Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of family, love, faith, and war that focuses on Robert Campbell, an American and his love interest, Makiko Asakawa, who is of Japanese descent. The two meet as children when Robert’s family stay with Makiko’s family in Yokohama during the 1920s to 1930s. It’s during this time that a relationship is formed between the two. Robert’s family eventually moves back to the United States while he is still in school, but Robert and Makiko vow to see each other again and maintain their bond by writing letters to each other. It is not until the 1940s, with the attack on Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II that the two are reunited. The novel delicately pieces together the story of these two individuals living through death and devastation as they fight to get back to each other.
Kirk Raeber does an excellent job of handling the intricate details of the novel. There are a lot of historical components to this piece, and the author weaves his fictional story into American and Japanese history among other components of the novel flawlessly. Firstly, Robert’s father is a preacher; therefore, a lot of his lessons for a young Robert are based on scripture and particular Bible verses. Robert often returns to these Bible verses during trying moments in his life. It’s clear that the author had some knowledge of the Bible and took great care in picking out the right verse during difficult moments in Robert’s life. Secondly, the author seems to be aware of American and Japanese culture during the time period that the novel spans. Also, even though this is a fictional story, there are historical elements weaved into it, such as the attack on Pearl Harbor and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Raeber does not skip over these aspects of history, but rather he weaves them into Robert and Makiko’s story, illustrating not only how these unfortunate events impacted these two fictional characters, but it can also be reasoned that his telling of their story resonates the mood and despair of those that actually lived through the experience. It’s clear that Raeber took care while writing these events to make sure that he handled them with accuracy.
A small note of criticism lies within the secondary characters of the novel, Robert and Makiko’s son and daughter. The whole story begins when the adult children are going through their deceased parents’ belongings and stumble upon the letters that the two lovers exchanged long ago. This then leads into Robert and Makiko’s storyline, and the reader isn’t returned to the characters of the adult children until the end of the novel. While Robert and Makiko’s story is obviously the focus of the novel, it would have been nice to be returned to the adult children periodically throughout the novel. The placing of these two characters at the very beginning and very end of the novel creates a disconnect with them, and it leaves one questioning their purpose overall. It’s very possible that Robert and Makiko’s story can be told without the mention and inclusion of their children as characters.
Overall, Raeber’s Forgotten Letters is a beautifully told story of love’s triumph over distance, death, and war. This novel is highly recommended to those that might have an interest in World War II, 1940s Japanese culture, or anyone who just enjoys a good love story.
Pages: 406 | ASIN: B01HQFFXYY
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Beguiled is about every person who ever had dreams that were interrupted by cultural mores, by discrimination, or by their own shortcomings. Miriam Levine, born in 1900, dreamed of going on stage, until an almost fatal mis-step forced her to postpone her “real life.” A serendipitous offer compelled her to confront her inner demons and society’s expectations. As Glinda, the Good Witch of the South in the Wizard of Oz, she recites at age 16: “You’ve always had the power, my dear, you just had to learn it for yourself.”
The story is inspirational for young people and their parents who dearly wish to access the American dream. The historical context of the decades before the Great Depression, the role of immigrants and women’s suffrage parallels tough political dilemmas that the US faces today.
Will Miriam have the gumption to follow her dreams? Will those dreams yield her the happiness she seeks? Or will she find that her childhood fantasies “beguile” her to seek ‘fool’s gold?’
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In the latest Nick Grant adventure story the Japanese plot to steal the famous Hughes H-1 racer. What was the inspiration for the setup to this exciting novel?
Interesting, during the World War II, Howard Hughes got the opportunity to examine a captured Japanese A-6M Zero. He recognized several innovations he had incorporated into the H-1. Many years later, he told a story about a 1936 break in at his Culver City airport. The culprits ransacked the H-1 hangar and several blue prints were missing. The Japanese were never implicated. I took those snippets of story and wrote Nick Grant into the action.
The supporting characters in this novel, I felt, were intriguing and well developed. Who was your favorite character to write?
I enjoy writing the supporting characters as much as I do writing Nick. In each novel, I have introduced news characters – some good – some evil. In Black Dragons Attack my hands down favorite is Brian O’Malley. Without exception, the advance copy readers loved him. Those same early readers asked that I include Brian in future Nick Grant Adventures. Brian is a good hearted cowpoke who has a pivotal role in the story line. Cowboys and spies? An interesting combination that I hope my reader’s enjoy as much as I did crafting the story.
The Black Dragons are working for the Japanese Intelligence Service who are conspiring with the Third Reich in California. How did you develop this twist? Anything pulled from real life?
As a young military intelligence officer, the Army assigned me to the US Pacific Command, Oahu, Hawaii. Several of the old hands told me about their experiences before and during WW II. One retiring Army Counter Intelligence Agent spoke about a concerted espionage effort between the Japanese and Germans. A married couple, who were in fact German Spies, provided critical information to the Japanese prior to the December 7th, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Another spoke about and effort to steal US Communications codes. A third spoke about a effort in California to infiltrate US aircraft manufactures to steal advanced US technology. Much like the Chinese are doing to us today.
I understand that real people inspired this story. Who were those people and how did they impact you?
Once I saw bestselling author, Homer Hickam, of October Skies fame, wearing a T-Shirt emblazoned with the following: BE CARFEFULL – YOU MIGHT WIND UP IN MY NEXT NOVEL. I build my characters around people that I have known in my life. Some are blends of different individuals others are as I remember them but with cover names. As a career foreign intelligence officer I have known many people that would stretch the reader’s belief. One stands out in my mind, the senior intelligence officer of the Army’s Paratrooper Division, the 82d Airborne. Then Lieutenant Colonel Nick Grant – now Brigadier General (Retired) Grant was a huge influence on me. During down time on maneuvers he told me about his youth and burning desire to become a pilot. Like my character, Nick Grant actual comes from humble beginnings. He worked hard to achieve many things in his successful career. I modeled my Nick after General Grant’s steely eyed nerve, technical expertise, and strong desire to take the hard right instead of the easy wrong.
Book IV. The Black Dragons are back! After their last run in, Nick Grant believes his nemesis, Toshio Miyazaki, is dead. Determined to leave the spy games behind, Nick starts a new life as a Naval Aviation Cadet. During training, famous aviator and movie producer, Howard Hughes, lures Midshipman Grant into a mock dogfight. Afterwards Hughes offers Nick a pilot job. Nick’s college dreams stand in the way, and he turns Hughes down. However, their paths cross again in an unexpected way.
In 1936 the Black Dragons, working for the Japanese Intelligence Service, remain active in California and have a new partner, the Third Reich! Agents from both countries team up in their most audacious plan yet—steal the Hughes H-1 racer. Their plan—use the cutting edge technology to develop the world’s most advanced fighter aircraft.
The Japanese plan goes awry when US Naval Counterintelligence becomes aware of their activities. Commander Boltz assigns Nick and Senior Chief Ellis to guard the airfield until the FBI can take over. Together, they foil the Black Dragons’ attempt to steal the H-1 plans but the Japanese regroup with an even more sinister plan. They grab a hostage and demand that Nick deliver the H-1 technical plans and the Navy’s Top Secret Pacific War Plans.
When the Black Dragons attack, it’s up to Nick and friends to turn the tables, retrieve the stolen goods and a fabled katana. Join Nick Grant, Nancy Tanaka, and Leilani Porta in their latest adventure, Black Dragons Attack!
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Black Dragons Attack, the fourth installment in the Nick Grant Adventures series outdoes the high bar set by the previous adventures. This enthralling pre-World War II story features a superb cameo by American aviation hero Howard Hughes! Readers are transported to the nostalgic war era with the mind-blowing narrative by author Jamie Dodson. Nick Grant starts afresh as a Naval Aviation Cadet that leads to a chance encounter with Howard Hughes that changes the course of his life. Join Nick as he thwarts the Japanese plot to steal the famous Hughes H-1 racer along with his friends Nancy Tanaka and Leilani Porta for some edge of your seat entertainment.
Jamie Dodson has always delivered riveting story lines, perfect character development, amazing locales, and ultimately an exceptional climax – in short, each of Nick Grant’s adventures, be it Flying Boats & Spies, China Clipper, or Mission Shanghai or the latest offering Black Dragons Attack never fail to impress readers.
Set in 1936, Black Dragons Attack continues the Nick Grant saga as he believes his arch nemesis Toshio Miyazaki, is dead and starts afresh as a Cadet in the Naval Aviation Academy. It takes no less than a chance run in with the genius billionaire aviator and movie producer, Howard Hughes to lure Nick back into another deadly spy game.
The Black Dragons, working for the Japanese Intelligence Service, turn out to be secretly active and conspiring with a new partner, the Third Reich in California! As the Japanese hatch an elaborate plan to steal the Hughes H-1 racer to reverse engineer and build something even more advanced, US Naval Counterintelligence uncovers their activities. Nick is tasked with foiling the plans of the Japanese with the help of Nancy Tanaka and Leilani Porta.
As much as Nick impresses with his heroic show of patriotism and daredevilry, the Hughes H-1 steals the show with its sheer technological prowess and revolutionary functionalities that are years ahead of anything that existed in that era, precisely why the fascist regimes of Imperial Japanese and Nazis were so obsessed with it.
The setting of pre-world war II provides a poignant background wherein Jamie Dodson successfully manages to capture the mindset of people in a war torn country. Howard Hughes, albeit in a sort of guest appearance, manages to shine and awe the reader with his larger than life personality. The character sketches of Nancy, Leilani and Toshio are spot on and do justice to their role in the plot.
Overall, Black Dragons Attack, the fourth book in the Nick Grant adventure series is a pleasure to read.
Pages: 244 | ASIN: 1938667549
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Swallow follows a young German woman during WWII as she struggles to follow her dreams and become a pilot. What was the inspiration that made you want to write such a humanizing story?
I was flicking through some old magazines in a medical waiting room a few years ago and came across an article on WW2 ace fighter pilots. It was a fascinating read, so I took to the internet and was blown away by the material on this subject. I found the story of a young German pilot, Hans Phillip, particularly inspiring, though tragic. It was heart-breaking to read about and see the many images of these young men yet to live their lives. Many of the photographs were candid, showing just how very ‘human’ they really were.
Gabi is a fierce, bright woman who stampedes her way onto the runway. What guided you through Gabi’s development?
I like a strong, female protagonist determined to get her way! Much of Gabi’s development is drawn from personal experience. I was once a young business graduate struggling to get on in what was predominately a man’s domain. I jumped at any opportunity to get ahead, as does Gabi. She’s emotional, stubborn and insecure, facing the same challenges that we all face at some time in our lives: life and death; love and loss; hope and despair. Sadly, the harsh reality of war makes this natural transition through life profoundly tragic for Gabi.
This story takes place in Germany during WWII. What research did you do to make sure the history and locations were accurate?
Some of the history/locations came from personal sources. My mother was born in Königsberg, East Prussia and fled to Saxony as a war refugee during WW2. Many of her recollections of the war and this part of the world have been incorporated into the story. As a child, I also visited relatives in East Germany several times and can still remember towns such as Meissen and Dresden quite vividly. But my primary source was Google. There is so much material about WW2 and the Luftwaffe on the internet. Admittedly, not all sources are reliable but with some cross-referencing, you get a good feel for what’s legitimate. My biggest issue was deciding what to include and what to leave out as I didn’t want to bog down the story with superfluous detail!
What is the next book that you are writing and when will it be available?
I’m currently working on a prequel to Swallow – The Sparrow and The Peacock, covering the early years of Max Richter from his childhood through to his romance with Mary Dehaviland and the birth of Gabi. Like Swallow, it’s set in Germany and covers historically significant periods such as WW1 and the stock market crash of ‘29. I’m aiming to have the book published sometime late 2018 – early 2019.
