#100DaysOfBooks – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

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Day 16 – A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith

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A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN

I read this book in college for a Theology & Literature class.

We had one paper for which we could choose a book outside the syllabus, and I chose this one. My professor was intrigued, but we’d read Silence (Endo) and Babette’s Feast (Dinesen)  and Night (Wiesel), and I thought, how about this lovely little book about a young girl and her family who had to survive bias, alcoholism, poverty and other challenges in turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is) New York, while keeping her own dreams and creativity alive?

He wasn’t sure it was weighty enough next to the powerhouse novels we’d read so far, but I convinced him. What was more spiritual than the questions a girl faces when her father is an alcoholic dreamer and her mother is a relentless pragmatist; when her environment is brutal and she’s a shy misfit who believes in books and education?

Have you read it? At times charming, at times horrifying, it is a coming-of-age story, but so much more.  A snapshot of days gone by; a reminder of human challenges that never change, no matter the age; and a lovely testament to the power of books.

Are you a fan?

From the book cover:

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century.

From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and strength of spirit. Often scorned by neighbors for her family’s erratic and eccentric behavior—such as her father Johnny’s taste for alcohol and Aunt Sissy’s habit of marrying serially without the formality of divorce—no one, least of all Francie, could say that the Nolans’ life lacked drama. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the Nolans’ daily experiences are tenderly threaded with family connectedness and raw with honesty. Betty Smith has, in the pages of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, captured the joys of humble Williamsburg life-from “junk day” on Saturdays, when the children of Francie’s neighborhood traded their weekly take for pennies, to the special excitement of holidays, bringing cause for celebration and revelry. Betty Smith has artfully caught this sense of exciting life in a novel of childhood, replete with incredibly rich moments of universal experiences—a truly remarkable achievement for any writer.

#HappyReading  #100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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A Tree Grows In Brooklyn – @ Amazon

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and text links connect to an affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#100DaysofGreatBooks – Oh My Stars

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#100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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Day 15 – Lorna Landvik, OH MY STARS

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Hi friends ~

Just a reminder that from May 24th through the end of August (Read-A-Romance Month) I’ll be spotlighting one book a day.

On Fridays through July, I’ll be including an author answering the Q&A from RARM 2018.

Have you all discovered Lorna Landvik? She was a recent guest author on the Romance of Reading page (you’re all on there, right?).

I love all her books, but I have to choose one for #BookADay, so I’ll use this one…

OH MY STARS

I am convinced that at birth the cake is already baked. Nurture is the nuts or frosting, but if you’re a spice cake, you’re a spice cake, and nothing is going to change you into an angel food cake.

Tall, slender Violet Mathers is growing up in the Great Depression, which could just as well define her state of mind. Abandoned by her mother as a child, mistreated by her father, and teased by her schoolmates (“Hey, Olive Oyl, where’s Popeye?”), the lonely girl finds solace in artistic pursuits. Only when she’s hired by the town’s sole feminist to work the night shift in the local thread factory does Violet come into her name, and bloom. Accepted by her co-workers, the teenager enters the happiest phase of her life, until a terrible accident causes her to retreat once again into her lonely shell.

Realizing that she has only one clear choice, Violet boards a bus heading west to California. But when the bus crashes in North Dakota, it seems that Fate is having another cruel laugh at Violet’s expense. This time though, Violet laughs back. She and her fellow passengers are rescued by two men: Austin Sykes, whom Violet is certain is the blackest man to ever set foot on the North Dakota prairie, and Kjel Hedstrom, who inspires feelings Violet never before has felt. Kjel and Austin are musicians whose sound is like no other, and with pluck, verve, and wit, Violet becomes part of their quest to make a new kind of music together.

OH MY STARS is Lorna Landvik’s most ambitious novel yet, with a cast of characters whose travails and triumphs you’ll long remember. It is a tale of love and hope, bigotry and betrayal, loss and discovery, as Violet, who’s always considered herself a minor character in her own life story, emerges as a heroine you’ll laugh with, cry with, and, most important, cheer for all the way.

OH MY STARS came out in 2005, but Landvik’s books hold up. I’m very excited to read Landvik’s newest release, CHRONICLES OF A RADICAL HAG, but I haven’t yet. So I’ll technically recommend OH MY STARS, but really, I’ll recommend you read everything she writes. Because I have never disliked anything I’ve read by her, and I’ve read almost all of it.

