Thursday, December 23, 2010

70. Face of a Stranger

By:  Anne Perry
Rated 4.5
From Library

This is a new series to me although it's been around a while.  I enjoyed it enough to request the next book in the series.

Publisher's Description:

After an accident in his carriage, detective William Monk wakes up with no memory; ashamed to admit it, he bluffs his way through recovery and returns to work, where he is assigned a particularly tricky investigation of a young nobleman's brutal murder. While tracking the last affairs of the victim, Monk traces his own history and dislikes what he turns up on both fronts. Uncovering unpleasant secrets within Grey's aristocratic family, he also finds his gradually revealed former self to have been ambitious, cold and perhaps cruel. Integral to Perry's rich, unpredictable plot is the Crimean War, graphically described by Hester Latterly, a forthright young woman of the middle class who nursed there with Florence Nightingale.

Monday, December 20, 2010

War of 1812

From:  Netflix
Rated 4 Stars

 Never had much of a handle on that war beyond that it started over the Brit's impressing American seamen and that they burned the courthouse in Gilford Co., N.C. causing me much inconvenience.  Yeah I know they also burned The White House but that wasn't personal as none of my ancestors records were kept there.

This would have been a lot more interesting if the disk had not been damaged and did a lot of skipping.  Still, I enjoyed it anyway.

Netflix Description:

This absorbing series compiles an impressive roster of documentaries that illuminate the history-making 1812 battle between the United States and Great Britain, a war that at first appeared to be a lost cause. But with Andrew Jackson as America's leader, the country emerged victorious. Programs include "First Invasion: The War of 1812"; "The Battle of New Orleans"; and "The Ironclads." Also contains a detailed biography of Jackson.

Friday, December 17, 2010

67 & 68 Bess Crawford Mysteries

A Duty to the Dead

By Charles Todd
Rated 4.5
From Library

The summary below that I copied from my library's website (and is not copyrighted) is so complete that I will only comment that  I thought the character of Bess got off to a somewhat rocky start.  She was coming across like a long suffering bore and I was sure I wasn't going to like her.  But after a while the authors got a handle on her I soon warmed up to her.

The mystery was excellent.  Even after I figured out whodunnit I was still in doubt whether or not everything was going to turn out alright.  I would have been very upset if it hadn't.

Publisher's Summary:

From the brilliantly imaginative New York Times bestselling author Charles Todd comes an unforgettable new character in an exceptional new series

England, 1916. Independent-minded Bess Crawford's upbringing is far different from that of the usual upper-middle-class British gentlewoman. Growing up in India, she learned the importance of responsibility, honor, and duty from her offi­cer father. At the outbreak of World War I, she followed in his footsteps and volunteered for the nursing corps, serving from the battlefields of France to the doomed hospital ship Britannic.

On one voyage, Bess grows fond of the young, gravely wounded Lieutenant Arthur Graham. Something rests heavily on his conscience, and to give him a little peace as he dies, she promises to deliver a message to his brother. It is some months before she can carry out this duty, and when she's next in England, she herself is recovering from a wound.

When Bess arrives at the Graham house in Kent, Jonathan Graham listens to his brother's last wishes with surprising indifference. Neither his mother nor his brother Timothy seems to think it has any significance. Unsettled by this, Bess is about to take her leave when sudden tragedy envelops her. She quickly discovers that fulfilling this duty to the dead has thrust her into a maelstrom of intrigue and murder that will endanger her own life and test her courage as not even war has.

An Impartial Witness

Rated 5 Stars
From:  Library

It is the early summer of 1917. Bess Crawford has returned to England from the trenches of France with a convoy of severely wounded men. One of her patients is a young pilot who has been burned beyond recognition, and who clings to life and the photo of his wife that is pinned to his tunic.

While passing through a London train station, Bess notices a woman bidding an emotional farewell to an officer, her grief heart-wrenching. And then Bess realizes that she seems familiar. In fact, she's the woman in the pilot's photo, but the man she is seeing off is not her husband.
Back on duty in France, Bess discovers a newspaper with a drawing of the woman's face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard seeking information from anyone who has seen her. For it appears that the woman was murdered on the very day Bess encountered her at the station.
Granted leave to speak with Scotland Yard, Bess becomes entangled in the case. Though an arrest is made, she must delve into the depths of her very soul to decide if the police will hang an innocent man or a vicious killer. Exposing the truth is dangerous—and will put her own life on the line.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

66. Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone

By:  J. K. Rowlings
Rated 5 Stars
Audio Book
From Library

Casting around for a lighter read I decided it might be a good idea to revisit this series before the last movie(s) come out on DVD.  Not that these books stay a light read but in the beginning they were and maybe by the time they start to get darker my mood will change.

On Bookflurries last night a poster was talking about how the series develops and that the books are even better read together, because you can see where she plants seeds that bear fruit in later books.  It will probably be a while before these last two movies are out on DVD but then I plan a leisurely listen to the series so maybe I won't be too out of sync with the movies by the time they are released.

Product Description on Wrapper of Audiobook

Say you've spent the first 10 years of your life sleeping under the stairs of a family who loathes you. Then, in an absurd, magical twist of fate you find yourself surrounded by wizards, a caged snowy owl, a phoenix-feather wand, and jellybeans that come in every flavor, including strawberry, curry, grass, and sardine. Not only that, but you discover that you are a wizard yourself! This is exactly what happens to young Harry Potter in J.K. Rowling's enchanting, funny debut novel, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

In the nonmagic human world--the world of "Muggles"--Harry is a nobody, treated like dirt by the aunt and uncle who begrudgingly inherited him when his parents were killed by the evil Voldemort. But in the world of wizards, small, skinny Harry is famous as a survivor of the wizard who tried to kill him. He is left only with a lightning-bolt scar on his forehead, curiously refined sensibilities, and a host of mysterious powers to remind him that he's quite, yes, altogether different from his aunt, uncle, and spoiled, piglike cousin Dudley.

A mysterious letter, delivered by the friendly giant Hagrid, wrenches Harry from his dreary, Muggle-ridden existence: "We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Of course, Uncle Vernon yells most unpleasantly, "I AM NOT PAYING FOR SOME CRACKPOT OLD FOOL TO TEACH HIM MAGIC TRICKS!" Soon enough, however, Harry finds himself at Hogwarts with his owl Hedwig... and that's where the real adventure--humorous, haunting, and suspenseful.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


By:  William Shakespeare
Directed by and Starring Kenneth Branagh
Rated 5++
From:  Gift from Friend

l loved this movie. When I first realized that it was 4 hours long I thought it was going to be tedius but when I saw it I was so enthralled that i didn't notice the passage of time. When I saw it a second time the only part that detracted at all was the performances of Lemmon (dull and somehow out of place) and Depardieu (way overrated in my opinion). Everyone fom Kenneth Branagh to Rufus Sewell, excluding Lemmon and Depardieu, gave truly amazing performances. Kate Winslet's performance as Ophelia  was unparalleled.  Nobody has ever done it better. Ever.  It was nice to see his use of old favorites from his previous films ,Richard Briers and Derek Jacobi, as well as some new blood. I really loved the Palace they used it added some interesting elements to the film. My three favorite scenes are the "play scene", the "May all my thoughts be bloody scene", and the "gravedigger" scene. This movie is easily my favorite version of Hamlet. Product Description:

It's the greatest work of literature, but nobody had ever filmed Hamlet uncut--until Kenneth Branagh went about the task for his lavish 1996 production. The result is a sumptuous, star-studded version that scores a palpable hit on its avowed goal: to make the text as clear and urgent as possible. Branagh himself plays the melancholy son of the Danish court, caught in a famous muddle about whether to seek revenge against his royal father's presumed slayer… the man who now sits on the throne and shares the bed of Hamlet's mother. (Or, as the song "That's Entertainment" summarizes the plot: "A ghost and a prince meet / And everyone winds up mincemeat.") As a director, Branagh (who shot the movie in 70 mm.) uses the vast, cold interiors of a vaguely 19th-century manor to gorgeous effect; the story might scurry down this hallway, into that back chamber, or sprawl out into the enormous main room. With its endless collection of mirrors, the place is as big and empty as Citizen Kane's Xanadu.

My Comments:

Sherman's March

History Channel
DVD from Netflix
Rated 4 Stars

Product Description

General William Tecumseh Sherman s scorched-earth strategy against the South helped end the Civil War and in the process changed military strategy forever. In SHERMAN S MARCH, THE HISTORY CHANNEL explores his brutal and effective campaign, which arguably saved the Lincoln presidency, the Union, and thousands of lives on both sides--and made Sherman one of the most hated and misunderstood figures in American history.

In November 1864, Sherman and an army of 60,000 troops began their month-long march from Atlanta to Savannah. Burning crops, destroying bridges and railroads, and laying waste to virtually everything in his path, Sherman moved relentlessly to the sea, crushing the South s will to fight.

Through cutting-edge CGI battle scenes and dramatizations based on contemporary sources, SHERMAN S MARCH mixes the sweep of large-scale military strategy with intimate stories of the women, the slaves, and the soldiers who fought on both sides. Shot in hi-definition, SHERMAN S MARCH is both a lavish documentary and a gripping portrait of the complicated man who coined the phrase War is Hell and came to be called the father of modern, total warfare.

DVD Features: Full-Length Documentary Sherman s Total War Tactics episode of Save Our History ; History in the Making

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Last Lion, Volume I: Visions of Glory 1874-1932

By:  William Manchester
Rated 5 Stars
Audiobook from Library

This audiobook is over 32 hours long! But this an amazingly well done history of the man and the times. Long, but never boring! We need more inspirational books like this to remind us of the struggles that are required to stay free in a world that is dangerous and full of those who would rule us as dictators. History in the name of a person - that's what this book is about. I am looking forward to Volume 2, Alone 1932-1940. 36 hrs 22 minutes. One could make a career of listening to this biography.

Publisher's Summary

Winston Churchill is perhaps the most important political figure of the 20th century. His great oratory and leadership during the Second World War were only part of his huge breadth of experience and achievement. Studying his life is a fascinating way to imbibe the history of his era and gain insight into key events that have shaped our time.

In political office at the end of WWI, Churchill foresaw the folly of Versailles and feared what a crippled Germany would do to the balance of power. In his years in the political wilderness, from 1931 to 1939, he alone of all British public men, continually raised his voice against Hitler and his appeasers. For over 50 years, he was constantly involved in, and usually at the center of, the most important events of his age. It was, however, his obduracy on matters of principle, his fortitude in the face of opposition, and his perseverance in standing alone that defined him.

Monday, December 6, 2010

65. Flanagan's Run

By Tom McNab
Rated 5+++
From:  Library

I don't know how one can call an audiobook a page turner with a straight face but this recording was absolutely riviting. I stayed up late to finish it because I couldn't bear to stop. The reader, Rubert Degas did an excellent job of bringing the characters to life and that made it even more exciting. It's been a while since a book pulled me into it this deep. I am sure that had I read this book I would have loved it but this is a book that is enhanced by listening to Rupert Degas turn these characters into real people in my mind.

I woke up thinking about the characters and what became of them this morning. It told you about the main characters but there were almost a thousand runners who finished. I had to keep reminding myself that this is a work of fiction because I really cared what happened to these people after they completed such a huge event. If a book pulls me in like this on did I sometimes have a problem separating fictional people from non fictional people. What a silly woman I can be.

But anyway, a delightful, exciting read that's for sure. I am not or ever have been a runner but now, in my heart I am one.

Product Description:

It is depression-era America and notorious huckster, Flanagan, plans the ultimate race, reeling in contestants with the promise of a glittering jackpot prize. Two thousand audacious hopefuls line up at the starting line from every walk of life and all ends of the globe, each with something to prove. As they run themselves ragged across America, they come up against numerous hazards, including the precipitous Rockies, shady mobsters and crooked officials. Their different stories, ambitions and dreams converge through a shared determination which will inspire you to push on to the finishing line.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

64. The Forgotten Garden

By: Kate Morton
Rated 4 Stars
Audio Book from Library

This is another do-over for me. I am ordering audio books from the library that I was disappointed in the first time to ee if I like them better in audio. This is definitely one I like better in audio format.

The only complaint I have about it is that the POV changes were not always smooth for me and I often found myself disorientated. It would take a minute or to for me to figure where I was in the story of a particular pov. Aside from that it was a very good story.

Publisher Summary

A tiny girl is abandoned on a ship headed for Australia in 1913. She arrives completely alone with nothing but a small suitcase containing a few clothes and a single book - a beautiful volume of fairy tales. She is taken in by the dockmaster and his wife and raised as their own. On her twenty-first birthday they tell her the truth, and with her sense of self shattered and with very little to go on, "Nell" sets out on a journey to England to try to trace her story, to find her real identity. Her quest leads her to Blackhurst Manor on the Cornish coast and the secrets of the doomed Mountrachet family.

But it is not until her granddaughter, Cassandra, takes up the search after Nell's death that all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled. At Cliff Cottage, on the grounds of Blackhurst Manor, Cassandra discovers the forgotten garden of the book's title and is able to unlock the secrets of the beautiful book of fairy tales.

63. The Dancing Years, #33

By:Cynthia Harrod Eagles

The 33rd installment in the saga of the Morland family begins in the year 1919.  I am very sad that this sagas coming to a close. What a wonderful literary soap opera this has been.   A pox on grasping publishers who never think enough money is enough. *sigh* One more book to go.

As the euphoria of the Armistice fades, the nation count the cost—millions dead or disabled, unemployment, strikes, and shortages—and attempt to build a new life. Teddy tries to recreate balance but then a trip to France to see the place where Ned fell has unforeseen consequences. Polly, grieving for Erich Kuppel, persuades her father to send her to New York, and despite Prohibition, the great city pulses with life and promises her a fresh start. Jessie and Bertie, detained in London by Bertie's job, long to start their new life together. Jack becomes a pioneer of civil aviation, but when the company fails he's faced with unemployment, with a growing family to support. As they all seek relief from their own memories, the Morland's witness a new world struggling to be born out of the ashes; and as long as the music lasts, they will keep on dancing.

64. Whose Body

By: Dorothy L. Sayers
Rated: 5 Stars
Audio Book
From: Download from Libravox

This is the only Dorothy Sayers book available at   It's Sayers introduction to Lord Peter Wimsey. It was a fun read/listen. I love Lord Peter.

The stark naked body was lying in the tub.Not unusual for a proper bath, but highly irregular for murder -- especially witha pair of gold pince-nez deliberately perched before the sightless eyes. What's more, the face appeared to have been shaved after death. The police assumed that the victim was a prominent financier, but Lord Peter Wimsey, who dabbled in mystery detection as a hobby, knew better. In this, his first murder case, Lord Peter untangles the ghastly mystery of the corpse in the bath.

