Once again I am running late. However, I have some great books for February. I must admit that I have been dealing with staying at home by reading mysteries. Right now, they seem to be doing a great job of bringing me to another place.
We will start with a trip to Ireland. The Searcher by Tana French Will take you away and pass those long virus days. A Chicago policeman retires to a small village in Ireland buying a true fixer upper of a cottage. He is drawn into solving a local mystery by a child who works her way into his life by helping with his projects. This book has been a best seller. It lives up to its reputation.
Next, we will travel to Scotland and enjoy a book from a series I have discovered by Ann Cleeves. There are lots of books in this series that I will continue to enjoy. At a Shetland Island art show, a man breaks down while looking at a painting. The next day he is found dead under strange circumstances. Our hero struggles to solve this mystery that keeps on growing. This is part of Scotland I would really like to visit so I am going to enjoy all this series. I believe this is a series on PBS although I have not seen it.
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta is an older book from 2011. I have always been just a little afraid to read it. Although this is not a mystery in the usual sense, it is a page turner. Millions disappear in a rapture like event. The people who are left handle this experience in different ways. The book is not actually scary at all, but it does make you wonder, where did those people go?
The Kidnapping Club by Jonathan Daniel Wells is my representative from the nonfiction category. Both before and after slavery was banned in the United States, the city of New York played a far to active part in kidnapping both free and escaped slaves and selling them back to plantations in the south. Wall Street needed to maintain the cotton industry any way they could. This is a shocking piece of our history that is extremely well written and will hold your attention from start to finish.
I found that there were to many distractions last month. I read some good books, but I would not exactly call them great. They are good enough to mention so here we go.
Land is the latest book by Simon Winchester. Some of you might remember the Professor And The Madman. This is the book that first brought this author to my attention. He has the gift of writing non-fiction that can really hold your attention. That is a good thing because this is a long book. He brings us through history describing how taking over land has caused so much conflict in the history of the world. What if no one owned any land. Does that remind you of a John Lennon song?
Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker is totally non-fiction but shockingly hard to believe. This book follows the story of a very large family with more than their share of children with serious mental illness. Was this inherited? How can it be passed down from generation to generation? There are a couple of other family studies that add to the discoveries described in this book.
Margaret’s Story by Eugenia Price takes place in Florida around the time of the Civil War. I had forgotten about this author, but I was looking for Florida books and this one popped up. I will go back and read more by this author. I really love historic fiction from almost any period. This story took place along the Saint John’s River, part of Florida I really don’t know much about. The book is a good story and very well written. It is nice to go back and read older books. If you like historic fiction from this period I strongly suggest you read this book. The family tries its best to live through the war and not get involved. This is hard to do when you have sons that go off to fight.
I apologize for not writing something for November. We were in Florida for December and part of January. However, I had lots of time for reading so I have some great titles to pass on.
The Echo Maker by Richard Powers is the book written before the Over Story. Rather than learning all about trees this book contains well researched information about migrating birds, especially Sand Hill Cranes. Powers does not stop here. You will get an in depth and easy to understand description on how the human brain works. You might think these subjects could not be brought together and woven into a good mystery. However magically it really happens. This author likes to write extremely long books but once again you will be glad he did. I am looking forward to his next book.
Speaking of authors that hardly ever let you down: John Grisham takes you back to his first book and the small town we all fell in love with. Our hero’s law practice is struggling and so is his family. He takes on a case as a public attorney and finds himself in a world of danger. Some people were not happy with the ending of this book, but I thought it was just fine. I hope he brings us back to that small town once again.
All The Devils Are Here is the latest in the Three Pines Mystery series by Louise Penny. I really love these books. I saved this one for a vacation read. You will travel along with the Gamache family while they visit both their adult children who now live in Paris. Of course they get pulled into a mystery on their very first day. It was fun to read about Paris and learn more about the children.
Fredrik Bakman is one of my favorite authors. His books are just light enough to lift you up when you are in a bad place. We need those books right now. Anxious People takes place in Sweden but it could take place anywhere. Several people are viewing an apartment when someone comes in and hold them hostage. Remember this is Backman, and nothing gets very scary.
