Sunday, January 26, 2014

Two Fine Books You Will Enjoy

My last post, way back in October, contained words of wisdom from two follow bloggers who had been kind enough to share their thoughts with me on getting published. At that time, I said I’d post again when I had news about finding an agent. Fourteen weeks have passed and I still have nothing to report. But I missed writing on this blog, so I’m here today because you may be wondering, with Bugs Bunny, “What’s up, Doc?”
         For me, nothing.
         But for Melissa Ann Goodwin, a fellow blogger and author, quite a lot.
         Goodwin’s first book, The Christmas Village, was published in 2011. I learned about it in early December of that year. Right before Christmas, I read it with great satisfaction. This novel for ten to fourteen years old appeals to adult readers as well as children.
         Goodwin’s story caught and held my interest because of her vivid characterization and her suspenseful plotting. She has an astute ear for realistic dialogue. Because of this, I entered her scenes and lived the adventure with Jamie, a contemporary twelve-year-old boy who travels backward in time to the 1932 village of Canterbury, Vermont. 

         If you enjoy books for young readers, like those written by J. K. Rowling and Kate DiCamillo, I encourage you to read The Christmas Village. It is the 2013 Blogger Book Fair Reader’s Choice Award Winner for action/adventure.
         My good news for you today is that Goodwin has written a sequel—Return to Canterbury. A second book is always more difficult than a first one, especially if that first one has been so successful that readers yearn for a follow-up. These avid readers want to know more about the characters they’ve come to cherish. An author then faces the daunting task of writing a story that will fulfill all the expectations of the readers.
         With Return to Canterbury, Goodwin has more than fulfilled my expectations for Jamie and his two Canterbury friends, Chris and Kelly. Of course her books would appeal to me because the name of my Thursday on-line memoir blog is “Coming Home to Myself.” Discovering what and where is home has been basic to my postings. Goodwin knows we all search for home. As she recently wrote on her blog:

Longing for home is a theme in both of my books—and in my life. In The Christmas Village, 12-year-old Jamie finds himself far from home at Christmas time, and longs for nothing more than to return home in time to be with his family for the holiday. In Return to Canterbury, it's less about Jamie's desire to return home, and more about his desire for that kind of deep sense of belonging that makes us feel like we are at home.

In the search for home, The Christmas Village presented the reader with a mystery that the three young people solved by using their creative minds, their sense of fair play, and their compassionate hearts. Return to Canterbury presents us with another mystery that the three young people will solve, gaining the respect of the entire village.

Once again, Goodwin provides the tension and suspense that lead to a wholly satisfying ending. Jamie has traveled back to 1935. He, Kelly, and Chris are three years older than in Goodwin’s first book. Older and wiser, but still fast friends, they share a love of adventure and a willingness to risk themselves when danger again threatens the village of Canterbury.
In reading this sequel, I felt I had come home again because not only do I meet these three youngsters for a second time, I also got to learn more about the adult villagers who play such an important role in helping Jamie discover what home really means.
Both of Goodwin’s books deserve a large readership. She writes with great confidence and creates a compelling plot.
I finished reading her second book around one in the morning last week and lay there with a smile on my face as I let the plot, the characters, and the charm of Canterbury pass in review through my contented brain. Finally, I spoke out loud, “Well done, Melissa. Well done.” The cats raised their heads in bemusement and then snoozed again, perhaps to visit their own Canterbury.
I encourage you to think about any young family members or friends who are celebrating upcoming birthdays or happy events. The gift of The Christmas Village and Return to Canterbury would win you a reward as the “best” grandmother, mother, or friend!