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.

Book of Weapons: Tools of War Through the Ages, The

Title: The Book of Weapons: Tools of War Through the Ages
Author: Dwight Jon Zimmerman
Genre: Non-Fiction, Reference
Reviewer: Rob Ballister

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): B003W8GQ4Q

The Book of Weapons is a sequel to the award-winning The Book of War. It covers the history of weaponry from the earliest most primitive instruments of destruction up to the technologically advanced weapons wielded today. Following in the profusely illustrated format of The Book of War, this history is organized chronologically, and is a fascinating survey that reveals the incredible array of arms, animals, methods, and concepts that were forged, fashioned, manipulated, subverted, and even seduced, into becoming the means to bring defeat and destruction to an enemy.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Zimmerman, Dwight Jon

Blackened Canteen, The

Title: The Blackened Canteen
Author: Jerry Yellin
Genre: Fiction, Historical
Reviewer: Jack Woodville London

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1421890194

This book is about five Americans: Jack O'Connor, Monroe Cohen, Ken Colli, Newton Towle, crewmen on B-29's and were killed in a mid-air collision on June 20, 1945 and buried by Fukumatsu Itoh alongside the 2,000 Japanese killed in the raid, and Richard Fiske, the bugler on the battleship West Virginia when it was sunk at Pearl Harbor. It is also about three Japanese: Hiroya Sugano, 12 years old when his city was bombed in 1945, Takeshi Maeda, the navigator on the torpedo bomber that sank the West Virginia, and Fukumatsu Itoh, a city councilman and Buddhist priest. Only two survive today, Dr. Sugano, who is 74, and Takeshi Maeda, who is 89.

The Blackened Canteen is written by story teller, Jerry Yellin, with many voices. It shows that he has listened to the cultures of both his land of birth and the adopted land of his son.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Yellin, Jerry

Traiteur's Ring, The

Title: The Traiteur's Ring
Author: Jeffrey Wilson
Genre: Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
Reviewer: Bill McDonald

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1936564173

A man who has spent his life defending his country discovers that fate has presented him with an even higher calling. Ben Morvant is not what you would call ordinary and as a Navy SEAL, he never expected an ordinary life. But when a routine mission to protect a local village in a war-torn region of Africa goes terribly wrong, Ben is presented with truths beyond what his military training and experience have prepared him to accept. With his dying breath, a village elder passes to Ben a gift--a simple ring, unremarkable except for its ever changing color and the feeling of power emanating from within.

Soon after accepting the ring dark visions begin to haunt Ben's dreams. Images of pain and death, of evil and destruction. But some of the visions are hauntingly familiar. Soon Ben must return to his childhood home in Louisiana to face a dark secret from his past, one that may explain why he has the power to heal with a touch of the hand . . . or kill with a single thought. After discovering the truth about his family and himself, he comes to realize that he is a soldier in a greater battle than he could ever have imagined. And if he cannot find a way to wield the power concealed within him, the forces that prey on mankind's anger and fear will destroy not only him, but everything he holds dear.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Wilson, Jeffrey

Piercing the Veil

Title: Piercing the Veil
Author: Eric Wenttz
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Reviewer: Pat McGrath Avery

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1935278789

A warrior with the constitutional forbearance of a diamond and the intellectual agility of a Delphic oracle, Lieutenant Commander Grant Chisolm leads his exceptionally trained and equipped SEAL team into the heart of darkness. His quest to rescue hostages taken by the charismatic and cunning leader of a major insurgency in sub-Saharan African forces him to confront the irrationality of malevolent genius, bureaucratic quackery posing as government, and the link between a man's past indiscretions and present death and destruct

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Wentz, Eric

Nero's Concert

Title: Nero's Concert
Author: Don Westenhaver
Genre: Fiction, Thriller
Reviewer: E. Franklin Evans

ISBN (links go to the MWSA Amazon store): 1441501096

In 64 AD, the heart of Rome burned to the ground while Emperor Nero famously performed a concert. For 2,000 years, historians have accused him of setting the fire himself and making Christians the scapegoats. To punish them, he embarked on a persecution that was to last for three centuries. But the real Nero was more complex. The story is told by Nero's fictional best friend, Rusticus, a famous gladiator who saves the young emperor's life in a chariot race and goes on to become a top minister in the imperial court. Guided by the distinguished philosopher Seneca, Nero stabilizes the Roman Empire. He downplays military conquest and barbaric displays of violence, opting instead for diplomacy, dependable food supplies, and the rule of law.

Nero and Rusticus personally lead thousands of firefighters and policemen to control the fire for over a week, after which the Emperor asks Rusticus to investigate how the fire began. With the aid of a beautiful nurse, Camilia, he soon discovers three murdered senators, their faces covered by masks. The masks portray three other murder victims who died years earlier: Nero's mother, step-father, and half-brother. While setting his empire on a steady course, Nero has himself become unstable. He is furious that Rusticus cannot find any evidence that the Christians are to blame for the fire and he orders him out of Rome. Rusticus takes the opportunity to go to Pompeii so he can follow two leads in the murder investigation. He is accompanied by Camilia and their eight-year-old daughters, who have become constant companions. By the time they return to Rome, Rusticus has fresh clues about the murders, and he has fallen deeply in love with Camilia.

Rusticus plans to ask for her hand in marriage, but he discovers she is a secret follower of Christ. She has not only concealed this from him, but has introduced his daughter to the forbidden cult. Furious, he walks out on her as she weeps desperately. He quickly discovers two more murders, and this time they are close friends. Rusticus is being hounded by another of Nero's advisers, Tigellinus, and he now knows it was Tigellinus that killed his wife two years earlier. Rusticus and his daughter are forced into hiding. The first group of Christians are rounded up and thrown in prison. Fearing for the safety of Camilia and her family, Rusticus realizes he cannot live without her. Reunited, they are captured and imprisoned, where he meets the head of the new religion, Peter, before they are all led off to the arena to die.

The heavily researched novel takes place in the devastated city of Rome under an emperor who is growing increasingly psychotic. Characters include the evil Tigellinus, Nero's selfish new wife Poppaea, and a witch who seems to read minds. There is a fanatical Christian named Gladius who agitates the Romans by claiming that Christ is coming to smite the unbelievers with fire. Gladius is also the son of the Good Thief, and his life changed 30 years earlier when he witnessed his father die on the cross, pardoned by Jesus.

The tone of Nero's Concert is similar to Robert Harris' best-seller Pompeii, and the recent HBO series, "Rome", in that it merges actual historical figures with fictional characters and does so in a way that brings the action to the level of the street, showing daily life not just as it was for the rich and famous, but also for the common people.

Author(s) Mentioned: 
Westenhaver, Don