Reading in April 2018

My first blog post of the month is usually about the books I read the previous month and sometimes a little about my writing. In recent months I’ve read so many books on occasion I’ve had to split the post in half. This is not the case today.

The Last Child, by John Hart

Knowing that John Hart’s sequel to The Last Child was being released, I got on the waitlist for the sequel at the public library and then hurriedly read The Last Child. It was awarded the Edgar Award in 2010 for Best Novel.

The Last Child was a good read. Mr. Hart made me really like the troubled 13-year-old boy, Johnny Merrimon, and the police detective, Clyde Hunt, who took a personal interest in Johnny and tried to guide him and keep him on the straight and narrow.

Johnny’s twin sister disappears and he takes it upon himself to find her. Everyone else thinks she’s dead, but Johnny is on a mission to find her when a second local girl disappears. Mr. Hart’s gift for descriptive writing puts the reader smack dab in the rural North Carolina setting of this book.

The Hush, by John Hart

I liked The Last Child. I liked the characters and I appreciated and enjoyed Mr. Hart’s writing style and talent. I couldn’t wait to get The Hush to see what happened to Johnny, Jack (Johnny’s friend), Detective Hunt, and Johnny’s mother ten years after The Last Child. I actually read 1bout 60 pages the first night I had it, but I struggled through the rest of the book.

It is my policy not to comment on books I read that I don’t like. I’m not a book reviewer. I just like to share books that I have enjoyed reading. The Hush, by John Hart just didn’t appeal to me. Since I’d enjoyed The Last Child and subsequently read its sequel, The Hush, I felt compelled to comment on it as well.

The writing was great, but mystical, paranormal stories just aren’t my cup of tea. I kept thinking the plot would move beyond the swamp which had bizarre effects on everyone who ventured into it, but it just got deeper into the weirdness. I read until the very end, but it was more work than pleasure. Again, I’m just not a fan of that type of book. Don’t judge it by me. You might like it.

The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

The Family Next Door is the third of Sally Hepworth’s novels I’ve read. In case you missed them, here are the links to the blog posts in which I commented on The Mother’s Promise and The Things We KeepWhat I Read in April (posted May 2, 2017) and You Must Read (Some of) These Books! (posted July 3, 2017).

The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
The Family Next Door, by Sally Hepworth

Ms. Hepworth is from Australia and all her novels are set there. The Family Next Door is set in a neighborhood in Melbourne in which it is assumed every house will be bought and lived in by a young couple with children. When Isabelle, a single woman, moves in next door to Essie, she and all her neighbors speculate that Isabelle is a lesbian.

Since I am a single woman, this struck a nerve with me. Married people often assume that all single people are homosexuals. Another false assumption that many married women make – and which was demonstrated in this novel – is that all single women who are not lesbians are a threat to them because we want their husbands. This is also a myth.

Perhaps you can see why I was drawn into this book and had to keep reading to see how Isabelle’s life unfolded and what was going to happen to Essie and each of her neighbors. It turned out that each couple in the neighborhood harbored secrets. There wasn’t a perfect marriage in the bunch. I won’t spoil the book for you by telling you Isabelle’s story. I’ll just say there are some unexpected twists in the story.

Sally Hepworth’s 2019 novel is titled The Mother-in-Law. I’ve never had one of those, but you can be sure I’ll be on the waitlist for it at the public library as soon as it’s on order.

 

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Divine Prey Noramgaell Saga Book 1), by Chris Andrews. Chris writes fantasy, which is another genre out of my comfort zone; however, Chris has been so generous with his writing advice that I really want to read his book. It’s his debut novel. If you’re a fan of fantasy, please look for it. Like Sally Hepworth, Chris lives in Australia. His book and several collections of his short stories are available from Amazon.

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

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

Thank you for reading my blog! What book are you reading? Do you ever read something out of your comfort zone? If so, how did it make you feel? Perhaps you discovered a new favorite genre you didn’t expect. Or perhaps it turned you off to all reading for a while. Share you experience below in the comments section.

Janet

You Must Read (Some of) These Books!

First, I wish all my fellow Americans a Happy Independence Day or Happy 4th of July tomorrow!

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I read some good books in June, so I will share my thoughts about them in today’s blog post. You might want to read one or more of them.

The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve

I was drawn to this novel by the title. I got on the waitlist for it at the library as soon as it was on order. The book was inspired by the wildfires in Maine in October, 1947. I didn’t know about those fires, so I learned something.

