Monday, November 11, 2019

A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Wishaw

Title: A Killer in King’s Cove: A Lane Winslow Mystery
AuthorIona Whishaw
Publication: Touchwood Editions, paperback, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery/series
Setting: Canada, 1946
Plot: Lane Winslow wanted to get away from London after the horrors of the war but no one was expecting her to take her modest inheritance and buy a home in western Canada.   In King’s Cove, a small town in British Columbia, Lane is welcomed by her new neighbors.  She hopes to begin a literary career but is distracted by the discovery of a dead body, found in the creek adjoining her property.  Lane does not recognize the man but when her name is found in his pocket, she becomes the police’s most likely suspect.

My Impressions: This is a delightful mystery, and will appeal to fans of Maisie Dobbs, who like character-driven, leisurely paced narratives.  Lane is an attractive heroine, whose heart was broken during the war but she is determined not to think about Angus or to look backward at all.  She has moved on from her espionage work during the war and is enjoying King’s Cove, even if her house is slightly haunted by its previous owner.  When murder intrudes on this small town, secrets start coming out everywhere and if I were Lane I would keep my doors locked and not go outside after sundown!   My favorite characters other than Lane were Inspector Darling and Constable Ames.  Inspector Darling served during the war and has invisible scars like Lane.  He is reluctant to suspect her of murder and is annoyed with himself for being so reluctant!  Constable Ames provides comic relief and recognizes that Inspector Darling and Lane are not indifferent to each other.  In fact, the conversation between Inspector Darling and Lane is great fun and gives one great hope for future books in the series.

Off the Blog: On my way to Denver for the Cities for Financial Empowerment Conference!  Excited for my first visit to Beany Malone country.  I visited the famous Tattered Cover bookstore tonight; I was disappointed they weren't carrying either Beany Malone or Lane Winslow.
According to my friend Zelda, this was Lenora Mattingly Weber's home in Denver.  Camilla and 
I walked up the driveway but it was dark and hard to envision Beany, Mary Fred, and Johnny.
Source: Library, but I have now purchased the second in the series.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What is a Lib Guide?

Curious about the History of Children's Literature class I have been taking this fall? 

Last week's assignment was to create a LibGuide, which is basically a subject guide that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study.  I decided to do mine on children's fantasy, so I researched and included nonfiction reference books and encyclopedias, articles, websites, and some of my favorite books in the genre. I suppose it is really just a bibliography with images. I had fun finding all the covers, including the one below from an edition I own:

It will be interesting to see what my professor thinks of my choices!  For those interested, the text we are using is Children's Literature by Seth Lerer.

Here is the link: Fantasy Lib Guide

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From Alice to The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the book is Alice in Wonderland.  I have very pleasant memories, not only of reading it but my grandmother gave me LP versions of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass which I listened to often as a child on my own little record player.  At one point, I could quote long passages.  Prior to this gift, I will admit I'd thought the book was called Allison Wonderland. 
Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, and Aloysius
(copyright Granada Television)
Alice made me think of my first book which begins in Oxford: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. When I visited Oxford, reminders of both books were everywhere!  Brideshead is one of the few books of which I consider the miniseries as good or better.  It really captivated viewers when it first came out, including me.  Oh, Anthony Andrews, I could watch you in anything!   In fact, I loved you in a movie of my second book:
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy, set during the French Revolution, about an Englishman who plays the fop but is really a spy:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell?
That damned, elusive Pimpernel

