Soldiers of Freedom

   Soldiers of Freedom ISBN: 9781943593279 Mount Sopris Publishing copyright and written by Samuel Marquis.

  This is Volume five of the WW II series and a novel subtitled “Patton’s Panthers and the Edelweiss Pirates” and is dedicated to “The officers and enlisted men of the 761st Tank Battalion who triumphed on WW II battlefields, and to the German youth of the Edelweiss Pirates who fought against Nazi tyranny.” However, it is more than a story of these two entities in that it reaches beyond and within them. The 761st, also referred to as The, or Patton’s, Black Panthers and was the first Negro battalion, and specifically selected by Patton, for duty with his 3rd Army as they slugged their way across Europe to be the first unit to cross into Germany concluding that country’s final struggles. Their story is provided through the eyes of William McBurney, one of the first enlistees who, along with the others, distinguished themselves individually as well as that of a proud and closely knit unit who actually were compelled to fight on two fronts. They not only fought some remnants of Hitler’s finest units in the desperate Battle of the Bulge and beyond to the very end, but coincidentally were required to battle against their own white soldiers and their constant denigrating words and actions. The tale of the Edelweiss Pirates is based upon two members of the subversive group, Gertrude Koch and Jean Jülich, who were heavily and actively involved against the sadistic remnants of the Gestapo in the final days of the city of Cologne. A third feature of the book is the fictional but heavily researched discussions and planning sessions among Eisenhower, Bradley, Patton, Montgomery and the others that could have accompanied the concluding period on the War in Europe. Interesting reference even is made to episodes going back to the dessert fighting against Rommel and even bits from Eisenhower’s and Patton’s relationship going back to WW I.

Discussion: This is a most unusual book in numerous ways. Most prominently perhaps in its presentation in accurate detail the abominable treatment not only of black citizens, but even worse of those who had volunteered to risk their lives in fighting for a country who refused even to recognize these soldiers as human beings. It also presents in graphic detail the utterly inhuman activity presented by the gestapo, their members and underlings. But even worse, the thoughtlessness and/or disregard of the German people who allowed such depraved activity to begin, say nothing of allowing it to escalate to the despicable level finally reached. An action that should deeply be considered today by sections of the population of this country who are approaching an entrée level; e.g. refusal to believe the existence of the Holocaust? Racism? The Author then provides another fascinating thrust for the reader – the verbal intercourse and characterizations of the prominent WW II Generals presented in a manner quite succinctly explained in the final pages of his book. “Like Michael Shaara, (author of The Killer Angels Battle of Gettysburg) “”I have “not changed any fact” nor have I “knowingly violated any action.” Most scenes in the book are based on known events with specific historical figures present, but a minority are based on incidents that are generally accepted to have taken place but have unfortunately not been documented by history, or I believe happened under similar circumstances to those described in the book but for which there is no historical record. In these cases, the interpretations of character and motivation are mine alone. Thus, the book’s characters are ultimately a part of my overall imaginative landscape and are, therefore, the fictitious creations of the author, reflecting my personal research interests and biases.”

Summary: A tremendously well researched book with, from this reader’s perspective, totally credible author interpretations where required. There is a certain amount of redundancy, but acceptable and generally speaking, this is a tale most appreciated by history and war devotees, but an overall presentation that would provide a large amount of thought producing elements from which all readers could benefit, especially when considering the unconstitutional and unlawful attitudes and actions so abundantly extant today.

5* Thought-jolting historical tale highly recommended for ALL today’s readers.

On the Backs of Waves

On the Backs of Waves ISBN: 9781076836984 Kindle direct publishing copyright and written by Chiara Kelly.

This book encompasses the strong emotions of several persons caught in life’s situations originating from basic physical emotions embodied within that are at war with seemingly equally powerful, more mentally based, self-fulfillment desires. Moriah, a former feature writer for a prominent New York magazine had downgraded to retain a part-time position when she married Miles, a struggling cartoonist. The union was highly satisfying and within a couple of years, she became mother to a son followed 2 years later by an adorable daughter. During this period, Miles had become a highly successful syndicated cartoonist and they had arrived at ‘the good life’ and were living in the Half Moon Bay community on the eastern shore. Unfortunately, Moriah now became acutely aware of her mundane activities as a dedicated mother and started to be a little resentful of her only part time mental activity producing material for her old employer. Thus, when a vacancy opened in her old office and her former boss thought she would be the perfect person to fill, she felt that she just had to accept the offer. During the discussion with Miles, she uttered her resentment that she had been the one in the family who had, of necessity, made all of the changes in her work life. Miles out of fairness but with some quiet reservations, agreed to her return to her earlier position and they began the search for a Nanny. Through neighbors, they found Laurel Mackintosh who was their Nanny but who would be available because they were moving away. Laura is a former Marine who had two children when raped by a Sargent who refused to marry her before being shipped to another assignment. Before delivering, she began hemorrhaging and the uterus had to be removed to save her. As fate would dictate, Virgil, the supportive medic who had assisted, later became a sailing instructor at the Yacht Basin where the Reeds and the other couple lived and a relationship was reestablished. From this somewhat entangling set of circumstances, a web of activity evolves where revelation of further details would be a definite disservice to the prospective reader.

