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Jungle in Black by Steve Maguire

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MWSA Review

Brutal, compassionate... a soldier copes with blindness.

"Jungle in Black" is a raw-boned, "tell it as it is" book that takes a young Airborne Ranger officer from being injured on patrol in Vietnam to recovery in an Army field hospital to Japan,  and finally to Walter Reed Army Hospital in our nation's capital. 
Written in a vivid style that puts us in the shoes of the soldier, we experience the agony of a grenade exploding near our head, the terrifying blackness of a hospital, the hopes of seeing with one damaged eye dashed, and the realization that a cherished Army career is over.

Steve Maguire does not mire us in self-pity nor in the Pollyanna-ish euphoria of conquering blindness. Instead, he lays out a painful path of disappointment, void of a future in the Army, to a functioning man who can hold his own in a barroom brawl. Chock full of humorous incidents, such as wheelchair races down the hospital halls to profane escapades on frequent passes to the Goal Post, a neighborhood bar, one laughs and cries with the author. 

A college co-ed befriends him, helps turn his life around, and gives him purpose in life. They marry and have six children. He continues his studies and has a career with the Department of the Army as a civilian.

"Jungle in Black" is the tale of one soldier's long journey home from Vietnam. It is a true story of overcoming adversity. It is a story that falls into the "must read" category.

Review by Joe Epley (May 2018)

MWSA's evaluation of this book found a number of technical problems—including some combination of misspellings, grammar, punctuation, or capitalization errors—which indicate that further editing would lead to a much-improved final product.


Author's Synopsis

The True Story of One Soldier's Long Journey Home from Vietnam

This is the memoir of Steve Maguire, a decorated young Airborne Ranger, infantry officer who commanded a 9th infantry Division battalion reconnaissance platoon in the Mekong Delta.  It was there in November 1969 while on am airmobile operation that an exploding Viet Cong mine blinded him for life.

He lost his sight but not his courage.

Jungle in Black is an honest first-person account that never wallows in self pity as the author reassembles his life in a country that had turned its back on the war. Set in Long An Province. Vietnam, Camp Zama. Japan, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, this powerful yet often witty human drama details one man's successful struggle against the war's desolation.


ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-49230-332-9
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 423
 

My Daddy Sleeps Everywhere by Jesse Franklin

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MWSA Review

On any given day, thousands of US military servicemen and women are deployed around the globe.  Over two million have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan over the last decade, and about half of those have deployed more than once.  That equates to countless days and nights spent away from home—often more than a year at a time.  Inevitably, the repeated and prolonged absences of so many fathers and mothers leads to stress, anxiety, and a feeling of loss at home.  Although they don't fully understand what's going on, the youngest members of these military families are still very much aware that there has been a dramatic change in their lives.

It is for this reason that author Jesse Franklin and illustrator Tahna Desmond Fox's My Daddy Sleeps Everywhere is so timely. Using a series of short declarative sentences and a matching set of well-executed drawings of military fathers in various locales and settings, the book allows young children to imagine where their daddies might be sleeping on any particular night.  Each drawing includes a black and white cutout of the sleeping father, so that children can put their own father "in the picture." 

During these early, formative years, these young ones aren't yet ready to understand—much less worry about—what Daddy's work might entail.  But by concentrating on where he might be sleeping (instead of what he's doing), the parent can share a comforting look at the varied locations where Daddy might be laying his head at night.  In the end, they'll appreciate that, of all the places where he might be sleeping while he's away, his favorite is at home with his family. 

My Daddy Sleeps Everywhere will appeal to military families with children one-to-five years old having a father who spends large stretches of time away from home on deployment.

Review by John Cathcart (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

As military families tuck in for the night, their thoughts often turn to daddies who can’t always be home. This children’s military deployment book shows some of the many places daddy sleeps while he is away. In this wonderful story, daddy travels to every clime and place including the mountains, the prairie, the jungle, and everywhere in between. Though daddy’s particular location and sleeping arrangements are constantly changing, one thing never does. No matter how far daddy is from home, home is never far from his mind.
 

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-938505-25-6
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 40

From Both Sides Now by Harry Stevenson

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MWSA Review

From Both Sides Now provides the rare insight of author Harry Stevenson's experiences as an Army officer thrust into combat in Vietnam and his subsequent transition into the Air Force as a fighter pilot.  While his experiences in Vietnam alone were fascinating and made an interesting story, being an air force vet myself, I found Stevenson's career in the Air Force fascinating.  It seemed to me he was one of the few officers with whom the Air Force got it right and utilized his talents to their full potential. Jump qualified and very experienced with army combat tactics, Stevenson had assignments in the F-4 and A-10 with a focus in close air support, along with a variety of joint jobs that had him coordinating tactics and policy between the Army and the Air Force. Anyone with an interest in learning more about the Vietnam war, careers in the military, and family life in the service of one's country should find this book interesting. After reading this book, one can't help but want to thank Colonel Stevenson for his service to the United States.

Review by Bob Doerr (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

From hot, sweaty, often bloody infantry battles in Vietnam to high-altitude supersonic fighter engagements in the Middle East lasting only seconds, Steve Stevenson mixed two disparate careers into one.  Not appreciated at home, Steve and the Vietnam era troops performed every challenging task assigned.  Many of the painful Vietnam problems were corrected in Middle East conflicts twenty years later by senior leaders who fought as junior officers in Vietnam.

Known by his Air Force call sign “Grunt” in F-4s, he pushed the importance of and need for Close Air Support for the ground troops, to an extent that occasionally got him in trouble.  Steve takes you into the life of young paratroopers in combat, into the mostly untold lives and actions of US Special Forces, into the rowdy squadrons and cramped cockpits of fighter pilots.  Along the way, he preaches Jointness and inter-service cooperation, accepted by the “boots on the ground”, but often opposed by the parochialism of senior leaders in all services.  The generals often talk a good game until it comes down to their dollars. 

