Books to Binge Before the Eclipse and Flashback Friday

augustsolareclipse_0

Credit: NASA

First, let’s get the PSA out of the way. NASA’s Everything Eclipse Site.

Any event requires a few books to set the mood–right? To me that’s usually a necessity.  While these are not all on an actual eclipse, the set the mood for cool astronomy-related events and discoveries, without being overly technical.

I really wanted to show you Bing Crosby’s famous solar eclipse scene from A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court, but for once, You Tube failed me!  So, instead,  you can listen to Mark Twain’s own words for the scene:

 

 

The Books

41n63wXafvL

In 1973 the build up to the appearance of the Comet Kohoutek is the back-drop to a fabulous coming-of-age story about the son of high school science teacher. This is an excellent choice to read this weekend to help set the mood for the eclipse.

Here’s my review from my old blog–this week’s Flashback Friday Review:

Kirkus Reviews are usually dead-right. This IS one of the best books of the year, without doubt! Everything about this marvelous coming-of-age story rings true. From the embarrassment over a geeky Dad and disappointed Mom, to the “not worthy” feelings toward the lovely girl in the new, fancy house–it’s all there. All of it. And, I felt it all both ways–as the person coming of age in the same time period and as the parent who is the “geek.” [Originally published April 21, 2014 on my old blog].

Night of the Comet: A Novel  by George Bishop

 

Two by the Same Author

 

 

 

 

 

For readers more interested in history and actual science, while these are aimed at laymen, they will satisfy that craving for you. You can read my review of Glass Universe here.

Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel

Glass Universe by Dava Sobel

 

 

 

 

Award-winning author and essayist, Annie Dillard, wrote a piece called Total Eclipse that is included in both of these collections of her work. The Atlantic just published the piece on their web page. Here is the link to Total Eclipse by Annie Dillard at the Atlantic.

To buy The Abundance by Annie Dillard

To buy Teaching a Stone to Talk by Annie Dillard

Remember–I do not make any money off your clicks.

Read my review of Annie Dillard Pilgrim at Tinker Creek.(Scroll down to the review.)

Need More?

 

John Pipkin’s Favorite Historical Novels Featuring Stargazers and Astronomy  a super list of historical fiction to help set the mood.

 

 

Review: We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

 

 

 

In 1990, while serving in Malawi in the Peace Corps, I went with a Malawian to visit extended family in Harare, Zimbabwe. At this time, before President  Robert Mugabe went insane, Zimbabwe was right up there with South Africa as the place most Malawians wanted to move to on the African continent. I visited the relatives, both civil servants, who lived in a nice town house with washing machine, nice kitchen, t.v.–all things almost unimaginable to Malawians living in Malawi unless they were “been to-s”. That is, unless they’d been to the USA or UK or similar for an advanced degree. The relatives two girls had nice toys, went to an integrated, middle class school and spoke 3 languages. Then it all fell apart.

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling, a young girl who lives thru Zimbabwe’s coming apart. The country had survived civil war, been reborn as Zimbabwe, burying Ian Smith’s Rhodesia forever. Then Mugabe turned on his own country and made life hell for most of citizens. The remaining white population either moved to South Africa or Malawi or built barriers–compounds to protect themselves. “Their” land was again redistributed. Except for those stratospherically rich people who were pandered to by Mugabe. Like that girl friend of Prince Harry–her father, that type. For the ordinary population it came to see that

“God doesn’t live here, fool.” (p. 19)

Anyway, Darling and her family were like my friend’s relatives. Then they weren’t. They were forced to move to a “township” ( a ghetto of shacks) called Paradise. As the economy died and foreign aid became all there was, school ended, hospitals were wards for the dying, food was whatever could be found. Darling tells us about all of this in her own young voice. Tells of the violence of the destruction of her home and, later, of the retaliation by veteran’s of the war for independence who had waited too long for land they felt they were owed.

 

Robert-Mugabe-vs-Ian-Smith

Back in college I had an instructor who took part in the struggle for independence. I’ve often wondered where he fell in regards to Mugabe’s later years.  Darling, though she remembers her previous life as a decently-off child, now takes for granted going to rich neighborhoods to steal guavas and to play “Finding Bin Laden” with her friends in the streets. She dreams of going to stay with her aunt in “Destroyedmichygan.”(Ironic–my library assistant in Malawi wanted to join her sister in the same city). Meanwhile she waits for the NGO (International Aid Agencies) truck to come and hand out things and  plays the Country Game with her rag-tag group of friends:

Nobody wants to be rags of countries like Congo, like Somalia, like Iraq, like Sudan, like Haiti, like Sri Lanka, and not even this one we live in–who wants to be a terrible place of hunger and things falling apart? (p. 51).

I was reminded too, of being back in Malawi in the early 90s, for the first “real” election. I was mistaken for an UN Election Observer!  Darling experiences waiting for a relative to vote. It takes ages.

“Maybe the line is not moving, like when you are waiting for a doctor.”

Her Father rails in familiar tones–familiar to anyone whose dream has been unfairly squashed. All of this pours out of him as the other scourge–HIV/AIDs is killing him:

“Is this what I went to university for? Is this was get independence for? Does it make sense that we are living like this?”

Darling and her friends watch as rebels from within the country seek to do Mugabe’s traitorous work. They see the intentional invasion and destruction of a rich white family’s home. She cannot get over the food. She has had a real bathroom before, but the food. That is security. And the air conditioning.  But mostly the food. She and her friends stuff themselves on good food until they are ill.

“…leaving your country is like dying, and when you come back you are like a lost ghost returning to earth.” (p.162).

Later as she comes of age in Detroit and Kalamazoo, Darling finds she isn’t an American, but her relatives “back home” won’t let her claim her old country, either.

“There are times, though, that no matter how much food I eat, I find the food does nothing for me, like I am hungry for my country and nothing is going to fix that. (p. 155).

As she grapples with the immigrant experience of near constant work to support family in America and send foreign exchange back to family in Zimbabwe, she rails at both.

“…that wound that knows the texture of the pain; it’s us who stayed here feeling the real suffering, so it’s us who have a right to even say anything about that [Zimbabwe] or anything and anybody.” (p. 287).

An illegal, having come on a student visa, she is part of a silent community that works in nursing homes and in dangerous low-paying factory jobs. Exactly the sorts of jobs all the Malawian, Zambian and other students that I knew in the mid-90s in South Bend, Indiana, did for a living. (Ironically, Darling and her family go to a wedding in South Bend).

[In America knowing] they do not belong, knowing they will have to sit on one buttock because they  must not sit comfortably lest they be asked to rise and leave, knowing they will speak in dampened whispers because they must not let their voices drown those of the owners of the land.... (p. 148).

Her aunt pushes her to study for some sort of medical career, but she pushes back–she doesn’t want that.

“I’ve been getting all As in everything, even maths and science, the subjects I hate, because school is so easy in America even a donkey would pass….”

The book ends on an odd note to Americans (no spoilers) one that shows just how little value life has in Zimbabwe.

1200px-Flag_of_Zimbabwe.svg.png

 

What I Liked

My own memories, aside, I loved the language–the way she put things into terms relevant to the people in Zimbabwe in that day.

“Solid , Jericho walls of men.” (p.  78)

[The men].They have their shirts on and have combed their and just look like real people again.” (p. 60).

“What do they think they are doing yanking a lion’s tail don’t they know that there will be bones if they dare?” (p. 31)

“…a country is like a Coca-Cola bottle that can smash on the floor and disappoint you.” (p. 162).

[American corn] “I don’t even [eat it anymore] it feels like I’m insulting my teeth.” (p. 166).

“Her voice sounds far away, like maybe it was detained at the border of something.” (p. 269)

I liked her well-founded condemnation of aid workers (and whites in general who visit the country) and even local religious leaders. Their patronizing attitudes, their dehumanizing of the people–taking their photos and giving them a few coins or a trinket for “their trouble” and all the rest is just so accurate.  Taking the photo from behind of the boy whose shorts have worn totally away in the seat, or taking the photo of the child with snot and flies on his face–demeaning photos.

“They don’t care that we are embarrassed by our dirt and torn clothing, that we would prefer they didn’t do it; they just take the pictures anyway, take and take. We don’t complain because we know that after the picture-taking comes the giving of gifts.” (p. 54)

“But the NGO people are here and while are, our parents do not count.” (p. 56).

