Monday, May 2, 2016

Winter Is Coming

Cover image for Winter Is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped by Garry Kasparov and Mig Greenguard, 267 pages

Garry Kasparov is indisputably one of the greatest chess players in history - he become the youngest ever World Champion at the age of 22 and held the title for fifteen years, during which he set a record for consecutive tournament victories.  Since his retirement from competitive chess in 2005, he has divided his time between coaching, charitable work with his Kasparov Chess Foundation, and political activism.  It is to the last category that this book belongs.

Much of the book is taken up by an extended expose of Putin's crimes against democracy and peace, his victimization of the Russian people and their neighbors.  This is not an objective report, but a passionate denunciation of what Kasparov describes as a "mafia state", a lawless regime run solely for the benefit of those at the top.  But the real heart of the book is Kasparov's scathing indictment of decades of indifference and enabling by a toothless international community.  In Kasparov's view, this has been caused less by the increasing strength of economic ties due to globalization than by a general deterioration of civilizational confidence throughout the West.  

Kasparov's case is thoroughly convincing even if his presentation is disorganized, jumping around chronologically in a manner that is sometimes confusing, but held together by his personal experience and passion.  Unfortunately, in the final chapter, when the time comes to present a positive program for change, all he can muster is empty cliches about the importance of education, a fizzle of an end to an explosive book.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Love Unveiled

Cover image for Love Unveiled: The Catholic Faith Explained by Edward Sri, 278 pages

Oftentimes in modern society, religion is viewed primarily in terms of limits - "thou-shalt-nots" - and perhaps no religion is more identified in the popular imagination with arbitrary rules than Catholicism.  In Love Unveiled, Edward Sri, host of the multimedia Symbolon series, attempts to demonstrate that what the Church proclaims is really a set of positive propositions and the conclusions that follow naturally from them, the logic of the revelation of the love of God for man and man's response.

The obvious comparison for an affirmative presentation of the Catholic faith tied to a multimedia series is Bishop Robert Barron's excellent Catholicism, but where that book resembled a set of university lectures, Sri's work has a more personal style.  Even when addressing the most controversial topics, Sri never loses his gentle tone.  Even when dealing with fairly straightforward apologetics, he never lapses into didacticism, but treats his subjects as the unfolding of greater truths.  Most compellingly, the whole work forms a unity in which each section seems to follow naturally from the last, as conclusion follows premise. 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Divners and Lair of Dreams

The Diviners and Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, (2 books - 1191 pages)
Cover image for
In The Diviners an old evil has been reawakened, an evil so strong it threatens to destroy the world. But as its powers grow, magic seeps back into the world in the form of diviners, people who have strange powers. Some can see what was, or what might be, others can hide in plain sight, and while their powers are still in their infancy, they are certainly needed.
Lair of Dreams sees a world in which diviners have emerged from the shadows and are trying to capitalize on their powers, performing readings, talking to ghosts, etc. But when evil lurks in the realm of dreams, how does talking to ghosts help? As more and more people fall into a never waking sleep, can the once victorious diviners figure out how to stop this new evil.
So I have very mixed feelings about the works of Libba Bray so far. On one hand I really enjoyed The Diviners and how she slowly built up an underlying fear but that same slow buildup bored me to death in Lair of Dreams. Maybe it was the added love stories or all the extra characters being juggled bogging down the story, but looking back none of them seemed overly tedious or unnecessary.
I would say Diviners is worth reading, but stop there. It seems likely that Bray is going to continue this series, but I don’t know if I would read a third book or not.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day

Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day by Eric Jay Cash    24 pages

Author Eric Jay Cash has given readers four delightfully drawn, Paleolithic characters---Alk, Haha, Lala, and Zee.  Together they experience creating the word “water.” But I don’t get it.

I understand how the kids came up with “wa,” “wa.” It’s based on various ways they find something wet. I don’t get how the “ter” really played a part. It could as well been “ded.”

Maybe I’m asking for too much. After reading others reviews, I see that the book is aimed at those who have speaking and reading disabilities. I can understand the need for a simplistic tale.

Based on my “not getting it,” I give the Cave Kiddos: A Sunny Day  1 out of 5 stars.

Together at the Table: A Novel of Lost Love and Second Helpings

Together at the Table: A Novel of Lost Love and Second Helpings; Book 3 in the Two Blue Doors Series by Hillary Manton Lodge    320 pages

When I saw that this third book in Hillary Manton Lodge’s Two Blue Door Series was available for review from Blogging for Books, I jumped at the opportunity to review it (and it didn’t hurt that I got it for FREE!).

I was highly irritated at the end of Book Two. The story just stopped; literally it just stopped. It was a wonderful read until that point. I was eager to know what happened between Juliette and Neil. And would she learn the truth about the man she thought was her grandfather and the man who may have been? Book Three does not disappoint.

When we last saw Juliette, her mother had been diagnosed with cancer; the restaurant she opened with her brother, Nico, was off to a good start; she had traveled to Italy to meet both her paternal and maternal relative and try to solve the mystery of who was her grandfather; but her long-distance romance with Memphis-based immunologist Neil McLaren had ended.

Since then, her mother has died, leaving a gaping hole in the family. No one is quite over the shock. The restaurant is a success. She is dating the sous-chef Adrian. She has read the letters she discovered by her grandmother, but hasn’t had the time to follow up, and she is not over Neil McLaren, no matter what comes out of her mouth.

Taking a break from her hectic schedule, she takes a walk on Portland’s riverfront with Adrian. There in the distance is a familiar figure. Could it be Neil?  Her heart tells her it is.

In a delightful novel, Manon Lodge ties up all the loose ends and give readers a satisfying conclusion. I’ll miss these characters and hope that she reconsiders and gives us a fourth Two Blue Doors. I think it’s doable.  


Dumplin by Julie Murphy, 375 pages

Willowdean has always been heavy but she's always been okay with herself.  Until a boy she's always admired, a very cute, very hot boy, named Bo, starts to show that he likes her back.  Then she starts to question her feelings for him, his feelings for her, and just generally how she feels about herself.  Especially since she has recently lost her aunt, who was very heavy, to a heart attack.  Willowdean decides, on the spur of the moment, to sign up for the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet beauty pageant and finds herself with a following on one hand and ridicule on the other.  But her town may be in for a big surprise, and so may Willowdean.  I really liked this book.  Any teens who have ever felt uncomfortable with themselves will probably like it too.

Peas and Carrots

Peas and Carrots by Tanita S. Davis, 279 pages

Dess is a foster kid who has just come to stay with Hope and her family.  Hope's family has been taking care of Dess's little brother, Austin, for a while now and everyone has agreed that Dess should be with them also.  Dess and Hope are both sophomores and Hope's mom and the other adults at school seem to think that they should be best friends but the two of them are just like oil and water.  Dess can't stand that Hope seems so wimpy and Hope thinks that Dess is pushy and mean.  But the other kids at school like Dess and Hope keeps trying to be understanding and nice, even when she thinks Dess is being mean.  Is it possible that the two of them could ever be friends?  I really liked this book and I think that it would have a lot of teen appeal.