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review 2017-05-15 15:01
Just Needed Edited a Bit
No Country for Old Men - Cormac McCarthy

This book takes place in Texas in the 1980s. I don't know how many people saw the movie, but the book adds a lot more depth to the characters that I really enjoyed. That said, I thought that it got a bit too long though. Once we get past a certain point in the book it just felt like things were being too dragged out. The book is divided between following Llewellyn Moss (Moss) who comes across a dying man and some dead men. When he inspects the truck he finds heroin and two million dollars in cash. This leads to many different players trying to track Moss down. Some are good (Sheriff Bell) and some are bad (Anton Chigurh and Carson Wells). 

 

Even though I already knew how the book was going to end, I kept hoping for a different ending. Moss came to life for me, but I really wanted to tell him that he was being an idiot throughout the book. The entire book really is a case study in McCarthy showing how Texas in the 1980s had changed so drastically from what it used to be before. 

 

The character of Sheriff Bell was the one I had the most pity for though while reading. He really is trying to stop what is coming for Moss and his wife. At one point in the book, we had I think 12 people dead and even more bodies coming. 

 

The main reason why I didn't give it five stars though was that it just felt overly long. After a certain point the book started to drag and I honestly didn't think there was much more story to tell. The book also jumped back and forth a few times with Bell narrating something that had happened, but we as readers then had to go and read about it after he had already foreshadowed or just flat out told us. So that to me left things a bit off. 

 

The writing also at times just got a bit confusing. McCarthy seems to loathe writing who was saying what. So a few times I had to go back from the beginning of paragraph to even figure out who was speaking at certain times. Also, and this once again was just a few times, the dialogue just didn't feel realistic. At other times it did, you can feel people's terror talking to Anton, but sometimes I thought that McCarthy was just trying too hard. 

 

The ending leaves us with Bell contemplating another future for himself once he starts to realize that things have changed so much that he may not have the stomach to be a lawman anymore. 

 

 

Bank:
April 15: $20
April 17: $23. I read "The Wangs Vs the World", electronic pages 368.
April 24: $28. I read "Dream Wedding", electronic pages 512.
April 25: $28. Landed on BL and had to post a vacation photo or tell a story about a vacation.
April 29: $31. Read "Whitethorn Woods", 354 pages Kindle edition, $3.00
April 29: $34. Read "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep", 256 pages;$3.00.
May 4:   $37. Read "The Ghost Brigades" Paperback, 346 pages; $3.00
May 8:   $42. Read "American Gods" Hardcover, 465 pages; $5.00.
May 8:   $45. Read "Moon Called" 298 pages Kindle edition; $3.00.

May 13: $50. Read "Solitude Creek" 434 pages electronic; $5.00. 

May 14: $53. Read "No Country for Old Men" 320 pages Kindle edition; $3.00

 

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review 2017-03-06 11:41
The High Divide by Lin Enger
The High Divide: A Novel - Lin Enger

In 1886, Gretta Pope wakes up one morning to discover that her husband is gone. Ulysses Pope has left his family behind on the far edge of Minnesota’s western prairie, with only the briefest of notes and no explanation for why he left or where he’s heading. It doesn’t take long for Gretta’s young sons, Eli and Danny, to set off after him, leaving Gretta no choice but to search for the boys and their father in hopes of bringing them all home. Enger’s breathtaking portrait of the vast plains landscape is matched by the rich expanse of his characters’ emotional terrain, as pivotal historical events--the bloody turmoil of expansionism, the near total demise of the bison herds, and the subjugation of the Plains Indians--blend seamlessly with the intimate story of a family’s sacrifice and devotion.

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

1886 Minnesota. Gretta Pope wakes one morning to see her husband, Ulysses, off on a trip. Naturally, she expects him to return from this trip but he does not... instead, she finds she is only left with a mysterious and vague note from him. The note shows that he had intentions to leave like this for some time but Ulysses doesn't explain why. So now Mrs. Pope finds she's basically stranded out on the western prairie with two young sons and no ideas for income -- a stressful position to be left in, as the Popes were struggling financially, already in the dodging-the-landlord phase of things. Gretta's oldest son, Elijah, takes it upon himself to travel across the wild western territory to try to track down his dad. He's silently watched his father for years, noticing a brooding restlessness to Ulysses' spirit, always fearing that one day the man might try something like this disappearing act, perhaps never to come back.

 

Elijah doesn't tell his mother of his plan to sniff out his father's whereabouts, deciding instead to sneak out alone early one morning with the intention of hobo-ing it alone. But wouldn't you know his curious little brother, Danny, finds a way to shadow him until they reach the train tracks, where Elijah discovers him. Danny doesn't make his presence known until the train is moving, so Elijah has no choice to let little brother tag along. It does make Elijah nervous, traveling with Danny, as Danny has a mysterious illness that leaves him with crippling or otherwise debilitating headaches, nausea, sometimes even periods of black-out (It's not directly named in the book, but much of what IS described of Danny's condition made me think of possible epilepsy).

 

Gretta is understandably pretty distraught when she discovers what her sons have done. She tries to go on her own mission to find them but her efforts quickly prove futile, so she decides it's maybe just best to hold down the home front until all her men get back. Unfortunately, that decision means she has to fight off the unsavory, suggestively salacious offers on how she can pay off her debts from her somewhat skeevy landlord, Mead Fogarty. 

 

While her guys are trekking all over the territory at different points, Gretta is left with little else for company than her own inner thoughts on motherhood and her marriage, which she admits had been showing signs of strain of late. She wonders if this flight of Ulysses is partly her doing. She also has to field gossip floating around town about her, thanks to meddling Mead. Meanwhile, her sons are on a great adventure that has them not only uncovering never-before-known facts about their father's life before his family man days, but they also get quite the education on the plight of the Plains Indians and the decimation of wild buffalo herds, via their introduction to real life historical figure William Hornaday.

 

Historical fiction aside, when you break it down there are basically three main storylines woven together here -- that of Gretta as a wife and mother, that of Ulysses as a husband, father and Civil War veteran, and that of the two brothers trying to figure out what the heck is up with their parents lately. Personally, it took me about 100 pages or so to get honestly invested in the plot. While I did enjoy the descriptions of the time period and the details of individual characters, there was still something somewhat lacking to really get me sucked into the pages. Much of what was moving my reading along was a simple mild curiosity as to how Ulysses's disappearance would be explained. That, and I really enjoyed the story of strengthening brotherhood between Elijah and Danny. 

 

I am glad I stuck with it! The closing scenes of the novel offer a nice pay-off for time invested. When the explanation for the father's disappearance is ultimately revealed, it involves touching upon some pretty heavy topics. I had to chuckle and nod knowingly at Elijah's reaction to the reveal, which amounted to a kind of ticked off, "UGH! This could've been handled so much better!" Haha, been there, kid! 

 

I also recommend reading the afterword essay by Lin Enger that gets into some of the true history behind the novel's inspiration. The story behind the buffalo nickle was a fascinating bit I never knew before! 

 

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review 2016-11-13 00:00
Josey Wales: Two Westerns
Josey Wales: Two Westerns - Forrest Cart... Josey Wales: Two Westerns - Forrest Carter You can't really read this book without imagining Clint Eastwood as the title character.
In the first book, it tells how Josey Wales became a guerilla fighter in the Border Wars after the Union killed his family.
After the war, the rest of his group head off, lured by talk of amnesty but he can't give up that easily.
He keeps fighting for what he thinks is right, as the price on his head grows bigger. He makes friends along the way, forming his own band of "kin".
Like most good leaders, he inspires those around him to be more than they think they are, and he will put himself in danger first to protect them.

The second book sees one of his friends taken prisoner by Spanish/Mexican rurales, so he gives up the life he's made and heads off to rescue him.
Again, he pulls in unlikely allies as he fights against the odds for one person.

