In the High Peaks

Saturday, February 24, 2018

We're Melting: My Current Book Pile

Wednesday was a dreadful day for winter lovers. The thermometer rose to 64 degrees in my high-elevation northern wilderness region. Although I enjoyed sunning myself and reading on our balcony, all outdoor exercise--traipses into the woods or hikes on the road--were impossible. The road was squelching, deep-boot-covering mud. The trails were deeply water-logged.
It's cooled down a bit now, but nowhere near enough to be normal for February. Must we now face the end of winter sports for the season? I hope not! I'm praying for March cold and oodles of snowstorms. It's okay--I know I'm in total denial of climate change.

Books are a primary means of comfort at such times. I had to ditch Fire and Fury, my audio--knitting combo, by Michael Wolff. Halfway through was more than enough. I may pick it up later, but for now the daily New York Times is offering more scandalous fodder than Wolff's book.

I'm finishing Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, for the Now Read This Book Club, which will be featured on the PBS NewsHour on Wed. evening, Feb. 28th. I will be ready. A very worthwhile read. Please see previous posts for more about this book and a link to the Book Club.

Once more, just this week, I returned to Conn Iggulden's Stormbird, which I was reading in December in Vermont while it snowed endlessly. It's the first novel in his War of the Roses Series (four books). The emphasis is on wartime action and adventure, but I found enough to like in it to continue reading this 430-page book. I learned a lot about how battles were fought in the fifteenth century, and I will say that the details were interesting, though I would not want to read book after book about the details of additional battles in the prolonged struggle for dominance in England. Still, it was interesting to learn how desperately the French feared the English archers who faced them in the front lines. Good writing.

I am loving a wonderful book  about a spunky Bassett Hound, who came to stay at the home of the writer Hal Borland and his wife Barbara in northwestern Connecticut. Penny: The Story of a Free-Soul Basset Hound was published in 1972, but to me this book reflects the much simpler times of rural America in the 1950s.

Hal Borland was a naturalist, outdoorsman, and writer for the New York Times and an author of books on these topics. He was born in 1900 and died in 1978. His most popular book by far was The Dog Who Came to Stay, a story about a dog previous to Penny, who adopted the Borlands and became their beloved companion.  Penny the Bassett is quite another number--much more high-spirited, recalcitrant, and fiendishly devilish. But, all the same, I find it very relaxing and amusing to read about their struggles with this staunchly independent dog. Strangely, no human in this book, and there are many, has any clue or inkling how to train a dog, not even a little bit, which is what makes it so hilarious.  Oh, the poor, poor humans to be so tyrannized by a Bassett.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

New English Crime Novel by Barbara Cleverly

My latest mystery is Diana's Altar, by Barbara Cleverly, a veteran English crime novelist. This novel is #13 in her Joe Sandilands crime series. A number of the early titles in the series take place in colonial India. Then Joe, a WWI veteran, swings back to England to work as a top investigator at Scotland Yard.  This one is Cleverly's latest in the series and was published in 2015.  It's set in Cambridge, England, during the early 1930s, just as many university students and a number dons are beginning to embrace communist ideals, causing MI5's and Scotland Yard's backs to raise hackles. 

Aside from that developing phenomenon, Dr. Adelaide Hartest, a low-status (though a daughter from a prestigious family), token woman in an all-male, prestigious medical practice, begins the novel by attending to two deaths on the same night, on All Hallows' Eve. One appears to be a suspicious suicide, a death by dagger, in a church known for its very odd Anglican vicar. The other is a death that Hartest clearly detects was a poisoning by arsenic in a country house owned by a money-purchased titled sir of ostentatious wealth.

Joe is very smart, funny, well-educated, and upper-class despite his choice of profession with MI5. He has tried and tried to betroth himself to Adelaide, who is resisting, according to her determination to retain her professional life. He supposes that she believes that marriage and professional commitment don't coexist for women at this time.

I was tipped off to this book by the Washington Post and NPR book critic, Maureen Corrigan, who gave this title a stellar review. I am enjoying it, I'm a third of the way through and longing for more, but I am despairing because I have only 5 days left with it before Overdrive claims the ebook back, without my consent. Overdrive is a tyrant that way.

And have you ever heard of Barbara Cleverly? This is the first I've learned of her. She was born in 1940 and is now 77. I'm very interested in trying one of the early, set-in-India, Joe Sandlilands books.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Buried in Snow and Fire and Fury and Other New Books

An Alberta Clipper that was supposed to provide us with 5 inches of snow has unloaded 14 inches instead. Believe me, we're not complaining. Magnificent snowshoeing today under a crystal-clear cobalt blue sky.  Wednesday will provide us with another significant storm.

I am nearly smothered by an avalanche of books. My February days are destined to have every spare second devoted to reading. As we all know, library holds always seem to drop at the same time, so my current reads are as follows:

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann (2017), the February selection of the "Now Read This Book Club." I'm awe-struck by this historical/true crime nonfiction selection. Members of the  Osage Tribe, who had been removed to north-central Oklahoma in Osage County, became astoundingly wealthy in the early 20th century when oil was discovered on their territory. So wealthy, in fact, that they were able to afford grand houses, servants, top-of-the-line automobiles, and extravagant lifestyles. This altered status made them the totally unprotected targets of vengeful whites.  And therein lies this remarkable, true saga. I knew nothing about this stunning and alarming chapter in Native American history, as so many readers have commented about this eye-opening book.

I'm reading the final chapter of Peter May's 2015 novel Runaway, which is about a group of teens who flee their lives in Glasgow for what they hope will be rock 'n roll fame in London in 1965. More on this soon.

Still reading the fascinating Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Oh, gosh!! Here's how the following bit of news happened.  I needed to purchase an Audible audiobook before they took one of my book credits away, and on an impulse, I selected Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff.

I'm 25 percent through and this is my verdict so far: Fire and Fury is sheer political entertainment. And because I listen while I'm knitting, I feel exactly like Madame DuFarge in A Tale of Two Cities.

Lots of the events presented in Fire and Fury, which Wolff says are fact, are already believed by the vast majority of Americans, save for the 30 percent of those who are "Trump's base." The rest of the stuff Wolff reports is believable, I suppose, based on public knowledge about the characters involved, though I will take nothing Wolff says as strict, unadulterated fact.
One of the tip-offs for me was a scene with dialogue between Roger Ailes and Steve Bannon that supposedly occurred at a so-called dinner party at Roger Ailes's home in Greenwich Village. Entertaining dialogue, of course. But reality? Doubtful, even though anyone who knows anything about Ailes and Bannon could certainly imagine such a conversation taking place. 

I've been trying for two days to complete this post, so I'll post it tonight, and post another very soon with the rest of the avalanche. Too many books descending all at once.