My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, December 31, 2023

Review: Paul and Time: Life in the Temporality of Christ

Paul and Time: Life in the Temporality of Christ Paul and Time: Life in the Temporality of Christ by L. Ann Jervis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This work opens with a lengthy introduction that gives us a foundation with which to start thinking about time. This is important, because most of us don’t really think too deeply about time … it is simply something that passes in which events happen whereby those events become fixed or permanent. We approach eternity much like to approach infinity in mathematics, by adding more to the dimension we call time (in either direction). Classical though where eternity is outside of temporality and is unchanging and unmoving (Plato). Next up is a survey and comparison of current (and perhaps competing) viewpoints that government interpretation through an historical/salvific or an apocalyptic lens. I found the idea that the apocalyptic interpretation sees the eternal God “invading” history (time) to be an interesting perspective. Chapter three (3) introduces the idea that there is an overlap between the current (and dying) age and the age to come … an idea that I had not previously found in my current studies, but is none the less a good talking point for evaluating how early Christians responded to the fact that believers were dying before the second coming of Christ … and which the author specifically rejects. It is in chapter four (4) that we finally see the paradigm shift that the author wants us to consider, breaking time in the “death-time” and “life-time” with the rest of the book dedicated to explaining what that even means.

The rest of the book is a bit tricky and can be hard to understand, which is why so much effort went into the previous chapters to enable the reader to at least grasp the basics. While I think I understood the concept, I still struggled a little with understanding how this all changed or otherwise impacted how the salvation offered by Christ works … leaving me with an over all feeling that this was more of an academic exercise. It was very interesting, but I will need to think on it a lot more before I have a good handle on it.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Introduction: Thinking About Time

1. Paul’s Conception of Time in Salvation Historical Perspective
2. Paul’s Conception of Time in Apocalyptic Perspective
3. Time in Christ - Not in the Overlap of Ages
4. Christ Lives Time
5. The Nature of the Exalted Christ’s Time
6. The Future of the Exalted Christ’s Time
7. Union with Christ and Time
8. Life in Christ’s Time: Suffering, Physical Death, and Sin

Name Index
Scripture and Ancient Writings Index

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
Interestingly, despite their differences, both salvation historical and apocalyptic readings rely on a common conviction that Paul inherited a two-age framework, which he had to modify in order to make sense of the fact that Christ was resurrected but the faithful were not. Paul fit Christ’s resurrection into his inherited schema by reworking his inherited framework: the two ages are not sequential but rather, because of Christ, now overlap.
Augustine articulates this experience: “There are three times, a present of past things, a present of present things, and a present of future things. Some such different times do exist in the mind, but nowhere else that I can see. The present of past things is the memory; the present of present things is direct perception; and the present of future things is expectation.”
Time that ends has a different quality from time that does not. Time that ends is shaped by its end; time that does not end is shaped by the abundance of ongoingness, which for Paul is the abundance of life. This is not only everlasting duration but everlasting life. Seeking to resonate with Paul, I call the former type of time “death-time” and the latter “life-time.”
Union with Christ means direct access to moments in Christ’s incarnated past: Christ’s death and burial. This is the case not because believers travel to Christ’s past but because Christ’s past is present and can be known in human present tenses.
Admittedly, those joined to Christ do not yet have glorious bodies like Christ’s. This is, however, of no moment to Paul, for that will come (1 Cor. 15:16–19). Believers can know that they are now free of the power of Death (e.g., 2 Cor. 4:10–5:5). Their physical deaths are simply doors to a fuller experience of resurrection life.
Believers suffer, as does the exalted Christ in whom they live, not because they remain partially subject to the present age but because from a situation of liberty they groan along with the unliberated. Believers share Christ’s suffering; like Christ, their suffering is embraced by, even defined by, resurrection and exaltation.
Paul did not think in terms of “already–not yet,” if that moniker signals that believers remain enslaved to Death.544 Paul believes that those united with Christ are, like Christ, now liberated from Death. Those who belong to Christ live life-time in mortal bodies;
Union with Christ is freedom from Sin, but it does not obliterate the capacity for sinning.567 Sin can be compared to a colonizing power, which distorts and disfigures the character and appetites of those it oppresses. In a post-colonial context, when the colonizing power is defeated, the previously enslaved find it challenging to fully claim their free identity
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#PaulAndTime #NetGalley

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Thursday, December 28, 2023

Review: The Caucasus Cauldron

The Caucasus Cauldron The Caucasus Cauldron by James Lingard
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book: **
Performance: **

An Awkward and Confusing Action/Adventure

This book didn’t work for me. To start, the cadence and emotive performance didn’t seem natural to me, and it exacerbated the uneven prose, awkward dialog (including several internal soliloquies) within a plot that struggles to find traction. The bulk of the story is a contrived hunt for two uninspiring agents (from MI6 and FSB) … and I can’t for the life of me understand why they are working together. So while dodging Georgian and Chechen thugs …. er …. soldiers, the duo stumbles from one encounter to another without rhyme or reason outside of a strange need to add even more gratuitous violence and manufactured outrage to hide the general lack of any finesse (I lost count of how many versions of now you die English that pops up in this story). Unfortunately this was not evident in the short sample I listened to. Nominally they are looking for Sergei (a former British agent now separatist leader). Oh … let’s throw in a dysfunctional mr & mrs smith style romance to stitch together all the action. Honestly, I had a hard time following the story as very little made sense to me.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, December 24, 2023

Review: Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament

Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament Dictionary of the New Testament Use of the Old Testament by G.K. Beale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Written as companion for the “Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament” (CNTUOT), this work takes a more synchronic and holistic approach as it examines links between the Books of the Bible (including how the OT books reference other OT books). As such, this fills a notable dearth of such works at this perspective/level (with most covering language evolution and/or concordance). Each essay may have a different author, so the structure may vary somewhat, but most topics are arranged similarly … for example, most essays on the Books will include an analysis of Composition, Structure and Context. General topics, such a Covenant, will examine OT and then NT usages. Given the extensive length on many of the entries, while organized to facility research, it really is more a collection of biblical essays on a specific topic … such as Abraham, Idolatry, Luke, etc. This makes it great as a companion, but more difficult as a stand alone work despite the depth of many of the essays (several pages in many cases). An index of terms with jump links would help make this even more useful.

Although organized alphabetically (aka dictionary), each entry generally covers one of five (5) distinct themes
1. Surveys of Biblical Books (55)
2. Biblical-theological topical essays (54)
3. Jewish exegetical-traditions essays (25)
4. Inner-biblical exegesis (26)
5. Systemic Theology (5)

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

In fact, this is what Nicaea and Chalcedon were doing. They were reflecting on Scripture in light of Scripture’s own teaching, so that the church could faithfully confess, defend, and proclaim the God of the Bible as triune and Jesus as the eternal Son made flesh, our only Lord and Savior.
This increase in literacy was the product of the Roman Empire, or at least the product of its administrative needs.
The Garden of Eden Is a Temple in the First Creation
Israel’s Tabernacle in the Wilderness and Later Temple Reestablish the Garden of Eden’s Sanctuary

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, December 21, 2023

Review: A Diplomat of Mars: War in space

A Diplomat of Mars: War in space A Diplomat of Mars: War in space by Stephan Bellesini
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ****

A Simple [Christian] Space Opera

It’s a space opera, so the normal science rules do not apply (except where convenient). The story really revolves around a few [earth] warships out by Titan and a mysterious girl at the center of a conspiracy that strains credulity … but it’s an opera, so that is ok. In fact, this is really a mash-up with the Christian fantasy genre, and it you judge it strictly on that, it was actually a pretty good story. The good guys are really good and the bad guys are really bad and there are a handful of traitors just in it for the 30 silver. While there is a little preaching here, it is generally not forced and logically fits in the storyline … so kudos for that; however, like many in the genre, there really isn’t a lot of constancy here (or if there was, I missed it). The warships are armed with cannons … which seem to actually be mass projectors (eg. canon balls?) with segregated gun decks (one side for women and one side for men … and not patty fingers if you please, at least without a chaperone. Acceleration and maneuver are done via magic hand waving and comms are instantaneous using EM tech.

Basically think "Master and Commander" in space and you get the feel. Of course the whole watch bells was way off with a bell system that was totally incomprehensible even after it was explained. For the record, in naval terms a watch would generally be 4 hrs with one bell each 30 mins (so 8 bells is the change of watch). A dog watch is designed to sift the watch rotation … and is half a normal watch (you could also go the other way a lengthen the watch (sometimes know as a Swedish watch rotation). Of course the is a limited cast of characters driving these capital ships, so when one character is assigned as the cook for the entire crew, she whips up burgers and fries in a fry pan all by herself … learning how to do this from scratch in a little less than 2 hrs. Refer to rule 1 … it’s a space opera … learn to let go (still working on that myself).

The audio production is actually pretty good … with sound effects and good voice differential. In fact, it is the narration that pulls this book up from a slightly subpar feel good story filled with mary sues into the realm of being a fun, if fairly silly, listen. The background music can get a little over dramatic and annoying at times, but it does help take you mind of the speechifying and moralizing goin’ on (sure … I have a quirky sense of humor and this just tickled it all the time … no sure if that was intentional so YMMV). It was really only a problem during the long stretch where the hero catches up on family emails that droned on so long I almost started skipping sections until it got better. Over all, I enjoyed it enough to round up a star.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, December 17, 2023

Review: Revelation: (A Paragraph-by-Paragraph Exegetical Evangelical Bible Commentary - BECNT)

Revelation: (A Paragraph-by-Paragraph Exegetical Evangelical Bible Commentary - BECNT) Revelation: (A Paragraph-by-Paragraph Exegetical Evangelical Bible Commentary - BECNT) by Thomas R. Schreiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a new addition to the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (BECNT) series and will eventually end up replacing Osborne’s 2002 contribution. It weighs in at a hefty 896 pages; although less that Osborne’s commentary of 1536 pages, it still represent approximately 30 pages or so of commentary for each page in the Book of Revelation. By design, this is supposed to be a serious exegesis for “busy” pastors and in general keeps it short enough to accomplish that. Given the extensive amount of symbolism and other literary devices within Revelations, it is not surprising that they can be a lot more that what is covered here, so as expected, there is not a lot of exploration of heterodox positions or interpretations.

There are ten (10) parts that each over a small section of Revelation, with the extensive opening Introduction providing a solid look at the history and perspective of Revelation to give a good context to what follows. Each Part represents a topical transition; although many Bibles may be organized slightly differently (generally combining some of the Parts provided here and using a more general title). At the beginning of each part is a quick recap of the contents with a pointer should where you are in Revelation, followed by a quick summary of the part. Each sub-part does the same before adding the Exegesis and Exposition that walks through each verse/pericope ending with additional notes that has more information on translations aspects. The commentaries are generally clear and fairly detailed with references to others books of the Bible as well as external academic works; a few times I would have likes a more thorough contextual discussion in addition to the more concise interpretive comments and concerns. Finally the author is a self-professed premillennialist, so you also get a couple of Excursus that goes into that idea a little. Over all this is a very solid reference book.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Introduction to Revelation

Part I - Introduction and Seven Letters (1:1 - 3:22)
A. Prologue
B. Vision of the Son of Man
C. Letters to the Seven Churches

Part II - Visions in the Throne Room (4:1 - 5:14)
A. God as the Holy Creator
B. The Lamb as the Slaughtered and Risen Redeemer

Part III - The Seven Seals (6:1 - 8:5)
A. The First Six Seals
B. Interlude
C. The Seventh Seal and the Seven Trumpets

Part IV - The Seven Trumpets (8:6 - 11:19)
A. The First Four Trumpets: Cosmic Destruction
B. Fifth Trumpet: Demonic Locust Plague
C. Sixth Trumpet: Demonic Cavalry
D. Interlude
E. The Seventh Trumpet: Kingdom Come

Part V - Signs in Heaven and Earth (12:1 - 15:4)
A. The Woman and the Dragon
B. The Beast from the Sea
C. The Beast from the Land
D. The 144,000 on Mount Zion
E. Declarations from the Three Angels
F. Two Harvests
G. Praise of the Conquerors

