Saturday, December 17, 2016

Saturday, Dec. 17: Snowy Saturday, Boy Home. . . .

Deep, calming breath, with happiness lying under it. Saturday morning, following a short (we had a SNOW DAY ON MONDAY! WHAT BLESSING!) but super-busy week: Tuesday: three stop errands to get all the bits and pieces for various ornament swaps, Secret Angels or Santas, etc; Wednesday: dr's appt/checkup; Thursday: picking up the euros I ordered for Nate on top of the usual homework club/yoga + making bread and salad for Bo's gathering on Friday; Friday: dropping off the car for four new tires and a headlight (yes, I was driving a deathtrap around), getting a ride into school, meeting to discuss next year's plans, Readers & Writers Group meeting 2:30 - 3:30, 4:30 ride to Bo's, lovely time and dinner there, then ride to Harmon's to get my car (I feel so safe on the road now! It's like driving a tank!) at 7:45, and home by 8!!!!!

*But. . . . . I finished my grad class work for this 3rd class on Monday (that was a focused and intense snow day, but so so nice to have!), so I have a relatively empty weekend upcoming, and one that sort of snuck up on me! Nate just got home last night late late in an effort to avoid the snow that we are having even as I type, and he is asleep up stairs with his belongings scattered all around the house, but safe and sound.

I may make sugar buns to welcome him home (for elevenses, as I think he probably got into bed around 3 am or so); I hope to finish my "Regular Guy Beanie 2.0" in lovely blue Malabrigo today and then make Lyle a knitted pincushion, maybe while finishing listening to The Secret Garden. I could/should also go for a run and finish up the Ridgefield Christmas box so I can mail that off Monday. And we are renting a big rug shampooer to do the living carpet because either Zeus or the cats left many suspicious wet spots after our weekend away. So there are items on the to do list.

BUT: I don't have a lot that I have to do that I don't want to do.

What a blessing!

And I am sitting with my strong coffee by the propane fireplace listening to my favorite Kate Rusby sing in her lovely Yorkshire accent on Sweet Bells (go buy it for yourself and brighten your December!) and things are good. Outside, it's been record-settingly cold, the dark is rising on many levels, and social discourse seems awry; nonetheless, it's important to strengthen our hearts and souls to provide the light, hope and strength we need to move forward.

Edited to. . . shift this post from my (mind-bogglingly boring) grad class blog (not even posting a link) to this one. And to add some pics:

View from my comfy chair to the patio!

My current love. . . . on 5th attempt to get it right!

Katniss awaits the magic warmth machine

So symbolic it makes my eyes water. . .

So there are some thoughts and images for a still snowy Saturday that is still filled with free space and potential!

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Oct. 23: Well hello!

Busy year, even as it is different from the past. . . . Good year, but also a demanding one, especially in contrast to my darn-near-heavenly summer.

Sooooooo: am taking a Using Technology to Enhance PBE class as class #3 in my Profiency-Based Education graduate certificate. That has meant a lot of on-line time with a central purpose, so I have not shared here a lot.

I hope to get back to this, and also find a midpoint for my time demands. My yoga teacher has talked about the change of seasons and how that switch tends to make us ungrounded, and I guess I'd echo that heartily right now.

Ungrounded. Oh yeah.

But this is good news. We can watch The Durrells on Corfu. . . . on our own time!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday, Aug. 21: A week, and much to look forward to, left!

N's last day at Williamstown; one week of vacation; final steps on a lot of projects, and possibly some rain tonight! Yay! Here are my reads of late (two duplicates as I can't screenshot half a row!). .  . Time to prep for church!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Wed., August 10: Finished a Memorable One!

A Tale for the Time BeingA Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Tale is a mind-blowing book. I read it slowly, sometimes needing a break for a simpler story-line and less nuance, but I'm glad I persevered. Still amazed that it was not until the end that I realized that, in this novel about creating narratives by reading them and creating realities by living them (and a blend of both ideas, too), the protagonist and her husband have the same names as the author and her husband. As a student used to say, =Mind.= =Blown.=

So don't even start with what the book is about: love, death, family, the internet, human cruelty, WWII, the tsunami of 2011 and resulting nuclear plant meltdown, human cruelty, nature, dreams. . . with a big helping of Japanese cultural aspects that tend to make me uncomfortable (suicide clubs, cosplay, etc) and a terrific grandmother figure. I'll be thinking about this one for a long time to come.

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Lovely, going-to-be-hot morning after a nice Tuesday that featured an early run (great to get it done but I am fearful that my soreish foot is turning into plantar fasciitis), some good work and projects, and then a fun trip to Bar Harbor to see "Love and Friendship" with Heather and Lori. What a treat! Today, I finished my book above, chatted online with some friends, and am planning to go make a fabric checkbook cover because 1. heck, I can! and 2. I don't like those ugly cheesy plastic covers but don't want to pay for a better one!

Andy is due home tonight. I plan to swim around noon. . . . and then repair my SUP, read some Lady Susan, and make dinner of some sort. Onwards!

**What a lovely, lovely summer. We need rain badly, but I am trying to treasure what is precious since I am not in charge. **

Also, as support for the Olympic viewing and filler knitting in place of 100000000 pairs of booties:

Not my idea, not my choice of pattern or colors; inherited partway finished (up to the white arrows, really). I found a general pattern and added more shaping and more color, finished the collar, and did the button band the other night. I hope to do the next button band tonight (?) so I can sew it up and block it soon. Can't wait to see what a good bath and shaping can do for it. Then: who needs/wants a big ol' non-Lopi Lopi sweater? :)

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Saturday, August 6: Rich Summer Continues!

     We need rain, badly, but might get some tonight––of course we had planned to go see "Comedy of Errors" at Fort Knox––but the rest of the summer is rich, full, and lovely. We had a wonderful five days on Taylor Pond, courtesy of the California Whites, and enjoyed stunning weather except for a hazy afternoon when we went to see the unabashedly fun "Ghostbusters 2". Much fun in the sun, the water, and with family:

Last Sunday A and I returned home, sighing a bit, and settled into our quieter but wonderful life here. I read Ta-Nehisi Coates's amazing piece Between the World and Me, worked on an experimental tank top with the Sorbetto pattern (nearly done), and actually managed to pull off a leisurely summer knitting group meeting with Dawn and Jen on our patio, breezes, a lovely rhubarb-cornmeal tart, and lots of fun talk and knitting! And. . . banjo lessons! And . . . . some monumental salads

We've also gotten my beloved Corolla up to the dealership for a major (okay, overdue) spa treatment of $2k proportions (but we hope that holds her for a few years!), I attended a good one day PBE conference in Brewer with Heather, put on by the State, and I finished my second of four PBE classes with a perfect score (booyah!) but, more importantly, a sense of how to do research at the graduate level and some rich topics for investigation. Hmmmmm. 

Lyle is pondering next steps, and Nate is pondering the end of his incredible, intensive, powerful, crazy, exhausting summer apprenticeship at Williamstown Theater Festival, and is due home in about two weeks. I plan/hope to finish some projects (tank, checkbook cover, and inherited sweater, I'm looking at you three!), repair my SUP and use it, do some writing course planning for school, hike some, see more friends, and do some summery stuff I can't do otherwise. Mostly, I want to continue to love and appreciate this time, soaking it in. Onwards, gently and with awareness! 

ETA: WOOT! WOOT! A sewing victory!

I rarely have these. . . . at least beyond quilts and pj pants! I am slow, often reluctant, overly cautious, or downright dense about sewing, especially adapting patterns to fit my particular self. However, the free Sorbetto tank pattern (linked above) was a success! I am so late to that party that the blog's comments are closed, even for this summer's Sorbetto sewing party, but I am so tickled that I'm sharing anyway: 
AND will sport that product to church tomorrow! 

A couple quick remarks: using parchment paper for my cutting-out pattern version was great, and much easier than trying to adapt the standard-paper model I pieced together from the pdf. That was a hint from the online community. Thank you!

Another trick that delights me is this idea of how to make my own bias-tape: here's the link, and thank you to "Creative Daisy" who showed the way and saved me from ordering a limited gadget. I liked making that tape for the neck and arm holes so much that I decided to use it on the hem (1" size) too--also to add a bit of length and give more heft to weight the front pleat a bit. I really enjoy it, and I'm delighted to think that, with this tutorial as well, I can do a much better job on the edges of future quilts, as well! 

The learning! The learning! The learning! I really loved it! 

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday, July 26: Some Seriously Wonderful Things in My Summer

1. Spending empty nest time with my beloved. Nothing spectacular, and maybe a few too many nights that the Sox blow an awesome lead and lose, but our time together makes me smile. My chosen grown-up. He's a keeper.

2. The weather! It has been hot, sunny, lovely, changeable. . . with just enough rain to keep things green. Just enough. We could use a full night of rain once a week, but oh my this has been a lovely summer.  Tomorrow we're off to the lake house on Waterview Drive for four days, and I hope hope hope hope hope it will continue!

3. Reading. I have set my mind to gorging on books, and it's been a pleasure. Below is a screen shot of my "My Books" page on goodreads, and that doesn't include my recent audiobooks (a re-listen of Georgette Heyer's The Quiet Gentleman and the first three Harry Potters!)  which have also been wonderful.

I haven't loved them all, and I didn't finish them all, but the luxury of having a big stack that I can jump into at will––at will, I say!––is a delight.

4. Hard, consistent, academic work. I am taking course #2 of Univ. of Me/Farmington's four course certificate in Proficiency-based Education, and this course required us to do some of the basics of social science research: a focus group (nerve-wracking but ultimately incredibly worthwhile), an action plan, and. . . . hardest work I've done in a long, long time, a literature review––not like the ones above, but a review of research out there on a certain topic (mine was parental involvement in the PBE reform effort) coupled with my own findings and thoughts and plans for forward movement. It was intense, overwhelming, and exhausting, but when I was done, I had kicked some major social science research butt. I was able to put three solid days into the work (on top of a few weeks of research reading and generalized panic), and when I was done, the prof. asked me if she could use my review as a model of graduate level scholarship and professionalism! Wahoo––aside from the external praise, I simply relished digging so deeply into my. own. work. Suddenly, I could imagine doing a doctorate, and really, really enjoying it. I think I'm done with this class (possibly one other tiny assignment), but man, it was a pleasure on many levels (I'm signed up for class #3 for the fall, so that's a good thing!). Also great to be able to work in my study at my desk--lovely view, and good space to dig in and work hard.

5. Project time! I finished Andy's socks (pic below, I hope),

and after a bit of unsettledness, I've resurrected a cast-off project from my sister and have been enjoying figuring it out. We've lost the pattern, so I've been winging it with pleasure. What a treat to start at the upper yoke of a huge cardigan and just crank up from there! In addition, I have been fiddling with the free Sorbetto tank pattern, digging out some fabric I got for one long ago but never did anything with. I had a lovely time piecing the pattern together while I listened to The Quiet Gentleman, but we're leaving tomorrow for our mini-lake vacation so it will sit. Ah well.

I hope when I come back (it will be August) to continue much that has been good, but to add more hiking--did a lot before my wonderful visit with Julie and my Hebron Friend Reunion, but none since, mostly due to the class; some more sewing (maybe finish the table runner? and the tank? Make a dress?); lots more reading, and more time with my man! I also hope to organize an afternoon visit/tea/knitting session with my school knitting group, as well as some other social events.

Such richness.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

July 2, Saturday: In that odd Way Summer Saturdays Are. . .

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy by Kate Hattemer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another strong work by Hattemer (her first published book, I think)--interesting characters and a good level of quality writing, but not as absorbing or nuanced as Land of 10,000 Madonnas. Although she drops some plot lines and doesn't develop some potential ideas as fully as they deserve, it's still an original and worthwhile read and an entertaining piece of y.a. writing.

And now for something completely different: BenedictionBenediction by Kent Haruf
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finished Benediction around 11 pm on June 30 with the cats curled around me as I wept on the couch. It's powerful and sad--but saying that is obvious in the way that saying books about humans' relationships with their dogs are sad: the likelihood is that the dog is going to die. In Benediction, Dad is dying from the start: this is NOT a spoiler--and the power of the novel is in its steady attention to the small things that make life lovely, valuable, and memorable. I think the novel could be 100 pages longer, as I wanted to hear more about Lorraine (I felt that the one misstep in the story is the sudden mention of her own loss, though it might be the subject of another of Haruf's novels), about Frank *of course*, and I just wanted to hang out a bit more with these people.

It's not an easy, fluffy book (Marilynne Robinson's people could talk to these folks easily), but it's memorable and deep and calm, somehow. Recommended for a valuable experience when you feel ready for it.

Weird note: I bought a copy from the EPLibrary book sale (of course). The paperback is gorgeous: great cover, nice feel in the hands. My copy, however, was full of highlighting: probably 1/3 of every page had been highlighted in yellow through the entire story! I'd love to know the reason for that painstaking approach to reading a work of fiction that ended up in a book sale.

Second note: my students often complain about Sandra Cisneros's refusal to use quotation marks around dialogue in House on Mango Street. Well, I chuckled to myself when I noted that Haruf avoids them as well, and also shuns speaker tags like "he said," and "she commented" as well. Fun to note that bridge.

Sea of Poppies (Ibis Trilogy, #1)Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Abandoned this one. It was fascinating at first, but then the storyline became 1. too ornate, with complex switching between characters, each of which had a huge backstory, most of which I wasn't terribly interested in (in which most of I was not interested????), 2. too predictable: it's an adventure story, and actually reminded me a lot of LA Meyer's Bloody Jack stories!, and 3. too long!!! I guess that laps back to the first point, but I just felt that the mental work it took for me to ingest the story was greater than the story actually deserved--and so, with a world of stories out there begging to be ingested, I put it back on the "to the book sale!" pile. And so the great cycle continues.

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Saturday, June 25, 2016

Summer Time! back at it. June 25, 2016

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's SorryMy Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heather lent me this one, and I gobbled it down in two days. Megan wasn't a huge fan, and I can see that it might be an acquired taste: I skimmed a goodly amount of the fairy tale part (with no ill effects that I can see) and Granny herself is a difficult character to like, so the first part of the book, when Elsa is 100% pro-Granny, is challenging. However, soon Backman's multi-faceted pictures of human nature develop fully, and his picture of the beauty and pain of life makes the book powerful and moving. I'll admit it: I laughed, I cried! Backman's willingness to reveal the good in all people of all personality types is unusual and refreshing. He seems like he'd be a great friend as well as a wonderful author!

This is a novel for patient readers who love words, grammar (Elsa has a red pen that she uses to edit poorly-written signs), and other people.

'We want to be loved. Failing that, admired; failing that, feared; failing that, hated and despised. AT all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. The soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact.' Doctor Glas, quoted in MGAMTTYSS

"The mightiest power of death is not that it can make people die, but that it can make the people left behind want to stop living."

The Grand SophyThe Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Supported by Ann's glowing reminder, I got this on audio and it romped me into vacation and through quite a bit of cleaning up and various yard chores. Heyer is at her funny, fluffy, rambunctious best in this story of the fearless, dauntless Sophy and her high-handed management of the family she comes to stay with. Predictable, madcap, and completely entertaining. BRAVA!

I stopped posting for a bit: busy and just not feeling it. But: here are two I'd like to share beyond the windows of Goodreads. And: summer. I have to share some summer. It's just lovely.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Friday, May 13: Rainy Peaceful Night!

Whoops! Never posted this . . .  no real reason to except that it's fun to look back on it.

From Friday, May 13: To-do list for a quietish weekend:

--talk to BFF Sat. am while drinking strong coffee
--dig up some pulmonaria and oregano to give to friends; plant chives from friend
--mail great pic of me and friends to friend
--sew a bit?
--go to see "Duck Hunter Shoots Angel" at Penobscot Theater with beloved; find place for dinner beforehand!
--do progress reports
--swim and run
--prep for meeting on Monday!

Saturday, May 21: Spring! Books! Lists! Exchange possibility. . .

A Man Called OveA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I. Loved. This. Book. Backman's tone is dry and reserved, but his heart is clearly in the right place! Having visited AFS family in Norway, I could visualize the "neighborhood association," which added appeal. This is, in many ways, a small, simple book, but it presents a lot of important ideas about people, community, love, grief, and decency. "A Man Called Ove" is the book I've been recommending to everyone I meet lately. My book hangover is severe, but it's worth it.

*Highly* recommended. Buy a copy (in hardback, even!) to give to someone worthy of it after you finish.

The Readers of Broken Wheel RecommendThe Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is the first of the two "Books by Swedes from the MDIHS Library Which Don't Involve Perversion Or Murder". Not sure I got the modifiers in the right places, but: both Bivald and Backman are Swedish "every day" writers, and their books leapt off the shelves and into my bookbag.

Unfortunately, The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a mess. It's too long, too ornately plotted, too naive, and too dull to succeed, much as its cover, its intent, and its author are appealing. The story of a reclusive young book seller who ends up in a dead-end town in Iowa (?) and whose vision of creating a bookstore ends up rejuvenating the town tackles topics of (wait for them. . . .) bisexuality, homophobia, religious and racial bigotry, economic renewal, risk-taking, alcoholism/addiction, depression. . . . and I think I missed out on a few. While it's possible that one novel could handle all those (Wally Lamb's She's Come Undone springs to mind as a possible contender), TRoBWR reads like the young, inexperienced bookseller actually wrote the text: it's clunky; characters are poorly and awkwardly developed; the letters that supposedly tie the plot together are 1. boring and 2. unconvincing as letters in the first place, and, most damningly, there's a lot about sex in the book but the author is terrible at describing attraction, lust, and/or conversations about them OR encounters involving them.

