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 16:

 

 

Product DetailsOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by

Stephen King

 

James Hunniford, a magnificent writer and friend in Write On!, gave me this book.

I knew better than to expect a grand revelation that would transform me into an accomplished author like Stephen King.  I haven’t read any of his books in years but those I’d read long ago (The Stand, Salem’s Lot, Pet Sematary, Needful Things and several more) were entertaining, scary, and well written.

This book is largely autobiographical and I was surprised to learn about King’s childhood and the struggles he had as a young writer (financial, personal, and professional.) The insights about his life are worth the read.

His writing “tips” were not new but were presented in a friendly, convincing style. King offers his methods of writing–the things that work for him as an author. To become successful a writer must: read copiously, write constantly, observe everything, imagine possibilities, be honest, keep things simple, and persevere.

Each writer should build his own toolbox. The first things to go in it are a good vocabulary (he says that often the word you first choose is the best one)  and basic grammar skills. He suggests Strunk and White’s Elements of Style as a go-to manual. Then you pack in all the other instruments you need, from character development to plot structure and everything in between. King gives examples of the good, the bad and the ugly and demonstrates his editing methods.

His method of writing is to write out the plot (“writing is story”) then develop characters, setting, and so on. Of course, he acknowledges what all writers know. Sometimes your characters take over and the plot you’d thought was your story takes another turn and you end up someplace else. Not all novels are plot-driven, so some writers develop the characters then put them in the situation. It’s not King’s method, but the primary idea he presents is that each writer is unique and should follow what works best. Keep reading and writing and you’ll learn how to write.

At the end of the book, King relates in detail the accident that nearly cost him his life. He was walking on a rural road near his home when a car with an erratic driver plowed into him. He tells of the damage his body sustained and the incredible effort the rehabilitation required.

Although I didn’t pick up much new information about how to write and revise, I did receive affirmation. Stephen King worked hard to become a success. He did it for the love of writing. His words are encouraging even when the slow pace of progress is not.

Any writer will enjoy this book and Stephen King fans will especially like the autobiographical information.

 

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 15

 

smalProduct Detailsl great things

by 

Jodi Picoult

 

Ruth has been a labor and delivery nurse for twenty years. Turk, the father of a newborn is a white supremacist who demands that Ruth, an African-American, not touch his child. When the baby goes into cardiac arrest, Ruth must decide if she should comply with the hospital’s directive. The child’s death leads to Ruth’s arrest and charges of murder.

The story is told from the perspective of Ruth, Turk, and Kennedy, a white, female defense attorney. Through this well-researched and wonderfully written novel, the reader is led to explore issues of racism, white privilege, hate crimes, and the justice system.

I especially liked the contrast between Ruth and her sister. Ruth is lighter skinned and chose to work hard in order to fit in with white society. She is educated, well-respected in her field, and lives in a white neighborhood. Her sister has chosen to embrace her African-American heritage and its culture.  She criticizes Ruth for being too white while Ruth sees her as trying to be too black. It’s an interesting way of showing diversity within a racial group.

Turk is a multidimensional character. Though despicable in his prejudices and his treatment of people who don’t meet his Aryan ideal, he displays love and loyalty toward his wife and child. His background and details of white supremacist groups are revealed through his narrative.

Through Kennedy, the defense attorney, (and her counterpart, Odette, a black female prosecuting attorney) we learn how race plays out in the courtroom. As Kennedy’s relationship with her client develops so does her awareness of racism and white privilege.

I strongly recommend this thought-provoking and highly entertaining story.

 

 

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 14

Product DetailsWonder

by

R J Palacio

 

My granddaughter, who is just finishing fifth grade, loaned this book to me. I enjoyed the story and the message and felt it was nicely written for a young audience and because it is a quick read,  is interesting enough for an adult audience.

Auggie is a ten-year-old boy with severe facial deformities. His mother home schooled him partly because of the need to deal with his many medical issues (numerous surgeries, special diet) and partly because she is overprotective,  She wants to spare him the negative reactions of people shocked by his appearance.

When his parents decide Auggie should experience middle school, he is afraid of the change. Once he visits the school, he agrees to give it a try. Auggie’s biggest desire is to be seen as ordinary. As he navigates middle school life, he is victimized by bullies and befriended by few students.

The story is told by several people: Auggie, his sister, her boyfriend, and two fellow students, a girl and boy. Through their narratives we learn that Auggie’s parents are loving, his sister Via is struggling to adjust to her new high school and the changes in her friends, and each person is unique. Also, we gain insight into how people outside the family see Auggie.

The story deals with Auggie’s adjustment to a more public life, the reactions of the other students, bullying, and kindness. A traumatic event leads Auggie’s classmates to look beyond his appearance and see him in a new light. Because this book is aimed at a young audience the ending might seem contrived and too pat, but who doesn’t like a happy ending? Auggie is a likable kid and although he is treated as anything but ordinary, he recognizes that “everyone in the world should get a standing ovation once in their life.”

Because this book is aimed at a young audience the ending might seem contrived and too pat, but who doesn’t like a happy ending? Auggie is a likable kid and although he is treated as anything but ordinary, he recognizes that “everyone in the world should get a standing ovation once in their life.”

I enjoyed the writing techniques R. J. Palacio uses to tell this story. Each narrator has a unique authentic voice, the short chapters are appropriate for young readers, the appendix with teacher Mr. Browne’s precepts and the postcard precept’s is thought-provoking and gives additional insight into the characters.

And the message of the story comes through loud and clear. Kindness, kindness, kindness.

Thoughts on Motown the Musical and Writing

Last night I saw Motown the Musical at Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo. The music was fun and inspiring. The performers were top-notch. I laughed and sang along. My toes tapped to the beat. The costumes were authentic and gorgeous. It was fun to recognize the portrayal of each singer as they were entered the stage. It is a beautiful story of dreams, tenacity, struggles, music, and love.
Historical references brought back many memories. While watching, a feeling that was a total surprise stirred in me. The struggles black musicians faced, the desire to create music, the mixed reactions to the civil rights movement were all a part of the history of Motown. And they were all issues that I touched on or explored in my novel “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
When I began writing my novel, I thought it was about a girl who wants to be a rock and roll drummer. A girl who wants to escape her dull life in a small hometown. A girl with big dreams. Little did I know she was going to fall for a Negro ( the story takes place in 1960 so the terminology is reflective of the era) and face a whole new set of problems.
Writing “Blowin’ in the Wind” was a learning experience. Yes, I learned a great deal about how to write. I learned how to self-publish, too. And I’m still learning. But the most significant thing I learned was how subtly our biases come into being and how they evolve. Many authors write to better understand themselves. I thought that purpose had nothing to do with me. And yet, it happened.
For some of my readers, “Blowin’ in the Wind” is an entertaining story and a nostalgic reminder of their own past. Some recall their own stories of discrimination, or love, or music, or tensions within their families. Some relate the problems confronting my characters to the problems of today. I’m thrilled that my writing has opened dialogue and provoked emotion and thought in my readers. Motown the Musical did the same for me.
Thank you, Motown the Musical for brilliant entertainment and a thought-provoking story.
Tickets for Motown the Musical can be purchased at http://www.millerauditorium.com/welcome-miller-auditorium
Other venues: http://www.motownthemusical.com/tour.php
“Blowin” in the Wind” is available at www.amazon.com/Blowin-Wind-Barbara-Vortman/dp/1533641447

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 13

The Secret MistressProduct Details:

by 

Mary Balogh

 

 

As a part of my ongoing quest to read books in various genre, I chose a historic romance by Mary Balogh.  I enjoy her Facebook posts which are positive, often humorous bits about reading and writing books.

When I began reading The Secret Mistress, I wondered if I could finish the silly piece of fluff. I chuckled when the main character, Lady Angeline, rested her bosom on her folded arms, which occurred on the novel’s third page. Soon, I pulled out pen and paper and started to record each mention of Lady Angeline’s bosom. Clutching her hands to her bosom seemed to be a nervous tic of some sort which fortunately she overcame by about page 40 or so.  I’m not sure if the attention to Angeline’s bosom was meant to be humorous, but there definitely was intentional humor in this love story.

