Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Book Review Club (March Meeting)

We're baaack! It's the second meeting of The Book Review Club! We had a GREAT response last month and we're back with a bunch of book reviews in an attempt to TOPPLE your to-be-read pile. So grab a mug of java and a handful of cookies. Pull up a chair and join us for the March get-together of The Book Review Club.

You remember KELLY HAYES, one of my Denny's Chicks critique partners? Kelly's the one who's EXTREMELY well read and has a mind like a steel strap when it comes to book premises. AND Kelly's reviewing a book for our book club this month. Take it away, Kelly!

by Ron McLarty

This is one of those rare novels that has it all: loss, love, adventure, humor, hope, redemption. And at the core of it is a journey of discovery that starts out as an unconscious act of blind grief. Despite all that, this is not a depressing book. Far from it.

Smithy Ide is a big fat loser, literally and by his own admission. He’s a friendless drunk whose only companions are his parents. In the space of a week he loses them both in a car accident and then finds out that his estranged, mentally ill sister has been declared dead in L.A. His response is to get on his old Raleigh bicycle and keep riding. At first it’s to escape the grief he can’t let himself feel. Then it becomes a cross-country journey to claim his sister’s remains. With no money and very few coping skills, Smithy gets by with the help of a few strangers and a childhood friend named Norma.

The road trip is intercut with flashbacks of his years growing up with his misdiagnosed schizophrenic sister, Bethany, who by turns loved him and betrayed him. And their caring parents whose love and resources were exhausted by Bethany’s tragic illness.

In Smithy Ide, Ron McLarty has created a truly unique character. He’s a man who for many reasons has shut himself off from life. But this journey across the country peels back all his protective layers, one by one, leaving a gentle, kind soul in need of love. At the end of this book I just wanted to put Smithy in my pocket and take him home with me. Which, in a sense, is what I did. Such is the magic of a beautifully drawn character.

This is a book that sneaks up on you. It doesn’t bludgeon you with tragedy and comedy. I found myself surprised by tears in one scene and laughing out loud in the next. Smithy’s take on life is so simple and unpretentious, you can’t help but believe it. It has the ring of truth to it. Which is the key to this book—it’s a novel about what’s true. And it’s a truth I think we can all recognize.

And here’s an interesting fact about the author. Ron McLarty is a well known actor and audio book narrator. He tried for years to get this, his first novel published, with no luck. Then he gave it to an editor at Recorded Books and she loved it. She bought and published it as an audio book read by the author. Of course, it did so well, it was then picked up by Penguin and published in hardback. I guess publishers just have to be hit over the head sometimes to see the brilliance of a work.

The film is slated to come out in 2010, so read the book soon!


And, now, folks, here they are! Our incredibly intrepid reviewers! They've put forth a lot of effort for your reviewing pleasure. So, please visit them and enjoy! (The following are basically in the order I received them. Yes, I know. There must be a much better method. One that is even organized. But we're a new club; give us time. :) )

Thao of Serene Hours: TAKEN BY STORM by Angela Morrison (Young Adult)

Sarah Laurence: BRETT MCCARTHY: A WORK IN PROGRESS by Maria Padian (Young Adult)

Alyssa Goodnight: AUDREY, WAIT! by Robin Benway (Young Adult)

Patti Abbott: THE GREAT MAN by Kate Christensen (Contemporary Fiction-Adult)

Scott Parker: THE SHANGHAI MOON by SJ Rozan (Mystery Series-Adult)

D.A. Riser of the Writing Greek: THE TROJAN ODYSSEY by Clive Cussler (Action Thriller-Adult)

Linda McLaughlin: THE REINCARNATIONIST by MJ Rose (Thriller-Adult)

Jenn Jilks: BOOTLEGGER'S DAUGHTER by Margaret Maron (Mystery Series-Adult)

Keri Mikulski: THE LOVER'S KNOT by Clare O'Donohue (Mystery-Adult)

Stacy Nyikos of Out There: PEAK by Roland Smith (Young Adult)

Kathy HolmesBET ME by Jennifer Crusie (Romance/Chick Lit-Adult)

