Lost in Shangri-La by Mitchell Zuckoff

lost-in-shangri-laLost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II by Mitchell Zuckoff

I’ve read so much about World War II but I love that I can still come across new-to-me stories on some aspect of the war. The latest? A rescue mission in New Guinea that had me reading sections out loud to my husband (always a sign of an interesting book). What an incredible story!

The book is filled with photographs, which helps visualize the people and setting. One drawback to reading the book on my Kindle is that the included map was too small to be of much use, so keep that in mind if you’re debating which format.

Zuckoff does a decent job of bringing the individuals to life, but there isn’t as strong an emotional connection with any of them as the very best narrative nonfiction provides. I did appreciate his follow-up interviews in New Guinea, and assume he did the best he could with the historical record available.

There are some definite moments of “can you believe this!” that could lead to a fun discussion, and make me think it would be a good choice as a book club selection.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:

On May 13, 1945, twenty-four American servicemen and WACs boarded a transport plane for a sightseeing trip over Shangri-La, a beautiful and mysterious valley deep within the jungle-covered mountains of Dutch New Guinea. Unlike the peaceful Tibetan monks of James Hilton’s bestselling novel Lost Horizon, this Shangri-La was home to spear-carrying tribesmen, warriors rumored to be cannibals. But the pleasure tour became an unforgettable battle for survival when the plane crashed.

Miraculously, three passengers pulled through. Margaret Hastings, barefoot and burned, had no choice but to wear her dead best friend’s shoes. John McCollom, grieving the death of his twin brother also aboard the plane, masked his grief with stoicism. Kenneth Decker, too, was severely burned and suffered a gaping head wound.

Emotionally devastated, badly injured, and vulnerable to the hidden dangers of the jungle, the trio faced certain death unless they left the crash site. Caught between man-eating headhunters and enemy Japanese, the wounded passengers endured a harrowing hike down the mountainside–a journey into the unknown that would lead them straight into a primitive tribe of superstitious natives who had never before seen a white man or woman.

Drawn from interviews, declassified U.S. Army documents, personal photos and mementos, a survivor’s diary, a rescuer’s journal, and original film footage, Lost in Shangri-La recounts this incredible true-life adventure for the first time. Mitchell Zuckoff reveals how the determined trio–dehydrated, sick, and in pain–traversed the dense jungle to find help; how a brave band of paratroopers risked their own lives to save the survivors; and how a cowboy colonel attempted a previously untested rescue mission to get them out.

By trekking into the New Guinea jungle, visiting remote villages, and rediscovering the crash site, Zuckoff also captures the contemporary natives’ remembrances of the long-ago day when strange creatures fell from the sky. A riveting work of narrative nonfiction that vividly brings to life an odyssey at times terrifying, enlightening, and comic, Lost in Shangri-La is a thrill ride from beginning to end.

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Goodreads Hack: Creating a “Not Going to Read” Shelf

bookworm-hacks-not-interested-shelfYou do know about creating additional exclusive shelves on Goodreads, yes?

The exclusive shelves are the ones where a book can only be on one of them – the defaults are “Read” “Want to Read” and “Currently Reading.” I’ve since added three of my own – “Never Finished” “Paused” and “Not Interested.”

Why did I make a “Not Interested” shelf?

I debated this one a long time, as I was concerned that it could seem mean in a way: I am not going to read a lot of books, so why was it necessary to highlight certain titles that I’m not going to try?

What eventually swayed me to do it is that there are some books that I keep looking at, and then remembering “no, I already checked it out and passed on it.” I want to save my time and have it already in my Goodreads account as a “not for me.”

And that’s what this shelf is: a not for me shelf. If you see a favorite book of yours on the shelf, it’s not that I’m saying I think it’s a bad one. Simply, it’s not one I want to read. Perhaps it’s got some themes I don’t enjoy, or maybe I’ve read too many that are similar and don’t want another one.

It’s already been handy, and I’m wishing I hadn’t waited so long to create it.

Have you added any extra exclusive shelves to your Goodreads account?

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline

My in-person book club’s pick back in January, and I was so sad to miss that meeting thanks to a sick child. The book was compelling, and it seemed like it would lend itself to a fascinating discussion.

