About andreart2013

After thirty plus years of military service, I now reside in rural Hanover County, VA. I write historical and speculative fiction and paint and teach watercolor painting.

Book Review: Three Days at the Brink, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney (Four Stars)


Book Review: Three Days at the Brink: FDR’s Daring Gamble to Win World War II, by Bret Baier with Catherine Whitney

(Four Stars)

“Like Eisenhower and Reagan, Roosevelt was a leader who transcended his political party to fulfill a higher purpose in the presidency.”

Though it borders on a hagiography, Three Days at the Brink brings modern readers a updated perspective on both our thirty-second president and the high-level decisions that determined the course of the post-World War II world.

“Circumstances required them to engage in the painful exercise of reaching agreement, with Roosevelt serving as the leader who would help them envision and cement a partnership that would win the war.”

But …

“After the war, [Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs] Molotov would acknowledge that the second front clamor was mostly a ploy. The Russians knew Continue reading

Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars by Stephen J. Lawhead (Four Stars)


Book Review: In the Region of the Summer Stars (Eirlandia #1) by Stephen J. Lawhead

(Four Stars)

‘Do you trust me?’ ‘I trust you as much as I trust any man.’ ‘Hmph! There speaks a suspicious man—a wary and skeptical man.’ ‘If so, perhaps I have earned my suspicions.’

Lawhead doing what he does best: light epic fantasy. A fun read with the right mix of protagonist stupidity and nobleness to hook epic fantasy fans. Fast paced and readable. Loosely based on the geography and history of Ireland.

‘Our lives may be forfeit, but Brecan must be stripped of power or he will become invincible—and all Eirlandia will pay the price.’ ‘Put like that, a fella would have to be a fool to Continue reading

Book Review: Beyond the Call by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield (Four Stars)


Book Review: Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot’s Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front by Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield

(Four Stars)

“It was a horrific time of my life. I don’t know if I can talk about it even now. I saw atrocities. I saw the worst in people. I was deceived into going there—misled and lied to by my own people.” Robert Trimble

Another great story of the war behind the headlines of World War II. Gripping tale of a bomber pilot who volunteered for a mission then discovered he was actually sent to do another. Well told with sufficient background and detail to Continue reading

Book Review: Beren and Lúthien by J. R. R. Tolkien (Four Stars)


Book Review: Beren and Lúthien (Middle-Earth Universe) by J. R. R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

(Four Stars)

“He greatly regretted having used the word ‘Elves’, which has become ‘overloaded with regrettable tones’ that are ‘too much to overcome’. Years later, when the Elves of the Third Age had entered the history of Middle-earth, there was nothing ‘fairylike’, in the modern sense, about them.”

First published in 2017, long after the story of the title dyad appeared in Tolkien’s The Silmarillion in 1977, this volume explores the story of the story. Christopher Tolkien mines his father’s literary compost heap to dig out Continue reading

Book Review: Splintered Light: Tolkien’s World by Verlyn Flieger (Five Stars)


Book Review: Splintered Light: Tolkien’s World, Revised Edition by Verlyn Flieger

(Five Stars)

“Tolkien’s work is more relevant to the world today than it appeared to be when The Lord of the Rings was first published in the mid-1950s. Reader initially enchanted by its fantasy world return again and again to the story for its soberer reflection of the real one.”

Drawing from the entire corpus of J. R. R. Tolkien’s work and influencers such as Owen Barfield, Flieger opens the greater vista of Tolkien’s created universe, especially as it relates to his (and our) own world. First published in 1983 and heavily revised in 2012 as more posthumous works were published, Light analyzes Tolkien and his world.

The Silmarillion can be fully understood without reference to The Lord of the Rings, but Continue reading

Book Review: Freedom Flight: A True Account of the Cold War’s Greatest Escape by Frank Iszak (Four Stars)


Book Review: Freedom Flight: A True Account of the Cold War’s Greatest Escape by Frank Iszak

(Four Stars)

“Tyranny doesn’t start with the gulags and gas chambers, it ends with them.”

Thrilling tale of a group of young people brought together by the very government that oppressed them. The tyranny of totalitarians regimes is still with us; history repeats, even with variations. (Should be a movie. Oh, it’s in production. Maybe.) Read the book.

