Tuesday, November 30, 2010

2011 Challenge!

Thanks to Helen at Helen's Book Blog -- I've found my 2011 Book Challenge:

What's in a Name Challenge
sponsored by Beth Fish Reads

Here's How It Works

Between January 1 and December 31, 2011, read one book in each of the following categories:
A book with a number in the title: First to Die, Seven Up, Thirteen Reasons Why

A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: Diamond Ruby, Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Opal Deception

A book with a size in the title: Wide Sargasso Sea, Small Wars, Little Bee

A book with travel or movement in the title: Dead Witch Walking, Crawling with Zombies, Time Traveler's Wife

A book with evil in the title: Bad Marie, Fallen, Wicked Lovely

A book with a life stage in the title: No Country for Old Men, Brideshead Revisited, Bog Child

The book titles are just suggestions, you can read whatever book you want to fit the category.

This appealed to me for multiple reasons:
  1. There are only 6 books.  As I've stated before, Challenges are a blessing and a curse -- I like the opportunity to read books I may not have picked otherwise and the "accomplishment" of completing a challenge -- BUT -- I hate having too many where I don't finish.
  2. I liked the categories.  With the exception of GEM or JEWELRY, I was able to find titles on my shelf that fit the requirements.
My own criteria for this challenge was the books either had to be on my shelves (an ode to Clear Your Shelves Challenge) or on my Goodreads list.  With the exception of the GEM or JEWELRY category, I was able to satisfy my personal requirements.

Here is my list:

Book with a numberNineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult (also a book club choice)
Book with a gem/jewelryDiamond Ruby by Joseph Wallace
Book with sizeThe Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
Book with travel/movementShadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (also a book club choice)
Book with evil: The Devil's Company by David Liss
Book with life stageAn Old Fashioned Girl by Louisa May Alcott 

I am looking forward to this challenge!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to:


she was the winner of
True Grit by Charles Portis!

(winning number was generated by Random.org)

True Random Number Generator  Result: 15 Powered by RANDOM.ORG

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Final Day to enter the Gratitude Giveaway!

Don't miss out -- this is the last day to enter my giveaway for a copy of the classic western, and soon to be  Coen Brothers movie -- True Grit by Arkansas native Charles Portis!

True Grit by Charles Portis: Book Cover

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

May you enjoy the blessings of your family this Thanksgiving weekend and be ever mindful of the bounty that we have been given and for which we should be eternally grateful. 

I also wish you many hours of post-Turkey Thanksgiving football -- and my final words:


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 71-80

We are in the final stretch of Lonesome Dove and I must say, the last half of the book soared for me. I'm glad I persevered and continued reading because I really have enjoyed it!

This week we learned Jake's fate (wow!), met Clara, and July and Elmira finally reunite -- not happily I might add. 

With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching and several days off, I'm almost certain I will finish it this week.  I'm eager to find out what happens to the Hat Creek gang!  I was following a thread on Goodreads and someone mentioned "tears" being shed.  Oh my -- I can't imagine!  I will still follow our reading/posting schedule, but I can't hold back the ending chapters any longer!

Leah wrote the questions for this week -- here are our responses:

1. Jake Spoon has fallen in with the Suggs' brothers, a band of murderers and horse thieves. They leave a trail of misery in their wake. What do you think of the final outcome? Were you surprised by the ending of Jake? Did you think Call and Gus would do it?

Leah: Honestly someone had to stop them. The Suggs' were gruesome. The fact that Jake wasn't man enough to do anything makes him an accomplice and by default, guilty. Dealing with friends that have fallen from grace, I can't even imagine what Gus and Call were feeling towards Jake. I know Gus had no respect for Jake after the way he responded to Lorie's kidnapping. Newt's the one I really feel bad for though. He's young and he idolized Jake. Watching your idols fall is a hard lesson to learn. However, do I feel that Jake got what he deserved? Yep.

Melissa: Holy Cow! Death at the hands of your “friends!” I was shocked – but now that I’ve had a chance to think about it – it makes perfect literary sense. Another brilliantly written scene by McMurtry. And I loved how Jake was the one who kicked the horse that ended his life. Oh, and when Gus mentions Lorena, and Jake responds with, “Who?” I let out an audible GASP! How dare he! I wish they could have hung him twice.