Part VI - The Seven Bowls from the Sanctuary (15:5 - 16:21)
A. The Seven Plagues from God’s Temple
B. The Seven Bowls

Part VII - The Judgement of Babylon and the Wedding of the Bride (17:1 - 19:10)
A. The Harlot Babylon Destroyed
Excursus: Babylon in the History f Interpretation
B. The Declaration of Two Angels
C. Lamentation over Babylon’s Fall
D. Rejoicing over Babylon’s Fall
E. Rejoicing over the Marriage of the Lamb

Part VIII - The Triumph of God in Christ (19:11 - 20:15)
A. Defeat of the Beast, the False Prophet, and Their Adherents
B. Reigning with Jesus a Thousand Years
Excursus: The Millennium
C. The Last Battle
D. The Last Judgement

Part IX - The New Heavens and New Earth (21:1 - 22:5)
A. Making All Things New
B. The Bride and the Holy City

Epilogue (22:6-21)

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#Revelation #BECNT #NetGalley

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Thursday, December 14, 2023

Review: Blood Ties

Blood Ties Blood Ties by L. Waithman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Great YA Fantasy with Abrupt TBC Ending

Book: ****
Performance: ****

A young boy with a mysterious past is taken in by fighting monks after his father is murdered. This is the first of the series that introduces us to Lucas, the blacksmith’s son with unique abilities that may play a role in a prophecy about two warring kingdoms. Not content to stay in the monastery, young Lucas leaves to join a traveling circus, where his special abilities start to reveal themselves … and he draws the attention of the King. Tragically, the jealousy of another young boy sends Lucas into hiding until a mysterious group of toughs/assassins flushes him out into the open and he is finally accepted into a group of young soldiers known as The Chosen (no spoiler here … the series is called The Kings Chosen so you had to be expecting that right). What follows is another typical YA trope where the leader of the Elite Born takes an instance dislike to Lucas and uses his authority over all the Chosen to make his life difficult … but Lucas manages to survive and gain a solid reputation despite all of that. The writing here is surprisingly tight and well done that, with the aid of a solid narration for each of the characters, makes this one of the better audiobooks in the fantasy genre that I have encountered.

The only reason it failed to get top marks is the abrupt ending … obviously this is a setup for the series; however, it is still a stand alone book and it should have resolved at least one of the plot conflicts … if it does I missed it as it seems to be to simply drop off after a new character states that it is time for Lucas to know who he really is … so tune in at the same bat time on the same bat channel to see the exciting conclusion to who the heck is Lucas. It should say something that regardless of my displeasure at the ending … I will probably pick up the next installment

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#BloodTies #TheKingsChosen #FreeAudiobookCodes

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Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Review: The Sword Unbound

The Sword Unbound The Sword Unbound by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second book in the Lands of the Firstborn series
Previous Review of The Sword Defiant

It has been long enough that some of the details from the first book were starting to fade, so I checked out an audiobook to refresh my memory before starting this one (it came back quickly). The performance was fantastic, so add a star if you are considering the audible version (I have already added this to my wishlist). At just over 600 pages each, there is quite a lot of story in each to be enjoyed … and the length provides an opportunity to engage in fantastic character and world-building with a wonderfully complex plot … except most of the former happened in the first book … making the sequel drag a bit for the first half of this book. That is not to say that there is nothing new in the world, just that the story has moved to refining what is already known instead … with a few welcome surprise revelations to keep it interesting (not all of which were welcomed … with one nearly enough to abandon the book … although it was eventually resolved to my satisfaction). 

As for the characters, we return with to the reluctant hero Alf and his black sword (spell-breaker) and his sister and nephew (which provide the two primary PoV) trying to thread the needle between former allies who were only united when Lord Bone was the big bad (proving the unity of “The Nine” more a convenience than functional) despite Alf’s efforts to preserve that particular illusion … in that respect, we see a chaotic and very believable (and extremely frustrating) political environment that starts out interesting but quickly becomes tedious. In fact … there is more than enough navel gazing and generally questionable decisions by the main characters to be very distracting (with little to no character growth for the MC). This includes a side bar with the merc/bandit Bor that I didn’t really care for, but eventually realized that it had its place with all the other moving pieces setting up the strong climax. We do see a lot more of Olva (and her “son” Derwyn) and that left me wishing this was more of the story. While not quite as good as the first in the series … by the end it was all worth it and I am looking forward to the conclusion.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Review: Angels and Saints: Who They Are and Why They Matter

Angels and Saints: Who They Are and Why They Matter Angels and Saints: Who They Are and Why They Matter by Elizabeth Klein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a short (160 pg.) book that is part of an expanding series to provide clarification to the rich traditions found within the Catholic Church. Here we get an overview of what the Church teaches about Angels and Saints is a way that should be interesting to both Catholics and those interested in understanding more about Catholicism.  

The book itself is divided into [the expected] two (2) parts to cover Angels and Saints separately with each very short chapter designed to address a common question (in that respect, this is very much like an FAQ).  Each question provides a basic and easy to follow answer with a few relevant sources, but it really serves as a starting point for anybody who wants a more detailed understanding beyond the casual.  

 you already have a solid understanding of these concepts, there isn’t much here for you … unless you need help simplifying the answers for somebody else just beginning their spiritual journey (so this would be great within the context of teaching the faith).

The chapters and sections in this work are:


Part I - Angels

Chapter 1 - What Does the Bible Say about Angels?

Chapter 2 - What Does the Church Teach about Angels?

Chapter 3 - What is a Guardian Angel, and Do I Have One?

Chapter 4 - Do the Angels Participate in the Liturgy?

Chapter 5 - Do the Angles Have Ranks?

Chapter 6 - How Can I Be More Devoted to the Angels?

Chapter 7 - Who Are the Fallen Angels, and Should I Fear Them?

Part II - Saints

Chapter 8 - What Is a Saint, and Am I Becoming One? 

Chapter 9 - What Is the Communion of Saints?

Chapter 10 - What Is Canonization, and Why Does the Church Canonize Certain People?

