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Search tags: Tim-O\'Brien
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review 2018-02-06 03:46
Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House - Monika Suteski,Cormac O'Brien


I received this book for free from the publisher (Quirk Books) in exchange for an honest review.

I loved this book! I love history, especially when it comes to topics that are not talked about much. So naturally, this book was right up on my alley.

This edition of the book features profiles of all the First Ladies, including the most recent one, Melania Trump. It gives a short biography about each First Lady and her time in the White House, as well as some fun facts and stories. There are also some fun illustrations (which I loved).

My biggest takeaway from this was that so many of the First Ladies had tragic lives. Many of them were upset and cried when their husbands became president. A lot of them had to endure a bunch of bad stuff (absent husbands, children dying, health problems, long travels, etc.) to help their husbands get to the White House. I had no idea that this was the reality for a majority of them. Their lives were not as glamorous as some may have thought.

Hardly anyone ever talks about the First Ladies (especially the earlier ones) so it was really insightful to learn more about them. They deserve more recognition than they get.

Overall, if you want a fun little history lesson on the First Ladies, then look no further, this book is for you!

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text 2018-02-05 05:58
Reading progress update: I've read 154 out of 352 pages.
Secret Lives of the First Ladies: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Women of the White House - Monika Suteski,Cormac O'Brien
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review 2018-01-26 22:13
The Hell by Brian Barr
The Hell: Book 3 of the 3 H's Trilogy - Brian Barr,Jeff O'Brien,Sullivan Suad,Zilson Costa

This final installment is quite a bit more serious! Book 1 had some humor and even a touch of romance to it. Book 2 showed us how twisted that romance was but still had some quips and sarcasm here and there. This book is quite a bit darker. We take a walk through the Bailey family tree as we meet Gregory, the grandfather, and he reigns down a type of hell on the occupants of the house. Never fear though! The ladies have been coming up with an escape plan…. of sorts.

So eventually we get to meet the paranormal investigators Susie and Mac. They’ve been doing this for some time and both are sensitive to the paranormal. Susie receives a desperate plea from a client to take out the Bailey house. Alas, arson is not in Susie’s skill set and pretty much goes against her morals.

But then we meet Mac’s new friend. That’s a game changer for Susie! This story was full of unexpected twists and I was delighted with each one. The ending winds up and up to a fever pitch as evil throws punches at good and good-ish kicks back. Not everyone gets what they want by the end (and that’s great for us rooting for Susie and booing Gregory) but things end on a rather positive note. I wasn’t expecting that but it was nonetheless quite suitable for this trilogy. 5/5 stars.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Rick Gregory has done a good job narrating this series but I found this book narration could have used just a little polishing. There’s a few mispronounced words and sometimes the pacing is just a little off. Over all though, it’s a good performance. I can tell that Gregory is fully engaged in the story (perhaps because the Big Baddie is named Gregory?). He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were feminine. 4/5 stars.

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review 2017-12-15 13:05
'The Things They Carried' by Tim O'Brien
The Things They Carried - Tim O'Brien

Nearly 40 pages into my used copy of The Things They Carried I found a large post-it note with the words "Start here" scribbled in small print at the very top. It's the point where the novel, which till then seems to stick to the premise of viewing the Vietnam War by examining the things U.S. soldiers carried. The writing comes back to these items again and again, grounding the story in pictures and mementos, weapons, ammo, clothing, and small comforts like a bible, a knife, pantyhose, what have you. Some are practical, some are remembrances, but they provide some insight into the men of Alpha Company, but going into the fourth chapter it starts to lose its ground.

 

Except, after page 38, the story drifts away from these items, and from the perspective Lieutenant Jimmy Cross who was central through these early pages, and from the kind of straight war story that we know well. The story gets messy. Tim O'Brien then writes in snapshots and in framed stories that, even when the subject is usual, have a touch of the surreal. Whole chapters veer off as in "The Sweetheart of Song Tra Bong" in which one character tells the impossible-seeming story of a man bringing his girlfriend to visit him at his station in Vietnam and her getting lost in the world of special forces -- first asking questions, then tagging along, then participating in missions, and eventually dropping off the grid altogether. But as the subject matter gets more outlandish, the narrator "Tim O'Brien" won't give us neat answers on what is true. Some very believable scenes he reveals to be fiction, others he insists are true, others are true but didn't happen to that person, or the person had a different name.

 

"A true war story is never moral," we are told on page 68. Then on the next page, "You can tell a true war story if it embarrasses you." Then on page 71, "In any war story, but especially a true one, it's difficult to separate what happened from what seemed to happen," then "In many cases a true war story cannot be believed," and still later down the page, "In other cases a true war story cannot be believed." Reality becomes a non-Newtonian fluid, appearing clear before us, but slipping away whenever we try to hold it too tightly.

 

From a literary studies angle, it may be interesting to model what is supposed to have actually happened to "Tim" and what has not, but following that post-modern rabbit-hole down to try to tell what happened to O'Brien is a fools errand and lead you far astray from the important lessons of the novel [and that realization may lead you to one of the important take-aways from this story]. 

 

I often thought back to Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut while reading The Things They Carried. Something in the tone and the way reality seems to shift under your feet while reading it. But where Vonnegut let that distortion play out in fantastical ways, with aliens, time travel and other science fiction elements, Tim O'Brien keeps our eyes on the war the whole time. Truth, time, beauty, and reality are distorted but in a way that is much more familiar in the way we understand memory and especially traumatic memories. "Tim" isn't taken away to a far away planet with a beautiful movie star. He is Vietnam, even when there is a discordant, impossible, beautiful image like that of Curt Lemon stepping back so that the sun catches his face and flying into the vines and white blossoms, blown by the explosion of the landmine he stepped on.

 

The Things They Carried is a meditation on war, on youth [and youth lost] and on storytelling, whether through novel, gossip, or your own memories. O'Brien's war stories, to whatever degree they are factual, feel truer than most, and closer to home. He never tries to educate on the 60s, the war, or the government, though it's hard not to walk away with some thoughts on these matters. The war for him and us readers is what the dozen men [give or take] of Alpha Company see, hear, and feel. It's death and loss and a connection unlike just about any other on Earth. 

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review 2017-12-13 12:37
How to Fight the Presidents
How to Fight Presidents: An Illustrated Comedic History of the Wildest, Toughest, and Most Interesting and Badass Facts About Every US President - Daniel O'Brien

Total. boy. humour.  And it's hilarious.  Really silly and did I mention the boy humour?  There's a lot of it.

 

At a guess I'd bet that maybe 60% of the information in each section covering each president (except those that are still alive - is that for legal reasons, do you think?) is probably factual.  20% is blatantly called out by the author himself as just wishful thinking, and the other 20% could go either way.

 

But I hope nobody thinks they're picking this up in order to expand their factual knowledge  of presidential history.  There's a lot of good stuff I didn't know before, but the focus is very narrow and aimed solely at making the presidents all look like bad asses.  How to Fight Presidents is a fun, entertaining, wishful thinking sort of book that will accidentally import some small inconsequential facts into the reader's brainpan when they aren't paying attention; guaranteed to make them only slightly quirky at the next cocktail party, or the dark horse at their next trivia night.  Or maybe just slightly better prepared should he or she accidentally find themselves in a dark alley with a sitting president-pretender. You never know I guess.

 

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc.  Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional).  Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

 

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