Horse Soldiers

This month we read Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton

(Published May 2009, 393 pages)
Hosted by Janet Maisel
Book it Sisters’ Grade: B

Horse Soldiers is the dramatic account of a small band of Special Forces soldiers who secretly entered Afghanistan following 9/11 and rode to war on horses against the Taliban. Outnumbered forty to one, they pursued the enemy across mountainous terrain and, after a series of intense battles, captured the city of Mazar-i-Sharif, which was strategically essential if they were to defeat the Taliban. 

The bone-weary American soldiers were welcomed as liberators, and overjoyed Afghans thronged the streets. Then the action took a wholly unexpected turn. During a surrender of six hundred Taliban troops, the Horse Soldiers were ambushed. Dangerously outnumbered, they fought for their lives in the city’s immense fortress, Qala-i-Janghi, or the House of War. At risk were the military gains of the entire campaign: if the soldiers perished or were captured, the effort to defeat the Taliban might be doomed. 

As the Americans struggled to hold the fortress, they faced some of the most intense urban warfare of our time. But until now the full story of the Horse Soldiers has never been told. Doug Stanton received unprecedented cooperation from the U.S. Army’s Special Forces soldiers and Special Operations helicopter pilots, as well as access to voluminous after-battle reports. In addition, he interviewed more than one hundred participants and walked every inch of the climactic battleground. 

This exciting story is filled with unforgettable characters: brave Special Forces soldiers, tough CIA operatives, cunning Afghan warlords, anxious stateside soldiers’ wives who do not know where their husbands have gone, and humble Afghan boys spying on the Taliban. 

Deeply researched and beautifully written, Stanton’s account of America’s quest to liberate an oppressed people touches the mythic. The Horse Soldiers combined ancient strategies of cavalry warfare with twenty-first-century aerial bombardment technology to perform a seemingly impossible feat. Moreover, their careful effort to win the hearts of local townspeople and avoid civilian casualties proved a valuable lesson for America’s ongoing efforts in Afghanistan. 

Horse Soldiers is a big-hearted and thrilling read, with an epic story that reaches not just across the cold mountains of Afghanistan but into the homes of small-town America, and confirms Doug Stanton as one of our country’s preeminent storytellers.(less)

Here is our review:

Judy BushBThis book was difficult to read, as there were so many characters. He introduces them at the beginning, then moves on to different ones before we learn what happened to the first ones. The story was interesting, and we got a glimpse into what it is like in a war zone, something I know nothing about. I learned a lot, but would have enjoyed it more had I been able to keep track of people.
Janet MaiselA+So glad I read this. It was confusing but I was determined to hang in there. So glad I did! It made appreciate our mission in Afghanistan and those who gave their all for those who need the help of the USA. I think everyone should read this.
Mary HalseyBI have a greater understanding and appreciation for our Special Forces and the sacrifices and the sacrifice of their families. It is wonderful how were able to give the support necessary for the Afghans to fight their fight their way.
Tricia Gadberry
Suzanne Rigby
Denise Linkc+It was hard for me to orient myself in the book because of the foreign names and places. it gave me an appreciation for the sacrifices that the men and their families make.
Cheryl Clowes
Nina Yatsko
Megan LewisCHad trouble getting in to the book, but the characters were interesting and well developed.


Same Kind of Different as Me

This month we read Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore

(Published June 2006, 237 pages)
Hosted by Mary Halsey
Book it Sisters’ Grade: A

Meet Denver, a man raised under plantation-style slavery in Louisiana in the 1960s; a man who escaped, hopping a train to wander, homeless, for eighteen years on the streets of Dallas, Texas. No longer a slave, Denver’s life was still hopeless—until God moved. First came a godly woman who prayed, listened, and obeyed. And then came her husband, Ron, an international arts dealer at home in a world of Armani-suited millionaires. And then they all came together.

But slavery takes many forms. Deborah discovers that she has cancer. In the face of possible death, she charges her husband to rescue Denver. Who will be saved, and who will be lost? What is the future for these unlikely three? What is God doing? 

Same Kind of Different As Me is the emotional tale of their story: a telling of pain and laughter, doubt and tears, dug out between the bondages of this earth and the free possibility of heaven. No reader or listener will ever forget it.

Here is our review:

Judy BushAThis book was a giant guilt trip. I feel so bad that I haven't done anything to help the poor and needy. I feel even worse that I look at them as alcoholics and drug addicts who don't want to improve their lives. This book reaffirms the fact that we are all children of God, and deserve to be loved. And occasionally that love can bear fruit and improve the lives of the less fortunate! I'm going to try harder!
Janet MaiselAThis true story truly made me think - about alot of things! Since our women's ministry is somewhat involved with a homeless shelter, it made me look at my motives for volunteering and to see the blight of these men in a different light.I also was shocked that sharecropping was gong on when I was a child. There was some stereo typing about Christians in there as well that made me flinch and laugh at the same time. But the spiritual journey of Deborah, Ron and Mr. Moore caused me to take a deeper look at my own. So much in this book!
Mary HalseyAThanks to my daughter Laura for suggesting this book...bringing about much needed change for me.
Tricia GadberryA+I LOVED this book! I loved everything about it - the relationships that were so complicated but caring, how deep feelings run in people, no matter their situation. I think this is one of the best books I have ever read.
Suzanne RigbyB+I enjoyed this book, and it inspired me to reach out and love and serve others with purer intent. It was moving and spiritual.
Denise LinkAThis was a moving book that made you realize you need to look for the good in all.
Cheryl ClowesAI enjoyed this book tremendously. I felt that the characters were alive and rich. Denver was truly an inspiration and chosen by God. I thought his journey was amazing and very positive. It shows us what us all can be.
Nina Yatsko
Megan LewisBI enjoyed the character development. I began the book wanting to like Ron but ended seeing Ron as a catalyst to bring help Denver become the person that could heal others.



The Invention of Wings

This month we read The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

(Published January 2014, 373 pages)
Hosted by Tricia Gadberry
Book it Sisters’ Grade: A-

Hetty “Handful” Grimke, an urban slave in early nineteenth century Charleston, yearns for life beyond the suffocating walls that enclose her within the wealthy Grimke household. The Grimke’s daughter, Sarah, has known from an early age she is meant to do something large in the world, but she is hemmed in by the limits imposed on women.

Kidd’s sweeping novel is set in motion on Sarah’s eleventh birthday, when she is given ownership of ten year old Handful, who is to be her handmaid.We follow their remarkable journeys over the next thirty-five years, as both strive for a life of their own, dramatically shaping each other’s destinies and forming a complex relationship marked by guilt, defiance, estrangement and the uneasy ways of love.
As the stories build to a riveting climax, Handful will endure loss and sorrow, finding courage and a sense of self in the process. Sarah will experience crushed hopes, betrayal, unrequited love, and ostracism before leaving Charleston to find her place alongside her fearless younger sister, Angelina, as one of the early pioneers in the abolition and women’s rights movements.

Inspired by the historical figure of Sarah Grimke, Kidd goes beyond the record to flesh out the rich interior lives of all of her characters, both real and invented, including Handful’s cunning mother, Charlotte, who courts danger in her search for something better.

This exquisitely written novel is a triumph of storytelling that looks with unswerving eyes at a devastating wound in American history, through women whose struggles for liberation, empowerment, and expression will leave no reader unmoved.

Here is our review:

Judy BushA-I enjoyed the ifirst half of the book the most. The characters were well developed and the time period well described. The book slowed down for me towards the end, after the author started to stay closer to the true life of the Grimke sisters. I thought some of the enjoyment of the fiction went away when it became more historical.
Janet MaiselB+
good book, especially historical fiction
Mary HalseyAI love historical novels. The Grimke sisters were ahead of their times and improved women's lives ever since. Handful was a delightful addition because although there is nothing written about her, she was historically true to her time. Great character development. I look forward to reading more from this author!
Tricia GadberryAI didn't realize at the beginning of the book that this was based on true people and events. I enjoyed learning about that. It was very well written and the theme of being free - no matter what the person's situation was - was very enlightening.
Suzanne RigbyBI thought this book was well written, as I always enjoy Susan Monk Kidd's novels. The interplay between Handful and Sarah as their lives entertwined was the best part of the book for me. As they both found their wings to flee from their physical and social restraints. I too enjoy historical fiction and learning about these brave women.
Denise LinkA-I felt the book was well written. The portrayal of the South, slavery and the will for freedom was a driving force that made it hard to put the book down at times. It was especially interesting to see the impact 2 valiant sisters made in their crusade against slavery.
Cheryl ClowesA I enjoyed the book tremendously. I found myself wanting to know what would happen next, but almost afraid for the characters. The characters were so well developed, complex and flawed, that they felt alive. I am so glad to be a woman in this century!
Nina YatskoB+I enjoyed learning about the Grimke sisters in this book. This is the third book I have read by this author and I do love her writing. I still think I favored the "secret life of bees" to this, but both books are very good. This book makes you pause and feel grateful for things we take for granted everyday, such as reading and learning and intellectual freedom.

Escape From Camp 14

This month we read Escape from Camp 14, One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West by Blaine Harden

(Published March 29, 2012 205 pages)
Hosted by Suzanne Rigby
Book It Sisters’ Grade: B+

North Korea is isolated and hungry, bankrupt and belligerent. It is also armed with nuclear weapons. Between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in its political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did.

In Escape from Camp 14, acclaimed journalist Blaine Harden tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk and through the lens of Shin’s life unlocks the secrets of the world’s most repressive totalitarian state. Shin knew nothing of civilized existence-he saw his mother as a competitor for food, guards raised him to be a snitch, and he witnessed the execution of his own family. Through Harden’s harrowing narrative of Shin’s life and remarkable escape, he offers an unequaled inside account of one of the world’s darkest nations and a riveting tale of endurance, courage, and survival.

Here is our review:

Judy BushBThis was a very sad story. I learned a ton about North Korea, and all of it was bad! It is sad to see that a person can be so damaged by their circumstances to be beyond help. The writing style was a little flat, but the story was worth telling!
Janet MaiselAI also felt like it changed my life. So glad I read it. Learned so much and would recommend it to everyone.
Mary HalseyBHardest book I ever read--but I am thankful to learn of the damage of lack of freedom. North Korea is real...that haunts me. I want to somehow help but I don't know how.
Tricia GadberryBAlthough the writing style was slightly dry for my taste, I learned so much about North Korea and the labor camps. I can't say I "enjoyed" the book, but I am glad I read it and would recommend it to others.
Suzanne RigbyAI have never read a book where I have learned so much about a terrible situation that I literally knew nothing about. I think it is always worth it to gain knowledge even though parts were painful to read. I'm glad I read it.
Denise LinkBAlthough the book was written more as a commentary/article, I was drawn to the reality of the inhumanity and the knowledge that societies continue to exist living with these horrors. It gave me a greater appreciation of the life I have
Cheryl Clowes
Nina YatskoAI was thankful for having been exposed to Shin's story through this book club. I wouldn't have selected this book to read on my own, and I feel my perspective on people, human suffering, hope and gratitude have been changed by this book. It will stay with me for very long time, and I think it has affected me in a very positive way. It is truly a life altering book.


The Raven’s Bride

This month we read The Raven’s Bride by Lenore Hart.
(Published Feb 15, 2011, 358 pages)
Hosted by Judy Bush
Book It Sisters’ Grade: B-

When eight-year-old Virginia “Sissy” Clemm meets her handsome cousin, Eddy, she sees the perfect husband she’s conjured up in childhood games. Thirteen years her elder, he’s soft-spoken, brooding, and handsome. Eddy fails his way through West Point and the army yet each time he returns to Baltimore, their friendship grows. As Sissy trains for a musical career, her childhood crush turns to love. When she’s thirteen, Eddy proposes. But as their happy life darkens, Sissy endures Poe’s abrupt disappearances, self-destructive moods, and alcoholic binges. When she falls ill, his greatest fear– that he’ll lose the woman he loves– drives him both madness, and to his greatest literary achievement.

Part ghost story, part love story, this provocative novel explores the mysterious, shocking relationship between Edgar Allan Poe and young Sissy Clemm, his cousin, muse and great love. Lenore Hart, author of Becky, imagines the beating heart of the woman who inspired American literature’s most demonized literary figure– and who ultimately destroyed him.

Here are our reviews. If you have read it, feel free to leave your review and grade in the comments below!

Judy BushBInteresting story and good job with setting the historical time period. I was more sympathetic to Poe after reading it. He may have been ADD and self-medicated with alcohol. I wish I could have known his wife to know if she was like the character in the book.
Janet MaiselBEnjoyed the historical context, being from Baltimore. Loved the beginning and the emotion. Just didn't like Poe. But, then, the author did a good job of developing him.
Mary HalseyB+Loved traveling back in time. Stark situations in day to day life in the 1800's make me appreciate my posh life today!!
Tricia GadberryC+ I enjoyed the historical aspects and learned things about the era and about Poe. However, the story didn't draw me in and keep me interested.
Suzanne RigbyC+The writing didn't draw me in as much as some books. The characters were interesting and the historical aspects I enjoyed. All in all I wouldn't recommend it.
Denise LinkC+ I enjoyed the history, however, the story tended to drag along.
Cheryl ClowesBI liked the book because of the historical descriptions and the relationships.
Nina YatskoB-I felt it was an enjoyable read, and would be so for anyone who enjoys Poe and may have a curiosity to learn more about him in a biographical sense, about the very mysterious person behind his literature. I knew little about the relationship between Poe and Osgood before reading it, or the ensuing scandal, so that was interesting to me. I think for readers who dabble in historical fiction without truly scrutinizing the historic validity of certain portrayals would also enjoy the book.