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Reviews Written by
Mike O'Connor "Wordsmith" RSS Feed (Wausau, WI USA)

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Donald's Story
Donald's Story
by Sandra D. Merrill
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
48 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Affecting Account of an 8th Air Force Fighter Pilot!, April 24, 2016
This review is from: Donald's Story (Paperback)
The 4th Fighter Group was the most famous 8th Air Force Fighter Group in World War II. It boasted a galaxy of well-known aces such as Blakeslee, Gentile, Beeson, Norley, Goodson, Hofer, Godfrey, McKennon and lesser-known mainstays like Donald Emerson. Emerson never made 'ace' but was part of the backbone of the group, developing into a first-rate pilot who eventually led his squadron and group into battle. His exploits were little known since he died on 24 December 1944. Happily, his niece, Sandra Merrill, decided to look into her uncle Donald's life and times and the result is this compelling account of a young man in war. A 1996 Tebidine Publishing release, DONALD'S STORY makes for fascinating reading.

Donald Emerson, as revealed by Merrill's book, could represent thousands of young American men who saw combat in World War II. Initially joining the Army, he transferred to the Air Corps in late 1942 and trained as a fighter pilot. Before he was sent to the 4th FG in England in March 1944, he fell in love. Once assigned to Blakeslee's group, he began flying missions and eventually downed four enemy aircraft in the air and three on the ground. Tragically, he was downed by flak after returning from an air battle on Christmas Day.

Merrill interweaves letters Emerson wrote home with her own research into his life and the exploits of the 4th FG to create an affecting, altogether human account of a fairly serious but likable young man at war. While he may not have been a top gun, Emerson's image - depicted in a photograph taken immediately after a mission - stands as one of the iconic images of men in combat. The photo shows an exhausted Emerson still in the cockpit of his P-51 staring at the camera, his young face showing the clear strain of aerial combat.

DONALD'S STORY is a wonderful reminiscence of - and tribute to - that young fighter pilot. It shows the human face behind the fighter pilot façade. Highly Recommended.


The Twentieth Century in 100 Moments: A Visual History
The Twentieth Century in 100 Moments: A Visual History
by Heather Rounds
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $30.00
55 used & new from $18.94

4.0 out of 5 stars America in the 20th Century: A Photo-Guide!, March 29, 2016
Heather Rounds and Akim Reinhardt's THE TWENTIETH CENTURY IN 100 MOMENTS is a patchwork, photographic quilt to America in the 20th Century. Filled with hundreds of b&w and color pix, this 2015 Zenith Press release offers up an impressionistic photo-guide to America's ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, heroes and villains of our recent past.

Reinhardt and Rounds divide their material into five themed- chapters on Celebrity, Discovery & Innovation, Living, Struggle and Triumph along with a concluding Coda. The first chapter obviously deals with famous - and infamous - figures who have garnered out attention. So we have two-four page write-ups on people like Buffalo Bill Cody, Clark Gable, Babe Ruth, John Dillinger, Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Walter Cronkite and Madonna. American ingenuity is featured in the Discovery & Innovation chapter with entries on electricity, the Panama Canal, Henry Ford, the atom bomb, the Moon landing, the Internet, etc. The Struggle and Triumph chapters explored the successes and struggles Americans have undergone with Indian boarding schools, the 1918 flu epidemic, Prohibition, civil rights, Watergate and AIDs juxtaposed against the 19th Amendment, Jesse Owens and the Nazi Olympics, VJ Day, Clarence Earl Gideon, American Nobel Prize winners and so on. The Coda describes 9/11.

In short, THE TWENTIETH CENTURY IN 100 MOMENTS is an appealing, impressionistic smorgasbord of 20th Century American images, people and events. Recommended.

9,550 Helpful Votes!

Top Wildlife Sites Of The World
Top Wildlife Sites Of The World
by Will Burrard-Lucas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $21.65
23 used & new from $21.65

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delightful Photo-Guide to Wildlife Attractions Around the World!, March 26, 2016
Will and Natalie Burrard-Lucas' TOP WIDLIFE SITES OF THE WORLD is a lovely, charming and informative photo-guide to wildlife areas, parks and reserves around the world. A 2015 New Holland Publishers release, it's a treasure trove of breathtaking photographs and informative text on world wildlife that will charm and fascinate readers of all ages.

