(Review) The Soul Of An American President: The Untold Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Faith by Alan Sears and Craig Osten with Ryan Cole

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Publisher and Publication Date: Baker Books. June 4, 2019.
Genre: Christian nonfiction. Spiritual biography.
Pages: 240.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Baker Books, but was not required to leave a positive review.
Rating: Excellent.
Audience: Reader’s of World War II history. The intention of the book is to focus on Eisenhower’s Christian faith. Readers will need to note this emphasis.

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Other biographies on Eisenhower are 600 to 900 plus pages. The Soul Of An American President is a tight 240 pages.
The focus of the book is to look for and define Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Christian faith.
A second reason is did his faith develop when he became president of the United States of America?
When I began reading the book I chose to have a “convince me” attitude. I had read nonfiction books and articles about his life. I heard stories my dad had told me. I’d read a book about the relationship between Eisenhower and his secretary during the war, Kay Summersby. I wanted this book, The Soul Of An American President, to convince me he had a Christian faith.

What this book showed me:
•The ancestry of the Eisenhower family. Where they originated in Europe, and their Anabaptist heritage. They settled first in Pennsylvania.
•Eisenhower’s parents and siblings. This includes his parents religious and pacifist beliefs. His mother’s affiliations would be remarked on and cause trouble later.
•Ike’s ambition to attend college.
•His appointment to West Point.
•A long series of military commissions that seemed to be unremarkable. His transfers to military schools and further training.
•Marriage and family. The book touches on the strained times in his marriage.
•The friendship of Eisenhower and Patton.
•World War II. His role as the commanding general for the Allied Forces in Europe. One chapter is devoted to this role.
•His elections and presidency. During his presidency, the Civil Rights movement, Cold War, Communism; and the things while in office he took part in creating.
•The relationship he had with Billy Graham, Richard Nixon, and pastor Dr. Ed Elson.
•Life after he left office.
•His failing health, death, and funeral.

What is omitted from the book, except a small paragraph on pages 82-83, is the possibility of his affair with (her name is not mentioned) Kay Summersby. There were rumors. Even my dad as a soldier had heard the rumors. In later years, former President Harry Truman had talked about the affair in an interview. And, in Omar Bradley’s biography, he had stated Eisenhower and Summersby were in love. It’s been several years ago that I read a book about their relationship. I’d stated in my review that only those two people and God know the extent of how they felt about one another, and if they acted on how they felt. It is important to note that at the end of Eisenhower’s life he stated: “I have always loved my wife. I have always loved my children. I have always loved my grandchildren. And I have always loved my country.” Page 199.

What I loved about the book:
•Eisenhower’s faithfulness to his military commissions despite his disappointment or difficulty with them.
•I saw how God used the experiences in life to prepare him for future experiences. God was uniquely preparing him.
•The strong relationship between Billy Graham and Eisenhower. The last meeting they had before Eisenhower’s death is described by Graham. This is a special conversation.
•Nixon’s poignant eulogy.
•The Scripture that was read and the hymns that were sung at Eisenhower’s funeral.
•Letters and speeches are included from statesman, friends, family, and Eisenhower himself.
•An interesting interview by Clare Booth Luce.
•I saw a little of the private side of Eisenhower in his marriage.

Did the trio of authors convince me of Eisenhower’s Christian faith?
Yes, I am convinced. I believe what convinced me the most was his transformation. Throughout most of his life he’d been focused on military and family. He did not talk about private matters, and his religion and faith was a private matter. However, it was during the war years he mentioned a prayer he’d heard. His story appeared in a military prayer book. And, in the speech he gave a commissioning speech to Allied Forces before D-Day, 6th of June, 1944. In this speech he stated, “And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.” Page 100. As time went on, Eisenhower remarked more often of God and praying. It is interesting to note, it was important to him that his faith not be used as a political show or insincere. He was a man of strong principle and conviction. The Soul Of An American President includes in its final chapters more examples of his faith.
In the final pages, I became teary eyed. Eisenhower is a hero in my eyes. I already admired him because of his military strategy, rank, and person. I admire him even more knowing he was a man of principle in his faith. He was a person of strong character who was not persuaded to do anything that he did not fully believe in.