Set against the dramatic backdrop of World War II, Nazi Germany, Swallow is the story of a young woman destined to fly. Gabriele Richter, the daughter of an ambitious German general, connives her way into the Luftwaffe, becoming Germany’s only female fighter pilot and ‘ace’. Flying like a swallow, she defends the Fatherland with the gusto and fearlessness of youth, confronting death on every sortie and living by the Luftwaffe edict “Fly till we die”.
On the cusp of womanhood, Gabi also learns about love. She shares her heart with Heinz, a young, impulsive ‘fledgling’ pilot set on becoming a war hero. She bares her soul to Hans, an ambitious flight commander whose love is troubled with demons of self-doubt. She gives herself to narcissistic Kurt and his scar fetish, comforted by his unwavering loyalty. She confides in RAF Wing Commander Arthur Wilson, living in hope to love again…
But, after discovering her beloved father, General Max Richter, has been implicit in horrific war crimes against humanity, she turns her back on the Fatherland, helping the enemy restore and fly Germany’s latest weapon, the Me-262 fighter jet.
With the end of war imminent, Gabi’s tragic destiny is fulfilled, leaving General Richter to face retribution.
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There are many words that can be used to describe the tale of Swallow by Heidi Fischer. Gripping. Moving. Heart-breaking. This fantastic story about a young woman in World War Two era Germany humanizes those who fought in the war in a way that is unexpected. Our story follows Gabi: a fierce, bright woman who stampedes her way onto the runway where she acts as an engineer and pilot. In a time where woman were beginning to make their mark on the world; a time when relations are strained and many outside the Nazi mantra failed to truly understand what was happening in their country. Gabi finds herself in all of this. The bright young woman who had her life altered so horrifically at the tender age of seven. The young woman who wants to do her father, a general, proud. Gabi shows us a Germany that many of us wouldn’t have believed existed. The desire of a young woman to fly.
This book starts off with a bang and just doesn’t stop. Fischer hooks her readers from the first chapter and we become entranced by the story. Gabi survives a horrific event that many young women today struggle to overcome. While it haunts her as she ages, she preservers and moves forward with her dreams. Lying her way into the military where she can work as an engineer and eventually a pilot shows how determined she is to reach her goal. You can’t help but root for Gabi and hope that everything she wants will come true. Alas, we must be reminded that it is not all sunshine and rainbows in this world. Especially not during World War Two. Gabi will achieve, and she will lose. She will love and it will be lost. Even as she struggles with despair she never gives up that which keeps her going: hope.
Not only do we get to see the world from Gabi’s point of view but we also get a few glimpses into the minds of the men in her life. Most notable is her father. A strong, silent and stoic man who gives away few smiles for his daughter. While he disagrees with her choice, there is no doubt that he is proud of everything that she accomplishes. There are three loves that Gabi will have: Heinz, Hans and Kurt. Each one different from the other and each love comes with its own prescription for pain. Gabi pushes on, becoming a role model for all young German men and women who get wrapped up in the war.
While the book doesn’t focus too heavily on the actual war itself, it is difficult to get away from it completely. Gabi is a pilot for Nazi Germany and she does kill those known to her as the ‘enemy’. There is no refuge from guilt, however. It serves as a stark reminder that there were human beings involved in that atrocity. Not all of them agreed with what was happening. Heidi Fischer uses Swallow to tell us a love story wrapped in a piece about humanity. This is an excellent read and picking it up will add emotional depth to any library.
Pages: 255 | ASIN: B06XRRK75N
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The Family that Went to War is both a family memoir and a history of the people of the state of New South Wales. Are you writing about your own family? What inspired you to write a story about your family’s life?
After starting to research my family tree I discovered for the first time that I had a great Uncle killed at the battle of Fromelles. Then to my amazement I gradually discovered the stories of the other 5 mentioned in the book. While I was discussing this with some of my cousins, I decided to see if I could write a book on their exploits.
This book is about World War 1. What research did you do to prepare to tell this story?
