In the High Peaks

Friday, December 21, 2018

Total Luxury Reading Day--Another One Tomorrow?

Today I was lucky enough to have a pure reading day, unencumbered by chores and responsibilities. What a relief and a pleasure!  I did do laundry, while listening to an audiobook. I worked out on the treadmill, to an audiobook. And you know I could have encumbered myself with seasonal chores, but I chose not to. I'll have to start cooking Sunday, but until then I'm freeing myself. Enjoying hibernation!

It has been pouring rain since 7 pm last evening and we feel marooned by the "floodwaters." Actually, it's just 2.5 inches of rain rolling around on frozen dirt roads and snow-covered ground and frozen creeks. Yikes. Can we go out for dinner tonight? Like last night, the answer is a firm "No way."

So, what have I been reading?
I'm halfway through another delicious novel  of Christmas fiction, A Vineyard Christmas by Jean Stone, published this fall 2018. A woman writer, aged 40, has settled in a rented house on Chappaquiddick Island, a small island just to the east of Martha's Vineyard, which is a large island in Nantucket Sound off the southern coast of Massachusetts. "Chappy" is connected to Edgartown via a short ferry ride. Because MV has been the setting of several of her novels, Annie has decided to settle there permanently, and has dug in for the winter months. She knows very few people there, and has no family in her life, since her adoptive parents died some years ago.
As a blizzard bears down on the island just before Christmas, she discovers a three-month old baby in a basket on her doorstep. And therein the action takes off. 
Believe me, I'm not a big fan of books starring babies left on doorsteps, but this one has characterizations that are worth the time.  This one received good reviews, and I do recommend it. Well worth putting on your list for next year if you can't get to it this year. 

And for dynamite books with babies on doorsteps, I more than highly recommend the incomparable In the Bleak Midwinter by Julia Spencer-Fleming, the first book in her mystery series, set in the foothills of the Adirondacks. The best book in the series, to my mind, although they are all so compulsively good. And because the last one was published in 2013, I think (sob!) the series is complete, although Spencer-Fleming's website does not give any indication of this.

Other reading today:
I'm so glad my brain has finally settled down enough so that I could thoroughly digest 55 pages of a biography, In Search of Mary Shelley by Fiona Sampson, also published in 2018, the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Frankenstein, written when Mary Shelley was still a teenager.
One of the problems with being Mary Godwin Shelley's biographer is that there are precious few documents or records to form a comprehensive picture of her life, particularly of her juvenile years, which are the most informative to her writing of Frankenstein
However, much can be pieced together of her father's life (William Godwin) in the years after her mother Mary Wollstonecraft's death, just weeks after Mary's birth. I could wax on, but I'm so glad I'm reading this biography, in preparation for reading Frankenstein in January 2019, as part of the Back to the Classics Challenge 2019.

So, that's not all I read today--(Didn't I tell you I shrugged off everything!)
While doing laundry, was on the treadmill, and while  knitting I listened to a 2018 audiobook Small Fry by Lisa Brennan-Jobs, a memoir by the daughter of Steve Jobs, the Apple founder.
Lisa was his first child. Her mother was involved with Jobs while he was in school and early in his career for a number of years, though they later parted.  Later, Jobs denied he was the father, although DNA tests confirmed he was. In a Time magazine cover article he declared that he was not the father and cast aspersions on Lisa's mother. However, the State of California later sued Jobs for the welfare money they paid out to Lisa's mother over many years and ordered him to pay for the care of his child.
The interesting thing about this book is it was awarded a "Best Book of 2018" status by The New York TimesThe Washington Post, Publisher's Weekly and many other newspapers and journals. It's very interesting thus far, particularly because Brennan-Jobs has succinct memories from her very early childhood. As I mentioned, I've just started listening, so I'll have to wait to give my full conclusions.


  1. How nice to have a day purely for reading, such an excellent idea. I shall do that myself after Christmas when the family go home. They arrive tomorrow so I haven't had a huge amount of time to read but am just getting in the last book to complete a challenge. After that a couple of Christmas books hopefully.

    Merry Christmas to you and your husabnd, Judith!

