Tuesday, December 24, 2013

10 Best I Read in 2013.

2. "The Projection Room: Two from the Cubist Mist" by Carol Golembiewski. See my review at: http://www.keplersmilitaryhistorybookreviews.com/2013/10/the-projection-room-two-from-cubist.html

3. "The Shambling Guide to New York City" by Mur Lafferty. See my review on iTunes.

4. “Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia” by Jessica James. See my review at: http://www.keplersmilitaryhistorybookreviews.com/2013/08/shades-of-gray-novel-of-civil-war-in.html

5. "Foundation" by Issac Assimov

6. "The Machine Stops" by E. M. Forster (Short Story)

7. "The Bears Discover Get Fire" by Terry Bisson (Short Story)

8. "Misfit" by Robert A. Heinlein (Short Story)

9. "Out of Copyright" by Charles Sheffield. (Short Story)  Published in Clarkesworld Magazine.

10."The Promise of Space" by James Patrick Kelly (Short Story) Published in Clarkesworld Magazine.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43 by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze.

I have read six books dealing with the Eastern Front in World War II. All were either memoirs written after the fact or traditionally researched works. "Eastern Inferno: The Journals of a German Panzerjager on the Eastern Front, 1941-43" by Hans Roth, edited by Alexander Christine and Mason Kunze is different. 

The book is the results of three diaries of Hans Roth. He was accounted as missing in action in 1944. Amazingly a buddy on leave delivered the three volumes of diaries to Roth’s relatives. They cover the years 1941, 1942 and 1943. Sadly, Hans Roth vanishes as another MIA unaccounted for casualty of war.

The diaries are incredible. They show that he viewed part of the actions as being pre-emptive (p. 27). There was a clear fear of the Russians being on German soil and killing his loved ones. We learn that the diaries include content that would have never cleared the censors plus he was glad to keep the horrors away from his dear wife.

The book is spectacular. Hans Roth provided a wonderful service for his family and future generations by recording what he witnessed and what he was ordered to do.

You can feel the fear he felt. You can sense the mixed emotions he experienced. The day to day log of his units actions with his understanding of what was going on are amazing. The detail and description he provides of the surroundings paints a remarkable portrait of the times.

Hans Roth realized that luck was a key part of survival. He makes this clear time and time again. The amount of artillery and equipment the Russians had seems to have caught the Germans by surprise.  The aircraft strafing runs and Russian counterattacks in 1941 caught me by surprise. Other works reported little or none on these until 1942 and later. 

Note: As I read I could feel the growing fatigue and cynicism Hans Roth had a result of the war. His love of his wife and family shows regularly in his comments. The book is an important resource for anyone interested in the Eastern Front as well as those who want a realistic look at the terrors of war. It is gripping and paints one of the clearest pictures ever of how war is horrendous.

Christine Alexander and Mason Kuntze deserve a big thank you for the editing and translation of this project.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863 by Phillip Thomas Tucker

Phillip Thomas Tucker’s has written a well researched, very readable book titled "Barksdale's Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863". 

Dr. Tucker’s book makes the premise that at the Battle of Gettysburg General Barksdale's charge is more significant that General Picket’s charge. The author presents detail after detail. 

The book gives a wonderful history of the Mississippi Brigade. He points out they are tall, straight shooters, and brave.  I found the book redundant at points.

The author makes good arguments for Barksdale’s charge being more important than Pickett’s. If Barksdale had lived and expended the same energy that Pickett did in defending his actions, we think more highly of his Mississippi brigade’s contributions. Interestingly, the point of view presented was almost exclusively southern apologetic.

The book was an enjoyable read. The history of the Mississippi brigade and its contributions is worth the purchase price.  I think the historians have already decided Pickett charge was more important than Barksdale’s, but it made me reevaluate. 

I am well read on the subject of Gettysburg having read more than twenty books and memoirs on the battle. I am a trained historian by education who studied military history. I am a former US Army infantry officer who has studied the battle in detail in my military science curriculum.  All this said; I can examine the premise, but respectfully disagree with it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

"The Projection Room: Two from the Cubist Mist" by Carol Golembiewski

Master story-teller Carol Golembiewski hooked me from the opening World War One battlefield scene. She weaves a thriller making excellent use of her subject matter expertise in the field of art with technology. She beautifully visualized scenes. This is a rare skill. Her use of technology had this geek intrigued.

Meet struggling artist George Bosque. He has a brush with death while attacking the German soldiers during World War One. During his charge toward the enemy lines, he sees two men collecting the souls of those killed in action. Obsessed by what he saw, Bosque draws them in his sketchbook. In late life, he does two large paintings, one of each of them.

