In the High Peaks

Sunday, July 31, 2022

A Mind-Blowing Work of Nonfiction


This past week I finished reading In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, which is my Classics Club Spin book and my 12th for The 20 Books of Summer. I’ll be reviewing it next weekend. I’m so glad I read it.

My other book finished this past week (#13) was nonfiction, The Uninhabitable Earth: Life after Warming by David Wallace-Wells, published in 2019. Each month Booklist magazine features round-ups of acclaimed titles on a given subject. In July the selection was climate-change fiction and climate-change nonfiction. So this starred nonfiction title mesmerized me the minute I started reading it. And yes, as reviewers will tell you, it is a terrifying read. We think we know about climate change and the dreaded events in our future that are already starting to happen. We think we do. But we don’t. Because the media, both on the left and the right, are subject to scientists’ “climate reticence.” Scientists have been so bashed by the media, so derided as being doomsday alarmists, etc., that they largely have scaled back what they will report to the media. But what they research, and what they say amongst themselves, in thousands of scientific peer-reviewed newsletters and research journals, is pretty horrifying. Go to the source! And that’s what journalist David Wallace-Wells has been doing for decades. An incredible one-third of his book is annotated footnotes and references for all of us to probe. The New York Times declared that The Uninhabitable Earth is doing for climate change what Rachel Carson did for pesticides in Silent Spring.  

Wallace-Wells never says we are doomed. He keeps showing us, with facts and statistics, why we are already very late in the game, and why we must move forward immediately. It is fascinating reading, will provoke anxiety and, yes, horror, but frankly, I would rather know what scientists are thinking and researching than be ignorant about the future of the planet, which we surely are if we only watch the evening news and read the newspaper. We think we’re well-informed, and fool that I am, I thought I was (damn it!), but I was not. By the way, only 223 pages of text, not counting the scads of eye-opening footnotes. A must-read, and a quick one.

Saturday, July 23, 2022

The Serpent Pool--The 4th Lake District Mystery

 I have absolutely loved reading Martin Edwards's Lake District Mysteries! My favorite series at the moment. Okay, okay, I'll admit it--I'm somewhat besotted with Daniel Kind, the former Oxford don (history) who after a few years as a "telly" historian escapes to the Lake District to catch a breath and dig into writing. He keeps making the acquaintance of Hannah Scarlet, a DCI with the local Cumbria Constabulary, and, as fate would have it, Daniel contributes evidence for a number of murders Hannah is trying to solve. Over the first three books, they recognize that they "light each other up," despite each of their involvements with another partner. In Book 4, The Serpent Pool, another incredibly well-done multiple-murder case is solved with both of them contributing, and they draw ever closer.   

This was my 11th book for the 20 Books of Summer. And I can't wait until I can read Book 5 in the series. I am not a mystery series fan by nature, aside from Maisie Dobbs, so I do heartily recommend the Lake District Mystery Series. The first in the series is The Coffin Trail, and I loved it. 

Nearing the end of In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. Have enjoyed it and learned quite a lot. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Outside by Ragnar Jonasson

 Outside by Ragnar Jonasson was my 10th read for The Twenty Books of Summer. Back in March or April I read Jonasson's previous standalone, The Girl Who Died, published in late 2021, and I was totally fascinated by it--I thought it was very well done and and worth reading. 

However, Outside, published in the U.S. in late June, was such a disappointment in comparison. It has all the elements I love in a suspense novel--four "friends" caught fast in a November blizzard in the northeastern moorlands of Iceland, struggling for survival. A great premise on the surface, but I found the execution to be abysmal. I'd love to hear the opinions of others--it is a novel that can be read in a couple of sittings--very short, so I hope others will plunge into it and give their opinions. I hate to disparage a book from a writer whose books I admire, but there it is. I will not stop reading Jonasson--I think too highly of his previous works to do that.

I'm coming closer to the end of In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden--have admired it and learned a great deal from it--My Classics Club Pick. I'm looking forward to writing about it.

Then, my next book for the 20 Books of Summer, The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards. Am heartily enjoying this one set in the Lake District. 


Friday, July 15, 2022

The House across the Lake by Riley Sager with Addenda

The House across the Lake is a mystery-thriller by Riley Sager and was my 9th read for the 20 Books of Summer. Casey, the protagonist, spent years as a successful actress on the stage in New York City. But after the tragic death of her husband, she became deeply submerged in a drinking habit that has consumed her days and nights, and which eventually led to her domineering mother and her agent insisting that she remain far, far removed from the public eye, sequestered alone in the family house on a secluded lake in Vermont. As Casey aimlessly roams the house day after day, drink in hand, she can’t help but be seized by the vision of the grand house across the lake. All three floors of the house have floor-to-ceiling glass windows. And, in a reprise of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, Casey puts her deceased husband’s high-powered binoculars to good use and discovers more about the couple that reside there than she ever expected.

I was really entertained by this book, despite the fact that a paranormal event troops onto the stage on p. 226. Really? That late in the book? 

Let it be said that I am NOT a fan of the paranormal in fiction or anywhere else, but I was surprised to find myself wanting to continue to see how everything would all come out. A departure for me. Of course, it’s true that by p. 226 a reader is not going to chuck the novel, for heaven’s sake! Still, it was entertaining indeed. Casey was a most engaging character, and I can say as well for all the others in the novel. Surprising to me that this only received a 3.6 rating on Goodreads. I'd give it a 4.25 rating for sure.

I'm now, as of Saturday evening, one-third of the way through In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, which is my Classics Club Spin selection. I have loads of questions about this book, which I'll explore when I do my review on or before August 7th.

I'm also in the middle of Outside by Ragnar Jonasson. So far, a disappointing read after my utmost appreciation of his most recent book prior to this one, The Girl Who Died, which I read this past spring. Oh, well. I'll tell you more very soon. 

I'm so frustrated because there are so many books worth reading right now! Riches to be sure!

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Early July Reads

My reading time for the rest of July and the first half of August (until August 20) will decrease because I'm taking a 6-week writing course. "Crafting Scene" is for fiction writers and is offered via Grub Street. (, a highly acclaimed writing community in Boston. I have loved all the courses I've taken via Grub Street.

I read my 8th book for the 20 Books of Summer over the Fourth of July weekend. Do any of you recall reading The House at Riverton, Kate Morton's first novel? Have you read any of Kate Morton's other novels? I really liked the two I read prior to reading this one, especially The Secret Keeper.

Although I enjoyed The House at Riverton story overall and am glad I finally read it, there were some aspects of it that I didn't care for. I did not like the heavy fore-shadowing Morton used, reminding the reader on a regular basis the impending arrival and outcome of almost every bombshell in the book. And the hinting over and over that something really big and unexpected would occur at the end of the book was annoying. What was most disagreeable was the ending, which is a bit shocking, I suppose, however I found it to be one of the most contrived I have ever encountered in a book. Unlikely, incomprehensible, didn't get why the character who drives the conclusion acted as she did.  The funny thing is, I enjoyed the story as it flowed along, all 468 pages of it. 

I read The House at Riverton because I had to "retire" Atomic Anna by Rachel Barenbaum. I hadn't realized that it was sci-fi time travel/fantasy. Just not my preference. I knew that it involved what happened at Chernobyl, and jumped to the conclusion that it was historical fiction. Atomic Anna received excellent reviews, so if you enjoy its genre, you may want to try it.

I'm now reading my 9th book, the newly published The House across the Lake by Riley Sager, and so far things are going well.




Sunday, July 3, 2022

Ashton Hall by Lauren Belfer

Ashton Hall was my 7th read from my 20 Books of Summer List, and it was a definite winner for me. It’s a new title, published in May, I believe, yet I’ve seen and heard very little about it, surprisingly. I dreaded coming to the end because it was so hard to let go of the characters and their story.

Hannah and her nine-year-old son Nicky travel from their home in New York City to spend time with a close relative who has been severely ill. Christopher is elderly and lives in an apartment that’s part of a sprawling historic manor house in Cambridge, England, which dates back to the Tudor era.

It’s a perfect time for Hannah and Nicky to leave some of their personal problems behind and engage with a new, exciting place. Historical research is ongoing at the manse. Nicky, in his post-dawn morning explorations, makes a discovery that startle the historians, opening a window to the history of the house and its inhabitants dating back to the 1500s.

Yet the historical aspects never take over the story of the main characters in the present. The relationships that develop in the present are compelling and very well-drawn. There is no time travel in this book, nor does it shift back and forth from present to past to present, and so on. The time is consistently set in the present. The story that unfolds gradually about the past is fascinating, however.

Hannah is a strong character, struggling with her role as a wife and as a mother, who had to put her ambitions on hold to devote herself to raising her son who, though brilliant, has significant challenges.
This novel was never trite, never stereotyped, but remained fresh and genuine throughout. I want to give it 5 stars, and it was for me, but a definite 4.5 overall.  Atmospheric! Oh, and a wonderful Golden Retriever named Duncan.