Sunday, April 18, 2021

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death Comes for the ArchbishopDeath Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It struck me as I was finishing this book that Willa Cather loves the land more than any human being. I don't mean this as a criticism. Her writing is its most luminous when describing a landscape or the elements. Her most empathetic depictions of people are often tinged with a sense of the timelessness of the natural world. People who live in tune with nature are the heroes of her novels, although they often suffer at the hands of their fellow humans as well as the world they inhabit. Still, they return to the land that sustains them as no other person can. 

Father Latour had used to feel a little ashamed that Joseph kept his sister and her nuns so busy making cassocks and vestments for him; but the last time he was in France he came to see all this in another light... "Look," she said, "after the Mother has read us one of those letters from her brother, I come and stand in this alcove and look up our little street with its one lamp, and just beyond the turn there is New Mexico; all that he has written us of those red deserts and blue mountains, the great plains and the herds of bison, and the canyons more profound than our deepest mountain gorges. I can feel that I am there, my heart beats faster, and it seems but a moment until the retiring-bell cuts short my dreams." (pg. 181)

Nothing one could say of Father Vaillant explained him. The man was much greater than the sum of his qualities. He added a glow to whatever kind of human society he was dropped down into. A Navajo hogan, some abjectly poor little huddle of Mexican huts, or a company of Monsignori and Cardinals at Rome--it was all the same. (pg. 227)

Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky. (pg. 232)

In New Mexico he always awoke a young man; not until he rose and began to shave did he realize that he was growing older. His first consciousness was a sense of the light dry wind blowing through the windows, with the fragrance of hot sun and sage-brush and sweet clover; a wind that made one's body feel light and one's heart cry "To-day, to-day," like a child's. (pg. 272)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Farther Afield

Farther Afield (Fairacre)Farther Afield by Miss Read
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I tried to read several books since the start of this year. Nothing stuck. Nothing grabbed me. Nothing, nothing, nothing. What was wrong with me? 

Turns out, nothing. I just needed to find the right book for the right time and that was this book by one of my favorite "comfort" read authors: Miss Read. In this novel, an English village schoolteacher who has been looking forward to the summer and checking off all manner of items on her to-do list, promptly breaks her arm at the beginning of the summer holiday. As I am a big planner, this type of setback hit close to home. Miss Read's friend Amy comes to her aid, and once the invalid is sufficiently recovered, invites her on a vacation to the island of Crete. 

The quiet pace, the humorous characters, and the gentle insights that characterize these stories are all here with the added fun of a setting quite different from the English countryside. 

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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

How to Lie with Statistics

How to Lie with StatisticsHow to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I felt this was an important topic to understand, as a layperson, and this book was targeted toward just that audience. I doubt I'll ever tackle the nitty gritty of statistics, but I am now more knowledgable  about the methods and principles that underlie the practice, as well as the sneaky methods that can manipulate the data or prop up dubious claims.  

The author was informative, concise, and humorous. The illustrations were vintage 1950s style, which I enjoyed almost as much as the text.

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Monday, December 28, 2020

Herding Cats

Herding Cats (Sarah's Scribbles, #3)Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At the end of this very, very trying year, I needed something laugh-out-loud funny to cheer me up. This was not the year to read any Russian novels, at least not for me. These wacky and relatable comics were just what the psychologist ordered!

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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

No Holly for Miss Quinn

No Holly for Miss Quinn (Fairacre)No Holly for Miss Quinn by Miss Read
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It can be difficult to find a holiday read that isn't Hallmark Channel sentimentality in book form. Thankfully, Miss Read has several holiday-themed stories that deliver a festive and lighthearted yuletide. The book blurb promises, "Miss Quinn's unexpectedly hectic Christmas has a significant effect upon her life."

