Long-time readers of my website/blog know that I'm a huge Tawni O'Dell fan. I always have been, ever since I first read Back Roads (an Oprah Book club pick). Coal Run, her second book, has been my absolute favorite, but I have to say that her newest book, Angels Burning may bypass her other books to move towards the top of my favorites list.
Angels Burning opens with a murder. A teenage girl's body is found in a sinkhole of an abandoned coal town (eerily similar to the real-life Centralia, a town infamous for its underground mine fire). Chief Dove Carnahan, who hides family secrets of her own, takes on the investigation.
What follows is more than just a murder mystery. Yes, much of the plot revolves around Dove seeking to find who committed the murder. Readers of mysteries, however, may be a bit disappointed as the plot and subplots veer off into many different directions so that the book is more than just a whodunnit story. Instead, readers will be treated with an exploration of character development and physical setting. Some readers may think that O'Dell approaches her characters with only stereotypes in mind, but I found that she navigates the back roads and people of Pennsylvania with a refreshing eye, pointing out the grit, stubbornness, and yes, sometimes violence that harbors in the northern Appalachia landscape.
For more information about this book and her other works, visit Tawni O'Dell's website.
If I had to sum up my feelings about Nancy McCabe's From Little House to Little Women: Revisiting a Literary Childhood in one sentence, it would be this: after reading this book, I now want to go back and re-read all my childhood favorite books.
Part travel book, part memoir, part literary analysis, McCabe's book examines her love of reading while revisiting specific childhood favorites. Since McCabe herself grew up in Kansas, she feels a close attachment to the Little House on the Prairie series, and much of this book examines this series, while cataloging McCabe's own trip (with her daughter) to various homes/tourist attractions from the Little House books. She intertwines bits and pieces of her own history with reading, including her initial reactions to the Little House characters as well as her disdain to the television show. She also offers analysis of the books including reviewing the argument that it was Laura's daughter, Rose, who actually penned most of the books in the series.
The Little House series clearly takes center stage in this book, but McCabe also examines Anne of Green Gables and Little Women. Throughout her book, she also looks at other childhood favorites including two of mine: The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White (I loved this book as a child, and sadly many people have never heard of it -- even those who have read White's classic, Charlotte's Web) and Down a Dark Hall by Lois Duncan (of I Know What You Did Last Summer fame). Her observations of the texts include her initial childhood readings along with more adult observations of the characters, plots, and time periods of publications.
McCabe currently resides in Bradford, Pennsylvania (a mere 45 minute drive from where I live), so it was great to find a read from a local reader. Her website can be found here.
Now, I just have to find that box of childhood books I have stored in my walk-in closet upstairs...
In many ways, I am more of a reader than a writer. This page will serve as a home for my informal reviews of what I've been reading.