Bart Ehrman is an American New Testament scholar and is currently a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his Masters of Divinity and PhD at Princeton Seminary. He has since then written numerous books looking at the New Testament in a historical and critical manner. On a more personal note, he began his studies as an evangelical Christian, but now considers himself agnostic. As he explains in God’s Problem, it was the problem of suffering that started him down the road he has taken. He was actually researching in an effort to explain and excuse suffering. Instead, what he found finally drove him to renounce his faith.

Ehrman covers several usual reasons that people use to explain why a loving God would allow people to suffer. There is the justification that people have sinned and God uses suffering as a punishment or learning device to lead them back to following his rules. This reasoning traces back to the beginning of the Jewish faith. The Old Testament prophets used this explanation. Later prophets (think Job) believed that suffering is a test that must be passed in order to receive God’s rewards. Another, more pessimistic, view is that suffering is a part of this world because sin is in the world and there is nothing to be done other than accept that. Ehrman explores each answer in miniscule detail with plenty of cited supports for reference.

It is an interesting book, written to be accessible to the layman. I felt Ehrman did a good job validating his stance. In fact, it was almost too much supporting evidence to read without becoming wearied of it. Ehrman did not sway  any beliefs or decisions that I already had in place, but I did enjoy reading it. I would not recommend this book to someone looking for an actual answer to why God allows suffering. Ehrman never finds the answer he was searching for.

16. April 2015 · Write a comment · Categories: Autobiographies, History, Mariah, Memoirs, NonFiction

The Family by Pa Chin, 329 pages, read by Mariah, on 04/04/2015

Pa Chin’s The Family explores the relationships and workings of a family living through the turbulent early 20th century in China. After centuries of rebellions, revolts, and hardships, China was beginning to embrace modernization. For a culture that built everything around an ideal that looked backwards, idolizing the past, this would be anything but easy.

The family the book focuses on is ruled in an authoritarian manner by the head of the household, the grandfather, the Venerable Master Kao. He is of the old regime that has held sway for centuries and believes in the Confucian principles based around filial piety. He expects no less than perfect and immediate obedience.

This causes many heartaches in the family. The reader mostly follows the journeys of the three main grandsons. The eldest wants to modernize, but feels that he cannot, that he must submit to Grandfather Kao. This passive attitude kept him from marrying the woman he loved. Instead, he married the women chosen for him, leading to sorrow from every party in the unhappy triangle. The lover he left behind ends up wasting away and dying.

The middle brother, who falls in love with a girl who is not his intended, decides not to allow this to happen to him. He runs away from home and refuses to return until he is allowed to marry who he wishes. This unheard of action turns the family on its head. The reader can see the family falling apart as, suddenly, nobody is certain what role they play anymore.

The youngest brother is the most fiery reformer of all. He falls in love with a girl completely out of his class, a servant to their family. He knows their union will never be approved and he spends most of the book ranting about the injustice of society. He, in fact, seems to be more in love with the idea of rebellion than with the girl. However, when the servant is sold to an aged, decrepit uncle as a concubine, he becomes frenzied. The servant-girl, who has no high aspirations, kills herself rather than go quietly to that fate.

To say the book is sad is an understatement. However, it is autobiographical and an excellent look at what the Chinese culture during this time period was like. The struggles between those clinging to the old ways and those pushing for modernization tore apart families, villages, and, eventually, the nation. It is not an easy read because it is difficult not to assign American values and reactions to what you are reading. It was very much worth reading, though.

03. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France by Caroline Moorehead, 374 pages, read by Kim Bolton, on 04/01/2015

They were teachers, students, chemists, writers, and housewives; a singer at the Paris Opera, a midwife, a dental surgeon. They distributed anti-Nazi leaflets, printed subversive newspapers, hid resisters, secreted Jews to safety, transported weapons, and conveyed clandestine messages. The youngest was a schoolgirl of fifteen who scrawled “V” for victory on the walls of her lycée; the eldest, a farmer’s wife in her sixties who harbored escaped Allied airmen. Strangers to each other, hailing from villages and cities from across France, these brave women were united in hatred and defiance of their Nazi occupiers.

Eventually, the Gestapo hunted down 230 of these women and imprisoned them in a fort outside Paris. Separated from home and loved ones, these disparate individuals turned to one another, their common experience conquering divisions of age, education, profession, and class, as they found solace and strength in their deep affection and camaraderie.

