Categotry Archives: On reading

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A wonderful tour on the vaudeville circuit

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The Little ShadowsThe Little Shadows by Marina Endicott

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The wonderful world of vaudeville has always fascinated me, and I’m only sad that Marina Endicott’s book did such a fantastic job of taking me into that world that I felt bereft when the book ended. My good friend YA author Karen Krossing (The Yo-yo Prophet) has taught me a lot about writing from an organizing principle, and I thoroughly appreciated Endicott’s mining of the vaudeville conventions in the way she presents the stories of the three Avery girls and their mother in a four-act structure with placards introducing the scenes. The motivations of the family for entering vaudeville were clearly depicted, and my interest never waned in following their journey together and their individual journeys in that hectic, chaotic life. I found the author’s notes almost as absorbing as the story itself, and the depth and excellence of Endicott’s research shows in every detail. This would make a marvellous book club pick, and is a worthy successor to Good to a Fault.

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Half-blood Blues

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Half Blood BluesHalf Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An involving book with a memorable protagonist set in a fascinating time. An interesting perspective that encompassed black jazz musicians in Nazi Germany and war-time Paris, as well as the difficulties experienced by Jewish and German jazz musicians, and infused with a deep appreciation for the music. A compelling plot that pulled me along and made me care about each of the characters. I truly appreciated the depth of historical research and the confidence with which the author illuminated it. Switching back and forth from present to past heightened the tension as the story built to a its surprise climax. Wonderfully written, powerfully told, authentic voice. Loved it.

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Books that captivate me

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Books that grab me and won’t let go tend to be written from an intensely personal point of view and often feature a young protagonist, such as The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, or Dog Boy by Eva Hornung. Dog Boy haunts me, actually, and Room by Emma Donoghue threatens to do the same. (I haven’t figured out yet what this means for my own writing.) Others, like A Map of the World by Jane Hamilton or We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, are set in the ordinariness of day-to-day life interrupted by an extraordinary occurrence. As a child and well into my teens, I escaped to Narnia and the safety of Aslan whenever life events were  overwhelming. I wonder what books have a hold on you?