Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Review: They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr.

They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. by Linda Swink
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. by Linda D. Swink is a touching story about a man who loved all living things—plants, animals, and his fellow man. Immersed in the horrors of war, he found ways to take care of those around him. Despite the tragic nature of some of its events, They Called Him Doc is an uplifting tale of one man's capacity for love and sacrifice in his personal life and in his military career, and the effect he had on many people.

His good soul, gentle spirit, and loving nature show clearly through the storytelling, which uses well-selected details of his childhood, friendships, courtship and marriage, his military career, and the commitment of those who still keep alive the memory of his sacrifices.

His early years show how LaPointe developed his sincere and deep love of life and his religious faith, as well as the duty he felt to serve his country. Growing up, he explored nature and read books “on anything that crawled, slithered, hopped, or flew.” He had childhood heroes such as Gene Autry and tried to live up to the “Cowboy Code,” including “A cowboy is patriotic.” He attended church and took his faith to heart.

He developed deep and long-lasting friendships. His friends explored nature with him, invented and played games, and pulled pranks and hijinks. They also stood by him during tough times. After high school, he worked and played music. When he met Cindy, who became his wife and the mother of his child, he devoted himself to her and their future. After he received his draft notice, he chose to join the Army. During basic training he registered his status as a conscientious objector, not to get out of military service, but to avoid the possibility of killing another human being. Consequently, he was trained as a medic and sent to Vietnam in 1968.

While most chapters are told in the third person, the author stepped aside to give a clear voice to others. Certain chapters contain Cindy's first-person memories and thoughts, a striking choice which gives his beloved wife a primary and effective voice. During his time in the military, LaPointe regularly wrote letters to his family and wife. By including many of these directly in the book, LaPointe is also given a primary voice. Late in the book, men from his unit tell stories about LaPointe and their time in Vietnam. They provide yet another way of seeing the events. The result is a beautiful and moving story told with many voices.

Although formatting and grammatical issues impede comprehension at some points, LaPointe's story is well worth the read. 

Review by Barb Evenson (August 2019)


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Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Review: Surpassing the Crucible: A Story of Inspiring Leadership and Teamwork

Surpassing the Crucible: A Story of Inspiring Leadership and Teamwork Surpassing the Crucible: A Story of Inspiring Leadership and Teamwork by R.W. Riley
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

R. W. Riley's Surpassing the Crucible is an interesting and fast-moving story about a National Guard unit's golden opportunity. Although it is fiction, it is obviously based on Riley's extensive career in both the National Guard and the active-duty Army.

Captain Devlin Rourke is the company commander of the combat support company of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Second Battalion 220th Infantry. He knows what's expected of his company, but as a former cavalry officer, he has vision and drive beyond what is expected. When his unit is selected to go to the Joint Readiness Training Center, he knows it’s time to go above and beyond, not just for his unit but to preserve the reputation of National Guard troops across the country. Can he get his men trained up to go toe-to-toe with the active-duty OPFOR (opposing forces)?

The character development in this story is exceptional. As a reader, I immediately became invested in Rourke and his men, as well as Rourke's commanding officer. Though fiction, this is an easy read for those studying leadership at the small and medium unit level. In addition, the author does an outstanding job of using his background in two different army combat fields (infantry and cavalry) to provide a unique yet believable and interesting story. Finally, I appreciate that the author added just a hint of romance to his story. That usually feels forced but not here; it's a welcome and entertaining diversion.

National Guard veterans, infantry soldiers, or anyone affiliated with the Army reserves will probably enjoy this story.

Review by Rob Ballister (August 2019)

MWSA's evaluation of this book found a number of technical problems—including some combination of misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization errors—which indicate that further editing would lead to a much-improved final product.


