Thursday, December 31, 2020

Leith and Friends by Clare Mallory - my favorite school story of 2020

Title: Leith and Friends
Author: Clare Mallory
Publication: Girls Gone By, paperback, 2011 (originally published by Oxford University Press, 1950)
Genre: Girls’ School Story
Description: When the Leith family moves to Woodbury (somewhere in England’s Home Counties, according to the GGB edition) for her father’s new job, 14-year-old Leith Rossiter joins the Lower Fifth at a large girls’ high school.  Knowing how shy she is, Dr. Rossiter tells her to “swim with the tide” until she knows her new classmates, and “make the effort to be friendly and to join in their activities.”

Monday, December 28, 2020

Tied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh

Title: Tied up in Tinsel
Author: Ngaio Marsh
Publication: Aeonian Press, hardcover, 1976 (originally published 1972)
Genre: Mystery/series
Description: Noted artist Agatha Troy (known to all simply as Troy) has come to Hilary Bill-Tasman’s remote country estate just before Christmas to paint his portrait. Hilary chatters as she paints him about his unconventional upbringing by his maternal relatives, Colonel and Mrs. Forrester. He also reveals his humble origins, describing how his father and courtesy-uncle Bert Smith began with a mere cart in London and grew their business to become a vast antiques enterprise. Hilary has become wealthy and bought back the family’s Tudor estate on the moors which had fallen into disrepair. Hilary reveals to Troy that in order to staff Halberds, which he is expensively restoring, he has hired five former inmates of the nearby prison, who served their time for murder and now need gainful employment. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - December 27, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West. This may be the last one – I haven’t run out of bookcases but I think Katrina and I may have run out of steam. Today I am looking at a bookcase in my home office which includes some old and new titles. During the pandemic, however, I have mostly worked in the dining room where the Christmas tree is.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Death at Wentwater Court by Carola Dunn

Title: Death at Wentwater Court (Daisy Dalrymple #1)
Author: Carola Dunn
Publication: Minotaur paperback, 2015 (originally published in 1994)
Genre: Mystery

Description: Like many young Englishwomen, the Honorable Daisy Dalrymple lost the man she loved in World War I.  She also lost her brother so the ancestral home now belongs to a cousin.  Not wanting to be the poor relation on sufferance, Daisy is trying to make a living as a writer. After successfully pitching a series of articles on stately homes to a magazine, she heads to her first assignment at Wentwater Court where she finds a household on edge – followed by murder!  When Scotland Yard is called in, Daisy’s photographic skill and observations of the family are invaluable to the handsome chief inspector trying to solve the mystery without offending the aristocracy.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Juvenile Novels of World War II by Desmond Taylor

Title: The Juvenile Novels of World War II
Author: Desmond Taylor
Publication: Greenwood Press, hardcover, 1994
Genre: Nonfiction/Reference
Description: World War II significantly impacted the lives of children who grew up during that time. From the start of World War II to the present day, many novels have been written on this subject for children and young adults, and these novels typically depict the impact of the war on the lives of young people.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - December 20, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West. Today I am looking at a bookcase in my bedroom which includes some really random titles along with some mystery authors I like.

Friday, December 18, 2020

My Year in Books 2020

Inspired by Margaret at Books Please, I used titles from some of the books I have read this year to complete the following sentences. The links take you to my reviews.

My Year in Books 2020

In high school I was: Fifteen       

People might be surprised by: Fighting Words

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Monday, December 14, 2020

Virtual Advent Calendar - A Memory from Duke

Thank you to Sprite Writes for including me in the Virtual Advent Tour she has hosted for six years (you can visit her site daily for links to the day's post).  For those who don’t know, Advent is a liturgical season leading up to Christmas which includes the four preceding Sundays.  Today I want to share an Advent tradition I enjoyed the two years I was in graduate school at Duke. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling with the Aiken Sisters - December 12

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.  Last time I displayed a shelf that holds my juvenile hardcover Joan Aikens, so today we are going downstairs to a shelf that is shared by Joan and her sister Jane Aiken Hodge, another favorite. 

