Thursday, April 28, 2011

Enchanted Island by May Torres

Enchanted IslandThe author of this novel has done a great job of combining Puerto Rican history with an entertaining modern day tale of 4 teenagers. I hesitate to use the word "paranormal" here because to me, paranormal is vampires and werewolves (which I hate). I am going to use the word "magic" instead to describe the twist.

Gabby is a young Puerto Rican girl growing up in NY. Her mom works for this snooty, rich white family with a daughter Gabby's age, Molly. Molly is actually very lonely and dying for real friends and though it's rough going at first, the two girls become friends. Enter Gilberto, another Puerto Rican American kid and an absolute honey bunny and you got some jealousy issues... When the three of them take a trip to PR at the age of 12, another young PR man enters the scene, Juan. More jealousy builds up and this time, the result is a life changing experience.. as Gabby gets hurt and begins to experience strange visions related to the island of enchantment.

Back in NY, Molly enters the school of hard knocks and Gabby and Gilberto begin to take their relationship to the next level. Then this love quad thing starts... Gilberto loves Gabby. Gabby love Gilberto and Juan. Juan loves Gabby. And Molly loves Juan.. for a while. 
Sounds a little 90210ish, right? Well, I was highly entertained and it turns out these "love connections" tie in to a bigger story that explodes in the last quarter. All four of them of are related somehow in their past lives.. and each past life leads back to Puerto Rico. 

So, when all four of them find themselves back on the island as teenagers, all hell breaks loose. There's some magic, some evil, some ship wrecking, some stones, visions, forbidden love, rivalry, and resentment as Gabby unveils the story of Loiza Aldea and it's up to Gabby to break a "curse" of sorts.

Loiza Aldea... (there's a town in PR named after her) was a woman cacique (chief). According to legend, she was killed by her own people for becoming the lover of a Spanish mullato and converting to the white man's religion. May Torres does a "story within a story" to explain the legend of Puerto Rico's only female cacique. Well done.

The writing style sometimes tells more than shows, but because what was being "told" was so entertaining to me, I wasn't bothered by this. One thing that bothered me was repetition. Often, a scene would be relayed twice. Example: When the teens are on a boat, Molly is watching Juan and Gabby and steaming up cause Juan puts an arm around Gabby. Then we read about it as though it's a "close up" and the scene is repeated but telling what Gabby is feeling as Juan puts an arm around her. Since the story was told in third person POV, I felt this was unnecessary. This was a minor irritation for me as it happened more than once.

There are some minor punctuation/spelling errors, but nothing to call the Guard about. 

All in all, a good read. I'm not certain if this is marketed as YA or not, but I think it's more adult. If you are looking to pass this to a young adult, you may want to sit down and discuss sexual relations and the responsibilities that go with such relations with the individual as the teenagers in the novel are having sexual intercourse at 15 years of age. Some teenagers may get the wrong idea. 

Four stars. I received this from the publisher. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Deadly by Julie Chibbaro

DeadlySuperb YA historical novel. It's narrated in the first person POV, like she is writing in a journal. The heroine is a young lady, Prudence, in NYC, 1906. Prudence has a fascination with death.. she wishes she could stop it. She has lost her brother and her father and watched countless women die in childbirth.

Her mother forces her to attend a school for future ladies type thing, but Prudence has bigger plans. She goes to work for the Department of Sanitation. First case: typhoid epidemic. What's causing all these families to become so ill and possibly die?

And thus, through Prudence's eyes, readers learn about Typhoid Mary, an Irish immigrant who left a typhoid trail in her wake. Every family she cooked for became seriously ill.. even though Mary herself never got sick. Strange! Something to do with red blood cells maybe? 

I was seriously fascinated by this.. the early days of science, of medical study, of a young girl wanting to be a doctor in a time when women just didn't do that... I found myself having an inner debate.. Should Typhoid Mary be quarantined? Is this fair to her? What about others? Because though I seen a walking disease carrier, like Prudence, I also seen a human being... 

On top of all of that, Prudence is feeling the early stirrings of puppy love, dealing with her mother possibly dating again, and finding out the truth of her father as well as fending off the unwelcome advances of a suitor of her own. 

Absolutely fabulous read. Highly recommended, 5 stars. 

