#booktrailadvent Melissa Hill brings the sparkle!

Melissa Hill celebrates Christmas on the booktrail!

MElissa-Hill

Melissa Hill, author extraordinaire has returned to the booktrail to talk about the magic of Christmas and the sparkle that this season can bring.
DIAMOND

And I’ve just read her latest book which celebrates everything to recreate the perfect snowy magical atmosphere at Christmas – a nice wedding in Central Park in Snowy New York with the twinkly lights, the promise of true love and a sparkling Tiffany diamond to light up the magic factor.

So I wanted to ask her more about what Christmas means to her and why this time of year is so special…

Apart from a diamond, what else do you think is a girl’s best friend?

This book is dedicated to the memory of my beloved pet dog Homer, who died while I was writing it. He was fifteen years old and was with me throughout so many highs and lows. As I mentioned in the dedication he was my best friend, better than any diamond, and I still miss him desperately.

 Homermelissa

Two stories – those of Rachel and Gary and then Ethan and Terri intertwine with unexpected results. Two very different stories. Which was the most fun to write?

Garys and Rachels – purely because Gary is such a love/hate character! Like many Irish men, he puts up this macho front which is why hes so difficult for Rachel to read, and he finds it difficult to express his feelings, but is ultimately a softie inside.

 christmassunsetmelissa

Where is your special place at Christmas and why?

Somewhat untraditional really, but my family and I have spent our last three Christmases at a beach house on the Gulf Coast in Florida and its incredibly beautiful and relaxing there.

Stunning Christmas Eve sunsets, followed by celebratory drinks by the pool, then walks on the powder-white sandy beach on Christmas morning alongside the local dolphin family, followed by Christmas dinner on the terrace beneath blue skies and palm trees. Again, quite untraditional but very definitely jolly!

 blog-boathouse500

Life should be fun of sparkle you say on the cover. Which sparkling restaurant or unusual place in New York would you recommend readers visit to capture the spirit of your book?

I adore the Central Park Boathouse, where Gary and Rachels wedding takes place in the book. It sits right in the heart of that gloriously green space with Manhattans breath-taking skyline all around. In summer the front of the restaurant opens up to a wonderfully romantic view right across the water and people (usually couples) rowing boats on the lake. Its the perfect location to celebrate a special occasion and to my mind, theres really nowhere better to capture the true magic of the city.

With many thanks to Melissa for a perusal and use of her lovely photo album of happy and poignant memories. And the cake with diamond frosting we enjoyed was a lovely touch!

Send some sparkle to Melissa via :

Twitter: @melissahillbks

Facebook: /melissahillbooks

Web: melissahill.info/

New York 1848 – The Fatal Flame – Lyndsay Faye

Fatal flame

Why a booktrail?

1848 – New York has always been the city that never sleeps but in 1848 it didn’t even have a chance – the violence and the fires kept everyone awake…

Story

New York in 1848 was a dangerous dark place to be. The notorious Five Points a pivotal part of 1840’s New York and the birth of its Copper Stars are once again the scene of dramatic intrigue and this time…arson

Copper star Timothy Wilde hates fire more than most since his family was killed in one and gave him a permanent scar. But this latest case sees him looking right into the heart of the flame – fires re being started ion the streets of the city for some kind of revenge and Wilde has to find out why quickly before the entire city goes up in flames.

It’s not going to be easy though – there is a lot to stoke the fires – stories of Revenge, murder and blackmail as well as past events from the first two novels in the series.

The Fatal Flame is a hotbed of explosive situations..

Place and setting

Five Points/The Tombs The Tombs - The Five points was the area around the areas of Civic Center and Chinatown. It occupied a full block, surrounded by Centre, Franklin Street, Elm -today's Lafayette, and Leonard Street. Today the Manhattan Detention center is there in White Street. Pell Street The site of the first fire The orphanage The orphanage - The Catholic Orphan Asylum is at the corner of Prince and Mott Street. The famous Bowery is said to be two blocks east. Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street made up the area known as the Burnt District. This was where the textile manfacturing was centered. Cedar Street is about two blocks to the right.  Elizabeth Street The home of Detective Timothy Wilde  Thomas Street The home of Sally Woods Queen Mabs The brothel was located on the corner of Rose Street and Frankfort
Five Points/The Tombs
The Tombs – The Five points was the area around the areas of Civic Center and Chinatown. It occupied a full block, surrounded by Centre, Franklin Street, Elm -today’s Lafayette, and Leonard Street. Today the Manhattan Detention center is there in White Street.
Pell Street
The site of the first fire
The orphanage
The orphanage – The Catholic Orphan Asylum is at the corner of Prince and Mott Street. The famous Bowery is said to be two blocks east.
Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street Nassau St and nearby Cedar Street made up the area known as the Burnt District. This was where the textile manfacturing was centered. Cedar Street is about two blocks to the right.
Elizabeth Street The home of Detective Timothy Wilde
Thomas Street The home of Sally Woods Queen Mabs The brothel was located on the corner of Rose Street and Frankfort

This the city that never sleeps – just as well as it certainly needs to keep at least one eye open as an arsonist seems to be on a rampage around the city torching it at will.

