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Guest Review & Giveaway: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Welcome to the halfway point of the United States of books! We have now reached review number twenty-five and six months of reviews. I can’t thank the team of reviewers enough and our fantastic readers. To say thanks to you all, we are giving away a $25.00 Amazon gift card for 1st place and then a copy of any of the US of Books books (winners choice) Kindle or physical copy (INT) as long as Book Depository delivers, for 2nd place.

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To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Review by Laura at 125Pages.com
4 ½ Stars

tokillamockingbirdSynopsis:

Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize-winning masterwork of honor and injustice in the deep south—and the heroism of one man in the face of blind and violent hatred. One of the best-loved stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than thirty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of- age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father-a crusading local lawyer-risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.

Review:

This week takes us to Alabama with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. EW says – “Forget the dubious sequel. Lee’s exceptional work is a perfectly contained miracle about the struggle for justice in a system built to destroy it. From Birmingham to Tuskegee, Alabama was a burning center of racial conflict, and this novel takes place right on the outskirts of that crucible.”

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is one of the first “grown-up” books I remember reading. It was the summer before 7th grade and I was a precocious twelve-year- old. I loved that the person telling the story was a smart young girl and that she was so very different from other book narrators that I had been exposed to. I read it at least once a year and loved when it was on the book list in sophomore year, as it made the book report easy to do. As I got older, I stopped reading it as often, and as I picked it up this time realized it had been at least ten years since I had last picked it up. As I cracked the cover on my old worn copy, it was like stepping back in time to a period in my life that had long since passed.

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

To Kill A Mockingbird is a complex story of a young girl, six-year- old Jean Louise Finch (Scout), who lives with her lawyer and widower father Atticus and her older brother Jem. Scout and Jem, together with the neighbor boy Dill, are fascinated with their reclusive neighbor “Boo” Radley, a recluse that is never seen. They begin to spin tales about him and try to entice him outside. Meanwhile their father is assigned a case defending a black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a young white woman. The two stories weave together in a powerful tale of race relations in a small southern town coming out of the Depression. Harper Lee crafted a tale of morality and family that still resonates today.

“As you grow older, you’ll see white men cheat black men every day of your life, but let me tell you something and don’t you forget it—whenever a white man does that to a black man, no matter who he is, how rich he is, or how fine a family he comes from, that white man is trash.”

Love and murder, racism and redemption, all combine to make To Kill A Mockingbird a classic that will remain read for years to come. The way that Harper Lee combined wide-eyed youthful curiosity with the recollections of a grown woman make this a very interesting read. The style of the story telling is unique and matches the very detailed plot. The world created and described by Scout is vivid and real, and I could picture the scenes unfolding quite clearly.

Now that I have rediscovered Lee and Mockingbird, I regret ever leaving her world. A Pulitzer Prize winner, To Kill A Mockingbird is a book that well deserves its accolades as well as its criticisms. It does feature many difficult topics and language that in today’s world is considered unacceptable. I believe stories such as this still need to be told as we need to remember what used to be commonplace. I will now try to plan an annual re-read to return to this fascinating world. And, as said so well by Scout “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 6 CDs
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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, was a book that was anticipated by many and vilified by others, and I honestly had no desire to read it because of the hype.  (I only picked up this audio because it was available at the library and I needed a new one.)  Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, has returned to Maycomb, Ala., and her aging father, Atticus.  As the civil rights movement gains speed and the NAACP continues to push for rights, the South balks at integration and federal government interference.

Witherspoon is the perfect choice in a narrator for the story, and it is not just about her ability to play Southern characters.  She provides the right amount of empathy, emotion, and detachment needed by each of the characters to make them wholly different from one another, and yet still share similar experiences but view them differently.  There are differences between this novel (which is said to be Lee’s first) and the previously published book (TKAM), and those differences can be stark, especially when there are outcomes in the previously published book that go very differently here. Those are things an editor should have attended to before publishing, but are not the main crux of this story.

This is not about the rape case that Atticus defended, this is about us as children and how we generally worship our parents in one way or another, only to be disappointed that they are humans and not gods.  It’s a book about a young girl who worshiped her father, took in everything he said with little examination, and continued to apply it to her daily living.  Scout has held her father to an impossible standard, and when she returns to find him at a council meeting — one in which she would expect him to protest not take part in — her images are shattered, and she is forced to not only reconcile what she thought she knew about her father but what she knew about herself.

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon, is a novel about finding the courage and strength to change and to help those around you do the same. The south was in the midst of heavy transitions when Scout returns, and while she was “blind” to the hearts of those around her, even when her eyes are opened to their motivations, it is clear she still has a lot to learn.  The end seems to leave things wide open and unresolved in a way, like Scout’s journey is not finished.

About the Author:

Harper Lee, known as Nelle, was born in the Alabama town of Monroeville, the youngest of four children of Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee. Her father, a former newspaper editor and proprietor, was a lawyer who served on the state legislature from 1926 to 1938. As a child, Lee was a tomboy and a precocious reader, and enjoyed the friendship of her schoolmate and neighbor, the young Truman Capote.

After graduating from high school in Monroeville, Lee enrolled at the all-female Huntingdon College in Montgomery (1944-45), and then pursued a law degree at the University of Alabama (1945-50), pledging the Chi Omega sorority. While there, she wrote for several student publications and spent a year as editor of the campus humor magazine, “Ramma-Jamma”. Though she did not complete the law degree, she studied for a summer in Oxford, England, before moving to New York in 1950, where she worked as a reservation clerk with Eastern Air Lines and BOAC. Lee continued as a reservation clerk until the late 50s, when she devoted herself to writing. She lived a frugal life, traveling between her cold-water-only apartment in New York to her family home in Alabama to care for her father.

Having written several long stories, Harper Lee located an agent in November 1956. The following month at the East 50th townhouse of her friends Michael Brown and Joy Williams Brown, she received a gift of a year’s wages with a note: “You have one year off from your job to write whatever you please. Merry Christmas.” Within a year, she had a first draft. Working with J. B. Lippincott & Co. editor Tay Hohoff, she completed To Kill a Mockingbird in the summer of 1959. Published July 11, 1960, the novel was an immediate bestseller and won great critical acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961. It remains a bestseller with more than 30 million copies in print. In 1999, it was voted “Best Novel of the Century” in a poll by the Library Journal.

About the Narrator:

Laura Jeanne Reese Witherspoon, known professionally as Reese Witherspoon, is an American actress and producer. She began her career as a child actress, starring in The Man in the Moon in 1991. Witherspoon quickly established herself as a talented actress in films such as Pleasantville (1998), Election (1999) and Cruel Intentions (1999). While filming Cruel Intentions. Behind the camera, Witherspoon launched her own production company Pacific Standard in 2012, which was behind the 2014 films Gone Girl and Wild. The latter, based on the memoir by Cheryl Strayed, stars Witherspoon as a woman who takes to the road after the death of her mother. Witherspoon has earned raves for the role, receiving Oscar, Golden Globe, and SAG Awards nominations.

Guest Interview: Rock Band Glossary’s Joey Knieser Gets Literary by Vicki Keire

While I often talk a lot about books, poetry, writing, and author and publishing events, I rarely talk about music here, even though it is one of my passions.  I could go on and on about the reasons I love certain bands and certain genres of music, and why I dislike other bands and other genres of music.  However, rather than listen to me ramble on about my tastes and thoughts, I thought I’d share with you an interview from Vicki Keire with Glossary‘s Joey Knieser and his thoughts on books.  (Click on the band name for a few YouTube videos of their songs)

Without further ado, please welcome Vicki and Joey.

The summer before I met Joey Knieser of the rock band Glossary, I was hundreds of miles from home writing the novel that would eventually become The Chronicles of Nowhere (volume one released today through Curiosity Quills Press.) I spent the weeks preceding our meeting wandering beaches bleached white as bone, watching as BP oil-choked kelp rolled in and strangled the shoreline.

Armed only with a battered laptop, I propped it open and listened to my modest music library while watching the waves, waiting for them to carry away the personal disaster that had driven me here. That’s when Glossary started to haunt me. One album in particular became a favorite, on almost constant repeat: their album Feral Fire, with the aptly named “Your Heart to Haunt” in heavy rotation. If the band hadn’t planned a stop in my hometown that summer, I’m not sure I would have come home. But come they did, and I had the genuine pleasure of both hosting them in my home and seeing them play one of the songs most influential to my writing. Naturally, Glossary is at the top of my list when I think about writing and music, and how, for me, the two often intersect.

I caught up with guitarist/ singer-songwriter Joey Knieser to find out if books had a reciprocal power with musicians. Joey, along with most of the band, lives in Murfreesboro, TN, just outside of Nashville. He graciously agreed to answer questions on everything from his favorites books to the impact of the digital revolution on books and music:

Q: What books are you reading now or want to read?

A: I am currently in the middle of reading Tom Franklin’s novel, Hell at the Breech. I’d like to read the rest of Tom Franklin’s stuff. There are a couple Walker Percy books that I haven’t read, and I hope that I will be able to some day.

Q: What are some of your all time favorite books?

A: My all-time favorite books are Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.  Just like the music I seem to go back and listen to over and over again, these classic books just seem to have in them something that appeals to me. You could pick up these two books at any time and read a couple sentences, and before you know it, you’re back into reading it for the millionth time. Being a Southerner, these books have become really important to me.

