Saturday, July 25, 2015

(Review) Gone With The Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Publication Date: Originally published 1936. My Scribner copy was published 2007.
Publisher: Scribner.
Genre: Fiction, Southern Literature, Civil War.
Pages: 959.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating; 4 stars for very good.

This book is counted for the following book challenges.
I have no idea what happened to the blog and host who was the promoter of the Gone With The Wind Read-a-Long. The blog is shut down. I knew other bloggers who were working through Gone With The Wind, but I'm not seeing current posts on the book.
I'm pleased that I can now state I've read Gone With The Wind. I know a few people who've shared they've read Gone With The Wind multiple times. They fell madly in love with the story and continue to read and reread it. But I don't think I'll read the book again. I'm glad I read it, but don't care to read it again. Actually...and I know this is going to be shocking, but I love the movie better. The books last 300 plus pages were annoying. I just wanted to get finished!

Gone With the Wind is known to most people in the western world as a film made in the late 1930s. The principal film stars were Vivian Leigh, Clark Gable, Hattie McDaniel, Olivia de Havilland, and Leslie Howard.
The movie and book differ widely. The main elements are the same. There are several key patterns and characters in the book who are not in the film, or in the case of one individual-her character is magnified in the film.
I hate to give to much of the differences away in the review.
However, Gone With The Wind is the story of Scarlett O'Hara and her family, who are plantation owners in rural north Georgia. The time period begins in the days before the Civil War, and continues through the Reconstruction Period.

My Thoughts:
My first thought is Scarlett is an unlikable character, and she is unliked by many of the characters in the book. She is a force to be reckoned with. She is beautiful, but also: emotional, high-strung, vain, arrogant, prideful, spoiled, insensitive, selfish, hostile, volatile, superficial, unkind, and several other words I can think of. The characters in the book either love her or they hate her. She is a character people respond to strongly. She reminds me of a bright light that bugs swarm around. They cannot help but be attracted to her zest and strengths, whether these strengths are positive or negative. I feel this is why Scarlett's character works in the book. She is a larger than life character that all the other characters move around. She certainly makes for entertainment.
I love the character Melanie Hamilton Wilkes. Her character is opposite in nature to Scarlett. Scarlett's mother is also the opposite of Scarlett. But Melanie is the epitome of grace, mercy, femininity, and motherhood. When Scarlett and Melanie are in the same scene together, their personalities are highlighted.
One of the surprises about the Gone With The Wind book is Rhett Butler's character. In the book, he is in less scenes than I remember him being in the film. He is still a primary character, and his famous quotes from the film are in the book, but a great part of the book he is absent.
The vulgar words used to describe African American slaves disturbed me. However, it is important to understand these words, (and the thought behind them as well as the attitude) were used through to the 20th century in describing this race. It does not make it okay, but it was how generations of people spoke. Not necessarily in the south were these words used, but slang terms for all races are a bad habit, degrading, insensitive, shocking, belittling, disrespectful, and haughty. Gone With The Wind is a key reminder of where we were, and where we don't ever want to be again. Let's move forward with dignity and wisdom.
The Civil War is mainly depicted through the eyes of Scarlett. Secondly, through the other characters. For example: Ashley Wilkes's demeanor and body language exhibit the trials and sufferings of the war. He is an example of what the white men in his generation had lived through; and thus carried the memories of what life had been like before the war and the change afterwards.
Rhett Butler's ideas about the war and afterwards during the Reconstruction, puts a different spin than the other characters who have a defeated attitude.
Gone With The Wind has other characters who are not people, they are the South (it's geography, culture, and society), and the plantation Tara. If there is a great love story in Gone With The Wind, it is the love Scarlett has for Tara. It is the only consistent substance she truly loves, and is willing to do anything no matter the cost.

Friday, July 24, 2015

(Review) The Lady of The Rivers by Philippa Gregory

Publication Date: October 18, 2011.
Publisher: A Touchstone Book/Simon and Schuster
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 443.
Source: self-purchased.
Rating: 2 1/2 to 3 stars. Somewhere in the rating land of okay to good.

The Cousin's War is a series of 6 books:
Book One---The White Queen
Book Two---The Red Queen
Book Three---The Lady of the Rivers
Book Four---The Kingmaker's Daughter
Book Five---The White Princess
Book Six---The King's Curse

I've read The Kingmaker's Daughter and The Red Queen. I gave 5 stars to The Kingmaker's Daughter and 4 stars to The Red Queen. I did not like The Lady of The Rivers as much. I vacillated between 2 and 3 stars. What pushed the score to 3, is I loved the portrayal of admiration, partnership, respect, and love between Jacquetta and her husband Richard Woodville.

Links for more information:
Jacquetta of Luxembourg, from Philippa Gregory's webpage.
Jacquetta of Luxembourg, from Susan Higginbotham's webpage.  
Richard Woodville, Britannica. 