Both books are action packed, violent when they need to be, peopled with well written characters, although a bit heavy on the "civilised people bad, downtrodden people good" message.
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review 2016-09-14 08:54
The Misadventures of Maude March by Audrey Couloumbis
The Misadventures of Maude March - Audrey Couloumbis

Eleven-year-old Sallie March is a whip-smart tomboy and voracious reader of Western adventure novels. When she and her sister Maude escape their self-serving guardians for the wilds of the frontier, they begin an adventure the likes of which Sallie has only read about. This time however, the "wanted woman" isn't a dime-novel villian, it's Sallie's very own sister! What follows is not the lies the papers printed, but the honest-to-goodness truth of how two sisters went from being orphans to being outlaws—and lived to tell the tale!

Amazon.com

 

 

 

 

Sallie March, our narrator, is an 11 year old tomboy living in what we know think of as "the Old West days". Her parents are both dead, victims of yellow fever, so she and her teen sister, Maude, have since been living with their matronly aunt, Ruthie. While running errands with Ruthie one day, the girls become innocent, victimized bystanders in a shootout. Aunt Ruthie is killed instantly by a stray bullet. {I loved that on that fateful day, Aunt Ruthie, having quite the day already, speaks the unfortunate line: "Some days it isn't even a good idea to get out of bed."}

 

Now really orphaned, the girls spend some time living under the roof of Reverend Peasley and his wife. Stifled by too many rules and Mrs. Peasley's tendency to overwork Maude and her sister for selfish gain, Maude reaches the end of her rope. The last straw is when Mrs. Peasley tries to push Maude into a marriage with a much older man.

 

The March girls decide to make a break for it. Their journey requires them to pose as boys as to not arouse suspicion (you know, two young ladies traveling alone, can't be up to any good...) but hope their travels will soon take them to a new town where they can start over. It's no easy road though. Because Maude sorta borrows a couple of the Peasley's horses to aid her getaway, she gets labeled a wanted horse thief. Through a few other misunderstandings, she also wracks up the charges of bank robber and murderer and boom! -- the March girls are suddenly starring in one of Sallie's beloved dime novels! Every time they get their hands on a newspaper, Maude's legend seems to grow! But it's not just the stains on their reputations they're fighting. Additionally, these sisters face up against blizzards, mountain lions, rattlesnakes, food shortages, finding themselves having to evade police, even being taken hostage by REAL criminals!

 

What starts as a sort of comedy of errors grows into a heartwarming story of sisterhood and taking care of family, no matter what. This story is full of honest chuckles, especially from the wit of young Sallie March, who has sass for days!

 

Ben Chaplin broke some snow going around the cabin, huffing and puffing as he told us he dreaded a winter that snowed him in as early as December. "I don't mind being snowed in, but there's still January and February still ahead of us. By then I start talking to myself."

 

"My aunt Ruthie used to talk to herself all the time," I said. "So long as she thought no one was around to hear."

 

"What did she talk about?" Ben Chaplin asked.

 

"The shortcomings of other people, mostly," I said. It surprised me that he found this funny.

 

For readers who are fans of novels which include maps, this book features a pretty adorable one! Definitely recommend this fast, fun adventure for any and all lovers of Western comedy!

 

If you end up enjoying this book as much as I did, the adventures continue in Maude March On The Run! 

 

Note To Parents: Though this novel is geared toward middle-grade readers, there is some mild violence to be aware of: some scenes mention a toe being shot off and one character being stabbed through the hand. The criminals in this book are of a bumbling, comical sort though, so even the more violent scenes are lightened with humor. Still, heads up on that in case you want to monitor what your child is reading and prefer to do a pre-read yourself. 

