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David Zampino "21st Century Hobbit" RSS Feed (Glendale, Wisconsin)
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Innocent Blood: The Order of the Sanguines Series
Innocent Blood: The Order of the Sanguines Series
by James Rollins
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.02
146 used & new from $0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars This is a case . . ., October 9, 2014
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. . . in which I HATED the first book! I panned it as utterly ridiculous! And I had expected much better from James Rollins, whose work I typically like!

I decided to read the this, the second book in the series -- and was stunned at the way the authors pulled together all kinds of seemingly loose strings to come to a satisfying conclusion that actually made sense -- and successfully set up the final conflict for the third book in the series!

Of course, don't take either the history or the theology seriously . . .


The Blonde
The Blonde
by Anna Godbersen
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $2.79
78 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I was intrigued by the premise . . ., October 9, 2014
This review is from: The Blonde (Hardcover)
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. . . but the book failed to deliver.

This is a mystery novel, and I deliberately don't want to include spoilers. I will say this:

1) The premise of the book is reasonably believable -- for about 3/4 of the book.

2) The author does use real people and real events to develop the plot -- fine.

3) The notion that President Kennedy had an affair with Marilyn Monroe is widely believed -- no problem there.

4) The idea that President Kennedy had had affairs with women who could have compromised him politically -- very likely.

5) The last quarter of the book -- totally unbelievable, implausible, and even silly.


Elixir 16182 Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light
Elixir 16182 Nanoweb Phosphor Bronze HD Acoustic Guitar Strings, Light
Offered by Leitz Music
Price: $18.69
17 used & new from $14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars There are several musicians in my family . . ., October 9, 2014
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. . . and all agree that these were the finest strings any had used. The tone is outstanding, and the strings are easy on the fingers. I found out AFTER I agreed to review these strings, that this product is what the guitar teacher at my children's school uses as well, both for himself, and in the classroom. I can certainly see why.

This will be a repeat purchase. Very highly recommended


Exit Berlin: How One Woman Saved Her Family from Nazi Germany
Exit Berlin: How One Woman Saved Her Family from Nazi Germany
by Charlotte Bonelli
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $22.23
71 used & new from $10.73

5.0 out of 5 stars A profoundly moving . . ., October 4, 2014
. . . and readable account of a bright spot in an otherwise very dark time.

Luzie Hatch, a young Jewish girl in her twenties, was fortunate enough to be sponsored out of Berlin by an uncle in the United States. She then became the go-between with her American uncle (who knew no German) and her relatives back in a rapidly deteriorating Nazi Germany.

Unlike many, Luzie kept copies of her correspondence -- not just the letters she received, but in many cases, copies of the letters she wrote as well. These letters were discovered after her death, and form the basis for this book.

The letters poignantly recall the various and increasingly serious crises being faced by family and loved ones back in Germany, but also sadly demonstrate the lack of understanding of the horrors of the Holocaust even by Jewish relations in America.

Charlotte Bonelli has done the world a great service by editing and publishing these letter -- and doing so with tact, discretion, and a commendable minimum of commentary.

This book would be of great value to any student of 20th century history -- and is equally accessible to the casual reader.

Very highly recommended.


This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists
This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists
by Jason Good
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.22
99 used & new from $2.96

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My wife and I have 8 kids . . . and we found this book, July 2, 2014
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Absolutely HYSTERICAL!!!!!!!

I would love to see this guy's stand-up comedy in person! He has got early parenthood down! I can only hope that he continues with these books, a couple of times each decade, for the next 30 years!

Wonderfully funny! If a new parent can't relate to at least 50% of the book -- I suspect a severe case of "Sense of Humor Failure"!

Maybe all the items in each list are necessarily appropriate for your maiden aunt -- but this is really funny!

Recommended!


The Advocate
The Advocate
by Randy Singer
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.63
71 used & new from $5.97

0 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book . . ., July 1, 2014
This review is from: The Advocate (Paperback)
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. . . and I realize that my opinion is in the minority.

I gave the book two stars because it is head-and-shoulders above the pablum that poses for "historical", "1st century Christian" fiction written by other authors.

Randy Singer is, in many respects, a good writer. I have not read any of his legal fiction, but I am willing to give one a try. He tried to do his historical homework with regard to 1st century Rome, and I appreciated that. He used the writings of Roman philosophers and historians, and I appreciated that. His approach to the New Testament was more disappointing -- and his refusal to use any of the 1st and 2nd century Christian material -- which has survived, and is readily available in English-language critical editions -- is, in my opinion, historically dishonest. A number of points, some of which have been raised by other reviewers. There may be points presented that could be construed as spoilers -- so I'm giving the alert now.

Item: Singer seems to have a fixation with crucifixion. The notion that Seneca would subject sons of Roman nobles to fake crucifixions -- and that the noble families would allow it, is absurd on its face.

Item: Singer seems to have a fixation with Vestal Virgins. The notion of a years-long love affair involving a Vestal Virgin, without discovery, or even reasonable suspicion, is also absurd on its face -- and the penalty for love affairs with Vestal Virgins was severe.

Item: While obviously wanting to stick to an uber-literal interpretation of the Biblical text, Singer makes some gaffes. For example, Nicodemus came to Jesus by night -- not the other way around. We don't know if the woman caught in the act of adultery was at the foot of the cross; we don't know what Jesus wrote with His finger in the sand -- Singer uses these as legitimate plot devices -- but if you're going to insist on ultra-literalism, you have to be consistent.

Item: I don't find the notion that Theophilus was Paul's advocate convincing -- but as a plot device, I'm willing to let it stand.

Item: THE BIGGEST AND MOST EGREGIOUS ISSUES ARE HISTORICAL! If you are willing to use the testimony of Josephus; if you are willing to use the testimony of Roman historians, why in heaven's name don't you do the same with the early Christian texts?

* The entire notion of both Luke's Gospel and the book of Acts being hastily composed during the very earliest time of persecution suggests to me that Singer has never seriously studied the composition of either text. Luke was a highly educated man who was an eyewitness to some of the events in Acts. In the Prologue verses for both books, he proposes to his readership exactly what he plans to do, and how he plans to do it. He then executes his plan exactly as he stated that he would. This is classical Greek biography; not something dashed off in a short period of time.

* How does Singer's views of the composition of Luke's Gospel explain the personal family details found in the Infancy Narrative?

* Singer presents Luke as using some fragments of an account of the life of Jesus written by some young Christian named John Mark. Mark was more than just some guy! He had traveled with Paul, and was the secretary to Peter.

* For that matter, where is Peter? He's mentioned once. Doesn't Singer realize that Peter, too, was a victim of Nero's persecution?

* Singer's historical timeline is goofed up. Acts ends with Paul in Rome, living in a rented house, awaiting trial. Most scholars (using the testimony in both Acts, and in II Timothy) believe that Paul was released following his first trial, continued to travel, and was re-arrested and martyred during Nero's persecution.

* Singer's theology is goofed up. When a crowd of believers shows up at the home of Theophilus, a watered-down version of a post-Reformation era communion service is presented -- as almost an afterthought. Is Singer unaware of Paul's specific instructions in 1st Corinthians regarding the celebration of the Lord's Supper?

* Details about the persecution under Nero abound. It didn't happen the way Singer presents it. And no, even Nero, would not have dared to crucify Roman citizens. Hence, the beheading of Paul (the Roman citizen) and the crucifixion of Peter (not a Roman citizen.)

* Singer does give a few clues to a reviewer who is an historian, that at least some early Christian traditions were researched. Singer uses the name "Longinus" -- long associated with the Centurion at the foot of the cross. Singer also writes an epilogue, using the name of an Early Church Father -- Eusebius -- but mis-dating the Council of Nicaea by a decade; and suggesting that Eusebius presented the Emperor Constantine with copies of the Bible. Only problem here? The New Testament was still very much in flux during the time of Eusebius -- and Eusebius writes about that very controversy!

As I said: I wanted to like this book. I liked the premise. But I can't get past the sloppy Scripture scholarship, and I REALLY can't get past what appears to be a deliberate re-writing of Early Church History.

