Tuesday, June 30, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Angels by Marian Keyes

Happy Tuesday on this last day of June! Today, I'm participating in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where book bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or thinking of reading soon.

I'm making my way through Marian Keyes' books about the Walsh sisters. Angels is on my summer reading list, and it's the story of Maggie Walsh.

The first paragraph:

"I'd always lived a fairly blameless life. Up until the day I left my husband and then ran away to Hollywood, I'd hardly ever put a foot wrong. Not one that many people knew about, anyway. So when, out of the blue, everything just disintegrated like wet paper, I couldn't shake a wormy suspicion that this was long overdue. All that clean living simply isn't natural."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, June 29, 2015

A Classics Club Selection: The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor (1924)

I had high hopes for The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor (1924), having read that Virginia Woolf felt it was an important work. In reading about what others have written about The Rector's Daughter, my views on the book are a bit different. It's not the best book I've ever read nor do I think it's a forgotten masterpiece. However, my experience of reading the book was similar to other readers in that the book brought up feelings of sadness. 

Mary Jocelyn is a spinster at 36. She has cared for her ill sister who has died and now cares for her controlling and elderly father, Canon Jocelyn, in their shabby home. Mary's circle of friends is small, and most of the people who know Mary pity her because she's unattractive and unmarried. Her life is made up of various good works she does for people in the village. 

Mary has given up hopes of getting married until she meets and forms an attachment to Mr. Herbert, the vicar from a nearby village. It looks as though happiness might come Mary's way, but it's not to be. This is the first of several disappointments for Mary.

[Spoiler Below]

An interesting twist to the story comes through the character of the the woman Mr. Herbert decides to marry, the beautiful and vivacious Kathy. She brings a bit of the Jazz Age to the story. Younger than the vicar, Kathy's clearly not suited to being a vicar's wife. She uses slang which shocks the vicar and others, she laughs in church, she shuns the church duties that bring Mary such pleasure, and Kathy's passion is hunting. As the failure of the marriage becomes apparent, Kathy takes off with her friends to Monte Carlo for some "razzle dazzle." 

[End of Spoiler]

The novel made me question what the point of the story was--unrequited love or unattainable love perhaps? This is an area where Barbara Pym excels, especially in Some Tame Gazelle. The Rector's Daughter certainly highlights what life was like for women at a time when there was very little in the way of choices, which made for a dreary existence. 

Have you read The Rector's Daughter?

I read The Rector's Daughter as a selection for The Classics Club.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Sunday Salutations

Welcome to Sunday Salutations!

At the beginning of the week, it felt very much like summer with heat and humidity, but yesterday and into the night, we got lots of rain. Such great reading weather! 

It's hard to believe that June is almost over! The summer is flying by.

In my reading life . . .

This week, I completed these two books:

My books in progress include a book from my summer reading list and some non-fiction:

This week on the blog . . .

A look at The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith for the First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros post

A review of Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

The Friday Zen painting

Looking forward to . . .

I watched Poldark last week and enjoyed it, so I'll be watching the next episode tonight.

Also, I'm trying to determine what I'll be reading for Paris in July which takes place over at Thyme for Tea. I participated last year, and it was really fun.

What about you? What are you reading? 

I hope that you have a great week!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Have A Lovely Weekend.

Edward Potthast, Beach Scene (or Sunday on the Beach), c. 1915
Yale University Art Gallery

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Miss Mackenzie by Anthony Trollope

Seeing the enthusiasm for Anthony Trollope on several book blogs that I enjoy made me curious to try one of his novels. To be honest, I chose Miss Mackenzie because it's one of Trollope's shorter works. I was captivated by what I read.

Margaret Mackenzie is thirty-five and unmarried. She has lived a life of service to her family and cared for her brother who has died and left his fortune to her. With her new circumstance, Margaret leaves her drab London existence for a happier life in Littlebath. 

Margaret soon finds she has the attention of three suitors. The Reverend Jeremiah Macguire, curate to Mr. Stumfold in Littlebath, is persistent, annoying and only interested in securing his future with Margaret's money. Samuel Rudd, the charming but unscrupulous business partner of Margaret's brother, also has plans for her money. Then there is Margaret's cousin, John Ball, a widower with nine children, who wants to marry her. His mother, the cantankerous Lady Ball, has no love for Margaret and thinks Margaret's fortune should have gone to John. 

