Sunday, May 31, 2020

Five Things

To help meet the demand for flour from obsessed home-bound bakers, this 1,000-year-old English flour mill has resumed commercial production for the first time in decades.  Don’t you love their grit (pun intended)?

Friday, May 29, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - May 29, 2020

It's time for more Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.  The idea is to share your bookshelves with friends as a form of armchair travel.
These are from the top shelf of a cabinet where I tend to stick things I want to read but temporarily forget about them.  It also holds my stereo and the coffee maker I keep for guests.  You can see there is no real theme.   It is an eclectic group:

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Before She Was Helen by Caroline B. Cooney - now writing suspense for adults!

Title: Before She Was Helen
Author: Caroline Cooney
Publication: Sourcebooks/Poisoned Pen Press, hardcover, September 2020
Genre: Mystery
Plot: When Clemmie goes next door to check on the wellbeing of her difficult neighbor Dom, he isn’t there.  But something else is.  Something unexpectedly stunning and beautiful.  Clemmie snaps a picture on her cell phone and makes the terrible mistake of forwarding it.  As the picture goes viral, Clemmie tries desperately to keep a grip on her own personal network of secrets.  Can fifty years of carefully hiding under names not her own be ruined by one impulsive text?

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Betsy-Tacy Go Downtown, Chapters 3 - 5

Chapter 3 and 4     Winona’s Tickets, More About Winona's Tickets

When Betsy, Tacy and Tib finish bragging about Tib’s adventure, they begin to plot to persuade Winona to invite them to the show.  They consider a bribe but then Tacy has a better idea – they should hypnotize her!

“Take us to Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Take us.  Take us.  Take us,” they intone silently from all directions during the school day.  Winona is slightly unnerved by their glassy stares and their teacher.   The trio’s teacher scolds them for not facing front and doesn’t understand why Tib won’t describe her exciting horseless carriage experience but Tib realized that might hurt their cause with Winona.  In fact, Winona says loudly that she won’t take people who stare at her! The girls drop that plan but hypnosis continues to appeal to certain Betsy-Tacy fans in the Pacific Northwest when needed.
Betsy is yearning for Uncle Tom’s Cabin but nobly she does not ask her father to get her a ticket because she knows that wouldn’t help Tacy.   Her longing was a little like what she felt when she saw rows and rows of books in other people’s bookcases (she had read all the books in the bookcase at home).  Kindred meet spirit!  Not that I will ever finish all the books at my home!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown, Chapters 1 and 2

Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown by Maud Hart Lovelace is the fourth Betsy-Tacy book, set in 1904-05 and published in 1943.  The girls are now 12 years old and in the seventh grade. 

It is time for Betsy, Tacy and Tib’s world to be expanded in another direction.  The trio is now 12.  When Downtown opens, Betsy is in her beloved maple tree from which she can see the town of Deep Valley, Minnesota.   She sees four places that MHL knows will be important to her (and to us!), “the Opera House, the Melborn Hotel, the skeleton of the new Carnegie Library, and the high school that her sister Julia and Tacy’s sister Katie attended.”  She is aware of a world unexplored.  
Betsy has one of the notebooks from her father’s shoe store and is working on a dramatic-sounding story, The Repentance of Lady Clinton by Betsy Warrington Ray.*   Even before Tacy appears to reveal that her father found their borrowed copy of Lady Audley’s Secret and threw it in the fire.

“He said it was trash.”
“Trash!” cried Betsy.  “I’m trying to write books just like it.”

Friday, May 22, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - May 22, 2020

It's time for more Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

The idea is to share your bookshelves. Any aspect you like, as long as you are entertained, including:
1. Home
2. Books in the home
3. Touring books in the home
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.
This is not a shelf but a pile of advance readings copies (ARCs) I brought home from the ALA Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia back in February.  There are few things as much fun as picking up books that have not yet been published but I had to carry everything back on the bus so I was fairly restrained. I still filled three bags and shared some with my sixth-grade niece, an excellent reader.  In no particular order:

Above All Else by Dana Alison Levy – YA fiction about teens climbing Mt. Everest

Monday, May 18, 2020

What to Read During a Pandemic

While some people are compiling recommendations of dystopian angst or Stephen King-like disaster, my rules are different. The book can’t be depressing (of course, depressing is in the eye of the beholder), it has to be worth reading more than once, and it needs to be available as an eBook or from Project Gutenberg.  It would be diabolical to make you long for something you cannot get quickly and I am rarely so cruel!  Also, remember that your library owns many eBooks and may be willing to purchase more.  Download Libby, if you haven't already!


Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson: The unexpected friendship between a crusty, retired military officer and Mrs. Jasmina Ali, the Pakistani shopkeeper from the village.
The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman: Natalie’s family is stunned when the Vermont resort they want to visit answers their inquiry, “Our guests who feel most comfortable here, and return year after year, are Gentiles."  She is determined to go anyway and it becomes a mission.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - May 16, 2020

Time for another round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is being hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.  It's an opportunity to look at your bookshelves and rediscover titles you read or plan to read. This shelf in my guest room caught my eye as I was, of course, looking for something completely different last night - a book about a WWII evacuee, in fact, as one does from time to time.  

Looking at this shelf brings back my childhood and my favorite library, where I found most of Madye (pronounced MAY-dee) Lee Chastain’s books.  Chastain (1908-1989) was a children’s author and illustrator,  and I am a huge fan of the 12 middle-grade novels she wrote.  Seven are historicals and five have contemporary settings.   My favorite is Emmy Keeps a Promise, the second book in a trilogy, and apparently the only one of her books Harcourt published in hardcover and paperback.  It is a warm and affectionate story of sisters Arabel and Emmy Thatcher trying to make their fortunes in 1850s New York.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Kiss Me Again, Stranger by Daphne du Maurier #DDMreadingweek

Title: Kiss Me Again, Stranger
Author: Daphne du Maurier
Publication:  Pocket, paperback, 1970 (originally published 1953)
Genre: Short Story Collection
My Impressions: I picked up this lurid-looking book quickly at a library book sale right before the Lockdown, in anticipation of Daphne du Maurier Reading Weeka celebration of the life and work of Daphne du Maurier, organized by Heaven-Ali.   I thought it must be a lesser-known title like her dystopian novel, Rule Britannia, which I always forget.   Imagine my surprise when I examined it last night and saw it was “a Collection of Eight Stories, Long and Short,” including the short story that spawned a million nightmares, The Birds.  I now realize her short stories been published under different titles.  As most of my reading takes place late at night, I wasn’t sure reading The Birds was really in my best interest so I started by reading around it and enjoyed the other stories.  

Monday, May 11, 2020

Myself When Young by Daphne du Maurier #DDMreadingweek

Title: Myself When Young: The Shaping of a Writer
Author:  Daphne du Maurier
Publication:  Arrow Books, paperback, 1993 (originally published in 1977)
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Occasion: Daphne du Maurier Reading Week
Plot: You probably know her as the author of Rebecca but du Maurier (1907 – 1989) wrote several other bestselling books that are equally memorable.  She came from a talented artistic family.  Her father was a famous actor, Sir Gerald du Maurier and her mother, Muriel Beaumont, an actress who met him in a play. Her grandfather was a well-known cartoonist for Punch, a popular humor magazine, and writer, French-born George du Maurier. He is best known for creating the character Svengali that became a catch-phrase for a coercive influence on someone.  Daphne was educated primarily at home before being “finished” in France, in the kind of family that summoned the children to say hello to guests briefly before sending them to the nursery with Nanny. Although not part of the nobility, the du Mauriers clearly mixed with all the right people due to Sir Gerald’s prominence.  Her upbringing seems fairly typical for an upper-middle-class British family but the drive and passion that developed in this shy young woman was all Daphne’s own.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling - May 8, 2020

It's time for a round of Bookshelf Traveling in Insane Times which is hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness.

The idea is to share your bookshelves. Any aspect you like, as long as you are entertained, including:
1. Home.
2. Books in the home.
3. Touring books in the home.
4. Books organized or not organized on shelves, in bookcases, in stacks, or heaped in a helter-skelter fashion on any surface, including the floor, the top of the piano, etc.
5. Talking about books and reading experiences from the past, present, or future.
I chose a shelf in my living room that is pretty much devoted to historical fiction, featuring one of my all-time favorite books, Wintercombe by Pamela Belle.  Set during the English Civil War in the 17th century, this is the story of Silence, Lady St. Barbe, and her family, Puritans besieged by Cavaliers (I am for King and Country myself but these particular Cavaliers are not very appealing, with one obvious exception).  When Charles I’s debauched soldiers insist on moving into the estate, with no regard for the family, they bring chaos to Silence’s well-managed home and one of them breaches her heart.  Silence is a wonderful heroine: brave, capable, kind, and possessing a sense of humor she needs to keep hidden.  The book is full of memorable characters, many of whom appear later in the series.   I am happy to report it’s available as an eBook and a careful reader could make it last until her state reopens, depending on where she lives and how fast she reads!  It seems to be on sale.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Six Degrees of Separation: From The Road to 84 Charing Cross Road

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 The Road by Cormac McCarthy: “his most harrowing yet deeply personal work. Some unnamed catastrophe has scourged the world to a burnt-out cinder, inhabited by the last remnants of mankind and a very few surviving dogs and fungi” (author website).   I have read at least one book by McCarthy but this sounded way too much like real life!

