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.

A Passel of Hate

Title: A Passel of Hate
Author: Joe Epley
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewer: Edward Cox

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1461075939

Gripping, visceral, and full of intensity, A Passel of Hate is as historically fascinating as it is emotionally satisfying; capturing the heartache and triumphs of a war that brutally pits brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor in the western Carolina frontier in 1780. “The first link in a chain of evils…the loss of America” is how Sir Henry Clinton, Britain’s commander-in-chief in the Colonies, describes the decisive American victory at the battle of Kings Mountain. This fact-based novel brings the events leading to that battle into sharp focus through the highly personal experiences of families and individuals who shaped its outcome. Through the eyes of Jacob Godley, A Passel of Hate brings to life the hardships and challenges of frontier living where there is a constant threat from Indians, roving raiders and British invaders. Without government orders or formal training, mountain and piedmont patriots join together with their own weapons and horses to expel a British led Loyalist army that plunders the western Carolina countryside, delivering harsh retribution to those supporting rebellion. Jacob and his 15-year-old brother enter the savage fighting with the Liberty Men, but with a dread of having to face their three Loyalist brothers. The overwhelming victory at Kings Mountain is bittersweet for Jacob who suffers a crushing personal tragedy on the battlefield. In addition, his nemesis, the notorious Tory raider Rance Miller escapes, and Jacob, consumed by hatred, tracks the terrorist through the Carolina backcountry to seek the revenge he so desperately needs. A battle Thomas Jefferson called “the turn of the tide of success,” Kings Mountain has a devastating impact on the British Army’s goal of quashing the rebellion in the south. Brutal in its depiction of the harrowing nature of war and the price paid by our revolutionary ancestors, A Passel of Hate is a powder keg of highly charged personal feelings and military significance.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Epley, Joe

Tying Up Water and Other Stories

Title: Tying Up Water and Other Stories
Author: Ross H. MacKenzie
Genre: Short Story Collection
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B007K1VMYU

A helicopter crash leaves Stuart adrift with unreliable memories, foggy recollections, and bittersweet realizations. Through this catastrophic experience, Stuart must rely on his strength, his family, and his faith to try and persevere. Sensual passion, exhilarating rock climbs, and tender hope for a legacy combine to define this remarkable story as not only a harrowing adventure, but also a touching love story.

The collection delivers other stories equally captivating in arenas varying from Australian rock climbing to high-sea Navy adventures. Ross H. Mackenzie is an award-winning author best known for his Patriot Kids children’s book series that positively impacts military families every day.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
MacKenzie, Ross H.

Changing the Rules of Engagement

Title: Changing the Rules of Engagement
Author: Martha LaGuardia-Kotite
Genre: Non-Fiction History
Reviewer: Betsy Beard

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 159797689X

Changing the Rules of Engagement documents the lives of American women who have shattered the glass ceiling and performed extraordinary feats while serving their country in the military. By telling their stories about their remarkable careers in traditionally male-dominated environments, Martha LaGuardia-Kotite demonstrates how tenacious and courageous women can achieve the unimaginable. Among the pioneering women profiled are Vivien Crea, who as vice commandant of the Coast Guard held the highest position of any woman in the history of the U.S. military; Tammy Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient and triple amputee who was shot down in Iraq while piloting a helicopter; and Heather Wilson, an Air Force Academy graduate, Rhodes scholar, and the country’s only female veteran in Congress. Included are the inspirational stories of women Marines, one of the three female Space Shuttle commanders, and the first female members of the military service academies gender-integrated classes, who recall the highs and lows of their trailblazing experiences. These are only a few of the remarkable women who tell their own inspiring stories. Representative of a widely diverse group of enlisted women and officers from different races and cultures, they have succeeded since the mid-1970s at combating prejudices and aiding change in the military with intelligence, passion, and honor.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
LaGuaria-Kotite, Martha

Our War: The History and Sacrifices of an Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War 1968-1971

Title: Our War: The History and Sacrifices of an Infantry Battalion in the Vietnam War 1968-1971
Author: David W. Taylor
Genre: History
Reviewer: Louis Intres

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0983268304

"Our War" is the only Vietnam War history that covers an infantry battalion during its entire time in combat (3 years, 3 months) and written in a narrative form (absent report excerpts, charts and graphs). The author served as a infantry platoon leader in the battalion in 1969 and retired as a Colonel, Special Forces (USAR-Ret) in 1993. The battalion, 5th/46th Infantry, 198th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, is the same battalion famed Vietnam War author Tim O'Brien served in. The author copied over 23,000 pages of the battalions Daily Staff Journals at the National Archives and interviewed over 100 battalion vets, from battalion commanders to privates, to write the book in 8 years.

In many respects the book is a microcosm of the Vietnam War itself. The battalion fought in every type of terrain known to soldiers: coastal & marshy plains, the rolling hills and dense foliage of the Piedmont and triple canopy jungle in the Annamite Mountains. It fought against NVA regulars and Vietcong Main Force and Local Force battalions. It also operated in the most heavily mined areas of the Vietnam War including the dreaded Batangan Pennisula and the My Lai hamlets.

The missions the battalion pursued began with battalion-sized "Search and Destroy" (body counts) to "Search and Clear", "Denial", "Pacification" and "Accelerated Pacification". By late 1970 common operations were carried out by squad-size patrols operating out of platoon-size patrol bases. the soldiers attitudes had switched from "fighting to win" to "not being the last man to die in Vietnam".
The battalion fought with other units such as the US Marines, South Vietnamese Army (ARVN), Popular Force (PF) and Regional Force (RF) Militia. Their performance is also recounted as it pertained to the battalions operations as the American forces tried to "stand down" while the Vietnamese were to "stand up".

Each battalions soldier who is killed in combat is mentioned as to how he died. The reader will view the war as seen at the battalion level with their missions and the threats they faced, down to the individual soldier "in the grass" who only knew what was in front of him. "Our War" offers a rare look into what it was truly like for an infantry battalion to fight and persevere in the Vietnam war, in the midst of constant change of commanders, lack of experienced personnel, many acts of selfless bravery and a growing antipathy for a war that was not going to be won by American forces.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Taylor, David W.

Jack and the Dragon

Title: Jack and the Dragon
Author: Lynn Salsi
Genre: Children's
Reviewer: Sandra Linhart

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 0982087322

This is a 32-page picture book (less than 2,000 words). This is an adaptation of an ancient traditional story. Jack, the youngest brother of three, learns how to over-come the bullying ways of his older brothers. At the same time, with the help of magic gifts, he is able to best the Dragon who steals from the brothers. This is a lesson in learning how to overcome life's little (and big) problems.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Salsi, Lynn