Checkmate by Karna Small Bodman

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MWSA Review

Checkmate is the first book in Karna Small Bodman’s White House National Security Series and introduces readers to Dr. Cameron Talbot, a young American scientist who creates a weapons technology to combat cruise missiles by intercepting them and returning to sender. The book starts off with a bang (literally) when a missile from an unknown source destroys an army base in India, impacting the tenuous relationship between India and Pakistan. America scrambles to defuse the situation, sending a special envoy and a team of experts, along with Dr. Talbot and her untried invention. The action is nonstop, as unidentified terrorists continue to wreak havoc overseas while concurrently targeting Talbot in America. Spies, stolen missiles, traitors, congressional shenanigans, and imminent danger round out the mix.

Using her insider knowledge from serving in various capacities on Ronald Reagan’s White House staff, Bodman crafts a plausible plot with dynamic characters. The entertainment value is almost overshadowed by the educational value in some places, though, as we learn more about backstories and bunny trails without advancing the plot at times. One last polish by a proofreader would have caught a number of misspellings and missing words, although these small infractions did not impede the read.

Checkmate is an enjoyable and fast-paced journey that will initiate readers into some of the ins and outs of Washington’s political scene while taking us to other countries as well. 

Review by Betsy Beard (August 2019)


Author's Synopsis

The new, revised story of CHECKMATE is the first in The White House National Security Series, and features Lt. Col. Hunt Daniels, detailed from the Pentagon to the White House National Security Council, to work with Dr. Cameron Talbot who has invented a breakthrough technology against cruise missiles. She needs support from her skeptical defense company officers and funding from a reluctant Congress. With disaster brewing overseas, threats to New Delhi, the Taj Mahal, and to Cameron herself, she and Hunt find themselves enmeshed in terrorist plots and political wrangling at the highest levels.

“Gripping and Authentic” – Lee Child, International Bestselling Author

“Bodman takes on Washington like only a true insider can, weaving a frightening tale that feels both unerringly authentic and frightening real” – Kyle Mills, New York Times bestselling author of Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp series

“Bodman is no novice when it comes to understanding Washington. A polished writer, she brings her skills to this task with verve and enthusiasm. There are more twists to the plot of this novel…to reveal them would deprive you of the pleasure of enjoying every page of this thriller” – The Washington Times

ISBN/ASIN: (Trade Paper) ISBN: 978-1-62157-780-5; (Kindle): ASIN: B07D2HT1GH; (Audio CDs) ISBN: 978-1721358830
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 414

Edison 64 by Richard Sand

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MWSA Review

There are some history facts that just cry out for someone to personalize and share with the world. This book is one of those chronicles history that begs to be told. Edison High School in Philadelphia—which is now no longer standing and was replaced with a shopping mall—was home to the most former students killed in Vietnam of any school in the entire USA. There were sixty-four young men killed who had attended Edison, and they later became known as the Edison 64. A plaque and a flag now mark the old location of their high school. This book takes memories and stories of people who knew them and who went to school with them. Some family members, some high school friends—but all have been damaged emotionally in some way. In fact, the whole community of Philadelphia has suffered in some form. This book allows the rest of the nation to know these young men. The author shares photos of them along with the emotional remembrances of fellow alumni who also went to Nam and survived the war. The book is a written tribute and memorial to the sixty-four and to the community where the young men grew up and went to school: a moving reading experience. You cannot but feel some pain for all of us as a nation. Those at Edison High School gave more than their fair share. We can all be proud and grateful that such young men lived. This is author Richard Sand's best book to date.

Review by Bill McDonald (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Edison 64—A Tragedy in Vietnam and at Home tells the moving, but little known story of 64 students from Edison High School in North Philadelphia who were killed in the Vietnam War. That is the largest number from any school in the Country.

Forewords are by Former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, who calls it "an extraordinary contribution" and Former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court, who describes it as "remarkable.” Both are decorated Vietnam Combat veterans. The book contains history, interviews, and poignant photographs.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-948460-00-2
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 246

Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain: Love Confronts the Wounds of War by J. Allen Whitt

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MWSA Review

The novel, Notes from the Other Side of the Mountain – Love Confronts the Wounds of War, by J. Allen Whitt, spans the central years in the life of Gary Reed. This thoughtful young man spends his younger years in New Mexico and Texas, when he falls in love with the beautiful Kristi Preston. Losing Kristi’s affections, he joins the Navy in time to take part in the Vietnam conflict and experiences the horrors and losses of war. Vietnam comes home with him in the form of PTSD. However, he rekindles his romance with Kristi, only to lose her once more. Finally, decades later, Gary returns to New Mexico to reflect on his life there, the embers of his love for Kristi, and the lessons and perspectives life has granted him.

