Midnight Flight to Nuremberg, by Marcus A. Nannini, is the riveting story of Harry Watson Jr’s time as an aviation pilot during World War II. Harry Watson recounts his time enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps, as well as his home life, in this stirring and dramatic memoir.
Harry Watson Jr. dreamed of being a pilot. He knew his only chance to get out of a life in the coal mines was to enlist in the military. He went through the necessary training to become a C-47 Pilot/Instructor and earned many awards throughout his time in the Air Corps. One of the most important flights during his career was to bring Franz Von Papen back to base from Nuremberg, Germany. Von Papen was held high in German society and a key contributor to Hitler’s rise in power.
Author Marcus Nannini tells Harry’s time in the Air Corps with precision and a keen eye on the key aspects of a gripping story. As a reader, you feel as if Harry is telling you about his experiences himself. Nannini does Harry justice in the way he tells this story. The reader is able to see what is behind the scenes for a soldier during World War II, the path to becoming an aviation pilot during those times, and who Harry was as a person. Nannini was also able to give the reader a glimpse into the lives of Harry’s fellow crewman and friends. The friendship between Lang and Watson was one I adored reading about. This book not only tells Harry’s military story, but offers further insight into tactics and important figures during Hitler’s reign of terror, making this perfect for military history enthusiasts.
Midnight Flight to Nuremberg is a wonderful retelling of Harry Watson Jr’s experiences as a pilot and instructor during World War II. I would recommend this story to anyone who enjoys history, listening to real-life experiences from World War II, and to those who want to follow a compelling person through one of the most dramatic times in history.
Pages: 224 | ISBN:1526792737
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Elmer & Virginia by John Odell is an emotional and illuminating memoir of two young people in love, but forever changed by World War II. Their personal story is told through a compilation of letters Elmer and Virginia sent to one another. These letters were handwritten with love between the years of 1939 and 1944. The letters are endearing and really capture the feel of the times. I also admire their determination to keep a strong connection in a long distance relationship. At one point in the collection of letters, Virginia gets upset when Elmer doesn’t write her back. These moments ensure readers understand that these were humans doing their best in tough times.
Virginia, or affectionately called by Elmer in the letters “Ginny”, was a college student at Syracuse University. She expressed her love through poems throughout her letters. I enjoyed the poems that involved addressing her inner self. One poem in particular addressed her love for another man by the name of George Hall. Though later as I read on, it was made clear that no one had her heart like Elmer Odell. Virginia also had a diary where she would journal her more personal stories. Some snippets were used to help better understand the connection between her and Elmer. Unlike today where people capture their life stories in videos on Instagram and Twitter, these letters and poems bring you back to a time when life was not necessarily simpler, but a whole world different, and John Odell is able to capture that in this emotionally resonant biography.
Pictures of Elmer & Virginia and the letters were included in this collection. This, for me, was critical in connecting with them both and I really enjoyed seeing them. The chemistry between the two was as organic as it can get. They shared a love of music and dancing that helped their love to become deeper. It was interesting to read the terms and phrases that were used during that time as well as follow Elmer’s enlistment in the air corps.
Elmer & Virginia is a beautiful reflection on love and war. This is a book that has the ability to transport you back to that time and let you inhabit the personal lives of two very intriguing people.
Pages: 488 | ASIN: B08ZL49728
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Push Me Off The Cliff tells the emotional story of two individuals’ who desire to fight the Germans and defend their homelands during World War II. What was the initial idea behind this story and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?
All my books are dedicated to ordinary Soviet people, their difficult life and everyday struggles. As always, the initial idea was to tell western readers something about my country and my people that would defy stereotypes and through telling my characters’ individual stories showing their best and worst sides.
Your characters often go on a deeply emotional and transformative journey in your novels. Is this intentional or incidental to the story you want to tell?
I don’t think a story that shows no deep emotions and transformative journey of its characters would touch readers. Incidentally or not, I felt their every emotion, every hurt and injustice, disappointment and excitement, thankfulness and compassion. As it was with all my other stories, I couldn’t sleep peacefully when they suffered (on the page) and I cried happy tears – for them and for my decision to grant them life and happiness – at the end of the story.
You grew up in a military family in East Germany. How has that affected your writing?
If one is born in a military family, there must be some influence. The atmosphere itself is different if your father dons his uniform every day and goes to a place you are not allowed to visit and is doing things he doesn’t talk about. It added mystery and many unanswered questions to my life. Yet there was always that feeling that my father did something important for the country, for our people, so we lived a peaceful life, although as far as I know, he didn’t participate in any military conflicts. When I started writing about WWII, my father became a person who I could ask “military” questions, including about his older brothers who took part (and one of them perished) in the war. His influence on me was and still is priceless.
What do you hope readers take away from your novel?
I hope readers of my novel will learn something new about the Soviet Union’s fight against fascism and our people who paid an unprecedented price for defeating Nazi Germany. I hope that the story of Maria and Armen, who were a part of that struggle, and who found how unmerciful life can be for ordinary people even after the war ended, will move my readers.
Posted in Interviews
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Out of Poland, by Charles Breakfield and Roxanne Burkey, is the action-packed story of a group of Polish citizens who band together to fight against Hitler and the German army. In this historical thriller an ambassador, soldiers, and a family of Gypsies all come together to save Poland.
Ferdek Watcowski is the Polish ambassador and father of the main character, Ferdek. Younger Ferdek, a former lieutenant in the Polish military, devises a plan to undermine the German forces. Two of his comrades, along with a family of gypsies, travel to Gdansk to obtain a device known as “Baby”. I feel giving this device such a soft name allows for the authors to put the reader at ease, as well as introduces humor in calling a dangerous device “baby”. The plot of the story propels forward as these characters risk their lives to obtain a device that could change the war rising in Poland, and possibly save their country from the grasp of the Germans.
Breakfield and Burkey have a writing style that is simple yet intriguing. They move the plot along quickly and engage the reader throughout the entire story. The action throughout the story, as well as the suspense, leaves the reader at the edge of their seat. Throughout the entire story, you are wondering if these characters will make it out alive and achieve their goal of saving Poland.
This story is short but still captivating, but I would have loved to delve deeper into the characters and their backstories as they were so compelling, and what’s given leaves me wanting more. The heart the characters have for their country, along with their fighting spirit leaves you rooting for them, and relating to them, throughout their suspenseful journey.
Out of Poland is a fast paced historical thriller that is relentlessly moving forward and accurately portrays a perilous time in history. The authors skill with words is on full display. Any reader who enjoys historical fiction that gets the details right, and a story that knows how to setup compelling characters, will have plenty to enjoy in this gripping novel by Breakfield and Burkey.
Pages: 102 | ASIN: B096WQ77C8
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Battle Carried examines the history and meaning of tiger imagery of good luck flags in Japanese culture. Why was this an important book for you to write?
Battle Carried was important for me to write because it took into consideration two primary subjects that I had been passionate about since childhood: Japanese good luck flags and the tiger. Growing up, I had a fascination for flags; I drew and colored them and hung them on my bedroom walls. The more colorful the banner, the more I wanted to learn about it. At the time, the young student in me enjoyed learning about the histories of the nations that each flag represented. Flags and military history go hand-in-hand. I often thought how those colorful pieces of cloth could inspire ordinary men to accomplish extraordinary acts of courage in battle.
My interest in tigers was a little more straightforward. As a youngster I thought about pursuing a career in veterinary medicine. My home was an animal menagerie. I was always bringing some kind of pet home, or nursing an injured animal back to health. Based on that interest, I spent quite a lot of time reading about different animals, visiting zoos, etc. The reality for me was that while many people think of the lion as the king of beasts, I was more captivated by the beauty of the orange and black striped tiger. I did not know it at the time, but Asian culture actually celebrates the tiger as the king of the beasts. Years later, when I first heard that there were good luck flags with tigers painted on them, I knew that I wanted to eventually study them. It ended up being a match made in heaven. Battle Carried was a long-awaited outgrowth following the 2008 release of my introductory volume on Japanese good luck flags.
What kind of research did you undertake to complete this book?
I was familiar with doing research in history and anthropology at both an undergraduate and graduate school level. I began my research for Battle Carried by reading whatever I could find on the evolution, migration patterns and demographics of the tiger in Asia. As a student of anthropology, I had also studied Asian religious and philosophical worldviews. I wanted to better understand how and why those relationships came to be encapsulated into the Japanese tiger art good luck flags. Later, I thought that perhaps there was a connection between the animal that I saw in rare wood block prints (ukiyo-e) and those that illustrated the flags. It was fascinating to observe that the styles and poses of tiger art painted on flags during the World War Two era, often appeared to be near exact copies of those created, sometimes a few hundred years earlier. That realization led me to research the early Chinese influences that so heavily affected later Japanese art.
