READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed! 

Book Number: 33  Commonwealth by [Patchett, Ann]

Commonwealth 

by 

Ann Patchett

This book left me with mixed feelings. I love Ann Patchett’s writing style. She has an eye for detail and a wonderful way of expressing what she sees. Her characters are real and I felt a part of each setting. For example, the opening chapter takes place in the 1960’s. Patchett does not tell us this, but the entire scene feels like the era.

This story is about two families, the Cousins and Keatings, who are joined through divorce and remarriage. There are two sets of parents and six children, but the blended family is far from the Brady Bunch. The relationships are complex, full of confusion, distrust, mutual support, love, jealousy—a realistic view of what happens when two families combine and are then affected by a tragedy. The novel spans fifty years and reveals choices the characters make and how each event influences those that follow.

Although I loved the writing I found the disjointed jumping around from character to character, setting to setting, and era to era a bit jarring and like a jigsaw puzzle. There were many characters and keeping them straight was sometimes a challenge. Some minor characters were dropped into the story, drew my interest, and then were forgotten. I wanted to hear their stories, too.

I was disappointed by the ending. This novel was more an exploration of relationships and, perhaps, the randomness of life’s events. I usually like a story that leaves me wondering what might have happened next, but in this case, I was left feeling that nothing was going to happen next. That the story, if continued, would tell of many people rambling through life.

I would recommend this book to anyone who appreciates a good wordsmith and likes stories about relationships. If you prefer a plot-driven novel, you might find the lack of chronology, the number of characters, and the general lack of a concrete plot not to your liking.

 

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READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed! 

   Book Number: 32

Product DetailsThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

by

Lisa See

 

 

 

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane has everything I like in a novel. The characters were believable, unique, and compelling. The heroic ones have flaws, the villainous ones have likable qualities. The settings were interesting and easy to envision. There is a lot of history, ancient and modern. The plot moves along and keeps the reader engaged and wondering what the outcome will be.

The story begins in a remote Chinese village in 1988. Li-Yan is a young girl whose family is, as are all families in the area, tea farmers. Her mother is the most revered woman in the village because she is a midwife and medicine woman. The book is rich in the history and traditions of the Akha people. The tribe is steeped in folklore, superstition, religious beliefs, and ritual. Each person has a specific role and must not deviate from the prescribed way of life. There are many details about tea—how it is grown, picked, processed, and sold. The work is labor intensive and the results are dependent on weather and the economy.

Because the tribe is isolated it is insolated from the edicts of the communist regime. However, when a teacher is sent by the government to the village, he recognizes Li-Yan’s potential and encourages her to continue her schooling. Li-Yan gives birth to a daughter and refuses to follow the tribal custom of giving her over to be killed. Instead, she runs away leaving the child in an orphanage.

The story continues to show the hardships and success Li-Yan experiences as she becomes a businesswoman in the tea industry. She never forgets her daughter or her heritage. The daughter is adopted by an American family and her childhood is in sharp contrast to her mother’s. She is also on a quest to know her mother.

I recommend The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane to anyone who enjoys learning about other cultures, tea, and mother-daughter relationships.

 

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed! 

   Book Number:31

Queen Sugar

by

Natalie Baszile

 

When her father leaves her an 800-acre sugarcane farm in Louisiana recently widowed Charley Bordelon sees it as an opportunity to start a new life. She and her eleven-year-old daughter, Micah, leave their middle-class lifestyle in California and move in with  Charley’s grandmother, Miss Honey. She soon learns that the farm has been mismanaged and the odds of producing a profitable crop are heavily against her. Micah has a hard time adjusting to the move and blames her mother. Charley has to fight discrimination, lack of funds, and the weather in order to put the farm in working order. When her older brother arrives, he brings a young son and a whole load of trouble with him.

The story is rich in details about sugar farming, family relationships, life in the south, hope and despair. Natalie Baszile is a fine writer whose attention to detail is wonderful to read. She evokes strong feelings for each of her characters, appeals to all the senses, examines human conditions, and tells a powerful story.

I recommend this book to everyone.

READER’S LOG 2017: 50 BOOKS

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed! 

   Book Number:30

The Good Earth (The Good Earth Trilogy Book 1) by [Buck, Pearl S.]

The Good Earth

by

Pearl S. Buck     

 

            This classic book was first published in 1932 and won a Pulitzer prize. Ms. Buck’s writing is beautiful and her portrayal of the characters is complete. She gives a good visual of the setting and the people and tells a detailed story of a man’s life. The story takes place in China and begins with Wang Lung, a poor young farmer, entering into an arranged marriage with O-lan, a slave. O-lan takes over all the household duties, including the care of her elderly father-in-law, bears several children, and helps Wang Lung with their meager farm. Wang Lung has a strong affinity for his farmland and works hard to produce the best crop. They live a plain life and he manages to save enough money to purchase more land. Severe famine forces the family to move to a southern city in order to survive. O-lan, her father-in-law and her children support the family through begging. Wang Lung is a man of strong principles and feels it is improper for an able-bodied man to beg. He finds work as a rickshaw runner which is backbreaking work with very little profit. When soldiers overtake the city and the populace invades the wealthy houses, Wang Lung steals a sack of gold and later discovers that O-lan has also stolen jewels. They return to their home and use the money to purchase more land. Their prosperity saves them during periods of poor weather, crop destruction, and marauding mobs. It also changes them.

Through Wang Lung’s story, we learn about Chinese traditions of honoring elders (even those who don’t deserve it), gender roles, and class distinctions. Wang Lung’s concern for and reliance on his land is the primary force in his life.

The novel portrays the effects of rising from poverty to wealth. Prosperity changes Wang Lung, but the changes in his children are more profound. They don’t have the same work ethic as their father nor his attachment to the land and see the potential sale of the property as a source of income.

I related to the characters, especially O-lan. All of Wang Lung’s success results from her unacknowledged support. The lazy uncle, the daughter called the fool, the sons, the concubine, and the farm supervisor, Ching, are all interesting and add drama.

I recommend this classic to anyone who likes a good story in a historical backdrop.

This is dedicated to one I loved

Dedications in books are always interesting. Some are funny, some poignant, some are long on details, others are just a word that makes you wonder what it means.

The dedication on my novel, “Child of Mine” is:

For Grandmothers, Mothers, Daughters, and Granddaughters, Especially: Barbara, Celesta, Stephanie, April, Laurie, Carter, and Kayden.

The first named person, Barbara, is my maternal grandmother for whom I am named.

She was a wonderful person, a great cook, a devout woman, a hard worker, a caring friend, a terrific role model, and a killer canasta player. Every one of her grandchildren thought they were her favorite.

I had a special bond with my grandmother, especially in later years. When my mother died, Gramma became my mother and I became her daughter. I cherish every moment we spent together. We used to take drives to explore the area and laughed when we sometimes got lost. We stopped to visit loved ones in the cemeteries and went out for lunch. Gramma always said, “Save room for pie!”

She passed away in 1994, just a few months before her hundredth birthday and I miss her still.

Today, October 30, is her birthday.

 

50 Books to Read—Two to Write

Busy book year! I am working toward my goal of reading 50 books this year. So far I have completed 29. Certainly a record for me. But can I make it to 50?

Additionally, I have been writing and rewriting and formatting and…

At last, I have two new books (paperback and Kindle format for both) on Amazon.com.

Here is a little about my three novels:

Don’t Be Cruel      NEW!

A remarkable tale of tragedy, determination, resourcefulness, bravery, and rock and roll. It’s 1956 and vicious lies leave sixteen-year-old Melanie’s reputation in ruins. Running away only Product Detailsbrings more trouble. Her survival depends on wits, gumption, and newly-acquired street smarts. Melanie befriends Ginger, another runaway, and together they venture to Memphis, home of the cool new music—rock and roll. Ginger dreams of meeting Elvis. Melanie envisions becoming a star drummer in a rock and roll band. When Ginger confesses her startling dilemma, Melanie is forced to act. Can she confront the problems of her past, deal with the devastating consequences of Ginger’s secret, and save a friend?

 

Blowin’ in the Wind

Product DetailsIt’s 1960, and Melanie Sedlak dreams of fame as a rock and roll drummer. Then she meets tall, dark, handsome Moses Carter.
Moe’s involvement in the civil rights movement puts him in danger and forces Melanie to face her own prejudices.
Can she cross the color line and orchestrate new dreams?
Blowin’ in the Wind is a touching story of love and misunderstanding, harmony and discord, tolerance and discrimination—and two people whose destinies are shaped by the hostility they face and the love they share.

 

Child of Mine   NEW!

Product DetailsA multi-generational story of conflict, love, and reconciliation. As Rita reviews her past, she wonders if she will ever again see the daughter she lost thirteen years ago. Melanie has woven a web of deception and her mistakes are catching up with her. Can she regain control and set things right? Monique has learned the identity of her father and she wants answers. Will she uncover her mother’s secrets and find the family she longs for?

 

I hope you enjoy reading these novels as much as I enjoyed writing them!

They are available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions.

barbvortman@yahoo.com

I’d love to hear your comments!

 

Reader’s Log 2017: 50 Books

This year I’ve challenged myself to read fifty books. This is no easy task for a slow reader, especially since so many other things distract me. Through this blog, I’ll share the books I’m reading and keep myself on track. Please feel free to offer suggestions of books you’ve enjoyed! 

   Book Number: 29                 

The Circle by [Eggers, Dave]

The Circle              

by

Dave Eggers

 

The Circle by Dave Eggers has to be the creepiest book I’ve ever read! Not creepy in a Stephen King way, but creepy in that it is a terrifying depiction of how insidious technology has invaded our lives.

Mae is a new employee of the major technology company called The Circle and soon becomes enveloped in The Circle’s beliefs and practices. Like all Circle members, she is seduced into supporting all that it stands for. She quickly rises through the ranks and becomes a major influencer.

This work of fiction presents a fairly accurate picture of large tech company culture and explores the possibilities for technology to digitize our lives and invade our privacy. The addictive nature of instantaneous feedback and the desire for transparency are portrayed through chilling events.

Eggers presents the story in an entertaining manner somewhat akin to George Orwell’s 1984 and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.

I enjoyed this fast-paced book and found the subject evokes great conversations.

I highly recommend The Circle by Dave Eggers