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A Few of My Favorite Reads

Books Read2

 

“Reading usually precedes writing. And the impulse to write is almost always fired by reading. Reading, the love of reading, is what makes you dream of becoming a writer.” – Susan Sontag

Often when I find it difficult to write, I read. I have been dealing with some life changes, some health related and probably the most difficult was my brother’s death. He was in home hospice for several months before he died this past December. I tried to spend as much time with him as I could while working full-time and trying not to neglect my husband and kids.

I wanted to write but my heart wasn’t in it. During those months when I did have some spare time, I spent much of it reading. That has always been my favorite escape.

As you can see I got through quite a few since September. I discovered some new authors and caught up with some of my favorites.

I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for years. “Breathing Time” is her newest and it was fantastic. It was one of those stories that surprised me at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone. The twists and turns will keep you up late.

Dorothea Benton Frank was an AVID (Author Visiting in Des Moines) author this past year. I picked up a couple of her books and because she talked so much about “Sullivan’s Island”, I bought it even though it was not her most recent book. She said there is a scene in there that actually happened so of course I had to read the book to find out what she was talking about.  I can’t tell you about the scene here, I really think you need to let her tell you about it. If you get a chance to hear her speak, do it. Her stories are women’s fiction – set in the south.

Mary Kay Andrew’s “Christmas Bliss” was one of my holiday choices this year. I love her books. The characters are spunky and you never know what they are going to get into. She is another author I have read for years.

I discovered a new author to me – Julia Keller. I read a couple of hers – “A Killing in the Hills” and “Bitter River”. She has a third out and I plan to get it as soon as I get my to be read pile down a little bit more. Her stories are set in the Appalachia area. Her protagonist is a prosecuting attorney who has a teenage daughter and an ex-husband. Her stories are a little more nitty-gritty about the side of life that isn’t so pretty. She has won awards for more than one of her books. If you like suspense, you will like these.

I met an Iowa author –  Heather Gudenkauf. I had read her first book a while back – ” The Weight of Silence” and didn’t realize that she was from Iowa. This time I read – “These Things Hidden” Her stories are well crafted and will keep you guessing. She also is a great speaker. It was one of those really cold Iowa winter nights that she spoke at the West Des Moines library. I ran into some writer friends and it was so worth it.

My Sisters in Crime group has a book exchange every year at our Christmas party. We share a book that we really liked. This year I got one that had been on my wish list for a while. William Kent Krueger’s “Ordinary Grace”. It was just as wonderful as I thought it would be. His protagonist told the story of a murder that happened in his hometown when he was a boy. It is no wonder he won so many awards with this book.

The last book on my list is from one of those authors that I have been reading since his first in the series. Alan Bradley writes cozy mysteries with a little girl sleuth named Flavia De Luce. It is set in England in the 1940’s and they are so cleverly written. I have reviewed some of his books here before and I continue to look forward to each new one. This one was “The Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust”. If you like cozy mysteries, you have to check this series out.

One of my goals is to read more this year. I can’t count all of these toward my goal but I am starting with this Alan Bradley novel as my first for this year.

I read for pleasure but I also read because it motivates me to write. I read novels and books on the craft of writing too but novels are what I turn to most. What do you read? Do you set reading goals?

This year I also want to review more, not just here but on Goodreads, Librarything, and Amazon. Do you know that reviewing a book could be one of the best things you could do for your favorite authors?

I hope you add at least one of my suggestions to your to be read pile.

Until next time,

Virginia

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Posted by on January 23, 2015 in What I'm Reading

 

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2012 – Prioritizing and Perfection

The holidays felt like a blur. So many things to do and so little time, I enjoyed the time with my family and I did manage to carry out most of my personal traditions but many didn’t feel so important this year. I managed to get the tree up the Tuesday before Christmas and the presents wrapped the next night. Instead of setting out the Christmas Village, I left it packed away. I can remember years when I was wrapping presents Christmas Eve knowing they would be opened later that day. I hated those years. I used to decorate almost every room and put up two trees. I don’t try that hard anymore. A person could drive themselves crazy trying so hard to be perfect. I no longer seek perfection. I hung red ribbons on the outside lights, a big wreath at the top of the stairs and I set out my big Santa Clause next to the tree and called it good.  I bought candy instead of making it. I shopped a little bit each week so that it wasn’t a mad dash to buy everything in one shot and though it was still hectic, it was doable.

I learned something important from the holidays this year that I intend to carry over to my writing. I don’t have to do everything. I only need to do what is important. My word count did not grow very much on my current wip. With the holidays, I did feel a little overwhelmed so instead of trying to meet my writing goals, I fit in what I could each day. Instead of actually writing, I continued to note story ideas, build my characters, and work on plot and structure. I know that I need to quit with the perfectionism, especially with the first draft or it will never happen. I can accept that the first draft won’t be perfect.

I also snagged a new critique partner. Someone who was right in front of me looking for someone to work with and I am so glad she approached me.  Carrie belongs to my local RWA chapter. She is our 2012 Board President and she has written a non-fiction book about Winterset, Iowa. You know that place where Bridges of Madison County was set. We plan to start critiquing in February, so now I have to actually start writing. Having a partner who expects something from me will make me produce. I hope to be able to write at least one blog a week but forgive me if I skip  once in a while and know that I am working on my novel. When I do post, I will try to write about where I am in the process as well as what I have been reading.

As far as reading, I finished ‘I Am Half Sick of Shadows’; the latest Alan Bradley novel. I love the little protagonist Flavia De Luce. She is an expert with poisons and chemicals and somehow always helps the local police solve murders. If you haven’t read this series you really should check it out.

I am currently reading – a paperback of  Jennifer Crusie‘s ‘Maybe This TIme.’ and Claire Cook’s ‘Life’s a Beach‘ on my nook. I normally try to read only one book at a time but have found that while the nook is re-charging it’s nice to have a real book handy.

Happy reading and writing…

Virginia

 

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