This was a library book. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Race to Splendor by Ciji Ware

A Race to SplendorThis has been a fun read. I love the heroine, Amelia. I was hooked from the very beginning when she marches into the middle of a poker game and demands her hotel back to when she is learning to drive and demands that her "instructor" goes and hides behind a tree to when she fires men from the job site and brandishes a weapon to defend herself. She's a wonderfully strong heroine.

It's 1906 and Amelia comes home to San Francisco from France with a degree in architecture only to discover that her drunken father has gambled away her inheritance, a fine hotel called the Bay View, away to a rogue, J.D. Amelia takes the rogue to court but it being 1906.... well.. she loses, of course. 

J.D. doesn't have long to gloat, however, as the hotel winds up ruined during the great earthquake and fire. Fate plays horrible tricks, however, and Amelia, now employed by famous architect Julia Morgan, is assigned the daunting task of rebuilding her former hotel... but not for herself.. for J.D.

What follows is a "race" between Amelia and Julia. Julia is rebuilding the Fairmont, another fine hotel and both women aim to have their assigned hotels built and open by the earthquake's anniversary. However, J.D. is an idiot. He doesn't listen. He constantly deals with shady characters, employs bad people, angers everyone, and  to make a long story short, his dealings cause lots of problems on the Bay View site... fire, blackmail, beatings....

And yet, the strong, independent Amelia falls for him anyway??? This is the what made no sense to me throughout the novel and why I gave the book a four instead of a five. Amelia, this guy stole your inheritance... he made you look incompetent.. took advantage of your father and grandfather... left you and your mother penniless and you want to bang him? Hmmmmm.

Fairmont Hotel (San Francisco).JPG
The Fairmont

I grew weary of J.D. and all his crap, his dealings with Kemp, his dad... all that stuff. I didn't like the man and even in the end when he "explained" himself, I didn't like him and I didn't like the decision Amelia made. It just didn't "fit" with the kind of woman I was envisioning her to be up to that point. 
I absolutely loved the writing style, however, and the look into who Julia Morgan may have been. I enjoyed the architecture and Amelia's spunk. Until the last quarter when I got tired of J.D's idiocy, I was enthralled. 

Four stars and I received this ARC from a friend

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Year We Were Famous by Carole Estby Dagg

The Year We Were FamousThis is a novel aimed at ages 12 and up but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am way past 12... The year is 1896, the setting a small, struggling farm in Washington state. The mother, Helga rarely gets out of bed, the father has a back problem, there are a total of 8 living children, the oldest being Clara. Clara has to take care of everything.. but there's one thing she cannot do: save their family's farm.

So.. her mom comes up with this idea: they will walk all the way from Spokane to New York. Yes, I said walk, no taking trains or anything. They find a publisher willing to pay them ten grand to do this.. upon arrival by a deadline, of course. So Helga and Clara set off..

They fight bad weather, shoot a man, meet nice people, chop wood, wear out their shoes, teach Indians to use a curling iron, survive a flash flood and sprained ankle, and meet a future president. And along the way, they argue, bicker, and secrets come to the surface. Meanwhile, Clara is trying to convince a suitor back home that she really does not want to marry and settle down.

Even if they make it to NY... and on time.. they may not save their farm, but they can certainly prove the endurance of women.

Laugh out moments: 

In a postscript from a letter Clara writes: Ma had a chance to trade me to a Ute brave for three horses, but she decided to keep me.

The Wyoming chapter headings go like this: Somewhere in Wyoming, Still nowhere, Wyoming, Between nowhere and more nowhere, Wyoming... 

I liked this book, but I have one quibble preventing it from being a five star read. I couldn't stand Helga. She's a horrible mother. She gets herself shoes over her daughter, she goes on a ridiculous gold finding whim with no regard to her daughter or their deadline, she gives Clara credit for nothing and doesn't even print her name on their cards.. It's Helga and daughter. She breaks bad news to Clara and expects her to just deal with it. Frankly, I found Helga to be one of the most selfish mothers I have ever read about. 

Clara says, "I was just 'and daughter' like something else she had packed in her satchel and brought out in emergencies. Need someone shot? Need someone to drag you through the lava fields? Whip out your trusty Clara; she'll take care of it."

