Book reviews from sergerca

Ohio, United States

Number of reviews
14
Average review
sergerca’s average rating is 4 of 5 Stars.

Churchill

by Paul Johnson

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 4 of 5 Stars.
If you are in God's good favor you had a great history teacher who knew and loved his subject and transferred that enthusiasm to you. Paul Johnson would have been that kind of teacher, and this little book on Churchill proves why. This is the first Johnson book I've read (although I own a few, and have more on my wishlist) and what a shame that it's taken me so long to read one! He has an obvious love of his subject, but that does not preclude him from criticizing his hero (e.g. Churchill's complete dismissal of defense issues during the run-up to WWII when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer). Also, Johnson is branded an "conservative" historian by many, but he does not use this book to hammer Churchill on his lifelong support of the ever-growing British welfare state that he helped to construct.As others have mentioned, even thought this is a short book, Johnson does not just give a chronological survey of Churchill's life. His analysis on the 10 factors that made Churchill indispensable to the WWII victory effort are very convincing.And lastly, how can you not love a book about a man so quoteable? Two of my favorites:"Facts are better than dreams.""If Hitler invaded Hell, at least I would ensure that in the House of Commons I made a favourable reference to the Devil."

Eye Of the Red Tsar

by Sam Eastland

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 1 of 5 Stars.
This is one of the very few books I've started but not finished. It has all the elements of something I'd like: I'm fascinated by Russian history, the Gulag in particular. And the plot line is very intriguing, but none of came together for me. It really felt like this book was written so that it could be turned into a movie. I'm no expert on literature, but the prose was very boring to me. In places it seemed the author was trying to be scenic and descriptive, but just wasn't up to the task. The dialogue seemed very out of place for the era in history in which the story happens.I wish I could give this a better review, but I wouldn't recommend this one.

Father Joe

by Tony Hendra

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 4 of 5 Stars.
In many parts, this is a very moving book. These are the parts where Hendra is with Fr. Joe at the abbey. But much, perhaps too much, of the book is just Hendra's life story. Of course, some of this needs to be recounted to understand how Fr. Joe "saved his soul". One thing that bothered me (as a Catholic) is that, while Hendra confesses a great respect for the Eucharist, he sometimes seems more enamored with the rituals of the Church (e.g. chant, divine office, etc.) than with the actual faith. He takes several swipes at Catholic sexual morality - no surprises here considering his career as a "satirist." So I wasn't surprised that his political views were also left of center - he seriously labels Reagan and Thatcher "war mongers." I guess it comes with the territory.But Fr. Joe is like no one else. By far, the best parts of the book are his conversations with Hendra. The insight of this man was staggering. His statement about how being at peace with God is not some feeling of constant elation, but rather a constant reassurance is that you're never alone really hit home. He had a wonderful way of exposing the truth to Hendra in a non-confrontational way that lead him back home. Best of all was how he pointed out, in a very gentle way, that satirists often are merely spouting hate at those they claim do nothing but spout hate. I'm not familiar with Hendra's other work, or if it changed after this realization, but I hope it did.All in all, a worthwhile read.

Patton Montgomery Rommel

by Terry Brighton

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 4 of 5 Stars.
It's been a number of years since I read a Patton book, so I'm not sure if there was a lot of new information in this one, or I was just reminded of things I'd forgotten. It would have been helpful if Brighton would have included foot/endnotes. His bibliography seems extensive, but I have no idea what information came from where. Doing some web searches on some passages leads me to believe he relied heavily on D'Este's book for the Patton material. As well he should.Brighton's writing moves briskly, and even at 400 pages, the book was a quick read. Obviously, when writing a triple biography there is not much depth provided. The purpose of the book was to explain the relationships between the three men and was not really a character study, but by doing this much of the interesting material is overlooked. For example, he mentions a few times where Patton stopped to see ancient military ruins, but doesn't give us much information as to why he did this and Monty and Rommel did not. Unless you know about Patton already this behavior may be lost on you.Of the three, Brighton has the lowest opinion of Monty, and perhaps Ike. He certainly doesn't whitewash Patton's mistakes, or Rommel's, but is of the mind that they were the better commanders and that their personality quirks were less disruptive to their respective war efforts. Patton may have slapped two soldiers, but that was a PR problem. Monty's ongoing attempt to usurp Ike's command role affected the war effort until Ike finally put an end to it. Rommel is given the benefit of the doubt about the July 20 attempt on Hitler and there seems to be good evidence that he deserves it. I know little of Rommel, so I have to trust Brighton.There are few maps, and the ones there are don't do much good, but the book is much more about the interactions of the men than detailed campaign histories. There are some good myth-busting passages, and it's obvious that some of the animosity in the Patton-Monty legend is a bit overblown, though certainly based on fact. All in all, a good book which held my interest, but if you're looking for an intro for any of these three men, don't start here. This is good material after you have a base of knowledge.

