Armed with my 2017 Reading Challenge, I started January with excitement to plunge into another year of reading. I was not disappointed.
Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
The first novel I read in January was Glory Over Everything: Beyond The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom. I enjoyed Ms. Grissom’s The Kitchen House last October, but this sequel was really outstanding. I’m partial to historical fiction, and Glory Over Everything delivered on all counts — history, sense of time and place, and suspense.
I recommend that you read The Kitchen House first and follow it soon with Glory Over Everything because there are lots of characters and connections to remember. The sequel is the story of a light-skinned man passing as white in the 1820s and 1830s who, while doing a good deed, is hunted down as a runaway slave in northeastern North Carolina and its Great Dismal Swamp. Numerous people aid his attempt to escape via the Underground Railroad. More details might spoil the book for you.
A Body in the Snow: A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery, by Christoph Fischer
I believe it was via Twitter that I learned of Christoph Fischer and his e-book, A Body in the Snow: A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery. Intrigued by a mystery written by a new writer, I was eager to read this book. Mr. Fischer did a good job with character development. Each of his main characters had distinguishing habits, quirks, and personalities. He managed a large cast of characters.
This story, set in Wales during a snowstorm, kept me guessing. First, I was wondering whose body would be found in the snow, and then I kept trying to figure out who the murderer way. The book was published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform last September, and it has a great cover. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but this indie book has a very eye-catching one.
All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr
Yes, I finally got back to the top of the public library system’s waitlist for All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. After having read one-third of it in 2016, I had some trouble getting back into the story in January. I should have taken the time to start over instead of jumping in where I left off weeks ago.
Set in France during the German occupation in World War II, it is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a blind girl whose father makes a miniature replica of the city they live in so she can memorize the streets and buildings and find her way around. The chapter titled, “Number 4 rue Vanborel” is several pages of exquisite prose describing what is left behind in a city after the bombs of war. It is an almost poetic list of phrases and words that illustrate the small things left behind — the pieces that someone will have to pick up someday so the city can live again.
Irena’s Children, by Tilar J. Mazzeo
Continuing in the World War II vein, I read Irena’s Children, by Tilar J. Mazzeo. It is the true story of Irena Stanislawa Krzyzanowska Sendler, who saved 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw, Poland from certain death in the Nazi concentration camps.
Irena’s father was a physician. Unlike many Polish doctors of the day, he did not mind treating Jewish patients. Many of them were too poor to pay him anything. He was an activist for equal rights and an eight-hour workday. He died of typhoid fever when Irena was just six years old, but she had inherited his compassionate heart.
For centuries, Poland had struggled for independence from neighboring Germany and Russia. At the University of Warsaw, Jews had to sit on the left and Roman Catholics on the right. Irena chose to sit with her Jewish classmates and was, therefore, beaten along with them in the riots of 1935. She was suspended from the university for marking through “Aryan” on her student identification card.
The book chronicles the German occupation of Warsaw, their forcing all Jews in the city to move into the worse part of town — which became known as the Warsaw Ghetto. The systematic rounding up of Jews to be transported to the Treblinka concentration camp consumed Irena’s life. Being a social worker/public health specialist gave her the opportunity to visit the ghetto to see to the health of the residents. This enabled her to learn the people, identify the children, and create a network for smuggling the children out. As if that weren’t enough, on flimsy cigarette paper she made secret lists of the children’s identities in a code she developed.
Turbo Twenty-Three, by Janet Evanovich
After reading two “heavy” books about World War II, I welcomed the chance to read Janet Evanovich’s latest novel in her Stephanie Plum series. I discovered her books several years ago. Since then I have read all 23 of them. I don’t have as many laugh-out-loud moments while reading her most recent books as when reading the earlier ones, but I still look forward to them as a fun read.
Stephanie Plum is a white accident-prone bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey. Her sidekick is a large black woman who used to be a prostitute. To say Lula has an attitude would be an understatement.
Stephanie is in love with two men. One is a police officer she’s known since first grade. He has trouble with commitment. The other man she is in love with has a chiseled body like a Greek god, owns a security company with resources the CIA would envy, and he has no interest in marriage and a family.
Turbo Twenty-Three includes Stephanie’s cousin the bail bondsman she works for, Stephanie’s parents, and her Grandma Mazur — who attends wakes at the local funeral home to try to pick up men. This particular novel involves a clown and the mysterious murders of several employees of an ice cream plant.
Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop
I was so impressed with this book that I wrote my blog post about it on January 17. I won’t repeat that post, but I invite you to read it if you haven’t already done so. If you are a writer or have a curiosity about the process an author goes through in creating a book, you might enjoy reading that earlier blog post. It is an instructional book about the process of writing a logline. A logline is a single sentence that identifies a story’s protagonist, what the protagonist wants, and what’s at stake.
Other reading in January
In addition to the above books, in January I read a chapter in the Bible every day. This is something I’ve set out to do on many first days of January. I regret to admit that I have not made it through an entire year yet. I hope 2017 will be different. This time I started with the New Testament, which I believe will be easier to stick with than the Old Testament. In January I read all of the Book of Matthew and started on the Book of Mark.
I am also reading a poem every day in 2017, or at least I have so far. Reading from A Little Book of Cherished Poems, compiled by Kay Anne Carson, I read poems by such poets as Frost, Tennyson, Longfellow, and many poets and poems I had not read before.
Until my next blog post
Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.