Archive for the ‘Book Review’ Category

I’m still posting book reviews from my Memorial Day Weekend.

First Seals The Untold Story of the Forging of America S Most Elite Unit

Patrick K O Donnell.  First Seals: The Untold Story of the Forging of America’s Most Elite Unit.  Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, October 28th, 2014. 320 pp.

The title of the book could be somewhat misleading.  One might think this is a book on the early history of the US Navy SEALs which began its origin with the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) during World War Two.  Typically most books on the history of the SEALs trace their lineage to the UDTs.  Instead this book focuses the Office of Strategic Services’ Maritime Unit (MU).  After getting over the initial expectation that this was going to be about the SEALs or the UDT the book turned out to be an amazing account of the men and the operations of Maritime Unit that was much ahead in their days of Naval commando operations even compated to their contemporary UDTs with the MU’s advance technological breathing masks, sea-to-land direct actions, parachuting capabilities, support for partisan fighters behind enemy lines, sabotage and advanced reconnaissance.  Like the modern SEALs of today the role of those in the MU were at times blurred from land and sea operations.  This book tells the incredible stories of these men that read like a novel.  The most harrowing account in the book is the story of Navy Lt. Jack Taylor who was captured by the Nazis deep within enemy lines and was sent to a concentration camp.  Taylor was marked for death many times by the Nazis but camp clerks who were made up of prisoners themselves kept on erasing his name and/or going in line ahead of him whenever the Nazis gathered people to be killed.  Many of these European prisoners wanted Taylor to be alive so that America and Western Europe would have an American witness of the Camp’s atrocities and therefore convinced the West that the Holocaust was real.  It made me tear up seeing how those in the Concentration Camp can act almost like animals in survival mode but somehow in the midst of the all the salvage brutality the all too human concern for truth and justice manage to come out.  This is an incredibly good book.

Purchase: Amazon

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I am reviewing this book late at night in the last few hours on Memorial Day. Back in the Fight The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up

Joseph Kapacziewski.  Back in the Fight: The Explosive Memoir of a Special Operator Who Never Gave Up.  New York, NY: St. Martin Press, May 7th, 2013. 304 pp.

This is quite the autobiography of the only Army Ranger serving in direct combat operations with a prosthetic limb.  The Army Rangers are a part of the United States Special Operation Forces which makes it no easy task for someone recovering from massive combat injuries and missing a leg.  Sergeant First Class Kapacziewski tells this story because in his own words he wants to reach and encourage other wounded soldiers to continue forward and not give up.  I think his story is worth reading even for those who were not injured—and even those that didn’t serve.

The first thing that struck me reading this book is the fact that this guy is my age.  We both graduated the same year.  We both joined the military around the same time.  Both of us found early in our military career to be the point which we can point to and see we have grown up and became a man.  But that’s probably where any similarities end since Kapacziewski is a much tougher man than I’ll ever be.  I appreciated reading his story because here is a story about my military generation.  The one who woke up one morning and saw 9/11 on TV and knew we have to do something about it.  Kapacziewski represent the young Americans that goes against the grain of what people often associate with Millennials as being self-centered and self-absorbed: He has had more than his fair share of combat with ten combat deployments under his belt of which five deployments was after he has loss his leg from an enemy grenade.  The guy was probably not even thirty years old when he started writing this book.

I appreciated the book having his wife share her side of the story as well.  Especially the part after Kapacziewski was wounded in which she as an Army wife took care of him in the hospital.  This was probably the hardest portion of the book—she’s a hero in my book in a day and age where talks of marriage commitment is cheap and the many no-fault divorces that proves it.  It takes a special woman to be a wife of a service member—who live by the creed of “in sickness and in health.”

I learned a few things about the Army Rangers as well.  I’ll be honest, I’m an ignorant Marine.  Before this book I thought Ranger School was the same thing as the Ranger Indoc Program.  I didn’t know that there were so few Rangers even though I knew beforehand that there are only three Battalions of them.  I didn’t know the Rangers deploy typically for three months and it makes sense their shorter deployments with all the dangers they face in their late night raids of high value targets.  I’ve appreciated Rangers before and now I appreciate them so much more after the book.

I’m glad that there are warriors like Kapacziewski who stand against those who are evil and radical terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For Kapacziewski it is not about himself and his injuries but about being with something higher than himself and specifically the Rangers.  I think the fact speaks for itself in that the author spent over half of the book discussing about the Rangers and his fellow soldiers before ever getting to the terrible combat injury that made him lost his foot.  He spend more time talking about his pre-injury deployment in the book than he did his painful road of recovery.

What’s in it for the Christian?

As I am reviewing this book for a Christian blog one might ask what in it for the Christian to read this book.  First off, this book will remind you that there are really such thing as evil men who wants to murder innocent people.  Christians must never sugarcoat our view of reality and be reminded that wickedness is real.  Secondly, Romans 13 talks about honoring those who are in Government.  This is one way you can have a greater appreciation for some of the sacrifices elite Special Operators will endure to serve the country.  Thirdly, there are passages in the New Testament that call Christians to serve God faithfully like soldiers.  A book like this will give a glimpse of what that kind of radical commitment of soldiering looks like.

I recommend the book for all adults.

Purchase: Amazon

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Note I am reviewing this book in light of it being a Memorial Day holiday.  I am thankful and indebt to the men and women who have died defending our country.No Hero Mark Owen

Mark Owen. No Hero: The Evolution of a Navy SEAL.  New York, NY: Penguin Group, May 20th, 2014. 304 pp.

The author was among the SEALs who participated in the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.  I have previously read and reviewed his earlier controversial book titled No Easy Day that gave his firsthand account of the famous raid.  In this second book the author moves beyond Operation Neptune and covers his story including his personal childhood growing up in Alaska and his determination to be a SEAL at an early age.  The book also covered his decade plus experience of being a SEAL operator.  This is a book that will make the readers appreciate the fact that there are men defending our country and stand in the line of fire against evil men around the world.

The book opens up with a prologue titled “Forty Names.”  Here he tells us about him being home and hearing about the helicopter containing another squadron of SEAL Team Six that was shot down  not too long after the Bin Laden raid.  I thought this opening was a sobering reminder that what one is about to read is not just some fictional adventure but true stories of the men who risked it all in defense of our country.

The chapters in the book were written in such a way as to impart to the readers lessons the author learn that was also relevant for everyday life.  As someone who was in the Marines and never liked height the best chapter that stuck with me is chapter three on fear in which Owen tells us of his rock climbing training in Nevada.  Owen is also someone who does not like heights and during the rock climbing exercise he experienced a moment in which he froze.  The civilian “billy goat” instructor climbed over to him and gave him an advice that changed his life: Don’t look at the things that he can’t control but rather stay “in your three foot world.”  Focus on the things that you can have some control over.  This helped him not only with his immediate rock climb but also other areas of life in the SEALs.  I thought this was very helpful for life in general!

I also enjoyed his chapter on the importance of communication in which he talked about after action report and how that helped the SEALs community to implement lessons learned.  He also had a good chapter about accountability and relationships.  I loved how he described the closeness of his SEAL team and contrasted that with the one mission he went alone with the CIA in Pakistan and just how much displeasure he had with the CIA’s culture of everyone for himself and the politics within that agency.

Also interesting was his chapter on compartmentalization towards the end of the book in which he talked about killing.  He shares about how after many so many deployments soon he was having difficulties sleeping when he came back home and felt the need to go to his SEAL locker cage to prep his gear for the next mission.  His account of being alert for danger and the messed up thing he saw is something other combat veterans could relate to and I thought it was important he shared this so that over veterans who were not with Special Operations Forces can realize that they too are humans (though of course tough ones).

Read this to appreciate the men and women who serve—especially those who were in combat and those in combat with Special Operation Forces such as the SEALs.

Purchase: Amazon

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Note: We post this review of this Graphic Novel in the week before Memorial Day so as to remember those who have served in the military and have lost their lives.  Also, this review is part of our . Harlem HellFighter Max Brooks

Max Brooks and Caanan White. The Harlem Hellfighters.  New York, NY: Broadway Books, 2014. 257 pp.

Ever since I read Gene Yang’s Boxers and Saints I have been trying to find Graphic Novels that are something of the same caliber: good storytelling with a good eye for historical details.  I admit it has not been easy find works that matches those criteria.  Fortunately The Harlem Hellfighters is one of them.  Max Brooks and his illustrator Caanan White presents to us a fictional account of the US Army’s 369th Infantry Regiment which was an African American unit during World War One.  I enjoyed the story telling of this Graphic Novel.  As a veteran I liked how the book also covered the build up with training up to the war.  As many veterans know, the military will always have logistical and supply nightmare and this book tells it as it is with the additional factor of being discriminated upon because the members of the 369th Infantry were Blacks.  From soldiers being beaten up in a town outside of the base they were training in at the south, to the lack of a New York parade send off that their fellow Infantry Regiments in the Division was able to participle in along with working as if they were a “labor battalion” instead of an combat unit in the beginning of the war, these soldiers faced an uphill challenge to prove themselves and when the time for combat came they performed beyond their call of duty and exceeded expectations.  From saving the French lines to being the first Americans to reach the Rhine, this Graphic Novel told their story well. Readers should not miss the author’s note towards the end of the book explaining the author’s attempt to put this story into film and the lack of interests from the film industry.  The end of the book also feature historical notes which shows us that much historical materials have shaped the Graphic Novel especially with the characters.  I thought the most interesting part here was how one of the character in the book was based upon the reality of a full blooded Zulu who did served in the US Army during the war. Purchase: Amazon

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Traces of the Trinity Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience by Peter J Leithart

 Peter Leithart. Traces of the Trinity: Signs of God in Creation and Human Experience.  Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Publishing Group, March 17th, 2015. 176 pp.

While the title of the book is “Traces of the Trinity,” this book is not so much about the Trinity per se as it is on the Trinitarian doctrine of perichoresis (the persons of the Trinity are mutually dwelling among each other while still remaining distinct persons).  To be even more specific the author Peter Leithart is not merely examining the doctrine of perichoresis but an exploration of how there are traces of analogous “indwelling” found within God’s creation and creatures; and that we best account for these phenomenon in God’s creation and creatures from a Trinitarian worldview.  I found this a surprisingly delightful read and in agreement with the thesis of the book.

Leithart is a professor of literature and his literary abilities shows.  Readers won’t be bored with what he has to say.  His witty manner of writing along with his wordsmith that paints powerful word pictures is similar to C.S. Lewis or Chesterton.  I would also add that I am aware of concerns for the author’s theology in other areas and in particular with his soteriology and association with Federal Vision.  I suppose my comparison of Leithart to Lewis and Chesteron does not end with their wonderful ability to write but also as writers whom I read for their keen insights while also realizing I need to be doctrinally discerning.

While this book is an exercise of applying a Trinitarian worldview, I did not expect that Leithart would be able to beautifully present his case in the manner that he did.  This book is not a dry account of the Trinity nor is it the typical Van Tillian rehearsed presentation of the problem of the “One and the Many.”  I imagine Leithart is familiar with the Van Tillian Trinitarian project given how he’s well read, is conversant with Reformed Theology and have endnotes citing John Frame and his perspectivalism.  Yet Leithart’s discussion of Trinitarian worldview accounting for our reality has an originality that has a rhetorical beauty about it.

I was hooked right away with the first chapter with how Leithart tackles Cartesian dualism and refutes Descartes’ notion that the self is totally separated from the world which is so common of an assumption today since modernity (and post-modernity).  Leithart makes the powerful observation that the individual thinking person (the self) is inter-connected with the world and vice versa.  I love the book’s illustration about the windo having certain properities and yet it can’t be a window in its essence if it in not standing in relations to other things in the world such as a house and the outside world.  The author notes the same thing is true with coffee cup and even the self.  We as humans are in physical bodies which require the outside world such as food, oxygen, etc and thus the world indwell within the self while the self is also in the world.  Leithart then moves on to make an analogous observation of this mutual indwelling with thought and the world as well (thought require content of the outside world, etc).

In a similar fashion, Leithart also has a wonderful discussion about the problem of the tension between the ultimacy of either the individual versus society, political and economic versus sociology.  It was a bit remincient of Rushdoony’s Trinitarian work The One and the Many which he applies the Trinity as a solution to the philosophical problem of the One and the Many largely in its application to politics and history.  But Leithart does it in a more concise manner.  He also refutes Hobbes and Locke in a way that I found refreshing and different!

Leithart’s observation of the Trinitarian traces of indwelling also looks at love, time, philosophy of language, music, ethics, and rationality.  In the final chapter he ties all the loose ends by a fuller discussion of the Trinity.  His postscript in which he deals with objection against his argument must also not be missed.  No doubt some might be reading this review and ask if Leithart’s thesis is sustainable in light of the difference of the Triune God from His creation and creatures.  Leithart acknowledges the need to preserve the doctrine of Creator/creature distinction but also not the importance of understanding God’s creation accurately along with the importance of understanding the doctrine of analogy (in the Van Tillian sense).  He doesn’t just make philosophical moves and over-reach with the use of biblical analogies but instead notes the Scripture does appeal to the Intra-Trinitarian relationships to apply something to God’s creature or creation.

I do recommend the book.  Even among all the books out there in recent years with an Evangelical revival of Trinitarian theology, this book does have something refreshing to say.  Again, when I recommend this book I recommend it with the same spirit I recommend people the works of Chesterton: read with doctrinal and biblical discernment.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by Brazos Publishing Group and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Purchase: Amazon

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Note: We review this book in light of the rising anti-Semitism in some part of the World in our day and age.  Also, it is part of our .The Plot The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion Will Eisner

Will Eisner. The Secret Story of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  New York, NY:
W.W Norton & Company, Inc., 2005. 142 pp.

This is the last work of the famous cartoonist Will Eisner.  What this work is about is no laughing matter and is more a tragedy than a comic, as the forward mentioned.  This graphic novel is about an alleged secret document that supposedly proved a secret agenda and plan by Jewish leaders to take over the world.  This document, called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, has been perpetuated for decades by various group of people with varying agendas but whom all unite under the banner of anti-Semitism.  Although repeatedly proven as a fraud in scholarly sources unfortunately a lot of these evidences against the document have been as accessible for most common people.  This Graphic Novel is Eisner’s contribution to combat against the propaganda.  I think Eisner understood the power of the medium in reaching the masses through Graphic Novel which is more mainstream for our society than academic works.  And yet as the Graphic Novel approaches the end Eisner himself shows his awareness that some will be convinced no matter what the evidence is because they have already made up their mind as to what to believe.

Through this book I learned that Mathieu Golovinski was the source of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  Golovinski was a Russian forger and plagiarizer working for the Russian Secret Police.  He has spent a portion of his childhood in France and was thus an asset for the Russians to use to try to doctor a false document that allegedly showed a plot of Jews wanting to take over the world.  This was originally planted in French newspaper and then used by Golovinski handlers to pressure the Tsar of Russia against modernizing policies.  Unfortunately The Protocols went on to have a larger life of its own.

Golovniski plagiarized heavily from a French writer name Marcie Joly who wrote a book titled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu that was originally a literary piece critical of Napoleon.   I appreciate that though this is a Graphic Novel it was serious enough of a topic that Eisner presented a side by side comparision between the works for the readers to come to their own conclusion that The Protocols was plagerized.  I appreciated the fact that this Graphic Novel had “end notes” to show where one can find the original source of the quotation!

This Graphic Novel tells the story of how a Russian séances name Sergius Nilus who was a competitor to Rasputin published in his books The Protocol to attack the Jews. This helped spread the malicious use of The Protocol.  The book also show how the Nazis, the Soviets, the Klu Klux Klan, Marxists and Islamists also published the Protocol as being true even though it has been continuously refuted.  In terms of the history of the document being debunked it began with a British foreign correspondent name Philip Graves when he was working at Constantinople in 1921 for “The Times” of London.  Graves was sold a copy of The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu by a Russian Émigré who pointed out to him that The Protocol was a plagiary.  Graves published his finding in the newspaper and also had the book authenticated and compared to other copies.  As decades went on more problems were pointed out by others concerning the document.  The Graphic Novel also show the author Will Eisner going about researching on The Protocol.

I enjoyed the graphic novel very much and found the introduction and afterwards helpful.  The introduction was written by Umberto Eco who have written as a scholar exposing The Protocol, specifically with how it has stolen ideas from Eugene Sue’s Le Juif Errant that tells of the Jesuits plans and agenda.  Stephen Eric Bronner, a political scientist at Rutgers also wrote the afterwards.  It was helpful to see that the book also have a bibliography for further research; and I plan to study more on this topic in the near future.

Purchase: Amazon

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Van Til Defender of the Faith An Authorized Biography

William White. Van Til, Defender of the Faith.  Nashville, TN:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979. 233 pp.

The work is primarily a brief biographical sketch of the life of Cornelius Van Til. It is good sometimes for serious disciples of Van Til’s apologetics or those curious to know the background of Van Til’s life and the historical development that led to Van Til’s ideas. Reading this book, one can not help but to think about the soverignty of God as He orchestrated the timing of various Dutch Reformed thinkers who shaped Van Til, and events leading to the founding of Westminster Seminary. The book was not intended to be read as a robust defense of Van Tillian apologetics, but rather as a biography laced with sentimental values antidotes.  However, the two appendix in the book features a good summary outline by Van Til himself of his apologetics, and a paper he delivered that expouse his ideas. Those who are out looking for Van Til’s ideas will find the two appendix to be precious gems.

I must add though that John Frame think this book is rather simplistic concerning its treatment of Van Til’s ideas.  Since it has been a long time since I read this book (I’m posting this review up because it’s been sitting for years on draft) Frame might be right.  This was one of the first biography of Van Til written and since this work was published another one put out by Presbyterian and Reformed has provided a more scholarly biography of him by a capable historian of the OPC.  Nevertheless, I did enjoyed this biography as well for its personal flavor.

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