What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about Imperial Japanese Tiger Art in your research?
In Asian cosmology, the tiger was seen as a divine creature that played a significant role in how those cultures understood the origin, and evolution of the universe. In Taoist art, the tiger was frequently observed representing the “Yin” to the dragon’s “Yang”. When the tiger (tora) was complimented visually with the dragon (ryu), one of the most prolific pairings to illustrate the Japanese Zen Buddhist struggle for enlightenment emerged. With some exceptions, the Japanese embraced the zodiac system of the Chinese. The Tao constructs the world around two forces; They operate within a Yin-Yang relationship. Yin characteristics are composed of water, wind, earth, and are murky in nature. Furthermore, their essence is female, and static. The aspects of Yang incorporate fire, rain, the heavens, and brightness. Their essence is male, and energetic. The elements described may be manifested in the combined Yin-tiger, and the Yang-dragon; the pairing is known to the Japanese as uchu no tora, or “tiger in rain”. Zen Buddhism acknowledges an interplay between these two natures, one that exists throughout the entire universe. The tiger, with its courageous character, is accepted throughout Asia as the most esteemed of all the large wild animals. In pictures it is frequently positioned focused, ready to pounce upon its prey. Similarly, it is often portrayed descending along rocky outcropping, its belly stretched out low, hugging the ground. As a common theme, wind-strained bamboo thickets typically occupy the same image as the growling orange, and black striped beast. The late orientalist, Robert van Gulik wrote that, “In Japan, the tiger portrayed among bamboo stalks in the wind is known as take ni tora, ‘tiger in bamboo’. This representation is generally taken to symbolize that even the most powerful of terrestrial forces, namely the king of all animals, had to yield to the forces of nature. As such, the tiger in the take ni tora representation is also said to be identified with the wind itself, symbolizing as it were, the rustling wind in the bamboo grove.” The English born barrister, and art collector, Marcus Bourne Huish expounded upon this relationship further when he wrote in his 1889 book, Japan and Its Art that the tiger, “…is very often depicted in a storm cowering beneath bamboos, signifying the insignificant power of the mightiest of beasts as compared to that of the elements.” The powerful cat has a tempered force that is evident in its rigid muscles; allowing it comfort in its Yin/earth realm.
The dragon typically shows its force in a more spirited manner. He is often portrayed, surrounded within the heavens by angry rain clouds, and storm energized waters. Projecting himself out of the heavens, the dragon is frequently shown descending toward the earth where his Yang menaces, but does not dominate, the tiger’s Yin. Those two forces, uniformly matched are in balance, as they typify the universe’s harmonious nature.
In writing Battle Carried, I realized that the Yin-Yang relationship is one that all mankind would do better to more fully understand. When we strive to live in balance with the natural environment, the world tends to operate in a more harmonious fashion. Whenever mankind seeks to dominate or control that natural world, harmony is lost and systems break down. In Asian philosophy, the tiger as the king of beasts realizes that fact of life. Hopefully we will use that example to better steer our own destinies as humans.
I loved all the art you used in the book. What is your favorite art piece from this book?
My favorite piece of art is the 1885 woodcut triptych by the artist Koyama Chikusai titled Kato Kiyomasa on the Korean Campaign (p.33). The exploits of the samurai warrior Kato Kiyomasa were legendary among his friends and foe. He was famous, not only for his prowess on the field of battle, but also for his one-on-one fights against the fierce tiger. His fame grew to such an extent that other samurai attempted to elevate their own status by performing similar acts. Apparently enough samurai were being killed by their tiger opponents, that the Japanese leader, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned his officers from taking part in the “sport”!
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Writer William McGinnis says that Adam Weldon is his favorite character, and indeed he does feature in a number of McGinnis’s action tales. Weldon is a MacGyver type – an ex-Navy SEAL who can turn any tricky situation to his advantage. Unlike MacGyver, however, he does so with a gun in one hand and in the other, an encyclopedic knowledge of how to kill someone bare-handed, Jack Reacher style.
In Cyclops Conspiracy, Weldon teams up with his girlfriend, Tripnee, an FBI sharpshooter, and an alluring drone expert called Sophia. Together, they set sail to prevent World War III.
