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!

The Lake House by Kate Morton

The Lake HouseThe Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton by Kate Morton

It’s so hard to write about this book without giving spoilers, so this will be very superficial. I loved this book. It’s not one I’d normally read – the kidnapped or missing child is one of my “do not read” triggers – but I trusted Morton (plus it was a book club book), and I am so glad I pushed past my initial hesitation.

As is Morton’s trait, it’s another alternating timeline book, and you get the story from multiple perspectives – including a brief view from the missing baby.

There are layers of mysteries here, and my one real complaint might be that it’s perhaps a bit too tidy in how everything is resolved. It does make it satisfying in many ways as a reader – there were only two real questions I had after finishing the book – but part of me thinks it gets to be a little too ridiculous having so much wrap up in the final chapters. And precisely HOW some of it gets resolved also gets a big “Really?” from me. No specifics because that would be a great big spoiler.

No matter, it was still a compelling read, and a great start to the book club year. It’s one that I highly recommended as a book club book – it provides a lot to discuss.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

Book Details

Title: The Lake House: A NovelThe Lake House: A Novel by Kate Morton
Author: Kate Morton
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: How to Blog for Profit without Selling Your Soul
Two years ago: Books Read in 2013

Gilbert & Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr

Gilbert and Sullivan Set Me FreeGilbert & Sullivan Set Me FreeGilbert & Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr by Kathleen Karr

Perhaps the only thing I like better than historical fiction is historical fiction that’s based on real events, especially little-known ones. Kathleen Karr has found one of those types of events and brought it to light in this delightful account.

It’s a terrific coming of age tale, with history and friendships and lots of wonderful characters. The book is out of print, but there are used copies easily available, or check your library.

Several years ago I read the book and really enjoyed it. Before writing this post I decided I needed a refresher on it, and I’m currently listening to it. That’s turned out to be an excellent choice, because it’s fabulous as an audio book – music plays such a big role in the story so I love that the audio book includes that as well.

Listening to the actors sing the parts from the performance is even better than reading about it, so I’d highly recommend getting this on audio if you can. It’s available through Audible or OverDrive, so check your library if you don’t have an Audible subscription.

Find the book: Print | Audible | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
In prison, there are few secrets. But Libby Dodge, the youngest inmate, guards the nature of her crime from the other women, even as they openly recount their former lives as arsonists, thieves, and prostitutes. Libby’s hopeless and miserable situation changes unexpectedly with the arrival of a new chaplain, Mrs. Wilkinson. Mrs. Wilkinson has surprising and newfangled ideas about prison reform, which include launching an elaborate production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. The production transforms the women–their views of themselves, their abilities, their place in the world.

Book Details

Title: Gilbert & Sullivan Set Me FreeGilbert & Sullivan Set Me Free by Kathleen Karr
Author: Kathleen Karr
Category: Juvenile Fiction / Historical
My Rating: 5 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Two years ago: Death’s Acre by Bill Bass and Jon Jefferson

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Madman by Tracy Groot

MadmanMadman: A NovelMadman: A Novel by Tracy Groot by Tracy Groot

Gripping story that’s very well written – all historical fiction should be this compelling. The plot line is confusing at times, but that’s because of the way the story is structured. You’re confused along with the character – what could have happened to those people? What is going on there?

The ending was a bit abrupt, but I loved how it was done, and how it so suddenly tied in to some familiar Biblical events. This is not a retelling of a Bible story; instead it presents an imagined backstory behind the two demon possessed men from the Gospels. One unexpected benefit of reading the book is how it’s reminded me to think about what else is behind all the verses in the Bible.

A heads-up for sensitive readers: the book can be a bit graphic at times, and some of the descriptions may be too much for you to read. The violence was never gratuitous, but it’s definitely there.

I’m generally annoyed by Christian fiction that gets too preachy or trite, and Groot avoids that. There is a lot of depth to her story, and she is so creative in how she’s structured the tale.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
If there is a way into madness, logic says there is a way out. Logic says.

Tallis, a philosopher’s servant, is sent to a Greek academy in Palestine only to discover that it has silently, ominously disappeared. No one will tell him what happened, but he learns what has become of four of its scholars. One was murdered. One committed suicide. One worships in the temple of Dionysus. And one is a madman.

From the author of The Brother’s Keeper comes a tale of mystery, horror, and hope in the midst of unimaginable darkness, the story behind the Geresene demoniac of the gospels of Mark and Luke.

Book Details

Title: Madman: A NovelMadman: A Novel by Tracy Groot
Author: Tracy Groot
Category: Fiction / Historical
My Rating: 4.5 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

Two years ago: My Favorite Blogs about Books (I need to write an updated post on this topic!)

