Monday, October 16, 2017

The Secret Life of Words: English Words and Their Origins by Anne Curzan

4 out of 5 stars  ****

A most interesting, scholarly but congenial presentation about the life and history of the English language and its words. It is hard to pinpoint the exact time when English became a language and it is impossible to state how it fares in the future.

There is an array of other languages from which English borrows and Anglicizes. Spoken English, itself, changes within its own region as shortcuts for phrases or polysyllabic words become part of the English lexicon. What we recognize today as new Modern English will eventually be more of a Middle English which differs from Old English.

Anne Curzan narrates her own work in a structured course to a live audience. She maturely handles the curse words, emotive words, with candor and does not exclude them from the discussion like certain dictionaries do, Webster's, for example. She also includes sayings or phrases people use now as well as in the past. Phrases responsible for many English words have their own intriguing history which are all but forgotten, unless one studies the English language. This captures students' interest and continues to excite many who find this subject both challenging and fascinating.

Today's language is rich with new technology, electronics, medicine, and entertainment lingo. Avenues of communication are immediate and evolutionary with the advent of the Smartphone.
Change in English culture influences how one says something as much as what one says. Curzan uses the term, Homosexual, as an example for carrying negative connotations; whereas, Gay and Lesbian, are favorable terms for the same expression.

This course is comprehensive and loaded with information worthy of study. One must listen and review this excellent presentation to fully appreciate all it has to offer.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Story of Human Language (The Great Courses: Linguistics # 1600) by John McWhorter

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Fascinating, educational, and comprehensive describe this work by John McWhorter, The Story of Human Language.The content is so extensive that one needs to pay close attention when listening to grasp all the nuances along the trails and adventures of human culture responsible for the varied languages in the world today.

In this course one learns how quickly language changes over the course of distance and time. New languages crop up from groups of people who expand and settle in regions with a certain language and eventually alter that language in sound because of slang or laziness - it doesn't matter - to form a dialect; it becomes specific for this social group. Dialects are further altered with the introduction of new people into that region with their own languages and dialects. A blend of two or more languages can borrow from one another and in a very short time in history, a different sounding language develops. McWhorter explains how and why diverse groups would come together besides exploration; conquest and slavery are two examples.

Now a region can have new cultures and subcultures within its society and with that comes their street language, which is not a real language but a Pidgin language. Again, over time, cultural influences blend and language may be the first sign of their influences. When a language comes out of pseudo-languages and develops rules which apply to that language and for that region it may be a Creole. This reader learns that Creole is not just one language but a blend of languages that differ from one another depending upon their influences and regions of the world.

As new languages develop, old languages die. This occurs within one culture. English, for example, has Old English, which if heard might sound a bit incomprehensible today. The study of language does allow one to trace ancestral cultures and from whence that culture derives. The author alludes to the fact that when a language dies, that culture also dies. That being said, if a language changes, the culture changes.

This course makes this student realize that there is not a wrong way of saying something, just a different way. One learns the written rules of language and that slows the rate of change. Written language did not exist for most of mankind's existence. Communication via language develops early with mankind and, most certainly, undergoes many changes unhindered by correction from a controlling society who writes the rules. There are those who develop a language meant for global communication but they are, now, just another language with a set of rules spoken by those who wish to learn the arcane labors of an individual. Such languages are not spoken by any society in any region of the world.

There is much more in this course that one may discover about language and, in doing so, learn about cultures of the world. Communication comes in many forms. The Internet shrinks the world and communication with other cultures around it is not just speaking via video or written using text. Texting, itself, is developing its own shortcuts and pseudo-language, some of which is already accepted in dictionaries of the world. The internet opens up languages of icons, emoji's, gifs, etc. This language is pictorial and assimilates easily with varying cultures.

This reader believes that a worldwide language may come from this technological, or tech, industry. It is as if communication is out of the hands of those who desire control and are uneasy with change. Language tells mankind's story of who we are and indicates where we are going. It is a fascinating field to observe and about which to learn.

I was going to write, "It is a fascinating field to observe and to learn about", but that would break the rules - God forbid, I end a sentence in a preposition.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Babies by Design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice by Ronald M. Green

5 out of 5 stars  *****

The fascinating and scholarly book by Professor Ronald M. Green,babies by design: The Ethics of Genetic Choice is 10 years old but informs those of us not familiar with the fields of genetics and reproduction about the capabilities in altering human conditions, such as disease, before birth. Society is mainly aware of invitro fertilization, test tube babies, for couples unable to conceive naturally. Green describes many procedures that go beyond test tubes and culture dishes since the completion of the Human Genome Project; like, gene therapy, germline gene transfer, or CRE recombinase treatments. Elaborations of these and other treatments are in the text and glossary but the aim of this book is to enlighten people as to the responsibility that accompanies this human embryonic research and activity. 

