Official Review: Flagstaff's Forgotten Cowgirl

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inaramid
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Official Review: Flagstaff's Forgotten Cowgirl

Post by inaramid » 12 Jul 2018, 20:07

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Flagstaff's Forgotten Cowgirl" by JK Hoffman.]
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2 out of 4 stars
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It’s a sad truth that people disappear from the pages of history without having their stories told or remembered. Fortunately for Elizabeth “Lizzie” Hoffman of Flagstaff, Arizona, author J.K. Hoffman rose to the challenge of bringing her story out of obscurity. Flagstaff’s Forgotten Cowgirl: The Journals of Lizzie Hoffman traces this woman’s remarkable journey through a fictionalized saga of her growing up and overcoming adversity.

Labeled as a “factitious book loosely based on real people and events,” Flagstaff’s Forgotten Cowgirl adopts a diary format, with Lizzie writing intermittent entries addressed to LJ (Lizzie’s Journal) throughout three distinct periods of her life. We first meet her in 1886 as a precocious ten-year-old, youngest of six, strong-willed and carefree, and already setting herself apart from other girls by dreaming of becoming a rancher. After she receives a black onyx horse that she believes is cursed, misfortune after misfortune fall upon her and her family. In 1896, when the dashing cowboy Ed Geddes breaks her heart, Lizzie impulsively takes off with Bill Shroyer, a family friend whom she eventually marries, to the cold wilderness of British Columbia and the Yukon. She learns to pan for gold, run a household and a business, and fend for herself in more ways than one. Yet her heart yearns for the home, the family, and the man she had left behind. When Ed and Lizzie finally reunite, she finds herself struggling to survive the most perilous adventure of all—love.

The book’s greatest strength lies in how Hoffman captured the voice and perspective of a young girl transitioning to womanhood. From the upbeat, childish tone of the earlier chapters to the more pensive feel of the later ones, we get a clear sense of Lizzie’s growth and the changes she undergoes. From the progression of her journal entries, we watch her grapple with family tragedies, social dogma, and sexism. Through it all, we become Lizzie’s confidants, privy to her thoughts, feelings, and secrets. Hoffman also portrayed the setting and time period with convincing structural and historical details. Towns, cities, and other key places were realistically rendered. References to events like the Pleasant Valley War, the gold fever, and President Roosevelt’s visit to the Grand Canyon were embedded into the narrative. Encounters with Hopi Indians and Gypsies as well as mentions of prominent figures like Jack London and Percival Lowell further lent authenticity to Lizzie’s story.

Unfortunately, the book also has several problematic elements. First, there are numerous editing errors and a few narrative inconsistencies. For instance, plural and possessive forms of words (e.g., sister’s instead of sisters) are interchanged, typographical errors are noted (e.g., "I the love you, LJ"), and commas are often misplaced or missing. It’s also jarring how the narration sometimes shifts to an omniscient point of view, such as instances when Lizzie would describe what other people are thinking (“He thought of how beautiful I looked in my bearskin skirt and lamb jacket”). The timeline was confusing as well. While Lizzie decided to leave Flagstaff in March 1896, the next entry showed her leaving town in February 1896.

Up to a certain point, the journal format worked in Lizzie’s favor, depicting her as a stubborn but charming character. However, like many autobiographical accounts, the self-centered context and the tendency to romanticize circumstances and events eventually detracted from the story being told. Statements that may sound endearing from a younger Lizzie (“They did not have in them the strength and determination that I did”) came across as vain from an older Lizzie (“I have two men fighting over me”). The dynamics between Ed and Lizzie also became a source of aggravation. I had the impression that the author was trying to tell a love story, but sadly, all I saw from Lizzie and Ed’s relationship are the hallmarks of abuse.

Flagstaff’s Forgotten Cowgirl is a character-driven tale steeped in geographical and historical details—something that history buffs can definitely sink their teeth into. However, for all the editing and narrative problems, I cannot rate this book any higher than 2 out of 4 stars.

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Flagstaff's Forgotten Cowgirl
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Dahmy 10
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Post by Dahmy 10 » 16 Jul 2018, 03:37

You have indeed proven that the book doesn't really deserve our attention. I might go through though if I come across it but something needs to be needs to be done about the errors...

