Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Soldier Doll (2014)

Soldier Doll. Jennifer Gold. 2014. Second Story Press. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy]

Soldier Doll is a message-driven novel with an interesting premise. Towards the end of World War I (1918), Margaret Merriweather, an English woman, gives her fiance a wooden doll. This is a doll that her own father made for her when she's a child. She paints a soldier's uniform on him. She gives him as a good luck charm, a way he can carry her with him wherever he goes. After he dies, Margaret is inspired to write a poem. This poem becomes famous. The doll itself is gone forever. Or so everyone thought. Soldier Doll follows the adventures of this wooden soldier with the baby-face. The framework for all the stories is his being discovered in Toronto in 2007 by a teen girl, Elizabeth. Elizabeth is buying her dad a DOLL for his birthday. Her dad is a soldier preparing to go to Afghanistan. A moping Elizabeth ventures into a used bookstore and discovers the poem-book by Merriweather. She's convinced she's found THE DOLL from the poem. She and her Dad team up to see if this is so... (view spoiler)

The chapters alternate between the 2007 story and the doll's adventures in the past beginning with World War I. The doll also heads to other wars: World War II, Vietnam, and the Iraq War. His ownership is passed along many times. I should clarify that readers don't get the perspective of the doll at any time. It remains just an object. What readers do get are glimpses of various soldiers from various countries. It captures scenes from life on the front.

War. War. War. That is the focus of Soldier Doll. Why do nations go to war? Why do men go to war? What is the point of it all? Those are the questions asked openly and honestly in Jennifer Gold's Soldier Doll. It is an anti-war novel, as you might imagine.

I found the 2007 story to be awkward. I found the past stories to be much better. The past sections were written in past tense. The 2007 story was written in very awkward present tense. It was third person present.
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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What's On Your Nightstand (July)


The folks at 5 Minutes For Books host What’s On Your Nightstand? the fourth Tuesday of each month in which we can share about the books we have been reading and/or plan to read.

I finished six of the books I mentioned in June for What's On Your Nightstand. Reviews of The Princess of Celle, The Birth of Britain, Earth Awakens, The Dog Who Could Fly, and Mission at Nuremberg will be posted in August. You'll have to wait a few months more for my review of Is He Popenjoy? by Anthony Trollope.

The first two come from my TBR pile. I've started both of these. 


Victoria Victorious. Jean Plaidy. 1985. Three Rivers Press. 564 pages. [Source: Bought]
IF MY COUSIN CHARLOTTE HAD NOT DIED SO TRAGICALLY—AND her baby with her—I should never have been born and there would never have been a Queen Victoria. I suppose there is a big element of chance in everybody's life, but I always thought this was especially so in mine. But for that sad event, over which the whole nation mourned, my father would have gone on living in respectable sin—if sin can ever be respectable—with Madame St. Laurent, who had been his companion for twenty-five years; my mother would have stayed in Leiningen, though she might have married someone else, for although she was a widow with two children, she was only thirty-one years old and therefore of an age to bear more children. And I should never have been born.


In Search of England. H.V. Morton. 1927/2007. Da Capo Press. 304 pages. [Source: Bought]
This, then, is my adventure. Now I will go, with spring before me and the road calling me out into England. It does not matter where I go, for it is all England. I will see what lies off the beaten track. I will, as the mood takes me, go into famous towns and unknown hamlets. I will shake up the dust of kings and abbots; I will bring the knights and the cavaliers back to the roads, and once in a while, I will hear the thunder of old quarrels at earthwork and church door. If I become weary of dream and legend I will just sit and watch the ducks on a village pond, or take the horses to water: I will talk with lords and cottagers, tramps, gipsies, and dogs; I will, in fact, do anything that comes into my head as suddenly and light-heartedly as I will accept anything, and everything, that comes my way in rain or sun along the road.
I've started a lovely mystery by Margery Allingham for the Vintage Mystery challenge. It had me at hello! I love great beginnings!

