#BookReview: I Will Tell No War Stories by Howard Mansfield

Father. Grandfather. Farmer. Engineer. Clerk. WWII Badass. Wait. What? While this book focuses more on the air war over Britain and Europe, it does in fact get to the heart of what so many of us born in the post WWII era have only been learning over the last 20-30 yrs or so: Our fathers (in the case of Boomers/ maybe Gen Xers) or grandfathers (for Millenials and Zoomers) that we knew as just that (+ whatever occupation they may have had as we knew them) had experiences during WWII that most of the rest of us can never imagine. For Mansfield’s dad and his dad’s fellow Airmen, Mansfield does a fairly thorough job of combining the personal and the global, of showing both where his dad was and when and also what was going on in the overall war effort – at least as it related to the air war over Europe and what the fliers encountered up there.

Personally, as the grandson of a pair of Infantrymen who both survived the Battle of the Bulge (and one of whom became a legit hero during its mop-up, earning a Silver Star and Purple Heart, while the other became one of the first to liberate the concentration camps on the American side of the war), I was hoping for more of a general look at this entire phenomena, of our fathers and grandfathers choosing to remain silent about their experiences during this pivotal time in human history, rather than the far more personal and specific look we get here – but that is more my own fault than the author’s. My own pre-conceptions and desires, rather than any fault of the author’s motivations or writing skills.

Indeed, the only actual fault vis a vis the writing itself is the dearth of a bibliography, despite the author clearly doing quite a bit of research. So that was the star deduction right there, simply for that. Beyond the lack of bibliography though, this really was an excellent look at the Air War in the European Theater as it was felt by the people flying as crew in the bombers themselves.

Truly an excellent book anyone remotely interested in that era and in particular that facet of that era will very much enjoy and may find quite informative. Very much recommended.

This review of I Will Tell No War Stories by Howard Mansfield was originally written on April 4, 2024.

#BookReview: The Babylon Plot by David Leadbeater

Complex Heroes + *Dark* Villains + Taut Suspense = Winning Combo. While this particular tale almost seems like the ending of at least Phase 1 of these heroes (and you should absolutely start at the beginning of this series, rather than jumping directly into this book), this is also a book that features some of the most complex and complicated heroes I’ve come across in fiction – which is a worthy aim as an author, and one Leadbeater pulls off remarkably well. It also has some of the most brutal, sadistic killers I’ve ever come across in fiction – which is another win, certainly for those who like that particular type of villain. And seriously, from pretty well Page 1, the stakes are sky-high and never really drop, even as different team members get different parts of this particular tale to truly shine in. Truly one of the better crafted team-based adventure series I’ve ever come across. Very much recommended.

This review of The Babylon Plot by David Leadbeater was originally written on October 19, 2023.

#BookReview: Travel As A Political Act by Rick Steves

Interesting Take On Travel. I fully admit to traveling more for leisure than learning and certainly more than being some kind of activist. I try to be a decent enough human being no matter where I am, whether that be in my own home or some far-flung place. And I actively try to avoid other nations’ political issues – and wish to God their own citizens would join me in that, rather than constantly complaining about some aspect of the US. Indeed, there is exactly *one* spot that still stands that I would potentially like to see for something other than leisure, and that is the town of Nocher, Luxembourg – where my grandfather earned his Silver Star and Purple Heart for his actions in the closing days of the Battle of the Bulge. Beyond that, I’m all about relaxing and enjoying the scenery – not activism – in my travels.

But here, Steves does a remarkable job in showing his own travel style and general philosophy, of always trying to make the world a better place, of constantly trying to understand the people of wherever he finds himself through their eyes, of perhaps trying in some small (or sometimes not so small) way to leave their land better for his having been there, even briefly.

