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Mark Nenadov "arm-chair reader" (Essex, Ontario Canada)
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Penguin Classics A Little Learning
Penguin Classics A Little Learning
by Evelyn Waugh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 24.57
12 used & new from CDN$ 9.12

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, May 31 2013
This is the first and only volume of an unfinished autobiography. It masterfully covers Waugh's youth, including his genealogy, parent's life, early upbringing, school boy days, days at Oxford, and his working life as a young adult. While it isn't a book I'd re-read, it was a pleasure to read and I'm glad I read it. On rare occasions, it got slightly tedious, but there were quite a few excellent nuggets to make up for that.

My Ideal Bookshelf
My Ideal Bookshelf
by Thessaly La Force
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 17.55
34 used & new from CDN$ 16.20

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Feelings (Love/Hate), May 12 2013
This review is from: My Ideal Bookshelf (Hardcover)
This is an amazingly creative and fresh book idea. Get a bunch of people together. Then get them to list their “ideal bookshelf”. Then they write an essay and you juxtapose it with an illustration of the book spines in a shelf configuration.

So, how did the concept actually play out? I have mixed feelings. The execution was not as strong as the concept.

On the positive side, as a book lover, I truly enjoyed much of the book. It gave me chills down my spine at times. Many of the essays were delightful and the illustrations very well done. Even though I hadn't heard of many of these people nor the books they liked, they sucked me in. I loved perusing the shelves and then reading the essays. I liked the random books that were turned the wrong way, or upside down. I was surprised to see how many shelves included Flannery O'Connor. She obviously deserves a spot among the great writers of the U.S., but I never would have guessed she'd appear so often!

On the negative side, the essays are of uneven quality. There are a few truly genius ones, many good ones, and a number are very poorly written and uninspired. James Patterson's essay was irrelevant, off-topic, and annoyingly self-congratulatory. You get the sense that they had to include him because he's so important. And that he agrees wholeheartedly.

The representation from certain vocations is also sort of funky. I understand why there are so many writers, editors, and book cover designers, but I don't understand why there is such a high proportion of chefs, fashion designers, or interior designers. I have nothing about them (bless their heart), but the imbalance gives the book a weird bulge in certain areas. The first few cooks were really fresh and interesting, but it quickly got tedious to read essay after essay about cooking. Also, this imbalance led to an unfortunate omissions (or, at least, under-representation) of certain vocations.

As an aside, the Bible, and religious classics, such as Pilgrim's Progress, were woefully under-represented and there were no clergypersons or theologians represented.

On a much more minor note, the inclusions of books that have no spine, while introducing some authenticity, became distracting eventually, especially when they became more prevalent.

You'd probably enjoy this if you are a serious book-lover., the extent to which it annoys you may vary based on your tastes and level of fussiness. In the final analysis, I'm glad I read this book, but if I were to read it again, I'd probably skip large swaths of it, jumping to the most delightful entries.

Jaccuse
Jaccuse
by Aharon Shabtai
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 16.43
18 used & new from CDN$ 2.51

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Poetry, May 8 2013
This review is from: Jaccuse (Paperback)
Poetry from a prominent contemporary Hebrew poet. I enjoyed the rich imagery Very interesting and heartfelt poetry. He's very critical of the perpetual state of war and his nation's contributions to it.

Crazy Love (Miniature Edition): Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
Crazy Love (Miniature Edition): Overwhelmed by a Relentless God
by Francis Chan
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 5.94
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

2.0 out of 5 stars Helpful In Some Areas, But Overall Unimpressive, May 8 2013
I have mixed feelings--some aspects are helpful, others are less so. If you take it with a grain of salt, you'll find some good things to mull over. That said, I found it to be downright poorly written.

Dandelion Fire
Dandelion Fire
by N. D. Wilson
Edition: Library Binding
Price: CDN$ 15.13
12 used & new from CDN$ 15.04

3.0 out of 5 stars Good, But I Liked The First Book Better, May 8 2013
This review is from: Dandelion Fire (Library Binding)
Back in the summer of 2012, I read the first book in this series, 100 Cupboards. I reviewed it very favorably.

I found that I enjoyed this book quite a bit less. Please don't get me wrong, I'm not necessarily saying this is worse, just considerably different. It is still very clear that N.D. Wilson is a brilliant writer.

Part of it may be that I was caught off-guard by the moods shift. Dandelion Fire is far more complex, dark, urgent, and moody. It departs from the simplicity and quiet intrigue of 100 Cupboards.

I found that 100 Cupboard's storyline caught me decisively. I followed it and very much felt part of the story. With Dandelion Fire, I enjoyed many individual twists and turns of the plot and I enjoyed Wilson's skilled imagery and technical skill with words, but I couldn't really "grab on" to the story line--I felt alienated from it for some reason.

The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God
by Timothy Keller
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.81
33 used & new from CDN$ 15.00

5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done!, May 8 2013
I enjoyed it quite a bit. I found it a very helpful treatment of the why, how, and whats of marriage from a Christian perspective.

In his review of the book, Tim Challies said "It must be intimidating to write a book on marriage". Challies is right. It takes a lot of guts to write a book on marriage. There are already so many voices out there speaking on this subject. And there are so many strong feelings and personal histories that people bring to the table when it comes to this subject!

Tim and Kathy Keller, who co-authored this book, are quite pragmatic in their approach. Their tone is personal and warm. They share a lot of personal anecdotes, but the book isn't "personal" in a gushy sort of way. They are very concerned to show the connection between marriage and something greater than themselves, the gospel. And it is this that makes the book so searching and challenging.

Overall, they do a great job of blending the theoretical and practical. The book is very readable and I highly recommend it as an important resource for those who are married or are pursuing marriage.

Crossbones
Crossbones
by Nuruddin Farah
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 20.38
39 used & new from CDN$ 1.96

5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic!, May 3 2013
This review is from: Crossbones (Hardcover)
A complex, tragic account of life in modern Somalia. I loved it. Farah is a great writer and he's done a fantastic job of portraying his characters. The author bleeds both grief and love for his homeland. I've read this book as a part of my attempt to read a number of African novels this year. This is the first one, and I'm simply blown away! Even though this book weighs in at 400 pages, at no point did I find the narrative tedious or dull.

Passion: How Christ's final day changes your every day
Passion: How Christ's final day changes your every day
Price: CDN$ 9.96

4.0 out of 5 stars Good!, April 8 2013
A helpful tour of the crucifixion of Jesus and the moments leading up to it. I feel like some of the applications could have been fleshed out a bit more fully, but overall it is well worth a read.

Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew
Ghost Ship: The Mysterious True Story of the Mary Celeste and Her Missing Crew
by Brian Hicks
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 13.72
45 used & new from CDN$ 1.68

5.0 out of 5 stars Loved It, April 5 2013
I came around to reading this book when my brilliant wife selected it for the book she chose for me to read in March. What a fantastic book!images

The book centers around the perplexing mystery of the Mary Celeste, a ship of Nova Scotian origin. It was found abandoned around the Azores Islands, which are on the way to Portugal. The ship showed no signs of struggle and little to suggest that the weather conditions were heavy enough to drive an experienced captain to lead his wife, young daughter, and crew to risk their lives on a lifeboat.

The author does a great job of building suspense and yet avoiding sensationalism. He skilfully navigates background material, historical data, press reports, and weighs prevailing theories. In general, he deals with these theories fairly, showing their plausibility, but also debunking them, or showing that they have already been debunked.

Eventually, at the end, and only after giving much space to some far-fetched theories, the author presents his theory. It’s quite a simple and yet plausible explanation and certainly satisfied me. I found myself launched back into my early days of reading National Geographic’s World Magazine, which, for a young audience, once in a while discussed things such as lost treasure, ships, and mysteries.

I found myself drawn into the life of the people involved. I felt a lot of sympathy for the Briggs family. Their story is an extremely sad story. And what was public charade and cause for far-fetched tales for some, was a serious, string of sea-born tragedies for others.

I did not find any “dry” spots in this book. It is rather exciting, and even in the rather belabored section covering the salvage trial, the antics of the crown attorney keeps the narrative on its toes. Another nice touch of this book is the way it connects the story to a broader story. You will find about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional tale based on the story of the Mary Celeste, which was often taken as a true account. There is also a discussion about how this story connects into a broader tradition of lore that includes the Bermuda Triangle. And the short anecdote about the Mary Celeste‘s final demise off the shore of Haiti is short, but fascinating.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone who wants a delightful read about a true mystery.

Penguin Essentials Brideshead Revisited
Penguin Essentials Brideshead Revisited
by Evelyn Waugh
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.80
26 used & new from CDN$ 4.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Masterful, April 5 2013
This is the second Waugh book I’ve read, and once again I’ve found myself a bit impatient early on, but totally enthralled and captivated by the end.

Comparing it with “A Handful Of Dust”, which was written 11 years earlier, you can certainly see Waugh’s development as a writer. The plot is not necessarily as jarring it was in “A Handful of Dust”, but Brideshead Revisited certainly a better showcase of Waugh’s mastery of vivid prose writing.

The tone is very nostalgic. The prose is packed with rich settings, smells, and tastes. I imagine I never have and never will read a better “eating scene” than Charles Ryder and Rex Mottram eating at the restaurant in London.

However, it isn’t just a fluffy book of word-play. There are parts of this book that can hit like a ton of bricks. Through the characters, deep things are weighed. For instance, Julia’s realization is quite stark: “the worse I am, the more I need God”.

I will not provide any sort of further analysis of Brideshead. You can find that elsewhere. I will say, though, that this is a book that I think will stand up to a second reading, and I plan to re-read it at some point.

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