A Week in Winter

A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy, was a reread for me. I don’t know what happened the first time I started reading it, but I just didn’t connect. This time, however, it was enjoyable listen for me during the holiday week. The pace was slow and relaxing, the characters fun to get to know. I guess that timing of when we choose to read a book is everything.

The story as described by the publisher:

Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. When Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea, everyone thinks she is crazy. Helped by Rigger (a bad boy turned good who is handy around the house) and Orla, her niece (a whiz at business), Chicky is finally ready to welcome the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, husband and wife, have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, is afraid of her own psychic visions.

“Stoneybridge” is a place I’d love to visit! It certainly was enjoyable to visit it this week via Maeve Binchy’s wonderful imagination and storytelling. The lives of so many different people converged for that week in winter, and I loved getting to know the backstory of each person and how they ended up coming to Stoneybridge.

A terrific holiday read!

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This book was set in Ireland.

Classics Club Spin #25: Heidi

Although I didn’t post my list earlier for the Classics Club Spin #25, I did read the book that corresponded to the number chosen. That book was Heidi, by Johanna Spyri. It was another book I had missed reading when I was growing up. Of course, I loved the movie starring Shirley Temple, but for some reason, I never read the book. I do love going back and reading the books I missed over the years!  And this book was a sweet one.

Summary from the publisher:

When Heidi, a cheerful 5-year-old orphan, comes to live with her grandfather in the Swiss Alps, she brings a bright ray of sunshine into the lives of the people around her. Young Peter, a goatherd, shares her love of nature, and his blind grandmother delights in the little girl’s bubbling personality. Even Heidi’s surly and hermit-like grandfather, the old Alm-Uncle, finds his long-lost grandchild a source of immense pleasure.

A few years later, when she is forced go to Frankfurt to serve as a companion for Klara, a well-to-do but sickly girl, Heidi must leave her beloved mountains and friends behind—an experience that proves highly traumatic to the innocent and sensitive little girl. But her return home and a visit from Klara result in magical moments that will leave young readers thoroughly captivated by this heartwarming tale of an unforgettable child and her effect on the people around her.

Some favorite quotes from the book:

    • Let’s enjoy the beautiful things we can see, my dear, and not think about those we cannot.”
    • The fire in the evening was the best of all. Peter said is wasn’t fire, but he couldn’t tell me what it really was.  You can though, Grandfather, can’t you?’  ‘It’s the sun’s way of saying goodnight to the mountains’ he explained. ‘He spreads that beautiful light over them so that they won’t forget him till he comes back in the morning.

And some teacher humor that caught my eye:

“My tutor is very kind, and never cross, and he will explain everything to you. But mind, when he explains anything to you, you won’t be able to understand; but don’t ask any questions, or else he will go on explaining and you will understand less than ever. Later when you have learnt more and know about things yourself, then you will begin to understand what he meant.”

As I said before, it was a sweet book. Heidi was one of those wonderfully strong, free-spirited, deeply caring girls that I loved to read about in stories like  Anne of Green Gables and Pollyanna. I’m glad I finally got around to reading it…and now I’d like to find the Shirley Temple movie and watch it again!

 

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

 

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust: Reading the World,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book based in Switzerland.

Ketchup

When I taught Sixth Grade, there were times in the afternoon that I would occasionally bag the lessons I had planned and call for a catch-up time, which my students affectionately named  “Ketchup time.”  Life and responsibilities gets overwhelming sometimes and it’s good to remember to give yourself a break from what you think you should be doing and just give yourself (or your students, in that case) a gift of time to catch up with yourself. The students would cheer when Ketchup time was called, and would finish assignments, read a good book, draw, create art projects, or watch what was happening out the window. Those were many of the happiest times in my classroom over the years, for the teacher and for the students!

I am so far behind on my reviews of books I’ve been reading! So I’m going to give myself some “Ketchup time.” I’ll write reviews, or make a list of books I’ve read during the pandemic (without the pressure to review them), or just spend some time looking out the window. So please bear with me as I Ketchup with myself and my blog. Reviews will be coming.

Positivity and Gratitude

The year 2020 has been a cruel one in so many ways. It has felt like one thing after another, and each time we think the worst has happened, another challenge pops up that takes even more to deal with…

There. I’ve stated my overall view of this year, but the way I am choosing to deal with it all is to continue to look for the good, the beautiful, the special, and all the little things that bring meaning and happiness to my life. The word I chose for this year is “Gratitude,” and that word has helped me get through the many trials that we’ve faced in 2020. In the midst of the chaos and cruelty, I have been mindfully grateful for so many things. Here are a few of them:

I am grateful for my husband who, in my opinion, is the best person on earth to be quarantined with! I love our long walks and long talks!

I am grateful that my daughter, son-in-law, son, and grandson have all been healthy this year and able to stay safe during the quarantine.

I am grateful that my oldest brother, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in late May or early June, was asymptomatic and recovered without any damage.

I am grateful for the weekly Zoom calls with my brothers and their wives. We call ourselves the “Famnet,” and share weekly updates of our lives (next week is call #38!). Our parents would have loved this new way of family communication! These Zoom calls definitely beat the family meetings my parents used to hold when we were little…which we dubbed “Gripe Sessions.”

I am grateful for my exercise class and my tai chi class being taught online so I can continue with them despite the restrictions of quarantine.

I am grateful for the beauty that surrounds us. My husband and I have been making a couple of trips a week (short drive) to the coffee shop and then to Fern Hill Wetlands in the early morning hours to watch the geese and ducks, the bald eagles, and the Redwing Blackbirds…and to talk over all of life’s little and big problems while we look out over that beautiful and life-filled view.

I am grateful, this year especially, to be retired, an introvert, and a reader, which made staying home less stressful than so many other people’s months of quarantine!

And I am deeply grateful for the medical people, the caretakers, the scientists, and all the essential workers who have have given so much and helped us deal with this pandemic, and who have cared for our loved ones when ill or dying.

The list is actually endless, I realize now. GRATITUDE was the right word to choose for 2020.  And I already know which word I will choose for 2021, but will talk about that later.

More Wise Words from Barbara Neely

Barbara Neely

Worst of all, there will be days when you will look in the mirror with astonishment, if not horror. Get over it. One of my solutions is to look in the mirror more often, smile at the lovely lady and hope I look as good as she does when I reach her age.

Read-a-thon Time

It’s time again for Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon. This annual Fall challenge is something I’ve enjoyed for many years. However, this year has been a strange one, and October has been a challenging one for us, so I’m not going to be able to spend the kind of time I usually give to this day of reading. But I am reading and listening as much as I can, and am enjoying the time I can devote to reading today.

In line with my focus on more cultural diversity in my reading choices, I checked out from the library a number of books about different winter holidays. I’ll list them here, as I finish reading them today.

From the publisher: When young David and Mama and Papa are celebrating Hanukkah one frosty winter evening in Brooklyn, Papa sees a parakeet sitting on the window ledge. He lets the parakeet in and everyone is delighted to find that it speaks Yiddish. They name it Dreidel and it becomes part of their family. 

From the publisher: During Diwali, Hindus, Sikhs and Jains celebrate the legends and stories that describe the triumph of good over evil and justice over oppression. Critically acclaimed author Rina Singh explores her Indian roots as she tells the Diwali stories, which remind us that eventually light will prevail over darkness.

From the publisher:  It is the first night of Hanukkah. Hershel of Ostropol is walking down the road. Tired and hungry, he is looking forward to reaching the next village. He is sure that bright candles, merry songs, and platters of potato latkes will be waiting for him. But when he reaches the village, Hershel discovers that the villagers aren’t celebrating Hanukkah. They’re too scared of the goblins that haunt the old synagogue at the top of the hill. Hershel wants to help the village people. “If I can’t outwit a few goblins,” Hershel tells the rabbit, “then my name isn’t Hershel of Ostropol.”

From the publisher:  From its beginnings as a farming celebration marking the end of winter to its current role as a global party featuring good food, lots of gifts and public parades, Chinese New Year is a snapshot of Chinese culture.

From the publisher: In an African village live seven brothers who make life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread or they will be turned out as beggars.

From the publisher: Celebrate the holiday of Chanukah with eight original short stories by Jewish storyteller Scott Hilton Davis. Enjoy a fun-filled journey to Oykvetchnik, the tiny shtetl town in Eastern Europe where people complain a lot (except during Chanukah when they seem to be a little more charitable).

Evening Update:  I had a very nice time reading today, although it wasn’t a lot of time. I enjoyed each of my holiday choices. The book by Isaac Bashevis Singer was a treasure. I listened to the audiobook of Chanukah Tales from Oykvetchnik, and loved it. What a wonderful storyteller! All of them are books I would recommend for sharing with family during the holidays.

So another Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thon comes to an end for me (no, I don’t stay up all night reading anymore).  I look forward to the next one, in April.

Happy reading, my friends! And happy holidays coming up soon!

 

My Winter Holidays Reading

I do love reading holiday books! In the last few years, I’ve usually started my holiday reading by the first of October. It’s a refreshing change from my Autumn focus on mysteries and  Halloweenish reading, and I find I enjoy it more and more each year. I decided to create this post to track the books I read for the upcoming winter holidays, and to list the holiday books I’ve read in the past few years. This will be an ever-growing list of the books I find each year to read during this season.

2020:

  1. Hershel and the Hannukah Goblins, by Eric A. Kimmel
  2. Chinese New Year: A Celebration for Everyone, by Jen Lee
  3. Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story, by Angela Shelf Medearis
  4. Christmas at the Cove, by Victoria Connelly
  5. A Virgin River Christmas, by Robyn Carr
  6. Ruth’s First Christmas Tree, by Elly Griffiths
  7. Under the Christmas Tree, by Robyn Carr
  8. Bring Me Home For Christmas, by Robyn Carr
  9. The Golden Dreydl, by Ellen Kushner
  10. Christmas at the Castle, by Victoria Connelly
  11. Christmas at the Cottage, by Victoria Connelly
  12. Diwali, Festival of Lights, by Rina Singh
  13. A Parakeet Named Dreidel, by Isaac Bashevis Singer
  14. Chanukah Tales from Oykvetchnik, by Scott Hilton Davis
  15. Ho, Ho, Whoa! The Tale of Parkour Santa, by Kavae Loseby
  16. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy
  17. My Kind of Christmas, by Robyn Carr

2019:

  1. Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, by L.M. Montgomery
  2. The Spirit of Christmas, by Nancy Tillman
  3. The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding, by Agatha Christie
  4. The Burglar’s Christmas, by Willa Cather
  5. A Christmas by the Sea, by Melodie Carlson
  6. Spirit of Steamboat, by Craig Johnson
  7. Christmas at Thompson Hall, by Anthony Trollope
  8. Christmas in Absaroka County, by Craig Johnson

2018:

  1. A Literary Christmas: An Anthology, by Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth, Laurie Lee, Samuel Pepys
  2. No Holly for Miss Quinn, by Miss Read
  3. The Christmas Rose, by Victoria Connelly
  4. The Christmas Mouse, by Miss Read
  5. Village Christmas, by Miss Read

2017:

  1. Christmas at the Inn, by Andrea Twombly
  2. An English Christmas, by John Julius Norwich (editor)
  3. Santa Claus in Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  4. Christmas in Plains: Memories, by Jimmy Carter
  5. The True Gift: A Christmas Story, by Patricia McLachlan
  6. Christmas With the Book Lovers, by Victoria Connelly
  7. A Highland Christmas, by M.C. Beaton

2016:

  1. Celebrations at Thrush Green, by Miss Read
  2. Enid Blyton’s Christmas Stories, by Enid Blyton
  3. A Cornish Christmas, by Lily Graham
  4. Christmas at the Cove, by Victoria Connelly
  5. Christmas at the Castle, by Victoria Connelly
  6. Christmas at the Cottage, by Victoria Connelly
  7. Christmas Crumble, by M.C. Beaton

2015:

  1. Aunt Sass: Christmas Stories, by P.L. Travers
  2. In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1940 Christmas Eve Story by David McCullough
  3. Holiday Tales: Christmas in the Adirondacks, by William Henry Harrison Murray

2014:

  1. Christmas in Camelot, by Mary Pope Osborne
  2. A Dog Named Christmas, by Greg Kincaid
  3. Christmas Day in the Morning, by Pearl S. Buck
  4. Christmas Eve, 1914, by Charles Olivier
  5. Great Joy, by Kate DiCamillo
  6. The Snow Queen, by Hans Christian Andersen
  7. A Little House Christmas Treasury: Festive Holiday Stories, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  8. The BIrds’ Christmas Carol, by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  9. The Christmas Grandma Ran Away from Home, by Nancy Warren
  10. Winter Solstice, Rosamunde Pilcher
  11. On Christmas Day in the Morning, by Grace S. Richmond
  12. The Gift of the Magi and other Christmas Stories, by O. Henry, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Henry Van Dyke, Leo Tolstoy
  13. The Snow Child, by Freya Littledale

2013:

  1. Christmas 1940, by Eleanor Roosevelt
  2. A Week in Winter, by Maeve Binchy
  3. A Christmas Memory, by Truman Capote
  4. An Early American Christmas, by Tomie dePaola
  5. Four Friends at Christmas, by Tomie dePaola
  6. A Christmas Sonata, by Gary Paulsen
  7. Christmas Remembered, by Tomie dePaola
  8. The Legend of Poinsettia, by Tomie dePaola
  9. Tomie’s Little Christmas Pageant, by Tomie dePaola
  10. Rumpole at Christmas, by John Mortimer
  11. Favorite Stories of Christmas Past, by Clement C. Moore, Hans Christian Andersen, O. Henry, Louisa May Alcott
  12. Tied Up in Tinsel, by Ngaio Marsh
  13. Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening, by Robert Frost
  14. Skipping Christmas, by John Grisham
  15. Shepherds Abiding, by Jan Karon
  16. The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol, by Tomie dePaola
  17. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  18. A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg
  19. The Christmas Letters, by Lee Smith

HAPPY HOLIDAY READING, MY FRIENDS!

Wise Words from Barbara Neely

 

She cleared her mind and focused on the green hills in the distance and the extra-blue sky. She let her shoulders drop and felt some of the tension seep out of her neck. The world is still beautiful, she told herself, and I’m still in it. Everything else can be put right, in time.

Wise words from Barbara Neely in her book, Blanche on the Lam.