Thank you!!

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Post by crediblereading2 » 16 Jul 2018, 09:37

Lizzie seems to have faced many challenges in her life, including love. I like her character though, as she is an overcomer. Thank you for your honest review.

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Post by Cecilia_L » 16 Jul 2018, 13:48

The editing and narrative issues you described are problematic for me. However, I appreciate your candid review!

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Post by inaramid » 16 Jul 2018, 19:26

Dahmy 10 wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 03:37
You have indeed proven that the book doesn't really deserve our attention. I might go through though if I come across it but something needs to be needs to be done about the errors...

Thank you!!
There are things about this book that might appeal to fans of historical fiction as the author appeared to have done her research well. Several more rounds of editing will definitely bump this book's rating. Thank you for dropping by.

crediblereading2 wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 09:37
Lizzie seems to have faced many challenges in her life, including love. I like her character though, as she is an overcomer. Thank you for your honest review.
Yes, she certainly is. :)

Cecilia_L wrote:
16 Jul 2018, 13:48
The editing and narrative issues you described are problematic for me. However, I appreciate your candid review!
Thank you for dropping by. I was not a fan of some elements in this book, but there's definitely a good story there.

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Post by kandscreeley » 17 Jul 2018, 12:00

This really isn't my type of book to begin with. Add to that the poor editing and romanticized elements, and I'm afraid I'm out. I'm glad you were able to find a few things to enjoy about this one, but I'm just going to have to skip it. There are too many other great books out there to read this one that wouldn't be that good for me.
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Post by teacherjh » 17 Jul 2018, 21:21

I’ve been to Flagstaff so that would make it interesting, but I think I’ll skip this one.

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Post by teacherjh » 17 Jul 2018, 21:21

I’ve been to Flagstaff so that would make it interesting, but I think I’ll skip this one.

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Post by inaramid » 18 Jul 2018, 00:22

kandscreeley wrote:
17 Jul 2018, 12:00
This really isn't my type of book to begin with. Add to that the poor editing and romanticized elements, and I'm afraid I'm out. I'm glad you were able to find a few things to enjoy about this one, but I'm just going to have to skip it. There are too many other great books out there to read this one that wouldn't be that good for me.
Yes, it is unfortunate. Thanks for dropping by!

teacherjh wrote:
17 Jul 2018, 21:21
I’ve been to Flagstaff so that would make it interesting, but I think I’ll skip this one.
That would be interesting, teacherjh. Perhaps someone from that area will appreciate the details the author worked into the story. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by stacie k » 18 Jul 2018, 01:25

The first half of your review had me excited to read Lizzie’s story, but my enthusiasm waned with the knowledge of so many issues. Thanks for sharing honestly!
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Post by Eva Darrington » 19 Jul 2018, 11:23

I really enjoyed reading your review. Your writing is always refreshing. I am intrigued by this book, but I appreciate the cautions about the editing errors and other problems. It sounds like the author hasn't quite rounded the corner on her relationship issues. I probably will skip the book but will keep reading your reviews! Thanks.
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Post by inaramid » 19 Jul 2018, 22:36

Eva Darrington wrote:
19 Jul 2018, 11:23
It sounds like the author hasn't quite rounded the corner on her relationship issues.
Perceptive as always, Eva. I had the same impression. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Al Chakauya » 05 Aug 2018, 06:49

I liked your review through and through. The author seems to have done a great job researching which would have made the book a great read, but all this is marred by poor typos and other mistakes. Not my kind of read though, but those into historical fiction might enjoy the book.

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Post by inaramid » 07 Aug 2018, 06:17

Al Chakauya wrote:
05 Aug 2018, 06:49
I liked your review through and through. The author seems to have done a great job researching which would have made the book a great read, but all this is marred by poor typos and other mistakes. Not my kind of read though, but those into historical fiction might enjoy the book.
Yep. Exactly. Great research and concept, but the execution could have been done better. Thanks for dropping by!

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Post by Sarah Tariq » 09 Aug 2018, 12:24

I like the author presents a vivid description of historical events and of coarse this is the essence of any historical fiction. You are right the narrative problem can bring down even a good story. Great review.
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