Saturday, November 30, 2013

368. The Cleaner by Paul Cleave

The Cleaner by Paul Cleave.
Christchurch Murders, #1
Christchurch Carver, #1

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2006,  Atria/Simon & Schuster, 387 pgs

Age: 18+

"Joe is in control of everything in his simple life—both his day job as a janitor for the police department and his “night work.” He isn’t bothered by the daily news reports of the Christchurch Carver, who, they say, has murdered seven women. Joe knows, though, that the Carver killed only six. He knows that for a fact, and he’s determined to find the copycat. He’ll punish him for the one, then frame him for the other six. It’s the perfect plan because he already knows he can outwit the police. 

All he needs now is to take care of all the women who keep getting in his way, including his odd, overprotective mother and Sally, the maintenance worker who sees him as a replacement for her dead brother. Then there’s the mysterious Melissa, the only woman to have ever understood him, but whose fantasies of blackmail and torture don't have a place in Joe’s investigation."

Borrowed a copy through Inter-Library Loan.

This is Paul Cleave's first book; it is also the direct prequel to Joe Victim, his latest book which I read recently.  Since I read the books the wrong way round I knew all the who-dunnits in this book but did not know the whys or hows.  This did affect my enjoyment of the book and I do highly recommend you read the two books in the proper order!  However, I enjoyed Joe Victim so much I just had to read the beginnings of his story.  This (well both books) is a very unique take on the serial killer book as it is almost entirely told from the killer's point of view and we hardly even get to know the police investigators in this first beginning book.  They have developed into characters by the time we get to the latest book, Joe Victim, the 7th in the series, though.  But here, they show up occasionally and mostly through Joe, the cleaner's, point of view.  The scary thing about this story is that even with the entire violent, ruthless murders we are somehow drawn to Joe and he does become an unwillingly sympathetic character to the reader in an unsettling way to my dismay, even though he is completely unlikable as a person and unreliable as a narrator.  Occasionally another narrator will take over and we get an outsider's take on the case, but as I said this is not from the police themselves; they are kept as background characters making this a very unique style of thriller which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I just didn't get the full impact since I had already read the sequel which keeps no secrets of the events that happen here.  I'm impressed with this author and will move on to his next book which revolves around the same police department in Christchurch, NZ.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Three Classic Historical Easy Readers: Pompeii, Titanic & Balto

363. The Bravest Dog Ever: The True Story of Balto by Natalie Standiford. Illustrated by Donald Cook.

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1989, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (6+)

"Balto has a quiet life as a sled dog - until tragedy strikes. Dozens of children in Nome become sick with diphtheria. Without antitoxin serum, they will perish - and the closest supply is 650 miles away! The only way to get the serum to Nome is by sled, but can the dogs deliver it in time? Heading bravely into a brutal blizzard, Balto leads the race for life."

Purchased a used copy from the library sale shelf.

This book has earned its way into being called a classic of children's early readers.  Still in print after more than twenty years, it's a story that will never age.  Briefly telling the true story of a sled dog relay that travelled from Anchorage to Nome, Alaska to save the people of Nome from an outbreak of diphtheria in 1925.  The story plays on the emotions by focusing on a family with two sick children and then telling the story of Balto, the lead dog of the last team which made heroic strides through a blizzard to go further than any other team to make to Nome just in time to save lives.  An exciting story with cute illustrations of the dogs showing them with a slight puppy look that is sure to delight dog lovers and impress readers with the fact that this really happened.  I have an old original copy of the book which is labeled Step 2, however the book now is published as part of the Step 3 line.



365. The Titanic: Lost ... And Found by Judy Donnelly. Illustrated by Keith Kohler.
Step Into Reading, Step 4

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1987, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (7+)

"Titanic. Just the name evokes tales of the doomed ship that have captivated people of all ages for more than 100 years. 
Early readers will enjoy this exciting account of the world's most famous disaster-at-sea and the discovery of it's remains many years later. 

Step 4 books are perfect for independent readers who are confident with simple sentences and are just starting to tackle paragraphs."

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

Another classic easy reader that has been in print for well over twenty years.  This book brings the story of the sinking of the Titanic to life for a first time introduction to the topic.  Quite a detailed look at the entire episode for an 'easy reader'.  The description of the sinking is well-described and manages to include all of the major events that lead to the sinking and the famous points of interest commonly known about that night.  The book goes on to talk about the rescue and the eventual safety laws and precautions put into place afterwards to ensure such a tragedy never happened again.  Then the book leaps forward to Robert Ballard's 1985 finding of the Titanic's resting place on the ocean floor.  Since the book was written only two years after the initial discovery this is where the story ends so none of the future exploration and findings had happened yet.  However, still one of the best books in this series that will remain a timeless classic.



366. Pompeii ... Buried Alive! by Edith Kunhardt. Illustrated by Michael Eagle.
Step Into Reading, Step 4

Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1987, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (7+)

"Bursting with real-life drama, here's a moment-by-moment account--the only one for beginning readers--of the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvius."

Purchased a new copy from an online retailer.

The last "classic" I'm reviewing in this series, was written the same year as Titanic ... Lost and Found.  These easy readers often go out of print very quickly and it says much when one can keep in print for well over twenty years.  Pompeii tells the story of the fateful day that Mount Vesuvius erupted from the perspective of what it must have been like to have seen what was happening had you been there.  A detailed, gripping story that captures the imagination and could possibly send the reader into further exploration of the topic.  Even more intriguing is the jump ahead in time to when Pompeii has been buried and forgotten and Pliny's writings are being read then builders discover walls in the ground.  Eventually more of buried Pompeii is unearthed and a full-scale archaeological dig is underway.  The book explains this process until it reaches the historical, museum-like, tourist site, we have today.  The book ends warning that Vesuvius could erupt again at any time.  Due to the age of the book I checked the current information on this and found a very recent article, Sept. 2013, in which Japanese scientists presented to a volcano conference in Italy that Vesuvius "could erupt again at any time" and the Italian government must have a suitable disaster plan drawn up.  So the books information is still very current up to today.  The only problem I have with this easy reader is that the writing is not quite as good as the previous ones I've recommended as it does talk down to the reader in a way that could easily have been avoided.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

359. Making Contact: Marconi Goes Wireless by Monica Kulling

Making Contact! Marconi Goes Wireless by Monica Kulling. Illustrated by Richard Rudnicki
Rating: (4/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sept 24, 2013, Tundra Books, 32 pgs

Age: (6+)

" The fifth book in Tundra's Great Idea Series, Making Contact! tells the story of Guglielmo Marconi, who became the father of wireless communication. 

 As a boy, Marconi loved science and invention. Born in 1874 in Bologna, Italy, to a wealthy family, Marconi grew up surrounded by books in his father's library. He was fascinated with radio waves and learned Morse code, the language of the telegraph. A retired telegraph operator taught him how to tap messages on the telegraph machine. At the age of twenty, Marconi realized that no one had invented a wireless telegraph. Determined to find a way to use radio waves to send wireless messages, Marconi found his calling. And, thanks to his persistence, on December 12, 1901, for the first time ever, a wireless signal traveled between two continents. The rest is history."

Received a review copy from the author.

I love picture book biographies and this series from Canadian author Monica Kulling is one of my favourites.  This time she features someone more well-known than in the previous books but the invention will be unusual to children of today and yet it will show them the simple beginnings of today's "wireless" technology.  Marconi's story is not particularly exciting but it shows the determination of someone who studied for the joy of it as a child (at home, with tutors) and who had perseverance as a young man to realize the dreams he believed in even when they are slow to be fulfilled.  This book brings with it a new illustrator to the series and I just loved Rudnicki's attention to style and detail, especially the patterns and designs on clothing and fabric.  Another satisfying entry in the Great Ideas series!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1 & Part 2 by Dav Pilkey

358. Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 1: The Night of the Nasty Nostril Nuggets by Dav Pilkey.
Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2003, Scholastic, 175 pgs

Age: (8+)

"George and Harold's latest prank has snotty school brainiac Melvin Sneedly seeing red, and he has a plan to get them back. But when Melvin tries to transform himself into a bionic-powered super boy, things go from bad to worse and the Bionic Booger Boy is born! Will Captain Underpants beat this blobby behemoth of blech, or is the entire world doomed to drown in disgusting nose dribble? "

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

I'll start off by saying this was my least favourite of all the Captain Underpants books so far.  I just didn't find it funny and actually felt sorry for the recurring character who goes a little crazy and turns into the bad guy in this episode.  I don't have much to say.  Kid's will probably go along for the ride easily enough.  What I did like was that Ms. Ribble did indeed keep her new personality as happened in the last book and that when reading these books in order we do find development, both in plot and characterization.  Happily, things turn out for our hapless villain but just as everything is all sorted out there is a big backfire and we are presented with a cliff-hanger ending that starts off the first two-parter in this series.  A good time for the author to introduce something new.




360. Captain Underpants and the Big Bad Battle of the Bionic Booger Boy Part 2: The Revenge of the Ridiculous Robo-Boogers by Dav Pilkey.

Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2003, Scholastic, 175 pgs

Age: (8+)

"Strangely enough Part Two picks up right where Part One left off. Coincidence? Don't think so, after all it is the second part of the cliffhanger and that's where they usually start up again. So the second part of our story begins with robo-boogers and ends with…Ha! We're not telling you that, no spoilers here…just know that this book is a monster-mashin', robo-wranglin', time-travelin', brain-switchin', nose-pickin' good time."

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

Continuing on from Part 1 this book brought the funny back for me.  All the usual devices, which were getting just a tad repetitive, are here but with a funny little spin on them.  There are several 'bad guys' this time around, though I'm still not crazy about the fellow student going maniacal but of course everything is sorted out in the end.  Pilkey reaches out to the adults, who by this time are being forced (heehee) to read these books aloud, with some sideways jokes that adults will get on another level.  I enjoyed "Commander Tomski"!  Good fun all around and Pilkey seems to have started a trend now as this book ends with the set up for the next book.  Not exactly a continuation like this two-parter, but we now know the doom the next book will begin with.  Get ready for Pterodactyls and Purple Potty People!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

354. The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell

The Maid's Version by Daniel Woodrell

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep. 3, 2013, Little, Brown & Co, 176 pgs

Age: (18+)

"Alma DeGeer Dunahew, the mother of three young boys, works as the maid for a prominent citizen and his family in West Table, Missouri. Her husband is mostly absent, and, in 1929, her scandalous, beloved younger sister is one of the 42 killed in an explosion at the local dance hall. Who is to blame? Mobsters from St. Louis? The embittered local gypsies? The preacher who railed against the loose morals of the waltzing couples? Or could it have been a colossal accident?

Alma thinks she knows the answer-and that its roots lie in a dangerous love affair. Her dogged pursuit of justice makes her an outcast and causes a long-standing rift with her own son. By telling her story to her grandson, she finally gains some solace-and peace for her sister. He is advised to "Tell it. Go on and tell it"-tell the story of his family's struggles, suspicions, secrets, and triumphs."

Received a review copy from Hachette Book Group Canada.

There is no sense in me being another reviewer to go on and on about how wonderful a writer Daniel Woodrell is; he just simply is; brilliant and unlike any other modern author.  This is a short book with a simple plot of an old lady retelling an horrific story from the past to her 12-year-old grandson one summer when he stays with her for the first time.  The main narrator is the grandson, grown up, but the book uses one of my favourite devices and that is to have a variety of narrators tell the story from their own point of view.   With the lyrical writing and the fine story this is a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.  We get a look inside the lives of ordinary people; the huge mountains made out of small dilemmas; the backstabbing, the affairs, the jealousy, the gossip, all the ugly things that run rampant in a very small community.  But it is rather ironic how the town's greatest disaster is a secret so simple no one can uncover it.  A good book, but honestly I must say I felt disappointed at the end.  I've read every novel of Woodrell's and this just isn't up to his finest work.  I love the multiple narrators but no one character stands out.  I usually fall in love with Woodrell's characters but there wasn't enough book here for the story.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Step Into Reading: X-Men & Pirate Mom

Two Level 3 Step Into Reading Early Readers


352. Pirate Mom by Deborah Underwood. Illustrated by Stephen Gilpin
Rating: (3.5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

2006, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (6+)

"Yo ho ho! Pete loves pirates, but his mom thinks they are rude and messy. Then Pete and his mom go to see the Amazing Marco, and Marco hypnotizes Pete’s mom into thinking she’s a pirate! Now Pete’s mom won’t behave. She chases the neighbors. She steals underwear off other people’s clotheslines. She’s even flying the Jolly Roger over the house. Pete has to find the Amazing Marco. He wants his real mom back!"

Purchased a used copy from a book sale.

Having never heard of author or illustrator I had no high expectations of this easy reader beginning chapter book.  I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find a fun, imaginative story with a message for both the child and the parent.  The art is also humorous and of the cartoon show quality.  When Pete wishes his mom would play pirates with him he gets way more than he expected after she is hypnotized into believing she is one.  Pete comes out realizing he'd better be careful what he wishes for and thankful for the mum he does have, not the one he wishes for.  Parents themselves can take note to remember that of course you must play with your children but remember to be their parent, not their friend.  If the messages don't hit you, it's still a funny story seeing mom getting into pirate escapades that she is going to have a lot of explaining to do for tomorrow!



355. X-Men: Battle of the Sentinels by Deborah Hautzig. Illustrated by Aristides Ruiz & Josie Yee
Rating: (3/5)

(US) - (Canada) - (UK)
OUT OF PRINT

1994, Random House, 48 pgs

Age: (6+)

"The X-Men rescue the young mutant Jubilee from the Sentinels and offers her safe refuge at the X-Mansion in this exciting, moral-filled crime-fighter story."

Purchased a used copy at a thrift store.

This is an adaptation of an episode of the cartoon show and basically tells the story of how Jubilee came to Professor Xavier's.  It's pretty action-packed and uses every opportunity to name-drop every X-Men team member in existence, giving everybody at least one appearance.  So children needn't worry that their favourite won't show up.  A minor character does die in this book, though there is a slight allusion as to is-he-or-isn't-he, but if the reader is an X-Men fan or watcher of the cartoon show they will know he's not really dead and turns up in the next episode.  What can I say about the book.  It is what it is.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

348. Close to the Heel by Norah McClintock

Close to the Heel by Norah McClintock
Seven: The Series

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Oct 10 2012, Orca Book Publishers, 257 pgs

Age: (13+)

"No one is more surprised than Rennie to hear that his late grandfather, whom he hardly knew, has left a mission for him to fulfill. Rennie is to fly to Iceland and deliver a message from beyond the grave, but when he gets there, nothing is simple or straightforward. For one thing, Brynja, the teenage daughter of the family he's staying with, is downright hostile. Her father Einar, who is to be Rennie's guide in Iceland, is preoccupied with looking after his elderly father-in-law, an old friend of Rennie's grandfather. Bored and a little bit annoyed, Rennie explores the town and becomes aware that the family is dealing with more than their grief over Brynja's mother's death the year before. Before he realizes what is happening, his curiosity puts Rennie in grave danger, with no one to trust and no one to save him except himself. "

Borrowed a copy from my local library.

This is the third book I've read in this series which purports that the books may be read in any order.  So far, I completely agree with that premise and am enjoying picking out books in my own order.  I picked this book next because the previous two books had mentioned this seventh grandson that no one knew and they had been asked to get in touch with him but they didn't.  Also, I have not read this author before, but I have always wanted to as she is an award-winning Canadian author of YA mystery/thrillers.  I was hooked with the first chapter which uses the device of starting at the end where the main character is in a life and death situation.  Then the story starts from the beginning to eventually tell us how he ended up there.  I loved the main character, Rennie and really enjoyed the Iceland setting.  I haven't read many books set in that country that aren't adult thrillers.  The book was quite intense and starts off mysterious almost from the beginning as Rennie stumbles upon both a mysterious death and disappearance.  This book doesn't really concentrate on the grandfather as the other two did.  His story is there but it's just in the background; the main focus here are the crimes and Rennie's relationship with his dad.  The mystery was good quality; I never know what to expect from a YA mystery since I read so many adult thrillers.  However I was caught up in the story and found myself figuring out the mystery only steps ahead of Rennie, including the twist ending ... until the author sprung a second twist that threw Rennie (and me!) for a loop.  I love a surprise like that; it makes for a great mystery!

No other grandsons were mentioned in this book at all so my next pick in the series is really going to be up to topic or author preference.

Monday, November 18, 2013

344. The Blossoms Meet the Vulture Lady by Betsy Byars

The Blossoms Meet the Vulture Lady by Betsy Byars. Illustrated by Jaqueline Rogers
Rating: (4/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1986, Delacorte Press, 134 pgs
Current Publisher: Holiday House

Age: (8+)

"Junior Blossom has set out to test his brand-new invention, a coyote trap. How on earth does he end up lost in a cave with Mad Mary, a.k.a. "the Vulture Lady," while his family attempts to find him in this suspenseful and sidesplitting Blossom Family sequel."

Received a used copy through Bookmooch.

Byars was one of my all-time favourite authors as a kid and I've continued to read her work ever since.  The Blossom series is one of my favourites.  Book 1 was absolutely hilarious and while this book has its funny moments it is more of a poignant story.  Jr. is up to his usual inventing and creating; this time building a coyote trap so he can win the capture reward money.  Only things don't go as planned and Jr. ends up capturing two pitiful creatures, but no coyote.  Jr. meets Mary Cantrell, better known as the Vulture Lady, and even better know in town as Mad Mary, a possible witch.  At first terrified of her, he soon befriends her and finds she is a gentle soul.  The books main theme is friendship, blooming and growing it, this involves Ralphie and Maggie as well, and poor Vern who realizes he doesn't have any friends outside of the family.  It also deals in a subtle way with prejudice and judging people on the way they dress and behave without bothering to know anything about them as a person.  A good fun book and sequel to The Not-Just-Anybody Family.  Not as funny though and contains some childhood practices of the time that wouldn't be exactly advisable for 21st century kids to participate in because of the question of safety in today's world.  Though certainly a nostalgic look back at a more simpler, innocent way of life.  A great series!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

341. The Duel by Alexander Kuprin.

The Duel by Alexander Kuprin.  Translated by Josh Billings.

Rating: (3/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

1905; 2011 Melville House, 306 pgs

Age: (18+)

"An absorbing saga about the brutalities of military life upon its own soldiers. Stranded at a distant outpost, young Romashov finds himself obliged to fight a duel—over something he realizes is meaningless. As the novel hurtles toward a startling conclusion, it reveals itself to be a luminous depiction of the end of an era."

Purchased from the publisher as part of their monthly novella book club.

This was a tough read for me, taking me several weeks to read as I would easily put it down and ended up making myself read something from it every day to complete it.  It's not that I didn't receive any enjoyment from the story but rather that I couldn't connect with it on any level.  For the most part it is the story of a young love-sick soldier in the Russian Tsarist Army.  He visits and pines for a married woman who strings him along and his overdramatic moonings and swoonings are so over the top my eyes hurt from rolling so much.  Secondary to this is the description of how tough, miserable and unfeeling life in the army was for both the soldiers and the officers, though mostly the soldiers at the hands of the officers.  Our main character is an officer and though he is careless and prideful he isn't mean and sees the cruelty that goes on often trying to stop verbal and physical assaults in an unobtrusive way.  The author really was in the army himself and we can see this as a reflection of what it may have actually been like to be in the Tsar's Army, and while it was terrible indeed it didn't strike me as any different than stories of other late 19th century army life.  I enjoyed the army story much, much more than the "love" story.  The ending though I found quite chilling in realizing that this was a book written in the year of the first Russian Revolution.  One character suddenly starts waxing eloquently for several pages on how a glorious change is about to come and like a madman he describes what to him is a Utopia.  To me, it was very chilling indeed, frighteningly so, as he describes how men will become "individualistic", "gods unto themselves", living in peace and me knowing in hindsight the utter slaughter and unequalled killings of their own people Communism brought to Russia.  This "speech" totally turned my stomach but from an historical perspective is certainly an eye-opener!

Friday, November 15, 2013

339. Police by Jo Nesbo. Harry Hole # 10

Police by Jo Nesbo. Translated by Dan Bartlett.
Harry Hole, # 10

Rating: (5/5)

(Kindle) - (US) - (Canada) - (UK)

Sep. 17, 2013, Random House Canada, 518 pgs

Age: (18+)

"The thrilling follow-up to Jo Nesbo's #1 bestseller Phantom.

Several police officers are found murdered at the scene of an old and unsolved murder case that they were involved in investigating. The killings are extremely brutal and bestial. The police have no leads. What's more, they're missing their best investigator. A severely wounded man in a coma is kept alive at a hospital in Oslo. The room is guarded by the police and the identity of the patient is kept secret."

Received a review copy from Random House Canada.

Wow. Wow. Wow.  After Phantom, which left everybody wondering if it was the end of the Harry Hole series, I just didn't think Nesbo could ever outdo himself.  But, my God, he has indeed done just that.  What an absolutely thrilling, horrific serial killer story that both grips the reader with the actual case and progresses the stories of the running characters in this series, especially the troubled Harry Hole.  I do admit I found the start a bit slow, I wondered when we were going to find out where Harry was after we'd left him so suddenly in the last book and it took a while for him to appear. But my impatience was quenched with his arrival and I was floored with the places Nesbo went with the regular characters in this book.  The killer in this book is after the police themselves and gets himself dubbed "The Police Killer".  One of the more gruesome killers in my recent serial killer book reading.  The ending is very good, Nesbo leaves us with a scenario that the series will be continuing with a setup that will be a bit different than the past, a bit of a new direction, but also that though the case has been solved in this book, there are also some loose ends and the next book may perhaps begin with a shocking tragedy (or not). We'll have to see.  Some very fine Nesbo plotting, characterization and just good ol' story telling here!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

345. Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis by Pope John Paul II

Sunday's Christian Book Review

Catholic Edition


Original Unity of Man and Woman: Catechesis on the Book of Genesis by Pope John Paul II. Preface by Donald W. Wuerl

Rating: (5/5)

(US) - Out of Print
Original text available free at the Vatican (minus extensive footnotes added to book)

1981, St. Paul Books & Media, 178 pgs +index

Age: (18+)

"This "Catechesis on the Book of Genesis" was presented by His Holiness in his weekly general audiences from September 5, 1979, to April2, 1980. Pope John Paul II explains that these reflections " sprang from the answer given by Jesus. to His questioners (Gospel of Matthew 19:3-9; and of Mark10:1-12), who had asked Him a question about marriage, its indissolubility and unity. The Master had urged them to consider carefully that which was 'from the beginning.'

"We, penetrating the simple content of this answer, are trying at the same time to shed light on the context of that 'beginning' to which Christ referred. The theology of the body has its roots in it. "Precisely for this reason, in the series of our meditations, we have tried to reproduce somehow the reality of the union, or rather of the communion of persons, lived 'from the beginning' by the man and the woman.''

A friend was clearing out some books and I received this as a result.

It's absolutely impossible to review a book like this.  Pope JPII was a brilliant man and this book is full of wisdom and enlightenment.  What follows is a brief description and how I felt reading the book.  This is a collection of the Pope's Wednesday general audiences from Sept. 5, 1979 to Apr. 2, 1980.  His theme of discussions are based on Jesus' response to the Pharisees in both Mark and Matthew when questioned about Moses' Law allowing divorce.  In Matthew he answers "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female..." and also "... your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so...".  The Pope takes the phrase from these words, "in the beginning" and takes us back to the beginning to show us what Jesus meant by these words.  The whole book is an examination of mankind, humanness, male and female, marriage and our relationship to each other as God intended it "in the beginning".  The book concentrates on certain passages from Genesis 1-4, before the fall of man; that is before original sin.  This is the time of original innocence and what God's intentions for sinless man were.  The book covers such a small part of scripture and yet contains so much information it is impossible for me to do it justice here.

There are many absolutely "WOW" moments that just hit me on the head with the pure logic and common sense of God's creation of man (male and female).  A lot of time is spent on one concept which I found enlightening and that is the meaning of the creation of man and woman as separate sexes.  As always I find in my study of Scripture just how important it is to understand the meaning of the original Hebrew (OT) or Latin (NT) words before they were translated into English.  There are three words used in the Hebrew for man; first "man" itself which refers to mankind, humankind, human beings, it is a genderless word and, in English, was also understood to be so when used in a certain way (until feminism reared its ugly head).  In the OT this Hebrew word is not ever used again to refer to Adam once Eve is created.  Adam and Eve, themselves basically mean "man-male" and "man-female" and this is how Pope John Paul II refers to the genders throughout the book.  He then goes on to explain through this book why God created the two sexes, why they were created for each other, how they are meant to be together through marriage "as one flesh" so that they "are no longer two but one".  That the creation of the "man-female" was a gift that made the total of creation "good".  Looking at this relationship as God intended it "in the beginning", before the fall, as Jesus calls us to do in the NT is incredibly powerful, awesome and mind-blowing.  The book is not an easy read and when I was only half-way through, I knew this would be a re-read for me as I was being filled with such information that I wouldn't be able to fully intake it all in only one reading.

No mention is made in this book whatsoever of any circumstances of behaviour contrary to Natural Law, however, one cannot help but read this in the 21st century and boggle at how far from the "original unity" of the sexes this current (western) society has fallen.  The absolute beauty of the gift and man's objective to eventually reach agape love with his spouse is no longer understood or even remotely comprehended by modern society.