“Projekt 1065: A novel of World War II” Alan Gratz

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Published October 11, 2016. Scholastic. 309 p. (Includes “Author’s Note.”)

projekt1065In 1938 Michael O’Shaunessey moved to Berlin, Germany with his parents when his father was named Irish Ambassador. Over the 6 years of living there he’d seen the Nazi Party became stronger, changing its people for the worse. It is now 1943, and things have gotten bad as Jews and other dissenters are being taken to concentration camps. Michael had never known his parents were spies for the Allies but now, at the age of 13, he found himself working with them.

When a British RAF pilot was shot down over the city, Michael and his parents discovered the Nazis had been secretly building a plane with engines instead of propellers, which could fly faster than any country’s planes and would turn the tide of the war towards Germany.

Accidentally finding the plane’s blueprints accelerated Michael’s spy role within the ranks of the Hitler Youth. As things heat up, it soon becomes evident that Michael and his parents are in grave danger. Michael will have to do all he can to make sure the Nazis don’t succeed in their plan for world domination before it’s too late.

I really enjoyed reading “Projekt 1065.” Its short, cliffhanger, fast paced chapters make it a great choice for reluctant readers, while its storyline is very interesting.

Highly recommended for ages 11-14.

“The school the Aztec Eagles built: A tribute to Mexico’s World War II air fighters” Dorinda Makanaonalani Nicholson

Rated 5 stars ***** Lee & Low. 2016. 40 p. (Includes “Author’s Note,” “Glossary and Pronunciation Guide,” “Author’s Sources,” and “Quotation Sources.”)

theschooltheazteceaglesbuiltThough not directly involved in World War II, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Mexico aided the United States with shipments of oil and war materials. As retaliation for these shipments, German U-boats torpedoed two of their ships. Mexico entered the war on May 28th, and volunteered its best air force pilots to assist the United States.

No military unit in Mexico’s history had ever left the country to fight, but Air Fighter Squadron 201 became the first to do so. Nicknamed the Aztec Eagles, the almost 300 pilots and support crew set off for the United States to be trained. When their training was completed, they went on to support General MacArthur in his Philippines campaign.

Through period photographs, interviews, and careful research Nicholson tells the story of the courageous men of the Aztec Eagles. Her inspiration for their story was the unusual request from one of the support crewmembers, Sergeant Angel Bocanegra a former teacher, who asked the President of Mexico to build a school in his small village of Tepoztlán. The school still stands in their honor, and this book also honors those brave men who fought on behalf of both the United States and Mexico.

Highly recommended for ages 10-14.

“The girl in the blue coat” Monica Hesse

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published April 5, 2016. Little Brown and Company.

TheGirlInTheBlueCoatDespite assurances to the contrary, Hitler invaded the Netherlands in 1941. Two years have passed since the Dutch accepted the invasion in order to avoid bombings of major cities. During that time, methodically watching the capture and deportation of their Jewish citizens by the Nazis has become a way of life.

Hanneke Baker trades in black market goods with the rich citizens of Amsterdam. Having been dealt a rough blow at the start of the occupation she taught herself to hide her emotions, deal only in cash and have “survival first” as her motto. One of her customers, Mrs. Janssen, had been hiding Mirjam, a young Jewish girl, for a month when Mirjam suddenly disappeared. With nowhere turn Mrs. Janssen offered Hanneke money to locate Mirjam. The only clue she had was Mirjam had been wearing a blue coat and had been reading a Resistance magazine. Intrigued that Mirjam seemed to have disappeared without a trace, Hanneke decided to accept the money.

While seeking clues to Mirjam’s whereabouts Hanneke learned about the work of the Resistance, and began to finally put real faces and feelings onto the thousands of Jews being deported. Despite the circumstances Hanneke holds out hope, but finds herself racing against time hoping to find Mirjam before it’s too late.

“The Girl in the Blue Coat” will keeps readers turning pages until its final, unexpected ending.

I graciously received a copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

“A dictionary of mutual understanding” Jackie Copleton

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. Published December 1, 2015. Penguin Books.

ADictionaryOfMutualUnderstandingAmaterasu Takahashi has had a tough life, and has spent 40 years in the United States trying to forget about the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki that killed everyone she held dear, including her daughter and grandson. With her husband now dead, and everyone she loved gone, Amaterasu drinks herself into oblivion hoping to forget the pain of her memories. Her life is turned upside down when a very burned, heavily scarred man knocks on her door, insisting he’s her long-lost grandson Hideo, forcing her to relive the memories she’s been trying desperately to forget.

