“The Inaugural Meeting of Fairvale Ladies Book Club” – A Book Review and just a tad of jealousy

You’re going to love this book and the reviewer, too.

by Irene Waters

Every so often, go through your list of followers and those who have liked your blog and you will find some gems of people. Irene is one of them.

Irene has more energy than a puppy and has bounced from one successful venture to another. She has been a clinical nurse educator in intensive care, a resort, general store, and restaurant owner (at different times), construction contractor, and now writer. This is a woman you want to rub off on you. If she were a pill I’d take 10,000 mg of Irene Waters a day.

Her book review moved me to instantly purchase the book and start reading.

She gave me permission to reblog her review on Always Write.

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A long time friend gave me The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club  by Sophie Green for my birthday with a little trepidation. She knows I read a lot and was worried it may not have been a book to my liking. How wrong she was – I found this book not only enjoyable but it made me jealous of this writer’s ability to put you in place, to describe perfectly emotions that I struggled to describe in my own book. But let me tell you about the story first.

It was set in the Australia’s Northern Territory on a vast, remote cattle property in 1978. It was hot and arid for most of the year, becoming humid in the wet which saw the property cut off from everything as the red bull dust turned to sludge. A family ran the property and the son had just returned from Britain with his bride. In an effort to make her life easier  Sybil Baxter started the Fairvale Ladies Book club which consisted of Sybil, the mother, her daughter-in-law, an American jillaroo from the next property (a couple of hours drive away), a mother that lived in the closest town (also a couple of hours away) and the flying doctor nurse who flew in from Alice Springs. Read more…

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Classic Book Review: Presumed Innocent

Presumed Innocent

By Scott Turow

Book 1987 Movie 1990

Presumed Innocent

Classic book, Presumed Innocent is worth a read or a reread. 

Why do you read? Pure pleasure? Are you writing a book? Writing book reviews? Other?

Those are my three top reasons for reading Presumed Innocent, a classic murder mystery about a Deputy Prosecution Attorney who has a short lusty relationship with another attorney who is later found brutally murdered. I raced through 486 pages to see if my conjectures were correct, and they were, though I didn’t know that until nearly the last page.

The reason I chose this book out of the thousands of books to read is that it was on the list of top books read by attorneys. One of the characters in the book I’m writing, Girls on Fire, is an attorney, and as I develop her character more thoroughly in my third revision, I wanted to read a few of the books other attorneys say that they read. These two sites were helpful for me to compile a list of books that my character might like. https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2010/05/50-best-legal-novels-for-both-lawyers-and-laymenhttp://www.abajournal.com/gallery/10_law_novels/1344

That being said, Presumed Innocent written in 1987 was listed as #12. I chose it for another reason. I figured it would be a book that my character would have read when she was a new attorney.

Creating Clues

It fascinated me how Turow set up his clues starting on the second page of the book.

“No one broke in.”

“No broken windows,” I say, “No forced doors.”

“I think somebody was being clever,” I tell them both. “I think that’s misdirection.”

The deputy prosecuting attorney makes those statements before the tables turned and he found himself on the hook for the murder.

Lies

Writing coaches often tell you to lie in your book. Your reader should guess the truth because they have an inside view of what the protagonist thinks, but other characters in the book might or might not recognize a lie. The first lie I found was on page 13.

“Hey listen, my friend,” he says, “I am one of your true admirers. I mean that.  There are no hard feelings here.” He touches his shirt above the vest. “That is one of the few things that’s going to stay the same when I get there. You’ll still be in the chief deputy’s office.”

The protagonist, Rusty Sabich doesn’t believe him. He knows the speaker’s best friend will replace him.

Descriptions

Descriptions require a lot of hard work to polish them and make them shine. Sometimes I sit for several minutes trying to feel what is happening in my story. I might have written, “I mourned her loss,” which is one step above a first grader writing, “I was sad.” My heart is crying, but no beautiful words pop out of that crushing sorrow to describe it. 

Maybe Turow mastered descriptions. This is how he described his sorrow for the woman whose murder he investigated. I felt every word like a blow to my own emotional spirit.

“ I was still in deep disorder, so ravaged, beaten, that my skin seemed the only thing holding me together, a tender husk.”

A question I ask myself is how excellent authors find the words to describe the indescribable. Turow used about seven hundred words each to describe important people or events starting in the second chapter. He used more like one hundred sixty words to describe the place he works.

“The county building where he works is solid red brick dressed up with a few Doric columns to let everybody know it’s a public place.” …In the summer we labor in jungle humidity.”

