Sixteen of My Favorite Books from 2016

I probably should have worked on this post last week, but better late than never. I did take a few days away from writing during the holidays, but I spent the last few days of 2016 trying to start my next book which I suppose I should call “The Continuing Saga of Solomon”. Well, it’s just a working title.

So, I’ve been reading blog posts on everyone’s favorite books of 2016, so thought I would go to goodreads and find out what were my favorite books this past year. All of the books I’m going to mention were either four or five star for me but that does not mean there weren’t a few others that hit that mark. Trying to keep it down to sixteen was a challenge. Sometimes, though, I think I’m too generous with my stars (especially if I’m struggling with my own writing and feel that any writer who actually finished writing a book should receive at least two stars for that accomplishment alone), but, regardless, I will only mention books today that were either my top favorites or were by a new author for me.

For my top fiction, one of the first books I read in 2016 was Kate Morton’s The Lake the-lake-houseHouse. I loved it and wonder why I still haven’t read more of her books. But I will.

Looking over the fiction books I read, I noticed I read several books which are the first in a mystery series. This makes these books even more special as it means there are more books by these authors that can I look forward to in 2017. (And I actually have already read the second in a few of these series). These books (in no certain order): What Angels Fear by C.S. Harris; The Anatomist’s Wife by Anna Lee Huber; Raven Black by Ann Cleeves; The Merchant’s House by Kate Ellis; and The Lewis Man by Peter May. I also read two by Tana French (the second and third in her series). I don’t think you can go wrong with her. Looking forward to reading the next in her series soon.what-angels-fear-240h

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I’m doing a reread of Robin Hobb’s Farseer series. I read both Assassin’s Apprentice and Royal Assassin in 2016. She is an amazing writer and though her books are fantasy, I feel can learn a lot about writing historical fiction from her writings. She is great at both setting and characters.

Other favorites in fiction: The Marriage of elephant-whisperer Opposites by Alice Hoffman; The Architect’s Apprentice by Elif Shafak; Plainsong by Kent Haruf; and Beneath a Golden Veil by Melanie Dobson.

Not counting the two by Tana French, that’s twelve. Since the Robin Hobb books are rereads, maybe I shouldn’t count those, but didn’t want to leave her out.

Obviously, I can easily mention more than sixteen, but I will round this out with my top four non-fiction: None Like Him by Jen Wilkin; An Editor’s Advice by Betty Lerner; The Elephant Whisperer by Lawrence Anthony; and A Woman of Contentment by Dee Brestin.

How about you? Any books that stood out for you in 2016? Have you set any reading forest for the treesgoals for 2017 yet?

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The Ophel Inscription–Writing from the time of King David

Half the fun of writing historical fiction is the research. Sometimes I can’t find what I’m looking for (or scholars disagree on certain findings) and that can be frustrating, but more often I run across “fun facts” that I had not even considered (which makes it sound like most of my research is serendipitous and maybe it is). I may not always be able to add these “fun facts” or details to my story, but learning more about the culture of my characters helps me, as the author, to know my characters in a more rounded way.

As most of you know, I’m writing a story about Solomon during the time of King David, so I was intrigued when I ran across an article concerning a find in 2012 by Israeli archaeologist, Dr. Eilat Mazar. From the Ophel mound between the Temple Mount and the old city of David, a pottery shard was found containing seven letters. Now known as the Ophel Inscription, there is still quite a bit of debate about those letters and what it all means, but there are those who have concluded that the letters are Hebrew, making the find highly significant concerning the kingdoms of David and Solomon.

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Hebrew letters on a 3,000 year old pot gives credence, not only to the existence of King David living in Jerusalem at that time, but also suggests that the written language was not just for the rich and their rulers.

I have no problem believing the Bible concerning the existence of King David and that he ruled in Jerusalem, but have wondered about how literate were the people of that time. After all, David was not raised as a royal son, yet he wrote psalms from an early age, so one must believe that both reading and writing were more common than some may assume.

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From one article (link to follow): “The Ophel inscription–though untranslated–joins the Khirbet Qeiyafa ostracon as part of a growing body of archaeological evidence supporting the biblical truth that ancient Hebrews were literate. Rather than inventing a post-dated history, they had the linguistic and cultural tools in place to record it from the earliest days that Israel was recognized among other monarchies of the ancient world.”

https://answersingenesis.org/archaeology/shard-shows-written-language-at-jerusalem-when-david-ruled/

Studying the history of the Bible and reading more of different archaeological finds continues to make the characters of the Bible more alive to me. My prayer as I write of stories in the Bible–specifically, Solomon and imagining what his life may have been like as he was growing up in the court of King David–that the Bible will also become more alive to others who will one day read my stories.

 

Carolinas WordFest Saturday October 15, 2016

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Interested in reading and writing? Want to learn more about writing? Would you like to meet some local writers? This Saturday in uptown Charlotte will be the Carolinas WordFest. Being a new member of the Charlotte Writers’ Club, I am excited about this event and am looking forward to meeting others in our community who are also interested in writing.

From their flyer: “Writers are a creative lot. We appreciate how reading and creative writing can feed the soul, and about a year ago, we let loose our imaginations. The result: Carolinas WordFest. The festival is a celebration of some of North and South Carolina’s finest writers with free, interactive programming designed for all ages and literary tastes. It is a smorgasbord that invites you to become engaged, sample something new and enjoy something familiar. Come. Be inspired. Have fun!”

This is a free event for all ages. For example, I will be spending time at ImaginOn helping children put their stories down and creating their own books. There will also be musical story telling in the afternoon which kids of all ages should enjoy.  Other events will be held in First Ward Park, Spirit Square Knight Gallery, and in the Main Library. For a list of all events: https://carolinaswordfest.com/about/schedule-of-events/

There will also be a chance to hear and meet different authors from the Carolinas. For a detailed list of the authors: https://carolinaswordfest.com/writers/

What’s an event without food? A few food trucks will also be around, so come on out and have some fun with your local writers!

 

Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

 

20161007_185518“A novel is not an allegory . . . It is the sensual experience of another world. If you don’t enter that world, hold your breath with the characters and become involved in their destiny, you won’t be able to empathize, and empathy is at the heart of the novel.” (p. 111)

From the subtitle: A Memoir in Books, this book would seem to be about someone’s life in books–and it is, but it is more. This is a book about a book club, about a country, a culture, about women, and about civil rights.

Azar Nafisi is a professor of literature and is passionate about teaching and sharing literature with her students. However, being a woman professor in Iran proves difficult when revolution begins in Iran with Islamic fundamentalists taking over the universities and “morality squads” are everywhere looking for anything that might be tainted by the West.

When Nafisi is eventually expelled for refusing to wear the veil on campus and in her classroom, she decides to invite seven young women to come to her home once a week to discuss literature. While recounting the story of the young women and the books they discuss, Nafisi also tells of Iran–its cultural and political upheavals and how these effect the lives of these women and their families.

The events in this book begins in the 70’s and goes through the 90’s. As a young person in the 70’s and 80’s, I had heard of some of these events as one hears the news about people far away. But I only vaguely knew where Iran is located and could not tell you the difference between that country and Iraq. So, for me, this was a history and a geography lesson, as well as a look into the lives of others who love literature.

“Banned Books Week” was recently celebrated? and the events in this book made real to me the idea of books being banned and one’s reading being carefully scrutinized. Sometimes with the “I read banned books” t-shirts, it seems we don’t take this possibility very seriously, but for many people it is very real and not ancient history. There are people in the world who are not free to read the books they might choose, so let’s never take for granted our opportunities to read. Read a book! For fun!

Declare to (the) Next Generation

 

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Well, I said a few weeks back that I would take some time to explain the name of my blog. When I started my blog, I had in mind writing about homeschooling and sharing news in education (mostly in reading and writing). I wanted to share and review any books that I consider worthwhile, as well as give information on any events going on that other homeschoolers might find helpful. (I’ll go ahead and say, I don’t post reviews on books I didn’t like or can’t recommend. I may blast a book privately, but knowing the struggles of writing, I have no interest in being public about one that maybe just wasn’t my cup of tea; though I just returned one to the library that might make me change my stance on that). Being a mother, a teacher, and a mentor–sharing with the next generation is always very much on my mind, so hence the title. The idea to “declare to the next generation” is hardly an original thought. (Do I actually have those? Sorry; that would be another blog). There are several verses in the Bible that instruct us to declare or say to the next generation what we have learned concerning Him and His Name.

Psalm 78:4–We will not hide them from their children but tell to the coming generation, the glorious deeds of the LORD, and His might and the wonders that He has done.

Psalm 145:4–One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. In the Amplified Version: One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty and remarkable acts.

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All of these verses express a desire and an expectation. We are expected to declare, to commend and to praise–not to hide–His works; especially to another generation. And that is what I want to do with my reading, my writing, my life. Since I decided to recharge my blog (focusing more on reading and writing and less on education), I thought of changing the name, but what could be more important than declaring His works to the next generation? Whether reading, writing, or educating, it is only because of Him that I can do any of these things.  “If we grant that as artists, our ways of creating and seeing begin with the creativity of God, then let’s look at the root of that imaginative impulse.” (Luci Shaw)

Though I am writing and sharing with my peers, as well as older generations (yes, there are still one or two of those still alive), my ultimate goal would be to pass on my learning and experiences to the next generation. What we learn is worthless if it is not passed on to others. It is also this thought that has inspired me to begin the book I am writing. But, more on that at another time.

