Out of Twenty: Jennie Nash, Author of Perfect Red, Answers Fourteen Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview Jennie Nash Author Photoby choosing which questions, and how many questions, they want to answer! I read Jennie Nash’s novel The Threadbare Heart back in 2010, and I loved it a lot. It was one I passed on to my mom, and it doesn’t seem like I read it that far back. It’s still fresh in my mind. Nash’s  latest novel, [[[Perfect Red]]], is set in the 1950’s and tells the story of a young writer who become obsessed with telling a particular story. Here is what Jennie had to say about reading, writing, obsession and the comfort of office supplies (I love them too!).

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

My name is Jennie Nash. I am the author of three memoirs and four novels. My most recent book is the historical novel, [[[Perfect Red]]], a story about a young writer in McCarthy-era New York who goes after the story of the perfect red lipstick.  In addition to writing, I am an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and am a one-on-one writing coach for fiction and non-fiction authors alike

I got started as a writer when I was in fourth grade. We published a book of poetry at our elementary school. It had mimeographed pages and a cardboard cover, and students could submit as much poetry as they wanted for the book. I thought this was an amazing opportunity, and submitted pages and pages of poems. I can still remember the thrill of seeing my name in that purple ink, reproduced dozens of times, above the words I had written.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

 I don’t think I could write without tea. Sometimes it’s not even drinking the tea that matters – it’s getting up from my chair to boil the water, choosing the type of tea to make, getting down a favorite mug, and setting it on my desk. It’s the idea, in other words, of stopping and paying attention to something specific – which is what writing and also reading are all about.

I’m also comforted by office supplies. I keep stacks of small yellow pads on my desk, and piles of Post-It notes, and an eraser that says “erase,” which reminds me that sometimes it’s the words you take away that matter more than the ones you leave in.

People live in stories, we are surrounded by them. What was it about this the story that made it the one you had to tell at this time?  What impact did telling this story have on your life?  Did you find that it had changed you?

I didn’t realize when I started Perfect Red, nor when I was in the middle of it, that it was a book that mirrored something I was going through in my writing life.  My main character, Lucy, is haunted by a story and must fight on many different fronts to get it published. She is fighting social and political elements that are not present in my life, but the heart of the matter – the struggle to write the story you want to write – is one I faced with this book more than the others. After six books with major publishers, I ended up self publishing Perfect Red. It’s exactly what Lucy did, and a move I think she would applaud.

What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s [[[Tiny Beautiful Things]]]. I thought it was extraordinarily powerful. It’s funny because I have not yet been interested in reading her very popular memoir, [[[Wild]]], but this other book really drew me in. Books sometimes call so loudly! I’m in the middle of [[[The Ideal Bookshelf]]], which is a book so beautifully conceived and executed it serves as the perfect argument for the preservation of printed books.

Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

When I’m writing, I mostly read books about the subject I’m writing about. Perfect Red is set in 1952 New York. I read several fascinating books about young career women working in publishing, some biographies of the big names in cosmetics, and books about the McCarthy trials, including Lillian Hellman’s [[[Scoundrel Time]]]. It’s a fascinating period in American history, and I enjoyed my research immensely.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

I read through the bestseller book lists for 1951, 1952 and 1952, as well as the lists of top music from those years, and even most popular food items. I found all of that information so interesting, but if it didn’t directly pertain to the narrative, I had to leave it out.

Perfect Red by Jennie NashWhat types of books would some of your characters have if they were readers?  Given their issues what book(s) would you suggest for them to read?

The main character in Perfect Red actually is a reader. She’s a young woman working for a rising star of an editor, and she longs to be a writer. During the course of the novel, she reads some of the big books of the day, including [[[The Invisible Man]]], [[[Charlotte’s Web]]] and [[[The Old Man and the Sea]]]. She had to have a favorite book, and I decided to make it [[[Gone With the Wind]]], because my daughter was obsessed with it while I was writing Perfect Red.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people.  What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

I don’t have a typical day or regular writing routine. Some days I teach, some days I’m editing the work of other writers, some days I do nothing but work on my own projects. I find that being flexible is critical, and that the most important thing for a writer to do is to make room in her mind for the story to take root and grow. That room can be made in the shower, while driving carpool, while cooking dinner. Writing doesn’t always happen at the computer.

