All posts by Keith Brownlow

THE UNWOMANLY FACE OF WAR

Title: The Unwomanly Face Of War

Author: Svetlana Alexievich/strong>

For more than three decades, Svetlana Alexievich has been the memory and conscience of the twentieth century. When the Swedish Academy awarded her the Novel Prize, it cited her invention of “a new kink of literary genre,” describing her work as “a history of emotions….a history of the soul.”

The Unwomanly Face of War is the long awaited English translation of Alexievich’s first book, a groundbreaking oral history of women in World War II across Europe and Russia. Alexievich chronicles the experiences of the Soviet women who fought on the front lines, on the home front, and in the occupied territories. These women–more than a million in total–were nurses and doctors, pilots, tank drivers, machine-gunners, and snipers. They battled alongside men, and yet, after the victory, their efforts and sacrifices were forgotten.

Alexievich traveled thousands of miles and visited more than a hundred towns to record these women’s stories. Together, this symphony of voices reveals a different aspect of the war–the everyday details of life in combat left out of the official histories.

Translated by the renown Rchard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, The Unworthy Face of War is a powerful and poignant account of the central conflict of the twentieth century a kaleidoscopic portrait of the human side of war.

THE LYING GAME

Title: The lying Game

Author: Ruth Wre

On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal millage of Salten, along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister.

The next morning three women in and around London–Fatima, Thea, and Isa–receive the text they had always hoped would never come from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only “I need you.”

The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second-rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both follow boarders and faculty. But their little game had consequences, and as the four converge in present-day Salten, they realize their shared past was not as safely buried as they had once hoped.

Armospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill to keep you wrong-footed, The Lying Game is told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, lending itself to becoming another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

ARMISTICE

Title: Armistice – The Hot War

Author: Harry Turtledove

Harry Turtledove is the master of vivid and visionary alternate history. In this, the final book of the blistering trilogy the Hot War, old hatreds and new chances for revenge are unleashed on an already devastated world-as the cold War becomes a roaring inferno.

In 1952 American cities lid in ruins. President Harry Truman, in office since 1945, presides over a makeshift government in Philadelphia, suffering his own personal loss and fearing for the future of democracy in the sake of Hitler’s reign, Germany and America have become allies, and Stalin’s vise hold on power in the USSR persists. Unwilling to trust the Soviet tyrant, Truman launches a long-planned nuclear strike on the city of Omsk–killing Stalin and plunging the Red Army into leaderless, destructive anarchy. Meanwhile, The Baltic states careen toward rebellion, and Poland is seized by rebels bred on war. In a world awash with victims turned victors, refuges, and killers, has Truman struck a blow for peace or fueled more chaos?

As these staggering events unfold, the lives of men and women across battle lines, ethnicities, and religions play out around the globe. In Los Angeles, an extended Jewish family builds a future, while the foul smell of a refugee camp in Santa Monica blows in on the ocean breeze. In Korea, a U.S. fighter struggles to bring his Korean interpreter stateside as a full American. In Siberia, two German women fight for their survival in a guiag–and begin a strange, harrowing journey home.

From the terrifying global chess match between superpowers to the strength of individual human conscience, Armistice captures a world that’s been split to its core by the violence only mankind can create. Through the thunder of battle, the clashes of armies, and the whispers of lovers, how humanity will be rebuilt, and who will do it, are the questions that resound in this marvelous work of imagination and history.

THE REASON YOU’RE ALIVE

Title: The Reason You’re Alive

Author: Matthew Quick

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard–that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It may be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It may also help him to finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and good-hearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, wildly honest David Granger, Mathew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful vies of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, Davie is a complex, wounded, Honorable, and loving man. The Reason You’re Alive examines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.

DEMOCRACY

Title: Democracy

Author: Condoleezza Rice

From the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the soviet Union to the ongoing struggle for human rights in the Middle East, Condoleezza Rice has served on the front lines of history. As a child of freedom, when her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama, became the epicenter of he civil rights movement for black Americans.

In this book, Rice explains what these epochal events teach us about democracy. At a time when people around the world are wondering whether democracy is in decline, Rice shares insights from her experiences as a policymaker, scholar, and citizen, in order to put democracy’s challenges into perspective.

When the United States was founded, it was the only attempt at self-government in the world. Today more than half of all countries qualify as democracies, and in the long run that number will continue to grow. Yet nothing worthwhile ever comes easily. Using America’s long struggle as a template, Rice draws lessons for democracy around the world–from Russia, Poland, and Ukraine, to Kenya, Colombia, and the Middle East. She finds that no transitions to democracy are the same because every country starts in a different place. Pathways diverge and sometimes circle backward. Time frames for success vary dramatically, and countries often suffer false starts before getting it right. But Rice argues, that does not mean they should not try. While the ideal conditions for democracy are well known in academia, they never exist in the real world. The question is not how to create perfect circumstances but how to move forward under difficult ones.

These same insights apply in overcoming the challenges faced by governments today. The pursuit of democracy is a continuing struggle shared by people around the world, whether they are opposing authoritarian regimes, establishing new democratic institutions, or reforming mature democracies to better live up to their ideals. The work of securing it is never finished.

DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES

Title: Don’t Close Your Eyes

Author: Holly Seddon

In a bustling suburban neighborhood in Manchester, England, sits an unassuming house. There is no sign of life behind the unwashed windows, but Robin Marshall is inside. Driven by fears and obsessions racked by anxiety, Robin is frantically pushing her body through punishing workouts, eating little, haunted by what happened to her family when she was a girl. Robin’s only connection to the outside world is through her rear windows and the lives she spies upon in the apartment house across the way. Then a stranger starts pounding on her door.

Sarah Marshall is Robin’s twin, estranged from her sister after their parents’ betrayal and a violation at the hands of a man she should have been able to trust. Sarah has recently lost custody of the child she loves more than anything and has set off on her own, hoping that somewhere in England she can find Robin the braver twin, the rock star, the survivor, the savior.

These two young women, polar opposites, cannot go on unless they reckon with the past. While Sarah, slowly unraveling, searches for her sister’s hiding place, Robin sees another life hanging in the balance in the lighted windows across the street. It is a life only Robin can save–as long as she never looks away.

In a novel that is stunning in its twists, shocks, and gripping psychological suspense, two sisters find themselves on the razor’s edge of sanity. Untold secrets, a ghostly lie, and suffocating hold them back. Only one astounding act can set them free. And one last revelation will leave readers gasping in surprise.

PRICE OF DUTY

Title: Price of Duty

Author: Dale Brown

In a top-0secret location deep in the Urala Mountains, Russian president Gennadiy Gryzlov has built the most dangerous weapon his nation has ever produced–a fearsome tool to gain superiority in Russia’s long-running battle with the West. From inside Perun’s Aeriean intricate network of underground tunnels and chambers that is the heart of the Russian cyber warfare program–Gryzlov is launching a carefully plotted series of attacks on an unsuspecting U.S. and its European allies.

The first strike is aimed at Warsaw, Poland, where Russian malware wipes out the records of nearly every Polish bank account, imploding the country’s financial system and panicking the rest of Europe. When the besieged U.S. president, Stacy Anne Barbeau, fails to effectively combat the Russian threat, Brad McLanahan, on some well-earned R&R with his new Polish girlfriend, Major Nadia Rozek, is called back to duty.

As the Russians” deadly tactics escalate–including full-scale assaults on Europe’s power grid and the remote hijacking of a commercial airliner that kills hundreds of civilians–Mclanahan and his Scion team kick into gear, arming themselves with the most advanced technological weaponry for the epic struggle ahead. A patriot in the mold of his father, the late general Patrick McLanahan, Brad knows fist-hand the price of freedom.

With the world’s fate hanging in the balance, will Scion succeed in turning back Gryzlov before he can realize his terrifying ambition to conquer the world? And what will the toll of victory be?

