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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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Where Do Your Ideas Come From?

I decided to start something new this week. I posted about something that happened several years ago on fb and it seemed to get a lot of attention. Several years ago when I my kids were younger we were at the state fair. We wandered into this house up on the hill next to the antique barn. It was full of old photos. I saw one photo that caught my eye. By the clothes, I am guessing it was from the 1920’s. It was a crowd standing in the grand concourse and in the middle of the crowd was a woman who looked just like me. I got goosebumps. I tried to get a copy of the photo but they refused. I thought at the time there might be a story there but it was before I took myself seriously as a writer. So it has been simmering in the back of my brain for quite a while now. For whatever reason it came forward this week and a story started unfolding.

I have wanted to write stories before but this is the first time I have ever felt like I have to tell this story. My friend Tamara Siler Jones who has three books out knew exactly what I was talking about and she got almost as excited about it as I am.  It is all fiction but it feels like something only I can tell. So I have set some goals. I want to get it developed as fast as I can and pump out a first draft in say 60 days.

This story started with that little seed. I gave it time to germinate into something more and now I think it is ready to tell.

Where do your ideas come from? Do you start with the plot or a character?

Today I met both Tammy Jones and Shirley Damsgaard at a book signing at Beaverdale Books. Shirley has a new Jess McConkey book – The Widows of Braxton County that came out this week. Afterwards we had a late lunch and time to talk about our writing projects. Shirley left a few signed copies at the bookstore so if you want an autographed copy, stop by.

Hope your writing is moving forward.

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2013 in Writing a Novel

 

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Tuesday Tip

I don’t know about you but every four years we get pulled into this political insanity. I believe that everyone has a right to their opinion but I am tired of it already. They shove it down your throat with commercials, they call you night and day for surveys, they knock on your doors, and it gets old. I get enough from the political parties. I don’t want it from authors. I don’t care who you support, it’s your business but I do care about what you write and if you piss me off, I won’t read you.

I may not have sold a book, yet, but I’ve sold a few houses in my day as a REALTOR for fifteen years. There are certain things you don’t discuss with a buyer and politics is one of them.  It is easy to get sucked up into the political rhetoric and I’m not saying you can’t have a view, but if you are an author and you are in the business of selling books, I’m not sure you need to share your view with everyone. The elections will be over in a few weeks. Will all of your readers still be interested in your books when it’s over?

Yes it takes talent to write a novel but it is a business and no matter what you think, there are people who will disagree with you. People who may decide not to buy your books because of something you said that offended them.

I am not talking so much about the big authors out there who have made it because, they can pretty much do what they want to do. But if you are not there yet, why push away possible readers because of politics?

Just my humble opinion.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Writing a Novel

 

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Sarah’s Key – a Book Review

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana De Rosnay

I discovered this book when someone recommended the movie. Can’t remember who it was but they said it was a very good movie. I have yet to watch it but I did read the book. Figured if the movie was good the book would be good also.

This is a fictional story written around an actual event. It bounces back and forth from present day Paris to Paris, July 1942. The present story is told by Julie, an American woman who has lived most of her life in France and is married to a Frenchman. They have a young daughter. Her husband’s grandmother has moved from an apartment to assisted living and Bertrand, the husband is remodeling the apartment for him, Julie, and their daughter Zoe.  Julie introduces the reader to all of her friends, including a gay couple she shared an apartment with before she was married. All of the characters are well developed and interesting. It becomes clear, early on, that she feels that she has never been accepted by her husband’s family.  No matter what she does, she is just an American.

 

Every other chapter moves back to the past and starts with that infamous day in July in 1942. That night, the French Police gathered all of the Jews and took them to several different camps to be processed before going on to Auschwitz. It is the story of Sarah, a young Jewish girl and her family. The night of the raid that dragged them from their home, Sarah committed an innocent act that would haunt her for the rest of her life.

 

The present day Julie is a journalist who is assigned to write an article about Vel’ d’Hiv, the night the Jews were gathered. She discovers clues about this piece of French history that most people would rather ignore and forget. The mystery unfolds as she discovers connections between the past and a family secret. Her husband discourages her but she finds an ally in her father-in-law who supports her efforts and eventually acknowledges his appreciation for answers to questions that relieved a burden of guilt his family had locked away.

The author weaves the two stories together in a way that makes it difficult to put down, until the very end. I felt that the story ended a few chapters before the author actually stopped writing. I couldn’t wait to find out the secret but once that was revealed, the author continued to tell me more than I needed to know about Julie. I did need to know the very ending but some of the stuff between felt tacked on and not so well thought out as the rest of the book. Even with the less than perfect ending, I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the holocaust and man’s ability to survive after unthinkable horror.  I will look for more from this author.

I am currently reading ‘The House of Many Shadows’ by Barbara Michaels. I recently recommended this author to a friend and decided to pick up a few more that I had missed reading. Love the gothic mystery feel and her use of paranormal.

 

As far as non-fiction, I have been reading several books on outlining and will share some information from them in future posts.

Hope your writing week is productive and enjoy a good book.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2012 in Book Review

 

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Miss Me When I’m Gone – Book Review

          This book was described as a “Honky-tonk” Eat, Pray, Love. I wouldn’t have described it that way. It is the story of two women who were college friends. Both write, one, Gretchen, is a successful novelist working on her second book and the other, Jamie is a pregnant journalist.

The story begins when Gretchen falls down the stairs outside of a small town library after doing a book signing. At first it looks like an accident but when they find her purse several towns away in a lake, they know it is much more.