Reusing the Description

This description, by the way, gives the defense attorney an excuse for his client’s actions during the trial. A similar description to the building is pried out of a secretary testifying against the defendant on page 274.

“Ms. Martinez, do you remember how warm it was in Kindle County last year around Labor Day?”

…”Past 100 two days.”

“Correct,” Stern says, improperly. “Is the P.A.’s office air-conditioned?”

Eugenia snorts. “Only if you believe what they say.”

… “I take it you try to leave as soon as the day ends when the heat is like that?”

“You got that right.”

“But the prosecutors, when they are in the midst of a trial, do not leave at the end of the day, do they?”

… “Now madam, would you not prefer to work in air conditioning rather than the P.A.’s office on a very warm day?”

… “Sure would.”

And the defense attorney builds a reason for his defendant to work in the home of the murdered woman with whom the prosecution tried to project as him having an affair with her. The way he picked up on that one tiny detail on page nineteen and turned it into an entire cross-examination that practically acquitted the defendant awed me as a writer.

Three Years Later

No wonder they made a movie out of it.  Even if you didn’t read the book, you probably saw the movie. What is your opinion?

Presumed Innocent

About the Author

Scott Turow

Presumed Innocent

“Scott Turow was born in Chicago in 1949. He graduated with high honors from Amherst College in 1970, receiving a fellowship to Stanford University Creative Writing Center which he attended from 1970 to 1972. From 1972 to 1975 Turow taught creative writing at Stanford. In 1975, he entered Harvard Law School, graduating with honors in 1978. From 1978 to 1986, he was an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, serving as lead prosecutor in several high-visibility federal trials investigating corruption in the Illinois judiciary. In 1995, in a major pro bono legal effort he won a reversal in the murder conviction of a man who had spent 11 years in prison, many of them on death row, for a crime another man confessed to.” Amazon.com

Link Your Reviews Here

What about you? If you’ve written a review recently that you’d love to link, there’s no charge to post the link to your review in the comment section of Always Write. Since you’ve gone to that much work to write it, and more work to read my review, you might as well get some extra mileage out of it.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

Book Review: Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler

How Do You Find a Good Book to Read?

You don’t need me to tell you Searching for Caleb by Anne Tyler is a good book. If you love Anne Tyler, you already know it’s good.

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But consider a new reader, someone unfamiliar with this author, with only an hour in a three-story, four-block-long sea of books called Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. searching to find a book to read on the plane. If you only had time to read the first sentence, would you buy this book?

“The fortune teller and her grandfather went to New York City on an Amtrak train, racketing along with their identical, peaky white faces set due north.”

I loved it. First of all, starting with occupations and relationships peaks my attention. The occupation is not common and quirky. A young woman and her grandfather is also an interesting combination. Where are mom, grandma, and the rest of the family?

Instead of traveling in a wagon, or even a car, they racketed along to New York City by Amtrak. The mode of transportation seems odd for a fortune teller, at least an old time one, as does the destination. They sat side by side instead of across from each other at a little table, and if they talked, they didn’t look at each other – ever. “Their identical peaky white faces set due north.”

By the way, what young woman would want to have an identical face to her grandfather? I don’t care if her grandfather is George Clooney.

I’m prejudiced, but a million years ago, when I grew up in Portland, Oregon, there were a lot of fortune tellers, most of whom were gypsies, and they traveled with their children, usually to my mother’s fabric store to buy yards and yards of fabric. They were tan-skinned, not in the least peaky and wore long bright skirts.

Based on the curiosity that one sentence whetted, stimulated, and aroused, I bought the book, felt anxious throughout mostly because I can’t figure out how she thinks of such amazing ways to use words. I’ve been wracking/racking (both are correct) my brain to copy her style without even fully understanding what it means to wrack my brain. She makes up her own clichés.

More Quotes

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book.

“…their breaths trailing out of their mouths in white tatters.”

It must have been chilly. “Her gritty bare feet whispered on the floor and her bathrobe sash galloped behind.”

First of all, why did she have gritty bare feet? She’s either getting into or out of bed, right? Secondly, she’s in a hurry, she doesn’t bother to tie her sash, and it is galloping behind her. Third, her bare feet whisper, while my thud. She must be light and works hard not to make a noise as she walks. Is she sneaking up on someone? Is the person she lives with a light sleeper or very grouchy that she doesn’t want to disturb him? Only five percent into the book, this sentence disturbed and thrilled me at the same time. I felt a vague sense of worry or pity for this peaky white young woman with tattery breath.

“Although there was no second floor the dormer window of some attic or storage room bulged out of the roof like an eyelid.”

