Saturday, May 31, 2008

Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan

Meet Kim Larsen. She is eighteen years old, pretty and popular, and about a month away from leaving for college and the wider world. She can hardly wait. Like most small town kids, she and her friends chafe from the sameness and boredom of daily life. They drink more than they should and experiment a bit with drugs. But they are good kids at heart and are so looking forward to going away, being on their own, growing up.

Then, somewhere in the short distance between her home and her workplace, she seemingly vanishes into thin air. No trace of her, or her car. No one has seen anything. She's just gone. This is the story of those left behind. The author changes the point of view for each chapter and the reader feels the reaction of each person: Mom, Dad, sister, best friend, boyfriend. We see how they react and try to cope with the reality of Kim's loss.

Her Mom Fran gets organized, makes lists, makes calls, starts a website, talks to the press.

Her Dad Ed gets outside, taking the lead in the numerous searches that start immediately and continue for months.

Her younger sister Lindsay retreats into herself, a book, her I-Pod, the tv, the computer. Anything to keep people away. Especially her parents who can't resist the impulse to smother their remaining child with protectiveness. More than anyone else, this is her story.

Young girls disappear every day, not only in the US but around the world. Many are never seen again and their fates are often never known. Songs for the Missing gives you a glimpse of the flattening anguish and grief that the loved ones suffer when this happens.

Despite the emotional subject matter, this book is a surprisingly easy read. The author's smooth and comfortable style allow the reader to sink into the story, empathize with the characters, be a member of that family. Stewart O'Nan is a talented writer who has written a book that will resonate long after you finish it.

Songs for the Missing is scheduled for release on November 3, 2008 by Viking.


I was tagged by Kathleen's Book Reviews for the Author meme, so here goes:

1. Who’s your all-time favorite author, and why?

Wow, it's hard to pick just one. I really love Cynthia Harrod-Eagles. She is a British writer who has a wonderful historical series (called The Morland Dynasty) of about thirty six books, so far, all about one family and their estate in York, England. If you have ever been to a lovely old manor house and thought that if the house could talk, what tales it could tell, this is the series for you. The series begins in around 1400 with the first book, The Founding. The latest book takes place in World War I and there will be several more. The author plans to take the series up through WWII. Her characters are so engaging and her descriptions are wonderful. This is one of the few authors where I run right out and purchase the next book the second it comes out. In hardback. For full price. (I'm a tightwad, this is saying alot!)

2. Who was your first favorite author, and why? Do you still consider him or her among your favorites?

My first favorite author was Carolyn Haywood. She had several series and my elementary school library had most of them. My favorite were her Betsy books: Betsy and the Boys, Betsy and Little Star, Betsy and Mr. Kilpatrick, Betsy and Billy. Betsy was the oldest child with just one younger sister (just like me). I loved them and read every one. I wouldn't say that Carolyn Haywood is among my favorite authors now, but I would recommend them to anyone with a six or seven year old child.

3. Who’s the most recent addition to your list of favorite authors, and why?

My most recent discovery is Dorothy Dunnett. She writes very detailed historical novels that have great political and cultural underpinnings. She is probably among the most literate and intelligent historical novelists, not to mention the most historically accurate. You really have to pay attention when reading her books and sometimes you still feel that you have missed something. But they are wonderful, complex and interesting.

4. If someone asked you who your favorite authors were right now, which authors would first pop out of your mouth? Are there any you’d add on a moment of further reflection?

Sharon Kay Penman, Elizabeth George, Elizabeth Peters, Colleen McCullough's Ancient Rome series, Sarah Donati, Diana Gabaldon, Pauline Gedge, Manda Scott, Jules Watson, Margaret George. And C.S. Lewis, I've read everything he wrote, including the letters and diaries. Those are probably my favorite of his writings.

5. Tagged

Rules: Link to the person that tagged you, post the rules somewhere in your meme, answer the Author questions, tag some people in your post, let the tagees know they’ve been chosen by leaving a comment on their blog, let the tagger know your entry is posted.

You can respond, or not, no problem!

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Thursday, May 29, 2008


Katie Hickman's "The Aviary Gate" is a story within a story. In present day Oxford Elizabeth Staveley, a graduate student, is looking through the Bodleian Library archives in search of material for her thesis on captivity narratives. She finds a fragment of a manuscript which describes a shipwreck and the unfortunate aftermath when the ship is boarded by Turkish pirates. The captain of the ship is murdered and several of the women are taken captive by the pirates, among them the captain's daughter, Celia.

Elizabeth immediately feels a connection with Celia and wants to find out more of her story. At the same time her personal life is experiencing upheaval. The man she is in love with is a wandering womanizer and as much as Elizabeth would like to break away, she is having trouble severing her ties to him. On an impulse, she abruptly leaves her life in Oxford and flies to Istanbul, not knowing what she is looking for but anxious to do SOMETHING. She seizes on following Celia's trail as a way to force change in her own life.

Woven in to Elizabeth's story are segments of Celia's life in 1599 Constantinople. She is bought for the Sultan's harem, intended to be his next "favorite" concubine. The reader sees the secretive world of the Ottoman harem. The female population is full of political maneuvering and infighting and Celia struggles to learn the hierarchy and her place in it. They even have a silent language they use amongst themselves when speaking is prohibited. For Celia it is a prison full of confusing rules, conflicting gossip, drama and backstabbing. When she discovers that her fiancee is in Constantinople on an errand for Queen Elizabeth I, she dreams of a chance to see him again.

The author paints a lush and beautiful picture of the secluded world of the harem and the women who inhabit it. Present day Istanbul is also described well. She presents an interesting peep into how that world might have been. I love books that transport you to a place which you can never visit, and make it seem like you have been there. I enjoyed the book and look forward to reading other titles by this author.

The Aviary Gate was released by Bloomsbury on May 27, 2008.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

So the question this week is- how many books do you have cataloged in your LibraryThing account? How do you decide what to include- everything you have, everything you've read- and are there things you leave off?

So far I have only cataloged a few...96 to be exact. I probably have a thousand or so to go, it's going to take me a while. My husband has been really working on his, he has over 1400 cataloged! As you can see, we have ALOT of books in our house!

I had decided to only catalog the books that I actually have permanently in my library. Mostly for insurance purposes. If I ever needed a list for replacements, I would have it. However I will now be reviewing books that I won't necessarily want to keep, but will want the review to remain. So I'll be using a tag, like "not owned", for those that I have reviewed but passed on to others.

Just finished "The Aviary Gate" and will have the review up in a couple of days. "Songs for the Missing" by Stewart O'Nan is next, I'll start that today. I just received a review copy of "The Lace Reader" by Brunonia Barry in the mail today and I am bumping it to the top of my To Be Read list because it looked so good!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Sunday Salon #1

Since today is Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, I'm afraid that I haven't had much time to devote to reading. So this will be a quick update. I am currently reading "The Aviary Gate" by Katie Hickman and am on page 140. It's an interesting story within a story about an Oxford researcher who finds a narrative manuscript in the Bodleian Library. The narrative appears to have been written by a captive English woman in the Ottoman Sultan's harem. I hope to finish it by tomorrow so that I can get my review up. The next book in my To Be Read pile is "Songs for the Missing" by Stewart O'Nan, which I am reading for the Barnes & Noble First Look Book Club. Hope everyone has a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

THE GARGOYLE by Andrew Davidson

First time Canadian author Andrew Davidson's novel The Gargoyle is an intriguing, unexpected story. The narrator, who is never given a name, is an unapologetic drug addict and pornographer who admits that he has never known love. He is driving in a drug-induced haze when his car sails off of a cliff into the ravine below. He is severely burned and narrowly escapes death. As he lays in his hospital bed he plans his suicide in detail, believing that he could never live with what his body has become.

Marianne Engel, a temporary patient in the psychiatric ward, enters his room one day and speaks to him as if she knows him, though he has never seen her before. She claims that she was born in the year 1300 and that they had been married when they both lived in Medieval Germany. She is a sculptor of stone gargoyles and she says that the talent does not belong to her but that she is guided by God to produce her statues. Though the narrator thinks that she must be mentally ill, he is nevertheless drawn to her and to the stories that she tells him. They become close and when he is released from the hospital she takes him into her home. Unfortunately he continues his addictions, this time to morphine, and has a hard time letting go of his lifetime habits.

This book centers on the gradual redemption of the narrator's soul and the fulfillment of Marianne Engel's life purpose. The author weaves in references to and instances from Dante's Inferno that illustrate the narrator's hellish journey from his pre-accident immoral life to the ultimate decision that redeems him.

I found this book well written with vividly described scenes and interesting historical detail. The storyline was fascinating, though the ending stops short of answering all of the reader's questions. It is among the most unique novels that I have ever read.

The Gargoyle is scheduled to be published on August 5, 2008 by Doubleday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tuesday Thingers

This Tuesday's topic is how many discussion groups we each participate in. I am a member of three at Library Thing: Early Reviewers, Historical Fiction and B&N First Look Readers. I am also a member of Barnes & Noble First Look discussion board at their website. I have only recently gotten into the whole blogging/discussion group thing, so there may be more as time goes on. It's wonderful to read everyone else's recommendations and thoughts, although I look up and two hours have gone by, when I should really have been devoting myself to other things!
After looking at all of the other blogs on my blogroll, I must say that I am totally impressed with how many of you manage to post a review for a book every day. There's no way I could hope to do better than two or three books a week. I am currently nearing the end of The Gargoyle and it is very, very interesting. My husband and I have been speculating wildly about how the author is going to wrap everything up and what the end will reveal. My review will be posted in the next day or two.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Having The Builders In by Reay Tannahill

