Christ Centered Gamer Blog

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Guts & Glory: The Vikings

When it comes to the people known as the Vikings, their history, both internally and externally, is known by a mix of fact and fable. They were a warlike people who left an undeniable mark on history for good or ill, and that mark had some exciting highlights. Ben Thompson, a man who enjoys such topics, thus wrote the second book of the Guts and Glory series to explore the topic in some detail.

A bit of background is required. Ben Thompson is a historian who started out with a website called "Badass of the Week", where he would detail the aforementioned figures, both real and fictional, and explore their histories and exploits. Having branched out into writing, he wrote the Guts and Glory series for younger readers, foregoing most of the earthy language his more mature work is known for. At the same time, he delivers generally the same information in his typically bombastic style, so parents who want their children to learn something can be assured the work is reasonably educational and child appropriate while still being entertaining.

His book on the Vikings covers terrain both broad and deep. Its general structure is chronological, covering the roughly 350 or so years the Vikings made a historical impact and some of their most noted figures. In between these entries are often many other factoids and trivia about the Vikings, separating inventions like the horned helmets (which come from opera, not actual Viking tradition) from fact (Vikings did in fact beat Columbus to exploring North America). Finally, like any decent historian, he provides an extensive bibliography for further reading on subjects his own text may have glossed over for more detailed instruction.

It's worth noting the Vikings and the Christian religion have had extensive overlap, with each shaping the history of the other in many respects. Thompson helpfully provides a summation of each notable figure and discusses their impact on the Christian faith (and whether they remained pagan or converted). For those seeking to study the history of both topics, this is a rather helpful guide. Thompson also does not neglect other topics, detailing the impact the Vikings have had on world culture, politics, economics, and other topics of interest. Admittedly, his preference is to center mostly on the great deeds of the people discussed, both good and ill, but there is still plenty of other useful historical datum included as well.

I had three things I took from my reading in particular. While aimed at younger readers, this is still quite good reading for the older crowd as well, providing simple, clear, yet detailed accounts of many historical facts about the Vikings. Another takeaway is a much greater appreciation for the Vikings and their impact on history, as Thompson makes clear such countries as Britain, Russia, and sizable portions of mainland Europe owe a profound debt to the Vikings for their historical foundation. Finally, I was gratified to find Thompson made very clear what was fiction and what was fact, as Viking history is often embellished (even internally in their own accounts, as Thompson notes), and I was left with a much clearer picture of what the Vikings actually were like as a people.

Overall, this text comes highly recommended. Not only is it suitable for parents hoping to give their child something educational yet entertaining, it is also a good work on the subject of the Vikings in general. It can be purchased on Amazon in Audiobook, Kindle, softcover, hardcover, and Audio CD formats.

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Guts and Glory: The American Civil War

When it comes to the War Between the States (or War of the Rebellion if you are pro-Union), it's hard to find a good book on the history of the American Civil War that is not politically charged in some way. Ben Thompson, while he does not deny the checkered causes and motives of the participants, instead, per his usual remit of covering great deeds and people, decides to cover the less politically charged aspects of the conflict in his first Guts and Glory book.

A bit of background is required. Ben Thompson is a historian who started out with a website called "Badass of the Week', where he would detail the aforementioned figures, both real and fictional, and explore their histories and exploits. Having branched out into writing, he wrote the Guts and Glory series for younger readers, foregoing most of the earthy language his more mature work is known for. At the same time, he delivers generally the same information in his typically bombastic style, so parents who want their children to learn something can be assured the work is reasonably educational and child appropriate while still being entertaining.

It's worth noting, for concerned parents, that the only language considered remotely profane is limited to direct historical quotations, such as Willian T. Sherman's "War is Hell" commentary. The text is otherwise free of anything a parent might object to their children reading.

