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The Final Flag by John Nevola

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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

The Tale of Buzz-Anna The Traveling Bee by Cathy-Ann M. Alexander

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Tale of Buzz-Anna the Traveling Bee by Cathy-Ann M. Alexander is a unique idea for a children's book. Buzz-Anna develops a wanderlust yearning for the bright lights of the big city. "One day I will leave and move to the big city, where the bee-utiful lights will shine and dance on my bee-utiful body! I will marry a city prince and have lots of bee-utiful ba-bees!""

Accompanied by bee-utiful illustrations, the reader/listener journeys with two adorable bees until Buzz-Anna makes the decision to strike out on her own to follow her dreams.

Review by Nancy Panko (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Tale of Buzz-Ann the Traveling Bee is the story about a little bee named Buzz-Anna who lives in the small town of Bees-Ville with her mother, Tree-Lisa, her father Comb-Ba, her sister Honey-Sha, and her brother Nest-er. Buzz-Anna hates her small town of Bees-Ville and dreams of moving to a big city. But day after day, Buzz-Anna finds herself still living in her small town. One day Buzz-Anna and her best friend Wax-Ann went exploring through the forest when they discovers a new world on the other side. Buzz-Ann knew that this was going to be her way out to the big city. The Tale of Buzz-Ann the Travelling Bee will take you on a journey as Buzz-Anna travels through her newly discovered world, to find a big city and follow her dream of finding and marrying a prince. The Tale of Buzz-Anna the Travelling Bee is a children’s book about following your dreams. This is a book written to remind children that they should never limit themselves, to think outside the box, and to always follow their dreams.

ISBN/ASIN: Soft cover- 9781546213840; Hard cover - 9781546213826; E-Book- 9781546213833; ASIN: B0796576PY
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Fiction, Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 38
 

African American Warrant Officers - Their Remarkable History by Farrell Chiles

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The handsome red, white and blue cover of Farrell J. Chiles’ “African American Warrant Officers: Their Remarkable History,” promises stories of achievements and contributions of the too-long-unacknowledged men and women who have served as warrant officers of the United State Army—those men and women, that is, who administer, manage, maintain, operate and integrate “Army systems and equipment across the full spectrum of Army operations.”  A companion volume to Chiles’s earlier collection, “African American Warrant Officers: In Service to Our Country,” this volume honors the centennial of the Army Warrant Officer Corps by presenting individual vignettes of one hundred African American warrant officers. Chiles has compiled these profiles from a variety of sources, some submitted by individual authors, many written and published by Chiles himself in official newsletters such as the “Rocket” and the USAWOA (United States Army Warrant Officers Association) “Newsliner.”

Chiles opens the book with a short chapter defining Warrant Officer (“an adaptive technical expert, combat leader, trainer, and advisor”) and explaining the different grade, ranks and education system for warrant officers. This is followed by a brief overview of the one hundred year history of the Warrant Officers Cohort, established by Act of Congress on 9 July 1918. The main chapters of individual profiles are then grouped by information source such as newsletters, obituaries and Chiles’ earlier collection, “African American Warrant Officers: In Service to Our Country.”  Each vignette includes the accomplishments and awards of individual warrant officers along with one to three photographs, and many include personal anecdotes and quotations that provide fascinating glimpses into the warrant officers’ lives.
 “African American Warrant Officers: Their Remarkable History” is a handy research guide that offers a series of individual histories rather than the broader history of African American contributions to the Warrant Officer Cohort that the title seems to promise. For his dogged research, writing and publication over the years, we owe a debt of gratitude to Farrell J. Chiles.  His work provides the inspiring first steps needed in illuminating the remarkable history of African American serving their country as warrant officers in the U. S. Army.