Zimbabwe country map.jpg

 

What I Didn’t Like

Sadly, I felt the American part of  Darling’s story was lacking something. I get it that she was on the fringes at school, that her family were excluded as immigrants.  She and her friends were always at lose ends–that’s typical when parents must work multiple jobs. Their choices of entertainment were pretty typical of American kids at lose ends, too, but it seemed disconnected from the rest. I also just didn’t think this part of the book was as polished. I felt the ending was a strange jolt–like driving at night and hitting a pothole your couldn’t see.  I understood it (I think) as I mentioned above, but it still jarred. Maybe that was the real point and not the one I thought I understood?

What Amazed Me

I was pleased that this book is on the Man Booker Prize shortlist this year. I was amazed, and pleased, to learn that the author began her college education at Kalamzoo Valley Community College, continued it at branch campuses of other universities and still got into Cornell for her MFA. That is inspiring. I work with Community College level students–some immigrants even. I’d like to think one or more of my students could reach a professional level in their chosen careers if they put in as much hard work.

 

Another View of Zimbabwe

If you’d like to read more on Zimbabwe, especially on the long fight for Independence, I recommend this book–which is written from a white “Rhodesian” child’s and family’s point of view.

[Note “Rhodesian” is often a synonym for the type people protesting in Charlottesville–the ones from the right. I’m not using the term to keep from being spammed to death].

 

“There we go then,” Mum said, “I’ll just get my Uzi and we’ll be off….”

“Bullets, lipstick, sunglasses. Off we go….”
(p. 28-29).

51Ztcjv7-kL._SX305_BO1,204,203,200_

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller

 

 

Flashback Friday Review: My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space

41vazoK8RLL._SY346_

This review was published on my old blog on October 28, 2014. It is re-posted her with minor edits.

This little collection of essays came up in a search for a writing project I’m doing. I started listening and was soon hooked. Ordinary topics, presented in a fun manner, by a Mom and her grown daughter. What’s not to love? Lisa has dogs, cats, a character of a mother and a life as a published author. In short, I’ve found a new role model. (Miss you, Mother Mary).

I’m sad to say I’d never heard of their books before this little one, but I will be listening to more audio versions of their work, you can be sure. My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella.

FYI The “writing project” I mentioned ended up, eventually,  being this post: When the Empty Nest Houses a Single Bird.

 

More From Lisa and Francesca:

 

51i-AsbRDCL._SY346_

 

This week I reviewed Lisa and Francesca’s newest collection of essays, I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool. You can read my review here.

 

 

 

Listen to an excerpt here:

Review: I Need A Lifeguard Everywhere but the Beach

51i-AsbRDCL._SY346_

 

The Story

Best selling thriller author, Lisa Scottoline and her daughter Francesca Serritella have teamed up again to bring us more peeks into their real lives. These little essays, aka “Chick Wit” remind us of how great–and how awful, it is to be women of a certain age. Whatever that age may be.

What I Loved

I always say that listening to these two perform their essays on the audio version is like taking a road trip with your two besties. This installment is just that–a gal-pal road trip and more.

The intro to this collection says it perfectly:

I’m [Lisa] divorced twice….Francesca isn’t dating anyone right now. …So here we are, mother and daughter, happily single yet unhappily celibate, going through life on our own.

And We Still Count

[emphasis mine]

 

Lisa’s Take

This is the glory of their essays. In the Grace and Frankie era women aren’t defined by whether they  have a sex life (i.e. a man). We are more than that. We who wield our own vacuum cleaners (or not), who adore our pets possibly more than our spouse (if we have one) or our lay-about-do-nothing-navel-gazing-young-adult-children (did I just say that?)–we matter! We’re standing up to cellulite and not giving a damn if it shows….unless we’re at the beach. And we are entitled to our fantasies of Jeremy Irons stopping for gas at the Fincastle, Ohio gas station (hey, don’t laugh–a Bentley stopped once and it wasn’t a drug dealer!) and spots us and says, “You’re fabulous” in that voice. Ok, or Bradley Cooper comes by, big dif…. This is Lisa’s genius–she’s not dead yet and she knows we gals aren’t either!

I love Lisa for another reason, too. She is that rare species: A Recovered Lawyer. Yep, she, too could enjoy the Biglaw-themed party (and nod knowingly) that I planned in this post for all recovering lawyers. In addition, at her party, Lisa deserves the addition of a picked-over desert tray (and the forever life support from firm profits!) for having the good sense to divorce a few lawyers as well. This gives her super-duper bike path cred (street cred sounds too violent) with yours truly.