The book is divided into four sections: Eurasia; Africa; Americas; and Australasia and the Antarctic Zone. Within each unit the authors cover various noteworthy nature attractions. The Africa section, for example, includes the Bale Mountain National Park, Serengeti National Park, the Maasai Mara National Reserve, Volcanoes National Park, the Okavango Delta and the Amber Mountain National Park. The Americas chapter features Katmai National Park, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the Cayman Islands, the Galapagos Islands, etc. Each section begins with a one-two page write-up describing the attraction and its wildlife inhabitants, notable species and suggested 'when to go' dates to view the site.

The book's main selling point is the hundreds of gorgeous, color photographs capturing Martial Eagles, Thornicroft's Giraffes, Crowned Lemurs, West Indian Woodpeckers, Black Rhinoceros, Bat-Eared Fox, Ring-Tailed Mongoose, Grand Cayman Blue Iguanas, African Wild Dogs, Leopards, Timor Deer, Western Lowland Gorillas, Sri Lankan Sloth Bears, Ethiopian Wolves, Gibbons, Golden Pheasants, Mantled Howler Monkeys, King Penguins, Bengal Tigers and on and on. Visually, the book is a delight!

In short, TOP WILDLIFE SITES OF THE WORLD is a treasure. Brimming with crisp, clear and charming photographs of world wildlife and concise, informative text, it will appeal to nature lovers, photographers, world travelers and armchair travelers alike. Highly recommended.

Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II
Japanese Army Air Force Camouflage and Markings World War II
by Donald W. Thorpe
Edition: Paperback
35 used & new from $19.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering Guide to JAAF Camouflage and Markings!, March 22, 2016
When Donald Thorpe's JAPANESE ARMY AIR FORCE CAMOUFLAGE AND MARKINGS WORLD WAR II was published in 1968, it became the standard reference on the subject. "Way back then" there wasn't a lot of information or photos or color profiles available on the JAAF. Thorpe's book, which provided a wealth of information on aircraft schemes and markings, was a revelation - and godsend - to those of us interested in the warbirds flown by JAAF aircrews. Though somewhat dated, it remains a wonderful and valuable guide.

Thorpe's book impresses immediately with a wonderful cover by Jack Leynnwood depicting a colorfully-marked Ki-84 escorting an equally attractive Ki-21 Sally. The text is divided into chapters on general camouflage and markings, general markings, unit markings, aircraft in profile, JAAF aircraft and various appendices. Included in those sections is information on the five basic JAAF camouflage schemes, interior/exterior colors, operational markings, kill markings, surrender aircraft, Sentai i.d. markings, Home Defense markings, principal JAAF units, Command stripes and so on.

The book's biggest selling point is the wealth of photographs, diagrams, side-views, scrap views, color chip charts and 20 pages of color profiles and rudder markings of Nates, Tojos, Tonys, Ki-100s, Marys, Randys, Lilys, Nicks, Franks, Sallys, Oscars, etc. Back in '68, Thorpe's book was a real treasure trove!

Nowadays, with the Osprey line and books by various authors, the JAAAF enthusiast has much material to choose from. Thorpe led the way and, if his book is a bit dated, it still remains an extremely useful guide to JAAF markings and camouflage. Highly recommended.

World War II: Visual Encyclopedia
World War II: Visual Encyclopedia
by DK
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.92
64 used & new from $8.82

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars World War II...for Younger Readers!, March 21, 2016
WORLD WAR II VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA is an informative and well-illustrated overview of the most momentous event of the 20th Century. A 2015 Dorling KIndersley release, it serves as a useful guide for younger readers.

The book is divided into broad categories: Key Players, Military Personnel, Key Events & Battles, Technology of War, and Reference Section. The First chapters describes various political leaders, military commanders, spies/secret agents, notable fighting men and women and Holocaust heroes. Chapter two covers different combatants such as an IJN fighter pilot, B-17 gunner, Soviet tank driver, Italian infantryman and a Brit destroyer captain. Key events/battles such as Dunkirk, D-Day, Kursk, Midway and PQ 17 are described in the third chapter. Ships, planes, tanks, rockets and radar are among the tools of war covered in chapter four. A brief section giving a WWII timeline, facts & figures, maps, why the world went to war and other items conclude the book. Each item rates a one-page write-up with a color or b&w photograph or illustration.

As a primer on the Second World War, WORLD WAR II VISUAL ENCYCLOPEDIA is a good choice to introduce and explain the subject to readers nine to 12 years old. Recommended.

Fighter aces
Fighter aces
by Raymond F Toliver
Edition: Hardcover
42 used & new from $3.90

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pioneering Account of Fighter Aces in Action!, March 11, 2016
This review is from: Fighter aces (Hardcover)
Back in the late 1950s/early 1960s, there weren't a lot of military aviation history books out there detailing the exploits of American fighter pilots, Edward Sims being the exception. When FIGHTER ACES appeared in 1965, fighter buffs, including a then-15 year old Wisconsin lad, hit the jackpot. Here was the mother lode!

Toliver and Constable divided the ace material into chapters on the making of a fighter ace, World War I aces, USAAF PTO aces, USAAF ETO aces, Navy aces, USMC aces, Axis aces and Korean war aces. Various pilots were described through mini-bios followed by self-penned accounts of memorable missions. At that time, almost all the WW II & Korean aces and even a few WWI aces were still with us so the book had a wealth of ace talent to tap in to and dishes up many exciting 'I-was-there' accounts. It's just a pity the authors didn't ask for even more accounts from all those pilots!

The book features a number of photo inserts of aces and their aircraft.

In many ways, Toliver and Constable's FIGHTER ACES set the template for books on fighter aces. Though there have been many 'ace bios' books published since 1965, FIGHTER ACES was one of the first and best histories of fighter pilots in action. Several revisions and expanded versions have only increased the value and appeal of this seminal book. Recommended.

9,500 Helpful Votes!

100 Things They Don't Want You To Know
100 Things They Don't Want You To Know
by Daniel Smith
Edition: Paperback
Price: $24.99
47 used & new from $15.61

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sifting Fact from Fiction!, March 8, 2016
Daniel Smith's 100 THINGS THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW is a comprehensive, even-handed guide to CONSPIRACIES, MYSTERIES AND UNSOLVED CRIMES from around the world. A 2015 Quercus release, Smith's book makes for interesting reading.

Smith's book rounds up almost all 'the usual suspects,' including the Black Dahlia murder, Mothman, the Flying Dutchman, the Black Sox scandal, Oswald's death, the Man in the Iron Mask, Easter Island, Jimmy Hoffa's disappearance, the Princes in the Tower, Bimini Road, Majestic 12, Shakespeare's 'real' identity, the Katyn Forest killings, the Zodiac killer, crystal skulls, Nazi gold, bog men, Jack the Ripper, the 'Virgin Queen's offspring, Judge Crater, U.S. knowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack, the Fatima children and so on. Each entry rates a two-four page write-up that describes the particular event and then offers reasonable explanations for each.

Vintage and contemporary photographs, illustrations and maps are included throughout the book.

There have been a number of books covering some or most of the items in Smith's book. However, 100 THINGS THEY DON'T WANT YOU TO KNOW benefits from its newness and fair-minded coverage of the events in question. Recommended.

Amazing Barn Finds and Roadside Relics: Musty Mustangs, Hidden Hudsons, Forgotten Fords, and Other Lost Automotive Gems
Amazing Barn Finds and Roadside Relics: Musty Mustangs, Hidden Hudsons, Forgotten Fords, and Other Lost Automotive Gems
by Ryan Brutt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $24.75
62 used & new from $15.39

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Forgotten Cars Awaiting Salvation!, March 6, 2016
Ryan Brutt's AMAZING BARN FINDS AND ROADSIDE RELICS is both a fascinating guide to MUSTY MUSTAGS, HIDDEN HUDSONS, FORGOTTEN FORDS AND OTHER LOST AUTOMATIVE GEMS moldering away in various sites across America and an inspiring account of how some of those 'auto graveyard treasures' have been saved and restored. A 2015 Motorbooks release, it should appeal to car buffs of all ages.

