Category: Book Reviews

A Highly Emotional Page-turner!

PROMISES TO THE FALLEN

A Vietnam War Novel by Glyn Haynie

Promises to the Fallen

In the jungles of Vietnam, innocence is the first casualty of war…

Nineteen-year-old Eddie Henderson is a private in the U.S. Army. His parents are deceased, and he has no one in his life except his platoon brothers—Porter, Rocky, and Professor. His fellow soldiers are his family now. But none share a bond as close as he and his best friend, team leader Mitch Drexler.

In the heat and jungles of Vietnam, each man does the best he can to survive. Battles are fought, friends lost, and promises made to the fallen. But when the enemy fatally wounds a platoon brother in a deadly attack, the dying soldier makes Eddie promise to fulfill a final vow… A debt of blood that could change the course of his life forever.

When Eddie and his friends’ tours are over, they return home to a world they barely remember. But Eddie is still trapped in the past. He has no family, no home to go back to. Just a nightmare he lives over and over again. A dark vow he made to a dying friend. And one question, burning in his mind…

Will he keep his promise to his friend? No matter the cost?

My thoughts …

While I served in the U.S. Army several years after the war in Vietnam ended (from 79 to 83), I have always been fascinated by the Vietnam War. I certainly saw enough on the news to be curious about what it must have been like, and this has led me to read a great deal on the subject. Add to this the fact that, later in life, I had a few good friends who were Vietnam veterans, and who would occasionally share snippets of their experiences during the war, which only served to increase my desire to try and understand the background and circumstances.

I have read all four of Glyn Haynie’s books. Each one has been excellent and a real pleasure to read. While the first three were memoirs, Promises to the Fallen was Haynie’s first foray into the world of fiction. It did not disappoint.

This novel is an incredible read! Haynie puts you right in the middle of the Vietnamese jungles, the smells, the mud, the villages, the people, and their rice paddies. It is almost like you are there, and with those young men who find themselves in another world, an insane world full of danger, death, fear, courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. It is also a world of hope and hopelessness, where you can’t tell your enemies from your friends, and you anxiously count the days, hoping you survive until you get to go home.

The author draws on his own experiences in Vietnam and in close infantry combat to make this book one heck of a page-turner. And, for those of us who have served in the U.S. military, whether it was during the Vietnam War, other conflicts, or even during peacetime, Haynie’s narrative will bring to mind memories and experiences of your time in the service of your country.

To those who haven’t served, this novel may help you to understand why those who serve in the military are the way they are … their pride in their service, this country, and its flag. And yes, even its problems and shortcomings.

The bond of brotherhood that exists between those who have served together is a real bond that stands the test of time. When you cut through all the hyperbole, it is really about the man (or woman) in the foxhole next to you. While politicians, the media, and Hollywood love to talk about defending our country, baseball, apple pie, etc., it is really about defending your buddy while he or she defends you.

I found Promises to the Fallen extremely difficult to put down. It took me through a broad range of emotional responses as it laid bare the authentic, unadulterated experience of the American soldier in Vietnam; the good, the bad, and even the ugly. I highly recommend this book to all.

Now, on to Leora’s Letters by Joy Neal Kidney, another book I have been anxious to read! What great books have you read this winter?

I Just Added This To My Reading List!

PROMISES TO THE FALLEN

A VIETNAM WAR NOVEL

Glyn Haynie

Cover image of the new novel by Author Glyn Haynie
New Release

I just ordered a signed hardcover copy of Glyn Haynie’s newest release and cannot wait to read it!

Author Glyn Haynie

From the age of 19 until he retired in March of 1989, Glyn Haynie served his country as a member of the United States Army. Starting in 1969, his military career spanned 20 years. Haynie found himself turning 19 while fighting in the jungles of Vietnam with the 23rd Infantry Division. Before retiring, Haynie went on to serve as a drill instructor, a first sergeant, and finally as an instructor for the U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy (USASMA).


I have read all three of his earlier books!

When I Turned Nineteen: A Vietnam War Memoir

Glyn Haynie’s first book, When I Turned Nineteen: A Vietnam War Memoir, tells of the author’s experiences as a 19-year-old soldier sent off to fight an unpopular war. In this gripping narrative, Haynie shares his war experience with his readers.

