Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What I Read in 2014

I read a lot this year.  I think I read so much because I had this blog that was quietly tapping me on the shoulder, reminding me to take the time to read and write on my blog.  Yes, there was my (brief) hiatus from blogging, back in the fall, but I could never completely leave this blog and, so, I'm committing to a brisker blog schedule and even more reading this year!  I thought I would compile a list of what I read this year.  I was so pleased, readers!  The list starts in March because that was when I started blogging and, honestly, I have absolutely no memory of what I read before that.

March

The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (And my first blog post!)
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (Still one of my favorite works of fiction)
The Penderwicks Books by Jeanne Birdsall
Two Sherlock Holmes Books
Canterbury Tales
Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery
Hotel Paradise by Martha Grimes
Don't Look Now by Daphne DuMaurier (NOT a hit!)
The Beginning of Flavia de Luce
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays
The Life of Pi

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Gardening Reading

It's been so drearily bleak around here, but not cold.  It's my least favorite weather conditions-50 degrees and gray.  So, to distract myself from the less-than-ideal weather, I've come up with a nice big stack of gardening reading materials.  I'm already getting excited for the seed catalogues and gardening charts!

Here's my list:


  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver-I think this is my third time reading through this and I love it more each time I read it.  This does deserve its own review, so when I get around to it, I'll definitely write one.

  • How to Grow More Vegetables by John Jevons-Good, so far, although the man does seem to have a mad gleam in his eye.  I can't imagine doing all of the hoopla required for this kind of intensive gardening.  Interesting, though.

  • The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord-A lovely, lovely book.  Not terribly informational, but full of gorgeous pictures and ideas for making beautiful little kitchen gardens with just a little bit of space.

  • The 12 Month Gardener by Jeff Ashton-A really great book all about gardening year round in a temperate climate.  Useful, interesting, and inspiring.
Now aren't you refreshed just looking at all those bright green books with the word "garden" in their titles?  I'm sure there will be more books like these as spring draws closer.  I'll be sure to keep you updated on what I'm reading.


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Pictures

I've been taking pictures up a storm the past few days.  You see, I got a new camera for Christmas!  And, oh, it is a beauty!  It's a grown-up camera with a nice 18-55 mm lens and all kinds of settings that are making me extremely overwhelmed.  Everything is getting photographed, from the salt shaker to the family opening presents.

Here is some of what I've been capturing:

My brother and I lit some paper lanterns to line the driveway after an extended family Christmas gathering.
So lovely.

A yawning kitty.
The tops of the kale, photographed artistically as I was going out to grab some for a salad.
Photograph of the inside of a hornet's nest sitting in an old tree.  I've been wanting to take
this picture for so long and couldn't get up the nerve to stick my camera lens that close. 

Hazel the sheep.  My camera is speedy enough that I can get animal pictures!
The little paper lanterns.

All of this photography is making me want to check out books and books and more books about photography techniques.  I'll compile a list of favorites once I get them all read.  

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Bossypants by Tina Fey

I am most definitely not a nonfiction reader and I'm not an autobiography reader.  Autobiographies so often feel stuck-up and like the author either has an extremely inflated sense of self and is flaunting flaunting his/her fabulousness faaaaar too much.  They're either, a.) Famous personages who became train wrecks and went on to write about it, b.) Famous personages who did not become train wrecks and are quite proud of it, or, c.) People who are not famous, but think that everybody wants to hear what they are up to (which, now that I think of it, is also the definition of a blogger)

I actually read this book about a month ago and loved it.  I read it cover to cover in a little under 24 hours, then stuck the first two sentences of this post in drafts and forgot about it.  I had stopped at the autobiography section at the library to pick up a James Herriot book because I was going through a dry-spell where nothing at the library looked any good and I stopped and picked this book up.  I read the front cover and laughed out loud until the bored looking man writing a paper at the next table over glowered and I snapped the book up.

Most of you probably know of Tina Fey.  She's a fairly famous comedian in the US, most well-known for her Sarah Palin sketches in the 2008 election, but she's been in a variety of other films and television shows.

The book is very informally written as a collection of essays, written roughly in chronological order, starting with the story of her birth and going on from there.  I laughed and laughed as I read Fey's observations about life; both hers and the lives of the people around her.

But the book wasn't just funny.  It was a thoughtful look at being a comedian, a woman with a successful career, a person in a complicated world.

Here's the thing-I wasn't expecting to like this book.  I mean, come on, it's a famous actress talking about her successful life.  The book was just begging to become a pretentious monologue navel-gazing session.   And, amazingly, it didn't!  The book was just funny and fresh and would be interesting to anybody, not just Fey's devoted fans.  That was the thing that impressed me. The book is of general interest to the general public.  And how often does that happen in a celebrity's autobiography?

The Good Reads reviews, however, whined quite a bit about the book.  Sure, it was not the world's most wonderfully edited piece of writing.  Actually, it was kind of bad at parts.  However, maybe because I was in such a spot of dry reading, I wasn't offended in the least by the content itself.  Could the presentation have been better?  Sure.

So if you are interested in autobiographies, pick this one up.  It's funny and smart and a quick read.  I really enjoyed it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Diddakoi by Rumer Godden

Well, dear readers, I'm back!  I'm afraid I've left you in a bit of a blogpostless desert, so I have a nice long book review for you today to make amends.

I started the beginning of a long Christmas vacation and, to celebrate, I grabbed the book on top of my (mountainous) book pile-The Diddakoi.  It had been highly recommended to me, so I was eager to start it.  I read the whole book in about 2 hours and then emerged, blinking, into the real world.

The Diddakoi is about a 7 year old gypsy girl, Kizzy, who lives with her great-great grandmother and her beloved horse in a caravan on the edge of an old English admiral's property.  There are some of the loveliest description scenes I have ever read, such as this one:

"And they (her clothes) did smell, but not of dirt.  Gran washed them often, hanging them along the hedge, while Kizzy wrapped herself in a blanket; they smelled of the open air, of woodsmoke, and a little of the old horse, Joe, because she hugged him often."

And with that little quote, I am instantly transported to this scene.  However, Kizzy's romantic life outdoors is not to be.  She is sent to the local school with the (spoiler alert: nasty!) children.  They tease and torment her, calling her all kinds of awful derogatory terms that were, apparently, in common vernacular at that time and place, from "Diddakoi to "Clothes-Washer" to many, many more.  They pull her hair and push her and smack her and make fun of her endlessly, to the point where it isn't just little kids insulting, but real, concentrated hatefulness.  And, to make matters worse, the teacher is a well-meaning lady who has no idea how to handle the children.

