Louise’s War ~Sarah R. Shaber

Louises WarISBN ~ 9780727880406
Publisher ~ Severn House Publishers
No. Of Pages ~208 pages
Links ~ Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Books

The first in a new series from the author of the ‘Simon Shaw’ books – 1942. Louise Pearlie, a young widow, has come to Washington DC to work as a clerk for the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA. When, while filing, she discovers a document concerning the husband of a college friend, Rachel Bloch, – a young French Jewish woman she is desperately worried about – Louise realizes she may be able to help get Rachel out of Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own, unable to trust anyone . . .

4 Thumbs-UpThis is the first time I have read a book by this Author, and I was pulled to it by the subject matter; I have read many books about the SOE and their operatives, I was interested to read about the American equivalent, OSS.

I was initially disappointed by the fact that this was not an OSS book, but rather a novel that revolved around the life and experiences of the title character who worked for the OSS.  Very much like the real women in the book The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II, the main protagonist was firm in her belief that any little she could do would help win the war.  Despite not being a war widow, she has taken full advantage of the war to expand her horizons and make a new life for herself.  The whole story is told from her point of view and, despite living in a boarding house full of other war workers in DC, it also manages to highlight the mistrust that so easily arose from the slightest thing, and how everyone had secrets.  Apart from the main character, those others mentioned in the book were not given as in-depth a back-story, and even in this I felt there was something in Louise’s story that the Author was holding back, or has not quite decided on making a part of her character yet.

I particularly liked the descriptions of live in the capitol during the war years, and had a wry smile at the mention of rationing in a country that was capable of producing food for themselves.  It is apparent that the Author has meticulously researched this book as it covers things from victory gardening to the insufferable heat that was documented for 1942, and how the inhabitants of Washington DC coped with it.  This book actually became quite sluggish in part (maybe a reflection of the hot summer), but it left me feeling that the pace of the action could have been picked up to add to the flow and tension of the book.

I would recommend this book to any reader looking for a quick but enjoyable read on a rainy day; I read it in one sitting.  I will be reading others in this series as the fate of Louise and the OSS has me curious.

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Wednesday Poem: Squash Under the Bed ~ Ofelia Zepeda

WinterSquash15

Squash Under the Bed

There was always crooked-neck squash under our beds.
The space under the bed met the criteria of a cool, dark, dry place.
These large, hard-skinned squash with speckled, serrated,
green and yellow designs shared space under our beds
with new cowboy boots, lost socks, forgotten toys,
dust and little spiders.
The squash rested under there with our memory of summer.
Awaiting winter darkness.
With the cold weather, we split the hard skin and expose the
rich yellow meat inside, the bounty of large seeds entangled
in the wetness of their origin.
We saved the seeds for next summer.
We eat the soft, sweet meat of the winter squash.
We swallow the warmth of summer.

Ofelia Zepeda

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Labor Day Weekend Poem: Always Finish ~ Anonymous

 

nycworkerslewishine

Always Finish

If a task is once begun,
Never leave it till it’s done.
Be the labor great or small,
Do it well or not at all.

Anonymous

If anyone reading this knows who wrote it, please let me know so I can credit the Author.

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Notes on Unreadable Books ~ Form Versus Function

Antique_wallpapers_245

I was browsing the digital highways this afternoon when I came across this article on unreadable books.  We have all deemed a book as such at some point in our reading lives, adn I though this view on the subject was interesting enough to share.  I hope you enjoy.

Form Versus Function.

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Review: Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center ~ Ray Monk

oppenheimerISBN ~ 978-0385504072
Publisher ~ Doubleday
No. Of Pages ~848 pages
Links ~ Random House, Amazon

Robert Oppenheimer was among the most brilliant and divisive of men. As head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, he oversaw the successful effort to beat the Nazis in the race to develop the first atomic bomb—a breakthrough that was to have eternal ramifications for mankind and that made Oppenheimer the “Father of the Atomic Bomb.” But with his actions leading up to that great achievement, he also set himself on a dangerous collision course with Senator Joseph McCarthy and his witch-hunters. In Robert Oppenheimer: A Life Inside the Center, Ray Monk, author of peerless biographies of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell, goes deeper than any previous biographer in the quest to solve the enigma of Oppenheimer’s motivations and his complex personality.

The son of German-Jewish immigrants, Oppenheimer was a man of phenomenal intellectual attributes, driven by an ambition to overcome his status as an outsider and penetrate the heart of political and social life. As a young scientist, his talent and drive allowed him to enter a community peopled by the great names of twentieth-century physics—men such as Niels Bohr, Max Born, Paul Dirac, and Albert Einstein—and to play a role in the laboratories and classrooms where the world was being changed forever, where the secrets of the universe, whether within atomic nuclei or collapsing stars, revealed themselves.

But Oppenheimer’s path went beyond one of assimilation, scientific success, and world fame. The implications of the discoveries at Los Alamos weighed heavily upon this fragile and complicated man. In the 1930s, in a climate already thick with paranoia and espionage, he made suspicious connections, and in the wake of the Allied victory, his attempts to resist the escalation of the Cold War arms race led many to question his loyalties.

5 Thumbs-UpI don’t read many biographies as I tend to come out of most them with more questions than answers about the subject; this was not the case with this superb biography of Oppenheimer.

Through careful and extensive research the Author paints the picture of a man who was not only a puzzling character but a man of many contradictions. The only continuous thread that seems to run through the whole of this man’s life was his undeniable love of America, and it was this love that appears to have had an influence in many of the choices he made.  However, as the reader progresses through this large book, even this love of America is open to contradictions and leaves the reader wondering if Oppenheimer actually had loyalty to anyone but himself.  In my opinion the only consistent thread in Oppenheimer’s life was his love of physics.

This is a meaty book will definitely make a reader a think; about the justification of the Manhattan Project, about the issue of identity in America, about the morality of using Fat Man and Little Boy on the Japanese, and above all about the motives behind Oppenheimer’s actions. There is no doubt that it is exceptionally well-written, and is definitely not a book to be dipped in and out of, it is serious reading at its best without the dryness of many biographies.

I would highly recommend this Oppenheimer biography both for clearly laying out the man behind the myth that was Robert Oppenheimer and also to reveal some of the mystery that was the United States in the 1940’s and 1950’s.

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Review: The Stingy Minion ~ H.M. Marson

stingy minionISBN ~ 978-1475997866
Publisher ~iUniverse
No. Of Pages ~260 pages
Links ~ Amazon, iUniverse

Educated by her imprisoned hacker father, and dumped on her grandparents’ doorstep by her distraught mother, sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Carson brings big problems to small-town Ellisville, Missouri. Rooted in a broken family and conflicted by her own awakening femininity, she fails to recognize that help is all around—a caring community, a musical prodigy named Jereme, and loving grandparents.

As if family problems were not enough, Elizabeth’s curious nature finds more trouble. She brings her father’s hacking program, the Stingy Minion, back to life, and soon finds herself staring at a highly classified NSA blog site used by the president of the United States. Trouble escalates to danger when a power-hungry investment firm tries to steal the Stingy Minion and threatens her life and the lives of newfound friends.

In over her head, Elizabeth continues to hack and discovers a plot to attack Iran’s nuclear development sites. The world is on the verge of nuclear war. With hired thugs on her tail, only time will tell how long she and her friends will remain safe.

3 Thumbs-UpHaving not read a book about hackers for a very long time, this one caught my eye and I thought I would give it a read.  I didn’t have any real expectations of what would be waiting for me within the covers, so I didn’t leave myself open to any disappointment that might have been waiting but I wasn’t disappointed, in fact I found it quite and enjoyable and fun read.

With the internet, and hackers being a big part of everyday lives now I found the characters to be very realistic.  They had a depth to them that is often lacking in YA fiction, and there were none of the ‘perfect’ people in this novel that seem to be the norm in many books.  The main protagonist, a 16-year-old female, is full of all the insecurities and anger that seems to be the norm for young adults but, rather than it becoming annoying and whiny, the Author is able to pull on all the characters different personality traits and the problems encountered at this age and make them work, creating a character that the reader can relate to and care about.  I usually find teenage angst to be an irritating and over used back story in YA novels, but it actually adds to the book in this case.

The plot in the book is very real world too, and could almost have been taken from the news headlines.  As expected in a book about computer hackers there is a lot of computer terminology which some readers may find a little daunting if they are not familiar with it.  Rather from detracting from the novel though, this adds yet another dimension to the book which makes it more gritty and realistic.  T he reason behind the three thumbs rating is that at times the book seemed rather childish, aimed more at the middle school age group rather than the young adult; overall though it is a fun light read.

I would recommend this book to anyone looking for something a little different, or a reader interested in the hacking world.

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Love ~ Pratyushdayal

Cupcake

Love

Short steps with long words,

deep sighs as we witness fondling birds.

Rustling of the park trees,

Is accompanied with chuckles in breeze.

The whole world transforms into a resting phase,

where nothing but love is the sole base.

Our hands in hands

remain warm in all distant lands.

My chubby cheeks glow red

as the every word is said.

Love in its deepest shade

Lingers between us too strongly to fade,

The hesitation hovers all in the atmosphere,

as we talk in love, caressing somewhere.

The glistening waters of the pond

seem to sparkle our bond.

The whispers and stares

Are the only attire our Love wears.

Time gallops in the best pace

as I gaze in the beloved’s beautiful face.

The tight embraces appear endless,

as our Love runs wild and tame less.

Seeing the sunset,

my eyes get wet.

The presence of passion

changes tones in the latest fashion.

The delight of the love pangs

darts my heart as it carelessly hangs.

The world cannot fathom the depth of the love oceans,

But can only see the glimpses or precise portions.

The ambiance Love creates

defeats the green of Nature God creates.

Pardon the rhyme,

as it is maybe as sour as lime.

But feel the emotions behind

the enamored words which I have somehow able to bind,

Love has numerous petals,

and is stronger than various metals.

The fragrance of Love

flies faster than a dove.

May it be any age or preference,

Love fights all without any difference.

A phenomenal and sensational feeling, it is

which is thus a bliss.

Abandon differences and enmities,

and love beyond all known infinities,

as there is nothing more powerful than Love.

pratyushdayal

Review: The Girls of Atomic City: The Untold Story of the Women Who Helped Win World War II ~ Denise Kiernan

atomic cityISBN ~ 978-1451617528
Publisher ~ Touchstone/Simon & Schuster
No. Of Pages ~ 373 pages
Links ~ The Girls of Atomic City, Amazon, Indie Bound, Simon & Schuster

The incredible story of the young women of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who unwittingly played a crucial role in one of the most significant moments in U.S. history.

The Tennessee town of Oak Ridge was created from scratch in 1942. One of the Manhattan Project’s secret cities, it didn’t appear on any maps until 1949, and yet at the height of World War II it was using more electricity than New York City and was home to more than 75,000 people, many of them young women recruited from small towns across the South. Their jobs were shrouded in mystery, but they were buoyed by a sense of shared purpose, close friendships—and a surplus of handsome scientists and Army men!

But against this vibrant wartime backdrop, a darker story was unfolding. The penalty for talking about their work—even the most innocuous details—was job loss and eviction. One woman was recruited to spy on her coworkers. They all knew something big was happening at Oak Ridge, but few could piece together the true nature of their work until the bomb “Little Boy” was dropped over Hiroshima, Japan, and the secret was out. The shocking revelation: the residents of Oak Ridge were enriching uranium for the atomic bomb.

Though the young women originally believed they would leave Oak Ridge after the war, many met husbands there, made lifelong friends, and still call the seventy-year-old town home. The reverberations from their work there—work they didn’t fully understand at the time—are still being felt today. In The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan traces the astonishing story of these unsung WWII workers through interviews with dozens of surviving women and other Oak Ridge residents. Like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this is history and science made fresh and vibrant—a beautifully told, deeply researched story that unfolds in a suspenseful and exciting way.

3 Thumbs-UpAs part of my attempt to widen my reading scope, I started on the non-fiction journey with this book.  From the synopsis I felt it would cover a lot of my interests; WWII, women’s roles during that time and the uncovering of a war work that was kept secret at the time.

In a lot of senses this book did hit all those things on the head, but it still felt lacking in a way that I could not quite put my finger on.  Covering a variety of young, and not so young, women from a variety of societal and ethnic backgrounds this book managed to paint a very real picture of what life must have been like living and working on a top-secret compound in the middle of nowhere.  Although no one woman’s life was written about in detail and depth, I felt that this did not detract from the book in any way as I felt to have done so would most likely have resulted in the omission of something else.

In this books pages the reader can learn about the process of both thought and scientific work that led up to the deployment of fat man and little boy, and the scientific parts of the book that traces the journey and developed of tubealloy, as it was called, is informative and educational without being dry and dusty; not being a chemistry or engineering buff myself I found I learnt a lot from these parts of the book.

There are some wonderful black and white photographs in this book that help illustrate the vastness of the place called Oak Ridge, and also some then and now pictures of three of the women mentioned in the book.  It would have been nice to see some now pictures of the site to see what had become of the place rather than have to do an internet search to satisfy my curiosity.

It is apparent from the way in which the book is written, that the Author spent an extensive amount of time research the topic and talking with those who were there at the time; I wonder if my feeling of something being lacking in its pages, and the reason for my 3 thumbs review, being a result of some information that would have filled these ‘gaps’ still being sealed to the researcher.  Another reason for my 3 thumbs review was the random and rather silly typos that appeared in the book.  These could easily have been picked up by a more skilled proof reader and editor, and lifted my review rating.

Despite the low rating I would still recommend this book to any reader interested in this era, and wanting a satisfying and easy read.

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When Books Went to War: The Stories that Helped Us Win World War II ~ Molly Guptill Manning

when books went to warISBN ~ 978-0544535022
Publisher ~ Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
No. Of Pages ~ 288 pages

 
I found this interesting article on thedailybeast.com and, because it involved books, wanted to share this with you.  I’m definitely going to be hunting this book down as it looks to be well worth the read.

“When the American armed forces prepared for the D-Day assault, the most in demand item was a book.

During World War II, books were one of the few items distributed to the American armed forces that were meant to make life at war bearable. American publishers, wanting to do their bit in the war, designed books that would fit the servicemen’s needs: small volumes in tempting titles that weighed next to nothing. These books were Armed Services Editions (“ASEs”), incredibly tiny paperbacks designed to fit the pocket of a standard issue military uniform. Over 120 million were printed over the course of the war with titles ranging from comics to Shakespeare and everything in between. Lonesome, homesick GIs eagerly grabbed these books and read them everywhere—while waiting in line for chow or a haircut, when pinned down in a foxhole, and while swinging in their hammocks below deck. And they were even carried into the Battle of Normandy.

Under the leadership of General Dwight D. Eisenhower, plans for D-day were in the works for months before the invasion occurred in June 1944. In the final days leading to the boarding of the landing craft that would set out across the English Channel, American soldiers readied themselves. They crammed into their packs dozens of pounds of ammunition, provisions, extra weapons, and other necessities. Although the recommendation was that the men not bring more than forty-four pounds of equipment, it was estimated that some men weighed at least three hundred pounds as they waddled under the weight of their packs. As they waited for an announcement of when the invasion would begin, there was little to do but worry, pray, or read. Silence pervaded. A rosary could be seen in many a hand. According to one man, “Priests were in their heyday. I even saw Jews go and take communion. Everybody [was] scared to death.”

General Eisenhower took an especial interest in the morale of his troops. As he noted in his own memoirs, “morale, given rough equality to other things, is supreme on the battlefield.” Eisenhower was known to read western novels to relax and relieve stress, and the men who would be doing the fighting deserved no less. Anticipating the time it would take to assemble all of the men needed for the mission, and the boredom and anxiety associated with the chore of waiting, General Eisenhower’s staff earmarked over a half-million books to be distributed to the Americans as they waited for the invasion to begin. Among the ASEs that were set aside were Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Joseph Mitchell’s McSorley’s Wonderful Saloon, Charles Spalding and Otis Carney’s Love at First Flight, Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Dozens of other titles joined the men on the shore of the English Channel.

Prior to the invasion, the Army’s Special Services Division, which was responsible for serving the morale needs of soldiers, distributed some of the soldiers’ favorite items. Packs of cigarettes were shoved into pockets, candy bars were grabbed by the handful, but of all things, the most sought-after item was the ASEs. As one Special Services officer recalled, palpable tension mounted in the staging areas, and books were the only thing available that “provided sorely needed distraction to a great many men.” When the loading process finally began, many men, realizing how much weight they were carrying, stopped to unburden themselves of unnecessary items near the docking area. The ground was littered with a variety of objects, but among the heaps of discarded inessentials “very few Armed Services Editions were found by the clean-up squads that later went through the areas.” Weighing as little as a couple of ounces each, ASEs were the lightest weapon that the men could bring along.

The Americans who landed at Utah and Omaha Beaches on June 6 had vastly different experiences. The American Fourth Division poured ashore at Utah Beach, meeting very little opposition. In fact, some men were a little let down at how anticlimactic the landing was; they described it as seeming like just another practice invasion. The early waves of troops landing at Omaha Beach, by contrast, faced near-certain death. As soon as the transports lowered their ramps, the exiting men were thrust into the line of fire. German machine-gun spray ripped across the boats, instantly killing the hapless Americans on them. For the first wave of LCIs that reached Omaha Beach, the death rate was nearly 100 percent; no one got off the beach. Later waves of troops faced grievous losses on the shore. Shell-shocked, many men simply froze, unable to move toward safety. Others who forded through the barrage of gunfire and mortar blasts and moved to the shelter of the cliffs at the top of the beach suffered injuries along the way. Unable to go farther, their shattered bodies dropped to the sand and stayed there until medics arrived. Many men who climbed the beach later that day would never forget the sight of gravely wounded soldiers propped up against the base of the cliffs, reading.”

Excerpted from When Books Went to War: The Stories That Helped Us Win World War II by Molly Guptill Manning. Copyright © 2014 by Molly Guptill Manning.

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Review: A Knock on a Door ~ Christos Kallis

A knock on the doorISBN ~ 978-1849635806
Publisher ~Austin Macauley
No. Of Pages ~ 37 pages
Links ~ Amazon

A Knock on a Door is the debut collection of poetry from Christos Kallis. It demonstrates great flexibility of style, experimental touches and eccentric twists. The poems range from the abstract to the lyrical, from explorations of religion to love and the human condition.

4 Thumbs-UpReading poetry is one of those things that not many will take the time to do, and in not doing so those readers are missing out, in this case, on a collection of poems that will touch everyone in some way.

Unlike many collections which tend to wax lyrical about the beauty of love, life and nature this collection does none of those things.  It is extremely well written and aimed at disarming the reader and making them confront the emotions the poems evoke when read.  The poems themselves were easy to read, and if I happened to get lost in a poem a quick read back through the Authors notes would help set me back on track, and get into my groove again.

Although this is poetry, the poems themselves read like fiction.  They flowed, contained characters, had twists and turns and made me think; I mean really think.  The reason for my 4 thumbs review is that there just were not enough of these poems and, as I closed the book on the last one I felt at a loss as to what I should do; so I picked up the book and started reading it again.

This is short review, as I feel that to do the collection any justice at all the best thing I can say is that if you only read one book of poetry this year, make sure this is the one.  I highly recommend this book to everyone and will be eagerly awaiting the next collection this poet releases.

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