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Review – Ashley’s War – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

ashleys-warAshley’s War
Author: Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
In 2010, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command created Cultural Support Teams, a pilot program to put women on the battlefield alongside Green Berets and Army Rangers on sensitive missions in Afghanistan. The idea was that women could access places and people that had remained out of reach, and could build relationships—woman to woman—in ways that male soldiers in a conservative, traditional country could not. Though officially banned from combat, female soldiers could be “attached” to different teams, and for the first time, women throughout the Army heard the call to try out for this special ops program.

Review:
Over the last few months, there has been a lot of discussion about the opening of combat roles in the military to women. Discussions about should women be allowed in these traditional male roles? can they carry the same weight? various services have conducted different studies to see how women perform in these training pipelines – but few people know that women have been in combat roles for several years – serving alongside men in the special operations, including Army Delta forces. In fact, while I had heard of these women in passing, I knew next to nothing about these ground breaking women, so when I came across Ashley’s War in the library, it seemed like a good choice for something to read.

ashleyAt its heart, Ashley’s War is a fairly simple read, but the depth of emotion held within resulted in me crying and nearly crying several times throughout. Its a story of sisterhood; or pushing yourself beyond what you believe capable; or providing evidence that women do have a place in direct combat roles. What started out as a “social experiment” as many anti-women in combat folks like to say, soon emerged as a way for the US to tackle the empty cavern that was the female half of population in the villages, soldier’s often ended up in their pursuit of Taliban. The women of the Combat Support Teams (or CST’s) aided in identifying members of Taliban hiding in the general population because they were able to talk to female members of the population, who previously were not included in interrogations. There wasn’t anything special about these women – they were daughters, wives, and sisters; Academy graduates and ROTC, regular Army and National Guard – but each of them were special in their own way. Each of them were trail blazers for the women in the military today and the into the future.

memorial1-jpegBy the end of the book I was a blubbering mess – even though going into it, I knew what was going to happen to the title solider (thank you huge spoilers in the description!). But reading how she died and how the unit that she was supporting did their best to save her and the others that were injured in the IED detonation; the reading of the recollections of the other members of the CST who had trained with Ashley when they realized she had been killed…I think I’m almost glad that I was reading this book and not listening to the audiobook like I had originally intended.

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to learn about what our Combat Support Teams did in Afghanistan; and anyone who wants to see what the role of women in combat can truly be.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2016 in Book Review, Review

 

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Review – The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz – Denis Avey

Avey_Auschwitz_mech.inddThe Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz
Author: Denis Avey

Description:
The almost unbelievable story of Denis Avey, now 92, began in 1944 when he was captured and sent to a POW work camp. He was put to work every day in a German factory, where he labored alongside Jewish prisoners from a nearby camp called Auschwitz. The stories they told him were horrifying. Eventually Avey’s curiosity, kind-heartedness, derring-do, and perhaps foolhardiness drove him to suggest–and remarkably manage–switching places with two of the Jewish prisoners in order to spend a couple of harrowing days and nights inside. Miraculously, he lived to tell about it.

Review:
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write a review of this book, but it seemed kind of appropriate considering that yesterday (the day that I finished it), marked 20 years since the Holocaust Museum opened in DC. And i had just spent an afternoon there the previous week (even though I have been multiple times, it is still an emotional/moving experience that leaves me shaken). This was particularly so because on the cover of the book, you could see the sign from Auschwitz that said “Work Will Make You Free” (translated). There is a similar replication of that sign at the Holocaust Museum. I found it interesting that there has been some debate over that sign – it was a well-documented fact that it was over the gates of Auschwitz I (the most well-known of the satellite of the camps). However, according to testimony in the book, it also appeared as a sign over Auschwitz III, right next to the POW camp where Avey was being held.

I do have to admit that I was expecting a bit more – when you see a book that is titled, “The Man Who Broke Into Auschwitz,” – you would likely expect lots of danger and intrigue. There was that, but at the same time, I think that the author also played down his accomplishment. Yes, he could have been killed for what he did – but he managed to survive. I also expected that it would going to be for a long period that what actually occurred – but the majority of the book was dedicated to the lead-up to him becoming a POW, and then his life post-war. The POW portion of the war only encompassed about 6 short chapters in the book. But they were intriguing – I guess it would be hard to write on a topic when you experienced the same hell, day in and day out.

But stories like this are intrigued to me. I always thought that if I decided to pursue a graduate degree in history (rather than psychology), that I would likely focus on the Holocaust or some other aspect of war/military history. But at the same time, I had never considered looking at it from a psychological perspective. But that is just me mumbling away. I would definately recommend this book for anyone who is interested in WW2 memoirs. I think that it would also be a good book for students studying the WW2 European theatre because the author touches on a lot of the different operations that were on-going (the Africa Korps, Rommell in Africa, some of the Naval battles); as well as his time as a POW. It is a sad thought knowing that each year, more and more people with this memories are dying and soon there will be none left – and all that will remain are memoirs like Avey’s and personal recollections, like the work done by the Shoah Foundation to record the stories of survivors.

 
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Posted by on April 30, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Review – Scorched – Laura Griffin

scorchedScorched
Author: Laura Griffin
Series: #6 in the Tracers series (although could be read partially as stand-alone)

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Edelweiss

Description:
Kelsey Quinn set out to trace a murder victim. Now she may become one. The dead don’t speak, but Kelsey knows their secrets. As a forensic anthropologist at the Delphi Center crime lab, Kelsey makes it her mission to identify bodies using no more than shards of bone, and her find at a remote Philippines dig hints at a sinister story. When Kelsey’s search for answers puts her at the scene of her exfiancé’s murder, only one man can help her. The same man who broke her heart just months before, and who is also a prime suspect. Faced with an ultimatum— Kelsey or his job—Gage Brewer did the only thing a Navy SEAL could . . . but that doesn’t mean he stopped wanting Kelsey. Now Kelsey is running for her life and Gage is her last line of defense. As the threats escalate, Kelsey realizes this conspiracy goes deeper and higher than they could have guessed. With the clock ticking down on a madman’s plot, the slightest misstep will have unthinkable consequences. . . .

