Thursday Book feature: Little Fires Everywhere

Little Fires Everywhere

By Celeste Ng

Copyright 2017

 

In 1998, the Richardson family is happily living in Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland. Then Miah, a nomadic artist, and her teen-aged daughter rent a house from Mrs. Richardson. When one of Miah’s co-workers sues the state for custody of a baby she abandoned a little over a year ago, Miah and Mrs. Richardson are on opposite sides of the debate. Then Mrs. Richardson discovers a secret Miah has been harboring for years.

When the book opens, the Richardson home has just been destroyed by a fire, and the family is left homeless. Then it shifts to the previous year, detailing events leading to the fire. I found this disappointing because I then had an idea of how the book would end. I considered not finishing it, but curiosity drove me onward. Although I like the author’s depiction of Shaker Heights as a perfect little town, I don’t appreciate the way she inserts narrative during crucial dialog. In most cases, this narrative explains how characters feel, which, from what is being said, should already be obvious to the reader. The ending is unsatisfactory.

On the other hand, I liked the way Ng tells the story from the point of view of each character. She gives the reader a glimpse into each of their minds, even that of the Richardson’s youngest daughter who is often misunderstood. She also tries to help us understand why Miah feels the woman who abandoned her baby should have the right to take the child away from loving parents, unable to have children of their own, who want to adopt her. Despite its drawbacks, this book is a compelling, thought-provoking read.

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 Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Talking Dirty

Thanks to the Magic of Stories for inspiring this post. Karen J. Mossman talks, in a way, about creating a balance between being realistic and providing an escape for our readers.

Can you think of any scenes where people go to the bathroom? I’m going to be vain and tell you that in my memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, I talk about going to the bathroom a lot. In one scene, I’m making oatmeal, and my husband Bill, totally blind and partially paralyzed by two strokes, is sitting at the kitchen table in his wheelchair. Suddenly, he says, “Oooh, I gotta pee. Oh, it’s too late. I wet my pants.” This gives my readers an idea of what I went through as a caregiver.

What about farting? In Larry McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, there’s a scene in which a high school football coach flatulates while lying in bed, reading the newspaper, much to his wife’s annoyance. This gives you some idea of what kind of guy the coach is. Bill also liked to expel wind through his posterior, but I couldn’t find a way to bring that into my story, since it wasn’t related.

How about belching? I’m going to be vain one more time and give you an example from a short story I wrote several years ago that hasn’t yet been published. It’s called “Living Vicariously,” and it’s about a Catholic family dealing with issues related to religion. In one scene, a teen-aged girl who has lied about attending confirmation classes, is eating dinner with her father in a pizza joint. She’s drinking Dr. Pepper, and she says she doesn’t want to be a nun because she doesn’t want to give up the beverage. Then, she birps for emphasis. Here, I’m showing you her character.

Eating is another bodily function often portrayed. One great example of this is in the book Prizzie’s Honor. Charlie, a mafia crook, is eating lunch with his boss. It’s an Italian ten-course meal. This emphasizes the irony that evil people enjoy the good things in life.

I suppose we ought to talk about sex, but I’d rather not. None of my work has vivid descriptions, and frankly, such scenes bog a story down. Hand holding, kissing, and embracing are enough to show the reader two people are in love.

What do you think? Do bodily functions, including sex, enhance a story or slow it down too much?

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Breakfast at the Good Hope Home

Breakfast at the Good Hope Home

By Mike Bayles

Copyright 2017

 

Through prose and poetry, this novella describes how a young man deals with his father being placed in a nursing home after he is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. In ninety-six pages, the author details the last eight years of the father’s life and how the son and his mother cope. Besides the story and poems, all told from the son’s point of view, the book also includes historical and other information about Alzheimer’s Disease.

When I first read an interview with Mike Bayles on the blog, Scan, in which he talks about the book, I found it intriguing, having once been a registered music therapist working with nursing home residents afflicted by dementia. I was disconcerted by the fact that none of the characters have names except for Becky, the certified nursing assistant at the Good Hope Home who cares for the young man’s father. Then again, this story is short. It only took me about an hour to read with my Amazon Echo device. That doesn’t give readers a lot of time to connect with characters, so I can see why the author didn’t name many of them. Since nurses’ aides in skilled care facilities play a more pivotal role in the care of such residents, I can understand why Mike Bayles gave her a name.

Eight years is a long time to watch the slow decline of a loved one with dementia, so I’m glad this story is mercifully short. I recommend it to anyone dealing with Alzheimer’s. It would also make a great training tool for health care professionals learning to work with such patients.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

 

My Ten Favorite Books Blog Challenge

I was invited to participate in this challenge by blogger Lynda Lambert. Here’s how it works. Think of your ten favorite books and write them down. Then invite three other bloggers to create their own lists of ten favorite book titles and invite three other bloggers and so forth. You can read her guidelines here.

