Waiting to Die Longing to Love

Waiting to Die Longing to LoveWaiting to Die Longing to Love by Russell K. Lanier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rusty Lanier’s book about his struggle with addiction and how he was able to overcome it is an encouraging read for anyone dealing with the same disease. Even though the book is 342 pages long, don’t let the length fool you as to the quickness about which you can get through it especially as Lanier’s writing style adds to the easy of the reading.

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Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus (Hinges of History #3)

Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After JesusDesire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus by Thomas Cahill

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The hinge in history that has been the central pillar of Western civilization is not a cultural change nor a particular people but one man, Jesus of Nazareth. Thomas Cahill explores the developments of thought before and after Jesus in Desire of the Everlasting Hills through the lens of Greco-Roman and Jewish cultures, his mother Mary, Paul, Luke, Early Christians, and John to reveal how one life both continued and changed the progression of Western thought.

Over the course of 320 pages, Thomas Cahill focused on Jesus of Nazareth as the central figure in the West. However from the outset Cahill makes it clear that the role of Jesus is how others perceived him both during his life and after his time on Earth. While following Jesus during his ministry, Cahill highlighted the essential Jewishness of Jesus’ message and how some considered his message unrealistic while others found hope. After Jesus’ time on Earth, a phrase I must use since Cahill does not state one way or another on the event of the Resurrection save mentioning it, the essence of his divinity was shaped by Paul’s Jewish perspective, Luke’s gentile perspective, and John the Evangelist’s intimate perspective. Cahill’s conclusion is that while Jesus is central to the West, the West as a whole has essentially ignored his teachings but a small few due resulting in the slow but development of the ideas that define Western civilization.

While Cahill’s analysis and themes are a thought provoking read, I did have some serious issues. The first is the same as in his previous book, The Gift of the Jews, which is in some of Cahill’s interpretation and subsequent logical construction of his evidence whether through scripture or an analysis of non-Biblical sources to weave his thesis. The second is partially related and that is Cahill tries to weave a middle course between Jesus as man and Jesus as divine without really take a stand either way. While objectivity can be commended, the book read as a Christian trying too hard to look discuss Jesus from a secular point of view.

Regardless of one’s view of Jesus of Nazareth, no one can deny that he is the central figure of West. Thomas Cahill attempts to bring forth Jesus through the view of those around him and how they interpreted his life and teachings. While Desire of the Everlasting Hills is not a perfect book, it is thought-provoking in viewing Jesus of Nazareth back in the first century AD and into today’s increasing secular society.

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Thief of Time (Discworld #26, Death #5)

Thief of Time (Discworld, #26; Death, #5)Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The rules of the universe are once again being bent to endanger life, but this time it is really Time itself that is being used as the weapon of choice. The 26th installment of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series finds many characters quite literally being a Thief of Time from certain points of view, yet only one can truly change history.

The Auditors of Reality attempt once again to organize the universe by getting rid of life by literally stopping everything by having a clockmaker construct the perfect clock. Unfortunately for the Auditors, Death catches wind of their scheming and once against enlists his granddaughter Susan to track down someone who might be able to correct their actions. Meanwhile the Monks of Time catch wind of the construction of the perfect clock as warning sign pop up like they did the first time such a clock was constructed. While Death and Susan take their own paths towards battling the Auditors, the famous Lu-Tse and his apprentice race to stop the clockmaker. And while these heroes race to save Time, the Auditors of Reality begin to learn about what it means to be human and that sudden immersion probably wasn’t the best way to do so.

Thief of Time follows a new pattern by Pratchett in which he focused more on plot and story structure, instead of jokes that string along the story. In fact while there is humor in this book it isn’t paramount to anything connected with the plot, it’s just that some funny things happen along the way towards the climax. This isn’t to say that the book isn’t good, in fact it continues Pratchett’s string of great work but the early sophomoric humor or plain repetitiveness of some jokes are thing of the past in the series. However while the events in this book clear up various timeline anomalies created earlier in the series, it also marks the ending of the Death subseries (though he continues to make appearances) and the last appearance of Susan Sto Helit which for their fans is a major disappointment as the series would continue for 15 more books.

Yet while Thief of Time does turns out to represent the last appearance for some fan favorites, it continues Pratchett’s string of great installments of the Discworld series. For anyone who is a fan of Pratchett you’ll love this book and if you’re new to the Discworld after reading this book you’ll be interested about his earlier installments.

