Monday, January 31, 2011

8. The Second World War: Alone

By:  Winston Churchill
Rated 5 Stars
Audio Book

This is book 2 of Churchill's 4 volume autobiography/history  of World War Two.

Product Description:

"After the first forty days we were alone", writes Churchill. This edition is part two of Churchill's own abridgement of his original six-volume history of the Second World War."

Alone: May 1940-May 1941 - starts with the fall of France: May-June 1940-- with 350,000 British and French soldiers trapped near the French port city of Dunkirk, on the Channel coast near the Pas de Calais. As the Germans inexplicably pause a few miles away from the seemingly doomed Allied forces, the British execute Operation Dynamo, the quickly improvised and mounted evacuation of almost the entire British Expeditionary Force and a few contingents of French soldiers. Using ships and boats of all sizes and types (including civilian pleasure craft and motorboats), the Royal Navy pulls off this daring mission, known as the "Miracle at Dunkirk."

But even though the "little ships" have carried the soldiers to safety in Britain, most of the BEF's heavy weapons (tanks, armored cars, and artillery) has to be left behind, and until the British divisions can be refit and re-equipped, Great Britain -- with her determined and inspiring Priime Minister Winston Churchill -- faces Nazi Germany's dreaded Luftwaffe, U-boats, and even the threat of a sea-borne invasion alone for the next 12 months.

Alone: May 1940-May 1941 covers:

* The German pause at the gates of Dunkirk and the evacuation of the BEF

* The preparations on both sides for the expected German invasion of Britain, including a discussion on various Nazi attack plans, the frantic effort to beef up shore defenses all along the island's coastline, and the training of the Home Guard.

* The Battle of Britain, Germany's ill-fated and poorly executed attempt to "soften up" Britain prior to Operation Sea Lion, which was cancelled when the Luftwaffe failed to defeat the Royal Air Force and gain air supremacy over the British Isles.

* The Blitz, Hitler's attempt to bomb Britain into submission in a series of almost nightly air raids against London and other major cities; these went on for months and ceased only a few weeks before Hitler attacked Russia on June 22, 1941.

7. The Second World War; Milestones to Disaster

By:  Winston S. Churchill
Rated 5+
Audio Book

This was originally a part of a four volume history of the Second World Way from Churchill's point of view.  He lated abridged and divided  the 6 volumes into  4 volumes.  This  portion was Renamed Milestones to Disaster.

This book is Plan B.  As part of the challenge I have set for myself to read the biographies of the people who shaped the world I was born into I first decided to read William Manchester's 2 volume Biography of Churchill.  But due to his death the last book, the one that covered the WWII years I decided to instead read the 4 volume Autobiography written by the man himself.

Product Description:

Churchill's history of the Second World War is, and will remain, the definitive work. Lucid, dramatic, remarkable for its breadth and sweep and for its sense of personal involvement, it is universally acknowledged as a magnificent reconstruction.

 Churchill tracks the erosion of the shaky peace brokered at the end of the First World War, followed by the rise to power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis and their gradual spread from beyond Germany's borders to most of the European continent. Churchill foresaw the coming crisis and made his opinion known quite clearly throughout the latter '30s, and this book concludes on a vindicating note, with his appointment in May 1940 as prime minister, after which he recalls that "I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial.

The Taming of the Shrew

By:  William Shakespeard &
BBC Time Life Films
Rated 5+
From:  Library

This play is my favorite Shakespeare comedy. And, as a fan of Monty Python having John Cleese play Petruchio makes it all the funnier.

Product Description:

Baptista will not allow his saccharine younger daughter Bianca to marry until someone can rid him of his obstreperous older daughter Katherine. The swaggering Petruchio (John Cleese) , eager to wive it wealthily in Padua, agrees to do just this. He proceeds to break her. First, he cools her scalding wit by putting his tongue in her tale; nearly jilts her on her wedding night and then shows up at the church in antic garb; forbids her food, sleep and the beautiful clothes he himself had tailored for her, all on the pretense of providing for her; lastly, commands that she call the sun the moon, the moon the sun, an elderly gentlemen a fresh virgin and then refute her own assertions, all according to his whim.

Meanwhile, Bianca has three suitors: the gray-bearded Gremio, the youngish Hortensio and the young and handsome Lucentio. Lucentio disguises himself as a tutor named Cambio. Hortensio disguises himself as a tutor named Litio. Tranio, Lucentio's servant, disguises himself as Lucentio, at Lucentio's request. A traveling pedant disguises himself as Vincentio, Lucentio's father, also at Luciento's request. Later, the real Vincentio shows up.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

4. Mother Country

By:  Jeremy Harding
Rated 4.5 Stars
From Library

This is a beautifully written memoir.

Publisher Summary

When Jeremy Harding was a child, his mother, Maureen, told him he was adopted. She described his natural parents as a Scandinavian sailor and a“little Irish girl” who worked in a grocery. It was only later, as Harding setout to look for traces of his birth mother, that he began to understand whohis adoptive mother really was—and the benign make-believe world she built for herself and her little boy. Evoking a magical childhood spent intransit between west London and a decrepit houseboat on the banks of the River Thames.

Mother Country is both a detective quest, as Harding searches through the public records for clues about his natural mother, and a rich social history of a lost London from the 1950s.  Mother Country is a powerful true story about a man looking for the mother he had never known and finding out how little he understood the one he had grown up with.

6. King Hereafter

By Dorothy Dunnett
Rated 5 + Stars
Reading with On Line Group
I own this book

This is one of my favorite books ever.  I am so enjoying rereading this along with one of the on line Dunnett groups.  I love the ladies in this group. They combine insightful reading with a delicious sense of humor that is making one of my favorite reads even more enjoyable than it was before.  They are cool people who do not squeeze the joy out of books by taking either books, or themselves way too seriously.

Personally I don't really care if this historically correct or not but considering that written records from that period either do not exist or were written much later (sometimes hundreds of years) and rely oral histories passed down by generations of story tellers it's my opinion that any history of this period is mostly someone's best guess.  I am perfectly willing to go with Dorothy Dunnett's best guess.  It makes for a really great story.

Product Description

With the same meticulous scholarship and narrative legerdemain she brought to her hugely popular Lymond Chronicles, our foremost historical novelist travels further into the past. In King Hereafter, Dorothy Dunnett's stage is the wild, half-pagan country of eleventh-century Scotland. Her hero is an ungainly young earl with a lowering brow and a taste for intrigue. He calls himself Thorfinn but his Christian name is Macbeth.

Dunnett depicts Macbeth's transformation from an angry boy who refuses to accept his meager share of the Orkney Islands to a suavely accomplished warrior who seizes an empire with the help of a wife as shrewd and valiant as himself. She creates characters who are at once wholly creatures of another time yet always recognizable--and she does so with such realism and immediacy that she once more elevates historical fiction into high art.

5. Goodnight Tweetheart

By Teresa Medeiros
Rated 4.5 Stars
From:  Library
Recommended by Maudeen

This is another book that I am the wrong generation to be able to relate to the Twitter group but it was very cleverly written and was both humorous and very poignant at the same time.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It was a great change of pace from some of the more ponderous books I am reading at the moment.

Publisher Summary

New York Times bestselling author Teresa Medeiros absolutely dazzles in this quick-witted, laugh-out-loud funny, and highly moving love story that will set readers’ hearts atwitter.

Abigail Donovan has a lot of stuff she should be doing. Namely writing her next novel. A bestselling author who is still recovering from a near Pulitzer Prize win and the heady success that follows Oprah’s stamp of approval, she is stuck at Chapter Five and losing confidence daily. But when her publicist signs her up for a Twitter account, she’s intrigued. What’s all the fuss?

