Tag Archives: WWII stories

Maggie’s Wars by Phil Pisani Reads Like a Historical Noir, with a Fiesty Female Journalist at the Helm

02_Maggie's WarsMaggie’s Wars is a quick historical fiction read at just over 200 pages. It starts out being told from a female protagonist’s view, Maggie Hogan, who is a female journalist just out of graduate school at Columbia. This told me straight away, with it being in WWII era, that she was a woman not only from a family with certain means, but that she’d be intellectual and savvy and ready to take on her dreams, no matter what societal nonsense stood in her way.

Being a journalist myself, I was thrilled when I read the synopsis and the first few pages and found out this was about a female reporter during the war. I have a penchant as well for the history of journalism. As I first read the book, I cheered on Maggie as she entered the The Herald Tribune, where she was offered a job due to so many men being sent off to war. Right off the bat, I gathered the sexist attitude that came with the times. You know the one that dictated that women can’t do any type of job, even if they went to an Ivy League school. And it never left throughout the book. I was sad to see that she didn’t overcome it, but in fact “played the game” as she flirted, had sex, and offered favors to get the story she wanted and to be a war correspondent. Though I imagine a character like hers would have had to decide which was more important to her–her dream and realizing it or her morality.

Maggie’s part of the story is told in first person, which wasn’t too jarring to me (though generally it’s hard for writers to write novels in first person) due to the fact that she is a journalist and it seems she reporting her life. But then we have the story of Johnny Stone as well juxtaposed with hers (and keep in mind that I mentioned this is a short book). Johnny fell in love with Maggie in an instant seeing her on the street heading to the Herald. His story follows him as he enlists in the war to not be killed by the mob (yep, he’s a gangster, but an Italian one, so he’s recruited him to go to Italy) and he hopes to see Maggie over there (“you know, not let her out of his sight”) who has decided to go overseas and cover the end of the war. The story at about 30% in begins to follow the lovers in their personal pursuits during the war and showcases their relationship through it.

I found that though I really liked the premise of the story, I wasn’t thrilled by the character development or the plot. I wasn’t happy with her reporting skills, though I am not sure why besides that I think she was so naive for being so educated about the protocols of war or for reporting heavy stories. Her reaction to the war seemed more focused on getting the story than on feeling the emotional turmoil around her. I’d have liked to see the author take more time developing the story, the characters, and the plot. I’d have loved to feel more connected with emotions from Maggie about what developments, news, and feelings that she went through while covering the war, or while missing Johnny.

As I evaluate it, I think my concern was that it all seems much too rushed. It could have easily been a 300-400 page book filled with slowed down character development and with the war issues broken down in-depth so that the atrocities and message in the book would be more realistic. It felt very hurried and things happened rapid fire, yet not in a good screenwriting sort of way, the premise of the novel is good for the screen–but maybe more like a 1940 movie rather than a modern movie set in 1940. I would have liked him to explore more of the story of American soldiers and some awful things that happened from America’s side during the liberation. He put it out there in this novel, I wasn’t aware of it or if it’s true either, even though I studied the Holocaust during my time in garnering my history degree. I would have liked Maggie to uncover that topic more in-depth and show her real reporting skills.

Overall the author had a good idea for a novel and I wouldn’t have hoped for more if I didn’t like the general outline of the book. But it seemed like a shell. If he was looking for a 1940 vibe, then he succeeded in that. It reminded me of a Dick Tracy crime noir yet within the historical genre. Maybe it is a historic noir with Maggie not as the sleuth, but as a reporter?

The book intrigued me and though I couldn’t read for entertainment alone, it did make me ponder it and the author’s intent and structure. It did make me want Maggie to be explored more and I’d like to see him do something else with Maggie as a protagonist, once he develops her even further and gives her compassion with the grit and emotions with the motivation. As an editor, I feel that the author should take a look at its structure and its intent, as well as his sentence construction, depth of details, and authenticity of characters.

It’s a nice read for anyone who likes a quick story set in WWII with a noir feel and featuring a feisty reporter who throws all caution to the wind in her career, her love life, and her life.

Note: I was given a copy of this book from the author via HFVBT in exchange for an honest review of his work.

Maggie’s Wars, Synopsis

02_Maggie's WarsPublication Date: November 6, 2013
American Book Incorporated
Formats: eBook, Paperback

Genre: Historical Fiction

Combatting wars on two fronts – one of fame and the other love – Maggie Hogan never wavers as a rare woman reporter on the battlefields of World War II, the Nuremburg Trials and the beginnings of the cold war. But she makes the mistake of falling for an officer, complicating her ambitions. Learn of what one woman feels she must do in order to make it in a man’s world, no matter what. Maggie’s Wars is a story about the ultimate battle between love and prestige, and how you can’t win them both.


