Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I'm starving!

If you want to know why come visit me here:

No Excuses Diaries

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 31-40

My thoughts on this week's reading:
These chapters were full of truly memorable, if not horrific (and funny!) scenes:  First, Jake and Lorena survive the vicious thunderstorms on the plains.  Having grown up just north of where this book takes place, storms of this nature are terrifying in a house, let alone out in the middle of nowhere without shelter.  I can't imagine trying to endure that and they do it without a tent!  Scary stuff.  Then, the Hat Creek Cattle gang suffers their first death -- and boy was it graphic!  My Dad, in his younger years, was an avid fisherman, and I grew up with stories of his encounters with water moccasins -- they are not to be messed with! He always carried a pistol with him to shoot any that came his way.  I've been terrified of them ever since.  Finally (and I mention this in my response below), I love how McMurtry balances these dreadful scenarios with Roscoe!  What a hoot!  This was a great section!

Here are Leah's, Amy's and my thoughts below -- Amy wrote this week's questions:

1) Gus starts off this section, saying, "Here is where we all find out if we was meant to be cowboys." when Deets predicts a storm. Newt later observes that the only person who hadn't performed well in the storm was Sean. Did you predict at this point Sean would be the first casualty? How did his death impact you? What did you think of the way Gus and Call handled it?

Leah: I knew that they wouldn't make it through the whole journey without a death, of course there would be deaths, but two days in, and in such a violent manner, this was pretty sad to take in. Sean was so young and I think, I am not sure who it was Call or Gus, that said that is was just poor luck because it could have been anyone, it didn't matter how well trained you were. I think it would be hard to have to accept a death like that on the trail because it would really bring your morality into focus. It's especially poignant since Sean didn't seem to want to be in America in the first place.

Amy: I also thought it was really tragic! I thought the singing at the grave was kind of beautiful and I cried a little bit. It sounded like such a horrible way to go and the whole thing happened so quickly.

Melissa: This one shocked me! The visual of him being swarmed by water moccasins was awful! But the writing was so effective, I re-read it so I could immerse in the tragedy. I know the brothers played a minor role in this whole drama, but I loved the nuance their characters added – true “Irish Tenors.” I feel really sorry for the remaining one. I thought Gus and Call handled the best way they could: acknowledged it, remembered him, had a proper burial, and moved on.

2) Elmira and Loraine are both traveling on their own in the company of men. What do you think about the differences in their two situations? Which situation would your rather be in?

Leah: I love this question! Personally I would rather be on Lorrie's situation because I think the men she is travelling with probably care about her more as a person (yes she is a whore but at least they know her and like her!). They don't want anything bad to happen to her. If she gets fedup with Jake, you know Gus will take care of her and she has a bunch of money. Whereas Elmira, she's on that boat with a bunch of men she doesn't know. No thank you! Dreaming up some story, chasing after some man that left her.

Amy: Elmira's situation sounds terrible to me as well, I thought that part about how the men thought she belonged to them and in their eyes she didn't belong to herself to speak volumes. I also think Lorrie's in a much better situation!

Melissa: Well one thing Lorena has going for her – she is on land – she’s got the freedom (barely) to leave on a horse if she wants too. Elmira is stuck on a boat – nowhere to move -- so she doesn’t have a lot of options. And it has to smell (even worse than a bunch of dirty cowboys!). Honestly, both women’s situations stink (literally and figuratively). I still think I would rather be with Xavier on my way to San Francisco. So sad that women had so few choices.

3) Roscoe is a bit pathetic out looking for July on his own when he runs across Louisa Brooks who proposes marriage in no time. What did you think of this unique character of Louisa and Roscoe's reaction to her?

Leah: FUNNIEST CHAPTER EVER! Louisa was a hoot. She was in charge of her own life. She clearly was a great farmer who doesn't need a man but wants a man. This is in stark contrast to the previous women we've met so far. Whereas, Roscoe doesn't know what's hit him! As far as I can gather he's barely interacted with women before, which I think Louisa might even like about him. As far as she's concerned he can come back and be her companion. Love it!

Amy: I laughed SO MUCH during this chapter! Roscoe was so so so funny, when she proposed and laid out all the logic of it and he's like, well I don't want to. And then he starts to come around...ha!

Melissa: Seriously – laugh out loud funny! I love how McMurtry is weaving these vignettes throughout the book: This serious/dangerous cattle drive, juxtaposed with this comical, clown-like journey of Roscoe’s. A perfect example of “comic relief.” Leah, I must say, I’m almost jealous that you know what is around the corner! I secretly want to ask you, “so, what happens next??!!”

What are your thoughts from this week's reading?  And leave a link!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Monday -- What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Sheila at One Persons Journey Through a World of Books. It's is a weekly event to celebrate what we are reading for the week as well as books completed the previous week.

It's been a MONTH since my last Monday post -- primarily because I've been knee deep in my Lonesome Dove read along that it's hard to post a weekly update when that is all I am reading!  But, I have accomplished a few things this week that might be worth noting:

The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans (2 our of 5 stars)
The Sunflower

Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor (4 our of 5 stars)
Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story
 (A truly poetic, mother-daughter spiritual, travel memoir)


Lonesome Dove Chapters 31-40 -- this has been so much fun! And after a slow start, I'm really finding my grove with this book.  Our last two sections have been fabulous!  And the discussion questions are like something out of English Lit 401.  There is still time to join our "cattle drive!"


Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper by Harriet Scott Chessman

Lydia Cassatt Reading the Morning Paper

Summary from Goodreads:  Set in the lively Parisian art world of the 1880s, this novel imagines a poignant time in the lives of the American impressionist Mary Cassatt and her sister, Lydia. Lydia narrates the story as she poses for five of her sister's paintings. Ill with Bright's disease and conscious of impending death, Lydia contemplates her narrowing world. The novel's subtle power comes from its sustained inquiry into the very evanescence of life that the paintings record.

Although not one of my original selections, I'm reading this to complete my Women Unbound reading challenge! 

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeliene L'Engle
A Wrinkle in Time (Time Series, #1)

This was our Mother/Daughter book club selection....thought I could remember most of it, but my 40 year old brain was not up to the task.  Daisy daughter didn't finish it either.  Drats, I hate not finishing a book.

Busy week ahead:  two field trips, two fall festivals, one PTA meeting, one opening night (Hamlet, at The Rep) and HALLOWEEN! 

Have a great reading week!

Book Review -- Traveling with Pomegranates

Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story
 Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story by Sue Monk Kidd

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book source:  Public library

Sue Monk Taylor, bestselling author of The Secret Lives of Bees, and her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor prove in their joint memoir, Traveling with Pomegranates, that the eternal question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” never fades away, even at the ages of twentysomething and fiftysomething.

We follow this pair, in alternating journal-like entries, as they travel to sacred sites in Greece and France. They take us to convents, antiquities, ruins, relics, and their home in South Carolina. We learn of their intimate thoughts on faith, life and future. They even give us a crash, refresher course in Greek mythology, intimately reliving the story of Demeter and Persephone, and using it as a metaphor throughout their journey.

For those who have read The Secret Lives of Bees, this book really is a work study for that novel. Sue devotes much of her narrative to how she became entranced with the icon of The Black Madonna, and how that theme was woven into her book. She also shares her struggles with aging and embracing the “older woman” that she has become, and where does life go from here.

Ann’s journey is much different: a recent college graduate with dreams of going to graduate school to study Greek history, she is demoralized when her admission is rejected. Where does her life go from here? She begins her quest, with the help of the goddess Athena, the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc, to find out that out.

I delighted in this book. It was a pleasure to read about their relationship and their travels (although, I wondered if things had been so peaceful between the two of them when Ann was a teenager!). In much the same way Eat Pray Love was a road to personal discovery, so is Traveling with Pomegranates. And as polarizing as that book was, I could see where if you didn’t like it, you might not enjoy this either. I, however, enjoyed both immensely. I think I would have loved this book even more if it had been illustrated. They visit so many historical places, it would have been nice to have an immediate visual associated with the passages.

This is a beautiful mother-daughter story – one told with emotion and tenderness. As a mother of a daughter, I can only think of how much I want my relationship with my daughter to mirror theirs.

For an amazing insight into their relationship and their work on this book, please check out the video from the Library of Congress' 2009 National Book Festival:

View all my reviews

Friday, October 22, 2010

October Book Club -- Book Review: The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans

The Sunflower: A NovelThe Sunflower: A Novel by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book Source: Public library

Summary: In the wake of personal tragedy, two people meet on a humanitarian mission in Peru. Christine is a shy, unadventurous woman whose fiancee broke off the engagement only a week before the wedding, and Paul is a former emergency room doctor whose glamorous lifestyle, stellar reputation, and beautiful fiancée are cruelly snatched from him one fateful, snowy Christmas Eve. Deep in the Amazon jungle, against a backdrop of poverty and heartbreak, they must confront their deepest fears and, together, learn to trust and love again.

This was a simple book. Nothing particularly overwhelming or underwhelming. His novellas (because I have a hard time categorizing them as novels), are thin on substance -- he has enough material to hold your attention for one afternoon, but not for any extended period of time. His characters are likable, but not very three dimensional. And some of the plot twists seem contrived. One problem I had with this particular story was his use of food. The characters are in the jungle, mountains and cities of Peru, but they seem to be eating very American food – pizza, spaghetti, garlic bread. I want to trust the writer and believe that the Peruvians really eat these things – but it was a stretch for me. Additionally, the reader is lead to believe that part of this story is true -- but at the end, I still wasn't convinced.

This is the second Richard Paul Evans’ book that I have read, and I don’t think I need to read another.

This was also our October book club choice. I think for the most part, the group agreed with my assessment. I know some actually appreciated the brevity of this book, because it was a quick read! The discussion was OK – since the substance of this book was thin – it was hard for us to really delve into the characters, plot, story – but we managed to make it interesting, nonetheless.

Aside from the discussion, we were able to plan our book club selections for next year, something that is a departure from our normal routine. Since our local library has added nearly 100 book club kits to their collection, they’ve asked the participating book clubs to reserve them in advance. So we are trying to follow suit. Here are our choices, in no particular order, since that is determined by the library book club director and their availability:

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan
The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carlson
Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman

For November, we are reading Loving Frank by Nancy Horan.

Loving Frank

Has anyone read this?

View all my reviews

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 21-30

Welcome to week 3 of our Lonesome Dove Read Along!

Admittedly, after week 2, I was not feeling very motivated about this book -- but I really enjoyed our week 3 chapters!  Finally some action!  The Hat Creek Cattle gang gets on the road, while Lorena and Jake make their parallel trek.  We get a glimpse of what damage Jake left behind in Arkansas and the folks there seem unwilling to forget that he left them without a dentist.

I was in charge of discussion questions this week -- check out Amy's, Leah's and my thoughts below: 

1) Xavier issues an impassioned plea to Lorena to stay in Lonesome Dove and marry him. Do you think his motives are sincere? Or is he doing it for business? Also, here is another chance for Lorena to bypass the cattle drive and go directly to San Francisco (which we are to believe is her goal), but yet she turns it down. Why?

Amy: I think Xavier was sincere based on Gus's observation that some men fall hard and have a hard time getting over it. Yet part of me thinks, why not just marry her before she threatened to leave? I think Lorena also wants to prove it to herself that she can do this and do it on her own. Sure she's somewhat dependent on Jake, but she's coming to realize how much more dependent he is on her and that he's kind of worthless.

Leah: Yeah part of me wonders why Xavier waited so long to ask her to marry him if his motives are 'sincere'. I guess maybe it's that old adage of not knowing what you've got till it's gone but it makes me think he liked have her around and it was good for business and all and now that she's going to uproot herself and leave this is just kind of a last ditch effort. As for Lorena not taking his money, I am inclined to agree with Amy. I feel like Lorena wants to go on this journey and see what's out there in the world and I don't think she's that nervous about this group of men for some reason. I also sense that she didn't quite believe Xavier when he told her that she could just get to SF by boat. However, Jake is her ticket out of town. She's made already made her bargain with the devil so to speak as to that being her way out so she was going to keep it.

Melissa: As sappy as this sounds, I thought this was one of the most emotional passages I’ve read in a long time! The writing gave me hope for the rest of the book! I could honestly feel Xavier’s anguish at the thought of Lorena leaving. But, I couldn’t quite tell if it was a selfish anguish, a lusting anguish, or a true love anguish. My first reaction was, “of course he wants to marry her, he is losing his cash cow!” But later on in our reading, he revisits his thoughts with Gus (or was it Call?), and I really think he loves her. But like what you all said, why didn’t he proclaim his feelings earlier? I still can’t figure Lorena out, or her intentions…I would have bypassed the cattle drive, taken Xavier’s money and his offer and headed to San Francisco. Obviously Jake has something to do with it, but I wonder if she has second thoughts now that she’s stuck caring for his infected finger, his drunken stupor and the impending storm! Can you imagine how smelly they must be at this point?! Blech!