They were just average Americans – sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers. Men who who came together and formed a bond that would endure a lifetime, a bond formed in combat.

Glyn Haynie shares the vivid experiences of his period as a soldier during the War in Vietnam.

Weeks of boredom, minutes of terror. Surviving the humidity, the heat, the monsoons, a raging jungle fire, and struggling to build a firebase on a remote jungle hilltop, all while fighting fear, exhaustion, and facing a fierce and implacable enemy.

Soldiering After The Vietnam War: Changed Soldiers In A Changed Country

This second work, Soldiering After The Vietnam War: Changed Soldiers In A Changed Country, picks up where the first book leaves off and gives the reader a rare glimpse of what it meant to a soldier to return from Vietnam and continue to serve his country despite the lack of respect and appreciation typically afforded soldiers returning home from war.

The vast majority of American service men who served in Vietnam served bravely and honorably. The atrocities so often focused on by the media, and in films and documentaries were actually few and far between. Men like Glyn Haynie would probably never ask, but many in this country owe them an apology … and some long overdue respect and appreciation.

Finding My Platoon Brothers: Vietnam Then and Now

Glyn Haynie carries the names of 13 brothers forever engraved on his heart. They are the names of brothers-in-arms, killed in combat during the War in Vietnam.

The bonds formed in battle are unique and not understood by anyone who has not served in the military.

This third book by Glyn Haynie, Finding My Platoon Brothers, Vietnam Then and Now, describes his efforts to find and reconnect with his brothers of First Platoon. These men, with whom he served during the War in Vietnam, are indeed a real part of his family.


And now, to Glyn Haynie’s newest release, a very intriguing Vietnam War novel.

PROMISES TO THE FALLEN: A Vietnam War Novel

I have not yet read Glyn Haynie’s new novel, Promises to the Fallen: A Vietnam War Novel, but I have just ordered a signed copy! You can order a signed hardcover or paperback copy by clicking here!

While I have not actually met Glyn, I have gotten to know him through collaboration on some projects as well as through social media vehicles such as Twitter, and Instagram where we have shared tips on topics such as marketing books on Twitter or Instagram and using Amazon Ads.

I did read one chapter of his novel while it was in-progress and found it very intriguing. And, I believe that if you’re interested in military history, the Vietnam War era, its soldiers, and its heroes, this will be one novel you will definitely want to add to your reading list. It is now available at Amazon.com in Kindle, paperback and hardcover formats.

Once I have received my copy of the book and read it, I will post a review here on my blog!

Beautiful Joe: A Dog’s Story

An amazing Christmas present …

I received this wonderful book as a Christmas present when I was a young boy and loved it, reading it many times over the years. The copy I received as a present had the older cover shown near the bottom of this post.

I have read many dog stories over the years including Juneau the Sleigh Dog, White Fang, Call of the Wild, Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, Frosty, and, of course, Beautiful Joe, which was always one of my favorites.

I guess I have recently had a resurgence of interest in dog stories because a dog plays a key role in my book Serpents Underfoot and its upcoming sequel, Montagnard.

I tried to order a copy with the same cover as the edition I originally was given, but could only find it through ABE Books, and the seller wanted $275 for it. So, I settled for a newer edition from Amazon. But, how I wish I still had my original copy!

A truly wonderful tale …

beautiful joe

This is indeed one of the most beloved stories in the English language

Originally published as a novel in 1894, “Beautiful Joe” is based on the true story of a real dog from the town of Meaford in southern Ontario. Written by Margaret Marshall Saunders in 1893, this wonderful, heartwarming book was the first Canadian book to sell one million copies and it was the winning entry in a literary contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society.

Margaret Saunders originally heard the tale of this dog, who had actually been abused and then rescued as depicted in the story, from her sister-in-law, Louise Moore and it was Louise’s father, Walter Moore, who had rescued the dog on which this tale is based in 1890.

About Beautiful Joe

The real Beautiful Joe was an Airedale-type dog. He was medium-sized, brown, and described as likely being part bull terrier and part fox terrier. He was also described as a mongrel, a cur, and a mutt.

