A vivid, action-packed combat memoir, Blackmon’s book explores what life is like for those boots on the ground, as well as...

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PALE HORSE

HUNTING TERRORISTS AND COMMANDING HEROES WITH THE 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION

Blackmon narrates the blow-by-blow experience of flying helicopters through embattled mountains during the Afghan War.

The 101st Airborne Division is legendary for its actions in the D-Day invasion and Battle of the Bulge. As a squadron commander in the 2000s, the author helped lead the division’s modern incarnation. Small teams of infantrymen patrol the Afghan countryside in weaponized choppers, and the narrative is an endless series of ambushes and firefights. His subject matter is in turns suspenseful and violent, but Blackmon’s writing remains calmly technical: “Smoke began to fill the cockpit as the fire continued to burn in the back of the helicopter. Sergeant McLowhorn disconnected his safety strap and retrieved an extinguisher.” While the book is intended for military buffs, and Blackmon uses authentic jargon, he never loses average readers. More importantly, he adds personal touches that humanize the story. Blackmon grew up in Georgia and labels himself as a born fighter, and he idolizes his fellow servicemen, who come off as selfless, courageous, and professional. The author honestly reflects on PTSD and the damage it has wreaked on his colleagues. In one scene, a flight surgeon recounts his nightmares, which involve blown-off limbs and abandoning soldiers in the battlefield to die. Blackmon doesn’t delve much into civilian politics, and his outlook is rigidly martial, but he seems to empathize with the people and problems of the Middle East. “For me, there was no questioning the necessity of our mission in Afghanistan,” he writes. “What troubled me was how we could convince isolated tribesmen like those in the Helgal to embrace our vision of their future. It must have seemed like such a foreign concept to them, like my grandmother trying to convince me that castor oil was good for me as a child.”

A vivid, action-packed combat memoir, Blackmon’s book explores what life is like for those boots on the ground, as well as in the air.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07271-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2015

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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

NIGHT

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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