Landvik is a favorite author, and I hope you’ll pick her up.

You’ll get a peek of her warmth and sense of humor in the Q&A below.

Enjoy! xoxo

#HappyReading  #100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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2018 RARM Questions:

Why do you write books? 

I write books because I love to read books.  I love the transformative power of story, of being taken out of my own life and into the lives of others.

What do you consider to be the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?

Probably going on the Great Peace March for Nuclear Disarmament.  I, my husband and our then-toddler daughter joined 1,000 people in a nine-month walk across the country.  When we weren’t putting in our miles, we’d work on the day care bus (there was a caravan of support buses and vehicles, food and equipment trucks, etc.).  Having home be a tent and walking up to twenty-six miles a day was exhilarating and exhausting and everything in between.  I might have heard ‘Kumbaya’ sung too many times in camp, but that’s a small price to pay in the quest for a nuclear-free world.

Tell us why you write romances or include strong romantic elements in your books?

Love is a pretty mighty fuel and it’s an exciting/frustrating puzzle to figure out the lives and loves of characters.  To me, there’s a real romance to comedy as well, and my goal is to infuse my novels with laughter

Tell us about a romantic moment in your life. (Either romantic love, or romantic sensibility.)

Years ago, I was feeling blue and decided to submerge (literally) my melancholia in a long bubble bath.  Knowing I was feeling down, my husband came into the bathroom and climbed into the tub with me.  That he was fully clothed made me laugh hard, my gloominess evaporating like so many bubbles.

If you could tell your younger self anything (either as a writer or as a woman) what would it be?

Stand up for yourself.  Don’t apologize for your work or yourself — it’s not your job to make sure everyone’s all right, at the expense of not being all right yourself.

Tell us something you uncovered in research that fascinated you.

In my novel OH MY STARS, the bulk of which takes place in the Great Depression and whose main characters are white and black, I was shocked to learn about the long-lasting and widespread enforcement of miscegenation laws.

How do you handle the voices in your head competing for their story to be written? 

My creative mind wavers between being strong and fragile and it’s the strong part that has to assert itself, bossing the fragile part — the one that is easily distracted and wants to work on this story or that story —  to ‘settle down!’   Also, I might jot down a short paragraph of characters who suddenly appear in my head and who have no place in a current project. Then, like a host trying to wrangle too many party guests, I’ll promise them I’ll get back to them in a minute. (In this case a ‘minute’ is very subjective.’)

If you could live for a month somewhere (either in the present or past) where (and when, if applicable) would it be? Why?

I could mull this question over for hours, but if I have to pick one, I’ll pick the one that jumped into my head:  Central Norway, in the region where my mother’s family was from, in the 1800s, when my ancestors were about to emigrate to America.  I’d like to experience not only the ruggedness of physical farm life, but all those emotions felt by those ready to leave behind all they’d ever known. 

Lorna recommends:

I’ll read anything by Elizabeth Berg and Anne Tyler, who always create compelling characters and worlds and I just read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and look forward to what she writes next. 

Elizabeth Berg – www.elizabeth-berg.net@Amazon

Anne Tylerwww.annetyler.com@Amaz

Delia Owenswww.deliaowens.com@Amazon

Lorna Landvik is the author of twelve novels, the most recent being CHRONICLES OF A RADICAL HAG (WITH RECIPES).  She is also an actor, public speaker and playwright and performs a one-woman all-improvised show called PARTY IN THE REC ROOM. 

Buy Lorna’s books:

availableon-amazon
availableon-nook
availableon-kobo

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and text links connect to an affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#100DaysOfGreatBooks – Bird By Bird

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Day 14 – Bird By Bird by Ann Lamott

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BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

One of my two favorite writing books.

Advice on writing and on life from an acclaimed bestselling author: 

“Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he’d had three months to write. It was due the next day. We were out at our  family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.'”

Love, love, love this book. I love what it says about writing, and what it says about life, and what it says about the writing life.

So what about you? Do you have favorite writing books or life manuals?

