ROW80, IWSG, Book Reviews (Springsteen, Lacombe, and Novak), and a Public Service Announcement

I did something!

By which I mean I have something a bit more substantial to report for this week's A Round of Words in 80 Days check in -- I've nearly finished another round of edits on Druid's Moon. I hope to enter all the changes and finish the edits in time to submit it to Carina Press.

I've also been reading lots of new books. Yes, there are still many books at home that need to be read, and I'm trying hard to stick to the Don't Buy Books Until Christmas rule, but these were either books I'd already ordered before instigating that rule, or books I received directly from the authors!

In that spirit, here's the first round of mini reviews (as always, inspired by ZanMarie's mini book reviews):

BOSS: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band - The Illustrated History, by Gillian G. Gaar

I just learned that Springsteen has an autobiography coming out later this year, but I'm glad I got a chance to read this book first. It's not one of those novel-like biographies that are full of speculation about the subject's mental state or reasoning. It's simply a straightforward recounting of Springsteen's history in music, with a wealth of detail on the songwriting, collaborations, and friendships, as well as major live events and milestones over the years. I've always associated Springsteen with New Jersey, and vice versa, but it had never occurred to me that there would be local spots he was closely connected to that one could visit -- top of my list now for our next road trip is the Stone Pony club!

Read a free preview of BOSS: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band here! I'd recommend this book for anyone discovering Springsteen for the first time, or a long-time fan who'd like to delve deeper into his work.

I got to read three books by Lara Lacombe last month!

(part of a series about the Colton family, with each book written by a different author)

I loved all three!

I'm usually wary of reading too many romances in quick succession because I worry about how many new couples I can care for and empathise with all at once (I'm not sure why this consideration only seems to apply to romance novels and not to every character in every story). But Lacombe is great at drawing the reader in right away and making the reader feel like they understand the hero and heroine's goals and needs. Of course, I also notice an aspect I feel like I have trouble with in my own stories -- her characters sound so adult!

I enjoy reading about their high-stakes careers, as teachers, scientists, police officers, surgeons, and more. The suspense is at a good pace, too -- never so rushed that you feel like you can't catch a breath, but always moving forward; you think the characters might have a bit of a breather, and then suddenly there's a new twist!

The Secrets She Kept by Brenda Novak

When I first read The Secret Sister, I wasn't expecting a sequel -- but I'm really glad Novak wrote one. It's great to see Keith (the brother of the main character in The Secret Sister) get his own story in The Secrets She Kept.

Other points of view are woven in this story, though, more often than in others of Novak's books, and a couple of times I found it distracting. They were all relevant parts, but I really wanted to get back to Keith's tale and Keith's point of view! There was one bit, where Keith was actively struggling with his addiction, that seemed a bit too easy -- he was outside his dealer's, and then suddenly he turned around and went home. I was rooting for him to make that choice, of course, but it would have been nice to delve into his mind a bit more. And I always wish for more of the denouement in a story like this! When two characters finally come together, it'd be nice to bask in their glow for a few more pages before the book ends.

The mystery parts were intriguing -- there was one red herring that seemed obvious in hindsight, but I fell for it. I kept wondering why the other characters trusted her, when I was sure she was the guilty one (even though I couldn't work out why). When the truth was revealed, it was great to see how the various clues fit in and how all the connections came together. I kind of hope Novak keeps exploring the lives of other inhabitants of Fairham -- it's fun to revisit the island!

I'm breaking in here for a public service announcement:

My high school, The Study (a private all-girls school), refers to its graduates as Old Girls. The other day, we received a message that a fellow Old Girl needs our help:

"A Study Old Girl has been waiting for a kidney donation for a long time now and is hoping to find a matching donor before she goes on dialysis.
If you, or someone you know, would be interested in exploring a living donation, please contact me at your earliest convenience.
Firstly, below are some things you might want to consider doing:
Researching living organ donations
Speaking to your own doctor
Contacting your local kidney association
Should you decide to proceed, I will provide you with the name of the recipient and the Donor Co-ordinator’s contact information at the McGill University Hospital Centre (MUHC).
The process is completely confidential and the recipient will not know about your inquiry. Please note, you are under no obligation and may stop the process at any time.
Thank you in advance for considering this life-saving gift for someone in our community."

If you can help in any way, even just by spreading the word, please do!

Back to the blog...

Next week I might have a guest post by an author of one of the other new books I've read! Also more reviews, including of Simon Tolkien's latest, No Man's Land. And I'm way overdue on comments -- got derailed by a long work trip to Nairobi, Kenya! Hope to share a few photos from that soon.

Funny, there's always someone talking about how blogging is a thing of the past, but I still enjoy this platform. It's such a great way to organise thoughts and photos and updates and advice, and to share writing snips and other creations.

Today is also Insecure Writer's Support Group day!

A big thank you to the co-hosts for this month: Tamara NarayanTonja DreckerEllen @ The Cynical SailorLauren @ PensuasionStephen Tremp, and Julie Flanders!

A new feature of IWSG day is the monthly question; today's question is:
"What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?"

I had a couple of mini stories published in the local paper when I was a kid, but my very first story, about All the Cow, has only ever seen the light of day on this blog. It went something like this: "Where was All? He did not know where All was. Aldo could not find All the cow. He searched and searched. He went up with a jet and All was with the moon."

Then there were the novels I wrote in grade school and in high school (one featured three convicts travelling through a desert. What did I, a 15 year old girl, know of jail, men, adult speech, or even the desert? I wish I could remember what sparked that story idea in the first place), and the poems I submitted to The New Yorker (don't ask).

After all the false starts and mis-steps, the first story I wrote after my writing drought was over, and which I actively tried to submit, was the middle grade The Face of A Lion, all about Austin, and a talking cat named Kedi, and a trip back in time to Ephesus in AD 43:
When thirteen-year-old Austin's parents drag him along to a villa in Turkey they've rented for the summer, he hunkers down and counts the days until he can get back home to his friends in England. But that's before he rescues a talking cat, witnesses a bloody ritual that causes two people to disappear, and finds himself whisked back in time.

Nearly two thousand years in the past, he makes a new friend--and a new enemy. A powerful evil wants to prevent Claudius the Emperor's invasion of Britain. Austin has to act fast to ensure that the invasion does take place--or time and civilization as he knows it will never be the same.
Someday I'd like to edit it fully, and send it back out on an agent search.

Which of your old stories (or other creations) would you like to revisit?

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