#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books

I sincerely apologize as last week I released the incorrect Guest Review *smacking head* so this week, I am posting both of them in the correct order. 

This was supposed to be for the week of February  22, 2016!

February is the second month of the United States of Books (click here for further details).

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The United States of Books the State of Nebraska

MyAntonia

 Reviewer ~ Teri at Sportochick’s Musings

Blurb ~ 

Through Jim Burden’s endearing, smitten voice, we revisit the remarkable vicissitudes of immigrant life in the Nebraska heartland, with all its insistent bonds. Guiding the way are some of literature’s most beguiling characters: the Russian brothers plagued by memories of a fateful sleigh ride, Antonia’s desperately homesick father and self-indulgent mother, and the coy Lena Lingard. Holding the pastoral society’s heart, of course, is the bewitching, free-spirited Antonia. 

Review ~ ★ ★ 1/2

This story is narrated in first person by Jim Burden in what I think is a very plain unemotional manner. I honestly had a hard time reading this book and at points kept putting it down. It was puzzling to me that for all of the unusual dramatic events in this book it was for me unemotional. I am not sure if listening to it on Audible and switching off and on with the book impacted my feelings. Though these dramatic events in the book were described in fine detail my mind felt a distance from the writing.

Two characters did stand out. Antonia who was very expressive and Jim’s grandfather for the ways that he dealt with crisis’s, personality issues and his deep integrity. Antonia throughout the book was very emotional and it was obvious to see why quiet Jim liked to be around her and had grown to love her.

I finally connected with the book in the last chapter and a half where it became to me a book worth reading. This part of the book make me feel great sadness for Jim and Antonia and where they were 20 years later. The ending was poignant and still brings tears to my eyes. 

This book leaves the readers pondering the what if. What if Jim didn’t go away to college? What if Antonia made a different decision when her first love deceived her? What if Jim had told her he loved her? But the largest question that I had was how did Jim love Antonia? A sister, friend, lover? This book left me feeling sad because if Jim had more gumption his life would of been so different than it was. It also left me pondering on how many people lost out on the best thing of their lives because they were afraid.

Find the Book At ~ Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

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This was supposed to be for this week, which I inadvertently posted last week!!!

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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

by Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney (Illustrator)

Review by Elisha at Rainy Day Reviews (http://bookjunkiemom.blogspot.com/)

Entertainment Weekly says about their Washington state pick– “Alexie grapples with serious issues through the not-always-serious voice of a 14-year-old caught between his life on the reservation and his entry into an all-white high school.”

Synopsis:

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Review:

I was intrigued with this book once I learned that this story was based on the author’s own experience. I was not aware of the coarse language in the book until I began reading it; which in my opinion makes this read inappropriate for younger readers. However, that said, I did appreciate that even though this teenager saw a lot of heartache and injustice, including racism and death, there is a lot of laughs throughout the story.

I like the narration of the book, hence the title. That was different than the typical read. Gave it a different feel from a story being told. Even with the racial divide in the story that the boy dealt with, I think this story is very relatable to other young adults out there (tragedy in life, being bullied, and the instability that life can bring with its ever-changing twists that life tends to do to all of us. All in all, a good book and a quick read that I would definitely recommend to everyone to read.

* Disclaimer: language may be coarse for some readers*

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#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~Washington ~The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

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UNITED STATES OF BOOKS WEEKLY GUEST REVIEW

The_Absolutely_True_Diary_of_a_Part-Time_Indian_cover

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, Ellen Forney (Illustrator)

Review by Elisha at Rainy Day Reviews !

Entertainment Weekly says about their Washington state pick– “Alexie grapples with serious issues through the not-always-serious voice of a 14-year-old caught between his life on the reservation and his entry into an all-white high school.”

Synopsis:

Bestselling author Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which is based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney that reflect the character’s art, chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from the life he was destined to live.

Review:

I was intrigued with this book once I learned that this story was based on the author’s own experience. I was not aware of the coarse language in the book until I began reading it; which in my opinion makes this read inappropriate for younger readers. However, that said, I did appreciate that even though this teenager saw a lot of heartache and injustice, including racism and death, there is a lot of laughs throughout the story.

