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Archive for August, 2012

book stacks to be read

The current to-read stacks

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce
Harold Fry, a retiree living in Devon (on the south coast of England), receives a letter from a former colleague who is dying of cancer. He decides, impulsively, to walk 600 miles to see her, hoping she will wait for him. Harold’s odyssey takes him through fields, villages and several cities; he meets all sorts of people, including several who stick with him for a while. Meanwhile, his wife Maureen waits uneasily at home, missing him much more than she expected to. Harold is a thoughtful, kind man and I so enjoyed walking the length of England with him, and sharing his memories and musings. Wonderful.

The Family Vault, Charlotte MacLeod
As Sarah Kelling’s family prepares to bury her great-uncle Frederick, they reopen their vault in a historic Boston cemetery, only to find the body of a long-dead burlesque dancer. How did she get there? Who killed her? And what do Sarah’s eccentric family members know about it? I enjoyed this first book about Sarah and her large, wacky family (there are 12); it was a good introduction to the characters and the mystery was compelling. Great fun.

The Withdrawing Room, Charlotte MacLeod
Recently widowed, Sarah Kelling (see above) turns her Beacon Hill mansion into a boardinghouse, only to lose one of her boarders to murder. She works wit private detective Max Bittersohn to solve the case while keeping the house running, grieving her husband’s death and dealing with various members of her upper-crust family. Hilarious and even better fun than the first one.

The Palace Guard, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) take on a case involving the death of several guards at a Boston art museum, and the possible forgery and smuggling of multiple paintings. The action dragged a bit at times, but the case was still entertaining (though many of the minor characters were stereotypical artist or hippie types). Good fun.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, E. Lockhart
A fun boarding-school story with a sharp, witty, irrepressible heroine. Frustrated by the aura of WASP privilege at her school, Frankie (tired of being called “adorable”) decides to infiltrate an all-male secret society on campus. Her pranks are brilliant, but nobody quite understands them, least of all her boyfriend (who is a member of the society). Lots of action, and insightful musings on teenage love, being accepted, and the choice between solitude and being with someone who doesn’t really see you.

Writing from the Center, Scott Russell Sanders
I heard Sanders speak at the Glen Workshop and enjoyed his memoir, Staying Put. He addresses similar themes in these essays: how do we treat the earth? How can we live grounded, thoughtful lives in a world beset by fear and war and busyness? How do the places we live in (and the ways we inhabit them) shape our lives and writing? Sanders is thoughtful and wise, a reliable guide to the forests and fields of the Midwest and the interior landscape of the writer’s life. Highly recommended.

The Bilbao Looking Glass, Charlotte MacLeod
Sarah and Max (see above) move up to Sarah’s country house on Boston’s North Shore for the summer, only to encounter robbery, murder, arson and (of course) irritating family members. Sarah is also considering Max’s proposal of marriage. A fast-paced plot, a web of family secrets and a few comic moments, as always. Great fun.

All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending, Laura Vanderkam
I found Vanderkam’s first book, 168 Hours, fascinating and also enjoyed her musings on money and happiness. This is not a get-out-of-debt book, but a thoughtful consideration of how we can make, spend, save and give money in ways that boost our happiness. Vanderkam’s perspective is decidedly upper-middle-class, but I appreciated her ideas on how to make more money and how to truly enjoy what you earn (while still saving for retirement). Well-researched and thought-provoking.

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links.

What are you reading lately?

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china cabinet bookcase books

My china-cabinet bookcase

Thereby Hangs a Tail, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie (a canine-human PI pair) handle a missing-persons case with a twist: the real target, also missing, is Princess, a tiny but famous show dog. Tracking down Princess and her owner proves complicated, especially when Bernie’s girlfriend, Suzie, also disappears. Chet makes a few discoveries on his own, but he can’t share them in words, and it takes a few more days (and Bernie’s interviewing skills) to put the pieces together. Just as fun as Dog On It, with lots of sharp observations and canine asides from Chet.

