In the High Peaks

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Looking Back on November Reads

Just a short post. For some reason, I'm of a mind that I have nothing really worthwhile to say, but I will push on regardless.

I LOVED Death on a Winter Stroll by Francine Mathews. I dreaded seeing it come to an end. I slowed my pace of reading. I did everything I could to avoid finishing it. Nantucket Island is such an atmospheric environment, in all ways, and this novel embraced it, and was the best of this series I've read. I will read more now. (This one was number 3 for me, although it is the most recently published.)

I listened to Left on Tenth by the writer Delia Ephron (younger sister of Nora Ephron). This is Delia's memoir of her several years fighting the bitterest leukemia of them all and the struggles to survive via a bone-marrow transplant. I never would have listened to this memoir, were it not that the new-found love of her life saw it through with her steadfastly every step of the way. It was a harrowing tale, and a devotion of love, but I can assure myself and everyone who reads this, please read this memoir before you endure a bone-marrow transplant. I, for one, would never willingly partake in the horror she lived through. 

The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan was well worth the time I spent studying it. (Non-Fiction November). I hope to dedicate a post to it, and include the controversies that surrounded its publication early in 2022.  

Right now, I am thoroughly embracing The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks, which, I'm happy to say, is a superlative historical novel, with all the facts and time period accuracies in place. Elizabeth Gow was the Scottish nanny of the eventually kidnapped Charles Lindbergh, Jr., son of "Lucky Lindy" and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It's very well done. 


Friday, November 11, 2022

Updated: A Benjamin Black aka John Banville Mystery and a new Nantucket Christmas Mystery

 I only have a few moments to write because dinner is upon us. But I'd like to say how much I have enjoyed John Banville's mysteries since I first started reading them in autumn 2021. At that time I read Snow, and adored it. John Banville is an Irish writer, lives in Dublin, but now that I've read him I'm quite positive his ancestry is Anglo-Irish. Or, as the saying goes, he is of "Prod" ancestry (Protestant). How else could he write so knowingly of the "Prod" policeman Strafford?  

Actually, John Banville is a writer of literary fiction and won the Man Booker Prize in 2005 for The Sea. But several years later, he began writing detective fiction under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Then after 2020, he continued writing detective fiction using his real name John Banville. He is an exquisite writer--his writing is flawless

 and he makes it look so easy!  I just today finished his 2020 Benjamin Black mystery, The Secret Guests and loved it! Set in WWII 1940 Tipperary, when two posh young girls are escorted from London to stay in a mouldy old estate to save them from the Blitz. Guess who they were? But are these two girls SAFE in the neutral Republic of Ireland, where old anti-British tensions still run high? This novel is based on actual rumors that the Royal Princesses were secreted in Ireland during the Blitz of 1940. In fact, John Banville wrote a piece about the rumor in The Irish Times.

I'm thoroughly enjoying Francine Mathews's Death on a Winter Stroll, the latest Merry Folger Nantucket Christmas Mystery. Merry is now Nantucket Island's Chief of Police and has her hands full during the island's traditional Winter Stroll Weekend, when  thousands of people descend on the island to walk the cobblestone streets, view Christmas decorations festooned in every shop, listen to roaming carolers, and participate in loads of other festivities.  I have read the first two novels in this series Death in the Off-Season and Death in Rough Water and enjoyed them.  And I did not know that Francine Mathews writes the Jane Austen mysteries as Stephanie Barron.  This one is rated 4.49 on Goodreads!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

Favorite Books from the Glorious Month of October

     Finally back to the blog after a glorious October. We had an unusually long, exquisitely beautiful fall foliage season that distracted me from most chores and activities, though I managed to keep up with my 2-hour daily reading habit. I must say, though, that only a few books were truly noteworthy of the eight or so that I read. 

     In the historical fiction category, I really enjoyed An Indiscreet Princess by Georgie Blalock. I’ve never read a book, fiction or nonfiction, about Queen Victoria’s children. This one is about Princess Louise, who had a passion for sculpture and pushed her boundaries so that she could study sculpting. By all accounts she was an accomplished artist, and managed to mingle, secretly, with a group of artists in London, including James McNeil Whistler. And she falls in love. This one is impeccably researched, although the author could not get access to Louise’s personal papers in the Royal Archives, and Louise’s partner’s family burned all of his papers after his death. I was also fascinated to learn about the adult lives of Queen Victoria’s children.

     I just finished one of the best thrillers I’ve read in quite some time. In my view, anyway, Catherine Steadman’s recently published The Family Game is the best of the four thrillers she has published. I know many of you were taken with her debut, Something in the Water. I liked it, too, but I thought that The Family Game was more polished and the loose ends more neatly tied up by the end. But I need to qualify that. Steadman’s novels, even though she’s a stellar producer of fireworks, always have some aspects that don’t quite hang together. This one was a superlative ride, however, and sometimes that’s what matters most.  Londoner Harry (Harriet) is a novelist and is married to Edward, an American and the oldest son in an ultra-rich family. When Harry is introduced to his family, she soon realizes that the secrets they keep are fraught with danger for everyone, but especially for her. Set in New York City and at The Hydes, the family’s palatial estate in the wilds of upstate New York, the action takes place between mid-November and New Year’s.

     Perhaps the best book from a literary perspective, is the new mind-bending novel We Spread by the Canadian writer Iain Reid, who is best known for his novel I’m Thinking of Ending Things. (The link will bring you to a blogger's review that expresses exactly my thoughts. Do scroll down to his "My Thoughts" section.)  I have seen We Spread categorized as psychological suspense, suspense thriller, literary fiction, science fiction, you name it. The fact is the novel doesn’t fit into any one genre.  Penny is an elderly artist living on her own in a New York City apartment, and she’s not doing well living on her own. She takes a tumble and finds that she ends up in an unusual assisted living home that has only 4 elder residents. It’s the most unsettling book I’ve read this year. Reid has crafted this so that the reader can never be sure exactly what is going on, what is reality and what is not, and the relative soundness of Penny’s mind. 

November Plans:  For Nonfiction November, I am about to start reading The Betrayal of Anne Frank: A Cold Case Investigation by Rosemary Sullivan, a book I purchased early this year and haven't yet had time for.  I've been saving it for November. But! When I searched and searched Nonfiction November online, do you realize it's all on Twitter and Instagram? I was going to try to post an icon or something.  Oh, poor Twitter--poor Twitter followers! Elon Musk is the penultimate evil wizard of social media, sad to say. If I were an avid Twitterer, I'd be frantic, frankly.