A Bold One for God

050455cceaff2b4597339306e77444341587343A Bold One For God by Charles G. Edwards
My rating: 1.5 of 5 stars

Although he did not begin the Reformation in Scotland, John Knox has become its most identifiable proponent not only in the almost 450 years since his death but also during the last 25 years of his life. In A Bold One for God, Charles G. Edwards writes a brief 160 page biography of “a not-so-well-known reformer” that served not only God but his nation as well.

Edwards’ biography of Knox begins in his early 30s after his conversion to Protestantism and his interactions with martyr George Wishart and how the influential preacher told him to remain a tutor to his pupils until God needed him. In the reaction after Wishart’s execution, Knox was asked to preach by Wishart’s followers to lead their congregation after they had assassinated the Cardinal of St. Andrews. His accepts and his powerful preaching began his rise as a man of note in the Reformation movement in Scotland while also resulting in his imprisonment after the movement is crushed for a time. Over the course of the next 12 years, Knox serves as a galley slave before living in exile in England then Geneva and Frankfurt then back to Geneva with a brief visit to Scotland in-between. In 1559, Knox returned to Scotland permanently and became a not only the leading Protestant preacher in the nation but also one with significant political power as he contended with the queen regent Mary of Guise then her daughter Mary, Queen of Scots, and then under the regents of the young James VI.

In the synopsis above, I have hardly scratched the surface of John Knox’s life and career. Unfortunately Charles Edwards did the same in this short biography as well. Although his intended audience is easy identifiable for young adults through his writing style and larger font, Edwards doesn’t treat his audience with respect by crediting them with any intelligence and made his subject less than what he was. Through reconstructed conversations and paraphrasing of others, Edwards endeavored to give Knox’s life more depth but only made the man appear simple and artificial to the reader which seemed to indicate a condescending attitude towards his readers.

While Edwards does give an accurate picture of the chronology and historical background of John Knox’s life that does not make up for the lack of depth and unintended sterilization of his subject. The lack of discussion of Knox’s first 30 years of life and the, most likely unintentional, patronizing attitude towards his readers severely undercuts the worth of A Bold One for God.

Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough

FrontLighter of Gospel Fires by Ella M. Robinson
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The long life of Seventh-day Adventist preacher John N. Loughborough saw many in the world and in the development of the Adventist movement from William Miller to the Seventh-day Adventist church. In Lighter of Gospel Fires: The Story of J.N. Loughborough, Ella M. Robinson recounts the service of one of the Seventh-day Adventist church’s first ordained ministers and pioneer into many fields of ministry not only through his owns words but her interactions with him when she was a young girl growing up.

Born in upstate New York, John N. Loughborough was the son of a carpenter and deacon of the local church and throughout his early life was always around hard work and Christian fellowship. Soon after losing his father at age seven Loughborough went to live with his grandfather and the family joined the Adventist movement started by William Miller soon afterwards. Even before the Great Disappointment Loughborough learned that some ministers would not tolerate Biblical beliefs contradicting human traditions. Soon after beginning his own life-long service of preaching at age seventeen, Loughborough encountered many of these worldly ministers as well as the challenges and triumphs that came preaching the word. Within several years of beginning his preaching career, Loughborough was convinced of the Seventh-day Sabbath and soon encountered other Sabbath-keepers within the Adventist movement, James and Ellen White. Along with the White, John Andrews, and many other church pioneers, Loughborough and his family would cross the United States to bring the ‘midnight cry’ to those that hadn’t heard it. But Loughborough wouldn’t find the fruits of his efforts only in the immediate locations where he preached, but across the country and then around the world.

The nearly 170 pages of text, albeit in large font, and the composition quickly denote this book for teen as well as relating the time when it was first published over 50 years ago. Although primarily a biography of J.N. Loughborough, Robinson related many side incidents surrounding him that added to the overall book. Robinson also illustrated the development of the Seventh-day Adventist church through Loughborough’s own career not only to show his importance but also how all the pioneers of that time sacrificed and contributed to building up of the church.

