Fiction & Nonfiction Read in September 2018

I read an interesting mix of books in September. I thought about just blogging about the novels I read but decided to include the nonfiction books, too.

The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

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The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware

This book really kept me guessing! Harriet “Hal” receives a letter requesting her attendance at the funeral and reading of the will of her grandmother. Or is Mrs. Westaway her grandmother? Hal’s mother is dead, so she can’t ask her. Or was the woman who raised Hal really her mother?

Hal has never heard of Mrs. Westaway, but she could really use some inheritance money. Off she goes to meet this family she’s never known to try to be their long-lost relative long enough to grab her inheritance and run. That’s just the beginning. Sound like a novel you’d enjoy?

Ruth Ware is also the author of The Woman in Cabin 10, which I read last year and blogged about on October 4, 2016:  What I read in September.

 

The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

The President is Missing
The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Patterson

Right off the bat, I’ll say I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I’d never read a book by James Patterson, so I thought this one would be a good first selection. It did not disappoint.

The premise of the book turned out not to be what I was expecting. The book kept me on the edge of my seat – which isn’t easy for a 500+ page book. Since I am technologically challenged, the story grabbed me by the throat and wouldn’t let me go. I’m not going to ask anyone how plausible the story line is because I’d just as soon not know the answer. If it’s possible, there’s nothing I can do to stop it.

If you enjoy a thriller with non-stop action, you’ll like The President is Missing. If you aren’t a fan of former US President Bill Clinton, do yourself a favor. Forget he was the co-author and enjoy the book.

 

Women, Food and God:  An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth

Women, Food and God
Women, Food and God, by Geneen Roth

I went into this book not knowing what to expect. Now that I’ve read it — well, more than half of it, — I don’t know what to say.

Don’t quote me on this, but I think the takeaway I was supposed to get is that it’s not about the food. If you over eat it’s because you’re trying to fill a void in your life. The deeper the book got into meditation and analyzing yourself, the more my mind drifted to other things. Things like, “What’s for supper?”

One thing I found in the book more than once was the recommendation to only eat when you’re hungry and to eat what you want to eat. I have tried to be more cognizant of eating when I’m hungry and not just because the clock tells me it’s time to eat.

If you’ve read the book, I’m interested in knowing what you thought of it. Maybe I missed something critical and life changing.

 

The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night’s Sleep, by Lawrence Epstein, M.D. with Steven Mardon

Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night's Sleep
The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night’s Sleep, by Lawrence Epstein, M.D. with Steven Mardon

I see you rolling your eyes. You’re saying, “You’ve got to be kidding!” I’m not kidding. I read the book. It includes many recommendations, depending on what your sleep problem is. There were five categories. The problem was that I checked off three.

That led to some confusion over which path I should follow to help with my sleep. For instance, for one of my problems it recommends that I stay on a daily schedule, including eating meals at the same time every day. So much for Ms. Roth’s recommendation to only eat when I’m hungry!

I have instituted some of the general sleep hygiene guidelines. One recommendation is to cover all the lights from electronic equipment in the bedroom. I now have a box over the light on my TV converter box, a dark blue washcloth over my clock radio, and business cards propped up over the green light on the side of my hearing aid Dry & Store.

I’m doing better about going to bed at a regular time. I no longer watch TV in bed. (The box over the converter box helped take care of that!) I listen to soft instrumental music when I go to bed. I try not to look at a computer screen for two hours before I go to bed. I try not to eat anything for two hours before bed.

After following these basic guidelines for a few weeks, I will probably have to see a sleep coach for additional instructions. With chronic fatigue syndrome, my circadian rhythm is off by four to six hours. After dealing with this for 31 years, I’m tired fighting it, and I don’t know what a sleep specialist can do about it. Time and a few appointments with a sleep coach will tell.

 

Snap, by Belinda Bauer

I read the first four or five chapters of this thriller before I had to return it to the public library. The first three chapters really had my attention. Then, it took a turn and I wondered if I’d missed something.

I’m interested enough in the characters to try to read it again. Have you read it? What did you think about it?

Since my last blog post

I’ve been following the United States Senate Judiciary Committee hearings about the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh for appointment to the United States Supreme Court. The political science student in me just can’t help herself. The hearings became quite explosive on Thursday and Friday. This promises to be another interesting week. I’m seriously considering not looking at Facebook again until the current crisis ends.

I’m trying to follow the news of the recovery after Hurricane Florence in eastern North Carolina and South Carolina, but the news is getting more difficult to access as politics and other topics are taking the spotlight.

Sample Carolina Hurricane Quilt Blocks
Sample Carolina Hurricane Quilt Blocks FromMyCarolinaHome.com

If you sew or quilt, a blogger I follow has launched a project to make quilts for the people affected by Hurricane Florence. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, you can learn about the project at https://frommycarolinahome.com/2018/09/26/carolina-hurricane-quilts/. Links to instructions and all the information you need can be found on Carole’s blog. I plan to try to make a few blocks to contribute to the project.

The news reports and photographs of the tsunami in Indonesia over the weekend are heart wrenching.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Tattooist of Auschwitz, by Heather Morris. It’s based on a true story.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive 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. Have you read any of the books I mentioned in today’s blog post?

Janet

Can a person work tirelessly?

We hear the word tirelessly a lot, especially during and after a natural disaster. It is often said of rescue workers, “They worked tirelessly.” We’ve heard it used in recent days about the people giving aid to the victims of Hurricane Florence.

Tirelessly is an interesting word. If broken down and taken literally, it seems to indicate an inability to get tired. That doesn’t seem humanly possible to me, so I looked it up in the dictionary.

The Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition and the Merriam-Webster website (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/tireless) gave the most satisfying definition of all the sources I checked. Merriam-Webster defines tireless as follows:

Definition of tireless: seemingly incapable of tiring. Synonym:  indefatigable. Example: a tireless worker

The word “seemingly” makes all the difference. Take out “seemingly” and we have a completely different meaning.

Most of my blog readers probably rolled their eyes and stopped reading after the first paragraph. I can’t blame them. Life is hard. Life is busy. There are more important things than nitpicking the definition of words. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter what “tirelessly” means; however, writers must think of such things and try to use the most accurate words in their writing.

Since my last blog post

I continued to follow the news about the flooding left in the wake of Hurricane Florence, particularly in North Carolina and South Carolina. Since heavy rain reached more than 400 miles inland to the mountains of North Carolina, most of it fell east of the Eastern Continental Divide and, therefore, is draining into the rivers that empty into the Atlantic Ocean.

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Photo by reza shayestehpour on unsplash.com.

Ten days after the hurricane made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, rivers are still rising. Some are predicted to crest tomorrow. Some cities, such as Lumberton, North Carolina (where I lived for five years as a young adult) are expected to be flooded until October 5.

Think about that. Think about a flood that makes your home inaccessible for three weeks. Imagine what these people will have to go home to.

Think about the farmers who are unable to harvest this year’s cotton, soybeans, sweet potatoes, or peanuts this year. They depended on the money from those crops to make payments on the expensive equipment those crops require. Did you know that half the sweet potatoes grown in the United States are grown in North Carolina?

The flooding caused by Hurricane Florence has been in the forefront of my mind for more than a week, and the people affected by it will continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Recovery won’t be measured in weeks or months. It will be measured in years – long after the storm is no longer making the news headlines.

The levee in Lumberton was constructed years before my arrival there. I never gave the possibility of flooding a thought while I lived there, but now – in the space of just two years – although the levee held, two hurricanes have dumped feet of rain on this flat area on I-95 halfway between Miami and New York. That’s two “500-year floods” in two years.

I’ve taken time to look through some of the photo albums I wrote about in last week’s blog post about Hurricane Florence:  My Heart is in Eastern North Carolina. We had no water damage at our house, and for that we are extremely fortunate. It is good to look at old pictures and remember special trips and memories. I’ll try not to wait until a natural disaster to revisit those photo albums.

