Saturday, May 31, 2014

Unpunished

After endlessly procrastinating (I have no idea why), I finally got around to reading Unpunished.  And I am so glad that I did!  Unpunished is written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a fairly famous feminist writer from the 20s.  She is better known for writing such things as The Yellow Wallpaper and Herland.  However, before she became a famous writer, she wrote a little mystery gently poking fun at mysteries of the time and providing radical (for the time) social commentary.  This mystery is Unpunished.

Unpunished is the story of a surprisingly (again, for the time) equal couple.  This husband and wife are joint detectives.  Every evening, they come home, cook supper, and then clean up together.  This might not sound jaw-dropping for today, but for that time period, this was pretty ridiculously unexpected.  The husband finds out about a new case in which a very unlikeable man has been shot, stabbed, bludgeoned, hanged (not hung, people), and poisoned.  As the couple digs into the mystery, they realize what a truly awful person this man was.  This man (sorry, I can't remember his name) ruled all of the women in his home with an iron fist and oppressed so many people that were "lower" than he was to such an awful extent that any number of people are suspected for murdering him.  In fact, the reader is actually expected to sympathize with the suspected members, rather than the murdered person.  The family is miserable and oppressed and would like nothing better than to get back at this tyrant.  Gilman writes so bitterly about this man that I was quite sure that she had had some experience with somebody rather like him.  I went back and read the preface and, sure enough, her brother-in-law was, apparently, a hateful and bossy old somebody who ruled her after her father died.

Aside from being a good mystery that left me saying, "What?!" at the end of it, this story was well written and made some pretty important commentary, even for today.  Sure, bossy old fathers forcing their young daughters into unwanted arranged marriages isn't happening very frequently, but the way people interact with each other and the world is still a relevant topic today.  This book is slow going at first, but the story starts to seep in to you after a few chapters.   I highly recommend it

And I have the amazon link.  Our library was discarding it and I just happened to catch it, so I don't know how many libraries are keeping the book.  (I'm not saying that your library doesn't have it- our's has the unfortunate tendency to throw out the old books and keep buying new, more "relevant" books.)  Happy Reading!



Friday, May 30, 2014

A Walk

After a busy morning, I took a walk down the lane to put a letter in the mailbox.  A kitty-friend (Shadow) followed me down and we had a lovely walk enjoying the view and taking pictures (in my case) and shrinking in fear from the cussing mockingbird (in her case).  I'm sharing the pictures with you that I took today.

She leaped down off of the bench where she was sleeping and agreed to join me for a walk…

But first, she had to gaze a little apprehensively up at the tree that held
the enraged mockingbird,

Who warned her that her days were numbered and if she even thought
about getting his babies, she had him to answer to.
We saw gorgeous iris and poppies…I love that little window of time
where both are in flower…

And the clothesline full of wash…

And a blue, blue sky.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Toast Rack



Today was the retirement community sale that happens every spring.  Each year, the people moving to the home donate stuff to the sale.  The stuff tends to be fabulous vintage finds.  I happened to find the most charming little device- a toast rack!  Now you may be asking, "What on earth is the purpose of a toast rack?"  Why to serve your toast on, of course!  Except, that the toast would have the unfortunate propensity to get soggy and cold, which is just plain nasty.

So, I'm going to use this cunning little device as a letter holder.  I have several friends who send me letters and I thought what a fun way to store letters this would be!

Here are several pictures that I took of it.  What do you think?  Won't this be handy?

I'll be back tomorrow with a review of Unpunished.  Yes!  I finally got around to reading the dang thing and it was a wonderful read.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Henry Reed

I'm back again today with yet another wonderful children's book, this time for slightly older readers.  This book is in my personal library and the other day I just randomly picked it up and started reading it.  The book is called Henry Reed's Babysitting Service.  Henry Reed is the son of an ambassador who travels all over the world.  Every summer, he comes to his aunt and uncle's cozy little 1950s New Jersey neighborhood.  There are several books, but my favorite is definitely Henry Reed's Babysitting.  After the previous summer which is covered in the first book, Henry returns to Grover's Corner and proceeds to plan another moneymaking scheme with his friend Midge.

