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review 2015-11-16 12:00
Seven Women
Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness by Metaxas, Eric (September 8, 2015) Hardcover - Eric Metaxas

"No one is aware that the world is on fire."

- Mother Maria

A quick, inspiring look at seven fascinating women who made a huge impact in their generation. While not comprehensive, it is neither superficial, but rather appetizing, in that it makes you want to go on to discover more about these women.


The book looks at women from the three major Christian traditions (Protestant (mostly), Catholic and Eastern Orthodox) and how their faith in God inspired and empowered them to do great works for the good of others. I had previous (and varying degrees of) knowledge of all these women, except for Mother Maria, aka Elizabeth Pilenko (maiden name), aka Elizabeth Kuz'mina-Karavaeva (from her first marriage), aka Elizabeth Skobtsova (from her second marriage), and aka Maria Skobtsova (from when she became a nun). In 2004 she was canonized by the Orthodox Church, becoming Saint Maria of Paris. Her varied names are only a hint of her complexity; she is easily the most interesting and fascinating of this small group of women.


The book also features:


  • Joan of Arc
  • Susanna Wesley
  • Hannah More
  • Corrie Ten Boom
  • Rosa Parks
  • Mother Theresa


The author, Eric Metaxas, wrote a previous book (titled, strangely enough, Seven Men ;p) and he was encouraged to write a similar one for women. The next step was deciding which women to highlight. In seeking out suggestions, he noticed that many people suggested women who were the first ones to do something that men had already done. I appreciated what he had to say about that:

"What struck me as wrong about these suggestions was that they presumed women should somehow be compared to men. But it seemed wrong to view great women in that way. The great men in Seven Men were not measured against women, so why should the women in Seven Women be measured against men? I wondered what was behind this way of seeing things, that women should be defined against men? Or that men and women should even be compared to each other?


Two interrelated attitudes seemed at play. First, men and women are in some ways interchangeable, that what one does the other should do. Second, women are in some kind of competition with men, and for women to progress they need to compete with men. This thinking pretends to put men and women on equal footing, but it actually only pits them against each other in a kind of zero-sum competition in which they usually tear each other down."

- from 'Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Greatness' by Eric Metaxas


It was a pleasure meeting and becoming inspired by these women, to see in each life the awareness that not only is the world on fire, but each in their own way did something about it, because this is what love does - it acts (John 3:16). And, most of all, to be challenged: what am I doing about my own small burning part of the world?


(In expressing my appreciation of this book, I feel I must also give this small disclaimer, that I'm not endorsing everything these women believed (as revealed in the book, of course), because I find the theology of a few of them somewhat questionable, and the author gives no caveats but rather seems to embrace all as good. I would encourage Christians to read this one with discernment, as we should always be doing, anyway.)



I received this book free from the publisher through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed are my own.

Source: lucianyaz.booklikes.com/post/1289540/seven-women
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review 2015-09-29 13:00
Breath Marks
Breath Marks: Haiku to Read in the Dark - Gary Hotham

outside the door




A beautiful, elegant collection of 81 haiku poems, most of them inspired by the winter season, though the other seasons are also represented. The majority are three-liners, but a small few are other lengths, including one, two and four lines:




one line:

the park bench seats two summer dreams


two lines:

deserted tennis court

   wind through the net


four lines:


the daylight gone –

her songs

to her granddaughter


I love every single one, each evocative in some way or other. This is my second read through and, for some of the poems, the meaning remains fixed (like coffee in a paper cup), but a few have new or weightier significance. If you love haiku poems, get this. Also, I’d love some recommendations! I’m definitely buying this collection, Take-Out Window, edited by Gary Hotham. 


waiting up––

one hand warms

the other


(this is one whose meaning has evolved, infused with more, I think, gravitas)


Source: lucianyaz.booklikes.com/post/1260777/breath-marks
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review 2015-09-22 13:00
The Nature of the Beast
The Nature of the Beast - Louise Penny

”Here.” The boy handed Gamache the stick. “If anything bad happens to me, you’ll know what to do.” He looked at Gamache with deadly earnest. “I’m trusting you.”

Everyone is so used to nine-year old Laurent Lepage’s outlandish stories that when he finally tells the truth, that he’s found a giant gun with a monster (with wings) on it, in the woods, no one bats an eyelid. But someone believes and Laurent is found dead a couple days later in what initially looks like an accident but turns out to be murder. Who would kill a child? This has to be one of the most heart-wrenching questions ever, and the closer we got to the answer, the more unnerved I became.


The pacing was good, starting out slowly to set the groundwork, but taking off as soon as poor Laurent was found dead. The plot was great as usual, but somewhat ambitious, IMO – a child murder exposing events that took place about 30 years ago, even now with present and dire international repercussions, and yet, for the most part, contained in the small space of Three Pines, where much of the story takes place. So many monsters and so much darkness; it got a little claustrophobic at times. The identity of the murderer, if you do not allow yourself to be sidetracked by everything else that’s thrown out at you, isn’t hard to figure out. I was a little afraid, with all the diversions, Ms Penny would pull a jump-shark on me, so it was with relief I got safely, though not too shockingly, to the end.


There’s also a side story about a play written by a convicted serial murderer, and Gamache is adamantly against its production. This causes Reine-Marie to ask Clara a thought-provoking question: “You’re an artist,” said Reine-Marie. “Do you think a work should be judged by its creator? Or should it stand on its own?”, to which Clara responds: “I know the right answer to that. And I know how I feel. Would I want a painting by Jeffrey Dahmer, or to serve a meal from the Stalin family cookbook? No.”


