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.

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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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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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David and Goliath (and a linkup)

David and GoliathDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling GiantsDavid and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell by Malcolm Gladwell

While I expected to really enjoy Gladwell’s book, I found it to be a bit of a let-down. Outliers, Blink, and The Tipping Point were more compelling books, and all felt fresher. It may simply be that I’ve gotten so used to Gladwell’s style that this book was doomed to disappoint, but I felt like he was reaching more with some of his examples.

That said, I did really enjoy some of the sections. The chapter on choosing college was very interesting, and I’ve already had a side chat with someone about it. The dyslexia chapter was fascinating, and I found myself completely amazed at some of the individuals highlighted.

Fortunately, Gladwell’s books are easy to read, so I don’t feel like I ended up spending a lot of reading time on something I ultimately didn’t like enough to justify it. I’d recommend that if it sounds interesting, you give it a try but don’t hesitate to skip chapters that don’t appeal to you.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Hobbit on December 5th.


If you’ve written a post about David and Goliath, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

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The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The SilkwormThe Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The second book in the Cormoran Strike series, and while I liked the first book well enough, I LOVED this one. I stayed up till 2 AM reading it, when I finally and had to force myself. If I hadn’t known my kids were going to wake up and expect food and attention the next day I’d have continued.)

I wanted to immediately get the third book and find out what happened next. The only reason I have paused in reading the series is the knowledge that book four isn’t released yet. A publishing date hasn’t even been set (sob!) and after hearing that book three ends on a cliffhanger I’m trying to minimize my wait time.

If you haven’t read the series, I do think you should start with the first (even if I didn’t like it as much). That allows you to meet the characters and I think the more time with Robin the better.

Despite my love for this book I have some cautions: if you’re squeamish, or opposed to language or other graphic content you’ll want to skip it. I kind of hate having to tell anyone to pass on it, as it’s so good, but have to admit that it’s not for everyone. Know your own comfort level of what you want to read.

I’m not much of a TV person, but the BBC is developing the three books currently out in the series into a show and I am thrilled to hear it. The actors have been chosen for the lead roles: Tom Burke will play Cormoran Strike, and Holliday Grainger will play Robin Ellacott.

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

Publisher’s Description:
Private investigator Cormoran Strike returns in a new mystery from Robert Galbraith, author of the number-one international best seller The Cuckoo’s Calling.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives – meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Four years ago: Book Review: Dinner, a Love Story

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Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes

year-of-yesYear of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit this, but I bought Year of Yes without having any idea who the author was. I think I had it mixed up with some other book, because I was quite surprised to discover when listening to it that Rhimes is really really famous and the creator behind many hit TV shows.

Oh. Well, clearly I am not the person to turn to when you play trivia games about Pop Culture.

I’m actually glad I had no idea who she was. Sound crazy? If I had known her name, I’m sure I’d have passed on the book thinking it was just another celebrity memoir. Celebrity memoirs = not my thing.

And it turns out I really liked this celebrity memoir that isn’t exactly a celebrity memoir like was imagining. Rhimes is funny and warm and a bit inspiring (what should I say yes to that I’ve been avoiding out of fear?)

If you are a fan of her shows, I can’t imagine that you wouldn’t love this – there’s little bits about them and the characters, and most of it was lost on me. I’m sure there was more I didn’t even catch because of not knowing them. I still liked the book.

The audio was great as well – she did a nice job of narrating it and I think listening to it increased my overall enjoyment of the book.

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

Publisher’s Description:
The megatalented creator of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How to Get Away with Murder chronicles how saying yes for one year changed her life – and how it can change yours, too.

With three hit shows on television and three children at home, the ubertalented Shonda Rhimes had lots of good reasons to say no when an unexpected invitation arrived. Hollywood party? No. Speaking engagement? No. Media appearances? No.

And there was the side benefit of saying no for an introvert like Shonda: nothing new to fear.

