Book Reviews

Reviews of books by MWSA members. Reviews appear in reverse chronological order, with the most recent review posted appearing first.
Note: Some older reviews are being reposted to this site and those will appear out of order.

Gangway, Regular Navy: Memoirs of Life and Humor in the United States Navy during the Cold War

Title: Gangway, Regular Navy: Memoirs of Life and Humor in the United States Navy during the Cold War
Author: Richard Merrell
Genre: Non-Fiction, Military, Navy
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0788432834

Inspired by an extraordinary twenty-year U.S. Navy career, Gangway, Regular Navy! is the end result of two decades of blood, sweat, and beers. Covering the Cold War era from 1960-1980, Gangway, Regular Navy! is a historically and militarily accurate portrayal of world events during that time period. These pages contain an in-depth "behind the scenes," whirlwind journey that lets the reader experience the historical, hilarious, shocking, and sometimes criminal activities that the author witnessed as a member of the world's most powerful and diverse fighting force-the United States Navy. Gangway, Regular Navy! is a no-holds-barred, unapologetic, politically incorrect, first-hand account of these activities, from a time when being a member of the U.S. Navy meant not only overwhelming responsibilities, but also unbridled freedom and good times for millions of young men and women. Young people often dream of escaping the boundaries of their mundane hometowns and traveling to exotic lands, experiencing unique cultures, and meeting unforgettable characters around the world. The author lived this dream during a twenty year U.S. Navy career that proved to be the adventure of a lifetime and a learning experience that cannot be taught in any school. Much of the material in the book was dredged from hard nights in the sleazy, grimy, wonderful back alleys and gin mills of some of the world's most shady places, where the hookers would just as soon slit your throat as perform their intended obligations. It is here where sailors gather to drink heartily and engage in the age-old art of verbal one-upmanship, taking great pride in telling the most amazing, the funniest, or the most bizarre story of the evening. Written by a tried and true Tin Can Sailor, the author's diverse background as both an enlisted man and an officer gives a truly unique perspective of Navy life, and also provides insight into the amazing men and women who served during that time. As a humorous, honest, uplifting account of a twenty-year slice of naval history, Gangway, Regular Navy! is certain to entertain, inform, and delight everyone who dares read its pages.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Merrell, Richard

Rings of Allah, The

Title: The Rings of Allah
Author: Lee Boyland
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1418427284

At Stalin's orders two teams of scientists and engineers competed to demonstrate the Soviet Union's first atomic bomb. Failure was not an option, and the loosing team was purged with no warning. Its records destroyed, and all of the key personnel eliminated, well, almost all. What happened to the team's work in progress? Forty years later The Group discovers the answer. The Rings of Allah is a grand saga in the genre of James Clavell's Shogun and Tia-Pan, with a little Clancy thrown in. Spanning over sixty years the story sweeps across Russia, central Asia, and into the United States. The cast of characters include Soviet scientists, radical Islamist, KGB officers, al-Qaeda terrorists, Usama bin Laden, and American businessmen, doctors, and government officials. Islam, Wahhabism, and the Soviet-Afghan war, provide the backdrop for the birth of al-Qaeda. The story proceeds into the future where a sleeper cell of al-Qaeda attempts to complete Usama bin Laden's master plan for the final strike against the Great Satan. This epic novel presents a realistic and frightening picture of how simple atomic weapons could be smuggled into and hidden in the U.S. The author has the background and knowledge to write a realistic, technically sound story that will leave no doubt as to the vulnerability of western civilization to terrorism and the threat of weapons of mass destruction. Yes, it can be done, and the Rings of Allah provides a thrilling and realistic story of one such plan.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Boyland, Lee

Rangers in Combat: A Legacy of Valor

Title: Rangers in Combat: A Legacy of Valor
Author: John D. Lock
Genre: Non-fiction, Military History
Reviewer: Jim Stewart

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1587364999

For more than 200 years, U.S. Army Rangers have fought suicidal combat missions against overwhelming odds-earning their unrivaled reputation as the world's premier close-combat warriors. In Rangers in Combat, Lieutenant Colonel J. D. Lock vividly brings to life the horrific battles and the heroic exploits of a special breed of men for whom "valor, honor, and country" mean more than life itself.

Take a stand with Robert Rogers and his outnumbered Rangers during the French and Indian War. Ride with Mosby on the Soughton Raid in the Civil War. In World War II, spearhead Patton's invasion of Sicily beside the legendary William O. Darby, suicidally climb the cliffs of Pointe-du-Hoc with James Earl Rudder, or storm "bloody Omaha" with Max Schneider. Stand outnumbered deep in North Korea while defending Hill 205 against overwhelming hordes of Communist Chinese. And high atop a mountain in Afghanistan, fight your way out of a savage al Qaeda terrorist ambush.

From the snowy forests of Upstate New York and the swamps of South Carolina, to the humid streets of Mogadishu and the snowy mountain peaks of Afghanistan, read accounts of and lessons learned from some of the most courageous, daring, and vicious ground combat in the annals of U.S. military history.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Lock, John D.

I'm a Hero Too

Title: I'm a Hero Too
Author: Jenny Sokol
Genre: Children's, Under 12
Reviewer: Andrew Lubin

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1425989853

Children in military families cope with a vast array of emotions when Mom or Dad deploys, especially during our nation's war on terror. In this compassionate story, a young boy learns to cope and thrive while Dad is far away. Subtle suggestions for families enduring separation are weaved throughout this poignant book, and the lovable main character ultimately realizes that he's part of a special and appreciated family. Do you want to support children enduring deployments but don't know any personally? Consider donating books to military units in your area or to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) Chapel in Twentynine Palms, CA. When ordering for donation to MCAGCC, please ship to the following address: Mrs. Sandra Griesmeyer, Attn: A Co RMD, P.O. Box 788200, Twentynine Palms, CA 92278

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Sokol, Jenny

God Does Have a Sense of Humor

Title: God Does Have a Sense of Humor
Author: Rob Ballister
Genre: Creative Non-Fiction, Humor
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0595363431

Author Rob Ballister delivers a touching and entertaining portrait of his journey through dating, growing up in New Jersey, and surviving cancer. Along the way, he learns that God Does Have a Sense of Humor. Follow him:

Through surgery—My understanding was that the doctor, while hopping up and down on one foot and singing the national anthem, was going to remove my lymph nodes using a butter knife, a hacksaw, and some 10W-30 motor oil.

Into the confessional—There sat Father Riener, who was technically old enough to have been one of the original apostles. As I began reciting my list, Father began falling asleep. Being only in the fourth grade, I did exactly what I did at home when my younger sister fell asleep. I kicked him.

Through family Christmas traditions—That first year, Dad put up a wreath and Mom put up a tree, and things were pretty much low key that season. Then I was born, and as I grew, so did Dad’s commitment to having the house visible from orbiting spacecraft.

With an incredibly wry sense of humor, Ballister offers a hilarious look at life, guaranteed to make you smile!

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Ballister, Rob