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

The Other Three Books I Read in January 2019

One thing all bloggers are told they must do, if they hope to attract readers, is to include images in every post. I’ve worked hard to do this for the last several years. I did it last week when I included images of the books I wrote about; however, as I put the finishing touches on this post last night, I repeatedly got messages from WordPress.com saying “Given your current role, you can only link an image, you cannot upload.” Therefore, in today’s post I’ve included links to images of the books I’m writing about. I’m unsure how this will appear until the post goes online. I have no idea why this has happened.

Since I read 6.25 books in January, I decided to split my comments about them between my blog post on February 4, 2019 and today. I hope you’ll find what I have to say about three of the books I read last month worthwhile. These are discussed in no particular order.

The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger

The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger

The Banker’s Wife was a change of pace for me halfway through January after reading The Library Book. The Banker’s Wife, by Cristina Alger, is a financial thriller. In this novel, Ms. Alger takes us to Paris, Geneva, New York, the Dominican Republic, and the Cayman Islands. Primarily through the eyes of two strong female characters, we get a glimpse of the vicious and deadly world most of us never experience – Swiss bank accounts, the people who have them, the people who assist them, and those who are unfortunate to love someone in either of the other two categories.

If I had done more research about Cristina Alger’s books before reading this 2018 novel, I would have known that it is a sequel to her 2012 debut novel, The Darlings. Now, I want to read that book, although being a North Carolinian, “the Darlings” conjures up visuals in my mind’s eye of that ne’er-do-well Darlin’ family on The Andy Griffith Show of the 1960s. It’s difficult to associate wealth with that name. I’m sorry, it just is. I offer my apologies to all the people with the Darling surname.

The Banker’s Wife is Ms. Alger’s third novel. The book captured my attention early on and the fast-paced writing kept me turning pages to see what was going to happen next – and to find out which characters were dead and which one’s deaths were staged to cover up the real story.

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda

If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? by Alan Alda

This book held some nice surprises for me. I’ve been an Alan Alda fan since the days of the M*A*S*H television series. I became even more endeared to him when in answer to my request that he donate an autographed copy of a book he’d written for an autographed book fundraiser held a few years ago for the Friends of the Harrisburg Library in Harrisburg, North Carolina.

Mr. Alda graciously donated an autographed copy of the script for an episode of M*A*S*H that he wrote. It turned out to be the hit of the fundraiser and resulted in a bidding war between two individuals.

That said, I was drawn to the book by the title and the author’s name. I thought it might be helpful to me as a writer since the book is about communication. It was, but not in the ways I anticipated.

Here are a few of the impressions I took from the book:

                1.  Improvisation not only helps actors, it can help anyone get over their fear of talking in front of a large audience.

                2.  No matter what you’re trying to sell – whether it be a tangible product or an idea – the key is to focus on what the customer is thinking and what he or she needs. As a writer, I need to put myself in the mind of my reader. What does my reader need? What is my reader hoping to gain by reading my words?

                3.  Mr. Alda has concluded that the key to the great success of M*A*S*H was the fact that instead of disappearing into their separate trailers on the studio lot, they gathered their chairs in a circle and talked and laughed together as a group between “takes.” He said the connections    they made off camera carried over when they were in front of the camera. It made them all better actors and their genuine comradery came through to the audience.

                4.  Much of Mr. Alda’s book is about empathy and the importance of empathy in communications. The book offers several things a person can do to increase their empathy for others. Mr. Alda says that true communication cannot take place between two people unless each one       makes an effort to understand the other person and why they think the way they do. I couldn’t help but think of how polarized Americans are politically today. There really is a lack of understanding – or empathy – between The Right and The Left, between Republicans and Democrats. This doesn’t bode well for the 2020 election.

                5.  As a writer, start with what your reader knows. Don’t insult the reader by including basic information.

Now You See Me, by Sharon J. Bolton

Now You See Me, by Sharon J. Bolton

Published in 2011, Now You See Me was the first in Sharon J. Bolton’s Lacey Flint series. Flint is a detective in London. The story opens with her seeing a woman dying while leaning on Flint’s car. This thriller grabbed my attention from the beginning and kept me turning pages well into the night. It’s rare that I read a quarter of a novel in one sitting, but that’s what I did with Now You See Me.

