2018 War Reading Challenge

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Where on earth did 2017 go? I hope you read some fantastic WWII books last year. There’s still time to link your reviews here.

Feel free to tweet @wargenerations on Twitter when you have a review up or reach out on Facebook through our Facebook page.

This year, we’re leaving the challenge wide open. We’d love for you to link up any fiction, nonfiction, poetry, middle-grade, children’s, or graphic novels you may be reading about war. WWII, Vietnam War, WWI, Korean War, French and Indiana War, War of 1812, the American Revolution, Gulf wars, and more.

Link up your reviews in the linky below:

Let us know in the comments what your personal reading goal is for the war challenge — one book, 10 books, 50 books. It’s up to you.

Have a great 2018!

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Thank Our Veterans

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Honoring Our Veterans, Today and Every Day

Memorial Day 2015

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Memorial Day is a federal day of remembrance. It began as a way to remember those who died during the U.S. Civil War, but now it is a day to remember all who have served in the military, including our current troops.

Many people take the time to visit the graves of their loved ones who were veterans of war, while some have just placed flags on graves for those who served, even without knowing those soldiers personally. This is a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in war.

While I agree that these men and women should be remembered, I also urge you to remember those who currently serve (and yes, they are celebrated in November). But I think the sacrifices these troops make, and in some cases, the legacy that they continue, is just as important as those who have passed before us.

I’m lucky to know many current members of the military who have bravely fought, served, and returned home in one piece, but there are so many who are still emotionally, psychologically, and physically scarred. These men deserve our care and consideration on this day. Rather than have a cookout or place a flag on a grave — though you can still do those things, too — why not volunteer in a VA for an hour or take some hard-earned cash and donate it to a veterans organization, like the Wounded Warrior Project.

Enjoy the time you have off with veterans and family. Make the most of it before it’s gone.

Thank You, Veterans!

Week 2: War Babies Read-a-Long

Welcome to the last week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of War Babies by Frederick Busch for June.

A short but powerful tale weaving together moral complexity and romantic intrigue, Frederick Busch’s War Babies is the story of an American lawyer in his mid-thirties (Peter Santore) who travels to England in an attempt to tie up the loose ends of his own dark past.  Peter’s father, a prisoner who turned traitor in a Korean War POW camp, might have had something to do with a fellow captive’s death, the father of one Hilary Pennels — now a woman Peter’s age who lives in Salisbury.  When Peter and Hilary meet, they both want information from the other, and more, and find themselves engaged in a wary dance of attraction laced with mistrust.  But it may be a third person, the sole remaining survivor of the camp — a Mr. Fox — who holds the key to the mystery of betrayal that haunts Peter and Hilary alike.  (publisher’s summary)

Because the novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.  For week one’s discussion, go here.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read pages 51 through the end of the novel.

Serena: At one point, Hilary tells Peter that Fox likes to talk about the war and that he’s brutal about it. Given that war is brutal in itself, did you find anything else brutal about the way he talked about the war?

Anna: Maybe I’ve read too many war novels, but I found the way Fox talked about the war to be the way an old soldier with bitterness talks about the war. It was brutal, but that was to be expected, I think, when one talks about the war.

Serena: I agree; I didn’t find anything unusual about the way Fox talked about the war because he’s clearly bitter — and understandably so. I think maybe she finds it brutal because of her relationship with him, which I found very twisted. He’s supposed to come back and look after her for her father, but then he’s having a sexual relationship with her that gets twisted up in some kind of revenge scenario he’s cooked up to get back at Peter’s father and even Peter himself.

Anna: I thought this book was many shades of messed up, but I was more disturbed by Fox attacking Peter in the duty free store. He had some weird fascination for Peter’s father that went far beyond hatred for his role in Hilary’s father’s death. I understood the characters in that they were in pain, each feeling some deep loss, but they were portrayed so oddly.

I didn’t like the characters or their stories. I didn’t connect with them at all, and I didn’t care how they fared in the end. The only thing I like about this book was how it shows the scars of war among those who fought and those who didn’t, those who survived and those who were abandoned.

Serena: I have to agree with you; this was a book with a great deal of potential, but it was poorly executed. I think the most interesting character was Fox, but you don’t really get to know him.

I wonder if the third-person POV had something to do with the narration disconnecting us from the characters?