This novel is based on the author's ancestors. 

Four stars. I received this ARC from the publisher. Quotes may not be exact in the published book.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jeri Bittle by J. Rose Knight

Jeri BittleI fell in love with the cover of this book and when I was presented with an opportunity to read it, I jumped at the chance. 

What I liked: The heroine is getting a string of hard knocks, from her dad's open heart surgery to a car wreck to her husband's death, debt up to her eyeballs, fires... Whereas most women would end up crying, screaming, or possibly being institutionalized, Jeri just keeps going. She does what she can to solve the mystery surrounding her husband's death and pre death antics, save her ranch, and provide for her little girls. 

The mystery involves dirty people in authority, poker games, real estate, and cattle rustling. I liked Sheriff Roy and his wife, Arlene. I liked the way everything tied together and I found myself nodding and saying, "Yep, I can see this happening in small town, bored Wyoming.

However, it could have used more tweaking on the fine details of law enforcement.. Example: I don't care who you are or how high up on the political chain, you don't just waltz to the local sheriff's house and declare his arrest without a warrant in hand. 

A tiny irritation: When people were conversing on the phone, how did the bystanders around them know what the unseen (on the end of the line individual was saying?)

Also, more emotion from the characters could have been injected. 

Those are minor quibbles. I said above that I basically liked the heroine, Jeri. However, there is one thing that really bothered me about this book. I am deaf and I am not ashamed of it. There is a character in this novel, Bob, who rescues Jeri more than once. Bob is deaf and mute. He was left at a recreation area at age eleven and some farmer found him and (Supposedly he didn't know there was such a thing as Child Protective Services. I didn't think WY was that backwards!) took him home, put him in the barn, and turned him into his own personal ranch hand. Bob did not get educated, but he is NOT dumb.

Upon first meeting him, the very first second Jeri realized he was deaf, she thinks he's deaf and dumb. Deaf and dumb go hand in hand twice in the novel. Bob is actually far from dumb. He saves animals and provides basic medical care to people in need. That's not a dumb person. Throughout the novel, Jeri begins to see Bob in a new light, but constantly thinks to herself, "he's so good looking and intelligent. If only he could hear.." and things of that nature.. She thinks Bob can never provide for a woman because he is handicapped. (His deafness if a deal breaker for this chic.) The "if only he could hear" thing comes up more than once. I wanted to scream at her. Bob is not the one who needs fixing!! It's everyone else's attitude towards Bob! What is wrong with his not being able to hear? That should not make him an unattractive person.

As a deaf person, I was bothered by this and would have liked to have the Bob issue resolved... a happy ending for him or more acceptance of him by the time I turned the last page. The ending left the possibility hanging.. but I still didn't feel good about Jeri's attitude towards him at that point.

Two stars. I received this from the publisher.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

Ellis IslandThis is not really about Ellis Island.. It is about the American Dream though, and Ellis Island was at one time, the first stepping stone to achieving that.

The first quarter of the novel takes place in Ireland, early 1900s. A very young Ellie, age 8, falls in love with her future husband, John, age 10. They grow up together despite their different families. Ellie even starves herself for five days to make her extremely religious parents realize how much she needs John. John is sweeter than all get out. I found myself wanting to marry him myself... in the beginning anyway.

They do get married, but bad stuff happens... John gets hurt in the revolution. Ellie is given an opportunity to go to the United States and send money home. She boards a ship and arrives at Ellis Island, lost, alone, scared, confused... and awed.

"We were united in amazement at the Statue of Liberty-a beautiful white goddess, she seemed to welcome and warn us with her spiked crown and her impervious expression, and we stared in amazement at the at the upstretched arm and its gold cone."

At first, Ellie is shocked by America. "The animals seemed more relaxed here too, quite content to mix with us humans. The rabbits and pheasants at home hid away from us in case we'd catch and eat them. Here the people were feeding the wild animals, and dressing their dogs up in fancy collars and being dragged down the street by them!"

Besides, that, she is surprised by her "mistress" or "boss lady." The woman is an unscrupulous drunk who does nothing for herself. There's a severe division of the classes, of course, but Ellie soon realizes that in America, one can rise above their "station." She goes to typing school, gets a job, sends a ticket back to Joe in Ireland.. only he doesn't come.

