April 2018 books

April 2018 books

Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls WilderPrairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been waiting for this book all my life! Here is the reverent, contextualized, unsparing and unflinching look at all things Little House on the Prairie and Laura Ingalls Wilder that the world needs. Now we can forget that The Wilder Life exists, mmkay?

So. During the first half of the book, covering Laura's childhood, I kept pitying Caroline, thinking that Charles must have been THE most exhausting person to live and make life choices with. But then the second half of the book comes along, Rose grows up, and WOW. Turns out: she is THE WORST. The literal, Nazi-sympathizer worst. And you might think you can just close your eyes during those parts, but she is so entwined in Laura's story - her life story, obviously, but also her literal, published stories - that you just can't.

I've known since I was a kid that Laura and I were kindred spirits (even though I sometimes aspired to be Mary of the placid blue eyes - didn't we all?), but this passage gutted me. Laura and her little family have packed up and are riding in a wagon with all their worldly possessions, moving on yet again from a place they lived and loved. Rose recalled:

"The sunset light turned that huge dust-cloud to gold, and Mama said to me, 'That's your last sight of Dakota.'

She said it in a queer way, hard and tight, and then she sat back on the seat and tears ran down her cheeks. She didn't make a sound, just sat there holding the horses and staring at them, with tears pouring out of her wide-open eyes. I was amazed. I had never seen anything like that before...

'Why Laura, what's the matter?' Papa asked and he looked at her in wonderment.

Mama kept her face turned away. She reached across me and blindly gave the lines to Papa and then she put both hands over her face and said, 'Let me be. I'll be all right in a minute. Please, just let me be.'"

She is me and I am her! I related so much to this woman who picked up and moved so many times, all for different reasons and with varying expectations and degrees of permanency and success.

Anyway. I balked when I saw the book was some 600 pages but it is such a page-turner! I was just as invested in Laura and Almanzo's courtship this time around. Manly was a total dreamboat and I am so glad Laura didn't let Cap Garland distract her.

Go read this book right now.

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ColumbineColumbine by Dave Cullen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Second reading April 2018:
I wanted to revisit this book in the aftermath of the Parkland school shooting, to remember what it was like to be a teenager responding to such a tragedy. I thought I might skim but I was sucked in from the very first page and, once again, seven years after first reading it, could not put this book down. It is really something special and reading the afterword, it is clear that this was quite the labor of...love? for the author and it shows on every page. This book and One of Us stand out to me as books about horrible things that somehow make you a better person for having read them, despite the darkness. There is despair and violence here but also humanity and hope. This book remains a personal favorite, even though it's on such a hard subject.



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The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples TempleThe Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple by Jeff Guinn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WELL. I sometimes come away from books like this thinking I would have been better served reading the Wikipedia article, but this is not one of those times. This book has All of the Things about Jones and Jonestown, to the extent that it sometimes drags a little. And yet with all that detail, it was sometimes not clear what the sources were (they're all at the back rather than footnoted throughout), which was jarring, coming after reading Columbine where everything was meticulously sourced. Still, a smooth read about a complex subject.

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The Valiant (The Valiant, #1)The Valiant by Lesley Livingston
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Female young adult gladiators: yes, please! A little bit Ember in the Ashes, a little bit Throne of Glass, maybe not quite as good as either, but lots of fun.

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The Defiant (The Valiant, #2)The Defiant by Lesley Livingston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Pretty solid, though I didn't enjoy this one as much as the first book in the series.

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Olden days internet

Olden days internet

April 27th, outsourced