View of Heart Lake and an Adirondack "High Peak" in Mid-May












Monday, July 1, 2019

A Dreadful Time of Year to Be Offline

Just a note to say that for the near future, Ken and I will not have internet access. We drove to a restaurant tonight, so I could check our weather, check email, and post this very brief entry. This is the worst week to be without internet, because it is the very busiest week in the tourist season, and wherever I go to find wifi, so will there be loads of tourists doing the same. I have nothing against our tourists--we desperately need them here, but we usually steer clear of busy places.
Wimbledon can occupy us--we don't need wifi for that, thank goodness!
I will be checking in, though.
Katrina and I have just started reading One Hundred Years of Solitude for the Back to the Classics Challenge.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Hitching up with The Big Book Summer Challenge 2019

The Big Book Summer Challenge sounds perfect for my summer reading habits. I first learned about it from a post on Jane's blog, Reading, Writing, Working, Playing (See sidebar).

The host of The Big Book Summer Challenge is Sue who writes the blog Book by Book. The link will take you to the sign-up page where all the rules are explained, yet they are simple, and to participate you only need to read ONE big book (400 pages and up). The challenge started on May 24 and ends on September 3, the day after Labor Day.

Since May 24th, I've read two books that qualify:
Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George (412 pages) and
Last of the Mohicans (425 pages). My review of the latter is coming up in a day or two.

Other BIG BOOKS I either plan or hope to read this summer:
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez  (also reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge)  417 pages  
Plan to start this  on July 1st. 

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller  (BCC Challenge)   probably in August   453 pages.
Hope: I may have to put this one off until fall.

The Radiant Way by Margaret Drabble  408 pages.  
Plan to read

Winter of the World by Ken Follet, (Vol. 2 in The Century Trilogy), 940 pages.  I had a hankering to read this one this summer. And then I found out how long it is.  I read Vol. 1 a number of years ago. But it would be an entertaining immersion.
Hope to read



Saturday, June 15, 2019

Fun Books While in the Midst of The Last of the Mohicans

Fun Books--That's what's needed when slogging forward in a book that you're determined to read but which is fraught with forbidding challenges for the reader.

I very much enjoyed The Headmistress of Rosemere by Sarah E. Ladd (2014), which really surprised me by how much fun it was. Yes, at first glance, the description sounded as though I'd like it, GoodReads readers rated it a 3.9, with most readers rating it a "4," and the next most numerous group a "5." I believe the book can be categorized as an "historical romance," but really, truly, it is a cut above the norm of that genre. It's set on the "moors" in England, in what appears to be northern England, because it's a dark, snow-covered, wintry setting. The novel is a modest length and the action does not slacken its pace throughout. Original as well, I thought. But if Romance with a capital "R" is not your thing, then some of its pleasures may not find you.

My next FUN read is The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper. I've dug into this one already and again I like it immensely. The young, though experienced, nanny in question has by chance and by luck, been hired to be "under-nanny" to the young royals at Sandringham Estate  in Norfolk in 1897. Her young charges include David, oldest grandson of the Prince of Wales, and also heir to the throne after his father George, the Duke of York, as well as Bertie, the second son, and another child who is an infant. And thus her adventures begin.

Lest you think I have gone dotty for pablum reads, I am also beginning The Dark Flood Rises by Margaret Drabble, which was published in 2016, and which I started, but then had to return to the library. I am content to start the novel all over again because what I read two years ago was well worth rereading. Tales of those in their mid-seventies and hanging on with every breath. This one I'm reading for the TBR 2019 Challenge.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

More Elizabeth George Mysteries and The Last of the Mohicans

Because I posted last Thursday, I feel the need to note an update on my reading before I get down to a "proper post." That may happen Friday at the earliest.

With a flourish and a hurrah, I finished Well-Schooled in Murder by Elizabeth George this morning, the #3 novel in the Lynley/Havers mystery series. This third title was every bit as extraordinarily excellent as the first two, for those who are interested. I must say to you personally, if you only viewed these mysteries via PBS or BBC, you owe yourself something very, very special by reading the first three novels in the series in print. I declare that George's novels do not translate well to television, because so very much, yes, so very much of her novels are what goes on in the characters' heads. In their thinking, which never makes it way to film.  I think it's time for a revival of Elizabeth George's early novels because they are so special. No one I know is writing mystery or police procedurals of this caliber today. No one. If you believe that there are those who are, I beg you, do please let me know.  It's true that George's novels took a tumble--I believe the worst tumble came after the publication of What Came before He Shot Her. George's fans revolted, utterly revolted at that novel that resulted in the murder of Lady Helen. Personally, I thought that that novel was a brilliant departure--brilliant, but her long-time fans saw otherwise.
I believe that George lost her footing for a time after that novel. Careless in Red, the next novel, was a disappointment to all. George picked up the pace after that, but most will agree that her earliest novels are the best.

About me and The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper,  published in 1826. I am a third of the way through this novel. It is more than a bit of a slog--I don't mind saying. I am thrilled by the descriptions of wilderness landscape--whitewater rivers, thickly greened wilderness, etc., because the action of this novel took place within 35 miles of my home. But the language is difficult--it is turgid. I checked to see when Pride  and Prejudice was published (1815). And the language of that ever-so-readable English  novel is nowhere near as contrived, nowhere near as muck-mired as The Last of the Mohicans. That is my pronouncement. And of course I'll happily finish Cooper's book, but really his style has me gasping for air at times.  In addition, there are the constant Indian battles and killings as the party tries to make their way to the safety of Fort William Henry.

In my next post, I'll write about the new books that are helping me survive The Last of the Mohicans!

Thursday, June 6, 2019

June Reading and Other Books!

I must face facts. I am a person who cannot read 20 books between June 3 and September 3. For  some reason, during the summer I find myself  gravitating toward chunksters. I'm so interested in other people's plans, but I'd  never make the boat. 

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott was a delight from start to finish. And for those considering reading it in the near future, I will caution you that Alcott wrote it in 1874 and gender norms of the Victorian period are adhered to, despite Uncle Alec's revolutionary departures. I'm waiting for A Rose in Bloom, the sequel, to arrive. I think I might devour it upon its arrival, but I do have other literary fish to fry.

I'm also waiting for The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper  a Barnes and Noble paperback edition, which I'm reading for the Back to the Classics Challenge, which is hosted by Karen at Books and Chocolate. I very much like these low-priced classics from Barnes and Noble. The type is legible, the books have an intro, a chronology of the author's life, and reviews from the time the book was published. I have the Barnes and Noble e-book edition of this title, but for a book that's 445 pages, I really want a hand-held, hard copy. I feel I get lost in e-books that are over 400 pages.

And, in the meantime, while I wait, I'm thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth George's third Lynley/Havers mystery novel, Well-Schooled in Murder (1990). If there is one cardinal strength in George's Lynley/Havers series, it is her superlative creation of scenes. Each scene is meticulously crafted. I can picture each telling detail in each and every scene with such clarity. George is a marvel, in this respect. I know that these were BBC mysteries years ago, but I wouldn't want to see them now. The book, the text, is so extraordinary.

We are supposed to have three days in a row of sunny days starting tomorrow. Everyone is holding their breath, scarcely daring to believe it. We have had a very DIM, rainy spring. Think DARK.
Just leaves us wondering--what will our summer be like? Since last November, our weather has been out of the ordinary, so can't help trying to guess what's up next?

Friday, May 31, 2019

Classics Club Spin: The House of Mirth

I can only imagine how the publication of The House of Mirth must have struck the literary world of New York, Boston, and Philadelphia in 1905, a bit like a tsunami, perhaps. The novel was a huge bestseller, but who read it, and how did the upper-tier of society in the Northeast react to it?

I see the novel as totally exposing the super-wealthy elite of Newport and New York and Boston and Philadelphia, leaving them so open to the criticism that they so richly deserved. I would be very interested in reading every review of Wharton's novel in every major newspaper in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. The intellectual class, the upper-middle-class, populating the professions including the law, journalism, and academia, must have had a field day with the novel, and the way in which Wharton exposed the shallowness and pettiness of the elite who had "old money" supporting them, with the "new-moneyed" class trying to nudge their way into their midst.

I can't help but see the novel in its historical context. This is partly due to my family history, which I'm not sure this entry has space for.
Laying that aside, which I scarcely can, I empathize with Lily Bart who, after the untimely death of her mother, never had a single person in her family to act as a sheltering mentor. Oh, yes, Mrs. Peniston reluctantly gave Lily a room in her home, but no woman relative took her under her wing when she was a teen or in her early twenties to give guidance, to love her, to nurture her, to question her actions as she emerged as a debutante to navigate the river rapids of the society she was dealing with, which is what all the other young woman had. This lack of a strong family behind her was really the key to her undoing, in my view.

The other aspect that paralyzed Lily's ability to secure her future was her inability to commit to anyone. The minute that affairs seemed to drift toward closure and securing her position as a wife, she flew. Over and over again. For some reason, she felt safest on her own, independent and admired by everyone. This, for a time, kept her on the pedestal she believed she could manage.

The House of Mirth is an absolutely brilliant work of art, in my opinion. It deserves a much, much, much higher place in American literature than it has been given. There are a virtually endless aspects of discussion that it provides to the reader.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Louisa May Alcott Strikes Home Again, and The House of Mirth Coming

Tomorrow, May 31st, I'll be posting my review of The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton for the May Classics Club Spin.
But I deviated from my plan on Memorial Day weekend. Somehow or other I allowed myself to get swept up in the very recently published  post-apocalyptic novel The Last by Hanna Jameson. Yes, I downloaded it onto my Nook and allowed it to consume me. It had some very interesting moments, but it was really just a smidgin above so-so, in my estimation. Of course I compare all of these post-apocalyptic novels to the stunner On the Beach by Nevil Shute. None can even come close to this masterpiece. Sounds like it won't be long before I reread it for the 4th time. (!)


This morning I picked up Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott and was delighted by it all over again. I think I read it when I was thirteen or fourteen. As I was reading the unabridged edition,  I can see why Puffin Classics have published an abridgement for younger readers (9-11).  That's because there is some really adult-world stuff going on in that book. At 13-14, I think that part of it really interested me. And it really intrigued me today.
Poor orphaned Rose, whose dear Papa died more than a year ago, has never really recovered from his loss. After spending a miserable year  at a boarding school, she is shipped off to live with her aunts and great-aunts on "Aunt Hill" in a coastal New England town. The six of them never stop arguing over how she is to be brought up, how to be treated, how to deal with her constant  illness, and so forth. She is very isolated living with these old ladies, becomes more sickly, and bored out of her mind.
Thank heavens, her Uncle Alec, the brother her Papa appointed as her one true guardian, finally arrives back from Calcutta to overtake his responsibility. And what a breath of fresh air! He encourages her to play with her 7 boy cousins, roughing and tumbling, he tosses all her get-well tonics out the window into the flower bed, replaces the "sickly person's diet" with good, wholesome food, gets her up and running around outdoors, and, of course, showers her with attention and loves her to pieces. And the aunts can't complain for Uncle Alec is a medical doctor. In a family conference, "adults only," he convinces them to stand aside, because he is the appointed guardian of Rose, and if after one year, she is not better off, then they are welcome to intervene. And so it is!   Loving it.
And Alcott has such a robust sense of humor in this one. Sheer delight!
I must read Rose in Bloom, the follow-up to this one, maybe later this summer. Have never read it.

By the way, the cover of Eight Cousins is one from a re-issuing of all of Alcott's novels in paperback by Little Brown in 1997. Little Brown was Louisa May Alcott's publisher originally.
There are really no good unabridged editions of some of her novels right now.
I happened to be working in a children's bookstore just outside of Boston in 1997 and these nice trade paperpacks, which came out just before Christmas, were immensely popular. I'd like to get (almost) a whole set. I say almost because I have a much-treasured edition of Little Women, published in 1966, given to me from my favorite "reading" aunt. I got this one through Abebooks.com from a rare book seller. Got a good price for a "fine" copy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Books in the Mail! And Memorial Day Readathon

I will be in the MOOD to read for hours and hours starting Thursday.
I can feel the compulsion coming over me, which will likely last all weekend.
We will also dine at The Inn on Gore Mountain. Susan Minucci is hands-down the best chef in Warren and Essex Counties. And I will do a few walk-abouts, but due to our super-rainy spring, we're having the worst black fly season in years and years, so I must choose very windy places to gaze at nature.  I will also plant my horde of violas and pansies, finally, into pots.
House-cleaning is out of the question until next week, or the week after, maybe.

