Leslie's Bookcase

celebrating and recommending unforgettable books

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New fiction about WWII brides on The Queen Mary

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.

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A fun and giftable cookbook featuring meatloaf

Rarely do I find a useful cookbook that is also fun to read, but this one is both:  A Meatloaf in Every Oven: Two Chatty Cooks, One Iconic Dish and Dozens of Recipes – from Mom’s to Mario Batali’s.

A sampling of the passion these authors have for meatloaf:

“Show us a person’s meatloaf and we’ll show you that person’s soul. Meatloaf is a mirror: You are how you loaf.”

and

“Meatloaf is a metaphor: It’s life made loaf. You take what’s precious (in this case, the meat) and stretch it as far as it’ll go.”

This cookbook obviously focuses on meatloaf but it includes recipes from traditional to vegetarian to cultural favorites. The recipes include favorites from several famous chefs to politicians on both sides of the aisle. In total you get about 50 meatloaf recipes grouped into categories with dialogue and commentary included. There is a section at the end that includes yummy sides.

The book also provides helpful basic tips and techniques that span loaves:

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Buy this book for a teenager – The Hate U Give

I just finished The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, the book it seems like “everyone is reading” and loving. This book currently has 4.72/5.0 stars on Goodreads!

Starr Carter is a 16-year-old black girl who has already witnessed the shooting deaths of two of her friends. The second of which is the basis of this book.

Her friend Khalil is unarmed and is shot by police while reaching for a hairbrush. This particular story is fiction. But it is inspired by and pays tribute to all those stories which are not fiction. The rest of the novel follows the aftermath and investigations in to the death and Starr’s personal journey to use her own voice to seek justice for Khalil.

“People like us in situations like this become hashtags, but they rarely get justice,” notes Starr.

I picked this book up with high expectations, not only because of the buzz surrounding it but also because this is a topic I am passionate about.

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Call of the Wild calling me back

In High School English class a couple of shorter books were very popular for book reports. I remember hearing SOOOO MANY oral book reports on The Old Man and The Sea and The Call of the Wild.

I heard about these books sooo many times, I never needed to read them myself at the time, and I didn’t until years later.

But when Call of the Wild was recently featured as a “literary cameo” in a show I was hooked on, I decided to read this book for myself, finally.

RELATED POST: Literary Cameos in The Night Of

And I now have to admit that these classmates who were being efficient were still getting quality reading in fewer pages than I might have been!

On seeing Green Day 20+ years after I fell in love with Dookie

Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong, who doesn’t look or act any older since releasing Dookie in 1994, expected a lot from his audience the other night. He demanded early on:

“Stand up! This isn’t a tea party; this is rock and roll!”

The entire audience agreed; everyone to the very top row was standing up for the entire concert.

Also he chastised a fan for taking a video, “When you are looking at me through your phone, you are not seeing me,” he said. So…I don’t have any videos or photos to show you because I was embracing the experience and giving them my full attention for the two and a half hours they rocked the State Farm Center!

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Homegoing….an epic, beautiful, absorbing novel

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.

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A Man Called Ove warmed my heart

I read once that (paraphrase here from my memory)  it is impossible to hate someone if you know his or her story.

At first, I didn’t really like Ove, a grumpy and routine-based elderly man featured in A Man Called Ove: A Novel though I did find him an amusing character. Here’s a sampling of Ove:

“Ove is the sort of man who checks the status of all things by giving them a good kick.”

and

“Ove doubts whether someone who can’t park a car properly should even be allowed to vote.”

Likewise, I knew Ove would not be a fan of me, exampled by this:

“How can anyone be incapable of reversing with a trailer? he asks himself. How? How difficult is it to establish the basics of right and left and then do the opposite? How do these people make their way through life at all?”

However, as Ove’s “story” was revealed to me, I started liking him. And I felt that his character would eventually become tolerant of me as well…though I am 99% sure I’ll never learn to back-up a trailer, also a disappointment to my husband!

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Joining the circus in The Orphan’s Tale

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.

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A guide to the Oscar-nominated “Best Pictures”

I concentrate on finding the best books, so I let “the Academy” sort through the year’s best movies for me. Then I go into a frenzy trying to see as many as possible before the awards show.

This year – for the first time – I saw ALL of the Best Picture nominees BEFORE the Academy Awards. My movie quest was super fun and kept me returning to theaters many times during the past few weeks and more recently to the local Redboxes. I finished my ninth movie yesterday, just in time.

As it turned out – thanks Academy – I enjoyed most all of these movies. Below are my brief reflections and recommendations with no spoilers…I want you all to enjoy these movies as much as I did! At the end, I’ll give my votes to win the major awards.

Disclaimer: I am not a movie critic or a movie expert; I am just a normal person who saw all nine of these movies, and these are just my opinions!

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Born to Run – Part I

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!).

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