The best books of March, oh my. This month I have traveled with giraffes, read more about short-term memory loss, been mesmerized with a tale of horror, and been angered beyond anger at the antics of a company that employed a young man nicknamed Buck.
Here are the best books of the month and one that was my least favorite.
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West with Giraffes by Lynda Rutledge
Woodrow Wilson Nickel is 17 years old when he loses his entire family. It is 1938 and dust storms have overtaken the panhandle of Texas. Woody’s baby sister dies, then his mother, and then more tragedy.
Woody makes his way to a cousin in New York City by jumping trains.
The book opens with Woody in the city during the Great hurricane of 1938. As he comes to after being thrashed in the wind, he finds his only living relative, dead. And then…
“…the last thing you think you’re going to see in the middle of flipped boats and buildings afire and bodies dangling and sirens wailing is a couple of giraffes.”
And then Woody also sees “a shiny new truck with a wood contraption strapped to its long flatbed” and he realizes the giraffes are going to be transported. Old Man steps out and thus the adventure begins.
Old Man is the name Woody gives to Riley Jones – the person that is going to take the giraffes across America to the San Diego zoo.
Woody joins the excursion as the driver of the truck- but only after stealing a motorbike and following the caravan for a time. Despite being only 17 and not really knowing how to drive a large truck carrying two swaying giraffes Woody and Old Man go across the Appalachian mountains, across Tennessee, Arkansas, and the panhandle of Texas. From there they make their way across the desert. They are followed closely by a photographer named Augusta (nicknamed Red by Woody), a woman that wears trousers and is traveling alone. (Both scandalous in the time.)
The journey is slow with many stops at roadside camps, motels, and towns. People gawk at the giraffes and help Old Man and Woody. They encounter circus trains that want the giraffes, muddy detours, mountains switchbacks, and overpasses they cannot fit under. And the drama of being followed by Augusta Red.
“I was hoping for sleep without nightmares, I saw a flash of bear on the back of my eyelids and felt the touch of Red’s lips on my cheek. And I wondered what might be more dangerous, the bear, the giraffes, or a camera-packing redhead in britches.”
Woody obviously falls for Red, but the real story here is his love for the giraffes. This is an amazing book, based on a true story. The language of the text is rich with details and beauty. I loved this book– 5 stars absolutely.
And, side note, I learned so much about giraffes. Two giraffes together will not sleep at the same time. One stays awake to guard against prey- lions. So, the ultimate great day for a giraffe is “a day with no lions”.
Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour
Oh. My. Let me give you some background about this book.
Darren, a 20-something black man living in Bed-Stuy, New York works at a Starbucks in a high rise office building.
He is perfectly content with his life. He lives with his mom, has a long-time girlfriend, and really hasn’t a care in the world.
Until one day, he greets a regular customer with a hard-sell to try a different kind of coffee. The customer happens to be the CEO of a company located on the upper floors of the building. The man, Rhett, is so intrigued by the success Darren has in selling him one cup of coffee that he makes him an offer to join his company.
And, the book takes off! Darren, now called ‘Buck’ ( a nickname given due to his former job), begins his training to become a phone solicitor for the Sumwun company. What do they sell? I still am not sure- it’s a counseling business that has clients all over the world. Yeah.
In the meantime, Buck is struggling with all other aspects of his life and making rather hasty and weird decisions. He becomes an unlikeable character (for me).
Now, let’s talk about this book. If you do not know the meaning of satire, you are going to need to look that up. This book is not serious and if you read reviews you will find a lot of people are rating the book low because of the language and events that are way over-the-top. Reviews sound like the reader didn’t understand this book was totally exaggerating everything – on purpose. For example, Darren is employed in this company and is the only person of color. He is called names, given the nickname ‘Buck’, and has white paint poured over his head on his first day on the job. Every single person he is introduced to will say, “Hey, did you know you look like ____?” Fill in the blank with the name of any famous black man.
