View From My Window Sunday Morning

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Elin Hilderbrand's "Winter Trilogy"

Every few years or so, during the summer, I get a hankering for an Elin Hilderbrand Nantucket Island  novel, always set in the height of the summer season on this extraordinary island off the southeastern coast of Massachusetts in Long Island Sound, which has wonderfully warm swimming waters in summertime. (Unlike Massachusetts and New England beaches exposed to the frigid Atlantic waters.

But when Hilderbrand conceived of an extended family, the Quinn Family of multi-generations,  a family-run Nantucket inn, and three books about Christmastime on this one-of-a-kind New England island, I was all over it.

 The first novel Winter Street introduces the clan and simply swept me up in gaiety, laughter, and understanding. The reader is immediately engrossed in a whirlwind of not-always-congenial family relationships mixed with loads of loving relationships, and fascinating Christmas revelry. I read Winter Street from one afternoon until the next noontime. The second novel, Winter Stroll,  continues the Quinn Family saga. I read this one in a day and a half, and when I learned that the final volume in the trilogy would feature a blizzard and be issued this October 2016, I purchased Winter Storms. Well, I love the Quinn Family. They are riotous fun, and, although I have NOT read Winter Storms yet, mind you, I am mourning the trilogy coming to an end. If I thought I had the power to persuade Hilderbrand to continue the Quinn saga and their Christmas revelries, I would. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Annotated Christmas Carol

I am startled and surprised to learn that this wonderful edition, edited by Michael Patrick Hearn, is now only available as a used book via Amazon and major booksellers. I should not be surprised, I suppose, that it is no longer in print--what a loss, though.

I was also astonished to realize that it was published way back  in 2003. Has it been that long? I suppose--thirteen years.  I purchased it the year it was published, and have dipped into it each December, BUT I must honestly say that I haven't read The Christmas Carol from first page to last since I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. I was very young indeed, but I absolutely loved it.

This year I'd like to read The Christmas Carol in its entirety once again. Start at page one and read straight through, using the annotated version.

The introduction to The Annotated Christmas Carol is lengthy, and provides loads of information about Charles Dickens and the history of this remarkable
 work. The annotations, at the conclusion of the book are extraordinarily well done--from a literary and historical perspective. Do look for this at your local library!



Wednesday, December 7, 2016

"The Mistletoe Murder" by P.D. James

I'm happy to say that I really settled in and read a good part of the day. I'm now zooming along in Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice (Don't miss this wonderful book!) and today read one of the four short stories by P.D. James in The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories, published this year by Knopf. 

"The Mistletoe Murder" is quite tongue-in-cheek; the protagonist is a woman, a crime fiction writer in England in the early 1940s, and the entire set-up is a take on an Agatha Christie novel. But, as one might expect, even considering James's high respect for Christie, James turns the Christie treatment on its head in what turns out to be the most interesting (and I must admit most delightful) way.
The other Christmas tale in the small collection is an Adam Dalgliesh story, "The Twelve Clues of Christmas."

P.D. James noted that short stories are particularly devilish to write from a crime perspective, so it seems there were not many of them.



Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Christmas Books of the Moment, Including P.D. James

I've been thoroughly enjoying Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice, but find I'm only halfway through. This disappoints me, because I'd love to read at least a handful of Christmas-related titles this month.

The good (or bad) news is that I'm definitely under the weather. I've been denying it since Monday morning, fighting it off, trying to get ready to ski Thursday... and it is so NOT going to happen. Wobbly legs, dizziness, the kind of thing that makes artful balance on two strips of metal and carbon fiber impossible.

So that means that tomorrow I indulge in a personal Christmas readathon.
It will be a Wednesday of more Winter Solstice interspersed with dips into a new release, P.D. James's Christmas-related short murder mysteries, The Mistletoe Murder: And Other Stories. Published in late October, it's a slim volume, but it doesn't matter--I don't have these stories by James and they will be gobbled up. 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Michelle's Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge

I'm really excited about this reading challenge. And for once, I'm not too late to join and participate. It starts tonight at midnight (i.e. Monday, Nov. 21) and lasts through January 6th, Epiphany. This is the 7th year that Michelle @ Seasons of Reading has hosted these events. She is also hosting a readathon all this week to get the ball rolling.

