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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Into The Whirlwind

Into the Whirlwind

Review of Into The Whirlwind by Elizabeth Camden

Overview from As owner of the 57th Illinois Watch Company, Mollie Knox's future looks bright until the night the legendary Great Chicago Fire destroys her beloved city. With her world crumbling around her, Mollie will do whatever it takes to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating fire.
Zack Kazmarek, an influential attorney for one of Chicago's finest department stores, is a force to be reckoned with among the city's most powerful citizens. Bold and shrewd, he's accustomed to getting exactly what he wants--until he meets Mollie Knox, the beguiling businesswoman just beyond his reach.
In the tumult as the people of Chicago race to rebuild a bigger and better city, Mollie comes face-to-face with the full force of Zack's character and influence. Zack believes this may finally be his chance to win her, but can Mollie ever accept this man and his whirlwind effect on her life, especially with her treasured company on the line?

My Review:

Elizabeth Camden’s novel brings “into the whirlwind” in more ways than one. And it all begins with the Great Chicago Fire.
Our main character, Mollie Knox, owns a watch making company known as the 57th Illinois Watch Company. She inherited it from her now deceased father who lived for his work and Mollie has inherited his drive though her business skills are all her own.

Before the fire, Mollie is a tough, no nonsense business women who wears her hair in braids to keep it out of her way as she works.

Zack Kazmarek is the lawyer for Hartman’s, a fancy Chicago department store. He is equal parts ambition, control, and craziness. Although he has known Mollie for three years in their business dealings (his store sells Mollie’s watch) he had never seen this side of her before nor had he ever had the guts to let his true feelings for her show. But the fire changed all that.

Realizing how easily he could have lost her, Zack finally declares his real feelings for her. But winning her love will not be easy.

Mollie dislikes the pressure that Zack has put her under and on top of that her business burnt to ground during the fire. The factory workers are counting on her to keep them employed, many of them dear friends of her father’s during the Civil War, and she can’t let them down.

The world she lives in has turned upside down overnight, something we can all relate to I think. At least those of us who remember the days after 9/11 and what a shock that was. As much as we might think it is something that only we modern citizens have experienced, it is nothing new.

I liked the character of Mollie Knox. In many ways she is different from the type of woman that we usually think of when we envision woman of the day and yet she is believable. She is tough but not so tough that we don’t see her vulnerable side. And she is kind at the same time, always taking time to care about her employees as well as fighting to keep the company that her father loved afloat.

I also liked how the message to trust in God’s love was not too heavy-handed like you see in many works of Christian fiction. And I liked how this book delved somewhat into the heart of Chicago’s Polish Community. I am not sure if it exists as such these days but it is nice to imagine how it might have been.

While it is not my favorite type of Historical Fiction, I appreciated this Romance nonetheless. At least it didn’t insult my intelligence and hopefully not yours. I suggest you give it a try.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Game of Empires

Product Details

Review of Game of Empires by Richard Blake

Overview from Constantinople, 617 AD. 

Chained up in a condemned cell, Rodi thinks it’s the last day of his life. 

It becomes the first. 

Though only fourteen, his brains and skill at forgery make him too valuable for the Roman Empire to waste on a public execution. 

The Lord Treasurer Alaric recruits him into a top secret security agency – his job, once trained, is to turn the tables in the Empire’s war with the so far victorious Persians. 

This is a story that takes you from the glittering palaces and sordid streets and brothels of the Imperial City, to the barbarian-ravaged provinces, to high mountain tops fringed with pine. 

Here, with no one to help but a na├»ve Christian missionary, Rodi must prove himself in a contest with the devotees of an obscene and bloody idol and a Persian spy. 

Can young Rodi survive and come out on top in this ruthless and secret Game of Empires…? 

My Review:

The story for this week takes place in an era and place that I have not seen a lot in Historical Fiction. The time is 617 AD. The place is Constantinople. For those of you who don’t already know, Constantinople is the old name for modern day Istanbul which is in Turkey.

Our main character, a young man named Rodi, is about to be executed for forgery. At the last minute his life is spared by Lord Alaric. In exchange, he must devote his life to his new master while working as a spy for the Byzantine Empire i. e. the Eastern half of the Roman Empire.

I don’t have such a great knowledge of this Empire but I seem to recall that there was an Emperor named Alaric. I am not sure if this is the same one in the history books but it probably is.

Scratch that. I might have gotten my facts wrong. I probably have. Sorry for the confusion.

Anyway, as he continues on his quest to find out what the Persians and their spy Ephraem have planned for the Empire. Already it seems that it will lose yet another chunk of its territory—Egypt. Now they must prevent the rest of the Empire from falling to the Persians.

