Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label religion. Show all posts

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Secret Child Book Review

Secret Child Book Review
Secret Child (2015) is a true story from a time when individuals of different religious backgrounds could fall in love but not easily marry and where children born out of wedlock were considered unwanted and considered 'the unfortunates.'  Most women who found themselves pregnant and unmarried in 1950s Dublin, Ireland were unable to keep their children.

Secret Child tells the story of Cathleen, a woman who found a forbidden love and lost it because of the divide between the Protestant and Catholic religions and then found herself pregnant. She was one of the fortunate few to stumble across Regina Coeli, which may have been the only home for unwed mothers in Dublin at that time.

The author does not know how his mother came to find this facility but it was definitely because of the Regina Coeli that his mother, Cathleen, managed to keep her son and hide him away from her family and the rest of the world until he was eight years old. This accomplishment of course was only done with great hardship when she worked long hours and left her young son in the care of a reclusive caregiver at the facility.

Some may have called these children the unfortunates but the children did not see themselves in that light and Gordon, according to Mail Online, considered the hostel paradise. It was, after all, his childhood home where he lived until the age of 8 when his mother eventually reunites with and marries her original love. As a family, they move to London, England and this move perhaps improves their life slightly but also brings with it a host of other challenges, which includes leaving Gordon's Regina Coeli family behind.

This book gives a glimpse into life in the 1950s in Dublin and the early 1960s in London. It is told from the point of view of the child, Gordon Lewis, and written with the assistance of ghostwriter Andrew Crofts. In the book, Gordon returns to Ireland as an adult to uncover the story of his childhood home, which was a happy place in his eyes, and to learn the story of his mother's prior life, which was unknown to him. His cousin asks why he wants to dig up that old history and advises him to let it be. For Gordon, however, it was important to put the story together and understand both his family background and his mother's story.

I recommend Secret Child for those wanting an interesting look into those times in Ireland and a serious subject matter though the book is not a difficult book to read.  Though this story took place in Ireland, we all know that such religious divides existed elsewhere and that unwed mothers faced similar situations in many different parts of the world.

If you are interested, you can read more about the book or order your copy of Secret Child from Amazon by clicking right here.

IMDB says this story is being created as a short film called The Bridge by the author and due for release in 2018.

See you
at the bookstore!

More Ireland:

Order your copy of Secret Child on Amazon.
Visit 1980s Ireland via my My Fifty Dead Men Walking movie review.
Visit Ireland in 1916 my Michael Collins movie review.
















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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dan Brown ORIGIN Book Review

I was intrigued when I read in Dan Brown’s newest book Origin that the book includes only “Art, architecture, locations, science and religious organisations that are real.” I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the heart of Italy with Dan Brown in Inferno and then with my husband in real life and one day I hope to visit Brown’s Bilbao, Barcelona, Madrid and Seville in person after having enjoyed my visit with him in this novel.

I’m not quite sure why I picked up Origin but it was at least in part because of the memories and discussions that my entire family had after we all read the first two books in the series, Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. I know that not all of the books in the series were quite as well received by my family and I have to admit to wondering how many times poor Robert Langdon could be called out to save the day.

Well, as it turns out, at least one more time. In this, the latest book, we are armchair travellers to Spain where Langdon is solving a murder mystery and focuses on the origin of man. It involves the art work, symbols, architecture, locations and religions of Spain. This time, the debate includes some interesting familiar and unfamiliar high-level technology and even a super computer. You will find yourself wondering is that really true and find yourself thankful for Brown’s statement that everything in the book is real.

Origin is the first Dan Brown book to feature modern art since Robert Langdon is not much of a fan of that genre and it focuses on the work of Joan Miró. I recommend googling her to have a feeling for her artwork. It really is different from the masters that Langdon normally prefers.  The book also features literary references to William Blake and Friedrich Nietzsche, authors whom I was not particularly knowledgeable of.

The effort required to put this book together with real details and facts is mind boggling. Apparently, Brown employs a team of fact checkers to make sure he is accurately presenting all of that history and science.

Is Origin recommended?


Yes, Origin is recommended by me. Is it highly recommended? I am undecided. I found the novel a bit heavier on religion than I care for and I can honestly say I have never thought about where I came from or where I am going to in such depth. Of course, thinking about our creation and destiny is not necessarily a bad thing.

I was, however, totally fascinated by the high-tech science in this book that includes quantum computing, artificial intelligence in the form of a thinking computer and a self-driving Tesla Model X. The conspiracy website is a nice link between our current online world and the book.

Barcelona Super Computing Center exterior

Barcelona Super Computing Center Interior
Barcelona Super Computing Center
Finally, I liked the glimpse into Spain. Yes, there is really a super computer built inside the walls of a church in Barcelona in this book and the pictures shown here are from the website of the real Barcelona Super Computer Center.

I expect that if you enjoyed Angels & Demons and the Da Vinci Code, you will likely enjoy Origin.

Origin was published on October 3, 2017 and was number 1 on the New York Times bestseller list in that same month and it remains on that list in the number eight position as I write this post in February, 2018. It is also currently number 2 on Amazon’s bestseller list of the top 20 most sold and read books of the week. Is there a movie? Not yet but maybe.

The New York Times finds fault and praise for the book but concludes: ”…for all their high-minded philosophizing, these books’ geeky humor remains a big part of their appeal. Not for nothing does Kirsch’s Tesla have a license plate frame reading: “THE GEEKS SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH.” Brown continues to do everything in his playful power to ensure that will happen.”

Here's an exciting peek at Dan Brown, his books, and Origin. Warning: It will make you want to go to Spain with me.


Origin is fun. Don’t take it too seriously. You can find it here on Amazon. If you decide to read it, be sure to come back and let us know what you think. If you have already done so, have you figured out where we come from and where we are going and, more on point, would you recommend this book to your friends and family?

See you
at the bookstore!
Brenda

ORDER OF DAN BROWN’S ROBERT LANGDON BOOKS:

Angels & Demons (2000)
The Da Vinci Code (2003)
The Lost Symbol (2009)
Inferno (2013)
Origin (2017)

QUICK LINKS:

Buy Origin on Amazon.
Check out Dan Brown's author page on Amazon.
Read my review of Inferno.






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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Review of Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Cover Image, Life of Pi
I stumbled on The Life of Pi at the library, knowing it was a bestseller, so I decided to see what it was all about. It was hard at first to believe it was fiction. It read very much like an autobiography, except that it wasn't real. Pi (actually Piscine) Patel, the protagonist, grew up in India, the son of a zoo keeper.

Most of his story is told in the first person. He spent a good part of his free time at his father's zoo in Pondicherry (a zoo which never existed), and I personally enjoyed most the beginning of the book where Pi talks about how he got his name and the characteristics of the zoo animals. He also tells the story of how his father taught him and his brother to respect the animals as the wild beasts they were so they would not be tempted to treat them like tame animals, no matter how cute they seemed. It was a terrifying lesson even to read about.

One of the most interesting parts of the book to me was Pi's unique take on religion. He had interacted with local Christian, Hindu, and Moslem teachers, and he joined and practiced each faith. He tired to keep each religion separate in his life, and none of the teachers knew he had joined any faith but their own. His own parents didn't care much about any religion, and they didn't think much of Pi's religious life. Everything seemed to work for Pi until one Sunday afternoon when he was sixteen, when he happened to be with his parents on the Goubert Salai seaside esplanade. It seemed the whole town was out for a stroll, and that included the three clerics.

They approached Pi's family at the same time, and each began to brag about him as their star pupil. The priest remarked on what a good Christian boy Piscine was. The imam claimed him as a good Muslim boy. The pandit declared them both wrong, since Piscine was obviously a pious Hindu. The clerics argued religion with each other, and seemed in agreement that Pi must choose just one of their religions. I will leave it to you to read the book to see how this was resolved.

Pi's parents finally decide that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's policies are disappointing. They had hoped for a more tolerant “new” India, and when they believed they would never get it, they made the decision to close the zoo, sell off the animals, and emigrate to Canada. Pi and his brother Ravi did not want to go, but they did not really have a choice. After the endless paperwork was done, the family left Madras in 1977 on a Japanese cargo ship.

Life of Pi Audiobook Image
The ship sank. He is in a lifeboat. He sees the tiger, Richard Parker, in the ocean and starts to rescue him before he realizes how foolish that is. At the last moment as he is pulling the tiger into the boat he suddenly wakes up to what the two of them together on the lifeboat would mean, but by then it's too late, the tiger is too close, and pulls himself into the boat. Hear this scene read aloud.  Get the complete Life of Pi audiobook here.

Through most of the rest of the book Pi is stranded on a boat. At the beginning there are three animals and no other humans. There was a zebra with a broken leg, a spotted hyena, and the 440-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. They were all animals that had been on the Japanese ship. Pi had to use all he had observed at the zoo and all he had learned about the animals, especially tigers, to survive. For most of that long journey in the lifeboat, his only companion was the tiger, and he had seen what a tiger was capable of.

Although I'm glad I read the book, I don't really enjoy survival stories very much, and I really got tired of the constant battle of wits on that boat. I just wanted Pi to be rescued. But the monotony of life on the boat reflected the monotony of life for Pi, tired, thirsty, having to fish to feed himself and the tiger, and just watching day and night go by.

I recommend this to those who are interested in religion, philosophy, wild animals, zoos, and / or survival stories. The philosophy is not tedious, and the Pi's search for the right religion often borders on humor while offering a glimpse into each of the three faiths presented. For those who would like more background on the book, I suggest this interview with the author, Yann Martel.

This exciting book has also been made into a movie.



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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Every Bush is Burning by Brandon Clements, A Review

Christians Aren't Perfect


Of course, you already knew that. Every Bush Is Burning shines a harsh light on today's Christian churches in AmericaI don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading this Christian novel, but not what it turned out to be.  The book is hard to define. It’s fiction, but it’s also somewhat of a sermon and an indictment of American Christianity. It brings to mind the bumper sticker “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”



















Meet Jack


The book begins and ends with Jack Bennett, a newspaper columnist, writing a letter on his laptop in a coffee shop, supposedly to another regular, whom he’s seen there often and never spoken to. He admits to being very self-centered as he is always wondering how people perceive him. We learn the following about him: He is married with twin three-year-old boys. He lives in South Carolina. He is also having  an affair with a coworker named Jordan. His dad deserted the family when he was very young.  His Uncle Richard often watched Jack and his sister Sara as their mother worked. He molested Sara, and maybe Jack, as well.

He assumes most people are not honest with themselves and live in “zombieland,” as he himself used to and still does part of the time. He decries the fact that most relationships he sees are just surface. People numb themselves with substance abuse, and television when they feel hopeless and don’t want to think about their lives.

He hates advertising for its lies and false promises.  First it works on making people feel depressed because of what they don’t have. Then it promises that whatever product it is selling will make people feel better and help fill their emptiness. He points out that although we live in one of the world’s richest countries and we have luxuries, comfort, and every possible kind of entertainment people are still “exceedingly bored.”

Jack Bennett writes “We’ve all become experts at diverting our dissatisfaction into entertainment and a thousand other places, but it’s inescapable. We’re like kids at Christmas, unwrapping gift after gift only to find coal inside the box.... then we look around with darting eyes for the next present…” hoping it will be different than those we’ve already opened. One present Jack opened was Jordan, with whom he had the affair.

Do Church Billboards Tell the Truth?


One morning Jack is driving to work and sees a billboard for a well-known church with an ad in big letters ‘CHRISTIANTITY IS THE BEST THING FOR OUR BROKEN WORLD.’ He was frustrated by this because he felt this church was more a political social club for upper middle class white people.  He then wrote a column blasting the Christian religion as practiced in America. He mentioned the hypocrisy, scandals, lack of compassion for the poor and homeless, a judgmental attitude, and more. He concluded that although he had nothing against Christ, he sure didn’t like Christians, who were nothing like the Christ they supposedly followed. In the next chapter he tells some stories from his childhood that help the reader see why he is so sure his assessment of the church is correct. I won’t go into detail on those here.

On the next Sunday he passes another church, a smaller one, where he normally sees signs he thinks are hilarious. He was hoping to see another funny one and he wasn’t disappointed. He saw ‘What if Jack is Right About us?’ He couldn’t help pulling in to the parking lot. That’s when he first saw Yeshua, a homeless man knocking on the church door. Yeshua tells Jack an usher had escorted him back outside after he had been inside. The congregation was singing “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

Jack and Yeshua


At first I thought this would be like those stories you hear about people picking up hitchhikers who turn out to be a unique blessing, say something that makes you realize they know more than they could know naturally, and then just disappear. Jack offers to take the man out for a meal, they talk, and he introduces himself as Yeshua.

At breakfast, they discuss Jack’s column, which Yeshua has read. It’s evident that although Yeshua admits Jack was right about the particular church he wrote about, he still had a lot to learn. They agree to meet for breakfast every Sunday. At the end of their meal, as Yeshua is leaving, he tells Jack there is just one more thing he’d like Jack to do for him during the coming week: repent of cheating on his wife and beg her for forgiveness. Yeshua says if Jack doesn’t do that, he will expose the affair.

Jack is stunned. How does Yeshua know about his wife Chloe and the fact that he’s cheating on her? He had considered himself so careful and discreet.  He tries to figure out who could have revealed his secret. He later finds that Yeshua knows a lot more than that about him and his family secrets.

Who is Yeshua Really?


The rest of the book deals with Jack’s attempt to make things right with Chloe, who is  badly hurt and has no desire to forgive him or save the marriage. He also wants to help his sister Sara through her depression and substance abuse, and to find himself and meaning for his own life. Yeshua is able to nudge him in a number of right directions, including having him  take Sara to a Christian recovery group that is like a family. Yeshua becomes a big part of his and even Sara’s life.

Because of certain inconsistencies I saw in Yeshua’s character, I was pretty sure he wasn't a Jesus figure, even though he didn’t say he wasn’t Jesus. It wasn’t evident who he really was, though,  until it was revealed at the end.  I have to admit I didn’t see it coming. The book kept me interested because I wanted to see what happened to all the characters and find out the real story of who Yeshua was. One thing he did was preach a lot to Jack. Some people might find that off-putting.

What Was the Author's Purpose?


I would say one purpose of this book is to be a wake-up call to those who are leading empty and unsatisfying lives because they have not yet found their significance and worth in the knowledge of how much God loves them.  Since I am already a believer, I’m not sure how this would have hit me had I not been. The author is hoping to show his readers that what they see in certain versions of the Gospel being preached in many churches and in the media is a false  Gospel, not based on the Bible at all, and designed to appease the flesh rather than feed the spirit.

Another purpose of the book is probably to show those who frequent churches that their worship may not really be worship that God is pleased with at all. Clements definitely attacks self-righteousness and spiritual pride, as well as the attitude that we can be good enough to win God’s favor, that we can “buy” the water of eternal life with our good works, instead of coming to God with empty hands and a repentant spirit, knowing our true condition.

This book is available in paperback or as a digital book for your Kindle.


A More Positive View of Christians


To see a contrasting and more positive view of Christians in a series for young adults, read my review of  In Between, the first book, in the series. It's the story of a sixteen-year-old foster child whose mother had just gone to prison. She had been in a group home for six months and raised herself before that, and you can taste her fear as she drives with her social worker to meet her foster parents. I couldn't put the book own and had to buy all the books in the series within a week after I read the first one.


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Review This is Dedicated to the Memory of Our Beloved Friend and Fellow Contributor
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