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Midyear Reading Challenge Update: The Ongoing Challenges I’m Doing

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#ReadNonFicChal

One of the options in this challenge is to read by the following categories. While I’ve chose the option to just read and review any nonfiction, I thought as part of my half-way update I’d see how I’m doing on the categories without trying.

Total Nonfiction Books Read January 1 to June 30, 2022

CATEGORIES

1. Social History   After the Romanovs by Helen Rappaport 

2. Popular Science 

3. Language

4. Medical Memoir

5. Climate/Weather

6. Celebrity

7. Reference

8. Geography [I’m seeing Geography as set in another country] Girl From Lamaha Street (Guyana)

9. Linked to a podcast Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Seamus O’Reilly of Griefcast (podcast)

10. Wild Animals The Puma Years by Laura Coleman

11. Economics 

12. Published in 2022  Valor by Dan Hampton

I have one more I’m currently reading that should be finished by the end of June, but I’ll leave it off.

20 Books of Summer

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#20booksofsummer22

June 1, 2022 to September 1, 2022

Here is the link to my original 20 Books of Summer post with my list of possible books. I don’t like a set reading list–it gets to be like homework. So these are just possibilities. 

Update from my possibilities list (link above):

  • The School for German Brides arrived very early, so isn’t counted. Click to read my review.
  • The Good Left Undone–DNF
  • The No-Show–DNF for now–I got several audios in at the same time. This one didn’t make the cut, but I’ll try it again later.
  • Entangled Life–DNF, but only because it took too much concentration for a commuting audio.
  • Haven–I’m reading it from NetGalley right now.

Read For 20 Books of Summer

I only do challenges that allow using books in multiple challenges–it’s more fun that way.

  1. River of the Gods by Candice Millard–review coming soon
  2. Churchill’s Band of Brothers by Damien Lewis–review coming soon
  3. The Puma Years by Laura Coleman Click to read my review
  4. Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Seamas O’Reilly Click to read my review
  5. Mary Churchill’s War by Mary Churchill [Soames].Click to read my review

I will finish a few more before June ends.

Audio Book Challenge

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Thanks to my long (2 hours+) commute, I listen to a ton of audio books!

I will finish a few more before June ends, but this is when the post fit in my blogging schedule!

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Historical Fiction

    1. The School for German Brides
    2. Book Woman’s Daughter by Kim Michele Richardson
    3. Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier
    4. Mary Anne by Daphne Du Maurier
    5. Far Country by Nevil Shute 
    6. Angels of the Pacific by Elise Hooper 
    7. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell 
    8. Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ascroft 
    9. River of Earth by James Still 
    10. How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn 
    11. The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

I debate some books–if they were written as contemporary (like Spring Magic below or another older book that I’m reading now) are they historical fiction? Who knows! I’ve probably missed a book or two as well. I may finish one more before June ends.

50 European sovereign states 

Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Russia, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and Vatican City.

NOTE: Even with Brexit, the United Kingdom is still one country, part of Europe, that includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. One book from any one of these four counts as your one book for the United Kingdom.

ERC 2022

  1. The Statement (France)
  2. The Sixteen Trees of the Somme (Norway)
  3. The Vintage Springtime Club (Germany)
  4. The Conclave (Vatican City)
  5. Small Things Like These (Ireland)
  6. The Secret Life of Albert Entwhistle (UK as one country) 

Possibly one or two more countries by the end of June, depending on what I finish reading.

 

Countries: Ireland, Norway, Germany, Vatican City, France and UK**

** I don’t agree with the UK representing just one country. I see England, Scotland, Wales. and Northern Ireland as unique. My page. My rules.

  1. Spring Magic (Scotland)
  2. How Green Was My Valley  (Wales)
  3. Sorrow and Bliss (England
  4. Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? (Northern Ireland)

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Far Country by Nevil Shute 

I found this challenge late, so I’m not off to a great start.

Coming up during the rest of the year

The next Classics Club Spin is a definite as is October’s 1929 Cub read. I’m not sure about the Aussie lit month this year, but the others should be a “go.” I haven’t put in a Christmas book challenge even though I enjoyed one last year that’s way too mood-driven to predict.

What about you? Are you participating in any of these challenges? Leave me a comment or a link to your own post.

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Review: The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

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#TheSixteenTreesoftheSomme #NetGalley

My Interest

Say the words “The Somme” and you generally have my attention. World War I ends one of my favorite historical periods. That battle is one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century. The loss of life is beyond fathoming. Add to that a Norwegian author (translated into English) and a country I haven’t yet “read” in my reading the world project and you have a book I had to read. I’m so glad I did. Not only did it introduce me to the Shetland Islands, but this story weirdly incorporated a part of a character’s story in one of my own works in progress.

The Story

“If you look at life as a whole, most of our conduct is second-rate.”

At the Somme battle site from World War I there is a group of trees affected by an apparently one-time use of an odd poisonous gas. The grain and coloration of the wood is some of the finest ever. An Edinburgh timber merchant has a big financial stake in this wood–it is perfect for the bespoke sporting guns British aristocrats lust after and use to shoot grouse on the Glorious 12th and other birds throughout the year.

In 1971, a small boy goes missing for a few days after his parents are killed by an unexploded shell at the forest area containing the trees. The area is cordoned off by signs and barbed wire due to the unusually large number and close proximity of unexploded shells from World War I. 

Two Norwegian brothers take different paths in World War II. One, who farms the family farm for a living, fights for the Nazis in the Norse Legion. The other is killed in the French resistance, or by the French resisitence…or…is he?

Why would the “caretaker” of a grand house on a Scottish Island be so reluctant to gossip about her employers?

My Thoughts

Wow! This story takes twists and turns that amazed me. Admittedly, I’m not a big murder or mystery book reader, but wow all the same. And for once a contemporary author did research and put much of it into the story without boring the reader to death. I learned more about the Somme tragedy, a good bit about the natural environment in the north of Norway and on the Shetland Islands, as well as more about bespoke shotguns [see the bottom of this post]–all of which kept me paying rapt attention. The characters were believable, the story was told in a very compelling manner and there was no ridiculous “oh, look, old Uncle Whoever’s secret stash of letters” to start us off. The story was told in the present and the events of the past were uncovered in the present. I really liked that. One more cheesy dual-timeline story would have sent me over the edge. Both the author and the translator did a great job of conveying atmosphere and of pacing the story in a way that kept me wanting more each time I had to stop listening.

Note: There are 3-4 sentences later in the book that will be distressing to pet lovers, I was ok and I’m a big pet lover, but some may not be.

My Verdict

4.0

The Sixteen Trees of the Somme: A Novel by Lars Mytting, translated by Paul Russell Garrett

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Review: Mary Churchill’s War

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My Interest

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I collect everything on the Churchills, so this is a natural for me. Seeing it on #Netgalley, I had to have it. I will be buying the print book, but this review is based on the audio in which the editor (and reader of the text connecting sections of the diary) is Mary’s elder daughter, Emma.

Winston and Clementine Churchill suffered the sort of loss all parents dread. Going away and leaving the children with a nanny only to be called home to a dying child. Their fourth child, Marigold, died, soon after her parents returned home. A year later, Mary was born. Unlike the older children, Mary was cared for by a distant relative who had trained as a Norland Nanny. Winston and Clementine were very involved children for their class and day. Winston had been so neglected by his own father that he destroyed his son Randolph by spoiling him and never correcting his bad behavior. The three (surviving) older children all had difficulties with relationships and with alcoholism. Mary, however, was married for life to one man, had five healthy children, many grandchildren (one of whom was a bridesmaid Princess Diana–a very distant relative). Winston and Clementine both gave of their time and love to all of their children, but Mary having had a very stable and well-regulated childhood, turned out the healthiest. [In this the Churchills and the Roosevelts were so much alike–disasterous marriages for the children, etc., only it was FDR’s mother who spoiled them. FDR and Eleanor lost a baby son. Their 5 children had around 14 marriages between them].

The Story

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When the Diary starts, Mary is about to be 18, World War II is starting and Winston is not yet Prime Minister. Mary is in the last days of school–still a fairly rare thing for a girl of her class (Clementine had gone to school though). The Churchills included their children in the luncheons and dinners they gave, so their children were very well versed in public affairs, the arts, and literature from this exposure alone. Randolph only was indulged and allowed to argue and debate with guests even if it sent his mother from the table in anger and disgust. The girls, were to make polite conversation. So Mary often had a ring-side seat to some of the greatest moments in 20th Century history and met most of the Allied war leaders including Roosevelt. (She found FDR not as brilliant as her father and found FDR Jr, very handsome but a bit tedious; She admired Eleanor).