My third book is by Georgette Heyer, who was inspired by Orczy and Rafael Sabatini to try her hand at a romantic adventure story.   I have a couple favorites but I am thinking about Devil’s Cub, in which Mary Challoner pulls a gun on the young nobleman trying to seduce her as they travel to France.
Intrepid heroines are always my favorite!   My fourth book is one I was thinking about earlier tonight, Nobody’s Girl by Hector Henry Malot, translated from French and available through Project Gutenberg.  Perrine’s dying mother makes her promise to find the grandfather who disowned his son for marrying beneath him: “Make him love you without revealing your identity!”   An elementary school friend lent me this book when I was about 10 and I was happy to find a copy with the same pink cover not long ago.
My fifth book is also set in France.  (Hmm, there are bits of Brideshead set in Paris so I guess there is a French theme for my chain that I hadn’t planned but will now maintain.)  I am a big Daphne du Maurier fan and once persuaded my book group to read The Scapegoat, an improbable tale of impersonation.   Not all my friends like historical fiction as much as I do but this fascinated everyone.
Finally, for my sixth book, I will end with a book I just finished, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan, who writes light-hearted women’s fiction but often surprises the reader with serious themes.  Here, an unlikely friendship between Anna and her old French teacher results in Anna going to Paris to work for a famous chocolatier.  This will help Anna recover from an accident and causes Claire to remember her magical time in Paris as an au pair when she was young and in love.
See you next month for Sanditon, soon to be on Masterpiece!

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Cart and Cwidder (Dalemark Quartet, Book 1) by Diana Wynne Jones

Title: Cart and Cwidder, Dalemark Quartet, Book 1
Author: Diana Wynne Jones
Publication: Greenwillow, hardcover, 1975
Genre: Children’s Fantasy
Plot: Clennen, his wife Lenina, and their three children are traveling musicians, and among the few who move between the North and South regions of Dalemark. His parents deliver messages and gossipy news as they travel and sometimes take passengers with them. There are political overtones: the South is more restrictive and “[y]ou dared not put a good, or a word, out of place for fear of being clapped in jail.” Red-headed Moril may be a dreamer but he knows better than to sing seditious songs on his cwidder (a sort of lute) in the wrong part of Dalemark. When Clennen tells the family they are bringing Kialan, a youth about Moril’s age, with them to the North, his children resent the arrogant boy, who sneers at them and brings violence into their lives. When tragedy strikes, it is up to the overlooked Moril, as well as his older brother Dagner, and his feisty sister Brid to stand up for themselves, which also means accepting annoying Kialan and work together to survive.

My Impressions: The first DWJ I brought home from the library was The Ogre Downstairs, and everyone in the family enjoyed it before it went back to the library. I continued to read her books whenever I had the chance. Much later, when I worked at Avon/Morrow, I ordered myself a copy of every backlist title. Turns out I had a nice first edition American copy of Cart and Cwidder that I had never had time to read. Inspired by Lory from The Emerald City Book Review, I took it with me to the gym the other night and got yelled at by some guy when I was distracted reading between sets and didn’t lift weights fast enough for him. “It’s not a library!” he scolded me. Oh, please!
As with many of DWJ’s books, the main character is thoughtful and quirky, unassuming but with the capacity to rise to the occasion when necessary. Music has dominated the family’s life and it is Moril’s inspired playing of his father’s cwidder that saves the day. Jones’ skill is her ability to mingle humor and tragedy, fantasy and realism effortlessly, without losing her plot (I did think she was hard on the mother in this story). There are also plenty of villains and an overall sense of foreboding that made up for the lack of magic, other than the cwidder.  While not as memorable or multidimensional as the Charmed Life series, I look forward to reading more about Dalemark.

There's going to be a Cart and Cwidder discussion over at Calmgrove where there are lots of DWJ fans later this week.

Off the Blog: Nationals win the World Series!  

Source: Personal copy

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Avalon by Anya Seton

Title: Avalon
Author: Anya Seton
Publication: Houghton Mifflin, hardcover, 1965
Genre: Historical Fiction
Avalon is the eighth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles. It is one of Seton’s lesser-known titles and I have owned it for years without getting around to reading it.

