Wednesday, September 30, 2020

"To Tame a Land" by Louis L'Amour

So.  Um.  Hmm.

The thing is, I really quite liked this book until the last chapter ruined everything.  You've got a coming of age story where a guy called Rye starts out as a boy, and life is really hard because he loses both his parents young and in miserable ways, but he gets through that with the help of a nice guy named Logan who mentors him and kind of semi-adopts him until he's old enough to go out and be his own man.

And Rye does, he goes out and lives a full life on the frontier and does what he needs to survive, and he falls in love with a girl.  And he eventually gets a pretty steady job as a lawman and wants to go back and find that girl and see if she'll marry him.

All well and good.  I was 100% on board.  Good stuff.  Lovely character development.  Nice story arc.  Very episodic, but I like episodic.  Kind of ramble-y, especially for a L'Amour, but I like ramble-y.

And then, that last chapter.  

SPOILER ALERT: I am discussing the ending here and I am not going to pull punches and I am going to be crabby about it.

Yeah.  That last chapter.  When it turns out that -- surprise! -- the big crime boss that our hero has to go up against, the one that's been leading all the baddest of bad criminals in the area for a few years, and who has now kidnapped the woman Rye loves... is his old mentor, Logan.  Which, you know, that's a thing -- boy grows up and has to face the fact that the guy who raised him is not as heroic and wonderful as he remembered.  It's not a trope I generally like unless it's done just right, but it's a thing.  Oedipus and all that.  Whatever. 

Except it didn't make any sense.  Like, at all.  This mentor he had?  Logan?  Was a nice guy?  Yeah, he had to leave home back east fast after a duel, but he was clearly a good guy?  And got married to a really nice lady, and settled down, and was all set to continue being a good guy.  Only, unbeknownst to anyone until Logan tells Rye this at the end, his wife died a few years ago, in childbirth, and then, obviously, he turned to evil and became an outlaw kingpin because that completely makes sense.  Very logical.  Much natural reactionness occurring here.


I mean, if his wife had died in a train wreck, and so he started robbing trains because he thought the train company had been at fault, that would make sense.  Or if his wife died during a bank robbery and the bankers cared more about the stolen money than her life, so he started robbing banks, yeah, okay.

She died in childbirth, y'all.  It happens.  Still today.  It is not a reason to go become a crime boss.


Yeah.  You can just see that L'Amour had this really great idea for a plot twist and he couldn't resist using it, and he tossed in the girl being wooed by both Rye and Logan to hammer the whole Oedipal thing home even harder, and... and I hate seeing the author working.  I should not be able to do that.  I should not, in the course of a book, see what the author is doing.  They must be invisible.  If I see them, they're doing it wrong.  And L'Amour is too doggone good for this kind of thing to just get shrugged off as, "Well, you know, the idea was good..."

Nope.  I'm not having it.  Sorry, folks.  I don't believe the character arc, I see the author tiptoeing around, and I am all kinds of disappointed.

The thing is, I realized after I'd finished the book that L'Amour had totally set up a different plot twist, and it would've been totally cool.  Logan had left the east after killing a guy in a duel over this rich girl Logan loved, but her family didn't want her to marry him.  And Rye's mom was a rich girl who married Rye's dad against her family's will and left them to be with him.  So... what if that was the same girl?  What if losing Logan made her determined not to let her family make her decisions for her anymore, and when she fell in love with another guy and her parents pulled that same stunt again, she just left?  And what if Rye looked enough like his mom that Logan was reminded of her, and so on?  I mean, Rye carries his mom's picture around with him forever, and Logan could even have seen it and known this was the son he almost had, and that's why he takes him in and everything, but he doesn't want to tell him until he's older, whatever.

But noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.

(Happily, I read another L'Amour book right away and liked it heaps, so don't worry, I'm not going to quit reading him just because of one unsatisfactory ending.)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-10 for western violence and peril to women and stuff like that.  And some low-level cussing.

This is my 37th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Winners of the Tolkien Blog Party Giveaway 2020

The Rafflecopter widget has spoken!  I had it select 10 winners, then matched them up with prizes, and here are the results:

Prize 1: Two 4-oz candles from Midnight Flame -- Allison T.

Prize 2: Four bookmarks from Mirkwood Scribes -- Ivy Miranda

Prize 3: Two 2-oz candles from Plot Twist Wicks and Flick the Wick -- Stephanie

Prize 4: All three soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings trilogy -- Kendra

Prize 5: Three stickers of the Three Hunters -- Evelyn K.

