31 December 2013

2013 Is Drawing To The End...

Like the pages of a book 2013 is drawing to an end...

(Art by Charles Tunnicliffe)

As I thought of what I could share with friends on Blogland at this time of the year it occurred to me that Patience Strong's words were spot on!

So here it is:

A Wish For A Friend...

Blessings be yours - and all felicity
Come shine or shadow, happy may you be...
Every good gift may Fortune give to you:
Hope, health and peace - and friendships fond and true.

Time grant to you the harvesting of dreams -
and may your path be lit with golden gleams,
so that you walk down bright and pleasant ways.
Light be your heart and sunny be your days.

Wherever you may be at this time of the year, we wish each and everyone of you the very best!

Until next year,

Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless!
~ Mother Theresa ~

29 December 2013

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein, Book review

  • Publisher: Disney-Hyperion (September 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423183099


While flying an Allied fighter plane from Paris to England, American ATA pilot and amateur poet, Rose Justice, is captured by the Nazis and sent to Ravensbruck, the notorious women's concentration camp. Trapped in horrific circumstances, Rose finds hope in the impossible through the loyalty, bravery and friendship of her fellow prisoners. But will that be enough to endure the fate that's in store for her?

Elizabeth Wein, author of the critically-acclaimed and best-selling Code Name Verity, delivers another stunning WWII thriller. The unforgettable story of Rose Justice is forged from heart-wrenching courage, resolve, and the slim, bright chance of survival.

Here are my thoughts:

I have read countless books about WW2 and concentration camps survivors drawing me to 'remember' , something that was instilled in me from the moment I understood its meaning. 
But Elizabeth Wein's description of an all American girl whose father taught her to fly at age 12, now an ATA  sent to Britain to ferry planes captured my imagination! 
The author's own love of flying is evident as she brings her aeronautical skills in her plotline, giving to Rose a unique view of a world gone asunder!

Rose Justice is a happy high school graduate who spent her summers at the lake with her friends and has no combat experience. When she is apprehended over enemy territory and forced to land at a remote Luftwaffe airport, she stuns German ground crew when she emerges in her uniformed skirt, removes her helmet and goggles revealing her long hair!
This is September 1944 and the Allies are advancing through France and Belgium pushing back an ever more desperate German army. 

For Rose however war has only started when she is transported to Ravenbruck, a women's concentration camp in northern Germany. 
Elizabeth Wein's flowing prose allows her readers to go from admiration (Rose is an amazing pilot for her tender 18 years) to shock (deported to a concentration camp so close to the end of the war) to even a laugh or two (when she arrives and the first thing she notices is holes in her nylons!) 
Never mind the fact that even in a concentration camp, God is present!

A fictional account of the 6 months the young ATA spent in the camp Rose Under Fire is perhaps the most riveting WW2 novel I have read partly because I could never imagine a Pennsylvania Dutch Lutheran girl, a mere slip of a girl, a lover of poetry with no combat experience being sent there in the first place!

Elizabeth Wein pens a stark but lucid plot around Rosie and the unforgettable friendships she strikes with her fellow inmates, especially those known as Rabbits. These women of various backgrounds are slowly exterminated by the SS yet they fight with all their might for just another day to live and pass on the message: Tell the world!!

Written as flashbacks, Rose and her comrades plight is in turn desperate, humorous, tender and never to be forgotten. These were not Jews but women and mere children, resistances fighters, pilots and students, Russian, French, Pole, Czesks, even German and Jehovah Witnesses. 
Perhaps the most startling of all is that all this happened as the Allies were making progress and liberation was weeks away!
Interspersed are poems of Edna St Vincent Millay and those Rose writes for the other inmates (my favourite - see excerpt below):

 'Love Song and Self Portrait' (by Rose Justice)

At first I dreamed of you
offered warm arms of comfort and strength
And if I did come back,
what in turn could I offer to you,
I would offer you myself
in mismatched shoes and blood soaked rags,
shaved scalp all scabs
and face gone gray,
no old woman but a walking ghost
on a skeleton's frame-
And you would be forced to look away.

There won't be anything to say.

In the inset the title of the book is highlighted against the names of the Ravenbruck's Rabbits...
Never to be forgotten

You might not enjoy every truth spoken here but you should know the author has done a splendid job in giving a voice to those who were thus silenced. Her impeccable research reminds us that there is still much we need to acknowledge if we ever hope to bring the truth to light!

Spawning a time frame betwixt August 1944 to December 1946, this heartbreaking yet beautiful story in all its raw humanity is well worth 5 stars
It is a tale of hope in the darkest hellish hole made by men and a lesson in courage!

(Albeit a library loan, a copy is soon joining favourites on my shelves!) 
(Photo source Here)

Note: Suitable for older teens and adults due to thematic contents!

Meet Elizabeth Wein:

"I was born in New York City in 1964, and moved to England when I was 3. I started school there. We lived practically in the shadow of Alderley Edge, the setting for several of Alan Garner's books and for my own first book The Winter Prince; that landscape, and Garner's books, have been a lifelong influence on me.
My father, who worked for the New York City Board of Education for most of his life, was sent to England to do teacher training at what is now Manchester Metropolitan University. 

I met my future husband at a bell ringers' dinner-dance. He is English, and in 1995 I moved to England with him, and then to Scotland in 2000.

We share another unusual interest--flying in small planes. My husband got his private pilot's license in 1993 and I got mine ten years later. Together we have flown in the States from Kalamazoo to New Hampshire; in Kenya we've flown from Nairobi to Malindi, on the coast, and also all over southern England. Alone, most of my flying has been in eastern Scotland."

Visit Elizabeth Wein's website (HERE)

Note to Readers: This was a library loan and all opinions are solely mine!

26 December 2013

Boxing Day (Or An Englishman's Home Is His Castle)

(Photo source HERE)


The traditional one...

There are a number of stories behind the origin of the term 'Boxing Day'. It used to be customary for employers to give their employees or servants a gift of money or food in a small box on this day. This is still customary for people who deliver letters or newspapers, although the gift may be given before Christmas Day. 
In feudal times, the lord of the manor would gather all those who worked on his land together on this day and distribute boxes of practical goods, such as agricultural tools, food and cloth. This was payment for the work that they had done throughout the passed year.
Other stories relate to servants being allowed to take a portion of the food left over from the Christmas celebrations in a box to their families and the distribution of alms from the Church collection box to poor parishioners. These traditions have evolved into the Christmas hampers that many large employers distribute, although these are now often distributed in the week before Christmas.
(And now you know!)

Then there is the 'new' Boxing Day...Shop, shop, shop for ???

(Photo source Daily Mail HERE

As for 'The Englishman's Home Is His Castle'...well it refers to the English dictum that a man's home is his refuge of course!
Keeping with tradition today we will have leftover ham, buns and cheeses, play games and of course share crackers!
(Photo source Google)

So you know what we are doing this Boxing Day (taking refuge from the hustle and bustle of Christmas!)
How about you?
All the best Folks,

24 December 2013

Christmas Message...

(Photo source Google)

Christmas Eve 2013...

Christmas Is For Everyone
(by Patience Strong)

Christmas is for everyone for Christmas is for sharing - the joys, the blessings and the burdens.
Christmas is for caring - putting into practice what the Saviour came to prove: that life is good when hearts are moved by kindness and by love.

Christmas is for everyone for Christmas is for spreading - the happy news from Bethlehem, the light of heaven shedding - on the vicious and the vile, the evil and the wrong. Christmas bids us stand and listen to the angel's song.

Christmas is for everyone; for every race and nation - bringing hope and happiness, redemption and salvation. Not for Christmas only but for all the world to see - God appearing in the vesture of humanity.

To all those who serve, for their sacrifice and those of their families! 
God speed and Be safe!

For Limek, Richard, Mike, John, Tania, Gunny, Aaron, Joshua, Cornelis and the many others away from home this Christmas!


See you on Boxing Day Folks!

23 December 2013

Hope, Cheer and Happiness...

Creative Design Awesome Christmas Decoration Of Fireplace Design Picture listed in: sweet apartment bedroom,

(Photo source HERE)

Hope, Cheer and Happiness...Today's inspiration came from a little piece of paper...my paper towels to be exact!
You know how something starts your chain of thoughts...In this case it was Patience Strong, Janice of Bluebells Woods and Christmas...

For those of you who are not familiar with Patience Strong's name, this well loved British author produced some amazing inspirational collections of verses, Verse to Touch the Heart (in my case, three books in one volume).

I first learned her name when Janice revealed her Dad was a POW taken by the Japanese during WW2. Janice's Mum wrote to him regularly and included snippets of Patience Strong's verses then published in the newspapers in the UK as a moral boost I'll wager.

This story stayed with me as I hoped he received each and everyone of these verses whilst waiting for the end of the war and be reunited with his loved ones!

As I understand Patience's verses touched the hearts of millions for over half a century and were published in newspapers, books, calendars and Christmas cards all over the world.
In addition she penned the lyrics for the wartime hit 'Jealousy, and 'The Dream of Olwen' as well as the official sixth birthday tribute to then Princess Elizabeth performed at the London Palladium.

Patience Strong became a household name in the UK in 1935 after she took one of her verses to the editor of the Daily Mirror who told her to go home and bring him another eighteen verses the following day. 'A Quiet Corner' was launched!

Patience brought hope, cheer and happiness to millions when it was most needed!
In turn Janice often reminds us it is best to count our blessings instead of our shadows! Her blog is written with her whole heart despite many heartbreaking life moments.

Hope, Cheer and Happiness: a reflection of one very special lady and I mean you Janice!

Merry Christmas Dear Friend,

  • Publisher: Smithmark Pub (July 1996)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765196552

21 December 2013

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice...The shortest day of the year...

Did you know Christmas is also referred to as Yule, which may have derived from the Norse word jól, referring to the pre-Christian winter solstice festival.

The Feast of Juul was a pre-Christian festival observed in Scandinavia at the time of the December solstice. Fires were lit to symbolize the heat, light and life-giving properties of the returning sun. 
A Yule or Juul log was brought in and burned on the hearth in honor of the Scandinavian god Thor.
A piece of the log was kept as both a token of good luck and as kindling for the following year’s log. 
In England, Germany, France and other European countries, the Yule log was burned until nothing but ash remained. The ashes were then collected and either strewn on the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night or kept as a charm and or as medicine.
(Sources HERE,  HERE and HERE)


19 December 2013

Hot Or Cold?

Cold, breezy and snow in the forecast...
Even our songbirds are taken aback...

My sentiment exactly!

Meanwhile Down Under, it is getting hotter by the hour...
Take a moment to visit Tania's 'OUTBACK' blog to see what I mean...

(Photos source: Mirror, UK - Guardian, UK - Herald Sun, AU)

I don't know about you but I'll take the snow (as long as we do not loose the power!)


18 December 2013

In Time For Christmas: The Writings Of Don J. Snyder

With no broadcast telly we rely on old favourites to entertain ourselves during the Christmas Season. Amongst those (well read tomes and movies) are Don J. Snyder's work!
This well known author has captivated (all of us here have read his books!) our imagination with the following Christmas classics:


  • Publisher: Atria; First Edition edition (October 2, 2001)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743422314


When I looked up again, Mr. Halworth's red cap was gone. I wondered if his daughter had watched him disappear, and I turned to look at her. It took a little time for me to see that she was staring at her shoes. They were shiny shoes, and she was holding them up off the floor. One had slipped off her heel and was balancing from her toes. We sat there long enough for me to begin to feel responsible for her. At last I moved close enough to reach down and slide the shoe back on her foot.

One night can change a life. For eight-year-old Terry McQuinn, it was a snowy Christmas Eve on the coast of Maine, when Terry glimpsed a world he'd never seen before -- a "summer people's" world unknown to the son of a caretaker. Serenity Cottage was a place of beauty and privilege owned by the luminous Halworths -- but in the blink of an eye, a tragic accident left the family in ruins.
Now thirty years later, Terry has spent his life putting distance between himself and his history. Determined not to follow in his father's footsteps, he became a high-flying Hollywood film agent -- but has somehow lost himself along the way.
Terry is finally called back to Maine by the death of his father -- but in the workshop Terry comes across a note in his father's hand that stops him cold: "Open Serenity for Christmas. No one has been in the house since that fateful night three decades earlier. Although Terry's first instinct is to leave it all behind, he soon discovers that Katherine Halworth, the girl from thirty years before, is the new owner. With her arrival imminent, Terry's past comes rushing back.
In the hands of critically acclaimed author Don J. Snyder, "Fallen Angel is a warm and unique Christmas tale, reminding us that it's never too late to forgive -- and never too late to love.

(And yes, we Love the Hallmark version of this warm story):

  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 98 minutes
  • ASIN: B00018WNP6


This is just the sort of story you can immerse yourself into this holiday season and enjoy it for its heartfelt warmth, witty dialogues and romantic moments! 
There are moments in our lives where time just stand still and of course I am a firm believer things happens for a reason!

Fallen Angel is first of all a story about redemption: Terry's childhood is shadowed by the loss of his Mum early in life. His father is a hard worker who believe people have their place in this world and they should not think of themselves out of this equation.

One Christmas Terry is invited by one of his father's employers to deliver presents at the local hospital with his young daughter. The evening ends in a tragic accident and Terry's father waits no time to remind Terry of his place.

Twenty years have now gone by and Terry is now a successful man living as far away as he can from his hometown. 
And then one day, he receives a call from his estranged father and suddenly the past comes to revisit...

A delightful tale written by someone who knows his trade inside out and well worth 5 stars!

One more word regarding the movie adaption:

Unlike most adaptions, it is remarkably close to the original scenario and perfect for the holiday season! 
I guarantee you will fall in love with its youngest star and her canine companion!
Praise for the actors (Gordon Pinsent's acting perfect as always) and the director! 
I gave it 5 stars as well!

Note to Readers: Book and movie are part of my own library! No reviews were requested and opinions are mine only!


  • Publisher: Down East Books (October 16, 2011)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892729227


It has been a hard year in New York City for princes and for beggars; and twenty-eight year old Charlie Andrews, a Wall Street profiteer, believes he has lost everything that matters in the world when he steps out onto the window ledge of the twenty-second floor of The Waldorf Hotel on a cold evening five days before Christmas. 
He has no idea that the last call he made on his cell phone has placed his fate in the hands of a young homeless woman who runs through the falling snow and turns his life with a brief exchange of dialogue: 

-Most of us miss the real story, Charlie. 
-What real story? 
-The story we were put in this world to live. 
-Why do we miss it? 
-Because it's someone else' story. We just play a part in it. 

Thus begins their unforgettable journey into a dreamscape of time and memory on a train traveling through a blizzard to deliver them to the meaning and purpose of their lives.


By definition a fable is simply a fictional narrative meant to teach a moral lesson, this one yet another fine example of the exquisite details Don J. Snyder puts in his writing!
The latest of my acquisitions (I collect each of his novels) which set on my 'read for Christmas' just waiting for that special time of the year.

In The Winter Travelers, A Christmas Fable we meet Charlie Andrews...who is in deep waters...
Having lost everything he holds in esteem he steps on the ledge of the twenty second floor of the Waldorf Astoria only a few days before Christmas...

For those of us who grew up with the iconic James Stewart in 'It's A Wonderful Life' there is an echo of the lesson taught by Clarence the Angel but make no mistake this story is unique and will reach out to many, particularly military families! 

Don J. Snyder wrote this tale hoping to rekindle readers' faith in the American Dream and succeeded beyond hope in my opinion!

A marvelous tale to remind us of what is truly important in life, even more so at this time of the year by a seasoned writer who consistently delivers works of substance!

5 Stars!!


From the time I was seventeen years old I wanted to write important books and movies that would bring meaning-- DEEP MEANING-- into peoples' lives. I wanted it so badly that from the time I was 21 until I turned 34 I locked myself in a room and lived alone like a monk, reading the classics over and over while I taught myself how to write luminous sentences that revealed the great truths about life and love and friendship. 
The stuff that is important in this world. I gave 12 years of my life to this education without any guarantee that anything I ever wrote would be good or that I would ever see a word of my writing published. 
But I dreamed the big dream that my books would be published by the great illustrious publishing houses of New York City-- a million miles away from where I was locked in my room. Random House. Little Brown. Doubleday. Simon & Schuster. And above all the others-- Alfred A. Knopf-- the most respected literary publisher in the world. 
I wanted this so badly that if someone had come along then and said, Ok, we'll make a bargain with you, Don. You cut off your right arm and we'll grant you your dream. I would have said, No, thanks. But you can cut off my left. And that is the truth. That is how badly I wanted this. I wanted beyond hope and dreaming to become a novelist.

Visit Amazon's website for the rest of the story (HERE)!

Other works of Don J. Snyder on my shelves includes:

 Night Crossing and A Soldier's Disgrace