There’s another part in which Hilary talks about the nation of cripples and how we have a duty to recover from the past and the move forward, what do you think she meant by that? A duty to whom? And is she even taking her own advice?

Anna: I was confused by how it was mostly first-person but switched to third person at times and even used second person at one point.

Fox was interesting and creepy. Mostly creepy, though. But it was hard to like because the characters were all over the place. I’m not sure we even really got to know them. Peter’s short trip to England barely scratched the surface. And honestly, I’m surprised he found out as much of the story of their fathers as he did, given that they seemed to spend the entire book in bed.

Honestly, I don’t remember that part about the “nation of cripples,” but I don’t think she’s following her own advice. She seemed to be at first, falling in love or at least in lust with the son of the man who may or may not have killed her father, but that whole scene with her mocking Peter makes me think twice about that.

Do you think Hilary and Peter were in love? What was all that about if it wasn’t love? It seemed so melodramatic and so impossible.

Serena: I don’t think she follows her own advice either, but I think she’s manipulative — case in point, her mocking of Peter, and her jabs at him even before that.

I think Peter was trying to be in love, seeing that there might be something else out there for him beyond thinking about his father’s betrayal. I wonder how manipulative Hilary and Fox were from the very beginning since they seem to be in on some kind of torture scheme where Peter is concerned. Did Fox know that Peter was coming beforehand because of who Peter asked about Hilary’s father? Did she agree to be in on it?

I don’t think she’s in love or even knows how to be in love honestly. It is overly dramatic and ridiculous. And at one point I was thinking that maybe it was that way on purpose to demonstrate how traumatized people can have such heightened emotions and be out of control.

Anna: I agree that she was manipulative, and I actually did feel bad for Peter after he caught her with Fox because he thought they had something in common. I do wonder how much she knew, since I’m still not convinced their meeting up was a coincidence.

I think ridiculous is a good way to describe this story. The characterizations and their relationship were just over the top.

What did you think about Hilary’s anger at her father for not leaving the cave and how it meant that he chose to abandon her? The way she called her father “the hero” throughout the book was really put into perspective after that. We read so many stories of children being proud of their hero fathers, and she really turns that on its head.

Serena: I’m not convinced their meeting was a coincidence either.

I do find it interesting that Peter wants to believe there was some good in his father — and its almost like he would have preferred his father had not come home to be put in jail but remained out there somewhere — and Hilary sees nothing good about her father’s actions.

I think they are both feeling abandoned and maybe for a brief moment they find solace with one another, but that is short-lived.

There’s a point in the latter part that Hilary really turns her own notions about her father upside down — it’s like she’s questioning her own convictions about the matter. It’s after Peter asks why they don’t hate each other, and she says something to the effect of they chose how they wanted to live and die, and “you mean they owe us from the grave?” It’s like she’s trying to convince him that they can choose to not hate each other, but she doesn’t even believe it herself.

Anna: That is probably the most clever thing about the novel, that Peter’s father was a traitor and he wanted to believe he was good, and Hilary’s father saved many of his men and she thought he was anything but a hero. I wonder how much Fox and his weird hold over her affected her feelings about her father?

Serena: I wonder that too, but doesn’t look like we’ll ever find out.

What do you think? Feel free to respond to our discussion and/or post any questions you might have in the comments.

Come back in August for our read-a-long of Stella Bain by Anita Shreve.

Week 1: War Babies Read-a-Long

Welcome to the first week of the 2014 War Through the Generations With a Twist Read-a-Long of War Babies by Frederick Busch for June.

A short but powerful tale weaving together moral complexity and romantic intrigue, Frederick Busch’s War Babies is the story of an American lawyer in his mid-thirties (Peter Santore) who travels to England in an attempt to tie up the loose ends of his own dark past.  Peter’s father, a prisoner who turned traitor in a Korean War POW camp, might have had something to do with a fellow captive’s death, the father of one Hilary Pennels — now a woman Peter’s age who lives in Salisbury.  When Peter and Hilary meet, they both want information from the other, and more, and find themselves engaged in a wary dance of attraction laced with mistrust.  But it may be a third person, the sole remaining survivor of the camp — a Mr. Fox — who holds the key to the mystery of betrayal that haunts Peter and Hilary alike.  (publisher’s summary)

Because the novel is so short, we’re only hosting 2 discussions for it.

