Akin by Emma Donoghue

Akin

AKIN by Emma Donoghue, begins with Noah, 79,  packing for a long-awaited vacation to visit the place of his birth, Nice, France.  He’s now a recently retired chemistry professor and is taking a small collection of old photographs and memorabilia along in hopes of unfolding some secrets concerning his mom’s years in Europe. Secrets from the war. Oh, I almost forgot, he’s a widow.

But there’s always something….One call from social services puts a kink in his plans. When he’s asked to become the caretaker for his eleven-year-old great-nephew named Michael, he feels ambushed. The kid has no one else. But Noah’s never met this kid. A distant relation at best. What can you do? Michael was being looked after by his grandmother who died suddenly. His mother is incarcerated. His father suffered an untimely death. Noah is “IT.” So off they go together to Nice. A totally unlikely twosome.

Michael and Noah’s grand adventure has a rocky beginning. But the kid is whip-smart with a smart mouth to go along. This kid needs a break. He’s not a bad kid, but he needs a lot of love.  It’s just for a couple of weeks. That’s what Noah reminds himself each time there is an incident….

Those of  you who know the ups and downs of living with a preteen will appreciate the candor and wit Donoghue  adds to the dialog. I honestly found myself laughing out loud more than once. But it’s not all fun and games.  The two bond over photography. Michael ends up being a huge help  to Noah in finding the locations seen in the old photos.  A story that begins with  total opposites begins to blossom into a poignant relationship.

author AKIN

Emma Donoghue has written many books, but she’s probably best known for her Internationally best-selling novel, ROOM.  She is a force.

I decided to read this novel because of the setting in Nice. I stayed for the story which is just wonderful. Noah and Michael may just be my two new favorite characters.

I borrowed AKIN from the library and so am not indebted to the publisher, Little Brown, in any way. But I can tell you this. I loved this novel. Great for book club. And great for pleasure reading. Cheers!

The World That We Knew by Alice Hoffman

The World That We Knew

I fell immediately in love with this cover. I wish you could see the shimmery silver of the heron. I also fell in love with the heron. He’s actually a wonderfully dynamic and loving character in this amazing new novel by Alice Hoffman.

Alice Hoffman

Hoffman is no stranger at tilting a bit into magical realism in her novels.  But that is what she usually does; just dips her typing finger in. This time she jumps in with both feet and  stomps up and down.  It’s a wonderful story filled with Jewish mysticism and a wealth of  very deep emotional feelings. It’s a novel way to bring yet one more slant to the history of WW11. But it’s so unique. You need this book!

In this  lyrical tale a young German Jewish girl , Lea, is under the protection of a golem-a magical creature of Jewish myth made of mud and water.  Ava, the golem, comes into being in Berlin in 1941.  A Rabbi’s young daughter brings her seemingly to life after seeing her dad create a golem.  Ettie, the daughter, has not been given permission to do this monstrous thing…

This story takes place between 1941 and 1944. It’s about survival at any cost. What would you do to keep your child alive?

The main human characters are working with the French resistance. The golem and the heron and Azriel, The  Angel of Death, are supposedly not human. But the question is raised: What does it really mean to be human?

My favorite characters quickly became Ava and the talking heron.  Their  love story is moving and heartbreaking.  I will never forget them.  And neither will you.

I haven’t read about Jewish mysticism before. I found it both intriguing and troubling. It works in this novel.

There is a large cast of characters. They each have devastating stories to tell. Some of these stories might sound familiar, but you’ve never heard them told like this before. Hoffman brings us this stunning and beautiful tale that tells of the horrors of the Holocaust like never before.

Readers will be discussing this superb novel long into the future.

My review copy of THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman arrived from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review! I knew it would be good, but honestly, I have to say it’s GREAT!

Copperfish Books will be offering THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW at 20% off. The pub date is officially today. We have them in stock ready to sell. Come on in to see us. This book is simply gorgeous!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

 

World War Two Or Bust!

This is a big year for Holocaust books. It’s the 75th anniversary of the war. That’s a big deal. But I really hadn’t expected so many new novels dealing with WW11. Having said that, I am presenting a few of them for you to choose from. I know some of you will shake your head and say “no more.” I  understand your reluctance. But these fine authors just might change you mind. I am really glad I read them.

