Category: books

Why I wrote a ghost story

casper_the_friendly_ghostI used to be scared of everything when I was little. Up-and-down carousel horses, the Michelin Man, Mr. Bubble, blimps, and steep hills, just to name a few things. When the rest of the family watched “Lost in Space” in the living room I had to hide out in my bedroom because I nearly had a heart attack every time the robot flailed his wiggly, pincer-tipped arms and yelled, “Danger! Danger!”

I should have been afraid of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” a TV show that only aired from 1968 to 1970. But oddly enough I loved that show. Do you remember it? The premise is that a pretty, young widow and mother of two, Carolyn Muir, discovers that the seaside house she’s moved into is haunted by the former owner, a sailor named Captain Daniel Gregg, an old salt who at first resists the intrusion but quickly falls in love with her. The producers took care to make every ghostly sequence lighthearted – the laugh track is ridiculously overused – and any show that had Charles C. Reilly in its cast wasn’t going to be hardcore horror. Still, the captain was a ghost, and yet I loved the show.

Looking back on it now, I think it’s because the Captain was a regular character in this story. And like all characters in all stories he wanted something he didn’t have. That made him human, if not supernaturally so, and not a hellish phantom with no aim other than to terrorize people.

If I am to imagine that ghosts are real – and being a novelist and not a scientist I don’t have to prove they are or are not – then they must want something. Why would they linger if not because they want something? And because I chose the beautiful and famously haunted RMS Queen Mary as the setting for my next novel, A BRIDGE ACROSS THE OCEAN (Berkley, March 2017), I knew I wanted to add a ghost as a character.

I am a believer in life after death. I believe in God and the spirit world of angels and demons, so as a novelist who gets to cook up all kinds of scenarios, it’s not so far off to imagine that the spirit world might be one we don’t know everything about. As a Christian, I also find it very interesting that when the disciples of Jesus were out in a boat on a very stormy night and he came walking out on the water to them, the gospels say they were terrified because they thought he was a ghost. He calms them not by saying, “There are no ghosts!” but by saying, “It’s me! Don’t be afraid.”  Then after the resurrection when Jesus appears to the disciples, and they are again scared out of their minds that he’s a ghost, he says in the gospel of Luke, “Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When I was researching A BRIDGE ACROSS THE abato_finalOCEAN, I asked many friends if they’d ever had an experience that had no earthly explanation. I was surprised by the number who emailed me back with a story that they don’t always share with people because it defies conventional wisdom. These stories reinforced for me the notion that we don’t know everything about everything.

All this is to say I have a ghost in my next novel. More than one, actually. But it’s not a scary book. Not at all. My ghosts are literary ghosts, if you will. They are just like the mortal characters in the story who want something, are on a quest to have it, and face hearty opposition.

I think you will like my ghosts. If you liked Captain Gregg, I know you will! I don’t know if it’s truly possible for any of us to hang around after we pass away, but it was supremely interesting for me to wonder and suppose that if we could, why would we do it?

Would love to hear your thoughts! Have you ever had an experience that defies explanation?

A remarkable book for any age

sepetysWas there a time when Young Adult lit was truly only for young adults? I am beginning to think maybe there was but it only lasted five minutes. I’ve been wowed over the last few years by more YA titles than my chronological age should allow. Ruta Sepetys’ page-turner, SALT TO THE SEA, is apparently shelved in YA, though you need to know I read my mother’s copy (who is obviously at least two decades older than me!) and she loved this book just as much as I did.

It’s a hauntingly evocative, tender, moving, and remarkable story of four young people trying to survive the horrors of WW2. Told in four rotating viewpoints, Sepetys was nevertheless able to create the literary magic that makes the reader very okay with switching from one character’s head to another. You know those books with multiple points of view, where you really only care about two of the four and you race to get past the pages of the characters whose stories aren’t as compelling? This isn’t one of those books.

The story is all the more riveting because it’s based on a true-to-life disaster that, unless you’ve read the book, you’ve probably never heard of.

Here’s the premise from the back cover:

“Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.”

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys

Ruta Sepetys‘ Goodreads author page tells us that she was born into a family of artists, readers, and music lovers, and that she is drawn to stories of strength through struggle. Her award-winning debut novel, “Between Shades of Gray” was inspired by her family’s history in Lithuania and is published in 45 countries. Her second novel, “Out of the Easy” is set in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1950, and “Salt to the Sea, which is her third novel, exposes one of the greatest hidden disasters of World War II.

It also says she lives  in a tree house in the hills of Tennessee!

I may not be a young adult, but I am also drawn to stories of “strength through struggle.” Isn’t that aptly descriptive of life itself at any age? Some days are easy and a wonderful, some are hard and harrowing — but all of our days make up our lives and thus make us who we are, at the age we are right now.

Highly recommended.

 

 

A story of love, loss, and courage

childrenWhen I began writing SECRETS OF CHARMED LIFE a couple years ago, I had only the vaguest of notions of how much London suffered during World War II. Here was a city teeming with civilians – mothers, pensioners, children too young to be evacuated or just plain not evacuated – and yet it was bombed as if it were a military fortress filled with soldiers. When ordinary people are thrust into such extraordinarily difficult circumstances, their best virtues and worst flaws will emerge, twinned and twisted, and sometimes hard to distinguish between. War reveals to us what we love and fear most.

I love what the back cover copy says about Chris Cleave’s EVERYONE BRAVE IS FORGIVEN, a novel I just finished reading, which is set during this time period:

“This dazzling novel dares us to understand that, against the great theater of world events, it is the intimate losses, the small battles, the daily human triumphs that change us most.”

I keep telling myself, “Okay. No more WW2 novels! Broaden your horizon! Read about something else!” And yet I keep getting pulled back to books with this setting. Chris’s new book, which earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly, is a gem, and written with such achingly beautiful prose, sometimes you can forget this is a book about what war does to people.  Several times I re-read a sentence just for the pleasure of tasting it again. All that said, it IS still a book about wartime decisions and the characters who must make them. The plot centers on three Londoners, Mary, Thomas and Alistair, and how the war orchestrates the choices they make. It is loosely based on love letters between Chris’s grandparents. You can read more about the premise here.

The beauty in this book is not so much the story, but how the story is told, with delicious prose, cleverly placed humor, and a quiet urgency. It’s different than THE NIGHTINGALE and ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, recent WW2 favorites of mine (and surprisingly also with lovely blue covers); it’s a little more Dickensy, as one reviewer suggested, but the wordsmithing here is golden. It’s one of those books that makes you ponder not just “what does this story mean?” but also, “what does this story mean to me?”

I’d read it again. A great book for book clubs. 4.5 stars

 

 

Where have I been?

the-nature-of-the-beastEver since I listened to Kate Atkinson’s LIFE AFTER LIFE on a long road trip with my husband, I’ve been itching to devour more books on audio. I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to realize how a good book on audio can revolutionize the way I look at driving up to Los Angeles or going anywhere during rush hour here in San Diego — both of which I used to dread. With a good audio book in the car with me, I — dare I say it? — I almost look forward to bumper-to-bumper traffic because it means more time with the book.

I could bring the book inside in the house with me, of course, but I purposely don’t. I always have a pages book on my nightstand that I am in the midst of reading, so the audio book is for the car and only the car. It’s my own personal quirky rule. But it makes driving fun instead of a chore.

At the library a couple weeks ago I saw that Louise Penny’s newest, THE NATURE OF THE BEAST, was available to check out on audio, and having never read one of her novels before but having heard of her, I decided to give the Canadian mystery writer a go. I listened to my first Inspector Gamache tale and was instantly hooked, just like I was back in high school a million years ago with Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. And since THE NATURE OF THE BEAST is the 11th in the Inspector Gamache novels, I know I have some serious catching up to do.

The audio version is wonderfully narrated by Robert Bathurst (whom you might remember on Downton Abbey as the man who abandoned poor Lady Edith at the altar). With a cast of characters as broad as this one with male and female, young and old, I was amazed at how adept Mr. Bathurst was at keeping the voices distinct and yet not overdone. The audio version contains a message from Ms. Penny about this being Mr. Bathurst’s debut as narrator for an Inspector Gamache mystery, after the untimely death of the originator, Ralph Cosham.

