The Super Fun Kids' Graphic Novel Sale

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The Precious One by Marisa de Los Santos
The Precious One

The Lost Entwife, March 28, 2015

I've been a fan of Marisa de los Santos since reading Love Walked In. It was that book that introduced me to a world outside of the cheap, paperback, grocery-store romances and, as such, Marisa's books will always hold a special place in my heart. I was excited to see that she was releasing a new one so I requested The Precious One to review and put it on my bedside table as a treat - something to read outside of all of the graduate studies and required reading that has been bogging me down this semester.

The Precious One is a story of family: messy, broken, beautiful, heart-breaking family. Two sisters, Taisy and Willow, take turns narrating and introducing us to various members of the family. There's stories of lost love, of first crushes, of mysterious backgrounds and long-lost family members who are just emerging into the picture. It's almost too much, to be honest - I felt as if I needed to stop and just catch my breath a few times because of the amount of drama and craziness surrounding these two women.

Still, in spite of the high levels of unbelievable occurrences, Marisa de los Santos taps in well to the complicated, messy way in which sisters come to love one another. I have five sisters and while my relationship with each of them is wildly different from one another, the few that are good are so good that it feels as if my heart squeezes to protect itself from the sheer emotion I feel when I think of those sisters.

The Precious One is a great beach/summer read. This is the book that will give you something thrilling every time you pick it up, even if it's just for a chapter at a time, and yet will not have you so disturbed or distracted that you can't enjoy life around you or beautiful weather or gorgeous views.
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The Death of Jim Loney (Penguin Classics) by James Welch
The Death of Jim Loney (Penguin Classics)

The Lost Entwife, March 22, 2015

It's difficult to talk about books one reads when they correspond to the area of research that individual is involved heavily in. I picked up The Death of Jim Loney by James Welch on the recommendation of a mentor of mine and I knew, going in, that there would be a lot of times I would want to stop reading and start really diving into what I was reading and analyzing it and driving myself crazy with new research thoughts and ideas. But, about a chapter in, I put that part of my mind back into a box and I decided that I would give Jim Loney my full attention: as someone who was reading the book to listen to the story of this character.

This is not a happy-go-lucky, feel-good story. Jim Loney is a man who struggles with identification, having a Native mother and a White father. His struggles with identity bleed into all aspects of his life, and even though he recognizes this fact, and recognizes that he is surrounded by people who could, potentially, help him get past all of it, he is a man who realizes that ultimately it has to be his choice to do so. The Death of Jim Loney, as a book, explores that idea. It gives us insight into the man who is Jim and takes us down that dark path right along with him.

I've been of fan of James Welch's writing for a few years now. Fool's Crow was one of the first books I was introduced to and I've read it three times now and get something out of it each time I read it. As a child, I always wanted to read western stories and was fascinated with the romantic notions of cowboys and indians, but I never actually made the leap into the genre and let myself go crazy. Something always felt off. Now, I recognize that the stories I was craving then were stories like Jim Loney's. Authors like James Welch and Louise Erdrich. And as a child, these stories would have been over my head.

The Death of Jim Loney is not a book I would recommend to get into this genre of literature. It's small, and as such, it's deceptive in a way that may make you think it'll be an easy one to get. But, ultimately, this one packs a punch that I'll be feeling for days. If you want recommendations, please comment and ask me for some. If you decide to go ahead and read this one as your first foray into Native literature, then ask me questions - I'm right here. Mostly, I invite you to start exploring, and if this review helps you get there, then I've done something right.
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Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch by Dan Obrien
Buffalo for the Broken Heart: Restoring Life to a Black Hills Ranch

The Lost Entwife, March 21, 2015

In a book that combines honest details about the bitter realities facing environmentalist ranchers with informative facts about wildlife, grass, and the struggles and rewards of raising Bison, Dan O’Brien manages to transform what might otherwise be a dull story story into one that tugs at the heartstrings. One of the first observations made in Buffalo for the Broken Heart gets to the figurative “heart” of the matter: the idea that, when it comes to the Great Plains, “it’s just a big, empty land” (6).

