What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

What Alice ForgotWhat Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Most of us reach a time in our life when we would really like to have a do-over. What Alice Forgot speaks to that momentary longing. Alice has a fall and forgets the last ten years of her life. Unfortunately, her family and friends haven’t forgotten.

In her mind Alice is young, idealistic, relaxed, and somewhat shy. She’s madly in love with her young husband and enthusiastically looking forward to the birth of their first child.

Her family and friends still see her as uptight and driven, a bitter sharp-tongued,community leader who is in the midst of a nasty divorce and custody battle for three children.

The author cleverly allows the reader to find out “what Alice forgot” a bit at a time as Alice puts the pieces together. She has to get reacquainted with her sister, her mother, her new “boyfriend”, and a crowd of women “friends.” But the hardest thing of all is finding a connection to three children who call her “Mom”, even though she is sure she never saw any of them before in her life.

An intriguing premise, well written, with just enough wry humor, and a satisfying, all loose-ends wrapped up ending.

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Go Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

Go Away HomeGo Away Home by Carol Bodensteiner

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Go Away Home is a chance to immerse yourself into a world that is no more, through the eyes, mind, and heart of Liddie Treadway, coming of age on an Iowa farm during World War One. Her family expects her to marry, settle nearby, and spend her life cooking, cleaning, and caring for a farmer husband and his children. It seems her life is pre-ordained and no other path is open to her.

Before marriage, young women of the time are allowed a suitable and temporary occupation, such as teaching or sewing. Liddie pours her heart and her creativity into her sewing and hopes to turn her temporary job, as a dressmaker’s assistant in the nearby county seat, into a career. She’s never been more than 12 miles away from home, but she dreams of becoming a dress designer and traveling abroad.

When Liddie meets a debonair photographer, her life takes an unexpected turn away from respectable sewing and into all sorts of exciting possibilities as his assistant and apprentice.

Suddenly, for almost the first time in her life, Liddie must make important choices for herself. Will she be a dress designer or a photographer? Will she be a single, independent woman? Or will she marry?

Liddie Treadway is not the stock character you may expect. She is a thoroughly real woman, who makes real choices and learns to live with the consequences.

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I wrote 40,000 new words in 14 days with Fast Draft

fast speedometerI didn’t write 70,000 words as Candace Haven insists is possible. Still, I have 40,000 words added to my novel that I didn’t have when the Book-in-a-Month class started  May 25th.

After 14 days I switched to the second half of the class. Candace calls it Revision Hell and I am not arguing with her. The idea is to go through 20 pages every day adding tension and depth, removing cliches, making sure each page engages all three senses, etc, etc.

The fast draft days were an exhilarating, 90 mile-an-hour, top down, laughing in the wind, souped-up Mustang ride.

The Revision Hell days are more like walking up the highway with a trash bag and a weed eater. I’ll get it done. But I’m not having nearly as much fun.picking up litter

Fast Draft Class – can I write 70,000 words in 14 days?

writerI just signed up for an online writing class called The Book in a Month Club, taught by Candace Havens. It was a spur of the moment decision,made without any research or consideration.  I saw a positive mention of the class, on the Writer Unboxed facebook page, moments after getting a $35 payment from Lulu for some of my nonfiction book sales. The class fee was $35. It seemed like a sign.

So, after I made the commitment I figured out what I was committing to. Havens teaches the Fast Draft method. Participants in this class are expected to produce 20 pages a day — a 70,000 word novel — in two weeks.

It makes National Novel Writing Month sound like a walk in the park. The NANO challenge is only 50,000 words and you have twice as long to do it.  It always left me feeling like a limp dishrag, my house a disaster, and my family neglected and irritated.

How can I possibly write 70,000 words in two weeks?

I watch after my grandchildren during the summer. This class starts tomorrow, May 25. School gets out on June 2.

My retired husband recently had knee replacement surgery and he is home in the house much more than usual.

Candace Haven says she will allow NO WHINING about lack of time, fatigue, or mental illness. So I’m doing my whining here before I start.

Oh my – what have I gotten myself into?

Goodbye for a month. I don’t think I’ll have time to blog or write book reviews until the end of June.



The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

The ButcherThe Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Butcher made me feel the same way I feel driving past a bloody highway accident. You don’t want to look, but you can’t help yourself. You can’t resist the grisly glimpse inside the mind of the Butcher, a serial killer who enjoys every moment of his victim’s suffering and is never troubled by any twinge of remorse or guilt.

This is not a who-done-it mystery at all. From the first chapter you know one of the most respected men in Seattle, a grandfather and retired Police Chief, is also a “retired” serial killer known as The Butcher. Edward Shank is eighty years old and moving into a retirement home. He’s giving his house, with its buried secrets, to his grandson Matt, who was raised by his grandparents. The Chief knows Matt may discover the souvenirs he saved from his Butcher days, but he doesn’t care. In fact, he’s kind of looking forward to it.

Matt does find the incriminating souvenirs. The discovery throws him into a frenzy of anxiety, confusion and guilt. Self-centered and selfish to the core, his first thought is how his own life will be affected if his grandfather’s crimes were ever made public.

Suspense? Yes! What will Matt do? Will he go to the police? Will he tell his girlfriend, Samantha, who is writing a book about The Butcher? Will Samantha find out on her own? Will she survive being the one person who is closest to both the Butcher and his out of control grandson?

What about Edward Shank? Every chapter leaves you wondering what he will do next. He may be eighty years old, but he’s not dead yet.

As a senior citizen, myself, I have to admit the portrayal of an eighty year-old as malevolent and unrepentant as The Butcher appealed to me. We read enough about crotchety old men who are actually lonely/misunderstood/dying/etc. Edward Shank is one of a kind.

This is my first Jennifer Hillier novel. I’d never heard of her until NetGallery offered me an advance electronic galley. The Butcher will be published in July, 2014.

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Promises to Keep by Shayne Parkinson

Sentence of Marriage (Promises to Keep, #1)Sentence of Marriage by Shayne Parkinson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This review is not just for Sentence of Marriage, which is the first book in Promises to Keep. I just finished the 3rd book, the ending of a long story started in Sentence of Marriage. Shayne Parkinson’s decision to publish one long novel in three parts has angered some reviewers, who feel cheated when the first two books end on nail-biting cliff hangers and they feel compelled to buy another book to find out what happens next.

Compelled to buy another book. That alone tells you a great deal about the series and about Shayne Parkinson’s writing. How many truly compelling books do we find in a year? Not many.

Promises to Keep is compelling because it is so well written. The story is not unusual: a sweet hard working country girl falls in love with a smooth talking city man who deserts her when she becomes pregnant. To save her family from shame, she’s forced to give away her baby, and to marry an older man she doesn’t love.

How old is that plot? They say there are no new stories, but this surely must be one of the oldest stories ever told. But, let me tell you, it has never been told better than Shayne Parkinson tells it.

The story is set in New Zealand, beginning in 1881 and spanning about 25 years. Every scene is rich with historical detail and an unerring sense of place and time. There are dozens of characters, but I never got them mixed up because each person was so perfectly described and set apart with a distinct personality and story of their own.

Bottom line, Shayne Parkinson is now on my short list of favorite writers. She knows how to tell a good story.

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Digital Public Library of America

FREE Public Access to Information! FREE Primary Sources!  I’ve been evangelizing for the free information you can get through public libraries, non-profits, and government sites for years. I even set up my own site, primarysourcesonline, and tried to pull the best links all together by myself a few years ago.  But it was too huge an undertaking for one person. More great sites came online every day, others updated and changed their web address. I couldn’t keep up. So rather than have a site full of bad links, and a nagging guilty conscience about it, I took the site off line.

The Digital Public Library of America does what I tried to do. Only better, and with an easy to use search box!

The DPLA planning process began in October 2010 at a meeting in Cambridge, MA. Forty leaders from libraries, foundations, academia, and technology projects agreed to work together to create

“an open, distributed network of comprehensive online resources that would draw on the nation’s living heritage from libraries, universities, archives, and museums in order to educate, inform, and empower everyone in current and future ­generations.”