If you could have everyone read five books, which ones would they be?

Tim O’Brian’s [[[The Things They Carried]]], because it says so much about war, about memory, about pain, about story, and about being human. [[[Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit]]] because it helps people who are creative be more so, and helps those who aren’t understand better those who are. [[[Sum by David Eagleman]]] because I believe that it proves that the human understanding of god is dependent entirely on human understanding – and I suspect that our understanding is fairly limited. And [[[Olive Kittridge]]] and [[[The Art of Fielding]]] because they are a testament to the beauty and power of fiction.

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?

I recently read some stories I wrote when I was in high school, which was a long time ago. I cringed at the content, but the thing that really struck me was how my voice was exactly the same as it is now. It was so clearly me – and that me-ness is still wholly there. It hasn’t changed in the slightest.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I read a book called [[[Caddie Woodlawn]]], which was similar to the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, except that Caddie has red hair and a bunch of brothers. I remember believing wholly that Caddie was real and wanting to be her, and somehow wrapped up in all of that belief and longing was the germ of the idea that someone was responsible for her. Someone had made her up. And I must have known that while I would never actually be Caddie, I could be that kind of someone.

How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

You can feel it when a book has what I call “heat.” It seizes you. It won’t let you go. You know you have to pay attention to it, and other ideas need to be pushed aside to make room for it. It’s a great feeling.

As a published author, what’s been the biggest surprise about life after the publication of your first book?

I self published Perfect Red and the biggest surprise has been finding out that readers don’t care how a book is published, or by whom. All they care about is the story.

What’s next?

I have lots of irons in the fire – a non-fiction book called The Writers’ Guide to Agony and Defeat, a novel that has something to do with Margaret Mitchell, and a book about migraine.

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Amy Einhorn Perpetual Challenge – Book List & Links

Amy Einhorn Books

Back in February of 2010, The Amy Einhorn Perpetual Challenge was introduced at Beth Fish Reads. I promptly signed up. I will Amy Einhorn Perpetual Challenge Imagebe tracking my progress here.

Key

  • Dark blue – links to a review
  • Light blue – read but not reviewed
  • Gray – Not sure if I will attempt reading these books

Published in 2009

  • Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett (read – no review)
  • I’m Sorry You Feel That Way: The Astonishing but True Story of a Daughter, Sister, Slut, Wife, Mother, and Friend to Man and Dog by Diana Joseph
  • The Kingdom of Ohio by Matthew Flaming
  • Life’s That Way: A Memoir by Jim Beaver
  • The Marriage Bureau for Rich People by Farahad Zama
  • Remedies by Kate Ledger
  • Ten Degrees of Reckoning: The True Story of a Family’s Love and the Will to Survive by Hester Rumberg

Published in 2010

Books Published in 2011

Books Published in 2012

  • Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale by Lynda Rutledge
  • The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
  • A Good American by Alex George (interview with Alex George)
  • The Hypnotist’s Love Story by Liane Moriarty
  • Juliet in August by Dianne Warren
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
  • Next Stop: A Memoir by Glen Finland
  • Shades of Hope: A Program to Stop Dieting and Start Living by Tennie McCarty
  • City of Women by David R. Gillham
  • The Trial of Fallen Angels by James Kimmel, Jr.

Books Published in 2013

  • Jujitsu Rabbi and the Godless Blonde: A True Story by Rebecca Dana
  • The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
  • Above All Things By Tanis Rideout
  • Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack & Jennifer Kaufman
  • No One Could Have Guessed the Weather by Anne-Marie Casey
  • The Other Typist by Suzanne Rindell

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (3)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?It’s Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.

Last week I read:

Wise Men by Stuart Nadler

[[[Wise Men by Stuart Nadler]]]

Current Read (s):

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis

[[[The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis]]]– This was on my list of books to read before the big Oprah announcement, and I am finally get a chance to start it. I’ve read two chapters so far, and if they are any indication, it seems that this will be a sad story.
[[[Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman]]] – I have a hundred pages left! I really haven’t been reading this as long as it seems I have, it’s just that I really haven’t had all that much time to read the  last few weeks. I have been lucky to finish a book a week.

