Lake Waban in Massachusetts June 2017

My favorite place to walk in the Boston area

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Murky Day Means Knitting to Audiobooks

Just a few sunny days this week and now we're back into The Murk, as I call it. It's plenty dark due to a dense cloud cover. Yes, I'm thankful  it wasn't hot and we were able to have the windows open all day, which has been a rarity this summer, due to the heat and humidity, even when there is Murk. It will be murky and a bit rainy until Wednesday. (I'm just hoping this means we will have a spectacular fall).

Indoor cleaning projects were not appealing today, so well before noon, I tossed off de-cluttering to launch a new knitting project. I'm excited about this one. Noro Kuryeon yarn, manufactured in Japan, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Every yarn in this line is wool, mixing many colors together to make multi-colored garments. I ordered the Noro Kuryeon wool for a scarf and draped hood combination that seems as though it will be very practical for an Adirondack winter.

It took quite a while to knit the gauge sample, because I had to do it in the pattern, which is not difficult per se, but is very complicated because it's a 12-row pattern and each row is different. It's just knit and purl, but you never know when you will purl or knit, row by row.

I was fine while I was finishing the last two hours of Barbara Ehrenreich's nonfiction book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and  Killing Ourselves to Live Longer.

I was drawn to this book based on Ehrenreich's tour de force bestseller Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America , in which the author went "undercover" as a waitress, hotel room cleaner, nursing home aide, Walmart clerk, and a cleaner of houses to show how difficult it is to survive as a poor woman in America. Things haven't changed at all since the book was first published in  2001. So if you haven't read it, and even if you know how hard it is, Nickle and Dimed is a classic. Ever tried to get food from a food pantry when it closes at 5 pm, the same time as you get off work, and other impossible Catch-22s.

In listening to Natural Causes, I was astounded to learn that Ehrenreich got her Ph.D. in molecular biology. Or was it cellular microbiology? In any case, Ehrenreich, who calls herself a "gym rat," (just because it makes her feel good, not to live longer), presses home the message that although we like to think that the diets we eat, the exercise we do, the herbs, the constant screenings for cancer, and everything else we do because we believe they will make us live longer, none of it has ever been proven to do just that. It is true that people of higher socio-economic levels live longer, and poor people have shortened lives.

She cites study after study, and gives copious explanations of cellular activities, which have all been updated. She interviewed countless researchers and studied a mind-boggling number of research studies.   I really like her message. It's provocative, as all her books are, which I like.  One of her messages I really, really liked: If one gets cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes, kidney failure--you don't deserve blame. It happens not because you didn't exercise enough, eat the "right" foods, on and on.  As she and her studies show, the human body, as it ages, is designed, whether genetically or due to environmental reasons,  to develop some of these problems. The idea that we can control what happens to our bodies is a very modern notion, and does not serve us, she argues.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Another Satisfying Thriller and Comments Problems--Sorry!

For about 4-5 days I've been having problems with my comments. One I tried to publish, but it didn't post, which has me fretting, because it was a post from Tracy who was sharing information about the terrible wildfires in California. I can copy it "by hand," which I will asap.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (the authors are actually a team of two sisters) satisfied my thriller soul, yet the ending was not unexpected at all. Lots of critics and commenters mentioned a real twist at the end, but I didn't find it to be so. Still if you long for tales of deep Highsmithingly darkness among the rich and famous, you may enjoy The Last Mrs. Parrish.

My adolescent reader's appetite has barely been whetted, so it was with great delight that this afternoon I downloaded An Unwanted Guest (Penguin Random House summary) by Shari Lapena, (link to her website) available as of today.
This one is delicious--It's set in early winter, in a well-maintained, but old country inn, in the middle of nowhere in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. (The Catskills are a mountain range two+ hours to the south of the Adirondack Mountains.) Of course the weather turns absolutely brutal, when a blizzard-like storm turns into a horrific ice storm. Naturally, the inn is completely cut off--no electricity, no phone, no wifi, no nothing, not even a generator. (Every tourist residence in upstate New York has a generator and this is no historical). But at least they have plenty of food, drink, a library stuffed with books, and oodles of murders. Just perfection for my restive adolescent reader at the moment.)

I'll bet you're saying, "Loads of thrillers and murder mysteries have had this type of setting and premise. Is there nothing new under the sun these days?" And, of course, you're absolutely right.

Then why am I finding this story so compelling? Each guest couple or guest single has their own backstory, which ups the ante. This one has excellent description, so every scene is crystal-clear. And, moreover, this gathering of strangers in a remote place, cut off from civilization, speaks to us. It's a premise that's  done over and over again, because it speaks to us. Strangers coming together in the midst of crisis with no outside resources, with almost no resources, must find a way to survive somehow.

If you will pardon my whimsy for a moment, I am reminded of Snoopy, typing away on the top of his doghouse. Of course, he's writing his first great novel, which begins with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night." The perfect opener.
And did you know that this is the opening sentence to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle? 

I will sign off for tonight, but for the following postscript from my inner teen.

P.S.If you know of more thrillers or suspense novels that had you on the edge of your bed, or reading chair, please do let me know. I'm dying for more.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Voracious Adolescent Reader is in Residence

For weeks, literally four weeks, I have been searching for a book to tempt me beyond 30 minutes of forced reading, when I plunk myself down on the loft bed or chair and task myself to read. I have searched and searched for a book that might pique my curiosity, to no avail. After the heat wave in early July, it was DARK TIMES for my reading. I read, but lackadaisically-I just couldn't get engaged.

But who knew, (not I!),  that I had a book-ravenous adolescent inside me, who has been longing for a tremendously TRASHY read?

I didn't know this, until I found The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, by scouring the August edition of the advertisements in BookPage, which my library kindly distributes.  The link above does not go to GoodReads, because I found the novel description there to be way off, and readers' comments were either purely positive or full of venomous hatred for the book, giving too much away, I think.  Read it after you read the book perhaps. It seems to have aroused very strong emotions in some readers.

I'm two-thirds of the way through, and I can say that it's fascinating to my adolescent self who can't believe the things these people are doing. Occasionally, this creature comes bouncing up from the depths of my psyche and devours pure trashiness, which is lots of fun until the jag is over and I'm bored with it all.

So put this one on your list if you ever get into one of those moods... There's supposed to be a wicked twist at the end.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

84 Charing Cross Road, Booksellers, and My Next Thriller

I'll confess; I have never read the book or the play 84 Charing Cross Road. Last evening Ken and I watched for the second time the film starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins (and let's not forget Judi Dench), which was produced in 1987, and which we loved the first time in the 1990s in our Massachusetts home.

Did you know that Mel Brooks produced this film? I certainly didn't until this evening, when I went scouring the Web for info. Brooks seems like the least likely person to gravitate toward producing this sort of movie, BUT he was a New Yorker and Jewish, like Helene Hanff, though neither were at all religious, and both were incredibly irreverent and feisty, so I can imagine them meeting and getting along splendidly. (Of course I don't know this.)

How I would love to have a relationship with an English or Scottish bookseller--that's my thought for tonight. Oh, sigh!
And to realize how transformed the purchasing of used, rare, and antiquated books has become! Now you go to Abe Books and proceed. However, I am certain there are book collectors with very, very deep pockets who have personal relationships with booksellers far afield from their homes. Well, I know they do. I occasionally read the magazine Fine Books and Collections. But that kind of collecting is only for the very, very rich today, as so many things are.

We have  lost so much, yet Helene Hanff was never able to have a blog and thereby an international group of fellow readers who shared the books she enjoyed most. Wouldn't she have loved that? Would that have compensated her for the lack of a special bookseller? I think so, in a way. But why can't we have both, in the best of all possible worlds?  She only had her favorite London bookseller to share her thoughts with, and a few English friends in NYC.

I started reading The Annotated Frankenstein today. And I must have a thriller, a downright page turner if I am ever to morph back into being a voracious reader again. So, after a lengthy search, I am starting The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine.

Monday, July 30, 2018

The Annotated Frankenstein Arrived Today and Other Notes

The Annotated Frankenstein that I now hold in my arms is a 2012 publication. It was edited by Susan J. Wolfson and Ronald Levao and was published by Harvard University Press. It is an oversized book with the text of the novel and lavish annotations in the wide margins of each page.

My reason for ordering, other than the high acclaim the book received after publication, was that although I had devoured and studied Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley when I was 21, just 43 years ago in 1975, I always wanted to know more about Mary Shelley's life and the story of her writing this book. What motivated her to write this particular novel and not another, for example?

So that is my mission. I have a recent paperback version, though I'll admit I still own my first literally crumbling Penguin paperback, with its minuscule print.  As a Gothic fanatic, I know I'll enjoy Frankenstein the second time around, but I will be interested to see the thoughts and ideas I form now, after decades of a reading life.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Whatever Happened to Hilary Mantel?

I still can't read. Three concerned doctors on Monday told me that they concluded it's just a psoriasis lesion on the inside of my eyelid (and outside, of course) that's scratching my eye and causing the pain and blurriness. Hail! Hail! So ointments, etc. should eventually get me tied up with printed books again. Hoping!

In the meantime, I was doing the grand tour of my many bookshelves (so much fun on a brutally humid day), only to find myself with a big question. I thought that Hilary Mantel, author of Wolf Hall and Bringing Up the Bodies was writing a trilogy about Thomas Cromwell. Bringing Up the Bodies, which was excellent, was published in 2012. So I'm asking and wondering if any of you know if you've heard anything about the third and last book in the series? I don't want to seem impatient, but I haven't heard a thing. I'm wondering if Mantel is taking a breather and writing other books? Being in the U.S. makes it harder to figure out what might be happening.
I do hope Mantel's health is not the issue.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Bookish Problems and Travel Plans for September

I spent Monday through Thursday morning in the Boston area, and I want to emphasize that the purpose of the trip was NOT for pleasure, although I did manage to have time for a wonderful reunion dinner with my brother, and on another evening, a serendipitous rendezvous with disconnected strangers stranded in an excellent pub due to torrential downpours and flash flooding.

I've luxuriated in being home again, but I've had sudden, terribly blurred vision that has made reading a book so extremely difficult that I've had to engage in other activities. How annoying to a summer reader! So I need to charge into audiobooks in a big way and also see the doctor on Monday, which is always a big waste of time. Bah humbug! I'm sure my vision will sort itself out all on its own, given some peace and quiet.

I was reading Summer Before the End of the War by Helen Simonson, and was enjoying it. I'll pick it up again soon, I'm sure.

September travel plans: I'm dying to reunite with the ocean. I want to have salt water waves roll over my toes. I want to smell brine and seaweed. I must get up close and personal with the Maine and Cape Cod shorelines. We're trying to figure it all out now. A little late, perhaps?? Maybe, but I hope we can  wrangle something together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

UK Books and Wimbledon

I don't need to calculate any statistics to know that I read more UK fiction past and present than from any other country, including the US. I've visited the UK a total of only three times, and each time was a wonderful, eye-opening experience. If I could, I would visit every year, no question, and so would Ken.

Wimbledon--the highlight of the tennis year is here. And it seems that every tennis player in the world that is willing to spend the time and the pain to conquer the sport on grass, is determined to win.
We watched a match today, the likes of which, we have seen only a very few times in our careers as tennis fans--watching Roger Federer (Swiss) combat Kevin Anderson (South African) in the quarter-finals. A superlative,  top-ten match is one in which both players are playing their absolute best game, are neck-in-neck the whole way, and are battling, no-holds-barred tennis, going for it all. This doesn't happen that often, actually. And it happened today. Wow.

They went straight out for five sets and beyond, and then the last set had to be extended, punishing the players with overtime. Anderson, well-deservedly, conquered Federer in the end. Federer is the top champion of the modern era, but even he, who will turn 37 in early August, knows all too well that exhaustively long matches are getting to be beyond him now.  He knows he must win all the early sets to win and move on, rather than be ensnared by extended games, and extended matches.
Federer was at match point in the third set, but lost that single defining moment. The consequence of that  last moment led to the match going on for 3 more hours. Can you imagine?

I've been so quixotic in my reading. Oh, gosh, that MOOD thing that has been driving my reading. I never know what I'll be reading from one moment to the next. I am finally in the mood and very much want to read The Summer before the War by Helen Simonton, which is yet another English book, published in 2016. The war in question is WWI. I can't wait to get going on it. I will pick it up at the library tomorrow. I thought of reading it two summers ago, but I had read so many WWI novels and books during that centennial, that I held off on this one, and am now glad I'm in the mood for it.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Beautiful Sunday, and Time to Sneak in a Book or Two

Ken and I spent the late morning walking at Garnet Lake. It's just four miles from us, and such a beautiful lake, surrounded by mountains.  I hope I can post a photo soon.

I finished May Sarton's Recovering: A Journal, with dozens of pages I want to photocopy. It always amazes me how Sarton's honest rendering of her struggles with herself seem to reflect mine. And her unbridled joy at the everyday wonders of birds, flowers, the ocean, the weather, the people in her travels and her appreciation of them are so full of a vibrant enjoyment of life. Must read another soon. Pearls of wisdom abound, though she would be the first to declare she has no advice or wisdom to share.

Continued The End of the Affair--complex, fascinating, deep. I give it 5 stars. And please reflect on JoAnn's comment, that Audible's audio of the book, narrated by Colin Firth, is an excellent way to absorb this novel. I discovered that Colin Firth's narration of this book won first place at the Audies in 2011? 2012? In one of those years.