Friday, August 29, 2014


I am way late to add my two cents to the raving reviews of Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, but I am just in time in terms of the movie being released on Christmas of this year, especially if you haven't read the book yet. Encouraged by my in-laws, I had this book on my back burner for quite awhile, though I was having trouble tracking down the copy being passed around. Then I heard that the movie was coming out at the end of the year, so I made it a goal to read it before then. Finally, I saw a movie preview, and the book bumped right up to the top of my list.

The genre is certainly not what I would typically read now, though I read a lot of biographies when I was younger, but I look for good stories more than anything. A good story is a good story, and I confess, sometimes the true ones can be the best. This is one of those.

To give you an idea of how good I found this book, I read it on vacation. Big deal, you say? Well, here's the thing about me: I don't read on vacation. Weird, I know. If I do read, it has to be unusual and fascinating enough to trump all the other out-of-the-ordinary aspects of vacation. That doesn't usually happen to me. Of course, I always take books with me in the hopes I will be tempted, but I'm usually not. The only time I can really remember reading on vacation and enjoying it was when I was pregnant with my first child. I was tired, and it was easier to just sit by myself in a cool room and read than go out into the sun and water. I read two fun YA books that week and relaxed more than ever. That was about five years ago. This trip was not quite so relaxing...fifteen people camping together with an RV and a collection of tents...the responsibility of two active children...but I managed it. Unbroken is not a small book, and aside from the first 50 pages, which I read before we left home, I read the whole thing on our trip. I'm sure you've heard this from others by now, but it's an amazing story.

Louis Zamperini died this year, but before that, he had the chance to form a friendship with the movie director of his life story, Angelina Jolie. Knowing this, I'm very excited to see the finished product. But even without Jolie, I'd be interested, especially after reading this book. Louis was quite a character from the beginning, a rebel of sorts. You could say that that very quality in him helped him through a lifetime of trials. He became an Olympian and then a soldier. He survived a plane crash and weeks adrift at sea, and then he became a prisoner of war under the cruel Japanese in World War II. Hillenbrand has collected his stories and the stories of many others, as well as conducted careful research, to piece together Louis's history and the history of the world he lived through. It's fascinating stuff, and it just gets better as the story gets more and more improbable. But the cool thing is that all that improbable stuff really happened and is well documented.

I won't give details about the end, but the end really clinched it for me. The end made this a truly inspirational story. I don't know if Hillenbrand is a Christian. She just tells the facts. But I think I can appreciate this story more as a Christian than if I'd come at it from a faithless background. The end brought me to tears in a wonderful, joyful, unexpected way.

If you are worried about reading a boring biography, don't be. There's nothing to bore. If you are worried about the size of this thing, don't be. It only gets more and more interesting. If this story was written as fiction, people would scoff at the improbabilities. That it's true is not even the most amazing part. It's in the details, and those I won't spoil. I love this story and give it a full, hearty five stars. Totally recommended!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy in Theaters Now

I got to see Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13, 2 hours) the second day it was out, but I was on vacation and away from computers and just haven't gotten around to reviewing it until now. That means this will be a short one because my first impressions are mostly lost.

Personally, I prefer my heroes a little more serious. But I had quite a few good laughs and enjoyed the cheesy lightheartedness of this film. I especially loved Bradley Cooper's Rocket Raccoon. He was by far my favorite character, and I love seeing the variety of Bradley Cooper's work. The plot was so-so, but I wasn't expecting a lot. I am interested in seeing these characters incorporated into the rest of the Marvel movie universe. I think the play of comedy against serious in the right doses could be really entertaining, although some of the other Marvel heroes are already balancing serious and comedic well enough.

For sure, this style of superhero movie is surprising and unique, and that's what it really has going for it in the sea of superhero movies we are now inundated with (not that it's a disagreeable inundation...yet). So far, Marvel keeps getting it right, but I hope their style and stories continue to evolve. The next Guardians tale won't have novelty going for it anymore. Three stars.