I really liked the characters in this novel. Margaret is intelligent and thoughtful as she decides the course of her future and faces the unanticipated challenges that her fortune brings. I also liked that she was unafraid to voice her opinion. The other characters in the book are fun to read about as well. There's a fair amount of comedy and drama, too, for example, as Margaret navigates the rather difficult social scene in Littlebath. 

What I enjoyed most about Miss Mackenzie was Trollope's narration. His asides about the characters and the story were delightful. In fact, several passages went on for awhile without his commentary, and I actually missed him.

If, like me, you've never tried a Trollope novel before, this might a good place to start. I look forward to reading more of Trollope's work. 

Have you read Miss Mackenzie? Which of Anthony Trollope's novels do you recommend?

I read Miss Mackenzie for my participation in A Literary Odyssey's A Victorian Celebration.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: The Talented Mr. Ripley

Happy Tuesday! Each Tuesday, I enjoy participating in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers share a bit about what they're reading or thinking of reading soon.

My selection is The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith, originally published in 1955. This is a book that's been in my TBR pile since last year. One of my goals for the summer is to read some of these books that I've had for awhile. I've been wanting to read Highsmith's Tom Ripley novels and am planning to start this novel soon.

From the back cover:

"In a chilling literary hall of mirrors, Patricia Highsmith introduces Tom Ripley. Like a latter-day Henry James hero, he is sent to Italy with the commission to coax Dickie Greenleaf back to his wealthy father. But Ripley finds himself very fond of this prodigal young American. He wants to be like him--exactly like him. Suave, agreeable, and utterly amoral, Ripley stops at nothing--certainly not only one murder--to accomplish his goal."

The first paragraph:

"Tom glanced behind him and saw the man coming out of the Green Cage, heading his way. Tom walked faster. There was no doubt the man was after him. Tom had noticed him five minutes ago, eyeing him carefully from a table, as if he weren't quite sure, but almost. He had looked sure enough for Tom to down his drink in a hurry, pay and get out."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Salutations

Welcome to Sunday Salutations!

I'm still resting my foot, and to be honest, I'm getting tired of all the resting. With the amount of rain we've had, it's been perfect reading weather. And with a long weekend from work, I've been enjoying several books. 

Reading . . .

This week, I completed:

Today, I'm reading:

This past week on the blog:

A Review of Disclaimer by Renée Knight

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros Post

My blog turned one! Thoughts on my blogging anniversary

Friday Moment of Zen

Summer Reading Plans

Coming up this week . . .

Besides my usual weekly posts on Tuesday and Friday, I'm planning a couple of reviews. Also, there are several authors whose work I want to read all of, and I'll be talking about some of these authors.

Looking forward to . . .

Tomorrow, I'm going to see Testament of Youth, which I mentioned last week, the film based on the memoir of Vera Brittain. So excited!

Tonight, on the PBS station here, Poldark begins. I'm also curious about another show that premieres tonight on PBS called The Crimson Field about a group of nurses working in a field hospital on the coast of France during World War I. Have you seen either of these shows? 

I hope that you've had a good week and that you have a great Father's Day!

What are your reading plans for this upcoming week?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Summer Reading Plans

I've been putting together my summer reading plans and wanted to share my list with you because before June gets away. My list includes some classics for The Classics Club, more contemporary works for fun, some Mitford sisters, and a novel of historical fiction.

Coming in at 784 pages, I've downloaded the audio book for Daniel Deronda, and I'm planning to alternate between listening to and reading this book.

I've read enough of Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller to be intrigued, so I'm looking forward to reading more.

I may be one of the few people who hasn't read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, but I've heard such good things about this book.

I've been making my way through Marian Keyes' books about the Walsh sisters. Angels tells the story of Maggie, and I have been saving this novel for now since it's set in the summertime.

Already a novel much debated and anticipated, the great challenge is going to be ignoring all the chatter and hype as the release approaches. I want to read Go Set A Watchman without any expectations and just enjoy it.

I'm looking forward to reading this historical fiction novel, Circling the Sun, about British born adventuress and aviator, Beryl Markham. The woman on the cover reminds me of Cate Blanchett.

Although I've read several of Nancy Mitford's novels recently, I have a lot of books by and about the Mitford sisters. I love the cover of Hons and Rebels and am looking forward to reading more about the sisters.

The Sleeping Beauty is Elizabeth Taylor's sixth novel, and it looks like a good summer read. I've already read several of her novels, and I never get tired of her writing.

Like Elizabeth Taylor, I want to read all of Nancy Mitford's novels. It seems that The Pursuit of Love as well as Love in a Cold Climate are her most famous novels, so I'm looking forward to seeing what they're like. 

How about your plans? What are you most looking forward to reading this summer?

Have A Lovely Weekend.

Thomas Jones, Imaginary Landscape with a Traveller and Figures Overlooking the Bay of Baiae, 1773
Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Blogging Milestone

It seems that I missed my own blogging anniversary!

The day was May 31, 2014, that I wrote my first post for Monica's Bookish Life. It was scary clicking the "publish" button that first time, but I'm glad that I did. It's amazing to think that an entire year has passed, and I haven't begun to read all the books that I want to read.

Looking back over the year, I'm reminded how much I've enjoyed sharing what I've read, and it's been fun to see what other book bloggers are up to and are reading. This year has taught me that blogging can be fun, challenging, and sometimes time consuming, but something that gives me great satisfaction, not to mention that I've met so many nice people in the book blogging community.

Thank you so much for stopping by, and onward with year two! 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Our Endless Numbered Days

Happy Tuesday to you! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers share a bit about a book they're reading or thinking of reading soon.

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller (2015) is a book I'm planning to start soon. 

From Goodreads:

"1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. And so her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows means survival and a tiny wooden hut that means Everything.

Peggy is not seen again for another nine years.

1985: Peggy has returned to the family home. But what happened to her in the forest? And why has she come back now?"

The first paragraph:

"Highgate, London, November 1985

"This morning I found a black-and-white photograph of my father at the back of the bureau drawer. He didn't look like a liar. My mother, Ute, had removed the other pictures of him from the albums she kept on the bottom shelf of the bookcase, and shuffled around the remaining family and baby snapshots to fill in the gaps. The framed picture of their wedding, which used to sit on the mantelpiece, had gone, too."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Disclaimer by Renée Knight

This has been a hard review to write because I don't want to reveal too much because Disclaimer by Renée Knight is such a great book. The premise hooked me right away. Successful documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft and her husband Robert have moved into a new home. One night, she finds a book on her bedside table, The Perfect Stranger, which depicts a story of an event that happened twenty years ago, something Catherine thought was a secret. From the ending of the The Perfect Stranger, it's clear that the author wants her dead. But before that, he wants to ruin Catherine's seemingly well ordered life.

I loved the writing of Disclaimer and the way the plot is constructed. Like any good psychological thriller, all is not as it appears. Catherine will learn who the author is, how the book appeared in her home, and why. Along the way, Catherine's life and the villain's life become entwined as they must face the truth of the secret and deal with the fallout in their own lives.

If you love good psychological thrillers, you'll enjoy Disclaimer. The book kept me reading late into the night!

Have you read Disclaimer?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Sunday Salutations

Welcome to Sunday Salutations! 

This has been a week of navigating at home and at work with the challenge of keeping the weight off my foot, which I'll have to do for another month. A great thing about this is that it has given me more time to read. 

Reading . . .

I have succumbed to the lure of Anthony Trollope and have read Miss Mackenzie, originally published in 1865. It is a delightful book! I loved the writing, and I also enjoyed Trollope's narration with his insights, especially as Miss Mackenzie navigated the world of the Stumfoldians and tried to make her way in the social world of Littlebath. My review is coming soon as part of my participation in A Literary Odyssey's A Victorian Celebration, happening this month and in July.

I also completed Afternoon of a Good Woman by Nina Bawden (1976). My only experience with Nina Bawden has been her children's book, Carrie's War, so I was interested to see what her adult fiction is like. I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Currently, I am really enjoying two books--The Rector's Daughter by F.M. Mayor (1924) and Voyage in the Dark by Jean Rhys (1954). 

This past week on the blog . . .

My review of Elizabeth Taylor's The Wedding Group

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros post

Words on the Month of June

Remarks on Recent Reads

Have A Lovely Weekend

Looking forward to . . .

I saw the trailer of the film Testament of Youth, based on Vera Brittain's memoir of her World War I experiences and one my favorite reads of last year. The film will be in my part of the world in a couple of weeks, and I am excited!

I hope that you've had a great week, and that the week ahead is wonderful! 

What have you been reading?

Friday, June 12, 2015

Have A Lovely Weekend.

Eugene Boudin, Beach Scene at Trouville, 1863
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Remarks on Recent Reads

Welcome to another edition of Remarks on Recent Reads! These are books that I've read recently, and with the exception of one, I recommend them and think they'd make good summer reading.

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting Married by Marian Keyes (1999)
When I read this book, I was in the mood for some romantic comedy, and that's what I got from Keyes' book. It's the tale of Lucy Sullivan and her friends who visit a psychic. When her friends' predictions start coming true, Lucy thinks that her time has come to get married, as the psychic predicted for her. Lucy dates several guys before finding her Mr. Right in an unexpected place. The book meanders a bit (it's 460 pages), but there were situations in the book that made me laugh out loud. All in all, it was a nice, light read. 

The Blessing by Nancy Mitford (1951)
Beautiful but naive Grace Allingham marries French aristocrat Charles-Edouard de Valhubert, and she returns to France with him. What she doesn't realize is that fidelity means nothing to Charles-Edouard. The Blessing is a sophisticated comedy that pokes fun at the differences between British and French society. Grace has to decide if she can live with Charles-Edouard's philandering ways, and life gets more complicated with the birth of their son, Sigismond, known as Sigi. Although Grace returns to England with their son, she and Charles-Edouard are unhappy without each other, and she finds that she misses her glamorous French life. Meanwhile, Sigi grows up to be a horrid, manipulative child who decides that it's in his best interests for his parents not to reconcile. Will Sigi and his underhanded ways prevail? Another fun read by Nancy Mitford.

Night Music by Jojo Moyes (2008)
This is the second book by Jojo Moyes that I've read. (The first was Me Before You.) I like stories about starting over, but it was hard reading about Isabel, a professional violinist whose husband dies. She leaves the city and takes her children to a nearby village to live at Spanish House, a large crumbling house which she's inherited. Isabel's out of her depth in dealing with finances, and she also hires a sexy yet unscrupulous contractor with ulterior motives regarding the house and Isabel. The ending was a bit far-fetched. I wanted to like Night Music more than I did.   

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty (2013) 
The Husband's Secret turned out to be a totally different book than I'd anticipated. I liked the way Moriarty set up the story, introducing us to all the characters before the super organized Cecilia Fitzpatrick opens the letter that her husband hadn't meant her to read until after his death. The letter sets in motion a story in which a secret to a mystery is revealed, and the characters' lives intersect. The plot and pacing kept me guessing about what would happen next and how this story would end.

My Brother Michael by Mary Stewart (1959)
This novel is another one of Stewart's gems of romantic suspense. One of the things I love about Stewart's writing is how she can evoke a place and make me feel like I'm right there. The setting is Greece with its heat, bright white houses, and clear blue water. The book also made me think of that old saying, "Be careful what you wish for." Camilla is on holiday, bored and alone. Before she realizes it, she finds herself caught up in intrigue with a handsome, charming Englishman, Simon Lester, who's trying to solve the mystery of his brother's murder fourteen years earlier. This is a page turner that I recommend.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Words on the Month of June

June's twice June since she breathed it with me.
Robert Browning, The Flower's Name.

The roses make the world so sweet,
      The bees, the birds have such a tune,
There's such a light and such a heat
And such a joy in June.
George McDonald, To ------.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
   Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
   And over it softly her warm ear lays.
J.R. Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal; Pt. i, Prelude.

How softly runs the afternoon
Beneath the billowy clouds of June!
Charles Hanson Towne, How Softly Runs.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros: Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell

Happy Tuesday! I'm taking part in First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, where bloggers share a bit about a book they are reading or planning to read soon. My selection is Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell (1896-1965), a writer well known by the Algonquin Round Table. 

