#A Blaze of Glory – Wordless Wednesday

More tree pictures, some from the old camera, some from the new. It was a good year for color.
Mellow yellow.
The end result.
Out of focus orange.
Somewhat better the next day but the wind blew a lot of the leaves down.

An Autumn Blaze – 14 years of height.
A closer view.
An Autumn Fantasy.
Hanging on….
Going…
going…
Gone!
A river birch.
Same view – daylight savings time.
The day after Halloween – red and green already?
Puzzle – Fall Quilts – snuggle down for winter.

#A Walk in the Park – Wordless Wednesday

Please join me for a walk in the park to admire the fall leaves.
Orange
Red
Yellow
There’s no one hiking on the trails this quiet October Sunday – everyone must be home watching baseball.
except for The Great Pumpkin – trying out the new zoom lens.
And Mr. Chubs here – not quite ready for his camera moment.
The beach was deserted.
and the beach grass all dried up.
They’ve moved the old log cabin and rebuilt a replica.
And put a new little library in front of it. The pioneers would have loved that.
The animal farm was closed but you could still take a train ride.
or buy an $8 frozen yogurt as the weather was still warm 70 and sunny.
A last look at the Carolina forest trail, which could have been a better picture if the camera person knew what she was doing with her new camera – 77 photos on the wrong setting…

Puzzle – fall at the lake.

Happy Halloween 2022

A few pictures from the neighborhood while trying out my new camera….which has so many features it’s frightening.

The witching season is upon us.

May I have this dance?
The ghosts are ready for their big night. Better layer up – it’s cold out there.
Some ghosts are shy….
and have to be coaxed out.
Come into the parlour….said the spider to the fly.
and meet my sister.
This guy jumped out at me from behind the post when I walked by…and scared me to half to death. Happy Halloween!
This week’s puzzle.

Review of Books – Summer 2022 – Part Two

This is Part Two of my summer review of books – see last week for Part One. Welcome to my virtual bookstore – Happy Browsing!

Anne Tyler was typical Anne Tyler – French Braid was a quirky family saga – it opens with a long-ago family vacation with three teenagers who have nothing in common and their peculiar parents, including a mother who put her aspirations to be a painter ahead of her children and gradually moved out of the family home over the years to a studio.  Perhaps she thought they wouldn’t notice?  I don’t often read Anne Tyler as I just don’t get her – sure it’s readable, but what was the point of it all?  I actually had to google this one to refresh my memory as I read it last spring, it was that forgettable. 

Our House won a 2019 British mystery award, so I thought I’d give it a try.  I loved Louise Candlish’s last book, The Other Passenger, but this lacked by comparison.  I guess you could call it a domestic drama.  A woman arrives home to find another couple moving into their house, which her estranged husband has sold without her knowledge and then vanished.  You could tell it was going to be a train wreck, so it wasn’t very suspenseful.  

The Personal Librarian –   Historical tale about the life of Belle da Costa Green – a black woman who passed for white in the 1920’s, she was employed as JP Morgan’s personal assistant and helped him assemble the vast treasures of the Morgan Library and Museum.  Something about the writing was off – perhaps because it was co-written.  She led a fascinating life, so it should have been a better book, but then I’m generally not a big fan of first-person narrative…especially by two different people.

I really enjoyed The Lost Chapter even though I tend to avoid multi-generational/female friendship sagas.  Partially set at a finishing school in Lyon France in 1957, a friendship between a proper British girl and an independent brash American, ends badly.  Decades later, 80 year old Flo discovers that her friend has written a fictional book about their time there.  An artist, she befriends Alice a troubled teen, and along with her mother Carla, they impart on a road trip to France to confront her past.  Well done – I would like to read more by Carolyn Bishop.  As for the finishing school and the rules for female behaviour – how the world has changed.

The Long Weekend – another one I had to google to refresh my memory.  Three women go away for a long weekend in a remote corner of England, (without cell service of course) only to find a note waiting for them saying that one of their husbands will be murdered.  Suspenseful, from what I remember.

Verity – The librarian said this book was popular, but I am not familiar with the author, probably because I don’t read romance novels.  She also wrote It Ends With Us.  Billed as a romantic thriller, I abandoned it about fifty pages in and googled the ending on Goodreads, which justified my decision not to waste any more time on it.  A struggling young writer is hired by a charming man to finish a book his injured wife was writing.  If you want to read graphic details about two people having an affair while the wife is lying comatose upstairs, then I guess this is the book for you.  It was reissued recently with an exclusive new chapter after the author did a reading of it somewhere.  I think it was supposed to clarify the shocking ending?  Or perhaps it was a money grab?     

