Book Review: Ike: An American hero by Michael Korda (Four Stars)

Ike: An American Hero by Michael Korda

Four Stars out of Five

A clear and comprehensive biography of the twentieth century president. Though Eisenhower has long suffered from the grandfatherly caretaker image painted by the press then, Ike emerges from Korda’s pages as a capable, though quiet leader who European victories during World War Two carried into the White House a decade later.

Kordas relies heavily on public writings which might have biased his book toward conventional wisdom, but he goes against the tide of even his fellow Englishmen in Ike’s famous head butting with Brit favorite Montgomery during the war, and his capable handling of both foreign and domestic issues as President. As historians now know, the supposed “Missile Gap” a Soviet fiction picked up by a willing Democrat election machine.

If anything Kordas focuses more on World War Two than Ike’s presidency. He details the issues with Montgomery and Patton as well as Ike’s working with all the various political, diplomatic and logistical headaches. The Kay Summersby affair is examined separating fact from fiction. (You’ll be surprised what’s fiction.)

Good research, good writing, good interpretation. A needed corrective of several long-term distortions.

Advertisements

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney (Four Stars)

James Madison: A Life Reconsidered by Lynne Cheney

Four Stars out of Five

Why write another biography of a historic figure, who every school child knows all about? Because modern scholarship allows the diligent researcher to retract exchanges by letters, some in cipher, with official records and contemporary media accounts to give a fuller picture of who said and did what to and with whom. This approach is especially fruitful with eighteenth century figures whose correspondence was saved. Through these we learn that the office of Vice President was an accident, the British assault of Washington a spur-of-the-moment venture and Monroe was as often Madison’s foe as his ally.

Everyone knows Madison was The Father of the Constitution, but they don’t know the man. This tome corrects that. Continue reading

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (five stars)

Book Review: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

five stars out of five

There’s a reason people like Doerr win multiple literary awards. Not only do they meticulously research and plot their novels, but they get far enough inside the heads of their characters, even minor characters, that we readers are inside their heads, too.

Superficially this book is about several teens before and during World War Two. I hope teens will read this book and connect with the characters. I hope people in general will read this book and discover how people become monsters. But this book is about Continue reading

Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes (Four Stars)

Book Review: A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes

Four Stars out of Five

Image a world where people knew when they would die. Imagine a world where people were required to carry a clock showing how many years, days, hours and seconds remained in their lives. Imagine being seventeen years old and having only one more year to live. And knowing it.

Unfortunately our protagonist is a lazy, stubborn, impulsive teen—yeah, like a lot of us at that age. (Maybe any age.) And she’s a Christian, at least nominally so. No hint of her knowing what that means, let alone living differently, at first. (Kind of like a lot of us again.) Not a very sympathetic character, but she makes up for it by doing stupid things and suffering the consequences—even though she still doesn’t learn. No, she doesn’t get a break. Yes, it gets irritating. Probably a pretty normal life.

And she lives over a century into our future when things have changed—a lot.

Not bad writing. Brandes manages to bring this story to a satisfactory close, while dangling lots of hooks for the next. Better than many far more famous authors.

Considering this was Brandes’ freshman effort, I gave her extra credit.

Not quite as good as Firebird, but another hit for Enclave Publishing.

Book Review: Singularity by Bill DeSmedt (Five Stars)

Book Review: Singularity by Bill DeSmedt

Five Stars out of Five

Science Fiction. Award-winning science fiction. Hard science fiction. Dense science fiction. Like a … you get the point.

Incredible freshman effort which grabs the reader by the throat and drags him or her, often willingly, deep into history, science, politics and consequences. You can read the blurb at any good book site, but they can’t tell you how DeSmedt skillfully lays out the treads to his tale then meticulously weaves them into a plausible, yet incredible, plot. He does.

Few technical quibbles and only one lapse of logic, but most readers won’t spot it or won’t care. I didn’t. Got didactic in places, but would have lost verisimilitude if the reader missed some of the history and science.

And, almost as important these days, it’s a complete, satisfying tale told between one pair of covers. Excellent job.

Book Review: Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs (Three Stars)

Book Review: Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs

(Three Stars out of Five)

The Gathering Storm meets Downton Abbey.

A post-modern take on history. An engaging, entertaining text which leaves the reader wonder what is fact and what fiction. Focuses on the eighteen month period from Munich to the Nazi invasion of France—mostly telling how everyone in England (including the king) were trying to do everything possible to keep Churchill from becoming Prime Minister, with Churchill’s unwitting help.

Today’s readers may be surprised that faction and the press were as divisive and untrue then as now. Shouldn’t be, that’s been true Continue reading

Book Review: The Devil and Pastor Gus by Roger Bruner (Three Stars)

(may not be final cover)

Book Review: The Devil and Pastor Gus by Roger Bruner

(Three Stars out of Five)

A fresh take on the Faust legend of someone contracting with the devil for his soul, then trying to weasel out of it. Only, that isn’t quite what happens.

The Devil (B. L. ZeBubb) is a over the top, but have you read Marlowe or Goethe? And Pastor Gus, unlike the classic protagonist, is a humble, good man. Certainly not Faust, let alone Daniel Webster.

Starts slowly but gets better with each chapter. The Epilogue is best of all. It’s all too easy and obvious but this is satire.

I’ve already told you too much.

A good read.

(Full disclosure: I was a beta reader for the author.)

Book Review: If I had Lunch with C. S. Lewis by Alister E. McGrath (Four Stars)

If I had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life  by Alister E. McGrath

(Four Stars out of Five)

Don’t be put off by the title. McGrath does not subject us to a make-believe dialogues with Lewis, nor even extensive quotes from his extensive works. Instead he draws together the salient points of Lewis’ thought and presents them in a series of easily digestible essays.

If I Had Lunch with C. S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C. S. Lewis on the Meaning of Life does just what it purports. Whether the reader Continue reading

Book Review: Slow Boat to Purgatory by Vernon Baker (Three Stars)

Slow Boat to Purgatory by Vernon Baker

(Three Stars out of Five)

Angels and demons! Run-amuck Catholic priests! Immortals and Templars! Immortal Templars? The premise couldn’t get much sillier—not to mention having been done several times. But the storytelling is good. Considering this is Baker’s first novel, he shows real talent.

Parallel story lines help keep the reader from giving up too early. You keep hoping for better.

Now he needs to find a story worthy of his talent.

Three stars was a gift because this is his first.