Last Hope Island and Audrey Hepburn

between the lines book club logoWelcome back to Between the Lines Book Club. Our next book club book is Last Hope Island by Lynne Olson. We’ll be discussing it at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on January 25, 2020. Please join us in person and/or leave comments below!

One of the people we meet in Last Hope Island is a young Audrey Hepburn. As an adult, Hepburn dedicated much of her life to international relief work, motivated by having received international aid at the end of WWII. In this article from Time Magazine, we learn more about her work with the Dutch Resistance. Here’s a sample:

 First and foremost, with the encouragement of Dr. Visser ’t Hooft, for whom she volunteered, she could dance. Audrey’s celebrity as a ballerina for nearly four years at the Arnhem city theater made her talents valuable to Dr. Visser ’t Hooft and the Resistance for illegal musical performances at various by-invitation-only locations. These events, called the zwarte avonden, or “black evenings,” had first been introduced by musicians as a way to earn money after they had been forced out of the Dutch mainstream by the Nazi union of artists, the Kultuurkamer. Soon the zwarte avonden were helping to raise funds in support of those sheltering the tens of thousands of Jews and other people in hiding across the Netherlands — including those in her hometown of Velp. They were known as black evenings because windows were blacked out or darkened so the Germans didn’t know of the activities going on inside.

“Guards were posted outside to let us know when Germans approached,” said Audrey, who reported that “the best audiences I ever had made not a single sound at the end of my performance.”

Hepburn dancing in 1942

Hepburn, 1942

For more about Hepburn during the war, check out Last Hope Island as well as Dutch Girl by Robert Matzen.

Book Review: City of Lies by Victoria Thompson

Cover of City of Lies
Every now and then I end up with some orphan reviews: things that don’t fit on another site. I’ve been reading a lot of fiction and non-fiction about women’s suffrage. Here’s a review of a fun fiction: City of Lies.

City of Lies is a book with an awful lot going on. On one hand, it’s a historical fiction about American suffragettes in 1917. It’s also an enemies-to-lovers romance, as well as a thriller. I liked this book, but all the different parts worked against each other instead of together.

Our story begins as Elizabeth is participating in a con against rich asshole Oscar Thornton. When Thornton catches on and goes after Elizabeth, Elizabeth runs from him and throws herself into the middle of a group of suffragists who are being arrested. She figures that she is safe from Thornton as long as she stays in jail. She doesn’t count on the fact that she will form close friendships with her fellow suffragists and become enamored of the cause. She also doesn’t count on falling in love with Gideon, the brother of one of her new friends.

This book works best when it focuses on the suffragists. It makes sense that Elizabeth’s past experience and street smarts make her popular in the jail, where most of the women are facing their first arrests. It also makes sense that, once separated from her father and brother, Elizabeth will be drawn to a new pseudo-parent (Gideon’s mother, Mrs. Bates) and new younger sibling to protect (Anna, friend of Mrs. Bates). I enjoy learning about the suffrage movement and as as far as I can tell the sequences in jail are historically accurate. They are certainly well-written and immersive, with bits of humor and a lot of comraderie to relieve the tension of the situation.

Alas, the romance doesn’t work so well. Gideon, a lawyer, lives by what he sees as right and just. He’s a believer in truth and the courts. Elizabeth was raised in a community of con artists and believes in fending for herself and in fleecing the rich for her own benefit. Once out of jail, Elizabeth takes up residence with Anna and betrothes herself with lightning speed to Anna’s brother, David, who is also Gideon’s best friend. I never believed that Gideon would be in love with Elizabeth, nor that they would work as a couple, nor that they had anything in common other than a mutual appreciation of strong-willed women. Frankly, I thought everyone around Elizabeth forgave her awfully damn fast for all the lies she tells and manipulations she conducts during the course of the story.

However, despite her chronic dishonesty, I liked Elizabeth. Her character growth, as she learns to channel her intelligence into a cause larger than scamming people for money, is well done. It’s often entertaining to see her maneuver her way out of impending doom. Also, I very much enjoyed her relationship with Anna, especially when she introduces Anna to some of her more unconventional friends.