Chapter 11 - Why Would I Ever Pray to a Saint If I Can Just Pray to God?

Chapter 12 - What Are Relics, and Why Do Catholics Venerate Them?

Chapter 13 - Why Does It Mean to Take a Saint’s Name at Confirmation or to Be Named after a Saint?

Chapter 14 - Why Do Saints Have Feast Days, Why Do They Mean, and How Can I Celebrate Them?


Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

First, the Catechism (§329) speaks about the word “angel” as indicating a job title, not a nature. In other words, “angel” describes what a celestial spirit does, not what it is.

But perhaps the place where it is most obvious that we are joining in the praise of the angels at Mass is when we sing the Sanctus. The word sanctus is Latin for “holy” and refers to the part of the Mass when we sing the song of the seraphim heard by Isaiah.

This understanding of holiness as a doxological category (a category pertaining to glory) explains all of our different articulations of holiness. An object—like a golden chalice used at Mass—is holy because it participates in worship of God insofar as it can as an inanimate thing, and it has been blessed for this purpose. 

He accomplishes this union in the Incarnation, in the Church, and in the Eucharist (we use the phrase “the Body of Christ” to refer to all three of these mysteries).

The word “relic” comes from the Latin word reliqua, and it means something that is left behind. In other words, relics are the remains of the saints (this includes things left behind by Christ himself, such as the relics of the true Cross). Primarily, the word “relic” refers to the body or part of the body of a saint (what is known today as a “first-class relic”), but it can also refer to other remains, such as a saint’s clothing or items that he or she has used (a “second-class relic”). We even recognize what are called “third-class relics”—objects that have been put into contact with a first-class relic.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#AngelsAndSaints #EngagingCatholcism #NetGalley 

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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Review: Christmas on the Nile: A Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery

Christmas on the Nile: A Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery Christmas on the Nile: A Sherlock Holmes and Lucy James Mystery by Anna Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ****

The is the finale of the storyline begun in "The Curse of Cleopatra's Needle” and left hanging in "The Coded Blue Envelope.” The fact that it is a continuation of a cliffhanger means this story starts in the hole (not only because I dislike cliffhangers, but because the mid-story start was a tad disorienting). This is now my 12th Lucy James adventure and the two voices on the narration is very enjoyable and pretty much continues to “save” there series. If you are truly looking for a Sherlockian mystery, this series won’t be very satisfying (they seem to be more adventure and international intrigue for most of them). Strangely enough, even though this is a continuation from a previous story, it still takes awhile to get going as it tries to weave two distinct plot lines together … one in England with Flynn, Becky, Jack and Mycroft chasing down plans by the Sons of Ra to throw the government into Chaos (in a rehashed and somewhat unbelievable conspiracy) while Watson, Lucy, Holmes and Zoe prose their new arch nemesis to Egypt to foil a similar plan there. Frankly it seems that the series is a bet long in the tooth now (as it is repeating elements from previous stories now); however, as previously indicated, the narration was good, the characters are fun and the over all story unmemorable if suitable for a quick diversion.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Review: In the Shadow of the Fall

In the Shadow of the Fall In the Shadow of the Fall by Tobi Ogundiran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So my biggest complaint here is that it all ended too soon. I mean, it is a novella, but there was so much goodness here that I was totally unprepared for the end. That makes it all the more impressive that I throughly enjoyed the world-building and MC character development (something that is usually a lot more limited is shorter stories). The basic story follows that struggle of a temple acolyte who is struggling to succeed as her peers all advance and eventually leave. We pick up the story as she desperately tries to remedy the situation with an ill-conceived plan that doesn’t quite work out as expected. The underlying mythology was also well done, with just enough detail to peak interest and hint at a much greater depth that [hopefully] comes soon … and The “bad-guy” was interesting, if only sparsely described … but there is enough there to get a good feel for the danger he poses. And we get a brief introduction to a nomadic people that could have used a lot more space to explore … because I just love the concept there. Finally there is a pretty significant reveal at the end that caught be by surprise … so well done there. Over all … it didn’t feel like a novella until the abrupt ending … all in all it was an incredible teaser that could easily anchor a solid fantasy series … so I will very likely pick up next installment eventually (which unfortunately loos to be just a little longer on page count).

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Review: Let There Be Light-Genesis

Let There Be Light-Genesis Let There Be Light-Genesis by Richard Rinberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a commentary (peshat) on the grammar and words found within the Book of Genesis the seeks to understand the some of the more difficult and at times unique usage of many of the words found in the text be looking at etymology and potential antecedents outside of the biblical corpus (primarily Akkadian and Babylonian sources) as well as context of use within. As might be expected, there are areas where the authors find modern interpretations difficult or problematic where they attempt to introduce another interpretation that appears to be a better fit. Few, if any, change much of the over all meaning or intent of the text, avoiding any significant controversy while providing helpful nuance towards a better understanding for the reader.

Each chapter provides an analysis of a specific pericope taken in order, with subsections highlighting a particular term or phrase that starts with the current interpretation (and any problems and alternatives, keeping in mind the text doesn’t include vowels so there is the potential for several different terms using different vowels and some letters are visually similar), followed by any related usage within other places in the Bible (if any exist) and then external sources from which we see similar usage, idioms, and euphemism … which I found to be the most interesting and helpful part of the analysis (especially the examinations of idioms). There are a few limited observations with respect to style (prosaic and poetic), but most seems to focus of language evolution.

