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Books 4 and 5

4. Valley of the Shadow, by Ralph Peters. I'm using this one as my war category for the 2017 Book Riot challenge. Wasn't sure about this one at first; there are so many viewpoints this story is told from, which was a bit jarring in the beginning. But Peters is a master storyteller, and once I caught on to the various voices, I was quickly sucked into the story. Within a few chapters, I could generally identify whose point of view was being told without seeing the name. Now that is expert writing! Valley of the Shadow is a novelized take on the waning years of the Civil War, from the failed attempt of the Confederate army to seize Washington D.C. to the battles of Cedar Creek. As I mentioned, the story is told from many points of view, both Union and Confederate, and what is refreshing is that it is from historic figures that are not generally found in the history books or, if they are mentioned, are barely more than footnotes. There's the young and pious Confederate George Nichols, the foul-mouthed, foul-tempered Confederate General Jubal Early, the short but fiery Philip Sheridan, the level-headed "Rud" Hayes (who would go on to become the 19th president of the United States) and more. Many more. It's a lengthy read, but well worth it. Included are an explanation of military terms, plus several battle maps at the beginning of the chapters. Civil War and history buffs should check this one out.

5. Reporting Vietnam, by Milton J. Bates. This will fulfill the category of reading a book that takes place more than 5,000 miles from here, for the 2017 Book Riot challenge. Reporting Vietnam is one of the harder books I've read, and not just because it is more than 800 pages. It's a compilation of stories, mostly from war correspondents covering the Vietnam War. This is actually volume 2 of a two-part series, and covers the end of the war and some of the aftermath. Some of the stories deal with the controversies on the homefront (of course May 4 at Kent State is covered) but the bulk of it are stories in Vietnam, from the cities to the front lines. Just about every view one can think of -- from President Lyndon B. Johnson to American officers to Vietnamese officers, to those fighting for North Vietnam, to the soldiers on the front line, to Vietnamese civilians, to those supporting the war, to those against the war effort. There's even a column from Sen. John McCain and his experience as a POW. Probably the most moving were the dispatches from Michael Kerr, who was embedded with one unit. The stories pull no punches, and offer a first-hand account of the despair, tragedy and controversy this war produced. For those researching this time period, Reporting Vietnam is an invaluable resource.

Currently reading: The Comeback, by Terry Pluto.

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