Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Poetic Introduction to March

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"The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is." C.S. Lewis

"You got to be careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." Yogi Berra

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams." Eleanor Roosevelt

"One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
'Tis the set of sails
And not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
'Tis the set of a soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

"The year's at the spring
And the day's at the morn;
Morning's at seven;
The hillside's dew-pearled;
The lark's on the wing;
The snail's on the thorn:
God's in his heaven
All's right with the world!"
Robert Browning

"I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay.
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Outdid the sparkling waves in glee;
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company;

I gazed-and gazed-but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils."
William Wordsworth

The last two poems are from the book Random House Treasury-Best Loved Poems 3rd edition. The other poems were from my mother's hand writing, I don't know where she first read them. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

(Review) The Last Jews in Berlin by Leonard Gross

Publication Date: January 20, 2015.
Publisher: Open Road Media.
Genre: Holocaust, World War II, Berlin, Germany.
Pages: 245.
Source: Free copy from NetGalley, and Open Road Media in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Link @ Amazon: The Last Jews in Berlin. 

Additional link to read more information on Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.

Adolf Hitler became the chancellor and later Fuhrer of Germany beginning in 1933. Hitler and the Nazi Party (National-sozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) had become the political force. In 1933, there were 160,000 Jews living in Berlin. At the end of World War II, there were less than 1000 Jews living in Berlin. Leonard Gross interviewed and studied the testimonies of Jews who survived living in Berlin during the entire war. An important rule was the life stories had to be validated.

My Thoughts:
The Last Jews in Berlin answered two questions I'd had for many years: Were there Jews who survived living in Berlin during WWII? How did they survive?
They not only survived the Nazi's planned scourge, round-up, deportation, and death. They also survived the Jews who "worked" for the Nazi's to find and capture Jews who were in hiding. They survived starvation. They survived the bombings. They survived sickness. They survived their own fears and madness.
Several men and women's stories are shared. The chapters move back and forth between them. I did not have a problem keeping up with the rhythm of the writing.
The book is divided into sections pertaining to history. For example: Eastern Front (war on the Eastern Front with the Soviet Union) and Deliverance (the end of the war.)
The book has differing examples of survivors. For example: a young female seamstress, versus a tough-minded jewelry business man who has a young family.
I saw the background of historical and political events, and the everyday people who were dramatically affected by it.
Lastly, the people who stood-up in defiance against Nazism by hiding Jews. Often these rescuers were arrested and murdered.
The Last Jews in Berlin is an amazing compilation of survivor stories. I'm thankful to have been able to read and review this gem.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Future Reviews

War and Peace Read-a-Long, Week Two

Link for the host page of War and Peace Read-a-Long. 
Our reading schedule of War and Peace Read-a-Long. 

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel has changed this week? Has that affected your enjoyment?
The tone of the novel has changed in that book two is (mainly) focused on the war. There is a brief section of romantic moments. 

2) Do you feel comfortable telling other people that you're reading War and Peace? 
I am comfortable talking about any book I read. Most people do not ask, not even my husband. Family rarely asks what I'm reading. On a rare occasion a friend asks what I'm reading. I am the only person in my little world who reads classics, and who reads as many books in a year as I do. I almost scratched that entire paragraph because I feel like I'm bragging. Pardon me if it appears this way. 

3) How do you feel about Helene and Pierre's marriage? Happily ever after or mildly doomed? 

All marriages have a point when reality strikes. War is a big reality check point. I am hoping their "in-love" feelings will develop and grow strong roots of lasting love, faithful love, committed love. 

4) Should Marya have married Anatole or should she have stayed at home with her Father? 
I am relieved she did not agree to marry Anatole. Anatole has shown the kind of person he is and Marya is wise to have passed him by. I do believe she is "selling herself short" but she has low self-worth. I'm hoping as the novel unfolds her character and inner beauty will grow. 

5) Andrey is featured in a lot of the war-related chapters so far. Do you think he'll ever make it to military greatness?
I'm not sure if he will be a military hero. Heroes are not made as if it is a career to attain. Heroes are defined by fulfilling their assigned task, some tasks are small and some are great. 
I do wonder. Why does he want to be a hero? Who is he trying to impress?

