Book Review: Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament by Lysa TerKeurst and Joel Muddamalle (four stars)

Book Review: Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament by Lysa TerKeurst and Joel Muddamalle (four stars)

“If I want His promises, I have to trust his process.  God isn’t ever going to forsake you, but He will go to great lengths to remake you.”

Focuses on how Jesus was not only foreshadowed and prophesied in the Old Testament but how He was and is its fulfillment. Approaches the early revelations of God as types for which only God could be the complete embodiment. High levels of scholarship increase reader confidence that the authors fit their writings to the subject rather than vice versa.

“In our unseen places of hurt, where it feels like everything that could bring hope is absent, we can be reminded that God has given us the power of His Holy Spirit.”

Better than average devotional guide. Rather than a Bible study, Seeing Jesus invites the reader to introspection and change. Probing questions and room to write encourage transformation.

“Just because we can’t always see Jesus doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Just because we aren’t hearing Him doesn’t mean He’s being silent.”

Book Review: Munich: A Novel by Robert Harris (four stars)

Book Review: Munich: A Novel by Robert Harris (four stars)

‘In his ostentatiously modest way, [redacted] thought, Chamberlain was as egocentric as Hitler: he always conflated the national interest with himself.’

Reads as much as a life and times story as history of a critical week in 1938 when World War Two didn’t start. Exhaustively researched details of architecture, dress, food, and technology.

‘Truth was like any other material necessary for the making of war: it had to be beaten and bent and cut into the required shape.’

Timely parallel to current eastern European history. When writing it, Harris may have had an entirely different ax to grind. No shortage of megalomaniacs in this world.

‘In that moment, in a flash of clarity, he saw that nobody—not him, not the Army, not a lone assassin—that no German would disrupt their common destiny until it was fulfilled.’

 Complex intertwined narratives of two former colleagues from university days, now high in their respective government. The fictitious observers act as catalyst and recorder of what seemed like a daring, last ditch effort to avoid a second world war. Serious students are directed to William L. Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.

“Whereas if he keeps his word—and I happen to believe he will—we will avoid war.” “But what if he breaks his word?” “If he breaks it—well, then the world will see him for what he is.”

Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (three stars)

Book Review: Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr (three stars)

“Why stay here when I could be there?”

Fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, myth. Six protagonists in four threads, plus the inciting Greek myth. After an interest-grabbing opening, meanders through excruciating world and character building. Quit once but forced myself through it. It has a very satisfying conclusion, but readers with long to-read lists may wish to skip it.

“Each of these books, child, is a door, a gateway to another place and time. You have your whole life in front of you, and for all of it, you’ll have this. It will be enough, don’t you think?” 

Good support for the Doerr‘s premise that no book—no matter how trivial—should be lost. Reflects an incredible effort but doesn’t quite hit the target. Award winning? Not nearly. Not up to the quality of his All the Light We Cannot See. Extra credit for finishing his tale in one go.

‘As he reconstructs Zeno’s translation, he realizes that the truth is infinitely more complicated, that we are all beautiful even as we are all part of the problem, and that to be a part of the problem is to be human.’

Quibbles: five cell phone rings come faster than that. Essential (to plot) people would have died. Titanium is incredibly hard; no metal capable of being formed as she made her ax would have dented it.

“Sometimes the things we think are lost are only hidden, waiting to be rediscovered.”

Book Review: His Master’s Voice by Stanisław Lem (three stars)

Book Review: His Master’s Voice by Stanisław Lem (three stars)

‘What is taking place is a certain play of forces perfectly indifferent to man.’ 

Excellent short story hidden among the philosophic musings of protagonist and narrator as Lem’s hand puppet. Like most character-driven novels, starts slow. Extremely slow.

‘In the course of my work … I began to suspect that the “letter from the stars” was, for us who attempted to decipher it, a kind of psychological association test, a particularly complex Rorschach test.’ 

Skip both prefaces. Prepare to wade through pages of self-referential bloviation. The story starts in Chapter Five.

‘From the moment I landed on the roof, through all the meetings and conversations, the feeling never left me that I was playing a scientist in a grade-B movie.’

More an alternate history of post-World War Two America than genuine historical fiction. I liked it, but your mileage may vary.

“One who puts a digital tape in a player piano is making a mistake, and it is entirely possible that we have taken precisely such a mistake for success.”

