2017 Finalist

Doing a 180 at 60; by John Takacs

MWSA Review

Sixty is the youth of old age...

"Doing an 180 at 60" is a short motivational book written in a breezy, casual style often sprinkled with humor and sage advice. It is written to help us older folks get more enjoyment as we enter the senior citizen phase of life. 

Finding himself becoming sedimentary at age 60, the author made a U-turn in his life style and set an ambitious goal to accomplish 60 adventures or experiences that he had done in his younger years. This included modifying his diet and engaging in disciplined physical training programs that enabled him to compete in Ironman and triathlon contests, scuba diving, motorcycle riding, skydiving and other less strenuous outdoor activities.  

The author also recognizes not everyone wants to participate in demanding triathlon or Ironman events, but he does encourage his readers to get involved in outdoor activities.

Knowing first-hand how it can be done, John Takacs used his personal experiences in writing "Doing a 180 at 60." Through entertaining and often funny anecdotes, he provides inspirational advice on 60 being a renewal of life, not the start of life's ending. 

Review by Joe Epley, MWSA Reviewer
 

Author's Synopsis:
How many times have you heard that getting old was a bitch? What if it didn't have to be? What if getting older actually meant getting better?

Author John Takacs takes us on an adventure and shares his journey of transformation from overweight out of shape author to world-class Ironman triathlete in his age group. Along the way he shows us that many of the adages of old age are faulty. Join him in taking steps to:

Change your diet and change your health
Start moving and exercising for a more complete life
Actually go back to doing the things you once loved and enjoyed

You can do a You-turn, but only if you start the process now. If you want a better quality of life at any age, this is the book for you.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-943267-21-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): How to/Business, Anthology
Review Genre: Nonfiction—How to/Business
Number of Pages: 157
 

The Drifter; by Michael D Mullins

MWSA Review

Russell Pearce, “The Drifter,” wants a major change in his life. He has been a hired assassin, dispatching the enemies of the U.S. all over the world, but he is tired of living that life. He wants to drift, to disappear for a while in the mid-South, mostly Tennessee, to see the countryside, and to think.

As he embarks on his leave of absence from federal service, he keeps a low profile, staying in campgrounds and cabins, paying cash for almost everything, listening to nature, awakening with the sun, and making friends along in the way among barkeeps and restaurant owners. The author makes it very clear Russell enjoys home-cooked meals, and although Russell desires solitude, it seems that trouble finds him. He has an innate desire to help those who need it, and it results in several robberies which he foils, helping a shunned old woman, and setting a homeless Vietnam veteran on the right track to recovery. And that’s just the small stuff, some of which required him to use his considerable assassin skills. 

In the area where he has decided to live for a little while, he recognizes an Islamist terrorist who slipped his grasp in the Middle East. Azim  is now setting up a terror cell in the very town where Russell has met a woman, Jill. After Russell prevents many people in a church group from getting killed as a result of the actions of this terrorist, he disappears for a while, but promises to return to Jill. 

His attempt to become “invisible” involves his using multiple identities, having his truck repainted, and having his cell phone fool anyone who could track it. He meets or reconnects with helpful people throughout the book. But he is tired of this life in intrigue and makes a decision that will allow him to explore his softer side and lead him to an adventure in relationships.

Russell Pearce is a likeable character, if a little unbelievable. But the reader goes along with him and enjoys his exploits, hoping he will find whatever it is, besides peace, he is looking for in life on his leave of absence from the CIA. Will he ultimately change his life forever, and settle down? Or his way of living too set for him to change?  Read this enjoyable tale to find out the answer.

Reviewed by Patricia Walkow, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis
The Drifter is a story about a Vietnam veteran and career Central Intelligence Agency operative who had one assignment too many. It made him question his heart and soul. Did have any of either left? Were they hardened beyond redemption? Richard Pearce loves America and serving its people, wherever that took him, whatever he had to do, but fears he lost his humanity as his expertise became legend. Pearce begins a journey to find the answers to his questions, to quell his introspection. Along the way he finds adventure and discovers that his instinct to protect people is as automatic as breathing. His travel takes him into the heartland of his country where he hopes to find a way to fend off his demons. Somewhere in the magnificent mountains of the south he hopes to find peace in himself and perhaps even some way to forgive himself for a life defined by violence

ISBN: 194326712X
Genre: Thriller
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Pages: 224

Aztec File; by Dale Dye

MWSA Review
Veteran, actor and author Dale Dye doesn’t disappoint in the latest installment of his “Shake Davis” series, Aztec File.

Retired Marine Warrant and counterintelligence operative Shake Davis just wants to live quietly with his wife Chan in a small town in Texas. Unfortunately, after years of chasing bad guys, Shake’s past keeps pulling him back in, with old friends aware of his reputation offering him “one more go,” at an adrenaline rush to protect the country he loves. Patriot that he is, Shake just can’t say no, and what starts as a simple reconnaissance entangles him in web where he is squarely in the sights of ISIS radicals and Mexican drug runners. Can the Gunner stay one step ahead one more time?

This book moves quickly and is a joy to read. The author inserts recent events into the story in order to both provide background and also comment on the current state of counterterrorism operations in the United States. Shake is a character that even first time reader’s of Dye’s work (like me) will appreciate and like, and the rest of the characters only add to the great story.

Fans of Dale Brown, Tom Clancy, and Jeff Edwards will enjoy this book.
Review by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
Shake Davis is back! Retired Marine officer Dale A. Dye returns with the seventh novel in his popular, award-winning “File” series: Aztec File. It’s time to Shake, rattle and roll.

When a former Marine and retired Texas Ranger drops by with evidence indicating terrorists are training south of the U.S. border, Gunner Shake Davis is more than a little interested in the back story. Determined to investigate the situation himself, Shake and his team head south across the Rio Grande where they discover a deadly connection between Middle Eastern terrorists and Mexican drug smugglers.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1944353131
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 280
 

Parables From The Prairie---How an Admiral was trained on dry land; by Dennis Jones

MWSA Review
In Parables from the Prairie, retired Vice Admiral Dennis E. Jones, has written a fun and heartwarming story about his youth. He explains to his readers how growing up in middle America farmland provided him with the lessons and experiences that later molded him into a person who was able to rise through the ranks in the US Navy and became one of its top admirals.

I found it easy to compare my younger days to the authors', despite my early days being in a totally different geographic location. All children and teenagers have friends, "enemies", fears, and desires. We have school stories, neighborhood stories, and interact with others our same age and with a number of different adults that cross our lives. Reading Jones' book brought back a lot of those memories to me. 

I recommend this book to anyone who enjoy books about "growing up" in America, or who is simply looking for a fun, easy read.
Review by Bob Doerr, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Vice Admiral Dennis A. Jones, USN Ret.) grew up in landlocked Fairbury, Nebraska, in the middle of flyover country. It was an unlikely starting place for someone who subsequently spent thirty-seven years in the Navy, serving on and commanding submarines.

“Every day of my career I made decisions that were based on lessons that I had learned in Fairbury, Nebraska, and on a farm in Mahaska, Kansas… I knew that my childhood had given me the tools necessary to succeed and to approach situations in a logical manner. I had been taught to be decisive in my decision making, but most of all, I had been taught … to listen… You can learn a lot from other people, good things and bad things, if you will just listen—I made a career of it. And it all started while observing the good, bad, and stupid things that happened in my childhood—parables.” Vice Admiral Dennis A. Jones, USN (Ret.) grew up in landlocked Fairbury, Nebraska, in the middle of flyover country. It was an unlikely starting place for someone who subsequently spent thirty-seven years in the Navy, serving on and commanding submarines.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-99701550-8
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 418
 

Bad Apple; by Barry Ozeroff

MWSA Review
In Bad Apple, Barry Ozeroff presents an unusual point of view twist, telling a crime thriller story from the point of view of the criminal, not the law enforcement officer. This change in perspective opens a whole different world of assessment and interpretation to challenge and entice the reader. Ozeroff does an excellent job in the opening scene with a robbery gone murderously wrong that escalates into a chase that is the driving plot element of the story. The author gets high marks for his ability to set scenes and describe neighborhoods to a point where the reader feels a part of the locale. Conflicts and drama are well executed and there are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep the reader guessing. Mystery/thriller fans will find much to enjoy in Bad Apple.
Review by Dwight Zimmerman, MWSA President and Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Most cops are honest, hardworking people. But like they say, there’s one bad apple in every bunch. Meet DJ Appleby, one of Portland’s finest. He's a Medal of Valor winner, an ex-SWAT team member, and the lead hostage negotiator. But what a difference a day can make. DJ goes from patrolling the streets one day to being ruthlessly hunted down by his peers the next.

When his own SWAT team finally surrounds him and his fellow negotiators call to talk him out, DJ pulls the disappearing act of a lifetime. But he can't hide forever, and when the clock finally runs out, he's forced to survive in the worst place a cop can be. But DJ's a resourceful guy, and he rises to the occasion—all the way to the very top of the food chain. There, looking his demons squarely in the eye, he doles out some justice of his own, Bad Apple style. In doing so, DJ inadvertently sets up a chain reaction that will change his life forever. 

Bad Apple—From good cop, to bad apple, to badass; one man’s heart-stopping journey to hell and back.

ISBN/ASIN: B071F42C59
Book Format(s): Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 254
 

QL 4; by James Garrison

MWSA Review
This is the fictionalized story of the author’s year as a drafted MP in Vietnam during the war.  The story moves forward in a vaguely chronological pace, but the chapters focus on one individual at a time whose name is in the chapter title.  Everything that went wrong on bases throughout Vietnam is described as all happening at this small base, and the young MP observes hints of problems while being unsure who can be trusted among his superiors. He comes to realize that the illegal activities involve people in town and in the ranks of their counterparts in the South Vietnamese Army, and he questions the deaths of those who may have become aware of the problems.  His duties range from mind-numbing gate guard duties to patrols in town that can be dangerous to crowd-control during a riot.  Underlying the story of relationships during the Vietnam war are the cultural tensions between some Americans and the native Vietnamese as well as between black and white American soldiers and between the more and less educated soldiers.

While the extreme foul language is off-putting at first, the reader is drawn into the story as it develops.  The main character, SPF4 Bell, has completed one year of law school before being drafted.  Not only is he unhappy to be in Vietnam because he does not support the war, but the regular army members (referred to as lifers by Bell) are not impressed with college boys who do not know how to fight or police.  Bell and his fellow “new guys” have had only 8 weeks of training and arrive to find that they will learn their new duties “on the job” while patrolling with experienced army regulars who may or may not be trustworthy.  Some of these senior soldiers are biased against the native people, blacks, Jews, and the more educated.  Some are trigger happy – especially when drunk, which is frequently.  Bell becomes more and more curious and, of course, gets into more and more trouble while sometimes being surprised about the support he receives.
Reviewed by Nancy Kauffman, MWSA Reviewer 

Author's Synopsis:
PFC Justin Bell, a newly-minted U.S. Army MP, quickly discovers that there’s more than a war going on along QL 4, the main road from Saigon into the Mekong Delta. It’s old-fashioned crime and corruption. He doesn’t want to get involved, just serve out his time and go home, but life for an American MP in Vietnam in 1970 doesn’t work that way. QL 4 leads Bell deep into a swamp of deception, mayhem, and death that insinuates its way both into towns the MPs patrol each day and into the old French villa where they live.