From the Vietnam War, Yom Kippur War, Turkish Invasion of Cyprus, Desert Storm to “black” special ops, Steve volunteered for or was at the right place at the right time.  He captures the comradeship, dedication, and patriotism of these warriors and their families, raucous parties and the heartbreak of friends lost.

Steve believed people were his greatest assets and rewarded his troops, sometimes when it may have been unauthorized.  But, higher headquarters never knew.  Ms. Joni Mitchell’s 1967 song “Both Sides Now” seems a perfect summary of Steve’s unique career.


ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-692-71989-3
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 396
 

Sins of the Fathers by Joseph Badal

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MWSA Review

When I finished Death Ship, the fifth in the Danforth Saga, Bob Danforth retired again and I didn’t suspect that I’d soon have the pleasure of reading book six, Sins of Our Fathers.

If, like me, you’ve read the previous adventures of the Danforths, you most likely consider Bob and Liz, their son Michael, his wife Mariana and son Robbie as good friends. Bob Danforth may be retired but when his family and his former boss need help, he answers the call.

Joseph Badal develops real-to-life characters and intricate plots revolving around perilous scenarios. He takes us across America, the Middle East and Mexico in search of terrorists. From kidnappings, terrorist attacks and the Mexican cartel, Badal takes us into the innards of timely, and believable, threats to peace.

If you like thrillers, I highly recommend the entire Danforth series. Badal meets the challenge of sustaining freshness and his trademark adventure and suspense.

Reviewed by Pat McGrath-Avery (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Danforth family returns in this sixth edition of the Danforth Saga. Sins of the Fathers takes the reader on a tension-filled journey from a kidnapping of Michael and Robbie Danforth in Colorado, to America’s worst terrorist-sponsored attacks, to Special Ops operations in Mexico, Greece, Turkey, and Syria. This epic tale includes political intrigue, CIA and military operations, terrorist sleeper cells, drug cartels, and action scenes that will keep you pinned to the edge of your seat.
Joseph Badal’s 12th novel is complex, stimulating, and un-put-down-able. You will love his heroes and hate his villains, and you will root for the triumph of good over evil.
 This is fiction as close to reality as you will ever find.

ISBN/ASIN: B0764KCDR8
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 399
 

Death of an Assassin: The True Story of the German Murderer Who Died Defending Robert E. Lee by Ann Marie Ackermann

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MWSA Review

Death of an Assassin is a well-researched history of a murder that occurred in Germany in 1835 that remained a cold case for 37 years.  The author intertwines the German crime scene with highlights of Robert E. Lee's early years and brings players from both continents together in Lee's first battle experience.  The book includes extensive appendices, chapter notes, Bibliography, and an Index.

Review by Nancy Kauffman (April 2018)

Author's Synopsis

From the depths of German and American archives comes a story one soldier never wanted told. The first volunteer killed defending Robert E. Lee’s position in battle was really a German assassin. After fleeing to the United States to escape prosecution for murder, the assassin enlisted in a German company of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in the Mexican-American War and died defending Lee’s battery at the Siege of Veracruz in 1847. Lee wrote a letter home, praising this unnamed fallen volunteer defender. Military records identify him, but none of the Americans knew about his past life of crime. This story tells American military history in an exciting true crime format.

ISBN/ASIN: 1606353047
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 204
 

Wonderful Flying Machines by Barrett Beard

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MWSA Review

This well-written book is not just an interesting read; it is both historic and inspiring. It delivers insight into how a few special people (American Exceptionalism) changed history for the better, and how they paid a high price for doing the right thing, for disrupting the status quo.

The history of aviation progress followed that model: the Wright Brothers with their bicycle shop and Glen Curtiss with his reliable engines and better designs. The small band of Navy officers (Admirals Byrd and Moffit, and Commander George Noville) who set records and brought aviation to the fleet were similar. There was General Billy Mitchell, who was court-martialed for daring to show that his ragtag bombers could sink battleships. Names like Jimmy Doolittle and Kelly Johnson also come to mind.
The first part of the book writes this history, featuring Captain Frank Erickson and Captain William Kossler. This is the history of helicopters. The research is extensive, built on several failed efforts to tell the tale, and hundreds of cited documents and interviews.
The book starts small and personal. Lt. Erickson was the duty officer at Pearl Harbor on December 7th. The first bombs came down at 0753 and the world changed. Erickson witnessed the deaths of more than two thousand men within a radius of a mile and a half, and he watched helplessly as thousands more wounded and oil-covered victims struggled ashore. His immediate duty was flying patrols in the few planes that survived the raid—unarmed J2F and JRS scout planes. He felt helpless, but his greatest fear was not the war itself. It was that its duration would keep him in the Pacific, unable to pursue his dream of a way to rescue victims at sea, using helicopters.

It proved to be a long and rocky road. The helicopters of the era were barely able to fly. They had some promise for ASW work but could not hope to sink a submarine even if they found one. The war was over before they managed to show that helicopters with dipping sonar could track the best German submarines, XXIs with a submerged speed of 15 knots in 1946.
Unfortunately, that demonstration ended with the helicopter “getting dunked.” It didn’t have enough power to stop its descent to the deck of an LST. Both the copter and the sonar gear were lost. Rescue demonstrations were also spotty. Hydraulic hoists helped, but a heavy “victim” was about as likely to pull the copter down as the converse. A long dry spell followed, save for things like MASH in Korea and one critical Coast Guard mission. Helicopters proved indispensable for icebreakers. Ship’s captains would not give them up, and in at least one case, Byrd’s “High Jump” December 1946 mission, a single helicopter might have saved an entire fleet from the worst pack ice in Antarctic history or at least prevented the mission from being canceled.

