Tag Archives: Book Blogger Convention

Armchair BEA 2014: Some People Buy Shoes, I Buy Lecture Tickets.

ArmchairBEA 2014

 “Some people buy shoes, I buy lecture tickets.” ~ my Facebook status before a Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures event

We’re lucky here in Pittsburgh.  We’re an incredibly literary town, moreso than the average person might imagine. Among the literary offerings is a very popular lecture series called Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures that brings world-famous authors to town at a price that is affordable for all. This has quickly become one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.

When I heard that Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures would be hosting Colum McCann, who happens to be one of my all-time favorite writers, I bought my ticket A YEAR IN ADVANCE. Yes. An entire year. And then I upgraded my seat at the last minute, paying extra to sit in the second row (which was so worth it). And then I met him.

And then I died and went to heaven.

Melissa and Colum McCann

That was almost three months ago and I still haven’t written a coherent post about it because I am still grinning about how wonderful Colum McCann’s talk was here in Pittsburgh.  Thank God I took good notes.

I’ve been fortunate to meet several writers but I have to say that having the chance to talk with Colum McCann (even briefly) was extraordinary. And his lecture! If you ever have the opportunity to hear him, go. You won’t regret it.

Ann Patchett was another author I met through Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures. So incredibly gracious and kind. Her lecture was lovely, and when I got my books signed by her, I mentioned that I was interested in reading The Magician’s Assistant because I’m writing a novel about the AIDS epidemic.

“Oh, you want to read Borrowed Time by Paul Monette,” Ann Patchett says to me, scribbling down the title on the Post-It note with my name that marked the place for her to sign my book. “You need to read this.”

Well, when Ann Patchett gives you a book recommendation, you listen. At least I do.  (Guess what book I’m currently reading?)

(Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures has an awesome lineup for next season. James McBride, Simon Winchester, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jesmyn Ward, and Jodi Picoult are just a few of the authors who will be appearing.)

Rachel Renee Russell and daughters

Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures has author events for kids, too. (As a child, I would have been over the moon. To be my daughter’s age – 12 – and meeting my favorite writers?! Are you kidding me??!!) I’ve taken my daughter to meet Rachel Renee Russell, author of the Dork Diaries series. Ms. Russell’s daughters help her co-write and illustrate her books and they were all absolutely lovely.  (This was a crazy book-signing … they each signed every kid’s book, and there were hundreds of kids! Some people were in line for nearly 4 hours.)

I would also be remiss without mentioning Rachel Simon (The Story of Beautiful Girl) and Beth Kephart. I consider each of them friends now, but I started out as a regular fan. (OK, maybe a little bit on the groupie side.) I met Rachel in 1990 when I attended a writing conference and she was the keynote speaker. She had just published a short story collection called Little Nightmares, Little Dreams and was regularly writing columns in The Philadelphia Inquirer. I admired her writing and soaked up any bit of advice and knowledge I could get from her – and when I had the chance to take a class with her, I was thrilled.

There are other authors I’m forgetting, but I’ll leave you with this photo of me and Beth Kephart from Book Expo America in 2010 (actually, it’s the Book Blogger Convention). I look like I am ready to collapse; that day, I left my house at 3:30 a.m. to catch a train to New York City (chances are, Beth did too) and I was fading fast when this photo was taken. Beth, on the other hand, looks vibrant and radiant in her fuschia, ready to take New York by storm, as she always does.

Book Blogger Convention (38)

Now it’s your turn: which authors have taken your life by storm?


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Armchair BEA 2013: Show Us Your Swag

Armchair BEA 2013

Logo design by Sarah of Puss Reboots

Hands down, the best part about going to the actual BEA (Book Expo America) is getting to spend time with so many authors, bloggers, publishers, editors, and PR folks all under one big roof.

A close second is all the swag (i.e. books) that is foisted upon you.

It’s actually very overwhelming. I went to the Book Bloggers Convention that was part of BEA in 2010 and 2011, and I still haven’t read or reviewed all the books that I lugged home. (And the official BEA was over by that time!)

In that same spirit of things, our friends at Armchair BEA have made sure that those of us at home this year aren’t left out of the abundance of book goodness. Many a blogger and publisher alike are hosting special Armchair BEA Giveaways today … including me.

I couldn’t keep my giveaway to just one item. Not today. My husband (who had thyroid cancer last fall) got some fantastic news health-wise this morning, so I am in a very appreciative and generous mood. This means that I am giving away TWO fantastic prizes.