Thompson sets out to do three things. The book is in roughly chronological order, covering the general scope of the historical conflict (1861-1865), and he does cover all the general high points most history books do concerning the conflict. Second, given his goal of covering great deeds and the people who did them, his work is very excitingly written, wanting the reader to feel the intensity of the action that took place. Finally, in between all these sections are various trivia and additional facts about the war and its impact, both during its own time and on history in general.

I had three takeaways from this work. First, Thompson is concerned less with all the politics and social background of the conflict (though this does get covered), his work instead focuses on the people involved. If you want a less dry historical retelling and want to read something that covers the parties involved on a more personal level, this is sure to satisfy you. Second, Thompson, an admitted Civil War reenactor of both sides of the conflict, strove to keep an even hand describing both sides. For those wanting a history text that doesn't shirk away from admitting it was a conflict fought for mixed motives yet does not stop to overly moralize, they will be refreshed to read this. Finally, this text does have some mild glossing over historical facts in places where history would be too boring if described in detail, but Thompson does provide an extensive bibliography for further reading that should give the details he glosses over.

Overall, this text comes highly recommended. Not only is it suitable for parents hoping to give their child something educational yet entertaining, but it is also a good work on the subject of the American Civil War in general. It can be purchased on Amazon in Audiobook, Kindle, softcover, hardcover, and Audio CD formats.

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James Buchanan

James Buchanan. When the average American with a passing familiarity with American history thinks of this name, they usually call him one of our most inept, incompetent, if not completely unsuitable Presidents. Rarer few are those who even bother to dig deeper than that, but Jean H. Baker, writing about the titular president for The American Presidents series, believed a closer look into why he earned the scorn of history was warranted.

Like all books in the same series, this one can be read independently of the others. It more than adequately makes the arguments it needs to on its own, but I highly recommend reading the last few books before it and the one immediately after on Abraham Lincoln This is mainly because they give even more detailed perspective after reading this one.

That said, this book is a fairly comprehensive and straightforward experience. It covers Buchanan from childhood to manhood. It details his increasingly large involvement in politics and public life. It exhaustively details his presidency and why it ended in public disgrace. And finally, it covers the period after until his death, noting in those final years Buchanan devoted his time entirely to try justifying his presidency as anything but a failure of his own making.

It has three questions it sets out to ask, then answer. First, what shaped Buchanan into the man who would become our fifteenth president, and how did that lead to his failed administration? Second, what did he do well, and why were his failures more known to history as opposed to his success? Most importantly, it asks how such a man considered so qualified for public service became President, and how under that office he did so much to gravely injure the union of the United States he alleged he held so dear.

In my reading, I came to a few conclusions of my own. Not only was Buchanan a nakedly partisan political figure, but his partisanship was also such it gave him tunnel vision to the point he could not begin to try to understand those who disagreed with him, and that this failure led him to fail to take the pulse of the people to a catastrophic degree. Second, Buchanan was certainly qualified for public service, and had he been President after the period slavery divided the public discourse, history might have looked on him more favorably, as he was ill-equipped to deal with that issue despite all his experience. His being grotesquely out of touch, his inability to compromise, and his unwillingness to change any of his opinions no matter how badly they served the people did no one any favors, least of all himself. Finally, he had once claimed the President should be a just and wise arbiter of the national discourse, but he utterly failed to heed his own counsel to the injury of a nation he nearly left too damaged for his successor to save.

Overall, I would consider this book very educational, straightforward, and suitable for any serious student of American history. It wastes little time, filling each page with as many relevant facts as possible, and has simple-to-understand prose. For anyone needing to have the resources for a research paper or book report, this is a well-researched volume on the 15th bearer of the title of US President I recommend highly.

If this book sounds like a worthy purchase, it can be bought on Amazon in Hardcover and Kindle format.

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The Gulag Archipelago

These days, if you check social media, there are hordes of uninformed people who proudly proclaim a love of communism, claim it would be better than capitalism, and believe it would bring about a utopia on Earth.

Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn, a man who lived under one of the most brutal excesses of that ideology brought to life, no doubt would scorn those people as ignorant fools, as he did in his account of the Gulag, the hellish prison camp system in which a near decade of life was spent alongside so many others who were robbed of freedom on behalf of an abusive system of corrupt people whose own beliefs let them justify the wrongful imprisonment of countless people.

As to those who blindly defended communism, he had this to say:

"All you freedom-loving “left-wing” thinkers in the West! You left laborites! You progressive American, German, and French students! As far as you are concerned, none of this amounts to much. As far as you are concerned, this whole book of mine is a waste of effort. You may suddenly understand it all someday—but only when you yourselves hear “hands behind your backs there!” and step ashore on our Archipelago."

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Watergate: The Corruption of American Politics and the Fall of Richard Nixon

Some events in history have become memetic. Just mention the name, and you instantly get people to comprehend what you are talking about. The Watergate Scandal is one of those events. It's been discussed at length many times by many people, but Fred Emery's narrative of the events of that time is still an excellent, albeit very slightly dated accounting.

Fred Emery was a reporter for the New York Times London branch office at the time of the story and notes his reactions several times throughout the text. He also writes his account in a narrative-like format, but the events and people are real, which makes the format brisk and easy to follow. With some edits, one could easily make a miniseries or two-part historical movie out of his writing, just to give an idea of the text.

Like most writers who cover Watergate, Emery focuses on three things. Richard Nixon, the president who was at the center of the entire scandal. The inner workings of the people Nixon had around him who planned, engineered, and later were caught for the Watergate break-in and related abuses of power and violations are also detailed at length. Finally, after the Watergate Hotel capture, Emery details in intricate detail the coverup, the differing accounts by all parties involved, the legal and political environment that complicated the matter, and continues until Nixon's resignation after he was found worthy of an impeachment he narrowly avoided.

Emery proceeds based on three overarching themes. One, while it's clear Nixon did not directly have a hand in Watergate, he is adamant Nixon's paranoia of political enemies and his hands-off command to stop them by any means necessary were responsible for the event and why he had to work so hard to try and cover it up. Second, he examines the immediate and long-term impact of the scandal on American politics, specifically how the event seriously damaged the credibility of the federal government, the office of the President of the United States, and the trust of the common citizen in the safeguards against abuses by elected officials. Finally, Emery draws a line between the "sheep and the goats" of the event, with the former being those who honorably served the American public and/or chose to admit their wrongdoing without expecting more than atonement for their crimes. The latter group includes those who lied and defied the legal system and abused the trust of the public and those who turned the state's witness merely to save themselves.

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Warren G. Harding

I've written reviews of other books in the American Presidents series, and one I believe deserves special attention is the book on the United States' 29th president. The subject of "Warren G. Harding" has been commonly portrayed as a corrupt man who was unworthy of the office, while my reading of history not tainted by this conception suggests otherwise. The book on him I am reviewing further confirms that.

It's worth noting the primary author of this book is John W. Dean III, the same one who was involved in the provable corruption of Richard Nixon, a fact he notes with obvious irony. According to Dean, Harding was nowhere near as corrupt and incompetent as others have claimed, and so he wrote about Harding to set the record straight. Specifically, "to get it right".

Like most books in the series, it covers Harding's birth, education, career path, his presidential record, and death. Given Harding's reputation of corruption comes mainly from the actual corrupt men who were in his administration, Dean takes extra time in the final chapters to exonerate Harding of their actions, making clear no proof Harding had any dealings in their misdeeds has ever been found, and oftentimes he was the first to act when he discovered their corruption.

Dean had three general goals in mind throughout this account. First, he sought to show Harding was far from a political hack who looked good but was not presidential timber. If anything, he goes to considerable pains to explain this is a false image. Second, while Dean has an obvious bias towards Republicans, he makes clear his views versus those of the actual Democrats who opposed Harding and how that shaped perceptions noted in the first point. Finally, as Dean states in the foreword, he extensively provides rebuttals of Harding being a corrupt and venal man, though candidly admits his actual mistakes, most of which are revealed to be more the result of naivety and loyalty to those he judged poorly as incorruptible.

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The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

I am a big fan of history. So much so that while I'm sure some men my age may have far more unwholesome hobbies, my love of collecting history books is my far geekier and arguably much more wholesome alternative. One book I would consider a crown jewel for my history collection and that of anyone else is Adam Tooze's "The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931", which covers the transformative changes of economy and politics of the first World War.

Adam Tooze's stock in trade is economic history. While this text covers a considerable amount of that, it also examines the political aspects of the time in question as well. He starts his breakdown of the events in 1916 when the first World War had already transformed much of the world's politics and economic foundations and ends with the beginning of the Great Depression. The period in between is given an intricate breakdown, not only to show how the world reached that ending point but also, given its critical views, to show the tortured process by which the period changed the world stage both then and for future generations.

The book can be divided into thirds. The first portion is dedicated to how the World War had utterly upended empires and the system of financial support that had been taken for granted, which resulted in new political forces such as the rise of Bolsheviks, the declaration of the German Republic, and the preeminence of the United States as a decisive economic and military partner in the conclusion of the first World War. The second part details the Treaty of Versailles, the formation of the League of Nations, and how both not only fell short of ensuring a just peace, they also sowed the seeds of future conflict. The final portion shows how the remainder of the 1920s was held up by a fragile peace nominally based on economic stability until it was shattered by the Great Depression.

I came away from my readings of this exhaustive and detailed historical account with several conclusions. The first is that the United States, under Woodrow Wilson, made several missteps in trying to preserve its "moral" detachment from the rest of the World while paradoxically trying to mediate peace during the War. Their mistakes were complicated by the fact everyone else could little afford the idealism the US wanted to indulge and this led to the failure of a just peace. The diplomatic, economic, and political blunders of all sides in regards to Communism, the rise of proto-fascist movements, and the failure to support places such as the briefly democratic China while persecuting the Communists only created long-term political issues the world still deals with to this day. Finally, the Great Depression was inevitable as a result of all these blunders, though sadly could have been avoided or at least minimized through prudent statecraft, sounder economic policy, and a lot more goodwill and good faith than anyone involved had been willing to show at the negotiation tables.

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William McKinley

“Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps”
-- William McKinley

As a fan of the American Presidents history series, I especially adore the books that cover our lesser covered presidents, and the book on William McKinley is one I enjoyed that told a lot about someone overshadowed by Theodore Roosevelt, who came after him.

Each book in the series tends to have a distinct style, as it's a collaborative series with many different authors covering different Presidents. The book on McKinley, while covering a lot of expected ground concerning the life and accomplishments of the United States' 25th president, also covers a lot of history of the changes he wrought in American politics.

The book has three main things it sets out to do. First, the author felt McKinley has often been given short shrift by other historians, who usually considered him one of the more forgettable Presidents. Second, the text serves to be a rebuttal of many of the claims that caused McKinley to be maligned by other historians. Finally, McKinley was President and before then a prominent member of the Republican party who was instrumental in the 1896 shift in the American electoral college that shaped US history for decades afterward. This last subject is given particular focus as a complement to the other two platforms the book sets out to cover.

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Walking the Line

I would like to thank Ascot Media for a copy of this book for review.

Of all things Christians should know, it's that the very name means to be "Christ-like". Pastor Alan Davey, while figuring that was obvious, decided it was a good idea to explore that concept and elucidate on its history and meaning as it regards to modern-day Christian practice. With that in mind, "Walking the Line: Embracing the Imperatives of Jesus" was written, and I found it to be an engaging text.

"Walking the Line" is a summation of the general theme, which is to walk the same line as the path of Christ. To that end, this book is split into three parts with several chapters each. It's meant to be read linearly, as it covers the life and ministry of Jesus. At the same time, it also has a linear progression because the individual chapters build on the overarching theme, which makes this a book easy to read, put down, and resume later for those who want to savor the message in portions.

Another interesting this I found remarkable is the author's decision to blend various historical facts and contemporary real-world situations into the text to both draw parallels to the time of Jesus, and to also emphasize how it can be applied in the reader's own life. It's clear the author is very literate, and they even weave in a lot of historical trivia to both entertain and inform.

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Benjamin Harrison

"He who wears worthily the honors of the Church of Christ cannot fail to be a worthy recipient of the honors of his country." - John Scott Harrison, in a letter to his son after hearing he had been elected deacon of his Church

I'm a fond reader of books on history, and I own many books in the "The American Presidents" series. One of my favorites is the book on Benjamin Harrison, a president who rose above the seamy and laissez-faire aspects of the time known as the Gilded Age.

The book in question is, like all other books in the series, about the life and deeds of the president it covers. It is written so reading any of the others in the series is not required, though I would recommend reading them regardless to get a better idea where the twenty-third American President ranks among his peers in that office.

The book starts by following Harrison in his youth, detailing his educational background, the beliefs he was raised with, and how he came to manhood. Later, it details his later career as a veteran in the Union Army of the American Civil War, his record in the practice of law, and his later positions in the public service of the state of Indiana and then within the federal government. Finally, it covers his nomination and winning the seat of the American presidency, including his triumphs and defeats. His post-presidency to his death is detailed immediately after.

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What if Jesus Were A Coach?

I would like to thank Ascot Media for providing a copy of this book for review.

Now, I adore reading, and while my favored topic is history, I'm not averse to broadening my knowledge in other regards. Accordingly, after reading Coach Micheal Taylor's "What if Jesus Were A Coach?", it's worth reading, but I heavily advise reading the disclaimers in this review before doing so.

The author claims to be a practitioner of the views of the Unity Church (not to be confused with Unitarianism), and since those views make up a prominent part of the text, their basic views need some elaboration.

First, they are for Christians who are "spiritual but not religious", meaning Christians who disdain organized religion and its practices while still conforming to the Bible. The book places a heavy emphasis on not getting tied down by dogma, which is not objectionable in and of itself, but my first area of concern is that their creed has a distinct avoidance of dwelling on the topics of sin, eternal consequences for falling away from God, and other "uncomfortable" topics. These things are not deliberately denied or rejected out of hand, but for those who consider God's admonitions against immorality a guidepost for their lives, this may be concerning. The author concurs the "commandments" (which they admit they find a harsh term) are ideal guidelines for our behavior but expresses disbelief a loving God would be so harsh.

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The Korean War

This Christmas, I was blessed with a copy of Max Hastings' 1987 book "The Korean War". Being an avid fan of history, I was overjoyed to get a new book to read, and given the subject matter, it proved to be an informative book on that war, albeit with a narrower focus than I expected.

Max Hastings is a renowned British journalist and author whose credentials are without peer in terms of history, with a sizable chunk of his bibliography being history texts. One thing I heard even before I got the book is that Hastings takes a more personal perspective when writing history, and I found out what that means with this text.

Like many books on the Korean War (circa 1950-1953), Max Hastings does cover the broad historical background and geopolitics that prompted the conflict in the early chapters of the text. Most of it, while continuing on a linear path forward through the history of the conflict, shifts between perspectives of those who fought in the conflict. This includes British, American, South Korean, and even Chinese perspectives. This was done to give the reader a better feel for how the events of those times were seen through the experiences of the people involved in the conflict proper and do a good job giving the historical account a personal feel.

Hastings did not seek any North Koreans at any level for their take on the conflict, noting he did not believe their government would provide any information or allow any account that was remotely honest and impartial, even taking into account their natural historical bias. Given the current state of affairs between all the nations in question and North Korea today, this is entirely understandable, both at the time of publication and now.

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The Wages of Destruction

When it comes to historical topics, the regime of Nazi Germany has been so extensively covered that it seems pointless to review the subject further. Adam Tooze, however, believed the economy of the period had gotten far less attention than it deserved, hence his writing of "The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy".

Most histories covering Nazi Germany, as Tooze asserts, pay far more attention to the humanities and politics while ignoring more technical and even "boring" aspects of the influence of the economy on the period stretching from 1918-1945. Believing it deserved a second look, the text he presents is three-pronged in its goals. First, it laser focuses on how the economy brought about the fall of the Weimar Republic, the rise of Nazism, and its even more ignominious fall. Second, it tries to separate fact from fiction, specifically just how solvent and powerful the Nazis were economically, a factor Tooze notes was distorted in many other accounts. Finally, it uses the economic data it discusses to explain how such things as the conquest Hitler planned and the Holocaust his regime was responsible for fit in terms of the economy, and how they played a role in the growth and failure of the Nazi solvency.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part discusses how the Weimar regime prospered until their fall at the end of the 1920s and how Hitler rose to power in their place, presenting key details to show how that transition was motivated by the economy and its influence on German politics. The second part covers the 1934-1939 period during which the Nazi regime shifted their economy to a wartime preparation phase and the changes this brought about, both on their internal affairs and the world markets at large. The final part covers the 1941-1945 period, during which the economic strengths and weaknesses of the Nazis were subjected to the demands of war. This last part goes into exhaustive detail on just how the Nazis managed to limp on for several years despite economic setbacks caused by the war.

In terms of prose, Tooze is very matter-of-fact and technical. He does not dwell much on the more emotional and sentimental aspects of the study of the period from 1919-1945, rather the book is entirely oriented around the economic matters of the period. Having some degree of economics knowledge is recommended, as this text contains lots of technical discussion of exchange rates, world credit, loans and savings policies, and various other subjects of interest to the more statistical social scientist. This text has extensive citations, and it does not waste time or space, filling each page with extensive references to economic events, persons involved, and their historical impacts. To be blunt, this is not likely to be of interest to the casual reader, but instead more to the in-depth historian wanting a far more detailed look at the economic aspects of Hitler's tenure.

On a personal note, I had three takeaways from this book. One, Tooze was definitely convinced a lot of people were suckered into believing Germany was doing far better especially during the 1930s than they actually did, and he went into exhaustive detail explaining why this is a myth. Second, while most history books make clear Hitler cozied up to business leaders for support, it's a lot more clear after reading Tooze's analysis just how integral they were to the Nazi regime. Finally, Tooze clearly had a fair degree of contempt for Albert Speer and his own account of how he tried to be a nonpolitical technician and industry supervisor. Tooze really tears the scab off what he considers fiction and lays out evidence to show Speer is far less pure and important than historians have been led to believe. I really came away from this with a much better understanding in general that Nazi Germany was outwardly vigorous but inwardly even more economically hollow than they seemed even before the latter years of WWII.

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Galveston Burning

Disclaimer: The reviewer is the nephew of the author of the book being reviewed. No compensation of any kind was exchanged except for due payment for a copy of the book. Nothing was promised in exchange except for an impartial review of the merits of the text.

Fire is humanity's multi-edged sword. While it is useful for heat, cooking, and metalwork, it does have a dark side. Arson, injury, and death by flame or the attendant smoke caused by fire have been and remain a constant danger. James Anderson's Galveston Burning is a look at how the city of Galveston, Texas has grappled with the dangers of fire and its history of dealing with flame-based disasters.

The text is a five-part breakdown of various historical aspects of how Galveston has contended with fire. The first part is concerned with the cultural and historical background of Galveston itself. The second part concerns the improvements made to the city of Galveston, both to secure better living conditions in general and to secure the city against the dangers of fire. The third part discusses the history of Galveston's fire prevention and fighting services from their early origins to the present day. The fourth part covers various prominent fires that have occurred in the many districts of Galveston. The final part focuses on particularly significant historical buildings that have been damaged or lost to fire.

In terms of prose and grammar, this is a very straightforward text. It comes equipped with many illustrations that were needed to show landmarks and buildings described, with many of them provided by the author as part of their personal research. Despite the coverage of a somewhat niche topic, the citations are numerous and detailed. I must admit the latter sections of the text are a tad bland, reading like a summarized collection of news articles on fire-related incidents, as opposed to the straightforward discussion of the historical background of Galveston itself.

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Civilization’s Quotations: Life’s Ideal

Thank you Algora Publishing for sending us this book to review!

Throughout the highs and lows of life, most Christians turn to the Bible for wisdom and guidance. The book of Proverbs has so much great advice from one of the wisest people to have walked this Earth (King Solomon). Civilization’s Quotations: Life’s Ideal has many wonderful quotes from various famous people and religious figures like Abraham Lincoln, Aristotle, Buddha, Churchill, Confucius, Einstein, Emerson, Gandhi, Pascal, Socrates, and more. Some Bible verses make it into this publication as well.

The table of contents is broken down by topics that you may be seeking wisdom on. Are you planning on getting married? If so, you can find some advice ranging from “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing” Proverbs 18:22 to “There are no premature babies, only delayed weddings.”-- American proverb

We all have different views on the state of the world. Here are a couple of quotes from this book: “Nothing is certain in this world except uncertainty.” – Old proverb and “We brought nothing into this world and it is certain we carry nothing out.” 1 Timothy 6:7

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Unknown 9: Genesis

Thank you Reflector Entertainment for sending us this book to review!

Unknown 9: Genesis is a novel written by Layton Green that was published on March 13, 2020, otherwise famously known as the day that the United States went into quarantine because of COVID-19. It’s the first in a trilogy, and the second book, Revelation, is going to be released to the public on April 13, 2021.

The premise is that a young astrophysicist by the name of Andie Robertson loses her mentor, a man by the name of Dr. James Corwin, to the clutches of death. However, the circumstances surrounding his passing are a bit strange, to say the least, and she is forced on a goose chase based off of clues he’s left behind for her to find. As she continues upon her journey that spans the entire planet, she begins questioning many facets of her own reality as she reveals clue after clue. Joining her is a journalist who has been discredited from his dream job and hopes to get it back.

The first thing I noticed when I began to read this book is the quality of writing that is present. The novel is extremely well written, and I found myself immersed in the story very quickly. It comes as no surprise that Layton Green wormed his way to the spot of bestselling author. The next thing I noticed is that the plot is definitely targeted towards adults. It contains murder, references to lust, and has several curse words of varying intensity scattered throughout. The novel also pokes at many hard questions concerning the nature of information that a child probably would have trouble grasping.

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Learn C# Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning C#, Even If You’re New to Programming

Thank you Code Quickly for sending us this book to review!

Learn C# Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning C#, Even If You’re New to Programming is a guide designed to kickstart the reader on a journey to advance their programming skills. It’s created with the intent to introduce them to the world of C#, which is a programming language developed and maintained by Microsoft. It starts by introducing the beginner’s topics, before moving into the recommended workflow of creating a program. Then, it dedicates a chapter to the more advanced topics before wrapping up with a final project: a simple software using the console as its GUI.

However, it’s not what it’s worked itself up to be. When I began working with the book, it gave absolutely no introduction to getting started with any compiler or programming software. It jumped right into the concepts of the programming language. As a result, I was incredibly confused, and my father had to jump in and help me set up Microsoft Visual Studio because Learn C# Quickly didn’t breathe a word about it.

Whenever a code example comes up, the book does a thorough job explaining the logic behind each portion. I found that to be very useful, considering the language itself can be very confusing when looked at verbatim (especially with untrained eyes like mine). However, some of the phrasing that is used is confusing, and I wasn’t quite able to decipher what the author was trying to say. There are grammatical errors and typos scattered throughout, including missing transition words and sentence fragments. Some of the typos are even present in some of the code examples.

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In the Garden: An Illustrated Guide to the Plants of the Bible

Thank you Karen Campbell Media for sending us this book to review!

On the third day of creation, God created plants, trees, and kinds of vegetation. The Bible is full of references to various trees, plants, and flowers. In The Garden provides Biblical references, useful information, and beautiful water color illustrations to all of the plant life mentioned in the Bible.

This hard cover, 128-page book is broken down into four sections: Trees & Shrubs, Edible Plants, Medicinal & Aromatic Plants, and Flowers. There is also a guide on how to grow your own Biblically inspired garden, a calendar of Jewish growing seasons, an index of plants, and an index of scripture references.

In the tree section, I found it helpful that Noah’s Ark was made from acacia wood or shittim as it’s referred to in scripture. While it’s hard to pinpoint the exact plant used to make Jesus’ crown of thorns, the author suggests that it may have been made from Sarcopeterium spinosum, which was readily available in Rome and quite malleable.

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Learn Python Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning Python, Even If You’re New to Programming

Thank you CodeQuickly for sending us this book to review!

Learn Python Quickly: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Learning Python, Even If You’re New to Programming is designed to be a fast read and teaching tool, clocking in at about 150 pages. The book has twelve chapters and an index of references used in it. It covers a wide range of programming concepts, from variables to classes and everything in between. Each chapter has a varying amount of subsections, which discuss different elements of the topic. The very last chapter contains two projects to complete as a test for everything the reader learned in the book.

Learn Python Quickly is generally well-written and well-edited, and speaks in layman’s terms. As I am a beginner in the world of programming, I found this incredibly useful. However, it does lapse into technical terminology every once in a while, and I would get lost in the fancy programming vocabulary that I didn’t know very much about.

There are also a few typos that I noticed throughout the course of the book, but they were things like font changes at the wrong spot and other minor issues. One sentence I remember in particular didn’t make much grammatical sense to me, causing me to reread it a few times, and I was only left with a vague impression of its meaning. Another sentence had an apparent switch of what words were supposed to be in what places. Both versions made grammatical sense, but it was in the context of the content in which the words were in the wrong.

I also had my misgivings about the structure of the chapters. The first ten chapters were short, and were straight to the point. However, when I got to chapter eleven, I was slightly daunted and annoyed that the author decided to shove all of the non-beginner concepts into a singular chapter. The entirety of said chapter amassed a whopping forty pages. After a while, I was mentally spent on that chapter, and read through it rather than trying some of the examples because of how tedious it was. The twelfth chapter was the project chapter. It was approximately twenty pages, and in my opinion could have been split into two chapters.

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Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life

Thank you, Sutherland House, for sending us this book to review!

Your Move: What Board Games Teach Us About Life by Joan Moriarity and Jonathan Kay and published by Sutherland House is a wonderfully written 166-page paperback book consisting of fifteen chapters. As stated in the first chapter, each is written as an individual essay and they do not have to be read in order. I will say, though, that later chapters did make some references to previous ones, but not significant enough to where one wouldn’t be able to comprehend the section they are reading. It is simply things like “As I mentioned in the previous chapter, this is where I reiterate my point.”

Chapter one is called “Welcome to the Magic Circle.” Joan Moriarity writes to explain the basic unwritten contract everyone silently agrees on before starting a tabletop game. If the participants are absolute perfectionists, there is no room for fun; likewise, if at least one of them is too bored or lazy to even bother trying, it spoils the game for the whole table. “In order to enjoy play, to be playful,” she writes, “players must realize that the freedom to fail is as essential as the will to succeed.” (Moriarity 6)

Chapter two is called “Peaceful Games from War-torn Europe.” It focuses on the many differences between American board games and European board games, or Eurogames, as they are called. “And so almost every Eurogame is designed so that final scoring comes only at the end of the game, after some defined milestone or turn limit so that every player can enjoy the experience of being a (nominal) contender until the final moments.” (Kay 18)

Chapter three is called “A Checkered Life.” It covers the history of the board game that we now know as Life, along with some issues with its concept and moral differences between it and what it originated from.

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