Monday, March 26, 2018

Operation Thunderbolt - By Saul David



I knew a little about the famous Israeli rescue of hostages held in Entebbe but didn't know a lot.  'Operation Thunderbolt: Flight 139 and the Raid on Entebbe Airport, The Most Audacious Hostage Rescue Mission in History' by Saul David was an interesting way to learn about it. 

David takes you through each day, in 'real time', as it were, bringing you back and forth from the hostages and terrorists to Israeli diplomats and military men, international political leaders and others,  continually switching locations to give you a perspective of what was going on in these significant places and among the various significant people throughout each of these 8 days of tension. 

It was quite interesting, and very informative.  I did not know that hijackings were such a common thing in the late 60s into the early 70s.  And that they were mainly to make demands of Israel! Nor did I know that there were Japanese terrorists fighting for the Palestinian cause!  Nor did I know that the PFLP was founded by a Palestinian "Christian"(so-called)

The knowledge of the many previous hijackings leads to the misgivings of several of the people who were about to be passengers(Many of whom were Jewish) of flight 139 when they found that the plane will not be making a direct flight from Israel (which had heavy airport security checks) but would be stopping over in Athens. Some consider changing flights and you feel anxious when they decide to take the flight anyway.

The book was well written, I found myself quite drawn into the account, getting to know the various people involved (David gives the background of many), you get to know the background of many of the hostages, the politicians who are involved in trying to figure out what to do, and that of the terrorists. Some of the people are brave, others exhibit cowardly behavior, but you really become interested in the fate of pretty much everyone. Though not necessarily caring about everyone.

I liked the real time format too.  It was fascinating to come to the realization (pretty much along with the hostages themselves) that the president of Uganda, Idi Amin Dada is working with the terrorists and therefore the hostages are being held, not just by a group of terrorists, but essentially they were imprisoned by a whole country.  That made it even harder for Israel to attempt a rescue, though it really did help with the element of surprise as neither the terrorists nor Idi Amin seemed to think a rescue attempt was even possible.

I also found myself getting frustrated at certain people. For instance, when the terrorists first took over the plane, some were for attacking the terrorists, others were for remaining passive - you kind of feel like yelling at the ones who think they shouldn't attack the terrorists, "Do something! They're probably going to kill you anyway!"

It was also bothersome to hear Yitzhak Rabin's arguments for negotiating with terrorists and I really felt for Peres in his arguments to the contrary, basically saying that by giving in it would make all terrorists realize that taking hostages and threatening to kill them works and then they'd have many, many more hijackings on their hands!

There were some amusing things in the book as well, such when the terrorists suspect one of the hostages of being an Israeli Spy and they force him to write an account of his life in Israel and he writes a monotonous account about picking grapefruit! And the part, after the rescue, where one of the Israeli diplomats calls Idi Amin to thank him for his 'help' and Idi Amin, who doesn't know that a rescue has taken place yet, is confused.  Amin and some of his military officers didn't know what was happening when the Operation took place, they suspected a mutiny and so did not send reinforcements right away (giving more time to the Israelis)

Now, I do feel the need to mention that some of the facts given in this book were awkward to discover, for instance, apparently several of the hostages were rather scantily clad (some extremely so)when they were rescued.  Also, some of the casual dialogue of the hostages was indecent, as well as some of their actions (particularly one man nicknamed 'the flirt'), so I skipped those parts.  There are some things I just don't care to know about history.  

Also, at the end of the book (in the 'Acknowledgements' section) I noticed that the author mentions that in certain places he constructed dialogue himself (as none is yet available), based upon the character of those speaking.  He did it to  make it read more like a novel than a traditional story.  I don't know that I like that very much, when I read a history book I want to know I'm reading about facts.  But he describes them as "occasional bits of the story" where he did that, and so it sounds as though it wasn't a lot of made-up dialogue.  And another comforting thing is that in the back of the book there is a section that shows various reference sources quoted, or referred to in the book (and numbering which page of this book that the info was used on).  I just wish that, if David was going to make up dialogue he would at least put a footnote or something under the dialogue to indicate where these 'bits' are.

That said, all in all, I (and several of my siblings) found the book to be very interesting. And I wasn't the only one in my family who liked this book.  I had decided that instead of merely reading the book to myself I would read this book out loud to two of my sisters and we all found it interesting.  One of my younger brothers was nearby when we reached the day when the rescue mission was happening, I didn't know for sure that he was listening until I was showing one of the maps of the airport to my sisters and all of a sudden he was leaning over me as well gazing at the map.  He seemed quite intrigued with the rescue, I could even hear him chuckling in amazement at certain parts. 

If you want to read a book on the topic, I'd recommend this one.  It's the first one I've read on the topic and I think that it was pretty informative, and also interesting enough to make the information stick.

Many thanks to the folks at Little Brown and Company for sending me a free review copy of this book! (My review did not have to be favorable)

You may purchase this book at Amazon.com and from other websites

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Complete Convection Oven Cookbook - Robin Donavnan




In my opinion, this book is worth having just for the convection oven information at the beginning. It explains, not only how different convection ovens work, but also how to adapt recipes designed to be cooked in conventional ones.

It has several recipes, organized into sections like, "Breakfast and Brunch", "Appetizers and Snacks", "Poultry", "Breads" and so on. Each recipe gives a brief description of the food, at times even explaining how the convection oven cooks it to perfection, and also lists which types of Convection Ovens the recipe works best with, Full-Size, Countertop, Halogen…etc. And which setting to use, BAKE or ROAST.

The one thing I think that this cookbook could be improved by is having pictures of each recipe.  But many of the titles and descriptions of the foods sound tasty just to read about, so it's not too important. There are many (in my opinion) easy to follow recipes, like  Juicy-Oven-Grilled Bacon Cheeseburgers, Crispy Chicken Wings with Sweet-Hot Honey Mustard Sauce ("crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, and bathed in a zippy sauce"), Pecan-Sour Cream Coffee Cake ( I tried this recipe, my dad really liked it with his coffee!), Streusel-Topped Caramel Apple Muffins…and so on.

I only tried one recipe so far from this cookbook, but am definitely planning on trying more in the future.  Mainly for the past couple of months I've been referring to it in cooking some of our normal meals.  For instance, I referred to it when I made some chicken that we normally fry in oil, and wanted to see what they did to make oven fried chicken and what setting they used, Bake or Roast.  

The section I must appreciated about this book is it's section about convection ovens and how to cook with them at the beginning.   I learned something brand new about my family's convection oven. I was reading the section "convection settings and how to Use Them" when "Convection Roast" caught my eye.  "I don't remember our oven having a roast setting",  I thought, but then I seemed to have this faint memory of seeing some sort of button that said "roast".  I went to our kitchen and looked at the buttons on the oven.  It has a "Roast" setting! The button is right NEXT to the "BAKE" setting, and yet I had never really noticed it.  We've had the oven for over ten years and yet I never realized we have that button? I was very eager to try the setting, especially since the book points out that "Convection Roast can also be used to 'oven-fry' breaded or battered foods such as chicken nuggets or tempura shrimp, or to turn veggies into crispy chips or fries." French Fries, I've always had trouble cooking them in the oven.  They never seem to come out nice and crispy.  Just hot and squishy.  "Perhaps", I thought, "it's because I've been using the wrong setting on the oven".  We always used BAKE, 'cause, of course, we thought we didn't have another setting on the oven. I really feel crazy for not noticing that Roast button all of these years. Not only is it next to the BAKE button but It's even the same size!

 Anyway, so one day I tried a small batch of frozen french fries, using the newly discovered ROAST setting.  And it worked! They were beautifully crispy.  And as I scarfed some down one of my sisters kept asking if she have one, and another one, and another one… they were good!  And then I tried it with a normal batch of fries.  I come from a large family, I have 13 brothers and sisters with twelve of us still living at home.  So a regular batch of fries for us is two cookie sheets full of fries. The pan on the top rack came out nice and crispy, but the ones on the middle rack weren't done yet (I think the pans are probably a little too large to allow an even circulation of air in the oven).  Next time I'll need to put them back in the oven on the top rack to allow them to finish.  But the crispy ones were still really good! I've made many small batches of fries for snacking in the past few weeks with that setting.  It's so much easier to roast the fries in the oven instead of having to make a mess frying the fries in oil. 

Anyway, I'd highly recommend this book, for the convection oven tips alone!

Many thanks to the folks at the Callisto Media for sending me a free review copy of this cookbook! My review did not have to be favorable, I truly do like this cookbook!

My Rating:  5 out of 5 Stars
*****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com

Saturday, March 3, 2018

CSB Kids Bible - Hardcover






The CSB kids Bible is a pretty nice Bible. As to its physical characteristics of this Bible, it is a very colorful hardcover which kids will probably like.  Even the edges of the pages are colored.  I do want to note that on the inside of the front and back cover has an orange crinkly pattern, at first I thought that the pages were damaged, but on closer examination I realized that it was just a picture.

 It has some colorful pages scattered at wide intervals through the Bible.  Many of them have summaries of what each book of the Bible contains.  They give descriptions like, "Matthew was originally written for the Jews and shows Jesus as the Messiah and King, in whom the Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled." Many of them give pretty good descriptions but I didn't like all of their summaries as some seem to be leaning toward a "Christocentric" hermeneutic instead of a literal, grammatical, historical one.

Some pages have maps, and others have lists of verses dealing with various topics, like the miracles of Jesus, or "Kids in the Bible" where they list many passages that give accounts of children.  I'm sort of surprised that they didn't include the  account of the boys who called Elisha "Baldy!" (2 Kings 2) , Elisha cursed them and bears came and mauled many of the children. Yeah it's graphic, but it's an account of children and they had the account of Cain and Able (whom Cain murders), which most kids probably already know, so why not that one? Most kids probably don't know that account. I'm saying that partly to be funny but I'm also sort of serious.  Why just include the most 'famous' accounts and not the more obscure?

 Anyway, back to what these pages contain, there are a couple of pages with illustrations of the twelve disciples (as a kid I probably would have liked looking at that page in particular)with some descriptions of what they did and who they were.  I did find it amusing that they didn't really have any information to give concerning some of the disciples. For instance, under "James, Son of Alphaeus" they say, "The Bible tells nothing about this man except his name."

As to the translation, it is a pretty good one.  I do wish that they would list more textual variants in the footnotes though.  For instance, in Psalm 40 vs 6, where it says, "you do not delight in sacrifice and offering; you open my ears to listen." I didn't like that they didn't include a footnote for that verse giving the Septuagint variant , which, instead of referencing "ears" being opened, says, "a body you have prepared for me".  That is an important variant because it is quoted in the New Testament by the author of Hebrews.  If kids follow the verse reference in Hebrews 10 back to the source of the quotation in the Psalms they may be confused that the author of Hebrews seems to be misquoting a prophetic text. 

And then in their page on, "How Do I Have Quiet Time With God?" there was something else I felt rather wary about.  After being instructed to pray about various things, the kids are told to "Listen for God to speak to you".  So listen for an audible voice? Wait for an inward feeling? That just seems like quite a mystical thing to do. 

Parents may also want to know that at times this Bible version can be more 'modern' in translating certain words.  For instance, when referring to physical relations, at times they will translate it, "So-and-So was intimate with his wife" but at others, they are more modern.  For instance, where the men of Sodom see the Angels that come to bring Lot and his family away, they have them as saying, "Send them out to us so we can have sex with them!"

Those things being noted, I like the translation overall.  And parents can talk to their kids about any concerns they have about any extrabiblical information and instructions that this Bible includes.

Overall, this is a nicely bound Bible that has some colorful inside pages, as noted above, and even includes a small topical concordance in the back. I particularly like the font size, it is nice and big, kids should have a pretty easy time reading it. Overall I think this would be a pretty handy Bible for kids. 

Many thanks to the folks at B&H Publishers for sending me a free review copy of this Bible (My review did not have to be favorable)!

My rating:  4 out of 5 Stars
****

This book may be purchased at Amazon.com and at Christianbook.com

Friday, March 2, 2018

Alexander the Great- by In60Learning





Want to learn some history in about an hour?  This book series is a good way to do it. In60Learning produces books that are designed to be read in an hour's time.  Thus providing a quick learning experience. 

Upon being offered the chance to try out their material, I chose Alexander the Great: Student of Aristotle, Descendant of Heroes, a part of their BiographyIn60 series.  I did not know much about him though I have noticed many references to him in some of my other reading and felt a curiosity to learn more about him. 

Alexander's life is summed up in thirty pages.  A skilled military leader, who conquered a great deal of territory, building on his father, Philip's, strong start.  He could be quite ruthless in taking cities, but I was surprised at how many times he exercised mercy and allowed the peoples of the towns he conquered to live.  It gives a high level  overview of Alexander's life, relationships with his friends and family, and a good overview of the battles he fought. Even though it was just a summary, I really learned quite a bit about the man and will actually have a knowledgeable picture in my head now when I see him referenced in other books.

Before I invest time reading a big biography about someone I look at summaries of that person's life to see if it would be worth spending the time reading it.  These little biographies offer a way to do that, and can wet one's appetite to learn more about their subjects.  Perhaps the only thing that I think would add to the quick learning experience would be to have some maps in the book as well, my knowledge of ancient geography is not great, so it was hard to picture where certain battles were being fought, where specific groups of peoples lived or where the various countries were.  But it was easy enough to look up the information I wanted on the internet.

I really was able to sit down and read the book in an hour (without rushing).   Overall, I thought that this was a good overview and would recommend this series as an excellent way to get a high level overview of people and historical events in the space of about an hour.   If you would like to sign up to receive updates from In60Learning (and even free book and audio book offers from them) you can subscribe here:   https://app.convertkit.com/landing_pages/349280?ref=snickerdoodle

Many thanks to the folks at in60learning for sending me a free PDF of this book to review (My review did not have to be favorable).

If you would like to purchase this book, or others in the series, you may find it on Amazon.com, available in Paperback and in Kindle formats.