2) We are shown Newt’s inexperience and youth when he asks, “how far is it, up north?” To which Captain Call responds, “it’s a ways farther than you’ve been.” But the reader is privy to Call’s internal thoughts that reflect more directly on Gus:

It struck Call that they should have educated the boy a little better. He seemed to think north was a place, not just a direction. It was another of Gus’s failings – he considered himself a great educator, but yet he rarely told anyone anything they needed to know.
What do think about Call’s assessment of Gus? Any thoughts?

Amy: That's pretty interesting and I think it's a great demonstration of the difference between these two men. Gus is all ideals and high thought and Call is about practicality and knowing what you need to survive. Call seems to have little patience for anything that's not strictly needed whereas Gus DOES have a fondness for classical education, like including Latin on the sign.

Leah: I also think that the reality of the situation is the fact that life out in the West at the time was they just plain didn't have time to teach Newt as much as Gus probably would have liked to. Sure, Gus was sitting around drinking all day but that was because he'd paid his dues as a Ranger so to speak. Newt was still a young man and needed to learn how to be a cowboy which would be far more useful in life than Latin and, well maybe not geography but you get my drift.

Melissa: When I read this statement, I knew I wanted this to be a question – as it struck me as profound – but I wasn’t sure how to answer it myself! I love Gus’s “pontification” on life and his lofty thoughts and ideas, but, in their situation, what good does it do out in the Texas desert? And obviously, as important as he thinks his “education” is, he isn’t doing very well at passing it along to those who need it most.

3) We finally see the flip side of Jake’s story– Ft. Smith, Arkansas – what do you think of July? Roscoe? Elmira? Peach?

Amy: I had no idea we were going to get this glimpse! I feel sorry for July to be honest, thought Roscoe was kind of funny, Elmira a bit annoying--though she gives us a glimpse of a different kind of woman, and Peach...well no clear feelings about her yet!

Leah: I loved this part of the book - another angle! I too felt bad for poor heartsick July! Is there going to be a fun run in with our fair travelers to the North and July will really shoot 'em up? Roscoe was a crack up. Elmira made me sad. She really had no control over her life. She thought she could make herself better by being married but really it didn't do much for her. Loneliness was rampant no matter what kind of life she led. Peach was the town gossip clearly. Every town has to have one of those!

Melissa: Oh Leah, me too! When I flipped to Part II and started reading I thought, “Ok, I can keep going with this!” Poor, pathetic July, how did he get himself in this mess? And Elmira – to bring this full circle, I now know why Lorena didn’t go with Xavier, because she would have ended up just like Elmira. I can’t wait to see if Roscoe finds July and Joe – and I know Elmira will turn up at some point, and I can’t wait to see how McMurtry takes these story lines and works them all together. And it’s like a comedy sketch…can you imagine losing someone you’re are supposed to be keeping an eye on? On a personal note, trust me, next time I’m driving thru Ft. Smith – I’m stopping in the historic district and taking a look around!

Below, from the National Park Service, a picture of the Old U.S. Courthouse and Jail in Fort Smith, circa the late 1800's -- possibly where Roscoe did his whittling? Hmmm....

What are your thoughts from week 3?  Leave your comments and website so I can link you in future discussions.

For other readers' thoughts, check out:
Lilly's Reading Extravaganza

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

October Mother/Daugher Book Club

book jacket

Our group met tonight to discuss our October selection -- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  Unfortunately, neither Daisy daughter nor her mother finished the book.  I have read it before, but it's been years, and my 40 year old brain just didn't remember the details like I thought I would.  Daisy daughter had a hard time getting thru it.  I'm not sure if it was the "science fiction" subject matter or what exactly, but she only made it thru about 5 chapters before giving up.  I had hard time motivating her, since I was a bad literary example.

However, the other girls and mothers that were there loved the book.  One of DD's peers who was the most reluctant to read it, had not quite finished in time for our discussion, but was so worried that we would spoil the ending, she made us promise to not talk about it!  I'm not sure why I thought this would be "above" our girls' heads, but I was mistaken (well, except for mine!).  Our hostess had the CD version of Madeleine L'Engle reading the book and played a portion of the book for the girls.  Wow, she had a great narrating voice.  DD loves listening to audio books, so when I am at the library on Thursday, I'm going to check it out -- hopefully she will be able to finish it by listening instead of reading!

Our next selection is:

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Summary:  As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1980s television game show, "The $20,000 Pyramid," a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.

I'm not sure how successful this book will be with our girls, but I totally underestimated how the girls would react to the above, so I hope I'm pleasantly surprised!  I read it earlier in the year and wasn't overly impressed, but I know I am in the minority, as this has been highly praised. (Hence the medallion award on the cover).

Also, we are talking about reading some nonfiction for our January Mother/Daughter book club (we take December off for the holidays) -- does anyone have any nonfiction suggestions for juvenile readers?  The only thing that comes to mind is biographies. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Fall Festival Recipe Exchange

Thanks to my blogging/read along friend Amy of My Friend Amy for once again hosting the Fall Festival Recipe Exchange.  Last year I submitted pumpkin french toast and pumpkin soup. This year, it is my famous pumpkin vegan chili!  I make this all through the fall and winter, but it is ALWAYS served on Halloween night accompanied by corn bread and orange jello.  You can easily make it carnivorous by using ground beef, but the bulgur gives it a rich, earthy, flavor.

Pumpkin Vegan Chili


1 cup bulgur wheat

2 tsp olive oil

1 cup each chopped onion and red pepper

1 package of chili seasoning of your choice (I use William's chili seasoning)

2 1/2 cups water (or more if necessary)

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes

1 can (15 oz) 100% pure pumpkin

1 medium zucchini, shredded

1 cup frozen corn

1 can (15.5 oz) low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Accompaniments: cheddar cheese, sour cream, jalapenos


1. Prepare bulgur according to package directions. 2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet. Add onion and pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Add chili seasoning; sauté until fragrant. 3. Add 2 1/2 cups water, the tomatoes, pumpkin, zucchini; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.4. Stir in beans, corn and bulgur; heat through. Remove from heat and stir in cilantro.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 11-20

Welcome to week 2 of our Lonesome Dove read along.  Amy of My Friend Amy and Leah of Amused by Books are my cowpokes in this endeavor.

So my individual thoughts on week 2:  As basic as this sounds -- I like it.  Not loving it. Still find it very humorous, but also becoming tedious, like I want to tell Mr. McMurtry, "can we get one with this already??!!"  But I'm trying to be patient and see how it plays out.  

Leah was in charge of this week's discussion, so here it goes:

1. Obviously Texas and Mexico border each other and we've learned that Call and Gus used to be Rangers. Their job was to control the borders. Any Mexican caught stealing horses or cattle on the Texas side was hung or shot, yet they are going down to Mexico to gather their horses and cattle for the drive to Mexico. Newt observes this juxtaposition and so do we? Thoughts?

Leah: I thought it was interesting that this lawlessness was not tolerated in Texas by Call and Gus but they deemed it perfectly acceptable to do the very same thing across the border. Granted, they were getting back some horses and cattle stolen from someone else but they were also getting back others that they didn't know where they came from. How can they deem this so unlawful, yet have no qualms doing it themselves? Granted, I don't know the history behind it and I am not trying to pick some sort of chicken and egg battle between Mexico and Texas because there is way more history there than I can even delve into but I just thought it was interesting that this was touched on in this book.

Melissa: Honestly, I didn’t have any thoughts about this one way or the other while I read it. But, in modern context, it doesn’t seem much different than our current border relations. We aren’t “hanging” what are now “illegal immigrants” as opposed to “Mexicans,” but we want their services (in the book’s case, horses or Bol, the cook) as long as they serve our needs, but are willing to run them back across the border or hang them if they don’t serve our purpose. Not to mention, I think a border “wall” would really cramp Call & Gus’s horse thieving activities!

Amy:  I think it's the interesting two sides of the same coin that always goes with lawmen and criminals, it's all just a bit more obvious here.  Also, protecting one's own property can be a role in one place but they don't have the responsibility or obligation elsewhere.  It's what makes it the Wild West right? :)

2. Call has to go gather men to work on his cattle drive. We get a glimpse into home life in Texas. Some families are eager to give up their eldest sons to have less mouths to feed and some are doing much better. What did you think of these glimpses?

Leah: There were two homes that we saw, one where the father had died and the family didn't even have shoes and only a dirt floor and the other where they had a ton of children yet bountiful amounts of food. I found these glimpses to be fascinating that in the same land some families could be so successful and others could struggle so hard to survive. Is it luck, sheer force of will, or something else that allowed people to prosper?

Melissa: What I found poignant about these scenes, is once again, when there the male figure in the house is absent (in this case, dead), the woman is stereotypically destitute. But at the other household, even though the man is in the home, he is a drunk (not much better than alive!), but this woman is thriving. What is it about a man, in literature, that determines the viability of a woman/family? The first family (sorry, I can’t remember their name and my book is in the car!), she has a brood of kids – and two grown boys that she is willing to send off with Gus and Call – couldn’t they be filling the proverbial shoes the missing father? But it also speaks to life on the frontier where families are miles and miles apart; land and it’s productive value is vastly different; and the inability to look after “one another’s neighbor.”

Amy:  Fascinating observations!  I didn't really think much about these scenes to be honest as I was reading, but I was amused by the line when the mom looked at the boys as if wondering why she'd born them.  I also thought it curious they'd be eager to be rid of the older boys when it seemed they could do more work.  But I guess by going off on the drive they are.

3. Lorena will do anything to get out of Lonesome Dove, even if means being the sole woman on the cattle drive to Montana. Would you have done the same? Thoughts on what might be up ahead for Lorena?

Leah: Bold move, Lorena that's what first comes to mind. I mean, no matter where and when, a bunch of dudes out in the middle of nowhere, things get rough and smelly. You overhear things you should never here, I don't care if you are a whore but yeah, I don't blame her. She's never seen Montana but trust me, I'd rather live there than the way Lonesome Dove sounds. Besides, she's stuck regardless so at least this way, she's doing something about her situation. You gotta respect that.

Melissa: Before I get to Lorena, I must say, all this “guy talk” of “pokes, roots, grunts” whatever adjectives McMurtry uses to designate sex it getting tiring. It’s what we call in our family “potty talk.” I’m just weary of it. At one point, he used the word “poke” 3-4 times on a page! Ugh! And the scene where Jake “pokes” Lorena after cutting horses, and the description of how dirty he is and the dirt/sand in the sheets – it grossed me out so I wanted to take a shower!

Now, to the question: I would do whatever it took to get out of the situation I was in. Period. And traveling with this group, isn’t that far off from the tales of Gen. Hooker’s band of women that followed him and his troops during the Civil War. I’m just wondering if she has to give services to all of her customers? Jake? Gus? Dish?

A final thought…although I am liking the book, it is much more of a chore to read than I thought it would be. I thought I would be swept away with the “grandeur” of it, but McMurtry, to this point, seems to write the same scenes over and over again. I used the word weary earlier, and that’s how I feel, weary.

Amy: I think Lorena is ready for her situation to change. She's been courageous throughout. She was already the only whore in town so she's a bit used to it. I find the sections about Lorena the most interesting, perhaps because she is the lone female character, and the way men feel about her interesting as well, like when Jake compares her to a mountain.

I'm actually enjoying the book much more than I thought I would. Admittedly, I was surprised we read another ten chapters with little action but it's much more amusing that I thought it would be and I'm hoping this careful characterization (such as that long section on how Deets likes the moon) will pay off.
Lonesome Dove

Any thoughts you would like to share?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 1-10

Welcome to our first discussion of Lonesome Dove!  For the remainder of all  900+ pages, Leah, Amy and I will be discussing our thoughts, feelings, opinions of Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer prize winning novel, Lonesome Dove.

Did you start the book? Any thoughts on Gus, Call, Lorena, or any of the others of the Hat Creek Cattle Company?

Here are our thoughts below for week 1:

1) Have you read Lonesome Dove before or watched the movie? If so, why are you interested in revisiting the story? If not, why read it now?

