Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Invisible Front by Yochi Dreazen

The Invisible Front: Love and Loss in an Era of Endless War by Yochi Dreazen is the story of a military family who experienced two unimaginable losses in less than a year. Both of their sons died, one by his own hand and one in combat. The response by the military community, and the community as a whole was so different, that it further added to the family's grief. This led to the parents' crusade to end the stigma associated with mental illness within the military community and improve the systems available to the untold number of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD.

Major General Mark Graham and his wife Carol's fight to change and improve such an entrenched culture, and sprawling bueracrcy, as that of the United States Army is inspiring. If they didn't have such a personal motivation, I don't know that they would have been able to keep fighting. I'm glad they did though. The changes General Graham was able to make at Ft. Carson that have since been adopted at bases throughout the United States have probably saved countless lives. The suicide epidemic the military is facing is not likely to go away any time soon. The emotional wounds that lead to suicide cast a shadow much longer than that of deployment or the year immediately following one's return from combat. We as a country must do a better job of supporting our returning soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines.

While the content of this book was difficult to read, the quality of the writing and the flow of the pace make The Invisible Front an engaging, fast paced read. I couldn't put it down. I felt as though I was in the narrative at times. At others, I found myself having a hard time not skipping ahead to find out what happened next. Dreazen did an excellent job of telling the story in a way that connects the reader to the characters, without adding his own bias. It's clear that he views the mental health system in the military as broken and ineffective, especially in the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; however, I don't consider that a bias in this case, as the majority of rational people would feel the same way.

The Invisible Front is thoroughly researched, extremely well-written, and covers such an important topic. I recommend this book to pretty much anyone. Everyone has been touched by mental illness whether directly or indirectly. The message of this book is that there is hope and there is help, but it often involves a fight to receive it. The fight is worth it, and must be fought by advocates of those who need the help, not just those in trouble. The stigma must be thrown aside, and the problem dealt with directly. Regardless of our feelings about the politics of war, we owe those who have fought on our behalf at least that much.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock

Breaker's Reef by Terri Blackstock is the conclusion to the Cape Refuge quartet. Cape Refuge is a fictional small island off the Georgia coast that has seen an unusual number of major crimes over the couple of years the series chronicles. Breaker's Reef not only covers the last crime, but wraps up the stories of all the major characters.

Those familiar with Blackstock's work will find the Cape Refuge series familiar. It spans Blackstock's standard four books and weaves faith and relationships together with mystery and intrigue. The main characters aren't perfect, but they do show the power of redemption and grace. Fans who have read the rest of the Cape Refuge series should be satisfied with how it is concluded in Breaker's Reef.

These books have been re-released with new covers. In my opinion, the new covers are more visually appealing than the originals. They look cleaner and brighter. Nothing in the text has changed however, so those who read the series when it first came out don't need to read them again.

Anyone who is a fan of mystery novels in general, or those specifically written from a Christian point of view will enjoy not only Breaker's Reef, but the entire Cape Refuge series.

I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookLook book
review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

My Battle Against Hitler by Dietrich von Hildebrand

My Battle Against Hitler: Faith, Truth, and Defiance in the Shadow of the Third Reich by Dietrich von Hildebrand and John Henry Crosby is a collection of memoirs and scholarly works by one of the staunchest intellectual opponents of Adolf Hitler and Nazism. Von Hildebrand was a respected Catholic philosopher who taught at the University of Munich. He was such a fierce opponent of Nazism, even before anyone outside of Germany was really paying attention, that he found himself on several Nazi death lists. In fact, his stance led to his having to flee from Germany, and later from Austria, because he was marked for death.

Crosby took memoirs written by von Hildebrand for his second wife, and translated and edited them into somewhat of a narrative style that covers von Hildebrand's life in the 1920s and 1930s. Crosby adds some historical context to von Hildebrand's memoirs, which helps the reader better understand von Hildebrand's words. The first half of the book is taken from von Hildebrand's informal memoirs and is broken down by year, with portions of context preceding each change in subject. The second half of the books is comprised of articles and excerpts of articles von Hildebrand wrote against Nazism and antisemitism. Most of these articles were originally written for Der Christliche Ständestaat (The Christian Corporative State) the journal von Hildebrand headed up while he was in Austria; the stated purpose of this journal was to combat Nazism specifically and nationalism in general on an intellectual level.

I am amazed that I had never heard of Dietrich von Hildebrand before reading this book. He seems to have been such an influential opponent of Hitler and Nazism, that I wonder why he isn't more widely known. I really enjoyed reading about his life in his own words. Crosby did a great job of adding just enough notes and context to make sense of von Hildebrand's words without adding anything unnecessary. He recognizes that von Hildebrand's work is strong enough to stand on its own. The second half wasn't quite as easy to read as the first, as it was written on more of a scholarly, philosophical level. I understood enough to know that he was brilliant and would be a worthy opponent of any ideology he didn't agree with.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in WWII, philosophy, Catholic intellectual life, or Europe in the time between the world wars.

Blogging for Books provided this book to me for free in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255