One day, Kizzy comes home from school to the news that her grandmother has died.  The gypsy relatives show up, burn the caravan, as is customary, and then prove themselves to be quite unsavory people.  Kizzy runs away with dear Joe, her horse, who has just been threatened with being sent to the butcher.  She goes to the first place she knows: the admiral's large mansion.  He takes her in, despite being an old curmudgeonly bachelor and he and his two trusty assistants from the navy nurse her back to health (oh, yeah, she got pneumonia somewhere along in there).

But Kizzy's happiness is not to be and she is taken before a local magistrate and told that she must leave the kindly gentlemen and go somewhere with a woman's influence.  After all sorts of awful adults discuss children's homes and foster parents, she is taken in by the kind, yet serious magistrate herself.  And Kizzy proceeds to learn to be a Nice English Middle-Class Person.

After I finished the book, I was in too much of a daze to analyze properly.  But now I'm ready.  Let me just say that the book gets worse, actually.  Stop reading here if you don't want more spoilers.  Kizzy is really abused by the little girls in her class.  There's one scene where they think her neck might be broken from being beat up.  It's awful, really.  But the thing that most offended me is that Rumer Goden refers several times to the girls picking on Kizzy as, "kittens fighting with their fur all on end".  By using the word "kittens", Goden has instantly made this situation "not that bad" and nothing more than children's nonsense.

Now, I understand that bullying as we have to come use the term was not a commonly addresses issue at the time Godden wrote this (60s, I think, but don't quote me).  And I have read (and heard personal stories) of pretty awful things happening at the time because adults were just not paying attention.  But here's the thing that made me truly disgusted at the end of the book.

SPOILER!  SPOILER!

After these girls beat up Kizzy over and over, they are finally caught by the Magistrate who scolds them and takes Kizzy home with her.  Some of the adults are properly upset and agree that these girls must be punished.  But the magistrate prevails and says that they must none of them do anything, because, after all, "this is a children's war".  Gah.  This excuse absolutely makes me froth at the mouth. And so they do nothing.  Kizzy is hauled back to school where, magically, she is made a popular British schoolgirl who is fascinating to all and everybody starts using the derogatory terms in a fascinated, loving kind of way.

This argument of, "This is a children's war.  We can't get involved," might be appropriate if the kids are bickering over something minor and nobody is getting singled out and pummeled.  But this?  This is truly disgusting.  And that's the thing that drove me wild about this book.  This is not normal children's behavior and Godden was treating it as such.  And it may have been a different time, but children have not changed that much in the last 50 years.  It does make me wonder what kind of tortured childhood Godden might have had.  And the ending message that Kizzy should have faced actual bodily harm so that she could end up popular and beloved by the little demons who hurt her?   Sheesh.

This book I was loaned was an old library copy and was marked, "Youth", which surprised me.  Evidently, Godden wrote this as a children's story.  I know I wouldn't hand that book to any early-chapter-book-reader.  And, really, it is an adult's story.  There are all of the heinous bullying scenes, but the book isn't even written from Kizzy's perspective.  The story is being told about Kizzy, but there's almost no internal dialogue from Kizzy's point of view.  It's the perspective of an adult outsider, looking in.  All to say, this is very much an adult's book.

The way that gypsies were addressed in the book was also interesting.  They were written about in a very romantic way, alternating between shock at their "wild ways" musing over their gorgeous outdoors, rugged life.  It was a little weird and probably not something you'd read in a book today.

So what did I like?  Well, the first 1/4 of the book, with the cozy caravan scenes and the heavily romanticized loveliness of it all.  Oh, and the section where the kindly admiral goes to the department store and buys Kizzy piles of lovingly described clothing.  And Rumer Goden is a truly gifted author.  She wrote An Episode of Sparrows, which I loved and she is a very good storyteller.

In closing, I wouldn't really bother with this book.  TBR piles are too high anyway.  However, I'm not going to scream, "Don't read this!" from the rooftops.  If you're really in the mood to have a good British Schoolchildren in the 60s analysis, then go ahead and have a good time.  Believe me, there's plenty to analyze.  It also appears that people who were exposed to this book as children/teenagers and have fond memories associated with this book seem to speak far more favorably of it than the people who picked it up for the first time recently, like me.  So if you've read it before, then go ahead and give it a reread!  You might have a completely different reaction.  I'll be back tomorrow with a picture post.


Saturday, December 13, 2014

A December Poem

My December has been absolutely jam-packed.  Even my reading has slowed down!  Not halted, but slowed down.  I thought I would just give a quick summary of what's on my book list or is currently being read:

1.) My Cousin Michael by Mary Stewart

2.) The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley-This book is absolutely fabulous!  The books are modern settings, but they remind me so very much of Mary Stewart's work.  They're that amazing combination of thrilling, yet cozy.

Aaaand that's it.  See?  I told you I wasn't reading much.  In other news, here's a lovely poem I picked out, along with a December painting, called Winter Painter by Carl Larssen (A Swedish artist, whose paintings I dearly love).  I really do love December, and Longfellow, which is why I picked this poem about winter.



Snow-flakes, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Out of the bosom of the Air,
     Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
     Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
          Silent, and soft, and slow
          Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
     Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
     In the white countenance confession,
          The troubled sky reveals
          The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air,
     Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
     Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
          Now whispered and revealed
          To wood and field.



Sunday, November 30, 2014

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving by L.M. Alcott

This is a book that is neglected and forgotten about all too frequently.  We've all read, or at least read part of, Little Women and maybe and Old Fashioned Girl or Eight Cousins, but most people haven't ever read An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving, unless they know of it from the smarmy, schmaltzy tv movie that was done in the early 2000s.  Just in case you were wondering, that movie has absolutely nothing to do with the book by Alcott except for the title.

This book was also made into a picture book at some point, but this was a short story written by Alcott around the same time that she wrote Hospital Sketches.  In this story, the Bassett family is bustling around, getting ready for a big Thanksgiving feast when a carriage comes up to the gate, bringing word that grandmother is desperately sick.  The mother leaves, putting her 7 young children in charge of cooking the Thanksgiving meal.  There are all kinds of funny upsets and mishaps, including stuffing the turkey with truly nasty herbs (can't remember what they were....catnip, maybe?).

This book was been rather overlooked because it's not very long and it's very easily cute-ified, something that can very easily happen to holiday stories.  I think that Alcott originally wrote this as a children's short story, but I really enjoyed it, just as an Austen fan.  This was really very well written and gently funny.

There really isn't much else to say about this book.  It's got a lovely atmosphere about it and is, really, still very contemporary, as we could all imagine having an adventure like this.  Although can you even imagine leaving your 7 kids, all under the age of 16 at home to make Thanksgiving dinner?  Whew!

