Monday, June 29, 2009

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen - Susan Gregg Gilmore

Looking for Salvation at the Diary QueenTitle: Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen
Author: Susan Gregg Gilmore
Published: 2008 Pages: 293
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3/5

I foresee this being kind of a busy week on the blog. Wednesday will be the Non-Fiction Five Review post (is the current format working or do you have suggestions?) and I promised to do a What's On Your Desk meme. And hopefully I'll finish Tom Sawyer and get a review out. So, probably another four posts. Oh, and Sunday Salon will probably be a mid-year review if I can get it done before going out of town again. You'll forgive me the barrage of posts, right?

Wait, this is a book review! I remember seeing Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen last summer, and I immediately put it on my wish list. I love Southern fiction and this one sounded like it might be in the same vein as Fannie Flagg's works. Just like my favorite Chicken Fried Steak from Cotton Patch Cafe, Southern fiction screams comfort. Do you feel this way about books set in your locale?

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen is set in the small town of Ringgold, Georgia in the 1970s. Catherine Grace Cline, a daughter of a preacher, knows she is destined for bigger things than what Ringgold has to offer and she dreams of one day breaking free. With the help of her little sister, Martha Ann, and her stand-in mother, Gloria Jean, Catherine Grace grows into a strong young woman who yearns for independence. The book chronicles her youth and into her young adulthood when she finally sets out for Atlanta on her own. But she discovers some things about herself and her family that could change everything she has ever known and home becomes more important than making it in a big city.

Looking for Salvation was an enjoyable read--the characters are just as colorful as you would find in any Southern fiction novel and Catherine Grace has witty sense of humor about her life. The book is often times funny and even more times heartfelt. In the end, though, it didn't do a lot for me--not like I was hoping anyway. I'm not sure if it was because the book is rather short and by the time Catherine Grace is a young woman the events begin to occur too rapidly or if it was simply timing? It was a fun and quick read, but it isn't one that will continue to be memorable in the long run. Instead, when I think of my favorite Southern fiction book, I'll continue to think back fondly of Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man by Fannie Flagg.

This book, however, is perfect for a lazy summer weekend. I think many people would really like it and I don't have any major complaints, it just lacked oomph for me. Hmm--how does one even define oomph?!? I guess it's one of those things that you just know what you see it. Do you have a favorite genre that you go to when you are seeking reading comfort? Do you have a favorite Southern fiction book? Can you define oomph?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sunday Salon 12 - Burn This Book

The Sunday SalonGood morning everyone! This post might end up being a little information-overload, but bear with me (I'll do my honest best not to ramble since I'm providing a lot of extra data). If there is a topic that will get book lovers riled up, it is censorship and banned books. Just this week, Stephanie from Confessions of a Bookaholic talked about Book Burning and there have been many many others. The freedom to read is very near and dear to me and the thought of that freedom being challenged makes my blood boil.

FSB Associates emailed me earlier this week about a pro-bono project they are doing for Burn This Book, a new collection of essays edited by Toni Morrison and published by Harper Studio. And while I didn't get a chance to get the book, let alone read it, this week, I wanted to share the information with you all.

Burn This Book

Burn This Book contains a number of essays from literary heavyweights such as John Updike, David Grossman, Francine Prose, Pico Iyer, Russell Banks, Paul Auster, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, Ed Park, and Nadine Gordimer. They pose the question of what censorship means and what the consequences of censorship could be. What can we do for our part? I'm not really sure, but I don't think it is a topic that can or should be ignored. You can even sign a petition for the right to read (go now!!).

What do you think the implications are of censorship and banned books? What does it even mean for you when a book lands on the banned book list? Do you think that certain material should not be taught in the schools? Are there books you read in school when you were younger that are now on that list? Do you have a favorite banned book?

What does our world look like with more and more of our favorite books landing on the banned or challenged book lists every year? Where do we draw the line?

Oh ya...come find me on twitter!! I'm still learning, but I don't know the best way to find people yet, so find me! :D (Shameless plug over)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tweeting My Way into Insanity

As if I'm not going crazy enough. I caved. I joined twitter. Wanna be my friend? Wanna give me tips and advice (please??)? Wanna reassure me that I'm not crazy?

