Category Archives: Biography

Review of “The Jersey Brothers”

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Book ReviewsWWII –  “The Jersey Brothers” eBook was published in 2017 and was written by Sally Mott Freeman. This is Ms. Freeman’s only publication.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence and Mature Language. This true story takes place during the years of World War II. It tells of three brothers who all served in the US Navy.

The two older brothers, Benny and Bill, were Annapolis graduates and both served on-board ships in the Pacific as well as in Washington D.C. during the war. The youngest of the brothers, Barton, was a new Ensign who had been posted to Manilla as a supply officer just prior to the Japanese attack on Perl Harbor.

The book goes through the experiences of all three. The part of the story for Bill and Benny tell of their combat experiences as well as an inside look at the politics behind the scenes. Bill was stationed in the White House a few years and knew president Roosevelt and the government principals, then joined an Admiral’s staff in the Pacific. Benny was a gunnery officer on the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise for a few years, then returned to Washington D.C.

Barton underwent years as a POW, being moved from camp to camp and suffering under horrible conditions. Both Benny and Bill used all the contacts they had trying to find their brother. Barton, and hundreds of other prisoners, suffered greatly in the Japanese POW camps.

I thoroughly enjoyed the 14 hours I spent reading this 608 page Non-Fiction World War II account. The author is a the niece of young Barton. She spent about 10 years researching before she was able to write this account. While basically a biography of the three brothers, it reads much like a novel. The heroic action by many is cited. The political infighting within the US military which impacted the war effort is also revealed. The cover art is OK as much of the story involves US Navy invasions of Japanese held islands in the Pacific. If you are interested in this period of history, you will enjoy this book. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Tail Gunner Takes Over”

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Book ReviewsWWII – “Tail Gunner Takes Over” eBook was published in 2016 (original paper edition was published in 1945) and was written by Sqd. Ldr. Richard Rivaz DFC. Mr. Rivaz published two books.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set in the UK and Canada during World War II. The primary character is the author.

This is the journal kept by Rivaz. In his first book, Tail Gunner, Rivaz talks about his first few years in the war as the gunner on a bomber. In this book he tells of his experiences after he was chosen to go to flight school and become a pilot. Some of that training took place in the UK, but the bulk of his pilot training took place in Canada. It gives a very different look at World War II and how the civilians took the war effort in stride.

I thought that the just shy of 6 hours I spent reading this World War II Non-Fiction book was interesting. I had read his first book earlier. The cover art is a reasonable choice for the book. I give this novel a 4 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “George Lucas: A Life”

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Book Reviews – “George Lucas: A Life” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Brian Jay Jones (https://brianjayjones.com). Mr. Jones has published three biographies.

I received an ARC of this novel through https://www.netgalley.com in return for a fair and honest review. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. This book tells the life story of George Lucas. The bulk of the story covers around 1970 to today. There is a lot to learn about Lucas in his early years, but most importantly his efforts with American Graffiti and all of the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies are covered.

This biography read well, though it did take more than 12 hours to finish the 480 pages. I learned a lot about Lucas and his impact on movie making. The cover art was a good selection. If you are a fan of Star Wars and/or Indiana Jones, or a student of cinema, then you will want to read this. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “George Washington’s Secret Spy War”

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“George Washington’s Secret Spy War” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by John A. Nagy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_A._Nagy). Mr. Nagy published 5 books, all of the history of the Revolutionary period.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. The book covers the period in George Washington’s life from his time serving the British Military during the French and Indian War through the
Revolutionary War. A lot of time was spent with Washington’s spies, how he handled the intelligence they gathered, as well as how he attempted to mislead British spies.

This is a very scholarly assessment of how spies were used by Washington during the Revolutionary War. It is full of details – names, dates, and excerpts of letters. It is also well documented with a very large list of citations.

This was an interesting 7.5 hour read of 384 pages (the last 23% of the book is references). This Non-Fiction book is not one for light reading. It is very dry. While it is full of information, I found it choppy, repetitive and a bit daunting to read. It also seemed to stray into more revolutionary era history than just dealing with spy craft. Organizing it a little differently, and smoothing the writing out would have improved the book. I do think that the cover art was well chosen. I give this novel a 3.4 (rounded down to a 3) out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).

Review of “Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe”

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“Mission: Jimmy Stewart and the Fight for Europe” was published in 2016 (October) and was written by Robert Matzen (https://robertmatzen.com). This is Mr. Matzen’s seventh book.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The story is set mostly in Hollywood, CA and England. As you would expect with a biography, the primary character is the subject, in this case James “Jimmy” Stewart.

The story begins when Stewart is in High school and follows him to Princeton University, and then to New York as be tries to start an acting career. He soon finds his way to Hollywood as an actor for MGM Studios. Stewart made many significant films in the five years he was part of the movie industry before World War II.

Always interested in aviation, Stewart had his own plane and by the time that the US seemed on the brink of entering the war with Germany, he had qualified for a commercial pilot license. He was drafted before the war broke out and because of his experience, became a training officer for bomber crews.

Stewart had a heritage of military service and he felt obliged to follow those footsteps. Rather than take the easy route of being a PR face for the military, he fought hard to become a combat flyer. Eventually he was able to travel to England with the unit he had been training and began combat bombing missions over occupied Europe.

Most of the book deals with the 4 plus years Stewart served in the active Army Air Corps. He went in as a recruit, received his officer commission when he was awarded his wings, and left active service after the end of World War II as a Colonel. His story serving as an officer in the 8th Air force parallels those of many others who flew in combat against Germany – Lack of sleep, miserable winters in England, sub-freezing flying conditions, constant threat of attack by the German Luftwaffe fighters and repeatedly flying through heavy flack to reach their targets.

The 16 months he was involved in combat took a toll on Stewart. Today he would be diagnosed with PTSD. He survived and returned to Hollywood, resuming his acting career with “It’s a Wonderful Life”.

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the just shy of 10 hours I spent with this 400 page Biography! I thought it might be on the dry side, but the story had a good pace to it. I have seen Stewart in dozens of movies and I knew he had an Air Force commission, but I had no idea of what he had gone through. I think that this book not only gives a brief view of Hollywood in the 1930’s, but an excellent view of the air war in Europe. I think that the cover was aptly chosen, though does not really hint at the extent of Stewart’s war experiences. I give this novel a 5 out of 5.

My book reviews are also published on Goodreads (https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/31181778-john-purvis).