Friday, October 27, 2023

If You Like This Classic Then You Might Enjoy...

"A classic is a book which with each rereading
offers as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading."
ITALO CALVINO, found on AZ Quotes

When a modern author writes a sequel or prequel to a famous classic book you love, are you in the front of the line to read it? Are you eager, or reluctant, to see what a present day author creates from a favourite old novel? I admit being one who has been slow to be won over; I ask, how can anyone other than the original author write a book that equals, say, Pride and Prejudice or The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Thankfully, I stopped being a snob about it—there are authors with great imagination and skill who have written some wonderful and compelling stories inspired by those original tales. Here are five titles I recently finished. And loved.

If you loved Jane Austen's 1813 novel Pride and Prejudice:
Death Comes to Pemberley is the 2011 novel by British mystery fiction author, P.D. James. The book is a sequel of sorts; Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are now wed and living at Pemberley. Things aren't quite so 'happy ever after'—Mr. and Mrs. Darcy are about to host a grand autumn ball and then a body is discovered in the nearby woods. I love how the author skillfully weaves threads of the original Austen novel throughout her own well-told Regency murder mystery. I really enjoyed it.
Longbourn, the 2013 novel by British author Jo Baker, gives the reader a chance to see an alternative view of the Pride and Prejudice story as seen through the eyes of the family servants. While the Bennet family lives their story upstairs exactly as told by Jane Austen, their servants downstairs—barely visible characters till now—suddenly come alive in our imagination. They take centre stage, and we begin to see them as living, breathing people with names like Sarah and James who have their own hopes, dreams, and sorrows. I had a hard time putting this book down.

The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow was published in 2020. In this imaginative novel, the author focuses on plain and nerdy middle sister, Mary Bennet, and sets her in the limelight as the novel's heroine. I soon came to empathize with Mary as she struggled to find happiness and fulfillment in a world that basically ignored her. From the first page I was drawn in, reading every chance I could, even well into the night a couple of days, because I had to know - does Mary find her life, and love? Well worth reading. 

I found it an altogether enriching experience to read these three novels alongside Jane Austen's. I think the authors did a great job of entwining the old and new story lines into one.

If you enjoyed L.M. Montgomery's 1908 Anne of Green Gables: 

Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, published in 2018, lets us imagine Marilla Cuthbert's young life at Green Gables long before Anne enters the picture. She gives the reader a wider look into Marilla's world, picking up threads dropped by Miss Montgomery in the Anne books, including how and why Marilla never married John Blythe, who was once considered her beau. It's a charming tale and fits perfectly as a prequel to the well-loved Anne stories. Delightful and a bit wistful, I'm glad I read it. 

If you are charmed by C.S. Lewis's 1950 The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: 

Once Upon A Wardrobe by Patti Callahan was published in 2021. If you love The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, you will enjoy this charming tale in which college student Megs Devonshire tries to fulfill her younger brother George's last wish to discover the truth about his favourite Narnia story. Beautifully imagined, charmingly told, this is a book you might want to save for the weeks leading up to Christmas. I'll be re-reading it this holiday season.

Have you discovered other good sequel/prequel-like books that happily co-exist with your favourite original novels? Do share your recommendations.

She reads books as one would
breathe air, to fill up and live.

Wishing you a beautiful day,

Friday, October 20, 2023

Words That Touch Me This Week

"I do not fear this day for You are with me."

Life feels fraught with distress and anxiety these days - so many people I care about are dealing with health scares and concerns. I have a couple little issues of my own to add to the mix. And then there are all those horrid events destroying lives around the world. Life does not feel beautiful some days, and yet a lifetime of learning to watch for the beauty and ask for His infinite grace, helps me to navigate moment by moment through these troubling times. For that I am grateful.

When I feel overwhelmed, I search for words to calm and steady my thoughts. How often I have found good thoughts being offered by fellow life travelers in their writings and social feeds. On this sunny Friday morning, with wind sweeping through bare treetops and waning flower gardens, I share these few words with you... hoping your own heart is steadied by something you read here.

"Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it."

"There must be a silk purse
in here somewhere."
JULIA CAMERON, The Sound of Paper

"Faith includes noticing the mess, the
emptiness and discomfort, and letting
it be there until some light returns."
ANNE LAMOTT, as seen on social media

When my heart is overwhelmed,
lead me to the Rock that is higher than
my wisdom and abilities.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind,
forgive our foolish ways!
Re-clothe us in our rightful mind;
In purer lives Thy service find,
In deeper reverence, praise.

Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
and let our ordered lives confess
The beauty of Thy peace.

Dear Lord and Father of mankind, Stanzas 1 and 5


Sending heart hugs and wishes for a beautiful weekend,

Photo credit:
Image by 8926 from Pixabay

Sunday, October 15, 2023

The Dilemmas of a Book Nerd

Can you think of anything nicer than sipping a favourite
hot beverage while delving into a delightful new book?

I seem to be talking about books more often these days. Perhaps it's the season of the year—autumn is always a good time to curl up with a good book. Perhaps it's the season of life—I'm less involved out there in the world, so I'm able to take time to read more, which delights me deliciously.

