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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Book Review: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Every now and then a book comes along that will stick with you for the rest of your life. For me Unbroken is one of them. The story is based on a true story about the life of Louis Zamperini. 

Zamperini, the son poor Italian immigrants, grew up in California and was a wild child on the path to serious delinquency when his older brother Pete finally managed to help him harness his energy and direct it toward running. Run he did, distinguishing himself and going on to compete at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zamperini had to set his dreams of a second chance at an Olympic medal aside when the second world war broke out. He became an airman/bombardier who made it through several narrow escapes only to have his plane The Green Hornet crash land in the Pacific. Louis and his captain survived an unsurpassed 47 days at sea in a life raft, with no food, water, surrounded by blood thirsty sharks.

Just when things seemed they couldn’t get any bleaker they were captured by the Japanese and imprisoned as POWs. Thus began the unbelievable saga of human suffering, imprisonment and abuse at the hands of the Japanese, a fate comparable or even worse than the Jews in the Nazi concentration camps. How anyone could survive such an ordeal is unfathomable, but Louis did.

The story reveals humanity at its cruelest and most loving giving a glimpse of both hell and heaven. I won’t give away the ending, but it is a remarkable story. This is not a “Christian book” per se, but there is strong thread of redemption and forgiveness. At times what this man survived was so terrible I thought I might not be able to finish the book, but I am glad I did. A riveting story that is superbly written. I hear that it is slated to become a major motion picture. Don’t miss this book. I give it five out of five stars.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Sherlock Holmes is dead but his legacy lives on. Thomas Watson, the son of Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes’ friend and co-sleuth, is a young writer of obit columns longing to become a full-fledged journalist. He resides in Philadelphia and has just learned he is to inherit his recently deceased father’s modest estate. Young Watson happens to be in the vicinity of a Speakeasy which blows up, killing a card-playing underworld figure and his cohorts. He’s left to solve the crime and prove the innocence of Basil the butler. Sherlock’s older brother, Mycroft, turns up and the team of Holmes and Watson is reborn.

If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, you’ll enjoy this story as Fessenden does a good job staying true to the form and methods of the original book series.  I give it four out of five stars.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The writer hooked me right away with this story. It begins just prior to the civil war. Instead of the typical historical romance scenario with a female lead in distress, Wright starts off with young Rafe Colton in dire straits because his family land has been auctioned off and he’s lost it all. How will he survive? That kept me turning pages. The villain in this is his true love’s father who is already very wealthy but will stop at nothing to increase his holdings. Rafe falls in love with his daughter and the only means for support he can think of is to join the Confederate Army
.  They marry but keep it secret but their chance at happiness is thwarted when Rafe’s military orders keep him separated from his wife.

Though it has good characters, and great historical details (I learned a few things I didn’t know about injustices in the South during that time), I felt the book sagged due to plodding pacing and continual frustration caused by keeping the two main characters apart. I give it 3 out of 5 stars, mainly for this reason.  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


Jay Schabaker is my special guest on Nearly Brilliant today. Jay's  varied careers – from aerospace to finance to church ministries and theology   have led him to recently research and pen the uplifting book – Purposeful Design.  The book is the winner of the 2013 Illumination Bronze Book Award in the category Education (Home School, Bible School, etc.);

Jay Schabacker, once part of the Apollo Moon Program, and then founder of a financial investment management firm, now devotes his time to educating children and adults on God’s wonderful and 
purposeful design of this world – and each of us. His passion includes videos, speaking engagements, and now the new coffee table book, “Purposeful Design – Understanding the Creation”. Jay’s activities over the years have included the chairmanship of Romanian Christian Enterprises helping to bring at risk orphan children out of distress; and the chairmanship of Ken Ham’s 1992 “Back to Genesis” 
Washington, DC Seminar sponsored by the Institute for Creation Research.


Jay is giving away one print copy of his book. To enter, just leave a comment in the comments section of this post. 

1   What is the inspiration (motivation) behind the book?   

       People are viewing my book Purposeful Design – Understanding the Creation because I have a passion for others – how they are doing – and how they are thinking. And, I wish everyone would have an immensely positive view of themselves, of this world we are in, and of others – mostly because of their understanding of our own astounding and loving creation.

    What do you hope the book accomplishes?   

       A) That Christian moms and dads would have a greater and more positive influence on their children’s world view and a God centered approach to life. B) That children of all faiths and families would respond to God’s tug on their hearts and souls and thus dispense with all negative thoughts and actions that might be offensive to our God. C) That many more might be “Born Again” into the family of God.

     Do you have a life verse or a verse that you have claimed, and why is it meaningful to you?   

      A couple of verses that have come to mind because they are on the subject of my work are – Psalm 66:5 – “Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf!” and 1 Corinthians 12:18 – “But in fact, God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.”

.    Who is the book written for?   

       What I have found amazing – the book is written equally for all age groups. The concepts challenge me – as I researched them – and adults of all persuasions learn something that they have not been aware of before. Various age groups from lower elementary and on up find content in the book which is understandably presented and interesting. People tell me it is a book that they “can’t put down”.

.     What is your greatest encourager when you write and why? 
      I discovered that the Holy Spirit (my greatest encourager) was alive in my thought and thinking as I composed the pages of “Purposeful Design – Understanding the Creation”. At length I came to understand that “I could not have done it on my own”.

Book Excerpt from Purposeful Design

Who Made the Cookies?

Purposeful Design” may be a new phrase to you.
The words, “Intelligent Design” may be more familiar. The phrase, “Intelligent Design” was coined in the year 1993. At that time, a group of five scientists and professors met on the California coast to discuss the possibility that material and living things might have been painstakingly planned and brought about, not by accident, but by design.

But, I feel “Intelligent Design” doesn’t go far enough to explain or describe the awesome benevolent “touch” worked by what I call the “Purposeful Designer” - our Maker - God.

Yes, there is the scientific - and even the “miraculous”, but I’d like to invoke the “personal”, “human touch” to the creation account for you.
It was done for you and me - lovingly and personally!
As the simplest of examples, take the recipe for making cookies and the results. Intelligence was needed. A recipe, with ingredients, and forethought - but also - the “human touch” - yes, - that of the “maker”!

Let’s envision a plate of freshly baked cookies - lovingly created - steaming hot - just starting to cool - on the kitchen counter. And, you cry out, “Who made the cookies?”
Not an abstract accident or occurrence, but someone who loved you very much made them specifically for you – because he or she knew you would love them.
That is the meaning of God’s “Purposeful Design” - just for you and me.

These comments are taken from the book, Purposeful Design – Understanding the Creation

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