Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

Over at The Common Room, Headmistress has written a review of one of my books, and uses it as a springboard, too.


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I read Harriet Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin this week, in a free Kindle edition. I’m not sure what I expected, but the book was better than I anticipated, with wit, wonderful descriptions, action, suspense, layers of story upon story, amazing characterizations, and surprise twists. I learned some history, which I like to do while reading. I can see why it could be a bestseller in its day, which it was. I can also see why it could prick the conscience of a person or a nation, and stir up some action, which it did.

I am inclined to quibble with the author over a few small points (Christians do not become angels when they die, for instance – but they become heavenly beings, so, well, let’s let it go). But on the whole I am quite impressed with the author, her knowledge, and her storytelling skill. I’m also glad I read the book, because it was a tremendously influential book in its day, and I think reading it helped me understand America a bit better.

I’m going to refrain from a usual sort of review, though, because I’m afraid it would involve spoilers. Suffice it to say that if you think that Uncle Tom is a black person who sells out to white folks, you obviously have not read the book. That’s an insane use of the name, really. Simply flat insane.

(For more book reviews, check out this week’s The Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon.)

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Gerard Nadal writes:

This book addresses one of the burning issues of our day. With prenatal diagnostics leading to the abortions of the less-than-perfect among us, with parents who are frightened into paralysis by these diagnoses and a medical establishment increasingly surrendering to the cowardice of eugenics, over thirty mothers and three fathers of special needs children have stepped forward to share their journeys.

If one is looking for a feel-good easy read, this book isn’t it. This book tells the story of fear, bewilderment, broken hopes and dreams, and the triumph of love in all of its raw and untamed beauty. It is a window into the human soul, into souls that have been forever transformed by children whose needs call forth what love demands most:


For those of us who have known the unspeakable beauty of being loved by another, we know that the love we have experienced has come at a cost to the one who has loved us. They have given us their time, attention; material, spiritual and emotional substance. They have accepted us with our strengths and pursued us in spite of our weaknesses–even because of our weaknesses. They have wrapped us in their love and esteem, and lifted us to heights we never could have attained by our own efforts.

That is the sort of love that flows through this book like a rampaging river, overflowing the banks that would contain it, and flooding the surrounding countryside. It is the sort of love that is desperately sought after in a world desperate for authentic love, and purpose, and meaning.

The stories in this book are the stories a frightened and weary world needs to hear, a world that has bought into the counterfeit culture for so long it mistakes love’s essence–sacrifice–with servility, and fails to see its reciprocity…

Read the whole thing.

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1. Does anyone know which Bible translation(s) the American Founding Fathers were using? It’s my understanding that the Pilgrims used the Geneva Bible (which I’m reading on Kindle in a 1587 edition), but it occurs to me that (off the top of my head) I don’t know what the Founders were hauling with them to all those hate-to-do-it-but-it’s-time-to-sever-ties-with-the-homeland sessions, or to the earliest sessions of Congress. I’m sure I can get the info by googling, but quite frankly, my first searches turned up an avalanche of anti-Christian, hate mongering sites that libel, and badly misrepresent, the Founders, more than they shed light on them. (Sigh.) [Added: A reader found this on Bibles used for the swearing in of Presidents, and left the link in the comments. Interesting. It also reminds me of what I should have remembered. Bibles were rare and expensive in colonial America, in part because the King controlled who could print Bibles.]

2. Regarding the Geneva Bible: if you aren’t used to the writing style and the slightly-modified alphabet of the 16th century, hang in there. It makes sense after a while. The spellings will be all over the board, even on the same page. Nombers is the same as numbers, for instance. U and v swap places a lot. I frequently means J. And so on, and so on. A little more difficult than sounding out words to get the right one, is figuring out where letters are dropped, but it’s assumed you know they’re there. N and M get left off a lot, erratically. In many old texts, a line over a letter apparently means it is followed by an n or m. (This Kindle book doesn’t do that, but for a great example of old-style writing that might help you ‘crack the code’, see The prophete Ionas with an introduccion before teachinge to vnderstonde him and the right vse also of all the scripture/ and why it was written/ and what … the true sense and vnderstondynge therof. [Kindle Edition], by William Tyndale.) Just to make it more fun, words get combined that we don’t usually combine any more. Shalbe means shall be, for instance. (I’m thinking we might want to bring that word back into use, by the way. It’s growing on me.)

3. This doesn’t quite answer my original question, but I just thought to google “congressional bible america,” and got this.

4. Changing subjects, you may laugh at me now. I’m self-publishing eleven years’ worth of books I’ve written, some of which got good noises from publishers, but no actual contract. I have most of them on Kindle and Nook now, and have been working on trade paperback editions, which are slowly coming to completion. I don’t expect to bump anyone off the bestseller lists, but I figure, on the one hand, that I might as well try to get a little something out of them, and, on the other, that if I don’t publish them, I will be editing and rewriting them on my deathbed. I simply can’t seem to stop polishing, unless a book is actually out on store shelves. So, I have declared “Enough!” on several books, and put them out. What I invite you to laugh about is my consternation over the cover of the large print edition of Why We Raise Belgian Horses. I have come up with a cover that is eye-catching, and pleasant, and that I don’t think will drive off men on the one hand, or women on the other. (This novel was out in a homemade edition years ago, and did well with men as well as women, adults as well as teens. While this is good, it makes cover design a bit tricky. You can’t be too girly, or too masculine.) So, I have a nice cover design, one that I think is better than the one I went with on the regular trade paperback, or the ebooks. It even looks good in a thumbnail, or from across the room. The problem is that the photo I’ve used is of a horse that really isn’t quite the right sort of Belgian horse. But I really like the photo. It’s artsy, with lighting that plays into the storyline. If I go with what I have, I’m nearly ready to go. I’ve just redone the back cover copy, and am waiting on what could be the final proof – if I don’t change the picture. The first proof sits on my work table, causing me to seesaw between ‘ooh, I like that,’ and ‘hmmm, should I try to find another photo?’ As if it really, really matters…

5. I am still harvesting from the garden. Amazing. I have nine watermelons that are nearly ripe, which is really amazing. The odds of any of them actually getting ripe this time of year are probably slim to none, but I sometimes go out and marvel at them, resolutely ignoring the season. For that matter, I am still getting blossoms on the watermelon and pumpkin vines. Go figure.

6. David Jeremiah, on his radio show, has been talking about cultural rot and where the church (that would be all us believers) fits in. This week, he was using Vincent Van Gogh’s painting of the Church of Auvers to help illustrate a point. Not knowing the painting, I looked it up. And then followed links. And came to this literature-rich letter from the artist to his brother Theo in 1880, which contains some food for thought, I think.

7. While halfheartedly searching for new cover art, and happily taking detours as they showed up, I stumbled across this blog, which looks promising. Papergreat shares clips from old newspapers, magazines and books. Here’s a post with clippings from World War II.

7 Quick Takes Friday is hosted at Conversion Diary. Head here for this week’s round up. Our hostess is discussing Halloween costumes, controversies related to Halloween, forewords to Catholic books, pseudo Jedi mind tricks, Story Engineering, the best rap songs for Catholics, and is wondering what makes a good photo portrait.

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(Shameless self-promotion warning)

Trouble Pug is currently at #41 in Kindle Children’s ebooks > Animals > Dogs, at Amazon. It was a little higher than that earlier today. I expect it to drop through the day, unless there are fresh sales. (I’m not sure, but I think rankings get updated hourly.)

But, at any rate, as long as it is currently my bestselling book (that’s not saying much at this point, but it is my bestselling book), I thought I’d mention that it is less of a dog book, than a Christianity confronts feminism story. I don’t know about you, but my heart breaks for kids raised by feminists. For that matter, my heart breaks for feminists.

One of my “advance reader copy” readers got angry with me for not being harder on Sunshine Smith (the lead feminist character), but he missed the point. If you believe that God can and does remake people from the inside out, hatred can give way to a wish for God to reach into someone’s life and convert them. Like He reached into mine, and converted me. (The younger me had more in common with Sunshine Smith than I sometimes like to admit.)

The book takes two girls from wildly different family situations, and throws them into time travel adventures. I want kids to get a taste for learning history (not the PC twaddle that gets shoved at them, but real history). I want them to have a good time, reading the book. But I also want to plant seeds that encourage kids to question propaganda. I want them to realize that sometimes people lie and cheat. I want to give them examples of people they don’t want to emulate.