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The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire

The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American EmpireThe True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire by Stephen Kinzer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The internal debate within the United States about how the country should act around the world, to either avoid or intervene in foreign entanglements, has been going on for over a century. However, neither the arguments nor the situations that bring them on have changed over that time. Stephen Kinzer in his book The True Flag looks at when this debate began back at the turn of the 20th Century when the United States looked beyond the Americas in the “Age of Imperialism”.

The political and military history before, during, and after the Spanish-American War both inside and outside the United States was Kinzer’s focus throughout the book. Within this framework, Kinzer introduced organizations and individuals that opposed the actions and outcomes promoted by those more familiar to history, namely Theodore Roosevelt, as the United States was transformed into a “colonial” power. Yet, while this book is about the beginning of a century long debate it is more the story of those who through 1898 and 1901 argued against and tried to prevent the decisions and actions that today we read as history.

Although the names of Roosevelt and Mark Twain catch the eye on the cover, in reality Kinzer’s focus was on other important figures on either side of the debate. The biggest promoter of “expansionist” policy was Henry Cabot Lodge, Roosevelt’s long-time friend, who gladly let his friend become figure that history would remember. However, Lodge’s fellow senator from Massachusetts, George Frisbie Hoar was one of the fiercest opponents and critics of the “expansionist” policy that Lodge and Roosevelt promoted. One of the enigmatic figures of the time was newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, who openly advocated and supported war in Cuba but then turned against the expansion when the United States fought the insurrection in the Philippines. Businessman Andrew Carnegie was one of many prominent individuals who founded the American Anti-Imperialist League to work against the United States ruling foreign territory. Amongst those working with Carnegie were former President Grover Cleveland and imminent labor leader, Samuel Gompers, but the strangest bedfellow was William Jennings Bryan. In Bryan, many believed they had the person in the political sphere that could stem the tide against the “expansionist” agenda but were twice stunned by the decisions he made when it was time to make a stand.

Kinzer throughout the book would follow the exploits and opinions of both Roosevelt and Twain during the period covered, however there was is a stark difference amount of coverage each has in which Roosevelt is in the clear majority. It wasn’t that Kinzer chose not to invest page space to Twain, it was that he did not have the material to do so. Throughout most of the period covered, 1898-1901, Twain was in Europe and out of the social and political landscape of the United States. However, once Twain stepped back onto U.S. soil his pen became a weapon in the cause against imperialism that Kinzer documents very well. Unfortunately for both the reader and Kinzer, Twain only becomes prominent in the last third of the book whereas Roosevelt’s presence is throughout. This imbalance of page space between the books’ two important figures was created because of marketing, but do not let it create a false impression of favoritism by Kinzer on one side or another.

History records that those opposed to the United States’ overseas expansion lost, however ever since the arguments they used have been a part of the foreign policy debate that has influenced history ever since. The True Flag gives the reader a look into events and arguments that have shaped the debate around the question “How should the United States act in the world?” since it began almost 120 years ago. This book is a fantastic general history of an era and political atmosphere that impacts us still today, and is a quick easy read for those interested in the topic.

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

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The Moonstone

The Moonstone The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The worst of all events occurs at a young woman’s birthday party, it is neither murder nor theft but scandal! While Victorian readers might have seen the stunning narrative of The Moonstone in those terms, Wilkie Collins’ classic to us today is one of the first detective novels that paved the way for so many others with innovations in structure that keep the reader engaged.

As the reader quickly expects the titular diamond is present throughout the novel whether physically or in the minds of all those who relate their portion of the events before and after it’s theft on the night of Rachel Verinder’s birthday. The main narrator of the story is the Verinder family butler, Gabriel Betteredge, who gives a complete account of the events leading up the theft and those when the criminal case suddenly ends. Betteredge’s point-of-view makes a return during the second part of the book in which numerous other characters detail events that subsequently happened over the next two years. Collins’ builds the readers expectations to a fever pitch throughout Betteredge’s account until suddenly the narrative takes the first of many twists until the reader is once again eagerly is turning the page to see what’s going to happen next until the culprit and location of the fabulous gem is firmly established.

Given the era in which The Moonstone was written, many Victorian ideas and social norms are obviously in the narrative. However, unlike some other authors of the time Collins takes them both seriously and satirically to the enjoyment of the reader. Some of the best writing in the book is the character of Ms. Clack, an holier-than-thou spinster written so over-the-top that readers will quickly have a smile on their face as they go over her account. Although subtitled as a “Romance”, The Moonstone shouldn’t be seen as the forerunner of that modern genre. While a few star-crossed romances are in the novel, it is the mystery and the various types of detection that are the main focus of the narrative.

When I picked up this book and saw it was one of the first true detective novels, I wondered what I was getting. Upon finishing The Moonstone I can relate that all my apprehensions of stilted prose and mannerisms were quickly erased from my mind as the narrative and Collins’ style overwhelmed me. If you are a fan of mystery or detective novels, get this book and be happily surprised like I was.

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Prophets and Kings (Conflict of the Ages #2)

pandkProphets And Kings As Illustrated In The Captivity And Restoration Of Israel by Ellen G. White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

How did Israel go from building Solomon’s magnificent temple as the center of true worship to humiliating exile to celebrated restoration to eventual not being prepared for the coming of Christ? In Prophets and Kings, Ellen G. White’s commentary highlights the impact of individuals who instead of staying true to God’s law went their own way resulting in terrible consequences not only for themselves but those they governed even as God rose up honest men to confront and induce them to return to him. This 750 page book on sacred history shows the state of ‘the House of Israel’ came to be as it was at the time of Christ’s time on Earth.

The highpoint of the nation of Israel was at the beginning of Solomon’s reign with the building of the Temple, in her writing White highlights how the nation was fulfilling the covenant only for its own King to turn from God to disastrous results. Through the latter part of Solomon’s reign, the beginnings of his son Rehoboam’s reign in Judah and Jeroboam’s reign in Israel the seeds of Israel’s captivity were sown with turning away from God to idolatry. Throughout the time of the divided kingdom, White illustrated God’s continual effort to turn His people back towards him through the intercession of prophets like Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, and Jeremiah only to see a remnant remain true. As White relates, after the restoration Israel had turned away from idolatry only to added legality and tradition onto God’s law making it burdensome to those wanting to follow Him and setting the stage for culture when Christ came.

Prophets and Kings is the second in the five-book Conflict of Ages series, but it was the last written publication by Ellen White in her life. Not only did White illuminate sacred history from Solomon’s time to the restoration after the Babylonian Captivity, she also used her pen to give comfort to believers today as Christian await the Second Coming of Christ even though the world seems to grow darker just like it appeared to God’s remnant as Israel was taken into captivity. Yet after finishing this book, sacred history is still awaiting Christ’s first coming, The Desire of Ages.

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The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo

The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte CristoThe Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo by Tom Reiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The name Alexandre Dumas is well known, but before the author and his playwright son was the General. Tom Reiss brings the little known founder of the Dumas family into the spotlight in The Black Count, a born slave of noble blood turned Republican general in the service of France. This giant of a man both of stature in the view of his novelist son cast a long shadow since his death.

Born in modern Haiti as a slave to a French nobleman father, Alexandre life suddenly changed when he joined on his father’s return journey to France to take is family title. However after years of dealing with his father behavior, Alexandre joined the French army and with the coming of the French Revolution into Republican government. His daring feats in the field and dedication to the ideals of republicanism sent him quickly up the chain of command to General. Continuing his lead in front style, Alexandre was sent to lead men on every front that France needed him. But it was his feats during the Italian campaign that truly brought him his greatest fame and yet began his long cold relationship with another General, Napoleon. After more spectacular feats in Egypt and yet more conflict with Napoleon, Alexandre decided to return to France but was then captured in southern Italy only to emerge two year later into a new France in which his desire to service his country was rejected by its new leader. Five years after his release, Alexandre died leaving his young son bereaved. Yet, the legendary events of his life would inspire young Alexandre with a lot of material for his epic heroes including one Edmund Dantes.

The Black Count is a thrilling ride following a mixed raced former slave fighting for the republican ideals of his new homeland even as radical political events shift all around him, yet Alexandre Dumas quickly became a hero to the French until his capture and release into an entirely different France that didn’t appreciate him. Tom Reiss brought to life of a little known French Republican general that had a long lasting impact on history outside of the military and political sphere to the enjoyment of readers around the world.

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