Books Read in January 2022

I had the pleasure of reading a variety of books in January. Each one was interesting in its own way.

In my December 6, 2021 blog post, Books Read in November 2021, I made less-than-glowing remarks about Wiley Cash’s When Ghosts Come Home. I’m rectifying the situation today.

When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash

When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash

I owed it to myself and Wiley Cash to give this novel a second chance. I checked out the large print edition of the book from the public library in January and started reading it again. I’m so glad I did!

I think part of my problem in November was that I read the first chapter or two and didn’t get back to it for a week or so. Since the third chapter was about a new set of characters with no obvious connection to the characters in the first couple of chapters, the book sort of fell apart for me. I figured out the connection a little later, but by then I’d lost interest in the story.

Getting back to this novel in January was a real treat. I was able to give it enough attention in longer blocks of time to get into the storyline, make the connections, and care what happened to the characters.

I had to find out why Rodney Bellamy was at the airstrip that night. I had to find out what happened to Janelle’s kid brother, Jay. I had to know if Winston’s daughter, Colleen, was going to get her life back together after losing her baby. I had to find out how Winston, the county sheriff on the coast of North Carolina, got all the crimes and problems sorted out. I had to find out what part FBI Agent Tom Gross played in all this.

Determined to tie all the loose ends together, the end of the book kept me reading until 3:00 a.m. I’m back on track now with Wiley Cash and look forward to his next novel.

There is an element of racial tension woven throughout When Ghosts Come Home. The following is a very telling quote from the book. Ed Bellamy is referring to the white Marines he served alongside in Vietnam.

“But I knew something else my white buddies didn’t know: I knew what it meant to be hunted…. I still know what it means to be hunted. All these years later, we’re still being hunted.”

I’ve read all his earlier novels: A Land More Kind Than Home, The Dark Road to Mercy, and The Last Ballad.

I read A Land More Kind Than Home in 2015 before I started commenting other than mentioning the titles on my blog about the books I was reading.

In February 2016, I read The Dark Road to Mercy. Here’s the link to the blog post in which I commented on it: Some books I read in February

I commented on The Last Ballad in my blog post on November 6, 2017: Some Good New Books.


These Precious Days, by Ann Patchett

These Precious Days: Essays, by Ann Patchett

I was surprised when I looked back through my blog posts to find that this is the fifth Ann Patchett book I’ve read. I’ll give you the links to those earlier four blog posts in case you’d like to read what I had to say about her other books.

To refresh my memory and yours about the Ann Patchett books I’ve read, here are my nutshell descriptions and the links to the blog posts in which I wrote about them:

(1) The Getaway Car is a book in which Ms. Patchett humorously tells what she has learned about the craft and art of writing. What I read in February 2017

(2) State of Wonder is a novel set in Brazil. It involves a pharmaceutical firm in Minnesota and the jungle along the Amazon River. Some Great September Reads

(3) The Dutch House is about a dysfunctional family in which the mother leaves and never returns. There are many layers to this story and the house itself is as important as any character. I highly recommend you listen to the CD of this book which is read by Tom Hanks. I stretched my reading horizons in November

(4) Bel Canto is a novel based on the 1996 hostage situation at the home of an ambassador in Peru. Eight Books I Read in March 2020

(5) Commonwealth was a novel that didn’t grab my interest and I didn’t listen to all of it. It involved drunks at a christening party. I couldn’t identify with that. Books Read in May 2020

Ann Patchett is an essayist in addition to being a novelist. These formats take two different writing skills. She’s a master of both. I enjoyed listening to These Precious Days, which is a collection of essays. She reveals some of her past in an entertaining way and with humor. If you’re an Ann Patchett fan, you’ll love this book.

I connected with her on several levels in this book. We’re both writers, although she’s light years ahead of me. We both knit – or do so rarely and not as well as those knitting experts in Scotland. Neither of us have children to dote on or depend upon to help care for us in our dotage.

It is a book about friends and family and those ties that bind us and help us along through life’s ups and downs. It was one of those books that left me wanting more when it ended.


When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamin Labatut; translated from Spanish into English by Adrian Nathan West

When We Cease to Understand the World, by Benjamin Labatut

My cousin, Jerome Williams, recommended this book. I failed to have it on my to-be-read list, although it was shortlisted for the 2021 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The author, Benjamin Labatut, is Chilean.