Again, this book is focused on what the words say and does not really venture into any theological explanation outside of explaining a few come idioms. This keeps each section very short where at times I wished for a bit more. And while there is a significant debate on some terms, there are a lot where they doesn’t seem to be any controversy at all and I am left wondering why it was included. However, overall, this is an excellent reference for any student of the Bible.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Chapter 1: Creation
Chapter 2: The Garden of Eden
Chapter 3: Cain and Abel
Chapter 4: Noah and the Ark
Chapter 5: Babel
Chapter 6: Enter Abraham
Chapter 7: Allies and Foes
Chapter 8: Offspring for Abraham
Chapter 9: A True Heir
Chapter 10: Sodom and Gomorrah
Chapter 11: Abimelek
Chapter 12: The Binding of Isaac and Sarah’s Death
Chapter 13: Purchase of the Cave of Machpelah
Chapter 14: A Match for Isaac
Chapter 15: Isaac and Rebekah’s Legacy
Chapter 16: Esau and Jacob Part Ways
Chapter 17: Jacob in the House of Laban
Chapter 18: Family Matters
Chapter 19: Joseph in Egypt
Chapter 20: Joseph’s Downfall and Rise
Chapter 21: Jacob’s Family Get Down to Egypt
Chapter 22: Jacob Blesses His Family
Chapter 23: Jacob and Joseph Pass On
Glossary of Terms
Tables of Chronology
Patriarchal Genealogy

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

In light of the above, it seems best to read Gensis 3:16 instead of “heronekh” (your childbearing), rather as “charonekh” (your distress).  In biblical Hebrew, the letters heh and chet are interchangeable because of the graphic similarity.

In summation, to our mind, the phrase ve-el ishekh teshukatekh does not express a sexual desire, but rather an urge, yearning for economic and social dependency and protection.

This grammatical difficulty may be removed if one considers the Hebrew “rovetz” to be a loan word from the well-known Akkadian word “rabitzu,” a term for a “demon,” depicted both as benevolent and malevolent, often lurking at the entrance of a building to protect or threaten the occupants.

The traditional translation of the phrase ‘am ha-aretz is “the people of the land,” but a study of this compound noun reveals that this phrase has a different connotation, namely, “landed gentry.”

Returning to Joseph’s life span of 110 years, as told to us in Genesis, we note that Egyptian doctrine considered the age of 110 to be the maximal ideal span of life.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#LetThereBeLight #LibraryThing

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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Review: Emotional Mastery: A Complete Guide to Emotional Abuse, Trauma Recovery, Shadow Work, Self-Esteem, Dark Psychology & Gaslighting: 3 books

Emotional Mastery: A Complete Guide to Emotional Abuse, Trauma Recovery, Shadow Work, Self-Esteem, Dark Psychology & Gaslighting: 3 books Emotional Mastery: A Complete Guide to Emotional Abuse, Trauma Recovery, Shadow Work, Self-Esteem, Dark Psychology & Gaslighting: 3 books by Relove Psychology
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: *

This book is available for kindle unlimited and audible; I did both with Alexa reading the ebook for me. The audible version had several production issues (such as repeated phases, long gaps, background noises and struggling enunciation) that made the Alexa option more appealing; it seemed to get much worse toward the end of each book. The first two (2) books really covered the same ground with respect to emotional abuse and trauma where the first having much more light weight/hippie feel to it where the second seemed more clinical and worth the effort. The third book takes on Jungian psychology with a New Age slant. For folks the buy into repressed personality traits and the like, this would be an interesting topic; although the whole shadow trope for all of this feels a bit weird to me. Most of this probably should be done with a licensed therapist though. Over all the second book is worth a read, but the audible is a pass until the production issues are fixed.

Dark Psychology & GasLighting **
Introduction (7 min)
Chapter 1 - Protecting Yourself (24 min)
Chapter 2 - Breaking Free From Manipulation (17 min)
Chapter 3 - Rebuilding Confidence & Self-Trust (19 min)
Chapter 4 - Manipulative Techniques (23 min)
Chapter 5 - Gaslighting & Emotional Blackmail (16 min)
Chapter 6 - Hypnotism (17 min)
Chapter 7 - Relationships (25 min)
Chapter 8 - Self-Esteem (22 min)
Chapter 9 - Studies About Dark Psychology (20 min)
Chapter 10 - Grand Scale Manipulation (16 min)
Conclusion (7 min)

Emotional Abuse & Trauma Recovery ***
Introduction (9 min)
Chapter 1 - Emotional Abuse (26 min)
Chapter 2 - Narcissistic Abuse Recover (23 min)
Chapter 3 - Gaslighting (18 min)
Chapter 4 - Codependency (16 min)
Chapter 5 - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (15 min)
Chapter 6 - Breaking Free From Unhealthy Patters (17 min)
Chapter 7 - Prioritized Yourself and Set Boundaries (25 min)
Chapter 8 - Obsessive Thinking and CD (16 min)
Chapter 9 - Abandonment Fears (17 min)
Chapter 10 - Building Healthier Relationships (16 min)
Chapter 11 - Healing in Practice (22 min)
Chapter 12 - Hypnotism (11 min)
Conclusion (8 min)

Shadow Work for Beginners **
Introduction (10 min)
Chapter 1 - Your Shadow (10 min)
Chapter 2 - Shadow Work (18 min)
Chapter 3 - Self-Discovery (21 min)
Chapter 4 - Self-Acceptance (15 min)
Chapter 5 - Self-Esteem (23 min)
Chapter 6 - Your Unconscious Self (17 min)
Chapter 7 - Your Inner Child (11 min)
Chapter 8 - Healing Your Inner Child (19 min)
Chapter 9 - Exercise (48 min)
Chapter 10 - Master Your Emotions (15 min)
Conclusion (12 min)

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#EmotionalMastery #FreeAudiobookCodes #KindleUnlimited

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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Review: The Fireborne Blade

The Fireborne Blade The Fireborne Blade by Charlotte Bond
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novella didn’t quite work for me. To begin with, each of the nearly two dozen chapters of 170 some odd pages means that each was painfully short and the PoV changes fairly rapid. Not a fan. Add to that the six (6) info dump chapters presented as parts of a reference called “The Demise and Demesne of Dragons” that was used to wedge in most of the world-building and the four (4) flashback chapters that are needed to give the plot twist its punch, and you are left with a short story that simply tries to do too much in very little space … which is a shame, because what world building there was I found interesting for the most part. To be fair … a lot of readers might actually see this as a plus. At any rate, what is left is not enough to actually develop the characters, especially given that my initial reaction to all them was fairly strong dislike … so we are left with trope based caricatures that make the whole work feel like RPGLit (Not my favorite genre). I can’t help but wonder if this would have been better as a full length novel … the pieces are all there, just left undeveloped.