There is a scene in the book in which activists lie to news reporters. It happens. I can’t remember how long I was a newspaper reporter before I got roped into helping perpetrate a fraud. They got me but good, at first. It was a horrible experience, not only to have been duped, but to have naively passed the disinformation along. In the book, the reporters discover the unreliability of their source in time. I wish that happened more often in real life, by the way, but I’m afraid that reporters get duped a lot. Sometimes some of them do their own duping, too. Sad to say.

Parents, please note: This book deals with the sinking of the Lusitania, and other subjects you may not think your child is old enough for yet. I recommend vetting it, before letting your kids read it.

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Anne Morse has a nice post about the book Unbroken, and the man it is about. She also notes his autobiography, for those of you who want to know more about Louis Zamperini.

One of Morse’s points in this post is that Laura Hillenbrand, the author of Unbroken, has, with this book, done a good job of spreading the Gospel.

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Whisper on the Wind was offered free on Kindle, and the blurb mentioned it featured a storyline with an underground newspaper in Belgium in World War I, and I’m a history geek with a weak spot for Resistance stories, so I bit. It was also put forward as a Christian romance so I braced for fluffy twaddle. Fluffy twaddle is isn’t, I’m happy to say (unless you tend to put Charles Dickens in that category). Good historical fiction, it is.

It made me think a bit of A Tale of Two Cities, actually. It’s been a while since I’ve read a Helen MacInnes novel, but it reminded me of those, too.

This is listed as the second book in a Great War series. Lang seems to have done her homework on World War I, and I’m hoping to read others in the series. This read as a stand alone book, by the way, if you’re wondering if you’ll miss anything by jumping in ‘mid-series’. Answer: not in this case.

The leading lady in the book is a teen-aged socialite (almost 18, which makes her think she’s all grown up) who sneaks back into now-German-occupied Belgium after having been taken to safe lands by her parents before the German invasion. Her primary goal is to smuggle out the young man she loves, and his family. But things do not go according to plan. I had to smile at the heroine’s background, because in recent years I’ve found that a surprising number of the Salvation Army lasses who risked everything by voluntarily going into Europe during the height of hostilities were young socialites, who had hit their knees and asked God what they could do to serve Him. The Salvation Army, in fact, actively recruited pretty girls with great training in manners and grooming for war work. See The War Romance of the Salvation Army by Grace Livingston Hill for more on that. (A nice excerpt from the writer’s preface here.)

Gentlemen, here’s a nice surprise: despite the cover art (definitely feminine, that), I think this is a book that men would appreciate, as well as us ladies. There’s lots of danger and action, not to mention inside tricks on espionage, and men get fair play.


Parents: I think this would be a great book for introducing teens to World War I, and to tyranny and oppression and other life lessons – it grapples with tough questions – but I recommend that you read it first.

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I can’t remember if it was just prior to my first Lenten season as a Christian, or my second, that I listened to an online Catholic homily explaining the purposes of Lent, and shortly after went to services at a Baptist church.

I have sometimes wished I had both the homily and the sermon in transcribed form, so I could put them side by side and compare. Because, as it happens, they were strangely similar.

The same points were made, the same Scripture quoted. Fasting should not be for show. Ritual, in and of itself, accomplished nothing. A Christian should slow down and take stock now and then, to see where he might have slipped without noticing. Discipline is good, if it is applied toward turning a person toward the Lord. It is good to rid oneself of distractions now and then, and concentrate on prayer and repentance. And so on.

The Catholic stressed that although the church calendar urged this extra deep time of renewal and dedication, it would be a grave mistake to confine such activities to Lent. The Baptist, echoing him, warned of the dangers of observing church calendars, but letting things slide the rest of the year. He never mentioned Lent, not once, but considering the timing, we knew what he was talking about.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

It is, by the way, a common refrain of many converts, that different Bible-believing denominations generally have far more in common than they seem to know. That sometimes they are agreeing, without noticing, because they are using different terminology to say the same thing. That they all too often misunderstand the teachings of other denominations, and oppose each other based on the misunderstandings, instead of the actual teachings.

Oh, my, have I seen this. When I encounter it, I feel it something like physical blows. I guess that makes sense: if one part of the same body pounds on another part, the rest of the body will feel it.