This was a story in which the supporting characters were much more interesting than the central characters. Elizabeth is fine, Gideon is a bit of a prat, and Thorton is a one-dimension super evil bad guy. However, The fiery Mrs. Bates is interested, and so is Anna who is underestimated by everyone around her but who demonstrates an iron will. I loved watching Anna come alive after Elizabeth introduces her to some of Elizabeth’s more unconventional friends. These friends allow Anna to consider new relationship models and new ways of living her life. It was a joy to see her development take place.

The other component is the con/thriller/mystery involving Thornton, who just keeps showing up. This element was completely forgettable because Thornton is just an awful bully who is also stupid. His defeat is inevitable and he has no layers whatsoever. He’s just a bad guy and therefore boring and therefore the parts of the story that focus on him are, it pains me to say, also boring.

There were parts of this book that I loved, and some that were just OK. None of it was outright bad, it’s just that the suffragist plotline, which includes the most interesting parts of Anna and Elizabeth’s character development, was the most cohesive and interesting. I suspect that in a month I’ll have forgotten everything about the romance, including the fact that there is one. However, I will remember Elizabeth making Anna laugh in prison, and Mrs. Bates patiently teaching Elizabeth about the suffrage cause. Oh, I’ll remember the clothes too. Once they leave jail, this book is very pretty. It just doesn’t hold together all across the board.

 

Between the Lines: Q and A with Lynne Olson

between the lines book club logoOur next book club book is Last Hope Island by Lynne Olson. We’ll be discussing it at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on January 25, 2020. Please join us in person and/or leave comments below!

Author Lynne Olson has an interesting website with links to various interviews. Of special interest to us is her Q and A regarding the book. Here’s a sample:

Most of the books you’ve written focus in one way or another on Britain and World War II. What prompted you to write this one, about the wartime relationship between the British and occupied Europe?
What really drew me to it is that it’s such an unexplored subject. No one else has looked at this in detail — how Britain, as the last European country to hold out against Hitler, provided a refuge for the leaders of a number of occupied countries, enabling them to set up governments in exile to help defeat Germany. In return, they and thousands of their compatriots made crucial contributions to Britain’s survival and the eventual Allied victory.

If that’s the case, why have historians paid so little attention to what they did?
Primarily, I think, because of Winston Churchill. Early in the war, he created the image of plucky little England standing alone against Hitler’s Germany, the greatest military power in world history. Throughout the war and afterwards, he kept promoting the idea that the British singlehandedly held off Germany until they were joined by the Americans and Soviets in 1941. His claim overlooks the fact that the countries of occupied Europe, from their base in London, were still at war, too. Without their help, the British might well have lost the Battle of Britain and the Battle of the Atlantic and might never have conquered Germany’s Enigma code — all essential factors in Britain’s survival.

She also has a wonderful page devoted to the characters of the book. I highly recommend it – click on each photo for information about each person. Here’s the link.

See you on the 25th!

 

Book Clubs and Birthdays!

cover of Last Hope IslandAfter my annual hiatus in December I’m back to blogging with some book club news. First of all, Between the Lines Book Club will resume on January 6, 2020 at Arden Dimick Library, at 10:30AM. Check in every Friday for more about this month’s book, Last Hope Island!

Also, I’ll be co-facilitating a brand new romance book club with the Sacramento Public Library, focusing on romance novels of every description. Our first book is The Other Miss Bridgerton, by Julia Quinn. Our first meeting will be on January 11, from 1PM – 2PM, and Ella K. McClatchy Library. Please join us!

It’s a big month for birthdays, too. According to Atlas Obscura’s Pop Culture Calendar, Roy Batty’s Inception Day is January 8, 2016 (R.I.P. Rutger Hauer). Hal 9000 was activated on January 12, 1992 (or 1997). Buffy Summer was born on January 19, 1991, and Dean Winchester was born on January 24, 1979.

So eat cake, read books and join us at book club!

