Review of Everyone Brave Is Forgiven

Everyone Brave is ForgivenEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

I’ve never read a Chris Cleave novel before. I’ve been missing something good if the rest are like his latest, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven. The main character, Mary North, says her only talent is conversation, but what an outstanding talent that is.
In 1939, Mary leaves finishing school within hours of Britain’s declaration of war and volunteers with the War Office. Her assignment makes sense — teaching elementary students — and provides a new perspective on the evacuation of London’s children (or not) and on the replacement of men who went to the front. Her first lover is not allowed to join the military because his civil job is considered essential while his best friend becomes an officer posted to the worst spots in the first two years of the war. At home, the Blitz torments Mary while her upper-class parents seem immune in their suburban location.
One couldn’t ask for more drama in a World War II setting. The dialogue is flawless and constantly entertaining.  My favorite line (though not from the dialogue that I’ve been raving about above):

When set against the great corruption of the war, his own small rot seemed, if not excusable, then at least unexceptional.

I highly recommend this book, which I purchased at Barefoot Cowgirl Books in Flagstaff, AZ.

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Admitted

I will admit it. I’m consumed by this election. And the weather has been darn good for golf. So, I’ve done no writing unrelated to the election and I’m not reading much fiction. Right now, I am reading Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, which is a pleasant distraction from current events.

If you care who I’m working for, it’s Hillary Clinton. Too bad she didn’t win in 2008, but I’m definitely up for this time around. If you wonder why, here’s just one good summary:

100 Reasons to Vote for Clinton

Now, back to it.

Review of Jane Smiley’s Private Lives

Private LifePrivate Life by Jane Smiley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The beginning promises a more exciting ending than the book delivers, but that’s life, isn’t it? At least, that’s Smiley’s take on life. In this book, Smiley presents an excellent and, I think, realistic character study of a woman in early 20th Century America. I don’t think the husband is as believable, but his purpose is as a foil to Margaret.

Margaret thinks a lot and talks little. Even when we know she’s engaged in conversation, Smiley often presents it in summary form without actual dialogue. Usually, that makes for a less intriguing book; that’s probably the case here. Yet, the form may be representative of Smiley’s take on the era when women were to be decorative rather than talkative. In that case, the appropriate description would be “literary.”

While, as said above, I think the character study is excellent, I don’t agree that Margaret is representative of women of her era. Indeed, there are plenty of lesser female characters in this novel who prove women can be outspoken and establish lives of their own. Margaret simply failed to do so. Is this innate or due to childhood trauma? That’s left to the reader to conclude.

The fact that it took me a month to read this book should lower my rating, but it could be that I had a busy August. Overall, I found the book pleasant to read and enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the Bay area and costumes of the times.

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Yes, social media DO work for writers – here’s how

I come to writing from a marketing background (17 years in real estate sales). To me, doing social media is a no-brainer. Just do it. Roz says it more fully in this post.

Nail Your Novel

warden abbey 2010 037 (2)Social media are an inextricable part of author life these days – and for some, the value seems dubious. Writers might flog themselves to blog, tweet until they turn blue, but months in, the magic hasn’t happened. Where are the book deals, the viral quantities of fame? Is it worth all the trouble?

I am here to tell you it is. But you may be looking at the wrong things, or have mistaken expectations. Social media have been an absolute transforming force for me, and if the channels were closed tomorrow I’d be howling for their return. So I thought I’d quantify the ways I’ve found it so worthwhile.

Quick background. I’ve been on social media since 2009. My major haunts are Twitter @Roz_Morris  and Facebook. And I blog, obvs. I probably get most of my results from those platforms as they’re where I’m most consistently active, but…

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Review of Noah Hawley’s “Before the Fall.”

Before the FallBefore the Fall by Noah Hawley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a very special book. The author does 11 or 12 very fine character studies, weaving 2-3 plot lines into the story of ordinary people living their lives. Well, maybe some not so ordinary, like the two billionaires and the psychotic co-pilot.

But it’s the ordinary folks who turn out to be most interesting. Here’s a thought from one of the mothers: “Mothers exist to blunt the existence of loneliness of being a person. If that were true then her biggest maternal responsibility was simply companionship. You bring a child into this fractious chaotic world out of the heat of your womb and then spend the next 10 years working beside them while they figure out how to be a person.”

One plot revolves around the crash investigation: A mystery on par with the best cliff-hangers. The other follows the life of the main character, an unmarried forty-something painter. You drop into his life at a pivotal time for him and jump right into the angst thanks to Hawley’s excellent writing.

Definitely, read this book.

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Review of Swan Huntley’s “We Could Be Beautiful.”

We Could Be BeautifulWe Could Be Beautiful by Swan Huntley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book almost hit my Goodreads “abandoned” shelf in the first fifty pages, but I was intrigued enough to stick with it and I’m glad I did. The first person narrator is an early-forties, Manhattan woman living off $80,000 per month (not a typo) from her father’s trust fund. She’s lost and thinks she’s miserable. Then she meets her Mr. Right who turns out to be Mr. Wrong. She grows a bit through the turmoil of discovering he is Mr. Wrong.

The writing is witty and it’s a quick read. I’m torn between 3 stars and 4. I think I’m going with 3 because I don’t like the protagonist, but we’re not supposed to like the protagonist so perhaps that’s an achievement deserving a four-star rating. The other characters are also well done. For example, the depiction of the mother with Alzheimer’s disease seems perfect to me. Been there, done that.

Overall, I’d say read this book.

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More Summer Reading: Review of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Where is the ten-star rating option? This is an excellent book. True to historical context (as far as I can tell) and presents a beautiful family story that could have been set elsewhere but fits very dramatically in WW II France. I recommend this to lovers of historical fiction and also to thriller readers.

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