This is not an April Fool’s Day Joke

This is not an April Fool’s Day joke. I read six books in March. Six. I set the bar high for myself by reading ten books in February, but I could only manage to read six in March. Today’s blog post is about three of those books. All three are newly-released historical novels.

Tomorrow’s Bread, by Anna Jean Mayhew

I eagerly awaited this second novel by Anna Jean Mayhew, and it was well worth the wait! Tomorrow’s Bread was released on Tuesday.

Tomorrow’s Bread, by Anna Jean Mayhew

I love the main characters! Ms. Mayhew weaves the stories of several families together in Tomorrow’s Bread. She puts names and faces on the destructive aspect of Urban Renewal, which was a program funded by the U.S. Government in the 1960s to remove “blight” from inner cities

Although I was only eight years old in 1961 when the removal of the Brooklyn neighborhood in Charlotte, North Carolina began, I remember the segregated era on the cusp of the Civil Rights Movement.

I know the main streets referenced in Tomorrow’s Bread. I have traveled them all my life and, as a young adult, was employed in several offices that were built as a result of Urban Renewal. I remember separate water fountains for “white” and “colored” in department stores and the so-called “separate but equal” segregated schools.

I remember riding on racially-segregated Charlotte city buses. I clearly remember the time my mother and I got on a bus for me to go to the doctor. All the seats for whites were taken and I didn’t understand why we couldn’t sit in the back of the bus where there were vacant seats. The reverse must have been equally confusing for little black children.

In 1961 I was too young to understand segregation or Urban Renewal and, being white, I didn’t have to understand it.

Tomorrow’s Bread, by Anna Jean Mayhew, is a must read for anyone living in the Charlotte area – especially the young people and those new to the area. To understand some events of today, it’s beneficial to know the history of the city.

Although only someone who lived in the Brooklyn section of Charlotte’s inner city could state this with authority, but as an outsider, I think Ms. Mayhew captured the essence of a place and time not so long ago in our history – yet a place that is gone forever.

Tomorrow’s Bread made me stop and think – like I never had before – about the people who were displaced by Urban Renewal as real flesh and blood individuals. They went from living in a sustainable neighborhood with grocery stores, a doctor, a library, and a church all in walking distance to having to look for affordable housing in neighborhoods that offered none of those things. Loraylee, Hawk, Rev. Eben Polk, Bibi, Uncle Ray, and Jonny No Age will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you, Anna Jean, for writing this novel and for prompting me to give serious thought to a time and federal program in the 1960s that – in the name of giving people a better life – demolished their homes, businesses, and churches and split up families that had been neighbors and friends for generations. It’s not a pleasant read, but it’s a story built around fictional characters you will love and pull for.

Now, I want to know what happened to Loraylee, Hawk, and Archie. Is there a third book in the works, Anna Jean?

Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan

This is a historical novel about “the hello girls” – the women who served as military switchboard operators in France and Germany during World War I. The service these women provided was an integral part of the Allies’ ability to defeat Germany in the War. It was something I was not aware of, although I’ve studied history and minored in history in college. It just goes to show how women’s contributions have often been ignored or minimized.

Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan

I listened to this audio book and found myself listening to “just one more chapter” (and then a couple more) before going to bed at night. I hated to see the book end. It followed Ruby, an experienced telephone switchboard operator, and the six women she supervised in France. Ruby’s brother had been killed in the War and joining the US Army Signal Corps was her way of honoring his memory.

The book tells how the military switchboard operators had to go through rigorous training and had to memorize new codes daily in order to do their jobs. They worked long hours and were always under stress as it was their duty to make sure they correctly and efficiently connected phone calls between generals and other officers.

These women were denied military benefits by the US Army until 1979 – 60 years after their service. Sadly, only 28 of the 228 US Army female switchboard operators lived to see that day.

The story line of the book includes Ruby’s being torn between her less-than-exciting fiancé and the Army medic she met and fell in love with in France. Some of the dialogue between Ruby and Andrew, her new love, is a little sappy but other than that I thoroughly enjoyed the book.

