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

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Review: The Last Druid

The Last Druid The Last Druid by Terry Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Druid concludes the Fall of Shannara tetralogy as well as the entire Shannara series. While I started the Shannara series at the begining many years ago, the last book that I managed to read was the Isle Witch ... so most of the build up to this story I didn't have, and it was a little difficult to pick up in the beginning (having some background for the much earlier stories helped a lot).

The story opens with the resolution of what appears to have been a cliff hanger from the previous book (I generally dislike books ending with such cliff hangers, so the previous book would have lost a star for that). Most of the world builder has already happend in previous books, so that was minimal here; however, I did manage to pull together a lot of it from the story context and it appears to be rock-solid (like the majority of the Shannara series). The further tilt toward a pseudo-steampunk feel was a welcome trend (and puts into place a question of magic vs technology that was fun to explore). Add an environmental crisis and some political intrigue and you could vaguely make out a commentary of our current times without being too preachy.

There were a lot of characters to keep track of too; along with three or four separate sub-plots that were somewhat jarring for me to switch between (I tend favor a more linear story). The two main lines were Drisker being stuck in the Forbidding where he needed to team up with the Isle Witch (that was cool) to come back and Tasha bouncing back from her disastrous encounter with the evil Druid Clizia. Then we get just a little about the war between the Federation and the Skaar (frankly I found these minor sub-plots to be more interesting). After a slow and somewhat drawn out start, the story accelerates in the second half to actually become enjoyable ... and I can't argue with how it all ends ... pretty much as you would expect this time.

If you are a fan of Shannara, I would definitely recommend it. It would be better if you at least read the first three in this storyline though.

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

#TheLastDruid #NetGalley

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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Review: Blood and Fire

Blood and Fire Blood and Fire by Kim Mullican
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First off, this is one of those books where I actually just want a solid story that doesn't need some "new" take on [one of my favorite] genres. And while it took a bit to connect with the MC, I really grew to love her [and her side kick] by the end and I am looking forward to hearing/reading the rest of their story in the future. The tropey context was fun and light hearted without being too dark, with weres, vamps, demons, witches and sorcerers all in the mix to tell a story with a couple of converging plotlines. Who is Elaina and why does the coven of witches she hates so much want to get their hands on her? Who is killing off vampires and why? ... Oh and here is a totally kool take on necromancers just to make the book more interesting.

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

#BloodAndFire #AudibookFree #KindleUnlimited

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Sunday, April 24, 2022

Review: Quest 52: A Fifteen-Minute-A-Day Yearlong Pursuit of Jesus

Quest 52: A Fifteen-Minute-A-Day Yearlong Pursuit of Jesus Quest 52: A Fifteen-Minute-A-Day Yearlong Pursuit of Jesus by Mark Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quest 52 is billed as a year long study devotional designed to help the reader come into a better understanding of Christ Jesus; as such, it specifically targets Christians and assumes that is their ultimately goal. The book is extremely well organized with one (1) chapter for each week of the year. The chapters are grouped into four (4) sections: The Person of Jesus, The Power of Jesus, The Preaching of Jesus and The Passion of Jesus. These sections are further divided into three (3) topics each (Person: Beginning, Person: Purpose, Person: Relationships; Power: Wonders, Power: Signs, Power: Claims; Preaching: Teaching, Preaching: Stories, Preaching: Training; Passion: Preparation, Passion: Suffering, Passion: Victory). Each chapter is assigned a Biblical Concept and applicable Gospel readings before opening with a brief personal story leading into a more in depth discussion of the idea. The Chapter closes with a summary of Key Points and related activities for five (5) days within the week, associated to Eyes, Ears, Heart and Voice. Further resources are included with a url to online material that was not ready at the time of this review (I did view some examples and found them to be pretty good). Over all, this book would be a good source for individual reflection and/or group discussion.

