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Monday, March 23, 2015

William Henry is a Fine Name by Cathy Gohlke

This story about the underground railroad and a young boy's coming to terms with the issue of slavery is well written and very engaging. It is not difficult to see why it won a Christy award for excellence.

Robert is a boy who grows up having not a clue about slavery, the underground railroad and racism. His father is employed on a plantation where the owner had freed all his slaves the year before Robert was born. His mother is from a slave holding family and was disowned by her father when she married Robert's father who was from the north. In spite of this and the fact that Robert's best friend is William Henry who happens to have black skin while Robert's is white, things go along fairly well until the summer when Robert is thirteen.

Robert's father disappears during the night fairly often causing disagreements with Robert's mother, Caroline, who views slavery as a natural part of life. Caroline's father becomes ill and Caroline decides she needs to see her father again so Caroline and Robert travel from Maryland to Ashland Plantation in North Carolina. Once there Caroline easily adapts to having slaves and Robert is torn as to what he believes about slavery.

The plight of slaves and the workings of the underground railroad makes this book hard to put down. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

I received this book from Moody Publishers for this review.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Once again Erik Larson does a superb job of making an event in history come alive. One of my all time favorite books is "The Devil in the White City." "Dead Wake" comes in as a close second in my non fiction favorites. Larson has a way of coming at an event from all different angles and weaving personal stories along with the facts to make for a fascinating read.

The luxury ocean liner, Lusitania, sets sail from New York to Liverpool, England on May 1, 1915 in the midst of the war between England and Germany. President Woodrow Wilson is hesitant to enter the United States in the battle again Germany even though neutral American ships have been torpedoed by German U Boats and lives of Americans lost. Wilson is also reeling from the death of his wife in the previous year and has embarked on a new relationship with a younger woman.

Meanwhile England is hoping to get the United States involved with them in the war against Germany. Some of the leaders in the government and the navy seem to be hoping for some act of Germany involving the lost of American lives to be the impetus for the U.S. to support England in their war efforts. England's intelligence bureau has information about the German U Boats in the vicinity of where the Lusitania will be traveling. That information does not seem to have been adequately communicated to the captain of the ship prior to the tragedy of the torpedoing of the Lusitania. Questions are raised if England could have done more to prevent the tragedy.

The U Boat's commander and his submarine's travels are also highlighted leading up to the torpedoing of the Lusitania. U Boat Commanders were rewarded for how much tonnage they destroyed and the Lusitania destruction contributed greatly to his total.

Finally insights into the lives of the passengers aboard that ill fated voyage make the people come alive for the reader. All these aspects, the backdrop of the war, the politics in the United States and the personal life of President Wilson, the U Boat Commander, the intelligence information obtained by the British and the innocent lives who boarded the Lusitania on May 1, 1915 are woven together to make a fascinating look at that time in history and a tragedy that possibly could have been prevented.

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

"Possible" by Stephan Bauman

Few people would dispute that there is an abundance of poverty and suffering in the world. The author of "Possible," Stephan Bauman, challenges readers to rethink and change how they change the world. He invites individuals to look to see what bothers them the most and to choose one issue to immerse themselves in through researching the issue and praying about the issue. His premise is that if individuals take this call seriously there can be a real impact on the world around them. This can also be applied to a group of people as well.

One thought provoking idea is that the opposite of poverty is not wealth but community. In coming to the aid of those in need we need to re-examine what role we need to play in the area of need. Coming alongside those in need to help them develop their own networks and see themselves as their own agents of change is essential. A good example of that is in micro financing that is done in third world countries. A community sets up their own bank which people contribute their savings to and then also lends that money to people setting up their own business or enterprise. The money stays in the community and is re-invested. They are investing in each other's lives and making a difference in their community. This creates a sense of self worth and hope.

The back of the book has two tools - one tool is for discovering and designing change and the other is a tool for mobilizing, implementing and multiplying change. These tools could be used by an individual and also applied to a church or mission group. This book is for those who are serious about social justice and for making a difference in the lives of those suffering and in dire need.

I received this book for free from "Blogging for Books" for this review.