Meanwhile, there's a wealthy American man named Charles that takes a strong interest in Ellie.. (This comes rather late in the game and I was a bit disappointed as the book blurb had me thinking there would be more of this scandalous American romance.)

Soon enough, one year becomes four and Ellie is faced with a difficult choice. "America had already give me so much: a career, friends, an elegant demeanor, a home full of beautiful things. Now my adopted country was offering me wealth and love and fulfillment-a lifetime without hardship or complaint. All I had to do was stay."

I was disappointed with the ending.. It was a realistic ending, very real life as very few of us get everything we want and desire and I think most of us have "settled" for less, but I was hoping for more for Ellie. She didn't make the choice I was hoping she would make and I closed the last page of this book feeling sad. 

However, the writing style is superb, the narrative is engaging, the descriptive details not overdone. I enjoyed the novel and found myself pondering more than once, "what would I do?"

Four stars. I won this ARC on LibraryThing.

My own visit to Ellis Island when I was eleven years of age.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dog Tails: Three Humorous Short Stories for Dog Lovers

I'm excited to announce that one of my works, Dog Tails: Three Humorous Short Stories for Dog Lovers is now available on Amazon Kindle, ipad, Nook, and Sony ereader. Links to purchase are in this post. Dog Tails is only 2.99.

Kindle users: Buy Dog Tails on Amazon

Sony ereaders: Buy Dog Tails for Sony Reader

ipad: Buy Dog Tails for your iphone, ipad, ipod

Nook: Buy Dog Tails for Nook

Special thanks to Charity Johnson for the cover design. Isn't it precious?

And here is a blurb:

Meet Lola, Pudgy, and Jazzy, three canine cuties that will warm your heart and make you laugh.
In Thank Dog It's Friday, Lola and her human mommy, Trisha trade bodies for a day! Can they cope with their new bodies and prevent Trisha's husband from throwing her into a mental institution?
Pugnacious introduces Pudgy, a very pugnacious pug. She takes her job in a dog bakery very seriously and when the bakery is robbed, it's up to her to save the day, the cash, and the canine cookies!
In Tail of Terror, Jazzy does the unthinkable and she runs away. If she can survive the mean streets, there may be a lesson in store for her and she may make a new friend.
Dog Tails is intended for dog lovers everywhere, but even cat lovers will smile and fall in love with Lola, Pudgy, and Jazzy.
For those that haven't yet met the real Lola, Pudgy, and Jazzy, here's their photo:

Recommended services:

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Glory Girl by Peter Yeldham

Glory GirlThis is a fictional tale that appears to be loosely based on a historical female in aviation, Chubbie Miller, but not all of it is about her or about aviation...

It has a back and forth narrative between Sarah Carson and her reporter boyfriend (he doesn't stay her boyfriend, mind you), Daniel Anderson.  (Funny, the real aviatrix was married to a reporter at a young age.) More of the book is from Daniel's POV, I think. This was a disappointment for me. I didn't care about him or his reporting when it had nothing to do with aviation, nor did I care about his love affair with a Scottish actress. I simply didn't care about him. I cared about Sarah. 

Sarah and James Harrington (Bill Lancaster, you could say..) flew from England to Australia. The novel does a superb job chronicling the difficulties they faced, how they got funding, how they dealt with James' very religious mother, how they ended up without insurance, how they were arrested, began an affair, crashed because their minds were not on what their minds should have been, preventing a rival from being ransacked... I could go on. That part was exciting. 

miller_Chubbie_2_200_PX.jpgI stated above that this book is fiction. The names were even changed... well if you are fictionalizing it all anyway, why don't you make the characters more likable? My problem: Sarah Carson is a slut. She goes from banging Daniel to horizontal mamboing with James to humping another fellow later (while James is out trying to make money to send her) on that winds up dead. The low down: Sarah sleeps around and every man she sleeps with, she ruins their life. As the book went on, I found myself liking her less and less, especially when James abandons his wife and TWO LITTLE GIRLS to be with Sarah. Men leave their wives everyday, but to just abandon your little girls? That's wrong and I found myself disliking Sarah with a passion.

I actually found myself nodding in agreement with the religious zealot mother when she said, "Like you helped him turn his back on his loved ones? Helped him abandon his wife and children, helped him become embroiled in a sordid and sickening court case that made us ashamed of our own name? The day that you came into this house to "help" my son was the last day anyone in our family had a single moment of happiness."

To sum it up: I liked this book, but not enough to warrant the expense and time I went thru to get my hands on a copy. I would have preferred less love triangle stuff, less bed hopping, and more aviation. A major complaint: She was in the 1929 Powder Puff Derby. Instead of Daniel and his time in Italy, I feel the book would have been better if it had chronicled that. The Powder Puff Derby is an important historical milestone in women's aviation history and Chubbie Miller was a part of that. I would have loved to read about that. 

Three stars and I bought it.. all the way from Australia.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Biker Chicz of North America by Edward Winterhalder, Wil De Clercq

Biker Chicz of North AmericaThis is a nonfiction containing profiles/biographies of 22 different women in North American that ride. They don't sit on the back of their husband's bikes like I do. (Hey, I tried! I'm deaf and the clutching thing proved a bit complicated for me and no, I don't want to be staring at a little red light when I should be paying attention to the road...) They ride their own. 

Those familiar with my reviewing style know that when I review nonfiction books, I don't just blabber away about the writing style or its content and leave it at that. I like to give my followers some highlights. Thus, I chose the most fascinating of these 22 chickz (not an easy task) to share with you.

Imagine, waltzing into the Harley offices with no experience in magazine production whatsoever with a 16 page mockup and a proposal to start a Harley magazine. Ballsy, huh? Cris Sommer Simmons did it with her friend and fellow female rider, Jo. "..we really didn't know what we were doing and what to expect. It was a bold move but we were really passionate about starting a magazine and about Harley motorcycles." 

This 16 page mockup and passion for bikes led to Harley Women Magazine.

Lucky Belcamino started her own biker chick club, the East Coast Biker Chicks. This woman has been a chef, a recovery agent, and a real poker player. Her club started with a mere 8 members and now had "the distinction of being the largest and loudest all-female motorcycle club in New England."

Gevin Fax.. whatta woman. She's not only a biker, but a musician, stunt woman, and an African American/Native American female who fought her way up the corporate ladder. She worked for United Telecom and discovered she was not getting promoted because "she was black and she was female." 

Gevin didn't settle for a low position. She fought for her rights and after a long battle, she won. "My lawyer warned me from the outset that I better be prepared for a long battle, that it was going to get ugly. And ugly it got. The company did everything it could be wear me down and cause me to fail. They gave me the worst possible jobs, messed around with my shift schedules, provoked me, you name it, they did it. But I never took the bait, always showed up for work on time and never balked at what I was assigned to do."

Awesome Fearless Female!! Did I mention she also did bike stunts???

Becky Brown started Women in the Wind that began with ten members and became over 1,700. I like this quote from her, "I'm not sure why riding a motorcycle was an idea I had to act on, except that I was always a tomboy and felt the boys were having more fun compared to the girls." LOL. 

This woman was also one of the first women to work in Textileather Corporation's production department. She applied for and received an industrial electrician's apprenticeship. This was a domain very much restricted to men at the time. She had 8000 hours of on the job training and 4 years of trade school. 

Becky is proof that "we can do it."

Laura Klock has broken numerous records at the Speedway in Bonneville, Utah. Both of her daughters are now racing as well. "They are the first mother-daughter-daughter trio in the history of land speed racing to hold records at the same time." 

I like this quote from Laura, "We all know that accidents can happen on the street and in racing but it's not something you dwell on. If you do you're better off parking your bike in the garage and leaving it there. You have to keep your head in the right place and keep your focus."

Gina Woods hosts a radio program called Open Road Radio and began Gina Woods' XX Chromes All Woman Bike Build in which a team of women get together at various venues to build a motorcycle. These are not women running around in bikinis and striking sexy poses. These women are dirty, greasy, and got tools in their hands. Right on!!!!

Vicki Roberts Sanfelipo is a biker and nurse who began an important safety course for fellow bikers about dealing with motorcycle accidents, Accident Scene Management Inc. "The course is seven and a half hours long and is based on U.S. DOT First Responder Curriculum." There are four segments: preventing further injury, assessing the situation, contacting EMS, treatment. 

