Monthly Archives: June 2008

Down River – Book Review

“Christians talk of a white stag that carried a vision of Christ between his antlers. They believe it’s a sign of impending salvation.”

“That sounds nice.”

“There are legends that go back much further. The ancient Celts believed something entirely different. Their legends speak of white deer leading travelers deep into the secret parts of the forest. They say a white deer can lead a man to new understanding.” -From Down River, page 86-

John Hart’s 2008 Edgar Award winning novel Down River is a suspense-thriller which is all about redemption, misunderstanding, and self-discovery. Adam Chase returns to his childhood home in Rowan County, North Carolina when an old friend contacts him and requests his assistance. Five years before this Adam was acquitted of the murder of a young man, even though the testimony of Adam’s step mother fingered him for the crime. Forced to choose between his wife or his son, Adam’s father chose his wife. Now Adam will be forced to reconcile those events with his father, his ex-lover and the people of Rowan County. Hart doesn’t make the reader wait long for action. Almost immediately upon Adam’s return to his old stomping grounds, family and friends begin to be victimized, and once again Adam must defend himself against old suspicions.

Hart writes magnificently with gritty, believable dialogue and gorgeous descriptions of the North Carolina landscape. The characters are painstakingly drawn – showing the reader both their strengths and weaknesses. As Adam works to clear his name, he must uncover long buried secrets and betrayals and Hart’s ability to create tension and keep the reader guessing make this a fast-paced and compelling read.

John Hart has also published a New York Times bestseller: The King Of Lies.

Down River is a book that readers of the suspense-thriller genre will not want to miss.

Highly recommended.

Mr. Bones – A Short Story Review

My father, apparently a simple, cheery soul, was impossible to know. -From Mr. Bones-

Paul Theroux wrote this short story which appeared on line at The New Yorker in September 2007. The narrator is a man remembering his father from many years previous. Right up front, he tells the reader that not only is his father impossible to know, but that family life is full of disorder and tension. The narrator’s father is a rather passive man, married to a domineering and critical woman, and he begins to practice for his role in a minstrel show. He dons the black face – a mask of sorts – and becomes Mr. Bones.

The story has a disturbing undercurrent, touching on racism, marital discord, and a young boy’s confusion about it all. Theroux’s writing is sharp and observant. He captures the uneasy relationships well; and forces the reader to examine the idea of hiding behind our own masks – whether it be in our personal lives or in front of an audience.  As the story comes to its conclusion, the reader is left to ponder its true message.

This big event was just a talent show to Louie; and his white-haired father, who worked on the M.T.A. buses, was just an old guy singing. Yet in our house Mr. Bones had intimidated everyone. He was now someone to fear, saying the things that he normally avoided saying. In his minstrel-show costume, he could be as reckless as he wanted. -From Mr. Bones-

I found this short story stunning in many ways – the writing rich and compelling. But it is not an easy story to understand. Luckily, I read it for the 21st Fiction yahoo discussion group and so I was able to explore its many facets with other readers.

Tying up Loose Ends…

Today is the last day for this challenge! I am planning to leave the links up through July 10th for people to post links to their wrap up posts and May/June reads. For those of you who forgot to post links to reviews in the early part of the challenge, you may feel free to post those links to the May/June reads link page. There were 60 people who signed up to participate. So far 15 have completed it (based on the links to wrap ups). This was a very fun challenge to host…and for those wondering, I will be hosting it again in January 2009 (with perhaps a couple of changes). Thank you to all who participated…hope you had fun!

UPDATE on Northern California Fires

As of today, my husband and I are no longer being directly threatened by the two fires closest to us. The Withrow fire and the Shingletown Ridge Road fire are both 100% contained. We also did not get the predicted thunderstorms over the weekend which were a huge relief. Thank you to all who commented or emailed me and who kept us in their thoughts and prayers.