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Review: Checkmate

Checkmate Checkmate by Karna Small Bodman
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Checkmate is the first book in Karna Small Bodman’s White House National Security Series and introduces readers to Dr. Cameron Talbot, a young American scientist who creates a weapons technology to combat cruise missiles by intercepting them and returning to sender. The book starts off with a bang (literally) when a missile from an unknown source destroys an army base in India, impacting the tenuous relationship between India and Pakistan. America scrambles to defuse the situation, sending a special envoy and a team of experts, along with Dr. Talbot and her untried invention. The action is nonstop, as unidentified terrorists continue to wreak havoc overseas while concurrently targeting Talbot in America. Spies, stolen missiles, traitors, congressional shenanigans, and imminent danger round out the mix.

Using her insider knowledge from serving in various capacities on Ronald Reagan’s White House staff, Bodman crafts a plausible plot with dynamic characters. The entertainment value is almost overshadowed by the educational value in some places, though, as we learn more about backstories and bunny trails without advancing the plot at times. One last polish by a proofreader would have caught a number of misspellings and missing words, although these small infractions did not impede the read.

Checkmate is an enjoyable and fast-paced journey that will initiate readers into some of the ins and outs of Washington’s political scene while taking us to other countries as well. 

Review by Betsy Beard (August 2019)


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Review: Duck Your Head and Keep on Going: A Marine Lieutenant's Passage Through Vietnam

Duck Your Head and Keep on Going: A Marine Lieutenant's Passage Through Vietnam Duck Your Head and Keep on Going: A Marine Lieutenant's Passage Through Vietnam by John R. Booth
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

In his book, Duck Your Head and Keep on Going, author John Booth provides a thoughtful and fascinating recounting of his service in Vietnam in 1965 – 1966. Booth’s description of his combat experience as a newly-minted Marine Corps second lieutenant artilleryman is fact-filled, gut-wrenchingly personal, and informative. The reader will gain an appreciation for the challenges associated with bringing massive artillery firepower to bear against an elusive enemy in difficult terrain, and under extremely difficult circumstances.

You’ll learn about “artillery sniping,” map reading, fire support coordination, uniform modifications, and many other interesting details. Booth pulls this off without getting too bogged down in technology or terminology. He also ties in many thoroughly-researched details of the operations carried out by the units in which he served—all carefully documented in footnotes at the end of each chapter.

More than a simple unit history, the reader will take a trip through a young man’s mind as he struggles to cope with the challenges of combat for the first time. Booth’s honesty and openness are appealing; and his natural, laid-back writing style makes it easy to assimilate all the information he’s sharing with us. This is true whether Booth is discussing the different politico-military strategies of Marine and Army leadership during the war—“hearts and minds” versus a war of attrition—or the differences he feels when looking at the corpses of his enemy versus those of his brothers in arms: his fellow Marines.

In the book’s introduction, the author warns that he is “not a professional writer,” and that his primary audience is his children, grandchildren, and fellow Marines. Although the reader will find the occasional technical or formatting glitch, the story the author has to tell tends to outweigh the book’s shortcomings, and as such is a worthwhile read for a wider audience.

Review by John Cathcart (August 2019)


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Friday, August 2, 2019

Review: Hitler's Last Christmas: The Day the Entire Mighty 8th Air Force Entered the Battle of the Bulge

Hitler's Last Christmas: The Day the Entire Mighty 8th Air Force Entered the Battle of the Bulge Hitler's Last Christmas: The Day the Entire Mighty 8th Air Force Entered the Battle of the Bulge by Jr Donald F Kilburg
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Many Americans know the basic story of the Battle of the Bulge, including the fact that bad weather grounded most Allied aircraft during its first few days. However, even fairly well-informed researchers might not be aware of the extent that the mighty 8th Air Force returned to the air on Christmas Eve of 1944. Hitler’s Last Christmas by author Donald Kilburg Jr. shines a needed light into this massive display of Allied airpower, which definitely helped turn back the last-ditch Nazi offensive that had started on December 16, 1944.

Kilburg’s well-researched book puts the reader in the middle of the action—drilling all the way down to bomb group (and even squadron-level) to provide a granular level of detail of the mission that day. The book includes an extensive bibliography to help the serious researcher, although lack of footnotes makes it hard to tell the specific source of information.