Leah: This is actually in my top five favorite novels of all time so when Melissa first mentioned it me as a possible read along this summer I jumped at the chance as a way to honor it's 25th anniversary. I am not a big re-reader of books. I am not a big keeper of books after I've read them. Yet, I read this book on a camping trip in Idaho in highschool (fitting, no?) and on my shelves this book remained so it was with some excitement that I picked this book up. There are some personal reasons that this book calls out to me this year more than other years but I just loved the story of the Wild West and I think McMurty brings some humor to it like other authors can't. I wanted to see what I thought about it and if my tastes have changed 10 years later.

Melissa: I haven’t read or watched Lonesome Dove before. I picked it up a year or so ago at my local used bookstore after reading a blog post (yay for book bloggers!) that raved about the book. Earlier this year, when Leah and I finished our Wolf Hall read along, we batted around a few titles to chose for another read along, but none of them really excited us. I had read in Entertainment Weekly how this was celebrating the 25th anniversary of its publishing, and when the buzz this summer was all about To Kill a Mockingbird’s 50th anniversary, it seemed appropriate to give Lonesome Dove some recognition too. The only real “epic” I’ve ever read is Gone With The Wind, and as truly American as that book is, this book is equally so, but telling a different side of our history – that of the American west.

Amy: This is my first encounter with Lonesome Dove! It's funny because I read Gone with the Wind earlier this year and so loved getting lost in a huge epic chunkster that I wanted to do another readalong and experience it all again and that's how I thought of Lonesome Dove. A few of my blogging friends had mentioned how good it was.

2) The beginning feels like a strong set-up of character. Are you particularly drawn to any of the characters and their story?

Leah: It's hard not to be drawn into the story, at least I think so, because all of these cowboys kind of bring a smile to your face. For me, particularly the interplay between Call and Gus. Gus is so talkative and Call is so quiet. You can just see those two living out in the middle of nowhere in Texas, driving each other crazy. You also want to root for Newt. The youngest of the cowboys, Newt is now orphaned and taken in by the Hat Creek outfit and wants nothing more than to me treated like an equal. Even his name makes you think he's tiny!

Melissa: I think the beginning of an epic is the hardest to get under your belt, because there are SO many characters that are introduced. Fortunately, Mr. McMurtry has given us a manageable assortment to identify with. Honestly, Call and Gus remind me of an old married couple. And in reality, they’ve been together much longer than most couples! And the rest of the gang is like a sorority house – they are like a group of chatty, gossipy, women. Of course, it’s hard not to empathize with Lorena. Dang it if doesn’t aggravate me to read that the only option for a woman during that time is that of a whore. In many ways, it’s too predictable and clichéd. But I’m hoping the author has a course for Lorena that I’m not expecting. I’m also really curious about Jake Spoon – the mysterious, long-forgotten friend, who appears on horseback with Deets. I also like the side story about his brush with the law in Ft. Smith Arkansas after accidentally shooting the dentist – since I am a transplanted Arkansan, after all.  Oh, and the Clara/Gus/Call love triangle – can’t wait to see what happens!

Amy: I thought the same thing about Gus and Call being like an old married couple and was also frustrated that our lone female character is a whore! I do feel affection for all the characters so far, I am naturally quite interested in Lorena's story but also Newt, being the boy needing to prove himself!

3) What do you like best or feel is strong in the story so far?

Leah: There are a couple of aspects I'm enjoying. For a Western, the dialogue is really making me smile. All of the men out there in the West, you wouldn't think it would be particularly funny, but it really is. Particularly the chapter about Gus making the sign for their business. McMurty is also building the sense of the sweeping adventure they will be going on, driving their cattle to Montana. You can tell it's going to be a life altering journey and I am excited to go on the ride with them.

Melissa: I have to echo Leah – I loved the sign writing scene! I really wasn’t expecting humor from this book. Did any of you look up the Latin phrase???  Now that I realize this Quixote-like quest for Montana is what will keep us entertained and engaged for the rest of the book – I’m eager to jump on my horse and follow!

Amy: I completely agree about how delightful the writing is! It's funny and perceptive and I've already found myself jotting down several quotes or adding them to my tumblr account! :) I have do admit I didn't expect that and was kind of worried about how the book would be...I even fell asleep and dreamed about these characters!

You still have time to join the read along! We'd love to have you!
Lonesome Dove

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Review -- The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.