Iona Iversons’ Rules – charming tale about a group of people who ride the same London subway car every day, and how they meet, as the first rule of commuting is don’t talk to strangers.  A cheery read – I find I’m reading more light fiction by British novelists these days. It might have to do with the sad state of the world – they’re always good for a cuppa tea and a keep calm and carry on reading mentality. I was so impressed with this, I ordered Clare Pooley’s second book, The Authenticity Project, which was also a selection of my library book club. 

A lonely elderly patron leaves a green notebook in a local café with his life story in it, and urges others to write down the truth about their lives. The cafe owner finds it, adds her story and passes it along. Very good for light fiction, but in real life does a recovering cocaine addict who called you a bad name ever turn into the man of your dreams?    

Bloomsbury Girls – I loved this book and blogged about it in my literary salon (see link) – combines two of my favorite genres, historical fiction and bookstores. Three women working in a London bookstore during the 1950’s – the times they are a changing….

The Family Remains is a stand-alone sequel to Lisa Jewell’s, The Family Upstairs from several years ago, which was about two families sharing a cult-like existence in an old Chelsea mansion, until 3 of the adults turn up dead.   The author said her readers wondered what happened to the four teenagers in the house, so she felt the need to write a sequel.  I found The Family Upstairs to be a disturbing story, but this was better, except for that little unnecessary twist at the end.    

The Last to Vanish –  a mystery about a North Carolina inn set in a small town near the Appalachian trail, named the most dangerous town in the country. Six hikers have disappeared from the area in the past ten years.  Heavy on atmosphere (how much rustling in the woods can there be), and a fairly slow plot, but a nice ending. 

The Couple at Number Nine – British murder mystery about a young couple who are gifted a cottage when her grandmother develops Alzheimer’s and is placed in a care home.  They uncover two bodies while digging for an extension, and a crime investigation ensues.  This is more of a family drama/saga than a true suspense thriller, but the characters are well developed, and I enjoyed it.  I would order more books by this author. 

Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris – a short novella (120 pages) about a British char woman (cleaning lady) who scrimps and saves to buy a Dior dress. Written in 1958, I found the style dated and the Cockney slang/dialogue, difficult to read. A lot of repetitive description of Mrs. Harris being twinkly eyed and apple cheeked although wrinkly, gray-haired and middle aged but I found the tone of the book somewhat disparaging when she was described as a grotesque sight upon donning the vision of her dreams, a long frothy tulle and velvet concoction suitable for a jeune femme. I guess views on aging have changed. I love vintage fashion from the 50’s and am curious to see what they have done with the movie, which had fairly good reviews. The book was written by a male author I had never heard of, and I was astonished by his extensive list of books, 50 according to the flyleaf, including Thomasina the Cat, which I remember as a 1963 Disney movie and The Poisideon Adventure, from 1972. He must have been popular in his day. The second part of this book, was Mrs. Harris Goes to New York, which I did not read as I had to return to the library, and I just couldn’t handle any more of the accent and the description. There are four books in the series, including Mrs. Harris Goes to Moscow……not likely.

Out of Her Depth – was like the The Great Gatsby only set in a Tuscan villa a hundred years later – the young and beautiful and then the outsider. (Yes, the rich are different than you and me.) A young protagonist from an unfashionable part of London can’t believe her luck in landing a summer job at a Tuscan villa, where she meets a group of rich British college students on vacation. Even though I’m not the demographic for this type of psychological thriller I ordered it because it was a murder mystery set in Italy, although there was so little description of the country and the food (other than a few plates of pasta) that the novel could just as easily have been set anywhere. More character than plot driven, the story is told partially in flashback twenty years later when one of the group has just been released from jail for a murder he didn’t commit. There was some bad language, (it was young people and they tend to talk that way) but the characters were so mesmerizing and the plot-line so suspenseful, I managed to ignore it, although I was disappointed in the ending.

The other book, The Lost Ticket, was another heartwarming light British read – strangers aboard a London bus unite to help an elderly man with dementia find his missed love connection in this new novel from the author of The Last Chance Library. He lost the bus ticket with her phone number on it back in 1962. It sounded promising but I had to return it to the library as I had too many books out. (Two or three is comfortable, as I read about book a week, but seven is way too many and then I start to feel stressed…..I know, I know…..but such is retirement stress….that and medical appointments.)

A beverage on a tray on a bed is a recipe for disaster.

It’s been a long time since I’ve read a decorating book, but I saw this mentioned on another blog. It was okay to browse through, but the print was so small (is this a trend, and no I don’t have cataracts yet) but as I’m not a fan of the serene staged minimalist look, I didn’t find it too inspiring, although I did like all the white/cream backgrounds and some of the photos were pretty. There are four sections on how to beautify your home according to the seasons. I vote for fall – bring on the scented candles.

And last but not least, Between Two Kingdoms – a memoir of a life interrupted – a riveting but depressing account of a 22 year old college graduate who is diagnosed with leukemia with a poor prognosis shortly after she moves to Paris, and her grueling three year battle to survive.  The last third of the book deals with her cross-country road trip, after she is declared in remission, to visit some of the people who had written her letters during her ordeal. (She had a blog and syndicated newspaper column.)  This book was also my library book club selection and the consensus was, it was a good read but not for everyone.  Certainly not for anyone facing a cancer diagnosis as it was heavy on horrible details.  (While the treatment for leukemia can be notoriously long, I’ve known some cancer patients who were well enough to work throughout their treatment, and one treated for lymphoma who didn’t even lose his hair.) There was lots to discuss about this book, as in A) Why did it take so long to diagnosis her?  B) I can’t believe her boyfriend/fiance stuck around as long as he did, he must have been a saint. Two years without a day off?  And C) The whole road trip thing at the end just seemed like such a foolhardy decision – to put her life at risk like that when she wasn’t fully recovered, especially for a person with very little driving experience.  She left New York in a borrowed car, driving the wrong way down a one-way street, not even knowing how to merge into expressway traffic, not to mention she was alone, camping, mostly in winter, staying in isolated places and sketchy motels.  I wondered if she embarked on the trip to have something to write about?  Really I was horrified by it, and worried about her having a relapse. Having fought her way out of a such an excruciating ordeal, you’d think she would have been a bit kinder to her body, although she admitted she has had to learn to accept the limitations of her immune system.  Very well written though.  (pg. 274 – “After you’ve had the ceiling cave in on you – whether through illness or some other catastrophe – you don’t assume structural stability.  You must learn to live on fault lines.”) Sadly, this past year her cancer returned after a six year remission, and she underwent a second bone marrow transplant.

To recover from that read, I switched to TV for light entertainment. 

I’m sure this will be the last Downton Abbey movie.  While it was nice to see the old gang again, the story-line was thin, the fashions and scenery frumpy, except for the bit in the south of France, and don’t get me started on the ending…. it will be forever how I remember them. 

Hotel Portofino – I missed the first two episodes of this Masterpiece mini-series set at in hotel along the Italian Riviera in the 1920’s during the fascist/Mussolini period, so I ordered the DVD from the library.  The setting was gorgeous and the fashions lovely, but the storyline wasn’t that good, and some of the characters seemed miscast. I found the main character, Bella, the hotel proprietress, particularly annoying.  It’s no Downton Abbey, but worth tuning in for the scenery – maybe Season Two will be better.  It’s set in the same area as Enchanted April, a movie and book I loved. 

And finally, I was excited to read that our library headquarters was holding their annual book sale of redundant copies – these would be excess copies from book club kits, once popular bestsellers, generally fairly good stuff unlike most book sales which are often the dregs from someone’s basement. I’ve never gone as it’s always early on a Saturday morning, and the location is out of the way, but because it was from 1-8pm and well advertised and there would be three years of books on sale, over a thousand people showed up in the first TWO hours.  By the time I got there around 3 pm, (it rained, so I dawdled, plus I knew there would be parking issues as it was at the fairgrounds), there was NOTHING left but empty tables.  The organizers were surprised at the turnout, as it usually only attracts a couple of hundred people.  It was so disappointing, as I’m still trying to accumulate books for my little library, but also encouraging in a way, as it tells us the pandemic has made so many of us into READERS!   

This week’s puzzle.