Sarahlynn of Yeah, but Houdini didn't have these hips: LIFELINES by CJ Lyons (Medical Suspense-Adult)

Jody Feldman: THE WHIPPING BOY by Sid Fleischman (Middle Grade)

Prairie Rose of Prairie Rose's Garden: I HEARD IT FROM ALICE ZUCCHINI by Juanita Havill (Children, Poetry about Gardening)

PJ Hoover of Roots in Myth: THE DUST OF 100 DOGS by A.S. King (Young Adult-Historical & Action Adventure)

Ellen Booraem of Freelance Ne'er-do-well: CONRAD'S FATE by Diana Wynne Jones (Middle Grade Fantasy)

Bee Drunken: CAPTURING PARIS by Katharine Davis (Contemporary Fiction-Adult)

Mitch of The Sphagnum Patch: THE GOD OF ANIMALS by Aryn Kyle (Contemporary Fiction-Adult)

Beth Yarnall: THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas (French Literature-Classic-Adult)

AND our next scheduled meeting is Wednesday, April 1. (Not an April Fool's Joke! Ha!) You're all invited! (Also not an April Fool's Joke. ;) )

Apology in advance: If you posted a review and I didn't link to you, sorry, sorry, sorry. Just let me know in the comments. I'll get right on it.


  1. Great review! Thanks. :)

    And thanks for organizing, Barrie!! :)

  2. An excellent review--sounds like a great book that is worth reading.

    Thanks for organizing this, Barrie!

  3. Mine's just up, B. I tried to post before you woke up this morning, but I don't think I managed it! I have to go see a netball match now, but I look forward to visiting people later on today. :) Thanks for being such a good hostess!

  4. Kelly, great review of what looks to be an interesting book. What an unusual story to publication too.

    Barrie, thanks for hosting! My review is up too. I'll try my best to find an internet cafe today to do my visiting.

  5. Thanks for another round of the Book Review Club, Barrie.

    Smithy Ide? The name alone tells me this is an interesting character. Good review, Kelly.

  6. I read some reviews! I may just have to get the Reincarnation book. Sounds like my kind of story!

  7. Until today, I hadn't heard of The Book Review Club. It's awesome & a great way to fit in a review on my blog every month! I'm going to try to join in the fun in April!

  8. Hi Barrie! My review's up...thanks for the link! And, as always, for organizing.

    And thanks for this review...I'm going to look for this book.

  9. Great list of reviews! Can one apply to join the list, or is it by invitation only? :)

  10. Great roundup this month, Barrie! And OK, I have to figure out some way to have some April Fools fun.

    Thanks as always for organizing this!

  11. Hi Barrie, PJ Hoover suggested that I stop by and join your book review group. I do reviews every Wednesday. You could go check out today's to see if you like what I do. What a great idea to put all these reviews together.

    I write YA, although I'm not published yet. I've just about finished with edits on my first novel.

  12. I hadn't heard of McLarty's book, but it sounds like a great read. (I wonder if they've already casted the movie? What juicy roles.)

    I'm off the check out some other reviews now.

  13. Great book choice, Barrie! And so sorry to have missed the meeting this month. I am a loser.

    I will play next month. I promise.

  14. Many lovely reviews posted today, thanks.

    I'm new to reviewing books but love to read.

    If you'd like to look here is the link

  15. This is so great – for a book lover, it’s like getting a gift every month.
    My "To Read" list is getting huge. (Can it ever get too big? No!)

  16. I missed the boat this month on getting a review written. But I sure enjoy reading everyone else's!

  17. Oh how I loved Memory of Running. What a wonderful review. I didn't know it was going to be a movie. I can't wait to see how it translates to screen.

  18. Very interesting publishing story! And well-reviewed!

    Thanks, Barrie, for hosting the club again this month!

  19. This book review club is very cool, Barrie. I don't have time to read everyone's reviews today, but I will definitely come back Saturday and savor them.

  20. So many book reviews, so little time, esp. since I'm away from home this week. I'll read as many as I can though. Thanks for organizing this, Barrie.

  21. This is another great idea for collective blogging - I want to be involved.

  22. you have a wonderful site!


Comments are always welcome!