Thursday, December 11, 2014

Monday, December 8, 2014

Best Little Stories from World War I: Nearly 100 True Stories

Goodreads: Behind the tangled alliances, feuding royals, and deadly battles are the nearly 100 riveting true stories of the men and women who lived, fought, and survived the first Great War. Based on the writings of soldiers, politicians, kings, nurses, and military leaders, Best Little Stories from World War I humanizes their foibles, triumphs, and tragedies--and chronicles how the emergence of fervent national pride led not only to ruthless combat, but a critical turning point in the twentieth century.

Fascinating characters come to life, including:

Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnavon, who turned her husband's Highclere Castle into a luxurious military hospital for British officers (and inspired the hit television show Downton Abbey).

Otto Roosen, the high-flying German reconnaissance pilot, who was shot down not only once but twice--first by the Canadian Ace Billy Bishop then by a fellow German--and survived.

Arthur Guy Empey, the American who volunteered for the British Army after the sinking of the Lusitania, then wrote a bestselling memoir about life in the muddy trenches of the western front.

Stasy: As much as I read about WWII, I have read very little about the first world war beyond what was in my history books while I was in school. Partly this is because the causes for this war seem more straightforward and partly because the main players/national leaders in the first world war are not as interesting to read about as those in the second war, despite the fact that they were all cousins either by blood or by marriage.

That aside, when I found this book, I was intrigued enough to buy it. (Admittedly, this was in part due to the fact that there was a companion WWII book.) It was a great look at both the big and small players of WWI. It explained the complicated family relationships of the national leaders. (Most of them were related through their grandmother, Queen Victoria of England.) Also included were stories of the Red Baron, the top flying aces of Canada, and a female from England who fought in the Serbian army and became a decorated soldier who survived that army's dangerous retreat through treacherous mountains in the middle of winter.

This book also showed that the causes of WWI are more complicated than I thought and definitely worth further reading.

I do have two complaints (and one quasi-complaint), though. The first is that there several either typos or errors not caught by the editor. One or two can be forgiven, but there were enough that it was distracting at times. The second is that there were not any maps in the book. I do not necessarily need maps detailing every single movement in a battle, but it would have been nice to have even just a map of Europe with the major battles and front lines marked as a point of reference.

My quasi-complaint is the constant reference to other books in the series by the authors. I actually was pleased to find that there are books covering a wide range of topics, but the promotion of them throughout the book ("For more about this read...") within the text versus as footnotes or endnotes was a little irritating.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Quote of the Day (from Goodreads today)

"Happiness is something that comes into our lives through doors we don't even remember leaving open."

~Rose Wilder Lane (daughter of Laura Ignalls Wilder)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Quote of the Day

"Do not read as children do to enjoy themselves, or, as the ambitious do to educate themselves. No, read to live."

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Casual Vacancy

Goodreads: A big novel about a small town...

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty facade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teacher at war with their pupils...Pagford is not what it first seems.

And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity, and unexpected revelations?

A big novel about a small town, The Casual Vacancy, is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. It is the work of a storyteller like no other.

Stasy: I know, I know. Everyone else has already read this book. It has been sitting in my pile of books to read for over a year, but I kept skipping over it. I was afraid that I was going to be disappointed by it.

I was. For someone with the imagination to create the world of Hogwarts and Diagon Alley with such intricate detail, this book is bland. I went into it knowing that it would be different from her previous work. Based on the description, it still sounded interesting. However, it is as if Rowling tried so hard to make this book not be Harry Potter, that she went too far and missed the mark.

There are too many main characters, to the point that none of them are that well developed and none of them are really likeable. The book starts off incredibly slowly and plods along until Part VII when it suddenly starts rushing forward to an end that just does not seem to fit with the rest of the book.

This book was...awkward, I think would be the best way to describe it.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆  

Monday, December 1, 2014


Usually our trip to our hometown for Thanksgiving is a non-stop, on-the-go whirlwind. This year, it was so laid back and while some of the reasons for that are not good, it was nice to come home and not be thoroughly exhausted.

We stayed with my parents this time instead of with my in-laws. A lot of reasons for that, but the main one that I mm willing to go into is that Muppet has been sick for about a month now. Our first time at the playgroup meant for toddlers and one of the moms brought her kids even though their little noses were like faucets. G.T. caught whatever it was they had and it never let go of him. He ended up with a double ear infection, upper respiratory infection, and croup. Poor little guy went through two rounds of antibiotics before he started feeling better. 

He was clear when we headed north, but with a member of my husband's family in the ICU, it was not worth the risk, no matter how slight. I did not really want to stay with my in-laws anyway. It is just too complicated and I still have not (and probably never will) forgive them for the things they have said since our loss, not to mention...well, that is a post for another time.

Anyway, usually we go to my great-uncle's for Thanksgiving, but he had back surgery, so it was just my parents, my sister and her family, my brother and his family, and us. A small gathering of sixteen and it was really nice, though I admit, I missed seeing the 75 or so on my dad's side that usually gather at my uncle's house. 

We also did not get to see my grandmother since she flew out to New Hampshire to see my mom's brother. It would have been nice to see her, but I am glad to see her traveling. She has turned into a bit of a hermit since my grandfather died nearly eight years ago. 

The worst part of this trip was seeing my husband come to some of the same conclusions I have held about his family for quite some time now. Again, another post for another time, but it hurt to see him hurting. 

We are home, though, and healthy and we have our little boy, whom we are so thankful to have. 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!