No Easy Day – Would You Read It?

There has been a lot of  controversy surrounding the book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden by Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer.

Synopsis from Amazon:

From the streets of Iraq to the rescue of Captain Richard Phillips in the Indian Ocean, and from the mountaintops of Afghanistan to the third floor of Osama Bin Laden’s compound, operator Mark Owen of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group–commonly known as SEAL Team Six– has been a part of some of the most memorable special operations in history, as well as countless missions that never made headlines.

No Easy Day puts readers alongside Owen and the other handpicked members of the twenty-four-man team as they train for the biggest mission of their lives. The blow-by-blow narrative of the assault, beginning with the helicopter crash that could have ended Owen’s life straight through to the radio call confirming Bin Laden’s death, is an essential piece of modern history.

In No Easy Day, Owen also takes readers onto the field of battle in America’s ongoing War on Terror and details the selection and training process for one of the most elite units in the military. Owen’s story draws on his youth in Alaska and describes the SEALs’ quest to challenge themselves at the highest levels of physical and mental endurance. With boots-on-the-ground detail, Owen describes numerous previously unreported missions that illustrate the life and work of a SEAL and the evolution of the team after the events of September 11. In telling the true story of the SEALs whose talents, skills, experiences, and exceptional sacrifices led to one of the greatest victories in the War on Terror, Mark Owen honors the men who risk everything for our country, and he leaves readers with a deep understanding of the warriors who keep America safe.

Some feel that the author broke the SEALs’ code of silence. Some feel that it was his story to tell…about the rigors of training, the extreme level of danger, and their dedication to our county.

I for one believe that the SEALs, and all troops for that matter, deserve the utmost respect. They put themselves and everything else in their lives aside for their country. If the author felt that he needed to tell his story, then I think he should be able to tell it. If it was told for just for monetary gain, then that will be his cross to bear. I dare say he has alienated some of the soldiers he served with in the past and is already dealing with the consequences of his actions. I have not read the book yet and wouldn’t recognize a security breach if I saw it, but I can only hope that the information provided isn’t something that our enemies can use for their benefit.

That being said, I am not totally against reading this book. The subject matter is very compelling to me. I would like your opinions though…Would you read it and why?

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Lisa’s review of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
I read this book after a Facebook friend posted it to his page and said it was the best book he’s read thus far this year. My husband often teases me (and probably rightly so) for my Facebook addiction. And admittedly I post lots of silly or trivial stuff, such as pictures of the cookies I baked this morning. But. I actually found that delicious cookie recipe after a friend posted it to her Facebook page a few days ago. I’d never have known about it otherwise. I also learn about a lot of great books this way, when friends post what they’ve read. I’d never have stumbled across book otherwise and, if I had, I’d never have chosen to read it.

Those who know me – at all – know I’m a left-wing liberal. I make no secret of my political persuasion. As for religion, the story becomes more complicated and personal and messy. I have friends who are as left-wing as I am and friends who are on the opposite end of what can be a very divisive spectrum. This presidential election feels to me about as nasty and divisive as is sadly possible.

From where I stand, the other very wrong side (now before you get your underwear all in a knot if you belong to this side, I’m being facetious; my humor has been known at times to get me in trouble) wants to give tax breaks to the already uber wealthy, persecute those whose definition of family does not fit into their narrow view, cut services to those who need it most and take even the most basic of healthcare away from anyone who is not either independently wealthy or blessed enough to work for an employer who provides good coverage as part of the benefit package. That other wrong side probably views me as wanting to take what they have worked hard for and give it to lazy folks who just want to kick back and enjoy a free ride, driving their Mercedes and collecting food stamps. Like most things, I’m sure the truth falls somewhere in the middle.

I have moments when I get frustrated with folks who I perceive as expecting an awful lot while taking little personal responsibility. And at those moments I will say, “Forgive me, I’m having a Republican moment.” One of my best friends, who lies on that very wrong end of this spectrum, will laugh at me when I say that and tease me about finally coming to my senses.

The author is a psychologist and he makes the very interesting (and I think correct) point that we first make up our minds about things and then try to come up with good, persuasive arguments to support our opinions. The feelings come first and we then use logic and reasoning, not to objectively decide if our opinions are valid, but rather to support what we already believe. I tend to be an emotionally based person and I am often challenged (fairly and helpfully so) to try to be more objective in my view of things. Some would argue that reasoning and logic ought to be the main force that drives us and not crazy emotional stuff. I can see the validity in that point of view. But here is this. The author points out that psychopaths reason perfectly well, but fail to have any moral emotions to guide them in the carrying out of this logic. WOW.

He also talks about the tendency of humans to be very “groupish”. We naturally associate with others who are similar to us and fight for our turf against other groups that are different. This is true of religious groups. I tend not to be a very groupish person by nature. I became frustrated with organized religion many years ago for what I felt to be judgmental and hypocritical attitudes towards others who believe differently. So, his explanation of the many benefits of this groupish-ness was especially interesting to me.

He talks about nature vs. nurture. This is a subject I’ve thought a lot about, but never when it comes to political beliefs. He says the mind is like a book, the first draft written in our mother’s wombs by our genes. He says those chapters are rough outlines and are later filled in by our life experiences. He says that first draft then affects how we come to perceive those later experiences and what we come to believe, politics included. He talks about how the neurotransmitters of liberals and conservatives function differently. Fascinating perspective.

He begins and ends this book with a quote by Rodney King, the black man who was nearly beaten to death by Los Angeles police officers in the late 1980’s, an event which led to horrible riots. “Can we all get along? We’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out.” Whatever side of the political spectrum you fall on, I think this is a needed plea. We are all stuck here together and all must live with the consequences of our decisions and actions, political and otherwise. And here is this about my good friend who happens to be right-wing Republican. She is a good person. As am I. We manage to be close friends despite our very differing political views. We agree to disagree but also, we try our best to understand the other side, even when we do not agree with it. Like most things in life, I believe it is messy and complicated and not neatly black or white, right or wrong. I think both sides have valid points and areas in which they see things not so well. This book helps explain the other side and how they’ve come to believe what they do. And understanding and learning from the other side, whether or not you agree with it, is a good thing indeed.

Jennifer M (Founder of BBB) reviews The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business by Charles Duhigg

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

Ever wonder why you automatically seemed to check Facebook these days without making a conscious decision to do so? Or eat off your child’s food plate despite the fact you’re not hungry? Or ever desire to change a lifestyle: develop an excessive habit or lose the bad habit of being chronically late?

This book addresses all that and more. I bought this originally to help myself understand why someone I am very close to is struggling  so much with change– despite their best intentions it just seemed like they couldn’t get out of some patterns and I wanted to explore why that may be.

What ended up happening is I found this amazing book– highly reviewed and just out this year– that has now helped me sort through some of my own routines and gave me a better understanding of myself and my friend.

It takes you through in plain mans English and stories, the neuro-science behind habit formation, how marketing people use it on you, how those techniques can be used at home or in business, and how to empower yourself to mold your habits into what you want them to be.

I highly recommend this in paper form— as it’s the type of thing you may highlight and make notes on that you may go back as reference later… And kindle and book have those features but they are cumbersome.

A must read non-fiction (and I do not say that often)

Enjoy and please comment your feedback post read!

Also available at Barnes & Noble/Nook

Jenn’s review of Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera

Everything I Never Wanted to Be by Dina Kucera is a true story of a family’s battle with alcoholism and drug addiction. The author came from a family of alcoholics. Dina herself is an admitted alcoholic and pill addict. All 3 of her daughters have struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, the youngest starting at 14 years old.

Not only is Dina trying to care for her daughters, she is the caregiver for her mother who has Parkinson’s disease and her grandson who has cerebral palsy. Their house is also an open door for other family members and friends who are in and out of work and rehab centers. Dina struggles to hold it all together while working at a job that she HATES and as a stand up comic, which she receives payment ranging from a small amount of money to a very, very small amount of money.

Intertwined are stories of parental neglect, rape, abuse, drug overdoses and numerous stints in rehab. She is constantly fighting for her daughters. She never gives up, even when pitted against the insurance companies who refuse to cover the cost of rehabilitation. It’s an exhausting battle that leads to a short stay in a mental ward when she can no longer handle the stress, guilt or enormous weight on her soul.

This book brings light to the frustrating lack of services that are available for addicts. She makes a valid point with here statement that our country is stuck in the 1980’s, when teenagers were sneaking behind the bleachers at football games, drinking cheap beer and smoking pot. No one wants to know that we have fourteen and fifteen year old IV heroin addicts. Crystal meth is completely taking over our communities. Drug dealers are now dealing more prescription medications than illegal drugs. These prescription drugs are resulting in fifteen year olds overdosing and dying all across our county…Teenage addicts have no place to go unless they come from some sort of money or their families have access to money.

She also brings more understanding to the chemistry behind addiction. I have read about this before but I really appreciated how she described it…how it sometimes starts. She talks about the child/teenager who doesn’t feel like they fit in. It feels like you are under water – that little bit of panic right before your head surfaces. You feel different, and not in a good way. You can feel the pressure on your skin. And you have to get out. Because you’re suffocating and no one has a clue. Then one day, you’re hanging out with friends and someone has something to drink or a drug. So you give it a try. Immediately you can feel your body coming up out of the water and you take a huge breath of air. You can feel the rush of relief. You can feel the warm sun on your face…For the first time in your life, you can breathe, and it’s (expletive) amazing…You don’t feel high – you feel like everyone else…And you never want to go back to the way you were…The brain chemistry of an addict or alcoholic is completely different. A drug or a drink is a life changer. It’s an awakening from a life spent in loneliness and fear. You have saved your own life. And once you’re awake, your brain will never let you forget it. From that moment on your brain says, “Get it, get it, get it, get more, get more,” and it never quiets. It is relentless. It is bigger than you. It’s so loud it’s deafening. To tell an addict or alcoholic to stop is the equivalent to saying, “Go back under the water.” But that’s impossible. An addict will do the most horrifying, demoralizing, immoral acts to avoid going back under the water where they will no doubt die.

So what do you do? You have to learn to live above the water without the drugs and booze – to feel the sun, and stretch your arms out and embrace and love life. You don’t have to go back under the water, but you must find that tiny flame that burns in each of us and help it grow so that the fire is so big, the stalking “get more” voice in your head shuts the (expletive) up. Until then, you must protect that tiny flame because at the end of the day, it will be the only thing to build a new life on.  

She deals with all the turmoil in her life with humor and rediscovered faith. She speaks a lot about your Divine Order. I believe God has a plan of each one of us. I say “Always try to move toward your Divine Order”. Move toward the things in life that are good and kind and loving. And that may be the best we can do. 

I found this writer to be so honest and brave. Her heartache is palpable. In spite of all the horrific events that happen to her and her family, she never gives up. It’s inspiring in many ways and I really enjoyed her use of humor to add levity to her story. It takes a special person to put her family’s issues in front of the world to see. It brings light to so many of our society’s issues and the need to address the epidemic of addiction in our nation. I am so glad that I read this book.

Jenn’s review of Flowertown by S.G. Redling

I just finished reading Flowertown, a conspiracy thriller by S.G. Redling. The story is about a small town in Iowa that is quarantined after a chemical company (Feno) spills their experimental pesticide near the town. The inhabitants are held captive to a restrictive infrastructure, countless med checks and less than ideal living arrangements. They are isolated from the outside world to prevent the spread of the contamination. The side effect of the drugs they are forced to take is that their bodies give off a sickly flower like smell; hence the designation of “Flowertown”.

The main character (Ellie) was in the town by chance at the time of the spill. Those closest to her were either killed instantaneously by the spill or shortly thereafter from the medications given to rid their bodies of the poison.

Ellie, after a two-year stint in a mental institution, slips into an existence of apathy, laziness….oh, and marijuana. She is a complicated, hot mess. She is sarcastic and sassy and even though she appears to be clueless, she is actually quite smart. She has a budding “romance” with an Army sergeant-turned Feno employee that is plagued with mistrust and betrayal. Her fight for survival lies dormant until she starts to see things crumbling around her as the conspiracy unfolds.

The company that is to blame for the spill collaborates with a big pharmaceutical company to manage the treatment of the town members. It’s obvious as the story develops that there are motivating factors at play. Whereas you would think that with the advent of pharmaceutical advances, after 7 years the town’s inhabitants would be cleansed by the contaminant. Instead, many of them have been told that their livers are failing and they are just being treated with “comfort meds”. While most would resign to their fate, Ellie’s rage unleashes her sass and defiance in the face of authority. You see her true colors when she is backed into a corner. Most animals when caged and abused are eventually going to fight back.

I found that I enjoyed the twisted plot and the storyline kept my attention for the majority of the story. I actually acquired Flowertown on a free Prime membership loan. About 60% into the story, I turned on my Wi-Fi to update my Kindle and it disappeared!! When my free month of prime membership expired, so did my book. Needless to say, I purchased it right away. Those that know me and know that I hate spending money on something that I already had for free can appreciate how much I was enjoying this book.

I felt the big twist coming, but I was pretty surprised anyway which is refreshing. Even though I was pretty close to piecing it together it still had the shock factor.  The author develops the supporting characters just enough for you to be pulled into their stories. She makes you wonder if something like this can really happen, and how the government would handle it if it did. Would you stand by and watch as everything unfolded around you or would you rise up and fight?

The story did leave some unanswered questions, which I would imagine could lead to a second book but I’m not sure where they would take the storyline. I felt it wrapped up too quickly and lacked closure for many of the characters we met.