New York policing and politics

The peculiarities of mid-19th century NYC politics and the formation of the New York police force are recreated vividly as are the workings of Tammany Hall – the Democratic political machine that dominated NYC politics at the time. Those fighting for high office did just that – fight – and the ‘war’ between them and the people, the police, was dirty, tiring and a battle of wills. Piest for example is described –

“as honest as the frayed cuffs on his frock coat”

Timothy Wilde however is the man to bring the copper stars, the Five Points, the Tomb and the struggle of police officers in such a desperate city to life. With the use of the Flash language, that used by criminals at the time and documented by the chief of police George Matsell, this is a history lesson which fully submerges you in time and place.

New York city 1848..

Newspaper snippets, political documents, and words from various sources open up each chapter giving an insight into the mood, opinion and politics of the time. In the following chapter a window opens up on women’s rights, the subject of mental health and the frightening truth that someone is lighting fires across the city and many people are dying whilst others are in danger.

This is a city of character  and it’s a character in its own right – the neighbourhoods, the brothels (mab houses) and manufacturing factories are full of noise, sweat, toil and dirt. Pigs wander the streets munching on anything they find. The tenements and the living conditions of people are symbols of various degrees of poverty -women especially have a raw deal and are constantly under the control of men, wild characters with no regard for their health and safety. Working conditions, if that’s what they can be described as, are not worth the paper they are written on.

Women in the city

Women worked as sewing girls in the Bowery or on the streets and the men who run these places are nasty characters with no morals. Life is one long, harsh struggle for almost everyone and particularly the case  if you’re female, Irish or coloured. Working conditions for seamstresses  – those enough lucky enough not to be forced into prostitution – were inexistant and conditions unregulated,wages minimal.

Review

This is exactly the kind of book to read if you love to fully immerse yourself into time and place. The level of research that Lyndsay Faye must have done to get such small details as authentic as they come is staggering and despite not knowing much at all about New York history before reading all three of her novels, I feel as if I’ve learned more via her books than any history lesson could have taught me. This books is akin to no ordinarily history lesson however – oh no – but rather like stepping into the past and wandering around the streets, with the odeur of dirt in your nose, the muck on your feet and the fear on the back of your neck.

How fascinating are the early years of the Copper Stars, the growth of the police force, the birth of Flash, the figure of George Matsell. Oh and my new friends –  Jim, Mercy, Symmes, Piest, Sally, Dunly, Mrs. Grimshaw, Tim and Val. Please don’t let this be the last in the series, I’m going to miss you all too much.

This needs to be on the big screen right now.

Susan Booktrailer

Fictional friends from around the world

FRIENDSFictional characters are good people to know. They’re like our friends, share many of our milestones in life – those we meet at school, those in classic novels, the first person we admire and want to be, the person who teaches us about life and those that give us a sense of adventure…

Here we’ve chosen four characters as represented on book covers. Fictional friends and people we admire and want to spend time with for various reasons..

the-enchanted-wood-2A Childhood friend – Moon Face from Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood series

The stories take place in an enchanted forest in which there is the most magical of trees called the ‘Faraway Tree’.  It’s very tall and the top of it disappears into the clouds. Many characters live in the cave like dwellings that are carved into its trunk. When Jo, Bessie and Fanny move into a house nearby and meet Moonface, one of the characters in the novel, I wanted to be his friend and have adventures in the Faraway Tree. He has rounded furniture and a magic slide that goes all the way to the bottom of the tree. How I wanted to go on that slide!

the-miniaturistA friend to introduce you to a new world of intrigue -Nella from The Miniaturist – Set in Amsterdam

The Miniaturist was the hit book of 2014 and deservedly so as this novel, set in Amsterdam 1686 had such an amazing premise of a miniaturist who predicted events in the small objects she created, was an immediate draw. Nella is portrayed on the front cover which I just really wanted to climb inside and explore along with the others in the story. But it was Nella and her journey I wanted to go on – despite the difficulties and heartbreak she suffers as it was her spirit and personality I liked and I wanted to befriend her pet Peebo as well if I’m honest. Put Marin in her place as well perhaps. And furnish that exquisite dollshouse! A world to disappear inside – rather like that in the novel itself. 

