In the High Peaks

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wed. News: Frustrated with Fenno, Ivanhoe Galloping, and The Sweet Tooth!

This morning I continued my reading of Three Junes with my cup of darjeeling by my side. I'm nearly halfway through the novel, and Fenno is driving me crazy! It's not poor Fenno's fault. It must be my impatience with people who need to actively take charge of their lives. Fenno is a man who falls into things, passively goes along with the status quo, and does not take definitive action in the first half of the novel, over and over again, ad nauseam. That's the case so far. And I'm sure he will change, as he must, or why would Three Junes be a 2002 National Book Award Winner?

I'm not expecting Fenno to undergo a massive overhaul of his personality, not at all. I want him to stake a claim, actively demand this claim for something that he wants, but first he needs to know what he wants, which seems to be a problem for him. I think I need to hang in there, but he's driving me crazy, perhaps because he reminds me of a sibling of mine??? There it is! When characters in novels remind you of family members a bit too much, what do you do? My answer: I very much want to finish Three Junes, but it's clear I need to intersperse my reading of it with other novels.

Of course Ivanhoe is an excellent change of pace, and I conquered thirty pages of it this afternoon, but I need to add a third novel to my current reading pile. Last November I started reading Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. But I had so much reading for German Literature Month that I had to set it aside. Therefore! For the TBR Triple Dog Dare I will now start reading The Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. I liked what I read in November, so I can't wait for my respite. Comments welcome!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Ivanhoe Progress, a Surprise Book Sale, and More Reading

Ivanhoe continues to entertain, and I've become terribly concerned with the fate of Rebecca, the beautiful Jewess, daughter of Isaac. She has been meticulously tending to the wounds of Ivanhoe, who is Wilfred, son of Cedric the Saxon, and who is a captive like all of them in the Norman's castle. Rebecca is saving his life, in fact, with herbal knowledge known only to women of her "tribe."

But what fiends these Normans be!! They are barbaric, with no human feeling whatsoever. Bloodthirsty churls! And they have the gall to call the elderly Isaac an evil usurer and a leech on the lifeblood of England. How absurd! The reader well knows that the darkest evil in England is resident within the Norman nobility and that they are the ones who have ruined England.

A huge attack has commenced on the Norman castle that is holding so many Saxons prisoner for no worthy reason. Sir Walter Scott spares no details in the description of every  aspect of the preparations for the attack and the initial battering of the castle. Sigh! I've finished the third installment of reading, but the full brunt of the battle has not yet occurred. Onward this week!!

Katrina of Pining for the West has recently posted her thoughts about Ivanhoe, Chapters 20-30. Please visit for more information!

Book Sale:
While in the midst of my madcap dozens of errands before my mother's birthday party Saturday afternoon in Massachusetts, I came upon a sign that said, "Library Book Sale Today!" Well, wasn't there the screech of tires as I pulled into a parking spot nearby? I ran in and quickly found two books of interest within five minutes: The Oxford Companion of English Literature (5th Edition--1985) and The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. I've never read anything at all by Maugham, but this one sounds intriguing. Have you read anything by Somerset Maugham? What was the book and what was your experience like?

After joyous family reunion activities, I returned home late Sunday (yesterday) and today have been trying to catch up with myself. I read only 10 pages of Three Junes this afternoon before falling asleep. How I wish I were making greater progress with books!!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

TBR TDD Update: The Bat and Three Junes

I must report that I'm about 30 pages away from the conclusion of The Bat by Jo Nesbo, and I can see that someone very important is going to die, and because I feel fragile at the moment, I keep finding excuses not to finish it. "I don't want to read it right before I go to sleep," for example. "I don't want to start the day with this sad death," I say in the morning. Never fear, I'll get to it, especially because I have a new book and new characters to invest in.

Yes, Three Junes by Julia Glass, the book that won the National Book Award in 2002. I bought it when it first came out in a trade paperback edition and then, for no reason whatsoever, never got around to reading it. It's such a superb character study and plot, I can't wait to get back to it! I completely identify with Peter, the widower, partaking in a grand tour in Greece, despite his being weighed down by so many events in his family and life before marriage. I'm so captivated by the revelations of his previous life and of his present. A number of years ago, I read a later novel by Julia Glass, The Whole World Over, which was wonderful, and she has another book to be published in April 2014.

Have you read Three Junes? What was your experience like?

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Ivanhoe: A Romance and Family Reunions

An interesting thing happened on the way to planning my mother's 90th birthday party, to be held next Saturday, January 25. The party population exploded from first cousins to a large assortment of second cousins. I'm thrilled that so many relatives want to attend, and my mother is head over heels excited. We haven't had a proper family reunion in many years; since the 1990s, I think. People are coming from seven states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. Whew! My closest cousin and the person who has been my big sister for all of my life told me, "This started out as a birthday tea, and now, my dear, you're planning a wedding." Absolutely! Two of my mother's first cousins are still alive and both are coming. Awesome.

An anonymous family donor has offered to host a dinner at a nice restaurant after the birthday party  for all the cousins. I'm awe-struck by such incredible generosity, which will give us all the opportunity to reconnect and renew family bonds.

So this is the reason why I'm days late in posting my second installment of Ivanhoe comments. Ivanhoe: A Romance is the actual name of Sir Walter Scott's novel, and I am overly susceptible to all the romantic elements. What has struck me the most in this second installment, (Chapters 11-20), is the way in which I am so enmeshed in each scene as it happens. Scott's language and characterization has enabled me to visualize each event vividly. I am there, completely. I find myself imagining a forested England.

I so admire the Saxon princess Rowena for despising the Saxon Athelstane, whom her guardian Cedric has determined she should marry. And I admire her for maintaining loyalty and devotion to Wilfred, Cedric's son, whom Cedric has disinherited, apparently for no reasonable reason. Rowena is undeniably a goddess in this tale. I also have a profound attachment to Gudrun, Cedric's slave, who has suffered for his fielty to Wilfred.

I've enjoyed the reappearance of King Richard the Lionhearted, though no one in England knows he is around and about. Lots of amusing characters, to lighten any heaviness of plot. A delight! Sir Walter Scott knows how to tell a story, that is for certain.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mid-January: High Hopes for Reading? Still?

For many valid reasons, I haven't read as much as I'd like in the past two weeks of January. I will be able to weigh in on the next chunk of Ivanhoe  tomorrow, but I'm so disappointed I'm not plowing through more books. I have had many projects on my plate--and not all of my choosing, which can be annoying to any reader.

I'm enjoying The Bat by Jo Nesbo, the first in the Harry Hole series, published in Norway way back in 1997 and published here only last year, I believe. I bought it for the Nook during a huge sale last fall, so I'm reading it as part of my TBR Triple Dog Dare. I like being in Australia in January! Hot as hell, a welcome contrast, though I love winter with a passion.

I want to move on to White Fang by Jack London soon as well as Night Watch by Sarah Waters, two more of my dying-to-be-read TBR pile books.

I desperately need a Read-a-Thon. Perhaps I'll need to declare one for myself this weekend. How 'bout you?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Go, Ivanhoe! And Thanks to Sir Walter Scott!

I must say that I'm finding Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott to be a delight. I'm one-quarter of the way through (I think), and the only time I wasn't riveted was for only four or five pages when the rules of the medieval jousting/tournament were being explained, which went on far too long for my patience. I am tackling this novel for the Read Scotland 2014, which Peggy Ann is hosting.

But just think of it! I would have shunned this book for being archaic, too difficult, and out of favor, yet I am amazed to discover that I'm finding it so fascinating. I am in awe of Scott's vocabulary, for one thing, and I find the antiquated words worthy of intense study. And as for his lengthy subordinated sentences, I find them magnificent. I love the language of this book and Scott's writing! If I had more time, I would look up every word in the Oxford English Dictionary to understand the history of its use.

Scott's characterizations are what propel this novel. He spares no effort in drawing the reader into the world of all his characters, from the lofty, arrogant Prince John to the lowliest peasant. Scott particularly drawing us into his characters' motivations, which is the aspect that makes the book, to my mind.

I'm so pleased that Katrina of Pining for the West, my co-reader and co-conspirator, is finding Ivanhoe to be equally enjoyable, and wonderful beyond her expectations as well. Please do visit her thoughts on her reading through Chapter 14. She discusses the all-important historical background, as well she should as she is a true Scot!

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Genius of Dogs

For the past couple of years, I've wanted IN to all the new information being discovered about dog cognition. I've been an owner of dogs since I was ten years old, when my father bought for me the son of two American and English Labrador Retriever champions. Poor Dad, he was trying extra-hard to make up for being an absentee dad, and, to my mind at that age, he outdid himself. I was besotted with this charmer of a foolish yellow Lab, that I named Ritz Cracker. When I was just shy of 13, thanks to a Scholastic paperback, The Dog in My Life by Kurt Unkelbach, based on his daughter's experiences in the show ring with a yellow Lab named Thumper, I decided I would make Ritz Cracker a champion and show him in dog shows. That's when I realized my dad's true genius and incredible precognition. How did he know my dog and I would love dog shows and winning prizes?

Since that heady time, Ken and I have owned Labs and Goldens, and have exclusively owned Golden Retrievers for the past 10 years. (Easier to train, more obedient, less shedding, believe it or not). Because dogs have been such ultra-important members of our family, I've wanted to discover what scientists have been learning about dogs' braininess. I know from experience that retrievers are nearly as smart as humans, if not smarter (ha ha!), but I wanted to know more, strictly from the viewpoints of scientists. I did not want to read a book by a layman who has spent a lifetime observing dog behavior. That would be I, and I want something more.

So I discovered The Genius of Dogs by Brian Hare, who is an evolutionary biologist and a lifetime dog lover. When I found this book, I realized that now I was finally getting somewhere. Of course there are other scientific books about dog behavior and they may be equally good, perhaps better. But this title published in 2013 comes credentialed, so I figured it was a great place to start. And there are many dozens of pages of notes and recommended additional reading.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adventuring into 2014 Reads--Chevy Stevens & Ivanhoe!

Somehow or other, right before New Year's, I was at my small local, local library and chanced upon Always Watching by the Canadian writer Chevy Stevens, her most recent thriller. Like the first Chevy Stevens's novel I read, Still Missing, which won the 2011 International Thriller of the Year Award in the Best First Novel category, Always Watching grabbed me from the first chapter and I'm still turning the pages, even though other novels are claiming my attention. Oh, yes, I'm reading some Ivanhoe everyday, which, line by line is fascinating. Why this is so, I must explain in a subsequent post.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott Challenge for January

I regret I must make this a brief post. More tomorrow! But I do want to let readers know that Katrina of Pining for the West, Peggy Ann of  Peggy Ann's Post, and I will soon begin a read of the classic Scottish historical novel (with romance thrown in) of Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. Wouldn't you love to join us?

Over the years, die-hard women devotees of historical novels have again and again informed me that Ivanhoe is a must-read classic of the genre. I've always wanted to discover what piqued their interest in this early-nineteenth-century historical novel. So here I am, eager to plunge in and learn what all the fuss is about. I loved Chapter One. So I'm thinking I must be on my way.

Yes, of course, you're invited! We'd love a few more eager readers to join us. Perhaps you wish not only to read Ivanhoe, but also to sign up for the Read Scotland 2014 Challenge hosted by Peggy Ann. I've signed up.

We're having a snowstorm and it's frigidly, brutally cold with a high temperature today of only 1 degree F with windchill temps in the minus twenties. I managed a short walk with the dog but just barely. It will be much colder and windier tomorrow, so we will not venture far from the door. At least I hope not!