Tag: military

September 15, 2016

Review | Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy

Review | Red Storm Rising by Tom ClancyRed Storm Rising by Tom Clancy
Publisher: Berkley, August 1987
Pages: 725
Format: Paperback
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Tom Clancy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Jack Ryan novels--including his latest blockbusters Command Authority and Threat Vector--delivers an electrifying tale of international conflict.
Using the latest advancements in military technology, the world's superpowers battle it out on land, sea, and air for the ultimate global control.
A chillingly authentic vision of modern war, Red Storm Rising is as powerful as it is ambitious.
It's a story you will never forget.
Hard hitting. Suspenseful.
And frighteningly real.

Clancy pitches superpower versus superpower in air, sea and land in this alternate history telling of the war between NATO and Russia. As the story progresses, the lives of many hang in the balance. Through it all, the question remains: Will they survive the storm?

What would happen if the Cold War had broken out into World War III? That’s the question Clancy asks in Red Storm Rising. In his fictional ending of the Cold War, Clancy breaks out the big guns…literally. After Russia attacks the strategic island nation of Iceland, NATO pulls out all the stops to prevent, then contain the war. The dramatic descriptions of battle on ship, submarine, tank and plane kept me hooked. The ability to keep the reader engaged while switching between nations and narratives was key to Red Storm Rising.

Now, I have to say that there are stereotypes in this book. Lots of them. Pretty much everywhere. My theory is Clancy used these stereotypes to keep the focus on the action, not the characters (a strong departure from the books I’m used to). Normally, I’d hate this. In Red Storm Rising, it worked. Simply, the action was the enough to (more than) sustain the story – adding in deep character development would have been overkill.

There was some minor character development, especially for the pack of NATO soldiers stranded in Iceland. Their part of the story was the hardest to read. I kept myself at the edge of my seat constantly, hoping everything would turn out all right.

If you’re a military buff, Cold War fanatic, or can’t get enough of Clancy’s work, Red Storm Rising is definitely for you. I’d even recommend it to suspense/thriller fans, even if military history isn’t your thing. This is a world that can grab you in and never let go.

4 Stars

Posted September 15, 2016 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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July 31, 2015

Review | The Hunt for the Red October by Tom Clancy

Review | The Hunt for the Red October by Tom ClancyThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
Series: Jack Ryan Universe, #4
Publisher: Berkley Trade, October 1999
Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
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Here is the runaway bestseller that launched Tom Clancy's phenomenal career. A military thriller so gripping in its action and so convincing in its accuracy that the author was rumored to have been debriefed by the White House. Its theme: the greatest espionage coup in history. Its story: the chase for a top secret Russian missile sub. Lauded by the Washington Post as "breathlessly exciting." The Hunt for Red October remains a masterpiece of military fiction by one of the world's most popular authors, a man whose shockingly realistic scenarios continue to hold us in thrall.

Somewhere under the Atlantic, a Soviet sub commander has just made a fateful decision. The Red October is heading west. The Americans want her. The Russians want her back. And the most incredible chase in history is on...

This book has always had personal significance for me: it’s the book my dad was reading when I was born. How much he actually read that night, I’m not sure. Every year around my birthday, I glance at the stark red cover in my parents’ bookshelves and think I should really read that. This year I did. 

The depictions of life in 1980s Soviet Union were extraordinary. Many different personalities were created in accordance with birth, rank, and position, yet many remained uninfluenced under it all, despite the facade they presented. The variance of personalities among just the crew of the Red October would have been enough to create a series of fascinating stories. Mixing those with the roles of Americans, British, and the Soviet naval administration created an unforgettable cast of characters. 

Ramius kept me intrigued: for such a man, born and bred to be a true Russian, regularly referred to as the son of an influential man, to feel such a disconnect to his country and beliefs that he made this decision blew me away. I was driven to find out his story: what had happened to push him to such an edge? There’s no denying his cleverness – making such a decision takes a mixture bravery, ingenuity, and a hint of damn-it-all. 

I didn’t find Jack as charismatic as I expected: he was a little too self-effacing, and it didn’t quite fit into the role of the academic-thrust-into-adventure. Instead of adapting, I felt like he was always pulling back and retreating. He did win me over in the last part of Red October, but I still feel a bit ambivalent about him. 

Jonesy, the sonarman for the Dallas, was by far my favorite character. His slightly eccentric personality made me laugh and broke the tension of this incredibly fast-paced book. He can come over for a beer anytime. 

“Looking under the surface” earned a new meaning. Sure, looking for submarines, but the theme goes far beyond that. For Jack Ryan to come to his conclusion, he had to look under the immediate assumption and draw new – surprising – conclusions. The White House had to trust, the men aboard the ships at sea had to trust things they wouldn’t believe otherwise…Clancy pulls together an excellent story forcing not only the characters but the reader to look beyond the obvious.

