Posts Tagged ‘Jeannie Watt’

Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I like to write book reviews. These aren’t reviews in a traditional sense because I’m not a professional book reviewer. You might say they are, well, weird. Some of my acquaintances have said so anyway.

Take the one I wrote about a Nicholas Sparks book titled The True Believer. The book is about a guy who exposes so-called supernatural hoaxes. He travels to a small town to check on some mysterious lights and falls in love with the town librarian.

I thought this was a rather novel theme, something like Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man who travels to a small town in Iowa for the express purpose of conning the whole town into buying 76 trombones and falls in love with Marion the Librarian.

Only, and this is an important only, Sparks’ protagonist was a guy from New York dressed all in black with a sissy name. Would any self-respecting librarian, the most beautiful girl in the county, ever, under any circumstances in real life, fall in love with someone named Jeremy Marsh?

Not on your tinny tin tin, girlie girl, I thought.

But I was wrong. No more than two days passed before the librarian and Jeremy were in a secluded cabin on a secluded beach engaged in a steamy make-out session which, in the 21st Century, passes for romance and never ending love.

This is where I learned, too, that a handsome dude from afar will draw women like flies even if he were named Shirley. It’s also when it dawned on me that a man can have the manliest of names, the most stable of names, a name signifying respect, strength, and status, a name like, say, Robert, and he will never be able to con a beautiful librarian into a secluded cabin anywhere in the universe if he looks like Curly, Larry, or Moe.

These are important life’s lessons. If you just don’t have it, pal, your only tactic may be the Pity Ploy. I had a friend in high school that actually looked so pitiable that every woman in town was convinced that she and only she had the sheer animal magnetism to cheer him up. This guy was elated more times than anyone can remember.

Somehow, as I read True Believer, I had the feeling that Jeremy Marsh gave off pity signals and Beautiful Small Town Librarian Lexie’s tender heart went out to him.

That’s when I decided to offer Nicholas Sparks some advice on developing manly male characters. I thus created from scratch an original plot about a cowboy who doubled as a deputy sheriff. At the end of the story, he has to choose between his horse and the beautiful ranch maiden.

As the sun sinks slowly in the West, our hero tips his hat to the lovely maiden and rides slowly away on his faithful horse Jeremy. Now that, by God, is a Western romance story.

Seriously, though, I like the books of Nicholas Sparks. I’ve probably read most of them, and although I wrote a semi-satirical look at True Believer, I liked the book.  He does a good deal of research for his writings and, aside from the rather tortured and problematic romance he injects into them, he writes like an investigator in this case of supernatural phenomena. He knows the subject matter and that is quite a feat for a writer who isn’t an expert in the field.

On the other hand, I am familiar with the writings of an author who writes from experience. She lives a somewhat isolated life in Nevada’s Cowboy Country, and when she writes about ranch life, she knows what she is talking about. How would I know this? When a writer talks about feeding horses with hay flakes, any country boy or girl can tell you, she knows hay and she knows horses.

Her name is Jeannie Watt and she writes Harlequin Super Romances. Ordinarily, I am not a reader of romances but I was drawn to her writings when I stumbled across one of her books on the bottom shelf of a book rack in a Safeway store in the center of Oahu in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Since then, I’ve read all of her books and reviewed most of them on Amazon.

Which brings up one of the guiding principles behind all of my book reviews: I only review books that I like and which I can write about positively. An author works hard to write a publishable book. I can’t write a book because I have the attention span of a gnat. Even writing this essay tasks me.

I thus simply refuse to write a negative review. Book reviews are, after all, merely the opinion of the reviewer. And opinions vary. Let the pros pan a book. I respect an author’s hard work. Who am I to diminish that effort?

Okay, that’s pretty much all of my thoughts on writing a book review. If you want to write one but have hesitated, put aside your reluctance and just do it.

Note: This is a rather unfocused essay that wanders a little bit. But that’s just my style. Maybe one of these I’ll produce a coherent piece worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. ‘Til then, grin and bear it.


