Review of An Army At Dawn


In his Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, An Army At Dawn, The War in North Africa, 1942-43, Rick Atkinson takes an in-depth look at the fledgling Allied effort to gain a war footing in the attempt to confront the Nazi stronghold in Europe. The narrative opens in November 1942 when the British and Americans endeavor to persuade key players in the Vichy regime to switch loyalties and support the coming Tunisian invasion. As the volume progresses, the author follows the ill-prepared forces who display their inexperience on the battlefield against the seasoned German troops. Eventually, however, the Allied ability to supply munitions, manpower, and the will to fight would prove to be an important turning point in a long war.


An Army At Dawn is the first in The Liberation Trilogy and is a well-written, well-researched, well-detailed look at one of the most important historical events of the twentieth century. Using battlefield maps, journal entries, and war records, Atkinson examines the political and military maneuvers at home and abroad. He explores every major personality who had a significant role in the European theatre of war. Using their own words, or those of their contemporaries, the author skillfully illustrates each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. This makes the narrative entertaining, interesting, intriguing, and informative.


However, I find Atkinson’s dismissive treatment of General George Patton troubling. There is no question that Patton could be abrasive and even arrogant at times.  However, the General was a critical player against the Germans in North Africa, which deserves to be highlighted in any fair account of World War II. Apart from this, An Army At Dawn is well worth your time.

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Review of Map of Bones

In James Rollins’ Map of Bones, gunmen enter a cathedral, shoot worshippers during the service, and steal ancient relics that have belonged to the Catholic Church for centuries. Sigma Force has been called in to investigate and recover the stolen artifacts, but will they be able to deliver the goods before the next mass murder?


Map of Bones is a well-written, well-researched thrill ride. The storyline is woven with rich historical detail and page-turning action that immerses the reader into both the ancient and modern worlds, while following characters who are sympathetic and surprising as they undertake a high-stakes adventure.


Map of Bones is the second in the Sigma Force Series and mixes a heavy dose of the Apocrypha with questionable theological suppositions which should not be taken as truth. In addition, readers may find some language objectionable. However, James Rollins is an excellent story-teller who knows how to mix myth and fact in an entertaining way. I enjoyed Map of Bones.


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Review of Bury Your Dead


In Louise Penny’s Bury Your Dead, Quebec is celebrating its Winter Carnival, but Inspector Gamache isn’t having a good time. In the capital city to escape painful memories of a failed investigation for which he holds himself responsible, he can’t avoid murder for long. He has been asked to investigate the death of a national celebrity. Will he overcome his fear long enough to catch a killer?


This is the best installment of the Inspector Gamache Series so far. The food and the friends are familiar comforts. The multiple storylines keep the reader turning the pages. The depth displayed by multi-faceted characters has an emotional pull rarely seen in fiction. Penny proves to be an excellent writer and story-teller. Alas, the needless foul language is the only discordant note in a well-conceived novel. But I remain a fan of Inspector Gamache.

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The Earth is an M&M: Advice When You Are Close to Finishing Your Manuscript by Peter Leavell

You’ve been writing your first work like a crazy woman or a madman, and suddenly, you wonder what happens next.

Doubt in your writing is like cruising your bike along a trail and someone shoving an iron rod through the spokes. Or thinking the earth is a giant Peanut M&M and you dig a hole through the candy shell and chocolate layer to arrive at the center of the earth and find a giant, overcooked chickpea. You’re thrown off-track, and things aren’t quite like what you’d thought they’d be.

M&Ms on Abbey Road: Commons

You think your work is good and has excellent potential for publication. But what will everyone else think?

There’s so much to consider. Experienced writers, when asked for advice, are put in an extremely difficult position. There’s a small element of an oracle about it, reading the future and prophesy.

Yet, here are the considerations I contemplated before I looked up from my work and saw I was an award-winning author.

Remember, you’re critically analyzing your situation, which means each point is a different angle. Don’t just pick one point to run with. Instead, think through your situation from the top, sides, bottom, and inside out.

