"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

May Books


The Blackout Book Club by Amy Lynn Green -- I found this while picking up a book the library had on hold for me. When I got home, I noticed it was the same book my mom had recommended to me via text a few days prior. This book followed Avis as she ran the town's private library while her brother shipped out to fight the Germans. Additionally we read the perspectives of Martina, Ginny, and Louise, and how the four women came together in a small town in Maine. A pleasant book after some of those I've read lately. Easy read, too.

After the Shadows by Amanda Cabot -- First in the Sweetwater Crossing trilogy, this book focused on Emily's return to the small town she left when she married the handsome, dashing George. She's greeted harshly by one sister, Louisa, while the other, Joanna, is with her grandmother in Europe. Emily comes back to Sweetwater Crossing only to lose her father in an apparent suicide. Only Emily is not convinced, and seeks to prove this wasn't true.  Meanwhile Craig moves to town with his two-year old son who recently lost his mother in an accident. Craig wanted a new start for Noah, and was hired as the town's teacher. A pretty good, clean, easy read.

The Best Strangers in the World by Ari Shapiro -- NPR is probably where I have gotten most of my news for the last several years, and I've often enjoyed Ari Shapiro's stories and interviews. When I saw he'd written a book, I put it on hold at the library and got it the other day. I enjoyed learning a few stories about his younger years - how he and his brother were the only Jewish kids at their school in Fargo,North Dakota, so they got to share with others about dreidels and menorahs. Later the family moved to Oregon, and I loved the parts about nature hikes - identifying wildflowers and birds, finding mushrooms, and looking in tidepools. I learned how he got started with Pink Martini as well as how he began working with NPR (he was Nina Totenberg's intern first.) He spoke a bit about his time at Yale and meeting his husband Michael, their weddings (yes, plural), and his time with a faerie community in rural Tennessee. I enjoyed reading about his work husband/best friend when he was based out of London, and stories from Ukraine and Turkey. Probably my favorite chapter is the one that is also the title of this book: it dealt with Syrian refugees and especially three men whose lives Ari and his colleagues followed for a few years. 

The Rose and the Thistle by Laura Frantz -- This book took a bit too long to get into as Lady Blythe Hedley went to live at a Scottish "laird's" (Everard Hume) residence while hiding from those against the Jacobite sympathies. Overall it was a decent book in giving some information about this time (1715) in history.

The Librarian of Burned Books by Brianna Labuskes -- This book follows three timelines, but not many years apart. Althea travels to Germany as guests of the Nazis where she meets Hannah and Dev. Later we see Hannah as she is living in Paris, and then there is Viv who is trying to reverse a book ban so she can send books of all types to soldiers serving in World War II.

Wild Maps for Curious Minds: 100 New Ways to See the Natural World by Mike Higgins and Manuel Bortoletti (illustrator) -- A quick read due to it being filled with 100 maps with little text. I enjoyed this!

Homecoming by Kate Morton -- Her books are always long (540+ pages in this one), but I like them!  I enjoyed this look from Jess as she flew from her home in London back home to Australia when her grandmother, Nora, fell as she was attempting the attic stairs. This story is also told from the perspective of Percy Summers who along with his wife Meg, ran the store in 1959. Percy being the one who happened upon Isabel Turner and her three oldest children who looked as if they were asleep, yet all four were dead. The baby - a few weeks old - was missing. Anyway Jess pieces together what happened back then, and thankfully in books, you often get a complete story which often allude you in real life. 

The Orphan Sisters by Shirley Dickson -- The library had one of her books, but none of the others so I put one on my Amazon Wishlist and got it for my birthday. Sisters Esther and Dorothy were dropped off at an orphanage when they were young, and their mom never came back for them. Eventually the girls age out of the orphanage, get jobs, marry and so forth. Pretty good story set against the backdrop of England at war with Germany during World War II.

Where Are the Children Now? by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke -- I saw several weeks ago that this book was On Order at the library so I read the original book (from the 1970s) in anticipation of this one. In it Melissa (Missy) and Mike are grown, and Melissa is getting married to Charlie who has a stepdaughter Riley who is three.  Melissa still has nightmares about what happened to her, and one afternoon when her sleepless nights catch up with her, Riley is taken! It's like her own life revisited, but with some twists.

It's One of Us by J.T. Ellison -- Olivia and Park are desperate for children, but IVF isn't working. Breaking news: a local lady who had been missing is found dead, and the police are knocking on Olivia and Park's door because the DNA matches Park's - well, it's enough to be Park's son. Huh?  Turns out Park was a sperm donor back in graduate school. Anyway, Scarlett is founding member of The Halves - a growing group of young adults and teens who have matched to Park as their donor.

The Only Survivors by Megan Miranda --  Cassidy is one of a few who survived when two van loads of teenagers crashed into a ravine ten years ago. Every year this group of survivors meets for a week-long trip to the Outer Banks, but it's getting weirder and Cassidy isn't sure she wants to continue this tradition. Especially since it seems this group is being targeted as they lost Ian to suicide earlier in the year.  I had a bit of a hard time getting into this book as I read it as we were preparing for, traveling to, enjoying a party for Zach's twelfth birthday. But I did find a pretty afternoon in which I read the bulk of it, and it was OK in the end.

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly -- Josie and Arlette were friends back during the war and later taken to a concentration camp for a brief time before liberation. In 1952 Josie is working out of Fort Bliss where Nazis have been brought to the US because the United States wants their scientific expertise. Gotta get them or else the Russians will... no justice for these criminals, ya know?!  Meanwhile Arlette is on the hunt for the child who was lost to her and she winds up in French Guiana. Over five hundred pages, but a fast, interesting read!

Coronation Year by Jennifer Robson -- It's a few months before the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, and Edie is hoping her struggling hotel will earn enough money so she can keep it in the family. Meanwhile Jamie is commissioned to paint the procession, and  Stella is a photographer from Italy, both of whom take a room at the Blue Lion Hotel. Quick, interesting read!

My Travels with Mrs. Kennedy by Clint Hill and Lisa McCubbin Hill -- I really enjoyed this look at Jacqueline Kennedy from the perspective of her secret service agent who co-wrote this book in his latter 80s. Lots of great pictures about these interesting years.

Are you there God? It's me, Margaret by Judy Blume -- For some reason there wasn't a comma used any time Margaret addressed God although I thought it was a basic grammar rule. Besides that, this was a super-quick read. Like maybe an hour or two after I finished the Mrs. Kennedy book above. I've heard some interviews on various NPR shows about this book due to the movie of the same name. I can't remember if I read this book as a youngster though I recognize many of the other books. Pretty cute.

The Soulmate by Sally Hepworth -- Pippa and Gabe live in a place with lovely views. Unfortunately their house is where The Drop, a place people come to end their lives, is located. Gabe has had the opportunity to save many lives, but one night Gabe is not able to save a lady. When it comes out that the person is someone Gabe and Pippa know, a former boss's wife, things take a tricky turn. This book is told from the perspectives of Pippa then and now as well as Amanda (the one who died at The Drop) then and now. Pretty good.

The Boy from Block 66 by Limor Regev -- While attending her son's best friend's bar mitzvah, the author meets his grandfather who was just thirteen years old when the Jews of his city were rounded up and sent to a camp. The Allies were winning, but the Germans with the help of Hungarians were ruthless in their desire to get rid of Jews. Moshe Kessler's family was part of this, and the author recorded his story here. He was born in Czechoslovakia in a region that was annexed by Hungary. Now it's part of Ukraine.  This book tells his story. 

Here is a bit I shared with some folks (we met in a baby name group about 20 years ago) about Moshe's names:
He was born in Czechoslavakia in a region called Carpathia-Russia. It was located near the border with Hungary, Romania, and Poland, and until the end of World War I in 1919, this region had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He said "in less than thirty years our city was part of four different countries and its name was changed several times." (pg. 17)

About his own name ... At home he was called "Moishi," which he said was his favorite, but at school they called him Ludwig which was his "secular name. Every Jewish child has both a Hebrew and a secular name, which we use in school and in non-Jewish public life." He said his Czech passport had Ludwig written on it so when he arrived in Israel, "the Aliyah people who picked us up wrote that name," so in his official papers, "in addition to my Hebrew name Moshe, the name Ludwig appears, just as it had accompanied me in younger days." (pg. 32)

BUT WAIT... in 1939 Hungary annexed his region so the new Hungarian government required all the children who had attended Czech schools to learn Hungarian. Moshe/Ludwig was given a Hungarian name at school: Leyush. He dropped that name as quickly as he could after the war. (pg. 48)