My priority is to  finish The House of Mirth for the Classics Club Spin by May 29th. And how I will enjoy being able to concentrate on it! I can already see that I am waiting to read it again. There's so much in it.

Two new, new books arrived in the mail today. You may have heard news about them or seen the excellent reviews.

The first has received the most praise thus far.
 

Follow this link for all the praise from reviewers:
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/537667/furious-hours-by-casey-cep/9781101947869/
Be sure to click the "Read More" prompt to get a taste of what reviewers all over the US are saying.

I'm so happy to have this book in my house this weekend.
Who would have known that Harper Lee started this book project? It's so interesting, because, in part Harper Lee had been so burned by Truman Capote's eager and whole-hearted acceptance of all of her research and help with the organization and writing of  In Cold Blood, and then he never once, not ever, acknowledged her contribution. No acknowledgement, no payment, nothing. What a tragedy, followed by the complete breakdown of a relationship that dated back to childhood.

So now today--what we, the public, didn't know until the publication of this book is that Harper Lee decided in the early 1970s to try to write her own "nonfiction novel" of a true crime case, this one in Alabama. I only wish that she had had a few older mentors and contemporaries to support her through the process.  A community of writing colleagues. As far as I know, she didn't have them--not close ones anyway, as far as I know. Perhaps this book will enlighten this part of her life.

My other hardcover book in the mail today:
The Guest Book, which is receiving rave reviews all over. I've provided a link to Maureen Corrigan of NPR's brief thoughts, but many more are all around. It is the type of book I'm yearning for.

https://www.npr.org/2019/05/03/719964856/from-family-drama-to-global-apocalypse-these-two-novels-keep-you-riveted
 And a happy long weekend to all of you!

Sunday, May 19, 2019

A Catch-Up, in a Wickedly Busy Month

I lament that I haven't posted in ten days, and I'm sorry I've had zero time to visit everyone's blogs, which I enjoy doing so much.

I'm in a time snarl right now, and all I can say is that it will be ending eventually, and things will be much better by the very end of May and certainly by June.

And do I ever loathe preparing for public speaking! I loved teaching students, but in this case the audience will be people my age primarily. Peers. All my life I've found speaking to an audience of peers to be much more difficult.  I was asked to do this, and I complied, but what was I thinking?
On the other hand, I enjoyed the research for the project tremendously. I learned a great deal more about early New England history, which is my specialty, so why the angst? Just get over it, I tell myself.
The event will be this Wednesday evening at the Chestertown Historical Society. (If I can survive until then.) Ken will be on hand to project the digital images for the presentation. I have been very thankful to have his technical help and support. Life-saving.

NOW to Books!!  I am still reading The House of Mirth for the Classics Club Spin, although very, very slowly at this moment. I am reading about 12 pages per day right now. Things will pick up! By the way, I finished Avalon by Anya Seton early this past week.

I had been zooming along in The Man in the Brown Suit, by Agatha Christie, but I ran into memory-retention problems when I could only read before falling asleep and no longer during the day. Deadly combination. So I'm laying it aside momentarily--I've lost a few of the important details, but I will  definitely go back and pick up all the slipped stitches as soon as Wed. May 22nd is over.

In the meantime, I had to have something to read before bed that wasn't too taxing mentally and for those rare moments when I take a break from work. I started reading a book by Dinah Jeffries that is set in Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka), in 1935, entitled The Sapphire Widow. It's a little more than romantic suspense. Perhaps romantic suspense with just a dash of thriller and a dash of mystery. A very fragrant setting! It's wonderful for those few moments when I can read.