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Black Narcissus by Rumer Godden - inspired to read in advance of the new miniseries

Title: Black Narcissus
Author: Rumer Godden
Publication: Little, Brown & Co., hardcover, 1939
Genre: Fiction

Description: A small group of Anglican nuns sets off to open a school in the Palace of Mopu in the Himalayan mountains, near Darjeeling, India.  Sister Clodagh is appointed the leader of the group, although her superior has doubts and advises Sister Clodagh to remember she “is the servant of all” if she wants to be a successful manager.   Sister Clodagh is more worried about the suitability of the property donated by an Indian General but refuses to admit her misgivings, especially when her authority is challenged by the youngest nun, Sister Ruth.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

RIP Karen Killilea

Millions of readers read about the Killilea family of Westchester, New York, a loving Catholic family inspired by their daughter Karen who was born with cerebral palsy.   Karen was several months premature and weighed under two pounds, so no one thought she would survive but her parents were determined to get their child the medical care she needed.  They fought ferociously for medical care and to have her lead a normal life despite her disability. 

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - from Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret to Winter Shadows

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where you end up.   This month’s starting point is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume (1970), which I read like every girl of my generation although I wouldn’t say I loved it as so many did.  However, it definitely filled a need then and now; in addition, I bet you didn’t know that Judy Blume is a big Betsy-Tacy fan!  

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

WWW Wednesday: December 2, 2020

It's Wednesday so it’s time to take a look at what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I’m planning on reading.  This was inspired by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading The Oaken Heart by Margery Allingham (1904-66), better known for her classic Golden Age mysteries featuring detective Albert Campion. 

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - November 29

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West. This is a shelf in my guest room where most of the children’s books live and contains three favorite British authors: Ruth M. Arthur, Elfrida Vipont, and Joan Aiken.

Friday, November 27, 2020

The Searcher - slow paced suspense from Tana French

Title: The Searcher
Author: Tana French
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Suspense
Description: When Cal Hooper decides to get away from it all – the senseless violence of 25 years as a Chicago policeman, a bad divorce, a daughter who has moved to Seattle and barely speaks to him, he buys a run-down cottage in a small village on the west side of Ireland anticipating that fixing it up will keep him busy for years.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Marrying Kind by Elizabeth Cadell

Title: The Marrying Kind
Author: Elizabeth Cadell
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 1980
Genre: Fiction

US edition
Description: Laura and Jess Seton are sisters in their 20s who had an unconventional upbringing but remain very close.  Laura has chosen to stay in Crossford, the small and sometimes inaccessible town they mostly grew up in, while Jess prefers, London, 60 miles to the north, where she has dabbled in many careers – and apparently quite a few men as well.  When the story begins, Jess is concerned their charming artist father Claude may have embroiled himself in some kind of shady predicament with a painting, and visits Laura to warn her that  Finch Falconer who bought the Setons’ original home nearby is also involved.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - November 21

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West

This is another bookshelf from my living room.  On the left are several books by Jodi Picoult. For those who have not read her, she writes contemporary fiction with themes that seem torn from current headlines: suicide pacts, school shootings, manipulative talk show hosts.  Most readers either love them or hate them; I am more in the middle as I used to enjoy them a lot but now find some are very readable and some are just tedious. 
Back before she was a bestselling author, I picked up one of her books my then company had published – I think it was Picture Perfect, which is about domestic abuse.  I found it extremely readable but very disturbing.  Books on this topic are not uncommon now but I think this one was the first I had read (I seem to recall And the Ladies of the Club includes this theme too but I don’t recall exactly when I read that).  Publishers sometimes give up on an author they can’t break even on, and it took Picoult several publishers and quite a few books before she became a bestseller with My Sister’s Keeper.  Two of these are autographed so I can’t discard them, can I? But I might need space on this shelf!  

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

WWW Wednesday: November 18, 2020

It’s Wednesday, so it’s time to take a look at what I’ve read, what I’m reading, and what I’m planning on reading.  This was inspired by Taking on a World of Books.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Monday, November 16, 2020

The Gypsy Bridle - on a Colorado ranch with Lenora Mattingly Weber

Title: The Gypsy Bridle
Author: Lenora Mattingly Weber
Illustrator: Kurt Wiese
Publication: Little, Brown, and Company, hardcover, 1930
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Description: Set around the turn of the 20th century, this is a family story of Mary Kettering and the Hash Knife ranch in Colorado by the author of the popular Beany Malone books.  It begins on her 16th birthday and in true Weber tradition there are so many crises that Mary barely gets a calm moment.  Her mother died long ago and Mary and her 14-year-old brother Emerson were brought up by their father, Paw Kettering, and the cowboys on the ranch.   Paw is suffering from snow blindness from caring for his newly purchased Hampshire sheep after a late winter blizzard.  When the doctors insist he go to the hospital or risk losing his vision, Mary is in charge.  She’d like to take advantage of the $10 her Aunt Amelia sends for new clothes and trip east to meet relatives but instead gives it to her father for medicine for his precious sheep and poison for the neighbors’ gopher problem.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - Friday the 13th of November

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   This is another shelf in my living room and it reveals a mixture of mysteries and lighthearted English fiction.  It is one of five tall bookcases and I need a stool to reach the top shelf.  Maybe that is why some of these are unread!

