I just finished reading The Women in the Castle: A Novel, a solid addition to the WWII fiction genre that filled the void since I enjoyed The Nightingale and several others from the past few years.
In fact I am working on a WWII fiction reading list and I am going to keep this post short so I can get back to compiling that before Memorial Day! I have been compiling this reading list for several months now but keep wanting to “add one more” to the list…
The beginning of this new novel by Jessica Shattuck reminded me of Belgravia, where socialites are enjoying a party – this time in a Bavarian castle – and love is in the air. But war is on the horizon, so the fun is short lived and duty calls both soldiers and resistors away.
Last year for Leslie’s Bookcase’s very first official book review I read All the Missing Girls: A Novel by Megan Miranda.
You may remember that I loved the book and recommended you clear your schedule and read this book immediately!
This year I had the opportunity – thanks to NetGalley – to download Miranda’s latest novel, The Perfect Stranger, in exchange for another honest review.
In this mystery/thriller, a failed journalist, Leah (though her failing is one a reader can sympathize with), runs into an old friend “Emmy” and decides to move away with her for a fresh start. When “Emmy” disappears soon after their move, Leah realizes that — on paper or the world wide web — the Emmy she knows doesn’t even exist. Leah’s credibility is once again at stake and she even becomes a suspect in Emmy’s disappearance. Thus Leah must work to uncover the truth herself.
Can you imagine quitting your job and selling your house and possessions to travel the world for an indefinite amount of time?
I can, and I can’t.
Adventurous Leslie, who existed in college and for a few years afterwards, would consider this. Mom Leslie, who exists now, of course would not.
Adventurous Leslie who is somewhere still deep inside of me (maybe??) especially appreciated The Yellow Envelope: One Gift, Three Rules, and A Life-Changing Journey Around the World, a memoir by Kim Dinan that reads as a travel and relationship diary. It is honest, engaging, and beautifully descriptive about many places in the world I will likely never see firsthand.
It is, however, the additional element of the “yellow envelope” that moves the memoir beyond just another story of a couple traveling the world.
Apparently during WWII 100,000 European women married American soldiers! So after the war, the U.S. government sent thousands of these women to America on The Queen Mary luxury liner, which is now docked in Long Beach, CA.
The latest of my many WWII fiction reads, A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner, follows the stories of three war brides as they experience the horrors of the war, meet their husbands, and later make the trip on the Queen Mary “across the ocean.” Of course as in many modern novels the chapters jump back and forth between past and present so a reader learns key information at various times to make the story most intriguing.
Homegoing: A Novel is an epic story spanning two continents and several lifetimes.
In eighteenth-century Ghana, two half-sisters are unaware of each other’s existence. One sister lives upstairs, in luxury, at Cape Coast Castle while the other is being held captive in the castle’s dungeon to be sold into American slavery.
Yaa Gyasi’s novel follows the descendants of these two women; each chapter is about a new generation. Thankfully, she has provided a family tree at the front of the book, and I referred to this often because I wanted to completely understand who I was reading about in each chapter. Each of these chapters, which covers only a snippet of each life, could have warranted a novel in its own right. I was NEVER ready to move on from each person’s story, but I always soon found myself immersed in the next person’s story.
Like one of the characters in The Orphan’s Tale: A Novel, I didn’t expect to find myself in a circus during a WWII read.
“…it is hard to believe that such a world still exists even during the war. I might have been less surprised to find myself on the moon,” says Noa after finding refuge in a circus troupe.
Not to be confused with the previously bestselling Orphan Train, especially since the cover of this newer book has a train and instead of a circus, The Orphan Tale by Pam Jenoff is set in WWII Europe.
Noa, cast away by her family for becoming pregnant, rescues another baby boy from a boxcar of Jewish infants headed towards a concentration camp. Then, taken in by a German circus, Noa gets training in the art of trapeze and also finds deep friendship from her mentor Astrid, who has her own secrets and heartaches.
I’m reading the new Bruce Springsteen memoir Born to Run slowly, savoring it.
A third of the way through, I’m to the point where he has released his first album Greetings From Asbury Park, N.J.
A tidbit of what he says about his Asbury Park album:
…the lyrics and spirit of Greetings come from an unself-consicous place. Your early songs emerge from a moment when you’re writing with no sure prospect of ever being heard. Up until then, it’s been just you and your music. This only happens once.
I listened to the album again and heard it differently than before – an awesome experience with this new insight.
So far I’ve learned about his childhood, his relationship with his parents and grandparents, his inspirations, and the source of some of his songs, for example “The River” is a tribute to his sister and brother-in-law.
I’ve learned how hard he truly worked for his first opportunities. Natural talent – yes he had that – but he worked his a$$ off to get better. He was so focused and he didn’t even have a drink of alcohol until after he recorded his first album (the funny story of his drinking Tequila for the first time is what I just read about!).
An elegy by definition is “a poem of serious reflection, typically a lament for the dead.”
J.D. Vance’s new memoir, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, currently a bestseller and a hot item with a long waiting list at any public library is certainly a serious reflection on his growing up a “hillbilly,” and it does express grief for his grandparents, both for whom I cried real tears while reading this book.
Early on he says the book is about how this culture (Kentucky Appalachia and Ohio Rust Belt) is known for “reacting to bad circumstances in the worst way possible. It’s about a culture that increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”
Vance can talk about these problems in a way others can’t get away with because he lived through it himself and somehow came out a Yale-educated lawyer.
One of my goals for the new year is to read at least six environmental books. My first was a beautiful book about how trees in a forest feel and communicate: The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate—Discoveries from a Secret World. Did you know research shows trees behave like human families and human communities? Tree parents live with their children, communicating and supporting them. The trees in a undisturbed forest also function socially, helping the sick and warning each other of dangers.
The author Peter Wohlleben is a forester in Germany; his book was recently translated into English due to high demand.
The book starts out like a love song to trees and forests (and this was my favorite part!) and then it continues on like a layman’s textbook teaching how trees grow, survive, and die. Most interesting (to me ) is that the trees in forests work together for the success of all.
Last week I finished the book “Moonglow” and saw the movie “Moonlight.”
My double moon experience was a coincidence, but it left me contemplating these vastly different life stories with references to the same moon.
Moonglow: A Novel
Moonglow was on my Fall-Winter reading list and it has since been named as a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards. It is based on the death-bed confessions of the author’s grandpa, including many stories he heard for the first time in the last week or so of his grandfather’s life.
The title here references the grandfather’s passion for space travel. I will never look at the official photo of the Challenger space crew the same due to one of the stories told in this book! Also, the first time he saw his wife was by “moonglow.”