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.

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.
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

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

France 2021, Day 6, Nimes (part one)

We were at the Nimes Tourism Office before it opened at 9 am to seek advice about visiting the Pont du Gard, which is between Nimes and Avignon. It is a majestic feat of ancient Roman engineering – an aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water from the Alps to the Roman colony of Nemausus, which became known as Nimes. Nimes is also the birthplace of denim: fabric de Nimes; get it? The tourism expert looked up the bus schedule for us and said told us to go at 1:40 pm and return at 4 pm, marking the bus schedule for us carefully. This sounded like it would work well with our plan to attend Mass at St. Baudile’s at 5:30 (note: if this saint is venerated - or even known - by a large number of Catholics, it is a surprise to me but his animal rights story would appeal to my former professor, Gary Francione).
The Maison Carrée

Monday, September 13, 2021

France 2021, Day 5, on the way to Nimes

I knew Friday would be the most stressful day and I am happy to report that we survived and I only became enraged once or twice. Fortunately, the taxi arrived promptly at the hotel door and we didn’t have to walk a kilometer down the steep hill with our luggage in the rain (my mother was sure our wheeled suitcases would take off with us clinging for dear life – I pointed out this would be one way to arrive quickly). He brought us to Avallon, a town 20 kilometers away on the River Cousin, which some feel could have been the Avalon of King Arthur. There were no knights of the Round Table or anything else at the Gare, which, most unfortunately for us, was closed for renovation.
The Arena in Nimes, which still
hosts bullfights!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

France 2021, Day 4 - Vézelay

My mother had set her heart on visiting Vézelay Abbey, a Benedictine and Cluniac monastery in Vézelay, a remote part of Burgundy. It was built in the 12th century and is now known as the 
Basilica of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine (Mary Magdalene) (if I had time I would explain to you that she was not a prostitute, as many have implied - that is all spiteful legend, probably started by Apostles who didn't want their all-boy fan club disrupted - but I can’t charge my laptop at this hotel so the so-to-speak clock is ticking). I must have done the search for trains or other transportation 50 times (hoping for different results) and I also emailed the tourist office in Vézelay, which politely told me (in French) their village was lovely but difficult to visit without a car. So not helpful! I was tempted a dozen times to tell my mother we just couldn’t squeeze it into our trip but I finally figured out logistics that would be stressful but might just work if some Good Samaritan would call us a taxi or two. I decided the best time to travel to V
ézelay was between Paris and Provence because after our cruise we will want to take our Covid tests and leave as speedily as possible, even though it is closer to Lyon where our cruise ends. 

Friday, September 10, 2021

France 2021, Day 3

Every day in France should be a chocolate croissant day – and today was! After breakfast, we took advantage of our two-day unlimited Metro pass and headed off to the Musée D’Orsay.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

France 2021, Day 2

France has mandated a Pass Sanitaire (a health pass) to enable access to cultural venues, such as museums, as well as all restaurants and bars, for employees as well as customers (it was smart - now 77% of those eligible are vaccinated). I tried very hard to get these in time for our trip, uploading our documents several times. The requirements kept changing and there were no explanations, only an automatic receipt. Last week I read the government was weeks behind in processing applications and tourists might have to take a Covid test every 72 hours. As there were several cultural destinations planned for our three days in Paris, I decided to test our luck at the Musée D’Orsay, a day in advance of our ticketed visit. The first guard consulted said we could not get in without the Pass but his nicer colleague, when I crept back a few minutes later and waved my vaccine card, said we could just show our documentation. This tracked to online advice I had seen to be polite but persistent, asking for a manager if necessary, and it has worked for us since.  It is startling to be asked by our waiters for our Pass, however, especially when eating outside. but we are glad everyone is taking precautions. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

France 2021, Day 1

After our trip to Paris and Provence was canceled in 2019 and 2020, it was hard to believe it would actually ever happen, but here we are! Despite an inconvenient and lengthy Boston-LaGuardia-JFK connection, we arrived safely in Paris at dawn on Monday and began a long but straightforward trek to Hôtel La Nouvelle République in the 11th arrondissement. It was too early for our room to be ready so we had tea and pain au chocolat in its small restaurant, left our belongings, and returned to the Metro.

