Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Book notes on four July books; and a year long resolve

37. Crocodile on the Sandbank - book 1 in the Amelia Peabody series
by Elizabeth Peters
mystery, 1975
second reading
Nook book 11
finished 7/4/12

I was surprised to see that my 37th book in 2010 was read just about this time of year, and it was the last in the Amelia Peabody series. And here I am two years later reading the first in the series. I first listened to it on Recorded Books unabridged tape maybe fifteen years ago. Is that possible? I adore these books, and I adore the characters. In Crocodile on the Sandbank, Amelia has inherited money from her father, and decides to go traveling. She is a most independent woman. She hates fashion, believes in comfortable, wearable clothes for women, isn't afraid to express how she feels, and is all about rights for women - not all that common in the late 1880s. Amelia meets a down and out young woman named Evelyn, and hires her as a companion. They travel to Egypt where their adventures and their new lives begin. They meet brothers and ultimately fall in love and marry. Amelia discovers a passion for pyramids, and Evelyn a talent for drawing. The story continues through 19 books, as they age, have children, suffer heartache and tragedy. Yet through it all Amelia is a bulwark of strength, and as they say, a force to be reckoned with. One of the all time great fictional characters.

38. Corduroy Mansions - book 1 in Corduroy Mansions series
by Alexander McCall Smith
fiction, 2009
library book eight
Nook book 12
finished 7/13/12

It's hard to write about this book. There were the usual Alexander McCall Smith moments of insight and musings about the world. There was a strong sense of the London setting. But the stories and many of the characters were just so 'out there' to me. I felt this about many of the Scotland Street series characters as well. And yet, I continue to read them, as I probably will continue to read this series. You probably know that the book was presented in a most interesting way - serialized in the Daily Telegraph. Wonderful idea. And it was also recorded by Andrew Sachs, who played Manuel on Fawlty Towers.

40. That Affair Next Door - book 1 in the Amelia Butterworth series; book 7 in the Ebenezer Gryce series
by Anna Katharine Green
mystery, 1897
Kindle book 16
finished 7/26/12

I first heard of this writer when Peggy sent me an email saying That Affair Next Door was available for free on the Kindle. She has a wonderful post on the author and her books. Well, I loved this book. Look at the publication date! That's a long time ago, and yet, I was as interested as if Anna Katharine Green had just written it. There's a site here which talks about Agatha Christie's Jane Marple and Anna Katharine Green's Amelia Butterworth. Amelia is a well-off spinster living in New York City. She is very intelligent and curious. One evening she looks out her window and sees an odd occurence. From this episode springs a quite intricate mystery. There are many twists and turns, but Amelia helps us out by recapping every once in a while. Oh, I had so much fun reading this book. Highly recommended.

41. Best Staged Plans
by Claire Cook
fiction, 2011
library book nine
Nook book 14
finished 7/31/12

I have Marcia to thank for getting me back on the Claire Cook reading path. I had read Must Love Dogs years ago, and so enjoyed it, as well as the movie. But that's it. Well, after reading a few of Marcia's reviews at Goodreads, I was reminded that I want to read more by this author. I really liked this book. Sandra Sullivan is around 50, her kids are grown - one married, the other a college graduate living at home, and she is ready for a change. She wants to fix up their old Victorian house by the sea in Massachusetts, and then sell it. This fixing up to sell has a name. It is called 'home staging.' It is much, much more than just baking cookies before a prospective buyer comes for a tour. It's all about selling a dream. People buying a house apparently don't want to see a junk drawer just like what they have in their own homes. They want to see such a space nicely organized. They want to see an exercise room with machines and dvds and a mat on the floor to encourage them in the belief that once they move, they will begin an exercise regime. Sandra's job is a home stager so she knows what she's doing. She gets annoyed with her husband that he isn't taking the renovation work seriously, and so accepts a job working on a 'boutique hotel' in Atlanta. She says not to call her until the work is done. This part seemed a bit contrived to me. She seemed too upset with her wonderful family, but I let it go, and of course she sees the error in her thinking later in the book. There was a lovely section about helping a homeless woman get a job, showing readers how any one of us could end up in that situation with just a few twists of fate. The book has humor, lightness, great characterization, and seriousness all at once. Pure delight.

