Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Reading for Comprehension

From my days at Jasper # 2, I remember an exercise called "Reading for Comprehension". It was not one of my favourites. I was (and still am) a slow reader. I think some of the reading for comprehension activities were less stressful - more an assignment to read a chapter and then discuss with the teacher what it was about.
The exercises I felt anxious about were the timed tests. We were given a page or two to read within an allotted time and then a test over the material we had just read to determine how much we had comprehended. Comprehended: Understood (and remembered).
Perhaps if I had carried the reading for comprehension principles into my later reading life, I would be a better writer. i.e. I would have picked up on the different writing techniques and devices and applied them to my own attempts. Instead, I do the same as Carl V admits in his comments on my daughter's Bookishdark blog: "I usually get so wrapped up in the book that I am not even paying attention to the clues, just wondering and being carried along by the story."*

All of the above as introduction for a writing device I did notice and appreciate in Nancy Pickard's The Whole Truth which I just finished reading. This novel is the first in a series featuring Marie Lightfoot, a true crime novelist. I liked Pickard's interweaving of her novel with chapters from her character's novel (a novel within a novel). It gave more depth and suspense to the mystery. It is not a typical whodunit, because we know from the very beginning who committed the murder - he has already been tried and convicted. It is the motive that's missing. It is Lightfoot's search for the motive and what she discovers that make this novel such a fascinating read.

I have previously read Nancy Pickard's The Scent of Rain and Lightning and The Virgin of Small Plains - both set in Kansas and both which I really enjoyed - and one or two of her Jenny Cain series, including I.O.U., which I was tepid about. I'm already into the second Marie Lightfoot novel - liking it as much as the first - and plan to read the third of this series if I can find it and any others Pickard writes. Maybe I should give the Jenny Cain series another try. Is it just that I like books set in Kansas and Florida better than ones set in New England? No, that's not true. It must be Jenny Cain I'm ambivalent about.

Fannie Flagg has to be one of the best "feel good" authors I've ever read. Her latest novel, I Still Dream About You, was perfect for a palate cleanser between mysteries. Former Miss Alabama winner, current 'over-the hill' real estate agent Maggie Fortenberry has decided today is the day she is ending her life. She has devised the perfect way to do it, tied up all her lose ends (given away her clothes and money, cleaned out her refrigerator and put clean sheets on the bed, had her leased car detailed and mailed the keys back to the dealership) and is finishing her "To Whom It May Concern" goodbye note when the phone rings. It is her friend Brenda calling to excitedly tell Maggie than she has front row tickets to see "The Whirling Dervishes". Maggie can't let Brenda down. She figures she can put off her suicide a couple more days.
Flagg's characters and writing style are so funny, yet true. I've enjoyed all her books so much and always feel positive and uplifted after finishing one.

Chief Inspector Armand Gamache thankfully has come into my life just in time - just when I was needing a new lovable CI. Louise Penny is a new author for me and I'm delighted to have found her. Still Life is the first novel featuring Chief Inspector Gamache of the Surete du Quebec. It won the Arthur Ellis Award for best first crime novel and four of the subsequent Gamache books have been Agatha Award winners. Penny is one of my new favourite authors. I can't wait to read all of her mysteries.

Delectable Mountains by Earlene Fowler is the twelfth book in the Benni Harper mystery series. I have not been able to read them all nor read them in order, but I always enjoy reading about Benni, her husband, Gabe, grandmother, Dove, and all the other characters who inhabit San Celina, CA.

The title of the book is also a quilt pattern dating as far back as the 1840's. It has a long tradition of being connected to John Bunyan's allegory Pilgrim's Progress (published in 1678). This quilt pattern is similar in design to Kansas Troubles and Indian Trail.

Cooked Goose is the fourth book of at least sixteen in the Savannah Reid mysteries by G. A. McKevett. (Sonja Massie's pseudonym) All the books have titles dealing with food; for instance: Just Desserts, Killer Calories, Sugar and Spite, Peaches and Screams, etc. I don't think I've read any other of McKevett's (or Massie's) books, though "Death by Chocolate" sounds familiar. (I'm probably thinking of one of the many cake and dessert recipes with that name.)
This was a quick little read and while I liked the title character, I most likely will not devote my reading time to this series unless I need a quick read or until I am out of my more favored authors.

* Carl V is the instigator of the annual RIP (Readers Imbibing Peril) reading challenge which occurs every fall from September 1 through October 31.) Kari enjoys this challenge very much and has invited me to join in. (Readers must read and review books that could be classified as: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror or Supernatural.) And while I read and write about some of those types of books, I don't think my reviews are up to the RIP standards. Nor are my blog design capabilities. But I'll think about it - maybe next year.

1 comment:

  1. Great minds, Mom! Someone reviewed an Armand Gamache book for RIP, and I thought it sounded wonderful! With two recommendations, he goes on the To Read list, for sure!

    The Nancy Pickard book sounds intriguing, so I'll add her to the list as well. Somehow, I don't think my personal RIP challenge will end when October does!

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