The town of Meaford now has a park and statue honoring the real Beautiful Joe and, in 1994, a private heritage society was created to preserve the Moore home and establish a museum.

The story is told as an autobiography from the dog’s point of view and recounts his earliest memories of his mother, their cruel owner, and his rescue after being horribly abused, as well as his wonderful life with the “Morris” family. Beautiful Joe is inspired to tell his life’s story in the belief that it will please his mistress.

And indeed, Saunders’s story immediately makes reference to the story of Black Beauty in her story, Beautiful Joe. Saunders does not refer to the book by name but instead, writes (from Joe’s perspective) “I have seen my mistress laughing and crying over a little book that she says is a story of a horse’s life”.

Joe goes on to explain that he will write the story of a dog’s life, to similarly please his owner. Within the narrative of this story, Beautiful Joe is directly inspired to tell his tale by the story of Black Beauty.

Saunders bases her fictionalized version of the story in a small town in Maine, and recounts the many wonderful adventures of Joe and the other animals and people in and around the “Morris” family farm. The farm, it’s little barn and barnyard are the scene for many delightful tales that will warm your heart, make you chuckle, and even perhaps bring a tear to your eye.

Perhaps most importantly, hidden within “Beautiful Joe,” is a powerful call to end cruelty to animals. And, it is a message the author delivers effectively through the vehicle of a narrative that can be enjoyed and loved by generations of readers, both young and old.

beautiful joe
The cover of my original edition of Beautiful Joe

My thoughts …

It was a real pleasure to read Joe’s story again. I thoroughly enjoyed it. So much so, that I think I may re-read some of the other dog tales mentioned above. And, I guess as I do, I will review them here.

I give this book an easy Five Out of Five Stars for readers of all ages. Margaret Marshall Saunders’ tale clearly illustrates why dogs have earned their reputation for being man’s best friend..

Blood Eye: A Novel

by Giles Kristian

Blood Eye

In a thrilling adventure of brotherhood, warfare, and treachery, Giles Kristian takes us into ninth-century England, a world of darkness, epic conflict, and an unforgiving God served by powerful priests. On ships shaped like dragons, bristling with oars and armor, Jarl Sigurd and his fierce Norsemen have come in search of riches. And riches they are promised, by an English ruler who sends Sigurd and his wolves to steal a holy manuscript from another kingdom. Osric, an orphan boy, sees beyond the terror of these warriors, and somehow knows the heathens’ tongue. Renamed Raven, rechristened in blood, he will join them. They are his people. And they will be his fate.

The Story …

Set in England during the late 800s, “Blood Eye” is the story of Osric, a fifteen-year-old carpenter’s apprentice in the village of Abbotsend. Osric has no memory of anything before the Saxon villagers found him left for dead near a burial mound with a bone-handled pagan knife hanging around his neck. To make matters worse, Osri’s left eye is blood red (probably from an injury), so the Christian priest accuse him of being a servant of the devil. This makes Osric’s life in Abbotsend difficult. Things change dramatically when two Viking long-ships arrive on shore.

The Vikings are led by Jarl Sigurd who claims to have come peace to trade, However, the village priest attempts to poison Sigurd with mead laced with hemlock. Osric cannot simply standby and let this happen, so he warns Sigurd about the priest’s treachery. The Vikings take their revenge, and leave, taking Osric and the old carpenter with them. Sigurd believes Osric’s “blood eye” is a sign from Odin. Osric soon discovers he has much more in common with Sigurd and his men than with the English who adopted him.

Sigurd renames Osric “Raven,” and the boy finds himself admiring the Norseman and their way of life. He has discovered he can speak their language, and with the pagan knife, this presents a clue to his forgotten past.

The story begins to take off when a Wessex Ealdorman offers Sigurd a fortune in silver to steal a book, a bejeweled Gospel of Saint Jerome, kept in the fortress of the king of Merica. The Norseman agree and set off on this mission accompanied by a fierce Wessexman named Mauger and an Christian priest named Father Egfrith.

