Thursday, July 20, 2023

BOOK REVIEW: His Majesty's Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World's Largest Flying Machine

His Majesty's Airship: The Life and Tragic Death of the World's Largest Flying Machine 

by S. C. Gwynne


Publisher ‏ : ‎ Scribner (May 2, 2023)

Language ‏ : ‎ English

Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 320 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1982168277

ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982168278

The history of mechanics, especially failed mechanisms, can be intriguing or exhausting when written by an historian who researches every nook, cranny, bolt, and screw. His Majesty’s Airship is written by such an historian. Now, whether it is intriguing or exhausting depends on the mind of the reader. Some readers might wonder why Gwynne would feel the necessity of putting all – or nearly all-- his research into the book, while others (especially those who are fascinated by how great egos, narcissism, obsessions, imperialism, marketing skills and gullibility work together to create failure will find the book exhaustive and intriguing.

Through these pages, politicians, governmental officials, and the general public are depicted as the self-blinded purveyors of invention. Which, in its humanistic way, challenges the mystique we generally have about the greatness of invention. The author, though not persistently or intrusively humorous, shows his personality often. One pictures him shaking his head here, rolling his eyes there, or holding his head in dismay at how humans –usually those with a great deal of power, money, patriotism, and marketing skills—could go about being so self-deceived about a system of machinery for so long that it could lead to disaster.

The book is primarily a history of airships and national pride. Throughout its pages we encounter one or another obsessive character who has a glorious vision, who is great at self-promoting, and who – all evidence to the contrary-- believes he can attain the impossible. A safe, powerful, fast-moving airship. But all, all, are either building their vision upon faulty information, bad and dangerous science, and airy visions. The author’s decision to interweave the fatal last trip of R101 with backstory is fun and suspenseful but also somewhat akin to fishing where the reader is lured in and ready to be caught in the horrible disaster only to have the fisherman-historian loosen the tension line. This was frustrating in the beginning but after a while, the reader gets used to this narrative choice and pushes aside the need to see the devastating flames. It will come when it comes, one thinks, and reads ahead plunging into the next bit of backstory or side story.

At first, the reader is regaled with the self-regaling of these inventers—Zeppelin arguably being the worst, because it was upon his lies that form much of the foundation of all this airship visioning. Then, after a world wind and exhaustive tour of national imperialism from Germany, France, the United States, the book focuses on Great Britain and the British Commonwealth. It is here that we meet some of the major characters who will be the focus of the disaster of His Majesty’s Airship R101, the world’s largest flying machine. Lord Thomson, Ernest Johnstone, Captain Irwin, First Officer Atherstone, Michael Rope, Herbert Scott, and Reginald Colmore. (Princess Marthe hardly matters except as some distant vision of Thomson’s glory in the same way that joining the British Commonwealth by air is a distant vision.)  The reader looks on at these men with a combination of pity, anger, commiseration, and exasperation. There’s a bit of “serves-these-privileged guys right” attitude toward the arrogant (and drunk) who always get their way. Yet at the same time one’s heart goes out to the sane, good, silenced people who were on that doomed flight or who had live with the regret of having been involved in the national delusion/debacle.

The book tells us something new. Certainly most people have never learned this much about airships. But it also tells us what we already know: Inventors and great men don’t always know best; they believe their own lies, they often do great deeds because of envy, unfulfilled desire, or insecurity. They have power to destroy the lives and careers of those who are less powerful. They exist in all ages, honing their skill at self-promotion. Their failures and rare successes change the world.

For better or worse, this book is exhaustively researched. For better or worse, the author doesn’t tell the story in chronological order. But for better or worse, it is a great book. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Review: The Infographic Bible -- Visualizing the drama of God's word.

The Infographic Bible, Cloth over Board: Visualising the Drama of God's Word Hardcover – November 13, 2018

Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (November 13, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310453984
ISBN-13: 978-0310453987
Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 0.9 x 11.3 inches

This is a fun and informative book. If you want overviews of certain elements of Scripture, the graphics and charts in this  book are super-helpful and creative. Want a quick glimpse, harmonization, comparison, doctrinal threads, or depiction of some Biblical list, group, or data, this book has most of them. Clean and Unclean Animals, for instance. Solomon's wealth. Parables of Jesus. Names of God. The Feasts. The Prophets. The Life of David. An assessment of topics in the psalms. They are here, and much more. They even have a chart on Promised children and God's intervention, so the book is pretty creative. The book pretty much (but not quite) goes through certain aspects of the Bible.

It really is a good book but I really wonder if it wouldn't be more useful if the dimensions of the book was larger. Seriously, the print-size for this book makes it virtually useless for kids or for older folks with eyesight difficulties. I suppose a pastor with a good copy machine that enlarges copies could make use of this book to its fullest. But then again, there are the color choices. This is a full-color book, so the charts are colorful and the data of the charts are precise. But....But...Some of the colors chosen were plain wrong and they disappear when looked at under the wrong light.  I have great eyesight but even I had to bend really close to see the pages. Not good for the back all that bending over.

I gave the book to my hubby and said, "Okay, tell me what you think about this book?"
His first response: "Well, i know i don't like the tiny type."

So, while i would recommend this book...;I caution  buyers to only buy it if their eyesight is good or if they have a good enlarging copy machine.

I received this book free from the publisher.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Review: NKJV Spirit-filled Life Bible

NKJV, Spirit-Filled Life Bible, Third Edition, Hardcover, Red Letter Edition, Comfort Print: Kingdom Equipping Through the Power of the Word Special Edition
Jack W. Hayford, Exec Editor

Hardcover: 2176 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; Special edition (September 4, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0529100142
ISBN-13: 978-0529100146
Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 2 x 9.6 inches

Jack Hayford is one of the few charismatic Bible teachers whom I respect. He's intelligent and insightful without sounding like a pompous "ultra-spiritual" self-appointed preacher of new and deep hidden things.  You know the types i mean. And Hayford doesn't have the humble brag tendencies that so many teachers, charismatic and otherwise, tend to have.

This is a solid Bible. I wanted to review it because it's a Bible-study written from a spirit-filled perspective.

The Table of Contents include the usual things one finds in Bibles, such things as:

Introduction, Editors and Contributors, Bridging the Testaments, Charts, In-text Maps, Harmony of the Gospels, Concordance, etc.

But it also includes such charismatic signposts such as
Kingdom Dynamics with index
Word Wealth with index
Praying the Word with index
Truth in Action with charts
Dealing with Last Things -- The Rapture, Second Coming, and Millenium
In Studying the Book of Revelation
Holy Spirit Gifts and Power
The Key to Suffering: Unlocking God's Glory
Worshiping and Intercession: The Calling of All Believers
Aflame with Passion for World Evangelism
The Believer's Potential and Pathway for Ministering Healing to the Nations
Understanding Messianic Jewish Ministries
How to Lead Someone to Jesus

The introduction of each book of the Bible is informative and gives information about the author, date, background, purpose, content, personal application of the book. The book also shows how Christ is revealed, how the holy spirit works in the book, and how the book compares with other books. Each book ends with a chart called Truth in Action which shows the truth the book teaches and how the reader can turn that truth into action.  Throughout the books, there are insets of Kingdom Dynamics and Word Wealth. Word Wealth shows the deeper meaning of certain words, Kingdom Dynamics was a bit less clear. Sometimes it shows how the kingdom of God worked in that part of the Bible story, and sometimes it is a cultural description.

The pages of this Bible are made in two large columns separated by a smaller column which cross-references to other verses. At the bottom of each page are verse commentaries. There are footnotes throughout which shed light on Bible verses. The Bible has the feel of a study Bible, because the verse commentaries explain the theology, cultural implications, and doctrine which are in the verses. On the whole -- from what i could see- there are some commentaries on some verses that are full of spirit. Other commentaries seem born out of human reasoning, American cultural Christianity, and a desire to explain what might be misunderstood passages.  For the most part, I accepted these explanations but there were moments when I did give them the side-eye.

It's a good book, but i suppose i wanted it to be more global. The commentary lacks theology from the larger global Christian community. That is a shame, i think. The editors and contributors are primarily American Christians so we don't get insights from Asian, African, European etc Christian cultures. So basically, this book will be good for American Christians who want a deeper knowledge of the Bible but its limited focus on American Christianity, let alone American Charismatic theology, will make it less helpful to more knowledgeable American Charismatics.  I recommend this Bible. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Review: Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice Coloring Book
  • Series: Coloring Faith
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (August 14, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400210011
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400210015

I really really like this book. Every once in a while, one sees a form of art where various disciplines work together. This book is pure and simple a meditation on fall and the joys of harvest. I cannot imagine anyone coloring the pictures in this book who would not ponder God's creation. The Bible verses and literary quotes scattered through the book in lovely calligraphy also point to the beauty of creativity and nature.

The pictures are generally of fruits, vegetables, flowers, sketches of nature, and fall activities. This could be a book for either adults or children. The drawings are detailed but not complicated, and there is room in the various calligraphy for the lettering to be colored. This is a good book for Sunday School teacher to use in her class. She could copy pages for assignments. I can also see siblings or parents and children coloring the book together, one on one page and one on another. Because pictures are on both sides of each page, I would recommend not using magic markers. Crayons, pastels, and colored pencils are best.  Recommended.

I got this book free from the publisher and this is a voluntary review.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Review -- Early Readers Bible NKJV

NKJV Early Readers Bible Hardcover – May 29, 2018

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 3
  • Hardcover: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (May 29, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400309115
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400309115
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches

  • This is a regular Bible, not a kid Bible with kid versions of the stories. The big difference between this early readers Bible and an adult Bible is the collection of extra materials. This is where a kid Bible shows its worth.

    First the good:
    Lots of charts
    Devotional charts
    Chronological Charts
    There are many good pictures that kids will like and I especially liked the comparative chart between secular history and Biblical history.

    The font is dark and readable, and as I said, it's the Bible. The NKJV  is a good translation and accessible to young readers although I do think the NLRV is better because it breaks up those long run-on sentences (especially in Paul's writings) that can confuse new readers. 

    I do question why some pictures and charts are in the wrong place. I know the editors probably think those pictures aren't in the wrong place but it seems to me that if one is going to do charts of something, it might be best to place the charts near the passages of Scripture they pertain to. Why have charts of Israelite feasts in the middle of the book of Kings? And some of the pictures and charts seem to be perfunctory filler.

    Unfortunately, although this is a well-made Bible with many informative charts and pictures, the information contained in some of the kid-friendly articles is sometime unhelpful. They often seem to think they are teaching kids what the Bible is about but they are still preaching to the choir, a very denominational sin-focused choir.

    For instance, in the article called How To Study the Bible, it doesn't even explain the basics. And by "basics," I mean, it doesn't tell the new Bible reader that the numbers at the side of the Bible texts are verse numbers. Sorry, I used to be a Sunday School teacher in both an Episcopal and a Charismatic setting and one would be amazed at what kids don't know. Some of these articles should have been written by working Sunday School teachers. And as I said earlier, it is very intent on telling the reader the Bible is all about various sins and how not to fall into those sins. 

    On the whole, this is a good little Bible. For the information it packs in, it isn't heavy and it feels good in the hand. I received this book free from the publisher and this is a voluntary review. 

    Friday, June 15, 2018

    Book Review -- Create!: A Girl's Guide to DIY, Doodles & Design

    Create!: A Girl's Guide to DIY, Doodles & Design

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 4
  • Series: Faithgirlz
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Zonderkidz; Gld edition (March 6, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0310763169
  • ISBN-13: 978-0310763161

  • I wanted to review this book because the summer is coming and we all want to know how to keep kids busy. This book is for creative kids (who can be trusted with scissors, glue, tiny things, and paint.) Some of it is definitely useful for kids outside the age range and even for developmentally-disabled kids and some older girls who are not into crafts or girlie stuff will definitely not be interested in it.

    This is a good book for the creative child, In my experience, some creative projects are just plain useless or silly but even if they are, they do teach dexterity and creativity to those who do them.So while one may never need a clotheslinestyle photo frame, the learning that goes into creating the thing is something needed in our day and age.

    The directions and vocabulary are good but might be a hurdle for some children so some children might need a parent to explain the instructions at first.

    The materials needed for most of these projects diverse. Some are easier to get than others and some might tempt kid DIYers to rip up some of your clothes or accidentally destroy some household or personal items. I highly recommend parents working with kids to do only the projects whose materials are already bought. I shudder to think what some children would do with their parents library in their attempt to create a Hollow Book Storage.

    What i like a lot about this book is that it introduces children to many kinds of artforms that the child might want to explore. Doodling, cartooning, even calligraphy, watercolor, painting, sculpting, beadwork and the like.

    Bible verses are included in some of the project descriptions and in projects that include poster-making.

    There is no one author for this book; it seems to be the product of a committee. This means it has its probably been researched carefully. This is definitely a good way to make kids more active (and not locked into their phones and TV) for the summer

    This took some trouble to find on amazon because of the !: in the title but it's there. I received this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review. I highly recommend it. 

    Tuesday, March 27, 2018

    Review: All Things Bright and Strange

    All Things Bright and Strange
    James Markert

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 30, 2018)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0718090284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0718090289

  • I generally don't like Christian speculative fiction -- yep, even though I write books in that genre. But this book was a pleasant surprise. It's not imitative -- written in the Left Behind, Narnia, or Divergence mode-- as so many Christian specfic books are.

    The characters are not cookie-cutter and do not speak in on-the-nose preachiness. There is no undercurrent of a woman looking for her Boaz or a Hosea type. This is a good book. It's not perfect but what book is?

     I'll write a longer review of this on the christian fiction review blog where I'll go deeper in depth into the characters and discuss how challenging it might be to the "typical" Christian reader, and my ideas about how it succeeds or fails.

    And yes, there is such a thing as a typical Christian reader. So there might be issues about whether the story is truly Christian or not. Christians come in all sizes and shapes, and the question of hell and who gets saved is iffy. I tend to avoid putting people in hell but i do believe in a hell. Some Christians don't believe in hell. Upshot? Depending on how you have built your Christian foundations, this book might be offensive...or not.  The type of Christian who thinks anything supernatural is demonic or weird and "unChristian" will have a problem with this book. Racist Christians who don't like to be stressed about race issues will have a problem with this book. It deals with someone who is not in love with his life and is pondering suicide, stuff that some Christians often don't want to deal with. It has its tropes and for the most part they work. The author is trying to walk the fine line of writing a book for a particular audience and at the same time trying to write a book that will challenge that audience. 

    I received this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

    Review: Vegan comfort classics -- 101 recipes to feed your face

    Hot for Food
    Vegan comfort classics -- 101 recipes to feed your face

    • Print Length: 240 pages
    • Publisher: Ten Speed Press (February 27, 2018)
    • Publication Date: February 27, 2018
    • Sold by: Random House LLC

    First off, we have to get our definitions straight. Vegan means no animal products. Even eggs, milk, cheeses, etc. I guess vegans eat honey but I'm not sure.

    Speaking of honey, we get to the second point. Vegan doesn't necessarily mean healthy, sugar-free, non-GMO, or non-refined.

    Once you understand those two points, you can really enjoy this book.

    The chapters are:
    Hey, hot for food fam
    Badass brunches
    Finger foods
    Veggie sides & big salads
    Hearty soups
    Stacked sandwiches
    Oodles of noodles
    The main event
    Sweet things
    Get savory

    The recipes are written clearly and the photos of the dishes are tempting.

    What all these recipes have in common is tasty home-spun meals. For those who miss non-vegan foods and who can't tweak the recipes, this is a good book. There are tofu, miso, etc in some of these dishes but often there are workarounds such as almond bacon and an exotic fruit or two like jackfruit but it's basic Americana stuff all put in one book. You don't have to be a committed vegan to cook these recipes but once you get a knack for substitution, you'll be eating vegan without too much trouble. The sauce/dressing/aioli section and the various ways of making fake bacon are the best parts of the book, especially because those sections are helpful to folks who don't know their way around a health food store.

    I received this book free in exchange for a fair and honest review.  

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