This novel is part coming of age, part romance, and part call to action in the cause of PTSD treatment, but primarily it’s a memoir in the form of a novel. Whitt’s voice is consistent throughout, and particularly strong in Part 4, when the text switches to present tense. It’s in this final phase of the novel that it gains its strength and emotional impact. His narrative depictions of scenic views in New Mexico are inspired, particularly for a first novel, and are testimony to a writer’s eye, ear, and nose for the surrounding world. Balancing crisp dialogue and narrative is an art in itself, and this one is certainly ripe for growth in that regard. Whitt has a talent for surprise and drama in creating his story arc, but there are issues here. Unresolved or unexplained episodes with his school friends in New Mexico—particularly the crumbling of his teen romance with Kristi—create an early disconnect from the story’s overall impact. There are repetitive scenes, layout problems with the book, typos, misspellings, and punctuation errors.

Review by Bob Mustin (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 Through his vivid narration, we follow Gary Reed as he finds love in high school, then is called to Navy service in Vietnam. Traumatized by the carnage of war, he comes home, hoping to reunite with Kristina Preston and find peace within the serene mountains of New Mexico. Yet Kristy has harrowing secrets as well, and they will face daunting obstacles as they struggle to build a future together and survive unexpected twists of fortune.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 0692954252, ISBN-13: 978-0692954256
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Romance
Number of Pages: 368

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

Job 2.0 by Del Staecker

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MWSA Review

Patterned loosely after the Book of Job, which was written three millennia ago, Job 2.0 by Del Staecker is a charming and engaging tale of the struggle between “good” and “not good.” Using contemporary language and situations, Lucifer asks God for a rematch after failing to compromise Job’s faith so long ago. Choosing Jake, an ordinary man, Lucifer unleashes all hell into Jake’s life and leaves him with nothing. His friends from his fast-pitch softball team, the Misguided Saints, rally around Jake to expound on their own versions of truth. From the book, Lucifer’s response is: “I love these guys. They focus on my kind of stuff—half-baked ideas born out of copious alcohol consumption.” Jake does not slam the door on God, but continues to question and search. In an interesting twist, Lucifer brings Jake relief and his heart’s desires in an effort to distract him from seeking God. 

The deceptively breezy dialogue and cleverly simple situations contain nuanced truths that I found to be, quite simply, mind-boggling. Somehow Staecker manages to couch theological concepts in words that we humans can contemplate and—dare I say?—enjoy. Of particular note, God’s “character” was enlightening. Whether you are a spiritual person or not, this book will tug at heartstrings you may not even know you have.  

Review by Betsy Beard (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

God and Lucifer are at it again! More than three millennia after their first contest, the Creator of the Universe and his highest errant minion are struggling a second time over the fate of a single soul. What does this rematch mean - for you? Perfect for believers, seekers, and questioners of all ages, Job 2.0 answers the question of the meaning of life through humor and wisdom that is both entertaining and deeply profound.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN 978-0-310107583 (paperback); ISBN 978-0-310107590 (ebook)
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 67

All Blood Runs Red by Phil Keith and Tom Clavin

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Author's Synopsis

 People are asking me, “So, what’s your next book going to be about?” Well, here it is: It’s a collection of stories about: The son of a slave who flees home and bigotry at the age of eleven... A teen-aged stowaway on a trans-Atlantic freighter... A championship-caliber boxer at the age of eighteen... An accomplished Jazz Age dancer, singer, and comedian... The world's first African-American fighter pilot (in WWI no less)... A self-taught jazz musician who played with "Satchmo"... A confidante to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Picasso, and many others... Successful Paris nightclub impresario at the height of the Jazz Age... A Resistance spy against the Nazis... A wounded hero in two world wars... A Legionnaire decorated with France's highest military honors... An American civil rights pioneer... Who are all of these people? Well, in fact, “they” are all the same man, the remarkable Eugene Bullard (1895-1961), boxer, soldier, jazzman, spy. “All Blood Runs Red” is the title of the book, to be published by Hanover Square Press—an imprint of Harlequin Books—in 2019. It’s the next big book from me, and the first in my new collaboration with fellow author and dear friend, Tom Clavin.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-1-335-00556-4
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook, Audiobook
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 330


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

Rigged - Book One of the Second American Civil War by James Rosone and Miranda Watson

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Author's Synopsis

For the last hundred years, the world has operated on a set of rules and social norms that largely benefited the few at the expense of the many. Then the unthinkable happened. A revolt took place, and order was broken. When a new American President bucked the status quo, it set into motion a series of events meant to return the country to the control of the few. Secluded in the small Alpine town of St. Moritz, Switzerland, a rebuttal was crafted. A secret cabal of wealthy and influential men and women gathered to plot the most audacious plan since the formation of America. Cloaked in secrecy and blind loyalty to their leader, these masters of manipulation will embark upon a journey that will change the future of humanity. As the next presidential election approaches in the United States, the general populace is unaware of the plot that has been hatched underneath the surface. Will this election be free and fair, or will it be rigged? If you like political intrigue coupled with hair-raising action, geopolitical chess, and cutting-edge technology, you’ll love Rosone and Watson’s opening installment of the Second American Civil War. Grab your copy today!

ISBN/ASIN: B07NSHGYWT
Book Format(s): Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 378 

Interview with a Terrorist by James Rosone and Miranda Watson

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MWSA Review

Interview with a Terrorist is an interesting and provocative firsthand account of author James Rosone’s time in Iraq with the United States Army. In 2006, Rosone trained for human intelligence gathering and deployed to Camp Striker in Iraq. From the training on how to stay within the letter of the law to his homecoming trip, the book details the eighteen months that affected his life in ways that could not be imagined. Daily contact with some of the worst members of terrorist groups as well as living conditions the American military endured as a matter of course produced a determination to make a difference to our fighting forces, our country, and the world at large.

Most members of the American public know little of the day to day grind of our military men and women who interrogate terrorists for human intelligence. Instead we have all too often relied on the sensationalist media and Hollywood’s version of the truth. This book provides an unvarnished antidote through the eyes of someone who actually spent time doing the work.

Review by Betsy Beard (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

 Have you ever wondered what really goes on in those poorly lit interrogation rooms overseas? Are you prepared to travel down a dark path into a world few know of…and even fewer have ever talked about? In 2006, when the Iraq war was all but lost, a new strategy was implemented—not only would America place combat troops in nearly every village and city across Iraq, the US would systematically hunt down every terrorist and insurgent group operating in the country. However, that strategy relied upon the success of a small interrogation unit within Task Force 134 to find, locate, and eliminate these threats to peace and stability within Iraq. Interview with a Terrorist follows James Rosone’s true life story as he joined the interrogation team to try and make a difference in the conflict in Iraq. Learn what it was like to interrogate Al Qaeda prisoners and how he met the challenge of obtaining intelligence without the use of torture. Experience what it’s like to sit across the table from some of the world’s most evil terrorists—men who just hours ago killed dozens of civilians or American soldiers. Experience the thrill of a capture mission that goes well and the sinking depression and anger of a mission that goes horribly wrong. If you like insights into hidden worlds, conspiracies unraveled, and raw portrayals of American soldiers’ experiences, you’ll love Rosone’s frank and uncensored autobiography. James Rosone has spent over 2,000 hours interrogating Al Qaeda terrorists, cracking their secrets to prevent attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. He helped uncover terrorist cells operating in Europe, East Africa, and in the U.S. Homeland. All the while, he endured challenges few civilians could image. Would you be willing to make the same sacrifice for your country? Grab your copy and find out what goes on in one of the dirtiest jobs of any war.

ISBN/ASIN: B01MFHWCCL
Book Format(s): Kindle
Review Genre: Nonfiction—Memoir/Biography
Number of Pages: 224

The History of Human Space Flight by Theodore Spitzmiller

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MWSA Review

The History of Human Space Flight by author/historian Ted Spitzmiller sets the gold standard for history books about space flight. This book gives the reader a true education in its 600+ pages of great storytelling. It might be "history" but the author makes the book feel like you are getting a personal tour of the space program from all the experts. Not only does he give us a great inside look at our own space program (NASA) but also some inside information on what the USSR was doing and what Germany contributed to both space programs. Insightful and informative. 

I found the book to be more than I had expected or hoped it might be. It left me satisfied that I had gotten a full picture of what transpired: the early efforts to get rockets into space, the first daring men to ride rocket ships into space, and the moon landings. This is truly an adventure story witnessed by the world, but until now it was not documented so we could all fully appreciate and understand. This book has filled that gap of knowledge with abundant information and data and stories about real people who had courage.

This book is on my personal bookshelf and I will have my grandchildren read it. I salute the author's efforts. Well done!

Review by Bill McDonald (May 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Provides a broad perspective on the efforts to send humans into space. Beginning with the aerostats (balloons) of the 18th century through the rocket planes of the 1950s, to the space race between the Soviet Union and the United States. All of the efforts are chronicled along with coverage of the key technologies and principle individuals involved (including management and technical support). Extensively illustrated with a detailed index.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-8130-5427-8
Book Format(s): Hard cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 633 

Echo in Ramadi - The Firsthand Story of U.S. Marines in Iraq's Deadliest City by Scott Huesing

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MWSA Review

Ramadi is the capital of Al Anbar province in Iraq. In 2006 it was the location for some of the bitterest fighting in Operation Iraqi Freedom as insurgents and Coalition Forces fought for control of the strategically important city. Into the middle of this cauldron of devastating urban warfare was thrust Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines led by then-Captain Scott A. Huesing.