1. The first is a sample edit, by me, of up to 10 pages of your manuscript. If you’re working on a novel or memoir, this is a chance to get some professional feedback. I normally charge $1.50 per page for sample edits, so this giveaway has a value of $15.00.

2. I am also giving away a very gently used hardback copy of THE SMART ONE, the new novel by Jennifer Close.

The Smart One

You can enter for a chance at both prizes, but the same person will not be selected to win both.

I’m really new to using Rafflecopter, so I don’t know how to make it all fancy and drop-downy. I believe clicking this link will take you where you need to be.

Enter here : a Rafflecopter giveaway.

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Book Review: He’s Gone, by Deb Caletti

He’s Gone
by Deb Caletti
Bantam Books Trade Paperbacks
323 pages 

It seems somehow fitting that, when the book blogging world is beginning to buzz with all things Book Expo America (BEA) related, that I’m reviewing a book by an author who would never have made it onto my radar if it wasn’t for BEA.

An explanation is probably needed.

You see, back in May 2010, I attended the Book Blogger Convention (as it was called back then, and which is part of BEA) and I happened to sit with this table of bloggers at breakfast.

We’d gotten swag bags, of course, so naturally our talk turned to the books provided to us in the bags.

Amanda (not pictured) was beyond ecstatic to see that a Deb Caletti book was included. Each of us had different titles. Amanda raved about Ms. Caletti’s writing. We all swapped books around the table. I’d never heard of Ms. Caletti before that moment, but I figured, why not. When another book blogger likes someone that much, I usually pay attention.

And then The Queen of Everything sat on my bookshelves for another 2.5 years (nearly a year of that in storage) before I picked it up again.

And I loved it.

(The Queen of Everything is a young adult novel, just so those who are purists and don’t read YA know of this in advance. But, it’s really good.)

So when I saw that TLC Book Tours was offering up Ms. Caletti’s first fiction for adults, I knew I wanted in.

And for the most part, I loved this one too. He’s Gone represents a nice segue from the young adult market into adult fiction (although I personally don’t draw any such literary distinction, as I’m one of those adults who reads YA).

There’s still the temptation to categorize Ms. Caletti’s fiction as light, but He’s Gone is not that. For starters, this novel focuses on the very real, very heavy, and very dark issue of physical and emotional abuse, as told and experienced through the eyes of Dani Keller. Married with the typical issues that befall blended families, Dani and Ian seem to have a typical life of professional success. They live somewhat comfortably on a houseboat in Seattle, drawing little attention to themselves, until one morning when Ian turns up missing following a party with Dani and his colleagues.

Unfortunately, Dani’s not too much help in the investigation, as she’s had a bit too much to drink and her memory of the night’s events is fuzzy, at best. For some in the novel, she’s an easy character to cast judgment on; her role as “the other woman,” “the homewrecker”) has lent itself to many opportunities for blame and scorn from Ian’s ex-wife and his kids. She also sees herself to blame, too – which is common for people who have been victims of domestic violence.

While she doesn’t remember the actual circumstances that led up to Ian’s disappearance, what Dani does remember is the beatings and the verbal abuse from her ex-husband Mark which had her seeing Ian as someone who could rescue her. Now, as she tries to do whatever she can to rescue Ian, Dani reflects on the reasons she initially turned toward him as she discovers who really is the missing person in their relationship.

Ms. Caletti, a National Book Award finalist, kept me turning the pages, constantly wondering did he … and maybe she did … or maybe they did …. He’s Gone is an engrossing, psychological read that has been compared by some to Gillian Flynn’s bestselling Gone Girl for the mindbending directions it takes the reader.

That being said, there were a few things about He’s Gone that left me puzzled and wondering. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling the plot – and I’m not a detective or a mystery reader so what the hell do I know? – but there were some aspects of the police investigation into Ian’s disappearance that seemed strange. Like … possibilities that could have been looked into a bit more thoroughly.

That’s all I’m sayin’.

But I was happy with the way the novel was resolved, and I’ll certainly be reading more of Ms. Caletti’s work … so that’s really all that matters, right?

Thank you very much to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. I was provided with a copy of He’s Gone in exchange for my honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation for this post.

Read more about He’s Gone and what other bloggers thought here.

For more information about Deb Caletti and her other books, visit her website at www.debcaletti.com.

I am an Amazon.com Affiliate. Making a purchase via any of the Amazon.com links on The Betty and Boo Chronicles will result in my earning a small percentage in commission, which will be used to support the upkeep of this blog, as well as the real-life versions of Betty and Boo. Thank you! copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: The (Bookish) Week That Was

Well now, THAT was quite the bookish week we just had, wasn’t it?

