Smoky Mountain Family Historian

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Vanishing Grace






Yancey, Philip. Vanishing Grace: What Ever Happened to the Good News? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.

In this book, Yancey takes a look at the way Christianity interacts with culture, specifically Evangelical Christianity. He makes a number of good points that will make Evangelicals consider the way they have been reacting to moral issues. He draws from the Bible and from church history to show how some of the greatest moments of the church were in times when Christians were not in political authority. The book will make a great discussion starter for small group discussions, Christian university courses dealing with society, and for Christian book clubs. While I may not agree with every point the author made, his work will make me consider why I think the way I do. I am not a fan of the hidden end note style which appears to be what this book will have, but since this was an advance e-galley provided by the publisher for review through NetGalley, that may have changed before it reached the final printing.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

The Boston Girl






Diamont, Anita. The Boston Girl: A Novel. New York: Scribner, 2014.

Addie Baum was born to immigrant Russian Jews. She grew up in Boston. The book is a chronicle of her growing up years, her early adulthood, and her courtship. It offers a glimpse of what life was like for Jews in Boston in the early 20th century. Addie is a likeable character, and readers can empathize with her and enjoy the way that she always seems to land her feet when adversity occurs. I enjoyed the book tremendously, but it did not hold me completely captive. The story is written from the perspective of Addie as grandmother relating the story to her granddaughter. I received an advance reader's copy through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Slowing Time






Mahany, Barbara. Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2014.

This book was not what I expected it to be. It is arranged seasonally with not quite daily activities to enhance observations and slow the reader's pace of life down to enjoy a sense of wonder. It's really a book of creative writing pieces with no regard to proper rules of grammar. I found the arrangement to be a bit of distraction as there was one piece which tended to weave its way across the bottom of several pages, making it impossible to read a page at a time without going back to where that piece began to read it in its entirety for the sake of cohesiveness. It did not really work for me although other readers might enjoy this type of book.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The Fourth Secret






Camilleri, Andrea. The Fourth Secret. s.l.: Mondadori, 2014.

Workers at construction sites are meeting their deaths on the job. After the latest incident, Montalbano can't resist taking a peak at the crime scene even though it is not his investigation. This is a very short installment in the long-running series. The brevity of the book leads to less fully developed characters and a less-complicated plot. Montalbano fans, however, will enjoy this visit with the Inspector. This review is based on an e-galley received by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Citizens Creek





Tademy, Lalita. Citizens Creek. New York: Atria Books, 2014.

This multigenerational tale relates the story of Cow Tom, a black man enslaved to a Creek Indian in Alabama who became a chief in the Creek Nation. The story follows Cow Tom and his desire to purchase his freedom through his marriage to Amy, his service in the Seminole Wars, the birth of his children, his removal to Indian Territory, his loyalty to the Tribe, and then follows his granddaughter Rose. It is based upon a true account. While the story bogged down and moved a bit slower than I would have liked in places, it was a fascinating account. It is a story that deserves to be kept alive, and Tademy has done an excellent service for us all in telling it. This review is based upon an advance e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Last Song


Wiseman, Eva. The Last Song. Toronto: Tundra Books, 2014.

Set during the Spanish Inquisition, this story for teen readers relates the story of Isabel and her family who became "good Christians" to avoid Jewish persecution. Isabel herself never even realized that her family was Jewish until she hears other Christians calling her family names. To try to avoid what they see as impending persecution of Jews who became Christians and still practice their faith, they arrange a marriage between Isabel and a Christian boy. Isabel detests the boy and protests the marriage. It's even apparent the boy will be a spousal abuser. The book contains arrests, a burning scene, and some glimpses of hope. The families are not sure who their friends are and who their enemies are because it is obvious there is an informant in their midst. It's a piece of historical fiction for young adults covering an era that has a story that needs to be heard, but it's likely to be more popular with female readers than male ones. Most characters are developed adequately for their roles in the story. The narrative did not always flow as naturally as it could have nor did the tension mount as it could have. It's still a great read. This review is based on an e-galley provided by the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Love So Amazing






Rhodes, Pam. Love So Amazing. Oxford, UK: Lion Hudson, 2014.

Pam Rhodes has told the stories of 40 hymns, giving the background for the writing of the hymn and its application to us today. She has done a great job. There is a mix of older hymns and newer ones. There are a few that Americans may not recognize since she is from the United Kingdom; however, the majority of hymns are sung in churches on both sides of the Atlantic. This was just the book I needed at the right moment. While the book is not being sold in the United States, I will be purchasing multiple copies of it upon its release in the U.K. in late October.

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

November Boughs





Whitman, Walt. November Boughs. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2014.


I tend to think of Walt Whitman as a poet, but this is a collection of essays written by the author better known for his poetry. Among my favorite essays in the collection is "The Bible As Poetry." His essay on "Slang in America" offered observations into how slang terms often become part of the core vocabulary of a language. Another couple which stood out to me because of my familiarity with works discussed were "What Lurks Behind Shakspere's Historical Plays?" and "A Thought on Shakspere." Whitman also offered his thoughts on Robert Burns and Tennyson. One of the most important aspects of this collection is that it offers reflections on 19th century life from interaction with Native Americans to theatre to the Civil War. He offers glimpses of various cities through diary entries, articles, and essays, such as New Orleans, New York, and St. Louis. Whitman must have been interested in the Quaker religion as he tells the stories of Elias Hicks and George Fox in biographical sketches.  An e-galley was received from the publisher through NetGalley for review purposes.