The story is set in the quaint village of Three Pines, just outside Quebec, here an ensemble of  secondary characters make you wish it was real and you could stay at the B & B and eat at the bistro and sit on the village green with Armand Gamache and Reine-Marie. There’s a murder, of course, to set things off — every mystery has one of those — but the story feels very much character-driven, even though most murder mysteries are steered by the plot.

I can’t wait to back up and start at the beginning with Inspector Gamache with STILL LIFE, hopefully on audio, so I can “meet” dear Ralph Cosham myself. But I will definitely look forward to future Gamaches from Robert Bathurst.

So have you read or listened to any of Louise Penny’s books? Tell me which one has been your favorite so far…

 

Yay for page-turners

thehusbI’ve been hungry for that kind of novel that calls out to you from the nightstand all throughout the day, teasing you to drop off working a little early so that you can open it up and continue where you left off the night before. My work office is my home so my current read is never more than a flight of stairs and a hallway away. After a couple of less-than-compelling books, I was very glad to get caught up in Liane Moriarty’s THE HUSBAND’S SECRET this past week.

I didn’t know much about the novel beforehand, just that it had rave reviews, lots of book clubs were reading it, and my agent said it was fabulous. I purposely didn’t read the back cover copy — which I find sometimes gives too much away. I was immediately drawn in to these three women and their seemingly separate stories. I knew somehow Tess and Rachel and Cecelia would collide on the pages and it was deliciously compelling to wonder how.

Here’s as much as I want to tell you about it. This is from the back cover:

“My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died…

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive. . . .”

I won’t say more about the plot because if you decide to read it, it’s best – I think – to just go in ready to be told a story about flawed people trying to hang onto normal when everything around them is tilting.

Entertainment Weekly says THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is “emotionally astute, immensely smart, and cinematically plotted.” I agree. I can see this one being adapted for the big screen. My book club is reading it next, and I know it will lead to a great discussion. Characters making choices when there is a moral dilemma involved always makes for a lively book club chat.

I’m happy to already have Liane’s BIG LITTLE LIES ready to read. My mom – a voracious reader – says it’s terrific.

But first, my second book club (so, yeah, I’m in two) is reading Lisa Wingate’s THE SEAKEEPER’S DAUGHTERS and I’ll be starting that tonight.

Have you read Liane Moriarty? What did you think?

Take me away…

lucybartonSomething must be wrong with me.

I read another book that has been an overnight bestseller, is popping up all over the place on lists of books I should be reading, and which the critics adore.

I wanted to love My Name is Lucy Barton. I had hoped I would. But when I finished it, I was like… is it me?

I really, really liked (let me have my adverbs, please) Olive Kitteridge, loved the masterful way Elizabeth Strout made such an unlikeable main character compelling, loved the construction of a full-length novel told in short stories and was very happy when she won the Pulitzer for fiction for it.olive

So naturally with all the noise and notoriety about this new book by Strout, I assumed I would be as equally swept away. But when I finished My Name is Lucy Barton, I was sad that I didn’t feel as though I had been transported anywhere. It saddens me to even say that. It was well-written, but I didn’t connect emotionally with Lucy or anyone else in the pages.The book was, for me, too quiet.

I once turned in a manuscript for a novel that my editor said was written well but was too quiet, and I remember thinking, after I had a glass of wine to soothe my writerly ego, what an interesting way that was to describe a flawed book. (I fixed that sound problem by the way, in revisions). But she was right. I had to school myself on what a too quiet novel was, and basically, it boiled down to two things for me: the plot didn’t force my characters to make choices where the stakes were high, and I hadn’t given the prose enough emotional punch to make those stakes seem real and relevant.

kite-runner-cover-imageThat was the problem for me with My Name is Lucy Barton. I longed to be transported, not via an overblown plot-driven story told in stilted language, but with a character-driven story told in beautiful, even if it is simple, prose that challenged and teased my senses. I wanted the story to whisk me away to another time and place the way Khaled Hosseini took me to Afghanistan in The Kite Runner, or the way Barbara Kingsolver sent me to Africa in the 1950s in The Poisonwood Bible, or the way Geraldine Brooks carried me to Britain in the time of the plagues in Year of Wonders or the way Margaret Atwood carted me away to a hellish, dystopic future in The Handmaid’s Tale.

