Abraham’s Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity

6c9f8b678de74f859726e577167444341587343Abraham’s Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity by Philip G. Samaan
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Many Christians have no idea what the religion of Islam actually is and for many who have read the Old Testament, they forget that Islam began among the descendants of Abraham’s other son Ishmael. Dr. Philip Samaan attempts to give Christians, in particular Seventh-day Adventists, a glimpse of actually Islam and Muslims in Abraham’s Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity.

The first two-thirds of the book Samaan focuses primarily on everything related to Islam beginning with Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael in the Biblical record before turning his attention to Muhammad as well as the rise and spread of Islam. After the historical portion, Samaan then looks at the faith of Islam itself and its similarities and contrasts to Judaism and Christianity. Then after covering Jesus in Islam, the book turns to focus on Christ for nearly the last third of the book until the last chapter covers how Christians—Seventh-day Adventists—can witness to both Muslims and Jews.

Born in Syria into an Orthodox Christian family, Samaan not only grew up amongst all three faiths but has studied them diligently bring extensive knowledge to this book. However, while Samaan is particular knowledgeable on the subject went to write, it felt that he wrote parts of at least three different books in this roughly 280 page book. Not that the material cover wasn’t insightful, but when the book ignored Islam for long stretches which felt weird given that it was to be the main topic. While the book structure was a little surprising, the biggest drawback is the editing of the text which could have been tightened up in several spots and in some places were determinately to the understanding of what Samaan was discussing.

Abraham’s Other Son is an informative book on the history of Ishmael and his descendants in Muslims around the world. While Philip Samaan’s book is not perfect, it is able to give Christians—not only Seventh-day Adventists—a true glimpse at what Islam really is and its relationship to Judaism and Christianity.

Blood Brothers by Philip Samaan

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Balance of Power (Op-Center #5)

440382fddbd0a39596b524e7177444341587343Balance of Power by Jeff Rovin
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

With ethnic tensions suddenly boiling to the surface, Spain looks like it might go the way of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union or be kept together by a strong man in the image of Franco until Op-Center is put into the crossfire. Balance of Power, the fifth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin, ghosting for the titular Tom Clancy, once again finds Op-Center operatives in the middle of an international crisis but this time one of their own is set up with deadly consequences and vengeance is on everyone’s mind only to find that taken away by a man who allowed the attack to happen in an effort to forge Spain in his own image.

Sent to Madrid to help negotiate between two ethnic factions of the country, Martha Mackell is murdered by an assassin contracted by the very people she had been sent to help. The men who ordered her assassination are then killed on the orders of the Spanish Chief of Staff who is looking to become the next Franco by inciting ethnic riots around the country, especially in his native Castile. With one of their own killed and a NATO ally tilting between violently separating and a totalitarian regime, Op-Center must do everything in their power with the help of local Interpol officers to contain the situation. Yet Director Paul Hood must also confront a situation in his marriage while Darrel McCaskey, Op-Center’s FBI liaison deals with his old love interest an Interpol agent who decides to take out the would be Franco herself which complicates things with Striker and McCaskey personally.

Released in 1998, Balance of Power uses the tensions in Spain which resonates today given the situation in Catalonia and effectively conveys the tensions in the country. Unlike the previous book in which a character’s stupidity—General Mike Rodgers—basically drove the plot, it was conspiracies against conspiracies with independent human actors fighting for their country, honor, and more driving the plot which was a vast improvement. Maria Corneja, McCaskey’s ex and Interpol agent, is the most prominent secondary character and while she was fine overall, yet if you had changed her name to Mario (Italian I know) and “she” to “he” nothing would have changed—save the romantic angle—but to say Corneja was a man with tits would be going too far. While there were little things here and there that seem like tiny plot holes, nothing really stood out as completely awful but if I were to choose the worst part of the book, it’s once again Paul and Sharon Hood’s marriage which has been choreographed to be doomed since the first book.

Like several books before it, Balance of Power is another Op-Center book with an intriguing plot idea but for once Jeff Rovin writes the characters and narrative to carry it instead of undermining it like the three previous installments. While it’s not the greatest action thriller, it’s a solid story with interesting characters which is considerably better than all the other books in the series maybe even including the original Op-Center.

Op-Center

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

b0046f46ly-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Apocalypse has arrived, but the fabled battle of Armageddon will not take place in the Middle East it’ll be in Oxfordshire unless a demon and an angel get their way. Good Omens is from the combined writing of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett who take the well-trod path of end of the world novels and stand them on their head.

