I would like to give this a 2.5 star review because I think it has potential. But it needs a good story editor and it needs to figure out what it is trying to do. Conceptually the idea is good. What if the world biggest comic book fan was given super powers. Lots of good science fiction potential. I am not a huge fan of making the guy an idiot, but I can deal with that. There are some issues with story telling because a lot of the story feels like filler and some of the filler stories introduce problems into the plot (like how are there other superheros).
The biggest problem is probably not a problem for everyone. But as a Christian, I am not a fan of Christian fiction that knock you over the head with salvation and then all the problems go away. I don't think that is how the real world works. This story is a superhero story and then makes a hard right turn into a divorce story of the superhero because he is a dufus that hasn't actually paid any attention to his wife and family and refuses to talk about the fact that he is now a superhero. Of course she is going to leave him. And the anti-marriage divorce lawyer also just minimize the potential of real problems instead of making the story better.
I like the potential. I picked up the second book in the series and I think I will read it eventually. But it was not a great book.
My full review is on my blog.
I love Ender's Game. I have read the book or listened to the audiobook a dozen times. This is good, but not great.
First, the voices are adult, even for the kids. You get used to it. But when a character is six and sounds 25, it seems odd right off the bat.
Second, a lot of the development is missing. There is 4 and a half hours less content here than in the 20th Anniversary version of the book. So while this is good, what gets cut is battle development and character development.
It is an audioplay, so there is no narrator, if someone doesn't say something it doesn't happen. So there are occasional odd places where someone has to describe something that would make more sense if it were from a narrator.
I wouldn't say to not buy this, but for your introduction to Ender, I would get the full book first. This is for people that are obsessed with Ender and want a different version.
Short Review: Diarmaid MacCulloch is an excellent historian. And the riffs off the idea of silence, while interesting as individual ideas are not cohesive. So on the whole the book lacks focus and organization. My problem is that it seems like MacCulloch is saying that there is no correlation within the idea of silence. So silence can be good, it can be bad, it can be sinful, it can be holy, it can be transcendent, etc. But if it can be everything then I am not sure what the point of the book is, other than to say 'hey here are some essays on silence.'
I do appreciate MacCulloch's outsider status to Christianity. So he can talk about gnostics without feeling the need to defend orthodoxy. But at the same time MacCulloch does not seem to need to denigrate Christianity because he is not a Christian himself. So MacCulloch plays a useful role as a historian. I think my real disappointment is that I thought this would be better because I so much enjoy his last book.
Short review: a classic children's books that works fairly well to modern ears. Unlike many of the movies or tv adaptations, Dr Dolittle speaks animal language because he learned it (not because of some magical or strange power.) The story is set in the 1820s (published in 1920). It shows some of its age in racist and colonialist mindset about Africa, but other than that it works pretty well. Because it is public domain there are a few editions that have edited the most offending portions out. Overall not a bad children's book.
I liked the book. I am not normally a fan of Christian Fiction (I almost never read it). But several of my friends have recommended this to me and it has gotten good reviews. And I picked up the kindle version for free and used promotional credit for the audiobook. So I didn't have anything to lose.
The narrator was wrong. His accents were stereotypical and schlocky and overall detracted from the book. The book needed a darker narrator. Someone with more age and gravel in his voice. James Marsters (of Dresden Files book) would have been fine.
The narration wasn't horrible, I listened to most of the book. But I finished up the book on kindle and think that reading the book is a better choice.
The second book in the series is available on Audible, but I will read instead of listen to it.
Since reading Alister McGrath's new Biography of CS Lewis earlier this year I have been trying to read through a number of Lewis books I had not previously read.
I have heard a lot of positive reviews about Lewis’ Space Trilogy (or Ransom Trilogy as it is sometimes called.) But they never really interested me. I am not sure why, maybe because I have such good feelings toward Narnia or because I have such a hard time seeing Lewis as a Science Fiction author.
So I had pretty low expectations coming into the book. The main character, Elwin Ransom, a professor of Philology (I had to look it up, it is basically historical linguistics), is kidnapped by two brothers. These somewhat deranged, but brilliant brothers have built a spaceship and gone to Mars. But for some unknown reason they needed another person and kidnapped Ransom as he was hiking through a rural part of the UK on vacation.
The book was originally published in 1938 and feels like the older style science fiction of HG Wells or Jules Verne. And it is clearly not focused on the science part of science fiction. Lewis is using the book to explore ideas not science.
At first I thought that Lewis was turning Mars into a type of Eden, where sin would be introduced. But I realized that he was not creating Eden, but a world without the fall.
I remember very few things about 1st grade. But one of the few things I remember, is that in the Christian school where I was attending (I started public school the next year), my teacher suggested that possibly the bible passage where Jesus said he would leave the 99 to seek out the one lost sheep was actually talking about the fact that the Earth is the one and there were actually many (99 I am pretty she was using as a literary expression not a literal number) worlds that never fell and never needed Christ to come and die. Having read this book, I wonder if my first grade teacher (an older woman that I remember being in her 50s or 60s) was actually a fan of CS Lewis.
Wonder is a book I would not have picked up on my own. In general I like young adult (teen), but do not read a lot of middle grade fiction.
But more importantly, the description discouraged me from wanting to get started. Another book about a sick kid that changes the way people think about the world.
This was a book about a kid that changes the way people think about the world, but it was a very good one.
Ten-year-old August (Auggie) is going to school for the first time. It is 5th grade and a new middle school. August has been homeschool prior to this because of the many surgeries to try and repair his body.
The first section of the book is all narrated by August. And had it stopped there, this would have been a good book about how people can feel bad when they are mistreated. Or maybe even a good book about how a kid can overcome adversity.
What makes Wonder a great book, is the book changes narration throughout the school year. His best friend at school, the girl that first reached out to him at school, his sister, his sister’s boyfriend, his sister’s best friend, and then August again. The change in voice allows us to see that while August has facial deformities that make his life difficult, the love of his parents, his friends and other things make his life good.
Other characters may have good external lives, but miss out on family, or love, or support, or kindness in ways that may harm them as well.
If there is a complaint about this, it is that it is hard not to compare the levels of harm. Are August’s facial deformities worse than a parent neglecting a child? Can they even really be compared?
There is never really a question about how the book will go. This is middle grade fiction. August will overcome, others kids will come to see their mistakes of judging him by his appearance. August will be one of those extraordinary children that learns from his difficulty and achieves a sort of greatness.
But this really is a good book. It would make great book to discuss with your child about differences between people, about taking responsibility for yourself, about caring for those that need help.
I understand somewhat why it is a classic. In part, because huge sections of the first part (the more general apologetics section) I have heard in one form or another. So Lewis’ arguments are either standard arguments about God or those that are original have been repeated so much over the past 60 years that they sound standard.
The first section is the standard ‘proofs’ for the existence of God that I in general resist (as a post-modern Christian). The second section is a summary of What Christians believe. This is pretty basic. Lewis is trying for a Christianity that is Universal, not particular. And he mostly succeeds, but oddly it is that section that feels the most dated to me.
The third section is about Christian Behavior. And while this is dated, especially with regard to an understanding of the role of women in the church, Lewis was not a moralist. Lewis’s discussion of virtue and the older understanding of the word Temperance is a very helpful and even if he uses old word, the way he discussed behavior and sin is not dated.
The final section is primarily about the Trinity. Which I find fascinating in part because of my long reading project on the trinity, but in part because very few books on basic apologetics or basic theology spend more time on the Trinity than on the death and resurrection of Christ. In Lewis’ discussion of the Trinity he hits on several apologetic points, the purpose of humanity, why God is not in time, why a fall was allowed to occur, and then the last several chapters about what the Trinity has to do with our salvation and sanctification.
Reading McGrath’s biography of Lewis earlier this year, I was aware that McGrath thought that one of Lewis’ strengths was his ability to speak directly to the culture. And I think that is true. Mere Christianity is not a ‘timeless book’. But I think it is a good book in part because it shows how a thinking Christian and work (and trust his readers to work) through the ways that we are Christians in a particular time and place.
I am a fan of science fiction. And I know I have seen 2001 at least twice. But I did not really remember much about it outside of the main story and the beautiful space shots. So when it was the Kindle Daily Deal last week I picked up the kindle version. And since the audiobook was discounted to $1.99 with purchase of the kindle book I picked that up as well and alternated between reading on kindle and listening to the audiobook.
(If you have a kindle and like audiobooks you really should try whyspersync. It is Amazon’s ability for you to move seamlessly between your kindle and audible.com audiobook without losing your place. I have started using it quite a bit.)
This edition of the book opens with an introduction by Arthur C Clarke. He read the introduction in 2000 (when he was 82 and 8 years before he died.) In audio, it is actually him reading the introduction and his age is evident. I had no idea that the book and the movie were written together at the same time. Clarke and Kubrick made changes to each in order to incorporate elements from one into the other. But there are differences and I will go back and watch the movie soon.
It is always interesting reading historical books about the future. There are always accurate assumptions, but so much is also wrong. The flight to the moon at the beginning of the book shows the sexism of the times with a young female flight attendant. And in the description of the moon base it talks about the expense of having 8 different options of images of Earth that you could put in your apartment’s “window”. Clarke couldn’t conceive of the ability of digital storage being so cheap that unlimited image storage would be possible.
Once I finished the book I am pretty sure I never watched (or read) 2010 or 3001. I need to pick those up.
Over the last couple months I have come to the conclusion that Evangelicals (of whom I am one) are good at sharing the gospel and keeping the importance of conversion squarely in their sights.
But I have also come to see that groups that assume the large scale Christianity of their communities (those that have been state churches) have done much more thinking about how to live as a Christian.