Mistress of the Ritz

MISTRESS OF THE RITZ by Melanie Benjamin arrived on the literary scene in May.  Miss Melanie has sure done her homework on this novel. She even stayed at the Ritz and was ushered around behind the scenes. Wow.

The Last Train To London

 

THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON by Meg Waite Clayton, just had its pub date last week. Based on the Kindertransports in Europe and the real history of a Dutch woman who saved thousands of Jewish children.

Flight Portfolio

Elaine Newton has chosen THE FLIGHT PORTFOLIO by Julie Orringer, as one of her lecture series for spring 2020.  Based on a true story of saving art and lives of Jewish artists fleeing the Holocaust.

The World That We Knew

Coming in October, THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW by Alice Hoffman.  Gorgeous cover and magical story of WW11 and Jewish mysticism.

Cilka’s Journey

CILKA’S JOURNEY by Heather Morris is a sequel to the much beloved THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ. Not to be missed.  We learn more about Cilka and her harrowing life inside two prisoner of war camps.

The Winemaker’s Wife

 

Kristin Harmel brought us THE WINEMAKER’S WIFE a few weeks ago. She traveled to the Champagne region of France and visited with important vintners to give us this enlightening story of the underground in that part of the region during WW11. Kristin will be appearing in Punta Gorda with Copperfish Books in November. More to come of that.

Dragonfly

DRAGONFLY  is the new novel by Leila Meacham. She brings us a story of a handful of young American men and women who serve their country at the height of WW11.  It shows how seemingly ordinary people in America worked behind the scenes  and risked their lives.

**********************

This is but a few of the new novels coming soon or recently available that show different sides of the war. I have learned that there is always more to learn when it comes to this war. Every story deserves to be told. Just stretch them out.

I’m reading far into next year and can’t wait to share with you the wonderful titles coming our way. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

The Secrets We Kept

A lot of hype preceded this debut novel by Lara Prescott.  it’s cover graces the front of the September Book Page. and Reese’s Book Club has chosen THE SECRETS WE KEPT for September. I had to read it!

Lara Prescott

A book about a book. But not just any book. Most of the secrets surround the publication of the Russian author, Boris Pasternak’s,  DR. ZHIVAGO.  You could even go so far as to say this is the novel that almost did NOT get published.

The first paragraph goes: We typed a hundred words per minute and never missed a syllable. Our identical desks were equipped with a mint-shelled Royal Quiet Deluxe typewriter, a black Western Electric rotary phone, and a stack of yellow steno pads. Our fingers flew across the keys. Our clacking was constant. We’d pause only to answer the phone or to take a drag of a cigarette; some of us managed to master both without missing a beat.  These are the girls, really women, who worked the typing pool in the Agency which would become the CIA. 

Sally Forrester is a seasoned spy working within the CIA.  Irina Drozdova is a Russian American who is plucked out of the typing pool to do more dangerous work. Sally takes her under her wing. Together they are a force.  And then along comes “the special assignment” to smuggle the manuscript for DR. ZHIVAGO by Russian author, Boris Pasternak, out of Russia.

The timeline runs from 1949-1961. Yes, the Cold War. Russia.  The Russian government would not allow DR. ZHIVAGO to be published on Russian soil. And Pasternak was desperate to publish his baby.  So was his mistress, Olga Ivinskaya who inspired the character of Lara in the novel.

This novel is told in three voices.  The first two are obviously the women spies.  The third voice is Olga’s.  She almost steals the story. Her chapters while incarcerated in the Gulag are  tense and telling. To think she was dragged off for years and kept a prisoner because of her affiliation with her beloved Borya.  The scenes inside the Gulag are harrowing and frightening. It’s a miracle anyone could survive it. Yet once she was released she fled right back to her love.

Boris Pasternak comes across as a brilliant author. We already know that. But he is also a weak man, a wet-noodle type of human. How this love affair continued I will never know. The entire affair was conducted while Boris was married with children.  And in plain sight. Shocking.

From Washington, D.C. to Paris and Milan, and to the frigid ground of Soviet Russia,  the plot thickens and begins to move.  Get the manuscript out of Russia and get it published and show the world. That is the plan. Throw in  a secret distribution of bootleg copies of the book at the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair and boom, you’ve got an electric story… And, the part I love is that there truly were bootleg copies given away at the Brussels’ World Fair. Love it.

I really can’t say much more because I don’t want to give the story up. But Prescott does a super job of going inside the characters and showing who they are, what they have been through, and where they are going. This is not your everyday spy book, by any stretch.

I love learning a great history lesson by reading a great novel. This one is perfect to add to your book club this season and seasons to come.

THE SECRETS THAT WE KEPT is published by Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House.  I borrowed my copy from the library.

We have copies of THE SECRETS THAT WE KEPT by Lara Prescott discounted 20% and readily available on our shelves at Copperfish Books. We’d love to see you. Come on up!

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books

 

Camp Mom Mom In Asheville

French Broad with kids

Nothing says Asheville to me like family and French Broad Chocolate Lounge! This sign outside the entrance of the Lounge says it all. We could hardly keep from licking our chops as we lined up to order our treats.  No disappointment here.

Summertime in the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina is quite different than their winters. The lush green fullness of the trees creates a magnificent canopy.

Summer 2019

You can’t see the homes down in the valley at this time of year.  Soon, though, the trees will shed their leaves and the homes will emerge like from a hidden oasis. Even a couple weeks ago while I was visiting we actually saw some of the trees shedding and turning orange.

Days were spent playing games, fixing meals, watching movies, and telling tales. We were treated to a showing of PETS AT HOME 2 where we laughed ourselves sick. And I was kept company by Stella the cat.  Then I took the kids to see THE LION KING. The local theater had recently been updated and we felt like celebrities as we watched from heated seats with risers. Perched between the kids was a gigantic container of pop corn and the largest drink available. They shared beautifully. The show was wonderful. Liam explained the way the show was filmed so it looked amazingly as if the animals would step right off the screen. The looks in their eyes seemed to plumb their souls.

Stella

The weather was nice enough for us to eat on the porch with the magnificent view of those mountains. Emerson and I even saw a mama bear with a collar on just two houses from us. She was within several feet of our car. Later they were able to make a video of the mama bear frolicking across their lawn with her three adorable cubs following.

The evening we went into town to visit the Chocolate Lounge we went to dinner at Tupelo Honey, an Asheville cafe with Southern grub. Kids had not experienced fried green tomatoes. We shared the plate and licked it clean.  Also hit the Battery Champagne Bar Bookstore.  Everyone browsed and just took it all in.

It was a short trip but a great one. Jack and I are returning next month for Grandparent’s celebration at Emerson’s school. A win/win as the color of the trees should be at peak.

 

Three Ways To Disappear by Katy Yocom

Three Ways To Disappear

Looking at this cover you would never imagine the beauty of the story.  The story called me. India called me. The plight of the Bengal tigers called me.  And the book did not disappoint.

THREE WAYS TO DISAPPEAR begins with a tragedy.  A family living in India has lost one of their own. A young boy, a twin, has sickened and quickly perished in this harsh country. He leaves behind his two sisters and his mother and father.  His mother can not cope and decides to leave India, take the two girls, and leave behind her husband, the doctor. And so it begins.

The sisters grow up and go their separate ways. Sarah, becomes a journalist who takes risks and becomes famous. Quinn, the twin, marries and has twins of her own. Their mother lives in total denial of the past and refuses ever to discuss it.

Sarah returns to India and is working with an organization that is striving to save the tiger. Deep in India Sarah finds that life is raw and risky. She takes unnecessary risks that get her in trouble. There is one scene where Sarah jumps into the thick of it to rescue tiger cubs that are drowning that will have your pulse racing. The writing is amazing. The sense of place speaks for itself.  But the local politics threaten to unmoor Sarah’s attempts and then she falls for the exact person she should not.

Meanwhile, back in Kentucky, Quinn is finding life with her husband to be stifling and their relationship is struggling at best. It doesn’t help that her young son has a life-threatening illness that stretches the struggling relationship even farther.

When Sarah asks Quinn to come to India it’s a game changer for all involved.

Katy Yocom’s writing has appeared in a multitude of publications including SALON. THREE WAYS TO DISAPPEAR, her debut novel, won the SISKIYOU prize for Environmental Literature. She holds an MFA from Spalding University.

Katy Yocom

Do not miss the Author’s Note in the back of the book.  She tells of a real tiger named Machli that was born in the late nineties and that she saw in the flesh while visiting. She tells of her travels and visiting villages in the Sawai Madhopur district.

The scenery is lush and you can almost feel it closing in on you as you read.  The writing is  wonderful.

I wanted to read this novel mainly because it’s  about Bengal tigers. So, I went for the environment aspect. But I stayed for the story of family.

My finished copy of THREE WAYS TO DISAPPEAR was sent from Ashland Creek Press ion exchange for an honest review. I was very pleasantly surprised.  A gorgeous story set mostly in India. Cheers!

The Last Train To London by Meg Waite Clayton

The Last Train To London

This novel is so important! I know there are those of you who find the sheer number of WW11 novels out this year are feeling as if you have exhausted your limit. However, I am asking you to please take a good look at this new one by Meg Waite Clayton. I, too, have been feeling the pinch of more Holocaust stories than I can possibly read. I almost missed this one. I am thankful I did not. Plus, it’s really pre-WW11.

Most of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON takes place before WW11 actually  started.  It was 1936 and the Nazi’s had not yet become transformed into the monstrous force that we know  they will become. But, still, we can feel it coming.

This sophisticated novel takes its history from the Kindertransports that saved over 10,000 children by moving them out of Nazi-occupied Europe and into countries that would receive them.  One woman, Truus Wijsmuller, risked her life time after time after time, smuggling these Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied Europe.  The tempo of this story begins to beat loudly like the beating heart of Edgar Allen Poe as the trips become increasingly more and more difficult and most of the borders begin slamming shut to the refugees once the Anschluss ( Hitler’s annexation of Austria ) occurs.

The story begins in 1936 where we meet the Neuman family, a wealthy Jewish  family with a thriving upscale chocolate- making business. They live in Vienna and life is mostly good.  Stephan is fifteen and dreams of becoming a playwright.  His little brother Walter who he affectionately calls Wallman hangs on his every word all the while toting his stuffed Peter Rabbit along everywhere.  Their mother suffers from a bone disease that is slowly taking her life.

Stephan spends his days with his Christian friend Zofie-Helene. They love hanging out in the underground tunnels that are filled with adventure.  Of course they are not supposed to be there and that makes it all that more exciting.  But Zofie-Helene’s mother  edits a progressive , anti-Nazi newspaper. So there’s that…. They are innocents before the Nazi’s come stomping in and changing history.

Clayton manages to validate this time in history and brings us a real sense of urgency and  peril.  Just watching the embedded YouTube video made my heart skip a beat.  Honestly, reading the last one hundred pages of this novel made me feel as if I were truly riding a runaway train with my hair on fire!

So much of this story is actually true. Clayton has done her homework.  She’s visited these places. You can visit websites and see what is true. Her character, Truus, was a woman who actually made this Kindertransport happen. She was a member of the Dutch  resistance.  It is amazing.  She was amazing.  You’re going to want to know more about this event.

Do NOT miss the acknowledgments in the back of this novel.  Clayton tells about how this book was inspired by and meant to honor Truus Wijsmuller-Meijer and the children she rescued, as well as the many people who made the Kindertransports possible.  I loved reading her path to writing this novel.. I think you will  too.

I was a huge fan of THE ORPHAN TRAIN.  This is your European orphan train and then some.

Moving and oh-so deep, THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON should be on every reader’s radar. Every book club will be reading it. So much to discuss.

Meg Waite Clayton

Meg Waite Clayton is the New York Times bestselling author of seven novels, most recently BEAUTIFUL EXILES.

My review copy arrived from Harper Collins in exchange for an honest review.  It is honestly one of the best books ever written about WW11. I loved it.

Copperfish Books will have copies of THE LAST TRAIN TO LONDON on sale at 20% off as of tomorrow.

Punta Gorda

Copperfish Books