Book Review: Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment

17739465Rating: 5
Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment
By Paul Conroy  
Weinstein Books 2013 /320 pages

It’s only been a few short hours since I’ve closed the pages of Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Final Assignment by Paul Conroy. I’m truly at a loss for words. I am not at a loss however for emotion or deep pensive thoughts. Which is what I have been doing since reading the final lines of this remarkable book.  It’s certainly a book that I’m so glad to have accepted from Paul’s publicist. I also cannot stop looking at the cover photo and feeling a tremendous sense of loss and sadness. Journalism certainly lost a remarkable woman and an incredible champion to bringing to the world’s attention to the plight of every person suffering within their war-ravaged countries.

Marie Colvin’s drive and determination to enter into some of the most horrific and deadliest countries being gutted and destroyed by war had nothing to do with seeking adventure or being an adrenalin junkie. The true reason Marie Colvin risked her life, and ultimately gave her life, was to bring our attention and awareness to the everyday person’s struggle to survive while their country was being torn apart, usually by some maniacal leader. They would consistently slip “under the wire” and secretly in to these countries, and It was in this final assignment in Syria that Paul writes about, doing exactly just that, where Marie lost her life.

In Paul’s words:

“This is what it was all about for her – reporting on the ordinary people caught up in war. Much is written about journalists being war junkies or adrenalin addicts. I would challenge anyone in the world to accuse Marie of being one of these. Yes, she would jump borders and risk life and limb, but only ever for the story; for the very people we were now about to visit. She had little time for people who accused foreign correspondents and photographers of being dysfunctional thrill-seekers.”

Paul Conroy has written a remarkable tribute to her, their friendship and her incredible courageousness. He has done so with amazing attention to detail and a fierce command of language. It is also written with humour but incredibly as well, with a sense of non-stop, on-the -edge-of-your seat anticipation and anxiousness. You feel as though you are actually there, by their sides, as they dodge bullets, brace against the impact of non-stop mortar shelling and the crippling fear and desperation to arrive safely across a border, to a safe-house or into an area where they can release these horrifying images and stories of the young children, babies and women and men suffering while trying to survive in countries that are living through war and crippling devastation every single day.

There was a speech Marie Colvin gave at St Brides on Fleet Street, that Paul writes about (included below), again giving importance to the work that war correspondents are doing. You can also read her full speech on the site dedicated to Marie here and at

“In a famous speech she had given at St. Brides on Fleet Street, a church traditionally associated with journalists, a few years earlier, she argued passionately for the need to send reporters to dangerous places. She believed war reporting was a way of speaking truth to power, of holding governments to account by telling the public what their governments were doing in their name. For her, war reporting was about bearing witness to the plight of ordinary civilians so that she could record it for the world and reveal the brutal consequences of decisions taken by men in high places. It sounds grand, but she believed that without war correspondents governments could conduct themselves as if in a vacuum: their lies and propaganda could be conveyed without challenge, allowing them to carry out atrocities far from the prying eyes of the world. In her words, it was about sending back the first rough draft of history and cutting through the sandstorm of propaganda that flares when armies, tribes or terrorists clash.”

Under the Wire is an emotionally crippling yet wild adventure-ride of a story. But it is also an essential one that requires wide readership. You can assure yourself however that you are reading a great, great story at the hands of a very accomplished writer. Conroy’s command of the language is stunning. And while he is writing of his great respect and love for a great friend and accomplished journalist, you are also reading about an incredibly courageous Paul Conroy. I could not begin to imagine doing this on a frequent basis, but he’ll just pass it off saying he can’t imagine the trouble he would get in to if he held down a “real job”. Please read Under the Wire, and at the same time give pause and consideration not only to the incredible and remarkable job these war correspondents take on in order to ensure the world does not ignore what is happening to others less privileged than we are, but also to what these people themselves are suffering and enduring. As Conroy wrote at the very end of this book, at the time of his writing, no nation had yet stepped in to help the people of Syria.

5 stars for this incredible story.

From the publisher: Zero Dark Thirty meets 127 Hours – Under the Wire is a riveting war journal from photographer Paul Conroy, who accompanied Marie Colvin (called by her peers “the greatest war correspondent of her generation”) during her ill-fated final assignment in Syria.

Under the Wire: Marie Colvin’s Last Assignment (Weinstein Books; Hardcover; 320 pages; October 8, 2013) is by photographer Paul Conroy. A former soldier with the Royal Artillery, Conroy has worked extensively in combat zones, producing footage from conflicts in the Balkans, the Middle East and Libya.

