Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Women of the Wild Blue Yonder: WAFS, WASP, and Beyond

This third installment of Women of the Wild Blue Yonder features some of the other organizations of women aviators that flew during WWII and later.

ATA Wings



ATA (Air Transit Authority)--a British World War II civilian organization that ferried new, repaired, and damaged military aircraft. It also flew service personnel on urgent duty from one place to another and performed air ambulance work.  
The ATA recruited pilots who were considered to be unsuitable for reasons of age, fitness, or handicap, pilots from neutral countries and, notably, women pilots.
166 women pilots volunteered from Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, United States, the Netherlands, Poland, and one from Argentina. 15 lost their lives in the air, including the British pioneer aviator Amy Johnson. One of many notable achievements of the women is that they earned the same pay as men in equal rank as the men starting in 1943.


Nancy Batson Crews (WAFS)
WAFS (Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron)--never numbering more than 28, was created in September 1942 under Nancy Harkness Love's leadership. WAFS were recruited from among commercially licensed women pilots with at least 500 hours flying time. Their original mission was to ferry USAAF trainers and light aircraft from the factories, but later they were delivering fighters, bombers and transports as well.

WFTD (Women's Flying Training Detachment)--this program for women pilots, under Jacqueline Cochran, was approved on Sept. 15, 1942, . The 23-week training program included 115 hours of flying time. Training soon moved to Avenger Field at Sweetwater, Texas, and increased to 30 weeks with 210 hours of flying. Their training emphasized cross country flying with less emphasis on acrobatics and with no gunnery or close formation flight training.


WASP Pilots


















WASP (Women Air Force Service Pilots)-- In August 1943 all women pilots flying for the USAAF were consolidated into the WASP program with Jacqueline Cochran as Director. Nancy Harkness Love was named as WASP executive on the Air Transport Command Ferrying Division staff. More than 25,000 women applied for pilot training. Of these, 1,830 were accepted, 1,074 graduated and 900 remained at program's end, plus 16 former WAFS. WASP flew virtually every type of USAAF aircraft and they flew about 60 million miles. 38 WASP were killed in service of their country.


Read some of the following great books:

The All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg (WASP)

American Women and Flight Since 1940 by Deborah G. Douglas (History)

Blue Skies by Ali Vali (Carrier Pilots)

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (ATA)

Military Fly Moms: Sharing Memories, Building Legacies, Inspiring Hope: Compiled and Edited by Linda Maloney

Nancy Love and the WASP Ferry Pilots of World War II by Sarah Byrn Rickman (WASP)

The Originals: the Women's Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron of World War II by Sarah Byrn Rickman (WAFS)

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein (ATA)--Companion book to Code Name Verity




























Saturday, August 23, 2014

August's In the Queue

Find a heroic quest, an amazing crusader and learn to take the lead in August’s
 In the Queue.


 Painted Horses By Malcolm Brook
This debut novel introduces us to a dauntless young woman on a heroic quest. It reminds us that love and ambition, tradition and the future, often make for strange bedfellows.

One Kick: A Novel By Chelsea Cain
Kick Lannigan is a child abduction survivor. She was kidnapped at age 6. Her family and the police were shocked when she was found 6 years later. Kick had difficulty adjusting to her return home. Although her parents tried numerous therapy techniques the detective who found her discovered the key. Kick learned to fight. She excelled at marksmanship,martial arts, boxing, archery and knife throwing by the time she was 13. She vowed never to be a victim again. When she learns young children's lives are at risk, she sets out to be the crusader she always wanted to be. 
By Derek Hough
For the first time ever Derek Hough shares his story. He tells of his transformation from a bullied little boy to an accomplished performer and coach who learned to let nothing stand in his way. He shows readers how they can take charge of pursuing their goals, overcome obstacles, and become winners—not just on the dance floor but in life.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Dolly

The last time Edward Cayley laid eyes on the "dun-colored fens" and "huge oppressive skies" of Iyot Lock, he was just a frail, timid boy, an orphan. He, along with his tempestuous cousin Leonora, had been sent to spend the summer with their Aunt Kestrel at her home, Iyot House. Forty years have passed since that fateful summer, and both he and Leonora have returned for the reading of Aunt Kestrel's will. But Edward's arrival awakens something there, first at the old, lonely churchyard, then at the empty house itself. Something . . . an inexplicable compulsion seemingly driven by the soft rustling of a memory struggling to free itself of the past. Yes, those things, accompanied by something much, much darker. That night, unable to sleep, Edward finally remembers what Leonora did that summer long ago, the unforgiveable act she committed in a childish fit of rage which they'll both pay for in the end.

Dolly is Susan Hill's fifth ghost story, and like those that have come before it (The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror, The Man in the Picture, and The Small Hand), it's an expertly crafted and enjoyable read--for those of us who enjoy such dark tales, that is. Hill's strength as a writer lies in her vivid depictions of place and time, as well as her ability to slowly darken the mood with each passing chapter, effectively heightening the reader's sense of dread. With fall coming and Halloween right around the corner, keep this book in mind when you're looking for something deliciously creepy to curl up with on a dark evening.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hard Boiled Women in Mystery





These are not your cozy mystery stories where everything is coming up roses. These are hard hitting stories that have a down on her luck heroine who struggles to get by.  I admit it annoyed me at first.  I read several of these books in a row and I can tell you I was getting annoyed. Why couldn't the female detectives in these stories be happily married, live in a nice neighborhood and have enough money? They are great detectives...why is life so hard for them? The primary reason is because these are hard boiled mystery stories. Part of being a hard boiled mystery includes the detective struggling to get by. These stories may be more violent than real life and are usually set in an urban setting. One of my favorite things about these mystery novels is that they are fast paced. 

Here are a few of my favorites:


The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Very few men have written mysteries with strong female protagonists. One exception is Stieg Larsson, who has written a series featuring Lisbeth Salander, a pierced and troubled young hacker/investigator who has an innate ability to solve problems and kick ass at the same time.


One Grave Too Many by Beverly Connor
Diane Fallon is a forensic anthropologist who became a museum director after a terrible tragedy in the field. Diane is a tenacious, determined professional who is loyal to her friends and coworkers. No matter what she comes up against even is she is injured she will get her man or woman. The best thing to do is not mess with her or hurt her friends.

Stalking Susan by Julie Kramer
This series is a character driven story about Riley Spartz who is an audacious, outrageous and an unstoppable force-of-Nature when she’s on the hunt for a story. She can take a mediocre story and turn it into media gold. There are plenty of twists and turns in this fast paced series which will keep the most avid mystery lovers glued to their seat.



Baltimore Blues by Laura Lippmann
Downsized ex-reporter Tess Monaghan spends her days working part-time at the bookstore owned by her sexy Aunt Kitty. The rest of her time is spent investigating to find a way to save her friend. Fast paced, funny and quirky.

Report for Murder by Val McDermid
Lindsay Gordon is principled, loyal, tough witty and determined to find the truth, which often leads her into trouble. She is not afraid to take chances and frequently pays for it by either ending up in jail or injured. She is an excellent investigator, but half her trouble comes from her fierce independence.

Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell
Mallory is a deep, interesting, unpredictable and enigmatic character. Raised on the streets she is understandably a bit gruff and perhaps a bit of a sociopath, but you will find yourself liking her, a lot, by the story's end. She has a strong intellect and an unusual skill set which allows her to do the job.




















Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Hugo Awards Announced

This weekend, at LonCon 2014, the Hugo Awards were announced and there are some excellent, excellent winners and I believe that much of the SF community is coming away with some good feelings about the whole thing. 

For me specifically, one of the most interesting aspects of this year’s awards was the short list for the best novel, specifically the debut Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie and the massive Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan '(with the help of Brandon Sanderson for the final 3 novels). As best as I can tell, these were the two leading titles and people would have only been surprised if neither of them won. Despite both being favorites, there are some decidedly noteworthy differences. While AJ has been sweeping the awards this year, snagging a Nebula, an Arthur C Clarke award, and the British Science Fiction Association, the WoT series has been around since 1990, was only recently finished and weighing in at 3.5 million words, does a good job of defining epic fantasy. 
In fact, some would argue that it is, the very dentition epic fantasy and very likely trots out just about every trope of the genre at least once. Don't get me wrong, the books are still good and have a strong enough following that the series even has its own Convention. In fact, there was some worry in the community that there would be a glut of voters signing up solely to vote for the WoT series and would disregard the other categories (analysis shows that this didn't happen). Finally, Sanderson had to be brought in to finish the series. A feat that is difficult to manage and that he pulled off wonderfully. 

Conversely, Leckie's debut gives a unique perspective of a revenge tale mixed with an excellent exploration of self and gender. In my opinion, there are two things that make AJ simply excellent. First, you get thrown right into the deep end. There is no winding road to learn about the protagonist and their toils and tribulations. In fact, the first few chapters make for some mental chewing and revisiting just to stay afloat. Then, when you start to feel you have a handle on things and you think you are getting the hang of the depths, Leckie starts hurling waves at you. Second, the protagonist has difficulty telling gender and defaults to "she" and "her". It might not seem like much, but to have all of the characters resist even this level of categorization drastically changes how the entire story is read.

In realizing that this post is in danger of rambling on eve more, I will end with this, go out and read both of these stories, they are both excellent for some very diverse reasons. 

Friday, August 15, 2014

Completing the Mortal Instruments Series: My own personal book hangover

If you happen to follow AfterWords, our Facebook book chat on Monday nights, you will know there has been an ongoing conversation between a few participants and myself concerning the Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. At one point, I confessed that I took my daughter to see the movie adaptation of Mortal instruments: City of Bones which piqued by interest about the YA series. I’m all for a good romp through any young adult book involving otherworldly creatures and epic battles, so the idea of angelic shadowhunters, demons, vampires, and werewolves running amok in New York City sounded pretty appealing.  Because the movie had just come out, I had to painstakingly wait my turn for the first three books, but I was pleasantly surprised. The writing was really good, the storyline had few flaws (as long as you were up for the topic), and the characters evoked emotion—not saying they were all likeable, but they definitely drew the reader in. All good, right? No, this is where the conversation took a turn…
I felt like the third book in the series, City of Glass, wrapped up nicely and left me feeling satisfied (e.g. I could stop with a ‘happily ever after’ and move on). The ending  paired with several reviews stating that the rest of the books, at the time only City of Fallen Angels and City of Lost Souls, were awful and just ruined everything made me put the series down for months (and months). Then, someone explained to me that the six book series was actually intended to be two trilogies (which explained the change in perspective and style) and another person insisted that it only got better.  I gave in and picked up book four, City of Fallen Angels, about two weeks ago….I’m now finished with book six, City of Heavenly Fire. And this brings me to the topic I really wanted to discuss: the book hangover.
Even though I finished the series more than two days ago, I’m finding it difficult to let go of the characters and move on to new things. I know this is a common sensation among readers-- the author pulls you in, creates a new world, makes you care about people, then just ends it all like you’ll get over it. It’s more like a bad, unwanted break-up than a hangover. I have read some amazing adult fiction series that have left me feeling this way (I'm looking at you Adriana Trigiani!), but for some reason YA authors seem to wield this skill like a weapon. It is impressive that they can hook people to the point where you refer to the characters like you actually know them. Especially when it escalates and your child, who normally plays along with you, starts to get embarrassed by how involved you've become with the storyline. Even though I giggle at the term “fangirl” and the phrases that stem from it, I’d have to say that I now qualify. 
Sigh, I’ll miss you Clary, Jace, Simon, Isabelle, Alec, Magnus…ok, I’ll stop.
(…Jocelyn, Luke, Maia, Jordan, Bat, Lily, Emma, Julian, Brother Zachariah, and even you Sebastian.)

And did I mention these books are funny?! Clare’s carefully placed sarcasm was laced throughout and actually had me laughing out loud at several points. If you’re feeling otherworldly and you enjoy young adult fiction, I recommend you take the leap. If you need to talk when it ends, join us on AfterWords—several of us will know what you are going through :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Non-Fiction That Reads Like Fiction

A lot of fiction readers won't read non-fiction and vice versa.  Personally, I enjoy both--probably because I love history--but I really just like a good story.
There are several authors that you can always count on to write a good non-fiction book.  Bill Bryson (A Walk in the Woods), Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers), and Simon Winchester (Krakatoa) are sure bets for keeping you entertained and teaching you something at the same time.
For all of you fiction-only readers who want to broaden your horizons, then try one of the following.  These are great stories that just happen to be true.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt--murder mystery in Savannah.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote--one of the first and best true crime books.

The Lost City of Z by David Grann--search for a mysterious city in the jungles of the Amazon.

The Aviators by Winston Groom--three legendary aviators and their lives.

Seabiscuit: an American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand--small racehorse that brought hope during the Great Depression.
Unbroken: a World War II Story of Survival... by Laura Hillenbrand--runner, soldier, POW, and inspirational survivor.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer--young man's tragic journey.
Into Thin Air: a Personal Account... by Jon Krakauer--disaster on Mt. Everest.

Shadow Divers: The True Adventures... by Robert Kurson--scuba divers risk everything to solve a WWII mystery.

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness... by Erik Larson--a serial killer on the loose at the 1893 Word's Fair.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt--memoir of an Irish lad with a hard childhood.

Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard--President Garfield's life, murder, and legacy.

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi--an inside look at women's lives in Revolutionary Iran.

Stiff: the Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Ghost Soldiers: the Epic Account... by Hampton Sides--a daring mission behind enemy lines to rescue American POWs in the Philippines.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot--is it legal or ethical to take a person's tissue without their consent or compensation?

Wild by Cheryl Strayed--a woman alone, hiking the Pacific Coast Trail.

My favorites are Unbroken and Into Thin Air.  What are some of yours?