Shall We Play That One Together? The Life and Art of Jazz Piano Legend Marian McPartland, Paul de Barros
Born in England and trained as a classical pianist, Marian McPartland became one of the top jazz pianists in the U.S. Paul de Barros tells her story, from her childhood to her experiences playing with the USO during World War II (where she met her husband, cornetist Jimmy McPartland) to the decades she spent in the States, playing, touring and composing. Thorough and fascinating (though the names of jazz pieces and players are dizzying, at times). Recommended for fans of jazz, meaty biographies and American pop music. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 16).

To Fetch a Thief, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie’s third case involves a missing circus elephant and her trainer, with an interesting subplot concerning a divorce case. Quinn ratchets up the action in this book, taking our heroes south of the border in pursuit of animal traffickers. Chet’s perspective on the various circus folk is highly entertaining, as are his interactions with Peanut. Even better than the first two books.

The Christmas Plains, Joseph Bottum
Bottum recalls his childhood Christmases in the Midwest, mixing in carols, Charles Dickens, musings on holiday  commercialism and traditions, and stories from other times in his life. He rambles at times, but also hits on a few profound truths about this much-loved, much-maligned holiday. (It felt odd to read this in August, but I was reading for Shelf Awareness; the book is out Oct. 23.)

The Dog Who Knew Too Much, Spencer Quinn
Chet and Bernie return for a fourth case, tracking down a boy missing from a wilderness camp. When someone else from the camp turns up dead and Bernie gets arrested for murder, it’s up to Chet to bring in reinforcements (even if that means a few long nights on the road) and crack the case. Suspenseful, well plotted, funny and satisfying – these books get better and better.

Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading: Finding and Losing Myself in Books, Maureen Corrigan
Corrigan, the book critic for NPR’s Fresh Air, explores the joys of a reading life, focusing on three genres and how they’ve shaped her own perspective: female extreme adventure stories (a genre she names and explains), detective fiction, and Catholic memoirs/fiction. I love books about books, and I enjoyed her smart musings and vivid anecdotes. (Also: her tales of graduate school convinced me anew that I am not meant to get a Ph.D.) Good fun if you’re a reader.

A Dance with Jane Austen: How a Novelist and her Characters Went to the Ball, Susannah Fullerton
Fullerton explains dance in Jane Austen’s day, from etiquette to menus to dress, accompanied by lovely period illustrations. She also discusses dancing and balls in each of Austen’s novels, exploring how they move the action forward and what they tell us about the characters. (She draws rather heavily on the unfinished The Watsons, but Pride and Prejudice, Emma and Mansfield Park get plenty of play.) Fun and informative; a good bet for Austen fans. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 16).

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About a year ago, I got several hints from the universe about The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Suddenly, she was everywhere – in friends’ blogs and casual conversation. I’d been briefly acquainted with Mary as a child, but we hadn’t hung out in years.

mary tyler moore hat

I’ve been borrowing the seasons from our library, and I watched the series finale a couple of weeks ago. I didn’t sniffle my way through it as I did when we finished Friends, but I did get a little misty as Mary looked around the WJM newsroom before turning the lights off for the last time.

Mary’s story bears several parallels to my own over the past few years. True, she’s a single girl and I’m married, so I’m already done with the dating travails that sometimes bedevil her (though her love life is never the true focus of the show). But we both have struggled, and sometimes triumphed, as we’ve adjusted to new cities and navigated the rocky path of being career women in what is (still) often a man’s world. (And we each have a few stalwart friends in our corner, though unfortunately mine don’t live in my building.)

mary tyler moore rhoda

(Image from Hooked on Houses)

Mary is (nearly) the only woman in the WJM-TV newsroom in the early 1970s. The sexism she deals with is more overt than any I’ve ever encountered. But we both are pursuing that tricky thing called “work-life balance” or “having it all” – holding down a financially and emotionally satisfying job, while enjoying an active life outside of work and nurturing deep friendships. (And for heaven’s sake, both she and I would like a little time to ourselves once in a while.)

Mary’s pursuit of a successful life and career is not effortless. (Despite her hospitable spirit and impeccable fashion sense, her lousy dinner parties are a standing joke.) She loves her friends at the newsroom, but often gets caught up in their crises, and Rhoda and Phyllis (her upstairs and downstairs neighbors, respectively) do their part to keep things lively (and complicated). She never does get married, that we know of. She is bright and beautiful and capable, but she’s also just another girl trying to make a living, find love, sustain friendships, “make it after all.”

Therein, of course, lies Mary’s charm: who among us hasn’t dealt with cranky coworkers, awkward dates, deadlines at work and a stretched-to-the-breaking-point budget? Who hasn’t headed home to a hot bath after a stressful day or a frantic week, only to be interrupted by a friend’s crisis or a family member’s emergency? And who among us (especially women) hasn’t struggled to balance our people-pleasing instinct and cultural conditioning as “nice girls” with our drive for success?

I loved watching Mary find her feet, eventually summoning the moxie to talk back to her gruff boss, Lou Grant, and the self-absorbed anchorman, Ted Baxter. By the seventh season, she has grown into a feisty, independent but still compassionate woman who knows what she wants out of life (even if she can’t throw a perfect dinner party). She may not have all the answers (though she does have a hip little apartment and a fabulous wardrobe), but by the end of the series we know: she, and we, are gonna make it after all.

Thanks, Mary, for the laughs and the inspiration. I’ll be coming back to visit you in Minneapolis once in a while.

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When Marilyn, my editor at Shelf Awareness, recommends a book, I pay attention. As you might guess, the woman has impeccable taste, especially after all those years of reviewing. She has referred to the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn in several emails, so I decided to sniff them out recently. As a dog person, a mystery lover and a reader who appreciates fresh, funny, smart narrative voices, I’m in love.

chet and bernie mystery books dogs

Chet and Bernie are a canine-human PI pairing, who together make up the Little Detective Agency. (Bernie’s last name is Little; as Chet often reminds us, he’s “Chet, pure and simple.”) They found each other after Chet failed out of K-9 school on his last day (something to do with the leaping test; the details are hazy, but a cat was involved). They live in the Valley, out in California, and spend their time tracking down missing persons, rounding up perps (Chet closes a case by grabbing the perp’s pant leg), and hanging out with Bernie’s son, Charlie, and reporter girlfriend, Suzie.

Chet narrates the series, and his voice is my favorite thing about these books: smart, occasionally wisecracking and wonderfully canine. He’s a great tracker, but he can’t talk to Bernie; he has to communicate via growling, wagging, barking and other forms of communication available to dogs. Chet usually understands the concrete of each case but gets fuzzy on the abstract concepts; he’s also easily distracted by squirrels, cats and treats, particularly Slim Jims. I loved walking through each case with Chet, sometimes putting together the pieces from what he hears and observes (but doesn’t always understand), sometimes waiting for Bernie to come along and share the final bits of information.

I love mystery series that are also about their protagonists’ lives (see also: Tommy & Tuppence; the Spellman series; Maisie Dobbs). While Chet and Bernie have a long-established relationship that remains rock solid through the series, I’ve enjoyed following Bernie’s relationship with his girlfriend, Suzie, and I like the reappearance of minor characters such as Bernie’s son, his ex-wife and a couple of local police officers.

This series, to quote Stephen King, “has got more going for it than fifty of those cat cozies.” Whatever you think about King, the man knows how to write a compelling story, and so does Spencer Quinn. If you love dogs, mysteries and unusual narrators, sniff out Chet and Bernie. The whole series is a real treat.

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We have eaten a lot of ice cream this summer.

I say this as someone who does not worry (much) about eating dessert nearly every day. I figure if my meals are mostly healthy, there’s no harm in enjoying a cookie or a bit of dark chocolate or a bowl of blackberry cobbler. But this summer, it has been (mostly) too hot to turn on the oven, even for me.

I grew up eating Blue Bell, which they don’t sell in the Northeast, and last summer we ate a lot of Haagen-Dazs fruit sorbet. But this year we are completely obsessed with Ben & Jerry’s new line of Greek yogurt, since we sampled it during our Vermont trip in March. J prefers the Strawberry Shortcake flavor and I am head over heels for the Raspberry Chocolate Chunk. I’ve lost count of the pints we’ve consumed, but the number is high.

Sometimes, we bother with bowls and portions and the ice cream scoop. Much more often, we eat it straight from the carton, sitting in the living room after dinner, reading books or blogs or watching Friends, under the slight breeze of the ceiling fan.

ben & jerrys greek yogurt raspberry

Because of this, I don’t treat myself to ice cream during the workday very often. (Anyway, a scoop of ice cream in a shop costs about as much as a pint at the grocery store.) But there is an Emack & Bolio’s shop around the corner from my office, and the other day I discovered a new yogurt shop on the other side of the Common. Occasionally, it’s fun to scoop up a cup of cool sweetness at lunchtime. And during one hot, humid day in D.C., as we walked the National Mall, I spotted a frozen yogurt truck and made a beeline for it. Ahhh.

ice cream jane austen

Usually, when it comes to dessert, I’m a chocolate girl. But this summer I am (as you can see) all about the fruit ice cream, sometimes studded with chunks of chocolate. When I think back on this summer, I will remember (among other things) the sheer pleasure of spooning up that creamy, fruity sweetness almost every night, savoring it with my love, in our messy, breezy apartment with the windows open.

We are making the most of these warm days and humid evenings, eating fresh tomatoes and pints of blueberries and sweet, drippy peaches from the farmer’s market, and eating dinner outside whenever possible. A few (or more) spoonfuls of ice cream is the perfect pleasure to top it all off.

What are you savoring this summer? What are your favorite ice cream flavors?

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Recently, Alyssa tweeted about how much she loves eating lunch out alone, “tucked away in quiet corner of noisy restaurant. I’m part of the world, but don’t have to talk to anyone.” There followed a brief conversation about eating (or drinking) alone in cafes or restaurants, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.

thinking cup coffee shop hot chocolate scarf

I regularly spend pockets of time alone in cafes, for lunch or a quiet cup of tea or chai, with a book or my journal or simply my own thoughts for company. It feels less cloistered, less monastic, than eating lunch in my office with the door shut, and yet there’s a sheer curtain of privacy between me and the rest of the world. In bustling Boston, where I cram into the commuter train with hundreds of strangers and walk to work among dozens more, it feels deeply restorative to carve out an alcove of space for myself during the workday. I don’t like to isolate myself completely, but I do like a modicum of space to breathe, to write, to pause and enjoy.

Some days do call for total solitude, and as near silence as I can get. But on many others, I love feeling that tug, that connection to the beat of whatever city I happen to be in. I love observing what people wear, how they take their coffee (I used to be a barista, after all), what they do when they’re sitting alone waiting for their food, or how they interact with their friends. I love the diverse mix of people who come through cafes, all of them separate entities but vital ingredients in these massive tossed salads we call cities.

I take a lot of photos in cafes, mostly of my drink with a book or journal, trying to capture the quiet, restorative freedom of the moment. The writer-romantic in me also thrills at being part of a long tradition of cafe society, from the Lost Generation in Paris to the Beats with their coffeehouse poetry readings, to now, when many writers work in cafes with laptops or notebooks. Something about the background buzz, the rotating cast of characters, the smell of coffee and pastries, revs up the mind while (ideally) leaving it quiet enough to write or reflect.

valencia spain cafe tea croissant

Both Alyssa and I started going to cafes alone as college students, and we admitted to one another that it felt a little daring. An hour alone, with no one to answer to, feels secret, almost illicit in a delightful way. Alyssa added, “I used to get the same feeling riding my bike all over Boise when I was growing up. No one waiting for me anywhere.” That comment reminded me of one of my favorite, most visceral memories of my year in Oxford: riding my bike through town, the wind in my hair, bag slung over my shoulder, often heading toward something or someone, but completely free and independent for the moment. In these hours alone, we are still interacting with the world, and yet we belong to nobody but ourselves.

Do you spend time in cafes (or other public places) alone? Do you love it for these reasons, or for others?

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Last month, thanks to Jaclyn’s review of Lisa Lutz’s The Spellman Files, I checked it out from the library, intrigued. A family of private investigators whose main recreational activity is spying on each other? A main character touted as “Dirty Harry meets Nancy Drew?” Sounded fun to me.

spellman books lisa lutz

As you can see above, I checked out the rest of the series, pronto (not pictured: the latest, Trail of the Spellmans). I thoroughly enjoyed the adventures of Isabel “Izzy” Spellman and her crazy family. (I also love that the titles are based on the classic Pink Panther films, which I adore.)