Henry V - DVD

By:  William Shakespeare
Rated 5 Stars
From:  Gift

I really couldn't add a thing to the amazon description I have copied and pasted below.  This is my favorite adaption of Henry V.

Amazon Description

Very few films come close to the brilliance Kenneth Branagh achieved with his first foray into screenwriting and direction. Henry V qualifies as a masterpiece, the kind of film that comes along once in a decade. He eschews the theatricality of Laurence Olivier's stirring, fondly remembered 1945 adaptation to establish his own rules. Branagh plays it down and dirty, seeing the bard's play through revisionist eyes, framing it as an antiwar story. Branagh gives us harsh close-ups of muddied, bloody men, and close-ups of himself as Henry, his hardened mouth and willful eyes revealing much about this land war. Not that the director-star doesn't provide lighter moments. His scenes introducing the French Princess Katherine (Emma Thompson) are toothsome. Bubbly, funny, enhanced by lovely lighting and Thompson's pale beauty, these glimpses of a princess trying to learn English quickly from her maid are delightful.

What may be the crowning glory of Branagh's adaptation comes when the dazed, shaky leader wanders through battlefields, not even sure who has won. As King Hal carries a dead boy (Empire of the Sun's Christian Bale) over the hacked-up bodies of both the English and French, you realize it is the first time Branagh has opened up the scenes: a panorama of blood and mud and death. It is as strong a statement against warmongering as could ever be made.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

62. All Clear

By: Connie Willis
Rated 5 Stars
Audio Book

I loved this book but it really did make my head spin. But it is si important to read"Blackout" before reading "All Clear" the latest novel by Connie Willis. It is not a sequel with explanations of what went on before, it's PART 2; it picks up right where the other left off. Together they combine to create a first rate suspenseful work in which many of the themes characteristic of her work - single-minded characters whose agendas interfere with the plans of the protagonists, the impact of technology on personal lives, the effort to cope with tragedy and loss - are on full display.

Even with reading them together I never did get all of it. This was a very complicated story. One charecter was in it twice, one as Mary in 1945 and as Polly in 1941. That kind of gave me a headache for a while intil I got a firm grip on it. I never did figuire out the Eileen-Colin link (???)  butI really liked the Vicar and was glad that worked out.

There was a I scene in the War Museum that I especially loved because I have been there and went through the Blitz exhibit. It was exactly like it was described in the book.

I was an amazing story and I felt it was a real tribute to the people of London. On day in 1984 when I was at Jenny's house in Scotland her elderly Aunt came up from London for a visit. On a cold rainy day while Jenny was away from home her Aunt and I spent a long afternoon together. I was lucky and came up with an inspired question and asked her if she lived in London during the blitz.She said yes and I asked her what it was like. It was like I had opened a spigot. She talked about it all afternoon and I was absolutely fascinated.  It was such a huge thing to have lived through and she obviously remembered everything about what she lived through. In my mind the book paid tribute to people like Jenny's Aunt Ciss.

I put those books on my hard drive and at some point I am going to listen to them again as one big book.  My brain has a hard enough time with them without a long interuption in the middle.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

61. Blackout - redux

By:  Connie Willis
Rated 5 Stars
Format:  Audio Book

This was a do over for me.  Here is my review from when I read it back in April.

My original review of Blackout

It was immediately evident to me that 1.) I read on an entirely different level than I listen, and 2.) mood plays a huge part in how I feel about a book when I read it.

There are so many characters at the beginning, that it's hard to keep them straight. The reader/listener is getting the viewpoints of three main characters, historians Polly, Eileen and Mike, all time traveling to WWII England for first person experiences during the London Blitz.  Polly as a shop clerk in London during the Blitz, Eileen as a maid in the north of England to observe child evacuees from London, and Mike to Dover to observe ships returning from the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk. They all worry incessantly about every thing they do and whether what they've done has changed history.  This got so tiresome that if this had been a book I probably would have wall banged it at least once.  I would have picked it back up and continued to read it though. :) Also the number of obstacles the characters encountered every time they tried to so something felt contrived.   However . . .

But I gave a 5 star rating on this journal for my reread that was AFTER I real the sequel (?) All Clear.  These books do not stand alone.  It is all one book and Blackout ends in the middle of the story.  At the end of All Clear things made sense that annoyed the heck out of me in Blackout although I still thought that the characters agonized to much over every little thing they said or did.

These are great books but the plot is very complicated and multi layered.  Be warned.

Monday, October 25, 2010

60. The English Patient

By: Michael Ondaatje
Rated 1 Star
Audio Book from Library

This book had no plot!  It really didn't.  But it did have beautiful prose.  But even beautiful prose can't carry a story if the story doesn't exist.  I thought the author was indulging him self by offering up his obvious talent for writing really beautiful phrases, and then sticking them haphazardly together  and trying to pass them off as great literature.

The story (?) was supposed to be about an unnamed English flier who was terribly burned in a plane crash who was left behind along with a nurse who refuses to leave when the hospital moves on.  Right.  Like that would happen in the military!  If anyone reads this blog and is interested in what the story is supposed to be about you can go to amazon and see what other readers tried to make of it.  Amazon reader reviews  For my part It passeth all understanding.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

59. Fly Away Home

By:  Jennifer Weiner
Rated 2.5 Stars
From Library

The story line wasn't too bad. My problems with this book was the characters. They were just not the kind of people I could relate too. Also I felt the author wimped out with the ending. I think she tried to end it in a way that didn't offend anyone. But in doing that nothing was resolved for any of the characters and the book was left without making any kind of sense. [shaking head in disgust]

Publishers Description

When Senator Richard Woodruff's affair makes headlines, his wife and two daughters are forced into the spotlight. Wife Sylvie has shed everything that made her who she was in order to fit the role of a senator's wife. Daughter Lizzie is a recovering addict and older daughter Diana, an emergency room physician finds herself being tempted out of her loveless marriage. Jennifer Weiner, author of Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, presents a new novel about a female bonding and the facets of family.

The Fort

By: Bernard Cornwell
Audio Book - DNF
Rated 0 Stars

I would have never believed that Bernard Cornwell could wrire such a boring book if I hadn't tried the book myself.  It's simply mind numbingly dull.

Publishers description

On Aug. 14, 1779, a New England fleet, including a 32-gun frigate and the entire Massachusetts Navy, and 14 transports, was destroyed — sunk, scuttled, blown up, or captured — by a British squadron in Penobscot Bay. It was a disaster matched only at Pearl Harbor some 162 years later. Bernard Cornwell gives this little-known event his usual on-the-ground treatment, backed up by a detailed historical note. What will startle local readers is Cornwell's revisionist depiction of the iconic Paul Revere, the expedition's artillery commander, as petulant, insubordinate, and downright incompetent.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

60. The true story of Paul Revere

his midnight ride, his arrest and court-martial, his useful public services

Rated 5 Stars
From Library

Product Description

Originally published in 1905. This volume from the Cornell University Library's print collections was scanned on an APT BookScan and converted to JPG 2000 format by Kirtas Technologies. All titles scanned cover to cover and pages may include marks notations and other marginalia present in the original volume

Friday, October 1, 2010

58. Fall of Giants

By:  Ken Follett
Rated:  5 Stars
Format:  Audio Book

I just finished listening to Fall of Giants. It certainly held my attention from Start to finish. But as I said before, I like these long historical rambles. By the end I had realized it had less in common to Delderfield and was written very much in the style of Herman Woulk's Winds of War.

