Brad's nos. 18, 19, 20: A Song of Ice and Fire vols. 1,2,&5



      After many years of keeping his fans waiting, Mr. Martin finally released A Dance with Dragons, book five in his 7 book series.  Those familiar with the series are probably aware of the significance of this; those that aren't are probably shaking their heads incredulously and mumbling "silly fantasy nerds..."  I do enjoy a good fantasy novel, but outside of LOTR and Narnia, I haven't read much.  But, if you were familiar with these stories, you would realize that you don't need to be a fantasy nerd to realize that the many years waiting for Mr. Martin to release his books was torturous (I avoided much of this by getting on the bandwagon late).
     These books are notorious for the fact that almost no character is safe.  Main characters die, are defeated, and usually what you hope/expect to happen doesn't, in the most brutal and gut wrenching way.  There were multiple times where I would read an event only to stop and incredulously read it again to make sure that I actually read what I thought I read.  Mr. Martin is great at subverting expectations and fantasy tropes, setting the reader up to think he is going one path (because that's how these stories go) to only knock your legs out from underneath you.
     The plot is too dense to even begin to explain.  Basically, it is about politics, corruption, and the fact that valor and integrity often do not stand up to guile, deceit, and self-preservation.  The world that this takes place in is on that is in the shadow of magic. It is a largely "realistic" world where magic, giants, dragons, and wraiths are relegated to children's stories and ye old songs of gallantry.  However, as the story progresses, glimpses of the fantastic re-awakening can be seen.The books are written so that each chapter is from the first person point of view of one character.  This technique is used very effectively to again subvert our expectations as we see a character or event from one perspective only to see a different perspective shine a whole new light on the subject.
    There is a gap in my review of the novels because I decided to re-read the first two to refresh my mind on the characters and plot in preparation for book three.  Also, I needed a way of escape from my MBA studies and this world provided a great way to do this.
    Lastly, I must make two very important caveats.  First, these books are not for everyone.  They are very violent and contain graphic sexual situations.  The latter of which is my major disappointment with them.  As it is a book, it is easier to skip over such sections.  However, if you do not or should not want to subject yourself to such things/temptations, it is not worth reading these books.  Also, HBO recently created a show based upon the books.  It is well done and was critically well received.  However, due to the nature of the books and HBO's predilection toward nudity, I would suggest not to watch it.  What is easily skipped by in a book is much more difficult to ignore when it becomes the focal point of multiple scenes.  Though well written, no fiction is worth the danger of stumbling in sin.

Brad's no. 17: The Next Story by Tim Challies

I read this book a while ago, just didn't get a chance to write this review.  I was busy - hang on a sec - sorry just updating my status on Facebook.   Well, I just didn't get to it.  This saddens me as it was a very thought provoking book and my review will not do it justice due to the lack of freshness in my mind.  Tim Challies, for a Canadian, does a deft job at analyzing the immense changes that have been wrought by technology in the last few years.  It is especially poignant considering his prominence as a blogger.  I consider myself a thinker; however this book really awakened me to the impact that screens (computer, phone, iPad, etc.) have on my life: how I learn, communicate, my attention span, etc.  Until reading this book my thoughts on such things revolved around the concept that technology was just one more thing vying for my attention.  I failed to see that the dawning digital era is not just an incremental change, but a sizable shift in how humans are interacting, both with each other and with knowledge in general.

As someone who is intertwined with the tech world, Challies excellently analyzes both the positive and negative impacts of digital media.  Surprisingly, it seems his conclusion is one that leans more toward warning and caution.  These things can be positive, but the potential for the negative is prevalent.  I really appreciated that his examination was done through the filter of a Christian worldview.  The statistics that he presents can be startling and the ramifications should be inherently informative for those who are seeking to live a Christ-like life.  The one draw-back to the book is that it is not the most fluid read.  It is better read in smaller doses rather than marathon sessions.  But, I guess this would be expected of one who is best know for his pithy blogs.  A highly recommended book for all who love the Lord and seek to do so on all fronts of their life.



Brad's nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, & 16. MBA Text Books by various folk

This is just perfunctory.  Please skip it and read something else. This year, in my journey to kind of be able to have letters after my name, I began work on my MBA.  This obviously requires much reading.  I feel bad including these as I am not really going to review any of them.  However, my feelings are somewhat superficial, as the amount of reading that I had to do has prevented me from reading so many other, glorious books.  Truthfully, they weren't all bad.  I enjoyed the marketing ones and even the Finance book.  Economics was probably my least favorite because I didn't read it as in depth as I should and the intricacies of supply/demand curves (especially elasticity!) tend to skirt my understanding.  But all in all I am actually enjoying the knowledge I am gaining as well as looking forward to how God will allow me to use it for His glory.  Without any further ado, here they are.

Operations Management for MBAs by Meredith Shafer

Basic Marketing by Perreault, Cannon, & McCarthy

Statistics by Chuck Arize

Statistical Techniques by Lind, Marchal & Wathen

Essentials of Economics by N.G. Manikiw

Marketing Management by Kotler, & Keller

Fundamentals of Financial Management by Brigham & Houston

And that's it, for now.

Brad's no. 9 Erasing Hell by Francis Chan

I have the pleasure of following up not one, but two reviews of this same book. Both Mark and Ron gave the same, excellent review which conveyed very similar thoughts to mine regarding this book. Though, I cannot claim that I was planning on using the same quote they did. So, I first want to point you to those reviews.

Beyond what they said, I would encourage reading of this book because it serves as a catalyst to deeper thought. By nature, it does not seek to provide exhaustive scholarly analysis of the doctrine of hell. Though it definitely involves scholarly work, it's most effective in leading us on a journey of how to discover or re-discover Biblical truths. It is always a danger to ascribe to a doctrine based upon our upbringing or our association with a denomination or movement without actually investigating what the whole of scripture says. The approach that this book takes is to systematically examine the teachings of Hell in their context while expressing changes in the authors heart as these truths are studied.

Chan and Sprinkle start with examining the cultural understanding of the terms that are used to describe hell in the Bible. They then look at Jesus' teachings, his followers teachings, and then end on a specific examination of Paul's writings on the subject. I really enjoyed this approach as it created more of a macroscopic view of the subject showing the continuity of thought among the different authors. It did this, however, without being merely superficial.

The greatest value of this book is to establish the need for hell to be considered. We must know what the Bible teaches on hell, not merely to frighten us, but to help us better understand the holiness of God and the urgent need for preaching the truth.

Brad's no. 8 Don't Waste Your Life by Piper

This will be short and sweet. I am doing this without a keyboard. I have read most of this book before. The part that I read changed my life; read it again and was even more deeply convicted. It is an amazing, passionate, and biblical plea to love God with your entire life. If you want to stay blissfully enamored with the lies of this world, don't read this book.

Brad's nos. 6 & 7 - The Drawing of the Three and The Wastelands (Dark Tower Series 2&3) by Stephen King

Time to catch up. I am woefully behind on my posts; therefore I am taking some time off of my vacation at Disneyland to post some reviews from books I read in January. I really enjoy world-building fantasy series (ie: LOTR, Chronic-what-cles of Narnia, Harry Potter) but am leary of the fantasy genre as a whole. Though I have never read any Stephen King, I heard that his Dark Tower series was amazing. I looked into it a bit and read that his original idea for the series was to blend together a Tolkien style fantasy with a Leone style Spaghetti-Western. I was sold. I read the first book and concluded what most seem to: it showed great promise but was lacking polish (it was one of King's first books). I quickly grabbed up the next two books in the series hoping for a continuation of his original premise. What I got was quite a departure from my expectations derived from the first book. The Drawing of the Three has our hero Roland (the last member of a group of six-shooter totin' knights called "Gunslingers")traveling through magic doorways found on the beach into the heads (think Being John Malchovich) of three different people living in late 20th century New York. Though not the fantasy/western setting I envisioned, I found it both compellingly written and quirky. I enjoyed it quite a lot. With my expectations for the series both heightened and broadened, I greedily dove into book three.

Despite a return the the fantasy world, this book marked the end of my journey in the Dark Tower series. I felt that book three was very inconsistent in tone, genre, and characterization. Though full of action, it was strangely boring, like a Brett Ratner movie: numerous individual "cool" scenes smashed together with little regard to thematic or character continuity. I finished the book solely out of duty and have no desire to ready any other Stephen King books.