In December 2010, the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, generously supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, convened leading experts in libraries, technology, law, and education to begin work on this ambitious project. A two-year process of intense grassroots community organization, beginning in October 2011 and hosted at the Berkman Center, brought together hundreds of public and research librarians, innovators, digital humanists, and other volunteers—organized into six workstreams and led by a distinguished Steering Committee—helped to scope, design, and construct the DPLA.

On the home page you can search all the collections, from all the sites, over seven million items, all full text, all FREE.  Try it out!  Digital Public Library of America

Jim’s Story – 2

jim“Are you still carrying that old rock?” Rose picked up the stone from the new dresser where he left it when he emptied his pockets to take a shower.

Jim resisted the urge to grab it out of her hand. “Yep, still carrying that old rock. You remember the day we found it?”

Rose put the stone back among the loose change and detritus from his pockets and turned toward the door. “Not really. I know you’ve been carrying it since Junior High, but I didn’t know when you found it. Was I with you?”

“Yes.  You were with me.” How could she forget our first kiss?

“I’ll have to get you a tray or something to put your pocket stuff in. This is going to scratch up the dresser.”

Jim watched her retreating back disappear through the wide door . She didn’t look back, even though he was taking off his shirt, getting ready to go into the bathroom. He had fantasized about that first shower at home, the privacy, the never ending hot water, Rose scrubbing his back, kissing her way down his chest . . Oh well, that wasn’t going to happen.

He couldn’t believe it when they pulled up in front of this enormous godawful house and she said, surprise, we have a new home. He wanted to say lots of things then, lots of things. But the driveway was full of cars and trucks, and they were parked up and down both sides of the street. Everybody Rose or his parents, had ever known was there ready to welcome him home. It was a party, a big party and he was expected to smile and act happy to see all of them and even more impossible pretend that he really had arrived home.

He was dirty, tired from the long trip. All he wanted was a warm shower, maybe a big hamburger and Rose. The old Rose. Not this new fancy dolled up business woman who picked him up at the airport.   She didn’t look anything like the picture he carried in his wallet, and even less like the picture he carried in hi s heart. Her hair was different, a different color and straight, all the wild curls gone.  And she was wearing too much makeup.   And there was something else, something indefinable that just didn’t feel like the old Rose. She was like some of the women he met in the marines, all take charge, and taking care of myself sort of attitude. That was fine for a woman marine – but hell, it wasn’t the way Rose was supposed to be.

He made quick work of the shower after he figured out how to turn the water on – what happened to knobs you could just turn, anyway?  Rose had laid out clothes for him to put on. He was ready to go back to civvies, but this suit? She expected him to wear a suit? There was another door beside the bathroom door, didn’t Rose say that was his closet? The door opened smoothly and he stepped into a long space that was almost as big as their bedroom back at the cabin. His old clothes were there, organized by type and color. He found a pair of jeans and a western shirt and pulled them on.

He didn’t touch the clothes Rose picked out for him

Sheriff’s Car Frozen in Three Inches Ice

January 30, 1930 Fulton Daily Sun-Gazette

$T2eC16dHJHIFFhgM8zh5BR+BE4!www~~60_35Sheriff J. C. Owen will be without the use of his Whippet sedan for the remainder of the winter and permanently so if the June rise of Cow creek in the southeast part of this county wins the race to the banks of the creek there.

Thursday, Mr. Owen’s car was cut out of three inches of ice on Cow creek and the machine, after about eight hours of work, was dragged upon the banks of the stream, encased in a sheet of ice from the bottom of the car doors down.

Mr. Owen accompanied by an aide, Theo “Big Boy” Zahrndt who is serving a sentence here for manslaughter in connection with the death of a negro convict at Cedar City, killed when Zahrndt’s truck crashed into a prison truck on the highway as Zahrndt fell asleep, had motored into the eastern part of the Kingdom to a point near the Montgomery county line, to serve legal papers.  They were returning through the Readsville neighborhood, when they came to Cow creek ford, near the Larkin Pasley farm.