This novel reads like a nonfiction book. In it, Señor Labatut writes about various scientists and mathematicians who have had to wrestle with the moral ramifications of their discoveries. In some cases, their discoveries were meant for good but have been used as weapons of mass destruction and untold suffering. Some of these men lost their minds or were mentally tormented by the ways in which their discoveries were used.

There are unexpected twists and turns as years and decades pass, and we’re left to wonder what great wonders and what horrific demented uses of those great wonders lie in the future.

Thanks for the recommendation, Jerome. You have good taste in literature.


The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan

As I’ve mentioned before, this book isn’t a fast read. It’s a history book and it packs a tremendous amount of information and insight into its more than 600 pages. Trying to read the regular print edition was taxing on my eyes, so I got on the waitlist for the Kindle edition. I rose to the top of the list early in January and was eager to pick up where I’d left off in November.

Other books also reached the top of the library waitlists, though, and I was distracted. The Silk Road isn’t the kind of book you can read in snippets. I’ll keep reading it, probably throughout 2022.



Since my last blog post

I’ve been researching the Great Wagon Road and some of old trails associated with it. In case you’re interested in learning more about the Great Wagon Road, I recommend that you look at the PiedmontTrails.com website (https://piedmonttrails.com/) and look for Piedmont Trails on YouTube. Carol, who spearheads the Great Wagon Road Project, has lots of information that she freely shares. The Great Wagon Road Project is documenting the 800-mile wagon road that went from Pennsylvania to Augusta, Georgia in the 1700s and early 1800s.

I’m doing this research in conjunction with the historical novels I’m attempting to write. I had planned to start writing the rough draft of Book One with the working title The Heirloom, but there’s a technical issue with my computer regarding margins. I hesitate to start the rough draft until I can get my margins set at a reasonable setting. I’ve never had this problem before.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and a hobby to enjoy.

Stay safe and well.

Janet

#OnThisDay (Tomorrow): Robert Burns’ Birthday

Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in Ayrshire, Scotland.

A friend of mine from Campbeltown, Scotland, asked me if I liked to read the poems of Robert Burns. I had to admit that I couldn’t understand most of them.

Although written in English, and I’m an English speaker, the English Robert Burns used in the second half of the eighteenth century in Scotland was a far cry from the English I use and speak as an American in 2022.

I love to hear the soft, lilting tongue of Lowland Scots spoken. It’s lovely. It’s, no doubt, the way my Morrison ancestors spoke, for they were lowlanders and not Gaelic-speaking highlanders.

It’s lovely to hear a Scottish accent, whether highlander or lowlander; however, the heavier the accent, the harder it is to understand some words. In addition to that, the Scots have words for things that we don’t use in America.

When it comes to reading something written in Scots, some words just don’t translate well to my ears. That brings me back to Robert Burns.


Photo credit: Gary Ellis on unsplash.com

“Auld Lang Syne”

The most famous poem associated with by Robert Burns is, no doubt, the one that’s sung on New Year’s Eve. The words of “Auld Lang Syne.” The Scottish pronunciation is ‘o:l(d) lan’ səin. I must admit, this doesn’t help me at all. My source was quick to point out that we should note that Syne is pronounced like an s and not like a z. The rough translation is Long, long ago; or old long time; or good old time.

It seems that it’s an ancient song and in 1788 Robert Burns was the first person to write down the words. That was when he submitted the words to the Scots Musical Museum.

Did you know the song has four verses? Here they are in Scots, followed in more understandable English, thanks for the Scotland.org website The History and Words of Auld Lang Syne | Scotland.org.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

And auld lang syne.

Chorus

For auld lang syne, my jo,

For auld lang syne,

We’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp!

And surely I’ll be mine!

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

For auld lang syne.

Chorus

We twa hae run about the braes

And pu’d the gowans fine;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary foot

Sin auld lang syne

Chorus

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

Frae mornin’ sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

Sin auld lang syne.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

And gie’s a hand o’ thine!

And we’ll tak a right guid willy waught

For auld lang syne.

Chorus


Scottish Lamb. Photo credit: Gibbon Fitzgibbon on unsplash.com

A modern translation of “Auld Lang Syne”:

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And never brought to mind?

Should old acquaintance be forgot,

And long, long ago.

Chorus

And for long, long ago, my dear

For long, long ago,

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For long, long ago.

And surely you’ll buy your pint-jug!

And surely I’ll buy mine!

And we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

For long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have run about the hills

And pulled the daisies fine;

But we’ve wandered manys the weary foot

Since long, long ago.

Chorus

We two have paddled in the stream,

From morning sun till dine;

But seas between us broad have roared

Since long, long ago.

Chorus

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!

And give us a hand of yours!

And we’ll take a deep draught of good-will

For long, long ago.

Chorus


Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose

Photo credit: Serafima Lazarenko

“Oh, My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose” is my favorite Robert Burns poem – partly because it’s more understandable than most of his – and because the sentiment is beautiful. Here are the words:

O my Luve is like a red, red rose

That’s newly sprung in June;

O my Luve is like the melody

That’s sweetly played in tune.

So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,

So deep in luve am I;

And I will luve thee still, my dear,

Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,

And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;

I will love thee still my dear,

While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only luve!

And fare thee weel awhile!

And I will come again, my luve,

Though it were ten thousand mile.

You can find it sung by various artists on YouTube.


Happy 263rd Birthday, Robert Burns

Scottish Bagpiper. Photo credit: Lynda Hinton on unsplash.com

It’s a tradition that many Scottish organizations, such as the Robert Burns Society, celebrate the bard’s birthday with a fancy dinner. This involves a bagpiper “piping in” the traditional Scottish dish, haggis. I’ve never been to one of those dinners.

When I visited Scotland, I was determined to have as many Scottish experiences as possible. I ate haggis. Now I can say, “I’m a haggis eater,” which you’re supposed to say with a deep voice and much gusto.

I’ve eaten haggis. I don’t have to do that again, if you get my drift.

Thistle. Photo credit: Elisa Stone on unsplash.com

Since my last blog post

A blogger friend of mine, Francisco Bravo Cabrera, is a man of many talents. He paints, he writes poetry, he makes music, he puts together extraordinary art history videos, and he shares his talents on his blog. Here’s the link to one of his recent posts: https://paintinginvalencia.wordpress.com/2022/01/16/jazzart-phase-iii/

Since I blogged last Monday, I learned that he has launched a new endeavor by joining Fine Art America. Here’s a link to Francis’ Fine Art America page where you can view and purchase examples of his digital art on a vast variety of items ranging from wall canvas to notecards:  Francisco Bravo Cabrera Art | Fine Art America. Best of luck with this new opportunity, Francis!

I started writing the scenic plot outline for what I want to be “Book One” in my planned novel series. The scene-by-scene “outline” now stands at more than 3,700 words. I’m considering the working title, The Heirloom. The manuscript I’ve been blogging about for years with the working title of either The Doubloon or The Spanish Coin will be “Book Two.”

My blog post last week was “liked” and commented on by an honest-to-gosh published novelist, D. Wallace Peach. Her comment made my day and encouraged me that I’m on the right track with novel structure. Thank you, Diana!

My decluttering project at home continues. I went through bags, drawers, and boxes of old craft supplies. It felt good to discard dried-up fabric paint, craft glue, and sundry supplies I know I’ll never use. Usable items I’m no longer interested in or motivated to use will be donated to several people and a re-sell organization. The process freed up a drawer in a chest of drawers, making room for more things I probably should throw away or donate.

I worked on my next three blog posts.

I also did some reading. I gave When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash, another chance and loved it. More on that in my February 7, 2022 blog post.

Oh – and I actually got to spend some time on genealogy, one of my most rewarding hobbies.

In spite of some health concerns within my family, the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters, and the threat of war in eastern Europe, I had a good week. For me, 2022 is getting off to a productive start.


Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and a hobby to enjoy.

Stay safe and well, and let me know what you’ve been doing.

Janet

Highland “Coo.” Photo credit: James Toose on unsplash.com

Books Read in November 2021

It seems impossible that today could be the first Monday in December. That means I’m supposed to tell you about the books I read in November.

I happily spent more time working on my novel manuscript last month than reading, but I’ll fill you in on what I did read.

When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash

When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash

I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by Wiley Cash. He’s a North Carolina author whose novels are set in North Carolina. They are places I’m familiar with and there’s something special about that. That said – and you may have guessed where I’m going with this – I didn’t like When Ghosts Come Home so much.

