The Yellow House Read-a-Long, Part 3

As part of the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge, we’re reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey.  For the first week, we read pages 1-90, and the second week was for part 2, pages 91-164.

Today, we’re discussing part three, which is for pages 165-238.  This week, we’re asked to talk about the section and ask our own questions.

Please be aware that this discussion could contain spoilers.

 These are some questions I had about this section:

Do you think Owen has a right to ask Eileen for something in return for his kindness and do you think he goes too far asking her to give up her role in the Troubles and commit to volunteer work?

I think its about time Owen sought some reciprocation for all of his generosity and given that all he asks is for her to stop engaging in the violence of the civil disobedience and to help out at the hospital, it’s not a lot to ask.  I think the volunteer work will go a long way to assuaging her guilt and anger, and maybe even begin to open her eyes to the troubles before her people and country.  It also is likely to open her eyes to the suffering of others and that she hasn’t cornered the market on that suffering.

What do you think Owen’s frankness with Eileen about her behavior say about their relationship?

I think that Owen’s ability to be frank with Eileen demonstrates his great regard for her, and dare I say, love.  She’s equally frank, if not harsh, with him, which illustrates the deeper emotional connection that they have, even though neither seems to want to admit it.

Do you think Owen is right that confronting the past can help us heal? Do you think it will help Eileen?  Her family?

I do agree to an extent that revisiting the past and making sense out of it and what it has brought to your life can be cathartic, and in this case, visiting the hospital where her sister is extricated from the family and quarantined is more helpful than Eileen or Owen could have imagined.  I’m still not sure that what transpires in this section will ultimately achieve Eileen’s original dream of reuniting her family at the Yellow House, but it may heal them a bit.

Anna wants to know:

Do you think Frank is justified in abandoning his family and in the treatment of his sister?

No.  I don’t think Frank is justified in abandoning his family and in the treatment of his sister, although I understand that he was disillusioned because he learned that the father he has known all is his life is not his biological father.  On the other hand, he was a very angry man to begin with, which fueled his disappointment and drive to show everyone he could be successful.  I’m particularly angry with Frank in how he tells his sister what to do with regard to Owen and basically forbids her to see him again because it is not good for his business (working both sides of the Cause).  He has absolutely no right to do that; he is not her father and has never been there for her, so how can he expect to have a say in her life — Och, because he’s arrogant, even more so now that he is the owner of the grandfather’s estate.

Do you think finding Lizzie will help Eileen’s mom to heal?

I’m not sure that finding Lizzie will help Eileen’s mom, but anything is possible.  Will finding Lizzie help Eileen?  I think so.  I think Eileen has been looking for some closure and learning that her sister is alive is one way to do that, and she’s even getting some kind of closure with Frank with him talking to her — though he’s still an a**.

What do you think about Owen buying the Yellow House?

I think Owen did it for reasons that he was even unaware of.  Although I think he’s know he’s liked Eileen, I’m not sure he initially bought it for her but for what he says to bring his wife home.  He seems dedicated to his family and keeping them close and the war has changed him in that way, making every moment precious.  I think he now has a better sense of what family should be and wants to capture that.  And I think at the heart of that is Eileen and her family before all the bad things began happening to her — when they were happy in the yellow house and making music.

That’s all for this week.  We’ll be finishing up the book for next week.  Stay tuned.

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear

A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear is the eighth book in the Maisie Dobbs series of cozy mysteries, but can be read as a stand-alone novel.  Set between the end of WWI and the beginnings of WWII, Dobbs is called upon by the British Special Branch to be their eyes and ears inside the College of St. Francis about events that would cause concern to the Crown.  Once installed as a junior lecturer of philosophy, a murder occurs that sets events in motion and tangles Dobbs in yet another mystery.

Dobbs runs her own private investigation agency in London, but she’s called away to a college in Cambridge on special assignment, leaving the office in the capable and reliable hands of Billy Beale.  Beyond the murder mystery and the search for anything that threatens national security, Dobbs is concerned about her father and her friend Sandra, who has just lost her husband in a freak accident.