Her diary has the usual confidences about young men, about what she sees as her personal failings and, funnily enough some Bridget Jones-ish moments about her weight! She confides her thoughts on her siblings (she finds she can no longer lover or like her brother), her sister-in-law Pamela (whom she often calls “Spam) [and who would always be charitably described in books and memoirs as a “courtesan”] and on finding her eldest sister, Diana, a bit difficult (she was 13 years older). It is her sister Her cousin, Clarissa (later to be the 2nd Mrs. Anthony Eden–click for my post on her), who ran with a very artsy crowd, worked at Vogue and skipped any military service, she found hard going (as did I when I read her memoir). Her sister Sarah, the actress, and her mother, Clementine, she mostly got on well with and enjoyed spending time with each of them She and Sarah shared the duties of ADC to her father on his long trips to the wartime conferences (a role the Winston must surely have wished Randolph to have been capable of undertaking). But, it is her father whom she openly idolizes, adores, cherishes. He is almost a religion to her. She is so grateful (which is a huge sign of maturity I think) when he takes time out to speak to her. But, Mary, too falls afoul of “Papa” when she criticizes the sainted son, Randolph. She bitterly and quite rightly resents this.

One fun note–her thoughts on the movie Mrs. Miniver were like mine. It was a lovely film, but the family didn’t seem very British or middle class! I’ve always thought Walter Pidgeon was too “American”–Leslie Howard would have been a better choice to me.

My Thoughts

Mary shows herself to be a a little (and understandably) priggish, very upper-class, and yet also very sincere. Her religious faith, her sense of duty, and her devotion to family and country are very typical of her time. She would go on to raise a Member of Parliament who became a Cabinet Minister (oldest son, Nicholas) and was wife of an MP & Cabinet Minister who also severed as the UK’s Ambassador to France and as the man who handed Rhodesia over to become Mugabe’s Zimbabwe (where her daughter had an affair with Andrew Parker-Bowles). Her home “training” stood her in good stead to be the wife of a successful politician–which it did, especially when Churchill suffered his stroke after the war–but that’s in a different book!

I wasn’t sure what I would be listening to when I started this book, but in the end I found it to be much, much more interesting than I had imagined. It’s too bad that Mary didn’t go on to try for Parliament. I think she’d have given Mrs. Thatcher some serious competition even without a University degree.

Mary Churchill’s War by Mary Churchill [Soames] and Emma Soames

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Review: Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly

#DidYeHearMammyDiedAudio #NetGalley

My Interest

My constant search for audio books for my long commute led me to this memoir on Net Galley. I am fascinated by big families, so a widowed father with 11 kids–why not? The author is one of the kids.  Dad did well enough to provide a housekeeper even when his wife was alive. I liked the sound of it. Add to it that this is a novella-length memoir and you have the perfect book to finish the week that starts finishing a book on the wrong day. I like “week-length” audio books for my commute. Sometimes, though, I have to to take longer ones.

The Story

My parents were formidably, perhaps even recklessly Catholic.”

“To be one of eleven was…demented.… [and] It didn’t help that we were so close in age and traveled often singling in the kind of large, vaguely municipal transport vehicle usually reserved for separatist churches and volleyball teams made up of young offenders.”

MINOR SPOILER ALERT

I know that in Ireland “Mammy” means Mom. Here in the USA, however, the term is cringe-inducing and might get you banned from social media if you used it. (While reading this book, I watched a  Neil Sean YouTube video that included the Al Jolson film, “The Jazz Singer” and I cringed just thinking the word  “Ma….”].

Anyway, the book’s title comes from the fact that when the author was little, his mother died of breast cancer, and he in his kindergarten-aged-logic went around telling everyone at the wake, “Did ye hear Mammy [Mommy] died?” like it was news. Ouch! Recounting his life in a series of vignettes (columns?), O’Reilly tells about life as one of the “wee ones” of the family–those who rode at the back of the families airport shuttle bus. The little boy with the cereal box full of toy dinosaurs, whose engineer Dad, recorded on VHS (and catalogued) nearly everything broadcast in Northern Ireland in the Full House tv years grew up to tell the story of how little he remembers about the mother he knows was wonderful. He also tells about how his father coped by keeping busy.

It was the Dad I really liked. He did obsessive things like catalog everything he recorded on 3 to 4 VCRs, he kept a garage full of stuff as interesting as three chain saws, and how was a true Catholic–not just one who wasn’t successful with any birth control method. He gave of himself and his time to the church, his family, and his community. He thought his kids were best served living in nowhereville, having poor little entertainment aside from a house crammed with books, and did little or nothing to get involved at school. In spite of this–or maybe because of it, his kids did well. I wish I’d been more like Séamas’ dad. Maybe my kids would be readers today!