If you’re an author, do you struggle as you describe buildings? Tyler makes body parts work hard.

“waited for her behind four pairs of blue, blue eyes.”

I didn’t note the reason for the four pairs of blue eyes, but what a better way to say that people were looking at her. Not only that, how do you get four people who all have blue eyes together in one room? That’s pretty unusual. My family of four all had blue eyes – it’s a recessive gene, but getting four pair of them together at the same time all looking at one person, that’s a little ominous.

“the bales of ancient, curly-edged magazines, zipper bags bursting with unfashionable clothes, cardboard boxes marked Clippings, Used Wrapping Paper, Photos, Empty Bottles.”

The fortune teller and her husband were moving and this is what they packed AND MARKED! How funny! We carefully pack and label our valuables, and sometimes stick other stuff in boxes and label them Kitchen, or Bathroom. I don’t know what you do. This also reminded me of my mother-in-law and my grandmother’s homes. They went through the Great Depression. My grandmother moved tons and tons of rolls toilet paper, spices and bed sheets, all white, many with holes in them from having gone through the ringer washing machine so many times. My mother-in-law saved all her used aluminum foil. 

That’s probably enough to give you the idea that this book is either for you or it isn’t, and I didn’t even get past the ten percent point in the book for you and didn’t include all the quotes I marked.

In a Nutshell

This is a story about a large wealthy family who sticks together more than most families I know, almost to the point of excluding anyone else. Except for those who escaped the family bonds. Caleb was one of those. The Grandfather spent the last years of his life looking for his brother who left home at an early age. His granddaughter and his children helped him in his quest to find the Prodigal Brother. There were some other prodigals, but they never disappeared completely as Caleb did.

Goodreads Highlights

I love Goodreads, by the way, because when you read on Kindle, it keeps track of all the highlights you make. I always keep mine secret because I think my comments might seem shallow. Do you think I should make them visible or not? I’ve added to the comments a little bit here, but not much. Let me know what you think.

Additional Books by Anne Tyler

Have you read other books by Anne Tyler? What do you think of her writing?

I wrote about an accidental vacation we took a few years ago. My husband said it reminded him of The Accidental Tourist. That’s how I first learned about Anne Tyler. I’ve been in love with her writing ever since then.

https://tchistorygal.net/2013/09/17/the-accidental-vacation/

Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty Book Review

laugh out loud

Laugh Out Loud Funny Book

Three sisters, triplets, constantly in one scrape or another, turn 34 and nearly kill each other at their birthday party. The stranger’s description starts calmly enough as he barely notices the triplets and struggles to pay attention to his blind date. Then the pregnant triplet has a fork thrown into her belly while the thrower screams that the other triplets have ruined her life. Throughout the book, strangers tell us their impression of the girls, Gemma, Cat and Lyn. Here is one of the flashback episodes.

“Paula said, “Triplets! Aren’t they sweet!” And at that very moment, one child grabbed another one and sank her teeth into her bare arm! The bitten child screamed blue murder! And the mother said, very firmly, something like, “I said no biting today! That’s it! We’re all going home!” Pandemonium! They scattered, like a bomb had fallen, pelting off in different directions! How that poor girl managed to get them home I don’t know. Well, Paula and I were gob-smacked.

We had no idea children bit one another, like savage little animals! You know what we did straight after our perms? We went to the new Family Planning Clinic in the city and got ourselves prescriptions for the Pill. We did! Perms and the Pill on the same day. I’ve never forgotten it.”

Moriarty, Liane. Three Wishes: A Novel (p. 61). Harper Collins. Kindle Edition.

Introduction to the Triplets

Gemma

Gemma was the odd one out, the fraternal triplet, and the compromiser. She had also become a bit stranger after the death of her fiancé. We learn there is a huge issue she’s been hiding from her sisters about the man she was to marry before he got hit by a bus. She couldn’t seem to hold a job but housesat for people.

“Now she walked up to the row of pots on the windowsill and caressed their leaves. She called them all Violet, her own private joke. “What was that locksmith’s name? Mmmm? Violet? Any ideas? What about you, Violet? Now, Violet, I bet you remember!” The Violets were silent, as stumped as she was.”

Cat

Cat was the bad girl who married Dan, the sexiest man alive.  The problem was that Dan’s sex life included others besides his wife. When she found out all the secrets he had kept from her, her world started to unravel. By the end of the book, Dan’s one-night stand with a younger woman was the least of her worries.

“Thirteen days, where she hadn’t known what he wore to work, what he ate for dinner, who pissed him off, what made him laugh on TV.”

Lyn

Lyn was the sane and sensible triplet met her husband-to-be on the plane ride home from Europe to attend Gemma’s fiancé’s funeral. In the process, she ruined his marriage. That union gave her a step-daughter who hated her and her own daughter who had her Aunt Cat’s chaotic personality.

The successful businesswoman and mother started having panic attacks set off by the chaos in the lives of the people she tried to manage – her sisters and daughters. Her two-year-old’s public tantrums started the wrecking ball in her life. This is what she thought about her panic attacks.

“Yes, a panic attack, which was really nothing to worry about. Oh, she’d be so enthusiastically sympathetic, so know-it-all, typical Lyn. She’d explain how she’d read all about these “attacks” and they were really quite common and there were techniques you could learn to deal with them. But they weren’t meant to happen to her. Other, more fragile people were meant to have panic attacks. People in need of looking after. O.K., if she was being completely honest—slightly silly people. Not Lyn. An event occurred. You flicked through your mental filing case of potential emotional responses and you chose the appropriate response. That was emotional intelligence, that was personal development, that was Lyn’s specialty.”

Moriarty, Liane. Three Wishes: A Novel (pp. 214-215). Harper Collins. Kindle Edition.

Eighteen Tips Authors Can Try Immediately

I learned from Story Genius and Wired for Story that reading extensively does not teach you how to write. As a result, I’ve tried to be more analytical as I read.

Do you do that?

Authors that write books about writing books do. My editor recommended this book to me as a way to show more inner thoughts from my characters, but I gathered up a few specific strategies that I think I can use to make it funnier and flow better. What do you think of these?

  1. Want to make your character sound like a Pollyanna? Here’s a quote from Cat.  “Worse things could happen.” Cat then referred to horrible things in the news or the past – like the Holocaust that were worse compared to Dan’s one-night stand.
  2. Wrap your backstory around the news events, personal events, things that the characters shared over the decades.
  3. Illustrate a time-lapse for things that happen daily in your character’s life if he/she misses them. “Thirteen days, where she hadn’t known what he wore to work, what he ate for dinner, who pissed him off, what made him laugh on TV.”
  4. Sickness is a great way to avoid details. “Her blocked sinuses and muffled head wouldn’t let her pin down the memory.”
  5. Lots of bad things happening to main characters
    1. Cat – at least 8 horrible events
    2. One bad thing in Gemma’s past one major secret, one bad event
    3. Lyn – at least 4 major setbacks
    4. Dad lost a finger.
  6. All three girls were jealous of each other and thought that the other one had it easier, and this comes out in the inner conversation. This makes the descriptions of each character’s strength more enviable and realistic.
  7. Here’s a way to get around naming places and sounding like a Chamber of Commerce, call the place a “new restaurant.”
  8. Use old or out of date words like “gob-smacked” to show an emotion.
  9. Have your character compare herself or others to a heroine in a book she likes that most people know. Cat did not get along with her mother and was doing something she felt was heroic for her. “Cat had been feeling like the old maid daughter, the saintly one, Beth in Little Women—except she wasn’t dying, unfortunately.” (Her mother didn’t see her that way at all.)
  10. Use dreams and nightmares to foreshadow what will happen. Later it happens in a more realistic form. The dream is hilarious in Three Wishes, by the way.
  11. Include inanimate objects talking and characters talking to them. – The violets
  12. Record a stranger’s reactions to watching an episode and note how it affected the viewer.
  13. Include an old newsletter, diary entry, school project, or letter that one of them wrote as a child and read together 20 years later
  14. Writing description is hard for me. Liane assessed someone responsible for Gem’s acquiring a passion for a certain musical group that didn’t seem that objectionable to me and compared it to someone giving her herpes. Obviously, the triplet that described the passion did not approve of it.
  15. Get more out of descriptions by integrating them with emotions. As they waited for traffic, Cat noticed a family with a little flirt going on between husband and wife. Since Cat has marital problems, the author describes this short scene in the environment which gives us a glimpse into Cat’s thinking. I thought this was an efficient and effective technique. Here’s an example using emotional words to describe ordinary environmental objects – “disdainful white walls, rather alarming firey explosions coming from the kitchen.” I’d be worried about eating in a “new place” like that. I don’t know If it would call for throwing a fork in someone’s tummy.
  16. Assess important events – divorce, rape, suicide in the inner thoughts of the characters as ugly words like zucchini, which I find funny because I like zucchini and it is such a shallow word to equate to a serious event.
  17. Liane shares her character’s deep inner childish thoughts. When Gem was six and her parents divorced, her sisters convinced her that she was adopted. These were her six-year-old thoughts. This also reveals that she knew how childish they were, but seemed to be just coming to the conclusion that she was a valued triplet.

