GPS for an Enameled Toaster

Three of my last four blog posts have been sort of “heavy” in content, so we’re going to have a change of pace today. For those of you who prefer shorter and not-so-serious blog posts, this one’s for you.

I don’t have GPS for my vehicle. To give you an idea how old my vehicle is let me just saw the cassette tape deck works great.

After hearing a few stories from friends who’ve had less than stellar experiences with the device, I’m not sure I want a GPS.

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The following quote from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer makes me think the author has had some memorable adventures while using a GPS. This quote comes from the part of the book when the hapless Arthur Less is visiting Japan:

“. . . he takes the wheel of what basically feels like an enameled toaster and follows the clear, perfect signs out of Kyoto, toward the hill country. Less is grateful the signs are clear because the GPS, after giving crisp, stern directions to the highway, becomes drunk on its own power outside the city limits, then gives out completely and places Arthur Less in the Sea of Japan.” ~ from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The author paints a couple of vivid pictures with these words. Instead of saying, “a small car” or “a sub-compact car,” he gives a humorous image of a car that “feels like an enameled toaster.”

Then, although we’re not meant to take it literally, we see Less in this car the size of a toaster floating on (or sinking in) the Sea of Japan.

Vivid imagery doesn’t just happen in a book. It takes a good writer to carefully choose his or her words.

Since my last blog post

I’ve gotten back into some genealogy work. That’s been a hobby of mine since my father died when I was 24 years old and I realized I had failed to ask him a lot of questions about his family.

My last blog post prompted more comments than I usually get. I enjoyed discussing cultural appropriation; Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Albright; and A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles with a good number of you.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The President is Missing, by Bill Clinton and James Paterson. I’ve never read a James Patterson novel before and thought this might be a good one to start with. My political science background keeps showing up in my reading choices lately.

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

The Piece of Luggage Less Hasn’t Lost

Today’s blog post highlights several sentences I like from Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Less. Arthur Less is a downtrodden writer who bumbles his way around the world in order to avoid attending a wedding.

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

I read Less in April and wrote about it in my June 4, 2018 blog post, Reading in May 2018.

“He supposes he is meant to experience humility; by now, he is well acquainted with humility. It is the one piece of luggage he has not lost.” – from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer.

Perhaps you must read the book or at least part of it in order to get the full benefit of that quote, but it encapsulates the dismal life of the 50-year-old failed novelist in this hilarious novel.

Another line I like from the novel because it paints such a vivid mental picture is the following:

“The driver works the horn like an outlaw at a gunfight.” – from Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

That analogy leaves no confusion in the mind of the reader. I aspire to write in a way that gives the reader such a clear image of what is happening.

Since my last blog post

I’ve enjoyed reading a variety of books and spending some time with long-time friends and some special cousins.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Fascism:  A Warning, by Madeleine Korbel Albright, which if I had to sum up in one word it would be “chilling.”

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 look forward to your comments about today’s post. Feel free to share a line you like from a book you’ve read.

Janet

Reading in May 2018

This is the first Monday in June, so it’s time for me to tell you about the books I read in May. Perhaps one or more of them will catch your attention. If you’ve read any of them, I’d love to hear your comments. In fact, I’d love to hear your comments even if you haven’t read any of them.

An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage
An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones

The first novel I read in May was An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones. Each chapter is written in the point-of-view of one character. The main characters are Roy, Celestial, and Andre. Roy ends up in prison in Louisiana after being convicted of a crime he did not commit. During his absence, his wife Celestial relies heavily on her lifelong friend, Andre. You can probably see where that leads, but I don’t want to give the plot away. This book is a study in commitment, love, friendship, betrayal, and how the things that happen to us in childhood leave profound marks on our feelings of self-worth. I kept turning the pages because I felt invested in each character and I wanted to know what the outcome of the various twists in the plot would be.

A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by B. James Comey, Jr.

A Higher Loyalty
A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by James Comey

After all the hype about A Higher Loyalty:  Truth, Lies, and Leadership, by former FBI Director B. James Comey, Jr., I thought perhaps I’d already heard all about the book. Of course, the part of the book that has gotten all the publicity is the last three chapters in which Mr. Comey tells about his encounters with Donald Trump after his election and after his inauguration as US President. There were few surprises in those chapters, thanks to the numerous quotes and discussions of that information in the media.

As a political science major with a history minor, I really enjoyed the whole book. Mr. Comey gives background of the FBI and explains how the Director of the FBI and the US President aren’t supposed to have much contact. That’s the way it has to be in order for the FBI to maintain its reputation as a non-partisan institution. He writes about the honor it is to serve in the agency, and he writes about some of the difficult decisions he had to make while in the directorship and during his earlier days as a prosecutor.

Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

Less by Greer
Less, by Andrew Sean Greer

The day after I read the literary winners of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize, I got on the waitlist at the public library for this year’s Fiction winner, Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. This novel is a tale about a gay American man as he approaches and then passes his 50th birthday. Arthur Less is a novelist. He travels around the world, bumbling his way through country after country. The book is entertaining, as it combines humor with the serious topic of love and how human beings seek it, find it, lose it, and perhaps find it again.

I made note of more than a few lines I liked in the book. I’ll share them in future blog posts.

She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

She Rides Shotgun
She Rides Shotgun, by Jordan Harper

I wanted to read this book because it won the 2018 Edgar Award for Best First Novel. After reading the opening description of a white supremacist gang in a prison in Chapter 0 (yes, Chapter 0), I wasn’t sure I could hang in there to keep reading. I continued to read, and I was soon invested in 11-year-old Polly.

Polly’s is kidnapped at school by the father she barely knows and is suddenly thrown into a life of crime. The book takes the reader along for a rollercoaster ride as Polly quickly becomes streetwise in order to survive.

Still I Rise:  The Persistence of Phenomenal Women, by Marlene Wagman-Geller

Still I Rise
Still I Rise: The Persistence of Phenomenal Women, by Marlene Wagman-Geller

I happened upon this book while perusing the shelves of new books at the public library. It’s a delightful and inspiring book about 25 phenomenal women who overcame all manner of adversity and made their mark on the world.

Among the 25 were such notables as Hattie McDonald who won an Academy Award in 1940 for her role in Gone With the Wind. She was the first person of color to win an Academy Award. If you don’t know her backstory, it’s well worth getting this book just to learn about her struggles.

Others included in the book include Irena Sendler, Susan B. Anthony, Fannie Hamer, Maya Angelou, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, Claudette Colvin, Patty Duke, Sonia Sotomayor, Jeannette Walls, Joanne Rowling, Laura Hillenbrand, Tammy Duckworth, and Lizzie Velazquez.

Divine Prey, by Chris Andrews

divine-prey-thumbnail
Divine Prey, by Chris Andrews

I stepped way out of my comfort zone to read this debut novel by Chris Andrews. Fantasy novels just aren’t my go-to reading preference; however, I found myself getting interested in this epic tale about a princess who is being hunted down by the faspane. The story takes a definite turn for the worse when Princes Caroline is attacked by a werewolf. Healing stones come into play, but can she be saved?

Although not my favorite genre, Divine Prey is well-written and well-paced. The descriptions are vivid and Mr. Andrews shows how adept he is in weaving body language into the plot. Even if you aren’t a fan of the fantasy genre, you might want to give this book a chance. If you are a connoisseur of fantasy books, I think you’ll definitely want to read this one. It is Book One in Mr. Andrews’ Noramgaell Saga, so you’ll want to get in on the beginning of this intriguing story.

The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James

The Broken Girls
The Broken Girls, by Simone St. James

The chapters in this novel alternate between 1950 and 2014 in Barrons, Vermont. In 1950 one of the girls at the Idlewild Hall boarding school for troubled teenage girls disappeared. Her disappearance remains unsolved decades after the school was closed and the property abandoned.

In 2014, journalist Fiona Sheridan can’t forget that in 1994 the body of her murdered sister was found near the school. When it’s announced that Idlewild Hall is going to be restored, a body is discovered in the bottom of a well on the property. Could it be the remains of the 15-year-old missing girl from 1950?

This book will keep you turning the pages as there are multiple mysteries being unraveled, including the murder of Fiona’s sister. It is the June book selection for the online Apostrophe S Book Club, which prompted me to read it. I’m glad I did.

Here’s a little aside about Simone St. James, the author of The Broken Girls. Kudos to Ms. St. James!  I have more than 200 books on my “want to read” list on Goodreads.com. As soon as I added The Broken Girls to my list, I received a thank you note from her! Of all those “want to read” books, Ms. St. James was the first author to acknowledge that I had added one of her books to my list. As busy as authors are, it really impressed me that she took the time to write me.

Since my last blog post

Drumroll! As of May 30, I had 1,500 blog followers! Thank you, each and every one of you!

Since my last blog post two weeks ago, I have enjoyed reading, doing jigsaw puzzles, getting out to walk when it wasn’t raining here in North Carolina, and brushing up on my new skill of making infographics (I’m so new at this, I’m not even sure that’s the correct term!) to post on Pinterest and a few to post on Twitter and Facebook. I’m concentrating on sharing quotes from my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as it will mark the fourth anniversary of its publication in August and I wanted to give sales a boost as the spring/summer/fall tourist season commenced.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m finally reading Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane. It’s the fifth of her Elizabeth Goodweather Appalachian Mysteries.

Under The Skin
Under the Skin, by Vicki Lane

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

What are you reading?

Janet

“On a third-floor ledge, threatening”

“On a third-floor ledge, threatening”

Do I have your attention? Good! That’s the purpose of a hook in a novel. I made a note of this one when I read Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich in 2015:

“Ginny Scoot was standing on a third-floor ledge, threatening to jump, and it was more or less my fault.” – Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich

TrickyTwentyTwo
Tricky Twenty-Two, by Janet Evanovich

After reading that opening sentence, you have to keep reading. The next sentence clarifies things a tad for any reader who has not read any of Ms. Evanovich’s previous 21 Stephanie Plum novels:  “My name is Stephanie Plum and I work as a bounty hunter for my bail bondsman cousin Vinnie.”

I read Janet Evanovich when I want something light and amusing to read. She did a good day’s (years’?) work when she came up with the characters in her Stephanie Plum series. Great character development!

Fans of the Stephanie Plum series know there is a story to follow that hook, no doubt filled with numerous missteps by Stephanie and probably at least one blown-up car. The opening sentence introduces Ginny Scoot to you and tells you she is in dire straits. You wonder what has happened to push her to the edge. What in the world did Stephanie Plum do to cause this crisis?

A good hook grabs you. It gives you just enough information that your curiosity is piqued and you are compelled to keep reading. The first sentence doesn’t have to carry the whole load; however, if the reader isn’t hooked by the bottom of the first page, chances are he or she won’t read the second page. That’s a lot of pressure for a writer!

Since my last blog post

I was fortunate to find one copy of The Carolina Backcountry On The Eve Of The Revolution:  The Journal and Other Writings of Charles Woodmason, Anglican Itinerant, edited by Richard J. Hooker in circulation in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Library System. It has been useful in my research for the historical novel I’m writing.

More letters have been sent to independent bookstore owners to encourage them to place orders for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, as spring is finally approaching in western North Carolina.

I’ve continued to hone my new skill of creating graphics for Pinterest using www.Canva.com. In fact, someone at www.Canva.com saw my last blog post and contacted me. She was complimentary of my blog but requested that I give the whole URL (www.Canva.com) instead of “Canva.com” as I had in my blog. I corrected that in last week’s blog post.

Last week’s blog post, How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?, has only been liked by four other WordPress.com (or WordPress.org) bloggers, so Pinterest doesn’t appear to be a popular blog topic for me. I have gained several new followers via email, though, so perhaps it was of interest of a few people. I’ll be watching my Pinterest analytics to see if my original graphics get any attention.

I read on www.Goodreads.com that Jennifer Ryan is considering writing a sequel to The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. I commented on how much I liked it in my April 1, 2017 blog post, The Authors I Read in March. I look forward to reading the sequel, if it comes to fruition.

Going off topic

The highlights of my week were seeing several birds that make rare appearances in my yard. First came a male scarlet tanager to get a drink of water on Sunday. Two days later, two male indigo buntings, and a rose-breasted grosbeak came to eat. The grosbeak usually stops by our bird feeder every spring, but he’s just passing through. The indigo buntings graze on the ground under the feeder.

Sometimes the rose-breasted grosbeak stays for two or three days, but this year I only saw him once. He feasted for a good 15 minutes before flying away. Other birds came and went, but he was not deterred. This is much different behavior than is displayed by the northern cardinal. The northern cardinal is the most skittish bird I’ve seen. We have them in abundance.

I’ve only seen indigo buntings a few times in my life, but this was only the second time I’d seen a scarlet tanager. I didn’t get any photographs this time, but I found it interesting when I looked back in my photo files that the indigo bunting and rose-breasted grosbeak showed up on the same day in 2007. I photographed them on May 9 that year. It was the first time I’d ever seen either species.

This year they showed up on April 24. Concluding that the two species apparently migrate together, I did a little research. I learned on https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/indigo_bunting (The Cornell Lab of Ornithology) that indigo buntings “migrate at night, using the stars for guidance.” Perhaps it is coincidental that they and the rose-breasted grosbeak both show up in my yard on the same day.

IMG_5092
Male Indigo Bunting, photographed March 9, 2007.
IMG_4992
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak, photographed March 9, 2007.

When I chose the topic for today’s post, I had no idea I would include a segment about birds. I selected the above photo of the grosbeak because it was the best picture I took of him. It just occurred to me that he sort of illustrates the title of this blog post. Okay, use a little imagination. Work with me here!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good place to watch a variety of birds.

I also hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading the 2018 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Less, by Andrew Sean Greer. I’m usually years behind in reading award winners, so I decided to jump right on this one.

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

Feel free to share my blog posts on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or via email.

Thank you for reading my blog! What birds have you seen recently, and what are you reading?

Janet