Ethics and morals pose difficult questions when science meets humanity with its religions, laws, and values. Athletes using steroids and human growth hormone (HCG) to gain that physical, mental edge over their competition makes headlines at every exposure. Committees, leagues, and regulating boards punish the users making a public spectacle out of them. Judges must now regulate substances that benefit an athlete if it goes beyond regular vitamins and minerals during extensive training. Humans continue to push the envelope to get that edge regardless of consequences, and there are some drastic consequences to this drive. The ethical consideration of these choices that athletes make is that they are performance enhancing and not therapeutic necessities. "The non-therapeutic use of cells, genes, or genetic elements, or the modulation of gene expression to improve athletic performance" is known as "Gene doping" (p. 261)

Green also refers to the way Hollywood and Science Fiction treat this subject. Books and movies, such as Brave New World and Gattaca reveal the negative side of gene manipulation by creating a class of people seemingly superior coupled with human nature's greed for control and power. It is an entertaining way to display the issues surrounding man's increasing knowledge and abilities to alter humankind. 

On the religious front, many cry out that this field of science should be banned because it is man playing God by trying to change what God has made, and what God has made is perfect. Green considers all of these issues and compassionately understands why so many feel the way they do. His objective is to teach what is possible as well as why any endeavor involving gene therapy should be undertaken or not. Identifying what a better informed society is willing to accept is the dynamic facing the field of ethics in reprogenetics, "The merging of reproductive and genetic technologies." (p. 266) In closing, Green refers to the ethicist-theologian, Ronald Cole-Turner, when he points out that the end does not justify the means; the means is as important as the end, itself.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Life and Writings of C. S. Lewis (The Great Courses) by Louis Markos

5 out of 5 stars  *****

Life and Writings of C.S. Lewis is a lecture from The Great Courses by Louis Markos. Markos admits that the subject is a favorite of his, personally, because C.S. Lewis influences this author profoundly. The course is broken up into 12 chapters, each describing the events affecting Lewis at the time of his writing.

I learn a lot about this prolific writer who encompasses so many genres from children's literature to explanatory assignments from Oxford University on 16th and 17th century English literature, like John Milton, 1608-1674, a poet who wrote Paradise Lost in 1667. Another tidbit of information is what Lewis answers to, the nickname, Jack, since childhood. I know of Lewis's eventual conversion to Christianity later in life but I am unaware, until I listen to this lecture, that an estranged relationship between he and his father occurs after his mother dies and he is shipped off to boarding school. Only after his father's death does Lewis become Christian. Closure with the father figure and the prodding by his close friend, J.R.R. Tolkien allows Lewis to drop his resistance and develop Christianity's best apologetic arguments to date.

Markos excitedly delves into the stories and their deeper meanings with each interesting lecture. The Narnia Chronicles are a favorite of his and his children. The symbolism is rich in his tales that display Lewis's knowledge of scripture and its meaning. I enjoy this course immensely and have a greater appreciation for C.S. Lewis because of it. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, Narration by author

5 of 5 stars  *****

Neil Gaiman narrates his excellent literary research in the entertaining mythology of the Vikings or the Norsemen. These ancient tales include the origins of nine unique realms, fantastic creatures, gods, and men. The author lends his passion to these mythological stories that become the foundation of nordic societies before their Christian conversion.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

The Gods of HP Lovecraft by Aaron J. French (Editor), Martha Wells (Goodreads Author), Adam Nevill (Goodreads Author), Laird Barron (Goodreads Author), Bentley Little, David Liss (Goodreads Author), Brett J. Talley (Goodreads Author), Christopher Golden (Goodreads Author) , James A. Moore (Goodreads Author), Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads Author), Joe R. Lansdale

3 out of 5 stars  *****

A group of Science Fiction writers pay homage to HP Lovecraft by writing short stories of horror which include the creatures of HP's imagination. Some of the stories are a perfusion of descriptive elements of speech and some are less elaborate in expression. The variety of authors accounts for this stylistic diversity. The stories, themselves, go beyond the mundane human slice of life to the history of living, intelligent beings who predate homo sapiens but interact with mankind either by time travel, dreams, dimensional gates, or misadventure. The short stories become gruesome and terrible before a climax, usually of doom or despair. Such scenarios have their own place in Science Fiction and its own following.