If you have any children in your life, go ahead and read this to them.  If you don't, but you're an avid Alcott fan, then go ahead and read this, too.  I think you'll enjoy it.

So there's my Thanksgiving post for the year.  I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving week!   I gathered with lots of extended family for lots and lots of good food.  It was lovely and now I'm ready for a normal week ahead and, hopefully, a few blog posts!


Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Which I Meet Amelia Peabody

Readers, I met Amelia Peabody and I do think that she is the most charming, fascinating, lively, and well-developed mystery heroine I have ever read in my entire life.

I discovered her after a friend very casually mentioned this fabulous mystery series by Elizabeth Peters about a Victorian archaeologist.  It didn't sound fabulous, but I trust this friend with book recommendations, so I checked the first one out and, oh, was I in for a treat!

The Amelia Peabody mysteries are about Amelia Peabody, a middle-aged, strong-willed, stubborn woman who spends her days charging through Egypt and working and learning at excavation sites.  Oh, and there are mysteries that she solves on the side, too.

This first book, Crocodile on the Sandbank, starts out with Amelia aboard a train, traveling to Egypt just after the death of her father.  While on it, she meets a waif-like woman named Evelyn Barton, who is fleeing her erstwhile lover and her tyrannical grandfather, who is enraged over the fact that she ran away with the lover in the first place.  Amelia firmly takes Evelyn under her wing and they proceed to Egypt, with a cousin-cum-prospective spouse for Evelyn in tow.  While there, they meet the Radcliffe brothers, who are an excavating team.  Sparks immediately start to fly between Evelyn and Walter, the younger brother, and Amelia and Emerson Radcliffe, the older brother, immediately decide to hate each other.  However, the whole party is thrown together after a walking mummy keeps making repeated, unfriendly visits.

The party knows that it has to be an Englishman, since only a person with Western influence would think to do such a thing and so they set out to find the strange mummy.  There are all kinds of adventures and near-misses and, meanwhile, Amelia and Emerson are growing strangely fond of each other.

This book really has everything-good characters with plenty of witty dialogue, an exciting plot, a smattering of romance, and a thrilling mystery.  I read the book constantly for 2 days and it went with me wherever I went.  This book is also responsible for a pot of soup burned to the point of inedibility.

The relationship between Emerson and Amelia was quite entertaining.  It was very reminiscent of the Darcy/Lizzie romance and countless others like it that have appeared in fiction ever since Pride and Prejudice made its way into the world, but at the same time, it was different enough to not be annoying.  Oh, and, spoiler alert, Amelia and Emerson do get married by the end of the book.  You knew it was coming, so that wasn't a terrible spoiler.

These books were first written in the 1970s by Elizabeth Peters and I am amazed at how historically accurate they were.  I think that 70s and 80s writing has a bit of a reputation as being sadly anachronistic, but there was nothing anachronistic about this writing.  It was perfectly done and very historically accurate.

I really, really loved this book and think that, if you are any kind of a reader, you will like this.  It was well-written and funny and exciting (oh, so exciting), and a million other adjectives, and I think that this series is something that pretty much anybody should at least read one of.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Death Comes to Pemberley Miniseries

Readers, I just fell in love with a Jane Austen Knock-off (spin-off, whatever you want to call it) miniseries.  I know, just go ahead and take away my Jane-Austen-reverer-book-blogger license.  Go ahead.  It was Sunday evening and I was dying of one of those absolutely disgusting chest colds that leaves you gasping for breath and weakly sipping hot tea.  I was absolutely done with reading a book that I was making no progress on and the dog was yapping out the window.  I decided to start the fairly new Death Comes to Pemberley Miniseries.  I was suspicious.  I've heard lots of people who were tepid at best about P.D. James's classic mystery, but I was desperate for some distraction and it had good actors, so Death Comes to Pemberley it was.

Now, to be fair to this series, I'm not sure how different it was from the book (and I've remedied that and have it on hold from the library), but because of the not-great reviews of the book, I was absolutely stunned by how well-done the movie was.  The characters seemed like they had developed, but not in a forced way.  I was especially impressed by Mrs. Bennet.  She was her usual attention-grabbing obnoxious self without being over-done (a tragedy done to Mrs. Bennet many times over in both knock-off books and films).  My favorite characters were, really, Darcy and Lizzie.  Their relationship seemed to have grown from this romantic thing that has been swooned over for ages into a grown-up, married couple with kids relationship that I found quite charming.  But they really were still Darcy and Lizzie.

Here's a brief synopsis of this 3-part series:  The Darcys are planning a ball for the neighborhood when, suddenly, a hysterical Lydia Bennet arrives shrieking that shots were heard in the woods after Wickham and Denny ran into the woods.  Darcy starts a search and they discover Wickham with a dead Denny crying in distress.   Following are tense court scenes, cute shots of the Darcy's son, Fitzwilliam, who is perpetually getting into trouble, scenes below-stairs among the horrified servants, and up-stairs scenes between the Darcys, Georgiana, who is justifiably upset by seeing Wickham again, and the whole Bennet family, who turns up at a rather inopportune moment.

I have to say, if you haven't read the book, then the multitude of references will go completely over your head.  This is not a movie for somebody who hasn't read and seen Pride and Prejudice 5,000 times.

But anyway, it was a good miniseries and I watched all 3 hours in one go.  It was pretty fabulous, although exhausting.  The one thing that did throw me off was the actors.  I have this weird combination of faces for all of the P&;P characters that's a mix of the Colin Firth P&P, the Keira Knightley P&P, and my own imagined faces from the book.  For the first episode, I was driven completely nuts by these new faces, but my episode 2, they seemed completely normal, nay, made more sense in this setting than my odd mish-mash of faces.

I hope the book won't turn out to be a dud.  I do have my doubts, but I'm awaiting it with bated breath.  I'm also curious how my perception of it will change because of having seen this series.  But, even if you absolutely loathed the book, please check out the miniseries.  I love it.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

November, in a Poem

I dearly love November and it's accompanying coziness.  I think it's the grim, coldness contrasted with the warmth and light and books and people that I love so much.  I have been reading and reading in the evenings, but not bothering to write about what I'm reading, so this afternoon I'm spending working on posts that will come out soon. In the meantime, here's a poem for you.
November Moonlight by John Atkinson Grimshaw, thanks to Paintings, Art, Pictures

November by Elizabeth Coatsworth

November comes,
And November goes
With the last red berries
And the first white snows,

With night coming early
And dawn coming late,
And ice int eh bucket
And frost by the gate.