Best of all, it's possible to be involved and read just one or two books.

If ever there were a year that I need something like this--this is it. Most Christmas stories have themes of hope and peace and love for all. I could use a strong dose of all three.

Yesterday I had a wonderful hike--It was nearly 60 degrees, I was wearing a t-shirt without a jacket or sweater, the sun was brilliant--perfection. This morning I woke up to a winter wonderland. We're at 33 degrees with a lake-effect snow falling, and it will continue through Monday night. Our lake-effect snow comes down from Lake Ontario, which is to the northwest of us.

The first Christmas novel I'm reading is Rosamunde Pilcher's Winter Solstice, as I mentioned in my previous post. But, because I've been collecting Christmas books since I was twelve, I have many, many books, and still I have a good number I've never read. Many of those are Christmas short stories. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bookish Musings at Tea Time

I believe I've mentioned long ago that my mother's family (she and her sisters in particular) observed the four p.m. tea-time ritual. On Sunday afternoons each week we had what is known across the pond as a "high tea" at my grandmother's house. At home, though, Mom would get home from work at around 4-4:30 pm, we'd make the tea, we'd have a brief chat about our days, and then I'd go off to homework and Mom might read for a few minutes before starting supper.

So it is today that I'm lying on the loft bed with a cup of darjeeling tea, just pulling together my notes about "The Geology of the Thirteenth Lake Quadrangle, New York."  (We live in this quadrangle.) This 125-page New York State Museum Bulletin was published in May 1937, with much of the geological research having been conducted in 1930-1931. The past few years I've become very curious about all the rocks around me. Right where I live we have a great deal of crystallized limestone and marble, which I find very interesting. But I know nothing about geology, so I'm trying to learn a bit more to go along with all the knowledge I've collected about plants, trees, mammals, birds, and all the other creatures of this part of the Adirondacks.

For some reason I just can't get back into reading The Trespasser by Tana French. I stopped reading it just before the election, and though I assure you it is an outstanding work of detective/crime fiction, my mood just won't take me back to it.

I just want to read something not in the present. I have a historical novel waiting--Patricia Bracewell's Shadow on the Crown, which is about a young bride of Aethelred, during the years 1000-1005. It was published in 2013.

The other novel I'm interested in is Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. I listened to an abridged version, narrated by Lynn Redgrave, over 11 years ago. I loved it and swore I would read the unabridged novel one day. I have it in the house, so I may move forward with that one tonight.
 



Saturday, November 12, 2016

How Not to Write a Blog Post--A Cautionary Tale

My apologies to everyone who read and was offended by my previous blog post, written last evening. I have not removed it, though I would like nothing better than to delete the whole thing or at least to edit out the material that may offend readers. I did delete the "F" word (used as an adjective to describe the P-E). That was deplorable. It's one thing to use it in casual conversation with a friend, but quite another to publish it to people who are readers of this blog. No reader deserves that. That was the only change I made. (If I changed it, then the cautionary tale idea would fall flat--besides I need to wear the letter A for a while a la Hawthorne.

I also published all the comments received (2 so far). I don't delete comments unless they are spam or if the commenter is using some form of hate speech  against a minority or other group of people.

The cardinal rule of how not to write a blog post is never to compose it when you have been massively triggered by terrible events of the day. This was my failing. The terrible event which triggered me will be related in a minute.

The next rule is never to over-generalize a group of people, as I did with college-educated people. Yes, there were lots of college-educated people who voted for Trump.

The next rule is to be precise with facts. According to the Pew Research Center, 52 percent of voters for Clinton were college-educated; 43 percent for Trump. So I messed up there. My apologies.

The triggering event that occurred earlier in the day stemmed from an article in The New York Times reporting on campus unrest and incidents post-election. The main incident (among several) noted in the article occurred at Wellesley College, a women's college, (Hillary Clinton's alma mater) when two white male students from nearby Babson College drove onto campus in a pick-up truck bearing a huge Trump flag. As they drove through the campus, students and other witnesses reported that the men were hurling gender-demeaning and anti-African-American slurs at students. They drove to the African-American center on campus and continued said behavior. When an African-American student protested and told them to "Get out," witnesses report that one of the men spat at her. Campus police arrived and the men were ordered off-campus. This incident has caused a huge disturbance in both college communities and among both college's administrations. If you google "Babson and Wellesley" it will lead you to lots of reporting on the topic, which is still being investigated. Activism has already begun via Change.org. To see Change.org's petition, link here.

This affected me so deeply because I grew up in the town of Wellesley, living near the college, and I'm a Wellesley graduate as well. I always have felt safe there. The campus was landscaped by Frederick Law Olmsted, is exceptionally beautiful, and is open to and frequented by many, many people from the Boston area, who have no affiliation with Wellesley, as a friendly place to walk dogs, go jogging, hike, canoeing, etc. The thought of this incident--this backlash--occurring against young women at this college disturbed me deeply.

Of course this is no excuse for the way I wrote my post--hence, my warning to myself not to write when such an incident has occurred in my day.

I think I was also reminded yesterday of the sexual harassment and sexual assault I experienced at my workplace when I was in my 20s. In those days, the mid-late 1970s, there was no recourse for a woman whose male colleague grabbed and muscled her against the wall in a large utility closet. And today, for many young women (and older, too), there is often no recourse, especially if a woman's priority is to keep her job and maintain her status quo among her colleagues.

So, again, I apologize for yesterday's mistakes and carelessness.




Friday, November 11, 2016

"Well, At Least We're Better Than Americans," Saith English Blogger

Before I begin, let's recognize that Americans enjoy British book blogs and feel akin to British readers, and vice versa.

The title quote was written by a fairly well-known British book blogger who commented on a post by a British book blogger who is, for a brief time only, on my "Blogs of Substance" list. This quote was what the former said she told her children, reassuring them, evidently.

What this writer completely failed to note and, let's face it, was probably too ignorant to know, was that the majority of Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. "Darling" Donald won the electoral vote and Hillary won the popular vote--more Americans voted for her than for the Donald. This has happened five times before in the 20th century, most recently with Al Gore's loss to George W. Bush.

I'm so glad that this British woman feels so superior to Americans, all evidence to the contrary. She can engender global superiority wherever she goes.

Backlash!
But, on the other hand, other intelligent Brits have examined the voter returns, and realize that college-educated men and women did NOT vote for Trump.

The blog who hosted and approved this blogger's comment will be removed from my "Blogs of Substance" list in the next few days. Don't worry--this host blogger has only been doing political commentary since earlier this year. She stopped blogging about books months ago. You won't be losing any book news, I promise! This blogger has harangued Americans in the past year as well.

Yes, I believe in free speech, but ignorant free speech, which ignores the facts and obliterates the population of an entire country is not tolerable.

I love British book bloggers' blogs. And I will continue to enjoy them and respond to them. Let's enjoy and celebrate our mutual love of books, and forget this denigration of our nation. Thank you! I don't think I or any other American deserve it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Time to Move On and An Annotated Mansfield Park?

And, if you will, please let me explain what I mean by saying that it's time for me, and I mean I alone (without putting that onus on anyone else) to move on. With the entire government stacked against the issues I most strongly believe in, it means I need to re-engage in activism that I was engaged in before Barack Obama's presidency. Advocacy for climate change legislation at the federal level, advocacy of the preservation of wilderness, not only in the Adirondacks, but throughout the country. And last of all, but still very important, advocacy of young women entering the workforce. As a college instructor, I can tell you that in northern New York, young women are subjected to harassment of all types by their employers--and it's not only sexual, it's much more than that.

So I do hope this year, with a reduced work schedule as of this week, to fully enjoy the holidays. To read to my heart's delight while still taking care of exercise needs and household business. To have fun.

Get back into my Classics Club reads:
Did you know that Harvard University Press has published a $35 edition of an annotated Mansfield Park??? I am curious, as an Austen reader. I know that controversy among literary historians and critics surrounds this novel. I'd  love to buy it, and I think I have saved enough gift cards so that I can buy it for myself. Will have to see! Mansfield Park is on my Classics Club list.