Sunday, April 22, 2012

My Men Are My Heroes by Brad Kasal and Nathaniel R. Helms

This is one of those books that manages to succeed despite its failings. The story this book has to tell is one everyone should hear. Yes, the book’s poor execution detracts from the readability of the book, but I would encourage you to slog through the antiseptic prose and lack of personality to reach the important underlying story. Understand that this book isn’t as much about Brad Kasal as it is about his men. The title of the books is My Men Are My Heroes. It is not I Am My Own Hero. If you can remember that as you read the book, the book starts to make a little more sense to you and becomes more readable.

Kasal’s story is one that reminds us of those things that are truly important in life. This book does not focus as much on the actions in which Kasal took part, but more on the life beyond those actions -- both before and after. Sitting comfortably on our couches at home, it is easy to forget that the time a Marine spends at war is quite limited compared to the number of years in which he lives outside of the war. Yet that time becomes a defining moment for these men that inevitably affects every aspect of their life and the lives of those who interact with them. And that is where this book succeeds.

This book does a good job of helping the reader better understand the Marine as a whole. This book takes you from the young man who dreams of becoming a Marine to the battle tested warrior and beyond. It gives a fuller picture of the Marine and his mindset. And that mindset isn’t an egocentric “it’s all about me” mindset. Again, reference the title of the book.

Take the time to read this book and consider what Kasal’s story is really about. This isn’t a war story so much as it is a life story. Of course when you’re a battle tested warrior, I suppose it is safe to say that your life story is indeed a story of war and its far reaching affects on your life. That my not be a war story in the classic sense, but it is still a story of war nevertheless.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Beauty by Robin McKinley

A retelling of the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Where to start? It isn’t often one stumbles upon such a wonderful book! From the technical to the mundane, this book delivers! And to think I could have so easily missed out! I found this book in an antique store. I always check out the books, but I almost skipped over this small knot of books in favor of going back out the truck to wallow in my back pain misery in peace. I’m glad I toughed it out just a little longer.

One thing I like about older books is that the authors don’t seem to have dumbed down their writing for an almost illiterate audience. Released in 1978, this book impresses with it’s varied vocabulary and use of beautifully complex sentences. It is refreshing to come across a writer who actually knows proper grammar and usage! This book was an absolute joy to read. The vocabulary and sentence structure drew me in and wrapped me up in the story, completely obliterating the memory of all the other books that fail so miserably in this area.

And the story itself was very well told. Obviously, this being a retelling of the Beauty and the Beast tale, I knew what to expect. I knew where the story was headed and had a fairly good idea of the stops along the way. Despite that, the story drew me in and simply captivated me. I thoroughly enjoyed the parts of the story the author added. Although some of the story was the author’s original spin on the tale, those parts fit seamlessly and truly added so much to the story itself. Frankly, I would use this book as an introduction to the Beauty and the Beast tale if I had to introduce this story to someone who had never encountered the story of Beauty and the Beast.

Even the characters were wonderful. The characters in the book stayed true to the characters in the original tale, however the author imbued them with such deep personality! Even the author’s original characters didn’t disappoint. Sometimes in a book like this it is easy for the author’s characters to pale in comparison to the well known characters of the tale. Not in this case. The author took care to round out and build up the new characters until they had the same substance and appeal as those that had been in the tale all along.

Don’t miss this book! And don’t do yourself the disservice of thinking that a retelling of a fairy tale can’t really be all that great. This book has easily been one of the best books I’ve read in years. I can’t begin to praise this book enough. From its originality (yes, even a retelling of a classic tale can be original!) to its technical prowess, this book delivers on all levels. And unlike some retellings of fairy tales (ala A.N. Roquelaure's, aka Anna Rice's, disgusting Sleeping Beauty trilogy) this retelling of Beauty and the Beast is completely safe for older teens and adults alike.

I'm Still Here!

I'm still here and I haven't forgotten my followers or this blog!  I know it may seem as if I have, but I promise I have most certainly not!  At the end of last year I took on a new position at work.  Since then I've been working 12 to 16 hour days most days of the week.  Only recently have things slowed down enough at work to allow me to try to get my personal life back in order.  As things return to normal, I'll do my best to keep this blog updated with all the great stuff I'm reading.  Unfortunately, because I was so busy, I've read a lot of romance because it's easy and doesn't make me think.  So there will be some of that showing up, but I've also taken the time to read some better quality books so you'll see some of those too.  Until then, enjoy your reading and please don't give up on me!