Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 -- A Book Year in Review

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Another year has come to an end, and a few more books have been read.
This is what I accomplished this year:
  1. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
  2. Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill by Maud Hart Lovelace
  3. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  4. Sugar by Bernice McFadden
  5. Murder at Longbourne by Tracy Kiely
  6. Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, by Maud Hart Lovelace
  7. Skin and other Stories by Roald Dahl
  8. The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
  9. The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister
  10. From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by
  11. Lift by Kelly Corrigan
  12. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  13. The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran
  14. The Secret of the Old Clock (#1 Nancy Drew) by Carolyn Keene
  15. Glorious by Bernice McFadden
  16. The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt
  17. One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
  18. The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
  19. A Matter of Class by Mary Balogh
  20. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  21. My Name is Mary Sutter by Robin Oliveira
  22. Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary Schmidt
  23. Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  24. Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
  25. The Icing on the Cupcake by Jennifer Ross
  26. Embers by Sandor Marai
  27. Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
  28. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  29. Bad Mother by Ayelet Waldman
  30. The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly McNees
  31. Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks
  32. Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas
  33. Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson
  34. The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
  35. A Thousand Sisters by Lisa Shannon
  36. Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
  37. One Day by David Nicholls
  38. Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart
  39. Still Alice by Lisa Genova
  40. The Sweet By and By by Todd Johnson
  41. Wildflower by Mark Seal
  42. The Many Secret Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B. by Sandra Gulland
  43. The Sunflower by Richard Paul Evans
  44. Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor
  45. Loving Frank by Nancy Horan
  46. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  47. Zoo Story by Thomas French
  48. True Grit by Charles Portis
  49. Little Heathens by Mildren Armstrong Kalish
Did Not Finish
Quartet in Autumn by Barbara Pym
Lunch in Paris by Elizabeth Bard
The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis

I must admit, this was not a banner year of great reads, only a few deserve any further mentioning:

My favorites of the year:
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Wednesday Wars by Gary Schmidt (juv fiction)
One Crazy Summer by Rita Willimas Garcia (juv fiction)
Wolf Hall by Hillary Mantel (read along)
Bad Mother by Aylete Waldman
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Wildflower by Mark Seal
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry (read along)
True Grit by Charles Portis (movie was AWESOME too)


I committed to and completed ONE challenge in 2010 -- Women Unbound:

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

I didn't read as many this year as last, and I hold my volunteer position in the PTA personally responsible.  Hopefully, once my service is done next spring, I can increase my reading hours.

Happy New Year everyone -- I hope 2011 is full of many literary accomplishments.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review -- Little Heathens

Product Details
BookLittle Heathens:  (Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression) by Mildred Armstrong Kalish

My rating:  2 out of 5 stars

Book source:  Library copy

Mildred Armstrong Kalish shares her memories of growing up with an extended family on a farm in Iowa during the Great Depression. As one would expect, they depend on each other through good times and bad and make the best of any situation.

I was particularly fond of the stories of her ancestors – those great pioneers that settled “Yankee Grove” and her memories of crawling up on her great grandfather’s lap and hearing stories of their early life.

However, the remainder of the book was a drudgery for me. Reading in staccato narration about polishing silver with baking soda and saving the tail-end of thread did not hold my interest whatsoever. It was also a book that had I been a family member, I would have treasured it immensely, but since I am not, I couldn’t connect at all to her recollections.

This has been a very popular book, and I’m really disappointed that I didn’t enjoy it more, because generally I’m drawn to stories of courage, endurance, and thrift.

Other bloggers have written favorable reviews -- please check out Melissa’s at One Librarian’s Book Reviews.

For a brief audio clip form the memoir, please see below:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Book Review -- True Grit

True Grit

 True Grit by Charles Portis (Arkansas author)

  My rating: 5 of 5 stars

  Book source:  Library copy

  Sensitive reader:  mild descriptions of gun shot wounds, gun fighting and SNAKES!

  Challenge: Support Your Local Authors perpetual challenge

Mattie Ross, a 14 year old dynamo, is out to exact vengeance on one Tom Chaney, a former work hand for her family. Tom has killed her father, and whether she has help or not, she is determined to bring Tom back to Forth Smith and Judge “Hanging” Parker for justice.

Mattie is able to secure for $100 the assistance of a one-eyed Marshall, Rooster Cogburn. Thus they begin their quest into Indian Territory for the renegade Chaney.

Mattie Ross has become my new favorite adolescent heroine – she’s Scout Finch, but rides a horse and carries a revolver. She shoots, squirms, saves herself from snakes and survives to tell her tale.

The other characters are equally as colorful: Rooster is a former felon, turned law-man with a proclivity to drink. Even though I didn’t see the original movie, John Wayne’s image was superimposed on my brain throughout the novel and it was a PERFECT image. The two also meet up with LeBoeuf, a Texas Ranger who is also on the trail of the menacing Chaney. A somewhat bumbling figure, LeBoeuf adds enough variety to their trifecta to make it interesting.

The prose in this book is stark and sharp – and surprisingly funny! I read it in the car on our way to Tulsa, and through ALL the major towns mentioned in the story: Dardanelle, Fort Smith, Fort Gibson Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and I laughed out loud at many of the passages. Mattie when describing her opinion of men said, “Men will live like Billy goats if they are let alone.” True Mattie, so very true.

I couldn’t help comparing this book to Lonesome Dove since I read them so closely to each other. Honestly, I could see where McMurtry could have been “influenced” by Charles Portis’ work. In fact, I was expecting Gus and Call to meet up with Rooster, Mattie and LeBoeuf at any of the many outposts where they stopped. But I was amazed at what Portis was able to accomplish in a sparse 200+ pages compared to what McMurtry was able to drag on for 900 pages.

In short, I loved this book.

And Mr. Portis lives a few blocks from my house – you think if I go camp out on his porch he would sign a book for me?!

I'm off to see the movie tonight (had to read the book BEFORE the movie). I hope it meets expectations!

Here is the movie trailer:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Cherry-Walnut Crumb Cake Recipe - Christmas Brunch Recipes

Cherry-Walnut Crumb Cake Recipe

I made this for Christmas Eve was delicious!  And a perfect treat for breakfast tomorrow!

Cherry-Walnut Crumb Cake Recipe By Woman's Day Kitchen from Woman's Day

Active Time: 15 minutesTotal Time: 1 hour Recipe Ingredients

Cooking spray, for the pan

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

6 Tbsp butter, melted

1 cup walnuts, chopped

3/4 cup dried cherries, chopped

1⁄4 cup canola oil

1⁄4 cup water

3 large eggs

1 cup reduced-fat sour cream

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 box (18.25 oz) yellow cake mix

Recipe Preparation

1. Heat oven to 375ºF. Spray a 10-in. tube pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Add the butter and stir with a fork until crumbly; fold in the walnuts. Transfer half of the mixture to a small bowl and fold in the cherries.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, water, eggs, sour cream and vanilla. Add the dry cake mix and stir until fully incorporated.

4. Spread half the cake batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the cherry mixture. Top with the remaining batter and sprinkle with the walnut mixture. Bake until a wooden pick inserted in the cake comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 25 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make-Ahead Tip: Store the cake at room temperature for up to 2 days.

Merry Christmas!

Have a peaceful and joyous holiday -- see you back in a few days!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop WINNER!


Benita who said:
I've not yet been to Ireland, but I'd love to go soon.
True Random Number Generator

Min: 1
Max: 67
Result: 31
Powered by RANDOM.ORG
(if selected winner does not respond within 24 hours of being contacted, another winner will be selected).

Thank you to all who entered to win -- and for following my blog.  I hope you come back soon!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop!

It's giveaway time again!  Thanks to Kathy at I am a Reader not a Writer, for getting us all in the holiday spirit!

This is a quick giveaway -- just a brief 48 hours of fun -- and it leaves you with enough time to finish up any leftover holiday shopping!  Giveaway will close at 11:59pm CST on Wednesday, December 22nd and is good for US/Canada participants.

For my holiday offering, I have one hardback copy of:

An Irish Country Christmas by Patrick Taylor

Summary from Publishers Weekly:
Taylor's delightful holiday update to the Irish Country series returns to Ballybucklebo, where Dr. Fingal O'Reilly and junior partner Barry Laverty are still practicing their humorous brand of country medicine. As Christmas draws closer, the two men contend with a variety of comical village ailments and the usual array of Ballybucklebo characters, as well as romantic troubles. O'Reilly is trying to decide if he will allow himself to love again with the vivacious Kitty O'Halloran, and Laverty is distraught because his girlfriend can't seem to make it home for the holidays. Then a new doctor comes to town and causes a ruckus by poaching their patients and prescribing ludicrous cures. This has all the charm of Taylor's previous books and adds Christmas warmth without sacrificing credibility.

