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Archive for the tag “World War I”

Library Loot: October 24-30

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries.

After an incredibly long hiatus, I was back at my local library this week. Admittedly, it wasn’t a “for fun” trip, as I picked up a few titles for a class I am taking, but I was able to pick up one fun read on my trip, and for now, I’ll take it. 🙂 Here’s the loot:

Influencer: The Power to Change Anything by Kerry Patterson

This one is assigned reading for my Management and Church Administration course. It looks pretty interesting, so I am looking forward to reading it.

Other titles for class I took out this week:

Good to Great:Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t by Jim Collins

Managing the Non-profit Organization: Practices and Principles by Peter Drucker

This weeks non-school, non-obligatory read is A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd, the first of the Bess Crawford Mysteries. If you’ll recall, I started with the third book in the series, An Unmarked Grave by mistake, and I am seeking to finally set things right. Although I am only a few chapters in, and know that I will not be disappointed with this choice!




Review: An Unmarked Grave

An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd brings us to French front in the Spring of 1918 as the Spanish epidemic is wiping out troops and civilains alike. Among the bodies waiting for burial is a body that was had suffered neither from battlewounds, nor influenza, and Bess Crawford goes after the murderer.

Originally, when I picked up An Unmarked Grave I thought it was the first book in the Bess Crawford Mystery series. Um…oops. It was actually the forth. Reading it out of order definitely made it difficult at times- it appears that characters and relationships were established earlier in the series, so there was more focus on the story itself and its movement forward. That’s not at all a complaint- I am the one who read them out of order.

I was surprised by some of the plot twists, including the reveal of the murderer. I enjoyed Bess Crawford’s character, and was intrigued by her relationship with Simon and Barclay. And although I was aware of the Spanish influenza epidemic, I had never considered it in the context of World War I.

I will definitely going back to start from the beginning of this series. I give An Unmarked Grave four stars.

World War I Reading Challenge Announcement

It all started with All Quiet on the Western Front. I had never read anything on World War I before and had only the slightest frame of reference. Then I read A Farewell to Arms, my second book on World War I, my first Hemingway novel, and I found myself reading everything about World War I that I could find.

In my search for titles, I stumbled across the, which is holding a World War I Reading Challenge which ends on December 31, 2012. Although I am certainly late in my discovery, I thought given my recent fascination with World War I and the Lost Generation writers, I would join in. I am coming at the Wade level, in which participants read 4-10 books in any genre with World War I as a primary or secondary theme.

With that in mind, here’s what I’ll be reading:

A Duty to the Dead by Charles Todd

A Duty to the Dead is a Bess Crawford Mystery, following Bess Crawford, an English nurse serving on the front in France during World War I, who seems to keep happening into murders. I started this particular series out of order, with An Unmarked Grave, and enjoyed the mystery and the storytelling so much I had to try the rest of them.

The First World War by John Keegan

The First World War is an incredibly readable one volume account of World War I. Although Keegan occasionally gets lost in the military details, its been an interesting and very readable account so far. I anticipate this volume taking the longest- the print is small, and its roughly 500 pages.

The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response by Peter Balakian

The Burning Tigris focuses on the Armenian Genocide, and although World War I is more of a backdrop, the two are inextricably linked. I purchased this book quite awhile ago, and decided that this was the time to take it off of the to be read pile and move it to the read pile.

My fourth book will be The Great Gatsby. Part of what drew me to this time period was the works of the Lost Generation, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work fits clearly into that category.

If you are interested in finding out more about the War Through the Generations 2012 Reading Challenge, please visit them at




Review: A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway is my first foray into Hemingway’s writing, and my second novel this summer about World War I (my first was All Quiet on the Western Front). For those unfamiliar with the novel, it is the story of Frederick Henry, an American ambulance driver on the Italian front. It follows his increased confusion and disillusionment with the war, and his relationship with English nurse Catherine Barkley.

Written in sparse, terse, prose with script-like dialogue, it is, in some places a challenge to read. Adjectives and descriptions, when used, were mostly present in battle scenes, like the retreat at Caporetto, or when Henry was injured. They weren’t used to describe emotions or relationships, but the actual physical setting, which to some extent, makes the book jarring, but in other ways makes it completely brilliant. There is something to be said about the way that Hemingway used restraint in his writing.

Hemingway, an ambulance driver himself on the Italian front is challenged the way in which the reader viewed the war. Henry is constantly encountering individuals who honor him for his service in the war, has medals of honor and valor pressed upon him that have no meaning- he wasn’t rescuing anyone when he was injured, he was eating dinner, and yet no matter what he tells anyone, they won’t listen. The situation is  repeated when he is captured by the Italian army police, who are executing those separated from their regiment with charges of desertion. No one is listening to the explanation of the men who have been captured, they simply read  the charge and shoot them.

Henry is an increasingly rudderless and disillusioned character who is serving on the Italian front with those increasingly confused and disillusioned by the war themselves, rootless as he realizes that war is not at all what he thought, seeing the tragedy around him and desiring instead a life with Nurse Barkley. But even in that, neither can escape the realities of life and death.

Although the manner with which Hemingway writes may be off putting to some, his story is still engaging. He draws a picture, and although it is not filled in with vibrant colors and numerous details, it is still a picture. Through the pages spills his own disillusionment and confusion after the war. I give A Farewell to Arms three stars.

Summer Reading Challenge 2012…the countdown is on!

Well, there is a little over a week left until the end of my Summer Reading Challenge, and I thought it was time for a progress report. Those that are crossed off have been completed. Those in bold are in progress.

1. One Book Recommended By A Friend Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2. One Book That Has Been Sitting On Your Shelf For Over A Year The Shack by Paul W. Young
3. One Book You Read A Long Time Ago And Want To ReRead Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen
4. One Book From Your To Be Read List The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
5. One Book You’ve Never Heard Of On Hitler’s Mountain by Irmagard Hunt
6. One Classic All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
7. One Book You Started But Never Finished Emma by Jane Austen
8. One New Release Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by AJ Jacobs
9. One Book That Is Outside of Your Typical Genre Poetry and Prose by Walt Whitman
10. One Chunkster (A Book That Is Over 400 Pages) Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
I feel fairly confident that I can finish The Secret Life of Bees and Emma before Labor Day, but I admit, I am feeling less confident about being able to complete a monster volume of Whitman poetry, Gilead, The Shack, and a re-read of Sense & Sensibility before the end of next week. It’s just not terribly realistic of me to even try…and its doubtful I would even enjoy the books if I did.
Regardless of how things end up, I did learn some things by participating in the challenge. While I don’t consider these a justification or substitute for the fact I didn’t finish, they are still worth mentioning.
I tend to read in topical groups or series. This summer, after reading All Quiet on the Western Front, I couldn’t help but delve further into literature and history on World War I.  Although I took a course on European History in high school,  I learned very little on World War I in school, or even graduate school, in spite of the fact it would set things up for World War II would would shape modern history around the globe. It seemed that something was missing in my knowledge base, so it prompted me to read everything I can get my hands on in order to fix that.
I’ve also noticed I like series. It helps me know what’s next on my reading list and keeps things orderly.
If I am reluctant to read something, little will change my desire to read it…even posting it on a blog. I have had little to no desire to read The Shack, no many how times its been recommended to me. I even own a copy (it was a gift) and I can’t bring myself to read it. Honestly, I’ve glimpsed at it and its hard to get past the writing. I want to give it a chance…but I can’t when there is so many other things to read!
It’s easy for me to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to books. As soon as review copies started coming in, and I was getting new paperbacks from, and I was let loose in the library…well… let’s just say it all went downhill from there.
Although I refuse to give up hope just yet, I realistically report that I may not finish my Summer Reading Challenge. Check back on September 4th to check on the final reading stats.

Mailbox Madness

With my new membership on and two recent purchases on Amazon (something that is incredibly rare for me these days) I have found myself with a mailbox full of books which is, in my humble opinion, a happy problem. (Although I am not sure my roommates would agree, considering the incredibly large pile of books in our living room that are waiting for me to finish re-constructing my bookcase.)

