Thursday, September 9, 2021

A New 4.25!

Back on April 24, 2014, I added a 2nd All-Time Top 12 to my original All-Time Top 12.  And then on September 24, 2015, I put a 13th book in the 2nd ATT12.  Well, almost 6 years later, I'm adding #14 to the 2nd ATT12. The book is called The Clover Girls, by Viola Shipman.  I absolutely loved every minute of it.  Instead of posting the book cover synopsis, I'm just going to tell you what it's about:  4 young girls meet at an all-girls camp in Michigan.  They become best friends and keep coming back year-after-year until they are actually camp counsellors.  36 years after that 1st camp, the 4 women are no longer friends.  What happened, and is there any way it can be fixed?  I am giving you NO hints.

I can't even begin to tell you how many times I teared up or just flat-out cried.  We all know that I'm not exactly stoic after I make an emotional connection with a character or 2.  Well, this time I connected with all 4! And it lasted throughout the book.  But there is so much more to it than just emotions.  There is humor.  There is (perhaps) romance.  There is even another takeaway for me.  And, above all else, the writing is superb.  Here is just one example of an analogy that really resonated with me.  And it concerns one character's mother who has been fading for a very long time and is finally near death:

"The body is like a baseball stadium after the last out is made.  Every living thing begins to stream out of it, it grows quiet, calm, cool, and then the lights begin to shut off, one section at a time, starting with the feet."

How cool is that?  I have read one other Shipman book, called The Recipe Box.  I liked it a lot.  But this one has just joined a very special group.  I welcome you, The Clover Girls, to the top 26 books I have read. Feel proud.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Another Excellent Harmel!

It is such a treat to get a new Kristin Harmel book to read (and review). Everything she writes immediately goes into my-favorite-books-of-the-year category.  And her latest, The Forest of Vanishing Stars, is certainly no exception.  Here is the synopsis:

After being stolen from her wealthy German parents and raised in the unforgiving wilderness of Eastern Europe, a young woman finds herself alone in 1941 after her kidnapper dies.  Her solitary existence is interrupted, however, when she happens upon a group of Jews fleeing the Nazi terror.  Stunned to learn what's happening in the outside world, she vows to teach the group all she can about surviving in the forest - and in turn, they teach her some surprising lessons about opening her heart after years of isolation. But when she is betrayed and escapes into a German-occupied village, her past and present come together in a shocking collision that could change everything.

As a history major, and a big (huge) fan of historical fiction, I have read a lot of books about WWII.  And, yet, I keep reading about things that I absolutely had no knowledge of (yes, I know you're not supposed to end a sentence or phrase with a preposition).  Harmel has, once again, done that for me.  Her writing and story-telling are exemplary.  And her research always blows me away.  On top of all that (as if that isn't enough), she always makes me care about the characters.  As early as page 55 I was already shaking my head.

I mentioned how good her writing is.  Here are just a couple of examples:

"...worry fluttered in her chest like an uncertain butterfly."
"I'm broken too.  But sometimes it's the jagged edges that allow us to fit together."

I basically say the same thing after every new Harmel:  "Just read it." You will always be happy you did.