Wednesday Poem: December Magic ~ Pandita Sanchez

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December Magic

Waltzing with the wind,
in crocheted gowns of white lace…
flurries of snowflakes
sway to sweet divine music…
that only angels can hear.

Pandita Sanchez

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Review: The Nightingale ~ Kristin Hannah

The NightingaleISBN ~ 978-0312577223
Publisher ~ St. Martin’s Press
No. Of Pages ~ 440 pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Macmillan

In love we find out who we want to be.
In war we find out who we are.

FRANCE, 1939

In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do, in droves of marching soldiers, in caravans of trucks and tanks, in planes that fill the skies and drop bombs upon the innocent. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.

Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women’s war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France–a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women

4 Thumbs-UpAfter reading the first two lines of the description above I knew this was a book I wanted to read, a book that would deliver great things and not disappoint, and a book that would bring 2015 to a five thumbs end on the review blog.  Unfortunately it was not to be; it really wasn’t the book’s fault as there really was nothing bad at all about it, it was me I just didn’t love it as I hoped I would.

The main protagonists of this novel are two sisters, which the book is centred around, and even though I don’t have any sisters I found them, up to a certain point to be very realistic; they had opposing views and opinions on most everything in their lives, and totally different personalities to each other which helped make them feel like more like siblings rather than two characters the Author had deemed must be related.  It was interesting to see how handled the circumstances they found themselves in, in their own way and this lent the feeling that although they were sisters they were still individuals in their own right.

Set in Nazi-occupied France, I found this novel to be full of good historical research, which the Author then included in the telling of the story.  This brought the reality of living under occupation to the front of the readers mind and helped them to live the experiences, to some degree that the characters were faced with.  It is easy to see why, after many days of seeing bodies hanging from trees in the village square one begins to not notice them anymore; it is a kind of self-preservation for the mind.

Why didn’t this make the much anticipated 5 thumbs review I was expecting to give it; I hate to say this but it was the romantic interludes  which seemed forced and unnatural, and the parts immediately following the end of the war  which, after considering everything I had read before, seemed a little anti-climatic.

I would highly recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading of this time period, but for me it didn’t make me want to read anything else written by this Author.

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Christmas Special: The Nutcracker Suite ~ Tchaikovsky

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Although not a piece of literature, I couldn’t think of a better way to enjoy Christmas Day than listening to The Nutcracker Suite and enjoying a glass of wine:

I hope you all have a safe, happy and blessed holiday.

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Wednesday Poem: The Nightmare Before Christmas Original Poem~ Tim Burton

It was late one fall in Halloweenland,
and the air had quite a chill.
Against the moon a skeleton sat,
alone upon a hill.
He was tall and thin with a bat bow tie;
Jack Skellington was his name.
He was tired and bored in Halloweenland

“I’m sick of the scaring, the terror, the fright.
I’m tired of being something that goes bump in the night.
I’m bored with leering my horrible glances,
And my feet hurt from dancing those skeleton dances.
I don’t like graveyards, and I need something new.
There must be more to life than just yelling,
‘Boo!’”

Then out from a grave, with a curl and a twist,
Came a whimpering, whining, spectral mist.
It was a little ghost dog, with a faint little bark,
And a jack-o’-lantern nose that glowed in the dark.
It was Jack’s dog, Zero, the best friend he had,
But Jack hardly noticed, which made Zero sad.

All that night and through the next day,
Jack wandered and walked.
He was filled with dismay.
Then deep in the forest, just before night,
Jack came upon an amazing sight.
Not twenty feet from the spot where he stood
Were three massive doorways carved in wood.
He stood before them, completely in awe,
His gaze transfixed by one special door.
Entranced and excited, with a slight sense of worry,
Jack opened the door to a white, windy flurry.

Jack didn’t know it, but he’d fallen down
In the middle of a place called Christmas Town!
Immersed in the light, Jack was no longer haunted.
He had finally found the feeling he wanted.
And so that his friends wouldn’t think him a liar,
He took the present filled stockings that hung by the fire.
He took candy and toys that were stacked on the shelves
And a picture of Santa with all of his elves.
He took lights and ornaments and the star from the tree,
And from the Christmas Town sign, he took the big letter C.

He picked up everything that sparkled or glowed.
He even picked up a handful of snow.
He grabbed it all, and without being seen,
He took it all back to Halloween.

Back in Halloween a group of Jack’s peers
Stared in amazement at his Christmas souvenires.
For this wondrous vision none were prepared.
Most were excited, though a few were quite scared!

