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Holocaust Remembrance Day

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, when we take time to remember the 6 million Jews killed during World War II. Anna and I wrote up a post on our War Through the Generations blog about some of the events taking place today to honor the memories of the Holocaust victims. We hope you will check it out.

***Giveaway Reminder***

Don’t forget to enter The Traitor’s Wife giveaway, here and here. Deadline is April 22 at 5pm.

Don’t forget to enter the Keeper of Light and Dust giveaway, here and here. Deadline is April 28 at 11:59 PM EST.

Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas

Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas, published by Goose Lane Editions, made its way into my mailbox from Mini Book Expo. It’s a coming of age novel at a time that the world is on the brink of World War II, particularly in England.

It took me a long while to get into this book, more than 100 pages, which was disheartening. In Book One readers will wander through Lily Piper’s musings and her interactions or lack thereof with her parents. The wavering narrative and tangents of Lily drag on for long stretches, and readers may have a hard time following along. Her relationship with her mother is cantankerous at times and Lily is often portrayed as a wayward child led by the sin in her heart. There are a number of instances where Lily wanders off with boys alone, which in many ways should ruin her reputation.

“Wonderful for your maidenly inhibitions (going to hand me the flask and then reaching around me to unscrew it himself and in the process circling me with both arms). The way we tussled around and he pressed the mouth of the flask to my mouth and I resisted or pretended to resist, whiskey meanwhile sliding hotly in through my lips and dribbling down my chin and onto my bathing suit.” (Page 88)

Her relationship with her father is more of silent understanding, but again this relationship is not something a girl can cling to when she needs reassurance or strength. Lily’s interactions with her brother are few and not enlightening at all, revealing little of her character or his. Through side stories and discussions about her father’s immigration to Canada and the Barr Colony, Lily learns about her father’s journey, how it came to pass, and the secret illness that prohibits him from leading a normal life.

In Book Two, Lily is sent to England to take care of her grandmother, her father’s mother, and this is where the novel picks up in pace and Lily grows into an adolescent and falls in love with her cousin George. Thomas’ writing is detailed and poignant from this point on in the novel and had me riveted.

“But tears would begin to course down her [Lily’s grandmother’s] cheeks, which already looked like the leaves of a book damaged by rain. So I would sit with her, because I’d nothing else to do. I’d want to ask about my father, and at first I did. Oh, he was a lovely lad, she’d say vaguely and start to tell me about him crawling through a hole in the wall into the next house, and then she’d get confused as to whether that was Willie or Hugh or Roland, or even her own little brother when she was a girl.” (Page 140)

There are passages in these sections that offer suspense and insight into Lily and what she is seeking to learn from her relatives and about herself. However, death seems to follow Lily on her journey and lead her back home to Canada in Book Three.

The truest moments in the novel are when the air raid sirens sound and the women and children board themselves up in shelters or in their homes in preparation for war with Germany and when the bombs are falling outside and they huddle in the dark living room comforting one another with stories of the mundane. These scenes are well crafted and tangible for readers, transporting them to another era. Once back in Canada, Lily succumbs to her previous manner in the home of her mother, but the letters from her cousins abroad continue to bring the reality of war home.

I read this novel as part of the War Through the Generations: WWII Reading Challenge. This is my first completed book for the challenge. I’ve been a bit slow.

About the Author:

Joan Thomas has been a regular book reviewer for the Globe and Mail for more than a decade. Her essays, stories, and articles have been published in numerous journals and magazines including Prairie Fire, Books in Canada, and the Winnipeg Free Press. She has won a National Magazine Award, co-edited Turn of the Story: Canadian Short Fiction on the Eve of the Millennium, and has served on the editorial boards of Turnstone Press and Prairie Fire Magazine. She lives in Winnipeg.

Also Reviewed By:
Diary of an Eccentric

***Giveaway Details***

This giveaway will be international. I have one gently used ARC copy of this book available.

Leave a comment on this post and randomizer.org will select the winner.

Deadline is March 20 at Midnight EST.

***GIVEAWAY REMINDER***

I have two copies up for grabs of Sharon Lathan’s Mr. & Mrs. Darcy: Two Shall Become One; the giveaway is international and the deadline is March 14 at Midnight EST.

I also have two copies of Diana Raab‘s My Muse Undresses Me and one copy of Dear Anaïs: My Life in Poems for You. Deadline is March 18 at 5PM EST.

2008 Wrap Up and 2009 Debut

I’ve seen quite a few 2008 wrap-up posts among the other book reviewing blogs. I’m going to add my two cents to the fray and offer up something for you to look forward to this year–2009.

I read 63 books in 2008, which is a personal best for me. I enjoyed many of those books, and some of them wowed me. There were others that didn’t wow me at all, and that’s where I’ll start. You can click on the titles of the books in the list to read my review.

Not Worth Checking Out of the Library:

1. The Art of Fiction by John Gardner–this is the worst book I read this year. I found John Gardner pretentious and not very helpful. Many of the passages repeat common mistakes he finds among amateur writers, which might be helpful. But his prose style left me bored and struggling through this piece.

2. Isaac’s Storm by Eric Larson–this book would have been #1 on the list if it weren’t for John Gardner’s condescending prose. While some parts of this book were really interesting, I struggled a long time to finish this one.

Worth the Hardcover Expense:

1. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson–this YA novel was well-written and had a unique plot. It raised a number of moral and ethical questions without preaching to the reader or offering a specific right and wrong answer to the central dilemma. I cannot praise this book enough.

2. Black Flies by Shannon Burke–this tale will stay with you for a long time after reading it. An in-depth look at the lives of New York’s paramedics in Harlem at the time of heavy discrimination provides the reader with both sides of the story. Ollie is a fish out of water in this multiracial community, but he eventually finds his place. Graphic elements of this novel may make it tough to keep reading, but the payoff is worth every page.

3. Testimony by Anita Shreve–Shreve uses her innate skill at alternating points of view to tell readers how one decision made by a group of private school students turns their lives and the lives of those around them upside down. She also shows how the decision impacts those not necessarily close to the teens. While portions of this novel were graphic, they were necessary to help the reader question their fundamental beliefs about certain moral dilemmas.

4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy–this tale follows a man and his son after the world is brought to an end and many in society have taken to violence, cannibalism, and other behaviors to survive. The man and his son, who remain nameless throughout the novel, do not stoop to such levels; and while the novel is dark, there is a glimmer of hope.

5. Mr. Thundermug by Cornelius Medveia surprising look at how society would interact with and English-speaking baboon and how that baboon would interact with a society that shuns and misunderstands him and his family. A great look at discrimination in a difference sense; This book may deal with some moral issues, but it also uses wit and humor to keep the read light.

Paperback Best:

1. Pemberley by the Sea by Abigail Reynolds–this modern re-telling of Pride & Prejudice is more than a re-telling. Cassie and Calder have a story of their own, a tale of misunderstanding and timidity when it comes to relationships worth fighting for. Each must learn to love and be loved without condition. Cassie is a marine biologist struggling to get her research funded, and Calder is struggling to become his own man.

2. Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips–the modern look at the Greek gods in this novel is humorous and compelling. While there are no major moral or ethical dilemmas raised, this book does provide another look at how far society has evolved or devolved. I love that Aphrodite is a phone sex operator and that Artemis is a dog walker. I’ve never laughed so much out loud while reading a novel, and my transit compatriots must have thought I was loony.

3. Mr. Darcy’s Diary by Amanda Grange–Grange did an excellent job staying true to Jane Austen’s characters, Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy, in this diary kept by the famous and misunderstood Mr. Darcy. It was great to read what could have been Mr. Darcy’s inner thoughts.

4. Cold Rock River by J.L. Miles–Adie’s life is harsh at times, but she finds her way to happiness in this well-written Southern novel. I enjoyed the cast of characters, the tension, and especially the slave journal as it is woven into Adie’s narrative.

5. The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by Syrie James–a tale that provides an insider’s look at what Jane Austen’s real life may have been like in a fictionalized sense. I love the way in which James weaves in historical truth and fiction in this novel to keep the reader riveted and absorbed in Victorian England.

Audio Books to Die For:

1. A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore–this audio book had us laughing so early in the morning that I actually got to work wide awake. Charlie Asher’s life takes a bad turn when his wife dies and he’s left to raise his daughter alone, but it gets even worse when he finds out he’s Death. This one will have you laughing all the way through.

2. You Suck! by Christopher Moore–is a hysterical vampire novel set in San Francisco, Calif. New vampires often have a tough time adjusting to life of the undead, but this novel has them stumbling through the dark seeking solace and contentment.

3. A Soldier’s Promise by Daniel Hendrix–is a nonfiction audio book with heart. Not only does it take the listener inside the war in Iraq, but it also illustrates the human side of the war, which many Americans forget about. The language in this book is easy to understand and is not overly militaristic.

Poetry You Must Have:

1. Hip Hop to Children for Nikki Giovanni–a trip down memory lane for many readers who grew up when rap and hip-hop music were just taking shape and gaining in popularity. This book and audio CD will help children gain an appreciation for poetry.

2. Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy–is a mix of dark imagery and content and light humor. Each poem carries a surface meaning as well as a deeper meaning beneath the simple words selected. The sarcasm and bleak language speak to the reader to convey the meaning within each of the three sections.

Ok, now that you’ve got my recommendations from 2008, let’s move onto to something vastly more important–2009.

These are my goals for the blog this year, and I hope some of you will take the time to keep me on my toes.

1. Include more poetry book reviews and interviews

2. Offer personal writing updates on Sundays; I’ll be posting my goal for the new week and whether I achieved the previous week’s general goal, surpassed it, or failed to reach that goal.

I know there are only 2 goals, but with the WWII challenge and blog, I don’t want to over commit myself, which I am known to do from time to time.

My overall goal for 2009 is to complete my poetry book manuscript and prepare it for editing so it can be submitted to publishers in 2010. Anyone willing to give me a kick in the butt, please feel free. I’ll need it.

***Don’t forget about the Gods Behaving Badly Contest, which runs through January 5 at Midnight EST.***

War Through the Generations Challenge: WWII

By now, you all should have seen my initial post about the War Through the Generations: Reading Challenges that Anna and I are co-hosting. Click on the button to the right if you want more information about signing up for the reading challenge.

As for my reading goal, I’m going to initially say I will read five books, though as we all know, I get carried away sometimes and will more than likely expand this reading list and make it more challenge beginning in January.

For now, these are the books I’ve pre-selected in no particular order:

1. Schindler’s List by Thomas Keneally
2. Roosevelt’s Secret War by Joseph Persico
3. Beside a Burning Sea by John Shors
4. Keeping Hannah Waiting by Dave Clarke
5. Reading by Lightning by Joan Thomas

Click on the icon to the left for the reading list for the WWII Challenge, which continues to grow. Select your favorites.

Did you like our buttons? Well, Monica at Monniblog made them for us. She rocks. The one to the left is from a photo I took in Washington D.C. on one of the many visits I pay to the city with touring guests.

***Don’t forget my Pemberley by the Sea contest. It ends on Dec. 10 at Midnight EST. Sorry open only to U.S. and Canadian addressed residents.**

Our First Hosted Reading Challenge


Can you believe it? Anna (Diary of an Eccentric) and I have launched our very first challenge. Its been a long time in the planning, but here is the official unveiling here at Savvy Verse & Wit.

What: War Through the Generations: Reading Challenges (because you know there has to be more than one reading challenge)

Where: Click on the blog title and go participate

When: First Challenge is WWII beginning Jan. 1, 2009 and lasting 12 months through Dec. 31, 2009

Why: Because we’re bookworms and love reading books, fictional and nonfictional. And because you want to read about the impact of war on characters and real people. Perhaps because you think we can learn from our mistakes. Doesn’t really matter? It’s books.

As Anna says so eloquently, “We spent a few months hammering out our goals, setting up the blog, pondering buttons and banners, and we’re finally ready to go live. Thanks to Monica at Monniblog, we have an awesome banner and some rockin’ buttons!”

The Rules:

1. Sign up and establish your reading goal, which must be a minimum of 5 books in 12 months; Don’t worry you can do it.

2. If you sign up by Jan. 31, 2009, and meet or exceed your reading goal for the challenge, you will be entered into a drawing for one of the prizes, which are to be determined.

3. Grab one of Monica’s ROCKIN’ Buttons:

4. Check out the list of WWII books, we’ve compiled (OK, mostly Anna compiled this list–Way to Go!)

5. If you have comments, suggestions, book suggestions, or just want to chat about the blog, books, WWII, or whatever, send an email to warthroughgenerations AT gmail DOT com or stop by the blog.

P.S. The blog won’t just be a reading challenge, we’re also planning on posting personal war stories, newsworthy stories, and other discussions. Feel free to contribute.