In the High Peaks

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Dewey's Readathon: Discoveries and Reflections

This readathon first-timer found much to like about dedicating an entire day to reading for pure pleasure. This morning I awoke feeling well-rested, which is something I seldom experience. I enjoyed every minute of the day, including the minutes I was not reading. The relaxation I experienced was profound.

From the age of 17, I've had this cherished belief (more like an idée fixe) that I must exercise every single day without fail. I think I believe that daily exercise is essential to being as healthy as I can possibly be.

I must say that Dewey's Readathon came at a time when I've been reexamining what I need to be healthy and the role of various kinds of relaxation in enhancing good health, both physically and mentally.

I have discovered in the past six months or so that reading in a quiet, comfortable setting makes me deeply relaxed, similar to the effects of a 15-minute bout of meditation.

In any case, I'm not giving up daily exercise, but once a month or so, or whenever I really need and want to, I might treat my mind and body to a full day of reading as I did yesterday. It made me feel very, very good!

So thank you! to all the hard-working, self-sacrificing organizers of this event. I appreciate your efforts tremendously!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How Long Will I Stay Up with Dewey?

Late this afternoon through 6:30 pm or so--I read and finished the ending of The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. So good--so scary! I was not prepared to be so scared through the last 35 pages. I'm seldom frightened by books, but this one did it to me. A top-notch gothic thriller, in my opinion. I'm looking forward to reading Webb's other books. One has been published very recently, and the other in 2006. I'd like to list the titles, but I'm really fading, fading...   Now I'm wondering what book would keep me awake until 11:15 pm or so. I'll do my best.
Thanks to Ken for coming up with the dinner solution and for walking the dog twice today. I feel like a sloth, but reading all day was definitely fun.

Whole Hog for Dewey! 10 Hours In: Dedication Develops

This afternoon I was in a pure reading trance, thanks to the Dewey Readathon. I visited a few participants' blogs and left encouraging messages, and then BAM! I read Only Brave Tomorrows by Winifred Bruce Luhrmann, published by Houghton Mifflin, Clarion Books, in 1989, an historical novel set during King Philip's War in 1675-1676 in central Massachusetts.

This Indian war decimated both Indian and English colonist populations, including women and children on both sides. In my history education, including my university and college American history retrospectives, this war and the other Indian wars fought in the 17th- and very early 18th-century in New England were never addressed, never mentioned, and not included in any college text or reading. Yet King Philip's War, in particular, killed many, many more English colonists, percentage-wise, than Americans killed in the Civil War, or the Revolutionary War, or World War II. For the myriad Native American tribes in New England, their tribes were even more heinously slaughtered.

Although Only Brave Tomorrows is no longer in print, I liked it very much: It very clearly depicts the life and struggles of colonists during this era, especially women; and, without histrionics, shows what it was like to live in a village on the frontier and to be the sole survivor of a massacre. Although all the characters are white colonists, I commend the book for showing that not all English colonists wanted to wipe out the native American tribes, and that not all Indians wanted to wipe out the colonists. The story has a great love story within it, and well-researched, interesting, and not overwhelming historical detail.

It is very, very difficult to find historical novels about King Philip's War for young people, no doubt reflecting Americans' confusion about our nation's overall treatment of Native Americans, from 1620 to the present.

Dewey Noon Hour: Karl Ove Knausgaard's My Struggle Vol. I

Late this morning I turned to My Struggle, the Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard's first volume of his vast autobiographical novel. I learned about this book from a fellow blogger, and I must find out which blogger so I can give proper credit. I'm nearly 50 pages in, and I've found this book is full of the type of writing I love: it's acutely introspective, rich in detail, unsparingly honest, and above all, rivetting. If you love reading the journals of writers, you will appreciate this book. It's been translated into 30 languages and has been extremely popular in Europe. Knausgaard lives in Sweden now. This link will take you to a fascinating interview with Knausgaard in The Paris Review.

First Book of the Day, Dewey-Style

Well, I'm snuggled into the loft bed with a cup of strong darjeeling by my side. I started Dewey just past eight this morning by reading something easy, which I'm already in the midst of, and that would be The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. A gothic to start the day sounds about right.
If you scroll down, you will find the photo of the drippingly gothic book cover.
Thank you to everyone who's following me!

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dewey's Readathon Starts for Me at 8am Sat.

