Tag Archives: Civil War

First They Killed My Father by Loung Ung

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Reason for Reading:
  • I’ve not read a book concerning Cambodia and this one caught my eye.

I also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

From a childhood survivor of the brutal Pol Pot regime comes an unforgettable narrative of tragedy and spiritual triumph. 8-page photo insert.

My Review:

I was blown away by the story contained in this book.

To give you some idea of context – I was born in 1976. The year I was born Loung Ung was five years old and living in Phenom Penh, Cambodia. Her life was relatively good (although nothing like mine here in the States). Her prize possession was a red dress. She had six siblings, and a father and mother who loved her.

Then the Civil War taking place in Cambodia stepped in and became personal for Loung and her family (and millions of other Cambodians). 1/4th of the population was killed – but that’s something we’re not taught about here. So thank goodness that there are books out there that record the story so those who died are not forgotten.

While I was being fussed and cooed over, Loung was dealing with starvation, attempted rape, the murders of those close to her, and illnesses which were ravaging her body. She was being trained in combat, her mind filled with fear, and forced to leave her family and adapt to conditions which I pull back in revulsion to think of. And she tells her whole story – crystal clear – in First They Killed My Father.

This is such a charged memoir. It’s hard to recommend because the read is so tough, but I couldn’t put it down. I think you’ll find the only critique (or at least the only one I have) is that the story is told in a bit of a sing-song simplistic way, but it doesn’t distract from the power of the story itself.

About the Author

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Dreadnought by Cherie Priest

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Reason(s) for Reading:
  • Big fan of Cherie Priest – I totally blame Boneshaker.
  • How can you go wrong with a book printed with sepia ink?
I  also recommend:

Summary from GoodReads:

Nurse Mercy Lynch is elbows deep in bloody laundry at a war hospital in Richmond, Virginia, when Clara Barton comes bearing bad news: Mercy’s husband has died in a POW camp. On top of that, a telegram from the west coast declares that her estranged father is gravely injured, and he wishes to see her. Mercy sets out toward the Mississippi River. Once there, she’ll catch a train over the Rockies and—if the telegram can be believed—be greeted in Washington Territory by the sheriff, who will take her to see her father in Seattle.

Reaching the Mississippi is a harrowing adventure by dirigible and rail through war-torn border states. When Mercy finally arrives in St. Louis, the only Tacoma-bound train is pulled by a terrifying Union-operated steam engine called the Dreadnought. Reluctantly, Mercy buys a ticket and climbs aboard.

What ought to be a quiet trip turns deadly when the train is beset by bushwhackers, then vigorously attacked by a band of Rebel soldiers. The train is moving away from battle lines into the vast, unincorporated west, so Mercy can’t imagine why they’re so interested. Perhaps the mysterious cargo secreted in the second and last train cars has something to do with it?

Mercy is just a frustrated nurse who wants to see her father before he dies. But she’ll have to survive both Union intrigue and Confederate opposition if she wants to make it off the Dreadnought alive.

My Review:

In my opinion, Cherie Priest is the reigning queen author of Steampunk novels, and Dreadnought is a solid example of why.  It’s hard to explain Steampunk to someone who doesn’t already know what it is – I mean, you can bring Verne into the picture and then try to bring the word “mash-up” into the mix (citing Glee for those who tend to not read much) and then finish off with a flourish of “something like that” and hope that they get it… or you can just hand over a copy of Boneshaker and tell them to read it.

Sure, the historical aspects have been twisted and pulled a bit – but these aren’t historical fiction novels (unless your world actually does contain zombies).  The thing about Cherie Priest’s books are – even though you know they aren’t historically accurate, the manner in which she writes them makes you doubt that more than once as you are reading the story.  In Dreadnought, there are many scenes in which Mercy is treating soldiers, in which relationships are being developed between the North and the South on the Dreadnought itself (which alone is.. man, so awesome to read about), and it seems plausible that these things did, in fact, happen.  Another thing that helps is the way that Priest implements things such as dirigibles and zombies without batting an eye at how unusual they really are.  Everything is incorporated into the story in such a matter-of-fact way that if you, the reader, seems to bat an eyelash at it, you would be the one out of the ordinary.

Mercy Lynch’s journey from Virginia to Seattle, Washington is a fun, romping good time.  There’s adventure, there’s flying vehicles, there’s massive trains and there’s zombies… and it all makes perfect sense.  Boneshaker and Dreadnought are two shining examples of just how great Steampunk books can be, and I cannot wait to see what Cherie Priest comes up with next.

Check out these review(s):

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