So much to say and so little space to say it! I just realized how much I had going on at the original "From the Cheap Seats" and decided to start a little cousin blog. This blog will focus on book reviews and writings of a more creative nature.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Book Review: The River, by Moonlight by Camille Marchetta

Publisher: Virtual Bookworm
359 pages
Available at Amazon

Loss is something that each and every one of us will feel during some point in our lives. Some, more than others. Often, after a loss, we are left with questions that rage around inside a flurry of emotions. Why?

When someone we love takes his or her own life, those questions are like fists pounding against a brick wall. Each question brings on the agonizing "what ifs" and "if onlys." The damage to the spirit is only compounded by the searing pain over never really knowing the why.

Camille Marchetta explores the tragedy of loss through the revealing journey into the lives, emotions, and thoughts of those who are most impacted by loss--those who are left behind. It is a painful and agonizing journey at times, but with Marchetta's talent for exploring grief and loss while maintaining a essence of hope, the story becomes a testament to not only the frailties of human nature, but also to the strength of the human spirit.

The story opens with a simple phone call. A call that no parent should ever have to endure. There has been an accident. A valiant attempt by a vagrant to save a young woman fails as she falls into New York City's Hudson River. Mystery shrouds the beautiful young artists death. Was it an accident or did Lily Canning take her own life? Those left behind, including her mother, her best friend, her ex-husband, and a family friend, are left to wrestle with not only the loss of Lily, but also with the reasons why a young woman with immense talent, beauty and so much promise would quite possibly take her own life.

Marchetta is exceptionally gifted at delving into the lives of her characters and exploring not only who they are as individuals, but also who they are within the context of the story and the central character, Lily. Each chapter is told by a different character. Although she tells each of their stories in third person, there is no doubt that each character possesses his or her own voice. I found this to be a powerful and effective aspect to Marchetta's story telling. One of my biggest frustrations as a reader is to lose out on learning more about the characters within a work. Who are they? Where did they come from? What are their experiences? I don't need the minutiae, but I do appreciate the details that help enrich the story and thus my experience as a reader.

"This time, with the name, images of her daughter came flooding into Henrietta's mind, not recent images, but ones of Lily as a baby, beautiful from the moment of her birth, with a long slender body, elegant fingers and toes, silky dark hair, and perfect features [ . . . ]She was an eager, curious toddler, a rambunctious youngster, not really frail at all[ . . . ] There was such a look of impermanence about her; so pale, so ethereal did she seem, it was hard to believe that she had come to stay."

As a mother, I found this rather prescient passage to be emotionally powerful. Parents often journey into the past with their memories. And loss only makes this journey more compelling. Marchetta tugs at a reader's curiosity and natural empathy with her her words. And her characters work to bring those words to life.

I was moved by this novel in ways I had not expected. Once again, The River, by Moonlight, a tragic story set in the early 20th century is not one I would typically choose. although Marchetta cleverly interweaves the complexities of the time period with the lives of the characters, it is the emotional journey that draws in the reader. I read this one in one night. One night. Although I am rather exhausted this early Wednesday morning, I have absolutely no regrets.

Marchetta's style is easy and not bogged down with superfluous language and details, for which I am grateful. There are questions left to be answered even after you read Lily's chapter, which takes place only hours before her death. Marchetta provides some level of closure as the novel comes to close by taking readers five years into the future. However, Marchetta clearly knows that life is simply not that easy and still as you turn the last page you are left pondering not only the true impact of Lily's death on those who knew her best, but also on the questions that remain long after we are gone.

This book review has been brought to you by Blog Stop Book Tours.

Book Giveaway Winner
Kristen from Loving Our Simple Life!
Thanks to all those who entered.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Book Giveaway WINNER: Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

And the winner is . . .
Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING! Congratulations. E-mail me with your mailing information!

Stay tuned . . . another review and giveaway is coming soon!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Book Review and Giveaway: The Midwife of the Blue Ridge by Christine Blevins

417 Pages
Available at Amazon

After her mentor dies, a beautiful young woman known as Dark Maggie finds herself without a home and yearning for a new beginning. She signs away her life for four years as an indentured servant and leaves her home in Scotland for colonial America. After surviving the ship's treacherous conditions as well as a near-rape by an evil nobleman, she makes her way to America and finds her contract sold to the kindhearted Seth Martin.

Maggie is a godsend to Seth's family as she cares for his ailing wife. Not only does the once Dark Maggie find acceptance, she also finds love. Unfortunately, her peaceful existence is short-lived as tragedy strikes and Maggie must use everything she has in order to survive.

Did I get your attention yet?

Well, this story sure got mine. And kept it until I turned the last page. That is rarity and even more so because this was yet another departure from my typical reading fare.

I am sometimes leery of historical fiction out of fear that I will be bogged down with historical facts and details. I want a well-crafted story where the historical setting works to enhance the story. And this is exactly what I got. The details Blevins does provide are riveting, such as the hardships faced by not only the frontiersmen, but by the women of early America where their value was always under question. Blevins does not spare any details and it is those types of details, the ones that pull you into the raw human experience, that keep you reading.

Blevins deftly crafts her characters with a unique understanding of the time period. More importantly, she creates characters that you can't help but feel for as their story unfolds. I found Maggie's character to not only be intriguing, but also very real. She exemplified courage and strength while at the same time showing a vulnerability that made you root for her and her happiness until the very end.

If there are any criticisms of this book, it is that I simply wanted more. Right from the first page Blevins draws in the reader with a obvious tragic situation. Maggie's soon-to-be foster mother and her rescuer are made into powerful characters in only a few pages. I found myself wanting more of their story. Not much of a criticism, but maybe an idea for a future novel . . .

Blevins is a skillful writer and a knowledgeable historian. From historic details to the unique vernacular, she clearly knows her time period, but more importantly she knows how to build a powerful story. I was mesmerized and that is not something that happens very often to this former English teacher . . . not at all .

Blevins is definitively an author to keep on your must read list.

This book review has been brought to you by Blog Stop Book Tours.

* * *
Midwife of the Blue Ridge can be yours! Just leave a me a comment in the comments section and I'll randomly draw ONE winner on Saturday, September 13. And let me just say, I am reluctantly giving this one away. I love sharing books, but sometimes you come across one you'd just like to keep for yourself. But, dear readers, this is such a good one, I must share.

Oh, and let's make this a little interesting. Tell me in your comments the time period that you like to read about the most. For me, I'm a sucker for the medieval period. Something about knights, mysticism, castles and lore . . . and did I mention, knights?

Good luck!

EXCITING NEWS UPDATE!!! From the author Christine Blevins: "Keep your copy and email me the me the name and address of the winner. I will ship them out a brand spankin' new signed copy, along with some other midwifey goodies." WOW!!! THANK YOU!