After conducting lengthy surveys of all the neighbors, they see that there is a real need for babysitting.  And there starts the fun.  There is the busy housewife for whom they cook hamburgers, little knowing that the "hamburger meat" is really ground horse meat for the poodle; and there's the extremely naughty little girl who is surprisingly good at hiding from her caretakers.  But no matter what Henry and Midge do, they always have surprising adventures.  And of course, as in all good 50s children's books, adults are blissfully absent, meaning that the children can have uproarious times without any supervision whatsoever.
Henry and Midge

The book is written in a diary form (something I don't normally enjoy reading), but the stories are so funny and interesting that it works quite well.  I think that the diary form actually works very well for the reader because Henry's voice comes through so clearly without interruptions from the author.

I first heard of these books in middle school, when my dad read one of them aloud.  I remember loving them at once, so it was fun to read through this book again. This story is really great for any age.  Along with Henry's very funny voice are the great illustrations.  All 5 of the Henry Reed books were illustrated by the famous Robert McCloskey (who illustrated and wrote Blueberries for Sal).  Anybody as young as 6 would get the humor and the adventures and there is something timeless about the stories, even with the 50s American references.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Alfie and Annie Rose

This darling little book is in a genre that I don't normally read, but it's such a sweet book that it really deserves it's own review.  The Alfie and Annie Rose books are stories about two little 80s/90s British children and their happy lives.   The stories are told mainly from Alfie's perspective, but Annie Rose definitely plays a big role in the stories.  Alfie is a 4 or 5 year old and Annie Rose is a toddler, so she's probably anywhere from 1-3.  I just read recently that Alfie would be 30 now if he were a real person.  That surprised me so much because Alfie lives in my mind as a 5 year old.  He has all kinds of adventures from going to a birthday party where his friend gets very wild and naughty to befriending the "big boy" (a first grader) at school.  Alfie and Annie Rose live charming, normal lives and I remember how much I identified with them.

Just recently, my mom got one of the Alfie and Annie Rose books just for fun.  It was fun to flip through those pages again and remember so many of those stories.  I grew up reading these stories and I was amazed how much I remembered about the books.  I think that these books are so enjoyable in large part because Shirley Hughes (the author) clearly knows children so well.  She understands just how excited and out of control children get at a 5 year old birthday party and she knows about naming inanimate objects funny names (I had a pumpkin named Perenkin when I was about Alfie's age).  In addition to all these wonderful qualities, the illustrations are gorgeous.  The family's cluttery, cozy little London flat is so much fun to see.
An illustration from one of the books.

I really do recommend these books for anybody.  If you have some contact with any children (or if you don't), I think these books are a must-read.  When there are so many unlikeable characters in children's books and sub-par stories, these books are very refreshing.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Library Loot 5/26

Whew!  Well, I've finally got my Library Loot post together for the week.  I've got a good selection of books this week, mostly from the library.  The other new thing that I've got this week is several nonfiction things!  I just happened to find a bunch of great nonfiction books in the archives of this blog that I thought I must read.  So here goes:

1. What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio and Peter Menzel- This book came out quite awhile ago and I heard fantastic things about it, then promptly forgot it.  So now, I'm going to finally get around to reading this.

2. Unpunished- This dagblamed book is getting on my nerves.  It's been in my library loot pile for three weeks and I still can't get around to reading it.  This will be the week that I finally read it!

3. The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray- Recommended by the blog mentioned above.  I just thought this looked mildly interesting.  We'll see how it is.

4. Evelina by Fanny Burney- An interesting-looking book that I look forward to reading.  It's a funny 18th century novel.

5. Dear Enemy by Jean Webster- By the author who wrote the slightly more famous Daddy Long-Legs (which I need to read), this is the story of a woman who takes the role of superintendent of an orphanage.

6. The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson- I just recently finished the Sherlock TV show and loved it and then read the original Sherlock Holmes books.  I'm excited to see how this book turns out.

I feel like I got a good haul this week.  I'm excited to see how the books are!  And yet again, my interlibrary loan limit was exceeded.  Sigh.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Sunday Afternoon Thoughts and a Question

I'm sitting here planning my posts for the week.  I just wanted to drop in to let you all know that I'll be back tomorrow with my (more or less) weekly Library Loot post and then I've got a whole list of great books to review for you.  I've been enjoying spending a little of my Sunday afternoon lounging time planning for my weekly blogging.  I love blogging and for me, it is purely fun and relaxing.  However, it can get exhausting to have to think up what to write about, write it, then edit it, then add pictures/links/etc.  I've found that doing the rough draft on Sunday afternoon (including planning for pictures/links/etc.) makes my blogging during the week a lot less time consuming.  Then, I just have to edit and read through the post and add the pictures and I'm done.  However, if I change my mind about what I want to write about, then I've got this extra post that I've got to fit in somewhere.  But other than that small drawback, I really enjoy this writing method.
A kitty picture.  Just because.

So, for those of you who blog, how do you organize and make time for your writing?  Do you start each time you post with a fresh idea and do all your writing at once, or do you do something a little like I do?  And here's the other question:  Do you ever have the problem of forgetting about posts in drafts and then finding them weeks later?

For those of you who don't blog, how do you write other things?  Do you start something, then think about it for a while and finish it, or do you just write the whole thing start to finish in one blow?

I look forward to hearing from all of you!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sewing and a Book Review

Today, I have been busy with projects and flaxing around (apparently flaxing isn't a word...autocorrect suggests "flapping" or "flexing", neither of which I was doing...in my book, it means "flying around, getting lots of things done").  One of the things I did was start work on a fabulous late 40s/early 50s wrap dress.  I seem to have a bit of a thing with wrap dresses this summer.  I made a flowery short 60s dress that is for fairly nice occasions and this dress is completely different.  It's long and swishy and will be for really hot August days at home.  I actually took the time to stop and take pictures, so I've included a few.
That blue thing is the bias tape that I'm using as facing
in the place of a regular facing.  The pattern I'm
using was missing any facing pieces.

This actually has a little bit to do with a book I just read.  Well, "read" is a little too serious.  It was more like, "skimmed some parts and read some parts admired the pretty pictures".  The book, written in the 90s, is called Life, Loss, and What I Wore.  I picked it up simply because I had a few minutes and I didn't want to be engrossed in something really good and burn the rhubarb sauce all over the stove (I did that anyway).  This book is a very small memoir of a woman's life, as lived through her clothes.  So, the story starts out with a dress that her mother made and wore in the 30s and moves through her life.  Each page is a small anecdote and its facing page is an illustration of the dress.  Each chapter is a decade and ends in the 90s, with the author's granddaughter playing dress-up in one of her old dresses. And there were some gorgeous vintage dresses mentioned.  I especially loved the description and picture of the author's elegant 50s ball dress.   Reading this description, this sounds like a charming and interesting read.  And it was, to some extent.  However, I didn't love it.  The writing style sounded extremely dated (in a bad way), but it wasn't just that.  It was extremely self-involved and navel-gazey.  I found myself saying, "Oh please," more than once.  So, I don't recommend this unless you just happen to own the book and haven't read it or you really want to know about it and get it from the library.  It's not worth purchasing, in my humble opinion.
The book

But back to my dress.   I can't wait to see how it turns out.  I love this era of pattern and I think it's going to be a very nice, practical dress.  Here's the pattern, so you can see what the end product will look like.  I'm doing the shorter version because, honestly, can't you just imagine tripping over that long skirt every time you walked?


Friday, May 23, 2014

A Wilder Rose

Last week, I was talking to my grandmother and she was enthusiastically telling me about this wonderful book about Rose Wilder Lane, the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I listened, exclaimed that it sounded wonderful, then promptly forgot about it.  However, she was persistent, and so now I've read the book, too.  And what a wonderful read it was!

A Wilder Rose is the fictionalized account of Rose Wilder's often-fraught relationship with her mother, particularly when helping her mother write the Little House books.  From unpublished diaries and letters, historians and writers are beginning to see that Rose Wilder pretty much wrote the Little House books herself.  Rose was a very skilled editor, journalist, and writer and had a lot of experience in the publishing world.  Laura, on the other hand, and pretty much no skill, but she had a lot of good stories. Laura and Rose's relationship when writing the Little House books is the basis of this book.  According to this book (and who knows how much of this is fictionalized and how much is really based on fact), Rose spent her whole life feeling like Laura didn't quite approve of her.  This feeling only intensified when, at the age of 3, Rose was left alone while Laura was sick.  Wanting desperately to help, Rose put too much wood on the fire and burned the Wilder's little house down.  Rose writes of still remembering that sickening realization of what she had done.  This was just the start of many years of severe poverty and hard living. Rose agreed to basically write these books for her mother with no credit because she always felt indebted to her parents because of all the loss they had suffered.
Rose Wilder Lane

Once Rose grew up, she was determined to make something of herself and so attended high school in Louisiana with one of Almanzo's (her father) sisters.  After that, she attended college and began a high-powered writing career.  She had a brief marriage which collapsed shortly after the death of her only son.  When the Depression came, Rose returned to the Ozarks to live with her parents.   That was when she had her mother began working on the Little House books.  The journey from a very unpolished memoir that Laura wrote to the polished stories that we know of today is a fascinating one.

The book is told by Rose to a young aspiring journalist who is living with her.  This made for some kind of confusing foreshadowing that I think the author could have worked a little harder to make clear.  However, that is my only complaint.  I was surprised at how different these well-known characters appeared to be.  Laura became a very different, but 3-dimensional, character.  This book portrays her as a very domineering, grasping, not-very-nice person.  But in spite of these less-than-perfect character traits, we come to identify with and pity both Laura and Rose through this story.

I recommend this book to anybody who has read the Little House books, which is a pretty large percentage of the population!  The story is well-told and gives the reader another perspective into these well-known stories.  I think that I am going to read a non-fiction book that has just come out about Laura and Rose's relationship.  I'll let you know what I think of it and how it compares to this book.

As usual, I have the amazon links for this book and the A Ghost in the Little House, the non-fiction book I'm going to read.


    

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Storm Pictures


As I sat on the porch this afternoon, there was a gentle breeze whipping around and a blue, blue sky.   It was the perfect kind of day to be outside, but suddenly, I smelled that damp, breezy smell that signifies rain.  I snatched up the camera and took pictures of the storm closing in over the barn roof.  I thought I would share them here today, since this blog is both my book reviewing and my life-recording blog.


The rain and the wind came oddly fast, so the majority of the pictures ended up kind of blurred, but I was very pleased that I managed to get a few really nice ones.

The weather just can't decide what to do today.  As I write this, I'm sitting on the porch enjoying the sunshine and breezes again!


I'll be back tomorrow with a full length book review.  Until then, I hope you enjoyed these pictures!  I had a lot of fun taking them.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Rainy Day

Today I'm enjoying the rain gently pattering on the roof as I work on inside projects.  I've spent every waking moment outside the last few days, so it's a nice break to be inside.  Here's what I'm doing/have done today (and a pretty picture I found for your perusal):
I love pictures of people reading.  This picture is by Deborah Bays.
It's called Summer Solitude.


  • Listening to the Kingston Trio as I type this.
  • This morning included a trip to a local store where I got pretty soap and earrings.
  • Working in my cozy sewing room.  Sewing is the perfect pastime on a day like this.  I'm working on a flowery 60s wrap dress.
  • Contemplating blog posts and what my writing goals are.
  • Doings some furniture shifting
  • Reading (of course).  I'm enjoying A People's History of the United States (the chapter about the beginnings of slavery) and Miss Bunting by Angela Thirkell
What do you like to do on rainy days?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

My Latest Reading Project

I have a new reading project.   I sat down with some lovely sharp pencils and notepaper and made lists. I love making lists and planning, so this was a lot of fun.  For the next several months every evening, I'm going to be reading Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States and Voices of a People's History of the United States (written along with Anthony Arnove).  So far, I've read the first chapter in both books.  Each chapter in each book corresponds.  The Voices book is several writings from several viewpoints in different points in American history in each chapter.  The People's History is Zinn's take on the time period with plenty of primary sources cited.  For instance, the first chapter of the Voices book has an excerpt from Columbus's diary, an excerpt from the diary of a man who was on the ship with Columbus and came to realize the evils of what they were doing, and an essay written by a Native American man in the 1980s re-imagining Columbus's arrival.  Then, Zinn offers his thoughts about the arrival of Columbus, all written in a captivating and lyrical prose.


I think this is an important book for everybody to read.  American history (particularly school textbook history) has become badly distorted in a variety of ways.   Firstly, for many years, the viewpoint of the white, European-origin male has reigned supreme and the school system seems to not have quite gotten the message yet that this is only relevant to one segment of the population.  Second, the wars, exchanges of money, and foreign policies have been the "important" parts of history for a long time.  What counts is not what the Virginia slave women were making for their meals, but what law Jefferson was passing.  Howard Zinn has set out to completely change the way we view history and I think he's done a wonderful job of it.

One thing I am enjoying about this book is the calm recognition that, yes, this history that Zinn is writing is biased.  So often, history is presented as pure gospel, like the Pythagorean Theorem, that can never be wrong.  Even though the facts themselves may be true, every historian picks and chooses when writing something and it's refreshing to have that acknowledged.  The other thing I love about this book is how truly interesting it is.  That history is boring is something that many 5th graders repeat.  And really, if you're talking about textbooks, they're right.  This book succeeds in sounding serious and intelligent, while still being fascinating.

I thought I would give you two quotes that I especially love from Zinn's books.  The first one is from A People's History, the second is from Voices.

"My point is not that we must, in telling history, accuse, judge, condemn Columbus in absentia.  It is too late for that; it would be a useless scholarly exercise in morality.  But the easy acceptance of atrocities as a deplorable but necessary price to pay for progress (Hiroshima and Vietnam, to save Western civilization; Kronstadt and Hungary, to save socialism; nuclear proliferation, to save us all)-that is still with us.  One reason these atrocities are still with us is that we have learned to bury them in a max of other facts, as radioactive wastes are buried in containers in the earth.  We have learned to give them exactly the same proportion of attention that teachers and writers often give them in the most respectable of classrooms and textbooks.  This learned sense of moral proportion, coming from the apparent objectivity of the scholar, is accepted more easily than when it comes from politicians at press conferences.  It is therefore more deadly."

"To omit or minimize [the] voices of resistance is to create the idea that power only rests with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth, who own the newspapers and the television stations.  I want to point out that people who seem to have no power, whether working people, people of color, or women- once they organize and protest and create movements- have a voice no government can suppress."

I strongly recommend that you read these books.  They are actually surprisingly cheap for how big they are and they are books that are worth buying and adding to your home library.  However, they are at my public library, so you could definitely check them out of the library first, read a bit, and then decide what you think.

 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Giveaway

Quick!  Quick!  The Midnight Garden, a blog that focuses mostly on young adult and middle grade fiction, is hosting a giveaway of L.M. Montgomery books published by Sourcebooks Fire.  As many of you know, I adore L.M. Montgomery, so you'd better bet that I went over there are entered at once.  If any of you are interested, head on over there.

Here's the link.  Enjoy!

There are two sets of books being given away: a set of the six Anne books and a set of six non-Anne books.  The books in the non-Anne set are Jane of Lantern Hill, A Tangled Web, The Blue Castle, Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat, and Magic for Marigold.  Of these, I have only read The Blue Castle, so I'm pretty excited about this.

I'm blogging about this at the last moment, so you only have 15 more hours to enter this giveaway.  Good luck!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The Dead in their Vaulted Arches

You know those books where you finish them and have no desire to go back into regular life or read another book?  The book is still so present in your mind that all you want to do is sit and go over the book again and feel sorry that it wasn't longer.  Well, that was how the last Flavia de Luce book was for me.  I've read some great books recently, but none of them have stuck with me like this.  I read it in about two sittings in one day and it was wonderful.

I'd heard some bloggers mention that this book isn't like the earlier books and this made me a little worried that I wouldn't like it as well.  I definitely agree with them, this book is a little different from the earlier books.  The other books followed the pattern of a pretty classic mystery that Flavia solves by traveling around her little village finding clues and talking to people.  Along the way, of course, there is some family friction and little side adventures, but the point is solving the mystery.  Well, this final book doesn't follow this pattern at all.

As the story begins, the de Luce family is standing on the railway station waiting for their long-lost dead mother who wrecked in the alps (I think...but I can't absolutely remember where it was) when Flavia was a baby.  As they stand waiting, a tall man comes over to Flavia and murmurs, "You like pheasant sandwiches, too?"  Minutes later, somebody shoves him onto the railway and he is run over by the train.  As the family members begin to flock to Buckshaw, Flavia learns more and more about her mother and she begins to suspect that there is more to her mother's death than meets the eye.  Is it perhaps connected to the man who died on the railway tracks?

Alan Bradley wrote about Flavia's mother's death and the reactions of the family so beautifully; I found the funeral scene so heartbreaking that it gave me chills.  I tend not to like extremely emotional scenes in books, but this was so believable and understandable that I thought it was very appropriate. The ending surprised and pleased me and the loose ends were so nicely tied up that I was left feeling quite satisfied with Flavia's lot.

I don't just recommend this series.  You must read this series.  I'm even considering buying these and re-reading all of them, they were so good.  However, if you don't want to buy them, please, please, please check them all out of the library and read them.  I promise, you will be glad that you did.

And that's the end of the Flavia de Luce series.  I've heard murmurings about there being more books, but who knows.  On Good Reads, the seventh book is listed with a 2015 release date, so we'll see...
Oh, but please, Alan Bradley, I want more!

Here are the links to all the blog posts I wrote about Flavia de Luce:

http://bookandaquilt.blogspot.com/2014/03/flavia-de-luce.html

http://bookandaquilt.blogspot.com/2014/04/a-red-herring-without-mustard.html

http://bookandaquilt.blogspot.com/2014/04/i-am-half-sick-of-shadows.html

http://bookandaquilt.blogspot.com/2014/04/speaking-from-among-bones.html

And here's the handy-dandy amazon link, so you can order this straight away, if you so choose.





Saturday, May 17, 2014

Please Don't Eat the Daisies

Please Don't Eat the Daisies was a re-read for me.  It is the comedic essays of a New York theater woman in the 50s.  Jean Kerr was, apparently, married to a famous drama critic and was known for her humor in the 50s and 60s.  This was her first foray into writing.  Each essay is hilarious and covers such topics as "How to be a Collector's Item" and "Dogs I Have Known" (my absolute favorite).  This book is interesting because, although it covers such dated topics and ideas, there is something so recognizable about the experiences and thoughts covered.  And I think that's why this book is still so amusing today.  Added to this already great book are the funny pencil drawings done by Carl Rose.

Here's a excerpt from the book:
"It's not just our own dogs that bother me.  The dogs I meet at parties are even worse.  I don't know what I've got that attracts them; it just doesn't bear thought.  My husband swears I rub chopped meat on my ankles.  But at every party it's the same thing.  I'm sitting in happy conviviality with a group in front of the fire when all of a sudden the large mutt of mine host appears in the archway.  Then, without a single bark of warning, he hurls himself upon me. It always makes me think of that line from A Streetcar Named Desire-'Baby, we've had this date right from the beginning.'  My martini flies into space and my stokcings are torn before he finally settles down peacefully in the lap of my new black faille.  I blow out such quantities of hair as I haven't swallowed and glance at my host, expecting to be rescued.  He murmurs, "Isn't that wonderful?  You know, Brucie is usually so distant with strangers."

Illustration found from some Ebay listing.  I had the worst time trying
to find an illustration for you (I was being lazy and didn't feel like getting
up to get my camera).
This book is perfect distraction reading.  My recovery from the oral surgery has been longer than expected and this was the perfect antidote.  This book would also make great on-the-fly reading because each essay is fairly short and the essays could be read in any sequence and still make perfect sense.  I recommend this book for anybody that likes humorous reading and a little slice of late 50s American life.

The Doris Day movie.  This movie was not that great.
I think I didn't like it in large part because I had just read the
book.  There's just no way a movie can capture a funny voice
and a collection of essays without messing everything up.
I think that this might have been a tolerable movie, had
I not just read the book.
I've linked to both the book (there's several used copies on amazon) and the instant-watch movie, should you be curious about either.


Friday, May 16, 2014

Mary Stewart Series: The Ivy Tree

I have (yet another) Mary Stewart review for you today.  Her books are wonderful recovery reading, which explains the many reviews of her books.

I think that the Ivy Tree might be one of Stewart's most gripping stories.  It is the tale of a woman named Mary Grey.  One day, while she is sitting on a stone wall, a young man comes up to Mary and, calling her Annabelle, begins to berate her for leaving the family and breaking their grandfather's heart.    She firmly tells him that she is not Annabelle, that his cousin Annabelle is long dead.  Con, the young man, convinces her to come disguised as Annabelle to get her portion of her dying grandfather's rich fortune.  Then, she will give most of it to Con and get a small portion for herself.  However, when she gets to the estate, she begins to make friends with her grandfather and her flighty cousin, who has just come to visit.  It quickly becomes clear that Con is planning on getting rid of this cousin as soon as possible to make more money for herself.  Mary-now Annabelle- is stunned and doesn't know what to do.  To add problem upon problem, she finds herself falling in love with the man that Annabelle once loved.

This book has a lot of suspense and less classic mystery-ish qualities, than Wildfire at Midnight, the last Mary Stewart book I reviewed.  The story was exciting, and quite convincing.  There is a revelation that comes about 5/6 of the way through the book that made me shriek aloud and read as quickly as possible to find out what the outcome was.  As always, Mary Stewart has written a wonderful story that  is enjoyable for many people.

Country Girls Read just wrote a lovely tributary post for Mary Stewart.  Stewart just died on Saturday.  I was so sorry to hear that, but glad that her books will live on for many years to come.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Growing Up Plain


This was one of those books that just kind of appeared in my house.  I have no idea what it's origins are, but it was a great book.  Growing Up Plain is the ramble-y reminiscences of a woman who grew up in a Conservative Mennonite (I was amazed that Wikipedia had a page on Conservative Mennonites! Dear Wikipedia, you know everything) home in the 50s.  Each chapter is just a string of stories, following Shirley Kurtz through her childhood all the way to college.  The book was really short-only about 75 pages- and I sped through it.

Now for my analysis of the book.  Kurtz is an extremely gifted writer.  She has a funny voice that comes through clearly in all of her books and the ability to make you understand a very niche viewpoint.  That said, the book was quite skimpy.  It felt almost like a book of memories that you would write down for your children to read and remember instead of a published book.  Kurtz occasionally went off on little tangents, analyzing a boy at school or the way the bishops behaved when she was a girl.  The wasn't necessary and I think that the book could have been made a little more concise if those parts had been left out.  I also think that this book would make a lot more sense if you at least have some understanding of Conservative Mennonite culture.  This is not a book for somebody who has never even heard of these people.  However, if you have read something before this or perhaps even know a Conservative Mennonite, this is going to be a very interesting and funny read.  Kurtz's stories are interesting and understandable to those who know about where she came from.

If you want to read this book (and I recommend that you do), but have no prior knowledge of Conservative Mennonites, start by reading An Introduction to Old Order and Conservative Mennonite Groups.  This will be good place to get started and then you'll really enjoy Growing Up Plain.
           

Ps.  I'm experimenting with using amazon affiliates program.  This means that if any of my readers follow this link and buy the product I linked to, I will get a small commission. I promise that all the opinions on this blog are still my own and amazon has not paid me anything to review a book one way or the other.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  I'll be more than happy to answer them.


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Mary Stewart Series: Wildfire at Midnight

This book was wonderful.  I read it in a day while I lounged on the couch with ice packs.  The story was about young Gianetta, a woman who has just had a painful divorce from her much different, brilliant author husband.  Feeling sad and lonely, she travels to a hotel on some remote Gaelic island to stay for the summer.  While there, she discovers that there is a strange mystery in her midst.  Just a week before she arrived, somebody among the hotel party shot a villager.  Everybody urges Gianetta to return home at once, but she is determined to find the murderer.  Into this scene comes her ex-husband.  A few days later, two women from the hotel who were hiking are killed.  The anxiety in the hotel reaches a new level as police and inspectors swarm the place looking for the murderer.  Meanwhile, Gianetta finds herself drawn to a handsome and mysterious visitor at the hotel who her ex-husband strongly dislikes.
Isn't her coat and that purple and gold scarf pretty?
I think I need a 50s plaid coat.

This book was far more murder mystery-ish than any of Mary Stewart's books.  However, there were still the same cozy descriptions of the outdoors and of the clothes.  This is one of my favorite things about Stewart's writing.  I was also pleased because this the first time that I guessed correctly who the murderer was.

I recommend this book for pretty much anybody.  It's a good book for people who like to read thrillers, for people who like mysteries, romances, and vintage books.  It's a wonderful book and I'm already starting in on another Mary Stewart book.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Reading and Reading (Or Library Loot 5/13/14)

Today, I spent the majority of the morning sitting in a dental chair under general anesthetic.  This does not translate to wonderful writing of blog posts-just so you're warned in advance.  The surgery turned out great, but I still will be pretty much stuck on the couch or in the recliner for the next couple of days with ice packs on my face.  But do you know what that means?  It means I get a ton of free reading time!  No people interrupting me to explain something or go do something or ask me a question....just quiet reading and butterscotch custard.  Ah....

This blog post is going to be my (very late) Library Loot post, a weekly link-up from Captive Reader.
The books in this post aren't truly loot from the public library because, silly me, I didn't stock up on library books before my dental work.  However, I'm am lucky to have a large personal library and a few books left over from last week's haul, not to mention those Mary Stewart books I just ordered.  So here's my library loot for the week:




I think this should keep me engrossed for quite a while, although it might take me less time to finish these that I think.  Already, I've finished Growing Up Plain and Wildfire at Midnight.  There are going to be lots of book reviews on this blog very soon!