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Posts Tagged ‘literature and war readalong’

I’m really excited about the challenges I’m participating in this year.  I’m probably being overly ambitious, so wish me luck!

war challenge with a twist

January 1 – December 31

Serena and I are doing things a bit differently this year on War Through the Generations.  We’re calling it the 2014 War Challenge With a Twist, and instead of focusing on a single war for the whole year, we’ll be posting a review linky for a different war every two months (though you can read from any war throughout the year and add your review links later).

Here’s the schedule:

January/February: Gulf Wars (Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm and Iraq War/Operation Iraqi Freedom)
March/April: French and Indian War
May/June: Korean War
July/August: World War I (100th Anniversary)
September/October: World War II
November/December: Vietnam War

There are different levels of participation; I signed up for the Intermediate Level, which involves reading 2+ books on one war and at least 1 book on all the others.

If you’re interested in participating, we’d love to have you join us.  For more information and to sign up, click here.

historical fiction challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Ancient History level of at least 25 books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2014 at Historical Tapestry.  I originally wanted to sign up for the highest level of 50+ books, but I think it’s safer to shoot for 40, given that I read 37 books for this challenge last year.

dive into poetry

January 1 – December 31

I’m also signing up for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2014, hosted by Savvy Verse & Wit.  I’m going to commit to the Dip Your Toes level and read up to 2 poetry books this year.  There are several options for this challenge, so I hope you’ll see how easy it is to get your feet wet in terms of reading poetry.

european reading challenge

January 1, 2014 – January 31, 2015

I’m also signing up for the 2014 European Reading Challenge, hosted by Rose City Reader.  I’m going for the Five Star (Deluxe Entourage) level, which calls for at least 5 books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.

nonfiction reading challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Dilettante level for the Nonfiction Reading Challenge 2014, hosted by The Introverted Reader.  That means I will read 1-5 memoirs or other nonfiction books.

Literature and War Readalong 2014

I plan to participate in 6 of the monthly discussions of war-related books hosted by Beauty Is a Sleeping Cat.

April: Toby’s Room by Pat Barker (WWI)
May: Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo (WWI)
July: The Lie by Helen Dunmore (WWI)
August: Undertones of War by Edmund Blunden (WWI)
October: Phoenix and Ashes by Mercedes Lackey (WWI)
December: Letters From a Lost Generation by Vera Brittain and Four Friends (WWI)

keep calm and read jane austen

January 1 – December 31

Finally, I decided to create My Personal Jane Austen Challenge for myself.  In 2012, I really enjoyed participating in the Exploring the Many Genres of Jane Austen Challenge, hosted by the late Shanna of Existing’s Tricky.  I decided to revisit her challenge and create different categories.  So I plan to read at least 14 Austen and Austen-inspired books in the following categories:

Books by Jane Austen
Modern Adaptation
Graphic Novel
Mystery
Jane Austen as a Character
Sequel
Retelling
Minor Character in Lead Role
Short Stories
From the Hero’s POV
Paranormal
Young Adult
Alternate Setting
Outside the Box

What challenges are you committing to in 2014?

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

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Now that 2013 has come to an end, it’s time to count up the challenge books and see where I stand.

american revolution buttonWar Through the Generations: 2013 American Revolution Reading Challenge

Goal: 4-10

Books read: 3

Thoughts: I’m not happy that I failed to complete my own challenge, but I just wasn’t motivated to read about this war, even though I do find it interesting.

1. The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

2. Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

3. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

historical fiction reading challenge

Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013

Goal: 25+

Books read: 37 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: This is always an easy challenge for me, so in 2014, I will set a higher goal to see if I can clear more historical fiction books off my shelves.

1. The Passing Bells by Phillip Rock

2. Circles of Time by Phillip Rock

3. The Secret of the Nightingale Palace by Dana Sachs

4. The Klipfish Code by Mary Casanova

5. A Future Arrived by Phillip Rock

6. The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

7. The Turncoat by Donna Thorland

8. The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

9. Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada

10. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

11. The Clover House by Henriette Lazaridis Power

12. The End of the Point by Elizabeth Graver

13. The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow

14. The Wars by Timothy Findley

15. Seduction by M.J. Rose

16. The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

17. Jack Absolute by C.C. Humphreys

18. The Last Van Gogh by Alyson Richman

19. Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

20. Defiance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

21. Victory by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

22. I’ll Be Seeing You by Suzanne Hayes and Loretta Nyhan

23. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

24. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

25. Letters From Skye by Jessica Brockmole

26. Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw

27. Gracianna by Trini Amador

28. Rutherford Park by Elizabeth Cooke

29. His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik

30. Rising Sun, Falling Shadow by Daniel Kalla

31. The English German Girl by Jake Wallis Simons

32. Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence by Stephanie Baumgartner

33. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

34. The Lavender Garden by Lucinda Riley

35. Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

36. Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

37. City of Women by David R. Gillham

P&P bicentenary

The Pride & Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge

Goal: 9-12

Books read: 21 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this challenge, and I’m thinking about doing a Jane Austen challenge on my own in 2014.

1. Dear Mr. Darcy by Amanda Grange

2. Pride & Prejudice (Marvel Illustrated) by Nancy Butler and Hugo Petrus

3. The Man Who Loved Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

4. Yours Affectionately, Jane Austen by Sally Smith O’Rourke

5. All Hallow’s Eve by Wendi Sotis

6. For All the Wrong Reasons by Mary Lydon Simonsen

7. A Walk in the Meadows at Rosings Park by Mary Lydon Simonsen

8. A Pemberley Medley by Abigail Reynolds

9. Darcy and Elizabeth: The Language of the Fan by Mary Lydon Simonsen

10. Old Friends and New Fancies by Sybil G. Brinton

11. Spies and Prejudice by Talia Vance

12. Mr. Darcy’s Promise by Jeanna Ellsworth

13. The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler

14. The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle

15. First Impressions by Alexa Adams

16. Second Glances by Alexa Adams

17. Holidays at Pemberley by Alexa Adams

18. Pride, Prejudice and Jasmin Field by Melissa Nathan

19. “Jane & Bingley: Something Slightly Unsettling” by Alexa Adams

20. Project Darcy by Jane Odiwe

21. Undressing Mr. Darcy by Karen Doornebos

ireland reading challenge

Ireland Reading Challenge 2013

Goal: 4

Books read: 3

Thoughts: I love reading books set in Ireland, but time just got away from me this year. I had a 4th book picked out, but just didn’t get to it.

1. The Crooked Branch by Jeanine Cummins

2. Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

3. City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

dive into poetry challenge

Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013

Goal: 1

Books read: 2 — COMPLETED 🙂

Thoughts: I’m glad Serena challenges me to read poetry every year. I don’t think I could read as many poetry books as she does, but I’ll try to read a couple more next time around.

1. Eyes, Stones by Elana Bell

2. Love: Ten Poems by Pablo Neruda

Literature & War Readalong 2013

Books read: 4/12

Thoughts: I really love these readalongs, and even though I didn’t get to participate every month (either because of time or because I couldn’t get the book through my local library), I enjoyed reading the discussion posts. With the focus on WWI in 2014, I hope to participate more often.

February — The Flowers of War by Geling Yan

March — The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen

April — The Wars by Timothy Findley

June — Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw

goodreads challengeGoodreads 2013 Reading Challenge — COMPLETED 🙂

Read: 102/100 books

Final thoughts:  Overall, I think I did really well, just got a little pressed for time at the end of the year.

Did any of you participate in any reading challenges last year?  How did you fare?

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

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winter in wartime

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

How can one defend oneself?  Basically, one cannot.  Everybody simply keeps quiet.  The low clouds seem to reflect the menace hanging over the village.  Below, fear walks in the streets, in the gardens, and in the houses.  The village waits motionless for the future to reveal itself.

(from Winter in Wartime, page 49)

Winter in Wartime, originally published as Oorlogswinter in 1972, is a young adult novel by Dutch author Jan Terlouw set in Nazi-occupied Holland during World War II.  The novel follows 15-year-old Michiel during the winter of 1944, known as Hongerwinter or the “Hunger winter.”  Although it appears that the Germans are losing the war and that the war will end soon, the Nazis maintain a presence in the village, enforcing the nightly curfew, searching homes, and arresting people with ties to the Resistance.

Michiel’s father is the village mayor, so they seem to be better off than many families, but they give food and shelter to the steady stream of people walking miles and miles from home in search of food.  His father is well respected and not a friend of the Germans, which is why Dirk, a neighbor and Resistance fighter, seeks Michiel’s help just before a raid on the office that distributes ration cards.  If something goes wrong, Michiel is to deliver a letter.

When Dirk is arrested, Michiel knows it is up to him to get the letter to its intended recipient, but he must tread carefully as he is watched by Mr. Schafter, whom many believe is an informer for the Nazis.  When he learns the letter’s recipient has also been taken away by the Nazis, Michiel opens it and learns that, unbeknownst to the rest of the Resistance, Dirk has been hiding a wounded British pilot.  Then, when the body of a dead German is found, Michiel’s father is arrested, along with several others who will be executed if the murderer does not come forward.

Winter in Wartime is a captivating novel about a young boy who is forced to make some very grown up decisions.  Being a teenager is a confusing time, even more so in Michiel’s case, as he is living in an occupied country where there is little food, no safe way for him to attend school, and the fear of being caught, tortured, and killed constantly hanging over him.  He didn’t seek out the danger, but what we he supposed to do?  Who can he trust?  Michiel’s burden is heavy, but his mother — despite being terrified — loves him and trusts him enough to give him the space to do the right thing.

This is a short but poignant novel that drew me in from the very first page.  Terlouw paints a vivid picture of a landscape hardened by the cold winter and the brutal war.  He enables readers to really get to know Michiel, his confusion, his fear, his mistakes, and most of all, his bravery.  I almost finished the book in one sitting because I just had to know what happened to him and his family.

Winter in Wartime is one of the best young adult World War II novels I’ve read so far, and I hope to convince The Girl to read it at some point.  It’s also one of the best translated works I’ve read, given that I never felt like something was missing.  Terlouw’s characters are all well drawn and believable, and he enables readers to feel the intensity of the war, the harshness of the winter famine, and the life-or-death decisions that must be made at every turn.

I read Winter in Wartime for the Literature and War Readalong on Beauty is a Sleeping Cat. You can join the discussion here.

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 26 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed Winter in Wartime from the public library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the wars

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

All this mud and water was contaminated.  Dung and debris and decaying bodies lay beneath its surface.  When the rivers and canals could no longer be contained — over they spilled into clyttes already awash with rain.

Houses, trees and fields of flax once flourished here.  Summers had been blue with flowers.  Now it was a shallow sea of stinking grey from end to end.  And this is where you fought the war.

(from The Wars, page 78 in the old hardcover edition I read, whose cover I couldn’t find online)

The Wars is a 1977 novel of the Great War by Timothy Findley that follows Robert Ross, a Canadian who enlists as an officer in 1915 after the death of his disabled sister.  The novel opens toward the end of Robert’s story.  The world is on fire, and Robert is leading hundreds of horses away from the front.  Readers soon learn that Robert has possibly gone mad, and Findley brings them back to the beginning to piece together the events that led to that moment.

The Wars has an odd structure.  Robert and his family are introduced and his wartime activities are uncovered partly through photos and interview transcripts as an unnamed writer or historian (called “you” in the narrative) researches his life.  The rest of his story is told through a choppy, disjointed, non-linear narrative.  Findley basically writes a series of scenes chronicling the major events that defined Robert’s life and paved the way for him becoming a tragic hero — from his relationship with his sister, Rowena, to his experience with the horses on the troop ship to England to a chlorine gas attack while he and his men are trapped in a crater.

Findley introduces readers to an assortment of characters, including Robert’s alcoholic mother; Harris, a fellow soldier with whom a friendship leans toward love; Barbara, a young aristocrat who trades in her soldier boyfriends as soon as they are injured; and Juliet, a 12-year-old girl who falls in love with Robert during a stay at her family home.  However, except for Robert, the characters are mostly flat, the sparse narrative making it difficult for readers to really get to know them.

The Wars is an interesting war story, focusing on a single soldier amidst the chaos during which thousands upon thousands perished.  The novel shines in its descriptions of life in the trenches, futile missions that have no chance of success, and one man’s desire to do what he feels is right…no matter the cost.  Despite a structure that was difficult to get used to, Findley succeeds in showing the insanity inherent in war and how it can transform men into murderers.  Life goes on while the men are fighting on the front, underscored by Robert’s mother’s disintegration upon the death of her daughter and her son going off to war.

I finished the book not really knowing what to make of it, but in the days since I turned the last page, I find myself contemplating it and liking it more.  Findley made me want to know what happened with the horses from the very beginning, and as piece after piece of Robert’s story fell into place, the more I could understand his transformation.  It definitely isn’t the best World War I novel I’ve read, but it’s certainly worth giving a try.

I read The Wars for the Literature and War Readalong on Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.  You can join the discussion here.

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 14 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed The Wars from the public library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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the flowers of war

Source: Public library
Rating: ★★★★☆

Then all the girls crowded round the thrashing forms on the floor, aiding their friends by landing a kick or a pinch where they could.  The Japanese were still abstract enemies, but this teenage prostitute was an enemy they could see.

(from The Flowers of War, page 60)

The Flowers of War by Geling Yan, translated from the Chinese by Nicky Harman, is set in December 1937 during the Nanking Massacre, or the Rape of Nanking, which occurred during the Second Sino-Japanese War (which became part of the Pacific theater of World War II after the attack on Pearl Harbor).  It focuses on an American church where a group of 16 schoolgirls is being hidden while the Japanese, disregarding the rules of war, slaughter Chinese POWs and civilians and rape women and children as they take over the city.

The invasion means there is little food or water in the church to go around — and even less when a group of 13 prostitutes climbs over the wall in search of shelter and protection from the uncontrollable Japanese soldiers.  The situation grows even more dire when wounded Chinese soldiers arrive at the church’s gate, with the Japanese not far behind.

Most of The Flowers of War is seen through the eyes of a 13-year-old schoolgirl, Shujuan, who, unlike most of her classmates, is not an orphan.  However, with her family in America, she is unable to escape before the city is captured and feels abandoned.  She is very curious and brave (or foolish, depending on how you look at it), refusing to hide in the upstairs room when all the action is happening in the courtyard or in the basement, and much of what readers see and hear of the soldiers and the prostitutes comes from her spying.  Shujuan is quick to judge the prostitutes, some of whom are around her age, believing them to be undeserving of the church’s help and resenting the extra food they procure from the male cook.  However, she soon realizes there is more to these women than their profession, and on many levels, she is like them.

Despite being such a short book (only 248 pages), Yan has created some fairly well developed characters.  From Shujuan to Yumo, the leader of the group of prostitutes whose sophistication and background make one question how she ended up in a brothel, from Deacon Fabio, an Italian-American raised by a Chinese woman after his parents’ death who doesn’t feel like he belongs to either culture, to Father Engelmann, whose caring nature conflicts with the church’s neutrality and forces him to make a decision that will haunt the church’s inhabitants forever — readers learn enough about them to care what happens next.

The Flowers of War is a surprisingly powerful novel about a city gone to hell, rape as a weapon of war, and women as second-class citizens.  The book isn’t overly graphic, and except for the final chapters, it’s not as heavy as you would think given the subject matter.  But I was so disturbed by the ending that I couldn’t sleep and stayed up way past my bedtime reading something else to calm my mind, not necessarily because of the writing (the prose was rather plain) but because of what it forced me to think about.  I knew very little about what happened in Nanking before reading this book, so it’s a worthwhile read for raising awareness of a heartbreaking historical event.  Just be prepared to feel everything from fear to anger to helplessness to sadness.

I read The Flowers of War for the Literature and War Readalong on Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.  Click here to read and/or join the discussion.

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 6 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I borrowed The Flowers of War from the local library.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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It’s the time of year where I start thinking about new reading challenges.  I’m going to keep my challenge participation light again in 2013.  Here are the challenges I’ve selected:

american revolution button

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Wade level of 4-10 books for the American Revolution Reading Challenge 2013 at War Through the Generations that I’m co-hosting with Serena.  I don’t own any books about the American Revolution, so I think I’m going to start this challenge by browsing my local library.  The Girl and Jerry have signed up as well for the Dip level of 1-3 books.

historical fiction reading challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Ancient History level of 25+ books for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge 2013 at Historical Tapestry.  It’s not much of a challenge for me to read historical fiction, but I can’t resist this challenge and want to see how many books I can read in this genre in a year.

dive into poetry challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Dive Into Poetry Challenge 2013 at Savvy Verse & Wit.  Since I already comment on all of Serena’s weekly Virtual Poetry Circle posts, I’m committing to review at least 1 poetry book and participate in her National Poetry Month blog tour.  There are several options for this challenge, so I hope you’ll see how easy it is to get your feet wet in terms of reading poetry.

ireland reading challenge

January 1 – December 31

I’m signing up for the Shamrock level of 4 books for the 2013 Ireland Reading Challenge at Books and Movies.  I probably should have signed up for this challenge long ago since I tend to read a handful of books every year that are written by Irish authors, set in Ireland, or feature Irish characters or Irish history.

Literature and War Readalong 2013

I also want to take part in the Literature and War Readalong 2013 at Beauty is a Sleeping Cat.  Caroline hosts a discussion on a war-themed novel once a month throughout the year.  I plan to read as many of these books as I can get my hands on.  Here’s the schedule:

January 28: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Iraq War)
February 28: The Flowers of War by Geling Yan (Chinese/Japanese War)
March 28: The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen (WWII)
April 29: The Wars by Timothy Findley (WWI)
May 31: All That I Am by Anna Funder (WWII)
June 28: Winter in Wartime by Jan Terlouw (WWII)
July 29: Children of the New World by Assia Djebar (French/Algerian War)
August 30: Grey Souls by Philippe Claudel (WWI)
September 30: There’s No Home by Alexander Baron (WWII)
October 28: Everything Flows by Vasily Grossman (Post-War)
November 29: Death of the Adversary by Hans Keilson (WWII)
December 30: The Sorrow of War by Bao Ninh (Vietnam War)

What challenges are you committing to in 2013?

© 2012 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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