The forest burn
And the kettles sing,
And earth sinks to rest
Until next spring.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Mama Makes Up Her Mind

I loved, loved, loved this spunky, funny, classically southern book so much.  I really do love Southern books and this one, a memoir by Bailey White, a self-proclaimed spinster and her opinionated mother's adventures in northern Florida was priceless.

Bailey White came to public attention through NPR some time in the early 2000s.  I had heard her books recommended and widely praised for years and I finally decided that I needed to do something about the fact that I had never read anything by her.

This memoir is just collections of short stories loosely divided into categories.  The stories are funny and well-written and I felt that they were worth every minute of my time that reading them took up.  Bailey White still lives with her mother in the home where she was born.  Since writing this book, she has abandoned her job as an elementary school teacher to work on her writing.  This book is just stories of daily life that manage to be both hilarious and very commonplace at the same time.

I started the book somewhere public (can't remember where) and remember working very hard to keep from laughing out loud every 5 seconds.  You know that awkward sensation of realizing that pretty much everybody's eyes are on you as you sit grinning from ear to ear and chuckling to yourself?  Well, I had that sensation for pretty much the whole book.

The stories are varied-about White's old car that refuses to break down, about Mama, who finds a tick in her pantyhose on the way to a wedding and spends the whole drive there fussing about it, about the taxidermist next door who can't cook, so takes lessons from Mama.  Each of the stories are just a few pages, but this is not one of those books that you are going to read 5 pages of every day until it's finished.  Oh, no.  Be prepared to spend a large portion of your waking hours behind the covers of this book.

I think the best thing about this book is Bailey White's voice.  It is this voice that shines through in each story and it's the thing that draws all the stories together under a common theme.  It takes a lot of skill to develop a good writer's voice and I was impressed by how clear and likable White's was.

My favorite section was the category about White's teaching adventures.  I loved the story about teaching all of her students to read completely based on the story of the titanic.  Bailey White doesn't teach first grade anymore and I am sure that the loss of her presence at that school is felt.  I would have liked to see her in action, because, the way she talks, you can tell that she was truly devoted to her students and her job.

Southern books and southern writing is pretty prolific in the US.  There are always new southern novels and southern memoirs and southern cookbooks and southern...., but this one really does stand out.  I liked that the south was celebrated without being taken advantage or made fun of.  I think that Bailey White did a good job of this in large part because she lives there, she is an insider and, as such, knows all of the faults and gifts of the south.  It kind of drives me crazy when "outsiders" try to write Southern fiction.  It doesn't work and ends up either being condescending or just weirdly awkward.

If you like to laugh out loud and if you like good writing, then I urge you to please go and hunt this book out. I am only sorry that I am just now finding out about this wonderful writer.  I'm off to read Quite a Year for Plums, a work of fiction that Bailey White wrote.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Her Royal Spyness Book 3- Royal Flush

I read something on the definitely light-ish side this weekend-the 3rd in the Her Royal Spyness series.  The Her Royal Spyness series is absolute fluff, but everybody needs some fluffy, no-brain-work-involved reading every once in a while, right?  I read the first two books but, when I went to find them to link, I couldn't find them.  So, all this to say, I am quite positive that I wrote reviews of the first two, but I can't find them anywhere.

I thought that this book was the best of all of them.  It was funny, it didn't have some of that awkward, trying-to-be-royal thing that I encountered in the other two books, and it was well-written, in a fluffy kind of way.

In this book, Lady Georgiana, Georgie for short, has gotten into a bit of a sticky situation.  It is a hot London summer and, with her on-the-sly cleaning business over for the time being, she searches around for a suitable job.  She tries hiring herself out as a theater and dinner companion and puts and ad in the paper and uses rather unfortunate terms.  As the editor of the paper tells her the next morning, "You might as well have just written 'Call Fifi for a good time'".  Mortified at her naive mistake, Georgie allows herself to be shipped home to castle Rannoch, which includes tracking the disreputable Prince of Wales, who is still flirting with the not-yet-divorcee, Mrs. Simpson at the castle down the road, Castle Balmoral.

While on the train, Georgie is coerced into helping Scotland Yard.  It appears as though somebody is trying to kill off members in line to the throne and Scotland Yard suspects that it is somebody "on the inside".  While there, Georgie comes across the dashing Darcy O'Mara who still seems to be in pursuit of her in the odd moments when he isn't running around the countery.

Of course, the book was no end amusing.  I spent the majority of the last few evenings curled up on the sofa with a huge horse-blanket quilt over my knees, reading Royal Flush.  It was a lovely way to spend those evenings and I even caught myself being thankful for the dratted Daylight Savings.

While these books are definitely fun to read, I wonder if I'll read through the whole series.  The books do have pretty much the same characters doing the same things, with no progression whatsoever, which gets kind of annoying.  And I get the feeling that nothing much is going to change in the future.  Maybe I'll just space the books so that I'm reading one every 6 months, so they don't get on my nerves.

This book was definitely faster paced with more intrigue and dashing here and there.  In the end, there's this section where Georgie is trapped up in an airplane with the murderer…talk about thrilling!  Of course Darcy O'Mara comes to save the day and everything ends alright, but the book is full of these kind of settings and adventures, something that was lacking in the previous two books.  It definitely kept the book from being totally repetitive and dry.

If you're in the mood for a light read with absolutely nothing that's going to make you have to seriously pay attention and if you like a good period mystery, then this is a good book for you.  Overall, I enjoyed it.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Pride and Prejudice, While Running

I've been running for a few months now, but it's just recently that I have discovered that I can listen to the written word while running.  Happy day!  My first choice was Pride and Prejudice because, why not?  And I figured that if I was going up some steep incline or let my mind wander, it wouldn't matter as much with this book because I've read it so many times.

Every time I listen to an audiobook, I am amazed by the new dimensions that previously explored books take on.  I downloaded a free copy of P&P from Loyal Books (it used to be Books Should Be Free-it's a company that records books that are now free since they are in the public domain).  Luckily, this particular recording was a good one and the narrator's voice didn't annoy me, something that frequently occurs when I listen to audiobooks.

Everybody knows the story of Pride and Prejudice, so there's no way that I need to actually give you a  synopsis here, so I'll just write some of the things I loved about listening, in particular, to P&P.