I experienced the same letdown a few weeks ago with the ravely reviewed Brooklyn because in the reading of it I was transported to nowhere.

With there being so many books and so little time, I don’t feel that I have the hours to give over to a book that is so quiet I must hunt for the sounds of its brilliance.

I would love for anyone who read My Name Is Lucy Barton and absolutely loved it to gently school me on its wonderfulness. Tell me how to pack my suitcase and which train to get on and I will. Truly.

I am standing at the platform, waiting…

 

 

My fave uniquely-structured novels

kateaI just finished a re-read of a book, which is something I don’t do very often as there is – cue the music – way too many books and far too little time. I dove for a second time into Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, however, because I am in the early stages of starting a new novel of my own, and I am always energized to begin a new writing project by reading a stellar book. I knew a re-read of this one would do that; it would make me itch to write and to infuse my new pages with the same kind of compelling story stuff that readers love.

What I love most about Life After Life is its crazy-wild structure, and I realize that might be the very thing that another reader might like the least about it. The story requires the audacious structure, though. The premise, that Ursula Todd keeps dying and returning to her life to have another go at it – and another and another – is also crazy-wild and so original. Since it’s the architecture of Life After Life that makes it such a favorite, I thought I’d share with you today my other favorite creatively-structured novels. Creative meaning these are not your garden-variety linear reads. These will keep you on your toes, deliciously so.

audreyThe Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

I have also read this one twice. You may have seen the movie, and if you’ve not read the book, you may think you know the story because you’ve seen the film version. The movie was pretty good actually, but the book is better than pretty good and structurally speaking, is off-the-charts brilliant. I had never read a book like this one, one that hopscotches through time like an amusement park ride. I am also not a huge fan of speculative fiction. I like it, and I do have some classic spec fic favorites – like C.S. Lewis’s The Space Trilogy and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – but it’s not my go-to genre. But The Time Traveler’s Wife reads more like stellar literary fiction than spec. And its story line is completely unique.

kateThe Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

I love anything by Kate Morton and this one is probably my second favorite of hers, the first being The Secret Keeper. Her books always feature meandering time periods, meaning you need to pay attention to where you are. And when you are. Structurally speaking, the story offers annoyingly wonderful tension that has you turning pages with much anticipation. From the back cover: “A foundling, an old book of dark fairy tales, a secret garden, an aristocratic family, a love denied, and a mystery. The Forgotten Garden is a captivating, atmospheric and compulsively readable story of the past, secrets, family and memory.” Don’t you just love that descriptive word, ”atmospheric”?

geraldinePeople of the Book by Geraldine Brooks

This is probably my favorite of Ms. Brooks’ books, although I enjoyed Year of Wonders (read it twice) and Pulitzer-prize winning March so very much). There isn’t as much hopping about in time as the others I’ve mentioned, but the construction of the book makes it perfect for my hall of fame here. In this story, a woman who is a rare-book expert has been commissioned to repair and preserve the famed Sarajevo Haggadah, rescued from shelling during the Bosnian war. The historic and beautiful Haggadah is one of the earliest Jewish volumes ever to be illuminated with images. When Hanna “discovers a series of tiny artifacts in its ancient binding—an insect wing fragment, wine stains, salt crystals, a white hair—she begins to unlock the book’s mysteries. The reader is ushered into an exquisitely detailed and atmospheric past, tracing the book’s journey from its salvation back to its creation.” And yes, I’ve read it twice.

maryThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

I had the chance to meet Mary a few months back and we talked about how she constructed her modern-day thriller about a kidnapped woman named Mia. The chapters ease back and forth between Mia’s kidnapping and her life after the abduction (so we know she survives it) but it’s because her life afterward is so different than we would expect that we keep turning pages – despite knowing she is somehow rescued. I asked Mary how she was able to order her chapters so deliciously and she told me she wrote the two halves of the story – before the rescue and after it– and then sat down with those two halves and laid the chapters out on the floor, selecting them a few a time from both sides, so that they would feed each other’s tension. Brilliant. I haven’t read this once again but I bet someday I will.

