Monday, October 18, 2021

Audiobook Review: Beyond the Call, by Lee Trimble and Jeremy Dronfield

 Title details for Beyond the Call by Jeremy Dronfield - Wait list

Title: Beyond the Call: The True Story of One World War II Pilot's Covert Mission to Rescue POWs on the Eastern Front
Author: Lee Trimble with Jeremy Dronfield. Read by Donald Corren
Publication Info: Audible Audio, 2015. 11 hours. Hardcover 2015 by Berkley, 352 pages.
Source: Library digital resources
Publisher’s Blurb:
Near the end of World War II, thousands of Allied ex-POWs were abandoned to wander the war-torn Eastern Front, modern day Ukraine. With no food, shelter, or supplies, they were an army of dying men.

The Red Army had pushed the Nazis out of Russia. As they advanced across Poland, the prison camps of the Third Reich were discovered and liberated. In defiance of humanity, the freed Allied prisoners were discarded without aid. The Soviets viewed POWs as cowards, and regarded all refugees as potential spies or partisans.

The United States repeatedly offered to help recover their POWs, but were refused. With relations between the allies strained, a plan was conceived for an undercover rescue mission. In total secrecy, the OSS chose an obscure American air force detachment stationed at a Ukrainian airfield; it would provide the base and the cover for the operation. The man they picked to undertake it was veteran 8th Air Force bomber pilot Captain Robert Trimble.

With little covert training, already scarred by the trials of combat, Trimble took the mission. He would survive by wit, courage, and a determination to do some good in a terrible war. Alone he faced up to the terrifying Soviet secret police, saving hundreds of lives. At the same time he battled to come to terms with the trauma of war and find his own way home to his wife and child.

One ordinary man. One extraordinary mission. A thousand lives at stake.
This is the compelling, inspiring true story of an American hero who laid his life on the line to bring his fellow men home to safety and freedom.

My Review:
I enjoy finding books about bits of history I never heard about. This book delivered that in almost a larger dose than I wanted. It's mostly the story of one man's war--the part of the war he fought after he thought he was done, since Robert Trimble had completed his 35 bombing missions. But it's also about a much bigger issue, the question of how the US handled the USSR as the war wound down, and it's not always pretty.

Perhaps that's why I never heard more about this part of WWII in my school history classes, since I grew up in the Cold War and you'd think there'd have been a rush to tell us anything bad about the Soviet Union. But I never knew about how the Soviets treated POWs, released prisoners of the Nazi death camps, or other war refugees. Let's just say it was an eye-opener, especially how the US just walked away from a lot of our own people. I know political necessity made that inevitable, but this book tells what it looked like on the ground.

The book is well written. Lee Trimble was smart to partner with an experienced writer to tell his father's story, and the research they put into confirming Robert Trimble's story shows. Any incident they could not confirm, they make clear is based only on the elder Trimble's memory. In general, the narrative flows clearly, though at times I got confused as we jumped from one narrative line to another. Part of that is the nature of audio books, where everything relies on the listener's memory and attention.

The narration itself doesn't stand out in my mind at all--which means it was well done. In a book like this, especially, I'm all in favor of narrators who stay out of the way of the text.

My Recommendation:
A fascinating story and well worth a read, or a listen, especially for history fans.

FTC Disclosure: I borrowed an electronic copy of Beyond the Call from my library, and received nothing from the author or the publisher in exchange for my honest review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”   

 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Photo Saturday: Backpacking the Ansel Adams Wilderness

After more than two weeks of day-hike training and the shorter (but still rather stiff) Pine Creek backpack trip, we set off on the main event, a 4-night, many-lake loop near Mammoth, CA.

Day 1 was a 9-mile + hike up to Thousand Island Lake, along the High Trail, one of two trails that count as the Pacific Crest Trail north of Agnew Meadows.

Banner (right) and Ritter were the peaks that defined much of this trip, as we pivoted about them.

It was a long day, but we made 1000 Island Lake with enough energy to find a nice, tucked-away campsite. It's a very popular area, so we weren't far from neighbors, but we had our privacy.

Camp, with our almost-matching TarpTents.

There was lots of smoke in the air, which at least made for interesting light.

There was so much smoke that first night that we wondered if we should continue the trip, but as nothing could be done that night, we went to bed. It was much better in the morning.

First light, and a setting moon. Banner Peak on the left, Davis Mt. is the highest point on the right.

As the sun rose, the smoke did interesting things.

Following our well-established pattern, T. and I got up at the crack of dawn and spent 30-60 minutes taking photos. I always gave up first and returned to camp to get breakfast started, at which point C. would get up, having dodged the coldest part of the day!

By the time the sun was well up, we were ready to hike on to the next lake.

