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Giveaways, Amazon Reviews, and Forgotten Heroes

This is a compilation of various things that caught my eye this week. They were things that needed more explanation than I could offer in A La Carte, but not enough that they merited an article of their own.

The Great October Giveaway Winners

The Great October Giveaway comes to a close today. I have already drawn the names of the winners and will be sending emails out shortly. So check your inbox in the new few minutes to see if you’re among the winners.

Amazon Reviews - They Matter

I post almost all of my book reviews at Amazon and, because I write so many reviews, have become one of the top reviewers there (ranked 335 out of approximately 1,000,000). It is always interesting to me to track the reactions to them. I post the majority of my most notable reviews here as well, but of course Amazon represents a much larger, much more diverse readership. What I say at my blog tends to go over well with the readers here, but often doesn’t go over so well at Amazon, especially when I write about Christian bestsellers.

Take my review of Joel Osteen’s Become a Better You. It got a fair number of mentions in the blogosphere (27 blog reactions, according to Technorati), the majority of which were positive. But at Amazon it has been voted on 91 times with only 54 of those people believing it is helpful (You can see it here). This tells me that there is a great deal of interest in this book (which there must be for a book with an initial print run of three million!) and that people are greatly divided on the book.

Then there is the review of Jerry Bridge’s Respectable Sins. It has been voted on 21 times, with all 21 people agreeing that the review was helpful (You can see it here). I take this to mean that the type of people who research and read Jerry Bridges’ books are from a fairly narrow slice of the Christian world.

And then there is the infamous review of Brian McLaren’s Everything Must Change. It is registering 248 votes with 189 of them saying the review was positive. (You can see it here). Of course this book, as with all of McLaren’s, elicits strong reactions, both positive and negative.

What does all of this voting mean? It actually does prove important. The reviews that are deemed most helpful, purely by volume of helpful votes, are included on the main product page for the book. They are the first reviews people see. And since Amazon sells countless millions of books, a good or a bad review there can make a lot of difference as it will be seen by a lot of people. While customers vote on whether or not a review was helpful, in reality the votes are really about whether or not customers agree with the review (which is ironic, since most of these people haven’t actually read the book).

The long and the short is this. If you are an Amazon shopper, you should get in the habit of voting for reviews you find helpful. It really does matter.

The Forgotten 500

Some time ago, Al Mohler recommended a book called The Forgotten 500, a book that tells the story of an amazing but largely forgotten rescue. When he waxes eloquent about a book on the Second World War, I take it as a given that I am going to need to give the book a read. I immediately secured a copy for myself.

During the ongoing bombing campaigns against the massive oil refineries in Romania, a country conquered by Nazi Germany, hundreds of American bomber crews were shot down, far from lands occupied by Allied Forces. Though they had been warned of the risks they took in falling into the hands of the local populace, they were shocked to find the Serbian villagers embracing them and regarding them as conquering heroes. Serbian forces controlled by General Draza Mihailovich helped these American soldiers evade the Germans and eventually helped them organize an incredible rescue operation. Under the very noses of the German army they built an airstrip and landed plane after plane there, taking the Americans back to freedom. The Serbians did this despite knowing that it could cost them their lives. Had the Germans discovered what was happening, they would have tortured and killed entire villages.

This story is set against the backdrop of the Serbian-Croatian conflict with Mihailovich’s Serbian forces battling the opposing Communist Croatian forces, even while they both battled the Germans. The author, Gregory Freeman, shows how the Allied forces came to favor the communists, even after the Serbians saved so many American lives. The communist forces eventually destroyed the Serbian resistance and communism reigned in Yugoslavia for many decades. For this reason the entire operation was buried for years and was largely forgotten. The Forgotten 500, though, brings it all to light, shining some richly-deserved attention on the heroic Serbian forces who gave so much and received nothing in return.

The Forgotten 500 describes a fascinating piece of history and one that was, until now, almost entirely forgotten. And this, just when we thought that there was little new we could say about the Second World War. World War 2 enthusiasts will want to add this book to their collection! You can buy it from Amazon.