Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Bone Gap”

Lovely. If I was describing Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap in one word, “lovely” would be it.

As anyone will tell you who’s seen my one two three four bookshelves, my taste in books is somewhat eclectic. I read everything from stylistically-bizarre literary fiction (looking at you, A House in the Country) to lean-and-mean, plot-driven urban fantasy. And I love it all.

Often, I walk away with an overarching impression of why I loved a particular book. For The Historian, it was “research”–Elizabeth Kostovo does an amazing job of digging into her various histories and settings, then weaving them into a riveting story. For The Night Circus, it was “atmosphere”–Erin Morgenstern evokes her novel’s incredible magical landscape with language and imagination lush and dark.

At first glance, Bone Gap doesn’t sound super unique. It’s about a girl who goes missing, and the boy who’s the only witness to the kidnapping. Any one of a dozen thrillers could be summed up the same way.

But Bone Gap‘s treatment of this story sets it completely apart, weaving a layered, atmospheric magical realism novel with evocative language and hand-to-your-heart themes of love and persevering hope. Since finishing Bone Gap, I’ve found my thoughts wandering back to it again and again.

There’s a reason it was a Printz Award Winner and National Book finalist.

Beautiful Roza appears in Bone Gap, Illinois under mysterious circumstances. But her goodness has the small town quickly falling in love with her–no one more so than Sean, Finn’s stoic brother. The day Roza disappears, Sean’s world crumbles; he’s sure she left by choice. But Finn knows Roza was taken–he saw someone do it. No one can find evidence of Finn’s claims, though. And as everyone knows, Finn’s always been a bit… odd.

Continue reading “Bite-Sized Book Reviews: “Bone Gap””

For My Husband on Valentine’s Day

Unfortunately, the husband and I had to spend Valentine’s Day apart this year. Nevertheless, he still managed to spoil me from afar with chocolates and TWO bouquets. And knowing his Texas girl is a fanatic for her home state, he even managed to track down a Lone-Star Living bouquet:

True to disorganized form, I wasn’t as good at getting a timely gift into his hands. But for my husband, I offer this Sara Groves song (one of my favorites):

Baby can you help me get undone
The party is over and their hearts were won
There’s a zipper in the back
But I can’t reach it on my own
And I am dying to get out of this so

Baby will you help me get undone

I don’t even remember how I got this on
I started out pretending
Now I don’t recognize myself
And I could use a little help

You have no pretenses
All your walls are fences I can see right through
You have no two faces
You know where our place is and that’s why I need you
Oh baby

Baby will you help me get undone
I don’t even remember how I got this on
I started out pretending
Now I don’t recognize myself
And I could use a little help

Cause I started out pretending
Now I don’t recognize myself
And I could use a little help
Oh baby, oh baby, oh baby
Will you help me get undone

Continue reading “For My Husband on Valentine’s Day”

Romance: Formula & Fizz

I’m so grateful for my beta readers. By the time a manuscript is ready for eyes other than mine, I’ve sunk so many hours into the beast that total objectivity is no longer possible. This is the point where my test readers become my knights-in-shining; they tell me what’s working and what needs a tweak (or overhaul).

Recently, a reader for my young adult novel reported apathy regarding the book’s central romantic pair. For her, their tie to one another wasn’t compelling enough for it to seem justified when the heroine surrenders her dreams in order to remain with the hero.

Obviously, I would’ve preferred for her to gush over my love birds. But this kind of honest feedback is enormously helpful, indispensable… and a good reminder of the two elements essential for writing the kind of romantic relationships readers want to sink into:

  1. Puzzle-Piecing (Yup, this is a newly-coined term, à la yours truly.)
  2. Chemistry

Continue reading “Romance: Formula & Fizz”

10 Years of Romance & Writing… & a Whole Lot More

This week marks the 10th year of my husband and me as a couple–of him and me, being “us.”

Obviously, there are lots of couples out there who can claim much lengthier track records. My wonderful parents and my lovely in-laws both have 30ish years of marriage under their respective belts. There are couples of our own, late-twenties generation who’ve been together longer, as well: couples who were high school rather than college sweethearts like my husband and me.

But for me, this 10 year mark offers a moment for reflection–reflection and an overwhelming sense of my own good fortune. (Of course, this could also be the biproduct of all the Thanksgiving-y vibes in the air.)

In some ways, it seems almost impossible that so much time could’ve passed. As a teenager, I had this notion that life after marriage was, well, a bit dull. Sure, dating was exciting. Engagement was probably pretty thrilling, too. But once you were married, weren’t you just a bit “settled?” Boring? Static, perhaps? Didn’t it just get a little mundane? Continue reading “10 Years of Romance & Writing… & a Whole Lot More”

Strobe Lights & Speakers–Ain’t Love Grand?

As I mentioned in my post on romance in fiction, I’ve been on a bit of a love kick lately. So it seems appropriate that the stars would align to allow me to attend a wedding this weekend.

As you may guess, I didn’t spontaneously make the 13-hour-by-plane commute back to the States to attend nuptials. (Though I would happily kiss the feet of anyone who invented a working Harry-Potter-esque Portkey, thus preventing us from ever missing another wedding, graduation, etc., due to long distance.) Instead, this was the wedding (hūn lǐ) of one of my Chinese co-workers. His is actually the second Chinese wedding I’ve attended in our 1.5 years of living in China. In both cases, I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to attend. It’s poignant thing, witnessing that  incredible moment in someone’s life. And a Chinese wedding provides the added allure of a glimpse inside the culture.

Here are a few Chinese wedding survival tips Continue reading “Strobe Lights & Speakers–Ain’t Love Grand?”