Book Review: Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Hiding in the Light: Why I risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus by Rifqa Bary

Five Stars

“The place for women was at home, close to their families, close to Allah. Close to suffocating.”

Wow. The amazing story of a Moslem child who encounters a divine presence in Sri Lanka. She grows, is disfigured, rejected by her family, moves to America with them, only to encounter less love and support. She discovers that her encounter was with the Spirit of Jesus. When she covertly converts to Christianity, things get worse.

“Kill me? I knew he couldn’t consider my life so meaningless. Could he? Yet a simple Muslim man who aims to follow his religion must sometimes do the unthinkable to maintain his honor.”

Villains? Not her parents. They acted as they thought they must, given their religion and culture. Instead I nominate the politicians, bureaucrats and courts of Florida and Ohio, who callously treated an innocent child like a criminal, shuffled her around like a commodity, and exploited her for partisan politics. (Charlie Crist, then governor of Florida, comes off as a special hypocrite.)

“But jail. Why? I had run away from home because my life was in danger for believing in Jesus Christ. My rights as a human being seemed to vanish.”

“The most stunning part of this interrogation [by officers of Florida Department of Law Enforcement] was that it was done without the presence, knowledge, or even notification of my lawyer or even my guardian ad litem.”

In the midst of endless hearings and fosterings, she develops two forms of cancer (rhabdomyosarcoma and adenocarcinoma) and finds her life threatened from within as well as without.

“You know, Lord, the Bible says a woman’s hair is her glory. Well, I am laying down my glory tonight, all my strength and my beauty, for Yours.”

How she acts, how her faith grows, and how she perseveres is an inspiring story, which of course isn’t finished as she must spend the rest of her life hiding–hiding in the light.

“I knew it sounded crazy [to discontinue cancer treatment]. Was crazy. It didn’t make sense to me either. But I knew in my spirit that God was calling me to do this, and I decided I would rather die in obedience to Him and live in disobedience and possibly survive the treatment. My life was not my own anymore, and my spirit found a way to be at rest with that.”

Well written. Her prose is clear and compelling. Hard to believe English is her second language. There is no indication of writing assistance. Read this if only to marvel at her ability to convey her inner emotions while all around her is threatening.

“‘Honor Killings in America’ Nothing compared to my own renouncing of Islam and embracing Christianity, dishonoring both faith and family. Yet the blood of all these girls testified to the reality of my experience.”

I lived in Saudi Arabia for most of three years. I’ve seen their people, their culture and their religion closer than most westerners. We don’t–we can’t understand the inner thoughts and motivations of Moslem men. We can’t imagine how women live and cope with that life, even those who whole-heartedly embrace it.

“There may actually be times when making the right choice for yourself as an individual seems to put you at odds with the world…. Her home, her security, her serenity, and even her safety were thrown into madness…. However, this young woman did not succumb to the madness. She chose an attitude of love, despite the pain, an attitude of compassion despite the hate shown here, an attitude of perseverance…. At only seventeen years old, she found the strength to overcome and succeed.” School district director’s remarks at her high school graduation as class valedictorian.

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Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (Two Stars)

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Book Review: Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Two Stars

“The only one who gets to tell you how your story ends is you.”

What happened to Alice and Wendy after they returned from Wonderland and Neverland? What if all the Narnias and Fillories were real? What if there were so many worlds that their differing natures could be plotted along a graph with virtue–evil and logic–nonsense axes? What if the hundreds of children who had visited them lived among us? How would they live in the mundane world, knowing a magic kingdom still called? Such is the premise of Every Heart a Doorway.

“Now I know that if you open the right door at the right time, you might finally finds a place where you belong.”

Skip the “There Was a Little Girl” prologue and be drawn into a home for such disaffected children through the eyes of Continue reading

Book Review: Penric and the Shaman by Lois McMaster Bujold (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Penric and the Shaman (Penric and Desdemona #2) by Lois McMaster Bujold

Four Stars

“Sharing my life with a two-hundred-year-old demon with twelve personalities speaking six languages and an underlying yen to destroy everything in her path …. Try me.”

Wanted to like this, and did. This is my first Bujold fantasy. She delivers the same mix of characters you care about, even the villains, and fine storytelling.

“His powers had not wholly deserted him in craven company with his hope, faith and courage.”

Awesome descriptive ability. With a few words, she takes you right there. Into the scene, into the action, into the mind and heart of the point of view characters.

“Everyone talks to the gods, no one expects them to answer … almost no one.”

Fascinating take on a culture with a fully-developed spiritual dimension. One which occasionally intersects with Continue reading

Beginning My Deep Dive Into Tolkien

“The road goes ever on.”

Misty Midwest Mossiness

A dear friend of mine sent me off on a wonderful Tolkien tangent last week when she replied to my Podcast Pickup post and directed me to the Prancing Pony Podcast.  I quickly scanned the last half dozen posted episodes and settled on #038, also entitled “I Will Choose Free Will” – which immediately gave me a Rush earworm.  Not one to be daunted by a nearly two hour podcast (we are dealing with ‘epic’ fantasy here), I gave a listen to the ongoing discussion of The Silmarillion, specifically Chapter 21 and Túrin Turambar.  I pulled out my ebook edition and quickly skimmed Chapter 21 to remind myself of the story.  I really enjoyed the insights and the banter of the hosts.  It took me several days to completely listen to the episode, but by the end I was hooked and a plan began to form in…

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Book Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson

Four Stars

“Some people change the world, and some people change the people who change the world.”

A well-told, if predictable adventure fantasy. Good development and voice. I really like this story. Finalist for 2017 Hugo for novellas.

“When were women anything but footnotes to men’s tales?”

Unique in that the protagonist is not only female, but a mature woman. And she acts it.

“This is what life is, then. Doing things you hate. I’ll do it. Of course. It’s the right thing.”

I love maps in fantasy stories, however the map in the ebook edition was unreadable. Nice cover art.

“Vellitt waited.”

Book Review: Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Ninefox Gambit (The Machineries of Empire #1) by Yoon Ha Lee

Three Stars

“Her instructor was full of shit. There was no comfort to be extracted from the dead, from flesh evaporated from bones.”

Slow start. Dumps you right into this universe with little preparation and less explanation. Apparently not a translation, but awkward reading at times as you figure out calendarials, sentient servitors, and exotics amid not-quite-American syntax. A space opera with all the tech, jargon, language and blood that implies.

“Immortality was like sex: it made idiots of otherwise rational people.”

What is the meaning of suicide and mass murder–or even immortality–in a culture which does not value life? From context you discover that the actors are not Continue reading

Book Review: Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Traitor’s Blade (Greatcoats #1) by Sebastien de Castell

Four Stars

“Make no mistake, girl, the end of this road is a shallow, dirty ditch with your corpse in it.”

Swords and sorcery, with emphasis on swords. Three Musketeers meets Ryria. Improbably good (and lucky) protagonist against most of the world, with a dash of humor. Good voice, good plotting, good pace.

“Unfortunately, my need to live up to his expectations of me has always been slightly stronger than my desire to pinch him in the face.”

Told from the perspective of the leader of the disbanded and disgraced Greatcoats of the deceased king of a small country now run by the dukes as their personal toy. Knights in shining armor are bad guys. Mages are mostly bad news. And he can’t get a break.

“And people ask me why I hate magic.”

Brings this first installment to a satisfying conclusion while setting many hooks for the following tales.

“He looked scared, but he looked solid, and I guess that’s what brave looks like.”

Love the cover art of the hard cover edition, but the credit inside the book leads to a Munich ad agency. Maybe, but …?

“If there is one thing I’ve learned in life, it was that honor just gets you into trouble.”

Book Review: The Quartet by Joseph J. Ellis (Two Stars)

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Book Review: The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution: 1782-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis

Two Stars

“Americans needed to think continentally.” A. Hamilton

Revisionist history at is best … and worst. Making use of newly available correspondence and biographies of his principles, Ellis reconstructs the efforts leading up to the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia and the battle to ratify the new charter. However, his uneven handling of its modern meaning exposes his biases.

“It is indispensable you should lend yourself to its [the government’s] first operation.” A. Hamilton to G. Washington, 1788

Writing history is tricky. The historian must present the truth in a way that the reader can understand, even though the world view and values of their time may differ. Even if sources are cited, the reader seldom has access to them. He must trust the integrity of the writer. And if internal evidence betrays bias or false reporting, then the reader Continue reading

Book Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values by Robert M. Pirsig

Five Stars

“We are all of us very arrogant and conceited about running down other people’s ghosts but just as ignorant and barbaric and superstitious about our own.”

I wish I read this book forty years ago. Instead I was reading fantasy and science fiction and tripe like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Not that I agree with Pirsig on everything, but he wrote about things I’m still pondering.

“The ultimate purpose of life, which is to keep alive, is impossible. One lives longer in order that he may live longer.”

Normally I read and review a four hundred page novel in three days. This book took several weeks because I kept stopping to look up or ponder things. The bottom line is: this is a deep investigation of life and reality. It’s a mashup of Continue reading