Thursday Book Feature: Love the Beat Goes On

Love the Beat Goes On
by Lynda Filler
Copyright 2017

This is not about Sonny and Cher, although I thought it was when I first glimpsed the title. In this short memoir, author and photographer Lynda Filler discusses her diagnosis of cardiomyopathy in 2008 and how she miraculously recovered. She starts by detailing events leading up to her diagnosis including but not limited to her experience with online dating following several failed marriages, her move from Canada to Mexico, where she lived for several years, and her return to Canada. She then describes her symptoms and how she came to be diagnosed and told to get her affairs in order because she didn’t have long to live. She then outlines her path to healing and subsequent recovery, providing tips to others suffering from the same malady. She often claims not to be a medical expert and encourages readers to follow the advice given by their own doctors. The book includes resources.

I felt two connections with this book. First of all, my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy about the same time as Lynda Filler. Second, my brother and his first wife honeymooned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, during the 1990’s, at probably about the same time Lynda Filler was living there. Although I found her description of her healing process interesting, I was, and still am, skeptical. If this book had been released in 2008 when my father was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy, he might have benefited, although I doubt he would have read it.

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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: Splitting an Order

Splitting an Order
by Ted Kooser
Copyright 2014

The release of this author’s poetry collection coincided with his 75th birthday. Most of the poems in this collection are apparently based on observances in public places. A good example of this is the title poem, in which an elderly man is seen cutting a sandwich in half and serving one half to his aging wife. Others are about ordinary life events such as a car pulling to the side of the road and the couple in the car changing places. The book also includes a longer narrative in which the author reflects on a house where he and his wife first lived, upon learning of a murder that was committed there after they moved out.

I like Ted Kooser’s poetry because it tells a story in a manner that is straightforward and not abstract. I was fortunate several years ago to attend a writers’ conference at which he was the keynote speaker. One point he made was that a poem’s title can be used to set the scene.

This is exactly what he does with his own poems. The title tells the reader either the location of the story in the poem or what action takes place. The poem is thus written around the title.

Take, for example, “At Arby’s, at Noon.” He starts by describing a typical lunch hour in a fast food restaurant. Then, he paints a picture of a woman who is blind kissing a man with a disfigured face while life goes on around them.

For this reason, I highly recommend Ted Kooser’s work. Even if you don’t like poetry, I think you’ll appreciate the way he weaves words into stories about ordinary and not-so-ordinary events.

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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 Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom

The Star-Spangled Banner: Cornerstones of Freedom
by Deborah Kent
Copyright 1995.

This is a chronicle, for young readers, of how our national anthem was written. The author starts by explaining how an elderly doctor in Maryland was arrested for mistreating British soldiers when he refused them wine and ordered townspeople to arrest them. She then describes how Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who wrote poetry on the side, came to represent the old doctor and ended up on a small boat tethered to one of the British ships during the battle at Fort McHenry near Baltimore. She talks about how Key was inspired to write the poem, as he observed bombs bursting in mid-air and marveled that the flag remained at full mast until dawn when the British retreated. She then explains how the poem became a song and how the song eventually became our national anthem. The book includes the lyrics with all four verses, a glossary, a timeline, and other information.

Since Deborah Kent was a recent guest speaker at a meeting of Behind our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong, I thought it a good idea to read one of her books, which are written primarily for children. This book’s language is such that it can be appreciated by adults. Being a poet and a musician who has performed the national anthem, I was intrigued by how Francis Scott Key jotted the poem on a piece of scratch paper while watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Although this song can be difficult to sing because of its wide vocal range, I can see now how fitting it is as our national anthem. This book not only teaches young people about that part of our history but can open their eyes to how a poet is inspired.

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Now here’s a little treat. Click this link to hear me sing our national anthem.

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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: Business Owners Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

Business Owners Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired
by Deborah Kendrick
Copyright 2000.

The title speaks for itself. This book contains articles about people with blindness or low vision who own their own businesses. A florist, a Montessori school director, and a data systems analyst are just a few of the blind or visually impaired business owners showcased here. Each article explains what drove the person to go into business and how he/she performs daily tasks associated with the occupation, describing the adaptive equipment used. There are resources at the end.

If you think a blind person can’t tie a shoelace, you should read this book. If you’re a bus driver who has ever asked a person with a white cane boarding your vehicle if she knows where she wants to go, you should read this book. You should read this book if you’ve ever sat across a desk from a prospective or current employee with low vision and said, “I can’t work with your visual impairment.”

This book was published in 2000, but although the people showcased here may no longer be in business, and the resources and equipment mentioned may be antiquated, this book offers a message that I can’t stress enough. Those of us who are blind or visually impaired are human beings just like the rest of you. I hope this author will write a second edition, featuring blind or visually impaired people in business today with up-to-date resources. It’s important that we encourage those with blindness or low vision to follow their dreams and that we make sighted people understand that blind or visually impaired people can tie their own shoelaces and more.

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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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