Marie Colvin, the internationally recognized American foreign-war correspondent who was killed in a rocket attack in 2012 while reporting on the suffering of civilians inside Syria, was renowned for her flair and her fearlessness: she reported from dangerous places no other hard-core correspondent would dare to go. Conroy, who had forged a close bond with Colvin as they put their lives on the line time and lime again to report from the world’s conflict zones, was with her when she died. Under the Wire is Paul’s gripping, visceral, and moving account of their friendship and the final year he spent alongside her.

Audiobook Review & 2013 Man Booker Shortlisted: A Tale for the Time Being

15811545Rating: 5
A Tale for the Time Being
A Novel by Ruth Ozeki
Audiobook Narrated by Ruth Ozeki 2013 /14 hours and 45 minutes

My first ever 5-star Man Booker nominated book!  A Tale for the Time Being (audiobook) was absolutely fantastic. Stunning. Remarkable. Most assuredly one of the best audiobooks and stories I’ve read this year. I was completely and utterly invested in this story, in the characters and in the tremendous creativity and ingenuity of this multi-layered tale.

The audio narration of this ingenious story is something that I cannot simply explain to you how amazing it was. To hear Ozeki breath the life and soul in to each and every one of her characters as she intended the reader to understand them, was an incredible listening pleasure. Each voice was distinct and I found myself arriving at work late every day so I wouldn’t have to stop the audio, I found myself driving an extra 20 minutes on the commute home, I even took to leaving for lunch to just drive around and hold on here…. at one point I even strapped on the running shoes to go for a run (!!) all just so I did not have to end my time spent with Nao and Ruth, and Old Jico, Oliver and Haruki #1, the inhabitants of the island where Ruth & Oliver lived, etc. That my friends is sound and genuine proof that A Tale for the Time Being is a stellar 5-star read.

While I was initially shocked to see this not make the Giller Prize Longlist this year, I believe I now understand the judges point of view, or supposed point of view – it has already been Longlisted and Shortlisted (and fingers crossed the winner) of the Man Booker Prize and perhaps hoping to not see a repeat of a “Hilary Mantel” occurrence where everyone is shut out as she takes home every single literary prize, such as what occurred last year. Although, the judging panel for the Gillers’ this year described their Longlist choices:

“These are essential stories. Each of these novels and story collections offer a glimpse of who we are, who we might be. Whether set in postwar  Vienna, or 1970s Montreal, contemporary Afghanistan or Newfoundland, each of  these books took us out of ourselves to places that were at times  uncomfortable, at times exhilarating.”

I believe A Tale for the Time Being wonderfully and undeniably achieves this as well, but do seem to understand the decision to allow other and deserving authors their chance to shine.

A Tale for the Time Being encompasses an extraordinary myriad of topics, and initially you are left to wonder if it would be an enjoyable read, or if it would be overly ambitious and leave the reader confused and lost . But no, Ozeki has brilliantly inter-weaved quantum physics, time, longing, bullying, suicide, prostitution, depression, environmental art and environmental destruction, connection, globalization (among others) with astonishingly original stories. In one book all of this incorporated in to two diaries, letters, emails, unfinished memoirs and recounts the lives of a multitude of characters struggling with, at times, very connected and similar feelings. It’s amazing. It’s breathtaking. And I honestly shed a tear when my time with Ruth & Oliver and Nao & Jico & Haruki #1 came to an end.

Many times throughout the story, the “Jungle Crow”, which is native to Japan, is featured throughout each of Ruth’s chapters. I could not shake the feeling that this particular jungle crow inhabiting Ruth’s island, as she was reading and piecing together the story of this 16-year-old Japanese girl, was actually Nao visiting/protecting/watching Ruth. After finishing, I took the time to look up the jungle crow and came across this fascinating blog about the crow and its meaning in Japanese culture. According to this blog, the crow has a cultural significance of being a protector.

The crow also makes up a part of one of the mythological creatures found in Japanese Shintoism and Buddhism, the Crow Tengu…Tengu protect the Dharma, or Buddhist law against transgressors of the Dharma…Tengu have a variety of supernatural powers that they use to play these tricks on people including:  shape-shifting to human or animal forms, speaking without moving their mouths, moving instantly from place to place and being able to invade people’s dreams.


With my every wish, I want A Tale for the Time Being to win the 2013 Man Booker Prize. After completing and posting my initial (gushing love) thoughts about it (and tweeting my love to Ms. Ozeki) I’ve discovered, based on feedback received, that I am so not alone in this wish.

Book Review: Ordinary Grace

ordinaryThank you to Edelweiss and Atria Books for providing the advance copy of Ordinary Grace, and to the Windsor Public Library for lending me the hard copy.

Ordinary Grace was splendid. This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. It contains some of the most gorgeous prose I’ve read all year long.

“A wind cooler than anything I’d felt in days breathed into my face and I watched the storm as I might have watched the approach and passing of a fierce and beautiful animal.”

I had vague recollection of Wiley Cash’s  A Land More Kind Than Home when reading. Not in the way that the stories are too similar to each other, although there is the good vs. evil theme and the relationship and love between brothers, I think it may have more to do with the beauty of the writing and the full emotional investment felt while reading. This was a book that I simply could not put down, read way, way past my bedtime and rarely lifted my nose from between the pages. I never wanted to leave New Bremen, Minnesota.

The story of the summer and events of 1961 in New Bremen is told through the eyes of Frank Drum some 40 years later, but is told as though it is current day and the events are presently unfolding. That summer of ’61, Frank is 13 and shares the events and emotions of these few short months that began with an accidental death, followed by a natural death, suicide and ends with a murder. I don’t think any more than this needs to be shared about the contents of Ordinary Grace. You will just have to trust me that this is a most beautiful read that flows effortlessly like the river featured inside. Part coming-of-age, part mystery, 100% all heart, Ordinary Grace will surely become one of the best books you’ve read in a long, long time.

Frank’s voice and narrative are astonishing. It was like reading art. The people that surround Frank are some of the most interesting and well realized characters and you truly feel as though you are sitting on some front porch with them, joining in on their conversation. The people in New Bremen are larger than life and a group you cannot tear yourself away from.

“Told from Frank’s perspective forty years after that fateful summer, Ordinary Grace is a brilliantly moving account of a boy standing at the door of his young manhood, trying to understand a world that seems to be falling apart around him. It is an unforgettable novel about discovering the terrible price of wisdom and the enduring grace of God.” (taken from front jacket description.)

Brilliant and unforgettable. Two very well chosen words that wonderfully surmise Ordinary Grace, yet seemingly don’t describe it well enough at all!  It was fantastic and is definitely a novel that will remain with me for long after closing. Truthfully, I did not want this book to end. The end however comes to a close with such a rush of discovery and pain, I’m certain I’m going to have a very tough time picking up something new to read in the coming days. I am so, so heartbroken that my time in New Bremen with Frank, Jake and their father Nathan has had to come to an end. Please craft another stunning tale like this one Mr. Kent Krueger.

Most assuredly a Literary Hoarder’s Approved title! Another title where I say, go, now, run, grab this book!


5 shining stars. I couldn’t think of a more special or incredibly moving tale to read this summer.

“That was it. That was all of it. A grace so ordinary there was no reason at all to remember it. Yet I have never across the forty years since it was spoken forgotten a single word.”

Book Review: Me Before You (#2)

15507958Jackie read this one first and reviewed it wonderfully here. We received not one, but three! copies of this book from Rebecca at Viking/Penguin in order to pitch to our Wink 3 book club. Gladly, we did so and the feed back from all in the club indicated that Me Before You was a very successful choice! So thank you again Rebecca!

Me Before You also has this book trailer…(Love book trailers!) and includes a quote from Oprah saying it’s “an unlikely love story.” Yes, I can see that, but I think it’s that and SO much more. It really is a wonderful story of coming in to your own as well. But importantly, not just a romantic sappy love story. It’s not that at all! Yes, you cry buckets at the end, but it’s really a contemporary and wonderfully written book. If it were a movie, I would say it was a brilliantly acted movie. (This I can see movie. I hope so. (yes! I actually said that!).

Laura, in our Wink 3 book club, read it in under two days I think? I believe I did the same. I was on page 17 and absolutely, utterly in love and engrossed with the story of Louisa (Lou) and Will. From the beginning to the very end I was all in and didn’t want to leave Will and Lou! So you ever read a book where the characters are so wonderfully real and alive that it feels like you’re sitting in a room with them? You’re completely immersed in their lives and have a massive emotional attachment to them? Well, that’s how it was with Will and Lou. And Nathan, and Mrs. Traynor and Lou’s parents too!

Jackie really surmises the premise of the book wonderfully in her review attached above, so all I’m really going to add is that I absolutely loved it, cried like crazy at the end and also, did some serious thinking about Will’s intentions and his right to plan the end of his own life, and to do so with dignity. I think that both sides of this are well presented. Really, is it up to us, and not the individual person, to make that decision?

At the end of Jackie’s review she inserted a picture of bee-striped leggings, which was perfection and an extremely poignant moment in the story and now, Viking/Penguin offers these inspirational e-cards! Now you too can send someone you love the message to live boldly, wear those leggings with pride and to never, ever settle or to Just Live Well .

From Goodreads: Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that.
What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.


I’m giving Me Before You 5-great stars. My post is short and sweet, but I really can’t say much else than that I really, really enjoyed it! I think it was the perfect book that came along at the perfect time. I’m certain you would enjoy this one tremendously as well. Put any hesitation aside and pick up your copy today. (and when you reach the end, sorry for the spoiler, make sure you have plenty of tissue available!)