WWI Challenge Wrap Up

Happy New Year!  Because today is the official start date of the 2013 American Revolution Reading Challenge, we thought that we’d first wrap up the reviews from the 2012 World War I Reading Challenge.  We’d like to thank everyone who participated…we had 106 participants, and that added up to a lot of reviews.  You can find these reviews here, and we’ll continue to update that page as well as the recommended reading list in case you want to further your WWI reading.

Here are the last of the WWI reviews from challenge participants; links are to the full reviews.  These are either books posted over the last half of December or books we missed the first time around but caught in your wrap-up posts.  Please remember that if you’d like your reviews featured on the main page, email the links to us at warthroughgenerations at gmail.com.

the absolutistExUrbanis reviewed The Absolutist by John Boyne:

The writing is superb and the story unfolds with just the right amount of tension from beginning to end. But I wasn’t blown away by the climax. I understand Will’s stand and determination to stick to it despite the consequences, and Tristan’s actions didn’t make any difference to the outcome. Maybe I’ve just read too many WWI novels recently.

blizzard of glassExUrbanis reviewed Blizzard of Glass by Sally M. Walker:

It’s written for middle grades, simply and powerfully presenting the tragedy. Several real-life families are followed through the morning and subsequent days. There are many photographs and archival materials. Walker has carefully researched and presents the material in a factual way that allows readers to draw their own conclusions about why the ships collided.

moon over manifestExUrbanis reviewed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool:

Although YA is not my preferred genre, I found this book enchanting – and would have loved it as a pre-teen. It should become a childhood classic.

the return of captain john emmettExUrbanis reviewed The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller:

The first of what is promised to be a series featuring former WWI officer Lawrence Bartram. Solid mystery, great period detail.

an unmarked graveExUrbanis reviewed An Unmarked Grave by Charles Todd:

The period details seem spot on and the mystery was tight – a much better read than the authors’ previous outing in this series.

the mapping of love and deathExUrbanis reviewed The Mapping of Love and Death by Jacqueline Winspear:

I love Maisie Dobbs. And, until this book, I’d loved all the stories in this mystery series. The book wasn’t bad, mind you, and provided lots of interesting details about the mapping of war.  But there were just a couple too many coincidences that advanced the solving of the mystery to suit me.

broken musicExUrbanis reviewed Broken Music by Marjorie Eccles:

Definitely a WWI mystery, which is why I picked it up. But it’s also a romance and suffers from the untouched physical and mental health of the love interests, and a resulting happy ending.

a very long engagementSilly Little Mischief reviewed A Very Long Engagement by Sébastien Japrisot:

Japrisot’s writing is magical. I loved the attention to deal and how creatively he told the story. Often I felt the story moved slowly but the writing was beautiful I forgave Japrisot for not telling the story more quickly.

alfred & emilyTea and a Good Book reviewed Alfred & Emily by Doris Lessing:

Alfred & Emily reminded me a lot of Atonement.  In the first half, Lessing creates an alternate history for her parents in which World War I never occurs.  Instead, England slips into a long period of peace, in which Alfred and Emily never marry, although they are friends. Alfred is a farmer with a kind wife and two sons.  Emily is a successful nurse, then hostess, and finally supporter of education.  The strange alternate world that Lessing creates is almost more interesting than their lives – a Serbian rebellion and a longing for the young men of England to “have a good war” are just two of the details that appear.  It is an interested, but not necessarily satisfying, story.

the light between oceansTutu’s Two Cents reviewed The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman:

A stunning read.  Not only is the story compelling, but the setting is luminous and the character development some of the best I’ve read this year.  Stedman’s prose is crystal clear, crisp, and often has the reader gasping at it’s beauty.

a rose for the anzac boysWildmooBooks reviewed A Rose for the ANZAC Boys by Jackie French:

This novel and French’s factual notes are a tribute to the thousands if not millions of women who volunteered for service during WWI. French also includes details about the men of Australian and New Zealand who fought, such as how they were often considered cannon fodder by their British officers. I didn’t know that, per capita, Australia and New Zealand suffered the highest casualty and death rates of any country involved in WWI.

like the willow treeBecky’s Book Reviews reviewed Like the Willow Tree: The Diary of Lydia Amelia Pierce, Portland, Maine 1918 (Dear America) by Lois Lowry:

The diary chronicles her time with the Shakers and provides an interesting look at faith and culture. Lydia and her brother, Daniel, react very differently to their new life, their new community. And yet, this community changes them both forever, both for the better. I would recommend this one.

war horseBecky’s Book Reviews reviewed War Horse by Michael Morpurgo:

…readers get a glimpse of World War I as seen through the eyes of a horse. And it is an ugly, ugly mess. But the book, as a whole, is not as depressing as it might have been. That’s not to say it’s a cheerful book, but, it has many redeeming qualities.

rilla of inglesideBecky’s Book Reviews reviewed Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery:

Rilla of Ingleside is one of the BEST books I’ve ever read set during World War I. It is bittersweet and heartbreaking and WONDERFUL from cover to cover. You might think that since it is part of the Anne series that it would be narrated by Anne, or closely follow Anne, but, that is not the case at all. This is Rilla’s coming-of-age story. It is HER story from cover to cover, and while her mom is important to her, this isn’t Anne’s story to tell.

moon over manifestBooks and Movies reviewed Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool:

Books like Moon Over Manifest remind me why I still read children’s fiction. This is fiction that transcends age. Abilene Tucker is a young heroine reminiscent of Scout Finch, and her summer in Manifest, Kansas, reveals her father’s history – and her future.

the shoemaker's wifeBooks and Movies reviewed The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani:

I read a lot of historical fiction, but every once in a while a book comes along that plunges me right into the time period, immersing me in the lives of the people, the places they inhabit. I could smell the air of the Italian Alps, taste the pasta, hear Caruso singing, feel the supple leather of the shoes Ciro made. There was not a single section that dragged, nor a single time I wasn’t eager to pick the book up and dive back in. When I finished the last page, it was with the kind of sadness I only experience when I know I am going to miss the world of a book terribly.

george, nicholas and wilhelmTutu’s Two Cents reviewed George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I by Miranda Carter:

This is a fascinating study of the three men whose governments pushed them aside, ignored them, or in Wilhelm’s instance, tried to work around his pomposity to win a war that should never have been started.

fall of giantsTutu’s Two Cents reviewed Fall of Giants by Ken Follett:

This is a long book….over a 1000 pages in print, and 30 hours in audio.  Like all of Follett’s works, it can get a bit long-winded in parts, but the story is well told, extremely well researched, and ultimately enjoyable.  I especially found the sections on the Russian revolution very enlightening.  Not only did I enjoy the read, I learned a lot about the various factions and causes of the many different aspects of that country’s government(s) during those years.

promise me thisUnder The Boardwalk reviewed Promise Me This by Cathy Gohlke:

Just when we think they are getting on with their lives after the tragedy, the War begins.  It is almost unbelievable what Annie’s Aunt Eleanor did, and what a roller coaster ride we are put on before the characters are reunited. An enjoyable read.

overseasUnder the Boardwalk reviewed Overseas by Beatriz Williams:

I could not put this book down! Kate and Julian’s journey was fascinating and thoroughly absorbing. A well written debut novel for this author.

one of oursWildmooBooks reviewed One of Ours by Willa Cather:

The reading I’ve done about WWI had made One of Ours seem even more realistic and “true” what the experience may have been like for some. But this is the only novel that I know of that details why the war could be so exciting and liberating.

one man's initiationWildmooBooks reviewed One Man’s Initiation: 1917 by John Dos Passos:

One Man’s Initiation–1917 is the story of Marin Howe, an American volunteer ambulance driver in France during the Great War. It is more a collection of short vignettes and images rather than a neatly woven narrative and has been called an impressionistic novel. It is very short, more of a novella, but powerful precisely because of it’s form and style.

From Bitter Tea and Mystery a review of the film Joyeux Noël:

Regardless of the melodrama, I enjoyed the movie and was genuinely moved by the story. I liked the acting in the film; I cared about the characters who were portrayed.

Thanks again to everyone who helped make the WWI Reading Challenge a success!

Movie Review: Gettysburg

The War Movie Buff recently watched and reviewed the movie “Gettysburg” for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge.  Here’s a sample of the review:

It amazes me that some critics question the accuracy of the movie. Trust me, you are not going to get more accuracy than this movie. The small faults can be excused by the fact that the movie is technically based on a novel, but the novel is a masterpiece of imagining around historical facts. Shaara imagines conversations and thoughts of the historical figures that populate the movie, but all of it rings true. The movie is faithful to the book and few have questioned the accuracy and authenticity of the book.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**


The War Movie Buff recently reviewed the movie Cold Mountain for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.  Here’s an excerpt:

First let me dispense with the question of whether “Cold Mountain” deserves to crack the Greatest 100 list. No, because it is not a war movie. It is a romance and road picture set in a war. With that said, it does a good job bringing to light the situation on the home front in the South. This makes it a very good historical movie. It is the rural companion to the upper class “Gone with the Wind”.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Movie Review: ABRAHAM LINCOLN directed by D.W. Griffith

Matt’s Book Blog reviewed the Abraham Lincoln biopic from 1930, directed by D.W. Griffith, for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.  Here’s an excerpt:

Told in episodes, the first third or so covers Lincoln’s early life in New Salem as he splits rails, minds a store, and establishes his credentials by beating up tough guys like Jack Armstrong. Una Merkal out-Gishes Lillian, extraordinarily winsome as Lincoln’s only love Ann Rutledge. Most of the movie, as we would expect, deals with Lincoln’s presidency during the Civil War and concludes with Lee’s surrender and Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theater.

Walter Huston is the spit and image of Lincoln, especially in the stovepipe hat. He tells Lincolnesque stories with the comic sense and timing of a born story-teller. He does somber, care-worn and determined very convincingly. The scenes with Lincoln and Grant show two extraordinary men taking each other’s measure and finding each other admirable.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Book/Movie Review: THE HORSE SOLDIERS by Harold Sinclair

The War Movie Buff reviewed The Horse Soldiers by Harold Sinclair, as well as the companion movie starring John Wayne, for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011.  Here’s an excerpt:

The book gets high marks for realism and accuracy. Sinclair in his “Author’s Note” proclaims that the book is “fiction, not history” and makes a point of not claiming to be historically accurate. He is being overly modest because in reality he has written one of the most historically accurate novels I have ever read. Unfortunately, the accuracy is liable to disappoint action fans.

As far as the movie, it is obvious the producers found the book boring. The screenwriters jazzed up the story a lot to attract a non-historically inclined audience. There are numerous differences from the book.

Read the full review.

**Attention participants: Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Movie Review: Glory

Not Enough Books recently watched and reviewed Glory for the U.S. Civil War Reading Challenge 2011, which you can substitute up to 2 movies for your book count throughout the year.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Glory is the story of how Robert Gould Shaw trained and led the first all black volunteer army to fight for the North.  Even though they were fighting to end slavery, that doesn’t mean the white men felt the black men were equals.  This is clearly shown in this movie.”

Read the full review.

**Attention participants:  Remember to email us a link to your reviews, and we’ll post them here so we can see what everyone is reading!**

Review: Uncommon Valor, The Veteran

Uncommon Valor is about a father’s (Jason Rhodes) search for his son and about the government’s efforts to prevent him from finding his son.  In 1972, a father’s son is left behind when his unit pulls out under heavy fire.  In 1977, following the war, the father, played by Gene Hackman, ventures to Thailand to find someone to help locate his son.  After digging for several months, he discovers his son is in a prisoner of war (POW) camp in Laos.

Rhodes spends a bit of time in the movie recruiting members of his son’s unit to help him drop into Laos and find his son and any other POWs who might be there with him.  Meanwhile, the government is watching through surveillance and more.

The movie is about saving your son, maintaining camaraderie, and more.  Watch as these veterans retrain, overcome their fears, and return to a hostile land that still refuses to give up POWs.

The Veteran is a recent 2006 movie in which a politician must face the demons of his past in Vietnam.  More than 1800 soldiers were still accounted for in the Vietnam War as of 2001.

This movie stars Ally Sheedy and Michael Ironside and is set against the backdrop of the most recent Bush Administration and the Iraq War, which many have compared to the Vietnam War.  The politician/priest meets up with a fellow soldier in Vietnam after 30 years, Doc.  Unfortunately, he’s bitter about being left behind and being considered killed in action.

Amidst CIA investigations, a veterans affairs investigation into whether MIA and POW claims are legitimate, a man reconnects with his past and a war that he cannot forget.  With flashbacks to the combat, little by little all is revealed about the politician’s time in Vietnam.

FTC Disclosure:  Links will take you to an Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase is required, though appreciated to cover postage and shipping costs of challenge prizes.

Review: The Hanoi Hilton, We Were Soldiers Once

The Hanoi Hilton was released in 1987 and depicts the struggles of U.S. and other soldiers in the North Vietnamese Hoa Lo Prison as prisoners of war.  Most of the soldiers were shot down.  The prison was originally used by French colonists as a place to hold political prisoners.  Check out more information on the prison at Wikipedia.  Michael Moriarty stars as Williamson in this movie, which became a cult classic.

Williamson spends a year in solitary confinement before he’s thrown in the “bridal suite” of the prison where he meets other soldiers.  The prisoners communicate through Morse code on the walls and other means to learn one another’s name and devise a plan to prevail without provoking the enemy.  For the most part, they are kept in separate cells.  The movie is an interesting look at the inner struggles of the prisoners, with a mix of young soldiers, former Korean War soldiers, and WWII veterans.

We Were Soldiers Once was released in 2002 and stars Mel Gibson.  The movie was based upon the book of the same name.  Lt. Col. Hal Moore is asked to train men to hop off helicopters and run missions in Vietnam against the NVA.  These young men are wet behind the ears, though some are eager to fight.  The movie is graphic and emotional, but well acted and paced.

Tension builds as the yellow telegrams behind arriving on Moore’s home base and his wife takes the time to inform each of the wives personally, each time hoping that the newest telegram is not hers.  The movie focuses on operation LZ X-Ray, which was the first large unit battle of the conflict.  From the bloody battles to the poor decisions and high levels of tension between the men, the movie packs a big punch.  This is Mel Gibson at his best.

FTC Disclosure:  Links will take you to an Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase is required, though appreciated to cover postage and shipping costs of challenge prizes.

Review: Across the Universe (Movie)

Behind the Scenes With Becky, also known as Becky’s Book Reviews, recently reviewed a movie for the 2010 Vietnam War Reading Challenge.  Lucky for her and the other participants that they can substitute 1-2 movies for 1-2 of five books required.  Check out a snippet:

I can’t promise that you’ll love everything about this one. But Jude and Lucy’s story worked for me.

Check out the full review.

Review: Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard

Frost/Nixon directed by Ron Howard is a powerful film about Richard Nixon’s time in the presidential office.  He was the only president to resign, but not the only president to be on the verge of impeachment.

Frank Langella executes a phenomenal portrayal of Richard Nixon from his mannerisms to his sweating under the hot interview lights and that imitation of his voice is haunting.  Michael Sheen’s role as interviewer David Frost, who cracked the facade of Richard Nixon and his lies, is exceptional and powerful.

From the set up of Frost as a TV personality on the verge of greatness as he shifts from performer to journalist, Frost/Nixon is a movie chock full of history about the Vietnam War, the rise of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, and the Watergate scandal and subsequent cover-up.

Howard’s movie recreates a moment in media history when journalism was at its peak and still focused on the nuggets of truth and digging down deep to get at that truth.  Objective truth begotten through tough questions and due diligence.

I highly recommend this movie.

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