Saturday, August 1, 2015

What I Didn't Do (Much Of) on My Summer Vacation

I didn't read much on my summer vacation. Okay, I'll wait a minute for you to pick yourself up off the floor where you collapsed after reading that last sentence. Sorry, there was no easier way to drop that bombshell than to just, well, BOOM, drop it. Now, let me explain what I mean by summer vacation. Specifically, the nine days I spent with members of my extended family who came to visit me in Chicago and with whom I then traveled to northern Michigan to see other family members who had rented a lake house. Dottie and Ty didn't visit Chicago so they could sit around and watch me read. They came to see the city I love so much and have called home for...a really long time. We took a guided architectural tour of Chicago's historic skyscrapers (built in the decades after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871), enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Art Institute, then wandered through a dozen or more galleries so I could share highlights of the incredible permanent collection of the AIC. My membership at the Art Institute was their Christmas gift to me so getting them in as my guests was sweet. We had a busy weekend and then hopped in the rental car, drove east and north, and had many adventures over five days with Dottie's niece and her family. This was my first visit to Traverse City and the beautiful small towns and not-so-small lakes of the Leelanau Peninsula. We biked, played miniature golf, took a Pontoon boat ride, ate out, cooked in, ate lots of cherries, wandered through shops and galleries, watched sunsets, and talked. When was I going to read, right!! But, the area has some great bookshops and, of course, I visited a couple and, Of Course, bought some books. And my favorite is Brilliant Books in Traverse City. Connect with them

Grand Traverse Lighthouse near Northport
Fishtown in Leland, Michigan

The time with family was pure tonic and the Leelanau Peninsula is really quite magical. Magical realism--fantastical or unreal elements embedded in an ordinary, very realistic environment--plays a critical (and a wee bit confusing) part in the one book that I was able to finish on this vacation.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby, Balzer + Bray, $17.99, ages 14 and up
I love the portrait of small town life that Bone Gap paints. The residents of Bone Gap, Illinois are quite familiar with love and loss, magic and mystery, and regret and forgiveness. To 18 year-old outsider Finn O'Sullivan (Sidetrack and Spaceman are two of the names residents call him), Bone Gap "seemed to be cursed somehow, big losses salted with tiny tragedies almost too insulting to bear." And the latest loss hits very close to home for Finn and his older brother Sean. Roza, beautiful Roza from Chicago-via-Poland, Sean's love interest and town-favorite Roza, has disappeared from Bone Gap, where she showed up a year earlier, muddy and bruised, in the O'Sullivan barn. The people of Bone Gap know their town is full of gaps, gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever (just like Finn's and Sean's mother did), so Roza's being gone, well, that's just how things go. But Finn knows she was kidnapped by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. Searches turn up nothing and soon folks, Sean included, stop believing Finn. This DRAMATIC story is mostly told through the alternating voices of Finn and Roza (I can only say that Roza's story is eerie, frightening, and sometimes confusing), as well as the occasional voices of other Bone Gap residents. These include Priscilla (Petey) a strong, independent girl (and beekeeper) with whom Finn is exploring a relationship, Charlie Valentine, an eccentric keeper of chickens, and Finn's brother Sean, heartbroken and damaged. Memorable minor characters, including a really smart, enormous black horse that also mysteriously shows up in the O'Sullivan barn, help Ruby build a magically believable small town world. This GORGEOUSLY written story weaves together elements of folktales, myths, and suspense tales and asks us to consider just how much we're defined by how others see (or don't see) us. Bone Gap is also a love story in which one character wonders whether love is "seeing what no one else could." This is one great end-of-summer read.

I'm wondering...what have you read on your summer vacation. I mean, if you're a kid or teen on summer vacation. Or if you're an adult who had or will be taking a summer vacation. I'd really really like to know if you've read any of the books I've reviewed and recommended. If so, did you like the book(s)? Why? I'd even like to know if you read and then completely and thoroughly didn't like a book, or books, I wrote about. And why? I would like to hear from you. Do you have recommendations for me? I can see that the blog has had well over 500 page views, so yay! Leave a comment or email me at

I've read far more books than I've written about here. I plan to write a new post next week with some short, capsule reviews of books I highly recommend.