Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Finished this week: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. I really enjoyed this. Carpenter brought up some fascinating thoughts about Tolkien’s vivid imagination and his very normal, ordinary-type life. Interesting to read about a great artist who stayed married to the same woman for 50 years, loved gardening, loved his children, practiced his faith, etc, etc, etc rather than a “tortured artiste” type. Recommended for lovers of Tolkien.

Currently reading: The Corinthian by Georgette Heyer. I have this marked as “Read” on Goodreads, so I guess this is technically a reread. However, I DO NOT REMEMBER ONE SINGLE THING ABOUT THIS BOOK. So did I really read it or not? Anyway, I am thoroughly enjoying it. Maybe that’s the advantage of forgetting?

In the on deck circle: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer. Again, Goodreads says I have read it. I don’t remember it! I found a copy at Half-Price Books. You almost never find Heyer at HPB. I think everyone who reads her hangs on to the books. Also have Terry Pratchett’s Wyrd Sisters on hand, downloaded from the library. I just got a notice that books I requested are in, so I have to go by the library to pick them up. I can’t remember what they are or why I wanted them. This has surely been a week of not remembering things!

How ’bout you?

 

 

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Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Man, it’s been awhile since I have updated. And I’ve had a lot of time to read, what with sitting around in hospitals and at the house waiting on a heart patient hubby.

What I finished since last time: Jacqueline Winspear’s Lesson in Secrets – the eighth in the Maisie Dobbs series. I am still enjoying the series, though I wish Winspear would allow Maisie some personal happiness without attached angst.

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I disliked this book. Not a single character to like. Everyone was selfish and shallow. And I am sick unto death of the “twist ending”, which since they advertise it on the cover of the book, can’t really be a twist ending now can it? This book has about convinced me that I hate current literary fiction.

The Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham. An Albert Campion mystery with hardly any Albert Campion in it. Great secondary characters, though, especially Canon Avril and Inspector Luke. Allingham is an acquired taste, I think. Not as immediately loveable as Christie.

A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. I like Neville Shute. His writing is not high-falutin’ but given my recent go-rounds with modern fiction, it was ok. The story is actually based on a real story Shute heard, so it rings true. I’d like to see the miniseries/movie, but our library doesn’t have it and neither does Netflix!

Tales from a Village School by Miss Read. Didn’t realize this one was a collection of short pieces. It would have been better to have read these after I knew more about Fairacre.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner. Second in the Queen’s Thief series. Loved this. Loved the characters. Loved the long con. Turner really gets the relationship between God and worshipper – and that it is not a safe relationship. Like Aslan not being a tame lion, the gods in Turner’s world are not accountable to humans, but humans to them. That is a rare gift in current fiction.

One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Sort of the other side of Tom Hanks in Castaway, focusing on the one left behind instead of the one who was away. Interesting take, and a brave choice in the end – and one I didn’t expect.

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison. Again another book with no characters to really like. Sigh. Twisty end AGAIN. Come on writers! Enough!

Village School by Miss Read. I expected this to be on the saccharine side. It was NOT. Miss Read is clear-eyed about her students’ gifts and faults. It is obvious she loves them, but she doesn’t idealize them – nor does she any of the other villagers. A good look at a rural school post-war. First in the Fairacre series. I loved this and it was just what I needed to read in a stressful time.

Village Diary by Miss Read. Second in the Fairacres series. A year in the village and school with all its highs and lows. Some interesting thoughts about the slower country life and the way it meets human needs in a way that a fast-paced urban life may not. She is aware of the changes that are coming to village and realizes there is often nothing that can be done to stop them, but she doesn’t think they are always without drawbacks. Loved this.

Girls in White Dresses by Alex Gates. I got this on a daily deal. I think it must have been self-published, which is not a bad thing, but I think Gates could have been helped a LOT by a good editor. Told in first person (which I usually don’t care for much), very choppy sentences, too often telling, not showing. But there were some interesting insights and the author did understand that not every cult leader is a cynical bastard who doesn’t believe what he is saying but is just tricking everyone. This go round, the leader was a bad guy, but he was at least a true believer bad guy.  I have Gates’ 2nd book. I will probably read it, but it’s not top of the TBR pile.

The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Fenollera. So disappointed in this book. GREAT ideas underlying it, but I didn’t think it worked as a book. Perhaps a good discussion starter about the kind of life that is really human and humane.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century by Jessica Bruder. A look at those people who are living in RVs, trailers, and vans, not because they are living a wonderful retirement but because they have HAD to do so because of economics. Sobering look at choices that some have made, just to get by. Not sensationalized – no policy measures proposed, just an honest look at a subset of Americans that are largely unknown. Interesting read.

Whew! That was a lot in 2 months!

Currently reading: J.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography by Humphrey Carpenter. So far it is sort of an “old-fashioned” biography – starting at the beginning and progressing along. It is well-written and I am really enjoying it so far, but I’m only at the point where he begins with the stories that will become The Silmarillion. (Which I have never read, but now want to!)

In the on deck circle: Not sure yet. I’m thinking something off my own shelves. Perhaps Quo Vadis?

Did not finish: The Girls of Atomic City – just couldn’t keep everything straight and I didn’t really care. It is rare for me not to finish. I usually don’t even start, they sit around for awhile, then I take them back to the library. This one I got about 1/3 in and closed it up and donated it to the Little Free Library at our park.

How ’bout y’all?

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

With Craig in the hospital for a few days, I had lots of time to read while I was sitting around. So let’s see what I got finished:

Finished this week:  Finished the last two of Marion Chesney’s Poor Relations series–Colonel Sandhurst to the Rescue and Back in Society. That wraps up this funny, sweet, inconsequential, improbable series. It came at a really good time for me.

Also read the next (to me) in the Maisie Dobbs series — A Lesson in Secrets. I liked this one, it had less of the psychic woo-woo in it than some of the previous ones. Maisie works for the Secret Service by teaching at a small college where there is some concern of ideas “dangerous to the Crown” may be developing. Interesting look at the rise of Hitler from a distance and the initial sympathies of many for him. I will read the next when I come across a copy.

But the best reading was Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ. This was a five star book for me and anyone who peruses my Goodreads ratings will see that those are few and far between. I love conversion stories and this one is fascinating because he maintains that the study of literature was what moved him on his way toward faith. He also deals honestly and forthrightly with anti-Semitism and how he reconciled his faith with the strains he saw throughout Western culture. Very interesting. I want a book copy (I had a Kindle copy from a daily deal) so I can highlight better. HIGHLY recommended.

Currently reading: Still stuck on The Girls of Atomic City for book club. It is interesting but it’s not grabbing me.

Also in the midst of He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly. I will finish, but right now I have some pretty furious thoughts about this book. And I suspect that I will be in the minority of reviewers over at Goodreads. We’ll see.

In the on-deck circle: The Hallowed Hunt, still. Then I think it may be time to pick up a “classic” of some sort and read something that has some age on it. I’m beginning to think that I don’t like literary fiction of the moment very much.

How ’bout y’all?

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday (on Thursday, sigh)

OK, so it’s not my fault that I’m late this week with the Wednesday post. Monday being a holiday has thrown my whole week out of kilter. ARGH!!!! (Not that I’m not happy for the holiday, but my decrepit mind just can’t keep up.) So let’s see what’s up:

Finished this week: Three of the M. C. Beaton (Marion Chesney) books in the Poor Relations series:  Miss Tonks Turns to Crime, Mrs. Budley Falls From Grace, and Sir Philip’s Folly. These three are not great literature, and don’t hold a candle to Heyer’s Regency romances, but they are light and fun and FUNNY. Marion Chesney has an eye for the absurd and is pretty clear-eyed about the ton. She certainly does not make it all romantic or good. I really enjoyed her series a couple of years ago about 2 rather impoverished genteel ladies who took headstrong misses under their wings and got them ready for the Season and marriage to an eligible rich guy. Great characters, totally predictable story lines, but good fun. The Poor Relations series is the same way.

Also finished Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkahban. Thoroughly enjoyed this 2nd time through with the help of Audible narration by Jim Dale. Love, love, love to listen and crochet.

Currently reading: Still working on The Girls of Atomic City for my book club this month. This one just isn’t grabbing me the way I thought it would. I keep getting confused on just who is who and have to keep referring back to the notes in the beginning. Also started reading Dick Francis’ Blood Sport, on the recommendation of a friend. Can’t say yet what my opinion is of it, but I suspect the portrayal of depression is spot on.

In the on-deck circle: New book in from the library wait list, The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMasters Bujold. Set in the World of the Five Gods, I think I will like it very much.

What about y’all?

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Let’s see. A good bit of reading, but a lot of picking up and putting down because it didn’t “suit.”

Finished this week: Two short novels. First The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner. YA book (something I don’t normally read a lot of, but seems to be a thread running through this year), the first in a series. The protagonist is Eugenides (in this book known as Gen) who is rescued from prison by the Magus to help find and steal an ancient stone that would facilitate the King of Sounis’ offer of marriage to the Queen of the adjacent kingdom. The first half of the novel dragged, but it picked up in the second half and made me want to read the second installment in the series – which reviewers say is much better. High fantasy – I liked the characters and the world they inhabit.

Second, a little sweet read by Marion Chesney – Lady Fortescue Steps Out. Not great literature, but a wonderful end of summer read. Chesney lays bare the hypocrisy and amoral “morals” of the Regency ton. Very clear-eyed. No bodice-ripper this, though there is a romance and a happy ending. I will read the rest of the series of six.

Currently reading: The second in the Poor Relations series by Marion Chesney – Miss Tonks Turns to Crime. In fact, I have the whole rest of the series on my Kindle (due to a sale where they were all $1.99 apiece) and it may be my complete holiday weekend reading. So there. I am also starting my September book club book, The Girls of Atomic City.

In the on deck circle: The next Maisie Dobbs book that I haven’t read. I think it is #8 in the series or so. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear. Also on deck is Wallace Stegner’s The Spectator Bird. I am such a fan of his.

Hibernating: The Pickwick Papers. Didn’t pick them up at all this week. Maybe for a later time.

How about y’all?

 

 

 

 

Whatcha Reading? Wednesday

Two weeks in a row on the right day of the week. I’ve got this. Well, maybe.

Finished this week:  The final book of the Chronicles  – The Last Battle. Loved it then, love it now. The first half of the book is a might uncomfortable, as Lewis intended. We fall so easily into being led about. It is so easy to take our eyes off Aslan. But then the second half of the book brings back the joy. Lewis’ images of the reunion with friends and ancestors is quite compelling to me.

I have little sympathy for those critics who dog on Lewis for his treatment of Susan in the book. J.K. Rowling is one of those who have been critical. And I say, GROW UP. People make decisions ALL THE TIME to walk away from God. To expect God not to honor those choices is to believe in a God that makes no demands and is the eternal grandfather in the sky who will bring us home no matter what we do, think, say, or believe. That is, in my opinion, childish and self-serving.

And it is a misunderstanding of Susan’s position in the book. Lewis does not portray ANYONE as permanently beyond the pale, unless they put themselves there. Look at Edmund, Eustace, Digory, Puzzle, etc, etc, etc. All were people/animals who were “not a friend of Narnia” at one time or another. Susan has put herself in that place, but she need not stay there. Remember that The Last Battle is the story of the end of Narnia – not the end of Earth. She was not in the train crash that hurled the Pevensies and the rest into Narnia. They see Narnia’s demise – just as there will one day be a demise of our world. Until her death, Aslan (in the form he takes in our world) waits for Susan to come to herself and make the choice for him. Even unto her last breath. And who is to say that the death of her family in the train crash will not propel such a decision on her part? We cannot know.

Anyway, I’m glad I re-read them. I still love them.

Also finished this week was Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.  I think it is an important book, with no pat solutions to the problems of the working poor. While my growing up was a class step above his (we were solidly lower middle class, especially after my dad’s health issues and death, until we stepped up after my mother’s remarriage my senior year in high school) it did describe a lifestyle I had close contact with. While Vance is talking about the white Appalachian bred folks, it is not a very different description from that of the families of, say, the oil-field workers out in West Texas. Vance points out the disintegration of the family and treats it as the central problem that it is – and recognizes that no government program can adequately replace an intact, loving family. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have programs, but it does mean that to expect teachers or counselors or ministers or anyone else to solve a problem that begins in the home is a dream that probably cannot be achieved for large numbers of the people trapped in bad situations. And he points out, much as did Dalrymple in Life at the Bottom, read earlier this summer, that there are many unintended consequences that flow from the very programs meant to help. To ignore those is to wish reality away and lessen the impact of what you could be doing. The book is not a list of “things to do”. It is an insight into a lifestyle many of us have never lived, or if we have, have tried to forget. Very worth the read

Currently reading: The Thief  (The Queen’s Thief #1) by Megan Whalen Turner, because I had requested the loan of it digitally from the library and it magically appeared on my Kindle. But that means that it moves to the top of the pile, because in a short time it will poof! be gone as magically as it came.

In the on-deck circle: I DON’T KNOW! Because I have reached that part of the summer where absolutely NOTHING tickles my fancy. I find myself picking up and putting down books rapidly. Pretty soon my nightstand will be stacked and I will be playing mindless games on my Kindle.

How ’bout y’all?

Mama T’s Game Closet – Love Letter

loveletter

So, what I’m telling you about this game is this: GO GET IT. Now. You can order it on Amazon for less than $10. And I think you can get it at Target as well.

2-4 players, each round takes less than 10 minutes. First person to win four rounds and collect 4 love tokens, wins the game. Enough luck in the draw of the cards to give everyone a fair shot at winning. Bluffing can be part of your strategy. Every single time we have played it, there is much laughing, talking, groaning, and celebrating. You know, all the things that make games FUN. We bought this game originally as a quick little filler game – one to play while everyone was getting ready for a bigger game. But many times, the evening turns into numerous games of Love Letter and the bigger more complex games get left behind.

The game consists of 16 cards. Cards are shuffled at the beginning of each round. Each player is dealt one card and one card is put aside – meaning no one will ever have *complete* information to go on. The remaining cards become the draw pile. At the beginning of your turn, you draw another card from the pile, consider the whopping two cards in your hand, and decide which one to play. This goes on until all but one person is knocked out or until all the cards are used. Person left standing wins, if two or more are still standing at the end, the player with the higher card wins.

Cards are numbered 1 to 8 and represent different people in a kingdom – guard (5 cards), priest (2 cards), baron (2 cards), handmaid (2 cards), prince (2 cards), king (1 card), countess (1 card), and princess (1 card). The point values range from 1 (guards) to 8 (princess). Each card has a different power, and when you play it, you exercise that power. For example – the guard lets you guess what is in another player’s hand – if you are right, they must discard and they are OUT. The Baron lets you compare the remaining card in your hand with someone else. If your card is higher, they are out. If not, you’re gone. And no one but you and that other player see the cards in question. It’s really a simple mechanic – but with twists and turns that make every card a potential winner or a potential loser. Keeping the Princess (the highest card) seems like a good plan – until someone else makes you discard your hand or a guard guesses you have her. Nothing is an assured win.

We think this was developed by some gamers playing the nerd version of “Name that Tune” – you know, “I can name that tune in 10 notes!” We think they were sitting around drinking beer and got into a contest: “I bet I can develop a game with only 20 cards!” “Well, *I* can do it in 19!” And so on until they got to 16 and someone said, “Make that game!”

A lot of replay value in this one. It comes off the shelf almost every week for family game night.

Go get it.