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100 Years On – 100 Days Offensive

After stopping the Germans at the Second Battle of the Marne and pushing them back, the Allies unleashed the final offensive on the Western Front, the 100 Days.  Starting on August 8, 1918, British, French, and American divisions threw themselves at German lines, tearing wide breaches in long-held trench lines and capturing thousands of prisoners and hundreds of guns.

The first battle, Amiens, opened with 30,000 German casualties on its first day, compared to about 6,500 for the Allied forces.  German forces were pushed back and began to withdraw to the Hindenburg Line, giving up the gains they had made in the spring.

Other titanic battles met with similar success, causing the veritable collapse of German forces in France and Belgium.

Over the coming weeks, German lines slowly drew back, until the final climax of the Armistice on November 11.  By then, over a million men on the Allied side were killed, wounded, or missing, while the Germans lost almost 1.2 million, in the final onslaught on the Western Front.

Musings

  • I’ve been asked to watch my mouth around Boo, so when I need to swear, I do it in other languages.
    • Tonight at dinner, Boo sounded off with “Bozhe moi!” and I got in trouble.
    • It means “My God!”, but I still got in trouble.
    • There may come a day when I am allowed to win, but this is not that day.
  • I’ve been listening to an audiobook of Heinlein’s “The Rolling Stones” lately.
    • It gives me a sense of Serenity during my commute.
    • Even the traffic jams are no tribble at all.
  • Apparently, a door-to-door driveway surfacing dude didn’t like it when our “big damn dog” barked at him as he came on the porch yesterday.  Irish Woman replied that she had both a big damn dog and a big damn gun.  The conversation ended quickly thereafter.
    • That, friends and neighbors, is the woman I fell in love with.
  • Boo finally convinced me to play Stratego with him this weekend.  It’s been over 30 years since I last touched that game, and we had a lot of fun.
    • It reminded me of long, cold winter days spent playing board games, arguments over who caught whom cheating, and then trying to not get choked out by my brothers while I tried to choke them out.
    • Good times, good times.

Musings

  • The last time I had to work this hard to extract information in a professional setting, I still listed “Speaks Russian” as a critical work skill.
  • I learned two things at work today:
    • First, I learned how to configure a new user in the application I’m trying to learn.
    • Second, I learned to always go to the men’s room prior to a budget meeting.
  • We went to a pre-opening evening at a new drive-in theater last night.   It was fun to sit under the stars, listen to the peepers in the trees compete with the movie, and try to stay awake after 10 PM.
  • Last weekend, I used the machete and the big honking string trimmer (The string measures as a caliber) to clear some of the overgrowth at the back of the property.  Irish Woman cautioned me to look out for snakes.  I was secretly hoping I’d find one so that I could have an excuse to not do the work.

Review – Dragontamer’s Daughters

I recently dipped my toes in Young Adult fiction and gave Kenton Kilgore’s Dragontamer’s Daughters a read. I’m glad I did.

Two girls find a dragon like no other—and their lives will never be the same!

In an alternate Old West, Isabella and Alijandra live exiled with their parents in the high desert. Years before, the girls’ father caught, tamed, and trained dragons for the Emperor’s armies, but now he is an outlaw, blamed for the deaths of thousands.

Finding a small dragon gravely injured after a fight, the girls take her home and begin tending her back to health. Alijandra calls the dragon “Pearl,” after her round white eyes. As time goes on and Pearl begins to heal, the family learns more about her and the strange and terrifying abilities she possesses.

But time is running out for them, their family, and for Pearl herself. Soon, they will be forced to contend with the native people on whose lands they live. With the ambitious governor whose soldiers hunt the girls’ father. With a man who has no name but wields immense, eerie powers. With Pearl’s yearning to fulfill the journey that accidentally brought her to the girls. And with their own dreams and wishes for a life they once lived—and might live again.

If you were a fan of the “Little House” books as a child, you will enjoy this tale of family, hard work, and love.  Kilgore portrays a family living at the edge of impoverishment, but still loving and caring for one another during trying times.

Every character that gets more than a page worth of attention in this book grows as the story unfolds, which is a rare trick in fiction. The two main characters, sisters  Isabella and Alijandra, grow from one stage of life to the next as they work through the challenges life throws at them, including a magical dragon that needs their help.

Kilgore obviously knows the high desert setting very well, but he paints everything in vivid, detailed strokes that will fill the reader’s mind and enrich the story.

This isn’t an action story, but it is filled with tension until the final chapters, when everything erupts into a fast-paced race to the book’s conclusion. In between all that, there are many thought-provoking, touching scenes that will stay with you.

Review – So Little and So Light

Sarah Hoyt’s new collection of short stories, So Little and So Light, is packed with stories that will both entertain you and make you think.

From a parallel world where we have all the dreams of pulp writers, to a future where bioengineering kindles new hates and new heroes, to a different Tudor England, to the intricacies of time wars, this science fiction collection provides a glimpse of things undreamed… some from which we’ll gladly waken, and some we’d very much like to be true.

So Little and So Light contains stories from Mrs. Hoyt’s “USAIAN” universe, in which the USA is almost an ancient myth, but its spirit lives on in those who still believe, as well as stories about the far future and alternate histories.  Each one stands very well on its own, but most of them could definitely be followed up by either more short works or full length books.  I enjoyed all of them, but my favorites were “Lost” and the title work, “So Little and So Light”.

I normally burn through short story collections, but the writing in this one was so good that I took my time, even stopping after several of the stories to think about their plots and the questions they bring up.  Mrs. Hoyt is a master of drawing the characters and scenery in the reader’s mind without writing long overt descriptions, and I found myself getting lost in the worlds she creates in her stories.

If you’re a fan of alternate history, science fiction, or just good, fun stories, So Little and So Light will be a good fit for you.

Review – The Grey Man – Generations

Jim Curtis is back to remind us that storylines never die, they just fade away for a little while so the author can think.  He’s put out a short work, Generations, that extends the Grey Man series beyond the present day.

A new generation carries on the legacy of service in the latest Grey Man novella…

Marine Corporal Jace Cronin, a scout/sniper, survived insurgents in the Philippines, only to be handed an even greater challenge: the Naval Academy. He won’t be headed in alone, though. Esme Carter got her own slot and is ready to go head to head with him over who’s the best. They’ve got their eyes on lieutenant’s bars and pilot slots, and woe betide anyone who gets in the way!

We first met Jace in earlier Grey Man books.  When Curtis left off the John Cronin saga, he was but a toddler who continued the Cronin name and legacy.  Now, he’s back as a warrior cut from the same cloth as his father and grandfather.  Curtis has done an excellent job of keeping most of the old cast around, while finding a way to flesh out Jace and Esme, Felicia and Matt Carter’s daughter, into intriguing, engaging main characters.

This story has a bit of action in it, but mostly, Generations good character driven fiction.  Jace and Esme grow and mature as they work their way through first Annapolis, then flight training.  The story moves quickly, and even though it’s not a thriller, Curtis draws you in and makes you want to know what’s on the next page.

This is definitely a great weekend read, and fans of the Grey Man series will love Generations.  I sincerely hope this leads to more stories from Jace and Esme.

Musings

  • Dinner tonight was deep fried meat on a stick with a couple pieces of Boo’s funnel cake for dessert.  Our entertainment was dirt track racing and some dude on a guitar singing Johnny Cash and David Allan Coe.
    • If that ain’t country, I’ll kiss your ass.
  • The difference between the state fair in Louisville and a county fair about 20 miles from home is that when I left the county fair, I still had faith in humanity and still loved my family.
  • I took Boo on his first ferris wheel ride tonight.  Little buddy was a bit nervous at first, but by the time we got off, he’d stopped threatening to throw up.  I’ll call that a win.
  • After all these years, I’m glad to know that my “I will kill you with my mind” stare works.
  • Few college kids can say that their father made them scrambled eggs with cheese and pieces of steak before going to work, but mine can.
  • Irish Woman has been trying very hard to cut down on the carbs and junk in our diet, and for the most part, it’s going well.  The other day, though, after a rather stressful day at work, I had to drive through a burger joint and get a couple of rich, salty, greasy cheeseburgers.  It was either that or play bumper cars on the freeway.

