An honest, graphic portrait of young men on the modern battlefield.

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KILLING TIME AND FIGHTING WARS

A young Oxford graduate’s tale of heat, boredom and adrenaline-rush warfare in Afghanistan.

Now in his late 20s, Hennessey became a captain in the Grenadier Guards at age 22 and soon learned to love combat and its “danger and…startling unpredictability.” His irreverent, nonstop narrative offers a revealing view of young British soldiers, many university-educated, all armed with iPods and video games, as they seek wartime glory and action. Telling girlfriends they’re off to hunt Osama bin Laden, they initially found themselves keeping tourists happy in London, maintaining the peace in the Balkans and fighting the desert heat in Iraq, where the author and his military-academy buddies launched their eponymous reading club. While sitting around in boxer shorts between shifts, they read fraying paperback editions of Catch-22, Don Quixote, Tristram Shandy and other novels whose surreal aspects had striking immediacy in the strange otherness of war. Their reading—along with video games, the music of Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley and much-needed Facebook fixes—provided a respite between patrols and eventual firefights with “Terry,” the enemy, first in Baghdad and then, in 2007, amid sandstorms and head-high poppies in Afghanistan. Relating much of his story in e-mails, Hennessey captures the fear and excitement of combat, celebrating “just how easy it all was, how natural it all felt and how much fun,” even as he grieved over the deaths of comrades. Though the frequent use of acronyms and British slang may put off some American readers, the author offers numerous vivid snapshots of his experiences—watching Band of Brothers and Gladiator to learn combat techniques; giant platoon snowball fights in Bosnia; a debate on the best iPod music for their first mission (they select Metallica); futile attempts to train undisciplined troops of the Afghan National Army who couldn’t shape their berets, couldn’t hit targets with their rusted or broken AK-47s and wore whatever they wanted; and the Bangladeshi Pizza Hut workers’ continuing delivery of pies during mortar attacks on a logistics base in Iraq.

An honest, graphic portrait of young men on the modern battlefield.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-59448-479-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2010

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An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

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BECOMING

The former first lady opens up about her early life, her journey to the White House, and the eight history-making years that followed.

It’s not surprising that Obama grew up a rambunctious kid with a stubborn streak and an “I’ll show you” attitude. After all, it takes a special kind of moxie to survive being the first African-American FLOTUS—and not only survive, but thrive. For eight years, we witnessed the adversity the first family had to face, and now we get to read what it was really like growing up in a working-class family on Chicago’s South Side and ending up at the world’s most famous address. As the author amply shows, her can-do attitude was daunted at times by racism, leaving her wondering if she was good enough. Nevertheless, she persisted, graduating from Chicago’s first magnet high school, Princeton, and Harvard Law School, and pursuing careers in law and the nonprofit world. With her characteristic candor and dry wit, she recounts the story of her fateful meeting with her future husband. Once they were officially a couple, her feelings for him turned into a “toppling blast of lust, gratitude, fulfillment, wonder.” But for someone with a “natural resistance to chaos,” being the wife of an ambitious politician was no small feat, and becoming a mother along the way added another layer of complexity. Throw a presidential campaign into the mix, and even the most assured woman could begin to crack under the pressure. Later, adjusting to life in the White House was a formidable challenge for the self-described “control freak”—not to mention the difficulty of sparing their daughters the ugly side of politics and preserving their privacy as much as possible. Through it all, Obama remained determined to serve with grace and help others through initiatives like the White House garden and her campaign to fight childhood obesity. And even though she deems herself “not a political person,” she shares frank thoughts about the 2016 election.

An engrossing memoir as well as a lively treatise on what extraordinary grace under extraordinary pressure looks like.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6313-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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