Book Review:The Liberator by Alex Kershaw

World War 2 produced many heroes, and many stories that haven’t seen print yet. Alex Kershaw has brought one truly fascinating story to light in this book, which tells the story of Felix Sparks and, to a lesser extent, the men he led through Europe. Kershaw sticks to Sparks’ perspective throughout the book, pausing only momentarily to introduce us to other characters who will become important to Sparks’ story. We see everything through Sparks’ eyes, which often leads to a skewed perspective on historical figures like Mark Clark. We see events through the filter of a “common soldier” — which is ultimately what Sparks is throughout the book, no matter what his rank. He continues to consider the soldiers he leads, and everything that happens, every order given, is seen not in a grand strategic or even grand political light, but in a very tactical light. Withdrawals that make sense strategically are seen as defeats because of the moral of the soldiers who fought for those gains, only to have to give them back. The truly moving part of the book comes almost at the end, when Sparks and his Thunderbirds liberate Dachau. This is an event that changes how each of his men looks at the war, and their duty.

Throughout the book, Sparks is an advocate for his men, often arguing with his superiors when his men’s lives are at stake and are about to be sacrificed unnecessarily. Kershaw paints him as the only real sympathetic character with any rank at all; while this makes for a fascinating and entertaining read, the history nerd in me wants to learn more — to see the other side of Sparks’ conflicts with his superiors, to find the warts and imperfections that would make Felix Sparks more than just a character in a book. That’s really the only shortcoming I found in this highly readable account of a part of the war that is far too often ignored.

No Starch Promotion!!

OK, so I’ve got a copy of Wonderful Life with the Elements coming from the folks at No Starch Press. This is a really intriguing book, especially for parents of middle school/high school age kids, because of the approach it takes to identifying the elements. Just from looking at the promo piece I had emailed to me, the book looks REALLY fun.

And now you can get 40% off the book, AND be entered into a contest to receive a free periodic table poster. PLUS, you get a FREE EBOOK EDITION with your purchase. You can’t beat that deal with a stick!!

Head over to the promotion page for your discounted book and your shot at winning a poster! I just wish I could win the poster ….

Fake Book Reviews and the Internet

I haven’t posted much on here lately, which I’m hoping I will be able to correct in the not too distant future, but when I read this piece about fake book reviews thanks to a link from Tim Challies, I had to post something here about it.

It is, unfortunately, very easy for fake book reviews to be published online. It is also very easy for an author to set up a “book review blog” and review his or her own work, in addition to others in that genre. And I’m sure that there are some authors who view this as simply an extension of their social media strategy, just like setting up and maintaining a Facebook page or Twitter account. But pretending to be someone you aren’t is a colossally bad marketing strategy, and it saddens me that we would actually have to say that out loud. I would encourage everyone to look at all the reviews something gets online before making a decision to buy it; if there are a bunch of three star reviews, and one five star review, it’s a safe bet that the five star review is fake – it’s at least an outlier that shouldn’t really be factored into a buying decision. Read with discernment and a critical eye.

I’m usually pretty critical of reviews that do not mention anything bad about a book, even though I know I’ve written a few of those. I also like to look at other reviews the writer has written, just to see what they thought of other things (or to see if this is the only review someone has written, which can also be a giveaway). And I’m always critical of book reviews written by folks using obvious pseudonyms, until they’ve proven themselves trustworthy (for the record, Warren Kelly is, in fact, my real name).

Once upon a time, it was tough to be a book reviewer. You had to work for a newspaper or syndicate, you had to have some type of background, and you had to have some sort of credibility. The rise of new media on the Internet has changed that; electronic publishing allows anyone to be an author, and that same technology allows anyone to be a reviewer. It is up to the reader, unfortunately, to read reviews with discernment, being aware that things are not always as they seem to be.

The Sword Available as a FREE Audiobook

Quite some time ago, I reviewed The Sword by Bryan Litfin. I’m looking forward to reading the third book in this trilogy, which I’m hearing will be out soon from Crossway, but in the meantime, Christianaudio.com is offering the audiobook for The Sword for free this month.

I love the fact that Christianaudio offers a free audiobook every month, and I really haven’t mentioned them enough here on the blog. I’ve got a TON of audiobooks this way, and I’ve enjoyed them all. So head over and get this book for free — and keep checking back with them each month to see what other goodies they have available.

EDIT TO ADD:

I just got my own free download, and noticed that The Gift (book 2) is available right now for just $4.98 — and so is The Kingdom (book 3) if you are willing to preorder it! This is an awesome deal, and I appreciate the folks at Christianaudio.com and Crossway for making this available!

Book Review: The Janus Affair by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

The Wait Is Over.

That’s all I could think of when review copies were made available for the sequel to last year’s Phoenix Rising — the first volume chronicling the adventures of the Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences. That book, added to my habitual reading of the Girl Genius webcomic, became my gateway into the world of steampunk — a truly fascinating place, to be sure.
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INCOMING!!!!

I probably should have warned you all, but today is “Get Caught Up on Book Reviews Day.” The ones I’ve posted so far are reviews that I finished a while ago but hadn’t posted here yet — both Amazon Vine program books that I posted reviews for there first (so I could get more books!). I’ve got a few more coming, so brace yourselves!!

AND I just got two MORE books in the mail today that need reviewing.

Book Review: Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear

I’ve read them all, I’ve reviewed most of them. And the more I read Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs books, the happier I am that I decided to grab that first book on a whim. Deep characters, twisting plots … Winspear has created a world so immersive that it’s easy to lose track of how much time you have spent reading. I’ve spent many a sleepless night with one of her books, constantly saying to myself “One more chapter and I”m done.”

Elegy for Eddie is no exception. What starts off as a simple case – Maisie is asked by some coster monger friends of her father’s to investigate the suspicious death of a young man who had a way with horses – quickly turns into something much, much more. In the course of her investigation, Maisie even comes in contact with Winston Churchill himself!

Winspear’s knowledge of the era shows on each page, as the reader is surrounded by historical details and attitudes. And while we are searching for the truth behind Eddie’s killing, we’re also treated to some character development, as Maisie DObbs herself grows and changes a lot in this book. We’ve seen changing relationships before, but there’s something about the change that takes place in this book that intrigues me. I’m certainly looking forward to future developments on this front (and I did that all without spoiling anything!).

One thing that I’ve been looking for in the books for a while now that I haven’t seen – early on, there were hints of Maisie’s “intuitive” abilities, hinting that there was something more there. In fact, in An Incomplete Revenge, there was a lot made of her gypsy background, and I always thought that the series was going in that direction, but recent books have made little mention of it. That’s the only real loose end that I’ve seen in the books, which makes me thing it’s either something that Winspear decided not to pursue or that it’s coming in a future book. I’m happy either way.

I have recommended the Maisie Dobbs books to everyone I know who reads mysteries or enjoys books set in the 30s and 40s. The descriptions are spot-on regarding historical setting and attitudes, and the characters are fascinating and very deep. With this quality of writing, I don’t look for this series to end any time soon, and for that I am truly thankful.