That said, the idea is charming, and the story of rebirth and redemption is appealing. As I read, I kept imagining an ambitious 14 year old girl, encouraged by voracious reading, filling page after page in a college-ruled notebook: I cheered her on, but I did a lot of skimming and I also wondered who thought her youthful efforts warranted a full-on, published novel?

An understandable attempt in need of a firm editor.

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Well: it's a lovely Saturday morning, and although I have plenty of reading responses to The House on Mango Street waiting in my bookbag, I don't have anything SUPER pressing to do. I started this entry outside in the sunshine, accompanied by the old Zeus who enjoys a lot of sunshine on his old bones, but the bugs are here and the sun was actually too hot!

A few ideas, points, and comments.

1. I found this young woman's work and writing to be compassionate and insightful.

2. I found this event to be terrifying, and I plan to make some donations to organizations that support a woman's right to control her body and make her own decisions in response. Staggering. The fact that the anti-choice female governor vetoed the bill is a surreal wrinkle in this whole bizarre situation.

3. On the lighter but still related side, I found this video to be entertaining, though I do think it could've followed up with some pictures of what the men's feet looked like after the day of high heels.

4. I also did some blog reading outside of my usual collection, and I discovered that I have marked preferences for tone and content. I don't mind a chatty style or tone, but I'm not looking for the airy, run-on babbling of a tween mind. Too many exclamation points, run-on sentences, and/or emoticons, and you've lost me. (Not that you probably mind.) In addition, I don't want a blog to be a thinly disguised advertisement: one of my favorite baking blogs went that way for a while, and I am happy to see that the weekly "These are the latest things I think you should buy" posts are gone. Or maybe my grump adblock software deletes them? Anyway: don't market to me, and don't pretend that if you're a professional lifestyler, you understand or have anything helpful to offer the average human mom/woman/wage slave in the world today. Reading about what a professional instagrammer has to say about "squeezing in a workout before a meeting" as directed to a full time mother or average woman in the the world today is staggeringly false.

Honesty is crucial: that idea of prettying up our lives to impress others and pass on the FOMO experience is so. . . . yesterday? so "me before I turned old enough to realize some key truths"? so "reality TV"? Take one look at Mason Dixon Knitting and their wonderful posts featuring sock puppets encouraging people to start or finish a pair of socks and you'll see the power of the InterNET, as Ove (see review above) would call it, in its unvarnished truth. Fun.

Enough, though, as I am sounding like Ove himself. Without Sonja.

5. My life this May has been full of reminders of fortune and joy: family challenges and good news out of bad; some projects at school that are promising to be joyful, impressive, fun, and creative; lovely weather and burgeoning gardens full of flowers; good food and exercise and people.


**ETA: I have been sort of involved in a book exchange on Facebook that involved me sending out one book to someone I sort of know and . . . . receiving no books. That's fine, actually, because I have tons of  books in stacks all over my somewhat bookshelf-free house. BUT: I just was thinking: if some people read this blog because of the book reviews, would some of those readers like a book? So: here's an offer: if you'd like me to send you a book, leave your mailing address in a comment, and I'll send books to the first five people to do so. You can give it away, pass it on, keep it forever--and maybe there won't be any comments so I can keep all my books (umm. . . .), but I'd like to try that. (I considered doing that with a skein of yarn per comments, but that would be truly difficult, I think!). So: comment away, if that seems fun.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Saturday, May 14: Spring Has Sprung!

Gardening and not too many blackflies on this stunning mid-May Saturday! Rain last night and rain due tomorrow, so I got some good weeding, transplanting, and new plants in (or out, as needed). Bike Safety Rodeo at the school next store provided a wonderful backdrop of squeals, cheers, and little kids zooming around like fish in an aquarium. Very nice. Soon A and I are off to dinner and a play--imagine!

In the meantime, some books!

NeverwhereNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading Neil Gaiman makes me think of a darker, modernized Terry Pratchett--he may kill off the people you love, and he does go into a bit of detail about torture, but overall, you can trust him to tell a rip-roaring story and to reward your faith in human nature. Neverwhere (at least the "Author's Preferred Text" version which I read) is an interesting, dark, original tale--much to think about and pay attention to. While there's a lot of Sir Terry in it, I also felt some Patrick Rothfuss overtones, too. In any case: a good read!

Small as an ElephantSmall as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Many of my incoming 9th graders have read (and liked) this book, and I gave it to my nephews this winter, intending to read it myself, too. Eventually I ended up getting the audio so I could listen to it during my commute, and I liked it. The reader might've been what kept it from being 4 stars, as he was way overstated, and I do like an understated reader. Jacobson traces the boy's trip precisely: I could tell exactly where he was on the island and the towns. It was an odd feeling to be driving by the LL Bean outlet as the book was describing the night he spent sleeping there! I can't decide how I felt about the boy's (I forget his name) mom, who was clearly suffering from unmedicated bipolar disorder: the topic came up subtly, and in a pretty realistic way, I felt, but I also thought the story let the mom off the hook quite a bit. However: the adventure was interesting, the writing solid, and I can see how any middle reader, especially one living in our area, would really enjoy the local adventure of the book. Would make a fun pairing with "The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler"!

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Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday, May 2: Lovely rainy Monday night


The Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten FrontierThe Lobster Coast: Rebels, Rusticators, and the Struggle for a Forgotten Frontier by Colin Woodard
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Lobster Coast is a dense but fascinating study of coastal Maine and its history--cultural, economic, political, and environmental. It took a long time to read it, but it kept me interested, horrified, and attentive to the last page. Its clear eyed view of Maine and its realities present a welcome counterpoint to Maine Magazine and its expensively styled view of "the real Maine" composed of the wealthy self-employed. Every Maine citizen should read it, as should anyone considering moving here. I'd love to read an update, as it was published in 2003.

