Category Archives: Book Review

Review: Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More

Vietnam is like a huge jigsaw puzzle where none of the pieces fit.

~ Ba Rose: My Years in Vietnam, 1968 – 1971

Courageous Women of the Vietnam War: Medics, Journalists, Survivors, and More*

From the publisher:

One of just a handful of women reporting on the Vietnam War, Kate Webb was captured by North Vietnamese troops and presumed dead—until she emerged from the jungle waving a piece of white parachute material after 23 days in captivity. Le Ly Hayslip enjoyed a peaceful early childhood in a Vietnamese farming village before war changed her life forever. Brutalized by all sides, she escaped to the United States, where she eventually founded two humanitarian organizations. Lynda Van Devanter was an idealistic young nurse in 1969 when a plane carrying her and 350 men landed in South Vietnam. Her harrowing experiences working in a combat zone hospital would later serve as inspiration for the TV series China Beach.

In these pages readers meet these and other brave women and girls who served in life-threatening roles as medics, journalists, resisters, and revolutionaries in the conflict in Vietnam. Author Kathryn J. Atwood presents a clear introduction to each of five chronological sections, guiding readers through the social and political turmoil that spanned two decades and the tenure of five US presidents. Each woman’s story unfolds in a suspenseful, engaging way, incorporating plentiful original source materials, quotes, and photographs. Resources for further study, source notes and a bibliography, and a helpful map and glossary round out this exploration of one of modern history’s most divisive wars, making it an invaluable addition to any student’s or history buff’s bookshelf.

This book by Kathryn Atwood is part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

Although I was very young at the time, I remember the Vietnam war. But I have a child’s memory of that war. We never learned about it in school because it wasn’t quite history yet. Certainly, we knew all about it, right?

Well, perhaps. Perhaps not. As I said, my view of it is filtered, just as my view of Desert Storm will always be filtered through the lens of riding in an M577 tracked vehicle, a pair of headphones on my head, as we bounced up and over the berm between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. What was everyone else doing? I have no idea.

I may never fill in those gaps, but I was amazed at how much I learned about the Vietnam war. One of the things I appreciated about this book was how it was organized into five parts. Each part covered significant events taking place during those years with corresponding stories:

  • Part 1 1945-1956: Ho Chi Minh’s Revolution
    Women’s stories: Xuan Phuong and Geneviève de Galard
  • Part II 1957-1964: Ngo Dinh Diem’s Civil War
    Women’s Stories: Le Ly Hayslip and Bobbi Hovis
  • Part III 1965-1968: Lyndon B. Johnson’s American War
    Women’s stories: Kay Wilhelmy Bauer, Jurate Kazickas, and Iris Mary Roser
  • Part IV 1969-1970: Richard M. Nixon’s “Peace”
    Women’s stories: Anne Koch, Dang Thuy Tram, and Lynda Van Devanter
  • Part V 1971-1975: Endings and Beginnings
    Women’s stories: Kate Webb, Joan Baez, Tracy Wood, and Kim Phuc

Reading the history in parts, followed by each woman’s story, allowed me to really get a sense for not only the big picture but how these big events impacted the lives of everyday women, from all walks of life and all sides of the conflict.

The prose is, as always with Kathryn’s books, accessible and a pleasure to read. Technically this is a young adult nonfiction book, but it’s such a great resource for anyone: writer, student, teacher, homeschooler, historian. Like other books in the series, this one includes extensive notes, bibliography, and one of my favorite features: the Learn More section at the end of each woman’s story.

You can purchase the book at many online retailers or directly from the publisher.

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.


Filed under Book Review, Books, YA

Review: Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival

War can teach you so much about evil, and so much about good.
~ Zainab Salbi

Women Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival*

From the publisher:

Glamorous American singer Claire Phillips opened a nightclub in manila, using the earnings to secretly feed starving American POWs. She also began working as a spy, chatting up Japanese military men and passing their secrets along to local guerrilla resistance fighters. Australian Army nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, stationed in Singapore, then shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies, became the sole survivor of a horrible massacre by Japanese soliders. She hid for days, tending to a seriously wounded British soldier while wounded herself. Humanitarian Elizabeth Choy lived the rest of her life hating war, though not her tormentors, after enduring six months of starvation and torture by the Japanese military police.

In these pages, readers will meet these and other courageous women and girls who risked their lives through their involvement in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Fifteen suspense-filled stories unfold across China, Japan, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, providing an inspiring reminder of womens’ and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history.

These women—whose stories span 1932 to 1945, the last year of the war—served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Seven of them were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, enduring brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides appropriate context and framing for teens 14 and up to grapple with these harsh realities of war. Discussion questions and a guide for further study assist readers and educators in learning about this important and often neglected period of history.

womenheroeswwiipacThis is the third Women Heroes book by Kathryn Atwood and part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press.

To say I liked this book the best isn’t accurate. I enjoyed the first two immensely. I read a lot of World War I and World War II nonfiction. I majored in Russian in college, and along with that came a lot of Russian literature and history. So I was already familiar with a lot of the women presented in the first two books.

Ah, but this one? I’m a bit chagrined to admit it. This was fairly new territory for me. I haven’t done nearly as much reading about the Pacific theater as I have the European one. That’s about to change.

As with the other books, this one starts off with a chapter about how the war with Japan begun and provides a short, but excellent, historical overview. The volume ends with a wrap up that explains how the war ended and the consequences that followed (the Cold War).

In between? Fifteen riveting stories about women in the Pacific theater, from Australian nurses to Navy flight nurses to war photographers and citizens fighting for their countries. Each chapter highlights a woman hero and invites us to understand her struggle. Each chapter ends with a bibliography for further reading.

All the stories in this book are incredible, but I was struck in particular by the courage of the Philippine resistance.

This book along with the two others in the series make excellent resources for not only students, but teachers, writers, or anyone who wants to know more about the world wars but doesn’t know where to start.

Heroism is endurance for one moment more.
~ George F. Kennan

* I received a review copy of this book from Chicago Review Press.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, YA

Now Available: Dating on the Dork Side!

front cover rgb jpg

Today’s the day! Dating on the Dork Side is in the wild! The book is available in print and in Kindle format. Don’t have a Kindle? No worries. Download one of the Kindle apps. (For iOS, Android, PC. I have the Kindle App on my iPhone–it works great.) You can read it that way. Or read it in print. That works too.

Additionally, Dating on the Dork Side is available as a Kindle Matchbook. If you buy the print version, you can get the Kindle version for free. Note: You must buy the print version first and from Amazon for this to work.

Stung by an epic betrayal, Camy Cavanaugh relies on the sure things: her best friend, her job as peer tutor, and her safe spot on the sidelines of life. But when she hacks into a secret, trash-talking website, it ignites a war between the sexes that won’t end until the whole school is turned upside down–and Camy’s world is turned inside out.

Now the hottest girls in school refuse to date the A-List boys. But with the Homecoming dance looming, everyone from the queen bee to the girl “most likely to” pushes Camy to hook them up with guys from the nerd herd.

And then there’s quarterback, A-lister–and former crush–Gavin Madison. He hasn’t spoken to Camy in three years … but he’s talking now, begging her to pair the guys on the football team with girls from the Honor Roll.

It’s a contest of wills and everything is on the line–even Camy’s heart. Will she retreat to the sidelines, or will she find the courage to get back in the game?

Curious? Read a couple of early reviews here and here.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Promo, Publishing, Writing, YA

So … you want to read a bit about World War I?

So, I scanned my LibraryThing collection to see what I have read about World War I. It’s an eclectic mix. I did a fair amount of reading about World War I for the War Through the Generations challenge a few years back, and I’ve continued to read as books capture my interest.

Below are five of the nonfiction titles that I really enjoyed and recommend.

historyWWIhourWorld War One: History in an Hour (my short review here)

The title says it all. World War I, in about an hour, so you’re not getting a lot of detail.

But it’s a good starter book if you’re dipping your toes back into the events of this time.


toendTo End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914-1918 (my review here) by Adam Hochschild

This was one of my favorites from the World War I reading challenge. The author uses one of my favorite techniques for presenting history: providing an overview and then showing us the individual lives of the pairs he follows in the narrative. This makes for both effective and riveting reading.