Though well trained and leavened with a cadre of Iraq war veterans, the Echo Company Marines were still shocked by the ferocity of violence that greeted them during the height of the insurgency, something that never let up during the unit’s deployment.

Echo in Ramadi joins other books on the subject as an excellent account of the Battle of Ramadi. What sets it apart, and gives it a particularly gripping veracity, is that it’s a story of the unit told from the point of view of its commander. Huesing spares no detail, nor himself, in the telling of Echo Company’s effort to wrest neighborhoods from insurgent control. The result is a war with no quarter asked or given—one where, as he graphically details, rules of engagement are callously manipulated by the insurgents and turned into weapons against Coalition Forces.

Huesing’s narrative covers the gamut of Echo Company’s experience, from the bonding that began with training to the fellowship that grew stronger when the Marines went into battle. Huesing reveals the complexity of company command, from basic leadership to the stress of chaos of urban combat. The many interlocking layers of command responsibility are vividly recounted, no more so than when Huesing makes a satellite phone call from his command post to comfort the mother of a Marine under his command who had been wounded.

Huesing pulls no punches in revealing the physical and emotional cost of their deployment. The tally of the butcher’s bill paid by Echo Company did not end when they left Iraq, but continued after they returned to the States and later, after discharge. Along with the physical wounds were the psychological scars of post-traumatic stress that contributed to the suicides of some men from the company and to Huesing’s own brush with death in a single-vehicle automobile crash.

Echo in Ramadi is one of most powerful accounts of the Iraq war. Its page-turning narrative reveals the stark, gut-wrenching triumph and tragedy that is the human cost of war.

Review by Dwight Jon Zimmerman (May 2019)


 Author's Synopsis

"In war, destruction is everywhere. It eats everything around you. Sometimes it eats at you." —Major Scott Huesing, Echo Company Commander From the winter of 2006 through the spring of 2007, two-hundred-fifty Marines from Echo Company, Second Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment fought daily in the dangerous, dense city streets of Ramadi, Iraq during the Multi-National Forces Surge ordered by President George W. Bush. The Marines' mission: to kill or capture anti-Iraqi forces. Their experience: like being in Hell. Now Major Scott A. Huesing, the commander who led Echo Company through Ramadi, takes readers back to the streets of Ramadi in a visceral, gripping portrayal of modern urban combat. Bound together by brotherhood, honor, and the horror they faced, Echo's Marines battled day-to-day on the frontline of a totally different kind of war, without rules, built on chaos. In Echo in Ramadi, Huesing brings these resilient, resolute young men to life and shows how the savagery of urban combat left indelible scars on their bodies, psyches, and souls. Like war classics, We Were Soldiers, The Yellow Birds, and Generation Kill, Echo in Ramadi is an unforgettable capsule of one company's experience of war that will leave readers stunned. About the Author Scott A. Huesing is a retired USMC Infantry Major with over 24 years of service, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer. His career spanned 10 deployments and he conducted operations in over 60 countries worldwide. During his deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa he planned, led, and conducted hundreds of combat missions under some of the most austere and challenging conditions. He had the privilege to command Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines as part of the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), Special Operations Capable (SOC) while attached to 1-9 Infantry Battalion ("Manchu"), 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT "Ready First"), United States Army (USA) as part of the Surge Strategy in Al Anbar Province, Iraq.

ISBN/ASIN: ISBN-10: 1621577341, ISBN-13: 978-1621577348
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 256

Mortal Men, Immortal Warriors by Steven London

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MWSA Review

A snapshot and insights of modern-day “warriors”

Author Steven London takes readers into the hearts and minds of modern-day warriors of the Army’s 4th Infantry. He captures the history of the unit’s time in Afghanistan through the personal experiences of those who served—not just officers, but an over-all good cross-section of soldiers that served there during these current times of war.

There is an intensity and honesty in the simple telling of what these young warriors did while there. Some of it highlights events of their tour of duty in a diary form, while other stories are shared in a more reflective narrative including some of the emotional hardships endured after they returned home to divorces, PTSD, and TBI issues, among other things.

This book makes a good snapshot of what life was like for these troops and also shares an important piece of military history told from those with their boots on the ground. It makes for an interesting read for both military people and for those who never wore the uniform but who may wish to understand a little deeper what happened to these warriors once upon a time.

London doesn’t try to sell everyone as heroes but shows them as very much human, and that makes this a very honest look at how war feels and looks like to those who have served in combat zones.

Review by Bill McDonald (June 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

 For nearly seven continuous years the "Warriors" maintained a combat presence in some of the most austere and remote locations during the height of the war in Afghanistan. Through written accounts, interviews, and photographs the Soldiers illuminate the shadows of war to provide personal insight into the tolls of combat. From its opening words to its closing remarks, 'Mortal Men, Immortal Warriors' leads you across an uncharted terrain within narrative non-fiction. Journey alongside with them in this visceral and compelling tribute to one of the United States Army's unsung military units. Standing strong as a 'Band of Brothers' meets ' The Things They Carried' novel, it presents an alternative interpretation of modern conflict at home and away. Raw, captivating, and emotional, the book resonates the lives of brave Soldiers through a balanced approach. Every generation needs its heroes. These are ours. This book is sure to be required reading for any military leader or historian.

ISBN/ASIN: 1980971463, B07CRM8W8J
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Nonfiction—History
Number of Pages: 294

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


To Any Soldier: A Novel of Vietnam Letters by Kathryn Watson Quigg and G.C. Hendricks

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MWSA Review

Two innocent lives are brought together in a war-inspired love affair through a letter addressed to “Any Soldier,” tacked to a bulletin board in a combat ready-room. The reader is drawn into a titillating experience reading personal revelations in private letters from a 23-year-old Marine Corps pilot. Moved by monotonous routine, he unpins and reads the letter out of boredom and curiosity. Lieutenant Jay Fox lives day to day at the incompetence of unseen enemy gunners, identified only by the character of their barrage attempting to destroy him and his A-6 Intruder before his bombs obliterate the “gooks.” He lives each dreary day to maybe die each night. Squadron mates do. Dullness through a daily routine prevails until he thoughtfully answers obviously silly questions from an innocent 19-year-old college student. Hesitantly, guardedly, an exchange begins. Ashley Beth Justice suffers the difficulties encountered away from home the first time. She writes about problems, and delights, in dealing with college roommates and routines experienced by a first-year college student having known and experienced little outside her rural South home.

At first, letters are innocent and probing. Then subtly over months, nearly every subject of life is explored, from the sharing sadness of losing a favored pet to questioning the war and politics. Flirtation, sex, and love intrude. Writing in increasingly personal levels, each writer elevates the other’s maturity and awareness in life. Respect and trust emerge. Frivolity and flights of silly imagination lighten gloomier thoughts and fears. Despite his conservative leanings and her staunch liberal attitude, each begins to understand life in grander perspective through understanding the other. Slight misunderstandings in expressed words or phrases create tensions as their relationship sometimes wavers, however, always to strengthen and grow—like a couple in a long-term affair. The ending is both surprising and understandable.

Descriptions of combat and life as a Marine Corps pilot in Vietnam are without flaw, obviously coming first-hand. Life as an emerging young woman away from home for the first time is authentic. Both voices ring true in language and tone through all topics.

The book’s presentation is somewhat unique with letters from Jay Fox printed out in faux typewriter font and Ashley Beth’s in computer-generated cursive font. This reality along with flawlessly spelled and formatted letters did bring forth some consternation when there appeared no strikeovers, errors, or corrections, as one would expect in real letters. Cursive also may offer some reading difficulty for young readers no longer taught cursive. A minor flaw was the author’s choice to combine both a literary fiction with military history with the inclusion of actual photos of individuals who were the foundation of the letters along with supplemental information on the real letter writers.

Unpinning a letter “To Any Soldier” from the bulletin board begins a delightful love story.

Review by Tom Beard (May 2019)


Author's Synopsis

In 1968 Jay Fox is a young marine attack pilot in Vietnam and Ashley Beth Justice is a college freshman in North Carolina when they meet each other by chance, through letters.

Ashley Beth, naïve and totally separated from the Vietnam War, begins her letter-writing as a way to personally contribute to the war effort. Having recently moved away from her small hometown, she's beginning to see the world from a new perspective.

Jay, in the midst of bombing runs each evening, has purposefully distanced himself from any close relationships, but there's something about Ashley Beth's innocent and forthright manner that compels him to answer her letters.

The reality of the war hits home for Ashley Beth when Jay describes his plane almost colliding with another after a dangerous bombing run. The stakes are higher now—the disagreements, more intense; the flirtations, more significant.

Even amid the bloodshed in Vietnam and the civil unrest at home, Jay and Ashley Beth dare to dream of a life together while struggling to understand the war and themselves in To Any Soldier

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN: B00TKTE6UM (Kindle) ISBN-10: 1505206448 ISBN-13: 978-1505206449 (soft cover)
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 264

Across the Inlet by Gail Summers

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Across the Inlet by Gail Summers is a novel for today. As baby boomers age to the point where they must address the care of their elderly and ill parents, this novel shines an unapologetically realistic light on family dynamics and end-of-life issues. Admittedly, the family in the novel is more dysfunctional than most, but their interactions show the range of emotional responses and reactions that we all might experience. The characters drive the novel, and the ensemble is well developed and believable.

