Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury by Drew Gilpin Faust

Title: Necessary Trouble: Growing Up at Midcentury
Author: Drew Gilpin Faust
Publication: Farrar Straus & Giroux, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Nonfiction/Memoir
Once upon a time, there was a little girl. Her official name was Catharine, but she never used it. Her father, though from a wealthy Ivy League background, wanted only to breed horses, so that was what he did. The girl grew up in rural, segregated Virginia in the fifties, reading Nancy Drew and pony books, riding horses, raising steers with the 4H Club, attending a small country school.

Would you be surprised to learn that she would become the president of Harvard?

Saturday, September 30, 2023

The Good Ones by Polly Stewart, and the ways in which it annoyed me

Title: The Good Ones
Author: Polly Stewart
Publication: HarperCollins, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Rural Virginia
Description: Lauren Ballard disappeared nearly 20 years ago, leaving a husband and six-month-old baby, after spending a carefree afternoon with Nicola Bennett. She was never found. Everyone who knew her was questioned and those close to her were traumatized by her loss. Now, Nicola’s mother has died and she returns to Tyndall County to go through her mother’s possessions and ask Lauren’s realtor husband Warren to sell the house she grew up in. Yet once Nicola is back in her hometown, she is so strongly reminded of her friend that she decides to stay and investigate her disappearance. Taking a temporary position at the high school both attended, Nicola begins to ask questions about Lauren, not realizing her obsessive curiosity could be very dangerous or that everyone in Tyndall kept secrets she never knew.

My Impression: The most surprising part of the book was when Warren’s grandmother (a Radcliffe alumna) leaves Nicola some children’s books in her will:
Mrs. Ballard had left me a bunch of old children’s books I’d never heard of: Betsy-Tacy, Elsie Dinsmore, plus a few Brontës and some paperback mysteries by Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers. The Betsy-Tacy books were all right, but Elsie Dinsmore was god-awful. I read ten pages and shoved the whole box in my closet.
The bequest had nothing to do with the plot but (a) maybe a little more time with Betsy-Tacy would have improved Nicola's personality and (b) I doubt Warren and Sean Ballard’s mother wanted her son to date her mother-in-law’s cleaning lady’s daughter, even if she was a reader!

There were so many things that bothered me about this book, beginning with the unlikable protagonist. The author says it “is not a story about a murder. It’s not the story of what happened to Lauren Ballard in the early-morning hours of August 10, 2001,” so I suppose you could say it is a story about a woman who had a love-hate relationship with a charismatic older girl whose disappearance left her with unresolved guilt.  Admittedly, I read until the end; I wanted to know how it would end.  What annoyed me was that there were so many inconsistencies, unanswered questions, and just plain illogical aspects of the plot, some of which I have outlined below:

Many Spoilers:

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Appointment with Death #ReadChristie23

Title: Appointment with Death
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, hardcover, 1965 (originally published in 1937 or 1938)
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Petra (modern day Jordan)
Description: It all begins with the great Poirot closing a hotel window as he hears:
“You do see, don’t you, that she’s got to be killed?”

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Five Things

There are five things I want to share with you today:

A fun Georgette Heyer quiz was provided by Regency historical writer Anne Gracie. I was annoyed to get one wrong! Can you do better?

Georgette Heyer

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Codename Charming by Lucy Parker

Title: Codename Charming
Author: Lucy Parker
Publication: Avon Books, paperback, 2023
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Setting: Present-day London
Description: Battle Royal was the first book in Parker’s much anticipated Palace Insiders series in which Sylvie Fairchild and Dominic De Vere are rival pastry chefs competing to make the wedding cake for Britain’s Princess Rose. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

WWW Wednesday - September 20

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, September 18, 2023

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Title: Tom Lake
Author: Ann Patchett
Publication: HarperCollins, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Michigan
Description: During the pandemic, Lara’s adult children came home, as many did, and as her daughters help out with the family business, they ask her to tell them about her long-ago relationship with famous actor Peter Duke.

Saturday, September 16, 2023

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Title: Number the Stars
Author: Lois Lowry
Publication: Houghton Mifflin paperback, originally published in 1989
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Setting: WWII Denmark

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

My August 2023 Reads

August was an excellent reading month, especially for historical fiction where I awarded five stars to The Marriage Portrait and Mrs. Porter Calling and greatly enjoyed two romances, A Lady’s Guide to Scandal and Romantic Comedy. I also revisited an eventing series – what’s eventing, you may well ask (see below). And the house diagonally behind me got hit by lightning Saturday, which caused a fire and apparently destroyed the internet and cable wiring for both streets. I am grateful we did not lose our power as happened elsewhere in the area but I hope Comcast will restore service soon!

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Silence in Court by Patricia Wentworth

Title: Silence in Court
Author: Patricia Wentworth
Publication: Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, originally published in 1945
Genre: Mystery
Setting: WWII London
Description: For three years during the war, Carey Silence worked as a secretary for a Member of Parliament, until a train they were on was machine-gunned by enemy aircraft.

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Mrs. Porter Calling by A.J. Pearce - more about Emmy!

Title: Mrs. Porter Calling
Author: A.J. Pearce
Publication: Scribner, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: WWII London
Description: Rejoice, the third book about Emmy Lake has arrived and while the dark days of WWII are still with us, there is an indomitable spirit at the Women's Friend magazine and at the house in Pimlico where she lives with her best friend.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation – from Wifedom to The Inn at Lake Devine

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 Wifedom: Mrs. Orwell’s Invisible Life by Anna Funder, which sounds interesting and was just published in the US last week:
Using newly discovered letters from Eileen to her best friend, Funder re-creates the Orwells' marriage, through the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War. Eileen O’Shaughnessy’s literary brilliance shaped Orwell’s work and her practical nous saved his life.

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Midwives by Chris Bohjalian

Title: Midwives
Author: Chris Bohjalian
Publication: Vintage, paperback, originally published in 1997
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century United States
Description: Sybil Danforth is an experienced midwife in rural Vermont but even she is tested on a stormy winter night when a minister’s wife goes into labor and has a complicated delivery.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Sally on the Rocks by Winifred Boggs

Title: Sally on the Rocks
Author: Winifred Boggs
Publication: British Library Women Writers, paperback, 2021; originally published in 1915
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th century England
Description: Sally is an attractive woman of 31 with several strikes against her: not only is she unmarried and penniless but she is also from "bad stock" – a chorus girl mother and a wastrel-from-a-good-family father.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell

Title: The Marriage Portrait
Author: Maggie O’Farrell
Publication: Knopf, hardcover, 2022
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 16th Century Italy
Description: Lucrezia is the overlooked daughter of Cosimo I de Medici, the Duke of Florence and, because she was a difficult baby, consigned in her infancy to a wet nurse away from the family, where she absorbed gossip and the local dialect.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A War of Wizards by Margaret Storey

Title: A War of Wizards
Author: Margaret Storey
Illustrator: Janina Ede
Publication: Faber & Faber, hardcover, 1976
Genre: Juvenile fantasy/series
Setting: Britain
Description: In an earlier book, Timothy went to stay with Melinda, a white witch, who lives in an amazing house in London, where he became friendly with Ellen, a girl his age.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

A Lady’s Guide to Scandal by Sophie Irwin

Title: A Lady’s Guide to Scandal
Author: Sophie Irwin
Publication: Penguin, trade paperback, 2023
Genre: Historical Romance
Setting: 19th century England
Description: Ten years ago, Eliza Balfour, a quiet seventeen-year-old, was bullied by her parents into marrying an earl 25 years her senior, although she loved his nephew, Oliver Courtenay.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

WWW Wednesday – August 16

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: Last night, I started The Arsenic Labyrinth, third in the Lake District mystery series by Martin Edwards (2007).