I have decided at the last minute to try doing Dewey's tomorrow. I've got lots of choices of reading material on hand, which I'll mention tomorrow morning. We're having some rain tomorrow, which helped push me toward trying Dewey, but I'll admit it right now. I must exercise, I must eat, and I must sleep--all for health reasons. Other than that, I'm all set.

Good luck to everyone and have fun!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Do Read The Lie, If It's on Your 2014 List!

I loved the experience of reading The Lie by Helen Dunmore. (Please see my previous entry for the book cover, links, and other comments.) I've heard comments from people who have not liked the ending, but I can sweep the ending aside, because it was only a few lines long and not the point of the book, not at all! But, you folks are right, I would've completed this novel in a different way, and I like to think of that ending so much that I can forget the few words about the real ending.

But I implore you not to cross this book off your list, solely because of the ending. I think it's exquisitely written, sensitive, incredibly "subtle," as one reviewer noted, and well worth the time spent. I liked it nearly as much as her previous novel, The Greatcoat, which is high praise from me, because it was one of my top reads of 2013.

Where do I head next?
I'm working on the gothic I mentioned a couple of weeks ago--The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. I'm reading it on the Nook and must say that it is very well done. Set on the wild, windy shores of Lake Superior in the U.S.  Marvelous setting and plot!

And I'm continuing to be enthralled by books revealing 17th-century colonial New England. This is my first time examining this period of time, and it is so fascinating. I'm particularly interested in the cataclysmic event of that century, King Philip's War, the Indian war that killed more English colonists (percentage-wise in terms of population) than Americans in the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and World Wars I and II). Furthermore, this war, sadly, decimated the Native American population in New England. To think I studied American history in junior high school, high school, and college and never heard it mentioned. What a heinous omission.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Helen Dunmore's The Lie was waiting for me at the library much sooner than I expected. And the book is due on April 23rd with no renewals! I would so like to read it and finish it, if not by the 23rd then soon after. But I've been overwhelmed by more projects--writing jobs, leading many nature hikes at Garnet Hill in April and May that involve research and scouting beforehand, and preparations for my Children's Lit summer class that begins May 19.

Back to the book: The Lie, as many UK readers already know, is set in France in the First World War and in England afterward. It has received excellent reviews. I so loved Dunmore's The Greatcoat, which I read last summer, that I'm very eager to read this book. I can't believe the vast number of books published this year about World War I. At my library, there's an entire six-foot-long bookshelf dedicated to new nonfiction focused on this war. If I were an historian and expert on this war, I would not want to publish a book in 2014. All these titles are getting lost in the crowd.  I feel so badly for the authors, who've put so many years of work and research into them. Have you read any of the nonfiction that you would recommend, or do you know of any that have been highly recommended?

What about other fiction focusing on the First World War? Do you know of any or have you read any to be published this year? And of course, there are the reissues of older titles.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Truly Gothic Reads Heating Up and a Bit of Nonfiction

The traditional gothic is gaining in strength and numbers, I've observed. As I've mentioned before, Victoria Holt's Mistress of Mellyn, which I read as a high school sophomore, was my introduction to modern gothic and that was in 1968. Little did I know then that "gothic suspense" and "gothic romance" were on their way OUT. It was too bad, because after a few more Victoria Holts, some Joan Aikens, and Mary Stewarts, I was certain I wanted to write one myself. But that was in my immature years, and when I finally had the wherewithal to actually apply myself to writing one, the genre was dead and gone.

So my latest contemporary gothic read is The Fate of Mercy Alban by Wendy Webb. I adore the cover, and it's all too possible that I've shown it to you before. All the same, I'm thoroughly enjoying the book on my Nook. It's a very satisfying read for a modern gothic nut.

Wendy Webb wrote an interesting post on her publisher's blog last year concerning her gothic-novel writing.

Nonfiction: I'm whizzing through HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
I managed to borrow this from the library and that's why I'm zipping through it. It's about Clinton's transformation from New York State senator and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate running against Obama to a position that she never saw herself filling: U.S. Secretary of State. Yes, there's political intrigue, here, but lots of detail of her management of the State Department and all the crises that arose during Obama's first term. Love her or hate her, it doesn't matter, this is a very, very interesting book. I'm learning lots about the State Department and the U.S. handling of foreign affairs, and ok, a little about political dynasties.

I'm also reading lots of books about 17th-century New England, but I won't bore you with that!!

We still have lots of snow, but this week we'll have temps in the 50s all week. I went on a snowshoe trip today with Sasha, but our days as winter adventurers could be counted on one hand.