The novel was originally published in 1936. Powell was a prolific writer, but by the time she died, her books were out of print. Thanks to interest in her work, it's possible to find her books again. 

From the back cover:

"Dennis Orphen, in writing a novel has stolen the life story of his friend, Effie Callingham, the former wife of a famous Hemingway-like novelist, Andrew Callingham. Orphen's betrayal is not the only one or the worst one, in this hilarious satire of the New York literary scene, a novel Dawn Powell regarded to be her "best, simplest, most original book." In Turn, Magic Wheel, Powell takes revenge on all publishers; her buffoonish MacTweed is a comic invention worthy of Dickens. And, as always in Powell's New York City novels, the city itself becomes a central character: "On the glittering black pavement, legs hurried by with umbrella tops, taxis skidded along the curb, their wheels swishing through the puddles, raindrops bounced like dice in the gutter." Powell's famous wit was never sharper than here, but Turn, Magic Wheel is also one of the most poignant and heart wrenching of her novels."

The first paragraph:

"Some fine day I'll have to pay, Dennis thought, you can't sacrifice everything in life to curiosity. For that was the demon behind his every deed, the reason for his kindness to beggars, organ-grinders, old ladies, and little children, his urgent need to know what they were knowing, see, hear, feel what they were sensing, for a brief moment to be them. It was the motivating vice of his career, the whole horrid reason for his writing, and some day, he warned himself, he must pay for this barter in souls."

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Wedding Group by Elizabeth Taylor

On a recent rainy day, I read British author Elizabeth Taylor's The Wedding Group (1968). Elizabeth Taylor is an author whose work I've come to appreciate, and I want to read everything that she's written. 

In The Wedding Group, Cressy is the granddaughter of the noted painter Henry Bretton. He has created his own world called Quayne, a compound of sorts made up of cottages and a courtyard. Henry spends his days painting, and his daughters and granddaughters bake bread, clean and scrub, weave, and grow vegetables. Cressy wants to get away from this stifling life and find out what the world is like.

Mrs. Brindle, a cleaning woman who helps out at Quayne, uses her influence to get Cressy a job at the antique shop in the village and also arranges for Cressy to live in a small attic room over the shop. Cressy then meets David Little, a journalist, who lives comfortably with his mother, the lonely Midge. David finds the unassuming and naive Cressy intriguing, and soon, they marry. 

Midge lives an isolated life where her world revolves around David. Once he marries Cressy, we get a chance to see how truly manipulative Midge can be. David thinks he's getting away from his mother, but she's more a part of his life than he'd like to admit. And while Cressy thinks she's gained her independence from Quayne, she encounters another kind of life where Midge wields her influence. The balance of power moves back and forth in the slightest of ways, and it's fun reading to see how the story will end. I loved the ending of the book.

The novel is an interesting study of human nature. Also, it's not without some comedy in the form of Henry Bretton's paintings and his ideas of how God should be portrayed in modern art. The writing is everything I've come to expect from Elizabeth Taylor--deft and subtle. There is as much importance in what isn't being said as what is.

I highly recommend The Wedding Group. I read the Virago Modern Classics edition of this book which I got at a local used book sale.

Sunday Salutations

Welcome to a belated edition of Sunday Salutations

The days have flown by, and I took more time away from the blog than I planned. Returning from Texas and making the transition back to work was more challenging than I expected, and then, I was off to Pennsylvania this past weekend. I'm still making it around with my knee walker and in some situations, a transport chair. This week, I'll find out from my doctor how much longer I'll have to wear this big boot on my foot. 

Coming up on the blog . . .

I'll have an edition of Remarks on Recent Reads, a First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intro post, and a review of British novelist Elizabeth Taylor's The Wedding Group.

Today, I returned from the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, which was held at Bloomburg University of Pennsylvania. I'll have an upcoming post about my experience.

Looking forward to . . .

I'm excited about having the time to put together my summer reading list. Decisions, decisions! And I'm looking forward to catching up with all the book blogs I enjoy reading.

Have you caught the trailer for the film, Suffragette? It looks intense, but I'm really looking forward to seeing it!

I hope that things have been going well for you. What have you been reading?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Have A Lovely Weekend.

George Bellows, Tennis Tournament, 1920
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC