#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ Nevada ~ Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

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Review by Wattle @ Whimsical Nature

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, Narrated by Ron McLarty

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis: In Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, Raoul Duke (Thompson) and his attorney Dr. Gonzo (inspired by a friend of Thompson) are quickly diverted to search for the American dream. Their quest is fueled by nearly every drug imaginable and quickly becomes a surreal experience that blurs the line between reality and fantasy. But there is more to this hilarious tale than reckless behavior, for underneath the hallucinogenic facade is a stinging criticism of American greed and consumerism.

Review: I’ve been to Las Vegas exactly once, I thought it was a bit odd, a bit dirty and not a place I would like to spend any considerable amount of time in.

I felt similar things toward this book. I’ve tried to read it before in paperback, and I put it down after five pages or so. I have seen the film and hated it; so when I saw this on my list for review I was a little worried.

Rightly so, it turns out.

I opted to listen to the audiobook in the hope that I would find it more engaging than if it were text. Ron McLarty did a wonderful job with the narration, I really liked listening to him, but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was such a tedious story. The 6 hours I spent listening to it felt like 6 years.

This story is meant to be hilarious and surreal. I think I laughed once, and it was more of a derisive snort than actual laughter. I’m still not entirely sure what the point of the book was, there was such excess and stupidity and vastly irresponsible behavior.

If it was trying to teach me a lesson, I failed to see it (unless that lesson was – don’t do drugs). The characters were all unlikeable; the story felt like it was just a rambling bunch of sentences thrown together with little direction. The content was definitely not for me (I don’t even drink, so the characters desire to be constantly wasted was beyond me), I felt the casualness of their drug taking and ridiculous behavior in general was more worrying than amusing.

I gave it two stars, 1.5 for the narration (which was really very good) and 0.5 for the work itself – it was much too far out of my comfort zone and just a bit too strange for me to get into. A pity, because I think if it had been written in a different way, it would have been a much more engaging work.

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#US of Books- The Yearling-Florida




Welcome to another installment of the United States of Books! See full details here. Today we will visit Florida with The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. Entertainment Weekly say’s “Working with Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s editor, Rawlings was pushed to look into her own history for literary fodder, which led to her 1938 Pulitzer winner about a Florida boy and his pet deer.”

United States of Books – Florida

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

3 Stars

Review by Laura at 125Pages.com (http://125pages.com)

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bambigif The Yearling is a book I have heard about over the years, but was never super interested in reading. I could guess the outcome of a book centered around a young boy and his pet deer living on a hardscrabble farm in the 1870’s. I had read Old Yeller and seen Bambi, I knew what was coming. So I wasn’t thrilled when the random picking for the United States of Books challenge offered me up The Yearling. I don’t think I can really spoil a book that is over 75 years old, but just in case, I will only say I was right about the ending. However, I was mistaken about how I would feel about the book as a whole.

The tale of the Jody, Ora and Ezra “Penny” Baxter is not one of an easy life. Farming a small plot of land in central Florida, they hunt and trade for what they need. Jody is the only child of seven born, who lived past the age of three. Trailing his pa and learning to do what is necessary to survive, Jody wants nothing more than a pet to call his own. Then on a hunt, he finds a small deer and is determined to make it his own. Flag soon becomes part of the family and even goes on hunts with Jody and his father. Weaving around the story of the fawn and his boy was the epic hunt of a troublesome bear, a snakebite, and a very unique cast of characters.

Now that I have read it, I am glad I had the chance to, as some of the writing was just lyrical. Especially the parts describing the land surrounding the farm.

Around a bend in the road, the dry growth of pines and scrub oak disappeared. There was a new lushness. Sweet gums and bay were here, and, like sign-posts indicating the river, cypress. Wild azaleas were blooming late in the low places, and the passion flower opened its lavender corollas along the road.

I could see why this was EW’s Florida pick as the location was almost a secondary character in the story. The wildlife and flora inhabited every scene.

