These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories

heroichappydead

In his debut book, Luke Mogelson masterfully weaves together 10 stories linked by the war in Afghanistan. Each story shows a glimpse into the life of a veteran, a family member of a veteran, or a civilian living abroad, at some point during or after their time in Afghanistan. It demonstrates the harrowing effect of war on those we send to fight it and those they’ve left behind. Some of the stories contain characters that shows up in another story in the book and you learn something more about what happened to them before or after their previous appearance. This book illustrates that many who have fought in a war have a hard time adjusting to life outside the military once they return home. Many of the stories even seem to end abruptly, without much explanation of what happened next. This could be frustrating at times, but I think it’s poetic that the endings weren’t always tied up with a nice little bow. By now we’ve all heard of PTSD, but it can manifest itself in different ways. I think this book is an excellent example of how people cope (or don’t) in different ways.

PROS:

Beautifully written with countless haunting passages

Tragic insight into PTSD and the multitude of experiences in war

Includes stories about what it’s like for a contractor or civilian in Afghanistan during war time, which is a view that hasn’t been talked about as much as the experience of soldiers

CONS:

Some of the abrupt endings left me confused

It wasn’t always clear when a character from another story showed up, I had to reference the book jacket multiple times as it mentions all the stories that are tied together.

Quotable quotes:

“It was my favorite because it angled out to a wide base that made it difficult to knock over, because there was often vodka in it instead of coffee, and because the wide base meant that the more you drank, the harder it became to reach the bottom.”

“Nowadays, only the families remain: fathers with nothing else to give their sons, sons with no one else to be except their fathers.”

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Book Review: Ink and Bone

Screen Shot 2016-07-09 at 6.46.35 PMInk and Bone by Lisa Unger is not to be confused with Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine, which was also released this year. Although, the book by Caine DOES sound interesting so I might read that one too…but for now I’m talking about Lisa Unger’s new book. Ink and Bone is a supernatural thriller about Finley, a young woman who uses her psychic powers to solve the case of a missing girl. The book follows the people living in and affected by the town of The Hollows after a young girl is abducted. Months pass with no leads so the desperate mother turns to a private detective and his psychic friend as a last ditch effort. This is Finley’s first time trying to use her ability so she’s filled with insecurity and doubt. Unger vividly paints the portrait of a small town where everyone knows everyone. The abduction of this girl has rocked her family to the core and made a mess of their lives. They’re unable to move on even though there’s little hope of finding her alive.

I’ll start with the things I liked about the book. In general I thought it was well written and enjoyed the story. It kept me engaged enough that I finished it in a day when I had a hard time putting it down. I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child, but it seemed like the marriage of the parents was well written. It was flawed and shaky and seemingly always on the verge of completely breaking apart. I particularly resonated with the line, “More than anything else, resentment was the death of love. It killed slowly.” I typically would not be drawn to a story with a supernatural element but this one handled it well. Skepticism was acknowledged and the visions never seemed to overwhelm the narrative.

There were however, a couple of things about the book that bugged me. Finley herself seem like a bit of a cliche. A girl with pink hair who rides a motorcycle and covers her body in tattoos to “make the outside match the inside.” The ending managed to mostly catch me by surprise but in retrospect, it didn’t really seem to make sense. You’ll know what I mean when you read it. Also, Unger seems to have some serious disdain for millennials. There are a couple of times in the book where they’re harshly maligned such as with this gem, “People of her generation were all about texting, which was just one example of their soullessness.” I mean, I get it, everyone hates millennials, let’s move on please. The texting dialogue between young characters was also a bit over the top and she was constantly referencing apps like, “with a flashlight app on his phone” or “she typed the coordinates into an app on her phone.” I don’t know anything about Unger but it seemed like she was either an older person trying to write like she’s hip with this generation, or she was writing for an older generation that would need these things to be explained. I know this is totally nitpicky, but I couldn’t help but roll my eyes in these moments.

Overall I enjoyed the book. It was gripping and fast-paced. I thought the story was well done and the characters felt like real people, outside of the Finley cliche that is. I’d recommend this as a light and quick read if you like thrillers and don’t mind the supernatural.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

Book Review: The Last One

The Last One Cover

I had the pleasure of reading Alexandra Oliva’s debut novel about a woman who joins a survivoresque reality show for some adventure, and finds herself fighting to survive for realsies. In this show 12 people are left to survive in the woods and face challenges that have been set up before them. The producers have given all the contestants nicknames that boil each person down to their profession or stereotype. There’s Biologist, Black Doctor, Tracker, Rancher, Asian Chick, and so on. The book is from the POV of Zoo, a young woman looking for one last adventure before settling down and starting a family. What the contestants don’t know is that while they are traipsing around the woods, a real tragedy has struck the world. As the weeks progress Zoo finds herself coming across increasing evidence that maybe the devastation she’s been stumbling upon isn’t all a setup for the show.

While the premise itself isn’t anything groundbreaking, I found this book to be a fascinating look into media, the internet, and reality TV. In some of the chapters we witness what takes place in the editing room as the producers and editor tailor the show and it’s characters to what they want the world to see. These chapters also often end with the comments section of a Reddit like forum discussing the show. The rest of the time we travel along with Zoo as she tries to survive in the wild. As things around her get crazier and crazier she stretches further and further to convince herself that it’s all a part of the show. At times it becomes frustrating, almost unbelievable that she hasn’t figured out that what’s happening is real. But you come to realize that people often would rather live in denial than face the truth.

I saw a lot of myself in Zoo, as I’m sure many readers will. I also drew a lot of parallels with her marriage and my own. As she Lord-of-the-rings it through the wild she reflects on the life, and husband, she left behind. She feels real, as does many of the other characters. Even the typical useless-but-hot girl, Waitress, has enough time to show some depth and nuance. While the show has broken them all down into one-dimensional cartoons of humans, they still come across as people.

This book is already showing up on lists of great beach reads, but I think it’s much more than that. I think beach books don’t usually make you think too hard about the world in which you live. While The Last One doesn’t say anything we don’t already know about reality shows and the media, it still weaves it into the narrative in a way that opens your eyes to it without hitting you over the head. I read the book in one sitting so it’s definitely a quick read. And I’ll admit, there was a point that I ugly cried. Like UGLY. CRIED. HARD. But I’m so glad I read it. It’s one that will be sticking with me for a while.

 

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review.

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