If you do pop by, a note on the name: TriniCapini is my nickname (from my mom). If I joined twitter, I didn't want to be completely defined by books. OR, I'm just crazy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Lost City of Z - David Grann

The Lost City of Z Title: The Lost City of Z
Author: David Grann
Published: 2009 Pages: 299
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4.25/5

I'm not entirely sure how I ended up getting my hands on this one-or how I let it sit on the shelf for so long, but I'm glad I finally took the time to read this one. What an exciting book/adventure/story/legend!

In the early twentieth century (1920s), Percy Fawcett led a number of expeditions into the depths of the Amazon in South America in search for the lost city of El Dorado, a city he coded as “Z.” In 1925 Fawcett, along with his son and other expedition party members, disappeared and were never heard from again. While the search for Z in many ways consumed Fawcett, his disappearance has caused such a buzz that it is estimated 100 people have also died in the search for Fawcett’s remains.

In The Lost City of Z, David Grann, a journalist and columnist, delves into the Amazon and searches for answers to the mystery surrounding Percy Fawcett’s disappearance. It is evident that Grann has done his research, not just on the life of Fawcett, but also on the numerous other expeditions into the Amazon before and after Fawcett’s disappearance. Grann must have looked at a ton of resources because the book is brimming with information, but one thing that I really appreciated was how Grann included his quotations and secondary information seamlessly. The facts and material he used never felt out of place or even superfluous—even the details about other sometimes non-related events occurring during Fawcett’s time were fascinating.

This book could not be more interesting—well, it could be, but if I explained then I’d be giving something exciting away and you want to find that out for yourself, don’t you? Even though the book is relatively short at 300 pages, there is so much crammed in—information about Fawcett and his explorations, information about the Amazon and the tribes that currently live there (what little is known), information about the flora and fauna of the Amazon and all over fascinating tidbits (lots of information about contemporaries of Fawcett including Arthur Conan Doyle whose The Lost World is loosely based on Fawcett and his search for Z). There are some aspects, especially near the end, that I would have liked to know more about, but I think the reason why Grann does not provide more information is because of the lack of information in general on said topic (my lips are sealed!).

Would you enjoy this book? Sure! I just passed it on to my mom and I hope she likes it. While it isn’t incredibly gripping, it isn’t dry either. Non-fiction sometimes gets such a bad rap for being boring—the author shoving too many facts in your face or not incorporating research material well or stilted writing—but this book is very readable. While I don’t think we will ever know just what happened to Percy Fawcett once he disappeared, Grann compiles and interprets all of his research in a way that posits a very realistic theory. Overall a very exciting book—you know those books you read and you want to tell everyone you see little tiny details? This is definitely one of those—especially when it comes to the bugs in the Amazon—my favorite being the “eye licker.” I found myself saying over and over, “Oh my gosh—listen to this!” If you’re on the fence about this one, check out David Grann’s website. Still on the fence? Did I mention a Lost City of Z movie in 2010 with....Brad Pitt??

What's the most exciting non-fiction book you've read? (The Devil in the White City by Larson is probably mine).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday Salon 11 - Audiobooks

I have a hellish commute. Ok, so it's probably not as bad as others, but Dallas's traffic is horrendous and was recently rated as having the second highest amount of road rage. I'll admit that I contribute to those road rage sentiments. I don't use my horn very often and hand gestures even less, but I do grip that steering wheel and probably daily yell "Seriously!?!" I drive 25 miles to work and home every day, but most days it takes me an hour each way. Whew--getting anxious just thinking about it!

What's a girl to do? This year I've been listening to audiobooks as an alternative to radio commercials or annoying morning talk show hosts. I've only listened to five so far (Sundays at Tiffany's and First to Die by James Patterson, The Senator's Wife by Sue Miller, Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag, and Certain Girls by Jennifer Weiner), but I've got a few more on the shelf and will be seeking out others. Actually, Laura and I usually trade off CDs since we work together and have similar commutes (although she is much calmer than I am).