Top—Empirical evidence. This is raw data from agents and editors. What are they saying about the work? If they’re saying it’s not ready, or there’s no slot for it, it’ a strong indication the manuscript needs some rework or there truly is no slot for it at this time. As much as editors want to do the opposite, most must make business decisions, not artistic decisions.

Bottom—Emotions. If you’re sick of this project and it’s finished with all the rewrites, has been sent to everyone under the sun, and ability to write is strangled, then the project no longer has wings. It’s time to set it aside. Never throw it away, because you don’t know what the future holds. But passion is an important element in writing.

Sides—State of the manuscript. If you don’t feel like it’s ready, don’t stop. At the very least, this is great practice in finishing a full piece. Go all the way. Make sure it’s completely edited and ready for publication. Then you have an important decision. Self-publish? If self-publishing is not your cup of orange juice, then write another manuscript with less pulp—different from your first work.

Inside Out—Consider changing your mentality. You’re not actually writing books, but instead you’re training to become an author, and one of these days, one of your manuscripts will stick.

This is all humanistic advice, without the input of what you feel God wants you to do. But these considerations are a start in knowing what you will do next. And someday, I hope you find yourself on a planet that truly is a Peanut M&M, and all your dreams come true.


Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history and currently enrolled in the University’s English Lit Graduate program, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. A novelist, blogger, teacher, ghostwriter, jogger, biker, husband and father, Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at


Posted: September 9, 2019

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Is England Still Part of Europe? By Victor Davis Hanson



Britain has a last chance to re-embrace the free-market democratic world that it once helped to create.

British prime minister Boris Johnson is desperate to translate the British public’s June 2016 vote to leave the European Union into a concrete Brexit.

But the real issue is far older and more important than whether 52 percent of Britain finally became understandably aggrieved by the increasingly anti-democratic and German-controlled European Union.

England is an island. Historically, politically, and linguistically, it was never permanently or fully integrated into European culture and traditions.

The story of Britain has mostly been about conflict with France, Germany, or Spain. The preeminence of the Royal Navy, in the defiant spirit of its sea lords, ensured that European dictators from Napoleon to Hitler could never set foot on British soil. As British admiral John Jervis reassured his superiors in 1801 amid rumors of an impending Napoleonic invasion, “I do not say, my lords, that the French will not come. I say only they will not come by sea.”

Britain’s sea power, imperialism, parliamentary government, and majority-Protestant religion set it apart from its European neighbors — and not just because of its geographical isolation.

The 18th-century British and Scottish Enlightenment of Edmund Burke, David Hume, John Locke, and Adam Smith emphasized individualism, freedom, and liberty far more than the government-enforced equality of result that was favored by French Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It is no accident that the American Revolution was founded on the idea of individual freedom and liberty, unlike the later French Revolution’s violent effort to redistribute income and deprive “enemies of the people” of their rights and even their lives.

France produced Napoleon, Italy had Mussolini, and Germany gave the world Hitler. It is difficult to find in British history a comparable dictatorial figure who sought Continental domination. The British, of course, were often no saints. They controlled their global empire by both persuasion and brutal force.

But even British imperialism was of a different sort than Belgian, French, German, Portuguese, or Spanish colonialism. Former British colonies America, Australia, Canada, India, and New Zealand have long been democratic, while much of Latin America, to take one example, has not until recently.

In World War I, the British lost nearly a million soldiers trying to save France and Belgium. In World War II, England was the only nation to fight the Axis for the entirety of the war (from September 1939 to September 1945), the only Allied power to fight the Axis completely alone (for about a year from mid-1940 to mid-1941), and the only major Allied power to have gone to war without having been directly attacked. (It came to the aid of its ally Poland.)

Historically, Britain has looked more upon the seas and the New World than eastward to Europe. In that transatlantic sense, a Canadian or American typically had more in common with an Englander than did a German or Greek.

Over the last 30 years, the British nearly forgot that fact as they merged into the European Union and pledged to adopt European values in a shared trajectory to supposed utopia.

To the degree that England remained somewhat suspicious of EU continentalism by rejecting the euro and not embracing European socialism, the country thrived. But when Britain followed the German example of open borders, reversed the market reforms of Margaret Thatcher, and adopted the pacifism and energy fantasies of the EU, it stagnated.

