Thursday, February 24, 2022

How can researching historical fiction be so delightful? - A guest post by Gail Kittleson


How can researching historical fiction be so delightful? Let me count the reasons!

First of all, I’m curious. Always have been. Even in my youth, my questions may have seemed a bit “off” because I often searched beneath the surface. (Not too popular with my dad, a World War II vet working hard to make up for the time he had lost.) What business did this prying little snoop have delving into his motivations?

But this inquisitiveness has taken me places, and names exude history’s intrigue. For example, why would someone name a location Loyal Valley? 

Before I could unearth the answer, this name had me hooked. Wow—a pioneer German immigrant chose Loyal Valley to reveal the area’s loyalty to the Union despite Texas officially joining the confederacy. 

This act required courage. After all, tensions ran high during that period, and the Nueces Massacre took place quite close. But John Meusebach possessed courage in spades. 

Secondly, I love stories. 

Perhaps my searches involve human story as much as historical fact. I’m hungry for instances of courage, fortitude, and determination. Perhaps my background plays a role in this as well. Growing up in a tense household on an isolated family farm gave me a feel for tenacity and perseverance, because Mom displayed these qualities every day. 

The capacity to “grin and bear it” ran deep in her. She’d experienced hole-in-the-shoe poverty in the Depression and watched two older brothers go off to fight in the war.

Obstacles notwithstanding, she trucked on. And beside her, her second child wondered, asked, and sometimes nagged. Always pondering, nose stuck in a book at every opportunity, this girl surfaced with even more questions. 

Though others might scoff at the way her mind worked, foundations were being laid stone by stone, cemented into place. And sixty years later, I take joy in leaving no stone unturned in my research. Which brings me to our third reason: the joy of discovery.

Often while I’m searching, an intuition arises, so I must see if history bears out this possible scenario. In researching the Fall of Bataan, I thought, “Surely, with over 70,000 Allied captives and such mountainous terrain, some soldiers must have escaped.” 

A whole lot of reading later, evidence came to light. Indeed, some officers had escaped to fight with Philippine guerillas in the heights. Such satisfaction ensued—my instincts rode close to the truth, and my hero might survive being a POW, might even make it back to the States. 

Fourth, (and last for this writing) I like to learn. Isn’t that one reason we’re still here on earth, to learn and grow? A person cannot study history without learning—just today, a bias I’ve held for decades against a certain politician dissolved. How did I miss his part in aiding Jewish individuals to emigrate to the U.S. before and after World War II? 

Historical research takes you where you allow it to. And the best part? The process amounts to pure fun!


My thanks to Gail for sharing her joy of historical research with us.  I liked her book Land That I Love very much and hope to read others.  Her website is gailkittleson.com and you can find lots of information there.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Land That I Love by Gail Kittleson

Land That I Love by Gail Kittleson


Set in the German Hill Country of Texas during World War II, Land That I Love is a sweeping literary novel of love and loss; friendship and animosity; fathers and sons; and coping during times of war and peace. Yet it is more than a love story. It is about the racism and bigotry that still exist in our world. As author Gail Kittleson’s characters struggle with the problems of everyday life, they teach us that we survive hard times by being good neighbors despite our differences and that hatred can be conquered by love, understanding and forgiveness.

My Thoughts:

Land That I Love was the January selection for the 'Talking Texas' Book Group here in my new town.  We were lucky enough to have the author, Gail Kittleson, attend our meeting and share with us some thoughts on her writing journey with this book and in general.  Gail is originally from Iowa, but now lives in Arizona, and she was on a book tour through the Central Texas area.  Gail wrote about her trip here on her website. 

I mentioned in another blog post that I really enjoyed this book.  Honestly, a lot more than I thought I would.  As most of you know, I'm firmly in the Mystery 'wheelhouse', but I do venture out from time to time (which is good for me).  I knew that Land That I Love was set in Central Texas during the World War II years.  I also knew it told of a family and friends that lived during that time and of their experiences.  Our librarian moderator had said that it was a sweet story with a lot of character growth.  I had not anticipated the amount of historical details that I would encounter that both spoke to me and my life and also caused me to think and ponder.  I'll share a bit about those.

My father was a WWII vet and he spent his time in the Pacific arena.  He didn't talk about it much, but he and my mother did share some memories of that time with us as we grew up.  My mother had memories of the Pearl Harbor attack and listening to the radio that day.  I knew that FDR had addressed the nation.  I did not remember that Eleanor Roosevelt also addressed the country and was the first public figure to do that day on her radio show.  The First Lady spoke to all Americans, but she also addressed the women and young people specifically.  What a strong leader she was! 

There were other things about Texas during the time - the fact that many pilots were trained here not far from our area.  Women did a lot of the ferrying of the planes back and forth so that the men training could have access to the equipment they needed.  I knew, of course, about the internment camps for Japanese Americans.  I had not heard as much about the German Americans.  Central Texas was settled by many people that came from Germany and Central Europe.  And there was discrimination during the war years.  I wrote a post here a few years ago about visiting Fredericksburg, Texas (about 20 miles from Kerrville where I live) and touring the National Pacific War Museum and seeing the Admiral Chester Nimitz Gallery.  Admiral Nimitz was born in Fredericksburg and was a descendent of some of those German settlers.  I could go on and on.  Ha!

