Archive for May 2010

From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava by Jay Kopelman

In honor of Memorial Day, I wanted to write about a book that I bought about a year or so ago about a dog rescued from Iraq.  As you may know, I love animals, and I also have a personal interest in supporting the military and veterans and am involved in some projects at work around that effort.

First of all, how can you NOT love the cover??  Please forgive me because it has been awhile since I’ve read this book, so I don’t remember a lot of details.  ”From Baghdad with Love: A Marine, the War, and a Dog Named Lava” is about… well, exactly what the title says.  Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman is fighting the war in Iraq and one day while he’s on patrol, he hears something that he thinks may be a person coming to attack him, but it’s really a tiny little stray puppy.  The military has very strict rules forbidding soldiers from keeping pets, but Kopelman just can’t let him go back out into the streets.  Dogs over there are not like dogs here in America – they are wild animals and are not pets.  Kopelman smuggles him back to camp, and they name him Lava after the name of their battalion, the Lava Dogs.  Lava is a typically puppy – a mixture of cute and a troublemaker and that’s what makes everyone love him even more.  Kopelman knows that he is not allowed take him home once his tour of duty is over, but he can’t bear the thought of leaving him there in Iraq because he knows what happens to other dogs there.  The story explains how Kopelman has some other helpers in the quest to hide and protect the dog over in Iraq and who supported his efforts in getting Lava to the US.

The book was a very interesting read.  I loved reading the parts about Lava and his antics, but the details of military life in the middle of a war zone were also very insightful and I learned a lot from it.  The story does have a good ending, so don’t worry about that part!

Kopelman wrote a follow-up called “From Baghdad to America: Life after War for a Marine and His Rescued Dog” that deals with Kopelman’s adjustment from soldier to civilian and Lava’s transition into a real pet.  I also purchased this book but haven’t read it yet.

Happy Memorial Day and thank you to all who have served our country and given their lives for our freedom.

American Rust by Philipp Meyer

A couple months back, I posted about a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article regarding books about/set in Pittsburgh.  I had posted a link to the article on Twitter and one of my local Twitter friends (I’m sorry – I can’t remember who and I can’t find the conversation!) mentioned that they read this book and recommended it.  I downloaded it to my Kindle awhile ago and just finally got around to reading it.

American Rust” is a novel set in the fictional town of Buell, Pennsylvania in Fayette County (geographically, it’s right around here).  For those who don’t know, Pittsburgh falls into a region of the country commonly referred to as the “Rust Belt“, which refers to the abandoned and rusted mills and factories that closed up in the 1970′s due to the manufacturing industry decline.

The story is about two young men in their early 20′s – Isaac, an intelligent but quiet kid who desperately wants to get out of Buell and make a life for himself elsewhere, like his sister did by leaving and going to Yale, and Poe (that’s his last name), who was a football star in high school but opted not to go to college (when he could have) and is basically stuck in the little town with no future ahead of him.  One night, Isaac and Poe visit an abandoned plant and get into an altercation with some squatters and one of them ends up dead at the hands of, surprisingly, Isaac.

The local police captain, who also happens to have a “personal” relationship with Poe’s mother, suspects that Isaac and Poe has something to do with it, but a witness fingers Poe as the suspect in the man’s death.  Isaac decides it’s finally time for him to leave town so they don’t get caught, but Poe stays behind and is taken to jail for a crime that he did not commit (this occurs after Isaac takes off).  As Isaac makes his journey to California to start his life over, he encounters some difficult situations (and people) along the way.  Poe is put in jail and struggles with the decision about whether or not he’ll admit to anyone that it wasn’t him that killed the man.

While I did like the story and think it was interesting, I did have a few issues with this book.  First, I feel like it took me FOREVER to read.  The Kindle tells you what percentage of the book you’ve read and it just felt like it took me a lot longer than most books do.  Second, I’m not sure if this was done on purpose or if it was just a thing with the electronic version of the book, but the punctuation was horrible.  That leads into my third issue, that I felt like the characters were so stereotypical and I found it a tiny bit offensive.  By stereotypical, I mean that they were presented as fairly poor, not very intelligent (except Isaac, but he had some other issues), lazy, unsophisticated, and just very blue-collar.  I have nothing against people from Fayette or any of the other outlying, rural areas around Pittsburgh and I’m not saying that stereotype is true, and I understand that they may not be like someone like me, who works in downtown in a corporate environment and is used to the city/suburban environment, but I just don’t want readers from outside of Pittsburgh to think that all Pittsburghers are like that.  We’re not.  This isn’t me bashing the author or how he chose to create the characters, but I’m just sayin’.  Do yinz guys know what I mean n’at?

On the other hand, I love stuff about Pittsburgh and liked being able to picture the areas that they referenced in the book.  Some of the towns mentioned were Donora, Charleroi, Elizabeth, Uniontown, and probably a few more that I can’t remember.

Philipp Meyer actually is NOT from Pittsburgh, but from Baltimore, but apparently has friends and family who live in the area and that’s why he chose to base it here.  He says he had similar experiences in the area where he grew up.  This is his only book so far.

The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

This is the first real book I’ve read in awhile.  By “real book”, I mean a book made of paper.  When the movie came out last year, I wanted to download it on my Kindle but it wasn’t available.  My mom recently borrowed this book from a coworker so I jumped right on that, especially since I knew I would use my super-duper fast book reading skills to be able to get it back to her quickly.

The Time Traveler’s Wife” is about a man named Henry who has time traveling skills; he first learns of this ability as a young child.  He can go back in time, sometimes forward, and even back in time to himself at another age.  When he time travels, he can’t take anything with him so every time he ends up somewhere, he’s naked and has to learn to obtain clothes and other supplies.  The story is also about a woman named Clare, who  meets Henry as a time traveler when she is a young child and helps him by getting him clothes, food, etc.  Even though she is just a young girl and Henry is an adult when they meet, they build a special bond and Henry visits her many times up throughout her teenage years.  The time traveling parts do get confusing (my mom warned me of this) – it goes back and forth to different years, Henry’s and Clare’s ages are listed each chapter so you know what time period it’s taking part in and whether or not Henry is time traveling.  I’m actually maybe jumping around a bit here in the summary because it’s so hard to go in order of the actual book, but you get the point.

Henry and Clare meet up in “real time” and while Clare has known Henry all of her life, “real time” Henry doesn’t know that he knows Clare but she fills him in on the whole situation.  They fall in love (more so than they already were) and become married.  The rest of the story other than these main points that I mentioned tells more details about how both Henry and Clare got to where they were and what their future is like together and how they deal with his time traveling “chrono-displacement” disease.

So let me tell you… I loved this book.  Yes, loved.  My mom was a little iffy about it because it jumped around, and sometimes after I put the book down for awhile, I had to flip back a few pages to remember what year/age I was last reading about.  Other than that, something about it was just so… romantic?  I’m not sure how to explain it.  The book didn’t make me cry, but just imaging the strength of the love between Clare and Henry really got me.  Normally I’d say something like “I wish I had a Henry”, but I’m pretty darn happy with my Matt.  And luckily, he doesn’t time travel (unless there’s something he’s not telling me).

Has anyone seen the movie?  I wanted to wait to see it until I read the book.  I’m sure I’ll be disappointed because how the heck could they fit all of the details into a 2 hour movie?  They can’t.  Is the movie going to make me cry?  I bet it will… sappy Rachel McAdams movies do that to me (like “The Notebook”).

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Jaci has read 1 book toward her goal of 35 books.
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