Sunday, April 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Well it isn't really Monday yet, but I want to get a jump on things.  I am rereading Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.  This time I decided to read it section by section and then read the corresponding novel.  The first section discusses Lolita so that is what I will start tonight.  Nafisi's perspective is that Lolita is not simply about an older man who is obsessed with a young girl; but, it is about a man obsessed with stealing her life and creating a new existence for her.  That is creepy and sad in a vastly different way than just the story of a pervert!  I am anxious to form my own opinion.  I will definitely post more as I get into the story.

Monday, March 9, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Book Journey hosts this weekly event.  I'm glad to post once again.

I am rereading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.  I just finished Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and want to keep it in the family.

I have read Wuthering Heights a few times because I taught it long ago.  It is nice to revisit a good book.  It is like running into an old friend - catching up.  Unfortunately, there is a big snow storm in the first chapter.  I almost put it down but I moved on braving the memories of our snow just last week.

When reading this novel, it is important to pay attention.  There are changes in narration from Lockwood to Nelly.  After a while, I noticed the style change and it became easier.  I am taking a little break as my Kindle recharges.  I am not good about remembering to charge at night.

Is It March Aready?

Where did the time go?  I have been caught up in all sorts of mishaps but through it all I am still reading.  In fact, I have had some wonderful times reading and I will post specific reviews later.  Now I just want to touch base and return to the land of the visible!  I had a horrible bout with the flu and then I generously passed it on to Jim.  My immune system must have been weak because I had a slight relapse.  Then came the frigid cold and snow.  If I never see another snow drift, it will be too soon.  I feel guilty complaining in light of what my friends in Massachusetts have endured but this winter hit me harder than most.  I look forward to my chair on the beach with my current book.

My February reads centered in Africa.  I rarely read thematically but the more I read, the more I wanted to know.  I enjoyed it immensely.

In March, I seem to be reading about strong women....well women who at times were strong.

I am keeping up with all my challenges, especially the Reading Assignment.  There has been no cheating and I have read the books listed in their proper time.

I will post more.  Just know that I am back.

Friday, January 16, 2015


Speculative fiction is a broad literary genre encompassing any fiction with supernatural, fantastical, or futuristic elements.

Flanders by Patricia Anthony is labeled "speculative fiction."  It is the story of a young Texan who joins the British army during World War I.  Told through his letters home to his younger brother, Travis Lee Stanhope describes life in the trenches during his services as a sharpshooter. There are elements of supernatural.  Stanhope has visions of those who have died around him, those who are important to him.  But this is not a ghost story.  This in not a only a war story; it is a coming of age story. Travis Lee is an outsider.  The men around him accept him but only as a novelty "yank."  His one true friend is an outsider as well, an officer who is Jewish. 

Flanders gets a five star rating from me.  While I was reading, there was that tightness in the back of my throat that comes when sobs threaten. I would try to put it down so I could breathe but I soon picked it back up again.   More than any of the other World War I books that I have read this month, I saw just how cruel war can be.  The book doesn't have more gory scenes or more harsh battle descriptions, but the effects of battle on the soldiers is more evident.  It is felt more by the reader.  To say this is a beautiful story is misleading but nevertheless it touches the heart.

From Publishers Weekly

In Flanders Fields, where so many died so horribly during WWI, an American volunteer named Travis Lee Stanhope finds terror, death, forgiveness and, ultimately, an odd sort of salvation. Anthony (God's Fires), one of speculative fiction's brightest talents, has written a novel of the Great War that is worthy of comparison to Erich Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Travis Lee is a wonderfully complex character, a wild boy from Texas who had the brains to win a scholarship to Harvard, a survivor of childhood abuse who hates his alcoholic father but fears he may be turning into him. Uncomfortable at home and at school, Travis, like many young Americans in 1916, enlists in the British army in search of adventure. What he finds instead is the monstrous human meatgrinder that is Flanders in northern France. Few writers have succeeded so well as Anthony in describing the horrors of trench warfare, the mud and disease, the rotting bodies and unending bombardment, the virtually universal madness that turns men into killers and rapists. Travis Lee is a talented sharpshooter, but as months of terror go by and the number of his kills grows, he beings to see things, at first in his dreams and later on the battlefield itself. Ghosts begin to haunt him, unwilling or unable to leave the shell craters and barbed wire where their lives ended. Told by a battlefield chaplain that he's gifted with the Second Sight, Travis Lee repeatedly finds himself wandering in an unearthly cemetery, a melancholy place that nonetheless hints at the possibility of eternal life. This is a harrowing and beautiful novel, demonstrating?again?that Anthony is one of our finest writers, in and out of the genre.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Cousin Rachel

