In the High Peaks

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The Outrageous HUMIDs Are in Residence! Where's My Brain?

I know that many people tolerate HOT and HUMID conditions fairly well. Alas, I have never been one of them. My physical and cognitive intolerance of these conditions has definitely become worse over time, but especially over the past few years. I can't think well--and thus I can't work well, obviously. 

But, thankfully, I can read books just fine. (And watch Wimbledon!! It's been so satisfying and so much fun!) 

What I'm reading: Yes, due to my dysphoria, I devoured another Lisa Jewell thriller. This one was I Found You, published in 2016, which received a rating of 3.96 on Goodreads. This was my second novel written by Jewell that I've read this summer, and I was not disappointed. As you know, I'm an eclectic/MOOD reader. When I'm feeling at wit's end, I find myself seeking out a thriller, but not just any thriller, but ones with heart. And Lisa Jewell's novels have been wonderfully twisty and filled with psychological nuances that fascinate, with some likeable characters. I steer clear from horror totally! Not for me! But if you are of a like mind, I recommend Lisa Jewell.


Right now I have only one novel going. And that is The Nature of Disappearing by Kimi Cunningham Grant. I absolutely loved her debut novel These Silent Woods, and Ken loved it, too, which we both read in 2022. (Don't miss this debut which is a perfect gem! I want to read it again!) Her second novel is The Nature of Disappearing, which is set in the National Forests of Idaho, the wilderness theme recurring, but this one is a bit darker than her debut. Still very good, so far, though I'm only halfway.  If you love novels set in wilderness, I urge you to try her books! I will post a final verdict when I'm finished. 







Sunday, June 30, 2024

Reading Update: Eleanor Oliphant, The Safekeep, and Looking Forward

When times are very, very bad, it is such a solace to have lots of books to retreat to and, yes, be buried by! As of July 1st, we are in a constitutional crisis in this country, and the majority of the Supreme Court, in their presidential immunity decision, has created it. I am reeling...

I was absolutely enchanted by my reading of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman.  I wondered why I haven't read it sooner, but I'm so very glad that I read it NOW, while I'm feeling so much despair (about our country). Eleanor is the completely original, wonderful, enjoyable, heart-warming heroine of her own story. I had no idea! I can't think of a book I have thrilled to more in the past few years. And to think I bought it on a sheer whim, when it came up for sale for $1.99 as an ebook. Then I devoured it! What great memories I have of this book to carry me forward! So, yes, I am counting it as one of my Twenty Books of Summer. 


The Safekeep by the Dutch author Yael Van Der Wouden (in translation), has received many mega-starred reviews. (To see the excerpts from reviews, click on the link and scroll down to "Reviews.") It was published in June. The wide-spread, though vaguely stated words of acclaim set me on to it. The novel is set in the Netherlands in 1961, and has been widely touted as an historical novel. 

Now that I've read The Safekeep in its entirety, I would agree that it is indeed an historical novel, definitely. But the first half of the novel betrays no evidence whatsoever of that fact. This half of the novel depicts the lives of Isabel and her two brothers and Eva, her oldest brother's girlfriend. Isabel, as a young woman, lives alone (and lonely) in the family house in the east of the Netherlands after her mother's death. When Isabel's brother Louis decides that Eva should stay with Isabel while he is away for 6 weeks for a work project, everything turns on its head. Why does Eva want to stay there, when she knows Isabel dislikes her and is totally antagonistic? And on that note, ensues a huge drama that reaches back to the world of the Netherlands and the Dutch people, especially the Dutch people as a whole, in World War II. 

The Safekeep deserves all the high praise that has been bestowed on it. I will say that for me, at times, it was an uncomfortable read, because of the relationship that evolves between Isabel and Eva, and the deeply unfortunate aftermath. It is so worthwhile--the language and the translation is flawless. I AM so glad that I read it, and I will always remember it, so I recommend it without reservation.

Another book that I've put on my Twenty Books of Summer List.

Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Brief Check-In: Doris Kearns Goodwin & More

Today, Saturday, was such a stellar weather day here, which buoyed us as we ran around scurrying to get LOADS of chores done before an unprecedented, extended heat wave hits our area. At least 4 days of 92+ degrees weather next week starting Tuesday, for our home in the mountains. This has never happened before. In fact, we have not had a single day of 90-degree weather here in at least four years. Fortunately, we recently purchased a new AC unit for our second story, which gets hit hard by heat. I realize so many of you will be suffering from much higher temperatures, so I do wish you the best. Just get that cool drink by your side and dive into books!

