Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2019

Happy New Year and wishing you many delightful reads in 2020! I am enjoying seeing other people's "Best of" year-end lists, even when I haven't read any of their books.  There is always room on my TBR pile for books that sound appealing.

Historical Fiction
Dear Mrs. Bird by A.J. Pearce (2018)
This wound up being my favorite book of the year!  A warm and emotional story of a young woman who yearns to be a war correspondent during WWII but finds a job instead working on advice magazine during the day (what the Brits call an Agony Aunt) while doing her bit for the war at night as bombs fall.  You know how much I like books with WWII settings but some have become almost a cliche of tired plots.   This was fresh and appealing, humorous at times, heartbreaking at others, and altogether delightful. Those who remember Dear Lovey Hart will love it.

Fiction

Unmarriageable by Soniah Kamal (2019)
NPR called this "Pride and Prejudice in Pakistan" in which Elizabeth Bennet becomes Alysba Binat and Fitzwilliam Darcy is Valentine Darsee.   There are a lot of P&P tributes and imitators out there but this was outstanding.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng (2017)
The lives of a suburban family in Ohio are disrupted when an artist and her teenage daughter move to town and when friends adopt a Chinese baby whose mother wants her back.   This was my favorite book group choice of the year.

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary (2019)
A gem of a story in which Tiffy, broke after a bad breakup, moves into a London apartment with Leon, with the plan that they will never meet, as he is a nurse working nights and she works for a publisher during the day, communicating via post-it notes.

Suspense/Mystery

Bury Your Dead by Louise Penny (2010)
I read the first book in the series, Still Life, in 2013 and found it pleasant enough but was not compelled to read more until I went to Québec in June with my sister.   Seeking something appropriate to listen to in the car, I got A Fatal Grace on CD and listened to it driving home and this time I was captivated by Armand and Three Pines.   This installment provides the Quebec City history and setting I wanted and is brilliantly told in flashbacks while interspersed with two current investigations, as Chief Inspector Gamache of the Canadian Sûreté and his sidekick Jean Guy Beauvoir recover from a case that went disastrously wrong and has left them both anguished in mind and body.

A Borrowing of Bones (2018) and Blind Search (2019) by Paula Munier
In this new series, Mercy Carr, a retired military police officer, and Elvis, her bomb-sniffing Belgian Malinois, have settled in Vermont to recover from the loss of Elvis’s handler/Mercy’s boyfriend.  Their therapy is being outdoors but that leads to murder, which Mercy feels compelled to investigate.   My sister and I both felt this series reminded us of Julia Spencer-Fleming’s books, which we like very much.    I don't need to tell you to read these in order, do I?

Romance

Act Like It (2015) and Pretty Face by Lucy Parker (2017) (reviewed in May)
I am indebted to Stephanie Burgis for recommending Parker’s romances.  Parker is a New Zealand author who is a fan of Austen and Heyer and writes sizzling contemporary romances that are intense, funny, and impossible to put down.   The first two have a London theatre setting.  I have the third and fourth books waiting for me.

Nonfiction
Mornings on Horseback: The Story of an Extraordinary Family, a Vanished Way of Life, and the Unique Child Who Became Theodore Roosevelt by David McCullough (1981)
I listened to this fascinating biography of young Theodore Roosevelt and his family leading up to and during my drive to Quebec, having been fascinated by McCullough’s book about The Wright Brothers last year.  I especially enjoyed the parts set during Teddy’s years at Harvard and his family’s travel abroad.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean (2017)
This book started out as an investigation of an infamous fire at the Los Angeles Public Library in 1986.  Far more interesting than the fire, however, is the history of the library and the staff who work there now.  I am sure listening to this book on audio in July was partially responsible for my enrolling in library school in August!

YA
The Bookworm Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts (2019)
When shy teen Amy McIntyre needs help to win a contest she goes to a brash surfer, Toff Nichols, to show her to be bold and sassy – but perhaps they can both teach each other something.  And, yes, I bought the book for its cover to give my sister but then found it completely charming.

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood (2018)
A fabulous coming of age novel set in Cornwall, with echoes of I Capture the Castle and The Great Gatsby.  I had to special order this from England.

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll (2018) (reviewed in February)
The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay (2018)
This beautifully written book follows Clarry Penrose (disliked and neglected by a horrendous father), her brother, and cousin from childhood through WWII.  A book you want to own, not just borrow from the library!  Like all McKay books, it can be both funny and poignant, and it reminded me a little of my beloved Flambards.   Really pitiful that the US publisher changed the title to Love to Everyone.

Children’s 

The Crystal Snowstorm by Meriol Trevor (1997)  (reviewed in August) This is the first of four in a Ruritanian series that is full of adventure and appealing characters.

Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rosell (2014) (reviewed in July)  For fans of Eva Ibbotson, this is the first in a trilogy about orphaned Stella Montgomery.  Fans are waiting for Simon & Schuster to publish the third book in the US.

Best Rereads

The Blue Sapphire by D.E. Stevenson
Mrs. Tim Christie by D.E. Stevenson

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Through the Evil Days by Julia Spencer-Fleming

Title: Through the Evil Days 
Author:  Julia Spencer-Fleming
Publication: St. Martin’s/Minotaur, hardcover, 2013
Genre: Mystery

Plot: In the tense and emotional eighth book of the series, Chief of Police Russ Van Alstyne and Reverend Clare Fergusson are finally married but their lives remain professionally and personally complicated.  Clare is pregnant (as we learned at the very end of the last book), Russ is unhappy about becoming a parent at what he considered his advanced age, and a fire and related kidnapping threatens to derail their postponed honeymoon.  In the meantime, Hadley Knox, a relatively recent addition to the Millers Kill police force, is somewhat regretting having blown off coworker Kevin Flynn merely because he’s younger and she is getting over a bad divorce (soon she will have real problems!).   When Russ and Clare finally leave town for a week to “enjoy” an isolated cottage convenient to ice fishing (my idea of hell), they find the criminals are hiding out nearby.  Marooned by bad weather, Russ and Clare are caught between old rivalries and new enemies.

My Impressions: Despite the fact that Julia Spencer-Fleming is one of my favorite authors, I somehow had been saving this so long for a special occasion that I hadn’t read even read it! (I suspect my mother borrowed it and did not return it promptly but it is nice that she and my sisters and I all like this author so much.)  I reread One Was a Soldier to get in the mood – that is really exceptionally well done with flashbacks that advance the plot instead of exasperating the reader (a pet peeve) and vivid characters.   While I enjoyed this one, I had a hard time following the plot and need to reread it to fully grasp what was going on.  Russ is a pain for most of the book but I especially like Hadley and Kevin and was hoping things would work out for them: great cliffhanger ending!

One advantage of waiting this long to read Through the Evil Days is that her new book, Hid from Our Eyes, is coming out in April!   I had missed the sad news that Ms. Spencer-Fleming lost her husband in 2017; I am sure that getting back to writing after such a loss is much harder than simply going back to an office, so I am glad she was able to finish a new book and I hope it was a good distraction for her.

This is the tenth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles.  Two more to read by the end of the year!

Off the Blog: Merry Impeachmas!

Source: I highly recommend this series but do suggest you begin at the beginning with In the Bleak Midwinter.  My mother and I enjoyed meeting Julia Spencer-Fleming at the Brookline Library several years ago and I thus own an autographed hardcover.  She told us her daughter was studying for an MLIS at Simmons, making a tough commute down from Maine.  My mother, a (retired) librarian, sympathized as she commuted to URI while earning her library degree.  

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Virtual Advent Calendar

Thank you to Sprite Writes for including me in the Virtual Advent Tour she has organized for five years. For those who don’t know, Advent is the liturgical season leading up to Christmas which includes the four preceding Sundays. 
Can you guess?  See below.
This post is about a family tradition started by my father, who we lost three years ago.  I think about him whenever I wrap a present because, although he was not good at shopping, when he came up with a gift he enjoyed making tricky tags!  He would add a message to the tag but put dashes instead of some of the letters so the recipient would have to guess what was inside.   The first one I remember was a little datebook when I was in high school or college, with a tag said something like, “For CLM, so she will K _ _ W   WH _  _  E  TO  G _.

They got more complicated over the years and the rest of the family occasionally joins in.  You have to strike the right balance between a little mystery but not so obscure no one can hazard a guess! 
I think Buddy was telling me to look in the box for some awesome gardener's gloves that go practically to my elbows, protecting me from poison ivy!   (Not that they keep the plants alive - now, that would be quite a gift!)
I found this one from several years ago stuck to some wrapping paper.  I am trying to guess what it stands for!  We'll have to see if my brother remembers.

* * *

Answer to Samantha's tag:  Quiet Moment.  Yes, any working mother with three children and a dog finds that quiet moments are in short supply. 

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin

Title: The American Heiress
Author:  Daisy Goodwin
Publication: St. Martin’s, paperback, 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
The American Heiress is the ninth of twelve books that are part of my 2019 TBR Challenge, inspired by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, to prioritize some of my unread piles.  I have another one read but not yet reviewed and two more to read by December 31st.  Can she do it?

Plot: Cora Cash is the beautiful daughter of an affluent and ambitious mother, who wants English nobility for a son-in-law.  Following a glamorous (although marred by a fire) ball in Newport, Cora leaves behind her local admirers and heads to England with her mother and her shrewd black maid, Bertha.  Conveniently, Cora immediately encounters a very eligible bachelor, the Duke of Wareham, who is high on pedigree but low on cash, and unenthusiastically recognizes an opportunity when he sees one.  The reader, if not Cora, anticipates the obstacles in the way of turning a marriage of convenience into a relatively happy union (condescending servants, jilted lovers, shrewish mother-in-law, poor heating) but there is more to Cora than desire for status.   Cora slowly learns how to defend herself and begins to figure out what she needs to do to master her new position, act befitting a duchess, and cope with her moody husband in what turns out to be an entertaining novel. 

My Impressions: By chance, I happened to read two books called The American Heiress close together and this one, although enjoyable, suffered a little in comparison to the one by Dorothy Eden, which is also about a rich New York heiress determined to marry into the English nobility.   The difference is that Eden’s heroine is actually the maid and half-sister of the heiress.  When the real heiress and ambitious mother go down with the Lusitania as they head to England for the wedding, Hetty begins a dangerous masquerade.  Like Cora, she is tormented by her mother-in-law, snobbish servants, and a jealous ex-girlfriend of her new husband but somehow the story is more fun and more suspenseful.  Still, both Cora and Hetty have to muster their wits to cope with their new lives and in each book that is the most interesting part of the story, as we have seen plenty of Newport parties and drafty English house parties elsewhere, haven’t we?  

Sadly, Cora has little loyalty to her maid Bertha, who accompanies her to England, despite suspecting she will never see her family in the South again.  Bertha is not treated well by the English servants and she is lonely except for the friendship of the Duke’s manservant. Bertha yearns for independence and security, and suspects her days with Cora are numbered because the Duke resents her possible influence on Cora, so tries to save her wages so she can one day have her own business.  This is an interesting contrast to Cora, who may not be thrilled with her husband but cannot seem to imagine a future without a man.  Her parents, having bought her the Duke with a generous dowry, are not interested in any dissatisfaction she may have with her bargain.

Off the Blog: I am making deviled eggs for the OWD holiday party, which I now wish I had done last night!   My friend Barb suggested a clever way to get them out of the shell by shaking them in a jar with a lid: of course, I cannot find a jar that is suitable.

Source: Personal copy

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: from Sanditon to Mrs. Tim Christie

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

Sanditon, the unfinished Jane Austen, was Kate’s starting book. I read this long ago and unfortunately don’t remember it at all.  However, I am looking forward to the new dramatization on Masterpiece Theatre beginning January 12, 2020.
Joan Aiken came to mind because I thought she had completed Sanditon, but "her" Austen is Emma Watson, The Watsons Completed, which is my first book (not to be confused with actress Emma Watson!).  She also crafted several elegantly written books about Austen characters long before everyone was doing it!  Of course, Joan Aiken is best known for her children’s books, beginning with The Wolves of Willoughby Chase.   I met her once in New York, which is a cherished memory.  I am so glad that Joan's daughter Lizza Aiken is actively managing her mother’s estate.
My second book is by Joan Aiken’s sister (my mother and I always wondered why a poet like Conrad Aiken would give his daughters what is essentially the same name), Savannah Purchase by Jane Aiken Hodge.  This is my favorite of all her books; it’s a historical romance about identical cousins.  Don’t you love an impersonation story?
My third book is Juliette Low, Girl Scout from the Childhood of Famous Americans series.  Do you remember these books? They have been repackaged since my childhood but I managed to find the cover I remember.  Low was from an affluent Savannah family, unhappily married, and a chance meeting with British general Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, led her to help found a similar group for girls, which became the Girl Scouts in America.  As a former Girl Scout, I have always enjoyed stories about Low and wish I'd had time to visit her home when I was in Savannah!

