Monthly Archives: May 2013

2013 Armchair BEA: Young Adult Fiction and Another Giveaway


June 1, 2013

Good morning and welcome to The Armchair BEA. Today’s topic is all about Young Adult Fiction…and I am so excited to talk with you about my friend, Beth Kephart, who is not only an amazing author of Young Adult Fiction, but has also written non fiction books, and will be releasing a new book about memoir this summer.

Where do I begin?

I first met Beth in New York City at the BEA in 2010, but I had heard about her from other bloggers before that day in New York. I knew I would find a connection with Beth…a person whose heart is larger than life, who is careful with her words, and who has a smile which lights up the room.

BethBeth Kephart is an accomplished and prolific writer (just check out her many, many awards, sterling reviews, and nominations here). Her book, A Slant of Sun, was named a National Book Award, Nonfiction Finalist in 1998. Her most recent novel, Small Damages (a luscious, heart-breaking gem of a book) was just awarded Best YA Novel of the Year for The Armchair BEA. But that is not the only reason you should read her books.

I should tell you that I was not a reader of Young Adult Fiction (with the exception of The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak which is, admittedly, a cross over to adult fiction). I had this notion that YA literature was only about blood-sucking vampires and a dystopian universe that frankly depressed me. Beth Kephart changed the way I look at YA.

She changed it in a big way.

Because Beth writes characters who feel inspired by real people. She provides profound insight into relationships, and transports her readers to places that feed your soul. Her prose is filled with meaning. It is gorgeous. When I am reading one of her books, I just do not want it to end.

I have often said that Literary Fiction overlaps into other genres. And Beth’s work is an example of that – it is something that should be called Literary YA.

Read more about this amazing author by following her blog.

I have been saving up Beth’s books – reading them a little at a time to stretch them out. I have a nice little stack and I don’t want to get to the end of it! Have you read a Beth Kephart novel yet? What are you waiting for? Try these:

SmallDamages dangerousneighbors YouAreMyOnly[1]


And because I keep pushing Beth’s books into the hands of everyone I know, I thought I would offer a giveaway to one lucky US reader. For this giveaway you can pick any of her books up to $30 in value and I’ll ship them to you from Amazon. Sound good?

  • Contest open today through June 5th, 2013 for US readers
  • I’ll randomly draw one winner and announce their name by June 6th.

**UPDATED: Just now, I received an email from Beth – and she would very much like to send a signed copy of any of her books, to one winner – SO, I am going to draw TWO winners – one will win the selection of books of their choice (click through the survey below) and then I will select a second person from the survey to win the signed book. How does that sound?!??! If I draw your name for the signed book, I will email you to ask which of your selections you would like. Sound good?

***FURTHER UPDATE: Beth is giving away a galley of her book Handling the Truthvisit this post to enter!

Below are the available books (not just YA) with links to Amazon so you can read about them (please note: Handling the Truth will not ship until August). To enter the contest: Click here to take survey

sasparilla SmallDamages YouAreMyOnly[1] SlantofSun

Flow Undercover handling_the_truthFINAL dangerousneighbors

IntoTheTangle NothingButGhosts HouseOfDance HeartIsNotASize

StillLove SeeingPast

 Good Luck!



2013 Armchair BEA: Non Fiction


May 31, 2013 – Non Fiction

Today’s topic for The Armchair BEA is Ethics and/or non fiction. I’ve decided to focus my post on non fiction. My usual “go to” book is fiction…I read very little non fiction (something I vow every year to change, but do not!). There are so many sub-categories in non fiction: how-to, memoir, history, biography, social justice, philosophy…the list goes on and on.

Today I want to talk about four different sub-categories and give you recommendations of books in those categories.


handling_the_truthFINALI have read a lot of memoir over the years and some of it has really stood out for me. My friend Beth Kephart has just written a book about memoir, which will be published soon, titled Handling the Truth (Gotham, August 2013). I can’t wait to read it because I know Beth’s writing is insanely gorgeous, and I am so interested in what she has to say about writing memoir. The reason I mention Beth’s book is that I think there truly is an art to writing memoir. The books below are books I’ve read which I think nailed the art – they are richly written, profound, and deliver a message beyond simply telling the story of someone’s life. For me, that is the essence of memoir – the message that is ultimately delivered.

Have you read any great memoirs? Or is this a new area of reading for you? Follow the links to my reviews to learn more about the books I recommend:

LetsTaketheLongWayHome.BEST ScentOfTheMissing Translator.Darfur exactreplica HiroshimaInTheMorning

Let’s Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell (read my review)
Scent of the Missing by Susannah Charleson (read my review)
The Translator by Daoud Hari (read my review)
An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken (read my review)
Hiroshima in the Morning by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto (read my review)

Social Justice

On of my favorite sub-categories of non fiction is that of Social Justice. A while back I joined the Social Justice Challenge which was created to “encourage participants to learn about social issues through reading and other media and take action steps towards making a difference.” For me, this was just the catalyst to get me to pick up books I had been wanting to read but just never seemed to find the time. Since then, I’ve tried to read more from this group of non fiction titles – I think it is important that we learn about the issues that impact us as a society because education is one of the most important things to facilitate change.

Have you read many books which address social justice? If not, you might want to start with any of these:

behindthebeautifulforevers thereIsNoMe OtherSideOfRiver

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo (read my review)
There is No Me Without You by Melissa Fay Greene (read my review)
The Other Side of the River by Alex Kotlowitz (read my review)


If you are like me, there is nothing more boring than to read a history text. So I am always looking for interesting non fiction that tells a story about history which captivates me. The best books in this category, for me, are those that feel like fiction but are not.