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Foster by Claire Keegan

Title: Foster
Author: Claire Keegan
Publication: Grove Press, hardcover, originally published in 2010
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: Ireland
Description: One summer, a young girl is brought by her father to stay with relatives on a farm while her mother is pregnant. She arrives dusty and timid but the Kinsellas make her welcome and slowly she gains confidence.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

My July 2023 Reads

Summer days drifting away . . . even if you can’t take time off to sit on the beach in July, it seems appropriate to read lighter fiction, which I needed after I finished Middlemarch (despite enjoying it).

Monday, August 7, 2023

Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange - an exciting novel set on England's southeast coast during WWII

Title: Our Castle by the Sea
Author/Narrator: Lucy Strange
Publication: Scholastic, audiobook/paperback, 2019
Genre: Juvenile Historical Fiction
Setting: WWII Britain
Description: Petra Smith and her family live on the southeast coast of England; her father is the lighthouse keeper and they have been very happy until war begins. Then Petra’s older sister Magda starts getting into fights, defending their German-born mother, and becomes secretive.

Saturday, August 5, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation – from Romantic Comedy to Knight Crusader

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 Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, which I know was inspired by the television show Saturday Night Live. I just started it as my copy only just arrived from the library. . .

Thursday, August 3, 2023

The Mulberry Bush by Charles McCarry

Title: The Mulberry Bush
Author: Charles McCarry
Publication: Mysterious Press, hardcover, 2015
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Present day
Description: A young man vows to avenge his father, a CIA operative who was dismissed from the agency for a prank and wound up estranged from his family and homeless. The only way the protagonist can hurt those responsible is by becoming a spy himself and rising to an influential position at the CIA.

Monday, July 31, 2023

The Wake-Up Call by Beth O’Leary

Title: The Wake-Up Call
Author: Beth O’Leary
Publication: Berkley Publishing, paperback, 2023
Genre: Romance
Setting: Present-day England
Description: Izzy and Lucas work at a boutique hotel where they are rivals who never stop squabbling. When the hotel owners admit they are struggling financially and may have to shut down, Izzy and Lucas are forced into a temporary truce to save their beloved Forest Manor.

Saturday, July 29, 2023

Meet Me at the Lake by Carley Fortune

Title: Meet Me at the Lake
Author: Carley Fortune
Publication: Penguin Random House audiobook / Berkley, hardcover, 2023
Narrator: A.J. Bridel
Genre: Fiction/Romance
Setting: Ontario, Canada
Description: Fern Brookbanks loves the Muskoka resort she grew up in but she also enjoys Toronto, where she went to college, and the big city experience. Just before graduation, when she is reluctant to tell her mother she doesn’t want to return home to help manage the resort, she meets an artist her age, Will Baxter.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

Evil Under the Sun by Agatha Christie #ReadChristie23

Title: Evil Under the Sun
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Dodd, Mead & Company, hardcover, originally published in 1941
Genre: Mystery
Setting: 20th century England
Description: A mansion on a small island off the Devon coast has been turned into the Jolly Roger Hotel where guests can swim, play tennis, take walks, and enjoy the convenience of a causeway to the mainland.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

In which Dido Belle followed me through London

Last year, I visited Kenwood House, a 17th century stately home next to Hampstead Heath, which was expanded in the 18th century when it became the home of Lord Mansfield, the Lord Chief Justice, and is now open to the public (you might also recognize it as a filming location from Notting Hill).
Kenwood House
He and his wife were “childless but from about 1766 they agreed to accommodate their niece, Anne Murray, and two great-nieces, Elizabeth Murray and Dido Elizabeth Belle. Dido was the illegitimate daughter of a formerly enslaved young black woman named Maria Bell and Mansfield's nephew Sir John Lindsay. It was extremely unusual at this time for a mixed-race child to be raised not as a servant, but as part of an aristocratic British family.”

Saturday, July 22, 2023

A Killing of Innocents by Deborah Crombie

Title: A Killing of Innocents
Author: Deborah Crombie
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Present-day London
Description: When Sasha Johnson, a young doctor just leaving a pub in Bloomsbury as Duncan Kincaid and Doug Cullen are meeting for a drink, is murdered nearby, the men are called to the scene quickly.

