Tuesday, January 13, 2015

(Review) The Spies of Warsaw by Alan Furst

Publication Date: June 3, 2008.
Publisher: Random House.
Genre: Spying during the late 1930s before WWII in Poland.
Pages: 266.
Source: Library.
Rating: 3 stars for good.

Summary: Europe is afraid another war is building. The threat is Hitler and the Nazi Party who have taken over Germany. Poland borders Germany in the north. Germany lost territory in Poland after World War I. Poland is well aware they are a target for Germany's Nazi machine.
A French hero from World War I, Colonel Jean-Francois Mercier, becomes a spy. The time period is late 1937. The location is Warsaw, Poland.

My Thoughts:
I'm afraid The Spies of Warsaw is one of those books where many people have loved it, but I did not.
I did like the background of the story. The atmosphere of tension because of the fear of the Nazi Party and threat of war is realistic. The fear of the Jewish people who are being abused, rounded up, and taken away adds to the reality of Europe during this period.
My only problem with the book is the character Mercier. I never became invested in his role. I just did not care.
Mercier was kept busy by his mistress and attending cocktail parties. His lifestyle added to his allure (I guess.)  The parties were a way to extract information and possibly connect with the right people.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

(Review) The Oblate's Confession by William Peak

Publication Date: December 1, 2014.
Publisher: Secant Publishing.
Genre: Historical Fiction, Medieval England, Monastic.
Pages: 416.
Source: Free advanced reader copy from William Peak, Secant Publishing, and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours in exchange for a review.
Rating: 5 stars for excellent.

Book tour link:

William Peak spent ten years researching and writing The Oblate’s Confession, his debut novel. Based upon the work of one of the great (if less well known) figures of Western European history, the Venerable Bede, Peak’s book is meant to reawaken an interest in that lost and mysterious period of time sometimes called “The Dark Ages.”
Peak received his baccalaureate degree from Washington & Lee University and his master’s from the creative writing program at Hollins University.  He works for the Talbot County Free Library on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.  Thanks to the column he writes for The Star Democrat about life at the library (archived at http://www.tcfl.org/peak/). Peak is regularly greeted on the streets of Easton: “Hey, library guy!”  
For more information please visit William Peak’s website.

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Set in 7th century England, The Oblate’s Confession tells the story of Winwaed, a boy who – in a practice common at the time – is donated by his father to a local monastery. In a countryside wracked by plague and war, the child comes to serve as a regular messenger between the monastery and a hermit living on a nearby mountain. Missing his father, he finds a surrogate in the hermit, an old man who teaches him woodcraft, the practice of contemplative prayer, and, ultimately, the true meaning of fatherhood. When the boy’s natural father visits the monastery and asks him to pray for the death of his enemy – an enemy who turns out to be the child’s monastic superior – the boy’s life is thrown into turmoil. It is the struggle Winwaed undergoes to answer the questions – Who is my father? Whom am I to obey? – that animates, and finally necessitates, The Oblate’s Confession.
While entirely a work of fiction, the novel’s background is historically accurate: all the kings and queens named really lived, all the political divisions and rivalries actually existed, and each of the plagues that visit the author’s imagined monastery did in fact ravage that long-ago world. In the midst of a tale that touches the human in all of us, readers will find themselves treated to a history of the “Dark Ages” unlike anything available today outside of textbooks and original source material.
My Thoughts:
It is exciting for me to read a debut novel that sweeps me away, and I'm giddy with excitement for the author. "William Peak spent ten years researching and writing The Oblate's Confession." I feel the hard labor has sowed an excellent story. 
There are several points which led me to give The Oblate's Confession 5 stars for excellent.
  • Winwaed is a character that not only tells me the story as narrator, he shares what he is thinking, he shares his fears, he shares his emotions, he shares his dreams. He is a character who I can relate in some manner to, because of his humanity brought forth through the story.
  • Winwaed because of the task his biological father has asked of him, is in a difficult situation. I was left wondering what decision he intended to make? And further, what the future held? How would his decision affect his soul? How would his decision affect his mental health? These were tantamount questions that the story revealed.
  • Winwaed had a father/son relationship with a hermit, also referred to as Father Gwynedd. The hermit lived on a mountain of his freewill. He is a man of prayer. A man of solitude and introspection. He is wise and a keen observer. Gwynedd becomes a mentor/teacher to Winwaed. He is a loving father figure for Winwaed. Their relationship is tested and this is an additional point of conflict for Winwaed.
  • I'm not Catholic, nor am I a mystic. I was not uncomfortable by the story but found it interesting. In the 7th century, Catholicism was the Christian Church. In the 7th century, the Celtic mystic belief in England was replaced (overshadowed) by the Roman Catholic belief and structure. The book does not define historically these events. Instead, the story lets the characters show how the change affected them.
  • I've read other reviewers remark on liking the voice in the story-Winwaed-because he is a boy. A child's voice brings innocence, a pure quality, and a freshness. I loved Winwaed's loving spirit. His emotions overtook him at times, but this endeared me to him even more. His youth propelled me to long for and be invested in his safety and health.
Blog Tour Schedule:
Monday, December 1
Review at Broken Teepee
Tuesday, December 2
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Wednesday, December 3
Review at Back Porchervations
Review at A Fantastical Librarian
Thursday, December 4
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Friday, December 5
Interview at Back Porchervations
Monday, December 8
Review at A Book Geek
Tuesday, December 9
Review at The Writing Desk
Spotlight at Historical Tapestry
Thursday, December 11
Interview at Forever Ashley
Monday, December 15
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, December 16
Spotlight at Bibliophilic Book Blog
Thursday, December 18
Review at 100 Pages a Day…Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Guest Post at Books and Benches
Friday, December 19
Review at Book Nerd
Review at bookramblings
Monday, December 22
Spotlight at Let Them Read Books
Tuesday, December 23
Review at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, December 24
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Monday, December 29
Review at The Never-Ending Book
Tuesday, December 30
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, January 2
Review at Library Educated
Monday, January 5
Review & Interview at Words and Peace
Tuesday, January 6
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, January 7
Review at A Bibliotaph’s Reviews
Thursday, January 8
Review at Impressions in Ink
Friday, January 9
Review at The True Book Addict
Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story

Friday, January 2, 2015

(Review) West Side Story, Screenplay by Ernest Lehman

Publisher: MGM Home Entertainment, 2003.
Genre: Fiction, screenplay, Broadway musical.
Format: paperback.
Pages: 168.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: library.

Link for the book @ Amazon. 

The Broadway production of West Side Story opened in 1957.
Screenwriter, Ernest Lehman, adapted a "well-known stage production" and turned "it into something for the big screen."
The musical was produced and directed by Robert Wise.
Jerome Robbins worked as a second director and choreographer.
The musical director was Leonard Bernstein.
The lyrics were by Stephen Sondheim.
Metro Goldwyn Mayer was the studio.
The movie came to the big screen in 1961. The movie was in theaters for 77 weeks.
West Side Story was written as a modern twist on the Romeo and Juliet story.
Two rival street gangs, the Jets and the Sharks, patrol their turf of 1950s in Manhattan, New York City.
Tony and Maria are the star-crossed lovers.
The principal cast:
Tony played by Richard Beymer
Maria played by Natalie Wood
Riff played by Russ Tamblyn
Anita played by Rita Moreno
Bernardo played by George Chakiris

I love musicals!
My mother was a big movie fan and loved musicals especially. One of my favorite memories is of us watching DVDs of musicals. Even though she had Alzheimer's, she remembered some of the songs from the movies. Bali Hai, from South Pacific, is the last song I heard her sing.
West Side Story is a sad story. But the music and dancing is uplifting, I can't help but twirl around my room when I hear the music.
What a dream it would be to see a Broadway musical!
The screenplay/scrapbook commentary on West Side Story is wonderful. A real gem to any enthusiast of this story.
The screenplay is tucked inside between the additional material.
The book is full of photographs, both from the movie and stage.
Biographies of the principal cast are included.
Included is a list of where movie locations were filmed in NYC.
The book begins with a letter from Ernest Lehman.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

A Poetic Introduction to January 2015

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Winter poems and quotes to begin the new year.

"In the bleak mid winter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter of, long ago."
~Christina Rossetti 1830-1894

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome." 
~Anne Bradstreet 1612-1672

"Every mile is two in winter." 
~George Herbert 1593-1633

"Every winter, When the great sun has turned his face away, The earth goes down into a vale of grief, And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables, Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay--Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses." 
~Charles Kingsley 1819-1875

"Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, 
Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, 
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, 
And veils the farmhouse at the garden's end.
The sled and traveler stopped, the courier's feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803-1882

"Winter is in my head, but eternal spring is in my heart."
~Victor Hugo 1802-1885

"Blow, blow, thou winter wind
Thou art not so unkind,
As man's ingratitude."
~William Shakespeare 1564-1616

"On a lone winter evening,
when the frost Has wrought a silence." 
~John Keats 1795-1821

"Whose woods there are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer 
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
~Robert Frost 1874-1963

"Out of the bosom of the air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals 
The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
How whispered and revealed
To wood and field.
~John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-1892

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wrap-up of the 2014 British History Reading Challenge

Several participants took part in reading British history in 2014. Whether it was historical fiction or nonfiction---9 readers explored British history. I'm excited to begin afresh in 2015 with the challenge again. Thank you to all the participants who joined me!
The participants from 2014 were:
Jen K.
Jenn (not a blogger but on Goodreads)
Amy (blog not available/set to private)

I want to mention Joy read 13 books for the challenge in 2014!

If you are interested in joining the challenge for 2015, the original post can be found @: