#BookReview: On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss

ATypical WWII Novel. In several ways, this is a typical WWII romance-ish novel, maybe of a Russian kind (ie, hard times all over the place, can be seen as depressing at times, yet ultimately a story of survival and love). In many other ways, this is a very *atypical* WWII novel. For one, it doesn’t take place in the more common Western Europe setting, but instead mostly in Soviet forced labor camps. For another, well, the whole “Soviet” thing doesn’t get seen too much in Western WWII historical fiction novels. And finally, this is actually directly based on the real-world travails of the author’s grandparents, making it the first time I’ve seen a novel of the type I myself hope to write someday. Overall truly a tremendous work, and very much recommended.

This review of On The Wings Of Hope by Ella Zeiss was originally written on November 30, 2020.

#BookReview: The Last Correspondent by Soraya M Lane

Strong WWII-Europe Tale Featuring Not-Usually-Featured Personnel. This was a solid tale of the trials and tribulations of a job in WWII-Europe that doesn’t really get featured much in the discussions – written war correspondents, and particularly the few females who had enough balls to force themselves into such roles. Lane does a superb job at dropping us into the action at famous and infamous points and showing the side of the war she wants to feature rather than the more well known stories – including a seemingly-unreal-yet-actually-real story of one particular female war correspondent who did, in fact, hide herself on a hospital ship and thus become the *only* correspondent – of either gender – to see the events of D-Day unfold with her own unaided eyes. (Yes, Lane fictionalizes even that event, but a real-life version *did* actually happen.) Indeed, my only real complaint here was that I wanted to have Lane have her photojournalist do something in Sicily involving Patton (and his subsequent sidelining by Supreme Commander Eisenhower) that apparently no real photographs exist of. Which makes sense that Lane couldn’t then have her character do something that is in fact documented as having never happened. 😉 Ultimately a great story of some very brave women and the very real decisions that would have had to have been made by real-life versions of these characters. Very much recommended.

This review of The Last Correspondent by Soraya M Lane was originally written on October 23, 2020.

Featured New Release Of The Week: Fallout by Lesley MM Blume

This week we’re looking back at one of the most monstrous events in human history. This week we’re looking back on the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, on its 75th anniversary through the lens of Fallout by Lesley MM Blume.

Fallout is not the story of the Hiroshima bombing, but of the coverup of its true horrific effects – and one man’s efforts to uncover them. Fallout is the story of the expose Hiroshima, written by John Hersey and published in The New Yorker on August 31, 1946. As Fallout cites the essay heavily while telling the story of how it came to be, and since The New Yorker’s website currently has the essay free to view at least as of the writing of this post in late June 2020, I very much recommend you take a moment to go read the original essay. It really is as powerful as Blume describes, and truly deserves its story being told.

Blume does the singular most remarkable job I’ve ever seen in a nonfiction book in at least one way: Nearly 40% of the text of the ARC I read of this book was bibliography. In my experience, a seemingly comprehensive bibliography averages closer to 25% to 33% of the text of a nonfiction book. Though at least in my ARC edition, the notes were not referenced in the actual text. It is unknown at this time if that was intentional or if that will be fixed prior to publication, but the effect was that it made the story flow much easier without the constant footnote references, so perhaps it is a great thing that they were listed but not directly referenced.

Blume also has a knack for the narrative, and does a remarkable job of keeping what could be a dense and complicated issue taut yet crystalline. Reading this book really gives the sense of being there and searching for the truth, yet also having the hindsight to know which passages and influences will ultimately bare out in the annals of history. Her passion for this particular essay, the history of it, and the history it describes, becomes abundantly clear almost from the first words of this effort.

Hiroshima was an absolutely critical essay for every American to read, understand, and internalize, and Blume’s work here detailing the history of how it came to be should be read right alongside Hersey’s original essay. Very much recommended.

And as always, the Goodreads review:
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#BookReview: Last Mission To Tokyo by Michel Paradis

Slightly Misleading Title, Solid History. If you’re looking for a history of the actual Doolittle Raid… this isn’t it. Instead, this focuses on the 1946 war crimes trial of the Japanese officials implicated in murdering four of the Raiders after their capture in China following the raid in 1942 and subsequent conviction in a kangaroo court. But for what it is, this is truly a remarkable story that brings to life a part of history I personally had never so much as heard about. Paradis notes in the afterword that upon researching what was originally supposed to be a more straightforward legal analysis, he realized that he needed to change the focus to be a historical narrative fit for a wider audience, and in that new goal this reader can confirm that he did particularly well. Yes, Paradis is a miliary lawyer historian by trade, and this particular background comes through quite blatantly in the text, but it is never so full of jargon from any of those parts of his background as to be incomprehensible to the wider audience only cursorily aware of those subjects. Very much recommended.

This review of Last Mission To Tokyo by Michel Paradis was originally written on July 5, 2020.

#BookReview: Beyond the Horizon by Ella Carey

A Warm Blanket. Ok, so I’m ripping off a video game review I just read with that title for this review, but it fits. This book has exactly one feature that others of its type -WWII flygirl stories -released in the last year or so did not, and while that one feature winds up enhancing the story pretty dramatically, it can be a bit jarring at first due to mostly not having any time cues. The effect turns out to be mostly cool, as I personally came to see the fades in a very cinematic fashion. It just took a few chapters to pick up on what was happening. If you have read some of the other WWII flygirl stories this year, you’ll enjoy this one. If you’re new to this particular type of tale, this is still a solid entry in that line. It isn’t overly new or revolutionary, but it is a solidly comforting warm blanket. Very much recommended.

This review of Beyond the Horizon by Ella Carey was originally written on October 22, 2019.

#BookReview: Scrimmage For War by Bill McWilliams

Intriguing History Hampered By Lack Of Focus and Repetition. Pearl Harbor and Football. Truly, do you get more American than that? 🙂 And that is what drew me into this book, about a particular facet of the events of December 7, 1941 that I’d never heard about. When the book concentrated on detailing that couple of months, it was at its peak. Unfortunately that is less than half of the book – maybe even around just 25% or so of the book.

The rest of the book is a detailed examination of the public lives of each of the players and coaches, the last of whom died just a couple of years ago. It is within this section in particular that the lack of focus and repetition comes into play, as McWilliams describes the entirety of the events happening at any particular locale any one of the players or coaches happened to be involved in, including the WWI service of some of the coaches. Eventually we focus on what the particular player was doing at that location, but it can seem like a while before that happens at times. Further, when the players and coaches wind up in the same or nearby places, it almost seems that McWilliams literally copies and pastes some of the descriptions – not overly lengthy passages, perhaps no longer than a half page or so, but enough to be noticeable. While this is somewhat a peril of the way he chooses to serialize the tales, it also speaks to a need to edit just a bit more and provide just that extra layer of polish.

Overall this is a military history book for military historians. If you come into this book wanting to hear more about how these football players were involved in securing Hawaii in the immediate aftermath of the Pearl Harbor attacks, well, that is here – but ultimately only about half of what this book is about. The other half being the detailed military histories of each player’s involvement in the war efforts and beyond. Very much recommended within the particular niche, I’m just not sure it would be embraced in a wider audience.

This review of Scrimmage For War by Bill McWilliams was originally written on September 28, 2019.

#BookReview: Hunt the Bismark by Angus Konstam

Riveting and Illuminating. Despite being one of those “know a little about a lot” types, I fully admit that prior to reading this book, I didn’t know much about the Bismark or its sinking. I knew that it was the pride of the Nazi German Navy during WWII, that it was supposedly the most deadly ship afloat, and that it was sunk in a famous naval battle. Thus sums up my knowledge of the topic prior to reading this book. Yet Konstam does a deep dive into the full history of the Bismark and the events leading to its demise, and he does it in a very readable fashion almost akin to watching an actual movie about it. Thus, this naval historian – not exactly a group known for their readability outside their own circles – crafts a tale Tom Clancy would be hard pressed to top, even were he still alive. Truly excellent work. Very much recommended.