Between the Lines Book Club is Back!

between the lines book club logoHello book clubbers! Our next book is Last Hope Island by Lynne Olson. We’ll be discussing it at Arden Dimick Library at 10:30AM on January 25, 2020. Here’s the Goodreads.com description:

When the Nazi blitzkrieg rolled over continental Europe in the early days of World War II, the city of London became a refuge for the governments and armed forces of six occupied nations — Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg, Norway, Czechoslovakia, and Poland — who escaped there to continue the fight. So, too, did General Charles de Gaulle, the self- appointed representative of free France. As the only European democracy still holding out against Hitler, Britain became known to occupied countries as ‘Last Hope Island’.

In this epic, character-driven narrative, acclaimed historian and New York Times–bestselling author Lynne Olson takes us back to those perilous days when the British and their European guests joined forces to combat the mightiest military force in history and restore order to a broken continent.

I’ll be blogging about this book on Fridays and looking forward to seeing you!

Geeky Gratitude

captain-marvel-cat-goose.jpgEvery year I make a list of things that bring joy to my heart, specifically, my geeky heart. This year is a challenge, not because it wasn’t full of wonderful things but because my brain has turned into Swiss cheese and I have a hard time remembering what happened this year. Avengers: Endgame was THIS YEAR, people. It’s confusing.

Anyway, here are some things that made me happy – I hope you too found happiness in your own nerdy way. To qualify for my list, a nerdy item must be something I enjoyed in 2019, but not necessarily for the first time. Daughter wanted to watch a lot of Halloween fair in October so you’ll notice a certain predominance of those kinds of movies which are fresh in my mind. I don’t know what happened this summer or spring. Stuff, I guess.

Here’s the list:

  1. Thomasin tells off her father (The Witch).
  2. “We ARE the weirdos!” the first half of The Craft, which is still sublime. Let’s just all pretend the second half never happened.
  3. The fashion sense of Practical Magic.
  4. Midnight margaritas! (Practical Magic).
  5. Every single thing about The Good Place.
  6. Nicholas Hoult’s eyes in Warm Bodies.
  7. Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir.
  8. The Good Place panel at San Diego Comic Con, at which everyone cried and all the cosplayers took group selfies in the aisles.
  9. The “nerd” conversation in Stranger Things.
  10. Emily’s angry face in Corpse Bride.
  11. The Back to the Future conversation in Stranger Things.
  12. The Back to the Future conversation in Avengers: Endgame.
  13. Goose and Lt. Trouble in Captain Marvel.
  14. Captain Marvel!
  15. Chuck Tingle’s facebook account.
  16. My Life as a Background Slytherin and Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern
  17. Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson.
  18. Re-reading the Sandman comics. FOR WORK!
  19. The Cephalopod Tarot.
  20. The Next World Tarot.
  21. Into the Spiderverse! Spider-Ham!

I wish you and yours a nerdy and wonderful Thanksgiving. Eat all the pie! Watch all the things! Read all the stuff! Higher, further, faster, Baby!

So many days, so little posts.

white mug

Photo by Ana M. on Pexels.com

It is November ELEVENTH and I’m finally publishing something for the month! I was so fortunate to have a busy September and October: writing for Clarkesworld Magazine, leading Tarot workshops for teens, leading Arden Dimick Book Club and a writing workshop, writing for Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and driving my daughter places. And driving. and driving. And driving. And, of course, falling behind here.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll talk about tarot and make my Geeky Gratitude list. For today I’ll leave you with germ-free thoughts (I have a cold) and a poem by Joseph Seamon Cotter, courtesy of PoemHunter.com. Cotter was an African-American poet from Kentucky who lived from 1861 – 1916. In addition to being a well-regarded poet, he was also an advocate of Civil Rights and of education.

Old November, sere and brown,
Clothes the country, haunts the town,
Sheds its cloak of withered leaves,
Brings its sighing, soughing breeze.
Prophet of the dying year,
Builder of its funeral bier,
Bring your message here to men;
Sound it forth that they may ken
What of Life and what of Death
Linger on your frosty breath.
Let men know to you are given
Days of thanks to God in heaven;
Thanks for things which we deem best,
Thanks, O God, for all the rest
That have taught us–(trouble, strife,
Bring thru Death a larger life)–
Death of our base self and fear–
(Even as the dying year,
Though through cold and frost, shall bring
Forth a new and glorious spring)–
Shall shed over us the sway
Of a new and brighter day,
With Hope, Faith and Love alway.