Sunday, June 25, 2017

Review: Seized by the Sun

Of the 38 Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs) confirmed or presumed dead
World War II, only one—Gertrude “Tommy” Tompkins—is still missing.
On October 26, 1944, the 32-year-old fighter plane pilot lifted off 
from Mines Field in Los Angeles. She was never seen again.

Seized by the Sun: The Life and Disappearance of World War II Pilot Gertrude Tompkins by James W Ure is part of the "Women of Action" series.

This is a good introduction into the lives of the women of WASP. The focus of this work is on one woman in particular - Gertrude "Tommy" Tompkins (1912 - 1944). It is more of a memoir than a factual history, and we are treated to stories from Gertrude's early life (childhood and family), schooling, travels and marriage prior to her joining WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) at its very inception.

Then the book details Gertrude's "career" with WASP - her training, her female comrades, the flying, all the while reminding us - the reader - that these were dangerous times, and many of the female pilots were killed in the commission of their duties - 38 documented losses.

And then we come to Gertrude's final flight - what did happen that day is not fully known; some details are very sketchy; her state of mind was unknown; and even today, theories abound. 

As I mentioned, it is not a factual history of WASP, its pilots, nor a traditional biography. It is a simply written memoir for the curious reader. 

Review also @ Goodreads
See also: 

Review: The Devil's Cup by Alys Clare

Sir Josse d'Aquin is summoned to assist the beleaguered King John in the 17th - and final - Hawkenlye mystery. 
September, 1216. A foreign army has invaded England. The country is divided. Some support the rebel barons and Prince Louis of France; others remain loyal to the king. His rule under threat, King John summons Sir Josse d'Acquin to support him. But can Sir Josse save the king from himself? 

Historical fiction set in the time of King John of England, a mysterious relic, a prophecy, a mystery - the makings of an excellent read along the lines of the Brother Cadfael or Owen Archer series. 

For me, however, there were sixteen books that had preceded this one - and I, of course, had come late to the party. And I think that this really did detract from my reading enjoyment - I wanted to be immersed in the plot and the characters but it became obvious that I was missing something from not having read the previous books.

I think I will go back and see if I can track down the earlier books and then re-read and review again.

Review here @ Goodreads and Net Gallery

Review: In and of the Mediterranean by Michelle M. Hamilton

Spain & the Mediterranean - a collection of essays on medieval Iberian history in relation to the Mediterranean Sea. It is a study of the diverse religious and ethnic groups, of the politics of the period, and the interaction and co-existence of all groups.

The focus of each chapter is, either singularly or collectively, mainly from the Spanish perspective, whether Christian, Muslim or Jew. Each chapter (or indepth essay) is followed by extensive notes and works cited to enable the reader to explore further should they wish to do so. It is an academic tome not designed for the everyday layman.

Personally, I would purchase this book simply for Chapter 3 (The Princess & the Palace: On Hawwa' bint Tashufin & Other Women from the Almoravid Royal Family) and Chapter 10 (Amadis of Gaul's novel of chivalry, trans Jacob Algaba).

Review also posted @ Goodreads

The Wars of the Roosevelts: The Ruthless Rise of America's Greatest Political Family

The Roosevelts - one of America's most prominent political families - descended from Dutch immigrants, intermarrying with local well-heeled colonial families, and whose members have included two United States Presidents, a First Lady, and various merchants, politicians, inventors, clergymen, artists, and socialites. 
...... this is an absorbing, well-written and very important book for both scholars and general readers—solidly grounded in “letters, diaries, datebooks, telegrams, court records, FBI reports and contemporary newspaper accounts.” But, as author William J. Mann makes clear, the larger story of the Roosevelts has been “masterfully chronicled” many times. “Rather,” he insists, “my goal is to tell a story that has been embedded, entwined, in some ways hidden in plain sight,” within the history of politics and public policy. The rivalry of the Roosevelt dynasties, he acknowledges, is well-documented; “What’s been less acknowledged is the fact that the battles went far deeper and were more personal,” impacting the lives of “parents, children, siblings, and spouses” in what amounted to “a family at war.”
read review by Sheldon M Stern here @ History News Network

See Also:

Fighter Pilot by Lt LC Beck Jnr

The autobiography of 1st Lieutenant L.C. Beck Jnr, a P-47 Thunderbolt pilot with the 406th Fighter Group, who crash-landed in France during a mission.  Whilst a guest of the French Resistance, Beck put pen to paper.  
Holed-up in a small room on the third floor of a cafe while awaiting French resistance fighters to smuggle him out of German -held territory, Beck decided to write his autobiography—on the back of old cafe minus! When the time came to move on to Paris as the first stop to freedom, he placed his manuscript in a box with his parents address and instructed his French host, Paulette, to mail it when victory was achieved. His parents received the package on January 6, 1946.  What happened to Lt. Beck from then on came from others who survived the war.
read review by Robert Huddleston here @ History News Network

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Vanishing: India’s Wildlife Crisis by Prerna Singh Bindra

While reading Prerna Bindra’s journey into the forests and some of the institutions that govern them, I felt I was on a train rattling across India seeing the beauty but also the ugliness. The author is inspired by the incredible beauty of wildlife but defeated by her encounters with the government. As a reader I am left feeling confused. The journey is disjointed and the train is traversing on too many tracks. Sadly, this is the reality of wildlife governance in India.

read Valmik Thapar's review here @ The Hindu

New Book on Palestinian History Gets Rave Reviews

An Israeli writer has authored what he claims is the most extensive research into the history of the Palestinian people – with discussions of their ancient traditions, their roots and their current struggle in the “diaspora.” The book, offered for sale in numerous venues – including Amazon – has garnered many positive reviews, with readers thanking the author, Assaf Voll, for “a magnificent contribution to historical understanding of a complicated situation.”

The book, we may have neglected to mention, is 120 pages long – and all its pages are blank.  Titled “A History of the Palestinian People: From Ancient Times to the Modern Era,” the book contains a short introduction to Palestinian history – and stops there. 

read more here @ Hamodia

Koh-i-Noor: The History of the World’s Most Infamous Diamond

Size, as we know, is not everything. You might only be the 90th largest, but you can still emerge with a sizable reputation. This is one of several lessons to be learned from the story of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, way down the list in terms of size but, as this new book’s subtitle suggests, looming large in the imagination. It is probably also the world’s most dangerous diamond, described here as being “like a living, dangerous bird of prey” because so many have lost their lives over it.

The origins of the Koh-i-Noor, the “mountain of light”, are unknown, beyond the reach even of this book’s two accomplished authors, but it seems safe to assume that it emerged out of alluvial deposit somewhere in India. It may have been known in antiquity and it may have been referred to in many a romantic tale, but its first verifiable appearance isn’t until the 18th century, where it decorated the Mughal emperor’s Peacock Throne in Delhi and where it stimulated envy and greed in the emperor’s rivals. Over the following 100 years, it brought torment and tragedy to a range of people in Delhi, Kabul and Lahore.

read more here @ The Guardian

The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy

Indian author Arundhati Roy catapulted to literary stardom in 1997, when her debut novel, The God Of Small Things (IndiaInk), was released to widespread acclaim. It went on to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize that same year and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

But instead of becoming a literary star by riding on the wave of her spectacular debut, Roy immersed herself in the political struggles of her time: the Kashmir independence effort; Adivasi, or tribal Indian, land rights; and anti-nuclear protests. She argues against US imperialism and the far-right machinations of the Indian security state. Now, 20 years after her debut, Roy has returned with her second novel, The Ministry Of Utmost Happiness.

read more here @ Star2