Book Review, The Abbey by James Martin, SJ

The AbbeyThe Abbey is James Martin’s first work of fiction, and it’s my first time reading his books. One reviewer suggested an actual story was missing. I chuckled. I enjoyed the book even without much story.

Martin switches points of view between three protagonists, a divorced single mom struggling with the death of her young son, a former architect whose career is in shambles, and the Abbot of Saint Philip and James, otherwise known as PB & J. The book reads more as three intertwined short stories of faith and healing. The characters interact to weave a story that the reader pieces together without the characters much realizing the whole.

Set in an abbey, the PB & J Abbey that rightly makes jam, reading the descriptions and following the author through the halls, placed me firmly in the location, a location reserved for prayer study, work and devotion. The monks make jam. I like jam. The monks work hard and pray harder. This delights me even as I write.

The villain of the book is scarcely actualized. He/she/it comes from within each character. For the single mom, it’s her own grief that turned to bitterness, for the young architect it’s his appetites, and for the Abbot it’s occasional regrets and nostalgia for the outside world.

While The Abbey might be more accurately described as a novella I enjoyed it mostly for the love Martin clearly demonstrated for his fictional flock. He doesn’t force them into a sudden acceptance of Christ. Instead he nudges, suggests prays and they do what people do, they muddle around, get lost, rage, stumble, pray and wonder.

Read this book for the setting. Read this book for an experience of being part of a cherished flock.

Thank you for reading. BEV

Also posted at and Goodreads and reblogged to

Review: Saved Without a Doubt by John MacArthur

Thank you for this review. I also enjoyed the book, particularly for its assurance.

The Domain for Truth

Saved without a Doubt


I appreciated this book by John MacArthur on the topic of the Christian assurance of salvation. This book is biblical, pastoral and practical; it will certainly help the believer understand the Gospel better and applying it to the subject of assurance. The book is divided into three parts: After establishing the biblical warrant for the Reformed doctrine of the perseverance of the Saints, part two feature 11 tests on whether or not one is a believer according to 1 John followed by part three that ties the loose ends: Dealing with doubt, adding virtue which thereby adds more assurance of one’s salvation and biblical encouragement to persevere. I particularly enjoy chapter 7, “Adding Virtue upon Virtue” which is an exposition of 2 Peter 1, with MacArthur’s insight into the Greek terms and what it means. MacArthur does a masterful job of encouraging the believer with the reality of…

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Book Review, Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

612bzfqonvxl-_sx332_bo1204203200_The sequel to Ink and Bone titled, Paper and Fire, comes out this week, so I thought a review might be timely.

Some have likened Ink and Bone to Harry Potter meets the Book Thief and even Hunger Games. I see the similarities, but I’m not quite there. I think Ink and Bone stands as a fresh approach, but lacking Rowling’s whimsy and magic or Zusak’s narrative voice, or Collins’ terse strength. I haven’t finished reading the Book Thief yet, so I may revise these comments later. I read some reviews of Ink and Bone that didn’t care for the opening, but I thought it dropped me into Rachel Caine’s novel in a compelling way and led me straight to the pivotal scene with the ink licker.

Usually, I quibble with a book about books, but this one worked well. It is a ‘what if’ fantasy that asks what if the Library of Alexandria never burned. What if the knowledge contained in the library served as the world’s currency and ownership of books containing that knowledge was forbidden? The world’s law and government are ordered through the Library and the Library watches and records every person’s life through electronic journals. Those who choose to abandon their journals and fight against the control of the library are branded heretics and burners often electing to set themselves and their journals on fire in a bid for the ultimate freedom of death.

The main character, Jess Brightwell, is the son of a book smuggler. Due to his father’s business, Jess has held and read many rare books and has an uncanny sense about them. Rather than follow in the family trade, Jess successfully tests and receives a berth at the Library’s training facility in Alexandria. Enter the school setting and the similarities with Harry Potter and a thousand other fantasies. This school tests many skills while imagining Alexandria in 2025 as the seat of global power with its library still intact and the people of the Library: Scholars, Guarda and Obscurists as legislators, law enforcement, imprisoned magical minorities who preserve absolute dominion of the Library.

I agree with one reviewer who noted that the story breaks down when we learn that all people have access to all books through their electronic journal. I did wonder what difference it would make if all written work was available electronically to all mankind. Only a single study was banned and removed from access; that being the repeated invention of the printing press. I liked the idea, but a more in depth look, something beyond the nature of light YA science-fiction fantasy, would probably ruin the story making it too cumbersome.

This brings me to my final pint (oh oops, perish the thought of a final pint) point. Rachel Caine does go the extra mile, so to speak in studying the effects of the printing press through the historical notes at the beginning of the chapter. These are rightly called Ephemera from the Greek meaning not intended to last the day, something not meant to be retained or preserved and definitely not preserved in the codex. In these we learn backstory and history and family connections. We read coded messages and learn the history of the resolute printing press, and its connection to major characters in the book, we also read of the corruptive nature of power in the twisted logic of the Library’s elite. Because of the Ephemera, I consider the book a bigger work and would re-read it. These notes in the front of the chapters cause me to think of politics over lives, worldly treasures over love, and re-writing history over truth. It’s a keeper. Thank you for reading and thank you, Rachel Caine, for writing.

Also posted on Goodreads, and