Monday, August 15, 2016

Where Have I Been and Books under the Bridge

I must confess that we have had the highest humidity (and heat with it) since we moved to the Adirondacks. Our dewpoints were in the high 70s last week and Sunday--just soaking, water-saturated air that usually does not make it this far north. Sun, followed by torrential downpours, more sun, and the cycle repeats itself. I'm "used to it" because I grew up in Boston's sultry, dripping wet Augusts, but so far we had escaped the worst of this weather here. Temps in the high 80s, that's not unheard of. But It was those Florida dewpoints that got us all down.

I am a limp dishrag in such conditions with the brain of a pinhead pigeon, and hence, I've been reading but not writing about the books consumed.

Some of you have asked about the reading shelter or reading tent, as we call it. I can tell you that we haven't been in it since our last tolerable weather day last Wednesday. But here's to hoping for more hours comforted by a beautiful view in better weather.

And then there's the view from the reading tent:

It's too bad that all the August goldenrod is not apparent in this photo. We're looking out on what should be a field of wildflowers, but because the fields have not been cut the last two years, you can see we need to hire someone to come this September to cut or "brushhog" it; that is, if we hope to keep our fields as fields and not forest. We have lots of woods, too. But I like the fields, too. It's just that expensive maintenance piece!

I've read a number of books this month so far--I will write about them in coming days, but do look at my "Books Read in 2016" blogroll, just underneath my "Blogs of  Substance" list for now.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

About ten days ago, we finally put our reading tent up. I really love reading in the tent where absolutely no mosquitos or other biting bugs can bother me, yet the breezes can flow and I can see perfectly well and listen to the birds and the wind and the animals and gaze out over the fields and woods. We've been pretty much in the low 80s F, occasionally into the high 80s. If the humidity is very high, it's horrid, but otherwise it's not too bad. Could be much, much worse.

I have finally dug my teeth into one of my Classics Club books--Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jabhvala, who won the Booker Prize in 1975. The novel was adapted into a television drama by the BBC, I believe, but I never saw it. Did you, by any chance?

I'm only about 40 pages into this 138-page book, but so far the story moves back and forth between 1923-1926 British India and the India of the late 1960s or early 1970s, the latter time period narrated by a granddaughter and grand-niece of two women who spent years in India in the 1920s and 1930s. Much of the mystery for the young narrator revolves around a character of her relatives' acquaintance, Olivia, who created a huge scandal by leaving her husband, Douglas, for the Nawab of the District.

I've also just started The Rocks by British author Peter Nichols, which is set in summertime Mallorca. I'll have more to say about this wonderful novel soon. It was published last summer 2015.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What I'm Reading Today

A very, very brief post to say that I'm fascinated by P.D. James's The Black Tower, especially the deeper I get into it, and I have been so inspired by the extraordinary characterizations in Julia Spencer-Fleming's One Was a Soldier. As many of you know, Spencer-Fleming's "mystery" series about Episcopal priest, U.S. Army helicopter pilot, and recently-returned Iraq War veteran Claire Fergusson  and Miller's Kill Chief of Police and Vietnam veteran Russ Van Alstyne just can't be beat, in my estimation, especially if you admire character-driven fiction or mysteries. I am so in awe of the writing in One Was a Soldier, published in 2011.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Here Comes a Long Reading Weekend!

Due to circumstances beyond my control, it appears that this weekend will be devoted to reading. A new tennis racquet arrived at my door, but I don't know that I'll have the strength to play this weekend. It may have to wait. But Wimbledon watching will continue, primarily in the evenings.

I've nearly finished Before the Fall by Noah Hawley, and P.D. James's The Black Tower arrived yesterday, all ready to go. So the latter will be rapidly consumed, I imagine.

But I'm also reading, chapter by chapter with rests in between, the nonfiction work by the 2015 Nobel-Prize-Winning Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The Last of the Soviets. To write this book, Alexievich personally interviewed hundreds of former Soviets about the conflicts between Soviet life and the Life After. I hope to have much more to say about it later. It has received tremendous accolades throughout Europe and North America.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Holiday Weekend Reading

All I can say is that I'm finally reading.

I downloaded the current bestselling thriller Before the Fall by Noah Hawley yesterday in an attempt to break my lack-of-reading crisis.  It worked. It's been given multiple starred reviews, and other laudatory comments from many news outlets, so I figured it might at least entertain. And it has been a page-turner, though I'll reserve a final judgement until I'm finished. 

Today I ordered The Black Tower, an Adam Dalgliesh novel, by P.D. James, which will arrive on Thursday next, to see me through the latter half of next week. I know I can read James, no matter what.

I can't believe all the titles by favorite authors to be published in September: Ann Patchett, Ian McEwan, and the Dutch author Herman Koch, to name a few!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

About Summer Reading Lists

Why summer reading lists are--for me--a definitely superb idea:
  • I have been assigned a great deal of work this summer.
  • I've been struggling to achieve balance in my life.
  • Reading is a vital, integral part of my life. Being busy with work can make me neglect reading time, which is so important to me and my well-being.
  • Making a book list for the summer gives me a compass. Instead of reading just anything that drops into my lap, I have a list of books to refer to, which I have truly wanted to read. The list is my GUIDE.
Now you are expecting a list, aren't you?
I don't have one yet.
What has been staggering is the number of recently published books I'd love to read as well as the books to be published this summer, as well as my Classics List, not to mention all the other books I was hoping to read.