Isabel, at 28, is good at two things: drinking and investigating people (though not usually at the same time). She loves her work, but she’s deeply ambivalent about working for her parents, especially when they try to investigate her boyfriends. She tries to get out of the business a few times, but (you can guess) she always comes back to her family and her career, both of which she loves even when they’re completely maddening.

These books are part fiction, part mystery: while Izzy and her family are always trying to crack a few cases, the real fun lies in their complicated interactions with each other. Rebel child Izzy, her strait-laced brother David, brilliantly snarky little sister Rae, and their quirky parents spend a lot of time tracking each other, keeping secrets, hiding intelligence and/or using it to blackmail each other. But they really do love one another, and someone (usually Rae or Izzy) always ends up in hilarious trouble. Lutz’s real strength is in her snappy dialogue, and the minor characters, from bartender Milo (who serves Rae ginger ale) to ancient Jewish lawyer Morty, are just as quirky and lovable as the Spellmans.

Five books in, the Spellman “kids,” while all technically adults, have done a fair bit of growing up and facing down their own issues, but I’m sure there’s more fun to be had. I’ll be keeping an eye out for Document #6, as Lutz has called the next book. If you’re hankering for a bit of PI fun with a hefty dose of wacky family dynamics, I highly recommend this series.

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august reads books part 2Peaches for Father Francis, Joanne Harris
Vianne Rocher returns to Lansquenet, the village where she charmed some people and upset others with chocolates and magic (in Chocolat). Eight years have wrought many changes, including a new community of Moroccan Muslims who clash with some of the locals. As Vianne and her daughters reunite with old friends and make new ones, tensions between (and within) the two sides of Lansquenet rise to the boiling point. Caught in the middle are a teenage girl, a mysterious veiled woman, and Vianne’s old nemesis, Father Francis Reynaud. Harris writes lushly and explores deep questions of home and community, strangeness and belonging, and how we often judge people before we know their stories. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 2).

Dog On It, Spencer Quinn
I loved this first book in the Chet and Bernie mystery series, narrated by Chet, failed K-9 candidate and superb sleuth (with a fabulous sense of smell). Chet is tough, no-nonsense and yet endearingly doggy – he loves treats, naps and being scratched behind the ears. He and Bernie (who’s also tough but a little down on his luck) team up to solve the mystery of a teenage girl’s disappearance, and have a few wild adventures along the way. Smart and often hilarious. I’ll be sniffing out the rest of this series.

The Ruins of Lace, Iris Anthony
Through seven different characters’ points of view, Anthony weaves the intricate story of Flemish lace in the seventeenth century. Banned by the king of France but desired by all, lace prompted bribery, theft and a flourishing smuggling industry. Love, wealth, court intrigue, even the use of dogs to run lace are all elements in the story, whose complex plot is its best feature. The characters are a bit vague (maybe because there are so many points of view) and the ending felt abrupt. Still, a fascinating glimpse into a segment of history I didn’t know about before. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 1).

The Moving Finger, Agatha Christie
Jerry Burton, injured airman, takes up residence in a nondescript village with his sister to recover from his wounds. But when many of the villagers – including Jerry – begin receiving anonymous hate mail, the peace of the place is shattered. Miss Marple solves the case, as always, though she’s rather a minor character in this book. The mystery kept me guessing, but it didn’t intrigue me as much as some of Christie’s other plots. Still fun.

The House of Velvet and Glass, Katherine Howe
I loved Howe’s debut, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, and also enjoyed her second book. Sibyl Allston, daughter of a posh Boston family whose mother and sister died on the Titanic, struggles to deal with her grief, manage her father’s house and help her dissolute brother (who has just been expelled from Harvard). There are also flashbacks to her father’s seafaring youth and his time in Shanghai. A fascinating glimpse into World War I-era Boston and its Spiritualist movement (seances, scrying glasses, opium dens, etc.), a sharp contrast of two worlds (strait-laced Back Bay and seedy Chinatown), and musings on whether we really determine our own fate.

The Fault in Our Stars, John Green
A wry, heartbreaking story of two teenagers with cancer who fall in love. Never maudlin, though sometimes I felt the sarcasm veered into callousness. Hazel, the narrator, is keen-eyed and witty, yet intensely vulnerable, as is Gus, who shows up at a cancer support group one day and catches her eye. They’re trying to live while knowing they won’t see adulthood, and this makes everything rather fraught, even while they attempt to enjoy being teenagers. Wise and sad and yes, sometimes funny.