Discussion: The actual story behind this book and the poignancy it generates is, at least for this reader, as fascinating as the tale itself. It is written by a former Marine, now married and living in Seoul, Korea with her thoughtful and supportive husband and their three sons. Most appealingly, perhaps, are in the short biographical details at the book’s conclusion where she offers: “And although unconventional, I want to thank my characters, through whom I was able to, in a sense, live vicariously through their diverse array of achievements, victories, loves, and losses. Some of which, I still long to realize myself.” She further expresses why she is grateful for each of her characters activities and especially she thanks “Laurel, as a fellow female Marine and Depression and PTSD survivor, whose loss and longing gave me a greater appreciation for my three sons, whom at times, I not only took for granted, but craved time away from in the quest for my own sanity.” Before even the book’s Prologue she has provided a most compelling description of the book’s story and combined with the short capsule of her life at the end of the story, produce a most memorable thought producing book. The opening quotes are Vincent Van Gogh’s “The heart of man is very much like the sea. It has its storms, it has its tides, And in its depths it has its pearls, too” which then are followed by the author’s dedication: “For my children, for whom no sacrifice is too great.” The two combined are predictive of the story that follows.

5* Absorbing, as explained in the discussion.

Apollo’s Raven

Apollo’s Raven ISBN: 9781647040543 Apollo Raven Publisher copyright and written by Linnea Tanner.

This Book One in the Curse of the Clansmen and Kings Series is a novel “based on historical fantasy and mythology of the southeast Celtic tribes” of Britannia beginning in the days just prior to the Roman invasion in 43 A.D. It is the time when the Gods were many and each culture embraced its own. Apollo was the powerful Sun God totally embraced by the Romans and their powerful legions, although seemingly he received some degree of respect by the Celts but mostly they, and their heavily muscled fierce warriors, embraced several others arising from legends stemming from Ireland and Wales with extensive belief in mysticism as conjured up by the Druids. The book opens in this period when Rome’s emperor is making exploratory moves before deciding whether to invade the islands.

The protagonists are Celtic princess Catrin, youngest daughter of Amren, king of one of the tribes and Marcellus, son of the pompous Roman Senator who is exploring whether to support Amren or Cunoblin, an adjoining powerful Ruler, if the Emperor decides to invade. Complications are numerous in that the latter had arranged a marriage between a daughter and Marrock, Amren’s oldest son whom he had banished from his country for treasonous activity. He believed that, perhaps with Rome’s help, he could arrange to replace Amren by restoring him to his ex-father’s position. Marrock was aligned with Agrona, the Druid Priestess whom Amren trusted but who secretly was working to gain control of the kingdom. Rhiannon, Armen’s second wife did not trust Agrona but deferred to her husband’s decision to put her second in command after herself. From this complicated beginning, even greater confusion emerges from rampant distrust and intertwining acts of deceit, deception, treachery and betrayal and the appearance of shapeshifters and abundant other mystical activity.

Discussion: Spinning this tale and its subsequent volumes no doubt has been, and will continue to be, a difficult task. “The Celts left almost no written records. Historical events had to be supplanted by Greek and Roman historians and medieval writers who spun Celtic mythology into their Christian beliefs, Archaeological findings from this time period also help fill in the gaps.” Under the circumstances the author has done a quite remarkable job of creating a very suspenseful historical/mythical/romance of considerable proportions. It is a story that will fascinate devotees of these several genres.

5* Suspenseful historical/mythical/romance devotees will thoroughly enjoy.

ONWARD The Art of Leadership

ONWARD The Art of Leadership ISBN: 9781948046985 Telemachus Press copyright and written by Mark Joseph Huckabee.