“But God was omnipotent and His Ways could be strange and unpredictable. He had the answer. He was just holding it back.”

Iszak then and now credits divine intervention for their success. He gives sufficient detail that skeptics can draw their own conclusions.

“I was thinking last night. If we make love, I can’t wear a white wedding dress when we get married. Hmmm, I thought. Then I kind of mentally inventoried my wardrobe at home, and I realized that I don’t even have a white dress. On top of that, you never asked to marry me anyway, did you?” Iszak’s future wife.

I am wary of “true” stories first told over fifty years after the fact. Too convenient for potential inventors. Iszak admits he changes some names and provides basic documentation that the escape really happened. For the details we must trust him.

“The Kremlin-controlled media behind the Iron Curtain referred to the event as ‘Air Piracy’. They would have called it hijacking, but no one had coined the word yet.” Hijacking was in use long before. He refers to skyjacking.

“For seven just-liberated slaves, the sun had risen for the second time that day. This time in the West.”

Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan (Two Stars)


Movie Review: Jumanji: The Next Level, directed by Jake Kasdan

(Two Stars)

Disappointing. Had the same wacked-out plot structure as Jumanji: Into the Jungle and much the same cast. Danny DeVito was a welcome addition. Lots of inside jokes and some healthy relationship vibes.

But the tone of the movie is, presumably intentional, grittier. For one thing the offensive language is much more and more noticeable.

Book Review: Sergeant York by Alvin C. York and Tom Skeyhill (Three Stars)


Book Review: Sergeant York: His Own Life Story and War Diary by Alvin C. York and Tom Skeyhill

(Four Stars)

“I only did my duty to God and my country, and every man should do this.”

The true story of an extraordinary man of conscience who also happened to be an incredible shot with a rifle. York’s struggle with the conflicting dictates of his faith and his patriotism is perhaps a more compelling story that his battlefield exploits, and those—though documented—are so incredible as to seem like pulp fiction.

“Great care has been taken to preserve his mountain dialect.”

Writing this in York’s semi-literate dialect may have played well in the 1920s, but today’s reader will find it obscure and dishonest. This is obviously Continue reading

Book Review: A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell (Five Stars)


Book Review: A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War Two by Sonia Purnell

(Five Stars)

Virginia Hall was not to be measured by normal standards.” She was an agent, [Philippe de Vomecourt of the French Resistance] conceded, who had already done “many things considered improbably, if not impossible.”

Why isn’t this a movie? Virginia Hall had as much to do with the liberation of France in 1944 as the names you read in history books. This extraordinary American persisted despite the danger, not to mention bureaucratic and chauvinist rejections, to organize and execute a huge portion of the resistance in Vichy France with spill over into the German-controlled regions.

“Her amazing personality, integrity and enthusiasm were an example for us all,” [senior F Section agent Gerry Morel] reported. “No task was too great or too small for her; and whatever she undertook she put into it all her energy, sparing herself nothing.”

Well-researched and written. Purnell seeks primary sources and manages to uncover records (such as Hall’s 1946 award of the Croix de Guerre by France) which had been lost, misplace, or destroyed. Easy to read, despite the changing code names and unfamiliar geography. (A map of the area would have helped.)

“Eisenhower himself [said] its combined actions—sabotage, ambushes, harassment, and constant sapping of Nazi morale—had shortened the war in Europe by nine months and kept eight German divisions permanently away from the D-Day battlefields.”

The contrast between Hall’s humility and energy with the sloth and smugness of her British, French, and American (male) compatriots is vivid. The Prologue is too long and didactic. Read the rest of the book first, then the Prologue.

“She operated in the shadows, and that was where she was happiest.”


Movie Review: Little Women, written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Three Stars)


Movie Review: Little Women, written and directed by Greta Gerwig

(Three Stars)

“If the main character is a girl, make sure she is married by the end. Or dead. Either way.” 

Imaginative retelling of Louisa May Alcott classic nineteenth-century coming of age novel. However, the folded timeline assumes—no, depends on the viewer already knowing the story. Otherwise it’s not nearly as marvelous.

“I may not always be right. But I am never wrong.”

Nice Sets and costumes. Good music and photography. Excellent performance by Saoirse Ronan. Other than for poster presence, they wasted their money Continue reading