From “Beezus and Ramona” by Beverly Cleary to “Fall of Poppies” by various authors.
This is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain. The rules are:
- Link the books together in any way you like.
- Provide a link in your post to the meme at Books are My Favourite and Best.
- Share these rules in your post.
- Paste the link to your post in the comments on Kate’s post and/or the Linky Tool on that post.
- Invite your blog readers to join in and paste their links in the comments and/or the Linky Tool.
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THANKS FOR PLAYING!
This month we start with “Beezus and Ramona” by Beverly Cleary!
This month (May 1, 2021), the chain begins with Beezus and Ramona by the recently departed, Beverly Cleary. My apologies in advance because I seem to be one of the few people on the planet who never read any of her books, and to be totally honest, I never even heard of her before she died! Now, I’m not going to go out and read a children’s book just for this meme, but I promise that if I ever have grandchildren, I’ll keep her books in mind (and maybe my sister’s grandchildren might like these books, so I could recommend them to her). For good order’s sake, the blurb for this book is: “Having a little sister like four-year-old Ramona isn’t always easy for Beezus Quimby. With a wild imagination, disregard for order, and an appetite for chaos, Ramona makes it hard for Beezus to be the responsible older sister she knows she ought to be…especially when Ramona threatens to ruin Beezus’s birthday party. Will Beezus find the patience to handle her little sister before Ramona turns her big day into a complete disaster?” Hm… my sister has only grandsons. Maybe this one isn’t the best choice for any of them. Oh well… I’m sure she has others with male protagonists (doesn’t she?).
Since I don’t read children’s books these days, and I’ve only reviewed like… one, I think my next link should go to an author that I didn’t read before they died. That brings me immediately to the late, great Phillip Roth and his collection of short stories “Goodbye, Columbus.” Obviously, I had heard of Roth before he died, I just never read anything by him, although I have seen movies and TV series based on his books. What struck me about these stories (aside from the obvious misogyny that we can only see in hindsight) is how well they aged, since most of them have evergreen themes. However, with all due respect to Roth, and the quality of these stories, I don’t think I’ll be picking up another one of his books soon. (Despite this, I own a copy of The Plot Against America, but after watching the TV series, I think I might give it away – it is more of a “watch, don’t read” type of story for me.)
Keeping with the short stories, here’s another author I came late to, Alice Munro. Thankfully, she’s still alive (and I wish her a very long life), I only read her short stories after she one the Nobel Prize for Literature. The book I read was a collection called “Vintage Munro” which included mostly stories she’d written earlier in her career, as well as one fairly new one (In Sight of the Lake, from Dear Life). Although I thought all of the stories were really beautiful, I think this wasn’t the best compilation because they seemed to be, well… short-sighted, with most of the stories spanning only 1985-2001. It seems to me that for such an acclaimed writer who has been publishing stories since 1950, the publishers could have been a touch more creative and more comprehensive. I would have preferred they had given us at least one story from each decade. So although this particular collection wasn’t all that great, I can’t discount her talent, and I certainly want to read more Munro.
Staying with collections of short stories, the next one that comes to mind is the first collection of stories I ever reviewed on my blog, which was posted just shortly after Munro won her Nobel Prize. That would be “Going Out in Style” by Daniel Kelly. This collection of tales all deal with endings – and not necessarily the final one, that being death. I appreciated how Kelly brought in different elements of the theme, and mixed in some musical references as well as literary ones. Kelly’s collection is so sadly overlooked, I’m glad I have this chance to highlight it here. By the way, my review was (I believe) the first time I said that “a carefully crafted short story is truly a thing of beauty” and I have repeated it many times since – both as praise for other writers and as an admonition to those who are less successful with the format.
Going from a short story collection by an overlooked author, to a short story collection about people who are overlooked takes me to “Almost Famous Women” by Megan Mayhew Bergman. As Bergman herself says in the introduction, the “stories in this collection are born of fascination with real women whose remarkable lives were reduced to footnotes.” She also says that she’s “fascinated by risk taking and the way people orbit fame.” What I loved about these stories was how some of these women get so close to truly well-known famous people, but never step into the limelight themselves. Some of them are frustrated by this distance, but others seem to preferred to have been left in the shadows. By the way, for an author who says she’s not totally comfortable writing historical fiction, she sure did a stellar job with these!
Speaking of women who were almost famous in history, brings me directly to another short story collection, but this one by various authors. I’m speaking about “Ribbons of Scarlet,” which is a collection about the women who were mostly, if not completely, behind the scenes of the French Revolution. The contributors to this collection were Stephanie Dray, Laura Kamoie, E. Knight, Sophie Perinot, Kate Quinn, and Heather Webb. What made this special was that each of the stories slightly overlapped the others, thereby almost turning it into a collaborative novel. My regular readers know that I just read my first book by Dray, and that I’m already quite a fan of Quinn and Webb. I think I’ll need to check out Kamoie, Knight, and Perinot now!
“Ribbons of Scarlet” wasn’t the first collection of short stories by various authors that I read and reviewed. That would be “Fall of Poppies,” which has one common contributor – Heather Webb! The other authors are, Jessica Brockmole, Hazel Gaynor, Evangeline Holland, Kate Kerrigan, Jennifer Robson, Marci Jefferson, Beatriz Williams, and Lauren Willig. While these stories don’t combine into a type of novel, in one way or another, they all have to do with November 11, 1918 – the day that the Great War (aka World War I) ended. Also, while this book is also about and by women, it is also about love and friendship in the face of adversity, where some of these women were involved in the war, and others just had loved ones in the conflict. Here too there are a few authors I am still unfamiliar with and need to catch up with, since I truly loved each of the stories in this collection.
There you have it – my chain of books for this month. So… the question is, does this last book connect in any way back to our starting novel?
Well, Cleary’s books are short, since they’re for children, but other than that… nope. She just led me to a short story collection spree!
If you don’t know any of these books, I hope you’ll click on the links to my reviews and check them out!
If you decide to join in on this meme, I hope you’ll give me the link to your post in the comments below, and/or put your link on the linky page that Kate has on her blog for this meme.
Next month (June 5, 2021), we will start with The Bass Rock by Evie Wyld (yeah, finally another one I’ve read and reviewed)!