Give this one a miss.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 31, 2014 3:19 PM PDT


Warburg in Rome
Warburg in Rome
by James Carroll
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.15
84 used & new from $8.08

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars James Carroll can tell a good story . . ., July 1, 2014
This review is from: Warburg in Rome (Hardcover)
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. . . but he is so agenda-driven regarding the issue of anti-semitism (real or imagined) that it really detracts from the storyline.

Please don't get me wrong; this is a good novel in many respects. The theme of post-WWII Italy is one that can -- and should -- be thoroughly explored, both through works of fiction and non-fiction, and in this work of fiction, Carroll uses interesting, well-fleshed out characters to tell several stories (Warburg being one of them). Without spoilers, I found much of the ending quite satisfying.

The problem here is that seemingly every non-Jewish character is presented as all anti-Semitic, all of the time from (predictably) Church leaders to the President of the United States. In the latter case, he suggests that the historical President Truman deliberately fired his Jewish Cabinet Secretary, because he was afraid that if he, the Vice-President, and the Secretary of State were all killed, someone Jewish would become President. The only problem with that theory, Mr. Carroll, is that this is not (and was not) how the line of succession works -- and any 9th grade civics textbook could have told you that. (The Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate are ahead of any Cabinet Secretaries.

Stick to the historical fiction; stick to creating believable, flawed, yet likable characters; stick to good storytelling -- but try to tone down the agenda.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 1, 2014 6:40 AM PDT


The Monster Realm
The Monster Realm
by Nara Duffie
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.46

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very fine effort . . ., July 1, 2014
This review is from: The Monster Realm (Paperback)
. . . by a first time author -- and one who was only 10 years old when the book was completed!

"The Monster Realm" is a work of teen/YA fantasy and is the first book in a proposed trilogy. I read the book, as did two of my daughters, ages 13 and 17. I can't wait for the next two books to be published.

Nara's human characters are well-developed and likable; her storytelling is engaging; she shows an enviable knowledge of Greek mythological creatures; and the plot flows nicely, leaving the reader wanting more. (I know that I did!)

I strongly suspect that the author is extremely well-read for her age. I loved the character who swore in Shakespearean insults! (And I could not help but be impressed by her reference to "Titus Andronicus"! I suspect that most college English majors are not familiar with THAT play!)

This is a young author to watch. If this is the quality of work she is capable of now, just think what the next few decades could bring!

Well done, Nara! I'll gladly review anything else you write.


The Immortals of Meluha: The Shiva Trilogy: Book 1
The Immortals of Meluha: The Shiva Trilogy: Book 1
by Amish Tripathi
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.88

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!, June 11, 2014
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I can hardly wait until the remaining two books in the trilogy are translated into English!

I chose to review this novel because it is completely outside my expertise -- and even comfort zone. From time to time, I feel that it is important to me to do so!

Boy, am I glad that I did!

I'll freely admit that while I am a professional theologian, my area of expertise is in the West (part of the reason I wanted to review this book). I am not an expert in either ancient or modern Hinduism -- and don't purport to be. This book, however, is intelligent and challenging. The author is essentially re-creating a 4,000 year-old myth, and bringing it down to human terms.

Very highly recommended! I loved this one!

I couldn't put this book down! It is expertly written (and translated) and conveying a very riveting and interesting story.


The Three Emperors: An Ethan Gage Adventure (Ethan Gage Adventures)
The Three Emperors: An Ethan Gage Adventure (Ethan Gage Adventures)
by William Dietrich
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $17.76
71 used & new from $9.99

4.0 out of 5 stars I've been reading the "Ethan Gage" novels for some years . . ., June 11, 2014
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. . . and they had become somewhat formulaic. In "The Three Emperors", the author really gets back to the good storytelling one found in the first two "Ethan Gage" novels -- and I appreciated that! I want to avoid giving away spoilers -- but evil secret societies, battles, temptation, and beautiful women abound.

The author has a tendency to make characters (both good and evil) from previous books re-appear -- and "The Three Emperors" is no exception.

There was a lot of resolution of tension (sexual and otherwise) that had been building over the last three or four books; and I am eagerly anticipating the next novel.

No spoilers -- but a really enjoyable story.


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