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

God’s Bestseller by Brian Moynahan

God's BestsellerGod’s Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible–A Story of Martyrdom and BetrayalGod's Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible--A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal by Brian Moynahan by Brian Moynahan

Despite what the title might lead you to believe, this isn’t really a religious book. It’s a history book, telling the story behind the English Bible and the man who did so much of that translating.

It was assigned reading for a class I took in grad school, and I was thrilled to discover it was a fascinating account. Moynahan’s work gave me a deeper understanding of the King James Translation – I had never known that so much of that translation was actually based on Tyndale’s earlier work. Kind of funny, isn’t it? He was put to death by the King of England for translating the Bible into English, and later years another King of England had his name attached to a translation that used a large amount of that “heretic’s” work.

Wondering why you should care about these ancient events and personalities? Tyndale’s impact on the later King James translation has resulted in his continuing influence on our language today. It’s an amazing story, and I found myself wishing he’d lived long enough to finish translating the Old Testament.

Find the book: Print | Kindle | Goodreads

Publisher’s Description:
The English Bible—the mot familiar book in our language—is the product of a man who was exiled, vilified, betrayed, then strangled, then burnt.

William Tyndale left England in 1524 to translate the word of God into English. This was heresy, punishable by death. Sir Thomas More, hailed as a saint and a man for all seasons, considered it his divine duty to pursue Tyndale. He did so with an obsessive ferocity that, in all probability, led to Tyndale’s capture and death.

The words that Tyndale wrote during his desperate exile have a beauty and familiarity that still resonate across the English-speaking world: “Death, where is thy sting?…eat, drink, and be merry…our Father which art in heaven.”

His New Testament, which he translated, edited, financed, printed, and smuggled into England in 1526, passed with few changes into subsequent versions of the Bible. So did those books of the Old Testament that he lived to finish.

Brian Moynahan’s lucid and meticulously researched biography illuminates Tyndale’s life, from his childhood in England, to his death outside Brussels. It chronicles the birth pangs of the Reformation, the wrath of Henry VIII, the sympathy of Anne Boleyn, and the consuming malice of Thomas More. Above all, it reveals the English Bible as a labor of love, for which a man in an age more spiritual than our own willingly gave his life.

Book Details

Title: God’s Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible–A Story of Martyrdom and BetrayalGod's Bestseller: William Tyndale, Thomas More, and the Writing of the English Bible--A Story of Martyrdom and Betrayal by Brian Moynahan
Author: Brian Moynahan
Category: Nonfiction / History / Biography
My Rating: 4.5 Stars


Previously on The Deliberate Reader

One year ago: Yes, Chef

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For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

For the LoveFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker by Jen Hatmaker

I feel like most of the “Christian” books I’ve read lately have missed the mark for me, and I was starting to wonder if I was just expecting too much. Was I a cranky reader?

Then I read Hatmaker’s latest and LOVED it. Her humor makes me laugh, and her perspective enlarges mine. I highlighted entire swathes of the book, and couldn’t even begin to pick out my absolute favorite parts.

(But I think her Thank You Notes are the funniest.)

I’ve found myself continuing to think about sections of it, especially how she cuts through the cultural trappings of Christianity in America by distilling it down to one question: Is this also true for a single mom in Haiti? Because if it’s not, than it’s not true for us. The chapter on youth groups is also stellar, and gives me plenty to ponder as I think about the church environment I want to find for my children.

Does this mean I agree with her 100%? No, and one chapter in particular I kept wishing I could talk with her about it and why I think it was missing a little bit of clarification/expansion. I was also initially confused on the overall theme of the book (admittedly I was reading in snippets while watching kids, so sometimes I can miss things like that), so I went to reread the description to see what it was supposed to be. Oh there it is – dealing with PEOPLE. Ok, yeah, I see it now, and yes, that makes more sense of the organization of the book.

That minor issue aside, I LOVED THIS BOOK. I want to form a Supper Club like she mentions. I want to have Sunday Night Church on my porch.

I think I’ve officially crossed the line into a total Jen Hatmaker Fan Girl. Get her book & read it – it’s so worth your reading time. Any book where I highlight THAT MUCH is one that I think is worth reading.

Publisher’s Description:
The popular writer, blogger, and television personality reveals with humor and style how Jesus’ extravagant grace is the key to dealing with life’s biggest challenge: people.

The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning first with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, live for, go to church with, don’t like, don’t understand, fear, struggle with, compare ourselves to, and judge. People are the best and worst thing about the human life.

Jen Hatmaker knows this all too well, and so she reveals how to practice kindness, grace, truthfulness, vision, and love to ourselves and those around us. By doing this, For the Love leads our generation to reimagine Jesus’ grace as a way of life, and it does it in a funny yet profound manner that Christian readers will love. Along the way, Hatmaker shows readers how to reclaim their prophetic voices and become Good News again to a hurting, polarized world.

Book Details

Title: For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible StandardsFor the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker
Author: Jen Hatmaker
Category: Nonfiction
My Rating: 5 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book to review from NetGalley. 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!

Never Fall Down by Patricia McCormick

Never Fall DownNever Fall Down: A NovelNever Fall Down: A Novel by Patricia McCormick by Patricia McCormick

Although Never Fall Down is a novel, it’s based on the childhood of Arn Chorn-Pond, one of the survivors of the Khmer Rouge. The fictionalized biography is written in first person verse, and the effect is powerful.

While I do think this is a fabulous account, it’s probably obvious that due to the content you should be aware of the suitability of it for younger or sensitive readers. Even though McCormick does an astonishingly good job of making it readable, it’s still describing some horrifically brutal events.

Be sure to read the author’s note – it gives the background on how she researched it, and why she chose to write the story as fiction. There’s also a YouTube video with an interview featuring McCormick and Chorn-Pond that’s worth watching – it’s only about 3 minutes long, and I especially liked hearing the music that plays such a pivotal role in his story.

Highly, highly recommended. This is an amazing book.

Publisher’s Description:
This National Book Award nominee from two-time finalist Patricia McCormick is the unforgettable story of Arn Chorn-Pond, who defied the odds to survive the Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979 and the labor camps of the Khmer Rouge.

Based on the true story of Cambodian advocate Arn Chorn-Pond, and authentically told from his point of view as a young boy, this is an achingly raw and powerful historical novel about a child of war who becomes a man of peace. It includes an author’s note and acknowledgments from Arn Chorn-Pond himself.

When soldiers arrive in his hometown, Arn is just a normal little boy. But after the soldiers march the entire population into the countryside, his life is changed forever.

Arn is separated from his family and assigned to a labor camp: working in the rice paddies under a blazing sun, he sees the other children dying before his eyes. One day, the soldiers ask if any of the kids can play an instrument. Arn’s never played a note in his life, but he volunteers.

This decision will save his life, but it will pull him into the very center of what we know today as the Killing Fields. And just as the country is about to be liberated, Arn is handed a gun and forced to become a soldier.

Book Details

Title: Never Fall Down: A NovelNever Fall Down: A Novel by Patricia McCormick
Author: Patricia McCormick
Category: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 5 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

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

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Goodbye StrangerGoodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead by Rebecca Stead

Rebecca Stead is a phenomenal storyteller. Her Newbery winner When You Reach Me is amazing, and Goodbye Stranger stands up to the lofty comparisons that are sure to arise. While not quite as layered as When You Reach Me (for reasons which would involve spoilers for When You Reach Me so I’m not going to detail them), it’s still much more layered and thoughtful than the stereotypical middle grade book.

There is plenty of meaty content in the book, but it’s never explicit, and I wouldn’t hesitate to share this book widely. It would be easy for the book to become harsh with the topics and themes it addresses, but Stead manages to keep it more gentle almost.

I think this works as a middle grade or young adult book. It opens up many avenues of discussion with children who read it – the nature of friendship, bullying, cell phone use and abuse (including sexting), the challenges of growing up (especially the perils of 7th grade), and more.

Despite my praises and saying it’s surprisingly gentle considering the content, I’d still be careful before giving the book to super precocious readers. Know your readers and what they can handle!

Highly, highly recommended. I finished it and then immediately wanted to re-read it, to better appreciate the way Stead wove the story together.

Publisher’s Description:
Bridge is an accident survivor who’s wondering why she’s still alive. Emily has new curves and an almost-boyfriend who wants a certain kind of picture. Tabitha sees through everybody’s games–or so she tells the world. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. Can it get them through seventh grade?

This year everything is different for Sherm Russo as he gets to know Bridge Barsamian. What does it mean to fall for a girl–as a friend?

On Valentine’s Day, an unnamed high school girl struggles with a betrayal. How long can she hide in plain sight?

Book Details

Title: Goodbye StrangerGoodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead
Author: Rebecca Stead
Category: Fiction
My Rating: 5 Stars
Buy the book: Print | Kindle | Audible

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

Listen, Slowly

Listen SlowlyListen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai by Thanhha Lai

If you saw my post about my favorite books of the year so far, this one will look familiar, and the fact that I’m about to gush over it will be no surprise. Lai is a new discovery for me this year, and I first read her book Inside Out and Back Again. As a Newbery Honor book and National Book Award winner, it’s no surprise that the book is FANTASTIC.

Could her new title Listen, Slowly live up to the high standards she’d set?

Happily, yes. While it’s a very different book (written in prose instead of verse, set in contemporary Vietnam, instead of historical Vietnam and the US), it’s still a beautifully written and captivating story. She brings Vietnam to life, and compels you to both continue reading, and care about all the individuals you meet.

I loved how well she differentiated the relatives. It would have been easy for them to become merely a group of extended family (kind of how they are when Mai first arrives), but most of them quickly become individuals.

The book is perfect for middle schoolers or high schoolers, and easily enjoyable by adults as well. Super sensitive readers might have a bit of trouble with some details at the very end, but I don’t want to share specifics for risk of spoilers. Ask me if you’re concerned with appropriateness for your kids and I’ll fill you in. Another possible concern for those with really strict standards on what they allow is that Mai is thinking about one boy quite a bit, and frets about her figure slightly (she’s not the curvy supposed American-ideal). Nothing is detailed, and it felt very accurate for her age. It also all ends up resolving nicely, if that makes a difference.

This could also work very well as a discussion book if you’re looking for one to read with your kids. Topics addressed include the obvious ones of family and history, but it also touches on friendships, prioritization, Americanization, travel, war, culture, food, and more.

Highly recommended, and do also read her other book, Inside Out and Back Again.

Publisher’s Description:
This remarkable novel from Thanhhà Lại, New York Times bestselling author of the National Book Award–winning and Newbery Honor Book Inside Out & Back Again, follows a young girl as she learns the true meaning of family.

A California girl born and raised, Mai can’t wait to spend her vacation at the beach. Instead, though, she has to travel to Vietnam with her grandmother, who is going back to find out what really happened to her husband during the Vietnam War. Mai’s parents think this trip will be a great opportunity for their out-of-touch daughter to learn more about her culture. But to Mai, those are their roots, not her own. Vietnam is hot, smelly, and the last place she wants to be. Besides barely speaking the language, she doesn’t know the geography, the local customs, or even her distant relatives. To survive her trip, Mai must find a balance between her two completely different worlds.

Perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia and Linda Sue Park, Listen, Slowly is an irresistibly charming and emotionally poignant tale about a girl who discovers that home and culture, family and friends, can all mean different things.

Book Details

Title: Listen, SlowlyListen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai
Author: Thanhha Lai
Category: Juvenile Fiction
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

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

Shakespeare Basics for Grownups

Shakespeare Basics for Grown-UpsShakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups: Everything You Need to Know About the BardShakespeare Basics for Grown-Ups: Everything You Need to Know About the Bard by E. Foley and B. Coates by E. Foley and B. Coates

I loved this book, but full disclosure: I haven’t read 100% of it. It’s filled with lists and facts and small sections that make it easy to dip into and out of and read in small segments, and isn’t the sort that requires reading everything from cover to cover to appreciate.

It is perfect for brushing-up on your Shakespeare knowledge, or for filling in the gaps if you never got around to reading certain plays. (I’m woefully unread in Shakespeare’s histories, as the book reminded me – perhaps that should be my reading challenge for 2016?)

Some highlights:

  • The family tree of characters in his histories (I love the dotted lines signifying this person over here is the same person over there!)
  • All of his plays in one sentence each. (impressive summations for all the plays!)
  • What life was like in his day (potatoes were a new and exotic food, and people didn’t drink tea.)
  • A list of phrases he invented (like “all of a sudden“.)
  • A short Shakespearean dictionary (filled with lots of fun words, it’s by no means exhaustive.)
  • Each play is featured (with some background information, a plot summary, key themes, key scene, and key symbol.)
  • A small section on his poems, with a few of the sonnets highlighted.

And then the section that I didn’t finish reading: “specialist information” related to the First Folio and other editions, his collaborative plays, and the challenges of dating his works. I was … less interested in this section which is why I skimmed it only. 🙂

There’s even a quiz at the back of the book to test your Shakespeare knowledge.

My only complaint is the font size: it’s smaller than I like, so I couldn’t pick it up and read a page or two without my glasses.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was published last year in the UK, but it’s releasing today in the US. Recommended if you’re at all interested in the topic.

The authors previously wrote the book Homework for Grown-ups: Everything You Learned at School and Promptly ForgotHomework for Grown-ups: Everything You Learned at School and Promptly Forgot by E. Foley and B. Coates, and I enjoyed this book so much I’ve already requested the earlier title. I like this sort of book quite a bit, and it was especially enjoyable to see what all I remembered from my college classes, and what was completely new-to-me.

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