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review 2019-02-10 23:39
John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer
John Harvey Kellogg, M.D.: Pioneering Health Reformer - Richard W. Schwarz

A pioneer of the Adventist health message and controversial figure that had a very public break from the Church, yet his life was whole lot more.  John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer by Richard W. Schwarz details the long life of a man who wanted to teach and not become a doctor, but who became both in advocating healthy living.

 

Schwarz begins the biography in the standard way in relating the background of Kellogg family just before John Harvey birth then proceeded to follow the young Kellogg’s life until he became a doctor.  The biography then shifts into various facets of Kellogg’s life ranging from his appointment to head Battle Creek Sanitarium and developing it, his development of various health foods and later his efforts commercially, his family life with 42 adopted children and cool relationships with his siblings, his humanitarian efforts, his work and later break with the Seventh-day Adventist Church including his relationship with Ellen White, and many more.  The final chapter chronicles the latter events of his 91 year long life including the struggle to keep Battle Creek Sanitarium open.

 

In around 240 pages, Schwarz gives a thorough look into everything that John Harvey Kellogg did throughout his life but in a non-chronological manner save for his early and late life.  Given the start length of the book and the long life of its subject, this non-chronological look was for the best as Schwarz covered topics in a straightforward manner and avoiding attempting to cover all of them in a on and off if the biography was written in a chronological fashion.  This format also allowed Schwarz to reference big events that effected all topics and foreshadowing there importance for when he covered them later in the book.

 

John Harvey Kellogg: Pioneering Health Reformer is a well-organized and informative biography of a notable pioneer in the Adventist health system that also influenced the larger American health landscape.  Richard W. Schwarz work is outstanding and his prose presents a very easy read which makes this book a highly recommended one for anyone interested in Adventist health history.

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review 2019-01-20 23:08
W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism's Second Generation
W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism's Second Generation - Gilbert M. Valentine

The work of reform and those that spearhead them are never easy, especially when religious belief is thrown into the mix.  Gilbert M. Valentine’s biography of administrator, educator, preacher, and theologian W.W. Prescott, lives up to its subtitle Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation, and shows his impact on the denomination over the course of 52 years and influence beyond.

 

Prescott’s life before beginning his denominational work in 1885 was first as a son of a hardworking New Hampshire business man and Millerite, who would not become a Seventh-day believer until his son was 3 years old.  The success of his father’s business allowed Prescott to get a very thorough education resulting in attending and graduating from Dartmouth.  He began his career as a principal at several schools before going into publishing until the call to become president of Battle Creek College began his career in denominational service.  From the outset, Prescott’s task to reform the College was went up against some faculty and their connections in the larger Adventist community, yet he slowly changed the institution to be more in-line to the thoughts of Ellen White on education.  Besides college president, Prescott became the denomination’s head of education and helped found two more colleges that he became titular president of at the same time he was in charge of Battle Creek.  Eventually Prescott would find himself playing peacekeeper between those in support and opposed to the 1888 message of E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones joins, but still upset people which eventually forced him to take refuge in Australia where his preaching and evangelism grew in leaps and bounds.  After an “exile” in England, Prescott was called to be the right-hand man to new General Conference President Arthur Daniells, which would begin a partnership of almost two decades in various forms.  Yet Prescott became the fount of controversy first as editor of the Review and Herald especially during the crisis with John Harvey Kellogg and then with his new theological understanding of “the daily” in Daniel 8 that was integrated into his Christocentric approach to Adventist doctrine and preaching, which would touch off numerous personal attacks for the rest of his life and overshadow the rest of his career especially as he attempted to help the denomination with problems that would later cause consternation nearly half a century later.

 

Due to my own reading of Adventist history, I had come across the name of Prescott but had not known the extent of his involvement with the denomination in so many areas, locations around the world, and controversies.  There is a lot packed into the 327 pages of text that Valentine expertly wove together to create an enthralling biography of man he grew to know well due to his years of research for his doctoral dissertation.  If there is critique I could l give this book, it would be that it was too short because it felt like Valentine did not go as in-depth as he would like in this presentation of his much longer dissertation.

 

W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation lives up to its name, giving the spotlight to an influential man in the history of the denomination that is unknown to a majority of Seventh-day Adventists today.  Gilbert M. Valentine’s work in writing a comprehensive and readable biography of a man who was involved in so many matters is excellent and just makes this book highly recommended for those interested in Seventh-day Adventist history.

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review 2019-01-18 22:22
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire
The Rise and Fall of the British Empire - Lawrence James

The largest empire in history ended less than a century ago, yet the legacy of how it rose and how it fell will impact the world for longer than it existed.  Lawrence James’ chronicles the 400-year long history of The Rise and Fall of the British Empire, from its begins on the eastern seaboard of North American spanning a quarter of the world to the collection of tiny outposts scattered across the globe.

 

Neither a simple nor a comprehensive history, James looks at the British Empire in the vain of economic, martial, political, and cultural elements not only in Britain but in the colonies as well.  Beginning with the various settlements on the eastern seaboard of North America, James describes the various colonies and latter colonial administrators that made their way from Britain to locations around the globe which would have an impact on attitudes of the Empire over the centuries.  The role of economics in not only the growth the empire but also the Royal Navy that quickly became interdependent and along with the growth of the Empire’s size the same with the nation’s prestige.  The lessons of the American War of Independence not only in terms of military fragility, but also politically influenced how Britain developed the “white” dominions over the coming centuries.  And the effect of the liberal, moralistic bent of the Empire to paternally watch over “lesser” peoples and teach them clashing with the bombast of the late-19th Century rush of imperialism in the last century of the Empire’s exists and its effects both at home and abroad.

 

Composing an overview of 400-years of history than spans across the globe and noting the effects on not only Britain but the territories it once controlled was no easy task, especially in roughly 630 pages of text.  James attempted to balance the “positive” and “negative” historiography of the Empire while also adding to it.  The contrast between upper-and upper-middle class Britons thinking of the Empire with that of the working-class Britons and colonial subjects was one of the most interesting narratives that James brought to the book especially in the twilight years of the Empire.  Although it is hard to fault James given the vast swath of history he tackled there were some mythical history elements in his relating of the American War of Independence that makes the more critical reader take pause on if the related histories of India, South Africa, Egypt, and others do not contain similar historical myths.

 

The Rise and Fall of the British Empire is neither a multi-volume comprehensive history nor a simple history that deals with popular myths of history, it is an overview of how an island nation came to govern over a quarter of the globe through cultural, economic, martial, and political developments.  Lawrence James’s book is readable to both general and critical history readers and highly recommended.

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review 2019-01-16 01:24
Jane Steele by Lindsay Faye (audiobook)
Jane Steele - Lyndsay Faye,Susie Riddell

I'm not sure who it was who described this book as being for those who thought the novel Jane Eyre could have benefited from a higher body count, but they were right. I was only middling in my opinion of Jane Eyre, but I quite liked this odd book inspired by it. I'm not sure what to call it, although I'm not sure I agree with those who describe it as satirical.

 

Anyway, it was lots of fun, and I enjoyed it more than I expected to. (I know I initially decided that I wanted to read it because I kept seeing others reading it, but usually these popular novels fall flat for me.) Oh, and I quite liked Quillfeather in the end.

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review 2018-12-23 22:01
24 Festive Tasks: My Final Books (Doors 16, 17 and 19 -- Human Rights Day, St. Lucia's Day, and Festivus)
A Christmas Guest - Anne Perry,Terrence Hardiman
Skandinavische Weihnachten: Die schönsten Geschichten von Sven Nordqvist, Hans Christian Andersen, Selma Lagerlöf u.a. - Hans Christian Andersen,Selma Lagerlöf,Various Authors,Sven Nordqvist,Josef Tratnik,Dirk Bach,Jens Wawrczeck
A Woman of No Importance - Full Cast,Oscar Wilde
Model Millionaire - David Timson,Oscar Wilde


Anne Perry: A Christmas Guest

The third book in Anne Perry's series of Christmas novellas, each one of which has as their protagonist one of the supporting characters from Perry's main series (William Monk, and Charlotte & Thomas Pitt).  This installment's starring role goes to Charlotte Pitt's vinegar-tongued grandmother, who -- like another remote relative, recently returned to England after having spent most of her adult life living in the Middle East -- finds herself shunted onto Charlotte and her husband Thomas at short notice, because the family with whom she had been planning to spend the holidays have made other plans.  While Grandma pretends to despise her widely-traveled fellow guest, secretly she develops a considerable amount of respect for her, so when the lady is unexpetedly found dead, grandma takes it upon herself to seek out the people who had unloaded her on the Pitt household; convinced that something untoward is afoot.

 

As Perry's Christmas novellas go, this is one of my favorite installments to date, and i loved seeing it told, for once, not from the point of view of an easily likeable character, but from that of Grandma, who is a major pain in the neck to others (even though you'd have to be blind not to recognize from the word "go" that her acerbic tongue and pretensions are merely part of her personal armour).  I also wondered whether the murder victim's character might have been inspired by pioneering women travelers like Gertrude Bell, even if the story is set a few decades earlier than Bell's actual life.  I had issues with a couple of minor aspects of the plot (and characters / behaviour), but they didn't intrude enough to seriously impinge on my enjoyment of the story.  And since Grandma, for all her overblown pretenses, is certainly a strong woman character -- which she shows, not least, by eventually admitting to her own fallibilities -- I am counting this book towards the Human Rights Day square of 24 Festive Tasks.

 

 

 
Various Authors: Skandinavische Weihnachten

A charming anthology of Christmas short stories and poems from Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Iceland, and Finland; chiefly geared towards children, but more than enjoyable by readers and listeners of all ages and generations.  I knew some of the entries (no Scandinavian Christmas anthology without Andersen's Little Match Girl, I suppose), but many of the stories were new to me, and they made for delightful listening on this 4th weekend of Advent. -- Set in Scandinavia, and thus I'm using it as my book for the St. Lucia's Day square.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: A Woman of No Importance

Wilde's second play; an acerbic take on the narrowness of fin de siècle English morality; or more particularly, supremely hypocritical perceptions of women's role in society.  Unlike in Wilde's later plays, the beginning comes across as a bit of an over-indulgence in the author's own clever wit, with a veritable fireworks of sparkling onelines and repartees following in quick succession without greatly advancing the plot (which is what earns the piece the subtractions in my star ratings -- it's the perfect example of too much of a good thing); but once the plot and the dialogue centers on the opposing protagonists, it quickly finds its feet. -- As Festivus books go, it's rather on the dark side, but it's a satire nevertheless, so I'm counting it for that square ... and though (unusually for Wilde) the last line is telegraphed a mile and a half in advance, I nevertheless enjoyed saying it along with the play's heroine from all my heart.

 

 


Oscar Wilde: Model Millionaire

My encore enjoyment to follow up A Woman of No Importance; a story that couldn't be any more different in tone and intent -- the tale of a gentleman who believes he has done a kindness to a raggedy beggar modelling for his artist friend ... only to find that he could not possibly have been any more mistaken, and that in fact it is he who is ultimately at the receiving end of an unexpected kindness.

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