Reflections on America’s Thanksgiving Day

There are many things that make the United States of America a special place. One of those is the Thanksgiving holiday we celebrated last Thursday.

Thanksgiving Day is a wonderful concept. It’s a holiday most workers get to enjoy as businesses close for the day. It’s a day set aside to reflect on the things you’re thankful for. It’s a day to gather with friends and relatives. It’s a day on which many of us eat more than we should.

Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash

It’s a day most of us think back on the Thanksgiving Days in the past. We remember loved ones who are no longer here. We remember the aromas in the kitchens of our childhoods.

Even in the chaos that sometimes accompanies large family gatherings on Thanksgiving Day, most of us are prompted to take a moment to think about our blessings.

Life is hard. Things – good and bad – happen. Illness and loss set us back, change our plans, and sometimes change the trajectory of our lives. The life we envisioned isn’t how things turned out.

One of the things I was thankful for on Thanksgiving Day last Thursday was the opportunity life has given me to pursue whatever interests I’ve had. Illness derailed my professional life when I was a young adult, but God has continued to open doors for me. I’ve learned from every experience.

There’s an old adage that says “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but I’m living proof that you can.

I’ve heard it’s good for one’s brain to learn new skills. My brain must be about to explode. I’ve really been stretching its limits lately.

Photo by Diliara Garifullina on Unsplash

Since my blog post last week, I created a cover for a paperback nonfiction book. And it’s not just any old cover. The back cover sports a QR Code I created for my website! Not bad for this 69-year-old non-techy person.

Those of us fortunate to reach that age need to keep reinventing ourselves for as long as physical and mental health and our life circumstances permit. It’s easy to take those things for granted until they aren’t there.

Since my last blog post

I continued to work toward the publication of Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1. I continued to format and proofread Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2.

I revisited a short story I wrote several months ago. It’s beneficial to let a piece of writing rest for a while and then read it with fresh eyes and tweak it where it can be improved. I hope to publish a collection of short stories in 2023.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. If I finish reading a book in November, I’ll blog about it next Monday. Writing and learning technology left little time for reading this month.

Remember the brave, freezing people of Ukraine.

Photo by Blake Dunn on Unsplash

Janet

Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Books 1 & 2

By Thursday I usually have the next Monday’s blog post well in hand. The operative word is “usually.”

Last Thursday, I not only didn’t have a post well in hand for today. I didn’t even have a topic.

Here’s the thing. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately, trying to meet a number of self-imposed writing deadlines and goals. Therefore, today I’ll just catch you up on two writing projects I’ve been working on lately.


Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 1

I wrote a local history column for Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper from May 2006 through 2012. It’s been my desire ever since to publish those articles in a book. The time has come!

I’ve formatted the first 91 articles, the introduction, and the back matter for Book 1. My sister is helping me with the indexing. With the index, it looks like the paperback book will be about 500 pages.

Formatting and proofreading of the first 91 articles were tedious tasks. My sister is a fantastic proofreader and has been a tremendous help.

A photographer friend of mine took the photograph for the cover on Friday. By Friday night I had created the cover for the e-book. Creating a book cover was a new experience for me and gave me an unbelievable sense of accomplishment. Technology doesn’t come easy for me.

There are still a few details to finish, including the creation of the paperback book cover. I expect that task to be more challenging than the e-book cover, but I’m excited to start on that today.

I hope to be able to announce a publication date in the next couple of weeks I’ll announce on my blog and on Facebook when the e-book and the paperback are available. I hope that’s before Christmas!

Be on the lookout for that surprise blog post!

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Harrisburg, Did You Know? Cabarrus History, Book 2

I’m formatting and proofreading the second book of local history newspaper columns, which will not only include the last 84 history articles.

I hope to include some of my research done about topics I didn’t get to write about when the newspaper suddenly ceased publication. It depends on how many pages Book 2 is after a get the 84 articles formatted.

It’s been fun rereading the columns because I’ve forgotten some of the details. I anticipate this book will also be available in paperback as well as for Kindle, perhaps in March 2023.


My Website

My website, http://www.janetmorrisonbooks.com is being redesigned. I’ll make an announcement on my blog when the new site is up and running. It will have the same address with the addition of that important “s” after “http” to indicate my site has SSL certification.


Until my next blog post

Thank you for dropping by my blog and lending moral support to this struggling writer.

Keep reading books.

Give thanks for all you have.

Remember the people of Ukraine.

Janet

To Nitpick or Not to Nitpick? That is the Question.

Are you as surprised as I am to learn that the word “nitpicking” first came into use in 1956? That means I’m older than the word nitpicking!

          It also means I can’t use “nitpick” or any form of the word in my historical fiction writing.

Nitwit

          One of my characters wanted to call another character a nitwit. That’s what led me to my discovery about nitpicking. It turned out that I can’t use nitpick, nitpicking, or nitwit in my historical fiction writing, unless I move my stories from the 1760s to the 1960s. That’s just not possible, unless I plunge my characters into a time warp.

          In case you care, “nitwit” wasn’t in common usage until around 1922. I don’t propose that you or I call people hurtful names, but I can’t help what my fictional characters do or say.