This reader/listener discovers tales of horror to be less entertaining and more intriguing when in a certain but random frame of mind. Listening to The Gods of HP Lovecraft becomes tedious and a bit annoying as the same narrator seems to blend one short story into the next. For these reasons this collection of literary work gets three out of five stars. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Why I Am a Christian by John R.W. Stott

5 of 5 stars  *****

What an inspirational book that also deepens one's understanding of the Old and New Testament. The common denominator in that scripture being Jesus of Nazareth. John R.W. Stott eloquently writes about his accepting Jesus as Christ, the Messiah. He uses scripture from both Old and New Testaments to reinforce his belief and also quotes great minds such as Augustine, C.S. Lewis, Mother Teresa, Bertrand Russell, and Bornhoeffer. 

One appreciates the academic mind and logical rationale of Stott's interpretation throughout this book. He summarizes and further explains each component of the claims about Jesus Christ that confirm his abiding belief in Christianity. For example, the crucifixion's purpose is atonement of sins, revelation of God, and conquest over evil. These three points expand in that chapter's elaborations.

Why I Am a Christian is a short book but a powerful message of profound importance. It would behoove any reader to acquaint themselves with this work for the ability to discern truth in a world filled with lies and deception.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Big Agenda: President Trump's Plan to Save America by David Horowitz

5 of 5 stars  *****

Objective evidence is necessary for truth to be told. David Horowitz writes a book using such evidence exposing Donald Trump's vision for America and his behavior to actualize that goal after becoming the President of the United States. Big Agenda: President Trump's Plan to Save America refutes the character assassination and barrage of negative reporting he receives, still, to this day.

The author accuses the Democrats, Far Left Liberal Progressives, of being taken over by a Socialist ideology and even Communism. Records reveal how Hillary Clinton benefits monetarily while Secretary of State making deals with companies and countries who desire her influence to deliver what they want. Hillary's association with people who are on America's list of enemies comes up in this book which also points out how she avoids any bad press, let alone conviction of crimes against her country. The reason for looking at Democrats, especially Hillary Clinton, is to explain the double standard that applies to Republicans in the White House.

Democrats are not the only opposition to Donald Trump. Republicans who are comfortable with the status quo do not want the non-politician, politically incorrect Trump to shake their worlds into chaos. Some are jealous or spiteful toward Trump because of personal issues and refuse to support his agenda.

The main theme of the book is more of an observation about why America is so divided with the advent of Trump's election victory. Horowitz shows how, over time, the Democratic Party shifts more toward the Left than moderate. The prejudiced institutions of higher education are promoting Progressive, New World Order agendas that influence the malleable minds of young adults. Bernie Sanders popularity is an indication of this indoctrination.

Horowitz presents, in plain language, the opposition to making America great again. Trump's big agenda is a cure for reversing the course on which the last administration put this country.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Art of Reading (Great Courses, #2198) by Timothy Spurgin

3 of 5 stars  ***

I listen to these lectures mainly from my car while driving. Because of this, I miss some of the important lessons The Art of Reading offers. 

Timothy Spurgin uses many classics to point out examples of his lesson for each chapter. Content and structure are not the only discussions. Why we read what we read and how we treat the written word is also a subject upon which the author touches. Tools for approaching the varieties of books, journals, magazines, and papers can assist us to get through what seems tedious at first. 

I enjoy the description of style in certain pieces of literature and understand, now, why an author writes the way he or she does. I appreciate the necessary rules for plot to maintain the integrity of a story. Finally, the difficulty of adapting a book to a movie explains why so many movies fail to deliver the true essence and tone that a book shares. To capture a book's intent on film is truly an art form. 

The purpose of this course is to educate us about reading so it can be more enjoyable. Even though the lectures can be a bit stuffy at times, I believe this course succeeds in achieving that purpose.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Explore the Bible, Personal Study Guide: Psalms : Summer 2017 by Robert Smith (Editor), Lebron Matthews (Author 1-7), Allen Tilley (Author 8-13)

5 of 5 stars  *****

The most referred to section in the Old Testament, today and in the New Testament, is the Book of Psalms. This study expresses a cogent reason for this, Psalms reveal a full array of human experience and emotions. They possess lessons of spiritual growth, weakness, justice, forgiveness, love, and kindness in times of success and peril.

The Psalms are classified into seven categories, which may overlap, to better identify and apply each work: Lament, for distressful times; Thanksgiving, rescue from distress; Hymn, praising God; Royal, celebration of Israels's earthly king; Enthronement, celebrate God's divine kingship; Penitential, for contrition and repentance; Wisdom/Didactic, poetic form with lessons about good and evil that celebrate God's word.

Reading every Psalm is not necessary to understand the lessons each of these categories offer. A few choice Psalms are chosen to explore. in a group setting, their deeper meanings and personal applications.

