Saturday, July 30, 2011

Review: The Things They Carried

Title: The Things They Carried
Author:  Tim O’Brien
Pages: 246
Why I Read This Book: The short answer is because it is on my fall syllabus however it had been on my radar before that.
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis From Goodreads:
They carried malaria tablets, love letters, 28-pound mine detectors, dope, illustrated bibles, each other. And if they made it home alive, they carried unrelenting images of a nightmarish war that history is only beginning to absorb. Since its first publication, The Things They Carried has become an unparalleled Vietnam testament, a classic work of American literature, and a profound study of men at war that illuminates the capacity, and the limits, of the human heart and soul.

My Review/Opinion:
Once I get over the melancholy and depression that this book has left me with, perhaps I can write a better review of this book. As it stands right now I’m left so perplexed on the experience that was Vietnam and how it still and I’d guess always will be unique to any other war. And for those that served and fought then, I am so sorry.

As far as this tale from Tim O’Brien goes, his writing started out gangbusters and was interlaced with some very poignant prose. Especially when he was weaving stories of characters with the descriptions of the things they carried. And as he melded the things they carried between personal and army issue. This quote from page 7 is a good example:
“They carried all they could bear, and then some, including a silent awe for the terrible power of the things they carried.”

It really drove home that emotions were really the heaviest of what they carried. That these were things they would carry all their lives.

And then O’Brien lapses into more anecdotal writing (although that is such a benign word for the context of these stories). The stories are not parabolic, they don’t teach or preach, they tell. Were they true? There is some speculation about that. Were they O’Brien’s actual experiences, or retold tales he heard about while in country, or were they all pure fiction but ‘could’ have been. I think in the end it’s immaterial. It was Vietnam and these were kids not ready for war let alone the sheer culture shock of that war. And the stories in this book were 'real' in that regard. Any vet could read these stories and probably have one to tell that would match or top them. Sad to say.

It was this realism that left me so emotionally drained and rather depressed. The book is a bummer, no two ways about it. BUT, and I can not emphasize this enough…It Is Important!!  Because it is sad, because it is poetic in places, because Vietnam is unique and because there are still people today who are bearing the weight of the things they carried.

O’Brien’s writing never let me down. Not a sentence, while I liked the prose of the beginning of the book better, I was in love with the writing all the way through. And in the end, he not only recognized that we all carry things, he returns to the prose. And maybe that was allegory for his transformations during that time, from idealist, to realist, to a combination of both. Making this not only an important Vietnam War book, but an important human book.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Top Ten Tough Topics and alliteration

Top Ten Tuesday (my fav meme) graciously hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!
I do like a book that makes me think. That challenges what I thought were Iron Clad beliefs and ideas. To enlarge my world and help me understand it better or wonder what the heck is happening to it more. Depends on the case. These are the tough topics.

So here's my list. In no particular order. I haven't read Johnny Got His Gun yet but my daughter did and she said that book for certain will never ever leave her.

 To Kill A Mockingbird - prejudice

 The Help - Prejudice

The Book Theif - Prejudice!

The Wump World - Our Environment (my favorite, but with a nod to The Lorax as well)

Silent Spring - Our Environment - she won that one!  (Although not fiction)

Looking For Alaska - spoiler

Push (Precious) - abuse, ignorance, prejudice, just how harsh our own streets can be.

The Jungle - because we are what we eat.

Johnny Got His Gun - to stop all the romanticizing of war. period

The Shack - our own theology and how we relate to it. The Who, The What, The Why Why Why!!

Those are mine. I like it when writers keep writing strong, in-your-face pieces about how they see the world and what makes them outraged or saddened by it.

I'll look forward to seeing your lists!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Iowa City Book Festival 2011

I seriously should have my blogger license revoked... I did not take a single picture!! What was I thinking? Besides "gee it's really hot out!"

Never the less, I wanted to post on my time spent there, to me a little slice of heaven. :)

I looked forward to this for so long and was so happy to get to it. I was here on the University of Iowa campus at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the host sight for the event was just down the hill in a square outside the University Main library called Gibson Square. I made arrangements with my best friend and she drove over and met me and we walked down.