Brutt's book recounts his 40-year long affair/search for automotive treasures rusting away in junk yards, back yards, garages, barns, fields and so on. He criss-crosses the country relating the stories of assorted Shelby Mustangs, Camaros, Dodge Chargers, Plymouth Satellites, GTOs, Dodge Coronets, Corvettes, Barracudas and Plymouth Business Coupes that were either in need of help or being restored. In telling those 'car stories,' he also touches on some of the buffs that have turned rust buckets into works of art.

The book is illustrated throughout with vintage and contemporary color photographs of cars in distress and in various stages of restoration.

Though I'm an airplane buff not a car buff, I enjoyed Brutt's story of lost cars awaiting salvation. Recommended.


Flights of No Return: Aviation History's Most Infamous One-Way Tickets to Immortality
Flights of No Return: Aviation History's Most Infamous One-Way Tickets to Immortality
Price: $14.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Chronicle of Flights Gone Wrong!, March 5, 2016
The history of aviation has seen triumph and tragedy. Steven Ruffin's FLIGHTS OF NO RETURN recounts 20-odd flights that ended in tragedy. A 2015 Zenith Press release, Ruffin's book presents a slick, once-over summary of most of those flights.

Ruffin's book includes all 'the usual (aviation) suspects' like Flight 19, Glenn Miller's disappearance, Earhart/Noonan, D. B. Cooper, Captain Mantell's 'UFO' encounter, Rudolf Hess, the Hindenburg, JFK Junior's last flight, the 'Ghost of Flight 401,' the 9/11 Attacks, Christa McAuliffe, Nungesser & Coli, the L-8 blimp, the Red Baron's last flight and Leslie Howard's disappearance along with other lesser-known events like Hale Boggs' disappearance and Steve Fossett's last flight. Each event is summarized and various explanations for each is given.

Vintage and contemporary b&w and color photographs and maps are included throughout the book.

Depending on one's knowledge of aviation history, Ruffin's book is either a new, entertaining account of tragic flights or a rehash of previous knowledge. Of the 20-odd flights covered in the book, only one - the Andree North Pole flight - was new to me.

Nevertheless, most readers will find FLIGHTS OF NO RETURN an interesting, informative and well-illustrated summary of aviation flights gone wrong. Recommended.

World Monuments: 50 Irreplaceable Sites To Discover, Explore, and Champion
World Monuments: 50 Irreplaceable Sites To Discover, Explore, and Champion
by Andre Aciman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $33.88
73 used & new from $0.57

5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling Look at Our Threatened Cultural Heritage!, February 26, 2016
WORLD MONUMENTS, 50 IRREPLACEABLE SITES TO DISCOVER, EXPLORE AND CHAMPION is a triple-threat book. It interweaves concise histories of many of the world's most beautiful sites with information on preservation efforts directed at those same sites and illustrates all that with marvelous color and b&w photographs of such delights as the Taj Mahal, Stowe House, Brancusi's Endless Column, the Petra Archaeological Site and the Chancellerie D'Orleans. A 2015 Rizzoli release, the book is a breathtaking, informative and compelling look at the current state of our earth's cultural heritage.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each with a different theme. The 'War and Human Conflict' chapter, for example, describes the impact that conflict has had on such sites as Coventry Cathedral in England, Cambodia's Angkor Park and Krakow's Tempel Synagogue. The 'Natural Catastrophe and Climate Change' chapter, likewise, summarizes the natural dangers posed to Venice, the Petra Site and New Orleans neighborhoods. The 'Vigilance and Reinvigoration of Threatened Landmarks' chapter discusses Easter Island, St. Georges' Bloomsbury Church and Austria's Belvedere Gardens and so on. The essays are thoughtful and, at turns, uplifting and depressing.

The book is illustrated throughout with wonderful color and b&w photographs of these marvels and other treasures like the Great Wall of China, Luxor Temple, Machiya townhouses and Manchester's St. Francis Cathedral. Visually, the book is a delight.

WORLD MONUMENTS was written in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the World Monuments Fund, a key player in heritage site preservation. The book offers a compelling and wonderfully-illustrated 'report card' on the earth's cultural heritage not to be missed by all those concerned about the wonders of our world. Recommended.

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