His widow sold both paintings many years later. The purchaser is a Milwaukee museum. The museum has in the testing phase a new technology projecting images and allowing patrons to experience art in 3-D. They see great potential. However, a mutinous employee and his friend experiment on the two paintings with the technology. The results are horrific.

The men recognize that artist George Bosque incarcerated something from the other side of the grave. Dreadful consequences await everybody who cross the threshold into the Projection Room.

In this spellbinding account, two paintings out of sight from humankind for years let loose their powers onto an unwary museum and community absolutely not ready for what lies ahead for them.

I give it five-stars. It would make an amazing movie. I hope Carol’s agent is shopping it with Hollywood.

The Kindle version of "The Projection Room: Two from the Cubist Mist" by Carol Golembiewski was purchased, read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Friday, September 27, 2013

"Special Operations in The American Revolution" by Robert Tonsetic

"Special Operations in The American Revolution" by Robert Tonsetic tells nine stories of battles or campaigns during the American Revolutionary War. In each case,  the American colonist used unconventional warfare.

Experience the battles/campaigns of the American Revolutionary War. Learn the background of the principal leaders. See American know-how demonstrated by the army, navy and marines in their operations. 

My favorite chapters were one and eight. "The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga" is the title and story of chapter one. It tells of Ethan Allen's leadership. "The Whaleboat Wars" is the title of chapter eight. It includes the story of Benjamin Tallmage.

The author is a very good story teller. He brings the events to life through the stories of the participants.

The book fills a void in the literature of the American Revolution.

Added bonuses are the book's bibliography. It is excellent. The operational maps and photos also compliment the narrative.

Casemate Publishing published "Special Operations in The American Revolution" by Robert Tonsetic. It is a must addition to the library of every military historian as well as students of the American revolutionary War.

Dr. Tonsectic has crafted an exciting book.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

“Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia” by Jessica James

Let me start with a confession. I am a man. I read Jessica James' “Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia”. I found the book interesting and engaging. I liked it!

The story is about Andrea (Sinclair) and Hunter. She is a southerner who works as a Union scout while hiding under a floppy hat impersonating a young man. Hunter is the confederate Calvary commander. The beginning and ending of the book were excellent and deserve five stars.

The middle part of the book slowed down a little for me. A lack of action and repetitiveness had the middle lacking the magic found at the book’s beginning and end. I pressed on in my reading because of all the great reviews and awards “Shades of Gray” had received. I was wondering what I was missing. I am glad I continued reading and finished the book. The last third had me turning the pages and unable to put the book down.

The story line is Andrea is the Union scout with world class horseman skills that gives Hunter fits. Andrea saves Hunter's life. Their fates become intertwined. She goes to Richmond as a spy posing as a Southern lady. She is captured and reveals her true identity as a Unionist. She spends time in a dreadful prison. Eventually she ends up near death under house arrest in Hunter’s home as he makes good on a promise (read the book to find out!).

Andrea and Hunter are inflexible to an obsession. Andre has a volatile temper. She and Hunter have a clash of wills and wits. Their attraction for each other builds throughout the novel. They finally admit their feelings and nothing but difficulty comes their way. About this point the book grabbed me with their fighting and the plot twists where I just read the book straight through to the end.

Jessica James' novel is very good. I am a Civil War buff, holder of a B.A. degree in history, former U.S. Army officer and reader of over a hundred books about the Civil War. That said, the book is up there with the best I've read on the Civil War. I am glad I continued through the middle and finished the book. Even guys will like the book!

Did you know “Shades of Gray: A Novel of the Civil War in Virginia” hit number one on Amazon.com in the romance/ historical category, beating “Gone with the Wind”.

Awards and Honors for “Shades of Gray”: 2008 IPPY Award, 2008 Indie Award, 2008 Book Of The Year Finalist (ForeWord Magazine), 2009 Top Five Best Southern Theme (Virginia Romance Writers), and 2008 Favorite Book by The Book Connection and Bookworm's Dinner

Friday, July 26, 2013

“Exit Plan” by Mike Sixsmith.

Exit Plan by Mike Sixsmith
It took me a several chapters to get into “Exit Plan” by Mike Sixsmith. My ignorance of Arab names, customs and the geography became apparent when I started reading the book. This contributed to my original lack of understanding of what was taking place and my difficulty of initially getting into the book.  I am glad I stayed the course. Reading the book enlightened me in these areas. 