Unfortunately, although we are breathing more easily, there are still many Northern Californians who have been evacuated or who are under the threat of evacuations from fires. In Shasta and Trinity counties combined (per the CalFire Website) fires have burned 48,000 acres to the tune of $9 million. Currently 2 homes have been destroyed and 230 homes are threatened. Many of the Northern California counties (including Shasta County) have now been declared a State of Emergency, and also Federal Disaster areas.  Your continued thoughts and prayers for our communities are much appreciated.

Springtime On Mars: Stories – Book Review

“For years, people imagined they saw canals dug into the planet’s surface. They called these canals proof of life. They worried what intelligent life on Mars might mean to us earthlings, to our safety. But, it was nothing. An optical illusion a cosmic misprint. There’s no life. There’s nothing.” -From Springtime on Mars, page 112-

Susan Woodring’s wonderful book of short stories is a joy to read. They are linked in theme – women growing older and looking back on their lives; loss and hope; the idea of gravity keeping our feet on the ground; searching for meaning somewhere between science and God. All Woodring’s stories take place among ordinary people and families – but they are at the same time people who are extraordinary without realizing it. They could be any one of us. And that perhaps is where these stories gain their power.

Woodring writes with an eye on the small details of life and explores the every day push and pull of relationships. There is sadness mingled in her characters’ lives, but also a twinkle of hope and meaning. I especially liked her female characters – women who still were looking for their dreams.

I believe: love deep, give marshmallows and other treats to children, and sleep as long and often as you can, but wake early, eat breakfast. I’m sixty-eight years old; I’m not going backward. -From Morning Again, page 27-

Woodring has had her short stories published in a number of literary magazines and anthologies. She is also the author of the novel The Traveling Disease. This collection was published by a small press: Press 53. If you only read one collection of short stories this year, I would recommend this one. Beautifully crafted with a deep sense of American life and what it means to be human, Springtime on Mars will captivate you.

My thanks to Susan Woodring for sending me a signed copy of her book.

Highly recommended.

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: The Wrap Up

By the time I finish this post, the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon will be finished. Phew! What an amazing event. Dewey has asked us to complete post-event survey…so here goes:

1. Which hour was most daunting for you? The 16th hour was when I finally crashed and needed to sleep. Then when I woke up during hour 20 I was really done in. This last hour has been a struggle.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year? I was really happy with my last book: Down River, by John Hart. It is a very good, compelling read that kept my attention despite my fatigue. I also think choosing a book of short stories is good.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year? None what-so-ever. This was a fantastic challenge – very well organized and with enough stuff to keep participants going.

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon? I thought the cheerleaders were amazing and also other participants who stopped by and left comments. I tried to visit people and leave comments because I know how much that was helping me.

5. How many books did you read? I finished 2.5 books and read one individual short story.

6. What were the names of the books you read?

  • The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse (read my review)
  • Short Story: Mr. Bones, by Paul Theroux
  • Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring (read my review)
  • Down River, by John Hart (finished 1/2 of this one)

7. Which book did you enjoy most? Probably my current read – Down River.

8. Which did you enjoy least? Mr. Bones – because it was a little deep and I think it is hard to appreciate deep reads during these kinds of events.

9. If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders? N/A

10. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time? Oh, I’d definitely do this again…and I’d be a reader again.

My final stats for the Read-A-Thon are as follows:

  • Book I’m reading: Down River, by John Hart
  • Number of books read since I started: 2.5 plus 1 short story
    1. The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse (read my review)
    2. Short Story: Mr. Bones, by Paul Theroux
    3. Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring (read my review)
  • Pages Read since my last post: 69
  • Total pages read in the challenge: 491
  • Amount of time spent reading since my last post: 90 minutes
  • Total amount of time spent reading in the challenge: 615 minutes (10.25 hours)
  • Mini-Challenges completed: 11
    1. Intro (Darcie)
    2. Comics (Nymeth)
    3. Quotes (Vasilly)
    4. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Andrea and Samantha)
    5. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Jennie and Somer)
    6. Get some Exercise (Dewey)
    7. Mid-Event Survey (Dewey)
    8. Poetry (Vasilly)
    9. Setting of current book (Dewey)
    10. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Misa and Sean)
    11. Thanks to the Cheerleaders
  • Total amount of time spent blogging: 310 minutes (5.2 hours)
  • Blogs visited since I last posted: Dewey (The Hidden Side of A Leaf)
  • Time spent visiting other people’s blogs: 125 minutes (2.1 hours) and left 27 comments
  • Down Time: 6.5 Hours (of this, 4.0 hours spent sleeping)
  • Total Time spent on the Read-A-Thon (blogging, visiting, doing mini-challenges and reading) = 17.5 hours
  • Prizes I’ve won: None

Many thanks to my one lone sponsor – the fabulous Terri who is donating $30 to Reading is Fundamental (RIF). I’ve decided to match her donation to support this worthy cause…so Team Caribousmom raised $60 to help put books into the hands of children.

Also thanks to all the cheerleaders and other participants who visited me and left comments during the challenge…and finally a HUGE thanks to Dewey who hosts this extreme event each year!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: Closing in on 22 Hours

I am in awe of those people who have stayed up all night – I’m barely functioning and I slept for 4 hours! Just over 2 hours left of this amazing challenge an Dewey has given us some challenges.

  1. Visit the Readers of the Hour
  2. Thank the Cheerleaders
  3. Do the post-event survey

I’ll wait to do #3 when I’m done. But, I visited the Readers of the Hour and thanked our AWESOME cheerleaders.

Here’s my update since my last post:

  • Book I’m reading: Down River, by John Hart
  • Number of books read since I started: 2 plus 1 short story
    1. The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse (read my review)
    2. Short Story: Mr. Bones, by Paul Theroux
    3. Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring (stay tuned for my review which I am too tired to write at this moment)
  • Pages Read since my last post: 49
  • Total pages read in the challenge: 422
  • Amount of time spent reading since my last post: 70 minutes
  • Total amount of time spent reading in the challenge: 525 minutes (8.75  hours)
  • Mini-Challenges completed: 11
    1. Intro (Darcie)
    2. Comics (Nymeth)
    3. Quotes (Vasilly)
    4. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Andrea and Samantha)
    5. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Jennie and Somer)
    6. Get some Exercise (Dewey)
    7. Mid-Event Survey (Dewey)
    8. Poetry (Vasilly)
    9. Setting of current book (Dewey)
    10. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Misa and Sean)
    11. Thanks to the Cheerleaders
  • Total amount of time spent blogging: 280 minutes (4.7 hours)
  • Blogs visited since I last posted: Bonnie (Bonnie’s Books), Sean (Ivertimot), Misa (This Redhead Reads), and Dewey (The Hidden Side of A Leaf)
  • Time spent visiting other people’s blogs: 120 minutes (2 hours) and left 26 comments
  • Down Time: 6.6 Hours (of this, 4.0 hours spent sleeping)
  • Prizes I’ve won: None yet!

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: Hour 20 and I’m Baaaaaaack

I meant to get up at 4:30, but somehow I did not hear my radio alarm. So instead, I woke up at 5:00AM – Hour 20. Looks like some of you have stayed up the entire night! Terri, did you really get up at 4:30 to cheer me on!??!?!? OMG – what an awesome friend you are. I’m going to brew up some coffee and get reading. Back soon….

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: An Update and Need for Sleep

It is after midnight here on the West Coast and I’m in need of some sleep time. So this will be my final update until probably 4:30AM.

  • Book I’m reading: Down River, by John Hart
  • Number of books read since I started: 2 plus 1 short story
    1. The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse (read my review)
    2. Short Story: Mr. Bones, by Paul Theroux
    3. Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring (stay tuned for my review which I am too tired to write at this moment)
  • Pages Read since my last post:23
  • Total pages read in the challenge: 373
  • Amount of time spent reading since my last post: 30 minutes
  • Total amount of time spent reading in the challenge: 455 minutes (7.6  hours)
  • Mini-Challenges completed: 9
    1. Intro (Darcie)
    2. Comics (Nymeth)
    3. Quotes (Vasilly)
    4. Comments on Reader of the Hour blogs (Andrea and Samantha)
    5. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Jennie and Somer)
    6. Get some Exercise (Dewey)
    7. Mid-Event Survey (Dewey)
    8. Poetry (Vasilly)
    9. Setting of current book (Dewey)
  • Total amount of time spent blogging: 245 minutes (4.1 hours)
  • Blogs visited since I last posted: Icedream (Reading in Appalachia), Michelle (1 More Chapter), Dewey (The Hidden Side of a Leaf), AND Brittanie (A Book Lover)
  • Time spent visiting other people’s blogs: 105 minutes (1.75 hours) and left 22 comments
  • Down Time: 1.75 Hours
  • Prizes I’ve won: None yet!

For those of you still awake and reading – WAY TO GO! See you in a few hours.

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: Hour 15 Mini-Challenge

I’m on a roll. Dewey’s just posted a mini-challenge for hour 15 and this will force me to choose my next book. Dewey writes:

This hour’s mini-challenge should be easy enough for anyone interested in a short break. Where is your current book set? If it’s a real place, go to wikipedia and find five interesting facts about the place and post about it in your blog. If it’s an invented place, you may actually still find it at wikipedia, depending on the book. But if you can’t, then tell us some interesting facts about it that you picked up from the story itself.

I’m going to start reading Down River, by John Hart (which is this year’s Edgar Winner). My hope is that it will be fast paced and thrilling. Anything to keep my eyes open! The novel is set in Rowan County, North Carolina. Here are five facts about that setting (from Wikipedia):

  1. The County was named after Matthew Rowan – the acting Governor from 1753-1754
  2. Current US Senator Elizabeth Dole is from Salisbury (located in Rowan County)
  3. The median household income as of 2000 was $37,494
  4. The county’s total area is 524 square miles of which only 2.4% is water
  5. In 2000 it boasted a population of 130,340

24 Hour Read-A-Thon: Update at Hour 14

I had to quickly post Vasilly’s challenge to just get in under the time limit. I’m growing very weary…and my brain is getting fuzzy. I hope to make it past midnight before having to get some sleep. My update is as follows:

  • Book I’m reading: Finished book #2 and will next be reading  either Down River, by John Hart OR The  Brass Verdict, by Michael Connelly
  • Number of books read since I started: 2 plus 1 short story
    1. The House at Midnight, by Lucie Whitehouse (read my review)
    2. Short Story: Mr. Bones, by Paul Theroux
    3. Springtime on Mars, by Susan Woodring (stay tuned for my review which I am too tired to write at this moment)
  • Pages Read since my last post: 62
  • Total pages read in the challenge: 350
  • Amount of time spent reading since my last post: 75 minutes
  • Total amount of time spent reading in the challenge: 425 minutes (7.1 hours)
  • Mini-Challenges completed: 7
    1. Intro (Darcie)
    2. Comics (Nymeth)
    3. Quotes (Vasilly)
    4. Comments on Reader of the Hour blogs (Andrea and Samantha)
    5. Comments on Readers of the Hour blogs (Jennie and Somer)
    6. Get some Exercise (Dewey)
    7. Mid-Event Survey (Dewey)
    8. Poetry (Vasilly)
  • Total amount of time spent blogging: 230 minutes (3.8 hours)
  • Blogs visited since I last posted: Vasilly
  • Time spent visiting other people’s blogs: 90 minutes (1.5 hours) and left 17 comments
  • Down Time: 1.75 Hours
  • Prizes I’ve won: None yet!