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Light Bearers : A History of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church (Light Bearers to the Remnant)
Richard W. Schwarz
Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions (Barnes & Noble Classics)
Karen Karbiener, Walt Whitman
Progress: 284/960 pages
Legends (Tales from the Eternal Archives, Book 1)
Jane Lindskold, Robert J. Harris, Margaret Weis, Robyn Fielder, Robin Crew, Deborah Turner Harris, Peter Schweighofer, Kevin Stein, Dennis L. McKiernan, Matthew Stover, Janet Pack, Brian M. Thomsen, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Kristin Schwengel, John Helfer, Gary A. Braunbe

The Histories (Tacitus)

The Histories (Oxford World's Classics) - Tacitus;W. H. Fyfe, D.S. Levene, Tacitus

The death of Nero begins a Roman bloodletting that Augustus had thought he had completely ended as four men will within a year claim the title Emperor.  The Histories by Tacitus follows the aftermath of Nero’s death as a succession of men claimed the throne until the Flavians emerge to return the Roman Peace.

 

Tacitus begins his work with those who had prospered under Nero worrying for themselves while the rest of the populace celebrated and setting the stage for the eventual assassination for Galba and the rise of Otho, who the former had passed over as his chosen successor.  Yet at the time of his death Galba was facing a mutiny on the German frontier that had installed Vitellius as their choice as emperor, a task that Otho took to quash and retain his own throne.  The invasion of Italy by Vitellius’ legions brought war to the core of empire for the first time in almost a century and witnessed the defeat of Otho’s forces before he committed suicide.  The rise of Vitellius brought Vespasian, the leader of the legions fighting the Jewish War, into the fray as he accepted the proclamation of his legions as emperor and soon found the supporters of Otho and others joining him.  After the crushing defeat of his forces, Vitellius attempted to abdicate but the Guards wouldn’t let him resulting in his death by Vespasian’s soldiers.  On top of civil war in Italy and the final phase of the Jewish War under Titus, a Gallo-German uprising at first claiming support for Vespasian became an invasion and rebellion that took numerous legions to suppress and the aftermath would be alluded to in Tacitus’ own Germany.

 

Although The Histories are incomplete, from the beginning Tacitus brings his aristocratic ideology and politics in focus early by showing only someone with political realism and firm hand on the legions can prevent civil wars and the rioting of the masses.  The writing is quick-paced, going hand in hand with the rapid succession of events but Tacitus does give excellent portraits on the prime actors in this historical drama the played across the Roman world.  The only thing a historian would have against Tacitus would be the twisting of the chronology to suit his own purposes.  Yet like Agricola and Germany, my biggest complaint is how Oxford World Classics edition is structured with the Notes at the very end of the piece and making the reader use two bookmarks so they could go back and forth.

 

The Histories, the first of Tacitus’ two large scale historical works, shows the horrors of civil war and the according to Tacitus the dangers of leader who cannot control the legions and masses.  Even though the we are missing over two-thirds of the overall work, the portion we have that covers the Year of Four Emperors shows the breakdown of society in vacuum of strong leadership that is important not only in that time but throughout all of history including down to our own time.

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-Day Adventism - George R. Knight

While those who would eventually form the Seventh-day Adventist Church were Millerites, only one was influential in both that his work after the Great Disappointment would standout and provide the underpinnings of the eventual largest Adventist denomination.  Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism by George R. Knight is a comprehensive look at one of the most important men in the Adventism movement before and after October 1844.

 

Beginning with a young boy looking for adventure as a sailor, Knight fully covers the life of Joseph Bates until his death as a senior statesman of the Church he helped to found still looking to serve Christ.  In covering Bates career at sea, Knight pulls out traits—both potentially benefital and harmful—that would serve him as he preached the soon coming of Christ as part of the Millerite movement and later his development of Sabbatarian Adventism.  After retiring, Bates who had already shown a keen interest in reform, firstly himself and then his own ship’s crew, launched himself into numerous reform movements until he heard Advent message of William Miller and seeing it as the ultimate reform movement wholeheartedly went to spread the good news.  Though not a primary leader, he was a major secondary leader within the Millerites that both chaired conferences and went out preaching.  After the Great Disappointment of October 1844, Bates began studying and joined those Adventists that believed something did occur though not the fanatics that tainted this group of post-Disappointment Millerites.  It is at this point in which Knight carefully covers Bates life over a decade, though focused on a four year span in particular, in which Bates became both the first theologian and then first historian of Sabbatarian Adventism and would lay the foundations of essentially all major doctrines that set the Seventh-day Adventist Church apart from other denominations.  Knight covers Bates relationship with both James and Ellen White in full during this period and after as the trio would guide the “little flock” over the next two decades until his death.

