Historical Fiction

The Batter's Box by Andy Kutler

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MWSA Review

The Batter’s Box is a tour de force—a riveting tale of baseball, war, and the human spirit. Many writers are skilled at conveying one particular niche or historical period. Andy Kutler does it all. The book begins with the story of an elderly woman. Her body is frail but her mind still sharp.  She has reached that point at the end of life when she is secure in her own identity, satisfied with the experiences life has brought her, and needing nothing more than a sympathetic ear to hear her story.

Then quickly, the scene shifts, and the author is taking the reader on a nostalgic trip to a baseball diamond. The air is thick with the smells of dust, sweat, peanut shells, and hotdog grease. It’s 1941. Baseball is the national pastime, and playing ball is the dream of little boys everywhere.  Talented players are heroes, and their names resonate with those of us who lived through the forties and fifties. The sports enthusiast might be content to follow Will Jamison and his baseball career to the end of the book.

But the author has much more in store for his readers. It’s now 1944, and our hero finds himself in Belgium, headed into a confrontation that will eventually become known as The Battle of the Bulge. Kutner spares the reader nothing as he describes in gruesome detail the sights, smells, and deafening sounds of battle. Irrational men and hulking machines of death confront each other and leave only ruin behind.

Enough? No. It’s now 1946, and Will Jamison is back from the war. Peace is settling over the land again, the baseball diamonds are calling, and relieved young men are leaping toward a chance to be a hero with a bat rather than a gun. Will wants to join them, but two invisible wounds hold him back —one deep in a thigh muscle and the other burrowing deep in his brain. In those post-war years, no one knew or understood the term PTSD, and it was certainly not clear to those most affected. A loud noise—a flashing light—almost anything could trigger an emotional outburst the sufferer was helpless to withstand.

At the end of the book, the author brings us back to the present, with a surprise ending that echoes and wraps the entire package into one satisfying conclusion. This is an amazing story—well-written, beautifully designed, and emotionally satisfying. It stands head and shoulders above most of the books I have read this year.

Review by Carolyn Schriber (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

In 1946, a returning World War II veteran is determined to reclaim his place among professional baseball’s upper echelon and win back the woman he once fell for. Two months into the new season, at the top of his game, he abandons his team, casting aside his fame and riches and vanishing forever from the public eye. What drives a man to walk away from everything he cherishes, never to be heard from again? The Batter’s Box follows the path of Will Jamison, a star player with the Washington Senators who enlists in the U.S. Army following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. When the war ends, Jamison returns to Washington, a decorated hero tormented by deep emotional scars. Burdened with a crushing guilt and harrowing memories he cannot escape, Jamison’s life is consumed by an explosive temper, sleepless nights, and a gradual descent into alcoholism. He must also navigate public misconceptions about mental illness in the 1940s, and stigmas that often silenced those who suffered and drove veterans like Jamison into dark corners. Will he continue on, alone with his anguish and misery? Or will he level with those around him, including the woman he loves, and seek the professional care he desperately needs, even at the risk of exposing his secrets and shame?

ISBN/ASIN: 9781944353216,9781944353223,9781944353230
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 304

Vietnam's Valleys of Darkness by H. J. Thomas

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MWSA Review

In his book Vietnam's Valleys of Darkness, author H.J. Thomas spins a tale of intrigue, combining combat with spies and smugglers. Never sure who is the good guy or gal and who isn't, Thomas's protagonist, Chief Warrant Officer Ray Bryant is simply trying to survive his third tour in Vietnam. When a fellow American soldier tries to kill him with a grenade, Bryant's worst suspicions become reality. When a Vietnamese waitress at the club on base warns him about an upcoming mission that she shouldn't know anything about, Bryant's faith in the system is again shaken. The author's own experience in the military intelligence and aviation can be felt and adds to the authenticity of the story, I recommend this book to anyone interested in the Vietnam war and /or military history. 

Review by Bob Doerr (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

It's 1968 and the war in Vietnam wears weary on all involved. Chief Warrant Officer Ray Bryant is on his third tour, and as a dual-rated U.S. Army aviator, he's not happy when he is temporarily reassigned to fly Hueys for the 5th Special Forces Group out of Kontum. Both crew and aircraft are tested to their limits, struggling against what usually accompanies missions with a "special" designation. Combat can always become confusing, but Bryant finds it nearly impossible to separate the bad guys from the good. Even Special Operations and the chain of command seem to have a dark cloud hanging over their policies and activities. Bryant's military training and experience are tested to the maximum as he seeks to maintain his military career and complete the mission requirements.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781091978720
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 305 

Chains Of Nobility by Brad Graft

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MWSA Review

Chains of Nobility is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Mamluks trilogy. The Mamluks begin as slaves taken from various places. Slavers take boys from nomadic tribes where the young develop exceptional horsemanship and hunting skills early in life. After being purchased and installed in a training citadel, the slaves develop almost superhuman skills with swords, arrows, lances and horses, or are killed in the effort.

Following Duyal, the main character, on his journey, we see him evolving slowly and believably from a young nomad enslaved after watching his family killed to a deadly Islamic warrior, devoted to the man who bought him and devoted to the cause of Islam.

His story is set in a nearly forgotten time when Islamic princes fought the European Crusaders, the eastern Mongols, and amongst themselves using mercenary and quasi-enslaved armies. Many pages held something surprising—a five-senses description of living freely on the Russian steppe or in a prison cell, a boy’s memory of his lost family fading slowly or intruding into the present, some feat of endurance or prowess that bordered on unbelievable.

The book involves various nomadic cultures, Russians, Mongols, Muslims living in Egypt, horse culture, warrior culture, slave trading at a massive scale, royal blood feuds, detailed information about and use of various ancient weapons of war—and that doesn’t begin to cover the characters, places and times, journeys and relationships, settings and subplots, political and other intrigues throughout. 

The author has created an intriguing and believable world from ancient ideas, settings and characters, a masterful job of both history and fiction. The interior is beautifully designed and easy to read, despite its 443 pages. Clever use of fonts signal the shift between the characters’ present lives and pasts, easing the reader through the transition to memories.

Chains of Nobility will appeal to anyone with an interest in unusual military history, the history of Islamic jihad, ancient weaponry, or warrior training. 

Review by Barb Evenson (August 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Duyal, a teenage nomad living on the vast Russian steppe, is captured during a Mongol invasion and forced on a long, deadly journey into the war-torn Middle East. Purchased by a Kurdish prince in eastern Turkey, his destination is an Islamic citadel, filled with similarly enslaved strangers and one merciless instructor—a man determined to purge the weaklings from his ranks and forge the survivors into Mamluks, Islamic Knights unmatched in wielding sword, arrows, and lance from atop Arabian steeds. When Duyal becomes entangled in his instructor’s schemes and his mates witness another comrade’s unjust execution, the recruits can take it no longer. Their wrath is unleashed. Chains of Nobility is the first book in the Brotherhood of the Mamluks trilogy. Set during the 13th century, the book is an immersive dive into the world of military slavery—a Muslim institution largely unheard of in the West, whose ranks ousted the Crusaders and Mongols from the Levant, preserving Islam. Chains of Nobility was recently selected as a finalist for the 2019 Colby Award, which "recognizes a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a major contribution to the understanding of military history, intelligence operations, or international affairs."

ISBN/ASIN: 13:978-0999633854, 13: 978-0-9996338-2-3 , 10: 0-9996338-2-1
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 443 

Surpassing the Crucible by R. W. Riley

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MWSA Review

R. W. Riley's Surpassing the Crucible is an interesting and fast-moving story about a National Guard unit's golden opportunity. Although it is fiction, it is obviously based on Riley's extensive career in both the National Guard and the active-duty Army.

Captain Devlin Rourke is the company commander of the combat support company of the Pennsylvania National Guard's Second Battalion 220th Infantry. He knows what's expected of his company, but as a former cavalry officer, he has vision and drive beyond what is expected. When his unit is selected to go to the Joint Readiness Training Center, he knows it’s time to go above and beyond, not just for his unit but to preserve the reputation of National Guard troops across the country. Can he get his men trained up to go toe-to-toe with the active-duty OPFOR (opposing forces)?

The character development in this story is exceptional. As a reader, I immediately became invested in Rourke and his men, as well as Rourke's commanding officer. Though fiction, this is an easy read for those studying leadership at the small and medium unit level. In addition, the author does an outstanding job of using his background in two different army combat fields (infantry and cavalry) to provide a unique yet believable and interesting story. Finally, I appreciate that the author added just a hint of romance to his story. That usually feels forced but not here; it's a welcome and entertaining diversion.

National Guard veterans, infantry soldiers, or anyone affiliated with the Army reserves will probably enjoy this story.

Review by Rob Ballister (August 2019)

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 fight over the “One Army Concept” is at its peak. Some in the active Army believed the concept would never work. Weekend warriors couldn’t be reliable enough to be integrated into the Army’s demanding worldwide missions. In 1989 the National Guard’s 2nd Battalion 220th Infantry needs to perform well at the prestigious Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC) at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. The men and officers of the 2nd battalion were going to be tested by the Army’s best trained professional Opposing Force at the infantry’s ultimate proving ground. They must perform well. Everyone was watching. But this wasn’t your average National Guard unit. Their consistent superior performance during the last several years prompted the National Guard leadership to select them to represent the Guard on this national stage. There are countless distinct challenges for National Guard units that active duty units don’t face. This story describes how the battalion’s exceptional leadership is able to overcome these challenges to turn their unique situation into an advantage. Can the battalion prove to everyone that the “One Army Concept” works? If so, then what’s next?

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-5320-6089-2 (sc)
Book Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 400

Saga of a Lesser War by Emmett Slake

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MWSA Review

Author Emmett E. Slake spins a tragic tale about the interwoven lives of a handful of Americans and Japanese thrown together in Japan at the outbreak of the Korean War. Private Dave Ricksen is one of these soldiers who falls in love with a Japanese woman. He is selected to be in the first wave of American soldiers to be sent to Korea to stem the North Korean invasion. Ill prepared and ill equipped, his unit is slaughtered, and Ricksen narrowly survives the encounter. Barely alive, he evades the North Koreans and finally makes it back to the American lines. Flown to a military hospital in Japan, he slowly recovers, only to learn he has been charged with treason. Meanwhile, the life of everyone he left behind has been disrupted. He struggles to prove his innocence only to find the woman he loved has disappeared, and he is being thrown back into the conflict. This is an interesting and realistic account of the impact of war, not only on the battlefield, but on those left behind.