Between participating in Armchair BEA, and the reports coming in from folks who were at the actual BEA, and spending part of this weekend reading the recaps from those who attended BEA “Bloggers” event, it was … interesting.

(Can I just say that, after reading the recaps of BEA “Bloggers” that I am quite glad that I had the experience of having gone in 2010 and 2011? Reading about the Book Bloggers UnCon gives me hope that there is someone who GETS IT and understands this whole book blogging scenario and what book bloggers are looking for in such a conference. I don’t proclaim to be that person, but it sounds like there were at least a handful of people in New York last week who did. Thank God.)

I’ll tell you one thing. If anything, this week – and the posts surrounding BEA, Armchair BEA and the various events – have made me think more about blogging and what the hell I’m doing (and not doing) here in this space than I have in a long time. And that’s a good thing. I think.

Anyway, onto the books that I finished this week. There were two.

I told you a little about Buzz Bissinger’s Father’s Day in last week’s Salon and I’ll tell you about it again here – and in a review, when I get my thoughts together enough to formulate a coherent sentence. This is such a powerful book. I absolutely loved it, related to so much of it as a parent of a child with special needs, and I can see myself re-reading this one again. (A rarity for me.)

Lots of time in the car recently (traveling for work) allowed me to indulge in the audiobook of The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. I’m usually one to avoid novels that get a lot of hype, such as this one did when it was first published in 2003. But, I read Her Fearful Symmetry and really enjoyed that, so when I was looking at several long hours in the car, I thought this almost 18 hour audiobook would be a nice accompaniment. It did not disappoint, and in fact makes my list for one of the highest recommended audios. The narration is superb. (I like when there is a male and a female narrator.)

I worried that the jump in time would be confusing in this one, and it really wasn’t.  If you have a long trip ahead of you this summer and are looking for an audiobook, you might want to consider this. (I will warn you though: there are several graphic scenes, so if you’re traveling with someone who might take offense to some … uh … descriptive activities and terminology, you might want to select a different audio for public consumption.)

I seem to be on some kind of streak in that regard, because my current read has a bit of that, too. With My Body by Nikki Gemmell was sent to me for review by the wonderful ladies at TLC Book Tours.  (My tour date is June 21.) This intrigued me because of the premise: that of a married woman, mother of three, who is bored to death with her life, which seems to consist of a workaholic physician husband and the company of insufferable competitive mothers. Who can blame her (she doesn’t have a name, a symbolic device for illustrating that the main character is all of us) for reaching backward for a time when she “lived her life with the honesty and passion that once drove her.” (quotes from the back jacket cover)

I just started this one last night (I’m on page 43) but this seems to be a fast read. The chapters (which are titled “lessons”) are brief, and even at 462 pages, I wouldn’t be surprised to finish this one this week.

Another exciting bookish note along the lines of “the week that was”: our library got e-books this week! This makes me so very happy. I checked out The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mantel. I don’t think there are any renewals on these, however, so I might have to spend some time with this sooner rather than later, but that’s OK. This is one that I’ve been looking forward to, and apparently, so have several other people. The e-books were just launched on Monday and more than a few e-titles already have holds on them.

Hope you’re having a good Sunday!

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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The Sunday Salon: Armchair BEA Bound!

Allow this week’s Sunday Salon to serve as a warning to my readers of this blog who aren’t book bloggers and who may not be as otherwise immersed in the goings-on of the book world:

This here week coming up is One of Those Weeks where the content of our blogs will be taken over with discussion of many a thing related to Book Expo America, the Book Blogger Convention (and the Book Blogger UnCon), blogging, and the various goings-on in New York City surrounding all of the above. It is, to put it mildly, quite the literary extravaganza that we book bloggers, including yours truly, revel in each year.

As regular readers may recall, I was fortunate to attend the Book Blogger Convention (just for the day) in both 2010 and 2011, but alas … not this year. When we lived in Delaware, it was easy (and relatively affordable) to travel up to New York via Amtrak for the day; that’s impossible from Pittsburgh. My work schedule is also not as accommodating now, as one of this job’s busy seasons falls smack in the midst of this week. And, perhaps most importantly, having just purchased a new house in April, a spring fling in New York was not in the financial cards this year.