My first book involves more cheerful roads: The Road to Oz by L. Frank Baum (1909).  In this fifth Oz book, Dorothy and Toto (back in Kansas) meet the Shaggy Man, who asks them to point out the road to Butterfield.  When the road splits into seven different paths, they take the seventh and have various adventures before arriving in Oz.  Of course, nowadays Aunt Em would be very concerned about Dorothy talking to a stranger who looks like a tramp, let alone heading off into the sunset with him!  My great-grandfather read the first fourteen Oz books to his children and I believe our copy of this book was the first edition. 

Friday, May 1, 2020

Simon the Fiddler by Paulette Jiles, author of News of the World

Publication:  William Morrow, hardcover, April 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: In March 1865, the long and bitter War between the States is winding down. Until now, twenty-three-year-old Simon Boudlin has evaded military duty thanks to his slight stature, youthful appearance, and utter lack of compunction about bending the truth. But following a barroom brawl in Victoria, Texas, Simon finds himself conscripted, however belatedly, into the Confederate Army. Luckily his talent with a fiddle gets him a comparatively easy position in a regimental band.

Weeks later, on the eve of the Confederate surrender, Simon and his bandmates are called to play for officers and their families from both sides of the conflict. There the quick-thinking, audacious fiddler can’t help but notice the lovely Doris Mary Dillon, an indentured girl from Ireland, who is governess to a Union colonel’s daughter.
After this brief meeting, Simon and Doris go their separate ways. He moves around Texas seeking fame and fortune as a musician. She must accompany the colonel’s family to finish her three years of service. But Simon cannot forget the attractive Irish young woman and vows that someday he will find her again.

My Impressions: Historical fiction is my favorite genre and because this Civil War/post-Civil War setting is a time frame I rarely read, it was new and interesting to me.   Simon is an angry young man – aware of his temper and trying to control it – yet he is surprisingly capable of friendship.  Most of the book is about the cast of characters he attracts to form a ragtag band and how they scrape together what passes for a living in rural Texas.  But running like a ribbon through the story is a fateful encounter he has with a young woman who came from Ireland as an indentured servant.  Simon falls for her without really knowing her; he has had a lonely life and yearns for a marriage and a settled home: 
His first problem was to find a girl who would fall in love with him despite his diminutive stature and his present homelessness.  The right girl.  He had not been a celibate; nobody growing up in the river-port town of Paducah, Kentucky, on the Ohio or playing saloons in Texas could lay claim to a life of sinless perfection, so perhaps he had no right to make demands, but the girls he had met and courted, briefly, had no comprehension of 9/8 time.  They regarded him as a poor choice given his occupation as a traveling musician – always disreputable – and his stubborn, relentless dedication to his fiddle.
Although the book is not a romance in the usual sense of the word, if you consider an alternative definition, “a quality or feeling of mystery, excitement, and remoteness from everyday life,” it captures the pleasure Dora takes in the prosaic aspects of her new country. Simon finds her enthusiasm very appealing as they begin an unusual correspondence and he consumes her letters:
He read this over several times.  She was not a creature of displays and stratagems, the natural world delighted her! She was not avid for social events and the endless striving of towns!  He came to this conclusion on the strength of that one sentence.  He scattered mental exclamation marks throughout his own thoughts.
I find it comforting that they are entranced by each other’s letters (and am also amazed that letters actually reach their destinations) as that constitutes a form of acquaintance. While it is extremely plausible that Simon would build her up in his mind and that she, miserable in her position, might find him intriguing, they have little in common.  Somehow the author creates such a sense of connection between this unlikely couple that the reader is shipping them ardently, although Damon, who knows Simon wonders “what woman would be happy with a man whose need for solitude was so great, if Simon was heading for marital disaster.”  We will hope for the best!  Those who read Jiles’ News of the World, which my book group enjoyed in 2017, will remember and appreciate her storytelling, unlikely companions, and what the publisher calls her “trademark spare yet lilting style” and will find it again in this new book.  

News of the World: Simon and Doris made an appearance in that book, which I must admit I had forgotten!   The movie is in post-production and Tom Hanks plays Captain Kidd.

Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. You can visit other stops on the tour and read the reviews by clicking below:

April 15th: Lit and Life
Thursday, April 16th: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Friday, April 17th: A Bookish Affair
Saturday, April 18th: BookNAround
Wednesday, April 22nd: A Bookish Way of Life
April 23rd: Books, Cooks, Looks
April 29th: Books and Bindings
May 4th: Book by Book
May 7th: Jathan & Heather
May 8th: Kahakai Kitchen