For the next few days, while it lightninged and thundered,
Jack sat alone and obsessively wondered.
“Why is it they get to spread laughter and cheer
While we stalk the graveyards, spreading panic and fear?
Well, I could be Santa, and I could spread cheer!
Why does he get to do it year after year?”
Outraged by injustice, Jack thought and he thought.
Then he got an idea. “Yes. . .yes. . .why not!”

In Christmas Town, Santa was making some toys
When through the din he heard a soft noise.
He answered the door, and to his surprise,
He saw weird little creatures in strange disguise.
They were altogether ugly and rather petite.
As they opened their sacks, they yelled, “Trick or treat!”
Then a confused Santa was shoved into a sack
And taken to Halloween to see mastermind Jack.

In Halloween everyone gathered once more,
For they’d never seen a Santa before
And as they cautiously gazed at this strange old man,
Jack related to Santa his masterful plan:
“My dear Mr. Claus, I think it’s a crime
That you’ve got to be Santa all of the time!
But now I will give presents, and I will spread cheer.
We’re changing places I’m Santa this year.
It is I who will say Merry Christmas to you!
So you may lie in my coffin, creak doors, and yell, ‘Boo!’
And please, Mr. Claus, don’t think ill of my plan.
For I’ll do the best Santa job that I can.”

And though Jack and his friends thought they’d do a good job,
Their idea of Christmas was still quite macabre.
They were packed up and ready on Christmas Eve day
When Jack hitched his reindeer to his sleek coffin sleigh,
But on Christmas Eve as they were about to begin,
A Halloween fog slowly rolled in.
Jack said, “We can’t leave; this fog’s just too thick.
There will be no Christmas, and I can’t be St. Nick.”
Then a small glowing light pierced through the fog.
What could it be?. . .It was Zero, Jack’s dog!

Jack said, “Zero, with your nose so bright,
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

And to be so needed was Zero’s great dream,
So he joyously flew to the head of the team.
And as the skeletal sleigh started its ghostly flight,
Jack cackled, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

‘Twas the nightmare before Christmas, and all though the house,
Not a creature was peaceful, not even a mouse.
The stockings all hung by the chimney with care,
When opened that morning would cause quite a scare!
The children, all nestled so snug in their beds,
Would have nightmares of monsters and skeleton heads.
The moon that hung over the new-fallen snow
Cast an eerie pall over the city below,
And Santa Claus’s laughter now sounded like groans,
And the jingling bells like chattering bones.
And what to their wondering eyes should appear,
But a coffin sleigh with skeleton deer.
And a skeletal driver so ugly and sick
They knew in a moment, this can’t be St. Nick!
From house to house, with a true sense of joy,
Jack happily issued each present and toy.
From rooftop to rooftop he jumped and he skipped,
Leaving presents that seemed to be straight from a crypt!
Unaware that the world was in panic and fear,
Jack merrily spread his own brand of cheer.

He visited the house of Susie and Dave;
They got a Gumby and Pokey from the grave.
Then on to the home of little Jane Neeman;
She got a baby doll possessed by a demon.
A monstrous train with tentacle tracks,
A ghoulish puppet wielding an ax,
A man eating plant disguised as a wreath,
And a vampire teddy bear with very sharp teeth.

There were screams of terror, but Jack didn’t hear it,
He was much too involved with his own Christmas spirit!
Jack finally looked down from his dark, starry frights
And saw the commotion, the noise, and the light.
“Why, they’re celebrating, it looks like such fun!
They’re thanking me for the good job that I’ve done.”
But what he thought were fireworks meant as goodwill
Were bullets and missiles intended to kill.
Then amidst the barrage of artillery fire,
Jack urged Zero to go higher and higher.
And away they all flew like the storm of a thistle,
Until they were hit by a well guided missile.
And as they fell on the cemetery, way out of sight,
Was heard, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good
night.”

Jack pulled himself up on a large stone cross,
And from there he reviewed his incredible loss.
“I thought I could be Santa, I had such belief”
Jack was confused and filled with great grief.
Not knowing where to turn, he looked toward the sky,
Then he slumped on the grave and he started to cry.
And as Zero and Jack lay crumpled on the ground,
They suddenly heard a familiar sound.