Monday, September 6, 2021

August 2021 Reads

Some thoughts on my August reading:

Mystery and Suspense

City of the Lost (Rockton #1) by Kelley Armstrong

A Darkness Absolute (Rockton #2) by Kelley Armstrong

This Fallen Prey (Rockton #3) by Kelley Armstrong – These Rockton books are a seven-book series about Casey Butler, a homicide detective living in an isolated town in the Yukon where people go who don’t want to be found.   I am enjoying them, so long as I don’t have to go live there!  I recommended the first book to my sister around August 5th and she is already on book 5!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation — from Second Place to H is for Hawk

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 Second Place by Rachel Cusk, a new book about an obsession with a famous painter. It is hard to tell where this book it set – the author leaves it vague, although it is inspired by a story that takes place in Taos, New Mexico.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Thursday's Child by Noel Streatfeild – the first of her books I owned and still a favorite

Title: Thursday’s Child
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Illustrator: Peggy Fortnum
Publication: Random House, hardcover, 1970
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Setting: Early 20th century England

Description: Margaret Thursday is no ordinary foundling.  She was left on the church steps in a basket with three of everything, all of the best quality. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Light Over London by Julia Kelly - a dual timeline novel set during WWII

Title: The Light Over London
Author: Julia Kelly
Publication: Gallery Books, trade paperback, 2019
Genre: Historical fiction (mostly)
Setting: WWII and present-day Great Britain
Description: This dual timeline novel begins in 2017 in the Cotswolds as Cara Hargraves, not only newly and painfully divorced but also having recently lost both parents, has taken a job with an antique dealer. As she and her boss assess the estate of an elderly lady, Cara finds a hidden diary from World War II in a dusty armoire.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Title: The Maltese Falcon
Author: Dashiell Hammett
Publication: Hardcover, Knopf, 2000 (originally published in 1930)
Genre: Mystery
Setting: 1920s San Francisco
Description: Sam Spade is a disreputable private eye in San Francisco, known to the police and not much liked.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell - a fantasy on the roofs of Paris

Title: Rooftoppers
Author: Katherine Rundell
Illustrator: Terry Fan
Publication: Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 2013
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Setting: Paris
Description: As a baby, Sophie was found floating in a cello case after a shipwreck in the middle of the English Channel.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Do you ever wonder if your favorite authors knew each other?

I was reading Angela Bull's biography of Noel Streatfeild and was amused to come across this passage:
Not caring for flying, [Noel] preferred to cross the Atlantic in the comfort of a liner.  A glimpse of her on board the Queen Mary came from another writer of ballet stories, Mabel Esther Allan, who happened to see Noel's name on the passenger list, and sent her a note suggesting they should meet for drinks.
Mabel Esther Allan

Friday, August 20, 2021

The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard - setting a trap for a killer

Title: The Nothing Man
Author: Catherine Ryan Howard
Publication: Blackstone Publishing, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Suspense
Setting: 21st century Ireland
Description: When Eve Black was 12, a man broke into her house and killed her parents and little sister. Eve survived only because she was in the bathroom.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

WWW Wednesday – August 18

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 am currently reading Noel Streatfeild: A Biography by Angela Bull, a respected author in her own right. This is for a project I am working on about Streatfeild’s orphans and their ambitions.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild (aka Wintle's Wonders)

Title: Dancing Shoes
Author: Noel Streatfeild
Illustrator: Richard Floethe
Publication: Yearling paperback, 1980 (originally published in 1957)
Genre: Juvenile fiction
Setting: 20th century London
Description: As Rachel and Hilary’s mother is dying, she urges Rachel to make sure talented Hilary continues with her ballet. Once orphaned, the ten-year-olds are given a home by Rachel’s father’s brother Tom and his wife, Cora. Cora runs a theatrical school, Wintle’s Wonders, and does not initially plan to give a home to Hilary, "only" an adopted niece, until she sees Hilary dance and recognizes she has potential – although she does not think Hilary is as gifted as her own daughter, Dulcie, destined for stardom.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Sun in the Morning by Elizabeth Cadell - a novel based on her youth in India

Title: Sun in the Morning
Author: Elizabeth Cadell
Publication: Thorndike Press, large print paperback, 1978 (originally published in 1950)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: India, early 20th century
Description: The narrator and her two older sisters live with their father in one of five houses on Minto Lane in Calcutta, 1913.

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood – and now they have a wicked secret

Title: The Wicked Girls
Author: Alex Marwood
Publication: Sphere, trade paperback, 2012
Genre: Suspense
Setting: 21st century UK
Description: Twenty-five years ago two girls spent a fateful day together and were charged with murder of a third child.

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Midshipman and the Rajah by Marjorie Phillips

Title: The Midshipman and the Rajah
Author: Marjorie Phillips
Illustrator: Gil Walker
Publication: The Bobbs-Merrill Co., hardcover, 1963
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Description: At ten, Tim Kennet was alone in the world after his mother died, working at a local inn for his keep. When his uncle returned from a naval voyage and found Tim there, he made the boy a midshipman on the ship he captains, the Ariadne.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Giver of Stars
Author: Jojo Moyes
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2019
Genre: Historical fiction
Setting: Depression-era Kentucky
Description: Alice Wright never fit in at her proper English home because she has a mind of her own and refuses to be silent, so everyone is relieved when handsome American visitor Bennett Van Cleave sweeps her off her feet and takes her away to Kentucky.

Monday, August 2, 2021

July 2021 Reads

July was full of a variety of books and yet I have barely made a dent in my library books or other TBR piles. How is your summer reading going?

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Haven Point - an interview with author Virginia Hume

Haven Point by Virginia Hume, published by St. Martin's in June, is a debut novel set mostly in an exclusive coastal community in Maine where generations of families have summered together for years, discouraging outsiders.  The story focuses on the Demarests and is brimming with romance, family secrets, and inevitable sorrow, stretching from wartime Washington D.C. to the tumultuous 1970s and concluding in 2008. The book has been getting great reviews and in the midst of her hectic launch, Virginia made time to do this interview with me:

Thursday, July 29, 2021

A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus - another delightful evacuation novel

Title: A Place to Hang the Moon
Author: Kate Albus
Publication: Holiday House, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Juvenile historical fiction
Setting: World War II England
Description: William, Edmund and Anna Pearce will not miss their formidable grandmother but, without her, they realize they are now homeless orphans.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Vanishing Point by Val McDermid

Author: Val McDermid
Publication: Grove Press, paperback, 2013 (originally published 2012)
Genre: Suspense
Description: Stephanie Harker is traveling through O’Hare Airport in Chicago with 5-year-old Jimmy when she is detained at security. During the extended patdown, Jimmy is abducted and Stephanie is tasered by security who misunderstand her agitation.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Fast Girls by Elise Hooper — A Novel of the 1936 Women's Olympic Team

Title: Fast Girls: A Novel of the 1936 Women’s Olympic Team
Author: Elise Hooper
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, 2020
Genre: Historical fiction
Description: In this novel about pioneering women athletes of the early part of the 20th century, the author focuses on three real-life American heroines:

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Love Always by Harriet Evans — family secrets in Cornwall

Title: Love Always
Author: Harriet Evans
Publication: Harper UK, paperback, 2011
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Cornwall and London
Description: The death of Natasha Kapoor’s grandmother, a well-known artist, brings all of her family back to Cornwall to the funeral and reveals tensions that go back to the tragic death of her aunt Cecily as a teen.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz — be careful what you wish for

Title: The Plot
Author: Jean Hanff Korelitz
Publication: Celadon Books/Macmillan, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Present-day United States
Description: Jacob Finch Bonner had always wanted to be a writer, that is to say, a published author, admired by readers. He did manage to produce The Invention of Wonder, which got mentioned in the New & Noteworthy section of The New York Times Book Review and generated some nice reviews but only modest sales.