In January 1943, they were sent to their final destination: Auschwitz. Only forty-nine would return to France.

A Train in Winter draws on interviews with these women and their families; German, French, and Polish archives; and documents held by World War II resistance organizations to uncover a dark chapter of history that offers an inspiring portrait of ordinary people, of bravery and survival—and of the remarkable, enduring power of female friendship.

From Goodreads.com.

A beautiful well written story about a group of courageous women!

03. April 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men by Eric Lichtbau, 266 pages, read by Kim Bolton, on 04/02/2015

Thousands of Nazis — from concentration camp guards to high-level officers in the Third Reich — came to the United States after World War II and quietly settled into new lives. They had little trouble getting in. With scant scrutiny, many gained entry on their own as self-styled war “refugees,” their pasts easily disguised and their war crimes soon forgotten. But some had help and protection from the U.S. government. The CIA, the FBI, and the military all put Hitler’s minions to work as spies, intelligence assets, and leading scientists and engineers, whitewashing their histories.

For the first time, once-secret government records and interviews tell the full story not only of the Nazi scientists brought to America, but of the German spies and con men who followed them and lived for decades as ordinary citizens. Only years after their arrival did private sleuths and government prosecutors begin trying to identify the hidden Nazis. But even then, American intelligence agencies secretly worked to protect a number of their prized spies from exposure. Today, a few Nazis still remain on our soil.

Investigative reporter Eric Lichtblau, relying on a trove of newly discovered documents and scores of interviews with participants in this little-known chapter of postwar history, tells the shocking and shameful story of how America became a safe haven for Hitler’s men.

–From Goodreads.com.

I was truly shocked about how many Nazi criminals made into America after WWII and our own government’s participation and cooperation in bringing them to and keeping them in our country. This is a very well-written and researched book. I enjoyed it for its historical truth and content and its shocking revelations.

25. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Fatal Fever: Tracking Down Typhoid Mary by Gail Jarrow, 192 pages, read by Angie, on 03/24/2015

Typhoid seems like one of those diseases people used to have back in the old days when there wasn’t any antibiotics or good sanitation. It sort of is, but it still exists today. Fatal Fever is the story of typhoid in the early 1900s in New York. New York was not like it is today. There were outhouses and cesspits and raw sewage in the streets. It was very likely you would come in contact with typhoid at some point in your life. This book chronicles the story of Mary Mallon, otherwise known as Typhoid Mary. It is also the story of George Soper and how he tracked down Mary. Mary was a cook for prominent New York families. Soper’s investigation led him from family to family and from typhoid case to typhoid case. Mary was something unknown at that time: a carrier of typhoid who was not herself sick. She spread the disease through the food she handled and served to her employers. Soper and his associates finally caught up with Mary and had her tested. She was then confined to North Brother Island. Mary was never charged with anything or put on trial. She was confined by the Department of Health because she was considered a health risk. She never believed that she infected people with typhoid or that she was a carrier. She fought against her confinement for years. After she was finally let go, you would think she learned her lesson but you would be wrong. She again infected a family with typhoid and was again sent to North Brother Island where she spent the rest of her life.

Gail Jarrow is one of those authors that I am starting to look for. I really enjoyed her book Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat and equally enjoyed this one. This book reads like a detective story with Soper as the detective and Mary as the villain. There are lots of details about typhoid and sanitation in the 1900s, but you kind of forget how educational the books is. You are just reading it for the pure enjoyment and fascination of it.

16. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

The Last Nazi: Joseph Schwamberger and the Nazi Past by Aaron Freiwald and Martin Mendelsohn, 362 pages, read by Kim B, on 03/02/2015

The Last Nazi: Joseph Schwamberger and the Nazi Past details the one of the last major war crimes trials in modern Germany. It contains a lot of discussion on whether these aged former Nazi soldiers should be brought to trial and argues that Germany as struggled for over fifty years to put its Nazi past behind it but the world will not allow the country to do so. The book also hashes out the controversial subject between older generation Germans and the younger generations. It is a very good read for Holocaust readers.

