Category Archives: Favorite authors

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 Cormorant Strike series of mysteries. Gallbraith’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

A Relevant Quote

Mother Combing Sara’s Hair, by Mary Cassatt

One of my all-time favorite books is The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher, and I’ve reread it numerous times. The last time I read it I wrote down a quote that is very relevant to me right now, having just lost my mother last month. It’s something I am feeling and processing, and I love that a favorite author could put it into words for me.

But the next few months would not be easy. As long as Mumma was alive, she knew that some small part of herself had remained a child, cherished and adored. Perhaps you never completely grew up until your mother died.”

Currently Reading: Tyler’s Row

Painting by Helen Allingham…A Cottage Near Brook-Witley

The book I am currently reading is Tyler’s Row, by Miss Read, which is the ninth book in her Fairacre series. I love this gentle series, and I’m enjoying reading the twenty books in order. I’ve also joined a fun Facebook page related to the series. It’s called “I Want to Live in Fairacre!” and the name is perfect because I would move there in a heartbeat.

Here’s an example of why this book is a such a perfect afternoon-on-the-porch read:

Before long, a few more people wandered into the garden with their packets of lunch. Diana was struck by their general air of happiness. Most of them were women, faces upturned to the sunshine, half-smiling—children again in a world where flowers and birds, quietness and fragrance, took precedence, and one had time to observe, to reflect, to wonder and to be glad.

Virginia Woolf: They Have Loved Reading

I have sometimes dreamt that when the Day of Judgment dawns and the great conquerors and lawyers and statesmen come to receive their rewards — their crowns, their laurels, their names carved indelibly upon imperishable marble — the Almighty will turn to Peter and will say, not without a certain envy when He sees us coming with our books under our arms, “Look, these need no reward. We have nothing to give them here. They have loved reading.”

Today we celebrate Virginia Woolf who was born on this day in 1882.

A Sad Loss

The world has lost a wonderful author today. I was saddened to hear the news of Ursula le Guin’s passing. I’ve enjoyed a number of her books, and I was so happy, when I was teaching second grade, to introduce my young students to her wonderful imagination by reading them the Catwings series. They loved those books, class after class, for many years! I’m sure a number of those former students are Ursula le Guin fans today and are also saddened by our loss.