One Bullet Away by Nathaniel Fick

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Nathaniel Fick decided while he was in college that he was going to join the Marines. He served as an Infantry Officer and later as a Recon Marine. During that time, he saw a good chunk of what the world had to offer, both good and bad. One Bullet Away is Fick’s account of the things he faced during those years.

I first became aware of Nathaniel Fick’s story when I read Generation Kill by Evan Wright a few years back. While I enjoyed Wright’s book, I have a different appreciation for One Bullet Away because of the different perspective. To read the account of someone who actually trained and served and couldn’t just go home after spending a while in a war zone is rather humbling.

One of the major pluses for One Bullet Away is the amount of ground that Fick covers. By that I mean that it’s not just a story about the gruesome aspects of war. Fick talks a lot about how he made the decision to join the Marines, what he went through in order to join, and the training he had to go through once he did get in and how that helped him to become the person he is. In addition, he mentions coming home from war and what it’s like adapting to civilian life again. He also discusses his decision to leave the Corps – how he went from believing the Corps would be his career to realizing that he needed to get out. He talks about all of this, and war, in such an honest and personal manner that it’s hard not to be captivated by his story.

In One Bullet Away Fick isn’t afraid to be candid about all things. He talks about himself, his feelings, his feelings about others and how things were done in a very straightforward manner. One Bullet Away is well written and easy to read. I didn’t want to put it down when I read it because I was so hooked by his story.

Bottom line, I honestly don’t have a bad thing to say about this book. People who serve in the armed forces endure a lot of things and that holds true for Nathaniel Fick and the men and women he served with. Definitely a great read.

Don’t Sing at the Table by Adriana Trigiani

From the publisher:

“As devoted readers of Adriana Trigiani’s New York Times bestselling novels know, this “seemingly effortless storyteller” (Boston Globe) frequently draws inspiration from her own family history, in particular from the lives of her two remarkable grandmothers, Lucia Spada Bonicelli (Lucy) and Yolanda Perin Trigiani (Viola). In Don’t Sing at the Table, she reveals how her grandmothers’ simple values have shaped her own life, sharing the experiences, humor, and wisdom of her beloved mentors to delight readers of all ages.

Trigiani visits the past to seek answers to the essential questions that define the challenges women face today at work and at home. Don’t Sing at the Table is a primer, grandmother to granddaughter, filled with everyday wisdom and life lessons handed down with care and built to last.”

My Thoughts:

We all have people in our lives who leave a mark of some sort. For Adriana Trigiani, her grandmothers Lucy and Viola had a huge impact on her. Don’t Sing at the Table is a moving and even entertaining book full of stories about these two powerhouse women and I enjoyed it immensely.

Lucy and Viola are two women who lived very full lives. They loved with all their hearts and gave everything they had to their jobs and families. From their births and childhood in Italy to their trip across the Atlantic and the lives they built once they arrived in the U.S., Trigiani shares her grandmothers with all of us. Don’t Sing at the Table is full of stories about the time she spent with her grandmothers, whether it was cleaning cars (which is a thorough and amusing process if I may say so myself), using a magnet to collect needles off the ground of Viola’s factory or Lucy’s seamstress shop, or simply enjoying a drink and conversation on a beautiful summer afternoon. Trigiani also shares bits of the advice her grandmothers imparted to her over the years on everything from maintaining a home, to love, marriage, and parenting and discusses how her grandmothers affected how she approaches her career and her life.

Don’t Sing at the Table wasn’t just a book for me, but an experience. I’m probably biased by the relationship I shared with my grandmother, but I can’t think of a bad word to say about this one. Don’t Sing at the Table is a beautifully written memoir about the everlasting effect two women had on Adriana Trigiani’s life.

**I received a copy of this book from the publisher as a part of TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Unlikely Disciple by Kevin Roose

Kevin Roose, child of Quaker parents and student at Brown University met a group of Liberty University students while on a trip with his boss. The result of that meeting… a desire to live and study at Liberty University for a semester where he could immerse himself in the evangelical Christian culture and get to know a group of people that he knew little about. During his semester at Liberty University he experienced many things. He got to sing in the choir at Thomas Road Baptist Church and attend a variety of church services the likes of which he’d never before experienced. He met regularly with a pastor and explored the campus. He interviewed Jerry Falwell himself. He taught himself to stop swearing and did his best to follow the rules (all forty-six pages of them). He went on a spring break mission trip to Daytona Beach and attended a support group for chronic masturbators. Oh, and he studied young-earth creationism while attempting to keep his cool every time he heard a homophobic statement.

I have to say, I really enjoyed reading The Unlikely Disciple. From the first page I was interested to see what he had to say about being immersed in a culture so different from his own and trying to fit in as if he too was an evangelical Christian.

There are two huge positives that stood out for me while I was reading this book. First, Roose’s observations of the other students, faculty, and staff at the university. By that I mean that even though he is on the complete opposite side of the belief spectrum from those he was living and studying with, he didn’t criticize their beliefs or put them down. Sure, he might disagree with many of their beliefs, but that is natural, and he isn’t a jerk about it. He also talks about some of the friends he made while he was at Liberty and the fact that aside from their religious and generally conservative beliefs, students at Liberty are just like students at any secular college in the States.  They have fun, stress over exams, and some break rules. Basically, he shows that they are human just like the rest of us.

The other thing that I really liked about this book was the fact that a lot of what Roose writes is about what he is feeling. He writes about his fears, insecurities, and his struggles throughout that semester. You’re able to get a good feel for what was going on in his head.

The Unlikely Disciple gives a peak at what is happening on a Christian college campus. In my opinion it is an all-around great read. The way the book is written makes it a quick read with the added benefit of being quite humorous. Most certainly an enjoyable book.

Kicking Ass and Saving Souls

From the book jacket:

Stefan Templeton was born a child of extremes. He spent half his childhood with his African American philosopher father in the decaying ghetto of Baltimore in the 1970s. The other half was spent with his Norwegian mother in the wealthiest enclaves of Europe. His father was a brilliant academic, and intense disciplinarian, and a lethal martial artist. His mother, an aristocrat by birth, was a mystic and a healer. By the time Stefan was nine, he spoke four languages. By the time he was seventeen, he had a black belt and could take apart a .45 automatic in the dark. 

Things got heavier from there. Stefan’s wanderlust and action jones took him all over the world. Before he was twenty-one, he’d hunted in Burgundy, brawled in Oxford, served as a medicine man in Colombia, escaped death on the Amazon, and trained to be a deep-sea diver on Cousteau’s Calypso.

At twenty-five, love for the mother of his first child settled him in Norway but didn’t settle him down. He drifted into a labyrinthine criminal underworld, where he pulled off an enormous jewel heist and became a player in a European smuggling consortium. But his conscience demanded that his life be about more than the next adrenaline fix, the next adventure, the next score. His road to redemption led him to some of the bleakest corners of the globe, where he finally found a focus for his life in humanitarian relief work: on the beach in the wake of the Indoneasian tsunami and on the ground following the Sudanese civil war. That was just the beginning. 

Kicking Ass and Saving Souls is a true testament to the capacity of the human spirit, a mythic adventure made palpable, lyrical, and human by David Matthews- Stefan’s childhood friend and sometimes harshest critic.

I would be lying if I said the story of Stefan Templeton didn’t grab me from the start. He is a human being just like the rest of us, but he has lived an extraordinary life. Things that the general population can only dream of were seen and done by Stefan by the time he became an adult. Deep sea diving, traveling over several continents, a run in with a member of the Yakuza, walking through crime ridden neighborhoods in the dead of night for an adrenaline fix as a teenager, and helping people in need all over the world – this is only a sampling of the things Stefan Templeton has experienced.

At times, this man’s story seems almost unrealistic and you can’t help but think, ‘Really, one person has done all of this?’ Yet there is one about the book that makes you realize, yes this is true, this is the extraordinary story of a real person, and that is seeing the change in Stefan as he goes through life.

The changes Stefan goes through from the time he was a child through his adulthood is my favorite part of Kicking Ass and Saving Souls. The book paints a picture of Stefan’s life and the many good and not-so-good things he’s done. Seeing that he had made both good choices and some mistakes gives him a human quality. This isn’t just some unrealistic story, but it’s the life of a living and breathing person. A father, a son, a friend, a lover.

Stefan Templeton has done some amazing things during his life. He’s seen the most beautiful parts of the world and the ugliest. His story, told by his good friend David Matthews, is absolutely worth reading.

**I received a copy of this book as a part of TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own and have not been influenced in anyway.

Shit My Dad Says

Before I start talking about the book I’m putting up a warning. If you are offended by lots of swearing, you’re better off staying away from this one since the title accurately reflects the language throughout the book.

A 29 year old Justin Halpern moved back home with his 73 year old father after his girlfriend dumped him and he had nowhere else to go. Having a job where he worked from home and spending time with his retired father, he started keeping track of things his dad would say to him. Then he started posting them on Twitter. These quotes attracted quite a following and along came a book, Shit My Dad Says. Halpern starts the book with stories from his childhood and follows through to his life as an adult.

Shit My Dad Says is a really quick read, time for any distractions included it took under two hours for me to get through the book. Over half that time I spent laughing aloud at quotes from his father or the stories of his life. We all have stories about ourselves that you just can’t help but laugh at. Halpern is no exception. His father is very blunt and for lack of a better term, swears like a sailor. I appreciate the straight-forward attitude shown in the book.

My mom actually read this before I did, and for a few weeks she has been hounding me to sit down for an hour and read the book, and boy am I glad I did. Stories that everyone can relate to are told in an honest and humorous way.

On My Bloody Nose

“What happened? Did somebody punch you in the face?!… The what? The air is dry? Do me a favor and tell people you got punched in the face.”

On My Response to Having My Tires Slashed

” Oh, don’t go to the goddamned cops. They’re busy with real shit. I don’t want my tax dollars going to figuring out who thinks you’re an asshole.”

That’s only a sampling of the things Mr. Sam Halpern has to say, and I really had to just open to a random page and point to choose what to quote.

The book ends with a story that Halpern’s father told him about his first wife that is far more serious than the rest of the book. While, the change in mood might seem abrupt, that story his father shares is personal and really hits home for me. It also reinforces the reality that we all live in. I’m going to be redundant here, again. Pick up the book, read it, laugh and nod and say yup, been there.

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

Dog the Bounty Hunter! That’s right! Whilst drowning my sorrows in the Social Sciences section of my local bookstore, my eyes caught sight off the Dog. All I could think to myself was, ‘I have GOT to read this.’

Most people know Duane Chapman as the guy on TV, the one who chases after fugitives. I’ve been an avid watcher of the show myself for quite some time. However, there is much more too him than most people think, and certainly more than one might believe after just a quick glance at him. I was familiar, to an extent, with the fact that he had a rough past, but I must admit here and now that I really did not have any idea just how difficult things have been for him.

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide is an unforgiving account of Dog’s life. Everything from his childhood, school bullies, his parents, his faith, gangs, drugs, women, his children, being convicted of a murder he didn’t commit and subsequent jail time, and of course what he is probably most well known for, his involvement in the apprehension of Andrew Luster, nothing gets left out in this memoir.

I could not imagine having to experience some of what he has. Not the death of one child, but two. Living with the fact that his children had been taken away from him by ex-wives who seemed not to care about how it affected him. He spent many of his childhood years being physically abused by his father, not understanding why, not until he was an adult. He was convicted for murder, even though he had no idea it was going to happen and wasn’t even in the house when it did. He was again put in jail in Mexico, for supposedly kidnapping Andrew Luster who was a convicted rapist running from the law. He’s been piss poor and fought a mean drug addiction, one that near caused him his life. Life hasn’t always been nice to him.

I know that it is no secret that Dog and his family go about bounty hunting in a much different way than others, and that others in the business have it out for him. What I did not know is how far others have gone to screw him over. He really has been through hell and high water (some his own doings, some completely out of his hands), yet he still prevails.

Regardless of what anyone else says to me or thinks, I have a new found respect for Duane “Dog” Chapman, and I have a new set of eyes to look at him with. I truly enjoyed reading his first book.

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

My first book review! As exciting as it is, I must say that I am indeed still getting used to this, so please bear with me.

Sometime last year I started learning about the Amish culture, and then about the related Mennonite culture. When I came across this memoir I had no idea what to expect from it, but in the end this one made it to my list of favorite books of all time. Mennonite in a Little Black Dress is the true story of Rhoda Janzen’s ‘mid-life crisis’ and what happens when she returns home to her Mennonite roots.

Though I did in fact learn quite a bit about Mennonite society from Janzen’s accounts, what really got me was the humor that she looks upon all events with. I have to say that I spent most of my time reading this book laughing out loud, literally, regardless of the strange looks my mother gave me. This can be attributed mainly to the very matter of fact telling of a visit to Kohl’s with her mother, and her mother’s ability to stop a Seeing Eye dog in its tracks.

Janzen’s memoir takes you through her difficult marriage, to their second divorce, and the struggles she faced in overcoming that final separation. She talks about a serious accident she had and the troubles she faced being seriously injured and living alone in her big, secluded home. Janzen also writes of her conflicting feelings in saying goodbye to her child rearing days. Finally, she writes of her experiences going home, going back to her family and friends who lived in a world much different than her own and the good and the bad times she had with them.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. I laughed and my eyes got teary with her words. It is honest, funny, and well-written. Absolutely worth every second spent reading it!