The basic story is a knight on a quest to retrieve a magic sword from a dragon (killing said dragon in the process). From the interwoven encyclopedia the reader is left with the impression that this is a fairly common pastime for knights, if quite dangerous. In this particular case, the knight is a woman who apparently disgraced herself over some imagined slight and thinks this legendary sword will return her into the good graces of the king … not exactly sure how that is supposed to work, but then again, I don’t really understand the whole motivation of the knight here to begin with … it comes across and a super contrived and poorly constructed plot device. Of course … every knight has a squire, even disgraced knights … but this squire is a tad off from the beginning, so it should come as no surprise this because an important factor at the end … which frankly seemed a bit rushed and deus ex machina to be honest (might have avoided that with more room to build up the final conflict, but then again, maybe not). There are some stylistic choices that didn’t seem consistent to me as well, and that detracted from the over all quality of the book, making seem like a debut story …

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheFireborneBlade #NetGalley

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Sunday, November 26, 2023

Review: Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins

Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins Why the Bible Began: An Alternative History of Scripture and its Origins by Jacob L. Wright

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is one of the foundational sacred scriptures for three (3) [Abrahamic] religions. Each tradition takes a slightly different approach to interpreting what it actually says (exegesis), but few commentaries explore why each story is told the way it is told … perhaps because of a presumption that because they were inspired by God, they did not actually change or evolve … a presumption that is no longer the general consensus of biblical scholars. In fact, there is a significant wing that promotes the exact opposite supported by recent discoveries of ancient versions of the text that appear to illustrate how they evolved over time for different jewish communities. Stepping into that academic line of questioning, Why the Bible Began begins with accepting this evolution as fact and then takes it one step further by suggesting that there was a specific purpose to the work of these historical redactors and a specific reason these changes endured (why the work).

Most biblical scholars are familiar with the document hypothesis … this appears to take a slightly different approach. It starts with the idea that there really never was a United Monarchy … in fact, the starting point very nearly aligns with the minimalists view of early Israel. As such, we start to see parts of what appears to be conflicting traditions woven together for a specific goal … to create the idea of a people define by belief and practice instead of by territory or ruler in order to help the community survive being under the heel of external conquerors. What I found interesting is how this was a concept that was mostly driven by circumstances … in other words, it was the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel that provided much of the skill and source material to weave together disparate traditions to make a unified national narrative. Then it was the subsequent fall of the Southern Judean Kingdom that forced the creation of a people narrative to united the community throughout all of the diaspora.

Over all, despite being more of an academic piece, it was well supported and very accessible if you are interested and open to this approach … it won’t work for everybody. There are a lot of references to assumptions that represent current research that make this more of a companion work that provides a solid overview with a deeper dive into the support to fully understand the why the author takes the stance that he does.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Part I - The Rise and Fall
Chapter 1 - Abraham and Sarah: From One to the Many
Chapter 2 - Miriam: Empire and Exodus
Chapter 3 - Deborah: A New Dawn
Chapter 4 - King David: Between North and South
Chapter 5 - Ahab and Jezebel: Putting Israel on the Map
Chapter 6 - Jehu and Elisha: Israel’s Downfall and Judah’s Jubilation
Chapter 7 - Hezekiah and Isaiah: Putting Judah on the Map
Chapter 8 - Josiah and Huldah: Judah’s Downfall and Deportation

Part II - Admitting Defeat
Chapter 9 - Daughter Zion : Finding One’s Voice
Chapter 10 - The Creator: Comforting the Afflicted
Chapter 11 - Haggai the Prophet: Laying the Foundation
Chapter 12 - Nehemiah the Builder: Restoring Judean Pride
Chapter 13 - Ezra the Educator: Forming a People of the Book
Chapter 14 - Hoshayahu the Soldier: Peoplehood as a Pedagogical Project

Part III - A New Narrative
Chapter 15 - Jeremiah and Baruch: A Monument to Defeat
Chapter 16 - Isaac and Rebekah: The Family Story
Chapter 17 - Moses and Joshua: The People’s History
Chapter 18 - Hannah and Samuel: The Palace History
Chapter 19 - Solomon and the Queen of Sheba: The National Narrative
Chapter 20 - Jonah and the Whale: The prophets as Survival Literature
Chapter 21 - Yhwh and His People: Codes, Covenant, and Kinship

Part IV - A People of Protest
Chapter 22 - The Matriarch: Women and the Biblical Agenda
Chapter 23 - The Hero: Redefining Gender Roles
Chapter 24 - The Other: Tales of War, Outsiders, and Allegiance
Chapter 25 - The Soldier: Sacrificial Death and Eternal Life
Chapter 26 - The Prophet and the Priest: Open Access, Public transparency and Separation of Powers
Chapter 27 - The Sage: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes
Chapter 28 - The Poet: Song of Songs and Psalms
Chapter 29 - The Queen: Peoplehood without Piety
Chapter 30 - Conclusions: Nations, Nationalism, and New Bibles

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

Through its destruction at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians, the nation became essentially a religious community held together by the cult. The precondition for this religious community was foreign control, which forced Jews from the political sphere into the spiritual

That Elohim created humans in his image was a radical claim. Traditionally, only the king is made in the divine image; here it is all humans.

Rather, the scribes who curated the biblical corpus consciously took what priests and palace members had long guarded as their special heritage and made it available, and indeed mandatory, for the education and edification of the entire nation.

Having forfeited territorial sovereignty, communities in both the North and South needed to create for themselves a space in a foreign empire. The space they carved out is not so much territorial and political as it is social, one demarcated by practice and behavior. And because this project was by and large the work of scribes, the tools they used for demarcating it were written traditions.

The answer to this question bears directly on two rival accounts of the nation’s origins. We have just explored how scribes created one account, the Family Story, by connecting the originally independent figures of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We now turn our attention to a competing work, the Exodus-Conquest Account, that begins with the stories of Moses’ birth and commission.

The People ’s History consists, as we saw, of two parts: the Family Story of Genesis and the Exodus-Conquest Account. At the heart of the Family Story are traditions related to Isaac, Esau, and Jacob; they likely originated before the downfall of the Northern kingdom in 722  but were clearly reworked – from both Northern and Southern perspectives – for centuries thereafter.

