Saturday, November 5, 2022

October Books

 Hi everyone.  Happy weekend to you.

In the last couple of weeks I've continued and hopefully finished (for at least a while) a big book purge at my house. I don't know what I have more of, books or rubber stamps-smile. 

Today I am posting my October book list. I’ve scheduled this post in advance.  I actually write these posts to keep track of what I read each month, and I write about each book as the month progresses. That way, as I finish a particular book, I can write while the book is still fresh in my head. Some of you are into book posts, so if you are, please read on. I love reading about books, even if my "wish-list" is getting quite long. As we all have our own reactions to books, these are mine, but I do welcome your thoughts.

I discovered Edna Ferber when I listened to Giant back in January, and since I enjoyed that book and her writing style, I decided to listen to another of her novels. This time I chose So Big, the book she wrote that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1925.
I can see why it won the Pulitzer. This is a wonderful  and absorbing story by this author.

Selina Peake DeJong is a young woman who was living with her father until he accidentally dies. She must make her own way in the world of the 1890s, so she decides to become a school teacher in a rural farming community outside of Chicago. This community is made up of mostly Dutch farmers, and Selina finds herself falling in love with the land and the people. After marrying, she has a son, Dirk, whom she calls So Big. 

Ferber was an excellent writer, and it took me all of about 10 minutes of listening to be hooked on this story. I also really liked  how the author incorporates the history of the place as it relates to the story. In this book, she also contrasts Selena's times with that of her son's.   Her characters are vivid, and the reader, Gabrielle de Cuir, did a fantastic job with all the different voices. 

I'm not sure Ferber has remained as popular an author as she once was, but I loved this book. Although I knew this was not a modern book, the story still stands up and the characters could have stepped out the past and been characters in the 2020's with just the addition of cars, cell phones, etc.. 

My first actual book for October was this Agatha Christie that I dug out of my collection of her books. I haven't read this particular book for decades, and after reading a biography of Christie last month, I was ready to read at least one of her novels. I have many of Christie's novels in a paperback version from the 1970's and 1980's when I read them with regularity.

When a priest is murdered in an alleyway, a list of names is found in his pocket. Many of those names of of people who end up dying.

Mark Easterbrook is having dinner with some friends when one of the women mentions the Pale Horse, where deaths are arranged. After mentioning this, the woman will speak no more about it. Mark is friends with the detective story author  Mrs. Adriane Oliver, and when they attend a village fete, Mark once again hears mentioned the Pale Horse, which this time is referred to as the name of a building. He visits the home called the Pale Horse and meets the modern “witches” that live there.   None of this explains why everyone on the priest’s list are dying, but of course, there is a connection. 

This mystery was originally published in 1961. I'm glad I picked this book as it  had a great October/Halloween feel with the story line, the 3 modern MacBeth styles witches, a seance, and the setting time (which is autumn). Yet it is also a good mystery. Mrs. Adriane Oliver, Christie's fictional version of herself, does not play a large role in this novel, but she does help Easterbrook figure out this crime. And of course, you can't go wrong with a Christie.

After I finished listening to So Big, my next listen needed to be something light and less serious, so I listened to book 3 of this cozy mystery series set in Salem, Massachusetts.

Thirty-ish Lee Barrett is  getting furniture for her new apartment on the third floor of her Aunt's home. When she purchases a bureau, she finds out that it once belonged to a woman who was murdered. A little bit later Lee goes back to the same second hand store to look for more pieces for her apartment, and this time she finds the store's owner dead. 

Lee has some psychic powers, and this leads her to help the police solve not only the antique shopkeeper's murder but also the woman's murder who originally owned the bureau. And I can't forget to mention her cat Orion who has some extra-special powers too.

I enjoyed this book, and I like this series.  It is a fun if not fluffy read. These cozies should be read in order as the story develops over time.  There's also an interesting cast of characters including Lee's Aunt, her detective boyfriend and her good friend who is a psychic.

When I finished reading The Pale Horse, I then moved onto another Mrs. Adriane Oliver story by the Queen of Mystery.  It took me awhile to find my old copy of Hallowe'en Party in my collection, but digging through my stacks, I came across it. (And created a mess that then took me several days to clean back up-but it was time to go through my books anyhow.Smile.)