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/the-miniaturist-amsterdam-1686/

ann cleevesTough friend you need when in trouble – Vera from Ann Cleeves crime fiction novels set in Northumberland

Vera doesn’t take any prisoners – well she does in her job since she’s a very effective police Detective, but in her coarse comments and witty but gritty asides, you know where you stand.

This is the kind of person I would love to meet for she would be loyal yet honest, brutally so perhaps but you know you can always depend on her and she always gets the job done. She might rub you up the wrong way, like the creases in her raincoat, but you know what you are getting from Vera. No nonsense results and a loyalty that you will never forget.

https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/2015/04/19/silent-voices-northumberland-tyne-valley-ann-cleeves/

BOOK 1A friend to go travelling with – Passepartout from Around the World in 80 Days

Passepartout was my inspiration for everything – from booktrailing to learning languages, this guy has been my lifelong travelling companion. As I followed him and his ideas around the world and even studied French to be more like him. What started as a childhood adventure has taken me to so many places and languages via books and for real and for that I can consider him a friend in a million who I would love to meet for real and shake his hand. He represents travel, adventure, the sense of never giving up and solving problems for his friend Phileas Fogg and I would love to go travelling with him.

Susan Booktrailer

Who are your fictional friends and why?

Manchester – Vermont – Ireland – The Letter – Kathryn Hughes

LETTER

Why a booktrail?

1930s, 1970s – Manchester. Two women living decades apart in Manchester are united by one very important letter which was never delivered.

Story 

A novel of love and hope across the decades.

1930s/40s –  A letter written on 4th September 1939 will have consequences which reach out across the decades hoping that one day an answer will come and the truth will be discovered. For the letter from a young man named Billy to a girl Christina was never delivered but found in the pocket of an old suit, left in a charity shop.

1970s Manchester – Tina finds this letter and starts to try and find who wrote it and what happened to the people it speaks of. It is a a moving letter, full of heartbreaking emotion and the pull of curiosity is just too great to leave alone. Tina suffers from an abusive marriage and recognises the sentiments of feeling trapped, longing to escape one’s past. She feels that by communicating with a stranger in the past, she can make sense of the future and escape her own reality.

Place and setting

Manchester, Vermont and Ireland - all featured in a heartbreaking story! Manchester Central Library The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.
Manchester, Vermont and Ireland – all featured in a heartbreaking story!
Manchester Central Library
The bulk of the novel is set in Manchester and without giving anything of the plot away, Central Library in St Peter’s square plays a pivotal part.

Manchester 1970s

– Ireland and Vermont are also mentioned in the novel but the main action is set in and around Manchester –

Tina Craig is married to Rick, a drunken yob who tries to control her at every turn. He steals her escape fund and her life is one of daily drudgery and violence. The moment she finds a letter in the charity shop where she works, her world becomes a bit more hopeful and wider. 1973 is the year of the Grand National and Rick is depending on a win. Red Rum to win for Tina knows what is coming if the horse does not come in.

This letter introduces her to another woman across the years and soon she parallels her life to that of Chrissie from the 1940s also suffering at the hands of a brutal man, this time her father who thinks he can control everything she does. The link between these two women stretches out against a bleak yet hopeful Manchester setting.

Manchester in the 1940s was not the place where women could go out freely with men and when if your parents didn’t like who you were dating, things could get very messy indeed. Girls were not expected to get pregnant outside of wedlock and men were expected to sign up to the war effort.

Manchester in the 1970s – Turns out history can repeat itself as social boundaries and personal freedom can be just as restrictive as they once were. Abusive marriages or the constraints of a father who ousted you from the family home for bringing shame on the family are both signs that what a person wants and what society sees and expects are not always the same thing.

The detail of the 1970s – evoked via tins of peaches, Carnation cream, and power cuts is crisp and clear. The fate of women in both the 1940s and 1970s are frightening and raw. Emotional on every level and a time to sit and think how times have thankfully changed for the better.

Review

Next time you go inside a charity shop, take time to look in the pockets of a coat because if there’s the chance it sets you off on an adventure like this then count me in! This is one heck of an emotional ride mind. It reminded me of the story of Philomena in some respects with a child born out of wedlock and the resulting torment it brings. Abusive relationships and the feeling that history can put things right – or at least try to, is explored with full effect.

