Book Review: When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend Whitefield by Peter Charles Hoffer (four stars)

Book Review: When Benjamin Franklin Met the Reverend Whitefield: Enlightenment, Revival, and the Power of the Printed Word by Peter Charles Hoffer (four stars)

‘Without meaning to sound old-fashioned, this volume rests on the assumption that there are people who both represent their times and alter them in crucial ways. Franklin and Whitefield were two such men, even though they seemed polar opposites in their thinking.’ 

Excellent history of two of the most influential men in the first half of the eighteenth century in North America, George Whitefield and Benjamin Franklin. Narrowly focused on them and their working relationship. Extensive quotes from each man’s writings aid readers to understand both the writer and the message.

‘Franklin became Whitefield’s promoter and publicist in America, and Whitefield’s peregrinations made Franklin’s newspaper must reading for everyone curious about the Great Awakening of religiosity.’

Both men were self-made colossi amid the already-outsized personalities of the eighteenth century. They were as instrumental to creating of the state of America as others were to creating the nation.

‘Franklin’s star had not risen as fast as Whitefield’s in the first years of the 1740s, but by the end of the decade he was the better-known figure throughout the empire.’ 

Compare with The Preacher and the Printer. Each is a twenty-first century take on eighteenth century giants. Worth reading.

‘Neither individualism nor equality was a dominant theme in Western life at the beginning of the eighteenth century. At its end, with Franklin often cited as an example, both individualism and equality were synonymous with America.’

Book Review: Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kress (three stars)

Book Review: Tomorrow’s Kin (Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy #1) by Nancy Kress (three stars)

“We’ve never discussed it. I’m a scientist, after all.” “You’re an American. Leave nothing unsaid that can be shouted from rooftops.” 

Timely. Published in 2017, Kin seems prescient toward the fallout of the world’s current pandemic. And many of the same reactions.

“You replaced evolution of the fittest with evolution of the most cooperative,” Marianne said, and thought: There goes Dawkins. “You may say that.” 

On the nose storytelling. Telegraph’s many of her better lines. Diminishing their impact. Gratuitous profanity. Nice cover art.

“The farther one gets from New York, the more the conspiracy theorists don’t even believe there are aliens on Earth at all.” 

Book Review: Against All Odds by Chuck Norris and Ken Abraham (four stars)

Book Review: Against All Odds: My Story by Chuck Norris and Ken Abraham (four stars)

“Ideally martial arts training should help a person avoid physical altercations and other adverse confrontations.”

An entertaining and uplifting autobiography by the well-known martial arts champion and actor. Not well written, but sincere and open. The reader gets Norris, warts (and scars) and all. Victim of ambush journalism.

“Few people become successful overnight at any endeavor. Most successful people have learned to stick with whatever it is they wish to achieve and to work step by step until they reach their objective.”

Up front with the importance of faith and family in his life. Norris is not a well-known communicator, so the pedestrian quality of the narrative rests on Abraham, a professional collaborator.

“Most juvenile offenders are so obsessed with a “the world owes me” attitude that if they were forced to help the less fortunate, they would soon see that life has not really been that hard for them. Something of an infomercial for his business and charitable enterprises.”

(Didn’t know he’s a Christian or anything else about him. I’ve never seen a movie or television show of his, so I came into the book open minded.)

Book Review: Strange and Obscure Stories of World War II by Dan Aines. (three stars)

Book Review: Strange and Obscure Stories of World War II: Little Known Tales about the Second World War by Dan Aines. (three stars)

“An officer who goes into combat without his sword is improperly dressed.” Jack Churchill (credited with killing enemy with as bow and arrow)

Excellent compendium of World War Two details and statistics. Topically organized and presented.

“Most people have seen a lot more World War II movies than have read books on the war.”

Compared to The World War 2 Trivia Book by Bill O’Neill, Strange and Obscure has more factual data and numbers. Trivia has more gossipy trivia (and a lot more opinion). Quirky anecdotes abound in both books.

“The more desperate a nation’s straits, the more effort and resources it wastes chasing a miracle weapon.”

Statistics abound. More Army were killed in the Pacific theater than Marines. USAAF Eighth Air Force (heavy bombers flying from the United Kingdom) lost 26,000 airmen, more than the total number of Marines killed in all theaters of the war. The M-4 Sherman tank had a bad reputation in combat, but we produced over 50,00 of them while Germany built fewer than 1,900 Tigers.

“I will always been the political prisoner of my father’s name.” Svetlana Alliluyeva (Stalin’s daughter)

Book Review: Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

Book Review: Shards of Earth (The Final Architects Trilogy #1) by Adrian Tchaikovsky (four stars)

“And I do not believe in magic or seeing the future.” “Nobody believed in unspace once.” 

Excellent science fiction; well told. Tchaikovsky starts with a small crisis and escalates, building backward and forward propelling the reader into a crisis of galactic proportions. A good read.

‘Idris, who sometimes felt he was built entirely out of competing vulnerabilities, valued them in other people.’ 

Good character building and internal dialogue. Almost everyone misunderstands almost everyone else. Satisfying conclusion with plenty of hooks into the next story. Well done.

‘Olli was incandescent over the comms. She turned a cubic mile of void blue with oaths Idris had never even heard before.’ 

