Ah, August. Usually it’s my last chance for leisurely reading since it marks the end of summer and the start of school.
Not this year.
The loveliest bit about retirement is that summer continues on through and past September. This means that big bag of books from the library will not languish because I will not be planning, grading, or worrying about classroom lessons.
I read in the morning. I read in the afternoon. I read before going to sleep. In between I do stuff like clean, cook, balance Mom’s checkbook, yardwork, write. I play too much Angry Birds Bubble Pop. Hey, no judgment, there are worse time wasters out there. Dr. Who reruns don’t count, either.
I am almost embarrassed when people ask me what I am doing in retirement because my first response is: “reading books.”
It’s more than a retirement activity. It’s absolute sustenance. I fear I might wither without a book in hand.
Here are August’s highlights:
The Great and Terrible Quest by Margaret Lovett
A fine read that has all the hallmarks of a beloved classic: Medieval setting, regency betrayal, a pipping hero or two, lovable secondary characters. An amazing fight scene and a thrilling, hold-your-breath ending. The three-legged trickster dog clenches the deal.
The biggest question is why is this book not as well known as other adventure tales like The Man in the Iron Mask?
Lives of the Pirates by Kathleen Krull, illustrated by Kathryn Hewitt
Krull bio books deftly combine fact, along with some speculations, with a fun factor. Hewitt’s caricatures complement the text well. Krull’s pirate book provides a wide range of famous, infamous, and not so famous pirates. I read this because my mother did a stint as a pirate and I needed inspiration to write her story.
The Art of Holding On and Letting Go by Kristin Lenz
Lenz provides a YA novel about competition rock climbing with authentic characters and laces the plot with issues ranging from family relationships to dating to introspective self-discovery. The additional literary and music references definitely add to the story.
Only three, you wonder?
August was an interesting month in that I read nine books. That part isn’t so interesting. What I found interesting, perplexing is the better word, is that I started nine books that I didn’t finish. Nine! Am I getting picky or choosing the wrong books?
Do you stick with a book once started or is there a definite standard for a DNF (did not finish)?
Though school had a smidge more to go, I was already in vacation mode. And this June marked the beginning of an endless vacation as I shut the door to my 20 years of teaching and embarked on retirement.
Summer has always been my read, read, read season. No lesson plans, no assignments to grade, no researching to add sparkle and sizzle to standards and their expectations, and of course, there is the lounging in bed early and late with a good book. *
Summer is a great big “Aah!”
Starting out strong with nine books, I bogged down in the middle of June when I took on Lorna Doone, which took the rest of June and into July—but it was worth all 700+ pages.
Two ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ reads:
The Wanderer by Sharon Creech
Sharon Creech’s novels continually provide riveting portraits of family dynamics. The Wanderer is another exploration into a family mystery. Like Walk Two Moons, a young girl is a captive narrator with family members delving into her past while journeying towards her future. In this story, Sophie is part of a crew sailing to England to visit with her grandfather “Bompie.” Although adopted, she sees herself immersed with the lives of her two cousins and three uncles, yet the closer they sail to England the more she realizes she has a past family that must be acknowledged. Sophie’s lyrical journaling is intertwined with her cousin Cody’s off-the-cuff observations creating a unique journey story.
Pardonable Lies by Jacqueline Winspear
The third book in the Maisie Dobbs series finds Maisie taking on three cases that push her to her limits of emotional, physical, and personal belief capabilities. Two of the cases lead her back to her war years, causing her to revisit France, forcing her to face past “dragons.” She relies on Billy, her valued assistant, to sleuth the London case as her investigations take her deeper into her own past while searching the past of two former soldiers. A layered plot, surprise twists, and full characterization create a more than satisfying read.
Four star ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ reads of note:
The Clearing by Heather Davis
For fans of Tuck Everlasting and The Time Traveler’s Wife. A book that flirts with the possibilities and impossibilities of time pockets. Amy moves in with her great aunt Mae in order to restart her life. Moving from Seattle to a small town takes adjusting, especially when there is mist in the clearing beyond her aunt’s house that divides the time between the 21st century and 1944. An interesting premise that works fairly well, although the ending is a bit muddled.
The Worst Night Ever by Dave Barry
If Dave Barry wrote a book for the juvie crowd it would be funny, right? It would be implausibly plotted, right? Hyperbolic humor, right? That is exactly what is found in The Worst Night Ever. Although the second in his “Worst” series it reads as a standalone. It begins with Wyatt becoming a target for the menacing Blevin twins and moves toward an espionage recon rescue of a ferret to thwarting an evil plot involving killer critters. At times darn right silly, often times snortfully funny, Barry writes a fun story for the middle school set.
The Fallen Architect by Charles Belfoure
This murder mystery comes from the angle of a architectural point of view. A prominent architect is blamed for the collapse of a theatre’s balcony which kills over a dozen people. After serving a prison term of five years he tries to rebuild his life after everything has been taken from him: status, family, home. Plus, he is reviled by the public causing him to change his name, appearance and occupation. A unique and somewhat refreshing approach to the murder mystery genre. A bit heavy on the emphasis of the variety theatre history, which slowed the plot down at times; however, plenty of colorful characterization and plot twists make for a satisfying enough read to seek out the other titles.