Book Review: To Catch a Bride by Gina Welborn and Becca Whitham (three stars)

Book Review: To Catch a Bride (Montana Brides #1.5) by Gina Welborn and Becca Whitham (three stars)

‘Once she returned home, she’d clean her messes and not let anything distract her. Definitely this time.’ 

A fun, light-weight Christian romance set in 1860s Montana territory. Bridges The Promise Bride and The Kitchen Marriage. Well-conceived series about various women who find themselves in early Montana territory with matrimony as a possibility.

“I bet you’re getting a migraine. Ma has them often.” “You got it.” 

 Modern vocabulary and attitudes knock the reader out of the story, though they are consistent with current values. How jarring they will depend on whether the reader is interested in historical fiction or Hallmark-type romance.

“Mr. [redacted], you can kiss your bride after she [redacted].” 

Book Review: Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

Book Review: Pebble in the Sky (Galactic Empire #3) by Isaac Asimov (four stars)

‘Schwartz was a believer in the goodness of human nature. He didn’t think there would be another war. He didn’t think Earth would ever see again the sunlike hell of an atom exploded in anger.’

 Fun science fiction classic. Don’t let the series sequence number fool you, this is Asimov’s first science fiction novel. First. If you think you like science fiction and haven’t read this, you should. It’s not as good as his later work, but worth reading.

“By the life of the Emperor, your comrades of Earth are themselves the best such missionaries. Living here, as they do, cooped up on their deadly planet, festering in their own anger, they’re nothing but a standing ulcer in the Galaxy.” 

First published in 1950. Before the Cold War got cold, before Sputnik, before molecular biology. Allowing that, it works. In fact, Asimov seems prescient. I first read this decades ago; enjoyed it more now, especially as contemporary offerings are such thin soup.

‘The bloody fools! Who the devil did they think they were? Yes, yes, he knew. They thought they were the original humans, the inhabitants of the planet—The worst of it was he knew that they were right.’ 

Asimov’s ridicule of racism, sexism, novelists, and bureaucrats should resonate with modern readers, even as he suffers from a cringe-worthy quaintness endemic to his youth and time.

“It’s like a visicast, isn’t it, with the great all-conquering heroes zooming to victory in the nick of time? That’s where they usually end it. Only in our case the visicast went on and we found that nobody believed us.” 

Book Review: The Heretic (Grail Quest #3) by Bernard Cornwell (four stars)

Book Review: Heretic (Grail Quest #3) by Bernard Cornwell (four stars)

“It was here, and may still be here.” “I would like nothing more, but where Parsifal and Gawain failed, can we hope to succeed?”

Fun, if bloody historical fiction set in fifteenth century Gascony (France). That it’s a Grail Quest is no spoiler. Though the protagonist has been developed over two previous novels, Cornwell eases the new reader into both character and setting.

“I am a heretic, and what choice do I have? The Church expelled me, so if I am to love God I must do it without the Church. You must do the same now, and you will find that God still loves you however much the Church might hate you.”

Cornwell masters inner dialogue and interpersonal strife. Excellent variety of believers and non-believers; skeptics and seekers. He’s heavy-handed with the coincidences, but that’s true of all his stories.

“God seems very far away sometimes, especially in the dark.”

Book Review: Pride of Chanur by C. J. Cherryh (four stars)

Book Review: Pride of Chanur (Chanur #1) by C. J. Cherryh (four stars)

“I’ve gotten into a larger game than I planned, and there’s no going home until we’ve gotten it straightened out. How we do that is another question, because the kif know our name.” 

A fun human-as-the-alien science fiction space opera. Modern SF writers should read this forty year old classic. Protagonist is no superhero, but keeps plugging away to defend family, crew and what she thinks is right. In the end, the stakes and the odds become higher than she imagined.

‘He, Hilfy insisted at every opportunity. Her first voyage, a tragic (and safely unavailable) alien prince. Adolescence.’ 

A more realistic take on faster-than-light jumps: physical and psychological consequences. The physics takes some puzzling out because Cherryh doesn’t dump the data. Even invented a system of expletives.

‘They rode the odds; they came in like a shot, counting on statistics and blind luck and traffic being exactly where it ought: one could do that a few times in a lifetime and not run out of luck.’