If I had bought a hardcover addition instead of an audio version I think I would have given this story 4 Stars. But John Lee who reads the story did such a wonderful job with the accents, especially the Welsh that he made the characters so real for me it fully deserves five stars.
One of the things that made this story stand out was that Mr. Follett seamlessly wove in so many interconnected points of view that it added to the drama of what was happening to each character. I can hardly wait for the sequel to find out what happened to these people. I hope the talented John Lee reads it, and I fervently hope Lloyd wins the Victoria Cross in WWII and stuffs it up Fitz's nose.

Before I purchased this book I checked the ratings on amazon and was very surprised to see it only had a two star rating.

I was so curious about so many one star reviews I started reading them.  I did't read all of them but did read the first fourty.  Those were all complaining about the Kindle pricing.  Apparently there is some sort of organized protest going on trying to force amazon to reduce the price.  Amazon is going to have to figure out a way to weed out the inappropriate use of the review system before it is destroy it.  Those 99 one star "reviews" are little more than spam IMO.

Link to Fall of Giants on Amazon

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

56. The Attenbury Emeralds

By:  Jill Paton Walsh
Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Owned
Format:  Audio Book

The novel begins with Lord Peter and Bunter telling Harriet the story of their 1921 investigation into the disappearance of the Attenbury emeralds. Then the  current Lord Attenbury asks Lord Peter to investigate a new mystery involving the emeralds. As Lord Peter starts looking into the current mystery he discovers mysteries within the mystery.  

In addition the Wimsey family has an adventure of their own.  It's interesting how it ends.  Also I'm very curious whether or not there will be another LPW mystery in the future.   While bringing the career of Lord Peter to a rather logical conclusion Walsh left the door slightly open for a future book.  It probably depends on how well this one sells.

Product Description

It was 1921 when Lord Peter Wimsey first encountered the Attenbury emeralds. The recovery of the magnificent gem in Lord Attenbury’s most dazzling heirloom made headlines – and launched a shell-shocked young aristocrat on his career as a detective.

Now it is 1951: a happily married Lord Peter has just shared the secrets of that mystery with his wife, the detective novelist Harriet Vane.  Then the new young Lord Attenbury – grandson of Lord Peter’s first client – seeks his help again, this time to prove who owns the gigantic emerald that Wimsey last saw in 1921.

Friday, September 10, 2010

55. The Cruel Sea

By: Nicholas Monsarrat
Rated 5 Stars
From:  Library

One of the classic naval adventure stories of World War II, Monsarrat's novel tells the tale of two British ships trying to escape destruction by wolf pack U-boats hunting in the North Atlantic.

I read everything the small library the naval station on Guam had by this author.  I loved his writing.  But that was 35 years ago and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and I had forgotten the author's name and the titles of his books.  But I knew when I read the first page of The Cruel Sea that THIS WAS IT!!  The books I have been looking for in the past ten years. :)

Now I'm looking forward to a nice leisurely time happily reading through my library's books by this author.  What a treat to look forward too. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

54. Adventures Among Ants

By:  Mark W. Moffett
Rated 4.3 Stars
From Library

This book is very well written in a very light and easy to read style.  I am enjoying it and since I've been fighting (and losing) an ongoing war with the critters I am hoping knowing them better might give me an edge.

Library Summary

Intrepid international explorer, biologist, and photographer Mark W. Moffett, "the Indiana Jones of entomology," takes us around the globe on a strange and colorful journey in search of the hidden world of ants. With tales from Nigeria, Indonesia, the Amazon, Australia, California, and elsewhere, Moffett recounts his entomological exploits and provides fascinating details on how ants live and how they dominate their ecosystems through strikingly human behaviors, yet at a different scale and at a faster tempo. Moffett's spectacular close-up photographs shrink us down to size, so that we can observe ants in familiar roles: working as farmers, warriors, builders, big-game hunters, and slave owners. We find them in marketplaces and on assembly lines. We discover them dealing with issues we think of as uniquely human-from hygiene and recycling to warfare and terrorism. Adventures among Ants introduces some of the world's most awe-inspiring species, and at the same time, offers a startling new perspective on the limits of our own perceptions.

* Ants are world-class road builders, handling complex traffic problems on thoroughfares that dwarf our highway systems
* Ants take slaves from conquered armies and create societies dependent on their labor
* Ants with the largest societies often deploy complex military tactics
* Some ants have evolved from hunter-gatherers into farmers, domesticating other animals and growing specific crops for food

53. God is an Englishman Trilogy

By:  R. L. Delderfield
Rated 5+ Srars

1. God is an Englishman
Adam Swann, scion of an army family, returns home in 1858 after service with Her Majesty's army in the Crimea and India, determined to build his fortune in the dog-eat-dog world of Victorian commerce. Swann is soon captivated by Henrietta, the high-spirited daughter of a local mill owner. As Swann works to build his name, he and Henrietta share adventures, reversal, and fortune.

2. Theirs was the Kingdom
The 1880s in England were a laissez-faire decade of national optimism and prosperity, of rampant colonialism, typhoid epidemics, and a Diamond Jubilee. This follow-up novel continues the saga of the Victorian giant of commerce Adam Swann, his tough-minded wife Henrietta, and their five children. This prolific tale records the triumphs and tragedies of a memorable family and a nation at the height of its imperial power.

3. Give us This Day
Sweeping Adam Swann and three generations of his family into the tide of events that followed Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, this stirring novel confronts them, and England, with the social upheaval of a rapidly changing world. The same revolutionary ferment that stirs up labor unrest also births the English suffragette movement, taking the family idealist, Giles, to Parliament. With conflicting interests, two of his brothers usher the family's firm into the twentieth century and another Swann brother, Alex, a professional soldier, attempts to introduce an outmoded army to modern tactics. Like their aging father, these Swanns strive energetically to wed personal dreams to national values-even as the rumble of the guns of August 1914 signals the end of the world as they and their country have known it.

51. Rag and Bone

By:  James R. Benn
Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Library

This is the fifth book in the Billy Boyle series and I think it's the best one yet.  It's a fascinating picture of the intelligence world during WWII and the author is very skillful in depicting the impact of war on London--the bricks from bombed buildings piled neatly on the streets, families living in Tube stations, "the odor of the Blitz." Destruction aside, Billy never forgets that "Even in the midst of war, murder is unacceptable."

Publishers Description

Billy is sent to London in the midst of a Luftwaffe bombing offensive to investigate the murder of a Soviet official. There's reason to believe that the crime could be connected to the recent discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest, where thousands of Polish officers were executed. Is a killer is out there, targeting Soviet officials in revenge for the Katyn Massacre? If so, the diplomatic stakes couldn't be higher as the uneasy relationship between the Soviets and the other allied powers hangs in the balance. Further complicating matters, Scotland Yard names Billy's friend Kaz, now working for the Polish government in exile, as the prime suspect. Billy must track the killer through London's criminal underworld and save his friend.

52. The Last Lie

By Stephen White
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

This book got some pretty bad reviews on Amazon but I stayed up reading until after midnight to finish this book last night.  That's very unusual for me.  I thought it was a real page turner but I didn't quite buy into all the secret's the house its self had.  I guess I need to go back and read the book that featured the builder.

Publisher Summary - bestselling author Stephen White returns to his beloved Alan Gregory series with a taut, ripped-from-the-headlines crime story.

Stephen White's most recent bestseller, The Siege, featured his series character Sam Purdy in a relentlessly paced stand-alone thriller that critics hailed as "brilliantly conceived and executed" (Publishers Weekly) and "the best and most interesting terrorism thriller I've seen." (The Washington Post) Now, in The Last Lie, White returns to his Alan Gregory series roots with the popular characters and Boulder setting that first launched him onto the bestseller lists and attracted legions of fiercely loyal fans.

Shortly after Alan and Lauren welcome their affluent new neighbors-a legal legend in women's rights law and his beautiful wife-the couple hosts a housewarming party that ends in quiet disaster. One of their guests, a young widow, elects to spend the night after indulging in too much wine, only to wake the next morning with no memory beyond getting ready for bed. Was she drugged? Raped? Lauren, a deputy district attorney, and detective Sam Purdy are both privy to facts they can't share with Alan, but Alan soon discovers that he has a most unusual perspective into what truly happened after the housewarming party. Before Alan can discover all the pieces to the puzzle, an important witness to the events is murdered. Alan fears that other witnesses-people he loves-will be next. Smart, topical, and deftly plotted, The Last Lie delivers the pulse-pounding return of one of contemporary fiction's most enduring heroes.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

50. The Family Vault

By:  Charlotte MacLeod
Rated: 4 stars
From: Library

This is the first book in a series called The Sarah Kelling-Max Bittersohn Mysteries. It's cleverly plotted,humorous and filled with interesting characters. If the rest are as good as this first one was I think I am in for a treat.

Product Description:

Great-uncle Frederick has passed away, and the Kelling clan of Boston has made plans to put the old gentleman's remains in the family vault on Beacon Hill. When the vault is opened, however, there's someone already there that no one could have ever expected -- the skeleton of a burlesque queen who disappeared thirty years ago!

With the help of private detective Max Bittersohn, it's up to Sarah Kelling to hold the shocked family together, and try to find out what happened. What they unravel is a complex murder plot that not only stretches into the past, but also has Sarah marked as a victim! starts with plans to bury deceased Great-uncle Frederick in the family vault on Beacon Hill. When the vault is opened, there's someone already there that no one could ever expect-the skeleton of a burlesque queen who disappeared thirty years ago! It's up to young Sarah Kelling to hold the shocked family together, and try to find out what happened. What she unravels is a complex murder plot that not only stretches into the past, but also has Sarah marked as a victim!

Monday, August 16, 2010

49. To Defy a King

By:  Elizabeth Chadwick
Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Loan from Jani

My Comments

I took off a half a star simply because I hated the man that Roger Bigod had become.  I'm fairly sure that the author was showing how the stresses of living through such turbulent times takes a huge toll on personal relationships. But this is fiction after all and I wanted the relationship between him and Ida to have remained as close as it was in The Time of Singing.

But it was a wonderful book.  I love the way the author brings so much authenticity to her books that the reader feels a part of the story.  I also like the way all her characters are so well drawn, warts and all.  I am now inspired to go back and revisit all of her William Marshall books.

Product Description

A story of huge emotional power set against the road to Magna Carta and the fight to bring a tyrant king to heel. The privileged daughter of one of the most powerful men in England, Mahelt Marshal's life changes dramatically when her father is suspected by King John. Her brothers become hostages and Mahelt is married to Hugh Bigod, heir to the earldom of Norfolk. Adapting to her new life is hard, but Mahelt comes to love Hugh deeply; however, defying her father-in-law brings disgrace and heartbreak. When King John sets out to subdue the Bigods, Mahelt faces a heartbreaking battle, fearing neither she, nor her marriage, is likely to survive the outcome ...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

48. The Time for Singing - Audio Book

By:  Elizabeth Chadwick
Rated: 5 Stars

This was a reread for me, or should I say revisit since this time was an audio experience.  I started reading To Defy a King and realized that it began at the point this on ended and I wanted to be fresh on this part of the story.

Product Description

When Roger Bigod, heir to the powerful earldom of Norfolk, arrives at court in 1177 to settle a bitter inheritance dispute with his half-brothers, he encounters Ida de Tosney, young mistress to King Henry II.

A victim of Henry's seduction and the mother of his son, Ida is attracted to Roger and sees in him a chance of lasting security; but in deciding to marry Roger, she is forced to make a choice. As Roger's importance as a mainstay of the Angevin government grows, it puts an increasing strain on his marriage.

Against a volatile political background the gulf between them threatens to widen beyond crossing, especially when so many bridges have already been burned.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

47. Bliss, remembered

By Frank Delford
Rated 5 stars
From:  Library

I really liked this authors writing style.  It was one of those books that I couldn't put down and hated to see it come to an end.  And speaking of the ending - it had a twist that I didn't see coming even though I had figured out most of it.


An award-winning sports journalist and versatile author, Deford (Everybody's All American) has written a work of enthralling historical fiction told in the form of a mother-to-son memoir. Dying of cancer at age 87, Sydney Stringfellow Branch begins telling her 62-year-old son her life story, starting with how she developed her prowess as a backstroke swimmer and attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While there, she fell in love with a young German named Horst, an assistant to director Leni Reifenstahl, who had been commissioned by Hitler to make a film about the games. While Sydney's escapades in Berlin bring her into contact with Nazi politicos, most of her time is spent with Horst, as their love blossoms. Inevitably, Sydney must return to America, where she slowly initiates a move from her Eastern Shore Maryland home to New York City and then finds a job and joins the Women's Swimming Association (WSA). With her focus now on competing in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, Sydney does not foresee that destiny and impending war will bring further surprising changes to her life. Verdict Deford slyly teaches readers something about 1930s-1940s history while also writing convincingly about love and war. Sydney is a spirited narrator whose fictional memoir is sprinkled with innumerable colloquialisms and many reflective of the era. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

BBC Sherlock - YouTube

By:  BBC
Rated 5+++
From:  You Tube

This pilot series is currently playing weekly on the BBC in the UK on Sunday night. and was the most watched program both of the weeks it has been running. Some extremely kind person has put the first two episodes, "A Study in Pink" and "The Blind Banker" up on You Tube for those of us in the US. “The Great Game” will air on Sunday, August 8, 2010. Here is a link to a web page that has already been created.  There are a couple of negative reviews posted on it. Some people apparently don't appreciate anyone messing with the traditional Sherlock Holmes. I am surprised. I thought the Brits had a better sense of humor than that.

DVD Description

A contemporary take on the classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories, Sherlock is a thrilling, funny, fast-paced adventure series set in present-day London. Co-created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, Sherlock stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the new Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as his loyal friend, Doctor John Watson. Rupert Graves plays Inspector Lestrade.

John Watson: doctor, soldier, war hero, lost soul. Fresh from fighting the war in Afghanistan, a chance encounter brings him into the world of Sherlock Holmes: loner, detective, genius. A woman in pink lies murdered in an abandoned house. The fifth victim of a seemingly motiveless killer. Inspector Lestrade is the best Scotland Yard has got. But he knows he’s nothing compared to a young man called Sherlock. Sherlock can tell a software designer by his tie, an airline pilot by his thumb. He has a unique analytical brain unlike anyone else in the world, who earns his living and staves off boredom by solving crimes. The weirder and more baffling the better…

The two men couldn’t be more different, but Sherlock’s inspired leaps of intellect coupled with John’s pragmatism soon forge an unbreakable alliance. Across three, 90 minute, thrilling, scary, action-packed and highly entertaining television movies, Sherlock and John navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers to get at the truth.

The world’s favourite detective has come out of the fog. With sparkling scripts and unforgettable performances from the two leads, this is Sherlock for a new generation.

46. Lonesome Dove - Audio

By: Larry McMurtry
Read by: Lee Horsley
Rated 5+ Stars

I don't especially like Westerns and Larry McMurtry is an author who never clicked with me. But this book is the exception that proves every rule. I love this story!

Product Description

Lonesome Dove is a dusty little Texas town where heroes and outlaws, whores and ladies, Indians and settlers embody the spirit and defiance of the last wilderness. Larry McMurtry's American epic, set in the late 19th century, tells the story of a cattle drive from Texas to Montana, a drive that represents not only a daring foolhardy adventure, but a part of the American Dream for everyone involved. Lee Horsley, one of TV's most popular leading men and star of the Old West series narrates this compelling saga

47. River Town

By:  Peter Hessler
Rated 4 Stars
From:  Library

Records the author's experiences as an Peace Corps English teacher in the small Chinese city of Fuling, during which he witnessed such events as the death of Deng Xiaoping, the return of Hong Kong to the mainland, and the construction of the Three Gorges Dam.

After a very strong start this book started losing steam about half way through.  In the beginning the authors experiences and descriptions of the small city of Fuling and the University were very interesting.  A wonderful inside look at the people, history and culture.  But then he started running out of anything new to say but kept on repeating experiences only in a different  context.  I skimmed the last quarter of the book.

45. A Vintage affair

By Isabel Wolf
Rated 4 Stars
From Library

Every dress has a history. And so does every woman.In Isabel Wolff’s captivating, a treasured child’s coat becomes a thread of hope connecting two very different women.

Her friends are stunned when Phoebe Swift abruptly leaves a plum job at the prestigious Sotheby’s auction house to open her own vintage clothing shop in London—but to Phoebe, it’s the fulfillment of a dream. In the sunlight-flooded interior of Village Vintage, surrounded by Yves Saint Laurent silk scarves, Vivienne Westwood bustle skirts, cupcake dresses, and satin gowns, Phoebe hopes to make her store the hot new place to shop, even as she deals with two ardent suitors, her increasingly difficult mother, and a secret from her past that casts a shadow over her new venture.

For Phoebe, each vintage garment carries its own precious history. Digging for finds in attics and wardrobes, Phoebe is rewarded whenever she finds something truly unique, for she knows that when you buy a piece of vintage clothing, you’re not just buying fabric and thread—you’re buying a piece of someone’s past. But one particular article of clothing will soon unexpectedly change her life.

Thérèse Bell, an elderly Frenchwoman, has an impressive clothing collection. But among the array of smart suits and couture gowns, Phoebe finds a child’s sky-blue coat—an item with which Bell is stubbornly reluctant to part. As the two women become friends, Phoebe will learn the tale of that little blue coat. And she will discover an astonishing connection between herself and Thérèse Bell—one that will help her heal the pain of her own past and allow her to love again.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Sherlock Holmes, Grenada Series

From:  YouTube

Light on plot, heavy on melodrama and bordering on farce, I love these old 1980's episodes.

Scandal in Bohemia

The King of Bohemia hires Holmes to get an incriminating
photograph from Irene Adler, the only woman to ever outwit Holmes.  Holmes secretly falls in love with

The Dancing Men

One of the best of Sherlock Holmes. It shows the deductive power of a detective to break a secret code with very little information.

The Naval Treaty

Sherlock Holmes takes an interest in the case of a British Foreign Office employee who has had an important naval treaty stolen from his office.

The Solitary Cyclist

A beautiful woman bicycles down a lonely road, not knowing of the vile plots being launched against her. Has she talked to Holmes in time? A young music teacher terrorized by the mysterious figure who follows her as she bicycles appeals to Holmes, who is very nearly too late to save her from a monster. A truly snort worthy bout of fisticuffs in village pub between Holmes and the villian.

The Crooked Man

The Speckled Band

The Blue Carbuncle

The Second Stain

finds Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous sleuth facing intertwining problems, each with very different consequences. On the one hand, a saber-rattling letter to the British government from a "foreign potentate" has disappeared from the hands of the Rt. Honorable Trelawney Hope (Stuart Wilson), which could incite a major war if it turns up in some visible way. On the other hand, Hope's wife, Lady Hilda (Patricia Hodge), appears to know something about the letter's disposition, but she won't say on pain of some undefined disaster to her marriage. Holmes (Jeremy Brett in his finest hour) and Dr. Watson (a wonderful performance by Edward Hardwicke) can't unravel one mystery without tackling the other, and then there is a murder to boot. The results are well worth the story complications that ensue. The look of epiphany on Brett's face when the ever-clueless Inspector Lestrade (Colin Jeavons) tells Holmes about an odd detail in the murder victim's home--the placement of a certain bloodstained rug doesn't correspond to the location of the soaked-through stain on the floor below--is enormous fun.

44. Hounorable Estate

Rated 5+ Stars

Product Description:

In her best-selling autobiography, Testament of Youth, Vera Brittain tried to "describe and assess the fate of a young generation ignorantly and involuntarily caught" in the chaos of the War and post-War years. Last week this earnest British writer offered a novel with a theme no less ambitious but a good deal less sharply defined: the relation of the feminist movement, the War and changing social standards to "the private destinies of individuals." The result is another of those curious hybrid volumes that have recently become numerous in English writing—a long (601 pages), formless book, half-tract and half-fiction, slightly radical, a little scandalous by pre-War standards, not quite a sentimental story, somewhat highbrow, almost good.

My Comments:

I thought that Brittain used Honourable Estate as an opportunity, under the cover of fiction,  to explore paths that she couldn't/shouldn' t explore in an autobiography. In some way's was a rehash of her story in both of the "Testaments"

She uses shifting POV's to tell the stories of Janet Harding who as a young woman in the 1890's marries a conservatively minded vicar.  She discovers the constrains of life with a clergyman and her dreams of emancipation give way to the responsibilities of an overburdened wife and mother; and

 Stephen Allendeyne, smug heir to Dene Hall, who prides himself on his union with Jessie Penryder, an impoverished governess with social ambitions. Generally at odds, the couple find harmony in opposing their daughter Ruth's modern ideas about independence.

Woven into these stories Brittain manages to explore (I think) the questions of

her real life brother's sexual orientation by creating a fictional brother for Ruth as a vehicle;

close, sympathetic and mutually supportive relationships between women (shades of Winifred Holtby) and where the line is drawn before it can be considered a lesbian relationship;

can a marriage be really considered happy when there is strong friendship and compatibility between a couple but a general overall lack of passion, although if you need to ask surely that should be your answer.  However she does seem to be asking it;

and to explore paths not taken in sort of a "what if"

Vera and Roland, for whom she felt a great deal of passion (all of it firmly repressed)  had managed to consummate their relationship would she have felt more or less by his death?

Vera had run for public office and worked to achieve her goals in Parliament instead of devoting so much energy into being an activist and/or writing.  Would she have been more successful?

As you can see Britrain is an author who resonates with me.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

42. Testament of Experience

By:  Vera Brittain
Rated 5 Stars
From Library

Testament of Experience picks up where Testament of Youth left off and covers the years 1925-1950.  While isn't as gut wrenching,  it's still an exceptional book by a very gifted writer.

From the back cover:

one of the most famous and best loved autobiographies of the First World War, Vera Brittain wrote both a heartbreaking record of those agonizing years and a loving memorial to a generation destroyed by war. In this sequel, she continues the story of those who survived. Once again Vera Brittain interlaces private experience with the wide sweep of public events. Personal happiness in marriage and the birth of children , pride in ther work as writer and campaigner are set against the fears, frustrations and achievements of the years 1925-1950. The depression, the growth of Nazism, the peace movements of the thirties, the Abdication, the Spanish Civil War, the horror and the heroism of the Second World War come alive again through the eyes of this remarkable woman, herself a testament to all that is best in the times she lived through.

41. Testament of Youth - Mini Series

By Vera Brittain
Rated 5 Stars
From:  YouTube

Last November I Read Testament of Youth by this same author and was so profoundly moved by it that I bought a copy.  It's just one of those books I needed to own.  Autobiographical, it covers the years 1913-1925.  Link to my Testament-of-Youth Journal Entry

 I found the BBC series A Testament to Youth on YouTube.  I was very surprised to find it there.  I only checked on a whim because I have been looking for it and all the versions I have been able to find on DVD are formated for area 2 and will not play on my DVD player.  I am watching this YouTube version on my laptop.  Of course it's been chopped up into manageable bits but that's fine with me.  I'm just happy to have found it in any watchable form.

This is a wonderful video, beautifully cast.  Link to Youtube episode 1 - 1/6   It may be awkward watching on a desktop but I watched it on my laptop sitting in my recliner and it was fine.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Regarding Henry - DVD

Rated:  3 Stars

From Amazon

Get shot in the head and become a better person. This 1991 Mike Nichols film stars Harrison Ford as a big-shot cold-hearted lawyer who gets a bullet in his brain during a holdup. The film de-emphasizes the traumas of recovery to focus on the title character's personality change after the fact. The canny Ford gets to work from his full, familiar palette of arrogance to boyishness, and even builds Henry from top to bottom after the wounded fellow awakens with no memory. But this is a slow and unremarkable film from Nichols, its sentimentality eclipsing all else, most of all profound insight.

Without a Clue - DVD

Rated 5 Stars

Product Description

Suppose for a moment that Dr. Watson was the real brains behind Sherlock Holmes? The result is anything but elementary! Academy Award winners* Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley deliver stellar performances as a delightful duo, an 1890s Odd Couple (Los Angeles Times) in this madcapmystery that's 'the most hilarious Sherlock Holmes adventure of them all ('sneak Previews )! Dr. John Watson (Kingsley) is secretly a crime-solving genius. But to protect his reputation as a physician, he hires bumbling, boozy, out-of-work actor Reginald Kincaid (Caine) to play the part of his fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes. The charade works until Watson mysteriously disappears, forcing the baffled, seriously inept Holmes to crack the biggest case of Watson's career on his own!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Possession - DVD vs. Book

Based on book by A. S  Byatt
Rated 3.5 Stars

I watched this movie when it first came out and loved it.  Jennifer Ehrl as Christabel Lamotte and Jeremy Northram as Randolph Ashe,  are both famous Victorian poets. Their passionate but doomed love story has a little mystery added in, beautiful 19th century costumes, some lovely settings.  Everything a romantic heart needs to make an excellent story.  Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Knightly, what's not to love?

Gweneth Paltrow (Maud) and Aaron Eckhart (Roland) play two modern-day literary scholars who are academic competitors unravelling the secret, passionate love affair between Christabel and Randolph,  and I guess, falling for each other in the process.  This would have been fine had the relationship between Maud and Roland been made entirely clear. As it was it left me a little bewildered. And the film was  not helped by the fact that there was absolutely no chemistry between Eckhart and Paltrow. But never mind, there was that beautiful and tragic love story between Christabel and Randolph so who cared?

Then I read the book.  Oh dear!

This movie barely resembled the book.  The real, and beautifully written love story was all about Maud and Roland.  Christabel and Randolph were revealed as a couple of rather weak, self absorbed persons with very little if any self control who confused lust with love.  I didn't like either one of them.  And as for Randolph's stupid wife?  Someone needed to slap her silly!

Isn't it amazing how the movie folks can take a book and totally flip the story?  This was, by the way the only book by Byatt I have ever liked.  

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zulu - DVD

Based on a real Battle
Rated 5+ Stars

Fans of Richard Sharpe are sure to love this movie.  I found it at my local supermarket on a display rack of discounted movies.  I think I paid either $2.99 or $3.99 for and bought it because Michael Caine was in it.

It was his first starring role and he was absolutely wonderful.  But so was every one else.  Everything about this film very well done.  Filming. writing, musical score and the narration at the end by Richard Burton but especially the casting. Everyone in it was believable.  I felt like I was right there with them which, I might add was pretty scary at times.

If your interested in what actually happened at Roark's Drift  from the British point of view I have provided this link to an interesting site.

Battle at Roark's Drift

I haven't found a site that provides the Zulu's point of view.  But since they lost they don't get to have a point of view do they?

From Amazon Description:

A towering cinematic achievement. An astonishing true story. Zulu is a thrilling account of one of history's fiercest battles! As a terrifying war chant echoes across the majestic African plains, 4000 Zulu tribesmen rise up from the tall grass that hides them. Furiously beating their swords against their shields, the warriors descend upon a small garrison of English soldiers. "Usuto! Usuto! (Kill! Kill!)," they cry as they launch into a battle with the vastly outnumbered English militia who must manifest incredible skill and incomparable bravery just to survive.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hamlet - DVD

By:  William Shakespeare
Rated 5++
From:  Beth

Thank you so much Beth for loaning this marvelous version of Hamlet Starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.  Although Kenneth Brannaugh's version has long been my favorite this one is, I think equally as good.  It's a far crazier  Hamlet than I have seen before and I loved the way the modern clothes and weapons were juxtaposed with 14th century armor and settings, not to mention 17th century English.  Such a crazy blend but for me it all worked beautifully.

Oliver Ford Davis played a fabulous Polonius.  I personally thought he reached out and snatched at least two scenes from Patrick Stewart who played Uncle Claudius.  Snatching scenes from Stewart is not an easy thing to do. In fact, he even stood toe-to-toe with Tennant in one scene while Hamlet was being over the top manic. Hamlet's Mother Gertrude was played beautifully in all her Royal Shallowness by Penny Downie  and  Mariah Gale did a very creditable job of Ophelia.  However, to my mind there is not another actress on the planet who can touch Kate Winslet with a ten foot pole when it comes to Ophelia.

Selfishly I hope that David Tennant keeps his talented fingers off Henry V and lets Kenneth Brannaugh reign supreme on that stage.

