Category Archives: War Through The Generations

Fifty/Fifty check in: week 2

A little late with the Fifty/Fifty check in this week, although I got my reading and watching done (and some writing, that’s why I’m late with the check in).

In books, I was all about self-help. In movie(s), it was all about the crying.

Books

The Productive Writer: Tips & Tools to Help You Write More, Stress Less & Create Success by Sage Cohen.

This book is pretty much what it says it is. Tips and tools for writing more and finding what you want to write as well. One huge plus is the author presents the material as options, not as “must do’s.” If you don’t know where to start in organizing your writing life, this would be a good first stop.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

It must be the New Year! We’re all about productivity and success. This was my audio book for the weekly commute and I also enjoyed. I’m all revved up now to tackle the world–or at least my little corner of it.

Movies

War Horse (film)

War Horse: A recent movie! In a theater! I know. And one that involves crying in public. Even better. Especially when it involves crying with one’s daughter in public.

Yeah, I took Kyra (and Andrew–I wasn’t too worried about him). Initially, I wasn’t sure this would be a good idea. Especially when Kyra sat through the Titanic preview (now in 3D!) with both hands clamped over her mouth.

Two and a half hours later, we emerged, tear-stained and emotionally drained. But it was worth it. She did like the movie; she loved Joey the horse (she’s a horse girl). Plus, both kids like history, so this spurred all sorts of conversations afterward. Kyra wants to learn more about World War I. (And how many nine-year-olds say that?)

Visually, the film is stunning (sometimes hard to watch, but stunning all the same). It’s been a while since I’ve sen a movie in a theater and I don’t regret choosing this one.

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Reading Challenges for 2012

Last year January, I remember reading a post on an email group from an author complaining about the number of books she had to read for the Rita contest. Her complaint, and I’m paraphrasing, was:

Eight books! I don’t even read eight books in a year!

My initial response, which was totally nonverbal, looked something like:

0.O

Seriously? You’re an author (and yes, yes she was) and you don’t read. Really? Her excuse? She had all these contracts and was just so busy. Because, you know, the rest of us aren’t.

I do understand not having enough time to do a lot of pleasure reading. Or, when there is time, being too tired. Just last night, I fell asleep reading, only realizing it when my Kindle pitched forward and thumped me on the chest.

And every once in a while, I’ll entertain the idea of simply being a reader–forget this writing stuff. Sadly, it never works out and I end up writing again. But my point is: why write if you don’t read or don’t like to read?

So with that in mind, I’m taking on two reading challenges this year. First, I’m doing the War Through the Generations challenge again. This year the challenge focuses on World War I. I’m doing something a little different this year, too. Normally, I’ve signed up for the “dip” level, which is 1 – 3 books (and yeah, you saw me skate in with book 3 at the last moment).

For 2012, I’m upping the number of books, trying the “wade” level of 4 – 10 books. Sure, to “win” all I really need to do is read one more than I normally do for this challenge. Still. It’s a little intimidating.

The other challenge is the Fifty/Fifty challenge. Fifty books and fifty movies, all in one year. You can combine this challenge with other ones, which is what makes it so great–beyond the neat community already starting up over there.

If you’ve never done a reading challenge, I think this one would be a great place to start. It’s meant to get you reading and watching things you haven’t read or watched before. Already there’s movie and books suggestions.

My personal goal, beyond the challenges, is to read 75 books. If I end up watching 50 movies, we might have to throw a parade.

Wish me luck. Or better yet, join in and keep me company.

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2011 reading recap

Cover of "The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps ...

Cover via Amazon

In 2011, I read 70 books. My goal was 75. Yes, I fell short. I put the blame squarely on the shoulders of George R. R. Martin. I waded into A Song of Ice and Fire books, reading the first two: A Game of Thrones and A Clash of Kings.

Those are some long books, y’all. I’m not sure if I’ll tackle the next in the series in 2012 or not. Long, epic fantasy is a mood read for me. So, if I’m in the mood, I’ll search out the next in the series. If not … I’ll read something else.

But it wasn’t just a year for quantity. A large majority of those 70 books were four and five star reads for me. A few of the best:

Writing book:

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller, John Truby

Debut:

Rival, Sara Bennett Wealer
The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern

YA

Please Ignore Vera Dietz, A.S. King
Revolution, Jennifer Donnelly

Middle Grade

Because of Winn-Dixie, Kate DiCamillo
The Magician’s Elephant, Kate DiCamillo

Adult

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand: A Novel, Helen Simonson
A Visit from the Goon Squad, Jennifer Egan

War Through the Generations challenge books (Civil War)

Two Girls of Gettysburg, Lisa Klein
Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War, Tony Horwitz
And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart, Jamie Malanowski

Last book read

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd, Patrick Ness (a five-star read–bring tissues)

But really, if the book is on my list, I more than likely enjoyed it. I’m putting my 2011 list below the cut (70 books makes for a very long blog post). If you’re interested in my take on any of them, let me know. I love to talk books!

Continue reading

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Review: And The War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart

So yesterday, I sat down and finished the last book I wanted to read for the War Through the Generations Civil War reading challenge.

For my third (and last) book, I picked And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski, published by Byliner. I purchased this copy and read it on my Kindle Fire.

Product description (from Amazon):

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, Jamie Malanowski, lead writer of The New York Times’ highly acclaimed Disunion blog, masterfully recounts the origins of America’s greatest national tragedy in real time.

Drawing on diaries, speeches, and newspaper accounts of the six months leading up to the first shots fired on Fort Sumter, And the War Came chronicles the events that tore the nation apart, and delves into the hearts and minds of the men and women who tried in vain to avoid a conflict on American soil.

From the controversial election of Abraham Lincoln in November 1860 and the failed Crittenden Compromise to the secession of seven Southern states and the election of Jefferson Davis, Malanowski draws indelible portraits of the politicians and soldiers who controlled the country’s destiny. And by unfolding, week by week, the major issues and emotional nuances that led to the Civil War, he sheds new light on the darkest period in American history.

And the War CameAs Malanowski writes in the forward: The way we learn about history is strikingly at odds with the way we experience current events and life in general.

In the following pages, he does an excellent job of remedying this by presenting the six months that leading up to the Civil War in “real time.” In a combination of verbatim source material from diaries, speeches, editorials along with narrative written in mostly present tense, the era really comes alive.

I was immediately drawn into the narrative, which begins seven days before the election of 1860 and ends with the surrender of Fort Sumter. Each section, whether narrative, a diary entry, or an editorial, is fairly short. This makes the book fast paced and very easy to follow.

What it reminded me of is reading political blogs, news sites, and personal blogs. If you’re a news and political blog junkie, I think you’ll enjoy the way this book is written. Malanowski really does achieve his aim in putting us right there. A couple of times while I was reading, I had to pause and remind myself that the events described weren’t happening right now.

This is another one I recommend. It’s short, but packed with both information, attitude, and even humor (much of it at the expense of President Buchanan). If you’re looking for a quick, insightful way to round out your Civil War reading challenge, And the War Came: The Six Months That Tore America Apart by Jamie Malanowski would be a great choice.

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Review: Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War

Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz first caught my attention when it was offered on the War Through The Generations blog as a prize, one of three books generously donated by Macmillan Audio.

Alas, I did not win a copy of the book, but I went searching for it at my library. And there it was, in all its audio book glory. I put myself on the waitlist and hoped my turn would come up before the end of the year.

My turn did come up. And I’m happy to say it was worth the wait.

From Amazon:

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown’s uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.

Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America’s founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy.

On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown’s capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown’s dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called “a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale.”

Tony Horwitz’s riveting book travels antebellum America to deliver both a taut historical drama and a telling portrait of a nation divided—a time that still resonates in ours.

The book covers John Brown’s life and provides enough information on those around him (of both personal and historic importance) that I came away with a better understanding of this single-minded man and the time in which he lived.

While I enjoyed the entire book, the section that covers the raid and the summer build-up to it were especially interesting. I was particularly taken by Annie Brown and the summer she spent in the company of her father and his men at the Kennedy farm in Maryland (not far from Harpers Ferry).

Annie and her sister-in-law Mary (wife of John’s son Oliver) spent the summer at the Kennedy farm as camouflage, to help make it look like a real working farm–because a group of men doing nothing but moving and hiding large crates looks suspicious.

I really enjoyed the camaraderie as described by the author between Annie and the men at Kennedy farm. There are hints (or at least, the author speculates) that among those killed at Harpers Ferry was a young man Annie had fallen in love with. (And there’s a novel in there, I’m sure. It ends tragically, of course.)

The above illustrates what I enjoyed about the book. The narrative is rich with historical detail, while at the same time, makes for compelling reading.

In all, Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz is a detailed and fascinating look at a very important event in US history. I highly recommend it.

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