Lighter of Gospel Fires is an informative, yet short biography of church pioneer J.N. Loughborough that is an easy read for teens who are not interested in having to read a dry book. Ella M. Robinson not only relates the life of the longtime Adventist preacher, but also looks into how the Seventh-day Adventist church had developed by the time of Loughborough’s death. Although not perfect, this book is a nice Sabbath read that I would have loved reading when I was a teen.

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In Search of the Golden Rainbow

e0be3ecb5d25522597530696e77444341587343In Search of the Golden Rainbow: A Once In a Lifetime Adventure by Charles Armistead
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The allure of lost treasure fascinates everyone, yet no many try to actually find it. Charles Armistead retells his time looking for such In Search of the Golden Rainbow with his father, great-uncle, and several business partners. Yet while searching for gold, Armistead learns lessons about life and death.

Covering a period of nine months, Armistead describes his time while searching for a lost Mexican mine in the Oregon Mountains of New Mexico. Over the course of 96 pages, Armistead relates many adventures and mishaps throughout in a smooth transition from one to another. Yet because of nearly 40 years between the events and the writing only the incidents that made the biggest impression and the details both Armistead and his father could agree on were included in the book. Although the book is clearly written for a teenage audience, its short length is a major downside and something I didn’t realize way back when my mother read me this book when I was a child. While the book does have a religious message as well, Armistead doesn’t “preach” throughout it instead only bring in a religious message into the book at an appropriate connection to the events he is retelling.

In Search of the Golden Rainbow is over 35 years old, yet it is still an enjoyable read. Armistead’s writing style provides a quick and easy read of his time looking for lost gold while also finding some spiritual truths. If I had decided when I was a teen to read this book for myself instead of relying on my faulty childhood memories, I would have enjoyed it not only for the adventure but also that Armistead relayed spiritual lessons in a conversational way and not highhandedly.

Mockingjay (THG #3)

1407132105-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The nation of Panem collapses into a state of civil war and both sides are looking towards for the appearance of the Mockingjay. The final installment of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games trilogy finds Katniss Everdeen contemplating her role in the fight against the Capitol along with coming to terms with everything that has been going on her life the last two years.

The book begins with Katniss in the ashen rubble of her home District 12 before returning to the underground stronghold of the once thought to be destroyed District 13 where she’s amongst a political struggle for her face on the rebellion. But it is only after seeing a Capitol controlled Peeta that Katniss begins promoting the rebel cause. Over the course of the book, Katniss is mentally and physically tested by not only the conditions but also propaganda moves by President Snow via Peeta until the rebellion rescues him, only for everyone to find out he is not himself. Through the rest of the book, Katniss’ battles both military and political forces in her personal mission to end the war and Snow so those she loves can live in peace. Yet victory comes at such a high cost that it truly breaks Katniss more than the Hunger Games or anything else.

Given where the end of the previous book ended, Mockingjay has to start slowly before getting into a flow similar to the first book of the trilogy. In fact, Mockingjay is truly the better follow up to The Hunger Games than Catching Fire as Katniss truly comes to terms with everything she has previously and currently going through, so much so that it seems that she is having a slow motion mental breakdown before hitting rock bottom.

In the final chapter of The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins gives a satisfying and well-written conclusion to Katniss’ story. If not for the slow start, Mockingjay would be on the same level as the first book. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Hunger Games then make it through Catching Fire to see why Mockingjay is so fantastic.

The Hunger Games
Catching Fire

Catching Fire (THG #2)

1407132091-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

The aftermath of Katniss Everdeen’s rebellious performance at the end of the 74th Hunger Games has consequences far beyond what happens to Peeta and herself in Catching Fire. Suzanne Collins’ middle installment of The Hunger Games trilogy is all about how a dictatorial government responds to rebellion.

The story Katniss Everdeen begins just as she’s about to begin her Victory Tour with Peeta to the other Districts and the Capitol when President Snow expectantly shows up at her new home and threatens her to perform well or else. Katniss fails to stop the growing unrest in other Districts and the Capitol cracks down everywhere, including District 12 which makes Katniss realizes that while her life was bad before now it would have been impossible. Then the stipulations for the 75th Hunger Games sends both Katniss and Peeta into the arena with 22 other previous victors. And in the arena, Katniss begins to realize that there is more than one game going on.