It is apparent author Mike Sixsmith has a strong personal back in the Middle East. His military, intelligence community, and “been there” back ground are captured on the pages of the book. He does an amazing job of painting descriptions of the various countries. The detail made me feel as if I were there. 

The longer I read, the more difficult I found to put the book down. The author has you reliving and walking the pages of the last dozen year’s history. Extremism and Jihadism are explained in a way where I could see how people might get pulled into their sphere. The complexity of the issues embraced give insight into the politics and history of the region.

Mike Sixsmith was written a very detailed, creative work that adds a British element to the assault on the World Trade Center in New York City.  You journey into the thoughts and learn the motivations of Shahid Al Sheehi. He is a British Muslim. You share his experience as he moves through his personal spiritual pilgrimage at a London mosque to his metamorphosis as a Jihad terrorist. You join with M16 agent whose is hot on his trail to thwart any more disaster. His name is Bill Sloan. 

Whether on the streets of London, in the caves of Tora Bora in eastern Afghanistan, or the creek of Dubai, the action continues building reaching a fiery confrontation in Pakistan. The book is for anyone who loves military-political thrillers. If you read the first twenty-five pages, you will be hooked.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

“March With Me” by Rosalie Turner

Master storyteller Rosalie Turner makes the top of the best books I have read in several years list with “March With Me”. Her writing transported me back in time where I felt I was in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. I lived through the era as a middle school student and remember it well.

Turner has crafted two brilliant characters. The story is told through their eyes. Martha Ann (a white girl) and Letitia (a black girl) have you experiencing the Civil Rights movement. They meet briefly at Martha Ann's sweet sixteen party where Letitia reluctantly helps her mother who is employed by Martha Ann's mother.

The electricity reverberating throughout the black community when Dr. Martin Luther King and Reverend Ralph David Abernathy visit and speak is communicated in a way that gave me goose bumps.

We see the fear of the black adults as the Civil Rights movement grew. They were realistic and wanted no part of the protests or marches. They knew the whites would retaliate. We see them also working hard to watch over keep their children as they keep them in their neighborhood where they would be safely isolated from the whites.

The local radio disc jockeys and the use of the code words like picnic and party and message songs enlightened my understanding.

We encounter Bull Conner and the Birmingham Police and their use of fire hoses on Letitia and her older brother Sam. Sam is arrested and spends 12 days in jail.

The importance and influence of church and faith in the black community rings throughout the story. I obtained an amazing look at what it was like to grow up as a middle class black family in the 1960s. 

The tragedy of the 16th Street Baptist Church being bombed and four innocent young black girls dying drives home the ignorance, anger, rage, and misunderstanding as well as stupid actions of some during this pivotal time in US History.

Other events from the Civil Rights era fill the pages as we read of the march from Selma to Montgomery, the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the assassination of Dr. King and of the disproportional number of black men fighting in Vietnam.

Ironically, Martha Ann and Letitia become teachers. Martha Ann gets her education at the University of Alabama. Letitia gets her education locally at Miles College. Both end up teaching in the same high school.

Rosaline Turner is one of the best storytellers writing. This book is must reading. Do yourself a favor and order it online now. It should be incorporated in the curriculum of public and private schools and used as a tool to teach about those historic days of fifty years ago. The book would make a great feature film or television movie.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

"Silas Soule: A Short, Eventful Life of Moral Courage" by Tom Bensing.

As I read "Silas Soule: A Short, Eventful Life of Moral Courage" by Tom Bensing I was thinking who would be a good audience for this book? The answers were found in the pages of the book. The book will appeal to a diverse group of readers. The person with an interest in United States history during the 1850s to mid 1860s will walk through those years with snapshots of selected events of the time. The Civil War buff will enjoy a different perspective on the battle of Gloreita. Those with an interest in Colorado before it was a state will get an interesting look at the state.

You get a look at abolition and the Underground Railroad. You see how a passion for abolishing slavery motivated Silas Soule’s family to move to Kansas. You experience what it is like and what happens to people who aided slaves. You will relive the days of bloody Kansas and see firsthand the fallacy of the Stephen Douglas compromise allowing Kansas to decide if it was to be or not to be a slave state.

John Brown is brought to life as we see his actions in Kansas and later at Harper’s Ferry and how Silas Soule participated in an attempt to rescue John Brown's men after Harpers Ferry.

