This fire/reading season got off to a rough start. Turns out I actually had to WORK on my first few assignments. First I was in Alaska working in the medical unit at camp all day where people actually notice if you are doing nothing, or even worse, expanding your mind with a book. Then I took a couple tours in my new fire capacity as a Public Information Officer where I had to do busyish things all day like prowl Facebook, rewrite press releases and socialize with other overhead people who also had no idea what was going on with the actual fire. There was simply no place for burying my face in a novel. But FINALLY, I got dispatched as a line EMT to a fire in a remote spot in Oregon, where not only did I have 14 hours on the line every day in a vehicle by myself, but there was NO CELL SERVICE, so my reading productivity was enhanced exponentially without the encumbrances of social media, email or responding to text-tattling from my offspring. Every once in awhile a safety officer or another medic would drive by and interrupt my progress, but overall I'd say I did pretty well...
Because I read A LOT, I will keep my reviews succinct. Also because it's been like 4 weeks since I read some and probably can't even remember what they're about. But I will try.
The 5th Wave - Rick Yancey
I am a sucker for YA sci-fi fantasy stuff, so when Natalee got done reading this, I immediately needed to borrow it. Of course, that was last December and it took me until August to read it, while my other three kids and a couple of others kept asking me to finish it so they could read it. But call me a borrow-hoarder, I was gonna read that book, dammit, and I finally did, the first on my list this summer. I liked it. I like Yancey's writing style - much less overcommunicative than James Dashner (Maze Runner), but entertaining, easy to read and a great plot line that isn't just regurgitated Hunger Games material. And aliens. How can you go wrong with Aliens? Ok, a lot of ways, but the 5th Wave is a good alien story. I would say that the plot twists are a little bit predictable but it might just be my above-average skills of deduction and intuitive imagination. But seriously, read this one, and the rest probably.
Resilience - Eric Greitens
This one I had in digital format - I had preordered it after Greitens was featured as part of the Wildland Fire Refresher this spring. The book came out in May but I didn't get around to reading it until I was done with the 5th Wave, because priorities, people. Resilience is perhaps one of the best books I have ever read. Like Deep Survival, which I read and reviewed last year after it changed my life, Greitens hits the mark as he helps another veteran friend find his way out of the dark recesses of alcoholism and PTSD. So. Much. Good. In this book that is as applicable to raising children as it is to special forces combat. Of all of the Navy SEAL books I have read (keep reading, there are a few) this is by far the most humble, approachable, and useful. Can't recommend highly enough.
Lone Survivor -Marcus Lutrell with Patrick Robinson
OK, so true confession: I am a special forces fangirl. I can't get enough. I watched the Lone Survivor movie after I was about a third of the way through the book (also a digital format for me) and both were awesome. Lutrell isn't really a brilliant writer, but he's ambitious and cocky and boy howdy he has some stories to tell. The book is much more in depth than the movie, but the film does a good job trying to capture the individuals that were lost in July of 2005. It's a good book and a good movie.
The Martian - Andy Weir
My brother gave me this book for Christmas, and for all my good intentions to not watch the movie before I read the book, I slipped up and saw it just before I got shipped out to this fire. That being said, the book is SO much better than the movie (in true biblio-snob form). Really, it's Weir's characterization of Mark Watney that's so great in the book. I mean sure, Matt Damon gives it a college try, but when you have to cram ALL of that action into a movie based on a book that is actually 98% science and totally geek-out-cool stuff, something gets lost. Read the book. I would loan you my copy but I gave it to a Task Force Leader from Iowa who totally agreed that the book Mark Watney was way funnier than the movie Mark Watney.
Dead Before Dying - Kerry Schafer
So Kerry is a local author, one I would even venture to call my friend (if it's on Facebook, it's real), and this is my favorite of her novels to date. She signed this one for me several months ago and it got put in the read-during-fire-season pile that I stared at longingly for ages. Dead Before Dying is super fun. It's a great, atypical paranormal mystery with a cool cast of slightly over-the-hill or maybe over-the-edge characters and enough plot twists to staff a roller coaster. Sometimes I think I'd like a peek inside Kerry's head to see where she gets all these crazy ideas, but maybe that's a pandora's box better left unopened? Read it. Last year I read her trilogy: Books of the Between - also fun, but this one really captured me. (available on Amazon)
Unbreakable - Thom Shea
Another day, another Navy SEAL book... Unbreakable is Shea's version of what it takes to be a Navy Seal. A lot of great, solid insights, fed by other SEALS and his "Spartan Wife", Unbreakable was written as a memoir to his children in case he didn't return from deployment. Shea offers advice and even practical exercises to harness your internal dialogue and overcome adversity. It's a good book, but lacks the humility and accessibility that Resilience has. But if you're into Navy SEALs and being mentally tough, it's a good read.