I did find the portrayal of domestic violence hard to read and Chrissie didn’t really have it much better – the abuse she suffered from her father was inexcusable. But this was a different time – still wrong though.

I felt so emotional for the two women. Hated what was happening to them and willed that letter to be found and read out. Oh take tissues with you when you read this, it’s heartbreaking and so sad. There is an event which happens later on to Tina which made me really angry and I had to stop reading such was its powerful effect. Brilliantly portrayed and evoked.

How the two stories wove together was really clever and it was like placing a black and white photo underneath a colour one and seeing the two pictures form a new one. Very, very emotional.

One last thing – I love the fact that a library was at the centre of the story. The author tells us that you can actually get married in this library and when you see it, you know why. Ooh this book has introduced me to the wonder of charity shops and the fact that libraries are even more magical than I thought. And that one short letter can have such a huge impact.

The Truth According to Us – Macedonia, West Virginia – Annie Barrows

annie B

Why a booktrail?

In the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, times are a changing and history comes to light that could change it even more 

Story in a nutshell

In the small town of Macedonia, West Virginia, the Romeyn  family were once one of the most prominent and well known until the Depression hit, and they like everyone else had to adapt to their new circumstances. But life is generally good and uneventful. However things are about to get shaken up big time.

Layla Beck comes to Macedonia, at the behest of her Senator father to write a history of Macedonia for the West Virginia Writers’ Project. This is a scheme set up under Roosevelt’s New Deal to support writers facing hardship. So she starts delving into the town’s history and that lives of its people.

Turns out Macedonia may not be as quiet and uneventful as first thought.

Place and setting

MAP-1

Macedonia, West Virgina is a fictional town although there is a Macedonia in nearby Ohio, this is not the one portrayed in the book. Instead, Macedonia in TTAU is inspired by several small towns in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia particularly Martinsburg (also mentioned in the novel). Annie Burrows tells us more – 

 Martinsburg  Home of a major sock factory called Interwoven Mills, which proudly supplied one quarter of the nation’s males with socks for three or four decades.  My grandfather worked there. Now no longer there, instead we’ve found this historical museum that is worth a visit as it explains the history of Martinsburg and of Belle Boyd ‘the confederate spy’ Romney.  Another source for Macedonia is a small town called Romney Most of the names in the book are derived from graves in Romney’s cemetery, Indian Mound Cemetery   Charles Town where Jottie and Sol go for their tryst, is also a real place, and theh horse show is real.  It is also truly the place where the abolitionist John Brown was hung. Bavarian Inn The Bavarian Restaurant in Shepherdstown, where Felix takes Jottie and the girls to dinner, was not only real in 1938, but is still real today (at least it was a few years ago).   Ice Mountain  where Felix begins his seduction of Layla with ice chips, is a  mountain ridge in West Virginia and is a national natural landmark

Martinsburg
Home of a major sock factory called Interwoven Mills, which proudly supplied one quarter of the nation’s males with socks for three or four decades.  My grandfather worked there. 
Romney.
Another source for Macedonia is a small town called Romney Most of the names in the book are derived from graves in Romney’s cemetery, Indian Mound Cemetery

Charles Town
where Jottie and Sol go for their tryst, is also a real place, and theh horse show is real.  It is also truly the place where the abolitionist John Brown was hung.
Bavarian Inn
The Bavarian Restaurant in Shepherdstown, where Felix takes Jottie and the girls to dinner, was not only real in 1938, but is still real today (at least it was a few years ago). 
Ice Mountain
where Felix begins his seduction of Layla with ice chips, is a  mountain ridge in West Virginia and is a national natural landmark

The time and setting of 1938 in a small town America is evoked in so many ways.

The Federal Writers’ Project was a very real  New Deal jobs program that began in around 1935 before ending in 1943. The year of 1938 was therefore the heyday of the entire project and this is the main setting for the book -this is the year of the second Great Depression after all and was the year before WW2 and the horrors which followed.

Macedonia is a quirky small town community and the people who live there are a delight to meet. Each of them has their own distinctive set of quirks and beliefs and when Leyla comes to town, they are at first reluctant to share their history with her (with this attitude not surprisingly)

‘I can’t stand this poky little town any more. How can I bear it for three more months? Today alone has lasted years…’

– but then start to help share, well their version of history. The Romeyns family also only want to present to the world their edited version of the truth.

The secrets lying beneath the surface of a family with a figurehead such as Jottie may want to stay hidden, but Layla is keen to keep digging, and Jottie could be a good source of information. Niece Willa, aged 12 acts as a kind of mini detective and also starts her own investigation. She doesn’t like the fact that her father Felix is so often away and barely notices her.

Just what will the history of Macedonia reveal? What kind of past does it have and what kind of future is it likely to have after Leyla writes the book? The 150 Celebrations are underway but who knows what will happen once the music stops and the cold harsh reality of day lifts its weary head?

Bookish musings by Susan

I was excited to read this book for many reasons. One was that Annie Barrows was one of the two genius women who wrote The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and well, I was going to read this one straight away.

I was not disappointed. In fact I was drawn into the setting and the characters from the very first page and was enthralled to delve into the lives of the people of small town America. The time period of the depression and the writers project really added historical interest to the story and as soon as Layla started to investigate and  the community try to hide their secrets, I was right there with her, wanting to have a nosy too.

The characters of the story are what make it for me since I felt if I got to know each and every quirky one of them such is the vivid writing and voices of each of them. Jottie I loved and the stories they tell! Wait till you read about the Knock Pie Trail – brilliant and fascinating on so many levels.

I was sad to leave this town and its people – a charming and poignant story.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend – Iowa, Sweden – Katarina Bivald

readers of broekn wheel

Why a booktrail?

If you love books and books about books then this is the book for you! Broken Wheel USA awaits….There is even a chapter on book smelling…yes really….

Story in a nutshell

From Sweden to small town America, this is the story of Sara who travels to Broken Wheel USA in order to meet her pen pal Amy. Amy is old and they have written to each other for years mostly about books and reading – she used to work in a bookstore but she lost her job there and has written about her passion ever since..

As Sara arrives in Broken Wheel, she discovers that Amy has sadly died before the two could meet. But the townspeople take this bookworm under their wing and before long, she is the protagonist of a very unusual and quirky story of her own.

But Sara has read enough books to know that real life and fiction are two separate things. But are they?

Place and setting

Clarence Main street The one street town which inspired Broken Wheel and where Grace’s Diner is located amongst other things Clarence Park The park  - perfect place to read a book! Fourth Avenue Fourth street i Broken Wheel changed its name to Jimmy Coogan street in 1987 but normally the streets are plain since the people there “don’t have any predilection for flourishes or big words” Tipton the seat of Cedar County
Clarence Main street
The one street town which inspired Broken Wheel and where Grace’s Diner is located amongst other things
Clarence Park
The park – perfect place to read a book!
Fourth Avenue
Fourth street i Broken Wheel changed its name to Jimmy Coogan street in 1987 but normally the streets are plain since the people there “don’t have any predilection for flourishes or big words”
Tipton
the seat of Cedar County

If only there were a real place called Broken Wheel, there would be plenty of literary slogans to have on their welcome sign

It is a truth universally acknowledge that a Swedish tourist in Iowa must be in want of a man

A chapter heading but a valid message as well. Sara is not so sure of course and her story on the border of fact and fiction starts off – aptly in the town they call Hope –

It was as if she had just landed there, book and luggage and uncombed hair in tow…”

When Amy doesn’t turn up, she is offered a lift, ‘ You must be the tourist’ and can’t believe Amy could be dead – she loved books for goodness sake.

Broken Wheel Iowa is the place which welcomes her, she’s learnt about it via books and letters.  When talking of the kind of people that might live in Broken Wheel, May writes “A Lisbeth Salander? That we definately do not have.” They discover each others lives and countries via books –

Speaking of small towns, murder and sex, I’m sending you Harper Lees to Kill a Mocking Bird as the first installment

Feeling lost when Amy is gone, she starts up a bookstore. Sara doesn’t have a visa so this is just a hobby but through it she introduces the towns people new books and discovering new places and emotions through reading. There is a kind of book challenge on with neighbouring Hope and the books recommended to the more straight laced characters in the story are quite the eye opener!

“For as long as she could remember, she had thought that autumn air went well with books, that the two somehow belonged with blankets, comfortable armchairs and big cups of coffee or tea.”

The locals help her to stay by planning her a wedding but its the love affair she has with books and Broken Wheel that is the biggest page turner.

The author has used Clarence Cedar County Iowa as her inspiration for the town of Broken Wheel amongst the corn in southwestern Iowa.

Bookish musings

Have your books travelled further than you have? I was quite pleased to read this quote since I have sent many via the post over the years, bought some in one country and flown them home with me, sent them on to my new house, even left one or two on a booktrail. Good stories always travel and this one is no exception.

Writing letters recommending books, book club across the miles, travelling to see your bookish friend…yes all very familiar and very realistic!