“Maggie’s Wars is a highly charged story, with power politics on a grand scale…the frighteningly realistic descriptions and technical know-how is right on the mark and Phil Pisani’s skill at painting a vivid scene in the mind’s eye of the reader is excellent and packs a wallop.” -William H. LaBarge, author of Sweetwater Gunslinger 201, Hornet’s Nest, Road to Gold and Desert Voices.

Purchase Links

Barnes & Noble

Phil Pisani, Biography

Phil Pisani grew up on the north side of the railroad tracks in an upstate New York blue-collar industrial town in a rough neighborhood filled with the most colorful characters in the world. Factory and tannery workers mingled with bar and restaurant owners, gamblers and gangsters, good people and bad people, brash rogues and weak loudmouths, all spawned by the early immigrant movement to America. Italians, Russians, Slovacks, Irish, and Germans formed a rough and tough section of town where few from the south side dared to venture.

He learned to fight at a very young age, both in the ring and on the streets. Fights became badges of honor. He also was a voracious reader. His mother worked in the village’s library. After school, or fights or sandlot football games, he would curl away into the adult reading section. Enjoying the polished blonde oak bookshelves, tables and chairs, he would choose a book from the stacks and delve into its smells and contents. Reading soothed him.

He studied history and humanities in Pisa, Italy, and Oswego State in New York and later earned a MA in Political Science from Binghamton University. He worked as a labor investigator for NY and rose in the ranks through the years but never stopped writing or reading. He currently lives in Albany NY, with his wife Joanne.

For more information please visit Phil Pisani’s website. You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/maggieswarsblogtour

Hashtags: #MaggiesWarsBlogTour #HistFic #HistNov

Twitter Tags: @hfvbt @PhilPisani1

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Getting Ready to Wear the Book Giver Badge for World Book Night, April 23!

Have you heard of World Book Night? Are you participating? My family (Tim and the three kiddos) are handing out FREE books tomorrow night during the 2014 World Book Night! Once we were sent in our application last Fall, and were selected, we could choose several from a list of books that we might want, and then, the organization assigned one to us.

I am very happy that we’ll be handing out The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Ackerman. We have 20 copies, with a special event cover, that will be given to random people around our town of Ashland, Ohio!

zookeeper's wife

We picked up our box last Friday at Main Street Books, the only independent bookstore in Mansfield (Richland County), Ohio, and attended their reception for givers. Thank you to Main Street Books for having us in and for hosting the event!  Tim even wore his media badge and wrote a pre-article for World Book Night in our area for an online news source called RichlandSource, where he’s a correspondent.


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We are excited to head out tomorrow to pass our books. We’ll probably go to a local shop and hand to employees and leave some at their library at Scenic River Cafe at Buehler’s Fresh Foods in Ashland. We will head to the Eagle’s Nest at the student center at Ashland University. We might stop with a few at the Ashland Public Library. We’ll take some to Associated Charities possibly. We hope to make some rounds around town, promoting literary and offering books. Hopefully, we’ll hear a few stories about reading that I’ll be able to share with you. And of course, photos!

World Book Night Information~

WBN2014_logo_672x652World Book Night U.S. (WBN) is dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person. On April 23, 2013, U.S. book givers personally handed out half a million printed books in 6,200 towns and cities across the country. Books are primarily for non-readers, in the hope of encouraging them to read or offering material to those who otherwise might not be able to purchase.  You can read more about World Book Night here.

On April  23,  2014,  (Shakespeare’s birthday) 25,000  volunteers  from  Kodiak  to  Key  West  will  give  away  half  a  million  free  books  in  more  than  6,000  towns  and  cities  across America. WBN is in its third year.

The  WBN  picks  are  by  a  wide  array  of  award-winning  and  bestselling  adult  and  YA  authors,  as  well  as classics,  books  in  Spanish,  and  books  in  Large  Print.  The  assortment  of  39  WBN  titles  is  based  on  diversity in  subject matter,  age  level,  gender,  ethnicity  and  geography.  The  books  were  chosen  in  a  vote  by booksellers,  librarians,  and  givers.

New this year, get a FREE e-book full of stories from WBN! Go here and nab it: www.eworldbooknight.org.

