Thursday, August 3, 2017

July Update: Summer Reading

My summer reading is progressing deliciously. I continue to savor the wonderful Pride and Prejudice, days after the final words were spoken to me by the lovely Rosamund Pike.

I loved that book not just because the audio version was wonderful, but the book itself was amazing. I knew the story from various resources, but each different performance could nowhere nearly match the magic of the original. I suspect I shall re-read this classic more than once in the coming years.

In "News of the Obvious," I think I found another Desert Island Book.

But Darcy Love aside (and I mean Elizabeth), I am enjoying the summer. I stay up much later than I should and choose books based on my whim.

To date, I have finished the following:
  1. Ruined
  2. The Burning Page
  3. Speaking from Among the Bones
  4. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  5. Big Little Lies
  6. Anna Karenina
  7. The Lies that Bind
  8. My Best Everything
  9. Forgotten Bones
  10. The Handmaid's Tale
  11. Pride and Prejudice


I am currently reading:
  1. Star Wars: Jedi Academy
  2. The Miniaturist
  3. The Clockwork Scarab
  4. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  5. The Reluctant Fundamentalist


Yes, I really am reading five books at a time. I will need to restart (again!) my final Cabal book because it's a little slower-moving than the previous ones. 

Jedi Academy is way too cute to postpone.

I am not sure how much I appreciate steampunk London, especially with all of the steam they use for everything. (At least I understand "steam" punk better.)

I read the first two chapters of #6 as soon as it arrived in the mail, and I can't wait to return.

I do not expect to break any reading records this summer, but I am fine with that. What I want to do is enjoy a few books, and I have been able to do so thus far.

How goes your summer reading?

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

After Our Daughter's Wedding • Poetry Wednesday



After Our Daughter's Wedding
While the remnants of cake
and half-empty champagne glasses
lay on the lawn like sunbathers lingering
in the slanting light, we left the house guests
and drove to Antonelli's pond.
On a log by the bank I sat in my flowered dress and cried.
A lone fisherman drifted by, casting his ribbon of light.
"Do you feel like you've given her away?" you asked.
But no, it was that she made it
to here, that she didn't
drown in a well or die
of pneumonia or take the pills.
She wasn't crushed
under the mammoth wheels of a semi
on highway 17, wasn't found
lying in the alley
that night after rehearsal
when I got the time wrong.
It's animal. The egg
not eaten by a weasel. Turtles
crossing the beach, exposed
in the moonlight. And we
have so few to start with.
And that long gestation—
like carrying your soul out in front of you.
All those years of feeding
and watching. The vulnerable hollow
at the back of the neck. Never knowing
what could pick them off—a seagull
swooping down for a clam.
Our most basic imperative:
for them to survive.
And there's never been a moment
we could count on it.


by Ellen Bass 
From Mules of Love
courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Monday, July 31, 2017

Classic Novels: Have You Heard?

What if we are meant to listen to classic novels?

I asked myself that as Rosamund Pike thrilled me this weekend with her narration of Pride and Prejudice, a well-known romance novel with a timeless plot and enjoyable characters. (My personal favorite re-telling is set in India with a cast that included the former Miss World. And elephants. And hijra.) 


As I listened to the actress who played Jane in a Hollywood version reading (and appreciate the stuffy and breathy Mr. Collins all the more because of her), I realized the cadence and presentation of the language easily lent itself to audio enjoyment. (Thanks, Audible!)

I also thoroughly enjoyed Juliet Stevenson reading Sense and Sensibility last year — so much so that I purchased the book to enjoy again. 


I have listened to Anna Karenina being read by Maggie Gyllenhaal (but only snippets so far), and was transfixed by the throaty tones of the reader and her obvious affection for the work.


David finished The Picture of Dorian Gray with the assistance of Simon Vance, another favorite narrator.



I have to admit, I was very skeptical about audiobooks until my friend Melanie began listening to them, and Caitlin Moran wooed me with her self-narrated memoir How to Be a Woman.

To be fair, I have not found all audiobooks to be enjoyable, usually when I was not in the mood to listen to them. However, every classic novel I have read I have enjoyed, and the luxurious language has been delicious when delivered directly to my ears by a favorable reader.


Are you inclined to listen to a classic novel via audio? If so, which have you enjoyed? If you haven't ventured into the world of audio classics, which would you choose to start your journey?

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Summer Reading: As the Pages Turn!

Summer is in full swing now, and so is summer reading. 

Well, it can be. 

It should be. (I mean, it's summer!)

So, how is your summer reading coming along?

My summer reading is ebbing and flowing. When we last met this intrepid reader, I was experiencing a surprising level of book ennui. I could not find my groove. I looked, I skimmed, and yet nothing launched me into the book frenzy I sought.

I have completed eight books in seven weeks. Not bad, but I have done better.

What am I reading now?


  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood. I read it when it was first released 31 years ago, and it chills me as much — if not more — now than then. This time, I am listening to Claire Danes read it to me, and I am enjoying her narration. When I read the book without her, I still hear her in my head. (Thanks, Claire!)
  • The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes. He makes his case, relentlessly. It's an interesting book, but I think he's trying to trim a bonsai with a power saw. It may be me, but I'll keep on keeping on.
  • The Day the World Came to Town by Jim DeFede. I love the musical Come from Away and am intrigued about how a small town managed to host 7,000 strangers during one of the most stressful times in recent history. Full disclosure: I want to know how (or if) the municipal government managed it. It will be a slow read: I get to the comments about what a stunningly beautiful day it was, and I have to stop and think about that stunning day. Wish me luck.

What is on deck?

  • A Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason. Karen gave this to me, and I am totally intrigued!
  • Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. My book club will follow this with a tour of the graveyard from this book. The tome seems daunting, but I shall try.
  • Little Dorritt by Charles Dickens. My friend Carole and I are reading "weighty tomes," and this is the latest tome. We just finished Anna Karenina, so why not a little light reading about poverty in Dickens' England?
  • Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen. I have this in print and audiobook, and I will read it this summer no matter what!
  • The Magicians trilogy by Lev Gorssman. He will be at Fall for the Book this year, so I have to catch up!
  • Exit West and The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. Another Fall for the Book author, and the narrator the second novel mentioned captured my attention.
  • The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead, or maybe The Noble Hustle. Guess who else will be at Fall for the Book this year? It is going to rock again this year!
  • The Wide Circumference of Love by Marita Golden. A quick review of her books shows that readers seem to prefer her fiction that focuses on family life, and I want to know why. Plus, four words: Fall for the Book.

Of course, by listing them, I have put the Reading Whammy on them, which means I will read entirely different books beginning today — but, hey, you never know.

What's in your TBR pile?

Don't forget: it's never too late to join the summer reading club! And it's not too late to start your summer reading!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Wonder Books: Wonderful!

I have tried to expand my resources for books. I am a sucker for used books, but it's not always easy to find a reliable, interesting, and affordable used bookstore in the real world.

Oh, we always have the online behemoth, and a few other Web favorites, but sometimes you just need a room full of books you haven't yet purchased or borrowed.

So began the adventure: choosing the new-to-me bookstore within driving distance. We discovered the lovely Hole in the Wall on a whim, so why not meet Wonder Book and Video?

When I walked in, I knew I came to the right place. This was similar to Acres of Books, may it rest in peace, and Hole in the Wall Books, with narrow corridors of bookshelves. Wonder Book featured lots of narrow corridors that lured book lovers deeper and deeper into the labyrinth.

"Chris?" I heard David call once.

"Hey honey, I'm in Modern Fiction. Mostly hardbacks and trade paperbacks. To your left." Moments later, he peeked down my row, relieved. With me, he could never tell: he has lost me in smaller bookstores.

"You know, the classic literature is back that way," he said, gesturing over his shoulder.

"Yeah, I saw that. I'm looking for Fall for the Book authors, in case they're here." (Spoiler alert: I didn't see any books by authors scheduled for the 2017 event, but I found plenty of books by authors from previous festivals.)

I bonked my head once or twice as I stepped back to peruse titles and discovered a few odd-shaped books sticking out of the shelves, but one expects that. I just adjusted my stance and kept reading.

I was surprised that the only Connie Willis I found was a mass paperback, but that just meant she was not long for the shelves.

I found a few classics for the local Little Free Library, which is in heavy use during pool season (its neighbor, and the most brilliant location in the neighborhood). Doesn't everyone want to read about romance and monsters in the summer sun? Happy reading of FrankensteinEmmaWuthering Heights, and Home Front, neighbors!

David found a few books for his studies on gems and healing.

Me, I mostly stuck to modern fiction — with a dip into Lillian Hellman's classic plays. I also found the first of the Persia Wooley series on Guinevere, which I intend to own as I come across the books.

Lastly, but not leastly, I found a jolly Christmas bookmark and David found a couple of music CDs.

As we checked out, David talked me into what was the most delicious chocolate soda I have ever tasted. I'm sure it wasn't the result of just spending an hour or two in an old, dry building full of books and discs that made it so tasty, but it was.

I will continue to shop Wonder Book both online and in person. The other stores under this name are farther afield, but I can think of at least one other book lover who may join me in an adventure. I'll take back the reusable bag they gave us and find a few more gems, no doubt.

How do you find your new-to-you bookstores: online, word of mouth, driving until you encounter it? What was the last gem you found, and what gems did you find in it?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Library Loot: Bones, Books, Mystery, and Comics

When it comes to Library Loot, I'm a slacker.

Upon reviewing the last few Library Loot articles, I discovered I did not read those books in their entirety. If anything, my eyes are too big for my bookshelf.

At any rate, I persist. And who knows: I may read at least one book from this recent looting!

First of all, book displays were meant for me to loot. I don't care who the intended audience is, when I'm intrigued, I take a book. The slim volume of Forgotten Bones will be an introduction into slave burial sites — this one in New York. Our past is never very far behind us, and this is an excellent reminder.

I also can't wait to delve into the Roanoke settlers mystery — I read about this new book, and about a recent finding announced in the Smithsonian, which makes me very excited.

David is a fan of comics, and I thought he'd like to learn more about comic books.

Finally, I needed to visit Brooklyn Wainwright again. This will be the third try at reading the third book in her bibliophile mystery series, so let's hope it's the charm. I don't mind skipping it if it doesn't tickle my fancy, which is why I also picked up the ninth book in the series, the one I saw at the bookstore that made me ask, "Wait, a cat and books on the cover? I must find out more!"

Of course, I also spent a few hours at a used bookstore today, and that may impact how long it takes me to read these delectable books, but we shall see.

Thanks to Linda (Silly Little Mischief), Claire (The Captive Reader), and Mary (The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader) for originating the Library Loot column. Check out what they're checking out!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Poetry Wednesday: Interrogative, and a New Poet Laureate



Congratulations to America's new Poet Laureate! Here is a poem from her book Duende.

Interrogative

Related Poem Content Details

1. Falmouth, Massachusetts, 1972
Oak table, knotted legs, the chirp
And scrape of tines to mouth.
Four children, four engines
Of want. That music.
What did your hand mean to smooth
Across the casket of your belly?
What echoed there, if not me—tiny body
Afloat, akimbo, awake or at rest?
Every night you fed the others
Bread leavened with the grains
Of your own want. How
Could you stand me near you,
In you, jump and kick tricking
The heart, when what you prayed for
Was my father’s shadow, your name
In his dangerous script, an envelope
Smelling of gun-powder, bay rum,
Someone to wrestle, sing to, question,
Climb?
                        2. Interstate 101 South, California, 1981
Remember the radio, the Coca-Cola sign
Phosphorescent to the left, bridge
After bridge, as though our lives were
Engineered simply to go? And so we went
Into those few quiet hours
Alone together in the dark, my arm
On the rest beside yours, our lights
Pricking at fog, tugging us patiently
Forward like a needle through gauze.
Night held us like a house.
Sometimes an old song
Would fill the car like a ghost.
                                    3. Leroy, Alabama, 2005
There’s still a pond behind your mother’s old house,
Still a stable with horses, a tractor rusted and stuck
Like a trophy in mud. And the red house you might
Have thrown stones at still stands on stilts up the dirt road.
A girl from the next town over rides in to lend us
Her colt, cries when one of us kicks it with spurs.
Her father wants to buy her a trailer, let her try her luck
In the shows. They stay for dinner under the tent
Your brother put up for the Fourth. Firebugs flare
And vanish. I am trying to let go of something.
My heart cluttered with names that mean nothing.
Our racket races out to the darkest part of the night.
The woods catch it and send it back. 
                        4. But let’s say you’re alive again—
Your hands are long and tell your age.
You hold them there, twirling a bent straw,
And my reflection watches, hollow-faced,
Not trying to hide. The waiters make it seem
Like Cairo. Back and forth shouting
That sharp language. And for the first time
I tell you everything. No shame
In my secrets, shoddy as laundry.
I have praised your God
For the blessing of the body, snuck
From pleasure to pleasure, lying for it, 
Holding it like a coin or a key in my fist.
I know now you’ve known all along.
I won’t change. I want to give
Everything away. To wander forever.
Here is a pot of tea. Let’s share it
Slowly, like sisters.

by Tracy K. Smith
courtesy of The Poetry Foundation

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Summer Reading Meets Book Ennui

Entire weekends of reading! Long nights of nothing but book time! It's summer! Woo hoo!

Well, don't spill your lemonade, but this year's summer reading is starting off very slowly for me.

You'd think that I'd have more than three book under my belt after three weeks of summer reading.

Nope, just three. A whopping 839 completed pages. A fabulous 839 pages that includes a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, but still a paltry sum of pages and books (including one book I began reading literally months ago).

Oh, don't get me wrong: I'm reading. My nightstand reading stack is dwindling, somewhat. I am nearly halfway through Anna Karenina, and I picked up the latest by Arundhati Roy, hot off the press.

I'm just not tossing back the books at a breakneck speed as intended.

I will continue to plug along, and pick up interesting books along the way. I won't break down, but I will limp along a little slower than anticipated. Wish me luck!

What do you do when you experience book ennui? Do you dial back the reading to give your psyche a rest, break on through to the other side no matter what, or wallow the ennui until it dissipates?

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Library Loot: New Library, New Books

This week's library loot experience took me to a rarely-visited branch of my library system for a book not for myself.

My husband David wanted to read a book by Eckhart Tolle, which was available at a branch of the library he passes in his travels every week. Apparently I never took him into that library, which I find hard to believe, but it could happen. (In a strange alternate universe, but still.) We resolved that issue immediately.

I took a lap around the lovely little library, checking out the "new books" section, the audiobook shelves, and the "Friends of the Library Book Sale" shelves. My audible gasp caused at least one patron to turn toward me (sorry!), but as I reached for Arundhati Roy's new release, I couldn't help it. It's a 14-day book, so heaven help me finish it on time, but I'll give it the old college try.

(Full disclosure: I began listening to The God of Small Things last year, but stopped after a very short time. That was about the same time I couldn't get into Uprooted, so I will call that timeframe "my bad.")

On the book sale shelves, I found a lovely hardback copy of Belgravia, which has intrigued me since its publication. The buzz hasn't been off the charts, but one cannot make all the people happy all the time, so I'll check it out.

David also was lured to the used book sale, but by fly fishing. There were two books, and one caught his eye. It was the knots, I believe.

All in all, it was a very successful trip to the library.

What treasures have you found at your library recently?


(Shout-out to Clare, the Captive Reader, for the original Library Loot column, and fabulous logo.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

At the Pitch • Poetry Wednesday



At the Pitch
If I could only live at the pitch
that is near madness, Eberhart wrote

but there was his wife Betty hanging onto
his coattails for dear life to the end of her life.

No one intervened when my mother’s brother’s
wife ran off with the new young rabbi

every woman in the congregation had a crush on.
They rose unleashed, fleeing west

into the sooty sky over Philadelphia
in a pillar of fire, at the pitch that is near madness

touching down in the outskirts of Pittsburgh.
Cleveland. Chicago. O westward!

O fornication! I was sixteen.
Eberhart had written his poem before

he sailed off to World War II and a boy
had just put his tongue in my mouth

which meant he could make
me do anything. No one

holding onto his coattails, no one onto my skirt
until my father switched on the back porch light.


by Maxine Kumin
from Where I Live: New & Selected Poems
courtesy The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Summer Reading: Karen's List

Summer reading has begun! Are you as excited as I am? 

The Summer Reading Club is in full swing. It means days full of reading books: hopefully good ones, of course, but take a risk from time to time. Go out on a limb and reach for a book that may be different from your usual fare. Try a different media: try recorded books, or print, for a change of pace.

Ambitious Reader Karen has shared her reading list with us, and I'm very pleased to see a couple of books she and I both own. I will have to make sure she and I synchronize our Kindles to activate extra fun reading!

Here are her summer reading books, in no particular order:
  • A Second Daniel
  • The Haunting of Ashburn House
  • Stirrings in the Black House
  • The Miniaturist
  • The House
  • Little Red
  • Switching Hour
  • Darcy's Ultimatum
  • The Templar's Cross
  • Georgianna Darcy's Diary
  • Secrets and Sensibilities
  • Indiana Belle
  • Crossings
  • Nothing to Croak About
  • The Chocolate Cure
  • Evil Librarian
  • Rising Sun
  • Wobble to Death
  • Servant of the Crown Mysteries: Lost Innocents, Season of the Raven, Season of the Fox
  • Tempest at Dawn
  • Glorieta Pass
  • Collide
  • Tequila and Tea Bags
  • The Passage
  • Chocolate Shop in Paris
  • Freedom's Sword
  • A Spell of Trouble
  • The Bees
  • Troublemaker
  • Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story
  • A Night Without Armor: Poems

  • Chasing Down the Dawn: Stories From the Road
  • A Strange Beginning
  • Beautiful Storm

Do you see any books that look good to you? Check them out from the library, or see if they're in your Kindle Prime or Unlimited reading bank.

By the way, did you know that Kindle Prime readers have some great options open to them for free reading? Check out the list, which includes modern classics 1984, Animal Farm, and The Handmaid's Tale.

If you don't want to make a list, that's cool, too. Just start reading — and feel free to drop me a line to let me know what pages you are turning.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Library Loot: Print and Audio, Plus Drama

I went to the library this week and got some loot: I borrowed two books and purchased a third, only one of which is on my original summer reading list. 

(Like that's a surprise. We all know I make the list, I chuckle, and then a I reach for whatever I darned well please. Hey, it's summer reading: no rules, just reading! Plus, can you blame me if I stray with so many great choices?)

I shall read at least one this weekend, possibly two (if I am ambitious). 

I am excited that one is Ruined, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by a playwright new to me, and the others are by authors I know and enjoy. I have encountered Lynn Nottage in numerous articles lately, so it's really a sort of sign that she is in my loot today.

I also am excited about listening to Eric Weiner's new book. I so enjoyed his Geography of Bliss and I can't wait to see what he has to say about "genius."

As for Cristina HenrĂ­quez's book, I almost didn't leave the library before starting it. Her novel made my Favorites of 2014 List, so I am very hopeful about this tome.

The book I purchased at the ongoing Friends of the Library book sale, Being Mortal, is one I'm rather intrigued to read. I have read Atul Gawande's  The New Yorker articles and enjoyed them immensely. I heard his interview on Fresh Air about aging and medicine. 

Thanks to Clare, the Captive Reader, for such an inspirational column! I love my library, and what it gives me, and it's nice to share that love.

So, tell me: what did you get from the library this week?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Summer Reading: Making a List!

Summer means reading — and summer reading club! 

Remember back in the day, when reading came with rewards? In my local library, readers would have their names posted with the number of titles read during the summer. One year, I read 4o books. My librarian was skeptical — then she remembered how I sat in the library for hours at a time, reading. Forty it was.

Getting a shout-out on Hedgehog Lover may not be as cool as having your name posted on the Norwalk Library children's section activity board, but it's still not bad. 

Visit your library (public or private), your local bookstores and thrift shops, yard sales and online book suppliers, friends and family, and choose what books look like they need to be read this summer.

So here's what I hope to consume this summer between the Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in autumn. This year, that date is Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24.

First of all, please take a moment to think about Memorial Day, and understand what it really means, 149 years after it began as Decoration Day in an Illinois town. May we strive for peace, and love, and the things that bring us together.  

In that vein, we may want to add a book to our list that reflects Memorial Day, and an article published by the Los Angeles Times may be a good place to start. 

My list is more a "wish" than carved in stone, but here it is, in no particular order:
  1. Hamilton: The Revolution
  2. Evicted
  3. Anna Karenina
  4. Lady Cop Makes Trouble
  5. The Burning Pages
  6. Dark Money
  7. Map of the Sky
  8. The Intuitionist
  9. Ready Player One
  10. The Labyrinth of Dreaming Books
  11. The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu
  12. Me Before You
  13. Yesternight
  14. The Fall of the House of Cabal
  15. The Descent
  16. The Book of Harlan
  17. At the Water's Edge
  18. Thank You for Your Service
  19. The Glass Sentence
  20. The Keeper of Lost Things
  21. The Lost City of Z
  22. Wicked
  23. Bone Season
  24. The Gun Seller
  25. Wolf Hall
  26. The Lowland
  27. And the Mountains Echoed
  28. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter 
  29. The Sixth Extinction
  30. Revival
  31. Bellman and Black
  32. Just Mercy
  33. Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits
  34. Redeployment
  35. The Handmaid's Tale
  36. The Case Against Sugar
  37. The Magicians
  38. The Unbanking of America
  39. The Inexplicable Logic of My Life
  40. Welcome to Night Vale
  41. Hidden Figures
  42. Speaking from Among the Bones
  43. Ruined
  44. The Bear and the Nightingale
  45. Uprooted
I suspect this list will change. As soon as something looks or sounds good, it will be on the list. I can't help it!

Join the Summer Reading Club and put yourself in the running for a new book. Read as much as you wish from Friday, May 26 through Sunday, September 24, and if you read the most books, you will win a book of your own.

To join the club, just send me an e-mail or leave a message below. Then, at the end of the summer reading period, send me a message or include your reading list in a blog comment. If you read the most, congratulations! If not, you still are a winner because you spent your summer reading.

I've already had a few e-mails from eager readers, and I can't wait to read your list!

I make sure summer reading is beneficial to my community. As I have done in years past, I will  donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center (minimum $150) (I know, no sweat, right?), and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List


Hopefully, reading club members also will find a way to help their communities through their reading, or to help share the love of reading with their communities. It's not a requirement, of course, but it certainly is a worthy effort. It doesn't have to be financial support, either — think of what the community wants and needs. Every reader can determine what is within her or his power to bestow.

Even if you don't join the reading club, I still would love to know: what's on your summer reading list? Tell me!