Like A River Glorious

 

Like a river glorious, is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious, in its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth, fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth, deeper all the way.

Refrain

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blest
Finding, as He promised, perfect peace and rest.

 

Hidden in the hollow of His blessed hand,
Never foe can follow, never traitor stand;
Not a surge of worry, not a shade of care,
Not a blast of hurry touch the spirit there.

Every joy or trial falleth from above,
Traced upon our dial by the Sun of Love;
We may trust Him fully all for us to do.
They who trust Him wholly find Him wholly true.

 

Lyrics: Frances Havergal

Music: James Mountain

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Entry 10: Death, Comedy, and Lincoln

Katherine Wacker:

150 years ago today…

Originally posted on Civil War Pop:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/87/Fords_Theatre_Playbill_1865-04-14.pngOur American Cousin. Written by Tom Taylor.

Release Date: October 15, 1858 (in America).

Script Available on Google Books.

Our American Cousin comes down to us primarily as the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when John Wilkes Booth shot him. It also has a reputation for being terrible. However, this was more than just a random play for Lincoln. He and Mary reportedly saw it several times while in Washington, and after viewing and reading it recently, I can see why. It’s humor is precisely the kind Lincoln enjoyed. Indeed, Our American Cousin may have been for Lincoln what something like Anchorman is for me–a piece of popular comedy comfort food that you can settle into and enjoy for its familiarity as much as its humor. Lincoln probably anticipated the final line of Asa Trenchard’s take-down of Mrs. Mountchessington–“you sockdologizing old man-trap!”–the same way I eagerly await…

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Is It Football Season Yet?

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Review of Billy Martin

Billy Martin

In his book, Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius, New York Times columnist Bill Pennington takes a comprehensive look at one of the greatest competitors to put on a baseball uniform. Beginning with his chaotic childhood in Northern California and following Martin’s days as both a player and manager, Pennington paints a complete picture of a complicated man before his untimely death at the age of sixty-one.

Billy Martin is a brilliantly written account of one of the most fascinating figures in the history of the New York Yankees and Major League Baseball. Despite playing with such luminaries as Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio, no one matched Martin’s will to win or his love of the game. His aggressive style of play and his extensive knowledge of statistics and strategy translated to one of best winning percentages of any Hall of Fame manager. Yet, Martin is best known for his confrontations with umpires and his combative relationships with George Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson. As Pennington artfully documents, Martin was just as colorful off the field as he was on it. Authentic, compassionate, and controversial are all apt descriptions of Billy. He could be your best friend and his own worst enemy. One cannot help but see the author’s sympathy for his subject as he provides in-depth context for this flawed firebrand whose genius for baseball was only outmatched by his big heart and, at times, his lack of self-control.

I am a huge baseball fan, and couldn’t resist the urge to read Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius. I was not disappointed. Although I am not a Yankee fan, I do appreciate and stand in awe of Billy Martin’s contribution and knowledge of the game of baseball. But more than that, I found myself enthralled and empathetic to a figure that I have only known for on-the- field antics. As one would expect from such a competitive and a combative personality, there is some colorful language throughout the book. However, Billy Martin: Baseball’s Flawed Genius is one of the best sports biographies I’ve read and would be a welcome addition to any baseball fan’s library.

 
I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge

The Inn At Ocean's Edge

Claire Dellamare disappeared from a birthday party decades ago. Returned to her family under mysterious circumstances, she has recurring nightmares and many questions. In order to find the peace she desires, she must uncover the secrets of her past. But someone wishes her past remain covered. Will she find what she is looking for before it’s too late? Or will Claire be buried with her secrets?

The setting of The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is one of the most intriguing and appealing aspects of the novel. It is easy to imagine the town of Sunset Cove tucked along the Maine coastline in all its beauty. Coble’s research into Orca whales, lobster traps, and cranberry bogs lends to the authenticity of life on the Eastern Seaboard. Without drowning in excessive detail, this story is a delight to the senses.

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is told through multiple viewpoints. At times, mostly in the beginning, it is a bit of a challenge to differentiate between characters and scenes because of insufficient paragraph and page breaks. This dilutes the impact of the scenes, disrupts the flow of the story, and is disorienting. However, each character has a unique voice and personality, which helps to overcome the difficulty or distraction the manuscript errors cause.

 
The dialogue between the main characters isn’t burdened with detail, consumed with unnecessary facts, or used to make a point. The conversation moves the story forward, and reveals the main characters as likeable and sympathetic. However, the dialogue of some of the minor characters seems contrived and superficial. As a result, the lesser personalities do not feel realistic or add anything to the storyline, making it difficult to identify with them.

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge has an eerie tone from the beginning, which gives the storyline a strange rather than a suspenseful feel to the majority of the narrative. The object of the novel is the discovery of who did what to whom and why, as one would expect with a mystery. The plot has plenty of interesting twists and turns, but sometimes hard to follow. Some scenes are gripping and engaging while others seem to lack depth and purpose. The ending is a bit far-fetched, but the mystery is challenging, and the climax is exciting.

The conflict in The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is driven mostly by external events. Each personality must confront complex circumstances arriving out of someone else’s poor, past choices. The characters do have private struggles which they overcome. These internal difficulties, though not the main focus, give the plot variety and are used to heighten the drama in an effective way. The romantic tension is on the sweet, predictable side, but Claire’s character lacks a little depth and maturity, which is surprising and disappointing.

The spiritual message of the novel is one of its greatest strengths as it is tastefully understated and effective. The characters put their faith into action rather than talk about it. As a result, there are Christian elements communicated throughout without a strident, preachy tone.

The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is geared for Christian women who like a good mystery and a little romance with it. It may appeal to a secular audience as well. There is no graphic material, but readers should be aware that there are dark themes explored. This is a stand-alone novel, and the first in Colleen Coble’s Shadow Bay Series.

Despite manuscript errors and lack of depth in a few characters, The Inn at Ocean’s Edge is an intriguing and entertaining read, alive with mystery and romance.

 

I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review of A Sparrow in Terezin

 

A Sparrow in Terezin

 

Two women, separated by generations but brought together by a common heritage, are forced to fight for their families and futures, and discover more courage than they believed possible. Sera, a newlywed, must find the evidence to exonerate her husband of a crime he didn’t commit, while Kaja must rescue her parents from certain death in a Nazi concentration camp. Will they be successful or will the risk cost them more than they can bear?

The setting of A Sparrow in Terezin takes place in two diverse locations: present-day America and Europe, and a Nazi concentration camp during World War Two. While there are some wonderful descriptions of the contemporary surroundings, Cambron’s best imagery is reserved for the stark environment of Nazi-held Europe in the 1940’s. The deprivation, desperation, and deplorable conditions experienced by the Jews are vividly depicted and, heart-breaking as it is, effective for story immersion. Although the author took some liberties to enhance the story, she should be credited for alerting readers about those liberties, and for doing the historical research to make the novel plausible.

A Sparrow in Terezin is told through two points of view: those of Sera (present-day) and Kaja (past). Each is a strong woman who is determined to persevere in spite of the enormous obstacles placed in her path. Each character has a unique voice. However, the characters surrounding Kaja’s story are more believable and more sympathetic, while Sera and those surrounding her lack a certain depth, and the present-day plotline reflects it. It is easier to identify with Kaja’s pain than with Sera’s because of the incredible suffering portrayed. The dialogue reflects each personality well and moves the story forward without burdening the prose with unnecessary information.

For this reader, the book starts slow, and it takes some time to warm up to the characters. There are a few curious placements of scenes and, at times, the plot doesn’t stay with one storyline long enough before switching time periods. However, when the story switches from the present-day to past events, the novel takes off because the scenes are gripping and the characters engaging.

A Sparrow in Terezin is a well-written tale driven equally by characters’ actions and external events. In the World-War-Two plot, there is no let-down in the middle, and the suspense grows into a spell-binding climax. However, the present-day plot is missing the element of suspense. There is a similar dichotomy in the endings as well. The historical plot has a surprising finish while the contemporary plot’s ending feels flat.

