Home Fires

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Home Fires by Julie Summers is the book that inspired the television series by the same name. It was originally published in the UK under the title Jambusters. I, of course, watched this series. I was so engrossed in it that even though I knew there would only be a few episodes in the first season, when the last episode came I didn’t realize it would be the finale episode and I was pretty sad about that. The seasons for Masterpiece tend to always be short with a long wait in between. Soon after the finale, I learned that my local library had gotten in a copy of the book the television series was based on, and so, as a way to soften the blow of losing my favorite show for a while, I decided to check it out.

Home Fires is a non-fiction novel. It is a history of the Women’s Institute, focusing primarily on its role in England during World War II. The women’s institute was a civilian volunteer organization made up of English country women. It was started as a way to improve life in the country by educating women and empowering them to make improvements in the efficient running of a household, personal and home hygiene, the containment of illness, nutrition, raising children, and much more. It also became an important social outlet for women and a place where class barriers were more permeable. It grew into a way for the women of the households to express their voices in government matters that affected their roles. Then, ultimately, it grew into even more during the world wars. The government realized the scope of the organization and the reach they could have to make a contribution to the home front during the war. The WI undertook a staggering effort in building up food stores and clothing as well as placing refugees, fund raising for aid, and even buying ambulances. They were even called upon as a support to other women’s organizations such as the Women’s Land Army. All in all, a truly fascinating organization the likes of which you cannot realize from seeing the series on television.

I kind of expected this book to be a mix of chronological factual representation and narrative. Sort of like a memoir. This is a common misconception concerning this book from what I’ve read in other reviews. It is more like a mix of a heavily cited college paper in the form of a 300+ page book comprised of 10 chapters, each about 30 pages in length with a very long introduction. In terms of organization, it isn’t really chronological, nor is it grouped as best I can tell in terms of individual branches of the organization or of those involved. The best I can describe the organization, flow, and overall tone of this book is to say that it reads as conversational to me. It’s like a very intense history buff just went and dug deep into all information related to this topic, put it in a big beat up file folder, sat down at a table with you, emptied it out all over the table, and just started talking your ear off. That has been a turn off to a lot of people who read the book, but I have to say, I strongly identify with it. I’m this way about my family history.

Having said that, this is a very dense read with lots of names, dates, and places to follow. It takes a little longer than other books the same length to read and make heads or tails of. I hesitate to say so, because I don’t want to misrepresent how good the book is, but this book is not for just anyone who watched Home Fires and enjoyed it. I’m pretty sure you have to have some interest in either the era or in women’s history to be able to enjoy it thoroughly. It does get easier to read as you go along, with more personal stories woven in. It paints a picture of women’s lives in England as well as other countries during this era, life in the home, childhood in England during World War II, and a fascinatingly detailed picture of cooking during rationing. It even includes photographs. In this way, if you’re a big history buff with a lot of interest in the World War II era, I would honestly call this a must read. Even if you just think you may be, but haven’t gotten into it yet, this would be an excellent place to start. I honestly wish had read something like this sooner because it gives you such an understanding of other things you see, hear, or read about this era and even makes a bit more sense of some later eras. This book has also kindled a real interest for me in perhaps reading more similar nonfiction books in the future regarding everyday life in historical eras, and women’s organizations here in the United States.

Some quotes of interest from the book:

“In the first place, we are country women; we live on the land and serve the land. And in the last resort; it is not by armed force, or even by industrial prosperity, but it is by the land itself that men live.
In the second place, we are women, we belong to the constructive sex, whose whole life instinct is to reserve and foster life, to build homes in every land.”

 

“Say little, serve all, pass on. This is true greatness–to serve unnoticed and work unseen.”

 

“I see and believe that women can and will bring all classes, all denominations, all interests, all schools of the best thought together in that common brotherhood of love…which every man and every woman longs for in his or her innermost heart.”

 

“She had the leader’s ability to hit hard or tap gently until the nail was driven home.”

 

“As long as we are bound by fellowship, truth and justice we can afford to be intolerant of a lot of things.”

 

“The common lot of men binds us to each other and if we will, we may pluck virtue from tragedy.”

 

While, as I said previously, this book is not going to be for everyone, and you shouldn’t think that if you liked the series, you’ll like the book, I recommend this very highly to anyone with a great interest in history.

 

 

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Ross Poldark

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Ross Poldark is the first of the 12 novel Poldark Series by Winston Graham. The Novels of Cornwall. I discovered this series through the PBS Masterpiece Theatre series, Poldark, based on the novels. I came into the first season late and was only able to catch a few episodes, but I was absolutely hooked. Sadly, the series won’t have a second season until at least this summer. However, my interest in the show prompted me to hunt down and read the first three Poldark novels for myself.

This first novel, as one might imagine, introduces us all to the characters and setting for the series. Mainly, it focuses on Ross Poldark, the main character. He has been away in America fighting in the Revolutionary War, and has returned to his home, Nampara, in England to find his father dead, the family home and mines in a shambles, and his romantic prospects greatly changed. The reader gets a bit of backstory as to what led Ross to America, and we learn that he had, for a time, been presumed dead before his return to England. We see him faced with a great deal of change and struggle all at once, and we watch as he tries to move forward and build up both his life and his home again, with new and greater motivation picking up new relationships, new enemies, and new ventures along the way.

The book has a little bit of everything. Drama, romance, tragedy, comedy, action, and a little touch of the philosophical as well. Several of the characters have a very biting wit. It’s overall a pretty sassy series. Ross Poldark is strong and dark and tumultuous. He’s from an old and respected family, well versed in social graces, and highly committed to his own moral code. However, he has a terrible temper and is forevermore skirting both social convention and the laws of the land in order to set things right. Basically the rebel with a heart of gold. I shouldn’t like him, and he’s a little cliche, but I am so head over heels for him. He is definitely my literary crush for all time, guilty pleasure or no.

The historical aspect is one of the most interesting parts of the book. It’s still relevant today. I especially encourage anyone who lives in a mining town to give these books a try.

 

My favorite quotes from the book:

 

Someone at school had christened them the fair Poldark and the dark Poldark.

 

That scar is a considerable disfigurement.

 

Ill usage makes the sweetest of us vicious.

 

I could say how well he dances, but that isn’t true, for he dances like that big friendly bear I saw last Christmas.

 

It was only this sudden luxury which scared her.

 

Ever read the classics, my boy? Cure for many ills of the modern world.

 

You’re learnin’ her to be sassy!

 

Monthly, out of common courtesy, he went to inquire after the invalid Charles, who refused either to die or get better.

 

In the depths of horror and despair, one comes to a new steadiness. There is no farther to fall.

 

A man, even a kind one, can sometimes be cruel without knowin’ it.

 

If every one of you was to clean before his own front door, all would be clean of cow flops.

 

Autumn lingered on as if fond of its own perfection.

 

Gone was the halo, and in its place, the dark crown of humanity.

 

“You misbehaved monstrously,” he said, “and were a triumph!”

 

All had been animated to a common end, and that end, a moment of enlightenment, and understanding, and completion.

 

I love these books. I recommend them highly.

The Last of the Civil War Soldiers

Yesterday, my mother and I found the obituary of the last remaining civil war soldier of Harlan County, Kentucky in the local newspaper. My great great great grandfather, Baxter Cornett. Born May 10, 1845, died September 21, 1934.

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Harlan Daily Enterprise, September 23, 1934

Favorite Book Related Websites

As my first post here on Adventures of the Library Girl, I have compiled a list of my 5 current favorite and frequented book related websites.  Some of these may be well known and some may be a new discovery to those who read this list.  I’ve included descriptions from the sites themselves where available–as indicated by quotations–and written my own otherwise.  To explore these websites, simply click the name of the site and follow the link.  I hope you will find something new to feed your appetite for a good read.

Project Gutenberg

Description:

Project Gutenberg offers over 49,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online.”

Favorite Features:

Every single book is free and once I download it, I can read at my leisure.  I never have to check the amazon price or try to hurry and catch the deal.  Also, because a lot of these are much older and more obscure books, I tend to download whatever sounds interesting and take a chance on it, which has greatly expanded my preferences.

Possible Downside:

These books don’t come with descriptions.

One Hundred Free Books

Description:

“It’s a place designed for readers looking for a great deal on great books, and who are ready to read them using the world’s most popular and powerful ereading software and devices. It’s a place for you to discover tomorrow’s best-sellers before the price goes up. It’s an online library with books you can keep forever, most of them absolutely free and the rest priced so low it’s almost criminal.

It’s a place that started as a list of one hundred free books (the name really did make sense once upon a time), and that now contains an ever-evolving selection of ereading material across all genres (though we’re sticking to English-language titles for the time being).

It’s a place for free (and almost free) books, plain and simple.”

Favorite Features:

This site is very user friendly and publishes new lists of favorite free e-books and deals thrice daily through their Facebook page.

Possible Downside:

If you see something you really shouldn’t hesitate, because sales and promotions go off and the price changes sometimes.  The site will warn you to check the Amazon price before completing your transaction.  This is also targeted toward Kindle users, but don’t let that put you off just because you don’t have a Kindle device.  You can download Kindle for PC for free on Amazon.

Book Bub

Description:

“BookBub is a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed ebooks while providing publishers and authors with a way to drive sales and find new fans. Members receive a personalized daily email alerting them to the best free and deeply discounted titles matching their interests as selected by our editorial team. BookBub works with all major ebook retailers and devices, and is the industry’s leading ebook price promotion service. BookBub was founded in 2012 and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.”

Favorite Features:

I love the lists section of their blog.  This is how I discovered the Poldark saga, which resulted in getting maybe a little too into PBS Masterpiece Theatre for someone of the ripe young age of 25.

Possible Downside:

I think this site is really starting to cater more to book deals than free e-books and perhaps isn’t as user friendly to new users as OHFB.

Kentucky Libraries Unbound

Description:

Kentucky Libraries Unbound is a digital media library available to patrons of Kentucky public libraries.

Favorite Features:

Where to begin…  I think the feature I’m most excited about is the audio books.  I think it’s fantastic for those whose vision is impaired, but also great for multitasking or avoiding eye strain.  It would be wonderful to listen to get your reading fix during a migraine.  You can also add currently unavailable books to your wishlist and watch for them to become available or place a hold and put yourself onto a waiting list and receive an email when a copy becomes available and even have it automatically borrowed.  There’s also a whole section for Kentucky books.

Possible Downsides:

The biggest possible downside for anyone reading this list would be that you need to have a library card from a Kentucky public library to have access to Kentucky Libraries Unbound’s virtual library.  In the interest of full disclosure, other possible downsides are potential waiting lists for popular books and other media, and a limit to what you can place on hold or borrow at any given time.  The limits, however, are very reasonable and should never cause a problem for most patrons.  As with any library, media is borrowed for a set time.

Goodreads

Description:

“Who We Are

Goodreads is the world’s largest site for readers and book recommendations. Our mission is to help people find and share books they love. Goodreads launched in January 2007.A Few Things You Can Do on Goodreads
  • See which books your friends are reading.
  • Track the books you’re reading, have read, and want to read.
  • Check out your personalized book recommendations. Our recommendation engine analyzes 20 billion data points to give suggestions tailored to your literary tastes.
  • Find out if a book is a good fit for you from our community’s reviews.”

Favorite Features:

This is an excellent site to use even just to look up book titles and find descriptions or favorite quotes from books, but it also has a social element to connect with friends, other book lovers, and even authors.  I haven’t taken advantage of this one as much yet, but I’m pretty excited to explore a little more and take advantage of its different features.  I’ve even seen where authors have answered questions from readers there.

Possible Downside:

This site has a lot of features, so if you’re not as well accustomed to social media, it would be pretty difficult to navigate, and even if you are it might take you a little while to figure out how best to take full advantage of everything it has to offer.  Also, I personally just really hated it when I connected my Goodreads account to my Facebook account.  It automatically friended all my Facebook friends who had a good reads account, some of whom I didn’t talk to as often, and some who just weren’t very active on the site.

The Identical

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I virtually checked out this movie a little while ago through Kentucky Libraries Unbound. I had no idea what to expect from it. It looked like it would be sort of a twist on Footloose at first, but set in the 1930’s. There is some element of that, and then there was a bit of a parallel with Elvis. As it goes along, it kind of surprises you, I think. It’s a very cheesy movie and an odd blend of the history of rock and roll all mixed up in a story of a set of twins separated at birth.

Basically, the movie begins with a couple in the depression era expecting a child. The man of the couple is feeling a little hopeless and at loose ends, so he starts going to tent revivals. While there, the preacher speaks about he and his wife having struggles trying to have another child and the risk of her trying to conceive again. The young couple decides they can be the answer to the preacher’s family’s prayers and that the preacher and his wife can answer how their children can be cared for. One child is adopted by the preacher, giving them a chance to raise a child, and one stays with the birth family where they are able to support and care for him.

The movie follows the son who lived with the preacher, as he enters into teenage rebellion, similar to the footloose story. The preacher wants his son to be a preacher like him, and he’s even in bible college to that end, but he develops an interest in music and goes to clubs.

Ultimately, when he’s basically forced by his father into joining the army, he hears a singer he begins to really identify heavily with and to whom people say he bears a certain resemblance. Their lives continue to intersect, and despite it being extremely cheesy and cliche, it’s honestly sort of touching if you’re a softy like me.

I had this pegged as a no name film when I first spotted it, but it really does have some recognizable faces in it. Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, and Seth Green. Probably a few more if you watch a lot of movies. I enjoyed this. It was like every movie about the beginning of rock and roll I ever watched rolled into one. The music was enjoyable for me. I honestly wouldn’t mind having this one in my own collection.

 

Gods and Generals

Gods and Generals is the prequel to Gettysburg, which, I am sad to say, I did not know existed. It centers largely around Stonewall Jackson. It isn’t perfect, not by any means, and is sure to offend those who watch it at some point during the film. However, I think this movie has an interesting take on the Civil War. Maybe not as much in terms of the facts and details, but of the different feelings in different segments of the population. The variety of beliefs and views concerning the war, and the way that individuals were questioning their own view of the war and how torn they must have felt. Particularly interesting is the religious aspect. The reasons the soldiers were fighting as opposed to the reasons politicians had. Those who did not believe in fighting in wars at all and those who questioned fighting against their own countrymen, killing their relatives and friends. It’s an intense and emotional movie that can really cause you to try to put yourself in everyone’s shoes. You notice things you might not think about in relation to the civil war as life goes on in homes with women and children. Sickness and death going on as always but without doctors and nurses who are at the front. I have to say I liked the movie for this reason. Love it or hate it, I think if you’re interested in history, it’s worth watching.

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Jeremy Poldark

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This is the third novel in the Poldark series by Winston Graham. It is also prove of my obsession with both Poldark and PBS Masterpiece Theatre sparked by discovering just a few episodes of Poldark at the end of season one. These novels are not terribly short. I read 3 of them right in a row, and would really like to read more. I’m ready to bite my nails (I am not a nail biter) waiting for season 2 to come on Masterpiece this year.

 

Some quotes:

Resentment and bitterness and old grudges were dead things, which rotted the hands that grasped them.

 

Do you believe we are masters of ourselves, or merely dance like puppets on strings having the illusion of independence?

 

He’s been took sudden sure enough! […] ‘Tis where he’s been took that’s mistifyin’ me.

 

It isn’t where you’re born in this world, it’s what you do.

 

This novel is a little deeper and a little darker than the first two. It’s a tumultuous time all around for the Poldarks, and for everyone else. Ross has taken a lot of risks and made a lot of enemies along the way up to this point. There’s a real push pull in the book, everyone trying to do what is best for everyone else without asking for the input of those concerned. This one may have been the biggest page turner for me. There’s always something happening. I recommend all of these books, and the Poldark television series.

Demelza Poldark

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Demelza Poldark is  the second book of the Poldark series. Fun fact, it’s also the first one I read. I watched the last of the first season of Poldark on Masterpiece Theatre and I was so hooked that I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, the local library didn’t have the first book in a physical copy. So I decided to just read the second. Of course, afterward I found out I could read the first and third novels online through Libraries Unbound.

 

Some quotes:

“Here, beast, you shall be chairman, and mind you call us to order.”  He leaned forward and dropped the cat on the empty seat.

 

“It is the stories that can’t be told that I find most diverting.”

He bowed.  “The essence of a good joke is that only two should share it.”

“I thought that was the essence of a good bed,” said Francis, and everybody laughed.”
“’Ere, dear,” she said to Jinny, “you go finish yer work.  I’ll deal with this.”
“Can you manage him?”  Jinny asked anxiously.
“Manage ‘im.  I’ll mince ‘im.”
“Everything at the moment, my dear, no doubt seems disgusting.  I know the mood too well.  But being in that mood, Ross, is like being out in the frost.  If we do not keep on the move we shall perish.”
Demelza was beginning to feel like a lion tamer who has been putting his pets through their paces and finds them getting out of hand.
“Perhaps,” said Demelza, trembling all over, “perhaps I’d ought to have asked for an introduction seeing it’s so long since we met.”
“A nice frame doesn’t make a nice picture.”
Joe Permewan, rasping away at the bass viol as if it were a tree trunk, was worth liking as well as laughing at.  Joe, they all knew, was no angel and got drunk Saturday nights, but he always sawed his way back to salvation on a Sunday morning.
When his mother had taken him to church as a child he had repeated a psalm which said: “Today if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts.”

This book mainly centers around Ross and Demelza’s life together at Nampara. Her awkward transition from being his employee to his wife. Her introduction to others in Ross’s life and in society. The change in the household when a fellow employee is now the lady of the house. Demelza at the center of all manner of well intended mischief. And of course, conflict and drama surrounding Ross Poldark, rum runner and crusader for justice! (If you like Rhett Butler, you may very well like Ross Poldark as well.) Honestly, though, this is my favorite book of the first 3 novels. They’re all a little cheezy and dramatic, but with a healthy dose of humor. Demelza Poldark is no different. I love the Demelza character. If you want a healthy dose of sass and spunk, she’s your girl. If you liked Ross Poldark, you’ll love Demelza Poldark.

Highly, highly recommended.