We see a friendship between Soule and the poet Walt Whitman as well as learning of an interesting connection between Brown and Whitman. We go gold prospecting to Colorado and also get a good picture of the state during the late 1850s to mid 1860s. We make the trek with Silas and the Pike’s Peakers as the head to Glorieta Pass to fight the Texans in the Confederate Army who invaded New Mexico. 

We see his moral courage when he not only refused to take part in the massacre of Native American women and children during the Sand Creek Massacre, but was the first to testify against Colonel John Chivington who led the attack. Surprisingly to me, the author gives great detail of Silas Soule’s killer, Charles Squier life.

The book was well researched. It started slow for me, but I’m glad I stuck with it. After making it through the family history and finally getting to Silas Soule, I found a well presented and interesting story. Yes, I recommend the book. Historian Tom Bensing did a good job of presenting "Silas Soule: A Short, Eventful Life of Moral Courage". The publisher is Dog Ear Publishing. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"The Battle of the Denmark Strait: A Critical Analysis of the Bismarck's Singular Triumph" by Robert Winklareth

"The Battle of the Denmark Strait: A Critical Analysis of the Bismarck's Singular Triumph" by Robert Winklareth achieves its goal of being a narrative description of  how  the  Battle  of  the  Denmark Strait  was  fought. He does a masterful job of explaining the significance of key events leading  up to  both the  battle  and  its  aftermath. The book is incredibly technically detailed, yet very readable. It tells the story of one of the most famous naval battles of World War II. 

The book and its massive appendices provide a wealth of information. The photographs and drawings by the author give a perspective not seen before. The book's structure is three parts containing the twenty eight chapters and seven appendices. Part one covers the demise of the German Navy at the end of World War II and continues to the Bismark in the Rhine Exercise (Operation Rheinübung). 

Part two of the book is the actual battle in the Denmark Strait. This is where the Hood is destroyed and the Prince of Wales retreats.

Part three is the search for and destruction of the Bismark. 

The author is a technical analyst. His knowledge of and attention to detail may be too much for the casual reader, but for the hard-core student of military or naval history I gives an insight that will be appreciated. The use of photos taken from the Prinz Eugen and the analysis of the photos adds to the understanding of the battle, though the placement n the book had me turning back and forth sometimes searching to match picture and data. I think its important to point out this is a very balanced book making good use of both British and German sources

This is a must book for any serious student of naval history. It would be a great addition to any World War II buff. 

The publisher is Casemate Publishing.

Friday, April 12, 2013

“When Washington Burned: An Illustrated History of the War of 1812” by Arnold Blumberg. The publisher is Casemate Publishing.

One of the least known wars in United States or for that matter British history is the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 was a rather disorderly event. At times it had several minor campaigns going on at the same time. They weren't coordinated, were hundreds of miles apart and had little or nothing to do with the other campaigns.

The author has produced an understandable account out of this disjointed war. His narrative is well organized. The structure used has each chapter covering a distinct area. They are restricted to a geographic area.  The genius of this approach is let you keep needed focus without covering everything happening on all fronts at the same time. The coverage of the Naval engagements is excellent. They receive their separate chapters.

The illustrations are first-rate. The majority of the images are present-day. He makes skillful use of maps to show the more intricate campaigns. This is an excellent single volume history of the War of 1812. It explains what happened. It explains why it happened. The coverage is balanced with US and British material. The book would be an great addition for community libraries, school libraries and is a must for the personal library of military historians. It would also make a nice “coffee table book”.

Arnold Blumberg and Casemate Publishing have provide a well needed, quality book on the War of 1812.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

"The True Story of Catch - 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II" by Patricia Chapman Meder. The publisher is Casemate Publishing.

Did Joseph Heller commit a disservice to the members of the 340th Bomb Group when he wrote Catch-22? Did author  Patricia Chapman Meder write an apologetic defending the real four officers some feel Joesph Heller blindsided when he made them into Catch-22's four heavy hitters?

"The True Story of Catch - 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II" is a combination of both plus I feel some admiration for Joseph Heller making those men infamous.

There is a reason the original Catch-22 is found in the fiction not nonfiction section of bookstores. Joseph Heller didn't write a memoir of his service during World War II. He wrote a satirical and somewhat historical novel.

Patricia Chapman Meder uses rare and unpublished photos to bring our actual heroes to life through use of first person narrative.

There is a third part in her book that is actually the book's heart. She takes twelve men of the 340th and relates twelve true tales.

Fans of Catch-22 will enjoy the book. It makes good use of diaries, logs, and photos to bring the people to life. For those unfamiliar with Catch-22 the book will make you curious enough to pickup Heller's book.