The O’Reilly kids sang at church events but didn’t get preachy–this is not the Irish Catholic Duggar family. At least Séamas (and I assume others) read every book in the house and followed his own rabbit trails of interests so that he came to know all kinds of weird facts about stuff like dinosaurs. Séamas, though, also came to a point where he did not sleep, constantly felt he deserved more attention but, guess what? He didn’t go off the rails. He did not become a drug addict or kill people or anything like that. Instead,  he had his appendix out and go back to life. And, he learned to tell his story with humor and grace. After all, if your dad was the kind of guy who had a pet name for his favorite step-ladder, how could you not turn out ok?

Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? by Séamas O’Reilly releases tomorrow, June 7, 2022, but is available now for pre-order.

My Verdict

3.0

A good, fun, memoir

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Review: Sorrow and Bliss by Meg Mason

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“Everything is broken and messed up and completely fine. That is what life is. It’s only the ratios that change. Usually on their own. As soon as you think that’s it, it’s going to be like this forever, they change again.” 

My Interest

Most months I enjoy participating in a book meme called 6 Degrees of Separation hosted by the blogger Books Are My Favourite and Best. There is a starting book and then you build a “chain” of books that are somehow related. It’s fun! June’s starting book is Sorrow and Bliss so I thought I’d read it. (You do not have to have read the starting book to participate). So stop by this Saturday to check out my 6 Degrees post, too, please! An added interest is that this book was shortlisted for the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction. I track my reading of prize winners on Goodreads.

“There isn’t a name for the emotion that registered on his face then. It was all of them.”

The Story

Martha’s father was a young sensation. His first poem was published in the New Yorker and he soon received a huge advance for a book of poetry–a rare accomplishment. Martha’s mother was makes “art” out of garbage. Somehow, though her parents are still married, the book of poetry has never happened, nor has the garbage art been celebrated. Meanwhile, Martha and her sister have grown up in a very odd home. Their aunt, who has her life so together that she lives in Belgravia and sends her kids to posh boarding schools in Scotland, shores up the family’s miniscule finances. Along the way, Martha develops “problems.” Problems her mother tends to dismiss. Her mother also tends to be dismissive about her successful sister and…well, anything that isn’t alcohol.

Now before  you think this is a super-depressing Oprah’s Book Club book, think again. There are layers to this story. One Christmas, one of the Belgravia kids brings home a classmate whose father forgot to buy his ticket “home” to Singapore for Christmas. The boy’s mother is dead and his Dad might as well be for all the care he gives him. The boy, Patrick, is beyond happy to be included in a family Christmas and begins a long association with the family.

As the years go on Martha’s problems, like her mother’s drinking, escalate to where no one wants to deal with her –finally even [No Spoilers] gives up. Desperate for someone to talk to one day, Martha settles for talking to her mother. Eventually she asks her mother to stop drinking. This leads to change for the mother and for Martha, but change is not always a cure or a solution. There is still something deeply buried that must come out.

In and around all of this, Martha’s sister is having her four children born in 9 years. She, too, is overwhelmed, but expected to be.  Her marriage is stable and she gives a lot of time to Martha. But does this time together help?

“…things do happen. Terrible things. The only thing any of us get to do is decide whether they happen to us or if, at least in part, they happen for us.”

My Thoughts

Mental illness is the elephant in the room here. We are not told what the diagnosis is (and the author goes to great pains in the before/after sections of the book to stress its symptoms are NOT those of any real mental illness). The mother’s drinking, Martha’s “problems,” Dad’s failure to live up to his huge initial potential are all part of the dysfunction here. But so too is Patrick’s lack of a family life and so too if the sister and the Belgravia aunt and…..families are messy, aren’t they?

I liked the fact that Martha’s problems did not see her put into some stereotypical “horror” unit in a hospital. Instead, her life goes on. Her mother’s life, in spite of the drinking, goes on. This is what happens with mental illness most times–at least in the U.S. This story is set in the U.K. [the country, not the University], but it sounds like it is much the same. I also liked the way change finally happened (No Spoilers). No miraculous “cures” or magical epiphanies. This was a very real world story.

Lastly, I liked the touches of humor in here. The décor being character building” was a special favorite of mine  from among the funny lines. My mother was beginning to describe herself as a conscientious objector where domestic matters were concerned,” was both sad-funny and funny-sad and so relatable.

