Book Review: Wood, Luck & Survival

Title: Wood, Luck & Survival
Author: Reuven Govrin
Genre: Historical, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

How could Max and his father possibly have survived the Holocaust when so many did not?!

This story is the journey of the author and his brother to discover the happenings of their father, Max Gutkin, and his family during the Holocaust. When the German army invaded Riga, Latvian Jewry numbered about 95,000, of which only about 1,000 survived the war. The story of how Wood and luck somehow enabled Max and his father to survive the Holocaust, unlike so many, is riveting. The family business was engaged with forestry and wood, so Max, his older brother, and their father were forced to work in wood for the Nazis, while his mother and little brother were murdered.

A harrowing journey replete with painful memories…

The book traces their harrowing journey from work camp to work camp, a terrible choice that the father is forced to make, the aftermath of the war in Europe, and finally arrival in Israel. For 65 years Max silently bore the burden of these memories until the author led him on a path of discovery through his painful personal history.

Author Reuven (Gutkin) Govrin retraces his father’s steps during the Holocaust, trying to uncover why his father survived while so many others perished. Only about 1000 Jews in Riga, Latvia survived and somehow Max, his older brother and father did.

The book follows them as they go from work camp to work camp, from one tragedy into the next, forcing them to make choices no one should ever have to make.

The book’s message is a harrowing one, one that shows how the world failed the jewish people during World War II. It wasn’t just the Nazis that caused them harm: the entire world failed them because we didn’t stand up to protect them.

Considering the book talks about the author’s own journey, it’s an emotional read – the author’s emotions as he re-lives the horrible events of his childhood practically drip from the pages.


Book Review: Love Lost in the War by Orit Raz

Title: Love Lost in the War
Author: Orit Raz
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4,5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Israel loves Paula, but they are separated in their struggle to survive World War II

Israel and Paula are teens living in Biala Podlaska, Poland, on the eve of World War II. One day Israel tells Paula that he will marry her in a few years. She objects, and their friendship ends. But when the Germans enter the city, they flee together to Russia and volunteer in Soviet labor camps – to survive. They are sent to different places. Paula works as a nurse, where she excels and is sent to Moscow to study medicine. There she marries Mila and has a son, but Mila dies at war soon after.

At war’s end, in love from afar, will they ever succeed in reuniting?

Meanwhile, Israel returns to his hometown as a Polish soldier and finds a letter from Paula. Their love is rekindled from afar, and he proposes marriage by mail. But will Israel ever be able to manipulate the Russian authorities to obtain a visa to penetrate the Iron Curtain and then reunite with Paula in Moscow? Will their love ever again be free to flourish?

Love Lost in the War is the tragic story of Israel and Paula. As teenagers in Poland, Israel falls in love with Paula. Yet when Israel proposes marriage, Paula is reluctant to wait a few years to get married, and this abruptly stops their friendship. But when the Germans occupy the city, Israel and Paula escape together.

Still, the war tears them apart again. Paula gets married and has a son, but her husband Mila dies during the war. Israel, in the meantime, has returned to Poland, where he finds a letter from Paula and starts having feelings for her again… But can their love survive war?

This is an inspiring story about how long can transcend even the worst circumstances, such as war. For me, the story was quite personal as my own grandmother and grandfather got seperated during the war – my grandfather took his brother’s place to go to one of the labor camps when his brother got arrested for smuggling. My grandmother was about to marry someone else when my grandfather showed up back in town, several years after World War II (yes, this is the kind of stuff you only see in movies). Everyone was convinced my grandfather had passed away in the war but in reality, it just took him several years to get back home after having been freed by American soldiers.

Anyway, back to the book. It reminded me a lot about my personal story and maybe that’s part of why I liked it so much, but another part of it was the lyrical prose. I’m a huge fan of Raz’ writing here and the prose is perfect for a love story such as this one.


Book Review: The Word of Abusz Werber by Michel Werber

Title: The Word of Abusz Werber
Author: Michel Werber
Genre: Biographical, Historical Fiction, World War II
Rating: 5 stars
Purchase: Amazon
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The extraordinary life story of Abusz Werber before, during and after the Second World War

Abusz Werber grew up in Poland from which he moved to Belgium. During the Nazi occupation, he was the party leader of “Linke Poale Zion” (Left-wing Workers of Zion), a Zionist-Socialist party in Belgium, and one of the initiators of the Jewish Defense Committee of Belgium. This committee managed to save about 3,000 children and several thousand Jewish adults from the clutches of the Nazis.

A secret newspaper telling the truth!

