Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A Poetic Introduction to September

“The test of a good teacher is not how many questions he can ask his pupils that they will answer readily, but how many questions he inspires them to ask him which he finds it hard to answer.”
Alice Wellington Rollins

"Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know."

“A good teacher is like a candle: it consumes itself to light the way for others.”


“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
William A. Ward

"An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." 
Benjamin Franklin

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Nelson Mandela

School quotes on Pinterest. 

School quotes on Brainy Quote. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

(Review) Consolamentum: The Tiger and The Dove, Book Three

Publication Date: August 8, 2014.
Publisher: CreateSpace, Independent Publishing Platform.
Genre: Historical fiction, middle ages, Inquisition, Constantinople, 13th Century, middle ages.
Pages: 366.
Source: Free paperback copy from Rebecca Hazell in exchange for a review.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.


Further links to explore the history surrounding The Tiger and The Dove series.
Inquisition, from Britannica.
Inquisition, from Wikipedia.
Constantinople, from Wikipedia.
Fall of Constantinople, from Wikipedia.
Niccolo Polo, Marco Polo, from Wikipedia.
Marco Polo, from Biography.
A timeline of 13th century European history. The link is from History Central.
Eleanor of Aquitaine, from History.

The first book in The Tiger and The Dove series, The Grip of God, began with Princess Sofia as a young adolescent girl, who is stolen from her home in Eastern Europe. The area she originated from is a Slavic region, and the people called themselves the Rus', they lived in modern day Russia and Belarus. The Mongol invaders abducted Sofia, and killed many of her people. The Mogol's were a war-hungry, conquering, large network of nomad people. Through most of the first book she is their hostage.
In book two of the series, Solomon's Bride, Sofia spends a large part of the book with another people group, the Muslims.
In book three of the series, Consolamentum, she is a single, independent-minded woman, living in an era when this was uncommon. When the story begins, she is happy to be reunited with family, but happiness is short-lived. She relocates to Constantinople.
Sofia is a cosmopolitan type person, and the author weaves in historical events and famous people from the 13th century in to Sofia's life.

The time period of Consolamentum is 1249-1263
The fall of Constantinople, 1453. 
My Thoughts:
If I were asked to sum-up Sofia's story in one sentence it would be,
A panoramic view of the 13th century through the life experiences of Sofia.
Through Sofia's story (all three books) I was given a picture of: Europe, the Byzantine Empire, the Mongols, the Muslims, the Crusades, the Catholic Church, the Jewish people, travel, architecture, food, business trade, religion, philosophical views, torture, imprisonment, diseases, marriage and family; and both the lifestyles of common people and upper class.
In Consolamentum, I admired Sofia's resolve and tenacity to live a life by her own creation. She has witnessed, experienced, and gained knowledge in the various aspects of her life. She has tried to surround herself with people, of varying backgrounds, who she can trust implicitly. When she fails, she learns. She is a person of admiral qualities. She reminds me a bit of Eleanor of Aquitaine. Both were women who were intelligent, savvy, and did not shrink-back from speaking their minds. Sofia is not always tactful in expressing herself. Her words cause trouble, but this is one of the outstanding features of her character, and a brilliant element for the trilogy. To have a milk-sop female lead through three books would be sluggish and boring. She is a person of strong interest, and this kept me reading through all three books.
During this time period Christians did not realize that Jesus is greater than religion (the Catholic Church.) People did not know about a personal relationship with Jesus. They did not know about grace. Few people read Scripture. Sofia struggled, because of what she witnessed people do in the "name" of religion. They are power hungry, angry, and fearful men. She has seen the worst of what men can do to men (and women.) By the last chapter she is weary.
For a person who loves to read historical fiction books on the middle ages, The Tiger and The Dove series is an excellent choice. My favorite book in the series is The Grip of God, followed by Consolamentum, and lastly Solomon's Bride.
Marco Polo's travels. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

(Review) 41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush

Publication Date: November 11, 2014.
Publisher: Crown.
Genre: Nonfiction, biography.
Pages: 294.
Source: Christmas gift.
Rating: 4 stars for very good.

A biography of George Herbert Walker Bush, 41st president of the United States. The book was written by his son, George Walker Bush, 43rd president of the United States.
The biography is a chronology of the senior Bush's life. There are a few life stories from the younger Bush's life, in regards to where he was during his father's life and accomplishments. Towards the end of the book, the younger Bush compares similarities in their roles as president.

My Thoughts:
41 was given to me at Christmas by my younger son and his girlfriend.
Before beginning the book, I'd guessed the direction and emphasis the book featured. This is not a bad thing, but a pretty accurate guess.
41 is an endearing testament and legacy of a life well-lived. George H. W. Bush is a person of the "Greatest Generation." He had served in the Navy during World War II. He graduated from Yale.
He was a studious, serious, hardworking, and diligent man.
All of the book held my interest. The most interesting parts of the book were his roles during President Nixon's presidency, Watergate fiasco, vice-presidency, and the years he was president.
What surprised me the most about his life was he was unafraid to take risks. He did not take risks to earn the attention of media. He took risks because he was a leader, an innovator; and he believed in the freedom to excel and achieve great things.
Now, there are people who would never be interested in reading this book. There are people who would never have a positive word to say about either Bush president. Any Republican is a stinko, a hypocrite, a Capitalist, war monger, elitist, blah, blah, blah. Lastly, any positive aspect of this book would be "poo-poo" (as Madeline says.)
I believe George W. Bush wrote this book because of the great love and admiration he has for his father, and this is endearing and admirable in itself.
A later chapter is when George W. Bush reflects on his presidency, and compares a few things his father had also experienced during his presidency, especially in regards to Sadam Hussein and Iraq.
I loved the book, not a 5 star love, but I enjoyed reading the book.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

(Review) Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied France by Alex Kershaw

Publication Date: August 4, 2015.
Publisher: Crown.
Genre: Nonfiction. French Resistance, Nazi Germany, World War II.
Pages: 304.
Source: Free advance reader ebook copy from NetGalley in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.


American physician, Dr. Sumner Jackson, had been living in France since 1916. He later married a and they have a son. They live on Avenue Boche (nickname for the street Foch), a street in Paris that became home base for the Gestapo. Dr. Jackson continued to work at the hospital after the Nazi Occupation of France in 1940. His family after initially fleeing, returns.
The Jackson family became apart of the Resistance effort during the war. The book shares their individual stories.

My Thoughts:
There are several reasons I gave Avenue of Spies 5 stars for excellent.

  • Detailed character make-up of the Jackson family, other resistance fighters, principal Nazi officers.
  • SOE Agents working during the war whom the Jackson family knew.
  • Resistance work recreated.
  • The Gestapo plan and reign of terror on Jews.
  • Raw existence in a concentration camp.
  • The horror of war. 
  • Life in Paris under the Nazi tyranny.
  • Chronological proceedings of World War II. 
  • The aftermath of rebuilding a life. 

(Review) Within The Hollow Crown: A Reluctant King, a Desperate Nation, and the Most Misunderstood Reign in History by Margaret Campbell Barnes

Publication Date: March 6, 2010. Originally published 1948.
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark. Reprint edition.
Genre: Historical fiction, Richard II, Richard III, Anne of Bohemia, British history, British monarchy.
Pages: 368.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 2 stars for okay.


Within the Hollow Crown is the story of Richard II (1367-1400), the son of the Black Prince (eldest son of Edward III), and nephew of King Richard the Lionheart.
The story begins when Richard is a young boy of ten. His father has just died. His life is about to make a dramatic change.
The story follows the course of life during his reign. His marriage to Anne of Bohemia, and later marriage to Isabelle, daughter of Charles VI of France. The peasants revolt, political factions, Richard's personality and way of dealing with strife, and Henry Bolingbroke's overthrow of Richard are all depicted.

My Thoughts:
Richard II is one of my least favorite kings to read. I bought Within the Hollow Crown at a going out- of-business independent bookstore sale. I'd heard positive comments on the historical fiction author, Margaret Campbell Barnes, and wanted to read one of her books.
It's hard to write a review where I'm not excited about the main character, nor the story itself. My review will be mediocre at best.
I do believe the author captured Richard's personality and feelings about his role as a king. He was lonely and insecure at times.
He loved Anne of Bohemia. He thought of her even after her death.
Richard was the younger son and had not been expected to become king. He wished to go back to the days before he was king.
War and political intrigue bored him.
As a youth he felt set-apart.
I am different. There's something inside me that no one can touch-only God perhaps. Something I've got to guard from ridicule or-or any sort of indignity. That's why, although I'm not in the least ambitious personally, I feel I must struggle to do even the things I'm not good at well enough not to make a fool of myself in front of people. 
Barnes states Richard II was age eleven when he became king, but he was age ten. He was born 6 of January 1367. He was crowned king on 16 July 1377.
Richard II, King of England, from Britannica.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

(Review) I Shall Be Near To You by Erin Lindsay McCabe

Publication Date: September 2, 2014.
Publisher: Broadway Books/Crown Publishing Group/Random House LLC.
Genre: Historical fiction, Civil War.
Pages: 336.
Source: Self-purchase.
Rating: 3 stars for good.


Newly married Jeremiah and Rosetta Wakefield have only a few days together before he departs for military training. After Jeremiah leaves, Rosetta takes the initiative to join him. In her mind, her place is beside him. They live in rural New York. When the story begins it is January 1862.

My Thoughts:
The synopsis on the back cover explains this is "a woman's search for meaning and individuality, and a poignant story of enduring love." I did not see this. What I did see is a young couple very much in love and the war puts a hold on their life together. I also saw a head-strong, determined, selfish young woman take the initiative to pretend to be a man, and a soldier, in order to be by her husband's side in battle. The story pushes the romantic element, but I'm horrified at Rosetta's selfish act. Jeremiah as the husband aka protector of Rosetta, is going to deal with 2 nemesis: the enemy and protecting his wife while they are both side by side in battle. This stinks. Love requires sacrifice and doing the right thing, when we don't want to do the right thing. Although it's true some people are not capable of understanding what the right thing is. I believe it is unrealistic for Jeremiah to have allowed his wife to be with him. Could this type of story-line happen? According to the "Author's Note," women did join the military during the Civil War to be with family. I still think it's foolish. We are talking about a different place and time, not modern military training for men and women.
On the other hand, there are moments in I Shall Be Near To You, where the writing is beautiful and moving.
Lastly, I was swept away by the stolen moments of love between Jeremiah and Rosetta. Their love story is haunting and memorable.

Friday, July 31, 2015

(Review) Astor Place Vintage by Stephanie Lehmann

Publication Date: July 1, 2013.
Publisher: Touchstone.
Genre: Fiction.
Pages: 416.
Source: Gift.
Rating: 3 stars for good.

Amanda owns a vintage clothing store in Manhattan, New York City. She is single and quickly approaching 40. She has a complicated relationship with a boy she's known since high school. Amanda meets an older woman wanting to sell her classic vintage clothing to Amanda. Amanda finds a diary tucked away in one of the articles of clothing. The two women barter and bargain. Amanda keeps the diary and becomes absorbed in the author's story.
The book travels back and forth between the worlds of modern day Amanda and the diary's author Olive Westcott. When the diary begins, it is 1907. Olive is an independent minded young women of a new era in America. She yearns to have a career. The two women have certain qualities in common, but they live in different times.

My Thoughts:
What I loved about the story is vintage clothing, a hidden diary, another era in history, turn of the twentieth century NYC, and a coming of age---becoming independent quality.
What I disliked about the story is Amanda at age 39 seems more immature that Olive at age 20. Amanda comes across as sarcastic and about as mature as a teenage girl. In my opinion sarcasm is a mask for insecurity. It's bravado with a smidgen of humor.
A second point I did not like was the ending felt predictable. I had already figured out in the early part of the story where all this was leading.
I loved Olive's story more than Amanda's. I had empathy for Amanda's issues, but I was ready for her character to develop.

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.