Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald

I highly recommend Company Commander: The Classic Infantry Memoir of World War II by Charles B. MacDonald. At just 21 years of age, Captain Charles B. MacDonald first commanded I Company, 3 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from October 1944 to January 1945 and later G Company, 2 Battalion 23rd Infantry, 2nd Infantry Division from March to May 1945. Written in 1947 when recollections were still sharp and fresh, the memoir resulted in a very detailed account of what it was like to take command of a line infantry company and lead it into battle. The book gives us the template for writing a personal military memoir.

It is by far the finest memoir of any junior officer in World War II. Charles MacDonald does a great job of keeping his focus on his own experiences. He does not speculate or wastes my time by giving conjecture on the big picture. We only have first-hand information from the events of his personal participation. He sticks to what life was like for a junior officer in command of an infantry company, sleepless, hungry, dirty, stressful, and very dangerous. He takes us from the Siegfried Line in the Ardennes, through the Battle of the Bulge, and to the end of the war in the Czechoslovakia.

This book is a must-read for all army officers who seek to command at company-level and it is informative for military historians as well. It is still required reading at West Point and on the company level officer (second lieutenant, first lieutenant, and captain) recommended reading list by the U.S. Army today. Upon this book’s publication in 1947, Charles B. MacDonald was invited to join the U.S. Army Center of Military History as a civilian historian, the start of a career during which he wrote three of the official histories of World War II in Europe and supervised the preparation of others. The book is simply the best.

Relic of Sorrows: Fallen Empire, Book 4 by Lindsay Buroker

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This book, number 4 in the series, pulls together much of what we’d guessed at in the previous three books. Relic of Sorrows also adds some new twists in the plot. From the three previous books, we know pretty much everything important about Alisa.

We’ve learned she is ethical and empathetic. She is very courageous when she needs courage. She is also a typical girl.

She allows herself to be tempted by people and circumstances and often gives in to them. She is a habitual eavesdropper, and though conflicted about this. She seems to have no desire to stop. She is embarrassed when caught.

She wants to keep Leonidas’ good opinion of her. She tries to be manipulative but isn’t good at it. She displays snarkiness but thinks she is charming because of it.

Despite all these character defects, she is sweet, and it’s easy to see why the various men are drawn to her.

Leonidas is upstanding, capable of friendship, ethical, brave, protective, very smart, introspective, and maybe even as a Cyborg, capable of love. Alisa and the others in the group have learned things about him. They have grown to value him, and his opinions.

We learn, in this book, one of his great secrets, which, because of all the foreshadowing was done, is not much of a secret when he finally reveals it to Alisa.

The two also finally get together, as much as they can. Alisa is also pursued by Abelardus, who manages to throw several curves at her, and causes discord between her and Leo. Because of the secret (which Alisa didn’t know), we learn about Alisa. We are aware why he is doing this. This banter results in some fairly enjoyable scenes between the two of them. Enjoyable to the reader, at any rate.

We learn what the orb is that Alejandro has carried with him throughout the various voyages, and get finally to see it in action. The circumstances are, actually, surprising, and open up a whole avenue of further plotlines.

It’s hard to describe these scenes without including lots and lots of spoilers. Let me just say, the book and series are worth reading.

In this book, none of the other crew members or passengers get much time, and we don’t learn much more about them. It’s the plot that is primarily advanced in this installment.

We’ve gotten beyond all the searching for the relic, which is now found, and because of Alisa’s ingenuity, is in the possession of this group, instead of all the other powerful people who have been looking for it.

The book ends here, and we can only surmise that as soon as the Alliance discovers that they have been duped, they will come storming after them.

There has been no action on the search for Jelena this time, but Leo has agreed to stay with Alisa and work for her while she searches for her daughter.

There is plenty of action and excitement in this book. The value in this one is in the background information we gain, and in the movement of the plot.

The next book is going to be fantastic. It will include the search for Jelena, a search for Torian, (the Emperor’s missing son), possibly the kidnapping of Dr. Tiang, (the researcher newly introduced into the story, who is knowledgeable about cyborg workings), and the conspiracy which is beginning to form between Abelardus and Alejandro to either force, or convince Alisa to use her newly found power to aid them in their ultimate mission.

 

 

The Toynbee Convector by Ray Bradbury

Toynbee Convector

Spoiler alert! Spoilers are in this review!

I first read this collection of short stories in 1992.  It includes a reprint of the 1983 story, “The Toynbee Convector” that appeared in the January 1984 issue of “Playboy.”  