Musings

  • If his most famous act were to occur nowadays, John Wilkes Booth could probably plead not guilty due to Lincoln Anxiety Disorder.
  • If folks are worried about 3D printing of firearms, then they’ll love the documentation and instructions the government is just giving out for free.
  • All of the folks screeching in the news lately really just need an old woman, her hair up in curlers and a lit cigarette dangling from one corner of her mouth, to point a gnarled old finger at them and growl, “Don’t start shit, won’t be shit.”
  • Speaking of smoking, it appears that folks who live in federally funded housing projects are being told to not smoke in their homes and to walk a few feet away from buildings before lighting their coffin nails.  So, basically, they’re being given the same rules that folks living in military barracks have had to live under since about 1992.  My heart bleeds.  No, really.
  • Maybe I’m a heartless goon…  No, scratch that.  I am a heartless goon.

Musings

  • Apparently, “Plotting out and practicing the untimely demise of my fellow human beings” was not the answer someone was looking for when they asked me what I did in the Army.
  • The traffic around us flows in such a way that the shortest route to Boo’s school takes about twice as long as the back roads.
    • Cue the Kentucky highway department putting in a ten-minute detour along the longer route that takes me into the next county.
    • Still better than the freeway.
  • If my desk calendar is telling the truth, I have something work-related to do just about every day in August.
    • It’s gotten to the point that I set alarms so that I remember to eat lunch.
  • My commute is starting to become my favorite time of day.  It’s probably because I can roll down the windows, blast angry music, and scream at the top of my lungs until I feel better.

Review – The American Civil War

If you’ve ever wanted to learn a bit about the American Civil War, this audiobook is a good place to start.

Between 1861 and 1865, the clash of the greatest armies the Western hemisphere had ever seen turned small towns, little-known streams, and obscure meadows in the American countryside into names we will always remember. In those great battles, those streams ran red with blood – and the United States was truly born.

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the Civil War, this series of 48 startlingly evocative lectures by a leading Civil War historian can serve as both an ideal single course or a solid starting point for further exploration – a richly detailed examination of how this great conflict affected every person in America. For you’ll gain not only a deep knowledge of what happened, but new insights into why.

You’ll learn how both sides’ armies were recruited, equipped, and trained, and about the hard lot of those they took prisoner. You’ll hear how soldiers on each of those sides dealt with the rigors of camp life, campaigns, and the terror of combat. And you’ll understand how slaves and their falling masters responded to the advancing war, as well as the desperate price paid by the families so many left behind.

Though this series of lectures goes far beyond a simple examination of battles and generals, it also offers detailed analyses of the strategic and tactical dimensions of the Civil War’s most important campaigns. At the same time, it never forgets that the conflict involved far more than pins on a map – and indeed claimed a greater cost in human lives than all other American wars combined.

Professor Gary Gallagher does an excellent job at giving a 10,000 foot survey of the Civil War.  He starts with the stresses on the nation that brought about the war, the events that led up to separation and war, the conduct of the campaigns and battles, and ends up with a brief discussion of the impact the war had on the United States for the fifty years or so after its conclusion.  Intermixed with all of this, he discusses the societies of the North and South, their comparative strengths and weaknesses, and the war’s impact on groups such as women, immigrants, and African-Americans.

While the political and cultural aspects of the war are still hotly debated, Professor Gallagher does an excellent job at giving an even-handed narrative.  Neither side was as heroic and virtuous as some would have us believe, but neither were they complete villains.

This is a great survey course that should direct you to more in-depth discussions of the various subjects that the Civil War entails.  Unfortunately, if Professor Gallagher dove as deeply as I would have liked in certain places, his course would have stretched for months instead of days.  Take The American Civil War as a good introduction for those who are just learning and a good refresher for those more familiar with the subject.

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