Book Review: The Red Tent

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…I couldn’t even finish it.

Cover of "The Red Tent: A Novel"

Cover of The Red Tent: A Novel

  • “The Red Tent” by Anita Diamant
  • 3.5 Stars

The Red Tent is a historic fictional tale of the story of Dinah from Genesis. I kept hearing about this book and finally decided to pick it up. The kindle sample amused me enough to pay for the full copy.

The story chronicles the life of 3 generations of women who are the wives or daughters of the descendants of Abraham. The red tent is a fictional place but functions to explain some of the life and separation of women during their monthly menstruation.

In many ways, it is a beautiful picture of the bonds of womanhood and the daily lives of these nomadic families. I really love how they included the torture and despair of Rachel’s infertility, as that is a personally important area for me. Although even with this angle brought to light, It was still hard to read at points because much of the focus was about the amazing nature of the female and the wonder of our bodies producing offspring. That’s just not the case for me or many other women.

Some notes of caution: it is highly sexualized and may be offensive to some. Also, there is still a lot of idol worship in spite of the forefathers worship of the “One true God.”

I enjoyed the author’s fictional take on the story of Dinah and her later years. It was an interesting read and would be a great book for discussion groups.

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{Post by the Husband} Book Review: Anna Karenina

April 3, 2013 § 2 Comments

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…I couldn’t even finish it.

English: Title page of first edition of Anna K...

English: Title page of first edition of Anna Karenina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago, I read and reviewed War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.  Inspired by this epic novel and intrigued after the recent film Anna Karenina, I decided to try reading this Tolstoy classic as well.  I expected that Anna Karenina would be of similar caliber to War and Peace, especially as sits near the top of many listings of the greatest books ever.  However, I was surprisingly disappointed by Anna Karenina, and after reading 40% of it, I had to put it down.  I tried to finish it, but I couldn’t find enough redeeming value to complete the work. « Read the rest of this entry »

{Post by the Husband} Book Review: War and peace

February 26, 2013 § 2 Comments

Cover of "War and Peace (Shared Experienc...

Cover of War and Peace (Shared Experience)

There are some books which are universally known but seldom actually read.  During our first two months in Zambia, I read one of those books.  It was by far the longest book I have ever read, and it was also one of the most rewarding.  The book was Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

War and Peace is set in Russia during the Napoleonic wars.  It is an epic historical fiction work that is based loosely upon the events of the era.  The story follows the affairs of 5 Russian families, exploring themes such as love, suffering, and class distinctions.  Tolstoy does a masterful job of developing his characters throughout the many years of the story, and his writing makes the reader feel as if he is living in the story.  But what I found most fascinating was Tolstoy’s concept of history which he demonstrates through the story itself and directly explains in the epilogue.

Tolstoy rightfully points out that most history is written from the perspective of kings and other influential figures.  However, he points out that often kings are as much subject to the whims of history as anyone.  Thus, in his opinion history is more accurately understood in terms of the decisions that are made  by millions of individuals, which are themselves linked to all the circumstances and decisions that have come before.  Tolstoy thus presents a strong argument for predestination, although not necessarily from a Christian perspective.  He states that when we make a decision, we feel as if we have made it freely.  But the further we are removed from the time in which we made the decision, the more obvious it becomes that the surrounding circumstances of our decision are usually such that our decision appears far less free.  His argument is thoughtful and convincing in many ways.

This book was long but was worth the time invested in reading it.  I recommend it wholeheartedly.

 

{Post by the Husband} Book Review: Shake Hands with the Devil

August 23, 2012 § Leave a comment

 

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

 

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

 

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

 

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

 

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

 

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…why did I even finish this??

 

 

  •  Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire
  • 3.5 Stars

 

I recently completed Romeo Dallaire’s book “Shake Hands with the Devil”, a first-hand account of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.  Dallaire was the commander of the UN Peacekeeping force, and he watched helplessly as the genocide against the Tutsi’s took place amidst the indifference of the UN and its member nations.  This book is shocking on several levels – it is shocking that people are capable of such violence and brutality.  It is shocking that the West in particular was so indifferent to cries for help.  It is shocking that this happened less than twenty years ago.

 

The book gets a bit repetitive and is perhaps overly detailed.  Also, Dallaire understandably comes across as frustrated that his pleas land on deaf ears, thus it may appear like he is blaming everyone for not doing enough.  However, I am certainly sympathetic as he witnessed unspeakable horrors and was unable to take action to prevent this disaster.  Overall, this is a necessary book as it provides a glimpse into recent history and the horrors which man is capable of inflicting upon his fellow man.

 

 

May’s Book List

June 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…why did I even finish this??

  •  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Read in paperback, available as an e-book and audiobook
  • 5 Stars

I thought I was a decently read person. Then I met a friend here in Lusaka who shall remain nameless (*cough*Eric*cough) who has a “basic” list of both Christian and secular titles that should be read in order to consider yourself well read. I’m currently on the secular list and have completed only a few of the 100+ titles that he has listed. The Great Gatsby was on the list and I dug in after finding a second-hand copy at a local market.

The Great Gatsby chronicles the life of the wealthy Jay Gatsby and his obsessive love for Daisy Buchanan, an old flame and who is now married to another man. The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s neighbor and cousin of Daisy. It is set in New York City in the 1920s.

Fitzgerald does an interesting job introducing the characters and the storyline. I felt like I was a rubbernecker at an accident scene watching the train wrecks of people’s lives unfold. The story becomes a chase after the wind, showing the emptiness of vain pursuits. Interestingly, the story doesn’t seem very far off from the craziness of his own life. I’m now reading “the Paris Wife” (a novel based on Hemingway’s memoir) which features Fitzgerald as a character and it’s interesting seeing this other side of him after reading his work.

It’s a sad book but it is an easy and enjoyable read.

The movie bearing the same title releases on Christmas Day later this year. The trailer can be seen below:

{Post by the Husband} Book Review: Pilgrim’s Progress

May 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

Cover of "The Pilgrim's Progress (Oxford ...

Cover via Amazon

I recently completed John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress”, a classic allegory written about a man named Christian who is making his way to the Celestial City.  Bunyan’s definitive work is a simple yet profound depiction of the Christian life.   Each character Christian encounters on his journey is aptly named according to their behavior.  For example, he travels with good friends named Faithful and Hopeful, he fights dreadful enemies like Apollyon, and he dialogues with distracted sojourners like Talkative and Ignorance.  Through each of these interactions, Bunyan explores aspects of the Christian faith and pitfalls that may befall hapless pilgrims.

Reading this book was very encouraging to me as I found it to be an accurate picture of what a true Christian life should look like.  Rather than promising your best life now, Pilgrim’s Progress emphasizes that we have not yet reached our home, but God will use the trials and difficulties of our journey to prove our faith and prepare us for the Celestial City.  As Paul says, “these momentary light afflictions are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17

February’s Book List

February 29, 2012 § 3 Comments

This is a series of brief book reviews of literary works that have been read by Ben or myself. The book list will be published at the end of the month and will include titles that have been finished in the previous month. All books are rated using the following system:

5 Stars – Excellent. Couldn’t put it down, a real page turner. It’s easy to be a bookworm when the material is this good!

4 Stars – Very Good. Liked most of the book, a little slow in parts. Was an enjoyable read overall.

3 Stars – Average. Nothing really made it stand out. A bit boring. Unrealistic plot.

2 Stars – So-so. Blah. Could only read a few pages before I fell asleep.

1 Stars – Poor. So boring…why did I even finish this??

Even though it’s technically Wordless Wednesday, it’s the last day of the month and that means it’s time for my monthly book reviews! This month was mostly a fiction month for my reading – I do have some non-fiction pieces in the works but I was a little slower going on those. Here’s my reads for this month:

Image via Amazon.com
  •  Midwives by Chris Bohjalian
  • Read in paperback, available as an e-book
  • 3 Stars

This novel showcases a medical malpractice trial of a lay midwife working in rural Vermont in the 1980s. I would mostly put it in the mystery category, more than any other genre. I mostly just wanted to read it because it had the word midwives in the title and I’m fascinated with all things birth. I don’t think I quite knew what to expect from it but it held my attention and was good entertainment. I was frustrated by the ending as it wasn’t very tidy or conclusive. Fair warning: it’s a little gruesome at times so it’s not for the faint at heart.

Cry, the Beloved Country

Image via Wikipedia

  •  Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
  • Read in paperback copy, available as an e-book
  • 5 Stars

A classic novel by Alan Paton showing the parallel lives of a black priest and white businessman both living in South Africa in the 1940s. The story highlights many of the racial issues that South Africa (or just ‘South’ if you want to sound cool here in Zambia) has dealt with and to a large degree still remain present. I found it particularly enjoyable to read since I am living in Africa but I believe it could be enjoyable to someone that’s not as well. The writing is beautiful with a quality rarely seen in writing today. It took me a bit to get used to the stylistic way of showing quotes but I don’t think it detracts from the book. My favorite aspect of the book was that it got Ben and I thinking about the issues presented in the book – race, family disagreements, development in a tribal/village based society, etc. Highly recommended!

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