Book Reviews, Coaltown Jesus, Gary D. Schmidt, Hero, Ron Koertge, Sara Lean

Two Reviews — Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and Coaltown Jesus

Thought for the Day:

“You need to believe in the characters whose story you’re writing. You need to know them intimately. And you need to show them to your reader.”
~ Elaine Marie Alphin ~

Gifts for My Writer Friends:

The Editor’s Blog has a don’t-miss poster HERE named Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain, Don’t Explain.
If you are a grammar nerd, as I am, the jokes found HERE will be right up your alley.
The Write Practice has a fun and useful post HERE of Ten Lessons Dr. Seuss Can Teach Writers. 

Last week I promised my gently-read ARC of Hero by Sarah Lean to one of you, and this week Carol Baldwin’s persistence paid off. Congratulations, Carol! I will get that book right out to you. If you don’t know Carol, she is a writer working diligently on her first novel. You can find out more about her at her brilliantly titled blog, Carol Baldwin’s Blog or through a wonderful newsletter she and author Joyce Moyer Hofstetter called Talking Story. Click on the titles to see these. You won’t be disappointed. 
One of my goals this year is to read more of the books on my TBR list. The last couple of years, it seems, I have been reading a LOT of books for review, but very few of the books I missed somehow but kept adding to my staggering TBR list. So I ordered a couple from my library and got busy. 
The first is Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D. Schmidt. I love Schmidt’s writing. I have and read and loved It Came from the Stars and The Wednesday Wars, and Okay for Now. I reviewed Okay for Now HERE, in case you missed it. I kept running across mentions of Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy and put it on my list. I’m so glad I finally got to it this week. 
Turner Buckminster is the son of a minister who has taken a position in a small town in Maine. It is 1912. Being the new kid in town is never easy, but being the son of the new minister carries a lot of expectations and baggage with it. The other boys in town don’t welcome Turner. In fact, they seem to set about making his life rather miserable. They aren’t alone in that. A widow/busybody pounces on him for the smallest things, and he is assigned by his father to read to her and play the organ for her. In spite of all this, Turner finds time to meet and befriend a young black girl who lives on a nearby island, an island the town would like to see uninhabited. This causes even more problems for Turner. But some strange alliances grow out of all this. There is tremendous growth and tremendous loss for Turner. The book is filled with fascinating, well-developed, believable characters, a moving story, and absolutely gorgeous, breath-taking  writing. 
“The sea breeze found him and twisted around him like a cat asking for a bowl of milk. It followed him up into the island and didn’t stop its play even when Turner went up to the Eason place—the burned ruins already cleansed by the winter and starting to find their way back into the woods.”

When I worked in advertising a long time ago, one of my jobs was selling advertising space in a computer newspaper. We had a half dozen sales people in our San Jose office, and they were some of the best and brightest folk I ever worked with. We had an office copy of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas for those days when everything seemed to go wrong. We would take it down and read sections aloud to each other to pull us out of our funks. Why, you might ask, is she telling us this story. Well, as I read Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, I kept thinking I need to have a copy of this in my office for those days when my writing goes off the rails or I get stuck. I will pull it down and read a few passages of this beautiful book, and it will pull me out of my writing funk. 
The other book I picked up at the library is Coaltown Jesus by Ron Koertge. I wish I could remember where I read about this one. It is really YA and very short. It is written in verse, so it is a really quick read. Too quick in my mind. In fact, I kept putting it aside for short periods because I just didn’t want to get to the end. Seriously. 
Walker’s older brother, Noah, seventeen, had died recently, and Walker sends up some prayers to whoever is up there to help his mom. She just can’t seem to stop crying. Walker wakes up one morning and Jesus is standing in his room. He’s not there to perform miracles, but to hang out with Walker and help him figure some things out. And hanging out with Jesus turns out to be a pretty interesting time. Jesus has a wicked sense of humor and, here’s a surprise, great insight into people’s lives. 
“They stopped in front of Balk’s Hardware
A sign in the window said,
ALL KINDS OF NAILS
Jesus stared at his hands. ‘I  mean nails
Are a miracle and God is in them, but they
Still give me the shivers.’”

This is an incredible piece of work. I am definitely going to have to find more of Koertge’s books. If any of his others are half as good as this one, I sure want to read them. 
I don’t have a book to give away this week. I intend to buy copies of these two for myself, and I hope I’ve convinced some of you to get them as well. If you are a reader or a writer, these are not to be missed. Readers will love them and writers will love them and learn from them. I can’t recommend them highly enough. This is one of the best couple days of reading I’ve had in a long time.
What is simply the best book you’ve read lately? Please let me know in your comment. I have a couple spots available on my TBR list now. In any case, I hope you will leave a comment. If you are reading this in your email, click HERE to go to the blog so you can leave a comment. And do come back next week. I will be back to giving away books then. 

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