In the High Peaks

Sunday, July 9, 2023

A Catch-Up Post of Sorts--Though Not Really Possible!

I had such high hopes in early June that I'd have time for at least some reading this summer. And I have, though those moments for "some" reading have been very few. 

I am swamped with genealogical work, and I don't regret that, really, but I do need to actively and purposely plan time into the week for reading and relaxation. I have made the time for walking, though it's been a pretty lousy sport these days with tropical dewpoints in the 70s. I can't complain, though, given the severe, unrelenting heat confronting much of the country. 

Books I'm Loving:  I have so enjoyed Nancy Thayer's latest summer Nantucket novel, All the Days of Summer. I'm listening to it while I knit an incredible, multi-color  scarf of Italian wool. It's self-striping and wild-- and what's more important it's been relaxing, when I do manage to make myself take the time to listen and knit for 30-45 minutes in the late afternoons. I have only about two hours of listening to go, and I'm already sad to see it end. Heather, the main character, leaves her husband in her late 40s to spend a summer in a run-down cottage on Nantucket. She finds a new life, and because her son is marrying into Nantucket royalty, a new "family," of sorts. Reading this one has made me dream at night of renting a place on Nantucket for a month. An unattainable dream! I'd probably hate it; the island has been taken over by billionaires. Crowded! So, no! But the fantasy provided by this novel makes me dream it. You know, I do miss the ocean. Sigh.

I'm also reading Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, about Martha Gellhorn primarily, but also about her relationship with Ernest Hemingway. Gellhorn was a war correspondent in the Spanish Civil War, and the Russo-Finnish War of 1939, and afterwards... Set in Key West, Cuba, and in Europe, it's a great read, and frankly, very well done. Huge acclaim for this book, which made me read it. But frankly, Ernest Hemingway, in my book, was a loser as far as a man to have a relationship with!!  But that adds to the drama and conflict, doesn't it? 



Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Elizabeth Gilbert Decides Not to Publish Her Russian Novel

 Here's to hoping that I manage a good and proper post in the next two days! So hard to believe it's already the 13th of June. 

But I have read the first two books on my list, and I want to report on them very soon. I'm due to pick up four books on hold at the library, all of which are on my list, and will not be able to read in two weeks! 

If you haven't heard about this story in book news, I will let you know that I was very disturbed to learn that Elizabeth Gilbert has decided to pull back her 2024 novel The Snow Forest from publication. It's unclear whether this is a postponement or something more dire. It was Gilbert's decision, allegedly based on hundreds of one-star reviews on GoodReads. 

The truly awful thing is that the Ukrainian women blasting Gilbert on that site appear to have absolutely no clue what The Snow Forest is about. No ARCS are available, so they haven't read it. Clearly it was a misinformation social media campaign, having read all the comments. The commenters knew absolutely NOTHING about the book--first and foremost. What the commenters have NO CLUE about is that this is not a book about any ordinary Russian family, but an historical novel about a Russian family in total opposition to the Soviet government, which had imprisoned members of its family in Siberia.

Self-censorship is a huge issue in writing and publishing these days, and I feel compelled to write more about it in the future. Elizabeth Gilbert says she is withdrawing the book because of the pain it is causing Ukrainian women. (But, I want to say to her, they don't seem to know what your book is about.)

But, in the larger picture, the constant topic seems to be this: Who has the right to write FICTION about another country's people, about another culture, about anything? And I will ask you this: Is a white writer raised in the Northeastern U.S. compelled to write only about her own culture and environment and her own ancestors' history and nothing else? I'm talking fiction here.

I truly believe an author has the absolute right to withdraw a book from publication, regardless of what her publishers want. (As far as I know, her publisher has not fought her on this.) But I question Gilbert's motives. And for that reasoning, I will have to pause until I can pick up this conversation again. I hope you will weigh in!

And I believe that a writer has the RIGHT to write fiction about whatever he or she chooses. People have been doing it, for better or worse, for hundreds of years. Maybe no publisher will publish an Asian American woman writing a saga about a Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan. But somebody might, especially if she had years of experience living in such a community. 

I guess I just hate these barriers that have been created.


Thursday, June 1, 2023

The Twenty Books of Summer!!

 I've been formulating a list for several weeks now.  I must admit I'm not sure how the books will travel down the transit line. (Books on hold at the library.) And I must admit, I can be a MOOD reader, especially when life gets too busy or stressful. I also have not had the time to be as alert as I used to be about new books and recommended books. Despite these quandaries, I'm really looking forward to this event! The heat got up to 87 degrees here today, so I'm all in for reading the summer afternoons away. 

Okay—here’s my list so far. Right now I feel my list is unbalanced, and I feel I may be missing titles I really want to read. Please be prepared for the possibility of a new and refined list in the next week or two.

Please note that I’d love to read every book on this list, yet new or older books may fly across my path to tell me they must be read immediately. That’s the beauty of The Twenty Books of Summer. Substitutions okay!

1.     The Flaw of the Design by Nathan Oates  (2023)

2.     Lost Son: An American Family Trapped Inside the FBI’s Secret Wars by Brett Forrest (2023)

3.     The Body in the Web by Katherine Hall Page (2023)

4.     The Midnight News by Jo Baker  (2023)

5.     The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz  (2023)

6.     The Mitford Murders by Jessica Fellowes

7.     Killingly by Katharine Beutner  

8.     All The Days of Summer by Nancy Thayer (2023)  audio

9.     The Last Honest Man: The FBI, the CIA, the Mafia, and the Kennedys—and One Senator’s Fight to Save Democracy by James Risen (2023)1

10.  The Senator’s Wife by Liv Constantine

11.  Seems to be missing! I'll fill in soon!

12.  The Five-Star Weekend by Elin Hilderbrand on audio

13.  Another Martin Edwards Lake District Mystery??

14.  The Covenant of Water

15.  Fatherland: A Memoir of War, Conscience, and Family Secrets by Burkhard Bilger (2023)

16.  Pathogenesis: A History of the World in Eight Plagues by Jonathan Kennedy  

17.  The Only One Left by Riley Sager

18.  The Puzzle of Blackstone Lodge by Martin Edwards.

19.  Tom Lake by Ann Patchett  (2023)

20.  The Lock-Up by John Banville (2023)


Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Having Trouble with Blogger Comments--Will Respond Soon!

 I'm sorry not to be able to respond sooner to all the wonderful posts replying to my "Twenty Books of Summer" initial post. Blogger (yes--it's really Google) is giving me trouble. I will deal with this on Thursday, tomorrow. Thank you to all who responded!

I had work in Lake Placid today--it was snowing! It was 32 degrees at 10 am. When I left at 2 pm the sun was shining and the temps had risen to an astonishing 38 degrees! Tonight, we're many miles to the south and at a much lower elevation, but we're going down to 26 degrees. 

Sunday, May 14, 2023

The Twenty Books of Summer: Are You In? I Do Hope So!

 I so loved the entire experience of The Twenty Books of Summer last year! It was Katrina, of Pining for the West, that hooked me into it, and a big thank you to her for a really fun 2022 Summer that I will never forget. So, indeed I am making a List!

You've no doubt noticed my absence here:

What's new and different with me: I went back to working, back to my professional genealogy practice, which is so far proving to be a full-time occupation. Right now I'm happy about this, but I wouldn't mind if it were a part-time practice. Much of the work is at home, but I recently spent 4 days on a research trip to the mid-Hudson River Valley researching court records from the early 1800s. This work is challenging, incredibly mentally stimulating, and I feel happy about it, and a bit sharper than I've felt in a long while. I tell my friends that I think retirement didn't like me, but I think it's much more that the pandemic flattened my spirit.

About my Twenty Books of Summer List: If my work continues as it's going now, there is no possible way I'll finish reading 20 books by September 1st, which I've decided is really Labor Day, September 4th.   BUT!  Take note! I'm going to make the list anyway, and I'll devour as much as I can. One of the benefits of summer reading. So many days are so DARN HOT that I find I can't exercise as much and thus end up reading more than at any other time of year. So here's hoping!  My list to come! Please do join me!





Sunday, January 29, 2023

Classics Club Spin: Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope was an adventure. I’d never read any of his work and I didn’t know much about him. I found it interesting that he was writing during the same time period as Charles Dickens, at mid-century.

It was fascinating to learn just how complex the Church of England community was in a cathedral city, with bishops and arch-bishops, deacons and arch-deacons, deans, prebenderies (sic?) and on and on! I enjoyed the satire and the comedy, and most of all the unforgettable characters! Mrs. Proudie and her strangled efforts to fill the vacuum sucked dry by the most do-nothing character in literature, her husband, the bishop. If ever there was a non-character, an ineffectual zero who took up lots of space, it was Dr. Proudie, the bishop! The Signora was a creation of pure genius—I do think Trollope’s greatest strength was the breadth and depth and the imagination that he used to draw each of his characters. They will stick with me forever!

And it’s wonderful to read a book that has such a satisfying, rousing ending. I must admit I felt the most pleased (because it was a total surprise) with the way things finally ended so well for the long, long-suffering Dr. Harding.

This is definitely a book worth reading, but I must admit that I think it’s unlikely I’ll read another of Trollope’s novels. There are so many other 19th-century English novels that I’ve enjoyed much more, and I still have more books by treasured authors of this time to read. But I am so glad that I read it, especially after knowing how so many of you have enjoyed his novels. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

Some Favorites from 2022

 After finally pulling together my list of books consumed in 2022, I was very surprised to find I'd read 105. This far surpasses any previous year. I think I read between 70-76 books in 2021. My 2022 books read are listed in the sidebar.

One of my favorites was a very satisfying read that I devoured in the spring when I wasn't blogging much. Both Ken and I simply loved These Silent Woods by Kimi Cunningham Grant. We both hated to see the novel draw to a close. Set in the West Virginia wilderness, a young man and his young daughter live off the grid in a cabin miles from any road. Right at the beginning it's clear that he must isolate and stay hidden because of an event in his past. The father/daughter relationship is very strong, and their appreciation of the natural world is mutual. The suspense builds right from the beginning and escalates, but never fear, this is not your typical thriller. It's better than any formulaic mystery or thriller. 


Another favorite was Fellowship Point by Alice Elliott Dark, which was one of my 20 Books of Summer. Fascinating. The link goes to my post about it.

Another 5-star book from the spring that I didn't call attention to before is Elizabeth George's Something to Hide. Set in London, this mystery focuses on the Nigerian community. I read it for hours and hours each day for three days during our first heat wave of 2022 in May (yes, it's long!). Riveting and  absorbing--George's characters are so well developed. In my opinion, she's a master and she most definitely has not lost her edge. There is no need to feel that you must read previous novels in the Lynley series to enjoy it.