Category Archives: Historical Fiction

Author Crushes

I have a new author crush every week.  How about you?  Do you fall in love with authors you meet from friend’s recommendations and from the new books at the library?

My latest crushes are for middle grade authors Gordon Korman and Mary Amato!  Korman was recommended to me by a new reading friend when she heard I was looking for examples of dialogue from a boy’s perspective.  Both my grands are boys and I am writing several middle grade novels which my BETA readers call “girls’ books.”  I want to appeal to all genders, so I picked up Ungifted to hear a different POV on my way to meet friends for lunch 2 hours away.  Still driving last weekend, on the way to a children’s writing conference, I fell in love with Gordon Korman’s humor, character development and pacing. Ungifted is told from many different children and adults in school and home settings. What more could a reader and a writer hope to gain?  This week at the library, I picked up one more book by Korman, Schooled, and I am prepared to laugh and enjoy more of his multiple voice books. Readers of both genders and all ages can enjoy these books.

Mary Amato is a new author I met at the children’s writing conference.  What a find!  Her Our Teacher is a Vampire and other (Not) True Stories also was created with multiple characters’ voices.  Each of the students in Mrs. Penrose’s class adds letters and articles to a blank book Alexander received for his birthday.  The resulting novel is humorous and authentic, full of likeable middle grade protagonists (plus teachers and a librarian.)

An old flame grabbed me at the library:  Pam Munoz Ryan!  The Dreamer and Echo are different genres and interesting additions to her body of children’s stories that range from picture biographies to historical fiction.  I relished Riding Freedom, Mice and Beans, and When Marian Sang:  the True Recital of Marian Anderson.  In my latest read from Ryan, I discovered a fictionalized biography of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, with illustrations by Peter Sis.  What a delightI discovered in The Dreamer and I await a different experience in Echo which is based on ancient folktales!  Many poems are added at the end of the book.  An intriguing idea they share with us lovers of children’s literature.

One more new find is Leah Pileggi, author of Prisoner 88.  I was looking for another book recommended by my ten-year-old grandson which had a similar title.  It is amazing to hear of 4th and 5th graders reading about prisoners, but they love the authenticity of these books.  Prisoner 88 is about a 10-year-old-boy who is the youngest prisoner in the history of Idaho’s Territorial Penitentiary.  In 1885 Jake has a rude awakening, as you can imagine.  Later in history, Yanek (Jack) becomes a prisoner in 10 concentration camps in Germany. He lived in a Polish Ghetto and then was imprisoned around 1939 for the sole reason that he was Jewish.  Prisoner B-3087 is the memoir of Jack Gruener, penned with his wife Ruth and Alan Gratz. These two historical fiction books are both survivor stories you will want to read.

If you are considering writing your own children’s books, I recommend you join me in a great organization:  the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.  Lin Oliver founded this organization and, as a realistic and personable speaker at the latest regional conference, she shared her passion and advice for us pre-published authors.  You may recognize Lin as co-author with Henry Winkler of the “Hank Zipser” series.  Thanks to Lin Oliver, I met many aspiring children’s authors, agents and editors.  Peer Critique advice was available and valuable.  New friends from my own state and region will be a fine addition for my writing friends’ network.

[Don’t forget that if you see any errors in my posts, please alert me.  A new writing friend wrote that Jane Eyre was written by Emily Bronte.  I am too embarrassed to let her know… Should I tell her.  What do you think?]

Happy Reading in 2016 and Love from Best Books By Beth!

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Filed under Associations for Writers, Boys' books, Children's Literature, Historical Fiction, reading journals, Realistic Fiction, SCBWI

CATEGORIES OF BOOKS

Most genres of fiction interest me from mysteries to historical fiction. There are many categories to relish as I have found from Book Page, a magazine provided by the Friends of the Library in my vacation spot.  Where to begin to find the next book to read?  I am changing my blog to include books I want to read but have not read yet.

                         Which are your top choices from this list?

New titles on my TBR list include one from each of these categories:

  1. Literary Fiction: The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith. This one includes three narrative threads, intriguing for a reader and a writer.
  2. Family Saga:  Miller’s Valley by Anna Quindlan.  She is a favorite author since I read her Black and Blue, a realistic view of domestic violence.
  3. Coming-of-Age:  Excellent Lombards by Jane Hamilton. Begins in the 1960’s.
  4. Memoir: Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith.  About her life in Appalachia.
  5. Middle Grade Fiction: A Bandit’s Tale by Deborah Hopkinson.  A historical tale beginning in 1887 NYC with an Italian Oliver Twist-like character.
  6. Picture Book: The Bear and the Piano by David Litchfield.  Starts in a forest and progresses to Broadway!
  7. Historical Mystery: Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye.  For adults and especially lovers of Jane Eyre (and no vampires!)
  8. Mystery:  Plantation Shudders by Ellen ByronAn Agatha nominee for best debut cosy mystery.  I confess I read this one first as I am going to the Malice Domestic conference later this month.
  9. Audio Memoir:  On My Own by Diane Rehm, read by the author.
  10. Historical Fiction: The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson.  If you loved Major Pettigrew’s Land Stand, you have been waiting five years for her next novel.   I think we will be pleased from the several reviews I have read so far.

Trisha Ping’s review in book Page of #10: “Full of trenchant observations on human nature and featuring a lovable cast of characters, The Summer Before the War is a second novel that satisfies.”  Isn’t this premise the reason we read?  I know it rings true for me!

 

Let me know what you recommend currently in comments.

I hope you are having fun with your own 2016 Reading Challenge!

 

HAPPY READING IN 2016!!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Book Clubs, Children's Literature, First Novels, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Malice Domestic, Mystery, Reading challenges, Uncategorized

MY GIFT FOR 2016

What is my gift? I share it with you and myself.  I read; I remember; and I pass the memories on. Books, food, musical plays:  the magic is all around us.  Let’s find the optimism in the New Year of 2016 together.

My writer friend, Erika Robuck, offered her 10 favorite titles in historical fiction. Her list on her blog Muse https://erikarobuck.wordpress.com/, a great readers’ and writers’ blog, was brilliant.  Recommendations from writers you respect help to whet your appetite for a To Be Read List. The library will be my next stop to find these gems she and others have selected for our reading pleasure.

I hope you readers who follow this blog will share your favorites that you loved in 2015 and more titles you plan to read in 2016! The list will be eclectic, I know, just the type of reading we enjoy.  My Good Reads challenge was fun and my goal was realized and even as a personal contest, it will be a competition I savor each year.  52 + adult books was manageable for me this past year reading all genres; I added to this list with many great children’s literature titles.  75 may be a pleasurable challenge for 2016.

New reading review blogs inspire me each month. Readers who recommend the many genres we love provide entertaining reading and great new titles to read and share.            Follow my new friends who suggest books and share your thoughts about the books you read. Erica at www.whatdowedoallday.com and my Book Lover’s friend Sarah at https://ivejustfinishedreading.wordpress.com enlighten me each time I open my emails.

I found writing a novel exasperating, so I will continue to write this blog and gift my book suggestions to you. Out of the 57 Adult titles I read last year in my reading challenge, I choose these 6 exemplary, unforgettable novels:

  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (WWII HF)
  2. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult (Literary Fiction)
  3. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King (Mystery)
  4. The Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland (HF)
  5. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck (HF)
  6. Tomorrow’s Vengeance by Marcia Talley (Cosy mystery)

Happy Reading in 2016!

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Filed under Adult Literature, Book Clubs, Children's Literature, gifts, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

Mysterious Mysteries!

Who killed Michael Abramowitz?  There are frequent clues in Baltimore Blues, Laura Lippman’s first mystery novel.  Reading blurbs on Sujata Massey’s “Rei Shimura” series books reminded me that I love to read local author Laura Lippman’s mysteries with settings in our Chesapeake Bay region. Don’t you enjoy reading books set in your own area?   I relish being reminded of the neighborhoods, restaurants, and streets I know or want to explore.  Remember CAMEL from my last posting? E=EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS! Don’t forget about CAMEL to help you to find great books of this and any genre.

So now that we have explored EXCEPTIONAL SETTINGS in the first paragraph, let me tell you how I became enamored of mystery stories.  Mysteries were my first love from when I was an early reader in grade school beginning with “The Bobbsey Twins” series. All my allowance and birthday money was spent in my home town in northern Indiana on these and other mystery series books. I continued to collect and read any mysteries for my age group. Then in high school I subscribed to the Columbia Mystery Book Club, using all my babysitting money on Perry Mason novels. Now I read any thrillers, suspense and mystery novels recommended by reviewers, friends and family.  I love them light, such as Agatha Christie ones, to very dark, such as Steig Larssen’s books and all mysteries in between.  Please let me know your favorites in the comment section!

Returning to the concepts in the CAMEL  acronym  suggested @ Book Club Cheerleader (see below),  let’s explore some of the other traits of a great title.  What is an example of COMPLEX CHARACTERS in the mystery genre?  Sharyn McCrumb in If I Killed Him When I Met Him has two complex secondary characters, Eleanor Royden and Donna Jean Morgan, who are wives accused of murdering their husbands.  The investigators in the story are a forensic anthropologist and two lawyers, Elizabeth’s brother Bill and his partner, A. P. Hill.  You do not need to read the first Elisabeth MacPherson book in the series to understand this interesting title by MacCrumb, still I encourage you to try more books in her bibliography.

Let’s find some stories filled with A for AMBIGUITY.  This trait can be in the theme, the characters, the climax or the solution.  The author of this type of book keeps you guessing throughout the novel.  Many of you have read Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody series about the Egyptian anthropologists.  Ms Peters, known as Mertz/Peters/Michaels,  was prolific; as a matter of fact, she wrote under three names.  On her website there is a quote I would like to share:  “At 85, Elizabeth Peters (aka Barbara Michaels [and Barbara Mertz]) is enjoying her cats, her garden, lots of chocolate, and not nearly enough gin.” One of my favorite characters she created is a librarian (surprise, surprise) named Jacqueline Kirby.  Naked No More contains a plot, themes and characters who are ambiguous!

Now I know you are ready for a recommendation of a mystery novel full of M=MEATY issues. Through the Darkness, the sixth book in Marcia Talley’s Hannah Ives series, is about the kidnapping of the protagonist’s one year old grandson.  I do not know how Marcia wrote that one, but she carried it off with her usual flair for suspense, realism and care for her characters.

Yesterday I mentioned a book with letters which covers the LITERARY DEVICES idea.  As a former English teacher and school librarian, my favorite of the entire CAMEL concept for choosing books is LANGUAGE and LITERARY DEVICES.  People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks is an untraditional mystery; in fact, it is probably not listed as a mystery on many book lists.  Still this brilliant novel includes clues, an investigator and many characters hiding the facts from others as well as the reader!  This popular novel follows the provenance of an object, an illuminated text from the current times back to the beginning of its inception. This technique has been used by other authors which I will explain in another post.

Here are some mystery blogs and websites I follow:

http://sujatamassey.com/blog/

http://www.marciatalley.com/

http://hankphillippiryan.com/blog.php

http://www.jungleredwriters.com/

http://www.elaineviets.com/

http://femmesfatales.typepad.com/

http://www.bookclubcheerleader.com/Home_Page.html

www.mysterylovescompany.com

 

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Filed under Children, Historial Fiction, Historical, Historical Fiction, myseries, Mystery, untraditional mysteries

Welcome to my Blog!

There is nothing more I love to do than talk about books, except to read them! You will find lots of reviews and discussions about the latest, greatest and most interesting books for book lovers. Whether you like mysteries (my favorite), historical fiction, or children’s books, you’ll find what you’re seeking on this blog, Best Books By Beth. I welcome new authors to send me their books and I will be happy to review them!

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Filed under Children, Historical Fiction, Mystery