Prize 6: Four stickers of the four hobbits from LOTR -- Briar Rose

Prize 7: One wooden bookmark from Sweet Sequels -- Maya Joelle

Prize 8: One 4-oz candle from Salty and Lit -- Rachel A.

Prize 9: "I'm Going on an Adventure" journal -- Samantha

Prize 10: the winner's choice of any one Tolkien-related ceramic mug from A Fine Quotation -- Marian H.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to everyone else, better luck next year!

Winners, please check the email address you provided to the Rafflecopter widget for an email from me asking where to mail your prize!

Answers to the Tolkien Middle-earth Relatives Quiz

Here are the answers to the Middle-earth Relatives Quiz, and your scores :-)  Even though this was one of the toughest quizzes I've ever made, so many of you did really well!

1. Eowyn is Eomer's sister.

2. Prince Imrahil is Boromir's uncle.  (Imrahil's sister Finduilas was Boromir and Faramir's mother.)

3. Legolas is Thranduil's son.

4. Frodo is Bilbo's cousin (and heir). (Frodo is Bilbo's first cousin once removed on Frodo's mother's side and his second cousin once removed on his father's side. Bilbo does refer to Frodo as his nephew, but in "A Long-Expected Party" it says Frodo is a younger cousin.  I accepted "cousin" and "heir" both for this, but not nephew.)

5. Celeborn is Galadriel's husband.

6. Gimli is Oin's nephew.

7. Prince Imrahil is Eomer's father-in-law. (Eomer's marriage to his daughter Lotheriel is mentioned in the Appendices.)

8. Bergil is Beregond's son.

9. Bard is Bain's father.

10. Galadriel is Arwen's grandmother. (Galadriel and Celeborn's daughter Celebrian was Elrond's wife and mother of Arwen, Elrohir, and Elladin.)


Mary Kate -- 10
Fawnabelle Baggins -- 9
Heidi -- 9
Briar Rose -- 8
George -- 8
Kendra -- 8
Bethi -- 7
Olivia -- 7
rachel -- 7
Sarah Steele -- 6
Marian H -- 5
Samantha -- 5
Gabby A -- 4
MovieCritic -- 3

Answers to Hobbit Family Name Unscramble

Alas, the party is coming to an end.  But hasn't this been a fun week?  I know I've enjoyed it -- and am still enjoying it!

Here are the answers to the unscramble game!  And the scores :-)  You were all extraordinarily good at this!!!

1. froopdout = Proudfoot
2. okto = Took
3. gotmag = Maggot
4. sibgang = Baggins
5. browhelnor = Hornblower
6. tontoc = Cotton
7. drynuckbab = Brandybuck
8. brubg = Grubb
9. glober = Bolger
10. snydanma = Sandyman
11. greedclarib = Bracegirdle
12. maggee = Gamgee


Briar Rose -- 12
Fawnabelle Baggins -- 12
Heidi P. -- 12
Kendra -- 12
Olivia --12
rachel -- 12
Sarah Seele -- 12
Gabby A -- 11
MovieCritic -- 11
Samantha -- 11
Bethi -- 10
Ivy Miranda -- 10
Mary Kate -- 10

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

"Roverandom" by J.R.R. Tolkien

I hadn't even heard of this charming little book until earlier this year.  So if you hadn't heard of it before either, don't fret!  It was first published in 1998, though Tolkien had actually hoped to publish it after The Hobbit.  But his publishers didn't want more funny and whimsical fantasy stories for kids in general, they wanted more of The Hobbit in particular.  So Tolkien shelved Roverandom even though he had revised it repeatedly and made lovely illustrations for it, and wrote The Lord of the Rings instead.

This story began, like The Hobbit, as something Tolkien made up for his children.  His second son, Michael, lost a little toy dog that he loved dearly while they were at the beach, and Tolkien made up a whole series of adventures for the dog to help his son process the loss.  His sons all enjoyed them so very much, he told them over and over, and expanded on them, and eventually wrote them down.

I learned all of that in the extensive introduction in the hardcover volume I have, as pictured here.  The introduction and end notes make up about half of the book, as Roverandom only has 5 chapters.  In it, a real dog falls afoul of a wizard, gets turned into a toy dog, is bought for a little boy who then loses him on the beach, is rescued by another enchanter and sent to the moon to have adventures, then has more adventures under the sea before everything winding up very happily.

