Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Book Review: DEFIANCE-A WORLD WAR II STORY by A.L. Sowards

This week's Wednesday Wonders features 
by A. L. Sowards 

About Defiance:

Eight years after immigrating to the United States, German-born Lukas Ley embodies the American dream: successful athlete, gorgeous girlfriend, loving family. But beneath the surface, eighteen-year-old Lukas is driven by ambition, resolved to avenge the murder of his father at the hands of the Nazi regime. Unfortunately, a failed physical throws his plans for flight school off course. Unlike his war-hero older brother, Lukas’s purpose is unclear. He can’t fly, and in the eyes of the military, he’s good for only one thing—the front lines.

From the foxholes of war-ravaged Luxembourg to the devastation of an enormous German offensive, Lukas’s journey is fraught with peril. But when he’s taken as a prisoner of war, he realizes life is about to get much worse. In the enemy camp, Lukas is viewed as a German fighting for the wrong side. Ripped from the innocence of an idealistic youth, he becomes a man beaten by the horrors of war. Now his only hope of survival is to hold tightly to his faith in God and his love of family and home. But even if he manages to make it out alive, can he ever be whole again?

 My Book Review:

          I have always enjoyed the books written by A. L. Sowards about World War I and World War II. This one was no exception. It seemed slightly different than the others. Written in first person, Defiance seems less of an action-adventure story set in wartime and more of a journey into the heart and soul of a young man from when he eagerly looks forward to graduating from high school so he can join in the battle against Nazi Germany, through  his actual experiences as a soldier, and until he is returned home.
          Born in Germany, but brought to the United States as a child, Lukas has a desire for revenge against Hitler and his Nazi government that he blames for the death of his father, a man who wrote in protest of the rise of National Socialism in his native land. Lukas’s lofty dreams of how he wanted to participate were crushed. He ended up being assigned to what he thought was the least desirable manner to engage the enemy. He ended up in the infantry, a ground soldier considered “cannon fodder.” Nevertheless, he was willing to do what it took to defeat Nazism. He soon found himself willing to do things he never thought he could or would do to save both his friends and himself.

          Without realizing it, the company to which he was assigned was in an area thought to be “quiet.” It ended up becoming the center of action in what we know today as the Battle of the Bulge. When Lukas joined his squadron, the men already there ignored him. He soon came to the conclusion he was on his own and no one cared about him. As he gradually proved his worth, and demonstrated he was not going to get himself killed the first few days in combat, he soon developed a close working relationship and position of trust among fellow soldiers. This is a frequent situation in combat situations where men see so many of their buddies get killed or seriously wounded they build a protective shield around their emotions by trying to not care about newcomers. The author did a great job of not only showing what happened, but demonstrating its effect on the characters. 
          I thought the author did a wonderful job as she took us on the journey into the mental, emotional and spiritual responses of Lukas and his comrades as they faced death of their fellow soldiers, difficult battle situations, surrender, experiences as prisoners of war, the additional torture at the hands of a Nazi guard Lukas faced because of his nativity, and illness. 
          One of the most daunting challenges Lukas faced was wrestling with his own conscience after the war was over. Although his faith in God got him through many difficult times, the horror of war took its toll and left him feeling unworthy of God's love and forgiveness for some of the choices he made. The author’s message regarding this was powerful. 
          The story was well-written and kept me interested from beginning to end. Although not primarily a romance, what romance elements the book contains are sweet and clean. The language is clean. The action is intense. I recommend this book.

Purchase links for Defiance:

Barnes & Noble  |  Deseret BooksAmazon 

Author Bio:

A.L. Sowards grew up in Moses Lake, Washington, then came to Utah to attend BYU and ended up staying. Now she’s a busy mom with young kids, but she does her best to squeeze writing time in between naptime, stroller rides, and homework sessions. She enjoys reading, writing, learning about history, and eating chocolate, sometimes all at once. As an author, she is known for heart-pounding action, memorable characters, careful historical research, clean romance, and family-friendly language. Prior to The Spider and the Sparrow, which was set during World War One, Sowards wrote four novels set during the Second World War, including two Whitney Award finalists. Once again, she writes about the Second World War. 

Find A.L. Sowards online at:

Wednesday, April 12, 2017


Today's Wednesday Wonders features 
Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region

by a consortium of authors for 
Pikes Peak Library District Special Collections

Book description:

Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region serves as an intense summary of many of the major fires, floods, and other catastrophes of this area. Though thoroughly researched by the contributors, this book is not intended to be a comprehensive accounting, but rather a collection of some of the more significant calamities impacting the area—many of which were discussed at the 9th Annual Pikes Peak Regional History Symposium, also titled “Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region.”

Readers will learn that recent misfortunes experienced in the Pikes Peak region were unprecedented in their destruction, but were not unfamiliar, or even unpredictable, events. In fact, we should expect some natural disasters. For example, did you know that Colorado was designated the “hail capital of the U.S.”? Or did you know that Colorado is on the western borderline of Tornado Alley and that twisters have damaged property in both the El Paso County plains and Manitou Springs, where an estimated $1 million in tornado damage occurred in 1979?

In these pages you will learn how the devastating 19th century fires in Cripple Creek and Colorado Springs influenced how these communities developed and how waging battle against destructive flames evolved from making fire breaks by blasting buildings to sophisticated military missions involving satellites, GPS, and aerial firefighting methods. You will understand, from first-hand accounts, how the 1898 Antlers Hotel fire started and quickly burned an extensive area of Colorado Springs three blocks long and two blocks wide. And you will be shocked by the damaging 1935 Memorial Day Flood, and other floods, that swiftly overcame Colorado Springs’ parks, streets, and buildings.

 449 pp. Maps, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index.

ISBN 978-1-56735-318-1 (print), $24.95; 978-1-56735-344-0 (Kindle), $5.99; 978-1-56735-345-7 (Smashwords ePub), $5.99 (available for free to your readers at through 30 April with coupon code ZU66Q)


Purchase Links for Disasters of the Pikes Peak Region:

Amazon (Kindle) | Smashwords | Clausen Books (Print)

(Clausen Books will eventually list the print version on Amazon and AbeBooks)



Defining Disaster: Death, Destruction, or Distress?
Michael L. Olsen • 1


Evolution of Fire: Our Changing Views of Fire in the Pikes Peak Region
Erinn Barnes • 15

Colorado Springs Burns, 1876 • 52

Pikes Peak Timberland Reserve Fires
John G. Jack • 62

The Antlers Burns:
The 1898 Fire that Destroyed a Landmark • 64

The Antlers Hotel Fire of 1898
Bill Crosby • 90

Help from on High: Space Assets & Military-Civil Cooperation during the Waldo Canyon & Black Forest Fires
Rick W. Sturdevant • 105

In Our Own Backyard: Excerpts from the Waldo Canyon Fire Oral History Project
Heather Jordan • 129

Crossing the Denial Divide: Arid West Lessons from the Waldo Canyon & Black Forest Fires
Katherine Scott Sturdevant • 166


Harbinger: The Fountain Valley Flood of 1864 • 187

When the Waters Rise: Recovering & Learning from Pikes Peak-Area Floods
John E. Putnam • 191

                                   The Memorial Day Flood of 1935               
Preston & Lindsay Petermeier • 231

Hell & High Water: Natural Disasters at Glen Eyrie
Susan A. Fletcher • 245

Flash Flooding: A Legacy of the Waldo Canyon Fire
John E. Putnam • 282


The Cripple Creek Volcano: A 35-million-year Disaster
Doris A. McCraw • 319

Earth, Wind, Fire & Other Mini-disasters in the 1800s
Nancy K. Prince • 344

The Fountain Depot Explosion of 1888 • 357

“Worse Than Fire or Flood, Tornado or Earthquake”:
The Collapse of the Building & Loan Industry in
Depression-Era Colorado Springs
Alice Echols • 388

Selected Bibliography • 417

INDEX • 421

You may connect with the Pikes Peak Regional Library and their collection at the following:


Featured Author – Doris A. McCraw:

Author of “The Cripple Creek Volcano: A 35-million-year Disaster”

Doris McCraw is an actor, historian, poet, photographer, and (of course) writer. After she retired Doris decided to pursue her other dreams. She performs as Helen (Hunt) Jackson, Katharine Lee Bates, as stand alone historic characters. She researched and wrote on Karol W Smith, Colorado's first film commissioner, and currently is researching the early women doctors of Colorado prior to 1900.

She writes and post haiku with her photographs, five days a week on her fivesevenfive page. 

Writing fiction under the pen name, Angela Raines, she contributes to the following blogs:,, and yes, she finds time to write her Western and Medieval romances. She claims it keeps her young.


Other books in the
Regional History Series

The Colorado Labor Wars: Cripple Creek 1903–1904,
A Centennial Commemoration

“To Spare No Pains”: Zebulon Montgomery Pike
& His 1806–1807 Southwest Expedition

Doctor at Timberline: True Tales, Travails,
& Triumphs of a Pioneer Colorado Physician

Legends, Labors & Loves:
William Jackson Palmer, 1836–1909

Extraordinary Women of the Rocky Mountain West

Lightning in His Hand:
The Life Story of Nikola Tesla

Enterprise & Innovation in the Pikes Peak Region

The Pioneer Photographer:
Rocky Mountain Adventures with a Camera

A City Beautiful Dream: The 1912 Vision for Colorado Springs

Film & Photography on the Front Range

Doctors, Disease, and Dying in the Pikes Peak Region

Rush to the Rockies! The 1859 Pikes Peak or Bust Gold Rush

Candy Makers’ Manual for the Household

Massacre, Murder, & Mayhem in the Rocky Mountain West