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review 2018-08-07 06:23
A Man of His Word
A Man of His Word - Karen Kelly

I liked this story but it was slow moving. I liked the historical aspect to the story but also had questions. William, the judge, had made notations in his bible in Latin during a case long ago and when it was found in the attic Annie began trying to figure out what they meant. She discovered the link to the court case and with the help of some friends was able to find the meaning of the words and numbers. I just wonder what the purpose of those notes was. Did he make the notes with the hope that someone would figure them out or was he just making them for himself? What was the purpose of using Latin and Roman numerals? I don't think things are very cryptic and anyone could have looked up the meaning of them. Some of the details, like the identity of the woman on the receipts and who the wife of Ron really was, were not a surprise to me. I wish the ended had included some kind of official remedy to the situation to at least clear the family name. Maybe that was hinted at but it would have been better to include something like that than all the awkward stuff about having to show ID, fill out forms, and check purses at the Historical Research Center.

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review 2018-07-31 21:51
Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity
Abraham's Other Son: Islam Among Judaism & Christianity (Question and Answer Format) - Philip G. Samaan

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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review 2018-07-30 19:58
21 Lessons for the 21st Century
21 Lessons for the 21st Century - Yuval Noah Harari

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.]

I read Harari’s two other books (“Sapiens” and “Homo Deus”), and quite liked them, so when this one was available, I couldn’t help but request it. It did turn out to be an interesting read as well, dealing with current problems that we just can’t ignore: global warming, terrorism, the rise of harmful ideologies, etc. It’s definitely not seen through rose-tinted glasses, and it’s a good thing, for it’s time people in general wake up and—to paraphrase one of the many things I tend to agree with here—stop voting with their feet. (Between the USA and Brexit Country, let’s be honest: obviously too many of us don’t use their brains when they vote.)

I especially liked the part about the narratives humans in general tend to construct (nationalism and religions, for instance, being built on such narratives)—possibly because it’s a kind of point of view I’ve been holding myself as well, and because (as usual, it seems), the “narratives of sacrifice” hit regular people the most. Another favourite of mine is the part played by algorithms and “Big Data”, for in itself, I find this kind of evolution both fascinating and scary: in the future, will we really let algorithms decide most aspects of our lives, and isn’t it already happening? (But then, aren’t we also constructs whose functioning is based on biological algorithms anyway? Hmm. So many questions.)

I don’t necessarily agree with everything in this book, and to be fair, there was too much matter to cram everything in one volume, so some of it felt a little hurried and too superficial. I’ll nevertheless recommend it as an introduction to the topics it deals with, because it’s a good eye-opener, and it invites to a lot of introspection, questioning and thinking, which is not a bad thing.

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review 2018-07-04 05:11
Purple Hibiscus (round two for book club)
Purple Hibiscus - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I've read this before, but a book club picked it for July, so I read it again. It's still the same book I read in 2005 (says my kindle - who knows if that's correct?) One thing I adore: Adichie does a great thing in all of her books -- refuse to define terms others may not know, or may have to even look up. I find it wonderful that this is true even in a first novel. Imagine the strength it took to get this published in the US without some idiot editor forcing her to define words all over the place or worse - Americanize the novel! I've seen a lot of true voices come unhinged from reality by explaining what their own words mean - not so this novel or any of Adichie's other work that I've read. (And I do hope to be reading her fiction for years to come.) 

While this coming of age tale of a tyrannical zealot self-hating father (with lines like "He did things the right way, the way the white people did, not what our people do now!") and a terrified frozen family walking constantly on eggshells treads somewhat familiar lines, it's a very strong first novel, despite what feels like an abrupt ending after a beautifully woven storyline and very strong characters. 

Clearly Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was born to write, to communicate and never to apologize. An excellent first novel and still a worthwhile read, though if you're only going to read one of her novels, I'd recommend one of the later ones. This, however, is probably well suited for a book club read. So for this month, I'm knocking out my book club books as fast as I can in order to read some new ones I want to read by myself.

 

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review 2018-06-30 22:21
Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues
Myths in Adventism: An Interpretive Study of Ellen White, Education, and Related Issues - George R. Knight

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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