Books I Read in April

Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Know You More (Savannah Sweethearts #1) by Jan Thompson

I loved this book. The characters were richly drawn and I became so involved with them, I actually remember who they were and what they wanted. That may seem like a strange comment, but too often lately, I've finished a book and not been able to remember details about it the next day.

This book is heavy on Bible quotes and faith questions, which at times can put me off, but since the romance is between a pastor who is planting a church and a longtime friend and member of his congregation, it fits in this case. The multi-ethnic characters are real people and not caricatures, which happens too often lately as writers consciously include diversity in their books.

As with all good romances, it has a satisfying ending that made me feel good.

I will be reading the rest of the series—and other books by Jan Thompson.

Fourth and Long (The Three Rivers Ranch Romance Collection #3) by Liz Isaacson

I am slowly working my way through this eleven-book series that I bought as a collection several months ago. While collections like this can result in a significant savings, often being sold for 99 cents, the number of books, particularly if the stories aren’t gripping, means it takes a long time to finish them.
In this installment, Kate Donnely travels to Three Rivers Ranch to introduce her son, Reid, to his father. The boy was conceived during a brief marriage, but seven years later is only now meeting the father he’s dreamed about. Shortly after Brett Murphy was deployed to Afghanistan, Kate had an affair with another man. She wrote Brett, asking for a divorce, but the affair didn’t last and she’s still married to Brett.
There’s only one reason she’s doing this now. Her mother has passed away and has made Kate’s inheritance conditional upon her getting the divorce documents signed or showing proof to a lawyer of a happy marriage and family. She’s ostensively come for the first, but since this is a romance, you know she’s going to wind up with the second.
I struggled to finish this book because of an annoying plot device. During the seven years they’ve been apart, Kate wrote letters to Brett on a regular basis, but never mailed them. Similarly, Brett wrote emails to Kate, but never sent them. So that makes this one of those romances where everything could have been resolved quickly had they each shared these letters early on. Instead, it takes pages and pages of quoting them before they tell one another they had them. And that they still had feelings for one another.
Reid is too perfect for a child, especially a boy. He never objects to being sent off so Kate and Brett can have a conversation or throws a temper tantrum or whines. I would have liked more of a real boy.
I also found the Christian aspect of this Christian romance not very well integrated with the story. It could have been taken out and it wouldn’t have changed a thing about the book.
So, while I want to finish up this series, I’m temporarily reading something else before trying the next book.

End Times Alaska: Endure by Craig Martelle

Craig Martelle runs the 20 Books to 50K Facebook group, a group dedicated to each author being the best they can be by their own definition of what that is. The group is filled with encouragement, positive stories, and lots of information about how to sell books. So when this book of his went on sale, I bought it to find out what kind of books he writes.
This is an adult post-apocalyptic novel. Fairbanks has been hit by a nuclear bomb, wiping out all utilities and supply lines. Retired Marine Chuck Nagy and his family must find a way to survive in the harsh winter of Alaska.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book as Chuck solves the problems inherent in this situation. He finds food for both his family and his dogs, scavenges equipment from the homes of those who did not return from Fairbanks, and tries to unite the few survivors left.
This is definitely a situation where you have to read the series to know the whole story, and I’m trying to squeeze the next book into my reading schedule so I can do that. I was pulled into the story. The characters were well-drawn and the setting, being a place I’ve never been to, was intriguing.
Recommended, even if it’s not your usual genre.


Monday, April 22, 2019
The year 2019 is nearly one-third done. Writing that, my chest squeezes down on my heart, which responds by beating faster, and I have the urge to hyperventilate.

According to my goals list, which I wrote up at the end of last year, I should have published the second book in my historical western romance series by now. That, of course, implies that I also should have published the first book. I am nowhere near doing either.

That’s why I’m fighting going into a full-blown panic attack this morning.

Writing a book is easy. I type fast, and once I get started, often the words appear on the page before I’ve consciously thought them in my brain. The problem is getting started and having a well of words—the story—stored up in that brain before I sit down.

I had no idea how difficult writing a new series in a new genre was going to be. Writing the African Violet Club Mysteries over the past several years has become a matter of choosing a victim, a motive, a method, and the murderer. I then think about all my continuing characters and how they will be involved in this book. Because the characters and the setting are so familiar, many chapters write themselves. I’m confident I can make the mystery work because I’ve done it six times before in this series.

But I’ve never written a romance of any sort, let alone a historical romance. And, to make things more complicated, little bits of a Christian theme have been sneaking in as I write. This scares me to death, because I made huge mistakes when writing my first mystery series, which I thought was Christian fiction, but turned out to anger many Christian readers.

A few weeks ago, because I was having such a hard time with the subplots, I decided to just write the main romance plot, with hopes that as I got that sorted, the other pieces would fall into place. But I didn’t get very far with that. So my sneaky brain came up with a way to avoid writing.

Over time, two long lumps have developed in my living room carpet. It also could use a good shampooing after living here more than a year. So I decided to inquire at the office about the lumps, if nothing more than to cover myself, to make sure they knew the lumps existed before I had the carpet cleaned. Much to my surprise, they treated this as if it were a common occurrence, and said, “Oh, you need a carpet stretch. What time can we schedule the carpet people to come in?”

I’d never heard of getting a “carpet stretch.” Of course, I’d never seen a carpet do what mine had done anywhere else I’ve lived either. I have to assume that it’s because the apartment complex probably uses cheap carpeting that stretches out over time. Not that I blame them. Since they replace it almost every time someone moves out, which has to be after only a few years, it would be very expensive to use good quality carpeting in the apartments.

However, that required making time for the carpet person to come in and evaluate the situation, then moving the furniture from one side of the room to the other, which required emptying the bookcase of DVDs, the TV stand of knickknacks, and the African violet fixture of African violets. You know what happens when you take things off shelves, right? Yes, you see all the dust that has collected behind those things and have to give every shelf a good dusting. Then there’s moving the items, which also included the dining room table and six chairs. And then you have to break the vacuum out, because now that the furniture’s been moved, you can get to all those places that you tend to avoid caring about on a regular basis.

That led to thinking about rearranging the furniture now that it had to be moved anyway. And to replacing my bedroom set. What?

I used to live in a house with very large rooms. When I moved into the house, I bought a bedroom set to fill up that space. It’s a large set and the bed is queen-sized. The movers were able to barely make it fit in the apartment master bedroom. It fits, but it’s hardly pleasing to the eye. Plus, I need a new mattress after who knows how many years. And I thought, why do I need a queen-sized bed? I’m only sleeping on about a third of the mattress I have.

So I started doing internet searches on twin bedroom sets to see how much that would cost and what’s available. This wasn’t entirely the reason I made no book progress last week. With the furniture moved over to one side and even out of the room, I couldn’t sit at the dining room table with all my planning materials spread out to figure out that romance plot. (My desk is quite small and most of the top is taken up with my iMac.) Besides, I wasn’t sure what I could figure out.

And then, as I was finishing up putting things back in place in the living room and had decided to wait for Memorial Day sales to replace the bedroom, a wonderful thing happened. The meeting announcement for my local RWA chapter arrived, and the speaker is Laurie Schnebly Campbell and the topic is Braiding Your Book - about weaving the various plot threads in a novel. Just what I need! So, while I should be working on that plot now that everything is back in place, I’m thinking maybe I should wait until after the workshop Saturday, so I know what I’m doing.

Except you’re supposed to bring your current WIP to work on during the workshop.

My idea to wait is just another way of procrastinating. :::sigh:::

I’m hoping by writing this blog post I can get over my procrastination hump. If I don’t decide I need to do my nails. Or laundry. Or work on this week’s Bible study. Or finishing up that beta read I agreed to. So many ways to avoid writing!

Lilliana's Fairy Garden

Friday, April 05, 2019
Last week I told you I had another project I wanted to do. Have you been eagerly anticipating what that was?

Probably not, but I have.

Ever since I came up with the concept of a fairy garden on Lilliana’s patio with the mailbox flag to signal Uaine, I’ve wanted to have the real thing for myself.

Here it is!

I really like it. Oh, it isn’t perfect. The soil needs to settle a bit. I didn’t want to press it down and compact it around the roots. And I didn’t realize the mailbox I ordered—which does open and close and the flag does go up and down—wasn’t to scale with the rest of the pieces. I also didn’t use the same assortment of plants I describe in the books. I decided to stick to succulents which stand a better chance of surviving our arid climate.

I’m still doing another kind of gardening—plot gardening—for the next African Violet Club mystery. The working title for this one is Golden Yellow Murder, but that might change. I’m not quite sure what will happen yet, but I think there will be swords involved. And maybe even a battle axe. Blame my local Sisters in Crime chapter, where we’re scheduled to have an expert speak on sword fighting this month.

I also haven’t decided whether Christopher will stay safely tucked away in Scotland while Lilliana continues to solve murders at the retirement home or whether they’ll solve murders together in the future. I’m thinking of something like Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man) or possibly something like Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence. Both of those are kind of dated, but I’m not aware of any modern couples who are amateur sleuths and solve mysteries. Do you know of a more current series like that?

I’ve also been making steady, if slow, progress on my western romance. You won’t see that one any time soon, I’m afraid.

At least I’ve discovered a writer who writes romances with the kind of rich prose I aspire to. Nora Roberts! (Don’t laugh. I told you I haven’t read much romance in the past.) I downloaded a boxed set of The MacKade Brothers Collection and I’m highlighting things in the first book like crazy as I read it.

March was a busy month, and April looks to be even busier!
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Elise's bookshelf: currently-reading

A Clash of Kings
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tagged: currently-reading