9

Lake Reads: Summer 2017

It is the point in this dumpster fire of a year, personally and globally, when I take a time out and go to my in-laws for some outdoor reading, wine drinking, ice cream tripping and lake dipping.

And as ever, in the service of creating more bookish lists, here’s what’s coming with me.

lake reads

I have been thinking about what’s coming with me for WEEKS. It is has been a hellfire of a couple of weeks, and focusing on what books I could bring is an exercise in joy.

I’m looking at two long car rides and FIVE days of glorious freedom spent with my (sunscreened) nose in a book.

Not too long ago, I went on a bookstore binge. Somehow I have managed to keep Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me, Taylor Jenkin Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network for lake reading. I can just feel that these books will be HEAVEN.

I also managed to keep my impatient hands off of Roxane Gay’s Hunger. Roxane is coming with me to the lake!

Matt Haig’s How To Stop Time. So I had written down this book’s July release date, ready to march to the bookstore and pick up a copy on the day. Turns out, that was the U.K release date and I’d have to wait until FEBRUARY to get mine. NOPE. I ordered it from book depository.com – it arrived last week and I’ve been counting the days until I can read it outside in the garden. This one is the story of a man who ages more slowly than the rest of us – as in, he was born in the 1500s and is still kicking. The one rule: don’t fall in love. You know I loved The Humans, and The Radleys and I’ve only heard the most wonderful things about How to Stop Time.

The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante. Well, guys. This will be it. The fourth and final book in the Neapolitan Novels series.  I’ve been undecided if I want to read this ASAP or wait to find out what happens to Lila and Elena. The draw of reading the finale in the sunshine proved to be too much. Plus, it was at the library when I went – a sign. I’m going to have to go back and buy all these books at some point. The thought of not owning these is kind of a heartbreaker.

Sleep Baby Sleep by David Hewson. Would a trip to the lake be complete without some kind of crime fiction? No, it would not. I’ve fallen in love with the Pieter Vos books, set in Amsterdam with the kind of hardboiled, crusty detective we’ve all come to expect in this type of book. Turns out Amsterdam is a perfect, sinister setting for some seriously f*cked up crime. A girl who works at the famous flower market disappears. When she turns up, she’s barely alive, tied to a stone angel inside a ring of fire. Her body contains traces of a drug that connects her to a series of murders called The Sleeping Beauty Murders. Vos is on the trail of a serial killer. Yesssssssssssssssssssssss.

And because I’ve been deep diving into the non-fiction this year…

First Women: The Grace and Power of America’s Modern First Ladies by Kate Anderson Brower. This book has been on my list for forever. This book, that looks at the most underestimated positions in the world, covers the women who held the position from 1960 to the present day. I’m looking forward to spending time with Jackie, Lady Bird, Pat, Rosalyn, Hillary and of course, Michelle. It also includes a cheeky afterword regarding the expectations of Melania in the role…

A Bold and Dangerous Family: The Remarkable Story of an Italian Mother, Her Sons, and their Fight Against Fascism by Caroline Moorehead. It’s taken me a LONG time to recover enough from A Train in Winter to even THINK about reading another of Moorehead’s books. I am confident that, dealing as it does with an Italian mother, this one will have more blatant ass-kicking and less heartbreak. It’s the true story of the Rosselli family, a part of the cultural elite in Florence, who were vocal anti-fascists. The price they paid for their activism is documented in this book, which also looks at the rise and fall of Mussolini and his black shirted thugs, and what it meant for Italy as a whole. You know, just some light summer reading.

So that’s probably enough, but just in case I will also bring War and Peace with me to fill in any reading lulls. Will I read all of the books? Definitely not. But I will always have something to suit my mood and that’s how I roll.

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7

Library Checkout – April 2017

Another month, another Library Checkout! Visit Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic for the full story!

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Well as you all know, my reading wasn’t strong in April. And while I found that I had a hard time finding time to read, that my focus was lacking when I did read, a funny thing happened when I was at the library: I got excited about the books I was finding.

For a hardcore booknerd this might not seem that noteworthy. But I was struggling, you guys. Instead of seeing possibilities when I looked at the books I had to read, I saw one other thing I had to do. When I looked at my TBR stacks, I didn’t see stories, I saw chores.

But the trips I took to the library had me leaving with a smile. I got that feeling you get when you know you’ve found exactly the books you were looking for.

I didn’t read a lot this month but I feel like everything will be better in May. So here’s what the month with the library looked like:

Read
Sisi: Empress On Her Own by Alison Pataki (the first book was better)
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (so fun)
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante
Possessed: The Life of Joan Crawford by Donald Spoto

Returned Unread
The Lights of Paris by Eleanor Brown

Currently Out
American Wife by Curtis Sittenfield (for the second time)
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel (currently reading)
Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth
The Girl Who Walked Home Alone: Bette Davis, a Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler
Bette and Joan: The Divine Feud by Shaun Considine (can you tell that I have a new obsession?)

On Hold
Nothing right now. See list above!

What about you? What did you find at the library? Link up with It’s a Portable Magic!

13

Lake Reads: Easter 2017

It’s been pretty quiet around here eh?

I’m going through another reading rough patch – I’m having a lot of trouble concentrating on reading! It’s been really busy at work and we’re still house hunting (which is the most intense experience out here) so I don’t have much left for this space.

BUT.

That’s about to change because it’s Easter and you know what that means? I’m headed to my in-laws’ house and all that’s expected of me in the next few days is to read and have some drinks. Maybe also run to town for ice cream.

lake reads

I have been looking forward to this weekend for weeks and weeks, thinking about what books will come with me. I’ve changed my mind many times but in the end, these are the books that I’m taking with.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante. You may recall that I wasn’t a massive fan of My Brilliant Friend. It took me more than a year to take a chance on the second book in the series, The Story of a New Name. Well, that one converted me. I fell for that book hard and I think it’s safe to say that I’m obsessed by the friendship between Lila and Elena. I can’t wait to get into the third book.

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin. This account of a white journalist going undercover as a black man in the Deep South in 1959 is more serious lake reading but it feels important and timely.

The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter. What can I say? I’ve been in a murder state of mind. I’ve been listening to as many episodes of the My Favorite Murder podcast as time will allow. Given my non-focus abilities recently, I need something to grip me. I was haunted by Slaughter’s Pretty Girls. I look forward to her scaring the crap out of me again. This book needs to be back at the library on Tuesday – someone is waiting for it!

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. When I saw this post from Amy @ Read a Latte I was intrigued. I mean, it’s serious if you read a book twice in a week. When I was next at the library, I saw this book sitting out and felt like it was meant to be. I like the idea of an office duel between competing assistants who hate each other right about now.

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White. I don’t want to brag but I know the guy who took the picture that they used for this cover. When he told me about it I looked the book up and it sounded interesting: what would you do if your new husband is keeping secrets from you, ones that are potentially dangerous? I pre-ordered it (something I NEVER do) and now I’m taking it to the lake.

The Edge of the Fall by Kate Williams. I read the first book in this promised trilogy (The Storms of War) quite a while ago. It was the story of a German-English family navigating society into the First World War and what it meant for their place in it. Kate Williams is an incredible biographer and she has taken equal care in crafting some solid historical fiction.

And that’s “it.” Three full days, 10 hours worth of car rides – I can do some serious reading damage this weekend. Promise that when I get back, I will actually post about some of it.

Happy Easter, friends!

4

Library Checkout – March 2017

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Another month just about over, which means it’s time to look at how we used the library via Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic.

I felt like I was in the library all the time this month but the actual reading shows that I didn’t get through whatever I brought home very quickly. I bought a lot of books this month (bad, bad) and was excited about a lot of them. In a way you could say that I was just sticking to my blogging goal of reading the books I already have?

