Salutations November-December 2022

Are you behind? Me too. Forget the election conspiracies. I’m convinced somebody’s been conspiring to steal my time. Okay, that somebody is undoubtedly me. But it does seem like time evaporates before I even begin the mounting tasks. Perhaps I’m still adjusting my pandemic hermit ways so that December’s social eddy only feels like a whirl.

Freeform Peyote Apple Watch Band
Blues, greens, purples, and more!

Since I last posted this newsletter, Pat and I cleaned up at the granddaddy of art shows in our area. My felt inventory took a big hit at Christkindl Market which means I get to make lots more stuff – after the holidays. (That’s right. I get to make stuff, and I’m looking forward to that creative activity burst.) I’ve taken a few custom orders too, which has been fun. Maybe you need a special grouping of colors in a felt scarf? Or a beaded band for your Apple Watch? These are things I can do – now that the pressure of prepping a show won’t descend again for several months. You pick the colors. I’ll make a one-of-a-kind lovely.

Writing News

Um… Not much to tell. See above regarding time’s evaporation. I am about a third through my next set of revisions on Look Up – hopefully my last before sending it out for editing (again.) My friend who’s designing the cover tells me it’s coming nicely too, so I’m not giving up on my goal of publishing early in 2023.

Meanwhile, my guy and I had an excuse to visit a couple wineries a few weeks back – research for my next work in progress. I’m seeking out a family-owned winery and vineyard to augment the setting of my imagination, so we’ll hit the trail again after I get Look Up on the shelves. And while I love the finished product, there’s much I need to understand about the wine and grape-growing industry to build authenticity in my characters. This kind of research is dirty work, but if I must visit wineries, then I must.

On to Reading News

Before I start, can I just rant a bit about Goodreads and its clumsiness? I appreciate being able to record and easily review books on this platform. Even more, I appreciate the chance to interact with readers. But why oh why can’t the platform manage simple tasks like sorting by dates. I enter a book today, and though my settings say to sort by ascending date read, and I can see the books I posted last month, today’s entry goes way to the bottom of my list. So to find my most current read list, I have to scroll past 750 plus books I’ve read over the years. Similarly, there’s no way – except to look at every page of ratings – to see the most recent ratings of one of my books. I like to say thank you for a great rating, but why do I have to sort those who rated the book in 2017 from those who rated it last month? Why does Goodreads jumble their listings so? Certainly, if they’ve chosen to sort using some other metric than the date posted, their plan is far from evident. These issues invite my frustration at the extra time these tasks take. And obviously I have accepted that invitation to air my rant today.

Okay. That’s done. Now on to books I read since my last post.

This was indeed a quiet book. I suspect that many readers could relate to the unemployed, down-on-her-luck character in this story, and I can believe that someone who can’t catch a break might feel depressed enough to wallow. But does wallowing make for a good novel? I don’t think so. I get impatient with myself on occasions when my life goes into wallow mode, and I get more impatient when I’m reading. Yes, characters need to be faced with challenges. But I tend to like stories where the characters pick themselves up, shake themselves off, and get on with it for Pete’s sake. To be fair, that is what Rachel did – eventually and only after an interminable amount of wallowing that to my mind only served to slow the story to a crawl. Until I barely cared about the promised triumph of the title. If you’re more patient than I, maybe you’d like this tale. I can’t say I did.

Living through the German occupation of Paris prior to and during World War II seems like it might give one an excuse to wallow. But not in this tale. All Odile ever wanted was to be a librarian, and she revels in her new role on the eve of the war – and during – despite hunger, deprivation, and fear. When the Germans ban Jews from entering the library, Odile and her colleagues deliver books in secret until one by one, their subscribers disappear. Even then, they somehow manage to keep the library open, recognizing the power of books to carry souls through their darkest times. After the war, Odile lives an isolated life in small town Montana until her teenaged neighbor intrudes. Lily wants to taste the big world and sees Odile as her ticket to the exotic. Their friendship grows in endearing ways but is not without its challenges as Odile teaches Lily to speak French, shares books and cookies, and guards the secret shame of her past. This was a well-written and absorbing story based on the real American Library in Paris and how it did remain open during the trying times of World War II. As such, it shared similarities with other WWII novels but had its own unique spin. I can heartily recommend The Paris Library.

And now for something entirely different. Judah Knight’s cover caught my interest. Is that the south portico of the White House? So the story takes place in DC? My next novel Look Up is set there. Could there be similarities? Um… No. Knight’s characters are spending the holidays in the White House as members of the President’s family. Mine move in far less rarified circles. But a bigger difference shows in the plot. The granddaughter of the Pres has gone missing, and in-laws Jon and Meg set out to find her though the rest of the fam thinks this wild child is just re-enacting her previous bad choices. The intrigue grows as the lovely Meg also gets kidnapped by a sex-traffic ring – in lots of graphic detail. It’s a fast-moving tale – and short, so I read it in one sitting – because I woke far too early that morning. So for quick entertainment, I can give the tale a high rating. For realism though, not so much. Every character is too pretty, smart, and rich – even those we’re supposed to hate. Why couldn’t Meg and the granddaughter be ordinary-attractive instead of visions of beauty? How might the story shift if Jon didn’t have access to millions in ransom money and a cadre of handy Special Ops buddies who can drop everything – at Christmas – to be at his beck and call? What would be dreadfully difficult or flat-out impossible for mere mortals was no challenge at all for such as these characters, and I find that a flaw that will keep me from reading what will surely be a series erupting from this perfect couple connected to high places.

Susan Mackie penned a fairly typical enemy to lover story, but since it’s set in rural Australia, it held more interest for me. Saving her grandfather’s farm from the big syndicate likely also connected with me (ala my novel Home Place.) Australian cattle farming in a multi-year drought is way, way different from anything I know, so I enjoyed the vicarious travel adventure. The romance between Rose and Angus was pretty standard fare – two enormously pretty people (but not unrealistically wealthy this time) pushed by Rose’s grandfather’s to share the same house. It was no surprise that they soon shared the same bed or that neither had ever before experienced such good sex. Nor was it a surprise that mutual suspicions mount before they reach a trusting resolution. The setting and a rekindled friendship between Rose and her best childhood gal-pal were reasons I’d recommend this book. And if you like steamy sex scenes, that would be a bonus.

If you’ve hankered for a back-stage look at a Disney-esque theme park, you’ll likely enjoy this tale from N.K. Rienert who, I’m guessing, probably did her own stint as a student intern in Orlando. The similarities between Disney World and Reinert’s America The Beautiful (ATB) theme park abound – to a nearly distacting level. Most of the action in this story takes place in ATB’s version of Frontiertown where there’s a Splash-Mountain-ish ride, a riverboat, and conestoga wagons where you can buy sunglasses and hats to weather the Georgia sun. The characters – mostly ‘cast members’ but a few park groupies – are hooked on the park’s pristine depiction of real life in the wild west. Except when reality in the guise of low pay, high rent, long, long days in hot, hot sun, and the unlikelihood of promotion interrupts, they’re happy in their pretend lives. They’ve even drunk the Kool-Aid of extreme customer service, no matter how ATB guests try their patience and put their cherished ATB roles in jeopardy. Their primary goal remains. Get promoted and life will be easier. But most of all, get promoted so they’ll never have to leave their ATB la-la land. How real is Reinert’s depiction of the ‘underground’ realities of theme park existence? I don’t know. But will I succomb to the blissful ignorance of my next theme park experience? Maybe not.