Do you read books and then see the movie or do you see the movie and then check out the book?  I have done both but I prefer to read the book first.  In the case of Rebecca by Daphne duMaurier I saw the movie first and then had to read the book.  I fell in love with duMaurier.

My Cousin Rachel has been on my TBR stack for quite some time and finally I pulled it out.

"They used to hang men at Four Turnings in the old days.  Not anymore, though.  Now, when a murderer pays the penalty for his crime, he does so up at Bodmin, after fair trial at the Assizes.  That is, if the law convicts him, before his own conscience kills him.  It is better so.  Like a surgical operation.  And the body has decent burial, though a nameless grave.  When I was a child it was otherwise.  I can remember as a little lad seeing a fellow hang in chains where the four roads meet.  His face and body were blackened with tar for preservation.  He hung there for five weeks before they cut him down, and it was the fourth week that I saw him."

Granted this is no "Road to Manderley" but I would avoid walking down a road with a tar covered hanging corpse.

I'm giving this a thumbs up and off I wander.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays

It could be worse.  Some nearby areas have ice and sleet.  The shore is just getting rain.  At least I have a  good stash of books.

Hounds of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tops my list today.  Coffee and a book are a great way to take a break while cleaning the kitchen.  I love mysteries; it seems appropriate that I read one of the original detective series.  I am amazed at Holmes obvious deductions that are so easily overlooked by the average onlooker.  Sometimes I get so caught up in looking for the obvious that I miss the story and must go back and reread.

In addition to my "book" I am listening to The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper.  This is good company during the actual cleaning.  Both are classics that I have been meaning to tackle so life is good.

Now for another cup of coffee....

Thursday, January 8, 2015


This is what was awaiting me at South Coastal Library this morning.  I had two to return.  I love my library.  When I pulled on to the parking lot it was packed.  In the meeting room was a speaker on health foods.  From what I could see it was standing room only.  In the main part of the library, the computers were filled.  This little branch is always busy.  I didn't explore; I just picked up my holds and headed to the grocery store.  I have veggies simmering in chicken stock for soup.  Already it smells good.

In the background you might be able to see a corner craft cubby to sit on top of the craft table I got for Christmas.  I've moved it now and I am ready to stock it.  Boxes be gone!

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I admit it.  I am a wuss when it comes to extreme cold, but I don't like extreme heat either.  That is not the case today.  We are under a deep freeze and awful wind chills.  Nothing like Chicago and the Midwest but bad for the mid-Atlantic states.

I'd like nothing more than to stay in bed with coffee and a book.  I have plenty of both but the siren's call of books being held at the library beckons.  While I am out I may as well go up the street a little more to the grocery store.  It is National Soup month.  I think we will have some chicken noodle soup - homemade.  I would like some good bread or rolls with it.

I have good intentions.  Now I just need to come out from under the covers and dress for the cold.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Banned Book Challenge #1

This is not a boy and his dog book.  Call of the Wild by Jack London is a survival of the fittest story at its best.

Buck, the protagonist of the novel, is a St. Bernard shepherd mix who lives a comfortable existence in the home of The Judge and his family.  He is stolen by a gardener's helper in need of extra cash and sold to men who aim to take him to the Yukon to sell as a sled dog.

Buck passes through the hands of several handlers falling victim to various degrees of violence and mistreatment all the while learning to survive and become alpha dog.  When Buck is eventually rescued by John Thornton, Buck is loved and loves in return.  Despite this comfort and satisfaction, Buck develops a yearning for his hereditary roots in the wild.  After a disaster at camp, Buck enters the wild for good earning the reputation as the Ghost Dog.

At first, I was not sure I could imagine why Call of the Wild would be a "banned book."  I research online to see if I could find credible explanations.

1.  It is labeled "inappropriate for targeted age group."  I am sure this is directed at school systems. In the system where I taught high school English, Call of the Wild is identified for grade 9 (14-15 year-olds).  Common Core lexiles also identify it for grade 9.  There is violence directed at the dogs which might upset dog lovers but I believe this age group could grasp the intent of the author.  There is also violence by the dogs, but again, I believe this age group would see it as part of the whole of nature.  The tone is dark but it is an element of literature and should be examined as such.

2.  There are definite elements of Darwinism - Survival of the fittest.  That doesn't affect my religious views (which are fairly conservative) but some might object.  This is where parental guidance could be important in explaining that while some may believe Darwin, we don't.  Let the student or reader see two sides.

3.  This book was banned and burned in Nazi Germany for its  revolutionary ideas.

I wouldn't challenge this book.  It provides excellent fodder for discussion.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Reading Assignment Challenge - January Complete

I have read both of the books I chose for January in the Reading Assignment Challenge: All Quiet on the Western Front on January 2 and Birdsong today.

This is only the second book I have read this year but I have to say it is a favorite.  I have had this book on my shelves for years and I thought I had read it, but as I perused my shelves for this challenge, I picked it up and flipped through it realizing I had no idea what it was about.  If I have in fact read it previously then my mind must have been elsewhere.

As mentioned with All Quiet on the Western Front, I have been on a World War I kick.  This is set during the war but it does flash forward to 1978.  Not only is this a war story, but it is a love story which in itself is somewhat a war story.

The protagonist is Stephen Wraysford.  As the novel opens he leaves England to visit a factory in France.  While he lives with the factory owner's family, he has an affair with the wife.  Eventually they leave together, but when she discovers she is pregnant she leaves him.  The other story involves their granddaughter in 1978.  The remaining six sections of the book go back and forth with World War I and Elizabeth's search to find out more about her grandfather.

The tragedy of the war is compounded with the tragedy of Stephen's life.  At times the book is truly heartbreaking.

"No one in England knows what this is like.  If they could see the way these men live they would not believe their eyes.  The is not a war, this is an exploration of how far men can be degraded."

From Amazon
Published to international critical and popular acclaim, this intensely romantic yet stunningly realistic novel spans three generations and the unimaginable gulf between the First World War and the present. As the young Englishman Stephen Wraysford passes through a tempestuous love affair with Isabelle Azaire in France and enters the dark, surreal world beneath the trenches of No Man's Land, Sebastian Faulks creates a world of fiction that is as tragic as A Farewell to Arms and as sensuous as The English Patient. Crafted from the ruins of war and the indestructibility of love, Birdsong is a novel that will be read and marveled at for years to come.

FrFrom Publishers Weekly

In 1910, England's Stephen Wraysford, a junior executive in a textile firm, is sent by his company to northern France. There he falls for Isabelle Azaire, a young and beautiful matron who abandons her abusive husband and sticks by Stephen long enough to conceive a child. Six years later, Stephen is back in France, as a British officer fighting in the trenches. Facing death, embittered by isolation, he steels himself against thoughts of love. But despite rampant disease, harrowing tunnel explosions and desperate attacks on highly fortified German positions, he manages to survive, and to meet with Isabelle again. The emotions roiled up by this meeting, however, threaten to ruin him as a soldier. Everything about this novel, which was a bestseller in England, is outsized, from its epic, if occasionally ramshackle, narrative to its gruesome and utterly convincing descriptions of battlefield horrors. Faulks (A Fool's Alphabet) proves himself a grand storyteller here. Enlivened with considerable historical detail related through accomplished prose, his narrative flows with a pleasingly appropriate recklessness that brings his characters to dynamic life.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

The Kindness of Friends

This hasn't been my greatest Christmas.  It was a quiet peaceful time at home with Jim but in the back of our in the front...we have been remembering our daughter Lisa.  She was killed on December 29, 2013 so we are completing a year of firsts without her.  I thought I was handling things admirably but on the first Sunday of Advent, I cried throughout the church service.  As part of a women's Spiritual Retreat planning group, I found myself crying through the prayer.  I cried at my weight loss group.  I cried in Sunday School.