The fourth book is a summer camp story, Sal Fisher at Girl Scout Camp by Lillian S. Gardner (1959).  This is a three-book series that I found in my grade school library.  My favorite was when Sal went to Girl Scout camp, full of girls learning life lessons, hikes, cookouts, and fun (although preserve me from actually going to overnight camp; much better to reach about it).

It is literally freezing outside and warm weather is a distant memory but my fifth book is Star Spangled Summer by Janet Lambert. This was my favorite series when I was growing up and I did some pretty crazy things to collect all 54 books by this author.  Set just prior to WWII, it’s about Penny Parrish, a teen who invites lonely Carrol Houghton to visit her lively army family.  Naturally, this changes both their lives and many books follow (now back in print from Image Cascade).  The description of military life was fascinating to me, especially in later books when they live near West Point.
Finally, my sixth book is Mrs. Tim Christie by D.E. Stevenson, set in 1934.  Life is a series of misadventures for this attractive and charming heroine, married to a British army officer and trying to manage on a budget (her "frugal lifestyle" includes boarding school for the son, a cook, and a maid, but that was the era).  I am rereading this currently because the three sequels – Mrs. Tim Carries On, Mrs. Tim Gets a Job, and Mrs. Tim Flies Home are back in print from Furrowed Middlebrow and Dean Street Press.  Also, I recently read Diary of a Provincial Lady for the first time, which was written about ten years before Mrs. Tim and is clearly influential.  But I think Mrs. Tim is much funnier!
I recommend this series if you like to laugh out loud while you are reading.  Several of my other favorite DES books are now back in print: I need to complete my collection!

Off the Blog:  I saw the Moby Dick musical tonight at the A.R.T.   It was good (although too long in the middle - die already, Pip!) but it took an hour and a half to get home on the subway and bus.

See you next month, if not before!

Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Long Call by Ann Cleeves

Title: The Long Call, Two Rivers #1 
Author:  Ann Cleeves
Publication: Minotaur Books, hardcover, October 2019
Genre: Mystery/series

Plot: In the first of a new series, Matthew Venn, a Detective Inspector in North Devon is watching his father’s funeral from a distance when, moments later, he learns a body has been found near the home he shares with his husband, Jonathan.  Matthew became estranged from his family due to his rejection of his parents’ evangelical religion, the Barum Brethren, but he puts his familial angst away to investigate the crime, or so he thinks.  As Matthew and his team examine the death there are so many conflicts of interest that he suspects he should remove himself from the case: the fact that the body was found so close to his home, several connections to the Woodyard, the art/day center that Jonathan manages, and the appearance of members of the Brethren.

My Impressions: The day they found the body on the shore, Matthew Venn was already haunted by thoughts of death and dying.

What a first sentence!  This is a very dark and atmospheric new mystery from popular Ann Cleeves, whose other books I have enjoyed.  Matthew Venn is one of the most serious protagonists I can remember reading about and he struggles with a feeling of unworthiness although he is handsome, accomplished, and has a job at which he is skilled.  The story is set in a town in North Devon, near two rivers, the Taw and the Torridge that run into the Atlantic Ocean.  Matthew and Jonathan live in a house on the estuary they got at a bargain price because it might be obliterated in a flood.   The isolation suits Matthew but Jonathan is gregarious and popular; in fact, Matthew is constantly amazed someone so confident would be attracted to him.  This insecurity threatens to derail Matthew from the hunt for the killer but ultimately he triumphs.

In this book, even more than her others, I am impressed by the detailed depiction of minor characters, particularly Lucy and her father Maurice, and Jen Rafferty, the appealing sergeant who works for Matthew.  I had been angry with Cleeves for a plot development in her Shetland Island series but I suppose I am over it by now.  In fact, she was in Greater Boston recently promoting this book and I was disappointed not to be able to attend.

Off the Blog: Enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers in Rye, NY and working on my Nancy Drew paper.

Source:  Thanks to NetGalley for this read.  Recommended!

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Back to Frederica by Georgette Heyer, Chapters 18-21

For those who wondered what had happened to the discussion of Frederica, I thought I should finish posting:
Image borrowed from https://tinyurl.com/yj6en84b
Chapter 18

After seeing Felix successfully wheedle Alverstoke and hearing that Jessamy is exercising his precious horses, Lady Elizabeth is dying of curiosity and rushes to see her elder sister, Lady Jevington, for her opinion of the Merrivilles.   Eliza reveals that Lady Jersey wrote to her, predicting Alverstoke would marry Charis and that Alverstoke painted her in the most glowing terms.  Lady Jevington says Alverstoke was hoaxing her: “But unless I am much mistaken it is the elder and not the younger sister for whom he has conceived a decided tendre.” 

More astute than Alverstoke realizes, Lady Jevington thinks he does not know his own mind but is determined to protect Frederica from gossip about his intentions.  Surprisingly, she is pro-Frederica and says idleness has been Alverstoke’s ruin so being the guardian of two boys will keep him busy (it is actually quite impressive how well Lady J has observed and analyzed her brother’s behavior).  Lady Elizabeth likes Frederica when she meets her at the Seftons’ party and thinks that she would be considered a very pretty girl were her looks not dimmed by Charis’ proximity.  “She possessed, moreover, the indefinable gift of charm which, unlike Charis’ fragile beauty, would be with her to the end.”  Lady Elizabeth says she’d like to call to meet Frederica’s aunt but Frederica reveals that Miss Winsham’s sister is about to suffer a bereavement so Miss Winsham has been spending all her time at the afflicted household.   Frederica is worried if her uncle-in-law dies they will need to go into mourning and miss out on the last weeks of the season.

Mr. Navenby has asked permission to make Charis an offer but she only cares about Endymion and is now convinced Frederica wants to separate them.  Endymion says if necessary he can sell out of the army so that Alverstoke can’t use his influence to have him sent overseas or on a secret mission (he and Charis don’t realize he does not possess the intellect for espionage).

Chapter 19

Felix arrives at Alver House early the day of the ascension and chatters away to the Marquis and Lady Elizabeth regarding everything they wanted to know about balloons but were afraid to ask.  They park the phaeton near Lord Buxted’s carriage so Lady Elizabeth can converse with Frederica.   Buxted has brushed up with the encyclopedia to playfully provide aeronautics information to Jessamy (who doesn’t care) and Felix (who has already headed off to bother the balloon technicians).   Despite Buxted, they are enjoying the afternoon until the balloon rises into the air with Felix dangling by a rope.   Charis faints and everyone watching freaks out but Felix is hauled into the basket safely.   Frederica does not overreact but says Felix is susceptible to bronchitis and may react badly to the cold.  Jessamy begs the Marquis to lend him the phaeton so he can chase the balloon, and when Frederica also asks him, Alverstoke and Jessamy set off together.

Chapter 20

Alverstoke and Jessamy (and Curry, Alverstoke’s groom) drive off in the direction of the balloon, and Alverstoke tries to calm down Jessamy who is blaming himself.   After driving for some time, they see the balloon descend and when they catch up with it, they learn when the balloon came down it got stuck in a tree.  Spectators tell them the boy (Felix) climbed out of the basket all right but then fell to the ground and was “taken up for dead” and brought to nearby Monk’s Farm.  Jessamy is freaked out again but manages to control himself until they reach the farm.
Chapter 21

The Judbrooks, a kindly farmer and his cranky sister, have taken in Felix and the other injured balloonists, and gruff but competent Dr. Elcot is already there.  He reports that Felix suffered a severe concussion, sprained wrist, broken ribs, and various bruises, and scolds Alverstoke for being “a mighty careless guardian.”   The aeronaut relates that Felix was helping them with the balloon and said he wished he could ascend with them.  They said his parents wouldn’t like it.  But when he clambered into the balloon basket with them, the first thing he said was that he didn’t have parents so they wouldn’t get in trouble!   However, it was cold in the air so Felix probably didn’t realize how numb his hands were: when the balloon got caught in a tree and the occupants had to climb down, he couldn’t hold onto the branch and fell.

Alverstoke gets a good impression of the plainspoken country doctor, who tells him it will take a day or so to determine how serious Felix’s condition is (Alverstoke explains the boy has a history of bronchitis).  Then Alverstoke tells his groom Curry to drive Jessamy back to London, update Frederica on what has happened, and explain that Curry will pick her up the next morning in the Marquis’ traveling carriage to bring her to Felix.   Alverstoke also writes a note to Charles to update him and request some cash (as he is giving all of his to Curry for the travel back to London). Alverstoke is angered by the whole situation until he sees poor Felix lying in a laudanum-induced coma and then he experiences not only pity but also a sense of responsibility.   He realizes he has to take care of Felix until Frederica arrives and also needs to reassure Jessamy who is unwilling to leave.  He flatters Jessamy a little: “You mustn’t think I don’t value Harry, but I can’t but feel that if I stood in Frederica’s shoes I should look to you for support rather than to him.”     After Jessamy and Curry leave, Alverstoke settles down in an armchair next to Felix, expecting a night of tedium, and the chapter ends as he begins to contemplate finding a political patron for Charles Trevor.
Lady Jevington understands her brother better than he realized (we eldest sisters spend a lot of time observing and know our siblings’ flaws quite well) and I suppose we should all be grateful she didn’t intervene and spoil this romance.   Is she right that marriage to Frederica will end his boredom?   Heyer is less optimistic (or is she?) that marriage will reform Damerel.

Heyer describes the balloon ascension so well – including its ignominious descent.    Several years before I read Heyer, I fell in love with the Flambards series by K.M. Peyton, in which one of the characters is an early aviator.  The aeronauts here escape lightly but that was not always the case.  Doesn’t it make you wonder how those early pioneers of the air had the courage to try to fly?

Alverstoke really comes into his own in the chapters at the Judbrooks.   He carries it off with his usual calm but in Chapter 21 he admits to feeling unfit for the responsibility.  It is the trust he sees in Jessamy’s eyes (and knowing unconscious Felix *has* to trust him) that helps Alverstoke cope with a novel and difficult situation.

How does changing horses really work?  You wouldn’t want to leave your own valuable horses in a strange stable without your groom, would you?  And if you are driving job horses and are merely changing one set for another, isn’t there some ultimate owner who wants his horses back too?  It’s not like a national rental car company where the “one-way-dropoffs” make their way back eventually, is it? 

For the previous discussions of Frederica, click here.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Five Things

I was in Denver this week for work and had a lovely dinner with six other Betsy-Tacy fans.  One told me she had just finished reading Meet the Malones and she wrote about it here.  Don’t you love a convert?
 
Somehow I found myself vacuuming under and behind my bed recently!   Don’t worry, it probably won’t happen again due to the fact I found ONE jade earring bought in Canada at a friend’s wedding.   I am afraid the other one was vacuumed.   Is it worth going through the vacuum bag to check?  Even if I find it, would it be too gross to ever wear again?
The original cover
I loved Ellen Klages’ book set in Los Alamos, The Green Glass Sea (and the sequel), and recently told a friend from New Mexico about it.   She had not read it but described another, which intrigued me.  I found Where the Ground Meets the Sky, which I also liked, but she said that wasn’t the one.  Do you know of others with this setting?
I like the hardcover cover better!  But maybe my nieces would prefer this?
Today I came across a scholarly article: The Story of the Story: The Willow Pattern Plate in Children's Literature by Ben Harris McClary, and delayed my real research to take a look, thinking, “Ah, someone who appreciates Doris Gates.”  I paused to think about how once a job interview turned into a discussion of Doris Gates and Lenora Mattingly Weber (Reader, I got the job).   However, Professor McClary who was chairman of the English Department at Middle Georgia College in 1982 never appears to mention Blue Willow, which was published in 1940, a Newbery Honor Book.   I am afraid he died in 2013 so it is too late for me to point out the error of his ways (errors of his research).

Why do I invariably yearn for chips immediately after going to the gym?  If I succumb, it undoes all the virtue of running and lifting weights.

Monday, November 11, 2019

A Killer in King's Cove by Iona Whishaw

Title: A Killer in King’s Cove: A Lane Winslow Mystery
AuthorIona Whishaw
Publication: Touchwood Editions, paperback, 2016
Genre: Historical Mystery/series
Setting: Canada, 1946
Plot: Lane Winslow wanted to get away from London after the horrors of the war but no one was expecting her to take her modest inheritance and buy a home in western Canada.   In King’s Cove, a small town in British Columbia, Lane is welcomed by her new neighbors.  She hopes to begin a literary career but is distracted by the discovery of a dead body, found in the creek adjoining her property.  Lane does not recognize the man but when her name is found in his pocket, she becomes the police’s most likely suspect.

