Daily Archives: May 8, 2011

Wrecker – Book Review and Giveaway

They couldn’t control him and so they gave up trying. But neither could he control them, and he, too, came to understand this, and the shimmering tentative thing that stretched between them those first days thickened into something workable, something like love in overalls, love with a spade in its hand. – from Wrecker, page 28 –

Wrecker is born in 1965 in a public park in San Francisco to a mother who is homeless and desperate, but who loves him in a fierce and protective way. For three years, Lisa Fay raises her child in the best way she knows how. And then, she is arrested and imprisoned and Wrecker is turned over to social services, and eventually to an Uncle he has never met. Len brings Wrecker to the Mattole Valley located in the heart of Humboldt County, California where Len works in the timber industry and struggles to care for his disabled wife, Meg. Bow Farm is a wild place, a magical place…and it is there where Wrecker meets Ruth, Willow, Melody, and Johnny Appleseed who offer him not only sanctuary, but acceptance and love. Spanning nearly two decades, Summer Wood’s enchanting and poignant novel follows Wrecker from a toddler into early adulthood.

Wood writes with a heartfelt honesty which keeps the novel from being overly sentimental. She takes care in developing her characters, people who are flawed and damaged by life, but have room in their hearts for a young boy who helps them heal. Wood captures the exuberance and joy of childhood, and the fearlessness of a young boy growing up with beautiful, descriptive prose.

Len hadn’t even shut the engine when Wrecker was out of the truck bed and halfway to the water, his shirt wrenched off in one fluid motion and flung backward to catch in the blackberry thorns. He paused briefly to yank the boots from his feet and step out of his jeans, left his shorts on in deference to Meg, and used the giant boulder as a springboard into the fat dry August air. It held him suspended. Fourteen. Broad-shouldered. Stringy from sudden growth. And then he raised his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them and made himself a compact bullet, a musket ball swallowed with enormous splash and spray by the shining sheet of river below him – down, down, bubbles of zany laughter escaping – pushed off the soft muck of the river bottom to twist and torpedo up and break the surface with a whoop, his sun-bleached hair water slicked and slung sideways with that quick flick of the neck – “Len!” he shouted, his voice lurching up the register, “Get in here!” – from Wrecker, page 165 –

Wood explores themes of loss, grief, redemption and the healing power of love in her novel. Set against the backdrop of the breathtaking beauty of nature, her characters struggle with their every day lives, turning again and again to the common thread which binds them together – Wrecker.

What I loved most about this novel was the joy which is discovered in the most simple of things – the “sheer ambrosial sweetness of wild blackberries,” the spun wool turned into “weavings that dazzled the eye and caught the heart,” and the stretching arms of a venerable maple tree “as much part of the hillside as the rocks and soil.” What Wood does so effortlessly is capture the small things which bring us solace and wonder.

Wrecker is the story of a boy, but it is also the story of a family – a family which is not defined by blood, but which is defined by the love and care that grows between the characters. And perhaps this is what elevates the novel from a simple coming of age story to something deeper. If you are like me, Wrecker will capture your heart and leave you feeling that life, with all its ups and downs, is worth the journey when it is traveled with those who love us.

Highly Recommended.

  • Quality of Writing:
  • Plot:
  • Characters:

Overall Rating:


Read other reviews of this book by following the links from the TLC Book Tours page.

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog as part of a TLC Book Tour.


Summer Wood is the author of the novels Arroyo (Chronicle Books) and Wrecker (Bloomsbury, 2011). Her non-fiction work has appeared in National Geographic Traveler and other venues. Wood teaches writing to adults at the University of New Mexico’s Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. She lives in Taos with her partner, Kathy Namba. They have three grown sons and have served as foster parents through New Mexico’s Child Protective Services. Learn more about Wood and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Read an interview with Summer Wood about Wrecker.

Follow the author’s blog, The Where of It.


I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy of WRECKER to one lucky winner here on my blog. Giveaway is restricted to US and Canada mailing addresses. To enter:

  • Leave a comment on this post no later than May 16th at 5:00 pm (PST) indicating that you would like to be entered in the giveaway.
  • I will randomly draw a winner on May 17th and announce their name here on my blog. I will also email the winner who must respond to that email within 5 days with their snail mail address.

That’s it! Easy peasy, right?

Good luck!

