Friday, July 22, 2016

DNF - Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
Published May 2012 by HarperCollins Publishers
Source: I bought both audio and ereader editions

Publisher's Summary:
A ferocious firefight with Iraqi insurgents at “the battle of Al-Ansakar Canal” has transformed the eight surviving men of Bravo Squad into America’s most sought-after heroes. The Bush Administration has sent them on a media-intensive nationwide “Victory Tour ”. Now, at the end of their tour, the Bravos are set to do the Halftime Show at Texas Stadium where they’ll be the Dallas Cowboys’ guests.

Among the Bravos is the Silver Star-winning hero of Al-Ansakar, a 19-year-old Texas native named Specialist William Lynn. On this final day before their redeployment, Billy and the Bravos will meet patriots who are proud of their troops and proud to be Americans. They include the Cowboy’s hard-nosed businessman/owner and his coterie of wealthy colleagues; a luscious born-again Cowboys cheerleader; a veteran Hollywood producer; and supersized pro players eager for a vicarious taste of war. Between their faces he sees those of his family, his worried sisters and broken father, and there is Shroom, the philosophical sergeant who opened Billy’s mind and died in his arms at Al-Ansakar.

My Thoughts:
If you've followed this blog long, you are well aware that I rarely ever give up on a book, especially one that I'm listening to. But 40% of the way into this one, I just couldn't be bothered any more. Not the book for me? Maybe. Not the book for me right now? More likely. A book I should read instead of listen to? Well, that's a possibility.

It's not to say that there's nothing good about the book or that Fountain doesn't have some interesting things to say about our culture, about war, and about the way we treat those who fight wars. He definitely does.

Almost half way through the book, though, I felt like I'd learned what Fountain had to say and that we were now playing Herman Hermit's "Enery The Eight I Am" - you know, second verse, same as the first (okay most of you probably have no idea what I'm talking about here - you'll just have to trust me on this one).

But, I'm not deleting my Nook copy of the book just yet because Ang Lee is directing a movie adaptation of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk which is scheduled to be released on November. I may just have to pick this one back up before then. Because if Ang Lee is involved, you know the movie is going to be worth watching and I'd hate to say I gave up on the book only to find out it had a terrific ending. As they say in the movie "Galaxy Quest," "never give up, never surrender."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward

Salvage The Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Published August 2011 by Bloomsbury USA
Source: purchased at my local indie bookstore for this month's book club selection

Winner of the National Book Award 2011

Publisher's Summary:
A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch's father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn't show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn't much to save. Lately, Esch can't keep down what food she gets; she's fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull's new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. Meanwhile, brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child's play and short on parenting.

As the twelve days that make up the novel's framework yield to their dramatic conclusion, this unforgettable family-motherless children sacrificing for one another as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce-pulls itself up to face another day.

My Thoughts:
I live in the suburbs where life is, for the most part, pretty damn easy. We drive reliable cars; we stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer in our homes; we have good jobs, plenty to eat, new clothes when we need them (and, more often, just because we want them), insurance to help protect us from catastrophe. It can be easy to become complacent, to forget that not everyone is as fortunate as we are.

Jesmyn Ward will not allow us to forget and she will not let us turn away.

I cannot stop thinking about the Batiste children. I don't I will stop thinking about them for a long while. About their bond and their love for each other. About Skeetah's love for China, the dog who will fight for him, who will love him unconditionally, who might just be his way to save his family. About Randall and his quiet presence and the way he dealt with the loss of hope. About Junior who wants so desperately to be one of the big kids.

But mostly I will think of Esch, a young, motherless girl who doesn't have anyone to tell her that she is being abused by the boys she allows to have sex with her.
“And it was easier to let him keep on touching me than ask him to stop, easier to let him inside than to push him away, easier than hearing him ask me, "Why not?" It was easier to keep quiet and take it than to give him an answer.”
Seriously, don't you just want to hug her? She is smart enough to be able to relate the myth of Medea to her own life. But she is also naive enough to believe that a boy that won't look at her while he's having sex with her, who lives with another girl, will come to love her as much as she loves him. She desperately tries to hide her pregnancy, as much to protect her brothers as to protect herself. She knows that the boys in her life will fight for her honor much as the dogs they raise fight.