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Around this time of the year, I begin to think about the blogs that I read regularly and boil them down to a select group that I call My 10 Favorite Blogs. Except this year, try as hard as I could, I’ve only been able to come up with My 5 Favorite Blogs. How come? When I began blogging  a couple of years ago, the blogosphere was overloaded with blogs, and for some reason, I seemed to like all of them, or many of them anyway. Everything was so new. What a relief from the sterile reporting and analysis of the mainstream media. Picking my favorite ten was easy then. Almost everything I read was at the top of my daily reading list. As a last resort, when the time rolled around for my Top 10 list, I arranged them alphabetically and lopped off all of those below the first ten. Mechanical but functional.

This year my selection process isn’t going along as smoothly as it used to. I’m puzzled. Has the number of blogs decreased? I don’t think so. In the Bay area alone, there must be several hundred, maybe a thousand. If you don’t believe me, check out CBS5’s Eye on Blogs, the brainchild of Britney Gilbert. She’s compiled a list of Bay Area Blogs complete with links to each of them. Quite an accomplishment.

What about quality? In my judgment, the blogs I check regularly are well-written, topical, and timely. So, there must be another variable to explain my difficulty in selecting ten blogs that I like above all others.

After thinking about it for a minute or two, I’ve concluded that the problem is me. Over time, my interests have shifted. For one thing, I’m not into politics the way I used to be. Maybe I need another election or a scandal to pump me up. Nah. Scandals are so commonplace these days, they’re kind of like clouds of gnats circling around my ears.

I think my declining interest in politics began when I started blogging on Open Salon. The variety of topics and styles of writing that I encountered there led me to think about wider more varied fields of interest as topics for my own blog.

And that’s how it stands at the moment. I have found writers and bloggers beyond my original boundaries. And from my newly-found peers, I’ve compiled my list of a very few favorites, writers who rise above the crowd. Here they are.

·       The Ax Files heads my list this year. I stumbled across the author a long time ago and was struck by her originality. Her name is Alexandra Jones, and she has a captivating way with words combined with a facility in observation and interpretation that can lead you to think you are there with her if you let your imagination go. You won’t be disappointed if you check out her essays.

·       The Renaissance Lady is a prolific author and the repository of a volume of information equal to that in many libraries. I became aware of her blog on Open Saloon and quickly added her to my Favorites list. Her interests are eclectic, ranging from politics to a casita inhabited by spirits in New Mexico.  She writes fascinating material with originality and passion.

·       The Fog City Journal is an online newspaper rather than a blog, but if it were a blog, it would rate with the best. Publisher Luke Thomas is a world class photographer who captures a variety of activities in San Francisco that he uses to good effect throughout the publication. Add to that a stable of top writers and analysts and you have an A-One site.

·       CBS5 Eye on Blogs isn’t, strictly speaking, a blog but a compendium of Bay Area blogs with commentaries by the site’s mastermind, Britney Gilbert. She’s a product of Tennessee where she operated a similar site for a television station in Nashville. Luckily, her talents caught the eye of someone at CBS5 and now she applies her talents to Baghdad by the Bay, as Herb Caen called it. Good for Ess Fff.

·       Jeannie Watt’s Blog on eHarlequin is my latest favorite. Jeannie is a writer of romance novels set in the modern West, primarily Nevada. A product of Nevada’s Cowboy Country, she writes about cowboys most of the time, but she has touched on the ordinary people of small town Nevada in a few of her novels with marked success. I am including Jeannie Watt in my list for a special reason. I have never been a reader of romance stories. I stumbled across one of her books in the bottom row of a book rack in a supermarket one day, thinking it was a story about cowboys. And it was. But it also was woven around a hot romance between a cowpoke and a teacher, which made for a charming story. Jeannie’s descriptions of ranch and cowboy life were so realistic that I became enthralled with her writings. In her blog, she talks about her own life in a small ranching community as well as about the business of writing. She has many fascinating things to say and that’s why she’s the only writer of romances whose works I read.

Okay, that’s my truncated list of favorite blogs for this year. I’m publishing the list well before the New Year because I’ll be on an extended vacation shortly and won’t return until sometime in 2010.  I’ll undoubtedly be enjoying my family more than I enjoy blogging.

But, I’ll be back.

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I was browsing Faceboook a few days ago when I ran across another one of those peculiar Facebook exercises apparently designed to expose the pathetically low level of sophistication of Americans to the world.

This one was titled 15 Books, and you’re supposed to name 15 books you’ve read that will always stick with you. And your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to compile your list in 15 minutes.

In my case, the time limit is ridiculous, of course, I’ve already been working on it for two days and this is the pathetic result, along with an equally pathetic comment or two about each book.

1. White Fang, Jack London. Tenth grade. The first book I ever read from cover to cover.

2. Call of the Wild, London. Eleventh grade. The second one I read in full.

3. Count of Monte Cristo, Classic Comics Version, Artist Unknown. A copy of this was available on EBay not too long ago for a few hundred dollars.

4. A People’s History of the U.S., Howard Zinn. One of my favorite books. I especialy like the part where Zinn details the attitudes of America’s rich during the Civil War. In those days, a rich “draftee” could pay a substitute to take his place as a soldier. A high class founder of the Mellon fortune wrote to his son encouraging him to pay a sub: “There are other lives less worthy.”

5. Sundown Towns, James Loewen. Another favorite. It’s about towns that did not permit blacks within the town limits after dark. You may be surprised to find your home town listed and described in the book. There were sundown towns in every state.

6. From Here to Eternity, James Jones. One of those novels of military life that drips masculinity and appeals to testosterone-laden young men.

7. The Power Elite, C. Wright Mills. I don’t know why this title stuck with me.

8. A Difficult Woman, Jeannie Watt. A Western romance set in modern Nevada. For some reason I can’t explain, I like the story and Watt’s treatment.

9. Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell. Loaded with suggestive language that appealed to budding adolescent sexuality.

10. American Indian Law, Anderson and others. I was interested in this subject for awhile,

11. Catch 22, Joseph Heller. Another story of men in war. This one was a sort of macabre treatment of a rather twisted cast of characters.

12. True Believer, Nicholas Sparks. The first Sparks’ book I ever read. I wrote a satirical review of it in three parts.

13. Topographic Atlas of Nevada, Author unknown to me. I love maps and always have.

14. Stars in Khaki, James E. Wise. A nostalgic look silver screen stars and actors who actually served in the Army or Air Forces rather than just portraying fighting men on the screen. I plan to write a book review of this one.

15. Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck. The classic tale of the Joads who traveled from the Dust Bowl to California in search of jobs and a new life only to be met with hostility and ultimately death.

When I looked over this list, I had to ask myself one question: If I had my life to live over again, would I read the same books?

Yes, I think I would. I’m still a rather low-level thinker.

Now, I challenge everyone to outdo me in the unsophisticated approach to literature. Bet you can’t score below me on Facebook’s ignorance test.

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Last year, I created my first brown-nosing list of my favorite bloggers. Well, it worked like a charm. A whole bunch of famous people wrote back with kudos galore. They were just being polite, of course, but insincere compliments are better than no compliments at all. Right? Right.

I still love the bloggers on last year’s list, but this year I’ve found a few new ones that enthrall me. In no particular order of preference, here they are.

Sin mordasas is a politically-oriented site in Spanish. The author is Ivonne Acosta Lespier, a noted Puerto Rican author and radio personality. A Facebook Friend recommended the site to me and I found it to be entertaining and informative with a political outlook roughly akin to mine. That the site is in Spanish may not appeal to all, but in my case, I overcame my linguistic shortcomings to some degree by using Google’s Translate tool. Yes, subtle meanings are often lost in translation, but it is nevertheless possible to understand a little bit about the politics of Puerto Rico, which is better than none.

The title Boricua en la Luna may be misleading since the site is in English. The author is a daughter of Ivonne Lespier. A professor of English at a university in Ohio, the author’s writings represent a wonderful look at the feelings and experiences of someone from Puerto Rico living in the middle of the U.S. Heartland. But more, she illustrates her writings with fantastic pictures of rural Ohio taken by her and her husband on their regular motorcycle jaunts. Spectacular!