The Eyes of the Amaryllis by Natalie Babbitt
With magical realism leaning towards a fairy tale, Babbitt creates a thoughtful story of everlasting love. When the Amaryllis disappears mysteriously during a storm, the young captain’s wife and son grieve differently. The son runs from his grief to live inland while his mother grows old in her seaside cottage watching for a sign from her beloved captain. Enter in a visit from the granddaughter who is pulled into the grandmother’s need to know whether her true love, her lost-at-sea captain-husband still thinks of her. The grandmother believes nothing is impossible, and once again Babbitt spins a story that makes readers willing to believe the unbelievable, just as she did in her classic children’s tale, Tuck Everlasting.
*This feeling usually lasts through July, until Staples, Target, Wal-Mart and the consumer world decides its time to get ready for school–while it’s still clearly summer vacation for most of America. Minor panic begins to set in as I align and adjust and realign and readjust my curriculum, class website, and start diving into district emails. August sees a big dip in reading.**
**Not this year. The <delete> button is a marvelous coping mechanism for retired school teachers. I look forward to bypassing back-to-school frenzy and continuing on in my Book Bingo adventure.
I admit to being a bit jealous of kids when it comes to summer reading. Libraries promote cool programs to encourage young readers to grab a book and read to earn rewards and prizes.
I read for the enjoyment of reading, yet even a sticker on my bookmark would be that much more fun.
Our local library must have heard my inner child for they are running a summer reading program for the kiddos and adults as well.
Fabulous options! Summer Reading began June 11th and out of the four books I’ve read so far I don’t quite complete a BINGO.
read for 20 minutes (that was easy) read a book outside (gotta get that selfie) recommend a book to someone you know (the hubs eagerly awaits for my recent reads) read a book by a new to you author (another easy) read while listening to ocean sounds (at night while read we drift off to sleep to gentle ocean waves from sleep app) share this BINGO with someone you know (the hubs might play) check out a book by a local author (why—that would be me…) read a book that became a movie or TV series (it might take me all summer to read Lorna Doone)
If I check out and listen to a music album I’ll have a BINGO!
Be right back…
How well would you do with a BINGO card? What can you mark off so far?
Oh, April–your fickle weather kept me indoors reading instead of being outside weeding. Not necessarily a complaint. Here are the five star reads of the month that kickstarts the beginnings of spring.
Going down the same path of mitigating various dramas in Mitford, this seventh installment touches on a topic not usually addressed: depression among clerics. Father Tim has blown his diabetic diet once again, and this time there are dire consequences. As always, Karon provides humor in serious situations along with valuable life lessons.
Well-written, and though aimed at middle readers, Grisham presents a plausible story that veers towards drubbing those kids who stray from the straight and narrow. He does bring home the importance of how one wrong choice can have huge consequences. Seventh and perhaps the best in the series, Grisham takes on the bail bond system when one of Theo’s fellow Scouts and classmates becomes inadvertently an accomplice to armed robbery. Basically, Grisham wants his readers to know how flawed the legal system can be at times. The storyline includes the inevitable animal court where Theodore shines as a burgeoning lawyer. The case this time is a flatulent bunny who terrorizes the neighborhood canines.
With a nod to Agatha Christie and more than a couple of winks to the murder mystery industry, Horowitz provides a clever meta fiction that features his ability at creating an engaging storyline. A plot about a murder mystery that is the core to a story about an actual murder is clever meta fiction indeed.
While it seems as if readers are reading an homage to Agatha Christie they are in truth reading about how a book editor has become a detective trying to solve the murder of the murder mystery writer. Lots of winking going on here.
Horowitz brazenly nods to several mystery writers and even trots out Agatha Christie’s grandson for extra measure. If it weren’t all so obvious it would be irritating to have a murder mystery interrupted at the denouement to become a murder mystery.
Horowitz was obviously having fun.
So much fun that he shamelessly promotes his Midsomer Murders and Foyle’s War series. He even takes the time to insert a mild diatribe how real murders aren’t as common or convoluted as novels present them to be.
A reluctant five because it is difficult to ignore that Horowitz is a talented and clever writer and has produced an engaging whodunnit, despite all the winking and nodding going on. For those who enjoyed Knives Out.
While many readers have expressed negative views of Thomas‘s Sherlock Holmes pastiche, a deeper appreciation of the cavalcade of historical detail can be summoned. Thomas captures the voice of Watson well, Sherlock somewhat. Of the five stories “Peter the Painter” provides as much action and intrigue as “The Hound of Baskerville.”
Read any good books lately? Do tell. Do share.
For all the other books read and reviewed be sure to check out my Good Reads reading challenge.