The book is suspenseful as it follows Grace, a young mother whose husband has gone to fight the fire. Suddenly, the fire is upon the small coastal town where they live and Grace is forced to run for her life with a child in tow. I don’t want to spoil the book, in case you haven’t read it. If you prefer to read “happy books,” this is not the book for you. Much of the story is dark, yet the reader can’t help but cheer for Grace as she overcomes tragedy. It was a page-turner for me.

The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth

As with The Stars Are Fire, by Anita Shreve, The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth, is not what I would call a “happy book.” Ms. Hepworth follows a 38-year-old woman, Anna, who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. The book chronicles Anna journey from diagnosis, through the months that she is very much aware of her diagnosis and the mental and physical deterioration that will be her future. Anna accepts her illness with humor as she adjusts to living in a residential facility where most of the other residents are decades older than she. The other young resident, Luke, befriends Anna, and the main plot of the book is their friendship, which grows into romantic love and how their relatives and the facility’s staff deal with that.

A subplot is about the widow of a businessman who loses everything and has to create a new life for herself and her young daughter. She takes a job at the facility where Anna and Luke live and gets more involved in their lives than the administrator wishes.

Although the subject matter of dementia is a frightening diagnosis, I found the book to be almost delightful due to Ms. Hepworth’s writing style. Each chapter was written from a different character’s point-of-view, which allows the reader to get into the head of Anna and to get a better understanding of what a person in the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease thinks – their feelings and emotions.

As someone with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME), I could identify with some of the issues Anna faced. I have memory problems and, when put on the spot, I have trouble formulating a comment or an answer to an unexpected question. When Anna talked about not being able to think fast enough to join in a conversation, I immediately identified with that. Ms. Hepworth let Anna articulate so well how it feels when by the time you formulate a comment, the conversation has moved on to something else. That was a paragraph that made my mouth drop open because I felt like the book was describing me. It was eerie to realize that some of my CFS/ME symptoms overlap some early Alzheimer’s Disease symptoms.

The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth, was June’s selection for Rocky River Readers Book Club. We had a good discussion about the book on June 26.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

By the time I remembered to check this out from the public library, I’d forgotten how I’d heard about the book or why I wanted to read it. It had a catchy title, so I dived in. Lo and behold, the author, among other ailments, has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

This is a unique book. It probably wouldn’t appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed it. It is the true story of the author’s months of being bedridden. One of her friends comes to visit one day and brings wild violets and a snail. The snail started out living in a flowerpot with the violets. Much to Ms. Bailey’s surprise, she developed quite an attachment to the snail.

She realized one day that she could hear the snail eating. One thing led to another, and the author was soon reading everything she could get her hands on about snails. She studied the habits of the snail and by so doing, along with her readings, learned a great deal about the species. In the course of reading the book, so did I! I had no idea there was so much to learn about snails.

Being a “country girl” for most of my life since birth, I have encountered many snails, but until reading this book I did not know that they have row-upon-row of teeth, their eyes are on the tips of their tentacles, they cannot hear, they have an acute sense of smell, and their one foot is called a gastropod. That’s just the tip of the iceberg so, if you’d like to know more about snails – and what it’s like to be bedridden with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I recommend The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating, by Elisabeth Tova Bailey.

Although I’ve been ill for 30 years, Ms. Bailey was able to articulate some of my feelings better than I have ever been able to in writing or verbally.

Camino Island, by John Grisham

John Grisham’s latest novel, Camino Island, is a little different from most of his novels. There’s still suspense and there are still bad guys, but the hero isn’t a lawyer this time. The story is about the underworld of those who deal in buying, selling – and sometimes stealing – rare books. The book takes place in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, and France. The book held my interest, as all John Grisham books do. If John Grisham’s legal thrillers aren’t your “cup of tea,” you might want to give Camino Island a try. I think anyone interested in books will enjoy it.

And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella, by Fredrik Backman

After liking A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman in May, I was eager to read another of his books. In June I read And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer: A Novella, by him. It is about a man with dementia, his son, and his grandson and how the man’s dementia affects his relationships with his son and grandson.

Perhaps it was just me, but I had some confusion keeping up with when we were in real life and when we were in the thoughts inside the man’s brain. For that reason, I had trouble getting into the book. The longer I read, though, the more I got out of it.

Detective Cross (a BookShot), by James Patterson

I wrote about a BookShot by James Patterson, Detective Cross, in my June 16, 2017 blog post, “What’s the Verdict on BookShots?” (What’s the Verdict on BookShots?) I read it out of curiosity. I wanted to know what a BookShot was like, and I’m one of the last people in the world to read a book by James Patterson. His books are known for their fast pace, and this BookShot was no different.