The following pages in O’Brien’s memoir prove otherwise. Recently divorced and struggling to marry his desire to preserve the wildlife and start down the path to the restoration of the Great Plains, O’Brien sells off his cattle and decides to invest in thirteen buffalo “runts,” nicknamed “The Gashouse Gang” after a cartoon that O’Brien’s working partner recalls seeing when he was young (76). Although the majority of the book is dedicated to chronicling the journey of the Broken Heart Ranch as it transitions to a bison ranch, there are detoured moments that enhance the storytelling atmosphere while also bringing home O’Brien’s message. Drawing from real life anecdotes about learning to work with teenage boys, tragedies involving the health of the community people around the ranch, the budding start of a relationship with a woman who is now his wife, O’Brien deftly draws his reader in and makes the story a personal one.

In addition to these moments of life, O’Brien provides his readers with a history lesson by addressing both the northern Great Plains of the “American imagination” as a “product of popular culture, mythology, and Madison Avenue” when it comes to cattle farming, as well as the benefit the buffalo provides to the reality of those same plains (25). In a similar fashion, the “mythic American character” that is lauded for “fairness, self-reliance, toughness, and honesty” is discussed mid-way through O’Brien’s narrative (95-96). Rather than leaving his reader to believe that O’Brien represents that myth, he addresses reality through the following quote from real estate broker, Dick Saterlee:

“These are good people out here,” he said “Most honest people in the world. They wouldn’t lie to you for anything.” He shook his head. “But they’ll lie to themselves every time. (102)”

One of the most compelling moments in Buffalo for the Broken Heart has very little to do with buffalo, on the surface at least. In a moving section about the struggle the state of Utah Division of Parks and Recreation was having with the peregrine falcon project of Antelope Island and the exploding population of the great horned owl, O’Brien steps into the role of a peregrine, shedding his human identity in order to fill the role of a “surrogate daddy falcon” (147, 150). In this section, O’Brien balances the distastefulness of the act against the horned owls with the knowledge that what he is doing is something that would have been handled in a different way in a time when the land and wildlife were living in balance. In telling this story, O’Brien sets the tone for the treatment of his own bison toward the end of the memoir.

The final pages of the memoir deal with death. Both the death by suicide of a young man who had worked with O’Brien and been included in this narrative, and the death of five bulls by an arrangement intended to provide them with the most humane death possible. Life on the Great Plains is never easy and that is stressed throughout this narrative. Additionally, O’Brien refers time and again to the Sioux (Rosebud, Lakota) philosophy on life and it is apparent that he not only values the sentiment and tradition that inform those philosophies but also that he works to incorporate them into his own daily life and work.

O’Brien’s memoir is a moving, interesting, alternatively funny and emotion-tugging look at the struggles of a modern-day rancher. He provides his readers with an open look into his life, both personal and professional, and by doing so, his love of the land and his desire to see it restored and healed comes across loud and clear. There is a distinct call to action to support the Broken Heart Ranch in his Afterword with the inclusion of his website and, after reading his story, I was quite ready to look it up and read more.
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The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill by David Gessner
The Tarball Chronicles: A Journey Beyond the Oiled Pelican and Into the Heart of the Gulf Oil Spill

The Lost Entwife, March 20, 2015

Travel stories, personal anecdotes, scientific evidence, soul-searching questions, and environmental tourism all combine in David Gessner’s beautifully written book, The Tarball Chronicles. Even the cover, featuring the image of a man’s body, clad in protective gear, with the head of the infamous “oiled pelican” gives the reader a predictive look into the story held within the pages of Gessner’s book. Much like the illustrative pelican/man, Gessner draws heavily on the idea of connectivity and how it is impossible to escape that web that binds us together with every other thing.

One of the most prominent themes in The Tarball Chronicles is the expansion on a John Muir quote: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe” (157). Gessner argues that while we think we can outsmart nature, the reality is that we may fool her for a lifetime but “She’s coming to get us eventually, and she’s coming back to haunt us right now” (63). In this book he shows evidence of this time and time again, tracing the damage of the oil spill path now just across the beaches of the gulf but into the depths of the marshes and through the stories of the people who are dealing with the consequences. In a poignant statement near the end of his book, we are reminded that the spider’s web “takes the genius of time to weave it, but, as hard as it is to construct, its easy to rip apart” (255). In a similar fashion, Gessner weaves together the strands of his story to create a delicate, balanced web that demonstrates in a remarkable fashion the interconnectivity between humankind and nature ��" from the diving gannets down to the proliferation of periwinkles.