With his party comrades, Abusz Werber ensured the editing, publication and distribution of 28 issues of a secret (underground) newspaper in Yiddish, “Unzer Wort” (Our Word), which appeared until the Liberation in September 1944 (and even after). In this newspaper, he assiduously denounced the lies of the German occupant, as well as those of the Belgian Association of Jews, who collaborated with them. He called neither to follow their orders nor to respond when summoned to go to Mechelen, a transit camp before deportation.

“The Word of Abusz Werber” gives Werber a place for his words

This book is an attempt to tell Werber’s story and give him and his party members and activists the place they deserve in the chronicles of the fight against Nazism.

The Word of Abusz Werber” is the story of – you guessed it – Abusz Werber, a man who grew up in Poland and then moved to Belgium. During the years of Nazi occupatio, he was the party leader of “Linke Poale Zion”, which was the zionist-socialist party in Belgium. He also worked for the Jewish Defense Committee in Belgium, which manages to save 3000 children from the Nazis.

Abusz also worked on an underground newspaper describing the truth of the situation, and the horrors the Germans were inflicting upon innocent people.

Since I live in Belgium, I felt compelled to read Abusz Werber’s story. I had heard of the transit camp in Mechelen in Belgium, of the traitors among some of the Belgian parties, the collaborators, the horrors that took place, even on Belgian soil, but hearing about it vaguely and reading about it in detail are two different matters.

If you’re Belgian (and even if you’re not) and you want to know more about the Jewish resistance here during World War II, then this book is a great place to start. Abusz Werber was truly a remarkable man, a courageous man, and a righteous man as well.

Author Interview Secret Betrayal

2940150636361_p0_v1_s260x420I’m interviewing Michael Williamson today, author of “Secret Betrayal”, a thrilling World War II novel. I got the opportunity to ask the author some questions, and I’m thrilled to share the responses with you all. I hope you enjoy the interview!