Francesca’s Take

Francesca’s specialty is voicing the real-life concerns of young, well educated women everywhere. That is, how to survive dating in the Tinder age when no one swipes right. She’s woman enough to sincerely rejoice when true friends really, really do find true love–even while calling out Bridal Shower games as sexist (which they are).  She can also go all out for a married friend’s new baby. Meanwhile she is an over-achieving doggie-Mommy to her adorable, dear little Pip and to her hiding cat.

Francesca’s Great Achievements In This Book

In this book, Francesca manages to top the word staycation by coining, “guyatus” for a hiatus from guys. Brilliant! Oh, Webster’s? Are you listening? Forget Trump-speak, this is the word of the year for 2017. Got it?

Then there’s her unknowing addition to the socially awkward merit badges (she doesn’t get to earn one–it wasn’t her fault, ok? Plus a scratching post is a NECESSITY,  it doesn’t qualify!

 

944b89dd771d89951d2b93d56923ebb9

 

The new badge, you ask? Bought Cat Furniture!! No, not a scratching post though–ok? That’s necessary to save your own furniture. But buying Puss N’ Boots this type thing, definitely merits both a merit badge and an appointment with Dave Ramsey.

 

house-cat-pampered-cat-furniture-bed-chic-sofa

Source

This, this deserves a Socially Awkward Merit Badge all it’s own. But don’t worry–I’ll help you look at upholstery swatches. You’re right–that print does hide both cat hair and scratches.

 

Now, could someone explain to this confused Midwesterner how Spaghetti Sauce has come to be called Gravy??

 

My Verdict (Trigger Warning!)

How This Lovely Collection Made Me Feel

I admit that election and post-election fatigue were a problem in listening to a couple of the essays, but neither Lisa nor Francesca could have predicted months ago that this would be a problem. I’m giving them a pass. Plus the essays themselves WERE great.

But these two tell it like it is in such an enjoyable way  that I can’t say anything but just listen to them! Or read them! I only listen–I want THEIR voices to tell me THEIR stories.

 

51i-AsbRDCL._SY346_

I Need a Lifeguard Everywhere But the Pool by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Here is a link to ALL of Lisa and Francesca’s Humorous Chick Wit books.

 

Want to read more?

Here are my reviews of other books by Lisa and Francesca:

 

51F48s-ByKL._SY346_

 

I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places by Lisa and Francesca (scroll down on linked page for the review).

 

 

 

51mKH72ckoL._SY346_

 

Does This Beach Make Me Look Fat? By Lisa and Francesca (scroll down on linked page for the review).

 

 

 

 

41vazoK8RLL._SY346_

 

My Nest Isn’t Empty, It Just Has More Closet Space by Lisa and Francesca. This was my gateway collection. This review is on my old blog and will be featured in my new Flashback Friday book review series this week!

 

 

 

41ZzO+47R8L._SY346_

 

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline

 

 

 

See Mother and Daughter in action!

Flashback Friday: Blood and Beauty

 

I’m preparing to take down my old blog. My reviewing style on that blog was different. Back then I crammed all of my reviews into one monthly post. Yikes!  So, Flashback Friday is a new feature–a book review from way back! I chose the first title after seeing it in an “in progress” reading list on another book blog.

My Review

I LOVED Jeremy Irons in the tv series The Borgias, so when I saw this I hoped it would be good and it was! This is a vividly told page turner! The setting, the characters, the gamesmanship–all were exciting. The wily Rodrigo Borgia, aka Pope Alexander VI, and his family had  fascinating, if ruthless, lives! The notes at the end were very good as well–pointing out what was “legend” and what was documented “history.” I will definitely read more by this author.  4 Stars.

 Blood and Beauty: The Borgias : A Novel by Sarah Dunant.

From my old blog, July 21 2014.

 

tumblr_ml4ggd51qU1qg2fb3o1_250

My favorite scene from The Bogias! “Don’t Wake The Baby!”

 

 

borgias_wallpaper_1280x1024

 

Review: The Imperial Wife by Irina Reyn

51AEFYD6AwL._SY346_

 

Back in 2009 I listened to this author’s debut novel, What Happened to Anna K a retelling of Anna Kareninabut for some reason I failed to review it on my old blog. I do remember the story well and thought it was an “ok” first book. Fast forward to this past week and I’ve been, unknowingly till I looked for the cover photo, been listening to her second book. Interestingly, they have a few of the same minor problems. But more on that in a minute.

