Book Reviews 2018
January 14, 20202018It almost seems inconceivable today that the Mona Lisa could go missing. If you go to the Louvre today, the Mona Lisa is protected by two armed bodyguards. She has more security than some people. She also is encased in bullet proof glass. Her fortress is impenetrable; she sits in the keep of the castle where she can rest easy. But this wasn’t always so. 100 years ago, paintings in the Louvre were hung on the wall without any protection, including the Mona Lisa. In August of 1911, the painting was stolen. It would be nearly 48 hours before anyone would notice. Pablo Picasso would be the primary suspect. And R.A. Scotti delivers a delightful tale of the thievery that would make the Mona Lisa famous. This isn’t a very long book, but the mystery and intrigue give it a sense of momentum. Without giving too much away, I thought the ending was both satisfying and comprehensive enough to satiate all the open ended questions. A nice little read! [...]
January 14, 20202018Over the past ten years, it seems as if a whole genre of memoirs has sprung up of ex-North Korean deserters. In 2016, I read the book “Dear Leader” which delved into the life of a former North Korean. It is a fascinating look into one of the most oppressive places in the world, which is also probably why these kinds of memoirs are so popular; to get an inside look at what everyday life might be like in the most secretive country on earth is a rare and privileged look. This particular memoir is about a man named Masaji Ishikawa. His father was Korean while his mother was Japanese. In the early Imperial Japan, the Japanese sent millions of Koreas from their homeland to Japan to do various work projects. Instead of sending them back after World War II, little Korea towns dotted the landscape where the industrial parks they worked in flourished. Ishikawa’s dad was one of the bullies of the Korean town they lived in, where he routinely abused the boys mother. An opportunity, sponsored by the Japanese and North Korean governments, in the form of an expatriot program to replant Korean citizens to North Korea in the wake of the Korean War opened up. Thousands departed the shores of Japan with the promise of food, wealth, and a better life in North Korea. The Ishikawa family immigrated to North Korea. Obviously things did not go well. There were routine food shortages; it was difficult to hold down a job; even if you had a job, you could not get paid. The family was extremely poor. This section of the book is absolutely heart breaking. The life they lived was a meager existence with little hope for things to get better. Eventually, Ishikawa found an opportunity to escape North Korea at the height of the food shortage in the 1990s. He had to leave his family behind to save himself. The end of the book comes with a cry for justice. The Japanese government sponsored this mass exodus of Koreans from Japan to North Korea but they cannot help his family; for a long time, they he wasn’t able to hold down a job in Japan because of the systemic racism in that country against Koreans. It is a difficult ending, one that created more angst then you began with. This was an interesting book and I was able to read it for free on Amazon Prime. [...]
January 14, 20202018I don’t have a particular interest in celebrity chefs, but my reasoning in reading this book was not because of a fascination that isn’t there. Rather, it was because it came highly recommended to me. In the end, it did disappoint, at least a little. I was a huge fan of the movie, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” which is about a man, named Jiro, who owned a sushi shop. If you’ve never seen the movie, it kind of all revolves around hard work and perfecting your craft. That is much of what this book is about. Marcus Samuelsson was adopted from Ethiopia to Sweden where he grew up cooking with his grandma. After high school, he went on to several posts where he essentially interned as a cook. Even he was given menial tasks like attending to the herb garden, he gave it his all and his hard work paid off. He continued to get opportunities because of his work ethic and his creativity. He moved to New York City in the 90’s and eventually became the head chef for a Swedish-American restaurant. After this, he re-opened the famous Red Rooster in Harlem for which he is universally known for. Another sub-theme of the book (besides hard work) is racism and how being a black man in the kitchen puts you at a disadvantage. I thought this was one of the most intriguing parts of the book. He was turned down for culinary jobs when he had more than enough credentials just because of the color of his skin. In opening the Red Rooster, he talked about the problems that he faced, not only because it was a budding restaurant but because it was situated in a socio-economic area that was predominately African-America; his vision for the restaurant was to hire those who are disadvantaged in Harlem to retain the symbolic history of the original Red Rooster. That came with its own problems: people quitting without warning, employees getting beat up while depositing their paychecks are among the few he mentions. This dynamic of serious upscale restaurants being run by and for the African-American community in Harlem was a revolutionary idea and he explains the significance (and the tragedy that there isn’t more) at the end of the book. All in all, this was an interesting book, but not one that I would recommend you go out of your way for. [...]

A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape from North Korea

The American Spirit: Who We Are and What We Stand For

The Lost City of the Monkey God

The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution

Even If You Don’t: A Love Story

The Martian

Yes, Chef

Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer

The Stormlight Archive: The Way of Kings

All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers’ Row

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

The Remains of the Day

The Stormlight Archive: Words of Radiance

The Stormlight Archive: Oathbringer

Endure: Mind, Body, and the Curiously Elastic Limits of Human Performance


Cork Dork: A Wine-Fueled Adventure Among the Obsessive Sommeliers, Big Bottle Hunters, and Rogue Scientists Who Taught Me to Live for Taste

What the Dog Saw and Other Adventures

After the Prophet: The Epic Story of the Shia-Sunni Split in Islam (2018)

I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life

Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

For We Are Many (Bobiverse #2)

A History of the World in Six Glasses

Jurassic Park

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of Mona Lisa

North: Finding My Way While Running the Appalachian Trail

Preaching That Changes Lives

The Feud That Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World

The Cuban Affair

The Rooster Bar

Star Wars: Last Shot: A Han and Lando Novel

When Breath Becomes Air

Only Human (Themis Files #3)


Mistborn: The Final Empire

Hell Divers

God Save Texas: A Journey Into the Soul of the Lone Star State

Star Wars: Thrawn: Thrawn (2018)

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker

PROOF: Finding Freedom through the Intoxicating Joy of Irresistible Grace (2018)

Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ

The Girl Who Smiled Beads: A Story of War and What Comes After


Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons

Christianity Considered: A Guide for Skeptics and Seekers

Insurgence: Reclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom

Jurassic Park: The Lost World

The History of Jazz

How to Lose a Marathon: A Starter’s Guide to Finishing in 26.2 Chapters

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Survival Guide for the Soul: How to Flourish Spiritually in a World that Pressures Us to Achieve

Brief Insights on Mastering Bible Study: 80 Expert Insights, Explained in a Single Minute

Star Wars: Thrawn: Alliances

The Bible Unfiltered: Approaching Scripture on Its Own Terms

A Mouse Divided: How Ub Iwerks Became Forgotten, and Walt Disney Became Uncle Walt

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Super Mario: How Nintendo Conquered America

Star Trek: Captain to Captain

The Darkness and the Glory: His Cup and the Glory from Gethsemane to the Ascension (2018)

Mistborn: The Well of Ascension

Mistborn: The Hero of Ages

English History Made Brief, Irreverent, and Pleasurable

Michelangelo: His Epic Life

Scientism and Secularism: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology

Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling (2018)

Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America


What is the Gospel?

The Interdependency: The Collapsing Empire

Love Your God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul

The Consequences of Ideas: Understanding the Concepts that Shaped Our World (2018)

On Desperate Ground: The Marines at The Reservoir, the Korean War’s Greatest Battle

The Interdependency: Consuming Fire

The Reckoners: Steelheart

Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions

Firefight: the Reckoners book 2

Ethics and Moral Reasoning: A Student’s guide

Calamity: the Reckoners book 3

Skyward: Skyward


The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate (2018)

Legion: the Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Reckoner’s: Mitosis

Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel Wholly by Grace Communicated Truthfully & Lovingly

Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God

The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church… and How to Prepare


Knowledge of the Holy


Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

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