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Guest Review: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

New Mexico: House Made of Dawn by N. Scott Momaday

Synopsis from Goodreads:

The magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a proud stranger in his native land.

He was a young American Indian named Abel, and he lived in two worlds. One was that of his father, wedding him to the rhythm of the seasons, the harsh beauty of the land, the ecstasy of the drug called peyote. The other was the world of the twentieth century, goading him into a compulsive cycle of sexual exploits, dissipation, and disgust. Home from a foreign war, he was a man being torn apart, a man descending into hell.

house-dawnReview by Elisha of Rainy Day Reviews!:

This was a new kind of read for me. It was different. I’m still sort of reeling from the book. This book felt very political for me. Which I wasn’t expecting with in turn left a bitter taste in my mouth because then it felt that the author had an agenda that he wasn’t willing to divulge to his readers. I wanted to enjoy the book, but it seemed mundane and wordy to me. I hope to read this again soon, and hopefully get a better feel, a deeper sense of what the author was trying to convey. I did find it well written (minus the wordy-ness) and poetic, and even though this can be read in one sitting, I would recommend reading this more than once to better understand the contents, the quotes, the characters, and their relationships.

I do recommend this book.

I borrowed this book from my local library.

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Guest Review: Spartina by John Casey

This week takes us to Rhode Island with Spartina by John Casey.

— review by 125Pages

Entertainment Weekly says, “Dick Pierce works in Narragansett Bay, but his true passion is is the unfinished boat in his backyard. The tale may be standard, but Casey’s lyrical descriptions of the Rhode Island sea are anything but.”

“If Rhode Island were a country, it would be part of the Third World. The largest employer is the military. Tourism is the major moneymaker, although most Rhode Islanders benefit from it only in service positions. The bulk of choice real estate is in the form of second homes or resorts run by absentee corporations. “There is a seafaring tradition, and there is—still—a fishing fleet. By comparison to the high-tech factory ships of Russia, East or West Germany, Japan, or the tuna clippers of our own West Coast, the boats and methods are quaint. But it is still possible—barely possible—to wrest a living from the sea.”

spartinaSpartina is one of those books that should be a total winner. Poetic writing, vivid descriptions, a real world to sink into.

A blue heron wading in the marsh on her stilts, apparently out for a stroll—suddenly freezing. An imperceptible tilt of her head—her long neck cocking without moving. No, nothing this time. Wade, pose. Abruptly, a new picture—a fish bisected by her bisected beak. Widening ripples, but the heron, the pool, the marsh, the sky serene. The clouds slid across the light, the fish into the dark.

Unfortunately, the main character Dick Pierce was just an ass. He was at first a crusty older man and I was fine with that. He had very much of a him versus the world attitude and believed that anyone from money was to be looked down at. He ran some cons and did a few shady deals, but he did it to support his wife and children. Nothing wrong with that, he was doing his best to survive. Then the story took an turn and I lost all respect for good ol’ Dick. He began to match his name and started a torrid affair with a woman in the neighborhood. First, I hate when adultery is used as a plot point. I have no patience with it and hate reading about it. Second, he had absolutely no remorse about his actions. He did not care if he was going to hurt the woman he promised to cherish or his children. Other stuff happened that was interesting, but I could not move past my hatred of Dick to enjoy the story. In the end he sadly did not get the comeuppance he should have and Dick continued to be just that as he sailed off into the sunset.

three-stars

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Guest Review: Rabbit, Run by John Updike

rabbitrunRabbit, Run by John Updike
Reviewer ~ Teri at Sportochick’s Musings

-Synopsis-

Rabbit, Run is the book that established John Updike as one of the major American novelists of his—or any other—generation. Its hero is Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom, a onetime high-school basketball star who on an impulse deserts his wife and son. He is twenty-six years old, a man-child caught in a struggle between instinct and thought, self and society, sexual gratification and family duty—even, in a sense, human hard- heartedness and divine Grace. Though his flight from home traces a zigzag of evasion, he holds to the faith that he is on the right path, an invisible line toward his own salvation as straight as a ruler’s edge.

-REVIEW-

Throughout the book I kept hoping that Rabbit would find himself and become a man, husband, and father but he just kept getting more confused. It was apparent that this man couldn’t make up his mind about anything and that he would drift forever lost. Also what was abundantly clear was that he had no conscience. He just couldn’t figure out what was right and what was wrong nor would he take responsibly for his part in any of the events that lead to his babies death, his wives destructive life, his son’s feeling of loss or his mistresses pregnancy.

Reverend Eccles was the one of two redeeming characters in this book. He tried really hard to help Rabbit but in reality Rabbit starts to lead him astray no matter how hard he continually tries to help. Ruth, his mistress, well she was someone to be admired. She understood who Rabbit was, stood firm and strong about them ending their relationship with her taking care of the baby they would still have.

The book ended just as I thought. Rabbit is so confused. STILL! Bye bye.

I give this 1 star. I just disliked the main character, Rabbit, too much to find any value in this book.

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Guest Review: Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson

Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
– reviewed by HC at The Irresponsible Reader

housekeepingbIt’s time for my home state here in this little series we’re doing: Idaho, featuring the book Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Set in the fictional town of Fingerbone, in the Northern part of the state, about 50-60 miles from the Canadian border (not information from the book, that’s just me trying to orient those of you looking at a map).

Lucille, and her older sister Ruth, are raised in the same house their mother grew up in. We’re told straight away that following their mother’s death they lived with their grandmother, then her two sisters, and finally their mother’s younger sister. The circumstances surrounding these transitions are revealed gradually — none of the adults in their lives were cut out for parenting (Grandmother was at one point, and probably would’ve sufficed if she hadn’t died).

This is not a plot-driven book, and it’s hard to talk about what plot there is without telling you everything — so I’ll be vague. Ruth tells us about her grandfather’s death; them coming to live in his old house; life with grandmother, great-aunts, and aunt; and then things really start happening as she and Lucille enter adolescence and I’m not going to ruin anything by finishing this sentence properly. On page 27, I wrote “this text is so beautiful, I don’t care what happens, I’m going to love this book.” Thankfully, I was right — because once things happened, I really didn’t like it — but I loved reading the book. There are other characters in the book, but they’re of so little importance, I’m not going to say anything beyond acknowledging their existence. The focus is on the girls, their family and the really old house in which they all reside.

Thematically, this book is about loneliness, family ties, waiting for someone/something. I’m not sure there’s much difference in Ruth’s mind between loneliness and waiting (nor am I that sure that there’s much difference in my mind between them as I write this). For young girls to have this much upheaval in their parental figure(s), loneliness and loss are going to loom large in their psycho-social development — and they’re not going to respond the same way to things. You add some pretty perceptive thoughts about loneliness to Robinson’s prose and you’ve got yourself a winner of a book.

So what do we learn about Idaho here? Nothing. Fingerbone could be any small city/large town in the U.S. There is nothing distinctive Idaho about this book. Well, almost nothing. There’s a lot of mentioning of local place names (mostly cities, incidentally, that most non-Idahoans are going to mispronounce) — enough so that we all know that Fingerbone is just Sandpoint’s nom de plume, but that’s as “Idaho” as we get here. Take out the local names and this could be in any state that has lakes, forests and railroads — which pretty much covers all 50, right? I don’t know why Robinson didn’t just use the actual town’s name — but, whatever. The fact that Entertainment Weekly thinks this novel “best defines” Idaho probably says more about the dearth of books set here than anything else.

Lyrical, haunting, insightful, beautiful — this is prose that’ll stick with you. I didn’t like the ending, but it worked and was earned, so I can get over it. Don’t worry about the story, focus on the telling of it and you’ll likely agree, this is stunning stuff.

Guest Post & Giveaway: The Writing Space of Pamela Lynne

family-portraits-cover-ebook-largeWelcome to today’s guest post and giveaway with Pamela Lynne.  Her latest Jane Austen inspired novel, Family Portraits, hit shelves earlier this month, and it is garnering some great reviews.

About the Book:

In Dearest Friends, Pamela Lynne drew complex and interesting characters who joined Darcy and Elizabeth on their road to happily ever after. But, what happened after ‘the end’? Did Lydia survive her time at Rosings? Did Jane find fulfillment as Mrs. Bingley? Did Mary and Sebastian adhere to duty or allow their hearts to lead them? Follow the Fitzwilliams, Bennets, Gardiners and Darcys through portraits of their lives at two, five and ten years after the Darcys’ marriage. Their canvas is studded with heartbreaking loss, new beginnings and, through it all, the indelible bond of family.

Without further ado, please welcome Pamela as she shares her writing space with us.

Hello everybody! I am so happy to be here at Savvy Verse and Wit for the very first time! Thank you, Serena, for hosting me. This is the last stop on my Family Portraits blog tour and Serena has asked me to share my writing space with you all.

I admit, I panicked a little at first when Serena made this request. My desk is a drop down style that can be closed to hide the mess inside, and it is always messy inside! All week I told myself I would straighten it up a bit and take pictures. Procrastination coupled with waking up with a nasty head cold determined that you will see me in all my disorganized glory instead.

closeddeskOne day, I will have a lovely space of my own that opens up into a beautiful garden (that someone else tends), but until then, I share my writing space with my husband, three kids, two cats, and one overly attentive dog. My husband gave me this desk for Christmas the year we moved into this house. The gesture actually meant a lot to me. I had just finished Dearest Friends two months prior and was still not sure this writing thing would stick. He wasn’t sure either, but said the desk was there just in case.

peacockThankfully, it did stick and I have managed to write two more books while sitting here, or at the library, in my bed, at the kitchen table, or at Panera Bread. When I am up late at night this is where I sit with my mug of green tea as the characters in my head have their way with me. The décor on top changes from time to time. Right now you see most of our Vanity and Pride Press releases along with my A Moment Forever (Savvy Verse & Wit review) hope chest and my IPPY bronze medal. In the next week or so the peacock will likely be replaced with a scarecrow or a Halloween tree, but the books will remain. Along with Cat’s and my books, I have my favorite copy of Austen’s complete novels, a well-worn paperback of Jane Eyre and two books I sometimes use for reference and inspiration while writing my Austen inspired work. Those will change as my needs change and are not always stacked so neatly.

dewshineInside, we see not only my writing necessities, but those of the family as well. I have two pencil boxes full of pens, pencils, scissors, and sharpeners and a pottery crock containing the same things. They are never moved, but how many times a night do I hear, “I can’t find a pencil.”? Several. I also have some items that make me smile. The Dew Shine is another gift from my husband. I have a non-Austenesque plot bunny set in Tennessee during prohibition. You can probably guess moonshine is involved. My dear man saw this in the store and remembered me telling him about the idea. I now have proof that he does listen to my ramblings! Hanging up beside it is a note card with a picture of my favorite Darcy drawn by the fabulous Janet Taylor, sent to me by the equally fabulous J. Dawn King. Next to him is another favorite, the Darcy featured in Cat’s Denial of Conscience. (Savvy Verse & Wit review) We had a blast sharing Darcy on his bike with readers all over the world. I keep him there as a reminder of how much fun this JAFF world can be.

pencildrawingOn the other side of Iceman is a picture drawn by my daughter. I have several handmade items my kids have given me either in celebration of a release, or as encouragement. This one has a special place of honor as it was the very first one of its kind, presented to me after I told her about the friends I have made in the online Austen community.

Finally, we have my two most important pieces for writing—my laptop and my “scratch paper.” So far, I have written three books on three different laptops. Dearest Friends was written on one that was truly on its last legs. It did not survive long past the last paragraph. I purchased a pretty purple Dell that housed Sketching Character lynnecomputerthrough publication, but not long after, it succumbed to a cup of hot coffee. I really hope I break the streak and get at least one more book completed on this one before I somehow destroy it as well. I won the notebook, which is a novel journal of Emma, at another wonderful blog, Austenesque Reviews. It goes wherever I go, and for the past year I have been jotting down ideas and bits of dialogue that will make it into my next novel.

So, that’s a look into the most photographable part of my creative space. In truth, I can write pretty much anywhere I can find a quiet space, as long as the Muse is cooperating. Thank you all for reading, and thank you, again, Serena, for having me! Happy reading, everybody!

Thanks, Pamela, for sharing your space with us!  It’s always fun to see a creative person’s writing space.

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY:

Up for Grabs: 1 copy of any Pamela Lynne e-bookSketching Character, Dearest Friends, or Family Portraits.

Leave a comment here about your own reading or writing space, and leave a way for me to contact you if you win.

Deadline is Oct. 5, 2016, 11:59 PM EST

GOOD LUCK!

THE GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED!! The winner is Priscilla T.

Excerpt & Giveaway: Death at the Paris Exposition by Frances McNamara

Death at the Paris Exposition Banner

Frances McNamara

on Tour September 19-28 with

Death at the Paris Exposition

Death at the Paris Exposition

(historical mystery)

Release date: September 1, 2016
at Allium Press of Chicago

ISBN: 978-0-9967558-3-2
ebook: 978-0-9967558-4-9
276 pages

Website
Goodreads

SYNOPSIS

Amateur sleuth Emily Cabot’s journey once again takes her to a world’s fair—the Paris Exposition of 1900. Chicago socialite Bertha Palmer is named the only female U. S. commissioner to the Exposition and enlists Emily’s services as her secretary. Their visit to the House of Worth for the fitting of a couture gown is interrupted by the theft of Mrs. Palmer’s famous pearl necklace. Before that crime can be solved, several young women meet untimely deaths and a member of the Palmer’s inner circle is accused of the crimes. As Emily races to clear the family name she encounters jealous society ladies, American heiresses seeking titled European husbands, and more luscious gowns and priceless jewels. Along the way, she takes refuge from the tumult at the country estate of Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt. In between her work and sleuthing, she is able to share the Art Nouveau delights of the Exposition, and the enduring pleasures of the City of Light, with her husband and their children.

Here’s an Excerpt from Prologue and Chapter 1:

death-at-the-paris-exposition-excerpt

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frances McNamara

Frances McNamara grew up in Boston,
where her father served as Police Commissioner for ten years.  She has degrees from Mount Holyoke and Simmons Colleges, and recently retired from the University of Chicago. She now divides her time between Boston and Cape Cod.  She is the author of five other titles in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series, which is set in the 1890s and takes place primarily in Chicago: Death at the Fair, Death at Hull House, Death at Pullman, Death at Woods Hole, and Death at Chinatown.

Visit her website
Follow her on Facebook
Sign up to receive her newsletter

Follow Allium Press of Chicago on Twitter | on Facebook

Buy the book: on Amazon

***

You can enter the global giveaway here
or on any other book blogs participating in this tour.
Be sure to follow each participant on Twitter/Facebook,
they are listed in the entry form below
.

Enter here

Visit each blogger on the tour: tweeting about the giveaway everyday of the Tour will give you 5 extra entries each time! [just follow the directions on the entry-form]

Global giveaway open to US residents:
1 winner will receive a copy of this book

***

CLICK ON THE BANNER
TO READ REVIEWS, INTERVIEW,
GUEST-POST AND AN EXCERPT

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Guest Review: Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell

Once Upon a River by Bonnie Jo Campbell (Audible and eBook)
– reviewed by Teri at Sportochick’s Musings

Synopsis:

Bonnie Jo Campbell has created an unforgettable heroine in sixteen-year-old Margo Crane, a beauty whose unflinching gaze and uncanny ability with a rifle have not made her life any easier.

After the violent death of her father, in which she is complicit, Margo takes to the Stark River in her boat, with only a few supplies and a biography of Annie Oakley, in search of her vanished mother. But the river, Margo’s childhood paradise, is a dangerous place for a young woman traveling alone, and she must be strong to survive, using her knowledge of the natural world and her ability to look unsparingly into the hearts of those around her. Her river odyssey through rural Michigan becomes a defining journey, one that leads her beyond self-preservation and to the decision of what price she is willing to pay for her choices.

onceuponriverReview:

I am not sure where to start with this review. I had a very hard time listening to Margo make bad decision after bad decision in this story line. I understand her upbringing and that she didn’t have choices like most 16-year-olds do. Margo had a mother who didn’t function well in life and a father who had checked out of life because of her mother leaving and the loss of his job. She only had two people who showed her the love she deserved. One whose husband raped her and a man who honestly loved her, treated her like a queen but she lost him because of what she did in front of him with one of her rapists.

The author did a phenomenal job in the area of describing the scenery and setting up the story. What I had a hard time with is the roughness of the characters. Not that they weren’t well written they were. For me it was about something I dislike reading about or witnessing. I don’t want to read about the raping of a minor, being raped, murdering and taking revenge by death of those that do it to you. Though I understand why one would want to do it. For me it wasn’t realistic that she would get away with so much and never get caught.

