December brought me too many books. What a nice problem to have! By the last week of the month, I felt overwhelmed and decided to return several unfinished books to the public library.
Here are my takeaways from the five books I finished reading last month.
Three Sisters, by Heather Morris
Three Sisters is the third in a series of historical novels by Heather Morris, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them. If you’re a fan of World War II-era historical fiction or, specifically, novels regarding the treatment of people of the Jewish faith during that era, you should try Heather Morris’ books.
In my November 5, 2018 blog post, Many Good Books Read in October!, I wrote about The Tattooist of Auschwitz. I wrote about Cilka’s Journey in my December 2, 2019 blog post, I stretched my reading horizons in November.
Like her first two novels, Three Sisters is about Jews surviving the Holocaust. Cibi, Magda, and Livia survive the horrors of Auschwitz and two of them go on to help build the new Jewish state of Israel after World War II.
Each of Ms. Morris’ books is a story of the indominable human spirit. Knowing they are based on true stories and real people make them all the more compelling. Two of the sisters in Three Sisters are still alive in their late 90s and living in Israel.
The City of Mist, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
A cousin, Jerome Williams, introduced me to the writings of Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafón a couple of years ago. I read The Shadow of the Wind by Señor Zafón in November 2019 and wrote about it in my December 2, 2019 blog post, I stretched my reading horizons in November. (Sound familiar? That’s also when I read Cilka’s Journey, by Heather Morris.)
Señor Zafón died June 19, 2020, at the age of 55. He wrote the 11 short stories in The City of Mist for intended publication after his death. The book was published in November 2021.
The stories are, for the most part, set in Barcelona and are set at various times over the last 600 years. They are more macabre than I usually read, but I’d liked The Shadow of the Wind. When I discovered The City of Mist quite by accident while searching the online public library catalog for short stories, I immediately checked it out. I listened to the audiobook on Overdrive. It was excellently read.
If you enjoy short stories and don’t mind if they’re much on the dark side, you’d probably like The City of Mist. Though dark and often dealing with death, Señor Zafón’s sense of humor did come out several times in the collection. An example of his ability to slide a bit of humor into an otherwise serious story is the tenth story in the book, “Gaudi in Manhattan” in which he has a bit of fun with the English language.
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, by Brené Brown
Brené Brown has a way of getting down to the nitty-gritty and expressing her thoughts and research in a way I think just about everyone can relate. Her latest book, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience, helped me personally and helped me with my writing.
This book is about human emotions and behavior. She takes each one on individually, but the book is divided in chapters by groupings of those emotions.
The surprise for me was how the way she addressed certain emotions/behaviors played right into what I’m trying to convey in the novel I’m writing. I love when that happens.
Some of the things she writes about in this book shed light on some things going on in the political arena in the United States. She did this without calling names, but some passages helped me understand the actions of a certain past US President and his diehard followers. It didn’t make me feel any better about the recent past or the future, but it gave me some insight.
How to Write a Series: A Guide to Series Types and Structure Plus Troubleshooting Tips and Marketing Tactics, by Sara Rosett
Fairly early on as I started working on my novel (working title either The Spanish Coin or The Doubloon), I started visualizing it as the first book in a series. Reading How to Write a Series…, by Sara Rosettlast month was quite helpful.
The book made me aware of a few things I hadn’t considered. One thing that has concerned me about the protagonist in my manuscript is that she doesn’t have a robust character arc. How to Write a Series made me see that it’s all right for a character to have a flat arc.
There are basically two kinds of series: (1) multi-protagonist and (2) single protagonist. I foresee my series – if I can pull it off – to be a single protagonist series. There are two types of single protagonist series: (1) flat arc protagonist and (2) robust arc protagonist.
One thing I’ve spent time contemplating in the last several weeks is how many books I think I can plot using the protagonist in my current manuscript and how I can make her strong enough to carry multiple books.
Just because I’m sitting, looking off in the distance, doesn’t mean I’m not working!
How to Write Winning Short Stories: A Practical Guide to Writing Stories that Win Contests and Get Selected for Publication, by Nancy Sakaduski
I’ve written several short stories, two of which have been published. I’m working toward publishing a collection of short stories as soon as I have enough finished to make a good little e-book.
I happened upon this book at the public library and found it beneficial not only in writing short stories but in writing a novel. It’s a good “nuts and bolts” book of basics about writing fiction with an emphasis on short stories, but I found many useful tips and recommendations I can apply to novel writing.
Since my last blog post
I learned something about the celebration of Christmas that necessitated my moving a scene in the novel I’m writing from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day. It has to do with the Protestant Reformation and traditions in Scotland. I really should have known.
I’ve been going through my novel’s manuscript with K.M. Weiland’s writings about novel structure in mind, making adjustments here and there. Finishing that process gave me a sense of accomplishment.
When I checked some of the statistics for my blog on December 31, I was astonished to learn that people in 77 countries visited my blog in 2021. The most surprising was the 27 visits from within China.
Until my next blog pot
I hope you have a good book to read.
I plan to continue editing my novel. It’s been fun to get back to writing about trying to read too many books last month!
In 2022, let’s all seek peace and understanding.