MWSA Review by Nancy Arbuthnot (August 2018)


Author's Synopsis

African American Warrant Officers - Their Remarkable History is a compilation of articles, biographies, and stories about African Americans who served or are serving in the United States Army Warrant Officers Corps. The book is in conjunction with the 100th Anniversary of the Warrant Officers Corps (1918-2018). There is an African proverb that says "Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter." This historical book tells the history of African American Army Warrant Officers. Their history is rich and their achievements and contributions to the United States and the United States Army are remarkable. This book allows African American Army Warrant Officers to tell their stories.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-63263-785-7
Book Format(s): Hard cover, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): History, Biography, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Reference
Number of Pages: 258
 

Chopper Heroes by William Peterson

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

This read will take your breath away.  The harrowing details faced daily by Vietnam chopper crew members are vividly presented.  Each brief and deeply personal story creates new visuals of the daily fight to stay alive.  Powerfully moved, I felt back in time--similar to punching big buttons on a 60's jukebox full of deep cuts during that era.  However, this book's selections were not classic music from long ago.  Instead, in an amazing fashion, Chopper Heroes records ordeals faced by our bravest young men in service that are far more powerful than the music back then.  Simply stated, I highly recommend this book to those who appreciate valor and enjoy history about potentially forgotten warriors.

Review by Hodge Wood (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Chopper Heroes ~ Have Guns Will Travel will introduce many of the survivors of the nasty war in Vietnam. The true, interesting, gut-wrenching and often thrilling stories you are about to read are from men whom I am honored to know. Many of the words written here are theirs from interviews I have done. As a storyteller, I have tried to recapture the events as they happened forty-five plus years ago. The narrative and scenes created here are mostly true, and the dialogue is written for all audiences from teenagers to adults, men and women alike.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781981656943    ISBN-13: 978-1981771561    ISBN-10: 1981771565
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Religious/Spiritual
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 130
 

The Consultant by Tj O'Connor

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The Consultant by Tj O'Connor introduces us to a consultant for the CIA who likes to work alone and to do things his way.  His superior believes in sharing information on a need-to-know basis and knows his rogue agent well.  Information about Hunter's professional and personal lives are shared with the reader as the story evolves; both are complicated.  He arrives home in Virginia in response to a message from his older brother only to witness his brother's dying words.  He learns of his brother's family as he struggles with relating to various law enforcers.  It's unclear who can be trusted.  As he searches for his brother's murderer, he stumbles into much bigger problems as terrorist attacks on civilians escalate and the country seems to be drifting toward another Middle East conflict.  At times Hunter uses self-deprecating humor that endears the character to readers.  His humor makes the "consultant" more likable in spite of his history of doing horrific things in his line of work.  A timely story worth reading.

Review by Nancy Kauffman (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

When a rogue CIA consultant goes AWOL from his Middle Eastern post in response to his brother’s plea for help, he arrives just in time to witness his brother’s murder. For years, Jonathan Hunter and his brother Kevin Mallory had not spoken—until Kevin’s final words, “… Khalifah … Not Them … Maya.” Pursuing his brother’s killer, Hunter stumbles into a nest of horrifying terrorist activity by Middle Eastern refugees, which sparks a backlash across America. In the shadows, Hunter’s mentor, the omnipotent Oscar LaRue, is playing a dangerous game with Russian Intelligence. Neither Hunter nor LaRue realizes that a new threat—the Iranian threat—has entered the game. Stakes rise as two shadowy players are one step ahead of Hunter and LaRue—Khalifah, a terrorist mastermind, and Caine, a nomadic assassin who dances with the highest bidder. As attacks escalate and the country drifts toward another Middle East conflict, innocent refugees become trapped between the terrorists and the terrorized. Prejudice, hate, and fear vent everywhere. Is this who we’ve become? Before the country explodes, Hunter must find Khalifah, learn the next terror target, and pray he’s in time to stop further annihilation.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-60809-283-3
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 432
 

Air Force One by Nicholas Veronico

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Air Force One, The Aircraft of the Modern U.S. Presidency by Robert F. Dorr and Nicholas A. Veronica is the first in-depth history of the iconic airplane with the call sign "Air Force One" indicating that its passenger is the president of the United States. The book is rich in detail and has all manner of fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses into the flight, operation, and impact of Air Force One. As the authors point out, though people think that Air Force One is the Boeing 747 painted in presidential livery, the call sign actually refers to any aircraft in which the president flies (the exception being the Marine helicopter he uses, whose call sign is "Marine One"). Covering sixty years of history, it is loaded with historical photos and contains many interviews of people who worked at varying aspects of the aircraft. An important addition to the history of the presidency and aviation.