Review by Bob Doerr (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 One June day at the mid-point of the twentieth century, the uneasy peace that settled over the "Land of the Morning Calm" was shattered by an act of aggression. Not far away, on the "Islands of the Rising Sun" the first tremors of conflict resonated. In response to the vague menace, an army of occupation from a previous war was ordered into action, forever altering the lives of those called upon to respond. The novel is an intense account of the early stages of the Korean War candidly presented without pretense or heroic embellishment. The saga provides a unique fictional journey that traces the lives of two young American soldiers, who from a common beginning diverge to their separate fates: one heroic and the other treasonous. Involved in the course of action is a diverse cast of related characters, military and civilian, foreign and native, each confronting a range of moral issues, which include courage and sacrifice, misbehavior and intrigue, love and lust. The tragic drama evolves over a realm that extends from the backstreets of Yokohama to the power center of Japan: the Dai Ichi building in Tokyo, to the treacherous landscape of Korea. The vivid portrayal of events is a captivating fictional experience that serves to inform, entertain and reveal a largely disregarded time and place in history.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBNs 9781642375558, eISBN 9781642375565
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 363

Eben Kruge: How "A Christmas Carol" Came to be Written (A story about Charles Dickens) by Richard Adams

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MWSA Review Pending

 

Author's Synopsis

In writing "The Parting," about West Point on the eve of the Civil War (a previous MWSA Gold Medal recipient), the author came upon the fact that Charles Dickens and his wife visited West Point in 1842 at the end of his first trip to the United States, and when he returned to England, his first completed fiction was the beloved Christmas classic. This triggered his imagination to write a story about the highly unusual man Dickens encountered in Cornwall, NY, who inspired him to write "A Christmas Carol." In the five-star review given by Clarion Foreword, the reviewer writes, "Adams creates a clever scenario involving Dickens and a man named Eben Kruge, suggesting that their encounter strongly influenced the creation of “A Christmas Carol.” 'Is it entirely unreasonable,' the author inquires, that the story he presents 'could have actually happened?' The answer lies in Adams’ ability to write convincingly and well. He relates a tale so thoroughly researched and credibly delivered that readers may be tempted to believe it all."

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-4797-4232-5,978-1-4797-4231-8,978-4797-4233-2
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Number of pages: 108


Occupied by Kurt Blorstad

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MWSA Review

This is a well-told story of what occurred in "neutral Norway" during World War II, based on journals kept by a young man who helped the resistance. A family with an American father, Norwegian mother, and four children—two of whom were born in the US—was separated by the outbreak of the war. The father had returned to the States in 1936 to earn enough money to bring his family back to America, where they would be safer. The young family, left behind in Norway, moved back to the mother's parents’ home, where they had no electricity and no running water but plenty of chores for the seven-year-old and eight-year-old brothers with a good work ethic.

By early 1940, the Nazis had invaded Norway, changing the boy's lives. The Nazis built a prisoner of war camp near their home as well as an airfield, and they took food and whatever else they wanted from residents. Although the boys were young, they were able to help the resistance, a story they did not tell for many years.

The chronology of the book is clear, and the story moves along at a good pace. Sometimes there are only days between entries; other times, there are months. World War II buffs will find this an excellent contribution to the history of the era, and all readers should enjoy the story of this young family's experiences from 1935 to 1945.

Review by Nancy Kauffman (April 2019)


Author's Synopsis

KURT BLORSTAD and his father, TRYGVE, are in Norway celebrating the elder’s 70th birthday. As they visit landmarks from Trygve’s childhood, Trygve reveals that he has carried around a secret for years. Trygve begins his narration with the day he (age seven), his brothers THORALF (eight) and ODD (three), and his mother PAULINE go to live with his maternal grandmother in a small town outside of Vanse, Norway. Although Trygve was born in Brooklyn, New York, his family moved back to Norway to live with his father, OLAF’s, parents during the Great Depression. In 1935, Olaf returns to America to prepare things for Trygve and the rest of the family to join him. Soon after arriving at their grandmother’s house, Pauline informs the boys that she is pregnant and his sister, THELMA, is born. While living with his grandmother, Trygve helps with household chores, works on his uncle TARALD’s farm, and attends the school in town. On Trygve’s tenth birthday, he catches the eye of MR. ELLENES, the owner of a local shop—he soon begins working for Mr. Ellenes after school. One day while in the shop, Trygve’s teacher MR. DUNGVOLD comes in and tells them that the Nazi Party, led by Adolf Hitler, has invaded Poland. Mr. Dungvold fears that under Hitler’s leadership the Nazis will soon move into Norway. As life for Trygve continues in Norway, his father prepares for their arrival and finally in 1940 they have enough money to reunite in America. Just as plans were being made for the trip, the war comes to Trygve’s doorstep. Trygve describes life living under German occupation—new identification papers, curfews, limited resources, prisoners brought in to do manual labor, and most notably, the cancellation of their voyage. As all of this is going on, Trygve is asked to serve as a lookout during secret meetings local business owners have at Mr. Ellenes’ shop. Trygve takes another job at the local nursery and one day Tore, his co-worker, is captured by the Germans for spying. MR. JAKOBSEN, an attendee at the secret meetings, reveals that Tore used to work for him as a coast watcher and asks Trygve to take his place. Now 15, Trygve accepts without hesitation—having seen firsthand how cruel the Nazis were, he wants to do his part to get them out of his country. He uses the location of his grandmother’s house to view and report on German operations on the coast and airport. When the war ends in 1945 with Germany’s surrender, Trygve (age 16) and Thoralf (age 17) join their father in America by virtue of their American citizenship. It would be another two years before Pauline, Odd, and Thelma can join them. When they do, the reunion is joyful and a new chapter begins for the family. The story ends with Trygve reflecting on the danger he put his family in and Kurt realizing that the sacrifices of his family will stay with him forever.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-7326-3240-0, 978-1-7326-3241-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 258

From Valor, Triumph by Ray Mayer

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MWSA Review

Ray Mayer’s From Valor, Triumph may be a fictional story of a family’s service in combat, but you will swear the characters are real. The author does a wonderful job of developing the characters, and I had to keep reminding myself that this was indeed a work of historical fiction.

The book traces the service roots of the extended Howard family, starting with Carl Howard’s service in World War I. Unfortunately, the “war to end all wars,” wasn’t, and Carl’s sons found themselves serving in combat just like their Dad. Dan served with the Marines in the Pacific during World War II, and his younger brother Bob served in Korea. Dan’s son Tom also followed the family tradition in Vietnam and Iraq and likewise did Tom’s two sons in the War on Terror. In all, six Howards served in every major conflict the US fought since the First World War, and they had the scars to prove it.

The story follows the Howards as they serve, return home, marry, and raise families steeped in service and Christian values. It echoes the classic American story of immigrants (Carl Howard came through Ellis Island) that work hard, treat others fairly, and find success. I especially enjoyed the undertones of the book that dealt with doing business fairly, giving others a chance, and doing the right thing when it needed to be done.

It is historical fiction, and the author masterfully handles historic characters like Chesty Puller and Barrack Obama, keeping them in character while at the same time using them to enhance the story. There’s combat action, heartfelt family moments, success, and some failure throughout the story, but it is, in the end, a wonderful and touching read about an American family’s impact on history.

Review by Rob Ballister (April 2019)


Author's Synopsis

From Valor, Triumph is a work of military historical fiction celebrating the valiant American warriors whose courage and sacrifice enable the American Dream. It spans from World War One through the War on Terror and centers on four generations of the Howard family and their courage, honor and valor on and off the battlefield, as well as the humorous side of military life.

ISBN/ASIN:  978-1-947309-31-9
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 344



Delta Sierra by Larry Fry

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MWSA Review

Larry Fry’s Delta Sierra is a riveting tale that perfectly captures the experience of the Vietnam attack pilots during one of America’s most controversial conflicts.

Gary Deale is a U.S. Air Force Academy graduate who wants to fly fighters. Realizing his dream, he is assigned to fly the F-105 Thunderchief, more commonly known as the “Thud,” and sent to Vietnam. Though designed and designated as a fighter, Thuds were used in Vietnam as attack aircraft, and soon Gary is going deep into North Vietnam to deliver bombs on target. Thud pilots paid a terrible price, with almost half of all Thuds produced being shot down in combat. Will he be able to complete a 100-mission tour?

Back home, Gary’s new bride Allison waits in anxious anticipation for his return. Every waking moment she wonders if she will see him again, or if at that moment, he is even still alive.

The author does a wonderful job of telling two stories, those of Gary and Allison. Gary’s story is told in third person, and Allison’s in first. It’s a bit unusual to switch back and forth between the two, but Fry makes it work. He masterfully weaves the two stories together, leaving the reader as much in the dark as Allison about her husband.

This is a very well done story, with gripping action, tender moments, and real human motion. Though fiction, it feels very real to the reader, and toward the end was very difficult to put down. Those looking to read about the true combat experience both in theater and on the home front will appreciate this book. 

Review by Rob Ballister (May 2019)


Author's Synopsis

While flying his seventy-sixth combat mission over North Vietnam on 14 July 1967, Air Force pilot Gary Bishop Deale is shot down by an enemy missile. There is no confirmation from the North Vietnamese as to whether Gary has been captured or killed. His official status is listed as missing in action. Prior to this, Gary’s training at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina, before departing for Southeast Asia, prepares him for flying combat missions over a heavily defended area. Upon arriving in Thailand, Gary meets Major Matt Foxe, who becomes his leader. A strong friendship develops between the two men as they execute missions over Laos and North Vietnam. Devoting all of his adult life to becoming an Air Force officer and pilot, Gary wants to fly in combat. But he wonders why many missions are flown against insignificant targets such as suspect truck parks. Allison Faith Deale, his wife and a graduate student at the Marine Lab in Beaufort, North Carolina, receives confirmation of her pregnancy just before being informed that her husband has been shot down by an enemy missile. Married for only seven months, Allison is truly shocked by Gary’s disappearance. The love of her life is missing in action. Allison continues writing her thesis through the turbulence of the Tet Offensive in South Vietnam in February 1968. The birth of their son, Gary Bishop Deale, Junior, provides reassurance and hope, but there is also a dark side to her life. As the years slowly pass by, there is no confirmation that Gary has been captured or killed. Even after the Paris Peace Accord goes into effect and the Prisoners of War return from North Vietnam in 1973, Gary remains missing. After waiting four years, Allison decides to have Gary declared dead in 1977. The Air Force issues a Presumptive Finding of Death—Body Not Recovered at her request. A memorial service is conducted at Allison’s family’s farm in Maryland. She moves on with her life, finding happiness and fulfilment. It is only in 2006, twenty-nine years after Gary went missing that Allison finally discovers his fate.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781475009989
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 397


Idol Thoughts by Harvey E. Baker

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MWSA Review

If you enjoy gripping combat fiction in a story that keeps you eagerly turning pages, you'll love Harvey E. Baker's Idol Thoughts. The details of a fictional "undeclared" war in the Laotian jungle, conducted by Khemoi/ Nuoung/ Montagnards and their Special Forces "snake-eating" advisors, are vividly realistic. That's not surprising, because Baker lived and fought in the war he describes. The horrors of life in an NVA prison camp are powerfully depicted as well, giving the lie to the ridiculous slander that the Americans who were captured in the Vietnam war weren't "heroes." The novel's conclusion is a warp-speed-paced version of the movie Three Kings. Besides being a great read, this is also a profoundly honest novel about combat and the men and women who fight for their country.

Review by Tom Behr (April 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Set in the Vietnam War, that involves a 1st Reconnaissance Battalion recon team, led by Marine Lieutenant John Casey, tasked with locating a POW camp. The team is shot down in Laos and is rescued from the NVA by a mountain tribe of Laotian Nuongs led by a Special Forces Green Beret Major. This is a story about the team's survival and the survival of the Green Beret Major as a prisoner of war. This novel explores the Annamite Mountain legend and mystery of the "Sun Shine Buddha." and it highlights the warrior creed, "Leave no man behind" even if the government has written the man off as just another casualty of war.

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN# BOOZBGBQC4, ISBN-13# 1521905312
Book Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 536

Spirit Warrior/ Charlie Hunt One by Harvey E Baker

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Author's Synopsis

Recon Scout Sniper, Blackfoot Indian Marine, named Two Feathers, is tasked with locating the 419th NVA Battalion suspected of being on Charlie Ridge in Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Along the way, he rescues a German shepherd named Rommel from the Viet Cong. It is a was story about survival against impossible odds and the bond between a man and a dog.

Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, History
Format(s): Soft cover, ePub/iBook
ISBN/ASIN: ASIN# BOOFJOOEXU-, ISBN-10 # 1521468435-, ISBN-13 # 978-1521458432

About the author:

Harvey E. Baker was born and raised in the Finger Lakes region of up-state, New York. After graduating high school in 1965, Harvey enlisted in the Marine Corps. Along the way, Harvey volunteered to serve in Marine Scout Dogs and eventually did two tours in Vietnam, in 1966-67 and 1968. Harvey joined the Washington, D.C. Police Department in 1968, and served in the Fifth Precinct and later in the 1st District in a variety of jobs as a patrolman, and as a plainclothesman before retiring from an injury. Harvey is a father of two and a grandfather of three, and now lives in up-state New York with his supportive, understanding and loving significant other, Shelly. Harvey is also a life member of DAV, VFW and Vietnam Veterans of America, and is a staunch police and veterans advocate. Although Harvey has written for newsletters and published short stories here and there over the years, retirement gave him the time and opportunity to write and publish his first novels. All seven of his other novels are available on Amazon.

Doppelgänger: An American Spy in World War II France by E. Thomas Behr

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MWSA Review

E. Thomas Behr has written a fun to read, suspenseful story in Doppelgänger: An American Spy in World War II France. Our protagonist, Walter, is an American citizen living in Paris during the German invasion in early 1940. As a non-combatant, he is allowed to remain in Paris and while there witnesses the Nazi atrocities. He develops a desire to join the U.S. military with the belief that the U.S. will soon enter the war against Germany.

Walter's goal is interrupted when he approached and recruited into the OSS and after training, is sent back into France to collect intelligence and support the French resistance. His achievements are significant enough that the Nazis soon put a price on his head. Bouncing around France, living in different locations, and using a number of false identities, Walter manages to stay one step ahead of his pursuers.

What he can't expect, however, is that in early 1944, his spy masters will initiate steps that include betraying him to the Nazis, all in an effort to further the Allies deception plan regarding the exact location for the D-Day invasion. The cat and mouse game Walter has been playing becomes much more dangerous.

Despite some formatting issues with the eBook I reviewed, I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good suspense-filled read.

Review by Bob Doerr (March 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 If you do battle with evil, sooner or later you pick up evil’s weapons yourself. Then you risk becoming what you seek to destroy. When the German army overwhelms France in June, 1940, Walter Hirsch’s safe, carefully-ordered intellectual life as a writer in Paris is shattered. A choking cloud of fear—Nacht und Nebel—settles over his beloved City of Light. He is recruited to join Bill Donovan’s fledgling American intelligence service, the OSS. The American-born son of an aristocratic Prussian father, his flawless German and impeccable French—and his innate ability to change cover stories like a chameleon—make him an ideal espionage agent. But his dedication to his country comes at a high price. With each new lie, a little more of his identity fades, like a face in an aging sepia photograph. With each new cold-blooded execution, a little more of his soul shrivels. “Bill Donovan was right,” he realizes. “When you become a spy, the first person you have to kill is your former self.” In April 1944, now with a Gestapo bounty of three million francs on his head, a burned-out Walter is ordered to Calais to scout German beach defenses and troop movement prior to the invasion of France. His new assignment plunges him into a world of treachery and betrayal in which not even his own government can be trusted. Ultimately, his survival depends on the efforts of England’s most lethal SOE assassin, the “Black Widow,” a woman with her own mysterious connection to Walter Hirsch. But even if her daring rescue mission succeeds, what will remain of the man she has come to save? Can the cost of preserving freedom have become too unbearably high?

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 9781731047878 ASIN: B07KDWWBYZ
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 374

Mysterious Mike and the Hmong: Secrets of the Secret War in Laos by M H Burton

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Author's Synopsis

In June of 1960 Mike Bauer is a naïve idealistic 22-year-old Minnesota farm boy with a freshly-minted Agronomy Degree who wants to do good in the world and have some adventures while doing it.  “Those faraway places with the strange sounding names” are calling him.  He signs on for two years at $75 a month as an agricultural advisor with a missionary society supported by his church and hits the jackpot.  Laos is almost exactly half way around the world from New Germania, Minnesota, can’t get farther away than that.  Xiengkhouang and Naxaithong and Lhat Houang sound exotic enough for you?  Those are just some of the places.  How about the people?  Is Prince-General Phongphasansak Inxixiengmai enough of a mouthful?  Mike gets what he signed up for, and a lot more. Finds himself posted to a mission at Lhat Houang which is in middle of a war his superiors hadn’t told him about-possibly because they didn’t know about it themselves. That’s just beginning of the craziness, danger and adventure.  He soon begins to call Laos “Alice in Wonderland”.  Things just keep getting “curiouser and curiouser”…for sixteen years.

But long before those sixteen years are up in 1976 and Mike returns to his native Minnesota he has become “Mysterious Mike”.  A CIA master spy?  An international drug Lord?  The “Lawrence of Laos”?  A bloody-handed war criminal?  An unsung hero?  Or is he just what he says he is, an agricultural advisor to the Hmong mountain people. The brave men and women (and children) who fought so long and hard and skillfully against the Communist takeover of Laos.  They needed much more than advice on how to improve their crops.  They needed help surviving…and in the end they needed help escaping the Communists and finding a new home…in Minnesota.  Mike Bauer did what he could to help them.  With all of that! 

ISBN/ASIN: 9781986124881 Paperback 1986124886 ebook
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 295

Silent Warriors: Submarine Warfare in the Pacific by Gene Masters

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MWSA Review

At the beginning of World War II, the only defense to the Japanese in the Pacific was the United States Submarine Service. Silent Warriors by Gene Masters is an action-packed story of submarine warfare featuring a young Naval Academy graduate, Jake Lawlor. 

Born on May 8, 1911, Jacob Julius Lawlor from Des Moines, Iowa was the youngest of five children and the only boy. Painfully shy around females except for his sisters, Jake channeled all his energy to excel in academics and sports. Unable to afford college, Jake wrote to his Congressman seeking an appointment to one of the academies where his education was free. He was overjoyed to be accepted at Annapolis. Thus, the stellar and heroic naval career of Jake Lawlor begins.

Masters creatively spins this lengthy historical fiction tale while integrating an endearing and interesting cast of characters. Artfully chronicling naval battles in the Pacific theater of war, the author weaves Jake’s personal life, his loves, and the lasting friendships made while in service to his country into the fabric of the story. From 1941 through the Japanese surrender aboard the battleship Missouri on September 2, 1945, the reader is intimately involved in eleven submarine war patrols and the precision-oriented personnel aboard the boat.

Lawlor’s wartime opponent, Imperial Japanese Navy Captain Hiriake Ito are on parallel naval career trajectories for their respective countries until their paths cross time and again. In the end, Lawlor becomes the victor and Captain Ito becomes the conquered.  

Silent Warriors is a detailed technical read for naval veterans, historical fiction fans, and romantics will enjoy the enduring love stories within.

Review by Nancy Panko (March 2019)

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 year is 1941. Shortly after the United States declares war on Japan in response to Pearl Harbor, Japan’s Axis allies, Germany and Italy, declare war on America. The United States finds itself in a two-theater war. President Franklin Roosevelt sets as America’s first priority, the defeat of Nazi Germany, electing to wage a more-or-less holding action in the Pacific. In the beginning, the only force opposing the Japanese onslaught in the Pacific is the U.S. Submarine Service. Jake Lawlor begins the war as Executive Officer aboard USS S-49, an aged S-class submarine, with orders to conduct unrestricted warfare against the enemy in the Pacific. When a freak mid-sea grounding causes the loss of S-49, Jake assumes command of USS Orca, a new Gato-class submarine under construction in Groton, CT. As Jake prepares a new boat and a freshly assembled crew for war, the conflict in the Pacific is going badly for the Allies. This is the story of captain Jake Lawlor’s eleven war patrols, including an ongoing conflict with Hiriake Ito, captain of the Imperial Japanese Navy destroyer Atsukaze. The crew of the Orca is made up of grizzled regulars and untried youngsters, all working together for a single purpose: to bring an implacable enemy to its knees. Along the way, friendships are forged, and love affairs and marriages are created – and destroyed

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN: B07G9LFTWT, ASIN: 0692172246, ASIN: 0692173366
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 587

A Distant Field: A Novel of World War I by RJ MacDonald

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MWSA Review

Living through the hell: bullets, bayonets and artillery

From the sinking of the Lusitania to the battlefield cauldron of Gallipoli, RJ MacDonald weaves an action-packed story that leaves the reader breathless. Meticulously researched, the author traces the lives of two brothers from the moment the Lusitania is struck by a torpedo in 1915 to their dramatic rescue at sea off the coast of Ireland by four teenage O’Connell friends who rowed eleven miles to help survivors to the hell of World War I.

The brothers are Scots-Americans—Stuart and Ross McReynolds—bent on getting revenge from the Germans who killed their parents, enlisting in the British Army along with the O’Connells. After a week of basic training, mostly in sharpshooting, their small unit leaves for France but the trip is interrupted by the worst rail disaster in Great Britain’s history. Hospitalized by injuries from the train wreck, they missed the boat to France, but are shipped instead to Gallipoli, a battle in faraway Turkey that is not going well for the Allies. Crammed on a small peninsula, the boys join waves of brave soldiers rushing to the jaws of murderous machine guns, the rain of deadly artillery shells, the stench of rotting corpses, and inept field commanders who send thousands to their deaths.

The author brings to life the horror of trench warfare, of devastating artillery barrages that wipe out brigades charging on open ground, of the life and death struggle of hand-to-hand combat, of the thirst and constant hunger, of the heat and flies, of seeing your friends killed and wounded without being able to help them. In vivid detail, MacDonald tells the story of a section of the Seaford Highlanders and their relationships with the Royal Scots, the Scottish Rifle Brigade, the 52th Lowland Division,  and the French, Australian, and New Zealander divisions, all suffering horrific casualties in one of the bloodiest and least successful campaigns of the First World War.

A Distant Field is not for the squeamish, but there are tender moments as Stuart and Ross meet young ladies who pine for them after they leave Scotland. The attention to detail of time and places, coupled with intimate understanding of soldiers in combat, makes me wait anxiously for its promised sequel. 

Review by Joe Epley (February 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 "Torpedo! Starboard side!" Scots-Americans Stuart and Ross McReynolds struggle for their lives as the RMS Lusitania rapidly sinks off the Irish coast in 1915. They only survive thanks to four young Irishmen who row to their rescue. Together, with a Canadian and a young English officer, they all go on to join the Seaforth Highlanders, the remotest of all Scottish regiments in the British Army. On the way Stuart falls deeply in love with Nell, a friend of his cousin who lives in a small coastal fishing village on the east coast of Scotland. Their initial training is hurried, and they set off for France, only to become ensnared in the Quintinshill Disaster, the worst train crash in British history, which kills or wounds hundreds of Scottish soldiers. After recuperating, they receive new orders to sail for Gallipoli, where they face their baptism of fire and must learn to fight and survive under the blazing Aegean sun against Turkish soldiers, Jihad-sworn to push them back into the sea.


ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 1944353208, ISBN-13: 978-1944353209, ASIN: B07J1RPSPW
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 324

Saving Lou by Linda Loegel

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MWSA Review

Linda Loegel’s Saving Lou is an interesting and absorbing story about a family coming together to survive the depression and the separation of World War II.

Lou Dyson is one half of a set of twins born in 1923. However, his brother Larry doesn’t survive to leave the hospital after birth, and Lou spends his whole life comparing himself to a brother he never knew. Struggling in school and life, Lou constantly feels that his brother Larry would have done it “better.” When the nation goes to war and Lou finds himself in the Navy, will combat at sea be enough to prove to himself that his life is worth living?

This book is a story of a family coming together to overcome challenges. It is filled with love, concern, and heartache as the Dyson family deals with the Great Depression and World War II on the home front. The author uses the events in history as a backdrop to illustrate the importance of family, hard work, and service to country. Fans of World War II historical fiction will find this read worthwhile.

Review by Rob Ballister (March 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 Lou Dyson spends a lifetime comparing himself to his dead twin brother, and comes up short each time. If his family can't help him appreciate his true worth, will the United States Navy be able to? World War II brings Lou face to face with two formidable enemies--a kamikaze pilot intent on destruction and his biggest enemy of all, himself. Join Lou aboard the USS Enterprise as they sail full speed ahead into the heat of battle.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1548534219
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 238

Hope in The Shadows of War by Thomas Paul Reilly

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MWSA Review

Author Thomas Paul Reilly has penned an interesting story in his book Hope in the Shadows of War. Reilly’s protagonist, Timothy, has arrived home from Vietnam where he suffered a severe leg injury and lost a close friend to combat. In addition to his leg injury, the memories of his last battle, during which he was injured and his good friend was killed in a chopper crash trying to rescue him, haunt his dreams almost daily. Trying to get a college degree while working two part-time jobs is hard enough, but pile on an unreliable car and a mother to care for, and Timothy’s future looks bleak. 

On the positive side, Timothy has a devoted girlfriend, a close friend whom he served with in Vietnam, and a wise old man who enters his life briefly, all trying to keep him moving in the right direction. The struggle is all too real, and the outcome in constant flux. Author Thomas Reilly has created an internal struggle of hope and despair that catches a reader’s attention and emotions. I recommend this book.

Review by Bob Doerr (February 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 Since 1981, Tom has traveled globally sharing his content-rich message of hope. Tom literally wrote the book on Value-Added Selling. Tom has a B.A. in Psychology from St. Louis University and an M.A. in Psychology from University of Missouri in St. Louis with a special emphasis in motivation theory. He spent four years in the United States Army. Tom served with the Americal Division and 1st Aviation Brigade in Vietnam from 1969-1970. He honed his leadership skills as a Drill Sergeant. Tom is a prolific writer and researcher. He is a recipient of the Northeast Business Editors Silver Award, author of sixteen books, and editorial contributor to several magazines. Tom is an avid golfer, Harley-Davidson rider, and fountain pen collector. Tom’s writings cover a wide range of topics: patriotism, war, inspiration, humor, short stories, fiction, non-fiction, and poetry.

ISBN/ASIN: B07HDCWRNT, 1633937046, 163393702X
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 278

The Final Flag by John Nevola

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In John Nevola’s “The Final Flag,” a chance meeting in the hospital room of a mysterious World War Two veteran results in a continent-spanning hunt by four active-duty military sleuths who try to track down the fate of a group of elite paratroopers.

Swapping back and forth between past and present, Nevola transports the reader back in time to follow these warriors’ fighting through northern Africa, Italy, France, and finally in Belgium for Hitler’s last-gasp offensive--the Battle of the Bulge.  A remarkable level of detail and Nevola’s easy writing style puts you in the thick of battle with this group of elite, but overlooked military heroes.

Part of the so-called “Greatest Generation,” this group of veterans is made up almost exclusively of Italian Americans.  However, at this time in history, they didn’t consider themselves as part of a great generation.  In fact, they had to struggle against suspicion and bigotry, as many of their fellow Americans questioned their loyalty--and in many cases, didn’t even consider them “fully American.”

In many ways, “The Final Flag” is a genre-buster.  Although billed as a work of historical fiction, the book’s almost 500 pages are also crammed with a wealth of incredibly detailed historical facts.  For this reason, the book often has the feel of a history treatise, rather than a work of fiction.

This book will definitely appeal to those wanting to learn more about many of the early US military airborne units during the Second World War and the battles they fought.  However, MWSA reviewers also felt that the book would benefit from another editing run to address some noticeable technical issues. 