Day two was a short traverse over the ridge to Garnet Lake. Even taking our time in the morning and taking it easy on the way, we were there before lunch.

An early look at Garnet, dominated by Banner--and Ritter, now emerging from behind it's brother peak.

Garnet was a lot like Thousand Island Lake, only a bit less populated.

We had our moment of worry at Garnet, as we approached the lakeshore and found two large groups that had been horsepacked in spread through what looked at first like the only camp area. But knowing a lake that large would have more space, we went on to the next peninsula and camped in peace and solitude. Naps, reading, writing, and photography filled the hours to dark.
A smoke-tinted sunset

Sunrise was a little breezy, but clear. The lake was too rough for reflections, but the little tarns scattered around the peninsula were not.

Leaving Garnet

Day Three was a longer day, up and over to Shadow Creek, then up the creek to Ediza lake. We started early enough to beat the heat, which wasn't too bad anyway.


Approaching Ediza

Ediza Lake. Campsites are all on the far side of the lake.

The backdrop for the lakes has now become the Minarets, rather than Banner and Ritter, though I believe we could still see Ritter off the north end of the lake basin.


Day four saw the division of our party, as C hiked out on the trail to return to Mammoth, while T and I took a scrambley route past Iceberg and Cecile Lakes to Minaret Lake.

Approaching Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake

Iceberg Lake, just before the trail became a scramble up the talus slope.

Cecile Lake had its own stark beauty, but didn't look like anyplace you'd want to camp.

The author picking our campsite at Minaret Lake

The descent to Minaret Lake was a bit steep.

Minaret gave us our best sunrise, with perfect views, light, calm water for reflections, and of course the spectacular Minarets.

Evening and morning.

After that, the only thing left to do was to hike out...

And enjoy a good meal in town!

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Cozy Mystery Review: The Fog Ladies: In the Soup


The Fog Ladies: In the Soup (A San Francisco Cozy Murder Mystery) by Susan McCormick

About The Fog Ladies: In the Soup


The Fog Ladies: In the Soup (A San Francisco Cozy Murder Mystery)  

Cozy Mystery 3rd in Series 
Setting — San Francisco

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Wild Rose Press (October 4, 2021)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 328 pages

ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1509237984 ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1509237982
Digital Print Length ‏ : ‎ 230 pages ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09C91H76Z

The Fog Ladies are back, in the third installment of this endearing cozy murder mystery series.

"There was a man in the soup." When the Fog Ladies volunteer at a San Francisco soup kitchen, these spunky elderly friends plus one overworked young doctor-in-training envision washing and chopping and serving. Not murder. Now the soup kitchen is doomed, and the mysteries have just begun. Was the death rooted in a long-ago grudge? Can they save the soup kitchen? Will they find the killer? Could the Fog Ladies, too, end up "in the soup"?

 My Review:
I'm grateful to Great Escapes tours for the chance to discover this series. Although I jumped in at book 3, I didn't feel like I was missing anything; there was enough backstory provided where needed to keep me from getting lost.

I enjoyed the story very much, in a quiet way. This isn't an edge-of-your-seat mystery, but rather a pleasant and comfortable stroll with some friends. It did take me a while to get straight and keep straight the multiple main characters, an inevitable result, I think, of having a true group protagonist. The author handles it well, though, and the Fog Ladies have very distinct personalities once you get to know them!

The mystery itself is well constructed, with a plausible outcome. I liked the way the mystery interacted with the subplots as well. Overall, a good entry in the cozy mystery category!

About Susan McCormick

Susan McCormick is a writer and doctor who lives in Seattle. She graduated from Smith College and George Washington University School of Medicine, with additional medical training in Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, where she lived in an elegant apartment building much like the one in the book. Susan served as a doctor in the U.S. Army for nine years before moving to the Pacific Northwest and civilian practice as a gastroenterologist. In addition to the Fog Ladies series, she also wrote Granny Can’t Remember Me, a lighthearted picture book about Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and The Antidote, a timely middle grade medical fantasy released May 2021. She lives in Seattle with her husband and two sons. She loves giant dogs and has loved an English Mastiff, Earl, and two Newfoundlands, Edward and Albert.

Social media links - Website - Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - GoodReads - BookBub


And now--an interview with author Susan McCormick!

When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?

I have loved mysteries my whole life. When I was young, I wanted to be a ballerina, a doctor, and a writer. All together, all at once. My ballet days ended before they began at age four when my first performance’s curtsy took out the backdrop and crashed it to the floor. So all that was left was being a doctor and a writer. The latter took me a while. Being a doctor was a straight shot, four years of medical school, three years of residency, then fellowship, then a stint in the Army because they paid for medical school, and here I am. Being a writer took longer, though I've been plotting my stories since those ballerina days, with my first “book,” Death in the Cemetery, at age nine.