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

WWW Wednesday – July 19

WWW Wednesday is sponsored 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: I am halfway through The Last Remains, the final Ruth Galloway mystery by Elly Griffiths (2023), and I will be sad to see this series end.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Title: Middlemarch
Author: George Eliot
Publication: 1871
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: English Midlands, 1829-32
Description: Middlemarch is the story of a country neighborhood, two women who live there, and their marriages. Most prominent is Dorothea Brooke, an intense and idealistic young woman, brought up with her sister Celia by their uncle since they were orphaned some seven years ago.

Saturday, July 15, 2023

The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer - one of her most amusing

Title: The Unknown Ajax
Author: Georgette Heyer
Publication: Ace paperback, originally published in 1959
Genre: Historical Romance/Regency
Setting: England, 1817
Description: The Darracott family is astonished to learn that cantankerous Lord Darracott’s heir is not his third son Matthew, but a grandson they never knew existed, Hugo.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

My June 2023 Reads

I had three short trips in June: New York for a nephew’s graduation, Ontario for a short family trip, and DC for a two-day conference, and these reduced my reading time this month and made what I did read distinctly lighter. Plus, I am still reading Middlemarch, although I am nearly done and very much enjoying it.  Here we are!

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Pas de Don't by Chloe Angyal

Title: Pas de Don’t
Author: Chloe Angyal
Publication: Chicago Review Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Setting: Present-day New York City and Australia
Description: Heather Hays has worked for years to become the principal dancer at the New York Ballet and when her boyfriend, Jack Andersen, already established as the biggest star in American ballet, proposes, she thinks she has everything she’s always dreamed about, even if Jack is sometimes condescending about her talent.

Sunday, July 9, 2023

The Puritan Princess by Miranda Malins

Title: The Puritan Princess
Author: Miranda Malins
Publication: Orion, paperback, originally published in 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Setting: 17th-century 
Description: When Oliver Cromwell is declared Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland, his large family joins him at court in London, and Cromwell’s two unmarried daughters become prospects for political alliances.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

One Fine Day by Mollie Panter-Downes

Title: One Fine Day
Author: Mollie Panter-Downes
Publication: Virago Modern Classics, paperback, originally published in 1946
Genre: Fiction
Setting: 20th-century English countryside
Description: It is a warm summer day in the village of Wealding, although Victoria is still in school. Her father, Stephen, heads irritably to the train and London job, while her mother, Laura, has an endless day of chores.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

Canada - part 2

We left Niagara-on-the-Lake Sunday morning to visit nearby Niagara Falls, which Andrea and Katherine had never seen. Our friendly waiter the previous evening had suggested we park by the Electric Commission to avoid traffic.  We should have got more precise
instructions as we wound up going through the very commercial town and then had to retrace our steps on foot. 
But when we saw the Beaux-Arts style Electrical Development Co. building (which operated from 1906 until it was replaced by a newer power station in 1974), we knew it was the right place and snagged a parking place.

Saturday, July 1, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation – from Time Shelter to Memory Man

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 Time Shelter by Bulgarian writer Georgi Gospodinov and translated by Angela Rodel. According to the Guardian, “A mysterious therapist, Gaustine, founds a clinic that treats patients with Alzheimer's by recreating the pasts in which they felt most secure.”

Thursday, June 29, 2023

O Canada

The Shaw Festival is a theater festival located in Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL), Ontario, Canada, and is the second-largest repertory theatre company* in North America. It was founded in 1962 and Queen Elizabeth came in 1973 in honor of its first theater opening at the current location, staying at the charming Prince of Wales Hotel on the corner of King and Queen Streets.
The Prince of Wales Hotel, yards from our temporary home

Sunday, June 25, 2023

They Do It With Mirrors by Agatha Christie #ReadChristie23

Title: They Do It With Mirrors
Author: Agatha Christie
Publication: Morrow, paperback, originally published in 1952
Genre: Mystery
Setting: British countryside, 20th century
Description: Who knew that our own Miss Marple studied in Florence as a young woman with the two rich Martin girls from America (no relation)!! 

Friday, June 23, 2023

Watch Us Shine by Marisa de los Santos

Title: Watch Us Shine
Author: Marisa de los Santos
Publication: William Morrow, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Fiction
Setting: Present day with flashbacks
Description: When her mother is badly injured in an accident, Cornelia Brown drops everything to be with her parents in Virginia.

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

The Translator by Harriet Crawley, suspense from Bitter Lemon Press

Title: The Translator
Author: Harriet Crawley
Publication: Bitter Lemon Press, hardcover, 2023
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Russia
Description: When the top Russian translator in Britain is knocked off his bicycle into a coma, Clive Franklin gets the call to accompany the Prime Minister to Moscow for top-secret meetings with powerful Russian President Serov.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly

Title: Seventeenth Summer
Author: Maureen Daly
Publication: Simon & Schuster, paperback, originally published in 1942
Genre: Young Adult
Setting: Small town, Wisconsin, 20th century
Description: Angie Morrow has just finished her senior year at a girls’ school and is looking forward to college in the fall when she meets and starts dating Jack Duluth, star of the local high school’s basketball team.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

WWW Wednesday - Flag Day

WWW Wednesday is sponsored 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
This is exciting: my Capstone from graduate school just got published! I wrote about author/photographer Tana Hoban and her papers, which she left to the de Grummond Collection at the University of Southern Mississippi. If you are interested, here is the issue of SLIS Connecting with my article. I submitted this research (which served as our thesis) more than a year ago, so it is an odd feeling to reread it.

Monday, June 12, 2023

My May 2023 Reads

The biggest treat this month was the new Jane Casey book about Maeve Kerrigan, The Close, straight from London as my sisters and I could not wait for its US publication. I also really enjoyed The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman, the third Thursday Murder Club book, and Lying Beside You by Michael Robotham. June will be a slower reading month due to three short trips and Middlemarch. Hmm, I guess it is no coincidence that all four books have British settings; I am nothing if not consistent.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

The Close by Jane Casey: A Maeve Kerrigan Mystery

Title: The Close: A Maeve Kerrigan Mystery
Author: Jane Casey
Publication: HarperCollins, trade paperback, 2023
Genre: Suspense
Setting: Great Britain
Description: Detective Sergeant Maeve Kerrigan is in the midst of investigating the mysterious death of a London surgeon, discovered in the parking lot of his hospital in his own car, when she is asked to go undercover on a different case.

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Perfect Escape by Jennifer Brown

Title: Perfect Escape
Author: Jennifer Brown
Publication: Little, Brown and Company, hardcover, 2012
Genre: YA
Setting: Present-day Midwest
Description: Kendra’s older brother Grayson has such acute OCD that he has been institutionalized and had to leave high school. When he and Kendra’s best friend Zoe got romantically involved, Zoe’s family was so upset they moved to California to separate them. Kendra feels as if she lost her brother and best friend.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

The Bullet That Missed: A Thursday Murder Club Mystery by Richard Osman

Title: The Bullet That Missed
Author: Richard Osman
Publication: Viking, hardcover, 2022
Genre: Mystery
Setting: Britain
Description: In the third installment of the Thursday Murder Club, Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron, and Ibrahim take on the unexplained death ten years earlier of a talented television reporter, Bethany Waites, while she was investigating a hot story.

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Proud Aunt

How it was

Godparents at left and right, with my brother holding the baby
Rome, August 2005

How it's going

Roxbury Latin Graduation, June 2023

It was too bad Nicholas' godfather couldn't make it to graduation or we could have fully recreated the original photo!

Saturday, June 3, 2023

Six Degrees of Separation - from Friendaholic to Elizabeth of the Garret Theatre

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 Friendaholic by Elizabeth Day, a nonfiction book about the evolution of friendship. I think her premise is that if you spread yourself too thin, you aren’t being a good friend to others or yourself. I find self-help books quite tedious so am unlikely to read this.