Guidelines for historical fiction

          There are words we use in everyday life without giving (or needing to give) any thought to their origins. That would make life beyond tedious. That’s not what I’m talking about here.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

          As a writer of historical fiction, I must be careful not to include a word not in common usage at the time of my short story or novel. If one of my 18th century characters used the word “nitwit,” you might not notice; however, if one of my 18th century characters said “telephone” it would yank you right out of the story and it would ruin my credibility. It is through that process of checking on certain words that I’ve happened upon many surprises.

          My surprises fall all along a spectrum. There are words such as nitpick that I would’ve guessed had been in use for centuries. On the other hand, I didn’t expect that the term “fast lane” was in common use before the year 1050. (That’s not a typo. The year 1050.) After seeing that while I was looking up a different word, I began to doubt myself and wondered if I needed to look up every word I wrote.

          Of course, that’s not practical. By writing about this today I’ve probably opened myself up to a great deal of scrutiny when my historical short stories and my first historical novel are eventually published. Knock yourself out! I’m doing the best I can.

Concerted effort

          Today’s blog post falls into the same quirky category as an earlier one. In the title of one of my 2018 blog posts I asked if an individual can make a concerted effort. The point of that post was that by its very definition it takes two or more people working together to make a concerted effort.

          One of my blog readers took me to task on that one. She insisted that she always made a concerted effort in everything she did. She seemed insulted by my blog post and missed my point.

          It wasn’t my intent to insult anyone or hurt anyone’s feelings. I was merely pointing out a nuance in the English language. I’m attempting to be a writer. It comes with the territory.

          Words are fascinating!

Until my next blog post

Keep reading books.

When you read a good book, be sure to tell the author by writing a review or even writing a letter to the author. You should be able to reach them through their website.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine. It saddens me that only 49% of registered voters in North Carolina voted in the mid-term election last Tuesday. Democracy is a fragile thing. We don’t have to share a border with Russia to know that.

Thank you for reading my blog today! I hope to see you here again next Monday.

Janet

Murder Mystery, Marketing, Second Marriages, Frozen Embryos, & Short Stories Galore Read Last Month!

As usual, I enjoyed reading a variety of books in October. By reading my blog post today, I hope you’ll discover a new book or new author to add to your TBR (To Be Read list.) There’s something here for almost everyone.


Under the Southern Sky, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Under the Southern Sky, by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Right off the bat, this novel got into the hot button topic of frozen embryos. Parker’s wife, Greer, with whom he’d frozen those embryos has died of cancer.

Their marriage appeared to be a match made in heaven. Amelia, the proverbial girl next door during their childhoods, is a reporter researching frozen embryos for a story.

Will Amelia and Parker get together? Can Amelia overcome the idea in her head that Greer was perfect? Surely, she can’t compete with Parker’s memory of his perfect deceased wife. Or can she?

When Amelia approaches Parker with her idea of being the surrogate to give birth to one or more of those frozen embryos how will he respond? How will their families react? How will Greer’s father react?

I enjoyed the frozen embryos aspect of the novel. The on again, off again friendship and romance of Amelia and Parker was sappier than what I like to read, but that’s just me. The dynamics of their relationship are complex and they have to grapple with a lot of emotional baggage.

If you’re looking for a southern beachy story with a hefty dose of what happens to forgotten or abandoned frozen embryos, I think you’ll love this novel by Salisbury, North Carolina native Kristy Woodson Harvey.

I read this novel for the October 24th meeting of Rocky River Readers Book Club at Rocky River Presbyterian Church. We had a good discussion. Everyone read the entire book, which is a good sign. We were in agreement that the ending was predictable, but it was a good book club selection.


The Second Husband, by Kate White

The Second Husband, by Kate White

This is a murder mystery with a chilling twist. Did Emma’s second husband kill her first husband?

Emma’s 37-year-old husband is killed in an alley in the Soho section of New York City. The crime is not solved.

A few months later, Emma meets Tom through a work connection. They marry. Life is good. In fact, it’s perfect until the day a police detective shows up to ask some leading questions.

Suddenly, Emma feels like she’s Suspect #1 in Derrick’s murder. But she knows she’s innocent. She didn’t kill him and she didn’t hire a hitman.

Then, her suspicions turn to Tom.

I learned of this book by reading a review of it on the Linda’s Book Obsession blog on June 28 of this year. Thanks for bringing the book to my attention, Linda! Here’s the link to her review: Linda’s Book Obsession Reviews “The Second Husband” by Kate White, Harper, June 28, 2022 – Linda’s Book Obsession: (lindasbookobsession.blog)

I think this novel would be a good choice for a book club.


Your First 1,000 Copies, by Tim Grahl

Your First 1000 Copies, by Tim Grahl

I give this nonfiction book about marketing for writers 10 stars on a scale of 1 to 5. I took copious notes. There are so many pointers in this book for someone in my position as I’m anticipating releasing several books in the coming 12 months.

Mr. Grahl has helped many authors launch their books. He’s been through the process enough times and recently enough that he knows what works and what doesn’t work. If you’re a writer hoping to publish a book – whether via the traditional publisher route or by self-publishing – you can benefit from reading this book.


Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss

Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity & Loss

Eight writers contributed short stories for this special anthology about identity and loss.