#HappyReading  #100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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Buy Ann Lamott’s books @ Amazon *

*Affiliate link. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#100DaysofGreatBooks – The Tempestuous Affair

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Day 13 – The Tempestuous Affair by Caroline Courtney

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THE TEMPESTUOUS AFFAIR

In 2012, I wrote a piece for NPR called In Defense of Romance, and in it I mentioned the first romance I ever read, which was The Fortunes of Love, by Caroline Courtney.

I’d go on to read every CC book. The Tempestuous Affair was my favorite.

A sexy Russian prince. A naive young English woman left in the care of his family.

He escorts her from England to Russia just before winter, and once she’s settled, she’s the belle of society. But Napoleon is threatening the country and she might falling in love with her Russian prince, which leaves her vulnerable in a number of ways.

When I was in eighth grade, in Catholic school, the library bookmobile would make a stop at our school once a week. I tried to check out this book, but my (school) librarian wouldn’t let me. Having read CC a few times already, I knew that the book would have none of the things she was worried it would. Back in the day, Regency Romance novels pretty much had no sex in them if the plot didn’t include marriage.

But somehow the words “Tempestuous” and “Affair” made her fear for my young Catholic sensibilities. ;o)

I managed to get my hands on it – I think I requested it at my branch – and I was right. There was no sex. But yum! Lots of sexual tension!

To this day, the hero in this book remains a favorite. (Think Lisa Kleypas’ Sebastian, Lord St. Vincent in The Devil in Winter, except he’s not redeemed until closer to the end of the book. Yeah, it was the ’80s. It was somehow still really sexy.)

I reread the book a few years ago, and I have to say, I still loved it. I was a bit more aware during the parts that were *slightly* disturbing—jealousy, possessiveness, Lucy’s occasional moments of, ummm, cluelessness—but they were relatively mild, and Nikolai was supremely sexy, heroic and capable, so it still hit the sweet spot for me.

It also made me remember my disapproving librarian and my Catholic school with affection.

When her father dies without leaving a male heir, Miss Lucy Stanton is forced to leave her ancestral home and live with her grandfather, Prince Virinsky. The late Sir Charles Stanton had written to his estranged father-in-law Prince Kuragin in Russia — entrusting him with the care of his daughter Lucy. The prospect of traveling to St. Petersburg-far away — was frightening and exciting. Though without a chaperone, Lucy did not fear for her virtue, one look at her escort, cousin Nikolai, revealed a nature as frozen as the Russian steppes.

Apparently, Caroline Courtney was Penny Jordan, but she remains one of my favorite authors of all-time, mainly because she was my favorite when I was discovering romance novels and was the first author I actively sought. I read every one, and loved them all. (Though some more than others.)

#HappyReading  #100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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No links today, because these books aren’t in print, so only second hand copies are available.

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and text links connect to an affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!

#100DaysOfGreatBooks – Moon Over Manifest

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Day 12 – Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

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MOON OVER MANIFEST

I was a child of the 1970s and 80s. The terms Middle Grade and Young Adult didn’t exist.

But if those books existed when I was in grade school or middle school, this is a book I would have loved.

The mark of a great book is that it can be appreciated by people of all ages, and MOON OVER MANIFEST has everything a reader could ask for – humor, intensity, fabulous characters, and a plot that leads to numerous fascinating threads that all come together into a beautiful tapestry of layered storytelling.

This has it all, and while this (my) audience is adult I still will tell you to read this book.

I’ve now listened to it three times, the most recent with my sister as we drove together across the country after my mother died. She loved it too. Each time I’m amazed at how lovely this book is, and how well plotted.

Winner of the 2011 Newbery Award.

The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.
 
Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”
Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.
 
Powerful in its simplicity and rich in historical detail, Clare Vanderpool’s debut is a gripping story of loss and redemption.

Vanderpool has only written two books, and her second, NAVIGATING EARLY, is also amazing. I highly recommend them both, but MOON OVER MANIFEST is where I started, and it remains slightly ahead in my affection.

 

#HappyReading  #100DaysofGreatBooks  #SummerOfBookLove

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Buy Clare Vanderpool’s books:

availableon-amazon         availableon-nook      availableon-kobo

 

*Please note that the Amazon button, most cover images and text links connect to an affiliate portal. Thanks so much for your help & support!