Dancers in Mourning. Margery Allingham. 1937. 337 pages. [Source: Bought]
When Mr. William Faraday sat down to write his memoirs after fifty-eight years of blameless inactivity he found the work of inscribing the history of his life almost as tedious as living it had been and so, possessing a natural invention coupled with a gift for locating the easier path, he began to prevaricate a little upon the second page, working up to downright lying on the sixth and subsequent folios.
The book appeared at eighteen-and-sixpence, with frontispiece, in nineteen thirty-four and would have passed into the limbo of the remainder lists with thousands of its prototypes had not the quality of one of the wilder anecdotes in the chapters dealing with an India the author had never seen earned it a place in the news columns of a Sunday paper.
This paragraph called the memoirs to the attention of a critic who had not permitted his eminence to impair his appreciation of the absurd, and in the review which he afterwards wrote he pointed out that the work was pure fiction, not to say fantasy, and was incidentally one of the funniest books of the decade.
The public agreed with the critic and at the age of sixty-one William Faraday, author of Memoirs of an Old Buffer (republished at seven-and-six, seventy-fourth thousand), found himself a literary figure.
I've got quite a few library books I need to read including:





Unbroken. Laura Hillenbrand. 2010. Random House. 473 pages. [Source: Library]

All he could see, in every direction, was water. It was June 23, 1943. Somewhere on the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Army Air Forces bombardier and Olympic runner Louie Zamperini lay across a small raft, drifting westward. Slumped alongside him was a sergeant, one of his plane's gunners. On a separate raft, tethered to the first, lay another crewman, a gash zigzagging across his forehead. Their bodies, burned by the sun and stained yellow from the raft dye, had winnowed down to skeletons. Sharks glided in lazy loops around them, dragging their backs along the rafts, waiting. 
The Lost. Sarah Beth Durst. 2014. Harlequin. 352 pages. [Source: Library]
For the first hundred miles, I see only the road and my knuckles, skin tight across the bones, like my mother's hands, as I clutch the steering wheel. 

 Kiss of Deception. Mary E. Pearson. 2014.  Henry Holt. 496 pages. [Source: Library]

Today was the day a thousand dreams would die and a single dream would be born.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Lost in Shangri-La

Lost in Shangri-La. Mitchell Zuckoff. 2011. HarperCollins. 384 pages. [Source: Library]

After reading Frozen in Time, I knew I wanted to read another by Mitchell Zuckoff. Lost In Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War II did not disappoint. The two books are similar in that both books are about plane crashes, survivors, and rescue attempts. Also, obviously, both books are set during World War II.

Lost In Shangri-La tells the story of Margaret Hastings, John McCollom, and Kenneth Decker. These three were the survivors of the plane crash. All three were stationed in Dutch New Guinea, all three were taking part in a little sight-seeing holiday. All hoped to see "Shangri-La" safely from above. Twenty-four were on the plane, but after the crash, after the first twenty-four hours, only three remained alive. The three are able to leave the crash site and make their way to a better place, they are hoping to get to where a passing plane, a search plane, can see them.

The book goes on to tell of the men involved in the rescuing. Hastings and Decker were suffering severe injuries and in need of immediate medical attention. A rescue could not be accomplished quickly, in just a day or two. No, it would take time and careful planning...

Survivors. Rescuers. Natives. The book is very interesting. I definitely recommend it!

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Duke's Children (1880)

The Duke's Children. Anthony Trollope. 1880. 560 pages. [Source: Book I Bought]

It is always bittersweet for me as a reader to come to the end of a series. There is always a sense of satisfaction, but, also usually some sadness to say goodbye as well. The Palliser series by Anthony Trollope has been interesting. I've loved some books very much, others not quite as much. But overall, it's just been a joy to spend so much of this year with Trollope. Previous titles include Can You Forgive Her?, Phineas Finn, The Eustace Diamonds, Phineas Redux, and The Prime Minister.

The Duke's Children is essentially a novel about relationships, about falling in and out of love, about accepting loved one's choices.

Plantagenet Palliser, current Duke of Omnium, has three grown--or nearly grown--children. His oldest son (Lord Silverbridge) and his oldest daughter (Lady Mary) are proving to be difficult to handle.