What are your books about and who is the audience?

My Fog Ladies series features spunky senior sleuths plus an overtired, overstressed young doctor-in-training, living in an elegant apartment building in San Francisco and solving murders. Cozy lovers of all ages will appreciate the humor and poignancy of the stories, and the whodunnit aspect to the murders.




What is the strangest job you’ve ever held?

My first job was as the Easter Bunny at a large shopping mall in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was fourteen and made minimum wage to give out chocolate eggs to happy children. I wish I could still do that! In college, I was a first mate on a sport fishing boat on Cape Cod. We took out groups of six for an exciting day of fishing. So many things went wrong that this will go down as my worst job ever. At least I didn’t fillet my finger into the ocean like another mate.



There's a story there! And being the Easter Bunny sounds both wonderful and awful. That leads me to my next question: What is the best thing about being a writer?

All those odd tidbits that percolate in my mind have a place to rest. As a mystery lover and writer, I am attuned to crime and murder possibilities in everyday life. The car share driver overly interested in how long I’ll be traveling? I see a set up for burglary. A cutthroat music competition that comes every four years with only one scholarship awarded? I see a mom who will do anything to help her child succeed. An arguing couple in a National Park? I see a husband who might lean too close to the edge and “fall off.” I am kind, sedate, and boring in my real life, but my imagination is full of mystery, and that is the best thing about being a writer.




My little personality test: If there’s a spider in the corner of the room, do you a) panic, b) have to drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it’s planning to eat the more annoying bugs that get in?

I love spiders. One thing I think is true is that you cannot relocate an indoor spider to the outdoors or it will die. I leave all spiders alone. They are my friends.



I didn't know that about indoor spiders. I'm still not that willing to house so many of them, so they're going out. 

Now for my writer questions. Do you draft your books longhand or compose at the keyboard?

I compose at the keyboard, merrily typing whatever flies into my brain for the first draft, and then fix annoying plot points when I revise. But I keep paper around at all times for that perfect bit of dialogue that pops into my head at odd hours, and have scraps everywhere with a line or two or witticism or a new plot twist, etc.



Sounds a lot like my approach. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve had to research for one of your books?

Even though I am a doctor, I research every single medical tidbit I put in my books. Medicine changes rapidly, and I certainly don’t want an error. Many writers have likely researched how to determine the time of death, and I did as well. But what made this interesting for me was that I had some sound background knowledge. When I started medical school, I wanted to be a forensic pathologist, a coroner. When I did my rotation at the DC morgue, though, a crack cocaine epidemic was sweeping the city, and many bodies were victims of this, with bullet hole after bullet hole. I changed my mind about forensics as a career. But I loved the forensics book, and consult that aged tome frequently, and then verify current methods also. I was surprised to see that the time of death calculation has not changed much in all those years.




Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?

I have progressed from being a complete “pantser” to a firm plotter with an outline. My first book poured out over many months from a story that had been building in me for years. When the very enjoyable process of writing the first draft was finished, I found there were far too few suspects. Then the grueling process started of adding in new people and turning perfectly lovely characters into suspects. Clues and red herrings had to be placed retroactively, and the story had to be re-worked many times to account for this pantser approach.

Still, without a set outline, wonderful magic happened, and characters’ lives unfolded without any planning. They did things spontaneously and surprisingly, which is how teen mother Chantrelle ends up feeding chips and Pepsi to Baby Owen, much to the horror of the Fog Ladies. Enid Carmichael discovers Starbucks lattes. She loves the bitterness, the froth. I wrote that. Then she craved more, and the next thing I knew, she was stealing Starbucks coupons from her neighbors’ newspapers to feed her addiction. She did that. Not me. As the author, I follow everywhere my characters lead me, and the story is better for it.

But, having learned the hard way with the first book, I had a rough, rough outline for the second. Still, I didn’t pay close enough attention, and in the first draft, Sarah’s friend Helen had a 16-month pregnancy. More rewriting! Now, with my third book, my outline was longer, my suspects were in place, and the clues and red herrings were lined up ahead of time. Even so, a pile of black rags in the corner unexpectedly became a dog, who ends up playing a large role in the story. The part of the brain that conceives of these twists and turns is the part of the brain that makes writing a joy.




I can related to that evolution from pantser to plotter, too! Still plenty of room for the characters to speak up, but less mess.
      Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?

I love giant dogs, the slobbery the better, and have made a dog the hero in this book.

Thanks so much for stopping by! I look forward to seeing more of the Fog Ladies!

Purchase Links - Amazon - B&N

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FTC Disclosure: I was given an electronic review copy of  The Fog Ladies: In the Soupas part of a Great Escapes free blog tour, in exchange for my honest review, not for a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."