In Mercia, Raven helps save a young woman named Cynethryth, who becomes Raven’s love interest for the remainder of the tale. While there exists a thread of romance, this is not a romance novel. It is a Viking saga of honor, courage, battle, and blood. It is the story of Raven and his return to his origins, and discovering himself in the company of Viking warriors.

My thoughts …

The story moves at a fast pace from one exciting battle scene to the next. It includes several good plot twists and a large dose of a betrayal and comeuppance.

Giles Kristian ends his tale in a way that sets up the sequel, Sons of Thunder perfectly, and I look forward to reading that tale next.

The interesting thing for me is that I read the Rise of Sigurd series previously, which is clearly a prequel to this Raven series, and was written a few years later.

As a new author myself, it was interesting to see how Giles Kristian has grown as an author over time. It looks like there were about three years between the release of Blood Eye (Raven 1) and God of Vengeance (Sigurd 1). The growth of Kristian as a writer between the two works is readily apparent. God of Vengeance is much smoother and better written.

I find that inspirational because it means there may actually be hope for me as a writer. And, indeed, I learned a great deal writing my first novel, Serpents Underfoot and already see differences as I continue working on its sequel, Montagnard.

I found “Blood Eye” to be a very worthy read, and I do recommend it (with the understandings mentioned above) as a very good read. It think it would be interesting to re-read them in the order they were released, and enjoy the great stories while seeing Kristian’s evolution from good new author to excellent seasoned author unfold.

To read additional blog posts and book reviews by D.C. Gilbert, click here!

Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend

by Susan Orlean


A Little Rin Tin Tin History

rin tin tin

On Sept. 15, 1918, an American soldier named Lee Duncan discovered a litter of German Shepherd puppies in the wreckage of a recently shelled German WW I encampment. He kept two of the young puppies, naming them Rin Tin Tin and Nanette, and managed to get them onboard when he shipped back to the United States from France at the end of the War.

I felt there was something about their lives that reminded me of my own life,” Duncan later wrote of the puppies. “They had crept right into a lonesome place in my life and had become a part of me.

Lee Duncan

The lonesomeness in Lee Duncan developed because he’d spent part of his young life in an orphanage in Oakland when his father abandoned his mother and his young mother simply could not feed or support Lee and his sister.

Lee loved his dogs and seemed to have quite a knack for training them. The thought entered his mind that perhaps, his dogs could become canine movie stars. He always thought Nanette was the smarter of the two, but there was something about Rin Tin Tin.

After the war, Duncan pursued his dream, taking Rin Tin Tin to California, where the dog got a big Hollywood break when one of his spectacular 12 foot jumps was caught on film at a dog show. Rin Tin Tin’s first part was a small one in a 1922 sled-dog picture. Then in 1923, “Where the North Begins,” based on a story written by Lee Duncan, gained the dog national attention.

rin tin tin

And as they say, the rest is history! I can still remember those Rin Tin Tin TV shows! Much better than Lassie …

Now, about the book …

I must admit, however, I was a little disappointed in Orlean’s book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. Her book actually has very little about the dog, Rin Tin TIn, or the training techniques that produced the original Rin Tin Tin’s amazing skills and feats.

On a side note, as a German Shepherd owner myself, I was not that surprised to learn that the heroic German shepherd who could leap 12 feet, crashing through plate-glass windows was buried with his squeaky doll! That fits the German Shepherd perfectly!

rin tin tin

But Rin Tin Tin is strangely absent from most of his story. Orlean tracks down loyal fans who now own descendants of the original Rin Tin Tin. She talks to many of Lee Duncan’s family members like ex-wives and or his daughter. She writes about business associates and Rin Tin Tin’s co-stars.

Susan Orlean’s story seems to be more about how family members profited by selling off everything related to Lee Duncan’s dream and his dog. She writes about people looking for some way to capture past glory, or perhaps the means to create new value from an old piece of intellectual property.

Susan Orlean also writes about the many tangled legal disputes such as the one between Daphne Hereford and Bert Leonard, the producer of “The Adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin,” and the confusing story of Lee Aaker, a child actor who played the dog’s TV sidekick, and who might or might not have become a special-needs ski instructor in the Eastern Sierras, but who was once definitely sued for impersonating himself.

