Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Have you ever heard the line in The Marine Hymn that states “to the shores of Tripoli” and wondered what happened in Tripoli?  This book will tell you why the Marines are proud their actions in Tripoli and why it might suggest an answer to some of today’s more pressing problems with Islamic nations. 
In the early 1800’s, the rulers of Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli and Egypt extracted tribute payments from the new United States as well as other nations.  The payments escalated until they were simply too much to pay for unfettered access to the Mediterranean Ocean and the northern coast of Africa.  Ships and their contents were being confiscated and the sailors aboard enslaved by the rapacious rulers.  Jefferson determined that the cost of tribute was more than the cost of war and sent a nascent navy to the shores of Tripoli to free the Americans held in the Barbary Coast nations and free the seas for all nations.
Much more “history” than “story” the book reveals the machinations, men and navy needed to win the war.  Interesting and factual with notes and sources, this book is for the historian and the student of public policy as well as those interested in how the past affects the future.
4 of 5 stars


What a fun book!  Miss Buncle is a spinster of a certain age in a small village in England during the 1930’s.  When she discovers that the world wide depression has caused a serious depletion of her income she decides the only thing to do is write a book.  As she admits, she knows nothing about writing a book so she simply describes her fellow village citizens. Miss Buncle, it turns out, has a devastating way of showing her neighbors in all their foibles and, since nothing much happens in the village, she applies a bit of magic and writes their futures as well. She has villagers marry, run away, confess, and expose their worst fears.  A visiting grandchild and a publisher provide clear eyes.
Miss Buncle, fortunately, has used a non de plume. Mayhem ensues when the book is a bestseller and the village realizes THEY are the characters in the book. A humorous and gentle book that will delight and entrance.
4 of 5 stars

Monday, December 28, 2015

BONE LABYRINTH by James Rollins

If you have been following the exploits of the Sigma Force, this book is a tour de force.  The team, that now includes former assassin, Seichan, races from peril to peril all while trying to prevent a disaster of epic proportions. In searching for the beginning of modern man, a scientist who works with Baako, an unusually intelligent gorilla, is kidnapped and forced to reveal a part of her work to identify why and how Neanderthals became modern man.  Of course there is a demented quasi scientist in the Beijing Zoo who is trying to use the information to rule the world and controls an army of minions ready to die at his bidding.
Exciting, and based loosely on real science, this continuation of the Sigma Force series will satisfy fans and introduce new readers to a new series.   Hint: If you are new to the series, jot down the names of each character and a brief description as you meet them. Makes reading this series sooooo much easier, especially when characters (like Gray Pierce) are referred to by both names.
4 of 5 stars

Front Lines: She's Fighting for her Country by Michael Grant

FRONT LINES: SHE’s Fighting for her Country       by Michael Grant
This novel is alternative fiction that takes place just before and during World War II. The premise is that girls as well as boys must register for the draft at age 18 and serve in combat if called up.  The two female leads are both only 17, but lie about their ages and join up when America is attacked at Pearl Harbor.  They both expect to serve in “safe” secretarial type units and are surprised and chagrined when they discover they will serve in combat units.  The novel covers their experiences training and then in combat in North Africa. 
The author shows quickly that he is NOT a female in the early sections of the book.  The women’s actions and attitudes just don’t ring true, especially considering the time period is the 1940’s.  He gets better when the “action” becomes actual action in war zones.  The male members of the unit are both sexist and accepting of women in combat.  Although the book is more than 500 pages, only the first few actions of the unit are covered in any depth.  The end of the war is quickly summed up in a few foreshadows strewn throughout and then in a final few pages.  The very green female sergeant who imbeds herself in a combat action with no battle training and in relative defiance of her superiors is patently unrealistic.
Because the aftereffects on both the men and women in the unit and those at home are not covered the book cannot be considered a foreshadowing of today’s “women in combat” initiatives. The first part of the book drags a bit, but the later war scenes are quite good.
3 of 5 stars

Saturday, December 5, 2015


ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS   by Adriana Trigiani
Although the main characters are named Clark Gable and Loretta Young, this book is much more fiction than history.  Loretta Young and Clark Gable did have a child out of wedlock (probably) that was later “adopted” by Loretta and that is the extent of the “historical” part of the love story.  That said, the book is quite fascinating for the many stories of the beginning of the movie industry in Hollywood.   Loretta and Clark were stars in the twenties, thirties and forties. Clark’s movie popularity extended until his death in 1960 reaching its zenith with Gone with Wind.  Both Gable and Young were Academy Awards winners for best actor.  Young’s career in films slowed considerably in the 1950’s, but she moved to television and achieved great success there also.
The interesting characters of Alda (Young’s assistant and friend) and her husband (a gifted movie scene painter) are entirely fictional.  Nonetheless they bring life to the behind the scenes episodes of movie making and are well rounded.  Movie aficionados will like seeing the sketches of famous actors, directors, producers and other Hollywood folk interspersed throughout the book.
At nearly 500 pages the book is too long and needed some judicious editing. Many of the scenes detailing Young’s opinions and thoughts, especially concerning Gable, are repetitious and boring.
4 of 5 stars

THEODORE BOONE: The Fugitive by John Grisham

This is Grisham’s fifth book in the Theodore Boone series for young readers. Although I detected a bit of “talking down” to his audience, Grisham has the formula down pat for enticing and engaging middle school boys (and girls) to read. Theo is likable and just “rule breaking” enough to engage the young readers and just “law abiding” enough to appease the adults who might choose this thrilling read as a gift. There is danger -- and cliff hangers -- enough to keep the reluctant reader reading when a fugitive is identified by Theo. His “bad boy” uncle encourages him to continue when the authorities want Theo to be on the lookout for the killer and then to actively search for killer Duffy. When Duffy realizes Theo knows his identity and can recognize him, the danger is ratcheted up.
4 of 5 stars for a thrilling middle grade read.