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2009 Challenge Wrap-Up

I haven’t done my 2009 Challenge wrap-up yet, but I figured today would be as good a day as any.

I also have two challenges from 2009 that spill over into 2010, but I’ll give you a progress update at the end of this post.

First up is the WWII Reading Challenge I co-hosted with Anna from Diary of an Eccentric at War Through the Generations.  I initially set out to read 5 books for the challenge, and actually exceeded my goal.  I read 10 books!  I only read one of the books I originally set out to read.

Here are the links to my reviews for the 10 books I completed for the challenge:

1.  Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas
2.  Bloody Good by Georgia Evans
3.  T4 by Ann Clare Lezotte
4.  Now Silence by Tori Warner Shepard
5.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
6.  Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
7.  Night of Flames by Douglas Jacobson
8.  Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen
9.  Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino
10.  Words That Burn Within Me by Hilda Stern Cohen

I hope you take the time to check out those reviews if you missed them.  There are some great books in that list and one of them was my top pick for 2009.

I also participated in the Everything Austen challenge in which you could read Jane Austen’s books, spinoffs, or watch movies.  All in all, you could mix and match to reach the six items required, which is what I did.  I didn’t start this challenge with a specific list.

I read five books for the challenge and watched one movie.  Check out my reviews below.

1.  Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
2.  Pride & Prejudice (2005) movie
3.  The Trials of the Honorable F. Darcy by Sara Angelini
4.  A Match for Mary Bennet by Eucharista Ward
5.  Willoughby’s Return by Jane Odiwe
6.  Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

You also will find one of these books in my top picks of 2009.

OK, as for the ongoing challenges through mid-2010 or thereabouts, this sums up my progress:

The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge ends on June 30, 2010, and you must read the entire series, which for me is 9 books since I had never read these before.  I’ve only read two books for this challenge, but I fully expect to catch up and finish this one.  Click on the links below for my reviews:

1.  Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
2.  Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

I signed up for the Valparaiso Poetry Review challenge a bit late, but since I had already reviewed poetry earlier in 2009 and those reviews counted toward my totals, I signed up for the highest level of reading 11-15 books.

These are the ones I’ve read:

1.  How to Read a Poem by Molly Peacock
2.  Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey
3.  Green Bodies by Rosemary Winslow
4.  Apologies to an Apple by Maya Ganesan
5.  Carta Marina by Ann Fisher-Wirth
6.  More of Me Disappears by John Amen
7.  Fair Creatures of an Hour by Lynn Levin
8.  At the Threshold of Alchemy by John Amen
9.  Holocaust Poetry compiled by Hilda Schiff
10.  Words That Burn Within Me by Hilda Stern Cohen
11.  Vampire Haiku by Ryan Mecum

You will find one of these books in my top picks of 2009.  While I have met the lower end of the scale, I plan to read more through the end of the challenge on May 16, 2010.

Also, I’ve been cleaning up some sidebar stuff and I decided to use thumbnail images for the 2010 Challenges; you can find those in the right sidebar under the Best of 2009 Amazon.com shelf.

How did you do with your challenges last year?

Words That Burn Within Me by Hilda Stern Cohen

Hilda Stern Cohen’s Words That Burn Within Me is a collection of photographs, essays, stories, snippets of interviews, and poems detailing Cohen’s experiences during WWII and the Holocaust as a German resident.  (Please check out a recent reading from the book at The Writer’s Center).  Cohen’s husband, whom she married in Baltimore, Md., in 1948 following her release, discovered her notebooks after her death and set about his journey to have his wife’s writing translated from German and published.  In some cases, the poems are included both in English and in German.

“Our physiognomies were ageless.  There were wild, unfocused eyes, silent, indrawn lips, and haggardness around the cheek and neck . . . only defined and exaggerated by hunger.” (Page 49)

This harrowing story follows Hilda through her early years in Nieder-Ohmen, Germany, and her transfer to schools in Frankfurt as the Nazis gained power.  From Frankfurt, she is transported with her family and young beau Horst to Lodz, Poland, only to face devastating circumstances, the loss of Horst, and more and be transported to Auschwitz.  In a series of essays and interviews, Hilda talks about happier times in her village and with her sister, the trials of childhood and being bullied, but soon the reality of politics sets in and her family is forced to leave their ancestral home.

Forced Labor (Page 54)

My numbed brow drops on the machine,
I fold my captive, tired hands.