Unfortunate overuse of expletives. Especially sad as Tchaikovsky demonstrates that he doesn’t need to rely on such cheap tricks. Cost him a star.

‘There was a future out there, and it was a terrible one.’ 

Book Review: A History of What Comes Nextby Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Book Review: A History of What Comes Next (Take Them to the Stars #1) by Sylvain Neuel (four stars)

Was all of it for nothing? Every cell in her body was aching for an answer. She needed to know if our lives meant anything.

Quantum Leap” through post-World War Two history. A different sort of alien contact story. Excellent research and integration of a single set of players into actual history.

Take them to the stars, before Evil comes and kills them all.

A few quibbles, such as mistakenly thinking layers of glacier ice equate to years, but over all a nuanced and engaging story.(Spoiler: The protagonist started the Space Race. Both sides. Intentionally. Well done.)

I’m nineteen years old and I dream of being seventeen. I would trade places with a child right now if it meant I could be normal.

Makes a point of demonstrating how profanity is offensive but beats that stake all the way into the turf. Lost a star.

“Because you don’t do that, you pudding-head! You never give up on the people you love. When the storm comes, you hold on to them and you don’t let go.”

Stanley Jones, 1956 – 2021

Our good friend and brother Dan and my regular breakfast companion, Stanley Jones, died this morning.

Of Covid. He first showed symptoms a week ago. Earlier this morning, his wife Bernadine, said she “just got him to bed for the night.” Ten minutes later, she texted “with a shattered heart” that Stan had passed.

Stan was well-known and loved in his family, church, and music communities.

He played and sang at our 50th anniversary dinner in 2019. (Photo)

Book Review: The Last Lessons of Christ by Andrew Gilmore and Daniel Sweet (four stars)

Book Review: The Last Lessons of Christ: Living by Faith in an Age of Despair by Andrew Gilmore and Daniel Sweet (four stars)

Your attitude is the driving force for kingdom-centric living. You must develop a sacrificial, selfless disposition to make an impact on the world.”

A better-than-average study based on the next-to-the-last week of Jesus’s life, as reported in the Gospel of Luke. Gilmore and Sweet take the chapter apart in (mostly) chronological order to show how Jesus was preparing his disciples for his coming death. And the start of their ministry.

“But too many Christians believe faith ends at salvation when it’s just the beginning. You’re called to walk in faith daily.”

Each chapter is a stand-alone lesson, which encourages readers to read one then meditate on it for a day or a week.

“Above all the grace and the gifts that Christ gives to his beloved is that of overcoming self.” St. Francis of Assisi

Lots of good references and quotes.

“Few of us will have to face martyrdom, but God is calling us daily to walk in faith, to live in step with the Spirit, to do something uncomfortable for the sake of the kingdom.”

Book Review: The Time of the Dark (Darwath #1) by Barbara Hambley (four stars)

Book Review: The Time of the Dark (Darwath #1) by Barbara Hambley (four stars)

She had waked up. She was no longer dreaming. She was still there.

The first fantasy novel by a renowned author. Published 1982, Hambley shows the right stuff from the being. The fantasy cast and setting owe so much to J. R. R. Tolkien it’s a wonder she did owe him royalties.

“If you choose deliberately to disregard the evidence of your own senses, it’s your problem, not mine. I am what I am… ” “You are not!”

Most of the characters shamelessly ripped from Tolkien, but the point of view characters are earth humans, who give the story an everyman perspective and sounding board for the epic fantasy.

“But believe me, if I’d known what it was all about, I’d still be running. Betrayed into heroism.”

Quibbles: Many, but minor. After correctly explaining how rare glass would be, she has a glazed window in a woodshed. Every time Medda is mentioned, some form of “disapproval” graces the sentence. We got it.

“You narrow hope when you define it.”

Concludes the first tale while setting hooks for future installments, which seems beyond many of her contemporaries. Good read.

“Yes. I believe that nothing happens randomly, that there is no such thing as chance. How could there be?”

Book Review: Queen and Country by Shirley McKay (four stars)

Book Review: Queen and Country (Hew Cullan Mystery #5) by Shirley McKay (four stars)

‘Very fine it is. Now turn it into English.’ ‘What do you think it is?’ Hew had objected. ‘I should have said, Scots.’ 

Each Cullan mystery takes the reader deeper into the history of sixteenth century England and Scotland, during the last years they were independent of each other. The inner workings of both courts are revealed. Many historical persons and events melded into the story. A good read.

“You know, upon my life, that I will take no part in a conspiracy, against either queen.’ ‘Trust me, when I say, we know that all too well. Therein lies the trouble, Hew.’ 

Hew continues to kick against the goads and comes out smelling like a rose. No good deed of his goes unpunished as he seeks to extricate himself from the intrigue and murder surrounding a dynastic change which alters the future of both countries.

It was a tacit understanding of a man in public office, that the office he had paid for, or won by rank and privilege, was his to put to such advantage as could there be found. 

McKay deals with spirituality, truth, and trust in a modern manner while revealing the superstitions and prejudices of that era.

‘All men follow ghosts, when they do not want to see, when they do not want to hear the whisper of their breath. They cannot help themselves.’