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A Soldier’s Promise

I’m not one for audio books, but the husband couldn’t resist this one when we were browsing through the discount book section. The audio book, A Soldier’s Promise, chronicles the struggles of our troops in Iraq, particularly those of First Sergeant Daniel Hendrix. I probably would never have picked up this book off the shelf because I tend to find these stories drawn out and boring in parts. However, given the way this story was read, I may have liked to read the actual book because the writing style is not obtuse or too militaristic. We were listening to this audio book on and off for about three weeks in the car as we drove into work together, so it took us longer than it would have taken me to read it on my own, but he enjoyed it. This book is set just after the fall of Saddam.

***Spoiler Alert***

The beginning of the book starts off before Hendrix leaves his wife for duty and after his unit, Dragon Company, completes specialized training. Once in Iraq, there are a series of ambushes and other events that occur, but things start to turn around for the American troops when informants turn up at their checkpoint offering information about insurgents in exchange for money or other items. The troops come to expect any Iraqis to seek monetary gain for their information, until Jamil enters the checkpoint demanding to be arrested.

The book does not completely focus on just the American troops, and I think this is what caught my attention the most. The chapters alternate between the troops and Jamil’s family. His father is a leader of one of the insurgency movements in Husaybah, Iraq. His father and his neighbor are blood thirsty and eager to battle American troops. His father wants his son to join the insurgency and stage raids and use other guerrilla tactics against the Americans. Jamil is not interested in this life and eventually sees the Americans as the only way to escape his abusive father.

At the checkpoint, he is taken into custody and begins informing the Americans about his father and the local insurgency’s weapons and plans. The troops, after much debate, agree to stage a raid, ultimately capturing Jamil’s father and several others. The problem is that his father’s neighbor, Sayed (excuse the spelling here), is on the loose and even more blood thirsty than Jamil’s father.

Jamil, who garners the nickname Steve-O, becomes a great asset to Dragon Company and the marines that take their place, but in the process a 14-year-old boy grows up too fast and loses his family to the insurgency and Iraq’s battle with itself. Hendrix promises that he will one day get the boy out of Iraq into the safety of the United States.

***End Spoiler***

I was captivated by the images in this audio book and was captivated by the underlying message that as humans we are all striving toward similar goals. We all want to be loved for who we are, we all want to be independent of other’s rule and oppression, and we are all capable of seeing past prejudice to find the humanity within. We also all have the capacity to do the right thing when the time is right. I would recommend this audio book for long road trips or just commuting to and from work.

The Sound of Words

THE SOUND OF WORDS: A SCHEME TO ROCK THE WRITER’S CENTER

Featuring The Caribbean and 32 Poems Magazine
DATE: Friday, May 9
TIME: 8 PM
COSTS: Nothing
LOCATION: The Writer’s Center, 4508 Walsh Street, Bethesda, MD

Sponsored by 32 Poems

Come join in the fun this Friday!

3rd Poetry Contest Winner..and Weekly Geeks

Thanks to all who participated this past month in my celebration of National Poetry Month. I hope everyone had fun with the contest. The winner of the third leg of the contest was SUEY! She claims that she never wins anything, but I think she has better luck than I do with contests. Anyway, she will receive a volume of Emily Dickinson’s poems. Billy Collins provides the introduction for this volume.

I also wanted to provide you with some of my favorites from Weekly Geeks last challenge to find five blogs that were new to me. Yes, I know that I am late this time around, but I had a really busy weekend. So here are the five:

1. Ravenous Reader: I like the bit of personal stuff she provides at the beginning of many of her reviews, allowing us some insight into her daily activities and routines, and I like how she selects passages from what she is reading to illustrate her points. But honestly, it’s the town of this blog that catches my eye because it is so relaxed and yet serious about reading. I love it.

2. Can I Borrow Your Book?: This is another fellow book reviewer and lover who integrates personal notes with reviews and even photos and anecdotes outside of the book realm. I just loved the concept of the title, which is what initially drew me into her blog. However, I think I may stick with this one as well, if not just for the month of May Book Binge Challenge.

book binge

3. The Written Word: Ok, yes, this is another blog that is a mix of personal notes and reviews, but this one also seems to have frequent contests, and what girl/woman doesn’t want to try and win free stuff? I love doing contests when I can, but I can truly say that I never win any! LOL Doesn’t hurt to give it a shot.

4. Book Escape: I’m not sure that this one counts for the challenge because it was actually a redirect from The Written Word. I just loved how the review of The Road started off. I like her honestly in having a hard time with those books, but reading it anyway. I also enjoyed the fact that she read it after her husband recommended it. I enjoyed that book, my review here.

I have not picked out a fifth yet, given the busy weekend I just had, but I will post an update of this challenge later on when I have a fifth blog to post. In the meantime, please check out these 4.

Weekly Geeks, Challenge 2:

For those book reviewers and bloggers who review the same books as I do or the last two I have reviewed, please send me a link or place your link in the comments, and I will revise my post to connect to your review as well. Sounds simple. Just remember it will be for the new reviews or the last two books: “Remember Me?” by Sophie Kinsella or “Human Dark With Sugar” by Brenda Shaughnessy.

Darkness With a Pinch of Sugar Sweetness

Human Dark With Sugar by Brenda Shaughnessy arrived in the mail from the American Academy of Poets and I was pleased because I haven’t read a book of poetry in some time. I think that it is only fair that I review this book on this, the last day of National Poetry Month. This second book of poetry from Shaughnessy won the James Laughlin Award.

The first section of the book is Anodyne, also known as a pain-killer. This section of the book is not euphoric by any means. It is almost as if she is attempting to kill the pain with the sharpness of her words. For instance in “I’m Over the Moon:”
“How long do I try to get water from a stone?/It’s like having a bad boyfriend in a good band.// Better off alone. I’m going to write hard/and fast into you, moon, face-f**king.//”

The second section of the book is Ambrosia, from the Greek mean of food or drink of the gods that confers immortality on the consumer. Is the narrator of Shaughnessy’s poems interested in immortality? One of my favorite poems from this section is “Three Sorries,” particularly the “1. I’m Sorry” section of the poem:

“Soon 1. born 1970
2. Cried: all along
3. Loved: you really so very much and no others

blurred into: 1. begging off for the dog-years behavior
2. extra heart hidden in sock drawer
3. undetected slept with others”

It seems as though she really is not sorry for her actions or the events leading up to the incident. It’s amazing how many of these poems appear apologetic and wistful on the surface, but then turn to sarcasm and bleakness.

The third section is Astrolabe or astronomical instrument to surveying, locating, and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, and stars. I think the best illustration of this concept is Shaughnessy’s “A Poet’s Poem.”

“I will get the word freshened out of this poem.// I put it in the first line, then moved it to the second./ and now it won’t come out.// It’s stuck. I’m so frustrated,/ so I went out to my little porch all covered in snow// and watched the icicles drip, as I smoked/a cigarette.//” The poem ends quizzically: “I can’t stand myself.”

“No Such Thing as One Bee” is another poem that illustrates this need to pinpoint a location. Shaughnessy uses a narrator that is unsure of where they are in life and how they fit into the greater scheme. Where it is a busy worker bee or a bee that goes out to collect pollen. I guess you could almost equate it to the Bee movie with Jerry Seinfeld.

Overall, this is one of the better poetry books I have read in some time. I love the sarcastic and bleak language used by Shaughnessy in her poems. It’s the darkest side of humanity she examines, and she tries not to sugarcoat it, but sometimes, she just can’t help herself.

Weekly Geeks Challenge

Weekly Geeks Challenge

I need to generate further traffic to this review site, and I figured this would be a prime opportunity to do so. Also, it provides me with an opportunity to learn about other blog review sites and generate new blogging buddies. Thanks Suey for blogging about this challenge and giving me the idea.

Today, at some point, I plan to review those bloggers listed on the site to find some new blogs to read. Should be an interesting adventure, and I will keep you posted about sites that I find.

I hope everyone will consider joining as well.

Until then, remember my National Poetry Month Contest? May 2 is the last day to enter the final round of the contest for your FREE volume of poetry.

I Wouldn’t Want to Remember Her Either…

Sophie Kinsella‘s Remember Me? reveals how changes to one’s life can be bad, as well as good. The novel centers on a young businesswoman, Lexi Smart, who wakes up in a hospital after a car accident and cannot remember the last three years of her life. The last thing she remembers is that it is 2004 and she was out with friends at a local bar the night before her father’s funeral, having fun before she fell down a set of stairs.

***Spoiler Alert***
Lexi wakes up and her mom is the same she ever was, but her sister has grown up into a teenager. Lexi cannot believe her eyes; her little sister has grown up and is a sarcastic, budding criminal. She also finds out that she is married to a hot stud, who happens to be a millionaire and knows how to drive a speedboat. This part of the description cracked me up. Why would it matter if he can drive a speedboat, but I guess it does to Lexi who is obsessed with all things material. She also discovers that she is now the director of her department and is a total B**ch boss who has lost all of her friends, including those she remembers from the night at the bar in 2004.

She struggles to remember any part of the last three years, including her time on a reality television show, much like the Apprentice. But she cannot remember a thing. To help Lexi out, her hot husband, Eric, gives her a “marriage manual.” The manual spells out how often they have sex, how they have sex, how she greets him, how they say goodbye in the mornings, how they initiate foreplay, etc. It is a step-by-step process to their relationship and marriage. A bit overwhelming for a woman with amnesia, but beyond that the manual makes their marriage seem more like a business transaction.

Throughout her re-acclimation to her “new” life, Lexi learns that she also was having an affair with Eric’s business partner and architect, Jon. Jon, who claims that they are in love and were on the verge of telling Eric, cannot believe that she does not remember him. Moreover, Lexi must return to a job that she does not feel comfortable performing and cannot imagine ever being capable of performing. Worse yet, her subordinate, Byron, is after her job and wastes no time putting her down when she returns from the hospital.

Despite her best efforts to save her job and her marriage, Lexi fails to save her department, but in the process finds her inner businesswoman and learns how to be independent and self-sufficient without injuring her friends. The part that is the most accurate in the book is that she fails to fully regain her memory by the end of the book, though there is a glimmer of hope.

***End Spoiler Alert***

I thoroughly enjoyed this journey with Lexi Smart. She may have changed her life in the three years she cannot remember, but she changes the most in those months following her car accident more profoundly than she did after her father’s death.

I’m not sure I would want to remember myself if I had changed so utterly in those three missing years. There is a significant disconnect between the woman she was in 2004 and the woman she became into 2007.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

For other Reviews of this book:

A Girl Walks Into a Bookstore
Lous_Pages

And the Winner Is…

Anna won this week’s Poetry Book contest for National Poetry Month. She received a volume of Yeats poems and selected plays.

I also want to alert you to the third contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. So it looks like this will be the last chance to win a volume of poetry for National Poetry Month. You’ll have to check out these National Poetry Month links to find out their secrets.

Those interested in the contest, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by May 2, and I will post the winner on May 3.

Unfortunately, my aunt and Anna will not allowed to grace us with their witty poems this time around since they both already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.

2008 Bethesda Literary Festival Poetry Slam


Every Bethesda Literary Festival my husband and I attend the Poetry Slam, where the bravest poets get up, recite poems, and allow audience members to judge their work. The above photo shows you the top three in the poetry slam.

There are two rounds to the slam. In the first round, everyone interested in competing signs up at the door. Each poet gets three minutes to read or recite a memorized poem, for every 10 seconds over, they are penalized a half point. The first round consisted of 15 competitors. The second round consists of the top five or six poets from the previous round. Before readers begin, a calibration poet reads their poem to allow the judges to see what kind of work will be read, and the score received should guide the judges in their scoring of other poets during the competition based upon whether their work is better or worse than the calibration poem.

I want to point out a few things about the first round poets before moving onto the final round. The first poet to read was Paul, who I have equated to Abe Lincoln in the past because of his physical appearance. Usually, Paul bores us all to tears and the judges attempt to be nice and ignore his monotonous reading tone and depressing subject matter. This is the first time his poem was entertaining. The poem touched upon the struggles of a writer when dealing with critiques. The writer gets advice to remove a dune-buggy at first, then a trite romantic couple, etc., until there is nothing left to the story, except “I hate you; I hate you all.” Great ending to a poem, and his traditional monotone voice was replaced by a bit of wit and sarcasm.

Another of my favorites from the reading was Chris August, who started off his poem with “I have four words for you: You Are Not Special.” The poem touched upon the sense of entitlement in today’s society and how those who are truly special are those that need wheelchairs, additional attention throughout their lives, and other accommodations.

Curry and Dwayne B. both recited poems about love and hate and disappointment. Chris Wilson also recited a poem about love, love in spite of heartache. “I’m sorry I broke into your apartment and stole your shampoo:” one of Wilson’s lines. It had some great allusions to the Bare Naked Ladies and their “Old Apartment” song, with an obsessed lover twist. It was quite entertaining.

Tokia Carter, since I couldn’t get her first name either time it was announced, was spectacular. Her AmeriTruth Airlines poem with pilot George “crazy” Bush and co-pilot Dick “trigger happy” Chaney and flight attendant Condi Rice was fantastic. It touched upon terrorism, the terror alerts, the “supposed” freedoms of Americans, and politics.

The final poet from the first round that I have to talk about is Rocky. You’d think it was a man, but it was a woman and she took performance poetry to a whole new level. Rather than rant and rave aloud and scream at the audience, like some, she literally acted out the physical tortures–Strung up by her feet, waterboarded, inside a chicken cage, and others–in her poem.

Candy Rain was the poet to clear the palette. Her poem was powerful. It did reset the mood after the lull of coffee and cookies. Free Caribou Coffee is the greatest.

The final round poets were Chris August, Chris Wilson, Ms. Carter, Jedidiah, Dwayne B., and Ben.

Ben and Jedidiah were first and second and couldn’t have contrasted more. Jedidiah’s poem discussed how education was the way to overcome discrimination, while Ben discussed the evolution from Blues to Alternative Rock when a boy discovers a Blues guitar against a tree and how it is like dying every night on stage. Dwayne B sang a bit, a blue song as a love song to his woman. Chris Wilson’s poem this time around was about his students and how he would kill their dreams by crushing them with the inspiration of creative writing. Chris August’s poem discussed how love and luck are not achieved by forwarding an email to friends and waiting; it’s achieved through actions and changes in behavior. Finally, Ms. Carter’s poem reflected on the justice system. She expressed the defense of death upon contact (DOC) due to self-preservation. A man laying his hands on her dies on contact, which makes it self-defense, and it saves taxpayers and the justice system millions because she does not fill out restraining orders and other paperwork; she takes matters into her own hands–so to speak.

Third Place this time around was Chris Wilson; second place was Chris August, and first place was Ms. Carter. One of these days I will have to find out her real name or at least her full name.

The only other tidbit from the Slam that I have for you is my hubby’s wonderful artwork, which garnered a bit of attention from the crowd and Delrica Andrews. He drew a Mickey Mouse for the first round and a strange, pierced poet for the second round. I think it made the judging much more interesting for him.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

Surfing Through Life

Body Surfing by Anita Shreve is not one of my favorite novels, but I enjoyed the meditative way in which she weaves the love triangle between Sydney, Jeff, and Ben. What I enjoyed most about the love triangle is that it is done in such a way that it takes the whole book to see the outcome and the third angle in the triangle.

***Spoiler Alert***

Sydney loves to body surf in the ocean, and this becomes a metaphor for how she lives her life. She tends to get swept up by the circumstances she finds herself in, whether it’s the odd jobs she has held or the men she becomes involved with. She’s been married two times previously when we meet her in the book, and she has taken time off from graduate school after the death of her second husband to tutor a young girl, Julie Edwards, for the SATs over the summer.

She has a relatively calm time at the New Hampshire beach cottage, which has appeared in several of Shreve’s other novels–including one of my favorites The Pilot’s Wife. The house’s history is not lost on the character of Mr. Edwards in this book, and he has even become a sort of historian of the house. It has been great to see the stories that emerge from this single cottage over the years. I wonder if Shreve will set another novel in this cottage; I would enjoy visiting it again.

Suddenly, Sydney is thrust between two brothers and their competitive behavior. The competition is not overt, but alluded to throughout the book. The subtlety here may be hard to sift through, but reading Shreve’s works in the past, I’ve become more attune to her visual cues and descriptions to uncover the internal struggles and hidden agendas and connections between her characters.

I truly enjoyed the parts after the wedding debacle where Sydney spends time in a Boston hotel to regroup and her meeting with Mr. Cavalli. I think these were eye-opening experiences for the character. Her return to New Hampshire three years later for a psychology conference and her subsequent meeting with Ben is a major turning point for a number of characters, including Sydney and Ben’s mother. I just love the few lines with which Shreve accomplishes the transition in this book and the immediate mutual realization that Ben and Sydney reach together.

***End Spoiler Alert***

Overall, this book held my attention throughout the daily commute and even some evenings at home when I was engrossed in the dialogue and current situations Sydney found herself in. While it is not as well constructed as The Pilot’s Wife, Sea Glass, or The Last Time They Met, I enjoyed my journey back to the oceanside of New Hampshire and the trip back into Boston, even if it was for a brief interlude.

***Please feel free to enter the next National Poetry Month Contest here.

The Poetry Contest Winner Is…Another Contest Too!

My Aunt Ann. She will be receiving some love poems by Pablo Neruda, which are in English and Neruda’s native language.

I also want to alert you to the second contest for the month, again a volume of poetry. I may even email the winner with a choice of volumes from which they can choose their prize. We’ll see how many entries I get this time around.

Those interested, please either post an original poem or your favorite poem in the comments by April 25, and I will post the winner on April 26.

Unfortunately, my aunt is not allowed to grace us with her witty poems this time around since she already won a poetry volume. Even if you entered the last contest, please do enter again, with a different poem. Let’s Celebrate National Poetry Month.

Also for those interested, April 17 is Poem in Your Pocket day. If you choose to participate, you are to walk around with a poem in your pocket all day and periodically take it out and read it to friends and family or even co-workers throughout the day. I’ll let you know what poem I decide upon and what poem Anna chooses to share as well.