Currently Reading

Monstrous Regiment

Suzanne is currently reading:

  • Monstrous Regiment: Discworld Book 31 by Terry Pratchett
  • One Shot At Forever: A Small Town, an Unlikely Coach, and a Magical Baseball Season by Chris Ballard
  • My Own Country: A Doctor’s Story of a Town and its People in the Age of AIDS by Abraham Verghese

Craig is currently reading:

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Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanaugh

Dear Enemy

Set during the Battle of the Bulge during World War II, Dear Enemy is a work of Christian historical fiction with the main characters being an army nurse and a German soldier.  Nurse Annie Rawlins finds herself behind enemy lines, when she becomes captured by  a wounded German soldier. Her initial feeling of hatred towards her enemy, changes as she gets to know him.  Eventually, she must come to terms with the reality that it is possible to love and respect someone who is fighting for the other side.

This is a good first novel for Jack Cavanaugh.  I enjoyed the historical perspective, although the author could have researched a little more.  There were a couple of glaring anachronisms and this book  lacks the depth and prose of more accomplished writers.  Still, it was engaging (if not a tad cheesy), and I’ve no doubt would be enjoyed by many.  I could definitely envision this novel as a Hallmark Hall of Fame Movie.

3 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005
283 pages

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The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys In The Boat

The Boys in the Boat is the story of the 1936 Olympic nine-man rowing team from Washington state, who defied the odds and took home the gold medal, besting Hitler’s German rowing team, and the world champion English team.

This book read very much like Laura Hillenbrand’s books Seabiscuit or Unbroken, although it didn’t quite make it Hillenbrand’s high level, in my opinion.

Still, it was a great read and left me cheering for this group of average guys who did an extraordinary thing.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2013
416 pages

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The Pianist by Wladyslaw Szpilman

The Pianist

In the introduction to Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir of his survival of the Nazi occupation of Warsaw, his son begs the reader to take into consideration that Szpilman is not a professional writer.  After reading this work, I find that comment surprising, because this account is so well-written that only a gifted author could have written it.

I have read many books, fiction and non-fiction alike about the Holocaust.  But Wladyslaw Szpilman’s memoir has absolutely haunted me and reduced me to tears. He wrote this book shortly following the actual events, and they were still clear in his mind.  They were so horrific, so terrible, however, that Szpilman writes with detachment.  Perhaps that makes it more readable to us, also, but I could not keep putting it down, shaking my head, thinking “this was real!” and “how could people be so cruel to other human beings?”

Above all, this is a book about survival and being human.  At one point, the author has been in hiding, alone for nearly a year.  He is starving for food and starving for human companionship.  Venturing outside, he comes upon a Polish work crew.  He is so happy to talk to someone else and they invite him to join them.  But his sixth-sense tells him not to go, although he would very much like to.  He ducks back into a different building from his hiding place, and after awhile, sneaks back to his own building where he is safely hidden.  Before long, the soldiers come to that first building to arrest him.  The leader of the work crew has turned him in, but luckily for Szpilman, he has evaded capture.

Later in the book, he is discovered, and to his surprise he is not turned in.  In fact, the man who finds him brings him food and a coat, and prevents the soldiers from finding him.  This man was a German officer.

This book is important on so many levels.  From a historical and a human point of view, it reminds us that individuals can be pushed to disregard others and to hurt them, but it is our humanity that makes us better than ourselves.  I highly recommend this book.

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1999 (first written in 1946)
222 pages

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Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch by Alison Arngrim

Confessions Of A Prairie Bitch

Yep, I was that girl.  The one that religiously watched Little House on the Prairie faithfully each week, not missing a single episode.  I had read all the books, even some non-fiction accounts that offered up information on the Ingalls family that were not included in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s original series.

A few years ago, I read Melissa Gilbert’s non-fiction account of her days on the set of the television series, and a Goodreads friend (thanks Kressel!) recommended I read Alison Arngrim’s book.

Seriously, anyone looking for a biography like this one wants information on the cast and filming of the television series, and Arngrim definitely delivers.  She is down to earth, incredibly funny, and presents a well-written account of her days “on the Prairie.”  But there is more: from her own sexual abuse (which she doesn’t present as a sob story), to her close friendship from her on-set Little House husband, Steve Tracy, Arngrim manages to pen a highly entertaining and moving autobiography that offers healing and a level of emotional maturity rarely seen in children that grow up in the spotlight.  I loved this book, and I thought Alison Arngrim was pretty cool, too.

4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2010
302 pages

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Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut

Slaughterhouse Five

When I was in high school, I discovered a used book store that contained all sorts of literary treasures.  Many of these came from college students looking to sell back their required reading from their English classes, and so I stumbled upon Kurt Vonnegut.  Of all his books that I managed to read, Slaughterhouse Five was my favorite.  Recently I had the opportunity to read it again.

Slaughterhouse Five is a novel based on Vonnegut’s own experiences as an American soldier fighting in Europe during World War II.  He was captured at the Battle of the Bulge and held prisoner in Dresden, following which, he observed first-hand the notorious fire-bombing by the allied forces.  A darkly satirical book, the author avoids direct pain through humor and explanation by taking his reader through a nonsensical story line.  For instance, when his character Billy Pilgrim experiences PTSD, he describes is as being “unstuck in time,” and then explains it as Pilgrim being kidnapped by aliens from the planet Tralfamadore.

Unlike many postmodern authors, Vonnegut is immensely readable, but that does not necessarily make his works likable by the masses.  As I’ve gotten older, I am far more discerning in the books I like to read, and modern American is definitely not my genre.  I prefer more straightforward, narrative works, although I do appreciate the uniqueness of Vonnegut’s approach.  He is clearly a gifted writer and Slaughterhouse Five is genius for it’s unique approach to the horrors of war.  But I can’t honestly say that I loved it.

4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1970
215 pages

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Dreamer Of Dune by Brian Herbert

Dreamer Of Dune

Dreamer of Dune is the biography of Frank Herbert – the masterful creator of the Dune science fiction series, as told by his son, author Brian Herbert.

I will say from the outset that this is one of the finest biographies I have ever read.  Brian Herbert helps the reader understand the real man behind the books as well as gives great insight into the genius that was his father.  That is no small task – presenting someone in all his humanity and, at the same time evoking his brilliance – and Brian Herbert shows that as an author, the acorn didn’t fall far from the tree.

5 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2004
592 pages

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