I have struggled with audiobooks. My first attempt was a year and a half ago when I tried to listen to Eragon. Bad choice. 14 hours, unfamiliar plot and themes, too much to keep up with. I always envied Joy from Thoughts of Joy who is always listening to something fabulous on audio. She wrote a really great post about listening to audiobooks versus reading that has stuck with me over a year later. I SO want to be able to listen like she can and have looked to her for advice over the years. But I have a short attention span and I have to pay pretty close attention to traffic not to be sideswiped, so I am constantly rewinding the audio to hear what I missed. The key to me is to listen to books that don't require a ton of attention. And I really like the mystery/crime audiobooks that I wouldn't normally read in hardcopy.

I haven't reviewed any of the books I've listened to because I'm not sure how. I find that my reaction to them is more akin to watching movies than reading a book. I can't seem think about them as critically, especially the writing, so at this point they are pure entertainment. I haven't counted them towards my book count as of yet, but only because for me it doesn't quite feel the same as reading a book. Maybe as I continue to get used to them I'll be able to think about them in the same way.

Sunday's Questions about Audiobooks:
So how about you? Do you listen to audiobooks? Do you have a certain type of genre that you stick with? Have you tried audiobooks and they didn't work for you? Do you have the same reaction to audiobooks that you do to paperbooks? Do you review audiobooks on your blog? Do you count them toward your yearly book count? Any new advice for a new listener?

Hope everyone is having a fabulous Sunday and Father's Day. I'm jealous that I didn't get to partake in the Bloggiesta hosted by Natasha of Maw Books, but I'm at my in-laws' for the weekend. Anyone want to take over my blog and put it into shipshape for me? :P

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire

Title: Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Author: Gregory Maguire
Published: 1999 Pages: 368
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5

Last year I read and really enjoyed Wicked by Maguire, so I was excited when I found a used copy of Confessions for cheap. And of course then it sat on my shelf for about a year. Hate when that happens! Carl's Once Upon a Time Challenge was the perfect chance for me to read this one. And I'm glad I did--but I didn't love it as much as Wicked.

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister is a retelling of the Cinderella tale, but while many parts of the book were familiar, this definitely isn't the Disney version. Set in the seventeenth century, Margarethe flees England with her two small daughters, Ruth and Iris, to start a new life in Holland. Their circumstances are mysterious, but is evident that a tragedy involving Ruth and Iris's father has occurred--a tragedy that is quickly swept under the rug. Desperate to make sure her daughters are fed and sheltered, Margarethe does everything she can to claw her way into situations that will help them all rise above the dirt and squalor of reality. Along the way, they become involved in the Van der Meer household where they meet Clara--a small and curious child, a changeling of sorts.

Once Margarethe and her daughters intertwine themselves in the life of the Van der Meers, the story becomes more familiar--Margarethe eventually becomes the evil stepmother we all know and Ruth and Iris become the stepsisters. But they aren't evil like we have learned in the original fairytale. This story is twisted into a perspective that recreates the story of Cinderella.

"In the lives of children, pumpkins can turn into coaches, mice and rats into human beings. When we grow up, we learn that it's far more common for human beings to turn into rats" (x).

I enjoyed many elements of the story--of course seeing the wellknown fairytale in a different light. I've come to really enjoy different tellings and one of my favorite aspects of literature is perspective. There is always more than one side of the story, but we usually see the side of the successor. In this case the reader sees what might have really occured--what Clara or Cinderella was truly like, the interaction between the stepsisters and Clara, and of course the stepsisters' part in the tale.

I also really liked the characterization and side stories in this book. Iris seems to be the main character, and she is a strong and willful young woman. Her sister Ruth is mute and often plays second fiddle (or even third after Clara), but she is still an important member of the cast. Margarethe is wretched--everything you would expect an evil stepmother to be. Surrounding the story is the tulip craze and a painter, Luykas Schoonmaker, who tries to capture beauty but often paints the horrific truth instead. And then Caspar who in many respects is the fairy godmother of the story. True beauty is a major theme within the novel, and all of these characters in some way represent some type of beauty--whether pure beauty or tainted and false.