Then Shonda’s sister laid down a challenge: Just for one year, try to say yes to the unexpected invitations that come your way. Shonda reluctantly agreed – and the result was nothing short of transformative. In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes chronicles the powerful impact saying yes had on every aspect of her life – and how we can all change our lives with one little word. Yes.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Little by Little
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 25} A Homemade Life

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

Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Under the Tuscan SunUnder the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Mayes’ well-known memoir had been on my to-be-read list for years, and I was finally motivated to read it when my in-person book club was considering selecting it for our dinner party book next year. It’s been so much fun the last few years selecting books that lead themselves to nice menu ideas. 🙂

Ultimately, I don’t think we’ll end up reading this one. I expected to enjoy it, but found it somewhat disappointing. Mayes is a beautiful writer, but the story is rambling and felt bloated. I don’t know that I want to encourage my friends to spend their reading time on this, when I feel like it would have been better trimmed down substantially.

While I don’t regret reading it, I think any but the most devoted memoir fans would be frustrated with it. There are moments where she really brings Italy to life, but they become somewhat buried in the minutia of the renovation.

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

Publisher’s Description:
Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Mayes also creates dozens of delicious seasonal recipes from her traditional kitchen and simple garden, all of which she includes in the book. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction: Traffic
Four years ago: 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads {Day 18} Fortune Cookie Chronicles

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

Death on the Sapphire by R. J. Koreto

Death on the SapphireDeath on the Sapphire: A Lady Frances Ffolkes Mystery by R.J. Koreto

Enjoyable enough mystery & there’s sufficient promise shown by the author, and with the characters, that I’ll look for the next in the series. (But it’s not so good that I feel the need to go out of my way to tell everyone I know they need to read it immediately.)

Lady Frances is not a fully believable character, both for the time period, and as a pseudo-detective. However, her maid was a more interesting character and was also more believable (still not perfect, but better). I hope there’s more with her in future books!

The mystery is fairly weak, both the premise of it and how it’s resolved. The ending includes an absolutely ridiculous event too (can’t give details as it’s too spoilery) that helps it all wrap up neatly.

All those criticisms and it seems odd that I’m giving it 3 stars, but I did like it well enough for a mostly-fluff fun read. When you’re in the mood for a cozy historical mystery, it might fit the bill for you too. It helps that it’s currently only $1.99 for Kindle or Nook – if you like these sorts of books you may want to grab it before the price increases. Unless you’re a major fan of the genre though, I’d skip this one even at the sale price.

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

Publisher’s Description:
An extraordinary woman living in extraordinary times, Lady Frances Ffolkes is an Edwardian-era suffragette who has an uncanny ability to attract danger and romance.

When Major Colcombe, a family friend and war veteran, dies under mysterious circumstances, Lady Frances discovers that he was working on a manuscript about South Africa’s bloody Boer War, which reportedly revealed a scandalous mistake that cost the lives of many brave soldiers. Now, it’s up to Frances and her loyal lady’s maid, June Mallow, to track down the missing manuscript and bring the killer to justice. Despite clashes with Scotland Yard and the British Secret Service, Frances never backs down and finds herself in several very unfortunate positions–and one very fortunate love triangle.

Death on the Sapphire is R. J. Koreto’s witty and winsome debut of a series that is sure to be fan favorite for years to come.


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

Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

Girl Waits with Gun Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart

I discovered this one thanks to the second in the series popping up on all sorts of lists about “top fall releases.” Sure, the second was getting the buzz, but I can’t dive into the series there – I need to start with the first book.

Stewart is a familiar name, writing bestselling nonfiction like The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants.

It’s marketed as a mystery, but it isn’t really. The “family secret” hinted at in the publisher’s description is revealed early, and the other mystery subplot is minimal. If you go into it wanting a mystery you may feel disappointed, but if you expect it to be historical fiction then you won’t feel mislead. As historical fiction it was enjoyable, but my favorite part of it was learning about a previously unknown to me historical event and individual. I’m hoping the second book continues the pattern of fleshing out actual events. I loved how she took the known facts and turned them into an entire story.

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, enjoy reading about ground-breaking women from history, or especially enjoy this time period, I’d recommend it. If you don’t enjoy historical fiction, I don’t think this book would convert you.

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

Publisher’s Description:
A novel based on the forgotten true story of one of the nation’s first female deputy sheriffs.