Mary Elgin (1917-1965) was a British writer of just three books that are known but is considered the closest thing to Mary Stewart. Her books are contemporary gothics with humor and charm, set in the Scottish Highlands.  In Highland Masquerade (1965), teenaged Aillie Rannoch put a curse on the man who drove her father to suicide, and then fled her Highland home - swearing never to return.  Ten years later, driven by disturbing memories of the past, Aillie returns to Glenshael disguised as a dowdy secretary, seeking revenge.  If you come across an Elgin paperback at a used bookstore, grab it!

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - From Good Girl, Bad Girl to A Chelsea Concerto

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where you end up.   This month’s starting point is whatever book you last read.   I just finished Good Girl, Bad Girl by Michael Robotham (2019), an Australian author who lives in Sydney, although the story is set in Nottingham (shades of Robin Hood).  This is a very suspenseful novel about a psychologist with a past of his own, caught between a girl who needs to be saved, Evie, a teen without a past, and Jodie, a girl who needs justice. I can't wait to read more by this author (although I did guess whodunnit)!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the Making of America by Winston Groom

Title: The Patriots: Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and the Making of America
Author: Winston Groom
Publication: National Geographic, hardcover, 2020
Genre: History
Description: When the Revolutionary War ended in victory, there remained a stupendous problem: establishing a workable democratic government in the vast, newly created country. . .

Monday, November 2, 2020

'Twas the Night Before the Election

 Please take a minute to read my brother's article in America Magazine:

As Vernon Dahmer used to tell my father, "If you can't vote, you don't count."

If you don't bother to vote, what does that say about you?

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - October 31

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.

This bookshelf is directly below last week’s and you can see it begins with two hardcover Brenda Jaggers (I had to reread A Winter Child last weekend – still a 5, with a quirky ending) there was no room for above.  Next are my Daphne du Mauriers, although I think I loaned Rebecca to my niece and The House on the Strand is in a box I mailed in May to my sister in New York.  The post office periodically sends unconvincing updates to say they are still looking for it.  That USPS sent my box of books to North Carolina instead of New York does not give me a lot of confidence many of those mail-in ballots will be delivered in time to be counted next week.  Thank you for nothing, Louis de Joy

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

WWW Wednesday: October 28, 2020

WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - October 24

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.

This shelf contains primarily historical fiction/upscale historical romance by British authors Brenda Jagger and Stella Riley and Canadian author Susanna Kearsley.  Jagger (1936-86) wrote just nine novels, several of which were set in 19th century Yorkshire.  She is best known for The Barforth Trilogy, which consists of The Clouded Hills, Flint and Roses, and The Sleeping Sword (these were retitled in the US which is always annoying when you think you've found a new one).  It is a wonderful series set in the late 19th century in which independent women struggle with identity, marriage, class, and the expectations of those around them.  I am trying to remember which are my favorites so took A Winter’s Child down from the shelf beneath the one pictured and began rereading.  Set in Yorkshire just after World War I, it is about a young widow who spent the war nursing soldiers in France and returns home to rebuild her life near her husband's family.  I gave it 5 stars the last time I read it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

WWW Wednesday: October 21, 2020

WWW Wednesday is run by Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?
I’m currently reading The Day of the Dead by Nicci French; this is the eighth and concluding volume in the extremely compelling Frieda Klein suspense series.  I accidentally read this first (don’t do what I did; there were too many spoilers) so had to go back to read the whole series.  Frieda is a fascinating character because she is so self-contained (everyone finds this frustrating, including the reader but it is part of what makes her so interesting).   She is a very calm and deliberate psychotherapist, despised by her enemies, loyal to her motley crew of friends, and so insightful she is able to solve crimes the police cannot (this reader is usually in the dark too). 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - October 17, mostly mysteries

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.