There is a richness to Maguire's storytelling that I really love, but the execution of the storytelling is sometimes jarring or disconnected. There were many storylines that were dragged on for too long in the book and some that I didn't think were fully satisfied, such as the story of what happened in England before they left for Holland. I suppose this is to be left a mystery, but it felt a little too unsettled to me.

This review is much longer than I intended--when beginning I half thought I didn't really have much to say about the book. It was an enjoyable read, but I didn't find it terribly memorable. If you're looking to read Maguire, certainly go with Wicked which seemed much more complex to me. I'm interested in reading more of his Oz series but don't know if I'll try any of his other retellings just yet. What is your favorite fairytale retelling? Have you read any Maguire?

Also reviewed by:
Bonnie from Redlady's Reading Room
Jeane from Dog Ear Diary
Raych from books i done read
*let me know if I missed yours

This concludes my reading for the Once Upon a Time Challenge III. I had hoped to read The Book of Lost Things and Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell, but there just isn't enough time. What I did finish:

Tales of Beedle the Bard - JK Rowling
The Light Fantastic - Terry Pratchett
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister - Gregory Maguire

Date Finished: June 13, 2009 #29

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Sunday Salon 10 - Second Blogiversary

I made a small mention the other day that my two year blogiversary was on June 5th, but I wanted to reflect in more detail upon the last two years. I probably sound like a broken record, but I didn’t do a post last year and I don’t really want this year to slip by either without some type of written entry of my thoughts. I don’t know why I feel the need to apologize for long rambly posts, so I’m not going to this time dangit. I’ve got a lot to reflect upon. :P

I can remember the first time I stumbled upon a book blog. You've heard me mention before that I found out about book blogging through some of the Yahoo Book Clubs I was currently participating in. Wendy, from Caribousmom, posted a list of her monthly reads and when I finally popped over to see what it was she was doing, I was amazed and enthralled. I hopped around from her list of other book blogs on her sidebar and discovered that many other people were also blogging about books. Being a book enthusiast, the idea really intrigued me--writing about books I read in a public forum--how cool is that?

I wish I could remember my first month of blogging in more detail--the feelings I had and the crazy thoughts that were going through my head--but looking back on the posts (there are a lot for that first month!), it is obvious that I quickly fell in love with blogging. I joined several challenges and worked up the courage to actually leave comments on other people's blogs (although some were way too intimidating at the time--I won't mention names because I'm sure it would embarrass them). All of a sudden, I was a part of this interactive community of readers from all over the world. Even in grad school I didn't have quite this level of interaction in terms of pleasure reading.

Over the past two years, I've really grown as a reader. I wish I could say that my writing has improved, but it's the same old ramble day in and day out. But I like it that way and people respond to me (you all encourage me with your "ramble on Trish!" comments)! I remember being really timid in my actual reviews, not quite knowing what to say so that it would be enough for people to get an idea of the book but still leaving a lot of mystery. I quickly fell into a pattern of review writing, usually three paragraphs--a small summary, what I liked/disliked, and my recommendation.

In March of 2008 I noticed that my posts were starting to get a little longer and more detailed--I mentioned this specifically in my review of All the Pretty Horses. I was finally coming into my own and started feeling comfortable about writing about books. It's funny to me looking back at some of my earlier posts, but constant evolution is normal, I think. I started writing my reviews in more detail, but I also was missing out on a key part of this blog--my personality. Sure I included little tidbits of me here and there, but I wasn't really letting loose. Now I kind of feel I've gone to the other end of the spectrum with my posts getting more and more rambling and I think I need to reign myself in a little bit, but what can I say? I'm not a professional reviewer--if I wanted to write stiff and straightforward reviews, why do that on a personal reading blog? And why would people want to read stiff and straightforward reviews? They can get those in print from someone who's getting paid to review.

Ooooh, getting back on topic. :) Over the past two years I've been challenged as a reader. I've always read outside of the box or the normal comfort zone of readers, probably because of the reading I was required during college, but the discoveries I've made through blogging is astounding to me. I've been incredibly influenced by other bloggers' raves and reviews and I've especially been encouraged through reading challenges. I've participated in 26 reading challenges over the past two years--taking me through all different countries and genres and subjects. They certainly haven't helped my shelves be any less empty, but I've learned amazing things and encountered terrific discoveries.

Last summer I mustered up the courage to start my own challenge. I went through the usual Trish anxieties--what if no one joins? What if my rules are too confusing? What if what if what if. This year both the Classics challenge and Non-Fiction Five challenge have over 100 participants. How freakin' cool is that? I love that people are excited about these challenges and other challenges and I hope they are experiencing some of the same joys that I do through participating in them.

One of my favorite things evvvvver is spreading the joy of reading, and I like to think that I help do my part through this blog. I've had a few friends and family members start their own blogs and I've seen an increase in the excitement of those I know as I talk about my reading and we talk about theirs. Isn't it amazing how books can bring people together? I had a really awesome moment last weekend at my brother's birthday breakfast when I gave him Diary of a Wimpy Kid and his friends all said they loved it, which made me excited and my brother excited and his friends excited. Something so incredibly small, but I love when he says to me, "Trish, I need a new book to read--find me one." He's thirteen.

So, the actually reviewing, the challenges, the growth. Last but not least, the interaction. I'll admit that it was a little tough being a new blogger--trying to break into the circles and make friends. Of course this blog is mostly for me--is anyone even reading this far down? But without the interaction, I don't think I would have stuck around as long as I have. After two years I am still excited about each and every comment I receive here. I love that I've met some great friends and two years later we're still connecting on each other's blogs. For me, the crossover moment for acquaintances and friends was probably during the first read-a-thon I participated in last June. I really let the silly goofy rambly Trish peek through in my posts, especially in the wee hours, and I loved getting to see that in other people as well. From there on out I've had more confidence in really being myself. This is my space afterall! But really, you are the ones who make blogging so special to me. I cherish the relationships I've formed and look forward to the ones that have yet to be discovered.

Blogging has been an ever-evolving endeavor for me. Some months are difficult and hectic (such as the past two months), and I have to change gears and do things a little differently. But I learn and grow and try to improve and most importantly stay true to myself. I'm not sure what the future will hold for me and blogging. I hope that I continue to be enriched by the experience and I hope that I can continue to give just a little bit back to the community. I wish I knew better ways to do that, to be more active, but we do the best that we can.

So--happy blogiversary to me. The End. :P

When you reflect upon your blogging, how do you see its impact on you?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sweet Yummy Goodness!

I got the baking bug. I've been in the mood for something sweet and it has been years since I baked (my baking powder apparently expired in 2001 and I had to run to the store at 9:30 to get some more...there's no way the baking powder was that old since I was in college and have moved six times since 2001, but still!) Not sure where the recipe originally came from, but hope you enjoy!

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups flour
5 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cup coconut
2 cups oatmeal

Optional Ingredients:
1 cup chocolate chips OR
½ cup raisins (yummy!!) OR
½ cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350ยบ.

Cream together eggs, sugar, shortening, vanilla, and brown sugar. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

Once egg and sugar mixture is smooth, slowly add in the flour mixture until well mixed.

Add coconut and oatmeal, and any other optional additions (raisins!!), until mixed thoroughly.

Using a teaspoon (small cereal spoon), spoon mixture into small balls onto a cookie sheet.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Yields 4 dozen cookies.

Blogging Stats--A Little Blog Weights In

I’ve had some interesting conversations in the last few weeks—some with bloggers and some with people I know personally about blogging and blogging statistics. One blogger mentioned a few weeks ago that he feels compelled to post every day partially because his stats dip if he doesn’t. Another mentioned seeing an increase in readership when she stopped participating in memes. My dad wanted to know about blogging traffic and whether bloggers advertised on their blogs to make a little side money. And then there has been recent talk about how many visitors bloggers get each day or month—many bloggers are now listing this in their “review policy” for publishers and authors to view.

I use Google Analytics to look at my statistics every once in a while, but across the board I stay pretty stable so there isn't a reason for me to look religiously. My stats aren't fantastic but they're definitely consistent. Fridays and Saturdays are always my slowest days and usually Sunday and Monday pick up. Since I haven’t been posting much lately, I’ve dipped a little bit, but I hadn't really thought too much about it until recently. After seeing some of the numbers that other bloggers have posted on their review policies, I'm starting to realize just how tiny my little blog is. I know that in certain circles my name is out there, but the book blogging world has exploded lately and really I'm just a little bitty part of that.

My Questions:
Do you watch your blogging traffic and statistics? If so do you look at the numbers just for fun or try to use them for blogging improvement (or other reasons)? Do you use a specific program to help you watch your stats? Do you do anything particular on your blog to try to boost your stats? We all want to do our best with our blogs, and some of us are fairly competitive in nature, so I’m curious how these statistics are being used by others. I’ve said before that I don’t put a lot of stock into my stats since I usually have a healthy amount of comments on my posts and because it is evident that half of the people coming to my blog are coming mostly from keyword searches for mostly classic or required school books. But, I do find statistics interesting, especially now that I can kind of see how I stack up against a few other bloggers (LOL—or don’t stack up!).

My Thoughts:
I’ll admit I’m a little clueless on what all my statistics mean, so I guess you can say I look at my stats mostly for fun. I find it fascinating that A Rumor of War is my most viewed review since I started keeping track in September, but the post itself only has 10 comments--some of which are my responses. Not sure what people are looking for with their search--maybe they think there is a rumor of war and are trying to find out more about it?! I'm rambling now. But really, it doesn't seem to matter what I do--I'm neither inclining nor decreasing in amount of visitors. Does this mean that I've become complaisant or that I'm naive about how to make my blog successful? I don't think so--I've always thought that if people are responding then I've at least interested someone. That's enough to keep my happy--I'd rather have 5 visitors and have them all comment rather than 10,000 and not hear a peep from my readers. I don't bite! Leave me comments!! :P But it is human nature to want to do better and to improve (or at least Trish nature).

But really, I'm curious what you think about stats or if you think about them at all? I'm having a difficult time even formulating what it is I'm curious about--maybe if it is difficult for a book blog, especially a new one, to make a name for itself in this massive blogosphere or maybe they're having an easier time while some of us old fogeys (i.e. me) are stuck in the past and not moving with the current trends of book blogging? Not really sure, but I do find the whole thing rather fascinating--for those sites that are getting 30,000 hits a month--where are those visitors coming from? Are they mostly other book bloggers or people curious about books or people of the industry? Would you rather have more comments on your posts or more visitors? Or does it even matter at all?

By the way, I can call myself an old fogey because I just celebrated my second blogiversary (which is still fairly young compared to you really old folks!). For some reason I had it in my head that my blogiversary was on the 15th, but my first post was actually on the 5th of June, 2007. I can't believe it has been two years already--even more I can't believe I've kept it up. I don't think I knew this was going to turn into a long-term commitment, but I'm glad it did. In the past two years I've grown, my blog has grown, my TBR has grown--and I'm not done yet!

*Before I hit that publish post button, one small plea. This is a post of curiosity, not jabbing. I love to hear everyone's opinions, but please keep it respectful. I'm sorry I have to even say that, but in the past comments have gotten a little out of hand.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Birthday Boys, a Stache, and a Quilt

Happy Birthday Scott and Nick!

Scott and Nick share the same birthday (June 6), so we went out to breakfast to celebrate. Scott turned 29 and Nick 13.

Also, for funsies Scott shaved his goatee and is now left with a moustache. I laughed so hard, but by the end of the night I was kind of used to it. He could be a policeman or something with that stache--especially with that straight face. It took several shots to finally get a serious one. I don't think he's keeping it...

And finally, my friend Lisa and I are making disappearing nine-patch quilts. She lives in South Dakota, so we're not really quilting together, but it's fun motivation. Especially as she's much more experienced than I am--this is only my third quilt. I have all my squares sewn, so now I just have to arrange and sew together my top. I'm addicted to this sewing business.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Boy's Life - Robert McCammon

Title: Boy's Life
Author: Robert McCammon
Published: 1991 Pages: 578
Genre: Fiction (possibly mystery?)
Rating: 5/5

I don't have a Sunday Salon post for today and if you've wondered where I've been this past week, I've been hiding away in the small town of Zephyr Alabama in 1964--quickly turning the pages of Boy's Life every spare minute I had. I LOVED this book, so prepare yourself for a gush-fest.