Settings and plot were so interwoven that you couldn’t have one without the other. Jack’s nerves as he approaches the White House to deliver a briefing, the extraordinary tension that fills the submarines and ships hunting the Red October. For me, the combination of plot and setting created the thrilling adventure that I just couldn’t put down. 

4 Stars

Posted July 31, 2015 by Ellen in reviews / 0 Comments
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May 2, 2014

Review | Defiant by Alvin Townley

Title: Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought For Them, and the One Who Never Returned

Author: Alvin Townley
Publication Date: February 2014
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Source & Format: Publisher; hardcover
During the Vietnam War, hundreds of American prisoners-of-war faced years of brutal conditions and horrific torture at the hands of North Vietnamese guards and interrogators who ruthlessly plied them for military intelligence and propaganda. Determined to maintain their Code of Conduct, the POWs developed a powerful underground resistance. To quash it, their captors singled out its eleven leaders, Vietnam’s own “dirty dozen,” and banished them to an isolated jail that would become known as Alcatraz. None would leave its solitary cells and interrogation rooms unscathed; one would never return.

As these eleven men suffered in Hanoi, their wives at home launched an extraordinary campaign that would ultimately spark the nationwide POW/MIA movement. The members of these military families banded together and showed the courage not only to endure years of doubt about the fate of their husbands and fathers, but to bravely fight for their safe return. When the survivors of Alcatraz finally came home, one veteran would go on to receive the Medal of Honor, another would become a U.S. Senator, and a third still serves in the U.S. Congress.

A powerful story of survival and triumph, Alvin Townley’s Defiant will inspire anyone wondering how courage, faith, and brotherhood can endure even in the darkest of situations.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was not compensated for this review, nor has it in any way influenced my opinion. Promise!


In high school history classes, we were taught the basics of the Vietnam war. Defiant blows those lessons out of the water. 

Each soldier whose bracelet appears on the cover of the book plays a major role in the underground resistance the POWs employed to survive during their captivity. Townley makes these men memorable in his book by telling us their story: their journey to aviation (my personal favorite), their love lives, and their devotion to their country. It is rare to find such compassionate narration of nonfictional characters in a story, but Townley’s words make these men forever a part of my consciousness. His effort to paint an entire picture of each man makes each’s struggle through the POW captivity more poignant. 

Before deploying to Vietnam, each soldier learned a Code of Conduct, one that dictated how they react to their situation. I had never heard of this particular code before, so reading how it essentially shaped their lives was at once extraordinary and touching. They used the simple six guidelines to keep their spirits buoyed and their resistance strong. The strength of their camaraderie and support for each other touched me the most; fair warning, it’s impossible to get through this book without a serious case of the feels. 


The narration of Defiant was simple and direct; Townley addresses tough topics with a simplicity that underscores the emotions felt by these men, their families, friends and their countries. His simple diction and clarification of topics unfamiliar to non-military or history buffs make reading his book easy and are necessary for reading the harder scenes. 

The narration encompasses not only the POWs, but their families, friends and the world at large. This wide scope provides context and a basis for emotional reactions, but it doesn’t overcome the story of the men in captivity. Townley represents each man equally in the narration, setting up their personal stories before delving into the heart of the book. 

A warning to the soft-hearted folks (like me): Townley leaves no information out, and consequently, the torture scenes might be hard to read. I admire him for including everything; it accurately portrays the struggle of these men. 


Defiant is a must for military history buffs and nonfiction lovers. I would even go so far as to say that this book is a necessary read for us in order to fully understand what happened to these men. My worldview has changed drastically simply from this read. 

Posted May 2, 2014 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 3, 2013

Review: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel

Title: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History
Author: Robert M. Edsel
Publication Date: September 2009
Source: Library
Links: GoodReadsAmazon 
My Rating: Five Stars

At the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Momuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture. 
Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.

Most of us think we’ve got a pretty good grasp on the events of World War II, but we’re horribly wrong. How did I never know this was even an aspect of the war? 

I picked up The Monuments Men on a whim from the library. Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History is a hard subtitle to ignore. Edsel delivers. For me, personally, I have trouble really sinking into tone and voice of nonfiction – it tends to be too dry, too biased for me to truly want to read about whatever topic. Edsel’s writing was engaging, informative, and drew in my mind pictures of these events clearly. 

Each man of the infamous Monuments men was described clearly and vividly – Edsel cleverly assigns each man a stereotype in order to reinforce them in the readers’ mind so we don’t have to constantly keep flipping back to the beginning of the book to scan the little biographies.

Final Thoughts: This is definitely a book I would read again. I have told my mother (an art lover) and my father (a history lover) about this book, and both want to read it, but for entirely different purposes. I loved it because it combined both, revealing a part of history I had no idea about.