Have you read any wonderful books which give a glimpse into the past or help you better understand an historical event or events? If you are new to this area of reading, you might want to try any of the following books:

Unbroken EverythingIsBroken maus-i maus-ii

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand (read my review)
Everything is Broken by Emma Larkin (read my review)
Maus I and Maus II by Art Spiegelman (read my review)


The last area of non fiction I want to talk about is that of meditation or reflection. Normally, I don’t read these kinds of books, but every once in a while, I find one that really resonates with me. Back in 2010, I was struggling – I had just said good-bye to my Search and Rescue dog, Caribou, and I was grieving. Typical of me, I was keeping a lot of that grief inside, pushing through my days and trying to keep my mind busy with work and daily tasks. And then I picked up an amazing book titled Wild Comfort, and I found something between the covers which spoke to my heart. It is that kind of revelation that is hard to find, but when you do, you feel so grateful for the magic of language and the written word.

Have you ever discovered a book which simply spoke to you at a time when you really needed it? What books that reflect on life, or grief, or happiness have touched your heart? Do you want to read a book that is meditative or reflective? Try one of these:

WildComfort giftfromthesea

Wild Comfort: The Solace of Nature by Kathleen Dean Moore (read my review)
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh (read my review)

Do you enjoy Non Fiction? If so, what sub-categories are YOU drawn to?


2013 Armchair BEA – Literary Fiction and 3 Book Giveaway


May 30, 2013

Today is an exciting day for the Armchair BEA. There are giveaways of fantastic books all over blogland today – check out this post to get the links. I’m also pretty stoked to talk about Literary Fiction today – I have three great titles up for grabs (go to the bottom of this post to get information and enter to win), and I am going to be sharing some of my favorite literary authors and books with you. Grab a cup of coffee (or your favorite drink), sit back and enjoy!

What is literary fiction?

I am sure every reader has their own definition of literary fiction. In general, it has been well accepted to define it as a work which is “critically acclaimed” and “serious.” Traditionally, literary fiction focuses more on character than plot (which is not to say that literary fiction is not well plotted!). Most books falling into this category are slower paced, with prose that is often described as “lyrical” or “beautiful” or “poetic.” It is these types of books which most often find themselves being recognized for literary awards.

I have found that most of the literary fiction books I have loved, also fall into other categories like historical fiction. Today I want to share some of my favorite literary novels and introduce you to the authors who write them.

The “Big” Names:

Readers who gravitate to literary fiction can usually point to several “big names” within the genre. For me, three names immediately come to mind: Margaret Atwood, Louise Erdrich and John Irving. I have read multiple books by these three authors and have (mostly) loved them all.

When I think of Margaret Atwood, I think: brilliant, contemporary themes, women’s rights, amazing characters, futuristic. Visit the author’s website.

Atwood has been awarded many literary prizes for her work including the Governor General’s Award, the Commonwealth Literary Prize, The Giller Prize, and the Booker Prize (See all her awards here). Below are the works I have read by Atwood (click on each graphic to read my review of each book – the only book I have not reviewed is Oryx and Crake). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Robber Bride – my hands down favorite – OR The Handmaid’s Tale which is now considered a bit of a classic.

AliasGrace CatsEye HandmaidsTale BlindAssassin

  • Alias Grace (1996)
  • Cat’s Eye (1988)
  • The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
  • The Blind Assassin (2000)

robberbride OryxandCrake YearOfTheFlood Penelopiad

  • The Robber Bride (1993)
  • Oryx and Crake (2003)
  • The Year of the Flood (2009)
  • The Penelopiad (2005)

Louise Erdrich is a relatively “new” favorite of mine. When I think of her work I think: Native American themes, multi-generational, sardonic humor, civil rights. Learn more about this author.

This accomplished writer is considered one of the most significant writers of the second wave of the Native American Renaissance. In 2009, her novel The Plague of Doves was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. This past November, she received the National Book Award for Fiction for her novel The Round HouseBelow are the works I have read by Erdrich (click on each graphic to read my review of each book). Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The Plague of Doves or Shadow Tag.

LoveMedicine ShadowTag PlagueOfDoves RoundHouse

  • Love Medicine (1984)
  • Shadow Tag (2010)
  • The Plague of Doves (2008)
  • The Round House (2012)

John Irving has been one of my favorite literary fiction writers since I first read his amazing The World According to Garp way back in high school. When I think about John Irving’s work I think: convoluted plots, fathers and sons, quirky characters, New England fiction. Visit the author’s website.

Irving’s work has not only been nominated for the fiction prizes, but has also been made into cinematic films. The movie The World According to Garp garnered several Academy Award nominations. Are you new to this author? If so, I suggest you start with The World According to Garp, A Prayer for Owen Meany OR Cider House Rules. Because I’ve been reading works by this author for a long, long time, many of those books are not reviewed here on my blog. Below are the works I’ve read which have been reviewed here (click on each graphic to read my review of each book):

APrayerForOwenMeany LastNightInTwistedRiver InOnePerson

  • A Prayer for Owen Meany (1989)
  • Last Night in Twisted River (2009)
  • In One Person (2012)

I have also read these books by John Irving:

  • The World According to Garp (1978)
  • The Hotel New Hampshire (1981)
  • The Cider House Rules (1985)
  • Trying to Save Piggy Sneed (collection, 1996)
  • A Widow for One Year (1998)
  • Until I Find You (2005)

The “Newcomers”:

One of the things I love about literature is that there are always new names to add to the ranks of my favorite authors. When it comes to literary fiction, it seems that there are more and more amazing writers publishing every year. I went through the last few years of reading and thought I would mention four writers who have caught my eye and who I see as the new wave of literary fiction writers.

Joyce Hinnefeld won my heart with her novel In Hovering Flight (Unbridled Books, 2008). Last year she published her second book with Unbridled Books titled Stranger Here Below. When I think of this author I think: poetic, sensitive, evocative, strong sense of place. Visit the author’s website. Below are Hinnefeld’s books with links to my reviews. I hope Joyce Hinnefeld has a long career because I want to keep reading her amazing books.

InHoveringFlight StrangerHereBelow

Peter Geye is a shining star in literature these days. I keep pushing his books into the hands of readers because when I think of his work, I think: Minnesota wilderness, redemption and forgiveness, love of family, and profound sense of place. Geye’s debut novel, Safe From the Sea (Unbridled Books, 2010) grabbed the 2010 Northeast Minnesota Book Award for Fiction and the 2010 Indie Lit Award for Fiction. His second book (The Lighthouse Road, 2012) was also published by Unbridled Books and has gotten universally sterling reviews. Visit the author’s website. Below are Geye’s books with links to my reviews.

SafeFromTheSea LighthouseRoad

Jesmyn Ward caught my attention with her National Book Award winning novel Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury, 2011). This was not Ward’s first book, but it is the one which catapulted her into the literary spotlight. When I think about this author’s work, I think: original, strong characters, the South, honest. I really hope that Ward is working on her next novel, because I intend to read it. My review is linked from the graphic below.


Bruce Machart first reeled me in with a short story. When I learned he had written a novel, I could not wait to read it. His debut novel, The Wake of Forgiveness, blew me away. When I think of Bruce Machart, I think: believable dialogue, wide open spaces, unforgettable characters, and rich prose. Visit the author’s website. I hope you’ll get a chance to experience this author’s fabulous writing. Below are the books of his I have read (click on each graphic to read my reviews).

WakeOfForgiveness MenInMaking

If you have not yet tried literary fiction, I hope you will. I could have listed at least 30 more authors on this post who thrill me with their prose and touch my heart with their characters. There is a big world of literature out there! If you’ve read literary fiction, who are the authors YOU would recommend?

The Giveaways

All giveaways on this post are open for FIVE DAYS from May 30 – June 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm PST. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced here on my blog on June 4th. Book giveaways here on Caribousmom are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway have been supplied by the publisher, I do not accept payment to host these special events.

I am offering up three interesting titles for giveaway today. Each of these books fall within the literary fiction category. Below I’ve given a short description of the book, a link to my review of the book, and a link to enter to win it. One title is open internationally, the other two are open for addresses in the US or Canada (I also have another giveaway open for US addresses: Burial Rites by Hannah Kent – go to this post to enter).

ConstellationA Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (Hogarth, May 2013) – read my review

I loved this book. And I am predicting that it will be nominated for some literary awards this year. Set in Chechnya, the novel  is a powerful, poignant, and deeply moving story that unfolds over five days. The characters who drive the narrative reveal their stories which happen in a war torn, violent part of the world between 1994 and 2004.

  • Copy of the book is hardcover, new.
  • This giveaway is open INTERNATIONALLY.

To enter: Click here to take survey

BurgessBoysThe Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout (Random House, March 2013) – read my review

Elizabeth Strout’s novel, Olive Kitteridge, won her the Pulitzer Prize for literature. In her latest novel, she once again takes readers to Maine where she examines the cracks that develop within families and communities and the often difficult road to healing and forgiveness after loss and misunderstanding. Strout’s character development is exceptional in this book.

  • Copy of the book is an Advance Readers Edition, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and CANADA mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey

GardenOfStoneIn The Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve (Hub City Press, May 2013) – read my review

Susan Tekulve has had many short stories published, and her first novel feels a bit like short stories woven together. This quiet novel about several generations of one family living in Virginia and West Virginia captured the South Carolina First Novel Prize. In The Garden of Stone is deeply rooted in a sense of place and examines the lives of Italian immigrants who came to the United States to stake their roots, raise their families and find work in and around Virginia. Tekulve’s prose includes beautiful descriptions of landscape and celebrates the lives of her characters.

  • Copy of the book is soft cover, gently used.
  • This giveaway is open for US and Canada mailing addresses.

To enter: Click here to take survey


Tuesday’s Gone – Book Review

Tuesday'sGOneShe pressed her head harder against the door, feeling her brain working, her thoughts hissing. She couldn’t stop herself: the past was seeping into the present and there were things she needed to know. She wondered why she was doing this. Why was she going back? – from Tuesday’s Gone, page 62 –

Frieda Klein still carries the guilt of a young woman’s murder and the nagging suspicion that the killer still walks free. When Detective Chief Inspector Karlsson once again calls upon Frieda to help unravel the mystery of a man’s death, Frieda is a bit reticent. But when she hears about the mentally ill woman who has been accused of the murder, she is curious. Robert Poole, a con man with a shadowy past, has been found naked and dead and covered with flies, while Michelle Doyce attempts to serve him afternoon tea. It is a bizarre and convoluted case. Who is Robert? And who would want to kill him? One thing Frieda is certain of, Michelle had nothing to do with the crime. As the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, Frieda begins to sense a dark threat to her own life. Has her past come back to haunt her?

The second book in the Frieda Klein series is a page turner. Once again Nicci French creates tension and mystery where anyone could be a suspect in murder. I read the first book in this new series (read my review of Blue Monday) and was hooked. Frieda Klein is a complex character who struggles with intimacy and love for herself while she wants to rescue others. She is a compelling protagonist who invites readers into her world and keeps them there until the last page is turned.

She was in the room and yet somehow standing back from it. She gave you her full attention, and yet at the same time you felt she had a core of isolation, of separateness. It made her a kind of magnet. – from Tuesday’s Gone, page 303 –

Although Tuesday’s Gone could stand alone, I believe readers would be best served by starting with Blue Monday before cracking the spine on the second book. Nicci French provides enough background to remind readers of what happened in the first book, and then closes the novel with a hook to lead into book number three (released this month in the UK). I will be eager to get a copy of Waiting for Wednesday when it makes its US debut because now that I have become a part of Freida Klein’s world, I don’t want to leave!