This chick also had the first ever wedding on Crazy Horse Monument with both her and her husband's bikes at the altar. 

Lorrie Penteluke is a survivor story. While being a passenger on her husband's bike, they were hit by a drunk driver. She suffered massive internal injuries, lacerations, tissue and ligament damage, broken hands, and as soon as she healed, cared for her husband who had 50 percent of the bones in his body broken. 

How many of you would get back on a bike after that experience? This woman did, but not as a passenger. She got her own bike in order to prevent both her and her husband from being hurt at the same time again. She also started a leather shop and her and her husband began selling bike parts and custom bikes. 

That's what I call a remarkable recovery.

Gloria Tramontin Struck is eighty five years old and she still rides. Her goal now is to take a ride with her ninety something year old brother who can no longer "keep up with his kid sister anymore." 

This gal is my favorite, partly because I love history so much. Someone really needs to write her memoirs. She was an original Motor Maid! "The MM is the oldest motorcycle organization for women in the world." Gloria is one of the longest standing members still riding after 64 years. 

And this woman worked on airplanes!!!!!!! Whoo hooo!!! She worked at Bendix Aviation factory when she was 18 as an inspector during WWII. And she must've made a good impression cause when the fellows came back, the factory kept her on (It's a well known fact that most women were "let go" cause this was a "man's job." Grrrrr.) She then worked in the radar and automatic pilot division where she wired components. Thus, this woman helped pave the way for women like myself, today. 

At 85 years old, Gloria still rides to Daytona Bike Week every year. Favorite quote: "I'm concerned about traffic conditions, sure. You have to be if you want to be a survivor. So many drivers are not paying attention. They're on their cell phones or texting and doing all kinds of things when they should be concentrating on the road. Heck, I've seen women apply lipstick or fix their hair using their rearview mirror while driving. How crazy is that? Can't they do that at home?"

My husband and I agree.

And something I learned from this book that I never knew before.. Elizabeth Taylor had a bike called Purple Passion. 

All in all, I consider this a must read for all biker chicz, whether you ride your own or sit behind your man, or have a Harley, Triumph, or Kawasaki.. I received this from the author upon request. It's just the perfect read to feature on Book Babe. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller by Sarah Miller

Miss Spitfire: Reaching Helen Keller
This is a novel about Annie Sullivan and told from her POV, the woman who taught Helen Keller how to communicate. Being deaf, myself, I was eager to read this. However, I was disappointed...

Here's why:
The entire novel is a young Helen and she is like an unruly monkey being trained. She's a very unattractive character and though I have no doubt she was really like that before she could communicate (I mean imagine being deaf and blind and not know words.) I thought it was a bit much at times. Annie literally has to train her like a dog, offering cake instead of Milk Bones.

Seems the entire novel is Annie and Helen fighting, fighting, fighting, wrestling, fighting. In this version, Ms. Sullivan goes a bit far... Helen is more demon than child and a coddled by her incredibly dumb overindulgent parents and she DOES need very firm hand, but this is too much: "I grab my own folded napkin and clap it over Helen's mouth and nose. My promise to Mrs. Keller flashes through my mind, but I lay it aside. Unless I actually smother Helen, I won't be hurting her."

And Annie is disturbing. I think she has some issues that need dissecting by a good shrink. She is a woman of twenty that likes to rock and cuddle dolls and her intense desire for affection from Helen struck me as weird, inappropriate, and sometimes made me feel dirty. "My breath comes faster at the feel of her fingers against my cheek...... A shudder runs through me as Helen slides from my legs. The place where she sat feels blank. It's an ugly sensation."

My last issue: Everyone talked over Helen's head like she was not there. As a deaf person, I do not like nor appreciate people taking advantage of the fact that I cannot hear by speaking over my head or behind me. 

I also felt this just ripped off a movie. This is has mostly high ratings, but it just didn't work for me. Two stars and I bought this on Amazon Kindle.

Ten Questions from Tara: Interview with Karl Friedrich

I'm pleased and  honored to be able to post an interview today with Karl Friedrich, author of Wings: A Novel of World War II Flygirls, released today, April 1, 2011. For those that may have missed my review a week ago, a link is provided at the end of this post. 

Karl has agreed to answer ten questions. Here they are:

1. You can't write a book like this, a novel full of aviation about aviation without having some interest in aviation yourself. When did you first become interested in aviation and why?

My father was an Army Air Corps mechanic during WW II, and he talked about airplanes. Unfortunately he died when I was twelve; therefore I wasn’t old enough to ask him the kinds of questions about aviation that I would have if I’d been more mature. So my father was the seed of my interest. But beyond that, there were other reasons. My childhood was very unpleasant. I imagined airplanes as a kind of escape pod. And as it turns out, Sally Ketchum, the heroine of my book, has a similar relationship with airplanes. Also, airplanes are different. They aren’t cars. They aren’t motorcycles. They don’t look like any other machine. Airplanes are mysterious because they seem to defy gravity, and that makes them interesting. There’s a saying that an airplane flies like it looks. But I like all airplanes, even the ugly ones.

2. What's your favorite aircraft and what fascinates you about it? It doesn't have to an aircraft that is in Wings.

Hands down, the DC-3 (military version, the C-47), which was created before World War II as nothing more than a civilian airliner. Think back to any old black and white movie that has a large twin-engine airplane in it; that probably was a DC-3. The first one flew in late 1935, and eventually 10,655 would be built in the United States (the Russians and the Japanese built more under license–the Russians even claimed they invented it!) That was a long time ago, but hundreds are still flying today. Eisenhower called it one of the four most important tools in winning the war. Few machines have witnessed more momentous events, from the fall and rise of nations to the salvation of multitudes. And along the way, it’s managed the day-to-day transport of civilians by the millions.

To my knowledge, no DC-3 has ever suffered an in-flight structural failure. Assuming ordinary maintenance, no one has ever worn one out. Some pilots swear the 3 can’t be worn out! How much longer can this go on—how much longer can the DC-3 keep earning its keep? Well, assuming someday Hell really does freeze over, I think there’s a decent chance it’ll be a DC-3 that shows up with coal for the furnaces.

3. Sally Ketchum, the heroine of Wings, is a spunky woman. Is there a woman in your own life or family that Sally reminds you of? Is there a real life inspiration behind her character?

I’m the character mold for Sally. Unlike her, alcohol and violence weren’t part of my upbringing. But like Sally, I was determined to escape a stifling environment and make something of myself. Sally’s DNA is very similar to my own. She never gives up. I don’t, either. The hard truth for most of us Earth dwellers is that big rewards only follow unrelenting work. Sally learned that from me. Luckily for both of us, she’s an attentive student.

4. Skinner is a very colorful “drill sergeant” type of character in Wings. He says some of the funniest things, such as, “That air was so still yesterday morning, I could have heard an ant fart.” He made me laugh. Do you see yourself in Skinner?

No. I’m a much kinder, gentler soul than Skinner. He’s one of those guys who you’re eternally grateful to know in a crisis; and hope to God he forgets where you live the rest of the time. He’s loud, brash, bullheaded, domineering, opinionated, and supremely talented at what he does, which is fly airplanes and train young pilots. In other words, he’s a go-to guy if you’re in a war, and the last person you want to see when your momma’s throwing a tea party for her church friends.

5. About the Author…says you have a lifelong fascination with women who achieve great accomplishment despite the displeasure of men. What woman in history do you feel accomplished the most and why do you admire her?

You’re referring to my website, I’ll answer that by saying that Jackie Cochran was one of the most accomplished, and that I admire her tremendously. As you know, she was the driving force behind the WASP, and it could be argued that she was a deeply flawed personality. She certainly was brash, bullheaded and a terrible loser. Some would say she was conceited. But my dictionary’s definition of conceited “…is someone who is characteristic of false pride; having an exaggerated sense of self-importance; a conceited fool.” She certainly was not that!