It's to director Gregory Doran's incredible credit that his staging of that most familiar of English-language plays, Shakespeare's Hamlet, should be completely reinvigorated by a modern interpretation of the tragedy as a true psychological thriller. This Hamlet, filmed in 2009, presents the inner torment of the Danish prince Hamlet as a believable, relatable controlled explosion of emotions, each more unmanageable than the last. Besides the director, the casting is also brilliant, including the Scottish actor David Tennant (Doctor Who) as Hamlet and Patrick Stewart as Hamlet's uncle Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet's father--who, Hamlet becomes convinced, was killed by Claudius. The direction is brisk, and the acting is first rate. Tennant plays a heartbreaking Hamlet, whose paranoia and weird inner reflections are given a modern spin by the lush, shiny mirrorlike surfaces in the palace, as well as by small but excellent details, like a closed-circuit camera system. And Stewart is menacing but completely collected as Claudius, and unnerving as his brother's ghost. Other strong performances are contributed by Penny Downie as Hamlet's mother, Gertrude; Mariah Gale as Ophelia (who's not quite up to par with the rest of the cast, until she goes mad; then boy does she ever go mad); and Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius. But it's Tennant as the mad prince who is riveting in Hamlet. His "To be or not to be, that is the question" soliloquy--perhaps the best-known speech in English theater--is delivered in a hushed, anguished, all-too-believable manner--occasionally addressing the camera, which is fixed close on Tennant's face. The DVD also includes a must-see documentary on making Hamlet, which includes great interviews with director Doran, cast members and the art directors, set designers and others who give this Hamlet a fresh, polished sheen--while keeping the ages-old tragedy of Shakespeare's words and the explosion of needless death close to the original. The impact is unforgettable; this Hamlet is a terrific achievement. --A.T. Hurley

Gosford Park - DVD

Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Owned

This movie was beautifully filmed and cast.  Jeremy Northram as Ivor Novello, popular British composer, singer, songwriter in the twenties, Maggie Smith as the malicious Countess Trentham, Helen Murrin and Clive Owen just to name a few.  The whole movie was really well done.  Especially if you like these kinds of period pieces, which I do.

Amazon Description:

The Academy Award winner for Best Original Screenplay, Gosford Park is a whodunit as only director Robert Altman could do it. As a hunting party gathers at the country estate, no one is aware that before the weekend is over, someone will be murdered - twice! The police are baffled but the all-seeing, all-hearing servants know that almost everyone had a motive. This critically-acclaimed murder mystery features a who's who of celebrated actors. With a diverse cast of characters - all with something to hide - it'll keep you guessing right to the surprising end. Gosford Park proves that murder can be such an inconvenience.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Lord Peter Wimsey - DVD

Based on Novel's of Dorothy L. Sayers
Rated 5+

Publisher's Description:

Three Dorothy L. Sayers mysteries involving amateur sleuth extraordinaire Lord Peter Wimsey and the lovely Harriet Vane are realized to perfection in these 1987 BBC adaptations.  In Strong Poison Harriet (Harriet Walter) is on trial for murder. Lord Peter (Edward Petherbridge) becomes enchanted by her and decides she cannot possibly be guilty. What follows are the twin stories of Lord Peter's search to find the real killer and his romantic pursuit of Harriet. Both are charming. As always, Sayers has plotted her story brilliantly, with a satisfying mystery and a sly comic touch (a gentle poke at the spiritualist movement is particularly fun). The period atmosphere is pulled off naturally and with close attention to detail, and the adaptation has a careful reverence for Sayers. The performances are all remarkably strong. Petherbridge is perfect as Wimsey, revealing his brilliance and allowing him to be hopelessly in love without ever damaging his dignity. Walter plays Harriet with rich nuance, saying as much with her silences as she does with her lines, and Richard Morant is quietly fantastic as the remarkable Bunter.

Harriet, fresh from the trial, tries to get away from it all and ends up stumbling over a recently killed body in Have His Carcass. Unable to resist a crime (or, for that matter, Harriet), Lord Peter is soon on the case.

In Gaudy Night, Lord Peter is still proposing at frequent intervals, and Harriet, though unable to say yes, is also unable to send Lord Peter entirely away. But enough with the romance. As Wimsey heads off for some foreign service work, Harriet visits her Oxford alma mater and lands smack in the middle of a poison-pen scandal. Harriet's status as a mystery writer, naturally, means she's the one who should investigate. Sayers clearly had fun writing this one, using Harriet to gently tweak her own profession, at the same time both parodying and defending the cloistered life at a women's college.

Monday, May 31, 2010

40. Under Heaven

By:  Guy Gavrriel Kay
Rated 4.8 Stars
From:  Beth

FINALLY finished this wonderful book. It took me over a week to read it. Thank you Beth for loaning it to me. Shaun and I both read it and loved it.  We handled it tenderly and I will send it back later this week.  Probably Friday.

But it wasn't the kind of book either of us could zip through.  Since we have very similar views of it when I say we I am not using the royal we but speaking for us both.  WE loved, loved, loved the way it started out. But when it got into court politics both of us were reminded a little of Shogun.  That was kind of unfortunate because no book does all that well if you start thinking about Shogun. But poor, poor Shen Tai.  What a curse those horses were.  As if navigating thru his life wasn't complicated enough.   It was such a shame he wasn't ever able to bury all those warriors.  I found that very sad.  It was a great adventure though.

Description and review  copied with permission from Bookflurries by my good friend Connie, aka cfk 

The setting is the Ninth Dynasty of China with created characters and situations by Kay that ring true. I had recently written here about the Silk Road and that appears in the story. One of the themes of the story is that history is written later by people who maybe don’t find all the parts of the pattern. The people who will loom large in the historical record are not so large at first and so their activities are not written down to be gathered up by historians. That is where the story teller comes in. The storyteller recreates the story and finds the beginnings and makes a whole tapestry on the loom.

Shen Tai is a second son. He is not important in a world where many have completed their imperial examinations which he has not. He is voiceless. His father has taught all three of his children, "Who accepts the world only as it comes to them?" including Tai's sister, Shen Li-Mei. This makes all the difference in their lives as they choose to shape the world rather than remain voiceless.

Another theme is the idea that as we make choices or have choices made for us, the road of our life forks. That seems obvious, but when it involves several characters that we care about, it hits home more than having it just written down in one small phrase.

The story, based on the Tang Dynasty, includes the tribes north of The Great Wall where the term Under Heaven is more easily grasped. There the grasslands go on forever beneath the endless sky.

There is the capital city of two million souls, there is the palace of the Emperor, there are gardens and mountain passes. There are emperors and beggars, courtesans and first ministers. There is also a poet, the Banished Immortal. Kay says this man is based on Li Bai also known as Li Po. There are the men and women who seek to advance at any cost, generals and governors. There are Sardian horses from the West of great beauty that are desired at any cost. There are Kanlin guards who are trusted by all to protect and carry messages. There is a great sorrow and the song about it is written much later by a younger poet than Li Bai.

What makes a book one that fits me? I have been thinking why Under Heaven was such a perfect fit. First, it is a great adventure story. Second, I cared about the characters and could not lay the book down as I wanted to see what happened to them.

The story also was based on the giant, sprawling background setting of China’s Tang Dynasty which aroused my curiosity. I don’t know much about China so it was a pleasure to see it come alive on the pages of the book. I was taken to and through the Wall, I rode on the grasslands and saw the cave painting of horses. I watched the dangerous game played by the imperial men and women of the court. I wanted to learn more about the time and the people and the great poet.

There is lots of real danger and courage, a bit of romance, and a bit of fantasy with the Shamen of the grasslands and the man who walks with wolves. It is a wonderful book. It suited me. Thank you, Mr. Kay.