Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell

Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is a re-imagining of Pride & Prejudice set during the U.S. Civil War and opens during the battle of Vicksburg, Miss., which was the final surge of the war between union or Yankee troops and southern confederates.  Darcy is a captain in the confederate army and readers are dropped right into the action of war as the novel opens.  He’s commanding his troops as union soldiers pin them down, but then they suddenly withdrawn.  Caldwell’s prose is descriptive down to the sidearms used by the battling troops.

The book quickly turns to the Bennets’ story as they mourn the loss of their only brother Samuel and decide to move to Rosings, Texas to run a different cattle ranch and leave their home in Ohio.  Imagine the tensions following the Civil War between former Confederates and the new Yankees who migrate to the rejoined nation of the United States.  Beth Bennet and Darcy meet and sparks fly in more ways than one, and this is coupled with an underhanded attempt by George Whitehead to usurp cattle ranches, land, and power through a complex plan with help from a darker Denny and a gang of former confederate soldiers still bitter from their loss.

“‘I’m sure you did,’ Bingley laughed.  ‘They’re very nice people Will; they’re just a bit . . . boisterous.  There’s not a mean bone in their bodies.  Once you get to know ’em, you’ll see.’

‘And why should I do that?’

Charles frowned.  ‘They’re my family now, Will.  You’ll be in their company in the future if you’re goin’ to be in mine.  I won’t throw off my wife’s family.’

Darcy had the good manners to be abashed.  ‘You’re right, Charles.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have said that.’

‘I know Miz Bennet can talk a blue streak, but she don’t mean anything by it.  It’s just her way.  ‘Sides, you can’t say anything bad about Mr Bennet, or Beth.’

‘She’s a bit of a tomboy, isn’t she?’

Bingley shrugged. ‘She grew up on a farm, Will. What did you expect?’ He elbowed his friend with a grin. ‘She sure cleaned up nice, though. Almost as pretty as my Jane.'” (page 41)

Caldwell’s prose is exactly as it should be incorporating southern manners, but spicing it up with more than sexual tension.  Darcy continues to be proud, but softens around Beth, and Beth continues to be prejudiced against confederates, until she meets her intellectual match in Darcy.  What’s unique is that Caldwell changes the characters just enough to reflect the tensions and angst following the Civil War without losing the spunk of Austen’s characters.

Picturing Darcy as a dark, handsome, rugged cowboy should be enough for some readers, but there is mystery, suspense, and romance to satisfy everyone else.  Austen purists may wonder at the modernity in some of the scenes, but they worked for the most part.  Caldwell also uses some of the most famous lines from Austen’s work in new ways, but they flow so well with the story that readers will smile as they recognized the phrases.  Even more intriguing is the inclusion of another Austen character who is the reverend in Rosings, Texas.  Pemberley Ranch by Jack Caldwell is an escapist novel to a time in American history where things were uncertain and volatile even though the U.S. government had re-unionized.  A quick read, with action and intrigue for any Austen lover.


This is my 3rd and final book for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.


This is my 77th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers

Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers finds Mr. and Mrs. Darcy in a run of the mill inn right before the Christmas holiday as they are stranded by the snow and stormy weather on their way back from Newcastle.  Meanwhile, Georgiana is forced into the roll of Mistress of Pemberley and must contend with Darcy’s guests, including Lizzy’s parents, the Bingleys, and some other unexpected and unpleasant guests.  Jeffers sprinkles her prose with Jane Austen’s classic lines from Pride & Prejudice about Mrs. Bennet’s nerves and Darcy’s pride and Lizzy’s prejudices.  She adheres to Austen’s characterizations ensuring that Austen purists will enjoy her followup novel, but at the same time, she demonstrates how Georgiana evolves from a timid girl in the shadows of her brother and Aunt Catherine de Bourgh to become a capable woman.

“”Yes, our Mary has snatched up a viable candidate.  At least, Mrs. Bennet has said such on countless occasions, so I must believe it so.  After all, Her Ladyship has deemed my wife to have no mental deficiencies.’

Charlotte chuckled lightly before saying softly, ‘Lady Catherine is perceptive in her evaluations.’

Mr. Bennet smiled knowingly.  ‘Lizzy has assured me that nothing is beneath the great lady’s attention.’

Mrs. Collins tightened the line of her mouth.  ‘Her Ladyship is all kindness.  She has taken it upon herself to oversee my domestic concerns familiarly and minutely, offering advice on how everything out to be regulated.'”  (page 67)

Even better, readers experience more of Mr. Bennet’s wit and see Kitty as more than just a silly young girl.  Lizzy’s precarious situation with her pregnancy has Darcy worried, especially so far away from home.  But both take the situation in stride and offer the kindness they have in abundance to those in need.  Darcy and Lizzy are at the inn meeting new people and sharing accommodations with a myriad of travelers.  Meanwhile, Georgiana is juggling unwanted guests, and in many ways the guests are rallying and teaming up against Lady Catherine.

Jeffers adheres to Austen’s characters and social commentary while building upon the original novel to create characters that evolve and come into their own.  Christmas at Pemberley by Regina Jeffers is an quiet novel that meanders, enabling readers to spend the holidays with some of their favorite characters, but those looking for big plot twists and action will not find much of that here.  Jeffers has created a solid novel that could stand alone.

This is my 76th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1 edited by Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1 edited by Joseph Gordon-Levitt (I found at Bermudaonion and had to check out) is a collection of short stories and illustrations. hitRECord is an open, collaborative website joining musicians, authors, illustrators, and other artistic people in the creative process. The book itself is short with a mere 83 pages, very little text, but engaging images.

Some of these stories are witty and play on old wives tales and sayings, while others use text as an image to convey their messages.  A quick read over the holidays or during a waiting room jaunt at the doctor’s office, this slim volume will provide moments of amusement and fun, but there also are moments of sadness when the sun comes out to play and his friends disappear.

For a collaborative project, it would seem that there is something missing, particularly since musicians participate in the collaborative.  It’s almost as if the book should be an ebook with sound to accompany the images enclosed between the covers.  The volume is just one in a series of books planned, and may work better on the website rather than in book form.

However, that is a minor criticism given the inventiveness of the stories and the collaboration that has taken place to create the volume.  The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories Volume 1 by Joseph Gordon-Levitt is mostly aimed at an older audience, but certain stories could be read aloud to kids for their enjoyment and discussion with parents about the meanings behind the words and pictures.

This is my 75th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni

Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni hums with the rhythm of spoken word poetry and the jazz of human experience.  Each poem carries with it an essence that reflects the Black experience from the capture and transportation of slaves and what that should teach us about how to treat people to the lessons we carry with us once our relatives die.  Her poetry is frank and honest, but it pulls no punches to ensure that readers understand that there are deep wrongs that can be learned from as long as we are willing to look at them closely.  It may be difficult to review past transgressions without jumping to defend or shy away from shame, but her poems cause you to meet those challenges head on and to learn from our own follies.

At other times, her verse decries the blind eye that we turn every day to our own situations and histories, wishing that there were a different outcome or social norm.  Giovanni’s poems focus a bit on the Black experience, but in many ways her verse and perspective transcends beyond those parameters to reach out to all of humanity.  From “Possum Crossing” (page 5), “All birds being the living kin of dinosaurs/think themselves invincible and pay no heed/to the rolling wheels while they dine/on an unlucky rabbit//”

Giovanni also takes her readers on a historic journey through the struggle for civil rights and equality in poems dedicated to Gwendolyn Brooks and poems about Martin Luther King and more.  Her poems aren’t just about the past, but about contemporary people and events and the strength and conviction they display.  Her poems range from the traditional free verse to the narrative prose-like poems that read like a stream of consciousness.

