Friday, December 31, 2021

Favorite Reads of 2021 - A Baker's Dozen

Fiction

The Proper Place by O. Douglas (1926): After Sir Walter dies, his family is forced to sell the family estate and move to a modest home in Fife.  Nicole adapts to her new life with maturity and grace while her cousin Barbara is unwilling to accept their change in circumstances.  This was my first five-star book of the year!   My review.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

The Christmas Party by Karen Swan

Title: The Christmas Party
Author: Karen Swan
Publication: Pan Books, paperback, 2019
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Setting: Present-day Ireland
Description: When their father dies unexpectedly, sisters Ottilie (Ottie), Philippa (Pip), and Wilhelmina (Willow) are devastated, and the way he left the estate causes even more angst.

Monday, December 27, 2021

My Year in Books – 2021

These memes were popular last year so I am recycling one I liked. Links go to my reviews.

Rules: Using only books you have read during the year (2021), answer these questions. Try not to repeat a book title. Let me know, below, if you did a version of this too.

Describe yourself:

How do you feelYours Cheerfully or Do Not Disturb, depending on my mood

Describe where you currently live: A Place to Hang the Moon

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Living with a Dead Language by Ann Patty

Title: Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin
Author: Ann Patty
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2016
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Setting: Upstate New York
Description: When editor Ann Patty retired from Manhattan’s publishing world to her weekend retreat in Rhinebeck, NY, she was unexpectedly bored and afraid her mind would atrophy through lack of intellectual stimulation.

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

WWW Wednesday – December 22

WWW Wednesday is hosted 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?


Currently reading: The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman, about a meteorologist who loses her job and has to take the only news station that will hire her – in her hometown in Northern Michigan, which she has avoided for years.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke, a delightful romantic comedy

Title: Star-Crossed
Author: Minnie Darke
Publication: Crown, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Present-day Australia
Description: When Justine, an aspiring journalist at the Alexandria Park Star, a quirky magazine, runs into her childhood friend Nick, trying to get his break as an actor, she is as smitten as she was at their last encounter as teens but is now more creative.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

The Lost Girls by Jessica Chiarella

Title: The Lost Girls
Author: Jessica Chiarella
Publication: Putnam, trade paperback, 2021
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Chicago
Description: Marti Reese has never recovered from her sister’s disappearance – how could she when, at eight years old, she was the only witness to Maggie’s getting into a car with a man Marti did not know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

The Beatryce Prophecy by Kate DiCamillo

Title: The Beatryce Prophecy
Author: Kate DiCamillo
Illustrator: Sophie Blackall
Publication: Candlewick Press, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Middle-grade fantasy
Description: Brother Edik belongs to the Order of the Chronicles of Sorrowing and, although a timid fellow, he has the gift of prophecy and has predicted that a king will be deposed by a girl.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Fauci, Expect the Unexpected (Life Lessons from the Great Doctor)

Title: Fauci, Expect the Unexpected
Subtitle: Ten Lessons on Truth, Service, and the Way Forward
Publication: National Geographic, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Nonfiction/Inspirational
Description: Based on interviews from a National Geographic documentary, this book from world-renowned infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci shares the lessons that have shaped his life philosophy, offering a close-up view of one of the world’s greatest medical minds as well as universal advice to live by.

Friday, December 10, 2021

November 2021 Reads

November was a great month of reading. I especially enjoyed A Single Thread, set between the wars in England; The Secret River, a historical novel about a convict rebuilding his life in Australia; State of Terror, a thriller by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny; and my reread of The Parfit Knight by Stella Riley, a regency with a blind heroine.  Also, amazingly, this is my 1000th blog post!

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Title: The Matzah Ball
Author: Jean Meltzer
Publication: Mira, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Holiday fiction
Setting: Present-day New York
Description: Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt has always been aware that people expect perfection from a prominent rabbi’s daughter but her life fell apart in college when she was diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and she has felt imperfect since.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation – from Ethan Frome to March

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (1911), which involves a love triangle and a fateful sledding accident.

First Degree
A sledding accident with a less tragic outcome begins Louisa May Alcott’s Jack and Jill (1880); you may recall I secured my own copy in June.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

WWW Wednesday – December 1

WWW Wednesday is hosted 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?
Right now, I am reading And She Was by Alison Gaylin, suspense fiction about a woman haunted by the abduction of her sister when they were both children.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Anthem by Deborah Wiles, a novel about 1969

Title: Anthem
Author: Deborah Wiles
Publication: Scholastic, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Setting: United States, 1969
Description: Fourteen-year-old Molly knows that her family has been broken since her older brother Barry left home because he doesn’t want to go to war in Vietnam. Her father believes it is his duty but her mother fears for his safety.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

The Secret River by Kate Grenville, for Australia Reading Month

Title: The Secret River
Author: Kate Grenville
Publication: Blackstone Audio, 2005
Narrator: Simon Vance
Genre: Historical fiction
Setting: 19th century Australia
Description: William Thornhill, his wife Sal, and son Willie are transported to New South Wales in 1806 – a more merciful option than hanging him for theft but still a dramatic and terrifying change from the destitute but familiar life they knew in London.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Outrageous Fortune: A Golden Age Mystery by Patricia Wentworth

Title: Outrageous Fortune
Author: Patricia Wentworth
Publication: Warner, paperback, 1990 (originally published in 1933)
Genre: Mystery
Setting: 20th century England
Description: The Van Berg emeralds have been stolen and Elmer Van Berg shot and left for dead.  A man is unconscious in the hospital muttering about Jimmy Riddell or Randal and green beads, and the hospital helpfully advertises for his family on the radio as Twitter will not created until 2006.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

How to Be Brave, a modern school story by Daisy May Johnson

Title: How to Be Brave
Author: Daisy May Johnson
Publication: Henry Holt & Co., hardcover, 2021
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Setting: 21st century England
Description: Elizabeth North survived the loss of her parents with the help of the Good Sisters at her boarding school and an obsessive interest in ducks.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

A Single Thread by Tracy Chevalier, one of my favorite books of 2021

Title: A Single Thread
Author: Tracy Chevalier
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Historical fiction
Setting: 20th century England
Description: Violet Speedwell is part of the generation of British women who lost fiancés, husbands, and brothers in World War I.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

WWW Wednesday – November 10

WWW Wednesday is hosted 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 Secret River by Kate Grenville (2006), a historical novel set in the early 19th century about an Englishman transported to New South Wales with his family.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Anna and Her Daughters, a story about sisters by D.E. Stevenson

Title: Anna and Her Daughters
Author: D.E. Stevenson
Publication: Ulverscroft hardcover, originally published 1958
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century London and Scotland
Description: When Anna’s husband dies unexpectedly, leaving very little money, she decides to retrench by moving to a cottage in rural Scotland with her three daughters.

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation – from What Are You Going Through to Dune Drive

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through.

I am unfamiliar with Nunez's work but I know another Sigrid, so my first degree is the epic historical novel Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset, set in 14th century Norway and written in 1920.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

October 2021 Reads

Another varied month of reading.  My favorites were Other People's Children, The Night Fire,  and Anthem (no, not Ayn Rand, be serious). Have you read any of these?
Fiction

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (2021) – Klara’s destiny is to accompany a needy teen home as a companion and she is hand-picked by Josie and her mother because of her unusual empathy. This was a Book Group choice that started out well but turned out to be only so so. My mini-review.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Before She Disappeared, a new series by Lisa Gardner

Title: Before She Disappeared
Author: Lisa Gardner
Publication: Brilliance Audio, 2021
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Present-day Boston
Description: In this series launch by a New York Times bestselling author and winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award, Frankie has an unusual profession: she searches for missing people, cold cases on which the police have given up.

Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Love-Child by Edith Olivier

Title: The Love-Child
Author: Edith Olivier
Publication: The Richards Press, hardcover, 1927
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century England
Description: Lonely after her mother dies, Agatha recognizes she wasn’t much happier when her mother was alive and thinks back, remembering the childhood fun she had with an imaginary friend, Clarissa, until her governess shamed her out of harmless fancies.

Friday, October 29, 2021

Green Emeralds for the King: A Civil War Story by Constance Savery

Title: Emeralds for the King (American title)
Author: Constance Savery
Illustrator: Victor Dowling
Publication: Longmans, Green & Co., hardcover, 1945
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Setting: 17th century England
Description: Austin “Tosty” Farringdon, barely 13, is woken one night and told he can serve his king by finding lost treasure at his deceased father’s home, Yanburgh Manor.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats and Tell Me Another Story

Do you remember the first time someone read The Snowy Day to you? You probably recall the cover, particularly. I think my mother and I checked it out of the Brighton branch of the Boston Public Library before I could read but I also remember it from school. For those who don’t know, author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats changed children’s books in 1962 by writing this picture book about an African American child and putting him unmistakably on the cover. The book beautifully captures a small child’s joy playing in the snow and the imagination that makes it fun.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham

Title: A Flicker in the Dark
Author: Stacy Willingham
Publication: Minotaur, hardcover, January 2022
Genre: Suspense
Setting: 21st century Louisiana
Description: Chloe rebuilt her life after the terrible time twenty years ago when her father was revealed to be a serial killer, which destroyed her family and caused her mother to fall apart.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Home to Roost by Andrew Garve #1976Club

Title: Home to Roost
Author: Andrew Garve
Publication: Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., hardcover, 1976
Genre: Mystery
Setting: 20th century England
Description: This is an understated mystery narrated by Walter Haines, who surprises himself by becoming a bestselling author.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

YA Fiction for the #1976Club

I found two unread YA novels for the 1976 Club, hosted by StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings.
Mystery of the Emerald Buddha by Betty Cavanna (1976)
Cavanna’s writing career extended from 1943-1987 and although she is best known for her teen romance/coming of age fiction (sometimes called malt shop books), she wrote several mysteries under this name and more as Betsy Allen. She lived in nearby Concord, Massachusetts with her second husband but I was amazed to read in her obituary that she spent her last years in Vézelay, France, from which I just returned!

Thursday, October 14, 2021

A String in the Harp by Nancy Bond #1976Club

Title: A String in the Harp
Author: Nancy Bond
Publication: Atheneum, hardcover, 1976
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Setting: Wales
This review is for the #1976Club, hosted by StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, in which bloggers are invited to read and review books that were published in a chosen year.

Description: Fifteen-year-old Jen Morgan lost her mother nearly a year ago and her family has not recovered. In the fall, her father brought her younger siblings, Peter and Becky, with him from Western Massachusetts to Wales where he will teach for a year at the University of Aberystwyth, hoping the change of scene will help everyone cope.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

A Stranger in the Mirror by Sidney Sheldon – a #1976Club mistake

Title: A Stranger in the Mirror
Author: Sidney Sheldon
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 1976
Genre: Fiction
Description: Sheldon creates a collision course between two externally attractive and internally vile people whose yearning for acclaim and revenge takes them to Hollywood and the tragic price they pay for their ambition.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Power of Three by Diana Wynne Jones #1976Club

Title: Power of Three
Author: Diana Wynne Jones (1934-2011)
Publication: Greenwillow, hardcover, 2003 (originally published in 1976)
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
This review is for the #1976Club, hosted by StuckinaBook and Kaggsy’s Bookish Ramblings, in which bloggers are invited to read and review books that were published that year.

Description: A generation ago, Adara’s brother killed a defenseless Dorig for his intricate gold collar, unleashing a terrible curse.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

September 2021 Reads

I got a lot of reading done in September considering I was away for more than two weeks. This may be why my suitcase hasn’t made it back up the attic and the lawn needs to be mowed!

Fiction

Royal Summons by Elizabeth Cadell – American Ellen Berg travels to her mother’s childhood home in England where she has to come to terms with the imperious aunt who drove her mother away.

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Yours Cheerfully, a sequel to Dear Mrs. Bird

Title: Yours Cheerfully
Author: AJ Pearce
Publication: Scribner, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Historical fiction
Setting: WWII London
Description: Yours Cheerfully begins where Dear Mrs. Bird left off, with the staff of Women’s Friend reorganizing after the departure of Henrietta Bird, who clashed with our heroine, Emmy Lake.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

WWW Wednesday – October 6

WWW Wednesday is hosted by Taking on a World of Words.  She has a brand new baby so I cannot imagine how she finds time to read and blog!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?
I just started Anthem by Deborah Wiles, a YA novel set during the Vietnam War which I am reading for the de Grummond Book Group.  The heroine is searching for her missing brother whose draft card just arrived.

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave - a stepmother in jeopardy

Title: The Last Thing He Told Me
Author: Laura Dave
Publication: Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Fiction/Suspense
Setting: Present-day California and Texas
Description: Owen is gone. Hannah Hall, an artist who uses wood as her medium, met him a year earlier when the owner of the tech firm he works at bought some of her work.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation — from The Lottery to Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution

It’s time for #6degrees, inspired by Kate at Books Are My Favourite and Best. We all start at the same place, add six books, and see where we end up. This month’s starting point is a well-known short story called The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, which I read in July for a discussion with several lawyers and the judge for whom we clerked.

Friday, October 1, 2021

France 2021, Day 14, Paris

Early breakfast included delicious French toast, a chocolate croissant, fruit, and English Breakfast tea.  To our surprise, Earl Grey is considered the tea of choice in France, so we were happy that on the Buri it was easy to get our preferred flavor.  What a shame to leave and return to an empty refrigerator!
Last glimpse of Lyon at night with the Basilica lit up in the distance
Our taxi was not only early but also came all the way down near the gangplank, instead of waiting up by the street. It was lightly raining as we drove to the Lyon Part Dieu train station.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

WWW Wednesday – September 29

WWW Wednesday is hosted 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?

There are several books I have been in the middle of for years. If they were really riveting, I probably would not have put them down half-read.  But in Luvvy and the Girls, I read that not completing a book is a sign of weak character.  This belief conflicts with an occasional "life is too short" mantra so I finish most books unless they are dreadful.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

France 2021, Day 13, Lyon and Château de Fléchères

I think most of the passengers were doing a winery tour this morning but we wanted to stroll around Lyon and I wanted to do some shopping. We had driven past one of the main shopping areas previously and it was a pleasant walk along the Rhône and then over the Pont de la Guillotière to what is called La Presqu’ile, between the Rhône and Saône rivers.
Château de Fléchères

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Down Under, a mystery by Patricia Wentworth

Title: Down Under (Benbow Smith #4)
Author: Patricia Wentworth
Publication: Aeonian Press, hardcover, 1976 (originally published in 1937; now available from Dean Street Press)
Genre: Mystery
Setting: England, 1930s
Description: Rose Anne Carew's disappearance the day before her wedding causes a huge scandal. The police assume she ran away with another man, although Rose Anne and her fiancé, Oliver Loddon, had seemed to be a happy young couple.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

France 2021, Day 12, Lyon and Perouges

We woke up in Lyon, anchored next to a fitness park where locals come to exercise by the river. The city seemed bright and sparkling. I finally tried a made-to-order omelet for breakfast but much prefer the French toast.  Of course, having breakfast prepared for me every day is bliss. Cruising is the life!
Basilica of Notre-Dame, Lyon
We set off on a tour of panoramic Lyon with guide Celine and the gray morning turned into a lovely day.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