Lady Mary has fallen madly in love with a man whom her father judges to be unworthy or unacceptable. His name is Frank Tregear. He happens, of course, to be good, good friends with Lord Silverbridge.

Lord Silverbridge was courting a cousin of Tregear's, a young woman, Lady Mabel Grex. He told his father that he was planning on proposing to her very soon. She was expecting his proposal, and she was going to say yes. But that was before Lord Silverbridge met the American heiress, Isabel Boncassen, of course, she was oh-so-beautiful. After that, it was Mabel, who? Does the reader pity Mabel? Should the reader pity Mabel? I haven't decided WHAT Trollope really intended us all to think...if anything.

Mabel's heart belongs not to Lord Silverbridge, though, she knows they'd be pleasant enough companions and suit together well. No, Mabel's heart belongs to Frank Tregear. She loved him; he loved her. They both knew that being together was insensible. Both being poor and all. But she NEVER expected him to turn around and fall madly in love with someone else so very, very soon. She was so sure that he felt just as strongly about her. How could he stop loving her and start loving someone else so quickly?! And when Lord Silverbridge seems to do the exact same, well, let's just say that Mabel gets VERY VERY angry.

Will the Duke give his approval to his daughter, Lady Mary? Will he try to make her marry someone more suitable? Who has the stronger will? Will he persuade her that Frank is not the one and that, of course, she should marry someone with a title and lots of money? Or will she persuade him that Frank is the ONLY one who could ever make her happy?

Will the Duke give his approval to his son, Lord Silverbridge? Will he cover all his son's debts and forgive him all his foolish mistakes? Will he accept his son's choice of bride? Or will he argue the case for Mabel?

I definitely loved this one. I never find Trollope boring. Sometimes I find him more interesting than other times. But I care about the characters and always want to know how things will turn out.

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Week in Review: July 13-19

Hidden Like Anne Frank. Marcel Prins. Peter Henk Steenhuis. Translated by Laura Watkinson. Scholastic. 256 pages. [Source: Review copy] 
The Merry Monarch's Wife. (A Queens of England Novel). Jean Plaidy. 1991/2008. Crown. 352 pages. [Source: Bought]
The Railway Children. E. Nesbit. 1906/2011. Penguin. 304 pages.  [Source: Bought]
You'll Like It Here (Everybody Does). Ruth White. 2011/2012. Random House. 272 pages. [Source: Review copy]
The Dust Girl (American Fairy #1) Sarah Zettel. Random House. 304 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Mission at Nuremberg. Tim Townsend. 2014. HarperCollins. 400 pages. [Source: Library]
Seeing the Unseen. Randy Alcorn. 2013. Eternal Perspective Ministries. 120 pages. [Source: Bought]
Luminary. Krista McGee. 2014. Thomas Nelson. 311 pages. [Source: Library]
Here Is Our God. Kathleen Buswell Nielson and D.A. Carson, editors. 2014. Crossway. 221 pages. [Source: Review copy]

This week's favorite:

The choice was easy this week, but, not as easy as you might think. I loved both Hidden Like Anne Frank and Mission at Nuremberg. Both books are nonfiction focused on World War II. If you haven't noticed, well, I can't resist reading books about that time period. Hidden Like Anne Frank was a collection of survivor stories. Each chapter was written by a different survivor. Overall, the stories were compelling but dark. I appreciated the honesty.

Mission at Nuremberg is about the Nuremberg trials. This was my first time to read about the Nuremberg trials, and, I found the book fascinating and thought-provoking. Again, I appreciated the honesty. I also appreciated the perspective. One of the main characters is an army chaplain, Henry Gerecke.
Religion was something the Allies were also going to have to contend with, specifically, whether to supply the architects of the Holocaust with a Christian minister to comfort their spirits as they explained to the world the murder of six million Jews. The decision for adding this provision had come late and was possibly more controversial even than putting the Nazis on trial. (135)
It was the victorious Allies who were judging the crimes of the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, but it would be a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod who would try and convince those criminals that it was really God's judgment that they should fear. (8)
© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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