“What would happen to her, (if her mother chose Lyn and her father chose Cat) what would she eat for dinner, She didn’t know how to cook a chicken! She didn’t even know how to buy a chicken. What did you say? One chicken, please? What if they laughed at her? How much did a chicken cost anyway? She only had $3.00 saved up.”

18. Give the aha moment an unexpected twist. Gem had problems you would think forgiving someone else, but she turns it into something unexpected and deeper. Notice the inanimate Violets come up again in an inner conversation of Gem’s. Even they were caught off guard about who Gemma was forgiving.

“You were nineteen. You didn’t imagine it. You didn’t deserve it. You didn’t secretly like it. When he died, it was weird and confusing. Of course it was. You loved him as much as you hated him. I’m sorry for being so nasty about it for all this time. “I forgive you,” she said out loud. Who, Marcus? the Violets called out nosily from the windowsill. No! I never stopped forgiving him! Me. I forgive me for staying with him.”

Five Star Review

Yep, I loved this book. I rarely laugh out loud when I’m by myself reading. I smile a lot when a book is really funny. This book made me guffaw.

Book Review Ordinary Magic by Cameron Powell

Ordinary Magic Promises I Kept to my Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk

Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago

Cameron Powell describes the delicious as well as the sadder moments that comprise life as ordinary magic. His story has a magical draw that I think my readers will enjoy.

Are you planning to walk the Camino de Santiago?

Several of my friends have added this famous walk to their bucket list. I have not, but I’ve contemplated going with them. If you are considering the journey, PLEASE read this book first, Ordinary Magic: Promises I Kept to My Mother Through Life, Illness, and a Very Long Walk on the Camino de Santiago. I think now that I had better be committed and really WANT to go.

The Impact of Travel on Dynamic People

Cameron Powell’s mother wanted to go on the 500-mile-walk on the Camino de Santiago even though she had cancer. He agreed to go with her even though he didn’t always get along with her perfectly. (What adult child ever gets along perfectly with his or her parent?) As he describes their experience on the Camino, he shares the fascinating story of his life with his mother including the reason she changed his name. Powell’s powerful tale reminded me of my friend Chuck’s memoir, April in Paris Rendezvous with my mother, a tumultuous relationship with his mother, and a trip to Paris.

Attention Authors

I highlighted tons of his descriptions and a few things I thought was funny because I am so bad at writing them. Here are a few I chose.

“We passed her sayings around like nudie magazines, like samizdat, like Lemonheads candy.”(Can’t you picture young boys doing that?) 11%

I could have swallowed the moon.” (after he survived his divorce) 15%

“…an accent as sturdy as the stone of a Spanish villa.” (described his new friend Julio)

“We have arrived in St.-Jean-Pied-de-Port, henceforth “St. Jean” so as to ration our hyphens for the rest of the trip.” 20%

“Pilgrims crinkle plastic bottles while they whisper, stomp around in their boots (while whispering), or even call out to their fellows in the next bunk in the sort of library voice that would be most appropriate if one were in a library to which one had accidentally set fire.” 26% (Can’t picture sleeping in a room of strangers along the road? This did it for me.)

The Unhighlighted Words

Eventually, I quit highlighting every few words that were funny or well phrased and immersed myself in the book. Cameron went through what many people in their forties to sixties endure, taking care of parents or being with them towards the end of their life. I could identify with his experiences, both the good, the sad, and the hard to write.

The final part of his book was filled with pictures of the people you met on the journey through his life with his mother. It felt like sitting on the couch with your best friend looking at the pictures of their family after you’d heard them talk about the folks for years.

Videos

I think you will enjoy this book.

Cameron PowellAuthor Biography

“Cameron Powell is a writer, six-time startup entrepreneur, consultant and coach, a largely repentant lawyer, and a semi-pro karaokist. Once upon a time, as a young lawyer, he got to say “Your honor, I represent the United States.” In early childhood pictures, there is evidence of his mother committing lederhosen. He is a graduate of the University of Colorado at Boulder and Harvard Law School. A rugged indoorsman, he nevertheless spent the last five years skiing and hiking around Telluride and Boulder, Colorado, and he’s now chosen to live in San Francisco.” Goodreads

Related Reviews

https://tchistorygal.net/2017/03/02/easy-read-memoir-conflicted-hearts/

https://tchistorygal.net/2017/12/11/medical-students-perspective-didnt-get-frazzled/

https://goodreads.com/review/show/2337926936/  Brigid Gallagher’s review of Walking Home.