The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century

HillerbrandThe Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century by Hans J. Hillerbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Christendom, the social-political-religious definition of Europe for nearly millennium was shaken at the right moment and the right place to rend it asunder for all time. In Hans J. Hillerbrand’s revision of his own work, The Division of Christendom: Christianity in the Sixteenth Century, the Reformation started by Martin Luther in Germany is seen first and foremost as a religious dispute that was not inevitable but due to political and societal factors as able to evolve until it became irreversible.

Hillerbrand began by setting the stage upon which Luther would burst onto the scene focusing not only on the condition of the Church, but also the political situation in Germany. Then Hillerbrand goes into what he calls “the first phase” of the Reformation in which Luther was the primary focus from 1517 to 1521, then after Luther’s stand at Worms the focus of the Reformation changes from a primarily religious controversy into one that politics begins to dominate in Germany. Yet, Hillerbrand doesn’t stop with Luther and Germany, as he begins describing the reactions to the German events in other territories before they lead to their own Reformation events. The Catholic Church’s response to the spread of Protestantism across Europe, the different forms of Protestantism besides Lutheranism, and the theological debates between all of them were all covered. And at the end of the book Hillerbrand compared the beginning of the 16th-century to the end and how each was different and the same after over 80 years of debate.

While Hillerbrand’s survey of the Reformation is intended for both general audiences and scholars, which he successes in doing, the epilogue of the book is what I believe is the best part of the text. Entitled “Historiography”, Hillerbrand discusses the various ways the Reformation has been covered by historians over the past 500 years and the trends in history as well. But in reviewing his own text, Hillerbrand emphasized the religious aspect that sparked as well as influenced the Reformation and the importance of the events in Germany which determined not only Luther’s but the Reformation’s fate in Europe. By ending the book on this note, Hillerbrand gives his readers much to think about on either to agree or disagree with his conclusion which is one of the many reasons to study history.

The Division of Christendom is a relatively, for 500 pages, compact survey of 16th-century Europe in which things both changed dramatically and yet stayed the same during a transformative time in Western history. As one of the foremost historians of the Reformation, Hans J. Hillerbrand knows this period of history as no one else and just adds to my recommendation to read this book for those interested in the Reformation.

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Blood Stain (Volume Three)

Blood Stain 3Blood Stain Volume 3 by Linda Sejic
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Beginning on Elly Torres’ second day on her new job after her long first day in Volume Two, she doesn’t know what to expect next or in fact what she’s actually supposed to do. Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain Volume Three completes the first book of Sejic’s webcomic as Elly, Vlad, and Serge have to decide if they can get along with one another or not.

Waking up late in the morning, Elly nervously hopes that Vlad has not been waiting on her only the reader to find out that Vlad himself has overslept. As Vlad desperately attempts to get ready for the class he’s teaching, his demeanor and instructions to Elly just confuse her. So interpreting her duties as best she can, Elly thoroughly cleans his lab while Vlad embarrassingly falls asleep in the middle of his class. Upon returning an upset Vlad can’t believe the pristine condition and angrily tells Elly she overstepped her duties. While Elly wonders about her future, especially as her family’s situation isn’t improving, Serge argues with Vlad about his behavior over the years and later Vlad realizes how much better the lab is organized.

Unlike the first two volumes, the description of what occurs in this particular volume is straightforward as some sort of resolution has to be made about Elly’s character. In addition, the working relationship between Vlad and Serge comes to fore as it impacts Elly and is used by Sejic to give both characters more development. Given that this chapter ends the first Book, or story arc, of Blood Stain the final panel is somewhat predicable but only if you’ve read the first two books but it’s a rewarding final panel because of the journey we’ve seen Elly go on.

As a longtime fan of Sejic’s webcomic, it was a pleasure to have on paper the story I’ve enjoyed online. While Blood Stain Volume Three might be an ending, but it’s just the beginning of the story that is finished and there is more interesting that will be happening with Elly, Vlad, and Serge to come. So if you haven’t read either of the first two volumes, then I encourage you to check them out.

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The Stairway to Heaven (The Earth Chronicles #2)

The Stairway to HeavenThe Stairway to Heaven by Zecharia Sitchin
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The quest for immortality has a place in the myths and legends in nearly all the cultures of the world, is this a natural human longing or is it the result of the “gods” living among men for millennia? Zecharia Sitchin looks to answer the question through Sumerian, Egyptian, Biblical, and extra-Biblical texts and Middle Eastern stories and legends from Gilgamesh to Alexander the Great in his book The Stairway to Heaven.

The search for Paradise where the Tree of Life—or the Fountain of Youth or any other means to bring eternal youth or life—across cultures begins Sitchin’s second book in his Earth Chronicles series. Then he turns to those who claimed immortal ancestors which lead to recounting the tale of Gilgamesh and the afterlife journey of the Pharaohs to their ancestor Ra. All this builds to why all these tales are similar in their descriptions of locations to find the place where immortality can be found, the answer Sitchin proposes is the post-Deluge location for the Annunaki spaceport on the central plain of the Sinai Peninsula. In setting out his theory, Sitchin details the monumental architecture around Egypt and the Levant that not even modern equipment can create and how archaeologists have misidentified through mistakes, or maybe outright fraud, on who built them amongst ancient human cultures when in fact they were built by the astronauts from Nibiru for their rocketships.

Following the post-Deluge founding of civilization at the end of The 12th Planet, Sitchin focused on how the Annunaki rebuilt their spacefaring abilities after the destruction of their Mission Control and Spaceport in Mesopotamia. To do this he highlights the near universal search for immortality by humans and how it alluded to the new Spaceport in the Sinai that lead to the “realm of the Gods”. Yet in doing this Sitchin reiterated the same thing over and over again for a good third of the book, bogging down the overall text and could have been condensed down but would have made this 308 page book much shorter. But Sitchin’s argument that the mathematical relationship between numerous ancient cities, monumental architecture, and high mountains across the Middle East as well as stretching towards Delphi in Greece towards the end is the most intriguing for any reader, even if you are skeptical on Sitchin’s theories.

The Stairway to Heaven is not as well written as its precursor or its successor—if my memory is correct—as Sitchin needed a transition book and needed to fill it out. While not as “good” as The 12th Planet, this book gives the reader information important in following up the previous book and “setting” the stage for The Wars of Gods and Men.

The Earth Chronicles

The Force Doth Awaken (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part The Seventh)

WSSW 7William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The galaxy is on the brink of war as old and new heroes race to find the last Jedi against vile agents of the imperial First Order in William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken by Ian Doescher. The first film of the sequel trilogy returns us the Star Wars galaxy 30 years after the fall of the Empire as its successor strikes reclaim the galaxy while attempting to destroy those that could stop it but instead of screen or adaptation is translated wonderfully into fantastic Elizabethan prose by Doescher just like Shakespeare might have done.

Though the search for the lost Luke Skywalker is the focus and driving motivation of the entire book, the struggle for one’s own identity is the central theme. Doescher’s fantastic soliloquies by Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren give depth to these new leading characters as they join long established characters of Han and Leia. One of the best surprises of the book is Chewbacca as Doescher “corrects” one of his oversights by “translating” the Wookie’s screams in the footnotes, which given the events during the battle of Starkiller Base is very poignant. The duel between Finn/Rey and Kylo Ren is very well-written with good balance of Chorus lines and character soliloquies that brings about a very complete and compelling scene. And additional nice touches were the humorous lines of the Rathtars and great use of using the small amount of dialog for Snoke to great use.

The Force Doth Awaken is a return by Doescher and all Star Wars fans to what made the franchise fun, but unlike some Doescher embraced the very homage to the first film and used the similarities to great effect in this book. As Doescher like every other Star Wars fan must await the next film, those that love his work will be eagerly awaiting each William Shakespeare adaptation from him.

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Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography

RenegadeRenegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The life of Martin Luther, the man who sparked the Protestant Reformation, has been written about for centuries yet now it can not only be written about but visualized as well. Renegade: Martin Luther, the Graphic Biography by Andrea Grosso Ciponte and Dacia Palmerino is exactly what its title says about the man who sparked a change in history.

Depicting the life of Luther from his childhood to his death, the biography focuses on his time as a monk led up to and through his break with Rome. At 153 pages there is only so much that can be covered and only so much context as well through sometimes the visual aspect of the graphic novel does come in handy. While the short length of the book obviously foreshadowed only the barest minimum that could be covered on his life, yet the graphic novel aspect seemed to offer a way to enhance the chronicling of Luther’s life. Unfortunately the artwork looks like screen caps of a video game with so-so graphics with only a few great pages of art, usually at the beginning of each chapter.

The overall quality of the biographical and artwork content of Renegade is a mixed bag of a passable chronicle on Luther’s life and so-so artwork. While some younger readers than myself might find it a very good read and hopefully make them want to know more about Martin Luther and the Reformation, I found it a tad underwhelming.

I received this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer program.

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Going Postal (Discworld #33, Industrial #4)

PostalGoing Postal by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Ankh-Morpork’s primary communication system has become inefficient and is losing money, so Lord Vetinari decides to reopen the Post Office. The 33rd book in Terry Pratchett Discworld series, Going Postal introduces a new ‘main’ character Moist von Lipwig who would have rather not be involved but once he was couldn’t get enough of his new profession.

Moist begins his first book by dying—or rather one of his con-artist aliases does—and is given a job offer by Lord Vetinari to run the Ankh-Morpork’s long defunct Post Office. Moist accepts then runs away only to be recaptured by his parole officer, a golem named Mr. Pump, who joins him as part of the Post Office staff with a long time employee and a young pin collector who has “issues” who live in the Post Office building amongst the millions of undelivered letters pile around the building. As Moist figures out how to slowly begin operating the Post Office, he finds himself at odds with the Chairman of the Grand Trunk Company who Moist recognizes as a conman in his own right. Through the staffing of volunteer pensioners and the hiring of other golems, Moist starts getting the mail moving and becomes a target on a hit list but avoids death. Now in a fierce competition, Moist outduels his opponents and as Vetinari’s masterplan to solve the continuing breakdown of the Clack system which the city and many other’s rely on.

While the overall plot and many of the characters are entertaining, there was something missing when it came to the satire and overall humor of the book. While “deregulation” of the economy and “finance” seemed to be a part of it, there was possibly an undertone of against a particular philosophy as well. Yet even without a seemingly overarching satirical theme the book wouldn’t have felt different if Pratchett hadn’t attempted to through in so much early 21st century parallels or shadowed references in addition to everything else going on. The humor and satire were there, but it just didn’t seem really laugh-out-loud funny with a few exceptions.

While Going Postal is not only of Pratchett’s best work, it is still an entertaining installment in the Discworld series that finds one looking forward to seeing what Lord Vetinari might have up his sleeve for his government employed con artist.

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2017 Reading Plan (September Update)

Hello everyone,

Early in September I passed 40 books, officially it was Christianity, and as of yesterday I have 46 completed and reviewed (I backdated the review for 500 Years of Protest and Liberty).  This past month was my second-best of the year with 8 books read and second most views on this blog, so thank you again for stopping by and reading my reviews.

My plans going forward is to finish the current four book cycle I’m on–if you look back at my first Reading Plan blog in January you’d notice a pattern–which will get me to sometime next week.  Then I’ll begin the first of my two Reformation theme books, which (knock on wood) I’ll finish by the end of the month and I’ll begin the second.

In-between all of those will be several “at home” reads like William Shakespeare’s The Force Doth Awaken: Star Wars Part the Seventh by Ian Doescher and Linda Sejic’s Blood Stain Volume Three–search my blog for the appropriate reviews–which both come out in the first two weeks of the month.  Then on the weekends I’ll continue my “tame” at home reads, but I haven’t decided on what I read next of the several options I have.

As for what’s up for November and December, as far as my main reading goes it’ll be some from the list below (though not in order) and some recent purchases mixed in with unlisted rereads.

Well that’s all for this month.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavendra
The Acts of the Apostles by Ellen G. White*
Centuries of Change by Ian Mortimer
Dangerous Women 1 edited by George R.R. Martin (The Princess and the Queen)
The Great Controversy by Ellen G. White*
In Search of the Golden Rainbow by Charles Armistead*
Lighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson*
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 2 by Edward Gibbon
A Bold One for God by Charles G. Edwards*
Scars of Independence by Holger Hoock
Blood Stain (Volume Two) by Linda Sejic*
Herald of the Midnight Cry by Paul A. Gordon*
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (Discworld #28) by Terry Pratchett
Home to Our Valleys! by Walter Utt*
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea (Hinges #4) by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
Prairie Boy by Harry Baerg*
Blood Brothers by Philip Samaan*
The Millennium Bug by Jon Paulien*- REREAD
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson*
National Sunday Law by A. Jan Marcussen*
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Vol. 3 by Edward Gibbon
The New World Order by Russell Burrill*
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Sabbath Roots by Charles E. Bradford*-REREAD
Night Watch (Discworld #29) by Terry Pratchett
The Antichrist and the New World Order by Marvin Moore*
Rogues edited by George R.R. Martin (The Rogue Prince)
Travels with Charley: In Search of America by John Steinbeck
The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer
Tell It to the World by Mervyn Maxwell*
The Wee Free Men (Discworld #30) by Terry Pratchett
Mysteries of the Middle Ages (Hinges #5) by Thomas Cahill- REREAD
Heretics and Heroes (Hinges #6) by Thomas Cahill
Edgar Allan Poe: Complete Tales and Poems
Spy Schools by Daniel Golden
Monstrous Regiment (Discworld #31) by Terry Pratchett
The 12th Planet (Earth Chronicles #1) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Daniel and the Revelation by Uriah Smith*
Christianity by Roland H. Bainton
The Underdogs by Mariano Azuela
A Hat Full of Sky (Discworld #32) by Terry Pratchett
Op-Center (Op-Center #1) by Jeff Roven- REREAD
The Republic by Plato
Gilgamesh
500 Years of Protest and Liberty by Nicholas P. Miller*
Going Postal (Discworld #33) by Terry Pratchett
The Stairway to Heaven (Earth Chronicles #2) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
The Division of Christendom by Hans J. Hillerbrand
Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650 by Carlos M.N. Eire

Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
Beowulf
Thud! (Discworld #34) by Terry Pratchett
Mirror Image (Op-Center #2) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists by George R. Knight
Foundation (Foundation #1) by Isaac Asimov
Wintersmith (Discowrld #35) by Terry Pratchett
The Wars of Gods and Men (Earth Chronicles #3) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Politics by Aristotle
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2) by Isaac Asimov
Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett
Games of State (Op-Center #3) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD

* = home read