Amy: I was really surprised and didn't expect this at all, but I found it perfect. Life was just so rough! I felt like these scenes illustrated that so well..Dan Suggs was a complete psychopath, as well. Jake's ending was unfortunate but even more unfortunate was the fact that he never seemed to make any really important wise decisions for himself.

2. We learn about Clara's life after Gus. Do you think she is happy with the life she has chosen?

Leah: It's hard to know. Obviously she loves her family and she chose the husband she did for a reason. Nobody can know the full insides of a marriage. However, life on the plains in the 1800s was difficult for women. Research has shown their tendency to go insane is pretty full on because they were alone so often and death of their children was rampant and this was touched on. Claire could have chosen an easier life for herself but she didn't.

Melissa: Happy – I don’t think there is such thing as happy on the plains. There is endurance, hardship, stamina, drudgery – but happy doesn’t seem to exist. But life with Gus wouldn’t have been any better – just different. I can’t imagine surviving her life – burying 3 children, raising two girls, nursing a brain-dead husband, running a business – all without a microwave. She’s got my vote for woman of the year.

Amy: I think Clara is kind of fascinating and I really enjoyed her backstory of life on the plains. What happened to Bob was horrific as well as the loss of her children, but at least she had Cholo! I think it's sad to think of what life was like then for the women and families. Didn't Natalie Merchant write a song about this? :)

3. Elmira leaves her second born son with Clara shortly after giving birth to him, leaves July for a second time, and doesn't even bat an eye when she learns about the death of Joe. How do you feel about Elmira now?

Leah: I'm going to keep this one short - whatever respect or sympathy I may have had for Elmira's situation up until now is gone after these chapters. She left her baby and didn't care about the death of her other son. July shouldn't have come after her, I get that. But she doesn't care about her kids. Peace out Elmira.

Melissa: I’m now done with Elmira too. What a selfish *&^%$. Adios Elmira – hope those Sioux treat you well. But these scenes magnify how bleak July’s journey turned out – he went in search of Jake, who is now hanging from a tree, and lost Roscoe, Joe, Janey, and Elmira (again) in the process. He needs to get it thru his head that “she’s just not that into you.” I wish he’d grow a pair, because I’m beginning to lose sympathy for him as well.

Amy: I don't like her at all. I don't even understand her. I do feel like if July had shown some...other feelings towards her she might have been more interested, but his predictable faithfulness bores her and turns her off. I also couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for Zwey and wish he'd send her off on her own. I think they will meet an unfortunate end.

What are your thoughts on this week's chapters?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Women Unbound Reading Challenge -- COMPLETED!

With the completion of Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, I am officially DONE with the Women Unbound Reading Challenge

There is a caveat to my statement...although I had an original reading list, I must admit that it changed over the course of the year as new books were released.  I was also tempted by offerings at the library.

My original selections for the Suffragette level (5 fiction, 3 non-fiction) were:

West with the Night, by Beryl Markham
Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks
Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History, by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton, by Jane Smiley
A Woman of Independent Means, by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey
The Seamstress of Hollywood Boulevard, by Erin McGraw
A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert

My FINISHED reading list was:

Nine Parts of Desire, by Geraldine Brooks
A Thousand Sisters by Lisa Shannon
Wildflower by Mark Seal

Sugar by Bernice McFadden
Glorious by Bernice McFadden
My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

This was a great challenge -- I would gladly do it again if it is offered next year!

I plan on committing to ONE challenge next year -- any suggestions?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Death of an Author

Norris Church Mailer died Sunday after a lengthy battle with gastrointestinal cancer.

I met her earlier this year when she was doing a reading and book signing at a local bookseller.  She was promoting her latest (and last, I suppose) book, A Ticket to the Circus, which chronicled her life with her late husband, literary giant Norman Mailer.

Cover Image

I had this sub par picture taken of the two of us during that event -- I'm still ticked at the woman who offered to take the picture for not being a better photographer! (Just kidding).

