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review 2017-10-13 14:39
Magic realism in the heart of darkness. A must read.
Sing, Unburied, Sing: A Novel - Jesmyn Ward

Thanks to NetGalley and to Scribner for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

Sometimes, I’d try to write them down, but they were just bad poems, limping down the page: Training a horse. The next line. Cut with the knees.

It stays with me, a bruise in the memory that hurts when I touch it.

I would throw up everything. All of it: food and bile and stomach and intestines and esophagus, organs all, bones and muscle, until all that was left was skin. And then maybe that could turn inside out, and I wouldn’t be nothing no more. Not this…

“Because we don’t walk no straight lines. It’s all happening at once. All of it. We are all here at once. My mama and daddy and they mamas and daddies.” Mam looks to the wall, closes her eyes. “My son.”

Both of us bow together as Richie goes darker and darker, until he’s a black hole in the middle of the yard, like he done sucked all the light and darkness over them miles, over them years, into him, until he’s burning black, and then he isn’t. There…

“Let’s go,” I say. Knowing that tree is there makes the skin on my back burn, like hundreds of ants are crawling up my spine, seeking tenderness between the bones to bit. I know the boy is there, watching, waving like grass in water.

I decided to start with some quotes (and I would happily quote the whole book, but there would be no point) because I know I could not make its language justice. This is a book about a family, three generations of an African-American family in the South and it has been compared to works by Morrison and Faulkner, and that was what made me request the book as they are among my favourite authors. And then, I kept reading about it and, well, in my opinion, they are not wrong. We have incredible descriptions of life in the South for this rural family (smells, touch, sound, sight, taste, and even the sixth sense too), we have a nightmarish road trip to a prison, with some detours, we have characters that we get to know intimately in their beauty and ugliness, and we have their story and that of many others whose lives have been touched by them.

There are two main narrators, Leonie, a young woman, mother of two children, whose life seems to be on a downward spiral. Her white partner is in prison for cooking Amphetamines, she does drugs as often as she can and lives with her parents, who look after her children, and seems to live denying her true nature and her feelings. Her son, Jojo, is a teenager who has become the main support of the family, looking after his kid sister, Michaela, or Kayla, helping his grandfather and grandmother, rebellious and more grown-up and responsible than his mother and father. Oh, and he hears and understands what animals say, and later on, can also see and communicate with ghosts. His grandmother is also a healer and knows things, although she is riddled with cancer, and his baby sister also seems to have the gift. The third narrator is one of the ghosts, Richie, who before he makes his physical (ghostly?) appearance has been the subject of a story Jojo’s grandfather has been telling him, without ever quite finishing it, seemingly waiting for the right moment to tell him what really happened. When we get to that point, the story is devastating, but so are most of the stories in the novel. Fathers who physically fight with their sons because they love an African-American woman, young men killed because it was not right that a black man win a bet, men imprisoned for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and for being the wrong race… The stories pile up and even the ghosts fight with each other to try and gain a sense of self, to try to belong.

This is magic realism at its best. As I said, the descriptions of the characters, the locations, and the family relationships are compelling and detailed. But there are elements that break the boundaries of realism (yes, the ghosts, and the style of the narration, where we follow interrupted stories, stream of consciousness, and where the living and those who are not really there are given equal weight), and that might make the novel not suitable for everybody. As beautiful as the language is, it is also harsh and raw at times, and incredibly moving.

Although it is short and, for me at least, a page turner, this is not a light read and I’d recommend approaching it with caution if you are particularly sensitive to abuse, violence, drug use, or if you prefer your stories straight, with no otherworldly interferences. Otherwise, check a sample, and do yourselves a favour. Read it. I hadn’t read any of this author’s books before, but I’ll be on the lookout and I’ll try and catch up on her previous work. She is going places.  

 

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review 2017-09-16 17:34
An encyclopedic account of the "Doughboys" of World War I
Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I - Richard S Faulkner

This is an encyclopedic book in the best sense of the term. Richard S. Faulkner's goal is to provide readers with a comprehensive social history of the men who served with the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, one that covers everything from their enlistment to their discharge. To address their service in all their particulars is a daunting task requiring mastering an enormous body of material, yet Faulkner succeeds admirably in addressing nearly every imaginable aspect of it. The result serves not only as a wide-ranging account of the varied experiences of the "doughboys" but as a reference that readers will be able to turn to for an introduction to various details they might want to learn. For these reasons, it is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of the U.S. military or the First World War, one that is unlikely to be bettered in terms of its thoroughness and insight.

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text 2017-09-09 21:26
Reading progress update: I've read 260 out of 784 pages.
Pershing's Crusaders: The American Soldier in World War I - Richard S Faulkner

Though I started it nearly a month ago it's only over the past few days that I've finally dug deep into it. It's proving encyclopedic in the best sense of the term, as Faulkner tries to relate just about every aspect of the "doughboy's'" experience.

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review 2017-08-08 00:13
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War
Gaijin: American Prisoner of War - Matt Faulkner

It’s not fair, why is this happening? The year is 1941 and America has just declared war on Japan. Koji’s father has returned to Japan for family matters a while back and now Koji and his mother are alone in San Francisco, when this news hits. Being of mixed race, Koji immediately begins to feel discrimination towards him, in every part of his world. Concerned over his father’s whereabouts, Koji world is becoming smaller and more limited as the war progresses. Word is sent that he must leave for a relocation center for Japanese-Americans and I could feel the tension and the anger in the novel mounting. Why is this happening to me? Where is my father? These were the sentiments racing through Koji’s mind. Relocating with his mother, Koji soon realizes that things are not much different at the center than they were in San Francisco as Koji is still an outcast, only for different reasons. I began to wonder if they would receive communication from Koji’s father and when things would settle down for this family. I am at odds with his mother for she seemed personable and caring yet I felt that she was too lenient with Koji, there seemed to be something off with her relationship with her son. Koji is on edge; his world is no longer accepting of who he is and he begins to isolate himself. Someone needed to get on top of this situation before it escalated. This novel is based on true events.

I liked the way this graphic novel was put together. The illustrator varied the sizes of the text boxes throughout the novel isolating each one with a white boarder. The story is told through white text balloons that told the story of a dark world that Koji possessed. I loved the characters faces, the detail and emotions that were expressed in the lines. I wasn’t too fond of the ending, it seemed rushed and not altogether. I am glad that I picked this novel up, it’s a good novel to shed light on some major issues.

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review 2017-08-06 15:43
difficult but AMAZING reading!
Page of Tricks (Inheritance Book 5) - Am... Page of Tricks (Inheritance Book 5) - Amelia Faulkner
I was gifted a copy of this book direct from the author, that I write a review was not required but I am doing!! Because, people!! You NEEEEEEEEED to read these books!! This is book 5 in the Inheritance series, and you really REALLY need to read books one, Jack of Thorns, book two, Knight of Flames and book 3, Lord of Ravens. Book 4, Reeve of Veils, is not really required but if you do read it, you might have issues with Freddie, I did!!! Freddie has been tasked with ruining Quentin by their father, and the only way he knows how to do that, is by ruining Laurence. So he kidnaps Laurence and takes him to England, forcing Quentin to follow. A battle of wits there follows, and its unclear just who will come out alive. Struggling to word what I need to say, without giving too much of the plot away, so forgive me if I waffle! These books (bar book four, because I HATED Freddie in that book!) are all 5 stars reads and this one did NOT disappoint. We get more about just what happened to Quentin at the hands of his father, and Quentin gets it too, after blocking it out for so many years. Its a wonder the man isn't insane! It's painful reading, really painful and you do feel a kind of .....Lord help me for saying so.... you feel a bit sorry for the Duke, because HE suffered too, and HIS father and so on. Makes you kinda see the WHY he did what he did, kinda, sorta. Oh please don't hate me, I'm just trying to get how I feel out!! Laurence and Quentin spend much of this book apart, but when they come together at the end??? OOOOOOOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!! |Those boys is getting their dirty on, yes ma'am, they certainly are! Maybe with Quentin finally admitting, at least to himself, what went on, he can fully embrace his relationship with Laurence. Oh. And Windsor, the raven is just too darn cute here. His connection to Laurence as his familiar is growing as Windsor does, becoming stronger. Can't wait to see what happens there! And wouldn't you, the baby's first word is POOP! I'm loving that, at the end, there is a epilogue, from we know not who. Who throws a spanner in the works. Who makes you think "WTF" over and over. So I'm loving that, because I cannot see where this all is going! LOVE being kept on my toes. Love not knowing whats gonna come at me. Very dark, with sexual abuse and drug abuse here, so some readers may find these books difficult reading. BUT amazing, really amazing books!! Thank you, Ms Faulkner, for me copy. 5 full stars **same worded review will appear elsewhere**

 

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