This review of Hunt the Bismark by Angus Konstam was originally written on August 24, 2019.

#BookReview: The Girls of Pearl Harbor by Soraya M. Lane

Starts Out Feeling Like The Movie, Becomes So Much More. Through the opening third of this book or so, when our central characters are at Pearl Harbor, it is very hard to break away from comparing the scenes here to the Ben Affleck / Kate Beckinsale movie from the turn of the Millenium. Which isn’t an overly bad thing – this reader loved that movie and it made a fair amount at the box office to boot.

And then we get to Dec 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy. (Though I do wish Lane had included that particular phrase when showing some of Roosevelt’s speech the next day.)

At the actual attack, Lane does a superb job of getting us into the heads of these particular characters as the events and aftermath are unfolding. It is here that she truly sepatates her tale from the movie, and it is at this point that the reader never really thinks about the movie again until sitting down to write the review.

To go much in depth at all with the plot beyond this is to veer close to spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that for those that survive Dec 7, the book continues with the efforts to further support the war, this time in the Africa Campaign. Superb writing here again, though there *is* a rape scene that some may want to be aware of going into this. But Lane does an excellent job of expanding our scope in this section to see not just the soldiers and nurses, but the townspeople they are working among.

Overall maybe my one complaint here is that the ending is perhaps a bit too tidy, particularly after doing such an amazing job of showing the various horrors of war from the small and personal to the grand and international. Still, very much a recommended book.

This review of The Girls of Pearl Harbor by Soraya M. Lane was originally written on July 19, 2019.

#BookReview: The Battle of the Bulge by Martin King

Excellent Look at Famous Battle. Volumes upon volumes upon volumes have been written about the Battle of the Bulge, one of the most famous land battles in American history. And one this reader has a personal connection to, as recently received records show that both of his grandfathers were there (though there is no indication they met each other there, despite originating from neighboring counties). It was because of this personal connection that I wanted to read this book, as I’ve never really studied the battle in depth. And while the particular event I had hoped to find in the tale – a minor clearing of an apparently booby trapped hotel just as the battle was wrapping up in mid January 1045 – was not covered, the entire main battle sequence and its general mopup are and are covered superbly. I may not know exactly where my grandfathers were from reading this tale, but I absolutely got a very good sense of what the land and the time were like and the horrors and atrocities they saw. Which is more than I had known before reading this book. I suspect that if you already know quite a bit about this battle, there will be little new information here for you – but the author’s writing style and specific points rebutting commonly held misconceptions or even offering alternate theories on other events of the battle are great and likely things others may not be aware of. An excellent book, and an important one to note, particularly in going into the 75th anniversary of this battle later this year.

This review of The Battle of the Bulge by Martin King was originally published on May 19, 2019.

#BookReview: Project 731 by Jeremy Robinson

Jeremy Robinson continues to show why he is the master of the Kaiju literary genre – and deserves to see his ideas put to the big screen. This story in particular seems almost tailor-made for Hollywood – two terrifying creatures combine, and the original form of one of them has to stop the other.

Our action here picks up not long after where PROJECT MAIGO finished up, dealing with the repercussions of that book’s final battle. Meanwhile, another super secret government group is having a bit of clean up of its own – it seems some of the creatures from ISLAND 731 have made their way to the Oregon coast. These two storylines converge near LA, and LA and Salt Lake City will never be the same again.

Fans of Robinson will be thrilled – there is quite a bit here for the long time fan. Newbies to Robinson will get a prototypical Robinson story – wildly imaginative action, with humans fighting humans, humans fighting creatures, creatures fighting creatures, and just about everything in between, along with genuine character development, particularly in Hudson and Maigo. So pick this book up – you really can never go wrong with this author!

This review of Project 731 by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on December 1, 2014.