I like the narration of the book, hence the title. That was different than the typical read. Gave it a different feel from a story being told. Even with the racial divide in the story that the boy dealt with, I think this story is very relatable to other young adults out there (tragedy in life, being bullied, and the instability that life can bring with its ever-changing twists that life tends to do to all of us. All in all, a good book and a quick read that I would definitely recommend to everyone to read.

* Disclaimer: language may be coarse for some readers*

Get your copy of this title at Amazon here!

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Find out more about guest blogger: Elisha at her blog here.

#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ Iowa ~ Shoeless Joe

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UNITED STATES OF BOOKS WEEKLY GUEST REVIEW

Get your copy of Shoeless Joe  at Amazon here.

Currently Free on Kindle Unlimited.
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This weeks United States of Books brings us to Iowa with Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Entertainment Weekly says – Not only was this novel – adapted for Field of Dreams – set in Iowa, but Kinsella also attended the state’s other claim to fame: The Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

itsiowa I went into Shoeless Joe with such hope. I have not seen Field of Dreams, but love uplifting sports movies, so I thought I would love one in book form. But this was no uplifting sports movie, it was a strange tale of a man who builds a baseball field on his failing Iowa corn farm then leaves his wife and small child to kidnap famed writer J.D. Salinger and take him on a road trip. I’m sorry what? Where is my tale of a downtrodden man who has a vision and through that builds his dream on his farm? Instead I get a wacky buddy road trip comedy, complete with carnies and diner hold ups. The action on the farm is limited to the very beginning and the very end, and that is where the heart of the story was. A struggling man trying to save his farm and his family with a dream and pure gumption. Those parts were fantastic, but the rest was just ridiculous.

The plot had its moments, but they were sadly few and far between. The family parts were great, but the whole kidnapping road trip aspect totally lost me. The world created was the same, certain select parts were crisp and vivid, then it veered into crazypants territory. The writing was fine, sentence structure wise, but the story was so over the top I couldn’t really see any fine nuances. The characters were a mashup of amazing and then not, they started strong but then went downhill the more I read. I had no emotional tie to any of the characters. Ray was dismissive of the real world and the potential harm he was bringing to his wife and child.

God what an outfield,” he says. “What a left field.” He looks up at me and I look down at him. “This must be heaven,” he says. “No. It’s Iowa,” I reply automatically.

Shoeless Joe is considered one of the greatest sports books written. I just didn’t see it. Less a book about baseball to me, and more a book about what too much Round-Up in a field will lead to. I do understand the baseball at the heart of the story and how it linked every part together, but failed to see the amazing parts as the random hostage taking of a reclusive writer and a road trip with said writer to pick up baseball ghosts took away from that for me. As did the husband and father endangering the future of his family by leaving them as their farm is about to be foreclosed on. Now, I don’t hate baseball and I know, national sport and all, but this book just didn’t do it for me.

Favorite lines – Pedestrians in the East behave like lemmings rushing dispassionately to their deaths—it takes a good ten minutes to make a left turn into the blinding rush of oncoming traffic, with pedestrians thronging suicidally into the intersections.

Biggest cliché – If you build it, he will come.

Have you read Shoeless Joe, or added it to your TBR?

Check out all of the #USofBooks posts here.

 

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#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~South Carolina ~ The Prince of Tides

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UNITED STATES OF BOOKS WEEKLY GUEST REVIEW

GET YOUR COPY OF THE PRINCE OF TIDES at AMAZON!

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United States of Books – The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy
Guest Reviewer: H. C. Newton at The Irresponsible Reader

Mixed Rating:
Did I Like It?
★ ★
Did I think it was well-done? (lost a 1/2 star in the last 50 pages or so)
★ ★ ★  1/2

The story of the Wingos is one of humor, grotesquerie, and tragedy. Tragedy predominates.

So warns Tom Wingo before beginning to relate that story to Dr. Susan Lowenstein. Lowenstein is Tom’s sister’s therapist and needs his help to understand Savannah, who recently tried to kill herself for at least the third time. Savannah’s now institutionalized until she gets back to a place where she can handle her PTSD (my diagnosis, not Lowenstein’s), psychosis, and whatever else they diagnose her with.

