Thursday, October 13, 2016

My September Reading

Two philosophical books in one month was a surfeit of life skills to take in. Both were short though dense. They had their hobby horses but were persuasively written. Given the years between me and the writers, it's interesting to see how relevant the books are to the modern world.

I have recently subscribed to's Poem-a-Day email and have thus kept up with my goal of reading contemporary poets this year. Let me just say that it has not been a very enjoyable experience. There's a limited amount of modern poetry that appeals to me. I'm much more a fan of poetry of the Romance Age. Give me lyrical, pastoral lines any day over modern, navel-gazing angst.

The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson
Categories: General Fiction
Comments: Set before World War I, it's a story of an independent woman in her twenties who moves to a village in the English countryside to teach Latin to the schoolchildren. On many fronts, she's an anomaly, and life is a continuous challenge for her. I just started reading it and the first pages have fully captivated me. I loved Simonson's Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, and this one promises to be no less entertaining.

The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work" by Kathleen Norris
Categories: Nonfiction, Life Skills, Spiritual
Comments: This book was recommended by Clarissa Harwood. It insists that the daily routine tasks have a meditative aspect and are akin to godliness. And this doesn't have to do with praying while you do your tasks. It has to do with being present and immersed in what you do—fully living in the commonplace, because the commonplace is life-transforming. My review is here.

On the Shortness of Life by Seneca, translated by C.D.N. Costa
Categories: Nonfiction, Life Skills
Comments: We all complain that life is too short. But the great Roman philosopher Seneca says: "Life is long if you know how to use it. However, it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity." He then quotes a well-known poet of his time (without a name): "It is a small part of life we really live." My commentary on the book is here.

Adam and Eva by Sandra Kitt
Categories: Romance, Contemporary
Comments: Adam and Eva is a Harlequin American romance published in the Caribbean in 1985 and is one of the early books by an African American author featuring African American characters. The story begins with Eva on the plane to the Caribbean island of St. Thomas from New Jersey. Her seatmate is a ten-year-old girl, Diane, who's a savvier traveler than her. Eva and Diane strike up a friendship, which is fun for Eva on one hand, while also painful for her. Her daughter, Grace, would've been a year older than Diane had she lived. There'd been a fire in their home in NJ, and Grace and Eva's husband, Kevin, had perished in it. On the ferry from the main island, St. Thomas, to St. John, Eva meets Adam, Diane's father. Adam's divorce from Diane's mother was a bitter one and he deeply resents the short court-mandated two weeks a year he gets with Diane. On the ferry, Eva is taken aback by Adam's immediate and obvious dislike of her and his rudeness. And so begins a typical 1980s contemporary romance between an alpha male and a kind woman who's a foil for him. Despite its dated gender issues, I enjoyed the story. My review is here.

A Kiss to Build a Dream On by Marianne Stillings
Categories: Romance, Historical (World War II)
Comments: I was so excited about this book that I wrote up my September ShallowReader Bingo! Card on it. Rachel Prentiss is in her mid-twenties and a pilot with five hundred hours of flying and teaching experience. In the America of the early 1940s, this was an asset that was recognized by an Army Air Force General. He invites her to be a civilian pilot attached to an air force base for ferrying planes and equipment, thus, freeing up men to be sent overseas for the war effort. New training officer for the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) squadron, Captain Jack Lassiter is an officer and a gentleman. He treats Lieutenant Rachel Prentiss with respect and equality and ultimately with affection and desire. My review is forthcoming from All About Romance later this month, and I'll link back to it here. [Edited 10/14: My review is here.]

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
Categories: Romance, Regency
Comments: Anna Snow grew up in an orphanage in Bath knowing nothing of the family she came from. One day, she finds out that an earl was actually her father, and not only that, she's inherited his fortune. However, it's not the money that makes her happy but that she has a family: half-siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. She also meets, Avery Archer, the Duke of Netherby, a distant kin of hers. Avery tends to be reserved with most people but takes an interest in aiding Anna in her transition from orphan to wealthy lady. And in so doing, they fall in love with each other. [Edited 11/9: My joint review is here.]

Lady Lochinvar by Barbara Hazard
Categories: Romance, Regency, Traditional
Comments: The "Lochinvar" in the title refers to the knightly hero of Marmion by Sir Walter Scott, who was steadfast in his love for his lady against all odds. Lady Catherine Cahill is loyal in her love of Lionel Eden, Viscount Benning since she was twelve and he twenty. I have read such books before, where the heroine is kin and is devoted in her love to him and he slowly comes to the realization that he loves her, too. I have enjoyed that plot when handled sensitively with respect to the young lady's feelings and his growing feelings. My problem with this book comes from a huge portion of the book being devoted to the girlish twelve-year-old then the girlish fifteen-year-old and his nascent realization of his interest when he's respectively twenty and twenty-three. The first time he kisses her, and not a brotherly peck on the cheek, is when she's fifteen. And it was all ICK! She's too young and he's an adult, and it's inappropriate for him to be doing this. Maybe in the real Regency era, a fifteen-year-old girl was considered old enough for adult romance, but for my modern sensibilities, this was not kosher. I DNF'd the book.