It was charming all the way through and there is mention of many books that you will want to read although if you have read Jane Eyre, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a Jane Austen novel or the Bridget Jones novels, then you’’ get an extra special thrill.

a happy feel good book with smatterings of sadness and poignant moments to enjoy and think about

Read in the original Swedish at first- Läsarna i Broken Wheel rekommenderar – but the English is a fine translation and captures the essence of the book very well indeed!

I want to live in Broken Wheel now and work in Oak Tree bookstore. Can I please Katarina? Please?

In the Unlikely Event – New Jersey – Judy Blume

In-The-Unlikely-Event_248w

Why a booktrail?

From the author of Are you there God, it’s me Margaret, Judy Blume takes us to New Jersey and a story for adults about how life goes on despite everything.

Story in a nutshell

1987, Elizabeth, New Jersey

Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown to mark the anniversary of the worst year of her life. Aged fifteen, she remembers the carefree time of her first time in love. But this was the 1950s when plane travel was new and exciting, when three planes fell from the sky within three months of each other. This  was when her life changed as did everyone else’s in that community.

Judy Blume writes a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives were changed that day. Some people brought closer together and others fell apart. But that day has never been forgotten.

Place and setting

Sayre Street - where Rusty lives East Jersey Street Where Steve and Phil were shooting baskets Shelley Avenue where the Osners house is Elizabeth River. Newark airport The airport in question Hamilton Junior High The school Judy attended as a child
Sayre Street – where Rusty lives
East Jersey Street
Where Steve and Phil were shooting baskets
Shelley Avenue
where the Osners house is
Elizabeth River.
Newark airport
The airport in question
Hamilton Junior High
The school Judy attended as a child

Amazingly, the premise of three plane crashes within a short space of time actually happened in Elizabeth ,New Jersey, the hometown of the author. Judy writes on her blog that it was a scary time and there was fear and panic in many people as they tried to work out what was going on.

So soon after the war, could it be a link to terrorism? Aliens? These and more conspiracy theories are the premise of In the Unlikely Event. How do people cope and move on after such an event. And mark its anniversary?

Back in the fifties, plane travel was unknown and exciting, something most people only dreamed of. So when three planes go down in a short space of time, the effects are harrowing.

Miri is Blume’s fictional alter ego (she’s the same age as the author was at the time of the accidents), and she is the one at the heart and centre of the story. As the journalist on the case says –

“I’m talking to anyone who has a story to tell, and so far, that’s pretty much everyone.”

What follows is a struggle to survive and cope with life now that the world has changed.  There are some scary moments when the planes hit – the first plane narrowly misses a building where a group of 100 children are gathered; the second skims the roof of a high school, shortly after the girls leave for the day; and the final plane actually crashes only yards from a children’s home –

a  “muddy, bloodstained junkyard”.

Accounts of the real plane crashes can be found here – 

http://www.nj.com/entertainment/index.ssf/2014/12/judy_blume_novel_elizabeth_plane_crash_in_the_unlikely_event.html

Bookish musings

A Judy Blume book is always an event. Ah my childhood and even adult life has been marked quite happily by the Blume books. So to read this was a real treat.

I couldn’t believe that this was a true story and that it is essentially Judy’s own story of an event which took place when she was a child herself.

Now aged 77, she revisits these painful and confusing memories and constructs a novel that not only explores them but shows how such memories can haunt and linger for years. How one event is viewed and remembered by a community is quite fascinating.

I felt as if I was really getting to know the author during a painful time in her life and it felt like a privilege of sorts. This was the woman who would bring so much joy to readers later on, going back to tell us one of her own life stories.

She completely captures the sense and time of the 50s. Lots of little, intricate details which paint a vivid picture of those years; the lifestyle, habits, food, things people said and did. The dawn of air travel…

Judy, you’ve done it again. All her trademarks are there and more. Quite a unique novel as it’s written with such a personal flavour as well as the Blume artistic flair, warmth and humanity.

Haunting and poignant in equal measure.

All This Will Be Lost – Alaska – Aleutian Islands – Brian Payton

All this will belost

Why a booktrail?

The story of a little known event in the second world war which took place in the Aleutian islands of Alaska

Story in a nutshell

June 3, 1942.

The Aleutian Islands, Alaska

No one would think that this tiny and far away place, so distant from the centre of the WW2 would become embroiled in an international situation but on this day it did. For it was on this day that the Japanese Imperial Navy bombed Dutch Harbor in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. This was the start of a war which saw some 2500 Japanese troops invade the islands capturing those of Attu and Kiska.