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review 2016-06-06 08:12
On Lonestar Trail (Texas Crossroads #3) by Amanda Cabot
On Lone Star Trail: A Novel (Texas Crossroads) - Amanda Cabot

If there's one thing Gillian Hodge never wants to see again, it's a man on a motorcycle. Her last encounter with one left her right hand crushed, ending her promising career as a concert pianist. But as she heads to Rainbow's End Resort, a sudden thunderstorm causes a motorcycle to crash in front of her. When TJ Benjamin's wife died, he lost more than his best friend; he lost his faith. He's spent the past year wandering the country on a motorcycle, trying not to think about his future. When he finds himself stranded with a busted bike and a reluctant rescuer, he has to wonder about God's sense of humor. Can this woman without a future and this man running from his past find romance in the present? Or are they too tied to the way life used to be?

Amazon.com

 

 

 

It only takes one fateful moment for Gillian Hodge's whole world to change forever. In that one instance, she is struck down in the street by a motorcyclist, the accident crushing her right hand and effectively ending her career as a concert pianist. After some intensive physical rehabilitation, Gillian is able to regain most of her mobility in that hand, but she soon sees it will never be quite enough to return to the concert stage. So, now what? Needing some time to mentally regroup and reassess her life's direction, Gillian decides to spend some time at her friend's Rainbow's End Resort in Dupree, Texas. And wouldn't you know, just as she's trying to get her mind right again, she witnesses yet another motorcycle crash go down right in front of her! What are the odds?!

 

The injured cyclist ends up being former preacher / history teacher TJ Benjamin. Not long ago, TJ's wife passed away and now he's on a cross-country trip meant to honor her memory and help him work through his grief. TJ is quick to say he's not injured from the crash, but the bike takes enough damage to require him to stick around Dupree for a few days while repairs are made. But as you might expect, within those few days TJ gets to know the townspeople, and especially Gillian, and finds himself looking for a reason to stick around a little longer. 

 

I was thinking the environment of this story could be fun, what with people living on a campground resort area within the American West, and while that element DID make for a nice backdrop, the plot and character developments fell flat for me. I found the romance very bland and run-of-the-mill. Some of the particulars of the situations these characters get into struck me as slightly unrealistic and many of the characters themselves came off as too goody-goody to be much fun to read about... and dare I say, a wee bit judgmental of those not just like them.

 

The plot is pretty cliche-laden, complete with a pretty meh love triangle. To be honest, for a romance I didn't feel much heat between anyone. The dialogue sounded too scripted to get the swoons outta me. I didn't feel like Gillian's character or backstory was developed enough for me to understand why these people were so taken with her. Her pianist past is mostly only mentioned in brief passing and there's not much to her or her story in the present that really left me awestruck, there's not even noticeable humor or spunk to her personality. She's just very... cardboard-like. But of course her leading men immediately see her as super-special and "the most amazing woman I've ever met in my life..." as one goes so far to say. One guy even calls her Wonder Woman when she paints a whole room by herself. Not even kidding, that's all she has to do to get this moniker. No saving anyone from drowning or pulling someone from a burning building. Nope. Just the ability to paint four walls a solid color and she gets Wonder Woman. Must be slim pickins in Dupree. 

 

I found myself more interested in the story of TJ's deceased wife. Seemed like there was a cool lady there -- artistic, adventurous, full of life. TJ's inner thoughts reveal how he never met anyone more beautiful than her, how she could so easily pull him out of his shell and get him to try new things. I wanted to know that story! But then cardboard Gillian comes in, sees a picture of the deceased wife and deems her "not beautiful by any standard". M'kay, well after that I was officially done caring about the coupling of Gillian and TJ. 

 

 

Note To Readers: This is a Christian romance where the religious elements are rather strong and noticeably present (though not oppressively so). Even the resort in the story is Christian themed. Just a heads up for those who don't want to be surprised by the religious aspect if that's not what they're looking for. Also, this is the third and final book of Cabot's Texas Crossroads series. I have not read the first two books but had no trouble following the story, so I would say this is perfectly fine as a standalone read. 

 

 

FTC Disclaimer: Revell / Baker Publishing Group kindly provided me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own. 

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