Monday, May 16, 2011


So it's my first time to participate in Book Talk Tuesday, and I'm excited! For other great book talks, please visit The Lemme Library.
First up, because I read it most recently: OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt. As soon as I heard the tiniest bit about this novel, I knew I wanted to read it. Mostly because I loved THE WEDNESDAY WARS, and this one features Doug Swietek, who was a minor character in that one.

So it's the end of the 60's, Doug has just moved to "stupid Marysville" in upstate New York, and he's got all sorts of personal things to deal with in the midst of the Vietnam war and impending moonshot.

There are so many things I could say about this novel. But I really REALLY want you to read it for yourself, because it is an EXPERIENCE. So I'm just going to tell you some of my general reactions:
Fantastic voice.
Deep, layered story.
My writer-radar was pinging away as Schmidt did a brilliant job of witholding information to the last possible moment...
and it's such an emotion-generating book without being overtly emotional.
Also, the characters: you think you know them, then the more you find out about them, you realize you had it all wrong. Just like in real life... I mean, come on, the set-up here is AMAZING.
And okay, I'm a sucker for birds. I disagree wholeheartedly with the premise here -- "a thing belongs in its assigned set" so Doug wants to return all the plates to the original Birds of America -- but I love how far Schmidt takes the bird metaphors. It made me want to write a whole series of poems based on these birds... and I just might.

Meanwhile, I am kicking myself for not attending Schmidt's talk at Kay B. Kaigler Conference in April. (It wasn't like I had a choice - I was hemmed in by a school visit and had to drive to Hattiesburg SOMETIME -- but doggone it, I would have loved hearing him talk about writing this particular book.)

Seriously: GO READ. BRILIANT. And big shout out to my dear friend Pat Weaver who sent me a copy. SO SWEET. Now I'm listening to an audio version.... fantastic!

For a more detailed review please visit Betsy Bird at Fuse #8.

Now for the second book I want to talk about: SPARROW ROAD by Sheila O'Connor. It was my great privilege to read this one as an ARC, and I gotta tell you, main character Raine still lives in my heart. The setting is unique: an artists' colony with its own mysterious past. You will fall in love with these artist-characters AND with Sheila's amazing lyrical writing. Really beautiful. And it'll inspire you to put on your own Arts Extravaganza to celebrate everyone's unique way of expressing themselves. But mostly it will make you think about family and forgiveness and how creation -art- is at the heart of EVERYTHING.

Look for this one during awards season! But read it NOW. Seriously. Don't wait. I've got it on my nightstand ready for another go. And for another more detailed review, please visit a Flashlight Reader. Congratulations, Sheila, on a beautiful debut!


  1. Yay--or ugh. My TBR stack is literally collapsing, but these two HAVE to be included. Both sound amazing!!


  2. Both of these look great. OK FOR NOW was already on my TBR list; everyone is saying it's a must-read. I hadn't heard of SPARROW ROAD, but it sounds like my kind of book - anything celebrating the arts is a winner for me.
    Thanks for posting.

  3. I just read Okay for Now, and share your enthusiasm. I hope you write those poems! I think including those black and white copies was wise and touching. Will now put Sparrow Road on my list. Great cover!

  4. These both look wonderful: Thanks for the richly elaborated reviews here. Off to put them on my library list!

  5. I didn't realize you wrote Leaving Gees Bend! I've been a fan of the Gees Bend quilts for a long time, but didn't know any of the real history about the area. Thank you for teaching me!
    I, too, loved OKAY FOR NOW and agree completely with your statement that it was emotional without being sappy.

  6. Welcome to Book Talk Tuesday! Thank you so much for adding these 2 reviews! Okay for Now is a book that is getting a lot of buzz right now. It is on my TBR pile, but I get the feeling I should read Wednesday War first.
    I read Sparrow Road as an ARC too and LOVED it! I wanted to move into that colony with Raine and meet all of those interesting people- and the way the book is written just had me from the get go. Loved it! Thanks again for joining us!


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