For this week’s discussion, we’ve read pages 1-50, ending with “mine and squeezed.”

Please be aware that there could be spoilers.

Anna: What are your first impressions?

I’m finding it hard to get into the story, mainly because the dialogue seems awkward to me, the characters are odd and unlikeable, and mainly because Pete and Hilary’s meeting seems contrived. Does this author seriously want me to believe that Pete travels from the U.S. to England in search of answers from Hilary and he just happens to have an encounter with this woman at the hotel and later in the market and it just happens to be the one woman he’s looking for? And then Pete expects Hilary to believe that he didn’t know it was her?

Serena: I’m having similar issues the the dialogue, which seems disjointed and choppy at times. And the meeting between Hilary and Peter is contrived and their “relationship” is contrived. I’m having issues with this whole thing.

I do think that if this has preoccupied Peter for as long as it seems to that maybe through research he’s found that Hilary could have some answers for him. And crazier things have happened where people have sought complete strangers out for information. That is believable to me, but the way that it comes about here, is so unbelievable.

What do you make of Fox?

I find him to be a traumatized soldier, but I also think that he embellishes. At least that’s what it seems like to me that he embellishes the goodness of his soldiers and those that died. He’s at least believable to me, though his relationship with Hilary is strange.

Anna: I just can’t get past the improbability of their meeting, and then immediately having sex. I just don’t “get” their relationship; it’s like a lot of what would have made it believable was left out. The author seems to give so little details about everything at this point. What was the extent of Pete’s research? What prompted him to seek out Hilary? Maybe Busch wants to reveals these details over the course of the book, but he’s not giving me much to keep me interested in the story.

The whole thing with Fox is just odd. Hilary can’t seem to decide if he’s an overprotective father figure or a pervert, and her change in behavior around him seems without reason and just weird. Again, I think it’s the lack of details.

Fox does seem to go on and on with his war stories, even though he seems to understand that Hilary doesn’t want to hear them. His stories are given all the details, down to the exposed muscle on the Lieutenant’s injury. He seems all over the place, from saying that he doesn’t hold what Pete’s father did against him, then getting very hostile toward Pete at the end of his tirade, but that could be the booze talking.

It’s just a very odd narrative, and I have no idea where it’s going. The weirdness of the characters and the contrived meeting/relationship seems to detract from what should be the focus of the novel: the war and why it compelled Peter to go to England for answers. He seems to believe his father had something to do with her father’s death, and I hope they can stop having sex long enough for the real story to start.

Serena: I found Fox to be the most interesting character, seems like a war vet with the drinking problem, the constant story telling, the overwhelming emotions and roller coaster of them. But he’s there and gone so quickly and then the relationship with him and Hilary is so ill-explained.

I do like that Fox provides the details about the camps and the life there, but it seems like there’s no explanation about the war and what started it or who was involved except the “Chinks,” “Yanks,” and the English.

I really am at a loss in this one. At least it’s short. Maybe this author assumes the reader knows a lot about the war?

Anna: Maybe, because I’m finding it hard to follow all that, and the disjointedness of the narrative doesn’t help when there are few details about the war. I especially am confused about the different camps they mention; if Pete’s father was at a different camp than Hilary’s father and Fox, I’m wondering how the three men are connected. But the way this story is told, being all over the place and not very coherent, It makes me wonder whether the characters and their odd connections will overshadow the war story.

I agree that Fox is the most interesting character, and I think my judgment of him may be clouded by the fact that Hilary talks about him before readers meet him, so I was expecting this odd, perverted man with a weird obsession with Hilary. I’m also glad that it’s short because I am slightly curious about where the story is heading but don’t want to have wasted too much of my time on it.

Serena: I hear you on that. I guess we’ll have to wait to see what comes next. Right now, all I want to know is what happened to the fathers, not Hilary and Peter. That’s an awful thing to say since they are the main characters.

And yes, Hilary’s comments about Fox have clouded my impression of him. But I’m waiting for the second half.

Anna: Of course, the most interesting things to us are the things not being discussed! I guess we’ll have to wait and see and hope it gets better!

What do you think?  Feel free to respond to our discussion and/or post any questions you might have in the comments.

**Please join us for the final discussion of War Babies by Frederick Busch on Friday, June 27: Pgs. 51-the end (begins with “We didn’t speak again”)

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