Then came Vietnam, with its incredible stories of rescues of downed airmen under heavy fire behind enemy lines. To me, these stories were the best part of the book. The only chance of survival or avoiding horrific treatment in a POW camp came from helicopters. The NVA used our downed airmen as bait to target rescue aircraft. The rescuers came anyway. No one was abandoned. This was perhaps the brightest part of the American Vietnam experience, one marked by impossible rescues like BAT-21 (the greatest losses) and Spectre-22 (the most people rescued).

What’s missing from this book is the Army’s airmobile story which centered on helicopters. That changed the nature of war, but this book’s focus is on the Coast Guard. It convincingly makes the case that it was the Coast Guard that inspired, wet nursed, and nurtured the helicopter. Without that, the rest of this history would not have happened. Thus, the book’s focus is on copters as “fishers of men,” as lifesaving tools “that others may live.”
The book notes that the 42% of the U.S. Navy’s crews operate helicopters. That surprised me. What surprised me more was that only 29% of U.S. Army aircraft are attack helicopters. So perhaps it is true that helicopters did do more “saving” and “preventing” than “killing.” Interesting to ponder.

Is there anything I didn’t like about this book? The writing and editing is first rate, but I thought the production was substandard. I expected better from the prestigious Naval Institute Press. Better paper, larger fonts, a sharper cover. Small things, perhaps, but they make a difference.
I recommend the book.

Reviewed by John D. Trudel (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The story of the helicopter and its creator, Igor Sikorsky, and chief promoter, a young Coast Guard lieutenant, Frank Erickson, closely parallels that of Wilber and Orville Wright and their first flying machine. A small cadre of courageous visionaries, joining with Erickson, also risked their lives and careers on a dream. Dubbed "Igor's Nightmare" the helicopter brought derision and ridicule on its few supporters. The pioneers' story demonstrates the problems encountered by the personalities involved and their eventual strengths in overcoming adversity and overwhelming opposition in developing the helicopter for naval service (Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard). Erickson, with his friend and mentor, Coast Guard Captain William Kossler, undaunted by their lack of support, fought with single-minded intensity to establish the helicopter as a vital aviation tool. Kossler died in the project's infancy leaving Erickson undefended to suffer in disgrace for nearly a decade following. However, Erickson endured and did live to see his efforts succeed when the helicopter revolutionized, among its many eventual tasks foreseen by him, the saving of millions of lives worldwide, Erickson's first dream.

ISBN/ASIN: 1-55750-086-X
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Biography, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 240
 

A Diary for 1849 by Barrett Beard

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MWSA Review

Diarist Elihu Burritt Beard takes the reader back in time to the 1849, a little more than a decade before the Civil War. Having lived in Ohio and Indiana, he captures his everyday activities as a twenty-four-year-old college student within the context of the main American societal issues of his time and the expansion of “America” westward.

A 21st century reader is faced with the realities of illnesses rarely experienced today as the author weaves widespread cholera into the account of 1849. Its cause was unknown. His string of respiratory ailments throughout the year makes us appreciate we now know about bronchitis, and don’t particularly fear tuberculosis. Medicine at the time was primitive compared to today, and makes the reader appreciate the extent to which medical knowledge has advanced since Mr. Beard wrote his diary.

Most interesting is his mention of a new transcontinental railroad that was being discussed as a proposed infrastructure project, although it was not constructed until the 1860s. He attends church services regularly and supports temperance. Religion plays a significant role in his life and his love of poetry comes through as he captures poems of Pope, Longfellow, and others in his diary. He also writes a few poems himself. The social gatherings of this young man also give him pleasure. Although he vacillates between loving and hating his academic life, he knows he must attain an education.

Elihu left us his thoughts about slavery and the subjugation of women, and made it known he did not understand how anyone could be kept in a subservient position in society. His anti-slavery beliefs were honed by his activities assisting his father, who shielded and helped runaway slaves. In this diary, Elihu strongly censures the evil of man’s inhumanity, including any law he considers unjust.

This diary provides a view to the past that lets us relive the excitement of the coming railroad, the changes brought by increasing industrialization, and the adventure of a land that had seemingly endless horizons—all on the threshold of monumental social changes.

Barrett Thomas Beard, Elihu’s great-great-grandson, brought this diary to us. We should thank him.

Review by Patricia Walkow (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

A Diary for 1849, written by Elihu Burritt Beard and edited with revealing evidence by great-great-grandson, Barrett Thomas Beard, reveals the story of the American frontier's middle road--Indiana and Ohio--in the great Manifest Destiny. These contemporary, personal observations of a 24-year-old student completing college open a small window through which the modern reader views thoughts about the state, slavery, church, health, education, and social intercourse in mid-nineteenth century America. The practice of medicine teeters between sophistry and learned inquiry. Cholera reaps a broad swath of death in the frontier civilizations. Robust evangelism blends established religious orders. Emancipation is a wound on the nation festering without cure. The loom of war creeps up on the political horizon. The young man, Elihu, sees it all, records it and reacts. Elihu, in private thoughts, condemns man's evil to man. Civil War more than a decade away is already an issue blisteringly debated. Through the teachings of Friends Church, Elihu develops a deep conviction for rights of individuals. With boldness, he embraces equal rights for all, including women and slaves. He abhors demeaning of mankind with punitive laws or liquor--both made by men. This is the attitude he took west to California with the Gold Rush, there to become an influence on a new frontier in the last great leap in America's destiny.

