On binge watching and reading

If you’re a certain age, you may be thinking about how younger people today have no idea what it means to eagerly await a weekly television show. Let’s go back to the 1970s. Who else remembers the excitement of ABC’s line-up of Friday night shows? The Brady Bunch, The Partridge Family, Room 222, The Odd Couple and Love, American Style. Perfect, am I right? I could not wait until these shows came on!

My weekly anticipation didn’t end in the 70s. In college, my friends and I built our nights around watching Dallas and Hill Street Blues.

Anyone remember the obsession with Twin Peaks?

Then there was Cheers, Seinfeld, King of Queens.

But now? What do people do? They get the whole season, binge watch and then they’re done. I’m guilty of some binge watching. Why not watch the next episode if it’s queued up? I think something is lost.

The same thing can happen with reading. Such a rush to finish a book, get through a series. I’m guilty of that, too. In the old days, people read their fiction in weekly installments. Serialized fiction goes back to the 17th century (you can read all about its history here), when books were expensive and moveable type made it easy for publishers to print serials.

Now modern readers can get a taste of serial fiction with the Serial Reader app. Got 10 minutes? Read an “Issue” of a classic and eagerly await the next installment. I’m reading Little Women by Louisa May Alcott—how fun! And I feel no pressure, just anticipation.

Serial Reader is free for iOS and Androids and I heard about it from Lisa at Bookshelf Fantasies. Be sure to check out her blog for reviews and interesting book news.

What do you think about binge watching and binge reading? Have you tried Serial Reader?

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The moth as a symbol in The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

Image: Pixabay

If you read my review of The Moth Catcher yesterday, you will know that I wondered why the author included moth catching in the story because it didn’t seem relevant to the plot, other than to connect two of the murder victims. I asked that question today, at my library book club meeting, and was happy to learn that the moth may have been used as a symbol in the story.

We’ve all heard the phrase, “like a moth to a flame,” to describe blind attraction or devotion, but there is a lot more to moth symbolism. Among many others, moths represent intuition, vulnerability and concealment.

Maybe the author wanted to show how the killer was hiding in plain sight, or that the detectives were using intuition to find him, or even that the two murder victims, although they were interested in moth catching, were vulnerable to their killer. Studying moths is big in England, so perhaps the author just wanted to tie that interest into her story.

Who knows? I couldn’t find much out there about moth symbolism in The Moth Catcher, but I did find these interesting links:

Click here for Book Club Mom’s review of The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves.

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The Moth Catcher by Ann Cleeves

The Moth Catcher
Ann Cleeves


Genre:  English murder mystery

Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope and her team have little to go on when a house sitter with a PhD and a former teacher are murdered near the English Northumberland village of Gilswick. Are the murders connected and how?

Vera is a shrewd investigator, but the case is a puzzle. Why would Patrick Randle, fresh out of university, defer a research position and sign on as a house sitter? Who was Martin Benton and what happened when the two met? Detectives Joe Ashworth and Holly Clarke are at Vera’s command and they soon discover a possible connection: moth catching. This strange interest, shared by both men, may be the link.

There is much to understand, however, including the relationships between three retired couples who live down the lane. They call themselves the “retired hedonists” and seem to be good friends, but Vera senses an undercurrent. Other characters with shady or unknown histories make the mystery a challenge for readers who like to crack a case before the last page.

This is my first Ann Cleeves mystery, but fans will know the Vera Stanhope character well and may have watched Vera, the British television series, starring Brenda Blethyn. Cleeves has created a unique personality—Vera is middle-aged, overweight, controlling, a little obsessed, with a few regrets and buried insecurities. But she’s a genius detective who knows how to dig. She is often bossy with Joe and Holly, who have their own talents and a little personal baggage. Both Joe and Holly silently crave Vera’s respect and confidence, and hope for one of Vera’s rare nuggets of praise. I enjoyed this work dynamic and think it’s one of the book’s strongest elements.

I also enjoyed the author’s descriptions of homes, their interiors, and a sort of running commentary on what the gardens were like and whether or not they were weeded. Food and caffeine sources also get frequent mention, keeping the reader amused.

Cleeves’ characters struggle with many issues. For Vera, Joe and Holly, they question their career choices. The hedonists secretly wonder if retiring out in the country has given them enough to do with their days. Other themes include family, money, relationships and women’s roles.

Although Cleeves includes many interesting personalities and scenery, I was disappointed by the plot. I’m a “go along for the ride” mystery reader, so it didn’t bother me that the finish was difficult to predict, but the moth catching angle fell flat, especially the author’s reference to global warming. Moths became a small and irrelevant connection and I felt misled by the title.

Despite this gripe, I enjoyed The Moth Catcher and would recommend it to mystery readers who like strong personalities and entertaining commentary.

Are you a mystery reader? What do you like best about this genre?

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Do your dreams give you story ideas?

Image: Pixabay

Have you ever been inspired to write a story based on a dream you had? Was the dream so intense and were the details so vivid that when you woke up you just had to get the idea down on paper?

Yesterday morning, I woke up in a stressed out sweat, thinking about the near death experience I had in my dream, saved only because I had to get out of bed. First chance I got, I wrote it down and it spewed out on the paper. I hardly had to think. Who knows if it’s a good one or if it’s even original, but it felt good to get it out of me. I haven’t tried to analyze it or turn it into a story, any more than it already is:

Knowing nothing except to follow, I’m being led through a forest, holding some kind of rope or vine. I can’t see the person leading me, I can only feel the line’s pull. Then the forest suddenly darkens and starts to grow, fast. I see branches grow longer and leaves explode out of them, trees push up from the ground and their trunks grow wide and tall with astounding speed. And the brush becomes so shockingly thick that the space is too dense for me to go through, yet the person leading me keeps pulling hard on the line, as if he or she is having no trouble advancing, and leaves me no choice except to push myself through impossible openings that smother and scratch me. I worry that my leader has become impatient with me, so I push on. I’m paralyzed with fear when I realize that if the line slips through my hands, and I can feel it already doing so, I will be forever lost. I call to my leader, to slow down, that the growth is too thick for me to follow, but I get no encouragement or acknowledgement in return. My leader’s only answer is the yank of the line…

I was glad to wake up from that dream, but it stuck with me for most of the morning and made me think about famous stories that were inspired by dreams.

Here are 6, taken from #amreading.com. You can read the whole article, “6 Books That Were Inspired By Dreams,” here.

  1. Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
  2. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
  3. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  4. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  5. Stuart Little by E.B. White

Have you ever been inspired by a fitful dream?

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Grammar check – he/she? his/her? or they/their?

Image: Pixabay

Have you ever been stuck in an awkward sentence, not knowing which pronoun to use?  Do you feel forced to use the clunky “he/she” or “his/her” option when all you really want to do is replace it with a “they or their” and  move on?

Or have you ever read a sentence with a “they” or “their” that doesn’t match its antecedent? Did you bristle with grammarian know-it-all-ness?

Well guess what? The Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style now say it’s okay to use the plural, although they do recommend rewording when possible. Here’s what the Associated Press says in a March 2017 announcement:

During a panel at the American Copy Editors Society national conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Friday, it was announced that the 2017 AP Stylebook will include guidance on the limited use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun.

This new recommendation clears up a lot! Here are the details from The Definitive Source, an online AP post:

The addition is immediately available to AP Stylebook Online subscribers and will be included in the new print edition of the Stylebook when it is published on May 31. Key passages from the new entry include:

They, them, their — In most cases, a plural pronoun should agree in number with the antecedent: The children love the books their uncle gave them. They/them/their is acceptable in limited cases as a singular and-or gender-neutral pronoun, when alternative wording is overly awkward or clumsy. However, rewording usually is possible and always is preferable. Clarity is a top priority; gender-neutral use of a singular they is unfamiliar to many readers. We do not use other gender-neutral pronouns such as xe or ze…”

Arguments for using they/them as a singular sometimes arise with an indefinite pronoun (anyone, everyone, someone) or unspecified/unknown gender (a person, the victim, the winner)…

In stories about people who identify as neither male nor female or ask not to be referred to as he/she/him/her: Use the person’s name in place of a pronoun, or otherwise reword the sentence, whenever possible. If they/them/their use is essential, explain in the text that the person prefers a gender-neutral pronoun. Be sure that the phrasing does not imply more than one person…

The change isn’t just about grammar, it recognizes social change and the need to address gender association. AP Stylebook editor Paula Froke explains how this new rule helps:

Not all people fall under one of two categories for sex or gender, according to leading medical organizations, so avoid references to both, either or opposite sexes or genders as a way to encompass all people.