Plot: When Rumon, a young man of noble birth, descended from Charlemagne, leaves his home in Provence to seek the source of his visions, his goal is Avalon, the legendary island featured in Arthurian legend. Instead, he is shipwrecked in Cornwall, where he meets a girl called Merewyn, whose father was killed by Vikings before she was born. Promising her dying mother he will deliver Merewyn to an aunt, an abbess at a convent, they set off to the court of King Edgar. The politics of court and of the church, anchored by Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, provide the counterpoint to the odd friendship that connects Rumon and Merewyn. Both young people are dazzled by Edgar’s queen, Alfrida, which prevents Rumon from recognizing Merewyn’s devotion as she becomes a young woman capable of great love. Because he alone knows the secret of her birth, he considers her unworthy. However, once Rumon realizes that he cares for her, he pursues Merewyn, making a perilous journey across the Atlantic to Iceland, believing he needs to rescue her.

My Impressions: This is another compelling historical novel by the talented Anya Seton and, as with Dragonwyck and My Theodosia, it provides a vivid picture of a little known period, including some real characters, such as St. Dunstan, Leif Erikson, and Ethelred the Unready.  Seton has an uncanny
Merewyn would likely freeze in this outfit
ability to bring history to life, although there are fewer appealing characters and what seems like more violence than in Katherine, one of my (and many others') all-time favorites. Still, it is a great read for historical fiction fans and I could not put it down. As usual, Seton’s sweeping narrative carries the reader along, even when the main protagonist is considered a wimp by reader and Vikings alike:
“And I think that Rumon will always be wanting what he cannot find, and that if he finds what he thought he wanted he will be disappointed. As he is now.” She tried to smile but tears came into her eyes...
Does a real hero always know what he wants? Merewyn’s observation is accompanied by the Vikings’ contempt for someone who won’t fight and who “sounded abject” when he spoke to a mere woman. Rumon is a "Searcher" of visions but is not capable of seeing beyond his own nose.   Still, I give Rumon credit for a three-year quest to find Merewyn, although his overweening pride prevented him from appreciating her when she was close at hand.

Off the Blog: This review is a break from a weekend creating what my History of Children’s Literature professor calls a LibGuide. I chose children’s fantasy literature as my topic and will add a link once complete.

Source: Personal copy

Sunday, October 20, 2019

A Bitter Feast by Deborah Crombie

Title: A Bitter Feast
AuthorDeborah Crombie
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, October 2019
Genre: Mystery/Suspense/Series
Plot: Melody Talbot’s parents are hosting a benefit at their home in the Cotswolds, and when Melody invites her boss, Detective Inspector Gemma James, Gemma’s husband Detective Superintendent Duncan Kincaid, and their three children for the weekend, everyone expects a relaxing sojourn in a picturesque part of England.  Unfortunately, Duncan is involved in a fatal car crash on his way to Lower Slaughter, which turns out to be connected to the talented chef, Viv Holland, who is catering Lady Adelaide’s lunch.  The weekend turns into a busman’s holiday for Gemma and Duncan as they assist the local police in investigating several mysterious deaths, while Melody’s romance with Andy is suffering from prolonged separation while he is on tour, due to her insecurity about their relationship.   In the midst of all this angst, Duncan’s son Kit, now 15, shows real maturity by acting as sous-chef to Viv Holland and listening to Viv’s daughter who is confused and angry.
In 2017, I enjoyed seeing children like Toby and Charlotte frolic at Bourton on the Water
My Impressions: I am a huge fan of this series and had eagerly awaited this18th book featuring Gemma James and Duncan Kincaid; all of which are delightful.  However, I do recommend starting at the beginning with A Share in Death.  Although Gemma and Duncan spend very little time together in this book, A Bitter Feast was enjoyable for several reasons: the Cotswold setting was very appealing because I was there myself not long ago, including to Bourton on the Water where Gemma and Lady Adelaide take the children; Melody’s parents are great characters, and it was fun to see them taking an interest in Gemma and Duncan (Sir Ivan dragging Duncan to the doctor which he desperately needed and even helping to replace the family car, which was totaled in the accident); the foodie aspects were interesting: both Viv Holland’s up and coming pub, the Lamb, and her restaurant experience back in London long ago.  I like Melody and am sorry her relationship with Andy is not progressing smoothly; I don’t think she and Doug are meant to be together.
The plot and actual mystery of this particular book are secondary to the setting and characters, always Crombie’s strength.  She deftly manages a large cast without losing track of the actual crime and how it is going to be solved.   I did think that there were two characters, Bea and Roz, who were too similar but that is a minor quibble.  Readers will appreciate a beautiful map of the Cotswolds which is almost as good as being there.
I yearned for a cottage in the Cotswolds!
Purchase Links: IndieBound * Barnes & Noble * Amazon * Book Depository * HarperCollins

Off the Blog: Winter approaches!  I kidnapped the nephews briefly this afternoon to help put away the hammock and the patio umbrella, and I broke down and turned on the heat yesterday.  Hardy New Englanders try to wait until November 1.
Source: I was eagerly awaiting this book and appreciate the copy from the publisher and TLC Book Tours, provided for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

October 10th: Literary Quicksand
October 11th: Instagram: @slreadsbooks
October 14th: PhDiva
October 14th: Bewitched Bookworms
October 15th: Write – Read – Life
October 16th: Jessicamap Reviews
October 17th: From the TBR Pile
October 22nd: Lesa’s Book Critiques
October 23rd: Jathan & Heather
October 24th: Amy’s Book-et List

Thursday, October 17, 2019

The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn Keene #1930Club

The 1930 Club is a meme started by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy's Book Ramblings that explores a specific year of published books.

Title: The Secret of the Old Clock 
Author:  Carolyn Keene
Publication: Grosset and Dunlap, hardcover, 1930
Genre: Children’s mystery/series

Plot: When Nancy Drew, the attractive 18-year-old daughter of accomplished lawyer Carson Drew, starts investigating the estate of recently deceased Josiah Crowley, she learns she has the makings of a fine detective!   Nancy encounters several families who innocently thought they would inherit modest amounts of money from him; instead, Crowley seems to have left everything to the disagreeable Topham family.  Encouraged by her father, Nancy scrutinizes Crowley’s activities before he died in the hope of finding a more recent will.   Her curiosity leads her to new friends, old rivals, antique thieves, lunch with a prominent judge, being locked in a closet, the secret of the old clock, and a career as a dashing sleuth.

My Impressions: Devouring Nancy Drew is or used to be a rite of passage for girls who read. The expectation is that you move on to less formulaic books and you forget about Nancy, Carson, housekeeper Hannah Gruen, Bess, George, and Ned Nickerson (well, Ned wasn’t very memorable in the first place).  So I was impressed several years ago when there was a flurry of articles which revealed several of our Supreme Court justices had been big Nancy Drew fans: Sandra Day O’Conner, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and Sonia Sotomayor.
I too read every Nancy Drew I could find after an aunt gave me a copy of The Clue in the Diary when I was in third grade.   

However, The Secret of the Old Clock is particularly significant because it is the first book in the famous series and because the actual mystery is fairly memorable.  Spoiled rich people inherited money they didn’t need while those left in the lurch were hard-working and deserving. Learning about wills and how   they had to be witnessed and produced when someone died was fascinating to me, as was Nancy’s compassion and her sense of justice. Neither the justices nor I knew back then that author Carolyn Keene didn’t exist, and that Nancy was the product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a New Jersey-based book packagers also responsible for the Rover Boys (I inherited these from my father), Hardy Boys, Happy Hollisters (these I ordered by mail because I wanted the secret decoder that came with the first book), and much more.

1930 was the launch of a dynasty as Nancy Drew would be hugely successful with more than 70 million copies sold, not to mention movie and TV spinoffs (including a new show on the CW just this month - I watched for 10 minutes - it was dreadful), merchandise, and more.  At 8 or 9, I didn't notice the formulaic plots librarians disliked.  I enjoyed the way Nancy dashed about in her shiny convertible, intrepid and confident, although I will admit I sometimes preferred the Dana Girls, also produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, about sisters at boarding school who solved mysteries.   But when I found a Dana Girls book at a Cape Cod rental and read it to my nieces a couple years ago, they laughed hysterically at nearly every sentence, so I have to admit it did not hold up well.  

