English

Something different: The Whip

The Whip by Karen Kondazian has patiently been waiting its turn on my bookshelf for ages now (yes, a paper book…I’m old-fashioned that way).

It tells the story of Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst (b. 1812, d. 1879) who grew up in an orphanage where circumstances gave her the opportunity to learn about horses until she was old enough to leave. Falling in love with a former slave and having a baby together, she vows revenge when they are brutally taken from her. However, she realises that only as a man will she have the means and freedom to accomplish this. So she becomes Charley and ultimately one of the best Wells Fargo stagecoach drivers (whip).

While it is classified as fiction, there really was a Charley/Charlotte Darkey Parkhurst aka One Eyed Charley (towards the end of her life). Only on her death was it discovered that “he” was really a woman. It was thought that she may have been the first woman to vote in the United States, although, as a man (there are some arguments against this as I believe some States allowed women the vote already).

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and polished it off in a matter of days. It has been criticised as being poorly written but I found myself so caught up in the story that I didn’t really notice. Yes, it may be very easy to read and have short chapters (between about 2 to 6 pages max) but that worked for me. I’ve had a lot on the go lately so was actually grateful for a book like this. One where I didn’t have to concentrate too hard yet still holding my attention.

An easy but interesting read that had me cringing while she was in the orphanage, almost in tears when her family was murdered and plain fascinated by her life.

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My two whispers’ worth…

The Horse Whisperer. A book that wasn’t on my “Want to Read” list. And, for those books on my list I generally start reading them in my own time…that being, when the book calls to me, appeals to me, tells me it is the right time. Little children who give their mothers books for Christmas don’t really understand this so I was asked and asked and asked when will I start “Horse Whisperers”. I managed to explain that I needed to finish the book I was busy with first but I just couldn’t (and didn’t want to) explain about having to be “in the mood” for a book so The Horse Whisperer it was next.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but as it is with this thing of expectations, I wasn’t expecting what the book actually was. Something very beautiful. Something heartfelt.

Being a parent, the tragic opening was hard and emotional to read. And it was the first indication that I had totally misjudged the book. Not sure if the beginning was actually slow, or, if it was the lack of time on my behalf, but it took me a while to get through those first few chapters. Then, all of a sudden, I was hooked. Despite a fast-paced reading, reading, reading to see what was going to happen, I savoured every single page. Apologies if I’m cliché here but it is such a beautiful story of family, friendship and forgiveness…oh, and love. Love in all its different forms. Love with all its workings from platonic to mother-daughter to new-found lovers. I thoroughly enjoyed the subtle nuances as friendships developed and characters were healed. Nicholas Evans evokes such vivid images of the landscape, the ranch and the story in general. What a beautiful read that I will definitely revisit, probably slower this time (knowing the end), taking it all in without the self-imposed pressure of needing to know what happens.

Raven: Blood Eye – Bloody brilliant

“Wow…what a book!” is an exclamation that I don’t make very often. And when I do utter these words it means the book in question has completely immersed me in its own world that I have failed to notice my own. It means I have visualised the setting so clearly that it feels as if I am actually there. Furthermore, this world that I have been living through stays alive beyond the last page and a piece of it never really leaves me.

Raven had me hanging onto his every action and word from page one right to the end and then some. Yet I still managed to breathe…just. I’m not always the greatest fan of 1st person narrative, however here it is used so well to keep me in suspense and feel Raven’s perspective in not knowing enemy whereabouts and their plans. Perfect for keeping me on the edge.

Usually, it takes me time to start feeling sympathetic towards characters and in a way, for them to prove themselves to me. To show me why I should or shouldn’t like them. Not this time. As I got more and more engrossed in the story, I felt more and more for the wonderful cast including the Wolves. Well, most of them – but then finding myself hating the bad ones is goal achieved I guess. I was a little sad whenever one of the Norsemen was sent off to Valhöll possibly with the exception of those who may have deserved that fate. I found myself holding my breath until I knew Sigurd and his men were alive. For Black Floki and Penda I had fingers and toes crossed. Unfortunately, I never really found myself hoping too much for Raven because I knew he had to survive in order for there to be a Trilogy. But I’m ok with this because the story made up for it and there were still some touch-and-go moments.

Giles Kristian has this subtle but effective way of juxtaposing nature’s beauty with man’s violence. I can’t remember exactly where (so engrossed was I) but somewhere along the journey I remember birds singing in the forest – that really stood out for me. At the end, he brings such a stunning description of the waves to life. In contrast, he had me looking through the carnage desperately picking out survivors and wanting to wash the blood, guts and dirt off Raven, Weohstan and Cynethryth. Wonderful writing throughout!

The thing with these amazing stories is that you want to finish the last page yet don’t want to. I’m sure you understand what I mean – that feeling of needing to know what happens yet desperately not wanting the story to end. At least I have two more in the Raven Trilogy waiting for me so I can prolong the story a bit more (hope that they meet the bar set by Raven: Blood Eye). And call me old-fashioned but these stories just need to come in the shape of a physical book. There’s something special about living an alternate world through actual paper pages that just isn’t there electronically.

Lonesome Dove, a masterpiece

I believe books find me and not the other way round. And, they find me only then when the timing is right. And Lonesome Dove (Larry McMurtry) was around at exactly the right time. Truth be told, I had pretty much abandoned this book around page 62 or so. It was in the pile of books awaiting a prison sentence in my storage unit (Aaaaarrrrghhh how could I????). Somehow I kept seeing such rave reviews and I just didn’t understand. And then – fate intervened with one review amongst hundreds saying that one had to get past page 100. What was it that had pulled me to this particular one? The book doing its magic? Must have been because, true as Bob, once I got past that mystical page number I was totally hooked. I couldn’t put it down – not to eat, to sleep or any other reason. I devoured the remaining 845 or so pages in a matter of days.

You can almost feel the grit, grime and dust kicked up by the cattle and horses, smell the rain and clearly “see” absolutely everything described. Like I was magically drawn right into the centre of the story, physically! At times, I could even taste the dust. The characters were so clear in my mind that I felt I knew them as if they were with me in flesh and blood. They held such a special place in my heart that I sometimes just wanted to change things for the “better”, or rather to make things selfishly happier for them but obviously their flaws and experiences are exactly what makes the book what it is and changing anything would have been plain wrong.

How often do you come across a book so of so many pages yet never feeling it is getting a bit drawn out or time to wind up? Never the case here. I’m always in the middle of a book, yet for the first time in my life, I needed about two weeks on completing to mull it over, to savour the after-effect, to re-live in my mind the amazing experience I’d just had. It’s almost like no book would ever live up to this one and that reading anything else would make me a traitor.

I’ve purchased the other books (Streets of Laredo, Dead Man’s Walk and Comanche Moon) in the hope that they’ll be as good but I just can’t get myself to start them because I’m a bit scared of being let down. I tell myself that I shouldn’t be greedy and rather just stay in love with one special thing thus saving the heartache of disappointment and thereby losing some of the magic that Lonesome Dove holds.