The author tells this story well. It flows and intrigues. The characters are also intriguing and in no way stereotyped. Also, it is not as long as many Historical novels are which makes it easier to get through.

But I have to mention that I did stop reading it for a day or so and debated with myself whether or not I should continue reading.

There was some language that I didn’t like. Also certain elements of the story bothered me. I tried to ignore it and continue reading though because I liked the writing and rarely have the chance to read something from this time period.

I did like the historical background at the beginning of the story, even if it was a bit different. My memories of studying the Byzantine Empire were a little sketchy so even though I at first wondered what was going on, later into the story I appreciated it.

It was a good story though, so if you are not put off by the things I mentioned, you might give it a try. Though I am glad I finished it, I am not sure if I would read another one or not. We’ll see.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

If I Had Lunch With C. S. Lewis

If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life

Review of If I Had Lunch With C. S. Lewis by Alister McGrath

Overview from What if you could ask C. S. Lewis his thoughts on some of the most difficult questions of life? If you could, the result would be Dr. Alister McGrath’s provocative and perceptive book, If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis. Best-selling author, prominent academic, and sought-after speaker, Dr. McGrath sees C. S. Lewis as the perfect conversation companion for the persistent meaning-of-life questions everyone asks.
What makes Lewis a good dialogue partner is that his mind traveled through a wide and varied terrain: from atheism of his early life to his conversion later in life; from his rational skepticism to his appreciation of value of human desires and imagination; from his role as a Christian apologist during World War II to his growth as a celebrated author of classic children’s literature. The questions Lewis pondered persist today: Does life have meaning? Does God exist? Can reason and imagination be reconciled? Why does God allow suffering?

My Review:

I must be changing the way I think since this is the second time in 30 day period that I have chosen to review nonfiction. This book centers on one of my favorite writers, C. S. Lewis.

The author presented the reader with a hypothetical situation. What would we talk about if we were to have lunch with C. S. Lewis? What would he say about the subjects that matter most to us?

McGrath reminds us that besides his famous series “The Chronicles of Narnia,” Lewis is known first and foremost for his work as a Christian apologist. What would he say about these subjects that he hasn’t already said in his books or better yet how can it be worded so that we could understand him better?

I don’t think that I am stupid. In fact, some would say the opposite. But I have often times struggled to understand exactly what he means in some of his books. I think Mr. McGrath cleared a lot of that confusion up for me. I understand much better than before and it makes more sense to me. This, for me, was the best part of the book. I gained a better understanding of Lewis’ main points as an apologist.

This is not to say that there wasn’t discussion of the Narnia series. I actually understood better how the events in Narnia helped illustrate Lewis’ main points about God even if they fit neatly into his theology—he did have a point.

Of course I have always liked how Lewis chose the name of the lands of Narnia based on an old map of a place dear to my heart—Narni, Italy. But I also like the stories themselves as well. In Narnia, there are giants of both size and strength like Aslan, as well as giants of courage in small packages like the mouse Reepicheep.

I couldn’t really see much of a down side to this book at all. I think it could helpful to people who might have read Lewis’ works and/or McGrath’s biography of Lewis and just didn’t get it all. If that is you, give it a try. After all, it is less than 200 pages.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Squatter's Rights

Squatter's Rights

Review of Squatter's Rights by Hollis Rentchler

Overview from Earth's colonization ship arrives at what is supposed to be an uninhabited planet and confirms you never know what to expect with a First Contact.

My Review:

This week we sashay into Science Fiction with our latest main character, Dr. Oxana Kharmadi. A scientist of the Terran peoples, we find her apparently inspecting another planet only to encounter a new alien race. And these aliens apparently have horns.

Although she is at first understandable wary, not knowing whether they are enemies or friends, she soon finds them to be friendly. Others on her team are not so sure at first. They don’t even know whether or not to trust her alone with the creatures.

She persists and soon a conversation begins despite the fact that their translator seems to have trouble understanding the new language. However Oxana suggests that they let their children play with the alien children. In the meantime they have come up with a new name for this race. They are Rcyyt.
I am not a typical Sci Fi fan so it is a good thing that this book is not your typical Sci Fi story, well, except for the presence of aliens. The story is about the humans, or Terrans, and how they relate to each other as well as the Rcyyt.

Everyone rushes around, hoping to make that first connection with Rcyyt while ignoring their connection with one another. And there is a lot of anger towards Oxana, first for her faux pas of accidentally kidnapping one their own. (You’ll have to read the book to find out how she manages to do that.) Then later for the fact that despite her mistakes, the Rcyyt seem to prefer her advice above all the other Terrans.

I liked the oddity of the story and the characters. Oxana and Iol are probably my favorites.

I can only think of one fault in the story. It is too short. And that's saying something since I usually don't like alien stories.