A better title would be: TIME TO WRITE ABOUT WHAT I'VE BEEN READING.
But that's way too long.
Happy February, everybody!
Mondays always remind me that there's a whole group of you out there carefully documenting your week's reading. #IMWAYR days are fun!
And what I've been reading is fun, too.
Although I'd read the Advance Reader Copy (ARC) and I'd heard earlier versions as Barbara worked on this one, in honor of its true launch date, I reread Barbara O'Connor's latest middle-grade novel, HALFWAY TO HARMONY.
Oh, those characters!
And her writing. Such a perfect ear. Such an economy of words. Every little detail belongs exactly where she's put it.
I dare you to open the first chapter, meet Walter, then his new neighbor Posey, and not be hooked.
When I watched the launch party interview with Amy Cherrix from Malaprops in Asheville, I remembered so many great writing tips!
I've heard Barbara say it before but the next time I sat at my desk, I tried hard to put one into practice:
RESIST THE URGE TO EXPLAIN.
Many years and many critique groups ago, my friend Leslie Guccione created a little note, beautifully drawn and decorated, for my bulletin board.
Way back when, Barbara's blog did a series of Writing Tip Tuesdays. If you're a new writer, or heck, even if you've written forever, they're great reminders.
(On the subject of repetition, Barbara reports, Sol Stein says, "One plus one equals a half."
If you think the reader won't "get" something unless you repeat it, then maybe you haven't written it right the first time.)
So I've always known this important bit of writing advice. Barbara's the champ at doing it and at explaining it. Read her novels and you'll see!
The other middle-grade novel, JUST LIKE THAT, skews to the upper end of MG and had me slowing down, re-reading, putting sticky notes on pages, and marveling at Gary Schmidt's skill in storytelling. I always pick up BookPage at my local library and I almost always agree with their reviews.
Forewarned, somebody dies at the very beginning. Somebody, if you know and love Schmidt's books like I do, you'll grieve right along with his friend. But the book is such great storytelling, such amazing writing, so gripping in many places, that grieving didn't detract from my loving this book.
If I'm honest and attempting to read like a kid, or even like a school librarian, my prior self, I did have a couple of issues. One, I wondered if it would have been a better book if there weren't two narrators whose stories, though often intersecting, were very different. But I think stronger readers will just go with that flow.
And some very minor plot points- like would a middle-grader, even back in the 60s and even at boarding school, be allowed to come back to school before it begins? And, yes, she's staying with the headmistress (though she kind of bailed on the two kids in her care.)
<side note for copyeditors: https://www.dailywritingtips.com/bail-out-vs-bale-out/ >
Other good grownups books I've loved since last posting for #IMWYR :
1. Hamnet (five stars! *****)
2. Another (I've read several during this too-long pandemic) Laura Lippman novel- my warm-glass-of-milk at bedtime books
3. The Keeper of Lost Dreams, which I mostly enjoyed though I'm not a fan of ghosts/ spirits, even when they take a minor role.