  • I can be a very a fast reader at times and so being able to catch every word and s  l  o  w down was good for me.  Listening made me realize yet again how brilliant Austen's writing is and that her work is something to be savored and focused on.
  • The dialogue was a huge highlight of listening.  The reader that narrated my recording was very good at switching voices and I had so much fun listening to the pages upon pages of verbal sparring that is so prolific in Austen's writing.  I am always so impressed by how mean those people can be without ever losing their manners.  
  • I completely forgot about running while I was listening and, as such, improved my time immensely.  I've always been a slow-ish runner and it's thanks to Jane Austen that I'm getting up enough speed to run a 5k without driving everybody nuts around me.  
  • I loved the characters more.  For some reason, listening to these characters talk and live, I became more attached to them than I ever have through reading or watching the 4-hour extravaganza of a movie.
  • It made me lengthen my runs.  I was guilty of saying, "Hey, I did 2 miles, what the heck," when I needed to keep going.  Because I was breathlessly (quite literally) eager to hear what was going to happen after Lydia runs away with Wickam (yes, yes, I know what's going to happen, but still…), I did longer runs.
  • Runs became more meditative.  While I was listening, I would slow down a bit to laugh at the squirrel fight going on over my head or turn around to watch a sunset unfolding.  The prettiness around me was perfectly offset by Jane Austen's lovely words.
This is something I really recommend doing, if you run or work out at all.  At first, you're going to be distracted and it's going to be hard to focus if you've never done this before.  But pick a book that you've read a million times and before you know it, you'll be completely engrossed and you'll never go back to book-less exercise.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Peggy Parsons at Prep School

My latest read has been a very indulgent one-Peggy Parsons at Prep School-one of those boarding-school-girl books from the teens and 20s that were a dime a dozen back in the day.  I have a certain fondness for these books and found this particular one in a dusty little, out-of-the-way bookshop that was housed in an old mill.  I think the charming setting went to my head, because I bought three or four of this genre of books, I read all of them except for this one, which I finally got around to reading just this past week.

Peggy Parsons, etc. etc. is, of course, about Peggy Parsons and her multitude of wholesome adventures at her charming prep school.  Of course, there are the characters who have to be won over by Peggy's charming personality.  And there is the problem that is cheerfully solved by the resourceful heroine.

In this book, the main problem is the joining together of a handsome college boy (who conducts a serenade with the glee club for the prep school girls in the first chapter, by the way…that part was pretty fabulous) and his long-lost,  gruff grandfather who has a soft spot for Peggy.  But, along the way, there are picnics and midnight fudge parties and matinee shows at the local theater and strict headmistresses to win over.

Here are two excerpts from the book, so that you get a picture of what this book is like to read:

"The domestic science class, well under way with an excellent teacher, decided to have a 'bacon bat', after the custom of the Smith College girls, all by themselves on some bit of rock that jutted into the river….There was a jar of bacon strips in a paper bag, the bottle of olives in another paper bag, and two dozen rolls, a generous supply in the biggest paper bag of all.  There was a tiny box of matches, too, that Peggy slipped into the pocket of her rust colored jacket."

And…one of those fudge scenes that are so frequently talked about in this type of book:

"The room, with the little whispering group of girls in it, some on couches and some on the floor, garbed in all the delicate shades of boudoir attire, pale blue, pink, and rose, saffron yellow, lavender, and dainty green; with the tiny spurts of golden candle flame dotted here and there on table and mantlepiece; with the hot, chocolate-smelling fudge bubbling away in the chafing dish, looking like some fairy meeting place…When the fudge was done they put the pan out of the window and hoped that it wouldn't fall down and all be lost.  It didn't, and before it had fairly cooled, they cut it and lifted the squares in their eager fingers and ate them with greedy pleasure, down to the last, last crumb."

The book by no means displays good writing and is quite formulaic, but there is something so charming about such adventures, full of pretty 20s clothes and archaic food the likes of which I have never heard or seen.

I don't quite know why these books hold such charm for me.  They are often sub-par-ly written and, after you've read one, you've read them all, but for some reason, that doesn't disgust me.  They were also obviously a huge money-maker (rather like the Nancy Drew books) back in the day and written in large part to secure the attentions of girls for years on end while more and more books were churned out.  In a modern book, I would not hold with any of these things and would firmly refuse to ever pick up such a cheap bit of book, but something about the age of this book keeps me from throwing it out or refusing to read it.

I wonder, did these boarding schools actually exist, or were they romanticizations of a certain school-girl lifestyle that rarely, if ever, existed?  I don't know the answer to this question, but I do know that these authors always present these stories as if every other girl was going to one of these boarding schools that are always full of fun and games and little education.

If this sounds like something that you would enjoy reading, purely for a little enjoyment and light reading, I highly recommend seeking one of this type of book out.  They are fast reads and are an interesting, much-forgotten bit of fiction.  Unless you just happen to stumble upon a few of these at some cheap bookshop, they can be very hard to find and, when found, ridiculously expensive.  Also, most libraries don't have them anymore.  So if you happen to find one, like I did, snap it up and enjoy yourself!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Just For Pretty


I love capturing the everyday pretty.  Last week, I was getting ready for out of town family and I just walked around, taking pictures of the failed maple fudge, the clean porch, the cat in the sunshine, the dusty piano keys….all of the beautiful, yet boring in my life that isn't enough to make up a real blog post but shouldn't be forgotten.  Here is the recent mundane, yet beautiful from my life:


A bunch of squash, that is now tucked into the
 basement for the winter months.

The knitting project that is going painfully slowly.
I can't write a post these days without adding a cute kitten picture.
Here's Dorcas chasing leaves behind the watering can.

One of a multitude of sunset pictures.
A beautiful wooden bowl that I'm going to put some pretty
little acorns in.

Hetty, short for Mehitabel…the only chicken who has resisted
the coop and, instead, prefers to be free-range.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

A Place Called Hope

I really enjoyed this book.  A Place Called Hope by Philip Gulley is not the first thing that I've ever read by Gulley.  Philip Gulley is a Quaker minister and a writer of both fiction and nonfictional thoughts, mostly on Christianity and church life.  His portrayal of and insight into church life, both fictional and nonfictional is so very accurate and wise and funny that I can't help but love everything he has written.   And, of course, there is also the added benefit of the books being very, very well written.

The Harmony series is about a fictional series (although I think there's a lot of truth and almost-true events in the books) about a Quaker preacher and his wife and two sons who move home to Harmony where Sam, the main character, grew up.  There, Sam takes over preaching the small, fundamentalist, Quaker church where he spent his childhood.  Throughout the series, we are introduced to a number of characters in this small town-from the sensible church ladies on the Chicken and Noodles Committee to the raving conservative, Dale Hinshaw who manages to alienate almost everybody.   I'm sensing another post about this series coming on...

Anyway, this series is a spin-off of that series.  In this series, Sam and Barbara (his wife) are about to experience a change.  They have to leave their town of Harmony and Sam's pastoring position after an uproar occurs.  The Unitarian pastor in Harmony asks Sam to conduct a blessing at the end of a wedding.  To Sam's utter shock, the couple is gay.  And to add to the problem the local newspaper reporter is there.  When this news gets out, the church creates a complete uproar, fires Sam, and hires a fly-by-night pastor.

With no job and two sons just sent off to college, Sam and Barbara get ready to leave for new in Hope, Indiana, respectively, at a congregation of 12 people, and the school library.  They are happy there at this new church, with kind people and, of course, the few malcontents that accompany any church.  And this is the start of a new series.

I knew that I was going to like this book.  Philip Gulley is a very funny writer with a sense of the charming foibles and quirks that accompany church life.  It also makes me laugh at how universal some parts of church life are.  For instance, take this quote from the chapter in which Sam is being interviewed by the Search committee:

"'Now I'm clerk of the Limb Committee,' Hank said.  'Limb Committee?  What's a limb committee?' Sam asked.  'Just like it sounds.  I'm in charge of making sure th tree limbs get picked up.  Got a lot of trees here.  If we didn't have a limb committee, the yard would be a mess.'  'What other committees are there?' Sam asked.  'Well, let's see, we have the limb committee, the pie committee, the roof committee, the snow committee, the lawn-mowing committee, the kitchen committee, a funeral committee, a parsonage committee, and the pastoral search committee,' Hank Withers said.  'Don't forget the peace committee,' Norma Withers added.  'And technically, we have an elders' committee, but it doesn't meet regularly.'"

This sounds ridiculous to the average ear, but this passage so funnily captures that church-wide phenomenon of, "Have something to do?  I know!  We'll start a committee and stick a couple of people on it."

This is the brilliance of Gulley's writing- capturing the mundanities of church life and showing the true hilarity of some of the situations.

This book has also been rather controversial (at least, GoodReads seems to think so), because, by the end of the book, it's pretty obvious that Gulley is in favor of the church becoming more tolerant of homosexuality, something that, at least in the US, the majority of people are not.  I appreciated how he dealt with the topic with grace, humor, and kindness to both sides of the argument, something that is not often done.

This books is obviously a niche-novel.  It's written for a certain set of the population and the majority of the jokes are good-church-people jokes.   That said, if you've ever spent any time in a church setting (and, really, it can be pretty much any church), then I would definitely recommend this book.  It's a funny, kind, gentle book and a very fast read.  I enjoyed picking it up and reading about half of it over a lunch break and then the other half that evening.  I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Meet Dorcas

About a month ago, we got a new stray kitten.  A straggly, skin-and-bones, strangely colored, yet adorable kitten.  She was about 4 weeks old and had just a few teensy weensy teeth that were definitely not ready for grown-up food.  She was named Dorcas, after the small town near where she was found.

Fast forward another 4 weeks and Dorcas is still adorable, but now her little tummy pooches out and she had grown a nice thick, outdoor-kitty coat.  I made fudge and, while it cooled on the porch, I had my (at least 3 times daily) visit with Dorcas.  I snapped pictures while I was there.  I have to say, kittens are not easy to photograph and this kitten is even harder.  She's much more attached to us than previous strays have been, which means that, as soon as she sees a person, she wants to climb all over them and snuggle up for a nap.  Nevertheless, I managed to get a few good-ish pictures.

I keep finding myself making excuses to go out and visit this charming little bundle of fur.

The box that was her shelter when she was littler.  Now it's
just a climbing structure.
This picture is to display Dorcas's tail.  Her ears and her tail
are a striking charcoal against her otherwise black fur.




 The picture above comes with a story.  While I was busy taking pictures of Dorcas, Olive, the plump, elderly cat who has been surprisingly calm about Dorcas joining her in living on the porch, came up to me.  She touched the camera with her nose and then headed over to these plants...




...and posed for me.  And what could I do but take a picture.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Library Loot- 10/17/14


Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Linda from Silly Little Mischief that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.
I have a library loot post for you all today.  I haven't done library loot in ages, and since I just stepped in the door from the library, it seems fitting that I post this today!  I've had lots of little library trips-a one book drop off here, an interlibrary loan pick up there, but this time I got a serious haul!

Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote- A classic that I have never read.  The book obviously doesn't have Audrey Hepburn's fabulous clothing, but I think I'm going to like it.

True Sisters by Sandra Dallas- The story of 4 Mormon converts in 1856 traveling together to Iowa City from Salt Lake City.

The Persian Pickle Club, also by Sandra Dallas- What can I say?  I was standing by this author and she's got a pile of things she's written.  This is about a young farmwife in the 30s in Kansas.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff- This was on the new book shelf.  It's memoir about being in literary New York in the 90s.  I've heard good things about this book.

Royal Flush by Rhys Bowen- I was standing in the stacks and realized that I hadn't read anything by Rhys Bowen in the longest time.  I read the first two of the Royal Spyness books and greatly enjoyed them, but then promptly forgot all about them.

Paris Letters by Janice MacLeod-Another memoir-this one about a young woman who gives up her job in LA to travel to Paris.  I started this book and I think it might be a little on the smarmy side….we'll see.

The Bachelor by Stella Gibbons- Set in the 40s.   This is about a bachelor brother and his spinster sister and their eccentric cousin, who all live in the suburbs together during WWII.  They decide to take in boarders, which include the brother's old flame, an immigrant family, and others.

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth- This is a historical novel, something that I almost never read, but this one looked good.  It's a weaving together of 3 stories-that of a French novelist who writes a story about a young girl, and her father who steals parsley from another woman, Selena Leonelli, who threatens to cut his hands off.  Okay, that made absolutely no sense.  Go read the synopsis somewhere else.  Basically, this story is a re-imagining with a historical background about the Rapunzel story.

So that's my loot for the weekend and the week ahead!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Listening

Here's what I'm listening to while I sit working at the computer.  I thought I would share:
And this piece:

I've loved Old Crow Medicine Show for a while, but just now realized what great Get-Stuff-Done-To-Music it is.  Has anybody else noticed that there is music you can work to and music you can't work to?  I love this group.  Happy Listening!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Homemaker by Dorothy Canfield Fisher

This book was fantastic.  It's written by Dorothy Canfield Fisher, who wrote fiction back in the 1920s.  She was quite controversial and, apparently, shocked quite a few people with her educational/political/philosophical beliefs.  This book, The Homemaker, amazed me at its surprising currentness.
I love this cover, by the way.  Isn't it cozy?

The Homemaker is about a husband and wife who both despise their roles.  Evangeline Knapp tries to be the perfect housewife-scrubbing everything in sight every minute, creating perfect meals, hating it all and, subsequently, being terribly mean to her 3 kids.  Lester Knapp works at a store in a job that he hates.  He has no freedom and what he really wants to do is read poetry and hang out with his children.   The children all have various health problems and are nervous wrecks.  After Lester is fired from his job, he falls off of the roof, breaking his back and forcing his wife to go out and get a job at the very store that fired him.  Evangeline finds out how much she loves working in the clothing department, advising people and organizing everything, and becomes generally a kinder and happier person.  After his back begins to heal, Lester realizes how much he loves being home and taking care of his family.

