Wartime

NBR March Reviews – Four Genres

AMISH MYSTERY

“A Killer Carol” by Laura Bradford

Bradford’s beautifully written Amish mystery series stars Claire Weatherly, an Englisher, and Jakob Fisher, a former member of the Amish community. Claire chose to come to Heavenly, Pennsylvania to live with her aunt, rebuild her life, and open a store filled with Amish crafts. Jakob is a police detective in the town, who chose police work over life with the Amish.

 

In “A Killer Carol,” the seventh in the series, two of Claire’s Amish friends are suspected of a double murder and Jakob seems to have the evidence to prove it. Nobody’s talking, and with Claire and Jakob on opposite sides of the investigation, the holiday season may have lost its glow. With several surprising ‘wow’ moments, and Bradford’s wonderful characters to share the storyline, “Killer Carol” is a gift, no matter what time of year you read it. 

 

MILITARY FICTION

“The Last Platoon” by Bing West

In order to increase his chances at advancement, a career-stalled Marine accepts a short assignment to Afghanistan. West presents a realistic ‘boots on the ground’ viewpoint, with dedicated Marines adjusting to the leadership change. Self-serving orders given by the base C.O. result in a badly handled campaign, despite our hero’s best efforts to do his job. We come to realize that (with few exceptions) chain-of-command decisions are inviolate in the armed services.


The friendly Afghans are unpredictable, the base is under-manned, and the C.O. seems unhinged. With deadly consequences, “The Last Platoon” brings all the players together during a devastating sandstorm. West was an Assistant Secretary of Defense as well as a combat Marine and brings a great deal of authenticity to “The Last Platoon.”

 

THRILLER

 

“Backlash” by Brad Thor is a pulse-pounding page-turner in the Scot Harvath series. Harvath is betrayed, people close to him are murdered, and he is captured from U.S. soil by Russians. He is tortured and put on a plane to be handed over to an enemy who wants him dead. But the plane crashes in a remote part of Russia during a massive snowstorm and several of his guards are killed. That’s in the first thirteen pages of stay-up-all-night reading.

 

What follows is a harrowing tale of Harvath’s journey to evade the Russians without his usual support system in place. He knows that his captors will stop at nothing to get him back, but he is out for revenge. He must dig deep to stay alive in the face of hunger, brutal conditions, and the few resources he can steal. The twists are many, the perils are real, and the action superbly written.

 

NONFICTION

 

“No Time Like the Future” by Michael J. Fox, is exceptional. I laughed and cried as the beloved actor, Michael J. Fox, recounted his daily life with Parkinson’s via experiences with his career, his cherished family, and dear friends. He fully acknowledges the sacrifices others have made on his behalf while revealing some of his own missteps and ‘negotiations’ with the disease. Ever optimistic, Fox inspires all of us with his attitude and marvelous sense of humor in the midst of astonishing challenges. Wow!

Hint, hint: book sales raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the leading Parkinson’s organization in the world.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

“New York Times Best Fiction & Nonfiction of 2020”

The editors of The Times Book Review chose the best fiction and nonfiction titles of 2020, from among the titles they had reviewed. The titles are a mix of bestsellers and wannabes, from debut and/or international writers, but more importantly, the NYT Book Review editors fell in love with the story or the writing.

 

Listed in alphabetical order by author. Click on the titles to read the reviews and learn more about the books.

 

FICTION

Homeland Elegies”  by Ayad Akhtar 

The Vanishing Half”  by Brit Bennett

Deacon King Kong”  by James McBride

A Children’s Bible”  by Lydia Millet

 

 

Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell

 

 

NONFICTION

Hidden Valley Road” by Robert Kolker

War” by Margaret MacMillan

A Promised Land”  by Barack Obama

Shakespeare in a Divided America”  by James Shapiro

Uncanny Valley” by Anna Wiener

 

 

Military Fiction and Non-fiction

 

 

As we approach Memorial Day in the United States, I am reminded of the many friends and family members affected by war and its fallout, but rarely do veterans talk about their experiences. The authors below have captured the challenges and realities soldiers have faced throughout history. If you read Military Fiction and Non-fiction, these are among the best.