Overall though, I enjoyed it. It was a pretty easy read and I was intrigued by the suspense and paranoia. I found myself pulling for Ellie and hoping that everyone would escape from the greed and abuse of power of those capitalizing on the misfortune of others.

Also available at Barnes & Noble/Nook

Lisa’s review of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

I just finished reading A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life by Donald Miller. In this book he compares the living of a good life to the writing of a story. Our lives are a blank page and we decide in our actions (or lack thereof) the story we will write.

As this idea comes to him and as he forms it more deeply, he puts it into action in his own life. Literally. He gets off the couch, gets in shape, and goes on many adventures, including riding his bicycle across the country with a group to raise money for a good cause. And in doing so finds he gains so much more than he could have imagined.

He talks about the difficulty of life. And how there is value in things not always being easy. It is in those tough struggles that we learn and grow and improve. “The story made us different characters than we would have been if we had skipped the story and showed up at the ending an easier way.”

I love this idea. He writes, “People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But joy costs pain.” We are the writers of our own stories. And when the final page is turned, what do we want the story we leave behind to say about us?

Also available at Barnes & Noble/Nook

To hear more thoughts from Lisa, please visit her blog at runcookquilt

Andy’s review of The Hidden Europe by Francis Tapon

Andy is being introduced as our first male book reviewer and we are so excited to hear his perspective!! Welcome to Belletristic Book Babes Andy!

The book I would like to review, quite positively, is The Hidden Europe: What Eastern Europe Can Teach Us by Francis Tapon. Let me start this review by stating that the type of books I read are military non-fiction. I love war history and reading books about veterans’ experiences in World War 2, Iraq or Afghanistan. Luckily, there are many books like this coming out all the time at my local library. But sometimes I break out of the mold and read some obscure book that catches my eye on the shelf or if it’s new or has an interesting title. The book I am reviewing is one of those obscure books that caught my eye, and it turned out to be one of the most educating and entertaining books I’ve read in a long time.

“The Hidden Europe” is a brand new book about an American man and his hiking (and hitchhiking) adventures through every Eastern European country. Francis Tapon is a single Harvard educated 40-something American who has a French father and a Chilean mother. Francis loves adventure and loves to explore new lands. It seems that not many people in the west know or care about Eastern European countries. Many Americans (or Western Europeans for that matter) cannot place Eastern European countries like Serbia, Belarus, Latvia or Lithuania on a map. So Francis decided to de-mystify these places for westerners by visiting each Eastern European country and getting to know the locals. He had a very small budget for this, so he hikes and catches rides as he travels, using a portable tarp to sleep under at night or using a cheap internet-based  method of meeting new people and sleeping in their spare bedrooms called “couch-surfing”. Couch-surfing, in a nutshell,  lets you connect with people on-line who have spare bedrooms or a couch to share with travelers on a tight budget. Many Eastern Europeans are really into this, and Francis gets to know many locals this way. Being a fairly young single man, he even has romantic adventures with some female couch-surfing hosts that he shares in this book.

The book is humorous and educational at the same time, which is a great combination. The book’s introduction begins with Francis accidentally locking himself in some remote outhouse in Finland, and his humorous description of this misadventure in an alien land got me hooked. He also states that every Eastern European country has one thing in common; they don’t like to be called “Eastern European”. Western European or just European seems to be the more desired label. Each chapter is about a different Eastern European country he visited, and ends with lessons that westerners can take from them. For example, Russians tend to be more relaxed and resilient than Americans, we can learn something from that. Slovakians have a very clean country and are very environmentally conscious, Americans can certainly take a lesson from that. Romanians are direct and don’t beat around the bush, they also have water-saving dual-flushing toilets so if you go number one, you use less water than if you go number 2. Apparently these type of toilets are all over Eastern Europe, and Americans could benefit from those as well. And so it goes with humor and life lessons throughout the book.

This is definitely an “adult” book. I would not recommend it for children due to some foul language that Francis sprinkles throughout, his descriptions of some of his sexual adventures, and some of his stereotypical labels he puts in there so westerners can relate easier to what he’s trying to convey. The book is not “vulgar” by any means, but it’s not middle school classroom material either. It’s very funny and very educational for American adults, his target audience.

As I’ve mentioned, this is a new book. According to his website Francis is now doing a public speaking circuit and does consulting for some major companies using his travel experiences. But his adventures aren’t over yet; he is about to embark on yet another journey into a land most westerners can’t relate to –Africa. He will hike through every African country and emerge with a new book in 2016. I can’t wait!!!!