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN: BOOGNIJB94  ISBN: 0-7392-0178-6
Book Format(s): Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 114
 

The Shadow Tiger: Billy McDonald, Wingman to Chennault by William C McDonald III

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MWSA Review

The Shadow Tiger, Wingman to Chennault by William C. McDonald III and Barbara L. Evenson is the story of the life of William C. “Billy” McDonald Jr., written by his son as a tribute to his father whom he calls an unsung hero, “a man who contributed to world history.”

I was attracted to this title because I was familiar with the name Chennault, as in U.S. Army Brigadier General Claire Lee Chennault, legendary founder of the Flying Tigers. To many of us, the name Flying Tigers conjures up images of painted Shark nosed P-40 Warhawks flown by a group of American volunteer pilots in China fighting against a much more modern Japanese Air Force that was invading China in 1936 before the beginning of World War II. However, that part of the story is not part of the narrative in this book which is a prelude to that glorious history.

This an excellent reference book on the life of one of the American volunteer pilots who helped Chennault from the beginning, training Chinese pilots to fly before and during World War II. The authors call it an attempt to “portray events, locales, and conversations from the letters, magazines, and first-hand stories available to us. We have relied on personal accounts where ever possible.”

Having been passed over for a promotion to lieutenant in his late twenties, McDonald along with a colleague and fellow member of a flying demonstration group (the Flying Trapezers), fellow pilot Sargent Luke Williamson, had to face the prospect of no further promotions in the Army. Captain Chennault, who had known them for years, advised them to take the offer of a Chinese Nationalist General Mow Pang-Tsu to teach Chinese pilots to fly, using advanced U.S. military techniques and American planes. 

A few months later, Chennault’s dispute over air war policy with the brass found him without prospects for promotion and retiring as a Captain to take a contract with China to go travel there and evaluate the Chinese Air Force.

There are many colorful historical figures that the American volunteers interacted with, the most famous being Madam Chaing Kai-shek, who became Chennault’s boss. Upon first meeting with Chennault in China “Madam Chaing expressed concern about Chennault’s rank as Captain, considering he would be dealing with admirals and generals.” Chennault made a reference to the prospect of asking a cousin, a former governor of the state to appoint him as a colonel in the state militia, and Madam Chaing said “that will do nicely.” So he attained the rank at that moment and there is no evidence of him being appointed to the state militia.

The book chronicles the period when they were training Chinese pilots under their contract with the Chinese Air Force. Billy McDonald’s exploits as Colonel Chennault’s right-hand man and advisor come into sharp focus, including his time as a ferry pilot carrying supplies.

The book is heavily illustrated with Cartoons, photos, and copies of letters from the day—so much that they seem to get in the way at times with the flow of the narrative. Once the reader gets used to the style it is easier to follow the flow. And all this information is relevant to setting the context and enriching the historical account.

For anyone interested in aviation history, especially American aviation history and World War II, this would be an invaluable book.

Reviewed by Ronald Wheatley (April 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Shadow Tiger: Billy McDonald, Wingman to Chennault is the story of a remarkable career, and a man who bore witness to some of the twentieth century’s historic events and pivotal characters. It traces Billy McDonald, Jr’s flying career beginning at  Maxwell AFB on "The Three Men on a Flying Trapeze" with Claire Chennault. Much of the book focuses on McDonald’s time in China where he worked  with Chennault to lay the foundation for the Flying Tigers, served as a combat pilot while  training the Chinese Air Force, and made hundreds of life saving flights through the Himalayas. Through McDonald’s own letters and photographs, readers will experience first-hand adventures including the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong, a spy mission to pick up Chennault in Japan, a harrowing landing in the middle of the Yangtze River, and countless flights ferrying world-famous passengers and high-value cargo for the China National Aviation Corporation.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-945333-05-7       978-1-945333-02-6
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 338
 

The Devil's Horseshoe by Gary Best

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Author's Synopsis

Two young crop dusters from the San Joaquin Valley of California are recruited by the air force to fly C-47s during WW II in the China-Burma-India Theater of war. The people they meet and the relationships forged are tested daily by the stress and pressure faced by aviators who fly the twin engine, unprotected, unarmed, glider-towing cargo planes, the Skytrain.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN: 978-1-55571-886-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 333
Link to Book on Amazon:
http://www.hellgatepress.com
 

Mission of Honor by Jim Crigler

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MWSA Review

Mission of Honor is an amazing memoir that tells a personal story about the author that exposes his flaws, immaturity, relationships, courage, sense of duty, and ultimate redemption. It took me back to the 1960s and 1970s, when our country was fractured by the Vietnam War and, in a concise, economical fashion, it told the history of that time. An underlying theme was that the United States shipped off hundreds of thousands of young people to a war zone with no regard for the changes that would occur in them and no respect for their sacrifices. The author reminds us that these young people returned to a country that more often showed them scorn than honor.
The story takes us on a young man's journey. He goes from being an irresponsible teenager who impregnates two women and does not "do the right thing." He is sent to Vietnam as a helicopter pilot and becomes an American hero. You begin to see him change through that experience, but not enough to gain complete redemption. It isn't until years later that he finds redemption and becomes a man of character.

This had to be an extremely difficult book for Mr. Crigler to write, but the payoff for him in the writing must have been huge. As a reader, I found the book cathartic and renewed my pride in my service in Vietnam.

The only thing that detracted from the reading was the less-than-stellar writing style. It was obvious that the author is not a professional writer. The book had many grammatical errors and poor word choices. But, despite this, I still enjoyed Mission of Honor and highly recommend it.