The fall fruits were not yet ripe, papaw and gallberry and persimmon. The mast of the pines, the acorns of the oaks, the berries of the palmetto, would not be ready until the first frost. The deer were feeding on the tender growth, bud of sweet bay and of myrtle, sprigs of wire-grass, tips of arrowroot in the ponds and prairies, and succulent lily stems and pads. The type of food kept them in the low, wet places, the swamps, the prairies and the bay-heads.

Unfortunately, the jarring difference between the lyrical descriptions and the regional dialect of the characters when they spoke, made this a difficult read for me. The way they thought in their heads did not match the words they said and this made the transitions very hard. I would almost prefer a read like The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn where, while there were numerous regional dialects, all the characters thought and spoke in them. When you read a description as beautiful as the one above then the very next life is something along the lines of “Don’t go gittin faintified on me.”, it pulls you out to the story and throws a wrench in your pacing.

The Yearling had some amazing moments with the descriptions by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It is not a book that I would personally read again as the storyline is not what I enjoy and the transitions between characters thinking and speaking was too harsh. For the time it was written though, I can see why it received such high praise. It contained heartbreak, action and basic human survival tempered by a strong family bond.

Favorite lines – A mark was on him from the day’s delight, so that all his life, when April was a thin green and the flavor of rain was on his tongue, an old wound would throb and a nostalgia would fill him for something he could not quite remember.

Have you read The Yearling, or added it to your TBR?




#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ Oklahoma ~ The Grapes of Wrath

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(From Goodreads.com)

First published in 1939, Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winning epic of the Great Depression chronicles the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s and tells the story of one Oklahoma farm family, the Joads, driven from their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into haves and have-nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes the very nature of equality and justice in America.

 Sensitive to fascist and communist criticism, Steinbeck insisted that “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” be printed in its entirety in the first edition of the book—which takes its title from the first verse: He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored.” As Don DeLillo has claimed, Steinbeck shaped a geography of conscience” with this novel where there is something at stake in every sentence.” Beyond that—for emotional urgency, evocative power, sustained impact, prophetic reach, and continued controversy—The Grapes of Wrath is perhaps the most American of American classics.


By C.H. Armstrong

C.H. Armstrong Books & Blog (www.charmstrongbooks.com)

5 Stars

When The Grapes of Wrath was released in 1939, it was not only an instant bestseller, but it was met with no small amount of criticism and anger. Steinbeck brought to the world the devastation of the Dust Bowl but, more importantly, the horrors and blatant racism that greeted migrant workers searching for better lives. For as many who read Steinbeck’s epic novel and heralded it as the true “Great American Novel,” an equal number were aghast at the raw truths he portrayed and sought to have it banned or even burned. Nearly seventy years later, it’s still at the center of much controversy and is listed as Number Two among the Top 10 Most Banned Books (Shortlist.com).


The Grapes of Wrath is an epic novel depicting the mass westward migration of Oklahomans (and neighboring states) during The Great Depression of the 1930s and the simultaneous Dust Bowl.  It was a time when the overuse of the land had turned the once fertile farming soil into dust, making it unfit for the growing of crops.  With no money coming in from the crops, banks swooped in and called in loans on the land, and forced tenant farmers and their families out of the homes they’d known for generations.  The result was mass homelessness that led to a great migration to California and nearby states in search of jobs.


At the center of Steinbeck’s novel is the Joad family. Their eldest son has just been released from prison and returns home to find his family packing up their meager belongings, ready to depart for California and hopes for a better life. So begins the story of the Joad family and their journey west. But they soon realize that their travels will neither be easy, nor as idyllic as they had imagined. Instead of green fields of orange trees ripe with fruit just for the picking, they’re met with numerous hardships and discrimination. California – the land of plenty and the focus of their dreams – doesn’t want them. They’re not only barred from entrance but, once gaining access, are met with conditions more deplorable than those they’ve left behind.


