Category Archives: Book notes

Some Interesting Reading

 

Woman Reading, by Louise Catherine Breslau

For the last few weeks, I’ve had my nose in some very interesting books, as my Dad used to say to me. And I’m enjoying every minute of my reading right now. Isn’t that a nice thing to be able to say!

I finished Louise Penny’s The Brutal Telling, a story of another murder in Three Pines (the murder capital of the world?). I loved the references to the artist Emily Carr, and the trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands made by Chief Inspector Gamache as he worked to understand and solve this mysterious death.

from the publisher:

Chaos is coming, old son.

With those words the peace of Three Pines is shattered. As families prepare to head back to the city and children say goodbye to summer, a stranger is found murdered in the village bistro and antiques store. Once again, Chief Inspector Gamache and his team are called in to strip back layers of lies, exposing both treasures and rancid secrets buried in the wilderness.

No one admits to knowing the murdered man, but as secrets are revealed, chaos begins to close in on the beloved bistro owner, Olivier. How did he make such a spectacular success of his business? What past did he leave behind and why has he buried himself in this tiny village? And why does every lead in the investigation find its way back to him?

As Olivier grows more frantic, a trail of clues and treasures— from first editions of Charlotte’s Web and Jane Eyre to a spider web with the word “WOE” woven in it—lead the Chief Inspector deep into the woods and across the continent in search of the truth, and finally back to Three Pines as the little village braces for the truth and the final, brutal telling.

Then I read another book by Nevil Shute, Mysterious Aviator, which kept me captivated for a couple of days. This book was published in 1928 under the title of So Disdained.

from the publisher:

When Peter Moran, a former World War I pilot, picks up a man on the roadside while driving through a bitter rainy night, he is startled to discover that the bedraggled man is a wartime comrade of his who has just survived a crash landing. As he learns more about his old friend’s strange mission, Moran finds himself entangled in treasonous international plots, flying adventures, and tests of both his bravery and his loyalty.

After the tragic fire at  Notre Dame Cathedral, I decided to start listening to the audiobook version of Ken Follett’s, The Pillars of the Earth, the first book in his Kingsbridge Novels trilogy about the building of a medieval cathedral, and it has completely carried me away!

And as if listening to 44 hours of The Pillars of the Earth wasn’t keeping me busy enough, I read a lovely review by Jane @Beyond Eden Rock about Greengates, by R.C. Sherriff. It sounded so interesting that I searched for a copy but couldn’t find it at Powell’s or at my local libraries. I finally found that it was available for my Kindle so I downloaded it, started reading, and have loved every minute of it!

From the Persephone Books catalogue:

The plot is timeless and simple: a man retires from his job but finds that never were truer words said than ‘for better, for worse but not for lunch’. His boredom, his wife’s (suppressed and confused) dismay at the quiet orderliness of her life being destroyed, their growing tension with each other, is beautifully and kindly described. Then one day they do something they used to do more often – leave St John’s Wood and go out into the countryside for the day. And that walk changes their lives forever: they see a house for sale, decide to move there, and the nub of the book is a description of their leaving London, the move, and the new life they create for themselves.

I have so many more interesting books to read next, but I also have a garden to plant, much weeding to do, meetings with my Moms Demand Action team, my fitness class schedule, and a 5k race to walk on Sunday morning. All of a sudden, life is very busy!

A Muscle We Don’t Use Enough

Dorothy Gilman, author of the Mrs. Pollifax series

“I love to laugh personally, and I love to hear people laugh. I don’t think we laugh enough. I consider it a muscle we don’t use enough because we’re all under pressures, tremendous pressures, and we forget how to laugh. It’s a habit that one should watch and take care of just like another muscle.”
~ Rosalind Russell

I love this quote from Rosalind Russell, who starred in the 1971 movie version of the book, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, by Dorothy Gilman. The Mrs. Pollifax series is certainly one that exercises that laughter muscle! I’ve listened to the first two books in the series on audiobook, narrated by the wonderful Barbara Rosenblat, and they were delightfully fun. This is a series I read and enjoyed many years ago, but now that I found the audiobooks on Audible, I’m starting over! This is a time that we particularly need to exercise that laughter muscle!

from the publisher:

Mrs. Virgil (Emily) Pollifax of New Brunswick, New Jersey, was a widow with grown, married children. She was tired of attending her Garden Club meetings. She wanted to do something good for her country. So, naturally, she became a CIA agent.

She takes on a “job” in Mexico City. The assignment doesn’t sound dangerous at first, but then, as often happens, something goes wrong. Now our dear Mrs. Pollifax finds herself embroiled in quite a hot Cold War—and her country’s enemies find themselves entangled with one unbelievably feisty lady.

