Dreams of Joy, follow up to Shanghai Girls – ROCKS!

Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading “Shanghai Girls” I had to find a copy of book 2. It was worth it. I read it less than 2 days. OMG. A 19-year-old Chinese American girl runs away from home (L.A.) to the Peoples Republic of China with stars in her eyes and guilt in her heart. She wants to be a part of something bigger than herself, where everyone is equal and shares everything equally. She jumps into the culture with her eyes closed and her heart open and suffers along with the comrades in the countryside.

Lisa See gives us an amazing glimpse into what it may have been like from 1957 through 1959 Maoist China. Nothing is as it seems and our young heroine nearly loses her life before she realizes how wrong she has been.

Amazing stories from a wonderful author that transport you and tug at your heart and mind. Thank you, Lisa See.

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O.M.G. This book ROCKED!

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hold onto your seats. This kept me “enthralled” for three days until I finished it. O.M.G. Interesting characters galore. Untold twists and turns and surprises. It’s compelling, suspenseful. Okay, I can’t say enough good things about this book.

Harriet (aka Hal) is alone and struggling since her mother died, and she can’t seem to catch a break. Although she is good at reading people and the tarot, she anticipates tomorrow will be just like today – a constant struggle. Besides the past due bills, she gets a letter in the mail summoning her to the reading of her grandmother’s will. She thinks it must be a mistake but if there’s a remote chance she’ll receive a little money (hence a break) she decides to hop a train and find out, although doing so will leave her stranded without enough money to purchase a ticket home.

Suffice it to say, things aren’t all they seem. The reading of the will is full of surprises, and Hal finds herself amongst people who consider her family. A feeling she’s not had since her mother died three years before. I’ll stop now because I don’t want to give anything away. If you love a spellbinding book, this is a GOOD ONE!

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The Book is Better than the Movie

 

I can’t begin to guess how many films have been made based on novels or short stories, so I Googled it and believe there are too many to count. Twenty-six books are being made into films in 2018.
Twenty-four were made in 2017, twenty in 2016 so we could do the math, but that is not my forte.

Most of the time I find that the book is much better and I’m disappointed in the movie, so instead of rushing out to see a film after I’ve read the book, I wait a little while. If the movie captures the characters and story, then the details don’t matter quite as much.

For example. Our book club has been reading a lot of heavy WWII stories. They were brilliant, but we needed something light to ease the tension. We slipped in Joanna Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery and found it delightfully fun. (We even tried one of the recipes in the book and agreed her other recipes and books are worth trying.)

We only meet once a month so one evening I noticed that Fluke’s cookie story was a Hallmark movie and flipped channels to watch. Big mistake. The characters were different in not only appearance (the redhead was made a blonde), but their personalities were more superficial. They changed quite a bit of the story, too, but the essence was there. The trouble is, I had just finished reading the book and felt disappointed. I will return to my theory that there needs to be some time between reading the book and watching the film to not feel cheated.

Here are a few exceptions to the “book is always better” rule. 

  • In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner was an amazing book, and Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz did a great job portraying the characters. I noticed some missing scenes in the movie, but I didn’t miss them.  
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett was another successful book translation to the silver screen. The casting was stellar, and the story well told in both paper and film. 
  • I’ve never read Gone With the Wind (sorry Margaret), but I loved the film and have been told that the movie is very much like the book. 
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic read that I don’t mind repeating periodically. Same goes for the movie, Gregory Peck and those kids made the story come alive for me, and I watch the movie every year. 

I don’t know how much the author is allowed to contribute to the making of a film based on their work. It appears that most production companies have their own stable of writers, but many times I read that authors are asked to consult on the script and during filming. Sounds like fun, but also nerve-wracking to watch your creation take form in someone else’s hands. Here’s hoping some of us experience it sometime. I wish you all tons of luck on your writing journey. 

Website: http://bdtharp.com
Facebook: Bonnie D Tharp Books
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BonnieDTharp 
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/dashboard 
Amazon: Bonnie Tharp Author Page

Another Enjoyable Read

BlueprintsBlueprints by Barbara Delinsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Delinsky takes on the world of remodeling homes and gardens as a background for this novel. Mother is a carpenter and her daughter is an architect for the family firm. There are forces bent on splitting up this dynamic duo. During the course of this story, their close relationship will be tested. Careers will shift, a hunky contractor and a handsome school teacher become important to these women. As always Delinsky gives us some tension, life changes, romance, and surprises. I do enjoy her books.

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Book Review “Girl Waits With Gun”

Girl Waits with Gun (Kopp Sisters, #1)Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is my first Amy Stewart read. It was fascinating to find myself in the 1914-15 era in NJ/NY, a time when our nation was growing in industry (with mills, factories, Black Hand gangs) and people who could – took advantage and bullied others. (Not all that different now.) Constance Kopp is tall for a woman, strong and smart. She watches over her sisters and stands up for them and others against all odds. When she has a run in (literally) with the local bully (crook, criminal, well-to-do bully) it starts a chain of events and torments that force her and her sisters to learn to defend themselves. With the help of the local sheriff, Constance and her sisters bravely gather proof that the man who is tormenting her family is responsible for even more, possibly deadly mischief. The pace of the book fits well with the time period. These women are full of sass and I enjoyed the story.

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The Life We Bury – a book review

The Life We BuryThe Life We Bury by Allen Eskens
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There’s a lot to learn about the characters in this book and as they slowly unfold you can’t help but want to know more. Joe just wants to fulfill his college assignment by writing a biography paper on an elderly person. Carl Iverson ends up being his subject. A dying Viet Nam vet, Carl has been in prison for a heinous crime but paroled because he only has weeks to live. Joe thinks this will be easy, interesting, and no big deal; but the more he gets to know Carl the less the story makes sense. If Carl is innocent, then who is guilty becomes the big question. And the answer might just get him killed. A great mystery that twists and draws you in as you realize that things aren’t always what they seem.

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A story of a family…

SomeoneSomeone by Alice McDermott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story about the ordinary life of a young girl growing up in Brooklyn. You meet Marie on the front steps of their apartment building with her glasses. We follow her through her first job as “comforting angel” at the local funeral parlor. Her first broken heart. Her marriage and children. McDermott brings us everyday life of this Irish family with all its pain and joys, loves and trials. It’s a quiet book that all of us can relate to. A story of a family.

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Meet Alice Duncan, a Delightful Author & Editor

I met Alice Duncan ten years ago when she edited my first novel for Five Star Publishing. Not only is she a great editor but she writes wonderful cozy mysteries. I hope you’ll enjoy her interview below, Thanks Alice!

What parts of you and your background feed your imagination? Particularly in my Daisy Gumm Majesty books, my entire life, especially my childhood, feeds my imagination. The books are set in Pasadena, CA, in the 1920s. I wasn’t around in the 1920s, but I love Pasadena, and I love history, so this is a match made in … well, maybe not heaven, but you know what I mean.

Tell us a little about the very first story you remember writing? The first story I remember writing was something about dinosaurs. Even then I wanted to be funny. I pointed out to my mother that I used the word “clodhoppers” in the story in order to make people laugh. Clearly, my sense of humor hadn’t developed to any kind of pinnacle, but heck, I was only six or seven. Oh, and I also used to write illustrated newspapers when I was a kid. All I remember is a line my mother had to correct: “Team finely wins a game,” or something like that. My mother told me the word I wanted was “finally” unless I meant the team did a spectacular job in winning the game.

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Creative people are often creative in other ways. Besides writing, what else does the muse encourage you to do? I used to dance and sing a lot. I was a member of two professional folk-dance companies. I know that sounds kind of like professional basket-weaving, but it’s not, really. I still love to sing. In California, I belonged to a Balkan women’s chorus. When I moved to Roswell, Balkan women’s choruses were thin on the ground, so I started singing in the choir of the Methodist Church my mother attended. I also participate in other music venues in town (the annual Concert of American Music and the St. Mark’s Advent chorus spring to mind). Oh, and I belong to a dachshund rescue group (http://newmexicodachshundrescue.org/). That’s not necessarily creative. It’s mostly because I’m an idiot.

 

What genre(s) do you like to write? Whatever genre I write in (romance, western, mystery), it absolutely has to be historical. I don’t get along well with the world the way it is. I prefer to pretend life was better in the olden days. In truth, if I’d been born in an age without antibiotics, I’d have died when I was 22, and then whatever would my daughters have done?

Tell us a little about your novel, its plot and the main character(s). UNSETTLED SPIRITS is the 12th (actually, it’s the 13th, but that’s not my fault) book in my series of cozy historical mysteries featuring Daisy Gumm Majesty, a fake spiritualist-medium in Pasadena, CA, in the 1920s; and her family and friends. In this present book, Daisy and her fiancé, Detective Sam Rotondo (who used to be her worst enemy), are in Altadena’s Mountain View Cemetery. Daisy wants them to receive a blessing from their deceased spouses before she and Sam marry. She wants to ensure this happens by visiting their late spouses’ graves. Sam thinks she’s nuts, but he goes along with her. Rather than a blessing, what she gets is her late husband’s dachshund, Spike, bringing her a shoe. Unfortunately, the shoe contains a foot, and thus the action begins.

Are any of the characters like you and if so in what way? Daisy is actually me, only she has a supportive birth family and none of my crippling neuroses. She also goes to a lot of the places I used to frequent in Altadena and Pasadena, and she lives in a house I used to own. What’s more, she goes to the doctor to whom I used to take my daughters when they were little. She also likes to dine in a Mexican restaurant called Mijare’s. Mijare’s was opened in 1920, and it’s still going strong! It has great food. I recommend it to anyone visiting Pasadena. In my Daisy books, one of Daisy’s clients, Mrs. Bissel, lives in the house my aunt used to own in Altadena. I kind of grew up in that house, and I love it.