Despite a few rough spots, this book provides a great deal of detail, and will appeal to a wide range of readers interested in this important but largely overlooked part of World War II history.

Review by John Cathcart (August 2019)


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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Review: Chains of Nobility

Chains of Nobility Chains of Nobility by Brad Graft
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Chains of Nobility is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Mamluks trilogy. The Mamluks begin as slaves taken from various places. Slavers take boys from nomadic tribes where the young develop exceptional horsemanship and hunting skills early in life. After being purchased and installed in a training citadel, the slaves develop almost superhuman skills with swords, arrows, lances and horses, or are killed in the effort.

Following Duyal, the main character, on his journey, we see him evolving slowly and believably from a young nomad enslaved after watching his family killed to a deadly Islamic warrior, devoted to the man who bought him and devoted to the cause of Islam.

His story is set in a nearly forgotten time when Islamic princes fought the European Crusaders, the eastern Mongols, and amongst themselves using mercenary and quasi-enslaved armies. Many pages held something surprising—a five-senses description of living freely on the Russian steppe or in a prison cell, a boy’s memory of his lost family fading slowly or intruding into the present, some feat of endurance or prowess that bordered on unbelievable.

The book involves various nomadic cultures, Russians, Mongols, Muslims living in Egypt, horse culture, warrior culture, slave trading at a massive scale, royal blood feuds, detailed information about and use of various ancient weapons of war—and that doesn’t begin to cover the characters, places and times, journeys and relationships, settings and subplots, political and other intrigues throughout.

The author has created an intriguing and believable world from ancient ideas, settings, and characters, a masterful job of both history and fiction. The interior is beautifully designed and easy to read, despite its 443 pages. Clever use of fonts signal the shift between the characters’ present lives and pasts, easing the reader through the transition to memories.

Chains of Nobility will appeal to anyone with an interest in unusual military history, the history of Islamic jihad, ancient weaponry, or warrior training.

Review by Barb Evenson (August 2019)

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Review: The Councilman

The Councilman The Councilman by Glenn Starkey
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

In his book, The Councilman, author Glenn Starkey has penned another fast and enjoyable read. Set in eastern Texas in the 1950s, this story is about a veteran's search for his mother's murderer. Our protagonist, Cory Hunter Bramley, is a Korean War veteran who returns to his hometown and discovers that his mother is only one of several women brutally raped and murdered in a similar manner during the sixteen years he has been away from the town. Cory gets a job at the town's general hardware store and soon meets a wide variety of both good and evil individuals in the small town. Cory befriends another newcomer to town, a World War II vet who survived the Bataan Death March in the Philippines and helps him get employment with him at the store. This friend is named Moses, carries a bible, recites scripture, and seems to know things about the future that he shouldn't. I found the book's conclusion somewhat unexpected and, as expected, satisfying. I recommend this book.

Review by Bob Doerr (July 2019)


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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Review: Military Spouses with Graduate Degrees: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Thriving Amidst Uncertainty

Military Spouses with Graduate Degrees: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Thriving Amidst Uncertainty Military Spouses with Graduate Degrees: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Thriving Amidst Uncertainty by Jennifer Belding
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

They tell us that in order to become successful in life, all you need to do is see a need and fill it. Well, if that was applied to this book it could be a huge success in the military communities. I found myself truly educated. I was ignorantly unaware of the depth of the issues that our military spouses have to deal with.

The title does not give the proper seriousness of the problem, nor does it sound like a book you might wish to pick up and read. However, once I began reading all the personal stories from real people, it caught my attention. It became really clear that these spouses are making some huge personal sacrifices in their careers, lives, social status, educational opportunities, and even with their personal mental and emotional well being.

The book should be a must-read for colleges and universities that deal with military families. It should also be required reading for those in command positions at our nation's bases and forts, so that they have a better and clearer understanding of the true impact on families from deployments and moves.