Tuesday’s Gone is a psychological thriller which has terrific characters and a well-plotted mystery that had me wondering how it would all end. The book is atmospheric, capturing the mood of England’s largest city and the flow of the Thames River to create a novel which fully immerses the reader in the back alleys and run down tenements of London. Unlike the first book in the series, Tuesday’s Gone never flagged for me, keeping up a relentless pace and unbearable tension until the end.

Readers who love suspense-thrillers that delve deeply into the psychological, as well as those who like their books well plotted, will want to read Tuesday’s Gone.

Highly recommended.


FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to the publisher who sent me a copy of the book for review on my blog.

2013 Armchair BEA: Genre Fiction and a Giveaway


May 29, 2013

Tomorrow is the big giveaway day for The Armchair BEA, but I’m posting a giveaway early today on this post because it fits in with the theme of genre fiction – please check it out at the bottom of this post!!!

Today’s topic for The 2013 Armchair BEA is genre fiction. What is genre fiction? Genre fiction is also known as “popular” fiction and is typically plot-driven (although this is not to say there are not spectacular characters in genre fiction!). Genre fiction includes:

  • Fantasy
  • Historical Fiction
  • Suspense-Thriller
  • Horror
  • Science Fiction
  • Short Story
  • Mystery
  • Humor
  • Women’s Fiction

Although my first choice in reading is usually literary fiction (visit me tomorrow to read more about that), I also enjoy well-written genre fiction which also sometimes overlaps into the Literary definition. Today I want to talk about four different genres which I love, with recommendations in each category.

Historical Fiction

In historical fiction, the setting is usually real and drawn from history. Although the main characters are usually fictional, these books often contain real historical persons.

I love historical fiction because it is a great way to learn about historical events without reading “dry” textbooks. Some of my favorite historical fiction writers are: Khaled Hosseini, Mitchell James Kaplan, Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, Amitav Ghosh, Kathleen Kent, Irene Nemirovsky, and Rose Tremain.

I’m giving away a debut novel in the historical fiction genre today – go to the bottom of this post to enter!!!!

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great historical fiction? Try any of these:

ThousandSplendidSuns MountainsEchoed halfyellowsun seaofpoppies

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (read my review)
And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini (read my review)
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche (read my review)
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh (read my review)

ByFireByWater hereticsdaughter SuiteFrancaise colour

By Fire, By Water by Mitchell James Kaplan (read my review)
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent (read my review)
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky (read my review)
The Colour by Rose Tremain (read my review)

What works of historical fiction have you read and loved?


There is nothing better than being scared out of one’s wits by a deftly written suspense-thriller novel. I admit, this is a genre which I have loved ever since my teens when I first started reading Stephen King (who is actually more in the horror genre, but his work is certainly suspenseful!). Suspense-thrillers make your palms sweat and your heart race, they usually include a twisting plot and a heroine or hero whose life is in peril. Some of my favorite writers in this genre include: Kate Morton (who writes gothic suspense-thrillers), Emily St. John Mandel, Laura Lippman, Benjamin Black, and John Hart (the king of Southern suspense).

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great suspense-thrillers? Try any of these:

christinefalls DistantHours lastnightmontreal whatthedeadknow downriver

Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (read my review)
The Distant Hours by Kate Morton (read my review)
Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel (read my review)
What the Dead Know by Laura Lippman (read my review)
Down River by John Hart (read my review)

What suspense-thrillers have you read and loved?

Women’s Fiction

Women’s Fiction has been the focus of a lot of negative attention over the last couple of years with authors writing in this genre complaining that their work is demeaned with the label “chick lit.” For me, Women’s Fiction is comfort reading. It is also usually highly emotional or meaningful literature, and many times there is a level of humor which lightens the plot. The works I have loved the most in this genre have memorable characters who have touched my heart. My favorite writers in Women’s Fiction include: Elizabeth Berg, Eleanor Brown, Katherine Center, Allie Larkin, Anna Quindlen, Cathleen Schine, Anne Tyler,  and Marisa de los Santos.

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great Women’s Fiction? Try any of these:

yearofpleasures WeirdSisters brightside Stay

The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (read my review)
The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (read my review)
The Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (read my review)
Stay by Allie Larkin (read my review)

EveryLastOne ThreeWeissmanns.PicadorCover DinnerHomesickRestaurant belongtome1

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (read my review)
The Three Weissmanns of Westport by Cathleen Schine (read my review)
Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant by Anne Tyler (read my review)
Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos (read my review)

What works of Women’s Fiction have you read and loved?

Short Story

Short stories have always been a genre I have loved. The short story is a difficult format to nail and so when I find an author who sweeps me away in just a few pages, I am hooked. Some of my favorite short story writers include: Megan Mayhew Bergman, Catherine Brady, Stephen King, Jhumpa Lahiri, Bruce Machart, Christopher Meeks, and Simon Van Booy.

Are you new to this genre? Want some recommendations for great short story collections? Try any of these:

BirdsofaLesserParadise mechanicsoffalling NightShift  unaccustomedearth

Birds of a Lesser Paradise by Megan Mayhew Bergman (read my review)
The Mechanics of Falling and Other Stories by Catherine Brady (read my review)
Night Shift by Stephen King
Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (read my review)

MenInMaking Months and Seasons lovebeginsinwinter

Men in the Making by Bruce Machart (read my review)
Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks (read my review)
Love Begins in Winter by Simon Van Booy (read my review)

What collections of Short Fiction have you read and loved?


Win a copy of BURIAL RITES

Burial Rites

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company, September 2013

Thanks to the publisher, I am thrilled to be able to offer a copy of Hannah Kent’s first novel, a work of historical fiction, to one lucky reader. As soon as I read the description of this book, I knew I needed to get myself a copy to read…and I hope you are as excited about this novel as I am.

*Book giveaways here on Caribousmom are NOT paid promos. Although books for giveaway have been supplied by the publisher, I do not accept payment to host these special events.


Burial Rites is inspired by a true story of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. When Agnes is charged with the brutal murder of her former master, she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. At first the family who is tasked with housing her, avoids Agnes. But as Agnes’s death looms, the farmer’s wife and their daughters learn there is another side to the sensational story they’ve heard. Described as “riveting and rich with lyricism,” Burial Rites promises toevoke a dramatic existence in a distant time and place, and ask the question, how can one woman hope to endure when her life depends upon the stories told by others?” This debut novel is getting glowing early reviews which describe it as gripping, original, and haunting.


Hannah Kent was born in Adelaide in 1985. As a teenager she traveled to Iceland on a Rotary Exchange, where she first heard the story of Agnes Magnusdottir. Hannah is the co-founder and deputy editor of Australian literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and is completing her PhD at Flinders University. In 2011 she won the inaugural Writing Australia Unpublished Manuscript Award. Burial Rites is her first novel. Learn more about Kent and her work by visiting the author’s website.


  • Contest is open from May 29th through June 3rd at 5:00 pm (PST)
  • Contest is open to US mailing addresses.
  • I will draw ONE winner randomly using and announce their name here on my blog sometime after the close of the contest.
  • To enter: Click here to take survey

Good Luck!

2013 Armchair BEA – Introductions and Classics

armchairbea2Welcome to Day #1 of the Armchair BEA!

Today marks the beginning of an exciting week here on the Internet and in New York City where the BEA is in full swing. For those of us who are not able to be in New York this week, we are very thankful to the good people over at The Armchair BEA who provide an amazing “experience for book bloggers to participate in Book Expo America (BEA) from the comfort of their homes.” In the next few days, book bloggers will be sharing their thoughts on blogging, ethics, friendships, and (of course) books! To see the full schedule, visit this post.

I plan on participating each day of this special event (including the book giveaway day which happens May 30th). Today’s topic is two-fold: and introduction to me and my blog, and my thoughts about the Classics.


Bloggers have been asked to consider and answer up to five questions which will help readers to their blog to better understand who they are. I’ve chosen to answer three.

  • Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

wendybousarMost people who first come to my blog are confused by the name. Why Caribousmom? Well, Caribou was my search and rescue dog and my very special friend. In many ways, she was a huge inspiration to me and taught me many lessons about life. She loved life and lived it to its fullest and she reminded me daily to be happy in the moment and appreciate the little things. So this blog is, in may ways, a tribute to the lessons she taught me. I lost Caribou more than four years ago, but she continues to inspire me. To read more about my beautiful girl, visit the page dedicated to her.

I have been blogging now since February of 2005, but I changed the course of the blog in 2007 and began to focus mostly on literature at that time. It is a long time to maintain a blog these days, but I can truly say I have enjoyed my little space in blogland and (at this time) I have no plans to dismantle my blog. What I have done over the years is to adapt my blog to my life and my changing interests while still keeping it mostly focused on reading and books.

I am a dedicated quilter – and so readers to my blog will see my creative work in that arena. I am also an animal lover, an appreciator of nature, a wanna-be world traveler, a partner to my wonderful husband, a mommy to my fur children, and a physical therapist who has been touching other peoples’ lives through my work for the last 24 years. All of these passions show up from time to time here on my blog. I hope if you are a regular reader of my blog, you appreciate the eclectic feel of my posts. And if you are new here – I hope you’ll want to come back!

  • Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures.

I live in Northern California among tall pine and cedar trees where red-tail hawks soar in the skies, and mountain lions and bears pass through the forests. To the west lies the powerful Sacramento River, and to the east are the white-capped mountains that pierce the sky above Lassen National Volcanic Park. To the North is the spectacular Mt. Shasta and lavender fields which provide a splash of color in the high desert. In the winter, the trees are burdened with snow creating a little piece of paradise. In the spring, I wake up in the mornings to clear mountain air and the song of birds and I truly love the beauty of this area. Our area offers amazing hikes, great fishing, annual rodeos, beautiful farmland, clear mountain streams, and immense mountains. Here are some photos of where I live (click on any photo to enjoy a larger view):

Mt.Shasta030001 MamaDeer.Baby0001 P&W.SundialBridge LavenderFarm.WP012009-07-02 ShastaCaverns02(creditA)2009-06-30 RR2008.Bronco.small0001 DogCreek.SacRiver2010-04-14

  • What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

My current read is:


River of Dust by Virginia Pye (Unbridled Books, May 2013)

I have read some great books so far in 2013 and so choosing a favorite is a challenge. I’ve chosen three books which are in the running for “best book” (click on book graphic to read my review):

Constellation MountainsEchoed WhiteDogFell

Classic Literature

What defines classic literature? Here is one definition:

  • A classic usually expresses some artistic quality–an expression of life, truth, and beauty.
  • A classic stands the test of time. The work is usually considered to be a representation of the period in which it was written; and the work merits lasting recognition. In other words, if the book was published in the recent past, the work is not a classic.
  • A classic has a certain universal appeal. Great works of literature touch us to our very core beings–partly because they integrate themes that are understood by readers from a wide range of backgrounds and levels of experience. Themes of love, hate, death, life, and faith touch upon some of our most basic emotional responses.
  • A classic makes connections. You can study a classic and discover influences from other writers and other great works of literature. Of course, this is partly related to the universal appeal of a classic. But, the classic also is informed by the history of ideas and literature–whether unconsciously or specifically worked into the plot of the text.

