Saturday, August 27, 2011

Huge Leap

Here is my official announcement. As of August 25, 2011

I have enlisted in the United States Navy!!!

It was with much thought, deliberation, and prayer that I made this decision. Believe me, I did not go willingly at first. I would always go back to military but I always pushed it aside because I did not think I was capable of it. But once I figured out that it is something I could do, and something that I felt right about, I dove head first into it.

I visited with the recruiter at the end of July right before I went to California for my best friend's wedding. During my long layovers, boring flights, and all that time alone I had plenty of time to think and weigh the pros and cons of joining the military. I also talked with my cousin who is now an officer in the Navy. He was encouraging and supportive. My friend, Kira, is enlisted in the air force and she and I had several talks about the military. So...all these things pointed me in this direction.

I will leave for basic April 17 in Great Lakes, IL. My MOS (job) is air crewman. In this capacity I will be on the planes on the aircraft carriers, working the equipment in the planes or helicopters, and just being a badass. After basic I will go to Pensacola FL for Air Crew Candidate School where I will get the training necessary for my job which includes a lot of swimming.

Wednesday (August 24) and Thursday (August 25) I went to SLC to take the ASVAB and to go through MEPS. Thursday was an exceptionally long but memorable day. It was an intense and thorough physical from hell, but it was worth it. When I went in I thought I would go for an intel job, but, practically at the last minute, I decided against it and went with air crewman.

I am excited/nervous/freaked out/happy about this new adventure in my life. It has always been in my heart to serve my country in some capacity, but I was never sure. A part of me, I think, always knew I would end up doing something like this at some point in my life. All I can say is that, if you want to change your life for the better, you have the ability to make your life what you want it to be. That is what is so amazing about the freedoms we enjoy in this country. Regardless of the terrible economy, we still have a fantastic country that I don't want to see collapse. I feel like I'm doing my part to protect the land I love.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

An Invisible Sign of My Own

Rating: 3 out of 5 Knocks on Wood

Mona Gray is young and unique. She loves the world of mathematics. She buys herself an axe on her twentieth birthday because it feels right to her. She quits things just as she is getting good at them because she likes quitting things. Bender's cast of characters includes Mr. Jones, the math teacher who every day wears a number around his neck, and Benjamin Smith, the science teacher who has his students act out a different illness each week.

That Mona and Benjamin have a romance is a minor aspect of this book. Mona tries to figure out who leaves Mr. Jones's numbers outside of houses, while trying to teach mathematics to second graders. She is also coping with her father's illness and the fact that he might not make it to his fifty-first birthday. (

I discovered this book through because of a movie starring Jessica Alba entitled An Invisible Sign. The preview for the movie was intriguing for a few reasons, among them being that Alba was actually going to be in a thinking movie that would require some acting and not just a pretty body. I was interested in the plot, so I looked up the book and ordered it right away.

It's just a small, barely-over-200 page, book. I started it on the last leg of my trip to California, and I was hooked right away. It starts with a morbid little fairy tale that sets the tone for the whole book. Yes, this is a morbid book. The main character, Mona, is a savant who is sometimes quite plucky and charming, but, other times, she is very near crazy.

Her relationships seem very distant. She has issues with her mother, but those barely get addressed. Her father is fading with what seems like alzheimer's and her relationship with him is intriguing, but there is no real closure with it. Bender, in fact, alludes to the fact that Mona is going to go the way of her father which is depressing to say the least. Mona is also hired as a teacher and her relationship with her students is unconventional. The second graders don't talk like any second graders I've ever heard.

Before I go further, I must say that the writing is fantastic. Bender captures images wonderfully and I got the idea that Mona is crazy in an unexplainable way. Some of the imagery is beautiful. Other imagery in this book are weird and sometimes forced.

To me it all goes back to the fairy tale at the beginning of the book. Mona tells a story about a kingdom where people discovered eternal life. No one was dying so the kingdom was getting overpopulated, so the king decreed that each family would have to volunteer one member of their family to die. One family in the kingdom could not decide who should die so they end up cutting off parts of themselves. Disturbing, no? I was disturbed. It ends with another version of the fairy tale that is much better. I'm still trying to figure out why, but it all ends up making sense. Every character in the book seems to be searching to become whole, as if they've been divided up, parts of them cut off. There are some cool insights like that that made reading the book worthwhile.