To enter the giveaway you must either be a follower or become a follower via GFC on the right sidebar, fill out the attached form AND answer the following in the comments section:  Have you been to Ireland?

To continue the holiday cheer, check out the many other blogs participating in the Midwinter's Eve Hop!

May your holidays be joyous and your stockings be filled with all things literary!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Birthday Book Bling!

Nothing says Happy Birthday like a stack full of books and a gift card!

The Wolves of Andover: A Novel

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Unfortunately, to off set the glee of a few hardbacks, I have to TREAT myself to 4 new tires for my car.  Definitely a birthday downer.

The kids are celebrating their first day of Christmas break, I think I will celebrate by reading all day.

Have a great day everyone, I know I will (except for the tires, of course). 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Review -- Zoo Story

Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives

BookZoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives by Thomas French

My rating:  3.5 out of 5 stars ««« ½

Book source:  Public library

For the sensitive reader:  OK

For someone who isn’t much of an animal lover, I have quite an affinity for animal/zoo-genre books. Some of my favorites:

The Zookeeper’s Wife
Life of Pi
Babylon's Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo
The Lady and the Panda

My latest venture into the world of wild animals is Zoo Story: Life in the Garden of Captives, by Thomas French. Mr. French follows the daily grind of zookeepers, management, patrons, and primarily the animals, at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo.

We are introduced to Herman, an alpha Chimp, who was the first Lowry Park inhabitant; Enshalla, a Sumatran tiger whose beauty and ferocity is both feared and prized; and 4 African elephants that Lowry Park has had directly shipped to Florida from a reserve in Swaziland. Overseeing this menagerie is Lex Salisbury, the executive director, who is trying to marry three converging efforts: Conservation, increased animal population and a non-profit status.

There was nothing particularly extraordinary about this book. It did a nice job of exploring the day to day activities that zookeepers face when caring for a collection of animals. It also intimately tells the stories of how many of these keepers develop a direct love for those animals that are in their care. Particularly poignant are the stories of Herman and Enshalla.

The least liked part of the book was the political drama set forth by Lex Salisbury’s actions. A powerful animal advocate, Lex’s day to day administration of the Zoo leads to disaster, for both animal and human alike.

Ultimately, this book gives an objective look at the life of zoos. We as humans are decimating many animals’ natural habitat, making zoos necessary. Zoos are also leading the way to rehabilitating certain species for their release back into the “wild.” In the end I suppose, we all wish zoos weren’t necessary, but if current conditions continue, they may be the last place we see many of the earth’s current species.

From the publisher:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quote of the Day

From Bobby Roberts, Director of the Central Arkansas Library System -- and ultimately, my boss!

"Books have a lot going for them as a commodity.  Anybody can operate them.  You don't need batteries.  I've never had a book that would not start."

Wise words!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review -- Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove
BookLonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry

My rating:  4.5 out of 5 stars

Book source:  Personal copy

Summary from the publisherA love story and an epic of the frontier, Lonesome Dove is the grandest novel ever written about the last, defiant wilderness of America. Richly authentic, beautifully written, Lonesome Dove is a book to make readers laugh, weep, dream and remember.

It’s almost impossible to review a book I’ve spent 9 weeks analyzing, exploring, and dissecting every scene, character and locale.

So, I will keep it brief: I loved it! It took me nearly 300 pages (all of Part 1) to find my grove with this book. The Hat Creek gang spent more hours getting out of Texas than they did at any other location. I lost patience with all of them. Plus, the ongoing talk of “sporting” women (code name for whores) was burdensome and tiring. Without our ongoing read along – I would have easily given up on this book. But once Part II began with the introduction of an entirely new set of characters, the whole novel exploded with energy, humor, drama, and tragedy.

McMurtry’s characters were some of the most memorable I’ve read in a long time. I will go to my grave with a crush on Gus McCrae. In addition to his “human” characters – McMurtry is brilliant in making the horses (Hell Bitch, in particular), pigs and cattle as integral to the story as the cowboys and Indians.

The only reason I didn’t rate this book a 5 star was, not only did I find it arduous in the beginning, but I thought the ending was rushed. The cowboys took nearly 800 pages to make their cross-country trek, but when one of them had to return, it only took 100 pages. A little too expedited and neatly tied up for me.