Unlike its predecessor, Catching Fire is more about the aftereffects of decisions than fighting to survive. Throughout the entire book, there seems to be more going on behind the scenes than Katniss knows and the reader is able to connect things a little ahead of her at some points. The twist and turns inside the arena might have been meant to surprise the reader, but an astute reader will realize that they are being set up for another book and the realization that the threat to Katniss and Peeta is very small clamps down on the dramatic tension gets closer to the end.

While I enjoyed Catching Fire, there was not the same quality or tension as there was in The Hunger Games though while I’m intrigued to know what is going to happen in the final book of the trilogy my enthusiasm is not at the same level it was after the first book.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (THG #1)

1407132083-01-_sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the biggest young adult book and film franchises since Harry Potter has been The Hunger Games trilogy, named after the first book of the series. In The Hunger Games, author Suzanne Collins introduces the reader to a dystopian North America and a country that controls its citizens by taking their children and forcing them to watch them kill one another for honor and glory, because they can.

The reader is introduced to Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to take her little sister’s place in the titular Hunger Games via Katniss first person account of her journey from 16-year old young woman to victor of the 74th Hunger Games. Although from the beginning it is obvious that Katniss will survive to the end of the book, it’s her journey of preparation to victorious survival and possible finding love that keeps the reader interested throughout the book. The details and descriptions throughout the book bring added depth to the story, especially because of the first person perspective that Collins’ choice to write the story in. Even though the book is around 450 pages, Collins’ word choice makes it an easy read that has depth and breadth that makes the pages turn quickly.

Overall, The Hunger Games follows in the great tradition of dystopian science fiction but is still original in concept and execution. The finish and aftermath of the 74th Hunger Games sets up the further story of Katniss Everdeen that will have the reader wanting to continue on to see what twists and turns in her life that she has in front of her. So I cannot give a big enough recommendation.

Catching Fire

Oddly Normal (Book 3)

82c70bb6b998aca596b33716d41444341587343Oddly Normal, Book 3 by Otis Frampton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the third book of the Oddly Normal series, Otis Frampton’s titular character faces challenges and searches for answers. With quality artwork that enhances the story of Oddly, her friends, her enemies, the world of Fignation, and the impact of the narrative; this installment is a great continuation of the young adult series.

Taking up exactly where the previous book ended, Oddly and her friends enjoy a game of rocketball. However Oddly’s half-witch status once again results setting up the next conflict she must rise to, a broom race. But instead of acceptance from her peers, Oddly finds out that one of her teachers has been behind the attacks by her classmates. With her friends help, Oddly discovers a connection to her parents and confronts her teacher for answers.

In this third book, Frampton begins to address the inciting incident of the series and a powerful antagonist that Oddly confronts for the first time. After the challenging results of Oddly’s confrontation with her teacher, she decides it’s time to focus on finding her parents even if it meant failing at attempting to use magic. However, her Great Aunt prevents her to try any magical solution while encouraging her to live a normal life and giving both Oddly and the reader something to think about.

After two books of exposition in beginning the series, Otis Frampton introduces conflict into the Oddly Normal story arc. With more information on Oddly’s parents as well as a potential ultimate antagonist at the heart of the mystery of their disappearance, the narrative stage has been set for further conflict and the resulting character development for Oddly and her friends. Oddly Normal Book 3 is a critical installment in the series in which the overall story changes things from being introduces to conflict, Frampton makes this change very well making the reader want to get their hands on Book 4 sooner rather than later.

Book One
Book Two

The Ice Dragon

0765378779.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_The Ice Dragon by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Ice Dragon is wonderfully written children’s story by master fantasy author George R.R. Martin, he of Game of Thrones fame. This short novella follows Adara who always longs for winter because of her affinity to the cold and ice as well as her big friend, the titular ice dragon. But then Adara’s idyllic life comes to an end when the war her nation is involved in arrives in her town. However, Adara and her big friend save her father and siblings allowing them to escape but not without consequences.

This well-written and beautifully illustrated novella is perfect for young readers and is ideal for parents and children to read together.

Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights

0976443449.01._sx450_sy635_sclzzzzzzz_Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights by Diane Eickhoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received this book via Goodreads First Reads in exchange for an honest review.

The life of women’s right crusader Clarina Nichols is the focus of Revolutionary Heart by editor-turned-historian Diane Eickhoff. Through Nichols life, we not only see the accomplishments of a very determined woman but also see the history of the three great antebellum reform movements.

The life of Clarina Nichols begins at one end of the country (Vermont) to the other (California), but a very important part of her life was spent in helping settle and attempt to influence the formation of the State of Kansas. Eickhoff using recovered sources that had not been known of since Nichols’ death in 1885, brings Nichol life in an entertaining and engaging manner that keeps the reader manner. Eickhoff follows Nichols’ life growing up in Vermont and her troublesome first marriage that helped focus her crusading efforts in the antebellum women’s right movement that was launched by circumstances in her second marriage. While detailing Nichols’ efforts on women’s rights, Eickhoff makes it a point to show Nichol’s as a mother not just as an aside but as one of the main themes throughout the book. And through Nichols, Eickhoff helped bring into the focus how the three major antebellum reform movements—abolition, suffrage, and temperance—were interwoven with one another for a 30 year period.

Revolutionary Heart pacts a lot of material in 277 pages in a well-written biography of an under-recognized leader of the early women’s rights movement in the 1850s thanks not only to Eickhoff’s writing but also her background of editing. The life and work of Clarina Nichols helps give context to the 1850s and 1860s when the popular view focuses on slavery and the Civil War. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about the early women’s right movement.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Hogwarts #7)

a804f9ce14828be5938554e5267444341587343Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the second time I’ve read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but the first time reading it critically. I’ve tailored this review in the following in mind: the intended audience for the book and its place in the series.

Deathly Hallows is a tad over a 100 pages longer than its immediate predecessor in the series as Rowlings completes her series with the climactic Battle of Hogwarts as Harry and Voldemort face off in their prophesied encounter. Along with Ron and Hermione, Harry chases after the remaining Horcruxes that Voldemort has left behind but eventually the trail returns the grounds of Hogwarts. However along the way, the friends not only have rough times with one another but also with the legacy of Albus Dumbledore. Yet a legendary set of magical objects, the titular Deathly Hallows, enter into the narrative that both hinder the quest of the Horcruxes while also driving the narrative forward to its ultimate conclusion.

Deathly Hallows finds the series entering the endgame as the Wizarding World falling under the control of Voldemort as the Ministry falls to his puppet. Battles occur throughout the book, the first being when Harry leaves Privet Drive for the last time which results in the death of Mad-Eye Moody and the maiming of George Weasley. After the fall of the Ministry, Harry, Ron and Hermione go on the run until they infiltrate the Ministry to get a Horcrux from former opponent, Dolores Umbridge. Through the fall and into the winter, their quest is stalled until a turn of events at Malfoy Mansion makes them realize where another Horcrux is. After successfully infiltrating, grabbing another Horcrux, and escaping Gringotts the trio head to Hogwarts after Harry learns from his connection to Voldemort that Hogwarts houses a Horcrux. This return to Hogwarts sets in motion the destruction of the final Horcruxes and the Battle of Hogwart that ends with the duel of Harry and Voldemort. The major subplot of the book are the Deathly Hallows, two of which have been in plain sight for the entire series, but the most noteworthy is the Elder Wand that Voldemort covets to overpower Harry’s wand because what occurred at the end of Goblet of Fire. Harry’s obsession with the Hallows do affect the overall quality of the narrative because of their supposed importance is undermined by how late in the series we learn about them and do through shade over a very good book.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows shows the Wizarding World entering a time of darkness as Voldemort has seemingly taken over but with Harry there is hope people cling to. Save for the late inclusion of the titular Deathly Hallows, the idea of which I believe should have been mentioned earlier in the series, Rowlings completes the overall story she began way back in Sorcerer’s Stone by showing how everything that happened before has led to the climactic moment at the end of the book. In the end, this final installment of the series gives the reader who has spent time reading the previous six books a very satisfied conclusion to the story of Harry Potter.

Harry Potter