I think I read so many books by my favorite author because I had been setting them aside for months. Somewhere in past entries I must have said how much I enjoy George Orwell. This includes books he wrote and books about him or his house. I hope to visit the remote island off Scotland where he wrote 1984. Most of us were forced to read Animal Farm in high school. This was unfair because, in my opinion he has written so many other books that I like better. It is fun to have a conversation about 1984 with young people who see this as the distant past. It really was futuristic when I read it. So much of his writing was leading up to this book. If you have not read it lately, give it a try. However the book I just read is one that I had not known about. Keep the Aspidistra Flying is about a young man in the years leading up to the second world war. He wants to be a poet and not attached to anything material. This does not quite work out. Regretfully he gets pulled into the real world.
Since I was in Florida, I had to read a Florida book. Carl Hiaasen is another author I like but I had not read something by him in a long time.
I am copying this description from somewhere else
A prominent Palm Beach dowager is found dead in a concrete grave. Kiki Pew was an ardent fan of the Winter White House resident, and a founding member of the POTUSSIES. The President declares that Kiki was the victim of rampaging immigrant hordes. Meanwhile, there is an influx of huge, hungry pythons.
It is hard to laugh about politics right now, but this book might be just what the doctor ordered.
Keep Reading October 2020
I don’t know about you, but I won’t mind saying goodbye to this year. Only two more months to go.
October was a good reading month for me. I did a lot of walking and a lot of reading. I also seem to not be doing as much sleeping as I would like but that also means more reading time. Every cloud has a silver lining even if the lining is a little tarnished.
Apeirogon Took first prize this month against several very good books. Colum McCann starts with two real men with real stories and adds his magic touch to make this book as wonderful as it is. A man from Israel and a man from Palestine both lose their daughters to violence cause by the conflict in their towns. These men find each other and share their stories. A group is formed for families in similar situations. They prove that both sides of a long-time conflict can work together to create peace. I really love this book.
American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar gives a different look at a different conflict. Young Hayat Shah’s life changes when his mother’s friend Mina, a woman of great intelligence and beauty, arrives in his small midwestern town from Pakistan. Hayat learns from Mina about the dervishes and is determined to become a hafiz–one who memorizes the Quran–despite his parents’ objections.
The Tenderness of Wolves is written by a woman who never visits the place she writes about. In fact, she is pretty much someone who does not leave her house other than to do research at the library. However, Stef Penney takes the reader on a beautiful and frightening journey through the northern Canadian wilderness. You will slowly get to know a vivid cast of characters living in the 1860’s trying to survive in difficult conditions. Through in a great mystery and you are off on a wild journey.
Keep Reading September 2020
Have you noticed that time has been behaving strangely since the virus has started ruling our lives? Days last forever and weeks fly by. Winter is coming and we, in the north, will be moving inside. We can say goodbye to our social lives and books are going to be even more important.
Here are some books you might want to consider to help pass the time, take you away, and give you something to talk about other than politics.
The Ship of Brides by, Jojo Moyes starts in current times but quickly brings you back to the end of World War 2. While British soldiers were stationed in Australia, many of them married local women. The couples had to wait until the war was over to be united in the UK. This story is based on a slightly reconditioned war ship that is bringing over 200 wives to their new husbands. The trip is a tough one and the young women you come to know all handle the trip in their own way and it does not turn out the same for all of them.
The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis is also a great escape book. If you have been to New York City, you have probably encountered the lion statues outside the Mid-Manhattan Library. Did you know there is an apartment in the heart of the library? It is now used for storage but in the early part of the nineteen hundreds, it was occupied by the manager of the building. In this book a young family with two children live in the apartment. The husband who manages the building spends all his extra time writing a book while his wife does everything else including trying to go to school to be a journalist. Rare books begin to go missing.
Girl Woman Other by Bernadine Evaristo is the booker prize winner from 2019. I often find Booker prize books difficult to read. I think having a different writing style is what makes a book win this prize. This book is no exception, but it did not take long for me to fall into the book’s rhythm.
Twelve characters lead vastly different lives in modern Britain. From a nonbinary social media influencer to a 93-year-old woman living on a farm in Northern England, they all intersect in shared aspects of their identities, from age to race to sexuality to class.
Weather is certainly changing. We have seen a few nights in the forties. Usually I am glad to see this weather, I really do love it but soon we will be moving inside. I still have not figured out how to cope with six or seven months of being in the house. I will probably do even more reading.
I have a range of books for you this month. My first favorite book Is The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson, it Is well written and hard to put down. Winston Churchill comes to life during the time that England is under attach by Germany. His ability to give people a clear picture of what is going on draws the English to have faith in what he is doing. You will learn about his family and surroundings during this difficult time. You don’t have to have a strong interest in WW2 to find this a fastinating read.
A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory does not follow her usual study of the Kings and Queens of England. You will still find yourself in England towards the end of the 16th century. A slave trader who has worked himself up from nothing comes up with a new scheme where he will train newly captured slaves to become household slaves for the wealthy residents of England. He marries a woman two train these slaves. This does not end up going quite as planned. There are a lot of particularly good books covering the tragedy of slavery but this one gives us a new slant on slavery in the United Kingdom.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett’s the story of twins born in a small southern town. They are black but very light. They live in a mostly black town where being light skinned makes them special and treated better than the darker citizens. They run away to New Orleans to find a more exciting life. One of the sisters decides to pass as white and falls in love with her boss. She follows him to the north not to be heard from again. I won’t give the plot away, but this is a great book.
The Absolution by Yrsa Sigurdardottir is the third book in this series. You can bet I am going to read the first two. This Icelandic series is a bit dark and scary. The book I read certainly has the typical Scandinavian, not so happy ending. I find myself drawn to this dark mystery writing.
Keep Reading June 2020
At this point, reading is keeping me from going out of my mind. TV is getting old and the news only repeats itself over and over and over again. Thanks to all the authors, past and present, that keeps me going.
My first book PIECE LIKE A RIVER by Leif Enger is an older book written by the same author who wrote Virgil Wander. Rubin, his younger sister and his father are on a cross country quest to find their outlaw brother. Rubin believes in miracles and that his father can perform them. You might believe it as well after reading this book. Travel with this loving family while they stay with old family friends and new acquaintances as they make their journey. This book will gently sweep you away into another time and place. Life was hard but you could always count on a hug.
CITY OF Girls will sweep you off to by-gone days in New York City. Elizabeth Gilbert does it again. An elderly woman tells the daughter of a previous man in the woman’s life of how she interacted with the girls father. As the older woman tells her story, you are not sure witch of the many men in her life is the father of the young woman she is writing to. Spend some time in the world of the New York Theater that is not quite Broadway. A wild life is almost but not quite the norm for the people in this story.
DEACON KING KONG by James McBride takes place in NYC in 1969 and goes back in time for all the back stories. The main character shoots the local drug dealer in the face and we spend the rest of the book finding out why. The character development is stunning and the interaction between characters will win your heart. Even most of the bad guys have real redeeming qualities.
Here are three books to take you away from what is going on in our world. If you are lucky enough to be at the beach or just sitting on your porch or your favorite chair, let reading fill your mind with different kinds of adventure.
Keep Reading May 2020
By far, my favorite book for May is Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano. In fact, this is one of the best books I have read in a while. Edward is a twelve year old boy who is the only survivor of a plane crash that kills 189 people including his entire family. Edward goes to live with his aunt and uncle who have been trying to have their own child for years. Edward bonds with a girl his own age who lives next door. Together they work through Edward’s teen age years and dealing with the aftermath of the crash. You will cry but they are likely to be happy tears.
The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel is the third book in a series about Thomas Cromwell. If you have not read this series, start with the first book, Wolf Hall and enjoy your time in the fifteen hundreds in the court of Henry the eighth. This is a wonderful way to escape what is going on in the real world. There were a few years between each book so it would be nice to read them closer together.
The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern made me think of The book titled The Shadow Of The Wind. In fact that book is mentioned just about when I was thinking of it. This is a really strange book that will certainly take you to another world. Rather than try to explain it I will copy the description from NLS.
Graduate student Zachary discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks that contains stories of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, nameless acolytes, and a story about an incident from his own childhood. The book sets him on a course of adventure that leads to a hidden library.
The Red Lotus by Chris Bohjalian is extremely timely. I absolutely love all his books. His subject range in amazing. If you don’t read this try some of his other books.
This is a book about a virus and a lot of nasty people who are being tracked by someone who has no idea what they are tracking. You won’t be running out to get a pet rat very soon.
Adventures With Coronavirus June 6
Things seem to be lightening up a bit. Also other things have happened to take attention away from the virus. Our world is growing more disturbing every day. All we have to do to fight the virus is stay home. It is not as easy to solve the issue of inequality. The Corona virus even seems to be easier on white people. I know one answer is that more people of color have jobs that can’t be done from home and that are needed to keep the rest of us fed and cared for. Now I have to look deeply into the question of why do people of color have those jobs? An answer that is often given is because they don’t have the skills for other jobs. However why is that the case? I am suspect that if I keep following further with these questions I am going to end up with the fact that in some form, slavery still exists.
I am not very good at philosophy so I think I will stop here until I possibly have more answers.
We have discovered a local vegetable market with a lovely farm. It is not too far from our house and I feel safe going in because it is never very crowded. On Friday a truck comes with locally caught fish. We can go on the fisherman’s web site and place an order to be picked up next Friday. I am enjoying eating more local food.
Speaking of local food. I have quite a crop of mixed lettuces. I also have plenty of herbs. My tomatoes and peppers have a long way to go.
I am still trying to use up stuff from around the house. I seem to have many half full bottles of sun screen. Since I am in and out of the house a lot now, I am using it as lotion.
I don’t think I have mentioned how much I like good old junk food GOLD Fish to add some crunch to all the salads I am eating.
We are trying to learn to use our Insta-Pot. Actually it is another brand. We bought it because it talks but it does not talk quite enough for me to find the talking very useful. We made a lemon chicken last week that turned out really good.
A couple of weeks ago we went to visit friends and socially distanced in their back yard. It was nice to see people again but it felt really strange as well. I am not sure when I will really feel comfortable around other people. I am getting very used to being in my house or yard and only with Neal. Eventually I know we will be back to some kind of normal but honestly I don’t think that will be this year.
A big conference in the blindness field that happens in Orlando at the end of January has been changed to virtual for next year. I don’t think normal can exist until we have a vaccine that is available to everyone. That means everyone in the entire world.
My yard is full of flowers and we have been able to have the windows open most of the time. The scent of glorious flowers is everywhere. Of course, so is the pollen. The pollen will be gone soon.
Adventures With Coronavirus May 19th
Here we are starting week 9. On March 15th if you told me we would be shut in for this long I would have said I would be nuts by now. Honestly, I am no more nuts than usual. In fact I am probably much calmer and relaxed than in the other normal.
We have an appointment to get our hair cut on the 27th. The list of rules we have to follow is substantial. I am a bit nervous about going out or maybe I feel like a coward that I think my hair needs to be cut.
I called our usual nursery this morning and they will put together all my plants and put them in our car tomorrow afternoon at 5:00.
We have ordered a vegetable box from our local upscale farm stand. We ordered it on Sunday and have an appointment to pick it up at 5:00 this evening. We have some idea of what we are getting but we don’t know for sure. I feel a little like it is Christmas.
We got one of those gadgets for measuring the oxygen level in your blood. Who would have thought we would ever need this. I will put that, our thermometer and blood pressure thing in one place where I know it is.
Neal went to the grocery store Monday at 6:00 am. This means we need to get up at 5:00. The extra hour and a half makes the morning seem like it goes forever.
My yard is full of flowers. This is the best time for all those wonderful scented spring blooms. I keep picking them and bringing them into the house.
Our dock is in and now it is officially summer on the lake. I am hoping we spend a lot more time sitting outside this year. I am close to inviting someone over to sit six feet apart in a couple of comfy chairs and enjoy the lake.
This would be so much harder if it were winter. Hopefully we won’t go through this again next winter.
We are going to have to make our own decisions about what we, personally, need to do to stay safe. We also need to remember that the choices we make will affect the safety and health of others. In some ways it has been easier having someone else make decisions for us but now we have to think for ourselves. I plan to stay in and stay safe. I will make small changes very slowly. Fortunately, Neal and I are on the same page with all of this so we will be happy to stay nested in for a bit longer and enjoy what we have right here in our much smaller world.