In any case, I’ve had quite a few books come my way recently, and I thought I’d share. Here’s the madness:

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See


I don’t remember exactly how I discovered Lisa See…but I think it was the suggestion of Shanghai Girls on Amazon that I subsequently purchased and then inhaled before buying the sequel Dreams of Joy. See is a fantastic writer, and reading those two made me want to work through a few more  all of her novels.

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway


I honestly can’t explain my recent obsession with the Lost Generation writers. Maybe its my viewing of Midnight in Paris and the sheer number of literary references I missed. Maybe its my recent brush with World War I literature, and my interest in the way it subsequently shaped the thinking of those impacted by it. Either way, I found myself ordering a few of Hemingway’s novels, and that first that arrived was A Farewell to Arms. I also received a copy of The Sun Also Rises last week.

          Inescapable by Nancy Mehl


I read a review of Inescapable over at and found myself curious, however, it was not available at my local library, nor coming soon, so I took a risk and ordered a copy. The premise is interesting: the story is about Lizze Engel and her daughter Charity who return to Lizzie’s hometown of Kingdom after losing her job, hoping to escape a man stalking her. What awaits her in Kingdom is her incredibly strict father, an Old Order Mennonite resistant to change, and a flood of memories. In spite of Kingdom’s off the map status, Lizzie’s stalker manages to track her down.

I must confess: as soon I opened this one I knew I would end up reading it immediately, casting aside the six other books I am reading…and I did. So far, I feel sadly disappointed though. I am about a third of the way through, and it has not been nearly as gripping as I had hoped. I will continue on, however, and let you know what I think.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald


In case you didn’t believe me about my obsession with writers from the Lost Generation, I present to you further evidence in the form of F. Scott Fitzgerald. I would be a little bit of a liar, however, if I didn’t admit that part of my reason for reading The Great Gatesby which I somehow managed to avoid all the way through middle school and clear through high school, is in anticipation of the movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  I am curious to see how it would be adapted on screen.

The Elusive Mr. McCoy by Brenda Baker


This is another book I just couldn’t help but purchase after I found out it would not be at my local library any time soon. I was fascinated by the double life presented, and by the idea that the “offender” as Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books refers to him, is decidedly absent from the story as it focuses on his families. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing this one.

As always, I have so much to read and so little time. 🙂

Review: All Quiet on the Western Front

My experience with literature about World War I prior to All Quiet on the Western Front was scant at best. I had heard of the brutality of trench warfare, of really any warfare, but I experienced it more deeply as I read Remarque’s famous work.

Paul and his classmates had been convinced of the glories of war by their teachers, mentors, and guides. And indeed,

For us lads of eighteen they ought to have been mediators and guides to the world of maturity, the world of work, of duty, of culture of progress- to the future.

But they find out all too soon they have been led astray as the gory, brutal, inhumanities of war crash in around them.

Paul wrestles with his humanity as he kills a Frenchman he is caught in a trench with. He tries to see a life beyond the trenches, but cannot.

I am young, I am twenty years old; yet I know nothing of life but despair, death, fear, and fatuous superficiality cast over an abyss of sorrow. I see how peoples are set against one another, and in silence, unknowingly, foolishly, obediently, innocently slay one another…What do they expect of us if a time ever comes when the war is over? … What will happen afterwards? What will come out of us?

All Quiet on the Western Front is one of those rare novels that hypnotically pulls you into the scenes and then forces you to face and to question what you have just seen. Often required reading for youth, I would add it should also be required reading for adults. If you’re going to add one classic to your summer reading lists, add this one.

A quote from All Quiet on the Western Front

I was struck again by the power of beautifully written prose as I began Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front last night. Remarque is painting an amazing picture with this words, and begins to make me think in the very first chapter as Paul speaks of his teacher, and the way that he and his friends were convinced to enlist. But he notes the distinctions between his fellow soldiers and the teachers that encouraged them to enlist for love of country as he says,

While they continued to write and talk, we saw the saw the wounded in the dying. While they taught that duty to one’s country is the greatest thing, we already knew that death-throes are stronger. p.13

War had already begun shaping Paul, changing who he was and how he viewed the world, and in this quote, Remarque gives us allows us to see the shift, and to understand it.

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