Book Review: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of WWII

Title: The Combat Diaries: True Stories from the Frontlines of World War II
Author: Mike Guardia
Genre: Non-fiction; WWII; Anthology
Year Published: April 1, 2022

Date finished: June 9, 2022

This is the first time I’ve read a diary of sort about military men in war. It’s not so much a diary but stories—short memoirs—about a few individual service members during WWII. It lets us see (and just barely see) the horrendousness of war through the eyes of these brave men. The stories provide some backstory to how and where they grew up, and how and why they entered the military. Each story ends with what each of them did after the war and a photo or two of them either taken during the war and/or afterwards.

All the stories are well told and provide insights into the many ways these men dealt with survival, following orders, what they saw/experienced, and everything else. One of the stories took me by surprise. It was the one where the Lieutenant was introduced to an OSS agent named Julia McWilliams, whom after the war, married and became who we know as Julia Childs, the television chef. There were so many things I wasn’t aware of, like the POWs in the Philippines, the OSS (Office of Strategic Services) that eventually became the CIA, the concentration camp that contained not only Jews but everyone else that “didn’t belong,” etc. I don’t want to take away from each soldier’s story because it’s their story that reminds us what freedom looks like, but just wanted to point out that there’s so much to learn from this book.

This was one amazing read. I enjoyed every story and wanted more. What I found interesting was that even in this type of environment, the men were able to find humor. I wish there was a way to read as many of these stories as possible in this style. I don’t know why this isn’t done more often, but I can also understand, and respect, that some families might want to remain private. There were so many military servicemen that died, and their stories will never be heard. I find that so heartbreaking.

Who should read this book: I’d recommend everyone read it.

Book Review: Bartholomew

Decided to try something different and make a video of books I unbox and review. Let me know what you think.

Title: Bartholomew
Author: Mark Lages
Genre: Fiction; Literary; Memoir
Year Published: March 17, 2022

Date finished: April 23, 2022

This story is written like a memoir and opens with the main character, Rick Harper, celebrating his 65th birthday. He reflects on his earlier life, remembering his invisible friend as a child, and how that friend visited him again in adulthood.

Rick comes across very nonchalant. He tells us all the mistakes he’s made through his life. He doesn’t really give reasons or excuses as to why he did the things he did. He does, however, show us that he doesn’t understand how he ended up in his life with all the mistakes he’s made. He shows us that he doesn’t understand what happiness is because his life had been both good and bad but not too extreme in either direction. He seems to just exist and thus his confusion with what happiness means.

Bartholomew is Rick’s invisible friend, and he (Bartholomew) is sort of a guiding energy for Rick. He makes Rick think about his purpose and his definition of happiness. Along the way, Rick begins to understand what it really means to live.

I got so much out of this story. My favorite scene was when Rick cheated a co-worker out of a job, and then a few years later, he helped a co-worker earn a spot in the company even when he was on a tight deadline of his own. I totally understood that. It wasn’t because he liked one co-worker over another, but because it was timing. The first situation, he was a young person just out of college and needed to do what he needed to do to gain status. Later, when he was experienced and had gone through a lot in his career and in his personal life, he then sacrificed his time to help another. This speaks so much about humanity. No one is perfect, yet we tend to judge others as though they have to be perfect, forgetting to look at ourselves and see that we too have faults.

This was a wonderful read. I think everyone can learn something from this book, but even if that’s not something you care for, you’d still enjoy the humor.

Who should read this book: I’d totally recommend it to everyone.

Book Review: A Dog’s Collar

Title: A Dog’s Collar
Author: Sam Knupp 
Genre: Spiritual, Memoir
Year Published: February 16, 2022

Date finished: March 29, 2022

This book is a collection of stories throughout the author’s life as a chaplain. It’s written as a memoir of sorts where we get to experience the stories with the author, and at times, about the author.

Sam takes us through a handful of moments/instances during his time working in a hospital, a jail, and a few other places. These stories are very heartfelt and have a purpose. They allow us to see the reality of the human soul. We see the raw pain and sorrows these people go through, reminding us of how fragile we all really are, not only physically, but mentally, and emotionally as well. We get to see what Sam has to do and be to these people. Even if he wanted to walk away and hide, he couldn’t. He chose this career, or maybe it chose him, but either way, having to find the right words to say, the right prayers to pray, and doing the right thing to comfort these souls takes so much willpower, and Sam did it as though it was second nature. And because he is telling us these stories, we get to experience his true thoughts and how much he too is human.

I was not expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. There were moments when I had to pause to wipe away tears. Sam is a true hero. He put up with so much yet received little in return. It was a wonderful read and I’d recommend it to everyone. It’s not a religious book and Sam doesn’t force any type of religion or God upon anyone. It’s lighthearted, humorous, and poignant. At times, Sam even questions his own beliefs. This was a wonderfully written book and I’m glad I was able to read it.

Who should read this book: Anyone looking for hope and spirituality.