It’s fitting that The Bosnia List begins at the bar with Kenan Trebinčević and his brother, Eldin. Reading this memoir feels like taking a seat next tIt’s fitting that The Bosnia List begins at the bar with Kenan Trebinčević and his brother, Eldin. Reading this memoir feels like taking a seat next to them at the bar and listening to their story. It’s a riveting account of their escape from war-torn Bosnia, told in a conversational style by Kenan with journalist Susan Shapiro. So pull up a chair and keep the drinks flowing, because you won’t want to walk away until you hear how it ends.
The escape from persecution is a necessary part, but it’s not the whole story. Kenan’s friends, neighbors, favorite teacher, and idolized coach all turned against him and his family when the ethnic cleansing began. Their survival and escape from the deadly conflict is remarkable, but it is the decision to return two decades later that is staggering. Kenan and Eldin go along with their ailing father’s desire to visit their homeland, but Kenan goes with his own agenda. He makes a list of a dozen redresses that begins with “Confront Petra about stealing from my mother” and “Stand at Pero’s grave to make sure he’s really dead.” This is no social visit for Kenan, who has been having involuntary revenge fantasies. How he reconciles the items on his list provides the resolution to this tragic tale.
I was in high school when Slobodan Milošević incited Yugoslavia to tear itself apart. I was studying Russian at the time, so I followed the developments in the news, but only through American channels. I didn’t have a sense of what it meant on an individual level until I read The Bosnia List. I am grateful that Lindsay Prevette at Penguin Books directed my attention to it, and that Penguin is allowing me to giveaway a copy!...more
I received this from First Reads, but I had to read the first book, A Blaze of Glory, before I could read this one. That meant I read it in July ratheI received this from First Reads, but I had to read the first book, A Blaze of Glory, before I could read this one. That meant I read it in July rather than May, but, as July 4th marked the 150th anniversary of the events described herein, the timing was salient. This series on the Western Theater is wonderful for the moderate Civil War buff, and I’ve learned plenty about the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Vicksburg. I found the second book carried the greater impact, particularly as Shaara made a civilian one of the point of view characters. Going behind the fortifications to show the deprivations inflicted on the people and the horrors of the field hospitals really brings the suffering home, even if young Lucy Spence never returned to her battle-damaged domicile....more
I'm no fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Destiny's Child, or the war in Iraq necessarily, but I am a fan of writers who can meld difficult subject matter intI'm no fan of the Dallas Cowboys, Destiny's Child, or the war in Iraq necessarily, but I am a fan of writers who can meld difficult subject matter into an entertaining book, so that makes me a Fountain fan! He deserved to be a National Book Award Finalist for what he did with Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. It may not be the definitive literary work of the Iraq war, but I have already recommended it to my buddy in the Navy. I await his verdict as to the authenticity of Billy Lynn's experiences on both fronts, battle and home, but I thought the book was terrific. And, as someone who recently suffered a migraine, I can attest to the horror of that halftime show!...more
A customer recently contacted our store to formally request that we not carry the August issue of Rolling Stone due to the controversial image on itsA customer recently contacted our store to formally request that we not carry the August issue of Rolling Stone due to the controversial image on its cover. I appreciate her concerns, and agree that it’s poor taste for the magazine to portray the young man accused of planting bombs at the Boston Marathon as though he were a celebrity. Personally I object to the portrayal, but, as a university store, we have decided not to join the boycott of the issue. We want to add to the discussion, not take away from it. The issue will be available on request, but not displayed. In its place I will be promoting A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra.
It is a devastating story, told with immaculate care by a decorated debut author. Marra didn’t take an easy route for his first novel, although I wouldn’t term it overly ambitious. To crib from the title, it is a vital story, one that required refined skill to write and needed to be published (and I commend Hogarth for doing so). It is a necessary read for anyone trying to understand the violent forces that shape the people of Chechnya. There is nothing glamorous in the portrayal of violence for the sake of any cause, not even in the amputation of a leg mutilated by a mine, as in the attacks in Boston.
Only eight-year-old Havaa isn’t compromised in this constant struggle to survive, but she is without recourse when her father is taken by Russian forces. She hides in the woods as her house is burned to the ground. The Russians will leave no trace of her family, without exceptions. Her father’s friend Akhmed finds her first, and takes her from their remote village of Eldar to the city of Volchansk, where there is a shelled-out hospital. A single surgeon named Sonja still operates the hospital, but she too has been shelled out by ten years of fighting. Akhmed, the village’s unlicensed doctor, trades his rudimentary assistance for Havaa’s boarding in the hospital. Akhmed (a Chechnyan) and Sonja (a Russian) continue to function in their grim circumstances, and between them they manage to spare Havaa from a terrible fate.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a tragic tale of friends, family, and neighbors who alternately wrong and ultimately redeem one another. It should resonate with anyone who experienced the ‘B Strong’ resolve that swept through Boston in the wake of the deplorable attack. I recommend keeping the focus on the survivors who carried one another to safety, which is why I strongly recommend this book....more
Zhukov wasn’t a bombardier, and he did not return to a regular civilian life after accepting Germany’s surrender. He garnered so much success that heZhukov wasn’t a bombardier, and he did not return to a regular civilian life after accepting Germany’s surrender. He garnered so much success that he was elevated to commander-in-chief of the ground forces. His fame was as fickle as Stalin was suspicious, however. In a matter of months he was busted down in rank and sent away from Moscow. After Stalin died Zhukov participated in the arrest of Beria, and was rehabilitated under Khrushchev. He rose again to the position of Defense Minister, only to be deposed and exiled once more.
Zhukov was Stalin’s go to general, the one he sent into besieged Leningrad, recalled to defend Moscow, deployed to hold Stalingrad at all costs, and put on the offensive at Kursk. Stalin appointed him marshal of the Soviet Union two months before assuming the title for himself, and gave him the honor of reviewing the Victory Parade. When his popularity rivaled that of Stalin he was removed from the capital and the authorized history of the war. In present day Russia Stalin is still revered by some for leading them through the Great Patriotic War, in spite of all the self-inflicted damage he caused. Zhukov’s reputation has been restored in all its complexity, and he is no less revered for it....more
Deathless is an updated retelling of the tale of Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna set in the era of world wars and Russian revolutions. That prDeathless is an updated retelling of the tale of Koschei the Deathless and Marya Morevna set in the era of world wars and Russian revolutions. That premise was enough to draw me in, and the excerpts on the publisher’s website (along with the promotional comic book) completely captivated me.
As a young girl, Marya watches through the window as birds transform into military officers who proceed to marry Marya’s older sisters. “And so Anna went dutifully to the estates of Lieutenant Zhulan, and wrote properly worded letters home to her sisters, in which her verbs were distributed fairly among the nouns, and her datives asked for no more than they required.” The melding of paradigms is delectable! This is lush, indulgent story-telling. Valente’s re-imagining of traditional Russian folktales are vivid and lurid, filled with the blood of life and death. As for Marya, her destiny lies with Koschei the Deathless, who comes for her. She becomes his wife and his wolf (volchitsa). The novel turns on a single question: who is to rule? Husband or Wife? The Old ways or the New? Life or Death? The story vanquishes the characters every time it is retold.
“That’s how you get deathless, volchitsa. Walk the same tale over and over, until you wear a groove in the world, until even if you vanished, the tale would keep turning, keep playing, like a phonograph, and you’d have to get up again, even with a bullet through your eye, to play your part and say your lines.”...more
Unbroken recounts the extraordinary experiences of a B-24 bombardier, but that's where the similarities with my grandfather's WWII service ends. He waUnbroken recounts the extraordinary experiences of a B-24 bombardier, but that's where the similarities with my grandfather's WWII service ends. He wasn't a neighborhood nuisance or a world-class distance runner. He didn't serve in the Pacific theater, or go down in the ocean. He didn't survive weeks afloat on a drifting raft with no provisions and circling sharks. He wasn't captured and treated inhumanely as an enemy combatant. This is an amazing story told with great depth of research and emotion, but I also like my grandfather's story: he finished his missions over Germany and returned to his civilian life....more
I lost patience with the repetition of “So it goes” at the end of so many sections in Slaughterhouse-Five, the next book I read for Cinco de Mayo. I’mI lost patience with the repetition of “So it goes” at the end of so many sections in Slaughterhouse-Five, the next book I read for Cinco de Mayo. I’m sure Kurt Vonnegut was trying to make a po-mo point by doing so, but I don’t really need a post-it flag marking each place a person dies. Granted, people die meaningless deaths every day and it doesn’t reach the scale of the meaningless deaths of 25,000 civilians in the firebombing of Dresden. Complicated message well- and artfully-told received; please stop poking me with it....more
Another war novel, albeit from an entirely different theater. The Profession is set in 2032, when strife in Iraq and neighboring nations has given risAnother war novel, albeit from an entirely different theater. The Profession is set in 2032, when strife in Iraq and neighboring nations has given rise to professional mercenaries. Highly trained and privately funded, these mercenary forces are able to respond to terrorist threats employing methods that no national military would ever approve. There is no holding back; retribution is swift and total. Terror is combated with terror. The American republic cannot condone these actions, but the American public is content to sit back and watch their enemies get a taste of their own medicine. When the mercenary commander and his coalition of backers set their sights on rivals foreign and domestic, it’s up to one of his most loyal lieutenants to draw a line in the sand.
There are a number of parallels that can be drawn between this novel and my novel-in-progress - the year 2032, the wars in Iraq, the unrest in the U.S. that foments political upheaval – which is the reason I read it. Pressfield takes an entirely different approach than I have, and it was worth seeing the issues from a former Marine’s perspective....more
My grandfather was a bombardier in World War II, so most of my reading has been in that direction. His father was in Eisenhower's tank company in WorlMy grandfather was a bombardier in World War II, so most of my reading has been in that direction. His father was in Eisenhower's tank company in World War I, so it was good to get a sense of the tank battles in Northern Africa under Eisenhower's command....more
I plucked this book off my mother’s bookshelf before a recent trip to North Carolina. I realize it was a touristy thing to do (especially after seeingI plucked this book off my mother’s bookshelf before a recent trip to North Carolina. I realize it was a touristy thing to do (especially after seeing the book on display at every bookstore and gift shop we happened upon), but I would have read Cold Mountain eventually. Why not be transported literally and literarily at the same time? My decision was confirmed after I labored through the first chapter on the outbound flight. I wasn’t hooked by chapter one, but by the title of chapter two: “the ground beneath her hands.” Following so closely on the heels of The Ground Beneath Her Feet as it did I took that as a good omen.
I wasn’t able to read too many chapters beyond that on the trip, as I was traveling with family, but I was able to see Cold Mountain as we drove up to the Blue Ridge Parkway. That hazy visual helped me match the topography with Frazier’s vivid and extensively detailed depiction as I read later. This book does not spare details the way it spares sentimentality (I could have been spared the epilogue though). The details and diction of Cold Mountain seeped into my mind like a mist and I found myself thinking in its terms, which is a sure sign of the affect of a great book. I also felt compelled to tend to my property, meager and nonsustaining though it may be. The concept of the homestead has changed, but the compulsion to return home is constant....more