DESTINED FOR WAR

Title: Destined For War

Author: Graham Allison

The reason is Thucydides’s Trap: When a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, the most likely outcome is war. This phenomenon is as old as history itself. About the Peloponnesian War that devastated ancient Greece, the historian Thucydides explained that “it was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable.” These conditions have occurred sixteen times over the past five hundred years. Twelve ended violently.

In the seventeenth case, an irresistible rising China is on course to collide with an immovable America. Both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promise to make their countries “great again.” But unless China is willing to moderate its ambitions, or Washington can agree to share primacy in the Pacific, a trade conflict, cyberattack, or accident at sea could be the spark that ignites a major war.

In Destined For War, the eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison explains why Thucydides’s Trap is the best lens for understanding the competition between the United States and China. Can Washington and Beijing steer their ships of state through these treacherous shoals? Allison shows how imaginative statecraft has averted war in the past, and what painful steps must be taken to avoid disaster today. By masterfully blending history and current events, Destined For War aims not to predict the future, ut to prevent it.

CATTLE KINGDOM

Title: Cattle Kingdom

Author: Christopher Knowlton

The open range cattle era lasted barely a quarter century, but it left American irrevocably changed. These few decades following the Civil War brought American its greatest boom-and-bust cycle until the Depression, the invention of the assembly line, and the dawn of the conservation movement. It inspired legends, such as that icon of rugged individualism, the cowboy. Yet this extraordinary time and its import have remained unexamined for decades.

Cattle Kingdom reveals the truth of how the West rose and fell, and how its legacy defines us today. The tale takes us from dust-choked cattle drives to the unlikely splendors of boomtowns like Abilene, Kansas and Cheyenne, Wyoming. We venture from the Texas Panhandle to the Dakota Badlands to the Chicago stockyards. We meet a diverse array of players–from the expert cowboy Teddy Blue to the failed rancher and future president Teddy Roosevelt. Knowlton shows us how they and others like them could achieve so many outsized feats: killing millions of bison in a decade, building the first opera house on the open range, driving cattle by the thousands, and much more. Cattle Kingdom is a revelatory new view of the Old West.

THE FROZEN HOURS

Title: The Frozen Hours

Author: Jeff Shaara

The master of military historical fiction turns his discerning eye to the Korean War in this riveting new novel, which tells the dramatic story of the Americans and the Chinese who squared off in one of the deadliest campaigns in the annals of combat: the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, also known as Frozen Chosin.

June 1950. The North Korean army invades South Korea, intent on uniting the country under Communist rule. In response, the United States mobilizes a force to defend the overmatched South Korean troops, and together they drive the North Koreans back to their border with China.

But several hundred thousand
Chinese troops have entered Korea, laying massive traps for the Allies. In November 1950, the Chinese spring those traps. Allied forces, already battling stunningly cold weather, find themselves caught completely off guard as the Chinese advance around the Chosin Reservoir in North Korea. A force that once stood on the precipice of victory now finds itself on the brink of annihilation. Assured by General Douglas MacArthur that they would be home by Christmas, the soldiers and Marines fight for their lives against the most brutal weather conditions imaginable–and an enemy that outnumbers them more than six to one.

The Frozen Hours tells the story of Frozen Chosin from multiple points of view: Oliver P Smith, the commanding general of the American 1st Marine Division, who famously redefined defeat as “advancing in a different direction”; Marine Private Pete Riley, a World War II veteran who now faces the greatest fight of his life; and the Chinese commander Sung Shi-Lun, charged with destroying the American he has so completely surrounded, ever aware that above him, Chairman Mao Tse-Tung watches his every move.

Written with the propulsive force Shaara brings to all his novels of combat and courage, The Frozen Hours transports us to the critical moment in the history of America’s “forgotten War,” when the fate of the Korean peninsula lay in the hinds of a brave band of brothers battling both the elements and a determined, implacable foe.