But it was a grand, wonderful novel, full of amazing dialogue, distinctively written characters, and a scope beyond anything I’ve ever read before.

Up next: The miniseries!! I have it on hold at the library – can’t wait for it to arrive.

Check out the trailer – just the few scenes that are represented seem true to the novel.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove FINAL!

I can't believe it's over!  After 900 pages and innumerable cattle miles, the Hat Creek Gang (or what's left of it) has come to the end of the road -- and so have Leah, Amy and I.

It's been a great trek -- and as much as I loved the book -- it wouldn't have been the same without this discussion thread. 

Here are our final thoughts on Lonesome Dove:

1) When Gus set out with only Pea Eye did you have a sense that something would go wrong? Were you surprised by what happened or the way in which Gus died?

Leah: Well, I am not sure how to answer this one since this was one of the things I remembered from my first read. So yep. I knew Gus would die. However, re-reading I still hoped against hope that somehow it would all come out differently this time and he would survive! I guess, in a way, it does seem sort of a fitting death. He spent his life fighting Indians. It seems like he was always chasing danger so it would have caught him at some point and he did live a long life. I loved that McMurtry let us spend some time with Gus at the end getting to know his last wishes.

Amy: were spoiled. It was a pretty awful death. Ugh, I hate amputations of the limbs in books. but I can seriously understand preferring to die than to have no legs, especially after a life like Gus's.

Melissa: After Deets died, I knew something was going to happen to someone…I was hoping it wouldn’t be Gus. And, yes, I was surprised by the way it happened. But like Leah said, it seemed appropriate that he would die by an Indian’s arrow. I must have been very naïve though, because even as his other leg was turning green and then black, I really thought he was going to pull through. I just couldn’t imagine the book without him. Or him not going back to Nebraska to be with Clara and Lorena. It made me that much more angry with Call.

2) Call seems to be in a deep sort of grief, not only over Gus's death but what he perceives as his own failure. Were you surprised by how down he was? Disappointed he couldn't communicate better with Newt?

Leah: I was surprised by how down Call was. Call has lost his best friend, his life’s companion. He spent the majority of his adult life with Gus by his side and now he is gone. A part of his will never be the same. Clearly the ranch on Montana is a success and he should be proud of that and they knew going into that there would be some deaths but sadly, I think for Call it’s about the get and not about the end result so he’s restless once again. I don’t know if I am disappointed about the way he communicated with Newt. A part of me felt Call is the epitome of the strong, silent type and for him to have suddenly gotten all sappy would have been weird. He gave him Newt all the things that meant the most to him and I think that conveyed all Call could say.

Amy: I agree, but also think that there was some truth that giving Newt his name would have meant more to Newt in every way. But I guess you can't just expect sudden change!

Melissa: I have no sympathy for Call. He deserves every bit of grief he is experiencing and then some. He failed his team, he failed Gus and he failed Newt. He was selfish and unrepentant when he decided to make this journey. And when things started turning sour, he should have had the guts to “cut his losses” and turn back or at least stop and rethink things. As much as he was trying to fulfill his promise to Gus to bury him in “Clara’s Meadow”, I also think he was selfishly trying to ease his conscience. As far as Newt, again, I think it was selfish on his part. I don’t buy the strong silent type…he had honor throughout all of his other actions as a Ranger – the most honorable thing he could have done, without being sappy, was to acknowledge Newt as his son.

3) What did you think of the ending? Do you feel it was a good stopping point for the story of Lonesome Dove?

Leah: How do you wrap up an epic? I liked that it ended in Lonesome Dove. It seemed like it might not but Call going back was fitting. A book by that name should start and end there. That was really their home.

Amy: I agree! Good point.

Melissa: Considering I spent the last 100 pages in tears, yes, the ending worked. But, it’s not without fault: Considering it took them 800 pages to make the journey to Montana, and only 100 pages for Call to return to Texas was a bit expedited. Also, as much as I wanted to know what happened to Blue Duck, the fact that that story line was so “tidy” with Call making his was to New Mexico, and Blue Duck being in prison ready to be hanged – that worked out way too easy. But I loved the fact that Bolivar was at the ranch ringing the bell – and that Wanz burned the saloon. I thought that was perfect.

