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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ale boys's feast Jeffery Overstreet

Reading The Ale Boy’s feast turned out to be a greater challenge than I imaged. I didn’t have my hopes high after having to set down book three in the series because of scruples, but I desperately hoped it was a fluke and that I would love book four. Well—I was partially right.

 Morally this book was much better, at least on the surface. However, plot and ideology wise I found it lacking. Much of the entire philosophy surrounding the Keeper and Cal-Raven’s mentor, Scharr, is destroyed and undermined! I found it absolutely intolerable that the book seemed to promote the idea that things you put faith in, while they may be false, aren’t in fact bad because they give you a vision and make you wonder, pursue your dreams. It was very much of a, “just hold to the idea because it makes you feel better/warm fuzzier”. I felt like character moral development was lacking and Cal-Raven seemed tossed and blown by the waves of what was happening around him. Auralia’s return could have been sweet but instead she is revealed to Cal-Raven at the very end of the book and we aren’t given much of a picture of the reunion. Simply..Cal-Raven has decided he loves someone else now, this someone else being Auralia. The ending to the book was a huge disappointment to me leaving a large amount of things untied off and seemingly letting the book go adrift in the final few pages. I realize much of this may be style of writing, however, it is not one I enjoy.

I appreciate the work the author put into the book, I’m sure it was a huge task, but in this case, I feel it fell short.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books and this review is my own unadulterated opinion.

Doing Virtuous Business

Doing Virtuous Business is a no nonsense look at how a business can be run with a spiritual background. The books’ message is to show how this background of spirituality will instead of hampering the company, improve it.

 Starting off with a dialogue on 'spiritual capitol’ and it’s reality; the books’ ground layer is a  pushe for the acceptance of such an important “product”. After this first chapter, Doing Virtuous Business speaks in “mini-sections” on: virtue, faith, hope, charity, leadership, courage, patience, perseverance, discipline, justice, forgiveness, compassion, humility, and gratitude. Within these mini-sections, it relies on the spiritual backbone of the book referring to Islam’s Zakat, Christianity’s teaching, and Sufi ritual, as well as other faiths or practices for reason to live by these  aforementioned scruples.

Regretfully I found myself losing focus while reading the book; it simply did not grip me. I believe some of this was directly related to the content. It takes a very special person to get excited about why spiritual business ethics are important. However, I feel that a few more anecdotes sprinkled throughout the book, instead of more concentrated doses of examples in a few sections, would have improved my reading quality. This being said, there were indeed a few sections that seemed to engage me as a reader more than others and my attention was grasped firmly during these.

In conclusion, I only recommend this book if you are extremely interested in business and how spiritual ethics and actions can play out in the “real world”.

I received this book free from Booksneeze and this is my own unadulterated opinion.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Offworld Robin Parrish

Offworld delves into a world where astronauts from the first Mars’ mission return to find earth empty. The one exception? A woman named Mae. Soon the astronauts and Mae are in a race for their lives as the empty appearance of earth changes and they aren’t as alone as they first feared—and now wish they were.

Three things about Offworld by Robin Parrish: It was recommendable, it wasn’t a thriller, and it’s not an easy read. Working from those points, Offworld was good. It was well thought out, and I wasn’t left ranting over plot holes.

Problems: For the first half of the book I felt like it lagged character wise. I could not get a feel for who I was supposed to cheer for and while personalities were reasonably defined in each astronaut, I struggled with attaching to everyone, including Chris. As well as a  few of the dream sequences with Chris feeling very repetitive. Also, I was looking for Christian content, found none.(Except a few extremely ambiguous comments at the end..from the grave of all things.)

Positives!: The blackout/dream sequences Chris has throughout gave us a good picture of how he survived that mission on mars and where he was for 18 hours of the mission. They added a huge amount to connecting with Chris as a character and were tied in wonderfully at the end—even if I don’t totally get it.
The big positive was, THE PREMISE. Finally someone had people on earth disappear without it being a covert governmental job(though a general was involved), without it being a virus, and without it being aliens!

This book was labeled as suspense but I feel “Speculative” fiction is much closer to the truth.

Conclusion: The book didn’t lend itself to easy reading or latching onto the characters, for the most part at least. But with a premise this good it is still recommendable/readable.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Fight of Our Lives -Bennet and Leibsohn

When I finished The Fight of Our lives I had to take a moment and reflect on the book. It truly has been viewpoint changing. It was not so much of a revelation for me as a reiteration of things I already believed but now with facts to back them up. I was very pleased that the book wasn’t packed with rhetoric in the least, nor was it a “shock” read; instead it was a logical delineation of  cultural trends, Islam, and our response to Islam and the terrorism that reaches our shores. The book did an excellent job citing a variety of sources as well as quoting informed/well known public figures. This backbone of quotes and professional opinions added hugely to the credibility of the book as well as driving home the sobering message the book brought. The Fight of Our lives did not mince words nor did it seek to smear anyone or anything. Instead in a very candid way it removed the emotional opinions and rhetoric on both sides of the issues it addressed and level headedly laid down the truth of the matter.  I am very glad I read the book, and it unlike most books on my bookshelf, will no doubt be read twice.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Jonathan Miaocco

 Hey there! I am so excited to be able to interview Jonathan Miaocco!! I can't wait to let you read this and get excited about composing! Yes, I said that right, composing!! But first, find Jon at his blog and website and listen to some of his music. Or...better yet, listen to some of his music while reading this interview! That's sure to jazz you up :D

Me: For those readers who don’t know who you are, why don’t you give us a quick bio of yourself?

I am seventeen, I live in Atlanta, I have an awesome family, and I compose music. I’m a senior in high school, but I’m also taking college classes. When I graduate from college, I want to be a film composer. (Definition: a person who composes music to film).

Me:Before we get too far into this world of composing questions, could you give us a working definition of composing? When I think of composing, I think of a tuxedo-ed fellow bent over a blank sheet of paper! Tell me this isn’t reality!

Haha, no, that’s not the reality! (Besides, I hate tuxedos.) The dictionary defines composing as “writing or creating (a work of art, esp. music or poetry)”. While that is technically true, it’s not the reality. The true art of composing is translating emotion into music. Music without emotion is just noise.

Me:What first drew you into composing?

I honestly don’t know! Ever since I was young, I’ve loved all kinds of music. But slowly I began to realize that I liked more orchestra-sounding music. When I was twelve/thirteen, I realized that I wanted to compose my own “soundtracks”. Sure, I had plunked out a melody or two on the piano, but I wanted to really compose. And… the rest is history.

Me:As a composer, are there things you notice about the world around you non-composers might not?

That’s a good question! I think one of the biggest things is this: I constantly “hear” music. Like, when I see an incredible sunset, I’ll think-of/mentally-compose music that might fit that situation.

To help us get inside your head a little bit, what is the first thing you notice when hearing a song?

When I hear a song, the first thing I think is whether or not I liked it. If I like it, I’ll try to figure out why I liked it. For most soundtracks, I’ll try to figure out how the composer orchestrated the music, etc. And if I didn’t like the song, I’ll try to figure out why I didn’t like it. Also, when I first hear a song, I try to see if the composer created something original. Some film composers sound exactly the same from film to film (and song to song), which I think defeats the whole purpose of film composing.

Me:What do you enjoy most about composing music? What is the biggest draw for you when you aren’t composing? (What part draws you back to it the most?)

When I compose, I love the challenge of bringing across emotion in the form of music. Audible music isn’t something you can touch or see (unless you look at a score… but that’s besides the point.) You can only hear it. When I compose music, I want to inspire people. I want people to see or feel something that they can’t explain through my music. The biggest draw for me when I’m not composing is that all I want to do IS compose. What draws me back the most is the idea that I can compose something completely new every time I sit down.

Me:As a teen composer, do you think this puts you at an advantage or disadvantage?

Yes. Haha… Usually, my age is “my hook.” Example: someone listens to my music and thinks, “Eh, whatever…” But then someone tells them I’m seventeen, and they think, “Woah, seventeen?!?!” So my age definitely helps “promote” me. But my age is also against me. I can’t just leave for Hollywood tomorrow. I’m only seventeen for crying out loud! I’m still in high school. So that is definitely a disadvantage.

Me:I noticed you are a Christian on your blog, does that play into your composing? If so, how?

Yes, definitely! I know God gave me the ability to compose music, and I’m not going to sit back and not do anything with it. (If you get a chance, read Matthew 25:14-30. It’s one of my favorite parables. It’s always made me see that God’s gifts are not meant to be wasted.)

Me:If you were to speak to a would be, or starting composer in the reading audience right now, what would you tell them? Words of encouragement? Exhortation? To get off and start composing?

1.    Never give up. Composing music is something you have to work at.
2.    Don’t be afraid to pursue your dreams. I’m not! I would hate to look back and wonder, “What if?”
3.    Go at it with everything you got. Don’t light heartily skip around, barely putting any effort in. Actually stretch yourself and make yourself work. And this leads into my final piece of advice…
4.    Don’t limit yourself. Try to compose to every genre you can. If you can compose to a lot of genres, it will be extremely beneficial to you in the future!

Me:In conclusion, are there any last words you’d like to leave us with?

    First, I would like to praise my Savior for the opportunities He has given to me and my purpose in life is to serve and honor him with music. Second, if you get a chance, please head over to my blog (jonmmusic.blogspot.com) or my website (jonathanmaiocco.com) and let me know what you think of my music. I’m always looking for some advice! And finally, thank you so much for interviewing me. It was fun!

Wow! That was a sweet interview Jon! Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and God bless in your endeavors.

As a reader you can currently purchase Jon's music from his website, and even get a few free tracks for signing up!

Life Promises for Success Jim Tressel

Life Promises for Success is a small compact book, chock full of interesting stories and inspiring quotes. It has Bible verses on one page, and on the opposite page it contains little anecdotes from life and different speakers. I enjoyed reading through the book and learning new quotes as well as fun little stories. However, I found that the scripture verses used seemed to be more of an afterthought on the page when the “real” book was found on the stories and quotes side.

When I ordered the book, I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into; if it would be Max Lucado like, or a ‘thought a day’ book. In fact, it wasn’t quite either. The book was definitely geared toward reading just a page or two a day, but reading it through in two sittings didn’t seem to dampen the effect of the book or cause it to feel redundant.  In conclusion, it was an amusing and sometimes though provoking read, but not deep by any means.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Walk Shaun Alexander

The Walk by Shaun Alexander is a spiritual walk book first, and an interesting sport and life experiences book second. Though written closely to and from Shaun’s life and perspective, it is not by any stretch an autobiography rather it uses illustrations from his life to exemplify the teaching in the book. The spiritual depth in the reading surprised me pleasantly but I still would be hesitant to call the book deep. The Walk dealt with stages in a believers’ life moving from Unbeliever through “Imparter”. Focusing on the different stages of spiritual development.

 I felt like the author dwelt more on “sins of the flesh” than perhaps was needed using them for several examples throughout the book. Those who hold to a Cessationist viewpoint will have objections to the book for the references to past prophecies Shaun has been a part of as well as other spiritual happenings.

All in all if you have a husband or brother who is a sports nuts but not usually geared toward thinking about their spiritual walk, this book may be for them!

Find the book at Deepershopping here
Find more books about spiritual living at Deepershopping here

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Conversation with God Alton Gansky

A Conversation With God was a book I initially grabbed with great fervor, then prior to reading, but after a negative review of the book, cooled my heals before reading it. Honestly, it fell somewhere in-between either of these extremes I felt/encountered. Just like the title says, questions are posed and “God” answers them. We also have little tidbits of information from mainly well known Bible figures. For example, Jonah “spoke” in one section.

The positives: It was grammatically well written. It was clear in its statements as a whole and wasn’t verbose. It also answered some current cultural questions as well as questions people have been asking God for a long time. I could give this to a friend who was curious about some of the questions of them misunderstanding what the book  says or making sure they major in theology beforehand. Especially useful for someone coming from another faith I believe.

The negatives: Because the book was not wordy it sacrificed some of the deep thinking that many of the questions warranted; also suffering from dumbing down the subject matter to accommodate this succinctness. This was continuously prevalent in the answers from “God”. Also, since the book was written as a conversation with God I feel that handicapped the book from giving scriptural answers and instead  simply giving “good” answers,  but not allowing the believer to cross check the scriptures or even make sure things were Biblically based simply because “God” was talking. Lastly, in the back of the book there was a chapter index along with the scriptures they used in each chapter—however it was worthless to me when reading. Frequently I wanted to read the source they were coming from but having to flip all the way to the back of the book and find the chapter I was reading and then pinning down the scripture reference was too bulky and discouraged deeper looking.

In conclusion. I would give this to someone coming from another faith or very new to Christianity, but this is not a hard thinking  book for a mature believer.

Received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising." 

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Winner!

Hey there!

Sorry for the long delay in posting the giveaway winner, I've been really busy. What having a Birthday and all that jazz ;) Anyway, without further ado:

The winner is ScifiAuthor! Who was the lucky fellow on number Eleven.
Contact me with your mailing information Scifi and (assuming you do) who you want the book signed to!