What To Read: Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew

The Gospel of Matthew

(Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series)

Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri

And now for a bit of more serious reading…. Back when I was a Protestant I liked to read Bible commentaries. A Bible commentary is a book which explains, verse by verse, what the verses of a book of the Bible actually mean. A good Bible commentary is written by a Bible scholar who teaches in a seminary or a Christian college, who knows the Bible book in its original language, who is familiar with important archeological discoveries that shed light on the Bible, or important issues about the surviving manuscripts involved.

When I became a Catholic it felt like all the work I did studying Bible commentaries and attending college Biblical theology classes were all in vain. I had to relearn everything ‘in Catholic.’ But finding a good Catholic Bible commentary was not so easy— until the Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture series came out.

These commentaries are just like the Protestant commentaries I am more familiar with. They are accessible to lay persons, but have enough content to be a reference for pastors/priests preparing a sermon/homily.

One difference, though, is that each section ends with a short ‘Reflection and Application’ section. This is good for the Christian, because Christians believe that we are not supposed to just interact intellectually with the Bible, but apply its teachings to our lives.

This first volume of the series (they don’t have commentaries on the Old Testament books. Yet.) is on the Gospel of Matthew. A Gospel is an account of the life of Jesus Christ, and the four earliest-written Gospels were written by Apostles— leaders of the early Christian church. In the case of the Apostle Matthew, writer of the Gospel of Matthew, we are dealing with an author who was an actual witness of the life of Jesus Christ— Matthew was chosen by Jesus Christ to be one of the ‘Twelve,’ an inner circle of disciples who received more teaching and, in the traditional interpretation, were ordained to be priests/pastors at the Last Supper.

The Gospel of Matthew really starts off telling the story of the Incarnation of the Son of God from the beginning— with a genealogy list. The authors of the commentary are very aware that this genealogy is a stumbling block to some readers of the Gospel— especially those new to Bible reading who start off with the first Gospel.

The whole text of the Gospel, in the New American Bible translation, is provided, which I like because I don’t like having to flip back and forth between two books, a Bible and a commentary. OK, I do that anyway because I prefer the KJV translation (and have one with the Deuterocanonical books.)

Protestants unfamiliar with Bible commentaries may get upset about quotes from Early Church Fathers and saints and the like (even though I first learned about Early Church Fathers from Protestant sources,) but you don’t have to pay attention to these things if you are not interested in them.

I very much enjoyed reading this commentary and I plan to buy and read more in the series. I ALSO intend to buy and read more volumes in the old Tyndale Bible commentary series, which I have liked since my teen years.

Lenten & Wuhan-Coronavirus Greetings from

Nissa Annakindt, her cats & critters, plus new lamb Daisy

Daisy

 

 

 

 

 


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PERSONAL UPDATE:

I have recently finished a short book about blogging, called ‘Getting More Blog Traffic: Steps Towards a Happier Blogging Life.’ I’m currently trying to figure out how to turn my Scrivener project into someone the Kindle Create software can work with. (Wish me luck!)

What to Read: Deus Vult by Declan Finn

Deus Vult

Saint Tommy, NYPD Book 6

Declan Finn

I had some earlier books in the Saint Tommy series on my Kindle last year when I went to the hospital and other places, and those books really took my mind off grim reality.

The main character, Tommy Nolan, is a NYC cop. If you like one of those Law & Order shows but wish it had fewer anti-Catholic, anti-Christian and pro-abortion moments, this series may be a real treat for you.

If you are well-informed on the Catholic concept of a saint, you may wonder how Tommy can be ‘Saint Tommy’ when he isn’t dead yet. Author Declan Finn is well-aware of this, judging by the books. He’s got every darn demon in the Greater NYC area offering to make Tommy into a full-qualified (dead) saint.

What Tommy has is some strange spiritual gifts that have been reported in the lives of certain saints while those saints were yet alive. Tommy can smell evil, can bilocate and levitate, and cool stuff like that which is quite useful to a working cop.

In ‘Deus Vult,’ Tommy just wants to spend some quality time with his wife and kids, but he’s caught up in a case. A monastery has been desecrated and monks brutally murdered, and the local demons are gathering to make yet another attempt to doom Tommy.

The term ‘Deus Vult’ means ‘God wills it,’ in case you don’t know. I didn’t and had to look it up. The genre might be described as faith-based urban fantasy, and it’s quite exciting. I also think it’s good because it shows that a formidable police officer can also be a man of faith and a family man.

There is (Catholic) religious content, but the book doesn’t feel like a bland faith-lesson or a tame work of stereotypical Christian fiction. It takes you in to places where you see the seamier side of life, but you are in the company of a man of faith and God is on our side. I would recommend it as an exciting read, even if I didn’t personally share the author’s faith.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I’ve known the author, Declan Finn, in an internet kind of way for a few years now. Right now, Declan Finn and his wife are having some troubles, They are/were in Italy when Italy shut down, and when trying to leave the country walking through the wrong door at the airport led to being detained and they still aren’t home safe as of this writing. But they have a batch of FB folks praying for them and they are supposed to leave Italy today.

 

What to Read: His Majesty’s Dragon

His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire series)

Naomi Novik http://www.naominovik.com/

His Majesty’s Dragon is the first book in the Temeraire series by Naomi Novik. I first read it when I stumbled upon it in the local library in Stephenson, Michigan.

The story follows William Laurence, captain of a British naval ship in a Napoleonic Wars era in which dragons are a weapon of war used by both sides. Captain Laurence captures a French ship which has a dragon egg about to hatch. It is standard practice to harness a baby dragon immediately after hatching, and it will bond to the person who does the harnessing.

Laurence hates to order any of his officers to attempt the harnessing. Being in the Aerial Corps is a major step down from being in the Royal Navy. But the officers draw lots for it anyway.

But when the dragonet hatches, he doesn’t want anything to do with the young officer meant to harness him. He speaks to Laurence instead— and accepts harnessing and food from him, becoming Laurence’s dragon. Laurence became his person.

Laurence names the dragonet Temeraire after a navel ship which has a cool name, and puts his second-in-command in charge of the ship. He will have to be leaving the Navy now that he is in charge of a dragon. And the step down in life position this change brings will mean he has to let his fiancee go since Laurence is now no longer respectable enough.

The Aerial Corps isn’t thrilled to have a Navy man for a new dragon captain, either. But attempts to replace Laurence with a properly trained man from the Aerial Corps just make Temeraire angry, and you don’t want to make a rapidly-growing big young dragon angry.

Laurence and Temeraire bond. Temeraire is a highly intelligent companion and likes for Laurence to read to him. Laurence discovers from a dragon expert that Temeraire is a Chinese breed of dragon, probably an Imperial, the second-rarest kind of Chinese dragon. (As it turns out, he’s really a Celestial, the rarest kind.)

Laurence and Temeraire must go to a covert to receive training in dragon war methods and tactics. Temeraire does not care much for the formation flying they have to do, though he masters it enough that he can come up with formation ideas of his own.

Temeraire must test himself in some aerial skirmishes with French dragons before long. He and Laurence prove themselves.

In the other books in the series, things do not go smoothly for Laurence and Temeraire. The Chinese discover what became of their stray dragon egg— meant as a gift for Napoleon himself— and want Temeraire sent home to China. Since Temeraire refuses to be parted from Laurence, he has to go to China as well.

There is a dragon epidemic in another book, and in another Laurence is condemned as a traitor which results in his and Temeraire’s eventually being sent to the colony at Australia, where they meet the colony’s former governor, Bligh, who is best known as captain of the HMS Bounty.

In the final book in the series, League of Dragons, Napoleon is finally defeated, as is Napoleon’s dragon Lien, Temeraire’s relative and arch-enemy. The story wraps itself up nicely and it looks like Temeraire and Laurence have a fine future which may even include Temeraire becoming a member of Parliament.

I find the Temeraire series to be such compelling reading that I have read the books over and over— even the ones I have to read from the library. (Note to self: return those Temeraire books to the library. Soon.) To me that’s the mark of a really good book— when you get done you feel like reading it again.

Thank you for visiting my blog & God bless,

Nissa Annakindt

Have you read any of the books in the Temeraire series? Did you like it/them? What did you think? Or have you read some other dragon-related book that you think is better? Tell me about it in a comment.

Today is a Friday in Lent, a time to fast, pray, sacrifice, or at least avoid mortal sin.

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Celebrating book reviewing, book sales and surviving heat wave

Celebrate blog hopWhile I have things to celebrate today, my Wildblue internet service is not one of them. I just got told by them that I’m over my usage limit again— even though I gave up Facebook games in order to save bandwidth for my writing career. So I’m unplugging the internet when not in use and getting up early to use my off-peak bandwidth.

But there is good news in my life. First, I made two sales of my poetry book, ‘surly petunia’ on Amazon.com which is a good start there. As you may guess, poetry doesn’t sell well, and ‘quirky’ poetry even less. But I am encouraged.

Next, now that I have decided to devote my efforts to becoming one of the top Amazon.com reviewers in my genre, I am developing methods to create reviews more easily. Mainly I keep a legal pad handy when I read and note down the key points of the book including character names and such. Here are some of my recent reviews:

Shatterworld – Lelia Rose Foreman

Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century – Peter Graham

The 8-Minute Writing Habit – Monica Leonelle

If you should happen to read any of my reviews — thank you! — and if you happen to think one or more of them is a helpful review for someone deciding whether to buy the book, please click ‘yes’ in the place at the bottom of the review where they ask ‘is this review helpful?’ That would be a big help to me.

And now, the final thing to celebrate— I am surviving the hot weather in spite of my lack of air conditioning. I bought an air conditioner unit but there are difficulties in installing it. It’s hard on me because of my poor health but I am surviving by drinking a lot of ice water and not doing much around the house. Today my big project, besides this blog hop, is doing the laundry. Some of the laundry. Well, maybe one load of laundry and some folding.

This is a post in the Celebrate the Small Things blog hop. If you don’t know about it— it’s a great way to get started getting more people reading your blog. Go to Lexa Cain’s blog to sign up, here: http://lexacain.blogspot.com/2015/01/celebrate-small-things.html

IWSG: Book Review Reciprocity

Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

 

The online world demands a lot of reciprocity. If you join a writers’ group on Facebook, and you want people to like and comment on the stuff you post there, you have to like and comment on other people’s stuff. If you want your stuff retweeted on Twitter, you retweet other people’s stuff.

But the biggest part of a writer’s dream is not about reciprocity— it’s about loads and loads of people liking your books and buying them and you not having to buy any books from all of THEM in return. That’s what you have to do to make it as a writer— sell to people including faceless strangers who only know you through your books.

Part of that dream these days is that a decent portion of your readers will write a review and that’s important. But real  writers not in the Stephen King category have another source of reviews, and that is a circle of writing friends— the kind of friends you can make in the writers’ groups I mentioned above.


Facebook Writer’s Groups

Aspie Writers (for writers with Asperger Syndrome and autism, new group, needs members.) https://www.facebook.com/groups/616192595221372/

Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers https://www.facebook.com/groups/366357776755069/

These are two of the groups I’m in— do searches at Facebook to find ones right for you— look for ones with real interactivity going on, not just people posting their books for sale.


Of course sometimes you are caught in a no-reciprocity trap. You write a review for this one, you write a review for that one, you write 2 for that author and 3 for that one— and they never think of reviewing your book in return.

That’s where I am at with my poetry book ‘surly petunia.’ (The title is taken from the first poem I wrote as a serious writer of poetry— amazingly it stood up over time, mainly because it’s weird and funny. Or sad. I can never tell those emotions apart.)

The excuse I get is that it’s POETRY and they don’t know how to read POETRY and review POETRY because, I suspect, they’d rather read someone’s overweight & second-rate fantasy tome than read a few pages of POETRY.

So today, I am taking the Nuclear Option and adding a poem to this post. Don’t worry, it’s a short one. And it’s in my book ‘surly petunia.’ Which is here: https://www.amazon.com/Surly-Petunia-Nissa-Annakindt-ebook/dp/B00NZ96EYE


catbox thriller

red explosions lying on the sidewalk
where just anyone could steal them
how can you treat your mothers so?

and why oh why the denizens
of minor towns with hidden hitlers
chastely placed beyond white window curtains

and I walk by as if quite ordinary
spies were sleeping in my breast pockets
still with their heads on they look better.

(c) Nissa Annakindt 2014


This was a post in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. It’s a great way to build up your blog if you are a writer. It happens the first Wednesday of each month.

5-star review can mean ‘This Book Sucks’

tenfromLenI often go to that online bookseller named after women with one breast (Amazon.) And noodle around looking for something new to read. And often I come upon something by an indie author with 9 – 17 reviews, all 5-star. And my usual conclusion is that this book is crap, likely reviewed mostly by the author’s mother and loving aunts. I tend to read the 3 and 4 star reviews first, and then glance at any 2 stars. I think I find a better class of books that way.

There is a sad trend toward making 5 star book reviews the norm, which is very bad. Because it makes people think anything less than five is a bad review marking a real stinker of a book.

This is awful. We need honest and fair reviews to help us find books we will like. I don’t insist on only perfect books. Some of my favorites are books where the author has a good story but is struggling with learning some of the writing skills. Honest and fair reviews help me know what I’m getting when I buy a book, and somehow if I know in advance that the book has some weak points, those weak points interfere less with my enjoyment.

Here are what the star-reviews mean on Amazon.com:

5 = I love it.

4 = I like it.

3 = It’s OK.

2 = I don’t like it.

1 = I hate it.

You can see that in a logical world, we would all know that 5 and 4 stars are good reviews, 3 stars can be good, bad or indifferent, and 1 and 2 are bad reviews. All modified a bit by the accompanying written review.

Very recently I have decided to become a serious Amazon reviewer. I am working to get more book reviews written. And in the meantime writing a few product reviews to add to my review total. [My profile page is here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/pdp/profile/A3GH4IA9SLC3YN You can read my most recent reviews there and if you find one of them ‘helpful’, please consider up-voting it, which will help my chance to rise in the reviewer ranks.]

My preference is to review books that are in genres I read, and that seem like I might enjoy them. These are the kind of books that I can review the best.

When it comes to getting a 5 star review from me, it’s kind of like getting a 10 from Len on Dancing With the Stars. You shouldn’t expect it, it’s very hard to get, and when you finally manage to get one, it really means something. I like to tell people seeking reviews from me that only 2 of the 4 Gospels get a full 5 stars from me (Luke and John.) And I regard the Gospels as being the Word of God!

Four-star reviews are my workhorse rating. Four-star reviews mean that it’s a good, solid book and that any flaws are minor and easily overlooked when you get caught up in the story. I give out a lot of 4-star reviews. Though I’m always happy when one of my favorite 4-star authors makes a Great Leap Forward and produces a 5-star book.

Three star reviews mean a book is OK. OK is good. If you don’t believe me, try reading a bunch of books that are LESS than OK. Three star books have more flaws and sometimes have a weaker, less compelling story. But if there are things to like in the story and characters, I will make sure to mention it. I prefer to review 3-star books with enough good qualities that the review is essentially a good review and will gain the author some readers in spite of any flaws. I haven’t had to give out any three-star reviews that were mostly critical yet. I probably wouldn’t bother except for a flawed book where the author was begging me for any review, even a bad one.

A two-star review means that the reviewer didn’t like it. That’s a very subjective term. There are great works of world literature that I don’t like, but I know they are well written and would never give them a 2-star. I think a fair-minded reviewer would rarely if ever bother to write a 2-star on a book. On a flawed product, especially a pricey one, maybe. It should only be used on a book that, objectively, has a number of deep flaws, and perhaps a moral issue in addition (porn or praise for Hitler and/or Stalin on top of incomprehensible writing would do it for me.)

One-star means you hated it. Can a Christian morally ‘hate’ anyone’s book? Or any person with a moral code? Most of the one-star reviews I’ve read were mean-spirited, cruel, and often based on the reviewer’s prejudices. Some fine non-fiction authors I know recently wrote a book about the Obama presidency that had some negative things to say. When the book came out some nasty people gave it one-star reviews without reading it— one admitted to reading no further than the title. I would never write a 1-star. I am a fallible human being and I would not judge any author’s book quite that harshly.

Do you write book reviews? What star ratings do you usually give out? Are you wary of books with nothing but 5-star reviews?


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Pius Tales/Declan Finn’s Writing Journey

PiusTalesNissaRecently I got a copy of author Declan Finn’s Pius Tales— a collection of short stories related to the Pius Trilogy, a thriller series based on the idea that some not-so-well-hidden secrets about WW2 Pope Pius XII trigger a lot of murders, escapades and explosions. ‘Pius Tales’ continues in the explosive tradition.

But there is a bonus— a series of essays by Declan Finn telling his writing journey of imagining, writing and selling the Pius series. I always like to see how other writers do their work, since the only writer I actually SEE at work is me and I’m not that ‘normal.’ Though I’m not sure any writers are ‘normal.’ We are probably all just different shades of weird.

The origin of the Pius series came when Finn read a book about Pope Pius XII. And then a lot more books. And discovered that in 1960, the history, at least as regards this pope, changed. Before 1960, Pope Pius was the heroic pope that fought against Hitler and saved mass numbers of Jews from the Holocaust. Afterwards, he became ‘Hitler’s Pope.’

Finn includes in his account how he went from his basic idea to find the proper setting (Rome) and the proper character-group to star in his thriller. And then the fun process of trying to get the thing published.

As for the stories in the book: Tinker, Tailor, Goyim, Spy recounts how character Scott Murphy came to join the Mossad. Even though he’s neither Israeli or Jewish.

“Erin Go Boom” tells the story of how Catholic priest Fr. Frank Williams, SJ, manages to stop a terrorist attack on a St. Patrick’s Day parade without using direct deadly force on anyone.

In “Deck the Maul,” Finn blows up Christmas. Or, at least, a shopping mall filled with angry dwarfs, protesting redheads, and, of course, terrorists.

“Oh Little Town of Bethmayhem” starts off with Sean Ryan dangling a bad guy off the Empire State Building, and segues into Scott Murphy infiltrating a terrorist plot in Bethlehem at Christmas time.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a clean read, so you don’t need to worry about the kids reading it when you are not looking. And it’s got explosions. I like explosions.

Declan Finn’s Books on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Declan-Finn/e/B008I8JO2G

Declan Finn’s Blog: http://apiusman.blogspot.com/

Declan Finn’s FB Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/A-Pius-Man-a-novel/143750083289


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