Friday, March 6, 2015

War and Peace Read-a-long: Week Four

Week four is over books six and seven.
The questions for this week are:

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel changed this week? The naivete has gone. In the beginning of War and Peace men and women are in the early stages of pairing off together. It is also the beginning stages of war. Progression of the story shows the reality of life.  

2) Do you think that the story is uniquely Russian, or could it have been set somewhere else?
In reference to European 19th century society (I'm thinking primarily of British, French, Russian) there is a sharp divide between aristocracy and peasants/serfs. I have not seen a middle class. People are either wealthy or poor. I believe this is uniquely Russian. The view of Russia during the Napoleonic Wars is also uniquely Russian. What is not unique is the relationships between men and women. The marriages, affairs, courtship, and break-ups happen in any society or era.  

3) How about Andrey and Natasha's nuptials? Will they ever get married and do you think it will work out? I believe it is a good thing for them to wait. She is a young woman and he an older man. He is more settled, she needs a little time to know her mind. 

4) Could Rostov have done more to help out his parents with their financial situation? No. 

5) How do you feel about the lengthy hunting descriptions? Did you read the whole thing? I speed read the hunting. 

War and Peace Read-a-long: Week Three

Week three is over chapters four and five.
Questions for week three:
1. Are you managing to keep all of the characters straight in your head?
Yes, because I take notes. If I did not take notes there would be mass chaos in my head.

2. Have your tactics that we discussed in book one changed since the beginning of the book?
I had gotten behind in reading because the past couple of weeks have including more than one book part to read. As of today I'm caught-up.

3. Awww, poor Pierrre. Do we feel sorry for him or is it his own fault for marrying for lust?
Both of them are contemptible. I like Pierre just a tad more because of his action in book eight. I have found it interesting that Pierre had known his wife since they were children, he even knew of the torrid rumor. But he had not really known her. He had seen what he wanted to see. In his immature thinking, or rather not thinking with his brain and instead reacting to his ego, he chose Ellen to be his wife. On page 226 Pierre's thoughts are described: "Pierre was perfectly sincere in giving an affirmative answer to her questions about Ellen's perfection of manner. If he thought of Ellen, it was either of her beauty that he thought, or of her extraordinary capacity for serene, dignified silence in society." Later, Ellen smiles at him, "Pierre was so used to this smile, it meant so little to him, that he did not even notice it."
Do I feel sorry for Pierre? Sometimes.

4. Do you think Dolokhov will get his comeuppance, not only for sleeping with Helene (Ellen), but for bankrupting Rostov?
He is a terrible person. A scoundrel. Eventually he will get his comeuppance, at this point he is getting some lucky breaks.

5. Who knew the Freemasons were apart of War and Peace? How do you feel about this?
I don't care at this point.

6. Do you think Tolstoy dislikes women as much as he seems to, or is it a form of satire?
I think he sees women in either black or white. Either one extreme or the other.

(Review) I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and The Civil War by Jerome Charyn

Publication Date: February 9, 2015
Liveright Publishing Corporation
Paperback: 480p

Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 stars for excellent, not perfect but near perfect. 
Source: Free copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour and Liveright Publishing Corporation
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Narrated in Lincoln’s own voice, the tragicomic I Am Abraham promises to be the masterwork of Jerome Charyn’s remarkable career.
Since publishing his first novel in 1964, Jerome Charyn has established himself as one of the most inventive and prolific literary chroniclers of the American landscape. Here in I Am Abraham, Charyn returns with an unforgettable portrait of Lincoln and the Civil War. Narrated boldly in the first person, I Am Abraham effortlessly mixes humor with Shakespearean-like tragedy, in the process creating an achingly human portrait of our sixteenth President.
Tracing the historic arc of Lincoln’s life from his picaresque days as a gangly young lawyer in Sangamon County, Illinois, through his improbable marriage to Kentucky belle Mary Todd, to his 1865 visit to war-shattered Richmond only days before his assassination, I Am Abraham hews closely to the familiar Lincoln saga. Charyn seamlessly braids historical figures such as Mrs. Keckley—the former slave, who became the First Lady’s dressmaker and confidante—and the swaggering and almost treasonous General McClellan with a parade of fictional extras: wise-cracking knaves, conniving hangers-on, speculators, scheming Senators, and even patriotic whores.
We encounter the renegade Rebel soldiers who flanked the District in tattered uniforms and cardboard shoes, living in a no-man’s-land between North and South; as well as the Northern deserters, young men all, with sunken, hollowed faces, sitting in the punishing sun, waiting for their rendezvous with the firing squad; and the black recruits, whom Lincoln’s own generals wanted to discard, but who play a pivotal role in winning the Civil War. At the center of this grand pageant is always Lincoln himself, clad in a green shawl, pacing the White House halls in the darkest hours of America’s bloodiest war.
Using biblically cadenced prose, cornpone nineteenth-century humor, and Lincoln’s own letters and speeches, Charyn concocts a profoundly moral but troubled commander in chief, whose relationship with his Ophelia-like wife and sons—Robert, Willie, and Tad—is explored with penetrating psychological insight and the utmost compassion. Seized by melancholy and imbued with an unfaltering sense of human worth, Charyn’s President Lincoln comes to vibrant, three-dimensional life in a haunting portrait we have rarely seen in historical fiction.

My Thoughts: 
I've always had a fondness for Abraham Lincoln because we share the same birth date, February 12. I'm proud to tell people I was born on Abraham Lincoln's birth date. It's odd that I've never read a non-fiction book on Lincoln. A historical figure that I admire so much, you would think I'd read a biography of his life. I have read another historical fiction book on Abraham Lincoln: The Lincoln Conspiracy by Timothy O'Brien.  The theme of this book is in solving Lincoln's murder. 
In historical fiction, an author takes non-fiction material and creates a character to entertain readers. It is the added information an author adds that can cause problems to history purists. I make this statement, because I'm reviewing I Am Abraham, with minimal previous knowledge of Abraham Lincoln. 
I'm appreciative of the author for including his feelings on writing the story, in regards to research, intentions, goals, and creative additions. 
There are several points I love about the story: 
  • A dimensional Abraham Lincoln. Jerome Charyn covered every side of Lincoln's persona and life: politics, love of reading, childhood, unresolved feelings of inadequacy, depression, love interests, marriage, role as father, the affect of Mary's mental illness, death of children, torn feelings of the Civil War, and conflicts in his relationships.
  • Abraham Lincoln is neither seen as a completely positive person, nor a completely negative person. He is real. He is human. His strengths and weaknesses are displayed. 
  • I love love love colloquialisms. Throughout the story common sayings-Kentuckian words are used. For example: natter, bawdyhouse, et an apple, foolscap, pilferers, coffin-bed, skedaddle, and highfalutin. 
  • I did not know Abraham Lincoln suffered from depression. It is well-known Mary Lincoln had mental health issues. Living through childhood trauma, living with Mary Lincoln, decisions of the Civil War, and the death of a child, easily caused him sadness and depression. Lincoln persevered through periods of profound sadness. Now when I look at his picture, I see the sadness in his face, the sadness in his eyes. 
  • Early in the story I noticed the writing style. It began a quick pace, reminding me of Lincoln's tall walking stride (he was 6' 4.) Later in the story the pace slowed, reminding me of Lincoln's haggardness. 
  • Symbolism. It has been remarked of the scene at the end of the story. I found symbolism at the beginning, mid-point, and ending. One of my favorite spots happened on page 228. "I let her wander away, the skirts of her gown gliding against the oilcloth with a strange whish while I stayed there, in the dumps. Tad's kitten leapt onto my lap. Tabby commenced to tear at my sleeve, and pretty soon it had a tiny batch of thread in its paw-I could feel that little cat unravel me. I stuffed him in my pocket, while I was raveling out somewhere on some private moon." 
There were two aspects I did not like. 
  • I'm aware Abraham and Mary had sex at least four times because they had four sons. But it was difficult for me, or awkward, to read of Abraham lusting after Mary's nipples, or other body parts. Yes, I had pre-set ideas of what President Lincoln was like, but a sex symbol was not one of them. I know this is my hang-up. Other readers have not commented on this point. 
  • The ending does not stop at the "period" of Abraham Lincoln's life, but at a point before. It is a significant place to stop the story, but I wanted it to go a little farther. It's possible I did not want the story to even end. 

I was prepared to give a 4 star review. But this book has stayed with me over the coarse of several days after reading it. I've even dreamed about the book. Abraham Lincoln has come to life again in the pages of Charyn's book. I can easily picture Lincoln walking with his top hat. Because the book has continued to "haunt-me." I have raised to review to 5 stars for excellent (which is not perfect, but near perfect.) 

Praise for I Am Abraham: A Novel of Lincoln and the Civil War

“Thoughtful, observant and droll.” — Richard Brookhiser, New York Times Book Review
“Not only the best novel about President Lincoln since Gore Vidal’s Lincoln in 1984, but it is also twice as good to read.” — Gabor Boritt, author of The Lincoln Enigma and recipient of the National Humanities Medal
“Jerome Charyn [is] a fearless writer… Brave and brazen… The book is daringly imagined, written with exuberance, and with a remarkable command of historical detail. It gives us a human Lincoln besieged by vividly drawn enemies and allies… Placing Lincoln within the web ordinary and sometimes petty human relations is no small achievement.” — Andrew Delbanco, New York Review of Books
“Audacious as ever, Jerome Charyn now casts his novelist’s gimlet eye on sad-souled Abraham Lincoln, a man of many parts, who controls events and people—wife, sons, a splintering nation—even though they often are, as they must be, beyond his compassion or power. Brooding, dreamlike, resonant, and studded with strutting characters, I Am Abraham is as wide and deep and morally sure as its wonderful subjects.” — Brenda Wineapple, author of Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compassion: 1848-1877
“If all historians—or any historian—could write with the magnetic charm and authoritative verve of Jerome Charyn, American readers would be fighting over the privilege of learning about their past. They can learn much from this book—an audacious, first-person novel that makes Lincoln the most irresistible figure of a compelling story singed with equal doses of comedy, tragedy, and moral grandeur. Here is something beyond history and approaching art.” — Harold Holzer, chairman, Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation
“Jerome Charyn is one of the most important writers in American literature.” — Michael Chabon
“Jerome Charyn is merely one of our finest writers with a polymorphous imagination and crack comic timing. Whatever milieu he chooses to inhabit, his characters sizzle with life, and his sentences are pure vernacular music, his voice unmistakable.” — Jonathan Lethem
“Charyn, like Nabokov, is that most fiendish sort of writer—so seductive as to beg imitation, so singular as to make imitation impossible.” — Tom Bissell
“One of our most intriguing fiction writers takes on the story of Honest Abe, narrating the tale in Lincoln’s voice and offering a revealing portrait of a man as flawed as he was great.” — Abbe Wright, O, The Oprah Magazine
“Jerome Charyn, like Daniel Day-Lewis in Steven Spielberg’s superb 2012 movie, manages a feat of ventriloquism to be admired… Most of all, Lincoln comes across as human and not some remote giant… With that, Jerome Charyn has given Lincoln a most appropriate present for what would have been his 205th birthday this month: rebirth not as a marble memorial but as a three-dimensional human who overcame much to save his nation.” — Erik Spanberg, Christian Science Monitor
“Daring… Memorable… Charyn’s richly textured portrait captures the pragmatism, cunning, despair, and moral strength of a man who could have empathy for his bitterest foes, and who ‘had never outgrown the forest and a dirt floor.’” — The New Yorker

Buy the Paperback

About the Author

Jerome Charyn is an award-winning American author. With nearly 50 published works, Charyn has earned a long-standing reputation as an inventive and prolific chronicler of real and imagined American life. Michael Chabon calls him “one of the most important writers in American literature.” New York Newsday hailed Charyn as “a contemporary American Balzac,”and the Los Angeles Times described him as “absolutely unique among American writers.” Since the 1964 release of Charyn’s first novel, Once Upon a Droshky, he has published 30 novels, three memoirs, eight graphic novels, two books about film, short stories, plays and works of non-fiction. Two of his memoirs were named New York Times Book of the Year. Charyn has been a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. He received the Rosenthal Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and has been named Commander of Arts and Letters by the French Minister of Culture. Charyn was Distinguished Professor of Film Studies at the American University of Paris until he left teaching in 2009. In addition to his writing and teaching, Charyn is a tournament table tennis player, once ranked in the top 10 percent of players in France. Noted novelist Don DeLillo called Charyn’s book on table tennis, Sizzling Chops & Devilish Spins, “The Sun Also Rises of ping-pong.” Charyn lives in Paris and New York City.
For more information please visit Jerome Charyn’s website. You can also find him on Twitter and Goodreads.

I Am Abraham Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, February 9
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Tuesday, February 10
Interview & Giveaway at Flashlight Commentary
Wednesday, February 11
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Thursday, February 12
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Friday, February 13
Spotlight at What Is That Book About
Monday, February 16
Review & Excerpt at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus
Tuesday, February 17
Interview & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus
Spotlight at CelticLady’s Reviews
Wednesday, February 18
Review at Back Porchervations
Thursday, February 19
Spotlight at A Literary Vacation
Friday, February 20
Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books
Saturday, February 21
Spotlight at Historical Readings & Reviews
Monday, February 23
Interview & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews
Tuesday, February 24
Audio Book Review & Interview at Just One More Chapter
Wednesday, February 25
Review at Bookish
Thursday, February 26
Spotlight at Historical Fiction Connection
Monday, March 2
Review at Forever Ashley
Tuesday, March 3
Interview at Books and Benches
Wednesday, March 4
Spotlight at Caroline Wilson Writes
Thursday, March 5
Review & Reader’s Guide at She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, March 6
Review at Impressions in Ink

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Poetic Introduction to March

 photo be00ec48-e345-4f89-8fc5-de4c210abb9d.jpg

"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.