"The True Story of Catch - 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II" would make a nice companion volume or commentary for the serious student of the original work. It would make a nice inclusion in university or community libraries as a resource for Joseph Heller's book.

I recommend "The True Story of Catch - 22: The Real Men and Missions of Joseph Heller's 340th Bomb Group in World War II" by Patricia Chapman Meder. The publisher is Casemate Publishing.

Read and reviewed by Jimmie A. Kepler.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Valor in Vietnam 1963 - 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice" by Allen B. Clark

I enjoyed reading “Valor in Vietnam 1963 - 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice" by Allen B. Clark. I can easily recommend the book. In the vast literature on Vietnam that is too often  memoirs full of hubris or tomes that bore you with action killing details, Mr. Clarke has given us a wonderful, fresh look at one of the most seminal events in the life of those who experienced the 1960s and 1970s. You experience the Vietnam War from the personal point of view of  some of the men and women who were there. You get both a unique boots on the ground and narrative perspective.   

I need to give a spoiler warning. I was left wondering if the actions Colonel Clyde R. Russell was the catalyst that started the war. It was interesting to see his son in high school in Saigon in 1964. Later, we learn of his son, Lieutenant Chris Russell – the reluctant warrior as the author called him. We see how his dad got his college student deferment pulled where he had to go in the Army. We see when he is in Vietnam he returns to the halls he walked as a ten grader. The building is now used for a very different purpose.

The book is full of wonderful, well told stories that sequentially take us through the war. The stories of men and women of various branches of service and ranks, both officer and enlisted gives a you were there feel.

I especially enjoyed the combat leadership lessons that were shared as we made our way through the years of the war. I would hope that such venues as the Infantry School, Command and General Staff College, and War College would include this insightful work in their required or recommended reading. I pray these are lessons that will not have to be learned over and over, but can be taught through case studies from this book.

While every chapter was well written and action packed, a couple of chapters especially touched me. They were the chapters on The Real Horrors of War covering Captain Wendy Weller's tour as a nurse in 1969-1970 and the chapter titled Ranger's Ranger covering the 1965 – 1970 tours of duty of Staff Sergeant Patrick Tadina. I was amazed at how low the casualty rate was for the units/missions he led and how long he was in Vietnam.

The book's title caught my attention when it had the date range going to 1977 instead of stopping in 1973 or 1975. Spoiler alert – the last chapter covers 1975 to 1977 and a couple who were left behind when the last Americans fled. It is intriguing.

Congratulations to author Allen B. Clark and Casemate Publishing.  You have published a special book.

"Valor in Vietnam 1963 - 1977: Chronicles of Honor, Courage and Sacrifice" by Allen B. Clark. The publisher is Casemate Publishing. 

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Fighting With the Filthy Thirteen: The World War II Story of Jack Womer - Ranger and Paratrooper by Jack Womer and Stephen C. Devito

Travel with Jack Womer from the steel mills of Dundalk, Maryland through his being drafted (which he resented) and assigned to the 29th Infantry Division to his deployment to England. Experience with him his selection to and the nearly yearlong training with the British commandos as a member of the 29th’s elite Provisional Ranger battalion. You will learn how he joined the 101st Airborne Division after the disbanding of 29th Ranger Battalion.

You will meet the group of demolitionist he joined in the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment’s demolition platoon as they fight in Normandy, Holland, the Ardennes and Germany.  The detail of the combat jump into Normandy gives you the sensation of being there as well as showing the confusion on the group. Wormer shares examples how his Ranger training helped him survive in combat. Unfortunately, he does not share the same level of detail in the campaigns following Normandy.

Co-author Stephen Devito did a great job of interviewing Wormer and putting his stories into a first person narrative. The book gives the feel of a veteran telling the actions of his youth.

Wormer shares how he and other soldiers had girlfriends when in England, but his heart yearned to return to the United States and his fiancée Theresa. A side note I enjoyed was the story of how he asked Theresa for a new picture and she refused. He told the story of his desire for a replacement picture. The press picked up the story. The Baltimore newspaper carried the story. We see his fiancée Theresa’s response/reactions.

The book’s title “The Filthy Thirteen” is the nick-name of the section in the 506th's demolition platoon that Wormer was assigned. It operated/used special equipment like flame-throwers and explosives to attack and clear German positions. These men were infamous for hard living, tough fighting, and poor personal hygiene that earned them their name. The claim is made that The Filthy was an inspiration for the film the Dirty Dozen.

I recommend this well-written and interesting book.