Yinga. Might I suggest for Lent, for those of you who observe it, and for not-Lent, for those of you who march to your own calendar, that we do a bit of reflecting on this? I am not suggesting we pretend that we are not in disagreement on secondary points of doctrine, but surely, in a world awash with openly apostate churches, believers that preach “Christ, and Him crucified” could save their public opposition for those churches that preach something else entirely? Honestly, at many churches today, the very concepts of Lord and Savior have been abandoned. The human heart and philosophical fashion, or even just plain old peer pressure, are become Lord. And Jesus apparently came to save us from feeling lonely or from having any doubts about the rightness of what our lordly little human hearts urge us to give a go. He apparently didn’t come to reconcile us to God the Father, because God’s given up on that sin stuff, for one thing (having learned from his betters here on Earth), and, for another, because God the Father is (in some circles) now (supposedly) God the universal niceness mist into which we all evaporate when we die. Or something like that. Certainly not a Father, though, since that’s male, and male isn’t fashionable. Or even socially acceptable. Unless you’re a Buddhist monk, maybe…

All of which is possibly too much prologue to this short post at Mere Comments by James Kushiner, who comes at Lent from an Orthodox view. It begins (emphasis in original):

It does not seem really appropriate to turn the days before Lent into an anything-goes-Mardi Gras such as can be observed by anyone who lives for the flesh. The purpose of Lent for the serious Christian who observes it is to draw closer to Jesus, to embrace the Way of the Cross, to allow Christ through the Holy Spirit to engage in a search-and-destroy mission aimed at freeing the heart, mind, soul, and body of the Christian from servitude to the dark impulses that produce sins of various sorts such as envy, meanness, selfishness, and all sins of the flesh. Also the sin of pride over fasting:

Which, you know, is what got me going, because it sounded so very much like the Catholic homily and the Baptist sermon. But shorter. (I really like how he describes the purpose of Lent, by the way.)

I am not currently attending a church that ‘does Lent’, but I probably will observe it somewhat on my own, having found that I benefit from scheduled seasons as well as by the approximate fits and starts I remember to fit in the rest of the year.

(Side note: I have a palm branch in my car, sitting on the back window ledge, left over from a Palm Sunday service I attended last year. In recent weeks, it has niggled at me, because of course, by tradition, it should have been turned in somewhere by now to be burned, to make the ashes for Ash Wednesday. But where? When you attend a church that ‘doesn’t do’ Ash Wednesday, you can hardly hand them a palm branch and expect them to make good use of it. Besides which, it might trigger a lecture on the importance of not fasting just to be fasting or to be keeping up with a program. And I know that already. And most of my Catholic and Lutheran friends seem to know that already, too, thank you.)

Meanwhile, Kushiner has another Lenten post up: The Sound of Paradise & Lent.

Lent does make some people more thoughtful, more poetic.

For what it’s worth, I started the draft of this post last week. In between then and now, I read the book Holy Subversion by Trevin Wax. Wax is a Baptist theologian and pastor, young, smart, educated and thoughtful, and not one to dance around issues. I really appreciated the book. It is almost entirely ‘mere Christianity’ writing – in a good way, not a watered down way. If I were rich, a few dozen of my evangelical friends and acquaintances would be getting copies of it, and a number of my Catholic friends, too. As it is, I’ve had to content myself with sending out ‘I think you might appreciate this book’ notes. But as I read it, I had to grin, and grin some more, because Wax was (at least in passing) quoting church fathers, and suggesting praying at specific hours as a spiritual discipline, and recommending that families occasionally “fast” from television, especially just before Easter or Christmas. Lent-not-Lent, I thought.

Easter is coming. It is a good time to stop and think about what God has done for us, and why it matters. On the eve of Ash Wednesday, I wish you a blessed, fruitful, encouraging, illuminating Lent. Or Lent-not-Lent, as the case might be.

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I bought Holy Subversion: Allegiance to Christ in an Age of Rivals today (Kindle edition), and am about a quarter of the way through it. So far, I’m really appreciating it – there are some healthy challenges in it, and some interesting history, too.

There’s an interview with the author here.

The publisher’s page on the book is here.

At Amazon, there’s a video book trailer that I thought was pretty good.

Find more book recommendations at this week’s Saturday Review of Books.

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Parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, you probably need to know about what the NEA and the UN are up to, what Northwestern University has been up to, and what Germany has been up to. My apologies for the content, but this is what you’re up against.

This is related: You’re Teaching My Kid What?

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