I’ll admit to being a bit bummed, mainly because I always enjoy seeing my blogger friends that I only see once a year and I like networking with publishers and authors. But, thankfully, there’s Armchair BEA – which was created for people like me to live out the BEA experience from the comfort of their own homes. (Even moreso this year, apparently, now that there is live streaming with the new partnership, which promises to be all kinds of awesome!)  I’ve participated haphazardly in years before and it is always a well-run and fun time.

So, all that is a long-winded way of saying that, starting tomorrow, I’ll be participating in Armchair BEA once again – and with much more gusto than I have in previous years.  I’m really looking forward to this.

On the reading front, I’m hoping to finish up Buzz Bissinger’s amazing memoir Father’s Day today. This should have been a read-in-one-sitting type of book, but because of the crazy work schedule and the gardening projects I’ve been doing, that hasn’t happened. This is an absolutely wonderful book, so incredibly well-written and honest. I’m lobbying hard for The Husband to read it. He’s resistant, as he is to any autism-related books, having been burned by a half-assed one in the very early days of Boo’s diagnosis.

(I should say, Father’s Day is probably not one I would recommend for a parent – father or otherwise – who has just gotten word of a child’s special needs diagnosis.  The stuff of which Buzz writes comes from a deep place and his accompanying anger is genuine, absolutely true-to-life and completely understandable. I think it’s hard to “go there” and understand that if you haven’t been there … and I think a lot of people haven’t, in those very early, initial days.  And that’s a scary prospect to think of, that there might be even darker days and darker moods to come. I don’t know if I could have handled that in the early days, but regardless, I found myself recognizing Buzz’s anger all too often as I read.)

In the car, I’ve also been listening to (I know, I’m the last person in the world to read/listen to this) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.  I’ve logged a lot of hours in the car lately, and this audiobook has been a welcome companion. I’m enjoying this much, much more than I ever expected to, which is always nice. I loved Her Fearful Symmetry, and now with The Time Traveler’s Wife, Niffenegger has become one of my new favorite authors.

Next up on my reading pile is a gardening memoir from the library, Four Tenths of an Acre: Reflections on a Gardening Life by Laurie Lisle. I’m thinking there might be a lot that I can relate to in this one.

I’m also on the TLC Book Tour for With My Body, a rather seductive looking novel by Nikki Gemmell that comes out on June 19. My tour date is June 21.

What are you reading this Sunday? And are you heading to BEA in New York (or are you already there?) or will you be joining me for Armchair BEA this week?

copyright 2012, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Weekend Cooking: 2011: A Look Back at a Year in Food (and a Look Ahead)

Weekend Cooking is hosted by my friend Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page. For more information, see the welcome post.

Since we bloggers do year-end wrap ups of books and everything else, I thought a look back at 2011 as it was in food might be a bit of a fun retrospective.

(I had intended to do this post last week, but since I had just finished Joy for Beginners the night before, I couldn’t wait to tell you about that … so that review became last weekend’s Weekend Cooking post. I figured you wouldn’t mind the week’s delay for this.)

Three specific restaurant meals immediately come to mind as highlights of the year in food.

There was the fun dinner with several book bloggers in May at New York City’s Eataly, following the Book Blogger Convention.

From left, Teresa from Shelf Love (with glasses), Colleen from Books in the City, Ash from English Major’s Junk Food, Florinda from The 3Rs Blog, Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness, and yours truly. 

In the summer, several coworkers and I reunited for the first time in many, many years and had a delicious dinner at Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken, Pa – not to mention this tower of margaritas that was the envy of the other patrons.  We nicknamed this the “Tower of Power.”

Never fear. There was some food involved that night, too. I can prove it, because I am that annoying friend who photographs everyone’s meal.

Starting with mine, this Coyote Veggie Burrito (pictured below) with poblano onion strips, rice, corn, and black beans. It was topped with a pumpkin flower sauce (whatever that is, but it was damn good) and avocados.

Then there was my friend D.’s Tequila Lime Salad.

The dessert that I shared with my friend T., cheesecake wrapped in a flour tortilla dusted with cinnamon and sugar, with chocolate sauce for dipping.

And lots of laughs and memories to last us another several years (although hopefully it won’t be that long till we’re together again.)

And then there was my visit to eden-a vegan cafe in Scranton, where I had one of their amazing Fun and Green Burgers for lunch.  There’s another business trip to Scranton in my future (maybe as early as this month or next, but definitely again next fall) and I’ll be eating at eden for every single one of my meals while I’m in town.

The kids and I visited the Farm to Feast exhibit at the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens here in Pittsburgh.