Johnson’s efforts as the new prime minister ostensibly are to carry out the will of the British people as voiced in 2016, against the wishes of the European Union apparat and most of the British establishment. But after hundreds of years of rugged independence, will Britain finally merge into Europe, or will it retain its singular culture and grow closer to the English-speaking countries it once founded — which are doing better than most of the members of the increasingly regulated and anti-democratic European Union.

Europe is alarmingly unarmed. Most NATO members refuse to make their promised investments in defense. Negative interest rates are becoming normal in Europe. Unemployment remains high in tightly regulated labor markets.

Southern European countries can never fully repay their loans from German banks. The dissident Visegrád Group, composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia, seeks to create a mini alliance inside the EU that promotes secure borders, legal immigration only, nuclear power, and traditional values and Christianity.

Britain has a last chance to re-embrace the free-market democratic world that it once helped to create — and distance itself from the creeping statism it once opposed.

© 2019 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Case for Trump. @vdhanson

Posted: September 12, 2019


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Do You Reread Favorite Books? By Terri Barnes

Children often read a favorite book over and over again or ask a parent to read the same bedtime story night after night. According to Scholastic, this is good for children, who gain reading fluency and comfort from familiar stories, settings, and characters.

Adult readers are less likely to repeat what they read—though they can also find comfort and gain new insights from rereading familiar books. For readers of all ages, stories with known characters, settings, and outcomes provide respite from an unpredictable world.

Some adults prefer reading new books rather than revisiting past literary conquests. Others enjoy visiting familiar places both real and imaginary or gain further insights by rereading. Sometimes adults reread books for professional reasons. Teachers, for example, may often read or review as they teach the same books in their classes year after year.

In this month’s Readers Write, we asked: Do you read favorite books over and over? Why or why not? Here are some of the responses:

Lizann: I don’t usually reread books, even my favorites. I also don’t typically re-watch movies, probably for the same reason. I feel like there are so many great stories out there, and I am still in a stage of life where my time feels very limited, so I don’t use it to repeat things.

Claire: I reread books. In fact, there are a few I will reread at certain points throughout the year: Teaching from Rest (Sarah Mackenzie) every year at back to school time; God Is in the Manger (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) every year at Advent; various Enneagram books for research and refreshment of ideas. It is rare, however, for me to reread a work of fiction.

Mark: I don’t read much fiction, so I can’t think of any fiction that I would read again, except maybe The Great Santini by Pat Conroy, or some of Walter Wangerin’s stories. I do have nonfiction books that I go back to again and again for reference, by Philip Yancy or Charles Swindoll.

Jocelyn: I do reread books, but I’m selective about which ones I do that with. Usually if I reread a novel, it’s not just so I can enjoy it again, but so I can learn from it as a writer. I read with a more critical eye: How did the author make me feel this way? Or, look at this brilliant technique for showing the passage of time! Or, wow, this small piece of character history makes me so much more sympathetic to him. That type of thing. And sometimes I read again just to enjoy the beautiful use of language. I’ve done this with Year of Wonders by Geraldine Brooks, The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, The Frontiersman’s Daughter by Laura Frantz, to name a few.

Kellie: I’ll reread and reference nonfiction if it’s full of juicy info. But not fiction. Life is too short and there are TOO MANY BOOKS!

Wesley: I actually don’t that often, although there are a few passages of books or short stories that I will go back and read on occasion. Sometimes it’s because I think there is something else to glean from the book that I might have missed the first time, and sometimes I just want to inhabit the world the book describes. Personally, I am more attracted to works of art—whether that be a book, an essay or a painting—that are more cagey, less willing to tell you what they’re about. To me at least, this treads the line between two things: I can endlessly reread a story knowing there’s no great reveal at the end, just enjoying the puzzle but also kind of hoping somewhere along the lines I’ll crack the code.

Brenda: I very seldom repeat fiction. I ditto Kellie’s comments. I reread and reference many favorite nonfiction books. They are friends who continue to teach me.

June: I reread To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee). That’s the only one, besides the Bible. I read [To Kill a Mockingbird] every few years. I love the way the words sound. It’s been read out loud around here. I spent some years growing up in Monroeville, Alabama. My aunt was a friend of Harper Lee. This aunt will be one hundred years old in November, and I’ll go to Monroeville for her party.

Scott: I always find new insights when I reread Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.

Renee: I tend to reread Battlefield of the Mind (Joyce Meyer) and The Secret Lives of Men (Christopher Blazina). I seem to glean a little more each time I read them.

Kathleen: I’ve reread a few books over the years. Sometimes I revisit Goodnight Moon (Margaret Wise Brown), The Velveteen Rabbit (Margery Williams), or The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein) to reconnect with those days when my sons were young. Now I get to read them again to my grandsons. One of my all-time favorites that I’ve read at least three or four times over the years is A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. The last time I reread it was about ten years ago. I wanted to study how the author handled writing an entire novel in first person using letters and telegrams. I’ve read Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini at least four times, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale twice. Sometimes I’ll open a favorite book and read several passages to savor the feel of the story. The same with a few poetry collections. I might open at random and read whatever appears.

Becky: It is very unusual for me to reread a novel. I am having trouble remembering doing that, although beautiful prose like that of Pat Conroy or Abraham Verghese might induce me to reread their books. I can really see where writers would study the craft of novelists they admire. I often reread nonfiction books that help me live my life, faith, and values in a healthier way: Jesus Calling (Sarah Young) is a daily devotional book that I used three years in a row. The Bondage Breaker (Neil T. Anderson) and Telling Yourself the Truth (William Backus and Marie Chapian) have been helpful to me and have received a couple of readings each. This question has me pulling them both out again along with Mere Christianity. And of course the Bible is inexhaustible and is a part of my daily reading in various ways.

Stacy:  I’ve only read two books twice. To Kill a Mocking Bird and Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen). To read a fiction book twice, I need a least a decade between my last read of it and they need to be timeless reads. I read them with a new perspective as I get older, it’s quite enjoyable.

Lisa: I’ve kept so many books with the intention of reading them again, but never seem to get around to it. What do I want to read again someday? Classic fiction like The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger), The Winter of Our Discontent (John Steinbeck) anything by John Updike, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain), and of course To Kill a Mockingbird. After one book I read last year, l had the instant urge to turn back and read it again from page one: Tom Wolfe’s The Bonfire of the Vanities. Wolfe is such a brilliant satirist, he can explain a scene in words that paints a perfect picture in your mind. Reading his satire is like watching a riveting movie. It’s readable cinematography, with clever, humorous insights about human nature and modern society.

Shari: When I was a kid there were certain books I’d read again and again, including The Arabian Nights, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and any of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series! Later I reserved “do-overs” for classics: Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte), The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald), and To Kill a Mockingbird. Now I just read as many as I can, as fast as I can because I realized I’m never going to read all the amazing books I want to read!

Sarah: I have read a couple of books more than once! Sometimes it is to understand it better, however most of the time, it is because I desire to be “part of that world”, to quote Ariel. Some I have reread are: all the books in the Harry Potter series, A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket), Eragon (Christopher Paolini), The Help (Kathryn Stockett), and that’s just naming a few!

It’s hard to argue with readers who are eager for new literary horizons and don’t want to take time repeating books. Many devoted readers have voluminous lists of new books in their to-be-read stacks, with more new and intriguing titles always on the horizon. On the other hand, revisiting a familiar book is comforting, like spending time with an old friend. Good books of any genre have layers of meaning revealed by time and experience; so reading the same book at a different stage of life can provide a different perspective—on the book, on the world, or on life.

Whether for information, inspiration, or to spend time with familiar friends, there are plenty of reasons to reread or rediscover a favorite book. What book would you choose to read again? Leave your answers in the comment section.

Terri Barnes is a regular contributor to Books Make a Difference magazine, author of the book Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life, and senior editor at Elva Resa Publishing. Terri is an avid reader and rereader who, like her favorite author C.S. Lewis, “can’t imagine … really enjoying a book and reading it only once.”

This article first published September 2019.


Do You Reread Favorite Books?


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9-11 in the Light of History and Eternity

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