 Coming Up Next:


[[[Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler]]]
[[[Life After Life by Kate Atkinson]]]

New Arrivals:

[[[The Fury by Alexander Gordon Smith]]]
[[[You by  Austin Grossman]]]
[[[There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya]]]

Reviewed Last Week:

Rage Is Back by Adam Mansbach
A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

What are you reading this week?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

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A Hodgepodge Of Links – 1/25/13

My reviews of [[[The Colour of Milk]]], [[[The Tragedy Paper]]] and [[[Level 2]]] are *thisclose* to being finished and ready to post. But it was a friend’s birthday last night and stopping by for a drink turned into keeping it light and drinking beer, which morphed into shots with the birthday girl which…you get the picture. Saying all of that to say I didn’t have it in me to put the finishing touches on anything. But oddly enough I felt like posting something, so I figured I could be trusted to share a few items kicking around in my book marked pages.

Books I Want – Found on Other Blogs

  • Angie at Angieville did the same with her review of Jodi Lyn Anderson’s Tiger Lily.

Books I’ve Read And Reviewed – Found On Other Blogs I Read

Events

Miscellany

Really Random

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out of Twenty: Bernard Cornwell, Author of 1356, Answers Eleven Questions

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Out of Twenty: Bernard Cornwell, Author of 1356, Answers Eleven Questions

In this version of twenty questions, I send a list of questions to a willing victim author and they choose their own interview by choosing which Bernard Cornwellquestions, and how many questions, they want to answer!  Bernard Cornwell is the author of 50 books of historical fiction. His latest novel, [[[1356]]], is the fourth book in the Grail Quest series about the search for The Holy Grail.  Here is what Bernard had to say about reading, writing, and the published novel he wishes he’d scrapped!

Would you give us a bit of introduction and let my readers know who you are, how you got started writing, and what kind of books you like to write?

I’m a Brit turned American and a writer of historical fiction.  So far I’ve written fifty books and am happy that they’re best-sellers in Britain, Brazil, Germany, Scandinavia and a dozen other countries, but oddly never in my adopted homeland!

I began writing by accident. Some thirty something years ago I had a proper job, I was a television producer with the BBC in London, and I met an American blonde. She couldn’t move to Britain for family reasons, I had no ties, but the US government turned down my request for a Green Card so I airily told her I’d earn a living by writing a book. That was crazy, of course, but it worked. We’re still married, I’m now a citizen and still writing. We split our time between Cape Cod in the summer and Charleston SC in the winters. It’s been a lucky life!

That first book started a series about a British rifleman fighting Napoleon, and those stories were eventually turned into a TV series starring Sean Bean, but I’ve written many books other than the Sharpe series, ranging in time from Bronze-Age Stonehenge to the American Civil War. Right now I’m busy with a series about Saxon Britain which tells the story of how England was created.

I am often struck by the different ways writers respond to the process of writing a book. Linus’s Blanket refers to my use of reading and other activities as a means of escape and comfort, can you share with us any routines, food or recipes, or favorite books or rituals that help you thorough the writing process?

 Gerald Brenan (the author of The Spanish Labyrinth)once said‘It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.  Those who do not do this remain amateurs.’  I’m a believer in that. I don’t have any rituals, don’t have talismans, don’t succumb to any superstitions, so no Linus’s blanket (sorry). I’m a writer. I sit down and write! Raymond Chandler (who knew a thing or two) said you sit down and write for four hours a day, no excuses no exceptions. Now, strangely, I have lots of Linus’s blankets in the summer when I spend my time on stage at a summer-stock theatre, and have various rituals which precede every performance, but none when it comes to writing.  On the other hand I’m not really a professional actor, so perhaps I need the rituals?

 What are you reading now? What are some of your favorite books and authors?  Has writing your own book changed the way that you read?

I’m reading The Swerve, by Stephen Greenblatt, which is a fascinating book about the rediscovery of Lucretius’s poem De Rerum Natura and the effect that had on Renaissance thinking. The book’s subtitle is How the World Became Modern, which is a BIG subject, but Greenblatt is so clever, and so insightful that he more than satisfies. I adored his Will in the World, about Shakespeare, and rank that, with James Shapiro’s 1599, as the two best introductions to Shakespeare that are available. The sad thing about writing historical novels, or at least for writing them for over thirty years, is that it quite kills the taste for reading them! I make exceptions for CJ Sansom, who is wonderful, and Hilary Mantel, who is a goddess.