On a lighter side, bordering on a part of me people rarely see, I stumbled across a site titled Love is an Exploding Cigar. This is a site that consists of comments by a group of seven authors of romance novels (I warned you about my quirk). The main thing that struck me about these women is the very ordinary, everyday, mundane (redundant?) lives they lead. Most of them have full time jobs and write when they have time. Yet, they produce a steady output of top-selling romantic fiction. I ran across this site after I read a novel by Jeannie Watt, one of Cigar’s authors, who, so far, has specialized in modern Western romances set primarily in Nevada’s Cowboy Country, a vast tract of emptiness populated mostly by cows, where Jeannie lives.

The Ax Files, authored by Alexandra Jones, is on the SF Bulldog site as well as on Open Salon. She is a captivating wordsmith already well known in the Bay Area who is now spreading her wings to a national audience with her recent, well-received debut on Open Salon. Check her out. I am sure you will like her. Lately, she has been chronicling her travels and has expressed a wish to travel more and record her impressions. At last word, she was on an Amtrak train out of Chicago bound for SF.

Give Peace a Chance is a site authored by Roseann Allen Mathews of Little Rock. She has a kidney ailment and is searching for a kidney donor. Several potential donors are being tested now, and it’s my fervent wish that the quality of her life improves measurably. On her site, she shares her experiences and her views on a variety of matters, including politics. When I found this site, I thought it amazing that anyone with a liberal political outlook lived in Arkansas. Happily, I was badly mistaken. The state isn’t quite as far to the right as I imagined.

In the first paragraph, I mentioned my last year’s list and included a link to it. All of the sites I mentioned are still on my preferred reading list. But a few need updating.

Sweet Melissa was a relative newcomer a year or so ago. Now, she’s at the pinnacle of political blogging in the Bay Area. She still maintains her Sweet Melissa site, but she is now syndicated in the San Francisco Examiner and the San Francisco Bay Guardian. But wait. There’s more. She participates regularly on talk radio programs and appears on television. She will go further one of these days.

Last year, I predicted that Beth Spotswood would someday become The World’s Most Famous Softhearted Blogger-Philosopher. I’m sticking with my prediction and expanding it. She will become The World’s Most Courageous Softhearted Blogger-Philosopher. Read her I’ll Flip You. Flip You for Real for her own personal account of her recent life. I am sure you will agree with me that she is a courageous woman indeed.

SF Willie is an outstanding philosopher-blogger whose insightful writings have remained at the highest level over the past year. I fully expect a continuation of his excellence. One thing to be careful about if you read SF Willie, he has more facts stored upstairs than an encyclopedia. Challenge him on a fact, and you will have dealt yourself a losing hand. Fold ’em before you watch all of your chips disappear.

The Fog City Journal remains my news outlet of choice for the in-depth analysis of political issues. Fog has a stable of outstanding writer and contributors, and their stories and analyses are often illustrated by the world-class photography of honcho Luke Thomas. One of the Fog’s top journalists is Elaine Santore, who writes the Crackberry Chronicles, a regular column about goings on among San Francisco’s political elite and City Hall denizens. She also authors occasional special features, and I would hope to see more of the latter in the coming year.

The CBS 5 Eye on Blogs site may technically be described as a blog accumulator rather than a blog. But a rose by any other name would smell as sweet. This is the go-to site for as complete a list of Bay Area blogs as you will find this side of Quadrant Four in the Galaxy M-40. But better yet, the site’s creator, Britney Gilbert, a transplanted Tennessean, selects the best of the comments from her list of indexed bloggers each day and summarizes them in her own captivating style. A serious blogger should check this site at least once a day.

Okay, I am exhausted. Time for a Diet Coke. Brown Nosing for Fame is hard work.

p.s Please let me know if one of these links doesn’t work. Attention to detail isn’t one of my strengths.

And site owners, operators, and writers, if I’ve misstated something about your site, let me know and I’ll correct it.

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