Saturday, May 30, 2009

When God Says Go by Lorry Lutz

When God Says Go

When God Says Go
by Lorry Lutz

Trade Paperback: 236 pages
Publisher: Discovery House Publishers
First Released: 2002

Buy from Amazon

Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
Eliza Davis-George, the daughter of slaves, grew up in racially segregated Texas, where she took to heart the stories she'd heard as a child in Sunday school. Empowered by her faith, this remarkable woman broke through barriers of sex, color, and status as she set out to bring the truth and hope of the Gospel to the people of western Africa.

In the jungles of Liberia, "Mother Eliza," as they called her, rescued little girls from marriages to old men and provided education for tribal people. She raised funds in the tottering economy of the Great Depression, and she single-handedly persuaded government leaders to donate land for her mission work. When her American supporters failed to send promised funds, she dug her own food out of the jungle soil. Nothing was too difficult, no obstacle too great, to keep her from telling the story of Jesus' love. In fact, she made her last journey into the jungles of Liberia when she was 95 years of age.

You will be moved and inspired by the fascinating story of this brave and tireless hero of the faith, who, during her 100 years on this earth, left her indelible, enduring mark on a people and a land.

On her 100th birthday, hundreds of Liberians paraded through the streets carrying banners that read: Mother Eliza George, Great Daughter of America, Great Descendant of Africa, Great Saint and Missionary Mother--Her Life was the Best Commentary of the Bible We Have Ever Read.

This book is a biography of an amazing black American woman who worked as a missionary in the jungles of Liberia from 1913 to 1972. The story briefly covers her parent's lives as slaves, her childhood, and her education. It also briefly describes the founding of Liberia and the history of Christianity there.

Most of the story details the many challenges Eliza Davis-George faced, the work she did in Liberia, and how her efforts helped the people of Liberia.

The biography initially jumps back and forth in time, which sometimes got me a little confused about where everyone (like her husband) was. It was a little slow in spots, but most of the story was vividly written, bringing life in the bush alive in my imagination.

The book doesn't hide her faults, yet it's still quite clear that Eliza George was truly an amazing woman. I'd recommend this book to anyone who likes amazing missionary stories and who is interested in Liberia (i.e. if this story sounds interesting to you, I think you'll enjoy it).

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
The surging surf pounded the Liberian coastline, tossing the rowboat like a piece of cork. The sea was often treacherous here. For centuries Kru tribesmen had bravely faced the ocean's fury in these time-proven vessels.

Hauling out the day's catch in their hand-sewn nets, two Kru fishermen prepared to beach the craft for the night. Here the jungle hugged the shore as closely as the ocean would permit, their village concealed where the surging tide and the steamy rain forest met. Darkness fell suddenly near the equator, and the tribesmen were eager to get home before night engulfed the trail.

The Kru chatted amicably over their catch when they spotted three figures moving along the shore--a rare sight along this desolate coast. As the strangers drew closer the men were startled to see a "civilized" woman accompanied by two boys. A safari helmet readily distinguished the woman from her tribal counterparts. Heavy boots protected her feet from the sun-baked sand, and she wore a dark print Western dress. In her right hand a long stick helped propel her forward.

Behind her trudged the barefoot teenagers, dressed only in tattered shorts, a canvas bag dangling from the shoulder of one of the boys. The receding tide washed over their scorched feet.

