Cover for First-Line Fridays on Peachy Books showing a cue card with the typed quote: He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad. from Raphael Sabatini in Scaramouche
Blog Roll, First-Line Fridays, Historical Fiction

First-Line Fridays | Joseph Heller

🍑🍑🍑🍑🍑 / 5 Peaches!

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

There is no more appropriate time for antiwar political satire than at the dawning of our next world conflict, no? Sure hope I’m wrong on that, but these days it seems anything is possible.

Heller’s messages about a corrupt and predatory government’s relation to the war machine are more relatable now than ever, as the previously subdued masses start to awaken to the obvious corruption of our own.

No book nails both the ridiculousness and the peril of bureaucracy better than Catch-22, and although this is clearly a work of satire, there are endless lessons to be learned about war and how it warps humanity.

Listen to Heather Heying read an excerpt from Catch-22, published in 1961, that might seem eerily familiar to modern day:

Watch for my black and white MEme collection next week, highlighting meaningful quotes from this hilarious and horrifying classic.

Have you read Catch-22 or any of Joseph Heller’s work?

Graphic for the Peachy Books Book Review Read-a-Loud by written and read by PeachyTO for The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, showing a 1930s Carnegie Hall in the background
Blog Roll, Historical Fiction, Kids Books, Middle Grade, Saturday in Stereo

Saturday in Stereo – Book Review Read-a-Loud: The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

This week on Saturday in Stereo we have the Peachy Books review for The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, read aloud by PeachyTO.

Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest read-a-louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!

To find the written review for The Good Thieves and see the Rimsky Crow bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.

Graphic showing acrobats performing: Book Review The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell
Blog Roll, book reviews, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade

Book Review: The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

Book cover for The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell, depicting a huge a canoe filled with four children, in a lake before a large castle, with a backdrop of a starry sky.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell

“But it’s not always sensible to be sensible.”

Katherine Rundell, The good Thieves

Historical fiction is one of my top genres, so I was eager to read this book set in depression-era New York City with my Li’l Peach. Just like mum, the budding bookworm is a lover of history. We had only ever read non-fiction books about the past, so this was an exciting read that introduced him to a beloved genre.

At the commencement of this fast-paced story, Vita and her mother had just traversed the ocean from England to assist her ailing grandfather. Her mother was hopeful that with the clearing up of his financial affairs, he would return to the UK with them in the coming weeks. The loose ends would take a little more work to clear up than anyone had imagined, least of all Vita.

The frail man defeatedly admitted that for a mere two hundred dollars, the equivalent of three thousand today, he had been scammed out of ownership of the historic family castle by a bulldozing, real-estate mogul. Although her grandfather seemed resigned to this fact and his inability to do anything about it, Vita had other plans.

If she could get into the castle and dig out some abandoned treasure, they would use the proceeds from the sale of the gem to get a fancy lawyer and set things straight. This lofty goal would seem all the more difficult to achieve given her apparent limitations: the painful and maldeveloped foot she acquired from her battle with Polio years earlier and her ignorance about the big city that she now must expertly navigate.

Possible impediments aside, our fearless heroine ventures out on her own to do a recognisance mission when she ends up crossing paths with my favourite character of the book. Silk, a homeless young teen, rough around the edges and tough-as-nails, is a hustling pick-pocket, the perfect match for the courageous Vita. As fate would have it, she also befriends Samuel and Arkady – performers in a travelling circus running temporarily at Carnegie Hall, just across the way from where her grandfather lives. Together they form a tattered yet tenacious crew of ‘good thieves,’ and the story jets off from there.

Bravery, ability, and determination are the guiding forces for this talented gang of kids as they seek to defeat the scoundrel Sorratore as he stealthily attempts to snatch up historic properties across New York City. Thanks to their diverse skillset: Samuel the acrobat, Arkady the animal whisperer, Silk the street hustler, and Vita with the expert aim – a skill she picked up when she was a small child, under the tutelage of her now infirm grandfather – a tightly-woven plan was all they would need to succeed.

The all-important red notebook held the path to victory as Vita prepared every step needed for things to come together. Unfortunately for them, they met much friction along the way. Vita is an admirable role model for young readers, as her organisational skills and strong leadership are matched only by her grit to fight through the discomfort and pain of her mission.

There were teachable moments throughout the story, as themes of family, friendship, loyalty, racism, crime, and dishonesty are in abundance. Visually evocative scenes play out as Rundell transports us through the bustle of Manhattan, the landscapes of suburban New York, and the majesty of the decaying castle.

Quote from The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell with a circus back drop and the shadow of two acrobats hanging from the top: "Racism can't be cured by black excellence when it's caused by white ignorance."

Endearing characters, an exciting plot, appropriate pacing, and sheer enjoyment have me rating this middle-grade fiction gem 4.5 peaches and adding Rundell’s other popular offering, Rooftoppers, to my list without delay.

Have you or your little ones read The Good Thieves or Rooftoppers, and if so, what did you think?

Here is the bookmark I was inspired to make whilst reading this fun novel.

Advertising the Peachy Books Review Read-a-Loud for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson with a background picture of mountains
Blog Roll, Historical Fiction, Saturday in Stereo

Saturday in Stereo – Book Review Read-a-Loud: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

This week Saturday in Stereo brings us the reading for the Peachy Books review of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, a harrowing tale of courage, loyalty, and resilience.