What are you reading these days?

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links. Graphic by Sarah.

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New niece knits

In addition to my sweet nephew Ryder, I have a brand-new niece. Annalynn Danielle was born at the end of July, and while I haven’t met her yet, I did whip up a little something to send down to Texas for her.

girl baby hat cardigan knitted pink

That’s the Easy Baby Cardigan from More Last-Minute Knitted Gifts, and the Children’s Cotton Hat from Last-Minute Knitted Gifts. (That’s the fourth of those hats I’ve made. So easy, quick and cute.) Both are made of Blue Sky Cotton.

I’ve done very little knitting this summer, but I did work on a few projects during the Olympics. I’m making myself a shawl (not nearly done, but progressing), and I’ve begun my 2012 batch of hats for Innocent’s Big Knit. I knit these wee hats for smoothie bottles every year (or I have since 2008) – they are fun and quick, and a fabulous way to use up yarn scraps.

If you’re a knitter or crocheter, what’s on your needles lately?

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august reads books part 1Partners in Crime, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence Beresford (whom I recently discovered) take over a private detective agency (under assumed names) and solve cases in the manner of many famous detectives, from Sherlock Holmes to (yes!) Hercule Poirot. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book even more if I were familiar with all the characters parodied, but it was great fun. I love the lighthearted banter, the very English characters and the tenderness between Tommy and Tuppence (though they often hide it behind witty repartee).

N or M?, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence return for a stint doing undercover work as World War II heats up. Posing as guests at a coastal inn, they begin investigating their fellow guests, trying to track down two dangerous enemy agents (known as N and M). The plot is delightfully twisty, and the historical setting makes it all the more fascinating. Tuppence is in fine form as “Mrs. Blenkensop,” and Albert, the butler-cum-assistant, saves the day at least once. My favorite of the series.

Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
It’s 1938 in New York, and Katey Kontent is determined to pull herself out of the office typing pool. When she and her best friend Eve meet Tinker, a handsome banker, their lives begin to change in ways they couldn’t have imagined. This story felt almost like a 1930s Great Gatsby, except these characters (most of them) had more pluck and tenacity. Katey and Eve seem like graceful cats who will always land on their feet, but they’re both vulnerable in ways they’d rather not admit. Towles evokes New York perfectly, its glitz and possibility and heartbreak, and his sentences are gems. (A wonderful detail: Katey reads a lot of Agatha Christie.) Lovely, poignant and thought-provoking.

By the Pricking of My Thumbs, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence fall into another mystery – or rather Tuppence tracks it down “like a terrier on the trail,” as Tommy says. Visiting Tommy’s aunt at a nursing home, Tuppence overhears a mysterious remark or two and begins to investigate. Murdered children, a lonely house in the country and a vast, well-organized crime network all come into play here. Tuppence will insist on dashing off to lonely places by herself, but her instincts are usually good and so are Tommy’s. This case was rather creepy – but fascinating.

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, Robert Macfarlane
Macfarlane loves to walk. He sets out to trace a number of ancient paths, both on land and sea, in his home territory of the British Isles and also further afield (Spain, Palestine, the Himalayas). This is a lovely, meandering meditation on the history of walking, sacred space, sailing, path-making, how histories are shaped by landscape and vice versa, and how walking shapes not only our bodies but our lives. I particularly loved his thoughts on the landscapes we carry with us, the physical lands that become part of our own inner landscape. Hefty, but beautifully written and fascinating. To review for Shelf Awareness (out Oct. 11).

Postern of Fate, Agatha Christie
Tommy and Tuppence have retired to the country, but a mystery finds them even there. They spend a lot of time nosing around, trying to figure out why someone called Mary Jordan “did not die naturally” (according to a coded message Tuppence found in an old book). The premise is interesting, but the writing wanders awfully and the mystery is rather weak. Not one of Dame Agatha’s best. I did enjoy spending more time with Tommy and Tuppence, but it was a rather unsatisfying end to the series.

Lots of Dame Agatha on my shelves lately. What are you reading these days?

This post contains IndieBound affiliate links. Graphic by Sarah.

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