Against this backdrop, married couple John and Helen are separated by the needs of war. John is war journalist covering events whilst his wife Helen remains back in Seattle.

When John’s plane is shot down, he must decide if to surrender or to survive in the Alaskan wilderness before trying to return home.

Place and setting

alaska-map-one

Attu The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943 Kiska The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943 Dutch harbour The Imperial navy bombed this area which started the invasion Pribilof islands (St Paul) People here were evacuated by the US military and takes to south east Alaska where they were interned.
Attu
The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943
Kiska
The island which was bombed in the Aleutian campaign of 1943
Dutch harbour
The Imperial navy bombed this area which started the invasion
Pribilof islands (St Paul)
People here were evacuated by the US military and takes to south east Alaska where they were interned.

The Alaskan wilderness – 

“The fog is better than an ally; it is a close personal friend. It covers his mistakes and spreads its protective wing over him, allowing him to escape detection”

Snow, Fog and the occasional report of Japanese antiaircraft are the only things to define space and time in this cold and unforgiving place. The fog misdirects those it envelopes and distorts the image of your surroundings. It also risks revealing the location of John, the missing war correspondent whose plane has just been shot down. He is there to avenge his brothers death in the Canadian air force

This is a rural and brutal landscape at the best of times but during war time especially so.

That night up in the nest, the boy pulls the parachute to his chin. Storm’s blowin in,” he observes. Easley listens to the fury of the williwaw, the signature gale of the Aleutians

This wind which ‘becomes an avalanche, a full stampeded of sound and sensation that strips the moisture from your eyes, bullies and casts you to the ground.

This is the landscape which acts as the prison John now finds himself in. With the brutality of  war ever present, the story of the Japanese invasion is evoked with raw, naked emotion. The Aleutian Islands must surely be one of the harshest places on earth for survival. How to find one man amidst all this silence and isolation?

This is a part of the world forgotten or blacked out by history – glimpses of the conditions of the American soldiers in WWII in the North Pacific are raw and poignant. Conditions and evacuations of the Aleut Indian natives also help to evoke a time and place little written  about elsewhere.

Such a significant time in US history. When the US forces attempt to take back the island……the result is like having a bird’s eye view of a real piece of US history.

Seattle

Life in Seattle may be far removed from war time bombings yet the isolation felt by Helen as she waits for new from her husband is as isolating as any prison.

At the library she examines the papers for any mention of Alaska

No news and no idea of where he is. Always a couple, now she is forced to live a new life and a very different one with its own set of challenges. She finds strength in her faith and religious beliefs but her life in the dark is a lonely one. So it’s not long before she sets out to Alaska herself to discover the truth.

Bookish musings

A wonderfully evocative novel of a fictional love story  – but not the soppy kind – this one shows the feelings of loss and struggle from both sides of the war – mixed with the very real historical backdrop

I knew nothing of this battle in the war and although had heard of the islands had little knowledge of the landscape there. Well, it was an unforgiving place in WW2 and like the best survival stories, this has all the fictional and factual strands to weave a very believable and challenging tale.

I’d never been to this part of the world before either via a book or for real but now I feel I have tasted the snow, heard the planes and felt the utter despair of having to hide from an invisible enemy.

The struggle of those involved on all sides was heartbreaking to read but inspiring at the same time. The section about the dog and how its written to show  the state of humanity  and what a man is willing to do in order to survive is particularly powerful.

The Museum of Extraordinary Things – Coney Island, New York – Alice Hoffman

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Why a booktrail?

Delve into the world of freak shows and magical illusions as we go back to the early days of Coney Island and the New York sites of magic, intrigue and murder…

Story in a nutshell

A story with magic in the air and freak shows in the side streets. Where a web fingered mermaid, Coralie, works in her father’s museum of extraordinary things collecting unusual artifacts and even stranger people to showcase to the masses.

With the public fascination for all things gothic, gruesome and fantastical, the museum grows but disaster is not far behind and Coralie wishes for something more.

At the same time, A jewish immigrant struggles to escape his past and explores the city’s underbelly as a photographer and later detective of sorts. He is skilled at finding the unexpected and delving into places of the city no one dares to go.

When he and the web fingered mermaid meet, theirs is a tale of the most strange and intriguing of all.

Place and setting

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire , Asch building The building was located at 23–29 Washington Place in Greenwich village neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s now part of NYC university and is known as the brown building. Manhattan - 10th Avenue/Amsterdam Avenue Known as Death avenue for the violence, deadly tram rides and the general sense of unease Hudson river Where Coralie loves to swim and where she feels her most free Central Park “Once a boggy area good only for goats and piggeries and later populated by squatters....had been made into an opulent playground for the residents of the residents of the luxurious town houses of the East Side” The Coney Island Dreamland fairground The site of the fair was located where the NYC Aquarium is now at the corner of Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street Huber’s Dime museum on East 14th street - http://showhistory.com/show-type/dime-museum This is a great site for seeing the magical and mystical side of New York! Known at the time for being a purveyor of the strange and unique
The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire , Asch building
The building was located at 23–29 Washington Place in Greenwich village neighborhood of Manhattan. It’s now part of NYC university and is known as the brown building.
Manhattan – 10th Avenue/Amsterdam Avenue
Known as Death avenue for the violence, deadly tram rides and the general sense of unease
Hudson river
Where Coralie loves to swim and where she feels her most free
Central Park
“Once a boggy area good only for goats and piggeries and later populated by squatters….had been made into an opulent playground for the residents of the residents of the luxurious town houses of the East Side”
The Coney Island Dreamland fairground
The site of the fair was located where the NYC Aquarium is now at the corner of Surf Avenue and West Eighth Street
Huber’s Dime museum on East 14th street – http://showhistory.com/show-type/dime-museum This is a great site for seeing the magical and mystical side of New York!
Known at the time for being a purveyor of the strange and unique

Coney Island 1911

The world of gothic horror, the freak shows, Wolfman and the conjoined twins which people flock to see,marvel and mock.

You would think it would be impossible to find anything new in the world, creatures no man has even seen before, one-of-a-kind oddities in which nature has taken a backseat to the coursing pulse of the fantastical and the marvelous.

But it’s not as we delve straight in the world that Alice Hoffman has recreated with use of fiction and even more fantastical fact. Coney island 1911 – Two things happened that year in real life and this book weaves them in to a magical tapestry that is as fantastical and magical as the freak shows it describes that you may not think any of this could be true.

But then fact is often stranger than fiction

The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire – Asch Building, Washington place

Eddie is the photographer who documents the horror of this night when so many people died. This was  real life disaster which shows the brutal conditions of the time when factory workers would lock workers inside to prevent them taking breaks.

The chaos and demand for greater safely stands and workers unions showed the scale of the disaster, the working conditions of the time and the busy chaotic and harsh working life in New York at that time.

In some ways,the museum of Extraordinary Things seemed much safer.

The Dreamland Amusement Park fire on Coney Island on May 27, 1911.

William H. Reynolds, a state senator at the time designed the park to compete with Luna Park  as entertainment in 1911, as Coralie and her father realise, is changing and people want different things.

This park was to be bigger and better than anything and would feature a a railway that ran through a Swiss alpine landscape, fake Venetian canals and a miniature world with dwarf inhabitants

The Museum of Extraordinary things

But its the world of the freak shows, of the circus acts and the strange people which the people of New York shunned in society but paid to look at in a show which sparkles, crackles off the page to the sound of the fair ground music in the background –

There before me were the treasures my father had collected over the years: the had with eight fingers, the human skull with horns, the preserved remains of a scarlet -colored bird called a spoonbill

Yet I knew that life spent inside a museum is not a life like any other

Coralie Sardie has live in this world of wonder and gothic horror and her father later makes her part of the exhibition herself. She joins the long list of acts from the conjoined twins, to the Wolfman who enjoys the wonders of Walt Whitman and Jane Eyre for the way in which the novel reflects his own feeling of being locked away and mocked by society. Such people have feelings and it’s heartbreaking to read how society made them into circus freaks to be mocked. How must it felt to have been cast aside and mocked because of a disability or deformity?

A world of wonder, magic and gothic curiosity abound.

Bookish musings

A love story with a very unique and fantastical background. One to marvel and exclaim at. There is so much in this novel that it is like being at a fair ground with your eyes darting left and right, something happening on the side lines, the wonder of not knowing what to expect.

A fantastical read and an even greater journey into Coney island and its many faces in 1911. What a world of exquisite detail Alice has created and how strange that some is true!

The story of Coralie and Eddie is the main thread but the story of the island and its entertainment – the museum, Coralie’s fate and the horror of how society treated some of its most vulnerable really is quite shocking.

The characters are extremely memorable and everyone from the wolfman to Mitts the dog is well rounded and full of life. Hermit Jacob Van De Beck is sly but extremely funny at times and his views on events is an eye opener!

A new world and a wholly immersive experience to marvel at!