Books I Read in June 2018

A couple of weeks ago, it looked as if I would have no books to write about from my reading in June. As I blogged last week in Reading is not a contest!, reading is not a contest, but it was a competition of sorts I’d inflicted upon myself.

Every year I wanted to read more books than the one before. I was signing up for more annual reading challenges than I could easily complete. The good thing about reading challenges is that they prompt me to read books I wouldn’t otherwise read; however, the flip side is I don’t have time to read all the books I want to read.

The second half of June I got my reading juices going again, so today I will blog about the five books I read. (Don’t be too impressed; one of them was a small book of very easy reading.)

The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper

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The Hellfire Club, by Jake Tapper

Jake Tapper is a well-known journalist and anchor for CNN. The Hellfire Club is his debut novel. Although I thought the first half of the book got too bogged down in the details of Washington, DC politics in 1954, the second half of the novel exploded and kept me turning the pages to see what would happen next.

Mr. Tapper did a marvelous job of giving 11 pages of his sources at the end of the book. A sign of a good historical novel is proof of research. In this list of sources Mr. Tapper is quick to remind the reader that the book is a work of fiction.

I couldn’t help but draw parallels in my mind between the ugly underbelly of politics in Washington, DC in 1954 and the mess we find ourselves in today. I don’t know if there is currently a hellfire club in the nation’s capital, but there is an alarming reticence on the part of members of Congress to speak up against the current barrage of lies coming from a house on Pennsylvania Avenue.

All-in-all, the subject matter of The Hellfire Club was a good read for me considering my background in political science and history.

Note to Self:  Inspiring Words from Inspiring People, collected and introduced by Gayle King

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Note to Self: Inspiring Words from Inspiring People, collected & introduced by Gayle King

This is a delightful collection of letters from the “CBS This Morning” TV show’s “Note to Self” project. Twenty-six of those letters are included in the book. Most of the contributors are famous people, but some were unknown to me.

It’s a great book choice for those times when you just have a few minutes to read, or when you don’t have the energy to remember the threads of an ongoing story. You can read each of the 26 letters in just several minutes.

The idea behind the project and this book is to have the adult you write a letter to your younger self. Anyone can do this. Why don’t you give it a try?

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern

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Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern

Sue Halpern is a journalist and novelist. This was the first of her books that I’ve read.

The title piqued my interest, since I’m an avid supporter of libraries. It is a story about a collection of unrelated people in a small town in New Hampshire who form bonds tighter than some people do with their parents and siblings.

The friends they all have in common are Kit (the librarian) and Sunny, who has been ordered to do community service at the library over the summer. Sunny is the “no-schooled” daughter of two free spirits, and this plays heavily in the book. Others in the book are primarily a group of retired men who pass their time at the library before going the cafeteria at the hospital for lunch. As the story develops, most of the characters are surprised by how close they’ve become.

This is not a gripping story, but if you’re looking for something light to read, you might consider checking it out at your local public library. Curious about the reviews it has received, I found that it averages three stars because readers have either given it five stars or one or two stars. Few people actually give it a solid three-star rating.

That made me realize that sometimes I’ll pick a book that has a three-star rating without looking more closely to see how that rating was determined.

Flat Broke with Two Goats:  A Memoir of Appalachia, by Jennifer McGaha

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Flat Broke with Two Goats: A Memoir of Appalachia, by Jennifer McGaha

At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to check out this book, but curiosity got the better of me. Once I started reading it, I wasn’t sure I would finish it. I like reading about strong, independent women – real or fictional. The author did not strike me as strong or independent early in this memoir, but I kept reading to see if she would become either.

I read the first five chapters. Jennifer and David lose their house to foreclosure and thousands of dollars in back taxes. Jennifer has no clue because David “handled” their finances. That’s when I started not liking the book.

Then Jennifer and David buy a 100-year-old mountain cabin. While Jennifer is back at the house packing some last minute things, a sheriff’s deputy arrives with a subpoena for David to appear in court. It turns out that David, unbeknownst to Jennifer (again), has borrowed thousands of dollars and failed to report the loan. That’s when I lost interest in the book. I also don’t particularly like books that portray Appalachia as a place on the back side of beyond.

I just got around to reading its reviews on https://www.goodreads.com and discovered that the book has received many one- and two-star ratings, so I’m in good company.

Look for Me, by Lisa Gardner

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Look For Me, by Lisa Gardner

I started reading this book a couple of months ago but had to return it to the library before I had time to get very far into it. It is the second book I’ve read by Lisa Gardner. Look for Me is the latest book in her Detective D.D. Warren Series.

Look for Me is about a family that’s killed except for the 15-year-old daughter. She is missing. Did she escape? Was she kidnapped by the killer? Or is she the murderer?

The book delves into the foster child system in Massachusetts, as the Det. Warren works to try to find the missing teen and determine who murdered the girl’s family. When alcohol temporarily got the best of the mother a few years ago, Roxy and her younger siblings were placed in foster homes. The treatment they received in those homes and the gang activity they were exposed to at school enter into the investigation.

There are many twists and turns in this story, and you might be surprised when the murderer is revealed near the end of the book.

Look for Me did not hold my attention as much as the other novel I read by Lisa Gardner, Right Behind You from her FBI Profiler Series.

 

Since my last blog post

I’ve tried to lighten up on the demands I was making on myself. I returned a book to the library after only reading the first five chapters. That’s a big deal for someone who until recently thought she had to finish any book she started reading.

I’ve barely spent any time on Pinterest, and I’ve enjoyed the break.

I continue to declutter my life, letting go of lots of knitting, crocheting, and sundry handcraft instructions for projects that I no longer desire to make. Let’s face it. If the fashions from the 1960s-1980s come back in style, I really have no desire to learn how to make macrame plant hangers and belts or broomstick lace shawls.

Just for fun, I just searched for “macrame” on Google and the first image that came up was an $895 macrame dress that can be purchased at Saks Fifth Avenue. Perhaps I was too hasty in putting those instructions in the recycle bin! The odds of my making a macrame dress are less than slim to none, so I can only hope those instructions will get new lives as recycled paper.

I’ve done some additional research on several of the slaves who were members of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina prior to and during the Civil War. More on that in a future blog post.

I also, in a roundabout way, got into the records of some local people who had to request a pardon from US President Andrew Johnson after the Civil War ended in 1865 and had to pledge their allegiance to the United States Government. More on that later, too. Interesting stuff with some surprising details.

The other day I revisited the 10-cents-per-item used book sale at the Harrisburg Branch of the Cabarrus County Public Library. I purchased several books I probably won’t ever read as well as a music CD that was apparently produced by First Union National Bank, which was my beloved bank until it was bought by Wachovia which was subsequently purchased by Wells Fargo. (Don’t get me started!) Anyway… This 10-cent CD is a fantastic collection of familiar works by Beethoven, Bach, Handel, Dubussy, Haydn, and Mozart.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and some interesting research to do. Stay tuned. I can’t wait to see what I get to read and learn in July!

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

Visit your local public library this week. You never know what you can walk out of there with just by showing your free library card or what music CD you might get to buy for just 10 cents!

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!

Janet

If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss

As an aspiring novelist, I keep a writing notebook. In one section I write down the “hooks” from the novels I read. In the other section, I write down my favorite lines (and sometimes paragraphs) from the books I read.

As I learned from reading Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, by Francine Prose, it’s okay for me to do this. In case you missed it, my April 9, 2018 blog post (“Reading Like a Writer”) is about that book.

If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss

Today’s blog post highlights a couple of my favorite lines from If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss.

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If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss

The context of the following quote is that many volunteers went to the Appalachian Mountains in the 1960s and 1970s on the heels of the federal government’s emphasis on poverty in Appalachia. In this quote Kate Shaw, the new teacher, is paying Birdie Rocas a huge compliment while reading from one of Birdie’s “Books of Truths” in which the uneducated, eccentric Birdie writes her thoughts and observations.

Here are a couple of lines I really like:

“Do you know the saying, ‘Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?’” [Kate Shaw speaking.]

“The teacher in her don’t give me [Birdie Rocas] time to say so when she adds, ‘Well, you write about the baby while everyone else is writing about the bathwater.’” — from If the Creek Don’t Rise, by Leah Weiss

Since my last blog post

I’m excited to report that I’ve written more than 8,000 words in the rewrite of my historical fiction manuscript for The Spanish Coin! After getting bogged down in outlining and writing profiles for each of the novel’s characters, it was refreshing to get back to work on the rough draft.

After learning that the location of my fill-in format sign-up form for my sometime-in-the-future newsletter mailing list was causing confusion for readers wanting to leave comments on my blog posts, I tried to figure out how to move the mailing list form to a sidebar. The operative word there is “tried.” You know I’m not very computer savvy, so bear with me on this. I’m not a quitter.

To avoid confusion, I will not include the mailing list sign-up form in today’s blog post.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Hush, by John Hart. It’s a sequel to his 2009 Edgar Award winning novel, The Last Child.

I’m also reading Look for Me, by Lisa Gardner.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time, and I hope you and I will strive to write about the baby more than we write about the bathwater.

What are you reading?

Janet

J.D. Vance – Notes from an Author’s Interview

Charlie Rose is my favorite interviewer. He welcomes people from all walks of life to his PBS program, “Charlie Rose,” and once in a while he interviews an author.

On October 18, 2016, Charlie Rose interviewed J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis. Born in Kentucky, Vance grew up in the culture of Appalachia. When he went to Yale Law School, he was possibly the only middle class white guy there. He said nothing was ever personally directed toward him, but he felt like there was a feeling of disdain for Appalachia among the people at Yale.

Vance talked about the destructive  attitude that people in Appalachia acquire from their communities. As a teenager, he started sensing that the people were cynical and frustrated. They were distrustful of the people who represented them in government.

At the age of 14, Vance started living with his grandmother. She instilled in him the importance of hard work and study. She worked to overcome the negative influences that she knew would try to pull him down.

Vance talked about the cultural divide in the United States and how the 2016 Presidential election has hit a nerve with many of the people of Appalachia. He said, “Their pride is disappearing because their jobs are disappearing.” (I think I got that quote right. The interview moved along faster than I could take notes.)

He said there’s not enough dialogue between the people of Appalachia and the people from other parts of the country. He thinks more communication would go a long way toward erasing some of the misconceptions outsiders have about Appalachia and its people.

Charlie Rose did not ask Vance anything about the craft of writing or how he goes about writing. That is what I most look for when I hear or read an interview with an author, but I guess such questions are reserved for fiction writers. The point of Mr. Rose having J.D. Vance on his program was to discuss the cultural divide and to get Vance’s firsthand assessment of it.

Until I blog again in a few days, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet