What I read in January 2017

Armed with my 2017 Reading Challenge, I started January with excitement to plunge into another year of reading. I was not disappointed.

Glory Over Everything:  Beyond The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom

The first novel I read in January was Glory Over Everything:  Beyond The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom. I enjoyed Ms. Grissom’s The Kitchen House last October, but this sequel was really outstanding. I’m partial to historical fiction, and Glory Over Everything delivered on all counts — history, sense of time and place, and suspense.

I recommend that you read The Kitchen House first and follow it soon with Glory Over Everything because there are lots of characters and connections to remember. The sequel is the story of a light-skinned man passing as white in the 1820s and 1830s who, while doing a good deed, is hunted down as a runaway slave in northeastern North Carolina and its Great Dismal Swamp. Numerous people aid his attempt to escape via the Underground Railroad. More details might spoil the book for you.

A Body in the Snow:  A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery, by Christoph Fischer


I believe it was via Twitter that I learned of Christoph Fischer and his e-book, A Body in the Snow:  A Bebe Bollinger Murder Mystery. Intrigued by a mystery written by a new writer, I was eager to read this book. Mr. Fischer did a good job with character development. Each of his main characters had distinguishing habits, quirks, and personalities. He managed a large cast of characters.

This story, set in Wales during a snowstorm, kept me guessing. First, I was wondering whose body would be found in the snow, and then I kept trying to figure out who the murderer way. The book was published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform last September, and it has a great cover. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but this indie book has a very eye-catching one.

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Yes, I finally got back to the top of the public library system’s waitlist for All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. After having read one-third of it in 2016, I had some trouble getting back into the story in January. I should have taken the time to start over instead of jumping in where I left off weeks ago.

Set in France during the German occupation in World War II, it is a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a blind girl whose father makes a miniature replica of the city they live in so she can memorize the streets and buildings and find her way around. The chapter titled, “Number 4 rue Vanborel” is several pages of exquisite prose describing what is left behind in a city after the bombs of war. It is an almost poetic list of phrases and words that illustrate the small things left behind — the pieces that someone will have to pick up someday so the city can live again.

Irena’s Children, by Tilar J. Mazzeo

Continuing in the World War II vein, I read Irena’s Children, by Tilar J. Mazzeo. It is the true story of Irena Stanislawa Krzyzanowska Sendler, who saved 2,500 Jewish children in Warsaw, Poland from certain death in the Nazi concentration camps.

Irena’s father was a physician. Unlike many Polish doctors of the day, he did not mind treating Jewish patients. Many of them were too poor to pay him anything. He was an activist for equal rights and an eight-hour workday. He died of typhoid fever when Irena was just six years old, but she had inherited his compassionate heart.

For centuries, Poland had struggled for independence from neighboring Germany and Russia. At the University of Warsaw, Jews had to sit on the left and Roman Catholics on the right. Irena chose to sit with her Jewish classmates and was, therefore, beaten along with them in the riots of 1935. She was suspended from the university for marking through “Aryan” on her student identification card.

The book chronicles the German occupation of Warsaw, their forcing all Jews in the city to move into the worse part of town — which became known as the Warsaw Ghetto. The systematic rounding up of Jews to be transported to the Treblinka concentration camp consumed Irena’s life. Being a social worker/public health specialist gave her the opportunity to visit the ghetto to see to the health of the residents. This enabled her to learn the people, identify the children, and create a network for smuggling the children out. As if that weren’t enough, on flimsy cigarette paper she made secret lists of the children’s identities in a code she developed.

Turbo Twenty-Three, by Janet Evanovich

After reading two “heavy” books about World War II, I welcomed the chance to read Janet Evanovich’s latest novel in her Stephanie Plum series. I discovered her books several years ago. Since then I have read all 23 of them. I don’t have as many laugh-out-loud moments while reading her most recent books as when reading the earlier ones, but I still look forward to them as a fun read.

Stephanie Plum is a white accident-prone bounty hunter in Trenton, New Jersey. Her sidekick is a large black woman who used to be a prostitute. To say Lula has an attitude would be an understatement.

Stephanie is in love with two men. One is a police officer she’s known since first grade. He has trouble with commitment. The other man she is in love with has a chiseled body like a Greek god, owns a security company with resources the CIA would envy, and he has no interest in marriage and a family.

Turbo Twenty-Three includes Stephanie’s cousin the bail bondsman she works for, Stephanie’s parents, and her Grandma Mazur — who attends wakes at the local funeral home to try to pick up men. This particular novel involves a clown and the mysterious murders of several employees of an ice cream plant.

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop

I was so impressed with this book that I wrote my blog post about it on January 17. I won’t repeat that post, but I invite you to read it if you haven’t already done so. If you are a writer or have a curiosity about the process an author goes through in creating a book, you might enjoy reading that earlier blog post. It is an instructional book about the process of writing a logline. A logline is a single sentence that identifies a story’s protagonist, what the protagonist wants, and what’s at stake.

Other reading in January

In addition to the above books, in January I read a chapter in the Bible every day. This is something I’ve set out to do on many first days of January. I regret to admit that I have not made it through an entire year yet. I hope 2017 will be different. This time I started with the New Testament, which I believe will be easier to stick with than the Old Testament. In January I read all of the Book of Matthew and started on the Book of Mark.

I am also reading a poem every day in 2017, or at least I have so far. Reading from A Little Book of Cherished Poems, compiled by Kay Anne Carson, I read poems by such poets as Frost, Tennyson, Longfellow, and many poets and poems I had not read before.

Until my next blog post

Until my next blog post, I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.


What is a logline, and why do I need one?

I’m still learning the terminology used in the publishing business. The publishing business is changing every day, so I’ll always be playing catch up.

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence

A library book caught my attention last week, so I checked it out. Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop turned out to be one of the most helpful writing books I’ve read. Perhaps I feel that way because it was timely. It would have been even more beneficial if I could have read it a decade ago before I started writing my southern historical novel manuscript with the working title, The Spanish Coin. (Since Ms. Bishop published the book in 2016, that would have been impossible — but you get my point.)

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence, by Lane Shefter Bishop
Sell Your Story in a Single  Sentence, by Lane Shefter   Bishop                                                                                                                         

Speaking of getting to the point . . .

Sell Your Story in a Single Sentence is an excellent “how to” book about the process of writing a logline. A logline is a single sentence that identifies a story’s protagonist, what the protagonist wants, and what’s at stake. Sounds easy?  Actually, it’s quite a process that involves many revisions and lots of rewriting.

When to write your logline

If I had known to create a logline before writing my novel’s manuscript, it would have helped me focus. Writing the logline after the fact, though, will help me evaluate my 97,000-word manuscript. I’ll have to make the best of having the cart before the horse. Next time I write a book, I’ll know to start with the logline.

Why do I need a logline?

I need a logline so I can precisely answer the question, “What’s your book about?” I will also need it to open my query letters to prospective literary agents or publishers. In that respect, the logline is like the “hook” or first line of a novel. If well written, it grabs the agent’s attention and makes him want to hear more. Ultimately, it makes a literary agent want to read my manuscript — or not read it.

My logline for The Spanish Coin

The following sentence is my logline in progress for The Spanish Coin:

When a widow is accused of her husband’s murder in the Carolina backcountry in 1771, she will stop at nothing to save herself and her unborn child.

Until my next blog post . . .

I hope you have a good book to read. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.


P.S. Does my logline make you want to read The Spanish Coin? I would love to have your comments!