It is cliche (and I think at least partially true) that Evangelicals are interested in you up until your conversion. After that I think we fall into the Paul problem of continuing to feed one another spiritual milk. We are still trying to save one another. But I think those that theologically are more oriented toward infant baptism and Christendom have thought more about living as a Christian. (The negative for them is that they also now need to evangelize their own as Christendom has broken down.)
There is nothing wrong with keeping the gospel at the forefront of our Christianity. But that does not mean that we need to keep the basic gospel message as the main content of our Christian teaching.
So I have been seriously thinking about finding a Roman Catholic spiritual director particularly because I want to learn more about spiritual growth from a different perspective. (On the other hand I have had a couple Evangelicals recommended to me, if you think of it, this is something I am still praying through and I would welcome your prayer for me.)
Richard Rohr has been interesting to me since I first read his book Falling Foward. Later I listened to his lectures that were turned into a book Why Be Catholic. And I want to read more about his work in male initiation rites and spiritual development.
But as I was looking around for an audiobook the other day I picked up The Art of Letting Go. It is not a book that is narrated, but rather six talks that are packaged together as an audiobook. They sound like they were prepared for those that want to go on a spiritual retreat with Rohr, but can only listen to an audiobook or lecture instead.
Many Evangelicals will probably find multiple places strange and questionable. But on the whole these are much more like Eugene Peterson’s memoir The Pastor or Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead. These sound more like a personal conversation with a spiritual mentor about how to grow spiritually.
There are six different sections, each about an hour about an area that Rohr thinks we need to let go of in order to grow spiritually. There is so much content here (in just 6 hours) that I will not attempt to recount it but only give a few thoughts. St Francis is a reoccurring character, but not really the subject of the book. The main subject of the book is the paradox of Christianity that God often uses what we perceive as loss to help us grow.
So we experience pain and through that pain we realize that we are not in charge of our lives and we give up trying to control a particular area of life and then God is able to draw us in to a deeper spiritual connection with him.
One thing I thought is useful is that Rohr is careful to say that people that are not growing spiritually are still Christian. And I think that is part of the problem with Evangelical theology (mine included) that we mix up redemption and sanctification. From the point of Salvation we are saved. But that is just the start of our spiritual growth as a Christian. God desires more for us, but does not force it on us. There is a paradox of the reality that we cannot growth spiritually under our own power, but God gives us the power (through the Holy Spirit) to move forward spiritually. But it seems that not being obedient and not following God allows us to miss out on spiritual growth.
Spiritual growth is not a knowledge problem, it is an obedience problem. This has been a reoccurring theme of my reading lately. And it is one that is hard to get around.
This is a series of lectures that needs more than one sitting. I think I will put it on my calendar to listen to again in another year.
I saw the movie before reading the book. So there was not a surprise on the story line. The movie and the book were fairly close (although the climax is different).
But even though the storylines are close, the power of the book is that it is told entirely in first person from Pat’s perspective.
Pat is just getting out of four years of treatment in a psychiatric facility. He does not realize he has been gone so long and everyone in his family works to help him make the transition by pretending it has only been a few months.
Pat is obsessed with getting back together with his ex-wife. He is sure that if he stays fit (he works out 8 to 10 hours a day) and reads the great books (his wife is a high school literature teacher) and learns to be a nice person, that ‘apart time’ will end.
But it is not only Pat that is having problems with reality. He lives in a home with an emotionally abusive father and a codependent mother. In the movie Robert DeNiro plays Pat’s father as distant but likable. In the book, his father is much more distant and much less likable.
Tiffany is a woman that is having her own problems with reality. Her husband (a cop) died after they had had a fight and Tiffany was never able to apologize. So she has spent the last several years sleeping with every guy she can as a way to seek forgiveness.
Tiffany is a dancer and wants to win a dance competition and chooses Pat as her partner. She talks Pat into the competition by promising him that she will get him back together with his ex-wife if they win.
From the beginning, the reader knows that Pat and Tiffany will get together, but you can also see the impending train wreck as Pat learns more and more of what he has missed over the years of being away from his family. His best friend has a child, his brother is married, the Eagles stadium was torn down and a new one built.
The movie has a lovable Indian counselor that helps Pat find his way back to reality. But he is a much more important character in the book. And if possible to believe, the Eagles (or at least the people that watch the Eagles with Pat) are more important.
It is easy to say that the book is better than the movie. But I really liked the movie. But the book does a better job of presenting mental illness as real without dismissing it. It keeps lots of humor, without making fun of Pat or Tiffany. It places more power in Pat’s recovery without making it a magical ending. And while you can envision a happily ever after, the reality you know would be much more complicated.
This is a case where you do not have to choose between the book and the movie. Both are very well done, they supplement one another. But even if you have already seen the movie, it is still worth picking up the book.
(originally posted on my blog Bookwi.se)
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