Call Me 37 Today

October 8, 2008 at 10:43 am | Posted in LIfe, Reading | 36 Comments
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Well, the day has finally arrived and I can no longer say that I am 36.  Well, I was born at around 9:50pm, so I could wait to say I’m 37 until tonight, but that’s being a little ridiculous (although if you agree with the whole date and time thing,  you’ll make me exceedingly happy right up until 9:49pm).

Seriously, 36 was a wonderful year.  I feel that I’ve come into my own in my career and as a book blogger.  I have read 70 books since my last birthday and have reviewed 64. It would be hard for me to pick out a favorite from during that time, but the books that have stood out in my 37th year are The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman, Trauma by Patrick McGrath, Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, Aberrations by Penelope Przekop, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.

The best blogging experience I had personally revolved around Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.  I bought this book for my husband, but read it first.  Little did either of us know that this would have a personal connection for my husband.  He was friends with Rob’s wife Renee.  We had a great time going through his pictures from that era and we posted one of Renee.  It always irritates me when there is no pictures in memoirs because I want to know what the people look like.  In this case, Danny was able to supply that for me.  It was also really neat to listen to the tape of his band singing The Beverly Hillbillies theme song to the tune of R.E.M.’s Talk about the Passion.  That whole experience was wonderful.

Best of all, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people last year.  From authors, to publicists, to my fellow book bloggers, to my readers.  I won’t name any because I don’t want to leave anyone out.  My life is richer because of you all.

I hope that everyone has a beautiful, beautiful day!

#90 ~ Sweetsmoke

July 31, 2008 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading | 7 Comments
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Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

This novel, written by screenwriter David Fuller, tells the story of Cassius Howard, the carpenter slave owned by Hoke Howard, a Virginia tobacco farmer. A series of tragic events transformed Cassius from his place Hoke’s favorite and it cost him dearly. The only bright light in the entire situation was the time that Cassius was allowed to recuperate with Emoline Justice, a free black woman. Although Cassius learns a lot from Emoline, her example does not stop him from hardening himself to life and others when he returns back to the plantation. As time goes on, however, he becomes less able to avoid stepping in and helping others when he senses trouble. He even finds himself opening his heart to another slave. When he learns that Emoline was viciously murdered and that there were no plans for the local officials to even investigate it, he cannot and no longer wants to simply sit back and allow this injustice to continue. He vows to find her killer and bring that person to justice no matter what it cost him.

This is a novel that took me by surprise. I can’t say that it started out slow, because that would do it a disservice. What is true is that the first 100 pages built toward something that took me and held my imagination captive until the end. As a reader, I felt that I understood fully what it meant to be a slave. I felt I understood why Cassius had no hope for freedom in his life. Yet, as this same reader, I held out hope for him. In that way, Cassius was much more prepared for what he faced than I was. Much more prepared. When Cassius is forced to watch a female slave be sold in town, I could barely breathe. It was not an unfamiliar scene, but the added details shook me inside. Despite his distaste, Cassius swallowed him emotions as he was expected. In fact, Hoke appeared more tore up about what happened.

Fuller brings the world of slavery to light in a fresh and unique way. The most notable and thought provoking way that Sweetsmoke conveys the dehumanization of slaves was stylistic. When a free person spoke, be they black or white, rich or poor, their words were encased by quotation marks. Not so for the enslaved. When Cassius, Mam Rosie, Big Gus, and the others like them spoke, there were no quotation marks. This tripped me up fairly often at the beginning of the novel. I would read a paragraph and in my confusion realize that I was reading dialog, not prose. My reading quickly improved, but even at the end I stumbled from time to time. Still, I appreciated this choice on the part of the author. It brought home how insignificant slaves were to their owners. The fact that they might have hopes and dreams was wholly ignored and brushed aside. This was something they embodied every day. They didn’t have a last name of their own, so why would they think that their words should be heard or set apart? The lack of quotation marks makes perfect sense.

Sweetsmoke is a compelling and relevant historical novel about the lives of slaves and plantation owners. In Fuller’s world there are good and bad people on both sides of the front door of the big house. No one is idolized or demonized. Like reality, characters simply are who they are. They are not stereotyped. If you want to read challenging historical fiction, you should read this book.

To buy this novel, which will be released on August 26, click here.

July Book Blowout ~ Update Day 28

July 28, 2008 at 11:14 am | Posted in Books, LIfe | 5 Comments
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Well, it’s been a while since my last update. In that time, I finished reading 37 by Maria Beaumont, Sweetsmoke by David Fuller, and Rabies Mom by Pat Carrol and Jack McGowan. I’m midway through my review of Sweetsmoke, so I hope to publish that this evening or tomorrow morning. I’m currently reading The Four Seasons by Laurel Corona. I’m about 70 pages in and am enjoying it so far.

The real question on my mind is whether I’ll be able to make my personal challenge of reading 10 by the end of the month. I’m just not sure I have 2 and 3/4 books left in me in three days. We’ll see. Where there’s life, there’s hope. 🙂

Literate Housewife’s Official Challenge Tally

7/10 books complete ~ 5/5 reviews posted

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