Friday, February 5, 2021

New Books on the Horizon

An update: I have a number of books in transit to my wilderness abode. And I have some at home I'm still reading. I'm nearing the end of Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati (1998), a great saga of the early U.S. republic, set in northern New York State. Still enjoying it immensely. But I have 250 pages left to go.  I would have been well finished by this time (10 days), but I'm waist-deep in a number of writing projects, most relating at this time to family history research.

New Books in the House and Books in Transit:  I have purchased Land by Simon Winchester, and it's due to arrive on Monday at the post office. (Books take over 10 days to arrive these days, not as in days of yore, when books would arrive inside of three days. I miss that nearly instant gratification. Alas!) Amazon used to deliver to the house, but no longer, or not at present. We have Prime, we're paying for home delivery, but for what it's worth, it's evidently no longer worth home delivery. Have you had this experience since Christmas? (And what's the matter with me? Don't I know there's a war on?)

In January I received a shipment of two hardcover books that sound like they might hit the spot. The first is The House on Vesper Sands by Paraic O'Donnell, which I was stunned to learn was first published in the UK in October 2018. That's a huge publication gap! It's set in Victorian London and looks as though it will have plenty of mystery and atmosphere.  The second is a (new one-volume biography of Graham Greene, The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene by Richard Greene. I'm fascinated by GG's life, but found the older, standard three-volume biography a bit too much to manage. I hope to read more of Greene's novels and stories this year as well. 


Then I made an impulse purchase of a something new that's very gothicky. Couldn't help myself, and I had a credit waiting to be used, so I bought Sanatorium by Sarah Pearse, which has just been published.




Thursday, January 28, 2021

Speaking of Chunksters...Some Great Historicals

 On Monday, I dove headlong into Sara Donati's Into the Wilderness, which is just a hair under 900 pages. Published in 1998, it's the first in a series of historical fiction set in a locale not far from my home, in the northern zone of what passes for the Mohawk Valley today (along the West Branch of the Sacandaga River). The novel begins in 1792, during George Washington's administration, as Elizabeth Middleton, recently transplanted from England, begins a new life with her father, a judge and patent landowner in the wilderness settlement of Paradise. She is a spinster at the age of 29, and is determined to open the first school in Paradise and to remain single. Until she meets Nathaniel Bonner, that is. Nathaniel is kin by marriage to the Mohican Native Americans. Lots of detail about Mohican culture and the clash of cultures in New York in this ear, but I won't elaborate, yet will suffice to say that this is an incomparable page-turner, very well-written, historically accurate, and think EPIC SAGA! If this book sounds familiar, I did mention the book in the tour of my bookshelves last winter. Finally, finally I'm reading it. I heartily recommend and am now 300 pages in.

In December, I was truly thrilled to read Ken Follett's new historical epic, The Evening and the Morning, published Fall 2020, and which is a prequel to his all-time best-selling book, The Pillars of the Earth. The 950 pages passed so quickly as I became wrapped up in this tale of 10th and 11th century-England, struggling to overcome and recover from Viking raids and former conquest. Really strong female and male characters were a great plus here. Also, just so you know, the hardcover was a joy to read, with extra leading between each line and a very readable font. 

Alas, I had to set aside Hilary Mantel's The Mirror and the Light, the third book in her trilogy about Thomas Cromwell, a book of about 868 pages or so.  I loved the first two books!  I so badly want to read it, but in the first difficult! 80 pages, many, many male characters (nobility, mostly) are presented and are important, but, I'm sorry to say this, I felt there was no attempt to characterize this large group of men as individuals. I found it impossible to distinguish one noble from another. And they were, in historical reality, individuals. So why is that?? It drove me bonkers, especially so, because I wanted so badly to read the end of this trilogy. Sigh. I will try again, probably this summer. But Wolf Hall and Bringing up the Bodies were top-flight!


Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A Day of Hope

 Sandy and I scurried through our woods hike in the snow early this morning. She would have liked to remain hiking, but I knew an hour was all we could spare if we were to be back in time to watch the very beginnings of all the inaugural activities. And we made it, and Ken and I watched enraptured for at least three hours. The first hour I could not stop my tears. I am and was so surprised by how overwhelmed with emotion I was to see such a man and such a woman rise up to govern our country. And it was so clear how humble they both were, how they only wish to do good for others, how it is so NOT about them personally. I could not stop the tears of gratitude and joy. What a day of boundless hope! May they stay safe and healthy and strong! Today everything buoyed me up, after so many days of waking in the morning filled with despair.

I retired in the late afternoon to continue reading my latest novel, Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton. Kinsey Milhone always sets me straight. I'm a third of the way through at this point, and am enjoying being back in Santa Teresa (really Santa Barbara, California), but even more so being back in Kinsey's company and in her struggles. 

I'm also listening to James Comey's new book: Saving Justice: Truth, Transparency, and Trust, which details more cases from his past as a federal prosecutor and what it takes to get it right, and how so often it can go wrong. I'm onto this one because I thought his first book was stellar. I had to find out more about what he has to say.

Friday, January 15, 2021

2020 An All-Time Reading Record for Me: Whither 2021?a

 I was positively flabbergasted that I read 76 books in 2020. I know why it happened, of course. Because every day by 1:30 pm-2pm, I was in my reading nook knitting to an audiobook or reading a hardcover or e-book. I tended to listen to an audiobook for part of the afternoon and then I read a book for the other part. It was how I survived 2020. I read some great, unforgettable books, for which I am so grateful. 

I'd love to spend some time highlighting the titles that really stood out among all the rest. But I'm one of those people who is always looking forward and going forward onto the NEXT THING. 

So, I'm glad to report that I have thoroughly connected with the new 2021 novel The Last Garden in England by Julia Kelly (Kelley?). This is a novel about an extraordinary garden: most particularly about a property in Warwickshire, from 1907 to the present, and its huge garden with many "rooms" and how it evolved, most especially through the lives and designs of many women! If you are crazy about English gardens and how they evolve through history, then I think you will love this novel. I am so thankful to have connected with it at a time when I have been having an impossible time connecting with any book whatsoever. I'm halfway through and am really enjoying it!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

DISGUSTED: The Only Word for Today's Events

Note to Blog Readers: If you are angered by today's events, you may read on and feel in a like mind. If you are not. PLEASE TUNE IN ON ANOTHER DAY!!! I will welcome you later.

I'll keep this brief. Trump protesters have shouted for WEEKS that they would STORM the U.S. Capitol Building. Yet, lo and behold, no law enforcement agency was prepared AND most of them NOT under Trump's thumb!! This is the really scandalous part of this entire invasion. 

The U.S. Capitol Police were IMPOTENT against the onslaught of ultra-right wing protesters. Video shows them standing, jaws agape, watching as protestors broke through the doors into the Capitol. There had been talk about the need to lock the doors of the Capitol. Yet this was not done. WHAT???

I'm not going to belabor this. You've heard it all. What gets me: These Fascist protesters, The PROUD BOYS and others have DECLARED FOR WEEKS that they would breach the Capitol. So really, really, why were all federal policing units stupefied, with their mouths hanging open??? The U.S. Capitol Police, I believe, are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior. 

Where was the FBI DIRECTOR?

Where was the Head of Homeland Security?? (Charged w. Domestic Terrorism)

BUT don't you wonder??? Why didn't the FBI, who has been following the activities of the Proud Boys and other militant, violent fascist groups, why didn't they coordinate with other groups of federal law enforcement?

I'm sorry if this offends: I am DISGUSTED by the federal government's inability to protect the Capitol when the WRITING HAS BEEN ON THE WALL FOR WEEKS!!! Heads will roll. I don't know when I have been more angry, I really don't. And I will not apologize for my anger, readers. I won't.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

New Reads Off the Shelves for the New Year

 As I'd hoped, I browsed my bookshelves and book stacks and piles today. I'm so glad I picked up a book from one of my all-time favorite authors, Paul Auster. Somehow or other I purchased A Winter Journal back in 2012, but never read it. And what a wonder it is! Pieces of memoir, yes, and reflections on singular moments in his life, all through his life--though not linear. He makes his personal your personal. This afternoon I fell in love with his writing all over again...wondering how does he do it? How does he make the personal in his life speak directly to me in my life? WOW!! I have always considered Paul Auster one of my favorite authors of all time, but haven't read anything by him in the past 7 years. I'm fixing that! It's true he's only written one novel in this time, but I've ordered it from the library. Title:  4 3 2 1.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Oh, Gosh! Can't Find Any Good Reads To Be Published in January 2021--Have You?

 Happy New Year!! I think I'm going to have to go deep-diving into my personal library stacks to find reading for January. I have scoured all the new books coming out and none of them have the slightest appeal. I'm wondering: What are you thinking, and what are you planning for January 2021? Have you discovered books of interest to be published in January and February? I would simply love to know if you have.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Wishing You a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year in Books!

Thinking of you, everyone, out there this Christmas Eve. I'm hoping that all of you are celebrating with loved ones, in whatever ways you can during this time.

We are very well here, though we're having torrential rains on top of more than a foot of snow that fell about five days ago. We'll be fine here, despite the deluge, but other areas of our region that received much more snow face severe flooding in the next 24 hours. It's been a strange late fall--early winter season so far. Severe cold followed by unusual warmth, then back in the deep freeze, and warm again, like a see-saw.

I'm in the midst of my customary December lull (read: FUNK), and hope to be back up to speed after New Year's Day.

I'm currently trying very, very hard to read The Mirror and The Light , the third and final volume about Thomas Cromwell during King Henry VIII's reign, by Hilary Mantel. I'm reading it in hardcover, and I must say the publisher has made the book very difficult to read. The paper of the pages is a poor newsprint quality, and each page is lighter  and more flimsy than newsprint, and a dull beige in color. The print itself is a light gray and does not stand out on the page. The font is tiny, with very little leading between the lines. So I tried to hang tough but struggled for two hours today to read only 38 pages of a 757-page book. And what has made this novel even more difficult--there are dozens and dozens more characters, although fortunately there is a five-page list of who they all are at the beginning of the novel. I made it fine through the first two novels in the series, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. But I was unprepared to be so challenged.  I know some of you have read this--so I will hold on. Frankly, I need MORE LIGHT to read. Perhaps I should have waited for summer light to read this. 

Now WHY COMPLAIN on Christmas Eve, really? Especially when I've read so many wonderful books this past year, and particularly this past fall.  I just finished John le Carre's final novel Agents Running in the Field, and loved it. I thrilled to Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld, Monogamy by Sue Miller, and most compelling of all, the incomparable memoir Notes on a Silencing by Lacey Crawford.


Monday, December 14, 2020

Oh, Gosh...The Passing of John le Carré

 Ken often listens to the news after I head off to bed. Last night (Sunday) I came back downstairs to get a glass of water and was stunned by the headline banner on the television: "John le Carré, Dead at 89."  I was shocked and ever so saddened. Because le Carré, David John Moore Cornwell, has been so intensely productive in his eighties, even in his very late eighties, publishing two books within the past 4 years, I was hoping he would at least live on into his nineties. He would be around, I thought, and even if not writing, then just generally enriching our universe.

John le Carré,'s works are so monumental: I was thrilled this morning that The New York Times gave him such a lengthy, substantive obituary. It went on and on, and there was so much there to contemplate, so many nuances. (Even if you're not a subscriber, do search Google or your alternative for this obit. So well done, so many bits and pieces to savor.) 

Earlier this December, there came news of the death of the American novelist, Alison Lurie. Her novels spoke to me--even though she was closer to my mother's age than to mine, she understood the travails of intellectual women and the hard road of their romances, and of their lives. Sigh. A cut above the rest! Do look her up. Have you read any of her novels?