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Book A Week Announcement
Book A Week: Week 5
Book Review: Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns
Book A Week: Week 4
Book Review: One Christ, One Body by Scott G. Cunningham
Book A Week Note
Book A Week: Week 3

February 25, 2008

Book A Week Announcement

Yes, I'm late with this. And I really don't have a good excuse -- the book was done on time, even!

The announcement is that I have decided to migrate all the Book a Week stuff to my new blog, The Pew Reviews. Yes, I've tried something like this before, and I didn't stick with it. But I think this time it will work, because I've got a master plan. And no, I'm not telling you the master plan yet. If you pay attention to what goes on here and there and on the podcast, you'll figure it out eventually. Although if you read this old post, you might get an idea.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 01:05 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

February 11, 2008

Book A Week: Week 5

The book this week is going to be Hacking: The Art of Exploitation by Jon Erickson. The book arrived today -- I'd forgotten I'd emailed the PR person to get a review copy. The other book I got today is That Sweet Enemy: Britain and France - A History Of A Love-Hate Relationship, but it's over 700 pages, so I doubt that one's going to be a Book A Week selection.

My review for Hacking is going to be posted at Blogcritics. I didn't really get it through BC, but I've made the contacts at No Starch Press and O'Reilly because of Blogcritics, so I really feel that my reviews of their stuff should go to BC first. I'll post a link here, just as I did with An Incomplete Revenge, and offer a few comments here as well.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 08:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

February 10, 2008

Book Review Link: An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear

My review of this book at Blogcritics.

I really do enjoy this series. I got the third book to review, and grabbed the fourth when it was offered. Then I found the first two in the series in a single volume (actually, my wife found them and got them for me last year to read at the beach). The characterization is quite good, even though Maisie Dobbs seems almost to be a walking anachronism because of her progressive attitudes. Winspear does an incredible amount of research on these books; even the attitudes of the people ring absolutely true to life.

If you enjoy mysteries, or if you enjoy novels set in 1930s England, you should look into the Maisie Dobbs series. I got started just out of curiosity, but they are on my "must read" list now.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 09:10 PM | Comments (15) | TrackBack

Book A Week Announcement

OK, this week I was reading Abrahamby Bruce Feiler. I say was because on Thursday, I laid the book down, and now I can't find it. So I re-read a book that I finished not too long ago, and will be posting a link to that review (it's a book I received through Blogcritics, and they get the exclusive on those books). Hopefully I'll find Abraham so I can finish it -- it's a great book, as are Feiler's other books.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 04:04 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 05, 2008

Book A Week: Week 5

The book this week is Bruce Feiler's Abraham. I have read Walking the Bible and Where God Was Born already and enjoyed them, even if I don't always agree with Feiler's conclusions. I'm looking forward to reading this book (which is actually the second book in the sequence), especially after hearing the interview with Feiler on Speaking of Faith.

And I will have this one done by Sunday. In fact, I'm off tomorrow, so I may have it finished then!

Posted by Warren Kelly at 07:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Book Review: Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns

The first thing that struck me in reading this book is how similar the beginnings of American journalism and the beginnings of the blogosphere actually are.

In the beginning, you have Benjamin Harris and his Publick Occurrences both Foreign and Domestic (1690). Four pages long, poor formatting, little space between stories -- no headlines. And the first edition was also the last -- Harris' writing was so inflammatory that the colonial government in Boston shut him down. Harris is the forefather of many bloggers who seek to increase readership (and subscribers) by being as outlandish as possible (coughDrudgecough). Unfortunately, there was no freedom of the press back then.

But if Harris was the Drudge of the early colonial period, then John Campbell and his Boston News Letter was the cat blog. Long lasting just because of it's inoffensiveness, Campbell's effort was also excruciatingly dull, and typically included reports of each shipment that came into Boston Harbor.