Over the centuries, Southerners came to see themselves as members of the people of Israel. As they did, the People’s History became a prehistory and preamble to the older Palace History, with the People’s History furnishing a framework for the most formative stories as well as collections of divinely revealed laws.

With this sacred object, scribes charted a path from Mount Sinai to Mount Zion. These two fixed points in the National Narrative correspond to two competing social circles, one that identified with the Torah and the study of texts, and the other that identified with the temple and priestly rituals. The Ark thread in the National Narrative ties them together by telling how Moses deposited the tablets of the Torah in the Ark, and then how later Solomon deposited the Ark containing these tablets in the temple.

The inception of the covenant thus provided a major impetus for scribes to embellish the National Narrative. Older portions of those books had already combined disparate histories into a common story, giving divided communities a shared past and sense of kinship. But after being reworked, the narrative’s overarching purpose is to demonstrate the validity of the covenant, culminating with the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah.

The scribes who curated the biblical corpus clearly did not want make space for some form of heavenly afterlife. For them, future life and “resurrection”were to be sought in a revived community after its death in defeat–one with families finding their ultimate happiness in the enjoyment of the good, God-given earth that had been created to endure for eternity.

Thanks to these ambitious editorial moves, the Pentateuch punctures the bubble of priestly privilege. Prerogative becomes duty. It is no longer a matter of what the priests get to do but rather what they have to do. They are to perform their tasks on behalf of the nation, and they must neither shirk their duties nor bend them according to political influence.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, November 23, 2023

Review: Rise, the Quantamancer

Rise, the Quantamancer Rise, the Quantamancer by A.R. McNevin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ***

An interesting if confusing fantasy

This is a difficult book to review. The initial publisher’s blurb was very interesting; however, the book struggled to deliver on that promise in several areas. Perhaps the most significant critique would the the overwhelming tendency to describe verse show that made it story something akin to reading an encyclopedia. There were long sections of data dumps that, while vaguely interesting, were also boring. The undifferentiated voices in the narration didn’t help with that as each chapter seemed to bleed into each other. There were for PoV hijinx as well where for some reason the storyline following the witch Danika was told by her bard companion where Edgar told his own story and Thaddeus had more of an anonymous narrator. Not a big deal … but when you title your chapters on the character PoV and then not tell it from their perspective … I found it to be a tad disorientating. Then there is the execution. The basic idea is that science stopped working, but the way that was actually done was extremely inconsistent and also confusing. It was not until the end that it started to makes sense and frankly my wife had already given up on the book by then. I did manage to stick it out until the end though and I found that the story does get better as it evolves.

The basic plot revolves around three (3) characters as they try to figure out their “post-science” world. Edgar is the science guy and has to totally reinvent himself after everything he knows no longer governs how the world works. For the most part, he drifts around the Washington DC area until he eventually aligns with the anti-magic (formerly known as science) faction and slowly corrects and adds nuance to the idea that science has failed. Along the way, we see a third faction that also seems to be opposed to the new world order … religion … and as expected, it was not portrayed in the best light. Danika is an earth witch in the Connecticut/NYC area and is basically on a quest (accompanied by her companion bard/narrator Jaskier wannabe) to make sure the evils of science don’t come back (as can be imagined, there is a lot of overly simplified pontificating by both sides). Thaddeus is the last character and arguable the most interesting … since he is over 1000 years old and a survivor from the original fall of magic to modernity. For this book, he adds a few interesting side quests but no real help in advances the plot … of which there is a minor resolution at the end as well as a huge epilogue and setup for the sequel. Over all it was a super light, if mildly entertaining, story that struggles to rise above the standard fantasy tropes.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Review: Women and Warfare in the Ancient World: Virgins, Viragos and Amazons

Women and Warfare in the Ancient World: Virgins, Viragos and Amazons Women and Warfare in the Ancient World: Virgins, Viragos and Amazons by Karlene Jones-Bley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is an interesting presumption about the participation of women in warfare, which is arguably an activity largely restricted to men; so I was very much interested in the potential for this book, especially given the fairly recent news of DNA results reclassifying some “warrior” burials (bodies interred with weapons) as female instead of their original classification of male. This had given me the impression that the historical record might be incorrectly over looking the contribution of woman warriors. Unfortunately, this book does very little to change what is arguably a consensus that actually taking up arms and fighting in the rank and file is a predominantly male activity. The focus here appears to be more on myth (gods and legends) and power (queens and commanders) which are more an exception to the rule than anything else and are not really anything new.

That is not to say I didn’t enjoy reading about these famous and powerful women, I did … but I was looking for something different here … evidence about what the “average” woman did in war … and as might be expected (although only hinted at here) is that this was primarily restricted to a defense of home and hearth (under or alongside the husband unless they were away) … with the potential exception of Scythian horse archers, the presumed inspiration for the amazon legends (which absolutely makes sense). In fact, the focus on female deities does not IMHO do anything to support the concept of human women in war (especially given the prevalence of such deities within societies that had near complete prohibitions of such). In addition, the area of investigation was restricted to what is largely considered to be the western world (and immediate influence such as Persia). So while the information was interesting, it remains a disappointedly incomplete treatment of the subject.

The chapters and sections in this work are

Chapter 1. In the Beginning: Mythological Figures
Chapter 2. Indo-European Goddesses Affiliated with War
Chapter 3. Legendary Figures - Mortal and Supernatural
Chapter 4. Archaeological Evidence
Chapter 5. Historical Women Through the Roman Period
Chapter 6. Historical Women from the Roman Period to 1492

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

The military women we will examine in this work possess at least three characteristics in common. They are recurrently thought of, or described as, virgins, are characterised as viragos and very often labelled as amazons.

Although we have a fair amount of evidence for women working outside the home in antiquity (see Stol 2018: 339–90), for much of human history a woman’s place was thought to be in the home, bearing children and taking care of the needs of her family.

Although we might think that the archaeological evidence would clarify the question of what defines women warriors–she who has weapons is, she who lacks them isn’t–it does not. In fact, the archaeologists’ conclusions often lead to further questions. Some scholars take the presence of weapons as proof of ‘warriorhood’, but others do not. Weapons alone do not confirm military activities.

The weapons represented with the goddesses are, usually, less tangible and more generic, serving more as identifiers of their warrior aspects than weapons to be used in combat. The intangible weapons used by a number of the goddesses fall primarily into three categories: magic, interference or in a number of cases–particularly the Irish–sex.

Furthermore, other Semitic cognates of btlt render the term more as a ‘nubile girl, adolescent’, and not precisely ‘virgin’ in the modern English sense. The nubile designation also comports with the general depiction of her as ‘young and nubile, with small breasts and a thin body’ (ibid., 83), leading Walls to use the term ‘maiden’.

The term ‘virgin’ did not always refer to a physical state, one which implied chastity … [T]he term may well have been a figurative one which pertained to age, not necessarily chronologically, but qualitatively. A virgin was in the youth of her powers, in the process of storing them, and, as such, her ‘batteries’ were ‘fully charged’. Indeed, virgins not only stored untapped energy for men, but they were also able to transmit their powers to them in a nonsexual manner, without diminishing those powers.

There may be a memory also of the priestesses of the god of war, women who officiated at the sacrificial rites when captives were put to death after battle. The name Valkyrie means, literally, ‘chooser of the slain’, and in the eleventh century an Anglo-Saxon bishop, Wulfstan, included ‘choosers of the slain’ in a black list of sinners, witches, and evil-doers in his famous Sermo Lupi.

To the Greeks, the thought of Amazons brought fear of chaos. Amazons were a symbol of female aggression and this was no way for a woman to behave.

The shieldmaidens (skjaldm√¶r) appear in Scandinavian mythology and folklore as young women who choose to fight as warriors. A shieldmaiden is said to keep men at spear’s length, approaching them only when she is armed with a spear or axe. These shieldmaidens are females (it is not completely clear if they were maidens in the chaste sense) who chose to go into battle.

The results concluded that the skeleton of the Birka warrior in grave Bj.581 was, indeed, that of a female, establishing her as ‘the first confirmed female high-ranking Viking warrior’, and that she also has a genetic affinity to the population of what we can consider the Viking world (ibid., 5).

The earliest reference to women engaging in this activity comes from a senatorial edict of ad 11 that bars women from the arena and a later, ad 19, edict that ‘banned the descendants of senators and equestrians (as well as the wives of the latter) from fighting in the arena as gladiators’ (ibid., 956).

This extraordinary woman was never directly involved in the military, but she lived through war and revolution. Her Book of Deeds gives diverse advice on how to select a campground, what was good camp food, how to attack a stronghold, how to defend a castle and what was required for a general’s bed.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Sunday, November 19, 2023

Review: Julian of Norwich: And the Mystical Body Politic of Christ

Julian of Norwich: And the Mystical Body Politic of Christ Julian of Norwich: And the Mystical Body Politic of Christ by Frederick Christian Bauerschmidt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: ***
Performance: ***

Not for the Faint of Heart

It’s an academic piece, so performance wise it was adequate. This book itself was a look into the writings of Julian of Norwich, who is created with writing one of the earliest surviving english language works by a woman. While living as an anchoress in a cell at St Julian Church in Norwich, she became seriously ill and experienced several (16) visions; after which wrote them done into what would become known as the short text [The Showings]. Much later, she reexamined those visions and attempted to explain them better in what would become known as the long text [of Julian’s Revelations of Divine Love]. The net result is that her writings show a fairly mystical , while at the same time very corporal, understanding God’s love and redemptive desire for man, primarily from an aspect of the feminine/motherhood … all of which makes her somewhat dated works difficult to fully comprehend by a modern, casual reader such as me. It was my hope this book would make her more accessible. It did not.

I say this because this is first and foremost a philosophical/theological examination … to which the use of language that is rarely seen outside those genres that make what is presented quite dense, nuanced and difficult to understand. Placing Julians concepts within other medieval mystics and thinkers further exacerbate the struggle. In the end, I don’t really know how to even summarize the primary point beyond a general feel that bodily suffering somehow reveals the Love of God. I did get some insight into how woman of that time were treated … but then I really didn’t need to that to know how complete weird and hard and oppressive the life of woman then.

Introduction (0:04)
Chapter 1: Imagining the Political (1:31)
Chapter 2: I Desired a Bodily Sight (1:17)
Chapter 3: A Fair and Delectable Place - Part 1 (1:19)
Chapter 4: A Fair and Delectable Place - Part 2(1:20)
Chapter 5: A Continuant Laborer - Part 1 (1:25)
Chapter 6: A Continuant Laborer - Part 2 (1:17)
Conclusion: Performing the Book (0:31)
Appendix: Who Was Julian of Norwich (0:26)

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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Thursday, November 16, 2023

Review: The Coded Blue Envelope

The Coded Blue Envelope The Coded Blue Envelope by Anna Elliott
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book: **
Performance: ****

By now it should be clear that I am a fan of the series; this my review here is primarily on how it sits within the corpus. With that in mind … it is decidedly average and more or less what I have come to expect as Sherlock and the Sons of Ra under Lord Sonneborne (the big bad for this trilogy) maneuver around a plot to throw the empire into disarray so that Egypt might gain their independence. The story begins in Milan Italy with Lucy’s mother Zoe before moving back to London to secure the help of Sherlock and Lucy … and it is a marvelous opportunity to explore more of Zoe’s history and personality (and perhaps learn a bit more about how she hooked up with Sherlock so long ago). Jack, Becky and Flynn, as part of the expended caste, make a few minor contributions just so we can stay in touch while the blue envelope macguffin holds an important clue to the ultimate overarching plot that will remove itself one way or another on the next story … and for some reason, that was not enough of an incentive, this story ends in a surprising cliffhanger (minus 1 star) that makes the beginning of the next book more confusing than it should have been. Still it was fun and I continue to recommend this trilogy and the series over all.

I was given this free advance review/listener copy (ARC) audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.