Please visit the Peachy Books YouTube channel or click on the video below to check it out. If you enjoy the reading, I’d be thrilled if you would ‘like,’ subscribe, and hit the notification bell; it will help my channel to grow, and you’ll be the first to know when the latest read-a-louds are available. Thank you so much for your support!

To find the written review for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and see the Junia (ornery mule) bookmark I was inspired to make, please click here.

Book Review art for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek showing the back of a woman with red hair and a transparent strip of blue running across her face, with a backdrop of the Kentucky mountains that says: Read the book review for this story of resilience, loyalty, and love.
Blog Roll, book reviews, Historical Fiction

Book Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson

Book Cover for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson
Listen to this review here.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Kim Michele Richardson

The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.

T.S. Eliot (as quoted in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek)

… and if people would stop dog-earring the pages, and folding the covers behind the spines of those books, I might hold out that hope, but that’s a topic for another time.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is the fictional tale of Cussy Mary Carter, whose story comes alive through the interweaving of the factual historical Pack Horse Librarian Project (PHLP) and the distressing genetic fate that befalls The Fugates: a real Kentucky family that suffers from a rare blue-skin condition. A genetic anomaly causes their blood to be chocolate brown from a lack of oxygen, which gives their skin a blue tint, as a result. The medical term for this condition is Methemoglobinemia, and although as of today the Fugate family descendants have lost their blue colouring, it can appear visible when they are cold or become flushed with emotion. This hereditary disorder is the ostracising affliction that Cussy Mary bears, and is that which causes many of the horrid trials and tribulations she faces throughout this harrowing novel by Kim Michele Richardson.

Cussy Mary doesn’t hear her real name very often. She is fondly referred to, by the folks on her route, as the ‘Book Woman,’ and to others in the community she is simply ‘Bluet.’ As a dutiful and proud packhorse librarian for the destitute hill-people of Kentucky, her job is as dangerous as it is essential. Still, there is nothing else in the world that she would prefer to do.

In fact, there isn’t much else she is allowed to do, as she is the last of the ‘blue people.’ The Carter clan has the peculiar occurrence of being born with blue-tinged skin. Cussy Mary and her family have been discriminated against and mistreated because of the fear that grips some of the townsfolk, as they worry that they may catch this affliction like a common cold, and end up outcasts like the Carters. Little was known of this condition, so their ignorance reigned, and they chose to hate.

Cussy Mary’s book route and beloved position as librarian came via the WPA (Works Progress Administration) initiative, put forth by the Roosevelt government during the depression era. This transformational project ran from 1935 to 1943 and provided books to 1.5 million Kentuckians, and allowed for almost 1,000 women to support their families in 48 counties throughout the state. For our unrelenting protagonist, being a librarian was a calling that fostered purpose, determination, and self-worth, amidst a world that otherwise offered her nothing.

It is painful to read of the abuse that Cussy Mary has to endure at the hands of some members of her community. No matter how dark things get or what befalls her, the light of Cussy Mary’s spirit lifts her above it. Her kindness and merciful disposition see her forgive those that mistreat her, even as they continually try to bring her down. Her stoicism exemplifies humility and mercy, while the bigots arrogantly rally for cruelty.

Not all the Kentucky people were vicious in this story. Many of Cussy Mary’s patrons were her biggest champions and proved loyal to her until the end. The excitement that beamed from the book lovers of her route was infectious and was second only to the impact these written treasures she would provide them had upon their lives. It was a joyous occasion for the ‘Book Woman’ every time she rode up on her ornery mule Junia (See the crocheted bookmark I made of her below!) and deposited knowledge into the waiting arms of her devoted readers. I was fascinated by the creative ways the librarians would shield disappointment from their awaiting communities by enhancing their inadequate libraries and making sure there was enough material to loan.

In our spare time, us librarians made books filled with hill wisdom, recipes and sewing patterns, health remedies, and cleaning tips that folks passed on. Newspapers sent us their old issues, and we’d cut out poems, articles, essays, and other news from the world, and pack the mountain books.

Richardson has crafted a fascinating tale made richer by the gorgeous prose and imagery as she carries you away to another time and place. I found myself flying through this compulsively readable story and admit that I wasn’t ready for it to end.

‘In the dust-bitten yard, a leaning chicken coop and tiny wooden goat pen nestled beside the tall one-room school, its chestnut harvested from the forest, the log gaps daubed with mud and grasses. Smoke percolated from the chimney, curling over black hand-split shingles and skittering up the side of a craggy, treed hill.

There are painful moments within these pages, dealing with starvation, racism, bigotry, sexual assault, and death, so please be forewarned that this may not be a book that just anyone would want to take on. The strong themes of loyalty and love, mixed with the importance of the librarians and their books, make this story endearing to me. If you have the fortitude to withstand the discomfort that lies within these truths, the reward is a beautiful tale of resiliency that will warm your heart and have you cheering for The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.

Song of Songs quote from The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek on a yellow, orange, pink and brown backdrop of mountains and the setting son: 'Place me like a seal over your heart, like a seal on your arm: for love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame.'

Here’s Junia! She was my favourite character in the novel, so I made her into a bookmark.

Crochet bookmark of a tan coloured mule with a blue bridle and brown tail
Crochet mule bookmark