Review by Dwight Zimmerman (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The presidential plane wasn’t always known as Air Force One. FDR traveled in the Guess Where II, a transport version of the heavy bomber four-engine Liberator. Later presidential aircraft included the Dixie Clipper and Sacred Cow (FDR), Independence (Truman), Columbine I and II (Eisenhower), followed by Air Force One.

For the last sixty years Air Force One has seen every president and first lady through each administration's triumphs and tragedies, and has flown over a million miles around the globe.

Featuring new and unseen photography of the presidential aircraft, aviation expert and author Nicholas A. Veronico brings the story of the mighty aircraft up to date; detailing how the plane has adapted to the digital age, and what to look forward to as Boeing updates the aircraft once more for 2024.

Get ready to fly!

ISBN/ASIN: 9780760357996
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): History
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 160
 

Bandits Below by David Brown

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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
 

The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict by Christopher Herndon and Joris Kila

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Though only 134 pages long, "The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict" is a surprisingly thorough examination of the reasons behind the destruction of culturally significant sites, artifacts, and living creatures in times of conflict and of the institutions and laws in place. The authors provide not only numerous examples, but also identify relevant institutions and international laws devoted to protecting them. They also examine the diverse motivations behind the devastation of looting, trafficking, and outright destruction, and how even the language used to describe such incidents has evolved and become a point of contention. The many recent examples mentioned in the book highlight the scope of the problem and how urgent is to find solutions to solve it. "The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict" is a good primer for someone looking to better understand this international tragedy.

Review by Dwight Zimmerman (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

The Wicked Problem of Cultural Heritage and Conflict: Military involvement in the protection and devastation of Cultural Property.

The world’s cultural heritage is currently not only threatened by time, nature, and human development and also increasingly by armed conflicts. We see destructions caused by looting and illicit traffic but also iconoclasm and manipulations of cultural heritage for political, religious, economic, and propaganda reasons. Revenues derived from the illegal selling are often used to finance conflicts as illustrated in the Da’esh business model example in this publication. Cultural Property Protection (CPP), while legally mandatory under national and international law, are poorly implemented and sanctions are rarely enforced. There is however, a constant and international demand for education and outcomes of multidisciplinary research on the topic, especially in the context of conflict and crime.

Research must include military perspectives, and common mechanisms connected to abuse and protection. Outcomes should contain academic conceptualization, as well as practice based solutions to diminish and mitigate damage. To meet demands while expanding, and following up on their previous works, the authors wrote this publication. It contains a selection of case examples and incorporates recent developments and trends. All ingredients serve to feed research and dialogue about the use and abuse of cultural heritage especially in the event of conflict, with a focus on cooperation and coordination between civil stakeholders and military parties.

A selection of identified fundamental CPP problems is discussed as part of a comparative analysis with field examples such as the Dugong case, an illustration of overlap between cultural and natural heritage coined as hybrid heritage. Other cases include events in Libya, Estonia, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and Mali. All are weighed against Horst Rittel’s wicked problems theory and other concepts while involving new notions of securitization, politicization, memorialization and propagandization of cultural property. Last but not least, the authors signal within circles of IO’s, NGO’s and Governmental parties involved in the management and protection of heritage, an increase of bureaucratic behavior and political use of mankind’s cultural heritage contributing to the current deplorable situation.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9994932-1-2, 978-0-9994932-2-9, 978-0-9994932-0-5
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Genre(s): Nonfiction, Creative Nonfiction, Reference
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Reference
Number of Pages: 134
 

Eddie and Bingo : Destination Christmas by Kathleen and Katherine Taylor

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Eddie and Bingo: Destination Christmas by Kathleen Taylor and Katherine L. Taylor is a delightful children’s picture book based on the life of a U.S. Navy sailor. As a sequel to Eddie and Bingo: A Friendship Tale, this book explores the life of a naval combat photographer during the years of the Korean War. The book is a heartwarming tale of normal everyday ship life as well as time spent ashore. Eddie, our “hero” is a regular guy whose kindness and compassion shine through in all he does. After Christmas leave is cut short and Eddie is ordered to return to the ship, the sailors find a meaningful way to share Christmas where they are stationed. And what about Bingo, the dog Eddie discovered on board in the previous book? Rest assured he makes an appearance in this book too, bringing joy to children and sailors alike.

Eddie and Bingo is engagingly illustrated, and children will identify particularly with the facial expressions of the characters throughout the book. They will also find enough detail to capture their attention while someone reads the words of each spread.  A brief glossary of navy terms as well as some fun facts are found in the back, along with some of the actual photos taken by the Navy photographer who is the inspiration for this book.

For those who love the Navy or are interested in learning more about combat photographers, this book will provide exceptional conversations with your young ones.

Review by Betsy Beard (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Eddie's Christmas Destination is uncertain. Will he fly home to New York City for the holidays?Could he stay in Hawaii fulfilling the admiral's photo assignments? Would the Navy send him back to Japan to be reunited with his pup, Bingo? See what develops this Christmas?

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-62901-538-5
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Creative Nonfiction, History, Biography, Picture Book
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 48
 

Flowers from Afghanistan by Suzy Parish

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In “Flowers from Afghanistan” by Suzy Parish, the narrator, Mac, grieving the death of his young son, leaves his wife of seven years at home to accept a year-long position in Afghanistan training police officers. Through his friendships with military and civilian Americans on base and a local contract worker, Gil, and his young son, Mac begins to understand that others’ lives are also filled with pain, and that his attempts to ignore or escape from suffering are fruitless. Although Mac resists Sophie and her faith in God for a long while, in the end he discovers the redemptive power of love.  

Set mainly in Afghanistan, the novel is filled with intriguing glimpses into life in an exotic, war-torn country. The author presents interesting details (many of which, the author acknowledges, come from her husband’s descriptions of his experiences as a police trainer in Afghanistan) of the Afghan countryside and customs as well as life on base. For example, Mac at one point notes that in Afghanistan “beards were honored as the sign of an elder.” At their best, the images reveal a character’s feelings or mindset, as when Mac compares the bright orange sky to “the color of ice cream on a stick I bought as a kid” or when he notes how Sophie, clearly disappointed in his lack of responsiveness, “unwrapped herself from my arm, like removing last year’s worn jacket.” While reading, I often found myself marveling at the strength of an image or a bit of dialogue, such as the time when Sophie asks Mac, who gives her so little emotional support, “Can’t you just pick me up some flowers?” 

“Flowers from Afghanistan,” directed at a Christian audience, is about redemption from suffering. Mac, despite his obtuseness, does grow in faith and ability to love. To me, however, despite the novel’s exemplary use of metaphorical language, Mac and the other characters remain essentially flat and one-dimensional, and the most crucial relationships lack development. Little Mac’s death and Mac’s flight to Afghanistan, for instance, both come too quickly in the book, so that we aren’t immediately drawn into the story and don’t really understand Mac’s motivations. While perhaps not sophisticated enough for a wide adult audience, with some revision “Flowers from Afghanistan” could appeal to YA readers.
 
MWSA Review by Nancy Arbuthnot (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Weighed down by guilt following the death of his two-year-old son, Mac McCann accepts a year-long position training police officers in Afghanistan. Leaving his wife Sophie to grieve alone, he hopes the life-or-death distractions of his self-imposed exile will build a wall between him and his pain.

As camaraderie builds between Mac and the men on base---including a local barber and his precocious little boy---Mac's heart becomes invested in stories beyond his own tragedy and he learns he is not the only one running from loss. But when the hour of attack arrives, will he be able to see past his guilt to believe there's still something---and someone---worth living for?

With touching details based on true events, Flowers from Afghanistan is a redemptive journey of healing, a chronicle of hope in crisis, and a testament to the faithfulness of God through it all.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 978-1-5223-0116-5  ASIN B07BZ2CWXQ
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Genre(s): Fiction, Literary Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 200
 

The Perfection of Valor by Bob Mustin

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Bob Mustin has written another fine book in The Perfection of Valor. A quick and easy read, the author writes about the events of August 29, 2005, perhaps most notable to many for the arrival of Hurricane Katrina.

However, in The Perfection of Valor, Mustin uses Katrina as one of his many subplots to pile on the stress affecting Cary Fletcher as August 29 is also the day Cary is supposed to be getting married. While the approaching storm indirectly has its affect on Cary, he is living upstate in Louisiana, and his concern is for his bride's sister still in New Orleans. The larger scenario affecting Cary is one he's had to endure since childhood, his relationship with his father, a highly decorated Marine now suffering from dementia and living in a nursing home. On the morning of the day he is to be married, Cary introduces Cornelia, his fiancé, to his father, only to have his father insult Cornelia and display his racial prejudice.  On top of this, Cary discovers that his father may have hit his mother, bruising and cutting her face. The author has tossed all this on his protagonist on the day of his planned wedding.  I recommend this book to everyone who enjoys literary fiction, and especially to those who might want to discover how this book ends. 

MWSA Review by Bob Doerr (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Colonel Fletcher Hinton, USMC, retired, has had a storied career, but one aspect of his life remains wanting as his end approaches: family. Son Cary, a former Marine and now a college professor, is about to marry outside his race, and the old man, suffering a bout of dementia, insults Cary's fiancee. Too, Cary has moved his mother away from Fletcher, fearing the old man has hit her. This then is Fletcher Hinton's final contest – proving himself a good father and husband as he battles dementia and the stain that seems to tarnish his name and, through him, the Corps.

ISBN/ASIN: 987-1642556889/B07BPDRQ7S
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Literary Fiction, History
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 208
 

War in the Company of Medics: Poems of the 45th Surgical Hospital in Vietnam by John J. Candelaria

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

War in the Company of Medics, by John J. Candelaria, uses short narrative and imagistic poems to present a tale of war from the perspective of the executive officer of a MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital) unit in Vietnam in 1969-70. Taken together, Candelaria’s thirty poems, offering vivid images of blood-soaked hands, a severely wounded commander promising “I’ll walk again,” the body of an enemy combatant caught in concertina wire, and spring rain falling amid bombs, ponder the consequences of a politically questionable war.

Most of the poems are composed in free verse lines, but several use rhyme or poetic forms such as the villanelle, haiku, and what Candelaria calls a “found poem in a Sijo sequence,” in which the titles of all the poems are included in the last poem to help create an overview of the entire poetic sequence. Most of the poems employ an objective, almost anonymous narrative voice that is quite effective.  The poems reach their best, I think, when they are most abstract and cryptic, creating scenes that could be overwhelming if relayed in a more subjective, personal manner: “Scissors cut uniforms, wounds/ pressed to keep life in”; “Blades slice the morning calm./ Dustoff arrives”; “Again, the body shudders,/ the boot strikes/ as if to wake the sleep of death.” 

Although the author occasionally concludes a poem by repeating a phrase or otherwise interpreting the scene that do not enhance the already powerful vignettes (as, for example, in “Slice of Time,” which ends with the comment “I left the morgue never/ to forget that slice of time”), overall these poems are memorable and striking. The “calm expertise” and “relentless sense of urgency” that Candelaria ascribes to the members of his surgical unit describe as well the driving tone of this work. This is a strong and significant collection.

Review by Nancy Arbuthnot (June 27, 2018)


Author's Synopsis

During the Vietnam War, MAJ John J. Candelaria served as Executive Officer of the 45th Surgical Hospital. The poems and photographs in this collection reflect the anguish resulting from soldiers wounded and killed in the line of duty. John's tribute poems to the 45th Surgical Hospital are expressions that embrace in words the courage, duty, and valor of those who served with distinction at the 45th MASH.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9861604-1-7
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Poetry Book
Review Genre: Poetry—Poetry Book
Number of Pages: 52
 

Two Stars: Reflections of a Military Wife and Mother by Victoria Ventura

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

If you want to know more about life in a military family, do not ask the soldier, the sailor, the airman. They will give you the standard government-issued picture—the “Gung-Ho” version. No, ask the parents who raised a fine, upstanding child, a scholar, a model citizen, the helper of small children and hobbling old ladies. Ask the mother who watched that son  go off to fulfill his patriotic duty by serving his country, only to return as a grown man but wounded in mind or body.