Below is my list of ten books. I must admit this was tricky. At first, I could only think of five books, but then titles kept coming. They’re not in any particular order. I just wrote them down as they popped into my head.

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1. The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
4. Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
5. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
8. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johan David Wyss
9. I Never Promised you a Rose Garden by Hannah Green
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

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The three bloggers I am inviting are Felicia Denise, Glenda Council Beall, Alice Massa. Of course anyone else is welcome to submit favorite book titles. I look forward to reading about them.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Cottage by the Sea

Cottage by the Sea
by Debbie Macomber
Copyright 2018.

After losing most of her family as a result of a mud slide near Seattle, Annie retreats to the seaside village where her family rented a cottage for several summers. By a miraculus twist of fate, she is able to rent that same cottage. A physician’s assistant, she finds a job at the local clinic. In her quest for healing, she affects the lives of a shy six-foot artist with whom she falls in love, her reclusive landlady, a teen-ager with an abusive stepfather, and other characters, all needing relief from their troublesome burdens.

I’ve always enjoyed Debbie Macomber’s work, and Cottage by the Sea didn’t disappoint me, but there are a couple of things I don’t like about this and other books she has written. First of all, the author uses way too much unnecessary narrative. As I’ve said before, it’s better to show and not tell, and too much narrative bogs a story down. Another thing I don’t like is her use of adverbs. It’s always better to use a stronger verb, and in the case of dialog, what a person says should speak for itself without the adverb. Because Debbie Macomber tells such heartwarming stories that make me feel good, I’m willing to put up with these pitfalls.

That said, Cottage by the Sea was a great end-of-summer read for me. According to the author’s note at the beginning, a mud slide near Seattle actually happened several years ago. I like the way this author uses real-life events to tell a compelling story. I also appreciate her not including descriptions of sex. There are better ways to show two characters in love like kissing, hugging, hand holding, and body language. Sex scenes are unnecessary and bog a story down.

I downloaded this book from Audible, and it was hard to put down. The narrator did an excellent job portraying each character. Although one minor plot detail could have been handled differently, I found the ending very satisfying. If you don’t have time or enough money to retreat to a seaside village, I suggest you read this book instead. You’ll be refreshed.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: The Ice House

The Ice House
by Laura Lee Smith
Copyright 2017.

Johnnie is an immigrant from Scotland, living in Florida and running an ice factory with his wife. Because of a hefty fine by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration after an accident, the factory may close. Johnnie’s son’s drug addiction has strained their relationship to the breaking point. Then Johnnie discovers he has a brain tumor. Against the wishes of his wife and doctor, he travels to Scotland with a young neighbor in an attempt to mend fences with his son.

Because this book is character-driven, it has way too much narration. In the beginning, I could tolerate it, but as the plot developed, it interfered with the action and drove me nuts. The ending could have been different, and the last chapter gave the book an unnecessary aura of sadness.

If The Ice House still appeals to you, I hope you enjoy it. As for me, reading a book shouldn’t be frustrating, and I prefer an ending that makes me feel good. I doubt I’ll read any more of this author’s work.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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Thursday Book Feature: Novel Depicts Life on the Set

The Cast
by Danielle Steel
Copyright 2018.

Kait is a New York magazine advise columnist who has been divorced twice and has three grown children. After a chance meeting with a television producer at a New Year’s Eve party, she is inspired to write a story line for a television show, based loosely on her grandmother’s story. After she shares it with this producer, he is impressed and decides to make it into a series.

Over the course of a year, as the series is produced and becomes a huge success, and Kait is kept busy working with the screenwriter on various episodes, she becomes involved in the lives of her cast members, and they become her second family. When one of her own daughters is killed overseas while filming a documentary, they all rally around Kait. She then becomes attracted to another actor from Wyoming. Will she open her heart to him after two failed marriages?

Despite Danielle Steel’s nasty habits of too much telling and not enough showing and use of unnecessary adverbs, I’m always drawn to her stories, and this one is no different. Fascinated by the entertainment industry, I enjoyed being transported into the lives of these characters. Being from Wyoming, I felt a special connection to the actor with whom Kait becomes involved at the end. The Audible narrator did an excellent job portraying even the female characters. I recommend this book to anyone interested in how a television series is made and who likes a heartwarming story with a neat ending.

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Abbie Johnson Taylor
We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds
Like Me on Facebook.

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