Friday, August 30, 2013

BritLit - Private Peaceful and wrapping up London

     I'm wrapping up London with our last British book, Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo. Private Peaceful is a gut-wrenching story about a soldier narrating his life in WWI. He's counting down to an event that will change everything that matters to him. He tells all about growing up, falling in love, and joining the Army with his brother.  Both Tommo and Charlie are sent to fight for Britain in the trenches in French western front, but when one is injured, the other must choose to follow orders or defend family. Little known to the rest of the world, the punishment for soldiers falling asleep at their post or defying their commanding officers is death.
    Private Peaceful blindsided me just like when I read The Giver. I jumped in with both feet - never reading the summary or looking up any background or setting information and I had no idea what was coming. Out of 15 people in our group, Private Peaceful was a top pick for many of them. I think everyone was moved by the love, honor, and sacrifice in the story. I wish it had been given the attention War Horse was. I would have loved to see this on stage, but I'd need a BIG box of tissues for the ending.  I recommend this one for older teens, including boys because the main characters are young brothers coming of age as soldiers. I think they could relate even though it is set in WWI and they'd be getting a dose of history without even realizing it.
Locks for lovers...just like in Paris

     Last little bits of London - So much to do, you could go every day and never run out of things to see. 
Millineum Bridge and St Paul's
where Charles and Diana were married
Millenium aka "Wibbly-Wobbly Bridge"

The Eye - 15 people in one capsule!

One of our tour guides pointed out the bridge where Princess Diana crashed. It was so sad crossing over it. I remember the night it happened, exactly what I was doing and how I didn't believe it at first. In the morning, I thought it was a mistake until I turned on the news.  I remember watching her wedding, too and seeing Will and Kate get married, standing in Westminster Abbey, was surreal.

     We spent some time in the British National Museum and guess what - it's FREE to the public! Can you imagine going in there any time you want?  So many treasures - lots of Monet, a few DaVinci's, some J.W. huge, there's no way to see
everything you want. It would take months. We finally saw Monet's Japanese bridge and some of his water lillies.

The Metro
"Mind the Gap"

Proper tea with my buddy Nadean

Covent Garden - site of
Punch's Puppet Show

Charlie Chaplin
Covent Garden, London is still the site of choice for street performers. This guy is doing Charlie Chaplin and he's amazing.
Jammy Dodgers at the British National Library
So excited to see the British cover of Insurgent.
British Music Experience at the O2 Arena
Interact with instruments, video, and
their collection of memorabilia. Freddy Mercury's
white suit, Spice Girl Costumes, Beatles, etc.

British National Library - where you
can't touch the books, but you can visit
their collection of illuminated manuscripts, original
Bibles, Jane Austin's manuscripts and desk, and
some of the Beatles original drafts.

Nothing like riding on the top of a double-decker bus!

On our way under the ocean on the Eurostar through the chunnel.
Paris - here we come!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

BritLit-Mary, Bloody Mary

Let's look at the dark and sparkly side of England....
The Tower of London
The beautiful Tower Bridge

   Have you ever played Bloody Mary as a kid?  Did you ever wonder what was so scary about her?  Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer is historical fiction, but it's specifically focused on factual events. It's like a spoon full of sugar helping you swallow a bitter pill. Mary's life was supposed to be one of a princess and future queen. She should have been pampered and honored. Instead, when her dad, King Henry III gave up hope that he'd have a son, he started looking elsewhere for a new wife and heir. Back then they didn't have that decree that says a child of a king and queen can rule no matter if it's a boy or girl. Poor Mary was stuck changing the "royal nappies" of her half-sister Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and Ann Boleyn.  
     Mary, was sent to live out in one of their country homes and her finances cut off because she still believed her mother was Queen. Her father kept trying to force her to accept Ann and accept him as head of the church, but she stood her ground and survived on the provisions of the nearby common people. This girl had chutzpah!
What happened to her????  How did she come to be Bloody Mary?
     Her father tired of Anne and needed a new wife to give him a son, so what's a king to do?  Off with her head!!!