Ask the wife who marries her prince charming only to discover that his white horse is more likely to be an Army tank or a Marine helicopter. Ask her about missed birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and graduations. Ask her about the sleepless nights and the stomach-churning fear each time she sees a military staff car on her street. Ask her about the man who replaced the charming boy she married—the one who must always sit with his back to a wall, the one who dives under the nearest table if a waiter drops a tray of dishes, the one who cannot awaken from his PTSD-inspired nightmares.

The author of this book is the wife of a Vietnam veteran, dead too soon thanks to Agent Orange, and the mother of two children who followed their father’s shining example. The son is a reluctant hero, a pilot who saved 84 wounded soldiers in Afghanistan. The daughter  defied all odds (and the traditional sexual harrasssment of the military old guard) to become a top-rated Navy pilot. Victoria Ventura understands their stories all too well. Her poems portray ttheir experiences with unflinching honesty. She probes the sore places and lifts the veil that usually hides the grief from public view. Reading her words will hurt.

Approach the poems of “Two Stars: Reflections of a Military Wife and Mother” without judgment. The reader’s task is not to critique the unskilled poetic forms but to feel the pain they describe. Read these unedited words for their brutal honesty. And keep the tissues handy.

Review by Carolyn Schriber (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

This book was written to give a deeper understanding about the military because words can paint pictures that come alive of past experiences. They are like movies of the mind, the scenes that portray soldiers and their families in real life experiences whether at home, protecting foreign countries to establish a democracy, flying combat missions and being in combat on the ground. The idea of the cute Vietnam young lady twirling a flag that covers her from all the elements of war, to a Firefight pinning down Army Rangers on a hill by the Taliban and then being protected by “Big Bird’(an AC-130 Specter Gunship), gives us visions of being safe while being pinned down in a dangerous crossfire. You can feel the sadness and hear the tears and the tension in Arlington’s slow and methodical parade to the last resting sight of a soldier’s
graveside. This is followed by the bursting of explosive laughter at the simplicity of the horses’ antics at such a serious event. I hope that these experiences will give a deeper understanding to the military life of soldiers and their families as they live day to day at home, overseas deployed in foreign countries or in dangerous war zone.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10 0-9988249-3-3                    ISBN 13 978-0-9988249-3-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Collections, Memoir, Poetry Book
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 76
 

The Luckiest Guy in Vietnam by James A. Lockhart

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

James Lockhart’s combat memoir The Luckiest Guy in Vietnam, is a two-for-one surprise.  In one book we hear about both his tours as an infantry officer in Vietnam.  He first details his initial deployment, where he served as a mortar platoon and recon platoon leader in the famous “Americal” Division.  Second he delves into his second, significantly different deployment, this time as a Special Forces captain training Cambodian battalions in a little known and seldom publicized mission.

 His central theme to both deployments, as can be guessed from the title, is luck.  Lockhart is humble throughout; he doesn’t think he’s any better than any other officer; he does his homework, and works hard, just like everyone else.  He tries his best to use common sense to keep him and his men alive, but others did that as well.  Yet,  time after time, death or serious injury just misses him.  Lockhart seems to be the Vietnam embodiment of Napolean’s quote, “I know he's a good general, but is he lucky?”

 The author finds humor and teaching points in his everyday infantry life.  He recounts several anecdotes and incidents from his career, along with what he learned from them and how he used that lesson to improve the chances for success on the next go around.   The writing is clear and easy to understand; but the book would benefit from some editing work to address some technical problems.  Still, the book moves quickly, and the readers learn a lot about the author and a typical day in the life of an infantry officer.  Fans of writings about Vietnam, infantry life, or Special Forces will all find something to enjoy in this book.

Review by Rob Ballister (June 2018)


Author's Synopsis

This book describes two unique tours of duty in Vietnam by a U.S. Army officer. In the first, after two assignments in Infantry platoons, he is given command of a rifle company while still a lieutenant.  The daily life of infantrymen, with all of its quirks and surprises, is recounted as he lived it. He returns for a second tour as a Special Forces-trained captain to participate in a secret mission.  This program has received little attention and some previously unpublished events are revealed here.  Most readers should find the actions recounted herein differ from the widely held concepts based on news coverage or even personal experience in the war.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-54392-812-9
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Memoir
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 363
 

Sebastian's Tale by Dylan Weiss

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

In Sebastian's Tale, author Dylan Weiss has written an entertaining story about a young skunk, Sebastian, and his weasel friend during their first year after leaving home. Sebastian was born without his stripes and his friend has an overweight issue. Both are bullied by their peers, but despite these factors, Sebastian learns that an ancient family prophecy claims that he will do great things to save the skunks and weasels. In doing so, he will grow his stripes and become a leader among skunks. When it comes time to leave their family homes, the two have several misadventures, and it's not until they meet a human who has the ability to communicate with all animals that things start to make sense to them. 

This book is an easy read. Sebastian's Tale reinforces the need for humans to take care of the environment and to remember that our encroachment into forest lands impacts the wildlife that is already there.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories about animals and nature.

MWSA Review by Bob Doerr (June 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Sebastian’s Tale is a fast paced, allegorical coming of age adventure.  As the story develops, readers discover, along with our hero, a lovable stripeless skunk, and his sidekick, a clever but oft misguided weasel,
exactly what is destroying Penn’s Woods.

Together Sebastian and Willie learn how to battle this menacing new enemy threatening life as we know it on earth. Although the telling is a fantasy, in reality the author hopes that lessons learned by Sebastian
and his woodland friends are embraced by children and young adults who choose to protect our environment against the degradation brought on by present day pollution.

ISBN/ASIN: B01LWHXS5B
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fantasy/Sci Fi, Young Adult
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Young Adult (fiction or non-fiction)
Number of Pages: 197
 

Vietnam Voices by Michael Lepore

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Vietnam Voices by Michael F. Lepore is an excellent collection of the author's poetry.  Subtitled Echoes of the Vietnam Experience, the twenty eight poems in the book bring home to the reader the thoughts and emotions of those affected by the war, and it does so in a way that you can feel those emotions. Whether it's the thoughts and feelings of a parent approaching the Vietnam Memorial wall for the first time, or the thoughts of a young woman in Vietnam longing to go to the U.S. to find a father she has never known, Lepore has the ability of "getting under the reader's skin." In each poem, I could feel the simple truth that the author presented. This is not a political read, nor is it anti-military. It's simply a reflection of the harsh realities of war.

The poetry is thought provoking, yet it is easy to read.  My hats off to this author and to his work.  I recommend this book to all readers of poetry, those interested in books about the Vietnam War, and to anyone who simply wants a fast, well written book!

Review by Bob Doerr (July 2018)


Author's Synopsis

Vietnam Voices employs in poetic verse the harsh realities of the Vietnam War as felt by those who fought it, those who anxiously waited at home, and those children born of American G.I.’s and Vietnamese women—innocent victims scorned for life. This book presents in all its complexity the bravado, agony and loss of those affected by combat and is as resonant with the issues that face our fighting men and women today as fifty years ago.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-9913861-3-0
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Poetry Book
Review Genre: Poetry—Poetry Book
Number of Pages: 60
 

Blades of Thunder by W. Larry Dandridge

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

A realistic and accurate depiction of the life a young helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Dandridge shares his experiences and those of his helicopter classmates, unit members and friends to paint a picture of camaraderie and patriotism while fighting one of the most vicious military conflicts in US history. Using his own personal account and those of his fellow troops, Dandridge unfolds the heartache, pain and triumphs of young soldiers who bravely flew “slicks” and “gunships” in an unforgiving war with unforgiving consequences. This book successfully serves as a living tribute to them.

Review by Mick Simonelli (June 2018)

Author's Synopsis

Blades of Thunder (book One) is a non-fiction, action packed, and Vietnam War history book that tells the story of six young Army aviators, flight school classmates, who go to Vietnam in the fall of 1968 and are forever changed.  Some died, some were wounded.  All those who returned brought back emotional scars that will never really go away.  Blades of Thunder is more than a story about Vietnam.  It combines a realistic narrative of combat operations with a human dimension, the physical and psychological toll imposed on those who survived. While learning about their experiences, this all five-star reviewed paperback or hard cover book gives you a window into the lives of crew chiefs and door gunners whose job extends beyond flight when the aircraft is once again safely tucked into its revetment, the battery switch is off and the blades are tied down.  Timeless lessons on leadership abound.  •    The author takes the reader into the details of the Army Aviation business.  46 annotated photos and generous, informative appendices provide an informal class on the tools of our trade: the components of a UH-1B rocket pod and machine gun assembly; the essential elements of an OH-6A “Loach” to include cyclic, collective, armored seats, grenades and mini-gun; and a host of other switches, gauges, etc., to include the hook over the pilot’s door in a Huey on which to hang your helmet.  Blades of Thunder (Book One) even offers an appendix of over 24 mini-biographies of the key characters in the book, showing that, if they survived, they each became successful family men and leaders in every field of business and government. Nothing is left out.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-578-15637-8 Paperback and 978-0-692-78369-6 Hard Cover
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Genre(s): Nonfiction, History, Memoir, Biography, Picture Book
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 411

Raiding the Empire of the Sun: Tinian 1945 by Kit Crumpton

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

Author's Synopsis

Raiding the Empire of the Sun: Tinian 1945 is a historical novel of B-29 Superfortress missions over Japan during the last year of WWII. This book is based on real life events of a B-29 crew, describing life on Tinian Island as well as the dramatic happenings in the skies over enemy territory until the end of the war. The characters are fictionalized but the main character, Captain Jenson, is strongly based on the authors’ father.

ISBN: 978-0996539616 ASIN B017ODJ6NC
Format: Paper and Kindle
Review Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 232

 

Medallion by Richard Barnes

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Medallion by Richard Whitten Barnes is a historical novel set in Norway and Great Britain during World War II. Karin Hansen, an American pilot of Norwegian descent, travels to Great Britain in 1940 to take part in the British Air Transport Auxiliary. There she meets Arne Solberg, a personal guard to Norway’s exiled royal family, which has narrowly escaped Oslo on the eve of German occupation. In Germany, Oberleutnant Horst von Prohn has been assigned to a civilian posting under a Nazi appointee tasked with occupying Norway. The paths of these three main characters cross sporadically over the next several years. Karin and Arne begin to fall in love. Arne carries out missions with Norway’s resistance fighters under Horst’s nose.

Eventually the strands of the three divergent plot lines weave themselves into a Gordian knot in which Karin and Arne must escape Horst’s detection while working for him and concurrently devising a plot for rescuing Norway’s national treasure of historically minted gold coins—all 2500 kilograms of it.

Other characters enter and exit, lending charm, courage, expertise, and sometimes comic relief. Of particular note (and possibly my favorite character) is Iver Lindahl, a teenage Norwegian who gains Horst’s trust by helping to track down Norwegian resistance fighters. Or does he? Cameo appearances by well-known historical figures such as Jacqueline Cochran and Vidkun Quisling add to the believability of the plot.

The structure of alternating the story line among the three main characters challenges the reader to keep pace. While the multiple views increase the staccato effect of the action, they leave less room for character development. Overall, Medallion is an appealing wartime story, and it is especially satisfying that the author focused on the little known women civilian aviators, all volunteers, who wore uniforms and flew aircraft during World War II, freeing up male pilots for combat duty.

Review by Betsy Beard (May 2018)


Author's Synopsis

In April 1940 Nazi Germany makes a surprise attack on the major ports and airfields of Norway for control of the North Sea and the precious ore deposits of northern Sweden.
The attack is a stunning success, except for the Capital city. The defense of Oslo stalls the Germans for 24 hours--enough time for the Royal Family, members of the cabinet, and the entire treasury to escape, ultimately to England. Subsequently, Nazi aggression overruns most of Europe, looting its treasuries and treasures.

Karin Hansen, a young American fresh from a summer of barnstorming and air shows in her uncle’s biplane, has joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary--a civilian service organized to free up pilots for the war effort.  She advances from single-engine trainers to sophisticated warplanes, delivering them from factories to strategic RAF airfields.

By chance, her path crosses with that of Arne Solberg, a young Norwegian commando in the employ of the Royal Family-in-exile, who has been charged with rescuing one of Norway’s most cherished treasures from being stolen back to Nazi Germany.

Medallion is the story of two young lovers and the treachery of occupied Norway. A story you won’t forget.

ISBN/ASIN: B07B5W3FRX
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 237