Review: Field of Flight by Michael T. Flynn

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When I started this book, I was fully aware that it isn’t my kind of book. But, I thought, you can’t have a conversation with someone if you don’t know what they’re thinking. You can’t have a conversation with someone if you don’t listen.

So, I listened. And, for starters, this is not well written at all. If this book had an editor, they should give whatever they were paid back because they did not do their job. There was a whole autobiographical part at the beginning that was completely unnecessary (or, it was a different story altogether). I think it was meant to establish Flynn as an authority on military intelligence, but I spent most of this section trying to figure out why he was telling us the things he was telling us. I then spent some of the later chapters trying to figure out how the first chapter related to it. If you’ve read other reviews of this book (I can’t stop myself after I finish a book from seeing how other people liked it on goodreads), you will know that it was full of typos and other copy-editing issues. Audiobooks don’t have problems with typos.  But, even without seeing the errors, this text was still… just not very good. It seems like Flynn has a huge ax to grind against “being politically correct” and “not calling Islam what it is”. Sorry, not calling “Radical Islam” what it is. But, he also seems to not wholly be on board with making a distinction between radicals flying an Islamic flag and non-radical followers of Islam. I mean, he’s willing to say the words that not all Muslims are radical Muslims, but most of the rest of the book I felt like he wasn’t making that distinction. And, I need this to be clear. Just like I’m sure we can all agree that not all Christians are the Westboro Baptist Church and that not all Atheists are Ricky Gervais or Christopher Hitchens. Some of them are really chill people.

He also doesn’t seem to think that Islam as a religion is any different than Nazism and Fascism as belief systems. That is pretty troubling, especially when you can be both Islamist and Fascist. There were more troubling things about the texts. He seems to call for more critique from the Muslim community of the Radical actions of parts of the community. I don’t know what part of the world he’s in, but I’ve seen plenty of critiques coming from the Muslim community. (There’s a facebook group called Muslims against ISIS and there was a convention this summer to reject ISIS in the UK. Back in 2014 a number of Islamic scholars wrote an open letter to the ISIS leadership about why their state was not supported by Islamic texts. Maybe instead of calling for this kind of critique, we should cover it when it happens in the news?) Flynn also is worried about the education system in the Islamic world. He points to the number of schools (madrasas) where children are taught by memorizing passages of Koran, which is a disgusting level of indoctrination. Depending on the actual amount of that that is happening, that is really troubling. But, hooo, boy, if you want to talk about troubling things in education systems, you don’t have to look that far from home to find upsetting things. How many of our students here are being taught one specific line and never to question that? Shouldn’t we be upset by that? (Especially when that’s something we could immediately do something about?) The text also seems to suggest that we’ve been openly hostile to Israel, our best ally in the Middle East, of late. But, I thought we just promised Israel some billion dollar amount of military aid? (With strings, sure, but what agreement doesn’t involve some kind of give and take?)

Anyway, what I got from this book is that there are RADICAL ISLAMIC FORCES in the world that want to destroy America and replace all democracy with an Islamist theocracy and leadership that encourages citizens to spy on each other. To avoid this terrible future, we, the Judeo-Christian democracy-loving West, need to fight Islam, and private citizens/companies should help gather data on these anti-democratic forces.  So, basically, in order to remain Christian and free and not become Islamic and afraid our neighbors are spying on us, we should be anti-Islamic and spy on our neighbors. Of course, I’m reducing and parodying his argument here for effect, but there was a lot of anti-Islamic rhetoric here. I’m for freedom but I know we live in a complex world, so I’m not all that happy when our leaders (and their potential advisers) seem incapable of nuance.

Normally at this point in the review, I tell you, “hey, if you like X kinds of books, then check this one out!” And, I guess I kind of can. If you believe the Islam is everything that is wrong with the world, then this book is for you. It was written to preach to the choir. Or, at least I hope it was written to preach to the choir. If it was written to lay out a reasonable argument and sell people an idea, it failed.  This book was a mess. It was not well-written. It had all kinds of troubling reasoning and it didn’t make any kind of solid case. It played with stereotypes and stated it was making distinction that it then failed to maintain.  Zero out of ten. Do not recommend.

 

I got this book from the wonderful and amazing Buffalo and Erie County Public Library.

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Library Books

As you know from reading my tags (which I’m sure you all do), I get a lot of my books from the public library. This is strategic on my part. As a graduate student who is a year away from having her PhD, I’m hoping (and working my butt off so) that in a year I will be packing all of my belongings and moving someplace else for a job. So, the fewer books I buy (and I love buying books) the fewer books I have to pack and move.

Plus, I have a lot of fun on the library’s website. I like to make lists of books I am interested in and then work my way through the lists. Recently, many of the books I’ve wanted have had waiting lists, so it is fun to put yourself on the list and then anticipate the book. You get an email telling you that it is your turn. It is a little like Christmas! So, this is the trade off. I don’t get to buy endless stacks of books but I do get to create lists and then pick up books at the library. As far as trades go, it is not bad.

There is one problem with this, though. When everything you’re waiting for becomes available at the same time. I currently have five things checked out from the library that our due in the next 5-12 days. They were all on waiting lists so I had to check them out or lose my spot on the list. I’ve only managed to start three of them and so far only managed to finish one of them. I guess I just need to read faster!

Also, I feel a little guilty that I have books checked out that I haven’t gotten to start yet that other people are waiting for.

Of course, if I don’t make it to the end of all of the books before I have to return them, I can always put myself back on the waiting list. This is something I had to do with Gilead. It doesn’t bother me to break up the reading of a book. I’m pretty well trained in reading more than one thing at a time and spreading the readings out.

Do you check books out from your public library? How do you feel about waiting lists? Are they a source of anticipation-creation or frustration? What is your favorite part of your public library? Join us in the comments!

Review: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

I downloaded this book from the library and for some reason it downloaded two copies of every file.  So, when I was halfway through the book, I thought I was only a quarter of the way through the book.  This made me very confused about the book and where it was headed right up until it ended.
This is the story of a preacher in Gilead, Iowa who has been diagnosed with heart failure and is reaching the end of his life.  He married and had a son late in life so the entire narrative is told through letters written from the father to the young son.  The father talks about his father and grandfather and the roles that they played in the Civil war.  He talks to his son about his relationships and the wife and child the he had before he met and married his son’s mother.  He talks about how racial issues played out before, during and after the Civil War in Gilead and the rest of the Iowa territories.  And, he talks about his godson Jack and how Jack has recently appeared in town after a long absence.
I really enjoyed this novel.  I liked the narrative pace (even if I was confused about how far I was in the novel).  I was interested in the mystery of why Jack had reappeared and what caused him to disappear in the first place.  I was interested in the tension between the father and grandfather as told by a son to his son.  That is a confusing sentence, but trust me the novel isn’t confusing.  It is an interesting look at how different generations see the same issues.  And, how history sometimes repeats itself.
This is the first book that I’ve read by Marilynne Robinson (which is ridiculous since she’s considered an Iowa treasure and Iowa is my home and it one the Pulitzer Prize in 2004.)  I really liked the prose and I think I will be reading more of her work in the future.
I checked this book out from the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries

What I’m Listening to: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beth and I are in the same book club.  The reader on this audio book is knocking it out of the park.  Each girl has her own voice and it is wonderful!  I checked this out from my public library.  Shout out to the Buffalo and Erie County Public Libraries!

Review: Under Heaven by Guy Gavriel Kay

Under Heaven

This was a really different tale than I typically read. Set in what is a fantasy-version of Medieval China, it follows the lives of a number different people who have a huge impact on the course of the empire. The tale starts with Shen Dai who is spending his official mourning period following the death of his father at the site of his father’s worst memory, a battle field at the edge of the empire which was so devastating that many of the slain weren’t even able to be buried. He spends the mourning period burying as many of the dead as he can. This ends up having tremendous consequences for him because he is honored for his work with a gift of 200 of the strongest and most beautiful horses. This is cause for some alarm. He’ll probably be killed for these horses. So, he has to figure out how to navigate the world he’s been out of for two years without getting killed.

Meanwhile, his lover in the capitol has been taken as a concubine by a rival. That rival has moved up in the Palace ranks and is a hugely influential adviser to the king and his brother is that rival’s most trusted adviser. Additionally, his sister has been raised to a princess and has been sent to marry a border tribe leader to cement a treaty.

And, that’s not even half of it. The story follows the lives of Shen Dai, the rival, his brother, his sister, the concubine, an assassin, the heir to the throne, army leaders, border leaders and outcasts and the Emperor’s favorite wife. All of these threads weave in and out of each other in a personal tale about a crisis within the whole empire.

This was an immensely fun listen and I am happy to have read it. Although, it is full of an incredible amount of detail so I ended up listening to some parts of it more than once. (As it turns out, when it snows heavily during your evening commute, you have a lot of time for listening and re-listening to audio books.) If you’re looking for a break from teen romance, I recommend this!