Part of that web involves asking some hard questions, and Gessner does not shy away from not only asking those questions but admits that, at times, he does not have the answer either. He spends time challenging the idea of what makes us human by engaging subjects like sacrifice, hypocrisy, insatiability, tradition and identity, the need to belong, and ambition. Gessner asks if it is impossible for us to be “happy with less,” or if that is a sacrifice we are willing to make in order to “keep living the way we do” (279, 4). He argues that perhaps, instead of sacrificing, we should rework what it is we are looking for, to “refine and revise what we mean by ‘more’ and ‘better’” (67). Or is it in the process of looking for this “more and better” that our desire to control and fix is an urge that we have to live with (39)? In a statement that reverberates throughout the book, Gessner points out that some of the things that were broken “had taken a million years or so to make” (39).

Arguing against excess and fixing things means that Gessner is pointing us in the direction of doing less or changing our definition of what “more” could be. He quotes John Hay who “spoke of our need to ‘marry’ the places where we live, to spend a lifetime learning the land and people” (188). It stands within reason that in marrying a place and learning it, the desire to break and try to fix would lesson and, instead, one would seek to learn to live in harmony with the place. Gessner’s book provides stories of individuals who have learned to do just that.

Finally, Gessner’s book is a call to action. He points out the hypocrisy in the oversight of BP during the oil spill clean up through interviews with those who are working in the interest of the natural world and not in the interests of the company (22). He highlights the insanity of watching big business continue to make the same mistakes and expect different results (51). Gessner also does not shy away from giving voice to environmentalists who have willingly embraced the capitalistic nature of the society here; who point out that it is possible to make money while not causing harm to the environment (66). He admits that things have become “muddied and complicated” when it comes to a “clear-cut definition of what it means to be environmental” (69). When it all comes down to it, Gessner points out that the “oiled pelican” is more of a symbol for humankind in that it is our attempt to distill complex issues into something simple or obvious (137). The Tarball Chronicles is definitely not that oiled pelican; rather, much like the image on the cover, it is something much more complex that deserves a serious amount of attention.
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Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger Saga) by V. C. Andrews
Flowers in the Attic (Dollanganger Saga)

The Lost Entwife, January 7, 2015

First, let me get a few things straight. I don't know in what universe this book would have been acceptable to read at 12 years old, but I think part of the horror of this book is the thought that 12 year old kids were reading it. I mean, if you were a pretty knowledgeable 12 year old who could handle graphic sexual abuse, incest, physical abuse, and mental abuse and be able to put the book down and go along your way unaffected, then... I guess more power to that 12 year old you. But let me tell you know, as a 38 year old woman, this book affected me and I only picked it up because I'd purchased it a while back for a read-along and thought.. what the heck, I'm in the mood for a story and this looks interesting.

So the premise is this: there is a mother, a father, and four children - they've been nicknamed The Dresden Dolls for their looks. A tragic accident happens and the mother and children make their way to the mother's parents home - where horrible things are waiting. Namely - the children are locked into a room (and an attic) and are made to follow a set of rules put forth by a fanatical grandmother and there they wait... and wait... and wait.

When I say all sorts of things happen in this book that would have massively disturbed a 12-year-old me, I mean there are things that happen. Religious abuse is rampant throughout the book. So is parental abuse. The children turn to each other for comfort and while it was disturbing, it also makes sense because who else would they have turned to? The horror in this book is not the slash blood and gore type of horror - it's a subtle horror that plays with your mind and makes you start to doubt common-sense ideas. I found myself justifying things and then immediately giving myself a mental smack to remind myself that the stuff I was justifying is not justifiable in any sort of healthy environment.

I don't think I'll continue this series, as curious as I am to see if the kids make out okay. That said, I had no idea that a book like this existed and I'm so very, very glad I wasn't forbidden to read it as a kid because I, like many others have said, would have eagerly sought it out.
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