But once Lester recovers, the Knapps realize how much they love their new way of life.  They all have an unspoken dread of returning to the way things used to be, but they know that if Lester does not return to a new job and Evangeline does not come home, society will completely disapprove.

I'm not going to tell you the ending, but I promise that it's good.  This book amazed me with its modernness.  We have to remember that in 1924 this would have been a message that would have left most people reeling.  I can only imagine the shock that this book must have caused.  It's obvious that Fisher was well ahead of her time.

I loved this book for the cozy domestic details, the fabulous story line (Fisher is a fantastic writer), and the way that the characters were presented.  Fisher is very, very good at writing sympathetic characters that you instantly begin to identify with.  I grew to love these characters and genuinely hope that they would find a way to be happy.

I really recommend this book to anybody and, really, this book could still produce a thought-provoking discussion today about men's and women's roles and how they do and do not work.  The book is a very fast read (I read it in a day).  It's a perfect book to curl up by the fire with.  I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Book Lovers Cookbook

I've missed you, dear readers.  After a rather hectic start of October, I'm looking forward to settling done and (hopefully!) getting a good amount of blogging done.  I have two posts lined up for today and tomorrow, so you can get your blog fix this weekend.

Last night we went to a movie and, of course, I kept up my bad habit of tucking a book under my coat. You know, just in case.  Have I ever mentioned this little quirk about myself?  It's true, I very frequently will carry a book with me into the movie theater, particularly if it's a very gripping book that I can't. stop. thinking. about.  Usually I don't need the book, but once that book-under-the-coat move saved me.   It was somebody else's idea to go see the latest Spiderman (can't remember who, but they should thank me for forgetting).  The ending was truly awful and after about five minutes of that nonsense, I quietly pulled my book out and started reading by the flickering of the screen.

Anyway, last night, we got to the theater early and there were those obnoxious ads playing before the trailers start.  I was so thankful that I had along a book-The Book Lover's Cookbook-to read so I didn't have to have my brain melt in puddles around my feet over dumb ads.

I think this cookbook might have been written for me, I mean, a cookbook that is about books?!  I can't think of anything lovelier.  This cookbook did not disappoint.  Most of the recipes were very basic things that you could find in pretty much any cookbook, but there was something so special about having these recipes linked to some of my absolute favorite books.

Each recipe starts with a few paragraphs from the book about that particular dish and then the recipe.  And, of all cool things, some of the book authors actually helped write the recipes like they had imagined.  It rather thrilled me to know that I was reading a recipe for fried green tomatoes written by Fannie Flagg herself.

This book made me exceedingly hungry to read, but it also gave me some great book recommendations.  Just from reading an excerpt from a book, I could pretty much tell whether I would like the book or not.  So now I've added some more books to my TBR list.

I really liked this book.  I think that you would, too if you like cookbooks, books, or both.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Sarah's Story-First in Quantocks Quartet

I just finished up a lovely, lovely book.  It's called Sarah's Story by Ruth Elwin Harris.  It's set before and throughout WWI in a small English village and it's been called "the Little Women of our times."  While I wouldn't go that far (nobody can rival L.M. Alcott's perfect book), this was a fantastic book.

This series is very interesting because it records four sisters' tellings of the same story.  It's a brilliant way of writing and, as far as I know, it's the first time that this has ever been done in the world of fiction writing.  There are four Purcell sisters: Sarah, Gwen, Julia, and Frances. 

The story starts with Sarah-the youngest-nicknamed "Mouse".  She is the always-forgotten little sister.  The story begins just after the death of the Purcell sisters' mother.  A famous painter, as soon as her husband died, she lost the will to live.  The Purcells are taken under the wing of the kindly vicar, Mr. Mckenzie, and his domineering wife.  The Mckenzies have 3 sons, who feature heavily in this book. 

The three eldest of the sisters are all serious artists, but Sarah appears to have no talent, until she realizes how much she loves to write.  It is this love of writing that drives her to many new experiences.

The book was heartbreakingly sad at places-something that I don't tend to like-but for some reason I wasn't fazed in the least.  This book captured me and I fell in love at once. 

The sisters are wildly different.  Frances is tempestuous and the most brilliant painter of them all.  She fights constantly with her sisters, Mrs. Mckenzie, and her love interest, Gabriel Mckenzie.  We don't hear much from Gwen and Julia.  In fact, I'm looking forward to hearing more about them in future novels.  Sarah is, of course, the main character, so we hear quite a lot from her.

From her failed attempt at a boarding school to her adoration-from-afar of Gabriel Mckenzie, to her friendship with the family maid, Sarah is a lively, 3-dimensional character.  I think that Harris's gift may lie in writing truly brilliant characters.  Sarah and Frances, in particular, felt so alive to me as I read this story.

Harris's other gift is seamlessly incorporating fiction into history.  A main focus of the book is WWI.  The Mckenzie boys go off to the war and there is frequent mention of world events going on in the context of their little village.  There is a breathtakingly sad part where one of the Mckenzie boys tells Sarah about the horrible flashbacks he gets and the noises he hears- PTSD, although they didn't know about that at the time.  

This book did have a lot of elements that were similar to Little Women, but I wouldn't call it "the new Little Women".  For instance, the book is quite a bit darker than Little Women.  Although both were set during war times, the war was much more in the background in Little Women.  Also, this book had a more adult tone than Little Women, even though it was about girls.  The problems and events were adult-scale and even Sarah, who is 11 at the start of the book, is seen through grown up eyes.  But I still loved the book for itself.

I would recommend this book to anybody who likes a gently gripping life saga.  This story was pure enjoyment to read and I can't wait to get my hands on the second in the series.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Adventures in Yarn Farming

Obviously, one of my main hobbies is reading and then writing about what I read.  However, I am fascinated by a variety of subjects, one if which is the world of knitting, spinning, and sheep raising.  I currently have about 14 sheep who provide entertainment, meat, and piles and piles of gorgeous wool.

Adventures in Yarn Farming is written by Barbara Parry, a shepherd and self-professed "yarn farmer" in New England.  Each year, she delivers hundreds of lambs and produces more wool than I think I can imagine.  In this book, we follow her adventures in raising sheep throughout a year.

