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James Gallen (St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.A.)
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Story of a Soul: Autobiography of St.Theresa of Lisieux
Story of a Soul: Autobiography of St.Theresa of Lisieux
by St Therese Martin
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Find Your Lessons In Her Life, 1 Aug. 2015
I have long heard of St. Theresa, The Little Flower, and finally decided to read her life in her own words. Her autobiography consists of three writings she produced under the direction of her superiors in the Carmel. It tells the story of her faith driven life and the family that nurtured it. We read of her mother’s death, her adoption of her older sister as a replacement mother, her father’s joy as one after another of her daughters entered the convent and her familial and religious relationship with her sisters in home and the Carmel. It provides a perspective on life. I found my lessons on its pages. Find yours.

A City at War: Milwaukee Labor During World War II
A City at War: Milwaukee Labor During World War II
by Richard L. Pifer
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Home Front Industry From Labor's Perspective, 1 Aug. 2015
World War II was not fought only on battlefields and the seas by soldiers and sailors, but also in factories by workers and managers. “A City at War” is the story of this home front told from the perspective of organized labor. Author Richard L. Pifer lays the background of Milwaukee’s historic industrialization and the state of its economy and workforce as well as the economic and political milieu in which it grew. Readers learn of Milwaukee’s transformation from a processor of food to a producer of steel and machinery. Pifer also explains the ongoing rivalry between the craft unions, concentrated in the A F of L and the industrial unions of the CIO. Resulting jurisdictional disputes would continue to contribute to labor unrest during the war. With its German and industrial heritage Milwaukee was unique among American cities in repeatedly election Socialist mayors.

“A City At War” chronicles the role of organized labor in negotiating the agreements for overtime and work rules and organizing patriotic initiatives, such as war Bond Drives that enabled industry and labor to contribute to the war effort. I have read histories of industry’s role in providing tools need by the military, but this is the first book I have seen viewing the history from labor’s perspective. One topic the labor historian must address is labor’s record of striking while America’s sons were fighting and dying, a practice some regard as disloyal. Pifer confronts the issue head on. He demonstrates that both management and labor maintained a perspective extending into an era of peace when struggles over profits, wages and work rules would determine the success of companies and the security of workers. Pifer makes the case that strikes were fewer and of shorter duration during the war than they were before and would be after. World War II is shown as a time during which inflation was rampant, even though partially suppressed by wage and price controls. Workers endured economic hardships while struggling to make ends meet and preserve their post-war prosperity. Although focusing on Milwaukee, its experience overlapped that of many other communities. I finished this tome with a deeper understanding of the role domestic labor relations played in contributing to victory. It is essential to an understanding of the home front in World War II.

I did receive a free copy of this work for reading and review.

Swords in Their Hands: George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy
Swords in Their Hands: George Washington and the Newburgh Conspiracy
by Dave Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £15.11

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Study Of A Critical Event In Early America, 18 July 2015
The triumph of the American Revolution almost ended in a disaster of financial insolvency, military revolt and the death of a new nation just aborning. “Sword in Their Hands” chronicles the roads to that lead to that crisis, the characters who spawned the Newburgh Conspiracy and the Father who saved his country once again.

Author Dave Richards has done an excellent job of explaining the background to the events and the people involved. The main problem stemmed from the weakness of a Continental Congress that assumed the obligation to prosecute a war without the ability to impose taxes and states unwilling to pay their assessment to the national government. Army officers fought for years without pay or supplies while Congress and the states looked to each other to provide the means to continue. With victory won they faced abonnement: uncompensated, impoverished, victims of the country whose independence they had just won. With the Army headquartered at Newburgh, New York leaders called a meeting to prepare an ultimatum to Congress calling for payment of a pension or a lump sum to save its officer corps from poverty and disgrace. Just in its moment of victory the Army threatened to march on Congress, stage a military coup and scuttle the American experiment with democracy. As he had in the past and would in the future, George Washington rose to the occasion. A surprising and unwelcome visitor, he implored his men to do nothing that would tarnish their place in the hearts of their countrymen. Seeing they remained unconvinced, he produced a letter. Unlike his earlier notes, this one was in small print. He reached into his pocket and removed the glasses that they had never seen. His acknowledgement of infirmity: “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for I have not only grown gray, but almost blind in the service of my county” reconnected them with the chief they had followed, reminded them of all they had fought for and saved civilian control of the military. Thereafter Washington would be an advocate for those who had heeded his call one last time.