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN: B07116M6GV
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 337
 

Viet Man; by D. S. Lliteras

MWSA Review
Small irritations make wonderful essay topics. Almost anyone can describe the annoyance of a faucet dripping somewhere in the wee hours of the morning—or the incessant buzzing of a solitary mosquito seeking dinner at midnight—or the soreness of a nagging hangnail when no manicure scissors are available. Words and images flow. When it comes to agonizing pain that keeps going on day after day, paralyzing fear, or unimaginable loss, however, the story is quite different.  Words fail, memories shatter, eloquence dies on the tongue. Somehow there develops a distinct inverse relationship between the depth of our feelings and our ability to remember them and talk about them. 

Nowhere has this been more apparent than in the great number of recent novels and memoirs about the Vietnam War. Veterans have finally received approval and encouragement to talk about their experiences, only to find that they cannot easily communicate their feelings to those who were not there with them. When an author succeeds in carrying his readers directly into the jungles, the rice paddies, the strangely impersonal hootches and dusty base camps, the world of drugs and blank-eyed mama-sans, the impact of his words makes us gasp for breath and struggle for understanding.

D. S. Lliteras has managed to do exactly that in his tersely-worded literary novel, Viet Man. His narrator has no name other than “Doc.” He is a navy  corpsman; who he was back home doesn’t matter. He is young--just out of high school but equipped with perceptive powers of memory and observation. He arrives in Vietnam with no idea of what the war holds in store for him, but he is determined to take charge of this experience and meet it head on. As readers, we follow him through his first patrols, his first kill, his first visit to the local red light district, the growing recognition of his own mortality. When he describes a scene, his details are specific and honest. We don’t just learn what’s going on; we see it and smell it, feel it and hear it. In peaceful moments he speaks to us in sentences and paragraphs. When danger threatens or fear overwhelms, his mental state retreats into disjointed phrases or single words. We learn about his broken romance back home only when something triggers his own memories. And in the end, we accompany him when he returns stateside, only to find that those at home cannot begin to understand that he now lives in a different world than the one they know.

This is a powerful novel, eloquent while using the simplest of vocabulary and poetic in its clear-eyed imagery. Read it. Your understanding of this tumultuous period of our history will be forever enriched.
Review by Carolyn Schriber, MWSA Reviewer
 

Author's Synopsis:
Viet Man is about the transformation of a young man who enlisted in the Navy during the Vietnam War, was trained as a hospital corpsman, was transferred into the Marine Corps, then sent to Vietnam where he joined the elite First Recon. It is a first person narrative of alternating episodes experienced in the rear and in the bush. In the rear, Doc encounters a straw-haired mid-western farm boy who shows him how to prepare a meal of long-rats, and Loopie, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx who shares a guilt-torn confession that borders on confabulation. In the bush, Doc experiences the terror of accidentally releasing a live grenade among his men, of rushing to rescue a wounded marine, and of sharing a quiet conversation in a bunker with Trang, a South Vietnamese soldier. After being assigned to the Recon Dive Team and attending the Navy diving school in the Philip-pines, he returns to Vietnam were he engages in numerous combat dives and river operations. At the end of his tour, he is processed out of the military. And upon his return to his hometown as a veteran, he faces a jarring reception of insolence, indifference, and fragmented flashbacks. In Viet Man, D.S. Lliteras unlocks the inner mystery of a man’s combat experience. It is poetic and haunting, authentic and amusing. It is a story told by a man who ultimately survives the war and returns to his homeland, but another country will forever dwell in his soul.

Viet Man (Introspection): The bones of war strip a combatant down to the essentials: neutral mind, disjointed memories, unclear emotions.

The truth about remembering war is the inability to be factually accurate or objective. No combat veteran is able to convey to a civilian what it is all about—it’s impossible. We remember glimpses of war, punctuated by actual truth. The memory of an incident is usually fragmentary. Sometimes these fragments are long, but they are never whole. In fact, a war story that is too whole is usually suspect. A story that reveals too much either comes from a man who wasn’t there or from a man who has been beguiled by the myth surrounding his post war.

Remembering is one thing, collective remembering is another— it’s not you, it’s what others want you to be; it’s not about truth, it’s about glory. And that’s never the true story. Nobody should want to be more than the truth. 

Nobody should want the glory of war.

ISBN: 978-1-937907-32-7
Historical Fiction/ Literary Fiction
Format: Soft Cover (and Kindle)
Page count: 193

Papa's War. From the London Blitz to the Liberation of Holland; by Therese van Houten

MWSA Review
Papa’s War is the story of Dutch Captain Jan van Houten and his family told primarily through correspondence between he and his wife Marie during their years of exile in England following Germany’s conquest of Holland in 1940. Captain van Houten served in the Dutch press censorship office based in London and Marie and their daughter Treesje who were sent to live in the countryside. Therese van Houten has done an excellent job combining a personal story based on the exchange of correspondence between her father and mother during World War II with additional family anecdotes and larger facts about the war. The latter help put into perspective the mundane events described in the letters. Translating text from one language to another, particularly when the source material is so personal, presents its own challenges and I was impressed with her ability in making the translation. There’s nothing more I can add in praise except to say that Papa’s War is now a part of my reference library.
Review by Dwight Zimmerman, MWSA President and Reviewer     