Review of Books – Summer 2022 – Part One

     My quarterly review of books has morphed into six months again – I guess I must have been too busy reading.   Since I last posted a general review in February (see link Review of books Winter 2022) I’ve read so many books that I can’t remember what some of the earlier ones were about, other than the vaguest impression, so I’ll just try to hit the highs (and lows) of my reading list.  While I read many excellent books last winter, this selection was more mixed, (although all are rated a 4 or 5 star on Goodreads), not necessarily an issue when nicer weather prevails.  Sometimes you just want a book you can pick up and put down, without staying up too late.  So pretend you are in a bookstore browsing, and perhaps there will be something to tempt you when those chilly days arrive. 

Squirreling away books – from a circulating Facebook post

 (Note: these are not necessarily in the order in which I read them. This is Part One of a two Part post….because you know….it was long.

Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors – I’ve enjoyed her novels, (State of Wonder, Commonwealth) so when her book of essays – on home, friendships, family and writing – came out I ordered it.   I loved the first half of the book, about growing up wanting to be a writer, and having her three dads at her wedding, her difficulty in getting rid of her old typewriter, her decision years ago not to have children. I felt like I had found a new friend, but then I came to a very long piece which comprised the latter third of the book, about her relationship with Tom Hanks publicist, Sooki, who was diagnosed and eventually died of pancreatic cancer.  Ann Patchett owns an independent bookstore in Nashville, and their acquaintance came about when she scheduled an in-store reading of Tom Hank’s book of short stories, (Ordinary Type) many of which were about typewriters.  (That book is a whole other topic, and while I love Tom Hanks he should stick to acting as struggling writers in garrets all over the world could have done better given the opportunity.  Maybe it was a pandemic project but he is now working on a novel about the movie industry due out next year, which is being billed as an ambitious project.)   Ann Patchett and her physician husband helped Sooki find an oncologist for experimental treatment and even invited her to stay with them in their home for six months while she was undergoing treatment during the pandemic.  She warns that the downside of staying with a writer is that you get written about but perhaps she thought she was memorializing her? Sooki, being a very private person, and fighting for her life, mostly kept to the basement flat.  She was probably too sick to socialize, but the author seemed somewhat obsessed with the idea that their friendship should have been closer. That’s the problem with memoir – you can unknowingly reveal some less attractive aspects to your personality.  Otherwise, the book was good, and the writing lovely, but that last essay just spoiled the whole thing for me. Sometimes when something about a book really bothers me I’ll hop over to Goodreads and read the reviews – all five star and glowing, so it must just be me.  

I’m a big fan of British mystery writers, including Ruth Ware, so I really enjoyed this, her sixth and best book so far – a who-done-it about a group of six first year students at Oxford.  She’s come a long way since her first book, In A Dark Dark Wood.  (Others are The Woman in Cabin 10, The Turn of the Key, One by One)  Although the two female room-mates have nothing in common, they strike up a friendship, until one night the popular one, The It Girl, is found murdered in her room.  The creepy dorm porter is charged and found guilty, but ten years later, after he dies in jail still pleading his innocence , a journalist starts snooping around. The book is told, partially in flashback, by the other room-mate who is by then married to the It Girl’s old boyfriend.   It was very well done and very suspenseful, and fairly long at 400 pages.  It took me back to my university days, where the friendships you made were often forged during the first few weeks, although our porter was a kind elderly gentleman, whose job seemed to be sorting the mail into the mail slots (yes, those were the days my friends, you got mail), while keeping an eye on the front door, although he could certainly glare with disappointment when you came creeping in in the wee small hours of the morning, so I totally understand why the protagonist chose to climb over the stone wall near the back entrance.  This was easily my favorite suspense novel of the year so far.    

The other book, Local Gone Missing, is about a female British detective on medical leave in a small seaside town when a local man disappears on the night of a music festival.  A good read – this was my first book by this author. 

I was a big fan of Grantchester, the Masterpiece series set in 1950’s Cambridge about a whiskey-swilling, jazz-loving young vicar and his crime-solving detective friend Geordie, at least I was until the storyline descended into repetitive dross, probably inevitable given it is currently in season seven.  While there is always a murder in each episode, and a moral of sorts, I find the secondary characters are often the best part.  The TV series was based on a series of books by the author James Runcie, whose father was a vicar in that era.  I read the first book in the series, Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death, (it sounds like a Hardy Boys title) more out of curiosity, and then the second, Sidney Chambers and The Perils of the Night.  The books are composed of self-contained chapters of some of the murders in season one and two, but as I already knew the outcome from the tv show I didn’t find it too suspenseful, although it was well written and sometimes insightful.  At the end of book two, they married him off to that simpering Hildegarde, and that was it for me, although his snobby friend Amanda was an equally annoying choice.  Poor Sidney, such terrible taste in women.  There are six books in the series, including the prequel in the war years.