Gretchen’s first novel called ‘Tammyland’, was about the women of country music, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and of course Tammy Wynette. She draws parallels of abuse from those women’s lives and compares them to her own mother who had been murdered when she was a child.

Jamie is asked to be the literary executor by Gretchen’s mother to oversee her unfinished work and hopefully complete it.

While reading ‘Tammyland’ the fictional book in the story – that reveals some interesting anecdotes about the country music icons-(like the time Tammy Wynette took a bubble bath with Burt Reynolds).

Jamie soon discovers that Gretchen may have found out something about her mother’s murder. Someone breaks into Jamie’s home and steals some of Gretchen’s notebooks and a couple laptops. Gretchen had also left a cryptic voice mail message that she had the feeling someone was lying.  The same message, Jamie now feels guilty for having ignored.

Jamie’s pregnancy progresses as she digs deeper into the mystery of both Gretchen’s death and her mother’s and she knows that she has to finish this before the baby comes or she may never find the time. Ignoring her husband, Sam’s, concerns she plunges herself into the past hoping to explain her friend’s death. She feels she owes it to Gretchen to catch her killer.

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes women’s fiction and mysteries. It’s one of those stories that straddle the line between two genres. It reads like women’s fiction but feels like a mystery.  Though I took a few days to read this one, I was pulled back often to finish it. This story was well written with believable characters and setting. I especially liked how this author brought in information about several well-known songs and how they came to be.

It may have been just me but I really enjoyed the stuff about Tammy Wynette. Probably because my cousin played guitar in her band and I have always been curious about her because of that connection.

I am currently reading ‘Sarah’s Key’ and will review it when I have finished it. It is one of those that I seem to be breezing through because I like it.

What are you reading?

Virginia

 

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2012 in Book Review

 

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E is for E-Reader

“It seems to me that anyone whose library consists of a Kindle lying on a table is some sort of bloodless nerd.”
― Penelope Lively

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”

― Douglas Adams

When I first heard about e-books, I thought it would be a phase. People really wouldn’t prefer to read on one of them instead of a real book, would they? I have to admit, I am a bibliophile. I love books and will always prefer reading them but I also don’t like clutter. I have started buying fewer books only because I don’t want to have to deal with where to keep them. Besides clutter, the disorganization can cause me to buy a book more than once because I couldn’t find the original.

I did finally cave in a couple of years ago and bought a Nook and have recently purchased an IPAD. It hasn’t kept me from buying traditional books but I probably buy fewer of them.  I now check out authors with my e-reader, especially when they offer a free read. I used to do the same thing with Half Price Books. I would read new authors and if I really liked them, I would then go out and buy everything else that they had written.

De-Cluttering and saving trees is probably my best reason for turning to e-reading. With an e-book, I eliminate the clutter and I can always find my books. They are all in my e-reader library. No wasting time and money hunting and searching through all the book shelves in my home.

I discovered two more reasons recently. Oprah’s new book club 2.0. She doesn’t tell you how to buy the book, you can still buy a traditional book but if you do buy it in e-form, it has the passages she liked highlighted that you can read as you go along. I did buy this one because it sounded interesting. The title is ‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed. It’s about a woman who hikes 1100 miles along a Pacific coast trail by herself. She loses herself and re-discovers herself along the way.

Besides Oprah, there is – Fifty Shades of Grey. Not that I indulge in reading erotica, but if I did, I could read it on an e-reader and no one would know. This one, I haven’t bought yet.

How many of you have an e-reader? Is it the reading experience you expected? Do you like it or are you a die-hard traditional book lover?

Hope your writing is going well and you are finding a little time to read.

Virginia

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2012 in Writing a Novel

 

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Sacrifice – S.J. Bolton

There are maybe five authors I read that I can’t wait for their next book. Whenever I find a new author to add to that list, I get excited. S.J. Bolton is one of them. Awakening was the first S.J. Bolton novel I’d ever read. It involved snakes. Lots of snakes and a female protagonist who as a veterinarian, gets pulled into helping investigate the deaths because she is one of the few people who is an expert on poisonous snakes. The story starts when she is called to the neighbors to get a poisonous snake out of a babies crib. Within a short time, several residents die and there are a few close calls. The snakes involved in the deaths are not from the area.  It was a mystery with a little paranormal twist and I loved it.

I finally found the first book – Sacrifice. It too is a mystery with a dash of paranormal story line. This one has a female protagonist who is a medical doctor who delivers babies at the local hospital on the Shetland Islands.

It starts out with her digging a grave for her horse and finding a body. At first they think it is an archaeological burial because the body had been buried in peat that causes it to be more preserved than you would expect with a normal burial. When she finds an engraved wedding ring, she suspects the body is more recent. The story goes into a local legend about an all male race of trolls with special abilities. The mothers are, of course, sacrificed for the cause but no one will believe her. It looks like all the prominent men in the area are involved, including the police and her own father-in-law and husband.  Ms. Bolton weaves the story line in a way that you believe.

Bolton is great at pacing. She tells just enough to reel you in and when it gets to the scary stuff she draws it out just enough to make you suffer. Because you never know exactly what is happening, I would call her books more mystery than horror. There is always a puzzle to piece together right to the very end.

There are a couple more for me to read and with my pile of to-be-read growing steadily, I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets another out before I get her current stuff read.  If you like your mysteries with a little bump in the night, you need to check out S.J. Bolton.

 
 

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