After this Bible study, this reader feels closer to God with a strong conviction that He is always present with His Love. That love is most evident in the cross where He forgives all sins of those who accept the One whom the Old Testament speaks, Jesus, the son of man and God, Himself, the Christ.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Dibs in Search of Self by Virginia M. Axline

5 of 5 stars  *****

This book reveals how too much pressure on a young child can make him/her display autistic behavior confusing the developmental stages and coping mechanisms humans need to grow into normal, functioning adults. Virginia Axline develops Play Therapy in this book with amazing results for the precious, young mind that discovers his self.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen, Amie Parnes

3 of 5 stars  ***

Relive the 2015/2016 Democratic campaigns with Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton's Doomed Campaign. Much of the information is public knowledge but some investigative discoveries reveal how Hillary people feel about the candidate, their co-campaigners, and strategies of the failure to elect the first woman president of the United States. Interestingly enough, the book ends with Hillary rationalizing why she is not president and eventually agreeing to plot against the present president as champion of her stated values and accomplishments of President Obama. A minority of people close to Hillary go as far as to say that Hillary refuses to see her part in that shocking November outcome: her alienation of people who came to see her, her involvement with big money, Russian deals that benefited her husband and the Clinton foundation, her e-mail scandals, the Benghazi fiasco, and her poor response to the question, "Why should you be president?" This reader also picks out that what Hillary says and what she does are two different things when it comes to campaigning for votes.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand,

5 of 5 stars  *****

The shallow, intelligent characters who lack a moral compass are prominent in this story about America in the early to mid 1900's. Life through architecture, high society, and human ambition weaves a story fraught with success and loss in business, art, love, and personal integrity. The many are manipulated by the few who use their shrewdness to sway mass opinion and public policy. These characters are the major people who define society as independent or collective. Freedom, sovereignty, dignity, respect, and liberty are the qualities found in a couple of characters but consistently in only one man who stands alone with his deep convictions until the end. 

The ability of Ayn Rand to foresee the future in many ways is evident in The Fountainhead. Socialism, particularly Communism, brings this brilliant author to America as a young girl. The restrictions and harsh treatment of the citizens under Communism are well known to Rand. She even changes her name to avoid her family being tortured because of her writings. 

The Fountainhead views America as heading in the same direction which led to Communism in her home country. Her excellent prose and storytelling show that the weakness of mankind, taking handouts and becoming dependent on them, can lead a society into single-minded slavery stuck by a massive population of followers who are indoctrinated into how to think and behave. The hero, and those like him, show hope for the future but it comes at a cost that few are willing to make.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Hyperion (Hyperion Cantos, #1) by Dan Simmons

4 of 5 stars  ****

Hyperion is a world in a universe that houses a golem-like creature, the Shrike, which can alter the fabric of creation, itself, summoning apocalyptic change. The author, Dan Simmons, writes beautifully. He holds the reader's attention using eloquent descriptions of characters and their milieu. Hyperion is a mature, intelligent science fiction that satisfies the dreams and imagination of unbound minds. The story's complexities do not confuse or stray from its focus; they support the converging pilgrimages of those seeking Hyperion for its intricacies.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Sybil: The Classic True Story of a Woman Possessed by Sixteen Personalities by Flora Rheta Schreiber

5 of 5 stars  *****

A most disturbing novel because the story is true. The intrigue builds with the discovery of each psychological coping mechanism used by Sybil during her horrifying child abuse by her mother. It shocks to the core of every moral and just fiber in one's being. That extent of fear creates deep scars on the psyche, repression, which leads to blackouts and the development of sixteen distinct personalities. This book also reveals that abuse by humans capable of treating an innocent child so tragically perverse may cause resiliency in an otherwise broken mind to bury the damage, pick up the pieces, and create a totally different being, dysfunctional as it may be.

Friday, July 7, 2017

The Last Sin Eater by Francine Rivers

5 of 5 stars  *****

Francine Rivers is a marvelous story-teller and proves it with this masterful work, The Last Sin Eater. This story engages the reader early on with the introduction of family characters who are immigrants from Great Britain. They settle in a beautiful Smokey Mountain region in eastern United States. Through the eyes of Cadi Forbes, a little girl who experiences old customs when her beloved grandmother dies and the group gathers for her funeral, The Last Sin Eater becomes known.

Rivers develops the tension in this story around the Forbes family's loss. Cadi's little sister falls to her death off a fallen tree that bridges a deep gorge over a rapid river . The younger child follows Cadi to that fatal spot; so Cadi is guilt-ridden when her mother's remorse expresses harsh feelings toward the older girl. Unable to bear the burden of guilt for a lifetime, Cadi seeks out the "scapegoat" character, the Sin Eater, so he may absolve her of her sin. When that proves to be ineffective, she meets a missionary who tells her about the original Sin Eater, the only one who can truly forgive her sins, Jesus Christ. The story evolves into an adventure that thrills, saddens, and heartens the reader before expertly crafted pages demonstrate moments of courage and sacrifice that uplift spirits and change behaviors toward Truth and abandon ancient fears which allow superstition and lies to prevail.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Left Behind (Left Behind, #1) by Tim LaHaye, Jerry B. Jenkins

3 out of 5 stars  ***

A shocking account of how the biblical Rapture may unfold one day when no one suspects such an event to happen. Tim LaHaye describes what is written in Revelation and earlier prophecies; then scholarly discussion with other noted academia ensues about its interpretation along with Tribulation.