Here is the story plot/summary.  The story’s protagonist claims to have returned from the future.  He has tapes and films of a miraculous technological wonderland.  Humankind has solved all its major problems – no cancer, no world hunger, etc.  This energizes the world with confidence.  People believe that their dreams will come true.  They proceed to build that future.  

They have no idea that future is all a lie.  The lie pictures a wondrous future.  It describes this future in breath-taking detail.  There is almost an action plan with hints as to how to get there.  The world’s brain trust of scientists, economists, and politicians take the clues and make this future a reality.  

Then comes the day when we are at the time and place where the protagonist is to appear from the past in the created future.  A major deflection occurs.  You have to read the story for the conclusion.  It is worth reading.  

The book has twenty-two other stories.  While the other stories in the collection are good and “worth the read,” none match the opening story.  The majority are reprints from magazine articles.  

I nominate the short story of “The Toynbee Convector” for the best fantasy/science fiction short story ever written.  It is that good.  

 

Signature RB

 

Photo Sources: The cover of the hardbound first edition along with Ray Bradbury’s signature inside the first edition.

Dark Voyage of the Mittie Stephens by Johnny Boggs

A Page Turner

Dark Voyage of the Mittie Stephens is a wonderful book. Warning Spoilers follow – Master storyteller Johnny Boggs had my attention from the shootout in the New Orleans cemetery.

Great Characters

The transient amnesia professional gambler Bobby Randow and southern belle (with a past) Laura Kelley journey from New Orleans to Jefferson, Texas. A great story where Laura runs from her past and the enforcement officers after her. Bobby has ghosts from his past onboard as well. They seek the Mittie Stephens concealed gold payroll.

Engaging Story

It’s a wonderful book that kept me turning the page from my favorite western writer. If you like westerns and thrillers you’ll love Dark Voyage of the Mittie Stephens as much as I do.

7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence by John Antal

Leadership Lessons Brought to Life

John Antal’s “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence”. The author uses seven case studies to bring the lessons to life. The case studies are in narrative story form.

Excellent Story-teller

He is an excellent story-teller who paints a clear picture that brings each story alive.The stories make for great illustrations for the lessons learned. The lessons learned are as applicable to the business enterprise as to military leadership. He does a wonderful job of demonstrating liberty as a motivator demonstrating the importance of the person.

Strongly Recommend the Book

While tempted to do to a chapter by chapter summary of the book, I won’t. If you love history if you love the USA if you have a sense of patriotism and if you enjoy the study of leadership you will like the book. I strongly recommend “7 Leadership Lessons of the American Revolution: The Founding Fathers, Liberty, and the Struggle for Independence”.

Starseers: Fallen Empire, Book 3 by Lindsay Buroker

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast was my introduction to author Lindsay Buroker. Beware – spoilers follow!

Okay, I have to begin by saying I’m hooked on the series. The characters are awesome. Lindsay Buroker does a world-class job with the characters. I love Alisa’s irreverent humor. The constant danger the Star Nomad keeps finding itself in keeps the tension going. The sexual tension between Alisa and the cyborg Leonidas keeps building.

We see Alisa growth as her faith in the Alliance diminishes. She sees the Alliance isn’t as wonderful as she once imagined. We clearly see her Alliance views and the counterpoint of Leonidas the cyborg’s personal honor that becomes more apparent. We learn more of who he is. The more I learn about him the more we like and the more human he is.

Maybe like me, you will feel empathy for Yumi. And we learn more of the Starseers. I’m committed to the entire series. I am on board to see where the adventures take us and to learn more of the wonderful characters.

Honor’s Flight: Fallen Empire, Book 2 by Lindsay Buroker

The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast was my introduction to author Lindsay Buroker. Beware – spoilers follow!

“Honor’s Flight: Fallen Empire, Book 2” in the Emperor’s Edge series has the crew of Star Nomad Star Nomad returning to Perun looking for Alisa’s lost daughter. They are also dealing with the artifact that Alejandro has with him. The adventure continues as things do not happen as Alisa hoped once back on Perun.

When Alisa arrives on her home planet she isn’t welcome. She’s former Alliance pilot. The planet is under control of the Empire. As if this isn’t bad enough the worst is yet to come. Her daughter has been taken by Starseers. The sets the stage for the rest of the story.

Alisa engages in a desperate search for her daughter as Alejandro is trying to gain more information on his orb.

The after effects of the war between the Alliance and the Empire ring through the book. We see what happens when a government is defeated. We see the after effects on the victor not being able to fill the void of the previous government at all levels.