Author's Synopsis:
It's September 1939 and England has declared war on Germany. Jan van Houten, a Dutch journalist working in London, bids farewell to his wife and infant daughter who are evacuated to the countryside. The young couple's almost daily correspondence, during this and subsequent separations, offers an eyewitness account of the devastation of war and its impact on families. When Jan is recruited to the press office of the Dutch government exiled in London, his letters offer a vivid description of daily life during the Blitz. In September 1944, the Dutch military authority sends him, as press censor, to a Dutch town recently liberated by allied forces. Jan arrives within days of the allies failed attempt to cross a crucial bridge across the Rhine--a failure that delays the liberation of Holland until the following May. His letters present the deprivations and horrors experienced by the Dutch during the long winter months prior to the German capitulation, as well as the ongoing deprivations in the immediate aftermath of the war

Papa's War, written by Jan' eldest daughter, places Jan's letters within well-researched historical context.

ISBN/ASIN: 9780692371138
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir, Biography
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 222

Moral Injury; by Michael Lepore

MWSA Review
As a Viet Nam Vet, Michael's poetry hit some strong nerves. I am sure most readers would quickly grasp the confusion of combat, and the combative emotions of the soldier. Ideas of a young man totally thrown into a cauldron of fire that seeks to change all the ideals one as been taught as a child, and replace them with hate and cruelty. Those actions can set a pattern that will trouble the soul long after battles are over and weapons are stacked. Even years, half a life later, when the soldier lays down his head at night, the nightmare stands waiting, stamping her feet to ride through those traumatic times of long ago. I would recommend Moral Injury for many readers. The soldier knows, everyone else should seek to understand.
Review by Larry Murley, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Moral Injury is a book of poems that chronicles the devastating effects of the Vietnam War on those American soldiers who returned home. The conflict between the moral instruction the young soldiers had been raised to believe in and the duty to follow orders and protect their comrades, between the instinct to survive and the wish to be compassionate led to the  moral confusion explored in this book.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9982588-2-9 /0998258822
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Poetry Book
Review Genre: Poetry—Poetry Book
Number of Pages: 54

Blood Brothers: Courage and Treachery on the Shores of Tripoli; by E. Thomas Behr

MWSA Review
E. Thomas Behr’s Blood Brothers is an intriguing tale woven into the history of a young America’s first response to piracy.  In the very early 19th century, a new nation, the United States of America, has decided that it will not pay tribute to the Barbary pirates, but will instead send military forces to defend US merchant shipping in the area.  Though young as a nation, America brings her political and military resources to bear on the issue, determined to take her place on the world stage.
 
Within this story are two characters, one a capable but hot-headed naval officer, and the other a mysterious soldier of fortune.  Both are brave and intelligent, but there the similarities end, or do they?  Seems the two have more in common than they or anyone ever thought, and the truth will be revealed in the hottest fire on earth; combat in the dessert.
 
It’s obvious the author did some research in preparing this book.  It’s hard to create a truly unique story against a historical backdrop, but Behr succeeds, and the result is a thrilling ride full of bravery, soldierly camaraderie, and intense combat action.  Fans of historical combat fiction will truly enjoy this, especially if more into muskets than machine guns.  Well done and worth the effort!
Reviewed by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
In 1805, a ragtag American-led army of a handful of Greek and Italian mercenaries, their uncertain Arab allies, and seven US Marines, sets out across 500 miles of merciless desert.  Their mission:  to invade Tripoli, defeat an enemy ten times their number, put a pro-American puppet ruler on the throne, and establish our young nation as a political force in the Mediterranean. 

America’s first war in the Muslim world throws together two unlikely allies: Peter Kirkpatrick, the young, brashly confident captain of the USS Eagle, and the half-brother he never knew existed, Henry Doyle. A cynical soldier of fortune and a convert to Islam, Doyle agrees to help guide the American expedition against Tripoli–for his own reasons.

When Kirkpatrick joins the invading army, he is plunged into an unfamiliar, unforgiving world that will test his courage – and America’s character – to the breaking point. For Doyle the question becomes: do I help my brother−or let him die?

ISBN/ASIN: 1456527304
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 387

Angel's Revenge; by Don Helin

MWSA Review
Angel’s Revenge tackles two current issues that should concern all Americans: national security and sexual abuse in the military. Do they have anything in common?

Author Don Helin brings both to light in his latest suspense thriller. Colonel Zack Kelly agrees to investigate a murder when a former officer’s ex-wife calls. Her ex’s mutilated body is discovered on the beach, with the name Dark Angel carved into his chest. Meanwhile Lieutenant Colonel Rene Garcia receives a phone call from her estranged brother who accidentally uncovers a plot to steal government secrets involving the DOD computer system and the military drone program. Together they race to discover if there is a relationship between the two as bodies litter the beach and the East Coast. 

Angel’s Revenge delves into serious problems that plague the military and the government. As the clock races and the bodies pile up, Kelly and Garcia must face the probability of a traitor in the nation’s highest offices. 

Helin obviously knows the internal workings of the military from his days working in the Pentagon. Combine that with his ability to spin a fast-paced yarn, and the end result is a highly believable thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Review by Pat Avery, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
It started with a phone call from the ex-wife of one of Zack Kelly's former officers.  His ex has been murdered, branded with the words Dark Angel, castrated, then dumped on a beach in New Jersey.  She wants help to find the killerto hack into the Pentagon's data base to steal classified material on the military drone program.  Before they can confirm a whistle blower's statement, he is hit by a truck and lies near death.  Next a drone turns up missing.
Zack and Garcia follow a trail of bodies from explosions at military installations.  As the investigation continues, Zack finds himself the next target.  And what about the missing drone?