“My dear Jack,” said Santa, “I applaud your intent.
I know wreaking such havoc was not what you meant.
And so you are sad and feeling quite blue,
But taking over Christmas was the wrong thing to do.
I hope you realize Halloween’s the right place for you.
There’s a lot more, Jack, that I’d like to say,
But now I must hurry, for it’s almost Christmas day.”
Then he jumped in his sleigh, and with a wink of an eye,
He said, “Merry Christmas,” and he bid them good bye.

Back home, Jack was sad, but then, like a dream,
Santa brought Christmas to the land of Halloween.

 

the end

Poem copyright Tim Burton

Christmas Special: The Snowman ~ Raymond Briggs

As this week is Christmas week, I will be doing something special on the days I post.  Today we will begin with one of my favourites and, what better way to start, than with a few words from the Author himself:

“I remember that winter because it had brought the heaviest snows I had ever seen. Snow had fallen steadily all night long and in the morning I woke in a room filled with light and silence, the whole world seemed to be held in a dream-like stillness. It was a magical day… and it was on that day I made the Snowman.” – Raymond Briggs

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Review: The Children’s Train: Escape on the Kindertransport ~ Jana Zinser

Children's trainISBN ~ 978-1939371850
Publisher ~BQB Publishing
No. Of Pages ~368 pages
Links ~ Netgalley, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

The Jewish children of Germany are frightened, and their parents are too. Hitler’s men have just broken their store windows, stolen and destroyed their belongings, and arrested many Jewish fathers and brothers. When England arranges to take the children out of Germany by train, the Kindertransport is organized. The train filled with Jewish children escaping the Nazis chugs over the border into Holland, where they are ferried across the English Channel to England and to freedom. But for Peter, the shy violin player, his sister Becca, and his friends Stephen and Hans, life in England holds challenges as well. Peter’s friend Eva, who did not get a seat on the Kindertransport, is left to the evil plans of Hitler. Peter, working his musician’s hands raw at a farm in Coventry, wonders if they should have stayed and fought back instead of escaping. That night the Coventry farm is bombed. The Nazis have reached England. Peter has nothing left. He decides it’s time to stand and fight Hitler. Peter returns to Germany to join the Jewish underground resistance, search for the mother and sister he left behind in Berlin, and rescue his childhood friend Eva.

5 Thumbs-Up I actually downloaded this novel for free from Netgalley, with the usual caveat I would provide an honest review, as if I write anything else, as it fit into my studies and was looking for a different fictional viewpoint for a paper I was writing.  Little did I know that once I started reading this I would find it very hard to put down.

There really aren’t any words I could write here that could make anyone read this book, particularly given the subject, but it surely is a book that needs to be read to ensure something as horrific and tragic as this never happens again. The Author writes mainly from the viewpoint of the children involved in the journey of the Kindertransport, but also takes time to bring to life on the page the awful decisions their parents had to make in letting them go.  As always with history, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but at the time in which the novel is set many of these adults still did not believe their lives could possibly be in jeopardy, never mind the lives of their children.

Although there are few places in the book where the Author reminds us that this is truly a work of fiction, the novel is very informative and engrossing and I would highly recommend this book as reading for teenagers to help them understand another aspect of the Holocaust.  I am always indecisive when it comes to the issue of whether to read another novel on this subject, but I am glad I read this and will be looking out for more from this Author in the future.

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Wednesday Poem: T’was a Week Before Christmas ~ Sandra Lee Smith

week-before-christmas

T’was a Week Before Christmas

T’was a week before Christmas
And all through the house
Gift-wrap was littered, it
Even covered a Spouse,
Who sat forlorn in his old easy chair,
wondering if there was
An extra cookie to spare –
For cookies were baked
And filled every tin
But to eat even one
Would be considered a sin –
(Unless it was one that was broken or burned);
Decorations hung everywhere that you turned.

In the guest room presents were piled everywhere,
And trees were put up, not a moment to spare –
Twinkling lights and ornaments too,
But it will look pretty when we’re all through –
I’ve scorched all my fingers giving candy a test
And thought it was time that I had a good rest;
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter,
I dashed to the door to see what was the matter;
Up on a ladder, Grandpa swayed to and fro –
Trying to decide where the reindeer should go –
I was sure he would fall and smash all the lights
I shouted come down and we’ll fix it all right!

The dollhouse is back where it belongs
And hundreds of Cds play holiday songs,
Pork loin’s in the freezer and wood on the fire,
Eggnog in the fridge we hope will inspire –
But if not there is brandy, bourbon and port,
To serve every guest who is a good sport;
We’ll work at it all til we fall with a jerk
And let Santa get credit for all our hard work!

Sandra Lee Smith

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