 Are you able to read when you’re writing and if so what books inspire you when you’re working your own book(s)?

I love to read! I read when I’m writing, when I’m acting, and when I’m doing neither. I can’t say I look for inspiration in anything I read (though it’s wonderful if you find it). I used to say that a writer’s best inspiration was the mortgage, but that no longer applies. I read for pleasure. Mostly history, because that’s an obsession, but also novels. I recently finished Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, by Ben Fountain, and while that may not be the great American novel it’s certainly a great American novel.  I also love police procedurals, and gorge on them; like John Sandford’s terrific Prey series or the Scottish noir novels of Stuart MacBride.

What was the most interesting thing that you found out while researching this book that you ultimately decided not to include?

I have no idea!  Research is a lifetime occupation, and my suspicion is that we throw away about 95% of it, and we certainly should throw it away! There are few things more horrible than reading an historical novel and realising that the author is LECTURING us by including research which fascinated them, but has nothing to do with the story. I remember reading a book in which, on page one, a character walked past the Coliseum in Rome and thinks ‘oh, that was built in. . . .’ and you think, shut up! She wouldn’t think that! The most interesting thing I discovered and which I did include was the existence of calades, birds that were thought to foretell the future.

In the past I have visited a blog called Daily Routines and it’s all about the schedules of writers and creative people. What does a typical day look like for you and how do you manage a busy schedule?

I start work early, usually by 6 am. By 7 am it’s time to take the dog (Whiskey) for his morning walk which in Cape Cod is on the beach and in Charleston is beside the Cooper River. Then work till midday. Make my own lunch. Walk Whiskey again. Take an hour off to learn lines (currently learning Ben Loman for Death of a Salesman, but have three other plays to go), back to work till about 5.30. Say hello to Judy. Walk Whiskey. And you think that’s busy?

 If you could have everyone read five books, which ones would they be? 

Sam Harris’s Letter to a Christian Nation, A World on Fire by Amanda Foreman, the Collected Works of W.B. Yeats, Wolf Solent by John Cowper Powys and anything at all by P.G. Wodehouse.

Did you know what you wanted the title of the book to be?  How involved were in choosing the name of the book?

1356 I had no idea. I usually do, but this one didn’t throw up anything obvious and it was a helpful person in HarperCollins marketing division in London who suggested 1356, which has the advantage of relevance. Titles can be a real problem. The book before 1356 is called Death of Kings, a title I hate. I wanted to call it Crown of Thorns, which was apt (it’s about the death of King Alfred who was a dutiful, clever and pious monarch), but my American publishers baulked at that, thinking it would upset evangelical Christians. I don’t see that, but they were adamant, so we changed. We could have called the book two different things, one either side of the Atlantic, but that happened with an earlier story about the hero of 1356. That book was called Harlequin in Britain, but the Americans, fearing that lonely ladies might be misled, changed the title to The Archer’s Tale. Then folk on vacation see a book of mine they haven’t read, buy it, and find they have read it, then they complain to me about it, so never again will I publish a book with a different title on one or other sides of the Atlantic!

Do you ever look back at your early work? How do you feel your writing style or approach to writing has evolved since you first began?

I NEVER look back. What a ghastly thought.  Sometimes, if I’m writing a series, I have to glance back, but it isn’t something I enjoy doing.

What were your experiences with reading when you were growing up? Was there a pivotal moment in discovering literature when you knew that you wanted to be a writer?

I had a strange and unhappy childhood, adopted into a family of fanatical Christian fundamentalists who belonged to a sect called The Peculiar People (I’m not making that up!). They disapproved of ‘frivolous’ reading, indeed I was beaten once when I was discovered deep into Treasure Island, but my escape was, of course, into frivolous reading. They encouraged reading the Bible, and that was good because the King James version offers a solid grounding in classical English prose. Sometime in my teens I discovered the Hornblower novels of C.S. Forester and they had a huge effect on me, and my Sharpe series is really only a rip-off, set on land instead of at sea. Sometime in my teens I evinced the desire to be a writer, perhaps because I enjoyed reading so much, but it lay dormant for many years through a career in television (another thing the Peculiar People disapproved of. They disapproved of most things). Then came the American blonde . . . .