France 2021, Day 11, Tournon and Vienne

On Thursday, we began with a short walking tour of Tournon-sur-Rhône, a town on the right bank of the river. You ask which is right and which is wrong – it is based on the direction the river is flowing, but having spent 17 years living in New York I know that the Hudson flows in two directions, so one can only hope that the Rhône is less contrary. It seemed like a pretty town with a castle that had been turned into a museum, an annual onion festival, and one of the oldest lycées in the country. Our guide Solène told a story about Francis I’s grandson being mysteriously poisoned while staying at the castle in Tournon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

France 2021, Day 10, Viviers

On Wednesday, we walked from our ship, the Buri, down a beautiful tree-lined street to Viviers, a medieval walled town located in the Ardèche region of Provence. The town and its majestic cathedral basically perch on a large rock elevation overlooking the Rhone. The ascent was very steep and it was raining on and off – just enough to make you open your umbrella and then decide to close it five minutes later. I struggled on the cobblestone streets, which lead up to the top, and was sure someone would slip – possibly our guide Josette. I could hear her gasping for breath through the audio boxes we wore around our necks. Like many of our guides, she had suffered financially during the pandemic when tourism disappeared. She told us she had not spoken English in the last 18 months and apologized if she sounded rusty.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

France 2021, Day 9, Avignon

The whole affair began so very quietly.  When I wrote, that summer, and asked my friend Louise if she would come with me on a car trip to Provence, I had no idea that I might be issuing an invitation to danger.  And when we arrived one afternoon, after a hot but leisurely journey, at the enchanting little walled city of Avignon, we felt in that mood of pleasant weariness mingled with anticipation which marks, I believe, the beginning of every normal holiday. . . . 

Sur le Pont d'Avignon

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Eden Falls by Jane Sanderson

Title: Eden Falls
Author: Jane Sanderson
Publication: Sphere Books/Little Brown UK, trade paperback, 2013
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 1909 England and Jamaica
Description: Third in a trilogy, this book follows several families that became connected near the Yorkshire town of Netherwood.

Friday, September 17, 2021

France 2021, Day 8, Arles

An early start with chocolate croissants (and chatting with a nice couple from Nashville) before we boarded a bus for Arles. Our tour guide was a cheerful British woman named Shawn who has lived in Nimes for many years and was pleased to hear we had enjoyed our visit. She told us there were three important aspects to Arles: its Roman history, its connection with Vincent Van Gogh, and its recent development as a major modern art hub.
Inside the Arena at Arles

Thursday, September 16, 2021

France 2021, Day 7, to Avignon and the Buri

On Sunday morning we got up early to visit the Nimes cathedral in which David hides in chapter 5 of Madam, Will You Talk? The Nimes nightlife had gone on late but the narrow streets near the Arena were quiet now and just as we reached the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Castor de Nimes a verger (if they still exist) unlocked it so we were able to go inside. The cathedral is believed to stand on the site of the former temple of Augustus. It is partly Romanesque and partly Gothic in style. St. Castor was a local bishop from Marseilles and Apt (a Provencal town in the Luberon mountains) who started out as a lawyer, proving there's redemption for anyone!
Not the most impressive cathedral from the outside

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

France 2021, Day 6, Nimes (part two)

The afternoon’s trip to Pont du Gard ended well but was nearly a disaster. We found the bus stop described by the tourism official quite easily and bought our train tickets to Avignon for the following day while we were waiting. The bus itself was very hot and full of noisy children but it was only half an hour’s ride. However, when the bus driver said, “Pont du Gard!” and dropped us off, we found ourselves in a town called Remoulins and a trickle of a river that wouldn’t have impressed many Romans (ancient or modern), although there were some families picnicking and wading on this hot Saturday.
My mother is curious about this tree
we keep seeing