I came to the Festival with a high level of hyperactive anticipation and while the actual atmospheric level wasn't quite on par with my energy it was still pretty dang fun! (after all I was sorta like a jack russel terrier at a superball convention as far as my excitement was concerned). Sara and I walked languidly up and down the walkways lined with vendors and authors with tables and tables of wonderful books!

There were a few authors that I wish I could have spent more just to pick up their book for having the diligence to come out in the heat and sit and talk with everyone about their work. And some looked pretty interesting!

There were flashes of brilliance... I saw a paper sign on a book shelf at a booth down the walkway a ways "Free Books" and of course had to make a beeline for.

The booth belonged to Defunct Books

521 E. Washington St., Iowa City, IA 52240
The bookstore is upstairs above the restaurant The Red Avocado. I'm going next week.

Anyway these guy had a brilliant idea and put stickers inside their free books for a dollar off with trade in. I mean I want to keep the book I got from them, but the ingenuity will garner me a customer and if I had picked up one just to read I most certainly would take it in as a trade in. Snaps to Defunct Books! 

So, as I was saying I did pick up a book there at their booth and it just happened to be ...buhm buhm buhm... A SK QUEST BOOK!!!

This is a photo from their facebook page. The caption reads:  "Waiting to be boxed up for the Great Book Giveaway at the Iowa City Book Festival in Gibson Square Saturday"

And there's my book. back row on the top... A first edition The Tommyknockers. The sign said limit 2 books per person but I felt so blessed I only had the heart to take one! :) 

Sara and I then had a quick bite to eat. (in any critique of the event I'd have to say eating and eating facilities were the only thing that could use some attention, a tent with some picnic tables, some shade, etc) and waited for a couple of author talks we wanted to hear. But alas, we were not able to get in to hear them. The engineers responsible for the seating in Shambaugh auditorium ought to be ashamed of themselves. The author was someone I had corresponded with and I really really wanted her to sign a copy of her book. So we just waited until the talk was over and I was first in line. She is an amazing lady! I was so glad to get to meet her in person. (her books are pretty awesome too!)

She is Heather Gudenkauf and I can not wait to get to her books!! I bought one and Sara bought the other and we'll swap when each is finished.


It was so much like having a backstage pass at a rock concert!! After that Sara and I went back to the table we had visited earlier and picked up the books we said "oh if it's still here I'll get this book". Sara bought a book on murders (she's a lawyer) from the guys who had a table focused on civil war...sorry I don't know the name of your shop or business guys...I'll update if someone lets me know. They had some seriously interesting looking books. 

I found one at the booth of The Haunted Bookshop (at least I'm 99% sure that's the booth it was, I didn't see a business card to grab) - where I may stop tomorrow if I get out of here in time.

Mon - Sun:11:00 am-7:00 pm
The have shop cats. I just LOVE that :)
It was at their booth in Gibson Square where I picked up very resonably a nice paperback copy of A Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood.

On trip two down to the Festival, I took my daughter down. It was pretty hot for her to be out very long so this was a much shorter trip. She picked up 3 books. Two from Prairie Lights' booth and one from Defunct Books. The ladies manning the Prairie Lights booth were discussing how good Gilead was so I had to chime in that I had JUST finished that on audio!! And how much I loved it. They told me that Marilynne Robinson lives right here in Iowa City. Her son was getting married that day in town. How totally cool!! Gyod I love this town! What books my oldest Angel picked up I can't quite remember, maybe I can con her into posting on her own blog about getting them and what they will mean to her.

Then, we took a quick trip through the main library and peeked in on an author talk in Shambaugh. It was Stephanie Kallos, author of Sing Them Home and Broken For You.

I wish we could have stayed longer. That one was a full house!!. We stood in the aisle for just a bit. Long enough that I bumped up Sing Them Home on my TBR pile. It's been there since mid-winter anyway!

Angel needed to sit down and take a break and she wanted REAL food. So we headed out the strip and decided Applebees sounded good as any. It was good food and not too crowded and plenty cool and that's exactly what we were looking for. And we had a good time together!

Sunday was a neat event, unfortunately this year I couldn't participate. In being a UNESCO City Of Literature, author readings were planned all over town in shops, coffeehouses, bookstores, parks, etc. Different times, different genres. There were several I certainly would have enjoyed seeing! It could have been like a pub crawl for the bookish-folk!

All in all, the day lived up to every single bit of my hyper anticipation and now I'm looking so forward to next year!! I want to lobby for an author reading over here at the hospital at the patients library. Or down in the atrium. I think that would be amazing :) Any helpers out there have any advice on how I can make that happen?

I would also like to get some of the area bloggers together! I think that would be a truly good time! Keep your calendars open. Who knows, it could happen!

Shewee this is the longest post I've ever done! Thank you to those of you who stuck with it to the end. :)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Blog Hoppin time!

Friday seems to roll around before I know it in some ways and take forever to get here in others...where the Book Blogger Hop over at Crazy For Books is concerned it certainly sneaks up on me :)

Today's Hop question is:
What genre do you wish you liked but just can't seem to like? (paraphrased of course)

Well, I suppose I feel sorta left out since I don't read Paranormal anything really. I've dabbled aka: Twilight and I know I should give it a try with something else perhaps. Suggestions for something more 'substantial' gladly accepted. That's the only one I'd kind of like to like. The other genres I avoid are simply not my thing aka: westerns (does anyone even write westerns anymore?)......
Oh I take that back...Christian Fiction. I'd love to like this genre. I just have a hard time with it and find what I have tried to read too over the top. Not subtle enough. Too direct.. let ME come to an 'aha' moment instead of telling me what I'm supposed to realize. I'm a smart cookie, I'll get there if you let me. Again, maybe I just haven't tried the right thing.

So yeah. Hows that for 'divergent' genres? :)

Review: Anne of Green Gables - L.M. Montgomery

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author:  L.M. Montgomery
Pages: 308
Why I Read This Book:
This a selection for the Back To The Classics Challenge over at Sara Reads Too Much There are 8 catagories in the challenge one of which was “A Children’s/Young Adult Classic”. I’ve seen the movie (which I did love) but hadn’t read the book so I chose it for this category.

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis From Goodreads:
When Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island, she surprises everyone: first of all, she is a girl. Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew, had specifically asked for an orphan boy. She has bright red hair that won't manage and a mouth that won't shut. Nothing will ever be the same at Green Gables!

My Review/Opinion:
In this utterly charming book by Lucy Maud Montgomery I found a character I both wanted as a best friend and wanted to be! Anne Shirley is the eternal optimist to be certain but her look at life, on trial and tribulations large and small, as purveyor of or victim to, make me remember that despite the cliché of it all, there IS a bright side. There is a way to pick up and go one, from my own mistakes or from life’s little un-pleasantries.

As was intended, I liked everyone in this book, even those not so likable were very well portrayed. The stodgy neighbor and even Marilla herself and her utilitarian ways were endearing in their right. The soft-hearted Matthew is to me the books heart and soul. If Anne Shirley represents a harbinger of change, then Matthew is the epitome or a new world embraced.

Besides falling in love with Anne and the people of Avonlea, you can not help falling in love with the Island itself. What was once a beautiful landscape quickly becomes magically enchanted with the application of Anne’s generous imagination.

And then there's the writing. The language and the descriptions are like candy! Everything popped in my mind as I read it (despite having seen the movie). A little timber becomes a Haunted woods, A treelined lane becomes The White Way of Delight. Seriously! This child does not take life for granted...any of it! 

All in all this is book not to miss. If literature is a gourmet meal for the mind, then Anne of Green Gables is the richest desert. Simply delicious! 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Follow Friday and Blog Hop time!

This week’s featured blogger is Angela at Angela’s Anxious Life.
This week’s question is: What do you do when you’re not reading?

Well, lets see, I am still taking college classes, I work, I've been active in church, try to help out my mom, blog, and I have two teenage daughters. Most of my time now is spent at the University of Iowa Hospital Children's Hospital as my oldest daughter has leukemia. She is in round 3 of 4 month long stays for chemotherapy.

Reading has been so important to me up here. As has my blog.

This week’s Book Blogger Hop question is: How/where do you get your books? Do you buy them or go to the library? Is there a certain website you use, like paperbackswap

Anywhere I can lay my hands on them:

 My Amazon wish list is full
Every yard sale I have to stop and look

Auctions (I once got over 300 books for $3.00 because they were going to throw them in the dumpster!! I saved as many as I could haul!)
LOVE the library  (and they love me cuz I'm always overdue and add to the revenue. I should have a dedicated shelf!!)

