Book Review: Seeking the American Dream

Heidi M. Thomas’ Seeking the American Dream, is a heart-felt novel based on her mother, a German war bride.

The story begins in war-ravaged Germany, 1944. Anna Schmidt, a nurse, deals with the horrors of war as she tends the wounded, and as she sees her homeland destroyed by incessant bombing raids. When she meets American G.I. Neil Moser, there is an immediate attraction. Although Anna speaks no English, Neil speaks German so they are able to communicate. She admires his calm demeanor, and she loves listening to his stories of Montana ranch life. When Neil is suddenly shipped out, Anna is left with little hope and a yearning for what might have been.

When Anna receives a letter from Neil declaring his love and a proposal of marriage, she is overjoyed. But the two-year ordeal of emigration procedures make the dream seem almost impossible. Finally, she arrives in Montana and into Neil’s arms.

But the truth is, her problems are only beginning. She meets hostility and prejudice among some of their neighbors. Eastern Montana is a hard land, so vast that their closest neighbor is miles away. Long, harsh winters, spring floods, and sweltering summers make daily living a chore. The lack of household conveniences available in Germany, such as indoor plumbing and electricity, add to their hardship. At first they live with Neil’s parents and Anna feels unaccepted. But through it all, Neil is gentle and patient.

The couple eventually moves to their own ranch and start a family. But the hardships continue—running a ranch is brutally hard work. When sickness strikes, their existence is threatened and Anna fears her American dream is crumbling.

Master storyteller Heidi M. Thomas grew up on a remote Montana cattle ranch, which adds authenticity to her stories. Thomas’ descriptions of Montana’s landscape, weather, and the mindset of neighboring ranchers bring scenes to life. I very much enjoyed Seeking the American Dream which is the first book of Thomas’ new “American Dream Series.”

For more information about the author and her work, visit http://www.heidimthomas.com/

Book Review: Becoming Clementine

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Jennifer Niven has written a third novel in her Velva Jean series, Becoming Clementine. As a WASP flyer during World War II, Velva Jean flies a B-17 Flying Fortress to Britain. After the delivery she volunteers to co-pilot a B-24 Liberator carrying special agents to their drop spot in Normandy, France. Besides wanting the experience of additional flying, Velva Jean has a personal mission to find her brother, a pilot who is missing in action.

The B-24 is shot down and only Velva Jean and five agents survive. Although she’s considered a nuisance, she tags along with the five, much to their agitation. Eventually she becomes one of them, a spy with the Resistance and is given the name Clementine Roux.

Clementine’s grit becomes a necessary ingredient to her survival as she encounters cruelty dealt by invading Germans. Clementine and the members of the team work toward their assigned goal to capture an operative known only as “Swan.” All the while she searches for her brother.

Although some of the situations are a bit far-fetched, I enjoyed this book. For one thing, I find the subject of the WASP’s (Women Airforce Service Pilots) of special interest. These brave women did our country a great service, but met with little appreciation and even sabotage by fellow male pilots. I also found the references to French resistance fascinating, and admire the courage and sacrifice required to regain their country from German occupation. Clementine spends some time in prison and, again, learning of those conditions reinforces the atrocities of war.

Despite the gim subject, I enjoyed the humor in Becoming Clementine and the main character’s spunk. It’s hard to imagine the hardships of war, the loss of life, the lack of basic necessities, and the hopelessness of regaining a normal life. Jennifer Niven does a good job of capturing war-time conditions.

To learn more about the author, visit http://www.jenniferniven.com/

Book Review: Incommunicado by Randall Platt

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Twelve-year-old Jewels Stokes doesn’t have an easy life, but her spunk and determination at least make it interesting. Her brother Rex, a senior in high school and a nerd at that, takes life pretty seriously and mostly thinks his sister is a pest. Their mother hasn’t the best reputation in the small coastal town of Sea Park, Oregon, and the two kids are left pretty much on their own. Jewels has one true and faithful friend, Tommy Kaye, a respected resort owner who has contributed generously to the town.

When Pearl Harbor is bombed on December 7, 1941, people are shocked, but uncertain just what it means. Where is Pearl Harbor, anyway? But when the facts are uncovered and the townspeople realize the Japanese are suddenly their enemy, their rage is directed at Jewels’ friend Tommy Kaye, who is of Japanese ancestry.

The town erupts into paranoia and it’s obvious that Tommy Kaye is in danger. When the FBI gets into the picture, it’s clear that Jewels has to do something to save her friend from what they’re calling “internment” or even prison.

Incommunicado is a fun read, but more than that, it offers a glimpse of what life was like in 1941, and how people reacted to the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The author does a good job of describing mob mentality, of how people get caught up in rumors, and their fear of the unknown. Platt goes into some detail about the precautions people had to take during the war, such as maintaining blackout conditions in coastal towns. She describes gas, food and specific product rationing, and collecting goods needed during the war, such as scrap metal.

Although this book might be considered a coming-of-age story, I found it enlightening and enjoyed this spunky girl’s attempt to make things right during the turmoil of World War II.

To learn more about Incommunicado and author Randall Platt, visit http://www.plattbooks.com/

Book Review: Flight to Destiny

flight to destinySarah Byrn Rickman has again demonstrated her knowledge and expertise in young women aviators who flew military aircraft in support of World War II. In Flight to Destiny, Rickman has fictionalized the story of the patriotic talented pilots, closely following the original WAFS (Woman Airforce Ferry Pilots), later renamed WASP (Woman Airforce Service Pilots).

On December 7, 1941, Anne Gwynn and her student pilot are on their way back to John Rogers Airport, next to Pearl Harbor Naval Base, when they spot hundreds of Japanese aircraft attacking Pearl Harbor. Landing her small Cub among flying bullets, Anne is aware that the Naval Base for the U.S. Pacific Fleet has suffered mortal damage. What she hasn’t yet realized is that her destiny has changed forever.

Flight to Destiny closely follows the actual careers of several women aviators, among the 1,102 women who served their country by ferrying airplanes from the factories to modification centers and to Newark, New Jersey, freeing male pilots for flying in battle.

The fictionalized story is well told with believable characters and situations. Two characters, Nancy Love, head of WAFS, and Jacqueline Cochran, head of WASP are real-life characters in the fictional story.

History buffs interested in military aviation history will find this book a wealth of information. The author, herself a pilot, has described in some detail the various aspects of flying numerous types of aircraft under sometimes dicey situations.

Sarah Byrn Rickman has been researching the WASP for 23 years, interviewing many retired WASP and researching the aircraft they ferried. Flight to Destiny is her fifth book on the subject, joining three works of non-fiction and another novel.

I loved this book and was again impressed with Rickman’s rich knowledge of early women aviators and the important role they fulfilled in World War II.

For more information about the author, visit www.sarahbyrnrickman.com/