A very, very brief post to say that I'm fascinated by P.D. James's The Black Tower, especially the deeper I get into it, and I have been so inspired by the extraordinary characterizations in Julia Spencer-Fleming's One Was a Soldier. As many of you know, Spencer-Fleming's "mystery" series about Episcopal priest, U.S. Army helicopter pilot, and recently-returned Iraq War veteran Claire Fergusson and Miller's Kill Chief of Police and Vietnam veteran Russ Van Alstyne just can't be beat, in my estimation, especially if you admire character-driven fiction or mysteries. I am so in awe of the writing in One Was a Soldier, published in 2011.
Due to circumstances beyond my control, it appears that this weekend will be devoted to reading. A new tennis racquet arrived at my door, but I don't know that I'll have the strength to play this weekend. It may have to wait. But Wimbledon watching will continue, primarily in the evenings.
I've nearly finished Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, and P.D. James's The Black Tower arrived yesterday, all ready to go. So the latter will be rapidly consumed, I imagine.
But I'm also reading, chapter by chapter with rests in between, the nonfiction work by the 2015 Nobel-Prize-Winning Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets. To write this book, Alexievich personally interviewed hundreds of former Soviets about the conflicts between Soviet life and the Life After. I hope to have much more to say about it later. It has received tremendous accolades throughout Europe and North America.
I downloaded the current bestselling thriller Before the Fall by Noah Hawley yesterday in an attempt to break my lack-of-reading crisis. It worked. It's been given multiple starred reviews, and other laudatory comments from many news outlets, so I figured it might at least entertain. And it has been a page-turner, though I'll reserve a final judgement until I'm finished.
Today I ordered The Black Tower, an Adam Dalgliesh novel, by P.D. James, which will arrive on Thursday next, to see me through the latter half of next week. I know I can read James, no matter what.
I can't believe all the titles by favorite authors to be published in September: Ann Patchett, Ian McEwan, and the Dutch author Herman Koch, to name a few!
I have been assigned a great deal of work this summer.
I've been struggling to achieve balance in my life.
Reading is a vital, integral part of my life. Being busy with work can make me neglect reading time, which is so important to me and my well-being.
Making a book list for the summer gives me a compass. Instead of reading just anything that drops into my lap, I have a list of books to refer to, which I have truly wanted to read. The list is my GUIDE.
Now you are expecting a list, aren't you?
I don't have one yet.
What has been staggering is the number of recently published books I'd love to read as well as the books to be published this summer, as well as my Classics List, not to mention all the other books I was hoping to read.
My partial beginning of a list: O Pioneers! Willa Cather (Classics Club) Serena by Ron Rash Housekeeping by Robinson
I can face it-- It's a very miniature start, but I'm going to keep working on it.
Reading, eating, and breathing--in that order. The bare essentials of life, and without them my life feels out of control and downright crazy. (Work implodes.) So my highest priority has to be to hoist myself up onto the book train again.
I finished Touch Not the Catby Mary Stewart, enjoyed it tremendously, and will write a brief blog post about it sometime in the next few days.
And what am I taking breaks to read at the moment? I fell into reading Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, another gothic novel. The original UK title was The Girl in the Photograph. When I looked Riordan up on the Web, I discovered she's written a number of other books that sound as though they'd be perfect for my future contemporary gothic forays.
My next Classics Club read is O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I'm looking forward to quieting my brain just enough so I can dig into this wonderful novel about settlers on the Great Plains. I know I've mentioned that I'd soon be reading this two months ago, but my rabbit-hole was cavernous.
I've been waiting and wanting to read a novel by the American and Appalachian writer Ron Rash for some time. (The link provides access to an interview with Rash.) Most of his novels are set in wilderness or near wilderness and have themes related to the land and the wilds and rural America. I'm going to read Serena first, for which Rash won the PEN/Faulkner Award about 5 or 6 years ago. Serena is now or recently has been made into a motion picture. Rash's Above the Waterfall appeared this year, but I'm putting that one on hold, even though its story line is compelling. Rash is considered to be one of the country's best writers and poets. And he was born in that great vintage year 1953...
The month of May was abysmal as far as my number of books read is concerned. (It was superlative for hours spent in wilderness watching spring unfold.) I read The Lewis Man by Peter May, and L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton. The Lewis Man was absolutely superb, but this particular Letter "L" Grafton book was pure tedium. I think I read one other dud in this series, but can't remember which one. I know, based on experience, that M is for Malice is certain to be much better, because that's how it went with the book following the only other clunker.
So what about this month of June? I have loads and loads of work this month and tomorrow morning I'm leaving for a week to research in southeastern New York State. Fortunately I've already dug into the extraordinarily fascinating book, The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley. It's a story of a retreat or pilgrimage for a devout group of orthodox, or fundamentalist, Roman Catholics in the far north of England, making their way to the bleak shores of Lancashire to a holy site during Easter Week. The time period is the 1970s. I read a review that said it had gothic undertones, and I went for it based on that. I never thought such a story would grip me, but it's so artfully crafted, I'm amazed and I can't imagine what Hurley has up his sleeve.
