Independent Bookstores are the Best!

If you haven’t visited an independent bookstore lately, do yourself a favor and look one up this week.

Foggy Pine Books

NC Mountains Oct. '18 003
Foggy Pine Books in Boone, NC

I had the pleasure of visiting Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina last week. It is the quintessential small town/college town independent bookstore. Located at 471 W. King Street in downtown Boone just a block or so from the campus of Appalachian State University, it has an excellent selection of books ranging from the classics to the current bestsellers. There are several cozy areas in the shop that invite customers to curl up in a comfortable chair with a good book.

My vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, was not among the handful of Arcadia Publishing books on the shelf; however, Christina promised to read my book and consider ordering it. Next time you’re in Boone, drop by Foggy Pine Books and ask for it by name.

Mary Ruthless purchased the bookstore in 2016 when the owner of the former Black Bear Books retired. It seems that Mary couldn’t stand the thought of Boone not having a bookstore. I’m so glad she rescued the shop. Foggy Pine Books is in a different location from where it started and is conveniently located on the main street with free parking at the side of the building.

In addition to buying a book, I purchased a couple of bookmarks at Foggy Pine Books. One bookmark is imprinted with the words, “She believed she could so she did.” I will explain the significance of those words to me in one of my blog posts in November.

Dan’l Boone Inn

A trip to Boone wouldn’t be complete without eating at Dan’l Boone Inn. Established in 1959, the restaurant is in what used to be the area’s hospital at the corner of King and Hardin Streets. The menu for lunch and dinner are the same, as is the price.

Fried chicken, country-style steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, slaw, corn, biscuits, and baked apples are served family style after you’ve eaten your tossed salad. What appears to be way more food than you can possibly eat soon disappears and you’re given extra napkins to wrap up the country ham biscuits to take with you.

The dessert choices were all tempting, but I opted for the chocolate cake. It was as delicious as the rest of the food. The country ham biscuits were my dinner that night. Two country ham biscuits were all I needed that night after such a big lunch.

Tribute to Doc Watson

NC Mountains Oct. '18 005
Statue of the late Doc Watson, musician, in Boone, NC

 

I just had to take a picture of this statue of local legendary musician Doc Watson. He was from Deep Gap, which is a community a few miles east of Boone. He took blindness in stride and had a family and a successful career as a musician and singer. The statue is on King Street in downtown Boone.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Autumn temperatures arrived a few weeks late this year, so there wasn’t much fall color in the trees in Boone or on the Blue Ridge Parkway; however, after a side trip to Ashe County Cheese in West Jefferson, the two-day vacation in the mountains was made complete by a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I love driving in the mountains, so a road trip on the Parkway is always relaxing. The day was crystal clear after rain the day before, so the views were spectacular.

NC Mountains Oct. '18 007
Sign at an overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The sign gives an explanation of the legend of Tom Dula and is located at one of the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This murder and love triangle in Wilkes County, North Carolina in the 1860s was made famous in the 1960s by a folk song recording by the Kingston Trio.

Until my next blog post

Don’t forget to visit an independent bookstore such as Foggy Pine Books in Boone, North Carolina as soon as you can.

NC Mountains Oct. '18 004
Foggy Pine Books, Boone, NC

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m finishing My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton, by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie today.

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.

What’s your favorite independent bookstore? What is it about the atmosphere and feel of an independent bookstore that the big box stores can’t offer? Please share the names and locations of independent bookstores you have enjoyed visiting so the rest of us can patronize them.

Janet

Save Us From Ourselves

The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle was one of the novels I read last July. My impressions of the book can be found in my August 8, 2017 blog post, Late July Reading.

I wrote down the following quote from the book in my writer’s notebook. The words were written in the context of temperance in an earlier time in US history; however, in light of the events of the last year and a half, I believe it is apropos to the state we Americans find ourselves in politically in 2018.

