Help Spread The Word!

If you like our book review site, please recommend it to others. If you would like to join our reviewing community send me an email under the Ron Simpson profile. Thanks.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson

I just finished reading Marine Sniper by Charles Henderson. It is the true story of Gunnery Sergeant Carlos Hathcock II, a Marine sniper in Vietnam. Gunny Hathcock is a legend among the Marine Corp and all the Snipers across all services. He has a record of 93 confirmed kills, although there are over 300 unconfirmed kills that could be accredited to him.
This book is an excellent look into his life and into the formation of the Sniper as a Marine and later, military wide fixture. It was written using official Marine Corp records and personal recollections of participants. It is an outstanding read and offers a look into the life of an incredible man. Gunny Hathcock was the epitome of a Marine. He was also a warrior’s warrior. The tales told in this book may seem to be unbelievable, but all that I have read about him corroborates with this book.
I was impressed with the writing and the overall story. While being a true story, it was not bland at all. It really put you into the moment.
For more on Gunny Hathcock, you can read a full post at my blog,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Patton's Panthers by Charles W. Sasser

I recently picked up a copy of Charles W. Sasser’s book, Patton’s Panthers. It is about the 761st Tank Battalion, the first African-American tankers to see combat in World War Two.
I have read quite a bit of the history of World War Two. It has always been a fascinating subject, but the story of these men and the war from their point of view was a real eye- opener. I have always known that the country and the military was segregated back then. I have always known that racism was prevalent and pervasive. But I never truly understood what that racism really was like. This book really opened my eyes and it made me angry.
I am angry and ashamed. These men fought for their country, fought valiantly and well, yet their country did not fight for them. They endured the same hardships as the white troops, fought in the same battles, yet were ignored by history. I am thankful that their story has finally been told.
The 761st Tank Battalion was called the Black Panthers. Their motto was “Come Out Fighting.” And they lived up to that motto. They fought for 183 days straight. They fought in Normandy and the Battle of the Bulge. They fought their way across Europe and into Germany. They took horrific losses. They defeated more than 130,000 enemy soldiers. They captured thirty towns and liberated concentration camps. All of this and still there were senior officers that still would say that the black soldiers were cowardly and lacked drive. Lies and slander.
Paul Bates was a major when he assumed command of the 761st. He told his troops that even though the Army thought the black soldiers would not fight, that the 761st would prove them wrong. He refused to believe that the men under his command were not worthy to fight. His men came to love him.
I first picked up this book to read more of Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers, an Oklahoman who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his fighting in France. But in reading it, I found many, many more heroes. The 761st only had one man run, a white major. Not one single black soldier refused to fight. I cannot even begin to tell their story here. I can only tell you to read this book.
The black soldiers in World War Two paved the way for the end of segregation. Staff Sergeant Johnnie Stevens fought his way across Europe and returned to Ft. Benning and received his Honorable Discharge. He was waiting at the bus station wearing his dress uniform with a chestful of medals. He started to get on the bus to return to New Jersey and home when the bus driver barked, “Hey, boy! You got to wait a minute!” Johnnie’s first reaction was, “Here we go again, nothing has changed.”
The 761st fought in four major Allied campaigns, across six countries. They received 391 medals for heroism, with 7 Silver Stars, 56 Bronze Stars for Valor (SSG Rivers was later awarded the Medal of Honor by President Clinton). All of this and nothing had changed.
There were eight veterans of the 26th Infantry Division with whom the 761st had fought with in France waiting to get on that bus. A tough looking white sergeant stepped forward and grabbed the bus driver’s lapels.
“Hey, don’t you see those god-damned medals on that man’s chest? He was with us in combat, now he is gonna get on this god-damned bus, and he is gonna ride up front with us.” The sergeant growled. “Got it? Sergeant Stevens, get on the god-damned bus.”
Something did change, and it is a good thing it did.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Eragon by Christopher Paolini

Eragon is a fantasy book written by Christopher Paolini while still in his teens. It is a NY Times bestseller and has been made into a movie.

Eragon is a young teen-ager who finds what he thinks is a smooth stone in the Spine while hunting for food. The stone turns out to be a dragon egg.

With the help of storyteller, Brom, Eragon and his dragon, Saphira, embark on an adventure to kill those that have killed his uncle. In this adventure, Eragon finds that he more than the humble farmboy that he has always been.

Their adventures lead them across and out of Algaesia, the dominant kingdom which is led by the evil king, Galbatorix. He encounters large, battle-hungry Urgals, dwarves and a very powerful and equally evil Shade named Durza. His adventures culminate in a fierce battle to save the Varden from the Shade and the Urgals.

While it is a great achievement for a teen-ager to write a novel and have it sell so well and make a movie, Eragon is a predictable but pleasant read. Chapters are short and the action is furious. The entire book, less the prologue, is written from Eragon's point of view. Many of the themes the author employs are typical fantasy themes. The poor farmboy cum hero (i.e. the Chosen One), the epic journey across the lands, magical helpers, a wise old guide and an epic battle to end the book. This is not a criticism but a categorization as this is a young adult fantasy. For the adults who love to read young adult fantasy, Eragon is a must-read. It is solid, if predictable.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum

The legend of Jason Bourne is dead...gone with the aftermath of the battle at Treadstone seventy-one. Or is it? A grisly murder in Kowloon, near Hong Kong is "signed" by Jason Bourne.

Meanwhile, the man that was the legend of Bourne, David Webb, is teaching Oriental studies at a northeastern college with protection from the United States government, married to Marie St. Jacque and is recovering from his split trauma. He is remembering more and is under constant therapy with Mo Panov, psychiatrist and friend.

Suddenly, the government protection is gone and so is Marie. Kidnapped, but by whom?

Webb, begins to transform back into Jason Bourne in order to track down this new imposter assassin. But who is calling the shots? The meat of the book is covered in layer upon layer of misdirection and cloak and dagger espionage. But why is Webb needed, as Bourne, in Hong Kong? The answer has global consequences as the treaty that governs Hong Kong is to come to an end in 1997.

Supremacy takes Bourne/Webb in a different direction than expected...not having anything to do with Carlos the Jackal. Ultimatum will take up that battle. Supremacy is heavy in silent death, couriers, weapons and strategy, building until the end. There, again, were long sections, though, that the author had to explain (politics of the region, strategizing and general talk) that slowed the pace until the next action scene came along.

Again, if you've seen the movie, there is absolutely nothing in common, although both are good in their own media.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

If you've seen the movie(s), you can probably forget most of it. Some of the names, places and a few events transfer from the book to the movie, but the novel is 100 times more complex, as it should be.

The book starts off with a gun battle that ends up with Bourne being nearly fatally injured. He is nursed by to health by a drunken physician in the Mediterranean and he starts on his trek to find out who he is...he has amnesia.

We follow him as he finds a name in Jason Bourne, finds money in a Swiss account and a finds an enemy, the assassin called Carlos. He falls in love with a woman named Marie St. Jacque, a Canadian economist.

The Bourne Identity is a solid espionage thriller with roots in the CIA, Vietnam, Swiss banks and the Soviet Union. Bourne, parallel to trying to find out who he really is, is also starting to remember his past and finds that in order to keep his own life, he must seek and destroy another, the assassin, Carlos.

The action is fast and furious with occasional sequels of long narratives to explain to the reader the background of the characters of Carlos and Bourne. For a novel written in 1980, there is a lot of still-impressive technology woven in the story. It's fun to read about the massive use of payphones as an anonymous way of communicating. Definitely before the use of cell phones.