The Tenth Nerve – a brain surgeon’s stories of the patients who changed him – was a memoir written by a Vancouver doctor, with each chapter about one of his more memorable cases.  I love a good medical book and the brain is such an interesting thing.  The tenth nerve refers to a new cranial nerve he discovered while operating on several patients with the same painful throat condition.  I found it well written and very interesting, if you like that kind of thing.

I love Frances Mayes so I was anticipating a travelogue in the vein of her usual Under the Tuscan Sun format, but this was more of a National Geographic guidebook, with sections on different parts of Italy – perfect if you were traveling there and wanted some background info on what to see and do in each region.  Unfortunately, the print was so tiny that I didn’t even skim through it.  There being no Italy in my foreseeable future, I returned it to the library, where the librarian, who has been to Italy five times (pause while I recover from turning green with envy) devoured it and pronounced it very good.   

I abandoned the Carl Bernstein book, which deals with his early years in the news industry in the 50’s and 60’s, after about fifty pages as I just didn’t find it interesting. 

The Truth About Melody Jones – is early Lisa Jewell,  2009, and yes she wrote about dysfunctional families even then.  A single mother has no memories of her life before age nine and seeks to uncover the truth behind her early life.   This was a paperback with very tiny print, but I persisted as I didn’t have anything else to read at the time.   

Bittersweet – How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole –  Susan Cain is the same author who brought us the wonderful 2012 non-fiction book, Quiet – a gift for introverts everywhere.  I was expecting an equally fascinating read.  I can’t even describe what this book was about, as the concept was so vague and shifting, that the book left me baffled and disappointed.  Not recommended – unless you want to wade through 300 pages looking for a few insights.   Billed as a masterpiece on the power of a bittersweet outlook on life, I would pass….and pass the dark chocolate.

This Agatha Christie autobiography was easily my favorite biography of the year, even though it was written in the 1960’s and published in 1977, a few years after the authors death.  I knew next to nothing about this elusive author, who led such a fascinating life.   See blogs – Agatha Christie – An Autobiography and Some Thoughts on Writing.

When I was growing up short stories were to be found in every periodical, even fashion bibles like Seventeen, and women’s magazines like Redbook and Ladies Home Journal.  (I used to devour my mother’s copies and not for the recipes.)  I vaguely remember short story collections coming back in favor for a brief moment in the 1980’s, but other than a few authors like Alice Munroe (who may be Canadian but I have never understood the exultation of, ditto for Margaret Atwood), they seem to have become extinct in popular fiction.  So I was surprised to see these two selections under New Releases. Maybe Tom Hanks started a trend?  Unfortunately, I abandoned both after skimming a few of the stories as they just didn’t grab me, although I admit I didn’t give the Lily King one much of a chance.  As for the Brooker Prize winner, Roddy Doyle, it was set in Dublin in the early days of the pandemic.  The first story involved a middle aged man who is diagnosed with coronary heart disease – yes, the 60’s is the decade when things start to fall apart –  and faces his own mortality.   I don’t get why he is a Brooker prize winner – when his command of English includes so much unnecessary profanity.   

Historical fiction about Jane Austen’s long neglected sister, Cassandra.  Excellent – blogged about it – see link. A first novel from this promising author.

Classic Elin Hilderbrand beach read about the restoration of an old Nantucket Hotel. The usual flawed characters, with too much bed-hopping, alcohol and food, but I did like the bit about the ghost.  She keeps saying she’s going to retire, but I don’t see any sign of it as she has a book of short stores coming out soon, Endless Summer. 

Sparring Partners – a novella and two short stories, one of which is about a prisoner who receives a visitor in his final hours on death row.  Sparring Partners is about two brothers who loathe each other and inherit their father’s once prosperous law firm.  I devoured these, but then anything by John Grisham is immensely readable.  His annual legal thriller, Biloxi Blues is due out soon.  I recently read an older novel of his, The Broker, (in large print, which pleasantly passed the time while waiting seven hours in ER for a CAT scan – only in Canada, folks), which was about a DC white-collar criminal jailed over secret documents who is issued a last minute pardon during the waning days of a corrupt US presidency.  (How prescient of him, given it was written in 2005) He is provided with a new identity by the CIA and set down in the middle of Italy where he must learn to blend in and learn the language with the help of a tutor. (Ah, the food, wine and scenery, such a hardship)  The aim –  to see which foreign government will pick him off – the Saudis, the Chinese, the Russians or the Israelis?  A good read and satisfying ending.  I think back then he took more care with his endings.  

Speaking of endings, I’ll wrap this up. See you next week for Part Two.

PS. The squirrel above squirreling away books instead of nuts, reminds me that my 2018 blog, How To Make A Chestnut Wreath, is trending again. It’s my second most popular post.

Bloomsbury Girls – The Literary Salon

Historical fiction seems to be a popular genre these days, especially books set in Europe or Britain during WW2. Starting with The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, there have been so many of this type released over the past few years it’s hard to keep track of them all, let alone read them. Another popular choice involves anything with a bookstore in it’s title. While I tend to be a sucker for these kinds of books, they sometimes don’t live up to the hype, but combine the two, and you get the absolutely delightful read, Bloomsbury Girls by Natalie Jenner.

Publishers Blurb:

The internationally bestselling author of The Jane Austen Society returns with a compelling and heartwarming story of post-war London, a century-old bookstore, and three women determined to find their way in a fast-changing world.

Bloomsbury Books is an old-fashioned new and rare book store that has persisted and resisted change for a hundred years, run by men and guided by the general manager’s unbreakable fifty-one rules. But in 1950, the world is changing, especially the world of books and publishing, and at Bloomsbury Books, the girls in the shop have plans:

Vivien Lowry: Single since her aristocratic fiance was killed in action during World War II, the brilliant and stylish Vivien has a long list of grievances – most of them well justified and the biggest of which is Alec McDonough, the Head of Fiction.

Grace Perkins: Married with two sons, she’s been working to support the family following her husband’s breakdown in the aftermath of the war. Torn between duty to her family and dreams of her own.

Evie Stone: In the first class of female students from Cambridge permitted to earn a degree, Evie was denied an academic position in favor of her less accomplished male rival. Now she’s working at Bloomsbury Books while she plans to remake her own future.

As they interact with various literary figures of the time – Daphne Du Maurier, Ellen Doubleday, Sonia Blair (widow of George Orwell), Samuel Beckett, Peggy Guggenheim, and others – these three women with their complex web of relationships, goals and dreams are all working to plot out a future that is richer and more rewarding than anything society will allow.

About the Author: Natalie Jenner was a new find of mine, after reading The Jane Austen Society, which I blogged about in 2020 (see link) – a post WW2 story about how a group of diverse villagers came together to save Jane Austen’s Chawton cottage. It was a good read for a first book, if a bit uneven, but this newest one is just brilliantly done. She must feel a great sense of satisfaction having two bestsellers, after five failed publishing attempts earlier in her life. (link) A life long lover of books, she owned an independent bookstore in Oakville, Ontario for awhile, so she knows her subject matter. She graduated from U of T with degrees in English literature and Law and worked as a corporate lawyer in Toronto, which probably came in handy for reading all those book contracts. (Translation rights sold to 20 countries.)

Discussion: This book was described by one Goodreads reviewer as Mad Men meets You’ve Got Mail. I never watched the TV show Mad Men – although I loved the fashions, I couldn’t get past the sexist attitudes, (not to mention the cigarette smoking), and abandoned it after the first few episodes. This is a 50’s book, but told from a feminist point of view.

I loved the clever way the author used the manager’s rules for employees at the head of each chapter, and then had the characters proceed to break each and every one. The characters are well drawn and not cliche, as so many of these books can be. Properly cast, it would make a good movie or tv series of the kind PBS/Masterpiece is famous for. I also liked the way she wove the real life authors and historical figures of that era into the plot. Plus it had a suspenseful but heartwarming ending. I always enjoy a bit of karma in my books.

I liked the way the author has carried forward several of the characters from her first book, including Evie Stone, the maid in the Great House at Chawton who helped to catalogue the library and then went on to study at Cambridge. Although connected, each book can be read as a stand alone. In an interview the author discusses her upcoming third book, due in 2024, where she transports one of the Bloomsbury girls to 1950’s Italy – shades of Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday – bring it on!

This is a book about strong women and a great read for book and bookstore lovers.

PS. While we may admire the elegant fashions of the 50’s who would want to go back to the chauvinistic rules and inequality of those years? I was lucky to grow up in the first wave of the women’s movement, with the invincible feeling that I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I think sometimes people forget what we fought for. Rise up, women of the world, rise up!

#Beach Blues – Wordless Wednesday

When those September clouds start to roll in – the end of summer blues set in.
Dock sitting seems desolate when the sky is cloudy and the river water is a dark blue. (Note how long the freighter is in the background.)
It makes you grateful when the sun comes back out and sparkles on the water.
But there’s still time for one last trip to the beach.
There were lots of sailboats out, behind the beach grass.
We’re lucky to have a hundred acre park with a beach right in the city. This photo is from the 1950’s before the parking lot was paved and before erosion set in.
The section in the top of the photo is private property with deeded beach rights, so you seldom see anyone walking along there. I’ll take the house with the gazebo!
There were lots of different variations of blue, depending on the intensity of the sun.
Darker blue with more sailboats.
The circle of smaller sailboats in the distance is the beginners class from the yacht club.
I like to check out all the colorful beach umbrellas.
It was a picture perfect day – something to store up until next year.

#August Flora and Fauna – Wordless Wednesday

Beach grass.
River birches along the beach. I love to watch their silver leaves blowing in the breeze off the lake.
Fall flower beds at the entrance to the park.
Woodland path in the park – an example of a Carolinian forest according to the sign. I intend to walk this some day when tick season is over, as it is home to a snowy white owl and many species of birds.
Another park with beautiful beds. I’m always happy to see pinks in the park.
A shady spot to sit and watch the water.
A riot of color in front of a riverside condo.
My harvest of “novelty” purple bush beans. The verdict – pretty color – tasted like a bean when sampled raw – but somehow lacking in flavor once cooked.
Zinnias for sale at the farmers market.
Walking past the dill reminds me of my mother canning pickles.
Summer fruit…..one of the best things about August.
And now for the fauna part – kittens at a fruit stand out in the country.
A big attraction for the kids.
And last but not least – my new summer favorite flavor. Hey, it’s green!

My Tennessee Mountain Home – #Song of the Day

I’m not a big fan of country music or bluegrass, but this song has been stuck in my brain since I heard it on Classic Hit Parade a few weeks ago, not only for it’s catchy melody but for the imagery of the lyrics which are an ode to a porch on a summer afternoon. It might also have something to do with the crickets and fireflies which always herald August to me and the waning days of summer when evening shadows fall.

Although the lyrics are lovely, I find myself focusing on the instrumentals the more I listen, but just for fun I’ve set the lyrics to pictures.

My Tennessee Mountain Home was written and recorded by Dolly Parton in 1973 as a tribute to her childhood memories of growing up in rural Tennessee, but I much prefer Maria Muldaur’s version. Maria Muldaur was an American folk/blues/country singer, best known for her quirky 1973 hit “Midnight at the Oasis.” I remember listening to her in my dorm room and fellow boomers may recognize the album cover. So pour yourself a glass of iced tea or lemonade, pull up a chair and have a listen to the best fiddle/banjo chorus ever.

Here are the lyrics.

Photo by Kaleigh Sawers on Pexels.com

Sittin’on the front porch on a summer afternoon
In a straight-back chair on two legs leaned against the wall

Photo by Danijela Dannie on Pexels.com

Watch the kids a-playin’ with june bugs on the string
And catch the glowin’firelies when evening shadows fall

ln my Tennessee mountain home
Life is as peaceful as a baby’s sigh
In my Tennessee mountain home
Crickets singing in the fields nearby

Honeysuckle vines cling to the fences along the lane
Their fragrance makes the summer wind so sweet

Photo by Frank Cone on Pexels.com

And on a distant hilltop an eagle spreads its wings
And a songbird on a fence post sings a melody

Photo by Anthony on Pexels.com

Instrumental toe-tapping Chorus – makes you want to square dance!

Walkin’ home from church on Sunday with the one you love
Just laughin,’ talkin’ makin’ future plans
And when the folks ain’t lookin’ you might steal a kiss or two
Just sittin’ in the porch swing holdin’ hands

Repeat Chorus

I hope you have enjoyed this latest addition to my summer soundtrack!