Campbell was the exception, however, and Burns shows exactly how this book got it's name. From hyper-patriots like Sam Adams (who made up quite a bit of his 'news' with the goal of simply inflaming the public) to Tories like Jemmy Rivington (who was actually spying for the colonists!), American journalism from the mid 1700s through the Federal era was marked by constant abuse, ad hominem, and fiction masquerading as fact. Journalistic impartiality was a foreign concept to these early newsmen -- much as it is on the blogosphere today.

Burns traces the growth of American journalism from the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th, and of course profiles folks like Sam Adams and Ben Franklin. The value in this book, though, is in Burns' treatment of the lesser-known publishers, folks like Harris, Campbell, and Rivington, but also like John Peter Zenger, who was the first journalist to really fight in court for freedom of the press. Even Thomas Paine, who never published a newspaper himself but provided plenty of material for newspapermen, is profiled because of his influence on the Revolution and the attitudes of the press in his day.

Newspapers were founded to make points, to further agendas, to support causes. Many didn't make much profit, and some lost money. But that wasn't the point for them -- they had opinions and they wanted to be heard. That sentiment is gone from modern newspapers -- journalists are called to be impartial reporters with no agenda when they report the news. They are simple scribes recounting the day's events.

The people who are the real spiritual heirs of the early American newspapermen are bloggers. They, for better or worse, are the folks who get into it because they have something to say -- even if it's just what their cat spat up that afternoon. Bloggers are creating the controversies, and in some cases are making up or twisting the facts as they need to to support their positions.

One fascinating aspect of this book is the conflict between the newspapers and politicians once the Revolution was won. Newspapers hated George Washington. And just as there are conservative and liberal papers and blogs today, there were federalist and anti-federalist papers in early America. These papers often attacked each other, and were unmerciful to the politicos of the day -- something that you don't really learn in American History class today.

Infamous Scribblers is a fascinating work. What makes it even more interesting and valuable is the parallel with today's new media. I enjoyed this book, and highly recommend it.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 06:42 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

January 28, 2008

Book A Week: Week 4

Week four and book four. Short book last week, fiction the week before, and another short one for week one. Time for something industrious.

The book this week is Infamous Scribblers by Eric Burns. Subtitled "The Founding Fathers and the Rowdy Beginnings of American Journalism." The book weighs in at over 400 pages, so I'm going to be doing about 70 pages per day to meet my goal -- that's a bit over three chapters, on average.

I've wanted to read this book ever since it came out a couple years ago. Finally bought it over the weekend at Borders, with a gift card my sister gave me for Christmas. I was a bit upset to see the price at Amazon -- it's less than half of what I paid at Borders. I've decided I'm never buying a book at the bookstore again -- there's not enough value added to my experience at a brick and mortar Borders to make me want to pay $10 more for a book. Instant gratification isn't worth that much to me. That's the sad thing about Amazon's dominance in the online bookselling business: they can discount heavily enough that it's not worth driving to the bookstore just to get the book today.

And I'm sure, as my wife said mere moments ago, that I'll be back in the bookstore buying books again in no time. But I'm going to be a lot more conscious about the prices of books that I really want -- bookstore purchases are going to end up being impulse buys, or killer sales. The days of me taking a wishlist to the store and leaving with an armload of books are over. I'll pay the shipping and let the UPS guy haul my books to my house for me.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Book Review: One Christ, One Body by Scott G. Cunningham

This is a small, thin book that attempts to cover a very important subject. And there is a lot of great information in the book. I learned a few things from reading One Christ, One Body, and (more importantly) the book gave me a lot to think about.

I had a few problems with the book, though, and part of that is probably due to the size. It seemed at times that Cunningham was trying to say that demonimationalism is wrong and divisive, and that we should work to make denominations a thing of the past. In fact, he does say that denominational leaders should work to resolve the differences between denominations, and not let denominational squabbles interfere with cooperation among Christians. But at the same time, Cunningham also says that we have to teach the truth to people who do not believe the truth.