WWIwomenheroesWomen Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Yes, I just reviewed this one, which you can read here. I won’t say a whole lot about it, except that I highly recommend it.


ArabiaLawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly and the Making of the Modern Middle East by Scott Anderson.

What Hochschild does for the Western front, Anderson does in the Middle East. Want to understand what happened during WWI in the Middle East? Want to understand what the heck is going on there today? This is your book. Anderson employs a similar style as Hochschild by following four principal figures (T.E. Lawrence among them, naturally) through the war years in the Middle East. Again, highly recommended.

RussiaThe Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming.

A few years back, my son was fascinated by the end of the Romanov dynasty, the Russian Revolution, and in particular, if any of the Romanov children survived. I wish this book existed back then. This is young adult nonfiction, but it’s so engaging and informative, I recommend it to anyone who’d like to know more about the above.

For those in the crowd who have read extensively about the revolution and the Romanovs, you probably won’t pick up anything new. However, if you’re like me, and can read about these events over and over (and over) again, then I think you may enjoy this book as well. I know I did. Actually, it reminded me of all the topics I wanted to read more about that had simply slipped off my mental to-be-researched list.

There you go. Five books for the WWI centennial.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

Review: Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics

By Kathryn J. Atwood
Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Summary from the publisher: 

WWIwomenheroesA commemoration of brave yet largely forgotten women who served in the First World War

In time for the 2014 centennial of the start of the Great War, this book brings to life the brave and often surprising exploits of 16 fascinating women from around the world who served their countries at a time when most of them didn’t even have the right to vote.

Readers meet 17-year-old Frenchwoman Emilienne Moreau, who assisted the Allies as a guide and set up a first-aid post in her home to attend to the wounded;

Russian peasant Maria Bochkareva, who joined the Imperial Russian Army by securing the personal permission of Tsar Nicholas II, was twice wounded in battle and decorated for bravery, and created and led the all-women combat unit the “Women’s Battalion of Death” on the eastern front; and American journalist Madeleine Zabriskie Doty, who risked her life to travel twice to Germany during the war in order to report back the truth, whatever the cost.

These and other suspense-filled stories of brave girls and women are told through the use of engaging narrative, dialogue, direct quotes, and document and diary excerpts to lend authenticity and immediacy.

Introductory material opens each section to provide solid historical context, and each profile includes informative sidebars and “Learn More” lists of relevant books and websites, making this a fabulous resource for students, teachers, parents, libraries, and homeschoolers.

Back in 2011, I read and reviewed Women Heroes of World War II: 26 stories of Espionage, Sabotage, Resistance. A few months ago, the publisher contacted me and offered a copy of Women Heroes of World War I: 16 Remarkable Resisters, Soldiers, Spies, and Medics. My only regret in saying yes is it’s taken me so long to post my review of this terrific book.

Like its counterpart, this book contains several true stories, all centering around women during World War I in the European theater. Its structure is similar. The book begins with an overview of the war and how it began. For the seasoned history buff, you won’t find anything new. However, the overview is easy to follow and will help anyone not familiar with why World War I started.

Also scattered throughout the women’s stories are sidebars of extra information that help put the stories and the era into perspective. World War I really represents the crumbling of an old era into our modern one. Sometimes that’s difficult for younger readers to understand (witness the outrage when my daughter learned how long it took for women to get the vote). One thing I appreciated about this book was how varied the women’s stories were. There were a few I was unfamiliar with, and I’ve done a fair amount of reading about WWI.

As with the WWII volume, each woman only gets a few pages, but like the first book, there’s an extensive bibliography and lists of resources for the budding historian. This book is a great starting place for your history report or possibly that historical fiction story you’ve been planning to write. (You have been planning to write one, haven’t you?)

These two books are part of the Women of Action series from Chicago Review Press, which I plan on reading through during the next several months. If you’re looking for accessible and meaty nonfiction about women’s involvement in World War I, I highly recommend this book.

Thanks to Chicago Review Press for providing a review copy of this book.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, War Through The Generations, YA

It’s Unidentified Funny Objects anthology launch day

ufocover5001Today’s the day! Unidentified Funny Objects anthology is out in this world! Haven’t ordered your copy yet? No? That’s okay. Hop on over to the UFO Publishing landing page and grab a paperback or an e-book. The Kindle version is also live on Amazon.

Need to know more? Watch the video below or read the latest review in Tangent by Colleen Chen. Look at the nice thing she had to say about The Secret Life of Sleeping Beauty:

This is a well-written modernized version of the fairy tale. It’s really short, so there’s not much to it, but it leaves a pleasant aftertaste and I would definitely have liked to read more of the princess’ adventures.

Sleeping Beauty is short (under 1,000 words). I wrote it as flash fiction and the reason I submitted it was the editor mentioned he was specifically looking for more flash for the anthology. So that’s how she ended up in there.

If you buy a copy, I hope you enjoy the stories!

1 Comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Promo, Writing

Review for Unidentified Funny Objects

Release day is coming soon! In time for Christmas!

In the meantime, check out this first review for the UFO anthology from Locus Online. Included are sneak peeks at all the stories as well.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Promo, Writing

World War One: History in an Hour ~ a short review for a short book

Book #6 for the War Through the Generations WWI reading challenge, which means I have thoroughly “waded” into the challenge–and feeling quite proud of myself.

World War One: History in an Hour is exactly what it claims to be: a concise overview of World War I that you can read in an hour (or so–I spent about an hour and a half reading). It is also a better book to read at the start of a WWI reading challenge, not closer to its end.

That being said, it’s a great place to start if you don’t have a passing familiarity with WWI, or haven’t done any serious reading on the topic since 11th grade world history. The narrative style is engaging, and the book itself is broken into sections, which makes it easy to set down and pick back up again. The author doesn’t go into any great depth, but again, that’s not this book’s purpose.

The book also includes short biographies of some of the major players in the war along with a timeline.

So, if you’re looking for an introduction, or need a quick read to round out this year’s challenge, you can’t go wrong with this one, especially if it continues to be free on Kindle.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

WWI Read: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book # 5 in the War Through the Generations WWI reading challenge: Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle.

I was on the fence about whether or not I wanted to read this one. I knew it wouldn’t really have anything to do with Downton Abbey. What tipped the balance? This review on Amazon:

 … did not think the book would be 3/4 about war war war and her nursing abilities.

And I was all: Sold! Because that’s exactly what I wanted to read about. This is also why authors shouldn’t sweat the negative reviews. That being said, there’s controversy in some of the other reviews about how sanitized this version of Lady Almina’s life happens to be.

I suspect there might be some truth to this. The narrative is fairly scandal free, the author glossing over the fact Lady Almina remarries in the same year Lord Carnarvon dies and only briefly mentions the court case she becomes involved in (see Wikipedia for more info).

However, I did enjoy learning more about what went into running a private hospital during WWI and the problems encountered. Although in Lady Almina’s case, she solved a great many of these problems by throwing money at them–which seems to have been her SOP. Also fascinating was the time the narrative spent on the Earl’s interest (more like an obsession) in Egyptology. I hadn’t realized he was Howard Carter’s backer, and that together they discovered Tutankhamen’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings.

Was the read worth it? From my point of view, yes. If you already know a bit about WWI, you won’t learn a lot here. And of course, the narrative doesn’t contain swoon-worthy scenes between Matthew and Mary or one liners delivered by Dame Maggie Smith. However, it is an interesting look at a certain strata of British society before, during, and after the war.

And just because the book doesn’t have any Maggie Smith doesn’t mean this blog post will go without. Enjoy.


Filed under Book Review, Books, Reading, War Through The Generations

Blogging as part of Classics Carnival: Why Pride and Prejudice is not a love story

Pride and Prejudice

My guest blog post is up at Book Angel Booktopia. Go read why Pride and Prejudice is not a love story.

No, really. Go see why. I’m not going to tell you about it here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Review, Books, Musings, Writing