I can't wait to read Touch Not the Cat by one of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart. Have you read this one? I bought it at a book sale about six years ago, and it's been lying untouched on my bookshelves ever since. No longer!Katrina of Pining for the West and I are reading it on and around June 15th. I'm bringing it on my research trip this coming week, so I can start reading. It sounds truly gothicish or gothicky. Neither are true adjectives, but perhaps some of you gothic-afflicted people will know what I mean.
Yes, indeed. I fell in love with spring in the Adirondacks all over again.
You see, May last year, I scrambled to finish grading papers and exams for my final semester at the college. The very next day my 4-month-long, grueling professional genealogy course began--and I had not a free moment until Labor Day in early September.
So this year I have found that I am literally going wild with excitement observing all the spring wildflowers again, I'm fascinated taking stock of the state of my forest in different habitats, and also am thrilled to construct new, interesting trails to take advantage of the beauty on our land. Of course I still have to work, so I limit these activities on weekdays to 90 minutes. And weekends, I allow myself much more time still. So it's probably no surprise that I'm not reading as much as I was in March--a stellar reading month--11 books without a single dud.
So, it's no wonder that right now I'm enjoying the forest ecologist Bernd Heinrich'sThe Trees in My Forest. He writes about his personal studies on his 100+ acres in northwestern Maine, and his land is very similar to our land in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. He is probably the best-known and most widely read nature writer in the Northeastern U.S.
I'm still reading L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton, but am eager to finish it so I can strike out and claim some new bookish terrain.
Unfortunately, it's going to be very, very hot this weekend--high 80s!! And still our air conditioner men have not arrived. You will never hear me complain about our winter cold, but the heat does wilt me. The cure: Take a cold shower. Dig deep into a mesmerizing book in a darkened room. Don't come out, unless there's an invitation to an air-conditioned venue.
I will get out very, very early to enjoy nature before the heat hits in earnest.
I realize that I'm fortunate to have a started a new business and to be very busy with work. This is a good thing. I'm very glad I'm no longer working as an adjunct professor earning a pittance, though I miss the students terribly. But actually, I suppose I'm mildly bewailing the fact that I haven had time to read all week. I so cherish the luxury of reading that having my sole time arrive just as I'm falling to sleep feels like a cheat.
So! In reference to my previous post, I had to retire Wilde Lake by Laura Lippmann. I read up to page 100 (it's 355 pages), but I didn't feel it lived up to its starred billing as heralded by Publishers Weekly. I'm sorry to report I found it boring. I'm most assuredly not complaining because I have read so many top-notch, thrilling books this year. Wilde Lake simply wasn't the book for me, and I do hope others will enjoy it.
So! You guessed it. To help me over this hump, I am reading L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton. Oh, what a comfort to be back in the so very un-beautiful Saint Teresa, California, stalking around with Kinsey Milhone, with all her hang-ups and feistiness. It's a balm for my overtaxed mental state.
But I'm looking forward to the following books:
The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks (I have read the first two chapters. Beautiful prose that one needs to read slowly to grasp its full merit.
Dr. Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, the new translation, published in 2014. It's my hope to read it this summer. But if work is too frantic, I won't force myself to try to do it.
The Lake House by Kate Morton. I adore Kate Morton's books and this most recent one, I'm sure, will be a pleasure.
O Pioneers! by Willa Cather will be my next Classics Read.
Yikes! I just found out the newish British gothic thriller The Loney is waiting for me at the library! Something for the weekend.
I returned home from a 10-day business trip in far western New York State last Thursday night. Since then I've been scrambling to write up a report of my findings from that research trip. It pains me that my reading life has had to take a back seat for the time being. Ouch...!
Peter May's second volume in his Lewis Trilogy, The Lewis Man, was fully engrossing. Although not the 10-star tour de force of Volume 1, The Black House, I loved this novel just as much, because more of the main characters' lives and personalities were revealed. These books are thriller/mysteries, written by the Scottish author Peter May, set in the Outer Hebrides islands. Portraying setting and atmosphere is among his secret arsenal of skills. And, of course you know, I'll delay reading the last book in the trilogy because I don't want to let go of these characters.
Right now I've tried to get immersed in Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. I like it very much, but the problem is, I don't have a minute to read it until just before falling asleep, and that does not work very well. I'm hoping to devote lots of time to it this coming weekend.
Am I praying for a rainy weekend??? Well, maybe not, but I wouldn't find one a total loss.
I live in a beautiful mountainous wilderness region of northern New York. This environment perfectly suits all my outdoor interests: bushwhacking, hiking, alpine and cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and the study of nature.
Since moving to the Adirondacks in 2005 from the Boston area, I still find plenty of time for reading, but far less time for writing and painting, though I still enjoy these activities.
Teaching is also important to me. I teach Children's Literature to future teachers and freshman composition.