When my coworker was trying to decide on a book for June's meeting, she mentioned Boy's Life and I immediately thought of CJ's review from over a year ago and told her--Yes! Pick that book! Within the first few chapters of the book, I knew that I was going to love this book and I couldn't be more thrilled that my prediction was right (what's worse than thinking you're going to love a book and then it falling flat?).

Boy's Life is a coming of age story, and the story begins when eleven-year-old Cory Mackenson and his father witness a truck plow right into Saxon's Lake. The truck contains a naked man beaten, strangled, and handcuffed to the steering wheel. Cory's father dives into the lake to help free the man, but it is no use and man and his secret sink to the bottom of Saxon's Lake. The things that Cory witness that morning with his father and events that occur thereafter help shape him into a young man, but although the mystery of the murder is a prevalent thread throughout the book, there is so much more to Boy's Life:

"We had a dark queen who was one hundred and six years old. We had a gunfighter who saved the life of Wyatt Earp at the O.K. Corral. We had a monster in the river, and a secret in the lake. We had a ghost that haunted the road behind the wheel of a black dragster with flames on the hood. We had a Gabriel and a Lucifer, and a rebel that rose from the dead. We had an alien invader, a boy with a perfect arm, and we had a dinosaur loose on Merchants Street" (4).
In short, Boy's Life has it all--mystery and magic, things that will make you laugh and things that will make you cry, remembrance of a time when life was so much simpler but in many ways more complicated. Being set in Alabama during the 1960s, racism and civil rights are constant themes in the book and there are many moments where I had chills sent up my spine. Also consistent with southern fiction is the level of storytelling. Through Cory's eyes, McCammon has painted such a vivid image of what it was like growing up in the town of Zephyr that I felt I was right there with Cory and his friends. I was reminded of a cross between The Sandlot and Stand By Me (the movies)--a group of boys getting themselves into trouble, the things they encounter that could only be tall tales, a nostalgia for a time long passed.

If I let myself this would be a rather long review of just positive features, and I don't want to give away too much of the plot because the mystery is so much of the fun in reading this book. There really isn't anything that I wish was different about this book. The writing is descriptive and clear, the dialogue is believable and entertaining, the plot is magical and tender and touching. Through the narrative I was transported decades into the past and loved every minute I spent in this small southern town. It is the perfect book for summer vacation or a perfect book to curl up with in the cold winter months.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It is the best book I've read this year and one that I will continue think back on fondly. I can't remember the last time I read a book where I was so absolutely absorbed that I felt compelled to read "just one more chapter" having to know what happens next. I couldn't wait to talk about the happenings in the book with my coworkers the next morning. I laughed out loud and I cried when the book was over. I will definitely be keeping this one on the shelf and revisiting time and again.

Finished: June 7, 2009 #28

Monday, June 1, 2009

Non-Fiction Five June Reviews

Post your June reviews in the comments below using the following format:

Your name and title of book: Trish (The Hot House)
Your URL:

Since Mister Linky is down, I'll try to add them to this post so you have a list to click through.

1. Scrap Girl - Cinnamon City
2. Christina - Proust was a Neuroscientist
3. Lula O - Bird by Bird - Some Instructions on Writing and Life
4. Missy - My Cat Spit McGee
5. Kerri - The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
6. Ms Ulat Buku - Three Cups of Tea
7. Nymeth - Reasonable Creatures
8. Nymeth - Virgin: The Untouched History
9. Brittany - My Life in France with Julia Child and Alex Prud'homme
10. Karen Beth - Students Must Write
11. Jessica - Southern Cross: The Beginnings of the Bible Belt
12. Nicole - Nine Lives
13. Alyce - The Unlikely Disciple
14. Amanda - Yemen
15. Linda Ellen - Tuesdays with Morrie
16. Jessica - Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market
17. Christina - Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!
18. Trish - The Lost City of Z
19. Scrap Girl - The Funny Thing Is
20. Literary Feline - Chemical Cowboys
21. Jessica - Bleeding Kansas: Contested Liberty in the Civil War Era
22. Lula O - The Devil in the White City

Happy reading!
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