Although I read far less classic literature than I think I should, I have managed to read some amazing books in this genre. Some of my favorite classic authors are John Steinbeck, Wallace Stegner, Daphne Du Maurier, and Edith Wharton. If you are new to reading the classics, I would recommend starting with any of the following:

rebecca AngleOfRepose GrapesOfWrath EastofEden Ethan Frome

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier (read my review)
Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner (read my review)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (read my review)
East of Eden by John Steinbeck (read my review)
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (read my review)

A terrific resource for classics is The Classic Club.

What are your favorite classics?

Mailbox Monday – May 27, 2013

MailboxSpringWelcome to this week’s Mailbox Monday and which is hosted by Abi at For the Love of Books this month. Visit the dedicated blog for the meme to see the complete tour schedule in the right sidebar.

This week I received an amazing array of fabulous books:

RiverofNoReturnThe fantastic people from Penguin sent me a finished edition of The River of No Return by Bee Ridgway (May 2013). Isn’t that a great cover? This is a debut novel which has been getting five star reviews all over the place. The publisher writes: “If you loved The Night Circus or The Snow Child then prepare to be swept away by this stunning debut novel…” The book is an hisotrical adventure story about forbidden love that begins in 1812 on a battlefield in Spain when twenty-two year old Lord Nicholas Falcott is about to die…but then inexplicably finds himself leaping forward in time nearly two hundred years. He has been saved by a mysterious organization called The Guild. As Nicholas rebuilds his life in the twenty-first century, he one day receives a summons from The Guild…he is to return to his previous time on to confront his past. Back in 1815, Julia Percy is the keeper of her late grandfather’s closely guarded secret about the manipulation of time. When she and Nicholas are drawn to each other, they face danger from unknown enemies, and Julia begins to understand her grandfather’s last, ominous words…’Pretend.’ Doesn’t that sound great?

Bee Ridgway was born and raised in Amherst, Massachusetts and attended Oberlin College before going to work for Elle Magazine. She later attended Cornell for a doctoral degree in English Literature and eventually taught American Literature at Bryn Mawr. She lives with her partner in Philadelphia. The River of No Return is her first novel. Learn more about Ridgway and her work by visiting the author’s website.

IsThisTomorrowI won a copy of Is This Tomorrow by Caroline Leavitt (Algonquin Books, May 2013) through the Library Thing Early Review Program. The year is 1956 and Ava Lark rents a house with her twelve year old son, Lewis, in a Boston suburb. Ava is beautiful, divorced and Jewish, as well as a working mother – and she is ostracized by her neighbors. Lewis misses his father, but makes friends with two other fatherless children: Rose and Jimmy. When Jimmy goes missing, the neighborhood seizes on the opportunity to further alienate Ava and Lewis. Years later, Lewis and Ava reunite to finally untangle the mystery behind those tragic days and they must decide: Should you tell the truth even if it hurts those you love, or should some secrets remained buried? Leavitt’s latest novel is getting rave reviews and being described as richly layered, an intimate meditation, and masterful.

Caroline Leavitt is the prize-winning author of Girls In Trouble, Coming Back To Me, Living Other Lives, Into Thin Air, Family, Jealousies, Lifelines, Meeting Rozzy Halfway and Pictures of You. Pictures of You was a New York Times bestseller, a Costco “Pennie’s Pick,” A San Francisco Chronicle Editor’s Choice “Lit Pick,” and also on the Best Books of 2011 lists from The San Francisco Chronicle, The Providence Journal, Bookmarks Magazine and Kirkus Reviews. The recipient of a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction for Into Thin Air, she was also a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, and she was awarded a 2005 honorable mention, Goldenberg Prize for Fiction from the Bellevue Literary Review, for “Breathe,” a portion of Pictures of You. She teaches novel writing online at both Stanford University and UCLA, as well as working with writers privately. She lives in New Jersey. Learn more about Leavitt and her work by visiting the author’s website.

William Morrow (an imprint of Harper Collins) sent me two great books due out in September 2013:

AfterHerAfter Her by Joyce Maynard is described as a “haunting novel of sisterhood, sacrifice, and suspense.” Based loosely on the events surround Marin County, California’s Trailside murders, After You begins in 1979 and centers around two sister, Rachel and Patty, whose father is a detective. When the bodies of young women begin turning up on the trails of the mountain they love, the girls’ father is put in charge of the investigation. But when the case is not solved, Rachel makes a decision to use herself as “bait” to help her father solve the crimes – but instead of vindicating her father, Rachel’s actions destroy his career and alter the lives of everyone she loves. Thirty years later, still hoping to uncover the identity of the killer, Rachel discovers evidence which points to the perpetrator, but also unearths a long-buried family secret.

Joyce Maynard  first came to national attention with the publication of her New York Times cover story, “An Eighteen Year Old Looks Back on Life”, in 1973, when she was a freshman at Yale.  Since then, she has been a reporter and columnist for The New York Times, a syndicated newspaper columnist, a regular contributor to NPR and national magazines including Vogue, O, The Oprah Magazine, Newsweek, The New York Times Magazine, MORE, Salon, and many more.  Her essays have been widely published in collections, and featured in The New York Times. She is the author of fourteen books. Her novel, Labor Day, is currently being developed as a motion picture to be adapted and directed by Jason Reitman. Maynard has taught at writing programs around the country, and runs workshops in both fiction and memoir at her home in Mill Valley, California. She also runs workshops at other sites in the US and internationally, including the Lake Atitlan Writing Workshop in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala, which she founded in 2002. Learn more about Maynard and her work by visiting the author’s website.

HelpForThe HauntedHelp for the Haunted by John Searles begins with a call in the middle of a February night. Sylivie Mason’s parents are known for helping “haunted souls” find peace, and when they take Sylvie out to a church on the outskirts of town that snowy winter night, they leave her in the car and disappear into the church. Later, Sylvie wakens to the sound of gunfire. A year later, Sylvie is struggling to come to terms with what happened that night. Moving back and forth in time, Sylvie pursues the mystery and in the process uncovers secrets which have haunted her family for years. Described as “capturing the vivid eeriness of Stephen King’s works with the compelling quirkiness of John Irving’s beloved novels,Help for the Haunted promises a captivating journey told in the resonant voice of a young heroine.

John Searles is the author of the national bestsellers Boy Still Missing and Strange But True. He appears regularly as a book critic on NBC’s Today show. He is the editor-at-large of Cosmopolitan. His essays have been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers and magazines. He lives in New York City.

SaveYourselfFinally, Crown Publishing sent me an Advance Readers Edition of Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet (August 2013). Book description from the publisher:

Patrick Cusimano is in a bad way. His father is in jail; he works the midnight shift at a grubby convenience store; and his brother’s girlfriend, Caro, has taken their friendship to an uncomfortable new level.  On top of all that, he can’t quite shake the attentions of Layla Elshere, a goth teenager who befriends Patrick for reasons he doesn’t understand, and doesn’t fully trust. The temptations these two women offer are pushing Patrick to his breaking point. Meanwhile, Layla’s little sister, Verna, is suffering through her first year of high school.  She’s become a prime target for her cruel classmates, not just because of her strange name and her fundamentalist parents: Layla’s bad-girl rep proves to be too a huge shadow for Verna, so she falls in with her sister’s circle of outcasts and misfits whose world is far darker than she ever imagined. Kelly Braffet’s characters, indelibly portrayed and richly varied, are all on their own twisted path to finding peace.  The result is a novel of unnerving powerdarkly compelling, addictively written, and shockingly honest.

Kelly Braffet is the author of Josie and Jack and Last Seen Leaving. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University, where she received her MFA. Kelly lives in upstate New York with her husband, the writer Owen King. Learn more about Braffet and her work by visiting the author’s website.

Did any wonderful books arrive at YOUR home this week?

Beyond the Shadow of War: The Living Memorial Sculpture Garden

This is a piece I wrote which was first published on The Piker Press in 2005. I thought it would be nice to share it with my blog readers on this Memorial Day weekend. All photos in this post are clickable to enjoy a larger view.



Situated in the high desert of Northern California, in the shade of Mt. Shasta, there lies a sculpture garden dedicated to all veterans. The USDA Forest Service offered this land for the creation of a memorial. Bronze artist Dennis Smith served his country as a Marine and brings to life a personal and intimate portrayal of our history. His philosophy of art (“…to uplift, edify and educate”) is apparent throughout the garden and labyrinth.

On a perfect late spring day, my husband Kip and I drive away from Redding, north on highway 5. We exit in Central Weed and head north on highway 97 toward the stark beauty of the high desert. To our southeast, Mt. Shasta rises into a clear blue sky, her snow covered peaks shining in the sun. We find the Living Memorial Sculpture Garden one mile north of County Road A-12, in the heart of Siskiyou County and are greeted at the entrance by The Peaceful Warrior sculpture. With one bronzed arm raised to the towering pines, the figure appears triumphant. As our car enters the parking area, my eyes are drawn to the Hot LZ Memorial Wall, which on this day (only a week after Memorial Day), it is covered with the red, white and blue of small American flags and the rich colors of dozens of bouquets of wildflowers. Names of veterans, living and dead, are etched in the wall’s granite surface. Glinting in the sun atop the wall are two bronzed sculptures of helicopters. Mt. Shasta’s snow covered slopes soar behind them and I can imagine the helicopters, blades whirring, lifting into the Spring sky.

MtShast&FlagWe drive away from the parking area and down a dusty road where junipers and pines blow in a gentle breeze. Purple Penstemons, Northern Buckwheat and Hawks Beard are just a few of the dozens of species of wildflower which cover the ground. Dennis Smith’s sculptures catch the sun’s rays, throwing light toward the rocky outcroppings on the northern end of the park.

Kip and I climb out of the car. The breeze blows away the heat of the sun and wild thyme and sage flavors the air. We walk out to the POW-MIA sculpture. A soldier lies in a cage, ankles bound, hands curled limply at his side. People have placed wreaths, bracelets, flags and notes in front of him. An American flag, sun bleached and tattered, flutters. My throat tightens and tears blur my vision. The silence here is broken only by the occasional rumble of a truck making its way along highway 97; and the sweet trill of a single bird.

TheWhyGroupKip and I take our time wandering among the sculptures. We wait for awhile at the site of The Flute Player, symbolic of peace and tranquility. It is said when the wind blows just right, the sound of a flute comes forth. But not today.

We walk out to The Nurses memorial. An injured soldier rests on a stretcher carried by two men; a nurse, hand outstretched as if giving a blessing, leans over him. Someone has tucked a tiny bouquet of blood red Desert Paintbrush inside the injured man’s hand. I imagine the thump-thump of a helicopter’s rotors, the thud of distant bombs, and the soothing voice of a nurse in the chaos. I imagine a soldier in pain who looks into the eyes of another and is comforted.

Kip and I move on. We feel the despair at the Korean War Veteran Monument; and hope as we gaze at the outstretched arms of the central figure in The Why Group.

ForPapa01The minutes tick by. I am filled with a peace that is hard to define. This site is dedicated to war veterans and one might think the violence of war would find a place among the monuments. But Dennis Smith, who believes that “through art we have the means to peacefully consider violence,” has created a remembrance that fills the observer with reverence and tranquility. On this day, Kip and I are alone among the bronze and dwarfed by a mountain. We stumble upon other tributes left where once only wildflowers grew. “To Papa,” says one; “To my brother,” says another. Crude bunches of flowers, small flags, piles of rock nest in the desert grasses, almost hidden; and their presence touches us, makes us feel this place is special.

When finally we climb back into our car, our words have been silenced. I roll down my window, allow the wind to blow past my face. Dust sifts and billows beneath the car’s tires. We leave the parking lot and turn south onto highway 97 toward home. I glance back once more to see the Peaceful Warrior standing guard.

Sunday Salon – May 26, 2013

Sunday Salon

May 26, 2013

Good morning and welcome to this week’s edition of The Sunday Salon. Visit the Facebook Page for links to other bloggers’ posts.

I hope my US readers are enjoying their Memorial Day weekend. We’ve had beautiful weather here – sunshine and in the 70’s, although today is a little cloudy. Normally, I would be going on a hike or taking a bike ride, but my ribs are still healing from my fall a couple of weeks ago, so instead I’ll be doing more sedentary activity which will definitely include reading!

Armchair BEA 2Next week is the BEA in New York City and the Armchair BEA for those of us who could not make the trip to New York. I’ll be participating in the daily events for the Armchair Bea (see the complete schedule here). And there will be giveaways here on Caribousmom on several days…so I hope you’ll come back this week and join in the fun! Also, it is not too late to sign up to participate – go to this post to register.

seaofpoppiesWe’re getting ready to have another discussion over on the Chunkster Blog in June. Our Chunky Book Club read is Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh and discussion questions will post by June 15th and be open indefinitely. I hope you’ll consider joining us over there (learn more about the Chunky Book Club). If you have not read Sea of Poppies, I can tell you it is a fantastic, richly textured saga (read my review). Ghosh’s second book in this proposed trilogy, River of Smoke, is also an amazing piece of historical fiction (read my review). Have you read either book?

BurgessBoysLast week I talked briefly about Elizabeth Strout’s newest novel – The Burgess Boys. I ended up with very mixed feelings about this book (read my review). On the one hand, no one can fault Strout’s prose and the way she develops character. But despite those talents, something fell a little flat for me in the book plot-wise. I wasn’t completely convinced that the Somali immigrants in the novel were much more than a plot device to add conflict, and overall the novel was a bit of a downer. That said, there are plenty of glowing reviews out there for this book – so don’t take my word for it. If you’ve enjoyed Strout’s work in the past, you might want to give this one a try.

othertypistA book I can highly recommend, however, is the one I just finished this week. The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell is a twisty, well-plotted page turner with a terrific unreliable narrator (read my review). I really loved this novel and I flew through the last half of the book. It should be no surprise that the publisher of Rindell’s debut is Amy Einhorn Books. I have come to really trust this publisher for some A+ reads … and The Other Typist is yet another success for them. This book would be a terrific pick for book clubs.

Tuesday'sGOneMy current read is also turning out to be really good. Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French is the second book in the Frieda Klein series. A third book, Waiting for Wednesday, is being released in the UK this month. I’m not sure of the US release date, but I would think we would not have long to wait. At any rate, Frieda Klein is a psychotherapist who gets entangled in investigating murders, kidnappings, etc… I read the first book in the series (Blue Monday) and this is what I wrote about Frieda:

Frieda is a complex character who at first left me a bit cold with her reserved and careful demeanor. But as the novel progressed, I found myself empathizing with her character and wanting to understand her psychological underpinnings. (Read my complete review).

In Tuesday’s Gone, Frieda is much more approachable for the reader. Although this novel could stand alone, I think readers would be well-served to read Blue Monday first before starting Tuesday’s Gone. Look for my review soon!

I hope I’ll be able to fit one more book into my reading schedule before the end of the month…but I’m not sure which one of the many wonderful books in my stacks I’ll pick up yet.

How about you? What will be YOUR last read for the month?


The Other Typist – Book Review

othertypistIt all went on harmoniously, that is, until they hired the other typist. – from The Other Typist –

It is Prohibition and Rose Baker is working as a typist in the New York City Police Department. Each day she carefully records confessions, then returns to her gloomy boarding house where she shares a room with a woman she dislikes. The times are changing – gone are the Victorian standards women have become accustomed to, and behind the closed doors of Speakeasy’s, women with bobbed hair are drinking and dancing on tables. Rose, who is rather traditional, views all these changes as an outsider…until the Police Department hires a new typist, a woman with shiny bobbed hair and a charismatic personality named Odalie. Rose is smitten, and as she and Odalie become friends, everything Rose has come to depend upon begins to change.

The Other Typist is Suzanne Rindell’s debut novel and it is a wonderfully plotted page-turner. Early on, the reader begins to suspect that Rose, as well as Odalie, are not who they first appear. Rose narrates the tale after the fact, hinting that things go terribly wrong, but keeping the reader on the edge of her seat as she unspools the story.

A horrible disaster was looming on my horizon, so to speak, but from the very moment I met Odalie I was rendered utterly powerless to do anything other than watch it hurtle toward me. But, of course, if I am to tell it all in order, as I keep promising to do, there are other things I must tell first. – from The Other Typist –

Rose is a fascinating, unreliable character and throughout this novel I was never sure whether the “facts” she was relating were true, embellished, or simply false. Rindell spins her story deftly with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing…and the ending was perfect.

Rindell captures the mood and feel of the mid-1920s spectacularly with wonderful descriptions of New York Speakeasy’s. The police characters and the suspects they interview reminded me of the hard boiled detective novels that have been so popular. I could almost see this as a black and white noir film.

I cannot reveal more about this novel without spoiling it, so all I will say is: Pick up a copy and read it for yourself. I guarantee that readers are going to be talking about this book and book clubs will be choosing it to discuss. It is hard to believe this is a first novel.

Readers who love unreliable narrators, twisty tales, and stories set during Prohibition, will want to read The Other Typist.

Highly recommended.


FTC Disclosure: Many thanks to Amy Einhorn Books for sending me a copy of this novel for review on my blog.