31 Following

"Check Six"

Currently reading

The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman, Robert K. Massie
Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir - Joseph R. Owen [b:Colder Than Hell: A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir|817372|Colder Than Hell A Marine Rifle Company at Chosin Reservoir|Joseph R. Owen|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1320525290s/817372.jpg|803259] gets 3 Stars for its no-nonsense portrayal of a Marine Rifle Company in the first 5 months of the Korean War. The title is a bit misleading because the Chosin Reservoir only fills the last quarter of the book. It is really a tale of the mortar section of B Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment from August to December 1950. A bunch of ill-trained reservists and a couple regular Marines come together, quickly train up at Camp Pendleton, CA and then are thrown into battle just after the Inchon landings. Later transferred to the other coast, Baker 1/7 reaches the Chosin Reservoir and are one of the most forward units when the Chinese attack. 2nd Lt Owen tells the company's story without much explanation of a wider picture. Honest, unvarnished description of the brave and not so brave, very focused on the small unit actions. Lost a star due to no maps in the beginning. Does have some map sketches later that help. A good companion to [b:The Last Stand of Fox Company: A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat|4452263|The Last Stand of Fox Company A True Story of U.S. Marines in Combat|Bob Drury|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1328774655s/4452263.jpg|4500488]. If not for the brave stand of Fox Company, Baker Company would not have made it out of the Chosin Reservoir. 2Lt Owen tells the story of fighting their way to Fox Hill and beyond. A good, quick read.
The Wolf: The German Raider That Terrorized the Southern Seas During World War I in an Epic Voyage of Destruction and Gallantry - Richard Guilliatt, Peter Hohnen Review pending...
The Ravens: The Men Who Flew In America's Secret War In Laos - Christopher Robbins Review pending...

The Accidental Caregiver: How I Met, Loved, and Lost Legendary Holocaust Refugee Maria Altmann

The Accidental Caregiver: How I Met, Loved, and Lost Legendary Holocaust Refugee Maria Altmann - Gregor Collins Review pending
Mystic River - Dennis Lehane Nothing beautiful, pristine or innocent survives very long in Lehanes's world. This is one of the darkest, grittiest, most depressing crime novels you'll ever come across. But the man can write and will keep you glued to the book right to the end. My first Lehane that did not involve Kenzie and Gennaro; but the setting is the same--blue collar Boston neighborhoods filled with flawed characters hiding their secrets. [b:Mystic River|21671|Mystic River|Dennis Lehane|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1277356254s/21671.jpg|1234249] gets 5 Stars.
Gangster - Lorenzo Carcaterra Not quite finished yet but I don't expect it will get any better. Finished with Mr. Carcaterra for now. I really liked his book [b:Apaches: A Novel of Suspense|66407|Apaches A Novel of Suspense|Lorenzo Carcaterra|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348638355s/66407.jpg|2251682], his follow-on to that ([b:Chasers|1780516|Chasers|Lorenzo Carcaterra|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348340281s/1780516.jpg|64388]) was just ok. [b:Gangster|539894|Gangster|Lorenzo Carcaterra|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1175634931s/539894.jpg|1131956] feels like an uninspired version of [b:The Godfather|22034|The Godfather|Mario Puzo|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1327871801s/22034.jpg|266624]. The book is told in a series of flashbacks. I never had a sense of suspense or felt a connection to the players.
Hit Man (Keller #1) - Lawrence Block I didn't think I would finish this one at first, but Keller grows on you. The [b:Hit Man|380563|Hit Man (Keller, #1)|Lawrence Block|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348425989s/380563.jpg|1062586] is a collection of vignettes involving Keller's targets and how he plans to accomplish each mission. The stories are tied together with Keller's attempts to fill a lonely existence between jobs. Good beach read. Already have the sequel.
Child 44 - Tom Rob Smith So many excellent reviews, I have little to add except...how do these English writers do it? Mr Smith writes like he was there in Moscow in the '50s (Lee Child, another English author, writes as if he grew up in the American South and served in the US Army). The first 200 pages were absolutely brilliant, a chilling picture of the USSR at the height of the "perfect socialist society". The rest of the story becomes a bit unrealistic as Leo and his wife are first banished to a small village and later to the gulag. Still, the action was always exciting and I couldn't put it down. Hope to read more of this author.

Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II

Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II - Michael Walling [b:Forgotten Sacrifice: The Arctic Convoys of World War II|13330293|Forgotten Sacrifice The Arctic Convoys of World War II|Michael Walling|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1351213382s/13330293.jpg|18537924] gets 4 Stars for bringing a little known arena of conflict to life. Probably not the best written war history, it is a great collection of first person accounts but cries out for someone to put the events into context. (Can someone call Sir Max or Mr Beevor and interest them in this story?) I recommend this book highly but also suggest you go watch a few episodes of "Deadliest Catch" to put you in the mood for this unforgiving theater of war.

The route, which was open to U-boat attack throughout its entire length, was limited to the west and north by ice and to the east and south by an enemy-occupied coast, well provided with anchorages whence surface forces could operate at will, and airfields from which aircraft could dominate 1,400 miles of its furthest east, and therefore most vulnerable, waters. The whole route, including the terminal ports at each end, lay within range of enemy reconnaissance and at two points was crossed by German routine meteorological flights. British shore-based air support was confined to what could be given from Iceland and Sullom Voe in the Shetland Islands.

The British seamen and the first of the American merchant seamen learned bitterly in the winter of 1941-42 about Arctic weather. The gales blew across the 900-mile-widespace between Greenland and Norway and swept northeastward. The wind struck the slowly laboring columns of a convoy with an unbroken fury. The crews lived in almost perpetual darkness for 115 days during the dark winter when the sun barely rose. It was so dark that a lookout stationed on a ship’s bridge could not even see the bow of his own vessel. The positions of the ships ahead, on each side and astern were unknown; all were under complete blackout regulation. Convoy machine-gunners had orders to fire directly at any light shown. But another ship might be detected by a veering wind gust that held a tang of stack smoke, or her engine sounds, the thud of her propeller, the waves hammering her hull.

Men strained to hear and to smell as well as to see. They explored the caverns of the wind in the lulls between gusts with extremely sensitized perception. Buffeting wind blurred their vision, and the unwilled tears froze on their cheeks. The eyebrows and eyelashes were frozen. Their lashes would fall off later, painfully, in the heated quarters of the ship. Breath was agony if taken fully before the wind; a man turned aside, breathed, swung back and examined the reaching dark again.

A good accounting of the entire series of Artic convoys, as well as individual battles. Survival, if you had to go in the water, was measured in minutes. Many stories of heroism are told. Here is a story from one crew torpedoed on the run to Murmansk:

On arrival in Murmansk, the survivors were transferred to Chaser for the passage home. I talked to a group of Mahratta ratings—none of the officers had survived—who told me of the heroism of their doctor. Having managed to climb onto one of the few Carley floats to have come through the sinking, he set about hauling the others aboard. The float soon became overcrowded. Remarking almost casually, “There’s not enough room for us all," the doctor slipped over the side into the sea and was never seen again.

The straightforward manner in which the survivors recounted this event, and the admiration and affection with which they spoke of their doctor—whose name (oddly enough) none of them knew—made a deep impression upon me.

Not until months later, and then quite by chance, did I discover that Mahratta’s doctor was none other than Peter McRae, a contemporary of mine at school. As a boy he had been one of the most delightful and gifted of people. A good all-rounder, successful in all he undertook, yet completely unassuming …Several years after the war, a proposal was mde that his self-sacrifice should be recognized by a suitable award but, sadly, the Admiralty did not concur.

So sad that the references for the Russian part of this operation date from the 1990's or 2000's. I bet there are many incredible tales lost forever because the secrecy demands of the USSR outlived the participants.

If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy--from the Revolution to the War of 1812 - George C. Daughan Finished, a good 3 1/2 Stars but probably not one to make my permanent collection. He does a good job of covering the fledgling Continental Navy, from the pork barrel effort to build the first batch of frigates to their eventual demise at the hands of the Royal Navy. His contention is the US Navy was born in the Revolutionary War rather than in the 1790's, as is commonly agreed. He covers many naval actions, large and small to make the point. As many other reviewers have noted, he beats a dead horse on the failure of the Continentals to build hundreds of "Whaleboats and row galleys" to use in guerrilla raids against the British Navy. He believes that would have been far more effective rather than trying to mirror the ships and tactics of the greatest naval power in the world, as the Continentals do. He brings some fair criticism to the conduct of naval operations and what the combatants could have done to succeed. He goes overboard when he gets down to individual battles and applies the same approach.

I did not find his post-Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sections to be thorough enough for me. [b:Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy|39000|Six Frigates The Epic History of the Founding of the U.S. Navy|Ian W. Toll|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1329071512s/39000.jpg|1525986] is so much better in describing that era. One thing disturbed me was a definite anti-Jeffersonian slant. He uses a common tactic you see on cable TV...someone's different opinion is not honestly held but is underhanded and self-serving. Many did not want to build a large navy because once you start building, the naval proponents will just want more and more. And a large navy will provide the temptation to get involved in European conflicts. There is a conflict when a nation relies on a lot of seaborne trade but does not want to build a respectable force to protect that trade. Didn't feel he did that conflict justice.

A good book to read about the earliest days of our naval history but I'd recommend Six Frigates for a more exciting read.
Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill (Civil War America) - Harry W. Pfanz WARNING: PROFESSIONAL MILITARY READER, CLOSED COURSE. Unsupervised reading [b:Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill|1022630|Gettysburg--Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill|Harry W. Pfanz|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1347490844s/1022630.jpg|1008757] can and will result in serious injury to desire to learn more about Gettysburg. Don't Try This at Home Without Military History Professional Available for Assistance!

If you are familiar with Gettysburg, you probably know Pickett's Charge well, that march into carnage on the third day. You probably know about Chamberlain and his bayonet charge on Little Round Top. Maybe you are somewhat knowledgeable about the initial meeting of the armies on the first day. But many are not all that aware of the fight on the right of the Union line, the "hook" to the north. Mr Pfanz clears up any confusion or lack of knowledge with incredible detail, almost minute-by-minute and yard-by-yard recounting of the battle. Fantastic book for anyone wanting to do a battlefield tour. Superb reference for the Gettysburg aficionado. Probably bore the casual historical reader to tears. Mr Pfanz tells a good story but not always riveting. If you want to know how close the Confederates came to winning, this book is a must. 4 Stars in recognition of clearly superb scholarship.
Chasers - Lorenzo Carcaterra Unfortunately, [b:Chasers|1780516|Chasers|Lorenzo Carcaterra|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348340281s/1780516.jpg|64388] did not measure up to my expectations after reading the first book, [b:Apaches: A Novel of Suspense|66407|Apaches A Novel of Suspense|Lorenzo Carcaterra|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1348638355s/66407.jpg|2251682]. The "Apaches" are reconstituted with new members, injured on the job but still able and willing to go after bad guys. Drug lords and their gangs are the targets in this one. The action is disjointed, not realistic and the over-the-top "street talk" just annoys.
Strip Tease - Carl Hiaasen Good but not my favorite. Not many laughs in this one but some great characters.
Life - Keith Richards Petra made me do it, really. To say I don’t care for The Rolling Stones would be an understatement. Hate the music, never thought they were any good, I would never give them a first, much less a second thought. The power of her great review of [b:Life|9439303|Life|Keith Richards|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1327960451s/9439303.jpg|14323907] got me out of the comfort zone. Seriously, what does a conservative, career military guy have in common with a “longhaired, dope-smoking, good-time rock-&-roller?” Turns out there are a few things. I was impressed with his (and Jagger’s) focus on hard work and becoming proficient at the basics of making music early in his career, his modest boyhood, an appreciation of his grandfather Gus (who sounded like a guy I’d like).

I’m sure a Stones fan would get more out the many vignettes he relates on his interaction with many famous members of his generation in the music and popular culture crowd. His relationship with John Lennon and the Stones – Beatles interaction was a surprise to me. The influence of blues, soul and the growing black music industry on Richards and others was also a revelation but it makes sense. There are several instances where the efforts of various governments to harass the group are humorous, yet display the power of a big and, at times, ridiculously paranoid government. That is something I can relate to, given what is happening nowadays. I also loved it when the Brit government tries to impose the confiscatory 83-98% tax regime on the group and they split for other countries. Take that, socialists! When he loses a child, you get another side to the guy. Of course, whatever happened to him as a result of all the drug use, I couldn’t have cared less or felt any sympathy. His choices.

In all, this was a look into a world I have never seen or had much interest in (really no interest in). I enjoyed his writing although I must admit the slang would probably amuse someone from the UK more than me. It’s good to go outside your boundaries on occasion and not become one of those who won’t read a book because you don’t agree with someone’s lifestyle or politics. This is a good story and I’m glad to have read it. Thanks Petra. 3 Stars

The Fortunes Of War Four Great Battles Of World War II

The Fortunes Of War Four Great Battles Of World War II - Andy Rooney [b:The Fortunes Of War: Four Great Battles Of World War II|16117373|The Fortunes Of War Four Great Battles Of World War II|Andy Rooney|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1351539666s/16117373.jpg|15655774] was a quick, 2-Star read. Four battles: Tarawa; Stalingrad; D-Day; Battle of the Bulge are covered in Rooney's quirky way but more seriously than his TV vignettes on 60 Minutes would become. Very American-centric in his reports on these battles but in line with the thinking of the war at that time. He is best when describing individual combat actions, no false pictures of glory and heroic actions. He tells the real story, like the first time you saw Saving Private Ryan, it comes across bloody and horrific.
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (Millennium Trilogy) - Stieg Larsson Finished...at last! I just wanted it done with. Alternately hated and loved it, he had some great ideas and plot turns but some terrible, cardboard cutout villains. And total "Mary Sue" syndrome, give me a freakin' break. Lizbeth is tough as always but somewhat passive for most of the book. I like her better when she is kicking butt. Not as good as the first two books but adequate. Unlikely to ever reread. 3 Stars but wish I could have given more.