Constance Kopp doesn’t quite fit the mold. She towers over most men, has no interest in marriage or domestic affairs, and has been isolated from the world since a family secret sent her and her sisters into hiding fifteen years ago. One day a belligerent and powerful silk factory owner runs down their buggy, and a dispute over damages turns into a war of bricks, bullets, and threats as he unleashes his gang on their family farm. When the sheriff enlists her help in convicting the men, Constance is forced to confront her past and defend her family — and she does it in a way that few women of 1914 would have dared.


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Burial Rites (and a linkup)

Burial RitesBurial Rites by Hannah Kent

An amazing book, but one that was much more emotionally wrenching than I expected. It’s based on the true story of the last person executed in Iceland, and Kent does a phenomenal job of bringing the setting to life and presents a plausible scenario for the events.

My only real complaint with the book is that the author’s note doesn’t give as much detail as I’d like as to what the known facts were, and where she expounded. She states that “most” of the historical documents quoted throughout the text were real, but doesn’t clarify which ones were not.

Highly recommended, if you feel up to the emotionally charged nature of it.


Looking ahead at next month, we’ll start our discussion of The Legend of Sleepy HollowThe Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving on October 3rd.


If you’ve written a post about Burial Rites, you’re welcome to add it to the linkup below.

Link-up Guidelines:

1. Share a post about the book. Entries completely unrelated to this theme or linked to your homepage may be deleted.

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

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3. The linkup will be open for two weeks.

4. Please visit the person’s blog 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 or comments from your linked post.

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: New On Your Stack (volume 8)
Four years ago: Introducing 31 Days of Great Nonfiction Reads

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

Book Review: Women Heroes of World War II – Pacific Theatre

Women Heroes of World War IIWomen Heroes of World War II—the Pacific Theater: 15 Stories of Resistance, Rescue, Sabotage, and Survival by Kathryn J. Atwood

I’ve been highly impressed with Atwood’s earlier books in this series: Women Heroes of World War II, and Women Heroes of World War I, and was thrilled to learn that she had a third being published – this one focused on the Pacific Theater. As with the previous books, she continues her excellent work at writing an engaging and informative text.

I appreciated the introductory information providing background on the war in the Pacific. My history books in high school didn’t do as well at giving that sort of overview – they all seemed to start when Pearl Harbor, ignoring everything that happened to lead up to that.

Especially impressive is the delicate job she does of writing about some horrific events. While I still would be sure you know the sensitivity of your reader, I wouldn’t hesitate to have younger teens and even tweens read it.

Since the book is a compilation of biographical sketches, there isn’t space for a great amount of detail on any one individual. However, the included bibliography gives ideas for other books to read if you want to know more about any specific person or event.

Highly recommended. It’s aimed at teens, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Nook | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
After glamorous American singer Claire Phillips opened her own night club in Manila, using the proceeds to secretly feed starving American POWs, she also began working as a spy, chatting up Japanese military men and passing their secrets along to local guerilla resistance fighters. Australian Army nurse Vivian Bullwinkel, stationed in Singapore then shipwrecked in the Dutch East Indies, became the sole survivor of a horrible massacre by Japanese soldiers. She hid for days, tending to a seriously wounded British soldier while wounded herself. Humanitarian Elizabeth Choy lived the rest of her life hating only war, not her tormentors, after enduring six months of starvation and torture by the Japanese military police. In these pages, readers will meet these and other courageous women and girls who risked their lives through their involvement in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II. Fifteen suspense-filled stories unfold across China, Japan, Mayala, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines, providing an inspiring reminder of women and girls’ refusal to sit on the sidelines around the world and throughout history. These women—whose stories span from 1932 through 1945, the last year of the war, when U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima—served in dangerous roles as spies, medics, journalists, resisters, and saboteurs. Nine of the women were American; seven were captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, enduring brutal conditions. Author Kathryn J. Atwood provides appropriate context and framing for teens 14 and up to grapple with these harsh realities of war. Discussion questions and a guide for further study assist readers and educators in learning about this important and often neglected period of history.


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Three years ago: Introducing 31 More Days of Great Nonfiction

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book from the publisher for review. I was not required to write a positive review, and all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting The Deliberate Reader!