Category Archives: Favorite authors

Holiday Reading

As soon as November arrives, I start my holiday reading. I love this time of year filled with lots of family activities and fun. I enjoy hunkering down on cold and icy days with a good book and a cup of tea. And I love reading holiday stories, old and new.

I started this holiday season with a short book from Miss Read’s Fairacre series (Fairacre #10). The Christmas Mouse was delightful, as are all the Fairacre books!

from Kirkus Reviews:

‘Twas the night before. . . and all through the house (will there be a dry eye?) in which Mrs. Berry lives with her daughter Mary and Mary’s two little girls (Mary’s husband has just passed on suddenly) there is still a twitch of expectation. But not for the creature who appears in Mrs. Berry’s room — with tiny pink paws, and goodness only knows she hadn’t anticipated the bedraggled little boy who turns up just before the day itself with its happy crinkle of packages. . . . Oh dear how dear, but then Miss Read’s own audience won’t be catnapping.

This was a kind and gentle story, a reminder of the things in life that really matter — family, kindness, acceptance, and love. A little book definitely worth reading on a cold November evening!

 

I Worried

I confess that I’m a worrier. I really have to keep reminding myself to just “let it go,” that worrying doesn’t get you anywhere!  This poem, by Mary Oliver, is so perfect for those of us who waste precious energy in the worry loop!

I took her advice earlier this week (before the rains returned) and this was what greeted me when I took my old body and went out into the morning. It was so much better than worrying!

 

Katherine Mansfield

Today is Katherine Mansfield’s birthday. She was born on this day in 1888 in Wellington, New Zealand, and died very young, at age 34. She wrote wonderful short stories, but years ago I read the book, Journal of Katherine Mansfield, and enjoyed it every bit as much as her stories. As I read through her journal, I copied down many quotes into my notebook (that was before computers!), and this is one of my favorites:

“Grownupedness”

Four o’clock. Is it light now at Four o’clock? I jump out of bed and run over to the window. It is half-light, neither black nor blue. The wing of the coast is violet; in the lilac sky there are dark banners and little black boats manned by black shadows put out on the purple water.

Oh! how often I have watched this hour when I was a girl! But then — I stayed at the window until I grew cold — until I was icy — thrilled by something — I did not know what. Now I fly back into bed, pulling up the clothes, tucking them into my neck. And suddenly, my feet find the hot water bottle. Heavens! it is still beautifully warm. That really is thrilling.

Katherine Mansfield having tea at her work table, at the Villa Isola Bella at Menton, in the south of France. (Photograph by Ida Baker, 1920)

Death in the Castle

The Classics Club issued a DARE for the month of October. Choose one book from my list of classics to be read in five years, and dare myself to read it.

“Simply read a CLASSIC book from your #CClist that you classify as thrilling, a mystery, or Gothic. It could even be a book or author that SCARES you (because of it’s length, it’s topic, it’s reputation etc).”

This sounded like a lot of fun to me, and it was a perfect blend with my RIP XIII challenge, as well as my 2018 TBR Pile challenge! So I chose to read Death in the Castle, by Pearl S. Buck, for both the Classics Club Dare 2.0 and for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII challenge.

The old castle is a thousand years old, and although it has been in the family for generations, SIr Richard Sedgeley and his wife, Lady Mary, can no longer afford to keep it. The National Trust will only agree to take it over if they can turn it into a prison–not an acceptable option for the aging Sir Richard. However, a young and wealthy American is interested in it and wants to buy it. But he also wants to move the castle, stone by stone, to Connecticut! What a difficult dilemma for the aging owners of the castle!

He let the reins lie slack as he went and his eyes roved over the mellow landscape of field and forest. The afternoon light lengthened the shadows and deepened the gold of the willows and the green of growing wheat. In the distance the castle stood against the sunset in all its stately beauty. It was his home, his inheritance, and how could he give it up?

Lady Mary has always believed in “others who had lived in the castle and until now she had accepted the possibility of the persistence of the dead beyond life.” Not ghosts, but the life forces of those ancestors who lived there before her. And Lady Mary is quite sure that the Others can show her where some treasure is hidden so that they will have the money to save the castle.

“There’s no such thing as death, not really,” Lady Mary said. “It’s just a change to something—I’ve told you—another level of whatever it is that we call life. It’s only a transfer of energy. Can you understand? Please try, Kate! It would mean so much to me.

This was a story that involved mystery, intrigue, suspense. A gothic-type mystery is not the usual subject matter for a book by Pearl Buck, but it was, as always with her books, well-written and enjoyable to read. The suspense definitely worked for me because I couldn’t stop reading until I found out what would happen to the castle and the different characters. A fun read!

RIP XIII: The Eyes of the Amaryllis

The Eyes of the Amaryllis, by Natalie Babbitt, is one of my favorite books. When I was teaching, I read it aloud to my sixth grade students, year after year, and never tired of Babbitt’s lyrical, descriptive, lovely writing. My Grandson started school last week, a 5/6 grader now, and it triggered memories for me of those special books I loved and read each year. It was definitely time to reread this one.

It is an unusual story. Eleven year old Geneva (Jenny) Reade, went to help her grandmother, also named Geneva, who lived beside the ocean. Gran had broken her foot and needed some extra help. Jenny was excited to see the ocean for the first time, but not very excited about having to cook or help her grandmother with those kinds of things. However, that’s not the kind of help Gran needed. With her broken foot, Gran could not walk the shoreline each day, searching. Jenny would have to search for her.

