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review 2017-04-12 17:40
How the West Was Won by Louis L'Amour
How the West Was Won - Louis L'Amour



I was inspired a couple weeks ago to pick up a western – I remember stacks of Louis L’Amour books around as a kid and thought he’d be a natural choice for such a compulsion. I had picked up a used copy of this book in great condition at Half Price Books and decided to crack it open – I didn’t notice until that particular moment that this book is actually a novelization of a screenplay for the epic movie by the same name. If it didn’t say that right on my cover, I probably would have assumed that book came before movie. Nevertheless, I wasn’t discouraged and figured that at least I’d get what I was hankerin’ for and I’d get a sense of L’Amour’s style.



Mission accomplished on both counts. A multi-generational tale spanning 50 years of history, there was plenty ‘Western’ to appreciate. Indian battles, outlaw battles, saloons and gambling – tough, rugged and honorable men and the strong woman that supported them. Each family member had their own vignette that showed a different aspect of expansion west - from the rivers to the prairies to the Civil War and the Gold Rush. I think my favorite, by far, was Cleve and Lilith’s story – that of a reformed gambler and a highly independent singing beauty. It was easy to love that one because Lilith had so much character and vim – she partners up with another single lady in a wagon train to head west, proving that she didn’t need a man or a traditional life, she could find her own way.

A real highlight of the book for me was this running gag from the patriarch of the book – Linus Rawlings. And this isn’t L’Amour because I’m pretty sure it’s in the movie, but Linus going to ‘see the varmint’ as a euphemism for sex is probably the funniest thing I’ve read in a while. Straight from a mountain man’s mouth, sure, but the way that this runs through the generations of the book was very amusing. Towards the very end, the outlaw in this family recognizes distant kin because he mentions someone had ‘see’d the varmint’. I’ve actually said varmint so many times this last week (because I'm just *that* immature) or two that it’s become almost a non-word, but do you know what I see when I think of varmint?



I can’t help it.

Without seeing the movie, I’m fairly sure that L’Amour inserted some of his own knowledge and history therein this book – a man who’d been there, done that, he adds some interesting commentary regarding the Indians and other things, relating them to other parts of history. My book jacket says that L’Amour’s great grandfather (or was it grandfather?) was scalped by a Sioux Indian - there’s just a certain amount of weight given to someone who was related to someone who was scalped. That’s probably as close as I’d like to come to any bloody event, anyway. I’m a right pansy about things like that.
It can’t go unsaid that the West was really won by us running roughshod over the peoples here first, but the book doesn’t really excuse that bad history, it just tells the story. I’ll be looking for another L’Amour down the road, one of his originals this time.

View all my reviews

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text 2017-04-07 10:30
Book Haul!
Lincoln as I Knew Him: Gossip, Tributes, and Revelations from His Best Friends and Worst Enemies - Harold Holzer
The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books - J. Peder Zane
The Animal Review: The Genius, Mediocrity, and Breathtaking Stupidity That Is Nature - Jacob Lentz,Steve Nash
If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) - Betty White
Living With Books - Alan Powers

So after all that cleaning and tidying of the library last weekend I felt the need to undo all my good work, and went on a small binge.  Ok, medium sized binge.  The first batch arrived today, which was pretty good timing because a trip to the city centre of Melbourne had me pretty cranky with humanity.

 

Normally, I'd include a pic of the books, but, while my library might be tidy, my coffee table is absolutely not and I'm not letting y'all see my mess.  

 

A bit of everything in this box, including Living With Books, which is probably what I'm looking forward to most, and the title that will surprise everyone the least. 

 

Here's hoping everyone has a lovely weekend!

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review 2017-01-31 09:21
The 'horror' was in very small quantities
Scared: Ten Tales of Horror - Rayne Hall,Deborah J. Ross,Jonathan Broughton,Karen Heard,Pamela Turner,Liv Rancourt,William Meikle,Tracie McBride,Grayson Bray Morris,Donna Johnson,Rayne Wheeler,Deborah Wheeler

Overall this collection of stories only made up approx 70% of the book (the rest was dedicated to promotion of the author's other works) and left quite a bit to be desired. There weren't really any creepy stories here, and the 'horror' was in very small quantities.

My favourite story by quite a way was 'Death comes for Maggie McDaniel' because of the haunting sadness and the fact that it was a well written and interesting tale. I would definitely read more by Grayson Bray Morris, Pamela Turner, Donna Johnson and William Meikle. The rest I probably wouldn't bother.

I feel that the four best stories are dragged down a bit by the others that get a nudge into the realm of good because they're being carried by the four better stories. Not a great collection, but an OK way to spend a couple of hours if you want a not very scary collection of stories.

Story specific thoughts below:

Out of Order - 3 stars
This one has a single horrible animal scene, which is written off in one or two lines. The horror aspects were not a problem, a bit simple, like a child witnessing a murder, too simplistic to be very impactful. A shame really because the idea is interesting.

Our lady of the toads - 3 stars
Witches tale that reads quickly but doesn't really offer anything new. Not a bad read, but a touch boring.

Family Heirloom - 4 stars
An interesting idea, but the story was over too quickly. I'd have liked to see the story teased out a bit more.

Ring of stones - 4 stars
A really short tale rich with imagery and sensory information. But a glimpse, captivating.

Death comes for Maggie McDaniel - 4.5 stars
A sad tale, full of character and loss. I only wish it were a touch longer so the blow to guts had the impact it deserves. Lovely writing.

Creatures of the night - 4 stars
The creepiest story so far tied in with the character being a writer so it's an instant win for me. The pace is quick, detail light but enough to paint a picture.

Druid stones - 2.5 stars
The story gallops along to its own tune, the ending obvious from a mile off. A lot of flowery wording that could be cut to make the story stronger.

The Loft - 2 stars
Rather boring, even what should have been tense moments lacked any sort of urgency. Repetition and an annoying MC made for an uninteresting or engaging story.

Life in miniature - 3.5 stars
A great idea, but over far too quickly. This should have been teased out, hints dropped etc. Who is Susan? Who is Michael? A little more character behind them would make this a great story.

You have one message - 3 stars
Probably the creepiest only because of the unknown factor and the panic written on the characters faces. The story offered little by way of characterization, but for once this worked because it allowed the faceless masses to form and show mass hysteria even in a small window of opportunity with limited character visibility. Still, there were too many unanswered questions and not enough content to really make this stand on its own.

**Note: I won an electronic copy of this book through the Booklikes giveaway program**

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review 2017-01-31 05:02
Beautifully conflicting
The Orchid Nursery - Louise Katz

Two words to describe this book: Beautifully conflicting.

The Orchid Nursery contains within its pretty covers, a vicious and unflinching dystopian Australia. One where women have been bred to follow scriptures and beliefs that they should serve men, they should long to be 'Perfected'.

When girls (or girlies as they are called in the book) live under the supervision of an augmented dorm mother in dormitories that bare sexually charged titles and the girls are named after dirt, rocks and wood. Not to mention the horrendous scriptures the girls are led to believe and are brainwashed into not just following, but actively embracing.

For any woman in this day and age, the near-future world that Katz created will rankle and burn as your eyes grate over each word.

But, while the story is a bitter flavored pill to swallow, the writing, oh, my. The writing is superb.

One scene Mica, our pious little narrator, experiences is one of the most chillingly horrific scenes I've read (and I've read some whizz bang horror!) in all my born days. Yet, the way in which it was written drew me in, caressed my inner editor and led her merrily down the garden path. I was so conflicted. I loved it and hated it in the same breath.

Few authors have had this level of impact on me as a reader, and even fewer have been able to get me to check my hatred for open misogyny at the door and swallow my anger.

I should have hated this book for all the hateful crap it spouts (the world, not Katz - let me be clear here!) yet I was drawn in, wanting to understand how a world that decayed and broken could ever have come from anything resembling ours.

What I found, much to my dismay, is that Katz's vision and how they wound up that way, was not completely unbelievable. As much as I wanted to deny it, I can see us making similar mistakes. Taking similar steps into the fiery furnace.

Aside from inflicting extremely conflicting emotions in me, this book provides solid (albeit flawed) characters, it paints a picture of real people, ones filled with good intentions but are forced to make devastating decisions.

It highlights the way in which society can change in one moment, and how we deal with that change may make or break our world.

And it delivers such strong messages about what consequences our decisions have, not just to ourselves, but possibly, those around us too. And of course, it can't be all bleak and darkness, there's a tiny slice of hope and optimism that pokes it's head up too, which rounds out the novel delightfully.

I have never read anything remotely similar to this book, though others are likening it the Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. I am yet to read it, so I can't comment on that.

I don't know if I really love this book or I hate it, but it's a five star read from me because of how much it has made me think about the ideals and themes in this book, and also for the beautifully crafted writing and amazingly complex characters.

One warning, there's quite a lot of swearing, and frequent use for the c-bomb and other synonyms. Not recommended for younger audiences.

**Note: I won a paperback copy of this book through the GoodReads FirstReads competition**

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