Would I read more Aimee Bender? Maybe. I wouldn't not read her again, but I'm not going to run down to the store and get her next book the first chance I get. Would I recommend this book to anyone? Sure. If you like your books short, quirky, a little dark, and sometimes humorous, then this is a good one to pick up. Otherwise, it might not be worth the time. I'm still trying to decide if it was worth mine. I gave it 3 out of 5 knocks on wood.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Postmistress

Rating: 4 out of 5 Unsent Letters

What would happen if someone did the unthinkable-and didn't deliver a letter? Filled with stunning parallels to today, The Postmistress is a sweeping novel about the loss of innocence of three extraordinary women-and of two countries torn apart by war. (

I read this book right after Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Both are extraordinary historical fiction at their finest. Blake's novel takes us to America right before we joined WWII. It is an intriguing time period simply because of the element of suspense and the unknown. America was in a tumultuous time then, most people waiting and dreading the moment when they might have to go to war, yet the war itself seemed so far away.

Even though this book takes place in the 1940s, the themes and ideas behind it are very modern. The idea that war can take place within as well as outside of our immediate selves is evident in Blake's novel.

This book follows three women: Iris James, the postmistress, Emma, the doctor's wife, and Frankie Bard, a broadcast journalist. Each of their stories interweave in very cool ways. I loved how Frankie's voice is heard by Iris and Emma and both the women have different reactions to Frankie's words. Frankie is, after all, in London where she is taking her life in her hands every day in order to bring the news to America.

The characterization in this book is wonderful. Each of the women have very distinct roles and personalities. Emma is a quiet, soft, and reserved tiny woman. Iris is more strong-willed, a little older, and somewhat obstinate. Frankie (my personal favorite) is opinionated, determined, witty, and beautiful. Each of their personalities lend to the story and bring it to a sweeping climax in which all of them finally meet.

Blake's writing is impeccable. She uses metaphors with precision and aptitude. She's a gifted storyteller who captures the emotions with a divine stroke of genius. I loved this book. I felt like I was taken on a journey back through time when I read this, and I felt the characters' pains and anguishes.

I would highly recommend this book. I gave it 4 out of 5 unsent letters. Now, what are you waiting for? Go out and get it!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Help

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Bridge Clubs

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.

Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed. (

This book takes place in a very tumultuous time in our country's history: the time right before integration and the civil rights movement. It is a time period that I, sadly, am not too familiar with, but I want to get to know it better especially after having read Kathryn Stockett's The Help. Stockett inserts moments in history as if they were just blips on the radar for the characters, and I like that. It makes it seem more realistic and not as overdone if these historical days seem more like a casual everyday thing. For example, characters mention Martin Luther King, Jr. and the rallies every once in awhile as if it was just another day, but we know now how great an impact King had on the civil rights movement.

The humor in Stockett's novel is poignant and witty. I liked that it didn't take itself too seriously and yet there were some serious undertones throughout the whole thing. Miss Skeeter is a likable character. Aibileen's chapters were a little harder to get through because of the slang, but you get used to it pretty quick and then you find yourself talking like her.

(Warning: Next part contains what could be interpreted as spoilers.)

I was also trying to see symbolism in this book and I was not disappointed. I found it mostly in the characters themselves. The one I noticed the most was Celia Foote, the "hussy" who hires Minny to help her around the house and refuses to tell her husband. She was such an interesting character because she seemed to be blind to color and societal boundaries. In Celia we find an attitude that is later adopted. She is a forward-thinking, modern woman who is played out to be the idiot in the book because she befriends Minny and she doesn't notice that Hilly and her racist friends don't want anything to do with her. It is the beautiful moment of clarity when she realizes that Hilly, who represents superior racism and entitlement, is not all she's cracked up to be that we see Celia's innocence is lost. I was disturbed by the scene in which a naked man tries to attack Minny and Celia, and I couldn't figure out why it was in the book until Celia saves Minny. That, for me, was when Celia became the savior of the novel and the true heroine.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I am dying to see it. I can already tell, just from the previews, that they have changed a lot of it. All in all this is a fantastic story. The writing is excellent, the themes in it are superb, and the characters are unforgettable. I gave it 4.5 out of 5 Bridge Clubs.