“Says right here — he pointed to the paper — ‘I’ve learned that the inalienable truth of America is that its people sometimes must be saved from themselves.'” ~ The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

static1.squarespace.com
The Midnight Cool, by Lydia Peelle

You may disagree with me, but I am very concerned about the way things are going in my country. I never intended this blog to be a political platform but if I don’t speak out, I’m part of the problem.

I see facts being ignored, lies being normalized, science denigrated to the sidelines, journalists being shut out of events, children of refugees being separated from their parents with no forethought given for their reunification, our allies being insulted while enemies are being embraced, our justice system under constant attack, and now we’ve been told by the United States president not to believe what we see with our own eyes or hear with our own ears.

Freedom of the press and freedom of speech are bedrock principles upon which our country was founded. They are under attack from within our country and from outside sources. Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog and express my views.

I have faith in the goodness and the sense of fairness possessed by the majority of Americans. I believe good will ultimately overcome evil, but it won’t be easy.

Since my last blog post

I saw some relatives I hadn’t seen in a long time. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, a second cousin I’ve never met has located me and we look forward to getting acquainted.

With summer half over, I finally got around to doing some “spring cleaning.”

I wonder where May, June, and July went. The warm months are flying by!

Until my next blog post

I hope to visit a bookstore that is under new management since I first called on the owner after the publication of my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Support your local independent bookstore!

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Death of Mrs. Westaway, by Ruth Ware. After reading her novel, The Woman in Cabin 10 two years ago, I wanted to read her next book.

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.

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

How Can a Writer Use Pinterest?

I love to make plans. Ask me to plan a trip, and I’ll get into the minutiae of where you’ll be and what you’ll be doing every minute of the day.

My sister is my traveling buddy, and sometimes my attention to detail drives her crazy! On the other hand, she doesn’t enjoy planning trips so she doesn’t complain too much.

In my Reading Like a Writer blog post (“Reading Like a Writer”) on April 9, 2018, I told you that I had developed a social media plan. Making the plan was easy. The hard part came when I entered the implementation phase. Today’s blog post is about the Pinterest aspect of my plan.

Pinterest Best Practices

In the process of developing the plan, I learned the following from Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter Issue No. 234 (https://madmimi.com/p/9af10c/):

Kate Ahl recently noted an addition to Pinterest’s own best practices for success: ‘The first 5 Pins you save each day will be prioritized for distribution. Save to the most relevant board first…that Pin will get distribution priority.’”

That was a revelation for me. No more willy-nilly saving pins to my Recipes: Cheesecake Board! Since reading Amy Lynn Andrews’ Userletter, I’ve made myself save five pins to my writing-related Pinterest boards every day before pinning any recipes, quilts, or Maxine-isms.

Old habits are hard to break, so there is definitely a learning curve involved in this.

Advice from Janice Wald

Along the same lines, I learned the following from Janice Wald’s April 7, 2018, Mostly Blogging blog (https://www.mostlyblogging.com/social-media-manager/):

“When I started deleting my boards, Pinterest’s algorithms better learned the content of my niche, and my traffic grew.”

and

“I deleted my boards about food and entertainment, for example. Pinterest will be more likely to show your pins to people if the algorithms know what your site is about.”

and

“I read you’ll get better visibility at Pinterest if it’s clear to the site what your niche is. This makes sense. Search engines show your blog to people when they’re clear what you specialize in.”

That second quote from Janice Wald is a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t want to give up my recipe and quilting boards. I could make them secret board that only I can see, but I had hoped that when someone looked at one of those boards they’d also notice I wrote a vintage postcard book (The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina) and I’m writing a historical novel (The Spanish Coin) set in the Carolinas in the 1760s.

I’ll have to give that some thought. For the time being, I have 80 boards on Pinterest.

What I’ve Accomplished on Pinterest since Last Monday

I’ve learned how to create my own pins for Pinterest on Canva.com. Those of you who know me, know that I am technologically challenged, so this was no minor feat for me. I am not getting compensated for mentioning Canva; however, I’ve been able to create some pretty cool graphics for free using that website, http://www.canva.com.