The action takes them around the Greek Islands and, eventually, all the way to the White House as they attempt to foil the plans of Islamic extremists set on jihad. McGinnis clearly knows his way around a yacht, and most of the action takes place in and around boats, either theirs or those of the terrorists. The limited space on the boats makes for claustrophobic and interesting fight scenes, and clever escapes which the author takes full advantage of.
There is little description of the islands or the coastlines as seen from the water. The plot could be set just about anywhere there is a sea. McGinnis draws on the Cyclops / Greek mythology connection as well.
Throughout the book, the people are beautiful and the bad guys are very bad; the men are tough and resourceful, the women are mesmerizing. Tripnee and Sophia can little more than tolerate each other, a friction caused by jealousy over the attention of Weldon. This is a cliché that offsets the two strong female protagonists. Where there are scenes featuring Sophia attractively tinkering with her guns, I would have enjoyed seeing them be more integrated and vital to the plot.
While the characters were engaging and perfect vehicles to deliver entertaining action scenes, I look forward to seeing them developed further in future novels as they’re interesting characters, but I feel we’re only scratching the surface.
For fans of action-adventure novels there is plenty of violence and threat and lots of shooting with heads disappearing into red mists and a clever twist at the end. Cyclops Conspiracy is a thrilling action novel that will appeal to fans looking for a straightforward story with relentless action.
Pages: 179 | ASIN: B08YXDYB7N
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Missions of War details Robert Brodersen’s real-life experience as a co-pilot during World War II. As a combination of Brodersen’s diary entries and his daughter’s own memories of the aftermath, Missions of War serves as an intriguing look into our country’s history through a personal lens.
While reading Missions of War, I couldn’t help but feel grateful to have the opportunity to read a different and more personal perspective of World War II. Other books I come across talk about the war on a global scale, but this feels much more in the trenches. The memoir includes recollections of raids and missions that Brodersen and the crew were a part of. He discloses how they were given escape packets that were small enough to fit in their pockets. They included money, from the country they were flying over so that they could buy themselves help if shot down. These small details really ground the story and make it very engaging. Another memory that stood out to me was when he recollects being out on the streets of London and hearing air raid sirens and finding shelter in the nearest subway station. He describes that the station was full of English civilians, most were asleep, and some had rolled up beds. He had found that many of them would sleep there because it was a good place to take shelter and then in the morning they would go home and then go to work. It just really struck me because I had never heard of anything like that, and just imagining having to leave my home at night to find shelter in a subway station for safety sounds terrifying.
Missions of War is an intimate account of war that was enthralling and hard to put down. It provides riveting first hand account of situations you only see in movies. This riveting memoir is for anyone who is looking for a short but potent personal story.
Pages: 74 | ISBN: 1637908431
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The Cause of Darkness by John Bebout follows a 16-year-old boy, Teddy Miller, when his father gets arrested and sentenced to hang for being a guerrilla soldier. Set in the last year of the American Civil War, Teddy sets out to save his father and is offered help by a number of people. Most of whom, however, have their own self-interests at heart.
This historical fiction novel was a major page-turner for me. Teddy starts as an innocent adolescent but as his family and life is turned upside down, we see him grow and hold many conflicting yet realistic traits as he is forced into this situation, such as being a chivalrous person needing to face some of the horrors of war. This was a fascinating coming-of-age story that felt authentic and was completely engrossing. Teddy, his brother, and a detective helping them, Kate, get involved with many people who seem fixated on furthering their own interests with little regard for the young boys which causes them to develop a distrust to strangers, but conversely, a solid reliance on each other. However, their relationship with each other is also tested harshly, all of this adds to the intensity of the story and gives the story a high level of intrigue the rarely wavers.
It is obvious that the author has put in a lot of effort and research into the time period of the American Civil War as the setting felt incredibly realistic and vibrant. He shows a true understanding of nuanced human behaviors and beliefs, especially during a war and in the 1860s, and the strong research involved grants a lot of credibility to the story being told. An enjoyable cherry on top were the quotes from real-life figures at the start of a handful of chapters detailing aspects of the nature of war and what it takes to participate in one.
While I enjoyed the novel overall, I felt that certain actions by Teddy were frustrating, although this could be attributed to him just being a child. And I felt like the ending left some loose ends to things I wanted answered, but these are things that can easily be left to the imagination.
The Cause of Darkness is an engaging novel with a substantive view of war and human nature that was captivating and stirring. The author has a unique and refined writing style that made reading this thrilling historical fiction novel utterly enjoyable.
Pages: 212 | ASIN: B087NW9MKV
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