Review:
So I’m sitting here, trying to write my review of Scorched and explain how it fits into the series and struggling a bit. Not because I didn’t like it, but I didn’t love it as much as I have loved the last couple in the series. This addition to the Tracer’s series could pretty much function as a stand-alone, as long as you read Novella, Unstoppable (which is 2.5 in the series) – this is where you meet Kelsey and Gage in a short adventure. Scorched picks up about 2 years later (roughly) and things have changed for the both of them. I say that this would work well as a stand-alone because there are only minute mentions of the other characters who have appeared in the series, and only one of them plays more than a minor role (and even then, that character has been a backseat rider in the other books).

Anyways, back to the book – I liked the terrorism theme that was used in this one, since it was something that many of us in the U.S. have faced in the past – from 9/11 to the anthrax attacks to threats to the various Metro systems (New York etc). There is, for many people, a definite fear of something happening. The way that the story unfolded seemed mostly realistic and on-par with some of the attempts that have occurred in the past. What I like the most about the secondary characters is that they seem as real as the main ones – they are very well developed and you find yourself either rooting for, or hating them. One minor (very) gripe that I have is that al-Qaeda should be spelt al-Qaida – according to many unclassified documents – but that’s just me…and many people likely wouldn’t pick up on that, because the e is the common spelling in the media.

While I enjoyed it, I also can’t pin-point exactly why I didn’t enjoy it as much as the other books in the series (which I have read all in the past month). Maybe it was because Kelsey and Gage have that prior relationship, which is normally a storyline plot that drives me nuts – I like my heroes and heroines to be getting together originally in their book, so a novella, or a previous book where you know that they get together just drives me nuts. That being said, it wasn’t as bad as all that – I liked the pacing of the action and I think it survived much more on the suspense realm, than the romance realm, which was good. Overall, I gave it 3.5 stars.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2013 in Book Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Don’t Cry for Me – Sharon Sala

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don't cry for meDon’t Cry For Me
Author: Sharon Sala
Series: #2 in the Rebel Ridge series

Narrator: Kathe Mazur
Run Time: 11hrs and 17 minutes
Publisher: Harlequin Enterprises

Description:
Mariah Conrad has come home. Badly wounded on active duty in Afghanistan and finally released stateside, she has no family to call on and nowhere to go—until Quinn Walker arrives at her bedside. Quinn, …her brother-in-arms, ex-lover and now maybe her future.

Quinn brings Mariah to his log cabin in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky to rest and recuperate, both physically and emotionally. While she’s incredibly grateful, Mariah is also confused and frustrated. She’s always stood on her own two feet, but now even that can literally be torture. She’s having flashbacks and blackouts, hearing helicopter noises in the night. She wants to push Quinn away—and hold him closer than ever.

But will she get the chance? Those helicopters are more than just post-traumatic stress; they’re real—and dangerous. Bad things are happening on the mountain. Suddenly there’s a battle to be fought on the home front, and no guarantee of survival.

Review:
Honestly, I don’t even know where to begin on this review…while Kathe Mazur is normally a narrator that I really enjoy, even her performance couldn’t improve on the mess that was this book. This is going to be a spoilerific, rant-tastic review – so you have been warned in advance.

If this had been the first book that I listened to for my audie experience, I might have been wondering what crack the judges were smoking because it was bad. There were just so many things with the plot that irked the ever-loving bejeebers out of me – from the what could have easily been a mis-identification of Conrad (I honestly thought that it was going to be a case of mistaken identity), to the overbearingness that is Quinn Walker (how dare he make decisions about taking her out of the hospital without even talking to her and how dare the hospital even let that happen – I mean seriously, WTF!!!). To the use of PTSD – I know that it is real and valid, but how it was handled here just pissed me off – both of them are isolated, getting no help and the author doesn’t even touch on the work that stuff like the Wounded Warrior Project does to help veterans…to her being able to shoot a bear that is charging at 75 yards (ok, so maybe she could have, but it just didn’t mesh)…and all of this happened in the first 5 chapters…I didn’t think that it could go downhill from there, but it did…we even got to the TSTL heroine who decided even though she is recovering from a major injury to go searching for her partner/boyfriend in an area that she doesn’t know, going up against drug dealers…it was like she wanted to be killed (but of course, it all worked out)…

But on to the narration – like I said in my first sentence – even Kathe Mazur’s narration which I typically enjoy wasn’t enough to overcome the other issues that I had with this book. I was too distracted by yelling at them as they did one dumb/idiotic thing after another, to truely be able to enjoy it. Which is kind of fustrating. I don’t know if I have had a book that drove me this nuts while listening to it in a long time…but from what I can remember (as I tried to block parts of it out of memory), I liked her range of voices – especially Mariah and Quinn – you could tell that they were the most well-developed obviously. I also think, while I am not from Kentucky, that she did a good job of trying to capture the regional dialect (but then, I don’t really know what it is supposed to sound like, so maybe I am completely off base). Since I have enjoyed narrations by her in the past, I will be seeking out more by her, but I don’t foresee myself reading/listening to anything by the author again (I gave her 2 tries as is my rule – books 1 and 2 in this series and neither of them worked for me). Overall, I gave the story 1 star and the narration 3 stars, which gives it an average of 2.

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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