This is a riveting historical novel, just published in June, by Kate Quinn. It is the intertwined stories of a young American woman who is searching for a missing cousin in the aftermath of the Second World War, and an older, embittered, broken ...
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The Alice Network by Kate Quinn

This is a riveting historical novel, just published in June, by Kate Quinn. It is the intertwined stories of a young American woman who is searching for a missing cousin in the aftermath of the Second World War, and an older, embittered, broken English/French woman who was a spy in the First World War. It is not an easy read, but it is one I highly recommend.

Throughout this book, I have thought “this seems so real.” Not only is that a testament to the author’s ability to create a gripping story, but, as I learned when I started researching for this post, it was inspired by a real network of female spies in World War I, called — yes — the Alice network.

Title: The Alice Network

Author: Kate Quinn

Publisher: New York: William Morris, 2017

Genre: Adult Historical Fiction

Links:

Author’s website

Review on NPR

About the real Alice Network

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to return to my reading.

        

My List of 100 Memorable Novels. With a Few Memoirs.

A list of 100 favorite/impactful/memorable novels —

Nathan Bransford did it. So did Becky Levine. I’m going to do it, too, and pop on to my blog long enough to post it, so you can think about your 100 favorite books (and perhaps find a few on my list, or Becky’s, or Nathan’s, that you want to read this summer.)

I’ll post them in alphabetical order, with some of the same caveats as Becky gave, and a few of my own.

Caveats:

  • The books will be ones I’ve actually read, all the way through. There are probably many other books out there that would qualify.
  • Some of these books I haven’t read in decades and are on the list because of the impact they had on me when I did read them. If I reread them today, they might not make the list. Others are recent reads that are foremost in my memory–in 10 years, they might not be here. Some books I have re-read so many times, I can quote passages from memory. Others I may not read again, but I’m grateful that I read them, and something of them remains with me. I confess that I sometimes had to jog my memory about the titles of books.
  • They are in alphabetical order, obviously, not order of favoritude. Sorry, but there are no links. I urge you to search for them, though. They’re definitely worth it!
  •  I’m not going to argue about this list. I welcome all comments and discussion, but I won’t be defending anything I’ve put here. That’s why it’s my list. You should definitely make your own and, if you want, leave a link in the comments!
  •  Because some of my favorite books are memoirs, I’ve included some of those.

Here goes:

  1. 84, Charing Cross Road memoir/letters by Helene Hanff (and the sequel, Duchess of Bloomsbury Street, which is often published with it)
  2. A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George (and all the Inspector Lynley mysteries)
  3. A Handful of Stars by Cynthia Lord
  4. A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park
  5. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  7. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith MG? YA?
  8. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriott
  9. An Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott MG
  10. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery **
  11. At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon
  12. Beginner’s Luck by Laura Pedersen YA (first of a series – I recommend them all)
  13. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  14. Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle
  15. brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  16. Busman’s Holiday by Dorothy L. Sayers
  17. Capture the Flag by Kate Messner
  18. Clearing in the West autobiography by Nellie L. McClung **
  19. Dash by Kirby Larson
  20. Dreaming Suburb by R.F. Delderfield
  21. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott MG
  22. Ekaterinoslav: One Family’s Passage to America by Jane Yolen
  23. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey
  24. Emma and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
  25. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  26. Falling for Henry by Beverley Brenna YA **
  27. Finding Wonders by Jeannine Atkins MG non-fiction but reads like a novel
  28. Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn
  29. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith YA
  30. From Anna by Jean Little MG **
  31. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg MG
  32. Gaudy Night by Dorothy L. Sayers (although truthfully, I prefer the Edward Petheridge movie)
  33. George by Alex Gino MG
  34. Gift from the Sea memoir/thoughts by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  35. God is an Englishman by R.F. Delderfield
  36. Goodnight, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian MG/YA
  37. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky MG
  38. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord MG
  39. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  40. Home memoir by Julie Andrews
  41. I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin MG
  42. It’s Like This, Cat by Emily Cheney Neville MG
  43. Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery MG **
  44. Jo’s Boys by Louisa May Alcott MG (sequel to Little Men)
  45. Karen memoir/biography by Marie Killilea
  46. Kate by Jean Little MG (sequel to Look Through My Window) **
  47. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata MG
  48. Life on the Refrigerator Door by Alice Kuipers YA **
  49. Listen for the Singing by Jean Little (sequel to From Anna) MG **
  50. Little by Little writer’s memoir by Jean Little **
  51. Little Men by Louisa May Alcott MG (sequel to Little Women)
  52. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott MG
  53. Look Through My Window by Jean Little MG **
  54. Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards MG
  55. Mister God, This is Anna by Finn
  56. Ms Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson MG
  57. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  58. My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin (also see if you can find the movie)
  59. Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt MG
  60. Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery MG **
  61. Pigs Have Wings by P.G. Wodehouse (and any of the other Blandings Castle/Lord Emsworth novels and short stories)
  62. Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery (last in the Anne series, set in World War I) **
  63. Rose in Bloom by Louisa May Alcott MG (sequel to Eight Cousins)
  64. Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan early MG
  65. Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
  66. See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles MG? YA?
  67. Stars Come Out Within writer’s memoir by Jean Little (sequel to Little by Little) **
  68. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
  69. The Avenue at War by R. F. Delderfield (sequel to The Dreaming Suburb)
  70. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander MG
  71. The Diviners by Margaret Laurence **
  72. The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm MG
  73. The Guests of War trilogy (which I’m counting as one, as I have it in one book) by Kit Pearson MG **
  74. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas YA
  75. The Haunted Bookshop by Christopher Morley
  76. The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne Young kidlets (and me)
  77. The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews Edwards MG
  78. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
  79. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry MG to adult
  80. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
  81. The Pearl by John Steinbeck
  82. The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner MG
  83. The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence **
  84. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  85. Third Person Singular by K.J. Erickson (and the rest of the Mars Bahr mystery series set in Minneapolis-St. Paul)
  86. Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  87. Traveller by Richard Adams
  88. Travels with Charley travel memoir by John Steinbeck
  89. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt MG
  90. Under One Roof biography that reads like fiction by Barry Martin with Philip Lerman
  91. Untouchable by Mulk Raj Anand
  92. Waiting for No One by Beverley Brenna (second of the Taylor Jane Simon trilogy) YA **
  93. Walking Home by Eric Walters MG
  94. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  95. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead MG
  96. White Bicycle by Beverley Brenna (third of the Taylor Jane Simon trilogy) YA **
  97. Wild Orchid by Beverley Brenna (first of the Taylor Jane Simon trilogy) YA **
  98. Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne Young kidlets (and me)
  99. With Love from Karen memoir/biography by Marie Killilea
  100. Word After Word After Word by Patricia MacLachlan MG

I DID IT!!!!

** denotes a Canadian author

        

Book Recommendations for Your Summer Reading

Summer is coming! Among other things, that means it’s time to take a blogging break for a while. I’ll pop in from time to time for a quick “What I’m Reading” post, but regular posts will be on hiatus until fall.

When I was growing up, one of the things I enjoyed about summer (besides being outside, riding my bike, playing with my cats, and having lots of time with friends) was having unlimited reading time. That’s still one of the joys of having time off.

There are a few books I’ve read lately that I want to tell you about, so that you can perhaps add them to your summer reading-for-fun list. Nearly all of them are middle grade novels. I’ve listed them alphabetically (I can’t seem to get away from alphabetizing things!) I’ll give you a couple of links so that you can read more, rather than writing a whole post about each. (The link on the title will take you to the author’s website.) (Note: a truncated version of this post has already appeared on my Starborn Revue website.)

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley. I love the tag line on the back cover: “You have to believe it to see it.” Check out the Publishers Weekly review, the Kirkus review, and an interview with the author on BookPage.

The Distance to Home by Jenn Bishop. Here are the Publishers Weekly review, the Kirkus review, and an interview with Jenn Bishop on the Swanky Seventeens blog, the blog of a group of authors whose novels will debut this year.

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins. Learn more through the Publishers Weekly review, the Kirkus review, and an interview with Jeannine on the Poetry For Children website.

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar. See the Publishers Weekly review, a review on Twenty By Jenny, and an interview on the Swanky Seventeens website.

Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla. Read more about this book in Publishers Weekly, in the Kirkus review, and this interview on Literary Rambles.

Whittington by Alan Armstrong (published in 2005, so not as recent as the others). See the Kirkus review, and this review on BookPage.

Write This Down by Claudia Mills. Learn more at the Publishers Weekly review.

A powerful and important YA novel:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. For links for this one, please see my What I’m Reading post.

And a picture book to send you into the summer dreaming happily:

Happy Dreamer by Peter H. Reynolds. Peter H. Reynolds’ books have to be seen as well as read about, so here’s the book trailer. Also see the Publishers Weekly review and the Kirkus review.

Happy summertime reading! See you in the fall!

        

A Strong Right Arm by Michelle Y. Green — Book Recommendation

I’ve been impatiently waiting until my planned alphabetical posts were complete so that I could share this book with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Title: A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson

Author: Michelle Y. Green

Publisher: New York: Scholastic, 2002.

Genre: Middle Grade biography

Audience Age: 10 to 14

Themes/Topics: Girls in baseball, African Americans in baseball, segregation, overcoming

Opening Sentences: Mama never mentioned it, but I’m sure I musta been born with a baseball in my hand, its smooth white skin curving into my tiny brown palm.

Synopsis: Young, small, Mamie Johnson – just a peanut of a girl – loved the game of baseball. She especially loved pitching. She had two strikes against her in her quest to play, however: she was female, and she was African American. She was born in 1935, Until she was ten, she played baseball with other girls, and she excelled.

When she moved to New Jersey at the age of ten, however, there was no baseball for girls, and the boys’ team was all white. That would have stopped a lot of girls, but not Mamie. She knew what she wanted. She didn’t want to play softball. She wasn’t stopped the barrier of race. She signed up for the boys’ team, and proved her worth over and over.

It was a fight she was to face many times in her early years as she strove toward her goal of playing professional ball. Her determination – and her impressive skill with a baseball – finally earned her a place as the first woman to play in the professional Negro League in the early 1950s, when she was still a teenager.

Reading A Strong Right Arm, one feels as though Mamie is sitting across the kitchen table from you, telling her story. Her voice is evident in every word. The reader feels the pain of her struggle, the joy she found in the game, and the quiet pride she felt when she won through and became a professional baseball player. Kudos to author Michelle Y. Green, who breathed Mamie’s life into every word on each page.

This story will inspire anyone to follow their dreams with spirit and determination. I highly recommend it.

For Further Enrichment:

The African American Registry has a brief article about Mamie. This is a great resource for African American history.

There are interviews with Mamie and further resources on NPR’s website.

Here’s the Kirkus Review of this excellent book.

For more about author Michelle Y. Green, see my post about her current Tuskegee Airmen Legacy Project.

        

The Ziegfeld Club, Inc.

You may have heard of the impresario Flo Ziegfeld (Flo was short for Florenz.) You may have heard of the Ziegfeld Girls from the early days of movies. You may be wondering why I’m posting about them today.

It turns out that the Ziegfeld Follies aren’t the only thing that the Ziegfelds were involved in. Billie Burke, Flo Ziegfeld’s wife, founded the Ziegfeld Club in 1936, originally to provide support for any Ziegfeld Girl who was having a difficult time. If you’re wondering why the name Billie Burke sounds familiar, she was a star in her own right, best known to modern audiences as Glinda, the Good Witch in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Although the original Ziegfeld Girls have all died in the decades since the Ziegfeld Follies was popular, the Ziegfeld Club remains dedicated to helping women in the arts.

According to their website, they now offer the Billie Burke Ziegfeld Award to emerging female composer-lyricists, continuing the Ziegfeld contribution to the arts and to music. Although the website doesn’t seem to have been updated since last year, I certainly hope they are continuing this worthy aim.

They also offer the Liz Swados Inspiration Grant to female music educators in New York City. There are details about this award on their website as well.

I find it inspiring that the Ziegfelds, who brought joy and hope through music and dance from 1907-1931, are still the impetus for bringing music, joy, and hope to the world today.

Z is for Ziegfeld. With this post, I’ve reached the end of my exploration of the alphabet. There’ll be two bonus posts to take us to the end of May, and then the blog will catch some ZZZZZs until fall.

        

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