“She wound down the window and gave a hand signal to indicate that she was pulling over to the side of the road, thus allowing an Austin Seven behind to pass, followed by the motor car that had been shadowing her for at least half an hour.  As soon as they passed, she turned back onto the road again and began to drive as close to the vehicle in front as safety would allow.” (page 3)

Winspear crafts an intricate novel of mystery that resonates with the reader as Dobbs is a strong woman making her way in a man’s world just after the war has ended and women are struggling to maintain their new found freedom.  Dobbs is a strong woman, though scarred, who is intelligent and observant.  Interestingly, Winspear demonstrates how idle gossip can provide just the nugget of information investigators need to close in on a killer.  While Dobbs is kept in the dark about the knowledge held by government officials, she manages to uncover their secrets and those of other government officials who view her as an inconsequential lecturer.

Although there are three or more stories going on at once, Maisie is always central and she juggles so many tasks with ease — almost like she is superhuman.  Pacifism, the treatment of conscientious objectors, and whether someone’s heritage plays a role in their loyalties are just some of the issues addressed in this novel.  A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear raises questions of how much should we idolize our mentors — after all they are just human — and whether we should vilify those that do not see the world in quite the same way that we do.  Moreover, she tackles the power of the written word and its impact on political parties, soldiers, and average citizens, plus how words can inflame already volatile situations.

About the Author:

Jacqueline Winspear was born and raised in the county of Kent, England. Following higher education at the University of London’s Institute of Education, Jacqueline worked in academic publishing, in higher education, and in marketing communications in the UK.

She emigrated to the United States in 1990, and while working in business and as a personal / professional coach, Jacqueline embarked upon a life-long dream to be a writer.  Find out more about Jacqueline at her website, www.jacquelinewinspear.com, and find her on Facebook.

This is my 19th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 8th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

The Yellow House Read-a-Long, Part 1

As part of the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge, we’re reading The Yellow House by Patricia Falvey.  For the first week, we read pages 1-90.  I’m going to answer the read-a-long questions here.  Please be aware that the answers could have spoilers in them.

1.  What do you think of the writing?

Falvey’s writing is very in step with other Irish writers I’ve read in the past where the diction and the style resembles the time period and the very mythical Irish culture.  I’m enjoying the detail and the description a great deal; it gives me a sense that I am there in the valley below Slieve Mullion, the mountain looking down on the O’Neill house.

I had a hard time stopping after the second section in the book when I hit page 90.

2.  What do you think of Eileen’s parents?

Eileen’s parents have secrets, and these secrets are well hidden from the children, as to be expected during that time.  Parents did not openly talk about their courtships or previous relationships with their lovers and/or parents to their children.  I’m surprised at how lively Eileen’s mother talked of the past once it was revealed where their grandfather lived.  It seemed a bit incongruous to me that she would suddenly want to reminisce with her kids about a past she had kept so hidden and one that was fraught with despair and heartache.  I really was disappointed that such a strong woman was unable to bounce back after tragedy to help her other children!  It saddened me to think that she would withdraw so much, and after the death of the father, she became an unrecognizable woman…that seemed a bit extreme to me.

Eileen’s father is a typical dreamer, which has been seen in other Irish novels, but what’s intriguing here is that he is not a drunkard and does not make foolish monetary decisions that leave his family out in the cold for the most part.  He does make a go of farming, though eh fails miserably at it, but rather than gamble away the future, he takes the reasonable road and sells a portion of the land…at least until he takes out a mortgage on the house.

3.  It seems that the book is heading in a romantic direction when it comes to Eileen and Owen Sheridan. What do you think of this potential romance?

Eileen and Owen have a sort of forbidden love, which can be tempting, but for now it seems that Eileen is being level-headed…however, there also is the wild card of James, whom she is determined to hate.  But will she really, and will he really become a priest?  That remains to be seen.  It also seems to be a similar set up going on here that may mirror her mother’s past when she became pregnant with Frank and instead of marrying his father, she marries Eileen’s dad.

4.  As we closed the second section, the world is on the brink of the First World War, and Ireland is being torn apart by the fight for Home Rule. Have you learned anything about Ireland or the world at this time period that was new to you?

I finally understand the difference between the Unionists and the Nationalists!  These were mentioned in A Long Long Way by Sebastian Barry (my review), but it was so confusing given the main character, Willie had little knowledge of politics related to WWI or the Irish struggle for Home Rule.  I hope there is more of the politics behind the wars in this one.  It’s fascinating to me, though I don’t want the book to lose its pace or its dynamism.