 

In approximately 220 pages of text and reference, Knight use Bates’ own autobiography as well as research first discovered others including two of his own students to give the reader a full sense of the life of Joseph Bate as can be expected.  Though the book is not strictly chronological, Knight structures the book in such a way as to give an overview in a certain period of Bates life in one chapter and in the subsequent one focus on a particular aspect during that period with it most typically being theological in nature.  This keeps the book engaging for the general reader and not getting them bogged down or overwhelmed with detail of having a strictly chronological book from beginning to end.  Yet while these choices by Knight create a very good and readable book, there just seemed to be something off with his writing that made me feel that it was up to other books that he had authored.

 

Joseph Bates: The Real Founder of Seventh-day Adventism is a very good book for those, whether Seventh-day Adventists or not, looking to understand the history of denomination that Bates helped to found.  As the preeminent Seventh-day Adventist historian, George R. Knight presents the Bates the man of both virtues and flaws and how he shaped the Advent movement.  I highly recommend this book for those interested in SDA Church history.

Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity

Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity (Question and Answer Format) - Philip G. Samaan

Many Christians have no idea what the religion of Islam actually is and for many who have read the Old Testament, they forget that Islam began among the descendants of Abraham’s other son Ishmael.  Dr. Philip Samaan attempts to give Christians, in particular Seventh-day Adventists, a glimpse of actually Islam and Muslims in Abraham’s Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity.

 

The first two-thirds of the book Samaan focuses primarily on everything related to Islam beginning with Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael in the Biblical record before turning his attention to Muhammad as well as the rise and spread of Islam.  After the historical portion, Samaan then looks at the faith of Islam itself and its similarities and contrasts to Judaism and Christianity.  Then after covering Jesus in Islam, the book turns to focus on Christ for nearly the last third of the book until the last chapter covers how Christians—Seventh-day Adventists—can witness to both Muslims and Jews.

 

Born in Syria into an Orthodox Christian family, Samaan not only grew up amongst all three faiths but has studied them diligently bring extensive knowledge to this book.  However, while Samaan is particular knowledgeable on the subject went to write, it felt that he wrote parts of at least three different books in this roughly 280 page book.  Not that the material cover wasn’t insightful, but when the book ignored Islam for long stretches which felt weird given that it was to be the main topic.  While the book structure was a little surprising, the biggest drawback is the editing of the text which could have been tightened up in several spots and in some places were determinately to the understanding of what Samaan was discussing.

 

Abraham’s Other Son is an informative book on the history of Ishmael and his descendants in Muslims around the world.  While Philip Samaan’s book is not perfect, it is able to give Christians—not only Seventh-day Adventists—a true glimpse at what Islam really is and its relationship to Judaism and Christianity.

Balance of Power (Op-Center #5)

Balance of Power - Tom Clancy, Jeff Rovin, Steve Pieczenik

With ethnic tensions suddenly boiling to the surface, Spain looks like it might go the way of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union or be kept together by a strong man in the image of Franco until Op-Center is put into the crossfire.  Balance of Power, the fifth book of the Op-Center series written by Jeff Rovin, ghosting for the titular Tom Clancy, once again finds Op-Center operatives in the middle of an international crisis but this time one of their own is set up with deadly consequences and vengeance is on everyone’s mind only to find that taken away by a man who allowed the attack to happen in an effort to forge Spain in his own image.

 

Sent to Madrid to help negotiate between two ethnic factions of the country, Martha Mackell is murdered by an assassin contracted by the very people she had been sent to help.  The men who ordered her assassination are then killed on the orders of the Spanish Chief of Staff who is looking to become the next Franco by inciting ethnic riots around the country, especially in his native Castile.  With one of their own killed and a NATO ally tilting between violently separating and a totalitarian regime, Op-Center must do everything in their power with the help of local Interpol officers to contain the situation.  Yet Director Paul Hood must also confront a situation in his marriage while Darrel McCaskey, Op-Center’s FBI liaison deals with his old love interest an Interpol agent who decides to take out the would be Franco herself which complicates things with Striker and McCaskey personally.

 

Released in 1998, Balance of Power uses the tensions in Spain which resonates today given the situation in Catalonia and effectively conveys the tensions in the country.  Unlike the previous book in which a character’s stupidity—General Mike Rodgers—basically drove the plot, it was conspiracies against conspiracies with independent human actors fighting for their country, honor, and more driving the plot which was a vast improvement.  Maria Corneja, McCaskey’s ex and Interpol agent, is the most prominent secondary character and while she was fine overall, yet if you had changed her name to Mario (Italian I know) and “she” to “he” nothing would have changed—save the romantic angle—but to say Corneja was a man with tits would be going too far.  While there were little things here and there that seem like tiny plot holes, nothing really stood out as completely awful but if I were to choose the worst part of the book, it’s once again Paul and Sharon Hood’s marriage which has been choreographed to be doomed since the first book.

 

Like several books before it, Balance of Power is another Op-Center book with an intriguing plot idea but for once Jeff Rovin writes the characters and narrative to carry it instead of undermining it like the three previous installments.  While it’s not the greatest action thriller, it’s a solid story with interesting characters which is considerably better than all the other books in the series maybe even including the original Op-Center.

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch - Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman

The Apocalypse has arrived, but the fabled battle of Armageddon will not take place in the Middle East it’ll be in Oxfordshire unless a demon and an angel get their way.  Good Omens is from the combined writing of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett who take the well-trod path of end of the world novels and stand them on their head.

 

The demon Crowley is tasked with delivering the Antichrist to his family and ensuring his evil education, but his love of humanity makes him come clean to his friend, the angel Aziraphale who comes up with the brilliant plan to have both Good and Evil influence the child growing up.  On the child’s eleventh birthday, Crowley and Aziraphale find out that there had been a mix up at the hospital and they race to find the Antichrist along with Heaven, Hell, and the Four Horsemen who are gathered from around the world.  And in the little town of Lower Tadfield, Adam Young and his gang (Them) as well the witch Anathema Device and the witchfinder Newt Pulsifer have their own roles to play in the Final Battle as it draws nigh.

 

The combined talents of Gaiman and Pratchett work seamlessly, especially when the reader learns at the end of this particular edition of how the two worked together, and create a fantastic satire of the end of the world and all the tropes that go along with it.  Though the humor is good, some of it is a bit dated and so some jokes fall flat which is the only downside to this really good book.

 

If you are either a fan of Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett and haven’t read this book yet, then I highly encourage you to do so.  Good Omens is the perfect blend of both authors and you’ll find it highly enjoyable, save for the few out of date jokes.  If you’re simply a fan of satire, then give this book and its riffing of a certain supernatural horror film from the 1970s a good read.

Ulysses

Ulysses - James Joyce, Cedric Watts

The life of the everyman in a single day in Dublin is the basic premise of James Joyce’s Ulysses, yet this is an oversimplification of the much deeper work that if you are not careful can quickly spiral down into a black hole of fruitless guesswork and analysis of what you are reading.

 

Joyce’s groundbreaking work is a parallel to Homer’s The Odyssey though in a modernist style that was defined by Joyce in this novel.  Though the primary character is Leonard Bloom, several other important secondary characters each take their turn in the spotlight but it is Bloom that the day revolves around.  However any echoes of Homer are many times hidden behind Joyce verbosity and stream-of-conscious writing that at times makes sense and at times completely baffles you.  Even with a little preparation the scale of what Joyce forces the reader to think about is overwhelming and frankly if you’re not careful, quickly derails your reading of the book until its better just to start skimming until the experience mercifully ends.

 

While my experience and opinion of this work might be lambasted by more literary intelligent reviewers, I would like to caution those casual readers like myself who think they might be ready to tackle this book.  Read other modernist authors like Conrad, Kafka, Woolf, Lawrence, and Faulkner whose works before and after the publication of Ulysses share the same literary movement but are not it’s definitive work.