When The Grapes of Wrath was first released, it was met with criticism from groups crying foul at Steinbeck’s depictions for how migrant workers were treated. In truth, Steinbeck revealed that his novel was a watered-down version of the true horrors of the workers – the truth was worse than the fiction of his novel.

As a native Oklahoman and one who finds pride in the name “Okie,” I can only tell you that I truly loved this novel. I loved Steinbeck’s descriptive prose; but more than that, I loved the truth behind his words, which echoed through my mind long after I turned the last page.


Many will say that The Grapes of Wrath is a depressing novel. On the contrary, I found it to be a book of hope and a testament to the strength of the human spirit.  Yes, it was difficult to read about the hundreds of thousands of starving migrant people; and it was even more difficult to come to terms with the fact that “this really happened!”  But what I really got from the story was a lesson in discrimination and racism, and hope for the future of mankind.  You see, even when all had been taken from them and there seemed to be no real hope in the foreseeable future, the Okies refused to just lay down and die.  They refused to let the “big guy” get the best of them.  They trudged on through death, hopelessness, starvation and despair.  They did their best to keep their families together, and they never failed to lend a helping hand to one whose need was even greater than their own.  Nearly 100 years later, the majority of Oklahomans still possess those admirable qualities.

Check out all of the #USofBooks posts here.



#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ Hawaii ~ The Descendants

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For more information on the United States of Books (click here for details).

The United States of Books the State of Hawaii

 Reviewer ~ Teri at Sportochick’s Musings
The Descendants 
by Kaui Hart Hemmings
Reviewed using Audible and eBook
~ Synopsis ~
Narrated in a bold, fearless, unforgettable voice and set against the lush, panoramic backdrop of Hawaii, The Descendants is a stunning debut novel about an unconventional family forced to come together and re-create its own legacy.

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors were financially and culturally progressive–one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state’s largest landowners.

Now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control: Ten-year-old Scottie is a smart-ass with a desperate need for attention, and seventeen-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. Matt’s charismatic, thrill-seeking, high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat-racing accident and will soon be taken off life support. The Kings can hardly picture life without her, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them–and spurs them into surprising actions.

Before honoring Joanie’s living will, Matt must gather her friends and family to say their final goodbyes, a difficult situation made worse by the sudden discovery that there is one person who hasn’t been told: the man with whom Joanie had been having an affair, quite possibly the one man she ever truly loved. Forced to examine what he owes not only to the living but to the dead, Matt takes to the road with his daughters to find his wife’s lover, a memorable journey that leads to both painful revelations and unforeseen humor and growth. 

~ Review ~

★ ★ ★ 1/2

Though traditionally this book would not of caught my eye I was interested in reading it because of my love for Hawaii. From the start, the author did an admirable job of creating irritating spoiled children in the characters of Scottie and Alex. The addition of Alex’s friend, Sid, who has his own set of problems and annoyingness rounded off for me a difficult read. It is not that the book isn’t well written but I wanted to take all of them over my knee and spank them or hug them to death.

As a mother, I was stressed during this whole book and angry with Matt that he had not been more present in his daughter’s upbringing and he allowed his wife free rein without question. As the story went on though he started to show superb judgement in how he handled so many of the new situations that showed up. The author did a fine job in the steadiness of Matt still making mistakes and where his aha moments happened, causing a change in his thoughts and actions.

Joanie is written in a very believable manner and one wonders if she ever thought of the damage she was doing to her children or if she was that clueless that she thought she was helping them. Her character is not likable for all the thoughtless damage she did to everyone around.

For me, the interaction between Matt and Sid had the most impact of the story. Both of these two saved each other is ways that only they understood. What these two did for each other was amazing and heartfelt making me cry.

For this review I listened to it via audible and referenced the eBook version as well. I wonder if I had only read the book if I would have had a different outcome in my review. Though I haven’t seen the movie, I wonder how this book would come across on the screen,  and out of curiosity I will see it though.

I give this 3-1/2 STARS.


#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ New Hampshire ~ A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

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A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Author: H. C. Newton at The Irresponsible Reader
★ ★ ★ ★


[Marilyn Monroe] was just like our whole country — not quite young anymore, but not old either; a little breathless, very beautiful, maybe a little stupid, maybe a lot smarter than she seemed, and she was looking for something . . . She was never quite happy, she was always a little overweight. She was just like our whole country.

I’m not sure why I picked that quotation from this book, but there’s something that appealed to me about it (even if I don’t necessarily agree). You’ll note that there are both upper and lower case letters there — Owen Meany’s dialogue is always given to us in all caps. Which is annoying (it’s supposed to be), and difficult to read in extended speeches (Owen’s voice is hard to listen to), and makes you wish he’d shut up (duplicating the experience of most people who heard him).

A medical explanation for this is given, eventually. But the only explanation that Owen needs is that God gave him his voice. The same for his diminutive stature (about 5′ 0″ as an adult) — God made him that way, for His own reason.

But I’m getting ahead of myself — John Irving’s probably best known for The World According to Garp, which was one of the bigger disappointments of my college reading, so I wasn’t really looking forward to spending more time with him. You add in the fact that this is a 500+ page book with only nine chapters, and it’s downright intimidating. I’m not going to say that you shouldn’t be intimidated and that it’s a pretty easy read — it’s a challenge, it’s frequently a slog — but in the end, it’s rewarding.

When the book starts, Johnny Wheelwright (the narrator) doesn’t seem particularly fond of Owen Meany — in fact, you get the impression that he’s just one of those kids he happens to know, and he’s not that happy about it. But before long, it’s clear that he and Owen are really close — even though (because?) Owen’s responsible for the greatest tragedy of Johnny’s childhood.

John finds himself as an observer to Owen’s life, as his defender, his advocate, his way to the greater world. While Owen is constantly trying to help his friend — help him to achieve, help him to think, help him to believe. It’s a great friendship — and without the other, each was diminished. Owen less so, but in important ways.

The narrative is rambling — John starts to tell us about something, the plot moves forward a bit, but then he goes back in history to give context. Sometimes weeks, sometimes years and far more detail than you think is necessary. Eventually, you see that this is sort of the approach that the overall narrative is taking — John has something he needs to tell the reader, but he doesn’t want to. So he tells you many other things, anecdotes, vignettes, details you don’t need — anything to delay what he wants to say. He does get to it. And by that time, you’re not sure you want him to.

The story is told from the perspective of forty-something John, now a teacher at a Private School in Toronto — he spends his days reading the news about the United States, and ranting (or trying not to) to anyone near him about what President Reagan is doing. I’m not sure why we spend so much time dwelling on him in the present, we don’t need it — it adds almost nothing to the narrative. If anything, I think it might lessen the impact of the rest. The adult John telling the story about his childhood, about Owen, about their growing up together, and so on is essential — we need his perspective, his distance. What we don’t need is to hear John’s rants about Reagan, the poor reading/study habits of teenage girls.

I’m not sure that I get a whole lot of understanding of New Hampshire from this book — Owen’s family working in the granite industry doesn’t tell us much, New Hampshire is The Granite State — everyone who survived 4th grade knows that. If anything, Irving was wanting to talk about America — as an ideal, and as something that falls short of that ideal. Monroe was one example, John Kennedy’s moral failings another, Vietnam a recurring theme, and, of course, the Iran-Contra Scandal. Each of these, as either a representative individual, or representative act, demonstrates how far (in John’s/Owen’s view, at least) the United States has fallen short of the ideals it should strive for — if not achieve.

Ultimately, when I enjoyed this book, it felt like it was in spite of what I was reading. But I laughed, I cared, I kept reading — and then when I was finished, I appreciated the work as a whole, and felt a lot more affection for it than I expected. It’s hard to explain, but I liked this one and heartily recommend it.

New Hampshire