The demon Crowley is tasked with delivering the Antichrist to his family and ensuring his evil education, but his love of humanity makes him come clean to his friend, the angel Aziraphale who comes up with the brilliant plan to have both Good and Evil influence the child growing up. On the child’s eleventh birthday, Crowley and Aziraphale find out that there had been a mix up at the hospital and they race to find the Antichrist along with Heaven, Hell, and the Four Horsemen who are gathered from around the world. And in the little town of Lower Tadfield, Adam Young and his gang (Them) as well the witch Anathema Device and the witchfinder Newt Pulsifer have their own roles to play in the Final Battle as it draws nigh.

The combined talents of Gaiman and Pratchett work seamlessly, especially when the reader learns at the end of this particular edition of how the two worked together, and create a fantastic satire of the end of the world and all the tropes that go along with it. Though the humor is good, some of it is a bit dated and so some jokes fall flat which is the only downside to this really good book.

If you are either a fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett and haven’t read this book yet, then I highly encourage you to do so. Good Omens is the perfect blend of both authors and you’ll find it highly enjoyable, save for the few out of date jokes. If you’re simply a fan of satire, then give this book and its riffing of a certain supernatural horror film from the 1970s a good read.

American Gods
Discworld

Ulysses

f55e6d5e5c8e15b597a41355841444341587343Ulysses by James Joyce
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The life of the everyman in a single day in Dublin is the basic premise of James Joyce’s Ulysses, yet this is an oversimplification of the much deeper work that if you are not careful can quickly spiral down into a black hole of fruitless guesswork and analysis of what you are reading.

Joyce’s groundbreaking work is a parallel to Homer’s The Odyssey though in a modernist style that was defined by Joyce in this novel. Though the primary character is Leonard Bloom, several other important secondary characters each take their turn in the spotlight but it is Bloom that the day revolves around. However any echoes of Homer are many times hidden behind Joyce verbosity and stream-of-conscious writing that at times makes sense and at times completely baffles you. Even with a little preparation the scale of what Joyce forces the reader to think about is overwhelming and frankly if you’re not careful, quickly derails your reading of the book until its better just to start skimming until the experience mercifully ends.

While my experience and opinion of this work might be lambasted by more literary intelligent reviewers, I would like to caution those casual readers like myself who think they might be ready to tackle this book. Read other modernist authors like Conrad, Kafka, Woolf, Lawrence, and Faulkner whose works before and after the publication of Ulysses share the same literary movement but are not it’s definitive work.

Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5)

1250166543-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Traveling from the palace of the Azish emperor to the carved out city of Yeddaw, a young Knight Radiant stalks her would be executioner even as a danger to her world stalks the land. Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer is a tale from the Stormlight Archive set in-between the second and third volumes of the main series as it shows the how Lift, the titular Edgedancer, and a long surviving Herald react to the Everstorm.

Feeling confined and unsure, the adventurous theft Lift travels to the city of Yeddaw to find more Radiants before they are murdered by Darkness. The teenager displays her Edgedancer talents to draw the attention of her would be executioner while also exploring the city and trying to figure out its people. Her tactics pay off as Darkness learns she’s in the city and she follows him to discover what he knows only to find out that Darkness has Radiant apprentices of his own including a man in white. Eventually Lift is forced to use her connections with the Azish emperor to find out who Darkness is searching for only to discover that his apprentices had made a mistake and that the unlikeable woman Lift has had several encounters will is his target. But it is during their confrontation that Lift convinces Darkness, the Herald Nale, that the Everstorm hitting the city means a new Desolation has arrived.

Although this book comes in at roughly 270 pages, the first 58 being a reprinting of Lift’s Interlude in Words of Radiance, the small hardback volume that it appears in makes it seem longer than it is. In a postscript, Sanderson wrote that this novella was needed before both characters appear again in Oathbringer thus meaning for that anyone reading the series this short little story is something they might want to quickly read. Given it’s short length, Sanderson packs a lot into it as he wants to describe the city of Yeddaw as well as continue to develop Lift—who he is not shy in saying he enjoys writing—in both her understanding of who she is and in giving readers hints about what the “Nightwatcher” gave her instead of her request to remain 10 years old.

Edgedancer is a quick, fun read about young adventurous character looking to figure herself out and in the process helping an age-old hero begin to regain his focus on what the world of Roshar needs. Even though you’ll need to have read earlier volumes of the Stormlight Archive to understand the magical system and world it take place in.

Cosmere

The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714

0582067227-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 by Barry Coward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After the act of the Tudors, how would the Stuarts follow up in ruling England? Barry Coward covers the history of England between 1603 and 1714 in The Stuart Age giving the reading a comprehensive look at the developments across religion, economy, politics, and government while trying to dispel old assumptions and highlight new research.

