Just catching up with reviewlettes….

The summer continues at its normal pace and I must admit that I haven’t been that productive so far (apart from general life responsibilities). I’ve also been reading — I know: shocker — and thought I’d let you know which titles have passed across my pupils. 🙂

I started off with “The Light Years” (1990), the first volume of Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Cazalet Chronicles. Very lightweight but also very readable, despite the fact that it introduces a million new characters who may (or may not) be related to each other. (I wouldn’t mind a family tree – I bet there’s one online but I haven’t checked this yet.) Anyway, this title introduces all the family just before the start of WWII and although I can’t say that I was completely blown away with it, I did go ahead and buy the next volume on Kindle, ready for if/when I need a fluffy read. 

Then, I wanted a good travel/airport read (since I was actually traveling to CA in real life) so continuing with my TBR-read project, I pulled off “Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World” by Rita Golden Gelman (2002). This is a well-written travel narrative that travels the real-life adventures of the author who, after her divorce, decided to travel for a while to regain her mental bearings. 

She travelled extremely lightly, with her fingers crossed that others would provide (really) and that didn’t really sit very well with me. Isn’t it a little rude to travel SO lightly that you could only struggle on if you sponge off your future friends? (I might just be being me though.) It all worked out but perhaps she and I have different ideas of the responsibilities of being a host to a privileged white woman traveling “to find herself”.

As mentioned, the writing was good and I enjoyed learning about her travels as she visited countries and tried traditions that I probably be brave enough to visit. Plus – she got to talk with some interesting and generous people that she met during this time (which turned into years). 

She also had adult children but she didn’t seem to visit them much (and neither they her, I must admit). I’m not sure that this was entirely due to low finances, as she claimed in the book – she sounds a little self-absorbed to me – but perhaps it was. I don’t know. 

After that, I had a hankering for some more good writing, this time from the hands of Stephen King. Yes – that horror writer. Typically, I run screaming in fear from King’s work (in terms of narrative plot) but I’m realizing that I can enjoy his less-scary writing (see review of XXX here) and – he’s such an excellent writer that it helps overcome any reticence on my part. So – I picked “Dolores Claiborne” from the library shelves and thoroughly enjoyed it, twisted though it was. I’m definitely picking up more King in the future — just staying away from his frightening stuff. This was a really good suspense  and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

Then, finished up a novella from Sam Selven, “The Lonely Londoners” (1956), which was a really good read. Selven was a Trinidadian author who also lived in England for a lot of his life so he knew life as a Caribbean-English immigrant perspective in the city of London which makes this a very authentic read for me. (Not sure if he was part of the Windrush Generation INSERT LINK HERE but he’s got to be close to that…) 

This novel, short though it is, packs a punch. It’s written in dialogue (but you easily get the hang of it) and revolves around a new Londoner called Moses, also from the Caribbean area. He has somehow been put into the position of welcoming new arrivals from his home country when they first arrive in England and helps them find digs and a job to start off their new life. This fixer position is not what he likes but he’s too soft-hearted to complain and besides, it gives him a level of importance when England refused to recognize that in its new Black immigrants. (It’s the 1950s UK as well, so cultural diversity was pretty non-existent in terms of being recognized by official and unofficial powers that be.) 

I’m definitely going to do a long blog post on this because it’s worth it. I’ll link to it when it’s done so you can peruse it at your leisure. 🙂

Moving on, I’d enjoyed my May read of a biography of Queen Elizabeth II by Robert Lacey and so wanting more royal-related reading, toddled off the library and picked “The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by her Nanny, Marion Crawford” (1950). 

At the first chapter, I almost put it down because it was written so simply (too simple) and seemed to be rather sycophantic at the same time. But for some reason, I kept going and, in the end, I must have become used to these traits since I finished the read without too much trouble (except a slump in the middle). A longer blog post in the future, for sure, so check back for that. 

And now I’m deep into “The Secret of Chimneys” by Agatha Christie (1925), a murder-mystery that is all wrapped up in a warm cup of tea. Not sure who the murderer is right now but thoroughly enjoying this read. Definitely enjoying this. Next — not too sure. Just bought a couple of books online and a couple more at B&N (gift certificate was burning a hole in my pocket). And more to come on that…

We’re having our home’s hardwood floors refinished so we’re hanging out at a kind friend’s house to avoid the noisy sander – first stage of the process. The workers tell us should only be a couple more days and then it should look great. Can’t wait. 

Reading plans for the future include a refocus on the old TBR pile and picking up some more writers of color. 

And I’ve been cooking up a storm, supper-wise (and still continuing with our marathon project of watching “The Great British Baking Show” except I’m not baking. I’m more of a savory person when I’m the chef in charge…) Recent winning recipes include (a very easy) Crock-Pot beef stroganoff, another pork tenderloin with figs (a replay from earlier in the summer but no link) and a tasty (and very summer-y) vegan strawberry-edamame spinach salad.

We’ve also been sucked into “Schitt’s Creek” which is brilliant fun (currently in crush mode with Alexa and David) and “Minari”, a movie about a Korean immigrant family to the US who wants to own a farm instead of being stuck sexing chicks (their current gig). It’s a fascinating plot all done in subtitles (since the family are such recent arrivals to the US). It probably meets the definition of a bildungsroman in terms of plot — seriously one of the best movies we’ve seen this year. 

And then I’ve been pulled into doing loads of word search puzzles. Not the most intellectual of pursuits but they are fun!

Library Loot: June 14 2021

Top to bottom, left to right:

  • Trees – DK Eyewitness Books (NF/nature)
  • An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science – Edward J. Larson (NF/history/geog)
  • The Round Tree – Louise Erdrich (F)
  • Started Early, Took my Dog – Kate Atkinson (F)
  • Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King (F)
  • An American Marriage – Tayari Jones (F)
  • The Little Princesses: The Story of the Queen’s Childhood by her Nanny, Marion Crawford – Marian Crawford (NF/bio/auto)
  • The Secret of the Chimneys – Agatha Christie (F/murder)

Already read and finished the Stephen King book (ok) and now about to start on the then-scandalous Crawford memoir about the Queen’s childhood (and that of her sister). Ohh la la. (Rather a craze on the royals right now. 🙂 )

Reading Review: May 2021

May was quite a busy month with the end of the university semester and final grades etc. etc. but most of my work responsibilities are now complete and I have time to reset and chill out. Reading for May rather reflected the work load in some ways, but it was still fun to do.

Reads for May included the following:

  • The Bean Trees – Barbara Kingsolver (F)
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (F)
  • Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor – Robert Lacey (NF/bio)
  • 100 Great Artists: A Visual Journey from Fra Angelico to Andy Warhol – Charlotte Gerlings (NF/art history)
  • As We Are Now – May Sarton (F)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos (F)

There is a distinct lack of blog posts related to these reads, but that is not a reflection of the quality – only of my available time and energy!

I enjoyed these reads, two of which were rereads (the Kingsolver and the du Maurier) – unusual for me. I’m not typically a big rereader but I wanted a few reads that were pretty straightforward and that I had enjoyed in the past. Both of these met those goals so that was nice.

June reading goals: more of the same really. Stay focused on the current TBR pile and pick up the focus on POC authors and topics again. (Rather fell off that in the previous month.) Onward and upward!

People you should meet…

Trawling my TBR shelves the other day, I realized that I have quite a few autobiographies and biographies about various people so thought I would gather these titles together in case you might be interested. One caveat: these are TBR which means that I haven’t read them just yet. They look good though!

Now I just to read them all. HA!

Summer Plans…

I’ve now properly started my Summer of Liz which means oodles of free time for me (I’m very lucky), and I’ve been thinking of how I’d like to spend my time. (Doing loads of very worthy and world-changing activities, I’m sure… HA.) 

Actually, I’m not sure what I’m going to do but I do know it’s going to involve going to the gym and the pool (for the lazy river, naturally!); it’s going to consist of lots of reading; and I’m determined to continue with this slightly out-of-character interest in cooking new recipes. 

(I think this is what happens if you binge-watch a couple of seasons of the Great British Baking Show. I’m not that interested in baking sweet stuff so I tend to focus more on savory recipes. If I’m going to cook, I may as well make it something ready for supper… Two-birds-with-one-stone idea. If I’m honest, I am also not the greatest with fiddly baking stuff either.) 

Recipes so far have included spinach and feta cheese wrapped up in individual puff pastry packets (yum); lemon chicken; roasted turkey tenderloins with herb sauce and pork tenderloin with figs — all new recipes to me and all worthy of repeating. 🙂

Reading-wise, I think I’d like to focus on my own TBR pile for a while and see what progress I can make there. I do love the library and I’m sure I’m going to continue my visits there — I’d just like to continue my ongoing focus on my own books as well. (I also need to turn off that One-Click option on Amazon… 😉 )

I’d also bet that there will be a jigsaw puzzle or two to keep me busy. 

To contribute to communal life, I volunteered some time with the local Friends of the Library group which was fun and worthwhile. I’ll probably repeat that again sometime soon. Messing around with books? Going to the library? No pressure to be sociable? Yes please.

And then I’d really like to get some culture so I’m planning on seeing what exhibits our museums and art centers have going on. Haven’t been to them for some time so interested in catching what’s new (to me, at least). And linked with this, I’d like to pick up my camera and doing some photog stuff again as well. 

So, we’ll see how this progresses. None of this stuff is “have-to-do” and if it happens, that’s great. If not, no pressure there either. Win-win. 

I do like summer (especially since our region hasn’t hit the highest temperatures yet so it’s not too brutal to spend time outside right now). I hope your summer is going smoothly as well. 

Summer reading

School and grades are now completely done which means, for me, that I can start the Summer of Liz. I don’t have anything required (outside the normal responsibilities) so the next three months are mine, all mine. 🙂 (I’m very lucky, I know.)

So – how to wisely spend this time? HA! I’m going to read and then read some more. I’m going to go through my wardrobe to see which outfits I can create/combine (just for fun) and I’m going to go and see my twin sis in CA for a few days.

So, speaking of reading (as we were), what titles have I read since the end of school? The above image tells the story:

  • Chasing the Monsoon – Alexander Frater (NF). Reread and ok. Probably doesn’t need to live on my shelves any more though. :-} (Off the current TBR shelf.)
  • Soul Clap Hands and Sing – Paule Marshall (F). I’ve read and enjoyed other Marshall work. This was a collection of short stories. Meh. Library.
  • Majesty – Robert Lacey (NF/bio). I love the majority of Lacey’s work (good sense of humor) and and enjoying the older bio of the monarch. Nothing too mind-shattering but enjoyable all the same. (Off the current TBR shelf.)
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (F). Loving this classic. (Off the current TBR shelf.)
  • 100 Great Artists: A Visual Journey from Fra Angelico to Andy Warhol – Charlotte Gerlings (NF/history/art). I’ve really been interested in getting some more culture so got this out of the library. A quick but wide-ranging tour of some of the artworks of the world (mostly [all?] Western hemisphere).
  • The Pale Horse – Agatha Christie (F). A murder mystery all wrapped by the end of your cup of tea. I do like a Christie every now and then. Library.

New TBR shelf…

Here are the titles on the new TBR shelf:

  • Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience – Shaun Usher (ed.) (NF/socio)
  • On Doctoring: Stories, Poems, Essays – Richard Reynolds, M.D. and John Stone, M.D. (eds.) (NF/socio)
  • The Girls from Winnetka – Marcia Chellis (NF/bio)
  • A Victorian Courtship: The Story of Beatrice Potter and Sidney Webb – Jeanne McKenzie (NF/history/bio)
  • Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places – Bill Streever (NF/geog)
  • My Family and Other Animals – Gerald Durrell (NF/nature)
  • All Things Wise and Wonderful – James Herriott (NF/nature)
  • The Book of Not – Tsitsi Dangarembga (F)
  • Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card (F/sci fi)
  • Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor – Robert Lacey (NF/bio). Read. Good.
  • Time and Again – Jack Finney (F)
  • On Borrowed Wings – Chandra Prasad (F)
  • Olive Kitteridge – Elizabeth Strout (F)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes – Anita Loos (F). Read. Good.
  • Mr. Chartwell – Rebecca Hunt (F)
  • Tales of a Female Nomad: Living at Large in the World – Rita Golden Gelman (NF/travel). Read. Good.
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey – The Countess of Carnarvan (NF/history)
  • Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier (F). Read. Good.

As always, the usual guidelines are in place: these are just suggestions for me and I’m happy to go off-piste if I want to. It’s summer time rules here! 🙂

Reading Review: April 2021

The reads for April 2021 included:

  • Life After Life – Kate Atkinson (F). Loved this and plan on reading more Atkinson.
  • The Happiness Project – Gretchen Rubin (NF). Meh.
  • Bird: DK Eyewitness Books (NF). I’m starting to get into a bit of birdwatching but I’m a big novice right now. Thought I’d learn some basic facts.
  • Evil Under the Sun – Agatha Christie (F)
  • Living, Loving, and Lying Awake – Sindiwe Magona (F/short stories). OK.
  • Belfast Diary: War as a Way of Life – John Conroy (NF/history/geog). Pretty interesting how it “normalizes” a war-torn society and culture.
  • Suburban Sahibs: Three Immigrant Families and Their Passage from India to America – S. Mitra Kalita (NF). OK.
  • Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn (F). Despite my aversion to short stories, these worked. Plus it’s on a list of Favorite Reads by President Obama.
  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towles (F). Loved this. Definitely going to read more Towles.
  • Dinner ASAP – Cooking Light (NF/cooking). I’ve been cooking some of these recipes – very good and not too complicated for this neophyte chef.
  • All Creatures Great and Small – James Herriot (NF/memoir). Just a good read.
  • Freddie and Me: A Coming-of-Age (Bohemian) Rhapsody – Mike Dawson (GN/autobio). Fairly typical teenaged angst for GNs.  

So to the (rather obsessive!) numbers:

  • Total number of books read in April 202112.
  • Total number of pages read 3,656 pages (av. 305). 
  • Fiction/Non-Fictionfiction / non-fiction. 0 plays.
  • Diversity 3 BIPOC. books by women.
  • Library books vs. books I owned (and thus removed from the home abode): library books, owned books (whee!) and e-books.

Plans for May 2021 include continuing to include more BIPOC writing on my list. Continue this pace of reading and continue this streak of reading more from my own TBR as opposed to those titles from the library. Sounds pretty doable to me. Plus – it’s the end of the semester and I’m off for the summer. 🙂