So, what could possibly be a redeeming quality for this book? Great question. The book is compelling as Buck goes through his training to be able to sell anything. Sprinkled throughout the chapters are asides that read like a how-to book about selling. Some of these techniques ring true while others are just silly (satire, remember). Anyway, as Buck transforms into his selling persona, you will be appalled and yet you will keep reading. Is Buck destined to be an all-time best salesperson in his industry or will he crash eventually? Hmmmm… just a note, there is a delicious twist near the end that I did not see coming!
And, here’s the thing that occurred to me at 79% on my Kindle- the book did to me, the reader, exactly what happens to Buck. He resisted joining the company and then did anyway. I was shocked at parts of the book but kept reading anyway. The author “sold” this book to me.
Can I recommend it? Yes, I do think it is an eye-opener and worth your time. You will think about it after you finish it and I thought it ended perfectly. I have heard that the audio version is amazing, but I read this one on an E-reader. My rating is a 4.5 – 5.
Later by Stephen King
I seriously have a copy of Carrie that has no book jacket and tattered pages. It’s that old. I cannot even guess how many years ago I bought it.
Let’s face it. I will buy anything written by the genius that is Stephen King.
Jamie is about six as the book opens. Living with a single mother, the boy is a typical child, well except, for that special thing he has. Mom is a literary agent and does well. A girlfriend of mom’s stays with them occasionally. Perfect little life, right?
Aha- remember who wrote this. All is dreamy until the author of one of mom’s book lines dies. His last book will go unpublished and finances become a problem. Would a mother use her son’s special ability to gain something? Hmmm…I am not telling.
Let’s just say that, from what I have read over the years when you bargain with the dead, or the devil, or the spirits, or whatever magical special abilities Stephen King thinks up, you are going to swiftly meet with some problems. And it may be a horror story…
I absolutely cannot tell you more than this. Yes, if you are a King fan, you will love this book. 5 stars, Mr. King, always.
Memories in the Drift by Melissa Payne
Claire, is a mid-thirties woman living in Whittier, Alaska. During a pregnancy she suffered a stroke which resulted in the loss of the baby and her short-term memory. Now, ten years later she is living with endless journals and lists to help her remember day-to-day things.
Claire lives alone and relies on her lists and organization to function. She writes down events as they are happening to look back at later when she cannot recall them. She does remember her parents, her friends, a grade school teacher, store clerks, and her old boyfriend (the father of the lost baby). These are all memories in her long-term memory which she recalls vividly.
So, let me describe a little of what she does to cope… every morning she awakes, and as she goes through arising, eating breakfast, and showering she moves a clothespin on a clip-chart to keep track of what she has already done. Whenever her friends are talking to her she flips through her journal to help recall what they are talking about. She sets alarms on her phone to remind her of everything- multiple alarms for the same thing.
But, still, she can be talking with friends and get distracted, and then look up and not know what they are talking about or where she is. Everyone quickly reminds her of what is going on!
It is a fascinating premise for this book and I was intrigued. There is family drama that goes along with the story and it is ultimately a romance “chick-lit” type book. So, 4 stars because I did finish it and cared about the characters. But, 3 stars for all my questions. A few are listed below!
- Why didn’t she use an alphabetical tab system? Flipping through days and days of her journal could have been reduced to flipping to the tab with a keyword on it. That’s just a small thing. I know.
- Why didn’t she record things digitally or on audio to help her remember? She explains this as a preference for pencil/paper, but as a visual person, I would have wanted photos beside the entries in the journal.
- Does the author occasionally forget that Claire is not supposed to remember something? Yes, and it drove me nuts. Claire would suddenly have a flash of memory that didn’t jive with everything else.
- Also, Claire had no job. Where did she get money?
Another month of amazing books! You can always check my reading list on Goodreads!
My rating system: 5 stars means perfection- the book was written well, held my attention, and I did not want it to end. 4 stars- the book was really good, but I had questions or concerns about parts of it. This might include the way it ended. 3 stars- the book was okay, but I just didn’t like it much. 2 stars- I skimmed most of it. 1 star- I could not finish it.
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