If there is a definitive book on the Marine combat experience in World War II, this has got to be it. Narrator George Wilson does a magnificent job bringing every page to life with exactly the appropriate nuance and inflection for every word. The result is as if listening to Sledge tell his story to you while sitting in his living room. The HBO series "The Pacific" gave only a hint of Sledge's story, while in this book, in his own words, he paints a vivid and riveting account of his actual experiences.
If you keep waiting for Hell to reveal itself in Assignment to Hell you'll arrive at the last page wondering where you missed it. There's very little drama in this book but there's a lot of descriptions of time spent well behind the lines in hotel rooms and restaurants. While Timothy Gay does a decent job recycling all the material that's available in other works about the various WWII correspondents he includes in this book, there's nothing in this book that will make you happy to have read this dabbling into these men's stories rather than to have read the original available first-hand accounts by the writers themselves. Sadly, the title is a way to work some recognizable names onto the cover while the contents do little credit to the stories of these correspondents.
This is Ben Macintyre’s third book covering much the same general topic matter of Britain's spymasters during World War II. His previous books dive deep into the real-life characters of Agent ZigZag and all the colorful members of Britain's MI5 war effort. Many of those same characters return here in Double Cross, but whereas those books are very up close and personal, Double Cross is a bit distant. Perhaps due to the relative lack of historical material to draw from, and certainly from including too many thinly illustrated double and triple agents into the narrative, Double Cross doesn't get the reader as close to the people whose stories are being told as in Macintyre’s other efforts. John lee does a masterful job in reading the words and keeping the story lively. All in all, an enjoyable read, but a bit lackluster compares to Macintyre’s other efforts on the same subjects.
As much as I wanted this book to be a glimpse of a little known aspect of World War II, it instead left me searching to see if a better book on the subject has been written. The authors throw in far too many uninteresting characters and stories, ending up with a plodding book that avoids getting interesting until the very end. The book doesn't shed any light on who in command supporting the effort and allocating personnel to the task of art preservation. The authors includes letters home from the people involved verbatim without trying to spin into them into the narrative. This is unfortunately a very weak effort at a possibly interesting story. But it will take a better writer to answer that question.
This is a perfectly written and read book. Laura Hillenbrand tells this amazing in a way the reader lives it. She is a master of the writing craft and this book was destined to be a classic on her first keystroke.
Within a few pages the authors masterfully pull the reader right alongside these embassy guard Marines and diplomats in a way that their stories are not just read but shared. This is truly an outstanding example of expertly telling the activities and emotions of multiple characters in multiple locations and weaving their lives into a coherent and thoroughly captivating narrative. The reading by Bronson Pinchot, the TV and movie actor, is absolutely brilliant. Pinchot delivers an energetic reading with exactly the right amount of dramatic infusion to add to the already gripping story being told.
Sometimes the Cliff Notes version of a book are all that's really necessary, and the story of post-WWII Asia as told by Ronald Spector is one of these cases. The high level version, since everyone already knows things turned out poorly: the colonials came back to their old empires, screwed things up, the independence movements took advantage of really bad management of the reintroduction of colonial rule, the British screwed everything up, the Dutch and French did even worse, and the Americans backed the wrong sides after abandoning previous alliances. This is told in far too many pages. The only revelation, or surprise in this book, is the degree to which the former colonial powers depended on the defeated Japanese Army across Asia to help combat the rising tide of revolution, with Japanese units in some cases stranded for years after the surrender, fighting alongside their former enemies. Narrator Michael Pritchard does an excellent job of adding flavor to otherwise bland pages, but by the end, the reader is happy this book came to an end.
While the pilots of the Doolittle Raid flew at treetop level, the author Craig Nelson tells their stories from 30,000 feet, far too high to get into the B-25 bombers with any of the crew members who took part in this historic mission. The story reads like a history lesson, and includes long passages about the Pearl Harbor and Midway battles before and after the Doolittle Raid to put the mission into historical context, rather than getting personal with the men of the mission itself. The reader will come away with a good overview of the mission, and it's importance, but in the process learn very little of the 80 men on the 16 B-25 bombers who took part in the mission. The narrative bounces around from crew to crew so frequently, without connecting to any individual crewmen, that it never touches any of them deeply. This is made far worse by a narrator who reads this book like one run-on sentence, far too often without as much as a pause as the author changes from crew to crew. The narrator reads this book as if he's in a race to get to the end of it, which unfortunately comes without ever really learning who these amazing men of the Doolittle Raid really were.
After reading Laura Hillenbrand's masterful "Unbroken" I was pleasantly surprised to find this book written about the same B-24 squadron during WWII. But any similarity between the two books ends there. In the preface the author speaks of this book wanting to honor his father and that Phil Scearce does. But this book is not masterful, compelling nor particularly well written. Unfortunately, the book is clearly based on squadron records and it continually reads that way, with dialog added to disjointed stories attempting to add to the dry action reports and squadron logs of those official records. What this book is thoroughly lacking is an interesting narrative. There's no captivating central character, and this is made very clear when by 1944, the author's father has logged six combat missions while others in the squadron are going home having completed the (then) 30 required missions.
The author has created a beginning to end account of this B-24 squadron, but unfortunately it reads like a Wikipedia article rather than an action-packed account of the brave men who flew, fought and died in this squadron.
A book about a great adventure like this one should put the reader into the jungle right alongside the participants. Well written books like The River of Doubt by Candice Millard, Into Africa by Martin Dugard, Shadows in the Jungle by Larry Alexander, do exactly that, from cover to cover. The Darkest Jungle however, never rises to the story, fails to transport the reader's imagination into the jungle and never elicits suspense nor sympathy for any of the many characters. This is not a well written book, and worse, it is very poorly constructed. The author front loads the text with biographies on all the characters, before the reader has a chance to know or care who any of the people are and why any are to be important in the later narrative. Better books find a way to paint the characters as the story progresses. The end of the book falls off with many chapters of postscript that could have been woven into the text if properly edited. The narration, while credible, fails to deliver any excitement and is read as if the narrator is in a hurry to finish the project. All in all, this is not a great effort.
This is a superb account of adventure and danger in the Amazonian rain forest told brilliantly by author Candice Millard, and read equally so by narrator Paul Michael. The author has carefully researched the surviving details of this expedition and crafted a story so riveting, and painted the participants so fully, that she takes the reader along the perilous route as if a member of the expedition. The only flaw of this book is that it ends. Put this book next on your list. Curiously, in the first chapter the author writes Theodore Roosevelt "had a voice that sounded as if he had just taken a sip of helium" yet the narrator uses a voice closely resembling Franklin Roosevelt's recorded voice for quoted passages. Probably a calculated and wise substitution that saves the reader from the terror of Teddy's helium voice.
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