Tag Archives: Biography

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).


If you are interested in the WWII era of history, you may find these three pages of interest. 

  • The”World War II Sources” page is a constantly growing collection of more than 330 links to museums, memorials, websites, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and other sources with information on the World War II-era in history.
  • The “World War II Timeline” page expands almost daily and shows events leading up to WWII, as well as during the war. Events are broken down into the Pacific and European Theaters by date.
  • The About WWII page is a collection of links to posts that I have made over the years that are relevant to WWII.