Ah, summer. I miss you already. No. I am determinedly savoring every last scrap of my summer! Not thinking of fall or cold-weather clothes. Not thinking about grading papers! Focused. On this moment. When the sun is shining, the temps are benevolent, and the garden is rich with abundance – except for the tomatoes the #%@%&!% squirrel marauders keep stealing. Right. Focused. Savoring. In fact, I’m heading to a picnic in a couple hours. So there.
It’s still summer. And the livin’ is still easy. With lots of time for writing, revising, and reading. I’m feeling good about what I accomplished with my next novel, Home Place. Three solid sets of revisions, most questions answered. Another round of editing and proofing and I’ll be on to other time-eating tasks like cover design. With the goal of a 2020 publication feeling absolutely doable. Fingers remain crossed.
In between revisions, I started what I hope will be the next novel. This one is set in a vineyard/winery, and ten chapters in, I see that I’m going to need to do much more research to make it sound – and taste – authentic. So I’m meeting a friend at a winery tomorrow. We’ll have lunch, catch up, and soak up as much winery life as possible. I expect this process will have many rinse-and-repeat moments. Alas.
Summer inspires my need to create in other ways too. Lots of felting occupied part of most weekends, and I’ve been consumed with learning how to make Kumihimo braid and bead jewelry. All this is in preparation for our Christkindl Market in November where my friend Pat and I will again be selling our creations. And it’s because I love making stuff. The chance to sell it is just a bonus.
I’ve been questioning the term ‘summer reading’ of late. I do remember times when too many demands on time meant I saved pleasure reading for long, lazy beach days. And yet, I’ve always been so dependent on stories – for fun, for escape and relaxation, for therapy, for joy – that save the years when I was in college, I read as much all through the year as I have in summer. True again this summer. Reading more, blogging less. Here’s my list for July and August.
What a doozy Delia Owens gave me to start out with in these summer months! Crawdads is so beautifully written, I hope to take a long, long car ride sometime just so I can listen to this novel’s gorgeous language. My heart broke for Kya a hundred times and rejoiced for the salvation she found in her marsh – and in reading too. If you want to be transported to a whole other world – and without pesky mosquitoes or snakes – I highly recommend this book!
After The Nightingale, how could I not be eager to read a Kristin Hannah novel? But the descriptions of this story and a book club friend’s choice to not pick The Great Alone because ‘I couldn’t do that to you all,’ made me reluctant to pick it up. I feared it was another greenhorns-go-to-Alaska and die story like others I’ve read before. These settlers were greenhorns, but they did survive, barely. The vastness of Alaska was a breath-taking character and only one of the brutalities of the story. I was captured right up to the end where Hannah describes early white settlers as Alaska’s royalty. Excuse me? Since when do interlopers get royalty rights over those who always lived in a land? You lost me there, Hannah.
There’s nothing like a rom-com to divert me from a snit. And as I suspected, Jennifer Crusie was up to the task with this one. A sad basset, a sexy boy-toy neighbor who’s hot for the plump older woman? Please. How could I not be charmed? And after the hearty helpings of trauma and duress in the natural worlds, Crusie’s candy was a welcome summer treat.
I had similar hopes for light-hearted fun with Harbison’s Driving. Those hopes weren’t exactly dashed, but they weren’t fully realized either. The cover certainly makes this novel look like fun, right? The story? Kinda fun, sorta fun, but it stopped short of being an outright riot for me. I do like the notion of unlikely characters being thrown together on a road trip and Harbison did that. I could wish she hadn’t sewed up all their lives so neatly though. Even for a candy-read, that was a lot to swallow.
I should look at some covers more closely. If I had, I’d have seen this volume by Jennifer Weiner was a collection of stories. I kept wishing each story would be more developed – more like a novel. I never learned enough about any one character to invest myself in their emotions or outcomes. Too bad. I suppose Weiner may have run out of gas for some of these characters, and I can understand that. But I could also wish she’d dust off these puny little offerings and make them into something a lot more memorable – for me.
Have I mentioned that I’m not a fan of murder mysteries? Except for Louise Penny’s and now the clever Anthony Horowitz’s. The actual mystery isn’t what grabbed me. It was how Horowitz made himself a character in this fictional murder investigation. He gives us enough factual information about his own writing that one starts to wonder…what’s real, what’s not? I found the way he inserted himself – a breathing, identifiable human – into the mix of totally made-up characters absolutely intriguing. He mixes in crisp writing insights too. Thoroughly enjoyable.
I’m a huge fan of Elizabeth Berg and the way she elevates everyday life to something sublime. She does it again in Tapestry of Fortunes with endearing characters who somewhat impulsively set out on a road trip together. Each of the women finds something she needs – reconciliation, a new vocation, a way to settle grief. I can’t say this was my favorite Elizabeth Berg because I did not find myself connecting deeply even with the main character. But to move the ordinary into sublime? Certainly, she nailed that again.
My second book club meets next week – rescheduled due to a sailing regatta. (No, I had nothing to do with the regatta.) We’re reading a book written by my friend Hope Moffett, the true account of her experiences after her husband Bill was badly injured in a car accident. There’s much to learn about TBI, and more, I think, to learn about how to navigate and be an advocate in the complicated world of health care. I know that if/when I’m called on to advocate for an ill or injured loved one, I’ll turn to Hope’s book for instruction. It’s an important book, and I’m proud to know Hope.
As usual, it seems likely I’ve done more reading than I recorded in these summer months. Or maybe between a work/family trip, lots of bead/felt and writing creativity time, I didn’t. What is abundantly clear is that my goal of hoeing out the accumulated detritus of a long and multi-faceted career has not yet happened. And isn’t likely to now before school starts. And you know what? When given the choice of creating and reading or clearing and tossing, I’ll take creating and reading any time. Especially in summer when sunshine and ripe tomatoes exist to savor – if they ever ripen and the squirrels leave a few for us.