What to Read: Maisie Dobbs

maisie-books

One of my favorite mystery book series is the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. The story follows our heroine, Maisie who is working as an investigator between the wars. The story often winds back to the past to discover how she came to this point in life as well. They are quiet, thoughtful stories rather than violent Ripper tales but the setting and characters are so well-rounded that I have read every book in the series. The eleventh book in the series, A Dangerous Place, has just been released and I’m going to order a copy to add to my Maisie library. Its one of the few series that I own all in hardback.

I hope you enjoy the series too.

Maisie-Dangerous-Place

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Knitting with the Oldies

Myrna and William

The best thing about knitting is an excuse to sit in front of the TV. And the best channels to tune into are TCM and AMC to watch classics. I love old movies, especially screwball comedies like The Thin Man, It Happened One Night and His Girl Friday so when a friend recommended a blog called Self-Styled Siren, I clicked to it immediately. What fun! The site is filled with great info about classic films, film stars and current releases of classic films.

The blog hostess of Self-Style Siren, Farran Smith-Nehme has also written a novel called Missing Reels. Its gotten some praise over on Amazon as a favorite book for 2014 and its about old movies and falling in love in NYC in the 1980s so its sounds like fun too. I think I might download the ebook version so I can start reading it tonight. So, I guess reading and knitting will be my modus operandi for the foreseeable future?

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Bookworm Bonanza

bookworm bonanza

As mentioned in previous posts, I’m a bit of a book geek. And as such, I’ve collected a lot of bookish visual inspiration. Clearly, I’d rather be reading…

Pictured above:

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Reading Follow-Up

books

I did finally finish both of the books I was lamenting about a couple weeks ago. The Affinity Bridge was okay in the sort of way that if you were on the non-electronic blackout of an airline flight in descent and all you had to do was read, then you might go ahead and finish it but I am not recommending it to anyone as it lacks any sort of oopmf in character, world-building or storytelling. It will neither offend nor delight. I had had even lower expectations for the conclusion of Why Mermaids Sing than I did for Affinity Bridge but it ended up surprising me with a very unexpected twist at the end. It was a twist so startling that I wanted to immediately pick up the next book in the series just to see how the author planned to resolve the situation. Talk about improving!

In my efforts to increase my knowledge of the sci-fi genre I have already read three out of the five books I had wanted to tackle from the NPR top 100 list. Thanks to Audible, I was able to listen to excellent readings of both Fahrenheit 451 and The Time Machine so that I could read and work at the same time. Isn’t technology wonderful! The Time Machine was a very interesting tale that was familiar in some ways since elements and terms that were created within the story have been used in film, television and by other authors. It was nice to see where those references originated. As for 451, I put off reading it because I thought it was going to be a very different story than it turned out to be. It was fantastic. I loved 1984 and Brave New World and 451 slid into these worlds more so than I would have expected. I would definitely re-read it. It is as relevant today as its ever been.

I also read The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress which was much more engaging than I had expected. The world that Heinlein built and the characters were fascinating. Its much more of a political thriller than a purely science fiction novel which is probably why it has stood the test of time.

If you’ve been missing a good Neal Stephenson-laced-with-Douglas-Coupland novel, than have I got a book for you! Ready Player One is an onslaught of 1980s pop culture references immersed in a Snow Crash-candy shell. It does not have the social commentary that one might expect but it does provide a peek into the potential immersive video world we could soon be living inside. Not high culture but all pop culture.

What have you been reading lately?

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Education of a Sci-Fi Fan

scificlassics

Upon discovering the NPR’s Top 100 Sci-Fi & Fantasy Novels (as compiled by other readers), I realized that I cannot really call myself a sci-fi fan until I increase the quantity of sci-fi books I’ve actually read. My husband compiled the list as a PDF so I could check-off all the books I’d read. I discovered I’d only read 16 of the 100 books while my husband has read over 40 of them.

My 16 are:

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
  2. 1984, by George Orwell
  3. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  4. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
  5. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
  6. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
  7. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov
  8. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
  9. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
  10. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
  11. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
  12. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
  13. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman
  14. The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
  15. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
  16. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

I’ve read several other sci-fi books like the Nancy Kress’s Beggars in Spain series and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, which I think should have been included on the list but that’s neither here nor there. But I’m committed to be read at least nine more books from the list so that I’ve read at least one-quarter of the best sci-fi.

Several of the books on the list are already on my to-read list like Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
which I’ve read about 100 pages but lost steam and need to start again and Perdido Street Station. Bob raves about the newer Neal Stephenson books, Cryptonomicon and Anathem, but they are both tomes the size of War & Peace so I haven’t quite made the commitment yet.

With the help of my husband and friends (like you) I am slowly adding recommendations to my to-read list. The first few I’m starting on is Fahrenheit 451, The Time Machine, Rendezvous with Rama, Going Postal and The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress …. So begins my sci-fi education.

How many of these books have you read? Got any recommendations?

(list compiled by Glen Weldon, of Pop Culture Happy Hour fame, on NPR)

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The Book Fairy

Book fairy delivery

Have I told you the story of my encounters with the Book Fairy. Two nights over the course of one week, books mysteriously appeared beside my bed. I did not recall buying them, or hiding them under the bed or any such nonsense. The only answer could be that, in the night, the Book Fairy slipped in to the house and left me a few little literary trinkets when she thought I needed them. They are both “end of the summer” beachy reads which suit my mood perfectly.

So, Book Fairy, thank you! And if you happen to come by again soon, I’ll leave out a snack for you. Cheese, crackers and a shot of whiskey be good?

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Link Love: Postcards and Hats and Books, Oh My!

A postcard from 1909 via the NYTimes

A postcard from 1909 via the NYTimes

For my other blog, The Well-Appointed Desk, I tend to do a weekly Link Love filled with little tidbits I’ve found throughout the previous week. In my Pocket, I found lots of postal-love-related links, knitting and other tidbits that didn’t quite fit there so I thought I’d share them here.

Postal Bags

Postal, letters and paper ephemera:

February Lady Hat

Knitting (all hats this time):

Books Added to my To-Read List:

Have you found anything cool this week?

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What I’ve been reading this week… and not

Do you ever find yourself picking up book after book that just does not speak to you or inspire you? The last two weeks have been like that for me. Which, in my book calendar, is a long time. I set a book challenge for myself on GoodReads to read 60 books in 2012 and I am on track to meet my goal so when I get stalled out on a book I get frustrated that I won’t reach my goal. I’m hoping that by talking (or typing as it were) about it will help me make a decision whether to abandon a couple books or not.

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I’m about 75 pages into The Affinity Bridge which is probably the third or fourth steampunk book I’ve read this summer and I’ve been languishing to get through it. I did read a few reviews on GoodReads that suggest that it will pick up so I think I’ll press on with it.

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I recently finished a YA steampunk novel called The Clockwork Angel which I found quite interesting. The beginning of the book was really scary creepy for a book deemed YA but it settled into a less creepy adventure story within the first 75 pages or so.

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The one book that I just devoured this week was The Night Bookmobile which was an Audrey Niffenegger grown-up picture book, for lack of a better way to describe it. I absolutely loved The Time Traveler’s Wife when it was published but I’ve been tenative to read any other work by Audrey Niffenegger for fear that it will not live up to my grandiose expectations. Luckily, The Night Bookmobile was a genuinely delightful little read. Yes, it was basically an illustrated short story but it captured my heart and my imagination just when I needed it most. So, if you are looking for a book lover’s book, this is definitely it.

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The other book that’s been slowing me down for some time now is the third installment of the Sebastian St. Cyr series called When Mermaids Sing. Its a mystery set in Regency England with some good historical details that at least seem accurate though a few might be a little out of time. The first book was quite gruesome but had some potential. The second book set up some intrigue in regards to Sebastian’s girlfriend (for lack of a better word) but the third book seems to be standing still plotwise. I’m about halfway through the book and I can’t tell if the plot is ever going to move along. The book has been given higher ratings on GoodReads than most of the books in the series so maybe I just need to keep reading in hopes that the book gains some forward momentum.

What do you do when you find yourself losing interest in a book? Do you put it down or power through it?

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Book Review: The Gentle Art of Domesticity

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

I had postponed reading The Gentle Art of Domesticity by Jane Brocket for several years as I had been (as might be described in Jane Austen’s Persuasion) “persuaded” by an older, more well-read (at least when it came to the subject of domestic arts) friend that the book was haphazard and inaccurate. On a holiday whim, I added it to my Amazon wishlist in hopes of a secondhand copy to test my friend’s theory.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

I’ve read about 50 pages so far and I feel vindicated to have overlooked the prejudices and given this book a chance.

Rather than attempting to be an all-encompassing history and cultural overview of all the facets of the “gentle arts”, this book is the perspective of one well-read, well-educated, modern woman and her passions for the “home arts” — i.e. baking, sewing, quilting, gardening and knitting and such.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

I find it a hugely enjoyable book that I will both share and covet (look out secondhand bookshops, I will need additional copies because I am keeping my edition). I can already think of several people who would enjoy this book and intend to refer back to it regularly for ideas and inspiration. I have already jotted down lists of book recommendations, artists I would like to learn more about,  a few knitting projects and some recipes I’d like to try.

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

The Gentle Art of Domesticity

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