VivienneR Reads in 2016, volume 2
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Springtime in the Rockies!
This is my fourth year at Club Read. As usual I am planning on making some headway with Mt. TBR although I seem to buy more than I read so it has grown instead. This is the year to change all that.
I'm also doing the Category Challenge and can be found at VivienneR's 2016 Category Challenge
Wilderness Tips by Margaret Atwood
Gutshot Straight by Lou Berney
The Hours by Michael Cunningham
Death of My Aunt by C.H.B. Kitchin
Slide by Norah McClintock
Wait for me! by Deborah Mitford
1. Best of Women's Short Stories edited by William John Locke
2. Virginia Woolf by Nigel Nicolson
3. Miracle in the Andes: 72 days on the mountain and my long trek home by Nando Parrado
4. Monsieur Pamplemousse Afloat by Michael Bond
5. Person or persons unknown by Bruce Alexander
6. A walk in the woods : rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson
7. A Peter Gzowski Reader by Peter Gzowski
8. Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
9. Untold Stories by Alan Bennett
10. Dressing Up for the Carnival by Carol Shields
11. Photograph by Ringo Starr
12. George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson
13. The Clothes They Stood Up In and, The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett
14. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
15. Miss Petitfour by Anne Michaels
16. A Royal Pain by Rhys Bowen
17. Death of a Bore by M.C. Beaton
18. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
19. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
20. Train Dreams by Denis Johnson
21. Johannes Cabal, the necromancer by Jonathan Howard
22. The Queen's Man by Sharon Kay Penman
23. Fifteen Days: stories of bravery, friendship, life and death from inside the new Canadian Army by Christie Blatchford
24. The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr
25. The World of Jeeves by P.G. Woodhouse
26. Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
27. The Magical Adventures of the Wishing-Chair by Enid Blyton
28. Be Careful What You Wish For by Jeffrey Archer
29. Mightier than the Sword by Jeffrey Archer
30. The Magdalen Martyrs by Ken Bruen
31. The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal by Lilian Jackson Braun
32. Benediction by Kent Haruf
33. No Time for Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
34. The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith
35. The Dog Who Knew Too Much by Spencer Quinn
36. Diamond Solitaire by Peter Lovesey
37. Celebrations at Thrush Green by Miss Read
38. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Other Jazz Age Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
39. A Murder of Quality by John le Carré
40. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
41. A Country Doctor's Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
42. Miss Moon, Wise Words from a Dog Governess by Janet Hill
43. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran
44. Far from the Rowan Tree by Margaret Gillies Brown
45. Who asked you? by Terry McMillan
46. Last Orders by Graham Swift
47. The Féte at Coqueville by Émile Zola
48. The Camomile Lawn by Mary Wesley
49. Wilful Behavior by Donna Leon
50. Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
51. Plainsong by Kent Haruf
52. End of the Wasp Season by Denise Mina
53. Q & A by Vikas Swarup
54. The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
55. The Phantom Major: the Story of David Stirling and the SAS Regiment by Virginia Cowles
56. Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
57. A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
58. You Had to Be There: an intimate portrait of the generation that survived the Depression, won the War, and re-invented Canada by Robert Collins
59. Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
60. What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
61. Going Solo by Roald Dahl
62. The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan
63. The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding
64. The Music Lovers by Jonathan Valin
65. No Fixed Address: an amorous journey by Aritha van Herk
66. Boy: tales of childhood by Roald Dahl
67. Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin
68. Red Glass by Laura Resau
69. A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
70. What we talk about when we talk about the tube : the District line by John Lanchester
71. A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
72. The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
73. The Roald Dahl Omnibus: Perfect Bedtime Stories for Sleepless Nights by Roald Dahl
74. The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
75. Tender: a cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater
76. Murther & Walking Spirits by Robertson Davies
77. The Light of Evening by Edna O'Brien
78. Sorry by Gail Jones
79. Grammar snobs are great big meanies: a guide to language for fun and spite by June Casagrande
80. The Marriage Casket by Deborah Morgan
81. A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
82. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
83. Unfinished Portrait by Anthea Fraser
84. The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin
85. The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
86. From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondō
My home is very well-organized and the local charity shop benefits regularly, so I thought none of Kondō's advice would be of use to me. Nevertheless, I picked up a number of tips to better organize my life. Take photos for example: boxes of them have been waiting for years to be organized in the nice albums that have waited alongside. That will be a priority. And instruction manuals - I've even got manuals for the most basic things like the coffee-grinder, hair-dryer. At last someone said it's OK to discard them.
On the other hand, I am very happy with my method of collecting and organizing books, so I'll take a pass. If she thinks for a moment that I would get rid of unread books because I have too many, she's barking up the wrong tree! Her folding methods are excellent, but do not fit with my furniture so that's another of my methods that will remain in effect.
No, I won't follow her instructions to the letter, even though I will definitely take a lot of her advice. All in all, I enjoyed this book, it was inspiring and fun to read. I enjoyed her YouTube videos on folding too.
I cannot believe you have read 53 books in Q1! Wow - that is a serious amount of reading!!
Alison, don't be too impressed, some were pretty slim or children's books ;) At this time of year my insomnia improves a bit so there will be fewer all-nighters. As well, starting this month we will be having lots of family visiting from overseas that will cut into reading time - but it will mean a lot of fun anyway!
>1 VivienneR: Springtime in the Rockies -- beautiful!
>4 VivienneR: During the hint of spring before Chicago returned to winter :( I refreshed my drawers with summer clothes including organizing t-shirts etc. as Kondo recommends -- up on their edges file-folder style. Definitely can see better what I have, but time will tell whether it's frustrating to keep up.
>7 detailmuse: Springtime may not be quite so far along yet, but it's close!
Good luck with Kondo's folding method. I'd like to but my dresser drawers are not deep enough. It seems like such a space-saving idea.
The Phantom Major: the Story of David Stirling and the SAS Regiment by Virginia Cowles
The Special Air Service, SAS, was the brilliant idea of David Stirling. In 1941 with the rank of Lieutenant he talked himself into a job leading a new detachment. Noting that airfields were poorly guarded, he realized that small groups of his men could attack and get away under the cover of darkness. A group of five men attached bombs to enemy aircraft. Stirling even had a hand in developing the bomb used, a hand-held combination of explosive and incendiary, weighing about one pound. The result did more damage that RAF bombers in the area prompting Rommel to refer to him as the Phantom Major. In fifteen months he destroyed over two hundred and fifty aircraft, dozens of supply dumps, and hundreds of vehicles. All this with an astonishingly small loss of life. Eventually the regiment was created from the group, and Stirling promoted to Colonel - although it took time to win over traditional army brass who were wary of anyone operating outside their methods.
Stirling had the support of all his men. He never ordered them to do anything, but instead would suggest "wouldn't it be fun to..." He was tall, athletic and had a charming personality that won over many. In 1948 he formed the Capricorn Africa Society that promoted an Africa where all races, colours, and creeds might live in harmony.
Cowles' book, written from SAS notes and interviews with the group describes a charming, appealing adventurer that conjures up a cross between Action Man and James Bond. She created an exciting story that has not faded in the intervening decades since it was written.
My son pressed me to read this and I agree, it was excellent.
>7 detailmuse: Definitely can see better what I have, but time will tell whether it's frustrating to keep up.
I've been doing it for a couple of months now and still like it. The actual folding I find soothing, and there has been no sloth-like tendency on my part to return to my old way (which wasn't so bad. Now my 16 year old is another story . . . )
Leaven of Malice by Robertson Davies
Grant us so to put away the leaven of malice. Who can separate the leaven from the lump once it has been mixed.
When a fictitious announcement is made in the Salterton Evening Bellman that Solly Bridgetower and Pearl Vambrace are to be married on November 31st, everyone is impacted by the deceit. Professor Vambrace, Pearl's father sees it as a personal attack because, like the Montagues and Capulets, his family and the Bridgetowers have always been at loggerheads. He threatens to sue the Bellman for libel, even though the newspaper is a victim too. Solly and Pearl are not so interested in legal action, their discomfiture is personal. Finally lawyers on both sides seek to discover the identity of "X", the person responsible for the humiliation and outrage.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Davies was editor and publisher of the Peterborough Examiner. In reading this book, it is very apparent that he had a lot of fun writing it, especially creating Gloster Ridley, his fictional counterpart. The other characters are equally rich in eccentricity. His writing is intelligent, polished, sprinkled with many clever allusions. Written in 1954 this is as fresh as ever. Highly recommended.
>1 VivienneR: beautiful picture! Makes me want to get out there soon.
>4 VivienneR: aside from the fact that she has no understanding of books, I enjoyed this book and still use a couple of the tips, I still fold my t-shirts her way. But I'm not interested in reading her next one.
>21 Caroline_McElwee: The book was more interesting, or useful, than I thought it would be. l have started "tidying" paper by getting rid of lots. Ahh, feels better already!
Do you live near the Rockies Vivienne? That picture is so gorgeous. I'll have to make do with the Mournes!
We live in the area known as the western Rockies. Surrounded by snowy mountain until mid-summer. I'm heading to the spot in the photo (the Bow valley in Alberta) in a couple of weeks to meet up with Australian relatives. The Mournes are nothing to sneeze at. I have relatives in the area, which is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been.
I read this for the Geography category over at the 2016 Category Challenge.
A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper
Who can resist a story set on a small island, with a crumbling castle inhabited by minor teenage royalty and a mad king? Sixteen year-old Sophie, a princess on the island of Montmaray in the Bay of Biscay, received the gift of a journal giving her the perfect opportunity to write the history of the island. In doing so she recaps much of her history lessons describing the origins of the impoverished family. With the possibility of war on the horizon and the location of the island, life looks uncertain. This is a story of a fictional place enriched with real history, but mainly it's a YA adventure story even though most of the action doesn't take place until the second half of the book.
You Had to Be There: an intimate portrait of the generation that survived the Depression, won the War, and re-invented Canada by Robert Collins
Written in 1997 when the author was 72, the generation he describes has since gone through even more change wrought by time. By interviewing 181 men and women he portrays the despair, struggles, and joy they experienced, ranging from the Great Depression through the Second World War, into the fifties, and beyond. Collins calls them Generation M, for mature. Because of the times, they were a tremendously influential generation in a era of vast change. However, younger generations absorbed a different set of lifestyle changes in the second half of the 20th century that left the two groups alienated. Collins attempts to explain how it all came about and lightheartedly invites young Canadians to take a second look at the lives of their grandparents (or great-grandparents) to appreciate how it happened. Some of the stories of hardship are heartbreaking but they are balanced by some very funny memories - including any involving sex education or the absence of it. Although this book describes the experience of Canadians, it has relevance just about anywhere. Most of the information is well-known, but Collins provides very personal firsthand accounts that are expressive and meaningful. This is an interesting and entertaining book.
Pomegranate Soup by Marsha Mehran
Marjan, Bahar, and Layla Aminpour are three sisters who fled from Iran in the early days of the revolution. First to London where the two eldest found careers and Layla settled in school. When a violent husband tracked down Bahar, they took flight again to a village in Co. Mayo, Ireland. There they opened a cafe offering traditional Persian food that seemed to have a bewitching effect on some - not all - of the villagers. This was a sweet story with a serious background, considering what the sisters had been through before leaving Iran. However, their problems were not yet over in the tight-knit, traditional community in Ireland. Mehran's writing is poetic in places, which pairs well with the enchanting, mystic quality of the ingredients used. Each chapter opened with a tempting recipe mentioned in the story.
The author was born on the eve of the Iranian Revolution that began in 1977 with the overthrow of Reza Shah. Her family escaped to Argentina where they opened a Middle Eastern cafe. Her husband is Irish.
I had planned on reading the sequel Rosewater and Soda Bread but will put it off until a later date.
>28 NanaCC: Yes, you will like it Colleen!
>29 AlisonY: I did enjoy Pomegranate Soup. I had a hard time imagining how they would be treated in Ireland. When I lived there exotic or foreign food was non-existent :) I will read the sequel, it was just too soon after the first one and I have a ton of reading material on the go. I have holds arriving any day at the library too. What a problem!
>30 VivienneR: things have changed a lot now, Vivienne. Even 20 years ago it was rare for people to go out for an Indian meal, but now there are lots of different types of cuisine in Belfast all doing well. It's a lot more cosmopolitan than it used to be.
But of course, for most of the men nothing will ever beat a good meat and potatoes dinner, lol.
>31 AlisonY: I remember going out with family for what was at that time the latest food trend - pizza. Not one of them liked it! On later trips I was amazed at how many different cuisines were available, and how good they all were.
That reminds me the first time my father tried pizza (some 25 years ago or so). He waited for a bit after they brought it and then said "and when are they bringing the meal to go with this bread?" :) He never got a taste for pizzas (although pasta became a regular around the house).
That sounds fascinating! :)
>33 AnnieMod: I'm sure many first-time pizza eaters had similar thoughts :)
What Was She Thinking: Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller
As Barbara, the narrator, nears retirement from teaching in a London school, Sheba, a new art teacher, arrives. Barbara takes some trouble to develop a friendship and to discourage Sheba other potential friends. She keeps notes about Sheba that eventually include her love affair with a fifteen-year-old student. These notes form the story. Nasty people are plentiful: Sheba's husband, her daughter, her mother, the school principal, other teachers, even Barbara, that the book's success is all the more amazing. It's hard to appreciate that these unpleasant characters can hook the reader but combined with the psychological twists of jealousy, obsession, shifting loyalty and variations of love, you have a winner, albeit a creepy winner.
I saw the movie with Judi Dench years ago but can't remember enough of the details to be able to compare it to the book.
I thought What Was She Thinking was a fantastic book. The subtle (and not so subtle) manipulations that Barbara engaged in was very well done.
Interesting - in the UK it's not got the 'What Was She Thinking..." addition to the title. I wonder what the reason for that was by the marketing big wigs?
Pomegranate Soup sounds intriguing. Have you tried any of the recipes?
>36 RidgewayGirl: Yes, Barbara's thoughtfulness was almost sinister.
>37 AlisonY: Don't you hate it when the UK and US have different titles? I have often been happy to see a "new" title by a favourite author only to be disappointed.
>38 janeajones: Yes, I kept a note of some especially the Pomegranate Soup of the title. The lamb and potato stew was the dish that charmed a local priest. Strange, considering Irish stew could be described the same way.
Going Solo by Roald Dahl
In 1980 Dahl said that life is made up of a great number of small incidents and a small number of great ones. The first half of this book, which is set in East Africa, he wrote only about moments he considered memorable. In the second part dealing with the time he was flying with the RAF, he considered every moment "totally enthralling".
The book begins in 1938 when at age 22, he went to work for Shell in East Africa He relates a few anecdotes from that time, of which a favourite has to be Simba, the story about how a lion took the cook's wife. Fortunately, the lion carried the woman gently like one of her cubs, and she was uninjured. Dahl sent an eye witness account to a Nairobi newspaper, for which he was paid five pounds - his first published work.
His experience as an RAF pilot in Africa, Greece and Palestine is "totally enthralling" to the reader too. He writes with good humour and a lightheartedness even when facing the utmost danger. He, like others, were frustrated by the lack of organization in the RAF command in the area. On one occasion he was sent in the wrong direction in the desert, misdirection that almost cost him his life. Of the original 16 pilots in his group, thirteen were killed.
I loved this book! It's a smashing adventure story that can be enjoyed by young and old, fans and neophytes alike. Dahl's writing style is straightforward and crystal clear. He has a talent for description that can conjure up a picture in the mind like magic.
At the end of the last page I rushed out to get more books by Dahl.
Coincidentally, while reading his account of the Battle of Athens I realized that it had happened seventy-five years ago, almost to the day on April 20th, 1941.
>40 VivienneR: This is the second review of this volume I've seen recently. I am adding to my wishlist as well.
For some reason, I had forgotten that Dahl had ever written anything besides children stories - I got reminded yesterday while doing some combinations in his account - and now that review makes me want to go and read this... :) You are not a friend, my friend!
Tales of the Unexpected are darkly fabulous. The BBC did a great job of turning them into to back in the day.
>44 AnnieMod: I have to admit it is suitable for young people too even though my library has it in the adult section. But it's a quick read, so go ahead! :)
>47 japaul22: I hate to say it, but I think I've only read one of his children's stories, and that was for a previous challenge. I will have to change all that. Dahl sounds like he was a really likeable guy.
The Good Thief's Guide to Vegas by Chris Ewan
Mystery writer and part-time thief, Charlie Howard, is in Vegas with his publisher Victoria for some relaxation. The antics of Charlie as he performs some minor theft is always entertaining. As usual there are a number of laugh-out-loud moments. Victoria has picked up some gambling tips from her Monte Carlo gambling father, which comes in handy for paying debts to the local gangsters. Let's hope Charlie's mystery writing is better than his light fingers. For light reading, you can't beat Ewan's Good Thief series.
>44 AnnieMod: He also wrote a number of short stories for adults, you'd never know it was the same dear fellow who wrote The BFG and Matilda! ...although, The Witches might reflect more of that side of him, hahaha.
Nice review of Going Solo, Vivienne. I'll add it to my wish list as well.
>48 VivienneR: I hate to say it, but I think I've only read one of his children's stories, and that was for a previous challenge. I will have to change all that. Dahl sounds like he was a really likeable guy.
I had to reread your comment, because despite him being a fabulous writer, I've always heard that he was a horrible person. I know someone who saw him being mean in public to Shirley Hughes (of Alfie, Dogger and a million other British children's books), for example. How can anyone be mean to her? Of course I've never met him, but he has a reputation of being racist, and someone who disliked children. Christopher Hitchens said of him, "Dahl, it appears, was mean to his wife. He was explicitly anti-Semitic. He's been accused of giving dope and booze to his own kids to keep them quiet. So, is it true? Of course it's bloody well true. How else could Dahl have kept children enthralled and agreeably disgusted and pleasurably afraid? By being Enid Blyton?" (The Grimmest Tales, Vanity Fair, Jan 1994)
I love his writing, think he had a fascinating life, and believe he was highly intelligent. But likeable . . . . Hmmm, not sure about that.
Well, as I said, I really don't know him as a writer never mind a human being. OTOH, I admired everything Hitchens wrote. It's a big disappointment, though :(
>54 VivienneR: Sorry to crush your kind feelings in fellow human beings. I like Dahl as a writer, and I also like Hitchens -- but I don't think he was such a wonderful human being either. That makes people more interesting though -- the good along with the bad. Not a fan of the black and white world myself.
No harm done, Joyce. That's the trouble with memoirs and autobiographies, especially when they are written so long after the events. Hindsight and modern conventions make it tempting to gloss over some things.
Hitchens is one of my favourite writers but he was much too clever to be a nice guy.
The Solitude of Thomas Cave by Georgina Harding
Arctic whaler Thomas Cave, took up a wager to spend the winter of 1616 alone at the whaling station. He was given generous provisions that would last until the following summer when the appropriately named ship Heartsease would return. Darkness and solitude played with Cave's mind bringing visions of his wife and child who both died at the birth, explaining the heartache that moved him to take on this self-induced penance. Harding's writing is poetic and sonorous, recreating 17th century style. Descriptions of the gory whaling compares starkly with the pristine icy wilderness coinciding with a revelation of sorts to Cave who recognizes the repellent nature of the work. In beautiful prose, Harding has created a moody, thought-provoking story with foreshadowing of modern ecological danger.
>57 VivienneR: Sounds interesting. Is it fiction or based on a real person?
That does sound tempting. I find the world of ice and snow, and the people that joust with it fascinating.
>57 VivienneR: I have this one on my Kindle. You've made me want to move it up the queue.
My reading has just about come to a standstill but I finished these two books before making a trip to Banff, Alberta to meet up with relatives from Australia where we had fun in the snow!
The Music Lovers by Jonathan Valin
A hard-boiled mystery in the Harry Stoner series. This one involves music-loving LP collectors. Not a great read, but what a fun way to spend an evening, and it has a nice twist in the tail.
No Fixed Address: an amorous journey by Aritha van Herk
"Only recently have we come to enjoy some freedom from clothing designed to create an aesthetic of beauty based on physical impairment, elongated waists, squeezed breasts, and bound stomachs and buttocks. It is a wonder we can still walk. And who will be responsible for what those tortures have created? The existence of smelling salts, hysteria, frigidity and shrewishness can all be attributed to uncomfortable underwear."
Arachne Manteia is a heroine like no other. She is a mercurial adventurer who has a secret hankering for a suburban home, irreverent without actually being disrespectful, a loner yet in need of a partner for her nonchalant sexual liaisons, a panty sales rep peddling them to all the small towns in Alberta yet personally eschewing the product. According to Ovid, Arachne was a great weaver who boasted that her skill was greater than that of the older Athena. In van Herk's allegorical story, Arachne divulges her secretive life only to her friend Thena. Spidery allusions are abundant and clevery woven into the story. As usual with van Herk. her feminist symbolism is hugely entertaining!
I'm sorry to say I've had this 5-star book on the shelf for a long time. I could have, should have, enjoyed it years ago.
Boy: tales of childhood by Roald Dahl
These biographical stories from Dahl's early life demonstrate how he developed into the children's storyteller we know and love. Written in 1984 when Dahl was 68 years old, he has related some of the most memorable moments of his young life. A story such as The Headmaster that describes vicious floggings administered by a headmaster (who went on to become the Archbishop of Canterbury), is unpleasant and shocking, but it certainly fits with the memorable tag.
>63 VivienneR: Oh, I need to read that one. I'm not 100% sure it was Dahl, but I think it was he who said he didn't write for children because he liked children, but because he remembered what it felt like to be a child. Or maybe every quality children's author has said that.
>64 Nickelini: I found Boy: tales of childhood in the children's section of the library but after reading it I really wonder about that classification. Caning was widespread in British schools even when I was a child, but the floggings by the headmaster who went on to be Archbishop of Canterbury (and crowned Queen Elizabeth) was sadistic. But there are lots of fun stories in this little book.
>65 janeajones: It was great fun! It's one of those stories you could spend a long time interpreting. It was on the Governor General's Award shortlist but unfortunately didn't win. I must find out who won the prize, must have been good.
ETA: The Progress of Love by Alice Munro was the winner that year.
I just dropped by to look at your thread topper. What a glorious photo.
Thanks, Kay. We were there last week to meet up with Australian relatives but it was a bit early for the spring flowers. However, we saw a grizzly bear! It was at the side of a secondary road so we were able to sit in the car to watch and take dozens (hundreds?) of photos. The Aussies were delighted, their first snowball fight and a grizzly bear all in one day.
>72 VivienneR: That's pretty special! Most Canadians never see a grizzly bear, at least not in the wild.
>73 Nickelini: It was wonderful! That's only the second time I've seen a grizzly in the wild. The last one was such a long time ago I can bear-ly remember the details.
Lovely place to visit, Vivianne. I can't imagine seeing a grizzly bear in the wild. We have too many black bears around here, and it makes me nervous about walking in the woods which I love to do. I know that according to reports, as long as you leave them alone, they leave you alone. They are exploring more and more away from where you would expect them to be, and have been spotted walking down main streets of small towns. I live in a townhouse, and we are surrounded by woods. There are always people around. But, I even had one climb the stairs to my deck to see if the hanging flower baskets were bird seeds. I can't imagine if it had been a grizzly bear. They are huge.
Colleen, we have a lot of black bears around here too. I live in a small town and among other tips we are encouraged to pick fruit from trees as soon as it ripens. There are volunteers who will pick it for anyone who needs help. It seems pointless when the park is surrounded by plum trees. We see black bears often on the streets here. Twice we have had bear poop just outside our back door, so they come close even though we have nothing edible around. I remember one story in the local paper about a guy who left his front door open on a hot day and a bear walked into his living room! He and his children, who were all watching tv at the time, made lots of noise and it backed out.
They didn't invite the bear in for dinner?
Some great reading you've doing. Just catching up and I really enjoyed your reviews.
I lost track of you and now that I've caught up, there's too much to say! (I started wayyyy back at The Warden). Several books will go on the WL - among them Pomegranate Soup and No Fixed Address.
Many writers with devoted audiences turn out to have had less-than-stellar personal lives. For me, perhaps, the issue is openness and self-awareness, which Dahl does appear to have demonstrated.
>82 sibyx: Glad you caught up with me! I'm still trying to catch up with threads. I hope you enjoy the books I helped add to your wishlist.
I agree about openness and self-awareness being important. It seems Dahl was criticized more for being forthright than for anything else.
Grave Goods by Ariana Franklin
This was a good companion to the first episode of the tv series Britain's Bloodiest Dynasty that I watched recently. When a pair of skeletons were discovered at Glastonbury, Adelia Aguilar is charged by Henry II with the task of determining if they are Arthur and Guinevere. In doing so she uncovers other related mysteries. Franklin's story illustrates some the legal changes Henry II made that were the basis for English Common Law. Some interesting information about forensic research of the 12th century added to the interest of the novel.
Red Glass by Laura Resau
Sixteen-year-old Sophie is afraid of almost everything. When her boyfriend was attacked and robbed in Guatemala she decided to travel there from Mexico to rescue him, proving that she can overcome her fears. With characters from multiple countries and lifestyles the author maintained an unprejudiced view, showing a remarkable understanding of the mix of cultures. This beautiful story will inspire and encourage young adults as well as informing them that underprivileged people, even those from dangerous war-torn countries, can be just as generous, hospitable and friendly as anyone else.
This was read for May's Random Category at the 2016 Category Challenge group.
A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews
Nomi Nickel's soliloquy about her life in a Mennonite community shows a combination of innocence and gullibility along with wisdom and awareness that makes her believable. Toews speaks with a personal knowledge of life in a Mennonite community and Nomi is the perfect person to tell the story. She rebels against the absurdities uttered by church elders and her school principal yet the tourists who come to stare at the quaint village are no more reasonable. With limited exposure to outside influences, these people form the extent of Nomi's worldly knowledge. No wonder she is confused and cynical. Toews' characters are all well-drawn but Nomi is a masterpiece of humour and heartache. She will remain in my thoughts for a long time.
>86 VivienneR: Thanks. I thought of you as I read the name! I've never come across the name anywhere else.
What we talk about when we talk about the tube : the District line by John Lanchester
This is Lanchester's intelligent and well-written submission to the Penguin series celebrating the 150th anniversary of the London Underground and Tube. It is not only entertaining but immensely interesting. He brought up many topics that I have not heard discussed before, such as how the Underground has affected demographics, who travels on it, why there are few movies set on the Underground as there are on, say, trains. Fascinating. This book was a wonderful surprise and now I am looking forward to reading more by Lanchester.