This time Mrs. Oliver is at an older children's Halloween Party when a girl named Joyce says how she saw a murder committed as a younger child. By the end of the party, Joyce's head has been held down in the bobbing for apples bowl and she drowns.

Mrs. Oliver visits her friend Hercule Poirot to get him involved in the case, and he uses his "little grey cells" to help find Joyce's killer. Of course no Christie mystery is without its twists and turns. I know I've read this book a couple of times, but it had been so long, I didn't remember much (just a slight feeling of who the murderer was) nor did I remember the twist coming at the end. 

This book was published in 1969, towards the end of Christie's life. I've read online that this book needed more editing, but I still enjoyed reading it. I  didn't think the editing issue interfered with the story, but then I was reading it for fun and not really paying attention to editing issues. I think this book is still classic Christie, and I recommend this book.

I wanted to break up my Agatha Christie reading, so I decided to try a new mystery series. This book was published in 1998 so it isn't a new series in print, but a new series for me.  Murder in Marais by Cara Black is book one in this series set in Paris and which features private investigator and former police officer Aimee Leduc. 

Aimee had a French father who had worked for the Paris police. She herself is working privately solving online crimes, but when she is hired to decode a message and bring it to an elderly Jewish woman, she discovers that this woman has been murdered. Not only murdered, but the woman has a swastika carved into her forehead.

Aimee must connect with some former police acquaintances and also infiltrate a Neo-Nazi group because of this crime. Plus, she uncovers lots of "secrets" people have been holding onto since World War 2. This leads to lots of action, and a pretty good story line. Although I thought a few less characters would have made this book read a little smoother, I did enjoy the story, and the author didn't give away the ending during the book.

While working on some pages for last month's AJJ challenge, I showed some maps and referred to this next book, The Hobbit. That reminded me it was time to pick up this novel. I've read this book a few times before, and I've seen the film. Yet I definitely  enjoyed listening to it this time around. Rob Inglis, the narrator, does a nice job, although sometimes there were little breathing breaks which were a bit annoying (but not enough to stop listening.)

Bilbo Baggins is off on an adventure. Being a hobbit, he would much rather stay in his cozy home and eat good food regularly.  One thing that really struck me listening to the book was the tone. It  was definitely an older children's story. This was something I'd never noticed  when reading it. Of course I haven't read this book for upteem years, and I do think perspectives change.  I did read that Tolkien wrote this book for his children. Don't get me wrong, this is still a good read or listen at any age.

I'm still  in  a biography mood, and my next listen was this story of Winston and Clementine Churchill's 4 daughters:  Diana, Sarah, Marigold and Mary. Of course, a story of the daughters can't be told without including the whole family, at least in many parts of it, and I must say I enjoyed this intimate look at one of history's leaders, his wife, and most specifically, his daughters. 

One thing that really jumped out at me during the early parts of this book was how parenting styles and family life has changed. The author even makes note of that. I think in this day and age, these sisters (at least the ones who lived to adulthood)  could have been movers and shakers like their father was. By the time the author gets to their adult lives, I found myself totally hooked on their stories. 

 I think that one can know people better once you know their family backgrounds. That background explains parts of their personalities and how they react in various situations. This book certainly works with that idea, although perhaps one flaw to that style is that it is easy to surmise things about each person that may or may not be true. It was interesting to read about each daughter and also the parents' idiosyncrasies, as well as the ups and downs of their lives.   Rachel Trethewey does a great job with this story, and when she calls out certain behaviors, I am sure it is because she knows the story well . I learned a lot about all of the Churchills, except their son Randolph, who seems to only make a sporadic appearance in this book. 

Now what if the souls of people buried in Pere Lachaise cemetery in Paris are transferred to the stray cats who wander the grounds? That is the premise of my next book by Bill Richardson and published in 2001.

This is a clever story. Alice B Toklas is back as a kitty, and she is impatiently waiting for Gertrude Stein to return. Life is not complete without her husband. Jim Morrison is one cat I wouldn't want as a pet, and Chopin has become the mailman. Other souls who come back as kitties are Maria Callas, Modigliani, Collette, Isabella Duncan, and many other names you would probably recognize.   This story begins in October, and it was fun to read along as Halloween, All Saint's Day and All Soul's Day happens in the cemetery. 

