I have been very quiet on my blog this year. Keeping up with social media on Facebook and Twitter, writing more books and (attempting to) market them plus the twice a week blogging wore me out. Life also gets in the way too, and I’ve even ventured out of the house a few times in between.
However, as I do every year, I could not ignore sharing my favourite books from 2019 with you.
In no particular order, over the next 4 weeks these are the reads that have blown me away over the last 12 months. The books I didn’t want to end, where I was in awe of the author’s skill, or, the story was simply amazing.
OF KNIGHTS AND DOGFIGHTS Ellie Midwood
In 1938 four young men join the flying school at Schwechat near Vienna. From different backgrounds, they all share a love of flying for the freedom and the danger. We meet Johann and Willi, complete opposites, Rudi and Walt who is half Jewish. When war breaks out, they are sent out to fight for Germany in Europe, North Africa, and later on the Eastern Front. Not all of them survive the war, but long before it is over, they begin to question the reasons and rationale and whether they are fighting for the right side. They have doubts about the Nazi regime, the sanity of Hitler and the lies and propaganda they are expected to believe.
When I chose this book to review, I was not sure I would enjoy it as much as this author’s other novels. I am a great fan of Ellie’s work and this is one of her best. She did not disappoint. This is not a ‘man’s’ book despite its detailed description of the dog fights, the handling of the planes and the aerial tactics. Topics of friendship, beliefs, morals, and comradeship are all explored as these teenagers fly one mission after another. The slow dawning of what part these brave young men were being forced to play on the chessboard of an insane man’s dreams was masterful. In places I smiled, in others, my eyes filled with tears. Ms Midwood knows how to spin her words as she takes you to the desert in North Africa then to the frozen wastelands of Russia. She pulls no punches in describing the brutality, the gut-wrenching scenes against the backdrop of a shameful period in history. What made this book really special for me was the realization that while the Nazis / Germans have been vilified for the part they played in World War II there were many fine, upstanding people who did not share those beliefs and stuck to their values until the very end and even beyond. I was amazed to read that the two main characters were based on the lives of real people who flew for the Luftwaffe. I can’t praise this book highly enough. It stands head and shoulders above any other World War II novel I’ve ever read. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KX56ZJK
AMONG THE MASAI Juliet Cutler
Among the Masai by Juliet Cutler is a memoir recounting the two years the author spent living and teaching in Tanzania at the end of the 1990s. Arriving with preconceived ideas and expectations, nothing was as she had imagined. She describes her feelings of being ‘on show’ her white skin making her very conspicuous, the shock at the levels of poverty, the comparison with the society in which she had grown up. While there were mental challenges to adjust to there were also the practical problems too – shortage of water, no internet, lack of familiar foods and necessities, the dangers of the local wildlife. Traveling with her fiancé, Juliet was seconded to the first Secondary School for Girls catering to the Masai, a partly nomadic tribe spread across Kenya and Tanzania and viewed by other tribes in those countries as primitive. It had taken months of negotiations to set up and run a school.
Like many young people traveling overseas to third world countries to work among the disadvantaged, Juliet’s wish was to help educate and uplift the lives of the young girls she was employed to teach English. Fresh out of college, with little experience she had no idea what to expect. This book is beautifully written and should be on the prescribed reading list for all schools to create an understanding of a culture that is so often misunderstood. I could relate to her experiences, applaud her soul searching and her questioning of whether foreign aid is a blessing or a curse. She understands the fine balance between imposing an alien culture and gently easing young people into the modern world. Encountering practices such as FGM, child marriage and girls sold for a few cows were a culture shock and she shares her sorrow and triumphs with the young girls she grew to love. As she says, you will always have Africa inside you. A wonderful book, it made me laugh and cry as I feverishly turned the pages. A book written with love which showed great empathy. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07L973RQM
THE LAST CALIPH by T L Williams
The Last Caliph is the fourth book in the Logan Alexander series and it takes the reader from the United States to Turkey and Syria as Logan goes undercover to track down the current Caliph who is continuing to run ISIS operations. While the President of the US has announced that ISIS has been defeated and is preparing to withdraw the American troops, Logan and his old allies at the CIA are not convinced. At great risk to himself, and despite strained relations between himself and his wife, Logan arrives in Turkey with the idea of crossing the border into Syria, with the help of a young Muslim woman who supports the extremist regime. The subplot involves Logan’s brother in law and adds an extra twist to the book. This is an excellent, on the edge of your seat story, the pace and action never let up. I was compelled to read this at almost one sitting. The book is crammed with technical details which only someone who was totally familiar with weaponry, aircraft and espionage techniques first hand could produce. This lends the book authenticity and takes it out of the realm of the usual run of the mill spy story. The author has created a believable character in Logan Alexander. While accomplishing his mission, he remains down to earth and human. There is no extraneous detail, just enough to inform the reader without slowing the story which gallops from beginning to end. I loved the realism, the possibility that the events could take place and all the loose ends were tied up and followed through. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P222SRH
If you would like to see the books I write, hop over to my web page and read all about them. I’m multi-genre so there is something for everyone.
Three more books next week.