This shelf holds many of my paperback mysteries, although, surprisingly, starts on the left with the history of Jordan Marsh, the former New England department store chain.  My first real job was in its executive training program and I was interviewed for the book by local historian Anthony Sammarco.  Anyone interested in Boston history should follow him on Facebook's Lost Boston.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Perfect Gentle Knight by Kit Pearson - and the danger of too much imagination

Title: A Perfect Gentle Knight
Author: Kit Pearson
Publication: Penguin Canada, hardcover, 2007
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Setting: 1950s Vancouver
Audience: Middle Grade verging on Young Adult

Description: The six Bell children have relied on each other and their passion for the Knights of the Round Table to cope with losing their mother three years ago.  Their father, who was in the car accident too, is also grieving but he stays in his study and only emerges on Sundays to take the children to church and out to dinner.   The rest of the week they attend school but otherwise run wild; Sebastian, the eldest at 14, leads his siblings in knightly games every afternoon and even the 6-year-old twins are pages enthusiastically practicing their swordsmanship.  But Sebastian is being bullied at school, Roz decides she wants to be a normal junior high student, and the three youngest children are becoming rude and grubby.   Cordelia (Corrie), the narrator, begins to worry that the game is getting out of hand and is unnerved when Sebastian tells her he is the reincarnation of Sir Lancelot.  She holds the family together as long as she can,  terrified of precipitating a disaster by confiding in an adult until it is almost too late.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

#1956Club Knight's Castle by Edward Eager (because we all think Ivanhoe should have wound up with Rebecca)

I decided to share an old favorite for my last entry in Simon and Karen's #1956 Club.

Title: Knight’s Castle
Author: Edward Eager
Illustrator: N.M. Bodecker
Publication: Harcourt, Brace & World, hardcover, 1956
Genre: Children’s fantasy

Description: This follows Magic by the Lake and is about the offspring of the children in Eager’s best-known book, Half Magic.   Roger and Ann, visiting their cousins in Baltimore while their father is in the hospital, are taken to see the Elizabeth Taylor movie of Ivanhoe and are enthralled.   They start reenacting Ivanhoe with the castle Aunt Katharine gives Roger and new soldiers from their Uncle Mark, and then at night the soldiers come to life and they find themselves back in the days of Ivanhoe and Bad King John . . .  with complications resulting from lead soldiers, oversized dolls, and difficult cousins.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

#1956Club - Fifteen, an iconic teen novel of the 1950s by Beverly Cleary

The 1956 Club is a meme created by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings to showcase books published in a specific year.  

Title: Fifteen
Publication: 1956, William Morrow hardcover (2007 paperback edition)
Genre: Young Adult

Description: Jane Purdy is fifteen and yearns for the glamorous life of a magazine teenager – a boyfriend and dates and the perfect outfit for every occasion.  Instead, she is stuck babysitting for spoiled children and watching smug Marcy Stokes drive by in convertibles with whatever boy she wants.  Then Jane meets cute Stan Crandall when he is delivering dog food where she is babysitting and he asks her out!  Jane is thrilled but isn’t sure how to behave, what to wear, or even if her parents will give permission – or even worse, embarrass her when in front of him!  More importantly to the reader, Jane needs to develop enough self-confidence that she doesn’t hide her real feelings and self.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

The Last Hurrah by Edwin O'Connor #1956Club

The 1956 Club is a meme created by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings to showcase books published in a specific year.  

Title: The Last Hurrah
Author: Edwin O’Connor
Publication: Little, Brown, hardcover, 1956
Genre: Fiction

Description: The Last Hurrah depicts the final campaign of an old-time mayor, Frank Skeffington, an Irish politician who has managed big city politics with equal measures of charm and graft, annoying the Protestants who manage the banks and law firms so much they are supporting his opponent, any opponent.  Disappointed in his own son, Skeffington invites Adam, the nephew he barely knows, to join him on the campaign trail.  Adam, a cartoonist unfamiliar with politics, is wary of being drawn into Skeffington’s corrupt world but curious enough to follow the old charmer to wakes and rallies and sessions with hangers-on, and surprises himself by coming to admire and care for his uncle.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Harry the Dirty Dog by Gene Zion and Margaret Bloy Graham #1956Club

