July Wrap-Up: The “I’m Retired!” Edition


There will be more biking, the beach, bagels and books!


I haven’t done many monthly wrap-ups, but I decided to do one for July because it finally feels like I got my reading and writing mojo back. I don’t know where that mojo went, but a major life stage was recently thrust upon me and that affected the mojo in all parts of my life. I am now in a better place, albeit a little wobbly.

After being laid off from a job I loved and at an age where it’s been humiliating and impossible to find full-time work, I decided in March I am old enough to retire. No fanfare or plans as I assumed retirement would be; just a decision. Now I am trying to operate like a retired person by jumping right in. I imagine it’s like being let out of prison for good behavior far earlier than you thought, walking right into freedom. It’s been a little daunting as well as exciting.

At any rate, I am very pleased with how well my reading went in July, especially concerning my 2019 Author Reads. I also read two nonfiction, the first book of Susan Cooper’s, The Dark is Rising Sequence and a Joan Aiken novel.

And I have high hopes for August as I get out my old copy of Moby Dick for the Brona’s Books readalong and Murther and Walking Spirits, my chosen book for Lory’s Robertson Davies event.

Books Read in July

silverchairThe Silver Chair (Chronicles of Narnia), CS Lewis|
We are introduced to Jill Pole and meet Eustace Scrubb again as these two bullied children enter Narnia, once again besieged. The heir to the throne of Narnia, Prince Rilian, is missing and Jill and Eustace are charged by Aslan to find him.


lastbattleThe Last Battle (Chronicles of Narnia), CS Lewis
The series concludes with the last threat to Narnia overcome and a new Narnia revealed. I was thoroughly happy to see all the children from the series together in this last sequence. Susan, however, had teenage girl things to do, so she refused to come. I wish Lewis could have refrained from this stereotype. Still, the realization of what happened to Digory, Polly, Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Jill and Eustace that brought them together in Narnia came as a surprise.

wolveswilloughbyThe Wolves of Willoughby Chase, Joan Aiken
My first Aiken was a fun and insightful read. Children against evil adults are at first powerless to change their circumstance, but young Bonnie does not give up. She braves the wolves lapping at her heels, a “school” that was more workhouse than place of learning, all while her parents are away. With the help of Simon and Sylvia, the greater good wins the day!

overseaOver Sea, Under Stone (Book One, The Dark is Rising Sequence), Susan Cooper
I have read two books in the series, not in order, of course and I really have to stop doing that. This book was a thoroughly enjoyable adventure for Simon, Jane and Barney on holiday in Cornwall. After finding a map and old book in the attic and being pursued by those who want them, with the help of their eccentric Uncle Merry they save the world from the rising Darkness. However, this is just the calm before it all breaks loose. One of the hallmarks of this series is Cooper’s use of the land and its native mythology to help tell the story. The stories are literally grounded in each area where the action takes place.

customcountryThe Custom of the Country, Edith Wharton
Oh, how I loved to hate this book!

Undine Spragg is the sometimes expat American wrecking lives and wreaking romantic havoc on both sides of the Atlantic, a narcissist and destroyer of tradition for whom enough is never enough. This is Wharton as the great storyteller and her writing is pointed and critical of these types of Americans who traveled through Europe before and after the turn of the 20th century. Undine Spragg may be in the top 10 of most hated characters of all time, but through Wharton’s pen she is fascinating to watch.

washsquarebookWashington Square, Henry James
Cather Sloper has fallen in love with a man her father believes to be a charlatan. Catherine is a shy withdrawn young women who is set to inherit a fortune upon her father’s death. But she has fallen in love and is torn between her duty to her father and her love for Morris Townsend. Who will break first and will the marriage take place? An early James, but with the deep internal wrestling in the minds of the characters that mark his style.

whyreligionWhy Religion: A Personal Story, Elaine Pagels
Elaine Pagels is a religion writer and professor at Princeton University. As a young scholar she studied and translated the scrolls that made up the Nag Hammadi Library which showed there was more to the the early Christian Church than the canonical teachings of Jesus and the Bible. The teachings reflected in the 52 scrolls were deemed heretical by the early church and suppressed; to protect them they were hidden. The Gnostic Gospels was her first book in which she shared these findings for a general audience. Why religion is also a personal question in which Pagels tries to reconcile her life’s work in religion with the double tragedies of losing first her young son, then her husband a year later.

lostwordsThe Lost Words: A Spell Book, Robert Macfarlene and Jackie Morris
One of the most important books I have read this year. In the latest edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (OJD) over 40 words from the natural world were removed from the previous edition. New words added were those of technology. In response to this decision by the publishers, Oxford University Press (OUP), the writer Robert Macfarlane and illustrator Jackie Morris created The Lost Words: A Spell Book to conjure the words back into existence. It is a large picture book, with verse/rhyme/poetry that encourages the speaking out of the words and getting lost in the pictures.

And for August:


Good reading and writing month in August, All!


25 thoughts on “July Wrap-Up: The “I’m Retired!” Edition

  1. I wish you a happy retirement, Laurie! It may not have been planned, but it sounds like it was the right decision for you. I hope you find your own routine and just enjoy the time to read, hike, walk and just enjoy life. And, of course, spending extra time with your sweet pup! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: a november of my soul | joining in for Moby-Dick – |reading backwards|

  3. I also drifted into retirement in an unplanned way so I can sympathise with your uncertainty about it. But it’s amazing how soon you develop a new routine – different but just as full. I can’t work out now how I ever used to have time to work at all! I hope you’re soon settled in to it – and it’s an amazing opportunity to read some of those millions of books you’ve always wanted to but didn’t have time… 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • haha! Yes, it’s taken me several months to grasp the concept of creating my own routine and it is amazingly not so easy. But I am fairly certain I will get the hang of it 😉

      And I do think of all reading and writing and day trips and so on that are easier to do now. Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can relate to this period of uncertainty; I too had a meandering path into retirement. There was quite a gap between thinking of myself as ‘not working’ and finally as ‘retired’. I’m glad things are settling down for you now; there’s plenty of life left to be lived!

    I can see myself following in your footsteps with some of your reading from July. As well as the James and the Wharton, I have been promising myself a full re-reading of the Narnia series and I have wanted to read the Wolves books and The Dark is Rising for years. I can see myself pencilling these in for 2020 🙂

    (Yes, I’m already thinking about next year’s reading plans… 🤦‍♀️)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Interesting, Sandra. As I go about things I am finding that this is not as rare as I thought; that many people, for all different reasons and circumstances, don’t make the clean break I thought this would be.

      As for the reading….I have never concentrated on one author’s work like I have with Wharton and James. James, I admit, is a harder read, but he interests me. With Wharton I am drawn to her like a magnet. Happily, she was prolific!

      The Narnia series was very uneven for me and some of the books were a struggle to get through. However, Susan Cooper’s, The Dark is Rising Sequence, has been a wonderful discovery and I am looking forward to the two books I have left. I have Paula Bardell-Hedley to thank for this, as I don’t think I would have picked up The Grey King had it not been for her Wales Readathon.

      You are a true booklover, Sandra, thinking so far in advance 🙂


  5. Welcome to the world of early retirement. Like you, i found out that finding a new job is next to impossible at 60ish. But it has released my creative side. Make the most of the opportunity to do whatever you want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Though as you say, it was not entirely by choice, enjoy your retirement.

    This is such an interesting bunch of books. I would like to read many of them myself. In particular, I want to do a reread of Narnia soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is still a bit scary, but I am relieved now. I felt like I was in limbo for a long time and now I can make concrete decisions.

      Yes, I am done with Narnia. Some uneven stories and a couple of books I didn’t like, but overall, the series is pretty wonderful.


  7. Well, you are reading some of my favorite series. And you have more favorite books on your to-read pile. Nice to see you smiling in the sun — sounds like you made a good decision and I hope you can enjoy your well-deserved retirement.

    Liked by 1 person

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