There was birthday cake, and the particular happiness that a piece of lemon cake brought to my friend’s little boy (and me).

There was also the mundane stuff of trying to make meal plans (I succeeded somewhat, and need to work on this more in the new year) and trying to eat us out of house and home when we were moving and I didn’t want to take the entire contents of our pantry with us.  I did pretty good with that.

This was also the year I pretty much gave up chocolate.

(I know.  For some of you, that sounds like giving up a limb.)

But it started becoming too much of a migraine trigger even in the smallest amounts and I – never really much one for sweets anyway – decided to give it up.  My dad, also a migraine sufferer, was always “allergic” to chocolate and as I grew older I understood why. It’s made a tremendous difference.

Towards the end of 2011 came the wake-up call from my doctor (“You Could Have Wound Up in a Coma!” and Other Phrases That You Don’t Want Your Doctor to Tell You“) that, given my cholesterol numbers from the bloodwork she ordered, is going to affect my eating habits in 2012 and beyond. Apparently, my triglycerides are too far gone off the charts that they can’t even measure my bad cholesterol – or some such nonsense. And my total cholesterol is in the moderately high range.

I’ve already started to make some changes since getting these results the week before Christmas.  (And can I tell you how much fun it is going on a low-cholesterol diet THE WEEK BEFORE CHRISTMAS??!!)  But, my attitude was, better to be on a low-cholesterol diet now rather than a hospital diet of food in the cardiac ward after having a heart attack or stroke.

Breakfast is now a bowl of oatmeal with a sliced banana.  I’m down to an average of one cup of coffee a day, mainly because I’m back on my thyroid medication (which prompted the coma comment from the doctor) and most days I don’t feel like I need that mid-afternoon cup of caffeine.  Snacks are walnuts or some raw veggies, like carrots. Salads are present at lunch and dinner, if not my meal itself.  My nightly bowl of ice cream has been eliminated. (Well, most nights. I think I treated myself to a bowl one night this year, which isn’t too bad.)

This has only been a few weeks now and while it’s not easy (and admittedly, not always fun because I really love my pizza and pasta and ohmigawd, my cheese) it is what needs to be the new normal around here as far as food goes. I’ll be writing more about this journey in the months to come because it is going to meet a change in our eating habits, mostly mine.

Here’s to a healthy 2012!

copyright 2011, Melissa, The Betty and Boo Chronicles If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.

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Book Review: You Are My Only (and an appreciation of the author, Beth Kephart)

You Are My Only
by Beth Kephart 
Laura Geringer Books, Egmont USA 
252 pages 
Advance copy received on my Kindle courtesy of NetGalley 

It’s kind of bizarre when you feel you’re the absolute last person to read a particular book …and the book hasn’t even been officially published yet.

Chalk this phenomenon up to being a book blogger, many of whom (yours truly included) get our kicks out of peeking at books before they hit the streets (or the e-readers). And in this particular case, you can also attribute this “everyone’s read it but me” feeling to the wide appeal and popularity of beloved (and immensely talented) author Beth Kephart.

Beth Kephart (left) and me in May 2010, two Philly girls in
New York City, at the Book Blogger Convention 

A brief sidebar and disclaimer: Beth has been someone (thanks to our shared Philadelphia connection) who has been on my literary radar for nearly a decade, beginning with her first book, A Slant of Sun. That’s a book that has become incredibly special to me, for many reasons.  Quietly sitting on my bookshelf, it serves as a beacon of light, of hope. And over the past few years, that role has been transformed to Beth herself (through her books, her blog, her photographs, the snippets of conversation we’ve had online and in person), as she has become that ray of light, someone whom I have been so fortunate to get to know and to call a friend, someone who has inspired me as a writer, as a mother, as a person in the world.

With all this in mind, I celebrate my friend Beth today as her 13th book, You Are My Only, officially makes its way into this bright world. It is a world that is ready to receive it, judging from the acclaim You Are My Only has already garnered from bloggers and reviewers alike. Advance praise has been enough to push this novel into a second printing, even before publication day.

That’s a true accomplishment, a hallmark of a brilliant writer, and – make no mistake – You Are My Only is a novel deserving of all the praise it has received.

You Are My Only is the story of Emmy Rane, a devoted young mother who does what every mother has innocently done: leaves her baby unattended for the briefest of moments. On a still, bright day, outside in the yard while tucked snug in the branches of a tree swing, four month old Baby goes missing.  The only trace of her is one single yellow sock.

You can see this unfold because we have all experienced this – a simple act that results in the shifting and forever changing of lives – and you can see this in the opening pages of You Are My Only because Beth Kephart takes you right there.  You’re with Emmy in her moments of desperate terror (anyone who has ever had a child wander off, gone missing even for mere moments, knows this piercing anguish). You’re right there when Emmy’s emotionally and physically abusive husband is in her face, accusing her of being a bad mother by causing Baby’s disappearance through her carelessness.

From there, You Are My Only alternates between two timeframes and two points of view: Emmy Rane’s, as she endures the days and months after Baby’s disappearance, and Sophie Marks’ (formerly Baby) who is now 14 and living an always-on-the-run-from-the-No-Good life with Cheryl, the only mother she has ever known.  Cheryl is protective, a waitress, a possessor of secrets and of knowledge about obscure topics (Archimedean solids, truncated icosahedrons – yeah, I had to look that up too; it’s a type of triangle, which is also an apropos symbol for this story) that she is determined to pass along to Sophie by way of homeschooling.

Yet there are other lessons that Sophie and Emmy learn throughout the course of this novel, which gets a infusion through the literary use of color (a Kephart distinction). Yellow is featured predominantly, through the dropped yellow sock left behind from Baby’s kidnapping. There’s a goldfinch, a yellow flip flop, references to Rapunzel’s golden hair, the bright rays of the sun itself.

It is no coincidence that Emmy’s last name is Rane; with the novel’s rain-streaked cover art and the appearance of yellow and sun throughout the pages of a story of a mother’s nightmare, Kephart shows her reader that there are always beacons of light who are with us in the darkest moments and corners of our lives. When we are physically and emotionally broken, a characteristic shared by many of the characters in this novel.

In You Are My Only, these rays of light come to Sophie in the form of her neighbors – sensitive, caring Joey and his delightful Willa Cather-loving, Toll-House cookie-baking, compassionate aunts. (The world would be a much better place – and I mean that in the most emphatic way – if everyone, particularly certain politicians, had an Aunt Cloris and Aunt Helen in their lives.  Those of you who have read the novel know what I mean.) For Emmy, these beacons of hope come in the form of Arlen, a watcher of trains and greeter of the day.

“‘The first train is the express train,’ Arlen declares.  ‘I like its speed.’ 

The train screams and pitches. It thunders – such an awful trembling that I do not know how the houses on the banks along the tracks don’t shatter up and crumble. My ankle swells in the raging roar. The jacket kicks up in a riffle from my knees until I press it flat with my hands. 

‘Watch it now,’ he says, and he lifts his arm from my shoulder and rises up onto his haunches and balances here beside me in a way I wouldn’t have thought he could. He’s got something he knows about the miracle of the day’s first train, and beside him I bear witness. 

‘Watch the ridgeline,’ he tells me, his voice drowning in the bellows of the train shooting past. When I look up to where he’s pointing, I see a streak of tangerine touched down upon the silver-bodied train. Right there, like a horizon line, just as he has promised. 

‘Daybreak!’ he hollers, and now he stands and pumps his fist to the sky, and the long strands of his graying hair get pulled about in the air suck. Finally the wind roars down, and the night has become a veil of shadows. The night isn’t night after all; it is first dawn.” 

The way in which this story unfolds for its reader is beautifully written, with Kephart’s signature lyrical prose infusing each page.  But when one examines You Are My Only alongside of Kephart’s other young adult novels (House of Dance, Nothing But Ghosts, The Heart is Not a Size), all of which I loved for various reasons, there’s a quality about this one that makes it stronger than its peers.

Perhaps that is because You Are My Only is a story that reflects the times in which we live.  While there have always been hearts-held-captive baby-gone-missing stories in our nation’s history (think Lindbergh, think Elizabeth Smart, think Jaycee Dugard) having this fictional one appear now brings a powerful message in these dark days of personal despair and economic uncertainty for so many.  With You Are My Only, Kephart is saying that we have the strength within us to endure the darkness and break through into the light. It is a message that she personally knows well, and it shows – beautifully, triumphantly – in this novel.

Highly recommended.

P.S. This is Beth Kephart’s 13th book, and I own almost all of them.  When I have several books by the same author, I usually shelve them in chronological order.  However, with this, I’m breaking my own rule.  This one will be taking up residence next to A Slant of Sun.

What Other Bloggers Thought:

Jennifer from 5 Minutes for Books
Caribou’s Mom
Kay’s Bookshelf
Linus’s Blanket
There’s a Book

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