Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

I am a few months late in posting this, I'm very sorry to say.  I've had this book picked out for a long while, but haven't done anything about it.  Then I started re-reading it last week and I am loving it all over again and I just have to share it with you! 

This book is takes place just after WWII and is mostly about the German occupation of the island of Guernsey.  It is not written in the usual chapter format of most novels.  The story is told through letters that are written and sent between the characters of the book.  It does make it a little hard to keep track of the characters at first, but I promise it does get easier the further you get into the book.  By the end you know and love everyone.  Well, you probably won't love everyone, but close to everyone.  And you will understand why the book has such a funny title. 

Love to all of you,

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Book Thief by Michael Zusak

Autumn sent me a couple of books a little over a year ago. Sheryl and I first read The Secret Life of Bees. We read so many things, sometimes taking a break from big novels to read short stories. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I sat down to read The Book Thief.

Aubey really called this one right. It is a powerful novel about a nine-year-old girl who is given into foster care in 1939 -- in Germany. Her tender relationship with her foster father is moving. He had been saved by a Jewish friend back during "The Great War," and had promised that family that, if they ever needed anything, he stood ready to help them. When the second war starts, he unhesitatingly takes in the young adult son of the man who had save him. The young Jew and the old foster father help the girl become an accomplished reader and a fine writer.

As the war gets closer to their tiny town, she and her best friend, Rudy, have to do a lot of serious thinking for two kids just entering their teens. Lots of neighbors aren't coming home from places like Stalingrad. Soon the allied bombers are no longer confining their munitions to Munich and other big cities. Soon their own little street with its many personalities is a repeatedly attacked target. By the time she is fourteen, she is getting to know the first person narrator very well, indeed. And the narrator is the angel of death.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

March Discussion

I hope that you all enjoyed reading Washington's Lady as much as I did. I enjoyed learning new things about them as a couple and as individuals. For instance I did not know that Martha had been married before and many other things. I was going to come up with some questions of my own but I found some really good ones in the back of the book and I am just going to use those instead.

1. Martha longed for more children. How did she handle this disappointment? Did she handle it well? Why do you think she and George had no children?
I think she handle her disappointment as best she could and I think to fill that void she let her children get away with anything and when she would visit George on the battlefield she would mother the soldiers. I think they didn't have anymore children because George couldn't.

2. What did you think about Martha's lack of parenting her children and her refusal to let George discipline them?
I found that Martha struggled as so many mothers do when it comes to disciplining their own children. You have to find that balance of being a friend and a parent, but Martha seemed to turn a blind eye to when her children did something naughty. Martha let Jack especially do whatever he wanted and as he grew up he was a very irresponsible, reckless person. In the end I believe her children suffered from her lack of disciplining them. Had George been able to help I believe that Jack would have turned out differently.

3. It's been said that without George Washington there would be no United States, but without Martha, there would be no George Washington. How so?
Through out their relationship Martha was always by George's side and encouraging him to do what he needed to do. When he was at war she would travel to be with him and support and boost his spirits the best she could. No matter the trials they went through Martha always supported George no questions asked.

4. The great sorrow Martha experienced at George's death broke her (can you blame her?), yet she found solace in the thought of being together again in heaven. When have you found peace in this promise?
I can't blame her at all. I believe that Martha loved George more then her first husband and his death was just more then she could handle. I think being members of the church we can find that peace when anyone we know passes away knowing that they are on the other side of the veil waiting for us to join them.

5. This nation was created "under God." God intervened in many ways. Name some of the places where you see his hand. Where do you see God's hand in the world today?
I see God's hand in everything. If you are looking for it and are open to the spirit you can find God's hand everywhere. I see it in the beauty of the earth, the church, the missionaries spreading the word of God, our families, and even in our trials. Sometimes we have to experience the unpleasant things in life to appreciate the beauty around us.

These were just some of the questions that jumped out at me. I am looking forward to seeing what you guys thought about it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Washington's Lady

I know I am late in getting this out (Sorry.) I hope you have all not been waiting on me. I picked this book because I really enjoyed reading about George and Martha's life together. I have read lots of book's just about George and they are interesting but this one focus's more on their personal lives together at home and on the battle field. I learned new things about both of them which was fun and it is just a good story. I hope all of you will enjoy it as well. Happy Reading!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My bad!

Ok, so I forgot to start the discussion of "The Diary of Anne Frank". Sorry. Anyway. I hope you haven't been waiting on me before you started reading the book for March. So sorry guys. Anyway...

I enjoyed the book the second time around as well as the first time when I was in junior high. It was very different reading it as an adult though. There were many things that I didn't notice or understand as a young teen, that I did this time. I think that Anne was a very interesting person. She was very intelligent for her age. Very mature. Well, maybe not at first, but she certainly matured greatly while in hiding. I imagine she didn't have a choice but to mature greatly. I am actually having a hard time writing my thoughts on this book. My thoughts are too complex I think. In so many ways, Anne reminded me of myself. The way she looks at the world, her emotions, and her dreams and ambitions. It breaks my heart that she never was able to do all the things she had planned for herself. This book made me think a great deal about Adolph Hitler, and wonder what his childhood must have been like. What must have been done to him, or happened to him, to make him turn out to be the person he did. Anyway, back to the book. I am amazed at how well they all got on together being contained like that for 2 years. I know they didn't get along perfectly, but I think they did great under the circumstances. And I loved reading, and watching in my mind the friendship and love grow between Anne and Peter. It was not quite as exciting this time as it was the first time I read it. It made me remember what it was like to be 15, and all of the insanely intense emotions and feelings that come with being a 15 year old girl. I can't imagine bottling that up for 2 years. I'm so glad that she had Peter. And it makes me so sad that she had such a horrible relationship with her Mother.A good relationship with one's Mother when one is a teenage girl, can have a great impact on a girl. And I can't believe how horribly she was treated by everyone. I know we only heard her side of the story. And for all we know, she may have been lazy, overly talkative, and obnoxious, and whatever else she was described as by the adults. But from her side, she seemed to be misjudged. And I find it interesting that she never really found fault with her Father, even when she said that he would stand up for her Mother. I think it is very hard for a daughter to find fault with her Father. There really is nothing like a Father-Daughter relationship. My last thought is of admiration for those who helped them. Miep, Kraller, Koophius, and Elli. How BRAVE! They are heroes. The world needs more people like them. How amazing that they would help a family while possibly risking their own lives. They were truly Christ-like. I hope to be able to do something as great for someone some day. Not to be able to say, look what great thing I did, but just because. Anyway, those are just some of my, unorganized thoughts. :)

I hope you all enjoyed the book. I love you all!! Thanks so much for your participation!


Sunday, February 7, 2010

An Attempt to Correct False Impressions

I realize, after re-reading the post from the other night, that I might very easily have left a false impression. I did not mean to state or imply that I need to relearn all the stuff in my lecture notes. I'm pretty sure that you could hand me a piece of chalk and stand back. I could get along pretty well without much help and with only the occasional glance at my notes. It's not so much the stuff of long ago that I forget. It's mostly the stuff that has happened in the past few weeks or even in the last year or so. Reading my own journal would be of some help, but only of limited usefulness, because I remember most of that stuff, too. IT is in the far past. But stuff that I wrote in my journal a couple of weeks ago or which I re-read from an email that's a couple of weeks old might really NEED to be re-read.

I've felt this creepy disease creeping up on me for many years. I've told all three wives that I was afraid I'd get Alzheimer's and that I often felt I already had it. I meant it flatly and with neither exaggeration nor minimizing. I meant exactly what I said and I think I was right.

I remember looking at things from 1979, the first year of my journal, in the mid to late eighties and being stunned that they ever occurred. Then again, I can still read many things in my journals which feel as though I'd just written them minutes ago. The brain's a funny thing, and mine's funnier than most.

So, what kinds of bridges and shelves was I talking about building in my last post? I believe that I was alluding to creating a new set of tools for locating what I have forgotten and a new set of storage bins or shelves for keeping things in such a way that I can locate them more accurately and much more quickly. I've probably called a few of you to ask for a word. I'll hassle you with about 200 synonyms or homonyms; sometimes we'll get it figured out. Sometimes we won't. But it always eventually comes to me, because I always put it on a back burner and when I pass across it in reading or conversation, I'll instantly recognize it as the one perfect word I needed some days (or even weeks!) back and I'll immediately inform some poor unfortunate that this was the word I was looking for when we were talking about such-and -such. A terrible fate for the person I've been nagging for help in finding some old word I'd known since I was 9, but a wonderful blessing for me to have grown up with the one language which has so many different words and phrases to mean essentially the same thing, each with a slightly different shade of meaning or with a special extra meaning attached to it.

Now when I use the term "the one perfect word," I only mean that, because English is such a strong language with dozens and sometimes dozens and dozens of synonyms, we have the luxury of choosing the one synonym which most accurately says what we want to say. What makes English so strong? It has been formed over many centuries by different conquerors, all of whom spoke different languages. The mixing of these languages has given us several versions of the same word, allowing us to pick the one which pleases us the most. OK, lets make with the examples.

The Celts, a group of groups, really, settled in many places, from Northern Italy and France ("the Gauls", ) to Spain to Austria, to the coast of France, to Ireland, to Briton (Brittania as the Romans mispronounced it) to Scotland to Wales to the Isle of Mann. When he was still fairly young, Gaius Julius Caesar was the first to really hassle the Pretannii in what he called Brittania. The people who came running down the hill naked as jaybirds, painted blue, and yelling like nuts to meet him were Celts. He killed a bunch of them, but eventually had to go home and cross the Rubicon and spend a few years breaking all the traditions of Republican Rome before stopping a lot of knives on 15 March 44 BC. He obviously had a very full plate. So Rome didn't fully conquer the Britons until the time of Clau-Clau-Claudius after the "Christian Era" had begun, so far as the world knew. So, for about 3 centuries, the Britons gradually began to speak Latin more than their original Celtic language.

Then the Hunnic peoples of the mid-east started riding through Europe without so much as a "by your leave." This pushed lots of Germanic tribes up against the borders of Roman Empire lands. These borders had names like the Rhine and the Danube. For a while, Rome's well-organized legions held them back, but there were so many of them that they began having to make compromises with them and even give up some places which Rome had controlled with forts and legions for several centuries. Eventually, Germanic and Spanish generals, who had done favors for Rome in exchange for citizenship, became actual emperors over Rome! Imagine! A person not born into citizenship has become the leader of Rome. Thank goodness we don't have to worry about anything like that just now, eh?

Well, when the many different Germanic tribes get through running from what's chasing them, they have invaded and taken over all of the Western half of Rome and its holdings. Four tribes in particular, the Angles, the Saxons, the Jutes, and the Frisians, have conquered Latin-speaking Britannia, and the place gradually begins to mix a heavy content of German with a lot of Latin and a few words (maybe 11 or 12) of the original Celtic. This is why the Brits today and many of us are still called "Anglo-Saxons." For a couple of centuries, this stew of languages simmers until, about the end of the seventh century, the North Men (Vikings) begin to make an annual summer raiding season into the coasts of France, the Low Countries (Netherlands, Belgium, etc.) and England along with the Irish and the Scotts. They are raiding for anything they can steal that isn't nailed down. Sons (for slaves,) daughters (to produce new little Vikings,) gold, silver, food, and the pure fun of burning down churches and cutting up people. After a couple of centuries of these raids (see Hagar the Horrible) a few of the Vikings begin to settle down rather than just making the round trip from Denmark (the Dane's March) or Sweden or Norway every year. Their language, not too dissimilar from the old Germanic, mixes in still more words, phrases, usages, expressions, and accents.

Now the North Men or Vikings who had settled along one coast of France and stayed and begun to rule it, became known as the Normans. After a couple of centuries, they were well-known and quite powerful. In 1066 (which predates me by a couple of years) William, Duke of Normandy, announces his intention to storm England (Angle-land) and take away from Harold the Saxon all the land which both of them claim. But Harold has a little problem in that his brother has also made a claim up north somewhere, so Harold has to double-time march up there, kill off his brother and his troops, then run back just in time to great William as he comes up onto the beach. Naturally, Harold and his boys are very tired after all that marching and fighting, but they do a pretty good job of holding the Normans down from the high ground until lunch time. But I'm thinking that someone slipped some dumb pills into the Saxons' lunch, because they started talking over their tuna sandwiches and said, "Hey, look how great we're doing at holding all these French-speaking Vikings down off the high ground! We're doing great up here on the high ground. I'll bet we could sweep them back into the surf if we charged down onto the beach where they are after lunch." Or some dumb cluckery to that extent.

Well, of course, you know what happened. The Bayeux Tapestry shows several scenes from the battle including the part at the end of the day which shows Harold lying there, his horse lying nearby, his sword close to hand, and his head about a yard off. Let us not add insult to injury (fairly serious injury, unless I miss my guess) by repeating as fact the old legend that Harold actually died while looking UP at a shower of Norman arrows, carefully catching them one of them in his eye socket as a keepsake. Most historians agree today that this is only an example of humans picking on the losers down through the centuries. It probably never happened. But it was still being taught that way the first time I took it.

OK, now. So where are we? Ah, yes! Time to do the addition, stir counterclockwise, and wait about 5 centuries. The Normans (French-speaking Vikings) will add about 10,000 French words to Angle-ish (English) and the winner's language will become the dominant language and the language of government, courts, high class parties, etc. Only some loser of a Saxon or Angle or Frisian or Jute would ask for a slab of cow in a restaurant. Heavens, no! You want to use the language of the winners, those who still had their heads at the end of that important October day in 1066. So you asked for beef. You could ask for Swine or as your Germanic ancestors probably said it, "Schwein." But you'd be looked down on a lot less if you said "Pork" like the winners. The Germanics didn't just give up after losing one battle. They kept trying for a century or so to regain control of their island, or at least to minimize the dominance of the Normans. This behavior gives rise to the legends of such Saxon heroes as Robin of Lockesly (a real guy) and Sir Wilfrid of Ivanhoe (purely made up, as best I can tell, but he looked good with that Jewish girl in the movie version, didn't he?)

Anyway, by the time a kid named Will Shakespeare was born, he was dealing with a language which the Celts, the Romans, the Germanic tribes and the French could not have begun to understand. AND YET ALL OF THEM HAD CONTRIBUTED TO ITS CREATION! So that's why English is so strong in that there are so many ways of saying something in it. Each might have a slightly different meaning. Some might even be sarcastic. But they all say essentially the same thing. I pity those whose language is crammed into a little, tiny dictionary. When they get Alzheimer's how do they signal to someone else what family of words they are momentarily lost in and in which they hope to find just one which means so-and-so but with a little more country flavor?

Now, just to fool some folks into reading this (or at least starting it,) I'm going to put a few pictures up on top. Pretty cold-blooded, eh?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Book for February

So, I should have done this a few days ago. Oops. My bad!

Anyway, Thanks Mom(Johanna) for choosing "The Outsiders". I think we all enjoyed it very much.

And now onto my book. "The Diary of Anne Frank". I haven't read it in years. I don't remember how old I was when I read it. But i do remember loving it. It is a sad read. But it is also a sweet read. She was such an amazing girl. I wish I could have known her. I have always been fascinated by stories and anything that has to do with the holocaust. I hope you don't think I am insensitive. I know it is all so sad, and you may think I am weird. But I just love reading about it. As much as it breaks my heart. I love books, movies, or songs that provoke great emotion. I love to feel for people. It's a weird addiction, if that is even the word for it. I'm not sure. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy it. I look forward to your thoughts and opinions. I love you all so much. We have an awesome family!! Oh, I'm so lucky.

side note, Lyns, if you have chosen a book for March, could you either post it on here or let me know what it is so I can post it? Thanks. Love you much!!