Thanksgiving (Day 18)

I’m thankful today for something that is very earthy and ordinary and temporary. I’m thankful for the TV Show Band of Brothers (my favorite only after Firefly). 

I’m so thankful for this weekend when I get to share it with a dear friend. This show resparked my love of WW2 history and reinforced my love of the brotherhood of warriors.

And now, I get to share it with someone else!!!! I swear I will try to keep random Band of Brothers facts to myself. 

Let the viewing begin. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

So many Books… where to begin???

Courtesy of Google.

Courtesy of Google.

13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi

By Mitchell Zuckoff

For a long time, I’ve wanted to know more about what happened in Benghazi. Good reviews of the movie pushed me to go see this exhausting 2.5 hour battle. From it, I learned there was a book, which I wanted to read right away trusting it to provide more details and the facts. I’m happy to report that this book was truly honored by the movie. The movie didn’t follow it perfectly, but very closely. In fact, it may be one of the closest book to movie adoptions I’ve ever seen.
This book doesn’t seek to make a political statement. All it does is recount, from the perspective of the men there, what happened in Benghazi. It shows their doubts and their courage as they seek to do the right thing even while they’re cut off and without any support.
Much of what they said reminded me of similar situations in Lone Survivor and American Sniper. If you enjoyed those books, you’ll enjoy this too.
This is an event in American history that can’t be lost or forgotten. Read the book. See the movie.

I thankful these men spoke out, told their story, set an example of American courage in a time where that seems to be fading. I thankful I got to read the book.

Rated R: Language, violence, intense situations.


The Importance of Being Ernest

By Oscar Wilde

Many of the books I’ve been reading are heavy in their subject matter. I needed a break, something lighter. In dances this delightful play by Wilde. I’ve seen the movie before and loved it. The play is no difference. It is a tale of love, mistaken identity, a lost child, and well… the importance of the name Ernest.

I highly recommend this clever fun story.

Rated G: General hilariousness.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

By Nathaniel Philbrick

I’m not a huge fan of Moby Dick, but I like the ocean, ships, whales, and history. Most of the reviews I’ve heard about the movie say that it’s boring, but since it includes some things if find interesting, I decided to read up on a bit. That’s when I discovered the truly interesting thing about this story isn’t the whale attack… its the cannibalism.

This is an easy to read re-counting of the horrors of survive by a group of men. The captain fails them and the first mate proves the stronger man, but his life ends with him going insane.

If you enjoy some of the more unique situations in history, you should check this story out. It’s a true story with plenty of horror and an interesting study of humanity when all that lies between you and death is the body of a friend.

If your teen is working through Moby Dick, this would be an excellent companion piece.

Rated: PG-13: intense and gruesome subject matter.


Dachau 29 April 1945: The Rainbow Liberation Memoirs

By Sam Dann

I read a lot of WW2 related books and have always been interested in the history of the war. Because of this, I’ve wanted to include different aspects of it in my own stories. I have part of the plot and scene where some men come across a holocaust type setting. As I worked on it, my sister suggested I read this book as research to get a sense of what it would be like walking into a concentration camp and liberating it.

This book is a series of short memoirs written by the Rainbow Division that freed Dacha on April 29 1945. Because each memoir is about the same event from a different soldiers perspective, there is a lot of overlap. This did require some plowing through as you read and reread and reread about the same events with very little new information. I did feel like it was important to read each individual account. The terrible atrocities that happened shouldn’t be made light of or forgotten.

If you are a studied of WW2 history, I highly recommend this book.

Rate PG-13: Subject matter.


The Last of the Doughboys: The Forgotten Generation and Their Forgotten World War

By Richard Rubin

Richard Rubin has done us a great service in his collection of stories from the last of the doughboys. He spent several years interview men and women well into their 100s, recording and researching the times they spent fighting WW1.

I read this through Audible and really enjoyed the narrator.

What a huge amount of history these people experienced and what a wonder to listen to them talk about it. I can’t recommend this book enough. From men who got in right before the end, to African Americans, women, and men who went on to live very colorful and amazing lives, this book covers it all.

I was struck intently by their stories, especially the man who at one point couldn’t remember his Father’s name. Heartbreaking.

There are stories here that will make you laugh, cry, and cringe.


Rated PG: real life, war, history


One Ranger: A Memoir

By H. Joaquin Jackson and David Marion Wilkinson

I think this quick and easy read should be mandatory for every Texan, and probably every teenage boy.

It tracks the life of Joaquin Jackson, one of the last of the real frontier Texas Rangers from his early life as a ranch hand, to watching his son be convicted of murder, and several of the high-profile cases he worked, and some of his more interesting ones.

I think what I loved most about it was his love for Texas and the honor and respect he paid to the Rangers he served with and who came before him. It is also fascinating to here his perspective on some of the troubling times in the 60’s and 70’s with race and drugs. More than that, it’s nice to read of real men with guns and spurs. 🙂

The part where he goes through the list of guns he always carried was amazing. He could easily qualify as World’s Most Interesting Man.

Rated PG-13: mild language, some intense descriptions of crimes and murders


Through the Valley of the Kwai: From Death-Camp Despair to Spiritual Triumph or To End all Wars

By Ernest Gordon

I’ve wanted to read this book for a very long time and I wasn’t disappointed. The subject matter is rough ( death-camp run by the Japanese) but the payoff of hope and Christianity is so beautiful that it is well worth it. A wonderful biography.

And yes, I almost didn’t return my Library’s 1st Edition copy.

And yes, this book will greatly influence the plot of my own book.

Rated PG-13: Gruesome details about death camps.


Heart Cries to Heaven: A Book of Payers

By David Campbell and Sara Leone

I used this book during my morning devotions and found it very encouraging to read a Godly man’s prayers. Writing down our prayers is not something that I think many of us think about, but it can be an excellent source of hope and also educational.


(Remember, if any of these books catch your eye, just click on the link to head over to Amazon. I receive a small kick back for this, so you can think of it as supporting me if you enjoy this blog. THANK YOU!)


Brothers in Valor, The Prayer of a Broken Heart, and The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology

(Courtesy of Google.)

(Courtesy of Google.)

Brothers in Valor by Michael O. Tunnell

I almost put this book down because the writing needed work. At first I couldn’t get my brain to stop editing the sentence structures and word choice. Even though it was 1st person, I couldn’t get into the head of the main character. I couldn’t even picture him, and keeping track of him and his two friends wasn’t easy. About to give up, I looked it up on Goodreads to see if everyone else had this same problem. All the ratings were very high. Curious, I Wiki-ed the side character and totally spoiled the story for myself. But, that one spoiler drove me to finish the book.
This is the story of three boys in Germany who stand up to the Nazis and pay a stiff price for their bravery.
I still wouldn’t claim it to be the best written book I’ve read, but the story was gripping. It showed what life was like for Germans during the war, the pressure to toe the line, and the persecution of not only Jews but other religions. It’s not detailed but it is chilling. It is also a reminder that no matter how young a person is they can be brave and stand up for others. Children and teens aren’t incapable of understanding, nor are they incapable of fighting. If you want a MG-YA book where teens don’t mope around in their bedrooms, this is a good place to start.
Parental Warnings/Talking: The main characters are Mormon. The book never suggests this is anything but true Christianity. There is a fair amount of violence. Not graphic but still there.

Rated: PG

(Courtesy of Solid Ground Christian Books)

(Courtesy of Solid Ground Christian Books)

The Prayer of a Broken Heart: Expository Discourses on Psalm 51 by Robert S. Candlish

I enjoyed this little book expositing Psalm 51. It was both convicting and encouraging as it delved into the different aspects of the Psalm. There was only one point I disagreed with doctrinally: at one point Candlish explained something as being entirely based on a deep emotion. He spent two pages talking about the deep emotional joy that was unexplainable. I can’t imagine that being very helpful for someone struggling with sin or in the process of repenting. I wish he had expounded more of that section with the truth and less with emotion. Other than that one part, the book was a delight to read.

Rated: G

(Courtesy of Google.)

(Courtesy of Google.)

The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology by Pascal Denault

Well, this may be the first book this in-depth and technical that I’ve managed to finish! Denault’s writing is easy to read and fairly easy to follow, though I think sitting through several of his lectures during our conference last year helped. I don’t think this book would necessarily convince a Pedobaptist to become a Baptist, but it is very encouraging to someone of like mind…like me. I’m thankful for the work Denault put into researching and tracking the Baptist distinctiveness. I don’t think I followed every argument, but I followed more than I expected. I would highly recommend this book to those looking for their Baptist roots, and for those seeking to understand the covenants.

(If you follow the links above they will take you to Amazon where you can purchase these books which will gives me a small tip. Thank you in advance!)

Five Children on the Western Front, The Village, and Valkyrie

Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders

I grew up devouring E. Nesbit’s children’s stories. She is probably one of my biggest subconscious influences as a writer. In a random article, I heard about this sequel to Five Children and It, which was for obvious reasons (I’m one of five) one of my favorites,  and just had to read it.
After Amazon had to order it from London, I was able to snuggle in with this book.  I cried in the first chapter and several times through.  This amazing book captures perfectly what it’s like as siblings in a large family growing up and trying to hold onto their love for each other while also going their own ways by reintroducing the magic of their childhood to the youngest two.
This amazing book tackles beautifully the horrors of WW1 through the life and magic of the family. You see the war through the magic and also through its effects on the family.
If you grew up with the Five Children you must read this book…just keep a box of tissues at hand.

Rated PG: Adult Issues because of the war.

The Village by Bing West

Sometimes it seems like there are no positive stories about brave warriors from the Vietnam war. There is no praise offered up to the men who fought in the war and no honoring of their acts and valor.

This book goes against the Vietnam grain and tells the story of a group of marines who live, sweat, laugh, love and die in a Vietnam village protecting it from the Viet Con. Not a long book, or overly challenging, it never the less pays honor and homage to these men.

I really enjoyed the book. It was well written, straight-forward, not to gory or gross, but offered a balanced and honest view of life in the Vietnam war. I found it fascinating to read about how the Americans had to learn what the Vietnamese considered a victory or a defeat. They weren’t always in agreement. The soldiers learned to work beside the villagers, trust them, and help them. The soldiers loved the village and protected it at all cost. It was wonderful to read a real life story about Vietnam not reduced down to hate.

This is a great story about some real American heroes.

Rated R: violence, sex, language.

Valkyrie: the story of the plot to kill Hitler, by its last member by Philip Freiherr Von Boeselager

I really enjoyed this book from the perspective of the story I’m writing, because I have a character who is on the “wrong” side of the war and decides to stay because of his men. Philip Boeselager was in the cavalry in WW2 under the command of his brother part of the time and also part of the plot to assassinate Hitler. He didn’t flee the country. He didn’t abandon his men. But he also didn’t stand by while horrible things where happening.

Told by the last living member of Operation Valkyrie, this book takes you through the life of Philipp and his brother Georg as German officers in WW2. It is touching, sad, inspiring, and wonderful to know that some Germans did stand up against the Nazis and all they tried to do.

I found it very interesting to learn that one of the leading men in the plot against Hitler was a Protestant. He believed very keenly that they must try to the very end to assassinate Hitler so that the world would know the Germans hadn’t all agreed with him. He pushed them forward when they thought about quitting by reminding them of the number of people dying every day under Hitler.

Another interesting point was their understanding that Hitler’s death wasn’t enough. They also knew they had to deal with the SS which coincides with stories you hear from the end of the war about Allies and Germans fighting the SS together.

Much of the story takes place on the Russian front which I haven’t. read much about. According to this book, there were Russians joining the Germans so they could fight against communism. That’s not something you hear about very often.

I think I read this book in about two hours. It would work well for a high school student wanting to flesh out their understanding of the war.

Rated: PG-13: not graphic, just war. No sex. No major language.


Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer

I’ve had a hard time trying to figure out what to say about this book. It is like the pinnacle of all slice of life stories as it follows Sam Damon from boyhood through WWI, WW2, and Vietnam. When you finish reading it there is a hollow in your heart from living a whole other life for a time. The writing style of this book is superb. I could recommend it on that alone. Myrer’s battle scenes are beautiful in their terror, horror, and glory.  His descriptions, both short and long, paint the picture of events in vivid words dripping with sweat, blood,and tears. His characters are diverse, broken, and glorious. Sam is the hero of the book but much of his tale is told from the point of view of those around him providing the reader with a 3-D view of the world.
I will admit that the WW2 section is my favorite, no surprise there, but it is also the hardest part to read.
If you are a history buff especially of modern military history, I can’t recommend this massive book enough. Go read it. Then you too can walk around feeling lost for a few days. 🙂

Content Warning: This is a story about sinful people living life. It’s not clean and it’s not pretty, but I do think Myrer did a good job of not wallowing in the darker moments of the story. It is full of Adult Content (war, military life, married life, unfaithful spouses, unfaithful friends, death, drugs.) and the reading level is pretty high, so college age and up would be my recommendation. I think it’s one of those books that could be wasted on high schoolers. I know I never would have appreciated it when I was a teen.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

unbroken-m_1802886f“When he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the divine love that he believed had intervened to save him.” – Laura Hillenbrand

Some books stick with you.  They are taskmasters while you read them, constantly interrupting your thoughts, your day, demanding you set aside everything you must and want to do to read them.  They are dangerous books, not because of their content, but because they become part of your makeup.  They weave their story, borne up on words, into your psyche.  They become a part of you.  If someone wants to know the real you, they must at some point understand these books.

Every story haunts us one way or the other.  Some are gentle hauntings – a general sense of warmth, a remembered character, a soft smile when they’re mentioned – like Christopher Robin, or Bilbo.  Other books rip us apart with their hauntings – a cold sense of horror, characters we wish to forget, a shudder when they’re mentioned – like Manhunter by John Douglas, or Whispers by Dean Koontz.  Some bind us to those around us with their hauntings – a laugh knowing we all know, fans who name their kids after characters, an easy subject to discuss with strangers when they’re mentioned – like Harry Potter.

Taskmaster books go deeper.  They whisper to you when you pass them on the shelf.  They line your mind with both joy and sorrow.  With them comes enlightenment, horror, peace, the world seen through a new light.  These books have lines that become your lines.  These stories become your stories, the ones you take out and share in a hurried whisper with a close friend.  They’re above fan-bases.  Sometimes, often, they’re above becoming movies, though it’s attempted, but something’s lost in the translation between word and film.  These books haunt their readers in all the ways other books attempt to.  They are gentle, ripping, and binding.  These are the kind of books every author wants to pen.

Over the last few years, I’ve come across a small handful of these books out of the hundreds I’ve read:

  • Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
  • The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  • L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
  • With the Old Breed by EB Sledge
  • The Killing Zone by Frederick Downs Jr.

They demanded to be read over everything else going on in my life.  They stuck with me, stuck in the back of my heart and mind weaving their stories into mine.  Lord of the Rings and Watership Down did the same thing when I first read them.

I came across a new one the other day.  It might prove to be only the gentle haunting, not the ripping and binding ones as well.  I’m not sure yet.  Right now, it feels like one of these great books.  It’s Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.  This is the story of a mischievous troublemaker, Louis Zamperini, whose older brother encouraged him to take up running to keep him in school and to channel his energy.  He became an Olympic Athlete.  Then WW2 started.  Zamperini’s story takes him literally out of the frying pan and into the fire.  After his plane goes down over the Pacific, he spends over 40 days at sea in a life raft, only to be ‘rescued’ by the Japanese.  Now his real trials began.  He spends several years in POW camps facing starvation and torture.  His family and friends don’t know if he’s alive or dead.  Zamperini remains unbroken through all these trials until he comes home.  Nightmares haunt him.  He drinks.  He destroys his family.  Life seems without hope.  But God.  And that’s all I’m gonna say.  You’re just going to have to read the book!

Unbroken is not a happy story, but it is a joyful story.  It reminded me of The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom (another haunting, stick-in-your-head story).  Not a happy story, but a rich story full of joy.

I think this story will stick with me because it is a wonderful picture of God’s grace in man’s darkest hour.  I think it will haunt me because I now know how many soldiers died just trying to learn to fly planes, and how harsh life was as a Japanese POW, but even there Christ had his children.  It will inspire me because even in the darkest of these moments, our soldiers and the allied soldiers still fought the war in their own small ways.  It will remain a part of me because so many of these men came home broken, but so many of them came home strong.  It will become part of me because it was such a vivid picture of God pursuing a sinner to the very bitterest end, through shark-infested waters, sadistic prison wardens, and broken souls.  God never let Louis be, not once.

Historically, this book is wonderful just because of the breadth of its scope.  The details are rich, well researched, and vivid.  Laura Hillenbrand is a masterful writer.  I have struggled with how to rate it.  It is fairly clean, but the subject matter is very rough just by its nature.  It would be a great book to have your children read when they study WW2, but I would probably regulate it to High School.  It has a few moments of “adult content” which are minor but still there, and graphic descriptions of the horrors faced by our soldiers.

Unbroken.  When I started this book I had no idea the journey it would take me on.  I had no idea how much I would come to love this man, Louis Zamperini.  I had no idea how vivid the grace of God would be.  Someday, I believe I will meet Mr. Zamperini.  Not here….but in heaven at the feet of Christ.  Maybe I’ll get to tell him how much he encouraged me, at which point I’m sure he’ll say it wasn’t him, but Christ and Christ alone.