July Wrap-Up

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This was a nice reading month for me. I am still a little slow on blogging, but my reading pace has picked up and I am pleased with the variety of books I read this month, which included mostly new releases of fiction and nonfiction. I am also finding my short reviews on Instagram and Goodreads to be satisfying when I can’t write up a longer blog post. Summer is a great excuse for being lazy!

Blog Post, yes…just one blog post in July

6117068What Maisie Knew, Henry James, 1897
Young Maise Farange is caught between her parents in a bitter divorce.  Their meanness is not lost on the child, who with a touching candor sees she is in the way of her parents and is well aware they don’t love her. James really gets into the head of this little girl in a sad, but ultimately triumphal, situation.

 

Books Read

43883862The Ancestor
by Danielle Trussoni, 2020. One of the best books I’ve read this year.

“A transformation was taking place inside me. I knew it; I could feel it on a cellular level I was becoming a new person, one who would have the strength to face my inheritance.”

Bert Monte’s surprise inheritance is not just material; the finances, the castle, the jewels are nothing compared to the genetic revelation she receives. This is a modern-day gothic novel about a woman’s quest to discover her family’s legacy and the part she must play. With added anthropological adventures and cryptozoologic discoveries I could not put this down!

17699853Chain of Gold (The Last Hours #1)
by Cassandra Clare 2020

This is the kind of fantasy novel I like: it takes place during a historical time period (Edwardian England) with enough realism to ground it’s fantastic elements. In this case, a segment of society of demon-fighters that span generations of families.

The only drawback is there are a lot of characters in this novel, emphasis on A LOT, who are introduced within the first 15-20 pages making it a challenge to remember everyone. But it was worth it to get them all straight and I will patiently wait for #2.

45015676._SY475_The Illness Lesson, by Clare Beams, 2020
Lovely writing in this historical novel about the mysterious symptoms that plague young women at a progressive school that seem to coincide with a mysterious flock of red birds. The treatment is controversial and traumatic and speaks to the vulnerability and powerless of women against male authority in the medical establishment.

33516728._SY475_The Lady’s Handbook for Her Mysterious Illness
by Sarah Ramey, 2020

This book paired sadly well with the Illness Lesson as it’s a real life quest to find the cause and cure of Sarah Ramey’s ailments that doctors can’t define as a disease. She documents not only her own experience, but those of hundreds of women for whom these ‘female’ complaints are devastating, debilitating and presumed to be “all in your head.”

43557477The Jane Austen Society
By Natalie Jenner, 2020

This is incredibly good. Very character driven with a cast of people drawn to Austen and each other while they try to save her last home. They discuss, quote and debate her books which reflect their life experiences and why saving the cottage at Chawton is both personal as well as for the good of Austen lovers everywhere.

 

51951587._SX318_SY475_Hill Women: Finding Family and a Way Forward in the Appalachian Mountains
by Cassie Chambers, 2020

Chambers grew up in the poverty of Appalachia and was raised and encouraged by strong women, who survived on the barest minimum in a county that is one of the poorest in the country. She goes to college and becomes a lawyer and returns to offer free legal services to these women and documents the story of the rural women taken advantage of by a system they don’t understand.

44224476Information Hunters: When Librarians, Soldiers, and Spies Banded Together in World War II Europe
by Kathy Peiss, 2020

This is the story of the WWII information gathering program developed by US Intelligence that recruited librarians to go behind enemy lines to find and save German documents, books and texts to aid in the war zone as well as at home after the war. The book is based on the life of Peiss’s own uncle who she discovers was a librarian at Harvard when he was recruited by the US Office of Strategic Services during WWII.

157421Emma
by Jane Austen
In The Jane Austen Society, Emma is quoted and debated throughout the book. It is the only Austen I’ve yet to read, so it was an obvious next reading choice. I am about half way through and enjoying Emma’s busy body-ness immensely!

 

 

Happy August…May all be well in your neck of the woods, city, suburb, village or town.

 

mtlaurie
#GetOutside!

 

July Projections

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Thanks to all who participated in #JazzAgeJune, including those who commented on posts. And thank you to Fanda for her support and her wonderful design of the poster. I very much enjoyed the discussion on my blog of The Great Gatsby and the varied responses toward the book. I wonder how those in 2120 will respond to it and if it will hold up as the quintessential book of the Jazz Age? Fiction Fan is hosting a readalong of Tender is the Night for later in the year and I am thinking of joining.

June was a slow blogging month, but I was busy reading. Along with reading and reviewing The Great Gatsby, I finished The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni and started The Chain of Gold by Cassandra Clare. I am pleased that I am reading more contemporary novels, fantasy and nonfiction this month as my two trips to the library for curbside pickup reflect:

Novels

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
The City we Became by N.K. Jemisin
The Moon Sister by Lucinda Riley
The Illness Lesson by Clare Beams

Nonfiction

The Lady’s Handbook for her Mysterious Illness by Sarah Ramey
The Monk Within by Beverly Lanzetta
Hill Women by Cassie Chambers

And the big question: Will I finish the last of my Classics Club selections before September 13th?

Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
Middlemarch by George Eliot
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

I am also doing a slow read through G. de Purucker’s, The Esoteric Tradition.

Reading Events

A foreign language challenge hosted by Lory at The Emerald City Book Review. Although I am still so new at Spanish studies I am going to try the Spanish translation of Abel’s Island–La Isla de Abel, by William Steig.

That’s a lot of reading! Wishing you all a safe summer full of books and bikes and whatever you likes….sorry….🤭

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

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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:

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Good reading and writing month in August, All!