1.       How long have you been writing?    

It seems like forever.  I have always wanted to be a writer. After graduation from college, the Vietnam War got in the way for a few years. Back in America, it was time to begin writing the book I had carried around in my head for years. For over a year I did nothing but write. However, as the story unfolded, I realized I did not have one book, I had four. I could not do it any other way. I had two or three more years of writing to finish what I had started.
But, you can not hold back the world. Life moves forward and the woman who was supporting me while I wrote, told me  to get a job or she was leaving. I went to work and wrote nights and weekends. It became a habit and I wrote the rough drafts of five novels over a 40 year business career.  When I retired, about seven years ago, I began to finalize these drafts. This is the second of those books. So, I guess you could say I have been really writing for seven years.
2.       What is your favorite genre to write? 
I can’t say I have a favorite genre. I like them all, but love combined with action and adventure seems to provide a palette that allows for great and varied expression. I think the hardest to write would be comedy.
3.       Which genre you have never tried before, but would like to try out?
Mystery is the answer. I have a four book series I am hard at work on now. After that a mystery is next.
4.       Please tell us about your book.
Secret Betrayal is woven into the fabric of the Allied invasion of Europe around Normandy, France in 1944.  I did extensive research to create a factual background I could weave my plot and characters through. In linear time it spans 90 days before the invasion and three days after.  But, dimensionally, it spans better than thirty years of Carla Offenbach’s life and spatially, it travels from London to Berlin and India to Canada.
At the heart of the book lies this secret: the date and location of the Allied invasion of Europe. In reality the Germans wanted the secret desperately and devised many ways to achieve their goal. As the novel unfolds and runs to conclusion, the reader is exposed to three reoccurring themes: the redemptive power of love, the evolutionary power of kundalini yoga, and the war within a war waged between Hitler’s two most powerful ministers., Reichsleiter Martin Bormann and Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler. So unfolds the compelling pages of Secret Betrayal.
5.       Which character was your favorite, and why?  Which character was your least favorite, and why?
Carla was my favorite character. In many ways she was evil, but as we progress through the novel, learning what formed her and witnessing the changes within her brought about by Roger, we see her emerging as a far more beautiful butterfly from a chrysalis forged by fear and love.
I love all my characters, but, Major Heinrich Muller is a deliciously nasty piece of work and remains true to form throughout the book.
6.       What was the hardest part about writing your book?
What I believe was the hardest part, is also the part I love the best. Taking the rough draft and word by word, sentence by sentence polishing it to its final form. I don’t believe a book is ever truly done. What occurs is the author finally reaches a point where the incremental changes made become so few and ever less impactful , further editing derives minimal benefit.
7.       What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing?
I write 2 – 4 hours a day. However, I love to travel and when away from home, I do not write on a regular basis. I do continually lock in my mind’s eye the experiences that come with travel to new places. Often I will take notes on the details of a locale or occasion. To begin the writing day, my frame of mind is important. To return and focus into the proper emotional level, I revisit the previous days pages. They act an  anchor for what lies ahead.
8.        How long did you take to write your book from start to finish?
From start to finish Secret Betrayal took ten years to write.  There is a reason for the long stretch of years between start and finish. The reason is another novel.  I was well on my way with Secret Betrayal, when, what I thought was a truly compelling idea popped into my mind.
It was timely and I did not want to lose the momentum of the idea. I put Secret Betrayal away and began the new novel. It became my first published novel, The Dream of the Fathers. Once done it was back to Secret Betrayal.
9.       Can you tell us about your editing process?
Editing is a continual process. But, besides the constant fine tuning, I use three formal edit points. The first is after the completion of the rough draft. The manuscript goes out to two editors I have come to know over the years. Each of whom provides a different expertise and perspective.  When I have incorporated their editorial suggestions  that rewrite is complete. Next the manuscript undergoes a critical, typically month long,  grammar and syntax focused edit. I do a final rewrite.  When the galleys are set, a final edit  catches every last detail.
10.   Is this book part of a series? 
Secret Betrayal is not part of a series. It stands alone. However, the novel I am working on right now is the first book of a four book series. The books are entitled, Now Is Forever and each individual book is subtitled for the locale in which it is set. This first one is, Now is Forever  — Indochina.
11.   Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
My advice would be: Don’t give up! Maintain your vision at all cost. Although it feels to me like I have been writing forever, this is only my second book. But, I have a vision and with each book that vision becomes clearer and I can see improvement in my writing and how I craft a novel. That excites me and propels me forward.
12.   Why should everyone read your book?
Each of us has our own interests. I think everyone who enjoys a mixture of love, history, action and adventure will find Secret Betrayal a compelling read. It provides a context to revisit an extremely important era in world history, while exploring the yearnings of the human heart that leads some to love and others to death and destruction.
13.   If you could meet three authors, dead or alive, which authors would you choose?
They would be in this order: W. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Ernest Hemingway.
14.   What inspired you to write your book?
My desire to write and the vagaries of love inspired me to combine the heights and depths of love and passion with the existence and reality of kundalini yoga and the insanity of Bormann and Himmler’s Germany.
15.   Are you working on something at the moment? If so, can you tell us about it?
As I mentioned previously, I am writing a series comprised of four books entitled, Now Is Forever. The subtitle of each volume is: Indochina, Hong Kong, Japan and Ryukyu Islands. I am halfway done with Indochina. It will be available in December 2015. It is the character study of a young American who, after the end of WWII, comes home to nothing but disappointment and looks to the Orient for a new beginning. The second novel, Hong Kong, begins in 1933 and is a character study of a young Asian woman  from 11 years old to her 23rd birthday and the fall of Hong Kong to Japan in 1941. The third book, Japan, is set in Tokyo during the Korean War. It brings together the man, Zachary  and the women Yuki,  from the previous books and engages us in the romance and adventure of Tokyo and Japan in the middle 50’s. What will occur? You will know as the books roll out.

About The Book

After escaping her abusive stepfather as a teenager, Carla Offenbach found sanctuary in Berlin. Years later, Carla is a woman of great wealth, the owner of one of the most wildly successful cabarets in Berlin, a city glittering with bright lights and lavish, carefree parties. But when the realities of war in Europe finally cast a shadow over Berlin, the German people are forced to retreat into their homes, leaving Carla no choice but to close the doors of her establishment. In a desperate attempt to save her own life and livelihood, Carla finally gives in to the brutish demands of her most devoted patron, Nazi party minister Reichsleiter Martin Bormann, a terrifying and ruthless man who dreams of succeeding the Fuhrer Adolf Hitler.

Michael Williamson’s exciting novel Secret Betrayal follows Carla and Collum in a heart-stopping journey through a world torn apart by war. Well-researched and full of adventure and intrigue, Secret Betrayal explores the redemptive power of love, even in times of unimaginable personal suffering and sacrifice. Fans of romance, adventure and historical fiction are sure to enjoy Williamson’s gripping novel.

Author Bio

Michael Williamson was born and raised in Southern California and currently lives in Bozeman, Montana. When he is not writing, Williamson spends his time ranching. His next novel, Now is Forever: Indochina, the first in a series, will be released next fall.