The most important audience for this book is with the very people it was directly written for: military spouses themselves. The very same kind of people who shared their personal experiences between the covers of this book. This book truly has their DNA imprinted on the pages.

The editors take a resource book with data and information and make it very readable and understandable by adding so many different voices and viewpoints presented. I enjoyed reading the personal stories of sacrifice and supportive duty. The book presents the obstacles and the problems but also offers some practical wisdom to handling things, as passed on by the contributing co-creators of this book.

Every military spouse should have access to this book and read it. I believe this book has a mission and purpose. I salute the editors for putting this all together in this volume.

Review by Bill McDonald (July 2019)


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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Review: Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea: A Destroyer Sailor’s Vietnam Era Odyssey

Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea: A Destroyer Sailor’s Vietnam Era Odyssey Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea: A Destroyer Sailor’s Vietnam Era Odyssey by Paul W. Jewell
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Probe the Ocean, Plow the Sea is a memoir that captures a time in our nation's military history through a personal telling of the author's own experiences. Not many people know much about our Navy's destroyers, let alone what it was like to be on a crew of one during the Vietnam War era. This is a very personal telling, through a well-written memoir, by a USN enlisted man, who was assigned on board one of those ships.

It was a time that our younger generations may never fully understand, nor appreciate the impact those times had on so many young men's lives in this nation. The author brings home to the reader some clarity, by sharing his own personal accounts of what his life was about and how he handled it all.

He also shares some insights on his unit's involvement and role in naval history for the closing months of the Vietnam War.

This should be a must-read for USN veterans and, I think, the greater audience of readers of military genre. I enjoyed reading Paul Jewel's memoir. I now feel like I know him personally. 

Review by Bill McDonald (July 2019)


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Review: Winterset: Short Stories of Pixies, Demons, and Fiends

Winterset: Short Stories of Pixies, Demons, and Fiends Winterset: Short Stories of Pixies, Demons, and Fiends by Dennis Maulsby
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Winterset by Dennis Maulsby is a fantastical creation of mystical magical proportions, at once charming and deadly, fanciful and dark. Maulsby has conjured up a feast of short stories featuring Father Donahey, a retired Catholic priest. Donahey, born in Ireland and having served for most of his life in South America, has moved to Winterset, Iowa. He didn’t choose the locale to spend time protecting the world from denizens of destruction; he moved there to enjoy long walks in between reading good books in his retirement. But Winterset is the site of a worldwide inter-dimensional gateway for supernatural beings, most of them of the unfriendly variety. Pulled into the maelstrom of havoc created by otherworld entities, Donahey battles evil, aided by friends who exhibit supernatural powers themselves.

The writing is captivating and intense, placing the reader in the midst of the action—surrounded by the sights, scents, and sensations of cataclysmic struggles—almost as if the reader has been transported into the pages of the book.

Keep your nightlight on.

Review by Betsy Beard (July 2019)


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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Review: Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father

Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father by Bill Riley
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

MWSA Review

Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to Be a Better Father by Bill Riley is an insightful look at a time in history and into the life of a real warrior. It is an emotional journey that is so well told it feels like a classic novel. The author has a great way with words so that it feels like art on a canvas of paper and words. This book captures a piece of our lives and times that most of us just saw on the television news. The author constructs a background story of his childhood that allows the reader an insightful understanding of who this man was and why he saw his world around him as he did. His childhood was one of abuse and violence from his own father, all of which sets the outlook on the life of the author, as he treads down his own passageway of life. Lessons learned in childhood not only helped him deal with the war itself but also with his own fatherhood. The author is a talented wordsmith. The narrative truly fixes images into the mind and heart of the reader—a well written human experience, not just a war memoir.

Review by Bill McDonald (July 2019)


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Review: They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr.

They Called Him Doc: Joseph Guy LaPointe Jr. by Linda Swink My rating: 0 of 5 stars MWSA Review They Cal...