Off the Blog: I am taking a History of Children’s Literature class and just got permission from my professor to write my term paper about Nancy Drew!  I need to fine-tune the topic first . . .  Let me know if you have any suggestions that haven’t been done to death.
Source: I gave all my Nancy Drews to my niece Katherine so got this from the library.  I love that it is the very edition I first read from the John Ward School library. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield #1930Club

The 1930 Club is a meme started by Simon from Stuck in a Book and Karen from Kaggsy's Book Ramblings that explores a specific year of published books.  This inspired me to chose a book I had always meant to read, set in one of my favorite fictional places, a small English village.

Title: Diary of a Provincial Lady
Author: E.M. Delafield (1890–1943)
Publication: Academy Chicago Publishers, trade paperback, 2002 (1930)
Genre: Fiction
Plot: The book is a somewhat autobiographical diary of the life of an upper-middle-class Englishwoman living mostly in a Devon village in the 1930s, with a grumpy husband, two young children (one of whom attends boarding school), a large awkward house, a number of servants, and many acquaintances (although only one real friend).

My library edition
My Impressions: This was amusing but not nearly so charming as any D.E. Stevenson in which the heroine is trying to make ends meet. Stevenson takes seriously the agonizing economies one must sometimes undertake while imbuing them with an appealing lightheartedness. The Provincial Lady is so understated that only the reader gets her jokes. She can be very funny, less about her writing ambitions than about her interaction with neighbors and her endlessly demanding and annoying family and servants. Her observations of village life are full of witty observations, although occasionally she remembers she does not approve of gossip at all! In addition, like all of us, she rarely thinks of a good comeback until it is too late (or is too polite to utter it) (this phenomenon inspired the name of my blog).

Still, some of the aspects of her life are not altogether humorous. Why must she agonize about every penny, including pawning her great-aunt’s ring frequently, when her husband seems oblivious to their precarious financial situation? Couldn’t she economize by reducing her household staff? I know the answer is no, but for example, couldn’t she teach her child herself or send her to the local primary instead of having a live-in French governess for an (I think) six-year-old? Is she self-deprecating about her finances because she is amused by the situation or because it is so dire she can only cope by joking about it? Usually, I greatly enjoy the social satire of a book like this, set in a gossipy English country town, but the heroine’s wryness seemed more exhausting to maintain than it would have been to learn how to cook! Not to mention, how disappointing it would be to have multiple servants, yet for them to be as disobliging as those in this household! I want Carson and Anna or no one!

Off the Blog: I have been laboring all day on a take-home cataloging midterm – torture!

Source: Library copy.  There have obviously been a lot of attractively packaged editions over the years.  My library copy included the original illustrations by Arthur Watts, an artist whose work also appeared in Punch.  He was known for his gently satirical observations of class distinctions and his black and white drawings add greatly to the book.
She is often writing letters

Thursday, October 10, 2019

The Goldsmith’s Treasure by August Šenoa (book review)

Title: The Goldsmith’s Treasure
Author: August Šenoa (1838 – 1881)
Translator: Neven Divjakinja
Publication: Spiritoso (Zagreb), hardcover, English edition 2015 (1871)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Zagreb, 1574-79
August Šenoa
Plot: This is a story of forbidden love between Dora Krupiceva, the Goldsmith’s daughter, a beautiful and devout young woman, and Pavao Gregorijanec, willful son of Lord Stjephko. Grga Cokolin is a drunken barber (rumored to dabble in the dark arts) who yearns for Dora but her father does not approve of him and diplomatically says Dora is too young to marry. Rejected, Grga plans revenge on Dora, her father, and kind Magda who raised Dora after her mother died. At a public gathering to burn a Turkish priest, Dora is nearly trampled by the crowd but Pavao rescues her and immediately falls in love. His father is furious at a romantic entanglement with a commoner and sends Pavao to visit a rich widow he considers a more suitable match. Unfortunately, this means Dora is vulnerable and alone when the jealous barber spreads rumors about her. Her father is shamed, believes the calumny, and exiles her to Lomnica to work as a servant.

Jerko, an unfortunately named mute, follows Pavao to Samobor where the lovely widow Klara is trying to seduce him, and somehow manages to gasp out that Dora is in danger. He explains to Pavao that the barber is conspiring with Pavao’s father to kidnap and dishonor Dora on her way to Lomnica. Jerko also reveals that he is Pavao’s half-brother: he is the son of a serf who was raped by Lord Stjephko and was brought up pretending to be mute to protect himself from his vengeful father. Jerko was under an oath not to utter a human sound unless he found himself in mortal danger but he also loves Dora so is determined to help Pavao rescue her. Pavao is able to thwart the kidnapping and hangs the perpetrators although Grga escapes. Pavao confronts his father for plotting to abduct and rape Dora; his wretched mother Marta dies during the encounter.

The politics were hard to follow. Croatia in the 16th century was part of the Habsburg empire and was governed from Prague. The Croatian nobles dislike their overlords and hate the Turks, who, just as now, are menacing everyone in sight, especially my Hungarian ancestors. Lord Stjephko is made Vice Ban (Assistant Viceroy) of Croatia and uses his position to abuse Dora’s father. Grga appears in time to make trouble, helped by the rich widow Klara who marries the Ban, Baron Ungnad, but is so infatuated with Pavao that she vows to destroy Dora.

My Impressions: When my classmate Lidija told us that The Goldsmith’s Treasure was legendary as the first historical novel published in Croatia and only recently translated into English, our book group was intrigued. The editor explains that Šenoa was extremely influenced by Dickens. The translation is poor and very melodramatic, but the reader is still able to appreciate the (albeit over-the-top) characters and appeal.  The descriptions of Zagreb are vivid and perhaps the best part: "By telling a story about its citizens, Šenoa also told a story about Zagreb itself (10)."  Several of the key landmarks in the story are still there and just waiting for a visit.

Favorite Quotes:  There have always been forbidden loves, but there has never been one that could be stopped (9).

It is well known that all women who are neighbors share a sincere affection toward one another. That is, if they do not gouge each other’s eyes out over the years (99).

"My heart got the better of me. My heart, Dora dearest – which holds a precious treasure inside – your name (114)."

"You’ve already saved my only daughter twice . . . [c]ome as you please, enjoy Dora’s company, but only in my presence, because, as you, noble gentleman, protect your lineage like a precious flower, so must we townspeople protect the health trees of our families from burrowing worms (205)."

The empire is in a terrible state! Rivers of Christian blood flow throughout Hungary; a crescent moon flies over Budapest. Bosnia suffocates under Turkish rule. Eastern Slavonija slaves away, torn away from its motherland (235).

“Oh Pavao, why were we born as we were? You a lord and I a common girl. Why was I not born a lady and you a pauper? Why did we ever meet? . . . I would not give you up for all the gold in the world.”

“Enough, my lady!” The young man got to his feet, his face red with anger. “You are not quite well. You seem feverish. But to break your fever, I shall tell you this: Pavao Gregorijanec is a noble, a soldier, and is betrothed to another! . . . These three things prevent me, my lady, to fall victim to your lust.”

Source:   Lidija brought six copies of this book from Croatia on her last visit for our book group to read, and has promised traditional food when we meet at her home to discuss it next month. I hope she produces some paprenjaci, the traditional Croatian cookies made by Dora’s godmother!

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation - from The Women in the Castle to Shadow Castle

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo was Kate’s starting book this month.  Unusually, I hadn’t heard of it and when I took a look it was definitely not my thing.   However, it made me think of my first book, which is about three women living in close quarters after WWII:
 
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck was published in 2017.   This is a historical novel written by a Boston-based author, set primarily in post-World War II Germany.   Heroine (albeit flawed) Marianne takes in widowed survivors of resistors and their children, trying to preserve a new generation for the country in a castle that is barely functional.  I think I liked this because it showed a very different perspective on WWII historical fiction I have long enjoyed (I tend to read books set in England or France).   I realized I could have a castle theme, and that brought me to my second book with another falling-apart castle full of women:
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1949).   Aspiring writer Cassandra and her family live in a dilapidated castle and are living in genteel poverty because their father cannot write a successor to his long-ago bestseller and obviously can’t do anything as plebeian as getting a job.  But everything changes for Cassandra and her sister Rose when two attractive young men come to town.    Somehow I missed this coming of age story when I was growing up and although I enjoyed it as an adult, I think I would have liked it more as a teen.   I do enjoy the famous first line and I really enjoyed the movie.   Did you see it?   Here is a link to the trailer.   My third book involves a castle that is not falling down but is constantly moving:
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1996).  A mysterious castle appears in town, which belongs to the Wizard Howl, who is rumored to suck the souls of young girls. Surprise! He is actually young and handsome, although very annoying.  Sophie Hatter, the intrepid oldest sister, is under a spell for most of the book, but that barely slows her down, even though believes.  A real gem!  The movie is a 2004 Japanese animated, fantasy film written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki.
The Maze in the Heart of the Castle by Dorothy Gilman (1983).  Gilman, known for her teen novels before she reinvented herself as the author of the Mrs. Pollifax (1966 and on), middle-aged housewife turned CIA agent, and other mysteries, first mentioned this book in an adult standalone, The Tightrope Walker, a really unusual and appealing novel.  Clearly, she fell in love with the description of Maze and then wrote it! It works by itself but I highly recommend The Tightrope Walker too, in which shy heroine Amelia Jones searches her past for clues to a mystery that terrifies her . . . The Maze in the Heart of the Castle is a middle school fantasy about an orphan on a quest to understand the loss of his parents.   This is a sad castle so I picked a more humorous one for my fifth book:

Knight’s Castle by Edward Eager (1956), Illustrated by a favorite, N. M. Bodecker.  This follows Magic by the Lake and is about the offspring of the children in Half Magic.   Roger and Ann, visiting their cousins in Baltimore, are taken to see the Elizabeth Taylor movie of Ivanhoe and are enthralled.   They start playing with the castle Aunt Katharine gives Roger and new soldiers from their Uncle Mark, and then the soldiers come to life and they find themselves back in the days of Ivanhoe and Bad King John . . . English friends: this is better than The Return of the Twelves.  Knight's Castle led me to my sixth book, another favorite:

Shadow Castle by Marian Cockrell (1945). In the middle of a deep forest is an enchanted valley and a castle where only shadows live, shadows of kings and queens who have waited for hundreds of years for the spell cast upon them to be broken.   One day, a girl named Lucy follows a little dog through a tunnel into the valley and meets the mysterious red-haired Michael, who takes her into the shadow world to meet Prince Mika and his mortal wife Gloria, their children and their children's children, and learn the magic that will lift the spell.   I return often to this gem of a book, and cherish my mother’s copy, which was published during WWII on very-thin paper.   Happily, an expanded version was made available not long ago by the author’s daughter, also a writer.
So we started off *in* WWII and concluded with a book written *during* WWII.  Next month, Kate says the launch book will be Alice in Wonderland.  I have very pleasant memories, not only of reading it but my grandmother gave me LP versions of Alice and Through the Looking Glass I listened to often as a child.

To my surprise, I read today that Jojo Moyes is in the middle of Three Women, so *someone* is reading it!  I was also startled to read her new book is set in Depression-era Kentucky, which seems a very odd setting for her to choose.

Happy Birthday to my dear friend, KDC!
Knight's Castle images copyright to HBJ Publishers