So, stories about a “little old widow lady” who becomes a spy is a fun premise for a mystery series. Mrs. Pollifax gets herself involved in many different predicaments, but always manages to succeed with her mission with help from the friends she makes along the way. The friendships are wonderful, and her attitude about life is refreshing. It’s also refreshing to read a series that entertains in such a positive way.

Other Things…

A late welcome to the month of March! I’ve been awfully busy this week with other things, (grandson with the flu; daughter moving into her new home up north; doctor and dentist check-ups; exercise class three mornings a week; a return to morning power walks in preparation for a 5k race on the 17th).  It’s made it a little difficult to get back to my blog as scheduled. It keeps calling to me, though, no matter how busy I get!  And I have continued with my reading. Thank goodness I can listen while driving so I can continue enjoying my books despite the many errands.

Books Finished Since March 1st:  

Currently Reading:

  • Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  A birthday gift from my brother and sister-in-law. Really well-written and quite a story!
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse.  The first book in a new post-apocalyptic fantasy series that caught my attention.

Podcasts I’ve Been Enjoying:

Hopefully, Life will soon settle down a bit and I can get back to my usual routines. Maybe the temperatures will even warm up, although I know it will be awhile before I can get back to  reading on the porch!

Artwork by Walt Kuhn, Vera Kuhn Reading on the Porch

Farther Afield

Reading one of Miss Read’s books is like coming home. If the world gets too crazy, or the days too stressful, I can depend on Miss Read to calm the waters, make me smile, and renew my spirits.

Farther Afield was a fun read. The storyline was a little different from the other Fairacre books I’ve read so far in that Miss Read went traveling!  Summer break arrived, the students all went happily on their way, the school was sorted and closed, and Mrs. Pringle arrived at Miss Read’s house to help her with the deep cleaning she called “bottoming.”

Unfortunately, while helping grumpy old Mrs. Pringle, Miss Read has an accident and broke her arm, so all her plans for the summer were dashed. When Miss Read was released from the hospital, she began her recovery at the house of her close friend, Amy, who took loving care of her. And when she was sufficiently recovered to get around, her friend invited her to join her for a vacation in Crete! What a wonderful, healing adventure they had there!

This was a summer of reflection for Miss Read. The travel was wonderful, but returning home was also wonderful. She returned with renewed health and renewed appreciation for the life she lives. Amy was having serious marital problems, and as she watched and worried about her friend, she ruminated about her own life as a single woman, a “spinster” as the village called her.

It is at times like this that a spinster counts her blessings. Her troubles are of her own making, and can be tackled straightforwardly. She is independent, both monetarily and in spirit. Her life is wonderfully simple, compared with that of her married sister. And she cannot be hurt, quite so cruelly, as a woman can be by her husband.

Conversely, she has no-one with whom to share her troubles and doubts. She must bear alone the consequences of all her actions and, coming down to brass tacks, she must be able to support herself financially, physically and emotionally.

I know all this from first-hand experience. I know too that there are some people who view my life as narrow and self-centred. Some, even, find a middle-aged single woman pitiable, if not faintly ridiculous. This, I have always felt, is to rate the value of men too highly, although I recognise that a truly happy marriage is probably the highest state of contentment attainable by either partner.

This was one of my favorite books so far in my reading of the Fairacre series!

 

Persuasion

Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen book. I love Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice, but it is Persuasion that steals my heart every time I read it.

From the publisher:

At twenty-­seven, Anne Elliot is no longer young and has few romantic prospects. Eight years earlier, she had been persuaded by her friend Lady Russell to break off her engagement to Frederick Wentworth, a handsome naval captain with neither fortune nor rank. What happens when they encounter each other again is movingly told in Jane Austen’s last completed novel. Set in the fashionable societies of Lyme Regis and Bath, Persuasion is a brilliant satire of vanity and pretension, but, above all, it is a love story tinged with the heartache of missed opportunities.

I love the character of Anne Elliot in this book. She’s a strong, intelligent and practical woman who is very kind and caring to her family and friends. She must have been more like her mother because she’s the polar opposite of her vain and shallow father and sister. I also love the character of Captain Wentworth, who shares so many of those same good qualities. I cheer for them all through the book, hoping that they will finally find a way to be together because they are so obviously meant for each other. I never tire of this story, and have reread it numerous times. It’s a wonderful audiobook, as well.

My favorite selection from the book is the letter Captain Wentworth writes to Anne, hoping beyond hope that they can finally declare their love for each other. It is perhaps the most passionate love letter I’ve ever read. The way it comes about in the story is a wonderful exchange between these two characters who are so well suited to each other. 

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W. “I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father’s house this evening or never.”

This is a story I will reread and enjoy many more times throughout my lifetime.

Persuasion was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Ready Player One

It’s so much fun when a friend recommends a book, and tells you that the audiobook version is just terrific, and you listen to that audiobook, and then you totally agree with her! That’s what just happened to me! Recently, Les (@Coastal Horizons) and Kay (@Kay’s Reading Life) and I visited a wonderful bookstore, Third Street Books, in McMinnville, Oregon. While there, Les mentioned how good the audiobook version was of Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline, narrated by Will Wheaton. So, I downloaded it and thoroughly enjoyed listening to it this month!

I thought this book was wonderfully creative and fun. I kept thinking of my son throughout the story because much of the computer and video game stuff was from his growing up years, but I felt the fun was ageless. It really was a love letter to the 1980s that everyone can enjoy!

From the Publisher’s Summary:

At once wildly original and stuffed with irresistible nostalgia, Ready Player One is a spectacularly genre-busting, ambitious, and charming debut – part quest novel, part love story, and part virtual space opera set in a universe where spell-slinging mages battle giant Japanese robots, entire planets are inspired by Blade Runner, and flying DeLoreans achieve light speed.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I’m looking forward to it. My friend, Adam (@Roof Beam Reader), has already warned me that it is quite different from the book, but I will give it a try and see if it is as fun as the book.

Thanks, Les, for your recommendation!

Feeding the Dragon

Feeding the Dragon, by Sharon Washington, was offered as an audiobook special from Audible last week. I didn’t know anything about it, but when I read that it was the story of a little girl who grew up in the New York Public Library, I knew I had to listen to it. It was quite a delightful listen — Sharon Washington wrote it and was the reader, and I learned after listening to it that she has also performed it as a very successful play.

It is her family story. Her father was the maintenance person at the library and kept the ancient coal-fed furnace stoked at all times, thus the idea of “feeding the dragon.” The family lived in the apartment on the top floor of the library, and Sharon grew up amongst the books downstairs.

From 1969 until 1973 my family lived on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At 444 Amsterdam Avenue in an apartment on the top floor inside the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library:
my father George, my mother Connie; my grandmother, my dog Brownie, and me.
A typical American family.
Living in a not-so-typical place.

I enjoyed listening to this book and would love to see Sharon Washington’s performance of her story!

Connections

I am awake early this morning. Sadness woke me from a grieving dream about a friend who is moving away.

So I made some tea and opened a book of poems from the library. Poems by Ursula le Guin. I read her introduction and then a couple of random poems. Poetry touches me like music, going straight to my heart in a way that bypasses all my filters and protections. I was touched by her words — words that describe similar experiences and familiar feelings — we have shared common ground, the Poet and the Reader.

And then I found her poem called “Dos Poesias Para Mi Diana.” There, inside this poem, was an electrical connection!  Without knowing anything about the personal life of this writer, her words alone, without explanation or history, let me know that we have walked the same pathways, shared two far-distant places on this planet. I am thrilled, touched, overwhelmed momentarily by the synchronicity of this magical connection. And it’s like the voice of a friend from far away gently reminding me that distance, and time, are irrelevant. Our connections, our friendships, transcend time and space.

Good morning, my friends!

January Reflections

January is one of my favorite months. I love new beginnings and the New Year. It’s my birthday month, my brother’s birthday month, my nephew’s birthday month, and my blogging anniversary month. Lots of happy things! Lots of celebrating!

I started the month by setting a new reading goal for myself on Goodreads, and lowered the goal number from last year’s 75 books to 52 books. A lower number because I have some long books, or series of books, I want to read, so I’m giving myself extra time for them. I want to read slowly and get lost in some good long stories. Here’s a sneak preview of a couple of the chunksters I would like to read this year and some of the series that I’d like to read or that are already keeping me busy.

January turned out to be a good reading month for me and was a real pleasure! I finished 10 books in all, and I’m also continuing on with my very enjoyable rereading of the Harry Potter series. My favorite book read in January was The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning! It certainly inspired some ongoing cleaning up here at home! I’m trying hard to keep that momentum going!

Two books this month had a tremendous emotional impact on me and I am still processing them. A Very Easy Death, by Simone de Beauvoir, was beautifully written and touched me very deeply. My review is here.  Also, Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book, Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race, is a powerful must-read book. I’ve decided that I will need to reread it because there is so much in it to think about and question oneself about…I need to revisit it soon as part of my processing!

One January read that I thought I would love, but didn’t, was The Alchemist. I had heard so many people tell me it was their favorite book, and I think it could have been a favorite of mine if I had read it when I was young. But although I’m  glad I read it, I just didn’t love it.

The end of January was filled with family time — birthday celebrations, news from the Seattle part of our family that a new baby girl had arrived, and a short medical crisis here at home with my husband fighting a kidney stone (he’s doing well now.). So I’m happy to welcome February and have actually managed to finish one book so far.

January reads: