Friday, June 28, 2013

Book Review -- Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime WalkBilly Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 4 (took me awhile to have an "aaha" moment)
Source:  Personal copy
Genre:  General fiction
Objectionable material:  Language, including the F-bomb; multiple sexual references

Remember the war? The one in Iraq? Or is it Afghanistan? I know we are in one place, but not the other? (Yes, I know, we are out of Iraq – officially December 2011, just so you don’t think I’m stupid – but didn’t you think twice (where are we exactly?), just for a moment?).
Americans have a tendency to forget the goings on across the globe, even when it involves the lives of thousands of service men and women ho are engaged every day, risking their lives to insure peace and democracy to those in the Middle East. We only remember when it interrupts our dinner with a CNN news crawl, or a press briefing, or notice in the local paper if a resident soldier KIA.

Or when a hero, like Billy Lynn, returns home after his Bravo Squad heroically engages Iraqi insurgents, and is given a nationwide celebration tour to honor his and his buddies efforts.

Ben Fountain’s book, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, is a brilliant, albeit mocking, look at how Americans (in general) treat our wars – like they are a sporting attractions (Get your popcorn! And watch an IED explode!) – and our service personnel – like they are rock stars or famous athletes (if they’ve done well) or if not, they are lost in the shuffle up on their return. Our pats on the back, or our, “thanks for your service,” or our yellow ribbons or flag waving are nothing more than feigned acknowledgements of what they actually do over “there” – which very few of us understand.

Truthfully, I didn’t “get this” when I started reading it – it was very slow in the beginning – then, it was like, “Oh – now I know what the author is doing!”

It’s not an easy book to read – but read it anyway.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Book Review -- Everything That Makes You Mom

Everything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of MemoriesEverything That Makes You Mom: A Bouquet of Memories by Laura Lynn Brown
My enjoyment rating: 5 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 4
SourceI received a copy of this book free from the author. I received no other compensation, and my thoughts are 100% my own.
Genre: Non-fiction; Journals

What are your favorite memories of your mother?

Do you remember her favorite movies? TV shows? Books? What made her laugh?

In her precious book, Everything that Makes You Mom, author Laura Lynn Brown provides the reader the perfect journal where you can treasure your own personal memories, sayings, recipes – that made your Mom the best mom ever.

It’s a beautiful keepsake to cherish your recollections, as well as share Ms. Brown’s reminisces of her own mother.

Some of her chapters and questions are very apropos – like, “When was a time you tried your mother’s patience?” Ummm…always? Other’s not so much (for me anyway) like, “Does she have nicknames for any of her {kitchen} gadgets?” Oh my…my mother hated to cook – still does – she wouldn’t know a gadget from a toolbox, let alone give them nicknames!  But I did chuckle thinking about it!

This is a perfect treat for yourself – anytime of the year – to help you appreciate the gift that is your mother.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book Review -- Letters from Skye

My enjoyment rating: 2 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating: 0
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction
Objectionable material: None

Letters from Skye by Jessica Brockmole is an epistolary generational novel, set in both WWI and WWII. We learn about the lives of Elspeth Dunn and her long distant suitor, Davey – and later, Elspeth’s daughter, Margaret, through their letters, as Margaret tries to uncover the secrets of her mother’s past.

I never felt any attachment to any of the characters. The letters’ prose seemed to be far too modern to be written at the earlier part of the 20th century. As chapters shifted between time periods – there was no distinct “voice” to differentiate between the letters. If it hadn't been for the chapter headings, one wouldn’t know if it was Elspeth or Margaret “writing” the prose. The plot was thin, and the ending contrived and predictable. I was emotionally detached throughout the entire novel.

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Book Review -- Inferno

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My enjoyment rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Hangover rating:  2 of 5 stars
Source: Library
Genre: Fiction
Objectionable material:  (none that I remember)

Robert Langdon – a cross  between Indiana Jones and James Bond – is off on another adventure involving art, history, architecture, high drama, and biological catastrophe.

For those who have read and liked Dan Brown’s books, you’ll find nothing new here. He uses the same successful formula, but with different insertable plot and storylines. We are treated to a rich history of Florence, the author Dante Alighieri and his poem, the Inferno, and numerous other exotic locales like Istanbul and Venice.

Dan Brown is my one weakness when it comes to reading brain candy – very little substance, but lots of action and a true page turner.

So sit back and enjoy a romp through Europe and be prepared for the end of life as we know it. At least according to Dan Brown.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Review -- Mrs. Queen Takes the Train

Mrs. Queen Takes the TrainMrs. Queen Takes the Train by William Kuhn
My enjoyment rating: 4 of 5 stars
Book hangover rating:  1 of 5 stars
SourceI received a copy of this book free from the author.  I received no other compensation, and my thoughts are 100% my own.
Genre:  Literary fiction
Objectionable material:  None
Trooping the Colour, Order of the Garter, Royal Weddings…just a few of the ceremonies that have me glued to the Daily Mail and any royal Flickr-stream to continually feed my British Monarchy need.

So when a book is published with the title, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, you can count on it being high on my “to read” stack!

The Queen, feeling a bit melancholy about the state of her life, reflects on what has made her most happy: The Royal Yacht Britannia. Guided by her instinct to reconnect to all those marvelous memories, The Queen takes a stroll beyond the BP (Buckingham Palace) compound, much to the angst of her cadre of advisers, protection officers and ladies in waiting. Once she is on the lam, The Queen leads her bevy of personnel on a circuitous escapade worthy of the title “trains, planes, and automobiles,” which lands them all in Leith, Scotland, where the decommissioned royal vessel is moored. Along the way relationships develop, truths learned, and The Queen is none the worse for wear.

I absolutely adored this novel. It fed every need for British escapism one could imagine: What would The Queen be like alone among commoners? Could she function on her own without her rigid schedule? Could she really be like “one of us?” "Would you recognize her on the outside?" It was fun to suspend belief about how The Queen functions both as a “Queen” and as a human being.

I suppose if one does not have a penchant for all things royal, this might not be the book for you – following The Queen on a train might get a bit tedious – but for the rest of us who haven’t missed a royal wedding since Charles & Diana, I highly recommend it.