Review by Joe Badal (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Most of us never get to test ourselves in combat. As UH-1 Helicopter pilot flying in the jungle highlands of South Vietnam, Warrant Officer Jim Crigler and the men he flew with were tested daily. Coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s was challenging for most young men of that era. Throw in drugs, free love, draft notices, the Vietnam War and a country deeply divided, and you have one of the most important books of this genre. This true story is a raw, bold, introspective autobiography where the author openly wrestles with his personal moral dilemma to find meaning and purpose in his life. He calls it his "Mission of Honor."
 

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-784521-08-0
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 305

Love, Sweet to Spicy: A Corrales Writing Group Anthology by Chris Allen, John Atkins, Maureen Cooke, Sandi Hoover, Tom Neiman, Jim Tritten, and Pat Walkow

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MWSA Review

Erich Segal once wrote, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  So, if you like anthologies, you won’t be sorry you read the Corrales Writing Group’s Love, Sweet to Spicy.  

This twenty tale collection is entertaining, diverse, and heart-wrenching at times.  The stories encompass aspects of love from all angles—love stories, long-term relationships, parent and child, lost love, and love for pets. There are plots twists that will surprise and delight.  Yarns that will make you laugh and cry. Some will take the reader back to memories of their own past relationships. Included are several collaborative efforts and a poem.

As an added bonus, the book is filled with New Mexican artwork in a variety of mediums.  Many of the authors have included their own compositions.

Due to MWSA guidelines, this review only covers those individual stories not already submitted in earlier editions.

MWSA Review by Sandi Cowper (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Love, Sweet to Spicy is a Corrales Writing Group anthology. It includes love tales: some true and some fabricated; romance between two adults; love between parent and child, and deep affection between a pet and owner. This volume offers the reader the opportunity to explore new love, long-standing love, and lost love. Ranging from sweet to slightly spicy, some stories are amusing, others are uplifting, and a few are heart-rending. The words within these pages offer a journey into love that touches both heart and soul. This work also includes several stories that were collaboratively written by at least two writers.
 

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1976074875
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Romance, Collections, Memoir, Single Poem, Young Adult
Review Genre: Collections—Anthology
Number of Pages: 284

Marcel's Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man's Fate by Carolyn Porter

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MWSA Review

Carolyn Porter is a highly trained and successful graphic designer, but from early in her career she harbored a secret desire to design a font based on a real person’s handwriting. For years she looked for old letters in antique shops, hoping to find a sample that would catch her eye. In the months after the destruction of the World Trade Center, her interest in such a project intensified. Then in an out-of-the-way little shop in White Bear Lake, Minnesota, she found a letter whose beautifully scrolled handwriting took her breath away. Out of a pile of the unknown writer’s correspondence, she picked four letters that contained the capital letters and numbers she would need to begin construction of her font.

She had, of course, under-estimated the amount of work building a font from scratchy marks on deteriorating paper might take. She started with tracings and pencil sketches and taught herself to use font-designing software. Months and years passed as she worked on one letter’s shape at a time. The font-designing urge eventually gave way to the pressures of day-to-day life. Some ten years later, she came across the letters again and resolved to make a renewed effort to recreate this handwriting as a font.

The letters were in French, which she could not read. Her early efforts had focused only on the individual letter-forms. But this time, something was different. She concentrated on the beautiful signature of the writer—Marcel. A few recognizable words convinced her that Marcel had written a love letter. And now she wanted to know more about the writer. She hired a translator to provide an English version of just one of the letters.

It was a crucial decision—one that set her on a three-year journey to find the man with the beautiful handwriting—the man who had written these letters while a conscripted laborer assigned to a German tank factory during World War II. She moved from curiosity to wanting to know more. The desire to know more soon became a need to know. Then the need became a full-blown obsession. She neglected her other jobs, ignored her husband, family, and friends, forgot to eat, and gave up trying to sleep. She spent countless hours writing letters of inquiry, reading about the German occupation of France, digging deep into genealogical sites, and pursuing official records. She found more letters and developed new leads. But would she ever find Marcel himself? And would she ever finish his font?

This is Ms. Porter’s story as well as Marcel’s. She tells it honestly and with deep emotion. She manages to balance the several strands of her adventures—the history lessons, the details of creating a font, the inner workings of her marriage, and the clues that point to the eventual outcomes. The reader will rejoice with her when things go well and cry with her when she faces discouragement. It’s a great story.

MWSA Reviewer Carolyn Schriber (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

A graphic designer’s search for inspiration leads to a cache of letters and the mystery of one man’s fate during World War II. Seeking inspiration for a new font design in an antique store in small-town Stillwater, Minnesota, graphic designer Carolyn Porter stumbled across some old letters and was immediately drawn to the beautifully expressive pen-and-ink handwriting. She could not read the letters—they had been written in French—but she noticed they had been signed by a man named Marcel and mailed from Berlin to France during the middle of World War II. As Carolyn grappled with designing the font, she decided to have one of Marcel’s letters translated. Reading words of love combined with testimony of survival inside a German labor camp transformed Carolyn’s curiosity into an obsession, and she sought to find out why the letter writer, Marcel Heuzé, had been in Berlin, how his letters came to be for sale in a store halfway around the world, and, most importantly, whether he returned to his beloved wife and daughters after the war. Marcel’s Letters is the story of Carolyn’s increasingly desperate search to find answers to the mystery of one man’s fate, answers that would come from Germany, France, and the United States. Simultaneously, she would continue to work on what would become the acclaimed font P22 Marcel Script, immortalizing the man and letters that waited years to be reunited with his family. Keywords: Non-fiction, France, WWII, Biography, French Forced Labor, Service du Travail Obligatoire, Daimler, Labor Camp, Graphic Design, Font Design, Typography, Love, Father, Reunion, History-Mystery
 

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1510719330
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, History, Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 352

my daddy is a sailor by Tahna Desmond Fox

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

my daddy is a sailor is an excellent book to share with the young children of deploying sailors.  It uses clear, rhythmic language to define to young children what sailors do in a way that will make the children proud of their parent.

I especially liked the way Tahna Desmond Fox paid tribute to fallen sailors from the copyright year, using almost an ""Easter-egg"" technique to recognize the sailors lost in the USS MCCAIN and USS FITZGERALD accidents, as well as a C-2 Greyhound mishap.  It's very appropriate, and serves as a reminder to all the sense of sacrifice that goes with service, without being at all morbid or ""dark.""

The illustrations are clean and support the story, and it will resound with any child who has a Daddy getting ready to ship out.  Similar to MY SAILOR DAD by Ross Mackenzie, this is a necessary work to help children understand why Daddy has to be gone.  Well done to the author.

Review by Rob Ballister (March 20118)


Author's Synopsis

Learn the words Daddy knows about his ship and where he goes, in the Navy. Daddy is a sailor in the United States Navy. Learn the words Daddy knows about his ship and his mates. Join Ollie the Octopus and travel with Daddy as he sails on every sea in a great, big ship, watch what he does on board, and see the sights he sees. Due to the naval tragedies that occurred while creating this book in 2017, I paid tribute to our fallen sailors aboard the USS John S. McCain (DDG-56), the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), and the C-2A Greyhound (VRC 30). Each lost sailor is represented by a golden bird in flight or a star in the heavens, signifying they have passed from this world but their memories remain. My heart and love go out to the families, friends, and loved ones of these twenty sailors, and every sailor who never made it home.


ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-938505-34-8
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 38
 

Bradley vs. BMP: Desert Storm 1991 by Mike Guardia

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Mike Guardia’s “Bradley vs BMP: Desert Storm 1991” does an excellent job comparing two of the world’s most well-known Infantry Fighting Vehicles during their first major conflict against each other.

The author organized the book well, comparing attributes such as mobility, protection, and firepower in short, easy to understand paragraphs.  In some cases the comparison was augmented with side by side looks at the interior of the vehicle, or the optics each crew had at their disposal.

I especially enjoyed how after the technical comparison of the vehicles, the author launched extensively into the more human side, detailing how the training of the US vehicle crews allowed them to better use the strengths of their vehicles (and diminish its shortcomings), while the Iraqi crews struggled due to lack of training and education.  Guardia used this as a platform to discuss the benefits of a professional, all-volunteer force over a mostly conscripted army.

I also appreciated how the author talked about the actual combat between the vehicles by using extensive quotes from the men that fought the battle.  Especially interesting was that virtually all the commentary was from junior officers and NCO’s; this made the combat coverage of the book much more realistic.

A well-researched yet easy read, this book will appeal to armor enthusiasts, Desert Storm vets, and professional military officers who enjoy the study of modern warfare.

MWSA Review by Rob Ballister (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

In the mid-1960s, the Soviet Union unveiled the BMP, the first true infantry fighting vehicle. A revolutionary design, the BMP marked a significant departure from the traditional armoured personnel carrier, with a lower silhouette and heavier armament than rival APCs. One of the most fearsome light-armoured vehicles of its day, it caused great consternation on the other side of the Iron Curtain as the Americans scrambled to design a machine to rival the BMP. The result was the M2/M3 Bradley.

These Cold War icons first clashed – not on the plains of Europe, but in southern Iraq during the Gulf War of 1991. Featuring specially commissioned full-colour artwork, this is the absorbing story of the origins, development and combat performance of the BMP and Bradley, culminating in the bloody battles of the Gulf War.
 

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1472815200
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Reference
Number of Pages: 80

The Fires of Babylon: Eagle Troop and the Battle of 73 Easting by Mike Guardia

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Author Mike Guardia provides an inside look at the training and troops called upon to charge into the teeth of Saddam's dug-in T-72 tank defense and engage in his "Mother of All Battles" at the onset of Desert Storm. Small unit courage, luck, and training drives Eagle Troop and the 2d Armored Calvary Regiment to win The Battle of 73 Easting—possibly the most dominant one-sided tank battle in the history of mankind. Troop Commander Captain H.R. McMaster leads this historic offensive.

The book reveals the infinite steps taken to launch and win this engagement that decimated the Iraqi Republican Guard in the VII Corps zone of attack. Spiced with the deadly dangers, unforeseen turns, and sometimes humorous encounters faced, the read provided an upfront view of the preparation and battle. I suggest this book for those who enjoy learning about the preparations for war and tank battle.

Review by Hodge Wood (March 2018)


Author's Synopsis

With a Foreword by General (ret) Fred Franks - Commander, VII Corps in Desert Storm

As a new generation of main battle tanks came on line during the 1980s, neither the US nor USSR had the chance to pit them in combat. But once the Cold War between the superpowers waned, Iraq's Saddam Hussein provided that chance with his invasion of Kuwait. Finally the new US M1A1 tank would see how it fared against the vaunted Soviet-built T-72.

On the morning of August 2, 1990, Iraqi armored divisions invaded the tiny emirate of Kuwait. The Iraqi Army, after its long war with Iran, had more combat experience than the U.S. Army. Who knew if America's untested forces could be shipped across the world and thence contest the battle-hardened Iraqis on their homeground? The Kuwaitis had collapsed easily enough, but the invasion drew fierce condemnation from the UN, which demanded Saddam's withdrawal. Undeterred by the rhetoric, the Iraqi dictator massed his forces along the Saudi Arabian border and dared the world to stop him. In response, the U.S. led the world community in a coalition of 34 nations in what became known as Operation Desert Storm - a violent air and ground campaign to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait. Leading this charge into Iraq were the men of Eagle Troop in the US Army's 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment.

Commanded by then-Captain HR McMaster, Eagle Troop was the lead element of the US VII Corps' advance into Iraq. On February 26, 1991, Eagle Troop encountered the Tawakalna Brigade of Iraq's elite Republican Guard. By any calculation, the 12 American tanks didn't stand a chance. Yet within a mere 23 minutes, the M1A1 tanks of Eagle Troop destroyed more than 50 enemy vehicles and plowed a hole through the Iraqi front. History would call it the Battle of 73 Easting.

Based on hours of interviews and archival research by renowned author Mike Guardia, this minute-by-minute account of the U.S. breakthrough reveals an intimate, no-holds-barred account of modern warfare.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1612002927
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 248

Hal Moore on Leadership: Winning When Outgunned and Outmanned by Harold G. Moore

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Mike Guardia’s collaboration with General Moore is an outstanding primer of “boots-on-the-ground” leadership, chronicling the general’s development from West Point cadet to three star general.  Besides biographical details about Moore’s life, there are quotes from Moore, and stories related personally by Moore that speak to his common sense style of leadership.  

I especially liked how through each chapter there were simple boldfaced statements that reflect the tenets of Moore’s leadership style.  For example, (page 35) “Wherever possible, solve problems at the lowest level.” These bold statements are collected and reprinted at the end of each chapter, making this almost a reference book for any young leader, corporate or military.

The book is written with a military slant, but can be adapted to the corporate environment as well.  The language is clear and straight-forward, the book is well organized, and the section of photographs is both relevant and interesting.

As a retired military officer who taught leadership at the US Naval Academy, I would have loved to use this book in my classroom.  Young military officers or those new to the business world will find useful leadership guidance here. In addition, service academy graduates, those interested in the Vietnam War, or those who have an interest in military biography will find something meaningful and memorable in this book.

MWSA Reviewer: Rob Ballister (Mar 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Hal Moore led his life by a set of principles - a code developed through years of experience, trial-and-error, and the study of leaders of every stripe. In a career spanning more than thirty years, Moore's life touched upon many historical events: the Occupation of Japan, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the refashioning of the US Army into an all-volunteer force. At each juncture, he learned critical lessons and had opportunities to affect change through measured responses.

"Hal Moore on Leadership" offers a comprehensive guide to the principles that helped shape Moore's success both on and off the battlefield. They are strategies for the outnumbered, outgunned, and seemingly hopeless. They apply to any leader in any organization - business or military. These lessons and principles are nothing theoretical or scientific. They are simply rules of thumb learned and practiced by a man who spent his entire adult life leading others and perfecting his art of leadership.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1548305109
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Memoir, Biography, Reference, How to/Business, Anthology
Review Genre: Nonfiction—How to/Business
Number of Pages: 168
 

 

The Deuce, The bravery, valor and sacrifice of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment by Symm McCord

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Author's Synopsis

The 101st Airborne Infantry Division was possibly the most celebrated infantry unit of World War II, and within that division was a regiment that became affectionately known as “The Deuce”. The 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, “The Deuce”, left Fort Bragg and boarded the SS Strathnaver September 4, 1943 headed for England. In June of 1944, they boarded C47s and were carried to their drop zones behind Utah Beach in France beginning their exhaustive-struggle across Europe to take back the lands previously conquered by Nazi Germany.

The Deuce takes a fictitious infantry squad of the 502nd from its training in Fort Benning, Georgia through D-Day on Normandy, and on across the continent to reach Hitler’s Berghof by VE-Day. It reveals the agony of combat and the tragedies of love in a war-torn nation. The squad follows the same battles and heroic efforts of the actual regiment of that time advancing through Carentan, Market Garden, Battle of the Bulge, and cleaning out the Ruhr Pocket. This reveals the war that was won by the bravery and sacrifices of the people of the “Greatest Generation”.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 1635540658       ISBN-13: 978-1635540659       ASIN: B077CYQ1JM
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 220

Uncommon Bond by John House

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

John House’s Uncommon Bond is a unique and interesting story set in the jungles of Vietnam.

Captain Hanson is a flight surgeon who finds himself shot down shortly after arriving in Vietnam.  He is quickly captured, and finds himself in the care of a surgeon of the North Vietnamese Army in an underground hospital.  Both the captor and the prisoner, though patriotic and loyal to their respective countries, realize that they are more medical professionals than soldiers, and build a friendship based on mutual respect.  Soon, however, that will be tested when Hanson faces a poignant dilemma.  Does he follow the code of conduct that forbids giving comfort to the enemy, or does he honor his Hippocratic Oath to alleviate suffering wherever he finds it?

I especially enjoyed the character development in this book.  House calls upon his own experience in Vietnam to enhance Hanson’s character, and does an equally wonderful job with the NVA doctor.  Both jump from the pages as people deserving of good fortune, so much so that I found myself wanting a happy ending for both of them, which is difficult in a book that features two “enemies.”

Well-written, authentic, and entertaining, this is a fast-moving, enjoyable read about the more human side of war.  Those interested in the medical profession, military medicine, or the POW experience in Vietnam will find plenty to appreciate in this book.

MWSA Reviewer: Rob Ballister (Feb 2017)

Author's Synopsis

Solitude in an underground medical complex, tied to a pole embedded deep in the ground, did little to quell the cavorting demons in Captain David Hanson's mind. Less than a year ago he had worked twenty-hour days in his second year of surgery residency. Now, a POW in South Vietnam, he whiled away long empty hours watching insects burrow into the earthen walls. Two things prevented total insanity; friendship with his enemy, a surgeon, Major Duc Phan Thiet of the North Vietnamese Army, and the never-ending desire to escape. The first was improbable and the latter impossible.


ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10 1635540534      ISBN-13 978-1635540536
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 266
 

Tiger Bravo's War by Rick St John

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review
If you have never read a book about the Vietnam War, I recommend that you read this one. For that matter, if you’ve read fifty books about Vietnam, I still suggest that you read Tiger Bravo's War by Rick St John. Engagingly written, Tiger Bravo's War draws you into the maelstrom of war, one step at a time. It provides context and understanding of a divisive time in our nation’s history. It honors the men who lived and loved; laughed and cried; sacrificed and bled or died.

Civilians like me who have never experienced military life will be led through one company’s train-up to deployment, in-country training, year-long deployment, and homecoming without feeling disenfranchised by their lack of knowledge of military terms, acronyms, and special jargon. (Veterans will likely find enjoyment in the way that St John is able to define the experiences and vocabulary without condescending or over-explaining.) 

Tiger Bravo is nonfiction military history covering a year in the lives of the soldiers of B Company, 2/506 of the 101st Airborne Division. It recounts the life and death struggles, the battles, the strategies, the humor, the horror, the victories, the defeats, the gains, and the losses during the company’s 1968 combat tour in Vietnam. St John allows us to see and feel what is going on through his superb writing, meticulously researched details, and seamlessly transitioned first-hand accounts of soldiers who were there. The numerous maps of battle plans allow us to understand how it went down from a bird’s-eye view. And the photos help us to realize that these were real people, not statistics—fellow citizens who were part of the Tiger Bravo company that year. 

This is not an easy book to read. But it’s important. There were several times I had to put the book down, just to take some time off to absorb the difficulty and the horror of what our fighting men endured. And there were a couple times I just wanted it to end; the book seemed too long. However, I felt compelled to continue reading in honor of those who actually lived through the experience. If they could persevere and endure for a full year, I reasoned that I could continue reading for a few hours. No doubt they would have liked the luxury of time off to absorb the difficulty and horror. And no doubt they just wanted it to end. But they soldiered on. I could do no less.

MWSA Reviewer: Betsy Beard (March 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Tiger Bravo’s War is an extensively researched, nonfiction account of a company of young paratroopers (B Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne), 506th Infantry), from the very same battalion in the 101st Airborne Division as portrayed in Stephen Ambrose’s World War II best-seller Band of Brothers, during their first year of combat in the Vietnam War - - - from a bayonet charge in a legendary VC stronghold and street fighting during the Tet Offensive of 1968, to a rescue mission to save a surrounded platoon and rock and roll in the company mess hall, and much more. Thirty of its soldiers would be killed in action, and collectively it would amass 150 Purple Hearts. 

It is also a soldier’s tale of the young men of Tiger Bravo - - - the son of a World War II Japanese fighter pilot, who wins a Silver Star fighting as an American infantryman; the tough kid from rural Texas, who leaves a job cleaning astronaut offices in Houston to volunteer to be a paratrooper; the medic, abandoned by his mother, who would find in Tiger Bravo the family he never had, and over a dozen more with their own unique stories. 

“If anyone wants to feel the fast-paced tempo and dangers of combat, read Tiger Bravo’s War. The vivid descriptions of the soldier’s daily struggle for survival and love for each other . . . is a must read for anyone who wants to understand combat at its most fundamental level.” Lieutenant General David E Grange Jr (US Army, retired).

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 13:9780998854205, ISBN 13:9780998854229 (ASIN:B075LZ3L83), ISBN 13:9780998854236
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 331
 

Through My Daughter's Eyes by Julia Dye

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Through My Daughter’s Eyes by Julia Dye presents a military family from the first-person perspective of their seventh grade daughter, Abbie. With unerring accuracy, Dye depicts the preteen mind, with all its angst, emotion, and hard-earned wisdom. What’s unusual in this coming of age story, though, is that Abbie must deal not only with the turbulence of the middle school years, but do it in the context of the particular stresses pressed upon military families whose loved one is deployed to a combat theater. 

During her father’s 14-month deployment to the Middle East, Abbie struggles with classmates who dismissively taunt her about her father’s absence, her own sadness, her mother’s increasing inability to cope, and the growing estrangement between her parents and herself. 

While aimed at the young adult audience, this book can also hold the attention of adults, whether they are from a military background or not. Military families will find much (maybe all) they have in common with the Mathews family, sharing their journey from pre-deployment jitters through post-deployment post traumatic stress. Nonmilitary families will gain a better understanding of the small percentage of the population that is still willing to lay their lives on the line for their country and for freedom for all.

MWSA Reviewer: Betsy Beard (Feb 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Through My Daughter’s Eyes is a one-of-a-kind, much-needed look at what it means to come of age in a military family today.

Our middle school heroine Abbie is wiser than her years—and most of the adults in her life, for that matter. Equal parts Flavia de Luce and Harriet the Spy, Abbie describes her life this way: “My best friend and fellow Army-brat Megan and I had a plan to get through Dessau Middle School (Go Diamondbacks!) by being just good enough to not get noticed and not so good we’d be picked out for any attention. And it worked—for a while.

"Then my dad got deployed—again—and mom fell apart, leaving me in charge of my own life and, it seemed, everyone else’s. When Dad came home after about a hundred-million years, he wasn’t much help, either. I know war is terrible, but it’s not like he talks to me about it, so how was I supposed to know what to do? He’s not even the same dad that left.

"I turned to my grandpa for help, but in the end, I had to let go of being the glue that kept everything together. I had to learn to give my parents room to save themselves—and our family.”


ISBN/ASIN: 978-1944353148
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 190