There’s a bit more to enjoy about the book if you’re familiar with 80’s pop culture – movies, music, and video games especially. While I was alive for all of the 80’s, I was either too young to be aware of some of the items, or too sheltered (or a mix). I know I missed some of the references, but I had fun asking my husband about them.

That said, you don’t need to be familiar with 80’s pop culture to enjoy the book, or even be a fan of science fiction. It was a fascinating look at a society that I hope isn’t in our future. Wade was an appealing main character, and if you listen to the audio version, Wil Wheaton is fantastic at narrating the story.

Thinking of it for a book club?

It’s also fantastic as a book club discussion book, or so my book club friends tell me. I’m told the discussion was so rich it could have filled a second meeting. It’s also one that’s easy to recommend for readers who don’t usually read science fiction. Our book club likes to expand our typical reading choices, but not so far that no one wants to read the book. Ready Player One worked well for that!

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.

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Cooking the Book: Swedish Visiting Cake

Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie GreenspanOne of my favorite cookbooks (as I mentioned in one of my earliest posts), but it was after making the cake for my book club’s tea party and having two people request the recipe that I realized it’d be nice to have it shared here as well.

I have made a few changes to the way Greenspan wrote the recipe in her cookbook (I promise I made it her way the first few times). I always omit her optional almond extract, because I hate almond extract, and I up the vanilla extract. I rarely have fresh lemons, so I almost always substitute lemon essential oil for the zest of one lemon, and I changed the order for how ingredients are mixed, to make it even easier on me.

How I Now Make “Swedish Visiting Cake”:

1 cup (200 grams) sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
4 drops lemon essential oil* OR zest from one lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 stick (8 Tablespoons) butter, melted and cooled
1 cup (120 grams) all purpose flour
about 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 9-inch cake pan.

Combine sugar and lemon essential oil or zest. Mix together. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and vanilla extract and stir well. Stir in butter, and then add flour and mix until just combined.

Pour into prepared cake pan and sprinkle top with sliced almonds and extra sugar. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden.


My verdict:

Love this cake. It’s easy to make, quick to bake, can be made with pantry ingredients only, and lasts well.

The kids’ verdict:

It’s cake. They’re kids. What’s not to like?

See all the Cooking the Book reviews and recipes I’ve shared..

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

* If you’re baking or cooking with essential oils, please make sure you’re using ones that are safe for consumption. I use and recommend Young Living, because of their standards, and they have a special line of oils just for dietary purposes.

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Homeschooling Update: All About Spelling is Amazing

all-about-spellingI wrote about how impressed I was with All About Spelling after completing Level 1 , but I never gave any other updates about it.

My son has now finished Level 2 and Level 3, and I still have nothing but positive things to say about it!

The spelling rules are all presented in such an easy-to-understand manner, and each lesson focuses on one rule. It makes it very easy for him to progress as it’s such a nicely incremental program. I continue to learn the reasons behind why certain words are spelled that way (I had zero phonics instruction in school, and the only reason I could ever spell at all was because of reading so much that I often could just “look” at a word and know if it looked ok or not).

Easy to Use

I’m a member of several homeschooling online groups, and one concern I hear regularly in regards to All About Spelling is that it takes too long, and is too involved. I absolutely do NOT find that to be the case at all. We usually spend 10 to 15 minutes a day on spelling, using nothing more than the book and a piece of paper. Most “steps” (think lesson levels) take 3 or 4 days to complete at that rate.

Yes, if you pull out the letter tiles to build every word it’ll take longer, but that hasn’t been necessary for us since Level 1. For Level 3 the only time he used the letter tiles was during the lesson on contractions. For that lesson it was helpful to use the tiles and show how the contraction was formed.

The majority of the time he spells the words and sentences out loud to me. I only have him write for the last part of the lesson, when he’s given a word and has to create a sentence for it.

Looking to Economize?

You could easily get by without purchasing the student packet, and simply use the teachers manual. While that means you won’t get the review cards, the program can be done without them, especially since the words on the cards are all listed in the manual. If you wanted review cards it’d be easy enough to make your own on index cards. I make do by noting in my planner when my son needs to review a word.

Doing without the student packet will also mean you won’t get the progress chart, or some other handouts. None of them are essential, but you could create your own (or download them from the All About Spelling website). All in all, the student packet makes things easier, but it can be done without it.

The manual is also completely reusable for younger children. All I’ll have to do is erase the penciled check marks I added to keep track of where he was, and it’s ready to use for his sisters. I’ll download and print a new progress chart for each of them, and get stickers for them to mark their progress (assuming they’re motivated by stickering progress charts; my son definitely is).

One of His Favorites

My son is not always a completely enthusiastic student (I hear rumors that those do exist in the homeschool world), but he is almost always enthusiastic about doing spelling. It’s such a quick lesson, and he likes making steady progress through the program. He’s already talking about when he finishes Level 4, and we only started it this week..

I can’t recommend this program enough. It’s an excellent method of teaching spelling, and the way the program is laid out it’s incredibly easy to teach. I love it.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post, and I didn’t receive this program for free – I paid for it myself – I just LOVE this program. So much so that I am an affiliate for it, which means that if you buy the program using my link I may receive a percentage of the cost at no additional cost to you. And then I use any money I make to buy more books and homeschooling supplies which I talk about here. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!

Recommended Nonfiction Reads

A quick look at four nonfiction books I’ve finished recently. Or, somewhat recently at least, and haven’t written full posts about them, so a quick comment about them is better than ignoring them completely.

GruntGrunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach

Typical of her style, with a funny narrative and look into military technology. If you’re a fan of her previous books, you’ll like this one. if you don’t enjoy her approach, this one won’t convert you.

Don’t think she’s just writing for laughs though, as I always learn something from her books, and she gives great shareable tidbits of info that I repeat to my husband. Just … not necessarily at the dinner table or in front of the kids. 🙂

What IfWhat If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

Get the audio version, as it’s read by Wil Wheaton and he’s a great narrator. I didn’t follow all of the science behind a few of the sections (and didn’t even try to; I’m not that interested in the specifics of the topic) but I still enjoyed the oddness of the questions and the seriousness of his answers.

Sleep SmarterSleep Smarter: 21 Essential Strategies to Sleep Your Way to A Better Body, Better Health, and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson

Packed with great suggestions for how to get better sleep (and why you should care). I’ve made some of the changes, and can tell when I start breaking too many of the “best sleep practices.” Highly recommended.

animal-vegetable-miracle Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver, Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver

A fascinating look at their year of eating locally, and it promoted a great discussion in my book club. While I don’t think it’s completely realistic to expect to follow her example exactly, it was motivating to consider what changes I can make in our current food habits.

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Cover Love: Emma

Emma was first published in 1815, so there have been almost endless cover versions. To give some limit to the ones I shared today, I stuck with English-language ones published since 2000, with one exception for a 1998 Dover version that I thought was especially pretty.

Pictures are shared in date order, beginning in 1998 and ending with two 2015 200th anniversary edition covers.


See all posts in the “Cover Love” series.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Librivox | Goodreads

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February 2017 Recap

February RecapI feel like all I do lately is say the same stuff. We were sick again in February (stomach bug, and then fever/cough mess), and then I had to work to take care of things that got ignored while we were sick.

None of the sickness was that bad (ok, the stomach bug was bad, but it was short-lived), but multiplying it by 4 and suddenly even somewhat mild illness can take out a week or more of our lives. I hadn’t fully appreciated that fact before having 3 kids who like to share germs with each other, and with me. So, it’s really not that we’re sick all the time usually, or that things are especially bad when we are sick.It’s that the kids seem to take it in turns to draw out the experience. 🙂

February 2017 in Stats

Books Read This Month: 10
Books Read This Year: 20

Things That Happened
  • In the Facebook book club we discussed on Moloka’i.
  • G received his probationary black belt in taekwondo, and H received her blue belt.
  • My in-person book club discussed The Year of Living Danishly. I thought the discussion added a lot to the book.
  • G finished Sonlight’s level B, and started the second half of world history with Bookshark’s level 2.
What’s Cooking
  • Menu planning fail: I planned and shopped for meals, and then illness kept me from fixing them (or even moving things to the freezer when that would have worked). We had a ton of food waste this month.
  • R is overhauling his diet, so I’m working on figuring out what that means for our dinner routines.
What I’m Anticipating in March
  • Book club – And Then There Were None for my in-person book club and Emma in the Facebook group.
  • Basketball ends for G, and softball begins for H.
  • Spring Break, maybe. I’m not sure if we’ll be taking a true break or not. It’ll probably depend on if they end up with play dates arranged with friends, or if neighbors are outside playing.
Books I Read in February
  1. The Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty
  2. How The Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  3. The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
  4. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear
  5. Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn
  6. The Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry
  7. Extra Virgin by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar
  8. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert
  9. Unstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soul by Ruth Soukup
  10. Legacy of the Dead by Charles Todd

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New on the Stack in February 2017

Welcome to New on the Stack, where you can share the latest books you’ve added to your reading pile. I’d love for you to join us and add a link to your own post or Instagram picture sharing your books! It’s a fun way to see what others will soon be reading, and get even more ideas of books to add to my “I want to read that!” list.New on the Stack button


appetite-for-americaAppetite for America by Stephen Fried

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Sounded interesting

unstuffedUnstuffed: Decluttering Your Home, Mind, and Soulby Ruth Soukup

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Read some bloggers reviews of it which were highly favorable.

irenas-childrenIrena’s Children: The Extraordinary Story of the Woman Who Saved 2,500 Children from the Warsaw Ghetto by Tilar J. Mazzeo

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I was excited to hear about this book – Irena’s story if fascinating, but I’ve only read it in short accounts. I always wanted there to be a more in-depth look at her.

little-book-of-hyggeThe Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living by Meik Wiking

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I put it on hold when I read The Year of Living Danishly, and my turn came up. I’m not sure if I’ll actually read it, but I’ll at least give it a glance.

extra-virginExtra Virgin: Recipes & Love from Our Tuscan Kitchen by Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: It popped up as a “recommended for you” suggestion.


how-the-light-gets-inHow The Light Gets In by Louise Penny

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Gamache series.

leaving-everything-most-lovedLeaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Maisie Dobbs series.

just-one-damned-thing-after-anotherJust One Damned Thing After Another by Jodi Taylor

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Time traveling historians!

the-cold-cold-groundThe Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Jessica/Quirky Bookworm mentioned it, and I wanted to give it a try.

the-dark-days-clubThe Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: It was highly recommended in another group I’m in, so I wanted to try it. Historical setting, paranormal elements = I’m curious.

manna-from-hadesManna from Hades by Carola Dunn

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Different setting and time period than my usual historicals (Cornwall, 1960s) but I’ve liked Dunn’s other series.

the-face-of-a-strangerThe Face of a Stranger by Anne Perry

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Rereading the Monk series because it’s been forever, and I generally liked them.

another-kind-of-hurricaneAnother Kind of Hurricane by Tamara Ellis Smith

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: I don’t remember why it was on my list.

an-impartial-witnessAn Impartial Witness by Charles Todd

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Bess Crawford series.

legacy-of-the-deadLegacy of the Dead by Charles Todd

How did I get it: Borrowed it electronically from the library.
Why did I get it: Next in the Ian Rutledge series

“New on the Stack” Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share your posts or Instagram pictures about the new-to-you books you added to your reading stack last month. They can be purchases, library books, ebooks, whatever it is you’ll be reading! Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

2. Link back to this post – you can use the button below if you’d like, or just use a text link.

The Deliberate Reader

3. The linkup will be open until the end of the month.

4. Please visit the person’s blog or Instagram who linked up directly before you and leave them a comment.

5. By linking up, you’re granting me permission to use and/or repost photographs from your linked post or Instagram. (Because on social media or in next month’s post, I hope to feature some of the books that catch my attention from this month.)

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Introducing March’s Book Club Selection: Emma

emmaEmma by Jane Austen

What’s It About?

(Description from Goodreads)

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr. Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected.

With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Why Was This Title Selected

I wanted one classic for the year, and I’m curious to see how this one compares with Pride and Prejudice.

Anything Else to Know About It?

The discussion will begin soon in the Facebook group, and you’re welcome to come and join us.

It’s available in Print, for Kindle or Nook, or via Audible. And you can get the Audible version for a reduced price if you buy the Kindle version first. You can also listen for free from Librivox.

What’s Coming Up in April?

dark-matterDark Matter by Blake Crouch

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Audible | Goodreads

See all the books we’ll be reading in 2017 here.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!