Norris (born, Barbara Jean Davis) was originally from Russellville, Arkansas.

In addition to her memoir, she also wrote:

Cheap Diamonds

Cover Image
Cover Image
Regrettably, I still haven't read A Ticket to the Circus

November Book Group -- Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Loving Frank

Loving Frank by Nancy Horan

Personal rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Book source: Personal copy

Book Challenge:  Women Unbound (8 of 8)

November is the last month of the year for our book club meeting – we take December off for the holidays and regroup in January. We usually have a “feast” where we splurge on our post discussion treats – but I was forgetful this week and forgot to take the butter out to soften for my chocolate cranberry bars, so I had to bake “pre made” cookies instead. They were awful. Luckily the other members took it more seriously and we had a lovely spread of salads, cakes and confections.

Our final book of 2010 was Loving Frank by Nancy Horan, a fictional account of the relationship between Mamah Borthwick Cheney and legendary architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. After Mamah and her husband Ed commission FLW to design and build their home, Mamah and FLW begin a lurid affair that scandalizes their Chicago neighborhood community. Mamah ultimately leaves her husband and children and travels with FLW to Europe for a period of nearly two years. When they return, FLW builds a hideaway for them in Wisconsin – Taliesin – where they retreat from the vengeful eyes of the press and their respective families, but at Taliesin, they do not live happily ever after.

This was an emotionally conflicting book. On one hand you have a woman who seems completely content with her role as mother and wife. She is highly educated and is able to express her thoughts and intellect with others via her social clubs…which seemed appropriate for the turn of the century. On the other hand, you have a woman who has completely abandoned her family, absconded with her lover to Europe and continues an internal debate with herself throughout the entire novel as to whether or not she has done the right thing.

I wanted to cheer Mamah for her “independent – feminist spirit” – but the whole time my gut kept telling me how wrong it was for her to leave the way she did, and to forsake her children altogether. I certainly have bad days, and think I would like to take a long break from motherhood (cabin for a week with lots of books and food) but to leave her kids for TWO YEARS when they are but 3 and 7 – was abhorrent to me! As Lucy from Life is a spasm who flow said in her review, “is a selfish act ever the BEST act?”

In spite of all the inconsistent feelings I had towards her – I really did enjoy this book. I thought it did a great job at giving life to a relationship that has been lost to history. I loved learning about FLW’s early years as an architect. It seemed that Ms. Horan’s research was thorough and well done. And for a book group discussion, it provided LOTS of interesting discussion topics. The majority of those who were there, thought Mamah was selfish and unredeemable. But we also had harsh words for FLW who left his wife and 6 children in the process and couldn’t seem to manage his business life very well.

This was a fun book to research – I obtained from the library some of the massive picture books that contain the works of FLW. It was great to look at the places described – the Cheney home (which is now a B&B), FLW’s studio and Taliesin – while engaged in our discussion.

Ultimately, Loving Frank is a great book group discussion about a couple who made choices that had long term, disastrous, domino affects on themselves and nearly everyone around them.

For a great perspective from the author, check out this related video:

Our book club reading choices for 2011 are as follows:

January: True Grit by Charles Portis
February: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell
March: Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
April: Here on Earth by Alice Hoffman
May: The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent (previously read)
June: The Moonflower Vine by Jetta Carlson (previously read)
July: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult
August: The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls (previously read)
September: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
October: The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman (previously read)
November: The Help by Kathryn Stockett (previously read)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What to do when checking out library books for a New York Times Bestselling Author

  1. You figure out how not to make a fool of yourself once you see their name pop up on their library account.
  2. You chat briefly about one of the juvenile books he has selected -- not his own of course -- but luckily one you've read and enjoyed.
  3. You decide, "So do I acknowledge his work? Or do I pretend not to know him?"
  4. All of the above, some of the above, none of the above
Having not served a New York Times bestselling author before while working the circulation desk, I was faced with all of the above questions, and I'm here report that I failed miserably! Except for #2.  I was able to chat briefly about one of his selections, but other than that, my tongue fell out of my head.

