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A Corpse at St Andrew's Chapel

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Mel Starr's books are mysteries. They do provide a mystery to ponder. The mysteries are not convoluted and never gruesome. The are truly and guide through the Middle Ages led by a bailiff who is also a self-trained surgeon, a fiend bequeathed him a book on surgery and he read it. As a bailiff, he writes of a mystery; as a surgeon he takes us into the lives of the people in the middle ages. And oh does he like to eat. His quest for the truth is always interrupted by a robust meal. In this book, he takes on the murder of one fellow and is commissioned to find the murderer for another. Mel Starr's writing is pleasing and humorous.
The Kennedy Detail: JFK's Secret Service Agents Break Their Silence

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The Kennedy Detail is well-written and believable book about the presidency and assassination of John Kennedy. The book is written in third person so it can be read as a book from the perspective of many of the Secret service agent. Though we see alot of Mr. Blaine in the story, it is the inclusion of Clint Hill's story that infuses the story with personal drama. It was enjoyable to read a story of this event in which the only motive was to present a personal account of what happened that day.
The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas

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The True Saint Nicholas: Why He Matters to Christmas is a short book, but an enjoyable read. It is not a scholarly book on Saint Nicholas, but it is an informative book of the man and his time that will help the reader understand the traditions of history.William J. Bennett tries to get us to see Nicholas' life not through wringing out identifiable facts, for there are few, but through the life at the time. If other Christians studied books, such as the Didache, then so did Saint Nicholas. If other believers memorized certain chapters from Psalms then so did he. In so doing, Bennett fleshes out the Church Father who later became known as Santa Claus.I would have preferred an attempt to nail down more facts and to identify more sources. One does wonder how true of a portrait of this man this book really is. But like any author, Bennett makes his choices and then follows them to the conclusion. He does provide a list of other books to read. The True Saint Nicholas is a good book to be read during the Christmas season to remind us all of the history that has brought us to this point.
The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great

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Often when I am reading, I come across anecdotes of King Alfred the Great, but I have never read a book about him. Until now. The White Horse King: The Life of Alfred the Great was the right book to read. It was a kind of get-you-up-to-speed book. If you don't know anything about King Alfred, this book will tell you what you need to know to follow along with any conversation about King Alfred the Great.. The author, Benjamin Merkle, is washed in the knowledge of his subject and his subject is King Alfred. The title, The White Horse King, alludes to the battles King Alfred fought to rid Wessex, the kingdom he ruled in England, of the tides of Vikings that kept rolling into England, and that is what this book is about. And therein lies the strengths and weaknesses of the book.Merkle describes the battles in good detail, and he has a way of describing them to to build the tension. He weaves in description that accentuates the action. The battles are exciting to read. If anything pertains the battles and , the reader knows about it. If something doesn't pertain to the battles, the reader will not know about it. Some may call this focused writing, but it gives the reader a flat picture of the period. It is difficult to taste, smell and see the life at the time. Although that is not the point of the book, it was the culture King Alfred was fighting for.Benjamin Merkle has given us a story that is ancient but thoroughly modern, secular but Christian to its core. He doesn't apologize for King Alfred's Christianity. It was all a part of his battles to repel the Vikings. Nor does he sermonize. Alfred's life is the sermon."Alfred concluded that the Vikings were not the cause of England's overthrow. They were the result. The Anglo-Saxons' own lethargic apostasy had been the cause of the fall of the various Anglo-Saxon nations. If Alfred was to have a victorious defense policy, clearly armies and burhs were not enough. If Wessex wanted to be successful in her ongoing struggle with the plundering Danes, then the nation must devote itself to a revival of Christian learning and Christian worship." p. 180.Wring a book is a struggle between telling too much and not enough. Merkle errs in the latter, and because of this, it is a highly readable and quickly read book, but in the end one still wants to know more about King Alfred the Great.
The Core: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education: Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education

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The subtitle to the Core is "Teaching Your Child the Foundations of Classical Education." This book is a prescriptive guide for parent's to assume the task of teaching the classical core at home. The author gives the why and the how so that parents know why they should teach their children and provides them the means and therefore the confidence to do so. to do so.
George Washington: The Founding Father

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George Washington:The Founding Father is more of an essay about George Washington than it is a biography. It is a good introduction to George Washington and life at the times. Paul Johnson shows us who the man was. He divides Washington's life into seven parts, starting with his youth in Virginia and ending with the period following his presidency. Incidents are referred to but not elaborated upon. Having reading this book, one can find other books about Washington that are descriptive of specific incidents. This book is an excellent addition to any homeschooling curriculum for junior high or high school students. This book can also be used as an example of good writing.
Schulz and Peanuts

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The world of Peanuts is more than a comic strip; it is greeting cards, TV shows, stuffed pillows, even a blimp. There are so many ways we remember the characters drawn by Charles Schulz. All of these involve happy memories. So we might actually look forward to a biography written about the creator of the comic strip.Schulz and Peanuts is not a happy book; it corners the market on depressing. This book certainly cannot be accused of being a hagioraphy. Readers do want the truth, and I do not doubt that what is written in this book is at least close to the truth; it is just that there was a lot that was not written in this book that is the truth too. And that part would have made the book more enjoyable to read.David Michaelis does show that the strip was an extension of all that Schulz was--his view of himself, his view of others, and his view of life. It was fascinating to see how he wrote about his improprieties without anyone knowing about them. When Snoopy said,"I think I"m in love, (p.455)" Michaelis conjectures that those were Schulz's thoughts, and they weren't about his wife.Though MIchaelis does go after the soul of the man, I believe he misses the grandeur of his accomplishments. Michaelis believed that Schulz always wanted to show that "he was something" (p.113). This feeling would compete with those around him. The author becomes one of the biggest characters in this book because instead of simply telling a story, he gives the reader his view on it all and the reader ends up arguing with the author instead of interacting with Schultz. The author dwells to long on Schulz's misadventures, and not enough time on his accomplishments. What would I have liked to have read? I would have liked to have read more of his techniques and strategies in drawing. I would like more scenes with his family and less of his illicit and failed relationships. I would have liked to have read more of his interaction with cartoonists and the different causes he used his talents for. Don't just stretch him out on the couch for analysis;. give a view of all the man did. There was a lot left out that could have provided at least a break from the grimness.If one wants to read about Charles Schulz, read Rhetta Grimsley Johnson's book, Good Grief. It can also be glum, but one will have a more complete picture of the creator of Peanuts.
The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me to Faith

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The Rage against God reads like a restrained essay the first third of the book. It is important ot know that this is a response to his brother's book. God is not Great.HItchens details his early life in Great Britain, why he left his roots and why Great Britain left her roots and the effects of both. Hitchens set out to do anything that was contrary to what he knew about God. HIs time spent as a journalist in the Soviet Union helped him see the results of living contrary to God. when he returned to England. Many of the things he had disliked in the Soviet Union were starting to manifest themselves there and for the same reasons, the discarding of Christian beliefs. The essay was informative but subdued. Very British as we Americans think. Americans will think his conversion was understated. Yes, the entire book is understated. It doesn't have to be full of exclamation points to delver its points. That is one of the strengths of the book. The arguments stand without shouting. The description of his conversion was to give flesh to his argument.He says,I did not have a "religious experience." Nothing mystical or inexplicable took place--no trances, no swoon, no vision, no voices, no blaze of light. But I had a sudden, strong sense of religion being a thing of the present day., not imprisoned under thick layers of time. A large catalogue of misdeeds, raging from the embarrassing to the appalling, replayed themselves rapidly in my head. I had no doubt that I was among the damned, if there were any damned.This is while looking at a medieval painting. This is not how most Americans view a conversion. But it was one.In the second part of the book, he deals with "the three failed arguments of atheism." The three failed arguments are: (1) conflicts that are fought in the name of religion are about religion;(2) it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God; (3) atheist states are not actually atheist. This section was the same as the first part. Convincing but subdued. It was as if the task were too easy.In the final section of the book,when he deals with the absurdity of anti-theists, as Peter's brother, Christopher refers to himself, thinking that anti-theist regimes do not reflect poorly on their view. This is where the hammers pounded. Peter Hitchens had atheism dancing in all of its nakedness. Hitchens had been there and had seen the effects of atheism. He had believed the arguments and had seen them fail. This is where the book truly succeeds. He takes away the bite in their arguments. In this section, Hitchens clearly shows why atheists want our children; giving our children their beliefs is how they think they will succeed. This book is worth reading for the purpose that it gives one confidence to bump into these arguments without being afraid, which is an important purpose of apologetics--to give believers confidence in their beliefs. When anyone shouts another down, it is important to know that there is a response. This book isn't comprehensive in its response, which the author admits, but it is sufficient.
Hero Tales from American History

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Hero Tales is a starter kit for what one needs to know to be an American. This is a basic book that every child should read. The book is harder to read because the stories are laced with nineteenth centuries moralism which slows down the story for those in the 21st century.
Isaac Newton

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For a man, who in the years that he completed the work for which he is famous. who simply shut himself in his room to read and write, this book about him is readable and informative. There is much to learn from Newton's life even if one does not understand his written works. The author places Newton in his time which helps the reader to understand him. The ongoing controversies with contemporaries help the reader see the importance of what Newton accomplished and how brilliant he was. The author also clears up some misconceptions of his religious views and of his being an alchemist.
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