2018 Reading Plan (End of Year Update)

Hello,

December saw the completion of seven books to finish off my most successful reading year in both books (83!) and pages (30000+).  Unfortunately the seven books I completed this month did not cover my original list, for various reasons to be discussed below.  But first the let’s look at the official 2018 numbers.

Overall Total: 83 (184.4%)
Original List: 42 (93.3%)
Total Pages: 30269 (364.7 per book)

The seven books I completed this month varied in genre I read speculative history, fantasy, religious biography, classical history, philosophy, and historiography.  Save for a short story or two in Tales from the Eternal Archives #2 everything I read this month was very good.

Besides the seven books I read this month, I was able to watch and review a film Godzilla Raids Again. That review as well as the multitude of posts for the stories in Tales from the Eternal Archives #2 (mostly the latter to be honest) resulted in this being my most viewed month ever on this blog.

Looking back at the year, I’m a tad disappointed that I didn’t get through my original list of 45 books I made last January. But given that I sold two books from that list after the first book of the trilogy was so bad that I wasn’t going to enduring reading them I’m okay with not getting through the list since I completed a total of 83 books.

In regards to my blog here, this will be my 133rd post of the year which equals my total from last year so that a good sign. I didn’t review as many films as I had been hoping to this year, so that was disappointing. I got more comments and gained more followers this year (thanks to everyone who began following me this year), so that makes me feel good as well.

That’s all I got to say for the end of 2018. I’ve got my first post for 2019 cued up from tomorrow, but until then here’s my list of completed books.

Founding Myths: Stories that Hide Our Patriotic Past by Ray Raphael
How’s Inky? (Living Forest #1) by Sam Campbell*
Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron by Nicholas Fraser
Beowulf
Making Money (Discworld #36) by Terry Pratchett
Too Much Salt and Pepper (Living Forest #2) by Sam Campbell*
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
Eeny, Meeny, Miney, Mo–and Still-Mo (Living Forest #3) by Sam Campbell*
Unseen Academicals (Discworld #37) by Terry Pratchett
The Wars of Gods and Men (Earth Chronicles #3) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too (Living Forest #4) by Sam Campbell*
Politics by Aristotle
Foundation and Empire (Foundation #2) by Isaac Asimov
On Wings of Cheer (Living Forest #5) by Sam Campbell*
I Shall Wear Midnight (Discworld #38) by Terry Pratchett
Games of State (Op-Center #3) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Moose Country (Living Forest #6) by Sam Campbell*
The Rise of the West by W.H. McNeill*
The Wonder That Was India by Arthur Llewellyn Basham
Second Foundation (Foundation #3) by Isaac Asimov
The Seven Secrets of Somewhere Lake (Living Forest #7) by Sam Campbell*
Snuff (Discworld #39) by Terry Pratchett
The Lost Realms (Earth Chronicles #4) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Loony Coon (Living Forest #8) by Sam Campbell*
William Miller and the Rise of Adventism by George R. Knight
The Martian by Andy Weir
Fiddlesticks and Freckles (Living Forest #9) by Sam Campbell*
Raising Steam (Discworld #40) by Terry Pratchett
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson*
Acts of War (Op-Center #4) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Beloved Rascals (Living Forest #10) by Sam Campbell*
Sweet Sue’s Adventures (Living Forest #11) by Sam Campbell*
Calamity Jane (Living Forest #12) by Sam Campbell*
Agricola and Germany by Tacitus*
Organizing for Mission and Growth by George R. Knight*
City of God by St. Augustine
Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life by Herman Melville
The Shepherd’s Crown (Discworld #41) by Terry Pratchett
Genesis Revisited (Earth Chronicles #4.5) by Zecharia Sitchin
Orbit of Discovery by Don Thomas*
Myths in Adventism by George R. Knight*
The Stuart Age by Barry Coward
Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5) by Brandon Sanderson*
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Balance of Power (Op-Center #5) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Abraham’s Other Son by Philip Samaan*
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
The Histories by Tacitus*
The Book of Acts by Wilson Paroschi
Jedi the Last (William Shakespeare’s Star Wars Part the Eighth) by Ian Doescher
Kings & Queens of England and Scotland by Plantagenet Somerset Fry
Tournament Upstart by Thomas J. Dygard- REREAD
Game Plan by Thomas J. Dygard- REREAD
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
Laying Down the Law by Keith Augustus Burton*
The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury
Lamarck’s Revenge by Peter Ward
Pacific Vortex! (Dirk Pitt #1) by Clive Cussler
When Time Began (Earth Chronicles #5) by Zecharia Sitchin- REREAD
Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown
The Bluebirds and Their Neighbors (Old Homestead #1) by Neil Wayne Northey*
The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party by Michael F. Holt
The Mallards and Their Neighbors (Old Homestead #2) by Neil Wayne Northey*
The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2) by Clive Cussler
Leaves of Grass: First and “Death-Bed” Editions by Walt Whitman*
Light Bearers: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwartz
State of Siege (Op-Center #6) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Paddletail the Beaver and His Neighbors by Neil Wayne Northey*
Legends: Tales from the Eternal Archives #1 edited by Margaret Weis*
Oathbringer (The Stormlight Archive #3) Brandon Sanderson
The Reign of the Kingfisher by T.J. Martinson
Wild Creatures in Winter (Old Homestead #4) by Neil Wayne Northey*
Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3) by Clive Cussler
Divine Encounters (Earth Chronicles #5.5) by Zecharia Sitchin
Earth, Air, Fire, Water: Tales from the Eternal Archives #2 edited by Margaret Weis
James White: Innovator and Overcomer by Gerald Wheeler*
The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides*
Fire & Blood (ASOIAF) by George R.R. Martin
Teaching History: A Seventh-day Adventist Approach by Gary Land

Moved to 2019
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James

Abandoned
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

* = home read

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Teaching History: A Seventh-day Adventist Approach

1883925282.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Teaching History: A Seventh-Day Adventist Approach by Gary Land
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The question of how Christians, including Seventh-day Adventists, approach the study of history compared to their secular colleagues is an important topic of thought and debate. Distinguished Adventist educator and historian Gary Land’s Teaching History: A Seventh-day Adventist Approach gives both teachers and students insight into how they can unite their learning and faith to better appreciate both.

In 86 pages of texts, with footnotes at the end of each chapter, Land covers historiography in all its secular philosophies and analysis of history and how suggests how Christians might approach and use each in their own ways. In the text, Land brings up three ways Christians can apply their beliefs with the teaching and writing of history and in the last chapter he provides case studies to showcase how each can be used while still speaking to a wide academic audience. Land doesn’t forget to address how Seventh-day Adventists should approach history, whether their own denomination’s or that of the wider world, amongst themselves whether in journals or in classrooms.

Overall this small book about how Christians can approach the study of history while still using their beliefs is a wonderful thought provoking read for both teachers and students.

Fire & Blood: From Aegon I to the Regency of Aegon III (ASOIAF- History)

152479628X.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_Fire & Blood by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The rise and fall of the Targaryens in Westeros over the course of 300 years is essentially the backstory for George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series (aka Game of Thrones). Taking on the guise as a master of the Citadel, Martin’s Fire & Blood: From Aegon I to the Regency of Aegon III is the first volume of two detailing the history of the Targaryen dynasty and the unified Westeros they ruled that readers would first meet in A Game of Thrones.

Unlike the vast majority of the books concerning Westeros, Martin writes this one as a pure—yet fictional—history book, though with a clear narrative structure, detailing the lives of the Targaryens and the events that impacted their reigns from Aegon’s Conquest down to the Regency of his great-great-great-grandson Aegon III in the aftermath of The Dance of the Dragons. The book begins with a quick family history of the Targaryens with their flight from Valyria before the Doom and the century leading up to Aegon’s conquest of Westeros before delving into said conquest with his sister-wives. Then just a regular history book, the text goes into how the new realm was brought together and how the Targaryens attempted to bring Dorne into the realm during Aegon’s life. Next came the reigns of the Conqueror’s two sons showing how the new dynasty was tested once the founder was missing and the problems faith and cultures play when interacting with one another. Follow the death of Maegor the Cruel, the long reign of Jaehaerys I with considerable influence from his sister-wife queen Alysanne shows how dynasty’s rule was cemented even though seeds were planted for a crisis in the succession of the line that would explode in civil war after the death of their grandson Viserys I between his eldest daughter and her younger half-brother that would devastate the realm and basically kill off all the dragons—both human and creature—leaving a 10-year boy left to sit the Iron Throne.

Although around half the material in this book was a reprint from A World of Ice and Fire, “The Princess and the Queen, “The Rogue Prince”, and “Sons of the Dragon” it was all the new material and some retconned details of this 700 page book that is really interesting. The reign of Jaehaerys and Alysanne was essentially all new as was the details about how The Dance of the Dragons ended and the resulting multiple Regencies for Aegon III. Along with all this information, which fleshed out the backstory of Westeros even more, were parallels of characters from the main series—as well as the Dunk & Egg novels—with historical personages that appeared in this history that gives big fans thoughts to ponder about what might be in store with the former.

Overall Fire & Blood: From Aegon I to the Regency of Aegon III is a very good book for those fans of ASOIAF/GoT who look in-depth at their favorite series. Personally as fan of the series and being interested in the depth Martin gives his series, as well as big history read, this book was fantastic. Yet if you are a casual fan or simple a show fan that hasn’t read the books, this book isn’t for you.

A Song of Ice and Fire

The Guide for the Perplexed

0486203514.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Guide for the Perplexed by Maimónides
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Looking to reconcile Aristotelian philosophy and Jewish theology, Moses Maimonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed. A three part letter to his student, the book was influential not only to Jewish thought but Christian and Islamic thought throughout the Middle Ages while still giving those in the 21st Century insights to consider.

The first part focuses on Maimonides arguing against the anthropomorphism of God, basically stating God is incorporeal, and all references in the Bible to God doing physical things are essentially figurative language to allow the human mind to understand the works of God. This leads into a discussion by Maimonides that states that God cannot be described in positive terms only negative conceptions because while positive terms put limits on God, the negative does not. This leads into a discussion of philosophy and mysticism of various kinds. The second part begins on Maimonides expounding on the physical structure of the universe, an essentially Aristotelian world-view, which eventually leads into a debate on if the universe is eternal or created. Though Maimonides admits that Aristotle’s arguments for an eternal universe are better, Divine Revelation decides the matter. Maimonides then expounds on the Creation presented in Genesis and theories on the possible end of the world. The last part is explained as the climax of the whole work as Maimonides expounds on the mystical passage of the Chariot found in Ezekiel, which isn’t supposed to be directly taught only hinted at though over time direct instruction has become the normal. This is followed by analysis of the moral aspects of the universe and explaining the reasons for the 613 laws in the Torah. Maimonides ends the book with how God is worshipped correctly, through wisdom.

The comparison of and thesis of complimenting of long held Jewish theological thought and Aristotelian philosophy by Maimonides could have been hard to follow, the text was more than readable and thus the arguments very understandable. While his arguments and logic are insight and enlightening, Maimonides is yet another religious individual who has married ‘pagan’ philosophy with divine revelation to the determinant of the latter like many of his Christian contemporaries were doing and their predecessors before them and many would do after. This is the book’s biggest flaw, but instead of being a reason not to read it is the main one to read it and thus understand the arguments of those who want to merge two separate worldviews into one.

The Guide for the Perplexed was intended by Maimonides for learned individuals to give his view on philosophy more than theology, however the two could not be connected within the text. While I do not adhere to the vast majority of the thoughts the author expounded upon, the insight into medieval thought were invaluable and insightful.

Godzilla Raids Again (Godzilla #2)

Godzilla Raids AgainGodzilla Raids Again
My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

The 1955 film Godzilla Raids Again, is the second installment in the kaiju franchise following up the hugely successful first film just the year before. Takeo Murata and Shigeru Kayama once again wrote the screenplay and story along with Shigeaki Hidaki thus giving continuity to this Motoyoshi Oda directed film.

The film begins with two pilots, Shoichi Tsukioka and Koji Kobayashi, employed by an Osaka based fish cannery hunting schools of fish for the company’s fleet. Kobayashi’s plane experiences a malfunction forcing him to land near Iwato Island, Tsukioka looks for his friend and finds him safe only for the two men to be confronted by strange sounds then discover two monsters fighting. Tsukioka instantly identifies Godzilla before the two monsters crash into the sea. When meeting with government officials and scientists in Osaka, Kobayashi identifies the other as Anguirus. Amongst the group is Dr. Yamane who states that the two monsters were probably awakened by the hydrogen bomb testing that woke the first Godzilla, but unlike before they do not have the Oxygen Destroyer and must find another means of saving the country. Based on a recommendation by Yamane, the city is blacked out and the military uses flares out at sea that get Godzilla’s attention and moves him away from shore. Unfortunately a group of criminals breaks out of their transport and begin racing around the city, one of the chases leads to a fiery crash at industrial building that causes a larger fire getting Godzilla’s attention. Godzilla heads into Osaka when Anguirus emerges from the sea to attack him, they battle throughout the city before Godzilla kills his rival in the rumble of Osaka’s iconic castle. With their cannery destroyed, Kobayashi heads to their Hokkaido cannery where he is joined by Tsukioka a few months later when news breaks that Godzilla has been sighted again. The two pilots join the search, Kobayashi in his company plane while Tsukioka has been called up to the military. Godzilla’s atomic breathe disable Kobayashi’s plane and he crashed into snow covered mountain, but a sadden Tsukioka realizes they can shoot missiles at the mountain and cover Godzilla with an avalanche. It takes two waves of planes to complete the task and many pilot lives, but Godzilla is buried thus saving Japan.

Running almost 20 minutes less than the original, the film takes a completely different approach from the start. The introduction to the films main protagonists and the monsters is within the first ten minutes and letting the story flow from there. The use of clips from the original film and the reappearance of Dr. Yamane gave continuality from the previous installment while also giving information that this was a different individual Godzilla not the previous one come back to life. Like the first film, the special effects are top notch and essentially make this film live up to the original in that aspect. However, like the previous film there wasn’t much in character development through there was an attempt to give one to Kobayashi to make his death more meaningful. Yet the overall story felt off because after Godzilla had killed Anguirus and the characters vowed to rebuild, it felt like the film was over only for the setting to suddenly shift to Hokkaido.

Even though it is not as symbolic or high quality as its predecessor, Godzilla Raids Again was a good sequel that essentially made the franchise possible. The inclusion of two of the original writers provided for continuity from the first but keeping this film distinct. Although the story isn’t prefect, the special effects more than make up for it thus making for a fun watch.

Godzilla

The Annals of Imperial Rome

0140440607.01._SX450_SY635_SCLZZZZZZZ_The Annals of Imperial Rome by Tacitus
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Augustus might have established the Principate, but it was up to his successors to continue it and prevent Rome from once against descending into civil war. Tacitus in The Annals of Imperial Rome, the reigns of the Caesars from Tiberius to the death of Nero which would lead to the events in the writer’s The Histories.

The work begins with Tacitus reviewing the reign of Augustus and how Tiberius became his successor, over his more popular nephew Germanicus whose side of the family would eventual rule. Tiberius shrewdly attempts to be modest in claiming the Imperial title, but this hides his dark nature that he developed during his self-imposed exile before becoming Augustus’ heir. Under Tiberius is when the show trials and political persecutions of leading men that would begin that would become notorious under later Emperors. The middle and the very end of Tiberius’ reign, all of Gaius (Caligula)’s reign, and the first half of Claudius’ reign have been lost. Tacitus’ work picks up with how Claudius’ wife Messalina was brought down and his niece Agrippina shrewdly manipulating her way into marriage with her uncle so as to get her son, the future Nero, to become Emperor. Though the show trials and political persecutions continue, Claudius doesn’t instigate them and attempts to be lenient for those being wrongly convicted. Yet once Nero becomes an adult and Claudius’ son Britannicus still a child, Claudius’ days are numbered. Once his great-uncle and adoptive father is dead, Nero assumes the leadership and begins consolidating power including poisoning Britannicus at dinner one night. Though his mother Agrippina attempts to influence him, Nero humors her while attempting to get rid of her and finally succeeding. Though taught and tutored by the renowned Seneca, Nero has learned to rule in the guise of Tiberius yet with the ruthlessness of Gaius and soon anyone that offended him or could have been a threat to him or perceived to be by his hangers on. Though the end of Nero’s reign is missing, the trials and murders of senators were increasing in number to the point that later as mentioned in The Histories they decided to turn on Nero and proclaim Galba.