 How many works in progress do you have going at any one time? How do you know when one has potential and when one just needs to be scrapped?

One at a time!  Though I do start thinking about the next towards the end of the current book. For me writing a book is much like climbing a mountain. You get a third of the way up, look back and see a better route, so you start again on that better route which, with luck, propels you halfway up, when you look back again, see a better route, and so on. I can never plan a book. I’m halfway through one of my Saxon stories right now and don’t have a clue what will happen in the next chapter, but I’ll find out by writing it. The hard work is that first draft. Get that right and the rewriting is pure pleasure, and it’s during that final rewriting process that I’ll begin to think hard about the next book.  Have I ever scrapped a book? Twice in thirty-two years.  It’s a horrible thing to have to do and a failure of the imagination. There’s at least one published novel that I should have scrapped, but I won’t say which!

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Readings: January 14-20/Rage is Back by Adam Mansbach

Rage is Back by Adam MansbachEighteen-year-old Kilroy Dondi Vance has pretty much messed up his young life at the beginning of Adam Mansbach’s [[[Rage is Back]]]. He’s been expelled from his elite prep school, broken up with his girlfriend and has been kicked out of his mother’s apartment. While couch surfing between selected friends, trying not to wear out his welcome, he begins to hear rumors that his father Billy Rage (a famed graffiti artist missing for sixteen years), has resurfaced, leaving underground tunnels awash in graffiti. Ostensibly he has returned to settle on old score with Anastacio Bracken, a former cop – now President of the MTA and mayoral candidate, who hounded their old crew, killing one of their most vital members. But it also gives Dondi a chance to know and understand his father and to go on adventure with him, if he can find it in his heart to put years of  hurt and anger aside.

I loved this novel from the moment I picked it up and heard Dondi’s fresh, inventive and confident voice relating the story of his unique parents, history and point of view. Though he didn’t grow up when he would have remembered the graffiti culture in which his parents were steeped as both innovators and leaders, he has taken their history, and that of the graffiti tribes, to heart. He uses it to create the mythology of his father and his absence in his life, and to explain the embittered woman his mother has become. Dondi is an extremely precocious teenager; his ruminations are long, rambling and sophisticated, and just maybe slightly unreliable. I wondered if I would get tired of his posturing (oftentimes he reminded me of a modern-day Holden Caulfield), but as interspersed as it is with surprising confessions, insight and vulnerability, it held my attention throughout. Mansbach deftly explores an incredible time in NYC history and he makes the art of graffiti breathe with careful conveyance of its lifestyle, music, code of honor, and talented and colorful people, while incorporating philosophy, sociology, and a little magical realism for good measure. I wouldn’t want to go back to a New York City filled with graffiti-laden billboards and street corners, but Mansbach illustrates the ways in which it is a value filled avenue of expression and legitimate art form.

The novel is set in 2005, and frequently flashes back to New York City of the 1980’s. Luckily for me, I had the slimmest foothold in knowing what what was going on from, like Dondi, having heard stories from family, and from having seen pictures and heard music from the time he was talking about, so it was much more accessible for me from the start in a way that it might not be for other readers. Like [[[Ready Player One]]] and [[[The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao]]], [[[Rage is Back]]] it requires an adjustment period to get used to the references and the voice, but it is worth taking the time to get to know these characters and to experience their journey. Highly Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Its Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

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In Paperback: A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash

A Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley CashWilliam Morrow Paperbacks, January 22, 2013

Originally Reviewed: I listened on audio and read the hardcover of this book in the fall of last year, and both were a treat.

New Cover or Old? There is something about the hardcover that holds a bit more menace or foreboding. The paperbackA Land More Kind Than Home by Wiley Cash - Hardcover blurb would have give me pause because I don’t think I would like it if Cormac McCarthy rewrote To Kill A Mockingbird, and I’m not even sure that’s what I would call this. If I happened upon both of these in a store I would likely go for the hardcover, but having read it, I highly recommend reading it in whatever form suits your fancy. I do like the blue and the trees in the paperback, though.