Recently I found Miranda Mills's 2019 YouTube vlog, in which she joined a Book Tag answering ten questions about the dilemmas of a book nerd. As a self-confessed book nerd myself, I thought they'd be fun questions to answer - I've shared my responses below. Hope you enjoy!

Dilemma #1: Book Storage – How do you store and organize your books? All my books are shelved. Except for two small boxes in the closet downstairs - books I'm done with but not ready to let go yet as they are historical markers of my earlier life. My study walls are filled with bookshelves and they are filled to the gills with my Nonfiction and To Be Read books. All my Fiction and Christmas-themed books are on our family room shelves. Cookbooks and food related volumes nestle, of course, on the kitchen bookshelf. My new collection of Miss Marple mysteries with their pretty bright covers are in the vintage style case in the living room. And my small Children's collection and most of my Yet to be Read collection of thrift store, used bookstore, and library sale finds are housed in the large cupboard with built-in shelves in Rick's den. (He also has his own large bookshelf in that room but I'm overflowing into his cupboard space; thankfully he doesn't complain.) 

Dilemma #2: Tracking – How do you keep track of what you have read and what books you own? Until recently, I didn't keep track of what I read (except for some notes and tons of quotes in notebooks), and I never had an organized master list of the books I own. I have far too many now to remember titles or authors by heart. Since 2018, I started tracking what I read each year - a simple list of title and author (which I need to expand to include a bit of info on the book and my response to it). The growing 2023 list is on the sidebar of my blog and will eventually be stored in a Word doc, along with the others. As for tracking the books I own... since I don't have quite the same recall of my youth—where I could put my finger on a book in a moment's notice—this past summer I created a catalogue in Excel (title, author, date acquired, categories, where shelved, to whom it's lent). 

Dilemma #3: Borrow – Do you lend your books out?  Not often. I used to lend out books. I like to share my love for reading with others, and when I find a book I really love, I want to share that information. But I don't lend out much - favourite books sometimes didn't get returned or they arrived in a state I was not happy about. I do make pencil notations in my books, but I don't bend their spines or dog-ear pages, and I don't read while eating food that can create sticky messes on the covers. I entrust my books to a handful of people who I know will take care of them, and more importantly, return them. Usually they are kindred book lovers who know what our books mean to us.

Dilemma #4: Buying – How do you buy or acquire your books? I love books. I love collecting them, with every intention to read them. I love going into bookshops, browsing thrift stores, secondhand bookshops, and library annual book sales (when paperbacks are fifty cents and hardbacks are a Loonie - one dollar). Quite often the books I'm looking for aren't stocked in the local shops—my tastes don't always run to bestsellers and the books I often want sometimes take several weeks to arrive. So I use Amazon. I will put books on their online wish list or titles directly into the Shopping Cart as I come across them. Then I go back and decide what to buy now or save for later. I follow some people who are booklovers and if they are kindred-style readers, I'll often follow through on many of their recommendations. (I mention a handful of them HERE.) I love gift cards to bookstores - if I have to choose between clothes or books, it's most often books. One last note on this, I don't buy all the books I read. While I own many, there are still many others where I use my library card to borrow and read. 

Dilemma #5: Comments – How do you respond to the “How do you read so much” comment or similar comments? People don't generally ask me that question. I don't get a lot of books read in a year; usually the count is under a hundred. I could probably count, on one hand probably, the days in my entire life when I did not read a book, even in my childhood. I have never made goals to read a certain amount of books in a year. I read every day because I have to - it's like breathing for me, something on the inside feels unfulfilled otherwise. Sometimes I read books quickly - easy cozy books, for example; other books I take my time through them. I try to remind myself I'm not in a race. I want the books to stay with me. If I hurry, the books start melting into each other, and I wonder what event happened in which book. It makes it difficult to tell someone about the great book I just read if I can't talk about it properly.

Dilemma #6: Next Book – How do you pick your next read? My frame of mind or mood will often shape what I read next. Sometimes I want books to meet my mood or need, books that encourage, comfort, inspire. If something happens in the news and I'm unsure of its history, say women's rights or civil rights, then I search out books to inform me. If a 'famous' person dies and they've written books or poetry, or were a Nobel Prize winner or well-known person in their field, then I search out something of their works, to be a kind of witness as they pass from their lives on this planet. If I'm in the middle of a series I like—Louise Penny comes to mind as does Donna Leon, SJ Bennett, and Charles Todd—then quite often I'll read the next in the set. The seasons of the year also guide what I read next. I look for nature books set in the season we're in at the time. I look for novels that either begin or have great seasonal descriptions in them. Some books have a mood that feel conducive to certain times of year. My choosing by seasons started years ago and is most evident in my growing collection of Christmas-themed books that I always bring out, ready to reread in late November into December. I enjoy coming upon the seasonal descriptions that creates or matches the atmosphere and ambiance in real time. When it comes to choosing books, I am much like a magpie; if someone suggests a book on their blog that interests me, I'll go in search of it.