Mailbox Monday – May 9, 2011

This month’s Mailbox Monday is hosted by Mari at Mari Reads. Make sure you visit Mari’s blog today and add your link … you’ll also find links to other readers’ mailboxes there.

To see the schedule of this meme’s host, please visit the dedicated blog.

I continue to get some amazing books each week in my mailbox.

Leyann at FSB Associates sent me two books:

Better By Mistake by Alina Tugend (released March 2011 by Riverhead Books) looks fascinating. I mostly read fiction, but I found myself drawn to this nonfiction, behavioral science book which examines the cultural attitudes about mistakes, why striving for perfection is not entirely healthy, and why acknowledging and accepting mistakes in ourselves and others can bring unexpected rewards. Fortune Magazine recently reviewed the book and noted that Tugend’s words are what “we need to hear more of in boardrooms — and in Washington.

Watch the book trailer:

Alina Tugend earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Berkely, and a master of studies in law from Yale Law School. She has written about education, environmentalism, and consumer culture for the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and Parents – among others. She is a Huffington Post contributor and since 2005 has written a biweekly consumer column “Shortcuts” for the New York Times. Tugend was awarded the 2011 Best in Business Award for Personal Finance by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers. She lives with her husband and two sons outside of NYC. Read more about Tugend and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs: A True Story of Bad Breaks and Small Miracles (released April 2011 by Algonquin Books) is a memoir by bestselling author Heather Lende who, after a near fatal bike accident, contemplates faith and friendship and observes the breathtaking beauty of the northern wilderness anew in Haines, Alaska. Compared to Garrison Keillor and Anne Lamott, Lende’s voice has been described as “folksy,” “playful,” and “entertaining.” Alaska magazine writes that in her newest book Lende conveys “the importance of spirituality and community in life’s lessons.”

Heather Lende is the author of If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name. She has contributed to NPR’s Morning Edition, the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Washington Post, as well as National Geographic Traveler and Country Living magazines. She is a columnist for Woman’s Day magazine and also writes an online column for the Alaska Dispatch. Learn more about Lende and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Two books arrived from St. Martin’s Press:

The Boy in the Moon by Ian Brown (due for release this month) is a memoir about the author’s journey – both across the globe and within himself – to understand and comes to terms with his son Walker’s diagnosis of cardiofaciocutaneios (CFC) syndrome—an extremely rare genetic mutation that only affects about 300 people worldwide.  Described as “an honest, intelligent, and deeply moving exploration into the value of a single human life” this book definitely spoke to me since I work daily with adults who are challenged by developmental disability.

Read excerpts from the book and watch a moving video.

Ian Brown was born in Montreal, attended the University of Toronto and later studied publishing at Radcliffe.  He is currently a roving feature writer for the Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper.  Brown was the host of “Talking Books,” a nationally-broadcast book show heard on CBC Radio One, for a decade, and anchors “Human Edge, The View From Here,” Canada’s pre-eminent television documentary series, on TVOntario.  He is the award winning author of several other books . The Boy in the Moon won Canada’s Charles Taylor Prize, the BC National Prize for Literary Nonfiction, and Ontario’s Trillium Prize.  Brown lives in Toronto with his wife, journalist and screenwriter Johanna Schneller and their two children.

The Wedding Writer by Susan Schneider (due for release June 2011) follows “four talented women at one glossy wedding magazine as they navigate the unpredictable wedding industry to find their own happily-ever-after.” This women’s fiction book has been described as “scandalous,” “a page turner,” and “hilarious.” Katherine Ball Ross, former Literary Editor of Victoria Magazine calls Schneider’s novel The Devil Wears Vera Lang or Alex Witchel Channels Jane Austen. This book looks like the perfect summer read. Watch for my review of the book on June 23rd as part of the book tour.

Susan Schneider is a bridal magazine editor and writer and has spent the last ten plus years helping engaged women prepare for their Big Day. She is the former executive editor of Modern Bride and Elegant Bride, and currently of Bridal Guide. She has also been an editor and writer for a number of other major women’s and parenting magazines, and is the co-author of two marriage and relationship books with Dr. Sonya Rhodes. The Wedding Writer is Schneider’s first novel. She lives in New York City. Learn more about Schneider and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Finally, Beach Week by Susan Coll arrived from Picador. Due for release later this month, Beach Weeksatirizes a teenage rite of passage, in the process dissecting the lives of families in transition.” The Miami Herald writes that the novel is “a warm and funny family story disguised as a beach read” and author Helen Simonson notes: “There’s hilarious hypocrisy and satire as sharp as a glass shard on the boardwalk—Susan Coll is very funny as she lightly barbecues a suburban summer tradition.

Read Chapter One.

Susan Coll is the author of the novels Acceptance (FSG, 2007), karlmarx.com, and Rockville Pike. She has worked as a travel and feature writer, and has also written a few op-eds and book reviews, published in such places as The Asian Wall Street Journal, the International Herald Tribune, the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Washington Post, and NPR.org. A film adaptation of Acceptance, starring Joan Cusack, aired on Lifetime Television in 2009. Coll teaches occasional workshops at the Bethesda Writer’s Center. She is also the fiction editor at Bethesda Magazine. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, the writer Steve Coll. Read more about Coll and her work by visiting the author’s website.

I also received two beautiful art books from the author/artist:

I read both of these books already and reviewed them here.

Did any wonderful books arrive at YOUR house this week?

Sunday Salon – May 8, 2011

May 8, 2011

Welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Salon – sit down, relax, and let’s talk books! I missed last week’s Salon as I was traveling from New Hampshire back to California. April was an emotionally exhausting month for me, and I am looking forward to regrouping and having some time in May to recharge my emotional batteries. My last Salon post was on April 24th…since then I have read some good books.

The Wilder Life by Wendy McClure was a very interesting book for me since I was a huge Laura Ingalls Wilder fan as a young girl (read my review). Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the book is not the thorough dissection of the history behind the Little House Series, but the author’s personal reflections and why she found herself obsessed with Laura’s world. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, I hope you will at some point. It is definitely worth the read.

Galore by Michael Crummey has been getting a lot of buzz on the blogs and has been garnering its share of literary award nominations and wins. I loved this rich family saga set in Newfoundland (read my review) and you should not be surprised it if makes my list of best books in 2011. Crummey covers nearly 100 years and introduces a cast of bizarre, quirky characters. In essence, the novel is about the stories which link the generations. There is a lot of folklore, a smattering of mysticism, original language, and an ending that is completely unexpected – a terrific novel with all the right ingredients. Have you read Galore? Do you want to?

Although I do not often read children’s books, I did accept two books which would appeal to children, although I chose them for their artwork.

Manni and The Turtle’s Dream and Keys are two beautifully illustrated books which introduce multi-cultural ideas, the folklore of Guyana, and stories of the indigenous Arawak Indians. These are really gorgeous books…a great edition to a library (read my review).

I also finished reading Wrecker by Summer Wood for a TLC Book Tour. My review and a giveaway of the book will post tomorrow. I really enjoyed this book. Wood writes beautifully and captures the forests of Humboldt County in her coming of age story of a boy who discovers love and acceptance within the bounds of a nontraditional family after his mother is imprisoned. Check out other reviews through the links on the TLC Tour page. So far, it looks like everyone has given this one a thumbs up (including myself).

I am currently reading a really affecting book. The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom is set in the Australian outback during WWII. The main character is an albino woman name Gin Toad…and it is she who narrates this compelling, intricate story. Again, there is a cast of eccentric, quirky characters and original language – things that tend to pull me into novels and immerse me in another world. So far, I am really engaged in this book. I hope to get it finished and reviewed by Tuesday or Wednesday.

Other books on my reading list this month include:

  • I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman (watch for a three book Lippman giveaway at the end of the month)
  • The London Train by Tessa Hadley (for a TLC Book Tour on May 27th)
  • The Convert by Deborah Baker (for BOOK CLUB on Nicole’s blog on May 31st)
  • Secret Daughter by Shilpa Somaya Gowda (again, watch for a book giveaway towards the end of the month)
  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf (for A Year of Feminist Classics read-along and discussion)

This is only a small smattering of what I have on my to-be-read pile for this month…my cup runneth over!!

I am also looking forward to the Armchair BEA from May 23-May 27. There is much planned for that week long event, designed to bring the BEA to those bloggers unable to get to NYC this year. I am offering five books for giveaway through Armchair BEA Central. Check out all the great giveaway sponsors and participants. Want to join us? Sign ups are here.

Today I plan to do a little quilting, and also I’ll be spending more time with the Toad’s in Australia. How about you? What are YOUR plans for the day? Whatever you are up to, I hope it involves a great book!