Tag Archives: Erika Robuck

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

Enlightenment: How Historical Fiction Reveals the Truth

All the Light We Cannot See appeared in my dream the other night, so I knew this important title would be the focus of this blog post.  After mysteries, historical fiction is my favorite genre.  I am exploring what makes historical fiction so compelling and reveals the truth of our history?

All the Light We Cannot See is a perfect example to answer that question.  When an author describes using each of his senses in his setting, you are transported into the lives of the characters. You can taste, smell and touch the places the author has revealed in his words.  Many authors pepper in visual descriptions, so you can see what the characters see.  But when an author such as Anthony Doerr reminds us of the other senses, we are there during a bombing raid or living in a tenement or hearing the rush of the ocean in Ocean City.

Anthony Doerr shows exemplary skill  in this title using his senses because his main character is blind.  Marie-Laure is taught by her father to explore her sightless world so she can live an independent life.  She becomes aware of each brick, manhole cover, and scent in her neighborhood and we experience her scientific and literary world along with her.

Werner, Marie-Laure’s counterpart in this story, uses his fine sense of touch and hearing as he explores the world of radio waves.  I do not understand the science, but I was transported to the bombed out basement with Werner when he scanned “frequencies by feel.”  Read this book to see what a master Doerr is with language and sensual description!

What other historical fiction titles can compare to this new masterpiece?  I have Erika Robuck to thank for reminding me of recent evocative historical fiction titles.  Her TopTen of 2014 is a wonder and it includes Doerr’s latest title.  Check out her blog MUSE for a list you will want on your bedside table.

Since I often switch from adult books to children’s literature, I’ll recommend a few extra bonus books here.  Karen Cushman, Katherine Paterson and Avi are masters in this genre for middle grade readers.  You will be surprised at the tightness and the concepts in the writing these authors present which will interest adults as well as children.  My favorite children’s review blog will inspire you to read even more of these great ones.  www.ThisKidReviewsBooks.com

Until next time:  Happy Reading in 2015!

http://www.erikarobuck.com/Blog.html

http://www.karencushman.com/

http://www.terabithia.com/about.html

http://www.avi-writer.com/

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Filed under Adult Literature, Children's Literature, Historial Fiction

REVIEW SOURCES: YOUR HELP FOR YOUR NEXT BEST READ

Up until this post, all the titles I have recommended are books I have read.  Let’s explore, with anticipation, reviews of new titles we want to read in 2015! Newspapers and magazines print the “best of” lists to remind readers which books are not to be missed.

My favorite review sources include The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and the New York Times Book Review.  Independent booksellers provide their own “Indie Bound” suggestionsMy local library offers a free periodical called BookPage.  (Look below for the online URLs.)

The book on the top of many “Best of 2014” lists is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.  This title is on my Amazon.com wish list and my Goodreads “to-read” shelf.  Since it is a second novel for Doerr, I am intrigued to check out his first, About Grace: A Novel, which one personal reviewer compared to the writing of the Japanese author Haruki Murakami.   (So many books, so little time.) See the Amazon.com reviews of Murakami’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, (2010) or IQ84 from 2011.  The NYT Book Review called Murakami “a rare artist and “a magician.”  What a comparison for both authors, Doerr and Murakami, two literary authors to read and watch for further masterpieces!

Some friends ask me how I enjoy my 3 Kindles. “Don’t I long for the feel of a physical book and pages to turn and look back upon?” they query.  I know what they are saying, still I use my Kindle devices as a virtual library:  I can keep my favorites to review and peruse any time.  I can also sample books I have seen reviewed or recommended, books I may want to purchase, and I often use my Kindle to search for titles and their reviews by editors and readers on Amazon or Goodreads.

I’m most impressed when the reviews have bylines. One of my favorite reviewers is Tom Nolan who recommends mysteries in the WS Journal every Friday.  I also enjoyed reading the author Carolyn See’s mystery reviews in the Washington Post. She is the mother of the prolific Lisa See, although she has now retired. For children’s book reviews, I read Meghan Cox Gurdon’s “Children’s Books” column in WS Journal.  Gurdon’s insights are valuable to all who enjoy various genres and many grade levels of children’s book titles.  Librarians find Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, and Publishers Weekly, written for professionals interesting sources to check for recommendations each week or month, although they are not always available to the general public.  We can all purchase the New York Times Book Review which is available from bookstores and libraries separate from the large daily newspaper.

They chose “10 Best Books of 2014” published December 14, 2014 (our mother’s birthday).  Five fiction and five non-fiction titles were chosen. The books reviewers gave us are a cross-section of genres including the highly-rated Doerr’s who writes “brisk chapters and sumptuous language” in All the Light We Cannot See, a metaphorical tale; a historical fiction Euphoria by Lily King about Margaret Mead; and  Redeployment, a debut story collection by a former Marine, Phil Klay.  The non-fiction list is similarly varied with a biography of Penelope Fitzgerald, a writer who published her first book at 58 (Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee); a graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast; and an environmental examination The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert.  The “Best of” list concludes with a political treatise described as “profound” and “gripping” with “clashing personalities” called Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright. (I did not write about all from the Times’ list.)

“Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness!” to parrot Mollie, my favorite character in Annie.  I need to stop writing and start reading with so many great titles to consider! I am salivating over the language and creative ideas put forth by the reviewers and the authors of these new books of last year.

Three novels I still have on my own “to-read shelf” include highly recommended books published in 2013:  The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer, Life After Life by Kate Atkinson and The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahri.  Mysteries and historical fiction, which are still my favorite genres, which are waiting for me to open are Truth Be Told by Hank Philippi Ryan, the entire “Rei Shimura” series by Sujata Massey I want to read in order (while I await her newest Indian epic), and the newest historical fiction title by Erika Robuck, The House of Hawthorne.

Share the best books and reviews you read this past year so we will all have Happy Reading in 2015!

http://online.wsj.com/public/page/news-books-best-sellers.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/

http://topics.nytimes.com/top/features/books/bookreviews/index.html

http://www.indiebound.org/indie-next-list

http://bookpage.com/

PS:  Don’t forget to savor the advertisements in these magazines and supplements as well as the Best Seller Lists.  They will all provide ideas for choosing your next best read. 

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Filed under First Novels, Historial Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery

SO YOU WANT TO START A BOOK CLUB

SO YOU WANT TO START A BOOK CLUB

By Beth Schmelzer and Marcia Feliciano

Once upon a time there were two good friends who loved to read. Whenever Beth and Marcia got together, their conversations always included a chat about books they were reading, books they had read, books in untidy stacks that they looked forward to reading, and lists of recommended books.

When Beth moved to Annapolis, the “book chats” became more frequent, leading to the decision to start a book club.  Starting a book club isn’t rocket science, but it is science in a way, as there should be good chemistry among the participants; there should be a certain degree of open-mindedness regarding book selections, flexibility regarding scheduling, and a willingness to let a member “slide” on occasion for not reading “the book.” We all know how life can get in the way of good intentions, and we should recognize the fact that not everyone will like every book choice.  Just the same, the best discussions often come from the least popular titles.

To start, we each invited one book-loving friend to participate. Our first meeting was in February 2008 and we have met monthly ever since. Our group now consists of approximately 13 women who originally bonded over books while sharing a cup of tea or a glass of wine. We shared our thoughts about books by local authors who graciously came to our meetings to talk about and autograph their books. We talked about books of a controversial nature, non-fiction books, first novels, memoirs, mysteries, histories and more. At this size, we can fit in everyone’s house, and if we lose a few, we still have enough for a good book talk. The hostess of the month picks the book of the month. Hostesses and books are announced at least a month in advance so everyone has plenty of time to read each selected book. The group endeavors to be cost-conscious, selecting books readily available at local bookstores, libraries, on an e-reader or from Amazon.com. Sometimes books are obtained on a field trip to independent bookstores that are delighted to give a book club discount. The indie bookstores encourage the purchase of local authors such as Marcia Talley, Thea Lindauer, Stephanie Verni, Lucia St. Clair Robson, Erika Robuck, and Bill Eggert. Authors who can’t make it in person will sometimes do a conference call-in during a meeting to connect personally with their readers. Additionally, some writers will offer a Skype call.  Contact information can be found on their websites. We even have plans to make a road trip to Boonsboro to visit Nora Robert’s Turn the Page Bookstore!

Meetings range from casual to elaborate, from silly to serious, and are mostly held in the evenings for no more than 90 minutes. Sometimes members who love to cook invite everyone for a dinner reflecting the type of food enjoyed by the characters in the book of the month, which we could call a literary feast.  More typically, the hostess will  provide a simple buffet of snacks, light appetizers, drinks and a small dessert.

Now in its seventh year, it should be mentioned that Beth and Marcia’s book club decided on a name reflective of our sense of humor and our location – the Annapolis Book Bag Ladies Book Club.

Beth, the unofficial secretary, records the books and hostesses in a journal so there is an ongoing history. In the summer, there is a potluck pool party meeting. In deference to the busy holiday schedules, the reading assignment is eliminated at December meetings and the group gets together at a local restaurant. In lieu of gift-giving, we have a “sock it to me holiday dinner” and everyone brings new socks that are donated to the local Lighthouse Shelter for the homeless.

We are still reading and discussing books, even when some members escape to Florida, the Bahamas or Hawaii. We also show up to support a member working on a play, going through chemo, having a daughter get married, burying a parent, celebrating a new baby, losing a job, or starting retirement. Starting a book club really is simple. Like the Nike folks say, “Just do it!” And if you need a little encouragement or a book list to get your group started, contact Beth at www.BESTBOOKSBYBETH.com or Marcia  at felician@rcn.com

We are glad to help anyone to start a book club!

This essay was previously published in Outlook by the Bay (Spring, 2014) in a different version.

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Filed under Book Clubs, First Novels, Historial Fiction, Mystery