The book includes two short stories by Elizabeth Gauffreau, whose website and blog I wrote about in my September 26, 2022 blog post, Do you know about these 5 book bloggers?

Other authors featured in Distant Flickers are Donna Koros-Stramella, Keith Madsen, Carol LaHines, Jim Metzner, Joyce Yarrow, Rita Baker, and Amy E. Wallen.

Distant Flickers grew out of a spark of inspiration provided by a group of writers known as Telltale Authors. Each story ties into the subtitle. The topics are varied. There are secrets, loss, and identity issues. Each author writes in a way to pull you into the story. Soon you find yourself empathizing with the main character.

The name of that group gives me a perfect segway into the name of the other book of short stories I read in October….


Tell Tale, by Jeffrey Archer

Tell Tale: Stories, by Jeffrey Archer

Since I’m putting together a book of historical short stories, I’ve wanted to get back to reading more short stories. I need to get a handle on just what makes a good short story, right?

Although Jeffrey Archer is better known for his novels, I wanted to read some of his short stories. I found his stories in Tell Tale to be very entertaining.

My favorite stories in the collection were “The Road to Damascus,” “Who Killed the Mayor?” and “The Holiday of a Lifetime.”

Mr. Archer used a clever literary device in “The Holiday of a Lifetime.” He wrote three different endings for the story and encouraged the readers to select the one they preferred. What fun!


Until my next blog post

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post today!

I hope you have a good book to read and will find time to read it. If you have nieces, nephews, children, or grandchildren, it’s important for them to know you enjoy reading. They want to be like you.

If you live in the USA, vote tomorrow, unless you voted early. Our very democracy is on the ballot.

Don’t forget the people of Ukraine.

Janet

Did You Know Cabarrus County, NC Survived a Meteorite on Halloween 1849?

Can you imagine hearing and then seeing meteor blazing across the sky and then crashing through a tree before plunging several feet into the dirt? That’s what happened on Hiram Bost’s farm on October 31, 1849.

Photo by Juskteez Vu on Unsplash

I grew up in Cabarrus County, but I’d not heard of the meteorite until I happened upon a newspaper article about it while doing research on another topic for a local history column I was writing in 2009 for Harrisburg Horizons weekly newspaper. Last week while I was formatting those newspaper articles for two planned books in 2023, I thought the highlights of the seven-part series I wrote about Mr. Bost’s meteorite would make an interesting blog post on this Halloween.

Although the meteorite landed near Midland in Cabarrus County, it was mistakenly named “Monroe.” Meteorites are usually named for where they land. The town of Monroe is actually in the adjoining county and not where the 1849 meteorite crashed to the Earth.

I’ve never heard a meteor or seen one up close. The closest I’ve come is seeing an occasional “shooting star.” The witnesses of the 1849 meteorite described explosions and rumblings They saw a white-hot object in the sky even though it was broad daylight.

Word of the meteorite spread by the proverbial grapevine and in newspapers in Charlotte and Concord. When word reached the Charlotte Branch of the United States Mint, a Mint employee and a Charlotte doctor headed some 20 to 25 miles to the site by horse-drawn wagon.

Knowing he had an item of interest and unknown value on his hands, Mr. Bost displayed the meteorite on top of a pole for all to come and see. It was accompanied by a sign warning people not to touch or break the rock.

I was naïve enough to think that perhaps the Monroe meteorite had ended up intact at the North Carolina Museum of Natural History, but I soon found out that the meteorite has been chopped and sliced into countless pieces and the museum in Raleigh doesn’t even have a piece of it.

One thing led to another, as is always the case when I do historical research, and I went down the rabbit hole of searching for the locations that own part of the meteorite. What I discovered is that pieces and slivers of the meteorite are owned by universities, museums, The Vatican, and private companies and individuals around the world.

I learned that bits and pieces of the Monroe meteorite are for sale by rock and mineral dealers and are sometimes available through rock and mineral auctions. Those pieces and slivers are priced by the gram and aren’t cheap.

To learn more, be on the lookout for my book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2 on Amazon in 2023.

I expect to publish Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 on Amazon in January 2023. I’ll give progress reports in future blog posts. Even if you don’t live in the Harrisburg, North Carolina area, I think you’ll find something of interest in both my local history books.

Since my last blog

I continue to write my first historical novel, The Heirloom.

I hired a company to completely redesign my outdated website, JanetMorrisonBooks.com. My writing is taking a new path and I need a new website to reflect that. With numerous decisions to be made and the holiday season approaching, it might be January before I can unveil the new site.

My sister and I continue to proofread Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1. When I blogged last week, I thought the books would only be available for Kindle, but I now hope to also have them published in paperback.

A word about my blog

Last week’s blog post included a note about a change in my follower count on my blog and the reason I was given for the widget policy change. Apparently, I wasn’t the only blogger to complain, for this week the count once again includes the 1,000+ followers that were dropped last week. I’m happy again!

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine who face freezing to death this winter.

Janet

One Historical Fiction Misconception that Keeps You from Reading It

Not everyone wants to read historical fiction. I understand that. There are several fiction genres that I don’t enjoy, so I avoid them. There are too many books I want to read to take time to read genres that don’t appeal to me. For instance, horror.

