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here, bullet

Source: Borrowed from Serena
Rating: ★★★★☆

I haven’t had a lot of time for reading these days, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to take part in the National Poetry Month Blog Tour, especially since Serena does so much to encourage people to try poetry.  I’m glad I chose one of the books I borrowed from her for the War Through the Generations challenge, and while I finished it in one sitting, I definitely could see myself returning to this book to dig deeper into the poems.

Here, Bullet is a slim collection of poems by Iraq war veteran Brian Turner.  I haven’t read much about the wars in Iraq, but as Turner indicates in the poem “Gilgamesh, in a Fossil Relief,” history tends to repeat itself when it comes to war.  This makes one contemplate the continued relevance of old war stories and question why history is constantly allowed to repeat itself.

History is a cloudy mirror made of dirt
and bone and ruin. And love? Loss?
These are the questions we must answer
by war and famine and pestilence, and again
by touch and kiss, because each age must learn
This is the path of the sun’s journey by night. (page 53)

Turner’s poems focus on the brutality of war and the beauty of it as well, from his use of color to create beauty out of a horrific, fatal wound in “AB Negative (The Surgeon’s Poem)” to the painful imagery of knives and teeth in “The Hurt Locker.” The poems touch upon the chaos and confusion of war, how it turns things upside down for people, of course, but even for animals, as shown in “The Baghdad Zoo.” There are recurring themes of dreams and light within these pages, and even more sensual poems, like “Where the Telemetries End,” that focus on love as an escape from the war raging in the background.

I found myself taking note of numerous lines throughout the book, but I was most struck with the vivid imagery in “2000 lbs,” which describes the moments before and after a bomb explodes in a market in Mosul. Turner shows how everything is normal one minute, then utter chaos in the next, from the points of view of soldiers, civilians, the suicide bomber, and even the dead. It’s almost as if you can hear and feel everything going on in the market, which is difficult to pull off in a poem.

…he still loves her,
remembers her standing at the canebreak
where the buffalo cooled shoulder-deep in the water,
pleased with the orange cups of flowers he brought her,
and he regrets how so much can go wrong in a life,
how easily the years slip by, light as grain, bright
as the street’s concussion of metal, shrapnel
traveling at the speed of sound to open him up
in blood and shock, a man whose last thoughts
are of love and wreckage, with no one there
to whisper him gone. (page 42)

Here, Bullet is a collection of narrative poems that bring to life the different experiences of wartime, from the shock of bombs exploding in crowded markets to the challenge of navigating war in a strange land. With images that both enlighten and haunt, Here, Bullet ensures readers will know and remember what happened.

national poetry month

dive into poetry

Book 1 for Dive Into Poetry Challenge

war challenge with a twist

Book 9 for the War Challenge With a Twist (Gulf Wars)

Disclosure: I borrowed Here, Bullet from a friend.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

the secret betrothal

Source: Review copy from Meryton Press
Rating: ★★★★☆

He does not dare to kiss me, her mind screamed silently, but why am I trembling?  She felt a flutter in the pit of her stomach and could not keep her eyelids from blinking over and over.  He is actually going to kiss me!

Very close to her face and audible only to her ear, Mr. Darcy said, “When I kiss you, Miss Bennet, I will not need the inducement of mistletoe.”  He then touched his lips to her hand, released it, and walked out the door.

The colour drained from Elizabeth’s face as she made her way across the room to the perimeter of the hall.  Her knees suddenly felt quite weak, and she sank down upon a chair, aware that her breathing had grown shallow and ragged.  When he kisses me?  The gall of that man!  That is one thing that will never happen!

(from The Secret Betrothal, page 48)

Jan Hahn’s latest take on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice puts an even bigger obstacle than usual in the path to Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy’s happily ever after.  The last time I read Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago, I remember being really surprised by how much Elizabeth likes Mr. Wickham and falls for his charms.  I think I like to put that out of my mind, but in The Secret Betrothal, Hahn expands on that attraction and kept me cringing and wanting to not believe what I was reading even while making it hard for me to put the book down.

The Secret Betrothal shows what might have happened had Mr. Wickham really, really wanted to punish Mr. Darcy and persuaded Elizabeth to become engaged to him, then keep that engagement a secret, even from her dear sister Jane.  Hahn surprisingly makes this scenario believable, however repulsive it is to imagine Elizabeth linked to that horrid scoundrel.  In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about this book was that I was able to believe it, so kudos to Hahn for that!

There were so many things I liked about this novel, from Hahn’s courage in embroiling the heroine in a secret engagement to the evolution of Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s relationship, with confusion, tenderness, passion, and the realization that nothing can keep these characters apart for long.  Hahn lets readers spend more time with Charlotte in this rendition and even inserts some humor in the form of Lady Catherine’s spring tonic.  (Seriously, it’s hilarious!)  But the freshness of the story is really where this novel shines.  I loved that Hahn took the main characters to Brighton and let the story unfold by the sea.

Hahn dedicates the novel to “anyone who has chosen unwisely the first time,” and The Secret Betrothal certainly is a story where that is the case.  Elizabeth has even more to chastise herself about in this retelling, not only for falling prey to a scoundrel but also for risking her reputation.  It’s a novel that highlights the flaws that make Austen’s heroes and heroines so endearing, so life-like, and it also shows that there is no end to the possibilities for these characters.

the secret betrothal blog tour

Disclosure: I received The Secret Betrothal from Meryton Press for review.

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week.  It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to the shelves:

the sea gardenThe Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson — from Harper

Hailed as a “master of mood and shadow,” with a “gift for bringing the senses to life,” Deborah Lawrenson returns to the sensuous Provence of her acclaimed novel The Lantern in this romantic tale of World War II mystery — three linked novellas rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere.

THE SEA GARDEN

On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden.  Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden’s owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian…

THE LAVENDER FIELD

Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell.  When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life…and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

A SHADOW LIFE

Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent.  But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes.  When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth.  Was he the man he claimed to be?

Ingeniously interconnected, these three spellbinding narratives are woven into one unique tale of love, mystery, and murder.  The Sea Garden is a vivid and absorbing chronicle of love and loss in the fog of war — and a penetrating and perceptive examination of the impulses and circumstances that shape our lives.  (publisher’s summary)

a haven from hitlerA Haven from Hitler by Heini Gruffudd — from Y Lolfa

This is a story of suffering and heroism, love and hatred, death and survival during the most destructive years of the 20th century in Europe.

Originally published in Welsh under the title Yr Erlid, it won the Welsh Book of the Year prize in 2013.  It tells the story of the family of Kate Bosse-Griffiths, of German-Jewish descent, who fled the brutal regime of the Nazis and became one of Wales’ leading academic and literary figures.

In Oxford, she met fellow Classics scholar and Egyptologist J. Gwyn Griffiths, and they soon settled as a married couple in Rhondda, where Kate established the Cadwgan Literary Circle.

Meanwhile, her family, like hundreds of thousands of others of Jewish descent, suffered from Nazi persecution.

The story is based on hundreds of letters, documents and first-hand accounts by members of the family.  They tell of the Nazi-inspired attacks of Kristallnacht, life under their brutal regime, efforts to flee and periods of imprisonment, and the horror of life inside concentration camps.  (publisher’s summary)

pride and persistencePride and Persistence by Jeanna Ellsworth — from the author

Undaunted by a threatening storm, Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley insists he must deliver his letter to Miss Elizabeth Bennet — then tragedy strikes.  Riddled with guilt, Elizabeth comes to the aid of the comatose Mr. Darcy and stays by his side until he regains consciousness.  She soon learns that although Mr. Darcy has awoken, he has not returned to himself.  And with no memory of her first disastrous proposal, he has concluded that there is nothing he wants more than to propose to Miss Elizabeth.

This humorous journey of love leaves one asking, can persistence pacify prejudice?  Can Elizabeth see the real gentleman behind the injury, a man who persists in professing his love to her every chance he gets?  In this Regency variation of Jane Austen’s beloved Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet both learn the value of persistence.  (publisher’s summary)

the secrets of darcy and elizabethThe Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid — from the author

In this Pride and Prejudice variation, a despondent Darcy travels to Paris in the hopes of forgetting the disastrous proposal at Hunsford.  Paris is teeming with English visitors during a brief moment of peace in the Napoleonic Wars, but Darcy’s spirits don’t lift until he attends a ball and unexpectedly encounters…Elizabeth Bennet!  Darcy seizes the opportunity to correct misunderstandings and initiate a courtship.

Their moment of peace is interrupted by the news that England has again declared war on France, and hundreds of English travelers must flee Paris immediately.  Circumstances force Darcy and Elizabeth to escape on their own, despite the risk to her reputation.  Even as they face dangers from street gangs and French soldiers, romantic feelings blossom during their flight to the coast.  But then Elizabeth falls ill, and the French are arresting all the English men they can  find…

When Elizabeth and Darcy finally return to England, their relationship has changed, and they face new crises.  However, they have secrets they must conceal — even from their own families.  (publisher’s summary)

a dangerous ageA Dangerous Age by Ellen Gilchrist — a surprise from Algonquin

The women in the Hand family are no strangers to either controversy or sadness.  Those traits seem, in fact, to be a part of their family’s heritage, one that stretches back through several generations and many wars.  A Dangerous Age is a celebration of the strength of these women and of the bonds of blood and shared loss that hold them together.  Louise, Winifred, and Olivia are reconnecting the pieces of their lives and rediscovering love, but each is unwittingly on a collision course with a seemingly distant war that is really never more than a breath away.  By turns humorous and heartbreaking, this finely honed novel about the centuries-old struggle for women who are left to carry on with life when their men go off to war is by a writer the Washington Post says “should be declared a national cultural treasure.”  (publisher’s summary)

acts of godActs of God by Ellen Gilchrist — a surprise from Algonquin

Master short story writer Ellen Gilchrist, winner of the National Book Award, returns with her first story collection in over eight years.  In Acts of God, she has crafted ten different scenarios in which people dealing with forces beyond their control somehow manage to survive, persevere, and triumph, even if it is only a triumph of the will.

For Marie James, a teenager from Fayetteville, Arkansas, the future changes when she joins a group of friends in their effort to find survivors among the debris left when a tornado destroys a neighboring town.

For Philipa, a woman blessed with beauty and love and a life without care, the decision she makes to take control of her fate is perhaps the easiest she has ever made.  As she writes to Charles, her husband and lifetime partner, “Nothing is of value except to have lived well and to die without pain.”

For Eli Naylor, left orphaned by a flood, there comes an understanding that sometimes out of tragedy can come the greatest good, as he finds a life and a future in a most unexpected place.

In one way or another, all of these people are fighters and believers, survivors who find the strength to go on when faced with the truth of their mortality, and they are given vivid life in these stories, told with Ellen Gilchrist’s clear-eyed optimism and salty sense of humor.

As a critic in the Washington Post wrote in reviewing one of the author’s earlier works, “To say that Ellen Gilchrist can write is to say that Placido Domingo can sing.  All you have to do is listen.”  (publisher’s summary)

love in a time of warLove in a Time of War by Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson — free ebook

In this emotionally powerful WWII drama, children’s book writer Natalie Lucas discovers the many faces of love as she helps her beloved niece Mila escape the approaching Nazi menace in Hungary.

Natalie’s twin sister, the celebrated poet and professor, Anna Lucas, has succumbed to early-onset dementia, making the situation even more unstable for Natalie and Mila. Natalie and Anna’s personal and professional relationship provides an interesting subplot whch focuses on the foundations of sisterly love.

In the meantime, surrounded by violence and the threat of capture, Natalie must find a safe way out of the country for Mila. She eventually turns to her teenage sweetheart, Deszo, a Professor whom she rejected in order to marry her true love, Max.

The past love triangle between Deszo, Natalie and Anna adds further complications; however, Deszo may provide Mila with her only chance of escape. As Natalie and Deszo are thrown together by their mission to save Mila, their love for one another is re-ignited.

After the Nazis learn of Deszo’s assistance to the Jews, he and Natalie are brutally interrogated by a Nazi officer who has been following their activities, and their lives are in danger. After many doubts as to who in their community is friend or foe, the novel culminates with a heart-wrenching conclusion which provokes questions of loyalty, family and above all — faith. (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

i am reginaHi there! Long time, no blog…we’ll at least for me.  I hope you’re all having a great weekend.  It’s busy as usual here, especially since soccer season started.  The Girl is recovering from a knee injury (being kicked by a cleat is no fun…it’ll have you on crutches and sitting on the sidelines at a wedding, poor thing!), and she’s hoping to play again on Sunday.  In the meantime, we’ll be working on another high school scholarship application and some spring cleaning.

Hopefully I’ll have some time to finish The Secret Betrothal by Jan Hahn (a Pride and Prejudice variation).  Our book club is coming off a hiatus next weekend, and I have to finish that book, too: Death With Interruptions by José Saramago, which was my husband’s pick.  Has anyone read it?

The Girl and I started the weekend with a Friday night movie: The Book Thief.  Some of you may remember that I re-read the book with her a couple of years ago.  It’s one of my all-time favorites, and I thought the movie was a fantastic adaptation.  I cried, but not as hard as I expected, which was a relief.

Also, I wanted to invite you to join me and Serena on War Through the Generations for a readalong of I Am Regina by Sally M. Keehn, a novel set during the French and Indian War.  We’re discussing Chapters 1-13 this week, and we’re both impressed with the book so far.  Click here to check out our discussion.  And be sure to visit Serena’s blog, Savvy Verse & Wit, for the National Poetry Month blog tour.

What are you all doing this weekend?  More importantly, what are you all reading this weekend??

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

Welcome to Mailbox Monday, the weekly meme where book lovers share the titles they received for review, purchased, or otherwise obtained over the past week.  It is now being hosted at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here’s what I added to my shelves since I last posted my books in mid-March:

jane austenJane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels by Janet Todd — from Sterling Publishing

Jane Austen is one of the greatest novelists in English Literature.  Over the last 200 years, her six published works have been loved by academic critics and the general reading public.  As a result, there has always been speculation about the woman behind the writing.  She lived only forty-one years during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries — a time of huge turbulence.  Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels traces her life, her relationships with family and friends; the attitudes and customs of the time that shaped her and in turn shaped her work; and the places where she lived, worked, and set her novels, from rural Hampshire to fashionable Bath Spa.  Chapters on all of her novels run through this book and place them in the context of her life.  Jane Austen: Her Life, Her Times, Her Novels features removable memorabilia including:

*Handwritten drafts of early writings such as “The History of England” and “The Watsons” and drafts of her later novel Persuasion.

*A letter between Jane Austen and her sister Cassandra.

*A letter from George Austen, Jane’s father, to the publisher Thomas Cadell that was returned to the family with the words ‘Rejected by return of post’ written on it.

*A handwritten note outlining profits from her novels.

*A frontispiece to the 1833 editing of Pride and Prejudice.  (publisher’s summary)

northanger abbeyNorthanger Abbey by Val McDermid — from Grove Press

Internationally bestselling crime writer Val McDermid is renowned for her acutely suspenseful, psychologically complex, seamlessly plotted thrillers.  Her millions of fans know that she is also a playful storyteller with a delightful, wry wit.  Now, in Northanger Abbey, her mastery and humor are both on display in an updated take on Jane Austen’s classic novel about a young woman whose visit to the stately home of a well-to-do acquaintance stirs her most macabre imaginings.

Cat Morland is ready to grow up.  A homeschooled minister’s daughter in the quaint, sheltered Piddle Valley in Dorset, she loses herself in novels (and, of course, her smartphone) and is sure there is a glamorous adventure awaiting her beyond the valley’s narrow horizon.  So imagine her delight when the Allens, neighbors and friends of her parents, invite her to attend the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh as their guest.  With a sunny personality, tickets every night, and a few key wardrobe additions courtesy of Susie Allen, Cat quickly begins to take Edinburgh by storm and is welcomed into the bosom of the Thorpe family, particularly by eldest daughter Bella.  And then there’s the handsome Henry Tilney, an up-and-coming lawyer whose family home is the beautiful and forbidding Northanger Abbey.  Cat is entranced by Henry and his charming sister Eleanor, but she can’t help wondering if everything about them is as perfect as it seems.  Or has she just been reading too many novels?

A delectable, note-perfect modern update of the Jane Austen classic with an extra frisson of suspense that only McDermid could provide, Northanger Abbey tells a timeless story of innocence amid cynicism, the exquisite angst of young love, and the value of friendship.  (publisher’s summary)

haunting mr. darcyHaunting Mr. Darcy by KaraLynne Mackrory — from Meryton Press

What happens to the happily ever after when the ever after has already happened?

A “spirited” courtship indeed!  Jane Austen’s much adored Pride and Prejudice is transfigured in this Regency adaptation.  That fickle friend Fate intervenes when an unexpected event threatens the happily ever after of literature’s favorite love story.

The gentlemen from Netherfield have left, winter is upon the land, and after a horrifying carriage accident, Elizabeth Bennet finds her spirit transported as if by magic into Mr. Darcy’s London home.  Paranormally tethered to the disagreeable man, it doesn’t help that he believes she is a phantasm of his love-struck mind and not the real Elizabeth.

Somehow they must learn to trust, learn to love and learn to bring Elizabeth back to her earthly form before it is too late.  (publisher’s summary)

how could this happenHow Could This Happen: Explaining the Holocaust by Dan McMillan — a surprise from Basic Books

The Holocaust has long seemed incomprehensible, a monumental crime that beggars our powers of description and explanation.  Historians have probed the many sources of this tragedy, but no account has united the various causes into an overarching synthesis that answers the vital question:  How was such a nightmare possible in the heart of western civilization?

In How Could This Happen, historian Dan McMillan distills the vast body of Holocaust research into a cogent explanation and comprehensive analysis of the genocide’s many causes, revealing how a once-progressive society like Germany could have carried out this crime.  The Holocaust, he explains, was caused not by one but by a combination of factors — from Germany’s failure to become a democracy until 1918, to the widespread acceptance of anti-Semitism and scientific racism, to the effects of World War I, which intensified political divisions within the country and drastically lowered the value of human life in the minds of an entire generation.  Masterfully synthesizing the myriad causes that led Germany to disaster, McMillan shows why thousands of Germans carried out the genocide while millions watched, with cold indifference, as it enveloped their homeland.

Persuasive and compelling, How Could This Happen explains how a perfect storm of bleak circumstances, malevolent ideas, and damaged personalities unleashed history’s most terrifying atrocity.  (publisher’s summary)

What books did you add to your shelves recently?

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

i am reginaFor the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist at War Through the Generations, Serena and I will be hosting an April readalong of the young adult novel I am Regina by Sally M. Keehn, which is set during the French and Indian War.

“Alone yet not alone am I,” the young Regina sings to herself, as she and her mother always used to sing together.  But she sings now in a different time and a different place.  Attacked by the Indians, her wilderness home has been burned to the ground, her father and brother scalped, and she taken captive.  And her mother, who was away from home that fateful day?  Regina can only hope she survived.

Yet even as she hopes, the eleven-year-old girl begins a new life.  Befriended by kindly Nonschetto, she learns to catch the wily fish maschilamek, to dance the Indian dance, to speak the Indian tongue, to stand up to the vicious Tiger Claw, and finally, even to grieve as her new people are lost to smallpox and the gun of the white man.  Still, as the years go by, she does not forget the song, or the hope that someday she will once again meet the woman with the light brown hair and the sweet voice who was her mother.

In poetic prose, remarkable for its simplicity and beauty, Sally Keehn captures the drama of a young girl torn from her home and forced to learn an alien way of life.  I am Regina is an unforgettable first novel, written with understanding and compassion for the innocent of both sides caught in a war between conflicting cultures.

Winner of the 1992 Carolyn W. Field Award  (publisher’s summary)

Because the book is so short (my copy is only 240 pages), we’ll be dividing it into two discussions:

Friday, April 11: Chapters 1-13

Friday, April 25: Chapter 14-the end

The discussions will be held on War Through the Generations.  We hope you’ll join us!

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

persuasion tearoom chat My tearoom chat with Serena about Jane Austen’s Persuasion concludes this week with our discussion of Volume II, Chapters 7-12. Grab a cup of tea and head over to Savvy Verse & Wit to join the discussion.

(Click here if you missed the first discussion on Volume I, Chapters 1-6, here if you missed the discussion on Volume I, Chapters 7-12, and here if you missed last week’s discussion about Volume I, Chapters 1-6)

We hope you’ll share your thoughts with us!

© 2014 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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