Book 39 is missing from these notes because I wrote about it in a separate posting; Cleo Coyle's French Pressed.

This year I've bought a lot of books. I now own plenty of fiction and nonfiction. Beginning tomorrow, August 1, I am not going to buy any books for an entire year. The exceptions will be gift books, and possibly buying some for the Canadian Challenge. I own a few, and will try to get more from the library, but if I can't, I will buy them. The other exception will be ebooks for bedtime reading, if I am not able to get them through the state library's downloadable books.

Tom has announced his retirement for next June, and that means we are going to have a lot less money coming in. We should be okay because we live quite simply. I don't buy clothes unless necessary, I don't buy furniture unless ours is worn out, we haven't traveled in years. Tom hardly ever buys anything unless it is a necessity. But what I buy is books. I love hearing about a book, buying it, unwrapping it, and putting it on my shelf. And that is the rub. I put it on the shelf. And all too frequently it stays right there. A book I just had to own sits and sits. Often the hardcover I bought as soon as it was published remains unread. And then I see it is out in paperback, and feel a bit ashamed. Right now every shelf in the house is full of books. I've read a few but the vast majority I haven't.

If I read about books on Goodreads or on blogs, I will either bookmark the post or jot down the title in this cute little notebook a friend gave me.

If I truly 'can't wait,' I'll borrow from the library. Those of you who love buying books will understand this is not an easy endeavor to embark upon. But I shall persevere.


  1. Glad you enjoyed the Claire Cook, Nan. She has yet to top Must Love Dogs and Multiple Choice for me, but I still look forward every spring to her new release.

    My husband has been retired since 2001, and I joined him in retirement this past year. Like you, I have only to look around me to see the countless number of books I just had to have the moment they came out. Now I have plenty of time not only to read them but also to dust them! The severe cut in my book buying budget is equaled--or surpassed--by my joy in using ILL and the ability to download eBooks from the library.

    Congratulations to Tom on his retirement announcement!

    1. I thought this one was really very good. The characters are quite memorable. Their lives are so different from mine, but still I felt close to them.
      I'm feeling the same way about the library. I have three I visit, in addition to the downloadable Nook books. I'll not lack for reading material. :<)
      Thank you, and I'll pass it along to him. I keep saying 'ten and a half months!'

  2. I can sympathise with the way you feel about buying books. Since I was made redundant I don't have much cash to spare, so I try to limit my acquisitions and only buy from charity shops or second-hand stores (I always feel quite triumphant when I spot something that's on my Wish List), and occasionally I get a used book online if it's something I really, really want. My family gave me a Kindle for Christmas, so I download free books from Project Gutenburg, which is a wonderful resource for out of copyright books, especially classics. And, of course, there is my local library, where I am a regular visitor - I pop in every time I am in town! The worst thing is not being able to get titles as soon as they come out, so I'm always a step behind everyone else (I'm desperate to read Hilary Mantel's Bring Up The Bodies and some of the latest Booker contenders). However, sooner or later (usually later) I'm able to borrow them from the library, or find them in a charity shop. Good Luck with your future book buying!

    1. I just loved reading this. Thank you! I'm so set on this. It will be fine. My goodness, my house is a veritable library in itself. :<)

  3. Funny how every year we seem read at about the same rate, Nan. You're a couple of books ahead of me this year I note, but not by much. How odd.

    I like the sound of That Affair Next Door and will see if it's free for Kindle over here.

    I truly understand your not wanting to buy as many books. I try too, and have reasonable success. Like you I have loads of books here to read, plus I go to the library, so I honestly don't nedd to buy more. One or two do slip by though and I try not to feel too guilty about that. LOL.

