The Long, Long Life of Trees: A Review

I’ve always had a thing for trees. I spent much of my childhood in the country, and many of my favorite memories involve the trees that watched as I grew. I climbed trees. I hid in natural forts made from closely-growing trees whose bowing canopy I imagined to be a cave designed just for me. I sat on a swing tied to a branch of a large pecan tree and spent hours reading or making up stories.

When I was a teenager, I took a trip to New Mexico with a group from my church. Others in the group were awed by the canyons, the desert, and the expansive sky. I enjoyed seeing these things, but I missed trees. As we drove back across the country and drew nearer to home, the number of trees lining the roads increased.  I squealed with delight to see the varying shades of green and brown, earthy colors that made me feel connected again to the world around me. Continue reading

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The Wolf Road: A Review

“A good knife is hard to come by, about as hard as finding a good person in this damned country. When your life is your only currency and you got debts to pay, a good knife can make all the difference.”

One of my reading goals this year was to read more debut novels, and I’ve read several. The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis was one such novel that I had added to my TBR almost a year before it was released in July. But, where The Wolf Road differs from the other debuts I’ve read is that this novel doesn’t read like a debut. This is a stunning novel written by a skillful writer and storyteller.  Continue reading

Snow White: A Review

I received my first copy of Grimm’s fairy tales before I was old enough to read. Almost every day I  leafed through the gilt-edged pages looking only  at the beautiful, painted illustrations and telling stories to myself. That book began my love affair with fairy tales in all of their forms.

Because my first encounter with fairy tales was through images, it seems quite fitting that my most recent experience would be similar.

Matt Phelan’s graphic novel, Snow White, will be published by Penguin Random House on September 13, 2016.  Matt Phelan is an illustrator and writer who has been nominated for two Eisner Awards and who has won the prestigious Newberry Medal and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction.

snow whiteA beautiful retelling of a classic fairy tale, Matt Phelan’s Snow White is set in depression-era NYC. He remains faithful to the classic, literary versions of the tale (namely that of the Grimm Brothers) while adapting the story in a way that is moving and unique in 1920s New York.  Continue reading

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife: A Review

Meg Elison’s The Book of the Unnamed Midwife received the Philp K. Dick Award in 2015, and it’s not hard to see why. Philip K. Dick once said,

“Today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.”

midwifeGood science fiction allows us to imagine an alternate reality and, in many cases, to challenge those systems of power that structure our world. The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, examines and challenges social structures like gender, sexuality, injustice, morality, religion, and ultimately power.  Continue reading

Review: You Will Know Me

Megan Abbott is referred to as the “Queen Bee”by her fans, and for good reason. She has written several novels, many which fall into noir or mystery categories, and has received numerous awards, including Best Hardcover Novel of the Year from International Thriller Writers for The Fever (2015).  Abbott’s novels often focus on themes related to the social dynamics of young adulthood, of girlhood, sexuality, community hysteria, and the lines between child and adult.

you will know meIn her recent novel, You Will Know Me, Abbott continues to explore these themes, but departs from her usual convention of telling the story from the teenage girl’s perspective. Instead, the novel centers on the adults whose lives revolve around their daughters in the competitive world of gymnastics.  Continue reading

Best Books of Summer 2016

Yesterday, I noticed that leaves are starting to fall from the trees, and  pecans are on the ground. And on our evening walks, the cicadas loudly announce the dog days of summer. The fall semester  begins on Wednesday, so even though it is still unbearably hot and humid, I know that summer has officially come to an end. Fall–my favorite time of year–is around the corner. In the south, we have to wait longer for cooler weather, but our autumn is a much-deserved reward for enduring the summer. In the fall, the air is crisp, leaves crunch underfoot, the sun often shines, and the world is full of color.

The fall season also means a busy semester and not quite as much time to read. Rather, I catch up on reading in the summer and over winter breaks. So, I thought the best way to wrap up my season and prepare to move into another is to recap my favorite books of the summer. Continue reading

Siracusa: A Review

“In life one rarely knows which remarks of the hundreds uttered in the course of a day will turn out to be auspicious. In fiction, foreshadowing is planted and flagged in some (hopefully or desperately) subtle way, drama demands it.”

In July, I joined the Book of the Month Club, and I’m so glad I did. Each month, BOTM judges choose five books from which members can choose. Members receive one book as part of their membership, but they can also add additional books for $9.99. BOTM has allowed me to explore new titles that I maybe wouldn’t have purchased in hard cover, and so far, I have enjoyed both of the books I’ve chosen. Siracusa by Delia Ephron was my choice for August, and it has been moved to the top of the list of the best books I’ve read this summer–possibly this year (joining Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi).

siracusa

For those unfamiliar with Delia Ephron, she is a prolific and talented writer who is responsible for numerous plays, movies (including You’ve Got Mail and Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants), and books (like Sister, Mother, Husband, Dog and The Lion is in).

Siracusa recounts two couples’ travels in Italy and the disastrous consequences when secrets and betrayals are unveiled. Michael and Lizzie are writers from NYC. He is famous and award-winning and desperately trying to complete a novel that will reaffirm his talent. She is a not-so-successful journalist looking for the next big story.  They are joined on the trip by Lizzie’s college boyfriend, Finn, and his wife, Taylor. Snow, their pre-teen daughter, further complicates the awkward dynamics of the group.   Continue reading