You Need to Read These Books!

I had another good month of reading in May. I’m on a roll for 2017! If I were a faster reader, I could devour more books. In the meantime, though, I’ll enjoy as many as I can.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman

I’m running out of superlatives for the books I’ve read this year. I kept hearing about A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, so I got on the waitlist for it at the public library. It’s a popular book, so it took a while for my name to gravitate to the top of the list.

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I thoroughly enjoyed this book. At times outrageously funny and at times heartwarming and touching, it held my interest from start to finish. Ove is a 59-year-old man. I could see my father, my brother, and even myself in him. I could see myself in his late wife when he recalled how it drove him up the wall because she delighted in planning the details of a trip to the extreme. That’s me! Thank goodness I have a sense of humor! Poor Ove is at odds with the world and having trouble keeping up with the modern world. For the most part, he’s not even trying to keep up.

The author, Fredrik Backman, is from Sweden, where his books have gained much acclaim. I am amazed at how well the humor in this book translated so well from Swedish into English. Although I don’t speak or read Swedish, I don’t believe the book lost anything in the translation. I look forward to reading Mr. Backman’s other books.

Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Maybe it’s because Mother’s Day was approaching when I was reading this book, or maybe the sentence would have struck me like a ton of bricks any time of the year. Ms. Picoult has an uncommon gift when it comes to writing. Her books tackle some of the most heart-wrenching issues of our day, and she has a wonderful way with words.

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I featured the following sentence in my Being the Balloon blog post on May 5, 2017:

“What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”   – from Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

The context of that sentence is that Ruth, the protagonist who is a seasoned labor and delivery nurse, a mother, and the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan, reacts to the death of her mother with, “What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”

I highly recommend Small Great Things. In it, Ms. Picoult takes on the issue of race in America, and she has an uncanny talent for getting inside the skin of individuals from one end of that spectrum to the other in Small Great Things. The line that I focused on from the book in my blog on May 5 speaks to the humanity of us all.

In a nutshell, Small Great Things is about an African-American nurse in Connecticut who is barred from caring for the newborn infant of a white supremacist couple. Author Jodi Picoult masterfully writes from the point-of-view of the nurse, the white-supremacist father, and the white lawyer who defends the nurse. There is an explosive trial during which all kinds of raw emotions erupt. I think we all can learn some life lessons by reading and pondering Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult!

The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

I kept hearing good things about this book, which had been translated into English from its original German. I finally got it from the public library, but with too many other books to read and a lot I was trying to learn about the craft or writing. Therefore, I only got 40% of the book read before I had to return it to the library for the next person on the wait list. I will definitely check it out again so I can finish it.

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The Hidden Life of Trees:  How They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World might not appeal to everyone, but I thought it was very interesting. That might be because I grew up and again live out in the country. My parents instilled an appreciation and respect for trees in us. We have a variety of trees in our yard – dogwood, pine, ash, poplar, cedar, several varieties of oak, mulberry, sycamore, black walnut, sweet gum, holly, persimmon, and maple.

I thought I knew a lot about trees until I started reading Peter Wohlleben’s book. I now know that there’s a whole world out there I can’t see or hear. The book explains how certain tree species work together and how other tree species work against one another. It talks about how trees pump water out of the ground. It talks a lot about fungi and how fungal networks underground help trees in numerous ways. It really is quite fascinating!

The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah

I highly recommend The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. It is a historical novel about two sisters in France during the German occupation in World War II. The sisters cope with the occupation and resulting cruelties of war very differently.

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One sister joins the French Resistance and risks her life helping shot down Allied airmen across the Pyrennes and into Spain. The other sister’s nerves and wits are pushed to the limits as two German officers are billeted in her home. The book was inspired by a 19-year-old Belgian woman, Andrée De Jongh, who created an escape route out of Nazi-occupied France.

This book will pull on all your emotions. When the characters are cold and hungry – which was most of the time – you will feel cold and hungry, although I’m certain that I truly can’t imagine the level of hunger or fear the people who lived through the ordeal actually endured.

When we study World War II or hear stories about it, the emphasis is almost always on the battles. The Nightingale gives a paints a picture of life on the home front in France. It was this month’s book for discussion by Rocky River Readers Book Club. Everyone at our meeting had only praise for the book – how much it taught us and how well-written it was.

Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi

This historical novel is Yaa Gyasi’s debut as a fiction writer. It is different from any novel I’ve ever read. It is set in Africa. As part of my 2017 Reading Challenge I wanted to read a book set on each of the continents this year, so I was drawn to this novel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t finish reading it before it was due at the public library.

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Each chapter is about a different member of this family. It is about family ties and the horrible conditions in the slave trade. It puts a human face on slavery – a subject we tend to think of in terms of numbers and not the families that were torn apart in Africa. If I get a chance, I’d like to check this book out again.

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane, by Lisa See

Like Homegoing and The Hidden Life of Trees, I didn’t get to finish reading The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane before it had to be returned to the library. I couldn’t renew any of the three books because there were people on the wait list. The part of The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane that I got read was fascinating in how it shed light on some of the superstitions held by the Chinese. I had no idea!

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The novel follows a young Chinese girl who is painfully aware from birth that she is not valued because she is female. Her family has to walk for hours to pick tea leaves for a meager amount of income. It is a difficult life. Her mother is the local midwife and she tells her daughter that she must follow in her footsteps in that occupation.

There is a ray of hope, though, because the girl’s teacher tells her that she can leave the harsh mountain environment and make something of herself. I look forward to checking the book out again in order to see how her life turns out!

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I have come to the conclusion this week that I am trying to read too many books and not spending enough time on my writing. My goal in June is to strike a happy medium.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I’m writing bios of my characters in the “new and improved” The Spanish Coin.

Janet

Being the Balloon

“What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”   – from Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Reading that line out of context can, no doubt, conjure up many different images and emotions. As I read those words in the context in which they were written by Jodi Picoult in Small Great Things for the first time a couple of days ago, they brought tears to my eyes.

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Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Here’s the context

Ruth is the protagonist. She is a seasoned labor and delivery nurse, a mother, and the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan. This is her reaction when her mother dies:  “What it’s like to be the balloon, when someone lets go of the string.”

Well said, Ruth!

The sentence stopped me in my tracks. With Mother’s Day in the United States just over a week away, reading those words were especially poignant. My mother died in 1993. I keep thinking the next Mother’s Day will be easier, but that hasn’t happened yet.

Many people in the United States mean well, but they have fallen into the habit of wishing every female a “Happy Mother’s Day.” For many of us, it is not a particularly happy day. I have no mother. I am not a mother. Many women desperately want to have children but have not been able to have even one child. Mother’s Day is painful for them. Being wished “Happy Mother’s Day” by uncaring friends and total strangers just rubs salt in their wounds.

So, this Mother’s Day, count your blessings if you are a mother or still have one. And please be mindful and considerate of those of us for which Mother’s Day is not a happy day.

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.

Janet

Z is for Zilch!

Zilch is what I’ve accomplished toward starting over to write my first historical novel. I have successfully completed the 2017 A to Z Blog Challenge by writing a post today that has something to do with the letter “Z.” I enjoyed parts of the challenge, but I’m glad English only has 26 letters! It was interesting and I picked up some new followers, but I don’t think I’ll do it again. Beginning on Tuesday, May 2, I plan to return to my former routine of blogging on Tuesdays and Fridays.

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Blogging from A to Z Challenge Badge 2017

With this blog challenge finished

I look forward to having more time to delve back into the various resources available to me as I keep researching the facts surrounding the core event in The Spanish Coin manuscript. Several more books are coming from two public library systems, so you know what I’ll be doing next week.

What happened to The Spanish Coin?

I revealed in my “H is for Historical Fiction” blog post on April 10, 2017 (H is for Historical Fiction) that I had discovered some pertinent information about the core of my story that necessitated my starting over. Several years (actually a decade) and 96,000 words later, I’m back to having a blank page.

My options

Since April 10 I have done a lot of thinking and reading. I’ll need to do a little more work on the research end of things and then determine how to rewrite The Spanish Coin. It might not survive with that working title. Or I might be able to salvage that title and change the circumstances of its importance. Or I might just take the spark of the true story as my inspiration and write a totally new story.

When I figure out which option to settle on, I’ll let you know.

With the A to Z Blog Challenge Finished

I look forward to having time to read more books. My current “Books I Want to Read” list is so long I fear I won’t live long enough to read all of them. With new books being released every month, the list just keeps growing.

Until my next blog (which should be on May 2)

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m enjoying Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult, World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore, and The Art and Craft of Writing Historical Fiction, by James Alexander Thom. I have to take note and reread parts of Mr. Thom’s book occasionally. The bibliography in Mr. Moore’s book has already led me to more books I need to read before I figure out the verdict for The Spanish Coin.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. I hope you’ve gotten past the blank page stage on your first novel.

Janet

Y is for Yarn, as in Spinning One

Today’s blog is a bit of a stretch but probably not as strange as tomorrow’s. I say that because I don’t have a clue yet what to write about that has something to do with “Z” and the craft of writing. Today we have the letter “Y.” The only good thing about that is knowing that there’s only one more letter after it in the English alphabet.

I wondered about the origins of the saying, “spinning a yarn.” It is a saying in the United States that means telling a tale, usually a tall tale. There I go again, using a term that readers in other countries might not be familiar with or have in their languages. A tall tale is a story that obviously stretches the truth, so “spinning a yarn” essentially means the same thing.

There are differences of opinion about the origin of “spinning a yarn.” Some sources say it dates back to the days when women would sit together and spin wool into yarn or flax into linen thread on a spinning wheel. To help pass the time, they would tell stories.

The online dictionary on http://www.dictionary.com states that “spinning a yarn” was originally a nautical term dating back to the turn of the 19th century; however, Bill Beavis and Richard G. McCloskey wrote in “Salty Dog Talk,” (published by Sheridan House in Dobbs Ferry, New York in 1995) and quoted online at http://www.phrases.org.uk, that yarn and ropes were spun on land before they was spun at sea. They concluded that “this is probably one of the few shore expressions adopted by seaman.”

Messrs. Beavis and McCloskey offer as further explanation that a spinner must continually stretch the fiber he or she is spinning to maintain a consistent thread. They wrote,

“Thus when the old-timers wanted to suggest that someone was stretching the truth they likened it to ‘spinning a yarn.’”

Those last two sentences make the most sense to me, but I guess I’ll never know for sure when or where “spinning a yarn” came into use.

Until my next blog post (which might be very short)

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult. If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time.

Janet