Posted June 3, 2013 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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July 1, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Classics: The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk

I will admit, this is a bit of a hard read unless you are familiar with Navy life. Luckily, my dad is a font of historical military info, so he helped a lot with deciphering some of the harder terms in the story. The novel tells the tale of a Navy warship at sea during World War II, led by an interesting collection of officers and their even more psychologically fascinating captain, Queeg.

I love this story for two very different reasons. Its simplicity – it is nothing more than a story about Navy life – it takes no stance about the importance of militarism in daily society or speak of issues intrinsic to the military itself. My other favorite aspect of this novel is it’s psychological focus.

Although every character has a story to tell, Queeg’s is the most fascinating. His decisions and actions aboard the Caine are so interesting. I can’t help but wonder what his reasoning is behind his actions and how he came to such conclusions. His paranoid tendencies are especially fascinating! I loved reading all of his little quirks and slight insights into his mind.

If you don’t have the time or the inclination to read this book, I highly suggest the movie. Humphrey Bogart does an amazing job as Queeg & it’s one of my family’s favorites! 

Been a long week at work, so I’m sorry this is a less intensive post. My brain feels like pudding. Happy sunday! 

Posted July 1, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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June 27, 2012

WWW Wednesday {June 27, 2012}

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

Currently Reading: Yet another week I want to stay home and read! Unfortunately, this is the busiest week out of the year at my job (starting today! Whee!) so that’s not really an option. I always hide my Kindle in my purse though. 😉 

This is becoming a must-read. I haven’t been able to put it down yet! Benulis weaves such an incredible story that I can’t always put my finger on the difference between reality and fantasy. 

I am also reading The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (might take me a while…) and The Queen’s Vow by C.W. Gortner. Both of these are somewhat heavy works, so I’m reading lighter stuff as well. 

Recently Finished: I finished two very different books. First was Making the Corps by Thomas E. Rickman (review here), a book of the military lifestyle and history of Marines upon Parris Island. In the opposite hand (with a completely different genre), I read Meg Cabot’s Underworld, a take on the Greek mythology tale of Persephone and Hades.

Next: I wish my TBR shelf was neat enough that I could just attach a photo of all the books instead of trying to choose! 
Insurgence by Veronica Roth is a must. I’m thinking about trying Kim Harrison’s Death Witch Walking.  I accidentally picked up the 10th book in the series, Pale Demon, at the library, and even though I had no idea what was going on, I really enjoyed it! So maybe starting at the beginning would be a good idea. : )

What’re you reading?
Happy Wednesday!

Posted June 27, 2012 by Ellen in the canon talks, Uncategorized, WWW Wednesday / 6 Comments
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June 23, 2012

Review: Making the Corps by Thomas E. Ricks

This is quite a diversion from my usual reading, but it came so highly recommended from my   dad that I had to try it. Ricks’ nonfiction novel following the lives of Marine Recruit Platoon 3086 was inspiring and entertaining, including tidbits from the guys’ day-to-day lives within the boot camp as well as bits of information regarding Marine culture and life.

Synopsis (from goodreads.com)
“Making the Corps” visits the front lines of boot camp, Parris Island, South Carolina. Here, old values are stripped away and new, Marine Corps values are forged. Acclaimed military journalist Thomas E. Ricks follows these men from their hometowns, through boot camp, and into their first year as Marines. As three fierce drill instructors fight a battle for the hearts and minds of this unforgettable group of young men, a larger picture emerges, brilliantly painted, of the growing gulf that divides the military from the rest of America.

The author, the senior Penatgon correspondent from The Washington Post, is a huge fan of the Marine culture and way of life. He states that “in a society that seems to have trouble transmitting values, the Marines stand out as successful and healthy institution that unabashedly teaches values to the Beavises and Buttheads of America” (pg 20). I admire the brashness and brute honesty in how the author delivers his opinions of…well, everything. Everything regarding the Marines, their culture, and the relationship between civilians and our military. 

To be honest, this book must be read with a grain of salt. It was a bit degrading to read the author’s [constant] tangents about how American civilian life is “undisciplined and lazy”, but in comparison to the soldiers of the military…yup. However, I do wish the author organized his rants and comparisons of the Army and Marines a little more thoroughly so I knew when to expect them. He almost interrupts himself in a few instances in his rush to instill us civilians with his vast military knowledge.

Regardless of the author’s opinions, the chapters detailing the life of the platoon were extremely fascinating. I loved watching them grow and develop into full-fledged Marine privates before my eyes. The different personalities of the men were what made the book for me; I wanted them to make it, to cheer them on when everything hit the fan. I enjoyed learning about their backgrounds and families, and the logic behind their decision to join the Marines. Ricks includes a very interesting section near the end of the book where he details the different journeys of the recruits we came to know and love. I felt like I knew them.

Posted June 23, 2012 by Ellen in Uncategorized / 0 Comments
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