Listen to This Book – Only Child

51l+GCnsXVL._SL500_  Although the news after a school shooting is devastating and continuous, the distressed lives of the child survivors can only be imagined, but in Rhiannon Navin’s Only Child, a six year old first grader tells you how it is.  Some books need to be read, but Only Child on audible in the voice of Zach, the young hero who hides in the closet with his class while his ten year old brother becomes one of the victims, is one to be heard.  The disconnect between the innocent young voice and this tale of senseless killing will bring you to the experience like reading alone could not.  So, listen…

From the pop, pop, pop of the gun outside the classroom to the surprising identity of the shooter, Only Child reveals the crushing events, so often in the news lately.  As Zach tries to understand what has happened, where his dead brother has gone, his mother’s erratic behavior and his father’s disconnect, he also remembers his brother, diagnosed with O.D.D. (Oppositional Defiant Disorder), as the hyperactive and bright older boy who bullied him, and more often ignored him.  When he checks his brother’s bed daily to be sure he is really not there, and rebelliously moves into a corner of his brother’s walk-in closet, his quiet assertiveness and need for a return to order and peace is a counter to his family’s constant stress.

The horror of the killings and the aftermath is somehow increased by Zach’s sitting “criss-cross applesauce” on the floor, sucking on the ear of a stuffed animal.  With his calm voice, he tries to make sense of this new world around him, but it isn’t easy.  His parents marriage falls apart in the collateral damage, as Zach’s mother creates a campaign against the shooter’s parents and Zach’s father’s infidelity is exposed.  Zach escapes to his hideout to talk to his dead brother, but finds it harder and harder to cope.

This heart breaking tale is saved by the resilience of one little boy, who carefully and logically works to save himself and those he loves with hope and persistence.


A Book List from Independent Booksellers

If you are looking for a good book, two local independent booksellers in Carmel, California have some suggestions.  Many titles were new to me (but then I tend to stick to fiction) so I checked out their reviews and summaries, and offered a quick assessment.

Here’s the list:

  • Reactions by Theodore Gray – the third and final installment in the trilogy of The Elements, Molecules, and Reactions – chemistry in pictures and stories. Gray offers molecule quilts too – I may find that more interesting.
  • Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman – based on the popular food blog, this cookbook promises to rival Ina, Nmartha, and Nigella with recipes and food ideas from a recovering vegetarian.  I love cookbooks and am always happy to find a new one.
  • The Undiscovered Islands by Malachy Talkack – National Geographic promises it is “Packed full of intelligent musings on everything from religion to astronomy, alchemy to the occult…an exploration of two dozen islands once believed to exist but no longer on the map.  This one might make it to my to-read list, if I can find it in the library (unlikely).
  • Van Life by Foster Huntington – photos of life on the road.  I’m not a fan.
  • Going Into Town by Roz Chast.  I read it, loved it, highly recommend it.
  • Grant by Ron Chernow – biography of Ulysses S. Grant.  I never made it through his Hamilton, so will probably skip this one.
  • The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey – Police detective Gemma Woodstock works to solve the murder of a former classmate in this debut mystery.  This one has possibilities for my audible wish list.
  • Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan – the author’s memoir.  I’m not big on memoirs, so will probably skip this one too.
  • The Child Finder by Rene Denfield – New York Times calls this “a powerful novel about a search for a missing girl that’s also a search for identity…”  and notes a comparable book would be Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere.  A winner – going on my to-read list.
  • The Crooked Little Road to Semi-Ever After Happiness by Heather Harpham – NPR says  “…Harpham relives the heartbreak, hope, and terror she experienced as she watched her infant daughter cross the abyss of a life-threatening disease. Into this tension-torqued story of sickness and health, she works in the fraught tale of her own evolving relationship with {her ex-husband}.” Might be good if you liked When Breath Becomes Air, but I think I will skip it.
  • The Resurrection of Joan Ashby by Cherise Wolas -mixed reviews about a fictional novelist who marries when she would rather write.  I might give it a try.
  • The Kinfolk Entrepreneur: Ideas for Productive Work by Nathan Williams -introduces readers to creative business owners around the globe. … a chocolatier among them.  Has pictures, so might be worth a look.