I happen to like historical fiction, but there is one big misconception that might be keeping you from reading novels that fall in that category.

Okay, what is that misconception?

Since the word “fiction” is part of the name of the historical fiction genre, there is a misconception that novels in the genre are not historically accurate. If you read reputable historical fiction writers, you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Ballad of Tom Dooley: A Ballad Novel, by Sharyn McCrumb

I had the privilege of hearing Sharyn McCrumb speak in conjunction with the publication of the ninth novel in her ballad series, The Ballad of Tom Dooley. Ms. McCrumb is a meticulous historical researcher. In her speech that day, she adamantly pointed out that some historical fiction books are better researched than history books.

That has really stayed with me more than a decade after hearing Ms. McCrumb speak.

When considering to read a historical novel, I suggest you turn to the back of the book and read the Author Notes. Very often there are several pages after the last chapter in the book in which the author explains her inspiration for the book and a bit of the research involved in writing the book.

The topic of literary license is often addressed in the Author Notes. Good historical fiction writers are transparent and quick to point out any instances in which they adjusted the time or place of an event to make the story flow more smoothly.

You might not be convinced yet to read historical fiction. You might think that just because historical novels contain conversations that cannot be documented, the book cannot be trusted as being true. If written by a conscientious writer, conversations and narrative in the novel will be true to the time and place to the best of the author’s ability. Keep in mind that it’s a work of fiction, and don’t get bent out of shape if some of the dialogue doesn’t ring true to you.

I write history and I write historical fiction. The research I do for the writing of historical fiction is just as detailed and important as the research I do for the writing of history.

English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh

You might be surprised to know that in the 1760s historical fiction I’m writing, I’m careful not to use words that were not in general use during that time. I keep English Through the Ages, by William Brohaugh within arm’s reach while I’m writing. Sometimes there is a perfect word I want a character to say but then I discover it wasn’t in general usage until later. I have to find another word.

And you thought I spent all my time just gazing out the window and eating bonbons!

Next week’s blog post topic

Next week I plan to blog about something that happened on October 31, 1849 in Cabarrus County, North Carolina. I wrote about it for a newspaper article a few years ago. I look forward to sharing a bit of that well-researched article with you on my blog.

Since my last blog

I’ve worked on my novel, The Heirloom, every day except yesterday. (I really try to set aside Sunday as a day of rest.) I feel great about how the manuscript is coming along. I’m really having fun with it, imagining myself on The Great Wagon Road in 1766.

I’ve made progress toward getting my website redesigned. I’m excited about that and will keep you posted.

I finished formatting Harrisburg, Did You Know?—Book 1 on Saturday. The proofreading will take another couple of weeks. By then, I hope to have a photograph to use for the cover. Everything seems to be falling in place within the publication schedule I set for myself. By this time next month, I hope to be close to it being available as an e-book.

A word about my blog

You might have noticed on my blog where it says “Join ___ other followers,” the number plummeted this week. I spent the better part of an hour in chat with WordPress tech support before they identified the cause.

The verdict was that the widget that enables me to show the number of followers on my blog changed last week without bloggers (or apparently tech support) being told.

On Wednesday it said, “Join 2,104 other followers,” but on Thursday night it said, “Join 988 other followers.” My heart sank! Tech support stayed on the case until it was determined that now the widget only displays the number of email and WordPress bloggers who follow me. It no longer includes the 1,000+ people who follow my blog on social media.

If you have a WordPress blog, did you notice this change?

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

4 Popular Book Bloggers Who Will Give You Book Suggestions

In case you want to know about more book bloggers than I’ve written about in the last weeks, I’m suggesting a few more for you to check out. These are listed in random order.


Photo credit: Ugur Akdemir on Unsplash

The Chocolate Lady’s Book Review Blog

I must admit, I was attracted to this blog by the word “chocolate” being in the title. What can I say?

Davida Chazan is originally from Illinois but moved to Israel at the age of 21. She writes this blog from her home in Jerusalem. She covers a variety of books, and you can always count on an honest review from her.

Here’s the link to Davida’s website: https://tcl-bookreviews.com/. By clicking on “A-Z Index of Book Reviews By Title” at the top of her website, you can bring up an extensive alphabetical list of the books she has reviewed. By “extensive,” I mean extensive!

Also, she has a fun drop-down list of authors you can access by clicking on “Countdown Questions Author Index.” You can really have some fun with this. Click on a book listed under the author’s name and it brings her Davida’s review of that book. Click on the author’s name, though, and it brings up a delightful list of questions Davida asked the author along with the author’s answers. The last time I checked, there are more than 40 authors on that particular list.

The website also has a clickable “Women in Translation” button at the top. Click on it to see the authors who write in a language other than English. They are celebrated in the month of August.


Photo by James Barker on Unsplash

The Reading Ladies Book Club

Carol, a retired fifth-grade teacher is the brains behind this book blog. Her favorite genres are historical fiction, literary fiction, and contemporary fiction. She is an ardent reader and enjoys sharing her thoughts about the books she reads.

Here’s the link to The Reading Ladies Book Club website: http://Reading Ladies – Book Club. On the home page, you can easily peruse and click on the titles and covers of the books Carol has recently reviewed.

