Call Me 37 Today

October 8, 2008 at 10:43 am | Posted in LIfe, Reading | 36 Comments
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Well, the day has finally arrived and I can no longer say that I am 36.  Well, I was born at around 9:50pm, so I could wait to say I’m 37 until tonight, but that’s being a little ridiculous (although if you agree with the whole date and time thing,  you’ll make me exceedingly happy right up until 9:49pm).

Seriously, 36 was a wonderful year.  I feel that I’ve come into my own in my career and as a book blogger.  I have read 70 books since my last birthday and have reviewed 64. It would be hard for me to pick out a favorite from during that time, but the books that have stood out in my 37th year are The Monsters of Templeton by Lauren Groff, Gardens of Water by Alan Drew, The Last Queen by C.W. Gortner, The Autobiography of Henry VIII by Margaret George, The Witch’s Trinity by Erika Mailman, Trauma by Patrick McGrath, Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan, Aberrations by Penelope Przekop, The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson, and Sweetsmoke by David Fuller.

The best blogging experience I had personally revolved around Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield.  I bought this book for my husband, but read it first.  Little did either of us know that this would have a personal connection for my husband.  He was friends with Rob’s wife Renee.  We had a great time going through his pictures from that era and we posted one of Renee.  It always irritates me when there is no pictures in memoirs because I want to know what the people look like.  In this case, Danny was able to supply that for me.  It was also really neat to listen to the tape of his band singing The Beverly Hillbillies theme song to the tune of R.E.M.’s Talk about the Passion.  That whole experience was wonderful.

Best of all, I’ve met some of the most wonderful people last year.  From authors, to publicists, to my fellow book bloggers, to my readers.  I won’t name any because I don’t want to leave anyone out.  My life is richer because of you all.

I hope that everyone has a beautiful, beautiful day!

#78 ~ Songs for the Missing

June 17, 2008 at 10:03 pm | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, Family, First Look Book Club, Parenting Dilemmas | 17 Comments
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Cover for Songs of the Missing

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan

This novel tells the story of a family, a group of friends, and a small town that comes to grips with the disappearance of Kim Larsen, a vivacious and popular recent graduate preparing to leave her home in the Midwest for college. One evening she disappears on the way to work without a clue as to what happened other than that her car, a beloved Chevette, is missing as well. With very little to go on, the Larsens, Kim’s friends and the entire community pull together to find her, but without leads, it’s her past and what she left behind that threatens to break the bonds that were created or solidified by Kim’s life. Songs of the Missing is well written novel an engaging novel that proves how powerful reading can be when an author stays true to his or her characters.

There are many other good and engrossing novels, such as The Lovely Bones, that deal with lost and murdered children. What makes this book different is the way that the story’s narration shifts between characters from chapter to chapter and sometimes even within the same chapter. Over the course of her last days and the events after her disappearance, we hear from Kim, her parents, Ed and Fran Larsen, her sister Lindsey, her best friend Nina and her boyfriend J.P. With a lesser author this could have been disastrous, but O’Nan’s storytelling is as authentic as the voice of each of his narrators. As a result, there is an almost complete feeling of how the disappearance of a loved one eats at people at every stage. We see how terror drives Ed and Fran work around the clock when Kim is first missing while it is guilt that drives J.P. to do the same. We see how having no leads can cause a group of people to move from supporting each other to blaming and punishing each other. We see how fickle a community can be when a missing daughter is no longer the lead story on the news. A child’s disappearance is heartbreaking on so many levels.

What makes this novel most interesting is that the reader never learns those things that the narrators can not or will not admit to themselves. We get glimpses of what J.P. and Nina were hiding, but never all the details. When that part of Kim’s disappearance is revealed, Fran and Ed cut J.P. and Nina almost completely out of their lives as if doing so will cut those deeply unsettling things about their daughter from their minds just as sharply. I find as a reader it makes me feel uncomfortable not knowing what every little detail. I kept wondering if I had read a section too fast and missed something, and I would go back to check and find that I hadn’t. What a perfect way to create a connection between the reader and the characters. Everyone is desperately searching for Kim, fearing that if they only looked harder or if they only looked smarter that they would find what they looking for.

In preparation for reading Songs of the Missing, the third novel I have read as part of Barnes and Noble’s First Look Book Club, I picked up Last Night at the Lobster after Lisa from Books on the Brain suggested it. I am thankful to have now read both, because I can sense and appreciate O’Nan’s range. Unlike other prolific authors, he does not recycle story lines or continuously use the same hook or edge to write his novels. He is a talented man who clearly challenges himself with his work. I would recommend O’Nan over most modern authors and I look forward to reading many more of his novels.

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To buy this book, click here.

Smoky Mountain Vacation

May 12, 2008 at 8:43 am | Posted in Barnes & Noble, Books, entertainment, Family, Historical Fiction, LibraryThing, My Life with Books, Reading | 5 Comments
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Greetings from Gatlinburg, TN, located in heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. It’s beautiful here despite the rain and I’ve enjoyed seeing my parents (I haven’t see my mother on Mother’s Day for at least 10 years), siblings, in-laws, nieces, and nephews. The kids did a great job on the drive. Even if they hadn’t, it’s just nice being out of the Roanoke Valley.

Although we’ll be away from home for 9 days, I’m planning on getting some good reading in:

  • Taking Lisa’s advice from Books on the Brain, I rented Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan from the library.
  • I snagged the latest book by Patrick McGrath, Trauma on the way to the checkout desk I was at the library.
  • The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block, which I received through a trade with another Early Reviewer on LibraryThing.
  • I picked up The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani for under $5 at Barnes and Noble last week. I’ve been wanting to read this since I read a review by Divia on HistoricalFiction.org.
  • Finally, I’m finishing up The Lady Elizabeth by Alison Weir. I’d love to say that I’m loving it, but it’s just okay. No offense to Last Night at the Lobster, but I shouldn’t be looking forward to my next book. I should be savoring this one. Sigh…

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