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Search tags: jg-ballad
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review 2017-12-04 19:36
Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde 
Ballad of Reading Gaol - Oscar Wilde

I don't read a lot of poetry as such because my favorites rhyme and are silly; so nothing since Old Possum really. (In my defense, I pay a lot of attention to song lyrics, and enjoy a slant rhyme or an unusual rhythm, otherwise, as you may have noticed, I read a lot of children's books which meet both my criteria but aren't usually labeled "poetry"). I honestly can't remember if I read this in its entirety back in the day: there were a lot of English literature classes, and a lot of reading, only a small portion of which actually stuck, although I can usually guess the age and author within a hundred years or so, so, you know, I learned context, and that's something, right? (Please Mr. Edwards, don't feel that your teaching was in vain.)

Whatever got me thinking about Wilde got me reading up on him in Wikipedia, and got me wondering about the validity of Ellman's biography (which I dearly loved, but it's been more than 20 years, so it is a bit vague now) and from one thing to another down the rabbit hole until I read the Ballad of Reading Gaol. Despite it's complete lack of silliness I quite enjoyed it, and found it very moving. But the real shocker was how many of its lines I had seen quoted, without recognizing the source before. Woah.

Wilde was foolish to file the suit, but damn, no one deserves what he endured (he and others, so many others) for love.

personal copy

 

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review 2017-11-14 22:58
Okay that was good
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

I am not a huge Lovecraft fan. I'm not a Lovecraft fan at all. I understand why he is a touchstone and all that, but yeah, he's not for me. So outside of the two characters, there are probably some Lovecraft references I missed.

This is a fine book about racism, society, and what society makes people become. LaValle gets so many points for the wonderful story arc that kicks Hollywood stories to the curb. 

Overall the writing is beautiful (though the kindle edition has at least two run-ons that jarred). This novella is a brillant work of criticism and homage to Lovecraft as well as indictment of USA past and present.

And it is a story about music too.

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review 2017-11-11 16:48
Ballad for a Mad Girl
Ballad for a Mad Girl - Vikki Wakefield

Grace Foley is a seventeen-year-old prankster and risk-taker. The only thing she's afraid of is losing. One night she accepts a challenge as part of a feud between the two local schools, but things don't go as planned. Something she can't explain happens and now she's haunted by voices and visions. She's drawn into a twenty-year-old mystery surrounding a missing girl named Hannah Holt, and she's having trouble figuring out what's real and what's imagined. Grace is losing herself and she doesn't know if she's uncovering the truth or if she's going mad.

 

I don't know what made me request this book. Reading the blurb now it doesn't interest me at all. I found this book extremely hard to get in to. The writing was disjointed, it was hard to follow along. I did not like any of the characters. I just don't care. DNF @ 43%.

 

Thank you to Netgalley and Text Publishing for a copy of this book.

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review 2017-10-18 02:02
The Last Ballad
The Last Ballad: A Novel - Wiley Cash

Ella May Wiggins is a 28 year-old woman with five kids, one who has already died.  Six days a week she walks two mile to work the night shift at American Mill No.2, a textile mill in 1929, for $9.00 a week.  With no husband, this is barely enough to keep her family afloat.  Luckily, Ella may has the help of her colored neighbors in Stumptown when she is at work.  Fed up with the long hours, dangerous conditions and paltry pay, Ella May joins the labor union movement.  She is quickly elevated as a poster child for the movement, especially because of her unique voice and songwriting skills that weave her experience in the mill into a ballad that all workers can relate to. 

Told through alternating viewpoints of Ella May and people who came in and out of her life, we learn about Ella May's involvement in the  labor union movement and how it ultimately led to her demise. This is not a spoiler as this is revealed quite early on in the story.  However, this was quite a shock to me and for the rest of the story I was wondering how all of these other viewpoints would lead up to that moment.  I did enjoy learning about this time in history and the labor union movement, especially the role that women played.  I was definitely inspired by Ella May's song and was glad to learn that it had such an impact on those around her. Through the different voices, I was lead through a dark part of US history, the fight for and against worker's rights.  I do wish that there was more of a centralized voice, with so many narrators I did have a little trouble focusing on Ella May and seeing how everything fit together in some cases. 

This story was received for free in return for an honest review. 

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review 2017-10-16 06:59
The Ballad of Black Tom; Or, Red Hook Reimagined
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle

LaValle's re-imagining of Lovecraft brings race to the forefront, and the results are disturbing and sadly quite timely. The world Tom Tester walks through, and the trials he faces, were painful to behold. Ultimately I was far more invested in Tester's story than any of the Lovecraftian horror elements of the story, though those were well written. I cared about this man and what happened to him. My biggest hurdle came when the POV shifted halfway through - I had a hard time investing in Malone and just wanted to return to Tester's story. Bottom line: If you like Lovecraftian horror, but find the treatment of race in his works unacceptable, you should absolutely pick this novella up. It's a great update to an old and problematic story, and a solid addition to the genre.

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