Edgedancer (The Stormlight Archive #2.5)

Edgedancer: From the Stormlight Archive - Brandon Sanderson

Traveling from the palace of the Azish emperor to the carved out city of Yeddaw, a young Knight Radiant stalks her would be executioner even as a danger to her world stalks the land.  Brandon Sanderson’s Edgedancer is a tale from the Stormlight Archive set in-between the second and third volumes of the main series as it shows the how Lift, the titular Edgedancer, and a long surviving Herald react to the Everstorm.

 

Feeling confined and unsure, the adventurous theft Lift travels to the city of Yeddaw to find more Radiants before they are murdered by Darkness.  The teenager displays her Edgedancer talents to draw the attention of her would be executioner while also exploring the city and trying to figure out its people.  Her tactics pay off as Darkness learns she’s in the city and she follows him to discover what he knows only to find out that Darkness has Radiant apprentices of his own including a man in white.  Eventually Lift is forced to use her connections with the Azish emperor to find out who Darkness is searching for only to discover that his apprentices had made a mistake and that the unlikeable woman Lift has had several encounters will is his target.  But it is during their confrontation that Lift convinces Darkness, the Herald Nale, that the Everstorm hitting the city means a new Desolation has arrived.

 

Although this book comes in at roughly 270 pages, the first 58 being a reprinting of Lift’s Interlude in Words of Radiance, the small hardback volume that it appears in makes it seem longer than it is.  In a postscript, Sanderson wrote that this novella was needed before both characters appear again in Oathbringer thus meaning for that anyone reading the series this short little story is something they might want to quickly read.  Given it’s short length, Sanderson packs a lot into it as he wants to describe the city of Yeddaw as well as continue to develop Lift—who he is not shy in saying he enjoys writing—in both her understanding of who she is and in giving readers hints about what the “Nightwatcher” gave her instead of her request to remain 10 years old.

 

Edgedancer is a quick, fun read about young adventurous character looking to figure herself out and in the process helping an age-old hero begin to regain his focus on what the world of Roshar needs.  Even though you’ll need to have read earlier volumes of the Stormlight Archive to understand the magical system and world it take place in.

The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714

The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714 - Barry Coward

After the act of the Tudors, how would the Stuarts follow up in ruling England?  Barry Coward covers the history of England between 1603 and 1714 in The Stuart Age giving the reading a comprehensive look at the developments across religion, economy, politics, and government while trying to dispel old assumptions and highlight new research.

 

Coward begins and ends the book with looking a statistical view England, at first looking how England developed through the early Stuarts to 1650 and then through the Interregnum and late Stuarts until the Hanoverian ascension.  The vast majority of the book covers the narrative flow of history of the period from the ascension of James VI of Scotland as James I of England after the death of Elizabeth to the death of his great-granddaughter Anne with all the twists and turns that happened within the domestic political arena that saw numerous failed attempts at Scottish union to disagreements between monarchs and parliament and finally the dispossessions of monarchs from the throne through execution and invited invasion then dictating who can take the throne.  Plus add in the events in Scotland and Ireland that played important roles at critical times that shaped events in England that made the century what it was.

 

The book is first and foremost an overview of the era with Coward attempting to give the events that took place their proper context in the evolution of government or religion or anything else related to “modern” Britain.  In doing this he set aside many myths about the era especially in the context of their times, he also gave context between “court” and “country” political establishments especially in relation to developments on the continent, i.e. the rise of absolutism and centralized government.  However, one of the drawbacks is that Coward would bring up other historians and juxtapose their theories on events without just simply making his own mark on the interpretation of the events.  Another feature which was lacking was that the military campaigns of especially the English Civil War, but also the continental wars, weren’t highlighted much especially since the Civil War was only covered in one whole chapter yet as an overview book it wasn’t unexpected.  And finally, as this edition of the book—the 2nd published in 1994—is almost 25 years old further research and debate has been missed out on.

 

The Stuart Age does its job fantastically well by giving an overview of the entire Stuart era that like other parts of English history seemed to be overshadowed by the proceeding Tudors.  Barry Coward’s layout of the period gives the reader perspective of the statistical elements of history that will influence the later narrative of the political and military events that make of the majority of the book then the aftereffects of those events on the same statistics, though slow in the beginning pays off and make this book pop.  If you’re looking for an overview of this period in English history, then you should consider this book.

Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues

Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues - George R. Knight

Myths pop up everywhere from history, to religion, and in the understanding of someone’s writing.  George R. Knight writes in Myths Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues about numerous issues that influence the thinking of Adventists educators and administrators.

 

Knight tackles 19 “myths” related to Adventist education, institutions, and thoughts over the course of 250 pages.  Beginning with myth related to “Historical and Philosophical” issues including those surrounding Ellen White, Knight clears up historical inaccuracies and puts Mrs. White’s writing not only in the context in which lines are written but what was going on at the time that made her write certain statements.  Knight then turned his attention to “Institutions and People” focusing on such issues the interplay between home and school, human nature, and intellectualism in Adventist education.  The largest section of the book about “Curriculum and Methods”, Knight focused on sacred and secular topics, Bible as textbook, literary subjects, religious instructions, in-classroom environments, and recreation and manual labor.

 

As a child of a retired Adventist teacher, I appreciated this book in seeing what my mother had to face over the course of approximately 35 years of her career.  Knight’s research and writing are fantastic throughout the book giving the reader amazing insights in how myths are given life in numerous fields and situations.  However, my problem with this book is not with Knight but with the publishers who in designing the book and blurbs made this book something it wasn’t.  The front cover blurb literally says, “A thoughtful look at misconceptions about Ellen White and Adventist life that have long caused controversy in the church” but nothing about education which is what the book is about and instead makes it appear it’ll be about numerous other things about Adventism.  Though Knight attempts to shield the publishers for their decision in the preface, it’s unfortunately makes the reader realize they might have gotten hoodwinked.

 

Overall Myths in Adventism is an insightful look at the cultural clashes in Adventist education by a writer that knows how to do research in Adventist history and education.  However even though George R. Knight is fantastic, the decisions of the publishers to make this book appear to be something that it’s not is very annoying and future readers need to know about it.

Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission

Orbit of Discovery: The All-Ohio Space Shuttle Mission - Don Thomas

From the beginning of the 20th-Century the state of Ohio has seemingly been on the forefront of manned flight from the Wright Brothers to Neil Armstrong to the flight of an “All-Ohio” crew of STS-70 aboard the shuttle Discovery.  Don Thomas in Orbit of Discovery relates the entire history of the mission from his assignment to the crew to the post-mission events as well as the event that is it best known for, the woodpecker attack that delayed the launch.

 

Thomas begins his book with the sudden halt in his pre-flight routine when a love sick woodpecker drilled holes in the foam of the external tank forcing weeks of delays that put him and the other four members of the crew spinning their wheels.  This pause allows Thomas to give an account about how he personally got to this point through his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut to his course of study in school to achieve that dream then his three time failures to join the program until finally succeeding on this fourth try.  He then goes into his time in the program before his flight on the shuttle Columbia and quick turn assignment to Discovery soon after his return.  Thomas then related the year long process of training and preparation for the mission until the sudden halt in the process when a woodpecker used the external tank to attract a mate.  After NASA was able to repair the foam, the mission returns to normal save for the humor inclusions of Woody Woodpecker throughout the flight in space and the numerous post-mission events that Thomas relates in detail.

 

The uniqueness of the mission’s delay as well as the fact that the crew was entirely made up of astronauts from one state—well one was given honorable citizenship—made for a good hook for any general reader who might have an interest in the space program.  Thomas with the assistance of Mike Bartell gives a very reader friendly look into what it was like to be an astronaut and the course of shuttle missions from assignment to post-flight events without becoming bogged down in technobabble.  At the end of the book is included an appendix for profiles for all the astronauts that came from Ohio which is in the spirit of the book and adds a nice bit of history for those interested.

 

Overall, Orbit of Discovery is a well-written and easy to read book that gives a first-hand account of everything that went into a space shuttle flight.  Don Thomas’ own story of his journey to finally getting to the program adds to the account in allowing the read to see how much dedication goes into becoming an astronaut.  For those interested in any way in the space program, this is a highly recommended book.