As he has done before, Tom has dropped everything and rushed to New York City (from the tiny community of Colleton, South Carolina) to help his sister. The best way to do that, Lowenstein says, is to fill in the large blanks of memory that Savannah demonstrates. Then, she’ll be able to help Savannah remember and move on from whatever trauma has brought her to this stage. Tom agrees — not only has he come to help his sister, he’s also taking a break from home: he’s been unemployed for a year, he just learned his wife is having an affair and might leave him — maybe by helping his sister’s therapist help her, he might get help in the process.

Before he gets the call about his sister and finds out about his wife, Tom’s spending time with his three daughters and jokes with them:

. . .parents were put on earth for the sole purpose of making their children miserable. It’s one of God’s most important laws. Now listen to me. Your job is to make me and Mama believe that you’re doing and thinking everything we want you to. But you’re really not. You’re thinking you own thoughts and going out on secret missions. Because Mama and I are screwing you up. . . I know we’re screwing you up a little bit every day. If we knew how we were doing it, we’d stop. We wouldn’t do it ever again because we adore you. But we’re parents and we can’t help it. It’s our job to screw you up.

That’s not the last time Tom will joke about this, but he’ll spend far more time showing and telling the reader about how parents go about screwing up their kids — he, Savannah and their older brother, Luke, are proof of that (there are four exceptions to this in the novel — but I can’t help but think that with some more investigation, they’d be shown as screwed up, too).

The seeds of this parental function are planted on the night of the twin’s birth, and soon flower while the children are (at least) toddlers — and it doesn’t stop, ever. To detail it would be to give too much away, but Tom, Savannah, and Luke have horrible childhoods and the proof of that is writ large all over their adulthood. Which doesn’t mean that the book is entirely grim — their father has bouts of generosity, of letting his imagination get away from him and getting the family involved in an escapade; they have loving grandparents; they’re successful at school (in differing ways); they adore their mother (rightly or wrongly); they have adventures — they’re actually happy frequently. But then the reality of their poverty, their abusive father, their (I’ll let you fill in the blank if you read it) mother, will revisit them and things will be grim again. Early on, we’re told that something horrible happens to Luke just a couple of years before this most recent suicide attempt, their father is in jail, and that his mother has remarried (to someone Tom hates more than his father). Slowly but inexorably, we march toward those ends. Alternating with the tales of their past, we see Tom in New York, trying to help and understand his sister, as well as the growing friendship between Tom and Lowenstein.

At the end of the day, Lowenstein’s son is the only character that I liked (and maybe Tom’s daughters — but we spend less than ten pages with them, so it’s hard to say). Which doesn’t say a whole lot for the rest of this motley collection of scofflaws, narcissists, manipulators, bullies and gulls. Thankfully, you don’t have to like all the characters to appreciate a well-written, well-structured novel. Which this largely is.

I’m not entirely convinced it’s as good as it thinks it is, however (it, and most readers, it appears). It frequently seems over-written — too much squeezed into a sentence; sentences filled with sesquipedalian words (after paragraphs without any); the humor seems forced sometimes; the dialogue is frequently stilted. The flashback segments appear to be what Tom’s relating to Lowenstein — but I have to wonder if they’re more detailed for the reader than they are for Lowenstein. She complains that Tom’s not forthcoming about the mother (unless maybe his version conflicts with what Savannah has been telling her), because I think I get a pretty clear picture of her from that.

There are some reveals promised early that Conroy doesn’t deliver until towards the end — and he mostly delivers well. However, one of the big reveals (at least Conroy played it as one), was telegraphed so clearly hundreds of pages before I didn’t think it even needed to be mentioned — it could just be assumed. Like he didn’t need to mention that the football coach from South Carolina had an accent. Telegraphing it the way he did made it seem like an authorial or editorial failure. There was one reveal that was promised only a chapter or so before we got it — I’m glad I didn’t have to wait long for it, because of all the things he teased, this was the most vital (and most disturbing) — setting up Savannah’s first suicide attempt and the rest of her life (it seems).

I’m sure I’m in the minority here, but I think the book tries to do too much — especially by the time it gets to the end, where Tom is beginning to tell us the dark thing it’s been hinting at about Luke, the set-up for what happens to Luke was just too much. Conroy covers race, regionalism, psychiatry, feminism, theories of masculinity, how sports can be noble, spousal/parental abuse, marital fidelity, marital love, marital betrayal, sexual assault, school integration post Brown vs. Board of Ed, Vietnam, property rights, the drug war, quixotic faceoffs against the federal government . . . and other things I’m forgetting. It’s just too much — especially to befall one family (even if three generations are in view).