Perhaps all the crying left me open to illness because right after Christmas I came down with the flu that my flu shot wasn't prepared for.  So I have been a mess.  Currently, I am a recovering mess.

I have been overwhelmed by the kindness of friends.  No one was embarrassed by my outbreaks.  No one nervously looked away or giggled.  Everyone surrounded me with compassion and love.

I have received texts and emails checking on me, asking if I needed shopping or food.  It has been amazing.  So here and now I give a shout out to all those who loved me in my misery.  Thank You.

Friday, January 2, 2015

All Quiet on the Western Front

"The cries continued.  It is not men, they would not cry so terribly.
      'Wounded horses,' says Kat.
It's unendurable.  It is the moaning of the world, it is martyred creation, wild with anguish, filled with terror, and groaning....
The screaming of the beasts becomes louder.  One can no longer distinguish whence in this now quiet silvery landscape it comes; ghostly, invisible, it is everywhere, between heaven and earth it rolls on immeasurable."

I'm not sure why this description from everything stuck with me except that it stuck with the men as well.  The death, the wounding, the waste of everything and the meaninglessness of it all is emphasized in the destruction of these animals.

Erich Maria Remarque fought in World War I.  This is his reflection.  It is not a memoir, only his impressions.  On more than one occasion he wonders through his characters reactions if both sides of soldiers are simply innocent machines fighting on the orders of nameless, faceless "leaders."  The British soldiers in the Anne Perry Series wonder the same thing.  Both groups recognize the humanity of their foes.  That by far is the saddest part of this novel.  The soldiers we were taught were the enemies were victims as were the soldiers of the allies.

I was also touched by how difficult it was fro the main character, Paul Baumer to return to his home on leave.  No one knows quite how to behave.  No one knows quite what to discuss.  He doesn't seem to belong anymore.  He can't wait to return to the front and his friends.

This is not a very long book.  It is a translation and for the most part it reads smoothly.  There was only one instance that I felt needed a footnote.  Baumer and his friend encounter the teacher who encouraged them to enlist.  He is now also a soldier but they refer to him as "Territorial" Kantorek.  It is used clearly as some sort of rank but I had never heard of it.  With a little reaseach (thank goodness for google) I found out that it is a soldier of the "reserve."  He was considered lower than regular army.  Anyway, a footnote would have been easier.

I recommend this for a look at the other side of World War I.  I may have been able to include this on the Banned Book Challenge because this was the first book the Nazis banned when they began their book burning campaign.


"Considered by many the greatest war novel of all time, All Quiet on the Western Front is Erich Maria Remarque’s masterpiece of the German experience during World War I.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. . . .

This is the testament of Paul Bäumer, who enlists with his classmates in the German army during World War I. They become soldiers with youthful enthusiasm. But the world of duty, culture, and progress they had been taught breaks in pieces under the first bombardment in the trenches.

Through years of vivid horror, Paul holds fast to a single vow: to fight against the principle of hate that meaninglessly pits young men of the same generation but different uniforms against one another . . .  if only he can come out of the war alive.

“The world has a great writer in Erich Maria Remarque. He is a craftsman of unquestionably first rank, a man who can bend language to his will. Whether he writes of men or of inanimate nature, his touch is sensitive, firm, and sure.”The New York Times Book Review

Happy New Year!

2015 - I can't believe it.  It seems that just yesterday we were looking forward to the year 2000 and all it might (or might not) bring.

My first book of the year is All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque.

This picture was also sent for the First Book of the Year challenge.

I just have a bit more to read and then I will post  my first review.  This is also part of the Reading Assignment Challenge and the Classics Challenge.  I'm off to a good start.