Halloween Poem:Spirits of the Dead ~ Edgar Allan Poe

spirits

Spirits of the Dead

Thy soul shall find itself alone
‘Mid dark thoughts of the grey tomb-stone;
Not one, of all the crowd, to pry
Into thine hour of secrecy.

Be silent in that solitude,
Which is not loneliness — for then
The spirits of the dead, who stood
In life before thee, are again
In death around thee, and their will
Shall overshadow thee; be still.

The night, though clear, shall frown,
And the stars shall not look down
From their high thrones in the Heaven
With light like hope to mortals given,
But their red orbs, without beam,
To thy weariness shall seem
As a burning and a fever
Which would cling to thee forever.

Now are thoughts thou shalt not banish,
Now are visions ne’er to vanish;
From thy spirit shall they pass
No more, like dew-drop from the grass.

The breeze, the breath of God, is still,
And the mist upon the hill
Shadowy, shadowy, yet unbroken,
Is a symbol and a token.
How it hangs upon the trees,
A mystery of mysteries!

Edgar Allan Poe

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Joël Champetier 1957 ~ 2015

220px-Joel_ChampetierCanadian author and editor Joël Champetier died on May 30. Champetier’s first story, “Le chemin des fleurs” appeared in Solaris in 1981 and his first novel, “La mer au fond du monde” appeared in 1990. In 1983, he helped organize the first Boréal Congress and was on the board of directors for several years. Beginning in 1990, he held various positions at Solaris and was managing editor at the time of his death.

His other works included  ” The Dragon’s Eye”, “La taupe et le dragon: Roman” and “La mémoire du lac”.

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Review: Poems of Christina Rossetti ~ Christina Rossetti, Florence Harrison (Illustrator), Kathryn W. Plosica (Designed by), Gail Harvey (Introduction)

Poems of Christina rosettiISBN ~ 978-0517118511
Publisher ~ Gramercy
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Project Gutenberg,

In poems ranging from fantasy and verses for the young to ballads, love lyrics sonnets and religious poetry, Rossetti was regarded was by many of her contemporaries as Britain’s finest living poet.

3 Thumbs-UpChristina Rossetti was first published at the age of 17 and from there went on to publish hundreds of poems; the majority religious and this may dissuade those who don’t hold with religion from reading her work, all I can say is please don’t let it.

One of my favourite pieces of her writing is ‘Goblin Market’, the tale of two sisters Lizzie and Laura, and their almost fatal encounter with the goblin men.  On first read I found it to be quite confusing, but the more I read this poem the more I came to realise that it was a morality tale, and that the broken rhythm in which it was written was as compelling and tempting as sin itself.  It is full of a sexual innuendo that makes it hard to ignore, even more so when these innuendo lay next to implied religious imagery.  However, like most poems the interpretation and intent of the poetry is dependent on the reader, and another may read this poem and come away from it with a totally different picture and meaning in their mind.

Another of my favourite pieces of Ms. Rossetti is ‘Remember’.  It is beautifully written and covers the subject of death and grieving.  I first read this poem shortly after I had lost my Father, and it struck such a chord in me that I immediately started devouring all and any works by this poet.  Even though years have passed since I picked up any of her writings, reading this collection has reminded me why I enjoy poetry as much as literature.

Trying to review a collection of poems is difficult under any circumstances, but to give the poetry in this collection the reviews they truly deserve I would have to write about each one individually, and that would result in there been no need for anyone to pick it up and read them.  The Project Gutenberg edition (see link above) is considerably longer than the edition I have listed the ISBN for, and contains a larger selection of Ms. Rossetti’s poetry.  In my opinion, the ‘Gutenberg’ collection gives a better reading experience than the short collection I’ve based my review on here, and is worth the time to download.  It is also broken down into easy to reference sections including devotional pieces, so if the reader wishes to skip these particular works, they may.

I would recommend this short collection to any who may have heard of Christina Rossetti but have not yet read her work, but for a more extensive collection would highly recommend downloading the version from Project Gutenberg.   Yes, some of the poems are a little difficult to understand; yes, there is a religious theme in most of her work and yes they can be highly emotional to read, however, what they are not is a waste of time.

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Review: The Turn of the Screw ~ Henry James

turn of the screwISBN ~ 978-0140620610
Publisher ~ Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~ 120 pages
Links ~ Penguin, Amazon, Barnes & Noble

A very young woman’s first job: governess for two weirdly beautiful, strangely distant, oddly silent children, Miles and Flora, at a forlorn estate…An estate haunted by a beckoning evil.

Half-seen figures who glare from dark towers and dusty windows- silent, foul phantoms who, day by day, night by night, come closer, ever closer. With growing horror, the helpless governess realizes the fiendish creatures want the children, seeking to corrupt their bodies, possess their minds, own their souls…

But worse-much worse- the governess discovers that Miles and Flora have no terror of the lurking evil.

For they want the walking dead as badly as the dead want them.

