skjam: from Heavenly Nostrils (Unicorn)
Hi folks!

This time we'll look at what Goodreads recommends based on my "Religion & Philosophy" shelf. Here I put religious texts, philosophical works, books with heavy religious or philosophical themes, and works where a religious figure or philosopher is the main character.

Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray
The Alienist by Caleb Carr
American Men on Being Muslim by Wajahat Ali
The Antipope by Robert Rankin
Axiomatic by Greg Egan

The Big Time/The Mind Spiders and Other Stories by Fritz Leiber
The Black Tower by Louis Bayard
Bring the Jubilee by Ward Moore

The Call by Michael Grant
Castle Waiting, Vol. 1 by Linda Medley
The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte
The Complete Tales of Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris

Dawn of the Arcana, Vol. 01 by Rei Toma
Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede
Doctor Mirabilis by James Blish

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen
Falling Free by Lois McMaster Bujold
The Far Side by Gary Larson
The Forgotten Realms: Campaign Set by Ed Greenwood
Foxe's Book of Martyrs by John Foxe

The Godly Man's Picture by Thomas Watson
Grace's Pictures by Cindy Thomson

The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis

Leaves of Grass: First and "Death-Bed" Editions by Walt Whitman
Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
The Light Princess by George MacDonald

Maid-Sama! Vol. 01 by Hiro Fujiwara
Marzi by Marzena Sowa
Mission of Gravity by Hal Clement
Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
Murder and Magic by Randall Garrett

The New Teen Titans Archive, Vol. 1 by Marv Wolfman
The New Testament and the People of God by N.T. Wright

Only the River Runs Free by Bodie Thoene
Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper

Pearl of Great Price by Joseph Smith Jr.
The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
The Pursuit of Lucy Banning by Olivia Newport

Sanctorum Communio: A Theological Study of the Sociology of the Church by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Scarlet Ibis: The Collection of Wonder by James Hurst
The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
Sexual Ethics in Islam: Feminist Reflections on Qur'an, Hadith, and Jurisprudence by Kecia Ali
Spirit Nudges: Proof that Spirit Is Never Far Away by Michelle Rathore
Stranger at Stonewycke by Michael Phillips

Tune: Vanishing Point by Derek Kirk Kim

The Wednesday Witch by Ruth Chew
The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood
Windchaser by Scott Ciencin
Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (I would have thought "The Tao of Pooh" would be more apropos.)
Winnie the Pooh Treasury by A.A. Milne

I think some of these wander far afield from the subjects of philosophy and religion, to be honest. As always, let me know if you've read any of these, or heard interesting buzz.

skjam: Man in blue suit and fedora, wearing an eyeless mask emblazoned with the scales of justice (Default)
Prophets and ApostlesProphets and Apostles by Joseph Ponessa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclaimers: I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway on the premise that I would read and review it. I am a Christian, but not a Catholic, which influences my reaction to this volume.

This volume is part of the "Come and See" Bible study series; I have previously reviewed the "Acts and Letters" volume and you may wish to look that up. It's important to remember that this is not a stand-alone book. For full value, you will need to have a Catholic translation of the Bible with all the books (in particular Baruch and Daniel) and a copy of the most recent revision of the Catholic Catechism. It's also meant to be used not individually, but in the context of a small Bible study group, meeting regularly and advised by a priest or elder.

This volume, Prophets and Apostles, concerns itself with the so-called "minor" prophets, and the shorter apostolic letters. The primary theme is that the prophets point the way to the ministry of Jesus and the redemptive power of His sacrifice, while the apostles explain how the prophecy was fulfilled in Jesus and give advice for going forward in the life of the church.

As there isn't a separate "leader's guide", this book begins with a chapter on how to set up the Bible study group and keep it running, which is very similar to the one in Acts and Letters.

The text switches back and forth between Old and New Testament, keeping the material fresh. Each chapter covers a book or two, or a large section of a book, discussing the salient points the author of this volume wants to point up. A selection of questions and suggestions for group discussion follow each chapter. There are frequent quotations from Catholic scholars, in particular the last two Popes.

The text shows the author's Biblical scholarship, and also a strong adherence to Catholic dogma. The writer's a bit more personally visible in this volume than in Acts and Letters. Great care is taken to show that the Bible does not contradict itself, even when verses taken out of context would seem to do so.

One nitpick here--In discussing Galatians 4:4-7, the author makes the claim that "sons" is inclusive, while "children" is exclusive. This seems to be based on the Greek word Paul uses, direct translation "sonship" having special meaning above and beyond ordinary adoption. But such would not be obvious to the lay reader, who is more likely to come to the conclusion that Paul was simply using the pre-Twentieth Century practice of using masculine nouns and pronouns as the generic, on the assumption that male is normative, with the subtle damage that does to communication. The author doesn't make his case well, and thus comes across as blinkered by his patriarchal training.

Overall, while I do not agree with all the interpretations of Scripture herein, nor the conclusions drawn therefrom, it's well-written and I believe would serve a Catholic Bible study group well.

"These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath."--Zechariah 8:16-17

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skjam: created by djinn (Bottomless)
Universal StationUniversal Station by Beth Brown

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This volume is by the Beth Brown who also wrote "All Dogs Go To Heaven". Like that book, it's a light fantasy about the afterlife. (Indeed, one of the main characters is a dog.)

Sadly, the charm of a talking dog is overwhelmed by the repetitive, preachy dialogue about the nature of the afterlife and how right Johnny's grandfather, Grand, is about everything.

There's a romance in the backstory, but if anything the dialogue in it is even more nauseating in its preciousness.

There's a different book going on in the background that would be arguably more interesting, and whose midpoint would be about the end of this book. In it are all the actual action scenes, and the adventures of Johnny's love interest trying to escape the Nazis.

This is an interesting curio, but it's easy to see why it's fallen into the memory hole.

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Book Review

Oct. 9th, 2012 02:41 pm
skjam: created by djinn (Bottomless)
Come and See: Acts and Letters (Come and See Catholic Bible Study)Come and See: Acts and Letters by Joseph L. Ponessa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Disclosure: This is a book received from the Firstreads program, on the premise that I would review it. Also, I should mention here that I am a Christian, although not Catholic, so my reaction to this is necessarily different from what it would be if I were a devout Catholic, or a non-Christian.

As a Bible study guide, Come and See: Acts and Letters is not a stand-alone book; you'll need both a Bible (preferably a Catholic one with all the books) and a catechism for full effect. Likewise, the fact that I read this solo is not in keeping with its true calling as a group activity. That said, let us begin the actual review.

Unlike some bible study courses I've seen in the past, there are not separate leader's and student's books. Thus the first section of the book is a "how to use this course" guide, with helpful instructions on setting up the study groups and organization. I found this section very helpful, but there were a couple of moments where the authors' assumptions glared--most notably a blind spot about the possibility of men taking turns helping with childcare too.

The main text covers Acts and the Pauline letters, arranged in roughly chronological order. (Thus bits of Acts are split up between the letters.) I should mention here that the publisher is Emmaus Road, a reference to Paul's conversion, and it's clear that the authors favor Paul.

In addition to covering the content of the text, there are explanations of how these words fit into Catholic theology, some outside information on the history of the early Church, and plenty of quotations from Catholic theologians, especially John Paul II and the current Pope. A fair amount of time is spent on fitting pieces together, explaining how seemingly contradictory information is brought together as a whole.

Each short study section is followed by a quiz section, referring to other books of the Bible and the catechism to help bring the material into perspective. There's also suggestions for social interaction outside the formal study.

Optional study materials include videotaped lectures by the author if there is no one in the group comfortable with that function--these did not come with my book. What did was an issue of "Lay Witness" magazine, which had some fine articles on witnessing from a lay Catholic perspective.

Overall, I found this an excellent work of its type; I do not agree with all its theology, but it is clear and consistent.

Peace be with you and yours.

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skjam: Skyler Sands as a UNIT soldier (Unit)
Board to Death: A Trio of Mysteries in the Dangerous Games SeriesBoard to Death: A Trio of Mysteries in the Dangerous Games Series by Amy Barkman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Disclosure: I received this book as part of the Firstreads giveaway program on the premise that I would write a review of it.

As the subtitle says, this is a set of three mystery stories linked by the theme of games. It's double-spaced with fairly large type, so the book was a fast read.

The protagonists are all older women ("baby boomers" as the blurb puts it) and the stories double as romances as each of them finds love as well as danger. The stories are compentently written, although only one of them is a "fair play" mystery that the reader can solve with the given information. The links between the stories as the games go from one person to another might seem a bit too "cute" to more cynical readers.

Which leads to the next thing I should talk about. All of the protagonists, like their authors, are practicing Christians. This leads to rather more God-talk than most cozies contain. I was comfortable with this, but I know many readers might find it intrusive or off-putting.

A peculiarity of the stories is that there's only two religion settings for characters: practicing non-denominational Christian and entirely secular. This is pointed up by one of the secular characters calling people who go to church of a Sunday and pray at appropriate moments "religious fanatics." Clearly, she's never met any real religious fanatics...such as those who would ban board games from their homes for leading to gambling.

And a generally conservative worldview predominates. The motive for one of the deaths caught me by total surprise because it was old-fashioned, almost quaint.

I'd recommend this book most to Christian "cozy" fans, and older romance literature fans.

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