Review by John Cathcart (September 2018)


Author's Synopsis

An old soldier’s last request spirals into a worldwide search to recover the remains of seven missing GIs from World War II. A four-person team of both military and civilian volunteers conduct the investigation. All they have to work with is a list of names. Their only motivation is to honor the fallen and give closure to their families. Or is there some other unknown purpose at play? What seems like an impossible task becomes fraught with bombshell surprises. The Department of Defense refuses to cooperate. The investigators also unexpectedly uncover likely evidence of a conspiracy and cover-up at the highest echelons of the Army. The taint of ethnic discrimination becomes more evident as they delve into the investigation. Most of the names on the list were of Italian-American descent at a time when non-citizen Italian-American immigrants were considered enemy aliens. While some were arrested or detained in internment camps, others were forcibly displaced, had private property seized and suffered the degradation and humiliation of being targeted by the American government. All this while their sons served and died overseas. However, it turns out some of these seven men survived the War. It was a place to start. The four eventually narrow the search to two bastard independent parachute infantry battalions with troubled reputations. As they unravel the mystery, they also uncover scandalous indications of the contemptible mis-treatment of these two battalions at the hands of higher commands. Both units were annihilated at the Battle of the Bulge, ignominiously disbanded and their records burned. What was the Army hiding? The searchers stubbornly persist against all obstacles to uncover the fate of the missing men. To their amazement, what they discovered was spectacularly astonishing and would change lives forever. Proceeds from The Final Flag are donated to assist families of the fallen.

ISBN/ASIN: Hardcover: 978-1478728825, Paperback: 978-1432773488, Kindle: B07DMZ2VKD
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 493

Bandits Below by David Brown

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MWSA Review

In Bandits Below, Marine Air-Ground Team in Pursuit of the Bandit Sandino, author LtCol David Brown, USMC (Ret.) has penned a fast moving historical novel.  Based on true historical events, Brown tells the story of the U.S. Marines early attempts at integrating air and ground forces. Set in the mountainous regions of northeastern Nicaragua, an expeditionary Marine force has been given the task of capturing the bandit, Augusto Caesar Sandino. Sandino declared himself a revolutionary leader and has set his sights not only on Nicaragua but a large portion of Latin America.

The author does a great job in describing the military units, tactics used, and then goes a step further in walking the reader through the learning curve of using early airpower effectively with ground troops. There were no study guides back then. Remember this is the day before radio communications, so the forces on the ground and in the air had to develop basic methods of communications with each other. Brown draws the reader into the story so you almost feel like you're watching the story unfold rather than reading about it.

Although the reader may have to overlook a few editing problems (especially in the Spanish language excerpts), this is a great read for anyone interested in military history or air power in general.

Review by Bob Doerr (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Marine Corps. 22-years of active duty. Two tours in Vietnam, serving both as an advisor and rifle company commander during 1967-1969 at height of the war. Earned Silver Star Medal. Instructed economics at the U.S. Naval Academy and headed the Marine Corps Procurement Budget. Upon retirement, consulted to the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy. Executive Director of the Second Marine Division Association and Chairman of the Board for the Carolina Museum of the Marine. Wrote published over 15 articles in the Marine Corps Gazette and Amphibious Warfare Review. Authored books on training, automated information systems, and logistics. First novel, Battlelines, is an historical fiction written about the gallant men of Fox Company, 2d Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment during their five-year deployment to Vietnam. Gold Award 2006 MWSA. Holds an MBA from George Washington University and a BA from Denison University.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-64138-655-5
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 327
 

The Mark of Wu: Hidden Paths by Stephen M. Gray

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

 If you enjoy a descriptive historical fiction read, filled with plenty of action and palace intrigue, then you won’t be disappointed in Stephen M. Gray’s The Mark of Wu—Book One: Hidden Paths!

Set during China’s Eastern Zhou (Chou) Dynasty’s Spring and Autumn Period (722-481 BC), the main character, Yuan, faces peril from all sides. His family has fallen out of favor with King Ping of Chu due to the internal scheming of powerful members of the court. Yuan is determined to regain that favor through a victorious battle. He is a gifted commander and well respected by his men. His aptitude for leadership and tactics is well known. But circumstances beyond his control plunge him into a deadly game of survival after a decisive engagement is lost—through no fault of his own.

Prince Chien, King Ping’s heir apparent, has been exiled and with him Yuan’s family. When King Ping executes Yuan’s father and brother, the commander must use all his wiles to keep Prince Chien’s family from being next on the block. And so begins an incredible journey through the countryside, evading guards who chase them at every turn, unforgiving terrain, and lack of provisions. The survivors finally end up in the hands of an old enemy whom Yuan must now persuade to keep them safe.

Gray’s knowledge of the period’s weaponry and battle strategy is educational and fascinating. His characters are well-developed and credible. The details of the story are vivid and the language used colorful. Despite noticeable errors in editing, the tale is engrossing.

Review by Sandi Cowper (September 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Ancient China, 519 B.C. Yuan, a State of Chu warrior, stands front and center on his chariot, reins in hand, holding at bay a spirited team of horses. He is anxious for a chance to unleash his rage on the invading Wu barbarians in the battle before him. His eyes fix enviously on a fellow soldier, a halberdier who extends his hooked weapon over the shoulder of an enemy who desperately sprints away from the charging chariot. Yuan knows the result before it happens. The wicked blade rips through flesh and muscle, then sinks into the enemy’s collar bone as screams echo off the Dabie Shan Mountains. 

Yuan glances toward Field Marshall Wei Yue, thirsting for the order to charge into the fray. He needs this fight to restore his family’s honor. But on the march to battle, Chu’s brilliant General Yang Gai dies, and the less capable Wei Yue snatches control. Can the newly anointed Field Marshall rise to the challenge?
 
The Emperor has lost his grip on the feudal States, and brutal rivalries, both new and old, now rule. Individual States constantly collide, and noblemen must rise in power to overcome the crushing will of warring factions. Only two outcomes are possible - prevail or perish. 

Yuan finds himself catapulted into the throes of treacherous enemies, not only on the battlefield but also at home. This superior warrior will need all his skill and cunning to stay alive. 

Hidden Paths is the first book in The Mark of Wu series. It opens as the Spring and Autumn Period of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty devolves toward the Warring States Period.


ISBN/ASIN: ISBN: 9780999007105 / ASIN: B07B49T2JR
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 383