Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Honestly, when I type “by Amor Towles” I just want to add a big ol’ heart by his name. I will forever love him for writing A Gentleman in Moscow.

This one? It was ok.
I never felt particularly attached to our main character, and that’s fine. I don’t need to love who I’m reading about, but I do want to understand them.
Her motives were strange to me. Her story was vague. I had no connection to or interest in the setting.


The best way I know to describe my experience with this book is to explain how I felt as a young teenager watching the old Sydney Poitier movie, To Sir, With Love. There is a scene where one of the female students walks into the class and Sir confiscates a paper bag from her. He pulls out what is in the bag and reprimands her harshly about having self respect, or something like that. Given the context, I could tell that what was in the bag was deemed inappropriate, maybe a birth control device or drugs? I had no idea what the thing was. The viewer watching in 1967 would have known.

That’s the feeling I was getting from Rules of Civility. Like, what are you people motivated by and what is actually happening in your lives? If I was a socialite in New York in the 1930s, then I would have followed along nicely. And no doubt Mr. Towles, (swoon) knew the time he was writing about and did an excellent job painting the picture. But I had a hard time really grasping the emotion of what this girl was going through. There was this whole conflict where she became angry at a particular character and basically froze him out for being less than authentic, you know, deceptive, fake. But I’ll be honest with you, I felt like she was the same way.

Everything ends well with her and she achieves the life style she was shooting for.
I didn’t really dislike her, I just could not relate to her.
That’s not Mr. Towles fault.
Obviously, that man has no faults.
Heh!

The Hardy Boys – #2 The House on the Cliff

Well, I just read my first Hardy Boys mystery. (I’m 53 years old). I have a handful of the blue, hard cover editions that I got from my grandmother’s collection. She picked them up at yard sales and thrift shops years ago and gave some of them to me. I would have read the first story if I had it but my little collection begins with #2.

I remember being very familiar with the Hardy Boys when I was growing up. All the boys were reading them and the girls were reading Nancy Drew and I was never super interested in reading either one. I did enjoy watching Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy PLAY the Hardy boys on TV though. They were so cute.

I have found as an adult that it’s difficult to enjoy some books that were intended for a much younger audience. This is not always the case. I will always love Charlotte’s Web, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and some of the Narnia books to name a few. And there are some picture books that I absolutely ADORE and want to share with everyone. But most of the time it is hard for me to spend time reading a chapter book intended for a juvenile audience. What should take me no time to complete takes me much longer because of my lack of interest. The House on the Cliff was sort of like that for me.

Frank and Joe Hardy are brave and curious young men who enjoy helping their detective father solve cases. In The House on the Cliff, they are investigating drug smugglers. The boys encounter trouble when their father goes missing and the they venture out on their own to find him. There is a mysterious house on a cliff by the ocean, secret passageways, trap doors, hidden ponds and scoundrels waiting out on the water. They enlist the help of their high school buddies, (thank goodness summer break has just begun), and the Coast Guard gets involved too. All’s well that ends well, thanks to Pretzel Pete.

Would I read another Hardy Boys mystery? Yes. It’s nice to have something like it to cleanse my palate when I have just come off of Reading Don Quixote for two months. I loved DQ by the way, it was just a big reading project to complete. I like to strategically include books like this into my reading challenges because I am a slow reader and it’s good to boost my reading numbers when they are lagging. In this case, I am reading it for Roof Beam Reader’s TBR Challenge and it fits very nicely. I doubt that they will ever be page-turners for me, though. Not just because they are juvenile, but also because I don’t really love mysteries.

Up next for the challenge: The Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Blind Dates, Bridesmaids & Other Disasters by Aspen Hadley

The first book I chose to read for the TBR Challenge was delightful. It was definitely predictable, as I imagine most rom/com books are, but it had a fun plot line and it made me appreciate that I am not having to navigate my way around the dating world.

Rachel Steven’s is a twenty-seven year old elementary school teacher, who is considering remaining single all the days of her life and acquiring cats along the way. When her roommate and best friend Hannah becomes engaged, she wants to share all the love and happiness by challenging Rachel to go on six blind dates before her wedding. Reluctantly, Rachel agrees believing she has nothing to lose.

The men and the dates this woman experiences are just outrageous. And when James, her ex-fiance that she broke up with seven years ago, comes on the scene, she infuriates the reader! We know good and well that if she would just COMMUNICATE HER FEELINGS her life would happily fall back into place and she could avoid a whole lot of heartache. But we can’t have all that so fast when we read.

It really was a sweet and funny story. And for someone who appreciates this kind of thing, there was absolutely no profanity in the whole book. It’s shocking really, but it was so refreshing.

