Jesus Now: God Is Up to Something Big

Jesus Now: God Is Up to Something BigJesus Now: God Is Up to Something Big by Tom Phillips

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Its probably due to population sizes, but an awful lot of Christian books are published in the USA. And with the mindset of America being front and centre, books are published with America as its central view. The frustrating thing about this mindset is if you are reading a US-centric book in any other part of the world you tend to feel ‘so what’ about the work in the book because it doesn’t ring true for your country. Of course the truths explored in the book can be ‘translated’ to your situation in your country, but it sure would be nice for authors of Christian work to remember that their book is more than likely going to be read by a global audience. It would be nice for them to remember that God blesses more than just the USA.
With that bone of contention out of the way, Jesus Now talks about the cycle, the need for and the requirements for revival in the church. It has prayer starters written at the end of each chapter and its isn’t impossible to imagine a small home group using this book as a weekly study.
It is just a tad galling to read justification that God will create Revival in the USA (a melting pot of nations) when there are many other countries who can lay claim to the melting pot imagery. Goodness knows what will happen if revival begins in a different part of the world like Canada or Australia and not the USA!
One of the highlights found in this book is the list of organisations mentioned in the book and their web pages or email addresses’. This book takes you step by step in what it takes to pray for and experience personal (and thereby corporate) revival. With biblical evidence for each act or step it leads the reader down the pathway for a Jesus Now revival. This book uses a great deal of real life examples for each point being made, with the majority of organisations being US based. There were many times when the storyline felt repeated. There is nothing in it that goes “WHAM!” in your face with its new and startling insight, rather it read like so many other books before it.
Easy to read, thoughtful and insightful for people new to this manner of thinking, it also serves as a reminder to those who have travelled this journey a while. Not a page turner, it is best taken in small bursts with prayer and discussion with fellow believers.
This is great for elementary basics.

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The Romanovs: 1613-1918

The Romanovs: 1613-1918The Romanovs: 1613-1918 by Simon Sebag Montefiore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

With a cast of 1000’s this is no easy read. Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge of the Russian royal family, but I found the intrigues and scandals of the family almost too much to take in. Very few of the Romanov’s are written about in any great detail in the way of personality, but the book is weighed down in names, dates and dry historical facts. Why is this a bad thing? I personally am more intrigued about the actual people as opposed to historical blips on a chart. Each chapter is begun with a list of characters (often a couple of pages long) but there is almost nothing of their personalities or the social history to make these historical names more human. I wanted to know the people, not the exact facts of history.
There is no denying that Simon Sebag Montefiore’s ability to take on 300 years of history in one book for what is truly a formidable task. Obviously a great deal of research has gone into the writing of this book; there are 70 pages of notes not to mention all the footnotes scattered throughout the pages.
And its frustrating the number of hours committed to reading this book as it just felt dry. Dare I even say a touch boring? I had to read the book in chunks of pages a day – its no page turner. I feel somewhat guilty when so many people appear to think that this book is great; it just didn’t do it for me.
A little too academic for this history buff.

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In the Shadow of the Banyan

In the Shadow of the BanyanIn the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raami is seven years old when the Khmer Rouge takes over Cambodia in 1975. Born a princess, she is considered on of the enemies of the Revolution. Forced from their city home, Raami’s extended family are taken to one place after another, hiding their royal heritage from the thugs who enforced the Revolutions ideals with guns ad untold cruelty. Creating tie with other people were strictly destroyed, feeling safe in one place wasn’t allowed, families were broken up and scattered throughout the country with no rhyme or reason. Even those in the ‘leadership’ could be suddenly turned on and murdered in the purges the leadership seemed to enjoy. Within five years Raami’s extended family were all dead; Grandmother, father, uncle, aunt, twin cousins and baby sister. No memorials, no funerals, bodies thrown into rice paddy’s or worse.
This is a devastating period of history for the Cambodian people. It was the Communist Party of Kampuchea, formed in 1968 who were victorious in the Cambodian Civil War, where there was a military coup d’├ętat who set up their own government in 1975 led by General Pol Pot. It is considered a period of Cambodian genocide that this book writes about. The aims of the communist government was to turn Cambodia into an agricultural society, but this led to wide spread famine resulting in the death of two million people either through hunger or treatable diseases such as malaria.
This book reveals the depths to which humanity can plunge to. It is an example of courage, great personal strength and sometimes sheer luck that it took to survive. It is a beautifully written novel without flinching away from the brutal truth. Powerful and haunting, this is an own voice book that is well worth the read.

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Full of Wonderment

Full of Wonderment: a novelFull of Wonderment: a novel by Josh Greenfield

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This story reads like the summer diary of a young adult in the late 80’s who spent his summer in Alaska working in a fish processing plant and then a few of his adventures around part of the state.
It speaks of a young man, happy with his own company, thinking he was in love with a girl who proves unobtainable. It speaks of a time when it was relatively safe to hitch hike around different parts of the USA. It speaks of easy flowing friendships that come and go in the matter of hours.
The more interesting part of the novel that is never fully explored is the main characters’ descent into mental illness. It is hinted at, and spoken about in vague terms, but its apparently two years in the future according to the main character’s narration, so why it is mentioned at all in this book is a mystery.
Jordan has done two years of university and has plans to go on an adventure during hi8s summer break. With a rucksack, tent and an old string guitar, he takes off from New York and eventually lands in Anchorage, Alaska. Through sheer good luck he finds himself in a small fish processing plant where he earns good money for long hours of work. He meets people from all walks of life and eventually decides to return to university at the end of his summer. It reads as a memoir of the main character Jordan, never feeling like a novel.
Not a world changer as far as literature goes, but an easy couple of hours read.