Have you read any of these?

The Girl Who Saved Christmas

51cf-a9vJjL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_   Listening to the audiobook of Matt Haig’s A Boy Called Christmas had me thinking I was listening to Santa.    Haig’s follow-up book this year is The Girl Who Saved Christmas; I was hooked from the first lines:

“Do you know how magic works?  The kind of magic that gets reindeer to fly in the sky? The kind that helps Father Christmas travel around the world in a single night? The kind that can stop time and make dreams come true?  Hope.  That’s how.  Without hope, there would be no magic.”

Maria Russo in the New York Times says:

” If somewhere in the afterlife Roald Dahl met Charles Dickens and they cooked up a new Christmas tale, it couldn’t have much on this fleet, verbally rambunctious, heart-stealing follow-up to “A Boy Called Christmas,” set in Victorian London (with cameos by Dickens himself). Amelia Wishart, the first child to have gotten a gift from Father Christmas, is orphaned and sent to a workhouse. At the North Pole, magic levels plummet. Christmas is in jeopardy, and Father Christmas is in custody. Amelia to the rescue? We’d all better believe it.”

0511-1009-2806-0628 Santa magically delivered this story to my iPhone this morning. Just what I wanted – a book for Christmas.

Did you get a book for Christmas?



Listen to David Sedaris – the Christmas Elf

Not long ago I happily listened to David Sedaris in person when he was on stage in Hawaii; listening to Sedaris’ humorous twang is the best Christmas present you can give yourself.

National Public Radio (NPR) often broadcasts one of his short essays in his Santaland Diaries for Christmas on its Morning Edition.

gettyimages-121693538_wide-c0d6eff165889478fc5410961250f07b2259ef6d-s800-c85.jpgThis Christmas Eve, after you read “The Night Before Christmas,” listen to Crumpet, who recounts the true-life tale of an out-of-work writer’s stint as a Macy’s Department Store elf – David Sedaris as an Elf.









Last Sunday in November Roundup

Short comments on a few books:

  • Love and Other Consolations by Jamie Ford

Another immigrant story – this one centers on a Chinese boy sold at the 1909 Seattle World’s Fair, as he looks back on his life fifty years later at Seattle’s second World’s Fair.

  • The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

Finally finished listening to this thriller! I had it on Audible, and found myself increasing the speed when the diary- like texts revealed the collusion. Think “Gaslight” with Ingrid Bergman being systemstically driven mad by a greedy husband. The surprise is whodunit – not Charles Boyer this time.

  • The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg connects three sad souls who find redemption in each other. Arthur has lunch everyday at his wife’s grave, and while imagining the lives under the other headstones, he meets pregnant teenage Maddie whose mother died soon after she was born. After Maddie moves into Arthur’s big house, his 83 year old next door neighbor Lucille loses an old love (after finding him again after 60 years), and moves in with Arthur too.  Full of life lessons and philosophical bon mots, the book is in good company with others having unique names in the title – Penumbra, Fikry, Pettigrew…

  • Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler

Although I pre-ordered this highly touted coming of age tale of a recent college grad (lit major) who tries to make it in the big city by working as a backwaiter at a high-end restaurant, I could never get into it.  Since it was still on my iPhone, I tried again.  The book is divided into the four seasons, beginning with Summer.  I made it through Autumn and most of Winter before skipping to the end of Spring, following 22-year-old Tess’ initiation into the world of fine dining and hedonism. As she learns the ropes of restaurant work, she falls for bad-boy bartender Jake, and makes her first forays into wine, drugs, lust, betrayal and adulthood.  I still think the book is overrated, but I might appreciate it more when Brad Pitt produces the Starz series drama for television.