Mr. Patterson’s BookShots are designed to be read in one sitting. It took me longer than that because, as I’ve mentioned before, I am a slow reader. I guess you could say that a BookShot is longer than a short story and shorter than a novella, but don’t quote me on that. I’m no expert.

As I pointed out in my June 16 blog post, Mr. Patterson has long been a champion of children’s literacy, and his BookShots are an attempt to put short books in the hands of adults who might not otherwise pick up a book to read. I hope they accomplish that!

Put the Cat in the Oven Before You Describe the Kitchen:  A Concise No-Bull Guide to Writing Fiction, by Jake Vander Ark

I must admit that I was drawn to this book by its title. I would never put a cat in an oven, but I just had to see what the author had to say about writing fiction. It was a humorous book, and it held my attention. The jest of it was that you need to get your reader’s attention before you start giving a lot of description.

Among other points, the author said if a minor character doesn’t have an effect on the main character, take them out of the story. I’m trying to keep that in mind as I rewrite the manuscript for The Spanish Coin. Another thing he said was, “You need to scare your protagonist and shock your audience.”

He also said that a writer should let the “protagonist determine the placement of the #$%! Moment.” (This is usually called the “inciting incident.”) He suggests to hit the reader with the inciting incident the moment the reader grasps what “normal” is for the protagonist. I picked up a few other tips from the book, but I don’t want to bore non-writers with the details. If you’re a beginning writer, you might look for this e-book yourself.

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

“Not a rope . . . if drowning”

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Prayers the Devil Answers, A novel by Sharyn McCrumb

My blog post today takes a look at a line I like from a novel, Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb. Ms. McCrumb has mastered the art of capturing the independent spirit of the people of the southern Appalachian Mountains in the following sentence:

“Not a one of the folks from up there would ask for anything – not food if they were hungry, not a rope if they were drowning.”  From Prayers the Devil Answers, by Sharyn McCrumb.

How succinctly Ms. McCrumb gets to the core character of the people who live in those mountains and whose ancestors have lived there for up to 250 years! As a writer, I think anyone would be hard-pressed to state it any better.

What do you think?

Have a go at it. Try to write one sentence that sums up that southern Appalachian independent spirit.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth and Fredrik Backman’s novella, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer.

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

Janet

6 Things Learned about Google+

In my January 20, 2017 blog post My 2017 Writing Plan of Action, I said that I needed to give Google+ a fair chance. I thought it was one more platform I could use to establish my brand as a writer.

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Photo credit: Andrew Neel via unsplash.com

When I did the research for my April 22, 2017 blog post S is for Social Media, I learned that being active on Google+ will help people find me on the Google search engine. Actually, I did not learn that. I stated it in my blog post but promptly forgot it. When I remember to, I put my blog posts on Google+.

With today’s blog post in mind, on May 18, 2017 and several times since then, I took another look at my account on Google+ and learned some things:

(1)  Lo and behold, I hadn’t put links to my blog, my website, or my Twitter name in my profile. Duh! That was an easy fix.

(2)  I learned that when my novel gets published, I can only give it one plug on Google+.

(3)  I explored the “communities” on Google+ and joined several: Writers’ Blogs, Read Banned Books,  Writers’ Coffeehouse, and Self-Publishing Your Book. In addition, I’m following WordPress.

  • Writers’ Blogs should be a place where I can post my blogs about writing or reading, and I can find and connect with other writers with blogs. So far, I haven’t made any connections with other writing bloggers through this Google+ community. I’ve seen pictures of cats and a number of blogs about the TV sitcom “Big Bang Theory.” I’m having to look too hard and long to find posts about writing blogs.
  • The WordPress community should be a place where I can learn how to better use my blog and the features of WordPress.com. So far, I haven’t found what I need.
  • Banned Books is where I should be able to discuss banned books with other readers; however, from what I’ve seen so far, most posts are about anything but books – banned or otherwise.
  • Writers’ Coffeehouse is where I should be able to ask questions about the writing process or specific problems I’m having as I rewrite my novel, and join in conversations started by other writers. There seem to be more poetry posts on there than fiction writing, so I’m still not sure this is the place for me.

(4)  There are communities for just about any interest you can think of. If you don’t find one you’re looking for, create it!

(5)  I hate to be negative, but I think Google+ communities are going to be more work for me than they’re worth. It’s just not my cup of tea. (Maybe I shouldn’t post that on Google+.)

(6)  On the positive side, I am following “Writing Tips” by Rob Bignell, Editor on Google+. He seems to put a lot of helpful articles on there to help writers.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Things We Keep, by Sally Hepworth.

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

Janet