Overall Questions

1) Several threads are left quite open and we can imagine what happens to our beloved characters. Do you think Newt survives alone? What do you think happens to Lorena? July? Clara?

Leah: Well we could always read the “Streets of Loredo” and find out :) but I like to think that yes Newt does survive and thrive as boss of the Montana ranch. Call said he was a boss at Newt’s age so I think that it was fitting for Newt to be so as well. Clara clearly is made of strong stock so she’ll be fine. I think Lorena still needs time to heal but hopefully she’ll find companionship and July, man I don’t know about him. Honestly he needs to get over his puppy love stage!

Amy: I was surprised when I read the synopsis of Streets of Laredo by what happens to some of them. I think that I prefer in a way to just leave the story as is and not read the sequel...imagining that Newt thrives, Call finds a new adventure, Clara raises Martin to healthy adulthood, and Lorena becomes the Clara of Montana. :)

Melissa: I agree with Amy – I have a hard time trying to project futures for these characters. Because whatever happened, I’m sure I would be disappointed. If for no other reason than Gus isn’t involved. I can’t imagine reading a sequel without Gus. But, I didn’t know there was a sequel – so it my get the best of my curiosity. Leah, have you read it?

2) How was the book different than you thought it would be when you first started? Did it live up to your expectations?

Leah: Having this be a re-read for me, personally I thought it was even better the second time. Reading it with you two I was really able to analyze the details and scope of this novel. I absolutely love this book!

Amy: I have to admit it was much better than I expected!

Melissa: Considering I was ready to give up in the early stages, I would have to say that it exceeded expectations. I know that without the both of you and this read along, I would have given up on this book. So, thank you – because once I got over the “hump,” I loved every page.

3) What do you think McMurtry's overarching theme of the book was?

Leah: Personally, this is a toughie but if I was to make a guess it would be to have honored the West. I think a lot of books labeled as Westerns get a bad rap as some sort of cheesy grocery store novels but this was one that went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. He wrote a novel about the West to elevate the genre about a time gone by and characters that that made America what it is today.

Amy: I know it's tough, I needed help! I think it's about the West as well and the quote at the beginning of the book, really captures it nicely.

Melissa: Oh no – an English Lit-type question! All I can really think of is – honor, endurance, perseverance and a little bit of luck.

Any final thoughts you'd like to share?

Monday, December 6, 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.

Finished, done, complete, over, that's all she wrote...

After 9 weeks of questions, answers, analysis, complaints, euphoria, tears, and heartbreak...I finally finished Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. My review will be up tomorrow and our final read along Q&A will be posted on Wednesday -- but for a teaser here and now -- it was an epic journey that everyone should complete. Was it perfect, no, but in the end the characters wrapped me up and wouldn't let me go.

Currently Reading:

Zoo Story by Thomas French: Book Cover

Summary from B&N:
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas French goes behind the scenes at one of the country's most popular—-and most controversial—-destinations: zoos.

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell Kaplan: Book Cover

Summary from B&N:
...In this story of love, God, faith, and torture, fifteenth-century Spain comes to dazzling, engrossing life.

I'm eager to get back to a regular reading routine of manageable 300+ page books instead of mammoth 900+ page tomes.

What are your reading this week?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

FINISHED Lonesome Dove!

Lonesome Dove

Our read along final review will be on Wednesday and my own personal review will be posted on Tuesday, but I must admit, I spent the last 100 pages heartbroken and in tears as the Hat Creek gang wrapped up their adventure.  Wow -- what a journey! 

No Excuses Update!

I've made it to the 6 week point in my weight loss journey...come check my progress!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wild West Wednesdays! Lonesome Dove Chapters 81-90

We are in the home stretch of our Wild West read along.

Emotionally, this was one of the toughest sections to read.  The high points -- the Hat Creek Gang finally arriving in Ogallala, and Gus and Clara reuniting.  The low points -- Deets -- enough said.  I'm not a book "cryer" -- but I shed some tears with this one.

I wrote the questions this week -- I could have been more concise -- but there was so much to talk about -- and I totally forgot about Elmira and Zwey.  Deets was the only thing on my mind.

Leah's, Amy's and my thoughts below:

1. The Hat Creek gang finally arrives in Ogallala – while in town, lots of things happen – Call beats up a Calvary officer, Dixon, over his “acquisition” of Dish’s mare AND the boys finally find themselves “whores” – first, what are your thoughts on Call’s temper? And, what do you think of the boys’ first “experience?”

Leah: The town scene was interesting for many reasons because they had built it up to mythical proportions being out in the middle of nowhere for so long so I figured it would be entertaining. For me, Call’s temper was justifiable in this instance. Dixon was whipping his son. Whether or not Call will ever admit to Newt that he is his boy, he has raised him as such and he is. Call is just a man of few words, as we’ve seen. But clearly, he will protect him from anything and anyone when given the chance. Call didn’t even know what came over him. As for the boys first experience with ‘whores’ it was comical and kind of what I expected. I’m sure they’ll still brag about it though!

Melissa: Leah, thank you for being so smart! When I thought of this question about Call’s altercation, I wasn’t thinking of it in terms of a parent/child relationship – but of course, that explains it. My initial reaction was the persona Call embodies – this brooding, loaner, who hasn’t, for the most part, shown much of what makes him tick. I’ve been so perplexed by him throughout the whole book. So, the violence in this scene just was another twist to who he is and why. As far as the boys – I thought it was hysterical. I laughed out loud when Buf was with Newt… the imagery (as much as it made me uncomfortable) was priceless.

Amy: I thought Call beating up that guy was both a reaction to what he was doing to Newt as well as left over frustration. It was definitely new insight into his personality! I guess I was a bit surprised he flew into such a blind rage, because in every other aspect he has always seemed very controlled. I thought the boys experiences were funny--especially like Leah said after they had made it out to be so grand in their minds.

2. Gus and Clara reunite -- thoughts?

Leah: Those two together are great. I loved reading their interactions. Gus needs someone who can give it to him as good as he puts out and Clara is his match. I don’t blame Clara for being done with marrying though. I thought the whole day was sweet. Personally, I am glad Lorena stayed on. I think it was a good choice.

Melissa: I love them! I want McMurtry to write a Gus/Clara novel! My reaction last week to an imagined Clara/Gus relationship was much of the same as what she had with Bill, but different. Now, I’m not so sure. Their repartee, their enduring friendship – everything makes for a great love story. I too am glad Lorena stayed on – she finally gets to experience normalcy – whatever that is out on the plains.

Amy: I also loved them....they are kind of epic. :) I, too, was glad that Lorena stayed behind and that she made friends with the girls and that maybe she’ll be okay.

3. There is a huge sense of foreboding once the Hat Creek gang leaves Ogallala – many of the men don’t want to go and Po Campo is prophetic when he predicts that water will become scarcer. Then, the unthinkable happens – Deets is killed. Why is Call so stubborn in his quest for Montana? Should they have stayed? How did you feel when Deets died?

Leah: Who knows why Call is so stubborn? Why did anyone have the desire to tame the West? Because they want to be the first; because they want to make the most money; because they want the glory; because they did it in Texas; one last hurrah before they die? I don’t think Call has it in him to stay but everyone is a free agent and could have made their own choices. McMurtry’s writing and tribute to Deet’s passing was beautiful. Call and Gus loved Deets and it could not just be said in a couple of paragraphs. I think McMurtry wrote this beautifully. I feel like anything I say will be trite in comparison.

Melissa: I think one of the key lines in this section is when Gus says (and I’m paraphrasing, because I can’t seem to find it in the book), “I’m going to scatter Jake Spoon’s bones if this doesn’t work out.” This whole trek is based on some notion that Jake Spoon dreamt up back in Lonesome Dove – and it’s finally dawning on them that Jake was a loser, and they shouldn’t have listened to him. But Call is determined (why, I don’t know – see previous answer about what makes him tick) to continue in spite of all the reasons why they shouldn’t. It’s like a man not asking for directions. Then Deets. The truth is, I don’t cry in novels – but I was heaving when this happened. He was one of my favorite characters. And I hold Call responsible. Honestly, after that scene, it has been hard for me to pick it up again because I’m scared of what will happen next.

Amy: Deets death was horrific (as so many of these deaths are) and you’re right Leah, that it was written beautifully. I have no idea why Call is insisting on going and it annoys me to no end. They’ve already lost so many and they have no real idea of what they’re getting into. Yes I know the pioneer life, but most everyone had been quite content to stay in Lonesome Dove. Also, what about Elmira’s offscreen death? I felt bad for Zwey.

Any thoughts about this week's reading?