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-882658-60-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 288
 

My Soldier Dad; by Ross H. Mackenzie

MWSA Review
Outstanding tribute to our military family in a beautifully illustrated children’s book.
 
Military families will enjoy sitting down together to read this short book.  You'll look at the beautiful illustrations and learn some of the what and why of military life.  Children will also enjoy searching for small images hidden within most of these beautifully rendered illustrations.
 
Written in simple, rhythmic verses, this book will appeal to today's military family.  This handsome hardback belongs on your family's coffee table… but only when you and your children aren't holding it as you read it together!
Review by John Cathcart, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
My Soldier Dad is the much-anticipated second book in the Patriot Kids series. My Sailor Dad, the first book in the Patriot Kids Series, won a GOLD MEDAL in 2010 for best Children's Book from MWSA. All of the Patriot Kids books exist to bolster national pride in our service members, be an invaluable resource for service member families, and be engaging, educational books for military kids who are so proud of their parents and yearn to know more about their parent's respective military profession. My Soldier Dad is written in a slightly modified (but impeccably consistent) anapestic tetrameter. The story offers two exciting stories-within-stories, some fantastic artistic techniques that help kids feel that they are actually part of the story, and a celebration of Dad's humanitarian efforts in addition to his military prowess. Finally, this My Soldier Dad offers some clever “Easter Eggs”: at the bottom of each page of text, the reader will find an image (the red thumbtack on the first page). Can you (or your child) find the same image hidden in the drawing on that page? (Hint: there is no dog in the newspaper page.) More information can be found at patriot-kids.com.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9893420-2-5
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 40
 

Battle Scars; by David Salkin

MWSA Review
Unbelievable believability meets the reader of Battle Scars, from the first page to the last. With a depth and detail worthy of any combat veteran's memoirs, David M Salkin weaves a fictional story of a young soldier's experience that is so raw and unabashedly emotional, the reader has no choice but to take the journey with the men portrayed.

It is difficult to believe this is a work of fiction rather than a first-person retelling of the humanity hiding in plain sight on and off the battlefield. Those who have been in combat will recognize themselves in these pages, and those who have lost someone they love in combat will relive that experience with this young Marine and the families he meets.

Battle Scars may be a work of fiction, but the story it tells is all too real. It is the story of the men and women from all eras who have upheld their oath to defend this nation. It is the story of those left to mourn the fallen, and it is a reminder to all of the tremendous cost of freedom.
Review by Barbara Allen, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Marine Corporal Sean Nichols is wounded in a devastating ambush that takes the lives of his three friends and leaves him an amputee. If not for the heroism of his sergeant, Deke Tilman, who pulled him out of the road, Sean would have surely died with his fire team. With the help of Deke, Sean now embarks on his next mission—recuperate from his serious injuries, and visit the families of his fallen comrades as he tries to make peace with such profound loss.  

Battle Scars is a thought provoking drama with compelling characters that illustrates the resiliency and strength of the human spirit, the power of love and friendship, and the ability to overcome even our darkest moments. Gritty realism and original storytelling breathe life into Battle Scars as it inspires us with a surprising tale of heroism and the great sacrifice made by our modern war fighters. 

“Battle Scars is an incredible story of brothers in arms and the bonds formed in combat. The struggles that are faced by combat veterans returning from war are real and nothing I've read brings that story to life like Battle Scars. This is a must read!”
LTCOL T. Kevin White "TK"
150th Special Operations Wing

"This book is a gut check for those who have worn the cloth of the nation. For those who have not it is a testimonial for those who have served and sacrificed. As Americans we are blessed with freedom. It comes at a price."
James E. Livingston
Major General USMC (Ret)
Medal of Honor Recipient    

"This book was a tough read, and at the same time I couldn't put it down. Salkin got this one right! Every now and again you come across a book that is as much cathartic as it is entertaining. At a time when we are losing way too many Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines, it struck a chord with this Old Soldier."
COL William L. Peace, Sr.
U.S. Army National Guard

“David Salkin has fired at close range and with unerring accuracy with this tale! He takes a tough situation that is all-too-often neglected and gives it life. This story is for all veterans and their supporters. His first-person writing style makes the reader feel present throughout the story. It's a quick read that will leave you thinking long after completion. I most strongly recommend it to all who are interested in understanding better the true costs of America's conflicts—past, present, and future. "
Major General GT Garrett, USA (Ret)
42nd Infantry Division

“Dave hit the nail on the head with this one. It’s a quick read simply because you don’t want to stop turning the page. This may be fiction but it certainly doesn’t read that way.”                      
Neil T. Roeder, LTC, MS USAR

“David Salkin’s story is a must-read for all Veterans and supporters. This book not only entertains you, it educates you on the price paid by those who have the guts to walk the walk.  His first-person writing takes you on a ride which seems to bring out all emotions and it also places you right on the battlefield. Maybe it’s just my love of heroic deeds but it sure knocked me on my knees. The read is overall life-like and is very consistent with the actions taking place every day in Iraq and Afghanistan. Kudos to Dave for really knocking this one out of the park”                                                                                                                              Christian S. DiMeo (Ret) SFC.
USMC / Embassy Marine Cairo/Beirut/Geneva - ARMY NG / Operation Enduring Freedom

“Battle Scars” hits like an RPG!  Camaraderie, adrenaline, fear, loss, hope and redemption all in one exhilarating and disturbingly beautiful tale. Hard to believe David hasn’t been on the battlefield, because this tale rocked me back for days! A must read for everyone who is, has been, or supports our warriors!”                                                                                                Wayne Emery CPT, USA
Military Assistance Command Vietnam, I Corps Team Leader, Advisory Team 1 and Advisory Team 3

"For anyone who's ever been there, this book brings back all the sights, sounds and smells of deployment like none other. Take care in the reading because Battle Scars is real. An often painful, always enthralling reminder of what we give...and what we lose...whenever we send our men and women to war. Mr. Salkin brought to life the pain and struggles of our fellow veterans and showed an accurate account of their bravery off the field."
S/Sgt Nicole Rosga, U.S. Air National Guard

ISBN/ASIN: B0718WJ751
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Religious/Spiritual
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 120
 

Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life; by Terri Barnes

MWSA Review
We often forget that, for military families, the battle is fought on two fronts: their loved ones’ deployment destinations scattered across the globe, and their own mobile home operations in places we may never have heard of, where they set up camp and recreate some semblance of normalcy on unfamiliar turf. Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life by Terri Barnes shares this best of collection of short stories from the international home front, where military families live their lives at “the intersection of conflict and the commonplace.”
 
Barnes, a military spouse and longtime columnist for Stars and Stripes, brings home these vibrant life vignettes with heart and candor, crafting a record of shared culture and experience for those who belong to this far-reaching All-American community. Her reflections capture and personalize behind-the-scenes anecdotes of military spouses, sons and daughters, friends and family—those charged with broad responsibility for keeping the home fires burning and family life intact through countless moves, transitions, traumas and transformations. Their stories and sacrifices are honored here.
 
From reminiscences triggered by the discovery of a long lost lego block or an old moving sticker, to wrenching descriptions of military funerals, Barnes’ recollections touch on issues close to home for anyone who has lived within the concentric circles of military life, including military children, Gold Star parents, and those struggling with PTSD.
 
Sometimes pragmatic, sometimes sentimental, Barnes gives voice to these hidden heroes in the military narrative: the Air Force spouse who leaves his Navy career to care for the special needs of a disabled daughter; the military wife who hikes through a cold night to help deliver supplies to five Marines holed up in a remote mountain outpost in Afghanistan; a soldier’s long journey back from traumatic brain injury; the military kid who has no easy answer for basic questions like, “Where are you from?” 
 
These gathered stories serve as a beautiful tribute to the American exceptionalism that thrives behind the front lines, ready to move and rearrange life at a moment’s notice in service of our nation and our freedoms. Spouse Calls offers validation and encouragement for those who live with the inevitable uncertainties of military life. Or find themselves, as one well-travelled Barnes son suggests, “greeted again by the familiarity of the unfamiliar.”
Review by Dana Trapnell Tibbitts, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
From her own kitchen table to Capitol Hill, journalist Terri Barnes takes readers beyond the headlines for an inside look at the challenges and victories of military life. "Spouse Calls: Messages from a Military Life" is a best-of compilation drawn from Terri's long-running "Spouse Calls" column for Stars and Stripes. Through poignant personal stories, incisive interviews, and emotive reflections, the author and columnist has created a snapshot of life on the home front during two wars, preserving an important piece of our nation's culture.

ISBN/ASIN: 987-1-934617-25-0
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 191
 

Americana A Civics Handbook Second Edition; by Mary B. Mackley

MWSA Review
Americana A Civics Handbook is a great reference book that all high school students should have available to them. I applaud Mary B. Mackley for the hard work she must have put into compiling the book. Filled with copies of relevant documents, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, official portraits of our nation's founders and historic buildings, Mackley put this book together as an educational resource devoid of any personal beliefs or political positions. The book covers the presidents, lists the states and when they came into the union, identifies the national parks, and so on.

I am going to ensure that my grandkids know I have this book, and when they are in high school, I will do my best to get them to read it! And don't let me mislead you - this book is appropriate for older folks like me, too! I recommend this book for everyone.
Reviewed by Bob Doerr, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
Embrace the foundations of our Nation. All ages will enjoy this book from the 5th grade up through adult years. It is a handy resource for first time learning, review or reference. The book focuses on the early years of America but there is so much more historical information, facts and trivia included. There is an easy to follow chronology focusing on Colonial times and the Revolutionary War era, leading up to the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. You will have your own copy of these historical documents. Also included is information about the Presidents, First Ladies, the Original Thirteen Colonies, Three Branches of Government, the Fifty States, National Symbols, Electoral College, Pledge of Allegiance and more. The U.S. Citizenship Test of 100 questions is included and  is excellent for civics or citizenship studies, as well as letting you test your own civics proficiency.
     There is a special note on the National Parks...their history and how they preserve our American heritage. There are many sites of historic importance and natural beauty preserved for our benefit. There are lists of the National Parks related to Colonial and Revolutionary War times, Sites of Remembrance (for our Veterans), and of our most cherished National Parks. The author hopes that readers might be inspired to visit some of these historic sites and places.  And lastly, the author hopes to make a contribution to civics education.
     There are over 50 pages of historical sketches and images. Book size is 8.5" x 11"  and was revised January 2017.


ISBN/ASIN: 978-1514221563
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Reference, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 298

The Fortunate Son: Top, through the Eyes of Others; by Timothy Trainer

MWSA Review
Timothy Trainer writes a poignant, moving portrait of a man he referred to as “Dad” but many more knew as “Top,” a senior non-commissioned officer serving as a company first sergeant.
  