The Lady of the Rivers begins with Jacquetta as a friend and confidante to Joan of Arc. It's historically known that Jacquetta's uncle held Joan of Arc and later sold her to the English. A new tale is weaved with the two young women (adolescents) having a friendship.
A main theme running through The Lady of the Rivers, is Jacquetta's use of alchemy, incantations, spells, and charms to control her life and her family's destiny. Jacquetta is a resourceful and calculating person. She is not a character presented as devious or cruel, but she certainly uses her "charms" to control destiny.
Jacquetta married twice. Her second marriage was to Richard Woodville. Their marriage began with love and they produced fourteen children.
I felt the relationship between Richard and Jacquetta was one of the best parts of this story. So often in stories I've read of this period in history, the married couples do not love each other. Most marriages were arranged. These marriages remind me of business transactions. They were for money, power, heritage, lineage, and to bring future generations into the dynasty.
What I did not like about the story is the atmosphere of a soap opera. As if the historical characters needed more drama than they already had, their lives were not lively or bawdy enough. For example, the story of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. Their story is spiced up a bit, because added information is given that is not historically proven, it is speculation.
Historical fiction is often downplayed and picked apart for accuracy. I'm not a reviewer that is a staunch supporter for perfection in historical fiction. However, it does get on my nerve when I feel a book is overtly dramatized. I've never been a person who likes people in the real world, or in the fictional world as being melodramatic.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

(Review) Solomon's Bride: The Tiger and The Dove, Book Two by Rebecca Hazell

Publication Date: April 7, 2014.
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 384.
Source: Free copy from Rebecca Hazell in exchange for a review.
Rating: 2 1/2 stars for okay to good.


My previous review of book One, The Grip of God. 

Sofia was taken captive by Mongol invaders from her Rus' kingdom in book one. In book two, Sofia and her servant are able to escape to Iran. She has left one people group who held her captive and has become captive to another people group. The new group is of a different culture and religion from the Mongols, and they are both completely different from her eastern European homeland. Book one explored the Mongol culture, society, and religion. Book two explores the Islamic religion.

My Thoughts:
The first book in this series I loved and gave it five stars for excellent. But Solomon's Bride did not catch hold of my interest. The last quarter of the book I felt a small investment in Sofia's life. But the pages before felt more like a travel guide in story through the Muslim region and religion.
On a positive note, Sofia continues (in book two) to be an intelligent, bright, strong-willed, and precocious girl. When the second book begins she is age 15. I admire her tenacity and intelligence. I admire her desire to learn. I admire her faithfulness to the people she loves. At times, she wrestles with the culture and laws of the people she has come under control. She justifies and tries to make peace by studying the people group and finding common ground.
Other religions are explored in the book, for example: Buddhism, Nestorian, Manichaeism, Judaism, and Astrology.
At times, there is an alluding to all religions worship the same God. But on page 140, Sofia states, "Other than forms of worship, our deep difference lay in their not believing Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God. That was difference enough, but all three religions teach love and justice and goodness." Sofia ponders the differences in religions, and the freedom to believe and think differently, she then decided "...not to dwell on such questions, as they only added to" her "bleak mood."
A person who is a Christian, which means a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, they understand the words and meanings of Messiah and Son of God. For a person who is not a believer in Jesus Christ, these attributes do not mean anything.
Solomon's Bride touches briefly on the name Jesus, but does not give the full meaning (elaborate) of who Jesus is. Jesus is God in the flesh, the Christ, Savior of mankind, King of Kings, Creator, and Righteous Redeemer. Solomon's Bride does not explain the word faith (not faith in an ikon but in Jesus Christ Himself.)
As a Christian (and I am aware Solomon's Bride is not a Christian book but it has a strong element of religion) I feel Solomon's Bride fell flat.
The Islamic religion is explained in-depth in Solomon's Bride, but the Christian religion/beliefs, were not fully explained.
Towards the end of the book the Catholic belief system is explored and compared to Orthodox views.
Since there is a book three in this series, it's possible further explanations of the Christian belief will be explained, or maybe another religion will be explored?  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

(Review) The Cost of Courage by Charles Kaiser

Publication Date: June 16, 2015.
Publisher: Other Press. 
Genre: Nonfiction, French Resistance during World War II, Nazi Germany, Boulloche family.
Pages: 288.
Source: Free ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.
Barnes and Noble

The Cost of Courage is the story of the history of World War II, the Nazi German occupation, and one family who worked in the French Resistance for liberty.
The Boulloche family comprised of the parents, two sons, and two daughters. Three of the children while in their 20s were members of the resistance.