4 Thumbs-UpNo one seems to do gothic horror and be able to make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as well as Authors from this era; whether they are hinting at insanity or embracing it and giving it coffee, this novella has to rank up there with The Yellow Wallpaper.  When the reader first embarks into this tale it would seem the perfect accompaniment to a cold winter night and a cosy fire-place, after all it’s short in length and reads fairly quickly if you can come to grips with the style in which it is written, but don’t make any assumptions about this book.

The main character is also the narrator for the tale, and the reader sees the whole sequence of event unfold through her eyes.  In the main lead, the reader is introduced to a character who definitely does not know herself and shows no signs of getting to know herself as the tale progresses.  As we view the world through her eyes the reader is her companion as she descends into madness; or does she, and this is where one of the many twists enter the tale and have the reader wondering.  At times I felt sorry for this character, at others she just grated on me to no end, this I put down to the time period in which the book is set and not the fact the fact that the character was badly written.  In fact none of the characters in this novella are badly written, and each brings their own flaws and traits to play as the storyline unfolds.

This book is definitely ‘old school’ horror genre, rather than being in your face gory and ghastly, an atmosphere is created in this novella that is suggestive and lends itself perfectly to being able to scare the stripes off a zebra.  Eerie and creepy descriptions are used to full effect in this tale and, although only a mere 120 pages long, I found myself getting up and turning a light on part way through.  All the requirements of a truly good ghost story are included in the covers of this novella, and the fact that the reader’s imagination is able to hold full sway over the way in which they react to the occurrences.  I have to say this is one of the better pieces of writing by this Author that I have read, and if it had been a few pages longer it would have received a full 5 thumbs review.

If you are looking for a truly good ghost story to fill your holiday season, but not overtake it completely then I would highly recommend you read this novella.

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Review: The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place ~ Julie Berry

PrickwillowISBN ~ 978-1596439566
Publisher ~ Roaring Brook Press
No. Of Pages ~ 351 Pages
Links ~ Barnes & Noble, Amazon

3 Thumbs-UpIf you like farce you will love this middle grade book; yes, it is aimed at children, but adult readers would get a chuckle out of reading it too.

The character descriptions are very basic and, as in most children’s books not full of the in-depth backstories that readers have to cope with as they get older.  To make the characters more memorable to the age group this book is aimed at, the Author associates traits to them and then uses these traits in the naming protocol for the characters throughout the book.  As fun as this was, and a middle grader would probably enjoy it immensely, this was the weakest link in this book for me, and the reason it only gained a three thumbs review.  All the characters are nicely stereotyped though, and as with all things farcical this fits the overall tone of the novel very well indeed although it did bring up the problem for me that, as I read through the book, all the schoolgirls tended to ‘speak’ with the same voice.  Again I couldn’t see this been a big issue with the audience the book was aimed at, and put it down to my ancient age.  As the book progresses though, despite the Authors attempts to keep the main characters tied to their adjective laden names, their true characters begin to leak through and the reader gains a small insight into the backgrounds and home lives these girls have.  One thing that comes through loud and clear, and ties all these girls together  is that none of them want to return home, and this is major driving force behind the book.

Although this is a complete farce, with murder, mystery and a few thrills thrown in, it is also a cleverly written historical novel which brings to light the societal perception of women in the nineteenth century.  Not only does the reader subtly learn of how society perceived women, but it also gives them a look at what it meant to be a young woman/girl in this time, and how the ‘rules’ affected the way they not only saw themselves but the world around them.  The book itself is a very effective period mystery that has been well researched and then had the facts woven together with fiction in a clever way.  However I do feel that this may receive a better reception if aimed at the high school age group rather than middle school, as they would be more attuned to picking up on some of the nuances than a younger reader may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, apart from naming protocol, and read through it in a weekend.  I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys farce, and also those who are looking to introduce younger readers in their circle to something new.

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Review: The Roses of No Man’s Land ~ Lyn Macdonald

rosesISBN ~ 978-0140178661
Publisher ~Penguin Books
No. Of Pages ~384 pages
Links ~ Penguin Books, Amazon

Drawing on the experiences of survivors of World War I, the author wrote a story of courage and endurance: the story of men who suffered physical and mental wounds; of volunteer nurses transported from their drawing rooms into carnage; and of doctors struggling to cope with the devastation.

5 Thumbs-UpIt is hard to believe that this year, 2014, sees the 100 year anniversary of World War I.  What is tragic is also the fact that there are now no more living veterans from that war; the last dying in 2012 at the age of 110.  It is this last point that makes books like this an invaluable addition to any home bookshelf and library, as it pulls on interviews with those who were there.  However, this is not the usual book on the Great War, as it does not just tell the tale of those who fought in the traditional sense, but also looks at the stories and experiences of those groups of unsung heroines, the Nurses.

Using extensive research this Author produces a compelling account of ordinary people faced with extraordinary circumstances.  Ladies taken out of the security and safety of their drawing rooms and thrown into the horrors of war, men who traded in pitchforks for bayonets some who would never return and those who did, would return changed forever.  This is a book full of poignant accounts of how these people watched, not only their peers die in the Great War, but also the world they knew and loved.

With great skill this Author is able to weave together the chronology of the war with firsthand accounts of the women who nursed these wounded and broken men.  Not all the injuries they nursed were visible, some were hidden in the depths of the mind, making this a book that hand me drawing my breath as I read on.

As the majority of the accounts in this book are from the Nurses point of view, with some given by men in the position of doctors and orderlies, this book also highlights how, out of great suffering some important aspects of medical care were advanced.  Each chapter also focuses on a different part played in evacuating the British Soldier from the frontline to the eventual hospital care they would receive if they made the journey alive; the reader is given accounts from the stretcher bearer in the dreaded No Man’s Land to the volunteers at the stations who changed pillow cases and lit cigarettes for the wounded, sometimes just holding a hand and talking to them, through to the final destination of these injured men.

It is by no means an easy read, and I found myself in awe at these women who would sometimes work up to 22 hours a day without complaint, and in such a matter of fact way it would put modern day medical staff to shame.  Their living conditions were primitive and for many came as a huge shock when compared to the cosseted lives they had led up to the outbreak of war.

I have read many books about WWI but this has to be amongst the best I have read.  It shows how courage can come in many forms and from the most unlikely people, but it also highlights the point that, although the war may have destroyed a generation of men, both mentally and physically, it actually played a large and important role in recreating the role of women in that time.

I would highly recommend this book to all readers regardless of whether they are avid WWI readers or not.  We can learn a lot about attitude from this book.

As an afterthought I decided to add that a contemporary song was written as a tribute to the Red Cross Nurses at the front lines of the First World War ‘The Rose of No Man’s Land’ by Jack Caddigan and James Alexander Brennan, and I have included this below:

roseI’ve seen some beautiful flowers,
Grow in life’s garden fair,
I’ve spent some wonderful hours,
Lost in their fragrance rare;
But I have found another,
Wondrous beyond compare.

There’s a rose that grows on “No Man’s Land”
And it’s wonderful to see,
Tho’ its spray’d with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It’s the one red rose the soldier knows,
It’s the work of the Master’s hand;
Mid the War’s great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She’s the rose of “No Man’s Land”.

Out of the heavenly splendour,
Down to the trail of woe,
God in his mercy has sent her,
Cheering the world below;
We call her “Rose of Heaven”,
We’ve learned to love her so.

There’s a rose that grows on “No Man’s Land”
And it’s wonderful to see,
Tho’ its spray’d with tears, it will live for years,
In my garden of memory.

It’s the one red rose the soldier knows,
It’s the work of the Master’s hand;
Mid the War’s great curse, Stands the Red Cross Nurse,
She’s the rose of “No Man’s Land”.

 

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Rory Gilmore ~ The First Thirty

rory gilmoreWhile browsing the internet with my coffee this morning I happened to come across a website bookreviews.me.uk, and was intrigued by a reading challenge the writer of the site was undertaking, The Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge, which encompasses some 339 books.  After doing some more searching, I also found out that this is rather a popular challenge so I thought I would put it out there and see how many books on the following list people have read.

I have to admit that I have never seen an episode of The Gilmore Girls; I have no clue who Rory Gilmore is, but I can say it’s a pleasure to hear of such a bookish person being featured in, what I can only assume, is a popular programme.  Going through the list I have marked those books I have read, whether or not they are reviewed on this site, and am going to try and get through some more of them as there appears to be some very interesting books on the list.  Because there are so many books, I’m only going feature the first thirty in this post, and will add the remainder over the coming weeks.  The list is composed of some of the best traditional and modern classics out there in my opinion, so hopefully everyone can find a few they would enjoy reading to fill the upcoming winter months.

Books-to-the-Ceiling-illustration-Arnold-Lobel-Whiskers-Rhymes

1984 ~ George Orwell (read)
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn ~ Mark Twain (read)
Alice in Wonderland ~ Lewis Carroll (read)
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay ~ Michael Chabon
An American Tragedy ~ Theodore Dreiser
Angela’s Ashes ~ Frank McCourt (read)
Anna Karenina ~ Leo Tolstoy
The Diary of a Young Girl ~ Anne Frank (read)
The Archidamian War ~ Donald Kagan
The Art of Fiction ~ Henry James
The Art of War ~ Sun Tzu (read)
As I Lay Dying ~ William Faulkner
Atonement ~ Ian McEwan (read)
Autobiography of a Face ~ Lucy Grealy
The Awakening ~ Kate Chopin
Babe ~ Dick King-Smith
Backlash: The Undeclared War against American Women ~ Susan Faludi
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress ~ Dai Sijie
Bel Canto ~ Ann Patchett
The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath (read)
Beloved ~ Toni Morrison
Beowulf: A New Verse Translation ~ Seamus Heaney (read)
The Bhagava Gita
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews ~ Peter Duffy
Bitch in Praise of Difficult Women ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel
A Bolt from the Blue and Other Essays ~ Mary McCarthy
Brave New World ~ Aldous Huxley (read)
Brick Lane ~ Monica Ali
Bridgadoon ~ Alan Jay Lerner
Candide ~ Voltaire

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