Hot Carbon – REVIEW

A Litercurious Book Review

Hot Carbon By John F. Marra
Hot Carbon By John F. Marra
Title Hot Carbon
Author James W Bancroft
Publisher Radius Book Group (April 18, 2019)
Format Hardcover
Pages 604
Language English
ISBN # 1526718014 (ISBN-13: 978-1526718013)

The Author

John F. Marra is a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and after a non-traditional route became involved in oceanographic based research. He has been studying the oceans and the effects of carbon 14 for over 30 years.

Even though he was a Chicago boy, he had a strong desire to sail the seas, eventually becoming a Naval Officer. The sea wasn’t his only calling however, and being the possessor of a sharp mind, he developed a keen interest in nature and the natural world in general. Marra eventually resigned his commission to study in a graduate program as a research assistant. His CV is resplendent with many long years of oceanographic research. He moved to a more academic track and has enjoyed success in his field. He is currently a Professor and Director of AREAC Earth and Environmental Sciences at Brooklyn College.

Find out more about John Marra here:

Who would enjoy this book?

This volume would appeal most to those with a scientific focus. Students of the Environmental Sciences would be the best candidates to enjoy the offering in Hot Carbon. I studied a different scientific profession, and yet, I still found this first outing by Marra to be entertaining and enlightening, although replete with factual errors. If you have an interest in learning new things, this book will be an exciting read. Almost, anyone over 16 years old will find this a useful addition to their bookshelf.

What is the story about?

The bulk of the book revolves around Carbon 14 and its universal ubiquity. Marra explains, in lucid and concise terms, the importance of the isotope and its unique importance to life on earth as it corresponds to the process of photosynthesis and its interaction with microscopic phytoplankton. The book is beautifully illustrated with a plethora of images, maps, charts, and tables.

From the inception, I found the book particularly delightful and entertaining; two responses I don’t usually get from what I thought was a hardcore science thesis. In the first few pages you are left in no doubt of Marra’s dedication to his work as he describes the privations on one of his many research trips. He effectively depicts the myriad of dangers and the deadly nature of the job. For a brief moment, I believed that I was reading an adventure book, rather than what could have been a stultifying stuffy re-telling of some mediocre scientific research. I was hooked on the book and couldn’t wait to finish.

I was particularly struck by the understated delivery of the prose. His descriptions, explanations, and familiarity with the subject really sold the story and highlighted his abilities as a professor. It was an easier read than expected and that added to its allure. I was disappointed when the book ended; it left me wanting more. I understand that this is Marra’s first book and I hope it won’t be his last. I will certainly be pre-ordering his next publication. So please John, don’t keep us waiting.


There are areas where those who didn’t pay attention in organic chemistry may get a little lost in the translation of detailed processes, but it’s not a deal breaker in any way.

Overall, I found this volume to be a pleasure to read, easily accessible, and well written. You don’t have to be a scientist to enjoy this book. Put simply, you don’t want to be the one person in class not to have read this; don’t be that guy!


I wish to extend my kindest regards to The Author, The Publisher, and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to review this wonderful book.

Fire And Fortitude – REVIEW

A Litercurious Book Review

Title Fire And Fortitude
Author John C. McManus
Publisher Dutton Caliber; 1st Edition (July 30, 2019)
Format Hardcover
Pages 640
Language English
ISBN # 0451475046 (ISBN-13: 978-0451475046)

Authors Bio

John C. McManus is a 54-year-old Professor, and Military Historian. McManus is also a long-established author of Military history focusing on the United States involvement in the battle space of World War 2. McManus has more than 14 books currently in print and Fire and Fortitude is his most recent foray into his favored genre. Among his previous publications are such notable works as: Grunts, World War 2 Through Iraq, and The Dead and Those About to Die. A graduate of the University of Missouri he experienced a short stint as a sports journalist before electing to study his Masters in American History at his alma mater. He followed his successful completion of that qualification and began his doctorate, also in American Military History at the University of Tennessee. The primary focus of his Ph.D, was the Normandy battle grounds. McManus style of writing focuses on humanizing the military machine by focusing upon individuals, and the sometimes-insuperable challenges they sometimes face. His earlier work Grunts and The Dead and Those About to Die follow that method. Fire and Fortitude is his first forage into the Pacific Theater of Operation.


I must say, first and foremost, that Fire and Fortitude is very well researched. It is resplendent with quotes from dairies, personal letters, newspaper clippings, and magazine articles. Professor. McManus provides a glimpse into the horror, the desperation, the futility of some of the major battles from all sides of those in this great conflict. Whether the soldier is Japanese, American, Australian, or an indigenous island person the reader feels what they felt at the time. 

Part One: Onslaught of the book was tedious to get through. I felt that the author exhibited a degree of bias against General McArthur. The picture of McArthur painted in the book makes him out to be an egomaniacal mommas’ boy; with a narcissistic personality disorder who could do nothing right and the whole Philippine debacle was his fault. I don’t deny the facts, but reading the same thing over and over is tedious. MaArthur’s failings as a General, leader, friend, and politician are a theme throughout the entire book.

The chapters of life in Australia were a bore. I really don’t care about mutton hot dogs, drinking, womanizing, bar fighting, or the recreation practices of soldiers in Australia while they waited to join the war effort. I want to read about the Fire and Fortitude that I was promised in the title of the book. 

The author seems to want to brush over the atrocities committed by the Japanese soldiers and write them off as a byproduct of war. He briefly describes a few atrocities during the Bataan Death March and in China, but fails to bring the full extent of their hideous war crimes to the reader. He makes out that the Japanese soldiers were victims of circumstance. The fact that the Japanese soldiers committed vile, brutal acts on POW’s, soldiers, and civilians in different parts of the world at the same time, describes the mindset of the Japanese as a society during WWII.

Part Two: Turnabout of the book is where the author really shines. He finally gets into the Fire and Fortitude of armed conflict. The soldiers, the battles, the fear, the suffering, and the constant hand-to-hand fighting are all brought to life in vivid detail. There is still political infighting and poor leadership but there is also heroism, undying loyalty, and bravery on all sides. Once I got into the second half of this book, I just couldn’t put it down. It was absolutely enthralling. The suffering that the soldiers went through, both Japanese and Allied, was incalculable. Disease, famine, and wounds all surrounded by the dead and dying was equally prevalent to all sides of the conflict. Some soldiers were reduced to cannibalism just to keep alive because of the environmental and logistical nightmares of resupply. Soldiers faced hand-to-hand fighting to the death in the dark wet jungles or Alaskan muskeg. Soldiers were  just trying to survive another night, another day.


Fire and Fortitude is a very good book if you start at Part Two: Turnabout. The research into this book is phenomenal. The reader can’t help but to learn something new. Sometimes the book is tedious, other times it is exciting and nerve wracking. Regardless, the book is an overall good read.


My sincere thanks go to: The Author, NetGalley, and the Publisher Dutton Caliber for affording me the opportunity to review Fire And Fortitude.