 

Mark Bowden: “Black Hawk Down,” true story of American forces in Somalia.
 

Philip Caputo: "A Rumor of War," the riveting true story of Philip Caputo's experience in Viet Nam.
 

Tom Clancy: “The Hunt for Red October,” based on a story rumored to be true.
 

Stephen Coonts: “Flight of the Intruder,” gripping story of Navy carrier pilot during Viet Nam, based on Coonts’ experiences.
 

Bernard Cornwell: “Sharpe’s Rifles,” part of a fictional series about Napoleonic warfare.

 

Nelson DeMille: “Up Country,” one of DeMille’s best. My review can be read here.

 

Ken Follett: “The Eye of the Needle,” Edgar Award winner.

 

Christopher Hibbert: “Red Coats and Rebels,” American Revolution told from the British perspective.

 

Laura Hillenbrand: “Unbroken,” WW2 true story of resilience, review here.

 

John Keegan: “The Face of Battle,” the story of what real soldiers go through, with information about famous battles in history.

 

Phil Klay: “Redeployment,” award-winning book contains 12 short stories centered around deployment in Afghanistan & Iraq.
 

Marcus Luttrell: “Lone Survivor: Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10.”

 

Tim O'Brien: "The Things They Carried," award-winning book of the Viet Nam conflict.

 

Thank a veteran. Give him/her a job. They sacrificed much and fought to keep you free.

 

“Louise’s War” and “Louise’s Dilemma” by Sarah R. Shaber

 

Book Cover - Louise's War

 

“Louise’s War,” by Sarah Shaber, introduces us to widowed Louise Pearlie, a file clerk in World War II Washington, DC. Louise is not just any file clerk. She has college training, is smart and resourceful, and is a bit of a risk taker. She works in the Office of Strategic Services (aka spy agency) where all the work is classified and government regulations dictate that she can’t even reveal where she works. Louise’s job is to look for information that will help the Allies win the war, perfect for this woman who has escaped her dead-end life on the Carolina coast.  

 

France is increasingly coming under German control at this stage of the war and it’s been a while since Louise has heard from a close college friend who lives there. Her husband is important to the war effort, and Louise searches for a way to get this Jewish family out of France before they are taken to internment camps.

 

When papers that would save her friend go missing and a murder is committed, Louise realizes that she can’t trust anyone. She must make alliances she would not have made in less desperate circumstances, and time is not her friend. Shaber creates a tension filled atmosphere of subterfuge and betrayal that keeps us guessing and swept up in the story.

 

In “Louise’s War,” Shaber demonstrates the gravity of the events of the war through her well-researched picture of life in WWII America, with its details of domestic sacrifices, and the effects of gas and food rationing. Louise’s time at a D.C. boarding house shows the reality of the jammed housing situation in wartime Washington. Massive amounts of food were needed by the troops, so the backyard gardens and chicken coops that Louise tended at the boarding house were true to the period, necessary supplements to rationed civilian food supplies.

 

Book Cover - Louise's Dilemma

 

 

In “Louise’s Dilemma,” Louise’s job focus has shifted to acquiring and cataloguing intelligence about Nazi U-boats in the North Atlantic. Louise and an FBI agent travel to nearby Maryland after a suspicious postcard is forwarded to the OSS. Their investigation takes alarming twists and turns and puts Louise in danger from a surprising villain. Her clever mind and dogged determination uncover something incredible, yet completely believable, given the real-world terrain in that area. “Louise’s Dilemma,” the third book in the series, delivers an engaging historical mystery and a compelling read. I had read it first, then picked up “Louise’s War,” to see how Louise Pearlie’s journey began. I’m glad I did.

 

Please click here for more information about award-winning Mrs. Shaber and her other books.
 

 

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