This piques the interest of those interested in the future, possibly in this lifetime. Theologians wonder about these early writings as the Left Behind series displays a possible scenario based on the in-depth study of prophecy fulfilled and yet to come.

So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

4 of 5 stars  ****

An interesting update on the way people publicly shame and the ramifications that result from such shaming. Ronson uses personal experiences with friends and colleagues to make his point and adeptly follows through with causes and outcomes from this ancient teacher of behavior. Today's shaming is immediate with a large population of judges who can be ruthless in their commentary. 

The example from the internet is Twitter and the causes range from moments of anger to attempts at humor. Exposed plagiarism, unintended or not, can shame the most talented into hiding. Once the jury weighs in on a politically incorrect choice of words, shaming begins on a wide public scale that destroys livelihoods, permanently stains reputations, and evokes hopelessness and helplessness. 

Examples of public shaming in the past, such as: stocks, whipping posts, tar and feathering and being ridden out of town on a rail are outlawed today because of the excess cruelty. The author still claims that the shaming today cuts deep enough to scar one for life. 

Ronson also enlightens the reader about another consequence of shaming. Retribution that may lead to forgiveness; or, as he describes a better public response, nothing at all. This implies that people forget the incident that would otherwise embed itself in the mind of public opinion. 

So You've Been Publicly Shamed alerts one to the responsibility of expressing a thought, idea, or instruction in today's world. Reactionary impulses can have lifelong repercussions if communicated from the safety of one's PC or smartphone. It is easily done with the singular press of a key, Enter or Send. A mindless thought to a sensitive audience awaits judgment and conviction in one vindicating moment. 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Clean House: Exposing Our Government's Secrets and Lies by Tom Fitton

5 of 5 stars  *****

Tom Fitton writes a most revealing book about the corruption that exists in high places; namely, the offices of the US State Department and the Presidency. He uses the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and suits brought by Judicial Watch, a government watchdog group consisting of top-notch judges and lawyers. This book is about the Obama administration years which include Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State and her post cabinet status as Democratic candidate for President of the United States.

This American reviewer remembers when the events in this book take place. Fitton fills in the details about questions that arise from that administration's behavior. The subjects are those that make headlines and engage most Americans in the world of politics. They are: Hillary's email cover-up, leaks and hacks exposing national vulnerabilities and confidential information weakening America's security, government secrets and lies, fraud, Obamacare exemptions to get the bill passed, bullying of Conservative and Tea Party groups before elections by the IRS and its cover-up, refusing to prosecute those apparently guilty of lying to the American people, refusing to enforce the immigration laws and allowing illegal aliens convenient passage into America with safety in Sanctuary Cities, and downplaying terrorism in America that arises as a result of slackened Federal policies and Islamophobia.

The subjects also include the main stream media's response to these circumstances which pit Liberal against Conservative, political correctness, which deems certain words as unacceptable or insensitive, against political incorrectness, which claims that Liberals use political correctness to demonize their opponents.

Clean House: Exposing Our Government's Secrets and Lies explains why and how the great divide in America exists. The outcome of the last election displays -much to the chagrin of the Left socialists - that Americans do not trust their government nor do they trust the main stream media, anymore. The divide is not going away until the people are shown that government puts their security and opportunity for prosperity first instead of using political power to build selfish kingdoms for those who occupy the seats of power in these United States of America.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present by Howard Zinn, Jeff Zinn (Reading)

4 of 5 stars  ****

This comprehensive rendition of American history is well written and narrated. This reader is very aware of the leading way the narrator uses voice inflection and calculated pauses to imply whether an event is good or bad. Having said that, this history account is rather negative about the way those in power carve out the United States of America; even though true, there is no counter rationale for all that negativity. One almost wants to apologize for being an American. If our last president is of a like mind, this would explain his apology tour around the world and his seemingly un-American attitude about the military and domestic issues. In summation, I would simply say that A People's History of the United States: 1492 to Present leans more Left/Liberal than Right/Conservative, more Democrat than Republican. This is most apparent in the later chapters when events are contemporaneous to this man's lifetime.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Breaking Light (Split City #1) by Heather Hansen

5 of 5 stars  *****

The Breaking Light (Split City #1) is a young adult science fiction fantasy not unlike many young adult science fictions written today, a dystopia. The genre is very popular and many of the stories are similar. 