Half Broke Horses - Jeannette Walls
So I clicked "like" on a friend's Facebook post about preserving the culture of reading and books and it turns out that I joined a chain-letteresque group wherein I sent one book (Deep Survival) to the friend of my friend, and then friends of my friends that liked my status would each send me a book. I got 4 or 5 books out of it, which isn't a bad deal! This was one of them, and it was a keeper. Walls is a story teller. If I could write like her I feel like I would have it made. This is the story of her rough-and-tumble grandmother growing up in the southwest during the depression. It was a yarn so well spun that I kept forgetting it was rooted in the true life memoir of a real person. I'd like to get Walls other book, The Glass Castle, which is loosely based on the life of her mother. Walls seems to come by her imagination honestly. A good book.
The Bassoon King - Rainn Wilson (with a foreward by Dwight Schrute)
Oh Dwight...This book wasn't nearly as side-splitting from cover to cover as I imagined when I preordered it, but I was very surprised at the more serious insights that Rainn offered. Wilson's brain-child, SoulPancake, is an organization dedicated to bringing positivity and change to the world, and Rainn and his wife Holiday are excellent examples of celebrities who put their money and muscle where their mouth is. Don't get me wrong - it is funny as heck in many places, but I was really fascinated by Wilson's description of the Bahai faith (which I could totally dig) and his generally humility and candor. Basically Rainn Wilson reminds me of the EXACT opposite of a Christian Scientist in Hollywood - he's self-deprecating, intelligent, hilarious and believes in the power of pouring into others. He's just good people. And he lives in central Oregon, so...
Lost in Shangri-La - Mitchell Zuckoff
This book was an accidental/incidental read because it's one that Halle borrowed from my dad and then left at my house and then I found it and brought it along. It tells the story of a sightseeing flight over the New Guinea loaded with service members during World War II. After a harrowing crash, three survivors, including one female from the Women's Army Corps are stranded in a dense jungle with no way out - until the ingenuity of the US Air Force pilots and a band of brave volunteers jump into the fray to save them. This true story is reported fastidiously by Zuckoff - a newspaper reporter in real life, who captures the survivors and their rescuers with gripping storytelling skills. Halle's gonna love it.
Given Up For Dead: America's Heroic Stand at Wake Island - Bill Sloan
Also stolen from Halle's pile of books stolen from my dad, this one is the story of Wake Island and the heroic stand that an under equipped, under manned island in the South Pacific took against the earliest waves of Japanese attacks. On the heels of Pearl Harbor, Wake Island stood as a pivotal but eventually expendable way point as troops moved across the Pacific. The sailors and marines there sustained against overwhelming odds with no support for weeks. It's a riveting story, and well reported by Sloan.
All Quiet on the Western Front - Erich Maria Remarque
The classic World War I novel tells the story of a young German soldier and his classmates as they endure the horrors of trench warfare. Remarque captures the gradual demoralization of the men as their numbers dwindle and their cause begins to falter. Heart wrenching and thought provoking, this book was referenced repeatedly in Deep Survival so it's been on my list for awhile. It was sobering, but well worth the read.
Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
Because I was running out of books, and because this was a free download on iBooks, and because I had never read it, and because it's like 7,000 pages long - it seemed like an excellent option for a long day on the fireline. Austen and this novel did not come by their notoriety falsely. It's a witty read, endearing and infuriating and all of the things a novel should be, causing the reader to simultaneously love and want to slap the characters into some better communication and a little less propriety. I mean, get it together, Elizabeth, even Mr. Darcy needs a little leeway now and then... It's a good read for a gloomy winter. I laughed out loud.
The Light Between Oceans - M.L. Stedman
NO, I did NOT see this movie before I read the book. Actually, this is another book I got through the Facebook chain-letterish thing. It also got lost under the seat of my truck until the last couple days on the fire, but I was super excited when I found it because I was really looking forward to reading something that was sort of on a current bestseller list. Like, I am almost cool now... Ok. That's a stretch. But this was a good book. A tearjerker for sure. In fact I had to move my truck a few times so the Division Supervisor couldn't catch me weeping into my steering wheel. It's a heart wrenching drama of right vs wrong, tragedy and hope and despair and love. Stedman has a great storytelling voice, with a definite Australian lilt that made me read everything in an accent. Possibly out loud. When no one was driving by. Actually it's a horrible story and unless you like crying a lot or just want to feel better about your own circumstances, I am not sure I would recommend it. Or maybe I just prefer Navy SEALS. I don't know.
In conclusion, I also read a western by William W. Johnstone that I found somewhere that was the worst ever. It was a 300 page novel written like a looney tunes cowboy cartoon. People like that stuff, huh? I mean, I am all for Louie L'Amour and Zane Grey, but this was just silly. I was embarrassed while I was reading it - kind of like What Doesn't Kill You from back in 2012. I guess those little detours are good to take to remember what bad writing really feels like. Although I can just turn to my own blogs for that, so...
If you need a refresher, here are the links to my other Things That I Read:
Things That I Read I - highlights: Inside of a Dog, 50 Shades of Grey
Things That I Read II - highlights: World War Z, The Street Lawyer
Things That I Read III - highlights: The Lies of Locke Lamora and Born To Run
Things That I Read IV - highlights: On Writing, Deep Survival