Antioch Ghost with a price on his head or the innocent newborn who has such an unearthly effect on those around him.
Seth Grahame-Smith (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) finally stops inserting his words into other people's writing and writes a book in his own words. And a fine job he does of it too. For a violent, gore-filled, action-thriller there are a surprising number of very human characters, many of whom we are meant to recognize.
Pontius Pilate appears as an ambitious young officer ambivalent about truth. Mary and Joseph struggle with how to reconcile the truth of Jesus as God with the reality of a baby who must be fed, loved, and parented. Above all, this is Balthazar's story, who has a complex story-line driving his actions and attitudes. We learn how he became the cynical Antioch Ghost and we wonder if he will find a more worthy goal than vengeance.
Above all, I was surprised to find myself eventually thinking of Unholy Night as modern midrash. Midrash is a traditional Jewish way of trying to understand the underlying spirit of scripture, sometimes connecting it to modern life, by creating parables. This allows for some imaginative storytelling as rabbis look for interpretations that are not immediately obvious but are nevertheless held within the original text.
Grahame-Smith lives up to the midrash ideal by both being respectful to his source material and also using his vivid imagination on a Biblical event that is wide-open to interpretation: Mary and Joseph's flight to Egypt with the Christ child. Among other things, the author is very good at opening new views on familiar subjects, such as just how horrible King Herod was. It brings to life the terrible things he did very much as I have read them in history books. One also gets a deeper understanding of the locals' simmering, resentful hatred of the Roman empire.
Narrator Peter Berkrot is a reader I haven't come across before but will be seeking out in the future. He conveys just the right amount of cynicism as Balthazar, menace and insanity as Herod, and innocence as Mary. I am not sure how this book comes across in print but I'd listen to it again in a heartbeat thanks to Berkrot's narration.
Grahame-Smith has delivered a story of Biblical proportions in Unholy Night: zombies, swarms of locusts, epic sword fights, outlaws, obsessed rulers, vengeance, redemption, and more are in this entertaining action tale. That he did it all while staying true to original material that can be unpopular reading these days makes him a writer I am going to seek out in the future. Highly recommended.
I can't tell you how many times I've had people ask me, "How can you be a Happy Catholic?" They then go on to cite the problems currently in the ChurcI can't tell you how many times I've had people ask me, "How can you be a Happy Catholic?" They then go on to cite the problems currently in the Church, how hard life is in general, and so on and so forth.
My answer is that happy does not mean cheerful. I'm not talking about a Pollyanna-ish insistence on always seeing the glass half full. I'm talking about a deep, underlying joy that comes from the peace of mind in knowing Jesus really has overcome the world, really is real, really does love me personally. Except in times of deep trouble or sorrow, when no one in their right mind would be able to say that they are happy, I have happiness as a foundation of my days. I must add that even in those times of trouble there is a peace lurking in the background reminding me that "all manner of things shall be well."
I suppose that I am asked that because even the best of us tend to think that faith and religion aren't real unless they are sober, serious, and definitely not amusing, humorous, or joyful. This never made sense to me because I have had too many times when God makes his point to me using a "virtual" nudge in the ribs and a chuckle. There is that stunning moment when I realize what I've gotten very wrong and then that hilarious moment when I realize just how ridiculously wrong I am ... and somehow, you know, I wind up howling with laughter and things just never seem too bad after that.
James Martin has written a book all about that very thing. He writes compellingly that holy people are joyful people, providing numerous examples of the people, their joy, and their levity ... up to and including Jesus. The main premise is that joy, humor, and laughter help us live more spiritual lives, relate to others better, and connect with God more easily.
Martin's examination of scripture and Jesus' humor will be especially valuable to those who hesitate to think that humor and playfulness have a place in faith. His case studies in scriptural joy look at a psalm, the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, and 1 Thessalonians. It gives us a fresh look at the familiar passages and perspective on the way the hearers would have understood it when the scripture was new.
I also really appreciated the chapter where Martin addressed the problem of living joyfully when life is difficult. He discusses the fact that joy doesn't mean one is happy all the time, how to find joy during times of pain, what to do if you are not a funny person, and what to do when working or living in a joyless environment. This section is almost a primer on how to look at our lives with both gravity and lightheartedness. It is one that more people than Christians would benefit from.
Naturally in a book of this sort, anecdotes and jokes are larded throughout the text. They always are illustrations of the point that Martin is making and yet, in themselves, contribute to helping look at things just a touch less seriously or from a different point of view. My favorites were the ones that came from real life, as those are the sort that are most genuinely funny. Those are often the sort that help us in painful times, as Martin points out.
Then she recounted the story of two friends whose mutual friend had died. "They missed her terribly," said [Margaret] Silf. "They planted what they thought were daffodil bulbs on her grave and grieved all winter. In the spring they returned to the grave to pay their respects and discovered a wonderful crop of ... onions! They laughed until they cried--and they are convinced their friend was right in there laughing with them.
There were a few places where Martin was going so fast that he skimmed on providing all the information we needed for the book to be as solid as it could. The primary place I noticed this, and the one that kept bothering me, was his lack of distinction when he compared Zachariah's doubt at the promise of a son after many years of childlessness (who would become John the Baptist) and Mary's reasonable, straight-forward question about how she could become pregnant if she'd never "known" a man. Zachariah, the experienced priest who should have known better than to doubt, is struck mute by the angel. The simple question of the young girl, Mary, is answered. Martin's joke in the footnote that Gabriel is gentler with women was amusing but completely inaccurate and that made me a bit wary of other such confident assertions about Scripture when they came up.
Happily, there are not many instances of those problematic points. Those aside, this book is informative, engaging, and makes a solid argument for the case that joy and humor are integral parts of being human and the spiritual life. Certainly this book is much needed to help lighten the mood of those who believe that only serious attitudes will gain us the kingdom of Heaven. It most definitely is appreciated by those of us who occasionally must defend our faith because of our joy.
Listening to the audiobook while I'm on the road. I simply love this book and it is perfect as a relaxing yet interesting audiobook. My original revieListening to the audiobook while I'm on the road. I simply love this book and it is perfect as a relaxing yet interesting audiobook. My original review is below.
This is going on my 2013 Best list.
A native Ghanan, Peggy was working at the Ghanan embassy in Washington D.C. when she got the call that her uncle, the king of their village, has dies and that she was chosen the next king. This was really unusual because women were not usually kings.
What is fascinating to me is that, because she lived in America, Peggy sees her home town through new eyes. Just thinking about the 7,000 people she will lead, she flashes on the children carrying buckets of dirty brown water home each day and realizes she has to get them clean water (a minimum standard for living in America). Stuck in traffic on the way to the village, Peggy watches young people peddling junk to make pennies a day and realizes that, as in America, the teenagers from her village should have a high school.
As someone straddling both worlds, Peggy clearly sees the good and bad in both America and Ghana. The book also becomes an open door, inviting us to learn more about Ghanian life (albeit from a king's perspective, which is not as removed from regular life as one might think). I like the way that tidbits of Ghanian history are slipped into the book for context without being lengthy or overwhelming, but giving a perfect perspective for understanding Peggy's situation.
Some of Peggy's realizations about needed change are very straight forward, some are more complex, but they all come from a place of sacrifice for the good of her people. She always knows she can never do this job by herself so she depends on Jesus, God, and her ancestor spirits because she blends belief in Christianity and ancestor worship. Peggy receives spirit guidance, which I tend to view as God speaking through the saints, but ... whatever. As the book continues, we are shown that, in giving, Peggy also receives. We see that Peggy's sacrifices lead to unforeseen growth in character and that the skills she learns to be an effective king may eventually influence those far beyond her village. This is a story not only of a fascinating situation but also of the way to make a healthy community.
And I've kind of fallen in love with her soul stool (something each king is given but can never sit upon). You'll have to read the book to know what I'm talking about but it has a personality all its own. Peggy is always given encouragement for the difficult task because only God can make a king, as a friend tells her. This is a fascinating blend of Peggy using her innate talents, the skills that have been developed in her life thus far, and spiritual guidance.
It is really well written so you feel as if you can almost "hear" Peggy's voice. To say the least, it is fascinating and I am really fond of Peggy.