I have seen reviews that claim that this book is too long. Perhaps so for those seeking History Lite, but not for me. This book is an extremely well research study of a little known but crucial moment in the early life of our country. The text is only 293 pages but a lot is packed into them. By the time I finished it I felt I had a much greater familiarity with military leaders who had previously been little more than names, a better perspective on the course of the war and an enhanced understanding of political environment in which nation and states were feeling their way into the future. I had recently read “Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont” by Robert A. Mello (see my Amazon review). The times of the two works overlap, a time when Vermont asserted its independence while fending off claims from neighboring states and indecision from Congress. As I read about Vermont’s tale I wondered about the relative status of state and the national government. “Swords in Their Hands” touched on the same topics and struggles. At the end of this book I felt that I had a much better appreciation for the process that accompanied our nation’s early, uncertain growth. For that “Swords in Their Hands” is worth every page and every word.

I did receive a free copy of this book for reading and review.

by Alan Moorehead
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.80

5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Tome On An Important But Little Known Campaign, 4 July 2015
This review is from: Gallipoli (Hardcover)
Gallipoli is a little known battle in a poorly understood war and yet it holds a fascination for historians and students of the Great War, for it was on these beaches that Australia is said to have earned its nationhood and against its rocks that Winston Churchill’s career almost floundered.

“Gallipoli”, is a reprint of Alan Morehead’s 1956 classic that brings order and perspective to its subject for the novice and World War I student alike. The battle of Gallipoli was the 1915 Allied attack on the Dardanelles and Gallipoli peninsula of Turkey intended to seize Constantinople and force the Ottoman Empire from the war. Often characterized as Churchill’s first adventure in the “soft underbelly” of Britain’s German dominated opponents, it is here shown as having a deeper purpose and greater potential than the sad disaster that is commonly depicted. Aimed to draw Turkish troops from the Russian Caucasus front and open the Dardanelles to the export of Russian grain and the inflow of Western aid, it was the largest amphibious attack up to its time.

The initial phase of the offensive was an attempt by old ships of the Royal Navy to force the Dardanelles. When that failed the task was assigned to armies as the British landed at Suvla Bay and Cape Helles, the ANZACS, Australian New Zealand Army Corps, at what has since been known as Anzac Cove and French troops across the water at Kum Kale on the Asia side of the Continental divide. Failure resulted from a combination of dogged defense, lapses in coordination and execution, lost opportunities and, even to the end, indecision as to the commitment to the project: how much, how long, whether to withdraw. At the conclusion the shortcomings of the invasion were left behind as a flawless, virtually bloodless evacuation withdrew virtually the whole force with negligible casualties, except of course lo the unlucky few to be personally involved.

I am very glad that I read this book. I know relatively little about World War I and my familiarity with British military figures is sparse. During some early chapters I felt that I was missing something while trying to follow the generals mentioned. As I progressed and the campaign took shape I developed an appreciation for the battle not dependent on identities of individual actors. At its end I had a much greater understanding of how the story played out. I enjoyed the glimpses of humanity amidst death and destruction as the Australian and Turkish troops traded courtesies and gifts, reminiscent of the Christmas Truce on the Western Front a few months before. I am left with a sense of loss, of lives spent for no gain, and all the what might have beens. With more resources, which were available, perhaps the invasion would have reached its goals, the separate German-Russian peace unnecessary and, a revolution avoided and the history of the balance of the Twentieth Century immeasurably altered. We will never know but “Gallipoli” challenges us to appreciate, to analyze and to read more. For this it is a excellent tome.

I did receive a free copy of this book in the hopes, but without the obligation, to write a review.

The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
The Presidents Club: Inside the World's Most Exclusive Fraternity
by Nancy Gibbs
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: £22.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Visitors' Pass To The Club, 27 Jun. 2015
“The President’s Club” is a fascinating introduction to that exclusive fraternity of men who have served as President of the United States. It is a web in which political rivals unite to protect the office, serve their country and world and and find ways to make themselves useful.

The modern club began when Harry Truman invited Herbert Hoover to undertake the task of food relief to war torn Europe. Although Hoover resented being the scapegoat again in 1948 he was willing to help reorganize the Federal Government under both Truman and Eisenhower.

