February 2, 2015

Recent Reads

4. Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush 
Why the heck are you reading this book? I've been asked that question a couple of times, and my response is always the same: Tom Clancy. I am a huge Clancy fan and have read all his books - the ones he wrote himself - none of the ones with a co-author. And one of the things about the massive Clancy books, is that in the midst of all the drama and action, there are these detailed descriptions of military technology. And I love it.

This author has been on my list to read for a while. He is a Brit and an odd duck from what I gather - though I assume that he is not an odd duck because he is a Brit. Anyways, he gets a grant to be a writer-in-residence on this American aircraft carrier for two weeks. It is a strange choice, and he spends much of his time whining, but there is something about him that makes you want to both hit him and soothe him simultaneously. I don't understand it, but there you have it. 

His "reportage" is really nothing like being on a carrier, but is everything like being this guy on a carrier for two weeks. It will not be for everyone, but I liked it and will read more of his stuff. Is he is man-child in all of them I wonder? Or did this project just bring out that side of him? Rating: 3 stars.

5. Mom's Cancer
It was Susan Sontag who wrote: “Illness is the night side of life, a more onerous citizenship. Everyone who is born holds dual citizenship, in the kingdom of the well and in the kingdom of the sick. Although we all prefer to use the good passport, sooner or later each of us is obliged, at least for a spell, to identify ourselves as citizens of that other place.” 

This little graphic memoir is the story of a family visiting and living in the kingdom of the sick. The author's mother was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, and he created and posted these web comics anonymously about the experience. His work has been collected in this book, and won an Eisner.The art is simple and stark, but there are panels that made me hold my breath. I loved the honesty in the telling of this story - the good, the bad and the ugly. A quick read, but one that will stay with me. Rating: 4 stars.

6. Orphan Train
I've had this book on my TBR for ages, and even though I attended a wonderful author talk, I have been reluctant to pick it up. Not exactly sure why, but since this was the selection for a local book group, I figured it was time to dive in.

The Orphan Train is historical fiction, and the backdrop of the story is the history of the train riders - orphans who were moved from NYC to the American Mid-West during the years of 1854 to 1929. I had not heard about this bit to history until the author talk, and was intrigued with the notion. I know of kids transported during wartime in Europe, but had never heard of any such thing in an American context.

The story is told through two narratives: Molly, a troubled foster kid who is aging out of the foster care system, and Vivian, an aging widow who lives in the same town as Molly in Maine. They have more in common than would seem on the surface, as we learn as the story unfolds.

I love historical fiction, and should have loved this book. The themes of loss, family, abandonment, finding one's place in the world, finding your tribe, etc, are all themes I love to read about, but there was something about this story that did not work for me. It just did not dive deep enough - everything seemed rather superficially laid out - this happened and then this happened. I wanted more: more depth, a deeper exploration of themes. As it was, this read more like Chick Lit, albeit with a historical context. 

Still, it is a fast read, and I liked it enough to read it all the way through to the end. Rating: 2 stars.

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