What are you reading?

It’s summer (in the USA), and for some reason, I always feel like taking stock of what books I’m reading during this season. Maybe because I associate summer with the beach and beach-reading, relaxing… Anyway, here’s what I’ve been working on lately…

Kids Books

When you have kids (and maybe when you don’t), you tend to read a lot of children’s literature — some are bad (think Cinderella’s wedding…urgh) and some are really good. Here’s a very good one my son convinced me to read:

Cover for The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate is based on a real-life gorilla who was forced to live in solitary captivity for more than 20 years. In the novel, Silverback gorilla Ivan befriends a baby elephant, Ruby, a scrappy mutt named Bob, and a little girl who helps him find his artistic side. Winner of the 2013 Newbery Medal, it’s a heartfelt, well-written book. Appropriate for adults and kids (mature readers starting around 9, but more likely 10+) who like honest, bittersweet stories.

Cover for the first book of Amulet the graphic novel series.

My daughter started reading the Amulet series but stopped because the drawings were a little bit too dark for her. I took a look at the first book and realized she was right — scary pointy-toothed elves and creepy houses and parents going missing. Adults and kids (over 10) who don’t mind the darker side of things, plus some awesome adventure, will probably love these books. They’re a quick read but very intense and pull you right along.

Okay, so I have to plug my daughter’s book, The Mysterious Glowing Rock. She wrote it under the pseudonym F. Nighthawk (ever dramatic!) and we used Kindle Vella to publish it. Basically, Vella lets you publish one chapter at a time. The first three chapters are free, and then readers must purchase a bundle of “tokens” with which they can read lots more chapters. It’s a fun, easy way to publish chapter books — just don’t expect to earn big bucks! So, The Mysterious Glowing Rock is about a seventh grader who finds a magical gem that gives her strange powers. Avid readers 8 and up will enjoy this quick-paced adventurous read!

Grown up books

Currently, the books I’ve read for adults are few and far between. But here’s one I’m nearly finished — it’s not new, but it’s by an author I really like, Kate Atkinson.

Cover for Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson.

Behind the Scenes at the Museum is definitely not a light read, but once you pick it up, it’s hard to put down. The book follows a family during different generations and time periods (World War II, the sixties…). It’s taking me a while to read because I only read it before bed, and often I’m too tired to read for very long. But every time I open the book and read the first sentence, I’m back into the story as though I’d never left. Sometimes I will forget who certain family members are, but there’s always a detail to jog my memory. Sad, funny, and witty, it’s definitely worth a read!

To Recap…

In summary, at this time in my life, it’s clear I read more children’s books than adult books. But I have to say, literature for kids can be extremely well written and poignant. I am in awe of writers who write about seriously deep topics in a beautiful, compassionate voice that resonates with young audiences. And so, I will keep taking my children’s book recommendations! What are you favorite reads this summer? Please let me know in the comments!

Summertime reading and more!

Phew! It’s been one of those years, months, weeks… Know the feeling? When life gets hectic and stressful, what’s your go-to “summer reading” genre? For me, I like “cozy mysteries.” But not too cozy. At one time, the cozier the better (cat-themed, knitting sleuths, baking detectives, and even ghost-loving detectives), but now I like cozy mysteries with a slight edge. Like Sue Grafton — her alphabet murder mysteries have a tinge of “noir” about them, and I love the fact that they’re set in the 1980s! Just a touch of nostalgia.

Another writer I enjoy is Nevada Barr. If you love nature, you’ll want to pick up one of her Anna Pigeon mysteries. Anna is a no-nonsense U.S. park ranger, and each of her mysteries is set in a different National Park. The last one I read (A Superior Death) was set at Isle Royale National Park, Lake Superior, Michigan, and features scuba diving on ship wrecks and floating dead bodies!

I tried reading Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series, but it’s not quite for me. Set in Sicily, the books DO have lovely descriptions of Italian food, and there is a pleasant, unhurried feel about the way Chief Inspector Montalbano goes about his days. I finished The Patience of the Spider and started reading another but found some irritating similarities in Camilleri’s style; beautiful women keep appearing half-dressed in front of the inspector, their robes just happening to fall open in front of him. I have nothing against this happening as part of the story, but when it keeps happening, I suspect the author’s penchant for nude women is getting in the way of the plot!

Please share your “escapist” books — fiction or nonfiction? Cozy or Edgy?

How the Pandemic Inspired a Love Story — Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post from the excellent website, “Women Writers, Women’s Books.” They always have interesting articles by women authors. This one caught my attention because Ms. Holloway talks fondly about her grandfather, and my grandfather started writing stories later in his life, so we had that connection that I’ll always hang on to.

