Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Way Behind....14 Books in One Post

I'll admit it. I'm woefully way behind in blogging about the books I've read. Rather than face the task of catching up I will list additional books here with a 1 - 5 star rating and a few keywords.

The Visits of Elizabeth by Elinor Glyn (who figures as a character in The Dressmaker). **** Tags: funny, England, France, quirky characters.

The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. *** Tags: children's lit, read more than once, family saga, prairie. I'll never understand why Carrie did not come to help Laura when she was pregnant or after the baby was born.

Palmerino by Melissa Pritchard. **** Tags: quirky characters, Italy, historical fiction. A strange book.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. **** Tags: quirky characters, funny, audiobook, asperger's syndrome.

Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder. ***** Tags: favorite, childrens lit classic, read more than once, family saga. What a jewel. What a gem.

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin. **** Tags: quirky characters, England, something dark, coming of age, death and dying, governess, historical fiction. A haunting book.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. **** Tags: favorite, quirky characters, book to film, something dark, funny, coming of age, death and dying. I carried this book everywhere with me when I was on vacation. So many people stopped me to talk about it. A cool, connective experience.

Under the Lilacs by Louisa May Alcott. *** tags: quirky characters, children's lit, funny, small town, orphans, new england, dogs, alcott. SOmeday I will run out of Alcott books to read. Someday.

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. **** Tags: favorite: children's lit classic, read more than once, family saga, prairie.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. **** Tags: favorite, mystery, quirky characters, england, something dark, funny, small town. SUCH a fun book.

Sleeping Beauty by C. S. Evans, illustrated by Arthur Rackham. *** Tags: children's lit, something dark. Believe it or not, I read this online via the Library of Congress at

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder. **** Tags: favorite, childrens lit classic, read more than once, Newbery Honor, prairie.

The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart. *** Tags: mystery, quirky characters, England, something dark, orphans, death and dying.

How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway. *** Tags: quirky characters, funny, coming of age, family saga, audiobook, wwii.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Her Royal Spyness

Finished Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen. Set in the 1930s, this is a cozy mystery that’s a mix of Nancy Drew, Downton Abbey, and P. G. Wodehouse. It’s fun, funny, light and highly entertaining. I listened to an audiobook recording read by Katherine Kellgren.

My Salinger Year

Finished My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff. In the mid 90s, Rakoff spent a year working at a literary agency in New York as an agent’s assistant. The agent just happened to be J. D. Salinger’s agent. Rakoff describes the intricate dance of antiquated protocol the agency demanded of its staff and the lengths they went to to protect Salinger from his adoring public. This is a wonderful memoir that reads like a novel. Highly recommended.

Garden Spells

Finished Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen. This was a wonderful bit of magical realism. Claire Waverley lives in her grandmother’s old house, cooking her grandmother’s recipes and tending her grandmother’s enchanted garden. Claire has a lot of scars. As a young child, she and her mother roamed the country living wherever they could, often in homeless shelters. When her little sister was born her mother retuned home to give her daughters some stability. She eventually left them with their grandmother and was soon after killed in a car accident.

Claire keeps to herself living a quiet life. She runs a catering business that is rather unique. The Waverleys’ have a reputation for knowing far more than the ordinary town folk. Claire’s grandmother’s recipes contain flowers and herbs that give those who eat them courage, insight, even love. The apple tree in the Waverley’s garden is especially gifted and even figures as a character in the novel. When Claire’s younger sister Sydney appears after ten year’s absence, Claire’s world is thrown off kilter. Claire of course takes them in.

This was a lovely book.

Shelter Me

Finished Shelter Me by Juliette Fay. Janie LaMarche is newly widowed. She has two small children and is mad as hell. Various well meaning people try to assuage her grief with advice, food, and self defense classes. When Tug Malinowski knocks on her door to discuss the surprise front porch her husband planned before his sudden death, she is speechless. She is almost as loquacious when Father Jake, a young Catholic priest, makes his weekly visit bringing his own tea bag. As Janie’s icy rage begins to thaw, her friendships with these two men plot the course for the rest of her life. While certainly somber at times, this book is pretty hilarious. Fay has a flair for humor and certainly knows her way around the roadmap of human emotions. I really enjoyed reading this book, picking it up often to see what would happen next. I also enjoyed her second novel, Deep Down True.

On the Banks of Plum Creek

Finished On the Banks of Plum Creek, the fourth book in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s series. It won the Newbery Honor Medal in 1938. Laura is now seven. She and her family leave their home in Indian Territory in Kansas and travel to Minnesota. Here they settle in a sod dugout adjacent to Plum Creek. The dugout is homey and snug. Flowers grow in the outside of it and the sound of the burbling creek is ever-present. Plum Creek has many faces. In places it is shallow and calm, home to the grumpy old crab and minnows that nibble at Laura and Mary’s feet. But after a spring thaw it is a roiling, dangerous body that could carry little girls away. Laura learns this frightening lesson after disobeying her parents and playing in the creek when it is overfilled and rushing.

Because they are so close to town, Laura and Mary go to school for the first time. Some of the other girls are quite nice, but here Laura meets her arch nemesis, Nellie Oleson. Wilder’s books, as well as the dramatization of them, have made Nellie Oleson the most notorious spoiled brat in the world.

Eventually Pa builds them a wooden house above ground and plants a large wheat crop that he has high hopes for. Sadly a great swarm of grasshoppers comes and destroys the crop and every speck of green around them. They lay their eggs in the ground promising that the next year will be just as bad. Pa must travel on foot, 300 miles to the east to work as a harvester in order to have money to pay towards the building materials for their new house and to buy supplies for the winter. He leaves mid-summer and does not return until winter sets in. Pa does this for two years. The second year he returns home in time to walk to town for supplies and Christmas candy. On the way home he is caught in a four days blizzard. Luckily he falls down the banks of the creek into a sheltered hollow and waits out the storm there. He becomes so hungry that he must eat the Christmas candy he bought for Laura, Mary and Carrie. When he returns to them the girls are glad that he ate the candy, glad that it brought him some relief during his blizzard experience.

Quite a lot happens in the book in terms of Ingalls family lore. It was perhaps my second favorite when I was growing up. The idea of living alongside a creek was always very appealing.