Friends - this friend brought in a whole bunch of great books to work for us to choose from

WINNING them ...that really rocks!

Bookstores - shout out to Prairie Lights here in Iowa City!! - Haunted Bookshop I'm heading your way soon

I'll be looking forward to reading all your lists for these awesome Friday memes!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Gilead - Marilynne Robinson 5/5

 Title: Gilead

Author: Marilynne Robinson

Pages: 247

Why I Read This Book: This was for a challenge, the 2011 Classics Challenge, there were catagories of books to pick for and this was my 21st Century Classic pick. I had started to look for a book for this catagory and the first one I came across was Gilead. When I read the blurb and it was also set in my home state of Iowa, I knew it would be a good choice. It turned out it was a perfect choice and I stand by it 100% as a 21st Century Classic.

Synopsis from Goodreads:
  • In 1956, toward the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son, an account of himself and his forebears. Ames is the son of an Iowa preacher and the grandson of a minister who, as a young man in Maine, saw a vision of Christ bound in chains and came west to Kansas to fight for abolition: He "preached men into the Civil War," then, at age fifty, became a chaplain in the Union Army, losing his right eye in battle. Reverend Ames writes to his son about the tension between his father - an ardent pacifist - and his grandfather, whose pistol and bloody shirts, concealed in an army blanket, may be relics from the fight between the abolitionists and those settlers who wanted to vote Kansas into the union as a slave state. And he tells a story of the sacred bonds between fathers and sons, which are tested in his tender and strained relationship with his namesake, John Ames Boughton, his best friend's wayward son." This is also the tale of another remarkable vision - not a corporeal vision of God but the vision of life as a wondrously strange creation. It tells how wisdom was forged in Ames's soul during his solitary life, and how history lives through generations, pervasively present even when betrayed and forgotten
My Review:

I mostly listened to the audio book of Gilead in my car while commuting. Except for the last bit which I read (I couldn't wait to finish it until I had to commute again so I checked it out and finished it). That turned out to be a good choice since I cried so much I might have wrecked had I still been in the car!

Good heavens this was a wonderful book!! The writing was gorgeous, the story of the lives of John Ames and his family past and present was so engaging! I cared about each and every character! Deeply.

Since the protagonist John Ames is a pastor there is theology, but I'm a person of faith and I felt there were wonderful insights drawn that made life and bible relate-able and even turned events into retold parables that still carried messages of hope, love, healing, and grace.

I hope that people not of faith don't shy away from it, it is not in the same vein as Christian Fiction. This is HUMAN fiction with a Christian main character, nothing more, certainly nothing less!!

One of these days I'd like to own a copy of this book. I want to mark it up!!! To underline all the wise quotes and touching analogies, to write in the margin the insights it has given me. And revisit the slumbering little town of Gilead and the residents that make it as humanly charming and deeply moving as it was.

5 of 5 for this. And back on the TBR pile for a re-read someday!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Authors I'd stalk

The Broke and the Bookish are so grand to host Top Ten Tuesday every week. Today's question is: Top Ten Author's you'd love to meet.  I stuck with live authors just to increase the chances.

Talented authors leave me in head-shaking awe wondering how they do it and how it seems so perfectly effortless. And I have some I'd dearly love to meet and ask them just that...

1) Stephen (my all-time fav) KING  It's not the scariness, but the people he writes that woes me everytime!

2)  John (nerd's are awesome) GREEN

3) J.K. (my words expanded the world) ROWLING

4) Ann (Appalacia's golden girl!) PANCAKE

5) Alexander (good looking and living the dream) MAKSIK

6) Barbara (changing the way I look at food forever!) KINGSOLVER

7) Marilynne ( authentic voice for every character) ROBINSON

8) Maya (I have more wisdom in my pinky than most anyone) ANGELOU

9) Fannie (every word seems effortless) FLAGG

10) Markus (prince of amazing prose) ZUSAK

There are tons of others, maybe they are on your list! I'll have a look at your posts to see... So hard to choose wasn't it?? Any author is a rock star to me :)