The stream was slightly swollen, but the sheriff figured his car would clear the 18 inches of water in the rapids.  A few feet out into the water the ignition wires became wet.  The motor stopped and it was necessary to dry the wire.  The motor started again, although the exhaust was under water, the wheels having sunk in the quicksand.  But the wheels only buried deeper.  A team could not budge the car.

Mr. Owen and his six foot two, two hundred and twenty pound companion, who was 21 years old on Christmas day, set out on foot for Yucatan, four miles away.  Zahrndt took the lead, whistling as he walked, while the sheriff lagged behind.  But ere the four miles had been traversed, the sheriff took the lead and held it until they reached the village.  There they hired a car and made their way along northward to Highway No. 40, where they took a bus to Fulton.

Thursday, a force of men went to the scene of the sheriff’s misfortune.  There was the car frozen in three inches of ice.  They chopped out a circle around the car, secured a three-pulley block and tackle and a force of men and finally, after a good day’s work, succeeded in placing the car, ice and all, high and dry upon the banks of the stream.  There it probably will have to remain until the “June thaw,” unless Mr. Owen is able to secure a big sled and bring the car and ice to Fulton.


This story is for my book Fulton, Missouri 1920-1960, which will be published October 2014, and is my May 2 post for Story-a-Day.


Jim’s Story

Iraq AnalysisAll day long he had tried not to think about the glorious fact that it was his last day in country.  It would be bad luck to think about it, to count on it.  But the day was over.  He had survived his last mission and after two long years he was heading home.   Home.  The cabin deep in the woods.  And Rose, sweet Rose, in his arms again.

The trip home wasn’t exactly first class. The plane was a freighter, temporarily converted for troop transport, and filled to the gills with soldiers, twelve across in narrow seats bolted to the bare metal belly of the clumsy beast.  When Jim pulled out Rose’s picture, he knew the guys on each side of him would demand to see it. He knew it would get passed around. He knew there would probably be some good natured ribbing.  Maybe some ribald comments that he would have to pretend not to notice.

He took it out anyway.

It was his favorite picture of Rose.  She was relaxing on the oak bench her grandfather made and was wearing denim shorts and a white tee-shirt, her bare feet propped on the porch railing, a cloud of auburn curls framing her laughing face.   The rough logs of the cabin were on her right, the dark green of the woods on her left, and in the background there was a glimpse of the Missouri River winding its way through the trees far below.

The picture did get passed around, but to Jim’s surprise there was very little joking.  Instead, First Sergeant Tim McGinnis pulled out a picture of his own to share.

“Look, mine’s a redhead, too!”

The sergeant’s wife was a pretty strawberry blonde with a scatter of freckles on her nose and a grinning blue-eyed baby on her lap.  Soon a dozen men were sharing and passing around their own favorite pictures from home, talking over top of each other in their eagerness to explain why their picture, their home, was special.

The men had to shout to be heard over the engine roar and the vibrating rattle of equipment against the metal hull. Even though Jim couldn’t hear most of the comments, he smiled and nodded as each photo came into his hands.

Then the sergeant turned to Jim. “How about it, Captain, tell us about your girl!”

Jim didn’t hesitate. “I’ve loved her since she was six years old.”

It was true. For a long time he told himself he loved her like a big brother.  That notion came to an end when they shared their first tremulous kiss down by the creek, the day he picked up the little stone he carried in his pocket.


At the airport, Sergeant McGinnis spotted his strawberry blonde right away and ran into her open arms with a whoop of delight. Jim scanned the crowd, but didn’t see his Rose anywhere.

A lady wearing heels and a business suit blocked his view when she stopped right in front of him. Irritated, he started to step around her and only stopped when she lay a carefully manicured hand on his sleeve.

“Jim. . .”

It was her voice. But the polished lady before him was not the cherished wild Rose he carried in his heart.


This is an excerpt from my novel River Rose.  And my first post in the May 2014 Story-a-day Challenge.




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