Monday, March 28, 2016

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (1985)

Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

                The best way I can describe this book is to call it an epic journey. I don’t have much practice reading Westerns but this book was pretty damn good. It was published in 1985 and won the Pulitzer in 1986. I honestly can’t say I would have come anywhere near it if it hadn’t been for this year’s theme of reading a book from each year since I’ve been alive. (I was born in 1986 so this will serve as the introduction into my journey!) While researching I found the blurb about the novel to be extremely vague and depended mostly upon the opinions of other reviewers when deciding to pick this up. I thought to myself why not give it a try if this is supposed to be one of the best Westerns ever written. This was well worth the read for the journey back to a time when cowboys still dreamed of distant lands.
                Lonesome Dove examines and focuses on the lives of Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call, two Texas Rangers that for years patrolled Texas as men of the law before finally settling down in the town of Lonesome Dove. They ran a livery in the small town and still did some rangering throughout the state. When they are visited by their old friend Jack Spoon, who brought with him stories of Montana and the possibilities of unsettled land, Call decides it’s time for a change and convinces McCrae they should start a cattle drive from Texas to Montana to open up the first cattle company. Though reluctant McCrae agrees and the adventure begins. And what an adventure it is. My one complaint with this novel, and it’s a huge one to me, is that this novel started off so slow. Not a lot goes on in Lonesome Dove. There is one saloon with one whore, barbershops and not much else. It isn’t until the guys hire some help and hit the road that I really became invested in the story. I had been about a hundred pages in at that point in what is an over 800 page novel. I was beginning to like some of the characters but it was unclear where the story was going yet. Once McMurtry got the guys on the road everything changed and the story truly began.

                So what makes this novel well worth the read regardless of the slow start? The writing beyond a doubt. This novel has everything you want. The plot was developed and intertwined beautifully. All of the characters were well imagined, well thought out and well developed. The world was fully developed and the perils obvious on every page. And I had no idea what would happen next. I have never imagined what life would be like for a cowboy making his was across the country after the Civil War but McMurtry made everything feel real. I was intrigued, scared, excited, wary, and other various emotions throughout the book. The scope of the cattle drive and the dangers associated with it, along with the uncertainty, was never lost on me. This was just really well done. I’m giving this 4 out of 5 stars because the beginning really dig drag for me but this is definitely a novel I can and will recommend. 

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr

Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude Jr

Let’s have an honest conversation about race. Let’s talk about those things that make us uncomfortable. Let’s talk about white privilege and Black Lives Matter. Let’s talk about Jim Crow laws, the Civil Rights movement and Barack Obama. But be honest. Be uncomfortable. Only by being honest and uncomfortable will be able to have an honest conversation about what life in America has been and continues to be. Glaude’s Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul is a step in the right direction because it is one man’s honest opinion about how his life has been and those experiences shared within the black community. He is a Princeton professor who knows through life experiences and through study the experiences of black people in America. He may not speak for everybody but his opinion speaks volumes to what life is like in the U.S. and it will resonate with a majority of people. It resonated with me.
                When I first started reading this book I was taken away by the honesty with which his opinion was presented. I guess I was unconsciously expecting a water down version of the African American struggle. I was wrong. Glaude jumped right into the issue of Ferguson and the shooting of Michael Brown. He began speaking on the existence of white supremacy and what he coins the value gap in our society (white people being valued more than others in this country). He talks about the history of this country as a whole and the racist past that still has effects on the country today.

“When we think about the differences between whites and blacks in high school and college graduation rates, in mortality rates, in access to health care, in levels of wealth, in salary differences with comparable education, in the childhood poverty rate, we can see that in this country, white people, particularly those with money, matter more than others. It has been this way since the very day this country was founded.”

Does this resonate as true for you? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? If so then you need to read this book for no other reason than to understand why some people feel this way. Because he isn’t alone in the way he feels! Glaude simply knew how to articulate and present how he feels and why he feels this way. The way Democracy in Black is presented you can tell he wants to educate as well as inform those who simply do not understand the current position many African-Americans find themselves. I was moved by his honesty and his candor. I was forced to look at things differently.
                I would recommend this book to everyone. Why? Because racism is still alive in this country and ignoring it, won’t change it. Pretending that this country has changed because there is a black president in office and everyone can sit anywhere on the bus, doesn’t mean that the history of this country has somehow changed and that the black community is no longer affected by the past. Read it to open your perspective. Read it because someone was unabashedly honest about it. Read it because it will make you think. I really enjoyed this book for many reasons. I don’t agree with everything that Glaude has written but I relate to an overwhelming majority of what he presented. I give this 4 out of 5 stars. 

Thank you to Blogging for Books for this copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

                Cinder was waiting for Iko to bring her a new foot when Prince Kai arrived with his android. It was an older model but held valuable information that he needed to attain. The Prince was shocked that one of the best mechanics in New Beijing was a young woman. Cinder was convinced that he would be even more surprised if he knew she was a cyborg. It wasn’t long after the Prince left the square that the baker across from Cinder was taken away, the telltale spots of Letumosis visible on her skin. Even now, over a hundred years after the Fourth World War, Earthens had something to fear, the plague ravaging the planet and the magical Lunars. The moon was one country, one government and one ruler, Levana their Queen. She was hoping to make an alliance with the Emperor but with Letumosis slowly taking his life, she was turning her sights to the Prince. Cinder was aware of the Lunars and their mysterious powers but on that day at the square she was more captivated by the Prince’s smile then any information the android could hold. Especially with the ball coming up and the prospect of possibly attending with her stepsisters, as long as her stepmother agrees.
                I’m interested. At the conclusion of this book I am not fully invested. I am not disappointed. I am interested. This wasn’t a bad novel at all. Cinder is a well thought out, interesting novel with a fascinating premise and an interesting world. There are just too many damn questions and not enough answers, even if this is the first book in a series. Let’s begin with our main character Cinder. She is a young woman stuck in a family that doesn’t want her. She was adopted by the patriarch of the family after her real parents died in a crash. The surgeries that saved her life are the ones that made her a cyborg. She remembers nothing from before the crash but now as a cyborg, she is considered less than human. I thought her character was well developed. She was funny and had her own little quirks and mannerism. But her lapse in memory left more questions that no one was answering. Her stepmother seemed to hate her simply because she was a cyborg. One stepsister was kind while the other treated her like dirt. (This seems to be all you really need for a spin on Cinderella because that is where all similarities end except for the royal ball.) Then here comes Prince Kai who Cinder keeps having random interactions with. He seems to be filled with a sense of honor bestowed upon him by his family. He genuinely wants to do what is right for his county. Oh and he is super attractive. So yeah cyborg, prince, evil stepmother and (here comes the twist), an evil ruler from the moon!  Now here comes all the questions: Why was there a fourth World War? Where have these Lunars come from? Why do Lunars have the ability to manipulate the people around them? Why are cyborgs considered second class? What year are we even really in, because I have no idea what T.E. stands for or what it actually means?

                So many questions. This has become a pet peeve of mine. I don’t understand why an author feels the need to leave so many questions when there is a series of books. It leaves me feeling unsatisfied in a sense. I don’t want to come up with my own explanation for why things have happened. I want you to tell me. Then I can have an understanding and fully appreciate the scope of the world. That didn’t happen to me here. There were also a few predictable moments for me. There was a cliffhanger at the end along with the plot twist. There are three more books in this series and like I said earlier, I am interested. I will probably read the next book because this one flowed well, was entertaining and an easy read. I give this novel 3 out of 5 stars. 

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

                I don’t know if I can adequately explain why I loved this novel. I sat down on the couch, started reading and then finished the novel that same day. This novel was so well written, so well imagined, so amazingly different that I just found myself enjoying all of the different aspects that were presented. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is the story of a young girl born with wings, Ava Lavender. Ava is our narrator and she explains how the generations of women that came before her had different magical abilities that affected the lives of family that came after them. Her grandmother was a sensitive woman who could read the signs of everything and could also see her deceased siblings. Her mother had an extremely sensitive sense of smell. And Ava had wings. Her twin brother was able to see the dead like his grandmother. The lives and abilities of each generation would have a different effect on those around them.

                I just really enjoyed this book. Walton did such a great job with the tone of the novel and the mystery of the wings. This novel just unfolded beautiful. I’ve seen this novel described as magical realism and I honestly can’t describe it any other way. This was a book filled with magic set in a very realistic time. I couldn’t put this book down. Ava was an extremely interesting narrator. What would your life be like if you had wing? I could never imagine and yet reading these pages it just seemed so plausible. There was a sense of mystery and a tone of loss and love that pervaded through the pages. This was a story about family, relationships and complicated love. This might not be for everyone but for me this was amazing. I needed this book. It was such an easy, interesting, heart wrenching read. Love. Love was in these pages. It wasn’t always understandable. It wasn’t always straight forward but it was there. I give this 5 out of 5 stars.