A lot of this book reminded me of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.  That same exuberant make-believe feel about fantastical realms coexisting with our own, you know?  But it lacks the melancholy of The Little Prince, which suits me just fine.  I like dog books that end happily, and I'm very glad this one did.

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

"You never know what will happen next, when once you get mixed up with wizards and their friends" (p. 67).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Nothing potentially objectionable here whatsoever.

This is my third book read and reviewed for my third Classics Club list and my 36th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.  And it is also a contribution to this year's Tolkien Blog Party :-)

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Tolkien Middle-earth Relatives Quiz

Time for our second game for this year's Tolkien Blog Party!  I did something similar a few years ago, but I'll try to make it different enough that it will still be challenging AND so no one can go hunting back through old party posts and cheat off that one.  Mwahaha!

Note: some of these are related by blood, others by marriage.

Submit your answers in the comments, and I'll post the answers and everyone's scores at the end of the week.

1. Eowyn is Eomer's ___________.

2. Prince Imrahil is Boromir's ___________.

3. Legolas is Thranduil's ______________.

4. Frodo is Bilbo's ____________.

5. Celeborn is Galadriel's _________________.

6. Gimli is Oin's _____________.

7. Prince Imrahil is Eomer's ___________________.

8. Bergil is Beregond's ____________________.

9. Bard is Bain's __________________.

10. Galadriel is Arwen's ________________.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Hobbit Family Name Unscramble

Our first game this year is an unscramble.  Try to figure out what Hobbit family names (surnames) these are!  Put your guesses in the comments, which I've put on full moderation until the end of the party, and I'll reveal the answers and everyone's scores on Saturday.

Most of these do get mentioned in the movies too, not just the books.

1. froopdout
2. okto
3. gotmag
4. sibgang
5. browhelnor
6. tontoc
7. drynuckbab
8. brubg
9. glober
10. snydanma
11. greedclarib
12. maggee

Good luck!

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Tolkien Blog Party 2020 -- Kick-Off Post

Can you believe this is the eighth year we've gathered here virtually to celebrate J.R.R. Tolkien's timeless stories and all things Middle-earth?  I think that's pretty cool, to be honest!

I just posted my giveaway a minute ago, so be sure to check that out and enter if any of the prizes strike your fancy.

As always, there's a tag below that you can copy to your own blog and answer there, then put the link to your post in the linky widget at the bottom of this post. Like last year, you can also contribute ANY Tolkien-related post to the party, as long as it is new. (Don't link to stuff you posted like two years ago or something.)  Anything Tolkien-related is fair game, whether it involves Middle-earth or not. Review one of his books, talk about the movies, devote a whole post to your favorite character, whatever! There's no sign-up sheet, just post what you want to and then share your post via the link-up in this post.

Speaking of the tag questions, here they are!

1. What Tolkien character do you think you're the most like?
2. What Tolkien character do you wish you were more like?
3. What would your dream home in Middle-earth be like?
4. You get to make a movie of the story of Beren and Luthien!  Who do you cast as the leads?
5. Have you ever marathoned the LOTR or Hobbit movies?
6. Do you have a favorite song or track from the movie soundtracks by Howard Shore?
7. Which of Tolkien's characters would you like to be best friends with?
8. Who of the people in your real life would you want in your company if you had to take the ring to Mordor?
9. Have you read any of Tolkien's non-Middle-earth works?
10. Is there a book by Tolkien you haven't read yet, but want to?

Don't forget to add a button to your post.  They're all snippets of Tolkien's own artwork this year!

And here is the link-up widget.  Remember to add all your party posts to this so we can all visit them!

Come back tomorrow for the first of two games I have planned!  I'll also be posting a review of Tolkien's children's book Roverandom later this week.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Giveaway for the Tolkien Blog Party 2020

I cannot host a Tolkien Blog Party without giving away a few mathoms in true hobbit style!  So here are this year's prizes, which are of more special magnificence than usual because I feel like everyone needs an extra lift this year.

Prize 1: Two 4-oz candles I bought from Midnight Flame, one called Second Breakfast and one called Shieldmaiden of Rohan.  Both have some loose dried flowers on top of the candle for extra scent and beauty.

Prize 2: Four bookmarks I bought as a PDF file from Mirkwood Scribes that bear poetry and images from The Hobbit.  I printed them myself and laminated them with contact paper so they will last longer.

Prize 3: Two 2-oz candles I bought from Plot Twist Wicks and Flick the Wick, one called The Shire and once called Misty Mountains.  It's hard to tell in this photo, but the Shire candle is glittery on top.

