Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Beachy Keen Vacation

This was definitely NOT the year to spend a week down in Kiawah Island, SC. We had too much to do, too many scheduling conflicts, and I was too stressed out.

However, my son said, "Hey, it's a tradition. It's our last time together before I start school, and I promised my friends." The passion in his voice made my husband and me re-think. After all, what use is a family tradition if you drop it when it's inconvenient? Besides, if we drove down to SC, we could keep going and drive to my mother's memorial service in Stuart FL, then drop Michael off at college.

I'm so glad we came. At first I was so sad and lethargic. I had to force myself to walk the beach every day. But I found solace as I lost myself in books. I read:

1. South of Broad by Pat Conroy--Conroy went to the Citadel at the same time as my son's godfather, Maurice Fox. This book is billed as Conroy's love song to Charleston, and man, he nails it. He manages to capture all the city's social aspects, as well as some of the lyrical beauty of the area. Of course, the language is equisite. Conroy is a god. I'd love to find out what his writing process is--the density of his language leaves me stunned. I finish a line feeling totally inadequate as an author. So, I think I'll take a pen to this book and try to tease out some idea of how he does it.

2. Long Lost by Harlan Coben--An independent mystery bookseller introduced me to Myron Bolitar years ago. Since then, Coben has become a big name with his breakout novels. Here, he revisits Myron, and you can see how he brings what he's learned writing thrillers to his series.

3. The Long Quiche Goodbye by Avery Aames--This is an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) of a darling new cozy by a friend of mine. The characters are charming, and since it's about a cheese shop, I ate WAY too much cheese while reading it. If you love cozies, I promise you'll want a second and third helping of this new series.

4. Everything Matters! by Ron Currie, Jr. -- An independent bookseller (Nikki from Pudd'nhead Books in Webster Groves MO) suggested this. At first, I hesitated. I have mixed feelings about anything sci-fi. But I loved it. The central premise is summed up neatly here: "Everything ends, and Everything matters. Everything matters not in spite of the end of you and all that you love, but because of it." This was the right life message for me as I ponder my mother's passing.

5. Nightshade and Night Smoke by Nora Roberts--Books Three and Four of the thrilling class Night Tales series. These were left in the rental condo, and I'm glad. Nora Roberts is a genius. Reading two books back to back reminded me of the importance of self-discipline as a writer. I really need to outline a couple of her books. She moves the plot along so swiftly. And I need to study how she makes her characters so instantly sympathetic.

6. Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen--I always intended to read this series, but it escaped me. I'm so glad I started with the first one, because I loved this. The Brit-speak brought back fond memories of our time in the UK.

7. The Fire Kimono by Laura Joh Rowland--The 13th in this outstanding series and I've read them all. I love the characters and the setting. This plot was her most complex and compelling to date.

Now I'm reading The Other Queen by Philippa Gregory. She's a genius for finding a new slant on a well-known historical figure. This one's about Mary, Queen of Scots. Wow, does she come alive on the page!

I'm halfway through, so I'll need to buy another book--or two or three--for the trip home. Oh, and I'm listening to Twilight on CDs, too.

It's been a great vacation, and I'm feeling much restored.

What makes a great vacation for you?


Camille Minichino said...

I'm glad to hear you're managing your stress, Joanna. Thanks for keeping us on your mind and sharing your life.

Terri Thayer said...

Books, beach, time. A walk now and again. Sounds like the perfect vacation to me. It certainly sounded like the right one for you. Glad you caught a break.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Thanks, Sisters!

Betty Hechtman said...

Your vacation sounds like the break you needed. I'm with Terri - it does sound like a perfect way to spend your time.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're doing well, Joanna! And don't shy from reading sci-fi. Some of the best mysteries I've read, I've found on the science fiction shelf.

- Joe