**Better yet, my father's work as an expert in colonial Maine history is heavily cited in the chapters on Maine and the Revolution. Go, Dad!**

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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wed., April 27: Back at it!

The Jewels of ParadiseThe Jewels of Paradise by Donna Leon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A non-Brunetti Leon novel still holds its charm: Venice, food, an interesting character, strong life of the mind and a strong reverence for history, literature, and other cultural gems, but Jewels of Paradise could've been more developed--another 100 pages might've fleshed out the new character, the intriguing supporting characters, and the plot a bit more satisfactorily.

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Saturday, April 16, 2016

April 16: Opening Saturday of Vacation!

Ahhhhhh. It actually snuck up on me after so many weekends of Things To Do: Plays, Concerts, PBE class, Trips to Lewiston, Massive Amounts of Grading. . . . but here we are. It's sunny, and Maine-in-April warm, and things are good. Tomorrow I will embark on one of those packed-in multi-step family visits that I have learned to love: leaving here around 6 am to get down to see Alex play b'ball and Tom coach b'ball and to visit with Ellyn, Jake, Lyle, Dad, and Ann! Whew! I think Nate will come with me to add to the fun--Andy has to go down to B'wick all day on Wed. to meet with realtors so he's passing on another s. Maine trip. We are hoping to stop at Holy Donuts.


Saturday, April 9, 2016

April 9, Saturday: Marking Period Ends!

Crooked HeartCrooked Heart by Lissa Evans
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I just wrote a really carefully developed rave review of this wonderful book and then the computer burped and it disappeared. I am very sad.

However, it is a rare and lovely book: controlled, wry, funny, heart-breaking, and insightful. It's beautifully written--even the cover is gorgeous!--and I want to go buy myself a copy to keep. Evans manages to take us into Vee's and Noel's worlds, and she creates unprepossessing characters who eventually win our hearts. I plan to read her other books, too!

Two great passages are on page 200 (about Vee's lazy son) and page 243 (where Vee reassures Noel about his guilt). . . but I haven't the heart to type them out again.

Please, though, go buy a copy of this book, read it, and then give it to someone you love.

The Other Daughter: A NovelThe Other Daughter: A Novel by Lauren Willig
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Welllllll. . . .it was okay. The reader was a bit breathy and excitable, which might have dimmed my appreciation, but overall, it was predictable and trite. I kept wondering why Vera/Rachel didn't just go talk to her father--the character waffled between strait-laced probity and moral outrage leading to dubious behavior. There were also a lot of dropped plot threads, but overall it was a bit more substantial (a bit, just a bit) than many of Willig's recent works. I did listen to it all, and I did wonder how it would end: surely those are good signs!

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Well, it's the end of the marking period, and though I worked hard all week long, I ended up having to spend 5 hours working today and will spend at least as much time tomorrow to be ready for Monday's due date. However, I knew it was coming, so I scheduled myself: two hours in the am, then a two hour "do what you want!" break, then (I hoped for two, but ended up with ) three hours in the afternoon. AND all my major correcting is done. Whew! Inputting and comments tomorrow. And planning. And church, and food shopping, and . . . . but it feels great to be home and not heading anywhere for any reason.

Also: I won an art lesson!
And I made lemon cupcakes for Grace's b'day on Wednesday!
And we have one week till vacation!!

Friday, April 1, 2016

Friday, April 1: April at Last!

EmmaEmma by Jane Austen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Juliet Stevenson does an amazing job of presenting Emma: each character is distinct, and the infamous "Mrs. E." and the sweetly overwhelming Miss Bates are topnotch. I've read, seen, and listened to this work probably 6 times, and Stevenson's version does a fantastic job of highlighting the wit, insight, and satire of Austen's novel.

Highly, highly, highly recommended on all fronts.

*Earlier review labeled July 1, 2o14!
*Re-listened to this version, finishing on Thursday, March 31, 2016. What a way to get through this tough month!

This is Where I Leave YouThis is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Well. I got this from Audible, and I'm not sure if I realized I had already seen the movie with Jason Bateman when I got it, but it was a fun read. What hit me over time, however, is that the author's view of women was pretty damn one-sided: his description always focused on their sexual appeal/looks/availability--and I'm afraid that wasn't Tropper trying to create a character. I'm afraid it was poor self-awareness. So although the book has some laugh-out-loud funny parts and some fairly poignant reflections on family, it's troublingly limited in its perspective. The movie, which removes Judd's/Tropper's viewpoint and has great female actors (Fonda! Tina Fey!), is actually better than the book.

The Bluest EyeThe Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought I had read The Bluest Eye before, but I am pretty sure I hadn't when we chose it for our MDIHS Readers & Writers Group read for March. My first time through it was a slog: its story is heart-breaking and difficult, putting it more in the Beloved than the Song of Solomon range. However, we had to postpone our meeting, and as I was reading over some critical essays and screening interviews with Morrison to prep for the meeting, I began to see Morrison's aim as a writer, and I decided to reread it. On my second go-round, I fell into the book completely.

A key review was this one by John Leonard of the New York Times:
"Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye is an inquiry into the reasons why beauty gets wasted in this country. The beauty in this case is black. [Ms. Morrison's prose is] so precise, so faithful to speech, and so charged with pain and wonder that the novel becomes poetry…I have said 'Poetry,' but The Bluest Eye is also history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music."

This is Morrison's first novel, but she does craft a heart-breaking story into "history, sociology, folklore, nightmare, and music"--I saw parts of each of those in Pecola's story, and I was amazed.

A tough read, but one worth reading, and worth discussing. Wow.

