Saturday, October 1, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation – from Notes on a Scandal to Lady's Maid

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 Notes on a Scandal by Zoë Heller (2003) which my book group read back when I lived in NYC. It’s about two teachers who are friendly until one of them begins a relationship with a student. It was compelling but depressing as the friendship was flawed, the seduction repellent, and the scandal inevitable.

Friday, September 30, 2022

The Market by J.M. Steele

Title: The Market
Author: J.M. Steele
Publication: Hyperion, paperback, originally published in 2008
Genre: YA
Setting: New Jersey-ish
Description: High school senior Kate Winthrop has loving parents, two wonderful friends and got into Brown so life should be perfect.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Some Autumn Favorites

The weather is suddenly cooler, blankets are back on our beds, and I am thinking of books about Autumn:
Autumn Term by Antonia Forest (1948). Twins Nicola and Lawrie are heading to Kingscote School, determined to be as impressive as their elder sisters, but things start badly on the train when Nicola pulls the emergency cord and never seem to recover . . .

Monday, September 26, 2022

The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper

Title: The Dark is Rising
Author: Susan Cooper
Publication: Atheneum/Margaret K. McElderry, hardcover, 1973
Genre: Juvenile Fantasy
Setting: England
Description: Everything changes for Will Stanton, used to being the overlooked youngest in a bustling family, on Midwinter Day in December when he turns 11 and learns he is the last of the Old Ones, those responsible over the years for standing up to forces of Evil and Darkness.

Friday, September 23, 2022

Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner

Title: Bloomsbury Girls
Author: Natalie Jenner
Publication: St. Martin’s, hardcover, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: London, 1950
Description: In this companion novel to The Jane Austen Society, three women encroach on the male world of bookselling at a shop in the Bloomsbury section of London.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill

Title: The Woman in the Library
Author: Sulari Gentill
Publication: Poisoned Pen Press/Sourcebooks, paperback, 2022
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Boston
Description: Writer Hannah Tigone is sitting at a table in the Boston Public Library’s ornate Reading Room when a woman screams.  Soon the police find a dead body.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America by Firoozeh Dumas

Title: Funny in Farsi
Author: Firoozeh Dumas
Publication: Villard, hardcover, 2003
Genre: Memoir
Setting: California
Description: This warm and witty memoir tells the story of an Iranian family and its enthusiastic misadventures with life in America, embracing Thanksgiving and game shows on television, learning English with bafflement, and the author’s eventual marriage to a Frenchman she met at Cal Berkeley, which resulted in even more of a melting pot experience.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

We Didn't Mean to Start a School by Julia Blythe

Title: We Didn’t Mean to Start a School
Author: Julia Blythe
Publication: Gracewing, paperback, 1998
Genre: Children’s school story
Setting: Great Britain
Description: Just as Geraldine and Jeannie’s father gets a new job in Japan, their Aunt Win’s husband inherits a small, unoccupied hotel in the English countryside.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Spell the Month in Books – September

Spell the Month in Books is hosted by Reviews From the Stacks and occurs on the second Saturday of each month or maybe a bit later! 

Here is my installment for September:

Friday, September 9, 2022

The Ghost of Opalina, or Nine Lives by Peggy Bacon

Title: The Ghost of Opalina, or Nine Lives
Author and Illustrator: Peggy Bacon (1895-1987)
Publication: Graymalkin, paperback, originally published in 1967
Genre: Children’s fantasy
Setting: Presumably Connecticut
Description: Philip, Ellen, and five-year-old Jeb Finley are delighted to make the move so beloved in fiction from the city to a rambling and mysterious old house in the country.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

WWW Wednesday – September 7

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?

Current reading

I am usually in the middle of several books. In the car, I am listening to The Fall by John Lescroart (2015), a legal thriller featuring attorney Dismas Hardy and his daughter, Rebecca. She is now grown up and an associate in Hardy’s law firm, defending a client accused of murder. I had forgotten how much I enjoy Lescroart’s characters and how they have developed over the years.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Magpie Lane by Lucy Atkins, suspense fiction set in Oxford

Title: Magpie Lane
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publication: Quercus, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Oxford, Great Britain
Description: Dee, now middle-aged, never made it to Oxford as a student despite her brilliance at mathematics, but she has worked there since her 20s as a nanny, mostly in short-term positions to avoid forming attachments. But Felicity, her current charge, is different.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation – from Eloise at the Plaza to The Secret River

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 the final book from last month, which in my case is Eloise by Kay Thompson, the famous 1950s picture book about the girl who lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

My August 2022 Reads

A few new authors for me this month: Martin Edwards, a British mystery writer and expert, whose newest nonfiction work was just reviewed by the New York Times; Sonali Dev, with a modern version of Pride and Prejudice; and Sarah Stewart Taylor, a writer from Vermont who set her suspense novel in Ireland.

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie – What started off as a joke with seven alarm clocks turns into a sinister country house murder. My review.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors by Sonali Dev

Title: Pride, Prejudice, and Other Flavors
Author: Sonali Dev
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, originally published in 2019
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Present-day California
Description: Dr. Trisha Raje is a gifted neurosurgeon in San Franciso, whose arrogance masks the conviction she has disappointed her Indian-American family, despite her success.

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Gerald and Elizabeth by D.E. Stevenson

Title: Gerald and Elizabeth
Author: D.E. Stevenson
Publication: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, hardcover, 1969
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Great Britain
Description: Gerald is returning to London after a disastrous experience in Cape Town working for a diamond mine. The lovely young American women aboard the ship cannot distract him from his gloom, although one tries to cheer him up and tells him about an incident when she too was misjudged.

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Five Things

Chincoteague is a town on the island of the same name, in Virginia’s Eastern Shore region. It’s a gateway to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, on Assateague Island, which has beaches and wild Chincoteague ponies.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Title: The Last Bookshop in London
Author: Madeline Miller
Publication: Hanover Square Press, trade paperback, 2021
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: WWII London
Description: After her mother dies, Grace Bennett and her irrepressible friend, Viv, leave the country for 1939 London, accepting the offer of a rented room from Mrs. Weatherford, a friend of Grace’s mother.

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Title: The Phantom Tollbooth
Author: Norman Juster
Illustrator: Jules Pfeiffer
Publication: Yearling, paperback, originally published in 1961
Genre: Juvenile fantasy
Description: Milo is a boy who is bored by everything in his life, until a mysterious package appears in his room. It contains a turnpike tollbooth that he quickly assembles.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

WWW Wednesday – August 17

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?

Monday, August 15, 2022

Miss Austen – historical fiction by Gill Hornby

Title: Miss Austen
Author: Gill Hornby
Publication: Flatiron Books, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 19th-century England
Description: In this historical novel set in 1840, Hornby imagines a purposeful visit paid by Cassandra Austen to Kintbury in Berkshire after the deaths of Eliza and Fulwar Fowle.

Friday, August 12, 2022

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie

Title: The Seven Dials Mystery
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Bantam paperback, originally published in 1929
Genre: Mystery (well, obviously)
Setting: England
Description: At a country house party, Gerry Wade sleeps so ridiculously late every morning that his friends decide to play a joke on him by setting so many alarm clocks he will be forced to wake up.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

My July 2022 Reads

My favorite July book was the audio of a book I had read when it first came out, The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.  It was expertly narrated by Hayley Atwell and entertained me on my way back and forth to work for several weeks.

Monday, August 8, 2022

The Mountains Wild by Sarah Stewart Taylor

Title: The Mountains Wild
Author: Sarah Stewart Taylor
Publication: Minotaur Books/St. Martin’s, hardcover 2020
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Dublin
Description: Twenty-three years ago, Maggie D’Arcy’s cousin Erin disappeared in Ireland so she flew from Long Island to Dublin to represent the family and find out what was going on.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation: from The Book of Form and Emptiness to Eloise

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 The Book of Form and Emptiness by Ruth Oseki (2021), which I have not read. It’s about Benny who hears voices from inanimate objects while the story explores themes of mental illness and bereavement.  

Thursday, August 4, 2022

From Spare Oom to War Drobe by Katherine Langrish

Title: From Spare Oom to War Drobe: Travels in Narnia with my Nine-Year-Old Self
Author: Katherine Langrish
Publication: Darton, Longman and Todd, hardcover, 2021
Genre: Literary Criticism
Description: Langrish is a British fantasy writer who loved the Narnia books as a child. Definitely more obsessed than the average fan. She drew pictures of Aslan. She wrote poems and crafted maps. The endpapers of this book display her own Narnia fan fic.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher

Title: The Shell Seekers
Author: Rosamunde Pilcher (1924-2019)
Narrator: Hayley Atwell
Publication: Audio, originally published in 1987
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Cornwall, London, Gloucestershire
Description: Returning home after a mild heart attack, Penelope Keeling starts reflecting on her life: her carefree childhood with her artist father and youthful French mother in London and Cornwall, her decision to become a Wren during World War II, her return to Cornwall during the war, bringing up a family in London on little money, and her downsizing to a cottage in the country where she has created an idyllic garden.

