Step Back in Time

 

Last year I read some wonderful books set during World War II. Besides being drawn in to care for the characters and having to google location images, I learned a bit of history along the way. The following is a brief review on my selections.

 

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All the Light We Cannot See

Set mostly in France, this heart-wrenching story follows two main characters: blind Marie-Laure whose father works for the Museum of Natural History in Paris, and Werner, an orphan recruited into the Nazi army. “Seeing” the war through blind eyes was interesting. Marie Laure’s father made a model of their city so that she could eventually earn her way around unaided. Later, he had to do it all over again in a new town, but this time his model was more than just a way to help his daughter. It also held a secret.
Marie-Laure’s and Werner’s paths eventually crossed, as I hoped they would. But it was a bittersweet timing.

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The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

This story was a little more light hearted, yet still contained moments of sadness that can’t be avoided in war. Written in the form of letters between the main character, Juliet Ashton and others who were a part of her life, this one has an element of romance sprinkled in with the courage shown by those who faced wartime with tenacity and tenderness. The “society” was a cover story made up on the fly, but one which led to a community coming together under the bond of reading. This one is a book lover’s delight!

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Suite Francaise

Written in 1939, it was the last work of Irene Nemirosky, who met her untimely death in a concentration camp before she finished this work. It’s almost too full of characters, so it needs to be read carefully. I often found myself backtracking to pick up storylines or remind myself who the characters were. Still, it is an interesting take on a side of war that we don’t often see. It shows what happens to those who aren’t on the front lines, but at home, forced to house the enemy. Yet, sometimes the enemy seems like a friend.

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Once There Was a War

The only non-fiction work on my list, it was easy to read Steinbeck’s collection of his news articles. Sometimes I breezed through the technical military aspects, but I got the jist of them. There is something about his style that makes you feel like he’s sitting across the table telling you about his day.

If you want to brush up on your history and lose yourself in a good book, any of these would make an excellent choice!

 

 

 

 

 

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Bama Books #2

Big Fish

I chose this book for several reason, the main one being that the students at Pelham High School, where I sub often, were reading it over the summer. I thought it might give me a little conversation starter come fall. I saw the movie, which has a fantastic soundtrack, and in 2015 I saw the play via Red Mountain Theatre. I think I liked the play the best, followed by the soundtrack. The book kinda left me scratching my head.

 

 

I agree with this critic, the movie was better than the book. I think that’s the first time I’ve ever said that.

You can read my first post on Bama Books HERE 

 

 

Bama Books

I’ve been working through some books that are either by Alabama authors, or take place in Alabama, or both. Here are a few brief reviews.

I Wish I Was in Dixie collected and edited by Marie Stokes Jemison and Jim Reed
This is a collection of stories from all across Alabama, from Birmingham to Montgomery to Tuscaloosa

Dear Slave – poems by Irene Latham. These are rich retellings of stories taken from the mouths of slaves and recorded by Ruby Pickens Tartt many years ago.

I Still Dream of You by Fannie Flagg.  This was an enjoyable read and one that had me doing a little research about Birmingham. I read this for my book club, but no one else was able to finish it that month.   😦

Fried Green Tomatoes At the Whistle Stop Cafe – also by Fannie Flagg. I couldn’t read this without picturing Kathy Bates in the role of Evelyn. I STILL need to go to the cafe in Irondale!

Previously published @ Carry Me Home 6/20/17

 

I Can’t Even

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Some of my Maeve Binchy books

 

I decided to tackle my bookshelves in April.  I reorganized, categorized some, discarded a whopping five books. Along the way I made a few discoveries.

I’d consider about 21 of my books to be reference books; I’m not ever going to read them cover-to-cover. About 41 are fiction books I’ve read that I just have to keep, including my collection of  22 Maeve Binchy books.  I didn’t make a final book count in the house because that would have meant counting my husband’s books and all the books I have for grandkids and other littles that visit. Speaking of kids’ books, I have 13 Golden books, 15 in my set of Chidlcraft from my own childhood, 12 Great Illustrated Classics, a set of 11 “My Book House”  books from my father-in-law, plus quite a list of pictures books.

Of the 270 (+) TBR books, here are some breakdowns:

  • 11  “Irish” books
  • 33 biographical
  • 17 “classics”
  • about 50 kid/YA books
  • 8 short story/ collections
  • a variety of 49 fictional books
  • and… I think I’m embarrassed about this … 42 books about writing

So, where does all this lead? Hopefully to me stepping away from the computer and TV and reading more. But, when I AM on that computer, I need to be putting one of those 42 writing books to good use.
(previously posted @ Carry Me Home on 4/5/17)

Book Treasures

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I love opening up a book and finding a surprise. I found three in the past two days. Yesterday, I found the sticker seen above. I googled it, and came up with three things

  1. A Greek vehicle manufacturer
  2. A German beer
  3. The Pakistani Elvis

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I think it is really LOVE, scrambled.

So, today I found two more unexpected things. First, a sad one, a card from a funeral.

Using my googling/detective skills, I found the memorial for this man on Find a Grave and posted the picture there. I’d like to think one of his friends left the card in my book. I got the book in either Florida or Alabama, I don’t remember, but Mr. Canavan was buried in Massachusetts.

My most exciting find was an autograph I’d completely overlooked. My copy of  The Bride of Innisfallen by Eudora Welty is actually SIGNED!! It’s inscribed to a Mrs. George Barrett. There is a copy online that is inscribed to someone and signed and it’s selling for $120. Think I’ll keep the book to myself a while;  just knowing she signed it makes me feel connected to her.

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A few years ago I found a baptismal certificate and photograph in a book. Using those skills of mine, I’m pretty sure I found the owner’s brother on facebook, but he never responded to me. I don’t think he was very active online. Now, however, I may pursue it once more. I’d love to be able to return the items.

There is a book  and blog called Forgotten Bookmarks that is about just these type of finds. I hope to get a copy of the book soon. In the meanwhile, I think it would be fun to write stories about the items I find.  If I do, I’ll post some here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Love Books

 

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“…I was paying for a book one day – I remember this so clearly- when Mr. Penumbra looked me in the eye and said, ‘Rosemary’” she does a good Penumbra impression-”’Rosemary, why do you love books so much?”
“And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’” She’s animated, girlish now: “‘I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park,’” She narrows her eyes. “He watched me, and he didn’t say a word. So then I said, ‘Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.’ Then he smiled – he has a wonderful smile – and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I’d ever seen him climb.”
From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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This got me to thinking about why I love books. I agree they are quiet and I can take them just about anywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s because they are my best friends, though perhaps I should consider making them my best friends seeing as I need some. Anyhow, why DO I love books so much?

I love that I can travel to places I might not ever get to otherwise. I can also read about places where I’ve been and relive memories from past times and places.

I love to meet characters that inspire me, make me smile, make me cry. I come to care about what happens to these characters. Watching them live and grow, suffer and rejoice, is often a balm to my spirit. Many of them remind me of people I know.

I love to read another author’s words and think ‘A-ha!’ because it’s exactly what I am thinking or feeling. Sometimes I am surprised at the emotions that rise up within me. Sometimes the words lead to thoughts and inspire words in me that I must write down.

It’s not just books, either. It’s bookstores, especially used ones, with their lovely old smells and shelves of treasures just waiting to be unearthed. It’s the bookish conversations with staff and other customers. It’s the bookmarks and notepads. And sometimes it’s the coffee.