I don't know of any denominational divides that are over things that people think are not important truths. I'm not talking about things like Bible translations or music styles -- I'm talking about church structure, authority structures within the church, proper candidates for baptism, etc. These are all important issues, but they are issues that will not be resolved any time soon. We can cooperate with each other as long as we don't have to compromise on our doctrinal standards, and we should be doing that. But it seems to me that Cunningham is taking both sides of the issue here -- we have to get over our doctrinal divisions, but we also have to teach other Christians the truth. There's some conflict there, and I'm not sure that Cunningham resolves it in this book.

The book is easy to read, though it seemed to go off on tangents at times that reminded me of a few of my own sermons (and some blog posts, too). Some minor grammatical issues stood out for me (LOTS of commas that were in wrong places), but I don't nit-pick about that. On the whole, the book is an interesting perspective on the Christian Unity issue, but one that unfortunately falls short of providing answers.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 07:44 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 27, 2008

Book A Week Note

I haven't forgotten -- LOOONG, busy day today, and I haven't had time to post. I'll have the review post tomorrow afternoon, along with the intro to the new book.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 10:01 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 21, 2008

Book A Week: Week 3

The book this week is One Christ, One Body: The Father's Plan by Scott G. Cunningham. Obviously, the book is about the need for unity in the Body of Christ. I've had this book for a while, and have been looking forward to digging into it.

I think unity in the Body is an important subject, but it's also one that has been abused in the Church. We have to be unified, but that doesn't mean we turn a blind eye to heresy and heterodoxy when it appears. That's the path that many seem to take, and I'm looking forward to seeing what Cunningham's take on the subject is.

I picked this book because this is going to be a busy week, and I won't have time to read a longer book. At only 91 pages, this is a book that I can read and do justice to this week.

Stop back on Sunday for the review!

Posted by Warren Kelly at 09:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 20, 2008

Book Review: Opening Atlantis by Harry Turtledove

Week 2 of 2008 and the Book A Week challenge brings us Opening Atlantis, the latest offering from master of alternate history Harry Turtledove. I've been a fan of Turtledove's since I read Guns Of The South many, many years ago.

The premise of the book seems to be that part of North American (everything east of the Mississippi, judging from the cover art) broke off from the main continent. This landmass is much closer to Europe than the New World was, and thus is discovered and colonized much quicker (1451).

Part 1 of the book covers the discovery of the new continent, which is quickly dubbed "Atlantis." Breton fishermen know of the existence of Atlantis, and give this knowledge to an English fisherman in exchange for a third of his catch. The Englishmen see Atlantis as a place ripe for colonization, and move quickly to start a settlement there.

Things go quite well for them, even as French and Spanish colonies are founded on the coast south of the English. Atlantis is, after all, big enough for everyone. Until an English noble who backed the wrong people in the Wars of the Roses is exiled to Atlantis, and decides to make it his own kingdom.

Part 1 has definite American Revolution overtones, with it's rejection of unfairly-imposed taxation. It also sets the stage for settler/European conflict which dots the rest of the book. Part 1 does it's job, though; it sets the stage for the book (and the trilogy, for that matter), and introduces us to the family whose history we will be following -- the Radcliffes.

Part 2 shows Atlantis 200 years later, and a conflict between pirates led by Red Rodney Radcliffe and the English settlers of Stuart led by his cousin William Radcliff. Red Rodney has been preying on all manner of shipping around Atlantis, and this has made him some enemies. The settlers ally themselves with English and Dutch sailors to fight the pirates.

We see more tension between Atlanteans and Europeans in part 2. This section parallels the battles with privateers and pirates in our own timeline in the 1600s. We start to see that Atlanteans view themselves as independent, and that their European cousins see them as backwoods bumpkins who certainly aren't proper subjects of the Crown.

Part 3 gives us this timeline's version of the French and Indian War. This is one of the things that I really don't enjoy in alternate history, and it's a weakness that I found in Turtledove's Great War/Settling Accounts saga -- the determination to present parallels to wars that were fought in our own timeline. It becomes very predictable, and you end up reading to see which character is going to be the new timeline's Lincoln, or Washington, or Rommel, etc. The account of English Atlantean guerilla warfare in French and Spanish territory was interesting, but I'm hoping that the next book in the series doesn't start out with a meeting of a doppleganger Continental Congress getting ready to declare independence from England.

I really liked the fact that Turtledove is focusing on one family as the movers and shakers of English Atlantis. That's something new for him, and I think it works well. The book was enjoyable, with a couple of reservations that I've mentioned above. I wish there was an actual map of Atlantis in the book, though that is a possibility for the second book, I'm sure. There are some anachronisms in the book, which reviewers on have been quick to point out, but those aren't glaring to me. I was amazed at the ability of the English to start a successful settlement right away in Atlantis, but these settlers did not face many of the challenges that the first settlers in North America faced when they arrived here. Opening Atlantis is not up to Turtledove's usual standards, and is far inferior to Ruled Britannia, but is still worth reading. I'll have to read the second book of this trilogy to see if it really has any promise, though.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 10:16 PM | Comments (1312) | TrackBack

January 14, 2008

Book A Week: Week 2

The book for this week is Harry Turtledove's latest alt-history novel, Opening Atlantis. It's the first of a trilogy, which means I'm breaking my own rule: no more Turtledoves that are longer than two books. Seriously. I gave up on the Settling Accounts series after nothing really happened in one book. The series books have collapsed under their own weight, but the stand-alones and the two-parters have been pretty good. I'm taking a chance with a trilogy, but I'm hopeful that it won't disappoint me.

From's description

New York Times bestselling author Harry Turtledove has intrigued readers with such thought-provoking "what if..." scenarios as a conquered Elizabethan England in Ruled Britannia and a Japanese occupation of Hawaii in Days of Infamy and End of the Beginning. Now, in the first of a brand-new trilogy, he rewrites the history of the world with the existence of an eighth continent...

Atlantis lies between Europe and the East Coast of Terranova. For many years, this land of opportunity lured dreamers from around the globe with its natural resources, offering a new beginning for those willing to brave the wonders of the unexplored land.

It sounds promising, and it's pretty unique in terms of alt-history: a POD (point of divergence) that really doesn't hinge on human decision (as far as we know right now).

So Sunday you'll have the review. I have to have the book finished by Friday, because that's when new releases are due at the library. Yes, I said library. I didn't buy this one. After the last Settling Accounts book I read, I determined that I'd only read Turtledove if I checked it out of the library. I'm almost back to reading him full-time again; this trilogy will probably make the decision for me.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 05:10 PM | Comments (122) | TrackBack

January 13, 2008

Book Review: The Way of the Christian Samurai by Paul Nowak

This is the first in my 'Book a Week' resolution/challenge/whatever. Each week, I read a book and blog about it.

It was interesting looking around the internet and reading some of the responses to this book -- especially the negative ones. It's easy, I suppose, to go negative on a book that takes a new approach to something. It's easier than, say, actually admitting that you might be doing something wrong, or looking at something in the wrong way.

On Tuesday, I mentioned a negative review of this book. Well, it wasn't really a review, since I seriously doubt that the folks at Berean Call actually took time to read the book. And they'd probably take great pride in the fact that they haven't read it.

And that's a shame, because when you actually sit down and read the book, you understand where Nowak is coming from. You start to see what Christians can learn from looking around us, at people who don't serve God, and yet are doing tremendous things.

Samurai were servant-warriors. That's one thing that Nowak goes to great pains to show us -- they were servants. As Christians, we are also called to be servants; unfortunately, I think we've lost that idea, especially here in America. We're rugged individualists, after all, and we don't like the idea of subordinating our desires and plans to anyone else, not even God. We don't like a God that will cramp our style, and I think that's why the whole idea of non-religious 'spirituality' has grown so popular in the US. We make a God we're comfortable with, and we don't really have to change how we do things.

The historian in me was fascinated with Nowak's summary of samurai ideas and teachings, including quotes from many samurai throughout history. The important thing about the book, though, are the principles of the samurai that Christians would do well to learn, and cultivate in their own lives.

1. Service. Samurai lived in service to a feudal lord. Christians live in service to the Lord of Lords. We read of the commitment that samurai had to their lords, and we should be ashamed. We can't be bothered to go to church regularly, to spend an hour of our precious time in the presence of the God we claim to serve. We give up jobs at church because we're "burned out." We are wimps, and the samurai show us that.

2. Self Sacrifice and the Pursuit of Perfection. Samurai gave their lives for their lords. We don't want to give up our starting times, or our sports cars, or our luxury. We can't even be bothered to give a tenth of what we earn financially. For the samurai, a tenth would have been a mere pittance. Their lives were lived for their lords, and it was a high honor to die in that service. They were willing to lay it all on the line, as the early Christians were. We're comfortable, and we've lost that sense of sacrifice. Again, the samurai shame us.

The pursuit of perfection was, for the samurai, a lifetime of study and practice. Constant learning, constant striving to better oneself -- those were the hallmarks of the samurai life. And we Christians can't be bothered to read the Bible for fifteen minutes a day. We can't be bothered to study, to learn. We don't love God "with all your ... mind." And yet again, we are shamed.

3. Resolve. Single-mindedness. Determination. Focus. The samurai were certainly focused. Driven to the fulfillment of their objective. Their priorities came from their masters; our priorities are written for us in the Bible. We know what our job is. We know what we're supposed to be doing. And we fail, because we don't want people to make fun of us. We don't want them to think we're a bunch of religious nutjobs. We want people to like us. We've got no resolve.

If we had a fraction of the determination that the samurai had, we'd have won millions to Christ. Europe wouldn't be a bastion of secularism. America wouldn't be a society bent on rejecting God and celebrating sin and debauchery. Our world would be different, but we lack the drive. And yes, the samurai shame us once again.

It's no wonder that so many people want this book ignored. If the truth was heard, they'd have to recognize that they're not Christian samurai -- they fall far short of the mark established by God. We all fall short of what God expects of us. The sad thing is that we'd rather condemn a book out of hand than read it and recognize that it might just be right out us. We don't want to admit that about ourselves.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It's not an academic theological text, it's not a devotional written by the latest thing in Christian books. But it's a little book with an important message for those who will hear.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 08:16 PM | Comments (492) | TrackBack

January 08, 2008

Book A Week: Week 1

(OK, so I'm a day late. I won't have a problem getting this one done, since I started it on time AND it's a short book.) This week's book is The Way of the Christian Samurai by Paul Nowak.

The book has generated some controversy among people who focus on the less savory aspects of the samurai way of life, and who seem to have missed the point of the book. But more on that Sunday, when I review the book.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 12:05 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBack

December 26, 2007

Early Resolutions for 2K8

I will be FAR away from a computer on New Years Day, and so I decided to announce three blog resolutions that I've been pondering for a while now.

ONE: I will be trying to revive the Mark Study and the This Week in Church History features. Both have languished, and both were enjoyable to write, so I'm trying to go back to them.

TWO: I will be reading and blogging a book every week. I've got a backlog of books I've received to review, and this will be a great way to get through the stack. They won't all be winners, and they won't all be Christian books. They may be books I've already read, but I will be reading them that week. I will announce each Sunday what book I'm reading and blogging, and by the following Saturday the review will be up. In some cases, the review here will be a link to the Blogcritics review -- if I get something through them, they get the exclusive review. It's how the site generates revenue, and it's the ethical thing to do even if they didn't ask us all to do it. But I get books through other avenues, and those reviews will go here first. I'm allowing for two or three weeks off, so count on 49 or 50 books this year, starting on January 6th.

THREE: I'm going to be posting a little about various Christian feast days throughout the year. I'm actually stealing this idea from my wife, and she MAY start a blog of her own dedicated to it, but I think it's a great idea. And since today's St. Stephen's Day, I think I'll start with the next post.

There's a common theme among my resolutions -- I want to post regularly. Once upon a time I was a Large Mammal in the TTLB ecosystem. Now, I doubt I'd even show up on the radar. In 2008, I want to change that. I want to get all my readers back, and I THINK I've got a schedule worked out so that can happen.

Posted by Warren Kelly at 04:38 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack
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