“Even the women who get those things lose them again. Husbands die and children grow up and marry someone you hate and use the law degree you bought them to start an Etsy business. Everything goes away eventually, and women are always the last ones standing so we just make up something else to want.”

My Verdict

4.0

Sorrow and Bliss: A  Novel by Meg Mason

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Review: The Secret Life of Alfred Entwistle

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Thank you to #NetGalley for giving me a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

#TheSecretLifeofAlbertEntwistle #NetGalley

My Interest

While their stories are vastly different, this story made me think of a distant cousin who came out at age 70. It also fit my goal of reading (in this case listening) to more books written by men. Plus, there’s a cat mentioned in the blurb. 

The Story

First a tiny problem: I thought this was modern day. Everyone has cool phones, wifi etc, yet it says Albert is retiring at age 65. Fine–that would make him a year older than my brother. Here’s the problem: In the story he uses 1953 in his password and he leaves school in 1969. Hmmm. If he was 65 today, he’d have been 12 in 1969.

Now the story….

Albert has spent his whole life living in the same town, in the same house and has only had the one job–as a postman (mailman). Back when he was a teenager, when being gay was still a crime in the U.K. [“England” not the University of Kentucky], he fell in love with a new boy in his school named George. Now he is facing retirement and lonely. He looks back on his life and what went on in those days. His police officer father who spoke so derogatorily of the men who hooked up in the public restrooms, the teasing and even bullying of effeminate boys at school. Today, things are different. Albert is a kind soul. He does good in his life. But there is one act that act he can’t forgive himself for and he needs to right that wrong.

Meanwhile, on a nasty housing estate (i.e. a bad government housing project), Nicole is a young, single Black mother trying to bring up her daughter after the father deserted them (somethings are the same the world over). She is struggling to get thru her Cosmetology School and get a job as a stylist and nail technician. She has big plans–she wants to have a mobile salon (I’d love to have that come to my house). Her new guy is a college student (“at Uni”) and is suddenly giving her a song-and-dance about his parents and the allowance they give him.

Albert and Nicole come to be friends when Albert asks her to help him with his new phone. He advises her on the boyfriend, while she helps him find his old love. Together they find companionship and true friendship and have a good bit of fun together.

My Thoughts

I wasn’t sure how this book would go down with me. If it was uber-woke, I’d toss it. Thankfully, it was delightful. I learned that those who fought for gay rights, cared for and watched friends die of AIDS, and advocated for new laws, may not be so terribly thrilled when someone like Albert (or my distant cousin) comes out after the “hard work” is done. That surprised me, but only because I do not live in that culture and, until last year, I’d worked in a very conservative college and was a tad too sheltered. (Take today: I had to Google what “DEI Skills” meant. Turns out my very conservative former employer actually HAD them, just didn’t call them that. And yes, of course they could have done way better at it, but that’s a different post).

I liked Albert–the writing about his loneliness, his fear of reaching out–I totally understood that. It was so well put that I got teary a few times. And, oh his sweet Gracie-cat! Oh! I felt for Nicole–the guy can always leave. Always. I’ve been a single Mom, but I was one by choice. It sucks even though for my kids I’d do it all over again any time. I’ve also been her boyfriend’s parents–advising my kids to skip, or at least go very slow, with potential partners who already have kids in your 20s. It’s that hard to be a young parent–and the single parent has a ton of stuff to work out.

Small Spoiler (sorry, I just have to)

But, it was George I liked most. I’m not really into drag Queens–they’re fun in their way and I loved Julie Murphy’s books with them in them, but I can take it or leave it. George, though, is a drag queen now and a fairly well-known one. And, George was my favorite character. He never let anyone stop him from being who he was. He fought to change the world for teenage boys (and girls and other genders) just like him–marginalized for seeing things differently. He was true to himself. He took the risks knowingly, while Albert stayed home and delivered the mail, took care of a mother he came to loathe and loved his sweet, wonderful, cat. Albert did many sweet and lovely things for people, but George fought for the common good and didn’t compromise. I liked that. I liked Albert, too. Anyone who does what he did for Edith–well, he’s a good guy. In fact, I liked all the characters. This was a really good read.

 

My Verdict

4.0

The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain releases on May 31, 2022, but is available for pre-order. 

(I do not make any money from Amazon).

 

 

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Review: The School for German Brides: A Novel of World War II by Aimie K. Runyan 

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My Interest

I had this on hold at the library, but reading Davida’s review on her blog The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog, made me certain I would want to listen to it and finish it. In the end, I agreed completely with her review and add a few more thoughts. Won’t you be nice and click on the link to her review, read it too, and leave her a comment?

I’ve read a ton the lives and education of girls and women in Nazi Germany. Their indoctrination was an odd mix of the ultra-conservative plus a solitary liberal touch (the need for “pure” babies outweighed the need to shame single mothers being the liberal touch) so this book caught my eye instantly. While Hitler was venerated and worshipped instead of God or Christ, there is so much similarity with the American Quiverfull movement, whose purpose is to “outbreed” their opponents (and so much similarity with EVERY extremely conservative religion or society–even Stalin’s USSR during World War II) that I just kept looking for more and more information. For more on the Nazi Bride Schools read this article from The Daily Mail.

The Story

Three young women, just at the age of entering adulthood in Hitler’s Germany in 1938. Hanna embarks on a new life with her Uncle and Aunt, party stalwarts in Berlin, following the death of her mother. A midwife and herbalist, her mother had been a natural healer whose practice was outlawed by the regime. Hanna’s father has sent her Berlin to get her on the correct, safe, path for adulthood. Klara, the daughter of her Uncle and Aunt’s friends, becomes her first friend in Berlin. Both are expected to make advantageous marriages to ranking Nazis. Tilde, half Jewish, is the daughter of a dressmaker who serves both families, and is friends with Klara who apparently has not figured out her heritage.

Both Hanna and Klara are “guided” (forced) into the role of perfect German wives by their aunt or mother. But neither is a 1930’s version of a Stepford Wife-to-be. Particularly not Hanna. When the women are given the “honor” of attending the most exclusive of Hitler’s Bride Schools, the fit with the school’s ethos is less than perfect.

My Thoughts 

First the picky stuff 

  • Who used the word “trope” in 1938?
  • Swearing–girls like that were NOT brought up to swear. Saying “God” or Damn or Hell even in private would not have occurred to them.
  • “It’s complicated….”
  • In 1939 Nazi Germany, where professors were under total scrutiny would any professor have spoken out so clearly to a student? Maybe, if he was stupid.
  • Did people really say “go to Uni” [University] in 1939? [Since Americans say “college” not “uni” I’m not sure, but I doubt it].

Characters in historical fiction using modern speech or behavior is a pet peeve. Happily, while there were a couple of other things like this, overall it did not lessen my enjoyment of the story. I point it out to show, for the millionth time, that skimping on REAL editors and (apparently) relying on spell check does not produce as wonderful a book as a real, experienced, human editor would.

My Thoughts on the Story

SPOLERS

As a modern woman with 20/20 hindsight, I liked Hanna’s spirit. She knew her own mind and didn’t want to marry anyone at that age, let alone an SS Captain in his mid-30s (with her Uncle’s connections she could have landed a much older Colonel, so it wasn’t as bad as all that). She was interested in becoming a doctor or at least going to college–a perfectly normal ambition to someone today. Many young women in the 30s did go to college, but not in all countries.

Klara, too, had spirit. Perhaps because she was with her parents, lifelong habits of obedience let her be more accepting of their influence on her future. Regardless, she was the bolder of the two in reaching out to help Tilde once she admitted knowing her secret. That was admirable. She could be a typical young woman and be both catty to her friend and loving. Her advice to “try to make the best of it” was sincere and very good advice. Once she got over the loss of her potential excellent marriage, and accepted an only slightly lesser one, she at least got a man who seemed sincere and decent in spite of his high party affiliation. But, she took the greatest risk–showing both maturity and immaturity in so doing. Maturity in refusing to see someone as less than human or less than deserving, but immaturity in the way she chose to help. A more mature woman would have done so with much greater discretion.

I have no sympathy for the Nazis, but I do realize they were, in part, educated to be the way they were with the party hyping up the anti-Semitism that was present in all societies then to a fever pitch. Still, the SS were fanatics, so I found it interesting that Friedrich occasionally evidenced some genuine humanity. Of course, his finance,  Hanna, was an Aryan and a “good catch” in so many ways. But not many men of that era (or any era), regardless of nationality, religious or political beliefs, would have put up with a finance embarrassing them, though, of course, not all would react in a bad way. I thought Hanna, again, took the risks only the young and naïve would take. A more mature woman would have worked against him in more subtle and more effective ways.

Tilde’s story was nearly miraculous in the way her mother was so swiftly gotten to safety. At that point, lines at the U.S. Consulate were days-of-waiting-long. I also found it tough to believe she fell for Samuel that quickly. Through the mother-right, she was born Jewish, but in Nazi terms, she did not “look” Jewish. She was hiding in plain sight. The young take risks so lightly no matter how noble and honest it was of her to embrace her heritage.  

Nevertheless…

I found this book well written–the story was so compelling I kept listening in the evenings at home–I just HAD to hear more! Even so, I was very disappointed though, that little to nothing of the actual Bride School experience was in the book–that was just a “hook” of a title and a handy location for the ending. I would like to have read much more about that experience which was meant to make fanatical followers of Hitler and perfect German wives–especially for S.S. officers like Friedrich. In that, the book failed to deliver. Regardless, I still found it a very good story. 

My Verdict

3.75

For more on the Nazi Bride Schools read this article from The Daily Mail

See Also:

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Nazi Wives by James Wyllie

Uncategorized

Review: Valor by Dan Hampton

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Thank you to #Netgalley who gave me a copy of the audio version of this book in exchange for a fair review.

My Interest

How amazing that I’d find a World War II (nonfiction) book, set in the Philippines, featuring a guy from a Kentucky family after having just read a novel set in the Philippines in World War II and have just read two books featuring young men from families in…you guessed it…Kentucky! Plus there was a lot of talk of Australia. Now, just where were two of my books set recently? Yep, Australia!

My interest in World War II is always with me. When I saw this book, I immediately requested it.

The Story

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Map of the Philippines in 1944–Batan is at the very top of the map.

Bill Harris, son of a Marine Corps General, Annapolis grad, and all-around decent guy, happened to be serving in the Philippines when the Japanese attacked, General MacArthur fled with his wife, child, and nanny, and the U.S. forces surrendered. Bill did not like the idea of being held captive–being a Marine he preferred to go on fighting. He and a buddy (I thought the story sounded a bit familiar) escaped. The buddy went on to be Governor of Indiana many years later and I have his book on this escape in my Kindle. (I haven’t finished it. He may have been elected governor, but he wasn’t a gifted storyteller).

In a odyssey that would span most of the war, and at times would involve more Americans, Bill Fields starved, swan miles, paddled, sailed, hiked, climbed and more to stay free. When finally his freedom ended the war was nearly won.

My Thoughts

This adventure was very exciting. I often stayed in the car in the parking lot at work listening until the very last minute. Ditto in the driveway at home. It was that interesting. I especially enjoyed the comments the author made about “Dugout Doug”–General MacArthur, who like Britain’s Lord Mountbatten, was an early adopter of modern public relations tactics to promote himself. How a 5-star General got away with skedaddling to Australia to sit out the war (supposedly it was to avoid capture to continue directing the war–it really just got him out of having to surrender) while his men were taken prisoner, yet he STILL got the nation’s highest honor, the Congressional Medal of Honor, is a testament to the man’s ego and powers of self-promotion. You can read the citation here. Then men Bill Fields knew had little regard for him before the surrender and even less after. (Though to be fair, he did get a lot right in the reconstruction of Japan).

Harris had MacGyver-level resourcefulness. He used just about every bit of his Naval Academy education and training as well as all that was taught him after graduation at Quantico to stay alive, stay free, and keep going. This refusal to be defeated, his insistence on continuing to try and try again, earned him a spot on the U.S.S. Missouri to see the Japanese surrender.

This is an amazing story and deserves to be made into an outstanding movie.

Valor by Dan Hampton

My Verdict

4.0

To learn more about the battle for the Philippines in World War II, check out this page from the U.S. National Archives.

Governor Whitcomb’s Book on the Escape

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Escape From Corregidor by Edgar D. Whitcomb

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Review: Under the Golden Sun by Jenny Ashcroft

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My Interest

Thank you to #Netgalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

I enjoyed the author’s earlier book, Meet Me In Bombay, in spite of some problems with the story. I liked the sound of this story, too. World War II, an orphaned child, a long journey–so much to attract my interest.

The Story

Rose, who has recently been discharged from the Women’s division of the RAF for an unwed pregnancy, signs on to accompany a mixed-race child back to his family in Australia. Her uncle is close to the Prime Minister, her boy friend is an upper-class New Yorker working for a newspaper (whom the audio performer unfortunately makes sound like a gangster in a B movie). She instantly falls in love with Walter (the child) and agrees to accompany him to his extended family in Australia.

Their ship with go in a convoy hoping to evade German u-boats.The boy’s mother was struck by a bus and his grandmother is dying. Her Uncle (the one friendly with “Winston”) asks, sanely, “is there anyone else [the boy] can go to?” Still recovering from her miscarriage, Rose sees this as a great opportunity. Her brother, Joe, is an RAF pilot who happens to have known the child’s uncle, Max, who flew for the RAAF before miraculously surviving a crash. Rose arrives in Australia after the long months at sea and …..

My Thoughts

I’ll be totally honest: I was in the mood for a book like this! I need some adventure, some romance, and some tweaking at the heartstrings. This book fit the bill and then some.

Were there problems? Mistakes? Yes, The only one I’ll harp on (ok, aside from “grabbing her seat belt” in an Australian Ute in 1941) was that “Winston” had Rose’s family over to ride at Blenheim Palace. Now Winston could very well have rung up or written to his first cousin (Consuelo Vanderbilt’s son) the Duke of Marlborough and asked him to let friends ride the Duke’s horses on the Blenheim estate, but I think it much more likely that “friends” of “Winston” would have gone to HIS home, Chartwell, in Kent and ridden his horses. But, that’s just me. Minor point.

I liked this story very well in spite of any flaws. I thought Walter was sweet. I thought Rose’s Uncle Lionel was right to be concerned, but I knew she’d be ok in spite of everything. This is a great poolside or beach read.

My Verdict

3.0

Under the Golden Sun: A Novel by Jenny Ashcroft

Questions for the editor: They waited for a SHIP to take them from Brisbane to Sydney in 1941??

Previous review of a Jenny Ashcroft book

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Meet Me in Bombay by Jenny Ashcroft

Historical Fiction

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Uncategorized

Review: We Band: A Novel of Angels by Elise Hooper

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My Interest

I read and enjoyed the author’s previous books, Fast Girls, and The Other Alcott (links are to my reviews). I devoured the book, We Band of Angels, about the real nurses on Bataan that is linked at the bottom of this post. That I finished the story of a Filipina heroine in Asian American Pacific Islander month is just something nice, but totally unplanned. So many Filipinos have served the United States proudly in the past, in spite of the Colonial relationship forced upon them in the now mostly forgotten Spanish American War.

The Story

Tess is a Army nurse in the Philippines as the Japanese are saber-rattling and getting ready to plunge the USA into World War II. Flor, a Filipina college student, is set to leave for the USA on December 8, 1941. When the Japanese attack Tess and her colleagues are sent to Bataan to serve in a “jungle” hospital where their health severely deteriorated. Next they were moved to the Malinta tunnel on Corregidor. When the Japanese forced General Wainwright to surrender, the nurses were imprisoned at the former University of Santo Tomas campus in Manilla.

The nurses had been given no Army basic training, knew nothing of handling weapons (unless taught to shoot a rifle back home) but survived their harrowing ordeal through grit, determination, and the bonds of true friendship–relying upon each other to stay strong. Along the way, as often happens in war time, even in captivity, romance happens.

Flor, from Manila, turns to helping the resistance–using an ingenious technique to smuggle messages out of Santo Tomas. Her family’s loyal servant helps her, but is clearly her own person–not just taking on the risk of the resistance to keep her job. Flor, too, continues the ‘other’ side of her life, continuing to live with her family and enjoying a romance

My Thoughts 

I’ve done a poor job of conveying all the emotion that is in this story! The characters were well developed and I came to care about all of the main characters. Yes, there is romance, but it does not in any way diminish the heroism of these women. Tess must make a horrible choice at one point, but proves herself up to the task and then some. Flor, too, faces harrowing choices, but does so resolutely and decisively. I admired both of these women even though they were fictional.

I did find Don’s story a little weird. When reading that storyline I did not feel enough emotion for him and X (no spoilers) to predict that conclusion. It still seems a little “out there” to me. No matter, it is one small minor storyline.

Of the three books by Elise Hooper that I’ve read, I think this did the best at conveying the emotion and atmosphere of the story.

My Verdict

4.0

Angels of the Pacific: A Novel by Elise Hooper

My Reviews of Other Books By This Author:

Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team

The Other Alcott

The Nonfiction Counterpart to this Book

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We Band of Angels by Elizabeth M. Norman

My review was lost on my old blog, so the link is the Amazon. I do not make any money if you click.

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