First Sergeant Emerson Trainer (the author’s father), was a career infantry soldier who served in combat in Korea and twice in Vietnam, the second time as the senior enlisted soldier in Bravo company, Second Battalion, 7th Cavalry (or B2-7).  Fourteen of the soldiers he served with relate to his son what his leadership meant to them.

The United States Army in Vietnam was very different from the one recently fielded in Iraq and Afghanistan.  It had a solid core of non-commissioned officers and senior officers who had seen combat, but the basic grunt and the junior officers were in many cases unblooded draftees.  Those soldiers needed the leadership and experience of those like Top Trainer in order to stay alive, and they relay in magnificent detail how his leadership, mentoring, coaching, and caring kept them alive through what was the most difficult times in their lives.

I particularly enjoyed how soldiers with different ranks and jobs all discussed how one single person so greatly impacted them.  Officers, junior soldiers, and fellow NCOs all discuss how their interactions with Top Trainer made them better and kept them alive.  Some of them were only around him for a few short months, and still the message is clear.  “We survived mostly because of him.”

Those who enjoy period pieces from the Vietnam war or combat memoirs in general will find this entertaining.  It can also have some application in a leadership curriculum.
Review by Rob Ballister, MWSA Awards Director

Author's Synopsis:
The Fortunate Son: Top, through the Eyes of Others, takes two paths.  One path sheds light onto what it was like to be an Army brat during the Vietnam years.  The second path describes the journey that many young men traveled as they were transformed from civilians to soldiers.  Decades later, the Army brat, whose father was the combat seasoned senior NCO, meets thirteen men who served under his father in Vietnam.  In total, fourteen men whose lives were touched by Top provide this Army brat with their words and a new understanding of what sacrifice at home meant to young men who needed leadership to survive.


ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-941049-73-0
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 146
 

The Parting: A Story of West Point on the Eve of the Civil War; by Richard Adams

MWSA Review
This story weaves several time periods deftly, with the present established as the days leading up to the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) and the battle itself.  The majority of the book centers on the cadets days at West Point (United States Military Academy – USMA) and describes military training details as well as the feelings and positions on a state’s right to secede from the union and the hope for peace versus the possibility of war.  The cadets are well aware of the tensions between the cotton-producing states and the manufacturing states and their interdependence.  The reality of the situation affects not only the relationships of the cadets but also their personal lives.  This is a period piece that will appeal to a broad audience.
 
Period photographs on the cover and in the first few pages enhance the book.  The author provides a list of main characters that includes the states from which the cadets come, which helps you to understand their positions.  In the Foreward, Brigadier General Peter M. Dawkins (ret) notes that this book “brings American history to life and, in the process, makes you think, smile, and sometimes weep.”  How true.
Review by Nancy Kauffman. MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
The Parting is the true and epic story of the “band of brothers” of the West Point Class of 1861 that experienced its last year at the Academy on the eve of the Civil War before confronting each other in the first major battle of the war. The book's cover artwork features a period photograph of cadets conducting field artillery drill on the Plain at West Point. Pictured on the cover are the story’s protagonist John Pelham from Alabama and his close friend Edmund Kirby from New York. The story unfolds in flashbacks from the days leading up to and including the First Battle of Bull Run, and chronicles the divisive issues of slavery, states' rights, the election of Abraham Lincoln, the unraveling of a nation, the formation of another, and the cat and mouse game that is Fort Sumter. The cadet and military characters in The Parting are real and their deeds and fates are recorded history. Pelham’s friends include George Armstrong Custer and the abolitionist Emory Upton. Pelham, who would be lauded in the war as "The Gallant Pelham" by Robert E. Lee, is the most popular man in his class as well as the best artillerist, horseman, and swordsman, but like Custer also has the most demerits. Central to the story is Pelham’s relationship with the beautiful Clara Bolton from Philadelphia who, with her five girlfriends from Clermont College for Women on Long Island, spends a chaperoned week at the West Point Hotel, barely two hundred yards from the most eligible bachelors in the country.
 
Rich Adams is the first of three brothers to graduate from West Point, a Vietnam veteran, a consulting engineer, a former university adjunct professor, an author and screenwriter, and a lifelong student of West Point history. His author’s website is www.RichardBarlowAdams.com

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-48360-231-8 (HB), 978-1-48360-225-7 (SB), 978-1-48360-226-4 (EB), B00BVH437M (Amazon Kindle)
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Romance, History
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 410
 

Guiding Missal; by Nancy Panko

MWSA Review
Guiding Missal is a multi-generational family story of courage and faith with an inspiring premise. The story focuses on the lives of three men, spans fifty years, two wars and one crisis that brings the United States and the Soviet Union to the brink of war. What helps these men through their life-and-death situations is the comfort they receive from a missal that's been handed down from father to son. Author Nancy Panko has taken a familiar story and added a twist: the missal not merely a passive prayer book—she makes it a participant in a way that is both clever and touching. The narrative is further enhanced by real-life accounts of incidents told to her by veterans and relatives. The result is a moving and inspirational story, specific in its action and timeless in its theme.
Reviewed by Dwight Jon Zimmerman, MWSA President

