Review of ‘Targets’

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Many books have been written about the Vietnam War; memoirs from the men and women who experienced the blood and dirt of the war, fictional accounts of the grunts in the boonies, and allegorical novels of things that never were. As a veteran of that conflict, I’ve read most of them, impressed by some, troubled by many, and entertained by a few, but never before have I read a novel about Vietnam that affected me so profoundly as Targets by Don McQuinn.

Marine Major Charles Taylor, a Korean War veteran, about to end his service after being denied promotion to lieutenant colonel, is starting his second tour in Vietnam. Burned out and disaffected, he’s not looking forward to spending his year as a paper-pusher in the headquarters in Saigon, but as a good marine, he goes where he’s ordered. When the gruff, but enigmatic Colonel Winters offers him a job with his top-secret, off-the-books unit, Taylor is not impressed at first, but then decides, ‘what the hell!’ and accepts the assignment. The research unit’s mission is to conduct counterintelligence operations to neutralize or eliminate the enemy—regardless of which side they’re on.

Very quickly, Taylor finds himself mired in intrigue, deceit, and betrayal—and, at the same time, he finds love, only to have it snatched away. He’s forced to decide just how far he’s willing to go, and whether he can do his job and still retain his honor.

Though fictional, this book tells the story of Vietnam in a way that few before it have been able to accomplish. The reader is taken into the minds and hearts of the people on both side of the battle lines, but more importantly, those who inhabit the middle ground, and those who fight in the shadows, where success is not rewarded with medals and adulations, and failure is met only with contempt.

f you think you understand the war, after reading this book, you’ll realize that you didn’t know jack. This one will keep you up at night, long after you stop reading.

A resounding five stars.

Review of ‘Tsura’

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World War II is devastating Romania, and the Jews and Roma are being targeted for extermination by the government, allied with the Nazis. Tsura, a young gypsy girl, finds herself forced to accept marriage to Mihai, a Nazi collaborator, in order to save her family, and her lover, Andrei, a Jew. As the war rages, and Tsura adapts to her sham marriage, she learns that Mihai has been leading a secret life in an effort to atone for his father’s sins.

Tsura by Heather Anastasiu is a tale of war and love, set against the backdrop of wartime Romania, allied with the Germans as a protective shield against the Russians who covet Romanian territory. This compelling story explores the actions and feelings of people caught in a seemingly no-win situation, a small nation caught between two equally undesirable situations, fighting to survive. The growth of the characters, as they come to terms with their situations, is profound. The author has done a fantastic job of showing the potentially devastating effect of war on human relationships, and the way that different people respond to desperate circumstances.

This novel ends on something of a cliffhanger, but in this instance, the author can be forgiven, for the cliffhanger ends one chapter in the main characters’ lives and sets the stage for even more chilling events to come.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Dancing With Air’

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Lenny Kasminsky is a young Marine serving in England during WWII. His mind and heart, however, are with his only love, Natasha, waiting for him in New York. Lenny is recruited by the high command to write a series of bogus love letters designed to mislead the Nazis as to the actual site of the Allied invasion of Germany. When Natasha comes to London to be with him, he has to write the letters to another woman in order to maintain their credibility. After he’s injured in an explosion, and Natasha is tending him, she discovers one of the letters, setting their relationship back—but, only temporarily.

Dancing with Air by Uvi Poznansky is the fourth volume in her Still Life with Memories series, which tells the story of love in war through the various eyes of a unique family. This war romance, however, can be read as a stand-alone book, a story that deals with the vagaries of personal relationships in time of war and beyond as Lenny tells his story up to the present day, when he has to face an even greater challenge; his Natasha is slowly losing her memory and touch with reality, forcing him to remember his life and all the opportunities he missed.

A heart-warming story that moves from interpersonal relationships and traumas to the horror and uncertainty of war in a seamless manner. This is not your typical romance novel.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Marza’ – A Different View of War

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MV5BMjI1NTIxMTQwOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODQ5MzAxOQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_ Every war spawns a whole host of books and films, and the second war in Iraq is no exception. Most, though, focus on the relationships among those who fight. ‘Marza,’ a film written, directed and produced by former Marine Regan A. Young is a film with a difference.

The story of a cynical, battle-hardened Marine sergeant (played by Josh Ansley) who meets and befriends a quizzical, precocious young Iraqi girl, Marza (Claire Geare) who likes chicken and ice cream shows us the human side of war that is seldom portrayed. Sergeant John Whitacre is a man who has seen much war, and as a result has a decidedly dark view of life in general. Marza pulls him out of his funk in ways he could never have anticipated, and teaches him to feel again.

This is a film that has both dark and light moments – and enough death to lift it from the category of a mood movie and firmly into the ‘war’ category. Young, a veteran of tours in Iraq, writes and directs this short film with a sense of awareness of the realities of war that most in the business lack. Moreover, he takes us into the depths of emotions that run rampant when death is a constant companion, and shows that even at the darkest hours, there is a glimmer of light and hope.

If ‘Marza’ doesn’t get an award for best short, independent film of 2014, there is no justice. And, if you can watch it with dry eyes, I’d suggest an immediate trip to an ophthalmologi

Review of ‘The Garden of Two’

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In 1916, the world was in turmoil. Europe was embroiled in the first global conflict, and technology was changing the world that people knew.

In New York, two young people – Lillie Whitman, a child of privilege, and Charlie Murphy, a boy from a working class Irish-American background, grew up in New York, but inhabited two different worlds. Then, when Lillie’s father, president of Whitman Construction, hires Charlie to help him care for his ill and widowed mother, the two finally come face to face.

Despite the differences in background, two young people fall in love, and their lives become as intertwined as the two fire thorn bushes Lillie’s father has planted in his garden to honor his own dead wife, whom he dearly loved. Their love, though, is tested to the limit when Charlie decides that he has to follow his friends and go off to Europe to the war.

The Garden of Two, by Vicki-Ann Bush, is a romance, but not of the bodice-ripping, heaving bosom type. It delves deeply into the hearts and souls of its characters with the backdrop of the horrors of one of the most vicious wars of the modern age – a war of mud, trenches, and poison gas. In doing so, it shows the many faces of humanity and teaches the lesson that might seem trite, but in Bush’s hands is profound – love does, in the end, conquer all.

The author provided me the manuscript of this novel for review, and while I’m not usually a romance reader, I found myself immersed in Lillie and Charlie’s world; unable to stop reading until the end – and, I promise you, it’s an ending that will leave you breathless and in tears.



Review: “Love You More Than You Know” edited by Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer

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Love You More Than You Know: Mothers’ Stories About Sending Their Sons and Daughters to War, edited by Janie Reinart and Mary Anne Mayer, is a collection of true stories that bear witness to the angst borne by mothers awaiting the safe return of their children from war. This book grew out of the two authors’ personal experiences when they began writing their stories and speaking at meetings with other mothers undergoing similar experiences, as a way to help them make sense of their emotions and fears.

This is not a book by professional authors; these stories are written by mothers who have sons or daughters who have put on their country’s uniform and taken an oath to willingly go into harm’s way for that country. Despite not being professionals, however, they are stories that could only have been written by the mothers themselves; they will touch you in ways that smooth prose written by a professional writer never could. They are stories of loss, grief, hope, and love; written from the heart.

This is a five-star book that is ‘must’ reading for anyone who wants to understand the true depth of a mother’s love. It will also help renew the reader’s faith in our culture, society, and nation. While the mainstream news media bombards us with stories of cynicism and selfishness, here you will see that we still have people among us who understand the meaning of service and sacrifice.


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