***Some Other Observations***

I really love how Falvey has used nature here to demonstrate the struggles of the Irish, and her descriptions of the Music Men are fantastic at demonstrating the power of music and how it became a safe heaven for many Irish.  I’m also getting curious about the significance of yellow here; it seems to be recurring in the house paint, Eileen’s dress, and other events.  I cannot wait to see how that ties into the overall novel.

For next week, we’ll be reading pages 91-164 or sections “War, 1914-1918″ and “Insurrection, 1919-1920.”

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry is a historical fiction novel in which the main protagonist, Willie Dunne, joins the military to prove to himself and his father that he can be more than a short teenage boy.  As a young Irish boy, he dreamed of joining his father in the police force, but he never grew to the required height.  After disappointing his father, Willie meets a young woman, Gretta, and falls in love, just before he leaves for the front lines in Belgium.  Willie is a bit dull when it comes to the politics behind WWI, but he’s also dull about the politics and struggle facing his home country of Ireland.

Barry’s prose meanders is a storytelling fashion that dates back to the old days in Ireland, and is likely to remind readers of Frank Delaney’s storytelling style.  Willie’s mind wanders into his past as a boy to the present situations he finds himself in at the front lines, with a variety of men who are as young as he is.  It is clear that these men he mentions are names that will either be soon forgotten as the ravages of war take them or who are men that make an impression on Willie’s psyche, such as Father Buckley.

“Four men killed that day.  The phrase sat up in Willie’s head like a rat and made a nest for itself there.”  (Page 21)

“As they approached the war, it was as if they went through a series of doors, each one opened briefly and locked fast behind them.” (Page 37)

“The first layer of clothing was his jacket, the second his shirt, the third his longjohns, the fourth his share of lice, the fifth his share of fear” (Page 43)

Barry’s prose is clipped when necessary to demonstrate the immediacy of war-time battles, but also it slows down the action as Willie reflects on the battles, the gas attacks, the deaths of his comrades, and more as he attempts to process all that he’s seen.  There are gruesome gas attack scenes as the mustard gas inches its way across no-man’s land and down into the trenches, filling every open crevice with its nasty poison, including the open mouths of men caught in the trenches without gas masks or even well-secured gas masks.  Barry’s work not only demonstrates the physical trials of war, but also the mental hardships that accompany the loss of friends and people you didn’t even really have time to get to know, as well as deal with the bureaucracy that is the military and the perceptions of others about your commitment to the cause and battles that happened in the past that you witnessed first hand and may not be retold in the way in which they actually happened.  There is a battle that rages inside each soldier about when to speak up and when to keep quiet, and Willie struggles with that daily.

Willie can be a trying character in that he has little knowledge of the politics around him and has little opinion on the matter, and this can keep readers at an emotional distance.  However, Barry has crafted a novel that demonstrates the ins and outs of war at a time when modern mechanisms were just coming into play, even though much of the combat was still hand-to-hand and the troops conditions saw little improvement.  Additionally, it seems that Barry is attempting to comment on “authority” whether it is in the parent-son relationship, the soldier-military relationship, or the citizen-country relationship, but the message becomes quite muddled.  It would almost seem as though the narration is trying to tackle too much in the way of the “authority” figure relationship, making it harder for readers to clearly make out the purpose of so many “father” figures in the narration.

A Long, Long Way by Sebastian Barry takes a while to get into, but once you begin the journey with Willie, you’ll want to see if he returns to Ireland knowing his own mind — the one requirement Gretta has made of him before she will agree to marry.  While Willie thinks of her often, he also has to contend with the daily trials of war and military service.  The novel is does not gloss over the gruesome aspects of trench-life and warfare, so be warned.  In fact, some of the best and most suspenseful scenes were those involving mustard gas, which Willie and his fellow soldiers had never seen before; Barry did well in describing how it crept across the battlefields.  Overall, a worthwhile look at WWI from the point of view of an Irish soldier caught between his loyalties for Ireland and the British army.

About the Author:

Sebastian Barry was born in Dublin in 1955. His play, The Steward of Christendom, first produced in 1995, won many awards and has been seen around the world. His novel, The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, appeared in 1998. He lives in Wicklow with his wife and three children.

This is my 7th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.



This is my 15th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 1st book for the 2012 Ireland Reading Challenge since the main protagonist is Irish and must cope with being away during WWI while uprisings are occurring in Ireland for independence from England.  The author also was born in Dublin.

The Harlem Hellfighters: When Pride Met Courage by Walter Dean Myers and Bill Miles

The Harlem Hellfighters:  When Pride Met Courage by Walter Dean Myers and Bill Miles is a book for ages 9-12 and chronicles the exploits of the “Harlem Hellfighters,” who were African-American soldiers of the 369th Infantry Regiment of World War 1.  Miles writes the preface to the book and talks about his personal connection to the unit and Harlem, eventually becoming the unit historian.

“Hundreds of black men laid down their lives in France because they refused to believe that they were anything but men, worthy of being Americans and representing their country.” (Page IV)

Myers chronicles the presence of African Americans throughout military history starting from the French and Indian War through WWI.  It also discusses the politics in Europe at the time, especially the desire of European nations to colonize developing countries and those nations rich with resources.  Eventually, a division of partners arose, with Britain and France on one side and Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other.  There are detailed accounts of trenches — how they were dug and how many sets of trenches there were and why — and the rise of modern mechanized weapons and warfare.

Once the foundation is laid down, Myers begins to discuss the problem of race in the United States, beginning in 1896 with the Supreme Court decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson, which enabled companies, counties, states, etc. to segregate whites and blacks so long as the facilities are “equal.”  Not only was segregation a problem, but within the black community, men were reluctant to join the National Guard and possibly fight for the United States when they were unable to vote or have the same rights as their white counterparts.  This reluctance was only overcome when a famous black composer James Reese Europe agreed to volunteer for the 15th New York National Guard or 15th Infantry Regiment.  It took organizers in New York at least one year — between 1916 and 1917 — to reach peacetime size of 1,378 men to obtain federal recognition and additional funding.

The true gems of The Harlem Hellfighters:  When Pride Met Courage by Walter Dean Myers and Bill Miles are the historic photos of those volunteering for the regiment, tenement farmers, and more as well as copies of War Department letters, newspaper columns, telegrams, posters, and other documents.  Although some of the military background can be dry, the story Myers tells about the black soldiers and their struggle against segregation and the solidarity they found as part of the Harlem Hellfighters is inspiring.  The stories of Henry Johnson and Needham Roberts offer additional perspective on how black men became soldiers and how they fought once abroad.  There are other stories like theirs as well, and these personal accounts humanize these historical figures.  The struggle against racism and segregation and early war and political background takes up most of the book, with only the remaining third telling the story of the Hellfighters in WWI France.  For the younger age group that this book is aimed at, Myers does well to pinpoint individual soldiers’ stories, but readers of that age would likely pay closer attention to the historical aspects if there were more of these stories.

About the Author:

Walter Dean Myers is a New York Times bestselling and critically acclaimed author who has garnered much respect and admiration for his fiction, nonfiction, and poetry for young people. Winner of the first Michael L. Printz Award, he is considered one of the preeminent writers for children. He lives in Jersey City, New Jersey, with his family.

William Miles was born in Harlem, New York, and has used his deep knowledge and experience of that borough to produce films that tell unique and often inspiring stories of Harlem’s history. Based at Thirteen/WNET in New York City, William Miles produced many films dedicated to the African-American experience that have been broadcast nationwide.  Miles’ interest in creating historical documentaries was nurtured through 25 years of restoring archival films and early feature classics for Killiam Shows, Inc. and the Walter Reade Organization in New York City.

This is my 6th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

Bess Crawford Read-a-Long with Book Club Girl

Sometimes kismet happens and another event in the blogosphere happens to coincide with the war we’re covering here at War Through the Generations. In this case, a WWI-related mystery series written by Charles Todd — a mother-son writing team — is having a read-a-long at Book Club Girl. The series is those starring Bess Crawford.

If you’re interested in joining, here are some of the details:

The “Book Time with Bess Read Along” kicks off now and runs through the publication of the newest book in the series, An Unmarked Grave in June 2012.

As an added bonus to get you started, the e-book of A Duty to the Dead is just $1.99 for a limited time, so order up today and get reading!

The read-along officially kicks off today (but don’t worry, our first discussion won’t take place until March 26th) and it runs through the publication of the paperback of the most recent Bess Crawford novel, A Bitter Truth (on sale 5/1), as well as the new Bess Crawford hardcover, An Unmarked Grave (on sale 6/5). We’ll end the read-along in June with a Book Club Girl on Air Show with the Charles Todd writing team to discuss all the books in the series.