I loved the writing. It is beautiful and cruel and just when you think something terrible will happen, Ward lets you off easy. Until she doesn't. Ward and her family survived Hurricane Katrina, riding it out in their cars after abandoning their home as it filled with water. When she writes about Katrina crashing into Bois Sauvage, it is incredibly tense and real and I could not put the book down in the final 80 pages.
“I will tie the glass and stone with string, hang the shards above my bed, so that they will flash in the dark and tell the story of Katrina, the mother that swept into the Gulf and slaughtered. Her chariot was a storm so great and black the Greeks would say it was harnessed to dragons. She was the murderous mother who cut us to the bone but left us alive, left us naked and bewildered as wrinkled newborn babies, as blind puppies, as sun-starved newly hatched baby snakes. She left us a dark Gulf and salt burned land. She left us to learn to crawl. She left us to salvage. Katrina is the mother we will remember until the next mother with large, merciless hands, committed to blood, comes.”
Salvage The Bones is not an easy read. But if you feel willing to face the world beyond your doorstep, I highly recommend it. Even if you'd prefer not to, I still recommend it.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

High Summer Read-A -Thon

Hey, are you surprised to see that I'm, once again, late to the party. Well, at least as far as remembering to post about the read-a-thon, which is, once again, hosted by Michelle of Seasons of Reading.  I did spend Monday night reading (more because I had to finish my book club book for the month than because I was read-a-thoning, but still!). Book club last night but I'm about to settle in for tonight. My plan for the rest of the week is to finish Leaving Lucy Pear which I started today and then it's on to Finding Fontainebleau: An American Boy In France. We're having ridiculously high temps this week (it really is high summer!), so spending all of my free time curled up inside reading is just the thing!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Life: It Goes On - July 17

My summer schedule's been less crazy this year than it is some years but it seems to be filling up all of a sudden. This weekend's been overflowing with things we could/should/been invited to do. We've had things going on every night since Thursday with plans through Wednesday and have even had to turn down invites. What's an introvert to do with all of this social interaction?! I'm thinking by Thursday, I may shut myself in my room for the night!

My calendar for the fall is filling up fast, too, but that's with book reviews. Remember how at the beginning of the year I was going to free-range read, #readmyowndamnbooks? Yeah, that's not really working out quite the way I planned. Some of the scheduled reviews are actually pushing me to read books that I already do have on my shelves (real and digital) so, I suppose, it's not all bad. But when Ann Patchett, Jaqueline Woodson, and Colson Whitehead all have new books, I can't say no.

This Week I'm:

Listening To: I haven't been able to make myself listen to Billy Lynn's Long Half Time Walk much this past week. I'm thinking it may be one of my rare DNF's which is disappointing because I really feel like it's something I should listen to/read. But it's not keeping my attention and right now there's so much going on in the world that I feel I'm better served listening to the radio and keeping up with the world.

Watching: We haven't really watched much t.v. in the past few days. The Big Guy watches American Ninja Warrior but nothing much else has caught either of our attention. Which is not a bad thing, right?

Reading: You'd think that would mean I've been reading a lot lately, wouldn't you? Not so much. I'm pretty sure I've got too many books started and I'm having a hard time getting involved in any of them. I have to concentrate the next couple of days on finishing up Salvage The Bones for book club this week which I am enjoying and I'm just about finished with The Year of Reading Dangerously.

Making: More pizza loaded with farmer's market goodies and several meals using a pork tenderloin BG had grilled (including a killer pork/grilled cheese sandwich). We haven't had to cook the past three nights which has been a nice break.

Planning: Dinner for tonight - BG's brother and sister-in-law will be here to spend the night and she eats gluten-free so we'll work around that. Grilling will be involved, I'm sure. Now what to have for dessert that doesn't involve flour? There's always ice cream but I'd like to be a little more creative.

Thinking About: A community awareness/action meeting this week. This will be way out of my comfort zone but it's time to get involved in my community again.

Enjoying: Time with family and friends. Thursday was my company's annual picnic/baseball game and I got the whole crew to go. Cherishing my family time before Mini-me moves to Milwaukee. Friday night we had dinner with friends and last night was dinner with two of BG's siblings and their spouses. So much happiness!

Feeling: Tired. See note regarding being an introvert. No matter how much I love what I've been doing, there's not been a lot of time to recharge in the way an introvert needs to recharge.

Looking forward to: Book club this week.

Question of the week: Are you an introvert or an extrovert? What's your go-to way to recharge your battery?

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

2016 Big Book Summer Challenge

It's that time again, time for Sue's (of Book by Book) Big Book Summer Challenge. I'm late to the party (what a surprise, right?); the challenge started Memorial Day. But it runs through Labor Day so there's still time to knock out a chunkster. I'm looking to finally read Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit, which has been on my bookshelf ever since I saw the Masterpiece Theater adaptation. It weighs in at over 800 pages so that will likely be the only big book I get through all summer with this late start.

It's not too late for you to join, too. Here are the "rules:"

  • Anything over 400 pages qualifies as a big book. The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (starting May 27 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 5 this year). Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal. Wait, did you get that? You only need to read 1 book with over 400 pages this summer to participate! (though you are welcome to read more, if you want).
  • Choose from what's on your shelves already or a big book you've been meaning to read for ages or anything that catches your eye in the library - whatever peaks your interest!
  • Write a post to kick things off - you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to this blog.
  • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
  • You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you've read...but you don't have to! There is a separate links list below for big book review posts.
Are you looking to knock of any big books this summer?