This is a list of the books I read in 2014. All the reviews were written in 2014 and are archived on this site in (roughly) the order I read them in.

Book Reviews 2014
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsIn October, I went through a phase of reading the stories of former service members and their time in combat. Clint Eastwood is producing a movie called “American Sniper” that is based off of the events in this book, as it follows the career and life (as the subtitle says) of the most “lethal sniper in U.S. Military history.” This book will appeal to the military history buff and the layman who wants to read about the brave conditions these heroes had to endure. In the beginning of the book, Kyle tells a story about his time in Iraq, where he saw a small child received a bomb and began walking towards the Marines he was protecting (you can see the reenactment of this in the “American Sniper” trailer). He speaks of this kind of ethical/moral debate throughout the book and seems to have a clean conscious in regards to the people he has killed (in one interview he calls them “savages“). In all, Chris Kyle lived a very interesting life. From becoming a Navy Seal to all the many deployments to Iraq, he narrates the story of his life and dictates how he became one of the most deadly snipers in the history of our nation. He attributes a lot of his success to luck and being in the right place at the right time. One such story is the longest confirmed kill of his career, which came at an incredible distance of 2100 yards (21 football fields). Other stories he tells include his partner waiting in the nest for hours without a kill; he took over in relief and put rounds down range that illustrates how “lucky” he was. Kyle had established for himself a reputation among the arabs in Ramadi that coined the nickname, “the Devil of Ramadi,” and at one time had an $80,000 bounty on his head. But his career really took off before that in Fallujah, where he participated in both being an excellent sniper, and took turns clearing houses with the Marines. The long narratives of the situation are broken up by anecdotes of particular situations he was in that are of importance or are more rememberable. This helps the flow of the book read like an exciting fiction novel instead of a dry biography. Kyle’s story is filled with twists and turns as he documents trouble at the home front with his wife and children. The phrase “service member” designates that a man or woman is a part of the United States Military and that he or she is involved with “serving” their country. Part of this “service” (as I, a fellow “service member” have come to realize) is the sacrifice one makes for his country that impacts the family sphere. Kyle, with help of vignettes from his wife, show how much Kyle sacrificed for his country by placing his family as number two to his country. He struggles throughout his time as a Seal trying to be a family man but fulfill the obligations to his country. This is a struggle many service members wrestle with: even more so as a Seal where deployments are the golden standard. While this is a very entertaining book (I read it in just a couple of days), this whole genre of American heros telling war stories in book form really bothers me. What is most annoying is how poorly it is written. As you can see from the title, two other writers helped Kyle pen his thoughts. This is significant of the whole genre: it seems like any time a service member wants to document their experience in combat, they need a team of editors and writers to help them out. And even then, why is the writing so awful? While the stories Kyle tells are interesting, it is overshadowed by the thought, “did he really write this?” But if that doesn’t bother you like it does me, pick up a copy of “American Sniper” before you see the movie! [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsThe scholarship of this book impressed me. Nathaniel Helms, interviewed multiple former active duty Marines to in a stunning interplay that gives credibility to the brilliant story of Brad Kasal. Even during the flashbacks to Kasal’s childhood, Helms lists several individuals (such as the old principal at his school and his high school buddies) who are crucial in painting the picture of Brad Kasal. Kasal is most well known for a picture snapped in the waning days of Operation Phantom Fury (the second assault on the city of Fallujah) where he is bloody mess, being carried by two Marines with a pistol in his right hand, finger off the trigger (as seen here). While I was at Marine Combat Training at the School of Infantry, SgtMaj Kasal (1st Sgt Kasal during Operation Enduring Freedom, or the Iraq War) was the SgtMaj for SOI. I was unaware of the history behind this man who obviously loves Marines. SgtMaj Kasal’s legacy will live on after a memorial was dedicated to Kasal in honor of this most famous picture and is now located outside the Hope and Cares Center in Camp LeJune, NC to motivate wounded warriors battling the realty of post-war injuries. As I have said, this book is very well written. Helms takes you through the day to day of Operation Phantom Fury, making you feel as if you are on the ground with the Marines. He goes into much detail of what Phantom Fury consisted of and what the daily grind must have looked like to the Marines from an operational standpoint. But Kasal is known for his courage in the “hell house,” as the iconic picture says, and this is merely the crescendo of the entire book with just one and a half chapters dedicated to it. What you don’t know about Kasal is probably the grueling post-injury recovery process that Helms delves into a bit at the end of the book. This is probably the most disappointing aspect of the book. It seems as if the entire book is leading up to this one event that the information surrounding it pales in comparison. At the end of the book, Brad Kasal writes a personal note to those who have picked it up and made it that far. He says, “Throughout this entire ordeal from the time of being wounded until I was medically evacuated close to an hour later, and despite the multiple wounds and loss of blood, I never lost consciousness or quit my post while guarding that doorway. While some may call this heroic, I just it call loyalty. It was because I loved the Marine next to me that I was determined to do anything it took to keep him alive, even at my own risk. He would have done the same for me. It’s called being a Marine – we’re all brothers and a family. Many times since my injuries occurred, people have labeled me a hero. I beg to differ – I believe the true heroes that day were Sergeant Robert Mitchell, Corporal Schaeffer, and Corporal Marquez, Prive Justin Boswood, and the men of Kilo 3/1 and Weapons Co., 1st CAAT section, who fought to get us all out of the building now called the ‘house of hell.’ I will forever be indebted to these fine professionals.” From a Christian worldview, this brings to mind John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Brad Kasal, whether he is a Christian or not, typifies the love Christ showed us for laying down his life on the cross for our behalf and we are in turn to show others. [...]
September 24, 20192014 / Book ReviewsI had a frustrating book week this week. After the colossal “Mao,” it was hard to get motivated about reading for some reason. I probably started 6 different books, anticipating that one of them would attract my interest enough to gulp down page after page of interesting reading. Nothing ever works out like you would hope it would, does it? So I did what anyone would do: read a captivating fiction book. And please don’t judge me for indulging in one of my guilty pleasures: Star Wars. Yes, this is a Star Wars novel; one that had no message, no thought-provoking ending, just a pure escapist-fantasy Star Wars novel. But I must say, I read an article last month about the effects of reading a novel, and apparently science is on my side. The article said, ““The neural changes that we found associated with physical sensation and movement systems suggest that reading a novel can transport you into the body of the protagonist,” said Gregory Berns, the lead author of the study. “We already knew that good stories can put you in someone else’s shoes in a figurative sense. Now we’re seeing that something may also be happening biologically.” The changes persisted over the five days after finishing the novel, suggesting that reading could possibly make long-lasting changes to the brain.” (Read the full thing here: So, judge me if you will. But my brain will be stronger because of it! This novel follows the series of about 13 books called “The New Jedi Order.” It’s essentially about an alien race that invades the galaxy and begins to take over. This particular book followed the search of a planet called Zonama Sekot, diplomatic relations on a various planets, and further intrigue in the aliens home base. Overall, it was just one of many in the series, perhaps not the best but an essential part of the puzzle. [...]
September 25, 20192014 / Book ReviewsSo I’ve been recommended “Fight Club” by several different individuals. Even after seeing the movie, I thought I would give it a read to see the differences. And there are some, as is the tendency with books-to-movies. I wonder if the themes of Fight Club the book and the movie are similar however. To be frank, the movie was very well done in keeping true to the premise of the book. The themes must, therefore, be similar and I think they are. What I think the overall theme of the book is must be the fragility of life and to “seize the day,” Carpe Diem. There is a scene in the book (also in the movie) where Tyler Durden pulls a man working at a convince store outside and puts a gun to his head. He asks him why he stopped going to college. He gives some excuse and Tyler threatens him that if he isn’t enrolled in school the next time he sees him, he will kill him. While harsh, the point does not go unnoticed: live life like it’s your last. The other major theme revolves around the culture of men in our society. At the beginning of the book, the central character (unnamed in the book) is living in a high rise apartment building full of Ikea furniture (which becomes an obsession for him) and going to seminars for various diseases he doesn’t have. The book has an underlying theme that suggests that men have been emasculated in our society. We are now house-keepers, never taking a chance or experiencing something incredible but fine with the microcosm of the mundane. In the most revealing scene arguing for this point, the main character goes to a support group for men with testicular cancer and meets a man who literally has been emasculated due his cancer treatment and now has large fat deposits around his pectoral muscles (in the vernacular, “man-boobs”). This man later dies in efforts for “project mayhem,” but the idea is not lost: he seized the day and lived his life to the fullest, for something meaningful. But I’m getting ahead of myself: the main character meets a man named Tyler Durden. Tyler tells the main character one day to hit him as hard as he can. They start fighting and start a “club” called, “Fight Club.” This effort is a subtle ploy in the overarching message of the emasculation of men to regain their manhood. Not to say that fighting “makes” you a man per-sey, but rather it is the concept of the return to embodying what a man is. I’m not sure if this is what the author intended, but I definitely see that as I looked back on this book. I’m not sure if I would recommend this book. It is full of interesting anecdotes that might be considered inappropriate. In this same way, there is a bit of coarse language that makes me apprehensive about a recommendation. [...]
September 15, 20192014 / Book ReviewsFamed Pentecostal and televangelist Benny Hinn seems innocent enough. He’s a little coo-key in the way he approaches Christianity: namely by “slaying” people in the Spirit, speaking in tongues, and professing to perform miracles by way of healing’s in his multi-million dollar ministry; but he’s not doing any harm in Christianity is he? Dr. John MacArthur of Grace Church in his book, “Strange Fire,” (released in October 2013) would disagree. Not only would he disagree, but he would argue that the entire Charismatic movement is the single greatest threat to Christianity in the 21st Century. He speaks about false prophets like Tod Bently, who, during the Lake-Land Revivals, was “told” by the Holy Spirit to physically injure his attendee’s in order to heal them. He actually punched an elderly woman in the face; he punched a man with colon cancer so hard he nearly died from his ruptured colon. Some would say these are “fringe” Charismatics. However, Dr. MacArthur powerfully and expertly exposes the Charismatic movement for what it is: blatant blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. During the great awakening of Jonathan Edward’s time, many were focused on the experiential phenomena of the Holy Spirit’s workings. He therefore wrote a sermon entitled, “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.” In it, he explains that “the legitimacy of a revival could not be determined on the basis of emotional responses.” He uses 1 John 1:4 to urge his listeners to “test the Spirits,” to say that not all that seems to be Godly is from God. Dr. MacArthur uses this blueprint to ask the question, “Does the modern Charismatic movement represent a true work of the Holy Spirit?” This represents Part I of his book: Part II is about the various doctrines Charismatics are clearly confused on, including: speaking in tongues, miracles and healings, the office of Apostle and Prophets, and prophecies. Part III then shows the true work of the Holy Spirit. Most interestingly, the appendix of the book has a series of quotes from highly regarded Church Fathers such as John Chrysostom, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin and others that deny the continuation of the Apostolic gifts. This book is fascinating and I highly recommend it: it contains a mini systematic theology course on pneumatology and soteriology, it exposes the fallacies in the Charismatic movement by using scripture, and it answers tough questions like the exposition of 1 Corinthians 13 (what is the perfect, teleion?). Most shockingly, Dr. MacArthur ends the book with a plea to the “Calvinist Charismatics” (Check out this sermon to see how Calvin denied the continuation of the Apostolic sign gifts and therefore it is rather hypocritical to be a “Charismatic Calvinist” and influential Continuists like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, and Wayne Grudem to stop giving theological backing to men like Benny Hinn and Tod Bently, but to use their blessed ministries and position to call out false prophets and teachers that are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. This is a sobering book and if you have questions on the legitimacy of the sign gifts or are confused on the Continuist/Cessationist position, I urge you to read it. [...]


Black Hawk Down

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Daniel Commentary

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

A Christmas Carol 

The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight

The Hobbit 

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning

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