What genre(s) or author(s) do you like to read? History is my passion. I love to read about specific periods in time, or books that explain historical eras or phenomena. For instance, I recently read a great book called GET WELL SOON, by Jennifer Wright, which documents the world’s worse plagues. Fascinating reading. I recommend it to anyone who’s interested in stuff like that. I enjoy historical mysteries, too. Lately I’ve discovered T.E. Kinsey’s Lady Hardcastle books. The only problem with them is that he doesn’t write them fast enough. I’m also a huge fan of Carola Dunn’s Daisy Dalrymple series.

Where and when do you find the best ideas or inspiration for your stories? Honestly? I dunno. They pop up here and there. An old dancing and singing buddy of mine, Stephanie Cowans, is the person who gave me the beginning of SPIRITS UNEARTHED. We were e-mailing each other, and she suggested Daisy and Sam go to the cemetery to seek the blessings of their late spouses before their upcoming marriage. So I took that idea and ran with it. Well, that is to say, I sort of stumbled along with it, before hitting my stride.

 

I also love to cook. This is a peculiarity I don’t share with Daisy, who can burn water. In order to make up for Daisy’s deficiencies in the kitchen arts, I gave her an Aunt Vi (actually, my Aunt Wrennie, who owned Mrs. Bissel’s house) who is a fabulous cook. SPIRITS UNEARTHED features a recipe from Aunt Vi’s repertory: smothered Swedish-style chicken. In order to create this dish, you’ll first have to haul out your Scotch kettle. I puzzled that one over for a minute or two, then did some research and discovered a Scotch kettle is a Dutch oven! See?

 

If there was a message you could share with other writers what would it be? Never give up. There’s no assurance you’ll ever be published by anyone other than yourself—unless you give up. Giving up is a sure-fire guarantee you’ll remain unpublished. There’s also a quotation by Henry Van Dyke (he wrote THE STORY OF THE OTHER WISE MAN, which is definitely worth a read) I love it a lot: “Use what talents you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

 

Where can readers go to learn more about you and your work? If you’d like to find out more about Daisy and the gang, please visit this page: (https://ebookdiscovery.lpages.co/aliceduncandaisygummbook12excerpt/ ), where you can read an excerpt from SPIRITS UNEARTHED and learn more about my Daisy books. That page also contains links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere else if you’d like to buy the book. If you’d like to visit my web page, here’s the link: http://aliceduncan.net/ . And if you’d like to be Facebook friends, please go here: https://www.facebook.com/alice.duncan.925

Thank you!

Author Biography:

In an effort to avoid what she knew she should be doing, Alice folk-danced professionally until her writing muse finally had its way. Now a resident of Roswell, New Mexico, Alice enjoys saying no to smog, no to crowds, and yes to loving her herd of wild dachshunds.

Alice has written historical cozy mysteries under the names Alice Duncan, historical and paranormal romances under the names Emma Craig and Rachel Wilson, the Titanic series as Anne Robins, and western adventures as Jon Sharpe.

A prolific author, Alice has been praised for the Mercy Allcutt Mystery series, a cozy series called “a silly madcap romp” and “great fun.”

Her thirteen-book series, The Daisy Gumm Majesty Mysteries, are set in the roaring twenties in Pasadena, and are “absolutely endearing and linguistically spot on” with a “funny, spunky heroine” who works as a spiritualist and medium. “There is pluck, and then there is Daisy.”

She’s also known for The Dream Maker series, Meet Me at the Fair series, the Pecos Valley Diamond series, and many others. Visit Alice at www.aliceduncan.net.

 

Why writers don’t write more

Writer’s need to write, but for some stupid reason we procrastinate and avoid the page.

What if what I write is garbage? The first draft probably will be, but that’s what editing is all about. We are mining for the jewels in the trash.

What if no one wants to read what I’ve written? We want to share what we’re writing and have it resonate with someone else out there. Preferably, LOTS of someone elses. But, it should be okay to write for one’s self. To explore and express and not have to share it with the masses – RIGHT? Theoretically, yes.

Should I keep writing if no one buys my books? I guess it depends on why you’re writing. Every author wants to make money writing, but it’s not usually the case. So, why not take up ceramics or painting instead? Writer’s want to tell stories, and most of us would make ceramics or paintings if we had the time or inclination.

I think that we all want to excel in everything we do. That is the kicker. No one wants to write a bad story. No one wants to write a book that others don’t care to read. We’re a world of dreamers that don’t always realize our dreams.

Artists of all kinds (writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, etc.) dream of creating beautiful things that others will want for themselves. We can’t help it. We get so much joy creating our art that we want to share it. We long to be loved for our work. Oh my. Where did that come from? Could that be the flaw in our creative dreams?

Whenever I sit down to a blank page, I want to create something lovely, and it doesn’t happen every time. But the act of putting words down does allow for the creative flow to happen, the muse comes to visit and the story unfolds. The key – sitting down to the blank page and not letting it scare you off. Right. Note to self. Nothing will happen unless I do it. The story will not write itself. DUH.

What if you have so many stories and characters crowding your mind you can’t settle on one and finish it? That is a problem. Bottom line – pick one. Finish the first draft. Then you can move on to flesh it out more, editing as you, or put it aside and start on the next idea that won’t leave you alone. I know. I’ve been there. Done that. And continue to…