The relationships have been as diverse as the members and party divisions have largely been left behind. Truman was an irascible character who liked to be remembered, by some but not all of his successors, who did undertake at least one “you-die I fly” mission. Eisenhower was an advisor and confident to Kennedy and Johnson in war and peace. Johnson’s club membership kept him quiet as Nixon adhered more to the Johnson policies than Democrats of his day. Thereafter presidents became helpers and tricksters. Nixon’s continued dalliance in foreign affairs and Carter’s globe-trotting and free-lance diplomacy produced tense moments in the West Wing and, on occasion, accusations of treason. Perhaps the closest and most productive bonding was between the Bushes and the “other brother”, Bill Clinton. President Obama, like his predecessors, has learned to employ the talents of those few who know what it is like to sit behind the desk and make the decisions that change history.

What I found most interesting about this is the non-partisanship of the Club. Truman and Hoover could work together better than Hoover did with Eisenhower or Truman with Kennedy. Ike could be a stern father-figure for Kennedy and a confessor to Johnson, while maintaining a distant relationship with Nixon. Nixon and Reagan would be rivals while Ford was troubled by both. Carter would create havoc for Clinton and Clinton would become good friends with the Bushes.

Authors Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy provide an insight into powerful personalities and their role in governance through the counsel each provides his successors and how recent presidents have learned to use their predecessors. It is a worthwhile read for any student of the modern American Presidency.

Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont
Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont
by Robert A. Mello
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Green Mountain Hero, Vermont's Origin, America's History, 26 Jun. 2015
It has been said that the history of the United States cannot be told until the history of every state is told. “Moses Robinson And The Founding Of Vermont” places a key piece in the puzzle of American history.

This book is part biography but mostly history. Moses Robinson was major player in the early history of Vermont. An early settler of Bennington in Southwestern Vermont, strong faith guided him to positions of prominence in the Church of Christ in Bennington while his skills in government drew him into political affairs. Robinson would serve as a delegate to constitutional conventions, Governor’s Councilor, legislator, Vermont Supreme Court Justice, Agent to the U.S. Congress and U.S. Senator, to name a few of the many roles he played on history’s stage. The back cover says “Moses Robinson may be the most important Founding Father of Vermont you’ve never heard of”. After reading this book I think I know why. His importance is shown by the many positions he filled during his long career. I believe that his anonymity results from his adherence to the Republican Party of Jefferson in a region and a state that turned into a Federalist stronghold. Although wielding tremendous influence through his many positions, he served only one year as governor and less than one term in the U.S. Senate, in contrast to the long careers he would likely have enjoyed had he been a Federalist or lived in a Jeffersonian state.

That is the biography part. As I said, most of this work is history, and a fascinating and unique history it is. Contrary to what many Americans probably believe, Vermont was not one of the original thirteen colonies and states. Contested by New Hampshire and New York and, to a limited extent Massachusetts, the early days of the Green Mountains was an era of conflicting land claims and vigilante justice during the specter of becoming a battle ground in a colonial Civil War overshadowed development of this northern land. Often devoid of protection of the Continental Congress, the winds of war swept across Vermont during the French and Indian and Revolutionary Wars and the War of 1812. Petitions for statehood were held up for years by conflicting claims of citizens, neighboring states and Britain. Although adopting forms that we associate with state government, Vermont functioned as an independent republic from 1777 to 1791 while negotiating with Congress and, for a time, with Britain for a lasting association. Admission to the Union as the fourteenth state in 1791 brought an end to uncertainty and ushered in a period during which Vermont would be the fastest growing state.

Author Robert A. Mello has thoroughly researched his topic and skillfully woven the life of Moses Robinson into the history of Vermont from 1741 to 1813. Returning to the first sentence of this review, the unique history of Vermont paints the portrait of early America more vividly than that of any other state. How is it that “American” territory could be so hotly disputed by its sister states as to be excluded from the Union? The confiscation of Tory estates is often presented as a retaliatory violation of civil rights but here it is shown as the only way that the Revolution could be financed. Could even loyal Americans have seriously negotiated for British protection from New Hampshire and New York or were they just dangling lures to buy time and a truce? How different was the independence of the “Republic of Vermont” from that of states under the Articles of Confederation? It takes the Vermont’s tale to frame these questions on early America.

