Saturday, January 31, 2015

My January Reads, 2015

I didn't write monthly posts last year about what I had been reading. I did do a year-end wrap-up of how many books I'd read and mentioned a couple by title as well as the names of some of the authors.
This year, with my daughter's encouragement, I will once again do an end-of-month tally. It's similar to when I worked as a bookkeeper and "closed the books" each month. It's just a different type of bookkeeping. 



First off, the book I'm happiest about, Les Lynam's Before You Leap. I could not be any more proud of my little brother. Even though he e-mailed me sections of his book as he wrote it, it was quite another feeling to actually hold the book and read it from beginning to close. I won't say end, because this time-travel tale is just the first part of the Time Will Tell series. In fact, the second book, Saves Nine, came out last week.
When I read along as he wrote it, I could not help trying to identify the models for his characters. That was fun, but it probably detracted me from the overall story. So reading it in its final book form, I was more attuned to the flow of the narration and where it was taking me. I also was aware of how much editing the author had done of the original version. I could not help but think how hard that must have been. I know all that cutting of scenes and passages had to be like losing one of your children - at the very least, punishing your child, 'because it is for their own good'. The result may be tighter, but I thought the dialog between his three male friend characters was brilliant and was sorry not all those scenes made it into the final version. Likewise for some of the female characterizations, especially the 'mean girls'. Les' dialog is spot on.
Of course my fondest hope is that this series will achieve broad readership and accolades for the author. But even if that doesn't happen, I hope my brother realizes what an achievement it is for him to have written and published his book(s). And how honored I am that he included me in the 'Acknowledgements: Special Thanks' section. I gave this book a 4.0. Looking forward to reading Saves Nine.

Small Towns, Dark Places by Tansy Undercrypt is another January read with a family connection - the author is a friend of my daughter's. Kari gave me this book of short stories for Halloween two years ago. I have to admit I read the first two or three stories and put it aside. Those Dark Places were just a little too dark for me at that time.
But I became more receptive to Tansy's writing when Kari would 'like' some of her posts on Facebook. I now read this 'Purveyor of Doom and Whimsy' each day at tansyundercrypt.com. You can also follow Tansy on Pinterest. She is one interesting woman and her writings are sublime.
When Kari reviewed Small Towns on bookishdark.com (October 24, 2012), she said 'Salt' and 'Barn' were her two favorite stories. 'Spirit House' and 'Salt' were mine. Tansy's second book, Harder Things, is due out this spring. I rated this book 3.5.

John Searle's, Strange But True (4.0), Louise Penny's, The Cruelest Month (4.5) and Tiffany Baker's, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County (3.5), were all books I wanted to read, but that our library didn't have. Thanks to my son, Mark, for bringing these with him when he visited us from New York in December. I loved every one of them.

I only read three books from the library this month: Charleston (3.0) by Margaret Bradham Thornton; The Red Tent (3.0) by Anita Diamant and The Arsonist (3.5) by Sue Miller. I've really become a fan of Miller's. I like her suspenseful, emotionally insightful, psychologically nuanced books.
I read The Red Tent because in December I saw that it had been made into a mini-series which I thought looked interesting. Instead of watching it at that time, we recorded it because I wanted to read the book first. I remembered my daughter-in-law, Shelly, reading and liking the book ten or more years ago. It wasn't anything that interested me at the time. The movie followed the book very well - better than most books-to-movies. And I like the author's writing well enough that I've added her latest, The Boston Girl, to my 'want to read' list.

I have always saved passages which 'speak' to me as I read. This is from Charleston, taken from Joseph Brodsky's collection of essays "On Grief and Reason": "No one can tell you what lies ahead, least of all those who remain behind. One thing, however, they can assure you of is that it's not a round trip. Try, therefore, to derive some comfort from the notion that no matter how unpalatable this or that station may turn out to be, the train doesn't stop there for good. Therefore you are never stuck - not even when you feel you are; for this place today becomes your past. From now on, it will only be receding for you, for that train is in constant motion. It will be receding for you even when you feel that you are stuck....So take one last look at it, while it is still its normal size, while it is not yet a photograph. Look at it with all the tenderness you can muster, for you are looking at your past."

So, with all the tenderness I can muster, a look at my past with that little brother I've always been so proud of ......



.....sorry, sweetie, I just had to do it. Maybe when your time travel series is complete you can pen a western or two?

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