Despite my disparaging remarks about romance tropes above, I like a high quality romance. And I’d call most anything Kristan Higgins writes high quality. This one’s set in the Finger Lakes of upstate New York, my home territory, so I found it interesting to note what Higgins, who’s from Connecticut, observed as she researched this story. And since the family of her protagonist Faith owns and operates a vineyard and winery, I considered the tale research for my own upcoming work in progress. Faith was all set to marry her dreamy high school beau until his best friend Levi put the brakes on the wedding, and all these years later, Faith still hasn’t forgiven Levi for wrecking her dreams. Even though those dreams were built on a flimsy understanding of reality. Levi offers the other-side-of-the-tracks view of small town life, but still found reason to return and take up the role of police chief. It’s an idyllic small town with a community that’s dear and occasionally too close for comfort. I liked the two protagonists and the collection of colorful characters that surround them. The Best Man is the first in Higgins’ Blue Heron series, and though, I’m not usually a series reader, I’ll likely make an exception in this case. Why wouldn’t I want to return to that idyllic little town perched on one of our pristine and lovely lakes?

I like humor in a book, so I fell for this book’s tagline proclaiming it to be ‘theperfect laugh out loud dramedy.’ I should know better. It’s like when someone feels compelled to tell you they’re smart. Do smart people really need to announce such a thing? There are amusing moments in this mother-in-law-from-hell novel, and there’s a lot of wallowing that once again tried my patience. Yes, Margaret has never found Allie quite good enough for her only son. Yes, Margaret has both passive-aggressive and overtly aggressive tendencies, particularly when her husband and well-loved ideal father-in-law dies and isn’t there to temper Margaret’s most annoying tendencies. And yes, I’d be annoyed for such a woman to move into my house and obsessively take over all housekeeping chores because I was so clearly inept at running my own house. Hmm… Would I really hate for someone else to clean and cook when I’d prefer to do almost anything else? Yes, she says grudgingly, I probably would resent both Margaret’s stated and implied criticism. But would I wallow for months in that state of resentment? Gosh, I hope not. I hope too that I’d avoid the Allie’s own repressed passive agressive behavior alternating with long-term wallowing. I hope I’m never so depressed as either of these characters. So not only did I not laugh out loud as I read this book, I found myself turning pages faster and faster – not because I wanted to know the resolution but because I was impatient to close the cover and be done with it. Again, perhaps you’re more patient and compassionate than I with a wallower. Perhaps you’ll even laugh out loud.

On to a story I enjoyed more. I reviewed another Lucy Score novel in my last Salutations post. And since I liked that one, I sought out another at my local library – a print edition which meant I actually went into the library for the first time in far too long. I got so in the habit of browsing their ebook collection online that I nearly forgot the pleasure of browsing the stacks in person. It felt good to be back – twice. Once to get the book, once to return it. I hope they add more Score novels to the collection because I’d go back again for another like this one. She draws characters that are flawed and sometimes raunchy enough to be human, and likable enough so I’d enjoy hanging out with them. There are deep friendships and unexpected connections, and tons of quirky circumstances like a bride crawling out a window to escape and turning up in the full fluffy gown with daisies in her stiff-with-hairspray- coif in a small town a ten-hour drive away. And there’s a sexy romance between two people who are committed to avoid just that. Surely there’s no harm in scratching an itch, they think. Until there’s way more than an itch between them. Throw in an evil twin and her eleven-year-old kid, and this story blooms with both humor and heart. I did laugh out loud as I read, and appreciated not being told before-hand that I was supposed to. She’s right up there on my favorite high-quality romance novelists along with Higgins, Center, and De Los Santos.

And that’s my latest reading roundup. Three really good reads, a few pretty decents, and the weary wallowers. What’s your best latest read? I’d love to know as I’m already anticipating the pressure of choosing a book club novel for next April. Please. Send me your recommends!

And in the meantime…

Please accept my wishes for the most deeply satisfying holiday of your choice this lovely season as we await the Winter Solstice and its promised return of the light we love to our hemisphere.

(No. My tree is not yet up, nor yet cut down. That task awaits this weekend if we can find a U-cut farm still open for the season. But here’s hoping it will look a lot like last year’s as I go through the sweet process of hanging each memory-rich and well-loved ornament. I’ll wish for your similarly joyful moments however you celebrate.)

Joy to YOUR World!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s