Category Archives: Cozy

Books Read in August, 2010


Until We Reach Home/ Lynn Austin (2008). Historical Fiction.

This Christian novel is the story of 3 young Swedish women who immigrate to the United States in 1897. Although it took about 2 chapters for me to get into the story, after that I could hardly put it down.

Highly Recommended.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession/Allison Hoover Bartlett (2010). Non-Fiction.

Apparently Bartlett expanded her magazine article on book thief, John Gilkey, into a book.

Rarely do I buy books that I know nothing about. Too many times in the past I’ve been burned and ended up with something fit only for paper projects.

However, the title grabbed me. I stood in Sam’s and flipped through it. The subject matter was very intriguing to a book-lover so I bought it.

It’s a partial account of a contemporary man who very boldly steals books. And not just the run-of-the-mill books. Rare ones. Very valuable ones.

Did the author intentionally leave the readers wanting more; or was it that she just didn’t know how to end it (because the saga continues) or maybe she just didn’t know how to flesh out the story?

Gilkey is relentless and unrepentant. The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is a fascinating read, but it would’ve been helpful had Bartlett spared us her political and world views. Personally, I don’t care what she thinks.

I just wanted to know more about John Gilkey.

Recommended.

The Body in the Library/Agatha Christie (1942). Mystery.

Mrs. Bantry of Gossington Hall is awakened by her hysterical maid who has just discovered the body of a stranger on the rug downstairs. How satisfying for the Bantry’s to have Miss Marple as a close friend at such a time and so the fluffy spinster is called in to speed up the investigation.

So typically Agatha Christie and a very satisfying read.

Highly Recommended if you like cozy mysteries.

D.E. Stevenson

Celia’s House/D.E. Stevenson (1943). Fiction.

Publishers must think that book buyers judge a book by it’s cover. Nothing else explains the swill they print on them.

Celia’s House is a lovely, cozy read. The back cover of the edition I read had some utter nonsense about the younger generation trying to carry on and being at odds with their elders. There’s absolutely nothing like that in the book – at all.

It’s just a nice story set in the early part of the 20th century, about a Scottish family and their ancestral home. Of course, everyone isn’t nice. There are a couple of ne’er-do-well characters who give it a little literary tension.

I have several D.E. Stevenson paperbacks that were reprinted in the mid-70s and they have the most atrocious cover art. Here is an example of one edition of Celia’s House (not the one I read but I want to post it just as an example).

Please don't judge this book by the cover.


It was just last week that I read this book, and my memory is fresh and I don’t think a goat was ever mentioned.

Goodness.

So, ignore the cover and if you like cozy reads, this one is Highly Recommended.

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Annotated Jane Austen

In years past, I’ve read Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park, and Northanger Abbey. Her other books (Emma, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility) I’m familiar with only through films.

But this summer, I’m in kind of a Jane Austen mood, and so am attempting to read the volumes I’ve neglected and possibly re-read the others. I decided to begin with Persuasion.
Grapevine Public Library has several different copies, and I was pleased to find that one is annotated and illustrated.

Front of the bookmark


One of the drawbacks of reading on my own (not in a bookclub) is the inability to share and explore with others the joys and frustrations of a story or an author or a subject. The annotations relieve this somewhat.

Oh, how I’d love to be in a Cozy Bookclub.

In person.

With nice cups of tea and biscuits.

Back of the bookmark


For now I will have to content myself with my hand-made Jane Austen bookmark and lots of sidenotes.

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Filed under Bookmarks, Books, Cozy, Crafts - Paper, England, Femininity, Fiction, Jane Austen, Jane Austen, Tea

Books Read, March – July, 2011

To catch up my reading list, the books below are listed by type, rather than by the month in which they were read.

(I’ll update it as I remember other titles – or find my list).

Mystery
Death of a Maid – M.C. Beaton, 2007
Death of a Dentist – M.C. Beaton 1997
Small Town Secrets – Sharon Mignerey, 2006


World War II

Non-Fiction
Entertaining Eric – Maureen Wells, published 2008; written 1940s
Notes to My Daughter – A Father’s Blitz Diary – Alexander Pierce, published 2010; written 1934+

Fiction
While We’re Far Apart – Lynn Austin, 2010
Henrietta’s War – Joyce Dennys,
The Devil’s Arithmetic, Jane Yolen, 1990


Early 20th Century Memoirs

A Vicarage Family – Noel Streatfeild, 1963
A Lucky Number – Vera Henry, 1957
Half-Broke Horses – Jeanette Walls, 2009

Cozy Fiction
Mrs. Tim of the Regiment – D.E. Stevenson, 1932
Kate Hardy – D.E. Stevenson, 1947
Summerhills – D.E. Stevenson, 1956
The Young Clementina (alternate titles: Divorced from Reality/Miss Dean’s Dilemma) – D.E. Stevenson, 1935

General Fiction
Joshua ~ a Parable for Today – Joseph F. Girzone, 1983
The Wetherbys – G. Clifton Wisler, 1992
Made in the U.S.A. – Billie Letts, 2008
One Second After – William Forstchen, 2009
A Promise for Ellie – Lauraine Snelling, 2006

General Non-Fiction
In the President’s Secret Service – Ronald Kessler, 2010
The World According to Beaver – Irwyn Applebaum, 1984
Among Schoolchildren – Tracey Kidder, 1990
Venus~the Dark Side- Roy Sheppard Mary T. Cleary, 2008

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Contentment at Home

Natasha Burns has a lovely post about her home and her attitude about it. It’s called “loving what I have rather than wishing it was more.”

And over at Domestic Felicity, Anna has written a thoughtful post titled “No Cost Home Improvement.”

They both reminded me of a story by Amy Dacyczyn in one of her Tightwad Gazette books. I’ve looked through them and can’t find it, so I’ll have to keep looking, then post it. She told about going to the home of an older person – their furnishings weren’t expensive or even nice, but the home was spotlessly clean and welcoming.

Just what I needed to hear.

As I about to go to sleep a few nights ago, I sensed the Lord nudging me about the stashes of clutter everywhere. It’s a lifelong problem that I have to deal with and I simply hadn’t been dealing with it for awhile.

So yesterday, I tackled 3 problem areas and cleaned them up. The difference was amazing and so fulfilling. On days that I’m home, I hope to clean out at least one more area per day. On bad fibromyalgia days, I might be able to do only one, but one is progress and it’s one more step toward a clean house and organization.

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Floral Altered Book pages

from Fran's Floral Altered Book

These page layouts are from an altered book my sister made; her theme was Flowers.

On this page, she distressed the pages with purple and buff colored stamp pads, used a daisy rubber stamp, magazine clippings for the flowers and heart. The wavy floral paper scrap was from a drapery sample book, which she ran through a crimper. Also she stamped a tulip on a layered tag and used a bit of photocopied ephemera.

From Fran's Floral Altered Book

This is one of my favorite altered book pages of all time. The purple flower is a silk one, and I wouldn’t have thought of using it because it’s so thick and bulky – but it’s perfect.

Besides the silk flower, she used a purple stamp pad for distressing the page, embroidered ribbon, words cut from a magazine (Home Grown and Spring), rubber stamp, and a decorative paper napkin.

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Filed under Altered Books, Cozy, Crafts, Crafts - Cheap, Crafts - Paper, Family, Using What You Have

Books Read, January 2011,

*Death of a Charming Man by M.C. Beaton. First published in 1994, this is Beaton’s 10th Hamish Macbeth mystery. The story centers around the effect of English newcomer, Peter Hynd on the small village of Drim in northern Scotland. Peter has a malicious streak and it becomes his downfall. Lochdubh police sergeant Macbeth warns Hynd to tread easily around the local Highlanders, but of course, he’s heedless.

The Hamish Macbeth series are cozy mysteries, though not quite as cozy as Agatha Christie’s books. Whose are? Grotesque descriptions are rare, along with bad language and sexual content. That being said, there was one section with a very un-cozy word.

Possibly it’s my imagination, but it seems that Beaton gets a little bored with the romantic relationship between Hamish and Priscilla Halburton-Smythe. Priscilla is not a sympathetic character; actually she’s fairly off-putting. Am I supposed to like her?

Hamish on the other hand, is someone I’d love to have as my local constable, despite his failings (mooching, laziness and all too often, a lack of loyalty).

Are there really policemen like him somewhere?

*Death in the Downs by Simon Brett
What’s the deal with so many current books? No happy marriages, affairs galore, no traditional religion, endorsements of New Age silliness.

Technically, this one is well written. The story moves along, clues are injected along with red herrings, it’s interesting and it ties up most of the loose ends.

On the other hand, it’s full of excessive drinking, mysticism and bad men. There is only one good/sympathetic man in the whole book.

I suppose Simon Brett really is a man, but he writes like a world-weary, jilted feminist who never met an alternative religion that he/she didn’t like.

It’s been a few years since I last read a Simon Brett mystery. The cynicism surprised me.

There are virtually no happy marriages in this book. Carole’s husband left her, one woman with an overbearing husband uses tranquilizers, another wife drinks, one couple is uncommunicative and then they part, and the “doctor” is a serial philanderer. Jude is not married but has an unpleasant relationship with her paramour, which we are thankfully spared the details. Parent/child relationships don’t fare much better.

And speaking of drinking … that’s practically all these characters do, besides intimidate, murder and commit mayhem and masochism. They are constantly drinking, not just at the pub but opening the second bottle of wine, etc.

New Age therapies are repeatedly defended- no matter how bizarre. At the end, we are treated to a discourse on the emptiness of traditional religion by the killer.

The writing is adept, the content leaves something to be desired. Come to think of it, Simon Brett seems more jaded than cynical. Perhaps he thinks he’s post-modern. Maybe he writes because his New Age healer prescribes it.

*Witness for the Prosecution by Agatha Christie. Years ago, Joe and I saw the movie with Marlene Dietrich and Tyrone Power, an excellent production. Since I’m always on the lookout for copies of Agatha Christie books, I bought a paperback copy and read it last week.

The first chapter told the whole story of the movie, so I thought there had been some Hollywood interference with the original and that there must be a lot more that had been pared down. The second chapter had a whole new cast of characters, but many books do that – using the first several chapters to introduce new settings, etc… By the beginning of the 3rd chapter, I realized that it was a book of short stories! I looked at the front and back covers and the flyleaf and nowhere did it say it was a book of short stories, so I felt a little less foolish.

The second odd thing about the book, was that the day I finished it, I watched a movie on Hulu titled “Love From a Stranger”. As it went on, I thought that it seemed very familiar. When the wife read the notation in her husband’s diary “9:00 p.m.”, I knew! It was the same story as “Philomel Cottage”, chapter 8 in Witness for the Prosecution. I checked the imdb page for the movie to see if they acknowledged Christie’s original story and indeed they did.

Now, it may seem that I was pretty stupid not to connect it before but lots of details had been changed. Christie wrote the book in 1924 and I think the tales are contemporary to that time; the movie is set in 1901. In the book the husband claims to be a photographer; in the movie he’s a scientist. Her sudden influx of money is explained by an inheritance in the book, and the film has her winning the pools (lottery). And there are many other things expanding the original story – so it wasn’t a clearcut case of simply not paying attention on my part.

I thought all that it was kind of a quirky co-incidence and it has absolutely no significance. Just an interesting interlude.

*Possessed: the Life of Joan Crawford, by Donald Spoto I can’t look or think of Joan Crawford without thinking Mommy Dearest, so when I saw this on the New Books shelf at the library I hesitated. But I was willing to consider that maybe that was a distorted view of her when I saw that Spoto claimed that she was misunderstood and had new archival information. Perhaps Christina was merely bitter after having been left out of the will.

But I will never know because I can’t get past the alternative lifestyle agenda of the author. He takes every opportunity to campaign for it and it’s tiring.

Hollywood history has long fascinated me, but I’ll have to satisfy my curiosity elsewhere.

Unfinished and NOT RECOMMENDED

The Blue Sapphire by D.E. Stevenson This was a re-read for me. Back in the mid-197s, Wal-Mart carried a lot of D.E. Stevenson reprints with new artwork on the covers and I bought several of them. The Blue Sapphire was originally published in 1963 but the cover on my book is straight out of the 1970s: her ruffled, loose dress, wedge sandals and long, flowing curls; his open necked shirt with the big collar and styled hair. When I read a book, I really like to picture the time setting in my mind – and the early 60s were not like the 70s, in any fashion.

Therefore, I see this as an opportunity to do an altered bookjacket.

The Blue Sapphire is a cozy romance and a quick read. It’s pleasant with likable characters, although I must say that I found Julie ( the female protagonist) a bit stuffy at times. Perhaps that makes it more believable.

(Dorothy Emily Peploe’s father was Robert Louis Stevenson’s cousin; she used her maiden name when she wrote, but the copyright is in her married name.)

RECOMMENDED

*Tides by V.M. Caldwell (Juvenile Fiction) The sequel to The Ocean Within targets 5th – 9th grade readers. It’s the continuing story of 12 year old Elizabeth who was adopted into the Sheridan family one year previously. All the Sheridan grandchildren spend each summer at their grandmother’s house on the ocean. Which ocean? We don’t know, but the clues are: the kids spot Vermont license tags on the journey there; it’s not Maine and there are pine trees right up to the beach. That’s a minor issue. However, the author doesn’t tell us why Elizabeth is afraid of the water, which is the main issue in the book. At the end, we are left to kind of …well… guess.

The writing is well crafted and held my interest. The subject matter is enjoyable – a house full of cousins, summertime, the beach, a town with a movie theater that shows W.C. Fields films. This is fun stuff to me. But the dark cloud is the intrusion of social issues – Elizabeth aids an environmentalist who’s trying to catch polluters.

Tides is a publication of Milkweed Editions, which is a non-profit publisher who “publishes with the intention of making a humane impact on society, in the belief that literature is a transformative art uniquely able to convey the essential experiences of the human heart and spirit”, according their note at the back of the book. At least they are upfront and bold in stating their goal.

My beef is that 10 year olds don’t need the weight of the world on their shoulders and how dare authors and publishers try to rob them of their childhood.

What they didn’t mind was inserting some gaia earth worship and a brief little ceremony for “mother ocean”. Perhaps they think they’re being ecumenical because they also devote very short passages to Judaism, Catholicism, as well as mentioning Hinduism, Buddhism and agnosticism. Talk about all-inclusive.

One very surprising element was the subject of spanking. Grandmother spanks. Everyone agrees that she’s fair about it, and there’s the agnostic mother’s disapproval of it, but I thought it was unusual aspect of a modern novel.

NOT RECOMMENDED for children.

The beach/family vacation storyline was much better done in The Secret of Cross Bone Hill by Wilson Gage.


*Theater Shoes
by Noel Streatfield (Juvenile Fiction) It was in the movie “You’ve Got Mail” that I first heard of the Shoe books. I didn’t know if they were real books, or just something fictionalized for that story. When I did an internet search (remember this was about 1998) the cupboard was bare.

Then when I looking over the Books for a Donation area at the library – there it was – Theater Shoes! I added it to my stack of purchases, brought it home and read it right away.

It’s a delightful episode in the continuing story of a Dancing/Theater school in London. This go-round was written in 1945 and concerns 3 children whose guardian grandfather dies. Since their mother is deceased and their father is missing in action with the British army, they have nowhere else to go but to a grandmother they’ve never met. Unbeknownst to them, their maternal relatives are all theater people and they are enrolled in Madame Fidolia’s Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training, which to them is like falling down the rabbit hole.

This passage from`Chapter 14 describes how the war had changed the appearance of a first night theater audience: “The audience was exactly as Miriam had said it would be, and not a bit as Alice had described it. The women were in uniform or dark overcoats, and most of them had big boots with fur linings. The men were in uniform or exactly as they had come on from work. Nobody was dressed up. Aunt Lindsey was looking very nice in a black frock and fur coat, but only nice in the way that anybody might look in the afternoon.”

Even though it’s written for older children, Theater Shoes is a charming book which held my interest.

RECOMMENDED

*Night by Elie Wiesel This is a tough book to read, which I knew going in. It is the story of Wiesel and his Jewish family in the early days of World War II, their deportation to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald. At first there is his father, mother and sister. The mother and sister are separated from them, then his father is gone.

It’s the story of the price of survival.

It is a horrible and cruel book. One that we need to read every time we’re told that Israel is expendable.

The Gentile world turned it’s collective back on the Jews. They have no other place to go but Israel.

God bless his chosen people and the land He gave them.

RECOMMENDED for the strong

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15 Authors


This idea came from Brenda’s post at Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. She got the idea from Sarah, at Thoroughly Alive.

 

 

How enjoyable to read another person’s list of favorite authors or books! When visiting in others’ homes, I’m always interested to see what’s on their bookshelf. Does it tell us anything about people to see what they read? Probably. Actually, I’m sure it does.

Several years ago our younger son (an adult at the time) told us that his friends were offended at the books in our living room. I doubt he was referring to the craft, gardening or music books. Surely he meant the ones on conservative politics and Christianity.

It seems that I’m always searching for someone who likes the same books that I love, because I so want to discuss them. However, I don’t think I have one single friend that shares an interest in very many of my favorite books or authors.

It’s funny because when I find a friend who likes to read, we seldom read the same books, even though we might have lots of other things in common. My friend, Patti, is a dedicated Christian, likes antiques and stories of the old days, tea cups, family history, card making and scrapbooking and southern gospel music. We share all of those things.

However, she also likes talk shows, loves country music (this one still has me shaking my head because she’s from New Jersey and I’m from the south. If it’s country and it’s not Johnny Cash or Patsy Cline, I’m probably not happy); Patti can’t stand Sara Palin and Dick Cheny (I love them both). She voted for Ralph Nadar and likes Mitt Romney. If they were the only choices, I’d be staying home on election day.

So, despite the fact that we’re both voracious readers, Patti and I rarely read or enjoy the same books. The only 2 exceptions I can think of (yes, yes, I know… of which I can think or something like that) are “

and

.

I really love the idea of a book club, but my ideal would be a cozy book group or at least a cozy mystery one.

Anyway, my list of most read or beloved authors goes something like this:

NON-FICTION

Emily Barnes
Peg Bracken
Priscilla Buckley
William F. Buckley
Emily Kimbrough
Norman Longmate
Corrie ten Boom

FICTION
Jane Austen
M.C. Beaton
Elizabeth Caddell
Agatha Christie
Erle Stanley Gardner
L.M. Montgomery
Miss Read
Laura Ingalls Wilder

A few words about authors
I love Miss Read’s books so much that I probably should’ve listed her twice.

And even though I’ve enjoyed the writings of Jan Karon and John Grisham, they’re missing from this list for different reasons. Even though parts of the Mitford books are wonderful, and I think that Karon is a very talented writer, there are parts of her books that I really don’t like. And I disliked her

so badly that I didn’t get past the first chapter. I intensely dislike whining (it’s one of my own and unloveliest traits) and that book is one big whine.

Up until about 5 years ago I had read about everything that John Grisham had written. In fact,

is one of my all time favorite books. So, he would be on my B list, along with Jan Karon, Harper Lee, D.E. Stevenson and several others.


If I were less truthful, I’d list C.S. Lewis because I have tremendous respect for his work, but his works are so hard to read. Countless times, I’ve started reading Mere Christianity or The Screwtape Letters, then give up when the going gets deep. But I hope someday to read not only them, but also other volumes of his that I’ve collected over the years.

And Charles Dickens: I’ve read parts of A Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, The Old Curiosity Shop and a considerable part of David Copperfield. The only one of his that I’ve actually finished was Bleak House. My interest was piqued in the story after I began watching the BBC version. The book was incredibly better.

Dickens was an amazing writer.

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