Prize 4: All three original soundtracks for the Lord of the Rings trilogy films from New Line Cinema, composed by Howard Shore.  These are USED discs -- they play in my devices, but I can't guarantee they will work for you.

Prize 5: Three stickers featuring the Three Hunters: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli.

Prize 6: Four stickers featuring the four hobbits from LOTR: Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin. 

I bought all of these from We the Dreaming Designs.  They are each about 3"x3".

Prize 7: One wooden bookmark I bought from Sweet Sequels that features original artwork of the map of Middle Earth and a stack of Tolkien's books.

Prize 8: One 4-oz candle I bought from Salty and Lit called The Prancing Pony.

Prize 9: One journal I bought from Crabapple Books that says "I'm Going on an Adventure" on the front and has a hand-drawn design of mountains and trees that wraps around to the back of the book.  This 6"x9" paperback journal has 100 lined pages.

Prize 10: the winner's choice of any one Tolkien-related ceramic mug from A Fine Quotation!  This prize is being donated by shop owner Carrie Brownell, and she will only ship it to a US address because it is heavy, so please don't request it if you live outside the United States.

This giveaway is open worldwide EXCEPT for Prize 10, the mug from A Fine Quotation, which is US-only.   

As always, the main way to gain entries is to participate in the party by contributing a post, such as your answers to the official tag or another Tolkien-related post, then adding your post's link to the Mister Linky widget at the bottom of the kick-off post (which is also where you'll find the tag questions).  But that isn't required!  You can also earn entries by doing other things like commenting, following, and telling me your prize choices.  

I do my best to match winners with their choice of prizes, but that doesn't always work out -- that's why I ask for your top three choices. 

Also, please be aware that international mail is slow these days. I will ship all prizes via the USPS, and they do not ship to every country right now, so please check this official list to see if your country is still receiving mail sent via the USPS.

This giveaway runs through the end of Friday, September 25. I will draw the winners on Saturday, September 26 and post the names of the winners on this blog, as well a notify them by email, no later than Sunday, September 27.

PLEASE make sure your information for the giveaway widget includes your current email address so that if you win a prize, you'll get the email informing you that you won! If you don't reply to my email by Saturday, October 3, I will choose another winner and award your prize to them instead.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, September 18, 2020

"In Our Time" by Ernest Hemingway


Not my new favorite Hemingway, despite the presence of some of my favorite short stories of his.

In Our Time is a collection of vignettes about war and bullfighting that intersperse a lot of short stories, many of them featuring Hemingway's alter ego, Nick Adams.  The vignettes focus on gory, unpleasant, depressing events, and the short stories are similarly about death, loss, leaving, and things ending badly, all except the last two, which are "Big Two-Hearted River" parts 1 and 2. 

Only in those last two stories to we finally start to see someone finding peace and healing.  Until them, the focus seems to be on the elusiveness of happiness.  I think Hemingway is saying that you can't find happiness or healing when you're with other people, even your friends.  Only by going away from the rest of humanity can you find the peace and healing you need.  So bleak.  Oh, Hemingway, you make me so sad for you.

I think that young people today, the ones who are angry and railing against everything, should read Hemingway.  Especially this.  I think it would help them see that disaffection, disillusionment, and feeling lost and alone are not at all new.  They're present whenever people turn their backs on God and each other.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-16 for some bad language, violence, gore, oblique sexual references, and general depressingness.

This is my 2nd book read and reviewed for my third go-'round with the Classics Club and my 35th for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

"Mr. Rochester" by Sarah Shoemaker

Head canon accepted.

Seriously.  This is so exactly what I wanted from a book about Mr. Rochester, the Byronic, enigmatic love interest from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  Which happens to be my favorite book.  It fills in gaps, explains little quirks and questions, and fleshes out even more fully the man who loves my favorite literary heroine.

(This contains spoilers for this book as well as for Jane Eyre.  You've been warned.)

This book starts when Edward Fairfax Rochester is just a boy, rattling around Thornfield Hall, lonely and wishing for notice or affection from his older brother Rowland and their father.  It traces his youth at an unusual boarding school, his growth toward manhood while learning to manage a business, and then his disastrous trip to Jamaica.  It's there that he's swept up into a whirlwind courtship of the stunning Bertha Mason, married to her almost before he's aware of what he's doing, and then gradually overwhelmed by her growing madness.