So there you have it. DO you have a favorite uniquely-constructed book? I would love to hear all about it.

 

The TBR tower just got taller

Paging through the current issue of Publishers Weekly and browsing all the books that lucky BEA attendees can get their hands on made me wish I was a bookseller with a cute little bookshop on a gentrified old street, and this not for the first time. If I owned a bookstore, I’d be packing my bags for the delish book expo in Chicago and I’d be standing in lines for these, which are now on my Goodreads Want to Read list:

wonderI was a fan of Emma Donoghue’s ROOM before long before it became an Oscar-worthy film. I was spellbound by Emma’s storytelling skills and how she expertly wove her characters’ emotions into my own. In her upcoming THE WONDER, a small Irish village is mystified by what appears to be a miracle but may actually be murder. Goodreads says: “The Wonder works beautifully on many levels–a simple tale of two strangers who will transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil in its many masks.” You want to read it now, too, right?

commonwealthI read Ann Patchett’s BEL CANTO ages ago, and knew I’d stumbled upon a stellar wordsmith. I loved her STATE OF WONDER from a couple years back and so am natch looking forward to anything new by her. Her newest, not out until September, is COMMONWEALTH, a story that spans five decades. This novel explores how a chance encounter at a family christening echoes on in the lives of four parents and six children. “Told with equal measures of humor and heartbreak, Commonwealth is a meditation on inspiration, interpretation, and the ownership of stories. It is a brilliant and tender tale of the far-reaching ties of love and responsibility that bind us together.”

laroseWhen my family and I lived in Minnesota some years ago, I longed to read a Louise Erdich novel, as she’s a Minnesota legend and treasure, but life was so busy, other books took precedence and it never happened. I hereby mostly vow to read this one. Out next month, LaROSE is “an an emotionally haunting contemporary tale of a tragic accident, a demand for justice, and a profound act of atonement with ancient roots in Native American culture.”  In the story, which is set in 1999, a father is hunting a deer along the edge of his North Dakota property but realizes after he’s pulled the trigger that he has instead shot and killed his neighbor’s five-year-old son. Devastated, the man offers up his own beloved son to the grieving family as a recompense. “Inspiring and affecting, LaRose is a powerful exploration of loss, justice, and the reparation of the human heart, and an unforgettable, dazzling tour de force from one of America’s most distinguished literary masters.”

dontI was thoroughly gobsmacked (isn’t that a great word?) by Mary Kubica’s THE GOOD GIRL and even though I still have PRETTY BABY on my TBR Tower (a pox on mere 24-hour days!!), I still can’t wait to read her upcoming DON’T YOU CRY. Mary is such a great writer, and the nicest person you’ll ever meet. That she writes page-turning thrillers casted by such sinister people is so ironic! In this one, a young woman disappears from her apartment. A haunting letter is found among her possessions, leaving her roommate to wonder whether or not her friend is the person Quinn thought she knew. “Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.” And yes, yes, yes, I will get to PRETTY BABY before I snatch up this one.

So, even though I have no business buying any of these books in the next few months, I probably will. There are worse addictions than buying new books, yes? What’s on your list these days?

 

Sometimes the movie, sometimes the book

colmbrooklynI used to be of the camp that the book is always better than the movie — always. But I’m starting to realize that moviemakers have done their homework over the last 20 years; they now insist on compelling scripts and better attention to detail, nuances, and characterization. Coupled with that, the art of cinematography is now so advanced it is allowing Hollywood to bring a novel to life in marvelous ways that just weren’t possible before.

All that preamble is because I need a good reason to have liked Brooklyn the movie better than Brooklyn the book. The book was readable, enjoyable, but all the while I was immersed in the pages I was wondering when would the part come that was so amazing it’s the reason why it was made into an Oscar-nominated movie.  That moment never came for me. The prose was simpler than I like, simpler than I write. Perhaps simple isn’t the right word. A fellow reader on Goodreads said the book was “awash in grey when I wanted vibrant color.” I think that’s what surprised me the most about it; the writing didn’t tantalize my senses, didn’t leave me lingering on sentences that were so delicious I had to read them twice.

I saw the movie halfway through reading the book and honestly, watching the movie helped me better appreciate the characters. I’m disappointed that I had a hard time emotionally bonding with them via the book alone. And I now I am left wondering if I am missing something profound that it took a screenplay and a screen and actors and music and camera angles to so beautifully bring this story to life. Those who bought the film rights surely saw this book’s raw potential, and the aching story of love and purpose and belonging that lurked quietly on that seemed to me unseasoned pages.  I overlooked that somehow and that perplexes me.

I get that books are like cuisine. I might say something is wicked spicy and another might taste the dish and say please pass the Tobasco. But still. A book that gets cinematic attention should be the kind of book that grabs us by our emotional lapels and doesn’t let us go. At least that’s what I’ve always thought. Is it just me? Did I miss something big with this book?

What say all of you? I would love to hear from you…

 

Books I am dying to read this spring

Okay, so I am not literally dying but I do sense a terrible longing to fling all responsibility aside today, buy these five books and and do nothing but sit outside with iced coffee and read them to my heart’s content. And let’s not even discuss the ToBeRead ladder to the moon that I’ve already got. I know how many books I have bought over the last few months (okay, years) that are waiting to be opened and read. Let’s just concentrate on the moment, shall we? And at the moment, I REALLY want to read all these new books:

Summer-Before-War-NovelThe Summer Before the War

I adore this cover, but putting eye candy aside, I’ve heard nothing but good things about this second book from Helen Simonson, who wrote Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. This one is set in 1914 – perfect for the time period I am researching right now – and centers around Beatrice Nash, who comes to a sleepy little coastal village in England to teach Latin. BookPage says its “full of wry humor and loveable characters.”  The Washington Post says it’s a novel to “cure your Downton Abbey withdrawal . . .”  Sign me up.

Smith_Dimestore_HC_jkt_FINAL_PRNT_REV.inddDimestore

I love a good memoir that reads like a story (see The Glass Castle if you want to know what I mean by that) and Dimestore by Lee Smith looks like it’s that kind of literary biography about the author’s childhood in an Appalachian community she was “raised to leave.” The back cover copy says: “Dimestore’s fifteen essays are crushingly honest, wise and perceptive, and superbly entertaining. Smith has created both a moving personal portrait and a testament to embracing one’s heritage. It’s also an inspiring story of the birth of a writer and a poignant look at a way of life that has all but vanished.” Want it yesterday.

Excellent Lombards The Excellent Lombards

Ever since I read A Map of the World back when my kids were tots, I’ve been a fan of Jane Hamilton’s storytelling.  I was so glad to hear she has a new book out and equally vexed (terribly vexed) that I don’t know when I will get to it. This one is set on a Wisconsin apple orchard, narrated by Frankie Lombard, a girl who wants nothing to change, ever. But you and I both know that’s not how life is. From the back cover:  “As Frankie is forced to shed her childhood fantasies and face the possibility of losing the idyllic future she had envisioned for her family, she must decide whether loving something means clinging tightly or letting go.” 

Salt to the seaSalt to the Sea

My mom, who is an avid reader but a discriminating one, loved this book. And if she says it’s wonderful, then it has to be so. This story is inspired by a nearly forgotten event in 1945 (my fave kind of book), the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, actually. From the back cover: “Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets. Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war. As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.” You want to read it now, too, don’t you?

The Translation of LoveThe Translation of Love

This book by debut author Lynn Kutsukake, was inspired by the “avalanche of letters” sent to Gen. Dougas MacArthur by the people of Japan. BookPage says: “At the heart of the story is Aya, a 13-year-old Japanese-Canadian girl who has been repatriated to Japan with her father. When the sister of her friend, Fumi, goes missing, English-speaking Aya is rapped to seek help from the famous general.”  Kirkus Reviews said: “Kutsukake’s moving debut novel focuses on the intertwining stories of several protagonists in post-World War II Tokyo…The result is a memorable story of hope and loneliness with a cathartic ending.” And can we just all agree right here that the cover of this one is beautifully evocative?

So there you have it! If I didn’t have a new book to promote, a book to edit for next year, and a new book to write for the year after that, plus the other nitnoid and also lovely details of life, you would find me under a tree with these five books in my lap. How about you? Any new books out there your soul is itching to read?