The 1956 Club is part of a meme created by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings to showcase books published in a specific year.  Other featured years are 1924, 1938, 1944, 1947, 1951, 1965, 1968, and 1977.
Author: Gene Zion
Illustrator: Margaret Bloy Graham
Publication: HarperCollins, hardcover, 1956
Genre: Picture Book
Description
: Harry was a white dog with black spots who liked everything, except . . . getting a bath. So one day when he heard the water running in the tub, he took the scrubbing brush and buried it in the backyard. Then he ran away from home.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - From The Turn of the Screw to The Return of the Twelves

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where it ends up.   This month’s starting point is The Turn of the Screw by Henry James (1843-1916), a gothic novella about a governess sent to the desolate countryside to care for two orphans, with blood-curdling results. 

I have recently felt that Henry James is everywhere (not to mention his brother William - I had a class in college that met in the building named for him).   My first book is The Summer Before the War (2016), a historical novel by Helen Simonson set before WWI that I liked so much I persuaded my book group to read it.  The story includes a character based on Henry James although it took my mother to point this out to me.   A few years ago she and I visited Rye together, where the book is set and where James spent his last years.   In fact, he wrote The Turn of the Screw while living in Rye. 

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Void Moon by Michael Connelly

Title: Void Moon
Author: Michael Connelly
Publication: Hachette Audiobooks, 2009 (originally published 1999)
Genre: Suspense

Description: Cassie Black is a beautiful woman selling luxury cars in Los Angeles but she has many secrets.  One is that she recently finished serving six years in prison for manslaughter.   Another is the identity of the child she watches from afar when she is not working.   Cassie was planning to go straight but when she needs a large sum of money she ignores the warnings from her well-intentioned parole officer and approaches her old friend Leo for a gig.  Unfortunately, the only heist he has available involves returning to the Cleopatra casino in Las Vegas, where everything went so fatally wrong for her before.  What really happened that night is another secret.  Cassie’s instinct is to say no but she needs the money urgently, although Leo’s warning about the Void Moon both exasperates and unnerves her . . . 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

White River Burning by John Verdon, ripped from today's headlines

Title: White River Burning, John Gurney #6
Author: John Verdon
Publication: Counterpoint, hardcover, 2018
Genre: Suspense
Setting: New York State
Description: Dave Gurney, a retired NYC detective, and his wife Madeleine moved to upstate New York to lead a simpler, safer life in a comfortable farmhouse.  Madeleine loves walks in the country, volunteering at a women’s center, and having an entire room for her crafts.  Dave, however, is at loose ends without a complex case and has previously been drawn into local investigations that have become very dangerous, causing conflict in their marriage.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - September 26

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books.

This is an American History shelf that features some admired authors.  On the left are several books by David McCullough.   My parents heard him speak at Roxbury Latin and asked him to autograph John Adams (2001) for me.  I remember my friend Duncan read Truman (1992) aloud to his newborn when it first came out and that baby just got engaged!  I listened to the audio of Mornings on Horseback (1981)(about Theodore Roosevelt) as I drove to Quebec a year ago.   I also really liked The Wright Brothers (2015) but do not own that one.   Next is Down with the Old Canoe, A Cultural History of the Titanic Disaster (1996) by Steven Biel.  I have a separate section for books about the Titanic so this book is in the wrong place!  I think I got it mixed up with Tippecanoe and Tyler too, the 1840 campaign song my father told me about long ago. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Why is everyone getting jilted at the altar?

Sometimes I put books on reserve at my two different library systems to see which will produce the book I want first, so when I saw a book with “Best Man” in the title had arrived for me at both libraries I thought erroneously it must be the same book.   It’s a funny coincidence they arrived the same day with identical jilted tropes!  It is odd how certain themes become popular at the same time!  There are multiple books with either the same title as these books or practically the same; I just happened to read these two.

The Best Man Plan by Jaci Burton (2020) 

Two days before her wedding, Erin Bellini is jilted by email.  Holding her head high, she insists on carrying on with the wedding reception at the family vineyard and decides she’ll console herself with the best man, her oldest and very attractive friend Jason, who was supposed to be the best man.   Jason is too ethical to take advantage of Erin when she’s had too much to drink, plus he doesn’t want to be a revenge fling, he wants her to care about him, not her inconsiderate ex Owen.  On paper, this book sounded as if it would be a lot of fun but it was very ordinary and repetitive.   Also, Erin seemed very immature: she recovered too quickly from being rejected right before her wedding day, she impulsively adopted a puppy and then ignored it.  I also felt the explanation for Owen’s decision not to go through with the wedding didn’t make much sense, and Jason was so appealing that no one would ever have preferred Owen in the first place!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - September 19

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 

This is a very random shelf with six suspense novels by Helen MacInnes, eight novels of varying genre by Catherine Gaskin, seven historical novels by Valerie Anand and, finally, two by W.E.B. Griffin, hidden behind the Fred Lynn bobblehead.  Old W.E.B. (and his son, now writing the books) has other shelves and deserves his own post another time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

My First Reader's Report

When I took the Radcliffe Publishing Course a number of years ago, one of our assignments was to read a manuscript and write a Reader’s Report, just as Editorial Assistants do.  We had to submit the report before the course began.  Unfortunately, I did not like the book (although  I was intrigued that it was set in Peekskill, NY where my mother had lived as a child) and was baffled by the denouement. There was a pivotal scene near the end so I shrugged and wrote something like, “This story could only end in unequivocal death . . .”

Weeks later, we were very excited to have a real editor come from New York to talk to us about the manuscript.  She mingled with us at lunch and seemed very elegant and knowledgeable.   Later we sat outside, clustered around her attentively, and she read the first sentence aloud with great pleasure:

On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by ghosts of the past.

She waited for us to tell us how brilliant it was but, having read and analyzed it, we were sure she had provided a manuscript from the slush pile to trick us and the intervening weeks had not convinced us otherwise.   I think my classmates piled on the criticism while this pleasant woman grew more and more annoyed with us.   Finally, Lindy Hess, the beloved director of the program turned to me, perhaps hoping I would smooth the waters.  “What did you think?” she asked.   Nervously, I said, “Well, the ending was abrupt but I felt that the violent death was . . . inevitable.”

The editor stared at me, both annoyed and puzzled, and said there was no violent death at the end of the book.  Someone else said, "Yes, there was!"  Then she lost it and told us this book was written by a very talented author and we were all lacking in good taste.  We hung our heads.  It turned out her assistant had sent us an incomplete manuscript: there was a whole missing section/conclusion in which the character in question made a speedy recovery!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Five Things

One of my favorite mystery authors is Julia Spencer-Fleming, who writes about an Episcopalian minister/former helicopter pilot in small-town Millers Kill, NY.  My mother and I met her a couple years ago at a Brookline Library event, which was really fun.   Spencer-Fleming is doing a virtual Mystery Night event on Wednesday, 9/16 at the Maynard Library with Paula Munier (whose books I recently discovered but which made my Best of 2019 List), also Archer Mayor, and Sarah Stewart TaylorYou can register here.  

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - September 12

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which was created by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness and is currently hosted by Katrina at Pining for the West.   The idea is to share one of your neglected bookshelves or perhaps a new pile of books. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Publication: Dial/Penguin, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Fiction/Middle School
Plot: Delicious Roberts, known as Della, is a feisty but vulnerable fourth grader whose mother is incarcerated, but has always had her older sister Suki to take care of her.  Yet she is used to being self-reliant, and she’s had to be because the adults in her world don’t understand what she is dealing with. Her teacher assigns family trees although she must know Della is in foster care and doesn’t have the type of family situation that is remotely sharable.  She and Suki lost everything they owned when they ran away from their mother’s former boyfriend and he burned all their belongings.  Now Suki, who has always been Della’s rock, is acting erratically and the girls have started squabbling for the first time.  When Suki tries to commit suicide, it is up to Della to take control and help her sister get help.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation - From The Proud Way to Little Women

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place as other readers, add six books, and see where one ends up.   This month’s starting point is Rodham: A Novel by Curtis Sittenfeld, in which the author reimagines Hillary’s life if she hadn’t married Bill.  My sisters liked her book Prep but I have no interest in reading this book which sounds so invasive. Leave Hillary alone!

However, it somehow reminded me of my first book, The Proud Way by Shirley Seifert (1948), a historical novel about Varina Davis, the First Lady of the Confederacy, married to Jefferson Davis.  Varina came from a slave-owning family in Mississippi but received a better education than most women of her class and, perhaps influenced by Northern relatives, did not approve of slavery.  Her birthplace, The Briers, is now a B&B, if I ever make it to Natchez.  This book belonged to my mother.