I seem to have reached a rare and magical land where I finish books faster than I can write about them. A winter cold did help me get some of the reading done, and a promise to myself to read a little more – so far, so good…minus the cold. Because I have read several good books since my last book post, I’m going to give you some quick, short thoughts on them instead of a whole blog post for each individual book. Here goes:
Brave Men, Gentle Heroes: American Fathers and Sons in World War 2 and Vietnam by Michael Takiff
This wonderful book cataloged fathers who served in WW2 and their sons who served in Vietnam. There are heroic stories, cowardly ones, good stories, and bad ones. I came away with a sense of how our soldiers in WW2 drew strength from the belief that what they did was right and the nation was behind them. While the lack of moral conviction – most of them had no idea if the war was right or not – and support from the nation pulled down our Vietnam soldiers. I disagreed politically and morally with many of the men who fought in Vietnam, while others amazed me with their courage. This book gives you insight into the everyday soldier’s reaction to sweeping historical events, the pain of sending your son off to war when you know exactly how hellish it is, and different paths of healing.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This was my first Neil Gaiman book. He’s not highly recommended for nothing. What an amazing writer. What a way with words, and what a haunting writing voice. Gaiman weaves his great sense of myth and fairy tale, almost subconsciously, through his story. American Gods is about an ex-con, Shadow, who encounters gods brought by immigrants to America. The gods are going to war against the newer gods of technology. Caught up in the skirmishes of the war, Shadow finds out he’s more deeply tied to the gods than he ever thought. A healthy grasp of mythology – Greek, Norse, Egyptian, and more – makes the story even richer. In fact, it’s almost required.
Fevre Dream by George R.R. Martin
When a writer like Martin tackles vampires, you sit up and pay attention. This book avoids the normal vampire romances. Instead, it focuses on a steamboat captain – Abner Marsh – who meets a vampire – Joshua York. They develop a unique and amazing friendship that spans Marsh’s whole life. Together they build the most beautiful steamboat on the Mississippi, take on a vile band of vampires, and try to save Joshua’s kind from the thirst.
Martin’s story has few female characters, which is refreshing in the world of vampires. His hero, Marsh, is an ugly man, but you admire him so much you forget he isn’t an epic Hollywood beauty. It helps that Martin constantly reminds you Marsh is a fat man covered in warts – an ugly, rough, loyal, and good man.
For any of you who wish vampires where less romantic, and more evil, this book is for you. Also, you will learn more about steamboats and sailing the Mississippi than you ever thought could be interesting. Trust me. It’s amazing.
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
Someone far more eloquent than I reviewed this book, read her thoughts here. Little Bee is a word book. It’s an image book. It pulls you into a strange, sad, and sickening world with the beauty of words strung together. What happened on a beach in Africa brings two women together and changes their lives forever. It is the clash of first and third world countries, with both women trying to find their way. Reading it was a sheer joy. It was also sad, painful, and the ending leaves you a little unsatisfied. You will also never look at Batman the same again.
Well, those are just a few short thoughts on the books I’ve most recently read. I’m firmly in the camp that if you wish to write well, you must read often. I keep my brain fed with stories from many sources: movies, books, friends, video games, and even music. I keep my brain fed with writing styles, word use, voice use, and rule keeping and breaking by reading. I’ve always been a reader and will always be a reader.
(I will be uploading these short reviews to my GoodReads page as well, if you would like to follow me there. If you look to your right, there is my Goodreads feed on the sidebar.)