In addition to several picture books, he had a copy of Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett, which I read two summers ago when my husband and I spent an extended weekend in Chicago for our anniversary. It was a delightful book and I was, at the very least, able to communicate that to him.  In my head I wanted to say, "Oh, I love your work!" but couldn't because although I have all three of his books on my shelf, and my boys are listening to one of them on audio, I haven't acutally READ any of them.  Then I was going to say, "Thank you so much for donating to our silent auction last year, it was a thrill to receive your donated signed book!" but again, I thought I sounded rather like a bumbling idiot. So instead, I chose the do not say anything option, wished him a good day, and handed him his due date receipt. 

Oh, who was at the library yesterday? None other than Trenton Lee Stewart -- the author of this:

and this:
and this:
Remind me to have a script prepared next time!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gratitude Giveaway!

At this time of year it only seems appropriate to offer my thanks to those who read and comment on my blog.  I am a small paperback compared to the Tolstoy's of book blogging...but I have loved every post, thought, and review that I have contributed over the past 18 months -- and am even more thankful for those who have offered their comments!  Every book I open is a potential new friend...some I have loved, some, not so much...but I am a more well rounded person for having perused their pages.

As such, I would like to offer a giveway -- nothing says thank you better than schwag!  I am an adopted Arkansan, and throughout my blog, I've tried to highlight the wonderful things about this state.  It would only make sense that my giveaway be written by an Arkansas author.  This is a timeless classic, and soon to be Coen Brothers movie!

True Grit

Summary from B&N:  Charles Portis has long been acclaimed as one of America's foremost writers. True Grit, his most famous novel, was first published in 1968, and became the basis for the movie starring John Wayne. True Grit tells the story of Mattie Ross, who is just fourteen years of age when a coward going by the name of Tom Chaney shoots her father down in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and robs him of his life, his horse, and $150 in cash. Mattie leaves home to avenge her father's blood. With the one-eyed Rooster Cogburn, the meanest available U.S. Marshal, by her side, Mattie pursues the homicide into Indian Territory.  True Grit is eccentric, cool, straight, and unflinching, like Mattie herself. From a writer of true status, this is an American classic through and through.

This Gratitude Giveaway will run from Wednesday, November 17th through Sunday, November 28th at Midnight (CST) and is only available too US and Canadian residents.  The entry is easy enough...you must be a follower or become a follower via GFC on the right sidebar and fill out the attached form. 

Additionally, the following blogs are also participating in the Gratitude Giveaways...this is a great chance to meet new blogging friends and check out their offerings!

Finally, a huge thank you to  Kathy at I Am a Reader, Not a Writer, for sponsoring this thoughtful event.

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 61-70

After last week's overwhelming brutality, the Hat Creek gang encountered more horrible weather, another cowboy death and GRASSHOPPERS!  This is becoming more Odyssean with each chapter!  And, I didn't get the grand reunion I was expecting from Gus and Call -- geesh, at least they could have man hugged or something!

Amy was in charge of this week's questions -- here are our thoughts:

1) Lorena is slowly beginning the process of healing, but she doesn't want to see anyone else and has become quite dependent on Gus. What do you think of this development? Will Lorena succeed in getting Gus to forget about the other woman?

Leah: I found this coping mechanism interesting. God knows how a person would get over something like this and I think Gus would be a calming presence for sure. Sometimes its nice to have someone who can talk that you don't have to talk back to and he did rescue her after all so you know he can protect her when push comes to shove. Will she succeed in winning his heart? I honestly don't think it's the right thing for her even if she thinks it is. However much I think Gus loves Lorena and she loves him, I think she should fulfill her dream of going to San Francisco and I don't think Gus is a city boy.

Melissa: At this point, I don’t think Lorena even has a clue about what she wants or what she is doing. I think she is just trying to hang on to whatever sanity she has, and Gus is the only link to reality left. She probably thinks she loves him, but it’s only because she is so completely and utterly dependent on him. There has to be a psychological name to survivors developing “feelings” or dependence on their rescuers. I am just glad that Gus is so descent…any other man (like Jake!) would take advantage of her vulnerability and probably destroy her permanently.

Amy: I agree. I hope Lorena can find some measure of peace and live the life she has left. I have found her sections to be so sad...I can't even imagine trying to go on after something like that. I hope for good things for Lorena!

2) Jake seems to be the kind of person things just happen to and he seems unable to take responsibility for his own actions. How do you feel about his traveling companions? Do you think he'll be able to get away from them?

Leah: It's hard for me to wrap my head around the fact that Jake isn't a kid. He used to be a Ranger with Call and Gus so he is older. I'm guessing in his 40s maybe. He is old enough to get his sh*t together and stop blaming everyone else and quit chasing tail. I know he's a good foil for the rest of the cowboys but crimeny sakes he's hard for me to take in any dose and I hope he gets what he deserves. Those men are trouble and Jake knows it.

Melissa: I am so done with Jake! I’m with Leah, he acts like he is Newt’s age, when he must be a grown man!? How could he possibly take off with those thugs? I was crushed when their group demolished the farming couple’s sod house…that made me so sad!! And he did NOTHING! Grrrrr…..I do hope he gets what is coming to him, but I not at the expense of anyone in the Hat Creek Gang…in fact, I think Jake needs to run into Blue Duck!

Amy: I agree! Jake is annoying and seems to make bad decision after bad decision. I thought the whole part about Sally was rather shocking and he shot someone and didn't mean to? Really? (he probably did do that girl a favor, though!)

3) Poor July is barely hanging on...what did you think of Jennie? Do you think he'll be able to find Ellie?

Leah: I liked it when July ran into Jennie. I thought it was interesting to learn more about Ellie. I also think Jennie was a lot nicer than Ellie. July, however, needs to stop falling in love with every woman (whore) he meets! I do think he'll find Ellie but I don't think he'll get out of it want he wants.

Melissa: July at least now has perspective on Ellie and her history. I wish he would just turn around and go home. Honestly, I have no idea how these “sporting” women do it – literally!! This is a G rated read along, but there is a discussion somewhere on the physical extremes of this lifestyle. I can’t and don’t even want to try to understand it.

Amy: I will be very curious to see how the reunion goes. I feel bad for Ellie as well, her situation is kind of miserable, too! Melissa, I totally know. It's completely incomprehensible to me.

What are your thoughts after this week's chapters?

Lonesome Dove (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) by Larry McMurtry: Book Cover

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November Mother Daughter Book Club -- When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me

I am starting this post with a retraction.  When I reviewed this book earlier this summer I said, "...who was the audience for this book? Once again, all of the 5 star reviews are primarily from adult, white women -- are the 9-12 year olds (for whom this book is intended), liking it as much at the adult audience? I can’t answer that – because I don’t think they have Goodreads accounts. I do know this book would be over the head of my 9 year old and the majority of our Mother/Daughter book group participants. And when I read juv fiction – that’s who I’m trying to “channel.”

So, here is the truth:  The girls LOVED this book.  Moms too.  And I mean LOVED it.  To the point where they cried over certain scenes.  I am the only one who was on the fence.  I'm beginning to question my ability to accurately judge/review a book!  All of the nuances that I thought would be "over their head" they ate up.  They loved the mysterious notes and their friendship escapades.  Ultimately they loved the "laughing man" and Marcus.  And I'll leave it at that.  Our discussion focused mostly on that issue.  Some were still confused about the relationship, but it was fun to talk it through.

I re-read most of it in preparation for tonight...and knowing my daughter was reading it too, helped me look at it with a different perspective, so, I liked it more than the first go around...but it didn't elicit any emotional tears!  I guess I just wasn't meant to read juvenile fiction!

The whole group was also interested in Ms. Stead's first book, First Light -- has anyone read it?