Click on “Blogging Resources for Bloggers” at the top of her website for blog posts in which Carol has shared advice for bloggers.

If you’re in a book club (or if you aren’t in a book club), I highly recommend you click on “Book Club Recommendations” at the top of her website. As you might guess, it brings up a list of books by genre and how many stars Carol gave each one.

To see a list of the books Carol has reviewed, click on “Book Reviews A-Z & Book Lists.” After the alphabetical list of books is a list of her blog posts that were about more than one book.

There is a section to click on if you’re just interested in nonfiction books, and she has a special section that harkens back to her days as a teacher: “My Newberry Award Project.” Click on that button to bring up a list of the annual winner of The John Newberry Medal every year4 since 1922! That award is given by the American Library Association to the author deemed to have made the best contribution to American books for children.

As you can see, there’s something for everyone in The Reading Ladies Book Club Blog.


Photo credit: Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Steph’s Book Blog

I love the subtitle of Steph’s Book Blog:  “Read a Book – Be Amazed – Tell the World.” How great is that?

Steph says she is a lifelong reader who also dabbles in genealogy, local history, and photography. (Sounds a lot like me!)

By clicking on “Blog Posts” at the top of her website, https://stephsbookblog.com, you can scroll through her recent book reviews. Or, if you’re looking for her review of a book by a particular author, you can click on “Authors” for a drop-down menu of authors by alphabet.

There’s also a search box in which you can type a book title or author’s name.

Some authors participate in a “Blog Tour” in which various book bloggers read and review a specific book of theirs (usually a new release) on an organized schedule. Steph has a clickable “Blog Tours” button through which you can find a list of the books she has reviewed as part of a blog tour.


Photo by Eliabe Costa on Unsplash

Bonnie Reads and Writes

I just recently found this book blog via Twitter. Bonnie says she’s “lucky enough to live in the Smoky Mountains.” I’d say she is, therefore, “lucky enough.” I love the Great Smoky Mountains! But I digress.

Here’s the link to her blog: https://bonniereadsandwrites.com/. Bonnie blogs throughout the week. One thing I really appreciate is that she sometimes has “Indie Weekend” blog posts in which she reviews indie-published books. For instance, on October 8, 2022, her “Indie Weekend” blog post highlighted Distant Flickers, a new collection of short stories by eight authors, including Elizabeth Gauffreau. That link is http://Indie Weekend: Distant Flickers #shortstorycollections #choices #crossroads – Bonnie Reads and Writes.

In addition to reviewing books on her blog, Bonnie reviews books for Historical Novels Review Magazine, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society.

On Tuesdays, Bonnie blogs a ‘Top 10” list. A recent one was about her 10 favorite bookstores or bookstores she’d like to visit.


In case you missed my earlier posts about book bloggers

Two of my last four blog posts were about book bloggers I enjoy following. In case you missed those posts, here are the links: Do you know about these 5 book bloggers? and This Week: An Additional 5 Book Bloggers.


Since my last blog post

The ”Launch a Bestseller” course by Tim Grahl is going great! I have learned so much already and have gotten back on track with my writing.

I continue to format my “Did You Know?” local history newspaper articles for publication as a couple of Kindle books.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read – and time to read it!

Remember the brave people of Ukraine, the grieving people of Uvalde, the Floridians who lost so much to Hurricane Ian, and the people grieving last week’s mass murder in Raleigh.

Janet

Spy Thriller, WWI Novel, Nonfiction, and Historical Mystery Read Last Month

In addition to the three novels I blogged about last week, in September I read three other novels and one nonfiction book. It’s my pleasure today to blog about those four books. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll decide to read it. Support your local public library and your local independent bookstore!


The New Neighbor, by Karen Cleveland

The New Neighbor, by Karen Cleveland

I read Need to Know, by Karen Cleveland in March 2018 and blogged about it in my April 2, 2018 blog post, More March 2018 Reading. I really enjoyed that novel, so I don’t know what it took me more than four years (has it really been four years since 2018?) to read another of her books.

The New Neighbor is a spy thriller. The main character and most of her neighbors on a quiet cul-de-sac work for the CIA. She’s been trying to identify and take down a spy who is working against the United States for 18 years of her career. The code name for this person is “The New Neighbor,” so it’s a constant play on words throughout the book – Is the new neighbor the actual new neighbor on the cul-de-sac, or is it one of her long-time neighbors and friends on the cul-de-sac, or is it someone who lives who knows where, or is it …?

I look forward to reading another of Karen Cleveland’s novels as soon as I pare down my current reading list. She is a former CIA Analyst.


Switchboard Soldiers: A Novel of the Heroic Women Who Served in the US Signal Corps in World War I, by Jennifer Chiaverini

Switchboard Soldiers, by Jennifer Chiaverini

This historical novel made me aware of the first women to serve in the United States Army. It was World War I and General John Pershing needed efficient telephone operators who were fluent in both English and French to serve throughout France – including the front lines.

It was taking male soldiers one minute to connect a call. That was unacceptable, so General Pershing did a radical thing. He put out a call for qualified female telephone operators. More than 7,600 women responded. The women could connect a phone call in ten seconds.

They proved themselves just as qualified and dedicated as any male American soldiers and were credited in helping the Allies win World War I. It’s a shame their story hasn’t been told for more than a century, but author Jennifer Chiaverini has down a wonderful job telling us their story now.

I learned in the Author Notes at the end of the book that, although they were considered soldiers in the US Army during World War I, took the oath of office, were issued uniforms, had to go through the rigorous gas mask training, had to obey all rules and regulations of the US Army, etc. – after the war they were not considered military veterans and were not eligible for any veterans’ benefits until 1977 when President Jimmy Carter proclaimed them to be veterans. Of course, by then fewer than 60 of the 7,600 women were still alive to enjoy any of the benefits.

The other novels by Ms. Chiaverini that I’ve enjoyed are Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker (which I read in April 2013 before I started regularly blogging about the books I read); Resistance Women (see my September 2, 2019 blog post, 3.5 of the 5.5 Books I Read in August 2019; and Mrs. Lincoln’s Sisters (see my August 10, 2020 blog post, Two Other Books I Read in July 2020.)


Listening Well: Bringing Stories of Hope to Life, by Heather Morris

Listening Well, by Heather Morris

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I’ve read three excellent novels by Heather Morris.

To refresh your memory, I blogged about her first novel, The Tattooist of Auschwitz in my November 15, 2018 blog post, Many Good Books Read in October!; I blogged about her second novel, Cilka’s Journey, in my December 2, 2019 blog post, I stretched my reading horizons in November; and I blogged about her third novel, Three Sisters, in my January 3, 2022 blog post, Books Read in December 2021.

In Listening Well, Ms. Morris writes a lot about her life. She grew up in New Zealand and now lives in Melbourne, Australia. She writes about her growing up years as a way to tell us about the elders in her family and how they – especially her great-grandfather – taught her to listen.     

She recommends that we all practice listening actively and then she sets about to give practical tips of how to listen to elders and how to listen to children. She also encourages us to listen to ourselves and trust ourselves because if we can trust ourselves and be a friend to ourselves, we can be a good friend to someone else.

She writes about listening to Lale Sokolov, the tattooist of Auschwitz, and what an honor it was to listen to him.

Ms. Morris says that all too often we listen to someone only to think of what we can say and how we can turn the conversation about us and not the other person.

This is a good read. I imagine most of us can learn something from it.


Second Street Station: A Mary Handley Mystery, by Lawrence H. Levy

Second Street Station, by Lawrence H. Levy

I wanted to read this book because it is a categorized as historical mystery. I read about 60% of it. It was a bit of stretch for there to be a female detective in the 1890s, but I was willing to suspend disbelief and go along with it.

It was a bit of a stretch to think of Thomas A. Edison being a criminal, but I kept reading. Where the wheels fell off the wagon for me, though, was when Mary Handley was able to watch the trajectory of ricocheting bullets and roll out of their way.

Since there had been no reference to Mary Handley having such superpowers, I felt completely pulled out of the story at that point. I read a few more pages and decided to move on to other library books that were needing my attention. It suddenly felt like historical fiction meets sci-fi.

If the book had been publicized as such, that would have been fine – and probably would make an interesting genre; however, that wasn’t a direction I expected “historical mystery” to take. I’ve since read several reviews online that were also thrown off by this part of the novel.

All that being said, though, I hesitate to be critical of a novel since I’ve yet to publish one of my own. I have much to learn about writing historical fiction. If you enjoy historical mysteries, give Second Street Station a try and let me know what you think of it. I’d like to be proven wrong in my assessment.


Since my last blog post

I took a free 3-Day online “How to Write a Series” course offered by Carissa Andrews of The Author Revolution. It was very helpful. And did you hear me say it was free? It will probably be offered again next year, so if you aspire to write a book series, I recommend you check out The Author Revolution online.

The historical fiction series I’m working on just might be five books instead of four. Book 2, The Doubloon is written and put away. Book 1, The Heirloom is my work in progress. Books 3-5, The Betrayal, The Revolution, and The Banjo are in various states of being outlined. My body is telling me I should have started this project decades ago.

I continued to format the local history newspaper articles I wrote from 2006 through 2012 for publication as two Kindle books. Look for future announcements about Harrisburg, Did You Know?- Book 1 and Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 2.

I started working through the video modules in Tim Grahl’s “Launch a Bestseller” course last week. The modules have already helped me understand the marketing tasks I need to do beginning seven to nine months before I publish my first novel.

In terms of marketing, I’ll have to condense some of those early tasks into just a couple of months or so for Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1 and The Aunts in the Kitchen.

Me thinks I have too many irons in the fire!


Until my next blog post

Today I start taking the five-week online “Sticky Blogging – Master Class: “Attract Your True Fans” Course. Who knows? Perhaps in the coming weeks and months I’ll write better blog posts. Maybe I’ll come up with more interesting and eye-catching post titles.

I hope you have a good book to read.

Remember the brave people of Ukraine, the grieving people of Uvalde, and the devastated people of Florida.

Janet

Three Novels I Can’t Wait to Tell You About!

I read some interesting and thought-provoking books in September. In today’s blog post, I’ll share my reactions to three of the novels I read. I hope you’ll be inspired to add one or more of them to your reading list.


Dragonfly Escaping, Noor’s Story: Book One, by Raya Khedker

Dragonfly Escaping: Noor’s Story: Book One, by Raya Khedker

I learned about this novel through the Jennifer Tar Heel Reader book blog. After reading Jennifer’s review of the book, I went on Twitter to find out a little more about the author.

On Twitter I found a discussion about the book’s cover. I chimed in that I liked the cover, and the author and I enjoyed several days of messaging to one another about the struggles of writing and publishing.

The story immediately grabbed my attention and I knew I was hooked and would have to keep reading to find out what happened to Noor Zulfiker. Noor is bound in an arranged marriage to Rajat, an older man who is a physician and her parents think will be quite a catch for their daughter. But Noor is in love with a young man named Chirag Jagdev. Chirag isn’t rich and his financial future isn’t potentially as bright as the doctor’s.

There is physical abuse, so very soon the reader really starts pulling for the teenage Noor and hoping Rajat gets his comeuppance.

This book shines a light on the emotional and physical abuse the women in India are subjected to by men. Noor is abused from all directions and desperately wants to leave India. It is raw and unrelenting in this first novel of a planned series about Noor.

If you like exotic locations, Dragonfly Escaping takes place in New Dehli and Lima over a span of 1979 to 1992, with connections and references to Spain and Canada thrown in for interest.

If you aren’t put off by reading about an abusive relationship, I recommend this novel by Raya Khedker. It’s her debut novel and it was released in January 2022. Lo and behold, Dragonfly Hunting: Noor’s Story: Book Two, was released last week – on September 27 – so I’m already playing catch-up!

I look forward to whatever Raya Khedker and Noor have in store for us in Book Two.

Raya Khedker was born in India and currently lives in the United States.


In an Instant, by Suzanne Redfearn

In an Instant: A Novel, by Suzanne Redfearn

This novel is written through the eyes of Finn, a 16-year-old girl. Spoiler alert: She’s alive in the beginning of the book but is soon dead. Probably 95% of the book is told through Finn’s eyes and ears as she moves about at will and reports how everyone reacts to her death and the other related events. It is a clever format.

The story is compelling. It delves into each person’s reaction to the incident that takes Finn’s life. It’s about family dynamics, friendships, and how individuals react to a traumatic situation. Each of us knows how we think or hope we’d react in a given circumstance, but do we truly know how we’d react when push comes to shove?

On the negative side, I had to suspend disbelief throughout a sizeable segment of the book as, although all the characters were in a situation of total darkness, they were able to move about and see everything clearly.

Also, I think the author gave Fen a vocabulary and level of understanding that a typical 16-year-old doesn’t have. And, speaking of vocabulary, I find the overuse of expletives offensive and it cheapens the writing. This becomes especially noticeable when one is listening to a book. It was excessive and pulled me out of the story. John Grisham is a reasonably successful novelist even though it is his policy and practice to not use curse words or raunchy language in his books. If John Grisham can have a lucrative writing career without using foul language, perhaps others should follow his example.

I thought the Easter dinner scene was forced. Why would a family that showed absolutely no religious inclinations suddenly put a tremendous emphasis on a traditional Easter ham dinner?

All that said, I reiterate that In an Instant is a gripping story and the premise of a person’s spirit being able to continue to roam the earth and see and hear intimate conversations and activities of family and friends is a bit unsettling and gives much food for thought.


The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig

When Nora Seed “decides to die,” she finds herself in The Midnight Library. Her school librarian from long ago is there to explain to Nora that The Midnight Library isn’t exactly the afterlife. It’s an endless library of books – each one giving you the chance to undo your regrets and do something different. It’s between life and death. Disgusted at first to be there, Nora eventually appreciates the opportunities it provides.

The novel involves the theory or idea of parallel universes and allows Nora to move from one life to another and experience or re-experience an occupation or family situation.

The lesson this novel teaches is that every decision we make has an outcome. A different decision at any given time could have changed the course of our lives.

I didn’t know what to expect when I checked out the book on CD. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it to see what Nora’s next experience would be and how it was all going to turn out for her.

The only irritation I felt in listening to the book was the fact that the British reader pronounced “library” the way the English do, turning this three-syllable word into a two-syllable word.” It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. If you’re too young to understood the analogy, I’m afraid I can’t help you.


Since my last blog post

Here in the southern piedmont of North Carolina, it rained sideways all day on Friday and felt more like winter than autumn as what was left of Hurricane Ian passed through after making its third landfall near Georgetown, South Carolina. We came through it unscathed, though, and for that I’m relieved and thankful.

I’ve been working on my genealogy. I knew that three of my 16 g-g-g-grandmothers were Neelys. Last week I found their father’s will and discovered they were sisters. I guess that means I’m my own cousin. Small gene pool here in the 1700s!


Until my next blog post

My heart goes out to all the people severely affected by Hurricane Ian in Cuba, all over Florida, and the east coast of the US.

Today I’m excited to begin taking a three-day online workshop about writing a book series. It’s sure to help me as I continue to work on The Heirloom and its sequel, The Doubloon.

I hope you have a good book to read this week.

Don’t forget the brave people of Ukraine.