My Thoughts:
World War II and the Holocaust are two genres I read frequently. My dad was in the army during World War II and he was a D-day Veteran landing on Omaha Beach. From an early age, I had an interest in World War II history. Listening to the stories dad shared with mother and I at the dinner table kindled the interest and it has never left.
The Cost of Courage centers around the Boulloche family; however, the historical events of World War II is told chronologically along with the family's work and personal lives during the war.
The Cost of Courage is a narrative nonfiction book. It is both a history nonfiction piece and the memoir of a family.
What I loved about The Cost of Courage:

  • Charles Kaiser shares how he came to know the family, which showed me he had more than a historical interest in the family's resistance work during World War II, but an intimate personal interest. 
  • The Boulloche family was a blend of different personalities and beliefs, yet they were dedicated and devoted to one another. 
  • Detailed description of the French Resistance. The Boulloche's each had duties to perform and this is depicted.
  • I had a strong investment in the story. Two strong points led me to be invested from the first page: The love and selfless drive of the Boulloche family. They were willing to risk their lives for the safety and survival of each other. Further, their devotion and dedication to Paris and France. A second reason is the recreation of what Parisians lived through during the Nazi German occupation. 
  • Life after the occupation for the Boulloche family. The book follows the rebuilding of their lives and how the war affected them personally and to the next generation.  

Friday, June 26, 2015

(Review) All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Publication Date: May 2014.
Publisher: Scribner. 
Genre: Historical fiction, France, World War II.
Pages: 544.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

A National Book Award finalist.
All The Light We Cannot See won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Barnes and Noble

Marie-Laure LeBlanc is blind. She is age 12 when the story begins. She and her father, a locksmith, leave Paris, France, when the Occupation of the Nazi's began. They travel to Saint-Malo, a port city in Brittany, France. Her father has a priceless and hidden jewel. They live with an eccentric uncle.
An orphaned German boy named Werner Pfennig becomes a cadet at a school in Germany. He has a gift for math and understanding radios.
Marie-Laure and Werner's paths will cross in 1944.

My Thoughts:
I loved the idea of the book more than the story itself.
I loved what I'd heard about the book more than reading it.
I've given the book 4 stars for very good. I did not feel it was a 5 star book for excellent.

  • The main reason is the jumping back and forth and in between with the time periods. I was able to keep up with the time periods, but the chapters are short, sometimes two pages. When I felt apart of one period in time (apart of the story, invested), it stopped, jumping to another time period. I needed a longer pause in one place to view the characters and the present story.  
  • The second reason for giving All The Light We Cannot See 4 stars is the story-line is not wrapped up in a way I always understood. I backed up and reread chapters asking myself, what is really going on and am I missing something.  
The story and characters are memorable and haunting. 
The characters are living during a historical event they have no voice or power to control or escape. 
There is symbolism in the story: 
  • Marie-Laure and Werner are teenagers in 1944. Youth is like spring. But war is a bleak, frozen, barren winter. 
  • The priceless gem reminds me of the priceless human life. 
  • The fortified city of Saint-Malo is liken to a city set apart, and Marie-Laure is like the princess of the city (a very unlikely princess) who is destined for a great task. On the other hand, the Nazi army is the dragon swooping in to devour.  
All The Light We Cannot See is a coming of age story. Two youths with all their lives before them, yet make significant choices. Life-altering choices. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Gone With The Wind, Read-a-Long, Week Four

Week Four:
"The Book Cover-What are your first impressions as you look at the cover of your copy of Gone With The Wind? Does the book cover have an aspect that reflects the character, setting, or plot of the novel? If you could have designed the book cover what would you have chosen?"

My first thought on the cover of the book is it's a romantic novel. Gone With The Wind has romantic elements, but it is much much more. The cover posted above is the book I own and am reading. I rate the cover a 4. An illustration on the front cover of Tara would please me more. Scarlett is so vividly described in the book that I don't need to see a picture of her on the cover. Tara is portrayed as well, but Tara is home and all that embodies life.
Milford Plantation, link provides attribution. 
Stratford Hall, link provides attribution.

Gone With The Wind Read-a-Long, Week Three

Gone With The Wind film song:

Week Three: 
"The House the Author Built-Choose a setting within Gone With The Wind that most intrigues you. Is it a house? A city? A bit of yard well-described by Margaret Mitchell? What about it intrigues you? Can you see this setting serving a function within the novel? Have you ever been to this setting?"

The setting I've been drawn to is the point where the driveway and the road meet in front of Tara.
I compared pages 44-45 and pages 386-399. I looked for parallelisms and symbolism.
This "resting spot" is under an arch in the cedar trees. From this point, Scarlett has a tunnel view of Tara. Tara is home and it is her greatest love. This is a place where she ponders the things in life she does not understand, it usually marks a place of change, it's a place of waiting, and it's a reminder of what matters most to her. Scarlett is not a deep-thinking person. However, at this vantage perch in the archway of the trees, she relaxes and contemplates life.