I especially like the way the author reveals the individuals’ backgrounds as the novel wears on, rather than dumping it all in the first few chapters. It’s a sophisticated way to deal with the varying motives and past experiences, shifting loyalties and agonizing separations. And it demonstrates how we can at the same time both love and hate our family members. Also impressive is the author’s choice to use first person point of view and present tense. It places the reader squarely in the middle of the drama and gives a sense of immediacy and intimacy that allows readers to share the characters’ emotions. The author used dialogue and email correspondence as well as first person observations of the narrator to develop and reveal the other characters, so I never felt that the narrator violated the mandate that she only share the things she could know.

The novel is organized chronologically, dating each entry as the narrator’s stepfather progresses slowly from life to death. The use of flashback, sometimes sudden and startling, mimics the way our minds cannot easily focus on the present when the present is painful and difficult. I had a hard time putting this book down because I was never sure where the next page would take me. I also found the choice of setting to be significant. The backdrop of the beauty of Alaska’s natural features contrasted sharply with the psychological angst of the characters, showing that we can appreciate beauty even when we are in pain and that nature can bring respite in times of despair. Although I have yet to travel to our 49th state, this novel put Alaska higher on my list of places to go. 

Review by Betsy Beard (July 2019)


Author's Synopsis

Anger is easier than forgiveness—but at what cost? There’s much Abby has tried to forget in her life, including her biological father who, besides crueler things, labeled her a “dumbass girl.” Her stepdad, Bill, on the other hand, Abby doesn’t ever want to forget. So when her sister Aurora informs her that he only has days to live, Abby hops on a plane to Alaska. But Aurora lied. While Bill is dying, his is a lingering death, the wearisome kind marked by bedsores and soiled sheets. As days turn into weeks, Abby discovers that, among other things, Aurora has been stealing money from their parents, and her anger begins to harden into hatred. Although Abby’s central desire is to protect Bill from needless suffering, the discord between her and her sisters threatens to destroy the peace she longs to offer him. Thus begins the The Alyeska Saga and the beginning of a transformative journey set in the mysterious land across the inlet of Cook Inlet, Alaska.

ISBN/ASIN: ASIN: B00TKTE6UM (Kindle) ISBN-10: 1505206448 ISBN-13: 978-1505206449 (soft cover)
Book Format(s): Soft cover
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 264 

Borderline Decision by Hugh Simpson

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Borderline Decision is a fun read. I read it twice. The first time, I read it at a fast, exhilarating pace that matched the story. The second time, I read it at a slower, more leisurely pace that allowed me to better experience the unfolding of the story. 

The character of LTC Hap Stoner is a glorious action figure, living true to what he says, "Doing what is right and letting the man upstairs sort the bullshit." The Scorpion character starts out as a memorable bad guy, but does not live up to his potential evilness. Stoner is a strong, powerful character and deserves strong, powerful adversaries, perhaps more powerful. 

Helicopter jargon is delightful and adds strength to the story even when the reader doesn't always understand it. The remaining military jargon is pervasive and sometimes distracting. Thank goodness for the Cast of Characters and the Glossary. 

The plot line was energetic and suspenseful and surprises us when the story does not end when we think it will. To soften some of the military hardness, there are elements of affection presented through the Carla character and touches of the perverse through the Senator character. 
Overall, the strength of the story is Hap Stoner. I look forward to his next adventure.

Review by Gail Summers (June 2019)


Author's Synopsis

BORDERLINE DECISION by Hugh D. Simpson Synopsis Deadly alliances between Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel, Black Stone and their mysterious Middle Eastern collaborators spill across the US/MX border leaving an unknown American brutally assassinated followed by an ambush of a US Marine Observation Post, and leading to the capture of LtCol Hap Stoner’s Commanding Officer, LtCol Chuck Warden. With a stubborn streak that’s as big as his heart and as strong as his loyalty to country, family, and his fellow Marines, LTCOL HAP “KANG” STONER leads his squadron of Marine Aviators on an unauthorized mission into Mexico to bring Warden home. US Marine LTCOL “TUNA MAN” WARDEN is a high-value prisoner, an American warrior infidel - whose head will bring a high price for a certain American Senator and the Black Stone cartel. Disgusted by the US Administration’s inaction and recriminations of Tuna Man, Hap leads the Nomads to save his CO’s life while barely staying ahead of his nemesis, Group Commander COLONEL TED SHANK. A Careerist, Shank will do anything, step on anyone to get a star. Colonel Shank works with a corrupt Senator, who chairs the Armed Forces Service Committee. Without US approval, Hap reaches out to his longtime friend, THOMAS “BLAD” LEFFLER and Will Kellogg. Blad, retired from the USMC, has joined forces with the mysterious founder of SHADOW SERVICES INTERNATIONAL, a privately held global intelligence network. Will Kellogg is a former Recon Marine, CIA Operative, former business partner, and casino owner in the Caribbean island of San Andres Columbia. In their initial phone conversation, Hap and Blad realize their missions overlap as Blad discloses that he is missing an agent, SHADOW 28, who was tracking cartel activity along the border - specifically human trafficking. Recently, six teenaged girls disappeared from Phoenix Arizona and now it appears that they and Shadow 28 are victims of a Cartel kidnapping. He and LtCol Warden are being held in a secret jihadist compound deep in the cartel’s territory, a location unknown to those ready to launch the rescue mission. Still entrenched in his CIA roots, Will Kellogg contracts out to various countries and companies around the world. Meanwhile, Marine Corps Commandant, GENERAL RUSS VERBIE testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee defending the actions of LtCol’s Warden and Stoner. However, Col Shank counters Verbie’s testimony under orders from corrupt SENATOR SCOTTY JOURDAN, head of the SAS Committee, who has been making a fortune for himself by conducting illegal business with the head of the drug cartel, known as the “SCORPION.” With help from a number of former combat vets, Hap and the NOMADS elude the feds and embark on a rescue mission to bring back the missing girls, Shadow 28, and LtCol Warden. The action rises during an air attack on Scorpion’s remote cartel ranch, also a training camp for jihadist recruits. Although casualties on both sides are high, the Marines are successful: high-level captives are in custody and the severely wounded are jammed onto one overloaded helicopter for a treacherous emergency transport back to a U.S. hospital. To capture Scorpion, Hap, Blad, Will Kellogg, and their team move in for a dangerous night insertion into Mexico, where they meet up with Blad’s tough female operative ZAIDA, aka Shadow 86. They breach the cartel leader’s posh Mexican resort with Zaida’s invaluable intel and aid. While an ongoing firefight ensues, Hap angrily confronts traitorous Senator Jourdan, a guest in Scorpion’s private penthouse suite, elicits, and secretly records his confession on his phone. After a perilous rooftop battle, a wounded Hap and his battered Marine squadron, who barely escaped with their lives, now must head for home to face the wrath of US officials. CARLA MCCREERY, Hap’s smart, feisty live-in attorney girlfriend, and a top legal team, along with Hap’s very persuasive recording of the Senator’s confession, implicating both Col Shank and Jourdan; turn the tide for the Marine Aviators. Combined, it is a strong enough incentive package for Shank to release and honorably discharge the NOMAD Marines from Marine Corps service. At Hap’s ranch in Texas, Carla nurses Hap as he recovers from his injuries sustained in the firefight at the resort. It’s a well-earned vacation until a mysterious visit with a message from Blad, followed by a phone call from Will Kellogg sets up Hap and the now-discharged NOMAD Marine Aviators, along with Shadow operatives for their next adventure.

ISBN/ASIN: 978-0-692-08298-0 (Soft Cover),978-1-949393-02-6(Hardcover),978-1-949393-00-2 (eBook)
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle, Audiobook
Review Genre: Fiction—Mystery/Thriller
Number of Pages: 415

Occupied by Kurt Blorstad

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

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

The Mayor of Successive Miracles by Hamlin Tallent, author; Dell Putnam, editor; and Steve Collins, contributor

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Mayor of Successive Miracles was riveting and fast-paced. As a career naval officer myself, I probably related more to the subject material and the characters than most, but I still think it's a story that anyone interested in the military and military history would find very entertaining. The US Navy is an organization steeped in enormous talent, but like all large, bureaucratic organizations, there are anomalous characters that somehow defy the norms. I knew officers very much like the main character, who "succeeded" in the system with guile, cunning, and blind good luck—as opposed to the expected character traits of hard work, talent, courage, and superior leadership. Hamlin Tallent , a retired Navy admiral, knows his material. And his vast knowledge of ships, aircraft, systems, and strategy comes through extremely well. At times, there is an overload of detail on Navy terminology, for the unaccustomed reader, but it doesn't really distract from the main story line. Tallent also does an excellent job of weaving in the actual timelines and historic events of his plot with the characters he has manufactured.

Review by Phil Keith (May 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

 Jack Grant is a total ass. He rises to fame as a MIG killer over the skies of Iraq and his success leads him to command the Navy's premier aerial combat school, TOPGUN. But, things go awry and the Navy sends him to the Pentagon. The TAILHOOK scandal nips at him. Jack survives a shoot-out with Saddam's thugs in the wilds of Iraq and is given command of a Navy air wing. He miraculously emerges as a hero from every tight spot. But Jack is haunted by his dying wife and by the growing realization that his is a terrible husband, selfish friend, lousy pilot, and an absolute fraud. Jack seeks answers and forgiveness and, just maybe, a final mission against Iran will provide both.

ISBN/ASIN: 9781731038623
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Literary Fiction
Number of Pages: 424


The Council: Acquiring the Great Orbs by Javier Berrellez

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

The strength of this story is the story itself. It is a mix of aliens, alien tech and human military agencies that are sometimes the good guys and sometimes not. The plot is simple: acquire the orbs. Yet the plot is complicated and takes many turns, sometimes so fast and so exhilarating, you need to re-read the last section to catch your breath and figure out what’s happening.

Characters are not well developed, but may not need to be because the storyline is well developed.

The conclusion is superb and lends itself to future installments of The Council. The story does suffer from technical difficulties that are easily fixed, such as voice, tense and word choice.

Review by Gail Summers (June 2019) 


Author's Synopsis

 The Council: Acquiring the Great Orbs is fast-paced and intricately plotted science-fiction thriller. Government secrets, alien invasions, and military action combine to make The Council an edge-of-your-seat page-turner. Adam, a government agent for the naval reconnaissance office, or NRO, has been tasked with the menial job of driving a cargo van filled with four large containers – contents unknown – to a burn facility. He has done this every week for the past two years. The job is far below his pay grade as an agent and Adam has grown frustrated. He has also grown increasingly curious as the secrecy and security surrounding his cargo load seem out of proportion to the job. After a secretive satellite recovery mission supported by Adam’s team, he finds himself the victim of an unprovoked attack that lands him in the hospital and being questioned by the police. Before he knows it, something has gone awry with the government mission of which he is a part and Adam is forced to try to put together the pieces. As he slips deeper into the mystery surrounding the operation, Adam begins to realize that the contents of the containers in the cargo van hold great importance. Together with his colleagues and two elite military men they cross paths with, they’re forced to search for answers by crawling through military tunnels and dodging attacks. Intense, intricately plotted, and deeply engaging, The Council: Acquiring the Great Orbs draws readers into the dark and mysterious world of complex government conspiracies, covert military operations, and otherworldly combatants. As Adam races to find answers, readers will find themselves holding their breath, unable to put the book down.

ISBN/ASIN: B07PCPS7BZ
Book Format(s): Kindle
Review Genre: Fiction—Horror/Fantasy/Sci Fi
Number of Pages: 280

Captain Mama's Surprise / La Sorpresa de Capitán Mamá by Graciela Tiscareño-Sato

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Click on cover image to purchase a copy

MWSA Review

Captain Mama's Surprise takes children on a wonderful adventure on a KC-135 Aerial Refueling Tanker. Mama introduces her son's classmates to the crew and clearly explains to them what the mission is and how it is accomplished. The cast is made of diverse characters, which is refreshing. Also appreciated was the focus on female characters who not only are teachers but also pilots in charge of very important missions in the United States Air Force, thus breaking away from the more standardized gender roles that women have usually had in children's books.

The illustrations add a lot to the book as a whole and help highlight the celebration of diversity that is present in the story, which is also brilliantly told in Spanish. The addition of a glossary (in dual language) and an art project make for unexpected yet welcomed additions.

Review by Brunella Costagliola (April 2019)


Author's Synopsis

In this second book in the Captain Mama series, Marco and his sisters, whose mother is a U.S. Air Force aviator, visit the KC-135 aerial refueling tanker on a field trip with his second grade class. The children and their teachers meet the aircrew and the crew chief, tour the airplane to understand its unique parts and learn what each crew member does as they work together onboard this gas station in the sky. Includes a STEM activity for children to learn basic aircraft terms and structure plus glossaries in Spanish and English of aviation terms in the text. From School Library Journal K-Gr 3—Marco's second grade class goes on an Air Force base field trip. His mom is the navigator on an aerial refueling tanker, and the kids are excited about touring the plane and meeting the crew. In an easygoing first-person narrative, Marco describes the adventure. Everything from the refueling process to the manual landing gear crank is explained to the eager students. The smiling, accommodating crew members outline their responsibilities and the importance of working as a team. Lens's simple but colorful illustrations reinforce the childlike quality of the book. Tiscareño-Sato is a Mexican American military veteran/aviator, and in this continuation of her bilingual series "Captain Mama," the author affords young readers the opportunity to observe a coed, multiethnic crew performing their vital tasks. In addition, the final six pages include an English/Spanish glossary, a list of educational resources and their respective links, and an art/engineering project. VERDICT An accessible and positive portrayal of the mothers and people of color who serve proudly in the military; a good purchase for bilingual collections.—Mary Margaret Mercado, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, AZ

ISBN/ASIN: 9780997309003, 978-0997309034, 9780997309010, 9780977309027
Book Format(s): Hard cover, Soft cover, Kindle, ePub/iBook
Review Genre: Children & Young Adult—Picture Book
Number of Pages: 42