Elephant company : the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II

From Margaret  Mezzacapo

Author:  Vicki Croke

Title:  Elephant company : the inspiring story of an unlikely hero and the animals who helped him save lives in World War II 

Here’s the engrossing, true story of Billy Williams, elephants and World War II. Williams goes to Burma as a young man. A lifelong fondness for animals blossoms into a deep love for elephants, which are used as beasts of burden in logging operations in the jungle. Williams fights for – and achieves – humane treatment of these magnificent animals. Then, war breaks out. The elephants, known collectively as “Elephant Company,” become an integral part of the war effort, helping rescue refugees and saving many human lives in the process. Both Williams and his elephants overcome formidable obstacles to achieve this. The story is an illustration of how the tenacity of the human spirit can greatly diminish the horrors of war.

George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution

From Eileen Effrat
Author:  Brian Kilmeade
Title:  George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring That Saved The American Revolution
George Washington was astute enough to realize he could not beat the British with manpower and arms.  Following his experiences in the French & Indian Wars, Washington decided to set up a network of spies to provide timely information in anticipation of  British military moves.  This covert group of 6 agents displayed  fearlessness and leadership.  They risked their lives for a cause they believed in.  The Culper Spy ring included-

*Robert Townsend—-Quaker merchant
*Austin Roe—-tavern keeper
*Caleb Brewster—-longshoreman who ferried between Long Island and Connecticut
*Abraham Woodhull—Long Island businessman with connections to Manhattan
*James Rivington—-Manhattan coffeehouse owner and print shop owner
*Agent 355—- a female socialite whose identity remains unknown.

Kilmeade, in his research, demonstrates how the Culper Ring was VERY instrumental in preventing Benedict Arnold from handing over West Point to the British.  I think a comment from a British intelligence officier  sums up the  importance  of the Culper Spy Ring best—-“Washington did not really outfight the British, he simply outspied us!”.

The girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War II

From Eileen Effrat
Author:  Denise Kiernan
Title:  The girls of Atomic City : the untold story of the women who helped win World War II 
Recruited for jobs in a town that did not exist,thousands of women from 1943-1945 worked as factory workers, secretaries,custodians, nurses, chemists,and more in Oak Ridge.   Their employer,Clinton Engineer Works, only told these women their jobs  would serve to bring the war to a speedy end. Shrouded in secrecy, 75,000 workers toiled. Although many suspected something BIG was happening, few pieced together the true nature of their work until August 6,1945 when the U.S. dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. For three years uranium was enriched at Oak Ridge and sent to Los Alamos for use in the “GADGET”.  For this book, the author interviewed hundreds of women. Most were high school graduates from farm families in rural towns, while some had college degrees in chemistry or statistics.   Kiernan focuses on the lives of nine women in particular. I found this book enlightening. This is a part of our history that few know.

Detroit: An American Autopsy

From Frank DelBalso
Title: Detroit: An American Autopsy
Author: Charlie LeDuff
Learn how broke and corrupt the city of Detroit was. Houses burned nightly. Children have to bring their own toilet paper to school. Dead people lay unclaimed. Corruption exists at every level of the government. A judge is too lazy to work a full day and put people behind bars. Car executives make foolish decisions.

The Working Poor

From Frank DelBalso
Title: The Working Poor
Author: David Shipler
This books tells of the struggles that poor working people experience in getting out of poverty. The author has a liberal slant but does on occasion also criticize the poor for their self inflicted problems. Several detail stories are told about individual people which are interesting but I found it difficult to make any political conclusions from these stories which were not backed up by any statistics.


From Sandi Rosenthal
Title:  Thunderstruck
Author:  Erik Larson
I wrote this review last week, but did not see it in the reviews, so I will write it again.

Thunderstruck, like Devil in the White City, intertwines two stories. One story is about Guglielmo Marconi and how he struggled to develop wireless telecommunication at the turn of the 20th century. The second story is about Dr. Crippen, a man who murdered his wife in England. Their lives touch, when, during Crippen’s escape to Canada, his every move is watched by the world because of Marconi’s new technology.

The book is heavily detailed, especially about Marconi and his trials, but I do recommend it.

Killing Kennedy

From  Elaine Pasquali
Title:  Killing Kennedy
Author:  Bill O’Reilly
An interesting look-back at Kennedy’s assassination, carefully avoiding any conspiracy theories.  I found this book more difficult to read than Killing Lincoln, because I had lived through the events and resisted having the wounds reopened.  Still, I’m glad I read it for the insight it offered into the people caught up in the events.

Killing Lincoln

From Elaine Pasquali
Title: Killing Lincoln
Author:  Bill O’Reilly
Unquestionably one of the best books I’ve ever read.  I thought I knew the details of Lincoln’s death, but there was so much more to it.  O’Reilly’s writing style made this a page turner.  The parallels and connections between Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth were fascinating.  If you haven’t yet read this book, put it on your “must read” list.

Unbroken, a WW 11 Airman’s Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

From Sandi Rosenthal 
Title:  Unbroken, a WW 11 Airman’s Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Author:  Laura Hillenbrand
This book is about an Olympian track star, Louis Zamperini, who was a pilot in the military during World War 11.  His plane was shot down in the Pacific and he drifted on a small raft for a few weeks enduring starvation, dehydration, extreme exposure to the elements and sharks. It was heart wrenching reading each page, but the devastation was just beginning. He landed on an island occupied by the Japanese and then endured a couple of years in a POW camp where he was treated sub-humanly, starved, savagely beaten, kicked, clubbed and broken physically and mentally. His post war years were damaged because of the treatment in the POW camp and at the hands of one particular sadistic guard. In the end he finds salvation and forgiveness. I found this book very difficult to read, the brutality kept on, page after page, and I couldn’t believe that he was alive after each torturous beating.


From Grace Segers
Title:  Cleopatra
Author:  Stacy Schiff
Before reading Cleopatra, a biography written expertly by Stacy Schiff, I knew very little about Cleopatra’s life except for her reputation as a seductress. Schiff quickly discards this man-made myth, exploring the woman behind the legend with in-depth research and captivating writing. Anyone who wishes to know a correct portrayal of one of history’s most misunderstood women should read this book.