Coward begins and ends the book with looking a statistical view England, at first looking how England developed through the early Stuarts to 1650 and then through the Interregnum and late Stuarts until the Hanoverian ascension. The vast majority of the book covers the narrative flow of history of the period from the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England after the death of Elizabeth to the death of his great-granddaughter Anne with all the twists and turns that happened within the domestic political arena that saw numerous failed attempts at Scottish union to disagreements between monarchs and parliament and finally the dispossessions of monarchs from the throne through execution and invited invasion then dictating who can take the throne. Plus add in the events in Scotland and Ireland that played important roles at critical times that shaped events in England that made the century what it was.

The book is first and foremost an overview of the era with Coward attempting to give the events that took place their proper context in the evolution of government or religion or anything else related to “modern” Britain. In doing this he set aside many myths about the era especially in the context of their times, he also gave context between “court” and “country” political establishments especially in relation to developments on the continent, i.e. the rise of absolutism and centralized government. However, one of the drawbacks is that Coward would bring up other historians and juxtapose their theories on events without just simply making his own mark on the interpretation of the events. Another feature which was lacking was that the military campaigns of especially the English Civil War, but also the continental wars, weren’t highlighted much especially since the Civil War was only covered in one whole chapter yet as an overview book it wasn’t unexpected. And finally, as this edition of the book—the 2nd published in 1994—is almost 25 years old further research and debate has been missed out on.

The Stuart Age does its job fantastically well by giving an overview of the entire Stuart era that like other parts of English history seemed to be overshadowed by the proceeding Tudors. Barry Coward’s layout of the period gives the reader perspective of the statistical elements of history that will influence the later narrative of the political and military events that make of the majority of the book then the aftereffects of those events on the same statistics, though slow in the beginning pays off and make this book pop. If you’re looking for an overview of this period in English history, then you should consider this book.

2018 Reading Plan (July Update)

Hello,

In June I completed another seven books which equaled my total for May thus getting me closer to my goal for the year of 45 books.  Before I really go on, let’s go to the stats.

Overall Total: 43 (95.6%)
Original List: 25 (55.6%)
Total Pages: 14400 (334.9 per book)

Honestly when I began the year, I did not believe that my mid-year total would be so close to my goal for the entire year.  However when you read 18 books exclusively at home that’s what happens.  With four books from my original list completed, I’m up to 25 from my list in January which means that I have half a year to get through the last 20 just as I’m getting to some of the longer or really in-depth books on the list. But I have completed one goal already for the year as I’ve finished 38 new (as in I’ve never read before) books which is past the 35 books that I made as my Goodreads 2018 Reading Challenge.  I’m happy that my page total really jumped up, mainly thanks to City of God, as well as of my pages per book.

Besides completing my goal for “new” books, June also saw some other important events.  The most important to me was the completing my first read through of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series.  Another important moment was a book haul I had last Wednesday that added 16 books to my TBR pile and that I have to figure out how to put into my reading schedule in the coming years.  But the most surprising is that this month I had a record 227 views (as of 6:30 pm Saturday) for the month, mostly thanks to a Belgian who viewed my site 48 times on Wednesday (and maybe even 16 on the 22nd and 23rd) though a nice Canadian visited my site 13 times on 19th.  Yet I’ll take the record.

A look ahead for July I have 124 pages left in The Stuart Age then it’ll be James Joyce’s Ulysses (complete and unabridged) and following that maybe Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.  For my home reads, with Brandon Sanderson‘s Oathbringer apparently coming out in October in paperback I’m going to read Edgedancer which my friend Sarah really enjoyed and I hope to enjoy just as much.  Another home read, though of a more religious nature (thus for the weekends) will be a book by a professor I had in college about Islam entitled Abraham’s Other Son.  And expect a post about me looking for women fantasy and sci-fi authors primarily, though women authors in general as well, and soliciting suggestions from everyone.

Well that is everything for this month, thanks for reading.

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
Ulysses by James Joyce
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett
Balance of Power (Op-Center #5) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism by George R. Knight
Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny
The Major Works of Anselm of Canterbury
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 Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party by Michael F. Holt
The Mediterranean Caper (Dirk Pitt #2) by Clive Cussler
Light Beareres: A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church by Richard W. Schwartz
State of Siege (Op-Center #6) by Jeff Rovin- REREAD
The Guide for the Perplexed by Moses Maimonides
Golden Son (Red Rising #2) by Pierce Brown
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire by Lawrence James
Iceberg (Dirk Pitt #3) by Clive Cussler
Divine Encounters by Zecharia Sitchin
Morning Star (Red Rising #3) by Pierce Brown

* = home read