    1. And a very merry Christmas to you, Cath, and to all of your family.
      I will be thinking of you during the week between Boxing Day and New Year's Day, all cozied up, reading to get a few more books read before the end of the year. Wishing you the best!

    2. Thanks, Judith. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas? Ours was super. Very little time to read but hopefully should finish the vintage crime book I'm reading for a challenge.

      Did you get books for Christmas? I was thrilled to get Becoming, Melmoth by Sarah Perry, Around the World in 80 Days by Michael Palin and The Christmas Chronicles by Nigel Slater who is a British food writer... it's a book that might appeal to you perhaps?

    3. Hi Cath,
      So glad to hear your Christmas with the family was a great one. I hope you documented it with lots of photos!
      I'm going to look up each of the books you've mentioned.
      Our Christmas was good--but the day after was so much better. On Christmas Day I had to cook to bring several dishes to a group get together, and it was not a relaxed day at all. So Ken and I postponed our Christmas breakfast plans, our gift giving, our walks, and events for the 26th. And we had a wonderful, relaxed, though a bit belated Christmas. It snowed lightly all afternoon as we were walking and the world was so beautiful!
      Best wishes to you!

  2. I just reserved Vineyard Christmas from the library. Hope I'm still in the holiday mood when it arrives - sounds fun.

    Merry Christmas; hope it's special.

    1. Hi Diane,
      I now have only 20 pages to go before finishing A Vineyard Christmas. I will be sorry to see it go! I definitely recommend it. But, be forewarned, it may have you wanting to pull your hair out during the twists and turns--but it's rewarding.
      And merry Christmas to you and all of your family. Might I picture you reading to your grandchildren over the holidays? What fun-- Enjoy!

  3. A whole day of reading without guilt! My fantasy :) I agree that In the Bleak Mid-Winter is the best in the series—I was obsessed with that series for a while, but I remember the first book vividly. I

  4. Merry Christmas, Jane--
    As for guilt in reading all day, I know exactly what you mean. I think the fact that it poured all day and we couldn't go anywhere made it easy to shove the guilt aside.

  5. Merry Christmas, Judith.

    What a lot of wonderful reading, and I do hope you had a second day of reading also. I had forgotten that there was an abandoned baby in In the Bleak Midwinter. I have only read book 1 and 2 in that series and need to get to the next one.

    1. Merry Christmas, Tracy!
      I did enjoy a nearly full second day of reading, though I had to mix it in with chores and exercise. But such pleasure after a busy month.
      I'm pretty sure you'll enjoy the rest of the books in Julia Spencer-Fleming's series, because I loved each and every one. The characters are so compellingly real for me, I think. But I have not read the last one, published in 2013. I hate for the series to be over--oh, sigh.
      I do hope you have had a bit of time to relax and will have a day off or two or three before things get going after the New Year!

  6. I have also put A Vineyard Christmas on reserve. I have not been to Chappaquidick but went to the Vineyard for a wedding in October so have been thinking about the island in general. I had a funny experience I would not have had in Boston - having left my car at the ferry parking lot to save about $175, I was depending on the Vineyard bus service to get to the wedding but had brought comfortable shoes in case I had to walk a long way (in fancy wedding dress and carrying a gift). I got a bus that was going about a mile and a half away from the church, and asked the bus driver to point out anything of interest on our route. Because we got chatting, he took an interest in my expedition and when I was eventually the only passenger, he detoured from his route and drove me right up to the historic church! I was fashionably early and was relaxed and calm in my pew instead of hot and anxious. I am sure the island has lines of demarcation between year-round and summer people but everyone was very friendly.

  7. Hi Constance,
    I would consider your effort to be a trial by fire, and I agree with you, I would not have brought my car on island for just a wedding trip. I'm so glad everything worked out so perfectly!! If you have an interest, do absolutely visit the island in the off-season. Ken and I had a wonderful trip in early October one year. We rented a car on the days we wanted to travel to Gay Head and Menemsha. We had a fabulous time--and the island is so beautiful, which is always the calling card for me.
    Wasn't the driver so nice to drop you off just where you needed to go?