It’ll probably be March before I can get back to the challenge since I am reading Don Quixote for one of my book clubs. And that’s a big one. I’m thinking the next one will be Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, but we’ll see when we get there!

2022 To Be Read pile challenge

This year I’m joining Adam, from Roof Beam Reader, as he challenges and encourages us to read books that have been on our shelves for over a year and have not been read.
Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have a few lying around the house that were given to you or that you bought because you wanted to read them, but you never did. I have about 30 or 40 of those.
I am pledging, or resolving, or committing to read 12 of those books this year. One for every month. That’s my goal. And as I finish each book, I will post a short update here on the blog.
It’s time I wake my little space in the internet up anyway.

Here is my list:

1. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
2. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
3. Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
4. The Hardy Boys, The House on the Cliff by Franklin W. Dixon
5. Blessings by Anna Quindlen
6. This is My Life by Meg Wolitzer
7. Rules of Civility by Amor Towles
8. Blind Dates, Bridesmaids and Other Disasters by Aspen Hadley
9. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
10. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe (audio)
11. Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe (audio)
12. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (audio)

Alternates: (In case one or two of these don’t work out for me)

* Harry’s Trees by Jon Cohen
* Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

What are you reading? 2020

My family took a vacation the week of Labor Day, and I determined it was high time I got back to surveying the readers on the beach. That’s right, I approach total strangers, who are minding their own business, with their noses in books, and interrupt them to ask them what they’re reading. (Sometimes I start off with my name and assure them I’m not selling anything).

I’ve done this survey a few times before. Although it used to embarrass my kids, my reader friends all loved it, because here’s what I know: readers like to talk about what they’re reading. We do! And I’ve found that it’s quite enjoyable to talk about books with people I’ve never met before. We’re all just people anyway, trying to relax, trying to get a tan, trying to read a book without being bothered. You know how it is…

Enough chit chat. Here’s what the people were reading at North Myrtle Beach, Labor Day week, 2020.

My first victim, er, I mean, my first participant, was this lovely lady from Ohio. She was reading on her Kindle, (or maybe Nook, not sure). These devices are perfect for beach reading because the screen shows up just like a physical book but there is no annoying page-blowing. She’s reading Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank, a very popular author around these parts. This happy fellow below, I’m assuming is her son. (I don’t get personal in these interviews.) He grinned like this the whole time I was jabbering. And who wouldn’t want this set up he had? It’s like he brought his sofa out on the beach.



Some folks don’t want their picture included but still don’t mind talking and letting me take a photo of their book.

Elin Hilderbrand is always a popular pick.

I met the Mister while walking one way, and met the Missus on my way back. So cute, reading Harry Potter.

This reader said it wasn’t that good.

This is Laura from Tennessee. It was great talking to her. She says I need to hashtag all these authors.
Laura’s friend said, “I’m just reading an Inquirer”.
We talked about eating plants and she recommended I read “How Not To Die”
Her friend was reading for pleasure.
Super fun couple. We talked Lee Child, Grisham, LOST and they had me scope out another couple to see what they were reading.
This is how you do it. Put that chair right in the water.
The cutest little lady and so sweet.
Reading up on the Kennedys.
One of several authors I didn’t know. And how cute is her suit?
This was her second time reading this one.

And what was I reading this week? I finished Shades of Blue by Karen Kingsbury, late at night on my kindle, with some tears. On the beach I read what I’d been waiting to read since Mother’s Day, Camino Winds by John Grisham. Knowing that Hurricane Season was coming and adding to that a trip to the beach, I had the perfect atmosphere for this book!

So much fun with this one.

Other books spotted on the beach were titles by Karin Slaughter, more by Mary Kay Andrews and Dorthea Benton Frank.

I found a used book store in town and picked up next summer’s big book.

That’s all for this year, friends. You can take a look at my previous surveys by typing Beach Reading Survey in my search bar. Have a great fall and Happy Reading!!

Birthdays and Bookish Talk

It is the eve of my fiftieth birthday. You would think I would feel sad or self-conscious or dreadful about saying that but I don’t. I love birthdays. I’ve never felt deprived by having a birthday so close to Christmas. I have my awesome parents to thank for that. They never once gave me a combined gift for the two occasions, not that it would have been the worst thing in the world, as I have never been in need for anything. It’s fun having another reason to celebrate between Christmas and New Years. I know none of us really relish the thought of growing old, and believe me, I receive daily physical reminders that I am not getting any younger, but on the inside I feel perpetually young.

48955981_1211517912331735_4713356458488496128_n

This past summer I went on a cruise with my girlfriends from college. We were all turning fifty this year and we decided to do something together to celebrate since we let it get past us when we were forty.  That trip was my big celebration and it was a blast!