So as part of this United States of Books series, one thing I want to look at is why the book was chosen, what did the novel teach me about the state, why did EW pick it as “the one work of fiction that best defines” South Carolina? It’s definitely not because it paints the residents in the kindest light — the constant contrast between small-town SC versus a fairly idealized New York City (or at least affluent NYC) doesn’t do the state any favors. There’s a sense of a mix of pride and shame about the people, the history, and legacy of the state. The sharp class distinction — not just racial — drove so much of the characters actions and desires that it seems to be part of their DNA (although it can be overcome with the right strategy and dedication). It’s not the best part of the country to live in, the book seems to say, but those who embrace the life, the state, develop a great love that transcends all sorts of regional, intellectual or philosophical chauvinism. Also, I should’ve realized, but didn’t, that there was more to SC coastal industry than tourism, never occurred to me that there might be shrimpers, lobster trappers, etc.

“There’s a difference between life and art, Savannah,” I said as we moved out into the Charleston Harbor.
“You’re wrong,” she said. “You’ve always been wrong about that.”

I knew very little about this book going in. I remembered when I was in college shortly after the movie came out that everyone talked about Conroy as if he were a genius. I knew that the movie (and therefore, probably the book) involved some rough-and-tumble guy and a classy psychologist in therapy (and in bed, based on the movie poster). I’ve seen Conroy interviewed and in documentaries, I knew he considered himself a “Southern Writer” in the tradition of Faulkner, Harper Lee, Flannery O’Connor and James Dickey (his influence is clearly seen). But beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect. I think maybe more than this. I have to give this a mixed review — there’s a lot to admire here, scope, character, the way he told a multi-layered story about very familiar subjects in a way that (mostly) didn’t seem to tired or cliché. But, oh, I spent a lot of time hating this book. There were at least two times, maybe three, that I almost walked away from this — and I probably would have if it wasn’t part of this series. I’m not entirely sure that I’m glad I finished.

Find out more about guest blogger: H. C. Newton at The Irresponsible Reader.

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#USofBooks~Guest Review United States of Books ~ Georgia ~ Gone With the Wind

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UNITED STATES OF BOOKS WEEKLY GUEST REVIEW 

Get your copy of Gone With The Wind at Amazon here.

 

gone with the wind

Review by Elisha at Rainy Day Reviews (BookJunkieMom.blogspot.com)

Entertainment Weekly says – Mitchell’s landmark novel illustrates the luxury of the Southern antebellum aristocracy and its downfall through some of literature’s (and film’s) most memorable characters.

Gone With the Wind Review

Gone With the Wind is a classic for a reason. Well written, timeless, and tells a story of bravery, heart, and the difficulty of living life during the Civil War. I can see why people would call this novel a romance however, I would not call this a romantic read but a dramatic read with romance as a key part of the novel. Even though I was not a big fan of Scarlett, she had backbone and had to learn rather quickly that life was not always as easy or pleasant as she once thought due to the civil war and the surrounding issues of life then on the plantation. All around a great book and I can see why the movie is four hours long and look forward to watching it (I still haven’t seen it).

I most definitely would recommend this read for all.

Synopsis –

Since its original publication in 1936, Gone With the Wind—winner of the Pulitzer Prize and one of the bestselling novels of all time—has been heralded by readers everywhere as The Great American Novel.

Widely considered The Great American Novel, and often remembered for its epic film version, Gone With the Wind explores the depth of human passions with an intensity as bold as its setting in the red hills of Georgia. A superb piece of storytelling, it vividly depicts the drama of the Civil War and Reconstruction.

This is the tale of Scarlett O’Hara, the spoiled, manipulative daughter of a wealthy plantation owner, who arrives at young womanhood just in time to see the Civil War forever change her way of life. A sweeping story of tangled passion and courage, in the pages of Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell brings to life the unforgettable characters that have captured readers for over seventy years.

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Find out more about guest blogger: Elisha at her blog here.