ANNNNNDDDDD: from the sacred to the profane (as Thirkell would readily admit. . . .) Never Too LateNever Too Late by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cleaning out the shelves, I spotted my vintage copy of this Thirkell and succumbed to its lures (and then also read A Double Affair, the next one in the series). . . . Thirkell is SUCH an acquired taste, but she is truly wonderful when she's at her best. I wish there were movies: the life with butlers and maids is presented as so normal, the mention of leasing out the wing of the big house for a school is so common, and the concern about how to keep the family property intact so frequent that it's hard to realize that these are REALLY RICH PEOPLE! The people in the village who are so gently but snobbishly described as different or as trying hard but not quite making it--they are US! I'd love to see the "actual" landscape that she was describing. It is surely alien to this American, but I do love to visit it.

Plot-wise, not her freshest, as there is a lot of repetition about Edith and her difficulties and George and his. Still, worth a visit.
**Read July 2014.
**Reread March 2016.

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Friday. April. Rain. Warm. We had a thunderstorm! And this is the calm before the end of the marking period on Tuesday, with a trip to see Nate and many other singers and musicians at the Basilica in Lewiston sing Beethoven's Missa Dormis (?) on Sunday. Mom's away so we're staying in a hotel, and I think it will be a wonderful change from our crazy busy March. Hello, April!

I went to the library on Wed. and got an armload of books to celebrate the impending end of March. I have already finished one of my load:

Wicked Appetite (Lizzy & Diesel, #1)Wicked Appetite by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pleasant, entertaining, quick read--fun to see Evanovich developing new schticks even as the old familiar formula show through. Set in Marblehead, which is familiar territory for my family, so that adds interest. Not as funny as her early Stephanie Plums, but much better written than her later ones. A perfect three-star novel!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Thursday, March 17: Very, very tired

The odd days of March are coming to a close, but I have been flat out for so long that I am dragging dragging dragging.

So: I thought of some things to remind myself about: Key Pointers when You're Super Busy:

1. Be as efficient as you can be, but don't rush all the time. Deep breaths.
2. Don't cheat yourself. If you have to get up early, be honest about it and give yourself enough time to get where you have to be without a frantic hurry.
3. Also, don't cheat yourself of what you love. Take time to download that audiobook for the commute; eat food you like and that tastes good.
4. Shorten, don't skip altogether, things that you don't have much time for. A quick workout vs. no workout; a few rows of knitting vs. a neglected project. You'll feel like you have a life.
5. Don't waste the time you DO have: be careful about aimless browsing on Facebook or whatever; be mindful of what you do.

So I am down loading my audiobooks, and then I will go to bed, looking at Friday and a weekend with not much planned. YAY!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday, March 12: Catching up on Time-Change Weekend!

The great thing about a busy stretch is that it does make a tough month fly by. . .  and our British-like winter has contributed to that effect as well! The time changes ahead tonight; Andy and I are going to see Nate in his play at Bates, and we're facing the last "extra" week of March with parent conferences on Tuesday and Wednesday. At the same time, I'm coming down from a crazy busy stretch of grading/planning/dealing with ninth graders and A. has been away for two weekends, so a few items are way behind, like recording my books lately! So here should be a batch of them.

After You (Me Before You, #2)After You by Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Listened to this with a bit of trepidation, having so disliked "Last Letter from? To? My Lover" that I returned it to Audible for a refund (one of two books I've ever done that for!), but it was classic, wonderful Moyes: funny, sad, reflective, with realistic characters who were annoying at times but about whom I came to care (<=pretty good sentence for 8 am on a Saturday, I must say! ). The narrator took some getting used to, but overall the picture of grief, of family, of life and one's choices in it, is moving and worthwhile. Recommended! Glitter and Glue: A MemoirGlitter and Glue: A Memoir by Kelly Corrigan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read and enjoyed The Middle Place about five years ago (tears. . . phone calls to Julie. . . wow), and then a visitor recommended Glitter and Glue, which I didn't even know about, so I checked it out of the libe and it sat on the Library Books Pile for a month, and then I finally got it on audible and hey presto! I "read" it with great enthusiasm. Says something about my life that I am getting through more books via commuting that actual on-the-couch reading! I did comment elsewhere: "just finished listening to the a.may.zing memoir Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. It is powerful and well-written. Boom. Right to the heart."

My one audio-based recommendation is that Corrigan might not have been the best selection for a narrator, given that the book is mostly set in Australia and she is so wonderfully, clearly Midwestern in her speech that she (wisely) doesn't even attempt an Australian accent. It would've added to the book, in my opinion, to have had the contrast in accents. Very minor quibble.

Highly recommended memoir about travel, mortality, family, loss, change, growing up, mothers. . . . Just go read (or listen) to it! The Mysterious Affair at StylesThe Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pleasant escape read: the first Hercule Poirot! Great fun to see Christie doing her thing. A nice addition is that the narrator is subtly characterized as an idiot by his own unwitting description, which adds a whole extra layer of skill for the reader/listener to appreciate.

The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence, #1)The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hard on the heels of the first Poirot, I listened to the first Tommy and Tuppence. Again, it's a fun escape read, but this one is a bit less refined than The Mysterious Affair: I figured out the bad guy pretty fast, and there are a lot of credulity-stretching escapes, twists, coincidences, and moments where the trussed-up prisoner is suddenly running full-tilt down the road with a gun, full use of his/her muscles, and cash to pay a cab and buy dinner! Still--it's a bit like reading a Tin-tin story, and a nice way to pass some dreary February commutes.

LOOK! SOME REAL BOOKS! Delancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a MarriageDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage by Molly Wizenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally bought a copy of Delancey and made the penne alla vodka (it was great). Glad to have my own copy! Still a big fan.

ORIGNAL REVIEW, JULY 14, 2014! I like Molly Wizenberg's Orangette blog, and I was delighted to see this book in the Ridgefield Library. I might buy it, because I like a lot of the recipes--both for weird experiments (gin with ground pepper and garlic?) and for plain ol' "that sounds great!" meals (penne alla vodka). The story of the ins and outs of starting the restaurant was engrossing, too, and the progress of her relationship with and understanding of her husband caught my attention as well, though Julie did not find the book interesting at all. One aspect I noted with respect was that she discussed various people who entered their lives through the restaurant process, and it was really hard to tell if they would be friends, foes, betrayers, or loyal supporters: her tone was always level and respectful, an approach that I find difficult in my own life and in much public discourse today.