Because of the holidays, we take a break in December, so our next meeting is in January -- and the girls picked:

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry
The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry: Book Cover

Summary from B&N:
Abandoned by their ill-humored parents to the care of an odious nanny, Tim, the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, and their sister, Jane, attempt to fulfill their roles as good old-fashioned children. Following the models set in lauded tales from "A Christmas Carol" to "Mary Poppins", the four Willoughbys hope to attain their proscribed happy ending too, or at least a satisfyingly maudlin one. However, it is an unquestionably ruthless act that sets in motion the transformations that lead to their salvation and to happy endings for not only the four children, but their nanny, an abandoned baby, a candy magnate, and his long-lost son too. This hilarious and decidedly old-fashioned parody pays playful homage to classic works of children's literature.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mother Daughter Book Club Meets Diary of a Wimpy Kid

I must be a wimpy mother, because I still haven't figured out what all the fuss is over the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.  But when the promotion bus and author are in town on the 2nd day of the national book tour for the release of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Ugly Truth -- you know you better drop everything and GO! 

The Mother Daughter Book Group went in force -- along with several hundred other Arkansans:

They were joined by two of the cutest boys in their class!

Then the main event -- author Jeff Kinney spoke about the genesis of Wimpy, all the years of hard work, and the new movie opening in next spring:

Much to the audience's surprise -- two of the actors from the Wimpy movie joined the fun -- Zach Gordon who plays Greg Heffley and Robert Capron who plays Rowley Jefferson:

The kids were even able to have their photograph taken with them!

Now, I better read them so I know why we spent so much time in line getting our books autographed!

(Keep in mind...I'm a book blogger not a photographer...please excuse my less than stellar photography skills).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 51-60

We completed this week one of the most gruesome, brutal sequences I've read in literature. 

Here are my thoughts: 

The shocking nature of Lorena's beatings, the camp's conditions, Blue Duck's and his men's behavior, totally rattled me.  I was so completely immersed, that when I finished reading and walked outside, I was surprised that I was not in the outcroppings of Indian Territory (they kept referring to the fact that they were North of the Red River, so I am assuming that is where they were).  It took me awhile to shake the feeling -- even to the point I didn't want my kids to play outside for fear that evil was lurking. 

I wrote the questions for this week's discussion -- here are Amy's, Leah's and my thoughts below:

1. Lorena’s situation is hell. How does she endure the suffering? (Or anyone who is put in a position of utter brutality). What are your overall feelings and thoughts about her, Blue Duck, Dog Face, Monkey John and the whole camp scene? Where does such evil come from?

Amy: I also wondered how Lorena survives such suffering. Her situation is the equivalent, I think, of a modern sex slave without the drugs to help her get through. I felt tremendous sympathy for her. This section also really helped me feel what it was like out there..the unpredictable nature of it, what there was to fear. I felt HORRIBLE for Dog Face as well, what an awful terrible way to die simply for trying to bring a little ease into Lorena's situation. I couldn't stop thinking about this all day after I read it.

Leah: This section was incredibly powerful and disturbing to read. I just kept thinking what kind of people can do this to other human beings? I can only guess that it's people who feel at a complete loss of control maybe? Blue Duck and the Kiowas have essentially lost their people, their way of life, culture and their livelihood. They've essentially lost all sense of humanity because it's been taken away from them. Dog Face and Monkey John are white men living with them, I am still unsure why, and while Dog Face seems to be the only one with some sense of humanity I think Monkey John is one of those weak mean who wants to show that he is just as powerful as the other men he is around by being the most brutal with Lorena. As for Lorena, if she wasn't a lost soul before, my God how would you ever recover from something like that? Gus was saying that most women never really did. I can imagine that yes, it would make you completely untrusting, totally paranoid and well, not really want to go on anymore. And yet she has survived so it will be interesting to see what's to come for her.

Melissa: I don’t think I’ve ever read a single passage in literature as cruel or inhumane as this. I was stunned. I’m glad Lorena chose to become mute – her only form of defiance and the only thing she could control. I guess that was her survivability tool. You usually read in survivor stories that the victim has HOPE and that’s what helps them survive…but at that point, I couldn’t even tell if she had any HOPE that Gus would find her? During this scene, I started to think of them as real people – because my first thought, and I know this sounds crazy, was, “what would their mothers think?!” or, “Where did they learn such vile behavior?!” I wanted to do some kind of psychoanalysis on them…but I’m sure Blue Duck saw his family destroyed by white men in similar fashion. Evil breeds evil. It still gives me shivers.

2. The two story lines finally collide when Call meets up with July and his gang – did you have any premonition it would end the way it did? Do you think July is reluctant to set out on his own to find Elmira?

Amy: I was so so so sad it ended the way it did, but I suspected Roscoe might not survive. I was also just really sad Janey didn't survive. She was such a fighter and interesting character. I feel badly for July setting out on his own, knowing what happened to his group, his people. I think the quick way they died after spending chapters letting us get to know them was very effective.

Leah: Oh poor July. He can't seem to catch a break can he. He was finally connected with the rest of his group and then had Gus to help him out and bam, everyone is gone in an instant. Elmira's left him, his friend's are dead. For his sake, I kind of hope he starts fresh in a new town and doesn't keep chasing Elmira but I doubt it.

Melissa: I almost feel guilty for treating this gang of misfits so sarcastically in my previous posts! I loved Roscoe’s bumbling and anticipated his antics throughout the remainder of the book. I SO did not see this coming. I was crushed when they all died – and I really wanted to get to know Janey! In fact, after Gus shows up with July to tend to the bodies and relates how he found them, I had to go back and re-read the previous scene, just to wrap my brain around what happened. If I were July, after being a witness to the carnage, there is NO way I would go anywhere by myself. I’d be much like Lorena and stick to Gus like glue. So many what ifs: If July had stayed home, if Roscoe had stayed and tried being “married”, if Joe had signed on to work for Wilbarger…also, as an afterthought, I do think July would have gotten killed had he stayed behind in the camp.

3. Call is obviously distraught that Gus hasn’t returned, do these emotions surprise you? Do they seem out of character for Call? Do you think he is more worried now that Po Campo has shed light on how bad Blue Duck is?

Amy: I think Call and Gus have a special relationship, the kind forged between two people when they live a lot of life together and see a lot of things. Sure they get on each other's nerves, but they have a kind of deep respect for one another. So it didn't seem out of character to me, Call seems like a man who doesn't really know his own feelings. I do think it would be hard not to be worried after hearing more bad things about Blue Duck!

Leah: I agree with you Amy! I also think Call probably is more of a man's man and maybe he is used to Gus always being around to do the talking for him. They are, for lack of a better term, best friends. Should he have gone with Gus? Probably not because it would have left all of the younger men and cattle in dire straits but should he have let Gus go alone, who is to say. They aren't as young as they used to be and Call already feels guilt for things left undone and unsaid in his past. I don't think he thought this was 'goodbye' when Gus left.

Melissa: I think my original commentary on Gus and Call was to call them an “old married couple” – and I think this really is testament to that statement. I think “old married couples” tend to take for granted their relationship and assume that their partner is always going to be there for them – and when Gus doesn’t return in a timely manner, Call finally has a rude awakening. I really love their dynamic. I also think, and I have no direct basis for this, but I assume that military comrades have much the same relationship – where they are totally dependent on one another, but without being outwardly emotional. I would have thought less of Call if he hadn’t reacted this way. And when Po Campo started telling horror stories – it would have scared the beejeezies out of me and made me worry more! I am assuming, although I haven’t gotten that far, that there is a reunion – I hope I’m not disappointed with their reactions to one another!

If you are reading along...you MUST have thoughts about this section! Please share!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 41-50

My thoughts on this week's chapters:

The last two sections that we discussed were high points for me -- but with this section, I'm back to where I started at the beginning, somewhat ambivalent about their whole journey. I'm finding that Jake's insolence is really beginning to nerve me.  Any scene that he decides to show up in, I'm ready to skip ahead.  It's like dealing with a bratty, spoiled, 4 year old -- but worse.  I do love their new cook and I really like Deets, even thought he isn't a major character.  The cattle drive is slow...I just want them to get out of Texas for crying out loud!  Now we have Indians, and in true Hollywood, John Ford-form, they are scalp carrying, women raping, Indians.  Wonder when Gus will ride in on his white horse to rescue Lorena? 

Here are Leah's, Amy's and my thoughts -- Leah was in charge of this week's questions (and if you visit Leah's blog, make sure you give a shout out to the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series!):

1. We now have the full story of two huge female relationships in our main men's lives: Cal and Maggie; and Gus and Clara. They are very different. What do these relationships tell us about the men they've become, if anything?

Leah: I just found the difference between the way the men treat their 'true loves' very striking. Gus is a hopeless romantic, still pining after Clara years later after she has essentially dumped him for a, at least in her opinion, more sensible man, and moved up North. Gus clearly loves women though and while finding comfort with a couple of wives, the one that got away still haunts him and he truly did try to court her into a relationship. Cal on the other hand was completely different. He basically wanted to 'test the waters' with the whole women thing to see what everyone was talking about. From what I can gather, Maggie was the first and last woman he has ever been with and it has left an indelible mark. While he is a man of few words, he has a son out of it, Newt but he won't even acknowledge that. He must feel bad for how things ended with Maggie, things left unsaid. It was an interesting story.

Amy: I found Call's story so sad! The amount of guilt he carries around with him is rather heartbreaking. I think he liked Maggie, but I wasn't even sure he loved her. But what's interesting is how seriously he takes his failure to properly deal with the situation. 

Gus does love women and you gotta feel for him pining after Clara. :)

Melissa: The more Gus talks to Call about his relationship with Maggie (how he thinks Call should have settled down with her had a family) the more I think he is really trying to project his personal desires onto Call. I think Gus really wanted that with Clara, but it didn’t work out. So, he is trying to impart his dreams onto Call – and unfortunately for Maggie, Call never wanted that. Also, as much as I want to believe that Gus is in “love” with Clara, I think he has created this image of her, because really, what else does he have to do but day dream about her all day long?! As far as Call, I was surprised at how introspective he got about Maggie – do men really have that depth of feeling?! He really did some soul searching out there in the Texas desert.

2. Our old pal Roscoe gets a female traveling companion! Do you think he should have rescued her? Do you think they make a good pair?

Leah: What can I say? Every time we see Roscoe I smile but this story had a dark twist. I really wanted Roscoe to be the hero and jump in and save the woman being beaten by the old man in the house he was sleeping at but he didn't want to get into someone else's domestic dispute. I thought it was weak. I was glad she chased after him anyway and I am excited to see where that goes.

Amy: Roscoe doesn't seem to do much he's not absolutely forced into. I laugh straight through his chapters. Janey didn't need him to do the saving after all, he provided enough of an opportunity for her to save herself. I will be very interested to see where it goes.

Melissa: Honestly, even though I read these chapters fairly quickly and recently, I had already forgotten that Roscoe had picked up a “stray.” I guess I need to re-read that part. But in spite of my brain lapse, I find myself wanting to read more of Roscoe’s story.

3. The cowboys finally meet a Native American while traveling, the famous Blue Duck, who Cal and Gus even know from their Ranger days (and we saw how bad ass Gus and Cal used to be when they Rangered when they wandered into San Antonio for a bit). What do you make of everything that has happened with Blue Duck and Lorena and what do you think will happen when Gus and Blue Duck meet again?

Leah: Talk about some true cowboy and Indian action like the kind old fashion Westerns were about! We have a captured damsel in distress and an old time cowboy hero riding in to save the day from the rogue native, while the scoundrel Jake just sits back and gets drunk and angry. Seriously it's some good action. I predict a shoot out!

Amy: I found what happened horrifying! Poor Lorena! (though I'm sad she couldn't just stay by herself) You're right it feels like the classic Western scene. There better be a shoot-out!

Melissa: See, I told you she should have gone with Xavier! I’m stumped as to why Gus didn’t FORCE her to come to camp with him. He knew exactly the danger she was in. Seemed to go against his character. Her horse back journey was quite terrifying. And when Blue Duck turns her over to his men…wow…even though it was written obliquely, it’s a sickening scene. My only issue with this chapter is it seems so, like you said, “Western.” Is McMurtry feeding/perpetuating a Hollywood cowboy/Indian stereotype? Not sure.

Any thoughts on the reading this week?

Lonesome Dove (Turtleback School & Library Binding Edition) by Larry McMurtry: Book Cover