37653798_10156673498369244_7408028071099367424_o

And since I’ve had the distraction of my son’s wedding earlier this month, I haven’t thought very much about what I would do to celebrate tomorrow. Did you catch that? My son was married on December 15th. My baby. I have arrived at that time in life where my children can be married.

48380323_2208906889120093_7729150243106717696_o

So, with my life a little on the busy side these days, I did not finish two of the three reading challenges I participated in for 2018. I read 11 of 12 books for the Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge and 11 of 12 books for the Roof Beam Reader To Be Read Pile Challenge. I actually had enough time in the last couple of months to finish both challenges but when I got down to the last titles I had committed to read, I just couldn’t put my mind or energy on those particular books. On the up side, I got rid of three or four books from my shelf that I have no intention of ever reading. I’ll be doing more of that in the next few days.

I did meet my goodreads goal of 30 books. I know that doesn’t sound like much to some but may I mention that two of those books were Moby Dick and Anna Karenina? And I am a slow reader. SLOW. Overall, I had a great reading year. I loved almost everything I read. All but two of the books were four or five stars for me. Also, some buddies and I started a Big Book Book Club that will meet twice a year. Our first book was Moby Dick, the next one will be The Brothers Karamazov. I’m happy about that because I read it four or five years ago and I still remember a fair amount. I think I’ll try listening to it this time.

I’m pretty sure I’m going to read “challenge free” this year, other than my goodreads goal. There are several big ones I want to read and they take me long time. I’ll also keep working on reading books I already own. I’m committed to keeping that number under control.

Happy New Year and happy reading to us all!!

Sycamore Row by John Grisham

I’m not someone who spends too much time trying to evaluate my reading life to determine what kind of reader I am. (Not that it’s not a fun thing to do). I know that most of the time what I’m reading is not new, and I’m usually reading something that has made a considerable impact and has staying power in the reading world. I like to play catch up on what I’ve missed out on. I don’t read to inform or confirm my worldview. I sometimes, only sometimes, read with the intention of considering someone else’s worldview. I mean, you don’t have to be all that purposeful about that, it’s sort of an automatic benefit of reading anyway. (Now look who’s spending too much time evaluating her reading life…) Forgive me.

I do know this. When I want popular, plot-based, fast-paced fiction, John Grisham is my guy. I don’t believe I’ve ever been disappointed in one of his books. I’ve read all of his sports novels, and I’ve read A Painted House, Skipping Christmas, Camino Island and a handful of his legal thrillers. (Some folks assume all his writing is of the legal type but it’s not.)

I recently finished Sycamore Row and I looovved it!!! I wanted to pick this book up every free moment I had.

sycamore row

Jake Brigance, the same Jake Brigance of A Time To Kill, (Matthew McConaughey if you saw the movie), is still living and working in Clanton, Mississippi. On a Monday morning Jake receives an envelope containing a letter and a hand-written will from Seth Hubbard, a man who just the day before committed suicide.  In this will, Mr. Hubbard revokes a previous will and completely cuts out all of his children and grandchildren. He has amassed an incredible fortune and he leaves 5% to his church, 5% to a long lost brother and 90% to his black, middle-aged house keeper. SHOCK AND AWE!!

It’s just good, ya’ll. It’s good. If you’re interested, you can read here where someone gushed about it in The Washington Post a few years ago when the book came out.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/sycamore-row-by-john-grisham/2013/10/20/0f5a11be-34fd-11e3-be86-6aeaa439845b_story.html?utm_term=.ef2ee5431cb0

I read this one as part of Roof Beam Reader’s 2018 TBR Challenge. Only two more books to go!

As I Lay Dying – William Faulkner


“It takes two people to make you, and one people to die. That’s how the world is going to end.”

As I Lay Dying

I did it. I read William Faulkner and I survived, all the way to the end!

It really wasn’t so bad. Well, at first it was, but eventually it got easier, and that THICK AS MOLASSES southern dialect finally began to make more sense.

What’s interesting to me about this is that I’m from the south. I’ve been here my whole life. When I go anywhere that’s not in the south, people like to ask where I’m from, because they hear the accent in my voice. (Which I don’t even think is that significant.) When I was a junior in high school, I went to New York with my mom on a work trip. While another girl and I were in Bloomingdale’s, the store employees would just ask us to talk, so they could listen to our accents and smile. Anyway, that all came to mind because of the work it required in me to get to comfortable with the language in As I Lay Dying. The story takes place in the deep south, 80 or 90 years ago, and I would equate the dialect with what you might hear from those native to the NC or Tennessee Mountains. But this was so much more. And then when you consider that part of the story is told in stream of consciousness, which often doesn’t appear in complete sentences, then you’ve got yourself a challenge. But, like I said, it got easier as it went along.