The Secret Mistress is a tale of “opposites attract.” Lady Angeline. an enthusiastic, energetic, impulsive young woman, sets her sights on Edward, Earl of Heyward, who is serious, staid and proper.  Of course, he will have none of it—she is a silly flibbertigibbet, far too frivolous with her lack of decorum and her love of outrageously ornate bonnets. Edward plans to someday marry his steadfast friend and intellectual match, Eunice, and live his life fulfilling the duties required of his status as Earl.

Edward’s attempts to resist Angeline’s wiles are tested and his feelings are confounded. Angeline’s schemes are thwarted. But, as in all good romances, the couple eventually discover true love.

I enjoyed the humor in this story. Edward’s view of himself is both pompous and insecure. Angeline is a chatterbox who frequently oversteps the bounds of proper behavior.

Because the setting is Victorian England, the language and morals are formal and contrived. I don’t know how accurate Ms. Balogh was in portraying the actual speech and manners of the era, but I personally enjoyed her take on the formal speech and overly polite behavior.

The Secret Mistress is a bit of a misnomer, but there is a sexual encounter with a seductress rather than as expected with a rake making the moves. It had just the right degree of titillation tempered by sweetness.

I’m not a sentimental romantic so I was pleasantly surprised how fun this book was to read.

 

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 12

Image result

 

To Be Someone

Louise Voss

 

 

I was eager to read this novel about a girl who gains fame as a bassist in a rock band.

Helena suffers an accident and is at a low point in her life when she decides to write her song list/memoir as part of what she calls The Plan.  As Helena tells her story each stage of her life is remembered with a song that held significance to her at the time.  Although I loved the premise I was disappointed that I wasn’t familiar with all the songs and I didn’t feel the connection of event to the song was always strong. Still, it did remind me that particular songs evoke emotion when tied to a memory.

The chapters alternate between past and present (or late 1990’s when written) as Helena’s life unfolds through flashbacks. When Helena is a young girl her family moves from England to New Jersey, where she struggles to fit in and cope with the distance from her best friend, Sam. She finds solace in religion and music and joins a rock band. Fame follows (and religion wanes). Helena has a legion of adoring fans, but her only true friend is Sam. When Sam develops leukemia, I began to feel the story was too much like Beaches with Helena in Bette Midler’s role.

As Helena works on The Plan, it was easy to guess that her plan would not work as she imagined. The ending was predictable but still satisfying.

Description and detail are strong points of this author. She gives enough detail to her scenes to make them easy to envision. Although most of it was entertaining, I felt the story dragging in the middle as Ms. Voss related event after event. However, the writing was witty and humorous and emotional. Perhaps, I was bogged down by the feeling I knew where it was all headed and I wondered if I should continue reading. I’m glad I did because the ending, although what I expected, was very nicely written.

This was a fun, poignant story about rock and roll and friendship and finding one’s self.

 

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 11

Burnt MountainProduct Details

Anne Rivers Siddons

 

Burnt Mountain overlooks Atlanta, Georgia and is the site where Thayer Wentworth’s father dies in a car accident. Thayer is a tomboy who is never understood by her status-seeking southern belle mother and girly-girl sister. When her Grandmother Wentworth moves in with the family, Thayer has a best friend and ally.

Summer camp is a strong component of the story. Thayer finds refuge and a boyfriend at a camp in North Carolina. She meets her first love, Nick Abrams, which consequently has tragic results.

Years later she marries an Irish Mythology professor, and they move into the house in Atlanta she inherited from her Grand. Aengus becomes involved with a boys’ camp on Burnt Mountain and once again Thayer’s life is turned upside down.

At first, this appears to be a typical romantic story, but later it takes on ominous undertones and surprising events occur. I felt some of the things that happened were a bit too coincidental, but then life is often full of surprising coincidences so it was not unbelievable.

One of the strong points of Anne Rivers Siddons’ writing is her description of setting and characters. I easily envisioned the properties along the Chattahoochee River, the house, the neighbors, the irritated views of the established Atlantans toward the “new” rich.  She also did a masterful job of creating tension toward the end of the novel when Thayer is suspicious, distressed, and fearful of what is happening to her husband.

This is a Southern story that flows nicely and builds to a satisfying ending. Easy to read and toward the end very difficult to put down.