#896 I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia ColemanI, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman

Pearl was supposed to go back to her fancy boarding school, but she met Frank first. He promised her dancing. Her mother didn’t like Frank, probably because of his reputation as a gambler. This did not deter Pearl though. She ran off and eloped with Frank, going to New Orleans, where she quickly found out that Frank was an abusive jerk. He found any excuse to hit Pearl.

Pearl had enough after one particularly rough beating and left. She hopped on a train with a hobo and lit out for other parts. She got a job singing, but that bastard Frank showed up again. For a while, she and he tried to make their marriage work. They ended up with two kids. When she parted ways with Frank, again, the kids went to her mother’s, who was thoroughly disgraced by Pearl’s life. Pearl went off and did other things.

She got jobs and then she robbed a stage-coach and got arrested. Having a woman robber was quite the sensation and Pearl got a lot of attention, but life was not easy in prison. She was alone much of the time, until a couple of other women prisoners showed up, having committed their own terrible deeds. Prison wasn’t easy, but Pearl found a way to make terrible things be to her advantage.

What I liked

While this book may be fiction, Pearl was real. Look her up on Wikipedia. She was a real, stage-coach robbing, gun-toting, hard woman. While it’s not exactly the ideal of what a woman should be, it’s pretty neat. She had the guts to dress up like a man, when that was highly frowned upon and then go rob somebody, which isn’t very nice.

The fictionalized story is fun. Pearl is what you would call a “spitfire.” She’s not going to let anybody get her down, although it may seem like life really sucks sometimes.

Despite the fact that she’s not role model material, I do find her admirable. She did things women didn’t do during the time period and made them work.

What I didn’t like

Pearl’s first husband sounded awful. In the book Pearl cites being Catholic for her reason not to divorce her abusive, scumbag husband. Look, I don’t care if you’re Catholic, a gypsy, Mormon, FLDS, a Baptist, or a Pastafarian–if your husband, or wife, is physically abusive, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. If they’re mentally abusive and refuse to see their abuse, you divorce their butt as fast as you can. Abusers tend to stay abusers. There’s no point in prolonging your suffering, and your children’s suffering, if there are any, because of a religious ideology. Sure, yes, marriage can be sacred, but that depends upon each party involved keeping their side of the deal, which happens to include not being abusive to your spouse and/or children.

In real life, Pearl seemed to go back to her husband multiple times, which is sad. He was a loser and here she was this tough woman who assuredly didn’t really need a man, especially an abusive one.

Overall

I admire Pearl’s escapades, but feel bad about her being married to a jerk.

Weigh In

Are female outlaws of the old west fascinating or deplorable?

Do you think Pearl lived her life of crime because of her abuse?

#896 I, Pearl Heart by Jane Candia Coleman was originally published on One-elevenbooks

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#895 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

The Historian by Elizabeth KostovaThe Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

Paul has told his  daughter some strange stories involving Dracula and a book. One day, Paul goes out, again, in search of something. As the story unfolds, we learn that Paul found a strange book. It was old and had no business being in the library. Paul goes to see his professor, a man named Rossi, to seek an explanation for the book. It’s about vampires alright, the Dracula, or Vlad Tepes, is the central figure in this story. Is he really dead? Are vampires real?

This is the last intellectual session Paul has with his professor because he just up and disappears one night, the professor not Paul. Paul plans to go off to Europe in search of his professor, but meets a woman named Helen. She says she is Rossi’s daughter. Yet more of the story comes out. Rossi had been in Europe and had met a beautiful young woman with a green dragon imprinted on her skin. It’s said the family is descended from Vlad. Rossi has to go on to other adventures in his historian life, leaving his lover alone in Europe.

As Helen and Paul find out more, stranger and stranger things keep happening. A scary librarian starts to tail the couple. They dig through documents. They visit other countries. They get chased down. Something develops between Helen and Paul. The mystery of Dracula is not solved with their trip though and the idea of him still lingers over the family, years later.

What I liked

This was my second attempt to read this book. I started, years ago, before I was ever married, when I was still in college, when I still worked at the nursing home. I tried. I tried valiantly to get into this book, but I never finished it. I carried around my copy, from move to move, until I donated several hundred books to a couple selling books to raise money for an adoption back in 2015. The book just didn’t grab my attention then, which is strange seeing as I’ve been all over some Dan Brown, which is quite similar to this book. I was able to finish the book this time, though; listening to it helped.

I do really like the history in this book. Elizabeth did her research, a lot of it. She got all that weird crap about Dracula correct. He was a warlord. He was considered a hero to an extent. He did impale people. His grave really was empty. He really did build churches. Apparently, he thought God would be cool with him impaling people as long as he made churches in return. While he was a savvy man in the political and war arenas, he was not a nice man.

This book did have that Dan Brown feel to it, which makes it intellectually stimulating.

What I didn’t like

I don’t believe in vampires. I don’t believe Dracula is alive somewhere or that he’s amassing a personal library and stealing scholars to tend to it. While the history surrounding Dracula is absorbing, I feel that a book suggesting Dracula is real, presented in a real-world manner, is a bit much. It’s not my cup of tea.  Really, Dracula is out there, as a vampire, sucking blood, and stuff?

Overall

If you find a strange book at the library, you kind of have to read it.

Weigh In

Could someone ever convince you that Dracula is alive and well?

What do you think about historical thrillers? Yeah or nay?

#895 The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#890 The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie BuchananThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

The three Van Goethem sisters all danced in the ballet, at one point or the other. Antoinette, the oldest, gave up for a variety of reasons, choosing work as a stage extra and washer woman instead of the ballet. Marie wanted nothing more than to succeed. So she tried and tried. Charlotte was cute and wanted to learn.

With their father dead and their mother an alcoholic, sipping absinthe anytime there was a spare breath to take, the girls must all work to pay the rent on their shabby room.

Things go south for Antoinette when she meets a boy who entices her with dinner and drinks. She calls it “being adored.”

Things go north, and south, for Marie when she starts modeling for an artist named Degas. The artist spends hours watching girls practice ballet. He paints the girls. He draws the girls. Marie models for him privately, both clothed and not; her family needs the money. Degas brings her notoriety and admiration, but it does come at a price.

Antoinette’s man gets involved in a murder and she will do anything, anything, to be with him again. Marie has never liked the boyfriend and the murder charge drives a wedge between the two sisters who were once best friends.

What I liked

I like learning about the background events that enabled a certain piece of artwork to be produced. The events that had to come about for that painting, you’re standing in front of at the museum, to be there are fascinating. How was the artwork received by the public? What happened to the artist? What happened to the model? Did the artwork become a detriment to one, or both?

Art is a thing that affects our society. How it came to affect our society is wonderful reading material.

The Van Goethem sisters were real. They aren’t just made up by the author. This account of their lives is fictional, of course. Antoinette really wasn’t connected to a murderer, who was also real and in all the papers.

What I didn’t like

Antoinette is so stupid. Charlotte and the mother are pretty flat character wise.

Let’s get back to Antoinette being stupid. She gave up the ballet for whatever reason, which is stupid decision number one. She got messed up with a loser, which is stupid decision number two. Look, a loser is a loser, is a loser. The point of saying this is to state that losers don’t suddenly become not losers. If a man is good for nothing in the beginning, he’s going to keep being good for nothing. If that’s the case, there is absolutely no point in getting involved with said man. Sure, he may be pretty. Sure, maybe he’s well-endowed. Those are not reasons to put your life in default for a man who isn’t worth a darn.

If a man, or woman, seems like a loser upon your judgement after knowing them for a little while, that’s probably not going to change, so you shouldn’t get involved any more than you already are.

Overall

Paint me like one of your French ballet girls, Monsieur Degas.

Weigh in

What are your opinions about the women in your life who are messed up with losers?

Would you pose naked for a painting?

#890 The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#878 The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney

Amira lives with her family in Darfur. She has two parents and a younger sister. There is also the family sheep, named by the little sister at birth with her cries. Amira enjoys her life. She plays with her sister and the animals; she dislikes the chores she got when she got older.

One day, something awful happens. There seems to be fire all around. The sheep is gone; her father is gone. Everyone must leave. They take only what they can carry on their backs. They walk and walk. They get somewhere. Their house is made of rice bags. Amira’s family changes. She sees a child bride. A white lady gives her a red. Pencil.

Amira learns to draw. Someone secretly teaches her to write. Her mother is not happy about it, but Amira has many dreams, among those dreams is going to school and learning.

What I liked

The prose of this book was wonderful. It moves along and flowed. It made sense and kept a musical tone to the whole story.

Amira is very likable. She is determined to be something more and to learn.

I liked learning a bit more about what happened in Darfur back in 2003. I had heard the term on the news, but didn’t know what it meant. It’s a sad thing, but I’m better enriched as a person because I know more about it.

The author was inspired to write this book because of the events in Darfur. She spent a lot of time researching and doing interviews. I think it’s pretty great to come up with such a beautiful story while dealing with so many terrible things.

What I didn’t like

These events are so sad. I feel bad for Amira. She lost her animals. She lost her home. She lost her father. It was awful. She experiences PTSD, when she’s way too young to experience such a terrible thing, not that anyone is ever at an age to experience such terrible things.

Amira isn’t real, so I’m a little relieved, but there are plenty of real girls who did go through things like this. I feel bad for them. It’s terrible that anybody thinks they have the right to do something like this.

Overall

Beautiful story about awful things.

Weigh in

Do you think you could have made it through what Amira made it through?

Do you feel that you didn’t give education an important in your life when you were young?

#878 The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pickney was originally published on One-elevenbooks

#854 Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck

 Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck

Ling Tan and his family live outside of Nanjing. They are all farmers. He has three sons with his wife. Two of the sons are married, but the youngest is as pretty as a girl. There is also a daughter, two daughters in fact, but one has married and moved into town with her husband, a shopkeeper. The family has their ordinary woes. They plant crops. They make meals. The mother-in-law complains about the daughter-in-laws. Life soon changes.

There are rumors that an enemy has come ashore. It’s a long way away, they say. It won’t come here, they say. Student protestors start the chaos that soon descends upon the city and countryside. The Japanese have invaded China. Shops are destroyed. Women are raped. People are murdered. Food and goods are appropriated. Ling Tan hides his family in the woods or at the home of a white woman. She tries to shelter all who come, but the Japanese soldiers still have demands of her.

Ling Tan’s family loses someone and they make plans to get past the invaders. They make a secret room. They illegally  catch and eat fish. The bolder of Ling Tan’s family take movements against the Japanese. There are plots and attacks. In the end, Ling Tan is still a farmer, but he’s seen some awful things.

What I liked

Out of the Pearl S. Buck books I’ve read, this one seems the grittiest. It’s about war. It’s violent. It was published in 1942 and some of the things in the book weren’t exactly talked of in polite society. This makes this book cutting edge, in a way, for its time.

Pearl was a bit outspoken about matters in China. She cared a lot about the people she met in China and I’m sure she wasn’t at all happy about the brutal invasion of China by Japan. This book is fiction, but Pearl was certainly able to capture what it would have been like. She didn’t leave a lot out either, so you have to hand it to Pearl for doing historical fiction so well.

What I didn’t like

I’ve known the Japanese invasion of China was brutal for a long time. I’ve read a whole lot of fiction books set during this time period. With that said, this book seems to take it to a new level of brutality. It was awful. It’s terrible that it happened. I’m glad they all seem to get along now.

This book also takes quite a while to read. It could be boiled down to be more essential, but if you like that whole saga feel of it, you wouldn’t want it to be pared down to anything other than it is.

Overall

Let us be glad this war is over.

Weigh In

If you know anything about the Japanese invasion of China, do you think you could have survived it?

Is war harder on people who have little or on people who have more?

#854 Dragon Seed by Pearl S. Buck was originally published on One-elevenbooks