Jackie Cochran started life poor, but she made something of herself through sheer guts, gall and the force of her personality. By all reports she was a natural pilot, learning to fly in a fraction of the time needed by lesser mortals. She was the first woman to break the sound barrier, and I believe the first woman (maybe the only woman) to fly the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, which could kill a pilot in a blink. By the time of her death in 1980, Jackie held more speed, distance and altitude records than anyone else in aviation history. Her home near Palm Springs had become a watering hole for society’s stars, from Presidents to business moguls to aviation greats like Chuck Yeager, who first broke the sound barrier and who was her good friend. I admire Jackie Cochran because she pulled herself up by her bootstraps; because she never gave up; and because she genuinely was one of the greatest pilots that ever lived.

6. Did your wife help you in any way with the development of the women characters, their flaws, their weaknesses, their cat fights?

Great question! When I was talking about writing this book, several people suggested that my greatest hurdle was going to be creating female characters that are realistic. That concern was legitimate. The protagonists in airplane novels written by men are rarely female; but when they are, they have always seemed a little carboardy to me. (Perhaps those writers are less in touch with their feminine side than novelists who concentrate on other subjects.) Note that I’m not talking about books that incidentally have airplanes in them. In WINGS, airplanes are almost as important as the women. They have personalities. They are a vehicle that I use for the characters to evolve.

To make sure I didn’t screw this up, I started handing out parts of the manuscript to women early on. Some great anecdotes resulted from that experiment. I’d written about a hundred pages when I was in a restaurant with a friend and we were talking about the book, and I noticed that the five women sitting at a nearby table were listening to us. I whipped out the manuscript, offered it over, and to my amazement watched five middle-aged women gang-read my book. They were literally passing the pages around the table, and having great fun! Another time, a woman got a ticket from a traffic cop for reading through a green light. One of the neatest stories was the 5 a.m. phone call from my new barber—who’d stayed up all night reading WINGS—asking if it was OK to send the manuscript to his 13-year-old granddaughter. I agreed, and was rewarded several months later with a “thank you” note plus the revelation that those pages had also passed through the fingers of her girlfriends and most of their moms.

In total, more than one hundred women got a look at all or part of the manuscript in its various stages of development. When they came back to me—sometimes still crying or laughing, but almost always asking for more—I knew my characters had come to life. Then I got married and my wife, Rhonda, and finally my editor, Jackie Swift, helped me with the final tuning. So the answer is that literally more than one hundred women helped.

7. If Wings were to be made into a movie, who would you cast for Sally Ketchum? Dixie? Beau? Skinner? Mr. Waterman?

My wife and I discuss this endlessly. My best answer is that we don’t have an answer. The problem is that most of the cast would have to be both young and extremely accomplished as actors. Dixie, for instance, I think would be very hard to cast because she’s so powerful; even when she’s not saying anything, she stands out like a stripper at an Amish picnic. Her lines—which are many—would require a powerful actress. I’m sure the right people are out there. I’m just saying it’s going to be a challenge.

8. The ending of Wings leaves the reader in a bit of suspense. In your mind, do you feel Sally goes on to find work as a civilian pilot?

I know exactly what happens to Sally—and to Dixie and Skinner and Waterman, and to all the rest. But you’ll have to wait for a sequel.

9. I'm hoping you write another historical fiction. If you do, what era or subject would you like to tackle next?

The sequel, set in 1951.

10. My final question has nothing to do with the book, but being a dog mom, I must ask. Do you have pets? If so, please tell us about them and maybe share a picture.

We have two birds. One (a huge blue English parakeet) is called Binky. Curtis is our normal-sized green and yellow parakeet. They came into our lives because one of our earlier birds needed company after its friend, Slugger, died. The story of Slugger and his buddy (now also deceased) are on my website, Click on Postcards From Portland and look up Tweet And Twit. All I’ll tell you is that we found Slugger as he was fighting his way out of a cat’s mouth, twice! It’s a great story; and the cat gets its share of ink, too.

I like Binky and Curtis. We feed them as if they are Royals; I rub their bellies and backs, and wait on them feather and claw; and they dive-bomb me while I’m trying to write. But eventually I’m hoping to add a white standard poodle to our household that will be named Hudson. And of course, we don’t want him to be lonely, so he’ll have to have a companion named Piper. And yes, those names come from the car and the airplane, both of which I also have a soft spot for. 

Mr. Friedrich, thank you and keep us posted about that sequel.

The rest of you, here is the link to the Wings review: