Monday, August 10, 2015

See You in September

... See you when the summer's through

Remember that old song? I'm pretty sure it was in American Graffiti.

Anyway, I've decided to take a blogging break for the rest of the summer. That may sound strange because I know summer is ending now for many of you. But while you and your kids are returning to school, Twin A has just come home. She finished an internship at L'Oréal and will be with us for three weeks before beginning her final semester of college.

There will be plenty of boating, kayaking, grilling, and hanging out by the lake. Probably a little shopping and reading, too.

I'll catch up with you next month. Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Friday, August 7, 2015

#6Barsets: Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage

Our #6Barsets Project is proving to be the most enjoyable reading experience I've had in years. Not only have I discovered a new favorite author, I love chatting about books with friends as we read. And I've even managed to stay on schedule through the first four novels! Unfortunately, I have been less conscientious when it comes to following through with blog posts.

Before reading Trollope, I had a vague notion that he was comparable to Dickens. After reading Doctor Thorne and Framley Parsonage, I believe his stories and writing style are actually closer to Jane Austen.

** There are no spoilers for either novel in this post. **

Doctor Thorne can be summed up in a single sentence, a quote which appears repeatedly throughout the novel:
He must marry money!
Money and blood. Blood and money. Nothing is more important in measuring social status and worth during this time period - especially to the family of young Frank Gresham as they struggle financially to maintain their estate and standing in the community.

Problems arise when Frank falls in love with Mary Thorne - penniless, of questionable parentage, and being raised by her uncle, our hero, Doctor Thorne.

I won't say more, but this is a a plot truly worthy of Jane Austen herself.

Doctor Thorne gets a solid 5 star rating from me and will appear on my year-end list of favorites. In fact, I've added it to my list of all-time favorites, too.

On July 1, I moved on to Book 4 of The Barsetshire Chronicles...

In Framley Parsonage, Trollope returns once again to ecclesiastical matters... with a healthy dose of love and marriage, money and status, and, of course, social convention. This was enough to cement my view that Trollope is much more like Austen than Dickens

Framley Parsonage  tells the story of Mark Robarts,  "a young clergyman with ambitions beyond his small country parish of Framley. In a naive attempt to mix in influential circles, he makes a financial deal with the disreputable local Member of Parliament, but is instead brought to the brink of shame and ruin."

Politics plays a more prominent role here than in the previous novels and I got bogged down with the details a couple of times. Perhaps this does not bode well for the Palliser series, as I understand it is more focused on government and less on the church.

As a result, my rating "plummeted" to 4 stars. However, it is still among the best books I've read this year.

Both novels were read/listen combinations. I listen in the car and on my walks, then switch to an ebook to read in the evening. I love this approach to long classics and refer to it as total immersion. Simon Vance is my narrator of choice for British Literature and his performance in these novels was, as always, outstanding.

Up next for September and October is  The Small House at Allington, a novel former Prime Minister John Major declared to be his favorite book of all time. I can't wait to get started.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Mount Rushmore

I'll be sharing photos from our Great Western Adventure for the next few weeks.
If you follow me on Instagram,you may have seen some of them already.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tuesday Intro: The Oregon Trail

I had known long before I rode a covered wagon to Oregon that naiveté was the mother of adventure. I just didn't understand how much of that I really had. Nicholas and I realized before we left Missouri with the mules that we would be the first wagon travelers in more than a century to make an authentic crossing of the Oregon Trail. But that was never the point for us. We pushed mules more than two thousand miles to learn something more important. Even more beautiful than the land that we passed, or the months spent camping on the plains, was learning to live with uncertainty.
The Oregon Trail: A New American Journey
by Rinker Buck

I purchased this book just before we left on our Great Western Adventure and now that we're back home, I'm even more interested in reading it. We passed through parts of the route and I have a better idea of the landscape and conditions the original travelers must have faced.

Here is a portion of the goodreads summary:
In the bestselling tradition of Bill Bryson and Tony Horwitz, Rinker Buck's "The Oregon Trail" is a major work of participatory history: an epic account of traveling the 2,000-mile length of the Oregon Trail the old-fashioned way, in a covered wagon with a team of mules--which hasn't been done in a century--that also tells the rich history of the trail, the people who made the migration, and its significance to the country. 
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the opening paragraph (sometime two) of a book she decided to read based on the opening. Feel free to grab the banner and play along.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Pages From the Past: My 2000 Reading Journal

As we get ready to head out of town on vacation, I'll leave you with another installment of my Pages From the Past Series. We're moving into the 21st century now...


Memorable Fiction:

Fortune's Rocks by Anita Shreve 
My favorite of her novels

Even better than Stones From the River

A Widow For One Year by John Irving
Irving was my most read author of 2000

Our "fun" summer book club selection

Tara Road by Maeve Binchy
Binchy was a favorite back then

The Saving Graces by Patricia Gaffney 
Beachy covers have always appealed to me

Read with an on-line book club... vivid Newfoundland setting

Memorable Nonfiction:

Home Town by Tracy Kidder 
a book club selection

Eleanor Roosevelt, Vol 1, 1884-1933 by Blanche Weisen Cook
It took some time, but I also made it through volume 2

Should Have Skipped:

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks 
Sappy is the adjective which comes to mind

The End of the Affair by Graham Greene 
Who knew it would be a favorite on audio just over a decade later?

Incubus by Ann Arensberg
Don't even remember reading this, but my journal notations not favorable

Have you read any of these books? What were you reading in 2000?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
by Marie Kondo
Random House, 2014
226 pages
source: borrowed from the library

When your room is clean and uncluttered, you have no choice but to examine your inner state. You can see any issues you have been avoiding and are forced to deal with them. From the moment you start tidying, you will be compelled to reset your life. As a result, your life will start to change.

A tidy home will revolutionize your life, at least according to Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo. Her book offers a step-by-step approach (called KonMari) to declutter, pare down, and organize possessions until you are left only with items which "spark joy".  She claims this is the basis for a simpler, happier existence.

My friends and family will tell you that I'm already a very organized person and my house is generally tidy. So why would I read this book? Because if you open my closets, cupboards, or drawers, a beast is lurking. I wanted to see if the KonMari method could help me tame that beast... beginning with my own closet.

According to Kondo, effective tidying involves two essential actions: discarding and deciding where to store things. In addition, to tidy efficiently you must do it all at once, as quickly as possible, and nothing should be put away until the discarding is done.

Her basic ideas seem fundamentally sound and, to me, intuitive. She even offers subcategories, to be approached in a specific order, for those unable to tidy their closet in one fell swoop. There are also tips on how to fold and arrange items in a drawer. And all that is fine...

Until it gets to be a bit much. Talk to each of your possessions? Thank them for serving your needs? Be considerate of their feelings? Seriously?? That sounds a little crazy to me.

But I finished reading the book.

And then it was time to tackle my closet... in sections, not exactly in the prescribed order. I did consider the joy-inducing capabilities of each item individually. However, I did not  speak directly to any article of clothing.

Three days (and six bags) later, my closet was a joy to behold.

On the fourth day, I went shopping!

The kitchen cabinets and my husband's closet (with his assistance, of course) are next on the agenda. We'll see about purging books after that.

Much of this book seems like common sense, some of it is certainly over-the-top, and I remain skeptical of any "life-changing" claims. Its primary value seems to be as inspiration and motivation... which was exactly what I needed.

My rating:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday

Judging from the response on Instagram yesterday, I had to share this photo here:

My caption:
Look what I saw at B&N today! This could be the only way I'll ever read Proust. #instabooks #bookstagram

Click here for links to all of this week's Paris in July posts.


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