Saturday, October 31, 2015

This Week in Reading

X, by Sue Grafton, pages 1 – 147.
The Juvenilization of American Christianity, by Thomas E. Bergler, pages 32 – 80.

 Gotham by Midnight 10
Hawkeye 1 – 5
Superboy & the Legion of Super-Heroes 245 & 246
Superman 254
Trekker omnibus, pages 167 – 208.(*)

(*) Covering the seventh and eighth stories, which are covered by Ruth and Darrin Sutherland on episodes 7 & 9 of their excellent podcast, Trekker Talk. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review of Sinbad the Sailor

Book 41: The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, from The Arabian Nights, translated by Richard F. Burton. Unabridged audio.

This is one of the most famous sections of The Arabian Nights (or Book of The Thousand and One Nights), and is often collected as a separate work, as it is here. This is despite the fact that the Voyages are considered a late addition to the larger work, not appearing until manuscripts that date from 300 years after the earliest version.

Sinbad has wasted his father’s fortune, and goes to sea to find his own. But he finds an island that is in fact a giant prehistoric whale. Then, there are the giant snakes that can swallow elephants, and gigantic eggs. For as good a sailor Sinbad is supposed to be, he is extremely prone to shipwrecks. But he does manage to find a valley of diamonds. And marry more than his fair share of beautiful princesses. I can understand why his voyages have been dramatized so many times. There is a lot of drama and adventure in these tales.

The Burton translation from 1885 is considered the standard, and is a beautiful mix of flowing storytelling and lovely language. I don’t know how easy it would be to read, but it was very pleasant to listen to. I can see why Scheherazade wanted him to continue telling his tales.

Source: The Classic TalesPodcast, episodes 400 – 403.The podcast produces high-quality audio versions of public domain works.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of A Daily Rhythm. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Pages 8 & 9 of The Juvenilization of American Christianity, by Thomas E. Bergler.

"Adolescent Christianity is any way of understanding, experiencing, or practicing the Christian faith that conforms to the patterns of adolescence in American culture ... no matter how the experience of adolescence changes, churches will eventually conform to that new set of adolescent traits."

Saturday, October 24, 2015

This Week in Reading

Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis, COMPLETED. Reviewed here.
The Seven Voyages of Sinbad the Sailor, from The Arabian Nights, translated by Richard F. Burton, COMPLETED.
The Juvenilization of American Christianity, by Thomas E. Bergler, pages 1 – 32.

Edge 1 – 3
Meanwhile 1 & 2
Nightmask 1
Trekker omnibus, pages 119 – 166
Young Avengers Presents 6

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review of The Doomsday Book

Book #40. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis. Unabridged Audio.

Connie Willis is a very well-regarded novelist, and rightly so. This book, her third published novel, received numerous award nominations, winning both the Hugo and Nebula. The book’s “high concept” can be summed in a single three-word phrase: Time-traveling Oxford historians.

In the year 2054, Kivrin Engle travels back to the 14th century to complete her studies, but things get more complicated when she arrives a few decades later than she had planned. In the middle of the Black Plague. And she brings the flu with her from her time period, and the outbreak in her own time seriously impairs her team’s ability to retrieve her. She assumes she is never returning home. They assume she is dead, either from the flu, or from the Plague.

Jumping back and forth between the 14th and 21st centuries, Willis is able to tell two compelling narratives. This becomes quite a suspenseful read, as well as an interesting take on the rescue novel. Kivrin’s textbooks and training have not prepared her for life in the Dark Ages as well as her Oxford tutors had promised. It takes her longer than expected to adapt to the language, for example.

Willis does a good job of injecting humor into the book where needed, as well as developing a large cast of characters. Many of the people Kivrin meets in the past are well developed, and her friendship with many of those people, in the midst of their fear and grief, adds an emotional underpinning to the story. This is a compelling, engrossing, and entertaining novel.

Narrator Jenny Stirlin does her standard excellent job. Because of her past work on the Mary Russell series of Sherlock Holmes novels, it took me a while to get used to her with this set of characters, but that is my fault, not hers.

Note: Connie Willis has been interviewed numerous times on Mur Lafferty’s excellent podcast, “I Should be Writing.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

Review of Sable

Book #39. Sable, by Mike Grell. Hardcover.

I discovered by accident that this book even existed.