I am still listening, with the utmost fascination and appreciation, to Doris Kearns Goodwin's memoir An Unfinished Love Story. I have 6 hours of listening left of the more than 17 hours total. It is SO good! I love the conversations that she details with her husband Dick Goodwin, which she relates in total, as she prepared to write this book. Going over his entire history in the Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson administrations. An incomparable speechwriter, Goodwin was! Excerpts from the speeches are included in the audiobook. What can I say? It's a MUST! Listen. Especially now. I hope many of you will be able to hear what political life was like in the 1960s, when Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" brought us Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights, the Civil Rights Voting Act, and so much more. 

I realize that Doris is in her 80s now--Gosh! She seems so vital on MSNBC and NBC. I do hope she has the strength and the will to keep writing, in whatever form! Maybe not 400-page books, but whatever she can manage. I so hate to lose such gifted, accomplished historians and writers!

Yes, everyone, I DEVOURED a thriller! In 2 DAYS. Last weekend!  You know, thrillers are a dime a dozen these days, and so many of them are schlock, so I really searched and searched for a good one. It's on my Twenty Books of Summer ListInvisible Girl by Lisa Jewell, published in 2020, a year when many great books got lost in the shuffle due to Covid.  I was mesmerized and not disappointed, which is a huge boon, given how many waste-of-time thrillers are out there. Such a great way to relax, when a thriller is clever and smart beyond belief.

I have finished another book on my list, an historical novel, The Storms We Made by Vanessa Chan. I was attracted to this book because I knew nothing about how Malay (now Malaysia) was affected by World War II. This was Chan's debut novel. It was a heart-wrenching story of how the people of Malay were subjugated by the Japanese, but there was a more compelling story within, of how a Malaysian woman, a wife and mother, was subverted to become a spy for the Japanese. Much more to this story, of course, but I hesitate to give it a strong recommendation because the writing was not strong, and I hesitate to say this, but I felt it had many flaws, including the ending, which was so over the top and unnecessarily brutal in way that was pointlessly contrived. I'm sure others have felt differently about this novel. I would love to hear your comments if you've read this. I would hope to be persuaded otherwise!

Looking forward to reading about your summer literary adventures!






Thursday, May 30, 2024

Turned the House Upside Down--Searching for a Crucial Book

 I know, and probably you all know, that I have dozens and dozens more books than I have room for in bookcases (numerous bookcases in multiple rooms!!) and bookshelves, on tables and other book-holding fixtures. And then! The book piles!!  Under beds, next to beds, on night tables, you name it. Whew.

Because I am listening to An Unfinished Love Story, the new memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin, and have now completed the Kennedy years in this memoir as experienced by Doris's amazing husband, Richard Goodwin, who served in the Kennedy administration, my historical mind is only naturally turning KENNEDY

How WELL I remember those years, with such clarity. But how can that be so, given that I was age 7 during JFK's campaign for president, age 7 at the time of the debates, at the time of the election, and after. This is a very, very long personal story, and is such because I lived right outside of Boston, because I was Catholic, and my father was Irish, and because our entire household was ABUZZ with the DRAMA of KENNEDY for president. 


So this may explain why, after listening to the Kennedy years as narrated by Doris Kearns Goodwin, I tore through the house searching for the bio/history I purchased a decade ago, Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years by David Talbot, which is about the actions and relationship of JFK and RFK in that era. I bought the book, placed it on my Kennedy shelf, which is extensive, and THEN a number of years ago, removed it, started reading it to great interest, and PUT IT who knows where? because I was diverted by life and other reads.

Do you think that I could find this book that I am so desperate to read in my house? The search laid bare the absolute total disarray of my books and bookshelves. It's a disaster!  How can my Library have reached this state?? Books shoved under beds! Tumbling down in piles!

So--today--I did the easiest thing and I borrowed this very book from Crandall Library in Glens Falls. I'm so blessed that they have a copy, because they are the only library in the system that has it. 