Here’s the schedule of when I’ll post questions about each book for us to discuss:

March 26thA Duty to the Dead discussion
April 30th
– An Impartial Witness discussion
May 1st – A Bitter Truth paperback goes on sale
May 29th
– A Bitter Truth discussion (May 28th is Memorial Day)
June 5th – An Unmarked Grave – the new hardcover goes on sale
June 25th
– An Unmarked Grave discussion
June 28th
Book Club Girl on Air Show with Charles Todd to Discuss the Entire Series

Look for updates along the way here, on Twitter (#besscrawford), and on the Book Club Girl and Charles Todd Facebook pages.

Please check out the rest of the details and sign up here.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of those classics that defines an author.  Set during the 1920s just after WWI, Jay Gatsby is a mysterious rich man who lives on the wrong side (West Egg) of the Manhasset Bay in New York.  Nick Carraway, who narrates this tale, is like Gatsby in that he is from the middle west and comes to New York after the war to make his fortune.  Unlike Gatsby, this self-made man has not taken great pains to hide his true past.  Carraway informs the reader of how he meets Gatsby and how he comes once again into contact with his cousin Daisy and her husband Tom, who live on the right side of the bay (East Egg).  While little action goes on in the book until the end, the interactions of the characters and their reactions to one another and Gatsby are telling of how class differences remain even in the United States where you’re supposed to lift yourself up by your bootstraps.  There is a distinct disdain on the part of Carraway for opulence and excess, which had become prevalent among the upper class and bootleggers.

“‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'” (page 5)

Carraway has his suspicions about Gatsby’s fortune, but eventually, his charisma wins him over and he goes beyond any of Gatsby’s friends in the end, demonstrating that true friendship has little to do with one’s background or wealth.  Daisy is the great love in this novel, and while readers may not see her appeal, they must remember that she is seen through the eyes of Carraway, who already has expressed a bias against the wealthy and high social class since returning from the war.  Fitzgerald has not set up a love triangle that is difficult to uncover, but the conclusion of that love triangle — really its more like a love square — is utterly tragic.

“‘Anyhow he gives large parties,’ said Jordan, changing the subject with an urban distaste for the concrete.  ‘And I like large parties.  They’re so intimate.  At small parties there isn’t any privacy.'” (page 54)

In many ways, Gatsby has romanticized his time with Daisy and he hopes to rekindle what he lost when he was shipped off to fight in WWI.  However, the question remains whether what he had with Daisy before the war was real, romanticized, or even imagined by a soldier looking for something to cling to in an effort to survive the horrors of war.  Carraway is just as enigmatic as Gatsby, and while their initial circumstances differed in terms of riches, they both pursued the American Dream of success — albeit in different ways.  These two characters are juxtaposed for a reason, and Fitzgerald leaves it up to the reader to determine why.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.  It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . And one fine morning –” (Page 189)

Fitzgerald’s writing was easy to understand, while there were moments where there were names dropped and mentioned in great paragraphs, if only to demonstrate the connectedness of the characters to high society and other “important” people.  Those moments were not necessary given the conversations Gatsby had at his parties.  The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is an enduring look at a time when men and women were fully grasping at anything to improve their situation and earn their way in the world.  However, there is a blissful disenchantment with this way of life by the end of the novel that will have readers questioning their dedication to the rat race and beating out the Joneses.



This is my 11th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.



This is my 5th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

The War to End All Wars: World War 1 by Russell Freedman

The War to End All Wars: World War 1 by Russell Freedman is a collection of historical information about the war enhanced by photos and a good introduction to this part of history for ages 7 and up.  Not only does Freedman offer the political, social, and military ins and outs of the build up to WWI, he illustrates the circumstances of the time period through photographs of soldiers in training, women pinning flowers on marching soldiers leaving for war, women plowing the fields without horses, and event the modern weaponry used.

Readers looking for an in-depth examination of the period will want to this book because the photos break up the factual litany and provide a human face behind the story.  Some of the surprising pictures for me were of the modern tanks that the British created and the gas masks made for horses.  Ironically, the rebels who were the catalyst behind the war had no idea that Archduke Franz Ferdinand was sympathetic to the Serbs cause for greater free and a larger voice in the Austria-Hungary empire.  In another section of the book, readers will discover similarities between WWI and the Cold War with the build up of armies and weapons, but unlike during the Cold War, the leaders during WWI were unsuccessful in their attempts at diplomacy even though many of the royal leaders were related.

However, don’t mistake this as a completely dark and dreary book because there are lighter moments depicted where soldiers created a snowman and gave him military gear, including a spiked helmet and Mauser 98 rifle.  However, war is far from pretty with the death of comrades from artillery shells to the rampant diseases that quickly spread through the primitive trenches, including trench foot, trench fever spread by bloodsucking lice, and other ailments.

“Added to these indignities was the awful stench that hung over the frontlines, a foul odor that instantly assaulted visitors.  You could smell the frontline miles before you could see it.  The reek rose from rotting corpses lying in shallow graves, from overflowing latrines, and from the stale sweat of men who had not enjoyed the luxury of a bath for weeks.”  (page 68)

To be honest, the photos accompanying the early sections about the serious living conditions these soldiers faced in the trenches are inadequate, but there is little the author could do about that.  The images of men caught up in barbed wire in No-Man’s Land or crossing the battlefield in a cloud of poison gas are simply haunting in a way that the numbers of dead (4 million Russian soldiers by the end of 1915) are unfathomable.  Modern warfare began during WWI with the manufacture of tanks and German U-boats, which were allegedly responsible for the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915.  But the United States did not declare war until 1917 after Germans attacked a number of U.S. ships.  There are stunning images of how societies coped with food shortages as trade was disrupted and how people reacted as they were forced to pick up the pieces after soldiers left.

The War to End All Wars: World War 1 by Russell Freedman is a comprehensive look at WWI and all the nations involved, as well as how it impacted not only the societies bombed and destroyed, but also the soldiers.  Despite all the destruction, patriotism drove many soldiers and supporters of the war, and it begs the question when does patriotism become a detriment to society and humanity.

This is my 9th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 4th book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

The Confession by Charles Todd

The Confession by Charles Todd is the 14th book in the Ian Rutledge mystery series, which usually pertain to The Great War or WWI.  In this book, Rutledge hears the confession of an aging and dying man in 1920 about a murder he committed during the war.  When the body of the man who confesses to murder is found in the Thames, Rutledge’s informal inquiry into the alleged murder is kicked up a notch and has him traveling between London and Essex.  The man had given him a name, which turns out to be false, and the mystery of how this man knows whom he’s accused becomes a mystery in itself.

While set after the war, it is clear that the battles have impacted Rutledge, and many of the men and families he encounters in the book as he unravels the murder mystery.  Todd’s mystery resembles that of Sherlock Holmes, though Rutledge’s Watson is Hamish who died in the war.  Deductions are made carefully from a series of innocuous events and statements from witness, neighbors, and others as Rutledge attempts to trace the heritage of the Russell family in Furnham.  And of course, there are some red herrings.

“The body rolled in the current gently, as if still alive.  It was face down, only the back and hips visible.  It had been floating that way for some time.  The men in the ancient skiff had watched it for a quarter of an hour, as if half expecting it to rise up and walk away before their eyes.”  (Page 1)

Todd’s WWI mystery is set two years after the end of the war, but WWI’s presence is still felt, especially in remote Furnham where the residents like to be left to themselves and don’t take too kindly to outsiders, especially the authorities.  The town felt the presence of the British military keenly when they took over a local farm to build an airfield for fighters and to keep an eye on potential invasion forces.  Shell shock is just one aspect of the war mentioned and show throughout the book, but there also are moments where trench foot is discussed as well as the societal impacts of the war on those families left behind by enlisted brothers, fathers, and lovers.

The Confession by Charles Todd is a compelling historical mystery set just after WWI that will have readers turning the pages eager to see how Rutledge battles his own ghosts while chasing those of the Russell family to solve a number of mysterious deaths and murders.  While part of a series, it can be read as a standalone mystery novel, but readers will be eager to pick up the other books in the series.


About the Author (from the Website):

Charles and Caroline Todd are a mother and son writing team who live on the east coast of the United States. Caroline has a BA in English Literature and History, and a Masters in International Relations. Charles has a BA in Communication Studies with an emphasis on Business Management, and a culinary arts degree that means he can boil more than water. Caroline has been married (to the same man) for umpteen years, and Charles is divorced.

Charles and Caroline have a rich storytelling heritage. Both spent many evenings on the porch listening to their fathers and grandfathers reminisce. And a maternal grandmother told marvelous ghost stories. This tradition allows them to write with passion about events before their own time. And an uncle/great uncle who served as a flyer in WWI aroused an early interest in the Great War.

This is my 3rd book for the WWI Reading Challenge.  Also if you participated in the War Through the Generations Civil War Reading Challenge, don’t forget to enter the giveaway.  It ends tomorrow, Jan. 31, 2012.



This is my 5th book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo

Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo is a coming-of-age novel (grades 7 and older) that sets readers up for the dreary and devastating life of a young boy, Tommy Peaceful, whose father dies unexpectedly at work as a forester.  Tommy and his brother Charlie are inseparable, and their other brother Big Joe has special needs and is often protected by the family whether it is in the school yard or at home from their Great Aunt.  Tommo tells the story in a series of flashbacks about his father’s death, his regret about how it happened, his friendship and kinship with his brother Charlie and their schoolmate Molly, and The Great War that invades their lives.  Readers will not immediately grow close to Tommo in the beginning, but as he opens up about his past and present situation overseas, it is revealed that things have changed far more and far too quickly for him.  He’s fallen in love, rushed to become an adult, and headed off on an adventure that was far less exciting and far more harrowing than he expected.  Each chapter begins with a little snippet of his present situation before Tommo relives his past happinesses, until the two moments meet in time.

“I want to try to remember everything, just as it was, just as it happened.  I’ve had nearly eighteen years of yesterdays and tomorrows, and tonight I must remember as many of them as I can.  I want tonight to be long, as long as my life, not filled with fleeting dreams that rush me on towards dawn.”  (page 1)

Morpurgo is at his best here with the subtle foreshadowing at the beginning with the crows caught in the fence, like the cavalry caught in the barbed wire of the battle fields and throughout in how Tommo relates his story.  He was 15 when he enlisted in the British military, but only after Charlie agreed to lie for him and say that they were twins of the same age.  These devoted brothers have shared everything — the sorrow of losing a father, the sorrow of losing a dog, the joy of finding Big Joe alive, and the love of Molly — but sharing everything also can breed secrets and resentment, which Tommo brings to the forefront when he speaks of Molly.  From the beginning, readers are given a clear picture of Tommo’s devotion and love for Molly, but it is clear that she treats him more as a sibling and he refuses to see it.

“Every uniform and every helmet was like our own.  Then, as we came down the gangplank into the fresh morning air, we saw them, the lines of walking wounded shuffling along the quay toward us, some with their eyes bandaged, holding on to the shoulder of the one in front.  Others lay on stretchers.  One of them, puffing on a cigarette between pale parched lips, looked up at me out of sunken yellow eyes.  ‘G’luck lads,’ he cried as we passed.  ‘Give ’em what for.’  The rest stayed silent and their staring silence spoke to each of us as we formed up and marched out of town.”  (page 115)

Morpurgo’s prose is clear and concise to ensure the mood is vivid and the experience of first person has the full impact, particularly during training and in the trenches.  A bit more for maturer audiences with its focus on the war and soldiering, but there are lighter moments of ribbing between the soldiers and talk of girls and even romance.  However, Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo is more about a young man coming into his own and dealing with the decisions he’s made and the events he’s witnessed.  Tommo has not only a colored past of poaching and death, but also a soldiering present that has tested his courage and devotion.  An excellent introduction to The Great War.



This is my 2nd book for the WWI Reading Challenge.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is told from the point of view of the horse, who is sold at auction to a drunken farmer and is written for a younger audience, grades 5-8.  In this coming of age story, the young boy Albert Narracott and his Red Bay Joey grow up together and the bond they create lasts through a number of obstacles.  Joey is sold and is off to war — The Great War — to work as a cavalry horse.  Like soldiers in war, Joey must learn maneuvers and be conditioned to fight, which really translates into unlearning farm work and learning how to get his rider safely through the enemy lines.  Morpurgo takes Joey and his readers on a harrowing journey through France where much of the battles take place, and like soldiers, horses were captured as prisoners of war.

“All around me, men cried and fell to the ground, and horses reared and screamed in an agony of fear and pain.  The ground erupted on either side of me, throwing horses and riders clear into the air.  The shells whined and roared overhead, and every explosion soon seemed like an earthquake to us.  But the squadron galloped on inexorably through it all toward the wire at the top of the hill, and I went with them.”  (page 59)

The anthropomorphism of Joey is stunning in this novel.  Morpurgo really understands how to create an animal character who seems more like a human being.  Joey struggles with war fatigue, fear, loss, and a whole set of other emotions, but while away from Albert, he holds onto the love and comfort of his farm life.  Along the way he is treated well and mistreated.

“I found Topthorn was always by me and would breathe his courage into me to support me.  It was a slow baptism of fire for me, but without Topthorn I think I should never have become accustomed to the guns, for the fury and the violence of the thunder as we came ever nearer to the front line seemed to sap my strength as well as my spirits.” (page 44)

What more could readers ask for in a young readers novel about WWI?  A champion horse who earns an Iron Cross and saves his riders from certain death, but who fears and loves just as the young boy he knew did, just as everyone does.  Joey is a hero in more ways than one, and his courage is something that all young readers could learn from, especially how Joey overcomes his fear of strange lands and people.  Additionally, he strives to do his best even when he doesn’t want to do what the humans have him doing and even though it is painful to go on without food and shelter.  Survival is paramount, and Joey not only looks out for himself and his riders, but he befriends and cares for other horses in the regiments.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is stunning and engages readers early on in the struggles of a young horse who is taken from his home and thrust into WWI in 1914.  There are images of war, but there is nothing too gruesome that parents should worry about young readers.  On more than one occasion, readers will be moved, and chests will be full of emotion and tears will well in their eyes as Joey relates his story.  A great way to learn about the harrows of war without delving too deeply into the politics or military strategy, while at the same time demonstrating its far reaching impacts on non-military personnel, soldiers, and horses.

This is my 1st book for the 2012 New Authors Challenge.




This is my 1st book for the WWI Reading Challenge.


2012 Challenges

I’m still working on finishing up my 2011 challenges, which I absolutely went overboard on.  But in the meantime, while I’m preparing for the holiday festivities and finishing up challenges and making the Best of list, I wanted to get out there with two challenges I will definitely be participating in.

Ok, yes, they are challenges I have a hand in creating, but that’s just half the fun.

First, I’ll be signing up for the Wade level (4-10 books) in the WWI Reading Challenge at War Through the Generations.  I know one of the books will be A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway since it is the book that we selected for the mid-year read-a-long.

I hope you’ll consider joining us in the new year for some reading about The Great War.

Second, I’ll be joining my own Fearless Poetry Exploration challenge by reading and reviewing books as usual.  But I also hope to make the National Poetry Month blog tour even better and bigger than it has been in the past.  Also, I hope to get some more discussion going during the Virtual Poetry Circles on Saturdays.

I hope you’ll consider joining too, since there are so many more options for those concerned about reviewing poetry books.  There are new ways to participate.

Also, as an aside, I hope you’ll get your nominations in for the Indie Lit Awards in the poetry category and the others.  You have until Dec. 31, 2011, to nominate up to 5 books published this year.

Finally, I’ll be joining the Finishing the Series Challenge over at Socrates’ Book Reviews.

I’m going to be ambitious and finish 2 series of books and I’m shooting for James Patterson’s Alex Cross series and the Sookie Stackhouse series.  For the Sookie series, these are the ones I have left to read:

  1. Dead as a Doornail (Book #5)
  2. Definitely Dead (Book #6)
  3. All Together Dead (Book #7)
  4. From Dead to Worse (Book #8)
  5. Dead and Gone (Book #9)
  6. Dead in the Family (Book #10)
  7. Dead Reckoning (Book #11)
  8. Deadlocked (Book #12) – expected publication: May 1, 2012

However, I may change my mind about what series to finish since I have started quite a few and not finished them.


***Update 1/5/12***

Since I’ll be reading more from my own books this year, I want to sign up again for the Ireland Reading Challenge.  This level has changed since last year, but I’m still sticking with the Shamrock Level, which is now 4 books.

I don’t have a planned set of reads, but I’d like to read Dubliners this year, so that’s definitely on the list of books.



I love this challenge.  I can use books from other challenges, and I’m always reading new-to-me authors.  I just adore this one, and I always seem to surpass my goal on this one.  This year, I’m still signing up for 25 authors, but I’ll be sure to meet and exceed that goal.


Which reading challenges are you joining?