The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber

I had the pleasure of hearing Ann Weisgarber speak several years ago at Main Street Books in Davidson, North Carolina. Her novel, The Promise, had just been released. I purchased a copy, but time got away and too many library books kept coming into my house. Long story, short:  I haven’t read The Promise yet. In fact, The Glovemaker is the first of Ms. Weisgarber’s novels that I’ve read. I want to read all of them.

The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber

Having visited Capitol Reef National Park in Utah, I could really picture in my mind the setting for “The Glovemaker.”, Fruita, (formerly, Junction) Utah is a stark place As I recall from my visit there in 2002, there’s nothing there today but an orchard, an old schoolhouse, and a picnic table – along with sheer rock cliffs, interesting rock formations, dry creek beds, and no trees to speak of aside from the orchard.

I learned some things about Mormons that I hadn’t known before — that there was an underground railroad-type network that assisted Latter Day Saints to a place of safety when they were being tracked down for prosecution for polygamy. I love it when I learn something about history when reading a novel!

The book paints a picture of the hard life the early settlers in that part of Utah had in the 1880s. My heart broke for Deborah Tyler and her brother-in-law, Nels. Deborah watches each day for her husband’s return from his traveling wheelwright work in southern Utah, but the weeks turn into months. Nels loves Deborah but cannot have her because she is married.

There is suspense when a stranger appears at Deborah’s door seeking directions to the safe place and when the US Marshal comes looking for that stranger. Deborah and Nels are forced to lie and keep secrets due to the conflict between Mormons and non-Mormons and the law.

There is also tension among the eight households in Junction due to the secrets being kept and due to differences of opinion about polygamy and other The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints doctrines and practices. Add to that the bitterly cold weather and snow and you have a recipe for good historical fiction.

Since my last blog post

The word count for my The Doubloon manuscript stands just shy of 22,000. That’s a net gain of nearly 8,000 words since last Monday.  I had a good writing week last week.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re a writer, I have you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read any of the books I talked about today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest in reading any of these books?

What are you reading, and would you recommend it?

Janet

Two For Tuesday: Two Quotes by Inspirational Women

In preparation for today’s #TwoForTuesday challenge I read quotes by many inspirational women. It was a difficult choice, but I selected quotes by Malala Yousafzai and Mary Frances Berry.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is one of the most inspirational women I know – and has been since she was still a child. I love this quote by her:

“Let us remember:  One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

Malala is proof of that!

 

Mary Frances Berry

Mary Frances Berry is an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement and a historian. Here’s the quote of hers I chose for today’s blog post:

“The time when you need to do something is when no one else is willing to do it, when people are saying it can’t be done.”

 

Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts

In honor of Women’s History Month, Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog chose four
women-related #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts for March. Here’s a link to her
list, in case you’d like to participate today and next Tuesday:  
https://educatednegra.blog/2019/03/03/two-for-tuesday-march-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-2084.

 Until my next blog post

Keep reading and writing!

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Janet

Five of the Ten Books I Read in February 2019

Wow! Where do I start? Although it was the shortest month of the year, February was jam-packed with good books. I read a variety of fiction, nonfiction, memoir, and “how-to” books.

Truth be known, I started reading several of the books in January and finished them in February. Each one probably warranted its own blog post, but I’ve condensed my thoughts into two blog posts – today’s and the one on March 11.

Here’s what I thought of each book, in no particular order:


Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky

Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky

I enjoyed this novel by Barbara Delinsky about a woman, Mackenzie Cooper, who runs a red light and causes an accident in which her five-year-old daughter is killed. The event results in a divorce and an estrangement between Mackenzie and her mother.

In an effort to leave her sad past behind and start a new life, Mackenzie moves from Massachusetts to Devon, Vermont and adopts a new name. Things go well for her until her ex-husband shows up in the small town where Mackenzie lives. It turns out that Mackenzie isn’t the only resident of Devon living with a secret.

I gave this story of forgiveness four stars on Goodreads.com. I was surprised to see many two-star ratings for it on that site. With an average rating of 3.5 stars out of 5, from the reviews, it appears people either really like it or don’t.

Creating Character Arc:  The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development, by K.M Weiland

Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland

This book is an invaluable resource for anyone writing fiction. It helped me focus on the protagonist in the novel I’m writing and organize her journey step-by-step throughout her story. The questions Ms. Weiland included in her book helped me to know my main character better, which enables me to write with more confidence than I had before.

If you’re learning to write fiction, I highly recommend Creating Character Arc:  The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development, by K.M Weiland. Or perhaps you are a fan of fiction and you’re curious about the structure of a good novel. Then, I think you’ll find this “how-to” book interesting.

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy

This book was a bit of a surprise for me. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy was the January selection for the Rocky River Readers Book Club. Since it’s not historical fiction, suspense, or a mystery, I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. That’s one of the good things about being in a book club. Sometimes members are exposed to a book genre they wouldn’t usually select for themselves.

Although I rarely listen to an audio book, an episode of vertigo prompted me to borrow the book on CD from the public library. The accent of professional reader, Rosalyn Landor, was delightful and helped to keep the setting in Ireland clearly in mind. The fact that I enjoyed listening to a novel was a bonus.

The author, Maeve Binchy, was a master of characterization. Each character has such a unique backstory or quirk, you’ll have no trouble keeping them straight in your head. In A Week in Winter, each of the ten chapters tells the backstory of a different guest or pair of guests at The Stone House on the west coast of Ireland. Ms. Binchy weaves their stories together perfectly as she brings them all together as guests at the inn the first week the old house was open for business.

The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain

The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain

After enjoying listening to the Maeve Binchy book, I decided to give the audio version of The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain a try. Ms.Chamberlain weaves quite a complicated story and cast of characters together in this novel set in Wilmington, Chapel Hill, and Robeson County, North Carolina.

One of three close friends commits suicide, leaving the other two women trying to find clues as to why Nicole felt that taking her own life was the only option she had. Layer by layer they peel back the parts of Nicole’s past they knew nothing about.

There was a horrible accident with a baby Nicole delivered as a midwife. What choice did Nicole make after the accident that changed the course of not on her life but also the lives of other families?

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens

The prose in this book is beautiful. Delia Owens writes about the fauna of the marshlands of the North Carolina coast from a place of scientific expertise. This is her debut novel, but she has co-authored three nonfiction books about nature in Africa. She worked in Africa as a wildlife scientist but now lives in Idaho.

As an aspiring novelist, I’ve been cautioned about using dialect in my writing. A little bit of it can help put the reader in the location and time of the story; however, using it too much makes the reading more difficult and slow and also pulls the reader out of the story. Where the Crawdads Sing is a perfect example of this mistake.

I loved the descriptions of the wildlife native to the marshes of coastal North Carolina. Ms. Owens painted such a pictures with words that I could have visualized the marshes even if I’d never seen coastal Carolina marshlands.

I loved the story in Where the Crawdads Sing. I was interested in the main character, Kya, from the beginning. It was a real “page turner” due to the life Kya lived and the strong character she was. I devoured the book in 48 hours; however, the dialect was over the top. There was just too much Southern and African-American dialect. The dialect repeatedly slowed me down and pulled me out of the story.

If not for the excessive dialect and the Confederate battle flag being in the county courtroom in 1970, I would have given it six stars out of a possible five.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading/listening to The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber; Jacksonland, by Steve Instep; and Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan.

If you’re a writer, I have you have productive writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow:  Two Books with a Strong Female Lead. I’m pleased to participate again this month in the “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog #TwoForTuesday challenge. Here’s a link to Rae’s March list, in case you want to participate: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/03/03/two-for-tuesday-march-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-2084.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read any of the five books I talked about today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest in reading any of these books?

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books that Help Me Sleep at Night

I’ve enjoyed participating in the #TwoForTuesday blog prompts in February and can’t wait to see what Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews has in store for us in March. Today’s prompt was “Two books that Help you sleep at night.”

If you’ve followed by blog for a few months, you know that I suffer with insomnia. My sleep is way out of whack. I have trouble staying awake during the day and trouble going to sleep at night. My doctor has referred me to a sleep coach. Yes, it’s gotten that bad.