For many people they will enjoy this book, for me I did not. It did cause me to think about what and how I would of reacted in the same situations. Also it made me wonder why is it that some people can overcome what she went through and others keep repeating the cycle of dysfunction.

For the overall impact I give this 2-1/2 STARS

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Guest Post & Giveaway: How Austen Seduced Hemingway by Collins Hemingway

Vol 2 Final 07-08-16If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that I love Jane Austen, particularly Pride & Prejudice, and that I sometimes read variations and re-tellings of her work, or novels that have Jane Austen as a character.

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen: Vol. 2 looks at how Austen would have fared had she married and had a family.

About the Novel:

The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen trilogy by Collins Hemingway respectfully reimagines the beloved English author’s life and resolves the biggest mystery around the actual historical records about her life during the Regency era in England: What really happened during the “missing years” of her twenties? Why did her sister destroy all of her letters and records of her life then? Why have rumors of a tragic lost love persisted for two hundred years? www.austenmarriage.com

Please welcome, Collins Hemingway, the author of The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen, to the blog today as he talks about how Austen seduced him.

Since embarking on my Jane Austen journey, I’ve been asked many a time why a present-day man, who spent most of his career involved with computers, marketing, and aviation, would explore the “what ifs” of the life of a literary woman from two hundred years ago.

The answer goes back primarily to Dr. Duncan Eaves, my graduate school instructor and an expert in Eighteenth Century literature. He and another wonderful instructor at my school, Dr. Ben Kimpel, wrote the definitive biography of Samuel Richardson, usually considered the first English novelist, and Dr. Eaves edited an edition of Richardson’s novel Pamela.

Dr. Eaves could recite Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Graveyard” as mournfully as the tolling of a bell, or playfully rattle off long stretches of Pope’s satiric heroic couplets. He could convince his students, by good humor alone, to finish Richardson’s agonizingly dull Pamela or Clarissa.

Jane Austen herself found Richardson gratifying, according to her brother Henry, who was careful to add, however, that “her taste secured her from the errors of his prolix style and tedious narrative.”

Dr. Eaves eschewed the usual Jane Austen reads, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, for Emma, which he considered much the superior work.

At this same time, in a class on modern poetry, I read a poem—by Anne Sexton or Maxine Kumin, I believe—that described what life would have been like for Romeo and Juliet had they not “escaped” with a romantic death: squalling babies, money hassles, arguments over daily life.

I had married young, had a child, and was struggling financially. I knew, even at the age of 21, that courtship and marriage were radically different things.

The situation led to animated exchanges with Dr. Eaves about Austen. My view was that she was a brilliant but superficial writer simply because courtship did not lend itself to investigation of the deepest feelings of the heart or the substance of life. Her books, I told Dr. Eaves, ended where they should have begun: with marriage.

Dr. Eaves told me to come back and read Austen every ten years or so. As I gained experience, he said, I would see more of life woven into the fabric of her work and less of the comedy of manners. Over time, his prediction came true. Austen pushed the bounds of convention, and likely her own sense of propriety, by addressing substantive issues obliquely—premarital sex and the slave trade, to mention two.

Even the delightful Emma, with its breezily misguided protagonist, manages to provide “perfect happiness” for a scandalous situation, that of Harriet’s illegitimacy. Interestingly enough, her being a “natural” daughter turns out not to be nearly as important as whether her father was a gentleman, as Emma supposes, or a tradesman, as turns out to be the case.

Novels of the day often addressed the question of a lady’s virtue but never seriously addressed other matters of consequence, before or after the wedding. Austen’s secondary characters are the ones involved in dubious—thus consequential—activities, and she often leaves open the question of future happiness for them. The main characters, meanwhile, skip off gaily into the future.

I felt that there had to be a way to capture Austen’s spirit and insight while also bringing the more serious issues of Austen’s day out of the background and into the light. I wanted to see how an intelligent woman of the early 1800s would respond if personally tested by those issues.

For many, many years, while mastering computer products during the day, I continued to study the history of the Regency period and to read Austen and what biographers had to say about her. All of the matters above percolated in my head.

My wife and I visited southern England several times, from the coast of Kent to Land’s End. On one of these trips, in 2006, we took the train down to Bath, where we spent several days seeing the sights and visiting some of Austen’s haunts. I picked up more books and bios.

Bath was not Austen’s favorite locale, but I was affected by being where she had walked and shopped and visited with her family—and had many of her own characters interacting. At the end of the weekend, I was struck by a thought as sharp as Emma’s arrow: Write my story.

I understood immediately. Write the story of Jane Austen living to the fullest the personal life that most women then experienced. Write the story of the public life she would have undertaken if she had had the opportunity to engage in the exciting, chaotic maelstrom that was the Regency period. Write as she would have, freed from the restrictions and conventions that stifled women authors then.

On the train back to London, I pulled out my journal and began to jot down notes under a title that wrote itself: The Marriage of Miss Jane Austen.

A decade later, I’m returning to Bath to launch the second volume of the trilogy that, I hope, does justice to the voice that struck me: the voice of Jane Austen.

Thank you for stopping by.

Please leave a comment below with an anecdote or piece of advice about marriage or finding love?

Deadline to enter for U.S./Canada residents is Sept. 16, 2016, 11:59 PM EST. Good Luck!

***GIVEAWAY HAS ENDED***

Guest Post & Giveaway: Jill Esbaum, Author of If A T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party!

T Rex coverIn honor of the publication of If a T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party by Jill Esbaum, illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova, Jill Esbaum is here offering tips on what to do should a T. Rex crash your party.

Read aloud tips for parents from Jill Esbaum, author of If A T. Rex Crashes Your Birthday Party!

  1. Put lots of expression into your reading. Try to pre-read books you’ll share with kids, so you’ll know which parts need more oomph.
  2. Use different voices for different characters. This really adds to the fun of silly books.
  3. If a story is on the quiet side or particularly moving, take care to read it slowly, lingering over lyrical phrases and beautiful images.
  4. Stop and discuss what’s happening from time to time, asking open-ended questions – especially if your kiddos are very young and might not understand what the main character is up to. Exercise little imaginations by asking something like, “What do you think will happen next?”
  5. Keep the TV off while you’re reading. When you treat reading time like the best part of your day, little listeners learn two things: a. that they are important and you love spending time with them, and b. that reading is important. A book should always be a treat!

Download the fun T.rex Party Kit!

To Enter to Win 1 copy (U.S. Residents only) — 1 entry per task:
1. Leave a comment about your last birthday part for a kid
2. Follow the blog’s Facebook page and leave a comment.
3. Share this giveaway on Twitter, and let me know you did.

Deadline is Sept. 9, 2016, at 11:59 PM EST.

****GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED****

Guest Review: Empire Falls by Richard Russo

Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Reviewed by H. C. at The Irresponsible Reader (where you can find a longer, more rambly and personal version of this post)

It is just daunting to try to talk about this book — especially in something that’d make a decent-length blog post and not a full-fledged dissertation. Empire Falls won Richard Russo his (seemingly) inevitable Pulitzer Prize in 2002 and stands as one of the greatest achievements in his storied career. It is at once a story about a town and a man, microcosms for the state and the nation; it’s both sweeping and epic while being personal and intimate.

empirefThe story centers on Miles Roby, manager of the Empire Grill in Empire Falls, ME. He has an ex-wife (who I truly despised), a daughter (who I wanted more of), an ex-mother- in-law that seems to like and respect him a lot more than her own daughter, s (even if they don’t see eye to eye much lately). But more importantly he has a patron — the town matriarch, owner of the Empire Grill, and most of the various places of employment in town. She’s a patron, a would-be surrogate mother (for a select few), and petty tyrant over the city. It’s one of those small towns where the mayor/council/etc. have real power, but it’s only the power she lets them have, you know? Francine Whiting isn’t evil — well, I’ll let you decide for yourself — but at the end of the day, she thinks she’s doing what is right for Empire Falls, the Whiting legacy and her daughter — whether or not anyone wants what she thinks is best. She still could be evil, I guess, and I could very likely made a case for it. Anyhow, let the reader decide.

The trials and dreams and efforts of Miles and his family as he tries to do something different with his life are the core of the novel — but they’re not all of it. The town is full of interesting people — many aren’t vital to the overall story (but you can’t know until the end who those are), but they all add flavor. Most are so fleshed out that you could imagine a short story/novel centered on them. While reading Song in Ordinary Time a few months back, I kept asking myself what made the people in that novel so unlikeable when in many ways they reminded me of Empire Falls‘ cast. I came to this conclusion (and have since reconsidered and still think it’s basically right): Russo uses the flaws in his characters to emphasize their humanity, Morris uses the flaws to emphasize their flaws.