Janet

This Week: An Additional 5 Book Bloggers

Last week my blog was about five book bloggers I follow. I promised to highlight more such book reviewers in the coming weeks. Today’s blog post is about five other online book reviewers.

As with last week’s list, I selected these five in random order. I hope at least one of them will appeal to you enough that you’ll start following it.


Photo by Florencia Viadana on Unsplash

LizGauffreau.com

At https://lizgauffreau.com/, you will find book reviews as well as a variety of other blog posts and information. Liz is a writer and blogger who lives in New Hampshire. As you can tell from her blog topics, she’s not a full-time book review blogger. I’ve included her on this list, though, because she sometimes reviews fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Her website is well-organized. You can click on her blog posts by month, or you can click on her Fiction Book Reviews, her Nonfiction Book Reviews, or her Poetry Reviews.

Here’s the link to one of her recent book reviews: #bookreview: Village Teacher – Elizabeth Gauffreau (lizgauffreau.com), in which she reviewed Village Teacher, by neihtn (Nguyen Trong Hien).

If you’re a fan of short stories, here’s a head’s up. Two of Liz’s short stories will be in the new anthology, Distant Flickers: Stories of Identity and Loss. It’s set for release on October 1. Look for it wherever you buy your books. If your local independent bookstore and public library haven’t ordered copies, ask them to consider doing so.


Photo by John-Mark Smith on Unsplash

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

As you can guess from the name, Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is an online magazine that covers just about everything. It also covers just about everything very well.

Sally Cronin is the powerhouse behind this online magazine. I marvel at the variety of topics Sally tackles. She not only reviews books. She also reviews music and does excellent posts about popular music from different decades. She also has a post once a week that offers four or five cartoons. As you can see, there’s something for everyone in Smorgasbord Blog Magazine.

You’re reading this, though, because my post today is supposed to be about book bloggers. Here’s the link to one of Sally’s recent book reviews: Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Historical #1920s Jazz Baby by Beem Weeks , in which she reviewed Jazz Baby, by Beem Weeks.

Sally blogs from Ireland. Her almost daily blog posts are always entertaining.


Photo by Henry Be on Unsplash

Amorina Rose’s Blog

Barbara Strickland is the voice behind Amorina Rose’s Blog. Barbara’s website address is https://brstrickland.com/. She is an author as well as a blogger. Through her website you can access her blog archives.

May, June, and July Chilling with Books Corner 2022, being real and finding inspiration – Barbara Strickland – Author & Blogger (brstrickland.com) is a good example of one of her blogs about books and other things, such as movies she’d been watching. In it, she also reviews the historical novel, The Wedding Dress Sewing Circle, by Jennifer Ryan.

Barbara is of Italian and Australian ancestry. She holds a Bachelor of Education degree with TESOL (English as a Second Language) qualifications. She’s had a varied career and enjoys music, dance, art, and literature. She’s in the editing stages of her second novel.


Photo by Gülfer ERGİN on Unsplash

Linda’s Book Obsession

Linda Zagon is the book reviewer behind Linda’s Book Obcession. She is a retired teacher with a massive book collection, including signed first editions.

Reviewing books is Linda’s hobby. She is a Top Reviewer on NetGalley and has also reviewed books on Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Twitter (as @peachyteach), Amazon (as teachlz) and BookBrowse.

You can find her current and past book reviews on her website, https://lindasbookobsession.blog/. She has been known to blog twice in one day about two different books.

Go to her website and click on her September 22, 2022 blog post in which she gives a rave review of The Child Between Us, by Alison Ragsdale.


Photo by Ed Robertson on Unsplash

Portobello Book Blog

Joanne is passionate about books, and it shows in her book reviews on https://portobellobookblog.com/. She especially likes contemporary fiction and historical fiction but also enjoys a good love story, according to the bio on her website.

There, you can easily scroll down through a list of her recent blog posts. Each one includes an opening paragraph or two from the post. Just click on “more” if you want to continue reading one of them. You can also click on any of give option at the top of her landing page. One of them is “Book Reviews, A to Z.” That will give you a drop-down menu where you can click on her book reviews from any year back to 2015 and get a list of the books she reviewed that year in alphabetical order by the authors’ last names. You can tell by the lengthy lists that Joanne is a voracious reader.

Her site also includes author interviews.

Go to Joanne’s website, https://portobellobookblog.com/, and I suggest you click on her September 20, 2022 blog post in which she reviewed The Dead Romantics, by Ashley Poston. I suggest you click on that one because through it you can read the first chapter of Ashley Poston’s novel. What can beat that in a book review?


Since my last blog post

Last week I mentioned that I’d run into a bit of a roadblock on the cover I wanted for the cover of the e-book I’m working on. I was discouraged, but things opened up this past week. I was contacted by the son of the deceased artist whose painting I wanted for the book cover. He couldn’t have been more accommodating! What a relief! I literally cried tears of joy after talking to him.

I’m still formatting my local history newspaper column articles for that book, Harrisburg, Did You Know? – Book 1. I’ll keep you posted as I reach publication.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and an enjoyable hobby.

Find the good in the coming week. I’ll look for you back here next Monday. Please tell your friends about my blog.

Don’t forget the courageous people of Ukraine and the grieving people of Uvalde.

Janet