It is certainly an interesting approach, and overall his thoughts on the places he has been and the things he has seen… well, your own mileage may vary quite greatly indeed based on your own experiences either as a native of those lands or as an American who may have different views. Some reviewers have called this book “racist”, and to be crystal clear: I did not see any hint of that at all in this text – or at least the Audible version of it I consumed. But I’m also a white dude who grew up in the Southern part of the US, in the land still literally scarred by my own country’s Civil War over 150 years ago – so there are likely many in the US and internationally who automatically and irrevocably think *I* must be a racist, just because of my skin color and where I am from. Ironically, the entire point of this book is basically dispelling similar notions mostly from an American audience looking to potentially travel to other lands or even inside our own vast country.

Overall this was an illuminating read that, when read at 1.8 speed on Audible and thus taking roughly half the time its over 10 hr actual runtime indicates, was actually quite enjoyable. Dare I say that it could even be a good read/ listen… while traveling yourself? 😉 Very much recommended.

This review of Travel As A Political Act by Rick Steves was originally written on August 2, 2023.

#BookReview: Collateral Damage by John Sneeden

Explosive Spy / Revenge Thriller. When we catch up with our heroine of the series in this book, she is hiding and hurting – but still righting wrongs where she sees them, in badass and brutally effective fashion. And shortly thereafter, she gets roped into yet another mission that turns out to not be as it seems, which leads to even more action which tends to also be brutally effective at times. Yet again Sneeden does an excellent job of providing a seemingly shortish (no official page count as I type this review, but it *felt* like it was in the sub-300 page area) bit of pure escapism, this time highlighting various areas of Europe in the process. Perfect for fans of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher or J.M. LeDuc’s Sinclair O’Malley, or (sadly now late) Matthew Mather’s Delta Devlin. Very much recommended.

This review of Collateral Damage by John Sneeden was originally written on October 1, 2022.

#BookReview: The Lawless Land by Boyd Morrison and Beth Morrison

Solid Middle Ages Tale Told With Modern Storytelling Structures. This is a tale where the Middle Ages comes alive in a manner very consistent with how it is portrayed in fictional tales of the era such as The Canterbury Tales (and yes, Canterbury itself features in this tale) and The Decameron. As a potential series starter, it really could go the direction of either of those historical books, though the setup for a Decameron type series is less clear here (but I could still see the ultimate direction being to do a modern version of each of the ten tales therein). There is not one thing inauthentic to the period that I was aware of, though it is possible an actual Middle Ages historian may claim that X didn’t happen until some period later or some such. Still, with Beth Morrison herself being an actual Middle Ages historian… it becomes quite clear just how authentic the siblings tried to make this book. And yet even with the Middle Ages trappings re: customs and available weaponry, the actual story here, of a soldier intent on vengeance who suddenly becomes the protector of a woman and her secrets, could well be told in *any* time period and ultimately reads with a 21st century flair for storytelling even while telling a Middle Ages tale. Truly excellently done, and very much recommended.

This review of The Lawless Land by Boyd Morrison and Beth Morrison was originally written on May 12, 2022.

#BlogTour: Sisters Of The Great War by Suzanne Feldman

For this blog tour we’re looking at a visceral tale of atypical women – certainly for their time, but even (to a slightly lesser extent) in our “modern” time a century after the events here. For this blog tour we’re looking at Sisters Of The Great War by Suzanne Feldman.

Here’s what I had to say about the book on Goodreads:

Visceral Tale Of Atypical Women. This is a tale of atypical women in a very atypical (well, not really) time, where Feldman does a remarkable job of showing the full realities of everything she portrays. Whether it be the one sister who wants to be a doctor and is willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that goal, the other sister who is comfortable around cars and not much else, or the war itself – in all of its gory, gritty details and mechanisms. Truly one of the more realistic novels I’ve seen of this period, even as it portrays women who were far from normal in that period. Very much recommended.

After the jump, an excerpt from Chapter 1 of the book, followed by the “publisher details” – book details, description, author bio, web/ social links, and links to buy the book.
Continue reading “#BlogTour: Sisters Of The Great War by Suzanne Feldman”

#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.