Mike Grell is my favorite comic book creator, and two of his creations (Warlord and Jon Sable) are well inside my top 10 list. There is a black-and-white collection of the earliest Warlord stories that is now out-of-print, and therefore more expensive than I’d like to pay for it. So every few months I poke around Amazon and see if a reasonably-priced version of that volume shows up. But one time one that I searched, Amazon suggested this book, instead. And it was one I had never heard of. But it was a novel featuring one of my favorite characters ever, so of course I had to buy it.

The novel was published in 2000, and covers the basic material from issues 1-6 of the original comic book series. That original comic book series ran from 1983 to 1988. A criminally short-lived television series aired in 1987, and is where the image below comes from. Those first issues serve as the “origin story” for the series, but the plot also works as the complete arc for the novel.

Jon Sable is a former Olympian who moved from the US to his wife’s home of South Africa. When his safari tourism business slows, he takes a job as a game warden and makes himself a serious impediment to the illegal ivory trade. Poachers kill his wife and children in retaliation.

This could easily have turned into a standard revenge piece, but Mike Grell does not tell standard stories. He layers in a second career for Sable, turning the bedtime stories he used to tell his children into a line of successful children’s books. Moving the action back to the US allows Grell to explore Sable’s childhood and his attempts to move on with his life. But when someone from his past comes out of the shadows, he travels back to Africa to finally settle the score with the man who ordered the hit on his family.

Grell does a fine job weaving in South African politics and history into the book, as well as demonstrating his knowledge of hunting and weaponry. There were a few odd changes in point-of-view, which might be a holdover from writing for comics. But this was a thoroughly entertaining read, and a great reminder of why I like this character so much.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

This Week in Reading

Sable, by Mike Grell, COMPLETED.
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis, pages 392 – 477.
Mama Maggie, by Marty Makary & Ellen Vaughn, COMPLETED. Reviewed here.

Constantine the Hellblazer 5
The Cross and the Switchblade
DC Comics Bombshells 3
Ghost Rider 2099 #1
Starfire 5
Trekker omnibus, pages 60 – 118. (*)

(*) Covering the third and fourth stories, which are covered by Ruth and Darrin Sutherland on episodes 3 & 4 of their excellent podcast, Trekker Talk. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Review of Mama Maggie

Book #38. Mama Maggie, by Marty Makary & Ellen Vaughn. Hardcover.

Maggie Gobran had been a successful Egypt businesswoman and university professor when she felt that God was calling her to serve the poor of her nation, coming to be known there and eventually around the world as “Mama Maggie.” For her work in the “garbage villages” of Cairo, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

This book tells the story of how Gobran acted on the compassion she felt for the poorest of Cairo’s poor, the “garbage people” who live in the sprawling slums of the city. Her managerial and organization background came in handy in creating the Stephen’s Children charity, which has trained, educated and loved thousands of children. Learning about the mind-numbing bureaucracy of Egypt was interesting, and demonstrated the tenacity that Mama Maggie and her family needed to get the organization up and going.

The discussion of the religious landscape of Egypt was also very interesting. When Stephen’s Children began, many of the poor were Coptic Christians, as are Mama Maggie and her family. But as a result of policy changes, many poor Muslims moved into the slums, and the charity served them equally well. The last few chapters of the book talk about the recent persecution of the Copts and other Christians as Egyptian’s government turned more hard-line.

The story of Maggie’s spiritual journey is also interesting. As her organization grew, and as demands on her time increased, she chose to spend more time in retreat, more time praying. Egypt has a long history of monasticism, and Maggie has integrated many of these practices and traditions into her modern twenty-first century life.

This is an authorized biography, so I imagine that there are some “sharp edges” that were filed off. But as a portrait of a woman committed to a cause, committed to the poor, and committed to God, it works. It is both inspirational and informative.

Source: public library, after hearing the book referenced in a church sermon.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

This Week in Reading

 Sable, by Mike Grell, page 222 – 296.
Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis, pages 242 – 392.
Mama Maggie, by Marty Makary & Ellen Vaughn, pages 1 – 62.

 Freedom Fighters 12 & 14
Walt Disney’s Donald Duck 264
Trekker omnibus, pages 1 – 59 (*)

(*) Covering the first two stories, which are covered by Ruth and Darrin Sutherland on episodes 1 & 2 of their excellent podcast, Trekker Talk.