05. March 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Chocolate: Sweet Science & Dark Secrets of the World's Favorite Treat by Kay Frydenborg, 272 pages, read by Angie, on 03/04/2015

This is the story of chocolate from its beginnings in South and Central America to its trip across the pond into Europe. It is the story of how chocolate went from being a bitter, ceremonial and medicinal plant to the candy we all love today. The history of chocolate is complex with ties to colonialism, slavery, the industrial revolution and climate change. I really enjoyed the history of chocolate, but was less than thrilled by all the scientific information packed into the book. This is geared towards middle grade readers who I am not sure will care about the chemical make up or how those chemicals were found to affect humans. This is a pretty long book for the age it is geared towards as well. I think it could have been paired down a bit to focus more on the historical and modern parts of chocolate’s story which would have made it a little bit more readable for its audience.

I received this book from Netgalley.com.

25. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

Hitler Youth by Michael H. Kater, 356 pages, read by Kim B, on 02/20/2015

hitler youthThis book gives a good history of how children and teenagers were raised and trained with National Socialist propaganda. The author uses case histories of real people who had grown up during that era in that situation. The book also tells us how these children came to grips with what they had been through long after they had grown into adulthood.

19. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Choosing Courage: True Stories of Heroism from Soldiers and Civilians by Peter Collier, 240 pages, read by Angie, on 02/18/2015

Choosing Courage is a wonderful book filled with stories about Medal of Honor recipients. The book spans WWI through the present day. The story of how each recipient earned the Medal of Honor is told in detail. I was surprised at how many of the recipients received their Medal many years after the fact. Seems that even distinguished service and heroism could not overcome racism during our history. It was good to hear that Congress did extensive reviews and awarded the Medal of Honor to deserving minorities who were overlooked however. A common theme running through all the stories was the fact that the men and women believed they were just doing what they were supposed to do and what anyone else would have done. The fact that they were heroes and saved the lives of many of their comrades just made their selfless acts that much more heroic.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.com.

19. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Children's Books, History, Lisa, NonFiction

Searching for Sarah Rector by Tonya Bolden, 80 pages, read by Lisa, on 02/18/2015

Sarah Rector was once famously hailed as “the richest black girl in America.” Set against the backdrop of American history, her tale encompasses the creation of Indian Territory, the making of Oklahoma, and the establishment of black towns and oil-rich boomtowns.
Rector acquired her fortune at the age of eleven. This is both her story and that of children just like her: one filled with ups and downs amid bizarre goings-on and crimes perpetrated by greedy and corrupt adults. From a trove of primary documents, including court and census records and interviews with family members, author Tonya Bolden painstakingly pieces together the events of Sarah’s life and the lives of those around her.
The book includes a glossary, a bibliography, and an index.

Description from Goodreads.com.

12. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, Informational Book, NonFiction

Sneaker Century: A History of Athletic Shoes by Amber J. Keyser, 64 pages, read by Angie, on 02/12/2015

The history of sneakers is an interesting one. It is kind of hard to believe that they have only been around a bit over 100 years since they are a constant part of our lives now. Sneaker Century takes the reader through the history of sneakers from the very first ones in the 1800s to modern celebrity-designed ones today. I found the history fascinating. I know almost nothing about sneaker brands other than their names so this was definitely an education for me. I learned that two brothers started a shoe company in pre-WWII Germany and outfitted some of the Olympic runners. After WWII they fought and broke up the company into Adidas and Puma. I also learned that Keds are one of the oldest sneaker brands. The history of Nike and Reebok are also covered. The one thing I wish the book had more of is pictures. It mentions specific shoes or styles of shoes but doesn’t show what those shoes looks like. I think it would have been stronger with more pictures of actual sneakers.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley.

12. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

A Volcano Beneath the Snow: John Brown's War Against Slavery by Albert Marrin, 256 pages, read by Angie, on 02/11/2015

John Brown is an interesting historical figure. Was he a terrorist, a patriot, a martyr? Albert Marrin explores these ideas in this book. He details the life of John Brown, how he came to feel so strongly against slavery and why he began his campaign to free the slaves and dissolve the union. Brown is a fascinating character who had very strong political and religious beliefs in regards to slavery. He had no qualms about committing violence in the name of what he felt was right and just and he also sacrificed the lives of some of his children in the process. Marrin does a great job on John Brown and his life. What he also does is pad this book with a lot of information that makes it less readable. There are several chapters on the history of slavery and several more chapters on the history of the Civil War. Neither are necessary in detailing Brown’s life. In fact, the chapters on Brown really only take up about half the book. I think this is going to turn kids off a bit. I know I skimmed/barely read a lot of the extra chapters because it was all stuff I knew or I didn’t think pertained to the story I was trying to read. I think this book would have been better if it had just focused on John Brown and left the rest to other books.

10. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, History, Informational Book, NonFiction, Teen Books

Patient Zero: Solving the Mysteries of Deadly Epidemics by Marilee Peters, 166 pages, read by Angie, on 02/10/2015

Patient Zero is a look at epidemics of the past and how doctors and scientists found what or who was causing them. The epidemics covered were the plague, cholera, yellow fever, typhoid, Spanish flu, ebola and AIDS. Each chapter focused on the “patient zero” who was the first to get the disease and start spreading it. It is a pretty interesting read with lots of good historical information. However, it is not a book for research. The diseases are covered pretty thoroughly but in a more surface way than would be needed for reports or assignments. I think kids who are interested in this type of thing will really enjoy this more for pleasure reading.

My one gripe with the book is actually the illustrations. There are clip art type pictures throughout the book instead of actual photos or historical data. I thought the pictures didn’t fit with the text and actually distracted me from the seriousness of what I was reading.

I received this book from Netgalley.

03. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Imprisoned: The Betrayal of Japanese Americans during World War II by Martin W. Sandler, 176 pages, read by Angie, on 02/02/2015

The internment of Japanese Americans during WWII seems like one of those issues that was swept under the carpet and little known until recently. It isn’t something you learn about during your history class on WWII or if it is it is barely mentioned. It is a tragic and disturbing part of our history and is a story that should be told. It seems especially important in the wake of the September 11 events and the treatment of Muslim Americans. Sandler does a great job of showing that the Japanese discrimination did not begin with Pearl Harbor. The Japanese were discriminated against from the moment they arrived in the U.S. They looked different, their language was incomprehensible, they had strange customs and they made people afraid. After Pearl Harbor it wasn’t long before that fear led to the imprisonment of all the Japanese living on the west coast. Executive Order 9066 called for the relocation of Japanese to camps throughout the United States. The Japanese were not given very long to get their affairs in order, sell their homes and business, leave their crops and belonging and move in to what was basically a concentration camp. Most of them were robbed of the value of their possessions as people took advantage of their need to get rid of stuff. Even though the order came about because of fear of sabotage and espionage, no such acts were ever committed or suspected. The Japanese took everything in stride with dignity and pride even though that was being taken away from them. They made the camps into homes and continued to educate their children and teach them to be proud Americans. They also distinguished themselves as heroes during the war with their actions in both Europe and the Pacific. It wasn’t until many years later that calls for restitution were finally answered and the United States apologized for their actions.

I am a big fan of history books like this. I love learning about things that I might not have known a lot about. This book is definitely readable and understandable for the middle grade audience. However, I did think the sidebar stories could have been better placed. Every chapter contains a secondary story that was just stuck in the middle of everything. It often broke up a sentence or paragraph and was very frustrating for the reader. I found that I just skipped the sidebar and finished the chapter then returned to the sidebar. My other issue with the book was actually the writing itself. While I personally agree with pretty much everything Sandler wrote about the horrific things done to the Japanese I found the writing to be very biased. For the most part, nonfiction is written from a neutral point of view even when the events being discussed are anything but neutral. Sandler’s language clearly shows that he is against what the U.S. did and firmly on the side of the Japanese. I agree but wish the language would have been more neutral. I sometimes felt like Sandler was pushing an agenda at times when it was not necessary. The events speak for themselves.

02. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust's Hidden Child Survivors by R.D. Rosen, 257 pages, read by Kim B, on 02/01/2015

Such Good Girls: The Journey of the Holocaust’s Hidden Child Survivors by R.D. Rosen is a good read for those of us interested in this aspect of history. The author features three women who survived the holocaust by being taken  in by Christians, their journey through those dark years and after when they were faced with the fact that they were Jewish and not Christian and how they dealt with it and the psychological and emotional impact it had on them. They faced a lot of anger issues as well as issues with the biological mother who gave them up to save them. As children, this was hard for them to understand, as adults they learned of the strength their mothers had in doing what they did to save their lives. Not many of the mothers survived to be reunited with their daughters. A very moving and emotional book.

01. February 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Graphic Book, History, Katy, Memoirs, NonFiction

Fatherland by Nina Bunjevac, 156 pages, read by Katy, on 01/31/2015

9781631490316_custom-44f320df1bb71b49adc8ec3a92b796701f9b1e66-s300-c15In 1975 Nina Bunjevac’s mother fled her marriage and her adopted country of Canada and took Nina back to Yugoslavia to live with her parents. Peter, her husband, was a fanatical Serbian nationalist who had been forced to leave his country at the end of World War II and migrate to Canada. But even there he continued his activities, joining a terrorist group that planned to set off bombs at the homes of Tito sympathisers and at Yugoslav missions in Canada and the USA. Then in 1977, while his family were still in Yugoslavia, a telegram arrived to say that a bomb had gone off prematurely and Peter and two of his comrades had been killed.

From www.goodreads.com.

27. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Kim B, NonFiction · Tags:

Exorcising Hitler by Fredrick Taylor, 383 pages, read by Kim B, on 01/27/2015

Exorcising Hitler by Fredrick Taylor is a contemporary look at Germany from the end of WWII and how the country remade itself after the end of the Nazi era through the allied occupation, up to and including the fall of the Berlin Wall. Very insightful and informative reading with personal reminisces of the people who lived through those years. I give it 5 stars!!!!!

22. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, History, Humor, Informational Book, Tammy

Bed Manners: A Very British Guide to Boudoir Etiquette by Ralph Hopton , 151 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/15/2015

bed manners Ever wonder how to avoid offending your spouse with your evening sleeping habits? Or perhaps wonder what the challenges might be of sleeping with another person if you never have? This could be the guide book for you. Originally published in the 1930s the book addresses bedroom etiquette with a sense of humor. It is amazing how few of the basic problems have changed over the years. Husbands and wives still bicker over whose job it is to investigate noises in the middle of the night, who has to get up to get another blanket or close the window or do we even want the window open.

22. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, How To's, Informational Book, NonFiction, Tammy · Tags:

Downton Abbey: Rules for Household Staff by Charles Carson , 117 pages, read by Tammy, on 01/14/2015

downton Some items refer specifically to the household of the television show Downton Abbey, but most information given is historically researched. Even includes recipes and instructions for everything from cleaning silver to properly storing seasonal clothes to protect them from dust and bugs. For fans of the show as well as those looking for traditional cleaning information.

21. January 2015 · Comments Off · Categories: History, Katy, NonFiction · Tags:

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, 406 pages, read by Katy, on 01/20/2015

unbroken-book-cover-01On a May afternoon in 1943, an Army Air Forces bomber crashed into the Pacific Ocean and disappeared, leaving only a spray of debris and a slick of oil, gasoline, and blood. Then, on the ocean surface, a face appeared. It was that of a young lieutenant, the plane’s bombardier, who was struggling to a life raft and pulling himself aboard. So began one of the most extraordinary odysseys of the Second World War.

The lieutenant’s name was Louis Zamperini. In boyhood, he’d been a cunning and incorrigible delinquent, breaking into houses, brawling, and fleeing his home to ride the rails. As a teenager, he had channeled his defiance into running, discovering a prodigious talent that had carried him to the Berlin Olympics and within sight of the four-minute mile. But when war had come, the athlete had become an airman, embarking on a journey that led to his doomed flight, a tiny raft, and a drift into the unknown.

Ahead of Zamperini lay thousands of miles of open ocean, leaping sharks, a foundering raft, thirst and starvation, enemy aircraft, and, beyond, a trial even greater. Driven to the limits of endurance, Zamperini would answer desperation with ingenuity; suffering with hope, resolve, and humor; brutality with rebellion. His fate, whether triumph or tragedy, would be suspended on the fraying wire of his will.

In her long-awaited new book, Laura Hillenbrand writes with the same rich and vivid narrative voice she displayed in Seabiscuit. Telling an unforgettable story of a man’s journey into extremity, Unbroken is a testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.

From www.goodreads.com

I recommend this book to everyone!