Lindsay Buroker has crafted another excellent book. Great story telling, wonderful character, and some wonderful humor keep me turning the pages. I especially like Alisa’s interactions with Leonidas. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for them. The grilling Beck and engineer Mica add depth to the story.  The characters grow together as they travel and strive for survival. I confess I have become a big fan of Lindsay Buroker. Her writing is brilliant and I love the humor. I haven’t decided if it is intentional or just the author’s voice. Either way, it rocks.

Star Nomad: Fallen Empire, Book 1 by Lindsay Buroker

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The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast was my introduction to author Lindsay Buroker. An episode of the podcast I was listening to mentioned she also wrote Science Fiction as well as Fantasy. I headed to Amazon to explore her science fiction books.

I did a quick reading of the first four paragraphs of chapter one of Star Nomad: Fallen Empire, Book 1 in the Emperor’s Edge series. I then purchased the book using the beautiful “buy with 1-click” Amazon command button.

I am now a fanboy of Lindsay Buroker’s science fiction writing.

The author has a great story. The memorable characters greeted me immediately. There is the Star Nomad’s captain, Alisa Marchenko. She has her engineering friend Mica who is also a heck of a mechanic. They find Alisa’s mother’s old ship to get off the desert planet they were stranded on after the war ended.

We learn that Alisa and Mica fought on the side of the Alliance. They soon meet an Imperial cyborg living in and guarding the Star Nomad. They negotiate with him to reach their common goal of getting off the planet and back to Alisa’s home world of  Perun and civilization.

We learn the consequences of what happens when an evil empire is overthrown without having a strong new government plan in order.

Additional players in the book are the previous Emperor, the Starseers, the Alliance, and the Mafia. The book cover the characters’ quest to Perun. It lays down a solid foundation for the remaining journey and possible future conflict between characters.

I have read book 2 and will review it soon. I am currently reading book 3 in the series. It looks like there are 8-books to date in the series.

Star Nomad is fun reading. It will make even give you the desire to do some grilling of bear meat. And yes, there are female science-fiction authors. Lindsay Buroker is of the top ten female science fiction authors of modern times according to World’s Edge Tavern.

Jungle in Black by Steve Maguire

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A Memoir

Jungle in Black is the memoir of Steve Maguire. McGuire was a young, gung-ho, Airborne Ranger who lead a 9th Infantry Division Battalion Reconnaissance Platoon in the 6th Battalion, 31st Infantry in the Mekong Delta in 1969.

The story opens with drawn-out and generic combat descriptions that lead up to Maguire’s wounding. The rest of the book covers his treatment. We learn that an exploding Vietcong mine blinded him for life.

An Honest First-person Account

This is an honest first-person account that never wallows in self-pity. Unfortunately, he in no way offers enough background about his life to round out his person.

He missed the mark with his book. He paints a broad description of the early stages of rehab. The description covers the usual male boasting, lust for nurses and hopes dashed by physicians not healing or restoring his sight. He fails to feature how he coped with his loss of sight and completed his bachelor and master’s degree and began working on a doctorate in psychology (not mentioned until in an epilog).

This could have been a very inspirational and motivational story; instead, it’s just another war story memoir.

Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863, by Phillip Thomas Tucker

barksdale charge

Very Readable

Phillip Thomas Tucker’s has written a well researched, very readable book titled “Barksdale’s Charge: The True High Tide of the Confederacy at Gettysburg, July 2, 1863”.

Dr. Tucker’s book makes the premise that at the Battle of Gettysburg General Barksdale’s charge is more significant that General Picket’s charge. The author presents detail after detail.

Mississippi Brigade

The book gives a wonderful history of the Mississippi Brigade. He points out they are tall, straight shooters, and brave. I found the book redundant at points.

The author makes good arguments for Barksdale’s charge being more important than Pickett’s. If Barksdale had lived and expended the same energy that Pickett did in defending his actions, we think more highly of his Mississippi brigade’s contributions. Interestingly, the point of view presented was almost exclusively southern apologetic.

Pickett’s Charge vs Barksdale’s Charge

The book was an enjoyable read. The history of the Mississippi brigade and its contributions is worth the purchase price. I think the historians have already decided Pickett charge was more important than Barksdale’s, but it made me reevaluate.

I am well read on the subject of Gettysburg having read more than twenty books and memoirs on the battle. I am a trained historian by education who studied military history. I am a former US Army infantry officer who has studied the battle in detail in my military science curriculum. All this said; I can examine the premise, but respectfully disagree with it.