Category Archives: Book Reviews

The Spanish American War, 1898

Title: The Spanish American War, 1898

Author: Albert A. Nofi

The Spanish-American War has often been viewed as a disjointed series of colorful episodes; young Americans who would later become famous, fighting a Spanish colonial army putting up a token resistance. Military commentator and historian Albert A. Nofi presents the war as a coherent military narrative, showing how the conflict developed, the strategy and tactics of both sides, and the influence of the American co0mmanders’ Civil War experience as modified by recent improvements in technology. Serious attention is also given to the Spanish forces, the army of an empire in decline, but well-equipped and tactically sophisticated.

The Spanish-American War, 1898 also features a detailed treatment of the war in Puerto Rico. This theater was under the command of Indian fighter Nelson A. Miles and included some of the best tactical maneuvering of the war, an aspect not covered in detail in modern works.

All The Gallant Men

Title: All The Gallant Men

Author: Donald Stratton

At 8:06 A.M. on December 7, 1941, Seaman First Class Donald Stratton was consumed by an inferno. A million pounds of explosives had detonated beneath his battle station aboard the USS Arizona, barely fifteen minutes into Japan’s surprise attack on American forces at Pearl Harbor. Near death and burned across tow thirds of his body, Don, a nineteen-year-old Nebraskan who had been steeled by the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, summoned the will to haul himself hand over hand across a rope tethered to a neighboring vessel. Forty-five feet below, the harbor’s flaming, oil-slick water boiled with enemy bullets; all around him the world tore itself apart.

In the extraordinary, never-before-told eyewitness account of the Pearl Harbor attack–the only memoir ever written by a survivor of the USS Arizona–ninety-four year-old Donald Stratton finally shares his unforgettable personal tale of bravery and survival on December 7, 1941, his harrowing recovery, and his inspiring determination to return to the fight.

Don and four other sailors made it safely across the same line that morning, a small miracle on a day that claimed the lives of 1,177 of their Arizona shipmates–approximately half the American fatalities at Pear Harbor. Sent to military hospitals for a year, Don refused doctors’ advice to amputate his limbs and battled to relearn how to walk. the U.S. Navy gave him a medical discharge, believing he would never again be fit for service, but Don had unfinished business. In June 1944, he sailed back into the teeth of the Pacific War on a destroyer, destined for combat in the crucial battles of Leyte Gulf, Luzon, and Okinawa, thus earning the distinction of having been present for the opening shots and the final major battle of
America’s Second World War.

As the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attacks approaches, Dom, a great-grandfather of five and one of six living survivors of the Arizona, offers an unprecedentedly intimate reflection on the tragedy that drew America into the greatest armed conflict in history. All The Gallant Men is a book for the ages, one of the most remarkable–and remarkably inspiring–memoirs of any kind to appear in recent years.

Victoria

Title: Victoria

Author: Daisy Goodwin

Early one morning, less than a month after her eighteenth birthday, Alexandria Victoria is roused from bed with the news that her uncle William IV has died and she is now Queen of England. The men who run the country have doubts about whether this sheltered young woman, who stands less than five feet tall, can rule the greatest nation in the world. Surely she must rely on her mother and her venal advisor, Sir John Conroy, or her uncle, the Duke of Cumberland, who are all too eager to relieve her of he burden of power.

The young queen is no puppet, however. She has very definite ideas about the kind of queen she wants to be, and the first thing is to choose her name.

Everyone keeps saying she is destined to marry her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, but Victoria found him dull and priggish when they met three years ago. She is quite happy being queen with the help of her prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who may be old enough to be her father but is the first person to take her seriously.

Drawing on Victoria’s own diaries, which she first started reading when she was a student at Cambridge University, Daisy Goodwin brings us the brilliantly imagined life of a young woman about to make her mark on her nation–and the world.

A Mater Of Honor

Title: A Matter Of Honor

Author: Anthony Summers & Robbyn Swan

We thought we knew the story well: On December 7, 1941, 2403 Americans died when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating the nation and precipitating entry into World War II. In the after math, Admiral Husband Kimmel, commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet, was relieved of command, accused of dereliction of duty, and publicly disgraced.

The fact was, however — that–through sheer inefficiency — the top brass in Washington had failed to provide Kimmel with vital intelligence. Then, in the name of protecting the biggest U.S. intelligence secret of the day, they and top officials allowed the Admiral and the Army commander in Hawaii to be made scapegoats for the catastrophe.

The Admiral fought to clear his name for the rest of his long life. After Kimmel’s death his sons–both Navy veterans–continued the fight. Both houses of Congress approved the posthumous restoration of the Admiral’s four-star rank, only to be blocked by the Navy bureaucracy. Today Kimmel’s grandchildren maintain the struggle–for them, it is a matter of honor.

In this conversation-changing book, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan go far beyond the fall and fight-back of one man. They unravel the many apparent mysteries of Pearl Harbor, clear President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the charge that he knew the attack was coming, and uncover duplicity and betrayal in high places in Washington.

The authors, Pulitzer Prize finalists for their revelatory book on 9/11, The Eleventh Day, have conducted extraordinary research, with unrivaled access to documents, diaries, and letters.

Battle of Wills

Title: Battle of Wills

Author: David Allen Johnson

Historians have long analyzed the battles and the military strategies that brought the American Civil War to an end. Going beyond tactics and troop maneuvers, this book concentrates on the characters of the two opposing generals–Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant–showing how their different temperaments ultimately determined the course of the war. As author David Alan Johnson explains, Grant’s dogged and fearless determination eventually gained the upper hand over Lee’s arguably superior military brilliance.

Delving into their separate upbringings, the book depicts Grant as a working-class man from Ohio and Lee as a Virginia aristocrat. Both men were strongly influenced by their fathers. Grant learned a lesson in determination as he watched his father overcome economic hardships to make a successful living as a tanner and leather goods dealer. By contrast, Lee did his best to become he polar opposite of his father, a man whose bankruptcy and imprisonment for unpaid debts brought disgrace upon the family. Lee cultivated a manner of unimpeachable respectability and patrician courtesy, which in the field of battle did not always translate into decisive orders. Underscoring the tragedy of this fratricidal conflict, the author recounts episodes from the earlier Mexican War (1846-1848), when Grant and Lee and many other officers who would later oppose each other were comrades in arms.
This vivid narrative brings to life a crucial turning point in American history, showing how character and circumstances combined to have a decisive influence on the course of events.

Chaos

Title: Author

Title: Patricia Cornwell

On a hot late summer evening in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Dr. Kay Scarpertta and her investigative partner, Pete Marino responded to a call about a dead bicyclist near the Kennedy School of Government. It appears that a young woman has been attacked with almost superhuman force.

Even before Scarpetta’s headquarters, the Cambridge Forensic Center, has been officially notified about the case, Marino and Scarpetta’s FBI agent husband, Benton Wesley, receive suspicious calls, allegedly from someone at Interpol. But it makes no sense. Why would the elite international police agency know about the case and even be interested? With breathing speed it becomes apparent that an onslaught of interference and harassment might be the work of an anonymous cyberbully Tailend Charlie, who has been sending cryptic communications to Scarpetta for over a week.

Stunningly, even her brilliant tech-savvy niece, Lucy, can’t trace who it is or how this person could have access to intimate information few outside their family would have. When a second death, hundreds of miles south shocks Scarpetta to her core, she and those close to her are confronted with something far bigger and more dangerous than they’d ever imangined. Then analysis of a mysterious residue recovered from a wound is identified as a material that doesn’t exist on earth.

In this latest installment in the bestselling series featuring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta, Cornwell shows us once again why she is the world’s number one bestselling crime writer, mistress of the shocking turns, delicious thrills, and state-of-the-art forensic details that all fans of suspense have come to love.

Mister Monkey

Title: Mister Monkey

Author: Francine Prose

A screwball children’s musical about a playfully larcenous pet chimpanzee–is the kink of family favorite that survives far past its prime. Margot, who plays the chimp’s lawyer, knows the production is dreadful and bemoans the failure of her acting career. She’s settled into the drudgery of playing a humiliating part–until the day she receives a mysterious letter from an anonymous admirer…and later, in the middle of a performance, has a shocking encounter with Adam, the twelve-year-old who plays the title role.

Francine Prose’s effervescent comedy is told from the viewpoints of wildly unreliable, seemingly disparate characters whose lives become deeply connected as the madcap narrative unfolds. There is Adam, whose looming adolescence informs his interpretations of his role; Edward, a young audience member who is candidly unimpressed with the play; Lakshmi, the musical’s costume designer, who imagines herself the heroine of her own production; Ray, the author of the novel on which the musical is based, who witnesses one of the most awkward first dates in literature; and even the eponymous Mister Monkey, the Monkey God himself.

With her trademark wit and verve, Prose touches on everything from the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin to the absurdity of child-raising in contemporary Brooklyn, and eventually delves into some of humanity’s most profound mysteries: art, ambition, childhood, aging, and love. Startling, captivating, Mister Monkey is a breathtaking novel from a writer at the height of her craft.

Mirror Image

Title: Mirror Image

Author: Michael Scott & Melainie Ruth Rose

When Jonathan Frazer the wealthy owner of an exclusive antiques store in Los Angles, buys a mirror at an auction, he believes he is getting the bargain of a lifetime. He knows the antique piece is easily worth many times what he paid for it.

The mirror has sat dormant for years, but within days of Jonathan’s purchase inexplicable accidents begin to happen. One death is messy, but tow is not a coincidence. Then a tall, menacing, and hideously scarred man approaches Jonathan, claiming that the mirror is his. Frazer refuses to sell. He has glimpsed the world inside the glass and the beautiful woman trapped within.

Frazer’s desire to free the woman in the glass slowly strips him of his humanity. He quickly moves from feeding it his own blood to dousing it in the blood of innocent victims. As the police begin to investigate, they realize that the deaths surrounding the mirror are connected to a series of bizarre murders across the city.

The mirror is awakening, and its powers are resurfacing. Soon it will unleash untold horrors into the world.

Presumption Of Guilt

Title: Presumption Of Guilt

Author: Archer Mayor

A skeleton is found encased in a concrete slab at a recently decommissioned nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vermont–a discovery that solves a forty-year-old missing person case. but a body doesn’t end un buried in concrete by accident. Hoe Gunther and his team at the Vermont Bureau of investigation (VBI) are given the assignment because this very cold case has now been reclassified as murder and they’re the only ones with the resources and ability to investigate.

The victim was Hank Mitchell, and Gunther must chase down old rumors and speculations to try to find answers for the essential questions: Who benefited from his death and by making his body disappear? Could his death be tied somehow to New York City Mafia money that was being laundered through the construction project?

But what seems the coldest of cold cases roars back to life when one of the central figures in this mystery is shot to death right after speaking with Gunther. And when a young police officer–the son of VBI investigator Lester Spinney–is kidnapped, is that meant to be a warning to the VBI team to drop the case?

After all these many years, the truth behind the murder still has the power to kill, and it’s up to Gunther and his team to protect the innocent, track down the living, and finally put the dead to rest.