    1. Kindred spirits, my dear! This year it has so happened that I've read a few books part way and quit. Some of them more than a hundred pages, and then I've gone 'ho hum' and dropped them.
      You'll like TAND, I'm quite sure.

  4. What a nice little notebook to put you lists in, Nan. I will be putting these latest reads of yours into mine.

    I've been on what I call a book-buying diet for a while now. It doesn't stop my from rooting around the $1 bins at Goodwill, the library, or anywhere else, but, I have curtailed my urge to buy what is new pretty well lately.

    On a sad note, have you heard that Maeve Binchy has passed away?

    1. Isn't it adorable! I miss the old library cards.
      I love that 'book-buying diet' - perfect!
      And I did. So very sad. I feel like a friend has gone.

  5. Hello, I LOVE Amelia Peabody and have read the entire series too -hmmm - maybe its time to re -read

    1. I loved this first book just as I did the first time I read it. Oh, I have such fond memories of my time within these pages.

  6. Hello Nan, I have just downloaded "That Affair Next Door" to my kindle - it is still there for free in the kindle shop, so, thank you very much for the recommendation! Is one of the reviews on the product page from you?
    The one about house staging sounds like something I'd like to read, too. And house staging like a job I'd be really good at!
    My sister is similar to you when it comes to buying books. She much rather buys them than borrow them from the library, but - here she is different to you - she usually reads them all :-)

    1. I think you'll like it. Maybe you could loan it to your mother. I think she'd like it, too. No review from me.
      Claire Cook's books are bright and breezy and interesting. The characters are around your age.
      I have always bought and borrowed, and I just read and era.

  7. We all suffer from that book guilt, I think.

    My daughter bought me that same Books to Check Out notebook!

    1. So neat that you have one, too. We should compare our lists!
      Hey, Tom just saw the Moonrise Kingdom movie, and not only is there a Françoise Hardy song, but a young girl has an album!f

  8. Despite the astronomical number of books in the Burrow, I don't usually buy new books, but I can get carried away in a used bookshop if I'm not careful. I mean all those old book fumes! But thanks to being a die-hard library borrower, I'm able to keep the accumulation of books down to a reasonable level (according to my own perspective, of course).

    Good luck with your vow!

    1. I'll be fine. As I said above, my house is a virtual library in itself! :<)

  9. I do try to not buy books and borrow them when I can from the library. Secondhand bookshops are good but it's so tempting to get more than I can read - I already have more than I can read!! So I'm going to join in with your resolve not to buy any books but for as long as I can, without setting a time limit. It's a bit like dieting - if I don't think about food or read recipes I'm not so tempted to eat too much - maybe I should cut down on the number of book blogs I read too as well as avoiding bookshops to keep me out of temptation's way. Oh, and e-books are just too much, especially when they are so cheap.

    1. Do your libraries offer ebooks to borrow for a nook or kindle?
      I love the food comparison. Exactly. I stopped reading and writing for Weekend Cooking for that very reason. :<)
      I expect my year limit will go on and on.

  10. A lot of libraries are now offering ebooks to borrow now, one thought. Also you can usually interlibrary loan books from surrounding libraries if your own library does not have a copy of something in - as well as ask whoever buys at the library (reference librarian, etc.) to purchase something if they don't have it. Lots of times they are open to suggestions. That said, I still purchase books all the time even though I am surrounded by them at work. Just recently we ran up to Southport, Conn. for our yearly pilgrimage to the Pequot Library used book sale which is huge and as usual we returned with several canvas bags worth of books. My big problem now is I seem to have slowed down in my ability to read. I don't quite understand it. I always was able to read very quickly and now, not so much anymore...so lots of books to get to at my snail's pace.

    1. I've been getting a lot through the state's downloadable book program. And I have many free old books via Kindle and Nook. And I do use the ILL system - a lot!


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