While the book will appeal mostly to military history and combat tale buffs, the story is suspenseful and well-written...




Journalist Lewis (co-author: Sergeant Rex: The Unbreakable Bond Between a Marine and His Military Working Dog, 2011, etc.) highlights the soldier’s point of view in a tale from the front lines in Iraq.

In the spring of 2003, 60 soldiers were given orders to infiltrate Iraq from the northern border and negotiate the surrender of Iraqi forces, numbering nearly 100,000 in the area. Mostly British special services, with a few American and Australian soldiers in the mix, the men underwent three weeks of special desert training. While some of the older and/or more senior men had fought in the first Iraq war, most of the soldiers were completely new to both desert combat and working from vehicles. Lewis tells the story of the operation from the point of view of an older solider, Steve Grayling, though he acknowledges in the introduction that many names have been changed. Grayling was one of the few soldiers who had fought in Iraq before the Zero Six Bravo mission, and his narrative voice lends experience, gravitas and an appropriate amount of humor to the story. From the beginning, the operation was plagued with seemingly insurmountable problems. In addition to a serious training deficit, they were also dealing with lack of intel, little to no backup, a serious sleep deficit and supply constraints. Lewis does an excellent job of maintaining tension despite readers’ knowledge that the men survive. He vividly recounts the soldiers’ fatigue, stress and fear, arguing that many of the media reports, which often claimed desertion and cowardice, were simply wrong. Though acronyms and technical terms abound, they rarely interrupt the flow of the narrative, and Lewis includes a glossary to ease confusion.

While the book will appeal mostly to military history and combat tale buffs, the story is suspenseful and well-written enough for a wider audience to enjoy.

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-62365-137-4

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Quercus

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.


An engaging, casual history of librarians and libraries and a famous one that burned down.

In her latest, New Yorker staff writer Orlean (Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, etc.) seeks to “tell about a place I love that doesn’t belong to me but feels like it is mine.” It’s the story of the Los Angeles Public Library, poet Charles Bukowski’s “wondrous place,” and what happened to it on April 29, 1986: It burned down. The fire raged “for more than seven hours and reached temperatures of 2000 degrees…more than one million books were burned or damaged.” Though nobody was killed, 22 people were injured, and it took more than 3 million gallons of water to put it out. One of the firefighters on the scene said, “We thought we were looking at the bowels of hell….It was surreal.” Besides telling the story of the historic library and its destruction, the author recounts the intense arson investigation and provides an in-depth biography of the troubled young man who was arrested for starting it, actor Harry Peak. Orlean reminds us that library fires have been around since the Library of Alexandria; during World War II, “the Nazis alone destroyed an estimated hundred million books.” She continues, “destroying a culture’s books is sentencing it to something worse than death: It is sentencing it to seem as if it never happened.” The author also examines the library’s important role in the city since 1872 and the construction of the historic Goodhue Building in 1926. Orlean visited the current library and talked to many of the librarians, learning about their jobs and responsibilities, how libraries were a “solace in the Depression,” and the ongoing problems librarians face dealing with the homeless. The author speculates about Peak’s guilt but remains “confounded.” Maybe it was just an accident after all.

Bibliophiles will love this fact-filled, bookish journey.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4018-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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