5 Books I Didn’t Finish Reading in December 2021

I set out to blog about Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, “Common Sense,” which was published on this date in 1776. Common sense seems to be in short supply these days, so I thought the topic was appropriate; however, I opted for another topic.

Last week’s blog post was about the books I read in December. Today I’ll tell you about the books I attempted to read last month but, for various reasons, didn’t finish. The problem was me, so I wanted to share my thoughts about them. You might find a gem among them that you’ll enjoy reading.

Having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I find mental work just as tiring as physical activity. I quite honestly ran out of mental energy by the last week of December and had to face the facts of my circumstances.

I trudged to the public library and returned a tote bag full of books.


A Single Rose, by Muriel Barbery and translated from French by Alison Anderson

A Single Rose, by Muriel Barbery

I have fellow blogger Davida Chazan of Israel to thank for bringing this author and novella to my attention. She reviewed this book in her “The Chocolate Lady” blog post on September 14, 2021.

Ms. Barbery’s exquisite prose immediately immerses the reader in the beauty of Japan. It begins with a field of 1,000 peonies. Since the peony is one of my favorite flowers, I was hooked.

Rose is approaching her fortieth birthday when a lawyer summons her to Kyoto for the reading of her father’s will. She and her father have been estranged for many years, so Rose goes with many feelings of emptiness and foreboding.

However, her father has left an itinerary for his assistant to guide Rose through. The journey laid out by her father leads her to meet various people in his life and Rose comes to capture some of what she has missed out on due to the estrangement.

As Ms. Chazan wrote in her blog post (and I couldn’t have said it better,) the descriptive prose is written in a “sparse, yet extremely evocative style.”

I had to keep reminding myself that this was an English translation of a book originally written in French. I can’t read the original language, but it appears to me that the translator, Alison Anderson, did a meticulous job. The prose is extraordinary.

As with a few other books I wanted to read last month, I didn’t get to finish this one.

If you’d like to read Ms. Chazan’s full blogpost about this novella, here’s the link: https://tcl-bookreviews.com/2021/09/14/among-the-flowers-2/.


The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams

The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams

This historical novel is about the compilation of the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary and how dictionaries have historically been compiled by men. I don’t mean to throw all men “under the bus,” but it is something to consider. Men determined which words should be included in dictionaries and men determined their meanings.

The Dictionary of Lost Words, by Pip Williams sheds light on how the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled around the turn of the 20th century by a handful of men who worked in a shed. Esme was a little girl who sat under their work table and gathered slips of paper the men let fall to the floor – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. Esme started collecting those slips of paper – those words – in secret and hiding them in a box owned by her household’s bondsmaid.

The book follows Esme from early childhood through early adulthood as she decides to make her own dictionary – a dictionary of lost words.

Spending too much time reading other books meant I didn’t finish reading The Dictionary of Lost Words before it disappeared from my Kindle and went back to that great library in cyberspace.

Reviews I’ve read have pointed out that the first third of the book moves rather slowly. I agree with that, as we follow Esme day in and day out as she goes to the shed – called the Scriptorium – to sit under the table. She eventually is old enough to be trusted with running errands to a library and to the press. She wants to know how books are physically made but finds that this isn’t work girls are supposed to be interested in.

That notion connects directly to the overall message of the novel. It’s the belief by men 100 years ago that women just weren’t cut out to be interested in or have the mental ability to work in many occupations. What a waste over the thousands of years of history! It boggles the mind, and it infuriates me that there are people – both men and women – who still hold to those misguided beliefs.

Don’t get me started!


The Stranger in the Lifeboat, by Mitch Albom

The Stranger in the Lifeboat, by Mitch Albom

I’ve enjoyed several of Mitch Albom’s books, but this one just didn’t make sense to me. Perhaps I’m just dense. I just made it through the first couple of chapters.


Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, by Diana Gabaldon

Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone, by Diana Gabaldon

Whether it’s due to my Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, my habit of trying to read too many books, the season of the year, or whatever… I just couldn’t read this 900-page novel. I love the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon, but I had to throw in the towel after reading the first 200 pages of Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone.

It was me, not the book. I tried listening to it on CD, but my hearing problems made it too difficult to follow the accents. I checked out the book from the public library and started over. I was really drawn in by the continuing story of Jamie and Claire, but my eyes started to rebel. Life is too short.

I guess I’ll have to wait until the TV series catches up with the book.


Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman

Call Us What We Carry, by Amanda Gorman

I admit I’m not a big poetry reader. I wanted to like this book of poetry by Amanda Gorman after being impressed with her at the Inauguration of President Joe Biden; however, I just couldn’t get into it on the written page.


Since my last blog post

I’ve attempted to organize myself week-by-week to get some projects completed in 2022. I’m a list maker, so doing such a thing gives me a sense of accomplishment. Now, if I can only stick to this plan….