I have been looking at a number of weekly devotionals, and the longer they run, the harder it is for each section to stay relevant. I found the author does a fantastic job in the beginning, were I picked up a lot to think about; however, he does stretch a little towards the end. Even when I did not completely buy into what the author was saying, there was enough to make it all worth it. The author does have a habit of making statements that are not supported by the available evidence or scholastic consensus, and that reinforces the need to take nothing here at face value, it is still a very good place to start. For example, the Author makes a statement that no prayer ever addressed God as Father before … perhaps I misunderstood the intent, but that doesn’t appear to be accurate since the Avinu Malkenu (Our Father, Our King) provides some evidence of the Jewish liturgical roots of the Lord’s Prayer; just as Jesus did with much of His teaching, He took something familiar to His audience and made it uniquely His. Then there is his attempt to medically diagnose how crucified victims actually died, and more specifically, how Jesus died (ruptured heart … while poetic that can’t be diagnosed purely by the fact that blood and water came out of his pierced side). It was enough to make me fairly cautious of some of the specifics the author includes in his discussions.

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

#Quest52 #NetGalley.

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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Review: Systemic

Systemic Systemic by Chris Lodwig
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Narration was pretty good, but not great.

So I basically knew what I was getting coming into this story after exchanging a few emails with the author. As advertised, this is a "just straight up, earth-bound, nothing super-natural, AI, mind control sci-fi" that I requested less for the entertainment value and more for "exploring the human condition and/or our evolution as well as any vision into how our tech might evolve." On this the author delivers a solid, well researched story with four (4) converging POVs (including the AI itself). The first part of the book is really setting the stage and world building. This is where a lot of authors get the tech so wrong it interferes with the story ... not here. There was just enough to impress, but not enough to bore; however, the story may seem to drag here for some readers/listeners because of the limited action (it is a long build-up). What was really interesting was how the AI/System evolved into the ultimate arbiters of the truth (surprisingly apropos in our current politcal climate). The second half of the book certainly picks up the pace until you get a fantastic (and somewhat unexpected) ending that requires you to think about what the AI's role ultimately was (and who were the good guys and who were the bad guys). This book is designed from the start to make you think about things ... which is why I really enjoyed it.

This title is also currently available on Kindle Unlimited ...
I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#feeaudiobookcodes #audiobookboom #systemic

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Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Review: Shards of Earth

Shards of Earth Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best Space-Operas that I have encountered (Welcome to my favorites list). Although there is not much new or unique here (we see fairly typical Sci-Fi tropes such as sentient AI, eugenic cloning, cybernetic biohacking, enigmatic aliens, hapless ship crew, et al.), Tchaikovsky masterfully weaves it all into a compelling world that comes across in a way that makes it easy for the reader to imagine themselves in the story along with the [well developed] main characters.

A rather long prologue introduces us to the two main protagonists … an amazon clone and psionic “navigator” (with an apparent nod to Dune) that reunite decades after they fought off the Lovecraftian “Architects” attack on humanity … who join up with the rather eclectic crew of a deep space salvage vessel (whimsically called the 'Vulture God') retrieve a missing ship from the deep void of space. This sets off a cascading adventure as the crew navigates through conflicting political schemes that draws the reader along to the point that you just don’t want to put the book down (it kept my attention into the dark hours of the early morning) and hands out a few [GoT] surprises along the way. Ultimately we get a satisfying ending and a good setup for a sequel that I can’t wait to read ...

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

#ShardsOfEarth #NetGalley

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Sunday, April 17, 2022

Review: Common Callings and Ordinary Virtues: Christian Ethics for Everyday Life

Common Callings and Ordinary Virtues: Christian Ethics for Everyday Life Common Callings and Ordinary Virtues: Christian Ethics for Everyday Life by Brent Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was a rather ambitious book trying to make us see the value in the “ordinary” habits in the formation of [christian] character, making a premise that I was looking forward to exploring. The book is 16 chapters spread over three parts covering basic philosophical themes, relationships and activities. The author acknowledges several challenges in the preface, which were unfortunately the primary reason this book didn’t always work for me. In particular, the abstract language favored in philosophical discussions that make the work less accessible to those less “sophisticated” readers (such as me). I tend to favor more plain language and more direct examples. Instead we get frequent critiques of “later moderns” for what they are doing wrong before implying that they shouldn’t be doing that. It would have been much better to simply focus on the positive here and imply everything else.

Chapter one defines a calling as a “command to take on a way of life or specific task” and tries to place this within the context of God’s three (3) acts of love: creation, incarnation and resurrection. Almost immediately after that we hit problems with definitions that I frequently struggle with in this genre. To be, a vocation is the goal or destination one is called to. I am called to holy orders and my vocation is to be servant to many. For the author, it is simple a set of skills and practices (aka habits) that “are required to fulfill a calling.” So I would be called to holy orders and preaching, prayer, et al would be my vocation. Granted it’s a nit, but like a grain of sand in a shoe eventually becomes fairly irritating … especially when the next chapter tells us this division is artificial and arbitrary (than why do it there). There was a lot of words here that basically boils down to we are called to love where we are attentive to the needs of the other (the term used here is unselfing which I find moderately awkward over something like just selfless). Next up is a discussion of virtues and vices that help form the habits we need to be properly ordered toward the good. There is nothing particular new or controversial here before we get to how we order time and place. I would have liked the author to have developed chapter four on that topic a little more.

Next up is the care and feeding of our relationships [with our neighbors], including various definitions of types of neighbors and the different responses appropriate to each … which is a bit strange within the whole concept of love thy neighbor … but makes perfect sense within the context of hospitality and obligation … which is not exactly love (ordered to the good of the other) but is necessary for the proper order of society. I think I would have structured this section differently, starting with spouses, family, friends and up with a little more discussion on how we are called to each and what obligations and skills are needed to nurture those relationships. All of that is there, just not intuitively organized and sometimes it is not really clear what is that different for each type of neighbor. We also get introduced to the concept of late modern nomads and a hint of the author’s disapproval of progresses (although he tries to condemn the extremes of both sides, he only focuses on the progressive “elites”).

Finally we get to the mundane activities which make up the bulk of our everyday living with basic break down of work, leisure, and play (I tend to combine the last two where the author appears to reserve leisure to something like sabbath theology). There was a lot here that I just didn’t connect with and that is a shame since in my mind this should have been the heart of the whole book. How do we order the mundane within our lives toward love of God and Neighbor. Instead is seemed more like a treatise on etiquette and manners and outward appearance (which is important, but the reason give for why did not resonate with me). Here again, I think less criticisms and more positive examples would have greatly improved the feel of this section and made it more effective.

Over all, this was a decent book, but I can’t help but feel this was a missed opportunity to be a great book.

Part One: Theological and Moral Themes
- Chapter 1 Creation, Incarnation, and Resurrection
- Chapter 2 Calling and Vocation
- Chapter 3 Virtue and Vice
- Chapter 4 Ritual and the Ordering of Time and Place
Part Two: Everyday Relationships
- Chapter 5 Neighbors
- Chapter 6 Friends
- Chapter 7 Spouses
- Chapter 8 Parents and Children
- Chapter 9 Strangers
- Chapter 10 Citizens
Part Three: Everyday Activities
- Chapter 11 Work
- Chapter 12 Housework and Homework
- Chapter 13 Manners
- Chapter 14 Appearance
- Chapter 15 Eating
- Chapter 16 Leisure
Postscript On the Good of Being Boring

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

#CommonCallingsandOrdinaryVirtues #NetGalley

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Thursday, April 14, 2022

Review: Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings

Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings Children of Ash and Elm: A History of the Vikings by Neil Price
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a scholastic reference book, so expect it to read accordingly; that said, I found it to be fairly interesting and engrossing as it reinforced what I already knew and added substantially to it. While the scholarship within this book is fairly evident, it remains accessible to the 'layman' with how it is presented to the reader. This means that readers who have more experience with some of the historical disciplines combined by the author may find themselves skimming over significant parts of the book while the author brings the rest of us up to speed. It does drag considerably once it gets into the various Viking raids (I am sure there is something I missed in all that while skimming).

Most of the literature about the Vikings has focused What they did and not Why they did it. This book attempts to rectify that oversight. It begins by exploring the actual etymology of the term Viking before trying to identify exactly who the Vikings were and highlight some of the accretions that get us to how to see Vikings today. Rather than defining Vikings by the encounters they had with more than 50 peoples, this book tries to example the similarities within Vikings culture using a few interactions as examples of the whole. But first ... let's talk about what we know and how we know it (and of course the limitations of how we know it). Probably the most significant limitation of any Viking Era research is the scarcity of written material from within its predominately oral culture (nearly all of the written histories are from "foreign contemporaries" who wrote about them).

To get an idea of the Viking mind, the other begins with an exploration of Nordic Cosmology/Mythology. As something of a Nordophile, I already knew most of this material and found it to be clearly stated and inline with my expectations after skimming through most of it. The difference here is the author's more pragmatic approach to these myths that tries to identify how these myths are linked aspects of ordinary Viking life instead of a foundation for religious life (which was also inline with my expectations). In other words, he tries ot make distinction between appearance/perception and reality. What I found most helpful here was the author's ability to combine, explain and contrast different aspects of Viking Era beliefs.

After this, the author explores what set the Vikings in motion. Citing various environmental and political changes that severely impact the North around the 6th century, we find wide spread evidence of a population under stress; with a reminder that populations under stress usually start migrating elsewhere (in this case, potentially accompanied by former Roman auxiliaries; or perhaps simply Roman armed former allies). [Fimbul]Winter is coming ... and Scandinavian communities needed to reinvent themselves to survive, and what emerged was a very different society.

One aspect explored where I learned quite a lot was the intersection of law, magic and sexuality. I am sure some of the material is controversial, but it did explain a number of concepts that have puzzled me before ... such as the whole idea of women's magic (seithr) and why men were not allowed to practice it. Just as important, the author highlights several instances of Viking behavior (typically around funerary practices) for which we may never have a satisfactory explanation. In the end, I came away with a better understanding of the Viking Age.

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

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Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Review: Rust

Rust Rust by C.J. Stilling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First Contact doesn’t go as planned; human vs alien (aka Ellumae) nearly wipe each other out. When a final peace eventually arrives, those responsible for the most death and destruction are exiled (together) to a remote planet. In the background are the long gone “Dawn Bringers” (aliens responsible to seeding life in the universe before disappearing and leaving enigmatic artifacts behind). Given that the aliens are actually parasitic entities that can take over a host’s body, it would be tough not to compare the story to “The Host’ by Stephenie Meyer … and it does have a lot of similarities; however, the science introduced in this story is much better and the love story is more of a slow burn until the end (it does have a few twists that are predicable, if somewhat gratifying when they are finally confirmed). The Title takes its lead from a strange alien contagion (aka Rust) found on this new world that appears to have a connection to the original Dawn Bringers (and perhaps even humans and ellumae) that threatens the colony of refugees and our Heroes are in the thick of it trying to figure out a solution while also trying to to kill each other. All in all, it was enough to keep me engaged and reading chapter after chapter all the way to the end.

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

#Rust #BookSirens #KindleUnlimited

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Sunday, April 10, 2022

Review: Introducing Old Testament Theology

Introducing Old Testament Theology Introducing Old Testament Theology by W H Bellinger
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Having just completed my own course in the Old Testament, there was a lot here that was very familiar … except this book was done much better than my class text. Written in an accessible style with an obvious scholastic foundation, Bellinger begins by telling the reader how he will construct his argument, before presenting his well thought out discussions and then following all of that with a summary conclusion. The basic approach taken avoided any debate on the details of the Old Testament to focus more on the overall purpose and intent of the early redactors within a paradigm of divine revelation and human response. What I found extremely interesting what his initial disclosure of his religious affiliation with the Baptist church and his recognition that his revealed background would inevitably impact his scholarship and interpretation. Coming from an entirely different confession, that was enough to make me a little more attentive to potential divergence … but I never really found much. This approach to the Old Testament should be welcome to pretty much any Judeo-Christian believer.