The conflict in A Sparrow in Terezin is balanced between the characters’ personal struggles and external events. The tension allows the lead characters to grow and develop as they overcome difficulties in a realistic way. Kaja’s character exemplifies this quality in extraordinary ways, which makes her even more sympathetic. The romantic angle of both plots is used to increase the story’s tension without saturating the entire plot. The love story is communicated sweetly and realistically, but with greater depth in the plot which takes place in the past.

The spiritual message in the novel is strong and unmistakable. It permeates the entire novel without superficial clichés, and it explores timeless questions without a preachy tone pervasive in some Christian fiction.

A Sparrow in Terezin is geared to Christian women, and it might also appeal to Historical Fiction fans. There is no objectionable content but, rather, the suffering is depicted in a moving way without graphic descriptions. This is a stand-alone novel, but the second in Kristy Cambron’s Hidden Masterpiece Series. I suggest one read them in sequential order as there are continuous storylines.

Despite the lack of depth in one plotline, A Sparrow in Terezin is a well-written, incredible tale of love, loss, and God’s providence in the midst of dark times.

 
I was given a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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Review of The Babylon Contingency

The Babylon Contingency

 

I love British books and British movies. I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie and Downton Abbey, so I picked up The Babylon Contingency with much anticipation, looking forward to a dose of the Queen’s English and a clean, suspenseful thriller. Unfortunately, my hopes were soon dashed.

The settings of the novel would be intriguing except the author fails to describe them. The characters fly from Great Britain to the Middle East, but little detail is given about the surroundings in which the plot takes place. Locations are simply stated as facts and this reader is left disoriented and unable to grasp whether the author knows his setting or subject matter. There is no vivid imagery which would allow readers to immerse themselves in the adventure.

The Babylon Contingency is not well written, and the style is unclear. The scenes are put in consecutive order, but there isn’t a cohesive flow, leaving the story convoluted and hard to follow. The manuscript errors make the book more difficult to read as well. There are very few pictures painted that would excite the imagination. In addition, the author relies on dialogue to tell the story, making it difficult to keep from skimming through pages. Furthermore, the conversation is used as a vehicle on countless occasions to inform the reader of facts, rather than revealing the characters’ actions, attitudes, and motivations integral to the plot. The exchanges between characters are forced to make a point, rather than allowing action carry the story.

The novel is told in first-person by DCI Robert Peele with a unique, masculine, and authentic British voice, which is one of the few highlights of the novel. However, since all the characters lack depth, it is difficult to identify and sympathize with them. They seem like caricatures rather than sympathetic people.

The Babylon Contingency starts with promise, beginning with a suspenseful scene, and there are glimmers of hope two-thirds into to the novel, but they quickly fade into detailed minutiae which make the storyline slow to a crawl. Furthermore, with no character development, the plot is soon bogged down with too much dialogue about historical information without moving the story forward.

There is great potential for conflict and romantic tension in The Babylon Contingency. The premise, the setting, and plot should make the novel ripe for a suspenseful thrill ride. However, there are so many structural problems in the story that this reader felt disconnected and ultimately disinterested in the characters or in the story’s ending.

The novel’s spiritual message is nebulous at best. It is unclear what the author’s point is regarding the authentication of the Old Testament documents, which is the premise of the book. There also seems to be a message of equivocation between the Christian and Muslim faiths. The fact that the lead character is a self-admitted agnostic who has little character growth by the end of the novel only adds to the book’s convoluted message.

The Babylon Contingency has mild language, sexual innuendo, and graphic violence that don’t seem consistent with a Christian novel or the audience to which it is supposed to appeal. I am not sure that it would gain the interest in a secular audience either as it is so poorly written.

Overall, the authentic British voice is not enough to overcome the major flaws of The Babylon Contingency, and I do not recommend it

 

I was given a free copy by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

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