You also learn that, since the death of the original Rin Tin Tin, this American canine hero has been played by no less than 20 other dogs.

What became clear to me from reading this book, is that the leap from heroic canine fame to mundane triviality is much shorter than 12 feet.

My thoughts …

rin tin tin

On the whole it is not a bad book, that is … if you want to read about everything surrounding Lee Duncan and his efforts to make a good living with the German Shepherd he trained to do really amazing feats, and how tough that actually was.

Maybe it was naive of me, but I wanted to read about the dog, Rin Tin Tin!

I wanted to read about his movies and his TV shows, and how he was trained, and to have the author paint a picture in my mind of this heroic German Shepherd leaping 12 feat and crashing through a plate-glass window to save the day.

On that, score, I was badly disappointed. And for that reason, I gave this book two stars …

I did love the cover …

The Volunteer: A True Tale of a Courageous Man and Auschwitz

German soldiers crossed the border into Poland on September 1, 1939, triggering the beginning of World War II. In response to the German invasion of Poland, Great Britain and France declared war on Germany. However, it would be several very long years before Poland would see any kind of relief from Allied action.

The Volunteer

The Volunteer: One Man, an Underground Army, and the Secret Mission to Destroy Auschwitz by Jack Fairweather is an almost unfathomable true story of courage and sacrifice. It is a story that would make most of us ask the question of ourselves, “Is there any way I could possibly do what this man did?”

It is an incredible story of a courageous Polish national who volunteered to infiltrate Auschwitz in an attempt to sabotage the camp from the inside, and his extremely dangerous attempt to warn the Allies of Hitler’s “Final Solution.”

Would you volunteer?

In an effort to discover the fate of the thousands of Poles being sent to a mysterious new Nazi “work” camp on the border of the Reich, a thirty-nine-year-old Polish resistance fighter named Witold Pilecki was asked to volunteer for an suicide mission.

That mission involved using a fake identity, intentionally get arrested, and being sent to this new camp. When there, Witold was ordered to report back to the Polish underground on what was really going on within the camp and to organize and execute an uprising from within the camp … where the Germans would least expect it.

The Auschwitz Death Camp

Over the next two and half years, Witold Pilecki established an underground army within the camp called Auschwitz; sabotaging facilities, assassinating Nazi informants and officers, and gathering evidence of the horrific abuse and mass murders. Even as he pieced together the horrifying truth about the camp, Auschwitz began to change; becoming the epicenter for Hitler’s plan to exterminate Europe’s entire Jewish population,.

This was Hitler’s “Final Solution,” a plan organized and overseen by Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS (Schutzstaffel).

The Volunteer
The Children of Auschwitz

The Allied leaders seemed slow to understand what was happening. This may be partly because they did not believe such horrifying stories could be true. And, partly because they believed the best way to end the horror was simply to defeat Hitler’s forces and end the war. Finally, they didn’t want to give credence to Hitler’s propaganda campaign that the Western Allies were somehow allied with the Jewish people.

There was also clearly evidence of some antisemitic individuals in key positions in Allied governments.

Even Witold was acting to save his home country of Poland. While horrified at the atrocities being committed in Auschwitz against the Jews, his primary motivation was saving Poland. The book notes how he admitted how became desensitized over a period of time, seeing trainload after trainload of Jews from several countries including Holland, France, Poland, and others, and processed through the camp.

During the first 3 years at Auschwitz, 2 million people died; over the next 2 years – 3 million.

Witold Pilecki

Witold finally came to understand that, in order to save the lives of those sent to Auschwitz and Birkenau ( a second camp three kilometers away), he would have to risk his men, his life, and his family to warn the West before all was lost. To do so, meant attempting the impossible. Witold had to escape from Auschwitz itself. His escape was successful.

When Stalin’s army assumed control of Poland after Germany’s capitulation, the new communist government of Poland executed Witold Pilecki following a “show trial.” They simply could not allow such a prolific leader of the Polish underground to turn his attention on them in an effort to regain Polish independence.

Witold Pilecki’s amazing story was completely erased from the historical record by Poland’s post-war Communist government. Pilecki’s heroic undertaking remained unknown to the entire world until recently.

Since the break up of the Soviet Union, access to his previously hidden reports, diaries, and other recently declassified documents, as well as his family and other camp survivor accounts, have allowed Jack Fairweather to create an unblinking portrayal of courage, survival, and betrayal during one of mankind’s most darkest hours.

A Failed Mission?

While uncovering the tragic outcome of Witold Pilecki’s mission, the author reveals to us that Pilecki viewed his mission as a failure. However, as I see it, the failure of Witold’s mission was not his fault. The blame, if there is any, rests on the shoulders of those in London and Washington who failed to understand and act. However, I don’t see it as being that simple. There was way too much at play in this to point the finger of blame at any one person or thing.

My thoughts …

This book was a real page turner and I could not put it down. While a true story and well-documented, The Volunteer reads like a WWII action thriller about a Polish hero who infiltrates a death camp, organizes a rebellion, and then quietly escapes. But, it is so much more than that.

This book squarely confronts the reader with the truth about human nature, a truth that hits hard on so many levels.

First, there is the pure evil that very few among us seem willing to face. An evil so unfathomable, that leaders of the free world could not accept that it even existed … until it was almost too late!

the volunteer

Second, that there are those few among us who are willing to sacrifice their lives, risking torture or a painful death, to protect and serve others … even strangers.

Third, that we, as a free and moral people, need to be forever on guard to ensure nothing like this ever happens again. Fascism, radicalism, and totalitarianism is alive and well in our world, often disguising itself under different or misleading banners such as Communism, Socialism, Antifa, Taliban, ISIS, al Qaeda, or even Islam.

And lastly, to those who are holocaust deniers, anti-Semites, “true racists,” and to those who compare people like the President or law enforcement officers to Nazis, and the crisis on our southern border to concentration camps … all I can say is, “shame on you!” You have not a clue.

Captain Witold Pilecki

The Volunteer
Witold Pilecki

Witold Pilecki went to his death thinking his mission had been a failure. While he brilliantly established an underground resistance in the camp, survived Auschwitz for over two years, and carefully documented and reported the evil atrocities being committed there, he’d been unable to compel action against the camp by the Allies or successfully destroy the camp from within.

He did, however, save many lives and bring about the assassination of many SS officers and Nazi monsters at Auschwitz.

I would argue that his biggest success, and perhaps the most important success of his mission, is his story; a story that might help us find the courage to recognize and face down pure evil when it arises.

Could I volunteer to do what Witold Pilecki did? I cannot answer that question. And, I admit that I hope I never have to find out. However, if I was ever faced with a similar circumstance or decision, I can now say that here is another example of a courageous man, one I can truly admire, who can show me how it is done.

I highly recommend this book to everyone …

A MAGICAL TALE OF TRUE FRIENDSHIP

Can you imagine if there was no longer a Spring, Summer, or Autumn? And, there was only Winter? Well, winter is what the North Wind wants, and why he tries to come between two wonderful friends; the Moon and the Sun.

friendship

Children will love this delightful tale of friendship and magic by Oscar Malenar called The Sun and the Moon Friendship Tale.

In this wonderful story, the North Wind is unhappy. He does not like warm, sunny days, and green grass and trees. The North Wind longs for a cold, snowy winter that lasts forever. Therefore, he is determined to end the friendship between the Moon and the Sun that keeps the seasons of Winter, Spring, Summer, and Autumn in place. The North Wind has finally hatched a plan to get rid of the Sun!

Will the Moon and Sun fall victim to the North Wind’s plan? Or, is their friendship strong enough to save the day? If the Earth turns cold and stays covered in snow, all the Earth’s people, animals, and birds will suffer. Everyone will become sad and depressed.

But, there is hope. And, that hope lies in a special gift the Sun has given the Moon. Can the Moon come to understand how special that gift is before it is too late?

Read this beautiful story and learn how sometimes even the smallest and most ordinary of things can still be big enough to save the day!

This is a wonderful bedtime tale for children. A story of true friendship and magic with a beautiful ending. Highly recommended for parents with small children they love to read to.