Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sunday Sunshine: Starting Strong Edition

So, as soon as I decided to scale back my reading goal, I of course have an awesome reading week.  See, I was totally gonna work on my WiP this week.  I really was.  But I opened the doc and realized it had been two or three weeks since I had gone back to it and I really needed to read through what I had.  I couldn't do it online, though--way too much to read on the screen.  And I needed printer ink and paper to print the whole thing out.  (And, as it turned out, I was suffering from pretty bad school supply withdrawal, so I realized at Office Max today that I also needed a three-hole punch, and a binder, and some colored pens and post-it tabs.  You guys.  I just love school supplies SO MUCH.)

So, long story short: I didn't write at all this week but I read a heck of a lot!  Two of the books I read I won't be reviewing here at the moment, though.  They were both for the Cybils--Me and Earl and the Dying Girl and a re-read of Code Name Verity.  I've posted before about Code Name Verity and I look forward to posting about Me and Earl...after the Cybils are over. 

I also started reading Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.  I've mentioned before that Jaime and I planned to read that this month; we'd love for you to join us!  We're going to do it pretty informally: we'll read at our own paces; Jaime will put up a post on the first half of the book around the middle of the month, and I'll have a wrap-up here at the end of the month.  If you'd like to add a post of your own, email me, and I'll post any links I get in my wrap-up!  Or if you like, just read along and enjoy!

What I Read This Week:

 New GirlNew Girl by Paige Harbison
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

New Girl gets points for creatively re-telling a fabulously dark and twisted original (Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca). I enjoyed the modern take on the story--making Manderley a boarding school was clever. At times the voice--particularly the diction--took me out of the story, and some of the references felt either dated or like they'll be dated in about five minutes. I would recommend this to fans of Rebecca, just for the fun of seeing how different pieces got updated.

Three Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown FloodThree Rivers Rising: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood by Jame Richards
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this novel-in-verse on a whim in the bookstore today and read it all in one sitting. Told from several (five, I think?) perspectives, this book does a remarkable job of building a world populated with characters I cared about and then crashing in with the flood waters to tear it all down.

If you're not familiar with the story of the flood (as I was not before I read this book), it's hard to believe. In the mid-1800s, a dam was built to create a reservoir for industrial use, perched on a mountain in rural Pennsylvania. Eventually the reservoir fell out of use and into disrepair. In 1879, it was purchased for use as a stocked fishing lake in what became a private club for wealthy sportsmen. The owner of the club made a few shoddy repairs in order to fill the lake, including several modifications that actually made it moredangerous. When an engineer came from the iron works that made up the backbone of the working class town just down the mountain and declared it unsafe, the owner of the club refused to change it. The iron works offered to pay for the repairs, but the owner couldn't be budged. The dam was so chronically on the verge of breaking that the citizens living below it had long stopped listening when anyone warned that danger was imminent by the time it actually broke in the spring of 1889. Thousands of lives were lost, both in the rushing waters of the flood and trying to survive the aftermath (cold, wet, ruined towns with little food, little heat, and the diseases borne by standing flood waters with no medicine to treat them.) The decisions made to keep a few wealthy people happy devastated several towns--which, of course, because this is the way of things--were all working-class or outright impoverished to begin with.

I found the story of the flood itself utterly fascinating and horrifying, and the author recommends David McCullough's book on the subject, which I may pick up. But the fictional stories woven against the backdrop of the flood were just as compelling. I found that some narrative voices worked better for me than others, especially in the beginning, but by the end of the story I was rooting for each and every one of them. I thought the verse format worked especially well for two of the supporting characters: one, a young woman turned to nursing to dull her pain after the drowning death of her fiance in a shallow stream near her home, the other, the young wife of a railroad worker who is half-married to her, and half-married to his work.

This is a quick read with a story that will sweep you away. It started a little slow for me but give it a chance: while it takes its time setting the stage, I think it's worth it for the investment I felt in the characters once the flood came.

View all my reviews

Currently Reading:



  1. Bird by Bird is great. I hope you enjoy it!

  2. I second the love for Bird by Bird--awesome book. Looking forward to your posts on it!

    1. I'm excited to see what catches everyone's attention--always fun to see different takes on one book!

  3. I, too, am a Bird By Bird fan. First read it years ago. Reread it last month. Most memorable phrase: "shitty first drafts." Sure does take the pressure off!


Thanks for coming by! Please chime in!