Well, it’s the end of February and this is my first post. Tsk! Tsk! But it’s been a really good month because I’ve accomplished a lot and, most importantly, I found an editor for my cozy mystery, Second Bloom. I’ve only got a few more chapters to revise before I send it off to her. That means I can start writing Book Two of my planned series in March. Finishing something, however big or little, is always satisfying. The end of one thing allows for new beginnings and that’s always exciting.
That brings me to my topic for today…good reads and happy endings. This month I discovered that Emma Watson has created a book club group called Our Shared Shelf on the website GoodReads.com. (I know. Can you believe our little Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter movies is all grown up and the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women?) Of course, I joined Goodreads.com and also Emma’s group…I’m one of 115,569 members.
If you find yourself searching for “good reads”, I think you’ll really like GoodReads.com. What I love about the site is that you get to see what your friends are reading. You can also read reviews they’ve written and decide whether or not you want to try a book. When you sign in, you link through your Facebook account, and your Facebook friends who are also members of GoodReads.com, automatically become your Good Reads friends. It’s simple, uncomplicated and it’s free.
As a result, I’ve been reading a bit this past month…of course, I’m always reading. I’m a member of a book club for over thirty years. Since I moved to South Carolina, I “skype” in. (Skype is just the most wonderful communication technology…but that’s a topic for a whole other blog.) This month we read How to Be Both by Ali Smith. Does the title make you scratch your head? Well, the whole book left me scratching mine. Here’s my Good Reads review:
“Not a fan of this style of writing. From the title to the very end of the book, I longed for a simple declarative sentence to dispel the murkiness of the convoluted dual narratives. I know this was a prize winner lauded by critics, but I was neither enlightened, inspired nor entertained.”
So there you have my criteria for a “good read”. I want to finish a book feeling enlightened, inspired or entertained. Otherwise, I feel cheated. I admit that, left to my own devices, I’d read nothing but murder mysteries. Clearly, they fall under the entertainment category, and, after all, that is one of the reasons I belong to a book club. I want to be pushed out of my comfort zone. Most of the time, I am rewarded with the enlightenment or inspiration, if not always entertainment, that result from reading books I wouldn’t ordinarily choose myself. All the Light We Cannot See by A. Doerrs and State of Wonder by Anna Patchett are two that come to mind.
Ironically, I think my tendency to read mysteries is that they tend to have satisfying, if not entirely happy, endings. The puzzle is solved, the murderer is caught and everyone can go on and live happily ever after. In spite of that general rule, I was recently horrified by the ending of Anne Cleeves’ murder mystery, Blue Lightening. I won’t give it away, but I felt quite blindsided and heartbroken by a murder that occurs near the end of the book.
Okay, I confess. I love happy endings. I mean, who doesn’t? If I want to feel hopeless and depressed, I can read the newspaper or watch the news on television. If I want to feel baffled and confused, I can watch the political debates. When I invest my time reading fiction, I want to conclude feeling something positive. No matter what awful things happen to the characters I read about, I want them to triumph in the end. If fail they must in order to move forward, at the very least, I don’t want their spirits crushed, because my spirit will be crushed as well. Remember Old Yeller? I cried my eyes out when they had to shoot him, but he died a hero, and the movie ends with Yeller’s puppies running around, making us smile as only puppies can. That’s what I’m talking about.
Right now, I’m reading Carl T. Smith’s Low Country Boil, set in a small fictional town on the coast of South Carolina. When I met Carl at a Creative Writers of Greenville Meetup, he told me he writes stories about “strong women and enigmatic men”. How could I not want to read one of his books? I just started, but here’s what I wrote on GoodReads.com:
“I’m on page 27 of 395 of Lowcountry Boil: After reading Ali Smith’s How to Be Both, this book is like a tall, cold glass of water following a walk in the desert. Beautiful, crystalline prose: “There was no moon to speak of — a slender cut that chiseled shafts of light through the limbs of the live oaks and created quiet shadows and sequined reflections on the surface of the water.” Can you ask for a better opening line? —
Another book I’m reading at the moment is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. How I love this man and his enthusiasm for writing! But that, too, is a topic for another blog. Nevertheless, I want to end by sharing with you a quote from his essay, “How to Keep and Feed a Muse”, in which Mr. Bradbury contends that we must surround ourselves with experiences that “feed” our inner spirit if we’re going to be creative:
“Look at yourself then. Consider everything you have fed yourself over the years. Was it a banquet or a starvation diet?
Who are your friends? Do they believe in you? Or do they stunt your growth with ridicule and disbelief? If the latter, you haven’t friends. Go find some.”
Gosh, I just love that. No starvation diet for me, thank you. Books, like good friends, must nourish us. Go find some good reads and have a feast. Till next time, Happy Reading!
You may be hearing from me in the form of quotes or book reviews posted on GoodReads.com and shared via Facebook. If you’d like to share what you’re reading with a community of readers, I encourage you to check out GoodReads.com. Alternatively, feel free to share your book recommendations by adding a comment to this blog. And, don’t forget that by adding your email to this blog’s subscribe list to the right, you’ll receive an email when new blogs are posted. At the rate I’m posting, you clearly don’t have to worry about being overwhelmed by too many emails. LOL
I so enjoyed reading about your reading criteria. I am not sure mine are so different, but I enjoy books that cause me to examine the human condition-Thomas Hardy, DHLawrence, for instance. I find a lot of modern lit is predictable and formulaic albeit comforting. But I like to think, when I am reading, what would I do in that character’s situation. What motivates that character, how much of a background on that character affects his/her choices. In other words, I want to care about the characters. I realize not everyone wants all that in a book, but I do.
I, too, want want to care about the characters. That’s precisely the reason I want them to triumph. Thanks for your comment, Joanne.
Nice post! I’m in for the Big Banquet!
I’m with you, Vicki. Bon Apetit!