What I Thought Then: A Land More Kind Than Home was an amazing read & listen. Debut novelist Wiley Cash tells the story of Jess Hall, a young boy growing up in a North Carolina town where religion and preachers are a very big deal. The town and its people are heavily under the influence of the creepy preacher, Carson Chambliss, whose origins are a mystery. Jess spends most of his spare time hanging with his friends, and in the company of his developmentally challenged brother, Christopher – a.k.a Stump. Jess and his brother witness something they aren’t supposed to see and as the story goes, nothing is ever the same. The story is told in the three alternating perspectives of Jess, Adelaide Lyle (a former midwife) and the town’s Sheriff, Clem Barefield. The dialogue and accents are pitch perfect, the prose is beautifully rendered, and the suspense is like something I have rarely read. I was so worried for these boys and what would happen in this town!

Cash lucked out with his narrators – Lorna Raver, Nick Sullivan, and Mark Bramhall. Mark Bramhall gives an especially distinguished performance. If ever a character showed up on an audio, he does it as Clem Barefield.

Now, On Further Reflection: Months after finishing it, A Land More Kind Than Home has stayed with me. It’s a novel about many things, loneliness, religion and faith, small town life, and people who have been unable to escape their pasts and choices, Most surprisingly, and lastingly, it’s about forgiveness. I still marvel at the way Cash steered readers down that path. I didn’t see it coming.

Book Club Pick? Definitely! One of the most interesting things about life is that you never know how who you meet or what you are doing will change your life. It could be anything, and an unlucky combination of events that can change your life. With A Land More Kind Than Home there are countless ways that this story could have started, and pinpointing the significance of personalities, actions and events would be a great place to start a discussion.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 In Paperback: The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? (2)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?It’s Monday! What are you reading? is hosted by Sheila over at Book Journey.

Last week I read:

[[[Rage Is Back: A Novel by Adam Mansbach]]]

Pick of the  Week:

[[[Rage Is Back: A Novel by Adam Mansbach]]] (Again – Even though this wins by default, it was really good!)

Current Read (s):

Wise Men by Stuart Nadler

Wise Men by Stuart Nadler  – this one is so good that I have been trying to read the  e-galley on my Nook, which speaks volumes because I’m not on speaking terms with my Nook at the moment. If I had a paper copy I would have definitely finished it already. So tired of ALL the screens.

Coming Up Next:

Last week I had thought I would probably finish up the second half of the Penman, but that didn’t happen so that’s again the plan for this  week. I also want to start [[[Julie Kibler’s Calling Me Home]]] for the She Reads Book Club. It’s the February Pick. Andi (Estella’s Revenge) has been making the case for Francesca Lia Block.

Lionheart by Sharon Kay Penman
[[[Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler]]]
[[[Love in the Time of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block]]]

New Arrivals:

[[[Hysteria by Megan Miranda]]]
[[[Love In The Time Of Global Warming by Francesca Lia Block]]]
[[[The Suitors by Cecile David-Weill]]]
[[[Above All Things by Tanis Rideout ]]]
[[[The Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley]]]
[[[Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo]]]
[[[Passion by Jude Morgan]]]
[[[The Drowning House by Elizabeth Black]]]
[[[1356 by Bernard Cornwell]]]

Reviewed Last Week:

The Dark Rose by Erin Kelly
The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante

What are you reading this week?

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel, Simon Vance (Narrator)  Audiobook Review

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Readings: Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante & The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

[[[ Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlante]]]

Marmee and Louisa by Eve LaPlanteMuch has been written and relentlessly speculated about the life of Louisa May Alcott since the publication and runaway success of Little Women in 1868. A great deal of weight has been given to the role and influence of her lightning rod father, Bronson Alcott,  as well as Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson and other  notable Transcendentalists on her writing topics and career motivations. Little has been said about her mother, Abigail, as an equally, if not more important, role in Louisa’s life and work. LaPlante, a descendant of Alcott’s, attempts to make that case with her biographical history, Marmee and Louisa. The Marmee in the title is key, as it’s a significant reason LaPlante feels that curiosity about Abigail’s personal life and influence is limited and largely comfortably ignored. Both historians and readers feel they have a clear grasp on her role – the character Marmee has made the real woman, Abigail Alcott, all but invisible.