The Confessor

by Daniel Silva

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 3 of 5 Stars.
Interesting story but the anti-Catholicism is palpable and grossly misinformed. Looks like Silva read "Hitler's Pope" and didn't question any of it. I'd recommend that he look into the Pave the Way Foundation, a Jewish organization, which, though it didn't set out to, has discovered reams of evidence that Pius XII was anything but "Hitler's Pope."

The Lost History Of Christianity

by John Philip Jenkins

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 4 of 5 Stars.
Generally, it’s taught that Jesus lived then Pope Urban II called for the Crusades a thousand years later. Obviously something happened in between. That’s the subject of Philip Jenkins’ new book, The Lost History of Christianity.It is a dense, if short, book. Every line is packed with facts making it one of those books I couldn’t read at any great length. But Jenkins is correct that this is a part of Christian history that is overlooked by the vast majority of people, and it’s a shame. In 12 years of Catholic school I never learned this history. And if it’s not being taught there it can’t be being taught anywhere, save at the university level.Contrary to other reviews here, this is hardly a screed against Islam. Jenkins goes out of his way to show that there were waves of tolerance and oppression by the Muslim conquerors of the formerly Christian lands. And for balance he repeatedly cites corresponding waves of oppression by Christians against European Jews. Religious oppression is nothing new to the world. And it will never end until the eschaton.This book is, however, very much about Islam, because it was Islam that conquered the Middle East and northern Africa. This didn’t happen by accident. Some argue that Islam spread as a consequence of Arab conquests, and others that Islamic jihad was present from the beginning. Jenkins is in the former camp, and I disagree with him here, though it’s a qualified disagreement. The marriage of politics and faith has been part of Islam since its inception and it’s hard to argue that there wasn’t a religious motivation behind the Muslim conquests. Just because once the Christians were conquered they weren’t forcibly converted to Islam right away does not mean that wasn’t the ultimate goal. And that goal was largely achieved except for pockets of Christian hold outs such as the Coptics in Egypt.This is not a religious book. Jenkins, a former Catholic (he’s some sort of non-evangelical Protestant now), is not out to make the argument that Christianity is true and will ultimately prevail. Of course, it will. Rather, his point is that there are ebbs and flows in religious dominance. For centuries, the Middle East was a Christian land. That may not always be the case. Africa was for centuries a tribal continent, but Christianity is booming across the continent now. China is now between five and ten percent Christian.The Catholic Church often says that it thinks in terms of centuries. There’s no telling how the story of Christianity will continue to unravel over the coming centuries. But, to forget its early history will ensure that Christianity will have a much rougher road than if it can learn what went wrong and ensure that the faith is much deeper rooted so that the setback described by Jenkins don’t happen again.
On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 3 of 5 Stars.
This is an eclectic collection of PJ’s writings. Some of it is downright a waste of paper – like his “concrete poetry” inclusions. However, many of the essays are classic PJ – travelling the world, commenting on the ordinariness of people and events everywhere with his famous wit. If there’s a connection between each article, I missed it. But you can certainly see his growth and evolution as a writer.Having gone to Miami University, PJs alma mater, I was very interested in his early writing about his days in Oxford, OH. If the stories he tells are even half true then college has changed dramatically since his day. And for the better. But his writing of this period is compelling and often touching. He has some great lines, such as, “It’s hard to forgive someone when you’re beginning to agree with her.” You can see the shift in his political attitudes, but he never really explains them. Maybe he doesn’t have to. Several of these essays are outstanding, such as his speech at the dedication of the new Cato Institute building. And his article about Hillarycare is very timely given the current healthcare debate (note: this review written in January 2010).If you’re a PJ completest, and I am, you’ll enjoy large parts of this book. But if you’re new to PJ, start with Parliament of Whores or Eat the Rich.

