What I Read in June 2019

My reading was sporadic again in June. Perhaps it’s the nice summer weather that’s pulling me outside and into other activities. I listened to one complete book, finished reading a book I’d started reading in May, and I read a short story by Ron Rash. I started several other books, but you’ll have to wait and hear about them in August (if I finish reading them in July.)

Here are my impressions of what I did read.

Iron House, by John Hart

Iron House, by John Hart

In my June 17, 2019 blog post, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/06/17/delving-deeper-into-dialects-and-accents-in-fiction/, I wrote about listening to Iron House, by John Hart and being distracted by the exaggerated Southern accent used by the professional reader on the audio edition of the novel. Since then, I looked at a print edition of the book to see how the dialogue was written. As I expected, it was written properly – not like it was portrayed on the audio. I should have read the book and skipped the audio edition.

I reread much of the book in printed form and got a lot more out of it than I did when trying to listen to it. The story is set in North Carolina. Iron House is the name of a reformatory school for boys. The story is primarily about the lives of two boys who were sent to Iron House.

Enough background is included for the reader to get a feel for the dreadful place, but then follows the one who got away, how his years at Iron House damaged him and turned him into a killer. He wants to turn his life around, but he soon finds out how difficult it will be to rid himself of the lowlifes he has associated with.

It is not a pleasant read. So far, it is my least favorite of John Hart’s novels. I will continue to give everything he writes a try, though. This hasn’t turned me against his writing. I just won’t listen to any of his future books.

The First Conspiracy:  The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

The First Conspiracy: The Secret Plot to Kill George Washington, by Brad Meltzer and Josh Mensch

I read 70% of this nonfiction book in May, then had to get on the waitlist at the public library in order to finish reading it in June. I have a habit of trying to read too many books, so this happens more often than I’d like.

If you missed my comments about this book in my June 3, 2019 blog post, ­­­­https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/06/03/4-or-5-books-i-read-in-may-2019/ , I invite you to click on this link and read it if this true story interests you. I really liked this book. It filled in some gaps in my American history education.

Until I read this book, I had no idea there was a conspiracy within the ranks of the Continental Army to kill General Washington in the early summer of 1776! To tell you how far that conspiracy reached within the ranks of the army would give too much away. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

 “My Father Like a River,” a short story by Ron Rash

This short story by Ron Rash grabbed my attention from the opening line and held it to the end. In this story, Mr. Rash recalls a frightful day of fishing in the New River in Watauga County, North Carolina in 1962 with his father and brother.

Ron’s brother got caught up in the river’s currents. It is the story of how his father reacted and the example his father gave to his family in this horrifying event and throughout his life as he lost a good-paying management job and rebuilt a life for his family on a much lower income.

Since my last blog

I submitted two true stories for possible publication in future Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Writing fiction and writing real life are quite different. The writing I did last week proved to me that I prefer writing fiction. It will be months before I know if either of my submissions will be published, but you know I will announce the verdicts in my blog.

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read. In addition to other books, I’m still reading ­­­­­­­­­­­­ Montauk, by Nicola Harrison.

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.

Let’s continue the conversation

What are you reading? Would you recommend it?

While I still have your attention, please tell one other person about my blog either in person or via social media. Thank you!

Janet

Late July Reading

Another month has whizzed by and left me getting ever more behind in reading all the books I want to read, but July was another rewarding month of reading for me. I hope you’ll enjoy reading “my take” on the three books I read the last couple of weeks of July. On July 17 (Reading South Africa and South Carolina Novels) I blogged about the two books I read earlier in the month.

The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff

I kept reading about The Orphan’s Tale, by Pam Jenoff and decided I wanted to read it. It was the first book I’d read by Ms. Jenoff, who has a fascinating background in government work. I look forward to reading her other books.

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         The Orphan’s Tale,           by Pam Jenoff

The Orphan’s Tale revolves around a toddler who is rescued from the Nazis by a young woman who is no longer welcome in her parents’ home. She ends up being taken in by a circus and assigned to the trapeze, although she knows nothing about being an aerialist.

The woman assigned to train her resents her. Throughout this book of numerous twists and turns, the two women resent each other, support each other, and risk their lives for each other. It is a tale of humanity, forgiveness, trust, friendship, love, and loss set in Germany and France during World War II.

Bird-by-Bird:  Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

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Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott

As someone learning the art and craft of writing, I enjoyed Bird-by-Bird, by Anne Lamott. In the book’s introduction she writes about learning to love books as a child. The following quote comes from the introduction:

“The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” ~ Anne Lamott

I set out to write about the many things I liked about this book and the beautiful way Ms. Lamott writes about the many things a novelist needs to pay attention to in the writing process. It soon became obvious that today’s blog post would be longer than anyone wanted to read if I did that. Therefore, I will write about Bird-by-Bird in my August 14, 2017 blog post.

The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

I read this book because it was set in Tennessee during World War I. I haven’t read many novels set in that era and I wanted to learn more about it. I’m participating in the Read America Book Challenge from the Mint Hill Branch of the Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The object of that challenge is to read novels set in as many different US states as possible in 2017. Thirteen down and 37 to go. Seven months down and five to go. Hmmm. Not good.

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      The Midnight Cool,         by Lydia Peelle

I was conflicted as I finished reading The Midnight Cool. Lydia Peelle has a way with words, but I found the book hard to follow since the dialogue was not enclosed within quotation marks. It was tedious to have to go back a couple of paragraphs at times in order to discern who was speaking.

I was interested in the subject matter, but the middle of the book did not hold my attention. I enjoyed the last 50 or so pages of the book, so I’m glad I didn’t give up on it. For all the hype of the book to be about mules for World War I and a killer horse, I found it to be more about the two men who traded in mules and the women they loved.

The book gave me some things to think about that I really hadn’t considered before, such as the massive number of mules the United States transported across the Atlantic in ships to pull artillery and do other hard labor in the Allies’ war effort in Europe.

I learned that horses have to be trained, but mules more readily reason things out. (Don’t hate me, horse lovers!) According to the book, the only thing the mules had to be trained in was being fitted with gas masks. Gas masks for mules was another thing that had never crossed my mind. This goes to show that you can learn things from reading well-researched historical novels.

The website, http://www.mountvernon.org/george-washington/farming/animals/father-of-the-american-mule/, confirms that George Washington was the “Father of the American Mule.” The site explains that there were advantages that mules had over horses in the Allies’ efforts in World War I in addition to their not needing much training. Mules eat one-third less than horses, they don’t need to drink as much water as horses, and mules are more surefooted than horses.

If Lydia Peelle writes another novel, I will check it out because she has a gift for turning a phrase and I believe she does her research.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Killers of the Flower Moon:  The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I also recommend that you read Bird-by-Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life, by Anne Lamott.

Janet

George Washington Ate Here

That’s quite a change from my usual blog post titles! My post a few days ago was rather “heavy” in that it was about the things I think I need to do this year to further my writing career. I’m glad that’s out of the way now, so I can get back to more interesting topics. Today I’m doing something I haven’t done before in my blog. I’m sharing a small sample of my writing.

Did You Know?

I wrote a local history column titled, “Did You Know?” in Harrisburg Horizons, a weekly newspaper here in Cabarrus County, North Carolina from May 2006 through December 2012. It was a perfect opportunity for me as it allowed me to do two of my favorite things:  historical research and writing. It was my first freelance writing job. I had complete control over when I worked on the column and what topics I chose. I had a deadline every two weeks, but the day-to-day freedom the work gave me was a perfect fit for me. Once-a-month in 2017 I plan to share one of my newspaper columns or an essay or short story I’ve written. Today’s offering is a slightly edited version of my May 31, 2006 newspaper column.

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George Washington Ate Here

President George Washington didn’t sleep here, but did you know that he ate in Harrisburg? That might be a wee bit of a stretch, but on Sunday, May 29, 1791, he ate a meal where Charlotte Motor Speedway now sits. Most locals still consider the speedway to be in Harrisburg, although it is now in the Concord city limits.

Colonel Moses Alexander and his wife, Sarah, purchased the land from Henry McCulloch and built a house. Col. Alexander died around 1772. Sarah married Robert Smith and he moved into her home.

Robert Smith was a Colonel in the British Army prior to the American Revolution. He took up arms to fight for American independence and rose to the rank of Major General.

The Smiths named their plantation “Smithfield.” The house survived into the 1960s and stood just a few feet from US-29. It served as the ticket office for the Charlotte Motor Speedway for several years.

The beloved Revolutionary general and sitting United States President, George Washington, took a tour of The South in 1791. As a result of that tour, there are numerous historical markers titled, “George Washington Slept Here.” There is no such roadside marker at the corner of US-29 and Morehead Road, but there should be one that says, “George Washington Ate Here.” President Washington spent the night of May 28, 1791 in Charlotte. After noting in his diary that the village was “a trifling place,” he traveled northeast out The Great Wagon Road which was a forerunner of US-29.

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us,” by Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, states that President Washington traveled “in a coach of pale ivory and gilt.”

C.E. Claghorn III’s book, Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, says the President “was accompanied by Major William Jackson, five servants, two footmen, coachmen & postilion [guide], chariot & four horses, light baggage wagon drawn by two horses, four saddle horses plus one for himself.”

The green meadows and hardwood forests of our area probably reminded the President of his Virginia homeland. Our red clay rolling hills were in stark contrast to the sandy South Carolina Lowcountry he visited on his way to North Carolina.

Can you imagine how nervous Sarah Smith was on the days leading up to the President’s arrival? It would be interesting to know the menu she planned. Being late May, the summer staples of squash and beans were not in season.

Mrs. Smith’s spring garden possibly provided turnips, radishes, and an assortment of greens and herbs. No doubt a servant retrieved a well-cured country ham from the log smokehouse for the occasion. In my mind’s eye, I see a bowl of fresh wild strawberries on the dining table or perhaps strawberry shortcake with fresh cream drizzled on top for dessert.

I would have liked to have been privy to President Washington and Gen. Smith’s conversation. Perhaps the President “broke the ice” by asking Smith about the battles he participated in during the Revolution. They probably discussed political matters of the day such as the moving of the nation’s capital from New York City to Philadelphia the previous year.

After dining at “Smithfield,” President Washington returned to his coach and traveled to Colonel Martin Phifer’s “Red Hill” tavern near the Poplar Tent section of the county. He lodged at “Red Hill” that night before continuing on toward Salisbury at four o’clock the next morning.

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.  Feel free to Tweet about my blog or share it on other social media.

Janet

Sources I used as I researched this newspaper column’s subject:

Piedmont Neighbors:  Historical Sketches of Cabarrus, Stanly and Southern Rowan Counties, edited by Clarence D. Horton, Jr. and Kathryn L. Bridges.

Open the Gate and Roam Cabarrus With Us, by  Adelaide and Eugenia Lore, 1971.

The Historic Architecture of Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Peter R. Kaplan, 1981.

A Light and Lively Look Back at Cabarrus County, North Carolina, by Helen Arthur-Cornett, 2004.

Washington’s Travels in the Carolinas and Georgia, by C.E. Claghorn III.

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