Miriam had long ago given up feeling guilty about her dislike of Christmas festivities, and latterly had taken pains to keep her own Christmases as quiet as possible. This year she was determined to spend it alone in her new abode, with no turkey, no pudding, no mince pies and—definitely—no holly. She might have a glass of the excellent punch that Barnabas usually gave her, with her customary light lunch, and she intended to read some Trollope, earmarked for the winter months. But too much food, too much noise and, above all, too much convivial company she would avoid. But would she be able to? (25%)

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Monday, September 14, 2020

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions (Kopp Sisters #3)

Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions Miss Kopp's Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

OK. I'm saturated with Kopp Sisters for the time being. I'll have to take a break now that I've binged the first three novels. While this was still a great read, I can feel my interest waning slightly and these books and characters deserve better.

Constance's younger sister is infatuated with the theater and runs off with a traveling song-and-dance troupe. Or is it kidnapping? In 1916 New Jersey, "wayward" young women could get in a lot of trouble with the law and Constance knows only too well how naive young women can end up paying a heavy price when they flout the social conventions. 

It was not unusual for Sheriff Heath to be rousted out of bed in the middle of the night over a train accident, a country house robbery, or some other calamity. He rarely enjoyed anything like a full night’s sleep, and he carried eggplant-hued shadows under his eyes to prove it. (6%)

Constance was subjected to a barrage of letters from lonely men and enterprising employers. She’d had a marriage proposal from a doctor in Cuba, an offer of a job as a factory foreman in Chicago, and a set of keys to a jail in El Paso if only she’d consent to come out West and run it. Her sister Norma took great pride in answering those letters. She spent hours composing sharp-tongued retorts and reading them aloud. Under her pen, the rejection of impertinent propositions had been elevated to an art form. (6%)

Fleurette stood and tucked another ruffle into her skirt, raising the hem halfway to her knee. She wondered idly if it was possible to rig up some kind of cord that would raise the skirt when she left home and lower it again when she returned, like the canvas blinds in a shop window. (16%)

Friday, August 28, 2020

Lady Cop Makes Trouble (Kopp Sisters #2)

Lady Cop Makes Trouble  (Kopp Sisters #2)Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My Kopp Sisters infatuation continues. What women! I usually take a break of several months between books in a series, but this one was just so much fun.

I thought about the day, when I was about ten years of age, when I copied down a list printed in the newspaper under the title “What a Woman Can Do.” I wrote down each item in a neat and careful hand, and then crossed most of them out after considered them. The Profession of Music was thus eliminated, as was Coloring Photographs and Women as Wood Engravers. Housekeeper was blotted out so thoroughly that the paper tore. Dressmaking met the same fate, as did Gardening. In fact, the paper was nearly in tatters under the force of my emphatic little hand. Only The Profession of Law remained, along with A Lady Government Official, Women of Journalism, and Nursing. Each of those wore faint checks beside them. I hid that list inside a white glove that needed mending and never showed it to anyone. On it were all the possibilities in the world. No one, back in 1887, had dared to suggest Woman Deputy. (5%)

Norma was theatrical in her own way, a master of props, equipped with an impressive vocabulary of snorts, grumbles, and hisses, and always ready to bang a pot or slam a book shut to get her point across. In any disagreement, she could be counted upon to have a pencil and paper at the ready and to write down whatever outlandish and overheated claim the other party might be making, so that it could be entered into evidence and read back at a later date when it might favor her side. (6%)

Although Mr. LaMotte and I had only known each other a short while, we sat together as comfortably as old friends. He was a short, bald man who wore a preposterous wig that was always slightly askew, and he carried an expression of endless bemusement. He spoke with a faint French accent that betrayed his European roots, but when I addressed him in French he insisted that we speak the language of New Yorkers. “Go to Paris if you want to hear French,” he would say airily, with a wave of his hand, as if that were a last resort that one shouldn’t even consider. (27%)

It was the dim, quiet hour just before dinner, when the older women were rousing themselves slowly from their naps. This was when I preferred to sit down with one or the other of them and try to win their confidence. The understanding that they were in jail—and therefore not obligated to cook dinner—dawned on them with a kind of muted relief. They were philosophical at that time and more willing to talk, unlike the younger girls, who preferred to come to me at midnight, when their fears and secrets kept them awake and aflame. The older women didn’t let their lies and treachery deprive them of sleep. They took their secrets to bed like hot-water bottles and snored on top of them all night long. (52%)