Until my next blog post

Remember the people of eastern and central North Carolina and South Carolina who are still dealing with flood waters or the aftermath of flooding due to Hurricane Florence. Likewise, remember the people of Puerto Rico and the British Virgin Islands who are still trying to recover from Hurricane Maria which struck a year ago.

Think about the thousands of people who continue to work tirelessly to help the people affected by Hurricane Florence put the pieces of their lives back together. People have come from as at least as far away as California to make swift water rescues.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve been reading parts of several books but can’t quite settle in on any of them. Three that I’m reading are A Double Life, by Flynn Berry; Women, Food, and God:  An Unexpected Path to Almost Everything, by Geneen Roth; and The Harvard Medical School Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep.

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.

Janet

My Heart is in Eastern North Carolina

Due to Hurricane Florence, I’m a few hours later than usual getting my Monday blog post out. I live 200 inland in North Carolina. I’m happy to report that we came through unscathed although we had nearly 8 inches of rain in 48 hours. My prayers are for relatives, friends, and strangers who live closer to the coast and received upwards of 30 inches of rain. I lived in the eastern part of the state for a few years when I was a young adult, and my heart breaks to see the pictures of the current historic flooding there.

The photo below is a non-copyrighted photograph I downloaded from the internet. It is a typical picture of the current flooding in eastern North Carolina.

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Flooding in eastern North Carolina due to Hurricane Florence, September 2018.

It seemed frivolous this weekend for me to write a blog post about my planned idea of highlighting a line I like from a novel. This afternoon I still feel guilty for being able to sit in the comfort of my home, with electricity and no danger of flooding, to write such a post. Nevertheless, I decided to go ahead as planned.

A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

I wrote about this novel and another book I read in August in my September 3, 2018 blog post (Two Thought-Provoking Books in August.)

In case you haven’t read this novel, it revolves around Count Rostov, who is under house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Over the decades, he befriends a variety of people in the hotel. Among those is the hotel’s maintenance man. They sat on the roof of the hotel all night drinking coffee, eating rye bread with lilac honey, and sharing memories from their younger years. Although from very different economic backgrounds, they found common ground in their memories of Moscow.

A quote from the novel

“So the summer sun began to rise, the fire began to die, and the bees began to circle overhead, the two men spoke of days from their childhoods when the wagon wheels rattled in the road, and the dragonflies skimmed the grass, and the apple trees blossomed for as far as the eye could see.” ~ From A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles

That sentence is a beautiful piece of prose. The author not only puts the reader in the present but also in the past – all seamlessly in just 55 words.

Since my last blog post

It seems like all my sister and I did last week was anticipate Hurricane Florence and make preparations for its arrival.

We stocked up on batteries and bottled water. (When you live out in the country an depend on your own well for water, you have to think of those things.)

We put photo albums and other prized possessions in lidded plastic boxes to try to protect them rain in case a tree crashed through the house.

We checked on the southwest corner of the basement to make sure it was ready for us with quilts, etc. in case of a tornado warning. We made sure all drains in the yard were free of leaves.

We gathered important papers and secured them in Ziploc bags along with photocopies of the backs and fronts of our identification, insurance cards, and credit cards.

We bought ice so we could keep a few perishable foods in a little ice chest in the event we lost electricity. We ate some of the food we had in our freezer for later use.

We made sure we had bread, crackers, and peanut butter on hand to see us through a possible week or so without electricity. (It’s happened before.)

When a natural disaster knocks on your door, you realize what’s important. First on that list was our personal safety and the safety of those people nearer the coast. Most “things” can be replaced, or you might realize they weren’t really important after all.

We’ve begun to put photo albums back in the bookshelves. We’ve started drinking the water we collected in all pitchers and canning jars. We’ve tried to let the people who were concerned about our safety know that we are all right.

Until my next blog post

I will continue to put items back in place and perhaps decide there are things I should part with. I will be able to get back to my usual routine of life. I will eventually take for granted water, food, and electricity. However, my thoughts and prayers will be with my relatives, friends, and fellow North Carolinians who are still today in a state of emergency with disaster all around them.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m having trouble concentrating on a book right now.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive 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.

Janet