How to move graphics from Canva.com to Pinterest

I soon discovered that I didn’t know how to move the graphics I created on Canva.com and saved to my hard drive. A search on Google quickly brought up the instructions. You simply go to the Pinterest toolbar, click on the red “+” sign, and then click on “Upload an image.” (This just might be the first time I’ve been able to give any technology advice to anyone!)

Want to see what I’ve done on Pinterest?

Please go to my Pinterest page (https://www.pinterest.com/janet5049) and look at the graphics I created this past week for the following boards:  The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress; Blue Ridge Mountains; Great Smoky Mountains; Books & Authors; and Rocky River Presbyterian Church.

Here’s a graphic I created about my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, for my Great Smoky Mountains board on Pinterest:

Cherokee Basket Weaving
One of the first graphics I made on Canva.com.

My mistakes

There are lots of things to keep in mind when making a graphic for social media. Looking at the one shown above, I realize using a color background would have made it more eye-catchy, although I think it shows up better on Pinterest than on my blog.

Also, at the bottom of the graphic, I should have included my blog’s URL, my website’s URL, and my handle on Twitter. I have edited it in light of that, in case I decide to reuse it at a later date.

My social media plan for Pinterest

  • Mondays: Pin link to my weekly blog post to Janet’s Writing Blog board (set up to post automatically by WordPress.com) and a colonial history factoid or A Spanish Coin teaser to The Spanish Coin – My Novel in Progress;
  • Tuesdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Great Smoky Mountains;
  • Wednesdays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid from one of my church history booklets to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church;
  • Thursdays: Pin a factoid from my vintage postcard book to my Blue Ridge Mountains;
  • Fridays: Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church women’s history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards; OR Pin a Rocky River Presbyterian Church history factoid to my Rocky River Presbyterian Church & Cabarrus-Mecklenburg boards with a link to the church’s website where a copy of Dr. Thomas Hugh Spence, Jr.’s book, The Presbyterian Congregation on Rocky River, can be ordered.
  • Saturdays: Create factoids/infographics for the following week(s).

This is a grand plan for someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so I know I will not accomplish this every week. I fell short last week even though I was enthusiastic about starting this new plan. I might miss some weeks altogether. The schedule gives me something to aim for, though.

80/20 Rule of Social Media Marketing

I have read in various sources that 80% of your posts on social media should inform, educate, or entertain and only 20% should promote your business. That rule prompted me to strive to shine a light on a book about the history of Presbyterian Women at Rocky River Presbyterian Church or Dr. Spence’s church history book on Pinterest on Fridays.

I wrote neither of the books, and the proceeds from their sales benefit the ongoing work of the Presbyterian Women at Rocky River and the church’s cemetery fund. (The church dates back to 1751 and has several very old cemeteries that have to be maintained.)

My social media plan for Pinterest looks a little out of whack in light of the 80/20 Rule; however, I hope all the pins I create will fall into the “inform, educate, or entertain” categories.

Since my last blog post

In addition to learning how to create my own Pinterest pins and pinning my creations last week, I have continued to work on the rewrite of my historical novel, The Spanish Coin.

Until my next blog

I hope you have a good book to read.

If you’re an avid reader who has never considered the possibilities of using Pinterest, you might want to check it out. You just might find that your favorite authors have pages there and boards about their books. After looking for your favorite authors on Pinterest, please let me know if this was an enjoyable experience for you and specifically what you liked about it.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time. Please let me know what your experience has been on Pinterest. If you haven’t thought about using it as part of your writer’s platform, perhaps you’ll consider it after reading this blog post.

Don’t be shy about spreading the word about my blog. Feel free to use the buttons below to put today’s post on Facebook, Tweet about it, reblog it on your blog, or Pin it on Pinterest. Thank you!

Janet

Some March Reading

I usually wait until the first Monday of the next month to blog about books I read this month, but I’ve read so many good books in March I decided to split them up between today’s blog and my April 2, 2018 blog post.

The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

After reading Kristin Hannah’s best-selling novel, The Nightingale, last year, I eagerly awaited the release of The Great Alone. What a masterpiece! I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you haven’t read it.

9780312577230
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah

I’ll just state the basic description – that it is the story of a troubled Vietnam War veteran and POW survivor who took his wife and daughter to Alaska to escape the craziness he saw in life in the lower 48 states.

Ill-prepared for life in the wilds of Alaska, things went from bad to worse for the family. Domestic abuse is a thread that weaves throughout the novel. Can love outlast the horrors this family lives with?

The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen

This historical novel alternated between World War II and 1973. After the death of her father, 25-year-old Joanna travels from London to a remote village in Tuscany where her father’s fighter plane was shot down in 1944.

tuscanchild-200
The Tuscan Child, by Rhys Bowen

Since her father’s death, Joanna has found an undeliverable and returned-to-send letter he wrote to an Italian woman named Sofia. In the letter, he references “our beautiful baby boy” who is hidden away where no one but he and Sofia can find him.

Joanna had no knowledge of this woman named Sofia until discovering the letter in her father’s belongings after his death. Who was Sofia, and is “our beautiful baby boy” a half-brother Joanna knows nothing about?

White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

This historical novel was a difficult read for me because the subject matter was so bleak, violent, and sad; however, I’m glad I read it. I learned a great deal of history.

9780735214439
White Chrysanthemum, by Mary Lynn Bracht

White Chrysanthemum is about man’s inhumanity to man – or more specifically, man’s inhumanity to woman. The novel was inspired by the plight of Korean girls and young women who were abducted by the occupying Japanese soldiers during World War II. The girls and young women were physically- and sexually-abused and were forced to be “comfort women” for the Japanese soldiers.

This is also a story of the human spirit and what it is able to endure due to the innate will to live. It is also about the love two sisters share for each other and how they long to be reunited.

It is not for the faint of heart, but I recommend it to anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the early- to mid-20th century history of Korean-Japanese relations. As recently as 2015, the treatment of Korean girls and women by Japanese soldiers from the late 1930s through the Second World War was being swept under the rug.

In 2015, the governments of Japan and South Korea agreed “to remove the Statue of Peace [in Seoul] and never speak of the ‘comfort women’ again” according to the timeline in the back of Mary Lynn Bracht’s book. Thanks to her novel, a whole new generation will learn about his piece of history.

The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen

I checked this book out because the title intrigued me. The author grew up in Finland but moved to the USA as a young adult. This book is her perspective on the social and governmental differences between the two countries.

NordicTheoryofEverything-bookimage
The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life, by Anu Partanen

The prologue was interesting in that Ms. Partanen expressed her surprise in finding that Americans are less free and independent than the people of her home country. Her opinion is that

  1. the fact that most Americans’ health care is dependent upon their employer, we in the USA are tied to our jobs;
  2. Americans are sometimes forced to stay in unhappy marriages because the income tax laws are written to reward couples filing jointly;
  3. the tax laws in America encourage young adults to depend upon their parents for paying for college and supporting them financially in other ways past the age of 18; and
  4. the policies of the US government saddle parents with too much expense in the raising of children and saddle too many middle-age adults with the financial burden of caring for their elderly parents.

 

Ms. Partanen boiled all this down to what she calls The Nordic Theory of Love.

My brief summary doesn’t do justice to this 450-page book, but maybe I have piqued your interest. I enjoyed a couple of days’ break from reading depressing World War II novels, but about halfway through Ms. Partanen’s book I decided I’d rather read fiction. Some short stories and novels were vying for my attention.

Since my last blog post

I’ve worked on letters to send to 40 bookstores to encourage them to place spring orders for my 2014 vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I’ve done a lot of reading, and I’ve studied book marketing and writing in deep point-of-view.

Until my next blog post

If you haven’t already signed up for my sometime-in-the-future newsletters, please fill out the form below.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading A Piece of the World, by Christina Baker Kline. Perhaps you’ll want to read one of the books I wrote about today.

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

Janet

Another Case of Wondering

A couple of weeks ago my blog post (Sometimes I Have to Wonder ) was about some strange recommendations I got from Pinterest. As a follow-up to that, today’s post is about a similar experience I had on Amazon.com

Occasionally, I do a search for my vintage postcard book, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina on Amazon to see where it comes up in the search, to see how many copies remain and if Amazon is placing another order, and the fluctuating price.

Author Copies Arrived July 23 2014 017
My book!

When I did that a few days ago, I was dumbfounded by the books that come up as “Sponsored products related to this item.” In case you haven’t been following my blog for several years, you might not know that in 2014 Arcadia Publishing published a vintage postcard book that I wrote. The title, The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, pretty much says what a potential buyer can expect to find:  narrative built around vintage postcards from the mountains in western North Carolina.

The following is a list of the “Sponsored products related to this item” as listed by Amazon.com on December 4, 2017:

How to Mount Aconcagua: A Mostly Serious Guide to Climbing the Tallest Mountain Outside the Himalayas, by Jim Hodgson;

The Journey in Between: A Thru-Hiking Adventure on El Camino de Santiago, by Keith Foskett;

Coloring Books For Adults Volume 6: 40 Stress Relieving and Relaxing Patterns, Adult Coloring Book Series, by Coloring Craze.com;

Farthest North:  Being the Record of a Voyage of Exploration of the Ship “Fram” 1893-96 and of a Fifteen Months’ Sleigh Journey, by Dr. Nansen and Lieut. Johansen (1897);

Vagabonds in France, by Michael A. Barry; and

Adult Coloring Book: 30 Day of the Dead Coloring Pages, Dia De Los Muertos (Anti Stress Coloring Books for Grown-ups, by Coloring Craze.

That was just the first of three pages of “Sponsored products related to” The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison.

Klout.com

Klout.com is a website that measures one’s activity on social media. I mentioned Klout.com in my April 13, 2017 blog post, K is for Klout.com.I understand that 50 is considered a good score on Klout.com. My all-time high score so far was attained on April 18, 2017:  45.31. Hmmm. Odd that I hit my all-time high score just five days after I blogged about Klout.com!

My score has now dropped to 42, so my goal of reaching 50 by the end of the end is highly unlikely. It will be interesting to see if my score increases this week after mentioning the website in today’s blog. There might be something fishy going on here.

My point in mentioning Klout.com today is because when I checked my score on December 8, the site reported that I was an expert on languages. I had to laugh.

I am a native speaker of English, and I neither speak nor write it correctly all the time. I studied Spanish 40+ years ago. I can count to three in French, although I doubt my pronunciation is correct and I’d be hard-pressed to spell those numbers correctly.

You get my drift. I am in no way an expert on languages. Several months ago, Klout.com reported that I was also an Excel expert. Thank you, Klout.com, for your vote of confidence, but I am in no way an expert on anything related to computers.

I think such things are determined by the use of algorithms. That’s all I need to know. I never did understand or like math.

Until my next blog post

If I can get my act together, next Monday I’ll blog about an interesting piece of local history.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading at (yes, reading at) A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. I keep checking it out of the public library when I have other books to read. I’m beginning to wonder if it’s just not the right time for me to read the book. It’s interesting, but obviously not holding my attention enough to make me drop everything else and read it. I think it’s me and not the book.

Shameless plug:  If you don’t have a good book to read, may I suggest you order The Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, by Janet Morrison. You might be able to arrange delivery before Christmas, if you hurry. You can order the electronic version and get it instantaneously, of course.

Author Copies Arrived July 23 2014 020
Silas and Janet were equally excited the day “their” book arrived in July, 2014.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and I hope the algorithms used by Amazon.com are kinder to you than they are to me.

Hmmm. I wonder if I did a search for Adult Coloring Book:  30 Day Of The Dead Coloring Pages, would my postcard book would come up as a related item?

Janet