This reader is very pleased to say that Heather Hansen develops a world that is quite different than the dystopia books which are made into movies,Hunger Games and Divergent. The plot still involves the oppressed rebelling against the affluent with a running romance throughout. 

Hansen masterfully creates a city within this flailing society that consists of Undercity, where the poor and dying eke out an existence until they succumb to a lack of Vitamin D as a result of deficient sunlight. There are several levels above Undercity that are slightly more fortunate before reaching the summit where there is full sun. The privileged few families who control the wealth live here.

With such disparity of wealth and justice, it is essential to restrict the lower level populations to their designated sections. To quell uprisings, the rich and tanned distribute a drug known as Shine to placate the natural anger and frustrations of the seemingly powerless. Thus, the stage is set for the noble male protagonist to meet the savvy female survivor, who just so happens to be second in command of the most agitating resistance group in the city.

This book holds the reader's attention and thoroughly entertains. The story is one for the movies if anyone is so inclined to undertake the endeavor.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Agents of Babylon: What the Prophecies of Daniel Tell Us about the End of Days by David Jeremiah

5 of 5 stars  *****

2,622 years ago, a young man is taken captive from Jerusalem to Babylon.  He interprets his dreams, which come true, as divine intervention.  Through him and by God, this young man discerns visions and dreams of others, as well, giving all the glory and praise to God.  His name is Daniel, a wise and humble person devoted to his practice of worship.

This study guide has a DVD with the author, David Jeremiah, reading and discussing each chapter.  It is amazing to discover how powerful Daniel's connection is with God.  His prophecies come true in his lifetime and beyond. Daniel's interpretations of his visions and dreams are some of the strongest arguments for the divinity of Jesus Christ; but what is really astounding is the unfolding of events here on earth that lead us to Daniel's prophecies yet to come. A study well worth one's time and effort.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Explore the Bible, Personal Study Guide: Matthew 14-28, Spring 2017 by Rodney Woo (Editor), Argile Smith

5 of 5 stars  *****

The Gospel of Matthew is about the life of Jesus, His teachings, and his promise that He will always be with His disciples. This study guide concentrates on the last six months Jesus spends on this earth as a man and God. The group is asked about the divinity of Jesus from the beginning to the end of this Spring lesson. 

Matthew writes about his experience with Jesus and records His words during a time the apostles are challenged about their faith. Jesus goes from being exalted, praised, and adored when he first enters Jerusalem on a young donkey, fulfilling scripture, to suffering the persecution, humiliation, betrayal, and eventual death on the cross. The fear that fills the apostles is very real, very human, and very connected to life in the world. Even though Jesus tells His followers that He will defeat death by the sacrifice of His life, they still fear the Jewish hierarchy who seek to crush the rebellion, as they saw it, the Nazarene caused. 

The major event upon which Christianity bases itself is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, His appearance to the apostles and over 500 others before He ascends to heaven. Matthew records the significance of the Pentecost, the Holy Spirit enlightening the apostles so they can carry out Christ's Great Commission, spreading the Gospel to all corners of the world. 

They, men, are not to convert but merely bring the words of Jesus and the covenant He makes with mankind. The Holy Spirit does the conversions, the counseling, and the connecting to Jesus who justifies so that, with repentance, mankind may be sanctified by the grace of God. This is the born again being who follows the path of Jesus in the Spiritual realm with everlasting life rather than giving into the selfish desires of the world and the flesh. The new covenant also allows each person to speak directly to the Holy Spirit, the Son, and the Father; all God in one Trinity.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Second Treatise of Government by John Locke

4 of 5 stars  ****

John Locke is a most fundamental influence on the United States of America's foundation. His worldview, logical mind, and sense of justice for men and women in society pave the way for our founding fathers. The reading can be challenging because of his style but the gist is clear once read.

Locke introduces the reader to the reasoning behind the choices one makes in becoming a member of society. All societies differ in many ways but the source of power in a society may be abusive to its people or unfair in its attempt to maintain power.

Locke then proceeds to suggest something rare; a society that is for the people who live and work within its laws in a harmonious fashion. He is a proponent of an individual's right to property, fair judgment, and protection of his life from anyone or anything that tries to impose their will over his to further their own power. He believes that a commoner should yield to an authority when authority is legislating from a mutual understanding that protects everyone. Locke also points out that if the authority forces its power over a commoner for personal gain, then the righteous one is the commoner and is justified in rebelling against such authority.

Locke's Second Treatise of Government concludes that any power given up to authorities who remain in power and arrange for successors to their political positions cause the people, communities, and commonwealth to forfeit their power. For this reason, temporary positions of power allow a society to right itself once it diverts from its original course because the people can make the corrections as they see fit.

Lingus by Mariana Zapata (Goodreads Author), Callie Dalton (Narrator)

3 of 5 stars  ***

Sex in the City or trashy romance novel? I do not know; I am not real familiar with either. I first listen to the sample portion of this audiobook after bypassing the option several times. I laugh and liken it to 50 Shades of Grey. Something about the psyche of a woman spoken in a male locker room vernacular amuses me.

I want to read or listen to a variety of literature that is contemporary as well as historical, instructive and entertaining. Lingus is a novel about the sexual freedom in today's world that offers a woman's honest perspective about sex and dating in these times of instant gratification via cyberspace porn. Mariana Zapata writes well to hold my attention but I am probably not her target audience. I am curious why so many smart, lovely women like to read "trashy romance novels," as they inform me of their reading preference. I know that genre is the most lucrative of genres.

Lingus may be an example of such a story as it centers around one middle class 25-year-old female who thinks she is pretty but not gorgeous. Her fantasy lover meets her in the most inappropriate place while she is picking her underpants out of her butt cheeks. He is every woman's dream who finds her to be the answer to his desires. The rest of the story goes from one relational development to another defining their true feelings for one another.

I look at this book as a reflection on a certain segment of society that is uninhibited by moral, Victorian standards that would have this book banned related to its descriptive intimate moments. Lingus is not literature for one's self-improvement but rather a testament to mankind's lust for the flesh and the world. The author is honest in her writing and shocking in her blatancy. One can understand what compels a writer to compose such literature, sex sells.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

As Sure as the Dawn by Francine Rivers (Goodreads Author), Richard Ferrone (narrator)

5 of 5 stars  *****

The Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers seems to be complete with its second book, An Echo in the Darkness. This reader discovers the third book, As Sure as the Dawn to be a delightful adventure starting with a flashback to a time when the protagonist, Hadassah, awaits being thrown to the lions. In the dungeon Hadassah inspires the Christians and barbarians with her gentle demeanor, soft voiced songs, and trust in Jesus, the son of God. One barbarian in particular, Atretes, the legendary gladiator who fought his way to freedom, learns from Hadassah that his only son is alive and resides with the Christian leader, John, who entrusts a widower, who lost her only child, to care for his child. This is the extent of Hadassah's role in this story except for a few significant references to her strength in character and belief.

The protagonists, now, become Atretes and the woman, Rispa, who nurtures his son, Caleb. Atretes is an antagonist as well in his barbarian mode dominated by pride and conceit. It takes the strong will of Rispa to penetrate his harsh exterior which exposes Atretes good, redeeming qualities. Their escapades lead them to an unlikely confidant, Theophilus, a Roman Centurian who plays an essential part in God's plan. The adventure leads these disparate companions north where the Germanic, heathen tribes plot revenge on the Roman Empire.

The Gospel inspires the protagonists to "feed the sheep" according to the instruction of the risen Jesus. More than words, a deep faith, trust, and obedience to God sways those who convert to the new way, Christianity. It is the demonstration of this faith, trust, and obedience that fill the pages of this wonderfully crafted n
ovel. The story is full of thrills and tender moments that enthrall its audience to the end.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Explore the Bible: Joshua; Judges: Ruth (Winter 2016-2017) by Tony Evans (Editor)

5 of 5 stars  *****

Another great study about the lessons and promises God makes to man. Joshua leads the chosen people into the Holy Land where they fail to carry out God's instructions of killing all of the inhabitants who dwell there. This disobedience leaves the Israelites subject to attacks by the remaining heathens who worship false gods. Over time, many Hebrews disobey again by intermarrying outside their religion. This is quite different than the example set by Joshua, their leader after Moses. Even though God's chosen disobey Him, He eventually raises up Judges to fight against His people's persecuting nemeses. Man's decisions reroute God's plan but God does not give up on His people and His promises eventually come true. 

The study of the Book of Ruth entails the commitment of love one makes for family when desolation, destruction, and death test that commitment. God reveals that Ruth, a Moabite, is integral in one of His biggest promises, a messiah. The line of David, which eventually leads to the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, descends from a Gentile, Ruth, who marries Boaz according to Hebrew law. God reveals that His only begotten son is savior for all men and women of the world. 

This study is rich with adventure, courage, and love that demonstrates God's plan can be trusted regardless of the plans and actions of mankind. As great or greater than any story told, these lessons show us that God's plan is written in the Bible and unfolds before us. We only have to read and study His word then trust in Him through all of our trials and tribulations.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Israel's Glorious Future: The Prophecies & Promises of God Revealed by Harold Sevener

5 out of 5 stars  *****

This reader has a better understanding of the Book of Revelation from the Holy Bible after reading Israel's Glorious Future: The Prophecies & Promises of God Revealed . The entire sacred text of the Old and New Testaments are the source for Sevener's comprehensive explanations of events past, present, and future. He cites prophets, apostles, and psalmists who are hundreds and hundreds of years apart describing the same promises made to man by God. The messiah, Jesus Christ, fulfills many of the Old Testament prophesies but many are still occurring or as of yet to pass. 

The Jewish people are the target population for this book but it is an excellent educational read for anyone who peruse its pages. The theme is that God always keeps his promises; so it is important that people become familiar with just what those promises are.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God's Will by Kevin DeYoung (Goodreads Author)

5 of 5 stars  *****

Kevin DeYoung clarifies the meaning of finding and doing God's will. He eloquently suggests that those who wait for a sign from God or interpret events as the will of God are applying their own intellect to their perceptions and not necessarily identifying the will of God. Instead, DeYoung advocates that people live their faithful life simply doing something and God's plan may be revealed to them. 

Kevin also describes Bible enthusiasts who rely on scripture to make key decisions in life. He is not implying that people not read scripture and glean wisdom from the reading, but not to rely on verses as the magic manual that must be obeyed at all costs. For instance, a depressed person who desires guidance for a way out of the doldrums may turn to a passage that tells him to hang himself from a tree as Judas did.

The gist of this book is to educate readers of God's sovereignty and mankind's responsibility. Every action, every decision people make should follow the will of God, in a perfect world, but people and this world are far from perfect. The attempt for perfection immobilizes the imperfect for fear of not obeying or failing to do the divine will of God. So, the best one can do is to simply do something with the knowledge and effort to praise God in our undertakings. The goal is not to stray so far from the Creator as to dismiss Him entirely in our life. 

If one is looking for a formula to walk in God's will, DeYoung offers on page 120:           
          Live for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before 
          yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, 
          do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, 
          wherever you like,...

Truth is meant to be more experience than discovery. As the pastor from New City Church, Tullian Tchividjian, writes, "This book shows that discovering God's will happens not as we 'let go and let God,' but as we trust God and get going." 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

An Echo in the Darkness (Mark of the Lion, #2) by Francine Rivers (Goodreads Author), Richard Ferrone (Narrator)

5 of 5 stars  *****

This reader is taken back in time to Ephesus, Rome, and the Holy Land by Francine Rivers, once again. Rivers depicts these ancient places of Earth during Roman rule and occupation. This fabulous journey is rich in historical accuracy and philosophical enlightenment.

An Echo in the Darkness: Mark of the Lion is the second book of Francine's Christian Historic trilogy. It begins with a surprise and evolves into an enticing story of wealth, greed, and jealousy that turns to loss, sorrow, and forgiveness when the protagonist searches for truth. Poetic justice may be observed by intelligence but wisdom unveils the divine plan of redemption for those who learn and seek contrition. 

Love of a certain humble heroine is the driving force throughout the plot in both books but is most evident in the second. This reviewer appreciates the manner in which the first book ends, shocking as it is, and wonders how the third book continues the emotional saga of rich and poor transcending all obstacles in the name of Jesus Christ. Book two, An Echo in the Darkness: Mark of the Lion, has an almost story-book ending that could be a final chapter.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

One Pot Meals: Sheet Pan, Skillet $ Dutch Oven Recipes by Louis Weber

4 of 5 stars  ****

A well written and produced cook book that offers many easy meals that prove to please the taste buds. The few recipes enjoyed by this critic make owning One Pot Meals: Sheet Pan, Skillet $ Dutch Oven Recipes worth the cost. The book found a place in this chef's kitchen.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Horse Soldiers by D. Stanton

5 of 5 stars  *****

Horse Soldiers is a thoroughly investigated and superbly written account of the few American Special Forces who entered Afghanistan post the 9-11 attack on the Twin Towers in the United States of America. These men were the first to respond so they were poorly outfitted but uniquely prepared by their training. Their ages were older than the average soldier and most had families who they left suddenly for the call of duty. These men were adept at being familiar with the people they engaged as ally and enemy. They were careful not to insult those with whom they fought and demonstrated courage and intelligence by the way they fought.

It is said that there will never be another campaign fought like this one successfully completed in Afghanistan. America was seen as an invading force after this campaign because the Special Forces personnel who rode with the horse soldiers of the Northern Alliance were pulled out before Afghanistan could rebuild itself into a better country. Instead, the warring tribes, that include the Taliban, dominated the society.

Stanton's ability to recreate the battles, the home front, and the perspective of the Afghans and the soldiers involved in this campaign is a tribute to his many interviews with the actual men, women, and historians he had to complete before writing this great American true story.