The first three months of the new decade, 2020, will be marked in history. Our surreal month of March has made everyday utterances of Covid-19, social distancing and N59 masks. We’ll all hope these terms will fade into the pages of history very soon. Until then, here are the books I read to start the year. Perhaps one will spark your interest to download to your Kindle account or order up from your Libby app.
From homesteading in late 1800’s Wyoming, to the hospitality of Gander Newfoundland after 9/11, to a commencement speech at U Texas in 2014, my range has been wide and pleasurable.
In no particular order that the design template assembled:
*** Where the Forest Meets the Stars I’m doubtful I would have chosen this one if it hadn’t been the choice for a library book club I wanted to attend in FLA during our February trip. In some manners, the story evoked another “Where” book – Where the Crawdads Sing. The main characters are both female naturalists who have suffered the loss of their parents. They replace those losses with other forms of love. In Forest, Joanna Teale encounters a lost child who claims to be from another world. Jo struggles with moral questions of keeping the child instead of turning her over to social services. A fairly predictable story unfolds. I did enjoy the meeting, however, and met a few more potential readers for “Eliza’s Story”. For another look at parallels in storytelling: Parallel Lines
**** A Doll’s House Ibsen’s classic play from 1879. I picked it up for a quick research study into the idea of a New Woman as, like The Awakening by Kate Chopin, it explores a woman’s desires to find a deeper meaning to her life. The opening of my novel delves into this question, too, for 18-year old Eliza Pearson Edwards.
**** One for the Blackbird One for the Crow A 180-degree turn from Doll’s House to another 1870s came with One for the Blackbird set in the homesteading days of Wyoming. An interesting twist of a murder in the first chapter leaves a wife and her husband’s lover to rely on each other to survive a Wyoming winter. United by a friendship which develops between their children, the women realize the only way to survive is to accept their reality. Rich details of prairie life throughout the nearly 500 pages – my only complaint, it dragged in some spots.
*** Indigo Girl I had high hopes for this fictionalization of the true story of Eliza Lucas, a South Carolina plantation owner’s daughter who in 1739 was left in charge of the household and managing her father’s businesses while he returns to Grenada seeking a higher military appointment with the Crown. As an untold story of a woman’s success in history, I thought there would be similarities to draw upon for my novel. While the research and information around growing indigo were interesting, I found the writing basic and uninspiring. God, I hope readers don’t say that about my work. Perhaps because I read it right after my writer’s conference, my antennae was pricked to look for over-use of adverbs, redundancies and run-on sentences.
***** Answer Creek My Good Reads review of the ARC follows. Answer Creek releases May 19, 2020 from my writing mentor and fellow Wheaton alum, Ashley Sweeney. Sending positive thoughts to Ashley that she’ll be able to commence her planned book tour by May. More information on our connection and Ashley’s debut, award-winning novel, Eliza Waite here: I Love My Village.
My feet are sore. My lips are cracked. My stomach yearns. My bones rattle. My eyes freeze. My body aches. My skin burns. My heart weakens. I have walked over two thousand miles from Missouri to California. I have walked in Ada Weeks’ worn boots, with their soles flapping against dust-filled, wagon-rutted paths. I have walked in the boots Ada removed from a dead man to trudge through snow drifts up to her chest.
Ashley Sweeney’s talent to dig deep and pull forth the physical and emotional aspects of a character shines in her second novel, Answer Creek. Ada Weeks, a fictional character inserted into the overland California Trail of the ill-fated Donner Party in 1846, is the heroine of Answer Creek. She earns her title, and then some, through her sheer will and fortitude to survive against the odds and reach the promised land of California where she can start a new life, with or without a man by her side.
Other characters complement Ada on the journey west, but it’s the vivid details and descriptions of the terrain and weather which cast them as antagonistic characters in the story that help them stand on their own.
In a time when women of today still search for the women of history to learn from and lean upon, Ada Weeks is a pioneering character who embodies our pasts and drives our futures. We all need more Ada Weeks in our lives.
P.S. How cool is this? Ashley made an ad of my review – watch for it through social media.
***** What the Wind Knows I discovered this one and the talented writer, Amy Harmon, when I put out a query through my Facebook reading groups for recommendations of a dual timeline novel. I had begun playing with an idea for my second novel during a writing lull while I waiting for more feedback. What the Wind Knows is more of a time travel akin to Outlander than a dual time line (Fall of Marigolds is a better example of a dual time line). Regardless, I’m glad I picked it up for an intriguing story of Ireland in 1921. Our family trip to Ireland came to life reading the fictional love story of Anne Gallagher and Tom Smith entwined with real-life events and the leader of the Irish revolt, Michael Collins. More information here: Imprisoned by Research Details
**** The Day the World Came to Town How is it I never heard the true story of 38 international flights being grounded in the remote island community of Gander Newfoundland as 9/11 happened? Talk about a community coming together to care for others. Thousands of passengers and crew found themselves spending four days crammed into schools, churches and community centers with bed linens loaned by the townspeople. Those residents also fed them and welcomed strangers of all nationalities into their homes to use showers and phones. A real-life reporting of the experiences, it is now a Broadway show. Let’s hope Broadway opens up again soon. I’d love to see these uplifting story brought to life.
**** Labyrinth of Ice Forty-eight hours in a car for a round-trip drive from NH to FL gave Jim and I (and Taylor, too) plenty of time to listen to Labyrinth of Ice, a recounting of the Lt. A. W. Greely Expedition to the far reaches of Greenland near the Arctic polar cap beginning in 1881. My God. Being asked to stay inside and watch Netflix is not a story of survival. Twenty-five men spending eight months in make-shift huts living off an occasional seal kill and shrimp caught in hand-made nets, that’s survival. An epic saga of will and faith.
**** Make Your Bed To end the month, I read the short book of former Navy Seal and Admiral William H. McRaven’s address and back story of his speech delivered to the graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin on their Commencement day in 2014. The simplest lessons of succeeding in life can begin with making your bed and being aware of the power we carry within us to overcome. Amen, Admiral.
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