This weeks reading was 2 books, I got a little behind. I am caught-up as of today.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

(Review) Mist of Midnight, Daughters of Hampshire, Book One by Sandra Byrd

Publication Date: March 10, 2015.
Publisher: Howard Books/Simon and Schuster.
Genre: Fiction, Victorian England, India, Gothic romance, mystery.
Pages: 384.
Source: Free copy from Howard Books and CBA Tours in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Link @ Simon and Schuster/Howard Books.
Link @ Amazon. 
Link @ Barnes and Nobles. 

In the first of a brand-new series set in Victorian England, a young woman returns home from India after the death of her family to discover her identity and inheritance are challenged by the man who holds her future in his hands. Rebecca Ravenshaw, daughter of missionaries, spent most of her life in India. Following the death of her family in the Indian Mutiny, Rebecca returns to claim her family estate in Hampshire, England. Upon her return, people are surprised to see her...and highly suspicious. Less than a year earlier, an impostor had arrived with an Indian servant and assumed not only Rebecca's name, but her home and incomes. That pretender died within months of her arrival; the servant fled to London as the young woman was hastily buried at midnight. The locals believe that perhaps she, Rebecca, is the real impostor. Her home and her father's investments reverted to a distant relative, the darkly charming Captain Luke Whitfield, who quickly took over. Against her best intentions, Rebecca begins to fall in love with Luke, but she is forced to question his motives—does he love her or does he just want Headbourne House? If Luke is simply after the property, as everyone suspects, will she suffer a similar fate as the first “Rebecca”? A captivating Gothic love story set against a backdrop of intrigue and danger, Mist of Midnight will leave you breathless.

My Thoughts:
The time period for the story begins in 1858. The place is Hampshire, England.
Mist of Midnight is described as a "Gothic romance." I believe it has a mystery element, but there is no horror. I was not frightened while reading the story, but I felt a mistrust in some of the characters. Actually, most of the characters seemed to be holding something back, or appeared to be. Later, I understood why their actions showed me their mistrust.
Rebecca Ravenshaw is the main character and heroine of the story. She is a savvy young woman. I enjoyed reading a story with a strong Victorian age female leading character. I dislike stories of damsels in distress who are not able to think or contemplate wise words and actions. She is not foolhardy, nor is swept away by emotions. A fainting couch is not needed for Rebecca.
I love it when animals are characters in a story. Bravo for adding a smart cat to the story-line.
I loved reading about India during the mid 1800s. India is a country that I've little knowledge of its history and culture. The caste social system is expounded on in the story, as well as the history of the Indian Mutiny.
An important feature in the story is God and mission work. Rebecca's parents left England and were missionaries in India. Rebecca was active in working alongside her parents. She knows Scripture and is a prayer warrior.
Rebecca has an abiding love for India and its people. England is a stranger. This added a fresh take to the story. Rebecca is English, yet has little memory of England and its current Victorian culture.

When I first heard about the book I missed it that it's Christian. If I'd known, the review would be posted on my other blog only. If you are turned off by Christian prayer and Bible verses than this is not the book for you.

About the author:
Sandra Byrd is a best-selling author and has earned Library Journal's Best Books of the year pick twice, in 2011 for To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn, and in 2012 for The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr.  She's twice been a Christy Award finalist, for To Die For and for Let Them Eat Cake: A Novel. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published April 2013
Sandra Byrd's website
Sandra @ Pinterest 
Sandra @ Twitter
Sandra @ Facebook

Thursday, February 12, 2015

(Review) A Fine Summer's Day: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery by Charles Todd

Publication Date: January 6, 2015.
Publisher: William Morrow/HarperCollins Publishers.
Genre: British murder mystery, pre-WWI, WWI, detective story.
Pages: 368.
Source: Free advanced reader ebook copy from HarperCollins in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

A Fine Summer's Day is book 17 in the Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery books.

Link @ Amazon. 

To read a sample:

It's late June 1914. Detective Ian Rutledge is in his early years of detective work for Scotland Yard. His superintendent is Bowles, a man who is often difficult to comprehend, he's moody and sullen. Rutledge is sent on an assignment for a murder case. Meanwhile, Rutledge becomes engaged to the lovely Jean Gordon. Their engagement comes on the day of the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie. Talk of war begins immediately in Europe. Rutledge hopes the talk will not proceed Great Britain's involvement. Jean's father is a military man and she has vainglorious visions for Rutledge. A Fine Summer's Day is a perfect title for the last of the "fine" days before World War I began.

My Thoughts:
I've read several books in the Ian Rutledge Mystery series. I'm pleased A Fine Summer's Day shares Rutledge's life prior to World War I. The rest of the series of books are post World War I.
A Fine Summer's Day gave me background information about Rutledge. His family life, romance, pre-World War I personality, parents, and relationship with superintendent Bowles.
Another aspect of the book showed me Rutledge's insecurities in regard to his career choice; further, his struggles of being a detective and balancing a personal life.
A Fine Summer's Day explores the gusto and naivete of people vigorous for war. However, they did not understand war's burdens, most pronounced the maiming of peoples lives, destruction, and death.
Rutledge is a vulnerable character because of his torn feelings. He is a torn character through all of the series, but in A Fine Summer's Day I see where "it" all began.
From the beginning of the story when the labor pangs of war begin, through to the end of the book, there is a crescendo of war building. At first it is talk that seems far away, then Russia becomes involved, and later when Germany over-takes Belgium, the verdict is set. Britain will be at war.
I loved every aspect of this story and feel it is the best in the Ian Rutledge Mystery series!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Week One: War and Peace Read-a-Long

The link to read the first week at the host site:

I signed up to read War and Peace, February 5th. I was able to manage reading book one (117 pages) in a couple of days. My copy of War and Peace is The Modern Library Classics edition, translated by Constance Garnett, and with an introduction by A.N. Wilson.
The questions for this week:

  1. What pre-existing ideas did you have about War and Peace? I did not have any bad pre-existing ideas about the story. It is long. The war is between France and Russia, the Napoleonic Wars. There is a love story. It is an epic story. A study of Russian aristocracy, it's culture and society. 
  2. On that note, is it as bad as you'd expected? No. I am enjoying the story. 
  3. What strategies are you employing? I have a post-it-note at the end of each book. It is normal for me to place a post-it-note at every 100 pages when I'm reading a lengthy book. My goal at one sitting is to read 100 pages. Instead, in reading War and Peace, I'm reading each book in length and then stopping. I've noticed all the books lengths are a little over 100 pages. There are thirteen books plus an epilogue. 
  4. How are you getting on with your translation? The story is wonderful and I've not noticed a problem. 
  5. Most and least favourite characters? I dislike both Prince Andrey Bolkonsky and his wife Princess Lise (Liza) Bolkonsky. He is disrespectful, and she is whiny and clingy. There is much more to their story than book one has revealed. Their marriage is in threads, frayed threads. There is an argument between them that made me uncomfortable, and I'm just a spectator. 
  6. How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book? I dislike the attitude of this society in general. These are some of my observations. A woman's duty was to marry and have children (heirs). In the aristocracy, marriages were for the most part arranged, there was little choice for the couple. Beginning a marriage when they do not love each other and maybe do not even like each other is hard for me to comprehend. Women did not have a voice, they were to obey their fathers and husbands. Women were to be respectful, beautiful, and not too smart (or at least do not show intelligence.)  
The first book is entertaining and enlightening. It brings the characters to the stage for me to get to know them a little. To observe their character in good circumstances and not so good circumstances. 
The time period is brutal. A war with Napoleon and his army is beginning. As is common in the early stages of war, patriotism and gusto swarm among the people. 
I have loved the conversations and dialogues of the characters. I feel Tolstoy has given me panoramic view. It's as if I'm in the room with the characters and can view each of them and listen in on their chats and spats.