The key to the story, though, is King Peggy's servant heart....more
So you've begun to get really busy at work and you're feeling stressed out.
Then you watched The Sixth Sense (by yourself, after dark) so you can discuSo you've begun to get really busy at work and you're feeling stressed out.
Then you watched The Sixth Sense (by yourself, after dark) so you can discuss it on a podcast.
And finally, you just know you're going to have nightmares and possibly be afraid of the dark if you wake up having to make that trip out of bed ... based on the last time you watched that darned movie.
What do you do?
What DO you do?
You pull out your trusty copy of The Wind in the Willows, that's what.
This gentle, imaginative tale of small animals who straddle both animal and human behavior in the most charming way will pull you in and have you thinking of Rat's splendid picnic basket, Badger's den beneath the Wild Woods, or Toad's way of being infuriating while his friends love him anyway. It pulled me into that fantasy world as a child and does so again when I read it as an adult.
Highly recommended (after all Teddy Roosevelt can't be wrong ... and this book has his letter to the author in the introduction)....more
"Do you think that doing the right thing will always be pretty?"
I really loved Rosamund Hodge's first book Cruel Beauty (my review here). I was not su
"Do you think that doing the right thing will always be pretty?"
I really loved Rosamund Hodge's first book Cruel Beauty (my review here). I was not sure how she could possibly match it, especially with a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood which is a fairy tale I've never cared for much.
I am happy to say that Crimson Bound is a compelling story just as fresh, just as exhilarating, just as complex, just as stay-up-til-midnight-reading-as-fast-as-possible engrossing. While being completely original and different.
I saw a reviewer wondering where Little Red Riding Hood was in all this. I really had to stop and think about it. There is an innocent, naive girl. There is a big, bad wolf (of sorts). There is a cottage in the woods with a beloved, elderly relative. The fact that I had to stop and think about it to locate these elements tells you that the original fairy tale is merely a springboard for Hodge's creativity.
Crimson Bound also echoes of sparkling courts in medieval France, and of darker places where an unseen Devourer and its living, breathing Forest are barely held at bay from transmuting and destroying all normal life. It is a delightfully woven world which felt very natural and real.
This is the background against which Hodge weaves an absorbing tale featuring wonderfully complex heroes and villains, none of whom are ever allowed to be entirely evil or entirely pure. Their actions are driven by reasons rooted in their lives, their histories. This allows the story to raise questions which may haunt the reader afterward about loyalty, choices, friendship, love, guilt, and sacrifice. Interestingly, this world has a religion which has very strong echoes of Catholicism. The perceptions and reality of religion in such a setting become a story element that again add depth.
There is, of course, romance and since this is a YA book it is kept fairly pure though I can think of a few things that would make me give this to older teens rather than younger. Those "iffy" elements are conveyed largely through inference and distanced language. That also applied to the violence, of which there is a fair amount because there is a lot of swordplay in this book, though it tends to be described more thoroughly although not with unnecessary emphasis on gore.
I'm not sure how Rosamund Hodges writes books that are so layered, yet also so enchanting they swirl around in my head for days afterward, making me collar other book readers so I can tell them to read it. All I can think is how lucky I am to be around while these books are coming out and all I can say is, "More please!"
Note: This book comes out on May 15. As soon as I finished reading the uncorrected galley proof, I went to Amazon and pre-ordered the final version. I highly recommend you pre-order one too. You need to start reading this as soon as possible!
(I read a review book. I also gave my own opinion and no one else's.)...more
Simply brilliant and sheds light (ha!) on the faith. It might be a good read for those who wonder about the faithful. It explainsThank you Internet!.
Simply brilliant and sheds light (ha!) on the faith. It might be a good read for those who wonder about the faithful. It explains how they themselves see it ... in a way.
Since it was mostly written by Pope Benedict XVI and then finished/polished/tweaked by Pope Francis, I have seen speculation as to which parts are from whom. That is sheer silliness and completely missing the point.
If two such seemingly different men both embrace what this encyclical brilliantly conveys, then it means that it tells us universal Catholic (and catholic) truths. It also means that these two very different men merely are showing us different facets of God. So there is really no point in comparing them except as part of a larger whole which is the Body of Christ....more