But I come not to bury Morris (again), but to talk about Empire Falls, so let me focus on this a bit more: the flawed humanity isn’t pretty, it’s frequently ugly, people who make mistakes (some tragic, some dumb) are usually trying to do the right/moral/noble thing and it doesn’t work. But it’s real. This could all be real. Even Janice, Miles’ ex, is a well-developed character — and I think I’ve met a handful of people just like her — and I wouldn’t dislike her as much as I did if Russo hadn’t nailed the writing.

There’s an event towards the end — one of the two or three that you ultimately realize the whole novel has been leading up to — that in 2001 would’ve been truly shocking (shocked me a few years ago), but in many ways it’s de rigueur now. 2016 readers might be bored by it, but I can’t imagine that many readers in 2001 were. I’m not going to say more — just if you read this, put yourself in the shoes of readers from 15 years ago when you get to that bit. Yes, Empire Falls is slow (sometimes), ponderous (sometimes) but it’s also inspiring (sometimes), heartwarming (sometimes) and many other things that I could parenthetically qualify. But every negative about it is utterly worth it for the positives.

What I learned about Maine: (haven’t done this in awhile, whoops). It’s a beautiful state, filled with people who could be better educated, who aren’t vocationally ready for what’s coming for them thanks to the technological shift in jobs. It’s a state where people, nature and industry who have been damaged by reckless policies and practices. It’s a state where nature exerts itself every now and then to remind people how powerful it is. Basically, Maine’s just like every other state in the union — just a little different.

One more thing, not that this’ll surprise many, but I’d advise skipping the HBO miniseries — yeah, it’s a fairly faithful adaptation, it just doesn’t have the heart.

I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t read this book for this series of posts — breaking a personal resolution. There were 3 reasons for this: 1. Time; 2. I really wasn’t up for the emotional punches this delivers, and 3. I didn’t need to — I still remember it well enough to discuss at a length greater than I have despite being 4 years and change since I read it. That right there should tell you something about the book — hundreds of books later and I almost feel like I read it a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure this is the Russo novel I’d tell people to start with (probably Straight Man), and I don’t think it’s his best (probably Bridge of Sighs (tells a story almost as epic in scope, with greater economy and greater depth when it comes to individual characters), but there’s no denying the talent on display here, the greatness of the execution, the vibrancy of the characters, or the impact it has on the reader. No brainer, 5 Stars from me.

Guest Review: Inkspirations Fruit of the Spirit: Coloring Designs to Nourish You with Love, Joy, Faith, Peace and More by Lorrie Bennett

tlc tour hostI’ve always loved coloring books, and while the adult coloring book craze has finally taken hold, I find myself more caught up in coloring in kids books with my daughter than I do engaging with my own adult coloring books.

Today, I’ve got a guest reviewer, Michelle Best, sharing her thoughts on the latest adult coloring book, Inkspirations Fruit of the Spirit: Coloring Designs to Nourish You with Love, Joy, Faith, Peace and More by Lorrie Bennett.

I was so excited when I received my coloring book in the mail, I had to look through it right away. At first glance, I noticed I really liked the pictures in the coloring book. Many of the adult coloring books today have designs, patterns, etc. and I really do enjoy an actual scene, which this book provides. There are also very good motivational sayings on each page which are Bible verses.

The first 8-10 pages are a little different than what I have seen before. They actually have instructions on how to color and how different colors compliment each other. There are also a few pages of samples of people who have actually colored some of the same pictures in the book. I thought this part of the book was unnecessary. Generally when adults will be coloring, they have colored before and are familiar with complimenting and contrasting colors.

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Each coloring page consists of two pages, left and right. I actually like this so when you are done coloring you can see the complete scene across both pages along with the Bible verse that goes along with the page. The book it pretty thin and most of the books I have are a little thicker. This isn’t good or bad, just depends on your preference, but if I had two books the same price and I really liked both of them I would probably choose the book that’s a little thicker.

I completed coloring a page, which I really enjoyed. The lines were nice and easy to read, even for those of us getting a little older and have “tired eyes”. Too many tiny little details makes coloring difficult and I didn’t have any problems coloring my page. There are a few pages with more small details but for the most part it has larger coloring spaces to make coloring more enjoyable and relaxing and less stressful, which is what adult coloring is supposed to provide. I am looking forward to coloring more pages/scenes in the near future. Come on, rainy days, so I can color more!!!

About the Author:

Lorrie Bennett is blessed to live her life as an artist, crafter, teacher, graphic designer, and best of all, a mother. She is passionate about the divine inspiration that is the source of her creativity, and the happiness and beauty that it can bring to others. Learn more about Inkspirations.

Reviewer Bio: Michelle Best lives in Oregon, has been married 17 years and has three daughters (22, 19, and 15). She loves to read, garden, do crafts, go to country music concerts, and drink wine. She also loves to color with her daughters, especially on rainy days.

Guest Review: The Known World by Edward P. Jones

This week takes us to Virginia with The Known World by Edward P. Jones. Entertainment Weekly says, “This award-winning examination of man’s ownership of man refuses to succumb to the calcifying effect of history, presenting Virginia’s past as raw, urgent, and human.”

Synopsis from GoodReads:

One of the most acclaimed novels in recent memory, The Known World is a daring and ambitious work by Pulitzer Prize winner Edward P. Jones.

The Known World tells the story of Henry Townsend, a black farmer and former slave who falls under the tutelage of William Robbins, the most powerful man in Manchester County, Virginia. Making certain he never circumvents the law, Townsend runs his affairs with unusual discipline. But when death takes him unexpectedly, his widow, Caldonia, can’t uphold the estate’s order, and chaos ensues. Jones has woven a footnote of history into an epic that takes an unflinching look at slavery in all its moral complexities.

Review by Laura at 125Pages.

½ Star

EdwardPJones_TheKnownWorldThe Known World by Edward P. Jones is a read that made me question. It made me question if editors actually read the whole book. It made me question if the Pulitzer judges read the whole book. It made me question if I had picked up the wrong book, because this could not be the book with all of those rave reviews. This novel won a National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2004. In 2005 it won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and it was a finalist for the 2003 National Book Award. In 2009, the website The Millions polled 48 critics, writers, and editors; the panel voted The Known World the second best novel since 2000. The book I read was a disjointed mess. No seriously, I can read difficult books. I like non-linear time lines and twisty prose but this took it to a whole new level. The synopsis tells us that this is the tale of Manchester County in Virginia during the antebellum era and a black former slave who is now a slave owner himself. This sounds like a deep and thought provoking read right? It would have been if it was actually readable.

There were approximately 80 characters, so I had no idea who anyone was.

The white man at the front door was from the Atlas Life, Casualty and Assurance Company, based in Hartford, Connecticut. His talking to Calvin at the door was what kept Bennett so long. Calvin eventually came back with Bennett and when Moses told him, Calvin went back and returned with Caldonia, followed by Maude, and Fern Elston.

The time line skipped back and forth often times decades in the future to tell what happened to just one person or object and then skipped back.

This series was Anderson’s most successful, and nothing was more successful within that series than the 1883 pamphlet on free Negroes who had owned other Negroes before the War between the States. The pamphlet on slaveowning Negroes went through ten printings. Only seven of those particular pamphlets survived until the late twentieth century. Five of them were in the Library of Congress in 1994 when the remaining two pamphlets were sold as part of a collection of black memorabilia owned by a black man in Cleveland, Ohio. That collection, upon the man’s death in 1994, sold for $1.7 million to an automobile manufacturer in Germany.

There was so much unnecessary description.

Clarence sat beside his wife and after a time he put a hand, the one not stained with milk, to the back of his wife’s head and rubbed her hair. The cow swung its tail and chewed its cud. It farted.

His horse, Sir Guilderham, was idling two or so paces behind his master. And just as the horse began to wander away, Robbins turned and picked up the reins, mounted. ‘No more visits for a month,’ he said, picking one piece of lint from the horse’s ear.

Seriously, I do not care about lint on a horse and a cow farting. This really detracted from the story for me. The Known World by Edward P. Jones could have and should have been a powerful read. Instead I got bogged down in the minutia and was not able to process the tale.

I had originally picked this up at the library and then, when I found the style to be so odd, I got the Audible version. I really want my credit and the 14 hours I spent listing to this back.

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