Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - September 19

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 

This is a very random shelf with six suspense novels by Helen MacInnes, eight novels by Catherine Gaskin, seven historical novels by Valerie Anand and, finally, two by W.E.B. Griffin, hidden behind the Fred Lynn bobblehead.  Old W.E.B. (and his son, now writing the books) has other shelves and deserves his own post another time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My First Reader's Report

When I took the Radcliffe Publishing Course a number of years ago, one of our assignments was to read a manuscript and write a Reader’s Report, just as Editorial Assistants do.  We had to submit the report before the course began.  Unfortunately, I did not like the book (although  I was intrigued that it was set in Peekskill, NY where my mother had lived as a child) and was baffled by the denouement. There was a pivotal scene near the end so I shrugged and wrote something like, “This story could only end in unequivocal death . . .”

Weeks later, we were very excited to have a real editor come from New York to talk to us about the manuscript.  She mingled with us at lunch and seemed very elegant and knowledgeable.   Later we sat outside, clustered around her attentively, and she read the first sentence aloud with great pleasure:

On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by ghosts of the past.

She waited for us to tell us how brilliant it was but, having read and analyzed it, we were sure she had provided a manuscript from the slush pile to trick us and the intervening weeks had not convinced us otherwise.   I think my classmates piled on the criticism while this pleasant woman grew more and more annoyed with us.   Finally, Lindy Hess, the beloved director of the program turned to me, perhaps hoping I would smooth the waters.  “What did you think?” she asked.   Nervously, I said, “Well, the ending was abrupt but I felt that the violent death was . . . inevitable.”

The editor stared at me, both annoyed and puzzled, and said there was no violent death at the end of the book.  Someone else said, "Yes, there was!"  Then she lost it and told us this book was written by a very talented author and we were all lacking in good taste.  We hung our heads.  It turned out her assistant had sent us an incomplete manuscript: there was a whole missing section/conclusion in which the character in question made a speedy recovery!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Five Things

One of my favorite mystery authors is Julia Spencer-Fleming, who writes about an Episcopalian minister/former helicopter pilot in small-town Millers Kill, NY.  My mother and I met her a couple years ago at a Brookline Library event, which was really fun.   Spencer-Fleming is doing a virtual Mystery Night event on Wednesday, 9/16 at the Maynard Library with Paula Munier (whose books I recently discovered but which made my Best of 2019 List), also Archer Mayor, and Sarah Stewart TaylorYou can register here.  

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - September 12

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Publication: Dial/Penguin, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Fiction/Middle School
Plot: Delicious Roberts, known as Della, is a feisty but vulnerable fourth grader whose mother is incarcerated, but has always had her older sister Suki to take care of her.  Yet she is used to being self-reliant, and she’s had to be because the adults in her world don’t understand what she is dealing with. Her teacher assigns family trees although she must know Della is in foster care and doesn’t have the type of family situation that is remotely sharable.  She and Suki lost everything they owned when they ran away from their mother’s former boyfriend and he burned all their belongings.  Now Suki, who has always been Della’s rock, is acting erratically and the girls have started squabbling for the first time.  When Suki tries to commit suicide, it is up to Della to take control and help her sister get help.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - From The Proud Way to Little Women

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where one ends up.   This month’s starting point is Rodham: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, in which the author reimagines Hillary’s life if she hadn’t married Bill.  My sisters liked her book Prep but I have no interest in reading this book which sounds so invasive. Leave Hillary alone!

However, it somehow reminded me of my first book, The Proud Way by Shirley Seifert (1948), a historical novel about Varina Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy, married to Jefferson Davis.  Varina came from a slave-owning family in Mississippi but received a better education than most women of her class and, perhaps influenced by Northern relatives, did not approve of slavery.  Her birthplace, The Briers, is now a B&B, if I ever make it to Natchez.  This book belonged to my mother.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Daughters of Erietown by Connie Schultz

Title: The Daughters of Erietown
Author: Connie Schultz
Publication:  Random House, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Ohio, 1947-1994
Plot: This is a gritty three-generation family saga set in small-town Ohio.  Ellie Fetters is the smartest girl in her high school class of ‘56 but it doesn’t occur to anyone but her aunt that she should go to college.   Her boyfriend is not much of a student but is offered a basketball scholarship to Kent State.  Just when Ellie is about to get into nursing school and Brick is about to start believing in himself, she gets pregnant.   He stands by her, as the saying used to go, but is it possible for these teens to create a stable family?   Brick has a loving mother but a physically abusive father, while Ellie’s parents abandoned her, and she was brought up by her grandparents.  They care about each other but that may not be enough.  In this story, the women are the strongest characters but even they do not always make the right decisions.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Catching Up with Miss Hargreaves, Poppy, and Summer in Cape Cod

Miss Hargreaves (1939) by Frank Baker
This book is a warning to anyone who ever embroidered a story or made something up that seemed hilarious to him (or her) but perhaps not so much to other people.  Norman Huntley and his friend Henry Beddow are on vacation chatting to a sexton when they make up an eccentric older lady called Miss Hargreaves.  Carrying on with their silliness, Norman sends a letter inviting her to visit his family in the Cathedral town of Cornford.  When he gets home, he is horrified to find someone named Hargreaves has sent a telegram stating she will arrive on Monday!  No one believes Norman when he says he doesn't know her and did not invite her, and once she arrives Norman is torn between pride in his creation, embarrassment at her behavior, and a strange affection for her that comes and goes. Miss Hargreaves' visit to Cornford threatens to destroy his life - unless or even if it is Norman who is behaving irrationally.  This is an amusing story, recommended by Simon at Stuck in a Book.