Book Reviews, Fiction

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?

Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, History and culture, podcasts

What is authenticity in writing?

Hidden BrainI recently listened to an episode of the excellent podcast Hidden Brain by NPR,  hosted by Shankar Vedantam. This particular episode focused on the author Gail Shepherd (who sadly passed away in February this year) and her novel The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins.

Originally, Shepherd had written her main character as half-Vietnamese, based on the life of a very close friend who is half white and half Vietnamese. But after much research and talking with friends of different races, Shepherd decided to re-write her novel with a white protagonist. Despite already having her good friend’s “blessing” to write the story, Shepherd worried that critics would say she was appropriating another culture.

Listening to the podcast, I remembered that while in graduate school I had written two short stories with Chinese and half-Vietnamese main characters. I wrote the stories based on my own knowledge (my boyfriend and now-husband is Chinese-Vietnamese, and we’d traveled to Vietnam together). I also had Vietnamese friends, so I didn’t think too much about it.

Today, I’m more educated about and aware of white privilege. I understand Shepherd’s decision. She had to consider dynamics of the publishing world, her own feelings about cultural appropriation, and her readers’ feelings. I was pretty much oblivious to all that in graduate school!

But I also agree with a point that host Shankar Vedantam made — Shepherd’s original version of the novel included insights about race and growing up Asian in the American South. Possibly, some American-Asian girls could have benefited from reading this story. While Shepherd was not Asian, she knew her friend’s story very well. She was telling an authentic story. That version could have been very insightful.

Shepherd argued that while people of color are not fairly represented in the publishing world, she didn’t feel comfortable writing as a different race. But if her friend wasn’t a writer and couldn’t tell her story, wasn’t better that someone she loved and trusted did?

It’s the job of fiction writers to tell lies to describe truths about life. Of course, there are some stories we can’t write — I don’t know how to write from a Black character’s point of view. I feel okay about writing from a 3rd person perspective of an Asian American character — but maybe not as much as I used to. If we are creating from a place of honesty and empathy — NOT using cultural stereotypes — I think it can be useful to have these stories told, regardless of the writer’s race.

And as one of the guests on the podcast, philosopher Kwame Anthony Appiah, said a person’s identity is not wholly their race. They are also parents, grandparents, teachers, artists, philosophers, plumbers, athletes, and a multitude of other roles and identities.

But I am a white person and, so, can only see through the lens of a white person. What do you think? Story tellers use their imaginations, but are there some things we just can’t imagine well enough to write about? 

Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, Writing Tips

Making the Case for Epilogues — Suite T- The Author’s Blog

This is a re-post from the excellent Suite T – The Author’s Blog. Do you like epilogues? I love them because they let me spend a little more time with the characters and, hopefully, tie up any remaining questions I had about the story.

By Dania Voss“Goodbye is the hardest thing to say to someone who means the world to you, especially when goodbye isn’t what you want.” – UnknownAs authors we strive to bring our stories to a satisfying conclusion. We want the end to be rewarding for our readers. But what if as writers, we’re not ready…

via Sometimes it’s Hard to Say Goodbye, Making the Case for Epilogues — Suite T- The Author’s Blog

Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, Getting Published, Health, Writing Tips

When Your Brain is the Enemy: Life as a Writer with ADHD — Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post from the excellent site booksbywomen.org. Are you a writer who struggles with health issues that make writing harder? What strategies do you find helpful to keep on task?

Writing and publishing a novel is an accomplishment few achieve, and those who do know how much work it is to make it to ‘the end.’ Countless hours of inspiration, plotting, writing, editing, re-editing, pulling one’s hair out, self-doubt, critique, and finally—finally—something ready to send out into the world. Now imagine doing all that when…

via When Your Brain is the Enemy: Life as a Writer with ADHD — Women Writers, Women’s Books

Author experiences, Fiction, Writing Tips

Dealing with Scene-Stealing Secondary Characters — Southern Writers – Suite T (via Roger Johns)

This is another re-post because I think it’s a valuable article for lots of writers. One of my writer friends has said that she worries about her secondary characters seeming more interesting than her main characters!

I think this happens a lot, especially on T.V. dramas, where the main character’s friend or sidekick feels more sympathetic and relatable than the over-achieving main character. (No one can quite live up to Sherlock Holmes!)

By Roger Johns

In the early days of my writing journey, I was repeatedly cautioned to restrain my secondary characters because they had a tendency to upstage my principals. I tried, but soon became convinced the greater danger came from underutilized secondary characters that didn’t sufficiently challenge my main character, leaving her less realized and less…

via How I Deal With Scene-Stealing Secondary Characters — Southern Writers – Suite T

Author experiences, Book Marketing, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, Getting Published, Nonfiction, Writing Tips

EMBRACE THOSE REJECTIONS — Southern Writers – Suite T

This is a re-post from the excellent website Southern writers – Suite T.

By Vicki H. Moss, Contributing Editor for Southern Writers MagazineOn May 2 on the Suite T blog, I wrote about the children’s writer Madeleine L’engle, author of the children’s book A Wrinkle in Time; how she kept writing after rejections because she couldn’t stop. Most of you know that A Wrinkle in Time, a young adult novel in…

via EMBRACE THOSE REJECTIONS — Southern Writers – Suite T

Book Reviews, Bookstores, Fiction

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!

Author experiences, Embracing Creativity, Fiction, History and culture, Writing Tips

My Mother’s Blessing To Be A Writer — Women Writers, Women’s Books

This is a re-post from the excellent Women Writers, Women’s Books website… Wonderfully written and, I believe, many writers and artists can relate.

It’s been eleven years since my mother passed away, eleven years since I last heard her voice. She was sixty-three years old, unquestionably too young. After she died, I began paying attention to the experiences friends had with similar losses. Some of them spoke of messages they believed their loved ones had sent – birds…

via My Mother’s Blessing To Be A Writer — Women Writers, Women’s Books

Embracing Creativity, Fiction, History and culture, NaNoWriMo, Writing Tips

10 Elements of Gothic Literature via Flavia the Bibliophile

This is a re-post from Flavia the Bibliophile’s excellent blog! I thought it was perfect for anyone wanting to write a ghost story or spooky novel for Halloween and/or NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), which is every November.

With both Halloween and National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) coming up, I have decided to partner up with Invaluable to bring you an epic infographic! For those of you planning on writing a novel that’s more on the spooky side, the below infographic depicts and explains the 10 main elements found in Gothic literature! In the spirit…

via Guest Post: 10 Elements of Gothic Literature — Flavia the Bibliophile –

 

Book Marketing, Book Reviews, Fiction

Quick Reads 2018!

Good morning and happy February to everyone! I am taking some time to promote #QuickReads today as I think it is a brilliant initiative that encourages more people to pick up great books. I am always have time to help boost reading opportunities in the UK and the world. The Reading Agency has put together […]

via Quick Reads 2018 @readingagency @Quick_Reads @ed_pr #QuickReads #Giveaway #SpreadingTheWord — Always Trust In Books