A few months ago, I paid a few dollars for InfoStack 4.0. It includes many online writing classes and writing webinars. Over the weekend, I finally got around to listening to the 3.5-hour webinar about writing a book series. It was fantastic and now I’m brainstorming using my novel-in-progress as the second book in a series. I don’t know if I can pull this off, but I won’t know until I try.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m giving When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash another chance. This time, it’s in large print. Also, I have Peter Frankopan’s The Silk Roads: A New History of the World from the library on my Kindle.

The risk of catching Covid-19 has me more or less hibernating again (or should I say still?) The pandemic seems to never end, but I believe better days lie ahead.

Janet

Responses to “Am I a Sun or Just Another Star?”

I considered writing about the Louisiana Purchase today. You know, that 828,000 square miles (or 2,140,000 kilometers) of central and northwestern present-day United States of America purchased from France in 1803 during the Thomas Jefferson Administration? It’s a fascinating topic, but I decided to set it aside in favor of writing a follow-up to last week’s blog post, “Am I a Sun or Just Another Star?”

Was that a collective sigh of relief I heard from the blogosphere?

In answer to last week’s question, I admitted I’m just another star in the blogosphere, and I’m okay with that. Of the 40,320,000 blog posts published every week, I would be delusional to think my one measly post stood out in the crowd.

I wrote that blog experts tell people like me that we have to find our niche. Often times it seems those experts are pushing me to find something to write about that no one else is writing about. The advice that always stops me in my tracks is the ever-popular: Your blog must solve someone’s problems.

I have enough trouble solving my own problems without taking on someone else’s. Perhaps if I had a product to sell or stellar advice to offer on a particular subject, my blog could solve someone’s problem. That’s not going to happen.

At the end of last week’s post, I asked for feedback about my blog. I wanted to know what you like and what you don’t like about my blog, so I could make adjustments to make my blog more appealing. I thank each one of you who took the time to leave a comment.

In a nutshell, people seem to like my blog topics just the way they are. “Whew!” No one had the courage to tell me to stop writing about my long-suffering novel. And no one said my “OnThisDay” posts need to bite the dust. I usually get lots of “likes” when I blog about the books I’ve read, so I think that first-of-the-month topic is safe, too.

Photo credit: neonbrand-3gznpblimwc-unsplash

Here are some of the people who gave me feedback last week:

Jo (stillrestlessjo.com blog)

Jo, an Englishwoman living in Portugal wrote the following: “Something that captures my interest, and holds it, and isn’t trying to sell me something. You pretty much succeeded, Janet. Good luck with the book.” Jo’s photos from Portugal are fascinating. I’ll never get there in person, so her pictures bring the southern coast of that country to me.

Randall Anderson

Randall from the state of Georgia wrote that each blog he follows reflects the individual blogger, and that’s what he likes about blogs. Randall specifically commented that he enjoys my blog posts about the books I read because he can compare notes on the ones he’s read and sometimes discovers something he wants to read.

Francisco Bravo Cabrera (paintinginvalencia.wordpress.com)

Francisco in Valencia, Spain is one of my loyal readers. He offers encouragement every week as I aspire to be a novelist. His blog brings art history and music to me that have greatly broadened my horizons. He recently redesigned his blog. He never ceases to amaze me with his talent as a painter, a poet, and his ability to enhance his blog with music and graphics. Francis and I have a bit of a mutual admiration society going on. He flatters me by saying he’s amazed at how many books I read and says I write about them and about history in a way that he envies. The truth of the matter is, every one of his blog posts amazes me.

Laleh Chini (lalehchini.com)

Laleh, a native of Iran who lives in Canada, is another loyal follower of my blog. She encourages me to keep writing, and I’m encouraged by the several books she has written and published in the last few years. The stories she shares from her native Iran often remind me of the parables of Jesus. Her stories remind me that human beings are very much the same all over the world, regardless of nationality or religion. Laleh is a fantastic storyteller and freely shares her talent on her blog.

Neil Scheinin (yeahanotherblogger.com)

And then there’s Neil Scheinin. His blog always brings a smile to my face. He describes his blog as “an award-free/tag-free/challenge-free/etc.-free blog,” and I love that. (I’m tempted to steal that description, Neil!) Neil goes with the flow. His laid-back, self-deprecating style draws me in every time. The last time I checked, his December 7, 2021 blog post had 141 “likes.” Just for comparison, I do cartwheels (well, I would if I could) when I get more than 10 likes.) In his response to my blog post last week, Neil rightly pointed out that WordPress gives bloggers a wonderful platform for expressing ourselves and he added that it has brought to his attention that there are many good writers out there.

S.J. Schwaidelson wifelyperson.blogspot.com AND sjschwaidelson.com

S.J. Schwaidelson took more than a few minutes to write a sincere and thoughtful response to my blog post last week. She’s a New York native who has made her home in Minnesota for many years. She’s a novelist, current events blogger, and playwright. She shared with me the three main things she’s learned from her two blogs. Yes, you heard me right: she writes two very different blogs. She started her first blog after her husband, Ziggy’s death: wifelyperson.blogspot.com. After her third novel was published, she launched her new blog about being an author. You can find it through sjschwaidelson.com.

Rebecca Cuningham (fakeflamenco.com)

Rebecca Cuningham and I have recently found some common interests and started following each other’s blogs. Rebecca writes from Wisconsin. Her blog brings to life her many interests and talents. She shares her vast knowledge of history, her travel experiences, her humor, and life in Wisconsin – all through her descriptions and photographs. Rebecca sets the bar high for me when it comes to writing about history. She’s fluent in English and Spanish and, like Francis Cabrera, she blogs in both languages.

Trish Deveneau (trishdeveneau.com)

Trish Deveneau is a retired teacher, writer of creative nonfiction, blogger, and once-again resident of New York. Her comment last week was so well thought out and beautifully written that I not only will share it here, but I also printed it and taped it to the top of my computer screen. She wrote: “I enjoy blogs that are written from the heart as well as the head, that make me think about things in a new way or expose me to ideas that I haven’t yet bumped into. And of course, I am looking for prose that makes me sit up and take notice!” Please visit Trish’s blog. She writes from her heart and from her head and will expose you to ideas you probably haven’t bumped into yet.

Shelly DS (growingwithspawn.com)

Shelly dropped by my blog yesterday for the first time. I love hearing from new readers! Shelly’s words of wisdom in her comment included the following: “focus on our own niches than to be trying to conquer the universe… that’s the best way to add value!” Absolutely, Shelly! Your comment reminded me of the old saying, “Bloom where you’re planted.” Every blogger needs to do his or her own thing and have fun with it.

Photo by Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

As for me…

Blogging is a creative outlet for me, but it comes with a responsibility. It takes a reader a few minutes to read a blog post. Everyone’s time is limited and valuable, so I appreciate every time my blog is read.

I’m fortunate to have some loyal blog readers. I count them as friends. I value their time, their “likes,” and their comments. A bonus this past week was hearing from several new people. I feel like I’m constantly adding to my circle of blogging friends.

Knowing I have readers and friends throughout the United States and around the world makes the pandemic, conflicts, and other crises of life in 2021 a little easier to take.

By the way, I didn’t try to put true links to the blogs of my referenced respondents because I was afraid I’d mess someone’s link up. I hope I’ve included enough information that you can find each of their blogs by using a search engine.

Since my last blog post

In addition to reading the comments my blog received and responding to each of them, I also found time to read and write. A lot of my public library waitlisted books came in. One of them is Diana Gabaldon’s latest novel, Go Tell the Bees That I Am Gone. It’s 900 pages and I have three weeks to read it – along with a stack of other books. Wish me luck!

I dived into the writings of K.M. Weiland and suddenly some elements of novel structure fell into place for me. It was truly one of those “aha” moments and it felt like a weight was lifted off my back. I didn’t add to my word count this week, but what I finally learned about novel structure was priceless. I’d read all that structure stuff many times before, but last week I was finally able to visualize my manuscript in that framework and that made a world of difference.

Between breaking a 10-year-old crown while eating pizza, having to get it replaced, learning that an acquaintance has Covid-19 and is on a ventilator in ICU, running out of my medicine that keeps my Seasonal Affective Disorder under control, and finding out that our dog’s heart is three times its normal size, it’s been a trying week; however, all I need to do is to think of the thousands of people who were left homeless by tornadoes in Kentucky and five other states last week, and I realize how blessed I am.

Life goes on for me. Tomorrow is promised to no one, but today I continue to live my life and enjoy the benefits it gives me. I have a roof over my head and access to more food than I should or need to eat. I live in a place of relative peace and quiet. All those blessings probably put me in the top one percent of all the people in the world. I truly don’t know how fortunate I am.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read. I have so many to choose from that it makes selecting just one difficult. Hence, I usually have several books going at the same time. (Thank you, free public library systems!)

Note: Tomorrow is National Short Story Day in the United States. Support your local library and short story writer by reading a short story. With some hard work and a bit of luck, maybe I’ll have a collection of short stories to offer you next year when Short Story Day rolls around.

If you’re of the Christian faith, I hope you have a very meaningful Christmas Day on Saturday.

Janet

P.S. When I previewed this post to see how it would look on a tablet or smaller mobile device, it looked terrible. There were no margins! I hope that’s not the way it will look published!