Monday, November 18, 2013

Potpourri - reading a bit of this, a bit of that

I recently reached my GoodReads goal of reading 55 books in 2013.  I'm now at 56 books, and feel like I have a few good reading weeks ahead of me before getting swallowed by the holidays.

I haven't been doing quite as well blogging about everything I've been reading.  Sometimes there's not a lot to say, and sometimes there's so much that I almost feel overwhelmed by it.  So let's take the catalog approach.

The Red  Queen and The King Maker's Daughter, by Philippa Gregory - I enjoyed The White Queen so much more than either.  I found Margaret Beaufort, the Red Queen, to be one of the most maddeningly hypocritical heroines ever.  My biggest regret with regards to the War of the Roses is that Margaret was not ultimately defeated.  The fact that her precious son, Henry, founded the Tudors still rankles.  I got two-thirds done with The KingMakers Daughter, about Anne Neville, and found I just didn't have the heart to finish it.  I much prefer the Anne of Sunne in Splendour--Gregory's Anne was whiny and dull and unsympathetic.

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession, by Mark Obmascik - somehow over the past several months, my husband and I have transitioned from being mildly interested in birds to being birders. It started with the owls that took up residence across the street from our house in the open space, and soon we were trying to identify birds on our hikes.  We watched The Big Year, starring Steve Martin, et al, and enjoyed it thoroughly. So got the book and read it. It was fun, interesting, and inspired us to buy binoculars, field guides, and start going on 7:30 am birding tours on Saturday morning courtesy of our local wild bird center.  I now have a bird feeder outside my office window and have been spying on the feeding habits of Mountain Chickadees, American Goldfiches, House Sparrows, House Finches, Blue Jays, Northern Flickers, to name a few.  My rarest bird to date is the Barred Owl we spotted two Sundays ago at Point Defiance on Puget Sound when we were visiting our daughter who goes to school up there.  Can you spell N-E-R-D?

Maisie Dobbs, by Jacqueline Winspear - what a wonderful treat this book was to read!  I thoroughly enjoyed it--from the setting pre and post-WWI in London, to the charmingly interesting character, Maisie herself.  I actually found myself more interested in her backstory, which comprised the whole middle section of the book, rather than the mystery itself.  I will definitely be reading more books in this series.

Winter in Thrush Green, by Miss Read - as a card-carrying Janeite, it's a bit surprising that this is my first Miss Read tale of life in a quiet country village in England, circa 1950.  A stranger moves to the village, lots of gossip ensues, winter drags on, gallons of tea are consumed, and life goes on.  I listened to this book, and enjoyed it.  It was a nice break from reality and a perfect escape book...

...which leads me to the book I am currently reading:

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote - to say this book is unsettling is an understatement.  I have wanted to read it for years, but only just got up the nerve.  My husband says that the scariest movie he ever watched was Schindler's List, because it was based on a true story.  I haven't read a lot of scary books, but this is the one that has kept me up at night the most, not from reading it but from thinking about it.  The story itself is truly horrible, but Capote's clinical style coupled with the structure has made it definitely unsettling.  I'm almost done--I hope to finish it tonight.  It is good, an American classic, but very tough to read.

So how's that for potpourri--a bit of this and a bit of that?


  1. I read The Big Year this year, too...but I started birdwatching last year after watching the Steve Martin movie, The Big Year. And it's been so much fun. I'm jealous you've seen owls. They are still on my Hope To See Someday List. This summer, I did spot an American Kestral and several Belted Kingfishers which were very cool. Happy birding and reading a gallimaufry of books!

  2. I'm so glad you and Maisie hit it off! What a wonderful book… I really need to get going on the rest of that series. Have been wanting to try Miss Read's books for years and completely agree with you about In Cold Blood. Loved this post :)

  3. Fifty - Five books for the year so far is indeed impressive. I have not yet counted up for myself but I doubt that I am anywhere near that far.

    Of course I have heard of In Cold Blood but I have never read it. I had no idea that it was so intense. Though I am getting a bit squeamish about such things I really should give it a try.

  4. I think you're doing very well with your blogging - a great post, full of interest for me.I know just what you mean, though about feeling overwhelmed about having so much to say or not much at all - I feel like that too.

    Anyway, Miss Read's books were great favourites of mine some years ago and I think I read them all - such lovely books - if only I had time to get them out again, but sometimes books you love are never quite the same the second time around! And I don't want to spoil my memory.

    I loved Maisie Dobbs too, but I don't think the later books in the series were quite so absorbing, maybe that's just me.

    I agree with your husband about Schindler's List - I bought the book, but can't bring myself to starting it just yet.

  5. Ahhh, In Cold Blood! I couldn't stop thinking about it for ages after I'd read it. He really does construct it in a clever way doesn't he? Doesn't offer pity or excuses, just lets us make the decisions. It's so well-written, goes without saying I guess.

    It was unnerving because there were moments where I thought I was on the brink of beginning to understand the whys and wherefores where the two killers were concerned, but then something else would happen to make me question it. It's an intense read.

  6. Congrats on meeting your reading goal! I've only read one Maisie Dobbs book, but it was further along in the series. I'm curious about her back story, so I think I'd better go back and start at the beginning. ;)

  7. Way to Go Jane - reaching your goa with 6 weeks left in the year.

    BTW - I love your quick review approach, as opposed to reviewers who often tell too too much about about.

    Have a Nice Thanksgiving

    1. Polonius was a pompous boor, but I did get one thing right...brevity is the soul of wit! :)

  8. I wish I were doing as well with my Goodreads reading goal - I need to finish 14 more books by the end of the year. And I thought it was a realistic goal at the beginning of the year!

  9. Nice grab bag of reading matter, Jane! Your choices are always worth considering. I have passed up Miss Read so far, but considering how much I love Lark Rise and, on a different vector, most Trollope novels, I would probably like the Miss Read books. I'm still reading The Red Queen and find it's a good study of a perspective that was probably quite genuine at the time. I don't find Margaret hypocritical--utterly sincere, in fact--but rather she is just so unconscious of how her pretensions to great spirituality are undercut by her ego. She may be oblivious but her husband Henry Stafford is not, nor is the reader. Gregory is almost too ironic toward her sometimes; it would be better to just show rather than tell.

    1. I ended up liking the character Henry Stafford much more than Margaret, Lucy, although I agree that the perspective of The Red Queen is genuine and probably archaic, which makes it so interesting.

      I think Miss Read is probably more Trollope's heir than she is Austen's :)

  10. I have been getting close to reading a Miss Read book because of everyone reading them on the blogs! lol They do look fun, and I think I would enjoy them. I'm glad to hear you did, and like the comparison with Austen, so I really think I would enjoy them. I liked Maise Dobbs as well, but the second one not quite as much. I'm hoping the third one will restore my interest as it is a very interesting time period and she is an interesting character.

    My youngest son got us watching The Big Year, and we all loved it. I have a bird feeder - for a few years now - and our big delight is when the cardinals come, which they do regularly now. We hear there is a big wave of snowy owls that are invading the Ottawa area/Eastern Ontario, all the way down the the northern US states, because they had such a big nesting year that they ate all the food in their area in the Arctic in their breeding grounds. So I live in hope of seeing one of those lovely birds this winter. We rarely have an eagle over our area of the river - there was one this year, lovely golden eagle - which is such an inspiring moment. Love that you are a birder, too!