The unfortunate incompleteness of Tacitus’ work does not diminish the great historical account that it presents of early Imperial history as well as his critique of the Roman aristocracy during the reigns of Augustus’ Julio-Claudian successors. Though we know his opinions of Tiberius and Nero the best since their reigns survived the best, Tacitus critiques of those family members that did not rule were highly invaluable especially all those who in the writer’s opinion might have been more fitting successors to Augustus if not for political intrigue or bad luck. If there is a complaint with this book it is with a decision by translator Michael Grant decision to use modern military terminology in reference to Roman’s military was it, but his decision to use Roman numerals to help identify different historical actors who had the same name—a very common Roman practice—without a doubt help keep things straight. The biggest complaint that I had with Tacitus’ other works, which I had from Oxford World Classics, were non-existent with Penguin Classics and thus I encourage others towards that particular publisher.

The Annals of Imperial Rome is Tacitus’ finest work, showing the corruption of absolute power and how many choose to allow it overcome them instead of standing up to it. Although probably (at least) one-third of the work is missing, the portions we have covers how a politically stable Rome begins to slowly unravel through ever increasing fear of the most powerful man in the Empire. The end result of this is chronicles in Tacitus’ previous work.

James White: Innovator and Overcomer

2cdb53c0442e9ea596d67307267444341587343James White: Innovator and Overcomer by Gerald Wheeler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The primary force behind the organizational formation of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination himself came from a denomination that resisted organization, but today’s Seventh-day Adventist church has his fingerprints even today. James White: Innovator and Overcomer by Gerald Wheeler, examines the life and times of one of the three main founders of the church whose drive was both a blessing and a curse.

Beginning and ending this biography at the funeral of James White, Wheeler highlights an important theme throughout White’s life, his seemingly paradoxical personality that drove him to everything he could for the church he helped to found but that could also cause friction with others from coworkers, friends, and family. Wheeler then shifts to White’s early life in Maine, a tough place that made tough people who endured the harsh climate of the area. Though encouraged to just become a farmer though he yearned for education, White became convinced the message of William Miller and soon felt the call to preacher the 1844 message while becoming accredited with the Christian Connection, whose views would influence him for years and decades to come. After the Great Disappointment, White was among those who believed something occurred on October 22 but shied away from the fanaticism of others through he was drawn to the encouraging visions of Ellen Harmon and began escorting her to various groups of Millerites before social conventions led the two to wed. The couple along with others, most notably Joseph Bates and Hiram Edson, began development the theological underpinnings of the future Seventh-day Adventist church and Ellen’s encouragement lead to White beginning ‘Review and Herald’ which would eventually place White at the forefront of the movement and eventually the main proponent of organization for almost a decade before it became a reality. Once organized, White wanted others to lead the church with him—famously refusing to become the denomination’s first president—but given his drive for its creation and want of its success he wasn’t the easiest to work with and would butt heads with many in the final 20 years of his life that grew worse as his many strokes would magnify his personality’s positive and negative traits. Throughout his endeavors with the church, Wheeler described White’s personally frugal nature that would make him squeeze out all he could with his money for himself and his family while at the same time being generous to less fortunate believes and church institutions. Though busy running two to three periodicals and a newly formed church, White was a business man and real estate investor so as to provide himself and family economic security but this led to accusations that he enriched himself with church funds that dogged him even after his passing.

In almost 250 pages of text and references, Wheeler provided an eye-opening look into the life of James White through the use of White’s own autobiography but also letters written by himself and others as well as other sources from individuals who knew him throughout his life. Wheeler fleshes out James White into a real person that like us today had strengths and flaws that he used and dealt with his entire life while getting closer and closer to Christ, something every Adventist—or any Christian—should identify with today. Though information and use of primary sources is excellent, the structure Wheeler used in the book was sometimes questionable. While the not so strictly chronological layout of the chapters was fine, some of the content of the chapters resulted in several short chapters that could have been merged into other chapters to make the book flow better to the reader.

James White: Innovator and Overcomer is a very good book for those Adventists looking to learn about one of the three founders of the church. Gerald Wheeler helps take White from being a picture on the wall, or book cover, and make him flesh-and-bone man who struggled just like us today with strengths and flaws. I highly recommend this for those interested in SDA church history.