Tag Archives: History

Review of “The Midnight Assassin”

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“The Midnight Assassin” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Skip Hollandsworth (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skip_Hollandsworth). The book is available on Amazon.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of Violence. This Non-Fiction History tells the story of a series of killings. The murders took place between December 1884 and December 1885 in Austin, Texas.

Starting on December 25, 1884 a number of brutal attacks against women took place. The attacks left the women of Austin terrified. The killer seemed to be able to move silently and unobserved through the night. While there were a hand full of survivors, none could give much in the way of a description.

The attacks ended as abruptly as they had begun. Coincidentally, Jack the Ripper began his reign of terror in London only a couple of years later. There was serious speculation at the time that these two killing sprees might be related.

I do not read too many Non-Fiction books and in particular books about True Crime. This one caught my eye as I have lived in the greater Austin area since 1975. Having now read the book, I find it astonishing that this series of murders were so widely covered in the media of the 1880s, yet I had never heard of it.

I went through K-12 grades in Texas schools, and have lived in Texas for all but a year since 1955. I have lived in the Austin area and visited many of the locations that are mentioned. Yet in all that I had not heard of these events. I thoroughly did enjoy the 6 hours I spent reading this 336 page book. While the story is history, the author made it a compelling read. 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 “Flames over Norway”

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“Flames over Norway” eBook was published in 2016 (April, the paper version was first published in 1996) and was written by Robert Jackson. Mr. Jackson has written several books, both Fiction and Non-Fiction, on World War II, with a focus on aircraft of the era.

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 in England and Norway just prior to and during during World War II. The primary character is British Flying Officer Ken Armstrong.

Armstrong is one of those few very brave pilots who flew unarmed aircraft over occupied Europe and even Germany itself to get ariel reconnaissance film of enemy installations and ship movements. The story recounts Armstrong’s encounter and escape from German aircraft. It also tells of his participation in the British military intervention in Norway after the Germans invaded during the spring of 1940.

This is the third of Mr. Jackson’s novels that I have read. They are relatively short, but I enjoyed the 4.5 hours I spent reading this 152 page novel. I found it an interesting coincidence that I had recently viewed a short video of an American who flew unarmed Spitfires on air reconnaissance missions during World War II. 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 “Tail Gunner”

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“Tail Gunner” eBook was published in 2016 (originally published on paper in 1943) and was written by R. C. Chivaz. This is Mr. Chivaz’s only publication.

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. This is the first hand story of Flight-Lieutenant R. C. Rivaz, D.F.C. He starts as a tail gunner in the British Whitley Bomber, then transfers over to the Halifax Bomber, again as a tail gunner.

Chivaz gives many first hand accounts of flying over occupied Europe and Germany. He also tells of the two instances when his aircraft had to crash land in the North Sea. He describes life as a British flyer during World War II and includes many of his personal thoughts.

I thought that the 4 hours spent reading this 119 page novel gave a good view of life during World War II. This was a short story, actually more of a novella. 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 “Checkmate”

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“Checkmate” eBook was published in 2014 and was written by Mark Dewar (pseudonym used by Mark Heywood and Peter Dewar). Five novels have been published under the name of Mark Dewar.

I was notified that the book was available by the publisher. I categorize this novel as ‘PG’ because it contains scenes of Violence. The novel is set in 948 Cordoba, Spain. Then the capital of Moorish Spain.

The primary characters are Vizier Hasdai be Shaprut and General Ghalib. A noted scholar, astronomer and chess player, Aiden, is found murdered. He had just played six others in a public and tense chess match. Now his opponents, as well as the audience are under suspicion.

The Caliph’s son, who was a student of Aiden, charges Hasdai and Ghalib with finding the killer. The situation is complicated by the presence of an emissary from Bagdad. A war with Bagdad seems likely in the future. Hasdai and Ghalib are told that the Bagdadians will be arrested and executed for the murder unless hard evidence is found pointing to another.

Hasdai and Ghalib must navigate through political obstacles, as well as through the tight lipped audience at the chess match. Few want the exact extent of the betting and exchange of funds resulting from the chess matches to come to light.

I enjoyed the 6.5+ hours I spent reading this 290 page novel. The setting in 10th century Spain set this Mystery apart. The diverse population of Cordoba – Muslims, Christians and Jews – along with the political and religions tension made this an interesting read. With the human eye and experience the only ‘forensics’ available, it was a very different kind of investigation. 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).

American Spitfire

My cousin sent me an email this morning containing a link to the above documentary. I thought it quite a coincidence since I had just finished reading “Operation Diver” this morning that took place at about the same time as the flight featured in the film.

I thought  this brief video was quite interesting. It took quite a flyer to routinely pilot an unarmed Spitfire on reconnaissance missions from England to Germany and back during World War II.

Watching this made me think of my visit to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans.

Review of “Operation Diver”

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“Operation Diver” eBook was published in 2016 (paper version originally published in 1981) and was written by Robert Jackson. Mr. Jackson has written several books, both Fiction and Non-Fiction, on World War II, with a focus on aircraft of the era. This is another in his “Sergeant Yeoman” series.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘G’. This novel is set in both England and France during 1944. It continues the story of George Yeoman.

Yeoman is now commanding the 380 Squadron of Mosquito fighter-bombers. The story tells of their support during the D-Day invasion and how they were put to work trying to stop the V-1 rocket bombs before they reached England. Later in the story the squadron supports Operation Market Garden, an unsuccessful drive into the Netherlands. They also take part in missions to destroy V-2 rocket launch locations.

This is the second of Mr. Jackson’s novels I have read. They are relatively short, but I enjoyed the nearly 5 hours I spent reading this 138 page novel. I thought this, while fiction, was another good perspective of living through World War II. 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 “The Heart of Hell”

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“The Heart of Hell” eBook was published in 2016 and was written by Mitch Weiss (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitch_Weiss). Mr. Weiss has authored or co-authored 5 books.

I received a galley of this novel for review through https://www.netgalley.com. I categorize this novel as ‘R’ because it contains scenes of combat Violence. This book is set in the Pacific during 1944-45. The book tells the story of the crew of Landing Craft Infantry (G) – 449.

These flat bottom boats were just under 160 feet long and less than 25 feet wide with a crew of about 70. The small ship participated in several Pacific island invasions providing close fire support, but the focus of the story is the action during the days leading to the invasion of Iwo Jima in February 1945.

As you read this book you learn the stories of the crew of the 449, their families and girl friends. By the time the battle of Iwo Jima takes place you know the crew well. But at Iwo Jima in a few minutes of combat many of the crew are killed or severely wounded.

I enjoyed the 11 hours I spent reading this 434 page book. It paints a vivid picture of what serving aboard a war time navy vessel was like. It made me think a lot about what I saw at the National World War II Museum in New Orleans last year. The one thing that I thought was missing was any photos of the ship or the crew. If you like reading non-fiction accounts of World War II, 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 “Hunted”

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“Hunted” (aka “Cameron’s Chase”) eBook was published in 2016 (March, though the paper edition was originally published in 1986) and was written by Phillip McCutchan (https://www.historicnavalfiction.com/authors-a-z/other-authors/philip-mccutchan). Mr. McCutchan wrote 45 novels about the Navy. This is the 11th of 14 novels in his “Donald Cameron RNVR” series.

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. This World War II era Thriller novel is set aboard the destroyer Glenshiel, where the primary character Donald Cameron is the Captain.

Norwegian resistance notifies the Allies that the German battleship Attila has set sail accompanied by two heavy cruisers. Because of the timing, the Allies believe that the German battle group is after a supply convoy from North America and/or the troop laden Canard ships Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. All are in route to the UK across the North Atlantic.

The available British fleet is mobilized and sent out to find the Germans. Fog and snow come at a perfect time for the Germans as it keeps their ships hidden from reconnaissance aircraft. Destroyers, including the Glenshiel, are dispatched in a search pattern to find the Germans.

The Glenshiel finds the Attila. In a brief one-sided encounter with the far superior German vessels, the Glenshiel is damaged. With its radio and radar antennas shot away, Cameron and the Glenshiel continue to carefully probe after the Germans.

The story also deals with personnel aboard the Glenshiel. Not all of the sailors are happy being aboard the vessel. The thoughts of several characters, on both the Allied and German sides, are given.

I enjoyed the 6.5 hours I spent reading this 176 page novel. This is the second of the “Donald Cameron RNVR” novels I have read, and I enjoyed this one just as much as the first. It does read well as a stand alone novel. I think they give a good depiction of serving abord a small military vessel in World War II. I give this novel a 4.5 (rounded up to a 5) out of 5.

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

Happy Pi Day!

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Yes today is March 14th – 3.14. Those being the first three digits of the mathematical constant pi (π). The earliest known calculations of π date to the 26th century BC when the pyramids in Egypt were being constructed.

Then the simple ratio of 22/7 was used for the value, which relates the circumference of a circle (C) to its diameter (d).

π = C/d

Today, the most recent calculation of Pi goes to over 13 Trillion digits.

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March 14th has been celebrated since 1988 as Pi Day, with a non-binding resolution (HRES 224) passed by the US House of Representatives in 2009 recognizing Pi Day. March 14 has become celebrated around the world now to recognize Pi.

How can you celebrate Pi Day?

  1. One of the easiest and most fun is to simply eat pie!
  2. Wear or display the Pi symbol
  3. Plan your recognition event for 1:59 PM (i.e. 3.14159)

Didn’t have time to bake something up this year? Plan ahead and mark you calendar now for march 14 2017.

References:

  1. Pi Day
  2. How to Celebrate Pi Day
  3. Celebrate Pi Day
  4. Pi Day Resources
  5. How America celebrates Pi Day

USA, Louisiana, New Orleans – The National World War II Museum

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My wife and I love visiting museums. When we were in New Orleans in April 2015 we had the opportunity to visit The National World War II Museum. The museum occupies several
buildings
within walking distance of the French Quarter at 945 Magazine Street.

The idea of the museum was conceived by historian Stephen E. Ambrose. Many will recognize that name as he authored many books about World War II, including Band of Brothers. That book was turned into a popular TV series on HBO. The museum became reality in June 6, 2000 when the Grand Opening of the then “D-Day Museum” was held. The museum was designated by the US Congress to be the “National World War II
Museum” in 2003. Today the museum is home to over 100,000 artifacts, and has hosted more than 3 million visitors. The museum is widely supported with over 130,000 members.

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This museum tells the story of the American experience during World War II. The museum has many aircraft and vehicles on exhibit, as well as a few shows and many artifacts. Separate areas of the museum address the war in Europe and the war in the Pacific. I have always enjoyed reading about World War II. My father served in the US Army during the war and was stationed in London and Paris.

The museum is open seven days a week, 9AM – 5PM (Closed only for Mardi Gras Day, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day). At the time I write this post, general admission is $24, with both the “Beyond All Boundaries” and “Final Mission”
shows an additional $5 each.

My wife and I spent around 6 hours touring the exhibits, and still feel like we rushed through. We are both looking ahead to visiting New Orleans again and spending more time with the museum. If you are in New Orleans, are interested in history (particulary World War II) and have a few hours available, this is a fantastic place to visit!

All images “Courtesy of The National WWII Museum.”


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