Amaterasu’s story is told through flashbacks, as multiple voices painstakingly remove layers to reveal the truth about herself she’s buried for 40 years. Each chapter begins with a definition of a Japanese word, followed by either a present day interaction between Amaterasu and Hideo or a flashback. These flashbacks from different characters sometimes got me confused but I learned much about August 9, 1945, when the atomic bomb was dropped, as well as a little of Japan’s history and traditions.

Though a bit confusing due to the constant back-and-forth narratives, “A dictionary of mutual understanding” is a good cross-cultural, historical look at Japan and the people of Nagasaki. Amaterasu’s character is very believable, and the reasons she had to act the way she did will generate much empathy from readers.

Recommended for Adults.

“Playing with Fire” Tess Gerritsen

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. To be published October 27, 2015. Ballantine (Random). Includes Historical Notes.

PlayingWithFireNetgalley provided me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Told in two points of view, readers are first introduced to Julia Andsdell, a violin player married to Rob, and mother to 3-year-old Lily. Her life was perfectly ordinary until she brought home a book of music from an antiques dealer in Venice containing a complicated piece of music titled “Incendio.” One day while caught up playing it she was shocked to discover her daughter had killed their cat. Julia soon realizes every time she plays “Incendio” Lily has another violent episode. It seems as if Lily wants her dead, but why? No one believes her, but Julia is sure the answer lies in “Incendio’s” origin. As she begins to ask questions about its composer, death and destruction arrive at her doorstep.

Interspersed in Julia’s story is that of Lorenzo Todesco, a violin prodigy growing up in 1938 Italy. Hitler had not yet advanced on the country but, within a short while, Lorenzo’s musical prospects had come to a halt. Separated forever from his family and the love of his life, Lorenzo has only his violin and music to keep him sane. However, they may not be enough.

I absolutely LOVED this book! It made me cry, but good books are meant to draw in the reader and make them experience the lives of its characters. Gerritsen succeeded on both counts. Her Historical Notes did much to set the book in its time and place.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Avenue of Spies: A true story of Terror, Espionage, and one American family’s heroic resistance in Nazi-occupied France” Alex Kershaw

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. Ebook. Crown Publishers. Published August 4, 2015. (Includes Maps, Notes and a Bibliography.)

AvenueOfSpiesThe story of the bravery shown by American doctor Sumner Jackson, his Swiss-born wife Charlotte (who he called Toquette), and his son Phillip during World War II is recounted in “Avenue of Spies.” When the Germans invaded France in 1940, the Jacksons lived on the beautiful Avenue de Foch in Paris where Sumner was in charge of the American Hospital of Paris. Within days of their arrival, Nazi officers had taken over homes in the area leaving Sumner and the hospital temporarily out of their crosshairs.

Using the hospital as cover Sumner began to treat, then sneak, select patients out of the country. He and his wife joined the French Resistance, and played an important role in the movement. With agents betrayed regularly, the Jackson’s were soon captured and forced to endure the Nazi’s form of justice.

Using clear and descriptive narratives, along with eyewitness accounts, Kershaw tells a powerful story of light and strength during a dark period of world history. Though I had not previously heard of him, I am glad the work of the Jackson family during World War II is now coming to light. His story is one that should be read by all lovers of freedom and bravery.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Dead Wake: The last voyage of the Lusitania” Erik Larson

Rated 5 stars. Ebook. ARC. Crown Publishers (Random House). Published March 10, 2015. (Includes “Sources and Acknowledgements,” “Notes,” and a “Bibliography.”)

Dead WakeOn May 7, 1915, three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine and sank within 18 minutes, killing almost 2000 people including 128 Americans. Like many Americans, I had heard of the Lusitania and thought the United States immediately entered World War I because of it. After reading “Dead Wake” I now know this was not true.

Using letters, telegrams and other first hand correspondence Erik Larson creates a timeline of the days leading up to the Lusitania’s last voyage. Passengers and key international characters come alive as readers experience the events of that fateful May afternoon, including the upheaval which followed the Lusitania’s demise. Secrets that might have saved the Lusitania and its passengers are unlocked and revealed through the pages of this amazing book.

“Dead Wake,” is such an historical gem that I read every single one of its footnotes with as much interest as I did the rest of the book. Lovers of history will find themselves glued to every page.

Highly recommended for Adult readers.