Shoemaker beautifully explains things like why Mr. Rochester would bring his mad wife to England, why he would keep her in his own home, why he insists that Jane call him Edward even though everyone else calls him Fairfax Rochester.  She even softens his attempted bigamy in a way I hadn't expected, giving him a possible way out of his marriage to Bertha (which does not quite come to pass after all) that prompts him to propose to Jane.  That also involved a twist I wasn't expecting, but that definitely worked with the original book.

I also liked that it showed by Mr. Rochester was not fond of his ward Adele, even to the point of rudeness at times.  In this book, she is most decidedly shown not to be his daughter, rather having him decide to become her protector after her mother died so that Adele would not be turned into a child prostitute.

If you like books showing another person's point of view of events in a well-known, well-loved story, and especially if you love Jane Eyre, this book will probably delight you too.  Be aware that this IS a book for adults, however, as I will detail below.

Particularly Good Bits:

"That settles it!" Miss Kent interrupted.  "Music and reading!  What better way to spend an evening" (p. 107-08).

I shall say this for her: certainly, unlike some women, her view of marriage was not dictated by the fanciful romantic vision of a Jane Austen novel (p. 407).  (This made me laugh because Bronte was not an Austen fan.  I happen to think Austen has a particularly clear-eyed view of marriage, more than Rochester himself, but still, made me chuckle.)

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  R.  It has numerous discussions of people having sex, though it is not explicit.  It deals with slavery and the fact that some slave owners would force themselves on their female slaves.  It also has two instances of the F-word and some other bad language.  And the descriptions of madness, of mad houses, and of the usual treatment of mad people at that time are a bit hard to take at times.  There is also mention of teenage pregnancy and children born out of wedlock.

Monday, September 14, 2020

"Prairie Lotus" by Linda Sue Park

I quite liked this book.  In fact, I wish it had been a bit longer.  That's always good, right?  To not be hoping the book will end soon, but hoping it will go on a bit longer?

Hanna and her father move to a new town out in the middle of the Great Plains.  Her father wants to open a dry goods store specializing in fabrics and sewing notions.  Hanna hopes to add dressmaking to the business, as she learned dressmaking from her mother and, even though she is only fourteen, she is already quite good at it.

Hanna also dreams of attending school in their new town.  But that's going to be difficult because Hanna's mother was Chinese.  And even though Hanna's father is white, most of the townsfolk view her with suspicion, distaste, or even animosity.  Because Hanna looks different, they assume she must be different.

While Hanna fights for the right to attend school and earn her diploma, she also works to convince her father to allow her to be an active part in his new business.  And, while doing both of those things, she also seeks to make sense of her identity.  Is she more Chinese, like the mother she has lost back in California, or more white, like the father who never quite understands her the way she'd like?  Or is she simply her own person?

This book ends on a very hopeful note, which I was happy for, but it's not unrealistic.  Hanna's problems aren't all solved by the end of the story, and she needs great courage to continue facing the future.  But by the end, she has made friends and begun forging her own place in the community.  The ending did feel abrupt to me, though.  I expected, and would have appreciated, about one more chapter's-worth of denouement.

Particularly Good Bits:

A brand-new town, equal measures of promise and uncertainty, like the thin April sunshine in which it stood (p. 13).

It seemed to Hanna that there were always a hundred reasons for disliking people and not nearly as many for liking them (p. 42).

She could only whisper, caught between a smile on her lips and a lump in her throat (p. 135).

Tea with friends is a feast for the spirit (p. 242).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-10.  It deals with heavy topics such as racism, though it handles them gently.  But there is also an incident in which a drunken man tries to molest Hanna, touching her in ways she is uncomfortable with and clearly intending to do much more.  She escapes, but the experience haunts her for quite a while.  That sets this clearly in the Middle Grade camp for me, not Junior Fiction.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Tolkien Reminders

Just a quick reminder for you that my Tolkien Blog Party starts one week from today!  You can learn more about it here.

Also, my friend Heidi is gearing up to lead a read-along of The Lord of the Rings starting September 28, which is just a little over two weeks away.  If you've never read LOTR, or if you've read it a dozen times, you're welcome to join her!  I plan to participate myself.  You can read more details about that here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

"Mr. Bliss" by J. R. R. Tolkien

This is the most adorable little picture book!  Tolkien wrote it for his kids, somewhat inspired by his own distaste for automobiles.  In it, an eccentric man named Mr. Bliss, owner of a giant girabbit (half giraffe, half rabbit) and wearer of a very tall hat, decides to buy a snazzy yellow car and proceeds to have a series of comical, absurd adventures as a result.  Those include talking bears, missing garden produce, and the girabbit.  I loved it.

Tolkien's distaste for complicated machinery and love of open countryside definitely is on display here!  I wish I'd had this book when my kids were younger because it would have been such fun to read to them while they snuggled on my lap.

This is my 34th book read from my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020 

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

"The Reluctant Godfather" by Allison Tebo

This book made me chuckle repeatedly :-)  AND it surprised me at the end -- it has a little twist that I wasn't quite expecting, though I started to suspect it partway through the book, which was fun.

In this Cinderella retelling, Cinderella has a fairy godfather named Burndee who does NOT want to be a godfather at all.  He wants to concentrate on his baking and cake decorating and leave stupid humans to their own devices.  But such slipshod godfathering is not allowed, and so he cooks up a scheme to get both his godchildren to fall in love so he won't have to deal with them anymore.

This is quite a short novella, so if you're in the mood for a funny fairy tale retelling but are short on reading time, it would be a great choice!

Particularly Good Bits:

"Burndee, you can't make people happy; no one can do that. Fairy godparents aren't required to make their wards happy; they're just supposed to help them" (p. 106).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G.  Clean, wholesome family fare.

This is my 34th book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020 :-)

Thursday, September 3, 2020

"Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults" by Bryan Stevenson

Did you know there was a version of Bryan Stevenson's bestseller Just Mercy that was adapted for younger readers?  I didn't realize that until this arrived in the mail -- I must not have been paying good attention the day I ordered it.  Oops!  I got it to read with the book club hosted by Musings of Jamie this month, and I tried to get the adult version from the library once I realized my mistake, but too many people were in line ahead of me. So I read the copy I had.  

And I'm glad I did. Even this toned-down, older-teen-friendly version had me in tears multiple times. I had to put it down for a couple days because parts of it hurt so much. My heart cried out in sympathy to children tried, convicted, and incarcerated as if they were adults. To mentally challenged people tried with no regard for their abilities or lack thereof. To people disregarded, silenced, and thrown away as if they were disposable face masks, not people created in the image of God. 

This is a memoir about Stevenson's work as a lawyer advocating for people either wrongly convicted, punished too harshly, or being mistreated within the prison system.  He starts out talking about when he was an idealistic young law student doing an internship in Alabama, and traces his career over about three decades as he helped start the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI).  A lot of the book focuses on EJI's efforts to free a man on death row in Alabama that they discovered had been falsely accused and wrongly convicted.  If you've seen the 2019 movie Just Mercy, that's the case that the film focuses in on.  

But Stevenson also talks about many other cases.  About children, about women, about criminals, about innocent people.  Some of the cases were very distressing to me personally.  And some parts were very upbeat and hopeful.  I think I cried the most over a prison guard who gradually went from being a despicable bully to a pretty understanding guy.

My biggest takeaway from this book is that if we look to humans to fix a broken system, to fix their broken selves, to fix the broken society we've created -- that's is like asking my teacup with the broken handle to fix itself. It can't. We can't. Try as we might, spout wisdom or good thoughts or kindness all we want, but we can't become better under our own power. 

However, we CAN change for the better when we rely on God's power. God can fix this mess. But he's not a genie in a bottle who'll grant a wish or two or three. There's no *poof* of magic to change this brokenness from without. It will only come from hearts changed by his love, by faith in him instead of in ourselves or other people. 

 Anyway. I did not agree with every conclusion or statement that Stevenson made, but he stated his beliefs compellingly and gave me a lot to think about.  If you think this book sounds too heavy, try the YA version. It's tough. But it's important.

I really appreciated that the book includes references in the back for many of the statistics and other things referred to in the book.  That was really important to me, as it showed that Stevenson and the publishers valued credibility and spreading awareness, not sensationalism.

(From my Instagram account)

Particularly Good Bits: 

We are all implicated when we allow other people to be mistreated.  An absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community, a state, an entire nation.  Fear and anger can make us cruel and abusive.  We all suffer from the absence of mercy and we harm ourselves as much as we victimize others (p. 18).

Walter's case taught me that fear and anger are a threat to justice; they can infect a community, a state, or a nation and make us blind, irrational, and dangerous (p. 260).

If This was a movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-16, at least.  It talks about children being abused physically, mentally, and sexually, though not in a graphic way.  It also talks about miscegenation laws, people committing adultery, some slightly graphic discussions of death by electric chair, and other violent subjects.  Much too intense for most younger teens, imho.

This was my 33rd book read off my TBR shelves for #TheUnreadShelfProject2020.