The result of LaPlante’s undertaking is an informative and engaging biography, but so little of Abigail has been preserved through her actual words and letters, that it’s difficult to further that premise with strong conviction. Marmee and Louisa reads more like a history of Abigail’s (historically significant) family, her relationship with her husband, the family’s struggle with poverty and Bronson’s baffling approach to raising and providing for a family. LaPlante gives a detailed account of Abigail Alcott’s affluent family and upbringing, well-connected relatives, their financial fortunes,  and how setbacks were endured and overcome – concentrating on the effect that all of this had on Abigail. Her relationship with Louisa seems loving but also incidental to the shared history of the family. Marmee and Louisa is a fascinating biography of a woman, and indeed a family, whose words and deeds were beyond the times in which they lived.

Thoughts on the audio: I read Marmee and Louisa and then listened to it on audio. It was narrated by Karen White, and she does an excellent job managing the flow of a wealth of information. Many locations were mentioned, the relatives had similar names, and their connections and intermarriages were dense. White’s distinct narration acted as a  clarifier of the information presented, and in a book filled with Bronson Alcott’s shenanigans, her reading was also fair and largely unbiased toward any of those mentioned. Both the book and its audio are worthy choices, and not to be missed by those already interested or wanting to learn  more about Abigail, Louisa  and the Alcott family, and women’s history in the United States surrounding the civil war. Recommended.

[[[The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan]]]

Cathy Marie Buchanan captivated me with her first novel, The Day The Falls Stood Still, so I had high expectations for herThe Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan Book Cover, dancing girls, degas follow-up novel [[[The Painted Girls]]]. I wasn’t disappointed. She chooses a fascinating angle for her novel of two sisters growing up in the desperate poverty of 19th century Paris.

There are three Van Goethem sisters, but Buchanan’s narrative alternates between the perspectives of the book smart Marie, who after being pulled from school after the death of their debt-ridden father, dutifully applies herself to the arduous training of a ballet dancer  as a way to contribute to the family’s  meager earnings, and Antoinette, the eldest of the girls. Antoinette does her best to protect her sisters from life’s harsh realities even as her own troubled romance and unrelenting deprivation force her to contemplate thievery and prostitution. Marie eventually gets a position posing for Degas, a rising artist of the time, and Antoinette finds work in the cast of a popular Zola adaptation. Both artist and writer are exploring the role of criminality and society through their works and are heavily influenced by Italian criminologist Cesare Lombroso, a man who posits that destiny is determined by facial structure, and heavy animal like features are indicative of criminality and vice – features Marie fretfully worries over in her own face.

Buchanan is a skilled weaver of history into the realities of everyday life and she outdoes herself here. Paris, that famed City of Light, comes to life vividly through the smells on the streets, the meanness of its people, the filth of their clothes and the desperation of their toil. It is clear that girls have it worse, and the Van Goethem sisters embody how few the choices and opportunities available to women who would try to better their circumstances or to merely escape their poverty – the cost often being their innocence and respectability. Buchanan excels at showcasing the girl’s distinctive personalities, voice, and approach to life. Each of their narratives are both compelling and heartbreaking and as close as if either of them was whispering her story in your ear. The Painted Girl has elements of mystery – a rash of  gruesome murders has been committed, and the unease of the city is palpable – but mostly it is an exquisitely rendered love story between these sisters, and the sacrifices they make to ease each others burdens while striving to better their lives in a world where the odds are highly stacked against them. Highly Recommended.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Watching TV   The Vampire Diaries, Scandal, & Downton Abbey

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Watching TV – The Vampire Diaries, Scandal, & Downton Abbey

Watching TVI watch TV sporadically, and when I do I always want to write about it.  What I watch changes from week to week changes and sometimes I don’t watch it at all, so think of these posts as little surprises. Who knows when they will pop up or what I will have watched! If you a sporadic watcher too, feel free to grab the button and talk about what you’ve been watching. I’ll so a round-up at the end of the month if you have posts to share.

The Vampire Diaries

Believe it or not I am actually up to date on this one, in spite of approaching the point when I have become rather “meh” about the whole thing. The vampire mythology totally mystifies me now – it has gotten too convoluted! With this episode, I was wondering why Tyler had to turn because Rebekah wanted him to? I thought he had broken his sire bond, or does that only work between him and Klaus? Confused now on that point. Or maybe she compelled him? Does anyone know? I am not the most careful viewer of this show so it is quite probable that I have missed something.