THE DETAILS: Pages read: 29,532 Books read: 102 Shortest book read: 40 pages
Longest book read: 1,008 pages
Average book length: 289 pages Most popular: Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library–over 1 million reads (although I did not favor it) Least popular: Lucius Adelno Sherman’s What is Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Great Plays (not everyone appreciates Shakespeare) Average book rating: 4.3 (I must be particular) Highest rated by Goodreads readers:
First review of the year:One Hundred Years of Children’s Books in America, Decade by Decade edited by Jane Yolen and Marjorie N. Allen. An underrated and overlooked sampling of books and the history of America from the early 1800s to the 1990s–would like to see a more current edition. Five star rated books: 11 (I really am particular discerning)
Hitting my reading goal of 101 (the year isn’t over yet) creates a fine sense of accomplishment, especially since it became increasingly more difficult to sit down and focus on reading. After school started I found myself with a certain lassitude that gravitated towards passive viewing of animal shows, Western movies, and of course, my old standby of Dr. Who reruns.
Your Turn: Did you hit your reading goal for the year?
Any stand out reads? I’m always looking for the next TBR item.
I have my reserve in for the new Hamnet. I am anticipating and checking my library notifications frequently. If you are unaware—
This is a fictional account of a playwright (who is supposedly not named in the story) and his 11 year old son, his only son, who dies, perhaps of the bubonic plague. Of course it got my attention. If it looks like Shakespeare, talks about Shakespeare, might shed more light about Shakespeare—gotta read it. Being a Bardinator sets one up for mandatory reading at times.
Since I have yet to read the novel, I thought this installment of Bard Bits would focus on what others have said of the play, which is supposedly a reference to Hamnet, Shakespeare’s son, whose name is thought to have alternately been spelled Hamlet. There is ongoing academic conversation about that connection.
So-no thoughts yet on Hamnet. However, here are what some think about the titular character of the play:
A rich kid from Denmark.
A sad, screwed-up type of guy.
A half a dozen characters rolled into one.
—George Bernard Shaw
An Anglo-Saxon bore who talked too much.
What Hamlet is, before he is anything…is an authentic tragic hero who is himself a man of genius.
Hamlet doesn’t care if he bites the dust. He’s dangerous. He’s a human time bomb.
Indeed. Hamlet is a bit of all these impressions. But beyond his perceived personality is the remaining core of who Hamlet is and the engine of the play: he is a son who has lost a father. What is notable, is the play is written by a man who lost a son. The play is about how a father and a son are both lost. Sometimes it’s a fine line between life imitating art and art reflecting life.
All quotes are from the fun and fabulous The Friendly Shakespeare by Norrie Epstein. It is a treasure of a Bardinator resource.
What are your thoughts on Hamnet? No spoilers, please.
Feel free to add your two cents to thoughts on Hamlet. Having watched too many adaptations I have to push aside Mel, David, Jude and cohort before deciding on my own ideas. Above all else, I think Hamlet is a grieving young man who truly missed his father. I think Shakespeare did indeed reflect how grief wears heavy on a person in his play about how a person grapples with significant loss and how loss is absolutely a very personal experience.
March began in the usual way: school, home, the routine of routine. Then murmurings of a really bad flu flutter into the periphery around the middle of March (ironically teaching “Beware the Ides” with Julius Caesar walking to the forum). Routines are jarred as parents pull students from school and we watch and wonder if our school will also shut down with one week to go before spring week. We did and in two weeks all has changed and routine is a daily challenge.
Where does reading fit into this new normal? Reading used to be my anticipated reward, my stress reliever, my defrag from working with screens. Now, with only a scant handful of books (paper, not electronic, preferred) to last, who knows how long, reading becomes a quandary. Reading helps wile away the hours and keeps my brain from fogging over from too much screen time. Yet, I will clearly run out books on hand sooner than anticipated. Why didn’t I grab more books from the library before it closed?
Highlights of March:
The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird with a tomboy, an odd playmate, a mysterious neighbor and a life lesson.
Moonfleet by John Meade Falkner ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ An old fashioned adventure in the style of Robert Lois Stevenson
In the Jellicoe Road by Marlena Marchetta ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A YA that combines the ruthlessness found in Lord of the Flies with the mind-warping plot twists of I Am the Cheese.
Letters from Yellowstone by Diane Smith ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ One of those mad grabs off the shelf before the library closed and an unexpected joy as the book reveals the early days of Yellowstone Park through the witty and informative epistolary exchanges of a hodge podge of characters pursuing science.
Dandelion Summer by Lisa Wingate ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ Imagine Henry Fonda from his role in On Golden Pond and a teenage Queen Latifah, you then would have Norman Alvord and Epiphany Jones, better known as J. Norm and Epie. These two form a symbiotic friendship as they battle their dysfunctional families.
The Least of My Brothers by Harold Bell Wright ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ A classic re-edited by Michael Phillips. Turn of the century story of the difference between being a disciple of Christ and a member of the church, with plenty of drama and characterization and a minimum of preaching making for a thoughtful consideration of what defines a Christian.
Ender’s Shadow by Scott Orson Card ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️⭐️ Having read Ender’s Game several years ago I thought it time to read its counterpart. Read it in a couple of days since I was able to dedicate that much time to reading a 400+ page book being on spring break.
A mixture of titles and interests as usual. As my library stash dwindles I will begin getting creative (or desperate) and begin prowling my meager collection which consists of read and reread classics or dipping into my hubs’ technical journals and how to manuals.