Recommended (though Julie disagrees!) as an interesting resource and a good story, though I am surprised that it's a NYT bestseller. Doesn't seem jazzy enough. Maybe a lot of people want to open restaurants and find this book, as I do, a good replacement!

A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen TableA Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table by Molly Wizenberg
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

ANOTHER "real" book read!
I read this *after* Delancey, though it was written beforehand; when I first saw it mentioned by others I was afraid it was one of those "make everything from scratch or else you're a bad person" type memoirs written by the willowy wife of some CEO somewhere who never does anything she doesn't want to do. . . . but, having read Delancey, I realized it wasn't. And it was a treat: warm, full of good recipes, inspiring, and nicely written, stem to stern.

Nate made her dark chocolate cupcakes and iced them with peanut butter butter cream frosting (not her recipe), and I think I made a believer of him as well!

A nice book to keep by the bed or to read during a busy time. Highly recommended.

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Sooooo: I do believe I am caught up. I need to reread The Bluest Eye, and I am nearly done with Tropper's profane but funny This is Where I Leave you, but those are tasks for another week. It's sunny and 40 outside, and I have to get up and out for a run, then get packed and ready to roll before we head to Lewiston for our night at the Theater.

As is so often the case: life is good.

Friday, February 26, 2016

2/26: Friday of a Weird Week Back

Involved returning to school, snow, rain, temps from -3 to 48, a huge thunder and lightning storm, and a bomb threat that sent us home early. 'Nuff said.

I don't want to forget this list when I have a little more time (after mid-March or so!).

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Feb. 21: Last Day of Vacation (=sigh=)

What a nice break I had! Except for the weather over the weekend in Portsmouth (fuhREEzing cold), it was pretty temperate and nice, with a good quantity of sunshine for me to enjoy in the mornings (usually we're gone to work by the time the sun comes up). I had a nice weekend with my bff, lots of family visits, one peaceful overnight in the house by myself, plenty of mellow hanging-out time, and I finished the second and third pairs of socks for my cold-footed congregation member, so I am up for A Project, which I hope will be the imitation J Crew aran.

Pair #1

One of the reasons the socks took so long. . . .

In addition, I mailed off a fun, full box to Camilla's family, and I also completed an application for a job that *I think* will not lead to anything, but that is exciting to consider. I am proud of myself for stepping outside my comfort zone and taking a shot. 

Okay. Now I am facing: an ass't I didn't know about for my PBE class on Saturday; prep for the road race on Sunday; more correcting for Fr. English tomorrow; a church meeting tomorrow night; a department meeting tomorrow afternoon; Nate home for a week, just when we are finishing our break! 

But: "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well." 
                                                                                                                     Julian of Norwich

Friday, February 5, 2016

February 5: Unexpected but 100% Welcome: Snow Day!

So suddenly yesterday afternoon someone mentioned that we might get snow on Friday. . .  and we did! AND we have a three day weekend! It was 47 degrees on my drive to school on Thursday, but the winds have changed, and it's snowing hard, and I went back to bed at 5:30 and slept till 8 am. What a piece of wonderful! 

A good deal of my morning has looked like the above, but, ultimately, it has ended up looking like this: 
a great deal of the morning, so soon I will go eat some lunch and then settle in to knit in earnest––I think. I may sew instead, or write some personalized letters to go with some packages. . . . What a wonderful, lazy, restorative day. Tonight we are planning to go see "Patience" at the Grand if it happens: the snow is supposed to continue till 10 pm, so they may postpone, but we're game if it's on. If it's not, my day may not even feature a shower. What luxury. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Jan. 30: Goodbye, First Month!

Summer HalfSummer Half by Angela Thirkell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What a terrific story: Thirkell has captured the idiosyncrasies of a variety of people, classes, ages, and professions, and created a story that enchants and entertains. Penelope Freeman, the reader, does a fantastic job bringing it all to life. What a great way to entertain myself through January in Maine and the end of my semester! Anglophile escapism at its finest.

Trouble is a Friend of MineTrouble is a Friend of Mine by Stephanie Tromly
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Sharp, funny, original ya mystery. Dialogue is great; plot is over-the-top but anchored by likable, interesting characters. I can't wait to read what else Tromly comes out with!

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Friday, January 22, 2016

January 22, Friday: Whew!

I think I'll make a list of downs and ups for this week, Tuesday - Sunday. Because.

Downs, for starters (Ending on the ups, you see!)

1. Old Dog Zeus had a stomach issue, to put it delicately, on Tuesday night. I got up early on Wed. to head off to my swim workout, glanced at the floor in the living room and thought, "Did Andy walk mud in there last night?" . . .  and the rest of my workout involved scraping, scrubbing, washing, etc., and then, after school, pushing the terribly unwieldy carpet cleaner around the living-room and rolling up the ruined (but also ancient and due for replacement anyway) rug in the den and throwing it away. Nice to have a husband about whom one can say, "There's no one I'd rather be doing this disgusting chore with than you!"

2. End of term. Frantic kids, loads of grading, much stress. Not many thank yous, despite the deep support/encouragement/hard work/etc., put in.

3. Starting a class. . . . tomorrow, Saturday, 9 - 4. Close (that's an up) but still: wow. And the co-workers who've signed up have already shown signs of negativity. Hope that changes.

4. In light of #3, the fact that I have a big pile of grading is tough.

5. At knitting today, I requested that we not talk about school. As a result, we talked about . . . mortality. Our parents' mortality.

6.  I really hate that new blog design option where all the entries are in squares like a Memory game and the pictures turn grey when you mouse over them. I *hate* that.

7. No one has yet made me a luscious dessert. There's no reason anyone *should* have made me a luscious dessert, but, still. =sigh.=

Ups, for finishers.

1. The aforementioned husband has made good dinners from the Martha Stewart Everyday Food site . . . every day this week! Yum!

2. I just finished listening to the a.may.zing memoir Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan. It is powerful and well-written. Boom. Right to the heart. Now I am listening to Angela Thirkell's Summer Half, which is one of her best (she is an acquired taste, for sure! But I love her as an escape author.): funny, quick, entertaining, and an endearing look at teaching. Just what I need, given #2 in "Downs."

3. Left-overs for dinner!

4. My cold is relinquishing its grip!

5. The moon is full, the days are lengthening, and it's not too terribly cold.

6. Hey: it's Friday evening. Bravo! 

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 18: Martin Luther King Day!

All Together NowAll Together Now by Gill Hornby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would love to see this book as an independent Brit flick like "The Full Monty" or the one about the boy who loves ballet, but it's also a lot of fun as a novel: good hearted, full of quirky characters and slightly unrealistic plot twists. At its core, however, it holds to the truth that singing together is something wonderful--slightly mystical--and very rare in these days. It may even have convinced me to join our church's rickety choir--at least for the Easter season!

Somewhat slow going at the start, but gains verve and confidence after the first quarter or so.

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Have had a lovely weekend: 7" or so snowstorm on Saturday, a partly sunny and milder day yesterday, then a cold day of flurries and school work today. I ran on the road out past the hospital, enjoying the snow on the blueberry barrens and the flurries, meeting only a couple walking a friendly black dog. Andy and I went out to lunch. I did some correcting (the semester ends next week), some reading, some knitting; resolved to handwrite something at least once a week, and pondered fun writing activities for my Readers&Writers crew. My cold is better. Life is good, an accident of grace that I surely take for granted. In honor of a man who sacrificed so much so that life could be better for more people, I share this lovely cover of a James Taylor piece:

Be well, do good, enjoy.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

January 16: A Slow and Snowy Saturday

What a lovely day: I've had a snuffly cold since Tuesday, and since it's a three day weekend and we were due to get messy weather today, I decided to treat myself to a sick day. I'm not really sick, but, my! this slow, snowy, mellow day hit the spot! I can't remember when I've been able to force myself to be this relaxed. I putzed on line, knitted on my latest sock, chatted with Lyle, Lori, and Nate on facebook and Mom in person, cleaned the kitchen, wrote my New Year's letter to mail with our New Year's card, addressed all 23 envelopes, got 11 of the cards ready to mail, watched the Pats win their playoff game, binged on four episodes of "Fixer Upper," made hotels rezzies for Julie's and my trip to Portsmouth in February, did a 30 minute yoga work out on line, and read my book! My only trip outside was to the mailbox, and though I did exercise, I felt thoroughly, wonderfully at my own disposal for the whole day. AND my cold is much better, thank you!

All told, we got about 8" of snow--it started as rain, then changed to sleet, and then, suddenly, it was tumbling down snow quite heavily. How nice not to have to go anywhere!

The House of Silk (Sherlock Holmes #1)The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Saw this reviewed and thought it sounded good; I enjoyed it, finding it very much like an actual Sherlock Holmes novel--including the oddly wooden feeling of the narration. I didn't really care about any of the characters, I didn't feel nostalgic or concerned--and that removed effect is what I remember from the Conan Doyle novels, too. So: all in all, if you like the original Holmes stories, you'll probably like The House of Silk; if not, probably not.

Tied Up in TinselTied Up in Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

About ten years ago I made a New Year's resolution to read all the Ngaio Marsh books, and I did, and highly enjoyed the process. I re-enjoy each one I listen to or reread. This one was a little festive, so it was great for an early December entertainment. Brava! Marsh is truly a master, and the reader (not Nadia May, but another great reader) was terrific.

*Re-"read" January 2016. Still highly enjoyable!

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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Jan. 9: Really? How'd that happen?

I think sometimes only vacation goes this fast, but, wow! This first week back to school flew by! I had an Ed. Leadership Dine and Discuss on Wednesday night and then yoga at the new studio on Thursday, and Nate was home this week, so there was plenty to distract me. Last night N. made dinner (this lovely soup!) and we cleaned the kitchen and took down the Christmas tree and then put the living room back together. Yay! Tonight we'll go out to dinner, and then tomorrow around noon he'll head off for Bates semester #4.

In the meantime. . . . reading, listening, and thinking about stuff. Lots of knitting, not all done by me, which is great: Andy had made two hats and is working on a pair of mittens, and N. is on panel #3 of the amazing Game of Thrones afghan. Such fun!

Someday, Someday, MaybeSomeday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

**NOTE: maybe contains spoilers, but my whole point is that it's not a spoiler because you already know what's going to happen. Read on with this knowledge. **

The reviews from our library patrons were scathing, and I almost gave up, but ultimately I found this to be a "pleasant enough" read. It had some original witty bits like the reproduced Filofax pages, and Graham writes clearly; these two pluses made up for the general sameness of a novel about trying to make it in show biz: guess what? It's hard! And the sexy actor is kind of a jerk (oops. Is that a spoiler?). . . . and the nerdy roommate, on the other hand. . . . : see? You can guess the plot, but I found there to be enough oomph to make it readable as distraction from a busy week in January. I *do* find the "what? I'm beautiful?" schtick offered in many such novels (and by many such crossover stars) to be a bit wearing, but ah well.

Light, but fun.

Long Upon the Land (Deborah Knott Mysteries, #20)Long Upon the Land by Margaret Maron
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I like the Deborah Knott series, and I have read most, if not all, of them. While I enjoyed this one on the whole, I only gave it three stars because it employed the infamous present-tense-flashback format that has crept into so many narratives. These, pertaining to Deborah's mother, Sue, didn't seem to lead to anything or play a major role in the story, so I think they'd be better cut out. However, the story is well written and interesting otherwise.

**Series note: I would recommend reading this series pretty much in order, just because there's a lot of character development through the stories.

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