I like Rebekah, and I enjoyed seeing her put the screws to that trio (Caroline, Elena, Stefan). I can’t wait for Klaus to find out that little sister has been un-daggered, and that she ain’t happy. They had pretty much de-clawed Rebekah, and it was nice to see her pull them out and slash folks up. It’s one thing to show a vulnerable side to a “bad” character, but they had taken it to the extreme, an I had forgotten how vengeful and bad-ass she could be. Hear her roar.

Truth or Dare was genius.  I loved it and I loved what Elena had to say. The band-aid was ripped off in their little session, and I was glad that Elena got to see just where Caroline’s loyalties lie in addition to setting the record straight with Stefan. I have never really been a fan of Stefan. The goodness and the righteousness are a little too much for me. I have preferred him bad, but it looks like he is about to add a whole other level to it. But last night was the epitome of just why I don’t like him. Damon has sat on the side and watched all manner of things go down between Stefan and Elena and he and to grin, bear it, and try to be the better man, and he has because he loves her too. The minute Stefan’s heart is broken, he is the vengeful asshole, plotting and planning against EVERYONE. Poor baby, except I feel no sympathy for him at all. Go as fast as you can to Damon, Elena. I think if it would be interesting if Klaus could compel Stefan to remember her and how he felt about her. I wondered why Rebekah didn’t do it herself. It would be fun to see how Stefan would react to loving more than just Elena.

Please let Bonnie wake the hell up and do her own investigation into expression, instead of taking the word of the man she doesn’t know from Adam.  Her aspect of the story is snoozeville because I have a hard time with how gullible she’s being. Shane is creepy. Why aren’t alarm bells going off? Also, don’t Stefan and Damon know how bad expression is? They found out when they went to New Orleans. Seems like someone would have informed Bonnie, the good a righteous, just how much she is playing with fire

I like seeing Matt. Even though they have dragged him out if obscurity to play Jeremy’s vampire trainer. I was hoping that the would pair him with Rebekah so that he would have something, anything to do/take care of/ be involved with. But now that Stefan and Rebekah have formed an unholy alliance, I guess that is that. Boo.

Scandal

I like this show against so much good sense. It is beyond out there, but yet, I watch it anyway. I was so happy when Cy and James adopted the baby. Aww. James has wanted this for so long. I hope it works out for more than a minute. Hmm.

I like Scandal and I watch it, but why do they have to strain credulity to the max? Huck getting played (and twice!) is just too much for me. Too much! He is smart, super assassin, who thinks of everything and this happens? Sigh. The first time he was all “in lurve”, but homegirl had almost killed the president and he is talking into cell phones? I think real Huck would have handled things more securely and not lost his family?

Liv in bed with the hospital bed with the prez. Smh. It looks like her thing with the congressman/senator, whoever he is, is done. Put I don’t want her with Fitz. Let them move on. There is nothing attractive about their relationship.  I have to watch the last half of the last episode. Hope my head doesn’t explode.

Oh, and why couldn’t she take the small olive branch that Mellie offered? They have had some rough times, but i was hoping. She sent them both back to business as usual.

Downton Abbey

I am generally late to the party in watching TV shows. This is no exception, but I am glad that I finally sat and watched the first three episodes. The show is pretty much like crack, and so soapy! I think I was expecting a drama that was really staid and I think I got more of that with the first episode, and can I tell you that I agonized over Bates and whether he would get to stay on as valet. I was so happy to see his relationship with Anna develop and that he slowly starts to fit in with the staff. The episode with his leg was hard to watch. Reminds me of something that would have happened on an episode of Little House on the Prairie. I am loving all the characters, but I am anxious to learn more about O’Brien and Thomas because their constant unhappiness and scheming keep me on the edge. The whole entail situation is rather galling, but at the same time, I like the family that stands to benefit, and it seems as if Matthew will be more into having Mary as a wife as he thought. Things changed quickly from the first episode to the second.

1DA652C2516038AE4D02F55645591F39 Out of Twenty: Lenore Appelhans, Author of Level 2, Answers Eleven Questions

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