I wouldn't call this book cute. This is definitely an adult story if you like a bit of cat related fantasy. I rediscovered this book while doing my bookshelf purging. If I'd read it before, I don't remember the story. I'm happy I found it and decided to give it a read as it wasn't particularly long and definitely a very different kind of story.

My last book of the month is a new cookbook I  splurged on and bought.

Those of you who have visited my blog for awhile might remember that I have taken several different classes at the King Arthur Baking School over in Norwich, Vermont. If you aren't familiar with King Arthur, they produce flours here in the US.  I am lucky enough to live about 1 3/4 hours away from their Vermont home facility, so I occasionally take a road trip and take a class.

This is why I was curious about their new baking school cookbook. I have to say, I love it. It is their baking school recipe list (at least for their core/basic classes that I am familiar with), and it explains why you would do certain things in certain orders when making basic recipes. It doesn't have a huge variety of recipes for each type of baked good, but these recipes are the ones that the master bakers on the teaching staff believe are what you need be familiar with in order to bake most other things. 

I'd say that if you already are a master baker then perhaps then this book might be too basic for you, but if you are looking to be a better home baker, then this might be something you like.

 I've always learned a lot at those classes. They are very well structured.  I don't think this cookbook replaces taking the actual classes, but this cookbook is as close as it gets to being in one of their classes when you're not. I've already used it to make a few things and to refresh my memory on a few skills also. 

Thanks for making it through my post.  I appreciate your visit, and as always, if you have any good books to recommend, please do.


Valerie-Jael said...

Lots of good books again, a great selection. I don't bu books anmore, just Kindle books to reead or hear. And I have been revisiting some of the books I read as a child, and which re stil in my book shelves. Keep reading! Reading and art mking are both wonderful hobbies! Hugs, Valerie

CJ Kennedy said...

I think I saw the movie, "So Big" made in mid1950s with Jane Wyman. Yes, "The Hobbit" was written for Tolkien's son, Christopher. I didn't really care for it when I read it as a young adult. I didn't care for the film version as they pandered to the franchise and brought characters from LOTR into the story that weren't there. I'd love to take a class at King Arthur. I'll have to look out for the cookbook. Enjoy the weather this weekend.

Christine said...

Thanks for these varied insights, I do like biographies.

Harvee said...

Murder in the Marais is the favorite book of mine in her series.

Iris Flavia said...

The Churchill Sisters sounds tempting!
Can I win lotto and retire so I have time to read? ;-)
I don´t manage otherwise.
Bought a DVD on Buzz Lightyear a week ago, didn´t even manage that!
Oh, time, huh... hugs!

Aimeslee Winans said...

Oh, Erika, my dad would be immediately discussing Agatha and Winston with you, haha. As for me, YES to Edna! I think I've told you before my love for Willa Cather and Edith Wharton, but also for Ferber. It blows my mind that not only did she co-write the broadway plays Dinner at Eight and Stage Door, she wrote novels like So Big, Giant, Saratoga Trunk and Showboat, and every one of those became awesome movies! That's just unbelievable to me. My dad turned me onto her. When I was 9, he directed South Pacific at the college where he taught Theatre Arts and recruited me to play Emile de Becque's daughter who sang Dites-moi, pour quoi. Later when I discovered James Michener had written the book the musical was based on, he remarked, "James A. Michener was the male Edna Ferber and everything he did she did first." HA! After I read some of each author, I knew what he meant. ;-) XOX

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I always love reading about your mysteries and Christie is the best at mystery. I think your cozy would be fun to read, too.

Waiting for Gertrude sounds like a book I would REALLY enjoy! thanks for sharing these, dear.

ashok said...

Good reviews...happy weekend

Divers and Sundry said...

I think I still have Mother's old copy of So Big from back in the day. I haven't read the Christie "Halloween Party" but often re-watch the PBS adaptation during the season. I agree The Hobbit is a good read at any age. I'll look for the baking book. I'd love to have a few more basic recipes I could refer to.