When challenged to write about two books that help me sleep at night, I was hard-pressed to come up with a response. The “two” I settled on are The Bible and just about any audio book. I know – that’s more than two actual books and not very specific, but they’re what I came up with.

1.  The Bible

The Message, by Eugene H. Peterson

This isn’t just the correct “Sunday School” or children’s sermon answer. This is my real answer. My nighttime insomnia aside, the book that allows me to give my troubles and worries to God so I’m not tossing and turning and wringing my hands is The Bible. I still do more than my share of tossing and turning, but it’s not because I despair.

I find The Message:   The Bible in Contemporary Language the easiest to understand and, therefore, the most comforting. The Message is a paraphrase of The Bible and was written by Presbyterian minister Eugene H. Peterson.

2.  Just about any audio book

Until recently, I swore off listening to any books. I found it stressful. I felt like someone was talking “at” me and wouldn’t shut up. Got on my last nerve kind of stress.

Then, I got vertigo. In fact, I had two kinds of vertigo. One has cleared up, but the other still has me in physical therapy. Using the computer and reading tend to trigger an episode. Therefore, I’ve listened to two audio books so far this month plus part of a third. Even the ones I enjoy, eventually put me to sleep.

That’s not what Rae meant!

The #TwoForTuesday challenge in Rae’s Reads and Reviews (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646) wasn’t “two books that put you to sleep.” It was “two books that help you sleep at night.” I understand the difference. I just couldn’t come up with a second book in addition to The Bible.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are two books that help you sleep at night?

Janet

FYI, Other WordPress Bloggers

In case you’re having a problem with “Like” button: After two days (or more) of not being able to leave a “Like” on other people’s blogs, I finally asked the kind support staff at WordPress what I was doing wrong.

Someone answered me right away on Chat and said they’re making some changes to the code that governs the “Like” button, so that service has been and will be erratic for a while.

Janet

This blog’s for you!

Sometimes I get carried away and forget my blog is for you. It’s not for me. You have a limited amount of time to read, so I’m flattered that you read my blog posts.

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

If my blog doesn’t fill a need of yours, then reading it is a waste of your time. The pressure is on me every week to inspired you, make you laugh, give you something to think about, or at least put a smile on your face.

Although I’ve been blogging for almost nine years, I’m still learning. If there is something on my blog page that isn’t of benefit to my readers, I need to delete it.

Deleted national flags widget

In an effort to declutter my blog on February 4, I deleted the widget that showed the flags of all the countries in which my blog readers reside. I realized that showing those 93 flags was for my own edification, not yours. That widget was providing information that you probably didn’t care about. I’m a geography nerd, so I found it very interesting.

Actually, I found it shocking and a bit frightening to know that people in that many countries had looked at my blog at least once. The biggest surprise was when the flag of the People’s Republic of China first appeared.

My most popular posts

In place of the national flags widget, I added a widget that lists my 10 most popular blog posts. This should help my new reader find some of my best posts, and it will help me see at a glance the topics that garner the most interest.

An unexpected source

I knew my blog was for my readers, but it wasn’t until I started reading Building a StoryBrand:  Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen, by Donald Miller that I was prompted to try to view my website and my blog through the eyes of a first-time visitor.

Everywhere Building a StoryBrand says, “customer,” I mentally substitute “reader.” Sometimes it works better than others. Although Mr. Miller’s book targets business owners, it made me ask myself how my website and blog portray me as a writer. I’ll continue to make changes that help first-time visitors become loyal readers.

Mr. Miller says a person should be able to look at my blog or my website and know within five seconds what I’m about.

I’m reminded of Alan Alda’s book

If you read my February 11, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/02/11/the-other-three-books-i-read-in-january-2019/ you know I read Alan Alda’s book, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?

That book prompted me to ask myself, “What does my reader need?” and “What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?” Mr. Miller’s book dovetails into Mr. Alda’s book and reinforces what Mr. Alda said about communication.

The purpose of my website and blog

Mr. Miller’s book prompted me to state the purpose of my website and blog in one sentence. When I got to the heart of what I’m trying to accomplish, this is what I concluded: 

The purpose of my website and blog is to show you that I write with authority and skill and, therefore, you can trust that my writing is worthy of your time.

If it sounds like I’m boasting, that’s not my intent. I’m setting the bar high for myself, and will read that purpose every day when I sit down at the keyboard.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Midwife’s Confession, by Diane Chamberlain. (Audio books come in handy when a reader has vertigo.)

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Don’t forget to look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow when I’ll reveal two books that remind me of someone. (Writing prompt provided by “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog post on January 8, 2019 (https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646)

Let’s start a conversation

What are you hoping to find in my blog? A smile? Humor? Something to ponder? Inspiration? My take on a book I’ve read? Samples of my fiction writing? A variety of these?

Janet

Two for Tuesday: Two Books that Helped Me Fall in Love with Reading

Today’s blog post is my second time to participate in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. I learned about it in her January 8, 2019 blog post:  https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646.

My third grade teacher, Miss Ruth Jarrell, was a soft-spoken woman with beautiful handwriting. When a student asked Miss Jarrell how long she’d been teaching, she said that was her 13th year. We thought she was ancient if she’d been a teacher that long. It was only when I was in my mid-30s that I realized I was as old as Miss Jarrell had been when she taught me. Thirty-five no longer seemed old.

Another thing I remember Miss Jarrell for was her reading to us. If we behaved in the school cafeteria, she would read to us when we returned to our classroom after lunch.

White Squaw:  The True Story of Jennie Wiley, by Arville Wheeler

White Squaw: The True Story of Jennie Wiley, by Arville Wheeler

The book Miss Jarrell read to us that is still vivid in my memory was White Squaw:  The True Story of Jennie Wiley, by Arville Wheeler. Jennie was abducted by Native Americans in 1789 in Bland County, Virginia and taken to Kentucky. After almost a year in captivity, Jennie escaped and was helped back to her husband in Virginia.

The word “squaw” is offensive to us today, but since the word is part of the book’s title, I decided to write about it anyway. Any book that one has fond memories of more than 50 years after hearing it read deserves recognition.

Teachers never know which seeds they plant in their students’ minds will take root and flourish. It was only when I was thinking about today’s topic that I realized White Squaw was my introduction to historical fiction. Miss Jarrell didn’t live to see me pursue a career as a writer of history and historical fiction.

Follow the River: A Novel Based on the True Ordeal of Mary Ingles, by James Alexander Thom

Follow the River: A Novel Based on the True Ordeal of Mary Ingles, by James Alexander Thom

Twenty or more years ago, Janie Snell, a friend of mine who lives in Ohio, recommended that I read Follow the River, by James Alexander Thom. It is a novel based on the experiences of Mary Ingles – not to be confused with Mary Ingles Wilder of Little House on the Prairie fame.

This Mary Ingles lived in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She was kidnapped by Shawnee Native Americans in 1755. After being held captive for months, she escaped her captors and by herself followed the Ohio, Kanawha, and New Rivers back to her home.

It is merely coincidental that White Squaw and Follow the River are about white women who were abducted by Native Americans in the 1700s. They are the two books that instilled in me a love of books – a love of reading.

If allowed to name four books

If today’s blog topic prompt had been “Four Books That Helped Me Fall in Love with Reading,” the other two I would have written about would have been Roots, by Alex Haley and Centennial, by James A. Michener.

Three of the four books I’ve mentioned today were read when I was an adult. It was as an adult that I started reading fiction. As a young adult, I was a snob – a nonfiction snob. I thought reading fiction was a waste of time. When I had time to read for pleasure, I wanted to read something true, something real.

I have to laugh at my old self. I still enjoy an occasional history or political science book, but now I prefer fiction. My sister thinks it’s hilarious that I’m now trying to write fiction after all those years of turning my nose up at fiction and the people who read it.

Since my last blog post

I’m relieved that the glitch I was dealing with when I prepared yesterday’s blog post has been resolved, so I was able to include images in today’s post.

Let’s continue the conversation

Which two books helped you fall in love with reading?

Janet