Genesis Revisited (The Earth Chronicles #4.5)

Genesis Revisited - Zecharia Sitchin

How advanced in thought and science were the ancients?  And is modern science catching up on what they knew?  These questions are the basis of Zecharia Sitchin’s Genesis Revisited in which he looks back at the scientific developments since publishing of his book The 12th Planet (up until 1990) to show that his finds in that and subsequence books are being proven.

 

Organized in a well throughout manner, Sitchin begins each topical chapter—save the final two—looking at the scientific consensus and findings that have been advanced since the 1976 publication of his first book.  Then after laying the foundation going back to the Sumerian texts that he first wrote about to show that modern science is now replicating the knowledge of the earliest civilizations that was brought to them by the Anunnaki of Nibiru.  The last two chapters were focused on more “recent” developments, particularly the Phobos 2 incident and the sudden cooperation between the United States and the USSR in space particularly in regards to Mars.

 

Obviously the biggest flaw of this book is that it was published in the fall of 1990 meaning that there has been almost 30 years of advancement of scientific knowledge that has made some of this science discussed in the book outdated.  Yet I have to give Sitchin credit for keeping things simple when explaining his theories by only hitting the high points and then referencing the reader to his earlier books for a more in-depth look.  This allowed Sitchin to focus on the modern science more in each chapter as a way to compare it to his theories of Sumerian knowledge.  Although the last two chapters contain some speculation of (then) current events they don’t diminish from Sitchin achievement of staying focused so as to bring new readers to his books.

 

Essentially Genesis Revisited is a book that allowed Zecharia Sitchin to reach new readers who had not heard of his previous books as well show is long time readers new evidence that confirmed what he had been writing about.   Although the book’s science is now dated, for those interested in ancient astronauts it’s something they might want to check out.

The Shepherd's Crown (Discworld #41, Tiffany Aching #5)

The Shepherd's Crown (Tiffany Aching) - Terry Pratchett

Endings are sad no matter if it happens suddenly or you know it’s been coming for some time, but all good things come to an end.  The Shepherd’s Crown is the final book of Tiffany Aching journey into mature witch as well as the 41st and last Discworld book by Terry Pratchett.  Not only was this the last book, finished before Pratchett’s death, but saw the biggest development in the series ever—warning spoilers below.

 

While Tiffany Aching continues work as the Chalk’s witch both see and Jeannie the kelda feel something is about to happen, which it does with the death of Granny Weatherwax in Lancre that sets off a chain of events.  Granny leaves everything, including her steading, to Tiffany thus making her be seen as “first among equals” amongst witches.  But the death of Granny results in a weakened barrier between the Disc and Fairyland as many elves seeing the Queen as scared and cautious after her defeat by Tiffany years before and it only grows when they learn goblins have been accepted in human society and that iron—railways—now rule the land.  The Queen is usurped by Lord Peaseblossom who begins raiding into Lancre and the Chalk, which adds to Tiffany’s burden of covering two steadings in to locales that becomes a bit easier when a Geoffrey leaves his noble family and travels to Lancre to become a witch and turns out to have some talent—for a man.  Gathering together witch allies, the Feegles, elderly men looking for a fight, and the deposed Queen to battle an invasion, Tiffany uses the power in the Chalk to defeat Peaseblossom—who killed the Queen in battle—then summon the King of the Elves—who kills the usurper for killing his wife—to prevent them from ever returning.  Afterwards Tiffany knowing no witch can replace Granny give the Lancre steading to Geoffrey then builds herself a hut from the bones of her own grandmother’s hut to have an official residence of her own.

 

Pratchett did not complete this book as he would have liked to as Neil Gaiman stated in a later interview and the clues were there for a more emotional ending and closure for fans, but this unfortunate missed opportunity does not detract seriously from the book.  On the whole, the plot and character developments were nearly perfect with the only except of Mrs. Earwig who felt like she had more to be developed but that Pratchett hadn’t had enough time to provide it.

 

The Shepherd’s Crown is a book of endings for numerous reasons and because of that some people do not want to read it, especially those who have been fans longer than I have.  However eventually I hope those people will eventually read Terry Pratchett’s last Discworld book and see that even right up to his own meeting with Death that he strove to create something that made you think and show your emotions.

