Opinion – Harper Lee

With Harper Lee’s death there is already speculation about her writing and if it should have been (or should be) published. There are discussions about the publishing houses and if they preyed on an elderly woman with dementia. Was her state of mind lucid enough to suddenly publish Go Set a Watchman? I do not have an answer to this question, but I do know a little bit about the elderly.

Over the past 5 years I watched my father slowly lose his mental faculties to age related dementia. There were days he was his old self, full of jokes and laughter. Then there were the days he thought he was at his childhood summer home wondering where his brother and sister were. It was his good days that threw me off balance, so much so that I thought he was back and we didn’t have to worry anymore. It was his good days that made all the rest bearable. It was his good days that gave me a false sense of “normal.”

If I had to guess, it may have been during one of those good days (sometimes they last for days and weeks at a time) that Harper Lee was cleverly duped into signing the rights over. Maybe it was a series of good days. I don’t know. I wasn’t there.

One thing I feel is true, as a writer, if there is anything I never want published – I’ll destroy any and all copies, forms, ideas, and outlines of said story while I have the mind to do it. “Horrors!” You might say, “What if you change your mind?” If, what I wrote before (and deleted) is good enough, or fills my heart enough to finish, I will find the words again. I will find the story again. Plus, it will probably be much better the second time around.

Harper Lee should have destroyed any manuscripts she really didn’t want published. If she disliked Go Set a Watchman so much, she should have burned it. Why? Ultimately, it is our responsibility as writers to protect our work, because those that prey on the weak and debilitated will pounce the moment we can’t stop them. It is our work and our choice about publication. Period.

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The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating

The Sound of a Wild Snail EatingThe Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey
★★★★☆

I was pleasantly surprised with this book. The writing is very eloquent. It has a quiet strength to it that the reader may not realize until after reading Ms. Bailey’s story. The main character (the author), who is gravely ill, finds her own strength and resolve through her observations of the daily challenges faced by an unassuming creature. The snail’s simplicity brought a bit of joy to what was a difficult time in her life.

I know more about snails than I ever thought possible and was entertained while learning and reading. Some of the historical quotes, facts, and figures got a bit tiring, but it was well balanced with the humanness of the story. I don’t think I’ll look at a snail the same way.

From Goodreads: In a work that beautifully demonstrates the rewards of closely observing nature, Elisabeth Bailey shares an inspiring and intimate story of her uncommon encounter with a Neohelix albolabris —a common woodland snail.

While an illness keeps her bedridden, Bailey watches a wild snail that has taken up residence on her nightstand. As a result, she discovers the solace and sense of wonder that this mysterious creature brings and comes to a greater under standing of her own confined place in the world.

Intrigued by the snail’s molluscan anatomy, cryptic defenses, clear decision making, hydraulic locomotion, and mysterious courtship activities, Bailey becomes an astute and amused observer, providing a candid and engaging look into the curious life of this underappreciated small animal. 

Told with wit and grace, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is a remarkable journey of survival and resilience, showing us how a small part of the natural world illuminates our own human existence and provides an appreciation of what it means to be fully alive.

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Beastkeeper

BeastkeeperBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
★★★★☆

I LOVED the writing style that carried me through this quaint story. The plot was not earth shattering so my rating of a four instead of five stars. I still really enjoyed reading this and recommend it to adults as well as young adults.

From Goodreads: Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from.

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive.

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever.

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Welcome 2016

We just crossed into a new year…are you excited? If you said, “YES!” then I’m with you. I am really looking forward to this year and what secrets it holds.The future is never certain, but I will make the best of it. My plan for 2016 is pretty simple; publish my debut novel The Manx. This book has been in the works for a few years and kept on the back burner while I dug down into the craft of writing. Developing character and story arcs, along with structure and plot are all necessary for developing a good book, but when I started The Manx I knew nothing about writing a book and soon discovered that it needed a little work.

Since its inception (around 2013), I have kept it safely on the shelf just waiting for the day I had enough confidence (and know-how) to pull it back out and dive in. The Manx is coming out to play and its going to be awesome! If you like fairy tales this will be your kind of read. I won’t reveal any more right now, but look to future posts as I introduce you to the Isle of Man and its people, the Manx.

Until then, enjoy the beginnings of this new year. Make your resolutions. Keep them or not. No matter what, make the best of everything that happens this year. It will be the one, and only, time you get to live 2016.

Fourth Son

Fourth SonFourth Son by Monica Poole
★★★★☆

Fourth Son is a bitter tale of a young man, Jahnes Tehrel, who faces saving his family from slavery after his father dies in a mining accident. His decision changes his life and those he loves the most. This book is an excellent examination of a society built on a brutal caste system of order that strictly enforces the hierarchy.

This is the second time I have read Monica Poole’s tale and will admit the second round was much better than the first (Note: never read this type of story when sick). There are many subtleties threaded through this story that could be missed if the reader isn’t paying attention. I want to give this book a five star rating but it falls slightly short. The beginning of the story builds very slowly using an overabundance of reflections. The sense of who the characters are, especially Jahnes, is masterfully developed yet I didn’t fall into the story through development of place.

I highly recommend this book with a note to the reader to push through the earlier chapters. You won’t be disappointed with the final ones.

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The Hundred-Year House

The Hundred-Year HouseThe Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai
★★★★☆

The Hundred-Year House takes a look at a family’s estate from the recent past (Y2K era) back to the 1900’s through the quirky characters that occupy it. This is a treasure hunt disguised as a book. Rebecca Makkai pulls the reader back through a century of people who lived, and some died, at the Devohr estate, and slowly unravels mysteries that have been secreted away for a century. The narrative is cleverly written. Don’t look for a “happily ever after” in this tale, but it does satisfy.

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The Magicians

The Magicians by, Lev Grossman
★★★★☆
The Magicians is a book not for everyone. Quentin, our main character, is magical, and missing something in his life. If he could only get to Fillory (a magical place found in his favorite books, and a very grown up version of Narnia) then everything will be OK. He first finds himself at Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic (think Harry Potter in a partying frat). After 4 years, he finally gets to Fillory. Throughout the story Quentin is forever longing for something that is just out of his reach that he never can grasp.

Lev Grossman is a master at opening Quentin’s mind and diving in to reveal those dark places that everyone lives in at some point or another. Grossman does such a wonderful job of writing that I couldn’t put the book down. He drew me in and I left only because I turned the last page. What is missed in the “feel-good department” it is made up through great writing.