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review 2018-06-28 23:16
The Last Ballad
The Last Ballad: A Novel - Wiley Cash
My heart broke for Ella May. From the beginning chapters, I realized that Ella May’s life had been hard since day one but her heart was in a good place. With four children to care for and being just thirty, she took this responsibility seriously. Charlie, the man male adult in her life, was a low-life in my opinion and when he left her again, I was happy. She didn’t need that type of individual darkening her already, dark days. What she needed was hope, something that would benefit herself and others like her.
 
Ella May worked the overnight shift. Working six days a week, twelve hours days, this job gave her just enough money to put a roof over her children’s heads. She knew her children were hungry because she, herself was hungry. She wasn’t a proud woman but she loved her children and she was providing for them the best that she could. Ella May works in a yarn factory and when she heard talk about a union, Ella May is intrigued. She heard that if she joins the union, she would earn better pay which would allow her to keep a roof over her family and perhaps better food on her table. Charlie is against the union as he doesn’t believe in white individuals working beside colored individuals. It’s funny because Ella May has been working with colored individuals for years and now, this becomes an issue plus why should she listen to Charlie. Charlie can’t seem to hold down a job himself but he can hold a liquor bottle to his lips real well.
 
Ella May is excited to hear more about the union and as she attends one of its rallies, she is filled with energy as she listens. Within her, a spark is lit. This propels her to make this union her mission, to help individuals get out of their current state of poverty which she believes can be done by joining the union. A dangerous situation for some individuals who are living in the South, in the year 1929.
 
We know how Ella May fares in the end as we read the entries from her oldest daughter Lilly in the novel. She retells the story about her mother, about her mother fight and her love for those around her. Lilly’s recount of her mother’s history showed me how others saw her mother and how she never forgot where she came from.
 
I enjoy reading these types of stories, books from the mountain ranges. This story shows the pride and the struggles that some individuals took to help themselves and others to create a better life. I liked Ella May’s view on life, I think she knew that she couldn’t give her children the best that the world had to offer yet I feel that she gave them much more. She gave them the best that she could, she gave of herself, she showed them the power of love. I enjoyed this novel and I can’t wait to read the other novels that Wiley wrote.

 

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text 2018-01-20 19:19
2017 Year in Review: Stats
Shadowhouse Fall - Daniel José Older
Ninefox Gambit - Yoon Ha Lee
A Conspiracy in Belgravia (The Lady Sherlock Series) - Sherry Thomas
Food of the Gods: A Rupert Wong Novel - Cassandra Khaw
The Ballad of Black Tom - Victor LaValle
The Stars Are Legion - Kameron Hurley
The Heiress Effect - Courtney Milan
An Extraordinary Union - Alyssa Cole
The Stone Sky (The Broken Earth) - N.K. Jemisin
Clean Room Vol. 3: Waiting for the Stars to Fall - Gail Simone,Jon Davis-Hunt
Did anyone else end up with a broken counter on the Goodreads stats page? I know they had an issue with the date read field earlier in the year. While that eventually worked itself out, my total for 2017 is way off. The states page claims over 100, but the list is really only 79.
 
My breakdown of the 79 "books" I finished in 2017:

anthologies: 0
collections: 0
Adult novels: 50
YA novels: 8
MG novels: 0
graphic novels: 1
art book: 0
comic omnibus: 15
magazine issues: 0
children's books: 2
nonfiction: 3
 
I make a demographics list every year as a way of giving myself the opportunity to think about who I've read and how I can do better.
 
Across all categories:
  Written by Women: 53 (67%, down from 72% in 2016)
  Written by POC: 29 (37%, up from 17% in 2016)
  Written by Transgender authors: 5 (6%, up from 1% in 2016) 
  Written by Non-binary authors: 2 (3%, up from 1% in 2016)
 
While this looks like a large improvement from last year, I should note that this is not unique authors, but total across all my reading. I went on Cassandra Khaw and Daniel José Older benders this fall that account for a lot of my non-white reading. I also went on a Courtney Milan bender in January that is helping inflate the written by women category. 
 
My favorite book from 2017 were really hard to select! It was a great reading year, but I narrowed it down to 10. Please don't ask me to order them as that's clearly an impossible task. They should all appear in the banner at the top, but here's a list, alphabetically:
 
 
I reviewed all 79 titles read in 2017, which is really more than I expected. Not all those reviews are great, but in terms of quantity, I beat my expectations. 
 
My favorite new-to-me author of 2017 is Cassandra Khaw. She's talented and her range includes (nay, celebrates!) splatterpunk. 
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review 2018-01-17 00:00
The Last Ballad
The Last Ballad - Wiley Cash Good book even if it did make me angry

The country runs off the backs of the sometimes most hidden most underpaid but hardest working people. I believe this to be still mostly true today, though not as bad as the 1920's as represented in this book. I found the book very well written but hard to read because I felt angry at the very real inequality that existed back then. The characters were well written. The ending broke my heart. I enjoyed reading Wiley Cash's Book.
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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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