Dilemma #7: Travel – How do you pick what book(s) you bring on vacation with you? There's a good question. If I'm looking for a book or books to read while traveling long distances, then I usually want something that draws me quickly into the book and holds my attention. Most likely, a novel. If I'm on a road trip with Rick, then we sometimes pick an exciting thriller audiobook to listen to. We don't usually find ourselves on a tropical beach on vacation so I don't know what I'd read there, probably a good mystery or maybe a book set in a tropical place. Light reading, for sure. 

Dilemma #8: Annotate – Do you write or highlight or mark up your books in any way? I do. That's one reason I love paper books over Kindle. I like to read with a pencil in my hand. I do make notations in the margins if I'm compelled by what I'm reading. And I like finding those notations when I flip back through the book. Although recently I had a sudden insight, what will be done with all my books with all these notations when I'm gone? No self-respecting secondhand bookshop—who are usually strident about gently used, clean copies—would take my marked up copies. I NEVER dog ear my books or break the spines; that irritates my soul, but pencil markings help me find what I'm looking for when I want to revisit a passage. I like seeing, when I'm browsing through a book, what struck me when I read it last time. Some people make notes elsewhere, not in the book itself, but that means these notebooks have to live in proximity to the book—it probably wouldn't work for me. I imagine that notebook being somewhere else when I need it. 

Dilemma #9: New or Backlist – Which do you prefer, new releases or backlist books? Backlist, for the most part. Unless I'm addicted to a particular series where I wait with bated breath for the next in the set. I find I dislike, in other cases, to be rushing along with the crowds for a copy of the next 'bestseller'. I often come late to the party with books that have been out for months, years, sometimes decades. I want to read it in my own timing. There have been times, though, when I wondered why I waited so long to finally pick up a book that fans stopped raving about years earlier, but I firmly believe there is a right timing for me to read my books.

Dilemma #10: Sequels – Do you read books as they are released, or wait for an entire series to be published before reading the first book? I could never wait for my favourite author to finish her series first before beginning it. Some authors take years to complete a set. If I'm interested in a series, I will get the books as they are released. And if I get introduced to a book in the middle of a series, I never mind to start wherever; I eventually go back to the beginning and read them in order, but I don't mind reading them out of order in the meantime. Sometimes copies aren't available when I'm ready for them.

(Added) Dilemma #11: Keeping Books - Do you keep books that you probably will never read again, on the off-chance that they might 'improve' with age? Some novels or nonfiction books I know immediately I'll never read again for whatever reason - boring, not my usual genre, too horrible a story, or badly written. Those go immediately into the Give Away box to pass along. Some books that I might not have quite gotten into the first time but they have enough good in them to try again later - those I will keep for a while. As for my favourites, I enjoy re-reading my favourite books - some are annual visits, much like visiting old friends. 

And so, I've mused and amused myself into mid-Sunday afternoon. Darling Rick has made the tea, and I'm off to join him for a cup and a pumpkin spice muffin. Our autumn days are still quite lovely around here, not too cold yet. Life is good, and I'm grateful. Please take care and we'll see you soon, beautiful friends. Happy reading! 

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead.

Photo credit:
Image by kiberstalker from pixabay

Sunday, October 08, 2023

Being Thankful!

"Be present in all things and
thankful for all things."

This weekend in Canada we celebrate Thanksgiving. And what a glorious few days it's been with its bright sunshine and blue, cloudless skies. The brilliance of all the colours of recent weeks has now muted into what Sarah Addison Allen once described as 'a world covered in a cobbler crust of brown sugar and cinnamon'. Aptly described as we saw during our afternoon drive in the countryside.

On such a day, it's not hard to be filled with gratitude. I'll assume many of us practice the art of gratitude and thankfulness all year long, but there is something extra-special about a day aside for counting our blessings. One Thanksgiving years ago, I started a list of what I was grateful for, and upon reading it to Rick, he said he'd add Brussels sprouts... well, each to their own. Sure, I can be grateful for this cute cabbage-like vegetable, for I do enjoy them, but let's just say, I'd have to be running out of favourites before I'd ever think to add them to a list😊. 

Today I'm thankful for turkey dinner and French apple tart. I am grateful for health and vitality. I am so thankful for my dear mom who truly has been the best mom in the world. I am over the top thankful for my sweetheart of a husband who is one of the kindest men I know. I am thankful for my dear siblings and their partners, my wonderful nephews and nieces, and my lovely set of friends who help make the journey through life bearable, enjoyable, and so worth it. Let's see... I'm also grateful for coffee, tea, and books. Chocolate. And for roses, sweet peas, and marigolds and for eyes to see their beauty and colour—they're still blooming in the backyard. I'm so glad for a nose to breath in scent—the fragrance from the sweet peas I picked yesterday is incredible. I'm grateful for plenty to eat, shelter in a cozy home, and peace in my heart and neighbourhood. It's a long list... still thinking of so much more. 

As I close, I pray for blessings of good gifts to come to every person in this big old world. I sure hope you have your share of them. And I hope your heart sings with gratitude - I'm humming my own melody as I type. 

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead.

Photo credit:
Top Image by Castleguard from Pixabay