From “Symphony of the Sphinx” (page 19):

“I have to remember Africa each night as I lay me down to
sleep The patchwork quilt my Great-Grandmother patched
one patch two patches three patches more I learned to count by
those patches I learned my numbers by those patches the ones
that hit and the many thousand gone I learned my patience by
those patches that clove to each other to keep me warm”

Giovanni’s imagery and matter-of-fact tone tells it like it is without pretense, and readers will take a journey with her through her own life experiences.  “Talk to me, Poem . . . I’m all alone . . . Nobody understands what/I’m saying . . . ” from “Shoulders Are for Emergencies Only” (page 15) is a lament that resurfaces, but readers nod in agreement as Giovanni expresses each observation.  “We hear you,” they will say.  There is a patchwork of poetry here that weaves history with the present and struggle with joy to generate the warmth family, friends, and life can bring.  Quilting the Black-Eyed Pea by Nikki Giovanni is sensational and touching.

Books & Interviews With Nikki Giovanni:

This is my 33rd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.

It by Stephen King

It by Stephen King is more than 1,000 pages and very detailed; set in Derry, Maine, (a fictional town) evil lurks beneath the city streets and in the sewers.  This novel has everything readers are looking for in a book:  family drama, coming of age story, friendship, an evil clown that is much more sinister than he looks, mysticism, a highly detailed world, and triumph.  The main characters are young kids — six boys and one girl — who are the misfits in school for one reason or another and whose families are loving for the most part, though there are a few with messed up parents.  The town is at the center of a rash of child killings and the killer is still on the loose in 1958, and their parents and the town adopt a strict curfew.  Bill, however, is the most touched by It when his brother is killed by the silver-suited clown with orange pom-pom buttons, and his family begins to pull away from one another, leaving Bill to blame himself.

“Smells of dirt and wet and long-gone vegetables would merge into one unmistakeable ineluctable smell, the smell of the monster, the apotheosis of monsters.  It was the smell of something for which he had no name:  the smell of It, crouched and lurking and ready to spring.  A creature which would eat anything but which was especially hungry for boymeat.”  (page 6)

The kids — Ben, Bill, Richie, Mike, Eddie, Stan, and Beverly — join together to form the Losers club and stand up against the town bully, Henry Bowers and his cronies on more than one occasion.  Readers are left in the dark as to how the gang gets rid of It until the very last 200 pages, but it is worth the wait as King allows his readers to get to know each character so well that they become friends.  Readers feel like they are part of the gang, and they begin imagining their worst nightmares come to life when It arises from the sewers to take another child or to taunt the Losers.  King is adept at handling seven major characters and showing readers facets of their personalities and back stories like no other author.  His prose is not flowery and is very straightforward, but he captures the emotions and thoughts of all of his characters well, making them vivid and real.

In a world where evil lurks to strike at any moment and without warning, readers are taken on a Herculean journey in which seven children believe that they are the only ones capable of stopping It from destroying more families’ lives and taking the town down.  Belief and faith play a major role in the book, and King raises a great many questions about the role they play in having power over each of us as individuals.  Some instances of faith and belief can be good and positive, but others can be utterly destructive.  Like most of us, each of the members in the Losers Club has a crisis of faith and this is when they become the most vulnerable to It.

Through a back and forth narrative between 1958 and 1985, readers unravel the mysteries of Derry, the mysterious ritual that saves the town and is performed by mere kids, and are swept up in a journey that will leave them on the edge of their seats until the very conclusion.  It by Stephen King is a fantastic read even the second time around.  One of the best King has written.

I read this is part of the Stephen King’ It Read-a-Long I co-hosted with Diary of an Eccentric.  Please visit the more in-depth discussions for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5.

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White

The Strangers on Montagu Street by Karen White combines historical mystery with romance, drama, and Southern hospitality, like all of the other books in the series, reuniting readers with Jack Trenholm — famous author — and Melanie Middleton — real estate agent for historic Charleston homes and resident, if reluctant, ghost whisperer.  Melanie can be whiny and she can grate on readers nerves with her penchant for denying her feelings for Jack and her rocky relationship with her parents.

However, in the latest installment, readers are introduced to a more evolved Mellie, a woman who can relate to a angsty and sarcastic teen girl who shows up unannounced and claims to be Jack’s long-lost daughter, Nola.  Melanie can’t help but see herself in Nola, and a maternal instinct she never knew she had rises to the surface.

“He looked better than the last time I’d seen him, and I wondered whether it was because he didn’t have the daily stress of dealing with a teenager to age him.  Still, there was something in his eyes that didn’t quite match his usual self-assured Jack-ness.” (Page 73 ARC)

White has carefully crafted this story, meshing the Nola storyline with that of the ghost mystery on Montagu Street.  As always, Marc Longo is back and more underhanded than ever, and even Mellie’s cousin and Jack’s sometime girlfriend, Rebecca comes and stir things up.  In addition, it looks like there is more restoration work to eat through Melanie’s budget as the foundation needs repairs, and did I mention she’s feeling her age — especially as her mother and Nola help to remind her how old she’s getting?

White’s humor is subtle at times and at others it’s quite obvious, but what is most engaging is her characterizations and how different and real each feels to the reader.  The Strangers on Montagu Street is the third book in the series, but it may not be necessary to read the other two before reading this one as the mystery stands alone, though if readers prefer to know the past struggles between Mellie and Jack it would be better to read the previous two.  White’s Tradd Street series is a cozy and perfect for holiday reading.

Of the three in the series, this is my favorite and since White has left me hanging at the outcome between Mellie and Jack’s latest entanglement, you can bet I’ll be reading the next one.

Reviews of White’s other books:

The House on Tradd Street (first book in the series)
The Girl on Legare Street (second book in the series)
On Folly Beach
The Beach Trees

Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange

Henry Tilney’s Diary by Amanda Grange provides readers with the inner thoughts and past of Northanger Abbey‘s hero.  Like his sister Eleanor, Henry has a passion for the written word, which mirrors Austen’s homage to readers in the original novel.  Grange steeps her prose in Gothic tales of secret passages and story telling between brother and sister and between Henry Tilney and Catherine Morland.  Drawing inspiration from Mrs. Radcliff and her novels, A Sicilian Romance and The Mysteries of Udolpho.

Unlike Austen’s version, Tilney reads Gothic novels for pleasure, a pleasure he shares with his sister, and while he remains very logical in his thinking about finding a wife, he is soon swept up by the charms of Catherine.  His requirements in a wife are listed on more than one occasion with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

“‘When I marry – if I marry – my wife must love to read.  I shall make it the one condition.  Her dowry is unimportant, her family is irrelevant, but she must be a lover of novels, or else no wedding can take place!'” (page 63)

Although he does say that she must love novels, he also realizes that a love of novels can go too far, and in that way Grange has paralleled the character development of Catherine in the original Northanger Abbey.  Through diary entries, readers come to know Tilney more intimately as he worries for his brother and his sister and grows increasingly concerned about his father’s seeming change of heart where money and titles are concerned.  Tilney grows from a younger son into a man of his own means and career, but he is still loyal to his family despite his budding feelings for Catherine.

Another winner from Grange that builds upon the character arcs and complex story lines left behind by Austen.  Her Tilney is a kind, gentle man with a clear vision of how his life should be, and while he remains loyal to his family, his heart guides his move.  His frank nature and his compassion bloom in Grange’s hands.  Austinites and those looking for a well-paced romance with Gothic highlights will enjoy Henry Tilney’s Diary.

I’d like to see Grange tackle a few more villains in her diary series of books!

About the Author:

Amanda Grange was born in Yorkshire and spent her teenage years reading Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer whilst also finding time to study music at Nottingham University. She has had sixteen novels published including six Jane Austen retellings, which look at events from the heroes’ points of view.

If you haven’t entered the giveaway to win you’re own copy, please check out the guest post.

The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath

The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath tackles the enigmatic figure of Mary Bennet, the third oldest of the Bennet sisters.  She’s the one considered unremarkable and religious in the original novel, Pride & Prejudice.  Here readers will see the struggles of Mary as she finds that she is often ignored or laughed at on almost every occasion.  She turns to sermons and music for solace, though she notes that despite the many hours she spends practicing, she is unable to improve her musical talents.

“It is a comforting belief among much of society, that a plain girl with a small fortune must have no more interest in matrimony than matrimony has in her.”  (page 1)

Sarath’s Mary has grown from the quiet girl, who was content to remain in the background.  Although she’s not sure what she wants out of life, she certainly realizes that her life is not where she wants it to be and that she wants to find a man who is her equal and to be more than her mother’s keeper or a possible governess to her sister Jane’s unborn children.  Jane and Lizzy have bigger plans for their sisters, Kitty and Mary, and plan to expose them to a greater society.  They hope that through their stay the younger sisters can find happiness, but this is Mary’s story.

Sarath has expanded upon Austen’s Mary, and readers can watch her grow into a more confident woman.  Her happiness begins to shine and it rubs off on those around her.  Rather than weave a story about Mary’s pious nature and place her in the path of a clergyman, Sarath guides Mary with deft prose to become more independent from her family and her sisters.  However, there are those moments when Mary doubts her own decisions and resolve, but so too would any woman of her societal standing who is often overlooked by men of her acquaintance as a suitable match and who is considered to be plain.

Readers favorites from Mr. Darcy and Lizzy to Lady Catherine and Anne de Bourgh round out the cast, but the colorful and rambunctious Mr. Aikens captures some of the spotlight as he shows up at inopportune moments and disrupts the decorum of Regency society with his amiable nature and constant rambling about horses.  Sarath’s characterization of Aikens helps offset the quirkiness of Mary in a way that will endear her to readers, who will see her faults as charming foibles of a well-meaning woman.

The Unexpected Miss Bennet by Patrice Sarath is less a commentary on how the wall flower blooms, but rather how as we grow into the adults we’re meant to be, we can surprise even ourselves.  Sarath has a talent for keeping the language modern, the characters vivid and evolving, and the story engaging.  Another Austenesque novel that should be read by those who love Austen and her characters.  Hopefully, Sarath has another novel planned for Kitty Bennet.

To enter the giveaway for 1 copy (US/Canada):

1.  Leave a comment about what has surprised you about your adult self when you look back on how you viewed yourself as a younger person.

2.  Spread the word on Twitter (@SavvyVerseWit), Facebook, or a blog, and leave a link for up to three more entries.

3.  Leave a comment on the guest post for another entry and let me know on this post.

Deadline Dec. 14, 2011, at 11:59PM EST.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead strives to shed light on the occupation of France by Germany during World War II and the rise of the French Resistance, particularly the role of women within the resistance.  Of the 230 women who were arrested and sent to Auschwitz in Poland, less than 50 survived, and seven were alive when Moorehead began researching and writing this account of their story.  Impeccably well researched, the book takes readers behind the scenes of the French Resistance, and in many ways the level of detail presented can be overwhelming, especially for those not well acquainted with the ins and outs of the time period.  However, this iteration of facts, times, places, and events serves to demonstrate just how confusing a time the German occupation of France was for those who lived it and sought to overcome it.

“In a rising mood of hostility and mockery, they went around repeating their favourite jokes.  ‘Collaborate with the Germans?’ went one.  ‘Think of Voltaire . . . A true Aryan must be blond like Hitler, slender like Goring, tall like Goebbels, young like Petain, and honest like Laval.’  Another started with the question:  ‘Do you know what happened?’ At 9.20, a Jew killed a German soldier, opened his breast and ate his heart!  Impossible!  For three reasons:  Germans have no hearts.  Jews don’t eat pork.  And at 9.20 everyone is listening to the BBC.'” (page 34 ARC)

Clearly, Moorehead’s forte is in biography and she is deft at handling facts and ensuring that they are well explained in accordance with interrelated events and moments in time, but the text is often dry and tough to remain engaged in.  However, even among these facts, there are pockets of emotion where mothers decide to ship their children to foster families or relatives outside Paris so that they can continue working with the Resistance without endangering the lives of their children.  Still others opt to include their children in the fight to restore a free France.  Moorehead fills in some of the history and familial background in for certain women, but in a way, this litany of facts detracts from the ability of the reader to connect more emotionally to these women.

“Half a litre of black coffee in the morning watery soup at midday, 300 grams of bread — if they were lucky — with either a scrape of margarine, a bit of sausage, cheese or jam at night, was not enough to stop the women’s bodies shrinking and feeding on themselves, the fat disappearing first and then the muscles.  The food never varied.”  (page 203 ARC)

It is not until part two that some readers will become truly engaged in the story as the women are tortured and learn to cope with their sparse surroundings at Auschwitz.  The bravery and solidarity of these women is phenomenal.  Unless readers are willing to wade through the political ins and outs of the early French Resistance and occupation of France and the French police’s collaboration with German occupiers, they may not make it to the more engaging and heart wrenching parts of the story.  Moorehead has chosen to tell a true story and to ensure that those who were present have their say in how that story is told, but it may have served better for the story to focus on just a few of the women from the beginning, allowing them to be the face of the others’ struggles.

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead is a tale of survival that needs to be told and remembered.  As one of the women from the resistance said after having survived cancer longer than expected, “Surviving is something that she is very good at.”  (page 6 ARC)


To visit the other stops on the TLC Book Tour, click the icon on the left.



About the Author:

The author of numerous biographies and works of history, including Gellhorn and Human Cargo, Caroline Moorehead has also written for The Telegraph, The Times, and The Independent. The cofounder of a legal advice center for asylum seekers from Africa, she divides her time between England and Italy.


This is my 74th book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston is just that, a scrapbook of a young woman in the 1920s who is striving to make something more of her life than simply becoming a wife and mother.  Following WWI, many things have changed as women seek greater liberty from their “normal” lives — seeking suffrage, going to college, having careers.  Of course, there are boys and men because women always seek companionship, but educated women are looking for equals in a relationship, not a child to care for and guide.

Frankie Pratt has a deep sense of loyalty and responsibility to her mother, but at Vassar she becomes more independent and self-reliant after a few stumbles.  While this book is told through images and very little text, readers can see how Pratt grows from a naive young woman with big dreams into an educated woman with even bigger dreams.  It’s just plain fun to journey with Pratt from New Hampshire to Vassar College and from college to New York City and Paris.

Preston incorporates typewriter-written text among a variety of newspaper and magazine cut outs, paper dolls, photographs, and other elements to tell Pratt’s story.  The scrapbook creates a fairy tale like quality to the story, which is just how it should be given Pratt’s adventures.  One aspect of the book that’s missing is textured pages and more tactile scrapbooking materials or some semblance of that feeling readers would get with an actual scrapbook.  However, that’s a minor complaint given that the author easily captures readers’ hearts with little text and very visual pages.  The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston represents a snapshot of one young woman’s life at a time when things are quickly changing for women and the world.  It’s a little powerhouse of intimate moments that coax emotional attachment and pure joy.

About the Author:

Author of the New York Times Notable Book Jackie by Josie, Caroline Preston pulls from her extraordinary collection of vintage ephemera to create the first-ever scrapbook novel, transporting us back to the vibrant, burgeoning bohemian culture of the 1920s and introducing us to an unforgettable heroine, the spirited, ambitious, and lovely Frankie Pratt.

Check out this video about the making of the scrapbook.

This is my 73rd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

To the End of the War by James Jones

To the End of the War by James Jones is a collection of unpublished fiction broken into short stories from the author of From Here to Eternity, which was made into a movie, and The Thin Red Line.   The stories in this collection were extracted from Jones’ first unfinished and unpublished novel, They Shall Inherit the Laughter, with the help of his daughter Kaylie and editor George Hendrick, who offers an introduction chock full of Jones’ early struggles to publish his writing.

This collection of previously unpublished writing is a series of interconnected stories in which Johnny Carter leaves the hospital after being wounded, goes AWOL, and moves back to his hometown in Illinois.  Carter finds that much of the frustration and aggravation he felt toward the military is shared by his comrades in arms.  Jones’ collection is more than stories; it is commentary on the machines behind war interspersed with poetry.  Carter’s life is very similar to that of Jones’ real life, including going over the hill as AWOL was called.

“‘That makes a wonderful picture,’ Eddie said slowly.  ‘Perfectly stylized and complete — on the surface.  But there are always so many unacknowledged undercurrents that nobody recognizes.'”  (page 120 ARC in “Air Raid”)

Carter is a story teller, but he easily connects with the outcasts of the army and society, seeking solace in their company.  At the same time, he’s looking for affirmation that what he sees about the military and about WWII is real.  Jones has crafted characters and situations that do not romanticize the war or the life of soldiers; instead, he wants to make their internal and external struggles raw and realistic, as he knows them to be.  There is a frankness to Jones’ prose, but there also are moments in which cliches are present when describing certain military leaders and interactions, like the Irish surgeon who patches up Gettinger and insists the man is ready for duty.  Most memorable are the truths uncovered here about war and being a soldier, especially a wounded soldier — life may look the same on the outside, but there is turmoil beneath the surface that must be dealt with.  However, dealing with that turmoil can be an unpleasant experience.

To the End of the War by James Jones provides a unique look at an unfinished novel that closely mirrors the life of the author about a time in history that has been glorified.  WWII has been considered part of the golden age and the rise of America as a world power, but was the experience as remarkable for the individual soldier as movies have romanticized it?  Jones suggests otherwise, pointing to the aggravation soldiers felt when they were told they would move back into combat after being severely wounded in battles for which they were ill-prepared.  There were rough adjustments for soldiers when they returned home, especially if they lost limbs, and there were frustrating moments when soldiers butt up against officers and the bureaucracy of the military machine.

About the Author:

James Jones (November 6, 1921 – May 9, 1977) was an American author known for his explorations of World War II and its aftermath.  He enlisted in the United States Army in 1939 and served in the 25th Infantry Division before and during World War II, first in Hawaii at Schofield Barracks on Oahu, then in combat on Guadalcanal, where he was wounded in action. His wartime experiences inspired some of his most famous works. He witnessed the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, which led to his first published novel, From Here to Eternity. The Thin Red Line reflected his combat experiences on Guadalcanal. His last novel, Whistle, was based on his hospital stay in Memphis, Tennessee, recovering from surgery on an ankle he had reinjured on the island.

Please visit Open Road Media for articles and videos.

This is my 72nd book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.

Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison

Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison is slim collection of poems that explore the Black experience from a spiritual perspective.  She has quite a bit to say about the struggles Black men have with confidence, kicking habits, staying with their women, but she also has a lot to say about her own experiences and even the civil rights movement.

“writing illuminates injustice
gives language to people’s pain
pictures to failing dreams” (From “Because a door in my soul opens”, page 5)

Broken into three sections — God Gave Me Words, Soul Clothes, and Divine Reflections — and the first section tackles wider societal topics of struggle and faith, while the Soul Clothes section tackles similar struggles on a more personal level.  In the final section, Jemison reflects on those struggles and what they teach each of us about ourselves and our place in the world, as well as how fleeting life really is.

“Civil rights activists told me to fight the battle

They didn’t tell me
I’d be weary, exhausted, disgusted, betrayed, disenchanted” (From “Hold on to God, a lawyer’s prayer”, page 7)

Some poems have an internal jazz-like rhythm with a message. However, this collection’s poetry is direct and without frills, and in many ways read less like poetry and more like sermons or pep talks.  All of these poems are direct and strive to get readers thinking about today’s world and the struggles of Black men and women.  Readers will enjoy her frankness, and her faith is strong.  Soul Clothes by Regina D. Jemison is a spiritual collection that strives to provide readers with an inside look at the Black experience and the strength of faith.

Since this was published in 2011, it is eligible for this year’s Indie Lit Awards.


This is my 71st book for the 2011 New Authors Reading Challenge.



This is my 32nd book for the Fearless Poetry Exploration Reading Challenge.