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Donald Mitchell "Jesus Loves You!" (Thanks for Providing My Reviews over 124,000 Helpful Votes Globally)
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David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants
David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants
by Malcolm Gladwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Five for Entertainment, Three for Usefulness, 19 Oct 2013
"Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him." -- 1 Samuel 17:49-50 (NKJV)

I enjoyed every single story in the book. Mr. Gladwell is a fine storyteller. My disappointment was that the book didn't provide more practical advice.

There are three parts: the advantages of disadvantages (and the disadvantages of advantages), the theory of desirable difficulty, and the limits of power.

In the first part, the title could just as easily be: misunderstandings about advantages and disadvantages. They key lesson actually comes from the first story about how an experienced basketball coach built a winning team around extreme defense ... because the team didn't have much else going for it: make the most out of whatever advantage you can gain. The most practical application came in the material about how it's better to go to a lesser college and be a star there than to not be a star at a more highly regarded college.

In the second part, the title could just as easily be: slow down and notice what's going on. The examples show how concentration ... despite difficulties in doing so ... yields great insights and results.

In the third part, the title could just as easily be: don't push people too far, they'll get stronger in resistance.

So if you thought this book was going to give you some huge new insight from academia, I doubt if that will be the case. If you hoped to find some bit of practical advice for what to do differently, there's little past some good principles. The college lesson, however, is worth the price of the book for any high school seniors who will soon be making such decisions.

Enjoy some fun reading!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 8, 2014 10:56 AM BST


Never Go Back (Jack Reacher 18)
Never Go Back (Jack Reacher 18)
by Lee Child
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 7.00

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Beginning Followed by a Less Exciting and Challenging Road to Resolution, 18 Sep 2013
"And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes." -- Matthew 24:18 (NKJV)

I admire three things about the Jack Reacher novels:

1. Reacher's lifestyle is so unusual that it opens my mind to seeing new possibilities.
2. Reacher is put into impossible-seeming situations from which he easily escapes, without that result seeming obvious in advance.
3. The books open with such improbable and fascinating circumstances that you can't help but marvel at the imagination that led to creating them.

Never Go Back is pretty good in terms of points one and three, but definitely lacks the gusto we've grown to love in terms of how challenging the situations are. For me, that made the book's ending (which I didn't like) a little too predictable ... causing the book to lack a lot of the suspense that grips the best books in the series.

Definitely read this book, but you shouldn't expect it to be your favorite in the series. If you mostly read the books for the impossible-seeming situations, you might even rate this book below average.

Keep moving forward!


The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Tantor Unabridged Classics)
The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby (Tantor Unabridged Classics)
by Charles Dickens
Edition: Audio CD
Price: 104.27

5.0 out of 5 stars Villains You'll Hate, Victims You'll Hurt for, and Greed You'll Despise, 18 Sep 2013
"And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward." -- Matthew 10:42 (NKJV)

Let me clear that I am reviewing the unabridged reading by Simon Vance.

Dickens can seem remote to us today. The settings and problems don't exist in the same format. Underlying thdse differences, however, there are universal truths that are still with us: greed leads to harming others, love is kind, doing good is admirable, and children and vulnerable people should be protected. Dickens has a marvelous way of drawing characters who, although exaggerated, ring true ... and elicit strong emotions from us through their dastardly and good actions. In part, this is true due to the large differences between those doing good and those doing evil. In part, it's because Dickens knew how to reveal a stony or a kind heart in ways that are unforgettable.

I find that listening to readings of the Dickens novels makes them seem more current and relevant. Good readers bring out more of my emotions and help me not to miss important parts of how Dickens portrayed his characters. Simon Vance has done both quite well from my perspective.

While the plot line here won't often dazzle anyone with its complexity or unpredictability, the key to this book's success can be found in the set of astonishingly well-drawn characters: Ralph Nickleby, Wackford Squeers, Smike, Mrs. Nickleby, Newman Noggs, Frank and Ned Cheeryble, and Sir Mulberry Hawk. Even several of the minor characters receive careful development, intensifying the reader's (and listener's) ability to relate to the story.

As in the best of Dickens' novels, there are some astonishing ironies included in the plot that make finishing the book feel especially rewarding. Keep with it, even if you feel a bit overwhelmed by over 30 hours of listening.

Enjoy a good long drive with this recorded book!


Joyland (Hard Case Crime) (Hard Case Crime Novels)
Joyland (Hard Case Crime) (Hard Case Crime Novels)
by Stephen King
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.85

5.0 out of 5 stars A Stephen King Novel for the Rest of Us, 11 Sep 2013
"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,
But by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken." -- Proverbs 15:13 (NKJV)

I know many Stephen King fans, and I'm fascinated by his writing methods and style. Yet I find his books hard to take due to the ghastliness involved in many of them. Consequently, I don't read many. I'm glad that I made Joyland an exception. It's a superb book with only the tiniest aspects of what normally repels me (and obviously attracts many others).

Characterizing this story according to genres is a challenge. It's clearly an homage to the carney world. There's a murder mystery. It's also a coming-of-age novel. And, of course, there's a non-Biblical supernatural element. Ultimately, the book is perhaps best understood as being gracious and full of charm, upholding the idea of doing the right thing. If that's the kind of uplifting book that appeals to you, consider Joyland. The book is written from a male perspective in every sense, so don't expect the kind of cosiness that a book with a woman's perspective often brings.

Mr. King does a great job of adding many appealing, and unforgettable characters, the kind that you might like to have as friends, coworkers, and neighbors. I can't remember many novels of this length that succeed so well in this regard. Excellent!

Perhaps the best thing to say for capturing this book is that while many of Mr. King's books start from fragments of a nightmare he has had, perhaps this one story started with a daydream while sitting under a pleasant apple tree as summer retreated into fall.

Nice going, Mr. King.


A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years
A History of Opera: The Last Four Hundred Years
by Roger Parker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.40

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deepened My Understanding of Opera and Gave Me a Framwork for Thinking about New Questions, 3 Sep 2013
"Sing praises to God, sing praises!" -- Psalm 47:6 (NKJV)

Having lived far from a major opera house for all of my life, I had a weird view of what opera was like based on the sorts of operas that can be staged in small venues with tiny budgets. I've seen Lulu so many times that I could recite the lyrics.

About ten years ago, I began making the effort to travel to the major houses where I could hear the standard repertory that opera buffs know and love, especially the Met in New York. The experience was transforming. I fell in love with opera, and I can't get enough.

Yet, hearing so many wonderful operas for the first time raised all kinds of questions in my mind about why the composers made the choices they did. I felt certain things were right ... and others didn't work very well ... but I didn't know how to describe my feelings. A History of Opera gave me a framework for my reactions.

Like many good books on a subject about which I would like to know more, this one raised more questions in my mind that it answered. I liked that. It will enrich my thinking for some time to come.

I feel very grateful for the book.

Its main shortcoming for me is that it doesn't say enough about the roles of the most effective modern performers and conductors, influences that strike me as worthy of more attention than I found here.

If you already know a lot about opera, I suspect the book will seem simplistic to you. If you are trying to learn, I think you'll like the book quite a bit.

As to the main thesis about opera being only about museum pieces, reasonable people can differ about that. I think the discussion could have been enriched by considering the somewhat parallel challenges that classical music has faced in this regard.


Hidden Order: A Thriller
Hidden Order: A Thriller
by Brad Thor
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars A Genre-Crossing Delight!, 22 Aug 2013
"For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers ...." -- Titus 1:10 (NKJV)

As much as I have enjoyed the prior Scot Harvath thrillers, A Hidden Order took me to a higher level of delight. Harvath is playing several new roles here as he represents the Federal Reserve in trying to save the lives of four people who have been kidnapped. This placement of Harvath in the story gives an outside-in perspective that breathes new life into the character. Further, much of the story takes place near by home ... in locations I know well. How could I fail to be delighted by a story with so much local content (at least for me)? Also, Harvath has to show he has a heart here ... something that makes any character more fun. Against that backdrop, there are crazy killers, bizarre crimes, symbolic acting out, and many misdirections. While the story certainly isn't perfect, it's just a great book to read in August on a warm evening as you listen to the crickets. There's a full moon now ... why not start tonight?


The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
The English Girl (Gabriel Allon 13)
by Daniel Silva
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.40

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Mystery Wrapped in a Secret Surrounded by an Enigma, 22 Aug 2013
"Immediately the king sent an executioner and commanded his head to be brought. And he went and beheaded him in prison, brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother." -- Matthew 6:27-28 (NKJV)

If you haven't read any of the earlier books in this distinguished series, I highly recommend that you read at least some of the earlier books before The English Girl. Much of the pleasure of this book comes from seeing its action in the context of what has gone before ... and seems to be promised in the end for the future.

If you are a series fan, I think you'll like this book better than most of the recent ones. The story is closer to the roots of what good espionage fiction does best: draw away the curtain of pretense to show the naked thirst for control that leads to desperate times and measures. As a fine writer of such tales, Daniel Silva has pulled together a story that will seem predictable ... but will leave a few surprises for all but the most discerning reader. In that sense, the book is a bit like those nesting Russian dolls ... seemingly always having yet another one inside.

In addition, there's movement in the story line for the series. I won't write more in that regard lest I spoil something.

I especially liked the way that Gabe Allon becomes involved in all kinds of matters that aren't really his business, but which he feels obliged to do anyway in the name of honor and friendship. There's a good lesson for everyday living here: do the right thing and you'll please some people and amaze the rest (to paraphrase a Samuel Clemens quote).

There's also an element of destiny here. We do have lives to which we are called to lead. Often, such lives aren't our first choice ... but they often open doors to places much finer than we ever expected to experience. Such could be the case here. See what you think in this regard.

Bravo, Mr. Silva!


Light of the World (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries)
Light of the World (Dave Robicheaux Mysteries)
by James Lee Burke
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 20.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fighting Darkness All Around, 18 Aug 2013
"Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." -- Ecclesiastes 8:11 (NKJV)

Evil incarnate fills Light of the World. Unless you have an unusually strong stomach for reading about human monsters and an interest in learning more about them, this is not a good book for you.

To me, however, James Lee Burke hit a higher gear with his storytelling and character development in this book than any of his previous novels. The good versus evil theme of fighting fire with fire reaches a new intensity as more characters are drawn into the conflict, with a greater variety of motives and attitudes than in any previous book in the series. I found the parts of the story involving Gretchen Horowitz, Clete Purcel's daughter, to be especially powerful and effective. I don't recall a book with so many strong female characters, especially in a story addressing such horrible things as occur here to women. Mr. Burke also added slight nuances to his familiar themes so that it wasn't possible to anticipate what some of the characters would do next, adding powerful suspense to the story.

You'll feel as if you are in the last days, as described in Revelation, as you read the book. Who knows? Perhaps we are.

I sat up quite late three nights in a row to finish the book. I found it to be spellbinding, a word I haven't used to describe a new novel in many years.

Bravo, Mr. Burke!


Zero Hour
Zero Hour
by Clive Cussler
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars An Intriguing Threat, Unusual Villain, and Adventure for Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala, 14 Aug 2013
This review is from: Zero Hour (Paperback)
"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing,
But righteousness delivers from death." -- Proverbs 10:2 (NKJV)

Zero Hour is one of the better entries in the NUMA Files series. Clive Cussler has contributed one of his better plots and intriguing technological threats. His villain has some interesting touches that make for unusual plot possibilities. Although you never doubt that all will be well, the trip is well worth the while to experience the kind of adventure required to foil such a plot and villain.

The book would have been better at about 70 percent of its present length. Perhaps the next one will be. If you find the story lagging in places, just skim ahead until something is happening that captures your imagination. You'll be glad that you did.

Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala continue to help make this an above-average series. Bravo to Mr. Cussler for imagining them in the first place!

Thanks, too, to Graham Brown for doing the heavy lifting to get this story to us.


Headhunters
Headhunters
by Jo Nesbo
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.86

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Plot-Intensive Crime Story with Some Chilling (But Disgusting) Scenes, 2 Aug 2013
This review is from: Headhunters (Paperback)
"But he who endures to the end shall be saved." -- Matthew 24:13 (NKJV)

You will probably be put off by four things about this book:

1. The beginning isn't very appealing.
2. You won't be cheering too much for Roger Brown in most places.
3. While the "thrilling" parts are quite powerful, there aren't enough of them.
4. The ending will make you feel that the whole book is overly contrived.

With all of that said, I thought that the "thrilling" parts were as vividly frightening as anything I've read in some time. To me, it was worth plowing through the rest to experience that brilliant writing. By the end, I felt that it was worthwhile reading the book. See what you think.


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