The men stopped to watch in amazement as the unlikely trio approached. Why were they so many miles from the nearest settlement? Such civilized people should be living with the Americo-Liberians--the freed American slaves who had colonized this land more than a hundred years earlier.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Roll Call to Destiny by Brent Nosworthy

Roll Call to Destiny

Roll Call to Destiny:
The Soldier's Eye View of Civil War Battles
by Brent Nosworthy

Hardback: 342 pages
Publisher: Basic Books
First Released: 2008

Buy from Amazon

Source: Bought from

Back Cover Description:
Roll Call to Destiny puts readers on the frontlines of the Civil War by providing the point of view of small bands of men who braved unique combat situations. Acclaimed military historian Brent Nosworthy answers such questions as what it was like for artillery to beat back an aggressive infantry assault or to take part in a fast-paced cavalry charge, and how Civil War infantry conflict was waged in thick, forest foliage. From firsthand accounts, Nosworthy has pieced together Burnside’s infantry at Bull Run (infantry-versus-infantry on the open field), the Fifty-Seventh New York at Fair Oaks (fighting in the woods), Daniel Webster’s section at Arkansas Post (artillery attacking a fort), the third day at Gettysburg (cavalry-versus-cavalry), plus much more. A must-read for anyone who wants to know what Confederate and Union soldiers saw, heard, and felt, as well as how they acted at critical moments of the Civil War.

This is a book on military history focused on the American Civil War. The author gives the reader a look at what the battle was like from the soldier's viewpoint: the sights, sounds, smells, and confusion. He pieces together a soldier-eye view of events from the letters and memoirs of soldiers on both sides of the conflict and includes direct quotes from some of those accounts.

The author starts the book off by explaining the military technology available in the United States and abroad at the time and how it was changing the military tactics used.

He then describes several battles, giving an excellent look at what the battle was like for the soldiers as they approached and fought from the various positions. After the account of the battle, the author discusses the tactics used compared to what they were taught was the ideal at the time.

Maps were included to show the positions of the various units in each battle, but the maps weren't very easy for me to read or understand. However, I didn't have trouble visualizing what was happening solely from the text.

The author usually explained the various military terms used (the weapons, formations, maneuvers, tactics, etc.), but sometimes he didn't. I could usually figure it out from context, though. Someone more familiar with the military at that time probably wouldn't have any trouble at all.

Overall, the book was easy to read and effectively gave the reader a look into what Civil War battles were like for the troops. The book was clearly very well researched, and I found it very interesting. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in the Civil War battles or who's interested in what the battles would have been like to live through.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
Whether because of fervent patriotism, youthful enthusiasm, or simply a sense of adventure born in the humdrum of day-to-day living, there was no shortage of volunteers rushing to the flag after Abraham Lincoln's April 15 proclamation. The omnipresent enthusiasm, however, was mixed with a naivete and, as it turns out, misplaced optimism, which would prevent the public, politicians, and military leadership from appreciating the nature and scope of the challenge at hand. "It will all be over in ninety days" was the popular cry in print, from the pulpit, and around the dinner table. All over the country camps of instruction sprang up to train the legions of volunteers that now flocked to maintain the Union. Yet, from an operational point of view, these were the halcyon days; there was little fighting during the first ten weeks of what would become the great familial disaccord.

Suddenly captivated by the eruption of a national crisis, the public always craves more information about unfolding events. This was as true in the mid-nineteenth century as it is for those watching the horrors of Katrina or the latest crisis in the Middle East today, and during the spring of 1861, almost everyone eagerly awaited the next edition of the local newspaper for the latest developments in the deepening crisis. Weekly newspapers like Frank Leslie's Illustrated News not only provided articles on the unfolding events, but also expanded their coverage to include more general military topics such as the latest developments in weaponry, naval designs, etc.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

My Hope for Peace by Jehan Sadat

My Hope for Peace

My Hope for Peace
by Jehan Sadat

Hardback: 208 pages
Publisher: Free Press
First Released: 2009

Author Website
Buy from Amazon

Source: review copy from publisher

Back Cover Description:
From the distinguished educator, international crusader for humanitarian causes, and widow of the Nobel Peace Prize-winner President Anwar Sadat comes a foolproof plan for peace in the Middle East.

In 1979, the Camp David Accords, brokered by Jimmy Carter between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, culminated in the signing of the historic Israeli- Egyptian peace treaty, the first agreement in which an Arab country recognized Israel and an agreement that has held up to this day.

Jehan Sadat was there, and on the thirtieth anniversary of this historic event, she brings us a polemic for peace like no other. My Hope for Peace answers a set of three challenges: challenges to Sadat's faith, challenges to the role women play in that faith, and, most of all, challenges to the idea that peace in the Middle East is an unattainable dream. In the heart of the book, Mrs. Sadat lays out not only the fundamental issues dividing the Middle East, but also a tried-and-true series of steps that will lead to their resolution.

With a wit and charm developed over fifty years in the public eye, Mrs. Sadat draws on her personal experiences, from her career as first lady of Egypt to her further and yet greater commitments to peace in her widowhood, to explain plainly and frankly the historical, political, and religious underpinnings of the peace process, which many in the West have yet to understand. Along the way, she outlines the origins of modern Islamic terrorism, something she has confronted both politically and personally; she addresses the attendant misconceptions about her faith; and she debunks many of the myths of Muslim womanhood, not least by displaying the clear-eyed passion and political acumen that have earned her worldwide admiration.

Though this book contains information about Jehan Sadat's life and her husband, it's focus is more on the political than the personal. Jehan grew up in a middle class family in Egypt, and her father was Muslim while her mother was a Christian. I found it very interesting to see her view (as an educated Muslim woman) of events in the Middle East, on Islam, and on women's rights.

She discusses the history of Egypt (from about 1928 through 2008), of the modern idea of political Islam, and of the beginnings of modern terrorism (i.e. suicide bombings and such). She also discusses the recent history (1917 to 2008) of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. She lays out what she believes needs to be done in order to achieve peace in the Middle East and stop terrorism.

She also describes the basic beliefs of Islam as well as some of it's history. She quotes statistics to support her statement that most Muslims do not support terrorist actions even if the terrorists defend those actions using verses from the Qu'ran.

In this section, she respectfully compares the teachings of the Qur'an with those of Christianity (rather than with the Bible--a good number of the practices and teachings she points out are Catholic doctrines rather than verses from the Bible or teachings also shared by Protestants).

Finally, she discusses what the Qur'an has to say about the rights of women versus what various modern societies have imposed on women. Jehan is a feminist and is clearly very passionate about women's rights. She describes her work to improve women's rights in Egypt.

Obviously, she describes the history she gives from an Arab viewpoint. She is generally level-headed, fair, and doesn't jump to conclusions about her subjects. She doesn't hide the mistakes that were made, but she does paint her husband and Egypt in the best possible light. Though I don't agree with all her views, she makes a lot of important points.

Overall, this book was very informative while still being easy to read and understand. I'd recommend this book to anyone interested in recent history or word affairs, especially those interested in the Middle East.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
When terrorists attacked the United States on September 11, 2001, I was in my home in northern Virginia, having returned from Egypt only a few days before. I had slept late that Tuesday morning, still jet-legged from my travels, and switched on CNN. My plans were modest, and in keeping with years of habit, I would sort through the mail that had accumulated in my absence, make a trip to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies, and slowly readjust to the rhythms of my American schedule. The flashing red alert that scrolled across the television screen, however, signaled that this was not to be a day engaged in comforting routine. Like so many other people across the country, and indeed, around the world, I could not believe what had taken place and what was taking place before my eyes: people trapped and dying in the twin towers, a section of the Pentagon smoldering, and later, in the fields of Pennsylvania, a fourth plane crashing to the earth, killing all on board.

As the horror unfolded, the enormity of it all sank in. Militant fundamentalists purporting to be Muslims had perpetrated an unthinkable crime. The twin towers had fallen, the rescue efforts had ended before they were begun, the number of dead was still uncertain. Like every other resident of the United States, I was in a state of profound shock. And yet, scarcely believable as the flickering images on the television seemed to me--to everyone--I remembered another autumn day in which zealots had shattered lives, sown confusion, and plunged a nation into turmoil: October 6, 1981. The day my husband, Anwar Sadat, the president of Egypt, was assassinated.

He was killed because he had done the unimaginable, and for some angry few, the unforgivable: he had negotiated peace with Israel. It was his life's work, and indeed he gave his life for it. Radical Islamists branded him a traitor, a kafir, or unbeliever, and an apostate, and on a brilliant, blue0skied day that gave no presentiment of the horror to come, he was gunned down in full view of his family, his nation, and the world.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea
by Greg Mortenson
and David Oliver Relin

Hardback: 338 pages
Publisher: Viking Penguin
First Released: 2006

Author Website
Buy from Amazon

Source: Library

Back Cover Description:
The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti-American reaches of Asia

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan’s Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Greg Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson’s incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

This book is mainly a biography of Greg Mortenson's life as written by David Oliver Relin. Much of the book takes place in the USA. For most of the book, only glimpses are given into what life is like in Pakistan and Afghanistan--and that's mainly of the lives of the adults.

Up until page 202, the book is narrowly focused on events from Greg's point of view and is written in a "as it happened" style. This section describes his climb on K2 in Pakistan and how he lost his way when descending and ended up in a remote mountain village. It also covers his childhood, details about how he raised support in the USA to build the schools in Pakistan, and the many troubles he encountered in getting the first school built. It also covers his marriage, the births of his two children, how he was given a full-time job building school-building, how he found the staff for his new organization. It then gives a whirlwind list of schools, women's vocational centers, wells, porter schools, and so on that the organization has built.

The book makes the first school seem to be all about Greg rather than the children. It's a way for him to deal with his grief over his sister's death, to feel appreciated, and to add purpose to his life. David Relin hardly shows Greg in contact with children. However, Greg Mortenson does come across as good-hearted and determined though often naive and impatient in those first years.

As a side note, Greg was raised Christian, but he learns how to pray like Muslims as a way to make friends and he has Buddhist chants played during his daughter's birth. The book only gives a glimpse into Muslim life in Pakistan.

In the last third of the book, there were several short "how schools changed life for the children" stories and how Greg's other projects helped change life for adult women. This section also gives a good overview of what was happening politically in the region at the time (including a sudden rise in extremist schools being built in the poor areas). It also describes Greg's experiences in Pakistan when 9/11 happened and what life was like in Afghanistan after we removed the Taliban from control. This includes some local's views on the events.

I didn't find the first 201 pages of the book interesting, but I was very interested by the last third of the book. I think mountaineers might enjoy the first part of the book because it has many descriptions of climbs and mountain scenery. This section will probably also appeal to people who want to know more about Greg Mortenson or the many trials and sufferings he went through to build the schools. (The troubles are similar to that of most outreaches.)

The last third of the book will interest anyone wanting to know more about life in Pakistan and Afghanistan post-9/11 and how Greg's projects are making a difference in the lives of those living in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt: Chapter One
In Pakistan's Karakoram, bristling across an area barely one hundred miles wide, more than sixty of the world's tallest mountains lord their severe alpine beauty over a witnessless high-altitude wilderness. Other than snow leopard and ibex, so few living creatures have passed through this barren icescape that the presence of the world's second-highest mountain, K2, was little more than a rumor to the outside world until the turn of the twentieth century.

Flowing down from K2 toward the populated upper reaches of the Indus Valley, between the four fluted granite spires of the Gasherbrums and the lethal-looking daggers of the Great Trango Towers, the sixty-two kilometer-long Baltoro Glacier barely disturbs this still cathedral of rock and ice. And even the motion of this frozen river, which drifts at a rate of four inches a day, is almost undetectable.

On the afternoon of September 2, 1993, Greg Mortenson felt as if he were scarcely traveling any faster. Dressed in a much-patched set of mud-colored shalwar kamiz, like his Pakistani porters, he had the sensation that his heavy black leather mountaineering boots were independently steering him down the Baltoro at their own glacial speed, through an armada of icebergs arrayed like the sails of a thousand ice-bound ships.