Book Reviews

Reading Roundup #3

I haven’t done a reading roundup in a while so I thought one was due. I also recently read Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking by Anya Von Bremzen but since that all has to do with food and some travel, I plan on writing about it in its own post.

A Star for Mrs. Blake by April Smith

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m immensely interested in World War I especially because it receives so little attention here in the United States when compared to events like the Civil War and obviously World War II. A Song for Mrs. Blake creates a fictional tale of a group of Gold Star Mothers who in the late 1920s were sent to France (courtesy of the United States government) in order to see the graves of their sons who had been killed during World War I.  (The Gold Star Mothers is a group that was formed in the United States shortly after World War to provide support to mothers who had lost sons or daughters in the war and is still operational today.) Smith weaves a highly engrossing tale about a group of women from all different backgrounds who were brought together by the most tragic occurrence ever-the deaths of their sons in war. Reading about this real life event was fascinating, especially if you consider that the United States government was spending money to sail large groups of women to Europe, house and feed them for weeks in France, tour them about, just as the country was about to be sent into financial ruin and shock by the Great Depression.

mrs blake

Song of Survival: Women Interned by Helen Colijn

Paradise Road is one of the most haunting movies I have ever seen. It tells the story of a group of female POWs that was held captive by the Japanese during World War in a camp on a remote island in Indonesia. Song of Survival served as the inspiration for the film, as it was written by one of the camp survivors. When one hears the term “POW camp,” images of male soldiers often come to mind. But during the Second World War, thousands of women and children were interned by the Japanese army for years. Although they weren’t treated as brutally as male POWs were by the Japanese (the Japanese considered soldiers who surrendered instead of killing themselves to be a disgrace, inferior), they still endured horrific living conditions, many of them dying from simply not having access to basic foods and medicines. Colijn includes a photograph of a little boy who was around the age of five when their camp was finally liberated weeks after the Japanese had formally surrendered.  Since they were so remote, it took the Allies that long to find them. The child couldn’t remember his parents nor any sort of life before the camp. This book is a startling reminder that war affects all, but especially those off of the battlefields.


A Good American by Alex George

Tales of immigrants from the turn of the last century are often set in places like New York City or somewhere in a coal mine/steel mill (where so many immigrants ultimately went after arriving in the United States). However, A Good American is different as it’s set in rural Missouri. It begins with the story of a German couple who flee to America and begin their new life in what is a village during the early 1900s. As the book progresses, so do the years with it spanning until the 1980s. It covers everything from World War I to racism, to bootlegging to modern development. There’s nothing overly special or unique about this one family’s fictional account and yet it’s a great telling of American history during the 20th century (with plenty of drama too).


More like this!

Reading Roundup #1

Reading Roundup #2

Reading Roundup #4

Reading Roundup #5

Reading Roundup #6

Reading Roundup #7

Reading Roundup #8

Reading Roundup #9

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  • Reply
    Becca Niederkrom
    July 8, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Wow! Now this is a reading list. I will have to put “A Star for Mrs. Blake” at the top of my list. That last tidbit in your summary about the Great Depression is interesting, history seems to always repeat.
    Becca Niederkrom recently posted…Week 4 Chocolate GiveawayMy Profile

    • Reply
      July 10, 2014 at 9:33 pm

      A Star for Mrs. Blake was really fascinating! You hear about Gold Star families today but I had no idea it originated for the “mothers.” And yes, history sadly has always repeated itself.

  • Reply
    Jenn @ Two Weeks in Costa Rica
    July 8, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    Great post! I always love reading books that share the stories of immigrants, they’re always so fascinating. I’ll have to check out A Good American. Thanks!

    • Reply
      July 10, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      I’ve also always loved reading immigrant tales. I think I’m always trying to feel a sense of connection with my great-grandparents who were my only modern day immigrant relatives. You would like A Good American-it tells quite a story!

  • Reply
    Kelly @ Tasting Page
    July 8, 2014 at 11:35 pm

    Thanks for giving me some good titles for my summer reading list. These stories all sound fascinating and am glad they’re being told. Thanks for sharing!
    Kelly @ Tasting Page recently posted…Avocado Toast with Tomato SalsaMy Profile

    • Reply
      July 10, 2014 at 9:29 pm

      You can never go wrong with any type of history, whether fiction or nonfiction 🙂 I have always loved learning about events and people I knew nothing about!

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