“It’s a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” I’m not sure about the first part, but the second part certainly seems applicable when you view the Ir...more“It’s a rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” I’m not sure about the first part, but the second part certainly seems applicable when you view the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts through the lens of this book…the only difference being, “it’s a poor woman’s fight.”
Focusing on three women from the Indiana National Guard, this book explores their experiences of these conflicts, and how they re-acclimated to civilian wars. Of the three soldiers, two of them, Michelle and Desma, come from clearly straitened financial backgrounds and broken homes, although only Michelle joined explicitly for the financial incentives. (Desma joined on a dare.) The third woman, Debbie, is older (about to be a grandmother, actually) and has had time to make her way in the world, but she’s certainly not a wealthy person. In fact, it seems like most of the soldiers encountered within this book had joined for financial reasons, which leaves one wondering if the composition of the entire army relies on the existence of an economically disadvantaged class.
Yet this is not a book about class. If anything, this is a book about gender, and equality, and the inherent similarities of us all when we are placed in extraordinary circumstances. Michelle, Desma, and Debbie, all of whom joined the Guard before September 11, of course found their expectations dramatically altered after the terrorist attacks—drilling one weekend a month and for a few weeks each summer was no longer their chief obligation to the US; their training increased and they were eventually deployed to Afghanistan in 2004, as part of a mixed-gender regiment, and then later, Desma and Debbie to Iraq. There were certainly fewer females than males in their regiments, but each of the three women held their own—at the end of the day, while they experienced attentions both wanted and unwanted, while they experienced discrimination, harassment, support, and encouragement from their male colleagues and superiors, they essentially felt the same boredom, fear, frustration, loneliness, stress, and PTSD as their male counterparts.
Whether you are pro-war or anti-war, this is a book that will make you think and keep you riveted from beginning to end. (less)
Frail, ailing Lucy is eleven years old when her curmudgeonly father sends her off to Egypt to recover from the typhus that nearly killed her. It’s the...moreFrail, ailing Lucy is eleven years old when her curmudgeonly father sends her off to Egypt to recover from the typhus that nearly killed her. It’s there that Lucy’s life changes, undeniably for the better—she befriends young Frances, an American girl accompanying her parents on the widely-famed archaeological dig through the Valley of Kings. Through her friendship with Frances, Lucy begins to recover and take an interest in the fascinating group of characters searching out an unmolested pharaoh’s tomb—Lord Carnarvon and his daughter Eve, tetchy Howard Carter, as well as many others in their entourage. Lucy is, of course, a bit young to comprehend the intrigue and politics surrounding the dig, but not too young to be bewitched by the adventure—so much that, many decades after the discovery of King Tutenkhamen’s tomb, she still remembers, and comes to share the memories with a documentarian.
Unfortunately for the plot, since this is told through the voice of a (fictional) on-looker, we are treated to many details from Lucy’s own (again, fictional) complicated life and her sometimes fraught relations with her father, her governess-turned-stepmother Nicola, and Nicola’s maybe-lover Clair. All of this is fascinating and would make a good story in its own right, but unnecessarily bloats this story beyond a point that’s wieldy. Too bad, as the parts are worthy—but alas, the sum is not so much. (less)
If you have a toxic parent—or especially, a parent inclined towards hoarding behaviors—approach this book very very carefully. Make sure you’re in a s...moreIf you have a toxic parent—or especially, a parent inclined towards hoarding behaviors—approach this book very very carefully. Make sure you’re in a strong emotional place, because this story of hippie and aspiring hoarder Lorelai, and how she drives her family away, can be a bit tough if you have personal experience with this subject matter. Still, a gripping read, if a wee bit on the messy-domestic-drama side—which is perhaps a good thing, for it keeps the book interesting without being too heavy or depressing. (less)
Food writer and journalist Kathleen Flinn has gone many places, and tasted many things…but I daresay that she’s managed to stay true to her Midwestern...moreFood writer and journalist Kathleen Flinn has gone many places, and tasted many things…but I daresay that she’s managed to stay true to her Midwestern roots. Those roots break through and flourish in this enormously appetizing memoir of her family’s background and her own childhood in Michigan. Each anecdote she offers has food centered at the heart or on the periphery of the story, and each chapter ends with a recipe of the main food mentioned. The recipes sound both solidly Midwestern and tantalizingly delicious (i.e., oven-fried chicken, bread and butter pickles, Hot German potato salad) but they never overshadow the true heart of the story—one family’s enduring love and support through the highs and lows of 20th century America. Anyone yearning for the sensible, get-on-with-it, community-minded ideal of Middle America, and the attendant aphorisms and truisms, should read this book and revel in it.