Jenny’s grandfather had been a sea captain on the ship, The Amaryllis, and while arriving home during a fierce storm, the ship sank and everyone aboard was lost. Sadly, it sank within sight of the shore, and both Geneva’s father and her grandmother watched helplessly from the bluff. The trauma of watching his father’s ship go down was too much for young George, and he soon left the oceanside and went to live with an aunt who lived inland. Gran stayed at their home at the ocean, waiting for anything to wash up from the wreck…waiting for “a sign from her darling.” Nothing ever washed up, but Gran kept vigil checking the shoreline after each turn of the tide…for over 30 years, but nothing ever washed ashore.

Geneva soon learned that her grandmother’s life centered around the sea, the tides, her undying love for the sea captain, and for her hope that he would somehow send her a sign.

Your grandfather and I—what we felt for each other doesn’t just stop. Remember what we talked about the first night you were here? There’s another world around us, Geneva, around us all the time, and here I can be closer to it.

There is another important character in this book, called Seward, who calls himself the “guardian of the sea.”  His job is to walk the shoreline and make sure that nothing the sea values is taken, and if something of value is found, it must be returned to the sea.

Gran explained to Jenny that Seward was once a sensitive artist/sculptor who threw himself into the sea after being rejected by a woman he loved. His body was never found, but he returned mysteriously and walks the shoreline each day. No one but Gran has seen him. His story is fantastical, and Geneva can hardly believe it…except that she, too, has seen him.

“He really saw the ship on the bottom,” she said. “Yes,” said Gran. “Sailing. Keeping watch. The sea bottom was covered with treasure, he told me, and there were lots of wrecked ships, too, great ruined hulls, lying down there forsaken, full of holes and rotting away. But the Amaryllis, and all the ships with figureheads, are kept whole and clean, he said, to sail on the bottom and guard the treasure.”

It is the figurehead from The Amaryllis that finally washes ashore. And then the story gets really interesting.

I won’t tell you more. You’ll have to read it to find out what happens. But I will say that it was wonderful to share this story with my students! You wouldn’t think that sixth graders would necessarily want to sit through a story about undying love, but they listened with rapt attention to this one. It captured all our imaginations and our hearts!

This was my third book read for the Readers Imbibing Peril XIII.

RIP XIII: The Silkworm

The Silkworm, by Robert Gailbraith, (a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling) is the second in the Cormoran Strike series of mysteries. Gailbraith’s mysteries are riveting and powerful. Cormoran Strike is a private detective and a war veteran who was severely wounded during his service. He and his assistant, Robin Ellacott, take on difficult and brutal cases. The solving of these crimes is fascinating, as is the growing, changing, relationship between those two main characters.

Summary from Robert-galbraith.com:

The Silkworm – It takes a unique mind to solve a unique crime.

A compulsively readable crime novel with twists at every turn, The Silkworm is the second in the highly acclaimed series featuring Cormoran Strike and his determined young assistant Robin Ellacott.

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…

My responses to the book: I didn’t listen to this audiobook straight through. When I first started it a few months ago, it seemed a little too gruesome and dark, and that wasn’t what I wanted to be reading at that time. So I set it aside for a while and then decided to go ahead and listen to it for RIP-XIII.  This time, I found it impossible to stop listening to it!  The plot was complicated and compelling, and the narration by Robert Glenister was excellent.

J.K. Rowling is an amazing and versatile writer, and I am now completely hooked on this series.


This was my second book read for Readers Imbibing Peril, XIII.

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.

RIP XIII: The Whispering Statue

When I was young, I read all the Nancy Drew mysteries (at least the ones that were available at that time)! My brothers and I would go to the library every week and I would come out with a pile of books, mostly Nancy Drew mysteries. They said to me many times, “Rob, you’re in a reading rut!”  Yes, that’s what good mysteries do to you, and I still love getting caught in a mystery reading rut!

The Whispering Statue, by Carolyn Keene, is book #14 in the original series. All the Nancy Drew books were actually ghostwritten, and my favorite of the ghostwriters was Mildred A. Wirt Benson. She wrote the first twenty-three books in the series, and those are my favorites.

Another interesting tidbit about the early Nancy Drew books, which were originally published in the 1930s, is that they were rewritten and republished in the 1970s. The copy I read of The Whispering Statue was definitely a rewritten one from the 70s because the plot was significantly different and shorter than the earlier version, AND the word “groovy” was used two or three times in the story. That was a dead giveaway to someone very familiar with the late 60s and early 70s!!

I enjoyed rereading this mystery. It was pleasant to spend an afternoon on the porch with a fun book. My goal is to slowly reread as many of the Nancy Drew books as possible!

Penguin Random House: the publisher’s summary of plot:

Once again, Nancy faces two puzzling mysteries at once! The first concerns a valuable collection of rare books that Mrs. Horace Merriam commissioned anart dealer to sell–has he swindled her instead? The second mystery revolves around the baffling theft of a beautiful marble statue. To solve both mysteries, the famous young detective disguises herself and assumes a false identity. Despite these precautions, danger stalks Nancy’s every move. An attempted kidnapping, a nearly disastrous sailboat collision, and an encounter with a dishonest sculptor are just a few of the exciting challenges that Nancy is faced with as she gathers evidence against a clever ring of art thieves.

I read this book for the RIP XIII challenge, Peril the First