Sunday, August 24, 2014

LONE SURVIVOR by Marcus Luttrell




Marcus Luttrell with Patrick Robinson, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10 (Little, Brown and Company, 2007).



Also available on Kindle and Nook and Audio CD.



(NON-FICTION)

Reviewed by Kevin A. Penrod, Jr.

            Lone Survivor is by far the best book I have ever read. And people who know me know that says a lot considering the number of books I read. You might know this title due to the film adaptation that was released earlier this year. I have now read the book twice front to back, and seen the movie.
            Lone Survivor is the eyewitness account from Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell of operation Redwing and his friends of SEAL Team 10 that gave their lives to save his. This book gives an amazing insight into the training, endurance, and dedication it takes to be a Navy SEAL. During a mission to take out a Taliban leader, Marcus Luttrell and his team of 3 other brave men were discovered in the hills of Afghanistan by some goat herders, one of whom was a kid. After some debate they decided so as to not face the media firestorm back home to let them go. Soon after that, the Taliban leader they were sent to take out sent an entire army up into the hills to kill them. After a long gunfight follows, the SEALS slid down the side of a cliff twice and were shot numerous times (one of the SEALs was shot 10 times before going down). Marcuss' best friend went out onto an open ridge to call for help knowing it meant the end of his own life. Marcuss was the last one left alive.
            This book, in my opinion, should be required reading in schools. It is the ultimate testament to the brave men and women who fight for this country. I don't recommend it to younger readers or those faint of heart. No manly games during the movie and both times I read the book I cried like a baby. It is a fantastic book. I highly recommend it. If for no other reason read this book to know the story and to honor the brave men who lost their lives in those mountains, men such as:
                        Petty Officer Matthew Axelson
                        Lieutenant Michael Murphy
                        Petty Officer Danny Dietz
                        Lieutenant Commander Erik Kristensen
                        Chief Petty Officer Dan Healy
                        Shane Patton
                        Petty Officer First Class Jeff Taylor
            We will never forget these American heroes or the major lesson of this story. Never forget and never quit. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

THE THEFT OF THE VIRGIN by John Scherber



THE THEFT OF THE VIRGIN by John Scherber

John Scherber, The Theft of the Virgin (San Miguel Allende Books, 2012).

Also available on Kindle.





(MYSTERY)

Reviewed by Wilda Morris

When I visit a city, especially outside the US, I enjoy reading novels set in that location. In the shop of the Biblioteca in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico (the library with the second largest collection of books in English in all of Mexico), I found a series of mysteries set in that fascinating city. I should have selected the first in the series of Paul Zacher mysteries, Twenty Centavos, but The Theft of the Virgin, the ninth one, was a bit lighter, and I had already purchased several books (i.e., my suitcase was getting heavy!). As with most such series, later books give away some things that happened in earlier books.

I was in San Miguel de Allende (SMA) to attend The San Miguel Poetry Week (http://www.sanmiguelpoetry.com/) and to enjoy the many delights of the old colonial city and its environs, so I read only the first few pages while I was there. I finished the rest on the flight back to Illinois. The main characters in the series are Paul Zacher, Maya Sanchez, and Cody Williams. Paul is an American expat living in SMA. Like many expats there, Paul is an artist, or more specifically, a painter. In Twenty Centavos, he got pulled into the investigation of the murder of an antique dealer, and he has been investigating crimes ever since. His Mexican girlfriend, Maya Sanchez, has become the manager of the Paul Zacher Detective Agency. She is beautiful and witty. She unhappy when Paul gets her into dangerous situations although she is very good at dealing with them. Cody is another American expat, a retired detective. The characters three-dimensional and interesting.

Much of the story takes place in SMA, where who knows what (or who) lurks behind the omnipresent high privacy walls. Dr. Bernard Glass heads the Vergruen Reference Collection, a collection of fakes of paintings by the old masters. Glass exhibits his collection (or parts of it) in various cities around the world and makes presentations on how to recognize forgeries. When the exhibit of fakes comes to Belles Artes in San Miguel, Paul is astonished to discover that the Georges de la Tour painting titled St. Jerome is the genuine article, not a fake at all. He goes to Texas to inform Dr. Glass, only to discover he is a man who taught art history (under a different name) at Miami University in Ohio when Paul was a student there. Dr. Glass dismisses him out of hand. Paul is quite certain the painting is genuine because it is one he studied deeply and copied during his student years.

Paul goes to the Minneapolis Academy of Art where he meets with the executive assistant to the director, to inform her that the Academy is showing a forgery, while the real painting by de la Tour is being shown in an exhibit of fakes. A break-in at Belles Artes results in the disappearance of the painting and—this being a mystery—a murder. To find out what happens next, you will have to read this fast-paced book.

Scherber works in details of the history of Mexico (especially SMA), descriptions of parts of the city, and art history. Far from slowing down the story, these details enliven it. I plan to read more of the series, starting with Twenty Centavos.
 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

COMING HOME: A STORY OF UNDYING HOPE by Karen Kingsbury



Karen Kingsbury, Coming Home:  A Story of Undying Hope (The Baxter Family) (Zondervan, 2012).

Karen Kingsbury, Coming Home: The Baxter Family, Audiobook read by Gabrielle de Cuir and Stefan Rudnicki (Zondervan.com, 2012)

Also available on Nook and Kindle.


(FICTION)
Reviewed by Wilda Morris

When I was given the CDs of Coming Home: The Baxter Family, I was not familiar with the novels of Karen Kingsbury, although she has been at the top of the charts in the field of Christian fiction. Thus, when I put Coming Home in the CD player in my car, I had no idea that  Kingsbury had featured members of the Baxter family in fourteen previous books (The Redemption Series, The Firstborn Series, and the Sunrise Series). If you think you might like to read or listen to Coming Home, you might want to read the earlier books first. Coming Home is a “stand-alone” book that you can understand without having read the others, but it gives away much of what happens in the earlier volumes.

There was a major problem with listening to Coming Home while I was literally “coming home”—driving from Green Lake, Wisconsin to my home to Illinois: crying and driving are not really compatible activities. The story provides a lot to cry about.

The set-up for Coming Home is that John Baxter is about to celebrate his seventieth birthday. One daughter wants to bring all her siblings and their spouses to her home in Indiana to celebrate with him. She thinks the best gift would be for each of John’s children to write a letter to their dad, telling him what he has meant to them.

As the novel switches focus from one branch of the family to another, old family secrets (revealed in earlier Baxter family novels) come to light in a way that makes me suggest that this book might be considered an epilogue for Kingsbury’s Baxter family books. Each character relives old experiences of joy and loss, and of times they let their father down and found him unwilling to give up on any of them.

The birthday party does not go off as planned, because . . . . well, should I give it away? Let’s just say the books deals with a lot of loss. In addition to the question of why God allows tragedy, the book takes on such issues as jealousy, organ donation, open and closed adoption, sex outside of marriage, forgiveness, and redemption. For all the sorrow in the book, there is also joy. As members of the Baxter family deal with loss, they have their weak moments, but in the end, lean on each other and their shared faith to get through difficult days.

Kingsbury is a best-selling author, beloved (I have since learned) by readers of Christian fiction, and is a highly-regarded speaker. Her book Like Dandelion Dust was made into a major motion picture. Besides the fact that the book kept making me cry, it was a bit preachier than I prefer. There is no question, though, that Kingsbury’s books are well-written and “wholesome.”