The book opens with a survey of the current state of Old Testament theology, and the changing consensus that appears to be underway before proposing in the next chapter three perspectives through which we get a framework to better understand the text … and just as imported, what human response is expected to what was revealed. What Bellinger adds to the discussion is the idea that there is a separate prophetic theology attached to the more obvious creation and covenant theology along with a discussion of how they are interact with each other through the entire scripture along with a brief summary of the context from which they emerged. In chapter 2, he begins to develop this concept with a discussion on how the use of the Psalms as liturgy within the faith community ties it all together. “First, it suggests that the most fruitful context for sharing a theology is a worshiping community. Second, the Psalter most frequently articulates the initiative for God’s engagement with the world coming from the divine side.” It gave me an even greater appreciation for the Psalter. With that in hand, we march through the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures identifying where God is present to Bless and the human response of Wisdom (Creation Theology), where God comes to deliver and the human response of instruction/torah (Covenant Theology) and finally where God speaks and the human response of repentance (Prophetic Theology). Through out the discussion, Bellinger systematically guides the reader in well organized supporting material and interpretations that stay away from any debate or judgement on specific details to present a mile high overview of the entire scripture. Even as a scholastic work, Bellinger uses common language to make this one of the most accessible works on biblical exegesis that I have encountered … so I recommend it for all audiences :-)

Chapter 1 - Beginnings
Chapter 2 - A Shape for Old Testament Theology
Chapter 3 - Pentateuch
Chapter 4 - Historical Books
Chapter 5 - Psalms
Chapter 6 - Wisdom
Chapter 7 - Prophecy
Chapter 8 - Conclusion

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

#IntroducingOldTestamentTheology #NetGalley

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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Review: Watchmen

Watchmen Watchmen by Alan Moore
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection that I would not have picked up on my own; mostly because I am not much of a graphic novel type. However, in this case, I was actually surprised that I liked it at all. The book is actually 12 comic books mashed together with some filler text that provided some back-story. The general concept was that what we would commonly refer to as super heroes actually became a fashion for awhile ... and they were seen as what they really were ... masked vigilantes. The premise opens up a very interesting debate on how government should work and what should happen when it fails to protect the governed. The American West (and to some extent, the South) has a significant history in vigilantism, so it was pretty easy to see this world as possible ...

And it was an extremely dark and unpleasant world. I didn't much care for the apparent fascination with blood in the frequent depictations of violence within the story, but I could accept them given the dark tenor of the plot. A few heroes even had intriguing character flaws, but the format didn't really allow us to explore them very deeply. There was a touch on predestination using Dr. Manhattan as the foil that was actually very well done; however, the scene on Mars was almost entirely superfluous IMHO and should have been dumped. Others may argue that it is was a component which illustrated Dr. Manhattan's inhumanness (or at the very least, his isolation from humanity), but I thought that had already been accomplished when he left Earth.

Finally there was the story within a story provided by a character whose sole purpose was to read another comic book within THIS comic book and presented a storyline that was apparently supposed to shadow (or foreshadow) how this story would end ... and I must say that the two stories were only tenuously linked at best and the ending of the main plot was singularly unsatisfying, while the ending of the black freighter story was relatively predictable. All in all it didn't add as much to the story as it should have.

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Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Review: The Hunger of the Gods

The Hunger of the Gods The Hunger of the Gods by John Gwynne
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book is a sequel to The Shadow of the Gods, The Hunger of the Gods “fixes” the main issues that I had with the first book. First and probably most important, there is a real conclusion to many of the plot conflicts where as I felt the story just ended in the first book (surprise, some bad guys get what they deserved). Ideally I was say that these two should just be one book, but each are already fairly long stories, so unless you have a high tolerance for a long plot build-up (or you DNF’d the first book), don’t feel guilty jumping in here because you will catch up pretty fast. If you are even remotely a fan of Norse history and mythology, you won’t regret it … because that is what this story is all about.

The world building is deep and rich, leveraging the world of the Norsemen/Vikings and is well researched and relatively authentic. That is probably because the author is a self proclaimed member of a viking re-enactment group (which is boss … I so want to do that). Just change up the gods a bit and pick up the story after Ragnarok (or the fall of the gods in this story) and you have the basic milieu found in the Norse sagas so well done the you could feel it (and it is GOT style brutal). The main character introduced in book one continue their adventures here; but the narratives begin with over lap and actually move the plot forward now with a coherence that was hard to find in the first book. Orka is still my favorite as the mama bear in search of her stolen cub, while Varg evolves from his thrall/slave roots into a drengr (norse knight or noble warrior). Even Elvar becomes a lot more interesting and relatable … so where I had a hard time connecting with the main characters in the first book, no such issues remain in this one and I am looking forward to reading book three.

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

#TheHungerOfTheGods #NetGalley

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Sunday, April 3, 2022

Review: From Isolation to Community

From Isolation to Community From Isolation to Community by Myles Werntz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was an interesting book on several levels. My initial thought was that the author was referencing the isolation of the current pandemic and would talk about how to get folks to come back and attend in person … that is not what this book is about at all and that caught me by surprise. Instead, the basic idea was this: “It is isolation that better describes the complex way in which sin divided human beings from God and one another, distancing them from the goodness and benefit of the God who is our source and from others, through whom we receive these good gifts.” Being separated from God as a result of sin is not an entirely novel idea; however, adding separation from others into that same equation was new for me and it was a profoundly beautify way to view what we need out of community. Even more interesting was how isolation can be seen as either a misplaced emphasis on the individual (or individualism) or an emphasis on conformity with a crowd (tribalism). The former is fairly come to see in the US and the later I have frequently encountered with tween students that never want to do anything that makes them stand out in the crowd. I other words, I felt that I knew exactly what the author was talking about. With the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer as a Guide, the author reviews a lot of the habits found within our church communities that also suffer from these two issues and tries to come up with proposed solutions.

Chapter 1 explored the nature and origin of isolation within the Christian Communion, with Chapter 2 and 3 tying that isolation to our fallen state (in other words, such is normal and to be expected) and why this is a problem. The most important mistake that I recognized here that is common to many churches is the drive to survive and grow that at times seems counter to the true mission of the church. Chapters 4, 5 and 6 start the process of what we need to do in order to over come this problem; mostly this seems focused on community prayer and action (service) … “to ask not only what we do but how we do it if in fact church practice is about being knit into one body in Christ and overcoming the isolation that is regnant in creation” breaking everything down into communal/common life, provide life and mission/ministry and is in my opinion the heart of the entire book … but was also short on specifics. I must admit to a bit of a struggle here as the analogies and repetition began to blur a bit for me; however, I still came away with what I believe is a good general understanding of the way forward. Most interesting was the exploration of the “days apart” concept and how that should be structured to reinforce the “days together.” Chapter 7 covers confession and communion with a surprising recognition that even within Protestant traditions, confession is important (just not necessarily to clergy). “Without the common confession of faith, we are only a body who knows how to judge in a way that divides, but without confession of sin, we are not a body that is willing to be healed.”

Over all this is a book to come back to as you slowly gain better income into the concepts that it contains and begin to put them into practice.

Introduction - Naming Our Problem: Isolation and the Human Condition
Part One - Isolation and the Structure of the World
- 1 Life in Isolation, Then and Now
- 2 The Church and the Practice of Isolation
- 3 The Logic of Bodily Community
Part Two - The New World of Christian Community
- 4 Renewing Common Life
- 5 Restructuring Private Life
- 6 Renewing the Shape of Ministry
- 7 Life Together Made Visible
Conclusion - After Isolation, in Isolation

I was given this free advance review copy (ARC) ebook 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.