It’s set on Oak Island, North Carolina, and I could almost smell the saltwater air while reading the first half of the book. That’s all I can comment on, because I just didn’t have the interest or time to read the second half. I’m curious to know what was on that plane that crashed on page one, but the tremendous amount of backstory in the next chapters became a distraction.

Curious to know if I had the same reaction to the book as others, I read many online reviews. It turns out that many readers have given the novel five-star reviews, but a number have given it one- or two-star reviews for much the same reason I lost interest in the book. As of Saturday afternoon, 1,955 people had reviewed it on Goodreads.com, giving the book an average of 3.77 stars on a five-star scale.

I looked forward to reading this book, and got on the waitlist for it at the public library months ago. It makes me sad not to give it a glowing review. Since it’s received so many five-star reviews, maybe I need to put it on the back burner for a little while and give it another chance later.

The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan

The New Silk Road: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan

I’m still making my way through this extraordinary book. Thank you, Chris Andrews, for recommending it to me.

World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore

World of Toil and Strife: : Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore

I’ve read this book before, but I’m getting even more out of it the second time around. It zeros in on the history of the location where my historical novel, The Doubloon (or, The Spanish Coin) is set in 1769. Bits of information in the book are enriching the story I’m writing and also giving me insight into the place in which some of my ancestors lived in the 1760s and 1770s.

If you have an interest in colonial American life in the far-inland portion of South Carolina along the North Carolina border, I believe you would enjoy this book.

The Judge’s List, by John Grisham

The Judge’s List, by John Grisham

John Grisham’s latest novel of legal suspense, The Judge’s List, was a welcome change of pace from the other books I was reading in November. I was on the public library waitlist for the book on CD for months and was able to check it out just a few days ago.

I found myself thinking I’d listen to just one more CD before bedtime but listening to a second or third one instead. It’s that kind of book. It’s Grisham at his best.

The story line is so convincing, it makes me wonder if a judge could actually get away with having such a double life. Also, what this judge is able to do on his computer gives me pause and makes me want to never get on the internet again!

Since my last blog post

I’ve tried to be more organized in reading other blogs. I try to read and comment on at least two or three blogs each weekday. I read more than three, but I try to leave thoughtful comments on at least two or three every day. It means a lot to me to receive comments on my blog, so I want to give some level of encouragement to other bloggers I enjoy following.

I worked on my novel. Making revisions isn’t as much fun as writing the first draft, but it has been easier than I anticipated. I’ve changed some characters’ names and made adjustments in the storyline based on recent research.

I spent some time on one of my hobbies – genealogy. My best “find” was a Revolutionary War Military Pay Voucher for one of my ancestors. Sewing has been another hobby of mine, but I’ve neglected it for several years. I literally blew the dust off my sewing machine cover last week and made a Christmas present for someone.

I also put some thought into the historical short stories I’ve written or plan to write. If I can get myself organized, I want to publish some of them in e-book form in 2022. I’ll keep you posted.

The colder, windy weather and seasonal allergies are keeping me indoors most of the time. I’m fortunate to have the option of staying inside where it’s warm.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have at least one good book to read. As in November, I have too many books vying for my attention and time to do them all justice. It’s a wonderful predicament to be in. I’m so blessed to live in a country where I have free access to a world of books through the public library system.

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog post today.  See you next week.

Janet

What do you know about the 17th Amendment?

There’s probably a limited audience to be reeled in by the title of today’s blog post, but I couldn’t think of a more creative way that might trick some unsuspecting readers to dive in.

If US Constitutional History is not your cup of tea, please visit my blog again next week. I’m not sure what the topic will be, but I’ll try to avoid the US Constitution.

You might recall that I mentioned the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States in my May 31, 2021 blog post because I’d read that it was ratified on May 31, 1913. After discovering that it was actually ratified on April 8, 1913, I had to come up with another topic for May 31. I’ll explain the confusion somewhere below.

Here we go…

Thank goodness for the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America!

Even though I majored in political science in college, if asked out of the blue what the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was about, I’d be hard-pressed to give you the correct answer.

Photo credit: Anthony Garand on unsplash.com

The 17th Amendment, in a nutshell

The 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States mandates that the two Senators from each state “shall be” elected by the people of each respective state. It also states that U.S. Senators shall serve six-year terms and each Senator shall have one vote.