If you are a Vermonter, you will enjoy this “Moses Robinson and The Founding of Vermont” for its insights into your state’s origins. If you identify with one of the other 49 states, read it for its window into the America of the Revolution, the evolution of our first parties and the tentative steps by which the States became United. Either way you will be richly rewarded.

I received a free copy of this book with the hope, but not the requirement, that I psot a review.

Women Remember the War 1941-1945 (Voices of the Wisconsin Past)
Women Remember the War 1941-1945 (Voices of the Wisconsin Past)
by Michael E. Stevens
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars World War II Women And Their Stories, 16 Jun. 2015
“Women Remember the War” is a fascinating collection of oral histories of 25 Wisconsin women who lived through World War II. It consists of edited versions of interviews done in the early 1990s.

The chapters are organized by the women’s experience with some women appearing in multiple sections. The factory worker, the single employed, the mothers, those who wore uniforms and they who waited for their men to return all have their tales to tell.

This is not polished writing, but neither is it disorganized facts. The subjects narrate their stories in their own words. Editor Michael E. Stevens selects the passages and organizes them so as to maintain the reader’s interest throughout this 157 page tome.

What I like best about this work is the way insights jump off the page. You are reading along normally when suddenly something hits you. It may trigger a memory, reveal an aspect of which you had never thought or incite an “I didn’t know that” moment.

Jane Heinemann’s recollection of how her rendition of “Begin The Beguine” gave a wounded soldier the will to live reminds me of the spell it had over a woman of World War II age whom I knew. The inconvenience of rationing comes up again and again. Rose Kaminski’s practice of taking her main meal at lunch in the factory cafeteria to save the coupons for the family was a clever way of coping while Marjorie Miley’s comment that they had to save up their sugar coupons for a wedding cake, particularly one with icing, reduces the war to the very practical. I have heard of about conflicts between different ethnic groups and Emily Koplin’s description of the Polish, German and Italian neighborhoods rings true while her comments about the Germans speaking of what Hitler was trying to accomplish and the reluctance to bring up certain topics in some neighborhoods emphasizes the importance ethnic loyalties still played. To me at least, Gene Gutkowski’s father’s opinion that “Irish are fine” is personally reassuring. WAAC Frieda Schurch’s reminiscences of being stationed in an area where the mosquitoes were too bad for the POWs still stings, but there are also the downright humorous. You have to chuckle at WAC Julie Davenport’s recitation of her response to “Well, you know, I’d like more potatoes” with “You know the rules, get going” before looking up to see that she was talking to Eleanor Roosevelt.

The subjects are all Wisconsin women but their experiences are common to American women from coast to coast. Whether you remember World War II, or just heard your mothers and grandmothers speak of it, “”Women Remember the War” will be an enjoyable and rewarding read. We are fortunate that the Wisconsin Historical Society has preserved these tales for us.

I did receive a free copy of this book for reading and review.

The Truman Presidency;: The history of a triumphant succession
The Truman Presidency;: The history of a triumphant succession
by Cabell B. H Phillips
Edition: Unknown Binding

4.0 out of 5 stars A Mid-60s View Of The Truman Years, 11 Jun. 2015
“The Truman Presidency” is a thorough, unbiased examination of a crucial era of hot and cold war, peace, labor unrest, political scandal, Communists in government and third party movements. It presents President Truman as a man who stepped into the shoes of a giant and filled them triumphantly. It begins with a brief background biography stretching from Missouri farms to French battlefields through the Jackson County Courthouse and the Senate Chamber.

The bulk of this work, naturally, centers on the almost eight years Truman spent working, although not always living, in the White House. Someone too young to remember and who has not studied it will be amazed at the rapid fire challenges the administration faced. From the first days of the United Nations and Potsdam Conferences, through the return to Independence Harry was riding the tiger and managing to hold on.

Coming into office with the confidence of those who worked with him but not the nation at large, Truman had to secure the line of succession, complete the conquest of Japan, establish the parameters of Cold War cooperation and confrontation, stare down labor and management in the steel, railroad and coal industries and by trial and error release wartime wage and price controls. For all this the Democratic Party suffered a crushing defeat in the 1946 mid-term elections.

1948 brought Draft-Ike movement, a resurgent Republican Party, the Dixiecrat rebellion in the South and the Wallace liberal splinter in the north. By force of will and dogged determination Truman pulled off the upset of the century.