The year starts with wool shearing and then the highlight- lamb delivery, which I know from experience is quite a stressful situation.  I can't imagine doing it on the level that she and her family and farm hands do.  However, Parry writes so warmly and lovingly of this part of her job- the delivering of countless lambs and then the care of all of the mother sheep and their new lambs.  I well know that happy, cozy feeling of leaving a lit barn that is full of mama sheep talking to their new babies.

Next, we follow this farm into summer, when the pastures are lush and green and there is hay to be made and lambs to be weaned (not a pleasant process, she assures us), and a big garden to be tended.

With fall comes fleeces to be skirted, spun, and dyed, the ram put in with the ewes, and the now-grown lambs sent to butcher.

Finally, winter appears and all of the sheep return to the barn to huddle together while inside, there is spinning and knitting to be done!

This is such a pretty book.  It is chock full of gorgeous photographs documenting a beautiful journey from a newborn lamb to a skein of yarn.  Along the way are recipes for meals from the garden, instructions for various dying methods, and, of course plenty of knitting patterns.  There is a spring cardigan that I am eyeing.

The book is arranged in essay form with such topics as the hijinks that Parry's goats got up to to weaning lambs to sending wool to the mill.  Parry is not just a gifted fiber artist; she is a very skilled writer.  There is nothing flat or dry about this book.

I would highly recommend reading this if, of course, you are interested in the world of fiber.  But if you're not, this would still be a pretty coffee-table style read-something to page through to take a look at another world.  I really, really liked this book.   In fact, I like it so much that I'm putting it on my Christmas list.


Wednesday, September 24, 2014

About the Rude Gentleman at the Table Next to Me

This evening, we went to a rather nice restaurant.  The food is always perfect-everything local, most organic, everything perfectly done and presented by somebody who should be a food photographer.  We sat down, ordered, and, of course, because I am the queen of people watching, I started to people watch.  The people at the table next to us were a middle-aged couple and their teenage son (pay attention to them, they're the point of this long-winded story).  I joined in the conversation at my table and promptly forgot to people watch.
A picture that has absolutely nothing to do with anything

Halfway through our meal, my people watching-self surfaced and casually listened in to the conversation that was happening at the table next to me between the husband of the family and the waitress.  
Waitress: And how is your food?
Man: (Imagine that his nose is in the air, oh, and he's talking quite loudly) Well, those vegetables were completely lacking in any kind of nuanced flavor.  Your chef needs to rethink this whole meat dish-I mean, really, the meat was far too overdone and this herb sprig is wilted.  
Waitress: (Looking terrified) Well, how was the salad?
Man: (Nose sticking up higher in the air) Well…fine, I suppose.
Waitress: Would you like me to get the chef?
Man: (Says hastily) No! No!  It's fine, it's really fine.  You don't need to worry about it.  
Waitress: Well, I could just call him over-
Man: No, no. 
Waitress: (Walks away looking weary)

I didn't make this up or embellish, by the way.  This is pretty much how this conversation went down.  

Readers, I trust I don't have to explain the extreme rudeness of the man at the table.  The point isn't whether the food did or did not need to be "rethought" (there's something grammatically iffy about this sentence, please tell me what it is).  The point is that somebody was completely lacking in any kind of social grace and, of course, wasn't brave enough to actually talk to the chef, just pretentiously whine to the waitress. 

And then the fuming started at my table (did I mention that I have a family of people watchers?  I like to think I trained them all very well in the art of people watching, er, listening).  We all agreed to loudly praise the food when the harried waitress came to our table.  But after that, I was still musing on properly biting remarks to the man at the next table.  And, believe me, I thought of some pretty good ones.  

Imagine this:
(After waitress leaves table and man is looking pleased with himself)
Me: Excuse me, I happened to hear your discussion of the food.  For what food column do you write?
Man: (I haven't quite worked out what he's supposed to say…probably just look properly abashed and murmur something apologetic)

OR

(Same setting and time as before)
Me: Excuse me, I was walking past and heard you criticizing the food.  At what restaurant did you train?
Man: (Same response as before, except probably a little more stunned)

OR
I could have just whacked him upside the head with my seltzer bottle and properly shocked the whole restaurant.  

But I did none of those things.  But I told you about it, so I feel completely vindicated.  Thank you, dear readers.  And maybe, just maybe, this man will be surfing through the book blogs that he loves and come across this post and be thoroughly mortified and repent.  Maybe he'll even ask me to absolve him of his horrible error.  Can't you imagine it?  What a lovely image.  And thus ends my post that had absolutely nothing to do about books (seriously, I can't think of one way to tie this into books except that I was disgusted because I had to drive instead of read Val McDermid's Northanger Abbey on the way to the restaurant.)  

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Miss Read

I have been knocked out by the most awful head cold.  I'm left with watery eyes, a dripping nose, a sore throat, and a dull headache.  Gah.  And it add insult to injury, today was Music Sunday at church.  Every 5th Sunday, we have a gorgeous, completely music-centric church-service and today's was particularly gorgeous.  And, people, I couldn't sing.  I was disgusted.  I came home and brewed myself a cup of tea and pulled out a Miss Read novel while the rain gently drizzled down.  It was lovely to curl up with a gently gossipy novel and forget about my streaming head cold for a few hours.
Miss Read, otherwise known as Dora Saint.

Miss Read wrote these two cozy, gentle series about two English villages.  The stories are just daily life accounts, rather like having a long gossip session with a good friend.  The two series (Thrush Green and Fairacre) are both about small country villages full of eccentric characters who, in spite of their quirks and foibles, are lovable people.

The stories are told by Miss Read herself as though she is just filling you in on the town news.  Here's the excerpt from the back of the book, as the book itself isn't really summarizable (no, that's not a word, but I'm sick and my brain isn't functioning, so I'm allowed to make up words):

"This sleepy, pristine setting conceals a flurry of activity among the villagers.  Rumor has it that Mr. Venables is considering retirement just as the village's teacher is about to make an important decision. Molly Curdle prepares for a new baby.  The kindly vicar, Charles Henstock, works on his sermon-quite unaware of the disaster that will overtake him.  However, there is never any doubt that all will end well in this very English village."

There is nothing thought-provoking or challenging about these books.  They are simply stories about everyday people living everyday lives.  The goings-on are mild and rather uninteresting, if one is used to thrilling, action-packed, drama-filled novels, but that's really the charm of these books.  Their gentleness is what is so drawing about them.  

I think the last time I read one of these books was when I was sick.  These books are akin to a cup of hot tea or a very thick wool blanket (you know, the kind that is so heavy you can barely move your shoulders).  If you are suffering from any sort of ailment, pull yourself off of your sickbed and stagger to the library and pull one of the shelf.  If you aren't suffering from any ailment, just keep these books in the back of your mind for next time your nose runs.  They make being sick positively enjoyable.