 Seriously, we stood at the place where Ann was beheaded. In the book, she walked to the chopping block with her head held high even though she was terrified. This was before the guillotine so she made nice with the ax-man beforehand and got him to hide a really sharp double bladed ax. Apparently, these events depended heavily on the ax-man being sober and accurate. Mean ol' Henry, made sure she wasn't even buried with royalty. Her grave is right there in the Tower of London chapel.

     Back to Bloody Mary - how did she get that name? After every possible heir died and she finally became queen, she wanted to put everything back the way it was. She reinstated the Catholic church and anyone opposing it or having to do with her father's turn to the Protestant church would be burned. There are martyr monuments in Oxford where monks were burned.

     There are also other prison's nearby like The Clink Prison which we toured. Torture was the means of forcing confessions and yikes! They even had a face helmet with spikes that poke the tongue - what a way to shut people up!  You can read The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose if you want to learn more about this weird prison society - imagine living in squalor, but ordering out for food?

     Oddly enough, the Tower of London is so secure, it houses the Crown Jewels. You can ride a people-mover and get a three second glimpse of all the crowns and treasures of the Royal Family.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

BritLit: War Horse the novel, movie and performance


 War Horse, by Michael Morpurgo, is a novel from the perspective of a horse named Joey, trained by a farm boy and sold into the Army in WWI. Not only is it available in hardcover and paperback, it's available in audio book, at the movies, and theater production. I listened to it on audio book and what was really amazing was that when I got to the New London Theatre, the actor Albert must have been the same actor from the audio recording. It was like the book came to life hearing it with the exact same voice.

     More mind-blowing were the puppets. Yes, puppets. These horses look like they are made of steel or sticks, but their movements are so fluid and life-like the actors trick your mind into believing they are living and breathing, stomping and dying. At one point, when one of the horses dies, we were all soggy-eyed and the woman behind us was sobbing! That's how real it felt.


     Even if you don't enjoy war stories, this story really boiled down to a boys love for his horse and how far he would go to be reunited. It brings up the cruelty and foolishness of fighting and peaks with soldiers on opposite sides calmly deciding which one of them should get Joey who is stuck in No Man's Land. Imagine soldiers armed and fighting suddenly stopping to flip a coin - both treating the horse with kindness and respect. It makes you think about the human condition and foolishness of violence when words are all that's needed.

    This production is just one of those performances you have to see in motion. Photos do little to bring it to life. If you ever get to see ANY production by the National Theater or any life-sized puppet production, consider yourself privileged! War Horse will be in Denver on Jan 8, 2014, Souix Falls, LA and lots of other US locations starting in September.  Visit for more pictures, videos, and performances.


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Book Review: Hidden by Sophie Jordan

      Lets talk about Firelight series #3 Hidden by Sophie Jordan. 
Firelight is one of my all-time favorite books because who doesn't like to see through the eyes of dragons who morph into human bodies. How about soaring on a draft or breathing a little steam on that mean girl taunting you in the bathroom? They have no hidden agenda except freedom. They want to live with their pride and be able to blend with the humans, but they can't - not with the hunters relentlessly pursuing them. 
     Jacinda already has the pride mad at her for leaving, but even worse, one of the young ones followed her and was captured by a hunter and delivered to their headquarters. Jacinda rallies her sister, her ex-hunter boyfriend Will, her draki sister Tamra, and Cassian, the future king of the pride, to help rescue Miriam.  What they find at the headquarters is shocking: Draki on the brink on insanity locked in cages, men in lab coats, and stainless steel equipment from wall to wall.

     The best part was when they were all released into their "yard" and Jacinda meets the grey - the Megatron of all draki and he's in a bad mood. Sophie Jordan takes it from there with wild character traits and paranormal powers - even the least likely can use their powers to accomplish amazing feats under the incredible pressure. The will to survive takes over and choices have to be made.
     My only complaint about Hidden was that it was over so quickly. I think back and wonder  - do I feel cheated? And the answer is N to-the-O!  It feels more like she wrote a long novel and cut out all the clutter, leaving a story that cuts to the chase and never bores you.  I feel like there's a whole story for her to tell about Deghan "the grey" and Jacinda's sister Tamra. Even if you've never read Firelight, if you like Hunger Games or descriptive tales about dragons with "gossamer wings", or paranormal powers, you will love Hidden.

For the book trailer click here
 I give Hidden  Photobucketfour stars!
And BONUS!!!  Sophie leaves us with Jacinda's best friend Az in her novella, Breathless

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mom Monday - more summerin' it up!

Snake River, ID
 So, I made it to Idaho - who knew I could  navigate in the dark better than broad daylight? It's probably because I was more focused on where I was rather than what I could see and I practiced with the real-time map on the iPad.

What it feels like...
     So, we did a lot of visiting with family, sitting by the lake, and a little kayaking. Even more awesome was mountain biking every day and learning to ride the dirt bike! Too bad my son took it away from me before I went through a few more gears.  I guess there will have to be a next time.....

what it looks like...

     At least I got to ride home in the motor home....has anyone seen my Blueblockers???

     Tomorrow is their last day before school, but NOT their last day of family fun....get ready for camping in bear country over Labor Day weekend -- hide your Pic-n-ic baskets.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Changing it up today - It's Let the Sky Fall Friday!

Breath-taking cover!!!
   It's time for a stars-and-stripes all-American story, but wait - are they even our species?   Shannon Messenger, author of Keeper of the Lost Cities, rocks the YA world with her YA debut revealing the realm of Sylphs in Let the Sky Fall.  Could they be Slyph-Americans? I mean VaneWeston is as normal as you can get, except for the fact that he really loves his parents, a rare trait for a main character.  Hottie unwaware, he lives for girls, burgers and fries and game controllers. Considering himself an average-Joe how could he be a Windwalker? And why is this pretty girl insisting she's his guardian?

     But there's more, there's his blank-memory past and that mysterious brown-haired girl who's been in his dreams since he was little. How could he be so special to be the only survivor of a massive tornado? And when it's revealed to him bit-by-bit he questions how it could fall on him to be the one guy who can save his town from another catastrophe.  So many questions, but so much happening all at once. Shannon Messenger braids together unique paranormal abilities, epic battles, personal challenges, family, and romance. The next time the wind blows in a freaky storm, I'll be wondering if they are out there battling for our safety. 

     This book was so edgy, fresh and fun,  I devoured it and then did one thing I rarely do - read it again! This was me holding up my booklight for an
I give Let The Sky Fall Photobucket 5 stars and a Bro-fist for appealing to girls AND guys ! 

I was just thinking how I almost hope there's another  villain out there because I want to see Vane and Audra back in action and SQUEE!!!! Look what was announced on Goodreads while I was abroad....

I can't wait until March - Thank You Shannon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  

....running off to see if Shannon has any ARC Rafflecopter giveaways on her blog.......

Thursday, August 22, 2013

BritLit- Macbeth at the Globe, London.....

                 .....and  Macbeth for Kids by Lois Burdett 

     Out of our entire trip, seeing Macbeth performed at the Globe was unforgettable!  It was so different from seeing the Royal Shakespeare Acting company perform As You Like It. Macbeth is a tragedy, so this performance was traditional, serious, and intense!   It was raw and gritty - even creepy when Banquo was haunting Macbeth. The acting company's costumes were so incredible, I just wanted to touch the velvet and see how heavy the dresses were.

All of us ambushing Billy Boyd
      A big surprise was actor Billy Boyd (Pippin from Lord of the Rings) played Banquo. I hear Patrick Stewart also did a performance here, too. It was a bit confusing though. Typical of Shakespeare, some of the actors played several parts. So one minute Billy Boyd is dead, the next he's back in a different role. The only way to really know what's going on is to study the play before you go. Bring in Lois Burdett again. We already used her children's book As You Like It for Kids and this time we used Macbeth for Kids. As they say, if something is too difficult for adults, write it for children. Even thought the playbill had a summary, without her book, I would have been so lost.

          The lead actors, Joseph Millson and Samantha Spiro had us mesmerized with their performance - especially when she started to go crazy and he was having visions of dead Banquo. Performances in the Globe are so traditional that the actors actually walk out into the audience. It felt like any minute he might grab you and yell into your face that death was stalking him -  like any minute Macbeth was going to snap! 
If I was in London for the summer, I would see it again and again.