As I Lay Dying tells the story of the Bundren family of Yoknapatawpha county, Mississippi. Addie Bundren, the matriarch of the family, is dying and her last wish is to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi. The family is preparing for her death and the eventual long wagon ride to take her to her final resting place. The story is told in the point of view of 15 narrators. All of the family contribute to the story, as well as neighbors, friends and one reverend.

When I first read from Dewey Dell’s perspective, I imagined her a him so I didn’t know who the girl was that was fanning Addie by her bedside. This is not unusual, as Faulkner doesn’t really spell anything out for you. You as the reader get to piece the story together as you read along. And when I read the scene of her and Lafe picking cotton,  I remember thinking, “wait, something’s going on here and she’s not making it clear,” but I  totally got the mood of the scene. Then when I watched the scene from the movie on Youtube, the SAME mood was portrayed and I was so proud of myself for getting it. Then I knew my reading instincts would be alright for the rest of the book.

Many dangers and mishaps happen along the way to Jefferson. Darl, my favorite son, is thoughtful, intellectual and brooding, Dewey dell is hiding a secret, Jewel is angry and defiant, Cash is injured and the treatment is grotesque and unbearable. Animals die, Addie decomposes, and Anse, the father/husband, is focused on the task but useless in any other way.

There was a time in the beginning where the language was so mixed up, repetitive and convoluted that all of a sudden I could hear Bill Clinton saying, “Well, it depends on what your definition of IS is.” Because that’s how much sense it made! I read the paragraph aloud to my husband and he just looked at me, blankly.  I’m sure he wonders why I spend my time reading such hullabaloo.

Overall I’m glad I read it. It’s not a happy book nor a hopeful book, but it’s a picture of a family and what they experience. It ends abruptly and I was like, “What..?”  I’m unsure of whether Dewey Dell’s issue got resolved and I don’t like how things turned out for Darl. If you’ve read As I Lay Dying and you have thoughts on these things I’ve mentioned, please comment below and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading!

They Shall See God by Athol Dickson

they shall see God

I first encountered Athol Dickson’s work back when my husband and I had our bookstore. (See previous post if you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about).
He has several titles under his belt. Of the three that I’ve read, a pattern emerges. The writing is fast-paced, the setting is New Orleans, and they have C-R-E-E-P-Y and dark themes. Also, they end on a hopeful note. (Thanks, Athol!)

In They Shall See God, Dickson tells the story of two childhood friends who witness a gruesome murder, testify in court, and see the accused locked away for 25 years. That day in court marked the end of their friendship and they don’t reconnect until the murderer has served his time, is released, and a series of new and unusual murders begin to take place.

Now, I’m about to show my ignorance or naivete in something. I’m old enough now to not really care about how this makes me look, I mean, we’re all ignorant about some things, right? So, in this book, there is a fair amount of protesting going on. But this protesting was of a different nature than I typically see. And maybe this doesn’t really happen, since this IS a work of fiction, but either way you go, it was thought-provoking, and thought-provoking-ness is a good thing. Am I right?

Back to the story….Ruth and Kate are best friends in childhood. After the murder, their parents prevent them from seeing each other again. The story opens in their adulthood and you find that Ruth is a reformed Jewish Rabbi and Kate is a born-again Christian. The protests that take place are the Christians rudely and loudly and obnoxiously protesting against the Jews, every day, outside of their Temple. Signs, marches, chanting, the works. These protests are what was so strange to me, and a little hard for me to buy into, initially.

I recognize, though I could never say I fully understand, the historical plight of the Jewish race.  God’s chosen people have been enslaved, annihilated and despised from their beginning. As a born-again Christian, from the age of 12, I have never encountered New Testament Believers who have anything but respect and gratitude for the Jewish people and their heritage. Yes, there are fundamental differences in our faiths but there is also an overwhelming amount of common ground, and really, an undeniable acknowledgement that without the Jewish faith, Christians would not have their own! So it was strange to see these two sides pitted against one another, with the antagonizers being the Christians.

It turns out there is a plotted reason for all the protesting that has it’s origin in the murder escapade 25 years previous. There is a cool revelation into the pattern of how the new murders are taking place. There is anger, insanity, wild animals; lions and tigers and bears, (oh, my!) and a slow but meaningful coming to terms and understanding between Ruth and Kate. It takes a while to untangle the truth that has been knotted up for so long but they get there. And it’s a really creepy and dark process along the way.

I read this one as part of my 2018 TBR Challenge. I’ve now read 8 out of the 12 books on my list and I’m getting a little nervous about being able to finish. Sigh…