Read
Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I’m a proper Canadian now, guys!)

DNF’d
The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Queen Margot by Alexandre Dumas (I got 200 pages in and just did not care. However, I recently found the non-fiction version of the story and the showdown between Catherine de Medici and her daughter, Margaret of Valois and I’m super excited about it)

Returned unread
none, yet…

Currently out
The Lights of Paris by Eleanor Brown (anyone read this? I loved The Weird Sisters but have been avoiding this for some reason…)
The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter

On hold
Sisi by Alison Pataki (I really really liked the first one, The Accidental Empress)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (conversion complete)

There you have it. Kind of a low-key library month. If you used the library this month, visit Charleen to link up!

12

Never Have I Ever

As someone who thinks and talks and reads about books like 80% of the time, you kind of become defined by what you have read.

But what about those books that you haven’t read?

There are some books or authors that when you admit you haven’t read them, people don’t believe you. They think you’re missing out on some crucial bookish experience, like maybe you aren’t as widely read as they thought you were.

I try my best to read as much and as widely as possible. But there are inevitably going to be some books or authors that I don’t get to in this lifetime. Here’s a list of some of the ones that I haven’t reached yet.

Anything by Margaret Atwood. I know. I somehow managed to get through high school and university without reading any of her work. I actually didn’t know she was read in high schools until the other night. As far as I can tell, most of her work is dystopian? And that’s never really been in my wheelhouse. Still, The Handmaid’s Tale has been talked about a lot recently and I decided that maybe the time had come to read me some Atwood. I have a copy out from the library right now and if I actually read it, I can keep my passport.

 A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway. One of those books that’s probably considered compulsory if you want to think of yourself as well-read. Well, too bad. I will probably never read this and it has a lot to do with the fact that anything I’ve ever read about Hemingway makes me not like him as a person. And I’m sure there are some of you out there that think I should separate the man from his art but nah. This is one I will probably never get to.

Books by Joan Didion or Nora Ephron. Am I wrong lumping them in together? They feel like they go together. People are always raving about one or the other and, while I suspect I would probably quite like their work, I haven’t gotten to it yet. I did read a Delia Ephron book recently-ish. Does that count?

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. It constantly surprises ME that I still haven’t read this. It’s really hard to find a copy of it. Well, at least, every time it’s popped into my head to look for it, I can’t find it. I can hear you all yelling about online shopping but I prefer my book buying to be an in-store experience for the most part.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. Are you yelling? Look, I gave The Hobbit a whirl and I was super bored. I can’t imagine reading three books of the same. I couldn’t even stay awake for the whole first movie. Pass.

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Any books or authors people are surprised you’ve never read?

14

Library Checkout: February 2017

I’m trying not to be an apologist blogger anymore so I won’t apologize for not putting up blog content. I totally feel bad about it and I’m alive. Just…really terrible at putting up blog content!

librarycheckout2

This is why the library checkout, hosted by Charleen @ It’s a Portable Magic, is so great. We all get content and I don’t have to use my brain too too much. (What is wrong with my brain, you guys? It feels mushy)

Although, really, it’s been a shameful month at the library. You’ll see. I just have so many stacks of books at home and I’m starting to feel really terrible about not reading all of them, all the time. It’s a horrible feeling and I’m hoping it goes away if I focus on my own books for a while. I’m really terrible at that, though. I’m the kind of reader that’s like “OH THAT’S SO SHINY AND NEW, LET ME HAVE IT NOW.” I need to get more in the mindset of “These books aren’t going anywhere. I don’t need to have this book in my possession this instant.”

Even though I know it’s true, it feels like a lie.

Anyway, let’s get to the shame of my month at the library.

Read
The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (ohhhh I loved this one! Remember when I was super lukewarm about My Brilliant Friend? I take it back. Give me all the Ferrante books!)
Three Sisters, Three Queens by Philippa Gregory (I’m still reading this as I write this. I’m really enjoying it but it’s dense and long and I know someone’s waiting for it so I’m trying to read as fast as I can)

DNF’d
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave (I don’t know what happened here – I have loved all of Cleave’s other work. This one felt inauthentic and forced. Since someone was waiting for it, I decided to just send it back)

Returned unread
The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis
Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld (this is the second time I have returned one of her books to the library unread even though I really enjoyed Eligible!)

Currently out
Hitman Anders and the Meaning Of It All by Jonas Jonasson

On hold
Nothing right now but I’m thinking about putting a hold on the next Elena Ferrante book…maybe Emily Climbs too…

8

Non-Fiction November: Be the Expert

This week as part of Non-fiction November, we’re thinking like experts. We’re either being the expert, asking the experts or becoming an expert.

I have been most looking forward to this week, hosted by Julz @ Julz Reads.

For as long as I’ve been reading, I’ve been obsessed with Royals, mainly female Royals. I’ve read about Tudors and Yorks, Romanovs, Stuarts, Windsors, even a Bernadotte or two. I’ve read about minor German duchies, Spanish Infantas, French Queens, and Austrian Empresses. I’ve read about Elizabethans, Georgians, Edwardians, and the Restoration.

I will forever be drawn to Royals.

Here are some of my favourite  books about Royal women (in no particular order):

The Romanov Sisters by Helen Rappaport. I’d read a lot about Nicholas and Alexandra by the time I read this one. Olga, Tatiana, Maria and Anastasia were always mentioned as their lives intersected with their parents’. Their deaths at such young ages meant that they were never really known as their own people. Rappaport’s book was the first time I was introduced to the sisters as individuals. The whole thing is of course, totally sad, because ultimately you know how their story ends.

The Mystery of Princess Louise by Lucinda Hawksley. Princess Louise, was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. She was unusual in that she convinced her parents to let her have an artistic education. She was quite a talented sculptor, married a commoner (as much a commoner as the era would allow anyway, he was still in line to a Dukedom), and spent part of her life in Canada when her husband was appointed Governor-General. The province of Alberta is named for her.

Anything by Julia P. Gelardi. She is, hands down, my favourite Royals biographer. She has written three books looking at multiple Royals. Five Granddaughters, which looks at the lives of the Queens of Norway, Russia, Spain, Romania and Greece, each of whom was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria; In Triumph’s Wake, which looks at the lives of incredibly successful Queens (Victoria, Maria-Theresa and Isabella of Spain) and their very tragic daughters (Vicky, Marie-Antoinette, Katherine of Aragon); and From Splendour to Revolution, which takes on some of the Romanov women, from 1847-1928. Anyone of them is so very worth your time – I can’t even pick a favourite.

Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. Catherine was Empress of Russia but she was also a woman. Massie’s portrait of her manages to do justice to both sides of this august historical figure.

Ambition and Desire: The Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte by Kate Williams. Before reading this, my knowledge of Josephine was that she was always really well dressed. Williams introduced me to a completely different person, a woman who was born on a remote island, who kicked and scratched her way through life. It was exquisitely researched and I loved every page. (Williams is actually a prolific author. She has many books about royal woman, as well as fiction books like the WWI series that starts with The Storms of War. I totally read it – also quite good)

The Reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann. The first time I ever became aware of Empress Elisabeth of Austria was when I was actually in Austria. Her portrait, the Winterhalter one of her in a white dress with diamond stars in her hair, is everywhere. I bought this biography of her while I was there. Empress Elisabeth wasn’t supposed to marry Franz-Joseph, her sister was. But he fell in love with Elisabeth and she with him. Life at the very formal Austrian court turned out to be a lot to handle for a young woman raised in an informal Bavarian household. She spent the rest of her life searching for ways to avoid court life, to live as free as possible away from the gossip and the rules that otherwise governed her life.

Well those should get you started should you feel the need to better acquaint yourself with some of these Royals. If you know of a good one, please let me know. I’m always looking for more.