Thursday, August 13, 2015

Remarks on Recent Reads: August Edition

Welcome to Remarks on Recent ReadsI hope that your August is going well. Here are five books with a little something for everyone here--cremation, funerals, castles, beaches, seaside towns, first love, and romantic comedy. I'm also interested to know what you've been reading lately. 

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty (2014) 

This book is many things--part autobiography, a frank look at the cremation and funeral industry, and Doughty's opinions about the way we view death in our society. I loved Doughty's writing style and reading about her experiences at the crematory. This book has given me a lot to think about, and I highly recommend it. 

Angels by Marian Keyes (2002) 

Angels is the third in the series of Keyes' books about the Walsh sisters. It's the story of Maggie, the good girl of the sisters, who loses her job and discovers that her husband is having an affair. She goes home to her family in Dublin, but living with her family doesn't work out so well. She pays her best friend, Emily, a visit. Emily is a struggling screenwriter in Los Angeles. As Maggie navigates the unusual ways of the film world, there is much of Keyes' characteristic romantic comedy with laugh out loud situations. More serious issues that are also dealt with such as depression and miscarriage. I particularly enjoyed what happened when the Walsh family pays a visit to Maggie in Los Angeles. I recommend Angels for a great summer read. 

Secrets by Freya North (2012)

Joe is a bridge builder with a rambling house by the sea in northeast England. He comes and goes as he pleases, enjoying his lack of commitment to several of the women he spends time with in cities where he goes for work. The new house sitter, Tess, shows up on his doorstep with her small daughter. She's not at all what he had in mind. Eventually, he can't seem to get her out of his mind. She's a bit of a mystery to him, but he's not without his own secrets. This book was so much fun to read. Freya North has an interesting writing style, and I loved the characters, the setting, and the journey Tess and Joe take. This novel is also a great summer read.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1999, originally published in 1948) 

I absolutely adored this delightful classic with its story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her eccentric family, the Mortmains, who live in an old English castle in the 1930s. The book is told in epistolary style from Cassandra's point of view, and it's her coming of age story. Cassandra wants to be a writer while her sister, Rose, longs for a husband and a better way of life from the poor existence in the castle. An affluent family, the Cottons, with two sons of marrying age moves near by, and all the lives of the Mortmains are affected. I highly recommend this wonderful book. 

The Sleeping Beauty by Elizabeth Taylor (1953)

The novel has to do with middle-aged Vinny, who visits a seaside town to console a friend, Isabella, whose husband has died. He looks out a window and sees a young woman walking on the beach and is quite taken with her. Emily, the young woman on the beach, lives a very sheltered existence. She's awakened by Vinny's love, not unlike the Sleeping Beauty of the fairy tale. The Sleeping Beauty has elements that I've come to love in Taylor's novels--subtlety and her way of creating characters whose lives become intertwined. This is a difficult book to write about without giving too much away. I found it hard to connect to the story and the characters. Of the several novels I've read by Taylor, this is not my favorite. 

If you've read any of these books, what are your thoughts? What are you reading this summer?


  1. I'm glad North's novel ended up being a fun read; I have Secrets on my To-Read list and am looking forward to snagging a copy from the library. (hopefully soon.)

  2. I've certainly been seeing a lot of good things about the Smoke Gets In Your Eyes book. Interesting and sort of weird in a way. LOL

    I've never read I Capture The Castle and have meant to for a long, long time. Perhaps soon. I love epistolary novels.

  3. Oh, you keep giving me so many good book suggestions.....I don't know when I'll find the time to read them, but I keep adding them to my list. It's so exciting! Thank you!!

  4. I Captured the Castle has been on my shelf unread for way too long. I am almost done with Smoke Gets in Your a lot of it on the deck today.