The Holy Road

by Michael Blake

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 1 of 5 Stars.
Rather a disappointment compared to Dances With Wolves. Blake just tries to do too much in too few pages (although I'm not saying it should have been longer). Dances With Wolves was so good because much time was given to develop the characters and set the scene. I really felt transported when reading it. In this one there is too much action and too many events to allow for any real plot or character development. **SPOILER ALERT** Just about every main character from Dances With Wolves is killed and yet, Blake glazes over their deaths and nobody seems to miss them when they're gone -- including the reader.Also, there is some sloppy history, though this really isn't a historical fiction novel. One, the depictions of Gen. Sherman, and especially Pres. Grant, are complete caricatures. Grant was not the Indian hater that Phil Sheridan was, but you wouldn't know it from this book. Two, when Kicking Bird and Ten Bears visit the White House Blake mentions the "back-skinned slaves" in the room where they meet with Grant. There were never slaves in the White House, much less when Grant was president (after the Civil War!). All in all, a disappointing follow-up to one of my favorite books.

Bridge Of San Luis Rey

by Thornton Wilder

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
We all have a worldview (don't we?) that influences just about everything we encounter. Literature is no exception. Perhaps that is why I thought the main point of Thornton Wilder's outstanding The Bridge of San Luis Rey was so obvious.In many of the reviews I've read, many have stated that Wilder leaves the main conclusion up to the reader. I must disagree. The final line, so quoted by many of the reviewers, makes it all very clear to me. "All those impulses of love return to the love that made them." Perhaps, had Wilder capitalized the second "love" more would have drawn the same conclusion as I. That love is, of course, the love of the Father. This short book is rooted in Christian realism -- summed up in that final page. Life and God's ways as they pertain to life, are a mystery to the believer. Seemingly saintly people die far too early in inexplicable circumstances-- a bridge that has lasted for centuries one day breaks under the weight of an old woman, a cripple, an old man, a young girl, and a young man. But the "why" is not for us to know. We all must live in the comfort that it is His will that reigns, not ours, and that the love which sustained us in this life will see us to the next. Perhaps Brother Juniper found his answer. I know I recognized mine.
On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 4 of 5 Stars.
Interesting tidbits in places, but ridiculous overall. Crocker is an unabashed southern apologist, but his arguments (which, to be honest, I've never encountered before) make little sense to me. For one, he thinks secession perfectly legal in the respect that the Declaration of Independence was legal. However, the Declaration was about a people having no legal voice in the government. In the South's case they were partners in a contract (the Constitution) voted in the 1860 election, didn't like the outcome, so they decided to take their ball and go home. Absurd. Crocker goes on to cover 16 of the most important battles and is sure to let you know that every time the South won it was due to the utter genius of Lee and his subordinates, and every time they lost it was because the North had overwhelming force. I guess the military maxim "Win with ability, not with numbers" doesn't hold much credence with him.There are mini-biographies of many of the important generals of both sides, and there are some great anecdotes which were new to me. Also, his treatment of Grant, in particular, is much more balanced here than where Grant appears in his review of the aforementioned 16 battles. Crocker has nothing good to say about Sherman and is very selective in his treatment of him. The most absurd aspects of the mini-bios is that Crocker goes out of his way to mention that many of those covered (Lee, Jackson, AP Hill) hated slavery and were more anti-slavery than their opponents. He also makes mention that many of the northern generals were fiercely anti-abolitionist (Sherman, Thomas). So, you see, the Southerners really did have the moral high ground. The fact that they began a war that would kill 600,000 Americans so that they could protect their "peculiar institution" is just a detail. Crocker never once takes up the slavery issue directly, nor will he admit that had slavery not existed there would not have been a "states rights" argument for the South to secede.Crocker likes to whitewash history. He did so in his book about the Catholic Church (Triumph) as well. I’m a committed, apologetic Catholic, so I’m sympathetic. But his glossing over unpleasentries in that book were nothing compared to this one. Some random thoughts…The Politically Incorrect guides always have inset with “Books (insert Politically Correct Type Here) You Are Not Supposed to Read.” Crocker mentions Shelby Foote’s massive narrative as a set of books Northerners don’t want you to read. Why I don’t know. I’ve read it and Foote, while a Southerner, is generally fair.Also, Crocker seems to believe that England really did want to aid the South out of principle, but then Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation and England didn’t want to be involved in a war defending slavery. The idea that England wanted to aid the South to weaken the increasingly powerful United States doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind.All of that said, the book was enjoyable, even if you’re already familiar with the Civil War. There are interesting facts given, and it was a view I’ve never really studied. If you’re a buff, check it out.

Real Change

by Newt Gingrich

On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
This man is an ideas factory, and this book is no different. I often say he's the smartest man in either party, and if you can't agree with me on that, I hope you can at least agree that he's the most original thinker in either party. This book covers everything: healthcare, immigration, prison system, science and space, etc. And it's not some predicatble anti-government screed - it's a very throughful set of ideas that VERY few of our elected officials would a) ever come up with on their own and b) have the guts to try and enact them.He wrote this in early 2008 when he was considering a run for the White House. I expect we'll see another toward the end of 2011. I hope he finally makes a go this time. If only to dramatically shift the debates in the both the GOP and presidential contests. I think very few would stand a chance against him in a debate.
On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
One of the great things about O'Reilly's books is that they're written like he talks so you can read them a rapid clip and not miss anything.This book is certainly the most personal one he's written, and I saw a lot of myself in his story. Unless you're a committed hater, you will sympathize with how O'Reilly arrived at his world view. He's from a once typical middle-class background where friendship is more important than who you know. Where your parents aren't there to be your friend, but rather to teach you how you should behave in a civil society. Where schools were for education AND character formation, not a place where children go to receive undue adulation. Where hard work is more important than breeding.I think these ideas were once accepted by nearly all Americans. That is most certainly not the case today, and O'Reilly is doing his part to try and change that. Agree or disagree with his tactics, or his aims, but the man is honest. He's upfront with what he believes and why thinks you should believe it to. "Relativism" is not in his vocabulary. It shouldn't be in ours either. All of this just reinforces the fact that he is not an ideologue. He's just a traditionalist. The idea that he's a shill for the GOP or even conservative movement is ridiculous. If you only read one of his books, read this one.
On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
If I could give it 6 stars I would. Bar none, the BEST apologetic book I've read. How this could be topped I don't know. All the major areas are covered in a thorough, but non-combative way. Currie goes out of his way to use the language of those to whom he is speaking, his former Protestant/Evangelical friends. I especially enjoyed the chapter about eschatology, the end times. I had never read a good explanation, nor really known there was a divide in thinking, regarding the end of time. However, when I heard Evangelicals talk about The Rapture I always wondered why I never learned about that in 12 years of Catholic school. Currie set me straight on the 3 main strands of eschatological thought. My favorite quote (I'm paraphrasing) is when Currie is asked by one of his Evangelical minister friends why he is converting to Catholicism. Currie responds because his reflection has led him to the truth that the Catholic Church is the one, true church of Christ. His friend responds, "You're doing all that for truth? You must care a lot more about truth than I ever did."
On Oct 5 2010, Sergerca said:
sergerca rated this book 5 of 5 Stars.
An absolute eye-opener. Especially from someone like me who reflexively thinks from an American point of view. When I think "Indian" I think Crazy Horse and Tecumseh. It's as if the Aztecs and Inca are not even in the same category as the Sioux and Shawnee. No doubt, I'll take western civilization as imported from Europe over anything else. But we delude ourselves in thinking that those here before us were not civilized in any meaningful way. I really appreciated the parts of the book detailing the native peoples' deliberate impact on the environment (e.g. changing the course of a river in Missouri). Anything historical information that combats the silly idea that the Indians lived in perfect harmony with the environment and we evil, white Europeans came and mucked it all up is welcome to me.I learned A LOT, and sadly, found that much of what I was taught in school by teachers I truly cherish is just plain wrong. I hope that today's students have teachers who read this book and teach the facts as we now know them.