Detective Flint is forced almost immediately to try to discern who she can trust within the Metropolitan Police Department. Is she seen as a crime scene witness, or is she viewed as a murder suspect? She’s very convincing as a witness.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that the killer is patterning his actions after Jack the Ripper. (Spoiler alert:  this gets more gruesome than I’m used to reading, but I had to know what happened next.)

What about Flint’s fellow police officer, Joesbury. There’s definitely something weird about him. Is he the killer?

No. Someone else is caught… sort of.

I thought the book came to a good stopping point just shy of halfway through. In fact, I thought I might not keep reading. This seems like the end of the story. I could move on to another book.

But I read a few more pages.  Wow! What a turn of events! I’m glad I kept reading!

Since my last blog post

I continue to do a lot of reading about writing and about blogging in an effort to get better at writing fiction and blogging. I made good progress writing a short story I’m calling “From Scotland to America, 1762,” writing 1,400 words Saturday afternoon.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Before and Again, by Barbara Delinsky; Button Man, by Andrew Gross; and A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy.

I rarely listen to a book because I find it irritating to listen to someone talk on and on and on; however, since I’m having a bout with vertigo, I decided to give the Maeve Binchy audio book a try and I’m really enjoying it. It probably has something to do with the lovely accent of the reader, Rosalyn Landor. It’s nice to just shut my eyes and listen.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and plenty of time to read.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation

If you’ve read any of the books I mentioned today, let me know what you thought about them.

Janet

So it is.

Do you know someone who often ends a sentence with the phrase, “so it is” or “so he did” or “so they are?” You get the picture.

In my blog post on October 21, 2018 (Independent Bookstores are the Best!) I mentioned a bookmark that I purchased at Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina (see photo below) and I promised that I would explain why I just had to buy that particular bookmark in today’s blog post.

IMG_8379
Bookmark by Peter Pauper Press, Inc. (www.peterpauper.com)

There are a scattered few individuals among my father’s siblings and their descendants who pepper their speech with such sayings. One of my father’s sisters used these idioms. The interesting thing about this within our family is that none of her children or grandchildren picked up the practice as far as I know; however, one of her nieces uses the idiom a lot. I doubt if she’s even aware she’s saying it, so I don’t want to bring it to her attention. If made conscious of it, it might influence her speech pattern. She has young grandchildren, so it will be interesting to see if they pick up the idiom.

Is it from Kintyre?

A few years ago, I learned that in days of old this very idiom was common in the speech patterns of the people of the Kintyre Peninsula in Scotland. That just happens to be where my Morrison ancestors lived before coming to America in the 1760s. I was delighted to learn that the idiom had perhaps been brought to America with my great-great-great-great-grandparents.

Or is it from Ireland?

Now a monkey wrench has been thrown into the mix. My sister enjoys reading novels written by Maeve Binchy. They take place in Ireland. The idiom “so he did” showed up recently in Ms. Binchy’s 2012 novel titled, A Week in Winter. I haven’t read any of  Ms. Binchy’s cozies, but I checked this one out just so I could enjoy her use of “so it is” (or a variation thereof.)

A few weeks ago I read the novel, Lying in Wait, by Liz Nugent. It takes place in Ireland. I’d gotten a little more than halfway through the book, to page 180, when I came to the following sentence:  “ʻA real gentleman, that’s what you are, now, a real gentleman so you are.’” And then, on page 262, “Very good to me so he was, before he even met Karen.” I thought perhaps the author had given this idiom to one particular character to distinguish him or her from the others but, when I looked back to the first example, I discovered “so you are” and “so he was” were said by two different people.

Does this quaint idiom come from Scotland or from Ireland? After ten generations in America, is there any way to tell? There probably is, but I don’t have the resources or energy to get to the bottom of this. For the time being I’m happy just to enjoy hearing and reading “so it is” occasionally.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been taking care of my sister. I’m “chief cook and bottle washer” for a while. I haven’t had much time to read or write.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book or two to read. I’m still reading The White Darkness, by David Grann. It is a very short book, but I’ve managed to make a two-week read out of it due to hospital stays, two trips back to the emergency room, and keeping track of pill and physical therapy schedules. I picked up two new releases at the public library and look forward to starting them this week.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality 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. I appreciate it! I welcome your comments.

Let’s continue the conversation.

Is there an idiom such as “so it is” within your family or circle of friends?  Tell us how and when it originated, if you know.

Janet