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Cry Baby

Cry BabyCry Baby by Gloria White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I found out through Goodreads that this was the sixth Ronnie Ventana mystery, yet never once did I shake my head in confusion trying to make sense of the storyline. The characters were fresh and well written. This is what probably passes as for a cosy mystery but not one for the avid reader of mysteries. I knew the main plot line within the first chapter, and was pleased to see that I had ‘cracked the case’ before the end of the book. There were some twists and turns that I didn’t foresee in the story line which kept it interesting.
Ronnie Ventana is the child of famed cat burglars, but her parents died when she was young and she now uses her cunning skills to good use as a Private Investigator. Her faithful companion (perhaps her mentor?) is Blackie Coogan, who works along side her to solve the current mystery.
After a gap of fifteen years, Ronnie’s old school chum Analisa makes contact and shows up unexpectedly totting two children under the age of one. Ronnie assumes that the children are hers but grows worried when Analisa appears to have abandoned the children and skipped out of the restaurant. Having been put in the system briefly Ronnie is hesitant to get the CPS (Child Protective Services) involved and hides the children with a friend of Blackies whilst they scour San Francisco for Analisa. There are many twists and turns in the plot that keep you guessing, which is the best part of a cosy mystery in my opinion.
This is a short novel, easy to read over the course of an afternoon. This proved to be good enough to please the mystery sleuth in me enough that I intent to read more by Gloria White.
Satisfying.

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George Washington: The Wonder of the Age

George Washington: The Wonder of the AgeGeorge Washington: The Wonder of the Age by John Rhodehamel

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

As a complete outsider to all things historical when it comes to America, I was hoping for a big fat juicy biography to learn much about this first President of the United States. Sadly, this is not a book for a newbie to take on. Confusing from the start, his early years are given in dribs and drabs which is understandable as he wasn’t a prominent son but still made for a lack of interest in the book. Reading about Washington in his 20’s makes him sound like a lucky brown nose who wanted the glory of a British military rank with no military success to warrant it. Thankfully he improves as he ages, but always it is because he wants his reputation to be good, rather than leading the people because he believed in what he was doing. A proud American, he got there because of the snubbing he got from the British establishment rather than having a fire in his belly that the colonies should make a country in its own right.
This book gives great focus on giving much detail to the War Effort between American colonies and the British Empire and information such as numbers of men in the militia are given often. This book would be something for those interested in the military history of each battle as a general overview of the battles is given in some detail. There is very little about the emotions or choices that Washington makes and why, apart from his never ending need to be admired. Although I’m sure that for the military minded there really isn’t enough detail in the history for those that way inclined.
It gives detailed accounts of the set up of both the United States Constitution and the actual governmental offices. If you lack a strong background in USA political history, this book will leave you confused as it jumps from one person of note to another, such as jumping from Jefferson to Hamilton in a few sentences. Great swathes of chapters are taken up with discussing the national debt and how to fairly share the responsibility for paying the loans back with almost no part given to Washington’s involvement.
George Washington. Reluctant leader. Bad military leader who often won by sheer luck rather than brilliant tactics. Bad public speaker. Not known for his conversational skills. Willing to endure opposition. Self grandiose about his reputation. These are just some of the impressions one gets from this piece.
This book tends to make for dry reading. Of its factual standing there are over 50 pages of notes and many different sources highlighted including both primary and secondary sources.
Its just not a great book for a novice.

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Miss Burma

Miss BurmaMiss Burma by Charmaine Craig

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book takes us through a journey of many years through the history of Burma (now called Myanmar.) It begins with a Miss Burma contest then goes back time over twenty years to see the history of Miss Burma’s Jewish father (Benny) and the eventual meeting and marriage of her parents. Khin, Miss Burma’s mother, is an ethnic Karen (emphasis on the second part of the word rather than the first as is common in the English language) which is to refer to a number of Sino-Tibetan speaking groups, many of which do not share a common culture. Their relationship wasn’t so much romance as more the tale of a man carried away with the beauty of a woman and proposing marriage immediately, without actually getting to know the woman he was pledging himself to.

The marriage between Benny and Khin starts off with them barely able to communicate but very much one of love but it is many years before they are able to freely talk. Louisa (Miss Burma) is their first child and life appears to be golden, but the reality of Khin being part of a minority in Burma puts the relationship under pressure. Benny is a wise business man and Khin is a dutiful wife, overlooking many of Benny’s faults. There is much infidelity and bad choices made by both Benny and Khin, although it tends to be tinged with the decision being made because of the war rather than with malice. And there is a certain sadness at seeing a loving relationship unravel due to the pressures of ongoing conflict.

We go from World War Two to the civil war between ethnic groups that wanted the annihilation of other groups. This book fits a lot of history into its 368 pages, mostly which is largely unknown to people in Western nations. The long term effects of conflict on children is explored and clearly seen in this novel. Louisa has abandonment issues and finds it hard to trust anyone. She wins her country’s first beauty pageant but does it more to please her warring parents rather than any real desire to win for pure pleasure. She also accepts an unwise marriage proposal in a bid to escape her parents clutches and their emotional mess, which begins the same cycle again. It does end with Louisa finding her place in the world, which is gut wrenching and exhilarating at the same time.

I found this to be a fascinating book, learning about a history through the lives of people actually related to the author, making this an ‘own voice’ book. It made a complicated history flow much more smoothly for the reader, as it takes us through 68 years of history in 22 chapters. Fascinating and beautiful, Miss Burma is a book well worth the read.

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