Author's Synopsis:
Across a span of fifty years, three generations of military men have one prayer book in common that has a mind and voice of its own. In 1944, a U.S. Army baker volunteers as a forward observer to carry out covert operations behind German lines in World War II. In the early Sixties, a focused nineteen-year-old Airman is responsible for decoding critical top secret messages during the height of the Berlin Crisis. In 1993, an army sniper overcomes a debilitating condition only to fight for survival in the streets of war-torn Mogadishu, Somalia, when a Blackhawk helicopter is shot down. Yet, when each of these men face a crisis, this very special prayer book, My Military Missal, intercedes with understanding and divine power. Based on actual events, Guiding Missal is relevant for any person who is serving or has served in the military and their families. This story will help you understand why soldiers are “old” at twenty-five or why they become angry when someone disrespects the American flag. Guiding Missal’s timeless journey of faith, patriotism and miracles will touch your heart as the missal and the men call out to God for guidance, protection, and a safe return home.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-13: 978-1-61153-240-1  ISBN-10: 161153240X
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Religious/Spiritual
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 284
 

Echoes From Gettysburg: South Carolina's Memories and Images; by J. Keith Jones

MWSA Review
How does a writer begin to capture the essence of something as vast as the Civil War? Immediately after the fighting stopped, the U.S. government printing office attempted to preserve all the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion. After compiling 126 volumes, each one numbering well over a thousand pages of impossibly small type, they found they had documents but little more understanding of what had happened. Ever since, historians have tried to narrow their focus—to just one year, one battle in that year, one state who fought in the battle, one regiment from that state, and eventually, just one soldier from that regiment. Each choice has its limitations.
 
In Echoes from Gettysburg, J. Keith Jones has chosen to focus on the troops from South Carolina who fought at Gettysburg. His emphasis is on those who left behind a written record of their lasting memories, their personal impressions, and their fears.  Almost 5000 South Carolinians were on the field in Gettysburg; he has collected information on some 780 of them. Their words echo through their letters to loved ones, their diary entries, the accounts they wrote for their local newspapers, the memories they shared with comrades many years later at Gettysburg reunions, and sometimes their obituaries. This collection brings readers face to face with the harsh realities of the war. It leaves them with greater understanding and more compassion for the men on both sides of the conflict.
 
Jones has clearly identified the sources of the documents he includes in this collection. He provides an accurate and useful index. The book also offers a few well-drawn maps and contemporary photos of some of the leading figures. A serious researcher, however,  will need to follow up on each source to find the original documents, since it can be hard to tell here whether a spelling error reflects a lack of education on the part of the soldier or an editing failure during the compilation of the book. Those who write about South Carolina history--or genealogy, or about the Civil War, or about the Battle of Gettysburg--will find this book to be a necessary addition to their research efforts.
Review by Carolyn Schriber, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
South Carolina contributed two brigades of infantry, two regiments of cavalry and several artillery batteries to the Battle of Gettysburg in July of 1863. Their veterans related accounts of heroism and fear, triumph and loss for the remainder of their lives. These are their stories. Gleaned from diaries, letters and newspaper articles written immediately after the great battle and throughout the balance of the lives of its veterans, these stories place the reader in the boots of the men who lived the experience. Included with the firsthand accounts are maps of the fields fought for by these sons of the Palmetto State and photographs of a number of the soldiers involved. Along with battle histories and the individual exploits of the brigades led by General Joseph Kershaw, General Wade Hampton and Colonel Abner Perrin are accounts of the artillery batteries from South Carolina and the improvised cavalry command assembled from scattered companies by Colonel John Logan Black, who had been left behind due to wounds from an earlier battle. Black was determined to rejoin the army as soon as he was able and caught up with General Robert E. Lee with two companies and other miscellaneous cavalrymen who had been separated from their regiments. His improvised command participated in all three days of the battle before rejoining Hampton’s Brigade . Also covered are the annual reunions where the old soldiers gathered to camp once again on the fields of Gettysburg. The veterans recount many tales of reconnecting with old comrades, memories of those who never made it home, and their reconciliation with former enemies. Every strata of the soldier experience at Gettysburg is represented from the highest general to the lowliest private. Every life is a story and provides a piece toward completing the puzzle of the human experience at Gettysburg.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1945602016
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 424

That Deadly Space; by Gerald Gillis

MWSA Review
In That Deadly Space author Gerald Gillis spins an interesting yarn about a young man, Conor Rafferty, going off to fight for the confederacy in the Civil War. He does so against his father's wishes and carried with him his father's admonishments that he will be no good in combat. He also does so despite his personal opposition to slavery. These conflicts affect him throughout the war, but he is determined to be a good officer and soldier.

The author is adept in portraying his protagonist's experiences as well as giving the reader insight to a soldier's life in that war. Conor's story is a tragic one, but without doubt resembled the story of many real soldiers who fought in that war. As with most wars, the young men and women who fight and die in it had no role in initiating it. I recommend That Deadly Space to everyone who enjoys historical fiction and especially to those who enjoy reading about the US Civil War. 
Review by Bob Doerr, MWSA Reviewer

Author's Synopsis:
The Civil War has begun in earnest. Conor Rafferty joins the Confederate army as a young infantry officer against the wishes of his father who, in his Irish anger, is adamantly opposed to a war with the North. Conor soon finds himself in many of the war’s most consequential battles, leading from the front and risking all inside that deadly space. He serves with distinction in General Robert E. Lee’s celebrated Army of Northern Virginia as it seeks the crowning victory that will end the war and stop the carnage. Along the way, Conor becomes a protégé of fellow Georgian John B. Gordon who eventually rises to command a Confederate army corps. At the conclusion of each chapter, the narrative transitions to the now aged Conor who answers the probing questions of his grandson Aaron, himself a captain in the U.S. Army and scheduled for duty in Europe during World War I. The grandfather and grandson thus spend a week together—a week of sharing, learning, and bonding.

That Deadly Space is a compelling tale that portrays the drama, heroism, romance, and tragedy of the Civil War.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-692-84062-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 340