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life

Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life - Herman Melville, John Bryant

While known today for vengeful captain chasing a white whale, Herman Melville’s writing career began with a travelogue of his adventure on the Nuku Hiva and was his most popular work during his life.  Typee: A Peep at Polynesian Life is a semi-autographical book that Melville wrote about his approximately 4 week stay that he “expanded” to 4 months in the narrative.

 

Melville begins his narrative when he describes the captain of the “Dolly” deciding to head to the Marqueas Islands and then events surrounding the ship’s arrival at the island as well as the actions of the French who were “taking possession” of it.  Then Melville and a shipmate named Toby decide to ‘runaway’ to the valley of the Happar tribe and execute their plan when they get shore leave.  Climbing the rugged cliffs of the volcanic island, they hide in the thick foliage from any searchers but realize they didn’t have enough food and soon Melville’s leg swells up slowing them down.  Believing they arrived in the valley of the Happar, they make contact only to find themselves with the Typee.  However the tribe embraces the two men and attempt to keep them amongst their number, but first Toby is able to ‘escape’ though Melville can’t help but think he’s been abandoned.  Melville then details his experiences along amongst the cannibalistic tribe before his own escape with assistance of two other natives of the island from other tribes.

 

The mixture of narrative of Melville’s adventures and the anthropological elements he gives of the Typee make for an interesting paced book that is both engaging and dull.  Though Melville’s lively descriptions of the events taking place are engaging, one always wonders if the event actually took place or was embellish or just frankly made up to liven up the overall tale.  The addition of a sequel as an epilogue that described the fate of Toby, which at the time added credibility to Melville’s book, is a nice touch so the reader doesn’t wonder what happened to him.

 

Overall Typee is a nice, relatively quick book to read by one of America’s best known authors.  While not as famous as Melville’s own Moby Dick, it turned out to be a better reading experience as the semi-autographical nature and travelogue nature gave cover for Melville to break into the narrative to relative unique things within the Typee culture.

City of God

City of God - Henry Bettenson, Augustine of Hippo

As a backlash against Christianity grew after the sack of Roman in 410 AD, Augustine of Hippo took up his pen to respond to pagans and philosophers as well as inform Christians about their priorities between heaven and earth.  The City of God is one of the cornerstones of medieval Christianity and thought that even influences the world today.

 

Augustine divides his work into 22 books divided into two parts.  The first part was to refute the accusation by pagans that the sack of Rome in 410 AD was punishment for abandoning the gods of Rome for Christianity.  Throughout the first ten books of his work, Augustine critiques the Roman religion and philosophy from the multitude of deities and the contradictory beliefs related to them as well as the conflicting philosophies that supported and opposed them.  The second part, consisting of the last twelve books of the work, discussed the titular City of God and how it relates with the city of man—the present world.

 

Augustine’s critique of pagan religion and philosophy in the first part of the book is honestly the highlight of the book.  Not only did he defend Christianity but also exposed the contradictions within pagan religious beliefs a well as numerous schools of philosophies which defended or opposed those beliefs.  If there was one downside within the first part, it would have been the troubling theological ideas that Augustine espoused that seemed more based on Plato than the Bible.  However, it was in the second part of book that Augustine’s faulty theology truly became apparent so much so that I had to begin skimming through the text to prevent myself from contradicting Augustine in my head instead of reading.  While not all of Augustine’s theology is wrong, God’s omniscience and human free will is an example, some of the defining examples I want to cover is the following: the immortality of the soul and eternal burning in hell connected to it, the claims that passages from the Old Testament are analogies for Christ and the church, that all of Psalms are prophecies written by David, the angels were created on the third day, and many more.  It became too frustrating to stay focused and I admittedly might have skimmed over some of Augustine’s better theological arguments, but it was that or tossing the book.

 

City of God is both the refutation of pagan Roman practices and the theological understanding of Augustine for Christian believers.  It’s importance for medieval Christianity and thought cannot be underscored enough, however that does not mean that every reader should not look at it critically.

Organizing for Mission and Growth: The Development of the Adventist Church Structure (Adventist Heritage Series)

Organizing for Mission and Growth: The Development of Adventist Church Structure - George R. Knight

Throughout the history of the Seventh-day Adventist history there has been a constant question “To organize or not to organize, and if so how?”  Organizing for Mission and Growth is the third book of the Adventist Heritage Series written by Adventist historian George R. Knight.  In covering over 170 years in fewer than 190 pages, the book covers the struggles to first organize then restructuring and then reinvigorating the church so as to achieve its mission to spread its end time message.