Having the Builders In
by Reay Tannahill
Headline, London, 2006

Medieval England. The castle of Vine Regis is in an uproar. Widow Dame Constance has arranged a lucrative marriage for her eldest son, Gervase, but is not so happy with the girl when she arrives. Due to the upcoming expansion of the family Constance has decided to expand her square castle and the builders are making life intolerable. Then King Edward III up and dies and Gervase is called to the court of the boy king Richard and may be on his way to war with the French. Numerous items have gone missing and accidents keep happening on the building site. What else could go wrong?
This is a light, witty book and a quick, fun read. The wide cast of characters was an interesting mix, they are each given memorable and charming traits. Historical, without too much historical description. A great book for a summer trip!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thinging Through Tuesday

Well, it's not Tuesday, I'm a day late but I hope I will be forgiven as I was out of town. So the idea is that one day each week we all write on the same topic and leave the links in the comments so all can enjoy! This week the topic is to introduce ourselves. Here goes....

My name is Carey and I have been a avid reader all of my life. I never wanted to go outside and play as a kid, I was always happiest on the couch with a book. The elementary school librarian used to tease me when I came in, "What are you doing here? You have read everything already"! Good thing it didn't discourage me. I majored in English Literature in college and then answered the often asked question "What are you going to do with that degree?" by going to be a flight attendant for a major US airline. That was almost twenty years ago. I have been very happily married for over twelve years to my husband Mark. We travel as much as possible and we try to make it to England/Scotland/Wales at least once a year to soak up the history and buy books (like we need any more). I'm very fond of good historical fiction, so you will see alot of that in the reviews. Lucky me, my profession has a lot of down time and I spend most of it reading. I do not have a laptop because I don't want to lug it around, plus it would take time away that I would rather be, you guessed it, reading!

Today I received my second ever ARC, Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan. Already my TBR pile is growing! I'm looking forward to the ARCs breaking me out of my Historical Fiction rut!!!

It's great to hear from all of you and to be part of this great community!

The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease

The Mercy Seller
by Brenda Rickman Vantrease
St Martin's Griffin, NY, 2007

Twenty years have passed since the events in this author's previous book, The Illuminator. It is 1410 and the mercy seller of the title is Father Gabriel, a Catholic priest who raises money for the church by selling indulgences, small pieces of paper that absolve you of your sins. Unfortuately, most of the people who buy them are poor peasants that can barely afford to feed their families. He will come to doubt his faith when he discovers that everything that he has believed to be true about his past has been a lie. Anna, Finn's granddaughter from the first book, has been raised in the underground movement that distributed Scriptures to the ordinary people of Europe, in their own language rather than the Latin that the Catholic church demanded. She believes that everyone should be able to read the word of God for themselves. When her path crosses with Gabriel's they both have to make difficult decisions. For me, this book's main characters were not as likable as the earlier book's characters. Perhaps, at least in the case of Father Gabriel, this is the design of the author. I really enjoyed two of the side characters, Sir John Oldcastle and his wife Joan. Sir John is a historical figure and the basis for Shakespeare's Falstaff. The author has good historical accuracy and evokes the period well. For some reason, despite all of my reading, I tended to think that King Henry VIII found the basis for his Reformation in his relatively recent past. Actually, there was an underground movement in Europe for more than a hundred years before that to provide bibles and other religious texts to people in their own language, circumventing the Catholic church. It was considered heresy by the church to even be in posession of any bible that was not in Latin, and punishable by death.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My First Advanced Reading Copy has arrived!!!

Wow, what an exciting day for me! In today's mail I received my first ever Advanced Reading Copy. The book is The Gargoyle by first time Canadian author Andrew Davidson, tentatively to go on sale on 8-5-08, published by Doubleday. I must say I'm a little in love with it already, with it being the first one and all. Then there is the lovely cover with a spine that looks like the gilded, embossed leather of those wonderful old books that look so nice on the shelf. Look for my review of it in the next week or so. I'm down to the last few pages of my current book, The Mercy Seller by Brenda Rickman Vantrease so the review will be up in the next couple of days. Thanks to everyone who has left comments and to the Library Thing community for their warm and helpful support!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

This is my first foray into the blog world, so tips will be welcome! I will be keeping an ongoing reading list here, along with reviews of what I have read. Some travel notes will be sprinkled in. Here’s the first.

St. Martin’s Press, NY, 2005

Finn is an artist who paints the beautiful page edges and endpapers in Latin holy books for the English Catholic Church in 1380. This is his story, enmeshed in the political battle for the English peasant to obtain copies of the Bible in their own language, to read for themselves. The author develops all of her characters well and really brings the period to life. The way she describes the political situation of the time brings understanding to the modern reader. I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading the next!

Thoughts from an Evil Overlord

Thank you!!

Thank you to Beth at Beth Fish Reads and to The Blogger Guide for helping me to customize my template and to Andrea at The Little Bookworm for improving my header!!

About Me

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.