The book incorporates details from at least one real life event and from the life and work of one real life person that I felt were well done. The details I found online about the event mentioned were horrifying, and they added to the overall dark feel of the story.


The usual characters are their usual great selves. Ruth is still rude and intrusive though we see new layers to her character in this one, things that explain more about the woman she is today. Clara seemed a bit off-color but that is to be expected from the events of the previous book; her artistic eye comes in handy in helping to expose another one of the book’s monsters - this one was a shocking twist. Lacoste is growing into her new role and Beauvoir is still maturing nicely (I’m liking him more and more). And we have a new protégé! Maybe it’s the distance of waiting some months for this book, compared to reading the previous 10 in about two weeks straight, but I found the character of Gamache a tad deified. While he’s quite humble himself, those around him, especially his former colleagues, have him firmly set on a pedestal. I don’t know how I feel about that. But I like how he’s starting to consider what next, as he’s had some time to heal. Many offers are coming in but Gamache is nothing if not deliberate, and Reine-Marie is taking it all in stride.


Overall, there’s a fantastical feel to the book, starting with Laurent and his absurd cry wolf stories, and the beasts and monsters uncovered by the investigation into his death. There was a lot of mask on, mask off going on from beginning to end. In all, I enjoyed this entry in the Armand Gamanche series and I’m eager for what’s next for Three Pines and its residents.

“Through the window he could see splashes of astonishing color in the forest that covered the mountains. The maple and oak and apple trees turning. Preparing. That was where the fall began. High up. And then it descended, until it reached them in the valley. The fall was, of course, inevitable. He could see it coming.”

Source: lucianyaz.booklikes.com/post/1257356/the-nature-of-the-beast
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review 2015-09-05 13:00
The Forsaken Inn
The Forsaken Inn (Illustrated) - Anna Katharine Green

“Oak walls. Ah, my soul! It has come soon!”

A traveler is caught out during a storm and is warned, by a fellow traveler, against seeking shelter from the old, dilapidated inn. They move on to a more welcoming refuge, where the helpful traveler gives the other a manuscript that will explain his warnings against the inn, which he calls a ‘charnel house’. The story itself starts out in 1775, during the unrest of the American Revolution.  Edwin Urquhart visits the ironically named Happy-Go-Lucky Inn with his new bride, Honora; they only stay one night but it is enough to show Mrs Truax all is not well with the couple. Mrs Urquhart, while veiled, seems unwell and unhappy, and Edwin seems falsely jovial and uncaring of his wife’s comfort; he seems more concerned with an inexplicably large box he has brought with him.  Edwin makes a tour of the available rooms and insists upon the least favorable one, the oak pallor with its stuffiness from disuse, because it’s on the ground floor and easier to move his great big box into.


In the night both the landlady and Burritt, her man-of-all-work, are wakened by a strangled shriek coming from the oak pallor. They investigate and both occupants of the room claim all is well.


The couple leaves the following morning and this would be the end of it, except for two things: Honora seems strangely happier and more energetic, and Burritt claims the big box was markedly lighter that morning than it was the night before. Both he and Mrs Truax can find nothing to account for these two changes and that makes them uneasy.


Sixteen years pass, and a new guest makes a startling revelation about the inn’s oak parlor, a revelation that causes Mrs Truax to reflect back on that long ago night of the Urquharts’ stay. From there, the story turns to the past, to the events leading up to the couple’s arrival at the inn, and then back to the present as the long-brewing consequences of that time come to a disastrous conclusion.


The story is told from the perspectives of different characters, through letters and journal entries, but all in the first-person POV. The manuscript given to the traveler is really Mrs Truax’s journal, with her own observations, but also includes letters from other characters, and in these letters are observations from other characters; think nesting bowls.


I liked this book more than I thought I would, and would’ve liked it even more if not for the overwrought, heavy-handed writing and the melodramatic characters. It also has a few paranormal elements, is not much of a mystery, and the plot is very contrived. Ah, fun stuff!

Source: lucianyaz.booklikes.com/post/1245947/the-forsaken-inn
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review 2015-09-04 21:00
A Strange Disappearance
A Strange Disappearance - Anna Katherine Green

Mrs Daniels, housekeeper to Holman Blake, requests the help of the police in the possible abduction of the sewing girl. She is frantic about locating this missing girl but very sketchy on details about her: what is her background, and why was she staying in such a sumptuous room clearly unsuited for a servant. It is also apparent she knows more than she is revealing. Mr Blake is equally unhelpful, claiming no knowledge of the missing girl, and not being privy to much of the day-to-day workings of his household, a duty he leaves to Mrs Daniels. He is also an ‘important man’ in society, who cannot be bothered with such trivial matters, and must be handled with kid gloves by the police.


Through a friendship with a maid in the house, Q, one of the detectives on the case, learns that both Mrs Daniels and Mr Blake are exhibiting peculiar, unusual behavior, and takes to surveilling Mr Blake, who seems to be on an investigation of his own.  This surveillance takes Q to a small town outside the city, where Mr Blake visits a house where no one is at home.  Q searches the house and questions the locals, where he learns the house belongs to two bank robbers, the Schoenmakers, who recently escaped from prison. How did Mr Blake come to know these men and why is he visiting them?


As the story progresses, the disappearance of the sewing girl and Mr Blake’s visit to the Schoenmakers starts to connect, but in the first half you are completely bewildered as to what is even going on. The writing is chunky, the plot is good but sometimes needlessly convoluted, and the characters are eye-rollers – all usual things for Ms Green. All these things were expected, so no disappointments there.  An OK read but nothing that can’t be passed over.

Source: lucianyaz.booklikes.com/post/1245949/a-strange-disappearance
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