Image: Pixabay

I like to follow the grammar rules and these new ones give me clarity. And while this change was announced nearly a year ago, I only just learned about it. Guess I’d better subscribe to some grammar newsletters!

For everyone who wants to make sure they get it right (can you see I’m trying out the new rule…did I get it right?), here’s more info about the change:

March 24, 2017 announcement from the Associated Press:
“Making a case for a singular ‘they’”

March 27, 2017 post from the Columbia Journalism Review:
“Stylebooks finally embrace the single ‘they’”

Are you a strict grammarian? Is your conversational grammar different from your written word?

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On retirement and writing careers…

Fred Rohn shares a page from A Fortunate Life. Image: Christine Lee

Are you thinking of starting a writing career? Do you think it’s too late? It’s not! Many retired seniors are embarking on second and third careers as writers.

Last year I helped my father, Fred Rohn, publish his memoir, A Fortunate Life. Now 91, he retired from busy careers in public accounting and venture capital investing and began his third career as a full-time writer.

We got our feet wet with A Fortunate Life and are ready to submit a manuscript for a new book, this one a collection of short fiction. It’s called Encounters and depicts conflict in the human relationship. In some stories, the conflict is resolved. In others, the characters move on. His stories show how individual perceptions can drive relationships in either direction. Encounters will be published this spring.

My father has done his job, now it’s my turn to edit, proofread and handle the details, including marketing and promotion. Meanwhile, he is busy with a new book idea. He describes his next book in this recent interview with the Madison Eagle.

Now I’ve started a book on aging and how aging seniors, particularly those who are 85 or older, relate to society as they have to confront and meet it today and how they would hope that people would react to them…

Video by Christine Lee


You can watch the entire interview here, proof that it’s never too late to embark on a writing career!

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Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean – Brett Archibald

Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean
Brett Archibald

Rating:  3.5 stars

In April 2013, Brett Archibald, a 50-year-old South African businessman, was on a surf charter boat off the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia. It was the middle of the night and the seas were storming. Archibald had food poisoning and went on deck to be sick. He lost his footing, fell off the boat and no one saw. He spent nearly 29 hours in the Indian Ocean before a miracle happened. That miracle was Tony “Doris” Eltherington, captain of an Australian charter, and a seafaring legend, who acted on a hunch and found Archibald bobbing in the vast expanse.

How Archibald survived, how his friends and Eltherington’s boat and crew persisted, and how his wife and family never gave up believing he would survive is chronicled in Alone – Lost Overboard in the Indian Ocean. Already weak from dehydration, Archibald fought off raging seas, a shark attack, dive-bombing seagulls, stinging jellyfish and man of wars. He kept his wits about him by counting strokes, naming books in his library and singing songs from his iPod playlists. Despite these efforts, he was often overwhelmed by hopelessness. In addition, he was fooled by hallucinations. When he looked to the sky and saw a wooden cross, he was sure it was another trick of the mind. That cross was the mast of Eltherington’s boat, coming to get him.

The book is written from three points of view:  Archibald, his friends and other rescue boats, and his wife and family. While there were some who thought it was unlikely Archibald could survive, those who knew him believed he would. An intense personality and competitor, always pushing himself, Archibald was better off than most, despite the odds against him. From the moment he was rescued he was coherent and surprisingly strong. I was skeptical of this part of the story until I watched several live videos of his rescue. To see what I mean, check out the links at the bottom of the post. The euphoria after his rescue is contagious, Archibald is ridiculously upbeat, making you believe he had all the right stuff to get him through what would have been certain death for most.

Survival stories are hard to resist and this is an incredible one. I enjoyed learning the details of his hour-by-hour story. While lost in the ocean, Archibald reflected on his life mistakes and failed relationships and faced the grim possibility that he would never see his wife and young children again. It’s no surprise that he came out of the ordeal a changed man and the phrase “life is short” doesn’t seem nearly as trite.

My one disappointment is in how the book is presented. The cover and title and Archibald’s first person account made me think he had written the book, but the account is in fact written by an unnamed author. This fact is buried in the “Three Years Later” chapter at the end of the book.

In addition, readers are well-advised to give up trying to remember the hundreds of names provided, which tends to bog down the flow of the story.

All in all, however, an engrossing read that results in a happy, feel-good moment.

Check out these video links and see for yourself:

Today Show video about Brett Archibald’s rescue

60 Minutes “Miracle at Sea”

I fell off a white water raft once and got lodged underneath. But my friends pulled me back in within a minute. Doesn’t compare, but I was pretty scared! Have you ever had a close call at sea?

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Book Talk – Prairie Fires – The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Reblogging – typo in the title – eek!

Book Club Mom

Welcome to a new and occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of new books that catch my eye.

I was lucky enough to get this book from our family grab bag on Christmas. Thanks to my sister for having me in mind when she bought it!

Prairie Firesis a new biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Published in November 2017, it’s written by Caroline Fraser, who is the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series.  Here’s a brief description from the book jacket:

“Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls – the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been…

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Book Talk – Prairie Fires – The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser

Welcome to a new and occasional feature on Book Club Mom called Book Talk, home to quick previews of new books that catch my eye.

I was lucky enough to get this book from our family grab bag on Christmas. Thanks to my sister for having me in mind when she bought it!

Prairie Fires is a new biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of the Little House on the Prairie books. Published in November 2017, it’s written by Caroline Fraser, who is the editor of the Library of America edition of the Little House series.  Here’s a brief description from the book jacket:

“Millions of readers of Little House on the Prairie believe they know Laura Ingalls – the pioneer girl who survived blizzards and near-starvation on the Great Plains and the woman who wrote the famous autobiographical books. But the true saga of her life has never been fully told. Now, drawing on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries, and land and financial record, Caroline Fraser masterfully fills in the gaps in Wilder’s biography. Revealing the grown-up story behind the most influential childhood epic of pioneer life, she also chronicles Wilder’s tumultuous relationship with her journalist daughter, Rose Wilder Lane, setting the record straight regarding charges of ghostwriting that have swirled around the books.”

I always wondered about Rose Wilder and what her real story was so I’m looking forward to the hard facts about this relationship. The book includes some terrific photographs, early days and later, with details that will no doubt remind readers of stories about the Ingalls family.

I’m a big fan of stories about pioneer times and the Little House book series, having read the books to our son when he was little. I’m hoping for a long winter so I can get into this book soon!

Click here for more information about the Little House series.

Are you a fan of the Little House book series? Did you grow up watching the show on TV?

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Blog views and other obsessions – the early days

Source: brainsonfire.com

I barely knew what a blog was when I first started blogging. I had no concept of what good content was and what may be uh, a little boring. So I stumbled through some awkward posts and tried to find my rhythm. For a while, I thought I had to say something, all the time, which led to some embarrassing fluff.

So in the spirit of sharing the bad with the good, here are a few of my more clueless and cringe-worthy posts, taken from my first year of blogging:

The Idiot:  thought-provoking with an excellent plot – 8/20/13 – Not sure why I thought I could analyze a book by Dostoyevsky in 262 words or why I didn’t mention the author in my post title. I wonder if Dostoyevsky would be pleased that I thought he was good at plots?

I’m looking for answers! – 1/27/14 –  If you dare click on this one, shield your eyes from some very large type. I think I was looking for attention, not answers!

How to make “Dirt” for 30 hungry lacrosse players – 3/25/14 – I don’t remember thinking I would turn my blog into a recipe how-to, but here it is. Fortunately it was a one and done. The recipe’s a good one though!

I often think about removing these posts, but looking back on them reminds me that for all bloggers, finding your way in the blogging world is a gradual process and it never stops. Your blog is always evolving, so go with that flow, move on from the less popular posts and trust your new ideas!

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