Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Provincial Lady in Wartime

Finished The Provincial Lady in Wartime by E. M. Delafield. Sadly, this is the last book in the series. It is the fall of 1939 and World War II has just begun. The Provincial Lady takes a flat in London and applies herself all over the place in search of some sort of war work or writing assignment.

Meanwhile, preparations for air raids ensue. Of course the Provincial Lady loses her gas mask and National Identity Card and must go through all sorts of bureaucracy to obtain replacements.

No one seems to need her help in the war effort. She eventually finds a position working in the canteen of an underground ambulance headquarters. Many odd-ball characters are met and several parties take place. Nothing has really happened yet though. No bombings, no casualties. Just a lot of people drinking coffee and tea, playing cards and dancing while the ambulances wait patiently.

The book ends with her finally being summoned to serve her country from a journalistic perspective. This was clearly finished and printed before The Blitz. Sitting about waiting for the war to happen...such a contrast to what happened once the bombing began.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cherry Ames: Veterans' Nurse

Finished Cherry Ames Veterans' Nurse by Helen Wells. This is a book from my childhood. I remember liking it very much. When I found myself without a bedtime book a few weeks ago, I picked it up to see what it was like. This is a series, much like the Nancy Drew books. The central character is a young woman who has a talent for solving mysteries. This was the sixth book in a series of 27 published between 1943 and 1968. Cherry is an upbeat, pretty, intelligent girl who has a penchant for doing what is right. Each book in the series has her stationed someplace new in a unique nursing role. In this book she is stationed at a veteran's hospital looking after soldiers who have been wounded in combat, some of them quite gravely. The tone of the hospital is encouraging. Their mission is to help patients heal emotionally as well as physically from their wounds. Those who have lost limbs learn to use prostheses and are trained in new job skills. Cherry works hard to keep her patients' morale high. She also works hard to find out who has been stealing the special and rare medication from the hospital's pharmacy. This was a pleasant bedtime read. I wonder why I did not read any other Cherry Ames mysteries when I was a kid. I may have to start at the beginning and check the whole series out.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Eat Move Sleep: Why Small Choices Lead to Big Changes

Finished Eat Move Sleep: Why Small Choices Lead to Big Changes by Tom Rath. Eat right, move more, sleep better. That's the whole thing in a nutshell. Nothing here that is not obvious, but some people need to hear it over and over again. I listened to the audiobook version of this, read by the author. I'm used to these types of books being upbeat and motivational. This one was a bit flat, a bit bleak. The information is all good and well presented. I personally didn't find it very inspirational. However, it was a New York Times bestseller.

Letters from Father Christmas

Finished Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien. This too was finished before Christmas proper. I'm still catching up on blogging about my books from December.

Between 1920 and 1942 Tolkien composed and illustrated letters to his children from Father Christmas. Each year there were several letters, discussing the preparations for the season, an ongoing war with the goblins, and the various scrapes that Father Christmas' assistant, Polar Bear, got himself into. Sometimes Polar Bear wrote comments in the margins of the letters, or postscripts to the children. Father Christmas' handwriting is very intricate and special, and his drawings are charmingly detailed. The children in their turn wrote back to Father Christmas and he often answered their various questions in the correspondence. What a lovely thing for a father to do for his children. This book would make a wonderful holiday gift for someone who is still a child at heart.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain

Finished The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain, the last of Dickens' Christmas books. I finished it before Christmas, but am only blogging about it now. Professor Redlaw is a man with many painful and troubling memories. He is visited by a spirit in the shape of himself. This spirit offers to relieve Redlaw of the memories of all the painful slights he has received at the hands of others. Redlaw accepts this offer, but is told that it's outcome will spread to all those he comes into contact with. So, something that sounds like a good thing is really not good at all. Redlaw becomes cold, bitter and unsympathetic to those around him. As he moves among the people in his life, they too lose their patience and compassion. All but Milly. Milly is a beacon of light and understanding. Redlaw knows this and does what he can to shield her from his influence, but it matters not. She is unaffected by it. In fact, at one point Milly says "It is important to remember past sorrows and wrongs so that you can then forgive those responsible and, in doing so, unburden your soul and mature as a human being." This is of course the moral of the tale. It's certainly worth thinking about. Some of us carry perceived and actual slights around with us for years. Being capable of forgiveness is a quality of strength, although some things will always remain unforgivable.

The Bells of Christmas

Finished The Bells of Christmas by Virginia Hamilton. I actually finished it before Christmas, but I have gotten behind on my blog posts. The book is a richly illustrated by Lambert Davis. Jason Bell awaits the arrival of aunts and uncles and cousins to join his family to celebrate Christmas in Springfield, Ohio in 1880. This was a very comfortable, homey read. Hamilton has won many awards including the Newbery Medal in 1975 for M. C. Higgins the Great. I look forward to reading more of her books.

Thursday, January 2, 2014