#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.

#BookReview: Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson

Yet again, Robinson – already one of the greatest authors currently writing – outdoes even himself.

We open in WWII, where we get a sense of what is to transpire throughout the book. After the opener, we find ourselves in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch aboard the Magellan… about to be eaten by a shark!

It never really lets up from there, though when the crew of the Magellan finds a pillbox inscribed with “731”, anyone who has heard of the real-life Unit 731 of the Empire of Japan during WWII automatically has a skin-crawl moment.

Robinson has written of chimeras before, but never before has he based a story around such an atrocious real world event – and he even gives a real world history lesson during the course of the book.

Just when you think the book is winding down and all the monsters are revealed, you get a plot twist you never see coming. Then the surprises are over, right? Not at all. Indeed, Robinson keeps them coming right until the very last word of this masterpiece.

If you’ve never read Jeremy before, pick this up – you won’t be disappointed.

This review of Island 731 by Jeremy Robinson was originally published on April 21, 2013.