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(Review) Idols of the Heart: Learning to Long for God Alone by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick

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Publisher and Publication Date: P & R Publishing. January 29, 2016. Second edition. The first edition was in 2001.
Genre: Christian nonfiction.
Pages: 240.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: Very good.
Audience: Christian readers who want a study on idolatry in our a current culture.

Amazon
Elyse Fitzpatrick webpage
Facebook

In our culture, Idolatry is a rare word heard. It resonates with Old Testament teaching or an old fashioned revival where the pastor beats the pulpit.
Fitzpatrick reminded me that it is the sin most talked about in the Bible.
An idol is not just a cold impersonal material object. It can be another person. For example: children, grandchildren, pets, spouses, romantic relationships, parents, and ourselves.
“Idols aren’t just stone statues. No, idols are the loves, thoughts, desires, longings, and expectations that we worship in the place of the true God.” Page 25.
I loved Fitzpatrick’s reminder, “And the mere fact that you are struggling against them means that you are, in fact, His.”
And struggle I do. And persevere I go on. And, it is in His grace that I am forgiven.

Further points of interest:
•Several Bible characters are depicted: Rachel, Moses, Rahab, Josiah, and Mary of Bethany.
•Different desires are listed. Chapter 8 holds this topic.
•Why we choose idols.
•The slow process of sanctification.
•Temptation and how it works.

Favorite Quote:
“As we grow in understanding Him, His love, His trustworthiness, our bent to trust in other gods will diminish.” Page 76.

(Review) Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist by Richard Rhodes

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Publisher and Publication Date: Alfred A. Knopf. 1999.
Genre: Nonfiction. Criminology.
Pages: 384.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.
Audience: Readers of crime fiction and criminology.

Summary:
Richard Rhodes has written a book about the research of criminologist, Dr. Lonnie Athens.
Dr. Athens interviewed mass murderers in California and Iowa. He didn’t ask them the reasons for committing the crimes or other similar questions. Instead, he wanted a “pure stream of consciousness.” Page 59.
He is a maverick in his field because he believes criminals are responsible for their act of crime. Whereas, there are many in his field who believe a mental illness or something else is to blame.

In Why They Kill, I learned several things of interest:
•The term “violent actors.” This is definitely not a description I’d give a mass murderer. I don’t consider what they’ve done to be acting. It is on the other hand a performance (of sorts) of violence and the taking of a life. My problem with the words “actors” and “performance” is these words create a mental picture of something that is not real, but is instead a playacting. Murder is not playacting.
•How criminals see themselves. How they perceive what someone has done to them, and how they decide to take action against the person. This also includes a reminder that many of us think horrid thoughts but we don’t not carry out the ugly thought. A small percentage of people carry out what they think. Included in this topic is the types of self- images.
•People who coach another person to commit crimes. And, the term novice. A novice is the person being taught.
•In part two of the book several people are examined. For example, Cheryl Crane. She is the only child of actress Lana Turner. Cheryl killed Johnny Stompanato in 1958. It was judged justifiable manslaughter.
•The later part of the book examines violence in history, military, and Christian discipline.

One of the points I disagree on is how schools can help with preventing violence. On one hand I agree with this reasoning. However, in working in the school system I also disagree. An example of frustration on the part of a teacher is parents who do not want their child to be tested to see if the student has a learning disability. As a result, the student falls further and further behind, often leading to repeating a grade. A teacher can teach a student to not be violent with another classmate, but if the parent at home encourages the violence then what the teacher says means nothing.

 

 

(Review) Dracul by Dacre Stoker and J.D. Barker

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Publisher and Publication Date: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. October 2, 2018.
Genre: Fiction. Gothic horror fiction.
Pages: 497.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.
Audience: Readers of vampire stories.

Amazon

Further links of interest:
Bram Stoker
Online-Literature
Article from Time magazine about the book and the real story behind the story

Summary:
Dracul, Stoker’s Dracula
#1 is considered a prequel to the story Dracula that was written by Bram Stoker in 1897.
The Dracul story centers around the family of Bram Stoker. Bram, his sister, and older brother are the main characters. They live in Dublin, Ireland. The have younger siblings who are secondary characters.
When the book begins it is 1868. Bram Stoker is a young man in his early twenties. He is in a closed room in a tower. A dark force is trying to come into the room and subdue him. The story will reflect on Bram’s childhood. So, the story goes back and forth in time, between Bram’s current situation and how the “real” story began.

My Thoughts:
Gothic horror fiction is not the normal reading for me, but sometimes I like to do something quirky and unexpected.
It’s been several years ago that I read Dracula for the first time. About that same time, I read Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. Frankenstein is one of my top five favorite books.
Back to Dracul.
The Stoker children are young when the memories of Bram take him back to those early years with their Nanna Ellen. I don’t like reading about bad things happening to children. I am glad the story did not show or tell me about the abuse of children.
A mystery element is added to the story with Nanna Ellen. Who is this strange woman. She holds a bit of intrigue and magic, but is she dangerous? Her character made a strong case for continuing to read the book. I had to know who is this woman?
Bram is young in this story. He is either a child or a young man. He holds an innocence and trust. The wisdom that comes from age has not yet taught him to beware.
This is not a sensual story. This is a good thing considering young children are the main characters. I bring this point up because the story Dracula certainly has a sensual element.
The beginning of vampirism is discovered and defined in Dracul. This first book does a solid job of defining.
The atmosphere of the story is dreary and gray. The setting is perfect for the storyline.
The chill (at least tepid) of the Stoker parents is not something I understand. For this time period and social status, maybe this was the normal. The children are drawn to a caring individual who is there for them.
The story held my attention from the first to the last page.
Bram’s siblings hold strong parts in the story: Matilda and Thornley. Thornley’s wife presents a wild scene on the dining table. Each of the siblings have careers that contribute to the whole of the story. For example, Thornley is a surgeon. Matilda is an artist (a keen eye for detail.)

(Review) Varina by Charles Frazier

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Publisher and Publication Date: Ecco/HarperCollins. April 2018.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 356.
Source: Library.
Rating: Good.
Audience: Readers of Civil War stories.

Amazon

Summary:
Varina is known as “V” in the book. She was the wife of Jefferson “Jeff” Davis, the president of the Confederacy during the Civil War.
The time period for the book begins in 1906 and reflects back. She shares her childhood, courting and marriage to Jeff, raising children, the war years, escape, the years they lived apart, and other memories of life.
The narrator of the story is the author, Charles Frazier. However, a man named James Blake seeks her out and interviews her, for the benefit of how his story came to be. Some of the story is V telling Mr. Blake her life story.
In the opening pages V has to work to remember. It is apparent she is bitter, cynical, and doesn’t want to remember the Civil War period.

My Thoughts:
Usually when I begin reading a book if it doesn’t catch my attention and hold it in the first 100 pages I stop. I persevered in this book. It was the last quarter of the book that I loved. The best line is on page 341. And, one of my favorite parts of the book is her brief visit with Oscar Wilde, pages 333-338.
The last quarter of the book is when V loosens the veil of transparency over her heart. She is older, has time to reflect, and the people who were dear to her are dying. At this point in life, V’s memories, and with the wisdom that comes from age, makes her an interesting character.

I found a few lessons in the book:
•Judgements made of people because of what we think we know about them. Whether it is the color of their skin, socio-economic status, education, political stance, or wealth; we think we know the person and either hate them or love them based on what we know.
•People, and some more than others, are much more complicated and diverse than first thought. And since we cannot read someone’s mind (fears, insecurities, sorrows, and motives) we should be very slow to judge.
•In the span of time, the thoughts, feelings, and words about people often develop differently, and even become a distant memory.