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Cornwall, Part 2

One sign of a successful trip is when you keep eagerly saying or thinking, “When I return . . .
Overlooking Peel Cove, near Menabilly
Cath had asked what parts of Cornwall I was particularly interested in seeing, and I vaguely thought of artists in St. Ives but said I deferred to her judgment, except that I yearned to see Fowey, the setting of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989).

Saturday, July 30, 2022

Cornwall, Part 1

Having read many books set in Cornwall, I was eager to see it for myself and asked my friend Cath of Read-warbler, who grew up there, if she and her husband could spare the time to go there with me, following my month in London. I was delighted when she agreed not only because I knew it would be fun to meet her in real life but also because I knew I would see more of Cornwall with two experts. And I suspected that three book lovers would never run out of things to say!
St. Ives from above

Thursday, July 28, 2022

The Maid by Nita Prose

Title: The Maid
Author: Nita Prose
Publication: Ballantine Books, hardcover, 2022
Genre: Mystery
Setting: New York
Description: Molly, 25, is extremely literal and often misses the social cues others juggle easily. When her grandmother was alive, she helped Molly navigate the world.

Monday, July 25, 2022

Flambards by K.M. Peyton, one of my favorite orphan stories

Title: Flambards
Author: K.M. Peyton
Illustrator: Victor G. Ambrus
Publication: World Publishing Company, hardcover, 1967
Genre: YA Historical Fiction
Setting: England, 1908-1912
Description: In the first of this four book series, orphaned Christina is forced to go live with her Uncle Russell, and his sons, Mark and Will, at their home, Flambards, 40 miles outside London in the countryside. Mark and his father are obsessed with horses while Will is obsessed with machinery and aviation. Christina, just 12, is an heiress but used to be shuttled from relative to relative, all indifferent to her wellbeing.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

Title: When You Trap a Tiger
Author: Tae Keller
Publication: Random House, hardcover, 2020
Genre: Middle-grade fiction
Setting: Washington state
Description: Lily and her older sister Sam have moved to Washington with their mother to be near their Korean grandmother who is very ill.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

My June 2022 Reads

I have had no uninterrupted time to write about my trip to Cornwall (I will tease you with one picture) but I did manage to read several books while I was meant to be studying in London. I am paying for it now: my term paper is due on Friday and is only half done!  My favorite book of the month was From a Distance, a library discard I picked up for 20p.
Daphne du Maurier's private beach

A Rural Affair by Catherine Alliott (2011). Poppy Shilling may have fantasized about her boring husband slipping on ice on his way to get the paper or contracting malaria from a mosquito bite, but she never imagined Phil would actually have a freak accident and die, leaving her a widow with two children.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

The Perfect Lie by Jo Spain

Title: The Perfect Lie
Author: Jo Spain
Publication: Quercus, paperback, 2021
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Long Island, NY and Cambridge, MA
Description: Erin Kennedy left Ireland for New York after her sister was murdered, and obtained a job in publishing which she enjoys. After she meets and marries Danny Ryan, a local policeman, she moves to Long Island, hoping for a happy ever after with him.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Spell the Month in Books – July

Can you #SpelltheMonthinBooks? What books would you use?
Spell the Month in Books is hosted by Reviews From the Stacks and occurs on the second Saturday of each month or maybe a few days later! Here are books from several authors I admire for July:

Saturday, July 9, 2022

Day 25 – Apsley House and Pub Quiz

It was hard to know what to savor on my last day in London. We were asked to do an evaluation of the British Studies program on computers in an underground classroom which took until after 10:00, and then I unexpectedly had to put together a PowerPoint, one of my least favorite things to do. Once that was done, I set off to visit the London Review Bookshop and, just as importantly, its cake shop next door, as I was craving Victoria sponge cake.

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Day 24 – The Globe Theatre

On our last day of formal study, we visited the Archives of the Globe Theatre, which is a modern reconstruction of Shakespeare’s 16th-century theatre with a repertoire of Shakespeare and other plays. It is located on the bank of the Thames and consists of a theatre and education center (see website).
The Globe, during King Lear

Monday, July 4, 2022

Day 23 – The British Library and King Lear

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and is one of the largest libraries in the world, with more than 170 million objects, including books.  It is a legal deposit library like the Library of Congress. This means it receives copies of all books published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Before 1973, the Library was part of the British Museum but now has its own impressive building near St. Pancras Station as well as storage facilities in Yorkshire. The Library is open to everyone who needs to use its collections. Anyone with a permanent address who wishes to carry out research can apply for a Reader Pass; they are required to provide proof of signature and address. I myself obtained one during our first week in London. The Library’s website is available here; the special collections are also set forth.
Hello, George III!

Saturday, July 2, 2022

Six Degrees of Separation– from Wintering to Love in a Cold Climate

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 Wintering by Katherine May, a memoir about surviving dark times and winter itself.  It's almost worth reading just for the cover!

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Day 22 – Bletchley Park

Having read a lot of historical fiction set during WWII in which Bletchley Park and those who worked there played a part, I was excited to visit on Monday with my class. It was a gray London day as we took the tube to Euston and then the train to Buckinghamshire, about 40 minutes away. I was very surprised at how close Bletchley was to the station; I thought I recalled reading about people arriving with luggage at night and not being able to walk there.  Later, I asked one of the guides if the train station was in the same place as during the war and he said yes.  Perhaps the blackout and lack of signs made it seem farther or more impenetrable than it was?
The Bletchley Mansion

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Days 20 and 21 – Visiting Wells Cathedral

On Saturday, I got up hideously early in order to catch a coach from Victoria Station to Bristol, then another to Wells, which I had heard was a lovely place to visit. Due to an ominous weather forecast and having frozen the previous Saturday, I was bundled up and braced for the worst but my timing was perfect - as I arrived in England’s smallest city, the sun came out after what they told me had been a deluge.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Days 18 and 19 – Marylebone Library and Museum of Docklands

Our visit on Thursday was to my friend Nicky Smith’s nearby Marylebone Library, which is a public library affiliated with the Borough of Westminster.
The Children's area at street level

Saturday, June 25, 2022

Day 17 – The British Museum

On Wednesday, Archivist Francesca Hillier took us behind the scenes for a closer look at what is in the British Museum’s collection and we were stunned, not only by the sheer volume and breadth of their archives but also by the modest staff available to work on it. The British Museum’s Central Archive is located in the middle of its Great Court on the main floor: a large, round room that is blocked off to the public and kept locked.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Day 16 – The Foundling Museum

There was a Tube strike on Tuesday, and while their dispute over pensions and job cuts is probably legitimate I can only imagine the negative economic impact of the strike during high tourist season, not to mention lost productivity as workers come in late or not at all.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Day 15 – The National Maritime Museum and Caird Library in Greenwich

Today we went to visit the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, which has its own library and archives. We were early for our library tour so we had nearly an hour to tour the museum. There was a Canaletto exhibition but after looking at a display of elegant ocean liner travel, I headed upstairs to see Britain’s most accomplished naval war hero, Lord Nelson.
Young Nelson, 1992

Day 14 – Sunday in Hampstead Heath

I thought Sunday seemed the perfect day to walk on Hampstead Heath, so first I found a church in the neighborhood and took a bus there. St Mary's was the first Catholic church to be built in Hampstead after the English Reformation and it took until the 19th century. The church is tucked away on a quiet street among residential homes. The Abbé Jean-Jacques Morel, a refugee from the French Revolution, was its first pastor. The little chapel was completed in less than a year and opened in 1816. At that time, most of the congregation were French refugees. During WWII, General Charles de Gaulle worshipped at the church. Another notable, Graham Greene, was married at this church in 1927.
The city is visible in the distance

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Day 13 – Visiting Green Knowe

It was my friend Kathy Baxter who told me she had visited the house upon which The Children of Green Knowe is based and if I had fully grasped how close it is to Cambridge, my mother and I could have gone there four years ago. After rereading the book in August, I was determined to make the Manor at Hemingford Grey part of this trip. I felt shy about writing to Diana Boston, who is the daughter-in-law of author L.M. Boston (1892-1990) and has lived in the house since she moved in to help Lucy after a stroke, but she responded to my email quickly and invited me to come on Saturday, June 18th when she had two tours already scheduled.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Day 12 – Notting Hill

Friday was a free day but it was again very hot so I tried to think of something leisurely to do – Notting Hill and Portobello Road! Notting Hill is interesting because of the movie and also because Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James in Deborah Crombie’s mystery series live there (I wished I had checked my books for the street before I left Boston).

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Day 11 – King's College Library

Thursday began with breakfast in Regent’s Park with Desiree and Erin. We walked in from Marylebone Road, then followed signs for a café and wound up next to some tennis courts. I had a chocolate croissant and inspected the books on a community shelf in the back. I found a book by Annie Groves that looked appealing. The others kept on walking but I returned to the dorm only to learn bad news: one of our group had tested positive and been quarantined in her room for five days. Getting Covid is no joke and being confined to one of these claustrophobic rooms as a heat wave is beginning sounded pretty grim. Everyone was somber when we met for the day’s excursion. We asked Dr. Steele what we could do for the victim and she said a second person (my next-door neighbor) also had symptoms and was going to get tested as well. I had been wearing a mask pretty steadily but now everyone from USM was told to wear one. Apparently, the Gothic Studies group has several people sick as well (I feel there is some significance there but am not sure exactly what).