We had a guest speaker at a men’s dinner and he mentioned that he found a lot of information from public available war records. I applied for the service records of all six members and from there I researched the events shown in their records. Every time I came across a location that I was not familiar with I Googled the location to check on its spelling. Unfortunately army diaries were notorious for the inaccuracy of foreign names. The Google research also allowed me to see the relationship between the various locations. I also searched newspapers particularly after reading Georgina’s letters to the army. I realized that there was a lot more to learn. From the old newspapers I was able to put together the later histories of the Wright brothers (both of whom gained the rank of Inspector in the NSW police force).
This story gives a personal look into the lives of WWI veterans. Did you find anything in your research of this story that surprised you?
Everything surprised me as I (like so many of my generation) knew so little of the personal side of the Great War.
How do you think the return of these veterans from WWI helped to shape modern culture?
From those I have talked to, it seems that they were all effected long term. I got the feeling that the distance made it even harder on the families at home because it would be months after the event that their families would have any news. I think that many went to do their duty for the “Mother Country” only to be disappointed by the attitudes of the British Generals toward the Australians. From that time in history Australians ceased to feel they were British. They now were proud to be Australians.
In1914 Australia joined England and declared war on Germany and it’s allies. In the small New South Wales town of Cootamundra 6 young Australians, all from the same family, individually joined the fight. This saga follows their journeys through Gallipoli and the Western Front. The saga also covers time in Egypt, England and France away from the fighting. This is a story of a family and how it was affected by a on the other side of the world. It tells of the battles, the wounding and sickness endured by these young men as well as the lighter moments. A readable history that shows some insights into what it was like during those dark times.
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The Family that Went to War is both a family memoir and a history of the people of the state of New South Wales, Australia. The author, Gordon Smith, gives a well-documented account of six members of a family from Cootamundra, NSW, who enlisted into the First Australian Imperial Force (1st AIF) at the onset of World War I. His research in historical archives, newspapers, and memorial societies is well done. The accounts of war and details of each man’s deployment presumes that he also had their war diaries and letters from home to draw on for detail.
The Commonwealth of Australia was still a young country, having formed a federation just over a decade previous. Australians still regarded Britain as their mother country, and when war broke out, Australia’s Prime Minister declared support for Great Britain and formally entered the Great War. Six members of the author’s family enlisted to fight the German army. He tells each man’s story with informative passages about the region they are in, the larger picture of the war that raged around them, and then brings it back down to the trenches where the soldiers fought. Smith’s details regarding ships, armaments, shortages and hardships, and other details of the soldiers’ experiences in Egypt and France will be of great interest to readers fascinated by World War I or the contribution of Australia to the Great War.
One such detail is in the account of Austin Schofield’s experience at Gallipoli. A water shortage, bad weather, and devastating losses motivated the British combined forces to evacuate. In order to safely evacuate, they used subterfuge to trick the Turkish forces into thinking they were still there.
Periscopes were to be propped up, and every effort was to be made to create the impression that the trenches were still fully occupied. … When it was time to finally abandon the trenches, Austin was to help set up some remote firing devices to fire some rifles to keep the illusion that the trenches were occupied. Some rifles had string tired to the trigger and a candle burning until it reached the string. The rifle would then fire.
Though the author writes with detachment, the stories of these soldiers in the midst of historic battles give a glimpse into the life, and death, of Australian soldiers. I was particularly interested in the account of William Power, fighting on the Western Front at Fromelles France. The losses to the Australian forces were described as, “the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history”. Though the account is given in a very matter-of-fact manner, it’s hard not to sympathize with the Australian soldiers.
The biggest drawback of this book was a simple case of bad editing. In one case, the name of an Egyptian city is spelled three different ways on the same page. Punctuation is inconsistent and made some passages difficult to understand and hard to follow.
Overall, I think the author has done a fine job documenting both his family history and military history. Despite the dry, academic tone of the account, there are moments of humor and humanity that shine through.
Pages: 92 | ISBN: 9781310378010
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