An Update on My Blog & the Meaning of Its Existence

IMG_20160607_102046As it’s been awhile since I started this blog (it has died and been resurrected more than once), I’ve decided to spend some time not only updating my blog, but also explaining its purpose and what I hope to accomplish. I originally started this blog for a project in a class I was taking for my masters in library science. Since I was still homeschooling at the time, I thought of sharing thoughts and events on homeschooling that might prove interesting and helpful to other homeschoolers, as well others interested in education in any way. Reading and writing are my two main spheres of interest, so I knew my posts would be in those areas; as well as on library events and library news.

So, I’m not homeschooling any longer and that perfect library job has still not happened. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t, but in the meantime, I have become more serious about writing–my first love and what I’ve declared I would do since probably about third grade. When I was in college, it was suggested I go into teaching, but, no, I wanted to write. Well, I’ve spent quite a few years teaching–from preschool to ladies’ Bible studies–and I’ve loved it, but I still want to write.

I’ve actually written two books, so the one I’m working on is my third. The first book was read by my mother and several long-suffering friends. For some reason, I could never find an interested publisher, and, really, I didn’t know what I was doing in that area, which may have actually been a blessing in disguise. (I still don’t know a lot–but learning!) What happened to the second? I’m not even sure.

In the meantime, I want to continue to share about books I’ve read and enjoyed. Since the book I’m working on is historical fiction and that is my favorite genre, I am going to focus on books in that area but there will definitely be others–from books on writing to fantasy to Bible studies.

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Eventually, (and, hopefully, very soon), I will also be writing and sharing about the progress of my book. I’m excited at where it’s going and how much I have completed. I would like to share the first chapter on here at some point, but that will depend on how certain things go. I’m using a good part of that chapter to enter a couple of contests, so can’t release or share anything about it while it is out there being reviewed and scrutinized by “those in the business.”

I was going to also explain more about the title–declaretonextgeneration–but I believe I’ll save that for another blog post.

On ReReading

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I’ve been doing some rereading this summer, something I haven’t done much of since I was a teen and read The Outsiders a countless number of times. I’ve seen the subject discussed on goodreads, and recently read another blog on the subject, so I thought I would share my own recent experiences in rereading, including the rereading I have been doing this summer. I would love to hear from others on what they reread and why. I know most of you readers are like me and feel that with “so many books to read, so little time”, how can anyone possibly justify rereading? Well, there are several reasons, but read on for mine.

First, let me mention a legitimate fear in rereading and that is the possibility of returning to a book you enjoyed at an earlier time, but when you reread it, you’re disappointed and wonder ‘what in the world did I see in that book?’ Obviously, we are different people at different times and usually a book will mean different things to us at different times. However,the well-written book will stand the test of time, even if it means something different to us upon rereading.

A series of books I recently reread was the Harry Potter books. I know; almost a cliche. I don’t know how many times my five kids have reread those books. I read them the first time as they came out; before they were a cult, a fad, a part of our culture. I bought the first one for my oldest son (now 23) and began reading it to him; though a few chapters in, he took it upon himself to read it alone. A couple of years ago, I decided I wanted to see the movies because I had only seen a couple of them, (having stayed home with “the babies” when the first ones came out, and my husband took the oldest ones to see them). Now, with the “baby” being 13, I told him I wanted to watch the movies with him, but only after I read the books. So, we would reread a book, then watch the movie together. So, I reread this series for two reasons. One: I wanted to see the movies, but not without returning to the books first (and in most cases, I don’t know how you know what’s going on without reading the book first). Two: to spend time with my son doing something we both enjoyed.

This summer I find myself rereading several books in different genres for different reasons, though they all boil down to the simple reason of: I want to. I am currently rereading Lord of the Rings. I have read this several times, but probably not all three in over 20 years. It was just time. I’m rereading Gap Creek by Robert Morgan. I read this several years ago and enjoyed it for his beautiful writing and because I know the characters lived a lifestyle shared by my own grandparents and great-grandparents, and I find this fascinating. I have wanted to reread it for awhile, but having bought Morgan’s sequel The Road fro Gap Creek, I decided this was the time.

Two other books I am rereading this summer are about as different from each other as possible. The first is Bill Bryson’s A Walk Through the Woods. One of the few books that my husband and I have both read. We agreed it would be good to reread this before the movie comes out. Two chapters in, I am already laughing and glad I found a used copy on AbeBooks.

The other book is Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I first read this in college and have probably read it a couple of times since. My apologetic skills are weak, so I knew this deserved a reread before I tackled some new books in that area.

For another view on rereading, check out Kelly Jensen’s blog: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2015/07/on-becoming-re-reader.html

What about you? Are you doing any rereading this summer?