In the High Peaks

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Reading Goals Til New Year's

My header for this entry sounds so ambitious, as if I'm really going to forge forth and consume books by the armful until December 31st at midnight. 
I do plan to make reading and listening to books a priority in December, but we'll be busy as well.
This year we will thrust aside our laziness and put up a Charlie Brown Tree.

A Charlie Brown would be one of our own balsam firs growing on our 27 acres, somewhere. Balsams growing wild are a bit straggly, hence the CB designation. We've done it before but have not had any tree of any kind for about 4-5  years. I just need Ken to construct a base for it, so the trunk can sit in a bit of water.
We have the decorations. I have missed a Christmas tree.

So reading:
I'm loving Jenny Colgan's Christmas on the Island (the fictional Scottish island of Mure) a little too much. So much so, that I don't want it to end. It is that good. Do consider it for your holiday fun!

I've just started reading a Christmas murder mystery novel by the Canadian author Douglas Whiteway, writing under the pseudonym C.C. Benison. The book is the first in a Christmas series, entitled Twelve Drummers Drumming, published in 2011. I've read 25 pages and the humor and pathos have kept me turning the pages.  Father Tom Christmas (no, no--please just call me Tom!) is vicar at a new posting less than a year after the death of his wife. His daughter Miranda, age 9, has made a wonderful adjustment to the new village in Devon, attached as she is to the sprawling Swan Family of children. Father Christmas--no, no, please! Call Me Tom is engaging in the life of the congregation, but still there are all those nagging doubts about what happened to the previous vicar who vanished under bizarre and mysterious circumstances.  Good characters are in development here, and good writing. My only hesitation is that the book is 347 pages long.
I bought this ebook years ago and I now see that I must read it this holiday season, if the length does not do me in.

I do plan to read multiple additional Christmas-themed novels before Christmas. Help me keep track.

Norwegian Christmas Custom Alert!
Did you know, or have you heard, that many Norwegians are supposed to have a custom of giving books as gifts on Christmas Eve, intended to be read all night? I learned of this online somewhere, yet wonder  if it is truly a custom in Norway. I would love to invite friends for Christmas Eve to participate in this custom, but Christmas Eve is far from an ideal time for many who will have extended family visiting at that time. But what about New Year's Eve? Now that sounds like a plan! I'd love to pull this off. We'll see.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bookish Thoughts on Thanksgiving Eve

Early tomorrow morning the turkey goes in the oven. It's a 14-pounder. The stuffing is almost prepared and ready for the refrigerator and everything else is in order. We will have turkey, stuffing mashed red bliss potatoes, butternut squash, a medley of carrots, blueberries, olives, celery, red peppers, and dried sweetened cranberries, which is not the salad I was hoping to make. Oh, a special French apple cake, warmed, with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

BUT the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has issued this warning: If you have romaine lettuce in your refrigerator, in any form--as a head or a mix--no matter where it's from--California, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, or Florida, get rid of it. A serious E.coli outbreak has been traced to romaine, and currently the source is unclear. The strain of E.coli is one that is extremely toxic. The CDC recommends that if your romaine is in your fridge and is not in a plastic container--scrub the vegetable bins. (Sorry--this is not fun to hear about the night before Thanksgiving.) I had a box of Olivia's Organics Spring Mix, we have had it in salads for two dinners, but it's now in the trash. I visited Olivia's Organics website and they advise trashing it, although no illness has been attributed to Olivia's products.

I promised bookish thoughts.
I'm loving Scottish author Jenny Colgan's Christmas on the Island. Such atmosphere on the Island of Mure, a fictitious island off the coast of northernmost Scotland. I believe it's an island on the east coast--I think it was mentioned, but I could be wrong. The characters are delightful, quirky, and each has troubles. I loved that the characters on the island were introduced in the first chapter, via a very big retired sheepdog named Bramble, who, although he sleeps 20 hours a day, makes a tour of the village during the other four. I have read just enough to get a deep toehold in the book, enough to know that the characters are not super-cozy mush and have real problems that trip them up. Five thumbs up!

Today while cooking and washing loads of dishes, I listened to a New York Times Book Review podcast from just over a month ago. I was fascinated to learn that Lisa Brennan-Jobs has written a memoir, Small Fry, which has just this week been announced as one of the New York Times Notable Books of the Year.  First of all, Pamela Paul, the NYT Book Review Editor,  is an excellent interviewer--so every author she selects for the podcast presents riveting content. As a reader who loves memoirs (how many did I read this year??), I was fascinated to learn how Brennan-Jobs came  to write a memoir, how she went about it, what was really difficult for her, and how she overcame the challenges.
Lisa Brennan-Jobs is the daughter of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, one of the most enigmatic and (quirky? strange?-- Ken, a former software analyst, PC pioneer and enthusiast, and one who loathes the philosophy and gestalt behind the production of all Apple computers just calls him very weird) of American business geniuses, to say the least.
Brennan-Jobs was most concerned, during her writing, that people would relegate her memoir to the genre of "celebrity memoir." The book, she emphasizes, is not that at all, but is the story of her childhood and coming of age, growing up between two household's--her mother's and her father's. At first, her father refused paternity of her.

So I downloaded the audio of Small Fry, but, help!, I'm still listening to Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein (excellent), and In Pieces by Sally Field, which as also been selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 2018.

A Very Happy Thanksgiving to all readers who celebrate the holiday and happy reading to those who actually have the time to read during this time. I envy you!

Friday, November 9, 2018

First Snowstorm & Stack Up of Early Winter Books

I didn't learn until this morning that we were to be in the midst of a 3-6 inches of snow this evening, our first real snowfall.