Second term travails included more labor trouble, war in Korea and the firing of Gen. MacArthur. At its end, with determined spirit but minimal public support, Harry stepped aside and had to watch while he gracefully turned over the presidency to the General who barely concealed his low opinion of his predecessor.

This book is thoroughly researched and well written. Published in 1966, it is now dated and has been followed by works having the advantage of more available archives and deeper reflection. History is not just made, it is written. Readers get a better appreciation of historical characters by reflecting on how they are interpreted in varying eras following their exits from the world stage. Author Cabell Philips gives us a view of the Truman presidency through the window of the Johnson years, after Eisenhower had retired and before the Great Society, Watergate and Vietnam turned the prisms through which we view all that went before them. It should not be your introduction to the Truman Presidency, but it should be part of your library.

Monica The Monkey Saves The Day: 2 (Jungle Juniors Storybook)
Monica The Monkey Saves The Day: 2 (Jungle Juniors Storybook)
by Rachel Michaels
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.91

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent For Pre-Schoolers, 2 Jun. 2015
“Monica The Monkey saves The Day” is an excellent book for Preschool children ages 3-5. The book teaches the concept of not making fun of people. Monica, the monkey, is small and a darker brown that the other monkeys who make fun of her. Monica’s feelings are hurt until the day that all the monkeys get trapped. Monica is small enough to escape from the trap and gets help from a lion. After Monica saves all the monkeys they apologize to her. This highly recommended book has colorful illustrations.

I did receive a free copy of this book to review.

Truman: The Rise to Power
Truman: The Rise to Power
by Richard Lawrence Miller
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Introduction To The Early Truman, 28 May 2015
Harry Truman’s pre-presidential career usually is covered fairly quickly in his biographies but it is the sole focus of “Truman: The Rise To Power”. It covers the whole story from the Missouri frontier to school days, on the farm and through the War, the establishment and failure of his haberdashery and the beginnings of his political career up to the day of his presidential oath.

It is quite a saga with a few surprising twists. It is the story of a boy whose glasses kept him out of the rough and tumble and drove him into the library where he read every book. Inspired by tales of great lives he sought military training in the Missouri National Guard that took him to France and World War I. Having found a partner in Eddie Jacobson and experience with a successful regimental canteen they opened a haberdashery in downtown Kansas City catering to young men on the move and army buddies. His dabbling in oil exploration and Savings & Loans and banks gave him contacts and life lessons and some money, but not enough to capture his career. When all else had failed he was approached by the Pendergast machine to whom he represented a clean farmer with a sufficient network of connections weaving through work, the Masons, Battery D vets, relatives and friends to make him the ideal candidate to win the Eastern District judgeship on the Jackson County Court. Although he recognized that Pendergast men overcharged on county projects and collected pay that they did not earn, he was an exceptionally good judge, building a road system that helped make Jackson County a model for the nation. After disappointling his ambitions for Governor or Congress, Pendergast found him to be an acceptable candidate to take a U.S. Senate seat for the organization. Upon arrival in the capitol the “Senator from Pendergast” gradually earned respect through hard work and his committee’s exposure of waste in war contracts until he became the Democratic nominee for Vice-President.

Author Richard Lawrence Miller takes a different approach from the accepted Truman legend, that of the honest businessman who paid off his creditors even when he did not have to and the politician who, though surrounded by crooks, never used his position for personal gain. While recognizing Truman’s personal integrity, this work presents a man who had more obligations for his business debts than is generally recognized, who settled for fractions of amounts owed, relied on the fact that his salary as county judge could not be garnished for debt and who got some help in managing his loans but who, in the end, could not prevent foreclosure on the family farm.

I have read several books by and about Harry Truman. I value this one for its emphasis on his pre-presidential life and the realistic assessment of a businessman and politician who tried to advance and make ends meet while doing some things that might have been avoided by one anticipating a presidential run. Like any book, its facts and conclusions are subject to scrutiny. Contrary to everything else I have read on the subject, Miller concludes that FDR brought Truman up to date on the atomic bomb project when they met for lunch during the 1944 campaign. I also question whether Truman really planned the quiet campaign for the vice-presidency that this book suggests. Those misgivings aside, I think that it provides the reader with a well-researched introduction to the rise of a most significant character in the American Pageant.

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