I started my February reading adventures with All the Salt in the Sea by Tammy Harrow. Tammy does not hold back and amid beautiful settings she makes readers feel betrayal, love, heartbreak, regret, sorrow, terror, and satisfaction. I loved this one!
Though the book opens with a despondent Abby West riding a bus on the way to Positano, Italy, certain events have already happened. Abby had once dreamed of being a doctor, but when she gets pregnant during medical school, she reluctantly leaves that dream behind to marry a well-connected physician. They’ve been married for nineteen years when he tells her about his eight-year-old son from an affair. The kicker is that he wants her to raise the boy. As any sane woman would, Abby flees St. Augustine, Florida, for Positano, her grandmother’s hometown.
There she meets Daniel Quinn, photographer and former American soldier with PTSD, who she immediately connects with. He invites her to travel across Europe with him, and they fall in love. But in the midst of their love affair, Abby thinks she smells her husband’s cigars and and even thinks she sees him, but she convinces herself that’s impossible. Empowered by the freedom and confidence she’s felt with Daniel, she flies back to St. Augustine to settle things with her controlling, unpredictable husband. What happens when she goes back home blew my mind! One part even made me want to close my eyes, but…I was reading. Highly recommend this one!
For my next book, I chose Verity by Colleen Hoover. I had heard that Hoover was a wonderful romance writer, and I love romance. This book was NOT a romance. It was a twisty, uncomfortable sojourn with Verity Crawford, a successful author and a manipulative psychopath. However, despite being skeeved out while I read this book, I could not put it down.
The opening scene set the stage for how disturbing the book is. It starts when Lowen Ashleigh, a young writer, is walking to a meeting with her agent in New York City. As she’s about to cross a street, a man in front of her steps into the path of a vehicle. The resulting accident leaves her splattered in blood. Another man sees what happened and asks her if she’s okay. He turns out to be Jeremy Crawford, Verity’s husband, who is on his way to the same meeting!
Jeremy’s wife, Verity, once a bestselling author, is bedridden and doesn’t communicate after a bad car accident. Jeremy asks Lowen to accept the job of finishing the last three books in Verity’s bestselling series, which are all written from the villain’s point of view. After she accepts, she must read Verity’s research and her books to figure out how to write them, so she accepts Jeremy’s offer of staying at his house where Verity and his son also live.
Things get very strange after that, creepy and frightening. The reader learns Verity’s story through her latest manuscript that Lowen finds and reads. Through it she learns about Verity, her relationship with Jeremy, the deaths of their twin girls, and her about the car accident that nearly takes Verity’s life. The last scene of the book is perhaps the most mind-bending of all and left me with lots of questions. Hoover is a powerhouse and has fans galore who call themselves Cohorts, and they are legion. I can see why. Although this book was not my usual fare, I couldn’t stop reading it.
Have you had enough of the pandemic? I certainly have, but I was too curious about Kimmery Martin‘s latest and third book called Doctors and Friends to stay away, even though it concerns an imaginary pandemic. Curiously enough, Martin, who is also a ER doctor, began writing this book well before the spicy cough reached our shores. Despite that, as I read, I still saw some parallels to our own struggles through the last two years.
The book is told through the voices of three narrators, who have known each other since medical school. Kira Marchand is an infectious disease doctor who finds herself on the front lines of the disease and must eventually decide which of her children she will save with an experimental drug. (I’m so glad she did what she did! <3) Compton Winfield, a New York City ER doc, suffers a personal loss from the disease that nearly breaks her, while Hannah Geier, an ob-gyn in San Diego, struggles to get pregnant and finally succeeds just when San Diego is overwhelmed with the disease.
The first readers hear of the virus is when Kira gets a phone call from her colleague at the CDC telling her that a man on a ferry between Africa and Spain has died from a possibly novel virus, but nothing has been confirmed. Kira and her friends have planned their yearly get-together with the group of women from medical school to Spain and north Africa. While they’re on the same type of ferry traveling to where they try to help a woman who is dying. They don’t know it is from the virus, but they suspect it is. From that point forward, there is a tense energy I recognize from our own dealings during the pandemic. Martin shows how these women battle to save their patients, their families, and the world from the ravages of the disease, but she also shows with great sympathy and wit how these women are connected, how they suffer, what they lose, and how they make it through the years of their pandemic.
Martin is a wordsmith and a master of dialogue. She made me laugh, empathize, and cry with Kira, Compton, and Hannah. I loved the settings, the realistic friendship between these women, the depictions of the now ubiquitous Zoom meetings, the characters, especially Kira’s little boy Beau, and the ending which is realistic and poignant and satisfying. Highly recommend this one!
Last but not least, I read a writing craft book by Jennie Nash called Blueprint for a Book. I read this during all of February so that I could apply the lessons Jennie teaches throughout the book to my newest project. She is a book coach, who helps writers write novels and nonfiction books. I’ve watched her teach classes on the Inside Outline, which is covered in this book, but I’ve struggled with the concept. In theory, the Inside Outline helps writers visualize not only the plot of a book they’re writing, but it also helps them figure out the main character’s arc of change. If you read Eat the Frog, you know I struggle with my protagonist’s arc.
As I read, I took notes. I liked the incremental process of applying Jennie’s lessons, starting out with why I wanted to write this book, what my point for the book is, coming up with possible titles, the genre of my book, who my perfect reader will be, writing jacket copy, and so on. I breezed through most of that, but once again, I got stuck on the Inside Outline. I’m still figuring out the plot because I’m a pantser trying to be a plotter. What I like the most is that Ill only have to go back and look at my outline to know where and what to fix this time rather than having an entire book to wade through to find my problems.
Overall, I think Blueprint for a Book is a great resource, especially if you’re trying to write a book in a timely way. I think I may use this and overlap my inside outline with with the beats from Save the Cat Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody. That should help me figure out in more detail how to push forward as I write.
Overall, I was surprised that I read four books this month. that’s nine so far this year. I’m just about to start a book called The Barbizon: The Hotel that Set Women Free by Paulina Bren. What have you read lately that you couldn’t put down?