Our book group enjoyed talking with Gail, the author, and she shared her love of historical research with us and talked about her writing life.  Many questions were asked and several in the group told a bit of their own stories and growing up knowing this or that regarding the topics brought up in the book.  It was a great meeting.  Glad I was able to attend.

I'm delighted to share a guest post by Gail Kittleson tomorrow.  She also has written other books set during that WWII time period.  You can find info about them on her website:  gailkittleson.com.      

Thursday, February 17, 2022

February reading and book groups so far...


Hello book friends!  Can you believe that February is already half over?  I can't.  The days are passing quickly.  I couldn't find a good picture from my morning walks (which have been a bit nippy this last couple of weeks), so I'm sharing a picture of my new library's 'Blind Date With A Book' display.  Have you ever tried one of those?  I've seen other libraries and bookstores have this type of event.  Books are gift-wrapped and a 'teaser' is taped to the 'gift'.  The patron decides on one to try, unwraps it, and begins reading their 'blind date'.  This library also included a nice bookmark.  After you try the book, you're asked to turn in a 'review' of your date.  It could be a 'dud' or you'll 'just be friends' or maybe 'love at first sight'.  Ha!  I had selected a book on Monday when I was volunteering and was going to check it out when I completed my 'shift' of shelving.  Well, someone else 'stole' my 'date'!  My second choice was a 'just friends' selection.  Or maybe a 'dud'.  I was nice in my 'review'.  (P.S. It really was a 'dud' for me!)  Oh, my 'blind date' was Milkman by Anna Burns.  Not for me.  Have you read it?

I've been busy the last couple of weeks with several things house related and we also were lucky enough to have an ice storm.  Most tiresome that was.  Not as bad as the big storm last year that Texas had, but we had to stay home for 2 or 3 days.


My reading has been progressing, but not as fast.  I did complete the book for the new Mystery Book Group here (will talk about that in a minute).  I also read The Unheard by Nicci French and Greenwich Park by Katherine Faulkner.  Both the last two fell into the psychological thriller realm and, though I've read other books by Nicci French and liked them, this one was only OK for me.  Greenwich Park has been reviewed well and I think many have liked it, but the protagonist was way too anxious for me and I ended up thinking that I need a break from these type books.

I've decided to catch up on J.D. Robb's Eve Dallas series and have now completed Faithless in Death and Forgotten in Death.  Today, I started Abandoned in Death, her newest that just came out.  My reading feels much better.  I love Eve and Roarke.  

Book Groups:

Since it's been a few weeks, I'll talk about a couple of book group meetings.  When I last posted, it was the day before the 'Talking Texas' Book Group met and we discussed Land That I Love written by Gail Kittleson.  I'm going to share about this book and our meeting, which the author attended, next week.  Gail also was kind enough to write a guest post for the blog and it will be up next week as well.  Stay tuned!  We really liked the book, by the way.

The ice storm cancelled our 'Historical Fiction' Book Group discussion unfortunately.  We had read The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  That one will be talked about quickly at our March 3rd meeting as well as the March book, These Is My Words by Nancy Turner.  Sadly, I'll have to miss the meeting as I'll be in Austin for a few days.  I read These Is My Words a number of years ago and liked it very much.  Have you tried that one?  Recommended.

The second week of the month is the 'Brown Bag' Book Group, which reads fiction/non-fiction.  We had a fun time talking about Lorna Landvik's newest, Chronicles of a Radical Hag.  Not many in the group had known of Lorna Landvik's books and another member and I recommended a few for them to try.  Ever read this author's works?  I've enjoyed what I've read.  Our book for March is The Library Book by Susan Orlean.  I'm looking forward to hearing what others think about that one.  And I think I'll re-read it. 

Have I confused you about my many book groups yet?  Ha!  Today's meeting was the 'Shrouded in Mystery' Book Group.  First book discussion and it was a lot of fun as well.  We talked about The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. I personally liked the book a lot, though I have heard from other bloggers that it wasn't quite such a favorite.  This group definitely got the whole 'older people' sleuth vibe.  One member wanted to sign up to move into the retirement community that the characters live in.  We talked about how it might look if adapted for TV and who might play the characters.  The librarian has read the second book in the series, The Man Who Died Twice, and said she really liked that one too.  I felt like I could see Helen Mirren as Elizabeth, the character that was a spy 'back in the day'.  Thumbs up from that group for sure.  Our next discussion will be The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths.  I love that book!  I had a good time telling them about the Ruth Galloway series by the author as well.  Hope some will try that as well as her Magic Men series.  

That's all I have about book groups.  As I said, I'll share more about Gail Kittleson's Land That I Love next week, as well as her guest post about historical research.

Hope all of you are well.  Now if only spring would burst forth with those wildflowers!!!                  

Monday, February 14, 2022

Happy Valentine's Day! Back soon...


Happy Valentine's Day to all of you!  Hope it is a day of love and good cheer and maybe a bit of chocolate, right?  We're going to a favorite restaurant tonight and are 'gifting' ourselves with something sweet - maybe cake or cobbler.  We don't do dessert much these days, but Valentine's Day deserves a treat.  As a 'blast from the past', we got engaged 42 years ago today - gotta celebrate that!  

I've been busy with a bunch of things and haven't gotten too many books read.  I'll try to get back around later in the week to update on reading, life, and book groups.  And maybe a picture of something from my walks if I find a suitable subject.  Still waiting for spring....take care!