Q: Do you prefer eReaders or “regular” books, and why?

A: I prefer eReaders because I’m legally blind, and before the eReader, I was limited in what I could read. I had to read only what I could find in large print. But now, with an eReader, I can read any book by just increasing the size of the font.

Q: Do you think the digital revolution will have similar effects on the book industry as it has had on the music industry?

A: Absolutely. It will have the same effect in that content is delivered directly to the customer, which, as a result, changes the current business model that both those industries have had up to this point. In the music industry, there seems to be less and less of an importance to have major labels. In the same way, in the book publishing industry, it seems that the major publishing companies have less and less importance. The digital revolution has put the power in the hands of the artist. The way an artist can connect with an audience is simple and direct. The only problem the artist will have now is to find their audience.

Q: Your album Feral Fire got its name from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. What about the novel appealed to you?

A: The quote from the novel had little to do with the novel itself. I liked the novel, but they were two words that poked out to me. I thought the alliteration had a real sense of longing. I could never really get that title out of my head while I was writing the songs for the album. It seemed like “feral fire” had a sense of longing and desperation, and basically I felt the songs on the record reflected those emotions.

Q: Are any of your songs influenced by books, and if so, which ones?

A: There are several. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Calpurnia takes Scout and Jem to a church and they sing a hymn that talks of heaven being, “the sweet forever.” I thought that was a great way to describe eternity. I used that phrase to actually title one of my songs in Feral Fire. I did write “Adalina” after I read The Sun Also Rises, because the song deals with a man that can’t have the woman that he wants much like the narrator in The Sun Also Rises can’t have Lady Brett. I actually used a line in “Adalina” that is straight from the book: “of all the ways to be wounded.” I just used it in the same way that Hemingway does, that there are a million ways to be wounded in this world, but that one person you love so much doesn’t love you the same way, and that’s the deepest sort of pain you’ll ever experience.

Q: What particular genres interest you?

A: Being a Southerner, I’m always drawn to Southern writers. Southern goth, too. Anything that deals with the issues of Southern culture and identity, books that deal with the Southern culture and way of life.

About the Band:

Glossary just released its seventh album, Long Live All of Us, available from This Is American Music and Last Chance Records. Glossary has been featured on NPR’s World Café, mentioned in USA Today, Paste magazine, and numerous other acclaimed music publications while being routinely featured on too many “Best of” lists to count. The band consists of bassist Bingham Barnes, singer/percussionist Kelly Knieser, pedal steel/guitarist Todd Beene, drummer Eric Giles, and frontman/ guitarist Joey Knieser.

 

Vicki Keire

About the Interviewer:

Vicki Keire grew up in a 19th Century haunted house in the Deep South full of books, abandoned coal chutes, and plenty of places to get into trouble with her siblings. She has taught writing and literature at a large, football-obsessed university while slipping paranormal fiction in between the pages of her textbooks. She is the author of the bestselling Angel’s Edge series, which includes Gifts of the Blood and its sequel, Darkness in the Blood. She is included in the Dark Tomorrows anthology with J.L. Bryan and Amanda Hocking and now writes full time. You can find her online.

 

This post is part of the Curiosity Quills Blog Tour 2012.

Curiosity Quills is a gaggle of literary marauders with a bone to grind and not enough time for revisions – a collective, creating together, supporting each other, and putting out the best darn tootin’ words this side of Google.

Curiosity Quills also runs Curiosity Quills Press, an independent publisher committed to bringing top-quality fiction to the wider world. They publish in ebook, print, as well as serialising select works of their published authors for free on the press’s website.

To Kill a Mockingbird is 50

Learn more about the 50th Anniversary of To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, re-released by Harper Collins, is a book I remember reading in middle school.  I was always a reader, but when it came to this book, I had misgivings.  I wasn’t sure I’d like the book at all, especially given the bland cover:

Would you want to pick up this book and read it for fun?  But what amazed me then is that this book stayed with me long after I’d read it, unlike many of the other books we had read in class.  Racism was not something we thought about in my tiny classroom, which was mostly white until I neared graduation in high school.  We lived in our own little bubble where we thought everyone was equal because that’s what we were taught.  Talk about ignorance.

Once we went through the incredible story, the teacher brought in the movie.  I was amazed by how this movie made this wonderful book come to life on the television.  I cannot tell you what happened to that copy of the movie or the book, but I’m sure they were used repeatedly until they couldn’t be used anymore.  This is one book that I will have to add to my collection, especially since its 50th Anniversary edition is ready!

You should check out the other celebrations across the Internet for this masterpiece.