The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. (Josephine Bonaparte, #1)The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Josephine Bonaparte began life as Rose Tascher, who was raised on the French colonial islands. We follow her life thru an arranged marriage to a cousin, several voyages back and forth from France to Martinique, the birth of her children, her fight for the revolution, her imprisonment and nearly her beheading. After her release, she creates a life among the politically powerful to whom she provides underground information. She is then introduced to Napoleon, a strange Corsican, with lofty dreams and aspirations.

In the first of a series of three historical biographies, Sandra Gulland brings to life this often forgotten woman of history, outside of her role as Napoleon’s wife. I knew NOTHING of Josephine’s background or her struggles before meeting and marrying Napoleon. The first person narrative is fresh and enlightened. Her descriptions of sea voyages, Royalist France, prison conditions and post revolutionary France are impressive. It’s hard to discern what is fact and what is fiction, but if her research is as impressive as her writing, I would think there was very little was left to embellish to create her story.

My only complaint, unlike the title, this is a biography of Rose, not Josephine. Knowing very little about the book (or series) I was expecting the story of Josephine and Napoleon. That comprises at the very least, the last half dozen pages or so of the book – and the subsequent two novels. As much as I enjoyed learning about Rose, my intent in reading this was to learn about Josephine, the Empress.

Also, because of my schedule, I had put this book down in the middle of it for about 10 days – and when I picked it back up, I had a hard time remembering ALL the characters and their relationship to Rose – Desiree, Marie, Lucie, and every revolutionary figure in her circle. I don’t think it really detracted from the story, but it was confusing for me nonetheless.

This is a beautiful story of a triumphant woman who fulfills her destiny.

For a pictorial collage on Josephine, view the attached video:

Book source:  personal copy

This was one of my original selections for the Women Unbound reading challenge.

View all my reviews

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Day the Bishop Dropped a Bomb

(Originally posted at Mormon Mommy Wars)

Last Sunday was a typical Relief Society meeting – announcements, opening song, opening prayer, 4th Sunday TFOT lesson – until the bishop walked thru the door.

He had an announcement: After being counseled by the legal department in Salt Lake and the local Stake presidency, he was here to inform us that recently baptized members, Bro & Sis. John Doe, were in fact Bro. & Sis. John Smith – and that Bro. Smith was a registered sex offender in the state of X but had failed to register in the state of Y, and that he was baptized using an alias.

Water dripping. Crickets chirping. Dead silence.

Registered sex offender. In the ward. Oh my gosh.

The bishop continued: After much suspicion, they were finally able to determine who Mr. Doe was, and because he had failed to register according to his probation, he had been arrested and was now waiting in jail to be arraigned. Additionally, the bishop said, he wanted the adult congregation to know that both Bro. & Sis. Doe, now Smith, had at various times over the year and a half of their membership been asked to babysit during Stake Family Firesides, meetings formerly known as Enrichment, and in individual homes.

Babysitting? Our children? Fear, panic, squirming, and uneasiness begin.

The bishop wasn’t done: He said, in full disclosure, that he had also learned that Bro. Doe/Smith was also Facebook friends with several youth in the ward and that his original felony occurred with an 11 year old girl. (Which can be found on the X state’s sex offender website).

Is this going to end?

The bishop concluded that, to his knowledge, there had NOT been ANY incidents in the ward involving children/youth and Bro. Doe/Smith, nor did he believe any would be forthcoming. He also counseled that Sis. Doe/Smith, although aware they were using an alias was told by her husband it was for other reasons, and that she needed to be embraced and befriended.

He then asked for questions.

My first reaction was the say, “Whew! I guess my pathetic attendance habits at church functions have paid off big time.” Or, “So glad my husband keeps the kids at home when I come to an activity!” But then I looked around at all the women who have brought their kids to church to be cared for in “nursery” while they attended an activity. Holy Crap.

I also learned on Sunday that you don’t have to prove who you are to be baptized or produce and ID. I suppose even if you did, it wouldn’t warrant a back ground check.

So, what do you ask your bishop once he tells you there is a registered sex offender in your ward? How do you react? Do you start looking at everyone suspiciously? What do you do to safeguard your kids at church? How do you keep from immediately judging?

Glad it is General Conference this Sunday so I don’t have to worry about the bishop interrupting Relief Society.