But a Summer Mission has Begun! It's time to Play Library. Organizing all books. Of course, dispersing books to find new homes. Onward! My mission--



Monday, May 27, 2024

The Twenty Books of Summer

I've been so intrigued to read the 20 Books of Summer lists that everyone has been posting. Thanks to Cathy of 746 Books for having instigated all of this busy summertime reading so many years ago now. 

Of course, I'm hoping I'll be able to read 20 books this summer, but I know my schedule may not afford me all the time I need to complete it. But I'm feeling optimistic at the end of this first official weekend of summer, Memorial Day Weekend.

Twenty Books of Summer  2024

1.     An Unfinished Love Story by Doris Kearns Goodwin  Audible  17+ hours

2.     Shadow in the Glass by M.E. Hilliard  (#2 Greer Hogan Mystery) Set in Lake Placid

3.     Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell (2020) Her highly acclaimed thriller fr. 2020  finished!

4.     North Woods by Daniel Mason

5.     The Women by Kristin Hannah

6.     God of the Woods by Liz Moore (Starred reviews fr. Library Journal, PW, Kirkus, Booklist)

7.     History:   The Deerfield Massacre by James L. Swanson

8.     Kairos by Jenny Erpenbeck  Winner of the International Booker Prize in Translation 2024

9.     The Last Word by Elly Griffiths

10.  Traveling: On the Path of Joni Mitchell  by Ann Powers  Audible

11.  The Storm We Made  by Vanessa Chan  WWII Malaya  finished!

12.  The Lost Book of Bonn by Brianna Labuskes   Germany 1946

13.  Table for Two: Fictions by Amor Towles

14.  The Mystery Writer by Sulari Gentill

15.  History/Biography: This Spot is Open!

16.  All the Broken Places by John Boyne

17.  A novel or memoir by Paul Auster, cherished author, (1947-2024)

18. This Strange Eventful History by Claire Messud  A Must-Read! Highly acclaimed!

 I am keeping #s 19-20 Open. And #15, which will be History or Biography. 

I realize that this list is incomplete. I hope to fill the slots as time and...BOOKS...become available.

The very best wishes for a sunny, but NOT TOO HOT summer for us all, and, of course, plenty of time to indulge in BOOKS.




Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Hoping to Post a "20 Books of Summer Post" This Weekend!

It has been such an eternity since I last posted anything, that it makes me wonder if any of you are still blogging about books!  I do hope so!

Despite the genealogical business mayhem that seems to consume my life these days, I very much want to list 20 books I'd love to read this summer. It's certain that I won't be able to plow through all 20 that are pressing on my mind and finish them all by Labor Day in early September, but I hope I'll be able to spend some QUALITY time with at least a good portion of these books during the hottest weeks of the year. And write about them.

I hope to connect with some of you about all of this. I have never intended to drop out entirely, as it must seem I must have done, but I have been much more fully occupied than I ever imagined. It has been rewarding, yes, but also limiting.  

So here goes! 

Sunday, July 9, 2023

A Catch-Up Post of Sorts--Though Not Really Possible!

I had such high hopes in early June that I'd have time for at least some reading this summer. And I have, though those moments for "some" reading have been very few. 

I am swamped with genealogical work, and I don't regret that, really, but I do need to actively and purposely plan time into the week for reading and relaxation. I have made the time for walking, though it's been a pretty lousy sport these days with tropical dewpoints in the 70s. I can't complain, though, given the severe, unrelenting heat confronting much of the country. 

Books I'm Loving:  I have so enjoyed Nancy Thayer's latest summer Nantucket novel, All the Days of Summer. I'm listening to it while I knit an incredible, multi-color  scarf of Italian wool. It's self-striping and wild-- and what's more important it's been relaxing, when I do manage to make myself take the time to listen and knit for 30-45 minutes in the late afternoons. I have only about two hours of listening to go, and I'm already sad to see it end. Heather, the main character, leaves her husband in her late 40s to spend a summer in a run-down cottage on Nantucket. She finds a new life, and because her son is marrying into Nantucket royalty, a new "family," of sorts. Reading this one has made me dream at night of renting a place on Nantucket for a month. An unattainable dream! I'd probably hate it; the island has been taken over by billionaires. Crowded! So, no! But the fantasy provided by this novel makes me dream it. You know, I do miss the ocean. Sigh.

I'm also reading Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, about Martha Gellhorn primarily, but also about her relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn was a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War, and the Russo-Finnish War of 1939, and afterwards... Set in Key West, Cuba, and in Europe, it's a great read, and frankly, very well done. Huge acclaim for this book, which made me read it. But frankly, Ernest Hemingway, in my book, was a loser as far as a man to have a relationship with!!  But that adds to the drama and conflict, doesn't it? 



Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Elizabeth Gilbert Decides Not to Publish Her Russian Novel

 Here's to hoping that I manage a good and proper post in the next two days! So hard to believe it's already the 13th of June. 

But I have read the first two books on my list, and I want to report on them very soon. I'm due to pick up four books on hold at the library, all of which are on my list, and will not be able to read in two weeks! 

If you haven't heard about this story in book news, I will let you know that I was very disturbed to learn that Elizabeth Gilbert has decided to pull back her 2024 novel The Snow Forest from publication. It's unclear whether this is a postponement or something more dire. It was Gilbert's decision, allegedly based on hundreds of one-star reviews on GoodReads. 

The truly awful thing is that the Ukrainian women blasting Gilbert on that site appear to have absolutely no clue what The Snow Forest is about. No ARCS are available, so they haven't read it. Clearly it was a misinformation social media campaign, having read all the comments. The commenters knew absolutely NOTHING about the book--first and foremost. What the commenters have NO CLUE about is that this is not a book about any ordinary Russian family, but an historical novel about a Russian family in total opposition to the Soviet government, which had imprisoned members of its family in Siberia.

Self-censorship is a huge issue in writing and publishing these days, and I feel compelled to write more about it in the future. Elizabeth Gilbert says she is withdrawing the book because of the pain it is causing Ukrainian women. (But, I want to say to her, they don't seem to know what your book is about.)

But, in the larger picture, the constant topic seems to be this: Who has the right to write FICTION about another country's people, about another culture, about anything? And I will ask you this: Is a white writer raised in the Northeastern U.S. compelled to write only about her own culture and environment and her own ancestors' history and nothing else? I'm talking fiction here.

I truly believe an author has the absolute right to withdraw a book from publication, regardless of what her publishers want. (As far as I know, her publisher has not fought her on this.) But I question Gilbert's motives. And for that reasoning, I will have to pause until I can pick up this conversation again. I hope you will weigh in!

And I believe that a writer has the RIGHT to write fiction about whatever he or she chooses. People have been doing it, for better or worse, for hundreds of years. Maybe no publisher will publish an Asian American woman writing a saga about a Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan. But somebody might, especially if she had years of experience living in such a community. 

I guess I just hate these barriers that have been created.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Twenty Books of Summer!!

 I've been formulating a list for several weeks now.  I must admit I'm not sure how the books will travel down the transit line. (Books on hold at the library.) And I must admit, I can be a MOOD reader, especially when life gets too busy or stressful. I also have not had the time to be as alert as I used to be about new books and recommended books. Despite these quandaries, I'm really looking forward to this event! The heat got up to 87 degrees here today, so I'm all in for reading the summer afternoons away. 

Okay—here’s my list so far. Right now I feel my list is unbalanced, and I feel I may be missing titles I really want to read. Please be prepared for the possibility of a new and refined list in the next week or two.

Please note that I’d love to read every book on this list, yet new or older books may fly across my path to tell me they must be read immediately. That’s the beauty of The Twenty Books of Summer. Substitutions okay!

1.     The Flaw of the Design by Nathan Oates  (2023)

2.     Lost Son: An American Family Trapped Inside the FBI’s Secret Wars by Brett Forrest (2023)

3.     The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page (2023)

4.     The Midnight News by Jo Baker  (2023)

5.     The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz  (2023)

6.     The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

7.     Killingly by Katharine Beutner  

8.     All The Days of Summer by Nancy Thayer (2023)  audio

9.     The Last Honest Man: The FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, and the Kennedys—and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy by James Risen (2023)1

10.  The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine

11.  Seems to be missing! I'll fill in soon!

12.  The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand on audio

13.  Another Martin Edwards Lake District Mystery??

14.  The Covenant of Water

15.  Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets by Burkhard Bilger (2023)

16.  Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues by Jonathan Kennedy  

17.  The Only One Left by Riley Sager

18.  The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge by Martin Edwards.

19.  Tom Lake by Ann Patchett  (2023)

20.  The Lock-Up by John Banville (2023)