A dangling yellow bulb sheds smoky light,
Dusk falls, the day grows pale.

The harried working hours are almost done,
The evening mist is waiting to embrace us.

What binds us in our common chains
Will only hold us while we work –
Night will find each of us in separate gloom.

Cohen’s writing is sparse but detailed in its observations of those around her in the ghetto and the concentration camps.  Her keen eye examines the impact of starvation on her fellow neighbors and on her family members, and it also sheds light on how well her family and herself cope with their situation.  She eventually teaches herself Yiddish after joining a literary group because she only speaks and writes German, which is not what the majority of the Lodz Ghetto understands.  Readers, however, will note a sense of detachment in her writing, almost as if she is reporting the events as she observed them rather than as she felt them.  On the other hand, they will hear the anger and disappointment in her voice, especially when she speaks of the last words her father utters about her mother upon her death.

“There was a strange role reversal that took place psychologically, as it did also later in the camps.  Adults who had lived a life from which they had gained certain expectations were suddenly confronted with an abyss.  There were no signs, no gateposts, none of the usual milestones that one could follow.  Everything had fallen away.”  (Page 33)

Words That Burn Within Me is well assembled mixture of interviews with Hilda Stern Cohen’s essays, stories and poems.  While the collection does illustrate one Jewish woman’s journey during WWII and the Holocaust, it stands as a testament — a record — of how inexcusably these humans were treated and how their debasement impacted their lives, their relationships, their faith, and their souls.  Through well tuned description and controlled emotions, Cohen takes the time to record everything she saw during the war and the Holocaust to ensure that it becomes a warning to others.  A powerful collection and a must read for anyone learning about this time period and the horrors that should never have happened.

This is my 10th book for the WWII Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations!

I’m not sure if this will qualify for the Poetry Review Challenge, but if it does, this will be book #10.

 FTC Disclosure:  I purchased my copy of Words That Burn Within Me from The Writer’s Center following a reading by Hilda Stern Cohen’s husband and her interviewer Gail Rosen.  Clicking on image and title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchases necessary.

Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds is the screenplay for the revenge war film of the same name.  Moviegoers love Tarantino’s films for a multitude of reasons or they hate them for a multitude of reasons, but the screenplay provides a whole new insight into the filmmaker and his work.

Author David L. Robbins says in the forward, “The script remembers, too, the classic propaganda films of Leni Riefenstahl and Joseph Goebbels.  It glimpses the faces of Hitler and Churchill and the interior of a wartime movie house in Paris, and zooms in on the horrors of close combat, the mania of vendetta.  . . . Inglourious Basterds does not indulge in lampoonery or mere cobbling.  It is reverently authentic as a war story, working the same tense, edge-of-the-seat magic as the best of the genre, book or movie.  At the same time, it’s Tarantino, its own thing.”

There are two main storylines in the film — one deals with the death and ultimate revenge plot of Shosanna Dreyfus and the other follows the basterds through Germany as they take on the Nazis and bumble around during secret missions to win the war.  In typical Tarantino fashion, the script bounces from each group and several moments in time, quilting together the larger arc of the story and conclusion of the war.

The script includes little tidbits about the characters that are never seen or talked about on screen.  Readers will be amazed by the depth of detail Tarantino provides in stage direction, the description of the scene, and explanation.

“Lt. Aldo [played by Brad Pitt] has one defining physical characteristic, a ROPE BURN around his neck — as if, once upon a time, he survived a LYNCHING.”  (Page 19)

“WE SEE all the pagentry below.  Tons of SPECTATORS.  Tons of guests dressed in Nazi uniforms, tuxedoes, and female finery, walking up the long red carpet (with a big swastika in the middle, naturally) leading into Shosanna’s cinema.  The German brass band omm-pa-pa-ing away.  German radio and film crews covering the event for the fatherland back home.  And, of course, MANY GERMAN SOLDIERS providing security for this joyous Germanic occasion.”  (Page 125)

Although the script does not depict the true conclusion of World War II, Tarantino illuminates the horrors of war and creates an atmosphere of the ridiculous in its revenge themes.  Watching the film is fast-paced, hilarious at moments, and gruesome, but reading the script plunges readers into their own personal version of the events and enables them to sink their teeth into Tarantino’s witty and poignant dialogue.  The basterds’ dialogue drips with disdain and self-righteousness, while Col. Hans Landa, or the Jew Hunter, uses language to demonstrate his superiority, even though his outward actions border on comedic.

Lt. Aldo:  Well, Werner, if you heard of us, you probably heard we ain’t in the prisoner-takin’ business.  We in the killin’ Nazi business.  And cousin, business is boomin’.  (Page 28)

FEMALE SGT. BEETHOVEN and STIGLITZ bring their guns toward each other and FIRE.  They BOTH TAKE and GIVE each other so many BULLETS it’s almost romantic when they collapse DEAD on the floor.  (Page 108)

Overall, Inglourious Basterds by Quentin Tarantino is an excellent specimen of a screenplay from its detailed stage direction and description to its witty and insightful dialogue, it will capture readers imaginations just as the film did on screen.  There are portions of the script that did not make it onto the big screen, but that’s to be expected with any film; there also are scenes in the movie that are not in the script.  The beauty of a screenplay is that it is not a stationary work of art, but one that evolves from page to screen under the guidance of its maker.

This is my 9th book for the WWII Reading Challenge 2009.  I can’t believe I’m still finding these on my shelves even now in December.  There may have to be a time when we revisit this war.

Additionally, I would like to thank Hachette Group for sending me a free copy of Inglourious Basterds for review.  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary. 

Searching for Pemberley by Mary Lydon Simonsen

Mary Lydon Simonsen’s Searching for Pemberley starts was a premise many interviewers often ask authors about their fiction:  “Are any of your characters based upon real people?”  Did Jane Austen use real people to write the great love story of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy?  Simonsen’s book may not offer the truth behind Austen’s characters, but it does spin a unique mystery tale through which one possible reality of Mr. Darcy and Ms. Bennet are discovered.

“‘Mr. Crowell, you don’t know me.  I’m Maggie Joyce, but I was wondering if . . .’  But that was as far as I got.

‘You’re here about the Darcy’s right?  Don Caton rang me to let me know you might be coming ’round.  Come through.  Any friend of Jane Austen’s is a friend of mine.'”  (Page 12 of the ARC)

Maggie Joyce is the main protagonist and an American from a coal mining town in Pennsylvania.  She quickly leaves her hometown of Minooka for Washington, D.C., to help with the government with its World War II-related administrative work.  Eventually she is stationed in Germany and later in England following the end of the war.  She meets a fantastic family, the Crowells, who help her unravel the real family behind Jane Austen’s characters.

“Beth gestured for me to follow her into the parlor.  She had a way of carrying herself that was almost regal, especially when compared to her husband, who reminded me of a former football player who had taken a hit or two.”  (Page 25 of ARC)

Told from Maggie’s point of view, the novel grabs readers with its immediacy as Maggie moves through war-torn Europe and reads through a variety of diary entries and letters to uncover the origins of Pride & Prejudice.  Readers who have read Austen’s novel once or more than a dozen times will recognize echoes of Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy in the Crowells and may even find parts of the mystery obvious.  However, this story is more than a look at where Austen may have found inspiration, it is about a nation (England) and its people in the midst of rebuilding after the devastation of the German blitzkrieg and World War II.  There also a healthy dose of romance between Maggie and two beaus that add to the tension.

“‘Nightmares from the war that I hadn’t had in ten, fifteen years came back.  Jesus, they all came back,’ he said, massaging his temples as if the act would block out any unwanted images.  ‘Picking up bodies and having them fall apart in my hands.  Stepping on limbs.  Being scared shitless during barrages.'”  (Page 254 of ARC)

Simonsen does an excellent job examining the shell shock felt by airmen and other military personnel and how their war experiences could impact their relationships with family, friends, and lovers.  While there are some occasions in this nearly 500-page book that are bogged down by too much detail, Simonsen’s characters are well developed and the twists and turns as Maggie unravels the mystery of the Bennets and the Darcys are fun.  The aftermath of World War II is well done and rich in emotional and physical detail, showing Simonsen’s deft research and keen eye.  Searching for Pemberley is an excellent addition to the every growing market of Jane Austen spin-offs.

This is the 8th book I’ve read that qualifies for the 2009 WWII Reading Challenge.  Though I officially met my goal of reading 5 WWII-related books some time ago, I’ve continued to find them on my shelves and review them here.  I’m sure there will be more, stay tuned.

Searching for Pemberley is the 6th item and fulfills my obligations under the Everything Austen Challenge 2009.   I hope that everyone has been reading along for this challenge.  It has been fun to see the mix of books and movies that everyone has reviewed.  I may even read another book before this challenge ends, since my main goal in joining was to read Persuasion, one of the only Austen novels I haven’t read.

Have you missed the giveaway for Searching for Pemberley?  Don’t worry there’s still time to enter.  Go here, and comment on Mary Lydon Simonsen’s interview for an additional entry.  Deadline is Dec. 14, 2009 at 11:59PM EST.


THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!!

Additionally, I would like to thank Mary Lydon Simonsen and Sourcebooks for sending me a free copy of Searching for Pemberley for review.  Clicking on title links will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page, no purchase necessary. 

Night of Flames by Douglas Jacobson

Douglas Jacobson’s Night of Flames is a gritty “spy” novel set during World War II beginning in 1939 during the invasion of Poland by the Nazis.  The main protagonists Anna and Jan Kopernik are separated by war and face near misses with the wrath of the Germans.  Anna joins the resistance in Belgium reluctantly, while Jan jumps at the opportunity to help MI6 on a secret mission in Poland with the hope that he can find his wife.

“Anna’s eyes snapped open and she sat bolt upright.  The shrill sound blasted into her brain, penetrating through the fog of sleep like an icy wind.  She blinked and looked around the dark room, trying to focus on shadowy images as the sound wailed on and on.”  (Page 11)

Anna is in Poland with her friend, Irene, and her son when the bombings start in earnest, leaving them and their driver very few options on the way back to Krakow and her father, a professor at the local university.  Anna is hit by significant loss and constant worry about her husband, who’s career is with the Polish military.  Night of Flames is a fast-paced novel that pushed through the front lines and skulks in the shadows of the resistance.

“‘The best thing any of us can do is try and keep out of their way, and if you get stopped or challenged, be as cooperative as you can.’

‘So you’re telling us to act like house pets in our own city.'” (Page 65)

Jacobson’s no-nonsense writing style will place readers in the heart of the resistance, though some readers could get bogged down by the military strategy and direction, such as how the resistance used holes dug in the earth to hold lanterns that were lit to signal the Allies as to where to drop supplies.  Readers will either enjoy the detailed strategy or wish for a greater focus on the characters.  Anna is the most developed of the two protagonists, though Jacobson does give each nearly equal time through alternating chapters.  These chapters help build tension, leaving the reader in suspense as to whether they will ever be reunited.

Readers who enjoy learning about World War II and who enjoy spy novels will like this novel.  But Night of Flames is more than just a war novel; it is about how ordinary citizens can rise up to reclaim their homeland and their dignity in the face of adversity signifying an indelible human spirit.

Check out this video for Night of Flames:

I want to thank Douglas Jacobson, McBooks Press, and Pump Up Your Book Promotion for sending me a free copy of Night of Flames to review.  If you click on the title links, you’ll be taken to my Amazon Affiliate page, but there is no obligation to buy.

They’ve also kindly provided an additional copy for one reader of my blog from anywhere in the world.  To Enter:

1.  Leave a comment on this post.
2.  Check out the War Through the Generations blog and leave me a relevant comment here about something you read or learned.

3.  Blog, Tweet, and spread the word about the giveaway and leave a comment here.

Deadline is Nov. 4, 2009, at 11:59 PM EST

This marks the 7th book I’ve read for the WWII Reading Challenge.  Though I officially met my goal of reading 5 WWII-related books some time ago, I’ve continued to find them on my shelves and review them here.  I’m sure there will be more, stay tuned.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

“I’d sneaked away from my parents and gone to the depot, too, because I’d never seen any Japanese. I expected them to look like the cartoons of Hirohito in the newspaper, with slanted eyes and buckteeth and skin like rancid butter. All these years later, I recall I was disappointed that they didn’t appear to be a ‘yellow peril’ at all. They were so ordinary.” (Page 2)

Sandra Dallas’ Tallgrass is set in Colorado in 1942 just after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. The book is narrated by Rennie Stroud, who was a 13-year-old girl when the Japanese are rounded up and placed into an internment camp–known as Tallgrass Ranch–in Ellis, Colorado. Many of the Japanese in the camp just up from the Stroud’s farm had been evacuated from their homes in California and their presence causes a major stir.

“They’d heard the sirens, too, and said it wasn’t anything, but I feared that somebody had gone under the bobwire surrounding the camp and was going to break into our house and kill us.” (Page 17)

Readers travel along with Rennie as she uncovers the truth about humanity regardless of color or creed and as she discovers the truth about her family. She grows into a woman more quickly than her parents would like, but given the rationing, the war effort, the harvest, and the increasing racial tension, Rennie has little choice but to mature.

“Things were tense even for the kids in the camp who never came in contact with people from Ellis. Little boys there played war games, just like the boys in Ellis. Daisy told us she’d watched a group of Tallgrass kids pretending they were fighting in the South Pacific and heard one complain, ‘How come I have to be the damn Jap all the time?'” (Page 238)

Readers will enjoy growing along with Rennie and getting into trouble with her and Betty Joyce. Dallas does an exceptional job of rounding out Rennie’s character from her naivete to her compassion and empathy for the plights of those less fortunate, like the Japanese and her friends. However, Tallgrass is more than a coming of age story; it also touches upon the harm caused by wrong-headed government policies, the fear that leads to prejudice and hatred, and the impact a war can have on everyone.

While readers may see some holes in how one of the main mysteries is resolved, Dallas’ resolution is in tune with the narrator she chose, a 13-year-old who is not privy to serious adult conversation. Overall, Tallgrass is a novel about WWII, family, growing up, and learning how to build a community even when differences exist.


This is my 6th book for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge.

Thanks to Staci at Life in the Thumb for reviewing Tallgrass with several other WWII books that I had to pick up from the library and read all together.

Also Reviewed By:
Adventures in Reading
Jo-Jo Loves to Read!!!
Life in the Thumb


Movie Review: Inglourious Basterds

You know what I was doing over weekend, don’t you?

Naturally, watching the latest QT, Inglourious Basterds, with Anna from Diary of an Eccentric.

Can I just Say…AWESOME!

Ok, you want a real review? Go ahead, check it out at War Through the Generations.

You know I gave it a great review, but what did Anna say?

Savvy Recap . . .

I just wanted to take a moment to recap some goings on here at Savvy Verse & Wit and at D.C. Literature Examiner.

I started out pledging to read 5 books for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge, and I met my goal. However, I think I’ll probably read some more books for the challenge throughout the year, but for now I’m officially saying I’ve finished this challenge.

Check out the books I reviewed for the challenge:

1. Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas
2. Bloody Good by Georgia Evans
3. T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte
4. Now Silence by Tori Warner Shepard
5. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

I also recently signed up for the Everything Austen Challenge in which you could mix and match movies and book reviews. I just have to read or watch 6 books or movies through January 2010.

So far, I’ve read one book and watched one movie, check out my reviews:

1. Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
2. Focus Features’ Pride & Prejudice (2005)

I joined the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge as well; you might be thinking I’ve lost my mind.

I have to read the entire series, including the new book that just came out. I haven’t fared as well on this challenge, but I will have a review forthcoming for:

1. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Ok, now for D.C. Literature Examiner news, I’ve been busy posting interviews and reviews:

1. Susan Helene Gottfried here and here.
2. Review of Shapeshifter: The Demo Tapes Year 1
3. Kyle Semmel here and here.
4. Review of The Woodstock Story Book
5. Joseph Sohm here, here, and here.

I hope you will take the time to check out some of these great interviews and reviews and leave a comment or two.

Also, I have a great international giveaway for the Rooftops of Tehran going on through August 24, 2009.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’ The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is a novel in letters between writer Juliet Ashton, her friends Sidney and Sophia, and her new friends from the Guernsey Channel Islands.

Ashton is in the midst of a book tour for a collection of her WWII articles under the pseudonym Izzy Bickerstaff. However, she is floundering on the topic for her next book, which is opportune for Ashton who begins to write articles for the Times about the practical, moral, and philosophical value of reading when she receives an unexpected letter of request from Dawsey Adams of Guernsey.

She begins getting letters from the remaining residents of Guernsey and their exploits as part of a literary society during the German occupation. These initial letters help with her series of articles and spur her muse into action.

“Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” (Page 10)

Like the above quote, this novel is one of those books that will hone in on the perfect reader. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is chock full of bookish quotes and must have been written with the love of books in mind. Beyond the WWII details, the rationing, the tip-toeing around German officers, and the loss of good friends shipped off to concentration camps, this is a novel about a writer who blooms in the countryside among new friends and new scenery.

“And then, being bright enough not to trust the publisher’s blurb, they will ask the book clerk the three questions: (1) What is it about? (2) Have you read it? (3) Was it any good?” (Page 16)

“The Library roof was some distance away from Juliet’s post, but she was so aghast by the destruction of her precious books that she sprinted toward the flames–as if single-handedly deliver the Library from its fate!” (Page 43)

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad books.” (Page 53)

Readers will easily keep track of the numerous characters in this novel because each letter has an introduction line of who the letter is from and to whom it is addressed. Barrows and Shaffer have crafted quirky individuals with lively personalities from Dawsey and his quiet persuasive qualities to Isola and her outgoing nature. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society is about how books can change lives and how people can impact one another’s lives.

This is one of the best books I’ve read in 2009.

Also Reviewed By:

Age 30+. . . A Lifetime of Books
Diary of an Eccentric
Jackets & Covers
It’s All About Books
Book Addiction
It’s All About Me (Time)
Katrina Reads
Peachy Books
The Book Nest

About the Authors:

Annie Barrows is the author of the children’s series Ivy and Bean, as well as The Magic Half. She lives in northern California.

Visit Annie’s website HERE.

Her aunt, Mary Ann Shaffer, who passed away in February 2008, worked as an editor, librarian, and in bookshops. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was her first novel.

For an excerpt from the book, go HERE.

For the rest of the TLC Book Tour schedule, go HERE.

To enter the Giveaway for 5 copies of the book for U.S. and Canadian residents:

1. Leave a comment on this post about your own book club or why you want to read this book.

2. Blog, Tweet, or spread the word and leave me a link or comment about it.

Silly me, I forgot the deadline, so here it is: August 12, 2009, at 11:59 PM

This is my 5th book for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge.


Now Silence by Tori Warner Shepard

Tori Warner Shepard’s Now Silence: A Novel of World War II takes place in the midst of WWII around the time Pearl Harbor is bombed, many U.S. military personnel are held in POW camps, and Japanese Americans are corralled in internment camps across the western United States, particularly in New Mexico.

“In the airless box of a room of the Kirtland BOQ in yet another officer’s guest quarters, Phyllis found herself disgusted with both Roddy and Albuquerque. She wasn’t even hungry for breakfast. Her goal was to win Anissa over by introducing herself as a worthy ally. She counted on its being quick and easy, considering that Anissa and her vulnerable cult appeared to be able to swallow almost anything. It should take no time at all.” (Page 130)

Readers are first introduced to a self-centered, superficial Phyllis soon after the death of her fiance, Russell. Russell’s soon-to-be ex-wife, Anissa, lives out west and had refused to sign the divorce papers, and Phyllis has hated her for many years and obsessed about this woman and the role she played in Russell’s life.

“Her lust was contagious. Not overly surprised by this, he sank into her kisses, eating and being eaten by her, weakened and unable to pull out.” (Page 191)

After a great deal of build up regarding these characters’ animosity toward one another, the confrontation nearly midway in the book is not as explosive as readers may expect. Phyllis is a complicated character, just like Anissa, and readers may find it difficult to wrap their arms around these characters’ actions, though Anissa is a bit easier to get a handle on than Phyllis, who makes her way across America from Florida to New Mexico by riding a bicycle to make herself seem worthy of awe, only to break down and “sleep” her way across the nation.

“Over the next few days the wind drifted in random streams across the bay as Nagasaki burned. The fires pushed by the coils of moving updrafts swallowed the breathable air. By the fourth day, cinders fell like snow and no more fighter planes cluttered the sky. They simply stopped coming.

A hollow silence.” (Page 211)

The pacing of this novel is slow and awkward in places, but the best sections of this novel are in the POW camps of Japan. Readers will be introduced to Melo and Senio, who rely on each other for survival, with the help of Doc Matson. The brutality and uncertainty of their lives is mirrored in the lives of Anissa’s neighbor Nicasia and her soon-to-be daughter-in-law LaBelle, who wait endlessly for word of their loved ones.

“Several thousand emaciated men continued to form a line outside and Melo looked up to see if they had moved forward even an inch. Hart to tell, by this time the men all looked alike–skin burnt, shaved heads, scrawny, bony, skinny, emaciated, lice-riddled stooped bodies with torn rags for clothes.” (Page 33)

In just a little over 300 pages, Shepard weaves in a number of storylines and illustrates the environment present at home and abroad. Readers should be cautioned that there are some graphic scenes and sexual content in Now Silence.

Overall, readers will enjoy what they learn about the Pacific front and the characters are well-developed, even if Phyllis is a bit tough to take most of the time. While readers may find there is too much detail about Phyllis’s earlier exploits and some of the sections about the WWII events are told rather than shown, Now Silence sheds light on the Pacific Front of World War II from Americans on both sides of the ocean.

This is my 4th book for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge.

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte

What I Saw (From T4, Page 8)

My visual
Sense
Was so
Strong.

If
A breeze
Shook
The leaves
On
A tree
I

Would

Shriek
With
Delight.

If
People
Ran fast
Past me
It looked
Like
A tidal
Wave.

Even
The motion
Of
A hand
Waving
Goodbye
Startled
Me.

Ann Clare LeZotte’s debut novel, T4, uses free verse to provide a powerful look into the impact of the Nazi regime on German nationals, particularly those deemed unfit to live. T4 (Tiergartenstrasse 4) or Action T4 was a Nazi euthanasia program between 1939 and 1941 to “eliminate” the disabled or mentally ill.

“I couldn’t communicate./I was trapped in my silence,/As if under a veil.//This made me feel upset/And angry sometimes./I put my face in my pillow/And sobbed and sighed.//” (I didn’t learn to speak, Page 7)

Paula Becker is a young girl living in Germany while the Nazi party is at war with the world and persecuting its own people. But she is not just a young German girl, she’s also a deaf girl. T4 is a free verse novel that utilizes simple language and images to accurately portray the young narrator’s voice. Paula is forced to leave her home and grow up on the run as the Nazi regime seeks out disabled and mentally ill patients for the T4 program. Only one or two poems in the novel seem out of order, but this coincides with the flitting mind of a young girl who is struggling to understand her world and find her place in it.

LeZotte’s narrative poems create a cohesive novel for young readers interested in learning more about WWII and the Holocaust. Readers will enjoy the simple imagery and easy-to-read poems, which allow Paula’s confusion, curiosity, and evolution to shine through. Some of the most poignant prose poems in this novel are “Poor Kurt,” “I Put on Stephanie’s Lipstick,” “But the Killings Didn’t Stop,” and “Postscript.” T4 is a novel for young readers and adults, which will easily generate discussion and pique children’s interest in learning more about WWII and the Holocaust.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric
Maw Books

Giveaway Reminder:

2-Year Blogiversary Quote Challenge here, here, here, and here.

Bloody Good by Georgia Evans

Bloody Good by Georgia Evans is the second of my five books for the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge.

“This was not, he was convinced, some foppish, effete English vampire. This was one of his Aryan brothers. The brain rhythm was strong and reassuringly familiar. He’d sensed the same in his homeland in the Hartz Mountains. Only one other vampire hailed from that part of Germany. Could it truly be Gerhardt Eiche, or as he no doubt posed himself: Gabriel Oak?” (Page 18)

Georgia Evans’ portrayal of Germany’s invasion of surrounding European nations by the Nazi party as the backdrop for her novel set in the English countryside, Bloody Good, has a wide cast of characters, including vampires, witches, pixies, and dragons.

Alice Doyle is the village doctor and a pixie who has denied her heritage and her powers to rely upon science and medicine. Peter Watson is a conscientious objector to the war who underwent several years of veterinary training before the war began. Alice’s grandmother embraces her pixie heritage and is keenly aware of the “others” living in the town.

In an effort to gain an advantage in the war effort, the Nazi’s enlist vampires to blow up secret munitions plants across the English countryside. Evans does a great job of establishing a surreal world in which Nazi’s and vampires work together for the same cause, at least until the vampires deem themselves able to take over. Dr. Doyle, her grandmother, and friends work together to uncover the secret Nazi mission and stop the vampires from succeeding in destroying the munitions plant.

“The talk on rabbit-keeping was boring enough to let Peter’s mind wander onto more enthralling topics, notably Alice, Dr. Doyle, and the woman he was head over heels in love with. She beat out furry rodents, and even edible furry rodents, any day of the week.” (Page 182)

Readers will enjoy the vampire tales, the pixie legends, and other surreal elements of this story, but the real treat is watching Dr. Doyle come into her own powers and accepting her heritage. However, some readers may be put off by the graphic sex scenes in this novel, though there are not too many of them. Some of the depictions in the book were a bit odd, particularly when Peter Watson compares Dr. Doyle to furry rodents. Overall, Bloody Good is a light read for the beach or camping in the woods.

This is the first in a series of novels by Georgia Evans, and readers who enjoy this one, should check out the next installment, Bloody Awful. I know I’m looking forward to the next one.