Want to follow & share all the book giving awesomeness on social media?
Use the official hashtag #WBN2014.


The Zookeeper’s Wife, Synopsis~

zookeeper's wifeThe Zookeeper’s Wife is a strange, but historically true story of WWII. It reveals the extraordinary efforts of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, Christian zookeepers horrified by Nazi racism, who capitalized on the Nazis’ obsession with pureblood animals in order to save over 300 doomed people by hiding them in the bombed-out cages at the Warsaw Zoo. A tale of people, animals, and subversive acts of compassion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a groundbreaking work of nonfiction,”said selection committee member Mark Kurlansky, “in which the human relationship to nature is explored in an absolutely original way through looking at the Holocaust.” Kathleen Dean Moore, the committee’s chairperson, said: “A few years ago, ‘nature’ writers were asking themselves, How can a book be at the same time a work of art, an act of conscientious objection to the destruction of the world, and an affirmation of hope and human decency? The Zookeeper’s Wife answers this question.”

Diane Ackerman’s Biography~

See Diane Ackerman’s amazing biography here. Did you know she has a degree from Kenyon College, Ohio folks?


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Peter Danish’s The Tenor is a Beautiful Story of WWII, Music, and Love

02_The Tenor

LOVE this cover!!

The Tenor, by Peter Danish, is a book of superb storytelling, with a very real and likeable protagonist and an enthralling theme. I’ve always been a fan of classic music and the opera, so this book that showcases both history and the art of music, as well as the intrigue of the war and romance, was a wonderful fit for me. Danish’s sentences are silky and lush with description.

For instance, to start with, how can you not be drawn in by this copy:

“If he’s caught, it will mean a firing squad.  If he does nothing, she will surely die – and the world will never know the greatest voice of all time.  That’s something he simply can’t accept – whatever the risk.”

​In 1941, an Italian soldier, an aspiring opera singer himself, risked his life to ensure that a wonderfully talented young Greek opera singer made it through WWII alive. This is his story.

And it certainly is Pino Vaggi’s story told with all the fervor of a trained singer belting out words from his pipes. It’s a beautiful piece of storytelling and the best kind, based on a true story. I love books like this from the WWII era, because there was so much rich culture intertwining at the time. This was a time when so many had dreams for them all to ripped away by war, for nothing to be stable, and for all sorts of various love affairs and marriages to take place.  Danish’s book offered nothing less than a wonderful story of heart and determination, of both love and sacrifice. The selfless nature of people during this time period was really brought out by Danish in his novel.

I enjoyed Danish’s details, and the thoughts of his characters were vivid, especially with Pino. I felt at most times I was inside Pino’s head and feeling or reacting to what his senses and emotions were taking in. He blended bits of a true story into fiction and presented it in a very real way.

The sentences in the book, many beautiful, made this book more like art than historical reenactment. Most of his sentences rolled off the dainty corners of my mouth, or would have had I been reading aloud. In some cases, however, he may have liked the sentence or phrase so much that he repeated it (such as with aroma at the beginning), which I think an editor should have re-worked into a one time thing for better impact, but it worked out a little better as the story flowed on. Overall, they had lovely, flowing imagery and I enjoyed the journey that they took me on as I read the book.

If you are a fan of books that are as beautiful and as enthralling to read as their covers that catch your eye, then this book of historical drama is most likely for you. I’d especially say that those who are true lovers of the stage, symphony, and opera are going to love how that world fits into this novel. The beauty of the words do a real justice to the basis of the true story and immortalize the journey not only of the people in his novel, but all people of this time period who struggled through similar situations. The stories of so many who came to America on the back of their dreams are all so amazing and The Tenor is a unique read in this sub-genre of historical fiction with musicality of prose and mesmerizing lyrical writing.

The Tenor, Synopsis~

02_The TenorPublication Date: February 24, 2014
Pegasus Books
Formats: Hardcover, Paperback, eBook

The Tenor is a sweeping tale of historical fiction in the style of Ann Patchett’s “Bel Canto” and De Burniere’s “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin.” It swiftly moves from Pino Vaggi’s youth in pre-war Italy, to his coming of age as a soldier in war-torn Greece, before ending in a shattering surprise finale at Maria Callas’ historic final performance ever on the stage of New York’s Metropolitan Opera House in 1965. It is based loosely on the stories and anecdotes that I learned from several of Maria Callas’ personal friends and from nearly a dozen trips to Italy and Greece to research the subject.

Pino Vaggi is not like the other children in Italy in 1930. While they play soccer, he listens to opera. By age ten, he is already a child prodigy, an opera singing sensation on the fast track to a major international career. On the eve of his debut, WWII breaks out. The theater is closed. The season is cancelled. Pino is drafted. He is stationed in war-torn Athens, where he hears and ultimately falls in love with another child prodigy, the young Maria Callas. There is one major problem: she is the enemy.

However, as famine devastates Athens, (a famine created by the diversion of humanitarian aid meant for the Greeks to the Russian front to feed the German Army) the artist in Pino can’t fathom the thought of the greatest singer the world will ever know perishing, especially if he is in a position to prevent it. With a firing squad in the balance, he repeatedly risks his own life to protect and feed the young girl and her family. In the process, his love for her deepens, until something tragic happens – something with devastating consequences that blows the young lovers apart.

Praise for The Tenor

“Mr. Danish’s clever use of the history of one of the greatest voices ever to sing, Maria Callas, and a little known part of that history, her early life during turbulent times in the world, gives this a truly romantic and involving idea…. I loved it and any opera lover would too. Easy, readable and knowledgeable about life, music and all the stuff that happens in between….!” – Aprile Millo, Metropolitan Opera Star

“Mr. Danish’s exceeding knowledge of and passion for the medium of opera suffuses every line of this cinderella narrative, one that provides a thrill ride for both the novice and the seasoned opera fan. The Tenor is impossible to put down….” – Samuel Juliano, Wonders in the Dark

“As an operatic diva that has sung over 100 performances with the Metropolitan Opera, I can say without hesitation, that “The Tenor” is a riveting and accurate tale of life imitating art! Peter Danish’s story telling ability is lyrical and powerful as he explores the life of an opera singer through passion, longing, romance and war! The accuracy of his descriptions about a singer’s journey, his musical and operatic references and his colorful characters, including the incomparable Maria Callas, make this a must read!” – Victoria Livengood, Metropolitan Opera Mezzo Soprano

“Whether Peter Danish is writing about music, history or travel in his vastly entertaining novel, “The Tenor,” his words fly off the page. The whirlwind of images invites the reader into a world that will be familiar to some, foreign to others—but captivating to all. Read it!” – Richard Sasanow, Editor-in-Chief BWW Opera

“The easy flowing prose of Mr. Danish’s historically engaging novel is expertly paced and eloquently depicted. As an opera singer who has sung hundreds of performances around the world I think this book will be a compelling read for music lovers and an exhilarating story for all readers. Bravo, Mr. Danish!” – Korliss Uecker, Metropolitan Opera Soprano

“Each page of Tenor is as rich as a box of Italian chocolates. By page 8 I already found 7 lines I wanted to steal. Dive in and trust author Peter Danish to sweep you up and lead you through a remarkable adventure! I couldn’t put it down.” – Tom Dudzick, playwright, Over the Tavern, Miracle on South Division Street

“Facts and fiction playfully intertwine in this opera lover’s delight!” – Alberto Ferreras, award-winning author, ‘B as in Beautiful’

“The Tenor was not what I was expecting. Yes, it’s about opera. Yes, it’s an homage to art and artists. Yes, it’s about dreaming of fulfilling one’s destiny. But, it’s about all those things without being fussy or precious. It’s decidedly unfussy–because it’s about people who work really hard….Peter Danish creates characters you root for. He has woven a tale that keeps you wanting to find out what happens next! I think they call those page-turners!” – John Cariani, Tony Award Nominee, playwright, ‘Almost Maine’

“With his far-reaching opera expertise and keen insight into the Italian soul, Peter Danish draws us into his captivating story of the joys and heartaches of the performer’s life. The result is a satisfying read for book lovers and opera lovers alike. Bravo, Il Tenore!” – Erica Miner, Award-winning Author, ‘Murder in the Pit’

Buy the Book~

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)
Amazon (Hardcover)
Book Depository

Author Peter Danish, Biography~

03_Author Peter DanishPeter Danish is the Classical Music Editor in Chief for BWWClassical.com, the classic music site for BroadwayWorld.com, covering and reviewing the classical music performance in and around New York City and the greater New York Area.

A proud member of the Dramatists Guild of America, he is the playwright of the play: “Gods, Guns and Greed,” as well as the new musical: “The Flying Dutchman.”

His writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Ad Age, Ad Week and Media Week Magazines.

Author Links

Author Website
Danish Media Group Website
Facebook Page

 Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/thetenortour

Tour Hashtag: #TheTenorVirtualTour

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