In summary: If there is such a thing as comfort food (and goodness, yes there is) well then, why can’t there be such a thing as comfort reading? And what if there were something that could combine BOTH? Well, in this book, I’ve found such a combination, and was able to relish in it without gaining a single pound. (But then, I haven’t tried any of the book’s recipes, yet.)
The beautiful thing about the fantasy genre is that, if you do it right, anything goes. If you build a world solidly enough, no one is going to bat an...more The beautiful thing about the fantasy genre is that, if you do it right, anything goes. If you build a world solidly enough, no one is going to bat an eye at magic or kraken or, you know, empowered women, because hey! It’s fantasy!
So it’s not at all unbelievable, the plot at the core of this fantasy by Lackey: the royal duke and duchess of Swansgaard, realizing the difficulty of birthing twelve daughters before the long-needed son (it’s a patriarchal line), quickly begin training their daughters for the day when, lacking dowries, they must be turned loose on the world. Each daughter must choose a trade to excel in; the eldest, Clarice, becomes a very capable swords-mistress. And when she turns 18, she sets forth to make her fortune and find adventure. In short course, she finds herself cross-dressing as a unbearded youth, Clarence, aboard a ship bound for the New World. But pirates, enchanted amulets, mutiny, and a very handsome new captain turn all of her plans on their head, and it takes all of Clarice’s wiles to come out alive, in love, and with answers to the strange encounters she witnesses on the high seas.
Definitely on the lighter side of fantasy (I’m not sure fans of The Game of Thrones will appreciate it) but Lackey can tell a story well enough to keep me committed to reading it—and come back for the books about Clarice’s sisters! (less)
Beautiful, rich colors illustrate this story about a baby bear trying to make his way home, and the adorable creatures of the forest who help (and occ...moreBeautiful, rich colors illustrate this story about a baby bear trying to make his way home, and the adorable creatures of the forest who help (and occasionally hinder) the baby bear on his way. Thoroughly improbable but delightful nonetheless.(less)
Spare and vintagey illustrations let the words tell the story about Laszlo, the young boy who finds a way to confront his fear of the dark. A lovely b...moreSpare and vintagey illustrations let the words tell the story about Laszlo, the young boy who finds a way to confront his fear of the dark. A lovely book!(less)
Who wants to imagine what life and the world must look like, from the point of view of a Nazi? I’m going to assume that thankfully precious few of us...moreWho wants to imagine what life and the world must look like, from the point of view of a Nazi? I’m going to assume that thankfully precious few of us would desire that—which is one of the reasons why Audrey Magee’s novel is such a bold piece of work. It explores World War II through the eyes of the common soldier Peter and his wife Katharina as they separately struggle to fight for and support the Nazis at the same time as they carefully tend to their marriage, which is forced to flourish under the most difficult conditions.
Peter and his fellow soldiers march towards Stalingrad, ruthlessly pillaging Russian villages along the way, and Katharina and her pushy, opportunistic parents begin to work their way into the Nazi elite, currying favor as rationing grows greater and more and more bombs fall around Berlin. In their letters to each other, they are honest and loving and supportive, and dream of the day with the war is over and they can be together. In that way, these could be the letters of any loving couple separated by war, and you can easily pity them, as well as Peter’s soldier colleagues, as they begin to die in ugly, brutal, pointless ways. The author makes no attempt to sugarcoat or whitewash their anti-semitic and anti-Russian prejudices; nor does she attempt to diminish the power of Katharina and Peter’s love for and fidelity to one another. It’s an absolutely gripping and haunting novel—and also utterly unnerving when you learn the kind of character Peter truly has, and see how it’s been like that all along. (less)