The book opens with an introduction stating “The top trait of leaders: They never quit learning and growing. Leaders are perpetual students seeking mastery of their craft. Leadership is a life-long journey with no final destination. It is a way – the best way – to live life. You will see your hard work manifest into success not only for you, but for those around you.” Seven sections follow with descriptions of how to attain this eminence by following the examples set by known, as well as lesser stature, philosophers, warriors, writers, statesmen, politicians, explorers, entrepreneurs, scientists and others. All is provided with support from copious examples, quotes, and explanations provided by these people and especially from a most interesting and unusual array of cinematic productions. Section I begins with the ‘First Step’ and provision of examples of how everyone is a combination of boss, parent, leader, employer and coach. The examples range from presentation of the “Ice Bowl” football game and the initiation of “Molotov Cocktails” to movies such as Rocky, Jurassic Park, To Kill a Mocking Bird and more. Section II discusses the “How” of leadership with an actor’s example of the importance of “Preparation and the Will to Win”, a short story of Benjamin Franklin’s winning strategy, the “Art of Silence”, the movie “Star Wars” and numerous other pertinent factors. Section III presents a discussion of the importance of settling for nothing less than the “Extraordinary” detailing the difference between Dreamers and Doers with supportive material from the cinematic production of Field of Dreams, Ian Fleming’s James Bond and more. Section IV concentrates on “Building Great Teams. V the importance of having and living your principles. VI describes Managing an organization as well as managing your life and sets forth a sizable number of examples set by famous people and such pictures as Citizen Kane, and The Godfather. The last, Section VII: Change the Frame, opens with a vignette of Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor, renowned scientist and best-selling author and his human ability to survive not only unimaginable suffering of body, but his mind, soul and spirit that says “You shall overcome. And the reward for enduring your struggle is that you will change the world” and how his founding of ‘logotherapy’ was to teach that there was a basic importance to find a meaning in life that was the primary and most compelling motivational driving force in humans. The book ends with “A Personal Farewell: Turn the Page” where the author offers a few parting words “Any life worth living – at some point – will face seemingly unbearable circumstances. If you aren’t failing. You aren’t growing. You aren’t taking the chances true living requires. This too shall pass. Life will humble you. Let it. When it’s easy: Onward. When it’s hard: Onward. Locked onto your full potential, always facing True North. Live life this way, and I promise you will get there. A day is coming….Every moment the story of your life is being written. AND YOU HOLD THE PEN.”

Discussion: The author has taken discussion of moving one’s methods of living and working to successful levels to a most unusual and interesting manner of presentation level. Frankly, this reviewer approached this read/review with some restrictions of interest. Having read quite a number of these ‘self-help’ presentations, not much different was expected and momentarily was buttressed by observing the number of references to cinematic productions included. Once again my inclination to persevere through any book received ‘’till the bitter end’ proved to be the correct decision. This is a book that deserves to be read with an open mind by any book reviewer and is a truly helpful and easy-to-read volume for those looking for thoughtful suggestions.

5* Unusual, impressive offer of usual material in a different, enjoyable package.

Still Standing

Still Standing ISBN: 9781456634414 Orca Publishing, copyright and written by Vicki Fitzgerald and M.G. Crisi.

Sub-titled One Woman’s Struggle with Divorce, Depression, and Betrayal, the story details repetitive painful episodes of a life of gradual descent into the depths of despair but with ultimate survival resulting from unrealized internal strength. The reader follows the gradual decline of an originally confident, outgoing, fun-loving young Vicki as she makes one poorly thought out decision after another unfortunately accompanied by others not of her making. After several poor relationships in early teen years, she finally progresses in her life to gain a position as a respected investigative reporter, finds a loving husband who grows in his executive positions with an international organization, and she gives birth to an adorable son and a lovely daughter. Only three days after her beloved Emily was born, however, her beloved and constant ‘rock of strength’ Grandfather was diagnosed with a terminal disease, one which he fought and she had to watch his gradual decline. During this period, she was invited to report on the opening of a new entertainment park where she was given a ride on a new mechanical device called The Whip. Seemingly a malfunction resulted in a painful back injury. Apparently because of the British Health System, she was sent for examination to an incorrect diagnostic center and her spinal disc injuries were not properly diagnosed. She continued to suffer with increasing bouts of pain, lost the other Grandfather, and her disc problem worsened causing her to enter a deep state of depression until the disc problems finally were diagnosed correctly and she had back surgery. Still recovering, she received word that her almost indispensable childminder, suffered a CVA resulting in loss of vision and speech impairment. The effect upon the already heavily depressed young Vicki requires no words. Still functioning ‘normally’ on the surface however, she was continuing her news assignments and other activities. But now she began to encounter increased problems in her job, which her editor advised to ‘forget about’. Recounting the situation to her husband, instead of providing the loving ‘comfort’ she had expected, she receives nothing more than a repetition of the editor’s advice. She suffers an instantaneous, intense feeling of rejection and truly ‘being without anyone’ and her world suffers complete devastation. From this point on, her downward spiral greatly accelerates. Her husband’s increasing numbers of trips away from home, conjure up suspicion of possible unfaithfulness She encounters deceit and betrayal by trusted friends. Drugs and even an assault occur. Even worse, there is a totally unexpected and horribly frightening encounter with the judicial system, brief incarceration, marital separation and multiple suicide attempts. BUT, the story continues beyond these features as ultimately it tells of her gradual climb back to become an accomplished author and CEO of a rising company.

Discussion: This is a poignant tale of survival by a vibrant young woman who falls to emotional rock bottom as a result of an extended series of devastating, many self-inflected, situations only to courageously once again approach the pinnacle of success. It is a journey which easily can be the tale of anyone who, for one or another reason, still retains and exhibits, much of the naiveté and insecurity exhibited by much younger people. She now readily admits many errors but is glad to have put her trials and troubles on paper and has no doubt they will be criticized and worse by some, but they have provided a welcome catharsis for which she has no regrets. So, “With my children by my side, life is good.” And “After everything I’ve endured; pain, betrayal, tragedy, and near death, I’m still standing.” And, in revealing these matters, she hopes to offer a simple message: “Hope it inspires at least one person at rock bottom to keep climbing, keep swimming and hold their head above water when they’re drowning. “If I can weather the storm until the sun shines, so can you!

5* Message of hope to the confused, depressed looking for help.

 

Figuring It Out

Figuring it Out ISBN: 9781642250435 Advantage Media, copyright and written by Libby Connolly Alexander.

Sub-titled, A Memoir of Connolly, Inc.’s Journey to the Top, the book is a memoir by a woman who, with her brother and tech-savvy husband had taken the company successfully established by her entrepreneurial father to the point of eventually going public at a high market evaluation before reselling at an even greater value. The story opens with “To the three legs of the stool and all that we accomplished together” referring to the extended activity and accomplishments of she and her brother under the tutelage of her father, along with her husband.  Then, following several letters of praise for the book, quite lengthy acknowledgements are listed, an Introduction, ten chapters and a conclusion. The Introduction is prefaced by “A Jim Connolly Mantra: If you’re going to do something, do it right or don’t do it at all”. This in turn is followed by his opening statement to the family at dinner in the late 1980’s that he was resigning the quite prestigious position of Chief Operating Officer at Gimbel’s NYC department store to initiate a new entrepreneurial project – a recovery auditing business. Ten chapters and a conclusion then explains that she has “mapped out in this book her father’s blueprint that masterfully explains the core values and principles that support any successful business.” She begins by describing the changes taking place during the period of his change in position – the conglomerates, junk bonds, management shake-ups and the rest – beginning with Chapter 1 where her “father’s footsteps” include many of his admonitions such as “Above all, learn and constantly practice the art of adjusting to change” as they provided the groundwork for successful establishment of Connolly, Inc. referred to as Cotiviti.  Much of her father’s biography, including a fascinating account of wartime experience, largely in the Pacific Theater, proceeds to describe the man’s fundamental beliefs. The ensuing chapters present a gradual unfolding of the ‘Blue Print’ she has set forth and a Conclusion mentioned where she describes stepping down but summarily reflects upon important attitudes she believes necessary to succeed.

Discussion: This is an interestingly ‘different’ approach to the establishment and maintenance at a high level of an entrepreneurial start-up from very limited beginnings. The constant reference to bio- and autobiographical material quite interestingly provide material to bolster the author’s intent rather than offer what might be considered material detrimental. It recalls a time slightly before the evolution of the ‘Me’ outlook. “A time when reciprocal respect existed among a group of honorable men who openly shared their thoughts and moves with integrity, intent and purpose.” It also was at a time when a businessman could consider “One client at a time. No outside investment. No acquisitions. Just hard work and a determination to be the best by delivering quality results with low noise.” Troublesome business situations such as junk bonds, conglomerates and management shake-ups were developing during Jim Connolly’s early years, but he still believed in the ‘old fashioned’ basics and was still able to demonstrate they functioned well even during the progression to the rash of mergers, acquisitions and consolidations, restructuring, bankruptcies, highly intensified competition and price cutting so prevalent today. His methods of hard work, ingenuity, integrity, persistence, ability to adapt quickly to the rapidly changing environment, courtesy, professionalism and tenacity of purpose combined with hiring and inspiring a talented team were the key ingredients to formulate the multi-billion dollar businesses his son and daughter, Larry and Libby, further developed and ultimately walked away from. He was a great coach and roll-model whose early Recovery Auditing Company discovered and promoted innovative ways to identify and recover lost revenue, pricing and promotional funds in the 1980 – 90’s when auditing was an entirely different form of business than exists today.

5* Excellent self-help business suggestions in unusual memoir format.