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Kent Haruf

Hype or Like Friday: Books Set in a Small Town

As I live in a fairly small town, I decided to try this writing prompt from a Goodreads group that I belong to. This group was created by Jillian, Larkin and Britt who are book bloggers that want to share their opinions about overly hyped books.

 

This book ripped my heart out and stomped on it, yet I adored it. Senior year is starting for three high school misfit friends: Dill, Travis and Lydia. All three have different reasons for not fitting in with their rural Bible Belt Tennessee town, but their tight friendship buffers a lot of the ugliness surrounding them. Dill’s Pentecostal snake-handling preacher father is now behind bars for child pornography, leaving him and his mother deep in debt and shame. Travis deals with an abusive father whose shames him for being gentle and loving fantasy novels, while Lydia has caring parents but her edgy fashion blog alienates her high school peers. As Lydia prepares for a future in NYC after graduation, Dill and Travis have less prospects and worry about how their lives will change, especially Dill who secretly is in love with Lydia and dreads the future. A gut-wrenching incident affects one of the three, forever changing their dynamic. After it occurred, I was shocked. I had to put the book down for awhile and process what just happened. How the other two, and their family members cope (I ached for two of the mothers) bring the book to a poignant and hopeful conclusion. One drawback though was the portrayal of the Christians in the community. They were shown to be intolerant and judgmental, and a more balanced representation would have been welcome. But…overall, this was a brilliant book, that showed readers that they shouldn’t accept diminished dreams, they should strive to be the best they can.

All of Kent Haruf’s novels take place in fictional Holt, Colorado. Haruf is known for his plainspokeness and his beautiful but sparse writing style. His books are so true to life, and will make you feel like you have know these Holt residents for years. They are loosely chronological and have some recurring characters that move in and out of the books.  My Goodreads reviews:

The Tie That Binds   

  Where You Once Belonged         

Plainsong         Eventide

Benediction           Our Souls At Night

 

Briggs Land is an absolutely riveting new series about “an American family under siege” by both the government and their own hand. Set in rural upstate New York, Briggs Land is a hundred square mile oasis for people who want to live off the grid. Established in the Civil War era, the Briggs family would give sanctuary to those who wanted to live a simple life, but this anti-government colony has taken a dark turn in recent times. The village that grew within it’s fences has morphed into a breeding ground for white supremacy, domestic terrorism and money laundering.

If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I bring up these two final books often. Revival was a favorite of mine from the beginning. Inexplicably, twenty three people come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

One of the best graphic novels I have ever read, Locke & Key starts with a family tragedy as the Locke family is terrorized by two students who have an ax to grind with the father, Rendell, who is a high school guidance counselor.  After the father’s murder, the shattered family leaves California and heads to Massachusetts to start over at the Locke family estate, where Rendell’s younger brother Duncan provides them sanctuary. But alas, more evil awaits them there. This supernatural thriller set in a small coastal town is a winner and is being developed for a series on Hulu.

 

Living in a small town has it’s rewards, and all these novels give realistic representations of the joys and frustrations of knowing most everyone in town.

-Nancy

Mid-Year Freak Out Tag

I saw this recently and thought this would be a perfect mid-year review. I had fun going through my Goodreads data, and bonus, it highlights the other genres I read. My Goodreads challenge is 100 books, and I am currently at 59, so I am ahead of the game!

Best book you read in 2017 so far

Superman: American Alien was fresh and fun and exactly what I needed. It had seven short stories about what shaped Clark Kent into Superman, and was arranged chronologically from his childhood until his days in Metropolis. The stories fit right into Superman canon, and the different artists paired with author Max Landis made for a superb must read.

Best sequel you’ve read so far 

The conclusion to Revival had a poignant ending to the complete series, and felt true to the beginning. That I had a cameo in the last issue was an added bonus! Yes, I will find any excuse in the world to bring up again that I won a contest to be drawn into the series!

New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

This is a tiny bit of a cheat, as the third volume of ElfQuest: The Final Quest is released on July 11th, but I will purchase it soon afterwards. (BTW- The pec definition on the male elves is going a bit overboard)

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I am eagerly looking forward to Rainbow Rowell penning Runaways for Marvel! I thought the original had a great story line, so I think RR and Kris Anka working together will be gold.

Biggest disappointment

Civil War II– I feel like I have mentioned my disappointment in this book over and over again. I’m not even going to link the review- take my word for it.

Biggest surprise

Briggs Land by was recommended to me by Graham Crackers, my comic book store, and I was leery about reading about a rural armed white supremacy group- but it was very nuanced and timely to today’s political climate.

Favourite new author (Debut or new to you)

Jeff Zentner of The Serpent King. This book ripped my heart out, yet I adored it. I will definitely be reading what ever he writes next!

Newest fictional crush

I read a lot of graphic novels and YA books- and neither give me good options for a character that is crush worthy as I am a grown woman.

Newest favourite character

Botille from The Passion of Dolssa. Historical fiction at it’s finest! Set in 1241 in the countryside of Provensa France, after the bloody Crusades when religious fervor was still strong, the story details the unlikely friendship between Dolssa and Botille. Botille is a practical and loving peasant girl, whose act of kindness affects the whole town. I would want to be friends with her in real life.

Book that made you happy

The photography book Abandoned America:Dismantling the Dream  by Matthew Christopher made me happy. Why does looking at pictures of decaying and rotting building make me happy? I don’t know what that says about me, but I have followed this photographer and his website for years, and I like that he is achieving success for his passion. I enjoy learning about history and ponder modern society’s relationship with our past, and this book brings those thoughts to life.

Book that made you sad

Our Souls At Night by Kent Huruf was a beautifully melancholy novel, both in subject matter and in knowing this was Kent Haruf’s last novel. I have loved his Holt, Colorado set books, and will miss visiting the fictional town and feeling as if his townspeople are indeed real.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a lovely book that is atypical in layout. It chronicles the scifi adventures of a group of people escaping from their planet that is under attack. Told through emails, schematics, military files, instant messages, medical reports and interviews- the graphics make for a fun read.

So there you have it- my mid year review! I could tag people, but as I wasn’t tagged myself and choose to do this, you can too!

-Nancy

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