 

The Story

There is both a modern-day story and an historical one. Nasty, bitchy Tonya is married to a guy she sees as sort of a loser (well, her attitude says that!). She’s a big shot Russian Art expert at a swanky auction house in, where else? New York. Poor husband is desperately putting in years as an adjunct trying to get a tenured faculty position (good luck). His hopes are pinned to his novel on Catherine the Great’s ill-fated marriage to Peter the Great’s ridiculous son, also named Peter. (Talk about a loser! That guy never even consummated his marriage. I ask you!) Well, as you guessed, the novel’s subject is the historical story line.

While Tonya pats herself on the back for the utterly magnificent way she’s pulled herself up by her bootstraps. (No, wait! She’d surely verb it: bootstrapped her way up) from the life of a Russian Jewish immigrant child in Queens right to that posh auction house where Nigel bangs the gavel and says in tones appropriate for the Queen’s funeral, “sold.”  Yes, she’s totally full of herself.

Then a Royal Order (those are the big shinny things or the little portraits that royals wear either on shoulder (most of the portraits) or on a ribbon around their neck or pinned to their jacket with a wide ribbon sash) appears on the market purportedly belonging to none other than……Catherine the Great herself! Imagine that! Naturally Tonya’s schlemiel of a hubby wants to see it. Being a bitch, Tonya says no. (And she wonders why he left her….. )

Well after a Russian Oligarch sucks up to her, takes her to Monaco and Moscow but doesn’t sleep with her because she is married (yeah, that stops them…..) then she decides to…… Well to say that would spoil it, wouldn’t it? Hint, hint, hint, but not a spoiler. Early on she whines that her husband “judges” people who play with ethics and morals. Can you believe it? Wow. That’s a hint, ok? But not a spoiler!

 

What I Liked

The premise was a decent one. Was the order real? A good fake? Should Oligarch A or Oligarch B get to buy it? Should it go back to Russian? To a museum??  I liked both Anna’s immigrant parents and her wealthy, WASP in-laws. The latter mostly because that’s two books in a row with WASP-y folks with Dutch Van Der Names. I like coincidences like this in my reading. The writing was decent and it kept me listening even if I did hurl abuse at the car stereo every time nasty Tonya was mentioned.

 

What I Didn’t Like

Beyond not liking Tonya, there are problems of word choice and editing. Just as she did in the Anna K book, the author gets a bit carried away and more than a tad pretentious with her word choices on occasion. My meager notes on Goodreads tell me that in Anna K it was “cordoroyed legs” and the word patois–used twice in too short of a page span.

In The Imperial Wife it began with “his trench was missing“…  That was one such odd choice. I paused trying to make sense of this. Aha, his trench COAT. She says “his trench” twice in about a paragraph. Wouldn’t you say “his coat” or his “trench coat?” This just sounds odd to me. Would you say “his Chesterfield was missing?” for his Chesterfield style overcoat? No, you’d say “his coat was missing.” Unless he was missing more than one coat of different styles, perhaps.

He “maneuvered the wine into a glass? That was fabulous. Here I thought you had to pour wine. “A suited doorman?” Did she mean “liveried?” Unwrapping sandwiches from parchment? Do people wrap sandwiches in PARCHMENT? Baker’s parchment PAPER is an expensive way to wrap a sandwich! Finally,  there was my favorite– in one scene it was noted that they spoke English due to someone’s “nativity” oh please…. But she nailed it with “over-ripe breasts.” Perfect description–I could clearly see them.

Then there were two odd spots that I decided must be typos or editing fails–hard to tell since it was the audio version.  In the first such phrase, one of the oligarchs apparently  wanted to “be” a Romanov AND pretend that the END of the USSR never happened?? WT? Surely that would be that the USSR never happened??  Because if not, he’d have to be a Romanov who was really far down the line of succession to have survived. Even the ones who escaped didn’t seem to last long or have many heirs.

The second odd phrase concerned the problem of Catherine the Great being bored at court functions while waiting for the boy-emperor’s balls to drop. People of “at least 30 years old” are invited, but they are “old crones.” Should that have been “30 years oldER”??? Granted the Emperor and Empress were teenagers, and granted people didn’t live nearly as long, but 30 seems a tad young for crone-hood.

 

My Verdict and Rating

Near the very end the story got a decent pace and some twists to it. That helped.

3 Stars

 

$_35.JPG

 

 

Man Booker Prize Long List (Fiction): My Reviews

 

This prize is given annually to “the best novel in the opinion of the judges”.

 

The 2017 longlist:

4 3 2 1 by Paul Auster (US) (Faber & Faber)
Days Without End by Sebastian Barry (Ireland) (Faber & Faber)
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (US) (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan-UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Ireland) (Canongate)
Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor (UK) (4th Estate)
Elmet by Fiona Mozley (UK) (JM Originals)
The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy (India) (Hamish Hamilton)
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (US) (Bloomsbury Publishing)
Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie (UK-Pakistan) (Bloomsbury Circus)
Autumn by Ali Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
Swing Time by Zadie Smith (UK) (Hamish Hamilton)
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (US) (Fleet)

Source: http://themanbookerprize.com/fiction

 

Over the last year I have read and reviewed three of these titles. Here are my reviews:

 

Click the linked text beside each book to go to my review.

 

 

61gbmiukrll-_sx334_bo1204203200_

 

 

Lincoln in the Bardo review

 

 

 

 

 

underground

 

 

Underground Railroad review.

 

 

 

 

51iawq3toil

 

 

Swing Time review.

 

 

 

 

 

Do you track your reading of prize winners? I do!

Have you read any of this year’s long list titles? Leave me a comment and tell me which ones–or leave a link to your review.

Review: 7 Men and Women by Eric Metaxas

 

 

 

 

A Little Background

Collective biographies are a funny thing.  Generally they are people who all share something in common–a collective biography or all the presidents or first ladies. Or all the kings and queens of a country. They usually just scratch the surface–giving “just the facts” as Joe Friday would say. But other times they share something a little different in common. My first encounter with this genre is a book I still own

61apZ22RtyL._SX404_BO1,204,203,200_

I’ve always loved history so reading about, say, James Knox Polk, was something I enjoyed. Later I became fascinated by the British Royal Family, so a popular collective biography of the 1970’s caught my eye because it contained Edward VII (it was published not long after his death.

6men

But on to Today’s Book Reviews

Today I’m reviewing a set of two collective biographies of greatly admired Christian leaders, both books containing seven brief biographies. Each short profile aims to show us the personal habits and attributes that led to their success. Author Eric Metaxas, whose biography of my great hero (and history ‘crush’–though I loathe that word) Dietrich Bonhoeffer I believe should be read by every Christian in the world today. While I didn’t always agree with Metaxas’ choices I did find each biography fascinating. Let’s start with the women.

Along with Martin Luther, the name Wesley is almost synonymous with Protestantism. So who better to start out with than Susannah Wesley, mother of John and Charles. ‘Domineering’ is the word that comes to mind for her! This was no meek, “Keep Sweet” Quiverfull woman, though she was from a family of 25 and gave birth to 19 children–half of whom died in infancy or childhood. Due to her circumstances she should be the original poster girl of the #ShePersisted movement. I found much to admire in the way she lived her life.

Among the others, Corrie Ten Boom is, to me, the most inspirational. Even while enduring a Nazi Concentration Camp and watching her sister die there, Corrie was able to follow God’s teaching and truly give thanks in all circumstances. She continued to seek Him and to teach about Him and was rewarded several times with small signs of His care.

I wondered though, where was Gladys Aylward? Lilias Trotter? Rosa Parks was very inspirational and gave our nation much-needed change, but she was backed by a large organization (that in no way devalues her act!) and had press and television to help her cause. Where were modern women such as Ruth Bell Graham or her daughter, Anne Graham Lotz?

Among the seven men Eric Liddell, Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce were obvious–though I thought Bonhoeffer was more than covered in the separate biography I agree he deserved to be among the seven. Chuck Colson, sure he changed prison ministry and much more.

But, George Washington?? No clue even after reading it. Billy Graham would have had my vote for inclusion–“America’s Pastor.”  What about John Knox, John Welsey, Francis Schaeffer, or, hello–Martin Luther? Why Pope John Paul II but not John XXIII? Ooops, sorry JXXIII was liberal. My bad.  Where was William Tyndale? On and on with the where’s Waldo guessing game?

The most glaring omissions of all were both the  Martin Luthers. Where was the founder of Protestantism?? Well, it turns out Metaxes was writing Luther’s biography which debuts this October.  Still, the omission is jarring.  Metaxas includes baseball player Jackie Robinson (who DID show tremendous courage and tact in integrating MLB–a tremendous example) but he did not include Dr. Martin Luther King?? This really left me scratching my head! How do you leave out one of the greatest American Christians of all time?

My verdict

Metaxas did write a compelling story of each of the seven in both books. He did identify aspects of their life habits and character that contributed to their success. It is his choice of great persons that left me perplexed.

Rating

3.5

7women

Seven Women: And the Secret of Their Success by Eric Metaxas

 

 

 

 

 

7men

 

Seven Men: And the Secret of Their Success by Eric Metaxas

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know that author and radio host Eric Metaxas used to write for Veggie Tales?

Review: Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life…and Maybe The World

51D8tEOmerL._SY346_

 

“True leaders must learn from their failures, use the lessons to motivate themselves, and not be afraid to try again or make the next tough decision.”

Every year I read a few management or business books and a few motivational books. I also take time to read a few commencement speeches by famous people.This book is both–starting as a viral hit commencement speech, the message is now in book form. It makes a fabulous graduation gift, of course, but it also would be an excellent book for new parents. Keep reading and you’ll see why.

I’ve long been a big fan of the United States military forces. The discipline, structure and career ladder they supply to young people is crucial to our nation’s success–and not just in times of war. Each branch is also a fabulous training organization. Few parts of our armed forces command as much respect as the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land Teams).

Drawing on his own days in SEAL training, Admiral William H. McRaven applies the factors that make a sailor into a SEAL to ordinary, daily life. The title essay, “Make Your Bed,” shows how one simple act–making your bed as soon as you get up–sets the stage for a successful day. Think about it. You just woke up, yet you’ve already accomplished something. What an awesome way to look at a mindless chore!

Using stories of SEAL training, of soldiers and sailors on duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and other places, the lessons boil down to one important message: You CAN do it, if you don’t quit.

“If you quit, you will regret it for the rest of your life. Quitting never makes anything easier.”

Now, why would I pick a book on Navy SEAL training for new parents? No, not because the first few years are like the mud flats the SEALs trained on! But because today there is too much focus on the child and not enough on the family. Parents have lives, too. Everyone makes a contribution to a family. No one person is the center of it. Parents today seem hell-bent on micromanaging every aspect of their child’s success. This book shows, in essence, how ridiculous that notion is. By empowering the child to tackle everyday tasks, to stand up for him or herself, to help others, to set and achieve a goal,  to do what it takes–that is successful parenting. That is also what gets a SEAL thru training without ringing the bell to quit.

 

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

 

Review: Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch

51iEHedN8ML._SY346_

 

Herman Koch has fast become a favorite of mine. The Diner and Summer House With Swimming Pool are as amazing as this novel. And, believe me, Dear Mr. M is an amazing book! Koch is the master of multiple viewpoints, of unreliable narrators, of is it or isn’t it? He makes you squirm, he makes you sweat, he keeps you on the edge of your seat. He doesn’t let you go to sleep because he makes you want to know how it all ends.

The Story

A celebrated writer with a much younger wife writes a novel based on a real-life story. But, this being a Koch story, there is so much more to it. The story of the high school history teacher who disappears after an affair with a student isn’t as simple as it seems. Nor are the student’s group of friends as innocent as their age might suggest. And the writer’s own world is flawed and twisted in its own ways as well.

What I Loved

Aside from Koch’s expertly rendered twists and turns, its his humor that I love. His comments on high school, [many, but not all] high school teachers and, especially on my own profession–librarians, are so spot on I’m still laughing–and planning a new haircut!! The phrase “I can’t even…” gives you an indication of what this book says in black humor about the publishing industry. Koch uses this kind of humor in each book. The book is shot thru with humor of such a laser-like cutting-edge and sharp tone that the other reason I can never put his books down is to get to the next dose–the next victim of his humor.

This story was all over the place emotionally. From young love to nearly immoral-stalking-sexual-pedator-behvior-pervy-teacher, cunning young mean girl, twisted- candid-cameraman-wanna-be and a lot else added in for good measure, this one covers even more ground than Summer House With Swimming Pool did. [Although he’s too old, Jeremy Irons with his long history of playing pervy types would have been good as the teacher.] Though much is hinted at there is nothing terribly sexual described–this is an emotional thriller, not a sexual romp.

I listened to the audio version and the reader was exactly right. A reader makes or breaks an audio book and this one was just plain “right” for the part.

Dear Mr. M by Herman Koch

My review of  Summer House With Swimming Pool.