#TwoForTuesday: Two Books that Encourage a Change

Today’s #TwoForTuesday writing prompt made me look over the list of books I’ve read since October, 1993 (when I started keeping a list) and select two books that encourage change.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying, by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo

I read this book four years ago this month. It immediately inspired me to reorganize my dresser drawers. I changed the way I stored many of my garments. It made seeing and finding what I had easier.

Marie Kondo’s mantra is, “Does it spark joy?” If an item doesn’t bring you joy, she says it needs to go. I went through my clothes and some kitchen items asking myself that question, and it felt good to donate some things to Goodwill where they could bring someone else joy.

Reading the book a couple of months before a kitchen remodel helped me part with some pots, pans, and dishes that held sentimental value because they had belonged to my mother. One thing I learned was that I don’t need the chipped or cracked bowl to remember Mama’s potato salad, and I don’t need her beat up pots and pans to remember the delicious meals she lovingly prepared for us.

Ms. Kondo says one must tidy by category, not location. I tend to want to tidy a room and then move on to another room (or not move on, as the case may be.) She says to start with clothing, then books, then paper. I think that’s where the wheels fell off my wagon. Paper is the bane of my existence. As much as I recycle and try to depend on technology, I’m still overwhelmed by paper.

Four years later, I need to read the book again. I think it will encourage me to donate or discard some things that have accumulated since April of 2015. Why should I keep it if it can bring joy to someone else?

I plan to read this book again. After four years and the gaining of a few pounds, it’s time to sort through my clothes again, donate more books to a charity used book sale, and take that giant step into all that paper that seems to multiply while I’m asleep.

52 Small Changes:  One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, by Brett Blumenthal

52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You, by Brett Blumenthal

I read this book 15 months ago. The idea is that you make a small change in your life every week for 52 weeks. At the end of that year, you’ve theoretically incorporated all those changes into your daily life and lifestyle.

The author says it’s easier to make small changes than major changes. Also, it take time to make a permanent change in your life. A study done by University College London psychologist Phillippa Lally found that it take an average of 9½ weeks to make a lasting change.

I might give this book another chance, even though the first change is a major one for me:  “Drink an adequate amount of water each day to maintain a healthy level of hydration.” Water is not my favorite beverage but, starting today, I’ll make an effort to drink more of it. The rule of thumb is:  “Drink the amount of water in ounces that equals your weight in pounds divided by two.”

Maybe that Week One change will inspire me to lose some weight. The less I weigh, the less water I need to drink! Week Two isn’t any easier:  “Get seven to eight hours of restful sleep every night.” I’m afraid to look at the third week.

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog at https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/two-for-tuesday-participants-4/ to read Rae’s blog in which she gave a link to her list of prompts for the Tuesdays in April.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about two books you can think of that encourage change.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books that Make Me Smile

For today’s blog post, I’m going back 20 years to remember a delightful children’s book my sister and I enjoyed reading to one of our great-nieces when she was a little girl. That book is still being published, and I’m thrilled because it is a hilarious children’s book.

The reader and the child being read to get to make all sorts of pirate sounds. The book is How I Became a Pirate, by Melinda Long. In addition to a very entertaining narrative, the book has wonderful illustrations by Caldecott Honor illustrator David Shannon.

I was in Park Road Books in Charlotte, North Carolina last week and was thrilled to see this book on the shelf. It immediately brought a smile to my face and then the memories flooded in.

Shiver me timbers! Aargh! The illustrations will entertain a child (and an adult!) for hours. I have been unable to import a photo of the cover of How I Became a Pirate into today’s blog post. Technical difficulties. That’s too bad because seeing the cover would give you an idea of the illustrations within the book.

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider

Another book that makes me smile is The Complete Humorous Sketches and Tales of Mark Twain, edited by Charles Neider. The copyright date on it is 1961, and that’s probably about when I received it as a gift. I just realized that was 58 years ago! I was eight years old and had apparently just discovered the humor of Mark Twain. I became a lifelong fan. From my lopsided signature on the flylead, I can tell I received it as I was learning to write cursive. Second grade.

Flipping through this collection of Mark Twain writings makes me smile because I was no innocent in 1961 and got to read the book for sheer enjoyment. I read this a mere 90 years or so after Mr. Twain wrote the pieces. That seemed like a million years to an eight-year-old, but not so long to me now.

Something else about the book made me smile today as I looked through it. We had a rule in our house:  you don’t write in a book and you don’t underline in a book. Books were sacred and to be damaged under no circumstances. (The same went for Daddy’s National Geographic magazines. No matter what the school assignment was, I knew not to cut pictures out of National Geographic. I doubt I could take a scissors to a National Geographic to this day. Some things are just beyond the pale.)

So what made me smile today as I went through the book? On page 43, beside the story title, “A Touching Story of George Washington’s Boyhood,” I had printed in very light lead pencil, “Satire?” I found the same marginal note on page 49 next to “Answers to Correspondents.” There it was again, minus the question mark, (I must have been gaining confidence in identifying satire) on pager 59 next to “A Page from a California Almanac.”

I guess I lost interest in satire on page 59 because I can find no more marginal notes in the book. Thank goodness I didn’t use it to practice diagramming sentences! Do student still have to do that?

The following entry in “Answers to Correspondents” made me laugh today because it brought back memories of those dreaded “word problems” we had to do in arithmetic. I believe that’s known as math today. Here’s the entry: “’Arithmeticus.’ Virginia, Nevada. – If it would take a cannon-ball 3 1/3 seconds to travel four miles, and 3 3/8 seconds to travel the next four, and 3 5/8 to travel the next four, and if its rate of progress continued to diminish in the same ratio, how long would it take it to go fifteen hundred million miles?” Twain’s answer:  “I don’t know.”

I can identify with that answer.

This is a 716-page book, plus appendix and index. I’m sure it was the first thick book I owned. I’m glad I still have this treasure from my childhood.

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two books that make you smile.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books with Flowery Language

This week’s writing prompt for Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post was a real challenge for me. I don’t tend to read books with flowery language, so I was stumped for a few days.  If you’re interested in participating in Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts or want to read what other participants are saying, go to Rae’s blog at ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens

Many novels of the 1800s would qualify for today’s #TwoForTuesday prompt, but I decided to go with A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You need go no further than the preface to know you’re in for some flowery language.

“I have endeavoured in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it. Their faithful Friend and Servant, C.D., December, 1843.”

The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.

The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, by Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.

The first book that came to mind for today’s topic is an excellent nonfiction book by Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr. You might be familiar with it if you live in the Charlotte area or have ancestors who were or are part of that congregation. It’s a history of Rocky River Presbyterian Church called The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River.

Dr. Spence’s father was the pastor of Rocky River Presbyterian Church in Cabarrus County, North Carolina in the 1910s, and Dr. Spence loved that church. He did a yeoman’s job of researching the first 200 years of the life of the congregation. The flowery language Dr. Spence sprinkled throughout this 1954 book endear it to me all the more because it demonstrates his abiding love for the congregation.

After the preface, is a page about the Rocky River and the first church that took the river’s name. I think you’ll agree that the language is a bit flowery.

“The waters of more than two centuries have followed the course of Rocky River toward the Eastern Sea since the vanguard of the Scotch-Irish settled along its banks and branches…. The foundations were laid beyond the seas, amid the verdant valleys of Ulster, or, even earlier, upon the heathered hills of Scotland. But there is no uncertainty in regard to that staunch and sturdy race who made their way across the Atlantic, settled for a season in Pennsylvania, and then resumed the march to rest only intermittently until the Yadkin had been forded and the region of Rocky River attained.”

(This book is available from the Rocky River Presbyterian Church office at 7940 Rocky River Road, Concord, NC 28025. You may contact the church office at 704-455-2479 or churchadmin@rockyriver.org for details. The church’s website is http://rockyriver.org/.)

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two books with flowery language that come to your mind.

Janet

Three Other Books I Read in March 2019

I had so much I wanted to say about the books I read last month, I had to divide my thoughts between two blog posts. Last Monday I wrote about three of the books I read in March [https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/04/01/this-is-not-an-april-fools-day-joke/], so today I write about the other three books.

Jacksonland:  President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and A Great American Land Grab, by Steve Inskeep

Jacksonland, by Steve Inskeep

I can’t remember how I became aware of this book, and I don’t remember what I expected it to be. What it turned out to be was a real eye opener! I consider myself a bit of a student of history, but I had never read the details of how Andrew Jackson speculated on land and grabbed it up by the tens of thousands of acres as a result of the inside track he enjoyed.

The main things I knew about Andrew Jackson were:

  • He was born near the North Carolina – South Carolina border, so both states claim him as theirs;
  • His father died just days before he was born;
  • He was delivered by his Aunt Sarah Hutchinson Lessley, who just happened to be my 5th-great-grandmother;
  • He became famous for his service in the Battle of New Orleans;
  • He was the 7th President of the United States of America;
  • His image appears on the United States $20 bill; and
  • He is blamed for the Cherokee “Trail of Tears” as he forced them off their ancestral lands in western North Carolina and northern Georgia and into a grim and often fatal march to the Oklahoma Territory.

The more I learn about Andrew Jackson, the more I wonder why North and South Carolina fight over him. Let’s just let Tennessee have him, since that’s where he chose to build his estate called The Hermitage. The more I learn about him, the more I wish my ggggg-grandmother had delivered a president of better character. I don’t blame her, though. Her sister, Jean Jackson was in need of a midwife.

What I learned by reading Jacksonland:  President Andrew Jackson, Cherokee Chief John Ross, and A Great American Land Grab, by Steve Inskeep was that President Jackson not only forced the Native Americans off their lands throughout the Southeast, but afterwards he personally gained financially from purchasing thousands of acres of those lands. So did his friends and his wife’s nephew. That’s just the half of it.

Ignorance is bliss. I almost wish I hadn’t read the book.

No, I’m glad I did. I wish I’d known about all this thievery and fraud earlier. It’s amazing the details that are not included or are just mentioned in passing in history textbooks!

The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See

The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See

I listened to this historical novel on CD. It is based on the women who live(d) on the island of Jeju off the coast of Korea. The book covers nearly 100 years of life and changes on the island, from the 1930s, through Japanese colonialism, through World War II and the Korean War, to the 21st century.

On Jeju, women learn from a young age how to dive deep into the ocean to harvest certain fish and other sea life. They can hold their breath longer than any other people in the world. They are known as haenyeo. The women do this dangerous work, and their husbands raise their children.

This is a story of friendship and betrayal against a back drop of war and military occupation. I was mesmerized by The Island of Sea Women, by Lisa See.

Due to spending so much time deep in the water, the haenyeo have hearing loss. For this reason, the older women speak loudly. It took me a while to get accustomed to the varying volume of this book on CD, as the narrator went above and beyond the call of duty in demonstrating how much louder the women spoke compared to the other characters. For that reason, it’s not the best choice if you like to listen to a book at bedtime or with ear buds. You, too, could suffer hearing loss!

Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence

Jackie Tales, by Jackie Torrence

You might recall that I referenced this book in my March 12, 2019 blog post, “Two For Tuesday:  Two Books Written by Women of Color” (https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/03/12/twofortuesday-two-books-written-by-women-of-color/.)

I also referenced The Importance of Pot Liquor, by Jackie Torrence in my blog post on February 19, 2019: “ Two for Tuesday:  Two Books that Remind Me of Someone.” Here’s the link to that post: https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/02/19/two-for-tuesday-two-books-that-remind-me-of-someone/ .

Jackie Torrence was a master storyteller and a reference librarian in High Point, North Carolina. This book includes 16 folk tales along with Ms. Torrence’s stage directions and sidebar comments for each story. I’d never in my life considered being a storyteller until I read this book. I don’t know that this is something I’ll pursue, but the book is so inspiring that it made me entertain the idea!

Even if you just want to be able to read stories to your children or grandchildren with more enthusiasm, facial expression, and use of your hands in a demonstrable way, you can benefit from this book. An alternative title for the book could have been, “The Many Faces of Jackie Torrence” because there are numerous up-close photographs of her extraordinarily expressive face as she told the stories.

In Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, Ms. Torrence explains what makes a good Jack Tale and what makes a good story. She writes about adjusting stories depending upon the age of her audience and how to (and how not to) hold children’s attention.

If you have an appreciation for the art of storytelling, you will enjoy this book. Look for a copy in used bookstore and online at used bookstores or consortiums such as Advanced Book Exchange.

I read one story each night before going to bed, and I hated to see the book end. It’s one I’ll definitely reread and enjoy just as much the second and third times.

Since my last blog post

I had the pleasure of attending Anna Jean Mayhew’s reading and book signing at Park Road Books in Charlotte on Thursday night. What an enjoyable evening it was as she read from and talked about her latest historical novel, Tomorrow’s Bread. More on that in my blog post on Monday, April 15.

I’ve had a net gain of 8,325 words to my The Doubloon manuscript, bringing my current word count to 30,325. I get to start on Chapter 8 today. I can’t wait!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I started reading The Irishman’s Daughter, by V.S. Alexander yesterday afternoon. After reading Mr. Alexander’s earlier novels, The Magdalen Girls in 2017 and The Taster last year, I was eager to read his recently-released novel, The Irishman’s Daughter. He writes extraordinary historical fiction.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow: ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­“Two Books with Flowery Language.”  Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog. Here’s a link to her April 1, 2019 blog post in which she listed all the #TwoForTuesday prompts for the month of April: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/.

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

Have you read any of the three books I talked about today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest in reading any of these books?

What are you reading, and would you recommend it?

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Really Funny Books

I’m participating in the third month of Rae’s Reads and Reviews’ #TwoForTuesday blog prompts. Rae’s blog post yesterday, https://educatednegra.blog/2019/04/01/april-two-for-tuesday-prompts/ lists the prompts for every Tuesday in April. If you’d like to participate, visit Rae’s blog post and leave her a message in the comments section.

Each month’s prompts are more challenging than the ones from the previous month. It remains to be seen if I can come up with books to write about this month. Rae is stretching my memory to think back through my many years of reading.

With today’s theme in mind, I selected two book series instead of two individual books. (There I go, bending the rules again!) They are series I enjoyed a few years ago. They are books you might enjoy when you want something light to read, although after a while they become somewhat predictable.

Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum Series

I appreciate how Ms. Evanovich numbers her books in this series in chronological order. It makes it easy to keep up with where you are in the series, especially if you’re late coming to her books and you want to remember which ones you’ve read.

Stephanie Plum is a bounty hunter for her New Jersey cousin of questionable character. Stephanie is white. Her sidekick is a large black woman named Lula. There’s no end to the trouble Stephanie and Lula get into. This usually involves Stephanie’s car getting blown up and one of her two heart throbs, Ranger, coming to her rescue. The earlier books in this series were fresh and laugh-out-loud funny. After 25 books, though, they don’t make me laugh as much.

One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

If you want to give Ms. Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books a try, start with One for the Money in order to get acquainted with the recurring cast of characters. The books don’t have to be read in order, but occasionally knowing what has transpired in the past will help you appreciate a later book.

Ms. Evanovich writes one book every year now in this series, with Look Alive Twenty-Five being released last fall. The Stephanie Plum books are stereotypically-New Jersey.

Ann B. Ross’ Miss Julia Novels

I read a few of Ann B. Ross’ Miss Julia novels a few years ago before I got hooked on historical fiction. That’s not to say they don’t still make me laugh.

Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind, by Ann B. Ross

Miss Julia is an elderly widow who lives in a town in western North Carolina. Every time Miss Julia thinks life might settle down, a relative or other ne’er do well shows up on her doorstep to throw a monkey wrench into her life.

Miss Julia rolls with the punches with good humor. Start with Ann B. Ross’ debut novel, Miss Julia Speaks Her Mind. This is great Southern fiction.

Ironically, Ms. Ross’ latest Miss Julia novel is being published today. The title is Miss Julie Takes the Wheel.

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. Visit her blog, https://educatednegra.blog.

Happy reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two books that made you laugh.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two of my Unsung Female Heroes

Many unsung female heroes have crossed my path. I haven’t known any famous people, so all the heroes in my life – male and female – are unsung.

I’m going to break the “Two-For” rule today and write about just one of my unsung female heroes, my great-great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Morrison. I know her only through names and dates on the written page and a plain rock that marks her grave in Spears Graveyard, but she is my hero.

Mary Morrison (17??-1781)

I know few details of this Mary Morrison’s life. I don’t know if she had a bubbly personality or was a negative person. I only know her from the circumstances of her life.

She was born in Scotland, probably on the Kintyre Peninsula in 1732. She married John Morrison from the same place. They came to America, lived in Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to North Carolina in the 1760s.

Mary and John had nine children. John died in 1777. Tradition tells us that he was ambushed by Tories not far from his and Mary’s home. Knowing that he would soon die, he wrote his will in August of 1777 and died less than a week later. From John’s will, we know that Mary was expecting their last child at the time because he made provisions for the unborn child.

Sadly, Mary died early in 1781, leaving her minor children in the care of relatives. We also know that when Mary was sick and writing her will that one of her daughters was very ill and it was uncertain if the daughter would survive that illness.

What a hard life Mary must have had! I hope she had joy in her life.

I marvel at how she left Scotland for the great unknown American frontier. She left a place on the sea for a new life 200 miles inland in the backcountry of North Carolina where the woods and meadows were filled with all sorts of wild animals about which she knew little or nothing. She must have feared every day for disease or injury to herself and her family.

I live on land today that has been passed down from generation to generation from John and Mary. I came to feel a real kinship with Mary a few years ago as I worked in our vegetable and flower garden.

Summer Squash
Dragonfly in our garden

I practiced organic gardening, much as Mary would have in the 1770s. I imagined Mary growing some of the same vegetables and varieties of flowers on this same land. I enjoyed the butterflies, writing spiders, hoppy toads, dragonflies, birds, and box turtles that visited the garden, and I liked to think that Mary did, too.

As I was always on the lookout for copperhead snakes while in my garden, I can’t help but think Mary kept an eye open for them, too. One of the earliest things my parents taught me was how to distinguish between a copperhead and a non-poisonous snake. I feel sure that was an early lesson Mary and John taught their children. Also, how to identify and avoid poison oak.

I can imagine Mary showing her children how to pluck a honeysuckle blossom, bite the end of the stem off, and suck in the sweetness of the flower.

Passion Flower

When wild passion flowers sprouted in her garden, I hope she left them to grow, bloom, and produce lollypops.

When the wild orange butterfly weed bloomed in sunny spots in the yard, I hope Mary showed her children the black, yellow, and white-striped caterpillars munching on the green leaves, and I hope she knew to tell them that those caterpillars would one day be transformed into brilliant Monarch butterflies.

Wild Butterfly Weed and Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars

Mary did not have benefit of a tractor to till her garden, comfortable 21st century clothing to wear in the summer sun, or an air-conditioned house to retreat to when the heat and humidity got the best of her or when her back ached or blisters rose on the palms of her hands.

Raccoon in our yard on April 28, 2014.

I gardened because I wanted to. Mary gardened because she had to. If deer trampled her corn or raccoons raided her apple trees, it could be a matter of life or death for her family. When it happened to me, I just got mad and bought corn and apples at the supermarket.

When the deer and raccoons decided to eat all the plants in my garden, I raised the white flag of surrender and stopped gardening. Mary didn’t have the luxury of stopping. In fact, she probably didn’t have the luxury of stopping for a single day of her life. She could never stop working hard or worrying about her family.

My heart breaks to think of her on her death bed in March of 1781, writing her will, and wondering what would become of her orphaned children.

When I get to Heaven, I will sit down with Great-Great-Great-Great-Grandmother Mary Morrison and hear all about her life and her garden.

Grandmother, you’re my hero!

Until my next blog post

Thank you, Rae, of “Rae’s Reads and Reviews Blog” for this month’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts. I learned about her prompts in her January 8, 2019 blog post:  https://educatednegra.blog/2019/01/08/two-for-tuesday-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-1646.

I look forward to seeing what Rae has in store for us in April. If you’d like to participate, visit her blog and tell her you’re interested.

Let’s continue the conversation

In the comments section below, tell me about one or two of your unsung female heroes.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today.

Janet

Two For Tuesday: Two Quotes by Inspirational Women

In preparation for today’s #TwoForTuesday challenge I read quotes by many inspirational women. It was a difficult choice, but I selected quotes by Malala Yousafzai and Mary Frances Berry.

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is one of the most inspirational women I know – and has been since she was still a child. I love this quote by her:

“Let us remember:  One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

Malala is proof of that!

 

Mary Frances Berry

Mary Frances Berry is an icon of the American Civil Rights Movement and a historian. Here’s the quote of hers I chose for today’s blog post:

“The time when you need to do something is when no one else is willing to do it, when people are saying it can’t be done.”

 

Rae’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts

In honor of Women’s History Month, Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog chose four
women-related #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts for March. Here’s a link to her
list, in case you’d like to participate today and next Tuesday:  
https://educatednegra.blog/2019/03/03/two-for-tuesday-march-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-2084.

 Until my next blog post

Keep reading and writing!

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books Written by Women of Color

As is obvious from the title, today’s #TwoForTuesday blog post prompt is Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you, Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog for supplying the prompt.

I’ve chosen two books that have nothing in common except they’re both written by women of color.

Left to Tell:  Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Left to Tell, by Immaculee Ilibagiza

Of the nearly one million Rwandans who lost their lives in the 1994 genocide in that country, college student Immaculee Ilibagiza lost most of her relatives. This book is her telling of the story.  Indeed, she believes she was “left to tell.”

Ms. Ilibagiza and seven other women hid in the bathroom in a local pastor’s house for 91 days during the violence. During her ordeal she was able to come to understand the true meaning of forgiveness. Afterwards, she sought out and forgave her family’s killers.

This is an extraordinary story!

Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence

Jackie Tales, by Jackie Torrence

Switching gears completely from Left to Tell, the other book I’m highlighting today is Jackie Tales:  The Magic of Creating Stories and the Art of Telling Them, by Jackie Torrence. Ms. Torrence was a reference librarian in High Point, North Carolina and a master storyteller.

This delightful book not only includes 16 folk tales but also has Ms. Torrence’s stage directions so the reader can learn many techniques of good storytelling.

With an introduction by Ossie Davis and a host of up-close photographs illustrating the wonderfully expressive face of Ms. Torrence, this book is a real gem for anyone aspiring to be a writer, a storyteller, or an entertaining reader to children.

Ms. Torrence had quite a gift and the storytelling world will never forget her. I found myself laughing out loud as I read each of the stories in this book. Bravo!

Until my next blog post

Keep reading!

Let’s continue the conversation

Have you read either of today’s books?

Have you ever considered honing your storytelling talent and sharing your gift with others?

Janet

The Other Five Books I Read in February

Last Monday I blogged about five of the ten books I read last month. Today I’m sharing my thoughts about the other five books I read in February. Four of them are nonfiction. Any month I get to read ten books is a good month!

George Washington’s Secret Six:  The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

George Washington’s Secret Six, by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger

I really liked this book! I was intrigued by the title. Although I always liked studying American history and minored in history in college, this book was full of information I’d either forgotten or never knew.

I’m going to show my ignorance here. The chapter about Benedict Arnold was especially enlightening. We all (I hope!) learned in elementary school that he was a traitor during the American Revolution. I realized when I started reading the chapter about him that that’s all I knew about him. I didn’t know what he did to betray America. If you don’t know the story, I suggest you read this book or do other research on your own. You might be surprised what you learn. Or, maybe I’m the only one who didn’t learn this bit of history.

It saddened me to learn that one of the six American spies was a woman whose name is lost to history. She is only remembered today as Number 355. Each of the spies had a three digit number, just like James Bond of 007 fame! Number 355 was found out by the British and taken prisoner on a ship in New York harbor. It isn’t known if she survived her ordeal as a prisoner of war.

Why are the contributions made by women swept under the rug and not mentioned in history books? I know the answer. I’m just throwing the question out in frustration for you to ponder.

In the Woods, by Tana French

In the Woods, by Tana French

I kept seeing publicity for and reviews for Tana French’s new book, The Witch Elm, and I realized I’d never read any of her books. Instead of starting with her latest, I decided to read In the Woods, which is the first book in her Dublin Murder Squad Series. It was published in 2007, and is set in the Dublin, Ireland area in 1984 and 2004.

The book begins in 1984 with the disappearance of two children and the survival of one of their companions. Then the story shifts to 2004 to Detective Bob Ryan, who sees too many similarities between his experience as that survivor and the mystery of a missing 12-year-old girl.

Bob Ryan keeps his past a secret as he and fellow-detective Cassie Maddox try to solve the girl’s disappearance. Ryan hopes in the process they will also solve the mystery of his own experience as a young boy.

That said, I did not finish reading In the Woods. The premise held such promise, but one-third of the way into the book I lost interest in the conversations the characters had that did not seem to move the story along. I wanted to like the book and read the rest of the series. But alas, there were too many other books calling my name.

Building a Story Brand:  Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller

This book caught my attention because it had “Story Brand” in the title, but I almost didn’t read it since it had “Customers” in the subtitle.  Everywhere the book said, “customer,” I mentally substituted “reader.” That worked pretty well in most cases.

I was unable to download an image of the book for my blog post today.

Here are a few takeaways from the book:

“The fact is, pretty websites don’t sell things. Words sell things.”

“The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to communicate why our customers need those products in their lives.” (In other words, my challenge is not only getting my novel published, I must also get across to potential readers why they will benefit from reading my book.)

“The first mistake brands make is they fail to focus on the aspects of their offer that will help people survive and thrive.” (In other words, how will reading my novel help the reader thrive? Oh my!)

“The second mistake brands make is they cause their customers to burn too many calories in an effort to understand their offer.” (In other words, I need to be able to “pitch” my novel is as few words as possible.)

“In a story, audiences must always know who the hero is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want, what tragic thing will happen if the hero doesn’t win, and what wonderful thing will happen if they do.” (I knew that about stories, but I didn’t know the same was true in retail.)

“If you confuse, you lose.” (Just because I know what I’m trying to say or write doesn’t mean anyone else understands it.)

Becoming, by Michele Obama

Becoming, by Michelle Obama

This was a book that I listened to. It was read by Michelle Robinson Obama, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to her talk about her growing up years, college years, working so hard to excel in law school, meeting Barack Obama, working in a big law firm and coming to the realization that she was not going to be fulfilled by practicing law, finding a new career path, the struggles of trying so long to have children before Malia and Sasha finally came along, being under a microscope while living in the White House, and how much it hurt when people told lies about her husband and herself.

I know some people do not like Michelle Obama, and I don’t understand why. They might have a better opinion about her if they read – or better yet, listened to – Becoming. I enjoyed every bit of it!

Red Notice:  A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice, by Bill Browder

Red Notice, by Bill Browder

This book was recommended by one of my loyal blog readers, Alison. (She has a keen sense of humor and often reveals it in her blog, “A Pierman Sister” — https://piermanparis.com/.)

Many of the details of how venture investing works were beyond my interest or understanding, but I couldn’t seem to stop reading it.

This is the story of the author’s experience in the world of high finance in eastern Russia. What I know about high finance could easily fit on the head of a pin. I’ve never really needed to know the details of high finance. I don’t move in those circles. Nevertheless, the book is intriguing and sheds some timely light on current USA-Russia interactions.

Red Notice gives insightful background about how Russia transitioned from communism to capitalism and why capitalism doesn’t work in Russia the same way it works in America. There is a different mindset in Russia after decades of communist rule and thought.

I’ll share a few quotes from this political thriller:

“It bears mentioning that in Russia there is no respect for the individual and his or her rights. People can be sacrificed for the needs of the state, used as shields, trading chips, or even simple fodder. If necessary, anyone can disappear.”

“The moral is simple:  when it comes to money, Russians will gladly – gleefully, even – sacrifice their own success to screw their neighbor.”

“The major downside to what I was doing was that I was seriously disrespecting a Russian oligarch in public, and in Russia that had often led to lethal results in the past. The imagination is a horrible thing when it’s preoccupied with exactly how someone might try to kill you.”

Seizing an opportunity that was too good to pass up, Mr. Browder founded what was to become the largest investment fund in Russia after the demise of the Soviet Union. Quoting from Goodreads.com:  “But when he exposed the corrupt oligarchs who were robbing the companies in which he was investing, Vladimir Putin turned on him and, in 2005, had him expelled from Russia.”

Mr. Browder’s offices in Moscow were raided in 2007. His attorney was arrested and eventually murdered by prison guards in 2009. Mr. Browder wrote this book in an effort to bring justice for his deceased lawyer and to expose what takes place in Russian business dealings right up to Vladimir Putin.

This book should give us pause.

Since my last blog post

Two days this past week, no one from the United States has looked at my blog. What’s with that?

Carolyn W. and her team at WordPress.com continued to work on the problem I was having with the “like” buttons on other people’s blogs. They didn’t stop until they’d figured out that it was a browser issue. Now instead of using Firefox, I must use Chrome. Kuddos to WordPress.com’s support chat for getting to the bottom of this!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ll finish reading The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber today. I’ve enjoyed it. It is set in what is now Capitol Reef National Park in Utah – a place I had the pleasure of visiting in 2002.

If you’re a writer, I have you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Look for my #TwoForTuesday blog post tomorrow:  Two Books Written by Women of Color. Thank you for providing the writing prompt, Rae, in “Rae’s Reads and Reviews” blog.

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

Have you read any of the five books I talked about today? If so, please share your thoughts with me. Have I piqued your interest in reading any of these books?

What are you reading, and would you recommend it?

Janet

#TwoForTuesday: Two Books with Strong Female Leads

In honor of Women’s History Month, Rae of Rae’s Reads and Reviews blog chose four women-related #TwoForTuesday blog post prompts for March. Here’s a link to her list, in case you’d like to participate: https://educatednegra.blog/2019/03/03/two-for-tuesday-march-prompts/comment-page-1/#comment-2084.

I enjoyed participating in February so I look forward to blogging the four Tuesdays in March using these prompts.

It was tempting to list two books that readily came to mind, but I decided to give today’s prompt some deeper thought. I reviewed the list of books I’ve read and the two I chose to write about might not be selected by anyone else doing Rae’s #TwoForTuesday challenge.

Climbing Over Grit, by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi

Climbing Over Grit, by Marzeeh Laleh Chini and Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi

Few books I read in 2018 left an impression on me like Climbing Over Grit, by Laleh Chini and her son. It left me wondering how any women raised in Iran have the strength, resolve, and grit to overcome the oppression that men inflict on females there.

Quoting from my November 5, 2018 blog post, “Many Good Books Read in October!” (https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/11/05/many-good-books-read-in-october/): 

“I have been following Laleh Chini’s blog, “A Voice from Iran” for quite a while, but I had somehow missed knowing that she was writing a book. When she announced that her book, Climbing Over Grit, was available on preorder, I immediately ordered it. Laleh has a gift for storytelling, so I knew her book would be good.

“Little did I know that Laleh’s book was based on some experiences within her own family! The book is written in first-person point-of-view, but I still didn’t catch on that it was written in her mother’s voice until I came to a page well into the book that said something like, “The second daughter was named Laleh.” I gasped out loud! It was then that I couldn’t put the book down. I finished reading it at 4:30 in the morning.

“I still cringe to think about some of Laleh’s family members being subjected to arranged child marriage and the abuse that often goes along with that practice.

“Fortunately for her readers, Laleh got out of Iran at the age of 16 and came to the United States. She now resides in Canada. The photographs and Iranian folktales she shares in her blog have helped me get a picture of an Iran I didn’t know existed.

“Climbing Over Grit is not a pleasant read, but I highly recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about the child bride culture of Iran. Her blog can be found at https://avoicefromiran.wordpress.com/.”

The Taster, by V.S. Alexander

The Taster, by V.S. Alexander

I’m sure somewhere in my study of history I knew that tasters had to sample Adolph Hitler’s food before he ate it, but it wasn’t something I’d given a lot of thought to until I read The Taster, by V.S. Alexander. What The Taster shines a bright light on is the fact that Hitler’s tasters were all women because in his warped mind women were replaceable.

I’ve read The Magdalene Girls and The Taster, by V.S. Alexander and I am impatiently waiting to rise to the top of the waitlist at the library for The Irishman’s Daughter. Alexander is fast becoming one of my favorite historical fiction writers.

I read The Taster a year ago and shared my thoughts about the book in my March 5, 2018 blog post “Reading and Writing in February 2018,” (https://janetswritingblog.com/2018/03/05/reading-and-writing-in-february-2018/.) Feel free to read that entire blog post, if you missed it the first time. The following is a quote from that post:

“The Taster is the story of a young woman in need of a job and living in Hitler’s Germany. The job she got was not a job she wanted. She was selected to be a food and drink taster for Adolph Hitler. Hitler was mortified of being poisoned, so all his food and drink had to be tasted in advance by a replaceable woman. If a taster died, she could be replaced. Hitler, of course, did not see himself as replaceable.”

The life of a food taster for Hitler was beyond stressful, as we can only imagine. The tasters didn’t know from one meal, snack, or reception to the next if that would be their last bit of food or drink.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. As mentioned in my blog post yesterday, https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/03/04/five-of-the-ten-books-i-read-in-february-2019/, I’m reading three good ones:  The Glovemaker, by Ann Weisgarber; Jacksonland, by Steve Instep; and Girls on the Line, by Aimie K. Runyan.

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

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

Have you read Climbing Over Grit or The Taster?

What are two books you would name for having strong female leads?

Janet