The Week in Review: Book Edition

I thought I would change things up a bit and write about books this week.  As much as I love to read I am surprised I don’t write about books more. Hmm.


Random Pick: A few weeks ago at the library I chose a shelf on a whim and counted over 33 books. I got “Wedding Girl”. Totally not what I was in the mood for. I looked up and…ta-da “Cooking for Picasso” called my name. Loved it!  One of those novels based on a bit of historical fact and jumped back and forth in time, in a good way.

Serendipity:  The day after I started reading “Cooking for Picasso”  I got my National Geographic magazine in the mail and it had an article on Picasso and let me know that there is a mini-series about the life of Picasso on the National Geographic channel starting in April. How coincidentally wonderful is that?  It is a 10 part series I am recording to watch during the summer.

Something Crazy:  Remember “chiaroscuro”?  Yes, again!  This time in “The Golden Hour” by T. Greenwood. And also in the book a character wears a pair of red flannel pajamas with black scottie dogs on them.  I have those pajamas!  I am so reading some more Greenwood, she gets me. 🙂

Mystery Series:  My favorite genre is the mystery.  For quite a few years I really liked getting into a series but lately I have found that all the newer series seem pretty repetitive.  After 3 or 4 books the series grows stale not to mention how similar they all feel. Woman loses job, breaks up with long time boyfriend and moves back home.  She has a quirky but endearing family, lands some sort of interesting job or joins the family business  and promptly gets involved with a readily available handsome member of the law enforcement. Add in an unbelievable number of murders in a small town.  Sheesh.

But here are a few series that have managed to stay believable and keep things fresh:

The Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny– It helps that the main character is a homicide investigator, making his proximity to murder believable.  There is so much depth to these stories though and so many other characters.  Never boring, never predictable.

The Faith Fairchild series by Katherine Hall Page – Enough travel keeps things interesting as well as the details of the rest of her life as her children grow up.  Good recipes too!

The Sadie Hoffmiller series by Josi Kilpack – I have only finished the first three books (there are 12) but this series feels much more realistic than most.  Yes, there is a boyfriend detective but she still gets sentenced to community service for interfering in a police investigation. Pretty real!  And there is a lot of travel so no scary small town full of homicides.

Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton –  There is a mystery in each book but not necessarily a murder.  Set in England it appeals to the Anglophile in me and while there is a little of the woo-woo communication from the dead it doesn’t override the rest of the story.

The Molly Murphy series by Rhys Bowen – I love learning about the early 1900’s in New York City where this series is set.  It is interesting seeing how much harder it was to track down information in those days, how people lived in general and all the obstacles to being a lady detective.  Yes, there is a police love interest but I can live with it.

The Jane Austen series by Stephanie Barron – I have only read the first two books (of thirteen I believe) but seriously why wouldn’t I love Jane Austen as a sleuth?  England, historical time period and a writer, all right up my alley.

What book I just finished: “Euphoria” by Lily King, not my usual fare but lately I have been choosing more books randomly, either off the ‘recently returned shelf’ or the staff picks or just walking down an aisle seeing what catches my eye.  This book did not disappoint and suited my mood which has been rather up and down thanks to MHC (menopausal hormonal craziness). {I am hoping if I use MHC enough times it will catch on.}  A Margaret Mead inspired story that really held my attention.

What I am reading right now:  “Into the Magic Shop” by James R. Doty, MD, again not something that would normally grab me but I am surprised at how much I am loving this book.  I am not quite 1/2 way yet but already I want to be a better person and really learn how to meditate.  I have chosen “rose rain” as my focus word.

An easy way to track your reading: I had never thought about tracking what I read until I stumbled across the clever idea of using a five year journal and promptly adopted it.  For those of us not interested in digital tracking I have found a small five year diary works perfectly.  I jot down the title, author and a sentence or two about what I thought of the book or how it made me feel. I list the book under the date I started it.  Super easy, not overly time consuming and this diary is going to last more than five years, even with all I read. I started last July and could not be happier. And my diary is so cute!

 

Did you have a good book week?

Don’t Read the Iliad Day

Are you are a person who reads books simply for fun like I do? And do you sometimes feel a little guilty about reading nothing but Cozy Mysteries or Summer Beach reads? Do you feel like at some point you need to read some “real” literature? So you put something like “Moby Dick” or the “Iliad” or “The Sound and the Fury” on your to be read list. And then that book hangs over your head for months or even years.

Good news!  Today is “Don’t Read the Iliad Day”.  Or whatever book is destroying your peaceful reading life.  So cross it off the list.  Enjoy your current best seller or the latest bodice ripper guilt free.  Today you have been released from Real Literature you feel you should be reading.

I have to go now and return “The Sound and the Fury”, unopened, to the library.

I am also returning “American Sniper” unread and gave up on “The Photographer’s Wife” halfway through it. Just not my cup of tea.  But I loved all my other books and am on the last one now, “Your’s Truly”.

 

Too Many Books?

Can there be such a thing? Sort of,  when one doesn’t plan their library requests very well. I already had five books checked out from the library when I got an e-mail letting me know that five more books that I have been waiting for were now ready for pick-up. Oops. But being the trooper that I am I see no problem. (I even picked up another book when I picked up the five that were ready!)

Luckily it is very easy to renew books on-line and you can renew up to three times as long as no one else has requested the book.  So far no one is waiting for any of my books, whew!

So here is what is currently on my designated “books from the library shelf”:

Just finished “A Rule Against Murder” by Louise Penny.  Love this series.  It was the perfect book to read during our recent premature heat wave (90s already!) since it was set during a late June heat wave.

Currently reading “Murphy’s Law” by Rhys Bowen.  This is the first in a series.  I read one in the middle of the series that was set at Christmas at Christmas and really liked it.  So now I am starting from the beginning.

“A Family of Poems”  gathered by Caroline Kennedy with lovely art work by Jon J. Muth.  I have always wanted to be a person who reads poetry but alas I have a hard time getting into it.  I saw this book in the children’s section and thought it would be a perfect way to give poetry another chance.

My large on-deck pile:

“The Quality of Silence” Rosamund Lupton

— I am a sucker for any book set in Alaska.  I think reading about all that snow makes me feel cooler here in the desert.

“The Sound and the Fury”  William Faulkner

— No promises though I have read if you can get past the first chapter it gets easier to read. I thought it was time to try and work a classic or two into my reading life.

“Aunt Dimity and the Buried Treasure” Nancy Atherton

—  Another series I have been reading.  Light but I love the settings and can totally picture myself living in the little cottage in Finch.

“The Photographer’s Wife”  Suzanne Joinson

— I love it when I can learn history from entertaining fiction.  This book is set in Palestine between World Wars I and II, a place and time which I know nothing about.

“Legacy of the Dead”  Charles Todd

— Another series I am reading.  This book is near the beginning of the series (#4, published in 2000) and yet there always seems to be a waiting list at the library for these books.  Post World War I England, a murder to be solved and tea to be enjoyed.  No better combination.

“American Sniper”  Chris Kyle

— I have been wanting to see the movie since it came out but still  haven’t gotten around to it.  Now I am on the wait list for the DVD from the library but decided I want to read the book first. Typically a book provides a lot more detail than the movie.

“Die Like an Eagle” Donna Andrews

— Another “fun murder” series set in Virginia with lots of crazy people.  The kind of family I love reading about and so happy I don’t belong to.

“Yours Truly” Heather Vogel Frederick

— A children’s mystery.   I stumbled on the first book “Absolutely Truly” while waiting in the children’s section for my son to pick out some books. I read it and liked it enough to check and see what else the author had written and saw that a second “Truly” book was on order.  So I put my name on the list and the book came in much quicker than I expected.  I like the New Hampshire setting and the fact that it is a military family and a bookstore is involved.  I sort of wish they could adopt me.

“Black and Blue”  Anna Quindlen

— I have read several of her other novels and “Every Last One” still haunts me.  So I thought I would try this one.

 

So there you go, a variety of reading suggestions from “Yours Truly”.  HA HA, I should close all my posts with a book title!

 

Random Bits

  • My doctor’s appointment went really well.  One, I am not crazy, and two she said my weight was “perfect”.  Perfect! Who doesn’t love that?  I wanted to run right out and eat a hot fudge sundae.  As for the not crazy part, wheat could very well be making feel cranky and causing my joint pain.  It is normal for changes to occur with age and the wheat intolerance could be a new thing and not even related to my thyroid issue.  Hmmm.   So this week I am back to avoiding wheat and  expecting to feel on top of the world again by Friday.  My thyroid antibody level is good, well in the normal range.  If I feel bad in the spring I will get tested again.  The doctor doesn’t think there is a known (proven) link between allergies and hypothyroidism but every person is unique and  I may have one.  Hmmm. 
  • What has been crazy is this heat. I really don’t want to leave the house or cook or do anything the least bit strenuous. There have been a few days where I wait until late afternoon when the sun is less intense before even getting in the pool.  I call this nauseating heat or crazy heat, as in I must be crazy to live here.

 

  • Summer lasagna. I have been doing pretty well using my CSA items each week. We had a couple of eggplant we had picked when we picked apples right before school started and I made ratatouille which was okay but not a fave. So when we got 2 eggplant in our CSA box I was a little stumped as to what to make. It was much too hot for a traditional eggplant parmesan but then I found a different recipe for a lighter version and modified that a bit more to keep things easy. I cut the eggplant into ~1/2 in slices, skin on and brushed both sides with garlic olive oil. I broiled each side for about 5 minutes then put it in a baking dish. I topped the broiled eggplant with leftover homemade spaghetti sauce that I had in the freezer. This sauce had ground turkey and diced summer squash in it . Then I threw a layer of mozzarella on top. That was it. I popped it in a 375 oven, set the timer for 30 minutes and went and jumped in the pool. When we came in the house it smelled just like lasagna and the taste? Wonderful and yet light enough for the heat wave. I could not believe how much we loved it.

 

  • My new downstairs office.  Not really loving it.  I miss the privacy and space upstairs, having a desk to spread things out on and a bulletin board to hang things on. My new space works okay during the day when I am home alone but I have given up trying to get anything done after 3:00p.  I still have no idea where to hide Christmas presents or the Santa wrapping paper.  I am still working on finding the best way to organize paperwork.  One positive side of the move is the view out the side window.  In the mornings I set up my workspace in the dining room.  (i.e. take my laptop out of the drawer and put it on the table.)  Then I open the dining room sheers and I have an unimpeded view of our grassy side yard and trees. I  can actually forget I am in the desert with this view. Since the window faces west it is nice and cool in the mornings but the sun in the late afternoon makes the room too warm to be comfortable  and too glary to see well.  So I close the sheers again.  Now I am wondering if I need to buy and install a second curtain rod so I can close the regular curtains in the afternoon.  I have put buy and install second curtain rod on the to do list. (Done!  I will get to test it out this afternoon.)

 

  • Right now I am drowning in good books to read.  This happens every once in awhile.  Sort of like your eyes are bigger than your stomach adage.  Yesterday I started reading “Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks”  by John Curran despite being in the middle of “Some Luck” by Jane Smiley and “Bertram’s Hotel” by Agatha Christie.   I need to pick up “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” from the library as after a very long wait it is finally my turn.  And I have four more library books on my shelf waiting patiently to be read.

I have words to write and words to read, Life is Good.

The Influence of Books

I am a voracious reader. Yup, voracious. I can’t remember the last time a day went by when I didn’t spend some time reading. I have always wondered what people did when they traveled by airplane if they didn’t read.  I think public libraries are the best thing ever.

I read for entertainment.  I read to experience other time periods and other cultures and lifestyles.  Mostly I read mysteries, cozies, some popular fiction and a little chick-lit.  Occasionally I will read a western or a romance or even a cookbook.   A biography gets thrown into the mix once in awhile.  I never read science fiction or fantasy.  Nope, no Harry Potter or J.R. Tolkien for me.

I love to read stories set in England or Europe.  I like the details of house descriptions and knowing what people ate for meals and getting a glimpse of the routine of their life.  And while reading these books sometimes I find myself craving bits of the characters lives.  Okay, mostly craving bits of their meals.  A week ago I was reading “The Diva Steals a Chocolate Kiss” and found myself wanting chocolate raspberry muffins that Sophia made for breakfast one morning.  So I made chocolate raspberry muffins!

 

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Yum!

 

Sometimes the cravings go away when the book ends, but sometimes not and there is nothing to be done but to fulfill it.  It is not always food I crave.  I have been reading a series about quilters by Jennifer Chiaverini.  I love how the books skip around in time and location.  Everytime I read one I have the urge to make a quilt.  Being realistic I am starting with a dresser scarf instead, made out of nine patch squares.  I also like how Mary in the Little House Books was always working on her nine patch quilt insteading of getting into mischief like Laura.

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My sewing basket

Books have also made me want to move to various places such as , Virginia (Krista Davis), the lake country in England (The Beatrix Potter series by Susan Wittig Albert ) and wherever Mitford is (Jan Karon).

Of late I have been fond of reading  books set in WWII Europe.  I read “All the Light We Cannot See” recently.  Wow.  “The Nightingale”  is another good one along with “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society”.  Reading books set during that time period really makes me appreciate all that I have.  If I find myself groaning over preparing dinner I stop and realize how lucky I am to have food and the means to cook it.  How horrible it would be to have a hungry child and no food available.  When I am dusting I wonder what I would take if I could only keep what I could carry.  When I am paring down my wardrobe I wonder what it would be like to not be able to buy anything new for 4 or 5 years.  And back then people had a lot fewer clothes!  I can’t imagine losing all my books and access to a library.

My favorite part of the day is bedtime reading to my son.  Seems I still love young adult fiction too.  We have read (or listened to the audiobooks while traveling) all the “Little House” series by Laura Ingall Wilder and everything by Beverly Cleary.  I am lucky we enjoy some of the same books right now and will be sad when/if that time ends.

For me, books are the best part of life.  So many vicarious experiences.  I am a lucky woman. What am I reading right now?  At bedtime I am reading Agatha Christie.  Currently I am going through the Miss Marple stories in order.  I am up to “A Murder is Announced” leaving me with a desire for scones and tea.  I just started “A Serpent’s Tooth” by Craig Johnson.  I have a hankering for cowboy boots and a crush on Sheriff Longmire.  And for bedtime my son and I are reading “Junonia” by Kevin Henkes.

I hope you find the pure joy of a good book today too!