 

The Sabbatarian Adventists out of the Millerite movement were small and disorganized across New York and New England, but their former denominational experiences and theological beliefs in the evils of organization forces the rising leaders of the group to do much of the work themselves particularly James White.  While White himself initially was against organizing and “making a name”, the essential one-man operation that he was preforming led him to reexamine scripture and rethinking his anti-organizational ideas becoming a strong advocate for the organizing of the denomination so much so that he refused to become its first president.  But as the decades past and the church grew, the strengths for church structure for a small number of believers over the breath of half a nation became detriments as membership grew and expanded worldwide leading to crisis that brought about restructuring at the beginning of the 20th Century.  However, the divide in ideas about how to restructure causes nearly a decade of drama before it was resolved.  Yet throughout the 20th Century the organization of the church was tweaked and reinvigorated with innovation on several levels but in the 21st Century many have begun questioning the extent of how much administration is needed compared to the previous 100 years.

 

Unlike what he was able to cover in A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists, Knight goes in-depth on how Seventh-day Adventists got their name and how they structured their denomination’s organization and the debates for and against as well as how it innovated.  Knight does not go in-depth over the entire course of the 155 year history of the General Conference, but he focuses on what needs to be in-depth like James White’s struggle to found the denomination and later the 1901-3 restructuring of the denomination by A.G. Daniels and others against the efforts by A.T. Jones and others who wanted a much decentralized organization (congregationalism).  Yet the events of 1901-3 also had a theological element that while touched upon was discussed more in A Search for Identity, another Adventist Heritage Series book focused on the development of Seventh-day Adventist theology.  This limited focus created a very strong book that gave the reader a clear history of its topic without going down various rabbit holes.

 

Although Knight intended Organizing for Mission and Growth to be the third of a seven book series related to Adventist heritage, however for over a decade it has been the last he has written.  This fact does not take away how important this and other Adventist Heritage Series books for Seventh-day Adventists who are interested in the history of their denomination, it’s theological beliefs, and it’s organizational structure as they are the primary readers Knight aims for.

Agricola and Germany

Agricola and Germany (Oxford World's Classics) - Anthony Richard Birley, Tacitus

Every one of Roman’s greatest historians began their writing career with some piece, for one such man it was a biography of his father-in-law and an ethnographic work about Germanic tribes.  Agricola and Germany are the first written works by Cornelius Tacitus, which are both the shortest and the only complete pieces that he wrote.

 

Tacitus’ first work was a biography of his father-in-law, Gnaeus Julius Agricola, who was the governor of Britain and the man who completed the conquest of the rest of the island before it was abandoned by the emperor Domitian after he recalled Agricola and most likely poisoned him.  The biography not only covered the life of Agricola but also was a history of the Roman conquest of Britain climaxed by the life of the piece’s hero.  While Agricola focused mostly one man’s career, Tacitus did give brief ethnographic descriptions of the tribes of Britain which was just a small precursor of his Germany.  This short work focused on all the Germanic tribes from the east bank of the Rhine to the shores of the North and Baltic Seas in the north to the Danube to the south and as far as rumor took them to the east.  Building upon the work of others and using some of the information he gathered while stationed near the border, Tacitus draws an image of various tribes comparing them to the Romans in unique turn of phrases that shows their barbarianism to Roman civilization but greater freedom compared to Tacitus’ imperial audience.

 

Though there are some issues with Tacitus’ writing, most of the issues I had with this book is with the decisions made in putting this Oxford World’s Classics edition together.  Namely it was the decision to put the Notes section after both pieces of writing.  Because of this, one had to have a figure or bookmark in either Agricola or Germany and another in the Notes section.  It became tiresome to go back and forth, which made keeping things straight hard to do and the main reason why I rate this book as low as I did.

 

Before the Annals and the Histories were written, Tacitus began his writing with a biography of his father-in-law and Roman’s northern barbarian neighbors.  These early works show the style that Tacitus would perfect for his history of the first century Caesars that dramatically changed the culture of Roman.