Taken under the wing of one of her Twitter followers, “MarkBaynard"—a quick witted, quick-typing professor on sabbatical—Abby finds it easy to put words out into the world 140 characters at a time. And once she gets a handle on tweets, retweets, direct messages, hashtags, and trends, she starts to feel unblocked in writing and in life. After all, why should she be spending hours in her apartment staring at her TweetDeck and fretting about her stalled career when Mark is out there traveling the world and living?

Or is he?

3. Before I fall

By:  Lauren Oliver
Rated 3 Stars
From:  Library
Recommended by Maudeen

To begin, I am really not the target audience that this book was aimed at.  I have little to no empathy for todays teenagers.  They live on a different planet than the one I have always occupied.

Still, as much as I really didn't like this book I couldn't give up on it entirely because it is so very well written.  The author managed to drag me kicking and screaming all the way to the end.  The premiss was very interesting though and caused me to do a re-reread of Ken Grimwoods book Repay that is written around the same idea but with characters I had much more sympathy with and was able to relate to more easily.

Publishers description:

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?

Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.

Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

2. Talking About Detective Fiction

By:  P. D.  James
Rated 4 Stars
From Library Website

Copied from Library Summary:

What are we talking about and how did it all begin? -- The tenant of 221B Baker Street and the parish priest from Cobhole in Essex -- The Golden Age -- Soft-centered and hard-boiled -- Four formidable women -- Telling the story : setting, viewpoint, people -- Critics and aficionados : why some don't enjoy them and why others do -- Today and a glimpse of tomorrow.

P. D. James--one of the most widely admired writers of detective fiction at work today--gives us a personal, lively exploration of the human appetite for mystery and mayhem, and of those writers who have satisfied it. She examines the genre from top to bottom, beginning with the mysteries at the hearts of such novels as Charles Dickens's Bleak House, and bringing us into the present with such writers as Colin Dexter and Sara Paretsky. She compares British and American Golden Age mystery writing. She discusses detective fiction as social history, the stylistic components of the genre, her own process of writing, how critics have reacted over the years, and what she sees as a renewal of detective fiction--and of the detective hero--in recent years.

3. Adolph Hitler

By:  John Toland
Rated 5 Stars
Currently Reading
Update - finished 2/6/2011
From Library

 Since I have already done Roosevelt and 1/3 of Churchill I thought it would be interesting to add Hitler to the mix as these are three of the four very powerful men who were such a strong influence on the world as it was in 1935 when I was born.  I need to add Stalin to the list and at some time I probably will.  I have the second Churchill - Vol II, The Lost Years on my wish list and will probably do it next month or maybe March.  It's a huge shame that William Manchester was unable to complete the trilogy he planned to write because I really would love to read what he would have written about Churchill during the war years.

But for right now I have Hitler.  Very interesting but not much joy.  I read this book back in the 70's and I'll tell you - I made me seriously wonder about demonic possession and whether or not it was actually possible.  I still wonder.

Friday, January 7, 2011

1. The Noble House

By: James Clavell
Rated 5 ++ Stars

I just finished listening to an audiobook of The Noble House by James Clavell.  56 hours and 13 minutes of fast moving action and spies everywhere.  Russian Spies, Chinese Spies, British Spies, American Spies, Industrial Multinational Spies, and Corporate Spies.  The saving grace of this complicated story is that Clavell peopled it with characters I cared about.I loved it!

Although the story is set in 1963 and the politics is somewhat dated it is true to it's time and some of it, re: Viet Nam for instance is downright prophetic. I read this book sometime in the mid 70's back when I was still naive about what went on in the world.  Sadly this time through I found all the goings on completely believable.

Publishers Description:
The setting is Hong Kong, 1963. The action spans scarcely more than a week, but these are the days of high adventure, from kidnapping and murder to financial double-dealing and natural catastrophes: fire, flood, and landslide. Yet they are days filled as well with all the mystery and romance of Hong Kong, the heart of Asia, rich in every trade: money, flesh, opium, power.