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!

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 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! 🙂

Library Loot: April 22 2021

Library Loot for April 22 2021:

  • South Sea Tales – Jack London (F/short stories). Just saw that this is short stories. Bleugh. I am not an aficionado of short stories. What was I thinking?
  • The Pale Horse – Agatha Christie (F/mystery). Can’t go wrong with a Christie.
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (F) Wanted to read some Aussie lit.
  • The Lion in the Living Room – Abigail Tucker (NF/bio). We have kitties in our life: what can I say?
  • A Gentleman in Moscow – Amor Towlers (F). (Just finished this. Post to come.)
  • Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly – Anthony Bourdain (NF/autobio). I’m into cooking right and although this is a reread, I remember it as pretty good.
  • Cooking Light: Dinner ASAP (NF/recipes) – I know: me with a cookbook but I’m searching for new recipes. 🙂

So – any ideas of what I’ve picked up? Any recommendations?

Library Loot: April 07 2021

Loot from my local library included the following:

  • Belfast Diary – John Conroy (NF about 1980s Northern Ireland during the Troubles).
  • Sharks in the Time of Saviors – Kawai Strong Washburn (F). One of former Pres. Obama’s favorite books of 2020, apparently. If it’s good enough for him… 😉
  • A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie (F/murder mystery). Love me some Christie.
  • The Secret River – Kate Grenville (F/Australian). I’ve heard good things…
  • Dolores Claiborne – Stephen King (F). I would like to read more King so seeing if I can handle his less-scary titles first.
  • Emma – Jane Austen (F). In the mood for a good classic.
  • The Water Museum – Luis Alberta Urrea (F/short stories). I don’t always get on that well with short stories but I’ll give them a go with Urrea’s work since he’s really good.)

March 2021 Reading Review

The reads for March 2021 included:

So to the (rather obsessive!) numbers:

  • Total number of books read in February 202116.
  • Total number of pages read 3,266 pages (av. 266). 
  • Fiction/Non-Fiction10 fiction / non-fiction. 1 play.
  • 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.

So I had a productive reading month which was really fun. Plus, I also pulled out some cross-stitch and finally finished up a project that I’ve working on for quite a while. Just need to get it framed and then it’s done. 🙂

Review Roundup: London, Humans, Life After Life…

I’ve been reading quite a lot lately. It’s so interesting to see that I have a tendency to fluctuate in my reading levels. Looking back at trends over the past several years, I see that my reading levels falter in January and February and then pick up the pace once it gets into the Spring months. Is it to do with the amount of sun? Is it something to do with the moon? 😉 

I’m not sure but I’m glad I’m back into one of my most important hobbies. So – what have I actually been reading? Let me do a quick round-up for you.

Londoners – Craig Taylor (2011). A nonfiction collection of conversations, really, that Taylor has gathered from a wide range of people who live in, love, hate, or perhaps left London. This was one of those perfect reads at the perfect time for me and I loved it. It was fit in with my temporary Monkey Mind and I could really hear what his interviewees said. This was such a fascinating read and I highly recommend it if you’re searching for a good book to pick up and put down. Loved it.

The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde (1895). The play itself. I have been wanting to go to a live play or other cultural event, but the pandemic has put the kibosh on that option right now so I picked up this Wilde read. I haven’t seen or read this one and it was full of Wilde’s sly witticisms and sense of humor. Good. 

Then, still with a bit of a Monkey Mind (and thus lower levels of concentration), I was at the library (shocker!) and saw the most recent edition of the photo collection by Brandon Stanton called Humans. (He did the photo books called “Humans of New York” and has a really good blog, which I reviewed here and this was just as stellar). Stanton takes extremely good photos and allows his interviewees to really talk. Just fascinating if you like that kind of thing. (This is one of the projects that I wish I had done.) 

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson (2014). Looking for a solid good read and wanting to pull a title from my homegrown TBR (as opposed to the library), this was quite a chunky read (and yet I wasn’t scared off by it) – 536 pages. (Normally, I would run screaming from such a high page count but it was ok.) This was such a good read but it definitely plays with time and structure so you need to concentrate. The protagonist, Ursula, reincarnates over and over throughout this story but what is truth? Anyway, a very clever novel and easy to read at the same time. I’m definitely going to pick up more Atkinson at some point. 

So that’s me all caught up re: recent reads. Tell me about yours. 

Oh, and I bought a new rug for my office at home. It makes me very happy! 🙂

The Long March – Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick (1998)

Chahta hakia hoke: We are Choctaw.

With Cathy at 749Books focusing on All Things Irish this month, I’ve been pulling some Irish-related titles from the shelves and in doing so realized that I know shockingly little about Irish history. So – wanting a quick primer on the Emerald Isle, I read this title. (I also have another FANTASTIC novel that I’m finishing up but that’s a different post.)

This read was about the terrible potato famine that occurred in 1845-1847. The juvenile title covers how the Choctaw people in Oklahoma collected money from their tribespeople to send to the Irish during their time of need…

Despite having lived close to OK for many years, I was not familiar with this event of the Choctaws supporting the far-away Irish so my interest was piqued when I saw the title on my library website.

Even better – it was a kid read which meant two things: (one) it’s probably really well explained (assuming the author is good) and (two) it wouldn’t take long to read and learn. I was right on both counts.

The protagonist, Choona, a young Choctaw boy, is familiar with the terrible Great March (or the Trail of Tears) which his tribe had been forced to undertake when their lands were taken away from the tribe, and as the reader learns (along with Choona) of the overlaps between these two displaced peoples, s/he also learns the importance of being true to yourself and others.

(In fact, there is such a connection between the Choctaw tribe and Ireland that Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, was inducted as an honorary tribal chieftain.)

So – what was good about this read? Well, it was really well researched by Fitzpatrick and she had worked closely with her Choctaw contacts, both the actual Chief of the Choctaw tribe and the Executive Director of a non-profit that works with the actual tribe. This automatically added authenticity and drive to the book for me, at least.

Additionally, the artwork was stupendous. Fitzpatrick, the author, is also a professional illustrator and it was obvious that she had taken great pains to reflect Choctaw life and people accurately and with care. I wonder how she had come across this story originally, as I haven’t heard of it before now. I’m really glad that I’ve learned about this as it’s a really interesting story.

Fascinating (to me) note: According to this title, the state name of Oklahoma (actually Okla Homa) is Choctaw for “Red People”.

Library Loot: Feb. 22 2021

I checked out the following titles from my local library:

  • Quilts: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum – Elizabeth Warren. (I really enjoy looking at textile art…)
  • Snowstruck: In the Grip of Avalanches – Jill Fredston. (I was in the auto/bio section and this just looked very interesting.)
  • India Calling – Anand Giridharadas. (Still fascinated by India…)
  • Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick – Zora Neale Hurston. (I enjoy her work.)
  • The Invisible Man – H.G. Wells (Was looking for a classic and this looked short!)

So, of course, I’m not actually reading any of these just yet and reading something completely different.! 😉