My Impressions: This is a delightful mystery, and will appeal to fans of Maisie Dobbs, who like character-driven, leisurely paced narratives.  Lane is an attractive heroine, whose heart was broken during the war but she is determined not to think about Angus or to look backward at all.  She has moved on from her espionage work during the war and is enjoying King’s Cove, even if her house is slightly haunted by its previous owner.  When murder intrudes on this small town, secrets start coming out everywhere and if I were Lane I would keep my doors locked and not go outside after sundown!   My favorite characters other than Lane were Inspector Darling and Constable Ames.  Inspector Darling served during the war and has invisible scars like Lane.  He is reluctant to suspect her of murder and is annoyed with himself for being so reluctant!  Constable Ames provides comic relief and recognizes that Inspector Darling and Lane are not indifferent to each other.  In fact, the conversation between Inspector Darling and Lane is great fun and gives one great hope for future books in the series.

Off the Blog: On my way to Denver for the Cities for Financial Empowerment Conference!  Excited for my first visit to Beany Malone country.  I went to the famous Tattered Cover bookstore tonight; I was disappointed they weren't carrying either Beany Malone or Lane Winslow but don't worry, I did not leave empty handed.
According to my friend Zelda, this was Lenora Mattingly Weber's home in Denver.  Camilla and 
I walked up the driveway but it was dark and hard to envision Beany, Mary Fred, and Johnny.
Source: Library, but I have now purchased the second in the series.

Friday, November 8, 2019

What is a Lib Guide?

Curious about the History of Children's Literature class I have been taking this fall? 

Last week's assignment was to create a LibGuide, which is basically a subject guide that pulls together all types of information about a particular subject or course of study.  I decided to do mine on children's fantasy, so I researched and included nonfiction reference books and encyclopedias, articles, websites, and some of my favorite books in the genre. I suppose it is really just a bibliography with images. I had fun finding all the covers, including the one below from an edition I own:

It will be interesting to see what my professor thinks of my choices!  For those interested, the text we are using is Children's Literature by Seth Lerer.

Here is the link: Fantasy Lib Guide

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Six Degrees of Separation: From Alice to The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly link-up hosted by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. Each month a book is chosen as a starting point and linked to six other books to form a chain. A book doesn’t need to be connected to all the other books on the list, only to the one next to it in the chain.

This month the book is Alice in Wonderland.  I have very pleasant memories, not only of reading it but my grandmother gave me LP versions of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass which I listened to often as a child on my own little record player.  At one point, I could quote long passages.  Prior to this gift, I will admit I'd thought the book was called Allison Wonderland. 
Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews, and Aloysius
(copyright Granada Television)
Alice made me think of my first book which begins in Oxford: Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh. When I visited Oxford, reminders of both books were everywhere!  Brideshead is one of the few books of which I consider the miniseries as good or better.  It really captivated viewers when it first came out, including me.  Oh, Anthony Andrews, I could watch you in anything!   In fact, I loved you in a movie of my second book:
The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Emma Orczy, set during the French Revolution, about an Englishman who plays the fop but is really a spy:

We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven? — Is he in hell?
That damned, elusive Pimpernel

My third book is by Georgette Heyer, who was inspired by Orczy and Rafael Sabatini to try her hand at a romantic adventure story.   I have a couple favorites but I am thinking about Devil’s Cub, in which Mary Challoner pulls a gun on the young nobleman trying to seduce her as they travel to France.
Intrepid heroines are always my favorite!   My fourth book is one I was thinking about earlier tonight, Nobody’s Girl by Hector Henry Malot, translated from French and available through Project Gutenberg.  Perrine’s dying mother makes her promise to find the grandfather who disowned his son for marrying beneath him: “Make him love you without revealing your identity!”   An elementary school friend lent me this book when I was about 10 and I was happy to find a copy with the same pink cover not long ago.
My fifth book is also set in France.  (Hmm, there are bits of Brideshead set in Paris so I guess there is a French theme for my chain that I hadn’t planned but will now maintain.)  I am a big Daphne du Maurier fan and once persuaded my book group to read The Scapegoat, an improbable tale of impersonation.   Not all my friends like historical fiction as much as I do but this fascinated everyone.
Finally, for my sixth book, I will end with a book I just finished, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan, who writes light-hearted women’s fiction but often surprises the reader with serious themes.  Here, an unlikely friendship between Anna and her old French teacher results in Anna going to Paris to work for a famous chocolatier.  This will help Anna recover from an accident and causes Claire to remember her magical time in Paris as an au pair when she was young and in love.
See you next month for Sanditon, soon to be on Masterpiece!