My partial beginning of a list:
O Pioneers!  Willa Cather  (Classics Club)
Serena by Ron Rash
Housekeeping by Robinson

I can face it-- It's a very miniature start, but I'm going to keep working  on it.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mid-June Reading and Ron Rash

Reading, eating, and breathing--in that order. The bare essentials of life, and without them my life feels out of control and downright crazy. (Work implodes.) So my highest priority has to be to hoist myself up onto the book train again.

I finished Touch Not the Cat by Mary Stewart, enjoyed it tremendously, and will write a brief blog post about it sometime in the next few days.

And what am I taking breaks to read at the moment? I fell into reading Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, another gothic novel. The original UK title was The Girl in the Photograph. When I looked Riordan up on the Web, I discovered she's written a number of other books that sound as though they'd be perfect for my future contemporary gothic forays.

My next Classics Club read is O Pioneers! by Willa Cather. I'm looking forward to quieting my brain just enough so I can dig into this wonderful novel about settlers on the Great Plains. I know I've mentioned that I'd soon be reading this two months ago, but my rabbit-hole was cavernous.

I've been waiting and wanting to read a novel by the American and Appalachian writer Ron Rash for some time. (The link provides access to an interview with Rash.)  Most of his novels are set in wilderness or near wilderness and have themes related to the land and the wilds and rural America. I'm going to read Serena first, for which Rash won the PEN/Faulkner Award about 5 or 6 years ago. Serena is now or recently has been made into a motion picture. Rash's Above the Waterfall appeared this year, but I'm putting that one on hold, even though its story line is compelling. Rash is considered to be one of the country's best writers and poets. And he was born in that great vintage year 1953...

Sunday, June 5, 2016

June Reading: The Loney and Touch Not the Cat

The month of May was abysmal as far as my number of books read is concerned. (It  was superlative for hours spent in wilderness watching spring unfold.) I read The Lewis Man by Peter May, and L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton.  The Lewis Man was absolutely superb, but this particular Letter "L" Grafton book was pure tedium. I think I read one other dud in this series, but can't remember which one. I know, based on experience, that M is for Malice is certain to be much better, because that's how it went with the book following the only other clunker.
So what about this month of June? I have loads and loads of work this month and tomorrow morning I'm leaving for a week to research in southeastern New York State. Fortunately I've already dug into the extraordinarily fascinating book, The Loney, by Andrew Michael Hurley. It's a story of a retreat or pilgrimage for a devout group of orthodox, or fundamentalist, Roman Catholics in the far north of England, making their way to the bleak shores of Lancashire to a holy site during Easter Week. The time period is the 1970s. I read a review that said it had gothic undertones, and I went for it based on that. I never thought such a  story would grip me, but it's so artfully crafted, I'm amazed and I can't imagine what Hurley has up his sleeve.
I can't wait to read Touch Not the Cat by one of my favorite authors, Mary Stewart. Have you read this one? I bought it at a book sale about six years ago, and it's been lying untouched on my bookshelves ever since. No longer! Katrina of Pining for the West and I are reading it on and around June 15th. I'm bringing it on my research trip this coming week, so I can start reading. It sounds truly gothicish or gothicky. Neither are true adjectives, but perhaps some of you gothic-afflicted people will know what I mean.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Something Happened on My Way through May

Yes, indeed.  I fell in love with spring in the Adirondacks all over again.
You see, May last year, I scrambled to finish grading papers and exams for my final semester at the college. The very next day my 4-month-long, grueling professional genealogy course began--and I had not a free moment until Labor Day in early September.

So this year I have found that I am literally going wild with excitement observing all the spring wildflowers again, I'm fascinated taking stock of the state of my forest in different habitats, and also am thrilled to construct new, interesting trails to take advantage of the beauty on our land. Of course I still have to work, so I limit these activities on weekdays to 90 minutes. And weekends, I allow myself much more time still. So it's probably no surprise that I'm not reading as much as I was in March--a stellar reading month--11 books without a single dud.

So, it's no wonder that right now I'm enjoying the forest ecologist Bernd Heinrich's The Trees in My Forest. He writes about his personal studies on his 100+ acres in northwestern Maine, and his land is very similar to our land in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York. He is probably the best-known and most widely read nature writer in the Northeastern U.S.

I'm still reading L is for Lawless by Sue Grafton, but am eager to finish it so I can strike out and claim some new bookish terrain.

Unfortunately, it's going to be very, very hot this weekend--high 80s!! And still our air conditioner men have not arrived. You will never hear me complain about our winter cold, but the heat does wilt me. The cure: Take a cold shower. Dig deep into a mesmerizing book in a darkened room. Don't come out, unless there's an invitation to an air-conditioned venue.

I will get out very, very early to enjoy nature before the heat hits in earnest.