You've hit me with a couple of bullets, Vivienne. Where to fit them in. :)
I know what you mean, Colleen. There's the wishlist, the tbr list, the try list, the bullet list, etc. etc. I'm running out of lists. :)
>92 kidzdoc: Thanks, Darryl. It was your excellent review that made me buy the book!
A Mixture of Frailties by Robertson Davies
This story might have been titled "The Revenge of Solly's Mother"! It is generously laced with Davies' distinctive humour as well as his extensive knowledge of music, theatre, and the business of newspapers. Although Monica evolved into a sophisticated singer and left her fundamentalist life behind, I just could not believe her love for boorish, ungrateful, Giles Revelstoke. This is an elegant third episode of the Salterton trilogy which has given us the traditional format that includes tragedy, comedy, and satyric drama. Despite a somewhat slow section in the middle, this is an excellent finish to the series.
I'm reading A Mixture of Frailties now and I'm having a hard time putting it down. I'm rooting for Monica. And how so like Solly's mother to have a revenge-based will. And Aunt Puss is not looking much better. I'm surprised the Bridgetown's didn't just take their things and move to a cottage they could afford and let the house rot.
I fully expected Solly and Veronica to crumble under the stress of it all. Doesn't Davies do the truly horrible characters well, and while keeping them believable.
The Resau and the Toews are very tempting! I won't even think about reading the book about the Tube -- although I am tempted -- not because of so much time spent in London, but the fact I have read so many books set lovingly in London.
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Ondaatje's prose is beguiling to say the least. Here he has told a story that like real life, is a fusion of many characteristics. This is a blend of love, peace, war, secrets, history, spies, memories, set in post-war Tuscany. Having poetic language, a good story, and Ondaatje’s inimitable languid air, this was engaging, but in a slow-moving, ethereal way in which a tragedy almost slipped in under the radar. In a strange way, spots that were implausible added to the shadowy quality rather than detracting.
Vivienne, The English Patient is a favourite book of mine, I've read it about four times now, and it is due a reread. I just fall into the tone of it.
During the years it's been on my bookshelves, my husband has read it three times. This was my first read. There may be more, it's that kind of book.
Just realized my 9th Thingaversary is tomorrow. Next week's library booksale would have been the ideal time to buy books to celebrate but I'll be out of town. However, at the rate I add books to my collection, I could have a Thingaversary every month.
Thanks Caroline. My LT membership has been the best $25 I ever spent!
The Roald Dahl Omnibus: Perfect Bedtime Stories for Sleepless Nights by Roald Dahl
The sub-title Perfect Bedtime Stories for Sleepless Nights is ambiguous - these stories are more likely to cause sleepless nights! Dark, funny, creepy, or surprising, they are all creative and entertaining. Like any short story collection it is perfect for dipping into occasionally, reading one or two at a time.
I'm not a fan of short stories, but enjoyed this collection.
I have that same collection of Roald Dahl's short stories and they are excellent - unsettling and uncomfortable. I should reread it again.
I have the Tales of the Unexpected volume, I should pull it down sometime. I remember many of them from the 1970s tv dramatisation.
I do like short stories, but tend to have long periods when I don't read them.
>106 VivienneR: I love Roald Dahl's dark and creepy side. I'll have to look for this one!
>107 RidgewayGirl: Unsettling describes it exactly! I find myself lying awake trying to find an alternate ending.
>108 rebeccanyc: I'm glad it intrigued me enough to get the book.
>109 Caroline_McElwee: A tv series sounds great! Not one I'm familiar with unfortunately.
>110 avidmom: Then you will love this one! It's full of dark and creepy.
>100 VivienneR:, >101 Caroline_McElwee: Hmmm, I think I need to track down a new copy and reread this one. I've seen the movie twice and I love it (the scene with Kip and the nurse in the cathedral --be still my heart!), but I don't remember much from the book, other than I was frustrated by his oblique way of using pronouns instead of saying what character he was talking about. But then again, I read it while my mom was dying, so maybe I wasn't in the best state of mind. I've loved other books by Ondaatje more -- Anil's Ghost is on my top 10 list. Okay then, added to the to do list: reread The English Patient.
Joyce, I'm glad you will give it another try. I understand how a real life event will colour whatever we are reading at the time. I love Ondaatje's writing style. Thanks for the tip, I'll add Anil's Ghost to my wishlist.
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emmuska Orczy
I don't know how or when I learned about this story, but I've known the basic plot for a long time. It's never been part of my reading plans because I thought it just wasn't for me, that it would be just a silly melodrama. And yes, it is kind of silly, with Lady Blakeney being so clever, such tiny exquisite hands, so perfectly beautiful. The writing isn't great, with much repetition - the word "merrily" is used often, very often. Despite all this, I loved the book. It's a swashbuckling adventure story, a romance. It has a fabulously brave, clever, handsome hero, and of course the aforementioned beauty of Lady Blakeney. All this and a setting of the French Revolution as a bonus. Excellent!
Tender: a cook and his vegetable patch by Nigel Slater
Here we have many traditional favourite dishes given Slater's special touches. Chapters are arranged alphabetically by vegetable and include information about growing as well as cooking. His writing is pure poetry, like this entry about cabbage:
"The dead of winter, all is silent, the world hushed by a thick covering of snow. The point in the year when strident flavours are needed: game birds, smoked bacon and dank mushrooms that have waited patiently in the fridge... The cabbage family is suddenly allowed back into the kitchen. Each dark-green leaf somehow seems as if it will fend off our winter ills. Elephant ears of crinkled green, sparkling with dew; tight buds of young sprouts; black plumes of cavolo nero like the feathers on a funeral horse, and the dense, ice-crisp flesh of red cabbage. Strong flavours indeed."
Slater's book was informative, a very enjoyable read and all the recipes I've tried so far have been excellent. What more can a cook ask for? This one gets five stars!
Vivienne, I meant to buy that book some while back, and you might have given me the nudge with that quote.
Caroline, I could have chosen from many beautiful quotes. Slater's love of good food no matter how lowly is inspiring.
Murther & Walking Spirits by Robertson Davies
"I was never so amazed in my life as when the Sniffer drew his concealed weapon from its case and struck me to the ground, stone dead."Gil Gilmartin walked in on his wife and her lover who whacked Gilmartin with a weapon concealed in his walking stick, killing him instantly. Gilmartin immediately realizes he is dead yet able to watch, unseen, as his wife and the lover, Allard Going, nicknamed the Sniffer, try to cover up the murder. Then, after this excellent opening, the story goes in a different direction. Gilmartin, like Going, is a newspaper film critic and follows Going to a film festival only to find his viewing is different from any other. His films detail his ancestors from the American Revolution to modern times. It is an examination of how Gilmartin - or Davies, as the film is said to have closely followed Davies' own origins - came to be the person he is - or was, in this case.
As a perusal of personal history, it must have been fascinating for Davies, but while I found some parts quite interesting, other sections were less so. Reading slowed, interest lagged. However, the ending was perfect. The lineage continues and the pretentious Sniffer receives fitting justice. Entertaining, but this turned out to be my least favourite from Davies.
These are the books I acquired in the week of my 9th Thingaversary (see >103 VivienneR:) Some of them haven't actually arrived yet, but have been ordered.
Big little lies by Liane Moriarty
Duchess of Death by Richard Hack
Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne
No signposts in the sea by Vita Sackville-West
Lucky Us by Amy Bloom
A House in the sky by Amanda Lindhout
The Knights Templar by Sean Martin
Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
Effie: the passionate lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais by Suzanne Fagence Cooper
China Trade by S.J. Rozan
The Light of Evening by Edna O'Brien
This is a story about the intense relationships that can occur between mothers and daughters. From her hospital bed the elderly Dilly remembers her youthful journey to America, and her time spent working for a family in Brooklyn - a story similar to O'Brien's own mother's story. Now suffering from cancer, Dilly is concerned about her daughter, Eleanora, a writer, married to a controlling jealous man - again, in the same league as O'Brien's husband Ernest Gébler from whom she was divorced in 1968.
O'Brien's portrayal of Ireland in the early and mid-twentieth century is remarkably accurate. There were many young people who longed to go to America and like Dilly's experience, they were not happy journeys. In time she looks back on Brooklyn with affection. The letters Dilly received in New York from her mother are delightful in their candour. Her letters to her own daughter, Eleanora, are just as unfeigned but have more heartfelt strength of feeling. O'Brien's writing is lyrical, rhythmic at times, and filled with implicit emotion but how I wish her women were more confident. Not only do they leave unsaid all that should be said, but they are dominated by the worst of men. Without doubt this deserves top rating for writing.
>114 VivienneR: This is another book on my list of rereads of childhood favourites. I glad to see it held up, for I do love a good swashbuckling adventure.
______edited for grammar
>115 VivienneR: I love to read cookbooks and would welcome more veggies.
>118 VivienneR: Some of Nigel Slater's recipes have become stock favourites for me. I sometimes wonder if I could live without him.
I'm a fan of Edna O'Brien but I haven't read this one, mostly I've read her short stories. Onto the WL it goes!
>130 VivienneR: just quickly looked that novel up on Amazon and it sounds great. Looking forward to your review.
>131 AlisonY: It might be a while, I'm still trying to catch up with all the essential jobs that have gone by the board for the last couple of months. Even though my reading was episodic and spread over a couple of weeks, I really enjoyed it. And, it kept me sane as I escaped into it every now and then! I am now officially closing my doors to houseguests until next year!
Grammar snobs are great big meanies: a guide to language for fun and spite by June Casagrande
This was an audiobook with excellent narration by the author. Although text might be the preferable format for this topic, it was easy to follow. Casagrande is entertaining in this humorous and light-hearted grammar lesson. The good news: grammar rules are not nearly as scary as you think. It was not only worthwhile, but an enjoyable book.
This was for the Dewey challenge over at the 2016 Category Challenge group.
>133 VivienneR: That sounds good, Vivian. I've added it to my huge wishlist.
I always enjoy having company, but there is always a lot to catch up on after they leave. I haven't ever had anyone for months at a time though. You are quite brave.
Thanks for the reminder that I keep meaning to read something by Gail Jones!
>134 NanaCC: I'm not brave at all. I just didn't have the option of saying no. We had three groups (not all together): a family of six, and two couples. I've had emails from others suggesting visits this summer that I have declined (gracefully, I hope).
>135 Caroline_McElwee: & >136 japaul22: I'll be looking for more by Gail Jones.
Read for June's RandomCAT "I do, I do!" at the Category Challenge group
The Marriage Casket by Deborah Morgan
Ex-FBI agent Jeff Talbot is now an antique picker. When he begins work on his latest acquisition, the contents of the house of a deceased hoarder, he finds a suspicious bloodstain suggesting that the her death was not an accident as thought. The story, a cozy mystery, is set in Seattle and helped along by the antique trade background and his home life with an agoraphobic wife, a zany sister-in-law, and an inherited mansion complete with butler.
That's what you get for living where people want to vacation. We had several more visitors living in Munich than we usually do in SC!
A Far Cry from Kensington by Muriel Spark
Spark perfectly captures the atmosphere of 1950s London and the publishing business in this story. It's a comedy of a sort, yet combined with tragedy in a clever way. The text is conversational, as if Mrs Hawkins, an editor with a publishing house, is telling her story personally. The style keeps the reader involved in the matter and in each of the characters from the Kensington rooming house where she lives. The story mostly revolves around a hack author who becomes a thorn in the flesh of Mrs Hawkins who dubs him a pisseur de copie, to his face no less, thus unleashing a series of events that no one anticipated. Spark tied up the plot very nicely, leaving no loose ends - well maybe one, but that one is up to the reader to decide. Highly recommended.
I love the image on the cover of the Penguin copy that wraps around the back and shows a genteel street, typically Kensington of the 1950s.
>141 VivienneR: I read it years ago Vivienne, but Spark is always rereadable, so I may nudge it up the pile again. Another of hers I want to reread is Momento Mori. She was such a clever and insightful writer.
I went to hear her speak, I think the year or 18 months before she died, and this is the photograph I took of her (with her consent, as she was wheelchair bound by then).
(sorry, I'll try and reduce the size of this later when I get a moment)
Caroline, what a wonderful memory. I've enjoyed everything I've read by her, and plan to read more. She had an amazing comprehension of the human persona.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
As old age and death approach, Reverend Ames, remembers his life in a memoir written to his young son. In it he philosophizes about everyday life, faith, and his role as parson, father, son, friend, in a small Iowa town. There are some beautiful passages but I was unprepared for the amount of theology, which shouldn't have surprised me considering Ames' profession, but it was more than I care for. It seemed more like a long sermon.
I chose this book because of the high praise it received, to say nothing of a Pulitzer prize. But in the end, it disappointed.
Well, as I mentioned, there were some beautiful passage. I immediately think of him describing the child's hair so well I could almost feel it. It was the beautiful parts that kept me reading.
>141 VivienneR: I hadn't heard of this one but it sounds interesting. I read a couple of Muriel Spark books a year or two back and really loved her style of writing. I think I'd like to read some more this year.
I'm sure you'll enjoy it. Radionics plays a big part in the plot, which was interesting. I never heard of the "science" before.
Too bad about Gilead. I've read it twice. The first time I thought "meh". Then I read Home, and was really moved by it, and re-read Gilead immediately. I thought it was wonderful the second time.
Unfinished Portrait by Anthea Fraser
In this cozy mystery, biographer Rona Parish has been asked to write a biography of artist Elspeth Wilding. She accepts the commission but is worried that, because Wilding has been missing for eighteen months, she might get involved in another crime investigation. Is the biography intended as a ploy to have the disappearance investigated or to create interest in the artist and raise the value of her paintings? It's an implausible story that side-tracks a lot to fill in for the fact that nothing much happens. Skip this one.
I've been reading The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin in conjunction with this book, which showed up all Fraser's flaws only too clearly.
>154 brodiew2: That sounds like a lot of fun, and fascinating! I'm always surprised that so many phrases originated with Shakespeare.
The Hanging Garden by Ian Rankin
A suspected war criminal, gang warfare and sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, are the current caseload to test Rebus and his attempt to stay off drink. His daughter Sammy suffers a hit and run that Rebus suspects is punishment for him in connection to his investigations. Rankin is able to take wildly diverging storylines and knit them all together neatly and with satisfaction. Although he can bring out the worst of Edinburgh in his gritty stories, Rebus takes the edge off with his pragmatic approach and a classic rock song title appropriate to the moment. This is another enthralling page-turner featuring Rebus, as usual flawed but endearing. In an afterword Rankin obligingly describes the actual event that was the source of his war crime component.
Some writers just elicit that kind of response no matter what they write. Finding one is wonderful.
The Bookshop by Penelope Fitzgerald
This is one of those books that kept me up all night to finish it - well, most of the night, it's a slim book. I hoped things would work out for Florence Green and her move to an East Anglican town to open a bookshop in her home. But she had the town's aristocratic Mrs Gamart against her so it was a losing battle from the beginning. Not only is Florence occupying a building Mrs Gamart wants for an Art Centre, but she's new to the town, an incomer, with no established supporters. Even the eleven-year-old helper blames Florence for her failure to pass her eleven-plus exam and gives her the cold shoulder. Fitzgerald has given us a story that is beautifully written, but with many mean-spirited characters and characteristics we'd prefer never to experience. However, I will look for more by Fitzgerald.
From Russia with Love by Ian Fleming
With James Bond I am revisiting my teen years when Fleming's books were passed around among my friends until we had read them all. In this yarn Bond is annoyingly and utterly gullible, taken in by an unlikely line from a beautiful KGB agent. Sillier than the usual offering from Fleming.
I don't remember Bond's taste in books being mentioned before. While on the flight from London to Rome he read The Mask of Dimitrios by Eric Ambler. Unsurprising.
Last book for June.
>159 VivienneR: I have read this book at least three times Vivienne. I'm a big Fitzgerald fan, although there are a few I still haven't read yet.
>161 Caroline_McElwee: It's one of those books that deserves a second reading. Can you recommend other Fitzgerald books?
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