What about before the 17th Amendment?

The 17th Amendment was passed by Congress on May 13, 1912. Prior to the amendment’s ratification on April 8, 1913, each state’s U.S. Senators were chosen by the state legislatures. Whoa! Let that sink in for a minute! I shudder to think about the possibilities.

Living in the state of North Carolina, I tremble to think about who the NC General Assembly would have chosen for the US Senate, especially over the last decade or more. Granted, the general populous has rarely elected the people I would have preferred for these offices since Senator Sam Ervin died, but at least a fair and open election gives the citizens some measure of confidence in the people we send to Washington, DC. What they do after they get there is a whole other story. But I digress.

The reasoning behind the way it was before 1913

The framers of the United States Constitution weren’t sure the average citizen was smart enough to vote. They formed our government as a democracy, yet the white men who were in charge in our country’s infancy didn’t completely trust the general populous to elect the right people.

Come to think of it, the white men in charge in Washington, DC and in many state legislatures today don’t trust us to “vote right” either. It seems like we would’ve made more progress than this in more than 200 years, but I digress again.

The framers of the Constitution wanted the United States Senate to be a check on the masses. James Madison assured the attendees of the Constitutional Convention that cooler heads would prevail in the Senate than in the House of Representatives where representatives were elected by popular vote of the people. (Well, not really “the people,” for you could only vote then if you were a white male who owned some real estate. The Electoral College was also instituted as a buffer between the people and the US President. But that’s a topic for another day.)

The reasoning behind having the state legislatures elect US Senators was that the senators would be insulated from public opinion. To borrow a question from Dr. Phil McGraw, “How’s that workin’ for ya?”

An examination of Senatorial elections, 1871-1913

The political scientist in me found a study online of how the system worked from 1871 until 1913. Written by Wendy J. Schiller, Charles Stewart III, and Benjamin Xiong for The University of Chicago Press Journals, their article, “U.S. Senate Elections before the 17th Amendment: Political Party Cohesion and Conflict, 1871-1913,” can be found at U.S. Senate Elections before the 17th Amendment: Political Party Cohesion and Conflict 1871–1913 | The Journal of Politics: Vol 75, No 3 (uchicago.edu). (If this link doesn’t work, please do a search for the article.)

I was eager to see what their study found. My hunch was that the election of US Senators was viciously fought over in the state legislatures and the said elections, no doubt, took up weeks and weeks of the legislatures’ time.

Unfortunately, it would have cost me $15 to gain access to the study, so I’ll just give you this quote from the article’s abstract: “We find significant evidence that under the indirect electoral mechanism, Senate elections were contentious, and winning majority control of the state legislature did not always ensure an easy electoral process. Specifically, the breakdown of caucus nominating processes, the size of majority coalitions, and whether the incumbent senator was running for reelection each exerted an effect on the probability of conflict in the indirect election process.”

Point of confusion

In my opening remarks, I promised to explain the confusion over the date of the 17th Amendment’s ratification. It was ratified on April 8, 1913, when the Connecticut legislature approved it. With Connecticut’s vote, three-fourths of the state legislatures had approved it. That met the requirement for an amendment’s ratification. It was not until May 31, 1913, that Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan officially announced the ratification in writing. Some sources have picked up that date as the date of ratification.

More than a century later, that’s probably all we need to know. This blog post probably already falls into the category of “too much information” for many of you, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Since my last blog post

I’ve been busy working on my novel. The working title is still either The Spanish Coin or The Doubloon. Unless I self-publish it, I won’t get to choose the title. The manuscript stands at just over 91,000 words. That number fluctuates from day-to-day as I make changes.

I’m re-reading World of Toil and Strife: Community Transformation in Backcountry South Carolina, 1750-1805, by Peter N. Moore. As more of it “soaks in,” I’m making some changes in my novel manuscript – changes that should result in a richer story and an additional layer of setting authenticity.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading When Ghosts Come Home, by Wiley Cash. I’m trying to finish reading it by tomorrow night, so I can write about it in my blog post next Monday.

I’m also still making my way through The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, by Peter Frankopan. It’s not a book one can rush through. At least, I can’t.

Note: Get Ready! December is Read a New Book Month!

Thanks for reading my blog today.

Janet