We Have a Winner!

Last month, I hosted a giveaway of Stefan Merrill Block’s Storm at the Door and Ellen Feldman’s Next to Love. They are both excellent books that examine post-World War II relationships in very different ways. And the winner is…. Margaret! Congratulations! Stay tuned for my next giveaway, to be announced on Wednesday!

July 2011 in Review

I started the month of strong in terms of books read, but Sapphire’s The Kid dragged on and George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons tops 1,000 pages–I’m about halfway done with it.

“Reservation Road” by John Burnham Schwartz

In the wake of a horrific accident that claims the life of ten-year-old Josh, the lives of two families begin to disintegrate. Josh’s parents, Ethan and Grace Learner, and his sister, Emma, become wrapped in impenetrable clouds of grief and guilt. Dwight Arno, the man who hit Josh with his car and sped away, deals with his own intense guilt and sadness at how his life has turned out, while his son, Sam, gradually unravels the truth about what really happened that day.

“The Illumination” by Kevin Brockmeier

Carol Ann Page is struggling after a painful divorce, and things only get worse when she accidentally slices off her thumb. When she is hospitalized, she is privy to a phenomenon no one can explain: Everyone’s pain is illuminated. From sore spines and aching joints, from sliced thumbs and ruptured spleens, pain becomes a very visible–and strangely beautiful–thing.

“The Kid” by Sapphire

Sapphire’s second work of fiction, The Kid, begins with the funeral of the protagonist of her first novel, Push. Precious’s son, Abdul, is nine years old, and in the wake of his mother’s death he faces a terrifying world completely alone.

Top Ten Required Books for School

This week, I’m supposed to be highlighting the top ten books that I believe should be required reading for teens. But I think that making something required makes it seem like work, and as a result many kids don’t understand why a required book is so good. So instead, I want to focus upon books I think should be introduced to kids that usually aren’t.

“Push” by Sapphire

Precious Jones is an illiterate young black woman who has never left her native Harlem. She is pregnant with her second child, a product of rape. For her entire life, she’s been abused: her parents have both used her sexually and violently; the school system has failed her; and she’s never had a friend, much less a boyfriend. Now, she’s been suspended from her middle school, and the only option her mother suggests is getting on welfare.

“Next to Love” by Ellen Feldman

Babe, Millie, and Grace have been friends for as long as they can remember. They have their differences—pugnacious Babe grew up in the poor section of town and never met with approval from Grace’s upper-class mother, while sweet Millie dealt with the loss of her parents at a young age. But now, as World War II summons their husbands and boyfriends, the women must come to terms with the reality of an America at war, where romance and joy are replaced with grief and loss and then with strength and wisdom.

Wordless Wednesday: Matt Norman at One More Page Books

Matt Norman, a local author, discussed his forthcoming (and hilarious) novel, Domestic Violets, with several bloggers at One More Page Books in Arlington last week. I enjoyed finally meeting local bloggers who I’d previously only met online, including Jenn (Jenn’s Bookshelves), Rachel (A Home Between Pages), and Swapna (S. Krishna’s Books). I had way too much chocolate, and Eileen, the owner of the store, even sent me home with a bottle of wine! She really made me feel welcome in the store–I []

Top Ten Authors I Would Love to Meet

This week, I’m highlighting the top ten authors (living or dead) I would love to meet. (The original list was “authors I would DIE to meet,” but that sounded a little extreme to me; I’m a book nerd, but I couldn’t think of a single author that I’d die to meet. Does this mean I need to quit reviewing?)

“The Storm at the Door” by Stefan Merrill Block

Long before Stefan Merrill Block was born, the marriage between his grandparents, Frederick and Katharine Merrill, was pushed to the breaking point. Frederick’s alcohol abuse and infidelity had wounded Katharine for years, but his manic depression took him too far one night. Katharine convinced the police to take him to a renowned mental hospital in Massachusetts instead of placing him under arrest.

Sign Up for Shelf Awareness

I’ve been a big fan of Shelf Awareness, a daily e-newsletter, for years. It has the best book news, reviews, and interviews, mixing humor with serious questions about the future of books and reading. As I’ve mentioned before, Bethanne Patrick, the newsletter’s editor, also began #FridayReads, the weekly roundup of what everyone is reading on Twitter and Facebook. They’ve just launched “Shelf Awareness: Enlightenment for Readers,” and I can’t get enough of it! Right now they’re running a contest for new subscribers: []

“The Passage” by Justin Cronin

Title: The Passage Author: Justin Cronin ISBN: 9780345504968 Pages: 784 Release date: June 8, 2010 Publisher: Ballantine Books Genre: Literary fiction (among others) Format: Hardcover Source: Millie’s collection Rating: 2.5 out of 5 I read this book because it was highly recommended on the internet as a vampire apocalypse novel good enough to be called literary fiction. I enjoy post-apocalyptic tales like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and World War Z by Max Brooks. And while I generally find vampires tiresome, I loved []