I did know that we were going to get really cold again, which I was happy about, because it means I can go all over the woods without the slightest worry about ticks. Ticks come to life again only at 40 degrees F, so scientists have revealed.

So today, before the snow started, I drove 20 miles to buy all sorts of bird food. Black sunflower seed, thistle seed, and beef fat, a treat for the woodpeckers and blue jays. We can't feed too early in the season because raccoons tear apart our feeders. Those sharp claws and teeth are so destructive, the little varmints! Not only that, but the birdseed is also a lure for bears before  hibernation, at a time when they're eating everything in sight. (In deep cold, raccoons don't biologically hibernate, but their metabolism slows down and they let go of their craziness and leave the feeders alone. In deep winter, they just don't hang out.) But if we warm up again too much (to 50 degrees), the feeders will have to come down.

So as soon as we established the bird feeding stations and Ken called the birds in with his famous chickadee calls (he's very good!), I was off to attend to my knitting and audiobook, Famous Father Girl: A Memoir of Growing Up Bernstein  by Jamie Bernstein, the oldest child and oldest daughter of Leonard. Now that I'm more than halfway, I can say that this memoir is riveting and has been eye-opening for me, perhaps especially because I am close to Jamie in age.  (Jamie is 9 months my senior.) In the first chapter or two, I thought her reading pace was a little too fast and too wild for me to closely attend, but after the first couple of chapters I either adjusted or she modulated her pace, because after that time, I have found her reading to be nuanced and extremely well done. Such a sensitive memoir of  an unusual, yet fascinating family and life. The memoir is really a memoir of the entire Bernstein Family.

Oh, yikes! The lights have gone out this very minute! So glad to have a candle by my side.
We've just lost power again for the second time in less than a week. Yes, indeed, we are very thankful for our automatic generator, but losing power so often is annoying. I mean, we've only had 3-4 inches of snow so far. So what's the big deal? On our mountain road, we look at each other and shrug our shoulders.

For new Christmas-related books, I have purchased  Christmas on the Island by English author Jenny Colgan. I thoroughly enjoyed her Christmas novel last year, Christmas at Little Beach Street Bakery (set in Cornwall). This latest Colgan Christmas title sounds very interesting as well. I believe the island she has in mind is just off the coast of Scotland.

After mournfully returning Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand, her latest, I purchased one for the Nook, and can now read it at my leisure. I read almost a third of the novel before I had to return it to the library. I may start over at the beginning. 
Elin Hilderbrand is fascinating. Did you know that she's a graduate of the acclaimed Iowa Writer's Workshop, the  coveted master's program at the University of Iowa? I was surprised, to say the least, mostly because of the published authors I know who attended that program.
Not to downplay Hilderbrand, mind you,  because after all she is a master of pacing a story, and has command of her territory. But most of the graduates tend to be more "literary" writers.

To be truthful, I don't know where to go with my reading right now. I'm still deep in the middle of The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith, the entertaining treat that it is, all 654 pages of it.

Monday, November 5, 2018

November Reading: Looking Forward

I for one am eagerly awaiting Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming (to be released on November 13th). I am planning to purchase the hardcover and also download the audio version.  I'm so eager to hear what she has to say about whatever she chooses to reveal about herself. I find her a fascinating person. I think it must have been difficult to knuckle down to writing this book so soon after leaving the White House, but perhaps not.

Do you ever tune in to the New York Times Book Review Podcast. The NYTBR editor, Pamela Paul, directs the production and every week it has lots of content that's  fascinating. Even when she interviews the author of a book I know for sure I have no interest in reading, I'm extremely interested in the interview! You don't have to be a subscriber to listen. It's carried on iTunes and Google...? I think. Check it out. Wonderful to listen to while washing dishes, cleaning, knitting, you name it.

And of course you must know I've already started lining up the Christmas mysteries and romance book list. Every year, right on schedule. I have several lined up for November and December.
I've now got to purchase an ebook of Winter in Paradise by Elin Hilderbrand, because I muffed finishing the copy I had out of the library for 14 days. This is the first book in a trilogy, and for me, was equal to the pleasure to be found in her Nantucket Quinn Family four-book series. Onward!

I'm still reading The Bestseller by Olivia Goldsmith, all 654 pages of it. I'm now halfway (whew!), but it is still a compelling page-turner. So many storylines and characters all intersecting make it a fun read. I do recommend it.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

A Writing Adventure for November and December 2018

Way back in November 2006, Ken and I had been living in the Adirondacks for 11 months, and I decided to launch a NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writer's Month) group in our local area. I worked as a writer when we were living in the Boston area, but since moving I had done a minimum of writing. (Too much outdoors to explore and I was working as a NYS licensed hiking guide, of all things.) I advertised widely for the NaNoWriMo event and a crew assembled.  Because we are so thinly populated in our town, our group members, once we were all gathered together, hailed from a number of surrounding towns. Gosh, I think at least 4 towns in addition to our huge town, which is humungous in area compared to suburban towns in urban areas, with a population of only 2,000.

We were an enthusiastic, adventure-crazed group, with members ranging from ages 25-72. I could wax on about our writing forays and celebrations, held in libraries, pubs, restaurants, and bookstores, but maybe I'll reveal all at a later time.

The point is, I'm experiencing a drive to plunge into novel-writing at this moment in time.
So on with it, of course.
I'm supported and encouraged by Michelle Stockard Miller, who is hosting a 2-month novel-writing event, entitled "Sit Down and Write #10."
If you are at all curious, do follow the link.

Have you ever participated in NaNoWriMo, or something like it? Group support for writing is so helpful, from my experience with it. Pure synergy.

I think I will begin tomorrow morning--or tonight.