After my grandfather had a heart attack four years ago, I moved in with my grandparents during his recovery. Late in the evenings, as my grandmother slept in her recliner beside him and my poodle sprawled across his feet, he and I would watch movies. His preference, inevitably and humorously, was Hallmark movies. I worked…

How the Pandemic Inspired a Love Story — Women Writers, Women’s Books

A Strong Sense of Place — Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post from the excellent blog, Women Writers, Women’s Books. How do you handle setting in your fiction writing? I admit that setting is sometimes an afterthought for me, and I constantly have to challenge myself to place it up front!

Should I have chosen an exotic location in which to set my new novel?  Research can be done anywhere in the world (or at least, it could, pre-covid).  Armed with a suitcase, laptop and my writing head firmly switched on, I set forth on a magical adventure to research my new book.  But it was…

A Strong Sense of Place — Women Writers, Women’s Books

The Best Mystery Books of 2021 (Anticipated) — The Bibliofile

This is a re-post from the excellent blog, The Bibliofile! Start planning your reading list with the perfect set of mysteries for rainy, dreary winter weekends!

This is a list of The Best (Anticipated) Mystery Books of 2021. There will probably be more new releases announced in the coming months and through the years, but here’s the best of what’s been announced far to be published in 2021. Will you be reading any of these books when they come out? I’ll…

The Best Mystery Books of 2021 (Anticipated) — The Bibliofile

Writing and the Arts as Therapy — Women Writers, Women’s Books

A repost from the excellent blog “Women Writers, Women’s Books.” Marilyn Kay Hagar talks about how embracing creativity in your life — in any form — helps unearth the inner “wild” part of us that needs expression!

I remember the day in eighth grade when our teacher, Mr. Johnson, stood in front of the class and called us to attention. “This is the best piece of student writing I have come across in my twenty-two years of teaching,” he told us. Our homework that night was to write an essay. What he…

via Writing and the Arts as Therapy — Women Writers, Women’s Books

Latest read…a Scottish thriller!

A few weeks ago, I hit the jackpot at Purple Crow Books in Hillsborough — hardback thrillers on sale for $5 each!! So, I immediately snatched some up. The first one I read turned out to be written by a Scottish author, Catriona McPherson.

                             HOUSE. TREE. PERSON. by Catriona McPherson

House. Tree. Person. is an unusual thriller, set partially in a grubby flat near the ruins of an abbey where monks had been buried years before. Ali and her husband Marco were forced to downgrade from their spacious home to the flat due to money problems. Their teenage son, Angelo, seems ambivalent, although he likes to spend time hanging out at the ruins for some reason.

The story gets interesting when a body is discovered at the ruins, and Angelo gets caught up in the murder investigation. At the same time, Ali fakes her way into a well-paid beautician job at a mental health institution located on nearby military training grounds. From day one, the place feels weird to Ali — a young woman keeps claiming to have murdered her own father. A bedridden woman, Sylivie,  appears catatonic but responds to Ali’s gentle massages and manicures.

Meanwhile, Ali must hold it together while the police question her son and flashbacks of a traumatic past threaten her sanity!

I really like the dark, moody atmosphere McPherson sets up — the ruins of the abbey in the background and the foreboding military grounds with days when staff and patients aren’t allowed to wander, due to practice shots and explosions. I love Ali’s interactions with the patients, the kind way she suggests fixes for their skin and problems; she’s very believable, and her character comes alive the most during these scenes.

At times, the dialogue felt a little “clunky” and even a bit forced; mainly this happened with interactions between Ali and her oddly unpleasant boss, Dr. Ferris. I think the Dr. Ferris character could be fleshed out a bit more. Also, the end felt a little rushed and slightly convoluted, with Ali dashing outside at times and then running into characters in hallways.

But, overall, I enjoyed the novel and would recommend it to those who like a good mystery – it’s darker than a typical “cozy” and makes for a satisfying read!

The Importance of Informative Book Reviews — Southern Writers – Suite T

Below is a re-post from the excellent Southern Writers blog. Do you read reviews before buying a book? More importantly, do you leave reviews for books you like/dislike? If I’m online, I tend to scan both the good and bad reviews to get a balanced feel for a book. But what if you’re browsing in a bookstore? Sometimes the best books are ones you just stumble upon and take a leap of faith based on the back cover!

By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers MagazineSo many books—so many hours in one lifetime to read them. There’s no way to plow through them all. And that’s the reason book reviews are so important.I recently bought a couple of books recommended for a trip I was soon to take. Since I was going…

via The Importance of Informative Book Reviews — Southern Writers – Suite T

Picture book resources

This is a re-post from Jean Matthew Hall’s excellent website!

Picture Book Builders is a blog about picture books. It features reviews of picture books by authors of picture books. Whether you are a writer of picture book manuscripts, or a parent or teacher looking for great picture books to share with the children in your life you’ll find Picture Book Builders a useful addition […]

via Online Resources for Writers–Picture Book Builders — Jean Matthew Hall

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