Tag Archive | military

D for Heather Demetrios – I’ll Meet You There (book review) – choose love or escape from sad hometown?

book cover of I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios published by Henry HoltEndure dead-end hometown one last summer,
escape to art school and freedom…
if only it were that easy.

Skylar can’t leave her alcoholic mother now, doesn’t want Josh to face his PTSD alone, but how can she give up her dream of college?

This strong novel tackles questions of responsibility and abandonment, duty and fear, almost-good-enough and too-good-to-abandon as Sky’s narrative is punctuated with Josh’s often-anguished thoughts.

Don’t miss the author’s letter to the reader here and the book’s first chapters that she shares for free.

Have you known a serviceperson who returned from war-front duty unchanged?

**kmm

Book info: I’ll Meet You There / Heather Demetrios. Henry Holt, 2015.  [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As Skylar endures one last summer before college, her growing attraction to a young Marine disabled overseas and her mother’s inability to cope with life could strand the teen artist in her rural California hometown.

Math-genius Chris and artistic Sky have vowed to escape this agricultural backwater, heading for opposite coasts on big scholarships in just a few months. It’ll be hard leaving best friend Dylan (who’s never known that Chris adores her) and her baby, but it would be unbearable to stay in Creek View.

Sky and Chris drop by the as-usual-drunk weekend party to welcome home her former co-worker just returned from Afghanistan, but no one told her that brash, womanizing Josh had left his leg behind, as well as his self-confidence.

Counting down the days until she leaves for college, Sky is stunned when Mom loses her fast-food job and crawls back into the booze bottle where she’d retreated for so long when Dad died in a drunk-driving wreck.

Josh begins working at the Paradise hotel with Sky again, between therapy appointments, and they fall into an uneasy companionship that could become something more. Motel-owner Marge’s son died in the war before she moved here, so she understands when Josh suddenly freezes as a car backfires nearby.

The parts are coming together in the collage that Sky’s creating for Marge – more of the ‘California quirky’ that’s making the Paradise its own destination – but Sky can’t put her mom’s life back on track, can’t figure out where she and Josh fit into one another’s lives, and can’t see how she can give up her dreams or go after them either.  (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Shadows on the Sea, by Joan Hiatt Harlow (book review) – German U-boats… off the Maine coast?

book cover of Shadows on the Sea by Joan Hiatt Harlow published by Margaret K McElderry BooksWorries during wartime,
safe with Nana in Maine,
but town is full of secrets…

Staying far from big cities should keep Jill out of danger as her parents travel separately to California and Newfoundland in 1942, but her grandmother’s small town has many secrets, much gossip, and treachery closer than they know.

The author continues her story of teens during World War II with The Watcher,  which follows Wendy from Shadows on the Sea.

**kmm

Book info: Shadows on the Sea / Joan Hiatt Harlow.  Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2003, 2005 pbk. [author site]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Jill just wants a friend and good news from her traveling parents in 1942, but the 14 year old soon uncovers a secret that endangers everyone in Nana’s coastal Maine town.

On her first solo train trip, Jill wishes she could be with her father on his USO singing tour, rather than going to Nana’s house to await word that her mother made it safely across to Newfoundland. Those U-boats prowling like wolves…

At least she can visit Wendy, who came to work at her aunt’s inn for the summer, and the lighthouse keeper’s son Quarry, who says there are more rumors than usual in town. As Jill learns her way around Winter Haven, she stumbles upon hidden pigeon coops, meets very snooty girls who invite her into their special club, and finds a wounded bird with a message strapped to its leg… in German.

Will mother make it safely back to the US?
Are the rumors about Wendy’s aunt true?
What does the pigeon’s message mean?

“Loose lips sink ships” – in Winter Haven, the warning on patriotic posters is true in this tale of World War II on the home front. Followed by The Watcher. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)

Dirt Bike, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly, by Conrad Wesselhoeft (book review) – grief, honor & gaming

book cover of Dirt Bikes Drones and Other Ways to Fly by Conrad Wesselhoeft published by Houghton MifflinPlaying chicken with big trucks on the highway,
joysticking into the Drone Zone,
adrenaline removes Arlo’s grief…for a while.

Trying to cope with Mom’s murder, Siouxsie’s progressive neurological disease, Dad’s retreat into the bottle – Arlo keeps his dirt bike running, scrounges change to play Drone Fighter at his tiny town’s online cafe, but then what? One early morning phone call changes things (but not everything).

Traveling recently through bone-dry northern New Mexico where the author strands this small town, I can see why anyone there would want to find a way to get away, even if it means trading the make-believe of gaming for real drone piloting and its violent consequences.

Read this April 2014 book now – right now!
**kmm

Book info: Dirt Bikes, Drones, and Other Ways to Fly / Conrad Wesselhoeft. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. [author blog]  [publisher site]  Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: Arlo’s gaming skills could pay his sister’s huge medical bills, his dirt bike prowess could salvage his reputation in their small New Mexico town, but it’ll take something more to rescue his family from their endless grieving for Mom.

When the US Air Force wants Arlo to fly real reconnaissance drones over Pakistan from their base at White Sands, based solely on his Drone Fighter video game world ranking, the 17-year-old’s journalist dad is skeptical – until the Colonel erases their debts for Siouxsie’s treatments.

When gorgeous Lee slides into dusty Orphan County to stay with her aunt until her dad returns from his Afghanistan deployment, Arlo thinks she’ll scorn scruffy dirt bikes after leaving her smooth Harley in Seattle – until she helps his Evel Kneivel-style jump go higher and farther.

Zooming down I-25 from the New Mexico-Colorado borderlands whenever the Colonel phones, Arlo has too much time to think on his way to White Sands. Even if he can discover the most-wanted terrorist’s whereabouts with his drone, how can he recover what his family lost when Mom was murdered?

Mountain vistas, Mom’s ashes spread atop the mesa, small-town football as seen from the snack bar, and a moto-stunt for the ages fill this don’t-miss novel about love, grief, and honor.

Harlem Hellfighters, by Max Brooks & Canaan White (book review) – WW I graphic novel of prejudice, peril & courage

book cover of Harlem Hellfighters by Max Brooks art by Canaan White published by Broadway booksVolunteering to fight in the Great War,
stymied at every turn by their own countrymen,
the Black Rattlers will prevail or die trying.

As the world marks the centennial of World War I’s start this month, follow the African-American 369th Infantry from routine prejudices in the US to the unpredictable violence of trench warfare in this stunning graphic novel.

Combining emotion-packed art (be very, very glad that it’s not in full color) with the era’s poems and narratives, this book unlocks a little-known episode of American history as the “Men of Bronze” inch toward the Rhine through mud, blood, lice, and poison gas.

Get it today at your local library or independent bookstore. I’ll wait here for you – I’m going to read it again myself.

p.s. Will Smith has already optioned it for a movie.
p.p.s. Yes, the author is the same Max Brooks who wrote World War Z.
**kmm

Book info: Harlem Hellfighters / Max Brooks; art by Canaan White. Broadway Books, 2014. [author site]   [artist Tumblr]   [publisher site]   [NPR interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher through BloggingForBooks.org.

My book talk: Black skin, white-hot patriotism, red blood on the battlefields of France – the 369th Infantry fights prejudice from the US Army itself en route to pushing German forces back to the Rhine during the Great War.

Practicing with broomsticks instead of the new rifles issued to white troops, the black National Guardsmen nevertheless become a formidable fighting unit with the best regimental band anywhere.

When the Men of Bronze from New York complete their training in South Carolina and ship out overseas in 1914 with no parades or fanfare, they fight in the muddy, bloody trenches alongside grateful French forces, determined to reach the Rhine.

A most graphic illustrated retelling of an ignored episode of US history, Harlem Hellfighters  uses the 369th’s enemy-given nickname in this true story of bravery and sacrifice.

Flygirl, by Sherri L. Smith (book review) – flying for her country, despite prejudice

book cover of Flygirl by Sherri L Smith published by PenguinWorld War II made Uncle Sam let women fly military planes.
Grit made women pilots endure ‘this man’s Army’ to become WASPs, flying routine Stateside runs in 1943-44.
Ida Mae dared to  ‘pass for white’ so she could fly again, in memory of her father.

While this book is fiction, the prejudices faced by “farm hick” Ida and her bunkmates “rich Jew” Lily and “carnie” Patsy the air show wing-walker were commonplace during World War II, as was the constant danger that Ida would be lynched if her not-white origins were revealed.

Training was tough; only half of WASP trainees made it to actual missions – delivering aircraft to bases, stress-testing new military planes, towing targets for artillery practice – but they weren’t recognized for their military service until 1977!

Flygirl has been out in paperback since 2010, so you should easily be able to find this riveting story at your local library or favorite independent bookstore.

How far can Ida fly and remain true to herself?
**kmm

Book info: Flygirl / Sherri L. Smith. Speak, 2010 (Penguin hardcover, 2008).  [author site]  [publisher site]  [fan-created book trailer] [author video interview] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: If passing for white will get Ida Mae back into the sky during World War II, she’ll do it – but how long can she live the lie and stay away from her family?

When the Women’s Airforce Service Pilots begin to test and transfer planes so military pilots are free for combat missions, Ida dreams of flying again, wondering if Uncle Sam is desperate enough to take black women pilots.

Light-skinned Ida applies anyway – she can use her late daddy’s flying lessons to serve her country, though she can never allow anyone to know her true roots.

One error at the WASP training base, and Ida will be sent home as a failure.
One mistaken calculation, and she could crash a much-needed training plane.
One slip-up that shows she’s not white, and the consequences could be deadly.

Test flights in unstable new planes, competition to be on a crew, bad news from overseas and from home – there really is a war on, and Ida is fighting it on more fronts than any of her fellow WASP pilots can imagine. (One of 6,000 books recommended on www.abookandahug.com)